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I've been experimenting with competitive VC lists recently and have noticed some conundrums. Just for what it's worth I haven't been going all out cheese, so no Drakenhoff banner (yet).
Essential Magic Items: Book of Arkhan, Black Periapt, Helm of Commandment -- these are all items that it seems silly to leave out of a competitive list. One needs to fit them in somewhere. They are all super efficient for what they do.
Lord - In a way, this is the easiest slot. You can either go for a killy loadout or a magic loadout and take what you need. Usually a Vampire Lord seems to be the choice here, but I could see an argument for taking Mannfred. He's pretty beastly.
Heroes - Here is where things get complicated. I'm going to list the common archetypes that I often see and/or have experimented with:
- Magic Support - This hero type is usually fielded on foot and given Dark Acolyte, one of the Summon powers, and some support or defensive magic items. He's good at adding to the invocation spam, and can be really helpful if he manages to score Vanhels as well. I wonder sometimes about Dark Acolyte + Summon vs. Master of the Black Arts. DA + Summon gives you more spells, but these guys tend to mainly spam invocation. The +1 to cast is nice, but you often need to use invocation on Grave Guard/Black Knights/Corpse Cart/Characters/Varghulfs/Wraiths or other targets which won't give you +1. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be better to take one with DA/Summon as the support core summoner and one with MotBA to invoke spam on elites.
- Mobile Combat Support - The more I play this guy the more I like him. The basic requirement is the talisman of the lycni, but beyond that he's very customizable. My favorite setup is Battle Standard, Infinite Hatred, Walking Death, Flayed Hauberk, Talisman, and Sword of Battle. This gives you a very mobile combat threat with good killing power, respectable defense, and +2 static combat res. He breaks missile troops like nobody's business. The only things you really need to worry about are missile that ignore armor, although if you know you are going up against these you can choose the -2 to hit armor instead of the hauberk. I can also see setting this guy up to terrorbomb in some matchups.
- BSB - If not using a Lycni BSB, it seems common to run a Wight King with the Drakenhoff banner, although I could see running a Vampire with this too. It would be easy enough to use one of your Magic Support Vampires in this role.
- Dread Knight - A combat vampire set up in a unit of Black Knights. This is a powerful combat choice, but seems kinda like overkill to me.
- Necromancer - Usually on a corpse cart with either Balefire or Lodestone. Cheap magic support, plus he guarantees whatever Necromancy spell you want. Usually I pick Vanhels.
So the question becomes which do you choose? I've been going with a Lycni BSB, a Necromancer, and a Magic Support (DA/Summon) build, although I could easily see going for a BSB and two Magic Support. What do you all think about the two Magic Support vamps vs. one Vampire and one Necromancer? Two vampires are more expensive and give you more casting power, but at the cost of guaranteed Vanhels. The necromancer is more fragile and a weaker caster, but he's cheap and you can guarantee getting the spell you want.
Some other questions that I think are worth discussing:
Helm Of Command - Most people put this on their general, but I wonder if this might be suboptimal in some situations. Many comp systems penalize putting the helm on a lord rather heavily, and honestly in most situations WS6 vs WS7 does not matter. If you are using it in a difficult combat (IE: trying to tarpit an enemy elite unit), then you are mainly using it for the defensive benefit, in which case the enemy would need to be exactly WS7 for it to make any difference. Offensively, WS7 only gives you a boost over WS6 if your opponent is also WS6. Honestly, there aren't many WS6 or WS7 troops out there -- Chosen and Wardancers come to mind, but beyond that the pickins are slim. WS3-5 are common, and I suppose WS7 is better against WS3, but honestly there are very few threatening WS3 troops out there.
Skull Staff - Looks great on paper until you realize that spells fail on a roll of 2 no matter your bonuses. So when invoking a unit that you have Summon ____ on, you get no benefit from the staff. To me, this really subtracts from the appeal.
These are pretty good codifications of what the builds should look like. I tend to take a mixture of magic support and combat support. Invocations are extremely useful, and I like to have an abundance of power dice to throw at things.
I tend to never use Necromancers - I don't like their squishy nature. For 45 points more I add +2S, +1T, plus some WS/I/A, and an extra spell. Unless those 45 points are of utmost importance (One more Wraith?), Necromancers just don't really do it for me.
In reference to the Skull Staff - you may only be able to cast on a 3+ for all spells, but remember that the bonus makes your spells harder for your opponent to dispel. If your Lord takes a summon power, every Invocation that casts (read: 66%) will require two of his dispel dice to reliably stop it. If you roll a 5 or 6, it actually needs two dice. And don't forget that the Staff also adds +1 to your dispel rolls, making you more effective against caster armies as well.
The Helm is a very useful item, but I think most people don't really think about where it actually should go. It's an awkward 30 points, meaning that it can't be combined with a lot of 25 point items. I think that's why people put it on their lord. I think that you're correct, though - WS 6 is sufficient to deal with enough enemies that putting a different item on the lord would be more beneficial.
I would recommend a helm-bearer like this:
Avatar of Death/Summon
Helm of Command
Black Periapt/Enchanted Shield
He's got 2 power dice to fool around with, an armor save, and the helm.
Good points made here. Although I think when it comes to the helm it really depends on the army your running, I run a very elite army, with 2 grave guard units, each with a combat vamp, zombies watching the flanks, My lord in a ghoul bunker for safety, and a vargulf and wolves for speed. Since my two combat vamps are more often than not in combat putting the helm on them is almost a waist, and it doesn't make the helm cheaper if I put it on a ws 6 vamp rather than a ws 7 vamp.
My lord is all about support, she stays out of the fighting at all cost, ws 7 grave guard become amazing, and there are some ws 3 troops you have to watch out for, like saurus with spears, a unit of these guys will kill anything they hit, so making them hit on 5+ instead of 4+ saves a lot of grave guard, and if you need to tar pit a unit like these guys, well they go from hitting zombies on a 3+ to a 5+, meaning your zombies will hold out for a very long time against these guys.
@ Draconia -- I think the main benefit of a Necromancer is being able to guarantee that you get Vanhels. And yeah, Helm + Periapt is exactly the setup I was imagining.
@BustaCaps -- You are correct that putting the Helm on a combat vampire is a bad idea! Good call on Saurus though -- I hadn't though of those.
I normally give all of my vampires dark acolyte even if I have them focus on combat because that extra die allows him to heal him and the units around him. With so few points there are not that many other abilities that are very effective. With dark acolyte then you can only give him avatar of death or one of the summoning powers.
I also run DA on all my Vamp Hero's as that additional spell and PD is very useful.
I Prefer a Lvl 2 Vamp hero over necromancer, sure the necro can assure me a VHD but any of the spells in the vc magic are useful and my units benefit more by having a Vamp hero leading them.
Its rare that I run a Vamp hero that does not have DA and then its only cause he is a dread knight BSB. Give him walking death, black periapt or book of arkhan and put him in skeletons with a Warbanner for a +7 static.
There are plenty of troops and monsters with WS3 that you would prefer to hit you on 5s but really it boils down to where the Helm will fit. If im running my vamp hero's in the front lines it pretty pointless putting the helm on them thus a casting lord is usually a good fit.
Last edited by apbevan; October 9th, 2009 at 00:09.