I’ve been a long-standing fan of the Sylvaneth since their revolutionary book first game out – heralding Allegiance packs as we now know them. I was an early enthusiast for Dryads in Winterleaf back then; and I still am today. Listen to Scruby & Wells Episode 9 for a discussion of how Winterleaf was in the early days.
Much has changed since those early days, Sylvaneth have new Battleline options, Dryads are cheaper, Battalions more expensive, Alarielle is stronger, but critically Mystic Shield is far worse. Realm Artefacts have opened up new avenues.
As usual I wanted to do something distinctive and so I cooked up something in Nico’s Hobby Lab: https://www.tga.community/blogs/blog/200-nicos-hobby-lab/
Sylvaneth operate around Wyldwoods, which offer various benefits:
- Damage enemies who run/charge through them.
- Damage enemies within 1” when spells are cast (irrespective of unbinding) within 6” of them.
- Allow Sylvaneth Units to teleport from one Wyldwood to within 3” of another Wyldwood (not another part of the same one) in the movement phase.
- Allow Sylvaneth Units to Deepstrike (models within 3”).
- Give nearby Dryads and Branchwraiths -1 to hit protection.
- Give Derpu extra Attacks.
You get a free Wyldwood at the start of the game (before choosing sides) – typically placed on an objective or on the middle of a deployment zone – particularly if there is some Arcane scenery on one side that I don’t want an opponent to have access to without also having to camp in a Wood.
I’ve gone for Regrowth (5) – basically to keep Derpu healed as his output drops as he takes Damage; and Verdant Blessing (6) – summon a Wyldwood within 18” (not wholly within).
Artefacts, Command Traits & Abilities
Sylvaneth typically have Artefacts coming out of their ears with 2 Battalions in play.
Rather than going for defence on Derpu (Briarsheath or Oaken Armour or Doppelgänger or Ethereal Amulet), I’ve gone offence – Ghyrstrike keeps him at 2+, 2+ in melee with his -2 rend, 6 Damage Sword. He still conspires to be unreliable – even with full reroll 1s against Chaos (the Winterleaf buff).
There is an option to take the Essence of Vulcatrix, which risks D3 mortals on a 1, but on a 2+ gives +1 to hit and wound on all weapons until your next hero phase. This buffs the shooting attack, which is comparable to a unit of Judicators as well as his Talon (also a -2 rend weapon). The theory would be that Derpu is only likely to have one big moment in the game, so the lack of persistence is less bad than it sounds.
The Branchwraiths get Ranu’s Lamentiri (+1 to cast or +2 to cast Regrowth) and the Acorn (guaranteed Wyldwood summon within 5”). These are pretty common options. Ranu’s helps to cast Geminids in my first turn, which is a big deal.
Derpu gives a +1 to Charge bubble within 10”, which is very handy for Dryads and himself.
One potentially big flaw in the list is the total lack of these. The 3CP you have at the start of the first hero phase end up being used on charge rerolls and Inspiring Presence, but with bad Bravery on both Eels and Dryads, this is sadly necessary.
Derpu is the ever disappointing melee beatstick. He does have very respectable 15” shooting as well.
1960 gives me triumphs in some games. Usually these would go on the Eels, but reroll saves could be great on Derpu too with his 3+.
I play cautiously with Derpu – either camping him within the 30 block of Dryads as he has a long reach or even keeping him in reserve completely (esp. if the enemy has any long reach attacks or Hand of Dust). Far too often I see (non-Dreadwood) Sylvaneth overcommitting Turn One and allowing the entire enemy army to focus fire/attacks/spells into key units. You have to play on the assumption that you’ll be double turned if you take turn one.
Derpu also buffs the bravery of nearby units in the Battleshock Phase (but this doesn’t help vs Mindrazor).
Branchwraith 1 (the Tree Caddy)
Her role is to vomit out trees as fast as possible. Usually by attempting Verdant Blessing first, so I can place a larger Wyldwood from the Acorn if she fluffs the cast roll. She will transition to casting
Summon 10 Dryads later in the game.
Squishy (except vs shooting) and inconsequential in Combat.
She will cast Geminids turn one (see below) and then either maintain Geminids or cast Regrowth/Realm Spell.
He offers deepstrike and +3” to a charge roll for Eels; and provides the nearby hero for the inevitable Inspiring Presence. His shooting is hilariously bad (8 attacks at 5+, 5+).
The army only has two units, so the KISS principle is satisfied.
Truly a standout unit, fast, 2” reach, 4+ Save if you have 12+ of them, and strong synergies with the Battalions.
As discussed, they offer a reliable mortal wound bomb or burst damage, which Sylvaneth generally lack. Their attacks should shred most targets, but they are swingy. Triumph rolls will usually be directed towards these dudes.
Winterleaf unlocks the Order Unit, but also gives full reroll 1s vs Chaos – this is army wide (not the Eels).
Furthermore Dryads gain exploding attacks (one of only 2 offensive synergies in the army of any note) on 6+ to hit. This combos with their Sing a Song Ability (+1 to hit vs a target unit in your own turn).
None of the buffs apply to summoned Dryads so I may use distinct models for these.
Once per game, the entire battalion can do a hero phase teleport to either within 3” of a Wyldwood or to within your territory (not wholly within) – in both cases 9” away. This offers great flexibility , one model can be within my territory with the rest in a conga line to the enemy. This also helps if Verdant Blessing fails to cast.
The real combo is that you can use it to position the Geminids Branchwraith, this massively extends the effective range and allows you to send the Geminids across a key chunk of the army and leave them buried in the middle of the enemy army or behind it. This mitigates the risk of the Geminids coming back into my face. You can also position 31” away from Nagash (Clownface) and avoid him unbinding Geminids or position within Arcane scenery.
If as normal, I go first to put the Wyldwoods up and grab the objectives with Dryad layers, then Geminids can debuff a great deal of the enemy army (comboing with -1 to hit Dryads naturally) through the entire double turn.
The best thing about Winterleaf is the ability to sneak in a single Order Unit of any stripe, while retaining Allegiance and the 1 drop. Obvious choices abound – back in the day, the Hurricanum (esp. as it further synergised with Winterleaf’s exploding attacks on 6+), more recently, the Frost Phoenix and Morathi have emerged. There is future proofing built into the list as there are always new Order units on the horizon – Tyrion, Teclis, Malerion, Sigmar? could all get models in time.
One of the subtle changes in AoS v2 is that Sylvaneth have picked up a new ally option – Idoneth Deepkin, which opens up a completely new avenue. The FAQ clarified the old position on the status of the 1 Order Unit in Winterleaf – it doesn’t count towards the caps on number of allied units or the 400 points cap of allies; however, it does count as an ally in the Limited sense of not benefiting from Allegiance Abilities at all.
Morrsarr Guard (aka Eels), are the go-to Unit for Idoneth. They hit like cavalry should do, delivering a roughly 1 mortal wound per model zap to a unit within 3” (an ability at the start of the combat phase, so even if you get charged by some Doppelgänger Cloak wearing Dragon it will do something). They are however squishy and Bravery 6, and remarkably swingy despite having a high volume of attacks.
By taking 9 Eels for 480 as the Order Unit in Winterleaf, I could still ally in their buddy the Soulscryer, for 100 Points, who offers deepstrike and +3” to a charge roll and provides the nearby hero for the inevitable Inspiring Presence.