Monday, March 31, 2014

Dark Elves Army Book: Initial Impressions Part 1

Uh hi.

Remember me?

No?  Well that's OK anyway.

The long story short is that I was once a competitive 40k/Fantasy player who got run out of the hobby by GW.  8th Edition Fantasy was pretty casual, and 6th Edition 40k was just soul-crushingly bad.  So bad, in fact, that I couldn't stomach playing it anymore.  When the new Marines book came out I thought, "maybe this will do it."  Then I read how Templars are rolled into it and are extremely non-competitive.  

Alright.  It's fine, I've gone almost two years without playing 40k and I don't mind waiting another few years before I play again.  

So why am I here?  The short story is that Xaereth's casual Fantasy comeback inspired me to take a look at the new Dark Elves book.  I don't think I'll ever play in another tournament, especially not one I have to travel for; but I can still enjoy a beer and pretzels game once a month, right?  If that is the type of experience GW wants to sell to players maybe I can enjoy that.  I went to the LGS and purchased the "new" Dark Elves book.  I won't lie, our 7th Edition book had some insanely OP stuff.  The units, the magic items, the special rules: it was easy for a 40k player who dabbled in Fantasy to beat players much more experienced than myself simply by overpowering them.  I don't expect this ability to continue.  

According to Xaereth, the army is a glass cannon now, my old list packed chariots and Hydras and all the characters had insanely good ward saves and the heaviest armor.  The only thing squishy were my troops, and a good Dark Elf Lord know they are expendable anyway.  For an army of Elves, my army was a cannon but it was anything but glass.  

Enough summary.  What am I going to do here?  I haven't played any games with this book so a review would be silly.  A review of an army you haven't played is like reading a review of a car written by someone who has only read the owners manual.  I won't pretend to know the current tournament meta (still crazy OP magic and ultra-powerful warmachines?) so I'm sure I will say stuff that sounds dumb to experienced players.  But what I will give you is my initial impression of each unit and the magic items and how I think they would play.  I might be right on or I might be way off.  In either case, maybe I'll have some insight into the book that someone else could find useful.  Hopefully my experience playing the old book and a lot of 8th edition won't steer me completely wrong in an embarrassing way.

You ready? Let's do it.

My Guild Wars 2 Thief would make a great Dark Elf Assassin
The best place to start is with the magic items, I think, because you can't make a greatly informed decision about the Lords and Heroes without knowing what OP things you can give them.

Magic Items

Hydra Blade - 100 Point magic weapons are almost never viable.  One with a drawback is instant pass.

Chillblade - 50 point magic weapon that doesn't have to roll to wound.  Anyone hit by it has to pass a toughness test or be -3 attacks for a while.  Seems like a weapon you would put on a high initiative low strength character whose goal is to not die rather than to win challenges.  Pretty marginal utility.

Black Dragon Egg - One use item that grants you strength 6 and toughness 6 and a breath weapon for one turn.  I am not in that business, though its a nice trick to have when someone thinks they are going to kill your squishy sorceress.  Still, I don't see this being competitive.

Cloak of Twilight - 3++ save vs ranged weapons and magic.  In the first round of any close combat the wearer has killing blow and multiple wounds d3.  This sounds like it was tailor made for a character on a chariot and/or dark pegasus warmachine/character hunter.  This might be viable.

Black Amulet - 4++ save that inflicts an unsaveable wound back on anyone who have an attacked saved by it.  60 points is a bit steep but the effect is pretty good.

Ring of Hotek - Magic Resistance 3 and a 6" aura where snake eyes and double 6 causes miscasts.  Pretty powerful.  It's best on a front line unit that is fast enough to get close to the enemy's magic bunker or a character on a pegasus.  I still think 6" is pretty prohibitive to use though.

Banner of Nagarythe - A banner that grants Unbreakable for 100 points.  No thanks.

Gem of Spite - I'm not in the business of intentionally miscasting to maybe hurt other wizards.

Sacrificial Dagger - Oh baby.  This was by far the best item in the last book.  Only 50% effective now, but if you fail to generate the power die you can try again.  Only 25 points, even at a reduced effectiveness, is still priced to sell.  This seems like it is still a must have.

Tome of Furion - 25 Points for a free Dark Magic spell you can choose.  This was good last edition and is good now.  The best use previously was to give a level 2 sorceress a 3rd spell of her choosing, and I reckon this is still the best way to use it.

Lore of Dark Magic

Spiteful Conjuration - Attribute - basically a buff to your spells that adds a few low strength hits.  A lot of the spells in the Lore are strong against plentiful weaklings so depending on the match up it can be great or terrible.

Power of Darkness - Signature Spell - Give a unit +1 Strength, generate d3 Power Dice.  If you generate 3 dice you take a wounds.  I envision having a level 1 sorceress with Tome of Furion casting a huge spell once per turn with this.  If she dies, she dies, but at least she gets off one mega spell.

Doombolt - Signature Spell - 2d6 strength 2 magic missile that reduces the enemy unit balistic by 1.  A good way to slow down a large unit of archers, but how can that compare to the Power of Darkness?

Word of Pain - Hex spell that does -d3 to weaponskill and ballistic, can be buffed to affect Strength and Initiative as well.  Pretty strong on the 12+ version and ensures that your unit will win any combat.

Bladewind - Direct damage spell that requires the unit to pass a strength test or everyone takes a strength 4 hit.  Really good against large units of weaklings, obviously.  

Shroud of Despair - Hex prevents enemies from using Inspiring Presence and hold your ground.  This can be situationally powerful against low Leadership armies who rely on their general for Leadership.  Easy to think of a few like that, otherwise skip this.

Soul Stealer - A small blast template that inflicts Strength 2 hits with no armor.  You wizard gains wounds up to 10.  Another good spell against weak hordes.  Ideally super strong on a roaming pegasus sorceress who will be soaking up some hits.  Strength 2 hits even with no armor are nothing to be super excited about.

Black Horror - A magic vortex that forces strength tests and kills outright and can backfire spectacularly.  Yet another spell that picks on weaklings.  Sensing a theme here?  This one is pretty meh, but when used on a Pegasus Sorceress it can do serious work devastating someone's entire line.  

Summary: The best magic items appear to be geared towards increasing the capabilities of your casters.  The combat weapons are fairly weak, though the cloak of twilight seems good.  The magic lore seems like a good support Lore.  I would guess the best thing would be to take Shadow on your Supreme and then a level 1 who likes to live dangerous with Tome of Furion to being Power of the Darkness and Blackhorror on a Pegasus or dark steed.  My impression is that the only time you want to really go Supreme Sorceress is when you're facing an s3/t3 army.  But even then, the Lore of Shadows seems superior.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?