Wood Elf Tactics: Magic Arrows and Core
To start my tactical treatise on the Wood Elf army book, I'll be focusing on the Core units of the army. These are the mandatory selections that must take up at least 25% of your army, so logically, it makes sense to take a look at them first. When you are considering a battle plan, or at least a strategy on how you'd like your army to play, picking the right core is going to be critical. The Wood Elf core consists of 4 very different units, with little to no overlap in their roles. Before we discuss anything about the Wood Elf book though, we should really talk about their magic archery.
Wood Elves get access to a selection of magic arrows, specifically for Glade Guard, Glade Riders, Deepwood Scouts and Glade Captains/Lords. They range from 3 to 5 points per model and give the following bonuses:
- Hagbane Tips - poisoned attacks.
- Trueflight Arrows - ignore to-hit penalties.
- Moonfire Shot - Flaming Attacks, +1 to-wound against Forces of Order.
- Starfire Shot - Flaming Attacks, +1 to-wound against Forces of Destruction.
- Swiftshiver Shards - Multiple Shots (2).
- Arcane Bodkins - -3 armour save.
Of the arrows, I find that the Hagbane Tips and Trueflight Arrows are the most universally useful, statistically the most potent, and they're also the least expensive. Moonfire/Starfire shots are interesting, and if your meta has a lot of regenerating monsters, I'd definitely take a unit of them, since a majority of Regenerating Monsters are Order of Destruction, that's the type of shot I'd stick with in a competitive list. Swiftshiver shards I feel turn most options in the book into more expensive versions of Dark Elf Darkshards, and for the cost, I'd rather take something else (plus an extra -1 to hit penalty is no fun). Arcane Bodkins initially jumped out at me, but as the most expensive arrow, it's hard to justify on most units in the army. It's important to note that all the shots, except Arcane Bodkins also have the Armour Piercing rule, so the Bodkins are only an additional -2.
Most likely these are the first unit you think of when you think of Wood Elves. At 12 points per model, we get a typical elf stat line with an armour piercing long bow. The have the Forest Stalker special rule, which all true Wood Elf units get, which allows them to fire in an extra rank while in woods. However, I think a common mistake will be placing them in woods to take advantage of this rule. Keep in mind that with volley, you're already firing with half of the models in third and subsequent ranks already, so if your unit of wood elves is 20 models strong (run 5x4) you're firing 15 shots out of the woods, or 18 shots in it. Ultimately the increase in firepower is fairly minimal and really you should only be concerned about deploying in woods if the position itself is advantageous, not just for a couple extra shots. When it comes to arrows, I'd say stick to Trueflight or Hagbane, or no magic arrows at all. Arcane Bodkins make Glade Guard almost as expensive as Waywatchers, but significantly less effective, so don't get sucked into overspending on them! Finally, if you're already meeting your min-core requirements, I would high suggest not taking any more Glade Guard, instead you can spend those points on Deepwood Scouts for only 1 point per model more.
My favorite core choice for the army, but now it's 5 points cheaper per model! Glade Riders are the Wood Elves standard Fast Cavalry. Very similar to the High Elf Ellryian Reavers, they come stock with an Asrai Longbow and Spear. New to this edition is the Ambush rule, which means they're not deployed at the beginning of the game, and every turn (starting on turn 2) you can roll to bring them on, with a roll of a 3+ they'll come on from any board edge you want, as if they had pursued an enemy off the board. This is a bit of a double edged sword really, on the one hand, it's less deployment drops, so better chance for the first turn, and it forces your opponent to consider that some fast cavalry might come on from behind and take out their warmachines. On the other hand, Wild Riders are not dependable anymore, since you can't control when they come on, and since you cannot march when you come on the table, it means that at best, they might be where you need them (if you need them to redirect) by turn 3. As for magic arrows, it's the same thing as Glade Guard, keep them cheap, don't buy horribly expensive arrows, because they're going to be missing the first half of the game anyhow. I normally wouldn't recommend filling up core entirely with Glade Riders, unless of coarse you're a bit bonkers like me and enjoy playing a 100% fast cavalry army.
No army is complete without spearmen! Eternal Guard are hands down the most expensive spearman in the game, at a whopping 12 points, but you do get a ton of rules for that cost. They're WS5 with ASF, Stubborn and Armour Piercing spears, and while in a wood, they're attacking in yet one more rank and re-rolling 1's to wound. Since they are so expensive and no more difficult to kill than any other spearman, you really need to keep them from getting shot to ribbons, a character with Magic Resistance should almost be compulsory. They're not my favorite unit in the book, but if you need an anvil and also need to fill up Core, you can't really go wrong. I recommend using them in units of 25, run 5-wide, mostly just to survive long enough for harder hitting troops (i.e. Wild Riders) to come along. If you intend on making an army with a core of Eternal Guard, I would highly recommend taking the Acorn of Ages on a Spellweaver so that you have as many woods as possible to take advantage of the Forest Stalker rule.
In a somewhat interesting position, Dryads do have an interesting role to fill. They're fairly expensive, but at the same time, quite survivable. I'm personally struggling to find a solid use for them, as for 11 points per model, they feel like they might come up a bit short. Similar to the Eternal Guard, they really want to be played as an anvil unit. They're T4 with a 6++ save, and can generate a good amount of magic attacks that will hit reliably at least in the first round of combat. I feel like they definitely need some magic support, either from Mind Razor or Wyssan's Wildform to push them over the edge to being a solid combat unit. If you want a Forest Spirit army, obviously these are going to be your choice, and similar to Eternal Guard, I'd recommend units of 25-30, but run 5-wide to minimize damage that you'll take and to hopefully keep Steadfast.
Like most armies, I feel that the Core in the Wood Elf book is out performed by units that are very similar out of Special and Rare. The two units in particular though that I think make strong core choices are Glade Riders and Glade Guard. You can't go wrong with more arrows, and Glade Riders are just a big wildcard that your opponent will have to deal with. That's not to say you can't use Eternal Guard in a list, or even Dryads, just if you do, you'll need to take special consideration about the kind of support you can give them with the rest of your army.