“Yes, and you call yourself the Storm of Silence despite the fact that you are obviously screaming.”
“Well- er… One thing I… Excuse me for a moment.”
Jain-Zar, the Storm of Silence, is the Phoenix Lord of the Howling Banshee shrine of warriors. Herself originally female, as most Banshees also later were, she was the first of Asurmen’s disciples and the most active in intervening and proselytizing to her followers on the craftworlds. Her motions and thoughts both run with impossible speed, and along with her martial temperment it has unsurprisingly made her the most vocal of the Phoenix Lords in terms of supporting the cause of the Ynnari.
On the table, Jain-Zar is a unique HQ unit with an improved statline compared to most Eldar. Like other members of her aspect she is faster than average with an 8″ movement, but she also has a point higher strength and toughness (both at four) thanks to being a Phoenix Lord. Weapon and ballistic skill 2+ are about what we would expect from a character model, and six wounds is a tad above average but not exceptional. Four attacks and 2+ armor round out her profile with a pretty good set of numbers overall; at 140pts she is drifting towards the top end for basic infantry HQs, but isn’t so expensive that we are going to instinctively shy away from using her.
Special Rules and Wargear
Like all of the Phoenix Lords, Jain-Zar has an absolute plethora of special rules and gear to make her stand out, though many of them are borrowed from other units. Ancient Doom and Battle Focus do their normal jobs on her as they do with all Craftworld models, of course; she also comes with a Banshee Mask (units cannot fire overwatch at her) and Acrobatic (she can advance and charge, adds +3 to charge rolls if she advanced that turn) as one would expect of the mistress of the Howling Banshee shrine. She likewise comes with War Shout (the Banshee exarch ability), so enemies must subtract -1 from all hit rolls against her in close combat.
Beyond that, she also possesses two unique rules. Cry of War Unending is her shrine ability- she and all units of Howling Banshees within 6″ of her at the start of the Fight phase always fight first, as though they had charged. It may not be the best of the shrine bonuses, but neither is it the worst- and it makes charging into a group of Banshees extremely dangerous if she is nearby as well as making ongoing combats less of a problem for them, something that Banshees often struggle with.
She also has the Disarming Strike ability; at the beginning of the Fight phase you can pick an infantry model within 1″ of her and roll a d6, with a result of 3+ meaning you can choose one of the model’s weapons and count it as null and void for the remainder of the turn. Although this only affects a single model and isn’t 100% reliable (save a command point for sure), it can be absolutely backbreaking when it does work- most character models carry only one “good” weapon with them, and likewise for most sergeants with upgrades and such. By forcing them to use the shitty default weapon you can effectively shut them down completely for a phase, especially combined with her 2+ armor.
Jain-Zar’s own weapons are no slouch, either; she gets a token ranged weapon in the form of The Silent Death (12″ S4 AP-3 Assault 4), which can be useful for picking off a couple random infantry guys but probably isn’t going to do major damage to the enemy. (It’s actually kind of odd that it isn’t a Pistol instead, given how she uses it.) But her melee weapon of choice, The Blade of Destruction, is much better- S6 AP-3 and d3 damage make it into a very solid character killer, especially as it can reroll failed wounds.
Jain-Zar is best used alongside Howling Banshees; that much should be obvious to almost anyone at a first glance. Her bonus to other members of her shrine is of no value on the charge and doesn’t solve their biggest problem (i.e. damage output), but does help on ensuing turns and against countercharges, both of which are relevant factors. But what is it that Jain-Zar can do that an additional squad of Banshees couldn’t do better?
In short, Jain-Zar is a character hunter. While her damage output against squads is hardly bad (hitting on 2s, generally wounding on 3s with a reroll, four attacks) it isn’t particularly impressive for her cost- it’s not hard to get a character with five or even six attacks for the same price, and probably with higher damage to boot. But fighting characters of that sort is where she shines, because she has a whole pile of different tools to bring to bear against them, most of which are quite strong. We talked about her Disarming Strike ability a little bit above, but it is one of the best things she comes with- if you can reliably keep enemy characters from using their best (and in most cases only) weapon, it makes the fight against them vastly easier. While a small number of them have an alternate or backup weapon (such as Abaddon, Ghillieman, etc), this is actually fairly rare in the current edition. It does have the downside of only working on infantry, so no disarming bikers or monsters, but this still covers the majority of models you are likely to come up against in a fight. And denied their primary weapon, most models will just have to bonk you with S:User AP0 attacks, which her 2+ armor should shrug easily.
Beyond that, Jain-Zar also has the innate -1 to hit in melee that all Banshee exarchs possess; though this isn’t a lot on its own (reducing most HQs to 3s to hit instead of 2s), the bump is noticable even without any other factors at play. Where it really shines, however, is when it stacks with another penalty, such as the -1 from using a Power Fist or similar weapon or the -1 from casting Drain (out of the Runes of Battle discipline) on a target. When you’re putting the enemy at 4+ or worse to hit you, you cut down a lot on the damage you are likely to take from typical attacks almost by half.
The one thing that Jain-Zar ends up lacking in this role is an invulnerable save. Although with the current AP system her armor save can somewhat fill in for this duty, the occasional AP-4 or AP-5 weapon will give her a very bad time indeed; a 4++ or even just 5++ save would’ve gone a long ways towards making her more useful at the job. Still, with the ability to swing first, disarm the enemy, and penalize their attacks, she should usually come out on top even when fighting opponents well above her weight class- and the Blade of Destruction is an excellent weapon that can threaten targets of any size. T7+ models are a bit of a problem for it, but the reroll to wound ensures that she is never completely hosed and on anything smaller she is putting out some very reliable damage indeed. Don’t expect her to whirlwind her way through whole squads, but you should generally see three enemy models go down when she fights.
Although she benefits from the usual character protections against shooting, you should be careful when sending her forward in pursuit of a target; unless you have several other melee units moving forward also she is very likely to come under fire from the enemy, and like almost all characters in the game she simply isn’t tough enough to survive very much of that at all. Even when accompanied on her forward rush, maneuvering to target her is going to be fairly trivial for most enemies, so in most cases you’ll need to stick quite close to other units (such as Banshees or Spears) in order to keep her from getting vaporized. Though she packs a powerful suite of defensive abilities against melee attacks, there’s nothing stopping her target from simply falling back from combat, so don’t expect her to stay locked in often.
Although Jain-Zar has many tools at her disposal and can be a nightmare for some types of character, by the same token she is very limited in many ways and certain types of enemy unit can in turn be a nightmare for her as well. Her Disarming Strike can only remove one weapon and only works on infantry models- so if you have a character on a bike, or a monster, or anything with multiple strong weapons, she will be fairly helpless against them. And, as mentioned, her lack of an invulnerable save means that opponents with strong weapons (that are able to use them) will tear her apart pretty quickly. She struggles especially with vehicles and other T7+ targets; something like a Hive Tyrant is pretty much a death sentence for her, with its combination of high toughness, good invuln, and inability to be disarmed.
Jain-Zar arguably represents the best of the updated Phoenix Lords- cheap enough to be usable, specialized enough to great at what she does best, and able to hand out buffs to her aspect rather than just do things on her own. Though I don’t think she is strong enough to see play in competitive armies, she ranks as a very solid casual unit and is well worth taking for a spin if you want to play character assassin for a bit. Now if only she could get a model that wasn’t twenty years old…
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