Friday, August 24, 2012

Preferred Enemies - Sepulchral Stalkers

This installment of Preferred Enemies will deal with the Special choice for the Tomb Kings army, the Sepulchral Stalkers.  The ancient sentinels of Nehekhara, the Sepulchral Stalkers were created to guard the borders of the Tomb Kings realm and defend its borders.  Slinking beneath the shifting sands of the desert, the animated constructs would ambush their prey and with their cursed gaze turn their opponents into pillars of sands to be blown away by the wind.   These ancient ambushers are generally under-estimated when first encountered, a perception that is generally very quickly altered once they are seen in action.  While this is not an extremely difficult enemy to deal with for the Wood Elf army, it is a unit that can wreck havoc on an army if it is not dealt with appropriately.

The Sepulchral Stalkers provide the Tomb King army with a fast moving and mobile unit of monstrous beasts.  The units theme is fully reflected in their rules and their functionality provides the Tomb King army with versatility that the undead army needed. 

First and foremost here is the stat line and special abilities of a Sepulchral Stalker:
Movement:           7
Weapon Skill:       3
Ballistic Skill:         3             
Strength:               4
Toughness:            4
Wounds:                3
Initiative:               3
Attacks:                  2
Leadership:           8
Equipment:  Halberd
Special Rules:  Animated Construct, Entombed Beneath the Sands, Nehekharan Undead
Special Attacks:  Transmogrifying gaze
                Range: 8”, Strength: 1, Special: see blow

Sepulchral Stalkers are Nehekharan Undead which means they are Unbreakable, Unstable, cause Fear and are unable to march, ever.  The Animated Construct rule provides the Sepulchral Stalker with a 5+ armor save.  The special rule of Entombed Beneath the Sands rule is a fairly important rule for the Sepulchral Stalkers.  The unit gains the Ambusher rule but rather than coming on a table edge, a counter is placed and the scatter and artillery die is rolled.  If the “HIT” is rolled then the unit stays there otherwise it moves in the direction of the arrow and the number of inches reflected on the artillery die.  Should a misfire roll come up or the unit can not be placed, then the mishap table is consulted. 

The Sepulchral Stalkers are not extremely formidable in close combat.  They are on a chariot base and as a result the unit frontage is wide and opens them up to a lot of return attacks from the engaged unit.  Each Stalker has two attacks at Strength 5 and a Strength 4 stomp attack.  The unit causes Fear so if their opponent fails then they will be striking on 3’s.  Stalkers do have some fairly decent defensive capabilities, they are Toughness 4 and have a 5+ armor save.  Each model has three wounds so the unit can take a wound or two before beginning to suffer a loss of effectiveness.  The Stalkers are also able to attack at Initiative 3 which allows them to swing simultaneously with armies like Empire or Beastmen and before armies like Ogres, Orcs and Goblins, and Vampire Counts.  The true strength of this unit lies in its special attack.

The Transmogrifying Gaze is a magical ranged attack that has an 8” range.  Each model rolls an artillery die to determine the number of hits the unit suffers with a misfire resulting in a D3 automatic wounds inflicted on the Sepulchral Stalkers with no armor saves.  The hits are at Strength 1 and allow no armor saves.   The attacks use the target’s Initiative rather than their Toughness which directly affects large monsters and units that have a lower initiative.  Against Wood Elves this is not that critical of an issue unless the unit is attacking the Treeman or the Treekin. 
Canny Tomb King Generals will position the Stalkers to pop up behind the unit that has a high toughness and armor save but very low initative.  Examples would be: Treeman, Giants, most monsters, Ogre Ironguts, or Black Orcs.  When the Stalkers arrive from reserve, they may then unload their Transmogrifying Gaze upon the unfortunate unit.  If anything is Toughness 2 then they are being wounded on 5’s with no armor save.  This type of barrage can wreck havoc on most monstrous infantry/cavalry which makes the Sepulchral Stalkers a highly prized asset.

How to deal with Sepulchral Stalkers:

Against Wood Elves the Sepulchral Stalkers are slightly frustrating because they can easily take down the really high toughness models in the army.  The Sepulchral Stalkers excel when they are able to ambush in areas that will support their large base size and behind the charge arc of the higher toughness units.  The sheer amount of dice that a unit is able to throw with the Transmogrifying Gaze can completely devastate a unit if the right rolls are made.  Wood Elf units will get no armor save and will also be denied their ward save since this is considered a magical attack.  So how do Wood Elf Generals counter this type of unit?
  1. Deployment – Ensure that you are within 5” of each unit and prevent the unit from arriving from reserves in areas you do not want to have them.  i.e. arrange your units to prevent the 3 chariot base wide minimum base size unit from popping up and causing undue havoc in your line.  This forces your opponent to put his Stalkers further out and away from the vulnerable units.
  2. Shooting – The Sepulchral Stalkers are only Toughness 4 which means at short range Glade Guard can wound them on 4’s and reduce their armor save to a 6+.  Ideally you will want to unload unto the unit and remove it from play otherwise the Stalkers may reduce or destroy a key unit.
  3. Melee – The Sepulchral Stalkers are Strength 5 in close combat so even your Treekin risk being wounded on 4’s unless you properly augment them with Flesh to Stone or Wyssan’s Wildform.  You will want to flank charge Sepulchral Stalkers if any at all possible, especially since they have a chariot sized base.  The Sepulchral Stalkers only swing back with two attacks so you can minimize their damage to you while maximizing your damage to them with appropriate charges.  In addition to being susceptible to flank charges, the Sepulchral Stalkers run the risk of being multi-charged rather easily.  Wild Riders or Great Eagles are great options if they are able to kill before they are swung upon.
  4. Spells – If you are using Lore of Life then Dweller’s Below can be very effective against the Sepulchral Stalkers and an entire base at a time if they fail their Strength test.  If you are using Lore of Beasts, the Amber Spear runs an excellent change of removing the entire unit if you are able to go through all three. 
Ideally, the Sepulchral Stalkers serve as the Tomb King General’s Warmachine and Monstrous Infantry hunters.  Wood elves need to properly account for the chicanery and shenanigans that this unit employs.  The Sepulchral Stalkers may go from being annoying to downright terrifying when they are placed in blocks of 6-10 where their Transmogrifying Gaze could unload up to 100 shots into a unit.   For the most part however, this unit is generally seen in smaller groups of around 3 to 4 Stalkers.  Wood Elf Generals will need to once again not underestimate this unit otherwise a key monstrous infantry or monster unit could be wiped out before being able to act.   

I hope this Preferred Enemies edition provides helpful advice and an accurate and effective method of handling and dealing with the Tomb Kings Special selection of the Sepulchral Stalkers.