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Why does everyone use Alters, but very few Great Eagle mounted characters are seen?
An eagle mounted lord seems at least the equal of an Alter lord in almost every way, and able to fill any of the standard Alter roles - they have superior mobility, the eagle offers a good amount of protection, and they get the additional eagle attacks in HtH... And all that at only 15 points extra... So why choose Alters instead...?
Larger base and a they lose 360 degree LOS. They also lose out in forests.
40K armies: Tyranids (2001), Space Wolves (2008), Sisters of Battle (2011)
Current Rep: 1337
And the Eagle doesn't actually offer that much protection, as it's an easy enough mount to kill. I would use an Eagle for a non HtH character who sweeps across flanks and then unleashes arrow gooness against the flanks of the enemy, not a patch in the HTH beast that is an Alter.
Alters have a surprising effect : an infantry model doesn't move 18" !?!
However I like using the leadership of my nobles. Alters can't be general :'(
Its very sad a caracter on a flying mount can't join units like warhawks, the noble become an easy targets.
The thing is, a mounted model only gets +1 to strength, while a model on foot gets +2. This allows the alter to get an incredibly rare strength six. combine this with a high number of attacks, 18 inch charge, and 360 degree LOS, you have a mobile killing machine.
Eagles are more mobile in terms of raw speed, but miss out on strength and wider LOS.
The appropriate build for an eagle-mounted character looks something like this:
Hail of Doom Arrow, Helm of the Hunt, Spear, Light Armor, Shield, Great Eagle.
Looks about the same as the Alter right? The difference lies in the number of attacks from the Noble, and it really is about the Strength that he can put out. People just can't get their heads around a Wood Elf moving 18" around the board with 5 WS7 Str6 attacks on the charge. With the Noble above, once you're off that eagle, (easy enough as it lacks a save of any kind) Your Noble is finished. Low strength attacks mean he can't hold his own in combat.
Sometimes though, an eagle noble fits better into someone's army list. Its about preference.
For a long time, I used two alters: a highborn and an alter. The first uses loren/bodkins combo. Being an alter gives him one extra shot per turn, or six over the course of a game if all he does is shoot. That's like having a seventh turn of shooting.
The noble has the HoDA/HotH combo. The two of them stay near one another. Their combined charge can wreak havoc on many enemy units. Give both great weapons and they have a combined 10 attacks at str 6 and ws 7 on the charge.
Lately, I've been using a scout noble for the HoDA and a highborn on an eagle because he's more survivable than the alter. Always being able to move 20 lets me keep him where I need his leadership or shooting (loren/bodkins again). It's also easier to keep him, as my general, alive for longer than with the alter list because I have to make a 2-wound model the general, like a singer or branchwraith.
Okay, fair enough, I'm convinced...!
On a related note, what models do you normally use for your Alters? The Lord with 2H weapon has the most appropriate equipment, but doesn't look particularly 'Alter'... The model with a bow and big horns on his helm looks a lot more appropriate, but doesn't have a 2H weapon... Do you use one of those models, convert something, or use something else altogether...?
I would suggest looking at some of the older WE range for inspiration, such as the "Beast Masters" from the original range if you want somthing that looks suitably wild. Alternatively, you could model a convincing Alter from models such as the original Korhil model, Eltharion with a head-swap, or paint a load of animalistic designs and tatoos on the existing Highborn with 2H weapon