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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hail Ulthuan! Final Analysis

The redoubtable Scadgrad completes his review of the new High Elf army book.

Part I
Part II
Part III

Cometh Tyrion, bound with laurel boughs,
To re-salute his country with his tears,
Tears of true joy for his return to Ulthuan.

At first glance there are only a few changes to the High Elf lore. Curse of Arrow Attraction, Fury of Khaine, Flames of the Phoenix, and Vaul’s Unmaking are all simply copy and paste jobs from incredibly good support spells to this author and are certainly upgrades over the two spells dropped from the list. Both of these spells are strong support spells and are made even better by the fact that they are not Remains in Play spells. With a relatively low casting cost, they’re only the previous lists. The two new spells, Shield of Saphery and Courage of Aenarion seem like drawback is that neither one is the type of spell that will get priority (in both casting and dispelling) on any given turn. Drain Magic gets a substantial change and is now a default 7+ to cast and should be much more powerful in actual play since its effect is global. In essence, every successful casting of the spell effectively means that enemy wizards will need an extra dice, or nearly so, for each spell they cast. The downside being that the few spells that do go off will be significantly more difficult to dispel. In addition to the +1 to dispel spells that High Elf casters are given (which apparently can stack with a certain magic item for +2 to dispel), this would suggest that a pair of level 2 High Elf wizards, equipped with the right equipment, could make things very, very difficult for even the most absurd magical armies (Tomb Kings excepted of course). Couple this with the fact that High Elves can still choose from among any of the 8 lores or High Magic (the Dragon Mage can only fling Fire lore spells) and you can see that the High Elf army can have a very potent magic phase, both in attack, support, and defense.

So there you have it, what I hope is the definitive review of the new High Elf army book. I think GW has done a fine job and if you’re a Warhammer junky, you’ll certainly want to pick this one up. I suppose the burning question is, what sorts of armies will result from the new book? Are the two dominant High Elf armies, the Seer Counsel and the Pony army both a thing of the past? Will the Speed of Asuryan ruin the game?

Grand Tournament goers will very likely see a decided increase in the number of High Elf armies at the tables. That’s not saying a whole lot at the moment since, at least here in the States, they’re currently as rare as hen’s teeth. I don’t think there is any doubt that the High Elf will enjoy a honeymoon period up until the next released army, rumored to be Vampire Counts. So look for an increase in the number of High Elf armies early in the season, and a possible fall off as the new wears off. I believe the army has genuine potential, but I doubt it will fair well against the SOC Daemon Legion lists, Anvil Dwarves, Bretts, and Woodies that seem to dominate the current playing field.

The one thing that the new High Elf army does have and that is tremendous aesthetic appeal, so it’s a strong possibility that it could remain popular with players even in the face of lukewarm GT battle results. In that sense, we may see something like the large number of Ogre Kingdom armies that continue to pop up in Indy GTs. Most Ogre players happily admit that their army doesn’t necessarily match up all that well with the top table lists, but the models are among the best in the game, and it’s a very entertaining list to play with and against. I expect that many of the new High Elf models and the old casts of the elite infantry will be viewed in a similar light. I think initially, you will see a lot of these infantry-based armies, supported by a Dragon rider of some sort, and a credible magical threat. I do think that the special characters are so good, that they will become reasonably common at GTs that allow their inclusion.

I’m not utterly convinced that the two archetypes that High Elf players gravitated to in 6th are necessarily defunct. They may have taken a hit, but the elements are still there to do a similar version. The pony army for instance, you won’t be able to build the Rob Lane version from back in the early days of 6th, or more accurately, you wouldn’t want to.
The Seer Counsel might have to be renamed The Teclis army since it will do just about the same thing.
Instead of 3 units of ranked Silver Helm units crashing in with a character and a pair of Tyranoc Chariots, you would likely build the army around 2-3 chariots and 3, 6-wide units of Dragon Princes. Add Caradryan on his Kitty Kart, and a few other characters and you sould have a decent pony army. The Seer Counsel might have to be renamed The Teclis army since it will do just about the same thing. Teclis essentially comes equipped with the Seerstaff (he knows all the spells of any given lore), give a level 2 guy the actual Seerstaff, and give a 2nd level 2 wizard the Silver Wand and the Ring of Fury. Add the Banner of Sorcery and you’ve got something similar to the old Seer Counsel, except that you’ve effectively got the Book of Hoeth as well. That ought to win you some friends.

Speed of Asuryan still seems to be a polarizing rule among many players, but it’s just so much sound and fury until we’re all able to get a few games in with and against the army. My own thought is that it will be an interesting tactical element, but nothing game-breaking. With the increased presence of shooting elements in the game thanks to the changes wrought by 7th edition, many of those fearsome High Elf elites will be shot to pieces before they can get those first swings at you. If it does prove to be as deadly as many make it out to be, well High Elf players suffered for the longest time laboring under the weight of such silliness as Intrigue at Court (oops, I said it) and Pure of Heart. I suppose even High Elf players deserve a day in the sun, at least that is until the Dark Elf book is released.

Tony Mullins
The Tao of Bear

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