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Active Magic Defense is a strategy which involves charging enemy casters with fast units in an effort to take them out early in the game, thus removing the need to spend points and character slots on casters. Generally speaking, this involves frontal charges which often result in taking losses and having to flee after the first round of combat -- while not necessarily a suicide charge, per se, the goal is to kill the mage with few illusions of actually winning the combat.
Typical units used for active magic defense: Wild Riders, Warhawk Riders, Dragon Riding Characters, Alters, and rarely Glade Riders
For Wild Riders and Warhawk Riders (as well as other close combat units such as Dryads and Wardancers), the conventional wisdom dictates that you shouldn't take a unit champion because this allows the mage to challenge and reduce the number of incoming attacks. For the purpose of active magic defense, this is clearly true: you don't want a champion. Honestly, I'm fairly sympathetic to this view particularly with regard to wardancers and dryads where the champion upgrade makes a relatively small difference. Going from 2 attacks to 3 or from 3 attacks to 4 is a lot smaller difference than going from 1 to 2.
I'm starting to wonder, however, how much one can actually count on these units for active magic defense. Wild Riders can muster 2 S5WS5 attacks and 2 S3WS3 attacks on the charge. Warhawk Riders can muster 4 S4WS4 attacks on the charge.
Against even the most pathetic of hero level mages -- WS3 T3, no saves of any kind -- Wild Riders are going to average 1.61 wounds and Warhawk Riders will average 1.78 wounds. This probably gives you like a 30-40% chance of killing the mage in the first round. If your unit actually survives to the second round without breaking, you'll probably kill the mage... but that is only likely if the mage is in a weak unit with little to not SCR.
Against tougher mages (daemon heralds, vampires, WoC mages, beastmen shamen, steg mounted skinks, slann, etc.) you have significantly reduced chances. Really, there are VERY few magic users out there that you can hope to kill in this fashion.
So I'm wondering if we should even bother using warhawks and wild riders for mage assassination at all...
And if we aren't using them for active magic defense, then should we reconsider the unit champion? For wild riders in particular adding an extra S5 attack is quite nice, and gives your unit a bit more punch into the flank of an infantry block. There are quite a few types of infantry out there that are very risky to charge into because you're likely to be giving away combat res from return attacks if you don't kill most or all of the enemies in base to base. Having a unit champion gives you a better shot at attacking this kind of target.
I like warhawk riders for this task mainly because of the hit and run tactic. Charge in, do a wound to the wizard, two if your lucky, and you still lose combat. This lets you fly away without pursuit, and if you roll average, most rank and file won't be able to reach you with a counter charge on there turn, so you can charge back in next turn to finish the job.
I have used a champ in the wild rider unit on occasion. An extra attack can't hurt. It is usually more about points than whether or not I want to take him. If the list works out in such a way that it is easy to include one, then I would go for it. Of course, if you have a noble or highborn in the unit, you would want a champ.
I am right 94% of the time, why worry about the other 3%.
To do this, dont we need a character to challenge their mage?, and if so, they will probably have a champrion to take the challenge instead? I played a Chaos Warriors army yesterday, he had a Lv4 Mage Lord, with a Champion and Hero character in the unit, and he hid this unit in a grp of chaos warriors Behind 2 units of Chaos Knights. The mage was mostly unreachable, and would have had 2 characters to take challenges for him. I did okay in dispelleing his magic till 5th round when he Gatewayed my highborn on Dragon, STR 11, and removed my W3 HB W6 Dragon from the table with 1 spell
I rly need to find a way to take out casters faster or nulify them, so lets carry on with this post, lets find something!
If you do not have a character in your unit, the enemy cannot challenge you. Hence, the two models in base to base with the enemy wizard direct their attacks against him and the rest of the models attack the unit. This is why champions in your units make it more difficult to kill mages.
Unfortunately, there isn't any good solution to the game situation you described other than kill the chaos knights, which is a lot easier said than done. I had the same thing happen to me in a game against chaos warriors -- he fielded a magic heavy list with his casters hiding in big units of chaos warriors. He didn't take any knights, but it didn't matter because nothing in the wood elf army could attack his warrior blocks. Hitting with any unit other than a treeman would just be giving away combat res. My magic defense (spellweaver with wand and scroll, scroll caddy, cluster branchie) held him back for almost the entire game until he lucked out and rolled irresistible force on Rot Glorious Rot and took out half my army with one spell.