Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Post - Peter Willamson's High Elves

Given that Peter Williamson astounded a lot of people with his success at the Masters with his High elves, I thought that it would be great to get some insight into his thoughts in putting together and playing his list.

I really appreciate him taking the time to put together his analysis. Enjoy!

Peter Williamson's High Elves - The Susan Boyle of Warhammer


I have been asked to provide some comments on the design of my list. So here is what goes through my head when I design a list and some specific comments about my High Elf List. Lets hope this didn’t devolve into a rant.

General list building

I think of a list as a tool box, overall it does everything sufficiently. Maybe it doesn’t deal with one thing overly well but, it deals with armour, swarms of cheap infantry, monsters, enemy chaff, monstrous cavalry/infantry, buses of different forms, choppy characters and so on… Since there are so many different armies each with multiple builds it is important to be able to deal with as much as possible.

All armies are about delivering the right unit(s) into the right opponent. If you do that much then to be honest, you’ve probably already won. I try to write lists that have many fast elements so that you can do long charges when needed. They also allow for counter charges over a greater distance. I also include fast chaff to get in the way once the battle has started, helping stall the enemy from doing anything that I don’t want them to. It should also contain enough deployment drops to allow you to basically out-deploy your opponent (Deployment is honestly half the battle.)

The deceptive thing about my armies is that they actually look like armies you can beat. They promote people to play aggressively and seek combat. Combat is where battles are won big, rarely are people shot off the battlefield. If you don’t engage then it usually becomes a piece trade and nobody in reality wins. I include some shooting or ranged attacks as this sucks people into range so once again I can get the combat that I would like.

The list

So what’s the trick with the list? Well to be honest there is no trick, its all solid play and the list basically covers all match ups better than one would think. It’s a list that suits my play style that gives me as many options as possible with dealing with multiple circumstances that can and do arise during games. Each unit can fulfil a multitude of roles in the army, for instance Dragon Princes, Can be used to hit hard into a unit that won’t be steadfast, Keep Chaff at bay due to its speed, Hit a flank whilst another unit go in the front (Once again due to speed), Snipe a Mage from a unit with 4 Strength 5 re-rollable hits and so on.... I could go on about all the units in my army but I think you get the picture.

This list also has sufficient magic and shooting. Magic and shooting forces people’s hands. People don’t like losing troops and they often feel that they need to make amends for losing such troops, thus forcing them to play aggressive which often will lead to mistakes in game. It also doesn’t go overboard on the above either. 6 spells is actually 1 spell too many for even low casting high magic. Most magic phases in any army are likely to cast more than 3 spells. Spending more on magic levels just to get extra flexibility can be good but I would rather pick a lore where nearly all spells have a use.

The list is built around having many elements that work in sync together, but also interdependently in a way so that even as I start to lose my army, it should still work to some effect. There is no real crutch piece to it. Some would argue the white lions are but choppy characters, chariots, dragon princes can pick up the slack. Also when I lose a unit, it’s not the end of the world on points front. There is no Key unit that all my points are in. Points are so evenly spread that I don’t have to worry about sacrificing any part of my army, if it will serve a greater cause.

Deployment generally means the unit with the gleaming pennant is deployed wide, with a chariot. This means that enemies cannot form a straight line in order to face me, meaning a broken line allowing flanks to be exposed. Spears are actually not bad troops and when there is a flank. It will beat the best of foes. Chariots also help spears in combat allowing them to become a threat that cannot be ignored (remember chariots only need a corner to do max damage). Also Tip: Advance first turn as much as possible to put pressure on your opponent, but not to leave yourself open. You can always back up.

What could I do to make the list harder?

High Elves in general are a race that does not take punishment. Speed is key to their success. Speed not only involves the movement phase, but that of the combat phase. One could comment that my list lacks any staying power. Partly true, however, I never intend to stay in combat more than 1-2 rounds. If I am its generally because I’m doing something wrong.

Larger unit of white lions? It doesn’t achieve anything other than painting a target on their head to either avoid for now and take the rest of the army, or to overwhelm now while there are less supporting troops around. The number I chose actually all gets to attack in a 8 x 2 formation and puts the boot in fairly badly.

More shooting? Shooting doesn’t win games, Combat does! Shooting is more of annoyance than anything. A good player can hide the vulnerable pieces and only expose them when needed. If you do somehow manage to take a unit out, then usually the amount spent far exceeds what that unit was worth. So does a heavy shooting list actually achieve much, since once combat happens they become easy points.

More Magic or different lore (shadow)? My magic was actually one of the strongest at the tournament. I was casting many spells in my magic phase. On average 4 per magic phase no matter what the roll was. I don’t actually like shadow, because in short you become reliant upon it. What happens if you don’t get mind razor or any of the debuffs off… you just entered a really unfavourable combat. Generally speaking it has nothing to draw out a scroll early so the above is quite common. The lore chosen complements the list with its combination of magic missiles, buffs and debuffs and range. Again though, the army is not reliant on it to work.

Less Free points? To be honest there are no free points in my list. I can easily protect most of my points, the only points that are vulnerable are Eagles, Chariots, Bolt Throwers. To be fair it would take some extreme shooting to remove all these elements throughout the game and not lose anything in return. Remember folks you often have to lose points in order to make more…

Feel free to make comments, even if it’s to say… Mate your Dreaming.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Peter. This is the sort of thing I like reading more than any Battle Report.

    You definitely seem to be right about the Lions, the smaller unit did seem to take the focus off them alot... It was scary the number of times I'd walk past over the weekend and there'd be piles of dead Spearmen by T2-3, but not a single dead Lion when they were a key unit in your army, regardless of size.

    Agree on the shooting, its pretty pants even if you take heaps of it. I just find its still more likely to achieve something than Spearmen... in my games at least. Maybe need to go back to Spears now I'm trialing High Magic though.

    Definitely don't get the love for Shadow. At this point for me, its a toss up between Light and High magic with everything else a distant second.

    I do disagree on the free points though. That's still 500+ pts (including the Reavers) that seems, to me at least, relatively easy to get with a balanced army. That's more than enough for me to feel comfortable taking my time to come towards you whatever the damage you might do as well. Not sure if you got away with that a bit over the weekend because everyone seemed to have chosen lore's/armies more suited to killing armour than picking off light chaff?

  2. Interesting thoughts Peter. How do you deal with armies like Skaven who can just envelop you with force of numbers?

  3. @James, your right but in relatively balanced army there are 'free' points lurking around in there army usually to about 300 points. Hang back too much and you won't get a big win but something like 12-8? who really wins when that happens, certaintly not you nor me. But other people who gain the bigger wins. People will push earlier.
    Also in the current meta most armies have ditched light shooting and > 1 magic missle. Therefore picking those units is hard. Cannons + Rocks can only kill so much as they don't hit that often. Even if there is shooting / magic. You can often keep stuff out of range

    High Elves vs Skaven = bad.... To be honest its not the envelopment that is a pain, My high elf list has more bodies than most. Its more that they just take stuff off, Light and Big units. Other armies that use numbers aren't so bad, Spears can usually Grind them out if they are poor troops, or fixate on the general/bsb and the rest will should fail a ld test somewhere....

    1. I guess it does depend alot on the situation, which I may be glossing over a bit. If I were to draw you in a normal tournament, I'd consider a 12-8 a job well done, as I could ideally go for a big win in another matchup. I guess in a Masters situation that ain't gonna happen to often, so you have to try for the points on offer!

      As for the second point, you're right. Too many players are dropping the MSU killing tools from their armies making it greatly viable again. Given that I used that to my advantage in the UK I'm not sure why I forgot about it...

  4. Well done Pete, to be honest I had totally written the list off and still would have fancied it if could have made the trip. Reading your battle reports, especially v WOC and as James mentioned the spears were targeted not the lions. They should have been the first target priority given the D3 extra dice they carried. Clearly opponents underestimated the list and paid for it.