Phoenix Guard have been one of the most powerful and thematic melee units since early days of WFB. And some of the coolest infantry models too. This has carried over to AOS despite the high (a)elves being broken up into tiny sub-factions.
GHB2018 gave the Guard a huge points reduction for blocks of 30…. and after running a few lists in my local meta plus some mathhammer, I think at the moment they are possibly the most powerful melee unit (point-for-point) in the game. Definitely top 5.
On the offence side, basic PG have 2 attacks, 3+/3+, 0-rend.
However there are 2 big real kickers here ->
- Most of the time they will benefit from re-rollable to-wound (Anointed Captain of Phoenix Guard command ability)
- The real cheese: with a 2″ attack on 25mm bases, if you carefully positioning (base-lock and interweave etc) you get effectively 3 ranks of elite profile attacks…. ouch.
With no rend, against high armour models they can take a while to churn through the enemy (though they mince through anything that doesn’t have at a 4+ or better save), but this with their ‘defence’ side comes in, providing them the time to dish out that damage…..
They have a standard 4+ save, followed by a 4+ ‘ward’ style save against both wounds and mortal wounds. Against a non-rend attack, they will ignore 75% of wounds caused.
Even worse (for the opponent….) in a full Phoenix Temple list, they probably have a Frostheart hanging around too, providing a -1 to wound debuff on their attackers.
With 30 models to churn through and that kind of defence, this unit will survive anything….
Statistically… are they possibly best melee unit in the game???
Running some Mathhammer for some example combats against some fully buffed top-tier combo’s (assume dice rolling at statistical averages)
‘Tank Rating’ wise:
- against a standardised 4+/4+/0R attack, the enemy needs to deliver 16 attacks to (statistically) kill one PG, meaning they need to deliver 480 attacks to kill 30 of them….
- if the Frostheart aura is nearby helping out this turns into >24 attacks per kill / 727 to kill the unit of 30… good luck with that….
Example 1: 30 PG (360 points) vs 10 Evocators (400 points).
- Assume both sides get the expected buffs/ debuffs (eg Evo’s cast their buff on themselves)
- If the Evocators get to attack first in the first round (then PG attack first in second round etc etc), the Evo’s will win after 5 rounds of combats with only 2 Evocators left alive.
- If the PG get to attack first, they will kill all the Evocators in 2 rounds of combat, losing 10 models in the process.
Example 2: 30 PG (360 points) vs 40 Skeletons (280 points).
- Assume Skeles have a wight lord close for command ability, Van Hels cast and 2x sources of healing per turn. Skeletons also have spears for the 2″ range on 25mm bases (i.e effectively 3 ranks with optimal placement), therefore assume for simplicity they all get into attack range.
- Regardless of if the Skeletons hit first or second, the PG will wipe them out in 2 turns.
Example 3: 30 PG (360 points) vs 30 Witch Elves (270 points).
- Assume a cauldron of blood, hag brew and 2 knives for the 4x attacks each. Assume Zealots Rage & Hagg Norr are active for maximum buffage!
- If you can actually somehow get all 30 Witches into there 1″ combat range and they get to hit first, they do hurt the PG….. but the PG will still end up winning by round 3 (with 7-8 models left standing at the end).
- PG win in round 2 with 24 models surviving if they attack first.
Of course, the PG cost more points than both the Skeletons and Witches, but the scenarios above assume there are hero’s nearby for both sides providing buffs to simulate a more likely ‘real game’ fight, and “point-for-point matchups” are never able to be perfect in a game as complex as AoS. But the examples are also showing how the PG stand up in a fight against 3 of the absolute very strongest melee units (including fully loaded combos) in the current game….. and they more than hold their own quite comfortably. In the comments, please suggest other units or combos to try them against!
30 tank-elves (that also hit hard and ignore battleshock) camping on an objective is overkill and, depending on the scenario, close to auto-win (or at least auto-draw). Eg good luck displacing these guys while they defending the Knife the Heart home objective. While objective camping is probably overkill, in a 2000 point game, leaving a unit of these and an Anointed in the rear is only tying up <25% of your force on defence, leaving >75% of your points to lead the attack run.
Units That Synergise With It
An Anointed‘s command ability boost their attack, giving rerolls on failed wound rolls. No other faction bonuses or buffs possible.
If you don’t like having friends, then you can truly make them disgusting. Apply a Mystic Shield, leave a Frostheart nearby and maybe use one of the many order wizards -1 to hit spells on their attacks. Watch your opponent seeth with rage as their death star mincer unit/ combo runs into a brick wall.
For full disgusting and totally munchkin tactics, add a cheap screen unit (Skinks, Glade Gaurd) in front of them at 1/2″ gap between the bases. Anything with a 1″ attack will churn up the screen, but then the PG can pile in or attack from distance with their 2″ attack. Not required and over doing the defence, except against maybe a fully buffed Witch Elf charge.
Pros & Cons
Fundamentally, the 4+ ward save is of course the obviously thing that is over the top too good and could be nerfed to 5+ to make them a bit more balanced. And the points drop for a big block of 30 is probably going to be temporary and revered in GHB2019.
But for me, the less obvious kicker is they are an elite attack profile with 2″ range attack on 25mm small bases. Most other 25mm base/ 2″ attack models are mediocre/ non-elite, but on the PG the damage output benefit becomes significant.
The Guard ultimately have no real weaknesses. They are points affordable in big blocks, move reasonably fast (for infantry), hit hard, die even harder and are unlikely to run away.
The kit is a bit fiddly, especially getting the arms into the right position. Make sure you do not mix the arms and body’s up, each body/cape had specific arms for it. Otherwise greenstuff needed.
Paint wise reasonably easy to paint to a tabletop standard.
$$$ wise they are quite expensive to get big blocks of.