ETC 2016 - Athens : Sylvan Elf list commentary (or how I realized I was bringing a knife to a gunfight)

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  • ETC 2016 - Athens : Sylvan Elf list commentary (or how I realized I was bringing a knife to a gunfight)

    The fun thing about participating in a tournament as big as the ETC is that your own views of what works and what doesn’t are totally different than the ones of players from other countries. When you’ve spent as much time as an ABC member discussing units/combinations during the design process, it is always interesting to see how many things you missed in your evaluations.

    In today’s post we’ll be looking at the Sylvan Elf lists of the ETC 2016, the similarities, the differences and what surprised me from the ABC point of view.

    At first glance, there seem to be two approaches to the SE this year: Avoidance with Thicket Beast block and Close Combat MSU/Mixed arms.

    Starting with the former, playing it safe seems to be the motto here: Most of the lists went for a mobile firebase (Sentinels and Pathfinders maxed out) with long-ranged magic support by the Fire and White magic paths. A good deal of the avoidance lists have a Thicket Beast anchor unit, as well as a Shapeshifter prince with the Whirlwind blade to mop up survivors.

    However, I find that these lists have a fundamental flaw: the long-range output is not good enough to whittle down horde armies, and it is not sufficient to force the hand of an opponent going for a small win. I see Vampire Covenant being a real issue for the avoidance lists, especially now that Fire magic is almost ubiquitous and grants enough tools for dealing with the Sylvan Skirmishers.

    It all boils down to personal playstyle, team strategy and the pairings, though. The overall event rules don’t favor going for the big win, leading to the rise of Shooting-heavy lists that will not lose a lot of points easily. ( @blonde beer did an excellent video on the ETC list philosophy that I suggest you check out)

    The ABC design approach to the Sylvan Elf book was to go back to the roots of what makes Sylvan Elves special: their relationship with the forest, their maneuverability and guerilla tactics, the fact that they hit hard and fast in close combat. In this vision, avoidance was secondary and shooting was intended to be a support tool rather than the means to winning a game.

    For example, I find it much easier to invest small amounts of points in archers and have them take a wound or two off some of the more menacing enemies, allowing the combat part of the force to sweep in and kill them in one go. The battle line remains fluid and ever-moving, but it’s moving to get into position for close combat, not to avoid it.

    Which brings us to the second list paradigm, and one that I feel makes the most of the book’s potential: combined Elf/Tree lists, with shooting support (2-3 units) and a good mix of cheap small combat units and bigger anvils.

    What surprised me is the relatively low amount of Bladedancers, Wild Huntsmen and Kestrel Knights. The first two are the most iconic of all our units, and definitely part of the reason I play Sylvan Elves. Kestrels are an MSU general’s dream: fast, hard-hitting, easier to control than Wild Huntsmen, with good leadership that allows them to act independently. They die fast, but that’s part of playing the Sylvan Elves anyway. In all of the lists I wrote up, 2x3 Kestrels, 2x5 Wild Huntsmen and 2x7 bladedancers were the first things to include, but it doesn’t seem like many of the international players share my impression.

    What lacks from all of the lists are Treefathers, but that is a direct consequence of the cannon-heavy environment that is the ETC, as well as the option to get a 30-wound Steadfast block in the form of the Thicket Beasts. (In my humble opinion, too many points get sunk into that unit, I’ve found that 5-6 are more than enough) The second big loser was Sylvan line infantry (be it Forest Guard or Forest Rangers), which I also feel doesn’t do the units much justice: 15 Forest Rangers with command clock at 195 points, and they can definitely pull their weight when used correctly. As for Forest Guard, they keep surprising me in a positive manner every time I field them, and I’ve been doing so ever since I put the first layer of paint on those beautiful 6th edition metal models.

    TOP 3 Sylvan Elf lists:

    These are the lists that drew my attention for their originality, versatility and overall feel, in descending order.

    1)French team Sylvan Elves by @vvalor

    vvalor wrote:

    Dryad Matriarch, General Oaken Crown, 60
    Thicket Shepherd , BSB, Entwined Roots, Banner of Speed, 185

    Druid, Lvl 2, Path of Heavens, Dispel Scroll, 130

    Druid, Lvl 2, Path of Heavens, Ring of fire, Tome of arcane lore, 135

    15 Sylvan Archers, Standard, Musician, Black Arrows, gleaming icon, 215

    2x8 Dryads, Skirmisher, 110

    10 Sylvan Archers, MS, Black Arrows, 150

    5 Heath riders, elven cloak, S, 110

    2x7 Blade Dancers, 105

    2x3 Kestrel Knights, swap Longbow for Shield, light armour, Skirmishers, 153

    6 Thicket Beast, Entwined Roots Upgrade, FCG, 345

    1 Forest Eagle, 50

    2x9 Pathfinders, 192

    What can I say? The list does the same things as mine, only better. We’ve discussed Sylvan Elves with vvalor on UB many times, and it was by seeing his matches that I decided to give Kestrel Knights a go. This army has it all: good ranged potential, very decent magic, a safety net against bad rolls called Heavens magic, and a very powerful combat contingent with a lot of MSU elements.

    2)Polish team Sylvan Elves by @Laik

    Laik wrote:

    High Druid; L4; White Magic; Dispel Scroll; 250
    Druid; L2; Heavens;Tome of Arcane Lore 110

    Dryad Matriarch; General; L1; Wilderness; Oaken Crown; 80

    Dryad Matriarch; L1; Wilderness; Scarred Bark; 115

    Thicket Shepherd; Battle Standard; Amryl's Banner; Entwined Roots; 185

    8 Dryads; FCG; 110

    30 Dryads; FCG; 374

    15 Sylvan Archers; Standard; Musician; Gleaming Icon 155

    11 Blade Dancers; 165

    11 Blade Dancers; 165

    3 Kestrel Knights; Light Armour; Shield; 138

    3 Kestrel Knights; Light Armour; Shield; 138

    8 Thicket Beasts; FCG; Entwined Roots;465

    1 Forest Eagle; 50

    This list surprised me: medium/large combat units, next to no shooting, 9 spells out of which 3 can potentially buff the Strength of Blade Dancers and/or Dryads. For anyone who remembers what S5 ap1 dryads with Hatred can do in combat, this should be enough to gauge the threat level of Laik’s list. Most of the points are safely tucked away in tough units, with the weakest link being the mage bunker, for those who have the tools to threaten it. The pitfall here would be bad magic dice: a miscast when not expected could ruin the best laid plans of the SE general.

    But Laik is a seasoned ETC general, and I fully expect him to do very well in Athens.

    3)German team Sylvan Elves

    Thomas Moller wrote:

    Forest Prince: Elven Cloak, Light Armour, Potion of Strength, Dragonscale Helm, Obsidian Pebble, Whirlwind Blade, Shapeshifter, Shield, 298
    Druid: Dispel Scroll, Lvl 2, White Magic, 130

    Druid: Lvl 2, Path of White Magic, Tome of Arcane Lore, 110

    Dryad Matriarch: General, Lvl 2, Wilderness, Oaken Crown, 105

    Thicket Shepherd: BSB, Entwined Roots, Amryl´s Banner, 185

    8 Dryads: Skirmish, 110

    17 Sylvan Archer: Black Arrows, FCG, Gleaming Icon, 249

    19 Sylvan Archer: Black Arrows, FCG, 268

    5 Blade Dancers: 75

    3 Kestrel Knights: Shield, Light Armour, Skirmish, 153

    8 Thicket Beasts: FCG, Entwined Roots, 465

    Forest Eagles: 50

    10 Sylvan Sentinel: Hawthorn Point, Scout, 155

    10 Sylvan Sentinel: Hawthorn Point, 145
    While I’m no fan of shooty lists, you’ve got to give it to Thomas Moller: there is nothing out of place in his list, he has got enough shooting and magic to make it count, and the Thicket Beasts and Shapeshifter are there to make opponents think twice before engaging. Once you’ve read this shooty SE list, you’ve read them all: most of the other teams are bringing variations of this motto.

    SmithF's Sylvan Elves of horrible miscalculation

    All of the above lists feel a lot more fine-tuned than mine, and they probably are. The list selection process for me this year was: bring whatever you’re comfortable with. So I picked a list making use of MSU tactics, because that’s the way I’ve been playing for the past 10 years or so.

    Then I decided to test the units that the online SE community were reporting as weak: Briar Maidens, Forest Guard, Wild Huntsmen. And what do you know? They all fit my playstyle pretty well. After the TGH experience, I dropped the Shapeshifter from the list for two reasons: a) Originality b) I lost him in half my games, be it due to Ld, small arms fire, magic, horse attacks or straight-up bad decisions. While he’s good to have, I figured that he’ll be a dead weight in half my games, and a gamble in the other half.

    So I swapped him for a couple of Kestrel Units (because that’s how much he costs!!) and I’ve never looked back.

    SmithF wrote:

    Dryad Matriarch: General, Lv2, Wilderness, Oaken Crown, 105

    Thicket Shepherd, BSB , Flaming Standard, Entwined Roots,180

    Druid White Magic , level 2, Dispel Scroll, 130

    18 Sylvan Archers, Black Arrows Standard, Musician, 246

    28 Forest Guard: FCG, Gleaming Icon, 257

    8 Dryads: Skirmishers, 110

    5 Heath Riders: Elven Cloaks, Standard, 110

    5 Thicket Beasts: FCG, Entwined Roots, 285

    2x 7 Blade Dancers: 105

    2x 5 Wild Huntsmen: 145

    2x 3 Kestrel Knights: Skirmish, Light Armour, Swap Longbow for Shield, 153

    10 Briar Maidens: Champion, 270

    Is it optimal? Probably not. Will I have a blast playing with it? Definitely yes!

    After all, travelling to the ETC should be about having fun, playing with the models you like and having challenging games!

    Stay tuned for a painting update this afternoon!


    PS: if you're travelling to the ETC next week, be sure to come by and say hi. I'll be the guy in the belgian Red T-shirt with the name Pascal. (yes, you guessed it right: SmithF is not my real name :D )

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