Elves. Elves! Elves? - Part 2

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Last time I looked at the characters across all three elf books. This time I'm going to look at Core units as well as infantry units across the Special and Rare sections.


The Core section makes up a minimum of twenty-five percent of your army. Some refer to the Core requirement as a tax, especially in those armies with a less than inspiring selection of units. With units from three books to choose from for my fantasy Elf army list, can I pick some units that are more than just a boring selection you have to take?

Combat Infantry

Possibly a misnomer these days when a lot of Core infantry units are more likely to be acting as a character bunker away from any possibility of combat, nevertheless the first unit type I'm going to select from Core is the combat unit.

Across the three books there are eight units to pick from here, four of which come from the Dark Elf book. Given this quantity of units I'm going to make two selections for my fantasy list.

In terms of fighting prowess the Dreadspears, Bleakswords, Spearmen and Sea Guard are much of a much-ness, the only difference being the Bleakswords' slight edge in endurance thanks to getting a parry save while the other three units gain an extra rank (or two in the case of the High Elf units) of attacks.

Corsairs and Sea Guard straddle both this section and the Missile Infantry section, with Sea Guard coming with bows as standard while Corsairs can be upgraded to have repeater handbows. The Corsairs can instead be upgraded with additional hand weapons, giving them two attacks each, which, combined with their Sea Dragon cloaks giving them the best armour save of any of the units here, makes them a unit capable of putting out a lot of hurt if they can be augmented by any strength boosting spells or their opponents hexed with something that reduces toughness. In comparison, the Sea Guard only have light armour as standard and so need to be bought shields if you want them to have a vague chance of surviving in combat.

Witch Elves have moved from the Special section into Core in the new army book. They remain frenzied with poisoned attacks and two hand weapons and so are capable of putting out a lot of attacks, although they have no protection unless there is a Cauldron of Blood in their unit.

Finally we come to the units from the Wood Elf book. Dryads lost a point of strength and initiative, the Skirmish rule and a Ward Save against mundane attacks but gained Hatred and a proper 6+ Ward Save. They also remain toughness four with two attacks.

The last unit is the Eternal Guard who are now fully Core, rather than only being Core if your army was led by a Highborn (Glade Lord). Unlike the other elves here, the Eternal Guard have an extra point of weapon skill and leadership, making them slightly more elite than the rest. Add in Stubborn and you have the potential for a reasonable combat character bunker.

From these eight units then I am looking to pick two units for my fantasy Elf list. Firstly I'm going to eliminate the Dreadspears, Bleakswords, Spearmen and Sea Guard in favour of the Eternal Guard. While the Eternal Guard are more expensive than all bar the Sea Guard (a third more expensive if you give the Eternal Guard shields which you probably will), personally I feel that the characteristic bonuses they have compared to the others, plus being Stubborn, and having Armour Piercing thanks to their Asrai Spears, tip things in their favour and make them a strong bunker unit.

That brings my second choice to between the Corsairs, Witch Elves or Dryads. Having chosen my first unit somewhat on its defensive abilities I'm going to choose the next one more on its offensive capabilities and for that reason I'm going to choose the Witch Elves. Granted, they're less durable than the Corsairs or Dryads but the potential damage output for me outweighs that.

Missile Infantry

Taking all the infantry units from Core who can take missile weapons we have five units to consider: the Darkshards and Black Ark Corsairs, Archers and Sea Guard and lastly the Glade Guard.

With all the shooting being strength three the first thing I'm going to look at is the range of the units' respective weapons. Taking this approach means I'm going to immediately eliminate the Black Ark Corsairs. The 12$quot; range of the repeater handbow means your threat range is less than your and, more importantly, your target's potential charge range (even if you're playing against Dwarfs).

Next we have two units with a 24" threat range, the Darkshards and Lothern Sea Guard. The obvious disadvantage of these units is that if you win first turn you're going to have to move them forward if you want to be in range of anything. This is possibly a bigger disadvantage with the Sea Guard as you're likely to be running them deeper to take advantage of the Martial Prowess rule to give more shots from a narrower frontage which would entail moving them further forwards. The Darkshards have an advantage with armour piercing shots and the ability to put out a lot of firepower using their Multiple Shots rule, albeit at the expense of the To Hit roll penalty using Multiple Shots incurs.

Finally we come to the longbow armed units with their 30" range. The High Elf Archers have Martial Prowess, allowing them to have a full extra rank of shooting, and can, unlike their Wood Elf equivalent, be given light armour.

While they have no armour or the option for it, the Glade Guard in the Wood Elf book have to be my pick of the missile infantry. Straight from the book they're the joint most expensive unit in this section but have magical shooting with armour piercing shots, as well as being able to get an extra full rank of shooting if inside a wood. Where they stand apart from the other elves is the ability to be upgraded with one of six types of enchanted arrows. This does make your archers rather expensive but you can customise your archers to the army or armies you expect to be playing against and that, for me, is a clear advantage over the other units in this section and a price that is just about worth paying.


Each of the elf books has a unit of Fast Cavalry available in Core which are the Dark Riders, Ellyrian Reavers and Glade Riders, in the Dark, High, and Wood Elf books respectively. There's nothing to choose between them in terms of characteristics so the differentiator is going to be equipment and special rules.

Taking them in reverse army book order, the Glade Riders don't have any armour and may not come on the board when you want or need them to, due to having the Ambushers special rule. However, they do get to choose the enchanted arrows available to other Wood Elf missile units and unlike the other two units they also come equipped with their missile weapon as standard, although this could be seen as a negative point if you just want a cheap throwaway unit.

Ellyrian Reavers are new to the Core section for the High Elves, having previously resided in Special. For three points less than the Glade Rider the Reaver has a better armour save and you can swap out the Reavers' spears for bows or take both, although this then makes the Reaver the same price as the Glade Rider.

Finally amongst the Fast Cavalry units, we come to the Dark Riders in the Dark Elf book. Like the Ellyrian Reavers, they start out three points cheaper than the Glade Rider and come with Light Armour for a 5+ armour save. Giving them repeater crossbows makes them the same price as the Glade Rider or upgraded Reaver. Unlike the other two units, Dark Riders can also purchase a shield giving them a 4+ armour save.

Aside from the Fast Cavalry choices there is one more cavalry choice to be found in the Core section of the High Elf army book: the Silver Helms. Like the Fast Cavalry units we've already looked at, the riders have the standard eleven stat line and start off two points more expensive than a Glade Rider. What sets them apart is that they carry a lance and can also have a shield for the cost of a Skaven Slave which gives them a 2+ armour save.

My first pick from this section is pretty obvious then, the Silver Helms. While the characteristics of the rider aren't exceptional by elf standards, you can't sniff at heavy cavalry in Core, especially as it's a unit that feels like it does work for you rather than being the "core tax".

Between the Fast Cavalry units the Dark Rider gets my vote. I don't like the Ambushers rule on the Glade Riders (personally I would have preferred Scouts) as it means you don't know when the unit is going to be on the table and the Reavers are just a little bland, having neither the threat range and options of the Glade Rider, or event the potential ranged damage output of the Dark Riders.

What clinches it for the Dark Riders is being able to put a shield on them. Points-wise it does mean you're approaching the cost of Knights from other army books but it does give more resilience to a unit that can carry on harassing or getting in the way of the enemy that little bit longer or possibly act as a bunker for a Fast Cavalry character.

Non-Core Units

So, with the characters and Core units dealt with, we come to the remaining units in the elf army books that occupy the Special and Rare sections. As I mentioned in the introduction, I'm going to group these remaining units by the role I think they serve. This may mean some of the units are considered within a grouping that may not immediately seem to make sense or that units may be considered in a couple of groupings depending on how well they perform those roles.

Great Weapon Infantry

If you need to deal with heavily armoured troops, without resorting to the Lore of Metal or bolt throwers, or take on tougher troops like Monstrous Infantry, you're going to be looking to your great weapon equipped troops. Across the three Elf armies there are four units to choose from. Due to all the Elves in the Elf army books now having Always Strikes First, when it comes to close combat they will all strike at initiative order with no re-rolls to hit (barring units with Hatred).

Starting with the Dark Elves we have the Har Ganeth Executioners, who got a boost with the new Dark Elf book due to now striking at their initiative rather than striking last. With strength four base the great weapon means they're strength six when the rolling to wound. With an extra point of leadership over the standard elf characteristic, they also bring Killing Blow and re-rolling ones to wound to the table thanks to the Dark Elves' Murderous Prowess rule.

The High Elf book has two choices in this category, both of which cost a point more than the Executioners. Taking them alphabetically the first unit is the Swordmasters of Hoeth, whose key characteristic boosts over the other units in this section are Weapon Skill 6 and two Attacks base. Before the 8th edition High Elf book they were shredders of ordinary rank and file and other elite infantry but have taken a knock in the new book due to no longer getting re-rolls to hit, despite being able to attack in three ranks (assuming the third rank is alive by the time you make it into combat).

Next in the book are the White Lions of Chrace who, like the Executioners, are Strength 4 base. Like the Swordmasters, the Lions have the standard elf leadership but unlike the other Great Weapon elf troops they are Stubborn, giving them greater potential to absorb a beating and still be there in the next round of combat. Unlike the other units in this section, they're also more likely to make it to combat in a lot of games having two points of extra armour save against non-magical shooting.

Lastly we come to the new kids on the block, the Wildwood Rangers from the Wood Elf book. The cheapest of the four units, the Rangers share the same Leadership and Attacks characteristic as the Executioners but are only Strength three. Thanks to the Forest Stalker rule they get the best of the Dark and High Elf special rules (when in a wood re-rolling ones to wound and fighting in an extra rank) and add Immune to Psychology to the mix. Finally, thanks to their Guardians of the Wildwood rule they gain an extra attack against Fear and Terror causers.

So, from these four choices, which one do I choose? Well straight away I'm going to rule out the Swordmasters and Wildwood Rangers due to them being Strength 3 base. The extra point of Strength the White Lions and Executioners have is key, not only for ensuring they can wound more units on twos rather than threes but also for the extra armour penetration the higher strength gives.

Between the Executioners and White Lions there are two things I'm going to look at: Murderous Prowess versus Martial Prowess and Leadership 9 versus Stubborn.

Assuming you have large blocks of each unit in the same formation, and can get them into combat largely unmolested, the extra rank of attacks from the White Lions should ensure they outperform the same number of Executioners. Once you're dealing with smaller units (or units that have been deployed wider for whatever reason) such that both units have the same number of attacks, the advantage swings ever so slightly to the Executioners.

Looking at the higher leadership against Stubborn, the Executioners are obviously slightly better equipped to be away from the general with a better chance of passing any panic or fear tests they need to take while making their way to combat. However, when it comes to fighting that combat, possibly where you expect to take a couple of turns of grind, the Stubborn on the White Lions is a clear win for me as it can help ensure the unit sticks around if some bad dice rolls mean you don't win a round of combat.

Therefore, my pick for Great Weapon Infantry is the White Lions.

Scouts and Missile Infantry

Across the Special and Rare sections of the Elf books there are four units of scouting infantry, plus the Sisters of Avelorn as a more general missile unit.

I'll look at the similar units in the Special section first. From Dark Elves that means the Shades, Shadow Warriors from the High Elf book and finally the Deepwood Scouts from the Wood Elf book. While these are the most similar of the units across the books there are still quite key differences between them.

Starting with the Shades and, aside from the normal Dark Elf party tricks, you have the repeater crossbows, which become a lot more efficient with the Shades' higher Ballistic Skill, plus the option to take either additional hand weapons or great weapons. They lack armour by default, being able to take it as an upgrade.

The High Elf scout option is the Shadow Warriors. In their 7th edition incarnation they compared rather unfavourably to Shades and to an extent that's still true. While they got a Ballistic Skill bump that gives them parity with their Dark Elf equivalent they do not get the weapon upgrade options the Druchii unit has, although they do come with light armour as standard.

Deepwood Scouts are sort of a new unit for the Wood Elf book, in that they are now a named unit, but in reality they are a replacement for the option to upgrade units of Glade Guard to scouts from the 6th edition army book. The downside is that they are still essentially just scouting Glade Guard as they only have the standard elf characteristics. On the flip side that also means they have access to all the enchanted arrows that Glade Guard now do.

A new incarnation of the Handmaidens of the Everqueen from the 5th edition High Elf book, the Sisters of Avelorn occupy the Rare section. With an extra point of Ballistic Skill over the standard Elf profile, the other thing you get for your points is the Bow of Avelorn/Arrows of Isha combination. Although the Bow of Avelorn only has the range of a standard bow, the shots are Strength 4 and the attacks are flaming and magical, with an additional -1 armour save modifier against the Forces of Destruction. The curiosity with this unit is that they are neither Scouts nor Skirmishers and do not have a musician, leaving them rather flat-footed if a unit can get far enough into their flank or behind them so that they can't just wheel and shoot it.

Finally we come to the last scouting unit under consideration, the Waywatchers from the Wood Elf book. While they do not get the choice of enchanted arrows that the Deepwood Scouts or indeed most of their bow-armed kin in the book get access to, they do get the choice of two different types of shot. The first is a Multiple Shots (2) attack while the second ignores armour saves.

Having considered all the options available in this section the first thing I have to ask myself is do I make one or two selections for the fantasy army list? As there are units in both the Special and Rare sections across the three army books I think I'm going to pick one unit for each section.

Taking the units in Special then, my choice here are the Shades. While they're the most expensive of the three units, they can put out a fair amount of shots from their repeater crossbows and the option to give them additional hand weapons or great weapons means you can put them into combat with chaff units or war machine crew and be more confident of the outcome than with the Shadow Warriors or Deepwood Scouts.

Between the two Rare units my choice is a little harder. The higher strength of the Sisters' shooting, combined with the additional armour penalty against Forces of Destruction, appeals, as do the Flaming Attacks for removing Regeneration. However, not being Skirmishers or able to reform means for me that the Waywatchers, with their ability to ignore armour saves, something that Elves can struggle to deal with, get the nod.

Other Infantry

Having covered Great Weapon infantry and Missile Infantry I'm left with five units that I'm unable to group into any more meaningful collection, one of which isn't regular infantry at all.

Starting with the Black Guard from the Dark Elf book we have a unit with an extra attack, point of leadership, initiative and weapon skill compared to regular elves. Their attacks are at strength four thanks to being armed with Halberds and the unit is Stubborn, Immune to Psychology and always get re-rolls to hit thanks to Eternal Hatred.

Next up we have the Phoenix Guard from the High Elf book. Aside from only having one attack they're otherwise identical stat-wise to the Black Guard. Unlike the Black Guard they cause Fear and have a Ward Save, making them more of a bunker unit than the Black Guard.

Back to the Dark Elf book and we have a new unit, the Sisters of Slaughter. Their characteristics are essentially that of the Black Guard with an extra point of Weapon Skill. While they are only Strength 3 the unit can make the most of this against more elite or brute force units due to their Trial of Blades rule that gives them a bonus to their To Hit and To Wound rolls. Their other special rule marks them out as a combat support unit, given that it grants the unit a ward save in combat and allows them to remove rank bonus from a unit they are fighting, as well as stopping that unit from making Parry saves.

Over to the Wood Elf book now for the Wardancers. Effectively the same as the Sisters of Slaughter on characteristics barring attacks (although the Wardancers have an additional hand weapon, giving them two attacks base anyway), protection for the unit comes in the form of a 6+ Ward Save. The unit's special rule, the Shadow Dances of Loec, gives the unit an ability it picks at the start of each round of combat.

Lastly we come to the Tree Kin, also from the Wood Elf book. They stand out like a bit of a sore thumb compared to the other units as they are Monstrous Infantry, rather than Infantry, making them unique across the three Elf books. Costing three times as much per model as the other units covered in this section, being monstrous the Tree Kin come with the expected three wounds and attacks, are strength 4 (a disappointing drop from the last edition) and toughness 5. Scaly Skin and the Forest Spirit ward save give them an overall 4+/6+ save, although being Flammable makes they vulnerable to Flaming Attacks.

Looking at these units then, how do I compare them? Well I think there are roughly two categories of unit here. Black Guard, Phoenix Guard and Tree Kin are to my mind more straight up combat units while Sisters of Slaughter and Wardancers are more combat support units.

The Phoenix Guard and Black Guard have the advantage, against most units, of Always Strikes First, and the Black Guard always get re-rolls To Hit. Meanwhile, the Tree Kin have their regular attacks plus Stomps and have a bit more protection against non-flaming units thanks to much better Toughness and the 4+/6+ save.

Overall though, I'm going to go with the unit I think is going to be the best combat unit of the three in terms of damage output which I think the Black Guard just about wins.

Between the Wardancers and Sisters of Slaughter my decision is going to be based purely on the special rules each have which I think I just about gives it to the Wardancers. While you have to pick which Shadow Dance of Loec you use in each round of combat and cannot use the same in consecutive rounds of combat, I like the choice of options you have a bit more than the effects of the Sisters' rules.

This concludes part two. Part three rounds out the article looking at the remaining unit types. Don't forget to check out our other articles


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About the author


cerebros has been back into Warhammer since October 2008, since which time he has failed to finish painting any units in his army. It was his tactical genius that David Moyes based Manchester United's 2013-14 season on.