On High Elf Army List Design
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Author:  Curu Olannon [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  On High Elf Army List Design

This post will detail my take on High Elf Army List Design. I was inspired by Seredain's thread over in the army list board and have spent a lot of time reading and analyzing. Please do note that my personal experience with High Elves in 8th ed. is pretty much non-existant.

Disclaimer: These are my opinions and are based on experience and analysis. In no way do I claim this article to hold a universal truth.

:: Contents ::
Note: this post is split into separate posts so that clicking headers will redirect to the point of interest

.::. Introduction .::.
  • Old Versions
  • Meta-game
  • 8th Edition

.::. Important Elements - General .::.
  • Redundancy
  • Consistency
  • Completeness or Focus

.::. Important Elements - High Elves .::.
  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Support
  • Synergy

.::. Conclusion .::.
  • Wrap-up
  • Evaluation of the Article
  • Example Lists and Rationale

Author:  Curu Olannon [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: On High Elf Army List Design

.::. Introduction .::.

Old Versions - In the old versions of Warhammer I've played, other aspects have been more important and the focus of competitive lists than the current one. Back in herohammer 5th edition when I started playing, you simply took an Emperor Dragon and hoped Imrik didn't die. Most of the time, this did the trick against troops and against other beastlies it was pretty much luck deciding the outcome. At this time I didn't play anywhere close to competitive so most of my experience revolves around dragons slaughtering troops by the dozen.

In 6th edition I started playing the more competitive builds and started enjoying cavalry-based forces. Back then, High Elves were really underpowered and hard to use. Eventually I settled on the typical dragon-cavalry force which I was fairly succesful with.

In 7th edition I didn't play too much. A couple of games with the same old list, just minor tweaks. Star Dragon wreaked havoc but as the game evolved and the ld-bombs came into play, this list fell behind.

Meta-game - What's always been true about this game is that, to a certain degree, it is rock-paper-scissors. If you load up on magical defence Dwarfs will laugh at you while Vampire Counts will hate you. As such, I find that the current state of meta-game affects how you should build your army a lot.

Currently, it appears that 8th has not really settled on a stable meta-game just yet. We see a few trends in the top-tier armies, such as the mandatory Slann which, more often than not, exceeds Teclis in terms of points cost. However, as to unit selection and army composition there is still a wide range of lists around. Some select huge blocks of infantry, some run a lot of shooting, some castle up and others still trust in the dragon builds. Add to that, a plethora of magic and elite focused lists and super-mobile skirmishers.

It is my belief that the 8th edition is better balanced than the previous versions. Sure, there are still imbalances and cheese out there, but not so much as before. If you want to tailor your list for a tournament, there are some pretty standard builds which you can take with the High Elves, at the moment, but eventually the meta-game will evolve and those lists are too single-minded to handle new challenges.

8th Edition - 8th edition has seen everything get way more brutal. Things die, and they die in droves. Magic, shooting and close combat are all much more bloody affairs. Tactical errors will cost you more dearly because of this - as a key element of your army can easily vanish in a single turn. Characters and monsters are not the game-breakers they could be any longer and the most powerful things are now way more random as to whether they'll actually work or not.

Author:  Curu Olannon [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: On High Elf Army List Design

.::. Important Elements - General .::.

Redundancy - To complete a task, and do so properly, you need to make sure that more than one element of your army can do it. Because of how bloody 8th edition is, there is a need for duplicate roles throughout the armies. This also offers tactical flexibility, as you can sometimes spare a unit because its role is covered. Naturally, this is an expensive choice, so keeping roles specialized and cheap are key to achieving this, unless you want to spend half your point making a single element redundant.

Consistency - Personally, I do not believe in hit-or-miss elements. One hit wonders naturally do work sometimes, but they can't consistently perform well. Basing your army at getting off Purple Sun big template every match is not going to be a strong choice in the long run. Carefully building your lists to minimize mathematical variance you can achieve more stable results, which will make it easier to validate your army's actual strengths.

Sometimes games are won with a single dice roll. The more you can avoid this, the more tactics are needed to win and the more you can affect the outcome. If a single 4+ roll determines a win or loss, you cannot really claim you did something brilliant all along (in most cases, naturally) if the throw ends up as a 5, giving you the win.

Completeness or Focus - A list needs to determine if it wants to focus on a special aspect, or if it wants to compete in every aspect. For some armies, this isn't really a choice. Wood Elves do not have reliable big blocks which are effective, so they must focus on other advantages, such as speed and shooting. Likewise, Britonnia needs to base its armies around heavy cavalry in some form or another.

Often times, the most succesful lists have been focused lists. I hope that as 8th edition evolves, more complete lists will start to prevail and dominate the competitive scene.

Author:  Curu Olannon [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: On High Elf Army List Design

.::. Important Elements - High Elves .::.

Mobility - As High Elves we have over average movement on our basic models. Our cavalry and chariots are also fairly fast and we have access to cheap flyers. This means that the list is designed to be able to have a high degree of mobility. As such, every model pays a price for having this army-wide mobility and a list should take advantage of it to avoid throwing away points. Make sure you include enough fast elements and have an army composition so that you can utilize this trait. Against most enemies, expect to be able to dictate the flow of battle.

Balance - No one unit in the High Elves army is supposed to be able to do everything. The roles are clearly specialized and divided. Because of this we should take balanced units to the field that complement eachother. While this point can be hard to achieve with redundancy in mind due to our expensive units, try to look for overlapping strengths in other areas. For example are both bolt throwers and a great weapon armed Noble effective against enemy knights.

Support - Our elite units are extremely fragile and expensive. Most units in the army cannot function alone, unless pitted against the perfect enemy matchup. High Elf lists need to make sure that units are supported and that this support changes the odds, enabling our elites' power to break the enemy. Combine this with mobility and your list should ensure a fight on its own terms: fighting when it will, how it will and with whom it will.

Synergy - When picking units in a High Elf army, it is crucial to think about how they match eachother. The Tiranoc Chariot might for example be considered a poor chariot by many armies' standards. Its speed combined with our Swordmasters' sheer damage output can prove to be that little bit you need to tip the battle in your favour. Likewise, archers and repeaters working together can often harm units enough to make it really count. In this case, the archers also double up as defense, as 10 WS4 I5 Always Strike First attacks are nothing to scoff at. Make sure your units completement and synergize well with eachother and that the characters fill in the holes. With our wide range of specialized choices, there are numerous ways to do this.

Author:  Curu Olannon [ Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: On High Elf Army List Design

.::. Conclusion .::.

Wrap-up - The elements at our disposal can be hard to master and combine effectively into a winning fighting force. Our choices are so far away from braindead as they can get. T3 and a 5+ save across the board is very unforgiving.

With that said, keep the elements discussed here in mind and you will find it easier. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Do I have at least 2 elements capable of dealing a blow to heavy cavalry?
- Do I have a reliable way of dealing with Hordes?
- Is my list Balanced or Focused? Why?

Trying to reason with ourselves why we do what we do makes it easier to see why some things work and other things don't.

Evaluation of this Article - I will post your thoughts about this article in this section

Example Lists and Rationale

Seredain's Cavalry Prince List

Prince- Barded Steed, Dragon Armour, Shield, Giant Blade, Helm of Fortune, Plucker Pendant, Talisman of Loec - 286
Lvl 4 Archmage - Dispel Scroll, Lore of Life - 280
BsB- Barded Steed, Great Weapon, Heavy Armour, Shield, Dragonhelm, Dawnstone, Amulet of Light - 190

35 Spearelves- Full Command, Gleaming Pennant - 345
14 Archers, Musician - 159
11 Archers - 121 (Archmage here)

14 Swordmasters- Bladelord - 222
12 White Lions- Full Command, Banner of Eternal Flame - 220
8 Silver Helms- Musician, Shields - 192 (Prince and BsB here)
5 Dragon Princes - 150
1 Tiranoc Chariot - 85

2 RBTs - 200
1 Eagle - 50

= 2500 points

Seredain takes an unusual approach in bringing a mounted Prince as one of his primary fighting elements. What's good about this list, in my opinion, is that it mixes everything together and does so preserving all the strengths of the High Elf army list. There is an element to handle every situation, and most situations can be dealt with by more than one unit. His list does not in any way rely upon one hit wonders and as such can be expected to perform consistently well. Against big infantry armies he can outmanoeuvre with his fast units and still have a solid infantry core to threaten the middle of the field with. Against shooty lists he has a lot of fast stuff which will move forwards at an alarming pace. Against elite armies the support and fast elements should ensure that the High Elves dictate when and where to fight.

Most of you will notice that one of this list's biggest weaknesses is a fragile elite infantry core. We're basically looking at 26 T3 models with a weak save to carry a lot of the heavy lifting. This weakness is covered well by the Archmage taking Lore of Life - a perfect complement to his list. An alternative here would be to swap out the elite infantry for other units and go for shadow - effectively turning any unit into a potential killer through okkam's.

The synergy and balance in this list is a wonder to behold. I would advice you to read his thread linked at the top where you will find Seredain's rationale behind his choices and also interesting battle reports about how this list fares in practice.

Flanker's Shooting Cavalry List

Tournament special rule: Balanced list (no cheese), no Lords, 8 power dice max per magic phase

Mage Lv2 High
Silver Wand 145 pt

BSB mounted 177 pts
GW, DA, Barded Steed, Shield, Helm Fortune, Talisman of Loec

25 x Spearman with Full Command and Gleaming Pennant 255 pts
11 x Archers 121 pts

14 x White Lions with Guardian and Banner of Eternal Flame 244 pts
9 x Silver Helms 207 pts
5 x Dragon Princes 150 pts

2 x Great eagles

Flanker demonstrates our list's power with relying on troops here. Due to the tournament rules it is hard to beef up characters to dominate the game. Flanker instead manages to create 3 very powerful combat units - the SHelms, Spearmen and White Lions. The BSB with the SHelms make for a fast and powerful hammer and the infantry units provide a nice basis around which the support elements can work. The sole mage acts as a support caster, picking high magic for overall buffs and magic nerfs on the enemy.

The rare choices round out this list nicely, providing more mobility (even for a High Elf list, this army is very mobile) and support. The RBT can work in tandem with the archers for mutual benefit and protection. This provides a solid anchor around which the army can fight defensively, if needed.

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