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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Revisiting the Seer Council (Part 2): Runes of Battle




The Warlocks' psychic powers are where the new incarnation of the Seer Council starts to get really interesting. Because they are random and you only get one roll each I think a large unit is necessary, whereas they used to be able to function in some capacity with five to six bodies. I personally have eight Warlocks and a Farseer converted with plans to sculpt up another Farseer at least. I think about that many rolls ought to provide decent enough chances to get some of the powers we want, with decent chances again of seeing doubles of the ones we really want.

At Ld8, I'm thinking Warlocks might need Dark Eldar allies with Grisly Trophies to provide psychic test rerolls. That would protect them from perils that would otherwise kill them outright. Something to consider when we get to list-building, at any rate.

Now let's have a look at the powers one by one.

Runes of Battle

Primaris: Conceal/Reveal
The unit needs at least one of these and it might be beneficial to have two. That's all right because you're likely to roll up plenty results you don't need and will need to fall back on this with at least someone. First the obvious benefits: with Shrouded you have a better save against AP3 and AP2 than you do with your invul save. Much better if you turbo-boost. That can be pretty huge in some situations, especially if you fail to roll up Fortune. Having a 2+ cover to help you get into position won't make up for not having rerollable saves, but it will definitely help a lot. Having two Warlocks with Conceal may be necessary in case one of them fails his roll when you really need the power up.

The other half of this power, Reveal, is brutally effective against units that rely on those special rules because the ones that do are likely to be relying on that to protect them from your pseudo-rending shuriken fire. Reveal may also help against vehicles with those rules should you want to smash them with some S9 Singing Spears. In turns where you already got Conceal up, you're free to use Reveal with anyone who has it. Another nice reason to have two.

Destructor/Renewer
Destructor is almost as good as it was before. I like having Soul Blaze on it well enough, but I don't think that makes up for the 6th edition providing Deny the Witch saves against it. Still, it's not at all bad to have a Heavy Flamer template on a unit with the speed to put it in the worst of places. It should provide some decent benefit to the unit when shooting.

Renewer on the other hand is obscene the way I'm thinking of it. A unit of 8-10 Warlocks can count on scoring 1-2 of these from the chart. Let's assume we get two Renewers and we have two Farseers leading the unit. We position the Farseers so that one is in the front and the other is the closest model to him, the one who will take Look out Sir wounds. You roll saves on the first guy until he takes a wound. Then you start rolling Look out Sir and pass wounds off to the next Farseer. You'll have to estimate the damage you might take and how much you can pass along, but the goal here is to only take up to two wound that are S<8. On your turn you are free to then heal the two Farseers up and negate all that hard work the enemy did. I used to soak damage all the time with my Farseers and this just makes that tactic so much nastier. Just be careful not to put yourself in a position to take a lot more wounds than you can reasonably save and LoS. And be careful of weapons that will ID your Farseer. Then you'd be relying on cover/invul and as nice as it is that we have those, we're not trying to spoon feed Slaneesh our Seers' souls.

Embolden/Horrify
I personally love this power set. The first of the two is handy as all get out for a unit that falls back 3d6 when they get unlucky and fail a morale check. Or that can't afford to whiff in combat and get swept. You could also cast it to apply Fearless after you've already fallen back so you can automatically regroup. A very good power that shouldn't be overlooked.

Now Horrify can just be disgusting in all the best ways. Have a look at the first paragraph on maledictions on p68 of the BYB if you need to refresh yourself. That's right, the effects are always cumulative. So one cast brings the target down from Ld10 to Ld7. Another cast would have them at Ld4. Good f%#king luck passing whatever morale checks I can throw at you this turn. Pinning tests can come from a number of places in our codex, Terrify could come down on the enemy from a Hemlock, basic shooting could have the unit flee and an assault could sweep them. Oh, did you say you're Fearless? Not anymore if Terrify hits you from one of the two Farseers or the Hemlock, which is guaranteed to have it. There are a lot of different ways to use this power and I think it has a definite place in our unit. I'd definitely want at least one, but maybe two. But no more than that. Ld4 will reliably fail and it'd be fine to take Conceal/Reveal over a third one of these.

Edit: Another use I forgot to mention is one that CKO brought up on DakkaDakka. If you can use this to make a unit with ATSKNF fall back, they will run from you 2d6 and you can back off 2d6 too. If you don't want to be in combat with them you can get away nicely. On the other hand, something he didn't mention is that you could cast this on a unit, then turbo-boost to block them in so they can't run and then shoot them with other units in your army or use a Hemlock to make them run. Then they die instantly. Somewhat situational, but it's not so bad since Horrify is cast in the movement phase and you can move 36" in the shooting phase. Hmmm...

Enhance/Drain
This is a good power to have, but a little less necessary than it was before since Warlocks have base I5 now. Still, hitting most stuff on 3s with WS5 would be nice. Against someone else with WS4 you would need three casts to bump them down to WS2 and yourself up to WS5 so that they hit on 5s. As funny as that would be, I just don't think it's practical. That's committing a lot of chart rolls, risking a lot of psychic tests/perils, hoping they fail a lot of Deny rolls just to weaken a unit you will probably steamroll anyway. And if not, you might be better off backing away and shooting them instead. Still, part of the point of analyzing these powers is to think about how they can be used, because we have little control over what we get. Since we don't need many conceal/reveal Warlocks, we've got to consider how to make due with what we end up with. Basically Enhance/Drain is another good one to stack up if you can, but a single cast of it gives a good boost to your combat prowess too.

Protect/Jinx:
As a whole I think this is by far the best power. There are good combos and uses for the others and they're necessary for the unit to operate at full potential, but I'd keep up to four or five of these if I happened to roll them. On the defensive side, Protect makes Terminators out of Jetbikes. With Fortune, they would be tremendously hard to remove. But we don't have that many rolls on Runes of Fate and sometimes you just can't seem to roll that one result you want. So if you don't have Fortune, this is your new substitute. Is it enough? Maybe, maybe not. That's going to depend on how much dakka and how much AP2 shooting your enemy can leverage on the unit at once. Not all lists can bring enough firepower down on Terminators to end them quickly. Much less if they're able to get anywhere on the board in a single turn with a 2+ cover to negate the AP2 shots. Getting at least one Protect off does do a lot to keep this unit in the game. Between soaking S1-7 shots with Farseers and positioning to prevent the enemy from weighing too much firepower against you, Protect should be a great boon to the Council.

Jinx is one of the powers that got me thinking about this unit again in the first place. It's pretty awesome that you can make MEQs out of Terminators, right? But remember when I mentioned that maledictions are always cumulative? Yeah. Two casts of this and those MEQs get no armor save from basic shuriken weaponry. Okay so it makes the Seer Council a destructive powerhouse in shooting. They already have pseudo-rending guns anyway, how well does it keep them from getting bogged down in assault? Ork Boyz, one cast means no save. Two for large units of IG. Now you're basically swinging the power weapons people always wanted Witchblades to be when fighting hordes. Against TEQs and MEQs, they might be getting saves, but rolling 4+ and 5+ respectively is not going to go well for units that are written to be balanced based on their armor. This is a power that goes against so much that is essential to 40k's game balance. Obviously it will combo well with Runes of Fate, Telepathy and Divination. I'll be returning to this many times in other posts.

Quicken/Restrain
There has to be one near-total dud in the bunch and this is it. Very simply, Jetbikes can't run, so the buff side of this one is worthless. On the other hand, Restrain could be used like crowd-control. You could keep an enemy unit that is 18" away from running. That would make it harder for them to reinforce against your Council or maybe slow them down when they're trying to dash toward an objective. Or behind cover. I could see using one of these. Maybe two, but any more than that and I'd be pretty disappointed not to have rolled better results on the chart.

Empower/Enervate
Empower boosts your strength by one. In most situations this won't help much because the Council's weapons always wound on a 2+. They are however only 3+2d6 against vehicles so it could help boost your damage against vehicles in combat. The Remnants of Glory weapons are not all fleshbane, however, so it could really help a lot with making those low AP hits count.

I think Enervate is amazing. Probably more than most people do. There are two reasons. One: every body matters--a lot. If debuffing the enemy's strength means even one Warlock is spared in combat, it was worth taking. We've only got one unit and they only have one wound each. They need to last and need to do amazing things to help you win, so leverage every chance you have to manipulate the statistics in your favor. The other one is less obvious, but check this out: remove the threat of ID from powerfists, thunderhammers and S8 MCs. With enough casts, Dreads too, but Dreadnaughts should never even get a chance to swing against massed Witchblades. I'm not sure if many people have noticed this at all, but it makes Farseers pretty damn good at challenges, especially where they only need to score one wound before I1 occurs. This gives a lot more control over your Farseers' protection and circumvents powerful wargear that some players rely on.

Whew that's a long post! It was worth it to me though. There is a lot to say about these powers and I think being thorough is the only way to say anything meaningful in 40k. Still, these are first impressions and I think with some experience there is probably more that can be added. This also doesn't account for combos, lists or match-ups. I may write a follow-up once I've used my Council a few times. For now though, I'll be moving ahead with the Farseer's Runes of Fate next.

If you feel I've overlooked anything, got something wrong, or are simply astounded by my radiant brilliance, post about it. I'll be sure to post how great you think I am--er I mean, about your contribution...