Warcry – The Shadeborn

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Today we’re looking at the Shadeborn Bladeborn warband. This was one of the Underworlds warbands released during their Nethermaze season and we got rules for them in White Dwarf 494 which should be in stores right now. I’m actually surprised we got rules for these guys as

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We do already have a warband with identical fighters, the Khainite Shadowstalkers. This Order warband came as part of the Catacombs box and were released a little after as a stand alone warband. The leader is the Shroud Queen who looks almost identical to the leader of the Shadeborn, then the remaining three hve spear, double daggers, or dagger and crossbow which all feature are part of the Khainite Shadowstalkers. Weirdly, the Shadeborn aren’t part of the Khainite Shadowstalkers,

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They are actually part of the Daughters of Khaine. Now, this does actually make some sense. The Khainite Shadowstalkers, and the Shadeborn, are a faction within the Daughters of Khaine who have been selected to serve as Assassins for Morathi. They are given a Shadowbrand which lets them tap into the magic of the Shadow plane Ulgu. This lets them do weird things like move between shadows and create weapons from shadows itself. So while many people have been surprised to see the Shadeborn as part of the Daughters instead of the Khainite Shadowstalkers, from the lore it’s probably more of a surprise that the Khanite Shadowtstalkers weren’t already part of the Daughters of Khaine.

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As a member of the Daughters of Khaine warband, all of the Shadeborn get access to these 3 abilities. The first is a reaction Gladiatorial Display that will do 4 damage to an attacker if they don’t get any crits, you do have to trigger it before the dice are rolled though so there is a risk to it. The second is a double Bathe in Blood which is a minor upgrade to Onslaught giving plus one strength in addition to the plus one attack. It does have a small restriction though, you must be within 3 inches of an enemy with at least 1 wound, although you don’t necessarily have to be attacking them. The last Daughters of Khaine ability is the Triple Slaughter’s Strength. This boosts the strength of the fighter by half the value of this triple. The shadeborn fighters are all strength 3 or 4 so this can be a useful ability depending on the targets toughness.

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If we move over to the plots, we can see three of the fighters are in the 100 to 120 range while the leader is a chunky 210. Damage is fine, it’s not really impressive. Wounds are near the lower end of the bands for the points cost. Unfortunately, this is to be expected to a certain extend. The theme for the Khainite Shadowstalkers and the Daughters of Khaine is essentially fast fighters with good damage that are easy to kill. That good damage never quire translated into numbers though, and both warbands have struggled.

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We have 4 abilities specific to the Shadeborn. The first is a Reaction slip between Shadows. This is identical to the reaction the Khainite Shadowstalkers have, so the Shadeborn have the advantage of having two. This one is a bit weird, if an enemy fighters moves within 3 inches of them they can react to be removed from the battlefield and then placed back down somewhere no further from that enemy fighter than they were before. It is kind of tricky to use this effectively. You don’t really want  to move closer to an enemy that moved, if they moved as their first action then moving closer just gives them a free attack. If they moved as their second action then you’re trading an action to teleport when you could otherwise just take a normal move. There are some edge cases where you might be able to teleport through blocking terrain with the ability. It also makes it harder for your opponent to block you off, as if they move within 3 inches to try block the fighter, this lets them teleport through them to the far side. So there can be some niche cases, especially if the victory condition is right or in narrative games where you can use renown isntead of actions,  but overall the ability is of off pretty limited use.

The second ability is a Double Shadwstalker Darts, again this is a similar of an existing ability for the Khainite Shadowstalkers although in this case there are changes from Cursed Darts. The Khainite version is 9 inch range and at least one 6 on the two dice will half the targets move. This version on the other hand is only 6 range but totally focused on damage.  So crits do damage equal to the value. A double 6 then will average out around 3.3 damage which ignores toughness. Not amazing but also not terrible.

We then have two more abilities one a Triple with the Trapper runemark and a Quad for the leader. Those are specific to a single fighter, so we’ll talk about the abilities as we go through the fighter profiles.

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The first fighter to look at is Sylthael Shadestalker, the leader of the warband. Unsurprisingly we make a direct comparison to the Shroud Queen from the Shadowstalkers. Same cost and core stat but different weapons. At 210 points the wounds and damage are a bit low. You’d look for this damage at 150 and these wounds for around 170. So you’re paying a premium for the high movement and the reach of 2 on the weapon.

Rather than two weapons Slythael has somewhat of a merge between them. Rather than range 3 she has range 2 and gets plus one to the crit value for that. I think this is an upgrade on the theory that you’d actively been looking to stay at reach if you can, even though the one inch attck on the Shroud Queen has an extra dice.

As a daughter of Khaine, she gets the Triple Sacrifice to Khaine which will give nearby fighters plus 1 dice to attacks after Slythael takes down an enemy. It’s a decent ability that would benefit a low dice warband better than it does this one. Unfortunately as it says visible she can’t benefit from the buff herself. 

She also gets a Quad that is a straight forward teleport. No attack to go along with it but also no limitations. Just take the model away and place them down anywhere you want. That really is awesome but isn’t going to be relevant every game. Getting the extra attack from Rampage is going to be more value but this does mean Sylthael is a threat to everything on the board. If you have a Quad, she could appear next to anything on the table and do 12 average damage. This ability is probably the most exciting part of this fighter but as a Quad it’s not something you can rely on.

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The second fighter is Drusylla Vyserax. Nice and simple, this is a fighter with a spear. So again we see that range of 2. The closest comparison I could find here was the Handmaiden from the Daughters of Khaine. The Handmaiden has the same wepaon profile but the core stats are a little different. Essentially, the Handmaiden is slower, toughner, and has more wounds along with being a hero. Drusylla is 10 points cheaper which is nice, but the big issue with the Daughters of Khaine has been survivng. Here the wounds are about what you’d expect on an 80 points leader with the weapon damage from a 100 point model. So again we’re paying for that speed and reach. Again, not really very exciting.

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Valyssa is our melee fighter. The Shroudblade with Cursed Swords is similar, Valyssa gets an extra point in crit and 2 more wounds but that costs a chunky 20 points. Again, everything feels a bit over costed. Wounds of 10 should be around 67 points while the average 4 damage would be 100. This time we don’t even have the reach as an excuse, so the low wounds and extra points are supposed to balance out the 6 move. I suspect this is a case of 4 being the baseline and each point of extra move, so 2 in this case, coming at a premium.

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Next up we have Syarl Greyblood at 100 points. 12 wounds for 100 is bang on. The melee average damage of 4 also is. So we’re off to a good start. The extra ranged weapon and the extra speed are basically a bonus which is nice. That makes Sylarc a solid fighter in my opinion. He compares to the Darkflame Warlock with Doomfire Ring who has similar core stats and also has two weapons, but does slightly more ranged damage and a good chunk less melee damage.

Sylarc Greyblood has the Scout runemark. Unfortunately none of the warbands abilities need that runemark. Speculation is that the Trapper runemar from Gloomweb Hex is the match, as there are no fighters with the Trapper runemark in this warband. Rules as written Sylarc gets nothing, but it’s pretty commonly accepted that this as a typo and Sylarc should have access to the Gloomweb Hex ability.

This lets you target a fighter within 6 inches and reduce the attacks the fight maters by half the value of the triple, so 1 to 3. This is a great ability that can neutralise the effectiveness of a key fighter for the enemy. The effectiveness will depend on the attack of the target. If the target has lots of attacks then each dice lost will have a relatively low value. If the target has a very low attack dice then the minimum of 1 clause will kick in. Either way, get this onto the highest damage target you can and it will make a big difference. I do really like this ability.

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And that’s it. Only 4 fighters with most of them pretty lacklustre. If you like the look of the Khainite Shadowstalkers warband, I do think it’s worthwhile picking up the Shadeborn. It’s another set of unique sculpts to round our the set. Unfortunately both the Khainite Shadowstalkers and the Daughters of Khaine are in a pretty poor place within the metagame, such that I wouldn’t recommend bringing them to a tournament although I do think they’d be pretty fun to play in friendly games. Unfortunately, the theme of Shadowy Assassins hasn’t quite been translated into mechanics but hopefully we’ll eventually see that change.

I do think the decision to keep the Shadeborn separate to the Khaininte Shadowstalkers is a little weird. I suspect they were looking at the warbands in the context of which AoS army they are part of, but they clearly remembered the Khanite Shadowstalkers existed as the profiles and abilities are similar to them in many cases. I think it was perhaps a missed opportunity as using Bladeborn warbands to expand out the bespoke boxes does seem like a good approach. We could have also gone into an underworlds season where we saw extra Iron Golems and Untamed Beasts and the like. There is sitll a ton of story to work on with those warbands and it would have been a good opportunity to expand out their options.

The mistake with the runemark is an unfortunate one, I’d hope we see an update in an FAQ at some stage as it should be a quick mistake to straighten out. We did get a low key update at the start of the month resolving the points issue with the Vulkyn Runefather and confirming that the new Cities of Sigmar rules over-ride the old ones. Weirdly, we never saw an article on that. The Warcry team clearly put a lot of good work into that, but I suspect many players are still unaware it happened as there never was a Warhammer Community article to go along with it.

I do have one warband left from the Nethermaze selection which is the Gorechosen. So that will be the next Warcry article and after that I’ll be getting my teeth into the three new Cities of Sigmar warbands.

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