Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wood Elf Tactica – Dryads

Wood Elf Tactica – Dryads

Capricious and cruel, the Dryads are both alluring and deadly to any mortals that dare trespass within the boundaries of Athel Loren.  When they enter battle, their beautiful features melt away to reveal a visage out of a nightmare as their bodies harden and become tough as bark.  Their hands extend into razor sharp claws that can rend flesh and shatter stone.  Filled with the wrath of the forest ancients, the Dryads become the forest’s battle maidens as they descend upon their foes.  Even the Asrai avoid going into the dark depths of Athel Loren for fear that the capricious Dryads may see them as a foe rather than friend.

The Dryad unit is a Core selection for the Wood Elf Army.  The unit is comprised of Skirmishing models that come on 25mm bases rather than the standard 20mm base that an elf uses. 

Branch Nymph

Dryads are a tough and effective combat Core selection for the Wood Elf army.  They have an initiative of 6 which means they are striking before most units in the game with two attacks at Weapon Skill 4 and Strength 4.  They have a Toughness of 4 so they are by default tougher than all the elven units in the army.  Dryads also have the Forest Spirit special rule which grants them the following Universal Special Rules: Fear and Immune to Psychology.  In addition the Dryads have the Forest Spirit Save which grants them a 5+ ward save against non-magical attacks and they have Forest Walker which provides them with the Strider special rule for Forests.  The only unit upgrade available to the Dryads is to take a Branch Nymph unit champion which allows the unit to accept and issue challenges.

Let’s evaluate the Pros and Cons of the unit prior to going into advanced tactica.

The unit is toughness 4 which makes it a tougher than normal Wood Elf unit.
The unit is Strength 4 which is stronger than the rest of the Core in the Wood Elf army.
Each model has 2 base attacks rather than 1.
The unit is Stubborn when in a Forest.
Skirmish rules allow the unit some freedom of movement and maneuvering.
The unit has an Initiative of 6 which means it’s striking before well over 90% of the models in the game.
The unit gets a 5+ Ward Save against non-magical attacks.
The unit is NOT flammable.
The unit causes Fear.
The unit is Immune to Psychology.
The unit synergizes well with the Branchwraith hero selection.

The unit cannot claim ranks.
The unit can not field a full command (standard/musician).
The unit can not negate Steadfast or Rank Bonus.
Each Dryad costs 12 points.
Unit can not flee from charges so they must always hold
Against magical attacks or spells the unit gets no save at all.
The unit can only be fielded in groups of 8-20 negating its long term staying power in close combat.

So then the question comes, with all those cons how do I use this skirmishing unit?

Dryads may be configured in the following ways: Goalkeepers, Lawn Darts, Feral Gardeners, and Blitzkrieg!

Goalkeepers – When fielded as Goalkeepers, the Dryad unit is used to defend your archers and spellcasters.  This configuration will contain 8-12 Dryads kept back in near the archers to prevent threats to your Glade Guard or Spellweavers.  They also serve to act as cover to make shooting at the glade guard more difficult if your opponent is going before you and also has ranged models.  The Goalkeepers are meant to delay the opponent’s forces from reaching your Archers so that you may devote enough firepower to remove the offending units nearby.
                Synergy: The Lore of Beasts spell Wyssan’s Wildform will make the Dryads Strength and Toughness 5 which turns them into single wound Treekin for the most part.  This is especially handy if you have strong, heavy cavalry units bearing down on your archers.  The Lore of Life spell Throne of Vines/Flesh to Stone combo will also serve to provide the unit with some long term toughness (makes them T8) which will serve well against big Strength opponents.  It is recommended you field 1-2 units when using this configuration.

Lawn Darts – When fielded as Lawn Darts, the Dryad unit is used as redirectors and spell bumps.  You will most often see them fielded in units of 8 since they are able to soak up a few ranged attacks without having to worry about panic tests.  The Dryads are used in this instance to delay or force the flank of your opponent’s key units to your charge arc.
                Synergy:  If you intend on trying to keep the Dryads in combat and exposing the opponents flank then it is very important to properly augment the unit.  It is recommended that you use the Lore of Life’s spells Throne of Vines/Shield of Thorns and Flesh to Stone.  The Throne of Vines will boost the Flesh to Stone to Toughness 8 and then the Shield of Thorns will inflict automatic hits upon the unit prior to combat starting.  It is recommended that you field 2-3 units when fielding this configuration.

Feral Gardeners – This configuration functions as an offensive unit that serves to flank charge and gobble up smaller chaff units.  This unit works well being 10-14 models large and usually with a unit champion.  You generally will keep this unit close to your Treekin/Treemen to provide a strong flank charge or even sometimes to eat up the front attacks while the Treemen/Treekin/Wild Riders hit the flank/rear.
                Synergy: This unit benefits greatly if you place a character in it.  If you want to create a close combat unit that packs a substantial punch then you will want to add a Branchwraith in the mix to increase its close combat capabilities.
A.      Terror Bomb – placing a Branchwraith with the Terror spite (50pts) makes the unit cause Terror.  This is helpful for trying to chain panic lower leadership armies and make your opponent roll dice.  This is not an optimal set up but an option nonetheless.
B.      Character Assassination – the Pageant of Shrikes allows you to march your Branchwraith and her unit and shoot at specific characters while still maintaining an effective close combat option with the Poisoned Attacks cluster.
C.      The Duelist – You put the Branchwraith in the unit armed with the Poisoned Attack spite and the Annoyance of Netlings means that in a duel you are only hit on 6’s and that you unleash an additional d6 S2 poisoned attacks at Initiative 4.  This serves to provide your Branchwraith character with up to 9 attacks in a round in a challenge.  This is helpful while the rest of the unit attacks the opposing selection. 

The spells that will benefit the options above vary.  If you are going with a character in the unit then Lore of Beasts provides additional synergy with spells such as Pann’s Pelt, Wyssan’s Wildform and Savage Beasts of Horros.  Yet you could also make the unit tougher by synergizing with Lore of Life’s Throne of Vines/Flesh to Stone/Shield of Thorns.  Using the Lore of Beasts makes the Branchwraith an adversary to be feared since she would be swinging with up to 6 Strength 8 attacks at Initiative 8 with an additional D6 poisoned attacks.

If you are not using a character in the unit then the unit synergizes well with Treekin, Wild Riders and Treemen.  You must do a flank assault unless you have been augmented with Throne of Vines/Flesh to Stone to become Toughness 8. 

Blitzkrieg! – When fielding Dryads in this configuration you have a full squad of 20 Dryads with unit champion and also 1-2 Branchwraith characters in the unit.  You will want to field the unit around 7 to 10 models wide in order to maximize the number of attacks.  You rush this unit forward with units like Treemen and Treekin on the flanks.  This unit is designed to absorb punishment while your bigger monstrous infantry and monsters deal out damage to the flanks.  This unit will be skirmishing so it is recommended you fight in the forest and keep the unit buffed appropriately.  The Branchwraiths will want to be equipped with the Spites that can deal the most damage such as the Poisoned Attacks spite, Annoyance of Netlings, the Terror spite, etc...
        Synergy:  You have two options to synergize this unit with this configuration.  Defensive damage sponge or offensive assault battery, if you choose to use Lore of Life you are going defensive while Lore of Beasts will provide you with an offensive option.    Lore of Beasts provides additional synergy with spells such as Pann’s Pelt, Wyssan’s Wildform and Savage Beasts of Horros.  Yet you could also make the unit tougher by synergizing with Lore of Life’s Throne of Vines/Flesh to Stone/Shield of Thorns.  If you are fielding 2-3 Branchwraiths in this unit then Savage Beasts of Horros combined with Wyssan’s Wildform and Pann’s Impenetrable Pelt will yield 14 Strength 5 attacks at I6 and 18 Str 8 attacks at I8 which should be enough to annihilate anything you run into (provided you are running your unit 7 wide and have 3 Branchwraiths in the unit). 

        However having to deal with Toughness 8 Dryads that inflict a Str 4 hit at the beginning of every round because of Throne of Vines/Flesh to Stone/Shield of Thorns is also an attractive option of getting an opponent stuck into combat for an extended period of time.

As you can see the Dryads may function in various ways, either guardians, redirectors, character assassins or a wall of flailing attacks fueled by forest fury.  The unit itself is not meant to stand alone; the Skirmishing rule by itself dictates this.  You will need to use this unit in conjunction with others in order to fully optimize the points you have spent to use the unit.  In my lists I generally will field 10 Dryads with a unit champion in order to protect my archers and fend off anything annoying that gets near them. 

In closing, the Dryad unit is a great close combat option for the Wood Elf army.  They are fast, strong and able to absorb punishment unlike many of the other elven units in the army.  They also provide you with a good backbone for building close combat oriented lists and serving to beef up the more vulnerable sections of your army.  Like most units in the Wood Elf army this is an elite unit, its stat line dictates that right off the bat but I feel that many players under utilize the options available to them with the Dryads.  I hope this article has provided you with a different point of view and perspective on how to use Dryads in the Wood Elf army book.