Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Fighting Meta with Magic - Lores of the Slann

Part Two: It takes two to Party! (Dual Slann)

So, clearly single party frogs really do party in the jungle (which is indeed, massive…. Yes, I know….).

The negatives to the solitary path are, however, numerous. And opponents have an annoying habit of adapting to thwart the awesomeness that is a list built around a single uber character. It’s really annoying, but they rarely even apologise for it. It’s no fun at all if your opponents suddenly all have lists designed at killing an expensive frog (doubtlessly later served in a rich garlic sauce), effectively winning the game at a stroke.

And even if your opponents are proper gentlemen and do not go out of their way to inconvenience you, they can, in their thoughtless ignorance, bring a list that is all but immune to your magical charms. Be it an immune to panic list where all their characters are protected with high MR/Wards (forgetting to take into account you were bringing Death magic and this is going to be no fun at all), or with endless large blocks of heavily armoured combat monsters and characters who shrug off the awesomeness of a Light-buffed skink ninjas. Or you could, perfectly naturally, find yourself constantly falling asleep whilst using Life magic. These are all real dangers.

So, how to salvage fun out of the quagmire of uncertainty? The answer is simple - double down on frogs!

Sometimes even a Slann needs a friend...

Despite the misgivings of (interestingly often colonial) players who dismiss the concept citing issues with:

  • Cost: 2 Slann will set you back a minimum of 575 points (once one is a BSB)
  • Weak: In a 2400pt game the two Slann are limited to one Discipline each (one can have two if you want no items and no Slann BSB) and very few magic items
  • Inefficiency: With an average winds of magic dice you don’t have enough power to make use of the 8 spells (minimum) you have access to every turn.
  • Skinks: You could get 55 skinks for the cost of a Slann. Ok, no one makes this argument, but it’s probably the best one ;-)

Putting all these petty grumbles aside (let’s pretend for now that none of them are valid), the advantages of two Slann over the party variety are clear:

  • Cheaper: The loss of one Slann is not a crushing blow. Miscasts become less scary.
  • Sphere of influence: The lizardmen army works best within the 12” bubbles of Inspiring Presence or Hold Your Ground (they don’t normally need both). Two Slann allow you to split those responsibilities between the frogs, and allows the army to spread out.
  • Flexibility: As ever so subtly alluded to above, one Slann means committing to one magic lore, two allows you to do, well, two things. It gives you a better toolbox to deal with situations as they arise.

So… without any (further!) ado, what are the best options for the Dual Slann setup? Its like asking which is your favourite child – you may have one, but it’s considered rather impolite to actually say it out loud, so we should really look at the options:

A) Best of Both Worlds: Light/Death

This has, for the longest time during the journey of 8th edition WFB, been the go-to load out for the Dual Slann lizard list.

The synergies are clear. Lizardmen combat units are on the weak side of “meh” (the technical term for combat units with WS3/2 and no rerolls). With light magic even the overcosted bumbling dolt of the army, the Saurus Warrior, can become great (in the right circumstances). This is even truer (and was pretty damn true to begin with) of the Skrox units, as these not only bring S6, speed and immunity to stomp, but also extremely cheap steadfast-breaking. These two, when combined with light magic, are the bane of WS4 and lower. The ease of casting for Speed of Light and Pha’s Protection means that, if magically unopposed, it is very easy to make opponents need 6s to hit you.

As mentioned in Part 1, Light magic has significant weaknesses. It does not grab character/high value points at range, and struggles to draw out scrolls (making it hard to commit late game). Enter Death.

Death does one thing exceptionally well – draw out scrolls. The other thing it does decently (every three games or so) is kill characters. Oh, and there is always purple sun. And never, EVER, forget of the fun you can have with Doom and Darkness and Salamanders.

The general strategy when using both is then simple:

Early game Death picks on wizards/high value targets and draws out scroll/picks up points. Army engages at mid-range as normal, weakening the opposition’s combat blocks. Mid/late game, with your opponent coming at you chasing you mobile elements, you launch the counter attack – your combat blocks engage and light magic is used to smash apart the weakened opponents. In the crucial turn of combat Death magic is useful to draw out the first few dispel dice, before the ever so cheap speed of light, phas’s, etc are forced through.

Brutally simple.

This set up is in many ways the single easiest way to get by the usual Lizardmen issue of not being able to get the big wins, as it combines Death magic with the ability to engage in the mid/end game.

What now then, is it time to weep at having conquered all the known worlds?

Alas, no – this build does not work against everything, and some would say the meta changes of the last 8/6 months have gotten more and more unkind to it.

Death Magic. As awesome as it is in many ways, there are some drawbacks. The Spirit Leech FAQ recently released means that targets of the snipe can use Inspiring presence for their leadership. This is a massive defensive boost for some of the high priority targets for the spell – high value low leadership units such as the Terrorgheist. Add in the fact that the Death-averse can protect a lot of their points with MR and wards, and Death magic becomes even more inconsistent than ever before. Death magic is also age-inducingly unreliable.

Combat is a dangerous place. Something that is actually very good at fighting is going to be inconvenienced by Lizardmen combat units with Light buffs, not devastated. The rise of Warriors of Chaos and army-wide WS5 really limits its potential. It can still work, but becomes a massive gamble. And, if your opponent is also limiting the effectiveness of Death (see above) it makes it harder to draw out the scroll when you need to ahead of crucial combat phases.

Nowhere to hide. Committing 25% or so of your force into combat units leaves fewer places for your mighty and brave Slann to hide. Facing someone with a significant shooting and/or magic missile component to their force can leave you facing strong pressure on your frog farm. This is less the case if using Saurus instead of Skrox (you at least get a look out sir in Saurus), but that encourages you to use them as a bunker and not actually engage, undoing the whole point of this exercise.

Forcing the issue. This combo, to do what it is built to do, relies on committing to combat at some point. This is risky. Combat is the most devastating phase of the game, and it is here where a minor swing in luck can turn the result on its head. A shooting phase goes bad you don’t kill enough. A combat phase goes bad and you lose your 300pt combat unit, and potentially the game. The fact that combat for this army relies on utilising the ever-unreliable winds of magic makes this doubly risky.

A typical Death/Light list is often built along the lines of (very roughly, comp, style, points and meta dependant):

Slann – Light Magic, Focus of Mystery, Dispel Scroll
Slann – Death Magic, Focused Rumination, Battle Standard

Skink Priest – Cube of Darkness
Mounted Scar Veteran
Mounted Scar Veteran

24 Skinks + 3 Kroxigor
24 Skinks + 3 Kroxigor
14 Skinks
14 Skinks
10 Skink Skirmishers
10 Skink Skirmishers
10 Skink Skirmishers

5 Chameleons
5 Chameleons
3 Terradons
3 Terradons


To be continued.....

See also:


  1. Booyaka booyaka, big up to the junglist...

    Nice write up, have you considered the joy that is a combat(ish) lizardman list similar to the above but with a big old unit of 25+ saurus with a couple of ethereal slann and a scar vet tank making up the front 2 ranks?

    I've not tried it with ethereal slann yet but really fancy giving it a go. Also no mention for the much undersold iceshard blizard which gives you yet another low casting -1 to hit option for really building up that combat debuff.

    Sure you miss out on the joy of rumination but then us ETC types only get the 2 dice so given there are 3 channels and death magic kicking about is that really a big sacrifice?

    1. Love it! Nope, have tried the scar vet on foot and Beast magic goodness, but that's as ballsy as I've gone. I now know I have failed at warhammer - I must do this!

      I have an utterly irrational fear of purple sun (probably from having used it against saurus too much), so tend to stick clear of too many saurus. Think they are a great bunker/late game mop up/roadblock though - and can work with magic.

      Heavens is an incredibly underrated lore. The combat buffs are great, Iceshard giving both -1 to hit AND ld is priceless. It's great on a Slann too, great toolbox