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Playing Cavalry Oriented Lists in 7th Edition

Another Tactica DRAFT. Cavalry Oriented Lists

by Captain Sarathai

(Editor: This is a great discussion on getting the 6th edition favorite High Elves All Cav Tactica to work in the new 7th Ed book. While not a perfect army choice it is still viable. This write up is still a draft but it is pretty close if you ask me.)

The old elf sat atop his horse and hefted his lance. Looking over the army which he was fighting alongside, he saw ranks of spears. Intermingled between them lay a patchwork of their more elite troops. White Lions and Swordmasters; wielding their great-weapons with wildly different styles. Behind them stood the archers, repeater bolt throwers, and there, glimmering like a small fire, was the rallying point of his own comrades. A small regiment of cavalry. Surely they were looking at all of these ground-borne warriors and wondering, “Why?” Surely they were reminiscing on the days when the field was open, filled only with the thunder of hooves and the crash of lance-on-bone.

I know that several of us are older players. Many of the tacticas have been written for new, up coming High Elf players. Unfortunately, the young-bloods have problems that we may have overcome long ago. Sadly though, we have our own problems, and the first and most common problem is that we have A LOT of cavalry. Probably a whole army of it. And now that’s gone. So, how do we adapt? Either we toss out our cavalry and buy a lot of infantry, or we learn to fight with cavalry.

Let me tell you- this army choice is not the best. It may be, but it’s not balanced. However, it is possible to “get by” with some success, using a cavalry army. Elven cavalry is still just as tough as it used to be. Here are our major problems in the new book:

1) NO MORE CORE CAVALRY!! This is a killer. It’s why you’re here isn’t it? To learn how to deal with our precious Silver Helms becoming a special choice. We now HAVE to take some type of troops choice.

2) Expense: our cavalry was never cheap. Now, we’re looking at some of the most expensive cavalry in the game, aside from Chaos knights. This is not without reason, for we do have some the BEST cavalry in the game. But when we’re spending points on core, and then looking to buy our cavalry, our armies are going to be very expensive.

3) Priority Shift: sadly, GW is pushing the infantry army. This means that our cavalry probably won’t be getting too much love. Plastic DPs? Doubtful. Redone Silvers? Doubtful. This means that anyone looking to get into this style of army late is going to be paying out the nose. Don’t let it discourage you.

So, with the drawbacks, why would any of you want to play this type of army? Firstly, as I already said- some of us may be stuck playing this army. Secondly, some of you might like the fluffy idea of an army of Caledor or a Noble’s army or some type of crusade. Lastly, some of you may be drawn to a faster playing style and more direct approach to fighting the enemy.
The army itself is very rewarding, just as tactically demanding as any of the other elven armies, perhaps even more so, because you are essentially fighting the foe with fewer points than he is using against you. Now, with the advent of the new infantry, cavalry is being pushed aside, and the cavalry army will be one of the rarer variations of the elven list. So, without further adieu, I will introduce, and likely reintroduce you to our list choices. Understand, that I present only the Core choices, and the Cavalry and Rare choices, because I personally do not include elite infantry, and I feel that it has no place in a cavalry force. If you wish to add it, there are several articles floating around the board discussing the tactical advantages and disadvantages to each elite unit. For now however; I am assuming that you are attempting to run a purely cavalry list.

Our core choices are mandatory, and they are footsloggers. We need to understand how to make the best of this situation. As a note: we should rarely if ever worry about command elements for our core choices- no champs, standards, or musicians. They will not be needed.

Spearmen: our spears are the backbone of most armies, and will serve you just fine in the cavalry army. They are our cheapest choice, so a player could choose to take a utilitarian route and field minimal sized units of spears in order to save points for other units. This may pass sometimes, however, I feel that if you are going to include either spears or LSG, field them in units large enough to actually fight and hold a combat. Otherwise, it truly is a waste of your points on a unit that will quickly become a liability.
Final ruling: This unit is cheap, however, it’s the least likely to earn back it’s points in any situation but a defensive tactic. Leave them at home.

Archers: these are the second most expensive troops in terms of cost. However, they are the most beneficial to the cavalry army. Offering a 30in range allows our archers to be combat-effective even while before our cavalry draw blood. Small units of 10 would be my choice, since you really do not want many of them, and while their shooting is better than having spears standing and doing nothing, it is not as effective as our riders. However, it is great for eliminating screens, scouts, and light cavalry that might slow down our riders.
Final ruling: Archers have a long effective range. They are the most likely to earn back their points, making them a more expensive, but most economical choice. Always include at least one unit of archers.

Lothern Seaguard: I am a fan of the LSGs, as any forum member will know. However, they have a very limited role in the cavalry army. They are the most expensive core unit. They NEED to be given shields, so that ups their price even more. Certainly, they do have bows, and they have the ability to fight in three ranks. While they may be better than spears, they do not match archers. Your LSG have a short range, and within 1 turn the cavalry will have charged past them. They are great defenders, but cavalry armies work on aggression and offensive moves. There are times when you need a good, solid defensive choice, without using your Special slots. That is when you should include LSG. I find that units of 18 or 21 work nicely, allowing three wide ranks with plenty of stand-and-shoot ability. But this is not a seagaurd tactica.
Final ruling: LSG are excellent, but too expensive for general use in a Cavalry list. If you need a good static defense, or you expect to be charged in your own deployment zone, this unit may be better than archers. However, I would typically steer clear of including these models in your list.

We have 3 true “cavalry” choices with our army. We also have 2 chariot choices. All of them are special and therefore they are competing for space in our lists. It is good to know what each unit can do, so that we get the most from these limits.

Silver Helms: The silver helms used to form the backbone of the All Cavalry armies. However, they have been moved to special, have gained nothing but ASF, and have not changed points. They come pre-equipped, as heavy cavalry, and they are great. However, for just 9pts more you can get Dragon Princes, who are far more effective. This means that Silver Helms are not cheap enough to be a ‘throwaway’ cavalry unit, but not good enough to make them an effective use of points. Silver Helm units make good add-ins, for those situations when you come up just a few points short. It is better to have a small unit of SH among your knights, than have larger units of knights.
Final ruling: These guys were once very good, and we probably have alot of their models sitting around. I would be looking to convert them to DPs however, since the DP is the more efficient choice. Try not to include these guys in your list, unless- as stated- you need fillers

Dragon Princes: Wow. Dragon Princes are still very expensive, but they have seen a great deal of change since their previous stats. They are straightforward heavy cav. With 2 attacks each, ASF, and elevated leadership, these knights are replacing Silver Helms as the dominant cavalry on the field, especially since they are no longer 0-1. They maintain the ability to take magic banners, as well as 25pts of magic items for their champion. Beware though; this can be a pricey trap to fall into. With ASF and a lance, there’s really not much to give your champion. However, the banner is a good choice. If you intend to have any type of magic in your list, one unit should have the Banner of Sorcery. Beyond that, the War Banner is an excellent choice. Champions can take small gimmick items, perhaps like the Skeinsliver and other ‘buffing’ items. I tend to field them in units of 7. This is large for the typical “MSU” (multiple small unit) strategy, however, it give a frontage that is just long enough to get maximum attacks along most enemy fronts. That makes a devastating 14S5 attacks and 7S3 attacks on the charge. DPs should always be taken over Silver Helms.
Final ruling: these are our best bet for cavalry lists. Dps should always be chosen over Silver Helms, and should form the backbone of our cavalry lists. Start looking around for ways to convert all those old SH into new DPs, and your army will be golden!

Ellyrion Reavers: again, Reavers have not changed. They are still fast cavalry, and have the ability to take spears or bows, or both. This makes them very flexible. Many players assume the fast cavalry is for warmachine hunting. Actually, we have Eagles for that. Our fast cavalry is best for flank-charging, running down units which disengage, and eliminating pesky skirmishers and screens. To this end, it is best to just save your points and leave them with spears. Remember, as fast cavalry, they can rally and move the next turn. So, if you don’t wish to be in a fight, just ditch out. The only command element you really need is possibly a banner and a musician. This will make those rally tests easier, giving you a more reliable fast cavalry unit.
Final ruling: this unit has it’s place, but remember, it competes for space with the DPs. If you know that you are fighting a list that has the ability to field screens, skirmishes, fast cav, or is just very manueverable- go ahead make use of the Reavers. If you know that the enemy will not/can not utilize those elements, leave the Reavers at home.

Tiranoc Chariots: Most of us have 1 or 2 of these lying around. This tactica is a CAVALRY tactica, not a chariot one. So, I will not be discussing all-chariot forces. Chariots do have a space in cavalry lists though. They are great hard-hitting choices, and make a great second-wave for those combats that don’t resolve after the initial charge of the knights. Unfortunately, deployment is everything for chariots, since they cannot march. They will quickly be outpaced by your cavalry. In addition, they lack any type of survivability. A single cannonball will destroy a chariot; a large monster will do the same. Regular archers can be a threat, as our chariots are neither tough nor resilient. Sometimes it is good to have chariots. Against Orks and Goblins they are great, against any enemy that you know will not be shooting them, or fielding many ‘high strength’ attacks, you will do just fine. Against any other type of foe however, you can count on your chariots to be shot/smashed to splinters.
Final ruling: This unit should really only be added as an after thought. With the hitting power of our DPs, there’s really no need for a slow moving chariot. However, a single chariot will be cheaper than anything else we can field, so it’s good for filling gaps. Generally a unit that is best left at home.

Lion Chariots: I derisively call these chariots “kitty karts”. Their effectiveness is one of GW’s largest gimmicks. For just under the price of a cavalry unit, you get a chariot with all of the negative effects of the Tiranoc Chariot above. Sure, this one has the ability to cause fear, and the steeds and riders have more attacks/better strength. But, you get the D6 S5 impacts, 4S5 lions, and 2S5 riders attacking. You could have 14S5 attacks and 7S3 attacks with a unit of Dragon Princes for just a little more. Or you could have almost 2 tiranoc chariots. Finally, the WL chariot is SLOW. It is bad enough that chartiots are not able to march, but with M8, these units will be left in the dust nearly every time.
Final ruling: I look down on these chariots as pure rubbish. Perhaps some of you might find a place for them as heavy line breakers, but really, you are playing a cavalry list- you don’t need such a fragile, slow moving unit when DPs hit just as hard.

our rare choices are still at 2 possibilities. I leave the RBTs in for a reason. With so many rare choices, and nothing to really use them on, it’s best to take only what you need and move on.

Eagles: Remember how I said that Reavers shouldn’t be warmachine hunters? It’s because eagles are much better at it. They are a 50pt/model choice. They can fly over enemy lines, get across the field in about 2 turns, and are strong enough in combat to kill lone mages and all but the toughest warmachine crews. For any other application though, they aren’t much good. I usually take either 3 for use against shooters, or none at all. As cavalry, there’s really no need for us to take march blockers, and that is a secondary job for your Reavers anyways, so the eagles would just be excessive.
Final Ruling: a good unit. With the cost of RBts and Eagles combined, you probably won’t be filling out your Rare choices, so take 2 of these against most armies. Add 1 if you know conditions will be good, take one out if you think you might not need them at all. Obviously, if you know you won’t be needing them for warmachine/mage hunting, just leave them at home

I actually fielded RBTs even before we had to take foot soldiers. RBTs are good because they can force an enemy out of a defensive stance by threatening to shoot him to death. In a magic-heavy list, RBTs may be replaced to aggressive use of magic, but when you consider their cost, RBTs are the better choice for pulling the enemy to you. They are also great fire-support for your knights, offering the ability to clear skirmishers, cavalry, and screens far faster than archers can. In addition, they have enough shots/damage capability to seriously deplete enemy units before the charge. Think of a “pre-dawn bombardment”. That’s what these are for.
Final Ruling: always take 1 or 2 of these. They cost about the same as a unit of archers, cheaper actually, and they are more likely to do damage. They can nullify threats to your cavalry advance, soften hard units, or drive the enemy out from their deployment zone and into a range where you can strike them more effectively.

I am not including any notes on HOW to assemble your characters. Obviously they should all be mounted. Magic is of course a player’s choice. Going mage-heavy though, is the most expensive use of characters and will take away resources for more cavalry strike power. Remember, you can always just go for the minimum and include some scroll-caddies. Combat Characters are cheap, but with the hitting power we already have, we don’t need any excessive characters. Mounted, with a good save and perhaps a great weapon or magic weapon would be good. Use of a BSB is questionable though- since your army is fast and the majority of it will be spread out across the field. Your DPs have a great leadership on their own, so there’s no real demand for a BSB unless perhaps to get the Battle Banner into a Dragon Prince unit.

Now that we have the unit strengths, and the basic pitfalls of a Cavalry list, it’s time to talk about how to cover those weaknesses. There are some major points that apply to any cavalry strategy, and I will cover those first.

1) Cavalry is a once-and-done thing. Like the lances that they wield, cavalry is a one-shot unit. They ride directly into the enemy, and try to break through him. Once they are broken through though, you lose time by having to turn around and charge back through. Obviously, the MSU armies who deploy their units in single lines will lose very little time, since they could just make an about-face and still get some moving in. However, it is even better to line up your charges to take in as many enemy units as possible. Look to over-run into fresh enemies, to pursue into fresh foes, force enemy troops through their own comrades. You want that lance to strike the very heart of the foe, and sow as much havoc and discord as you can, with one fell strike.

2) Cavalry can’t fight it out. I’m not saying they can’t hit. Cavalry are amazing on the charge, and then they completely go away. Without high unit strength, a rank bonus, or a high number of powerful attacks, the 2nd round of combat will be devastating for cavalry. In fact, cavalry will usually break and flee after a bad charge. They are far more likely to lose combat than a sturdy infantry unit. Banners can help this, close generals can too. But the truth is you need to make sure the enemy is done after the charge. This is achieved by lining up good flank charges, or charging multiple units against one enemy unit. Anything you can do to negate ranks, get a bonus, or jut get more models into striking range, the better. If you have chariots, they are good charge breakers. If the charge fails initially and your unit can stick it out one more turn, a fresh chariot charge can be devastating. Similar to this note- cavalry should never be allowed to get charged themselves. You NEED that first turn with lances.

3) Cavalry’s greatest strength lies in speed. They can easily redeploy to adapt to an enemy plan. You strategy should be game-encompassing. Turn-by-turn tactics should be made on the fly, with an over all goal in mind. Know in advance what enemy units to neutralize, and how you wish to go about doing it, but be flexible. If your plan is falling apart, it’s easy to find a place to get a breather, regroup, and retry (at least, as best as an Elf army can. Mistakes are costly for any eleven force)

With all of that in mind, there are a few tactics that cavalry armies can make use of. As stated in point 3 above, these are major ‘game’ strategies. They are not like chess; there is no turn-by-turn overview of what goes on. Cavalry armies really have an opener, a midgame, and an endgame strategy. So, here you are:

1- Rush: Offense: High Aggression
This tactic is quite brutal and straightforward. Basically, you are doing just what it says, rushing across the field and engaging as many foes as you can. Every cavalry unit you have should be looking for nice, squishy targets that they can break through. Once they are broken through, just turn around and start making tag-team runs on the harder enemy units.
This tactic works well against armies with low toughness, low armor, or low leadership. Orks can be devastated, especially if they have goblins in the ranks. Imperial armies can also fall prey to this tactic- since they are probably relying heavily on shooting or a few key infantry units surrounded by weaklings.

2- Spearhead: Offense: High Aggression
Another easy tactic to grasp, spear-heading is similar to the rush idea. However, it involves focusing your attack on one unit or a small section of the enemy and punching through. Once you have your force through the breach, you can start to turn around and widen the hole. Flanks will be open; the center may have even broken out from panic tests. Use your chariots, and Dragon Princes to smash through, and then fan out. Go after warmachines, hidden characters, and most of all- turn around and flank/rear charge the harder units you couldn’t kill from the front. This is imperative because you won’t score many points for killing just the 1 break-point unit.
This is the best tactic to use against dwarves, since they are very resilient to our cavalry’s close quarters abilities.

3- Pincer: Offense/Defensive: Moderate Aggression
These tactics is often the domain of the Infantry armies, but remember- we also have an infantry element. For players with chariots left over, this is the best way to go. Take a tough infantry unit (LSG are good here!) and stick in dead center of the board. Use lots of RBTs or big archer units and eagles. Put your cavalry on the flanks. Now just shoot the daylights out of the enemy and wait for him to start moving towards you.
They will probably go for the squishier unit in the center. If they don’t bite, and fan for the cavalry, you can press the bait forwards. When the focus down to attack it, just collapse the cavalry wings on them. So cavalry WILL need to engage units to the front however, or your line will be separated, you will see your bait destroyed, and probably anything behind it.

4- Split objective: Defensive: High Aggression
This tactic is very similar to the Pincer, in that you need core infantry to be fairly tough. However, don’t let yourself think you need to add any kind of elite infantry. Your cavalry will be taking the brunt of this one. You will want a good bit of shooting though, so take your RBTs. You want to deploy your force in two parts. The first part is the infantry and shooting. Put it in one corner of your deployment zone, ready to hold it’s own as best it can. This is bait. To make it convincing, put a cavalry unit or a commander in with it. Then deploy your second part, the cavalry, in the opposite corner.
You have just presented your enemy a choice. Likely, they began deploying across from your bait force, so they either leg it to get to the cavalry, or they go for the bait. If the leg for the cavalry, fine, just shoot them, and maybe even flank them with the infantry units. If they take the bait though, and rush for the infantry, the cavalry will demolish them. Coming in at such an extreme angle, you’ll catch most of their units in the flanks. Unfortunately, your flanks will also be exposed, so it’s best to send out a screen (Reavers perhaps?) to block any unit daring enough to try and flank you. DO NOT USE THIS TACTIC IF THE ENEMY HAS WEAPONS THAT PIERCE RANKS for obvious reasons!

Well, there it is. I said that we should begin writing more advanced tacticas with single-minded objectives. Besides, with all the people around here coming back off of the old school cavalry army, it’d be good if we could steer people in the right direction. I hope this helps, and as always, your criticism is welcome. As this is just a draft, I’ll give some time before I actually stick it in the completed tacticas section (or, the mods can do it).


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