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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Armies in 8th: Dark Elves Part Four: Lords and Heroes


Hello, Nikephoros here for the final installment of the Dark Elves in 8th review.  This section will cover the Lords and Heroes for the DE, who have some pretty great options and builds.  Few army books have characters who are worth their points, so it’s definitely nice that the Dark Elf characters can pull their weight.   As always, I skip over the named characters because I don’t find them interesting and they are usually non-competitive.  There are occasionally some exceptions though, so be prepared…

Dreadlord:  The Fantasy rule of thumb is that fighty Lords are a waste of points, and I most certainly agree with that… usually.  However, there are builds where a fighty Lord can add some significant value to your army.  In the case of Dark Elves, they have a Dreadlord with Pedant of Khaleth and a 2+ armor save, Crown of Command, and some magic close combat weapon mounted on a Dark Pegasus or a Dark Steed.  This commonly known as the “unkillable Dreadlord” you hear about on various web forums.  He has a good armor save, the best ward save in the game, is Stubborn on LD10 and can deal a beating in close combat.  He has two uses: tying up an opposing Deathstar for most (or all) of the game, or killing warmachines or magic bunkers early in the game.  Both of these things are quite useful for a Dark Elf general.  I do, however, consider this a luxury character and you shouldn’t sacrifice the nuts and bolts of your list to find points for him.  But if you have the points, he is great.  For the record, I like to equip him with the Whip of Agony.  This is a one handed weapon that strikes at strength 5 and gives the user an extra attack.  5 Str 5 attacks at Initiative 8 with re-rolls to hit is nothing to sneeze at.  There are other things you can do with a Dreadlord, such as putting him on a monster like a Black Dragon, but I tend to find that those mounts are ridiculously expensive and eat into your points such that you don’t have enough magic in your list.  Also, a Dragon will attract far too much warmachine and magic attention to merit inclusion.  When you consider that 250ish points could buy another Supreme Sorceress, ridden monsters are a competitive selection.

Supreme Sorceress:  If not the best non-special character caster in the game, definitely in the top 3.  She gets to take the best offensive Lores.  She generates extra power dice.  She gets access to amazingly powerful magic items like Tome of Furion and Sacrificial Dagger.  And not insignificantly, she can roll 7 (or more) dice to cast a spell.  There are times when you absolutely have to successfully cast a spell to win the game, and there are few better ways to ensure it is going to happen than to throw a ton of dice at it.  Simply put, for the same price as most other army books pay for their wizard lords, you get a wizard lord that is simply superior to almost all of them.  I don’t tend to over load them with magic items, but the aforementioned Sacrificial Dagger should fit into your build if your Sorceress is on foot in a bunker of spear warriors.  I personally love a SS on a Dark Steed with a Focus Familiar.  This item allows her to draw line of site from a token that you get to place within 6” of her each turn.  Thanks to this, she can stay safely out of Line of Sight of shooting, magic, and charges but still be close enough to cast her spells.  This item I love much, because it’s a skill tester: the better a player you are, the more value you’ll get out of it. 

Sorceress:  The Hero level DE caster is also fantastic for similar reasons.  She gets access to kick ass Lores, can generate her own power dice, and can chuck tons of dice at a casting attempt.  I do like the Tome of Furion a lot on her, because having a level 2 with 3 spells means that you usually have two copies of your Lore’s signature spell, and generally those spells are something you want to be casting every turn anyway.  In the early days of 8th, their ability to throw 7 dice at a spell combined with the Power Scroll meant that you could ALWAYS get irresistible force off on Turn 1 (assuming you generated enough power dice) and a measly level 1 wizard could decimate the opponent.  Those days are over, but the ability to toss a ton of dice at a key spell remains, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Master:  The Hero level fighty character is also a tremendous value.  Most folks will make him the army’s BSB unless they are running Cauldrons (see below), and when I do, I don’t often give him a magical banner.  He tends to attract a lot of heat, so I usually give him defensive items.  Since a DE list (with Stupid Cold Ones, and Sacrificial Daggers and Miscasts) takes a lot of Leadership tests, keeping him alive is a value.  I like giving him the Armor of Eternal Servatude (Regen 4+) and Dragonbane Gem (2++ ward vs Fire).  This covers his bases: against normal attacks he gets his armor save (usually 3+) followed by a 4++ regen save.  Against Flaming attacks he gets the armor and a 2++ ward.  If I have extra points, he gets a cheap magic weapon, if not a Halberd ensures he gets Str 5 attacks.  He can go on whatever mount (or non-mount) is most useful for your list, but generally you want to keep him out of combat.  The non-bsb version isn’t super exciting, except on a chariot.  Without any magical items, and just a mundane kit, he comes to about 180 on a Chariot.  That isn’t a very bad way at all to add a 4th (or 7th) chariot to your list on the cheap, and he is a pretty nice upgrade from a normal chariot crew member.

Death Hag:  A Hero level Witch Elf.  They are killing machines, but have very little in way of defense.  One of the few uses for them is to carry the BSB, the ASF banner, and sit in a unit of Executioners.  If you refer to the review I did of Executioners, you’ll see that this tends to be a huge waste of points.  The reason to bring a Death Hag is to unlock the…

Cauldron of Blood:  Cauldrons get a major rework in the FAQ, but the basics are they are rather unkillable to enemy shooting with T10 and a 4++ ward, and the attendants are a Death Hag and two Witches, which are tough enough to kill the usually lightly armed units that people send to harass war machines.  So what does it do?  First (and least) it grants a 12” Stubborn bubble to Khainite units.  Since Khainite units aren’t generally super awesome, this is marginal.  Most importantly, it dishes out blessings each turn to one unit.  You can get the following: 5++ ward, +1 attack, or Killing Blow.  I find Killing Blow to be the one I use the least on the table top.  In the early turns the ward is good for getting your elite infantry or Cold One Knights across the table intact, and later on the +1 attack helps make those units more killy.  They seem like relatively modest buffs, and they are.  But they tend to be the exact things that DE units are weak in: their high strength units have few attacks.  Their high attack units aren’t strong.  Their best units are fragile.  One great thing about this unit is, again, it is skill testing.  You pay a lot of points for it.  The buffs aren’t overpowering.  To make it worth its points, you have to skillfully apply it.  Failure to do so will make a huge chunk of your points wasted.  But skillfully applying it creates a force multiplier that can make it seem like a steal at it’s 200 point price tag.  For 225 this is a good place to put your Death Hag BSB because it gives her a 4++ ward and a T10 vs shooting/magic, and two Hag wound counters. 

Assassins:  A great many DE players took up the army due to how cool the Assassins are.  They can be built to be character killers, unit killers, or even shooty monster killers (with shooting stars).  They have I10 and Always Strikes First, so they can and should slaughter any opposing character they meet in combat with.  The problem is, unlike 7th edition where you could wipe the first row and not get hit back, Assassins tend to jump out, kill something and then get killed right back.  Since they cost a decent amount of points, it can be a challenge to get value out of them.  M0st people have stopped bringing them in competitive lists as a result.  The only competitive use I can still see for them is to put them in a unit of Shades that deploy in the enemy backfield and give him throwing stars and build him to kill units rather than characters.  If your opponent sends a token force to combat your Shades, he will smash that unsuspecting unit.  If he tries to ignore the Shades, he can reveal himself and start chucking Strength 6 throwing stars at enemy war machines.

That wraps up the character section of the Dark Elves book.  They have plenty of options with only a few stinkers (vanilla Death Hag, Assassins) but for the most part their fighty characters are useful and they have among the best wizards in the game.  There is very little to complain about here for DE players.

Comments, questions, polemic, vitriol?

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