High Elf Unit Review and Army-Wide Tactics
I read through the tactics repository and noticed that there were very few/no tactics for high elves, so I decided to write one.
I have been playing high elves ever since they got their 7th edition armybook way back when. After 8th edition started and I dumped my dark elves, high elves became my main (really my only) fantasy army. I will start this tactica off by posting some general tactics and pointers.
This is the main problem with high elves - they are extremely fragile. This in of itself wouldn't be a problem, but they are really fragile (no elves have toughness 4) and their cheapest unit - spearmen - costs almost as much as some other army's elites. To counter this you can take large units which are harder to destroy, or small units, which individually cost little so your opponent doesn't gain much by killing them. Also, the lore of life meshes amazingly well with them, bringing back our high cost specials and buffing up everything. Just keep in mind you will lose soldiers when making your army list.
2. Speed of Asuryan
This probably should have gone first, but I'm sure anyone that has written a recent high elf tactica put it first too, so I decided to rock the boat. This rule is what makes the high elves go - without it, we would be a terrible army. This special rule, found on every single high elf model, give us the ability to always strike first - with any weapon. This means our great weapons don't go last, or at normal (5) initiative. They always strike first. Many people will tell you they don't. They are liars! Tell them so - then read the special rule in your armybook and laugh. In addition, if our initiative is equal to or higher than our enemies (which is the case against all but like 4 units in the whole game) we get to reroll our misses in every single round of combat - unlike hatred, which only affects the first.
This special rule makes our units - even the basics, extremely choppy in close combat. Also, with our superb weapon skill, coupled with re-rolls to hit, our special will hit 88.9% of the time. No other army can come close to having that kind of hit ratio in close combat, which leaves us with the ability to almsot ignore the to-hit table.
This one will be short. With a few exceptions in special, high elves have a strength of 3-4. Most people look at this and immidiately dismiss these units in close combat - as they "can't hit hard". Look at wounding as another roll of the close-combat die. We hit more than any other army, and have a good leadership, which more than makes up for this low strength.
High elves have access to 9 lores of magic - which I believe is unparalelled throughout the current warhammer world, though I may be wrong. We have access to every rulebook lore as well as our own, high magic. We have an innate +1 to dispel. We have dragon mages. We get drain magic for free - if we take high magic. We have amazing magical items at bare bottom prices. The last reason is Teclis. He is easily the most powerful offensive caster in the game - beating out even the best slann. (more on teclis later). I will now give a quick rating for each of the magic lores (in relation to high elves, not in general):
Fire Magic - 4/10
Fire magic is your basic killy shooty lore. It is somewhat strong, but there are much more poweful lores out there, and fire magic has no extra little tricks or tactics to go along with it. Just blast away. It is a great lore for beginners, as it is point-and-shoot, but does really nothing beyond that.
Beast Magic - 6/10
Beast magic's signature spell is great for buffing our wimpy troops. It has a cannon spell, and transformation of kadon is cool, if not as devastating as some would have you believe. It is a solid buffing lore, but there are better.
Metal Magic - 4/10
This lore is all about doing damage to armoured units - but loses out in its inflexibility. it is great against Warriors of Chaos and Brettonians, but sucks against elves and other armies with 5+ on almost every unit. Also, we have other ways of dealing with armour.
Light Magic - 2/10
It is totally unnecessary. It is still decent against daemons, but our weapon skill and iniiavtive values are already through the roof. We already have ASF, and double movement is great, but ours is already better then average. Unless you are playing daemons, overlook this lore.
Heavens Magic - 5/10
This isn't a great lore in my opinion. Wind blast is situationally acceptable, but the big crusher spells, coment of cassandora and chain lighting, can be devastating but both have a chance of doing squat. They also have have a chance of ripping apart armies, but the purple sun is better (usually) in that regard.
Death Magic - 8/10
The ultimate killing lore. Death is great for sniping characters, mages, and annoying units, but caress and fate have no other real uses. Purple Sun can destroy armies, but has limited (virtually nonexistant) uses against elves and other high initiative armies. Also, teclis is the only caster who can reliably cast the boosted version of it.
Shadow Magic - 10/10
You had to wonder when the ratings would get higher right? Well higher it has gotten. Shadow magic literally has it all, a nice (tricky) movement spell, strength and toughness debuffs, a blaster spell and other buffs. Miasma + a boosted pit of shades will destroy any unit. You can drop the miasma against undead, dwarves, lizardmen, ogres, etc, but it is still a great combo. Most people will let miasma through (especially against you) then you can try to force a pit of shades down their throat. Mindrazor, is, debatably, the most ridiculous spell in the rulebook. Strength 8 spears? Does that solve your low-strength problem? This is best on low strength units, because, seriously, your white lions don't need it. This lore is best on an archmage.
Life Magic - 10/10
Most people agree that life is the best rulebook lore. It is amazing for you, even more so than many other armies. Earthblood is a nice little buff on anything but phoenix guard. Regrowth doesn't bring back too many elves, but an elf that comes back to life is awesome. Flesh to stone is amazing. Awakening the wood can be decent, and dwellers bellow give some serious teeth to what is, otherwise, a very defensive lore. Lastly - throne of vines. This spell, when rolled, makes every other spell so much better. You what is scarier than swordmasters? Toughness 7 swordmaster with a 4+ regeneration save. This is also best taken on an archmage.
High Magic - 9/10
I will give a more detailed overview on this later.
Next up will be a few more tips and general tactics, then on to lords and heroes!
High Magic Overview:
High magic is the high elf's special lore of magic. It combines defense, offense, buffing, and a few spells found nowhere else. In addition, unlike the other two lores best for us, a mage or archmage is capable of utilizing this lore. There are no best spells or a dreaded 6th, so no matter what you roll, you will still have a good mage.
I usually take this on my level 2, who plays second fiddle to a shadow/life archmage.
Extra Spell - Drain Magic - 5/10
Cast on a 7+
Any mage that take high magic gets drain magic, unlike dark elves, who always get power of darkness. This spell ups the casting cost of every single spell by 3- including yours, unit the start of your next magic phase. This is a good spell to cast at the end of your magic phase with a die or two if you don't know what to do with them. Alternatively, you can cast it 3-4 times with your power dice and shut down most magic phases. All in all a decent add-on.
Signature Spell - Shield of Saphery - 9/10
Cast on a 5+
This is a great little signature spell. It gives any unit in range a 5+ ward save until your next magic phase. This is like a boosted version of earthblood as it can be cast on any unit in range (18") not just the mages, and as it is a ward save, can only be ignored by a few spells. This is a great spell to make your units more resilient. I usually swap one of the next two for this here.
Second Spell - The Curse of Arrow Attraction - 6/10
Cast on a 6+
This spell is simple - it gives ranged attacks on a unit, not from a unit, a re-roll to hit. This allows you to mark a unit that needs to die and then shoot it to death. It has no effect on templates and blasts, but as our only shooing that can miss isn't, the fact that it doesn't affect them is a small deal. This spell's worth is proportional to how many archers and bolt throwers you take. Having said that, I usually don't take it - partly because I never take too much shooting, and partly because I think there are better spells in this lore.
Third Spell - The Courage of Aenarion - 5/10
Cast on an 8+
This spell makes all units within 12" of the caster stubborn. It is a decent spell, but I have a few bones with it. I, and most high elf players I know bunker their mages in one of two units (when they bunker them) - whilte lions and phoenix guard. Lions are already stubborn and phoenix guard are ld 9. In addtition, when are your units going to be losing combat? What is going to out-kill your swordmasters or beat the tar out of your phoenix guard? Nothing. Having said that, this spell is a nice alterative to a Battle Standard Bearer or a central, monster-mounted general.
Fourth Spell - The Fury of Khaine - 8/10
Cast on an 8+
There is not much to say about this. It is a generic magic missle - just like everything else that shows up in like almost every other lore. Having said that, its cost-to-benefit ratio is high, with 2d6 s4 hits. This is one of the spells that gives this lore (admittedly somewhat dull) teeth.
Fifth Spell - The Flames of the Phoenix - 9/10
Cast on an 11+
This is the big baddie of high magic, but having siad that, it doesn't compare to dwellers below, pit of shades or purple sun. It inflicts a strength 3 hit on every model in a unit, which increases by 1 point for each of your next magic phases when the opponent does not dispel it. This spell can do huge damage to large hordes, and eradicate them in its second,or even third, turn. In addition, this helps with the anti-magic theme of the high elves and help drain magic as during the opponents own magic phase they can either lose a bunch of models to this spell or use quite a few power die to dispel it.
Sixth Spell - Vaul's Unmaking - 10/10
Cast on a 12+
This is a spell that nobody really knows about and even less see coming. If it is cast, it destroys one magic item (weapon/armour/standard/arcane, etc.) within 2 feet. To clarif, it turns things like weapons and armour into mundane (normal) type of the same weapon and destory everything else outright. Don't want to die from cupped hands? Destory it. Pendant of Kaeleth giving you trouble? Ring of Hotek screwing you up? Any magic item, be it on a special character of bought from the armybook/rulebook, isn't safe from this spell. Most people only see the use in wrecking powerful (even overpowered) magic items that are messing with your plans. However, this spell, when opponents know about it, stops them from trowing their characters at your mage, as they know Karl Franz will soon be swinging a mundane hammer. Have fun with this versatile and unique spell of finesse.
Ok. Next up is lords and heroes (not special characters yet).
Archmage - 10/10
The archmage is first up in this tactica, as they are infinitely more important to a high elf army than a prince. At a relatively low cost, you get a level 4 with some added perks. Any high elf army at 1750-2000 and above needs an archmage - at lower points cost a level 2 will suffice for anti-magic. Lores where you need more spells and a nice casting bonus to be effective - like heavens, life, shadow and death, should be taken on this guy. Some people prefer to replace him with a few level 2s, and while this is still good, I prefer the archmage with a mage backup. He is cheaper, get a better casting/dispelling bonus, can take some wicked magic items, and can take more big spells without worrying about the miscast table as much.
I said this in the magic section, but I will reiterate - in my opinion, it is best to take shadows or life on your archmage, but high, heavens, and death are all pretty good choices. Any lore is decent on a high elf mage, but some are better then others. As a last point, except where points are tight, always upgrade him to a level 4. Even when they are tight, cut something else. Here are some sample builds.
Archmage, Level 4, Book of Hoeth - 360
This mage is like a mini Teclis. He can get irresistable force on any roll of doubles on his casting die. Having said that - I caution you - do not get overconfident with your casting. You are not Teclis, and a mistcast will come (if you constantly palm 5-6 die to get IF, it will come quickly). When the miscast comes, you will suffer. This is the reason I bunker my archmage in phoenix guard - their ward save will stave off some of the miscast's damage affects.
Archmage, Level 4, Talisman of Saphery, Folariath's Robe, Jewel of the Dusk - 355
This is your average invincible archmage. Wait, what? Most high elf veterans know of, and probably sometimes run, an archmage similar to the one listed here. The talisman makes all magic weapons of the enemy count as mundane when in base to base with the mage. The robe make him immune to all mundane attacks. The jewel gives him an extra power die to help him get off his spells. This mge doesn't need a bunker, but he can get beaten by combat res, so it is optional to put him in one.
Archmage, Level 4, Book of Ashur, Guardian Phoenix - 355
While this mage is not as powerhouse as the first build or as durable as the second, he is still really strong. With the book,he has +5 to cast and +6 to dispel, which is amazing. The phoenix gives him a 5+ ward to take a few extra hits. This mage is not as hitty as the first one, but is more durable, as he has the ward save and you will be less tempted to go bananas and throw around fistfuls of die. He is also 'castier' than the second one, who is focused really only on screwing with your opponent.
Prince - 7/10
The prince is a decently costed big hitter in close combat. He has a few things going against him though. The noble can do most things he does for cheaper, and the noble can also be take in smaller games with a mage and archmage - decently kitted out archmages and princes have to wait until 3000. Also, the reason you take a prince over a noble is usually one on three reasons - first, for more power, but the power difference is negligible, so... The second is for expensive item combinations, but they are by defenition expensive, so... And the third reason is dragons. Everybody loves 'em. While not the most competitive choice, dragons are still popular because well, they are dragons. I will no list a few popular prince builds.
Prince, Star Dragon, Great Weapon, Armour of Caledor, Vambraces of Defense - 612
This guy fills up your lords spot nicely at 2500 points. However, he restricts access to an archmage until insane points levels, so his competitiveness is debatable. He is cannon fodder. Having said that, 2 or 3 mages can pick up the magical slack and let this guy fly around beating people's heads in. He hits with 4 strength 6 re-rolling misses attacks, followed by 7 weapon skill 7 strength 7 attacks from the uber-dragon, followed by a breath weapon. The dragon has tough 6 and a 3+ armour to protect it, while the rider has a re-rollable 2+ armour and a 4+ ward. This means he is really hitty and survivable, unit black powder weapons come your way. Still a great unit all-around though.
Prince, Barded Steed, Dragon Armour, Star Lance, Helm of Fortune, Guardian Phoenix, Shield - 276
This is one calvary prince build. He was meant to ride into a flank with dragon princes and smash some face in. He is nowhere near as hitty as the dragon prince above, but is less than half the price and still adds serious power to an already powerful unit. This is a good guy, made better by the fact that you can take a cheap archmage as well at 2500 point.
Prince, White Sword, Talisman of Loec, Armour of Caledor, Guardian Phoenix - 250
This guy is a challenge monster. He is packing a great 2+ armour 5+ ward save on foot and is strength 6 with killing blow. He will dominate against another character, probably not giving him a chance to hit. You can use the talisman of loec against a chaos lord or ogre tyrant that is twice your cost, killing himw while losing a wound. Having said that, most people will be wary of him and won't let your draw near. You can drop the phoenix and talisman, grab some sacred incense, and join your swordmasters to kill more and give them some protection against shooting.
A nice, decently long tactica for two lord characters. I hope this helped any would-be high elf general. Heroes and core will follow shortly.
The heroes slot for high elves usually has a few models in it, but as we are pretty expensive, it never has too many. The three generic heroes are the noble, mage, and dragon mage.
Mage - 10/10
Mages are essentially the archmages of the hero slots. They are necessary until 1500 points and above, when you can/should take an archmage instead. When you get to higher points levels, they work well as backup mages or a battery of mages can replace lord-level caster altogether. The best lores for mages are lores that don't have a few big spells, high casting costs, or multiple spells to be effective. They are fire, high, beasts, and metal. Here are a few sample builds.
Mage, Level 2, Silver Wand, Guardian Phoenix - 170
Here you have a mage with three spells, +3 to dispel and a 5+ ward. Some might say that he looks more like an archmage than a mage, and they would be right because he casts like one. He is a great guy for smaller games, where he will outmagic even some lord-level casters. Works great with high magic - then he will have 4 spells.
Mage, Level 2, Sigil of Asuryan - 175
Some people debate the usefullness of the sigil. I think that it is pretty great. It is a dispel scroll, which is a solid item by itself, but it also has a 50% chance to erase a spell from somebody's mind for the game. This means that the slaan over there can now not blow your units away with dwellers. Yay!
Mage, Level 2, Annulian Crystal - 175
This is the ideal anti-magic mage when he takes high magic. The annulian crystal constantlys drains one power dice from the foe each phase and gives you a dispel die, helping you to weather the enemy's magic phase better. He isn't a great caster, as he has no benefits there, but he is a great second fiddle mage to prevent a spell or three getting through every phase. I will now reiterate - he goes best with high magic.
Noble - 8/10
The noble is great as a BSB, as they are amazing in 8th edition. I will not provide any builds, as if you take a magic banner they are limited and self explanatory. If you don't take a magic banner, the builds here should work just as well. Nobles work great to add punch to units like phoenix guard and spears, who are built to hold the line, and dragon princes, who need to win on the charge. Having said that, adding 2 to your swordmaster's combat resolution is never a bad thing.
Noble, Great Weapon, Armour of Caledor, Guardian Phoenix - 143
This guy here is your basic foot fighter. He doesn't quite posess the power of the foot prince, but he is much cheaper. He is great in a unit, and should hold his own or win against other hero-level fighty characters. Use him to give a unit ld 9 or a few extra kills in combat.
Noble, Lance, Shield, Dragon Armour, Barded Steed, Helm of Fortune, Guardian Phoenix - 163
This guy is essentially the same as above, except he goes with silver helms or dragon princes to up their close combat potential. He has a rerollable 1+ armour and a 5+ ward, making him extremely survivable for somebody this cheap. However, he doesn't hit as hard as the first noble, hiting with a measly strength 4 after the charge.
This is it for the heroes section. Dragon mages will get their own tactica next post, as they are a unit specific to high elves.
Dragon Mages - 7/10
Dragon Mages are a very unique unit in the high elf book, and the entirety of warhammer. They are the only unit I can think of off the top of my head that comes mounted on a monster. The dragon mage has a very high cost to reflect this. His high cost - he is more than a mage and a sun dragon put together, is a reason why many people shy away from him. While he is not the most competitive choice - dragons aren't, so therefore he isn't he has a few special rules that set him up for excellence.
First of all, he is the only high elf character that can cast hat has restricted access to lores. He can only get spells from fire magic. He does not get the +1 to dispel that other mages do, as he didn't go through much training in Saphery. He also has the reckless rule - giving him one free power die to go with every cast. This is a rule that kind of makes him. He can also swap any spell for flaming sword of rhuin, instead of fireball. In 7th this was good, but now not so much.
As far as tactics go, this guy has a bit of an identity crisis. His dragon wants do be in combat, and the fragile mages wants to maintain a safe distance. I think he is used best as a sort of maneuverable flanking unit with bit of bite. This unit is not hard enough to take a sustained round of shooting or an assault by a dedicated close combat unit. Be very careful with him, using the flying move to jump to safe places. Having said that, he is a dragon mage, so if the opportunity presents itslef, take a risk and charge into combat or jump in front of a battleline. Expect to lose him quite often. Dragons are very intimidating and your opponent will usually make it the first order of business to take him out. Mine survives maybe 1/3 games when I run him. Just remember, if nothing else, he saved your wimpy elves from a round or so of shooting.
Dragon Mage, Level 2, Gem of Sunfire, Guardian Phoenix - 435
This is a pretty balanced mage. He has a 5+ ward for protection and a 6+ armour, which isn't great, but remember that most attacks will hit your toughness 6 dragon. He is extremely casty for just a hero mage. He has one free power die for each spell, he gets +2 to cast from his level, and for one turn can get an additional +2 to cast fire spells with the gem. Pretty awesome.
Dragon Mage, Level 2, Talisman of Preservation - 430
This is the defensively oriented mage with a 4+ ward save. He still gets the free power die, but doesn't have the gem for a destructive round of magic. If you are worried about him getting offed, which you should be, this is probably the setup to run.
Dragon Mage, Level 2, Silver Wand, Star Lance - 435
This is my favorite build. I think that this is a tru dragon mage. He is the most fragile, but seriouly, he has a special rule called reckless, so... This guy has an extra spell to make more use of his free power die. He also has a star lance, so if he charges flankers or backfield units of war machines he should pretty easily win, or at the least force a leadership check. He is the most fragile of the sample builds here, so be extremely wary of shooting.
Next up are our core units, all three of them. We have a shooty unit, a combatty unit, and an overpriced unit who can't decide what to do. I will not give sample builds this time, but I will probably give ideal unit sizes and maybe a few tricks for certain points levels.
Spearmen - 8/10
Spearmen are, in my opinion, the best core unit in our armybook by far. They are extremely expensive, being one of the most expensive core units in the game. They are stuck at strength 3, which hurts them, but they have a ton of attacks. Sure they only have one attack each, but if you read the armybook entry, you should know why. They have two ranks fighting because every unit has two ranks fighting. They get a third rank from their spears and a fourth rank from the martial prowess rule. Lastly, if you take them in horde formation, you will be hitting from 5 ranks - that is 50 attacks, which more than makes up for your low strength.
Spearmen should always be taken in large units, as the previous paragraph insinuated/said out in front. Anything less than 24 (6*4) is a total waste, as they will die fast and not utilize all the attacks they can have. 32 with full command will net you 33 attacks and will neatly fill up your core at 1250 points. I sometimes run a 5*10 horde, and while many players will say that is too many points invested in models that can't hit hard and can't survive at all, I believe this is not totally true. I usually only use this at around 3000 and upwards, but I can see it in 2500. There is a case for using 1 to 2 decent sized units - like 32 or 28 or 36 to fill up your core and get a lot of bodies for a high elf army. The bottom line is spearmen are meant to anchor the line, not be a hammer. Also, run them big - size-wise, or go home and get some archers.
Archers - 6/10
Archers for high elves are probably overpriced by a few points. They pay for ASF, and are shooters, so don't need it. They are one point less than glade guard, have a move and shoot penalty, can't go through woods easily, and aren't strength 4 at close range. The best way to run them is usually is small units - some would say 10 with absolutely no upgrades. I usually run my guys in units of 12, and sometimes give armour if I need to meet core requirements. These guys are the opposite of spearmen - you can do fine without them, they are best run in smaller units and are too expensive.
Lothern Seaguard - 3/10
I strongly dislike Lothern Seaguard. You need to give them shields, because if you don't taking archers would be much better. At that point they become 2 points cheaper than your elite infantry, and thier performance doesn't even come close to your phoenix guard/swordmasters/white lions.
Let us do an unbiased breakdown. So, thety have shields, light armour, a spear and martial prowess, just like your spearmen. Having said that, they cost 4 points more. But wait, you say. The have bows too! Ok, so they have bows with a shorter range than the archers. They also cost 2 points more. Having said that, if you are using their spears and shields to full potential you will be unable to shoot, so you are better off taking spearmen. If you are using the bows to stand back and shoot, then you are wasting your spears and shields. If you are doing this, just get archers. I think these are pretty soild reasons why not to take seaguard. But if you must, run them wide to shoot with and then reform to get into close combat. Lastly - don't forget to stand and shoot! It is the only thing that gives them any points on the rating scale at all.
Specials Part 1
In this part I am going to analzye part of the special section in our armybook. Thi swill be depressing, and hopefully part 2 will make up for that.
Silver Helms - 2/10
I am just going to be honest. This unit is terrible. There is another calvary unit in the codex that does almost everything better than them and everything the princes can't do in covered by the reavers, or overshadowed by their bad-assery. These guys have the statline of a spearmen mounted on a horse - for over 2 and 1/2 times the cost. I really am not going to say much more about them. I have heard some people having success using them as a character bunker, but for 5more points they could get Dragon Princes - which you should.
Dragon Princes - 9/10
Okay. So for 7 more points over the Silver Helms, you get +1 WS, +1 LD, +1A, +1 I, and a 2+ Ward save against flaming attacks. In addition, the models are now amazing and the plastic's don't break the bank - at least any more than of Games Workshop stuff. These guys, when run in units of 5, are decent flankers and one of the still good heavy calvary units in the game. They can be run in multiple ranks - you will lose attacks, but people do the same thing to swordmasters. If you run a character of maybe 2 in this unit, you will have a unit with the punch of calvary of old. Great unit, granted it is expensive but it will have serious punch on the charge. Throw a flesh to stone or a wyssan's wildform or okkam's mindrazor on them and they will not lose. To anything.
Ellyrian Reavers - 7/10
I love running these guys as war machine hunters, mage hunters, and they can actually deal some damage ith rear charges on (granted weaker or shooty) units. Once you give them bows and spears they become quite expensive. Having said that, they kill one mage or one cannon, or at least stop it from shooting/casting for a turn, they will have paid for themselves in terms of all the elves you have that aren't dead.
Lion Chariot and Tiranoc Chariot
I generally dislike chariots as I view them as one-hit wonders completely dependable on one d6 roll. The lion chariot make up for that with hard hitting white lions and actual lions, but I would rather have 10 white lions. if someone else would like to review them - even multiple people - I would be much obliged.
Shadow Warriors - 4/10
These guys are decent scouts and hunters, if a bit overpriced. People occasionally view them as better than Reavers as they are scouts, so can get close quicker. But the reavers have movement 9, a scout move and other useful fast calvary abilities, like feigned flight. I actually find shadow warriors are best used with reavers, as then you have 2 backfield threats that can eliminate most things - war machines and unbunkered mages that give high elves so much trouble. To really screw with your opponent, throw in a few cheap eagles.
That is part one of special units. More to follow!
Specials Part 2 - Swordmasters, White Lions, and Phoenix Guard
These three units, in my opinion, are really hat make the high elves a competitive army today. I almost always fill up my special allowance and the main reason for it is these guys. You will almost always need at least one in your list, unless you are running some kind of theme. Even then, the fluff would allow anyone who took a mage to take some swordmasters, and anyone to take phoenix gaurd, so... First up are the swordmasters.
Swordmasters - 9/10
Wait a minute - you gave these guys a 9 and spearelves an 8? What is wrong with you!? Spearelves got a good rating because they are almost mandatory - filling up your core with archers is bad and seaguard is worse. Swordmasters are, in my opinion, the killiest unit in the game of warhammer 40k at the moment. Their weapon skill beats most heroes, and ties almost all the rest. There are only two other units in Fantasy with WS 6 - Chaos Chosen and Wardancers (to my knowledge) and point for point swordmaster outkill them both. Having said this, many people look at swordmasters, even a small unt of 10, and see a harbinger of doom that needs to die, and then they promptly throw lots of magic and shooting at it and it goes away. In 7th I would have given them a 10, but with step-up and steadfast and all the attacks back (wait, I already said that...) they are no longer 'safe' in the melee. Some people look at this nerf and think that their beloved swordmasters will be sitting on the shelves for a while longer. They shouldn't.
I usually run my swordmasters in small units - 10-14. This is very small, and while that is generally not a good way to run high elves but these guys are the exception. With command and a lion standard (I can't have my elites ever hitting on 4s or 5s) they throw out (in a 7*2 formation) 22 strength 5 attacks that always strike first at weapon skill 6. In addition, unless you have initiative 6, they get to re-roll their misses in every round. See what I mean - a small unit, but it still has insane killing power. I usually run them near my phoenix guard and spearelves (which anchor my line) to add killing power. I wouldn't take more because then you are putting a lot of points into bodies. Sure, some might die on the wy to battlefield, but that is why you have shield of saphery and flesh to stone. You do, right?
Phoenix Guard - 10/10
In my opinion, the best unit in our armybook. I might even say they are in the top 5 of the whole entire game. They are insanely resilient with a 5+ armour, 4+ ward and banners and a character to give some MR. Some people look at these and say that they do not have enough killing power, so they don't take them. If this person doesn't play high elves, I charge in my guard and watch as his unit dies, loses, and then gets rundown. If he is a high elf player, I murder him and throw his body in a ditch, as I cannot have a fellow servant to asuryan besmirch the phoenix guard so. They are one on the only units in the game that can stop cannonballs with their chests. Nothing, no matter how good or how deathstar, can run over phoenix guard.
They are punchy - just not like swordmasters and white lions. If S4, WS5, I6, and ASF isn't good enough for you, then you need to find another hobby. I like to give my phoenix guard the razor standard, as 5+ saves are extremely prevelant in warhammer and denying them, with my anchor unit, is great. Phoenix guard should be run big. Run big or go home. They will kill, but are meant to stay in combat by virtue of their invincibilty and leadership 9, not through 20 kills, like swordmasters. Minimum unit size is 21 - (7*3) 2 boxes and a character and you are set. Khorhil works great with these guys. Leadership 9 stubborn and S6 killing blow shots do wonders for these guys. In bigger games (that is how much I take at 1500 and below) 28 or 24 or even a horde of 30/40 will do you. These guys are amazing - model, fluff, and rule wise. Please, for the love of God, take these guys. Do it now.
White Lions - 9/10
The jack of all trades unit. Some people look at these guys and say that swordmasters are punchier, phoenix guard are more durable and never give them a second look. They are wrong. Dead wrong. A 3+ against ranged attacks, which is what really gives high elves the most grief, is beautiful. Strength 6 destroys calvary, monstours infantry, and monsters with ease. Stubborn is amazing, so that when you (very rarely) lose combat, you will proably stay in there. Going through all kinds of woods without punishment is just icing on a big, yummy cake. I usually run these guys 6*3 on a flank, give them command and the Banner of Eternal Flame. Flaming attacks denies regeneration saves and causes fear in calvary, war beasts and chariots (I think). They are best used as a flanking unit, that, as I have already said, eats calvary and monsters for breakfast. Against a hydra they will hit on 3s (re-rolling), wound on 3s and deny both the regen and armour save. That is one dead hydra. One sneaky tactic - Caradryan works great in this unit. He gives them a 4+ ward against magic and leadership 9 stubborn, as well as a flaming attack that does multiple wounds. A great unit that is a compromise between swordmasters and phoenix guard, but also gives aspects neither has.
Rares - we have 2 rare slots - eagles and bolt throwers.
Great Eagle - 8/10
In 7th, this guy was the ultimate mage hunter/war machine killer/march blocker/interdictor/annoyance unit. Now, in 8th, with the nerf to march blocking and the stepping up and rear/flank combat rules, I think his usefulness has gone down quite a bit. He is still a steal at only 50 points. No ASF hurts him, as well as no save, but a 2w (I think, might be three) t4 will take a round or so of shooting to bring down. He can still destory war machines and the like with ease. I find they are best used in pairs, as they become stronger and can take up each other's slack. He is still good, but there are other options. One last thing about the eagle that deserves a mention is that even if he dies to the cannon crew or cannot kill the mortar, a few turns just went by without it firing - making your troops safer in the swriling melee of battle.
Repeater Bolt Thrower - 7/10
I personally really like the only war machine in our list. People complain that it now only has two wounds, so it only take 'two lucky sixes' or a round of poisoned shooting to finish it off. Weel, the same is true for many war machines. They might have three wounds, but seriously, the utility and range of this guy makes up for it. He can fire your average bolt to wipe out a calvary unit or pierce a rank of chaos warriors. It can also fire 6 armour piercing strength 4 bolts with no multiple shots penalty. He is very versatile and has a place in my list supporting a few minimized units of archers. Once again, I would run either one for a little shooting support, or as many as you can fit into rare to just blast away units. Two of these and a squad of archers or so, plus the curse of arrow attraction, will just wipe any unit off the field.
The special character analysis will be put up later. I if I think of anything else that needs posting, I'll post it.
Thanks you for reading my partly-completed (as of now) high elf tactica.
If anyone has any opinions on units, feel free to post them now. I don't care if they are contrary to mine or in line with mine, they are opinions, after all. Please only post for units I currently have up - except for chariots, as I don't have too much experience with them - like maybe 15 games, so I feel wrong in posting tacticas for them.
Thanks for reading. If you have anything say, please post it. Even if you have nothing to say but "I read you tactica, dude" please post it - otherwise I will have serious self-esteem and anxiety issues.
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