Sylvaneth Review: Spirit of Durthu


Hey guys, DustyK ready to give you some more tree-homie lovin!  Today, I’m going to discuss the Beast of the Trees. That’s right, this review is all about Big Papa himself, Spirit of Durthu!  As always, for more tactics articles check out the Tactics Corner!

Spirit of Durthu, or Big Papa as he is known in our local Meta, is the workhorse of the Sylvaneth.  Before the End Times, he was just regular old Durthu of the Wood Elves.  In the new Era, he has transformed into Spirit of Durthu; with the exact same look no less!  One big item of note is that Spirit of Durthu is NOT a named character.  That means he gets artefacts and command traits!


Clocking in at 400 points, he’s not cheap.  Fret not though; those 400 points are well spent!  He hits like a truck in both melee and ranged but his weakness is his massive drop-off in power after his first few wounds.  It is important to have support around him, especially wizards with healing and defense.  He has 12 wounds and a 3+ save, but anyone who has played against Big Papa before will be throwing everything they have at him very early on, so be ready to defend him right off the bat.



  • Verdant Blast is a 15” range missile attack with variable attacks ranging from two to six, 4+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -1 rend, and D3 damage. With the Verdant Blast special rule, Big Papa can add 2 attacks to the weapon at the cost of D3 mortal wounds to himself at the end of the shooting phase.
  • Guardian Sword is a 3” range melee attack with three attacks, 3+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -2 rend, and variable damage ranging from D3 to 6. With the Guardian Sword special rule, he gets D3 additional attacks if he is within 3” of a Sylvaneth Wyldwood.
  • Massive Impaling Talons is a 3” range melee weapon with one attack, 3+ to hit, variable to wound ranging from 2+ to 4+, -2 rend, and one damage. The Massive Impaling Talons special rule, Impale, allows you to roll a dice anytime you inflict a wound on an enemy model and if you roll higher than its remaining wounds it is slain.

Special Rules:

  • Groundshaking Stomp: At the start of the combat phase roll a dice for each enemy unit within 3” of Big Papa and on a roll of 4+ subtract one from all of that unit’s hit rolls in that combat phase.
  • Spirit Paths: If Big Papa is within 3” of a Sylvaneth Wyldwood you can remove him and place him within 3” of another Wyldwood and at least 9” away from an enemy unit. This counts for his movement for the turn.  If your army has Sylvaneth Allegiance, you ignore any Tangled Roots results when using the Spirit Paths Result table.
  • Champions of the Everqueen’s Will: All friendly Sylvaneth within 8” of him add one to their Bravery during the battleshock phase.
  • Solemn Guardian: If an attack targets a friendly Sylvaneth Hero within 6” of Spirit of Durthu he can roll a dice and on a 4+ the attack goes to him and he may use his saves against it.


Spirit of Durthu is an absolute beefcake, but at 400 points you pay for that beefcake.  That’s going to be 1/5 of your points for a normal tournament list and will likely be your army’s focal point.  Don’t worry though, Big Papa is more than worthy to be your focal point. His Verdant Blast and Guardian Sword will make you cackle while your opponent cries when you one shot his Bastiladon.

The weakness of a Spirit of Durthu is the early fall-off of Guardian Sword damage from the first to second damage tier.  After he takes three wounds he drops from six damage to D6 damage.  This fall-off is why it is important to surround him with wizards that can provide defense and regeneration as well as some tar-pit units like Dryads and Tree-Revenants.

A good idea would be to have two of the Branch casters around him casting their “Regrowth” spell while the other casts Mystic Shield on him.  If you are running a Gnarleroot Battalion that allows you to take one order Wizard, grab up a Battlemage and give him Lifesurge which heals D3 wounds.  Since this isn’t technically the same spell as Regrowth you can combine the two of these two for up to 1D3+1D6 healing a turn.

Kurnoth Hunters are also great support for their spiritual father.  Unlike the units previously mentioned, the Kurnoth Hunters are an assault support option.  They are very strong and quite tough, able to provide a durable cushion between enemies and Big Papa.  If a Spirit of Durthu needs a break to get some recovery going, or just needs a hand taking on Archaon or other big monsters like him, get some Hunters into combat with him to help clean up.

The synergy between a Spirit of Durthu and a Sylvaneth Wyldwood is very important.  He gains D3 attacks for his Guardian Sword which is an insane increase in damage output.  So make sure to keep him near a Wyldwood and get the “Treesong” spell to move the Wyldwoods to where Durthu is going to go before he makes those important charges.


Since Spirit of Durthu is not considered a named character, he is able to take both a command trait and an artefact.  He doesn’t have a special command ability like normal choices for Generals but getting him the Command Trait is likely going to be well worth giving up using the command trait of another model.

The main question to answer before choosing his gear is: do you need to give him survivability or do you need to give him more damage?  The answer to this question will rely on two key points: What you are bringing to support him and what you are about to face off against.

If you are bringing a lot of casters with varied spells (like the above suggestion about bringing a Battlemage) it may be good to boost his damage since you’ll already have a good amount of defense.  However, if you’re loading up on Kurnoth Hunters and Dycha Hammadreth you may want to boost his defense.

If you are facing off against huge damage dealers like Mannfred and Gordrakk you are going to need a bit of defense to ensure you don’t just get destroyed in one turn before you can do any regeneration.  However, if you’re facing a swarm army built around whittling you down and overwhelming you, it may behoove you to invest in some bonus damage to wipe out whole units before they can attack.  Either way I’ll be discussing the two main routes to go and you can make that decision before each game!

For a full list and explanation on the Command Traits and Artefacts check out my Sylvaneth Overview.


The Command Traits for Durthu can be very impactful or mostly useless.  This will also depend on what else you have in your list.  For example, my favorite list of the Sylvaneth include four treelord models and very little in the terms of swarm so the +1 Bravery in the battleshock phase means almost nothing to me. In an army running 3 units of 30 Dryads, though, that can be incredibly good.

Normally Realm Walker, Gnarled Warrior, or Gift of Ghyran will be your choices here.  The Gift of Ghyran should only be taken if you don’t have sufficient support to heal him, this is where the Kurnoth Hunter based armies will be looking.  Gnarled Warrior lets you ignore rending unless it’s better than -1 so this will let him take on elite troops of five or so without worrying too much.  Realm Walking is almost always the best choice if you have enough Wyldwoods to set up.  With the +2 to spirit path result this gives him a 50% chance of getting a movement after he teleports.

For Artefacts, Spirit of Durthu will really be focusing on three; Daith’s Reaper, Briarsheath, or Seed of Rebirth.  Seed of Rebirth is your panic button, one last chance to make sure he stays alive when he shouldn’t.  It’s a risky one to take since if he dies early on in the round your opponent can just keep laying into him.  If you are using the alternate turn rules (base game rules) the Seed of Rebirth gains more attraction since you won’t always get the recovery time you need to heal up Big Papa.

Daith’s Reaper is useful if you’ll be facing off against any of the Motarchs, Archaon, Alerielle, Gordrak, or any of the other big boss models.  Giving your Guardian sword a -4 rend instead of -2 will really take down that armor save to ensure that huge damage swing.  However, if you are facing an army with relatively weak saves like the Flesh Eater Court this one is pretty useless as -2 will do good enough work.


Briarsheath is my go to; subtracting 1 from ALL hits against your Spirit of Durthu is incredible.  This is attacking the to hit roll at the very beginning of cycle reducing the initial probability will have a cascading effect.

Spirit of Durthu finds himself in only one of the battalions for the Sylvaneth, the Free Spirits. Though he can be added to most of the Wargrove battalions (the Decurion for Sylvaneth).  The Free Spirits battalion consists of a Spirit of Durthu and three units of Kurnoth Hunters.  In the hero phase you pick an enemy unit or a terrain feature and all Free Spirit units move as if it is the movement phase and must end their movement closer to the target than they started.  This is obviously an amazing bonus as it doubles Spirit of Durthu’s movement to get into charge range, however keep in mind you only have so far a reach to spells.  So don’t overextend and out range your supporting casters to get into melee quickly.

More often than not you are going to want to attack with Spirit of Durthu as your first choice.  His drop-off is too much to ignore and you don’t want to rely on his tanking ability, even if you boost it.  If your opponent gets lucky and knocks three wounds off your Durthu because you decided to attack with some Kurnoth Hunters first, you just dropped an average of 6 damage to an average of 3.5 per wound.  That’s a HUGE drop especially when you are swinging 3-6 times a turn.

Are you going to run Big Papa in your list?  What are your best Spirit of Durthu stories?  Let us know below!

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

You can also pick up some cheap models in our Second Hand Shop. Some of these gems are quite rare, sometimes they’re fully painted!



About DustyK

Avid gamer and lifelong nerd. I love playing competitively, which is why I have Space Marines and Tau. I also love playing casually, which is why I have Tyranids and Dark Eldar!

12 Responses to “Sylvaneth Review: Spirit of Durthu”

  1. Reecius August 8, 2016 2:29 pm #

    Durthu: my man! Nice review, DustyK.

    • DustyK August 9, 2016 6:54 am #

      Thanks, this was probably my favorite one since Durthu has been the king of AoS in my local meta. Almost every game he’s taken down a big monster in one turn.

      I even had 1 game where he went toe to toe with Archaon and won! Thanks to the wyldwoods, the branch healer, and a healing battle Mage!

  2. Adam (RUMBL & TheDiceAbide) August 8, 2016 2:37 pm #

    Durthu is pretty damn amazing, though I think getting more than one in an army is going to skew yours list quite a bit… which is too bad now that he’s not unique.

    • Reecius August 8, 2016 2:40 pm #

      Yeah, taking two is devastating. I am going for he and a Treeman Ancient, personally to unlock my batallion which I think is in general terms going to be better.

  3. gvcolor August 8, 2016 3:36 pm #

    We squeezed in a quick game on the weekend 1000 pts of Sylvaneth + 1000 of Fyreslayers against my 2000 of Rotbringers…

    We didn’t finish the game out but when the The Sylvaneth Woods were dropped down near the objectives in the game and Durthu came popping through plus Kurnoth Hunters I was thinking wtf! Oh not to mention other terrain becoming volcanoes on me thanks to the Fyreslayers – haha!

    Sylvaneth with the Woods look really fun to play and a good challenge to play against.

    • Reecius August 8, 2016 4:34 pm #

      Yeah, the Wyldwoods are pretty critical to their battleplan, you need to have ways to put them on the table.

      • Matthew Kimber August 11, 2016 9:51 pm #

        I’m just starting with Sylvaneth and I’d love to see a tactics article on using Wyldwoods since they appear so integral to any Sylvaneth battle plan.

    • DustyK August 9, 2016 6:56 am #

      Plus now with the battle traits he has a chance to get to move again after he teleports. It really is insane when you do that AND exploit the free spirits battalion and tree song spell.

      In one game I had Durthu surf on a Wyldwood and move all the way up to a Bastillidon then proceed to kill him in a single round of combat. It was awesome to see, well for me anyway 😀

  4. Heldericht August 8, 2016 5:04 pm #

    I don’t play AoS yet, but that’s a beautiful looking model. How big is he? About Wraithknight height?

    • Reecius August 8, 2016 5:56 pm #

      No, not Wraithknight. He’s like, Wraithlord sized, a little bigger than that.

    • Anon August 8, 2016 6:00 pm #

      Smaller, they are roughly 6″ tall.

    • DustyK August 9, 2016 6:52 am #

      He’s basically slightly smaller than a trygon but he has a lot of little weak plastic limbs so you have to be careful moving him around.

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