Warhammer Wood Elf Strategy Part 1: Basic Army Selection

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Wood Elf Army Selection

Wood Elf Army Book CoverWelcome to the first part of a series on my favourite Warhammer Army: the Wood Elves. We’ll cover the building of an army, selection of characters, and tactics for getting the most out of your army. No doubt this series will also be useful to those playing against Wood Elves as well: know your enemy. In this first part, I will cover the selection of the Core, Special, and Rare troops that make up the Wood Elf army.

The Basics

Wood Elves are not an easy army to play. In many ways, they are considerably behind their High and Dark Elf cousins, with weaker magic, less armour, no heavy cavalry, no Bolt Throwers, and weaker special rules. Thus, it is extremely important to get your army composition right, because otherwise you have no hope.

The most important feature a Wood Elf army needs in versatility: you need units to take out Infantry, Cavalry, Monsters, and War Machines. Wood Elves don’t have the raw firepower to handle everything the same way. Thus, when building your army, make sure the boxes are all ticked. In each entry below, I’ve pointed out which unit types each Wood Elf unit is strong against.

You’ll note the words “Heavy Cavalry” appear quite frequently throughout this post: this is because Heavy Cavalry are one of the standard problems a Wood Elf army faces. It is often quite difficult for a Wood Elf army to take down multiple Heavy Cavalry units. We have a few tricks up out sleave, but there is only so much you can  do before you start praying to the dice gods.

Core

Glade Guard

Overview: Glade Guard are the staple archers of the Wood Elf army. They form a back line to the rest of the units, able to soften up targets before the Dryads and Wardancers engage, as well as take down dangerous flanking units like Pistoliers.

How to field: Most Wood Elf armies field at least 20, and often much more. It is contested as to whether it is best to have small 10-man units, or a big unit of 30. A big unit can benefit from a solid magic banner, such as the Banner of Eternal Flame, but is more vulnerable to War Machines and is less manoeuvrable. Champion is, I believe, mathematically a good purchase. Musician and Standard Bearer depend on unit size, scenario, and personal preference. Note that the Razor Standard (on a BSB) doesn’t work for shooting.

Strong Against: Infantry, Light Cavalry, Flyers

Weak Against: Heavy Cavalry, Chariots, War Machines

Recommended Against: All armies.

Scouts

Overview: Scouts, technically an upgrade of Glade Guard, are a cheap, Skirmishing, Scouting unit which can force Leadership tests for march blocking from turn one, take on War Machines and have a few opportunistic shots and lone Characters.

How to field: Scouts are very popular, but a small unit size is essential, usually 5 or 6. They are quite likely to die, so you need to keep the points to a minimum. Deploy them in an appropriate Scouting location near an enemy War Machine or lone Character if possible. Abuse their March-and-Shoot Skirmisher ability to generally annoy your opponent: you want the Scouts to draw more attention than they deserve. Another idea is a 5-man unit in your deployment zone for keeping a Spellweaver in, for protection from Shooting and Magic.

Strong Against: War Machines, lone Characters, your opponent’s sanity

Weak Against: Magic, special shooting (such as Tomb Kings’ always-hit-on-5s rule)

Recommended Against: All armies. Even against those who aren’t vulnerable to march blocking (eg: Dwarves) or have easy ways of taking them out (eg: Tomb Kings), Scouts are still useful, even if their use is just eating a hail of arrows instead of the Glade Guard.

Glade Riders

Overview: Glade Riders are pretty typical Fast Cavalry, with good shooting and lousy armour. They’ve suffered a lot from the changes in 8th Edition, particularly that you now need 10 to cancel ranks.

How to field: Glade Riders are used a lot less these days, but the idea is small unit size (5), minimum points investment for when they die. You want a Musician (because Fast Cavalry need to be able to Rally from a fled charge), but no Champion or Standard Bearer.  Glade Riders can hunt War Machines, annoy lone Characters, and provide emergency combat assistance if necessary, but they’re not so good at it. They’re can also try to take out other Fast Cavalry, light Flyers, and the like. Distracting units by fleeing charges can be useful, although less so that in previous editions.

Strong Against: War Machines, Fast Cavalry, Flyers, lone Characters

Weak Against: Shooting, Magic

Recommended Against: Bretonnians, Orcs & Goblins, Skaven, Empire, Warriors of Chaos. Only when the opponent fields War Machines. Not recommended for tournaments.

Dryads

Overview: Dryads are very powerful Skirmishing melee troops. The nerf to Fear in 8th Edition hurts, but they are still used frequently due to their excellent stats.

How to field: The consensus on Dryads is small unit size. The minimum (8) is most popular, but certainly don’t go above about 12. The small size keeps them manoeuvrable, and allows you to sacrifice them in front of bigger enemy units without worrying about the points too much. The Champion is too expensive.  Dryads should be fielded near the Glade Guard to engage approaching enemies and hopefully draw some Shooting. They are quite cheap and resilient so they can be used to tie up Heavy Cavalry and the like. The Branchnymph (Champion) upgrade is costly… but I’ve found that it supplies you with a way of tying up pesky Challenges that are getting in the way of your Heroes and Lords doing cool stuff.

Strong Against: Infantry, Shooting

Weak Against: Magic

Recommended Against: All armies.

Special

Eternal Guard

Overview: The one ‘normal’ ranked up unit in the Wood Elf army, Eternal Guard suffer for being a bit overpriced by comparison to their High and Dark Elf equivalents. They can be Core, but in most armies they’ll be Special since Highborn Generals are few and far between.

How to field: A nice solid unit of 30 or so is needed to fully take advantage of their stats and Stubbornness. A Battle Standard Bearer (usually in the unit with a magic banner) is a must. The unit should position itself somewhere in the centre, to receive a charge from something big that needs tying up, like Heavy Cavalry. Counter-charges should be arranged. The Razor Standard is very popular, giving them Armour Piercing.

Strong Against: Infantry, Cavalry

Weak Against: War Machines, Magic

Recommended Against: Bretonnians, Warriors of Chaos, Daemons of Chaos, Ogre Kingdoms, Beastmen, Vampire Counts, Lizardmen, Tomb Kings

Wardancers

Overview: Wardancers are a dangerous offensive unit with the defensive capabilities of a wet tissue. They suffer a bit from 8th Edition generally, although the can afford to receive charges now and are still one of the best damage-dealers in the Wood Elf army.

How to field: As with many other Wood Elf units, a small unit size is best for Wardancers. I tend to use around 8. The Champion is worth taking, because her extra attack is actually an extra chance at a Killing Blow when you really need it; the Musician, on the other hand, is basically useless, but the model rocks so I field her anyway. Do not field more than 2 units, they’ll just get in each others’ way.

Strong Against: Infantry, Heavy Cavalry

Weak Against: Magic, Massed Shooting, anything with Always Strikes First (especially High Elf Swordmasters), Monsters (or anything else big that is not vulnerable to Killing Blow)

Recommended Against: Bretonnians, Daemons of Chaos, Dark Elves, Dwarves, Lizardmen, Orcs and Goblins, Skaven, Empire, Vampire Counts, Warriors of Chaos

Warhawk Riders

Overview: Warhawk Riders are overpriced Flyers, designed for taking our War Machines and light units. They should only be taken if, for some reason, you can’t field Great Eagles: either you’ve maxed your Rare points on Waywatchers and Treemen, or you don’t own any Eagles.

How to field: Minimum unit size, no upgrades. Unfortunately, minimum unit size is still 3, which makes them very expensive. Place them on a flank, and try to get into a position first turn where they can charge a War Machine, and hopefully overrun into another one (or something else interesting). Note that whilst they do have Stomp, Stomp does not work against War Machine crew, because they are the War Machine Troop Type.

Strong Against: War Machines, Light Cavalry, lone Characters

Weak Against: Shooting, Magic

Recommended Against: Anyone with War Machines: Bretonnia, Dark Elves, Dwarves, High Elves, Orcs and Goblins, Skaven, Empire, Tomb Kings, Warriors of Chaos. (See note above, use Eagles if possible)

Wild Riders

Overview: Wild Riders are Medium Cavalry. They are designed to hit hard like Heavy Cavalry, but lack the survivability. 8th Edition has hit them hard, since they will suffer many attacks back after charging, and the enemy will usually not Break due to Steadfast. True Line of Sight makes them more vulnerable to shooting. They also suffer the same troubles as Glade Riders, as stated above. Wild Riders only really work now when they have plenty of time and space to manoeuvre before charging, so that you can have a nice combined multi-unit charge.

How to field: A unit of 10 is usually right: above that, they are simply too expensive, and below that they don’t hit hard enough. A Musician is essential (due to their special rules), a Champion is recommended (you need the extra attack), but a Standard is not usually a good idea. Wild Riders should be deployed on a flank and manoeuvred into a flank or rear charge.

Strong Against: Infantry, War Machines

Weak Against: Heavy Cavalry, Shooting, Magic

Recommended Against: Beastmen, Daemons of Chaos, Lizardmen, Ogre Kingdoms, Warriors of Chaos: armies with not much Shooting. Not recommended for tournaments.

Treekin

Overview: A new leader in 8th Edition, Treekin are now stapled to many Wood Elf army lists. They are Monstrous Infantry at their finest, with great stats, and excellent synergy with Life magic. The only disadvantage is the models are ugly and are very expensive to buy: many Wood Elf players make their own using Dryad parts or other methods.

How to field: A unit of 6 is optimal. More than that is overdoing it, and less tend to die a bit too fast: you want to be able to cast Regrowth on them (you want a level 4 Life Spellweaver). 6 also optimizes the number of attacks you get. A Battle Standard Bearer is highly recommended to make the most of their survivability. War Machine hunters will be required, since they go down fast to enough Cannon or Bolt Thrower shots. Treekin should be fielded in the centre. They can either be used defensively, to take down incoming attackers like Heavy Cavalry, or you can move them forward and use them as extremely effective shock troops.

Strong Against: Just about everything

Weak Against: Flaming attacks, War Machines, some Magic

Recommended Against: All armies.

Rare

Waywatchers

Overview: Waywatchers are extremely dangerous Scouts, and can help psych out your opponent. Whilst the FAQ has changed their deployment to be just like normal Scouts, their ability March then Killing Blow (for 25” total effective range) is terrifying.

How to field: One or two small units of 5 or 6 is best: if the enemy decides to Fireball them, you want to lose as few as possible. The Champion upgrade is completely unnecessary: +1 BS is silly when you’re already hitting on 2s almost all the time. Waywatchers should be placed in the best Scouting location possible, making sure they can shoot at Heavy Cavalry or something else vulnerable to Killing Blow (even a Rider on a Monster, like a Dragon, is an okay target). In a pinch, they can be used to take out War Machines, in which case they should Charge in.

Strong Against: Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Infantry, lone Characters, anything vulnerable to ranged Killing Blow, Shooting

Weak Against: Magic, special shooting (such as Tomb Kings’ always-hit-on-5s rule)

Recommended Against: Bretonnians, Dark Elves, Dwarves, High Elves, Lizardmen, Empire, Vampire Counts, Warriors of Chaos

Treeman

Overview: A resilient Monster, the Treeman can tie up hard-hitting enemies whilst Wardancers and other units perform counter-charges. With a Shooting attack, Stubbornness, and Tree Singing, the Treeman is a solid addition to any Wood Elf list.

How to field: A Treeman’s job is to tie up important units, particularly those that would otherwise cause problems, like Heavy Cavalry. A Battle Standard Bearer should stand nearby. If Eternal Guard are being fielded, they should stick with the Treeman to form a tough (and Stubborn) battle line. If War Machines are involved, the Treeman needs to either hide behind something until the War Machines are down, or get into combat as fast as possible. If Flaming Cannons are involved… the Treeman should just hide, since a single hit can kill it.

Strong Against: Infantry, Cavalry, Chariots, Monstrous Infantry

Weak Against: Flaming Attacks, Flaming Cannonballs, War Machines, Flaming Cannonballs, some Magic… did I mention Flaming Cannonballs?

Recommended Against: All armies except Dwarves because Flaming Cannonballs hurt too much.

Great Eagles

Overview: Great Eagles are the best War Machine hunters in the Wood Elf army. With the new percentage system, you can now take them in addition to Waywatchers and Treemen. Two Great Eagles are often taken.

How to field: Like all War Machine hunters, they should deploy somewhere where, after their first move, they can see their target, but preferably have cover against incoming shooting. Regardless, the most important factor is to get the Eagles into combat with the War Machines in turn 2. If they manage that and all the War Machines are taken down, they’ve done their job. They can spend the rest of the game picking at fleeing troops and lone characters, or can join up and take out some Archers or something. Note that Stomp does not work against War Machine crew, since they are the Way Machine troop type.

Strong Against: War Machines

Weak Against: Shooting, Magic

Recommended Against: Anyone with War Machines: Bretonnia, Dark Elves, Dwarves, High Elves, Orcs and Goblins, Skaven, Empire, Tomb Kings, Warriors of Chaos.

Other Considerations

The Blood and Glory scenario throws a bit of a spanner in the works, requiring banners. I personally refuse to play it, because Wood Elves are not designed for those kinds of battles, but if you have to (say, a tournament), then you’ll need to pander. A Battle Standard Bearer is a good start, and generally a couple of Standards on Glade Guard are your best bet. Some people like trying to put a Standard on Scouts or Glade Riders and running it around the table out of range of everything.

Some fancy tactics can get more out of weaker units than others: the “Sethayla” army, for example, uses Glade Riders and Warhawk Riders extensively: the army focuses on manoeuvrability, and tries to ignore all combat. However, most armies will find the general advice given to be pretty reliable.

Conclusion

The Wood Elf army is pretty down on its luck with 8th Edition. Many of their units suffer from being weaker or more expensive than the equivalents from other races. However, with solid army choices, and strong usage of Characters and tactics, they can be an extremely competitive army. Characters and tactics will be covered in Part 2 and Part 3, respectively.

Similar Posts:

Series NavigationWarhammer Wood Elf Strategy Part 3: Tactics
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About Duncan

Ellisthion first realised his love for RPGs with his first game of 1st Edition AD&D at age 10. Whilst he's branched out into other RPGs, he still has a soft spot for any and all variants of D&D. He also plays Warhammer Fantasy (poorly) and 40k (quite well), and way too many computer games. He prefers games with complex rules to learn and master, and favours high fantasy settings. He is currently undertaking the grueling task of running the 1st Ed AD&D Temple of Elemental Evil, in between extolling the virtues of D&D Next and boring everyone with mathematical analyses of his W40k Tau.
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  • http://www.diceofdoom.com/blog/author/rupertg RupertG

    Wow… That is very thorough… Would probably be quite useful for people taking on the Wood Elf armies as well I’d imagine… :)

  • http://www.diceofdoom.com/blog/author/rupertg RupertG

    Wow… That is very thorough… Would probably be quite useful for people taking on the Wood Elf armies as well I’d imagine… :)

  • erik

    Well, when comes part 2 and 3? I’m very interested in this article and waiting for part 2 and 3.

  • erik

    Well, when comes part 2 and 3? I’m very interested in this article and waiting for part 2 and 3.

  • http://diceofdoom.com/blog/author/ellisthion/ Ellisthion

    Part 2 should be up within a day or two.

    Glad to hear you like it!

  • http://diceofdoom.com/blog/author/ellisthion/ Ellisthion

    Part 2 should be up within a day or two.

    Glad to hear you like it!

  • Dark_Asrai

    Great article. I am just starting WE (just like me to start as 8th comes out and nerfs them to hell), I am holding iut hope for a new army book in the relatively near future (12mths), but am nit holding my breath.

    This guide is great to give somebody like me an idea of where my fav units currently stand (I generally build armies by fluff and models than WAAC lists).

    Cheers,
    DA

  • Dark_Asrai

    Great article. I am just starting WE (just like me to start as 8th comes out and nerfs them to hell), I am holding iut hope for a new army book in the relatively near future (12mths), but am nit holding my breath.

    This guide is great to give somebody like me an idea of where my fav units currently stand (I generally build armies by fluff and models than WAAC lists).

    Cheers,
    DA

  • erik

    Well, I like the article because I want to start with Wood elves, but can’t find a lot of tactica for wood elves in this new edition. So I watch this site every day now.

  • erik

    Well, I like the article because I want to start with Wood elves, but can’t find a lot of tactica for wood elves in this new edition. So I watch this site every day now.

  • http://diceofdoom.com/blog/author/ellisthion/ Ellisthion

    Yeah, there isn’t too much on Wood Elves. There have been a few White Dwarf articles over the years, and they had some articles on the Games Workshop website, but they’ve taken a lot of tactica articles down recently, probably due to the new edition.

  • http://diceofdoom.com/blog/author/ellisthion/ Ellisthion

    Yeah, there isn’t too much on Wood Elves. There have been a few White Dwarf articles over the years, and they had some articles on the Games Workshop website, but they’ve taken a lot of tactica articles down recently, probably due to the new edition.

  • erik

    Indeed, I follow the site Asrai, but all these tactica are for 7th edition. Well, write faster, I’m waiting for it :-)

  • erik

    Indeed, I follow the site Asrai, but all these tactica are for 7th edition. Well, write faster, I’m waiting for it :-)

  • Frank_castle123

    Dear Ellisthion,
    thanks for this awesome piece of work. I have one comment: I think that a BSB with the Razor Standard confers the armour piercing special rule to, e.g. Glade Guard because:

    p. 67
    If a model has a weapon with the armour piercing rule, only attacks made or shots fired with the weapon are armour piercing.

    p. 503
    Razor Standard
    Models in a unit with the Razor Standard have the armour piercing special rule.

    I field my 20+ Glade Guard with a BSB Razor Standard and the Aech-Springtide banner (stand&shoot even if within units move characteristic). This takes care of chariots and 5-unit heavy cav.
    Squirrel

    • Anonymous

      Sadly, there’s another bit in the AP rules:

      “Wounds caused in close combat by a model with this special rule (or who is attacking with a weapon that has this special rule) inflict a further -1 armour save modifier, in addition to those for Strength.”

      Since the Razor Standard bestows AP to the model, not to its weapons, the AP only applies in close combat.

      This has been discussed extensively on Asrai.org and the consensus is that the rules definitely mean that the Razor Standard AP does not apply to shooting attacks.