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D.R.A.I.C.H. - Cool Shades in the woods 
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Corsair
Corsair
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1. Shades!
1.1. The best shooters in the West!
1.2. Scouts & skirmishers
1.3. Vulnerable at distance
1.4. Melee: the good, the bad and the ugly reality
1.5. Shades love shady woods.

2. Unit’s settings.
2.1. War gear: no upgrade
2.2. War gear: AHW
2.3. War gear: GW
2.4. COB’s blessing
2.5. War gear: armour:
2.6. Champions
2.7. Assassins
2.8. Size matters

3. Using Shades.
3.1. Deployment influence.
3.2. Points denial, ¼ table contester.
3.3. Annoyance.
3.4. March blockers.
3.5. Redirecting Speed bumper.
3.6. Shooters.
3.7. Shooting screen.
3.8. Mage bodyguard.
3.9. Assassin delivery.
3.10. Light units / warmachine / mage hunters.
3.11. Combat support.
3.12. Cavalry lone side charge

4. Three different agile units.
4.1. Harpies: agile flyers.
4.2. DR: agile fast cavalry.
4.3. Shades: agile scouts.
4.4. Shades, harpies or DR?.

5. Three different shooting units.
5.1. RXBmen: mass shooters.
5.2. RBTs: Static powerful shots.
5.3. Shades: forwards shooters.
5.4. Shades, RXBmen or RBTs?

6. Conclusion.


1. Shades!
I like to take a unit of Shade, due to the fine reputation they have.
However, the result is often not up to my expectations.
Am I missing something? Are there best practices to apply?
Let’s investigate.

1.1. The best shooters in the West!
360 degree BS5 shooting, armour piercing shots, their shooting is truly devastating.
As for any shooter, the champion gets an increase of BS, reaching the maximum possible BS for non-assassins: not even Malekith shoots better!

However, they are too expensive to be considered merely as shooters.
Comparing the pts spent per successfully hitting shot, they are slightly less cost-effective than MXB. Shooting is not enough to justify taking Shades.
The champion is slightly more accurate, but way much more expensive. When all factors are taken into account, the champion is really not cost-effective for just shooting.

1.2. Scouts & skirmishers
Scouts (BRB p.96):
Deployed last, at more than 10” of the enemy, out of his vision AND in or behind some terrain.
You don’t have to scout. However, you have to deploy them last.

Skirmishers (BRB p.65-67) has many implications:
Agile: No penalty for moving though terrain, even for double-marches. No wheeling required.
Shooting-resistant: Scattered formation, up to 1” distance between models. Shooting penalty for the opponent.
360° LOS for shooting and charges.
Melee: In a charge (p.65), all models within range go in the front rank as long as they can be in contact with a foe. If characters or the champion are in range, it is mandatory that they go in contact.
In melee, they get no rank bonus, and they don’t cancel rank bonuses either.
Fortunately, they still get the usual bonus themselves for flank or rear attacks.

1.3. Vulnerable at distance
Shades are super fragile. Furthermore, they cost a lot per model. This means that they make a pricey, juicy, and highly rewarding target for your opponent. Keep that in mind.

Normal shooting:
Sure, they are protected as skirmishers: not only the shooting penalty, but also the scattered formation when a template weapon aims at them. However, this is not enough to deter an opponent’s shooter to give a try: the target is often missed, but when it’s a hit, Bingo!

Template shooting:
In a scattered formation, a template will hit many less models than it would do for a Rank & File formation. The opponent will normally never waste one of his few template shots on a skirmishing unit, unless it would need only a single dead Shade to bring its strength at less than US5.

BS-less shooting:
Organ Guns, lifetaker… will love the sight of even a single Shade. These are the most dangerous threats for Shades.

Magic:
Generally, the only ranged fire your Shades should be concerned about comes from enemy magic. Spells like magic missiles don't care whether you are a skirmishing unit or not, so be mindful of enemy spell casters.

1.4. Melee: the good, the bad and the ugly reality
The good:
Shades are awesome: 360 degree charging and WS5 rerollable attacks!
Their fighting abilities can be enhanced indeed with weapons upgrades which will be examined below.
As for any melee unit, the champion gets an additional attack, proof that Shades are to be considered melee fighters.

The bad:
However, they are vulnerable to any leftover retaliation.
In melee, their WS will allow them to avoid only half of most opponents’ attacks.
They need to kill most of the opponents facing them, or they will suffer dramatically.
Furthermore, they have hardly any SCR (they can get only the side bonus as long as they are US5), while the opponent keeps intact his rank bonus, pennant, BSB and usually outnumbering.
The worst is that when Shades have GW, they will strike last in the following turns of melee, meaning that 1/3 of them in contact will be dead before hitting.

The ugly reality:
In any case, they should never accept a charge. They should use their skirmishing movement to remain out of charging LOS of any enemy (which does not prevent them from shooting and march-blocking).

They should get into any melee only if they choose to do so, and they should pick up only weak foes, with little SCR and high likelihood to break away. Select foes with little survival expectation or having just a single model in contact (side charge on a single rank cavalry unit).

1.5. Shades love shady woods.
There is a real symbiosis between Shades and woods. Shades in woods can survive the whole game without many risks. To the point that if you bring Shades, you should make sure that there will be some woods.

Good platform for shooting.
From woods, Shades can shoot around with no penalty.
They move freely to the edge of the wood where they will get the best view.
They can even easily move and shoot inside their wood.

Great protection from shooting.
In woods, Shades fear hardly any shooting: with -2 for the shooter, not many people are going to waste precious ranged fire on them when they could be hitting some other unit and getting better results. Especially if it requires the shooter to move, or if he is at long distance, now it is -3… Nothing to worry about, except magic and very few specific weapons (for a template weapon, it makes no difference).
If they feel threatened, it is easy to move 2” away from the wood’s edge. Not seen, no danger (except very few non-LOS attacks such as Dwarves’ anvil). If pursued, they can hide farther or retaliate.

Great protection from charges.
As usual, they can get charged only by an opponent who sees them. In woods, the visibility is no more than 2”. They can easily retreat (with no moving penalty) to 2.1”, while the opponent will have the difficult terrain penalty, and will have to stop at 1” distance from them. They can play cat and mouse very easily, choosing which role they wish.

Buildings are not as nice.
Among terrains, only buildings can compete with woods for a nice Shade nest.
However, they usually cannot start from inside the building which is easily seen from everywhere. They can start from behind if the building is appropriately positioned, with the likely intention to move in immediately (unless the enemy can position any unit in contact of the opposite side of the same building, preventing your Shades to penetrate it because it would place them at less than 1” of such unit).

Up to 5 shooters can shoot for each level the building has. Perfect for a small unit of Shades. They can shoot anywhere at 360° from the building’s base. The building being tall, they are supposed to be able to shoot over other targets.

Compared to woods, buildings offer a better protection from mass shooters.
However, any template weapon and cannons as well will hit 1D6 of them as soon as the template hits the slightest part of the building base.
Worse, magic has an easy LOS on any building.
Buildings offer a great protection from melees. Firstly, only infantry can charge, and flying infantry must charge on foot, therefore there’s nothing to worry from fast threats. Secondly, only US10 can fight, and that is in initiative order regardless who charges, so GW Shades will have an easy game.

Overall, the situation is less comfortable in buildings than in woods. Buildings are best left to regular RXBmen, unless the opponent has no template weapons nor magic missiles.


Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:58 pm
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Corsair
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2. Unit’s settings.

Shades have neither musician nor banner, and their champion cannot carry magic items.
Worse, a skirmishing unit can’t be joined by characters except by footed characters, among which the assassin is the only scout.
They can count only on their intrinsic qualities: no banner, no magic item – and on assassins.

The remaining options to choose from are:
- weapons: no upgrade, or AHW or GW; light armour or not.
- to anticipate for a COB blessing.
- to get a champ or not, to get an assassin or not.
- size: 5+.
- to select the best terrain.
This is what we’re going to discuss in the following paragraphs (except terrain, already discussed).

2.1. War gear: no upgrade
If you intend to take just a small unit of 5-6 and occupy a wood, then it is a good idea to keep your Shades as expandable moderate cost shooters and occasional foe annoyance. If you loose them, no big deal. They probably won’t try much in melee save the easiest targets, so don’t waste pts on upgrades for them.

2.2. War gear: AHW
At 1 pt, AHW have a rather negligible cost. Some players are fans of more attacks.
However, at strength 3, they rarely provide enough additional attacks to offset their limited ability to wound. Sure, two hand weapons are better than a striking last Great Weapon in protracted combats, but you are not supposed to go into any protracted combat with Shades.

Use this option only if you want the Shades to be fighting light infantry. DoC, O&G, Lizzies, VC and Empire are all good enemies to face with 2 HW as they tend to have low armour saves and lower initiative.

2.3. War gear: GW
GW Shades are extremely hitty and make an awesome flank support unit. The attacks made by a unit of charging Shades can be devastating! With their WS5, they usually pass 8/9 of their attacks, thanks to hatred. Strength 5 means wounding very often, and they remove 2 from the armour save.

Expensive? Sure, but rightly so. The tougher the enemy, the better GW are compared to AHW, which cost only 1 pts less. Extra hand weapon and great weapon are equally effective against stuff that has toughness 3 and 6+ armour save (see stats in next paragraph). Against squishier targets (no armour save or toughness 2), the extra hand weapon is better. But against stuff with toughness 4 and/or armour save of 5+ or better, the great weapons are the better choice...And the majority of the models in warhammer nowadays tends to have a better equipment than T3 and 6+ armour....

The drawback is that you risk having a second round of combat, in which case there will be some Shades killed before fighting (1/3 to 1/2?), and no more hatred. But even in that case, GW are better than AHW against anything with a significant armour and/or a high T. Anyway, the second turn isn't that important because usually, if there's a second turn, they're dead.

Slapping some cauldron bonuses on those guys, the extra attacks will make these guys highly mobile combat monsters.

Furthermore, they give you so a great map control, since most units will fear the charge of GW Shades in their side, especially with the cauldron nearby.

Many players provide GW to their Shades as long as there are 7 of them, even if they have little chances to charge anything. It turns the unit, from an overpriced shooting unit, to one of the best scouts in the game, able to change purpose in the middle of the battle. It is better to risk not utilizing this ability than to have your Shades go obsolete in the middle of a battle.

2.4. COB’s blessing
At 24”, the blessing can well be granted to a unit of Shades ready to charge from their wood.
The bottom line conclusion:
- Shades with Great Weapons are insanely powerful in conjunction with the cauldron against pretty much anything.
- With the Cauldron, great weapons are better than extra hand weapons against all but the very squishiest of targets (T2 & no armour save)
- With the great weapons, +1 attack is better than killing blow even against stuff with really heavy armour.

Lets do the math with a few examples, courtesy of Dyvim Tvar’s Combat Calculator.
Assumes a unit of 7 Shades. Hatred is accounted for. Eventual stand-and shoot disregarded for purposes of simplicity.
Lessons learned:

Scenario 1 -- charging against an Empire war machine crew (5 Shades in contact with 3 crew)
Shades w/AHW -- 4.44 wounds caused, 0 back from the crew
Shades w/GW -- 3.70 wounds, 0 back
Shades w/AHW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 6.67 wounds, 0 back
Shades w/GW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 7.41 wounds, 0 back

Scenario 2 -- front charging against 5 Maurauder horsemen w/light armour + flail (7 Shades in contact)
Shades w/AHW -- 4.15 wounds caused, 1 marauder hits back
Shades w/GW -- 5.19 wounds, 0 back
Shades w/AHW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 6.22 wounds, 0 back
Shades w/GW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 10.37 wounds, 0 back

Scenario 3 -- flank charging against 5 Chaos Knights w/ensorcelled weapons (4 Shades in contact)
Shades w/AHW -- 0.33 wounds caused, 0.58 back from the knights
Shades w/GW -- 0.67 wounds, 0.58 back
Shades w/AHW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 0.5 wounds, 0.58 back
Shades w/GW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 1.33 wounds, 0 back
Shades w/AHW + killing blow from Cauldron -- 1.17 wounds, 0 back
Shades w/GW + killing blow from Cauldron -- 1.00 wounds, 0 back

Scenario 4 -- charging against 8 Dryads (7 Shades in contact)
Shades w/AHW -- 2.77 wounds caused, many hits back from the dryads
Shades w/GW -- 2.77 wounds, many hits back
Shades w/AHW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 4.15 wounds, 2.57 back
Shades w/GW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 5.53 wounds, 1.65 back

Scenario 5 -- charging against 10 Skinks w/blowpipes
Shades w/AHW -- 8.30 wounds caused, 0.12 back from the skinks
Shades w/GW -- 5.19 wounds, some hits back
Shades w/AHW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 12.44, 0 back
Shades w/GW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 10.37 wounds, 0 back

Scenario 6 -- charging against 10 Skinks w/javelin & shield
Shades w/AHW -- 5.33 wounds caused, some hits back from the skinks
Shades w/GW -- 5.19 wounds, some hits back
Shades w/AHW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 8.30, 0.12 back
Shades w/GW +1 attack from Cauldron -- 10.37 wounds, 0 back


2.5. War gear: armour
Light armour is definitely not worth it unless you have spare points sitting around to protect a large unit of Shades from likely S3 shooting.

A 6+ armour save is useful to the Shade only if the enemy has several strength 3 attacks from bows or light infantry. In that case, the high points cost per Shade can make a few successful saving throws worthwhile. However, besides the lucky Shade saved by his armour, there will probably be dead Shades in sufficient numbers to trigger a panic test anyway… This is why armour is not to be considered for small units of Shades. In large units, however, the investment is worth considering.
This is a personal choice.

2.6. Champions
A BloodShade is the most expensive unnamed DE champion, and he can’t get any specific improvement, contrary to most other special champions.
At the same cost than an additional model, this champion is not cost-effective for shooting purpose.
Therefore, the only reason to take a champion is the intention to go in melee, with his additional attack, or the intention to babysit a character or an assassin.
This is why you should consider a champion only inside units of GW Shades larger than 7.
At US9, you already only panic after losing three models, so adding a tenth model doesn't provide an advantage and the champion is far better, with the additional benefit of keeping the unit from taking too much space.

In melee, the champion’s benefits out-weigh an additional rank-&-file Shade's addition to the unit.
The champion’s role is to bring extra attacks (one more reason why a GW champion is much better than an AHW one). Especially useful if you hit the enemy’s flank and most of your Shades are not in contact, then one more hit counts.
He can issue and receive challenges, which is more often a bonus than a detriment for this kind of unit.
In case there is an assassin or a character (sorceress), he helps to protect him. That way the assassin can have more freedom in who to attack since the Blood Shade can take challenges if needed. This can be played as a psychological advantage, since a unit with a Bloodshade will be highly suspected by your opponent of having an assassin inside.

2.7. Assassins

Assassins have been developed in the following thread: D.R.A.I.C.H. - Murders in Rue Naggarond: Assassins! Below are many quotes from that thread.

Shades and assassins can be optimized to work together for two purposes: shooting or melee.
It is very expensive to take an assassin in a Shade unit. Together they become highly specialized rather than all-around, so you really need to have a clear purpose for taking an assassin.

Shooting Shade/Assassin combo
The Ninja (Rending Stars, Manbane, additional hand weapon) loves Shades, especially when there are chariots in range!
The combined unit is better in shooting than in melee. Therefore, you can optimize your Shades for shooting, i.e. no upgrade at all in a unit of 6-7 shades. For nearly 250pts, you clear off a 17” range from any chariot. Large monsters won’t like it either. The absence of the champion could help to lead your opponent to believe that there is no assassin in there.

Mixed shooting & melee Shade/Assassin combo
If you want a real harassing unit, take 7 GW Shades with champ for nearly 300 pts. Together with an assassin, they form a frightening unit, able to march block and charge in foes not offering too strong a resistance. Take whichever assassin build you like best.

Melee assassination
If you want the most aggressive setting in melee, try the Melee Shades/Assassin/CoB combo:
The Slayer (additional hand weapon, Rune of Khaine, Touch of Death, Black Lotus) is made to maximize the chance of killing blow, with on average 6 attacks and re-rolling ones to wound. 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).
As we have seen, GW Shades always benefit tremendously from +1 attack rather than from KB.
For 350 pts, you’ve got a KB-maxed assassin and 9 Shades with GW and champion. Ideal recipient for a +1 attack blessing on the charge.
When your target is in range, you reveal the ‘sass and displace a Shade, who will trigger the charge (see the trick below). And remember that, on the charge, you’re guaranteed that both the ‘sass and the champ go in front, as long as they have sufficient movement – and YOU choose where they go!
The Bloodshade will challenge whoever wishes, the Assassin will very likely chop off the most rewarding hero, the remaining GW Shades will kill at least one more heavily armoured foe or several lightly armoured ones. The opposing survivors will retaliate, sure, but probably half of their attacks are not going to pass the Shades/sass WS.
In a frontal attack, you are still likely to loose to a heavy SCR + retaliation.
If you managed to get a flank attack, then there is only one opposing character in the challenge, for the ‘sass to take, then the Shades clear off the remaining R&F in contact and you win by 5 minus opponent’s SCR (including his rank bonus) plus one (side attack). Even the best armour won’t prevent that.
Mow the opposing unit until it’s gone.

The “Reveal and charge” trick.
The Shade unit is outstanding for allowing the assassin to pop up near the enemy’s lines.
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 even a first turn charge: they are deployed 10” from the enemy and out of LOS. When the assassin is revealed, the displaced shade is put within 1” of the unit, to which you add the model’s size, which allows that Shade to be in LOS of the enemy and in charge range. Clarified in the FAQ.
Word of warning: using this trick for a 1st turn charge is often considered “cheap” and rules abuse (although it is not). Perfectly legal in hardcore environments, but to be avoided in friendly matches.

2.8. Size matters
You can take as little as 5 Shades in a unit. There is no upper limit to the size of the unit.
However, taking more than a total of 20 Shades changes the nature of the whole army and creates a Shade Death Star. See D.R.A.I.C.H. :: "Shady Business" - The Shade-Star, which presents armies with more than 20 Shades + assassins, typically about 30 to 45 Shades.
Here, I will limit the discussion to anything between 5 to 21 Shades total in the army.

Units of 5: small is beautiful.
A small unit of Shades easily finds its beloved wood.
Also, 5 Shades cost not much and can be considered expendable.
5 Shades should be kept low cost at 80pts.

Units of 6 are safer for VPs.
You need 5 Shades to occupy ¼ tables with US5. If ever the opponent can get a shot or a spell at your 5-Shade-unit, even well covered in their woods, he needs to kill only 1 to be rewarded by your loss of 100VP of ¼ table control. This is a real golden bullet! For this reason if no other, it is nice to get a 6th Shade, as the requirement to take away 2 of them will be often considered out of reach.
6 Shades should be kept low cost. However, they could be considered to deliver a star assassin.

Units of 7 are better in melees.
If you intend to use Shades in melee as well, then the more you have in a unit, the longer they will remain US5, useful to get a flank bonus. Alternatively, if you are ever to charge frontally a weak opponent, then you will need a full 7-wide rank in order to inflict enough damage to overcome the opponent’s SCR.
For these reasons, many players like to have their Shades more than 7 strong. You’re talking about GW Shades. Ideal for nesting a star assassin.

Units of 9 resist longer panic tests.
If the opponent kills 2 Shades by shooting or magic, he will not trigger a panic test at Ld 8 (Shades are highly likely to be far away from your general) if there are 9 or more of them.
They must take GW and a champion and would tremendously benefit from a COB’s blessing. The KB assassin feels at home among them.

A total of 10 or more is cumbersome.
The larger it gets or if there are several units, the more difficult it becomes to squeeze everyone inside available woods. Consider that the 10th Shade and following will have trouble to get into a wood, so your leftover Shades will have to begin the battle from your starting lines (still deployed last).
A single unit of 10 Shades or more is to be considered to be deployed within your own lines. They are fine if you want to babysit a single character, such as a sorceress (especially carrying the Ring of darkness).
In this role, they need a champion and would even benefit from an armour.

A total of 15 in 1 to 3 units is what it takes to get a good shot.
Too few Shades will only shoot too little: 5 Shades moving and double-shooting at long distance will get only 3 shots on target, among which some will fail to wound and to get through the armour. Killing only one foe under such conditions is what to expect reasonably.
This is why many players like to triple this amount and get a more significant 10 hits in average from 15 Shades.
For shooting purposes, it is better to divide the shooters in two or three small units, so as to be able to select different targets should the need arise.
On the other hand, a single unit of 15 Shades is a threatening mini-death star, not yet cheesy but already disturbing. However, thus unit will easily fall to a likely charge of hammer unit. Its effectiveness depends tremendously on what else you have in your army.

The ideal size?
Overall, there is no real ideal size for Shades: it will depend on the role of the unit.
5-6 Shades, no upgrade, have a modest impact with shooting. They makes a sacrificial unit just needing to take a ¼ table and, only if safe, shoot. The best setting if you’re unsure about what to do with them.
7-8 Shades can take a melee and have been mentioned to be highly effective. They usually need GW. The best setting if you are confident about what to do with them.
9-10 are still awesome but find difficult to hide in average woods, and become pricey. They need GW and champion. For expert players.
A larger unit needs to be associated with characters, using some aspects of Shades Death Stars. For off the tracks players. Provide them weapons, armours and a champion.

The ideal number of units?
What is relevant, especially for shooting purposes, is not so much the number of units but the total number of Shades you decide to take, regardless how many units.
Once this number of Shades is decided, as they are more shooting efficient and more agile in smaller units, you’ll dispatch them into as many special slots as are available. The number of Shade units you take depends therefore on the availability of special slots.
A total of 10-12 Shades are already significant for both shooting and secondary melees.
A total of 14-16 Shades will be deployed partially from your sideline. They are a force to be reckoned.
A total of 20 Shades makes the bulk of your army, while not yet becoming a Shade Death Star.


Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:13 pm
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3. Using Shades.

Shades are expensive, but they are a true “all rounder” unit. Their ability to adapt to situations in a competition environment makes them a very tactically sound choice, and an appealing one on the tournament scene. They can be used in so many ways it’s almost ridiculous!

If you’re wondering what other roles Shades can do in addition to scouting and shooting, you need to realize that they can fulfil many of the roles of Harpies. They used to be a substitute for Harpies in the previous army book, when harpies were 0-1 and special, and were effectively employed as such.

3.1. Deployment influence.
You must deploy your scouts last. The best is that it is only at the end of the deployment that you’ll have to decide whether you put your assassin with the Shades or with another unit! Or, if you have two Shades units and a single assassin, in which unit he starts!

Your opponent will deploy his troops, knowing that there is a scout unit with potentially an assassin around. That should influence him.

If there are many places available for your Shades, your opponent cannot take all of them into account so he will ignore that threat during his deployment. In this case, you’re lucky to be able to choose the best spot, after viewing your opponent’s deployment.

If there is only one place for your Shades, then your opponent may feel obliged to position two or three units with sufficient LOS to deny you that spot. In that case, your Shades have done half of their job by forcing several opposing units to position into inappropriate places.

If your opponent knows in which wood your Shades will obviously start but he can’t help it, then he may be scared of taking too close a route from that wood, and position most of his units elsewhere, possibly forcing him to waste time. The Scouts have already done their job well!
Or he may take this risk too seriously and devote a strong unit to get rid of this small threat, taking many turns to do so.

If ever your opponent did take into account the risk created by your Shades, then they already earned half of their day, before even being placed on the table!

3.2. Points denial, ¼ table contester.
This is a role for low cost Shades.
If they can find a comfortable wood, Shades have a pretty good chance of surviving if played for point denials strategy. They would passively march-block, they would sometimes shoot a few safe shots, picking out vulnerable stuff and being a thorn in your opponent's side.
And at the end of the battle, this 80pts unit will earn 100VP for a ¼ table close to your opponent’s starting line.

3.3. Annoyance.
Who likes to be under scrutiny by some S-H(o)(o)T E R S?
The mere presence of Shades heavily breathing o his neck is usually an annoying factor for your opponent, especially if it is a significant unit of 7-8 GW Shades, with a possible assassin in it (try to leave the ambiguity for as long as possible, for example by leaving a ‘sass model visible in your carrying case). Them sitting in a forest makes your opponent more wary about putting anything valuable next to that forest.

They will remain annoying as long as they are not destroyed. Don’t be in a hurry to put them at risk.
Don’t pull them out of hiding until you can move them directly to a position out of charge arc of any enemy unit. Let your opponent close in, at which point you go directly for flanking positions and behind the enemy. You don’t actually need to attack with them. You shoot from blind angles essentially forcing your opponent to either deal with them or loose their marching ability. Both of these will slow the opponent down and will distract him, allowing you to get a mental advantage.
The key is getting them very close to the opponent and never put them in front of a hostile unit. Just the fact they are standing in hiding in the middle of the board forces your opponent to plan his tactic around them.

As Shades can be a formidable opponent, if he means to get rid of this annoyance, he will have to devote a real combat unit to chasing them down, in which case they will rush back in their wood.

And, if the opportunity arises, yes, you can charge a weak unit.

This tactics makes Shades one of the most useful units in the entire list, according to some DE generals.

3.4. March blockers.
Shades can sneak behind the enemy lines and march block while staying safe from any charges, assuming that they move on the opponent's flank (out of LOS), or staying in the woods to slow down the opponent's army. If they are charged, they will flee in woods, of course.

3.5. Redirecting Speed bumper.
A minimum, bare-bones unit makes a good portable speed-bump if you are about to get charged.
You can use them as sacrificial march-blockers. When the time has come, march them right in front of a unit which is about to charge your main unit. The enemy can only charge the Shades, which will flee, and as they are skirmishers, the enemy unit has to centre towards the initially closest visible model when pursuing. As a result, you can determine the direction that the enemy will take (not the distance). Up to you to arrange the enemy unit to be flanked by your second unit.
The opposing unit has the alternative to stay stupidly where it is.

Learn to use skirmishers, the game is only half about building killer combos. The tricky part is getting your troops there.

3.6. Shooters.
Of course, they can shoot! 360° BS5 shooting is incredible! Scouting helps them to get in short range.
Shades have an incredible amount of firepower against light infantry in particular.
However, if you take them for this sole role, they will need to shoot around 5 times at an average target to kill the equivalent of their cost. The difficulty is really to get these five shots, and not to be shot or charged while trying to do it.
For that reason, I would not advise to take too many Shades in a shooty army.

3.7. Shooting screen.
Tired to see your RoH BG shot to death?
For this role, you need a large unit of 10+. Do not let them scout and put a master with Rng of Darkness in it. Behind the Shades, use a small unit of Black Guard with champion. The Black Guard champion has the Ring of Hotek.
The idea is that Shades become very hard too shoot and protect the Black Guard unit. The Black Guard unit gives the Shade unit an anti magic protection. If ever the shades are charged ,they can flee through the ITP BG and rally later.
The combo Shades + BG + Ring Master presents a real shooting threat and is not obvious to destroy.
Now, as you need to take a Master for this sole purpose (he would get a RXB himself, but not much else), this is an expensive combo, which is not foolproof. This is an alternative to the more usual screen of RHB corsairs, whose shooting is far shorter reaching.

3.8. Mage bodyguard.
They can be deployed as mage's bodyguards, allowing you to go around the table with your sorceress on foot. The protection is probably more expensive than taking shielded RXBmen, however it allows the unit to move much more easily, especially throughout terrain, and it leaves the sorceress with a 360° LOS.
They can be joined by footed noblemen but this is more for the death star strategy.

3.9. Assassin delivery.
As mentioned above, the MB/star assassin is the bane of the chariots.
The difficulty is to get him in range. This is when Shades oblige him by allowing him to start the game at 10” of the enemy lines.

Then there is the Turn-1 charge trick described above, best with a melee assassin.

3.10. Light units / warmachine / mage hunters.
Shades are not able to select their target for charges as easily as DR, harpies or flying monsters.
However, they are more certain to kill that target.
With rerollable GW, this is pretty much guaranteed death to the warmachine crew, even for dwarfs, and a guaranteed dead wizard or at least wounding Vampires or butchers.

3.11. Combat support.
Shades with GW have not to be thrown in a HTH combat with big units of daemons or VC, but can always join the battle when it comes to provide some extra wounds.
From a flanking position, they can side charge in support of a frontal charge, and kill off anything in contact with them, adding to a combat resolution. Beware to use only well tooled shades, i.e. GW Shades against heavy cavalry or AHW Sades against mass infantry, otherwise the retaliation would on the contrary take a sufficient toll for this side charge to be a hindrance.

3.12. Cavalry lone side charge.
A lot of people have ideas about flank charging units of knights with Shades with great weapons. This can work but can also fail miserably. Against 1+ and even 2+ save knights, S5 only reduces armour save to 3+ and 4+ respectively. You can get four 20mm models maximized into the flank of a single cav model. Basically, Shades need to roll well and the knights to fluff their armour saves, otherwise, if you do only one kill, you loose the combat due to the knights higher unit strength and their banner & muso. Next round, you go last…
It seems not to be a reliable tactic .....unless you have a Cauldron in range (see stats above).

The worst is a Bretonnian’s Lance Formation. Their ward save is at 5+ against GW, adding to their resistance, and the Lance Formation’s has easily 3 knights in a flank, allowing 8 Shades in contact but likely to retaliate, and benefit from their +3 rank bonus.
Shades are bound to fail miserably… but, then, if the Lance pursues into the wood from which the Shades are coming, it will take them forever to get out!


Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:17 pm
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4. Three different agile units.

Dark riders, Shades and harpies all fill a similar role: mobile troops disturbing the enemy with a light, fragile threat.
Shades are scouts and can start close to the enemy, while DR and harpies move quicker.
Shades and harpies are skirmishers, DR have the fast cavalry rule, so they all move very easily in narrow spaces.
DR and harpies move faster in open terrain, Shades move faster in difficult terrain, especially woods and buildings where harpies can’t fly and DR won’t enter.

In melee, none benefit from ranks. Only Shades can get an assassin. Only DR can get a musician and pennant, even if they rarely do so, and only DR can negate ranks with side/rear charges. All of them provide a flank/rear bonus, but only as long as they are US5, so DR come with an advantage.

Together, they form agile troops, able to disrupt the enemy with light rear/flank march blocking threats. A character on Pegasus can fulfil a similar role but is not a troop so I’ll not examine him here.

4.1. Harpies: agile flyers.
Harpies are the best for positioning without any action.
Harpies are the cheapest and the most mobile, they fly and charge 360°.
At 55 points, screening your main unit is one of their best role.
Harpies are the best at march-blocking, because they retain all the time their full movement; however, it will only starting to be effective on the second turn.

However, they don’t shoot and they are rather limited in melee, with their non-hatred 2 S3 attacks.
They are good, although not really reliable, for warmachine hunting /wizard suicide charging.

4.2. DR: agile fast cavalry.
DR are the best for harassing melee units. They are fast cavalry that are able to move after a flee rally, so one of their main role is to redirect enemy charges to our cause, especially from frenzied units. They also are able to break ranks from the flanks or rear.
Dark Riders can effectively hunt warmachines, with their Hatred re-rolling S4 attacks.
When they march-block, they remain more mobile than Shades albeit less than Harpies.
However they cost a fair bit more (especially with crossbows included) and they don't start the game in a forward position.

4.3. Shades: agile scouts.
Shades are the least mobile but highly versatile, with a good effectiveness at shooting and in melee.
With scout rule, it is possible to effectively threaten the opponent from the sides.
Shades are the most reliable of the 3 to inflict damage, if they get the GW. They have a good chance on getting the warmachine/wizard hunting job done.
Harpies and DR are faster, but the Shades shoot better and are able to have an assassin.

But Shades are a special choice, and they are the most static of the three: they can't redeploy across the battlefield if they misdeploy.

4.4. Shades, harpies or DR?
Although these three units can achieve similar tasks, they have different effectiveness and excel on different roles. All is about play style, the best is probably to use all 3 units. They give mobility above all, which is what a DE army is about mostly.

Cost & slots may be an issue: Harpies can be sacrificed more easily than Shades, while DR are the most pricey. In addition, DR fill a mandatory core slot, Shades eat up a precious special slot, harpies are perfectly neutral on this aspect.

For a harassing role, Harpies are the best at march-blocking, DR are closely as good, but Shades are doing it earlier, from a forward position.

For warmachine hunt, Shades and DR are more deadly. However, harpies will reach them faster.

For side/rear complementary charges, DR are the best for, as only DR negate ranks. Shades and harpies don't, and usually are too few in numbers when they charge so that they don't even give flank of rear bonus. However, Harpies can suicide charge a wizard hidden in a unit, and Shades can pose a great threat of charging from a rear wood.

Finally, as a result of the prevailing ugliness of our DR and harpy models, it is possible, thanks to Shades, to running a druchii army without these units!




5. Three different shooting units.

RXBmen, Shades RBTs all fill a similar role: shooting troops disturbing the enemy with a distant threat which cannot be dispelled.
Note: RXB DR are shooters as well, but their extremely high cost per shot requires that they specialized in very specific, rewarding shots. I consider DR more an agile unit than a shooting unit.

The cost of the foes they kill in a single turn is roughly 1/5 of their cost (RXB are slightly more cost-effective), which means that they need to shoot at least 5 turns before getting destroyed.
Each of them makes a very suitable babysitting unit for a sorceress, albeit for different reasons.

One core unit, one special, one rare, they can combine well together, you need not to choose one for the other.

5.1. RXBmen: mass shooters.
RXBmen are core, inexpensive mass shooters. 100pts of RXBmen will destroy more enemy pts in average than 100 pts of Shades or one RBT, and if left shooting for 5 turns, it will usually make up for its cost.
They are not very mobile because moving cost them –1 in their shooting efficiency.
They start at 24” of the enemy and have 90°LOS, which may force them to move.
With shields, they are both resilient to light shooting and effective in light melees.

5.2. RBTs: Static powerful shots.
RBT are expensive, static but powerful and far reaching.
They will kill more than their cost in 5 or 6 turns, and their long range guarantees them never lacking targets.
They are the only shooters with high strength, and in this matter, they don’t compete with other shooting units.
Their weakness is the survival rate: an RBT makes so nice a target that it will be canon-sniped or hero/fast cav-charged by turn 2 more often than not. It will never win a melee, so fleeing should be always examined if it can bring some advantage.
Finally, they can’t move & shoot and they don’t contest ¼ tables. Usually, the place where they start the battle is the place where they die.

5.3. Shades: forwards shooters.
Shades are the special choice among shooters. Should you need special slots for other units, Shades are likely to be dropped for other shooters.
However, they are the most versatile of the true shooters, with their 360° shooting, the ability to charge efficiently and the melee abilities.

5.4. Shades, RXBmen or RBTs?
Although these three units can achieve similar tasks, they have different effectiveness and excel on different roles. All is about play style, the best is probably to use all 3 units. They give shooting above all, which is what a DE army needs.
In a DE gunline, Shades are no more efficient shooters than RXBmen or RBTs, but are the only ones to shoot from so close to the enemy.



6. Conclusion.

Shades combine agility, shooting and light melee. Only RXB DR can compete with them in all these fields, for a significant price increase and with different qualities.
They can be considered as the best scouts available in any WHB army.

They are versatile to a point. They are excellent, but pricey.

Take them in the required numbers for the use you plan.
Then learn to use them, and they should fulfil their promises.

When your usual opponent will become afraid of woods on the table, then you'll know that you've used your Shades effectively!

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Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:23 pm
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Excellant article thanks.

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Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:16 pm
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Very thorough article. I love it, though I must say you dismiss of great weapons a bit too easily. Starting from my expermints with the Cauldron, I've begun using shades as jack of all trades and extremely versatile troops, but now, even when points are tight, I almost always go for the great weapons on the shades, with or without Cauldron.

Simple reason: an opponent will too easily ignore shades without any additional weapons, but great weapon shades make very deadly combo chargers. And although all your concerns about second turns are right, the more kills they deliver on impact when flanking, the less easy combat resolution you provide your opponent.

A typical flank charge on ranked infantry will automatically gain you 4 combat resolution (assuming you're US5 and ignore his 3 rank bonus now). Every kill you inflict can't strike back at your shades, who have a good chance of dying, thus without great weapons they are more likely to provide easy active combat resolution, with some bad luck even cancelling out the 4 combat resolution you just gained.


Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:49 pm
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i thought skirmishers didn't negate rank bonusses... mmm
can someone please tell?

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we have cookies!
Well i couldn't resist that!
Now i am the mighty general of a dark elf army MUHUHAHA (still need to work on that evil laugh though)


Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:31 pm
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gramash wrote:
i thought skirmishers didn't negate rank bonusses... mmm
can someone please tell?
I thought it as well. :lol:
This is why I did check.
They don't cancel the bonus, but they do get it... as long as they are US5.

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Thu Feb 18, 2010 8:47 am
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