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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guest Article: Warhammer Fantasy Magic Item Review - Part 4

Bringer of Victory

Magic Item Review Part 4: Magic Standards

Magic Standards behave a little differently in your army than other types of magic items. Only the battle standard bearer and certain specified units in the army list can take them, and they’re often quite powerful. There’s also the fact that magic standards can be lost to fleeing and other effects, unlike most situations with other magic items.

A battle standard bearer (BSB) can take a standard of any points, even above his normal magic item allowance, but this prohibits him from taking any other magic items. If you do this, it means your BSB is running on mundane equipment and so must rely on the soldiers around him for protection. Give him as much armour as possible, and a hand weapon and shield so that he at least gets a parry save if a ward save is not available from a non-magic item source. The advantage here is that you can move a Magic Standard to any unit the BSB could join, and even do this during a battle. There’s also the usual BSB effects of +1 combat resolution and a 12” Leadership re-roll bubble.

Certain units in your army can also take a magic standard, commonly a Special choice unit, and commonly with a limit of 50 points, though some armies can have a 25pt or less standard on a core choice. Sometimes this option is once an army, and sometimes you can repeat it as much as you like. The advantage here is that you can mix two different standards in the same unit with the BSB, but giving powerful standards to more than one unit quickly get expensive. You can also lose the standard if the unit flees.

The general rule I use for standards is to stay away from the really expensive ones unless they directly help my army’s strategy, or are needed for an army to perform well. Luckily, the common Magic Standards are relatively cheap compared to the unique army standards; all but one can be given to your units with the option for a 50pt standard.

Rampager’s Standard

The only common Magic Standard that can only be taken by the BSB, and it’s a good one. As the BSB is a character, you can give any unit he joins re-rolls to their charge distance, a game-changing ability. I find it works best in units of cavalry, or other fast units, but if these are unavailable it works for any unit that you absolutely need in close combat. It’s not that expensive too, and it gives you a reliable charging unit that can also re-roll its Leadership. If you have a hammer unit that you use to smash into the enemy early on, consider this standard for them.

Wailing Banner

An expensive standard, but it gives a unit a few helpful bonuses.
The first good effect is complete protection from Fear and Terror, and other Fear-causing units, who are normally immune to Fear, will be affected like any other unit by Fear tests. The protection is the best part, as you don’t need your General or BSB nearby to help the unit through any Fear or Terror causing enemies.
The second bonus is that you have a chance to make the enemy units flee when you charge them. Not super powerful due to the General and BSB, but it still might have an effect on the game, though sometimes you might want to get into combat.
Of course, Fear and Terror are no longer as powerful as they once were. No auto-breaking enemy units simply if you outnumber them anymore (if this rule was still in affect this banner would be all over the place with the profusion of steadfast hordes). They’re still quite good, but with the General’s Inspiring Presence and the BSB’s Hold Your Ground rules it’s a lot more likely these tests you’ll enforce will be passed.

For these reasons, the Wailing Banner is simply okay, better in armies with no access to Terror, but too expensive for its effect.

Ranger’s Standard

This is quite a good standard, as its affect of making a unit ignore terrain opens up a lot more movement options. It’s best given to a cavalry or other flanking unit, allowing the unit to sneak up through terrain without wrecking itself in the process. Note that it doesn’t let you see through terrain though.
An excellent candidate for this banner is Tomb Kings. A Tomb Herald BSB on a Chariot, in a unit of Chariots, can move and charge through any kind of terrain with impunity. Normally this is a risky manoeuvre due to terrain being very dangerous for Chariots (they treat any kind of terrain apart from open ground as dangerous, and one failed dangerous terrain test will cause D6 wounds on a Chariot unit) but the Ranger’s Standard allows you to ignore that entirely. The same applies for units of Cavalry and Monstrous Cavalry; through they only take a single wound to a failed test.

As this example shows, to get the most out of the Ranger’s Standard you need a specific unit and strategy. If you can do so, it’s a great standard for your BSB or hammer unit.

Razor Standard

This Magic Banner essentially gives the Biting Blade to an entire unit, a notable and powerful ability. It allows Strength 3 warriors to affect armour saves, letting them tear through weakly armoured units, and on units with a higher Strength it could mean they entirely cancel out enemy armour saves. Naturally, such ability is expensive, but you’re paying for an item which will drastically increase a unit’s combat skills against almost any enemy.

Good candidates for this Standard are units with halberds or great weapons, but units with plenty of attacks are also good. It’s hellish on a fully ranked up horde of spear-wielding anythings. Again, it’s an expensive item but one that will always have a big effect on your games.

War Banner

The old classic War Banner basically doubles the combat resolution that a standard puts out. It’s sweet and simple, and as such, it works for any combat unit you care to give it to. A unit with the War Banner and the BSB is getting +3 combat resolution before you even add on its rank bonus, and being able to generate a large chunk of static combat res from the start of the battle can make a unit virtually unmoveable by combat. This standard works best in armies that feature large blocks of infantry. Yes, that’s all of them.

Banner of Swiftness

With the Banner of Swiftness we start getting into the cheap Magic Standards that you can give to most units for a good effect. +1 Movement may not seem like much, but those extra inches do matter when it comes to important charges, and it can allow a fast unit even greater flexibility during the movement phase. The only downside to this standard is competition from better ones.

Lichebone Pennant

It’s like the Obsidian Trinket, but slightly better because it’s not hogging a character’s magic item allowance if you put it on a unit. It’s okay, but it runs into the same problems as the Obsidian trio discussed in Part 3: Talismans. Namely, used against precisely one form of attack and useless against all else. Better on massive units and if you have the points left over for it.

Standard of Discipline

I feel this is probably the best of the common standards because of its cheap cost, and because its downside is so easily negated. Who cares that the unit can’t use the General’s Inspiring Presence when the General himself is actually in the unit?
This brings us to awesome point #2: the Standard of Discipline will boost your General’s Leadership, and subsequently will give this enhanced Leadership to all the units in the Inspiring Presence bubble. If your General is in a unit that has the option to take a Magic Standard, you can’t go wrong choosing this one.

Banner of Eternal Flame

Flaming Attacks got a big boost this edition. As well as the usual screwing with Regeneration and Flammable, it allows the bearing unit to re-roll To Wound rolls when attacking units in buildings, and it also makes the unit cause Fear in War Beast, Cavalry and Chariot units. Everybody always forgets that last one, but make sure you don’t, it’s a huge boon against flanking and harassment units, which tend to be one of these unit types. It affects the unit’s close combat and shooting attacks, so it works on both chopping and shooting units.

All this for just ten measly points is a fantastic bargain, and a great point filler.

Gleaming Pennant

For just five points you get a single re-rollable Leadership test. Due to the BSB this isn’t so vital, but it is great for the flanking and harassment units that can take it, as they will most likely be too far away from the BSB. Obviously, don’t give it to your BSB.

A cheap point-filler item that can benefit the parts of your army that are on the edges, away from the BSB and General.

Scarecrow Banner

This item can be handy, but not in the way you’d expect. Considering that most models with the Fly rule also have the Fear or Terror rule, this cheap item basically makes your unit immune to, or lessens the effect of, those rules. You’re also doing the normal thing of causing Fear in the few Flying units that don’t cause Fear themselves. While Flying units can be rare, this item is cheap enough to be included if you need to fill in those last 5 points, and when it is used it will have an effect.


Due to how magic standards can be taken in your army, you can often mix and match the abilities from two different standards using the BSB and a unit that can take a different one. This way, you can make some truly impervious units, and certain standards play a part in some infamous death star units. Some common standards are great point fillers, and can always have an effect on your army, while others (such as the Standard of Discipline) can be used to enhance the abilities your army already has.

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