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I have run mostly magic and shooting heavy DE lists so far, and with great success. But you always have to stay on the move to keep the game alive, so I am in for a more combat oriented kind of army.
For this, I would like to try out a cauldron of blood. It actually looks pretty good on paper, but it really puts me in a bit of a dilemma: How to setup special choices!
You only have four, and with a combat oriented army you would proberbly want both Black guard and several units of CoK's - not to mention mandatory shades to take out warmachines. Apart from that I often use shades as bunker for my sorceresses, leaving me with... ehm... -1 special choice, and that is before even considering the stubborn witch elves...!
So I wondered, now that I want the cauldron, which special choices are best in collaboration with it?
Witch Elves: 5+ ward save is good against shooting, but they are proberbly going to be screened anyway. Its good for taking charges though. Killing blow with 15+ attacks can be immense against knights, while +1 attack just amplifies the meatgrinder a slight bit. The biggest improvement is obviously stubborn. Together with a battle standard bearer they edge towards unbreakable.
Cold one Knights: CoKs are my top performers. They NEVER disappoint even in games where they fail stupidity. Imagine what a unit of 5 with no command can do with +1 attack on the charge. we are talking 8 wounds or more here. It is a 135 point regiment breaking through ranked regiments on frontal charge!
Shades: Shades can be a nasty suprice in close combat with great weapons and an additional attack or two hand weapons and killing blow.
Black Guard: The ward save can really cut losses to shooting, and both killing blow and extra attack are somewhat helpful. Apart from that they dont need much help to rip through enemies.
So I could take one of each, just for kicks? But is that the best option? And where do I put my sorceresses then? I am leaning towards cold one knights because of previous performances and a black guard. But it seems odd to take a cauldron and still leave the witches out... what do you think?
Dark Elves: Massacres: 14, Solid Victories: 2, Minor Victories: 0, Draws: 2, Minor Defeats: 0, Solid Defeats: 0, Massacred: 0
You are missing one Major issue!
The cauldron is about boosting units, that's for sure. But the goods doesn't stop here. This is just 50% of what it does.
It can allso boost the Right unit, in the Right place, at the Right time, with the Right type of support. And - it's unstopable!
That is golden, and according to me, it's main strength. Unless you run a Really shooting/magic heavy list, it's worth taking beacuse it can add the extra power right where and when you need it!
That being said, I'll try to answer your questions!
Hunting warmachines can be done with Harpies as well. They stryggle a little vs dwarves and our hated bretherend, but will often fullfill the task unless shot down.
That'll give the shades one less task to perform.
Take a few units of 5.
CoK are awesome, cheap and brutally effective. Just think about a Master BSB with Hydra banner in the unit AND the +1 A blessing... NOTHING stands after that!
Anyway. If you really need their speed, it might be worth taking two units, allthough one can preform very well indeed.
If you go for a more CC heavy list, you won't need their speed and hittingpower as much as you might do in a magic/shotty list sience you have more fighty infantry.
Allso, Dark Riders can do some of the jobs the CoK can do, especially with a blessing...
Black Guards are allways worth having! They don't require the cauldron to remain deadly effective, which spares the cauldrons attention somewhat atleast.
Though if they should Really be in trouble, you can allways give them a litle push...
Witches are Very situational. If you think you can keep them away from shooting, they will eat through allmost anything if you give them KB. Allso, if within 12" of the cauldron, they are stubborn and can re-roll breakes if you make your Death hag BSB.
Without the cauldron, they are pretty much rubbish. With it, they can actually be pretty effective (same goes for executioners). Unless shot down...
I suggest to try them out if you think you can keep them alive long enough.
A unit of shades with an Assassin can deliver a Very nasty surprise if blessed by the cauldron!
Focus familiar is a great way to run your sorceress close to the action, but out of the heat. Put her behind a stubborn ITP unit (BG?) and she's pretty damn safe.
Allso, they can wander around alone if you just plan a little ahead.
Or have them skip between units.
So, to sum it up: I'd say it depends on what type of army you are up against.
Though, nothing stops you from trying a few things for a couple of games, right? =)
If it moves, shoot it! If it doesn't move, shoot it anyway ... It might move later!
I would like to add that just about anything is more dangerous with a cauldron blessing. One of the more interesting things to give KB is a hydra, since the unit has 13 attacks. Also don't miss chance to give unlikely targets blessings, if the situation requires it. I gave my RxB warriors the KB blessing, right when they charged into a flank of a unit of chaos knights that had gotten stuck on the flank of my blackguard (BG don't lose many models in that situation, since I run them wide, but they really don't kill 1+ models very well) 2 dead knights later, and it was looking bad for chaos, they ended up losing and actually fled. That is an extreme example, but when DE civilians can take down full blown nurgle knights...
As for the special choices I make when taking a cauldron list: 12-18 black guard(various command, but always ASF banner), 5 CoKs no command, 12-18 witches (Banner of murder), and 5 shades (usually with rending star assassin). I only use 1 CoK unit, since they fulfill a similar role that hydra(s) do.
The mentioned hydra banner CoK unit is as good as stated, but it is going to be too much of a target for armies that can focus on tough units really well (like empire and skaven war machines, or a big magic phase) The only thing I have run it into and bounced off of is a full block of plague bearers with all the trimmings. Even then it is a pretty good chance it can blow through the block. A bit of a gimmick unit, just to show off some of the extreme things you can do with the army. I think if you run them 6 wide, you end up with 32 attacks, 20 with lance, 12 cold one bits.
My version of extreme cheese is a block of witch elves, with a death hag BSB holding the hydra banner. Hag upgrade, assassin in unit, and BSB all have rune of khaine. Give them either of the offensive blessings and watch their targets go down in a spray of gore. Running them 7 wide with extra attack you get the following: 7+d3 death hag attacks at WS6 S4, 6+d3 Assassin attacks that ASF at WS 9 at S4, and 26+d3 WS 4 attacks. So that is a potential max of 48 attacks, all with poison and hatred. You don't get that many dice in one attack very often even in 40k, I think it is unheard of in 7ed fantasy. If you go with the KB blessing instead, you lose 7 attacks, but gain KB. I can't for the life of me see anything other than a ASF unit do well against that. Even then they have to avoid getting killed by the assassin who is probably faster, and there is a champ/chump to take the challenge if someone gives it. I guess it depends on what you are fighting. The problem with this is you can only pull it off once in a play group, since it is rather obvious how to counter it once people know what to look for: shoot it to death or bait it. It is 400+ points in the unit, and a 200 point war machine character supporting it. So it is a rather large points liability, in addition to taking up a special and 2 hero slots.
The lack of armor on witches isn't important, since most shooting that is important is going to blast though the best armor foot DE use (gunpowder or other S4 AP shooting makes the usual 5+ armor worthless, and the decent save of the corsairs into a 6+ jank save) The people who bring normal S3 bows take so many that nothing in the DE foot list can take it, or they don't take enough to do more than take a rank bonus off here and there. Things a khaine army doesn't worry about, why run down the enemy with SCR, when you can just murder him?