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D.R.A.I.C.H - Battle Standard Bearers
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Author:  Thanatoz [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  D.R.A.I.C.H - Battle Standard Bearers

For armies that rely on combat, a battle standard bearer is always a good investment. They are a good addition to any force for the extra combat resolution it brings to its own unit, for holding the line, or just for having a cool model with a huge banner that provides benefits to the unit it's in.

Horses for courses...
In the Dark Elf army book, there's a few different options that determine the role of a Battle Standard Bearer (henceforth referred to as BSB) in your army. Firstly, there's the choice between a Death Hag and a Master as BSB. Second, each of those has two different options. For the Death Hag, the choice between having a Cauldron or not will determine if she can join units or not, and can charge into combat on her own. If she is accompanied by a Cauldron, her role is totally different than it would be when she was joining a unit. Concerning the Master, there's the choice of equipping him with a magic banner or not. If yes, he cannot be equipped with other magic items, and he has to rely on his mundane equipment to save the day. This is not applicable to Death Hags, as they cannot take any magic items anyway, only Gifts of Khaine which can be taken regardless of having a magic banner or not.

The Death Hag BSB

Let's start off with the Death Hags. They follow all the rules for witch elves (not surprisingly), so they are frenzied and have poisoned attacks. Unlike masters, they can't have any armor or magic items, so protective items are very limited. She is also Khainite, which means she can join units of Witch Elves and Executioners, while masters can't. To that end, there are two dominating Death Hag BSB builds:

The Cauldron BSB
The first is the one with Cauldron of Blood. She works best in a Khainite army, as Khainite units within 12” of the caulron are stubborn. Providing them with a re-roll is very valuable and insures your line will seldom get broken, so you can counter charge the attackers. Black Guard also work in this tactic, as they are stubborn by themselves. The obvious downside to this is the entire army has to operate inside the 12” radius of the Cauldron to be used with great effect. And since the cauldron operates like a war machine, it cannot march and only move 5” per turn, assuming all crew is still alive. Still, it's a great option if you can manage to reduce your opponents ranged threats on the way in, and actually make it there in one piece. This tactic favors an infantry army, as it's easier to keep in range of the Cauldron.

There are two schools of thoughts about giving her a magic banner. Some like the hag to have the Banner Of Hag Graef, Rune Of Khaine and Manbane. This means that when attacked, the attendants dish out massive damage to the attacker. It's a very expensive option though, and since war machine crew cannot charge, your opponent decides whether or not you can use it effectively. The other school of thought is to keep her bare bones, and use the surrounding units to keep them safe from charges. If charged, all hags can challenge nasty characters, or flying character monsters, and the attendants can rely on their 4+ ward save to try to keep safe until reinforcements show up. Also note it's possible you can give the Cauldron blessing to its attendants, but this effectively means you cannot bless anything else, and you are again giving the initiative to your opponent, who might decide not to charge you, thus wasting the blessing.

Looking at the army lists forums, the bare bones option seems to be most prevalent these days, while the first option was more popular just after the release of the army book. This means opponents also know what the cauldron is capable of, and know what can deal with it and what not. Moreover, giving the Banner Of Hag Graef to your cauldron, means another unit that is more combat worthy cannot carry it. I find in my own games the Cauldron rarely gets charged.

A practical example of a possible use of the Cauldron BSB in this way is a deployment as follows (try to deploy all units within 2” of the Cauldron):

-----------------Black Guard------------------
---Witch Elves --Cauldron---Executioners---

The infantry moves forward 10”. The Cauldron follows 5”, widening the gap to 7”. Next turn, if the opponent also moved forward, you can charge 10”, and the Cauldron again moves 5”. They are just inside the 12” range.
But you don't need a Khainite army for the Cauldron BSB to work, as the cauldron is also a force multiplier, and actually makes a good choice in any army with some decent close combat units. Making her the BSB is just a nice bonus then.

The Banner of Nagarythe
Our most expensive banner has two possible uses, and one of them includes giving it to a Cauldron Of Blood BSB. It is then designed to make optimal use of the ‘friendly units within 12” gain +1 to combat resolution’ rule. This works excellent with a MSU style Khainite army, to maximize the combat resolution. It's very tricky to use though, and costs an arm and a leg. This approach is even harder to combine with cavalry and flyers, as the range is very limited. The MSU part is very important, as the more units are in combat, the higher your combat resolution will be. See GeOrcs Temple Of Khaine for an army build around this strategy. It's well worth the read.

The Banner Of Hag Graef Death Hag BSB
The other dominant build is the Death Hag with Banner Of Hag Graef, Manbane and Rune Of Khaine. This offensive combination is great, as the Death Hag can dish out between five and seven attacks a turn that usually wound on a 3+ (re-rolling misses, of course). With the Banner of Hag Graef, she is usually placed inside a unit of Executioners. They need the banner the most, as their great weapons always make them strike last. They can be one of our deadliest units, as Executioners are one of our most potent can-opener units. Giving them an extra attack from the Cauldron (Executioners work best with a Cauldron) in combination with Always Strikes First makes them deadly. They are still slow though, and vulnerable to psychology.

To beef up the Executioners and make them immune to fear causers, you can include Tullaris in the army, if your gaming groups allows named characters. This will help with the psychology part. Take note since the Death Hag is frenzied, it's possible she must charge out of the unit if the Executioners haven't declared a charge. This means it's better to always charge, but the Always Strikes First rule should protect your unit if you're lured into a trap this way.
The other unit she is usually joined with are Witch Elves. With lots of poisoned low strength attacks, they are the opposite of Executioners. However, with the banner of murder on the unit standard bearer and 3 attacks per model, they can really dish out some damage. They are frenzied, so are immune to psychology until they lose combat (which shouldn't be likely). They are a bit of a risk against heavily armored troops though.

The unkillable BSB and other master builds
Now that we've covered the hags, let's get to the masters. If you don't give a magic banner to the master, you can equip him with magic items. One of those builds is called the unkillable BSB, due to his ability to pin large monsters in place. He is clad in full mundane armor, rides a dark steed usually (although a Cold One works too), and carries the Pendant Of Khaeleth and the Sword Of Might. Because those creatures usually outnumber him, the extra point of combat resolution from his banner should help him draw the combat, so he remains in place.

While the pendant is mandatory for this build, you could possible replace the Sword Of Might with:
- a null talisman instead of the magic sword. Usually not worth it, because he is protected enough. More useful if you plan to stick in units, but this guy likes to charge out on his own when it's advantageous to do so.
- Soulrender is also a good alternative for Sword Of Might. Because he's mounted, the strength remains the same, but the armor piercing work wonders. Biggest drawback is not the striking last, but the fact he needs two hands to wield it and can't use a shield then.
- Another option is the Enchanted Shield, for maximum survivability, in which case he is less likely to cause a wound or two and slowly grind away the enemy.
- Lastly, there's the Sword of Battle. Four S4 attacks instead of three S5 attacks. Here are some statistics, assuming the BSB strikes first:

Code:
Wraiths, round 1  |  Wraiths, round 2  |  Flamers, round 1  |  Flamers, round 2
___________________________________________________________________________________
       +1S    +1A |         +1S    +1A |         +1S    +1A |         +1S    +1A
Lose   0.7%   1.0%| Lose    2.9%   3.1%| Lose    1.2%   2.0%| Lose    2.6%   3.5%
Draw   4.0%   4.9%| Draw   12.3%  12.4%| Draw   10.0%  15.8%| Draw   19.9%  25.8%
+1    16.2%  16.4%|   +1   30.6%  28.2%|   +1   29.5%  33.1%|   +1   38.0%  37.9%
+2    38.4%  31.5%|   +2   37.0%  32.9%|   +2   36.8%  30.8%|   +2   29.2%  23.9%
+3    40.6%  33.9%|   +3   17.1%  19.5%|   +3   19.5%  14.6%|   +3    9.4%   7.7%
+4     0.0%  12.3%|   +4    0.0%   3.9%|   +4    2.9%   3.3%|   +4    0.9%   1.1%
                  |                    |   +5    0.0%   0.3%|   +5    0.0%   0.1%
___________________________________________________________________________________
As can be seen, in all cases except in turn 1 against wraiths, the probability to inflict that extra wound with the extra attack is rather small. Nevertheless, if you are thinking of facing only VC and no daemons, this might be worth it, as the probability of loss is not increased too much. Special credit goes to Lakissov for providing this info.

Other options for common BSB builds include:
- Armor of Darkness/Ring of Hotek: either a mobile caster disruptor or unit protector. Not monster proof though. Frees up magic item slot on Black Guard and Cold One Knights champions for something else.
- 3 Null talismans: useful in a unit that already has the Ring Of Hotek, providing near magic immunity to the unit. Often used in Death Stars.
- Ring of Darkness: useful to protect your unit from shooting, and hit the enemy more often.
- Lifetaker(or Dragon Egg)/Enchanted Shield: useful for a hunter style BSB, Dragon Egg is preferable over Lifetaker when on a manticore.

For best effect, the BSB can be mounted:
- The trusted dark steed is excellent for great mobility and extra protection.
- The Cold One provides even more protection and causes fear, but is less mobile then the dark steed, especially with stupidity.
- Dark Pegasus provides the best mobility, but is less safe than a dark steed, since it cannot join units. It's not a large target, so it can hide behind units, but that's also a bit of risk. The dark steed is generally a safer choice, with only slightly less mobility, and cannot be killed from under the rider.
- Manticore provides very good mobility and more survivability than the Pegasus, but is hard to use. He makes an excellent US5 flanking unit though. Since the manticore can be killed, your BSB is vulnerable to being dismounted though. He is sturdier than the Dark Pegasus though.
- Chariot is almost the same as a manticore, but is vulnerable strength 7 attacks. Also, the chariot can be destroyed under him, as such he is also vulnerable to dismounting.

In short, for a mere dozen points the dark steeds provides the most flexible options, without any drawbacks. That's why the unkillable BSB is mostly seen on a dark steed. A manticore or chariot is better reserved for another build, which will be explained later.

Tactics
The unkillable BSB should join a heavy combat unit (Black Guard and Cold One Knights come to mind, but they work in any unit that is expected to see combat). When your enemy keeps some troops just out of charge range of your unit, your BSB can charge out on his own with his massive 18" charge range, and butcher anything (or better: survive anything). Also, if your opponent is setting up a cheap bait for your heavy cavalry, you might only charge out the master, who on his own has a better chance of catching the enemy should he flee, is likely to survive alone on the battlefield, and leaves your unit free to continue with the original plan.

Since the BSB only has 3 attacks at strength 5, he is expected to do few damage, but survive forever. He can take on any unit that doesn't have static combat resolution, and his own banner should usually compensate the enemy outnumbering bonus. He is therefore used to combat monsters, which he can hold into a duel forever, hunt war machines, tie up skirmishers and shooting units.

In the absence of such foes, he is best used inside his combat units, and can challenge enemy characters, preventing the rank and file from being hit. While the nastiest enemy character is locked into a duel, the rank and files ducks it out with the opposing unit. If he was accompanying Black Guard or Knights, this usually spells trouble for the enemy.

Should the worst happen and you lose combat and your very expensive unit fails it's break test, you can always count on his re-roll. This guy is very flexible and very cost-efficient.

Magic banners
Ah, here we are to the most important part. What banners do we have available? Two of our magic banners jump out: the Banner Of Hag Graef and the Standard Of Slaughter. The Banner of Hag Graef was already discussed, and is worth it on a Death Hag or in a unit of Black Guard or Knights (or in a death star). But there's another build out there: what I like to call the Slaughterer BSB.

The Slaughterer BSB
On of our best banners is the Standard of Slaughter. While it can be taken on a unit of Cold One Knights or Black Guard without the use of a BSB, giving it to a BSB can be very worthwhile. A unit of Black Guard is not recommended for this banner, as the banner only works on the charge, and cavalry has more of an edge to be certain to get that charge than Black Guard, who fulfill more of tarpit role in most armies.

While I already mentioned Cold One Knights as heavy shock troops, who benefit hugely from the banner, we have other shock cavalry available to us in the form of Shielded Dark Riders. Admittedly, they aren't used much, but they have a huge charge range, and thus are almost guaranteed to get the charge. Providing them with extra combat resolution is a necessity to keep them moving, because when bogged down, all the shields in the world will not help our dark riders. See this thread for more info on Shielded Dark Riders.

A solitary BSB can also make good use of this banner. To make this banner worthwhile, also on a solo character, I already said getting the charge is very important. Another requirement is having a Unit Strength of at least 5, so he can break ranks, and catch fleeing troops. With an escort of Shielded Dark Riders or Cold One Knights, it's a simple matter of keeping enough of them alive. But when operating solo, it means he has to take a mount that provides the necessary unit strength to our master.

For this reason, Dark Steeds and Cold Ones need not apply. They only bring our master to US2. The Dark Pegasus is also not sturdy enough for this purpose. This leaves us with two options: the manticore and the chariot. Both are US 5, and both pack a decent punch to complement the combat resolution of the banner. The chariot has impact hits, and the manticore has loads of killing blow attacks.

The main drawback of both: they need to break whatever they charge, cause when bogged down, their damage won't be high enough to win any fights, and they might break and be overrun in the process. Both thus excel with flank charges as support for other units, both as a fail safe for when they fail to break the enemy, and as a way to dramatically increase the chance of the other unit winning. Also, beware of overrunning into an unfortunate position. A countercharge can ruin your day. Because of this, tagging a unit of Harpies along to divert other units is mandatory.

The Slaughterer BSB thus works best as a tag team with another unit, or inside a fast unit.

Magic Banners
To conclude a short summary of all our banners, and some notes about including them (with or without BSB) in your army:

*Hydra Banner: very expensive, only worth in a unit of Cold Ones, where it acts as a force multiplier. For infantry the cauldron is better support, as it can give that additional attack when and where you need it. The Hydra Banner BSB on a Cold One in a unit of Knights provides a formidable hammer to our army, as both riders and mounts benefit from the extra attack. Also nice in combination with the Banner Of Murder or the Banner Of Hag Graef.

*Banner of Murder: a very good banner. Has the most effect when boosting the most attacks, so a unit of witches will benefit the most. Don’t use your BSB for this tough, as the banner costs a mere 25 points, and can be taken by most units. Cold One Knights also benefit greatly from this banner, as suddenly even the bite of the Cold Ones becomes dangerous, and the lances hit home with a -4 armor modifier, making heavily armored knights suddenly less of worry.

*The Banner of Nagarythe: this banner has two main uses. The first is as described as a way to generate huge amounts of combat resolution to MSU style armies, the second is to make the unit it's in unbreakable. Can be really handy on the ultimate Death Star unit, though for this use alone, some (including me) find it too costly.

*Dread Banner: A nice banner, but who to give it too? Cold One Knights already cause fear. Black Guard are Immune to Psychology, and will seldom outnumber the enemy. So using your BSB to give this to for example warriors (a really big block for outnumbering and auto-breaking your enemy) or executioners (they can benefit from fear immunity) seems kind of a waste, especially since executioners would benefit more from the Banner of Hag Graef, and warriors should never be relied upon to hold. Also, as deathknight27 correctly notes, there are other ways for various units to gain fear or immunity to psychology.

*Standard Of Slaughter: this is a very good banner, but requires getting the charge. Good on fast units. See the Slaughterer BSB build above.

*Banner of Hag Graef: Excellent on infantry, or units that get charged (like stupid Cold Ones). Black Guard, Executioners and Witch Elves all benefit from this banner. The latter two require a BSB. If you don’t include any of those in your army, you might also consider it on Cold One Knights. Executioners are probably best candidates for this banner, as their great weapons would otherwise make them strike last. See the Banner Of Hag Graef Death Hag BSB build above.

*Banner of Cold Blood: the cheapest banner we have, sadly it’s one use only. Use on Cold Ones to be certain to pass that stupidity test, on Executioners to be certain to get the charge against that fear or terror causing creature, or on warriors to be certain to hold the line. No BSB necessary.

*Warbanner: helps in offense and defense. Good for all, not so good for a BSB because of the low points cost which means all units can take it.

Only two banners actually require a BSB, all others can be given to unit standard bearers. Therefore, unless going with one of the specialized builds mentioned earlier, it’s probably best to equip your master with magic equipment and just use a non-magical battle standard for the re-roll and extra combat resolution.

Afterthought
There are only a few magic banners worthy of including on a BSB, and all with a specific build in mind:

- Hydra Banner with a unit of hard hitting Cold Ones
- Banner Of Nagarythe on a Cauldron Of Blood BSB in a MSU Khainite army
- Banner Of Hag Graef on a big unit of Executioners or Witches
- Standard Of Slaughter on a manticore or chariot or inside a unit of shielded Dark Riders

Other banners can freely be taken by any unit, and are a bit of a waste of points on a BSB, that might have included some other goodies instead. The Dread Banner is a banner that probably isn’t worth it, unless you want to try something different. A BSB without magic banner is always a useful addition to any army, and can be used in a variety of wise, of which the unkillable BSB build is probably the most tried and tested. This guy is very reliable and flexible, and worthy of including in almost any army.

Author:  Calisson [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:06 pm ]
Post subject: 

Great article! :D
Compliments.

Some more explanations about how the "unkillable BSB" tactics works would be nice (when can he jump out of his unit).


I may mention the SoS BSB in a unit of 15 shielded DR. Almost guaranteed to win. But needs flankers.

Also, the SoS BSB on a chariot. US5, SCR2-4 plus impact. Trouble is if it does not win in the charge, it needs a rescue team.

In both cases, the idea is to put the SOS in an unit which has great chances to get the charge.


EDIT:
Some testimony about the Banner of Nagarythe => there.

Author:  Red... [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Thanatoz,

Thanks so much for this, its very helpful and succint, with some good ideas to think about as well.

Quote:
* Dread Banner : A nice banner, but who to give it too?


I suppose this could be used well against a horde army, but it really does cost too much. If it were 25 points instead of 40 it would be really decent, but even for non-fear causing or ITP units there are so many other better ways to get its effects (and then some), including:

- Take Tullaris for executioners (causes fear)
- Death Mask on a character (causes terror)
- Lokhir (causes terror)
- Pearl of Infinite bleakness (gives ITP)
- The 25pts enchanted item that gives fear for one turn (causes fear).

It's a shame, as I love the idea of it. If only if it were 25 points. If if if...what a waste :(

Author:  Thanatoz [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

Calisson wrote:
Great article! :D
Compliments.

Thanks.

Some more explanations about how the "unkillable BSB" tactics works would be nice (when can he jump out of his unit).

I already mentioned his main use is to pin monsters in place, but I see your point, it is a bit "light", as he is very flexible. Will elaborate a bit on that.

I may mention the SoS BSB in a unit of 15 shielded DR. Almost guaranteed to win. But needs flankers.

Also, the SoS BSB on a chariot. US5, SCR2-4 plus impact. Trouble is if it does not win in the charge, it needs a rescue team.

In both cases, the idea is to put the SOS in an unit which has great chances to get the charge.

Standard Of Slaughter is one of our most effective banners (together with Hag Graef), and as such it deserves a little bit more detail. Master on Chariot would work the same as master on manticore. I will mention the shielded DR too. Update will follow.


deathknight27 wrote:
Hi Thanatoz,

Thanks so much for this, its very helpful and succint, with some good ideas to think about as well.

Quote:
* Dread Banner : A nice banner, but who to give it too?


I suppose this could be used well against a horde army, but it really does cost too much.

Why a horde army? Because they are usually more vulnerable to psychology?

If it were 25 points instead of 40 it would be really decent, but even for non-fear causing or ITP units there are so many other better ways to get its effects (and then some), including:

- Take Tullaris for executioners (causes fear)
- Death Mask on a character (causes terror)
- Lokhir (causes terror)
- Pearl of Infinite bleakness (gives ITP)
- The 25pts enchanted item that gives fear for one turn (causes fear).

It's a shame, as I love the idea of it. If only if it were 25 points. If if if...what a waste :(

Some very good points here. You forgot the Sea Serpent Standard on Corsairs. Right now it's just not worth it, unless Executioners could have a bigger banner points allotment, but then the Hag Graef option would be too obvious. Thanks for sharing!

Author:  Red... [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

Quote:
Why a horde army? Because they are usually more vulnerable to psychology?


Yes :)

I should also have included that it would be useful against fear causing enemies like VC. It's all moo though, as 40 points is what we're stuck with.

Thanks again for a good article :)

Author:  Thanatoz [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:46 am ]
Post subject: 

Revision 1:
- Added a tactics section to the unkillable BSB build
- Added the Slaughterer BSB build, dedicated to a BSB with *drumroll* the Standard of Slaughter.
- Linked to deathknights comment concerning the Dread Banner.

deathknight27 wrote:
Quote:
Why a horde army? Because they are usually more vulnerable to psychology?


Yes :)

I should also have included that it would be useful against fear causing enemies like VC. It's all moo though, as 40 points is what we're stuck with.

Thanks again for a good article :)


As you said, the pearl is a better investment for making units immune to psychology (also note that it's funny the pearl can be taken by knights and black guard, who don't really need it).

Concerning causing fear, that would require a unit that is certain to outnumber, and that would mean warriors probably. Otherwise not worth it. I prefer to cause higher active combat resolution then, something which other banners do better. Indeed, 25 points would make it see a lot more action!

Author:  Calisson [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:41 pm ]
Post subject: 

One more thought against Pegasus BSB:
Seems strange to have a BSB who can't really fight in combat and can't hide in a unit.
Eiter go for a Manti, or remain safe on a DS.


Thanks again. I've removed all the previous hyperlinks from the D.R.A.I.C.H. which are superseded by your article.

Excellent example of a single arcticle clearly superior to the sum of the sources it has been inspired from!

Author:  Thanatoz [ Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:07 am ]
Post subject: 

Calisson wrote:
One more thought against Pegasus BSB:
Seems strange to have a BSB who can't really fight in combat and can't hide in a unit.
Eiter go for a Manti, or remain safe on a DS.

I agree, but the benefit of the Pegasus is that it's not a large target and can hop, hiding behind units to grant the reroll where it's needed most. This also means when your unit does break despite the re-roll, the enemy will probably overrun into the BSB.

It's more one of these fluff type models. But exept for a focus familiar sorceress, I've never been able to make the Pegasus "work". Thanks for the feedback though, will include a small note about this.



Thanks again. I've removed all the previous hyperlinks from the D.R.A.I.C.H. which are superseded by your article.

Excellent example of a single arcticle clearly superior to the sum of the sources it has been inspired from!

Well, there were like 18 threads, about more than half of them came down to "get the unkillable BSB", followed by discussions about Sword Of Might and Soulrender. Good sources, though a lot of repetition in there. Thanks for the compliment, writing articles is more fun when they're being read! :D


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