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D.R.A.I.C.H. - Murders in Rue Naggarond: Assassins! 
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Noble
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Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:05 pm
Posts: 426
Assassins. You have to love them. For those among us who played them in 6th, they’ll remember the one trick ponies they were that fluffed their rolls when you revealed them. In a way they still are, being very vulnerable models. But now, they have become one of our hardest combat characters, totally able to turn the tables in any fight. The one thing they cannot do as well as our masters, is take it on the chin.

Having one or more assassins in your army has some benefits and some drawbacks. So to get the most out of the assassin, it’s important to specialize it and use the right assassin for the right job. Sounds obvious, right?

Rule queries

To fully understand the assassin, let’s first get some technicalities out of the way:

1) Manbane and Rending Stars do stack. The strength value of the model is adjusted to one more than the toughness of your opponent (up to maximum six), and Rending Stars add an additional point of Strength. This means that versus toughness six they’ll wound on a 3+, versus anything lower they’ll wound on a 2+. This also means chariots are indeed instantly killed when wounded by one of those awesome poisoned stars. Print out the Dark Elf FAQ to prove this to your opponent if (or when) he starts to moan.

2) On the other hand, Manbane and Repeater Handbows do NOT stack, as handbows have a fixed strength value, and only the strength of the model is adjusted, not the strength of the weapon (obviously the poison is either applied to the hands of the model, or is used by the assassin itself like a potion of strength).

3) There is no official clarification that precisely says when you have to note down where your assassin is hidden. The general feeling of this community is that since although they are bought as a unit upgrade, they behave in all respects as characters, and therefore they are “deployed” (noted down) during the deployment when other characters are being deployed. Writing it down when you deploy the unit it will be in is hardly a surprise now is it?

4) An assassin displaces a model when revealed, which is put elsewhere in the unit. This allows a unit of Shades including an assassin to pull off a first turn charged: they are deployed 10” from the enemy, the assassin is revealed, the displaced shade is put within 2” of the unit but within 10” from the enemy and in charge range. Also clarified in the FAQ. Download, print it, and keep it handy to slap it repeatedly in your opponents face. Word of warning: this trick is considered “cheap” and rules abuse. Perfectly legal in hardcore environments, but don’t try this in friendly matches.

5) When an assassin charges out of a unit, any possible stand and shoot reactions will be resolved against the unit he was in. This is to be found in the FAQ for the main rulebook.
That’s right, to effectively use the assassins, you’ll need about three FAQs. Great, with that out of the way, let’s talk about character slots.

Assassins aren’t heroes

Assassins do not count as heroes. This is both a blessing and a curse. It effectively means you can take an assassin beyond your normal hero choices. It also means you can end up spending a lot of points on characters. If you want to use two or three assassins, you still have to buy at least a general. Is this restriction necessary? Not really. I rarely see armies that use more character slots than there are legally available (if you would count assassins as taking a character slot), due to the points constrain. That said, there are some who do, so it’s an advantage nonetheless. In general, for non specialist builds, the optimal number of assassins varies from zero to two, and those points quickly add up.

Other general assassin qualities (some good, some bad):

- Assassins cannot be targeted until they are revealed. This means they cannot be killed when not on the table. However, the unit he is in can. If the assassin cannot displace a model, he cannot be revealed. Also, if the unit containing the assassin legs it off the table after a few arrows hit home, your valuable assassin is also lost, legging it with the cowards.

- Good damage negation: the assassin is adept at protecting units he is in, by reducing the amount of enemy models that can fight by killing them first. This can have a severe impact on the combat, and a glorious charge that would have decimated your unit can suddenly end in a humiliating defeat by the chargers, followed by a hasty retreat. Sometimes however, the assassin can bounce off armor saves or flunk his rolls, making the unit he is supposed to protect even more expensive to lose.

- Cloak of Twilight bound item: this can help you to support the magic phase, as it’s one of the few bound spells we have available. Nobody likes assassins, and flying assassins make people even more nervous. You need some magic support though, as even magicless armies can use their two dispel dice to stop the spell 97% of the time if it's your only form of magic. This means you’re likely to get it off once every thirty-four games if you attempt it at least thrice per battle. Not the most efficient way to spend points.

- Best used with unit champions: unit champions can accept challenges should the need arise. This stops enemy champions from sacrificing themselves so their unit can decimate yours by challenging your assassin when you would rather kill some rank and file troopers. On the other hand, if only a hero is present, the assassin can challenge himself, killing that hero for those juicy victory points.

- Assassins backed up by static combat resolution are excellent. They can generate a few points of combat resolution and reduce that of the opponent in one go, so when backed up by several ranks and a banner even an ordinary unit of warriors suddenly becomes likely to break an otherwise superior enemy unit.

- Psychological warfare: assassins make your opponent nervous. This can be exploited in several ways. But I’ll get back to that later.

- Expensive model cost: Even without equipment, they cost as much as nine repeater crossbow elves. And traditionally elven armies are already low on body count. Often fully equipped assassins are more expensive than a master. This is offset in a certain way by the surprise factor: people will know where your masters are, but they cannot be certain where your assassin is.

Some people like to compare assassins to masters and the wargear and options those have available to them, but I find that missing the point a bit. Assassins have a few roles they are good at, and those are usually different than the role of masters. It’s a bit like comparing crossbow elves to handbow corsairs. While there is a certain overlap in their abilities, each has a different job where it excels at.

So let’s get some of those naysayer arguments out of the way:
- An assassin costs at least as much as a combat equipped master, but doesn’t have the same protection.
Again, different role. An assassin is there to surprise the opponent. You cannot surprise in heavy armor. An enemy engaging your unit with master is prepared to meet that character, else he wouldn’t engage. But due to the surprise factor of the assassin, he might risk a unit that he otherwise wouldn’t have committed. It’s actually a good thing this doesn’t always work as it should, else nobody would want to play us anymore.

- I’m already tight for points, especially when taking lots of characters.
It depends what you want your characters to do, and how much you invest with them. Assassins are characters in all respects, they just don’t take a hero slot. If you use characters in a unit enhancing way, or for offensive magic, you might indeed scramble for points. However, you can also go character light, with just two cheap masters, and still have enough points left over to include more than two assassins. It all depends what characters you want. Assassins have a role, and if you use them only as an accessory you’re probably better off not recruiting them indeed.

- Assassins cannot be mounted and are less mobile than my masters.
Also true, but again: the surprise factor counts. People anticipate your mobile master. There are a few ways to make the assassin mobile: one is to join him up with shades, who are considered mobile due to being skirmishing. The other one is with the Cloak of Twilight. This is not a failsafe method, but nonetheless it should be accounted for. Also, this goes for all infantry really, so should we all go all cavalry then?

- But masters can enhance my whole unit, while assassins only generate combat resolution!
Since when is this a bad thing? Your assassins protects the unit by not having them killed, and you don’t need a re-roll for your break test if your unit never has to take one :twisted: .

- Our troops have hatred! I don’t need an assassin to kill stuff!
That’s right, you don’t need him. However, assassins can be tooled up to perform heroic feats no other unit in our army is capable off. That can also be said of masters, so it’s up to you to decide what job you want your characters to fulfill.

So let’s take a look at the different builds for assassins, to drive home the point that each assassin has only one purpose in life: to end that of others, but all in different ways.

Wannabe assassin builds

There are a few different types of assassin builds, each with a particular role that might be augmented by certain army builds. These represent the most common and optimal builds that the gifts of Khaine selection of the assassins allows us.

But everybody wants to be in the cool club, and assassins are indeed very cool. So let’s first consider the “wannabe” assassins. These aren’t assassins by any means, but rather masters or dreadlords equipped to resemble the abilities of an assassin (and thus more or less fulfill the same role).

- The Armored Assassin: this is a master armed with the Dagger of Hotek, Beastmaster’s Scourge and clad in Blood Armor. He is on foot and delivers four armor piercing strength four attacks, always striking first. While not bad at all, he isn’t a true assassin by any means, as real assassins can deal out lots more damage.

So why even use this guy? Well, for a start, he is a hero and counts as one. If points are scarce, and you cannot afford to hire a real assassin, this guy can fulfill the same role as the Slasher (see later), but for 20 points less, and you have your mandatory character slot filled to boot. So you don’t really need the banner of Hag Graef with this guy, and points saved are points saved. Solid choice for games of 1000 points or lower, and also nice against High Elves, and other T3 horde armies, as long as they aren’t too heavily armored.

What this guy can do what a real assassin can’t, is take back some damage. After two kills (not unlikely), he has a solid 3+ armor save. After four kills, it’s 1+. Use him as a cheap unit augmenter when points are tight to reduce incoming damage by killing as many models before they get too strike. Can also be made BSB for additional benefits.

- The Smasher: this is a dreadlord on foot who also takes the Dagger of Hotek, striking first with five attacks. Dreadlords can’t take the Beastmaster’s Scourge, but he has the wargear allowance to combine the Dagger of Hotek with the Potion of Strength, which means he is one round capable of dishing out five strength seven attacks. Not bad at all. And since you have only used up 60 points of your allowance, you can use the remaining points to take some additional wargear. You can simulate the Beastmaster’s Scourge by giving the unit he is in the Banner of Murder.

I saw Benmannen take this build with Armor of Darkness to a tournament, and he won first prize! Again, if equipped right, this build can take some damage back, unlike a real assassin. Also, for the remaining points, you can get some unit enhancing gear, like null talismans.

- The Expert: A dreadlord with Heartrender. No always strike first. Why is he called an assassin? Well, if he’s blessed with Killing Blow from the Cauldron, only the Slayer (see later) has better guarantees to get the job done (that is, to land a Killing Blow). Against higher toughness the killer is more effective than versus lower toughness, due to the reroll on failed to wound rolls. Very situational at best, and dependent upon a blessing from the Cauldron, but mathematically speaking, he deserves at least a mention. Can be given ASF through the banner of Hag Graef. Not one of my favorites though.

The advantage of these builds is that they do take a character slot (when you need it), and can make for very fun/themed lists. These builds aren’t however in the top spot for the most optimal choice of lord/hero. Still, they can be very valid builds, as I feel Benmannen proved. I myself took the armored assassin for a test drive in a 1k points game, and he was a beast that led his retinue of loyal spearelves to victorious slaughter. Not many times in 7th had I seen my spear regiment so dominating. I admit I would hesitate to use him in larger points games, as he has less impact when the bigger toys come out to play.

Now, let’s see how the pro’s handle it.

Assassin builds

The Initiate (additional hand weapon)
His only equipment is an extra hand weapon, and he comes in at just below 100 points. This guy is outstanding versus low armoured low toughness troops, but starts to fail versus anything else. Two of them can take out a regiment of above mentioned troops, win due to the number of kills and capture a banner, all on their own. This is not recommended however: how many of those regiments do you encounter those days? Also, for a very modest investment you can give them the absolute golden choice of Rune of Khaine, increasing their attacks, making even one a serious threat. In short, skip the Initiate and move straight to the Whirlwind.

The Whirlwind (additional hand weapon, Rune of Khaine)
Now we’re starting to talk. With a plethora of poisoned attacks this guy is excellent versus light infantry, and one of the cheapest options we have. Now, I’m not a fan of this guy, for one simple reason: he is effective versus light infantry, but not so much versus medium armored infantry with a toughness of at least 4. Versus light infantry, our core selections offer plenty of solutions. Versus more armored troops, we have to look to our special or rare choices. Therefore, I rather specialize my assassin towards one of those roles my core troops can’t fulfill by themselves. He is absolutely fantastic against High Elves though.

Best hideouts: corsairs, spearelves, anything that is likely to be underestimated by the enemy.

The Slasher (additional hand weapon, Rune of Khaine, Manbane)
Still not too pricey, but an effective choice nonetheless. Can be expected to even put a few wounds on the likes of dragons and Bloodthirsters. Sacrifices poisoned attacks for (usually) a better strength modifier, resulting in more deaths unless you flunk your to wound rolls. Against enemies with a toughness of three or less, he is actually worse than the Whirlwind, because manbane has no additional effect on them yet replaces his poisoned attacks.

His main role is to negate damage. He is hidden in a regiment that can’t really take kills, say executioners or witches. When the unit gets charged, he strikes first, so that only a few remain to strike out at your regiment, and thus more of your regiment survive to strike back. Lovely.

Best hideout: any. Well okay, Executioners, whose unwieldy Draichs do not allow much speed, are a prime candidate for the damage negotiation. Costs about as much as the Death Hag BSB with the Banner of Hag Graef (albeit without any additional Khainite gifts), but he cannot be seen from the start, and cannot be baited out of the unit.

Similarly, adding his adjusted strength attacks to the many low strength attacks of witches allows our girls to come out on top more frequently. That’s what we’re all after, isn’t it? They really don’t need it that much though, as hags can also be given Manbane, though the strikes first is definitely handy. However, giving witch elves the Banner of Hag Graef through the means of Death Hag with the rune of Khaine and manbane is a little more expensive, but gives better results: on average seven attacks from the Death Hag and another four attacks from the hag, all with manbane (if you equipped your hag as such of course), and then the many low strength poison attacks, preferably with a Banner of Murder in the unit… hmm nasty. But then again, this requires not only a character slot, but your BSB slot as well, and a magic banner, all in a frenzied of naked (I cannot stress this point enough ;) ) girls...

Frenzied corsairs are another prime candidate for this assassin, as they have many low strength attacks so the additional higher strength attacks from the assassin complements the unit well. And your opponent will feel so clever baiting your frenzied troops until he realizes there’s an assassin that eats his counterchargers for breakfast.

Black Guards can have the ASF banner without taking a battle standard bearer, are stubborn and have good initiative, thus more likely to take an active role in the second round of combat, so they really don’t need this guy, unless you’re packing a true guardstar.

And while I find warriors a bit too cheap to justify the points spend on protection, your opponent can be in serious trouble when he realizes that regiment of warriors is suddenly more than capable of taking on his elite troops.

The Ninja (Rending Stars, Manbane, optional additional hand weapon)
This guy isn’t just awesome in combat, he is awesome as soon as he comes into 17" range (5" movement + 12" from the stars). His rending stars stack with the manbane strength increase, which means he can throw stars with a strength of up to 7! Chariots are in for a rough time, as the superb ballistic skill of the ninja means he’ll rarely miss his target. Because of the strength increase of the stars, this guy is even more effective at range than up close, so you’ll want him in a more harassing role than the Slasher. Because of his effectiveness at ranged attacks, this is the only assassin build you’ll want revealed before combat breaks loose. It’s best to reveal him just before you know you’re going to be in range with those stars.

Best hideouts: Shades (due to their mobility), Corsairs armed with Repeater Handbows (mobile screen with good stand and shoot capacity and protected from missiles). Can also be taken in other regiments of course, but usually you’ll want him to take on a more active role.

With shades (especially those armed with great weapons) they form a frightening unit, able to march block and charge in. They make the best war machine and mage hunters, albeit fragile ones. A single magic missile can spell trouble, two is a real problem. On the other hand, wizards aren’t exactly safe when the ninja is around.

This is also the guy that is best for making the first turn charge maneuver possible (see Rule queries section above).

The Ninja is also good at protecting sorceresses in warrior units (with sacrificial dagger) from harm. With the stars he can harass from afar, and prevent suicide chargers from reaching that sorceress. With the cloak, he can even toss the sorceress out of combat into safety. The slasher also qualifies nicely for this role, but I feel the ranged threat of the rending stars are a better complement with the spellcasting of the sorceress. You don’t want this unit in combat really, so the ninja is the winner here for me.

Both the slasher and the ninja have some points left to take additional gift of Khaine options. One often overlooked item is the Hand of Khaine. It doesn’t seem like much, but considering our high weapon skill, it’s likely our assassin is only going to be hit on a 4+, which effectively halves the number of attacks that actually land. Knocking down the number of attacks from a lord to 3 or 4 means that the assassin is much more likely to survive to fight another day (or more specifically, the next round). As a bonus, most characters are more likely to spend points on getting higher strength and armor save negating weapons which are wasted against our unarmored toughness 3 elf.

Another option is the Cloak of Twilight. This counts as a magic item, and can therefore be taken by only one assassin on the field (sadly). It requires some magic support to be effective, as it’s a bound spell that can be dispelled. However, I shouldn’t have remind anyone the carnage a flying assassin can inflict? Also note, this guy can cast the spell on any other model within range, so can contribute to propelling a dreadlord or master towards enemy lines. With the cloak, mobility is greatly increased, and your assassin can instantly earn it’s points back by taking on a target of his choosing.

The Slayer (additional hand weapon, Rune of Khaine, Touch of Death, Black Lotus)
This guy is the real assassinlike killer. This build is made to maximize the chance of killing blow, with on average 6 attacks and re-rolling ones to wound. There are some who take the Cloak of Twilight instead of Black Lotus to go character sniping very early, but because of his regular poisoned attacks this decreases the chance to score a killing blow.

Whereas the Slayer has a very good chance of scoring a killing blow, the chance is a lot smaller when not using Black Lotus. The only thing standing between him and success is a ward save. Statistically, he is guaranteed to score a killing blow (1,02 chance of success). However, even a 6+ ward decreases the chance to below 1, and with a 4+ ward the chance is actually halved. Nevertheless, he is the best chance we have at scoring a killing blow on an enemy character.

Beware: certain armies have wargear to make characters immune to killing blow. These are frequently encountered the time after you use this assassin (or so my experience has proven).

The Herbalist (wields the Venom Sword)
Let’s see here, a magic weapon that allows you to instant kill big monsters by making them take a toughness test. You're basically paying 75 points for the ability to killing blow US3+ creatures at the expense of negating saves and combining it with other options. So it’s mostly useful against ogres and T4 monstrosities without much of an armor save, T5 is a bit riskier. Don’t even think about T6. In general, pass this one. The Slasher will not instantly kill monsters, but will generate more wounds. The ninja is even more effective against those targets, hitting on 2’s and wounding on 3’s against T6, on 2’s versus anything else. And all that from a safer distance. I also find that versus big monsters, staying power is more important so the unkillable BSB or 1+ save model would be better suited to take them on. Again: pass this one.

The Duelist (additional hand weapon, Rune Of Khaine, Touch of Death, Dark Venom)
His main goal is to challenge, and generate combat resolution. And he’s good at it. For every wound he inflicts, he doubles the CR. While he isn’t as certain to killing blow as the slayer, when he does it, those count quadruple on heroes, as the number of wounds inflicted is equal to the remaining wounds of the model (usually two for heroes unless you already inflicted a wound), and dark venom doubles it again! Combine it with some static combat resolution, and your enemy will soon be breaking. He is less popular than the other builds, because he is the right man to put in a unit of spears and combat enemy infantry blocks. Alas, nowadays these are a rare sight in the warhammer world (all that fighting must have taken a really heavy toll on the infantry), and those you do see will usually have some psychology tricks up their sleeve (like being stubborn). Still, if you frequently encounter a game where combat resolution definitely defines combats (instead of just kills), try out this guy. You won’t be disappointed.

Mathhammer
Note: these numbers are shamelessly borrowed from decker_cky, to provide a complete picture. Credit where credit is due!

A little math hammer comparing three assassin builds, and including the numbers for them being in a unit with the AP banner:
Code:
The Slayer
Sv   6+            5+            4+            3+            2+            1+            0+
T3   4.148148148   4.148148148   3.456790123   2.765432099   2.074074074   1.382716049   0.691358025
T4   3.111111111   3.111111111   2.592592593   2.074074074   1.555555556   1.037037037   0.518518519
T5   2.074074074   2.074074074   1.728395062   1.382716049   1.037037037   0.691358025   0.345679012
                     
The Whirlwind
Sv   6+            5+            4+            3+            2+            1+            0+
T3   4             4             3.333333333   2.666666667   2             1.333333333   0.666666667
T4   3.333333333   3.333333333   2.777777778   2.222222222   1.666666667   1.111111111   0.555555556
T5   2.666666667   2.666666667   2.222222222   1.777777778   1.333333333   0.888888889   0.444444444
                     
The Slasher
Sv   6+            5+            4+            3+            2+            1+            0+
T3   3.555555556   3.555555556   2.962962963   2.37037037    1.777777778   1.185185185   0.592592593
T4   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   2.962962963   2.37037037    1.777777778   1.185185185
T5   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   2.962962963   2.37037037    1.777777778
                     
The Slayer (AP)
Sv   6+            5+            4+            3+            2+            1+            0+
T3   4.148148148   4.148148148   4.148148148   3.456790123   2.765432099   2.074074074   1.382716049
T4   3.111111111   3.111111111   3.111111111   2.592592593   2.074074074   1.555555556   1.037037037
T5   2.074074074   2.074074074   2.074074074   1.728395062   1.382716049   1.037037037   0.691358025
                     
The Whirlwind (AP)
Sv   6+            5+            4+            3+            2+            1+            0+
T3   4             4             4             3.333333333   2.666666667   2             1.333333333
T4   3.333333333   3.333333333   3.333333333   2.777777778   2.222222222   1.666666667   1.111111111
T5   2.666666667   2.666666667   2.666666667   2.222222222   1.777777778   1.333333333   0.888888889
                     
The Slasher (AP)
Sv   6+            5+            4+            3+            2+            1+            0+
T3   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   2.962962963   2.37037037    1.777777778   1.185185185
T4   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   2.962962963   2.37037037    1.777777778
T5   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   3.555555556   2.962962963   2.37037037


Things worth noting:
-Manbane is next to useless against toughness 3, as it provides no additional benefit but replaces the poisoned attacks.

-Black Lotus is marginally better than not having it against T3, but otherwise, it is the worst choice. A worthwhile consideration is that Black Lotus increases your chances at killing blow (not included in the calculations here), and therefore is mostly useful in that build only.

-Against T3 and T4, an assassin in a unit with the Banner of Murder is about equal to an assassin with manbane.

- Manbane is the runaway winner against T5.

- Manbane and the Banner of Murder combined = win win!

What stands out from these calculation is how good the Banner of Murder becomes with additional prowess of the assassin, as even without Manbane, the assassin becomes so much more effective. Against lower toughness armies it’s even a lot better to take it instead of manbane: the points cost is equal, but your whole unit becomes better. The bonus however, isn’t as mobile.

Always remember: take the right assassin for the right job. Assassins did not spend centuries honing their martial skills only to have some sloppy general sending him to his death on a job he should never be recruited for!

Ninja versus Slasher

Some people like to compare the ninja versus the slasher, although they both fulfill a different role. The argument goes something like this:
Ninja with Rending Stars has (when charged) 3 shots in the stand and shoot, at a strength one higher than the slasher. The kills he inflicts with this do not count as combat resolution, although they can decrease the enemy rank bonus. After the stand and shoot, he’ll strike first with 4 attacks, for a total of seven attacks.

The slasher however has those same four attacks, plus an additional D3 from the Rune of Khaine. He has essentially one less attack on average. However, these attacks all count towards combat resolution, and unlike rending stars, can be allocated against characters or champions.
The big but here however, is again the element of surprise. While an assassin with rending stars has to be revealed timely to have effect, the slasher can take the enemy completely by surprise.

As mentioned above, I like to have ninjas in corsairs or shades, providing a nasty surprise for the enemy in units that can complement his shooting ability, while I like the slasher to be hidden in a unit meant to see combat. If the enemy sees your rending stars assassin, he might hold back the charge until reinforcements are ready (which is far from a bad effect), whereas otherwise he might commit his forces against your troops, only noticing too late there’s an assassin ready to carve up his guys.

The art of warfare: all in your head

Now this is the most fun part of all: the psychological warfare that drives your enemies insane. Get some assassin figures (preferably at least one more than you actually have, six will usually do fine), and put them nonchalantly on top of your figure carrying case. When you deploy your characters, scribble down obviously something on your army list (even if you have no assassins), and then try to act as cool as possible. Your opponent is now mentally preparing for at least one assassin, possibly counting points in his head to determine the exact number.

Every turn, he’ll be less reluctant to commit, and hold back a little more. Before you know it, his characters are all equipped with immune to killing blow or poison items, or he’ll invest points in always strikes first items and other things he’ll believe will counter assassins, instead of spending the points on things that kill more of our normal troops. The assassin will have done his job. You can relax a bit now, and play a few games without, only to spring the same trap again later.

You might even nonchalantly shuffle a unit forwards, exposing the flank to the enemy. If he knows there’s a good chance the assassins is in there, he’ll be unlikely to charge. This alone is worth the points cost of the assassin. If your opponent on the other hand hasn’t had the pleasure of encountering assassins, making careless “mistakes” with units containing an assassin is a very valid tactic, as he’ll be triumphantly declaring the charge, the option of defeat probably not even crossing his mind. Until you reveal him.

Assassins are hated because they are hard to prepare for, and because they can be literally anywhere, in different combinations. Your opponent will always be a tad more nervous if he knows he’ll be facing one, and this can (and should) be ruthlessly exploited.

The Cloak of Twilight

There is such a thing, though I haven’t seen it much, called the Flying Ninja Circus. It consists mostly of maximum mages, all with the lore of shadows, and preferably as much assassins as there are mages, at least one with the cloak. Every turn, you’ll get (assuming four sorceresses) five chance to cast steed of shadows, flying your assassins towards their targets.

This works great against gun lines (fly them towards the war machines) or to eliminate magic users. The big drawback here is the range of the steed of shadows spell. Once the assassins are flown out of range, you cannot cast it again until you get back in the 12” range. Since assassins are rather vulnerable out in the open, the safest place for them to be is in combat. Especially since a stand and shoot reaction now targets the unit he is charging out of.

The unreliable nature of magic makes this build more of a fun/tricky build to use, instead of a competitive one. It is therefore not recommended, too much things that can go wrong. But you don’t have to go to that extreme. You can also just use one assassin with the cloak.

For the cloak to be really effective, you’ll need supporting magic, otherwise your opponent will just dispel it. The other way around, a cloaked assassin can be taken to increase the effect of your magic phase, similar to other bound spells. Instead of launching your assassins towards the enemy, it can also be used to propel your sorceresses out of combat. When you use the cloak to draw dispel dice from the opponent, open your magic phase with it, immediately putting pressure on your opponent. If you really want to use the ability of the cloak to move your assassins, use it last (note: some opponents will even reserve dispel scrolls for this).

One of the main problems with flying assassins, is they’ll end up alone. Even if you charge an enemy unit, you might lose the melee, run and find yourself alone in the open (if not caught). You also might break your enemy, and find yourself again stranded behind enemy lines out in the open. Not the desired effect. It’s perhaps better to wait until turn three or four before you start using the cloak. By then, your opponent will be light on dispel scrolls, and probably assumed you don’t have the cloak because it didn’t make an earlier appearance, giving you a better chance to trigger it successfully. Since the battle will then be in full progress, it will be harder for the opponent to spare resources to deal with the assassins.

Take a note that for the cloak to work, the assassin must be revealed. You can therefore not rely on the surprise effect of the assassin, making ninjas (whose rending stars also encourage an early reveal strategy) the prime candidate for the role.

An often used build with the Cloak of Twilight is two level two shadow sorceresses, a dreadlord with the Executioner’s Axe and a ninja with the cloak. Both the assassin as the dreadlord are valid targets for flying out, preferably into combat, and you have three chances a turn to try to get the spell off, all of which usually require at least two dice to dispel reliably, maybe more if you roll good.

Banner of Nagarythe and Cauldron of Blood

Every article I write seems to have to include this banner. Well quite simply put, assassins can operate alone, though it’s not without dangers. Slayers (if possible equipped with Hand of Khaine) are best equipped for this job. Keep them in range of a Cauldron of Blood with the Banner of Nagarythe, and you’ve got little re-rollable stubborn leadership 10 tarpits that always strike first. The banner gives each of them extra combat combat resolution. If you've got two assassins, that's two static combat resolutions on top of the kills they generate. Lovely.

With some luck, they can hold up units indefinitely. These fit a bit in a MSU/MSE army build, but it is a very specialist build that requires some real skill to make it work, because it’s lots of points in few models that die easily.

Speaking of the Cauldron of Blood, let's see what the most interesting blessings are for different types:

5+ ward: this is the most useful blessing to give versus units that are immune to killing blow or you don't exspect to finish off and can strike back. Monsters that are at full wounds for example. They usually have around four or five attacks, of which usually half will hit (maybe less if they have low WS), so with some luck keeping your assassin alive so he can strike another round can mean a big difference. In short, usable when the other blessings aren't, though more a long shot. That said, it can make a difference.

+1 attack: the slayer shines with this blessing, but all assassin builds benefit from it. Except when you don't exspect to penetrate the opponent's armour, in which case killing blow might do a better job.

Killing Blow: Best used with the whirlwind and the slasher, totally useless for the slayer. The more attacks the assassin has, the greater the benefit of course. This can potentially make a slasher or whirlwind about equal to the slayer (though the latter has the advantage of black lotus), increasing their overall usefulness.

One thing to note is that assassins never give their leadership to units, and thus cannot make units stubborn like death hags can. They only become stubborn when operating alone.

Conclusion

Assassins are fun to use, but costs lots of points that may or not prove their worth. By choosing jobs for them your army build has troubles with, or by augmenting key units that look innocent with a sudden increase in combat potential, they can be devastating to the enemy, as well as a neat trick to put your opponent under psychological pressure. The assassin builds described in this article are those that are frequently encountered in various army list, ranging from friendly builds to competitive tournament armies.

I hope this article will help some people rediscover the potential of the assassin, or at least is a nice read. As always, feedback is much appreciated. Now go stab someone in the back :twisted: !


Last edited by Thanatoz on Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:58 pm, edited 5 times in total.



Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:24 am
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Nice article, good read and a great addition to the D.R.A.I.C.H.. It is nice to have named assassin builds, instead of "yeah, I prefer the choppy one with rending stars."

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Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:36 pm
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I never understand against who the ninja assassin is better than the slasher/slayer.

- against tincan cavalry army.. Melee assassin anyday: to handle the charge
- against infantry army.. They just don't care
- against monsters.. risky: I would rather get 2 rtb and support my infantry with the slashere
- and mow I feel like most others armies can get a ride of shades quites easily thanks to their good bs value

It is just a matter of playstyle I guess but it would be really nice if you could explain in which kind of setup (against what kind of army and in a lesser extent with what kind of army.. I noticed those few words about execs and we etc but I am still confused :o ) exactly you go for the ninja guy? That is where I am lost


Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:30 pm
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MayorDaley wrote:
Nice article, good read and a great addition to the D.R.A.I.C.H.. It is nice to have named assassin builds, instead of "yeah, I prefer the choppy one with rending stars."


Thanks, hope the names will catch on. Some of them were already widely accepted, others I just thought up to make it "easier" (and to become immortal of course :roll: ).

EcceLex wrote:
I never understand against who the ninja assassin is better than the slasher/slayer.

- against tincan cavalry army.. Melee assassin anyday: to handle the charge
- against infantry army.. They just don't care
- against monsters.. risky: I would rather get 2 rtb and support my infantry with the slashere
- and mow I feel like most others armies can get a ride of shades quites easily thanks to their good bs value

It is just a matter of playstyle I guess but it would be really nice if you could explain in which kind of setup (against what kind of army and in a lesser extent with what kind of army.. I noticed those few words about execs and we etc but I am still confused :o ) exactly you go for the ninja guy? That is where I am lost


Against who is a difficult question. In what army build is a better question. They are about equal in abilities on the whole, but the ninja sacrifices some combat prowess for ranged threat.

That's exactly why I like the slasher in a unit which I exspect to see combat, and I would not hesitate to throw into combat. Big blocks of warriors, execs, witches, even black guard might do, sea serpent standard corsairs (or banner of murder corsairs). Whenever I get the chance I charge them in, and I don't have to worry about using those stars (though they still come in handy in that kind of unit, albeit mostly for a stand and shoot).

The ninja on the other hand I like to be in a unit I do not want to see combat with. As a mage protector (in a unit of warriors protecting a sorc with sacrificial dagger), as a hunter with shades with great weapons, or in a unit of repeater crossbows. All these units have missile weapons (or in the case of the warrior bunker, ranged magic), so don't really benefit that much from being in combat. That way, the assassin isn't wasted when the unit isn't fighting, but holding back.

It all comes down to playstyle like you said, because the ninja is most awesome when taking down high toughness targets like chariots, monsters, etc. RBT's do work for that, but RBT's are particulary immobile. A ninja in shades usually isn't. I would not hesitate to throw these guys in combat should the need arise, but mostly I want to keep them close by the action, ready to charge in if necessary but still annoying the enemy.

Against tincan cavalry army: the ninja gets +2 to strength as opposed to the slasher's +1, so I'd like to try to set up flanks with this guy and his bodyguard of great weapon armed shades. If the cavalry turns to face the unit, we're off, out of the charge arc. If he continues towards his target, he knows he must break on the charge, or probably lose his unit due to the countercharge.

Against infantry army: Repeater handbow corsairs that can always stand and shoot, and the additional high strength attacks from the ninja? Suddenly your screener unit punches out a whole lot of needles... and they do care if they're T3 with a mere 5+ save.

Against monster: easier to wound with the ninja, and might be seriously frustating for your opponent. Always move the ninja out of the charge arc if you're not certain your next barrage (in the stand and shoot and close combat) won't kill the target. The slasher usually only gets one go against the big boys, that's his disadvantage.

It's not hard to get rid of shades, but they can infiltrate and be annoying from turn 1, and not many units can archery duel one on one with shades.

Against what type of army would I rather see the ninja? Monster armies (because he's awesome at taking them out), infantry (march blocking and getting rid of ranks? yes please!) and in particular khemri (chariot killing nastiness!). I wouldn't hesitate to include him in an "all-comers" list.

Now I don't tailor my list towards opponent usually, I try to start out with a build of my own and build on those strengths (because I rarely know what I'll face). Ninja has a distinct advantage in an avoidance/fast army, whereas the slasher is (for me at least) best in an infantry heavy army.


Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:03 pm
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Excellent article, Thanatoz, as usual, including the post scriptum. :D

I wish the longest carreer to the names you've chosen for your 'sass' diverse builds.


One thing to add to:The Herbalist (wields the Venom Sword): pass this one.
The Venom Swordis the only magic weapon available to Khainites along with Crone's.
However, Crone's location is known and there is no reason why a mobile ethereal unit such as the Green Knight should charge her.
But shoud the Green Knight or any ethereal charge a juicy unit of helpless execs, it is nice to have the magic-wielding sass pop up, get a COB KB and try 3 KB attacks plus ability to instant kill should KB fail.
Possibly, you could combine it with corsairs with sea serpent std, or with the cauldron and +1 attack, or a BSB with the hydra banner.
Or combine all three! :P
OK, a very remote use, and not even fool-proof. More for the fun against your favorite opponent.


One more reason to take assassins:
If you're tight on money.
For a few £€$, they bring lots of pts on the table.
A 2250pts army becomes more affordable if it includes 6 assassins! :)


One regret:
Shadowblade, anyone?
Is him worth his pts (when you compare to a Shadowblade wannabee)? Or is his fare as unaffordable as people pretend?
When to take him? When to leave him on top of the carrying case?

Or did you leave him out of your investigation because he is a named character deserving his own thread?
Or did you fear his reaction in case you had written anything wrong about him? Some truth better remain unveiled. :roll:


Thanks to your article, I could delete 17 threads (including a 7-page thread) from the D.R.A.I.C.H.!
A testimony to Thanatoz's work, to compile all of these threads, and add in an impressive lot of experience, plus great creativity, organization and synthesis.
Kudos!

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Last edited by Calisson on Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:21 pm, edited 5 times in total.



Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:02 pm
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Thanks for the answer Thanatoz, very helpful. I felt like the ninja setup is weak against monsters since "monster" = dragon in most cases and shades can't tank breath attack, nor they can do much against 20" charge, buy anyway I'm going to give this setup a try in my next game against woc / ogres or anything like that (most vulnerables army against this I guess, along with lizardmen, beastmen now..?)

Oh and I just have to give to this ninja+corsairs setup a try asap... :)

Thanks again!


Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:56 am
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Great article, very informative and covers all the common assasin builds as well as a few I haven't thought of.

One thing I feel that should be mentioned is the use of the Cauldron of Blood with an assasin. They can benefit from the killing blow granted and most overlooked- the stubborn ability it grants. Now I don't have experience with this but it would be great if someone has used their stubborn 10 to hold up enemies that would otherwise be troublesome. Now I know its not common but I feel there is some potential here that should be explored.


Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:37 am
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Calisson wrote:
Excellent article, Thanatoz, as usual, including the post scriptum. :D

I wish the longest carreer to the names you've chosen for your 'sass' diverse builds.


In the end, it was also easier than "the advantage of the rending stars/manbane assassin over the rune of khaine/manbane assassin is that the rending stars/manbane assassin... whereas the rune of khaine/manbane assassin ... this in contrary to the rune of khaine assassins.... you get the point :P

Calisson wrote:
One regret:
Shadowblade, anyone?
Is him worth his pts (when you compare to a Shadowblade wannabee)? Or is his fare as unaffordable as people pretend?
When to take him? When to leave him on top of the carrying case?

Or did you leave him out of your investigation because he is a named character deserving his own thread?
Or did you fear his reaction in case you had written anything wrong about him? Some truth better remain unveiled. :roll:


I have no experience with named characters, and I am reluctant to post about them. So I think he deserves his own thread later. Maybe I'll do it later, maybe someone else will take the honor. My general opinion (before I ever used him) is he seems like a one trick shot: very tempting to infiltrate in a vampire unit and kill the general first turn, but after he drank his potion of strength I feel he is in grave danger from being killed (although that effect is also nice). I fail to see him make back his points, as with four attacks he might fail to kill the expensive lord characters, and for mere heroes he is too expensive. If only they had giving him Rune of Khaine...

I must say that I do see him as a great anti magic tool in a khainite force...

EcceLex wrote:
Thanks for the answer Thanatoz, very helpful. I felt like the ninja setup is weak against monsters since "monster" = dragon in most cases and shades can't tank breath attack, nor they can do much against 20" charge, buy anyway I'm going to give this setup a try in my next game against woc / ogres or anything like that (most vulnerables army against this I guess, along with lizardmen, beastmen now..?)

Oh and I just have to give to this ninja+corsairs setup a try asap... :)

Thanks again!


If monster = dragon, that's the worst case scenario. You cannot protect against breath weapon or 20" charge range, that's true. You can position your assassin in that case as such that he protects your RBT's, and vice versa. That will make him reluctant to fly out his dragon, since dual RBT's and a ninja have the potential to kill the dragon in one turn (with luck though). The ninja is better versus monster in the rare section. Awesome against stegadons and the like (unless they are of the Engine of the Gods type, those hurt!).

I play a lot of WOC, and Chaos knights still get a 4+ save versus the ninja, but it's a bit of the best we can do. They also really dislike flank charges by ninjas and great weapons shades. Also shaggots and hellcannons hate ninjas.

Keep them close to your lines, but a little in front of it, behind some terrain. If the enemy is going to come forward, they'll either have to wheel and expose their flank to the rest of your army, or towards the shades and ninja.

Entreri Bloodletter wrote:
Great article, very informative and covers all the common assasin builds as well as a few I haven't thought of.

One thing I feel that should be mentioned is the use of the Cauldron of Blood with an assasin. They can benefit from the killing blow granted and most overlooked- the stubborn ability it grants. Now I don't have experience with this but it would be great if someone has used their stubborn 10 to hold up enemies that would otherwise be troublesome. Now I know its not common but I feel there is some potential here that should be explored.


I did mention that in the Banner of Nagarythe section. I expanded it though to account for the Cauldron's blessings. General feeling about this is: it can be done (not necessarily with the Banner of Nagarythe), but it's risky, as they are killed by anything just waving at them. In other words, once flunk your rolls, your assassin is toast. Now that's true even if they are in units, but by then they might have already done their jobs, and you don't have to worry about missiles, be they magical or mundane.

Thanks for pointing it out!


Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:58 am
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