Monday, October 10, 2011

WHFB: Dark Elf Corsairs Thoughts

Hola amigos.  Email in…

Ajac writes, “I've recently switched to Dark Elves in WHFB, having briefly played Ogres in the first few months of the current edition and Tomb Kings for most of last year. I think I'm going to be happier with their overall style of play. I'm also really taken in by the overall aesthetic and utility of the Dark Elf Corsairs.
I've done a deep dive into your archive after having discovered your blog and see that you have put most of your Dark Elven Eggs into two baskets - the chariot army and the black guard army. I also know that it is more important to have "a plan" instead of having "a list," but I see no reason I can't hang both my plan and my list on my favorite toy soldiers... which brings me to the point of my email:
If you were going to build a Dark Elf army (at 2000 and/or 2500 point) that was centered on Corsairs, what would you do?

Thanks in advance"

First, let’s talk a bit about Corsairs and what they do.  They have the same stat line as the other troops choices for Dark Elves with Strength 3 and Toughness 3.  They have marginally better armor than the others thanks to Sea Dragon Cloak, but once you add shields to basic warriors they are on par.

What makes them different?  They have the option to bring Additional Hand Weapons, which gives them two attacks.  One unit of Corsairs can bring the Sea Serpent Standard which gives Frenzy for a third attack.  Alternatively, you can arm them with Hand crossbows, which are quick to fire non-armor piercing guns with 8” range and no long range penalty.

One way to look at it is you have a unit that is the best of both worlds, it can fight AND shoot, whereas the Repeater X-bowmen and Warriors are specialized.  Unfortunately, the correct way to look at it is that they are a unit can neither fight, nor shoot effectively.

First, if you give them the SSS to make them fighty, you want to make the unit as wide as possible to get the maximum number of 3 attack guys in the combat.  Realistically, 7 wide is the most you want to go.  21 Corsairs, 7 wide.  That’s 28 attacks.  Not bad.  Until you remember that they are Str 3 attacks.  Nobody is really scare about a boatload of Strength 3.  If they had armor piercing or were Str 4, or poison, they would be a killer unit.  Unfortunately, in this configuration they aren’t going to kill much.  And there is a better way to do it…

Second, when armed with hand bows their close combat fighting ability is drastically reduced with the benefit of being able to throw out some Strength 3 shots.  Since they are quick to fire, a strategy is to walk up to your opponent, shoot them, let them charge you, and get to shoot again and then fight.  This is a good way to throw out lot’s of Strength 3… if throwing out Strength 3 was a good thing to be doing with your time. 

One thing to consider: add the SSS to a unit with hand bows.  You get the extra attack in close combat, but also get the shooting attacks.  In this configuration, your unit actually produces the most potential kills.  If you HAD to use Corsairs, this is how you do it. 

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute.  Even in the “ideal” configuration, they still aren’t good at all.  Warriors with spears in a deep formation actually produce more or less the same amount of attacks in combat, and are cheaper, which is something to consider with equipment like Sacrificial Dagger.  And Repeater Crossbowmen might not be quick to fire, but their shots are more powerful, further ranged, and their combat ability isn’t that much worse than the others.

But Ian is right, the models are beautiful.  The Dark Elf Warrior box doesn’t look particularly bad, but they are really dated compared to the Corsairs.  Models this nice should be used, for sure.

Simple fix: Witches Elves.  Model your Corsairs with Additional Hand Weapons and play them as Witches.  Granted Witch Elves aren’t the most competitive choice either, but at least they CAN be competitive.   A box of 12 plastic Corsairs is a lot cheaper than 5 metal Witch Elves.  Frankly, this is the best and coolest use of the Corsair models. 



  1. What about their slavers rule? surely that's a bit useful?

  2. Don't also forget they're arguably the best target in the army for the Cauldron's Killing Blow. They've been a staple in my DE Infantry Horde army for quite some time. They're also nearly as good as Witches with Mindrazor on, and are naturally core.

    Don't forget for the same cost, they're also fairly resilient against small arms fire and warmachine templates.

    It's a good unit, but maybe not something I'd base my entire army around. I usually take one unit of 21 (7 Wide, 3 deep) in my typical army. They usually do fairly well.