|What did the horse say?|
Competitive unit review of the new Dark Elves book. This review will focus on how Dark Elves will preform from an external balance point of view.
LORDS and HEROES
Malekith - 2/5
Just way too expensive for what he does. The guy is 510 points and is basically a lesser version of Teclis and a lesser version of Tyrion mixed into one character. This lack of focus and the fact his primary abilities are kind of gimmicky makes him a poor choice overall. Oh, you can also take him on a his dragon for an absurd amount of points if you really want to.
Mortahi - 3/5
Not the greatest character, but for her points, she's not bad at all. She's basically a Supreme Sorc that has more lore flexibility and can fight on her Dark Peggy. The fact she's packing some powerful weaponry, an innate 4+ ward and MR2 (2++ vs. magic missiles), and she has everything built in nicely for her cost, I say she's a solid choice. If you want to go the flying route, I know I would rather have Mortahi over a standard Supreme Sorc because of her extra special rules. At 375, if you're going for the peggy spellcaster, there's no better option.
Hellebron - 4/5
The reason why I don't rank her higher is because she has absolutely nothing defensive about her anymore. She lost Parrying Blade and gained some useless S4 backlash in return, but the damage and toolbox has increased dramatically. Coming in at 310 points, she packs 5 base + Super Frenzy + D3 attacks for a total of 10 possible attacks at WS7 I9 ASF Poison S10 with re-roll 1s to wound. If that's not crazy, I don't know what is. She comes with Warcry which is super Fear on -3 Ld., Witchbrew which makes her and unit of Witches get super Frenzy (+2 attacks), and Rune of Khaine which is what gives her +D3 extra attacks. Hellebron also gives magic protection in her unit in an rather unique way: All magic spells targeting her unit gets +4 to dispel, so if you have a Supreme Sorc in your army you get +8 to dispel on the unit. Not bad per se, but I would rather see MR3 personally.
Malus Darkblade - 2.5/5
Not really that great, especially for his points cost. The reason why is simply because more competitive options exist via the Dreadlord and their damn Sea Dragon Cloaks. I mean, he has one, but his points cost vs. a regular Dreadlord is a little shoddy, and you know for sure the dude you build isn't going to go berserk and cut down your own guys. Plus, aside from the 1+ AS, he doesn't have much protection.
Dreadlord/Master - 4.5/5
These guys are basically better versions of the High Elf equivs in every way. You have ASF, the same stats, but now you have re-roll 1s to wound in CC and have the Sea Dragon Cloak. In case you guys don't know yet, SDC gives the bearer 5+ Scaly Skin which can be stacked with armor as usual. This means you have 1+ AS for Heavy Armor, Shield and just being mounted, otherwise you're running 2+ AS for being on foot. This makes the Dreadlord a much better fighter than their HE counterparts in almost every combat scenario and magic item combination. For example, you can easily run a 1+ AS with re-roll, Giant Blade and OTS on the same guy, which is not possible for a HE Prince.
Supreme Sorc/Sorceress - 4.5/5
In terms of sheer flexibility, the Dark Elves are incredibly strong now. All of their mages can take all the book lores as well as having their own Dark Magic. This itself unlocks a huge array of tactics and strategies that otherwise wouldn't exist. Where the arcane item selection doesn't stand out like the Book of Hoeth, a few pieces here and there are still pretty noteworthy. That, and the fact that Dark Magic packs its own test-or-die spell makes DE mages some of the best in the game.
High Beastmaster - 2/5
This guy is pretty much the Anointed of the DE book. He's very gimmicky in the fact that he can ride a Manticore for free, but his points is already very expensive for someone with Light Armor and Sea Dragon Cloak. The only way someone is going to run something that costs 300 points before upgrades is if he really likes the fluff or model. Having +2D3 extra attacks on the Manticore sounds like a lot of fun, but it's a Manticore and it's going to die just like Griffons do to cannons and other dangerous artillery pieces on the battlefield.
Black Ark Fleetmaster - 1/5
He's basically a 3-wound master with a huge gimmick: Kill someone or stay alive in a challenge and your unit gets Unbreakable for the rest of the turn. OK sure, I refuse the challenge. Now you're left out to dry (lol get it?!) with 50 points of magic items that you can spend trying to get a weapon you'll never use or a AS that doesn't matter. Garbage.
Shadowblade - 2/5
This guy is a shadow (LOL, lovin' it) of his former self. He can hide from unit to unit and on the turn he comes out, he's falling on you with 4 S8 attacks with +1 to wound and KB. Too bad he's expensive, is a one-pump chump, and is sure to die after he makes his attacks. Honestly, you're much better taking a cheaper Assassin.
Lokir Fellheart - 3/5
Not too bad actually, and the funny part is, Lokir has a better chance killing a mage in a bunker than Shadowblade is. Lokir has something called Daring Leap that allows him to swing at any enemy character model in the same combat. Since he's a piratelord, he also has Show No Weakness which then allows him to give the unit Unbreakable if he kills them. With 4 attacks, S4 and re-roll wounds, he can easily kill an unarmored mage just by being in combat with them. The 2+ AS that he sports ontop of Regen and Terror gives him quite a bit of durability as well. A better assassin than the greatest assassin for cheaper, that's just sad.
Kouran Darkhand - 2/5
Great stats, ItP, Stubborn, Eternal Hatred, ASF, S6 alway, man, he seems great right? No. Not for the points, not even close. You want fighters to stay alive so they can actually do the fighting. In an edition where Stepping Up is an actual thing, you don't want to be a fighting character character with little to no armor. Unless you're bringing the pain like Hellebron, you're going to be overshadowed and frankly, quite useless.
Tullaris Dreadbringer - 2.5/5
Same deal for this dude, except the fact he gets to give Executioners Frenzy. He's still paper thin, is pretty expensive and doesn't bring anything to the table but killing a few models and dying in return. Keep in mind that this is a game about points. You want to maintain a good KDR where you can say with confidence: This model killed X amount of points back and that's why he's great. This isn't going to happen if you get hit back and you die horribly, especially when he's not packing ASF to go with that lovely 5+ KB. The only thing I like about him is that he gives Executioners' Frenzy, which can be good and bad depending on situation.
Death Hag/Cauldron - 3/5
This is going to be a slightly longer one because it has to do with two separate entities. For the Death Hag herself, I see her simply as a tax so you can access the Cauldron. She's actually quite terrible herself, having no save of any kind but allowing you to give any unit you want Frenzy or activate Cry of War. Even though she can take magic weapons, I would just keep her as cheap as possible while getting some utility out of her. She's going to die, even if the Cauldron is there so why even bother.
The main thing about the Cauldron is that while it is decent, it's really expensive. If it was a stand alone choice, I would definitely consider taking it, but as of right now, you're subject to the Death Hag tax. If you're going to take a Death Hag, you're essentially 85+ points to something that's going to be drastically expanding your unit of Witches. From my experience, this leads down a very slippery slope. If you take the Cauldron, you want your unit of Witches to be big. You also want to give the Death Hag the BSB because you don't want to pay extra for a Master, and some gear/tools to prolong her existence. Before you know it, you're spending a crazy amount of points to get things going. If the Cauldron gave the girl on top a 4+ Ward, some form of strong MR, or abilities like last edition, I would strongly consider it. Even if you were allowed to re-roll wounds for all units with MP and NOT models within 6", I would strongly consider it. At its current, the Cauldron is simply another player option, but not a must-have like other people are calling it.
Also, I'm currently playing the thing with re-roll all wounds in CC only. Despite my powergaming roots wanting me to take it with 4x RBTs, I just can't do it anymore.
Assassin - 2.5/5
Just give the guy a Potion of Strength and extra hand weapon and call it a day. He's not going to survive prolonged combat, and S7 should be enough to make a dent on anything. Too bad most of his targets are going to be 300+ tooled up lords that's going to smack him in the face and end it all right there. While the stats are insanely impressive, he's not exactly in the throw-away zone with all things considered. If ASF canceled with ASF and then followed Initiative order, the Assassin would be stronger. Unfortunately, going at the same time with a Chaos Lord is not going to do anything but get yourself killed with very little chance of actually killing him. Frankly, I wish there was a backstab option that'll allow these guys to swing with no fear of retaliation for one round. Maybe then they'll be worth something.
Dreadspears/Bleakswords/Darkshards - 2.5/5
These are your standardized Elven core infantry units. They can either use their Spears, hack at things with swords, or shoot at things with RXBs. The Darkshards' Repeater Crossbows now cost 12ppm so the price is a little up there. I don't expect to see many big units of these anymore, but a few MSU units of 10 might still see use, especially when they can take the Flaming Banner. As for the Dreadspears, I expect to see them more over the Bleakswords simply because they get more attacks that can re-roll those 1s due to Murderous Prowess.
Corsairs - 3/5
I would take these guys over the above options any day in the week. They can sport 4+ AS due to their Sea Dragon Cloaks and you can give them 2x hand weapons so they have more attacks. The 4+ AS is the best armor any field infantry has seen so far and that's one of the reasons why these guys are good. At 11ppm with AHW, they will fight with Witches over who's the better core unit. More on that later.
Dark Riders - 4.5/5
The best Fast Cav in the game currently with the option for 4+ AS without movement penalty, RXB, M9 and ASF Spears. These guys can be anywhere they want, threaten a large array of enemies with good rolling, and are downright the most cost-effective Fast Cav Core to be seen. The fact that they cost nothing due to Core allowance makes them absolutely superb: More drops, provides shooting and Fast Cav status on Dark Steeds means DE heroes will be able to travel with them.
Witch Elves - 4/5
Amazing statline for Core with the exception of being Frenzy. Frenzy can be a good thing and a bad thing, but in the case of Witches I think this is more good. Having 3 attacks a piece with I6 ASF Poison is kind of ridiculous, especially when you can take a Razor Standard in the unit and getting that nice Armor Piercing damage. Having innate ITP also makes these guys great monster killers, and as long as you win the chaff war vs. good opponents, you will not be led astray too much. This is why it's absolutely pivotal Dark Elves have a strong shooting phase. You want you units to be able to charge the units that they want and not have to worry about damage in return. One of the best choices for Core in the meta, as the sheer number of wounds you inflict will make them dangerous to everything in the game.
Cold One Knights - 3/5
At 30ppm and S6 on the charge, these guys got better I think. The ASF really helps guarantee those S6 hits and the fact that Cold Ones now have 2A a piece makes this unit very good. While not as precise and brutal vs. standard line infantry as Dragon Princes, COKs' access to S6 makes them more effective against a broader spectrum of enemies on the battlefield. Fear is still there as is Stupidity, but having a unit of 5 on the flank is never a bad idea.
Black Guard - 3/5
In another time period, these guys were the king of the battlefield. Now at 15ppm and S4 with virtually no protection, these guys can't stand toe to toe with anyone. Remember, this game is all about points in relation to KDR to how units preform on the battlefield. Being ItP and Stubborn is a great thing, as is re-rolling to hit with ASF and S4 re-roll 1s, but the fact that a Skaven Slave can run up and chop your ass down and remain Steadfast means that fodder will be grinding it out with DE elites. These guys basically dropped into Sword Master status in terms of cost-effectiveness.
Shades - 4/5
Probably one of the best things to transition over from the previous book. S5 GWs as I5 is a very welcome addition to Shades considering they've lost nothing in terms of shooting. BS5, great coverage vs. any unit, Skirmishers who can scout and harass the enemy for days. If they ever get in a house, these guys will make your life a living hell as no one wants to take a hail of accurate RXB shots to the face.
Cold One Chariot - 3/5
A good priced S5 T5 chariot with 3+ AS and 4W is very welcome for this army book. Simply put, these guys make Lion Chariots look like dog crap, especially when you factor in the fact they have Scythes and RXBs as extra bonuses. A very solid pick for cheap.
Executioners - 4.5/5
The best special unit for Dark Elves right here. High WS, Ld.9, threatens everything in the game with Killing Blow and re-roll 1s to wound with S6 striking at I5. At 12ppm, these guys don't get any better than this. Sure, they fall over to a slight breeze, but their kill potential and range of damage is what keeps these guys in the game. Smack a SoDiscipline on them and they'll hang tight by matching kills with the opponent's best units and remain equal on KDR. The fact that DE can now take any lore in the game makes these guys even stronger, since you can buff them to godly levels via magic.
Repeater Bolt Thrower - 4/5
You need these to be a competitive army, simple as that. I can't say the same for High Elves due to their enormous threat coverage from the Frostheart, but these are an absolute necessity for any competitive DE player. With so many good units running around with Frenzy, or wants to be Frenzy, picking your charges and negotiating the battlefield via movement is king. Repeater Bolt Throwers help clear the field of chaff, thus allowing you to move around freely so you can pick your combats. Having S6 no AS D3 wounds at BS4 also puts the fear of death into popular flying Daemon Princes, who would otherwise be a nightmare to face otherwise.
Harpies - 1/5
Invalidated due to Dark Riders being so amazing. I guess you can keep a few of these guys around to fly around and be annoying, but there's much cheaper chaff out there so you might as well take the superior Dark Riders. Plus, you're Dark Elves and you should be shooting in every phase.
Scourgerunner Chariot - 1/5
At 150 points, I don't think so. Good movement with Elven BS is nice, but suffering the move to hit with long-range penalties is pretty garbage. Sure, S7 is great, but it needs to hit first and if you're not moving, you're no getting into a good position to make it happen. I know I'm probably going to regret the day I ignore one of these and eat a bolt to the face, but I'll take my chances and so will other players. Whenever I see one of these on the battlefield, I know my opponent could of spent points elsewhere that'll be more useful, and guaranteed to do stuff.
War Hydra - 3/5
Alright, I'm going to put these guys as a 3 for right now. I'm particularly hard on these guys because they're in a very tricky place balance design wise. Last edition, these guys were the most underpriced monsters in the game, packing a S5 breath for every S and ripping it up with 4+ Regen on top of it. Now, you got to be very careful how you use Hydras on the battlefield because their play mechanics have been completely redesigned. Since you can apply a cannonball to a Hydra and have him die instantly, you know for sure he'll be drawing warmachine fire that's otherwise meant for more.. dangerous targets. Don't get me wrong, the Hydra can still be dangerous because he'll have a buttload of attacks, a S4 breath you can buy, and a potentially annoying regeneration ability (end of your turn, restores a wound for however many wounds lost on a 4+), but Ld. 6 and less protection will see him killed a lot sooner. This could be a good thing in some cases, but it often results in 160+ points lost with no accomplishment.
Doomfire Warlocks - 4.5/5
One of the best things in the army book right here. These guys have a ridiculous statline and even more ridiculous abilities. Fast Cav M9 with WS4, ASF, 2 attacks Poison, and comes stock with a 4+ ward (except for Slaanesh). No Mus or Standard for these guys, but who cares when you count as a Lv.2 Wizard (+1 level for each additional rank) and come with Doombolt and Soulblight. Being a wizard means you can channel, throw big versions of the spell you're using, but being unique in the fact that when you miscast, you take D3 wounds that can be negated with your ward save. Their speed, power and potential makes them excellent toolbox units that will see play in every DE army. Essentially, two in every army will give you more magic missile utility, Soulblight as a toolbox spell, and more channels than you deserve. At 125 for 5, every competitive player will have two. And every cheese player will have a big unit with them with a Dreadlord and BSB in tow (until they get 6-dice Choir'd in a tournament and never play again).
Bloodwrack Medusa - 1/5
I'm giving these a pitiful score because they're in a very odd place in the book. You want them because they do solid damage to low-I, armored units like Mournfangs or the Frostheart Phoenix, but their pitiful range makes them exceptionally bad for that. Because their ability is only useful against low-I units, this makes them very specialized in their role as well. With only T4, 3W and no saves of any kind, you can't exactly go about throwing 90 points away for little gain. I can see what the author was going for, but the points cost is way too steep for what this Ld.2 creature brings to the battlefield.
Kharibdyss - 3.5/5
I mean, why have the Medusa when you can rock the K-Beast. I've pretty much given up trying to spell and say the name, so I'm defaulting to K-something in all my articles going forward. Regardless of how you say the name, 5 WS5 attacks at I4 S7 Poison is pretty good. If you hit a single model with all of your attacks, you get a free D6 extra hits at S7. All in all, this guy is what you want when you want to punch through heavy armor. If your Witches or Executioners can't kill their given target and need a little more oomph, you send this dude in to scream slimy death into their face. Abyssal Howl makes it so you have to re-roll successful leadership tests on any unit engaged touching the K-Beast. This can be pretty good when taking the Terror test and especially helpful if your opponent is forced to break. In that case, if either test succeeds, Howl will force a re-roll and your opponent won't be able to use his BSB. At T5, 5W and 4+ AS for only 160 points, I think he's very worth it. Just gotta be careful about his Ld.6.
Bloodwrack Shrine - 1/5
This is an overpriced piece of garbage with very little battlefield application. You would think that giant mirror behind the Medusa will amplify her abilities in a BIG way, but no, the rules have to suck. The only thing this 175 point unit does is give DE MODELS within 6" of it +1 to their leadership and -1 to enemy MODELS within 6" -1. Sorry, but that's trash beyond belief, even if you're going for some super gimmicky fear-bomb with Cry of War. I've never been more disappointed in such a beautiful model going to waste, oh wait, there was the Mutalith Vortex Beast.
Sisters of Slaughter - 3/5
Pretty good unit that has to be used like a swift scalpel. This is one of those units that are very hit or miss depending on matchup. Vs. armies that have a lot of shooting, these girls are going to die pretty horribly and not be worth the 15ppm you're spending on them. Against armies with very little, limited or no shooting, these guys can be fantastic. Whenever they get in combat with someone, they lose their ability to parry and rank bonuses for the purposes of combat resolution. In addition, if they have higher WS or S than you, you automatically gain +1 to hit and wound. I would of like this much more if they had higher S than 3, but a good sized unit of these guys can actually grind it out with Nurgle Halberds due to their 4+ Ward in close combat. Not as reliable as Sisters of Averlorn because they're running around naked and their save only works in CC, but they can be extremely powerful on a flank since all it takes is one sister to negate all ranks.