Sneak Peek at Upcoming Changes to the Sylvan Elves Army Book

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  • Hello community!

    It is time to bring you up to speed with what's happening with the Sylvan Elves.
    These past few months saw several versions of our Armybook, each time bringing a mixed bag of changes: sometimes they gave us nothing but despair, but sometimes they brought candies and joy. All of these changes reflect the combined effort of the Guys Below, or more specifically the Armybook Committee, Balancing Board and Rules Team. The ultimate goal is to balance the armies and to get rid of overpowered and imbalanced stuff. Behind the upcoming book stand several people with cojones who sacrificed so much of their time to bring this roller-coaster to the next checkpoint.

    Speaking of balance! At the current stage, Sylvan Elves are considered one of the top-tier armies. More precisely, there are two lists which outshine any other combinations from our book. Those are Tree spirits lists, and avoidance lists. A wise man once said: “The most important part of the sneak peek is not to show you that something has been changed, but why something has been changed” (looking at you mr. little man), so we are not going to present you every change made in upcoming version of our Armybook (and there are quite a few), but leave you to find them out when the book is released come March. Without further ado (and pointless blabbering, if I may add), here are the most important changes:

    1) The army-wide special rule has been revisited, in an effort to define what is crucial to the SE in terms of gameplay and identity. In the 9th age no race gets "freebies", so having a special rule that grants many bonuses could have reflected badly on the units, in terms of overall cost. We decided to drop the "Fight in Extra Ranks" part of the Forest Walker, and to move the Armour Piercing just to the units that need it. This way, archers and sentinels do not have to pay for a rule that they will probably not be using. The solution we've come up with also ensures the balance of combat characters, as it had been brought to our attention that the fact that they got AP(1) with magical weapons was making them slightly overpowered. Tree singing became cheaper and gained S5 at the expense of AP, and lost the attribute of the Path of Nature.

    2) Kindreds and Aspects of Nature got a face lift:
    • Bladedancer kindred had become overburdened with too many rules for just one pointy-ear, so in the new version it no longer provides amazing profile bonuses or a ward save, but instead creates a nice synergy with the unit of bladedancers it joins.
    • The second big change concerns the Wild Huntsmen kindred. These bad boys are back, boosted by free reform. This comes at an expense, since the kindred's cost has been upped to reflect the added versatility, while at the same time the Wild Huntsmen will be less heavily armored than before.
    • When talking about Aspects, this is where you’ll find changes regarding the Tree spirits lists we mentioned above. Fertile seeds became infertile and got ditched from the book. Toxic Spores became susceptible to the winds which shortened their range, and it seems Dryads decided to strike on Entwined Roots which became exclusive for Thicket Beasts only. All these were measures taken to tone down the power of certain aspects of the book (S5 core Dryads, I'm looking at you).
    3) The magic item section saw a lot of modifications, since it quickly became apparent that certain items were either too good and got used all the time or too situational to be of any use. The Bladedancer Drums became a lot more usable, the Spear of Cadaron got a different role that differentiates it from the Whirlwind blade, and a new entry came to replace the Ancient Brooch, whose cost post-balancing would have been prohibitive in our opinion. The Fire Blight Pendant will make some of you nostalgic fellows smile, at the expense of the enemy's strength.

    4) Our beloved Treefathers got hit by a nerfonball (TM). Dwarves swear it wasn’t theirs. Next in row to balance 4 Big-daddy-trees lists, it was decided to limit their presence on the field to max 3. It was a daunting task to confront these 4 big nasties at the same time; besides, they are the rarest of the all spirits, aren’t they? Avatar of Nature got a price increase to better reflect what it brings to the table, and Impaling Roots became optional.

    5) Dryad Matriarchs became more customizable, too. Now, the plain Matriarch costs as much as one eagle, but it doesn’t inspire hatred in other dryads nor it does cast any spells, unless you decide to upgrade her. Now every ability of the model is properly costed and in line with our balancing efforts, but you are not forced to get the whole package if you only want a combat forest spirit to give Hatred to your Dryads.

    6 ) In a Chess-like maneuver, Kestrel Knights and Sentinels swapped their places in Special and Rare.
    Kestrel Knights have received some love and we are hoping they will see some play in your armies, other than continuing to collect dust on your shelves. They’ve become cheaper and their charge can have a devastating effect, but got less resilient in a way. Sylvan Veterans will welcome this change, putting the Kestrels in their traditional spot. It is worth noting that the Forest Eagles were also moved to Rare, to make some space for their Kestrel cousins.

    7) The Blade Dancers changed their routine dances and got a new gig! Instead of the Dance of Thousand Cuts, which was admittedly too good in certain scenarios, now you can choose a new dance: Enemies won't be able to use parry against any one of your units while in base contact.

    8 ) The Forest Rangers were among the least-used units in the latest versions, and so we decided to give them a boost that would allow them to function better without the help of the General or the BSB. By giving them Immune to Psychology, these can now occupy a flank and hunt monsters without fear of failed Ld tests. Their cost has been streamlined with that of other Elven elites, which means that they are now considerably cheaper.

    9) Wild Huntsmen were also looked at from a balance perspective, and it was decided that Initiative 6 along with their damage output was too good against non-Elf characters and Elven elite. Their initiative went back to the original 5, but in return they gained the vanguard option, which should help get them in place for a game-winning charge and increase their survivability. In order to still give the SE players the ability to counter other Elven elite, these were also given the possibility to swap their Sylvan Lance for Sylvan Paired weapons, for a price.

    10) Our shooting section was deemed to be too good for its cost, and as a whole we tend to agree: nobody has any fun facing 45 poisoned sentinels and 20 pathfinders, and it was not our initial intention to give rise to such lists. The Sentinels have now been moved to Rare, to reflect their specialized archer status and force some hard choices on the Sylvan Elf player. The Hawthorne points were toned down further after much deliberation, by dropping the AP(1) part of their rule. While we know that most of you consider them necessary to deal with the monster mash lists that seem to be so prevalent nowadays, we are confident that those lists will be addressed with changes to other army books.

    And that’s it! Roughly. This is just a sneak peek, so take it as such. Now it is up to you. Take a seat on this roller-coaster and when the upcoming update hits, playtest them. Only that way you can help us make amends and point us in good and right direction. Until March, don’t worry and be happy… and make war with toy soldiers!

    Snapshot of the Review session:
  • SE_review_snapshot

  • Please keep in mind that the issues and proposals discussed in those recordings may not always reflect the latest rules update you will see when we finally release the armybook, but we hope it will give you nevertheless an interesting sneak peek

    5,571 times read

Comments 38

  • bugsbunny -

    Hei folks!

    Thank you for all the hard work in there!!!
    Just wanted to note 2 things that came to my mind while reading this well written and thoughtfully compiled preview.
    First of all I fear that INI 5 huntsmen will be stuck in the shelves when it comes to tournament builds, as they seem even more situational. Let's hope the mood for changes keeps being that way, if they stay clear of most tourney lists.
    Secondly I understand the reasons why sentinels have been moved to rare. Especially list buildingwise it seems a wise move to force choices on players. But I have to say, it seems rather odd to have 2 skirmishing archer units in rare...
    Anyway I am looking forward to the release and want to thank you for the work once more!

  • Gnomes2169 -

    Hopefully, a fully kitted Kestrel Knight will cost no more than 50 points here. Currently looking at this in my next army, and I love the mini, but it's just way to fragile and weak in the 0.11 book to field... looking forward to seeing what is done with them to make them better. Especially because they are moving to special instead, meaning they can be deployed without eating up points that are now for your Sentinels.

    Still think that Pathfinders need a LOT more love though. Since they are supposed to be (and I quote the ability) "master archers," why not give them a base BS of 5 and AP (1) on shooting attacks? Currently, their points cost clearly outweighs their usefulness, and the implied fluff just doesn't fit the stat block, so hopefully there is some way to swap them about to fix all of that.

    Treefathers being limited to 3 in an army means that we can use the 3 models that GW made for them back in 8th edition without any repeats. While this has NOTHING to do with balance... I see what you did there! :P

    Finally, I'm hoping to see some other special and rare shooters get Fey arrows. Or at least multiple shots in the case of low-model count/ short ranged units (like Kestrel knights or Briar Maidens). Yes this is already a shooty army, but also a very fragile one, and those small units that cannot soften up their enemies look like they will die upon impact, with hardly a squeak to their name. And since basically every other army is balanced firmly around getting into close combat and ending fragile shooters (like Briar maidens and, hey, Kestrel knights), units that can't shoot all that well are probably going to be deleted before paying back their points costs.

    Other than that, things look good! Dryads were honestly a little much for core with Str 5, so that nerf is perfectly understandable, thousand cuts was somewhat silly for blade dancers, and removing abilities while also reducing costs slightly (and offering those capabilities as optional ones, but at a higher price) tends to be a good way to balance out certain problem units. So good job on this writeup! Can't wait to see the actual book!

  • Archer -

    Obviously a lot of hard work has gone into this. Your efforts are very appreciated.

    I agree with much of what is said but I do have some concerns:

    1) As they are sentinals are overpowered...totally agreed. But, if sentinels are moved to rare i believe it is essential that one unit of core archers can skirmish. Skirmishing archers should not be exclusive to rare. To do otherwise is to de-characterize the wood elves list.
    2) Consider removing AP from poison and limiting sentinal units to ten or even eight models rather than moving them to rare? A lot of other armies have access to poison shoots after all. Is it counter intuitive to rely on nerfing monsters to ensure wood elves dont need lots of AP poison shoots? I'm not sure what's best I admit.
    3) AP on all wood elves was overkill but some units do need it to make them viable. For example huntsmen. Wood elves need to be able to deal with armour in some way other than pathfinders.
    4) Huntsmen have always been a glass cannon and they are expensive now and disappearing from many tournament lists. I appeal please do not make them unviable by reducing the armour save. They die easily for their cost. Is it better to nerf their attacks a little rather than their defence and bring the cost down a little; perhaps take frenzy off the mount. Getting vanguard back is great but can the kindred have this as well so characters can be in units?
    5) I'm looking forward to the kestrel knight rules. Another viable unit. Awesome!
    6) S5 dryads for 15 points seemed fair to me. If it is felt they were overpowered core why not move to to special if they have the upgrade. Don't forget they lose the upgrade if the character dies.
    7) Dryads have a big disadvantage in that they have very limited access to a musician and standard.

    Thank you very much for listening. This is very much my initial reaction so forgive me if I am mixed. I listened to the discussion and I was very impressed with the insight among the team. You are doing really great work guys! The hard work will pay off.

    • SmithF -

      Thank you for your comment.

      2) Our original position was to limit the model size of the unit. But it was deemed not enough, and the more I think of it the more I agree. 8th edition poisoned spamming didn't do the army any good in my opinion, and the recent lists of 45 poisoned shooters were certainly annoying for our opponents. The root of the problem is the high Armour Save and Toughness of Monsters, as well as their relatively low cost in 9th age. But having AP(1) on the Sentinels didn't just make them good against these targets, but rather made them the best all-around choice for Sylvan Shooting. This was clearly an internal balance issue that had to be fixed.

      It is the Balancing Board's job to make sure that monster-heavy lists still have weaknesses that can be exploited by every army book, and if the recent Sneak peeks are any indication they are on to it.

      3) Not to worry, our Sneak Peek clearly states (and I confirm) that the units that need it still get AP(1). ;)

      4) Wild Huntsmen will never go back to their 8th edition power level, I can assure you. They were downright broken for the price, and it's the reason why every list had some. All hard-hitting cavalry became more expensive with 9th age (perhaps with the exception of Vampire Knights), and so did the Wild Hunters. Frenzy is one of their weaknesses and doing away with it would not mean a price reduction in my opinion. The good thing with 9th age is that things are not set in stone for 5 years, as it was during the GW era. If we find that WH are not used, we'll fix them.

  • Mrmonkeybutt -

    Moved from special to rare because poison shooting was too powerful....oh and also nerfed the poison arrow. Poisoned or not S3 is still not as OP as its made to be. AP 1 is a big nerf...

  • ewar -

    Quite a mixed bag for me. Some stuff needed nerfing of course but I feel that this goes overboard in a number of key areas. We only had 2 competitive builds, the less extreme builds didn't compete on anything like that level. A lot of these nerfs will seriously reduce the overall power of these more 'normal' armies. Will hold judgement for the moment but not looking forward to it.

  • hewhorocks -

    An observation: All tree spirits lists got a hit in lords, core (strength 5 was a bit much though was crazy expensive) magic (Fertile seeds and tree-singing), Shooting, and Rares. Without further commenting on individual actions was the thought process of instituting these changes more focused on improving the cost/benefit ratio of individual units or rather one of reducing the effectiveness of the two named list arch-types (avoidance/ trees?)

    • SmithF -

      A bit of both, really.
      When balancing certain rules and abilities, the BB/RT take also into account the "worst case scenario". For example, one could say that 10 S5 Dryads are not an issue, but 20+ were. Same thing for treefathers: one or two is not the issue, but 4 with Nature magic healing them was too much. So making the Treefathers more expensive wouldn't solve the problem, in the way that limiting their number and possibility for Healing did.

      Time will tell if the measures were too radical: as you can probably tell by the snapshot, there was a healthy exchange of ideas but ultimately it is the Balancing Board's job to be objective about the power level of armies. Our job as ABC was to help treat the root of the problem while preserving the overall feel of the army.

  • Nathan Young -

    Good piece. Thanks for your hard work and in particular your emphasis on explaining changes. I'm a little concerned that if every army has all possible unit buffs as upgrades then we'll end up with very vanilla lists. Thank you again for all your efforts.

  • Digger -

    Interesting changes at least. I'm a little worried buffing the kestrell knights might be the wrong approach. Theyre certainly not bad, more likely outshined by auto-picks.

    anyways, im no tactical genius, interesting times are ahead :D

  • Theorox -

    Seems like very mild nerfs. I didn't have any experience with SE in 9th, but this seems like more tweaking than hitting with the nerfhammer. Ought to keep SE players happy.

  • Aemir -

    Any changes for Briar Maidens? In our topics it was stated several times of their disparity between price and output. They were stated as the worst shooting Sylvan choice in terms of internal balance.

    • Eldren -

      In the audio recording you can hear that they've been moved to Special.

    • SmithF -

      Remember that the audio recording represents a WiP.
      But Briar Maidens were looked at, that's all I'll say. ;)

  • Aemir -

    I wonder why during balance you hit units twice: 1) Sentinels moved to Rare 2) Sentinels lose AP. 1)Treefather Avatar got price hike 2) Treefather lose Impaling Roots. From kings to beggars. From table to stable. Balancing should be smooth, not exterminating.

    • tiny -

      Moving something from rare to special or the other way round is not a nerf per se and is only targeted towards internal balance and list building options. If something (no idea about the situation of sentinels in particular) is to strong 3 times does not mean it's external balance wise ok 2 times. So one is more of a nerf towards external balance whereas the other is more like a redesign for internal balance and options.

    • Aemir -

      Rare slot is max 2 units, which has also quite external consequences. This effect is similiar to implementing "One of a kind" rule for extrahitty units like Steam Tanks or Kadim Titans.

    • tiny -

      Sure, but it's still not the same...

    • ShinChan -

      Well, I think that is a pretty BIG nerf to sentinels. If you don't want to people deploy 30 of them, just increase their point cost after the first 5. Regular archer with poison, S3 and no AP in rare? Are you serious? Skinks have poison and for the point cost, they are far better. Take a look at Dread Elves and Highborn Elves scouts, they are far better than ours after this change.

      The other changes, they look fine for me. But Heath Riders and Briar Maidens need a boost, the first in their shooting options and the second ones in their magic/shooting.

  • Mace to the face -

    I agree that Str 5 Dryads was a bit much. Still like to see hawthorn points an upgrade for the core Heath Riders though. Eagerly awaiting the Kestrel Knight rules :) Only issue I have is not to downplay our shooting ability. We should be, after all, the best shooting army in the game given our low numbers and expensive cost. Keep up the good work guys I'm sure all us gamers appreciate the time and effort you are putting into improving and making the game possible, cheers

  • landonelf -

    Pretty happy with what has been revealed so far. S5 Dryads will be missed, but I can understand the need for the change. Currently they are an auto-include, and that just makes things less fun for everyone. Dryads are plently good at S4.

    The paragraph regarding the Treefathers is a bit confusing though. Is the limit of 3 the only nerf?

    My only complaint is the continued persecution of the Sentinels. If poison shooting spam is such a problem, then why do skinks and forest goblins get it for 1/3rd the price in core? I would legitimately prefer a 6pt core skink over a 15pt rare elf any day. Poison doesn't get more valuable with an elite statline. Heck, the skinks also get +1 to hit large targets AND ARMOR.

    Anyway, great job on the other 99%. Keep up the good work.

  • Eldren -

    This was an extremely well-written Sneak Peek. The only small flaw I could find is that you can hear from the audio recording of the Review session that the Briar Maidens have been moved to Special but this is not mentioned in the written content of the Sneak Peek.

  • Pellegrim -

    The changes sound very interesting and smart

  • DJWoodelf -

    1) this would also have been my proposals for slight army nerves, so it's perfect
    2) "S5 core Dryads, I'm looking at you"...could also have been my first thought when I read the last version of the army book. :) So it's perfect.
    3) OK
    4) comprehensible and fine
    5) perfect
    6) One less forest eagle is OK. It's getting narrow in the room of the rare. Forest Eagle, Treefather, Sylvan Sentinels, Pathfinders. Without a points drop pathfinders will only be seen in specialized armies, when AP(3) (e.g. against KoE), Holy Attacks (e.g. against Daemons) and magical attacks (e.g. against VC) are important. Being also in rare, sylvan sentinels and pathfinders should have been merged to one BS5 unit with flexibel arrow options. And as a compensation give Sylvan Archers a One of a kind skirmish upgrade.
    7) That's fine
    8.) Yes, they needed ItP back. In 8th, I loved using them against, Vampire Counts and Daemons
    9) Sounds right
    10) beloved shooty elves. It's getting hard. "gun-line-avoidance-mix" might be dead.

    So all in all I love the changes except for a big part of the the shooting part.
    No fey arrows for heath riders, no fey arrows for kestral knight, one almost auto-include arrow for sylvan archers, one auto-include arrow for sylvan sentinels, FOUR arrows for a unit (pathfinders) that won't be seen very often with so much competition in rare.
    We need a good shooting because against lots of armies we are just outnumbered massively.

    If I faught against Sylvan Elves, I would either field a gunline (if possible) or just outnumber them with masses of units.

  • FireFlyFox -

    glad that forest rangers might see the field lol

  • FireFlyFox -

    right on! it seems like many of the .11 books can monster mash really easily. like easy peasy. Pretty balanced measures all and all.

  • Marchosias -

    This is really a well written text. Good job! :)

  • orasann -

    Loving the changes so far, shuffling the army balances around without flat out nerfing anything (at least not too harshly). Can most certainly agree with taking the AP(1) off non combat troops, as funny as it was to buff sentinals with enchanted blades and bum rush a knight unit from out of a forest haha. The price reduction is just a plus, the removal of fier is hardly that big of a deal, our highborn cousins lost it on most units, so theres no parity issue there for keeping it on EVERYTHING, as was the case in 8th ed fluff. the only time you ever got to take advantage of it was when you were fighting in a forest, and to be perfectly honest if someone is fighting dryads, rangers or forest guard in a wood, you are 9 times out of 10 going to win by a landslide anyway

    I'm glad that you guys saw the sense in differentiating kestrals from eagles, as it was they just stepped all over each others roles, but with, one would assume devastating charge and -1 wound the kestrals seem to be far more suited to chaff hunting and as advance shock troopers. As it was I felt like I had no reason to field one 100 point utilty unit when I could have two 50 point eagles, regardless of saves two units are just flat out better then one for harassing. and on this vein I do like that the wild hunters can remain a fast moving unit, without having to be riding to battle in their skivvies.

    I can agree wholeheartedly with limiting treefather spam(and other monster mash for that matter), what is easily one of the most troublesome (and useful) monsters in the game shouldnt really be able to be duplicated 4 times over, imo even three is still a little high, but that's just me. ill still throw one or two in to my lists just to spite my local dwarf player (who still longs for a return of the days when they were unplayable due to D6x2 wounds dues to flaming cannons) hahaha.

    I am a little worried about the state of pathfinders in this edition however, if they are directly competing with poison sentinels (even if said sentinels lost AP1), I do think that moving sentinals to rare was the right call, it was much too easy to just replace all your ranked archers with them (which they outshot point for point nearly every single time), but I fear that it might make pathfinders a little redundant, as it is they are just more expensive sentinals with more choice of arrows, but none quite the same thoroughput (whether no ap1 changes this remains to be seen however), and just a +1BS to compensate, I would love to see them get something a little more to make them a true "wow" unit, even if it came with a one of a kind stipulation, even something simple like hard target (to emphasize their sneakiness compared to sentinels damage output), or even some sort of deployment altering rule (they are after all the ones "finding" the path ahead).

    the kindred and item changes are so and so, while being very nondescript its hard to judge, though I would love to know if our pathfinder lords got a little something to make them useful, and whether the shapeshifter was toned back a bit (seriously, I must be the only sylvan player in our entire group that doesn't field one in every game)

    if I say anything though, can I just lay a whole hearted thanks to the ABC for the change to rangers, easily my most beloved unit in my entire collection, it was a shame to see them so out of sorts. Hopefully the immune to psychology will encourage their use (and the price drop and removal of chedder cheese S5 dryads is a wholeheartedly welcome change) though far from useless in the the current edition, you can understand peoples apprehension at choosing between 15 point a time S5 dryads with a T4 and a 5++ Ward and immune to psy, or 14 point a time S5 ap1, T3, 5+ AS elves with only bodyguard to their name, and no potential for hatred.

    Keep up the great work guys, as much as people are stunned at the level of nerfs to some armies (cough, HEs, cough), its good to finally be able to point to other armies and say "see the sky isn't falling, everyones power level is coming down", the format of giving the reasoning rather then just the nitty gritty of nerfs contributed greatly to this, I must say, a far superior (and anti flame war friendly) way of sneaking a couple of glances in :P

    • Kudis -

      I really really dislike the loss of fight in extra rank.. hope that spirits atleast get to keep it. Would make all the sense. And.give the elves like, distraction first.combat or somethi.g

  • lawgnome -

    You guys are getting way better at writing these sneak peeks. Keep it up and there might not be any complaints at all. Unlikely, but anything is possible :P

    • tiny -

      Different authors... Sneak peeks are mainly written by the respective ABC/AS and only slidly revised by the ExB/AvB and Review-Team.

  • Mr Phat -

    From the perspective of armies with low initiative: huntsmen gaining vanguard is a gigantic buff.

    • Samo -

      From the perspective of armies with initiative 5+ : huntsmen gaining a simple plan for the sky, no return ticket.

    • ewar -

      Hhmmm... They are going to be next to useless against other elves now. Honestly, they are so easily dealt with at range that this nerf might make them a non choice for what is quite an expensive unit.

  • Mr.Gobbo -

    The Stunties definitely had something to do with the nerfonball (TM).

  • Iluvatar -

    The Guys Below That Have Cojones. Can we promote this to an official title on the forum? :D

    • ArchangelusM -

      You sir just made my day! :D

    • SmithF -

      You have @Juri to thank for this quote. The reasoning behind the text is partially mine, the character and heart is all his! :D