Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fighting Meta with Magic - Lores of the Slann

Part 1: Party on! (Single Slann)

Party Time

In many (possibly uncivilized and scary) parts of the world a Slann Mage Priest is just that. A Slann Mage Priest. Singular. I know right? Weird. J

All joking aside this choice makes all sorts of sense initially. There are direct parallels to Warriors of Chaos players getting all excited about what you can do when you have 600pts to play with on a Daemon Prince. As I pointed out to Ben Curry – this is exactly the situation with a Slann.

With no worries on points, you can have Rumination, loremaster, Soul of Stone, ethereal (and/or 2+ ward vs range), becalming, be a battle standard bearer (carrying your very own banner of discipline – or, better in my opinion, the +1 movement banner). You can take Cupped Hands of the Old Ones and make people rage quit – add in Banehead and Feedback Scroll and you have the potential to utterly dominate the game.

Three primary points to consider here though - 1) most of the above is reliant on comp not interfering with what you want to take (and trust me, comp writers do not like Lizardmen) 2) This frog will be worth north of 600pts if your opponent kills it (and there are plenty of things in the game that can and will kill a Slann) and 3) taking 2 (admittedly far less powerful) Slann gives you far more flexibility than the one Party Slann.

That being said, people do like running just the one – and honestly, anyone with a remote interest in the fluff should be ashamed of themselves for taking 2 in one army (I know I am!). And they can be very good.
Some of the most powerful and popular versions include:

Death Party Slann

One of the most feared wizards in the game, this chap has the potential to win games singlehandedly.
Always Ruminating and with a Soul of Stone he is able to fuel the dice hungry Lore of Death, whilst safely throwing big dice at game winning spells like Purple Sun. Depending on comp restrictions, Ethereal (or 2+ ward vs range), Banehead and Feedback scroll turn his power to a whole new level. Loremaster less key here – Becalming is often much better as you advance to get in range of the Death Snipes.
In uncomped warhammer the combination of Death lore attribute and Rumination can seemingly fuel two entire magic phases.

Biggest weaknesses:
1.       Armies that don’t care about Death Magic.
a.       Weak wizards have easy access to 2+ wards vs Death magic (Talisman of Preservation & Obsidian Lodestone the obvious combo). You can keep a whole gaggle of characters safe from Death magic this way (tip if facing it – try and snipe the character with the MR3 first).
b.      With the new FAQs most armies have fewer low ld high priority targets to bully with spirit leach (such as Terrorgheists)
c.       Armies with high initiative and good stats have little to fear from most spells – and Purple Sun’s much discussed awesomeness is rather dependent on the army you are facing.
2.       No notable combat buffs at all. One of the realities of Lizardmen is that their combat troops (namely Saurus, Temple Guard and SKrox units) are pretty terrible. Without magic buffs every other army out there has stuff that outfights them. The only real combat buff Death has is Soulblight – useful, but not enough (and an obvious dispel target)
3.       It’s a very bad choice if you want to run temple guard (not that I would generally ever recommend temple guard, but if that is what you want, Death is terrible for it).

Life Slann

The Old School Godfather of Warhammer.
In the first year or so of 8th edition, this puppy (spawn?) was everywhere. Often found in a unit of Temple Guard (TG) this Slann has the ability to create an extremely durable combat unit that can hold up most things in the game. Rumination and Loremaster are key here – Life is at its best when you have all the spells to choose from, and Rumination lets you 1 or 2 dice most of the spells. Life magic even provides miscast protection (though Cupped Hands is commonly seen here). Becalming is a nice-to-have to keep the unit safe from hostile magic too. The lore attribute heals the likes of salamanders (or stegadons) as you go, and the unit itself can grind against most things once at T8 and/or regenning. It also gives you the Bane of Warhammer ™ - Dwellers. All in all, an utterly solid centre to build around.

Why has it fallen out of favour (in the UK at least)? Mostly because of the rise of the Dual Slann – you want the life Slann to have several upgrades you can’t afford. With the rise of comp on characters being killed by Dwellers, that threat has also lessened. It also has some noticeable weaknesses:

Lord Roxytl paused in his meditation, realising there are some places a big fat fror really does not want to be....

1.       Life Slann in a Temple Guard unit are a formidable combat unit. Unfortunately, there are plenty of units out there that outfight them. The ever-present monstrous Cav can grind through (TG) at a horrendous rate (assuming your opponent does the correct thing and stops you buffing their toughness). Dedicated combat hammers – such as the VC Black Knight Bus will tear through the unit, as will the other early 8th edition powerhouse – Frenzied corsairs & Mindrazor. Now you have the added issue of “grenade” units that can get into you from range and cause mass damage – WoC Chimeras are classic example. Two of these into the unit and you are massively relying on magic to pull you through.

  • This unit is also a massive combat target. It is worth well in excess of 1000 vps if killed. Given the difficulty in getting to grips with a lizardmen army normally, this is a dangerous thing to be.
2.       This unit is also a massive target for incoming ranged damage. With their terrible initiative they are one Purple Sun or Pit away from no longer being a viable combat threat. Becalming helps to an extent, but a good player can keep their wizard out of 24” of the Slann and still hurt the unit. Skaven also have the ultimate target for the Dreaded 13th spell (and a warplighting cannon can also decimate the unit in the shooting phase).
3.       Life magic has limited ranged threat – some targets are not good targets for dwellers, and it is an expensive target at range. This impairs the amount of ranged threat it can bring to bear – allowing your opponent to largely ignore the Slann and TG and kill the rest of the army.
4.       This build is also highly immobile (by Lizardmen standards at least!) – making it ineffective at dealing with threats as the game moves from massive infantry hordes to more mobile elements.

Light Slann

A more recent addition to the Party Slann ranks.
The key here is to make use of the low casting values of the Lore of Light and transform the mediocre combat units in the Lizardmen book into world beating shock troops.
Often seen in a TG unit like its Life cousin, the Light Slann is even better operating by itself – using skink or saurus units to hide in whilst buffing all those around. You ideally want Rumination (there is a theme here!) and Loremaster to make the best use. Almost every spell in the deck can then be cast on 1 dice (plus the free one). This creates an unstoppable range of spells that an opponent cannot hope to stop all of.
Used in conjunction with Skrox units, Speed of Light and Phas will beat (and break due to breaking steadfast cheaply) most other combat units in the game – especially good against WS3 units such as Ogres. Light magic also gives the army a step up against opponents looking to compete in the shooting phase (such as the mirror match) – banishment and Shems are good at clearing out small missile units, and Phas is cheaply bubbled to massively hamper the opponent’s shooting. Net is a great cheap spell that if targeted on a wizard’s bunker, needs to be dispelled. The light buffs are also incredibly good on Scar Vets.
This build suffers slightly if there is a cap on “free” dice from rumination – though with an average roll plus the 2 free (which is the comp standard) you can get most spells you need off.

The weaknesses of this build are less garish than others, but they are very real none the less.
1.       It has no way of getting easy points against people running character-heavy lists. Whereas death can pick on wizards or even lords, Light magic’s damage output (at least for a single Slann) is limited to d6 or 2d6 hits. It can weaken some units, does not devastate most
2.       Struggles to get points vs chaff-light armies.
3.       Light lists also struggle to get points vs heavily armoured opponents. You may be able to buff up your combat units and take the combat to them, but that is inherently risky, and you are unlikely to have caused much damage in the early game. When in combat, Lizardmen combat units do not have access to S7 (which is what you want against the heaviest of armours), and only limited S6. In short, there is no guarantee that a Skrox unit will put a dent in a unit of Skull Crushers, for example.
4.       A problem also occurs when you are up against elite combat unit – the VC Knight Bus, for example, is not overly scared of Skrox even if WS 10. The rise of warriors has increased the number of opponents that do not need 6s to hit against units with the golden combo of Speed of Light and Phas. Combined with multiple attacks and decent armour and there is a decent chance of not winning the combats.
5.       A major weakness of this lore is the difficulty of getting out your opponents dispel scroll. The key to decisive combat is to get the scroll early, then force through the spell you need to turn a combat in your favour. This is hard to do against a good opponent when running a single Light Slann.

In summary, single Slanns have access to enormous power, but also highly exploitable weaknesses – not least of which is the need, for the most part, for the Lizardmen army to keep “within the bubble” of the General/BSB influence. This makes it harder to envelop the opposition. As a long time combat VC player, most single Slann builds are the type of lists you want to face. You are giving your opponent a clear target. An obvious threat to be dealt with as quickly as possible – but it by combat, magic or by shooting cannons at them every turn. Whether they are successful or not will depend on lists, ability and luck, but you are giving them the opportunity to do so.

These weaknesses are exactly what a Dual Slann Lizardmen list attempts to counter.

To be continued….


  1. Hey Raf, Nice review really liked it and made me miss my Lizards! Loving that you chose my poor attempt at photo-shop to depict your party slann! I wrote a pretty in depth review of all things Slann a year ago now (when I was much more of a noob so excuse the oft comical gaming errors!) covering some of the lores you haven't got to yet :) let me know your thoughts :)

  2. Hey man, glad you didnt mind me using it - think its perfect :)

    Think you've got a great blog- well worth a look. Am going to have another proper read - did read it originally :)

  3. No of course not, feel free to take what ever you like :)

    Cheers buddy, its been neglected of late but hopefully I'll get back into the swing of things when I start my next army and work calms down a bit!

    Really enjoying reading your blog, keep the good work up!