At once the least interesting and most wacky of the Phoenix Lords, Karandras. How many characters in the game do you know that can make twelve attacks in a single turn? Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Karandras, the Shadow Hunter, is not actually the original Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions shrine. That honor instead goes to Arhra, the Father of Scorpions- but dark desires burned within Arhra and eventually he gave in to the murderous taint of Chaos, threatening to drag his whole aspect down with him as he went. Karandras alone was talented enough to stand against him in a days-long duel through the remnants of Craftworld Zandros, the two of them striking and feinting through the shadows endlessly. It is said that only one walked away from that battle with their soul intact, though rumors persist that Arhra somehow escaped and continues his dark teachings somewhere. The new Phoenix Lord, for his part, speaks few words of anything about his past and nothing of the duel with his old mentor; instead, he lets his teachings of the hunter’s patience speak for him.
Karandras has a statline that comes in as pretty alright- not exceptional, but more or less where we would expect from a character of his cost. Strength and toughness four are high for an Eldar, but average for everyone else (and in particular for a Phoenix Lord.) Six wounds and a 2+ save give him pretty decent protection, and four attacks with weapon skill and ballistic skill 2+ means that he outputs fairly decent damage. At 150pts he is one of the more expensive Phoenix Lords, however.
Special Rules and Wargear
Like all Craftworld HQ models he comes with the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus rules- both reasonably useful, though neither is a blowout. More importantly, he comes with the standard rules of his aspect- Master of Stealth lets him deploy into reserve and arrive anywhere that is more than 9″ from the enemy, while Shadow Strike gives him +1 to hit against targets that are in cover. This might seem redundant with WS/BS2+, but it turns out to actually be pretty good when you can trigger it due to his aura; Death by a Thousand Stings gives him (and any Scorpion unit within 6″) an extra attack anytime they roll a ‘6’ to hit- and note that this effectively means 5+ when combined with Shadow Strike, so going after units in cover can be quite deadly.
He also has his helm, the Scorpion’s Bite, which gets to roll four dice at the start of every fight phase (before any combats are resolved) and every 5+ deals a mortal wound to an infantry unit within 1″ of him. More free kills is always a good thing, and getting to bypass the defenses of tough characters (e.g. a Captain with Shield Eternal) can be pretty big. And sometimes you’ll just go hog wild with it and kill four models, which is pretty terrifying. Note that the Bite is not a melee attack and does not roll to hit, so it won’t benefit from Shadow Strike, but also ignores many types of defensive abilities.
Karandras’s armament is surprisingly mundane, but it still does the job more than well enough. He comes with exactly the same kit as a standard Striking Scorpion exarch- Plasma Grenades (d6 shots, S4 AP-1) give him a reasonable close-in option along with the shooting mode on his claw, which is exactly like a Shuriken Catapult. He has a Scorpion Chainsword that you will never use, as it is strictly worse than his Scorpion’s Claw (Sx2 AP-3 DmgD3.) With his improved statline his Claw swings exactly like a Power Fist, but without the hit penalty- and combined with his potential to throw out a large number of attacks, that is a pretty dangerous combo.
Karandras, as one of the more expensive Phoenix Lords, really needs to justify his cost. His own gear and statline, while more than acceptable, are not game-changers; four attacks with a Power Fist is not going to blow your opponents away. To get value out of him, you’re going to have to not only make use of his abilities for his own sake, but also for those of any Striking Scorpion units you bring alongside him- and you definitely are going to need to bring those units or else he just won’t stand out.
The big advantage of Karandras is that he has a strong melee weapon (hitting a bit more often than a Captain’s Power Fist, assuming no other buffs) that can randomly get some bonus hits. And by the same token, while his Scorpion’s Bite won’t typically do a ton, it’s well within the realm of likelihood for it to do two (or occasionally even three) mortal wounds to a target, which suddenly starts looking like a lot. Straight by the numbers he is not amazingly impressive, but he has the potential to at any time go really nutty and drop a huge pile of damage onto a target.
This goes double- literally- for any Striking Scorpions he accompanies and in particular the exarch of the squad. His aura will affect all of the normal models in the squad, giving you some more S4 attacks to chop up any randos nearby, but the real gold is on the exarch carrying the Scorpion’s Claw. Scorpion Exarchs have the Sustained Assault ability, which grants another melee attack on any 6+ to hit; since it has a different name than Death By a Thousand Stings, the two abilities will stack with each other and each roll of 6+ to hit grants them two attacks. This means that a Scorpion Exarch has the potential to get up to nine swings in a single combat phase, though this is a pretty impossible occurrence… at least under normal circumstances.
But you don’t need to fight under normal circumstances, either with Karandras or with his friends. Any time you attack a target in cover you gain +1 to your hit rolls, which is worthless in terms of actually getting hits (since you’re already hitting on a 2+), but will double the chances of getting extra attacks from your abilities. Whole units being in cover can be rather a coin flip in many cases, but we should take special note of characters here- all they have to do is touch cover and suddenly Karandras is twice as good at multipunching them, a mistake many opponents can easily make. We can also create such bonuses artificially through the Enhance spell, which adds +1 to our hit rolls- normally just a useful bonus, but able to generate some insane numbers of swings when we set things up properly. And don’t forget throwing in the Supreme Disdain stratagem, which also triggers extra attacks on sixes- with a full suite going at once, you could be looking at every 4+ on the dice generating two free attacks (three on the exarch), or a very plausible result of 45 hits on any target from a full squad of Scorpions.
So that’s where you’re getting your real money on Karandras- not from his own attacks (which, though hardly trivial, are probably not going to win any games) but by buffing a squad or three of nearby Scorpions into absurdity. And fortunately for this plan, both Karandras and the Scorpions are capable of popping up anywhere on the board to assassinate something inconvenient to you. The Scorpions themselves will probably handle any Sv3+ or worse infantry you find laying around, while Karandras can go after characters, vehicles, and other “tough” targets that the Scorpions are generally mediocre at dealing with; by covering each others’ weaknesses in this way as well as sharing the aura, the two units end up complementing each other quite well.
The best way to stop Karandras is to break his synergies with the Scorpions- on his own, he’s not that hard to bring down with a good assault character or just some sustained shooting. Try and shut down the Enhance to prevent your opponent from getting that +1 to hit and avoid putting your units in cover to avoid the other +1; when they’re mostly only making their normal complement of attacks at normal dice rolls, neither unit is particularly terrifying. Like many of the other Phoenix Lords, Karandras is a bit of glass cannon and while he can dish out a lot of hurt, he lacks an invulnerable save or any other form of protection to keep him alive once he comes under attack.
Although Karandras isn’t a top-tier unit, he is one of those units that will occasionally do something completely absurd like “solo an Imperial Knight on his own in a single turn.” I wouldn’t recommend that you bring him to your next GT hoping for a victory, but if what you want is bizarre stories out of the game, Special K here is definitely your man. He’s not so expensive that you have to cripple your army to make use of him, even with his accompaniment; perhaps give him a try sometime.
As always, remember that you can buy wargaming supplies at great discounts every day at the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.