The title could also have been “wow!”. The new Dark Elf army is out, and it packs a serious amount of changes in models, rules and unit options. It’s a bit early to judge the book’s strength but it looks promising on paper and seems to offer a great diversity. More amusingly, it offers a great choices of themes! Themes!
The monsters of Clar Karond and Karond Kar.
The beastmasters are back! The new book introduces the Kharibdyss, a multi tentacle monster from the depths of the sea.
The Manticore gets an armor upgrade, and the beastmaster itself comes with decent combat power and a mean whip to boost the monsters in combat. The list is reinforced by chariots with tow-cable-bolt-throwers by the name “Scourge runners”.
A bit of a surprise is that the beastmaster character is named “High Beastmaster” and comes as a Lord choice. There is no equivalent in the hero slot, though the fluff has been adjusted to excuse this: sorceresses serve the beastmasters. A particularly competitive synergy has been added to reinforce this suggestion. One of the Dark Magic’s new spells is the “shroud of despair”, which could make massed leadership tests a nightmare… and it just happens to be an ability that monsters bring to the table.
The theme offers a choice in every slot, if you can settle for just dark riders in core. I doubt a pure monster mash lists will cut it, but it certainly offers enough variety for a themed list, some conversion options and roaring fun.
The raiders of the lost ark
The Corsair raiders have reinforcements. A Black Ark fleetmaster joins the Lord choices. He brings in a thematic choice to the list, pegleg included!
He lacks a bit of armor to look competitive on paper, but there’s a catchy style and some tricky rules to him that might deliver some cunning tactics. Lokir Fellheart is still around to complement the character arsenal.
In core, the corsairs have been given an upgrade… at an increased cost per model. Their handbows now reach 12″ far, increasing their utility. Their Sea Dragon Cloaks now give them +2 armor save at all times, for a flat 4+ armor save. The army wide ASF and Murderous Prowess don’t compensate for their loss of the frenzy banner, but a horde still dishes out 40 attacks, is now more resilient and still easy to buff.
In special and rare, the theme is completed by Shades, Harpies, the now cheaper Reaper Bolt Throwers and a few sea monsters. Now that would permit one to build a true raiding army, for scenario play or just for the fun of the theme! Why are pirates pirates? Because they ARR!
The Coven of Magic
In Magic, we find the trusty Sorceress and Supreme Sorceresses. They come a bit cheaper than before, but their magic has taken quite a turn!
We lost some absurdities, like the limitless dicing on rules. Power of darkness is reformed to come at a higher price and have a chance on taking a hit regardless of dice usage. The dagger of sacrifice survived the transition to the new book… Perhaps they did listen to the Druchii community: many liked the sacrifice style, though most would agree it was too powerful in its old installment. The new version is more expensive, removing some combinations there, and requires a model to buy a 50% chance to generate one powerdice. With the price increase of our troops, this makes the overall cost a lot higher for the gain… But it’s still fun to have around.
Another change is that we now get access to all lores of Magic from the big rulebook. This has stunned many of us, and it seems the High Elven community too. Apparently, they consider it proper for High Elves to use Shadow and Death, but not for Dark Elves to use Light and Heaven. Well here’s the funny thing: I’m inclined to agree. As such, my first job will be to rename the Lores of Life, Heavens and Light to
- The Lore of Life Force sucked from the blood of my living victims while they scream in utter pain and agony.
- The Lore of Death From Above
- The Lore of Death Rays.
The Coven is reinforced by its Cult of Slaneesh, which takes the shape of a new rare choice: warlocks. This unit works more or less like horrors do for Daemons. It’s a peculiar addition, and on paper it looks very powerful. For those who wish to play the Cult of Slaneesh, the Witch Elves can pose as devotees.
The Temple of Khaine.
I saved the best for last. My all time favorite theme, of crazed witch elves and deadly executioners – well it would be a silly name if they wouldn’t be deadly… they’d be having rather strange conversations about their occupation. But back to blood, gore and sacrifice.
Witch Elves are now core, a remarkable change which might provide a significant boost in power to the army as a whole.
Combining Witch Elves and Executioners might just prove a very strong combination overall, and new lists with this combo seem to pop up regularly on the Druchii.net community.
The Cauldron of Blood is back, and while it comes at a very steep price, it also becomes with some nifty utilities. It can still grant an extra attack (a super frenzy rule), but also rerolls to wound which help the Dark Elves tackle their age old enemy “toughness”.
In the character slots, we see hags as heroes, but no lord equivalent. Unless Hellebron joins the fray, we may need a Sorceress or Dreadlord to pose as a devout Templar.
The assassins are back, but as a hero choice. This might eliminate some of the cheesy power combos we had in 7th edition, but unfortunately, it crams a lot of Khainite options in the hero slot. This is the only remark I’d make on the design of this theme.
In Rare, we find the Sisters of Slaughter. For some odd reason, their fluff was entirely disconnected from the Temple of Khaine, but their style certainly matches the theme.
The more mundane themes that never left
It’s good to see we didn’t loose some traditional themes, which are always excellent to have around for story based or scenario based lists.
- The Northern Patrol, made of Dark Riders, Cold Ones, Chariots and the occasional harpies or Shades is still there. The new Warlocks can enrich this style now, compensating for the loss of (multiple) flying sorceresses.
- The Northern Watch, focusing on Reaper Bolt Throwers, Darkshards, a central ranked unit and some COK flankers is far from gone. The Bolt Throwers come a lot cheaper now, leaving more points for the powerful support this style needed.
- The evasion list – an army consisting of fast, evasive shooters – is still in the game. Dark Riders became cheaper, especially their RXBs and can be joined by characters. The Shades became stronger for a mild price increase. Flying characters are still viable, though we have fewer options to kit them out. The Warlock unit adds variety and magic support. This is mostly an extension of what Shades ought to be as an army.. though it never really is much of an “army” per se. The list scores the occasional visit in tournaments, as it tends to work against a good deal of opponents.
- The city defence, formed by spears, black guards, Darkshards, Bolt Throwers and a few flyers. It’s there. It’s good. Enough said.
Overall style: RUAAAWWRGGG!
There’s no doubt about the increase of options. I love it! More themes, more styles, more choices. When we look at the overall feel of the new book, we see that devastation in combat is the new thing. The ranged support is good, but tends to focus on quality rather than quantity (RBT > RXB) compared to the old book. Magic is strong, but the ranged damage comes at a very steep price, keeping it focused on a few spells. The army is more frail, as the cost of troops went up.. and in return for this we got a decent list of buffs in combat.
The theme of combat slaughter is so strongly emphasised in the book that, combined with the frailty of the list, it looks like Dark Elves will only be safe in combats (which they can win). Unfortunately, this makes us weaker against evasion and gunline lists.. something that caused us headaches in the past and apparently will continue to do for another edition.