Cold one knights… The heavy cavalry of dark elves. The monstrous looking (but not quite monstrous enough) cavalry of the masters of evil. A terror in the lore. A terror on the field! They’ll strike fear in the hearts of any enemy… and anyone deploying them as well. With hard hitting, heavily armored stats and their monstrous looking mounts, this hammer unit offers all the elegance of a nutcracker ballet performed by dinosaurs.
Building blocks of my army
When I challenged myself to play with a plastic army, I reasoned that a corsair horde, a cold one knight death star, some repeater crossbows and playroom for the characters would easily offer me a decent list. I’m slowly learning that this may actually become a challenge.
Thus far I had an easy setup: a corsair unit as my core combat unit, a black guard unit as grinding anvil and some shades as mobile fire support or warmachine hunters. Sprinkle it with some harpies and magic and you have an easy-going list that proved a lot of fun to play. Notice the lack of emphasis on the character selection. All you need is some magic for the fun of it… almost regardless of what magic that is (though Shadow comes out as a very solid choice).
I imagined I could simply replace the Black Guard with Cold One Knights and use them as a grinding hammer unit. But the more I think about it, the more complex this transition proves.
Expensive attacks, deviously fragile
Heavy cavalry always comes at a price, and Cold One Knights are no exception. Considering their stats and special rules, it is no surprise they with a price-tag from 27 points a model. But for 27 points, you get only 1 attack and 1 wound. A unit of 10, with command, comes at 310 points for 11 attacks from the riders. That’s nothing to be impressed about.
The unit only has 10 wounds, with a T3 and 2+ armor save to keep them going. About a quarter of S4 hits will yield a kill. Nearly half of the S5 hits will yield a kill. Those odds would not frighten me if:
- There can be enough bodies to take casualties for a round or two
- They can score enough kills in return
At 27 points a model, you can’t take those casualties. This only leaves the option to score even more kills before they take hits. At 1 attack per model, we’re in for a challenge! But this is where the powergame of the Dark Elves comes into play. Dark Elves have many ways to beef up their combat units, perhaps more than any other army. Where the strength of a unit on its own may be “okay”, it is the magic and support that makes them “great”.
The Banner of Hag Graef
On the Druchii forum, the banner of hag graef proves a popular choice for a Cold One Knight unit. This grants the unit “always strike first”. Considering their high initiative and the reroll-to-hit in the first round, this may seem like an odd choice.
The real strength lies elsewhere:
- It makes them a valid choice to attack another elite unit with similar or more initiative.
- It brings the attacks of the cold ones themselves in the equation. They may not have hatred, or high weapon skill, but they do give another 5-6 attacks at S4.
- It grants them a reroll to hit against most opponents in subsequent rounds, giving them some grinding potential.
For a unit of 12 big, with the banner of hag graef, you are coughing up 399 points. Phew. But the amount of quality attacks is still low.
The Hydra banner
An interesting solution, almost as old the unit itself, is to include a battle standard bearer with a Hydra banner. Now the whole unit gets an extra attack. Combined with an 11 model cold one knight unit, this combination offers a devastating 21 attacks from the riders alone. Now that is becoming a frightening idea! Without banner of hag graef, the unit cost is now up to 561 points, and that’s nothing to be sneezed at either. On the bright side, they get to reroll stupidity tests.
The banner of Hag Graef can be added to double the value of this unit, but the unit then costs 596 points, for a total of 13 wounds. What’s more: the BSB may have a 1+ armor save, but no ward save. With 2 wounds on his persona, you are looking at dangerous odds whenever he’s targetted in close combat or being sniped. The biggest worry becomes how to keep this unit, and the BSB alive.
The cauldron of blood
With only 13 wounds in that unit, and their low toughness, they can too easily be taken out by missile fire or magic. Even in combat, you’d want to keep their numbers up. The most reliable solution is a cauldron of blood. This little gem delivers a 5+ ward save for “only” 200 points. The cost of our deathstar increased to 796 points, 2 character slots and a good chunk from our special choices.
And then… A funny little thing happened in a game with Dourin. He got to start first. Because of that, I couldn’t place my Cauldron of Blood buff on the Cold One Knights. His stone-throwers had a field trip. So you have a 200 point ward save.. that couldn’t be in effect.
The Cauldron of Blood is not a poor choice in an army however, and one I would like to have in my army either way. In my previous army, the cauldron was an extra: a save, a killing blow, an extra attack.. anything I wanted depending on the situation. But in this setup, it becomes a necessity with a single task: keeping those Cold One Knights alive. The purpose is more dedicated, more restricted.
The true cost of this unit is starting to weigh in: with so much riding on this one bet, the whole army starts to orbit around its gravity.
The Cold One Knights are a good unit on paper, but they lack flexibility. Their low number of attacks and high cost makes them difficult to use as a grinding unit. Without “grind”, they can only strike hard for 1 turn and that puts a lot of pressure on the unit, the targets it can attack and the entire dynamic of the list.
There are more subtle dependencies as well. The Cold One Knight unit needs support, to clear the path to their right target and to protect them from shooting. This puts even more weight on the selection of other units and characters.
The dynamic of my army changes dramatically with the introduction of this one unit, and it will force me to learn an whole new playstyle. That’s interesting, in a way, but a bit short notice for a tournament I’ll be playing in a month… where I had hoped to deploy my plastic army for the firs time.