So, we’ve covered all of the “new” content from Blood of the Phoenix, but there’s one more part that we still have to go over- namely, the updated datasheets for many of the units. As with the other portions of this review, we’re going to break this into three major divisions, although we won’t be going over them in quite as much detail, since the alterations here are less drastic.
The Banshee Shrine
While all of the shrines got their updates in the form of the new aspect powers, Howling Banshees got their new kit as well as some minor cleanup to their datasheet. There’s essentially no change to the actual unit on the table, just slight shifts in wording on some things. At 13pts per model, they are still slightly more expensive than we would like considering how fragile they are, but not a bad unit- especially with the new powers to give us options in terms of how to equip them.
More relevantly, we saw a change to Jain Zar, the Phoenix Lord that commands the Howling Banshees. Unlike her aspect, Jain Zar saw some pretty big shifts in her datasheet in a number of places- although not for the better in all cases. The biggest one is her price drop- she is now down to 115pts, compared to 140 before, as we’ve seen a steady plunge in the price on the many foot-bound named characters. This still isn’t low enough that we would call her “cheap,” but she definitely is a lot more affordable than she was previously.
Jain Zar’s profile and abilities largely stayed the same, so she can do everything a standard Banshee Exarch gets to, but also comes with Cry of War Unending (which allows she and any Banshees within 6″ to always fight first, even if they didn’t charge.) Her bonus is one of the weaker ones for a Phoenix Lord overall, since Banshees don’t really excel at dishing out damage and suffer most from their lack of survivability, but it’s not a bad thing to have around; she herself benefits from it fairly well, since she is reasonably tough and can thus stay stuck in for multiple turns to take advantage of it.
However, there is one big change that acts as a major detriment to Jain Zar- she previously came with Disarming Strike, which allowed her to zero out one of an opponent’s weapons so it couldn’t be used; this made her one of the strongest solo combatants in the game, as very few characters come with more than one effective melee weapon. However, that ability is gone (and, in fact, she can’t even access the exarch version of it that still exists), replaced by The Storm of Silence, which allows her to substitute the number of models within 2″ of her for her normal number of attacks if she wants.
This isn’t a complete waste of an ability, as it can net you some number of bonus attacks occasionally (especially against horde units.) However, in the practical case it’s not very good because the units it works best against are the exact things Jain Zar shouldn’t be fighting. With a high-strength, high-AP multidamage weapon, Jain Zar should be aiming for bullying medium-tier infantry like Primaris marines and the like, not trying to get in the middle of nineteen Ork Boyz and trying to cut them down. (Which, incidentally, is probably going to end poorly for her when that Power Klaw comes a-knockin’.) So, she ends up giving one of the most powerful melee defense tools in the game for a mediocre-to-bad offensive tool, which… is not good. The price drop helps her, but if I was taking Jain Zar before it was because I needed a niche anti-character tarpit, and the 25pts I’ve saving don’t make up for her inability to do any unique jobs now.
In short, neither Jain Zar nor Howling Banshees really gained enough to become relevant this edition, despite GW thinking that Power Swords are the absolute bee’s knees against Marines.
A Darker Path
The Drukhari also got updates to a “shrine” and named character, mirroring the Craftworlds in that respect. In their case it was the Incubi, which have always vied with Howling Banshees in terms of one or the other being a strictly superior version of the other. Unlike Banshees, however, Incubi actually had a nontrivial gain (though I doubt it will be enough to make them see play)- their Lethal Precision rule now applies to the whole squad, rather than just the sergeant. Adding +2 to the damage for any 6 rolled to wound, this makes Incubi potentially quite dangerous to certain types of foes, as a 3dmg hit is nothing to sneeze at.
Sadly, their Tormentors rule remained unchanged, meaning it is still functionally useless. Morale rules need a lot to have any real effect on the game, which GW seems not to have realized yet. Ah well.
Drazhar himself, however, has a number of gains to his sheet that may be enough to make him see the table. While his price remained the same (120pts), he gained a wound (bringing him up to six total) and his weapons all went up to Dmg2, making him a lot more lethal to most types of targets.
The real kicker here, though, is the change to his aura. Previously he added +1 to hit rolls for Incubi units, but now he instead adds +1 to wound rolls, which is a massive upgrade. Although this doesn’t help trigger Lethal Precision for extra damage any more often (as this occurs only on unmodified rolls of 6), it does make him quite dangerous to higher-toughness opponents; Drazhar and his friends will wound most vehicles on a 4+ and cut through their armor save pretty easily, making them a real danger to such units as well as infantry of all stripes.
Combined with his ability to fight twice on the turn he charges, this makes Drazhar legitimately dangerous to most things, provided they don’t have the melee power to interrupt him and end his killing spree before it gets going. With native strength 4 it’s pretty easy to give up the one point of strength for two extra swings in most combats, which means that Drazhar puts out twelve AP-3 Dmg2 attacks- or, to put it another way, seven dead Primaris Marines or ~10 damage dealt to a vehicle. Although he is fairly pricey still, Drazhar becomes a legit 4th HQ choice if you’re making a double battalion (or even single) of Drukhari in many cases, as he provides a pretty solid melee deterrent/assassin if that’s something that you can use. I don’t expect him to be taking anything by storm, but you definitely shouldn’t underestimate him if you see him on the table.
If It Ain’t Broken
Lastly, we get to Ynnari, who also got a small update in this book. Of course, one can argue that this is their “real” first release, since White Dwarf releases are really only used as preliminary tests for these mini-codices, but since they’ve been out in the while for a time here I think we can safely say that this is more akin to an update for them (as well as a way for players who didn’t buy that specific issue of WD to get ahold of the rules.)
The bad news here is that Ynnari remain largely the same as they were in the White Dwarf- hamstrung by the need to take specific named characters, weirdly niche in the use of their abilities, and suffering heavily from the lack of access to the psychic powers and other options of their constituent codices. You still can’t mix multiple other factions of Aeldari in the same detachment for them, making it rather difficult to build armies at times, but there are at least some upsides as well.
The three Ynnari characters were all but unchanged in terms of their rules here, getting alterations to their wordings but no real updates to how they worked. However, they did get the thing they needed the most- namely, price drops to more reasonable numbers. The Visarch is still a worthless little trash fire, but does at least come in at a cheap 80pts and gives rerolls to all nearby Ynnari, so he can perform acceptably as a buff character who isn’t awful in combat. Yvraine is down to 115, making her much more palatable as a psyker compared to the Craftworld and Harlequin options. And the Yncarne is down to 280pts, a huge change for it; in fact, we may even see the Yncarne show up in a limited number of Eldar lists of various sorts now, since it is fairly dangerous as a combatant still and comes with a good aura.
Some of the stratagems and warlord traits and whatnot have also been changed slightly, most noticably changing the “fixed” traits for the named characters. Sadly, they are all stuck with somewhat underwhelming ones , and none of the lackluster psychic powers or strats have been made much better, either- you are still paying 2CP for some very mediocre morale effects and the like. It certainly isn’t going to change the place of Ynnari as a fluffy also-ran for people who like to make gorgeous display boards and go 1-4 at tournaments, as sadly they are still incredibly mediocre even at the best of times.
All in all, Blood of the Phoenix is not a bad book; it actually gives some nice options to Eldar, which was a superfaction that already had a lot of good choices available to it. If this had been released, say, a year ago I think most players would be ecstatic about it in many ways, as it’s full of stuff that is decent-to-good and has very little chance of breaking the game open (but that still offers interesting options for some competitive players while giving narrative and casual players a lot of fun stuff to work with.)
The problem is really just that it comes on the heels of the Space Marine list, which is simply better. Space Marines get more of everything and what they do get is usually superior in multiple ways, which ends up making the book look bad. It isn’t bad, not by a long shot, but it also isn’t going to place any of these factions on anything resembling an even footing with Marines, hence the problem. However, I don’t think all of the other books being brought up to the Marine Standard, as it were, would be a good thing- I think bringing them more on par with Psychic Awakening is a much healthier place to be for a variety of reasons.
It will be interesting to see what sort of releases follow for the other factions featured in the other Psychic Awakening books, although given the page count needed to do this type of update I don’t think it’s at all likely that they will receive identical treatments; indeed, I find the lack of any Harlequin rules (who almost inarguably needed it more than any of the factions who are actually in Blood of the Phoenix) rather perplexing, and I am heavily skeptical of seeing major updates to Grey Knights, or the Tau septs, or other issues that I feel should be addressed. However, that’s more of an issue for the future- for now, Blood of the Phoenix seems to be a perfectly acceptable supplement in a mold that Games Workshop could probably release quite a few more if they so chose.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts ever day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.