Fantasy Fisticuffs #19: Over and Under (Stormcast)

We’ve all got them from one starter or another, and at some point many of us entertain starting Stormcast armies. What units in their book deliver, and which are doomed to remain bare-grey plastic?

Whether from magazine freebies, halves of starters, or just personal affection, a great many competitive Age of Sigmar players end up with at least a handful of Sigmar’s chosen kicking around our collections. With such an elite army, point-cost-wise, it can often be surprising how close to a valid list these small collections can be. For that reason, this week’s over/under is taking a look at which of these units might make a foundation for your prospective new side project, and which should probably just become canvases for your kid’s painting practice.

Stormcast, under ideal circumstances, are already a tricky army to utilize competitively. Victims of an earlier 2nd Edition Battletome, they just don’t have a wealth of efficiency needed to overcome their low model counts. That doesn’t mean they cannot perform well, however it does mean you need to really cherry-pick winners from losers if you hope for competitive wins.

Over-Performer: Evocators

A surprise to few, but even after point adjustments, Evocators are undeniably excellent in a Stormcast army, and dare I say are “auto-include” in any list that isn’t adhering to a very specific theme. While a pricey unit, their sometimes shocking (pun absolutely intended) offense can still single-handedly win games.

Coming in at 220pts for five models, these units work due to a combination of obvious and less obvious factors. Grandstaves should unquestionably be your weapon of choice, and thanks to an in-built buff in the form of the Empower spell, this unit is particularly threatening to hordes with lower armor saves. Their damage profile is surprisingly solid considering it represents only a fraction of their true potential.

Celestial Lightning Arc provides a token defense boost that helps as the unit makes its way across the table, but then almost casually references some amazing offensive tricks. After this unit fights (meaning in either turn), players choose an enemy unit within 3” and roll two dice per Evocator in the unit (who themselves do NOT need to be in range). For each 4+ rolled this unit takes a Mortal wound. That is both excellent for functionally being auto-hitting, 4+ mortal wounding attacks, but the flexibility it affords it terrific, letting units of Evocators big or small, do genuine work to any target.

In lists this small you can ill afford bad match-ups, and Evocators essentially have no target they cannot provide value against. Their immobility can be troublesome outside of a few cheeky teleportation combos, but in this army they will rarely be pieces which disappoint you.

Under-Performers: Decimators/Protectors/Retributors

In a three way tie for most under-performing Stormcast unit, comes the poop-kit that makes all three units. Truly a cursed box, this one kit is able to make all three units, each terrible, and one you should likely never field in a competitive setting.

I am rarely outright disappointed in units, feeling that some just hold better places in casual play, but these units are somehow so terrible that they beat back my usual optimism. Coming in at between 180-200pts, these units are outshined in every regard by other units, fulfilling no role particularly well, but being less flexible than the Evocators above.

Most of their premium pricing comes from the possibility that you will always take the maximum number of Starsoul Maces (which you absolutely must do if you have any hope of making these units do anything at all). These weapons, which are allowed on two for each five models in a unit, ignore conventional rolling for attacks, instead doing an average of two mortal wounds per model. This is already significantly worse than Evocators, offensively, and turns the non-Mace models in the unit into even weaker ablative wounds for their better armed friends.

Frustratingly, it isn’t only that they compare poorly to the book’s best unit, but rather against all units they prove poor. Liberators make up (relatively) cheap battleline units that point for point prove more durable while also giving you more possible bodies. Their “Lay Low the Tyrant” even makes them comparable monster-hunters. Meanwhile Sequitors comparatively out-damage these units for nearly 30% fewer points.

Optimizing your lists can be an experience that, depending on perspective, ranges from turning you into “that guy” when you already have a great battletome, to being mandatory for anything outside of a fluffy game. Stormcast are very much the later, requiring one to truly avoid trap units, of which there are a surprising amount.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Mark Gottlieb

Writer, Game Designer, and owner of Fortunate Sun Studios, I have always tried to lead a life in some way built around paying back to gaming, and the gaming community. This hobby, and everyone in it, saved my life on more than a few occasions, and now I get to put my heart into helping it thrive for everyone!

2 Responses to “Fantasy Fisticuffs #19: Over and Under (Stormcast)”

  1. Avatar
    Some guy April 9, 2020 7:59 pm #

    I think Evocators are now overshadowed by Evocators on Celestial Dracolines. Cat Wizards got a big price drop in the December FAQ and are now only 40 points more expensive than normal Evocators.

    For that you get a 14″ move with reroll charges which means the immobility you mention as being the big weakness of Evocators is no longer an issue. Whilst the unit is smaller, you get a comparable number of attacks and wounds between the two units. Cat Wizards can also be buffed much more reliably. A Lord-Arcanum on Celestial Dracoline can buff the attacks of the Dracolines (who do D3 damage on the charge) and the to hit roll of the whole unit on top of their self buffing spell.

    Cat Wizards are also some of the most beautiful models to come out of Nottingham and are just a joy to look at.

    On the weapon the loadouts, I think you want a mix of grandstaves and tempest blades on your Evocators of both flavours. The MathHammer works out at about the same number of wounds. The Grandstaves do better against hordes, but don’t have rend and so if you run up against Mortek Guard, your already uphill battle becomes vertiginous.

  2. Mark Gottlieb
    Mark Gottlieb April 10, 2020 11:10 am #

    All really good points, but in my experience the Dracoline units still come with inbuilt dangers. Fewer, albeit mobile, models in such an already elite army can feel rough. Plus they come with a temptation to maximize them through some of the supports which buff Dracoline further… which requires more points that are already desired elsewhere. I’m a fan of that unit, mind you, but they’re at their best when you build very differently around them.

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