Total War Warhammer/Tactics/Dark Elves
"Skulls for Khaine! Blood for Khaine!"
- – Game battle chant for Dark Elves. Why does it sound familiar...
This is the tactica for the Total War: Warhammer version of the Dark Elves.
Why Play Dark Elves
- Because you'd like your elves to take their arrogance to the next level and just start murdering people for the crime of not being elves.
- Because you believe that everything looks roughly 1000 times better when covered in spikes.
- Because you enjoy the inherent power fantasy that comes from playing a big spiky asshole out to conquer and enslave.
- You like a versatile unit roster with some serious killing power.
- Because being the good guy is just so boring sometimes.
- AP for Days: If you're playing Dark Elves and having a hard time with armoured troops, you're playing them wrong. A large chunk of the roster has majority AP damage, so armor should be the least of your concerns.
- Solid Range: While you may not be the shootiest of factions, the Dark Elves are more than capable. They are fully capable of melting enemy units before they close to melee with the right build.
- Mobility: You're not as good at it as the Asrai, but with a ton of good light cav and infantry like Witch Elves and Sisters of Slaughter, you are able to get around the battlefield pretty damn fast. Light Cav tactics are a favorite among Dark Elf players.
- Powerful Lords: When it comes to lord options, you are spoiled for choice. Most of their lords are at the very least decent and some like Malekith can carry an entire army to victory if given the time.
- Flexibility: Thanks to Murderous Prowess, you can play offense unlike a lot of factions can. You can also play Defense, kite, heavy monster focus and all-around can use whatever tactic you can think of with these guys.
- Strong Economy: Your economy is god-tier, and this is even before you bring in trade. Raking in high numbers of Slaves all but guarantees that your cash flow reaches insane levels which you can further boost by abusing the Master hero who reduces Slave decay to the point that they literally cannot decay anymore. Combine this with the extremely generous discounts on Black Arks and your pockets will never be empty again.
- Naval Supremacy: An often overlooked, but still important feature is that your Black Arks can dominate the oceans of the world and keeping your homeland secure from any threats. The only faction that rivals your naval power are (big surprise here) the Vampire Coast.
- Frail: Okay, so you don't have it as bad as the Wood Elves, since many of your units are bringing actual armor to the fight, but you're still a glass cannon rush faction. Running into a faction that can simply outlast your burst of melee damage once Murderous Prowess proccs, can and will give you a lot of trouble.
- Limited Range: Their ranged units aren't bad, in fact, Darkshards are extremely good for their cost, but they don't shoot very far. Even some gunpowder units will outrange you, and most factions will get one or two shots off before you get in position.
- Unreliable Heavy Cav: The Stupidity of Cold Ones Knights in this game got translated to Rampage, meaning if they take too much damage, you lose control and they charge forward to probably die if you're facing a smart opponent. Similar to the Lizardmen, but unlike them, you don't have a way to make them stop. Even Malus, who specializes in Cold Ones and had a rule that allowed them to ignore stupidity, can't get rid of rampage. The addition of Rakarth finally gives you an ability that allows Cold Ones to ignore Rampage, ironically making him a better Cold One specialist than the ACTUAL Cold One specialist.
- Lack of Healing: You're the only Elven faction with no multi-target healing. The only thing you have is Soul Stealer, which only heals the caster. Combine this with your low health pools, and your units will die a lot faster than their tanky statline might lead you to believe.
- Expensive: Not as much as High Elves, but still pretty pricey. Expect to be outnumbered most of the time.
- Poor Public Order: Being the quarrelsome lot that they are, Dark Elves suffer from a multitude of public order penalties (especially once you have a lot of slaves) and don't have a lot of tools to counter them; managing it can quickly devolve into a frantic nightmare, particularly on high difficulties.
- No Encampments: If you are away from your territory, you can't recruit new guys while encamping. This can be offset somewhat with Black Arks, though that's not an option in regions far from the coast.
- DLC: Scourgerunners and Supreme Sorceresses are some of your best units. They also cost extra. As with most Non DLC factions, you will need to pay extra money to be consistent in multiplayer
- Murderous Prowess: A passive, army-wide ability that gives all units on the map considerable offensive bonuses after you hit a certain threshold of kills (usually around 30-50% of the enemy force). Hard to time right and difficult to control, but extremely effective regardless. Seeing your Corsairs, Shades, and whatnot go into overdrive for 90 seconds is a scary and satisfying spectacle to behold. For a few units, the effect lasts 120 seconds instead of 90.
- Slaves: You get slaves by raiding, winning battles, and looting/sacking settlements. Slaves go to your cities to do the crapwork and are gradually worked to death turn by turn. The Druchii can make a hell of a lot of money by capturing slaves. However the more slaves you've got the harder it is to control them, which leads to unrest.
- Black Arks: A special kind of campaign unit that acts as one of the two true "navies" in the entire game, Black Arks can only exist on the water but they are essentially floating garrisoned cities that can also let your other armies recruit and exchange from them. A powerful incentive for any Druchii player to adopt the raiding lifestyle and an excellent tool for mobile defence across Naggaroth's extensive coastline.
- Malekith: Warhammer's rendition of Darth Vader with severe mummy issues arrived on the scene, and he doesn't mess around. A monster of a Hybrid LL, he is everything the likes of Azhag the Slaughterer and Arkhan the Black wish they could be. He punches hard, gets a Dragon relatively early on and his spellcasting doesn't disappoint either. You can hardly go wrong with Malekith.
- Morathi : Morathi is a very weird animal (There's gotta be a sex joke in here somewhere). Unlike many other Legendary Lords, her skill tree is the only one in the game where you actually get to make meaningful choices, as she can alternate between ridiculously powerful spellcasting and good backline harasser, both paths are viable. What sets her apart from other caster lords as her spellcasting is concerned is that, like Teclis, she doesn't specialize in single lore and her pool of spells draws from the Lores of Dark, Death, and Shadows and favors all-out offensive spells from all of them. Arguably the second-best Caster Lord in the game, just behind Teclis.
- Hellebron (DLC) : Hellebron exists in her own little niche. Barely armored like Witch Elves, but really, really bloody fast and a buffmachine for your already busted murdermachine frontline. She excels in prolonged combat, preferably against lightly armored chaff and will rack a high kill count very quickly but will cave against elite units and other single entity monsters or characters.
- Get a unique campaign mechanic of her vitality slowly draining way and have to progressively sacrifice more slaves during the Death Night to keep the faction buffed instead of Debuffed, but also create a new stack of frenzied elves to attack Ulthwe.
- Lokhir Fellheart (FLC) : Lord of the Black Arks. He is a cheaper blender lord in comparison to Hellebron, being a well-armored Infantry blender while on foot like a Vlad von Carstein without magic. CA also gave him his own Dragon mount which only make him better than a Dread Lord on dragon when he pops his attack buffs.
- the Drukii pirate lord starts in the thunder dome that is Lustria but can have a lot of freedom by starting with a middle settlement that is a Black Ark.
- Malus Darkblade (DLC): an unremarkable lord until he lets the deamon take over, and then he is a melee powerhouse. Using Malus in combat is like burning a candle wick, his Tz'arkan form and abilities are powerful drain his hit points so know when he should be in deamon or Malus mode. He does have Resistance and Healing in combat so he won't burn out as fast in a fight(More or less since he may take more overall damage depending on what he fights)
- in campaign his battle with his inner deamon is a game mechanic, with having a possession meeter, giving you greater campaign bonuses while Malus is mostly in control, but as Tz'arkan slowly takes over, he gains greater battle prowess but at the cost of large penalties to your empire. You control the position by drinking a position the gets progressively more expensive until you finish his storyline to make it free. Tz'arkan will also offer an additional quest to increase the possession but with very good payoffs. For your start position, you get a Black ark in the Southern Land, in addition, have your traditional Drukii hold, Hag Graef, that you can sell for a lot of money but have to listen to Malekith (which will be an AI) or make it harder by having to run and protect the dame place yourself while also declaring on the big cheese.
- Rakarth (FLC) Your man you pick if you want to go for a full monster build. he comes with heavy armor and Anti Large to deal with enemy big monsters while also providing buffs to his own beasties. He will also have a Scourgerunner for skirmishing, a Manticore and a Dragon for a straight up brawl. He serves as your best counter to mounters, with his whip being able to strip Fear and Terror from monsters (leaving said monsters susceptible to fear and terror) and armor that gives him buffs as enemy monsters are around him. He's also being voiced by Ramsay Bolton.
- Dread Lord (Melee & Ranged): Your two generic lord with one focused on melee and has a shield while the other is a hybrid that focuses on shooting. In multiplayer, their ability change to help them buff their respective areas, Sword & Shield having buffs to melee attacks and debuffing enemy damage, while Sword & Crossbow supports other crossbows unit while also being a sniper, and gives a burst bonus to Ld.
- Supreme Sorceress (DLC): Makes a Sorceress as a lord for money-saving cost.
- High Beastmaster (DLC): Your monster hunter Lord. not as tanky in melee as a Dread Lord but deals a good amount of anti-large damage in addition to his burst of additional weapon strength. is Also is supportive by giving a single unit a big buff as they charge into melee (don't yet specify anything except can't be used on characters, so go crazy on an Executioners charge). Can Come on a Scouregrunner Chariot(roll though everyone while armed with a ballast) or ride a Manticore which has proven to be cost-effective flying monsters.
- Death Hag : Single-entity Witch Elves dialed up to 11. Death Hags excel as extremely vicious infantry blenders with a lot of speed of behind them and, as an added bonus, a variety of buff abilities that make them even deadlier. They tend to get the shorter end of the stick against dedicated duelist characters and their only mount option consists of the Cauldron of Blood, which, to be frank, is a waste, since it sacrifices offensive power and speed for more durability, something that Death Hags with their high Melee Defense don't really need. I’m not sure what the above was talking about, death hags kinda suck on foot like most foot heroes, the mount is good vs infantry and makes them actually pretty tough plus buffs nearby units. Always mount in campaign, foot may have more use in multiplayer I guess.
- Sorceress : Caster bitches in the flavours of Death, Dark, Shadows, Beasts, and Fire.
- Khainite Assassin : good on campaign map, terrible in an actual fight.
- Master (DLC) : Tyrants in Training who never graduate in game to Dreadlords :(. Masters are your tanky Dark Elf hero. You can’t really overuse these, they are amazing. Ap anti large heavily armored high stat combat monsters with great mount options, the guardian skill, easy recruitment from a tier 3 building, the ability to reduce slave decline to zero if stacked, access to martial names of power granting incredibly powerful bonuses, easy to recruit at level 9 and up in any 4 city province. A doom stack of these with the regeneration or hunger/frenzy skill and access to the extra melee attack or leadership reduction traits is possible the campaigns deadliest hero doomstack likely rivaling or beating Isabella vampire stacks or lizardmen hero spam. Really, really good heroes. And easier to spam then any comparable hero. Recommend cold one for ground duty (extra armor and ap) or Pegasus for flying (fast and flying with good charge but no shield). Foot is ok too but generally mounts are more than worth it for mobility alone.
- Dreadspears: Your most basic spearmen unit in the DE roster. They're... alright? They lack an offensive punch and High Elf Spearman performs better at the job they are supposed to be doing, being to hold the line to stop enemy cavalry punching through to your precious archers. They work fine in the early game, as well as being cheap, but don't rely on them for too long.
- The Hellebronai (RoR): Dreadspears that are a bit better in general with poison attacks.
- Bleakswords: The offensive counterpart to Dreadspears, just as basic, just as mediocre. Their only redeeming feature is their large shield. They have more damage potential in theory but this more or less comes down to what they are facing; they will hold up well against Goblins and Empire State Troops, but basically anyone can hold up well against these units. As with Dreadspears: Okay for the early game, drop them the moment something better becomes available. Seriously only use dreadspears. Never use these. Dreadspears are better defensively and have anti large, the slightly higher MA will never be worth losing antilarge. Alternate Opinion, they're rather cost effective early game being fairly cheap, are well shielded and can beat most other infantry at their price point and in the early phases of the game. If you take things into consideration they can be quite useful, just don't expect them to move mountains.
- Black Ark Corsairs : ...These guys. Oh, these guys. Frail as all hell, but worth it. Corsairs should make up the majority of melee troops of your midgame armies as soon as they become available. Their raw damage output as well as their armour (having a value of 90, putting them on the same level as dwarf warriors!) makes them a solid frontline and they will cut down all basic infantry used against them with ease and surprising speed. Their easy availability combined with a reasonable price make sure they are always a good choice, especially against horde-centric factions. One glaring weakness is their lack of AP damage. - whoever wrote the above likes corsairs way too much, they’re good but non synergistic with usual dark elf campaign strategies of crossbow spam. And they aren’t worth using after the early game. You can honestly never use them and just go dreadspears and darkshards and usually do better in the early campaign.
- Witch Elves: Talk about glass cannons, Witch Elves are a really weird bunch. They have no armour, but (try to) compensate for this with 20% physical resistance and a 5% ward save after you research technologies. In exchange, they excel in melee attack and apply debuffs to enemy forces attacked by them. The debuff in itself is very unique, as it not only debuffs enemy melee stats but also sends them on a rampage; causing them to stay way longer in a fight which they otherwise would be comfortable with. This is especially useful against all elven factions, since you can lure their expensive specialized elite tropps in matchups that they are not equipped to deal with (i.e. Swordmasters against a Hydra or a Dragon) and reliably keep them there. Well at least as long as your Witch Elves survive the encounter, which, given that their only defense is a meager 28 melee defense and a 5% ward save, might not be that long...
- Sisters of Singing Doom (RoR) :
- Sisters of Slaughter (DLC): They wear even less clothes than Witch Elves do, yet are more resilient. Strangely. Their extremely high melee defense, among the best a single unit has, and their missile resistance of 20% make them surprisingly tough to crack, despite being able to easily dispatch many kinds of troops. As one of the few resilient Dark Elven melee units, their job is to dispatch units with otherwise high defensive stats, like Phoenix Guard or Helbardiers, where their melee defense in conbination with their bonus vs. infantry lets them reliably come out on top. Additionally, they come with a unique passive that boost their melee defense and physical resist even further as long as they are losing their current encounter, which makes them surprisingly viable as a high damaging tarpit unit. These and black guard compete to be your best frontline, against elite ap infantry sisters can last up to twice as long because of high physical resist, poison, and amazing stats.
- Executioners: The offensive counterpart to the Black Guards, your ol' reliable murderers of heavy armoured elite troops and anything in between. They won't last long, but kill everything in their path. Frail, especially against missiles, but as a Dark Elf player, you're used to that. I don’t recommend these, they’re fragile, slow and they have weirdly low melee stats compacted to your other elite units. You can replace these with cold one dread knights even. Seriously with the change to primal instincts dread knights have massively higher stats especially with beast master lords skills. And otherwise fill the exact same role but do it better and faster.
- Blades of the Blood Queen (RoR) :
- Black Guard: Extremely beefy, these are your dedicated elite line holders and monster slayers. Remember murderous prowess makes them into an absolute force of destruction. And they have very good stats, the only downside is knowing that they’ll never be as awesome as Phoenix guard. Even if they can be offensively much deadlier the survivability of Phoenix guard is insane.
- Darkshards: Basic Dark Elf ranged unit and all and all pretty darn good for the early game. Indirect fire with pretty good AP makes them pretty useful, especially when focusing on firing key targets into oblivion. For a little extra, you can get these guys with shields which makes them excellent in an arrow exchange, which is important given who one of your biggest foes is
- The Bolt-Fiends (ROR) : The cool thing about these guys is that they degrade and nullify shields.
- Black Ark Corsairs (Repeater Handbows): A mixed bag, making up for the relative lack of skirmish units in the Dark Elf roster. Surprisingly mobile and difficult to catch, their biggest strength is easily their flexibility.
- Shades: Don't let the low model count discourage you, Shades rank among the best Missile Troops in the game. The high rate of Fire, high damage output, and even decent in melee, especially with greatswords. These should be your main gun line once you get access to them, they shred everything. Actually not really better than dark shards if you just use them as archers, much more expensive for only slightly better ranged performance. However if combined with a shadow dart name of power lord can potentially be stronger than a sisters of avelorn doomstack. 210 plus range, crazy ap, and better in melee than the sisters by a large margin due to AP and anti infantry. More expensive by 50% though.
- Dark Riders: Your extremely quick light cavalry, comparable to most other units of their class. One key feature is that they are actually fast enough to chase down most other missile cavalry. If your micromanagement skills hold up, Dark Riders can terrorize the enemy backline very efficiently and do so at the highest speed any base game cavalry unit offers, but they get vaporized the instant their charge bonus wears off, so will need to keep the cycle charges going.
- Dark Riders (Crossbows): changes light melee skirmish cavalry into ranged harassment cavalry. As using repeater Crossbows, they fire two shots of primarily AP damage. As always Useful to annoying poke an enemy to death but also those higher armor units that are normally resistant to those shenanigans. (most other factions only get close-range hand axes or more squisher handguns)
- The Raven Heralds (ROR): Rather distinct from their vanilla Dark Riders, these guys ride Dark Pegusii and can fly around the battlefield.
- Doomfire Warlocks (DLC): Really, really weird hybrid unit. In melee they have actually pretty good attack with magic and poison and charge, plus an aoe melee attack animation. They also have 40% physical resist to help keep them alive. One key advantage they have over comparable light to medium cavalry is their ability to fling around the Doombolt spell from the Lore of Dark and Soulblight from the Lord of Death as bound spells. A unit of these is pretty much always useful if nothing else, plus they look great.
- Slaanesh's Harvesters (ROR) :
- Cold One Knights: A massive disappointment. Evil Elven Dino-Riders should be barrels of fun, alas. They are outclassed by any other medium cavalry they are supposed to be fighting against, really slow for a cavalry unit, have rampage, and share the frailty of all Dark Elves units. Don't bother with them. -actually they no longer have rampage just reworked primal instincts, which means they only rampage at 20% health or less. The new beast master lords can grant them plus 8 MA and MD plus 10 extra charge from their unique skills and another 8 to both from the red skill tree. With both of these they actually become cost effective anti cav. They trade favorable against much more expensive units.
- Cold One Dread Knights: The same problems with the basic Cold One Knights are even worse here since they are exceedingly expensive and hard to get. Dread Knights actually rank among the worst units in the game. How can it get even worse, you might ask? Well, they are Shock Cavalry. On the lowest base speed of any true cavalry unit in the game, making it extremely difficult to get them out of melee combat once they're stuck in it and cycle charging nearly impossible. On top of all that, the bonus vs. large that nearly every high-tier Shock Cavalry in the game gets is also denied to them. - same as cold one knights, the presented info is outdated. they now only risk frenzy at 20% health or less. With campaign skills from a beast master lord they end up with mid 60’s in both MA and MD, they are actually better than sword chaos knights in campaign because of better skills. With how high they’re stats go they can function as prolonged melee units easily. Compare them to executioners and they can basically do everything better.
- Knights of the Ebon Claw (ROR): What's this? Cold One Knights that don't spaz out.
- Cold One Chariot :
- Scourgerunner Chariot : Scourgerunner Chariots are your jack of all trades chariot, that has a special boon in being on the very few ranged units in the game that get a bonus vs. large on their ranged attacks. Their key advantage is that they also move at Dark Rider speed, which makes them extremely difficult to catch or even hit, and in a pinch, they can even reliably dispatch basic missile tropps and infantry, thanks to a bonus vs. infantry.
- The Ravagers of Rakarth (ROR) :
- Reaper Bolt Thrower: Essentially identical to the High Elf counterpart (in spite of the significantly more badass name), the Reaper is likewise probably not going to be winning any prizes for the best artillery piece. Alright, it does hit a bit harder and has a smidge less range, but this is not something people would notice much in most situations. Nevertheless, it remains a useful and versatile addition to a Dark Elf army. Just don't go in expecting a WMD. Like the repeater, they possess two firing modes and can be particularly useful for sniping enemy artillery. In short a decent, if not exactly exceptional, artillery unit.
- Bloodwrack Shrine (DLC): A Bloodwrack Medusa with a Go-Cart. Despite being described as a chariot don't use it as such, it's too slow to pass through a unit.
- Harpies: Harpies fulfill essentially the same role as war hound and fell bat units. They're intended to be fast-moving harassers best used to hunt down or disrupt enemy missile units and artillery crews. When used in their intended capacity they can get some work done, just don't expect them to do much against anything with actual staying power. Even some of the sturdier archer units can prove a bit too much for them. If you're up against an opponent with a heavy focus on ranged firepower they can be a valuable addition. However, sending them in unsupported against basically anything else is a good way to end up with a whole lot of dead bat-ladies. Rakarth makes then a lot better, giving them bonus Melee Attack as well as a smidge of AP damage.
- The Crows of Khaine (ROR): Basically Harpies with Fear and the ability to regenerate when fighting. Surprisingly tanky because of it, just watch out for units that counter them.
- Feral Manticore: Surprisingly good backline harasser. Manticores make Harpies pretty much obsolete and make for great mid-tier carnage against everything that doesn't have a bonus against strength. They are very susceptible to Rampage, so take care of them.
- War Hydra: Lots of nasty surprises with the Hydra, your standard frontline melee monster. One of its core features is its flexibility; it's effective against a lot of targets and can reliably hunt down infantry thanks to its speed and breath attack. It tends to get the short end of the stick against other monsters and armoured units. In campaign you can get these 25% from a klar karond building. Super cheap and spammable regenerating monster.
- The Chill of Sontar (ROR) : Same regenerating monstery goodness as a normal hydra, though it replaces its flaming breath in exchange for one that slows down whatever it hits.
- Kharibdyss (DLC) : OMNOMNOMNOM. A Hydra on steroids, trades the regeneration factor and flaming breath for poisoned attacks, anti-large, and lots of AP goodness. Works best against armoured monsters, so if the enemy brings big scary beasts it can go toe to toe. If you want to blend infantry though, you’re better off with the Hydra.
- Bloodwrack Medusa (DLC): Combination monster and short rate direct fire artillery. Can delete chunks of elite infantry very quickly.
- The Siren of Red Ruin (ROR) : Same as a normal Medusa, but gains a AOE ability that causes moderate damage to all enemies around her.
- Black Dragon : Evil Dragonny Goodness. Occupies a niche between Sun and Star Dragons in terms of killyness, but retains a devastating breath attack, huge mass, and good mobility. As is tradition, compared with other dragons, quite frail when caught on the wrong foot. Harder to use because dark elves don’t have healing lores.
Rakarth Campaign Units
Long, Long ago in the distant times of 2017 Dark Elves where one of the top factions in the game with their massive amount of AP, powerful Lords and flexible army. Unfortunately after years of being beaten with the Nerf Bat they have fallen from grace. As of the Twisted and the Twilight patch they are considered low tier they really only have one viable tactic, relying on Scourgerunners and Crossbow Dark Riders. Now just because they are considered low tier doesn't mean you can't win with them as they still have some favorable match ups. As of right now, you are a bit of a one trick pony so you may have to get creative.
- Chaos Warriors:
- Dark Elves: Since Murderous Prowess cares about kills and not whose side they're on it's going to trigger roughly at the same time for both factions.
- High Elves:
- Lizardmen: This is one of the matchups in which you shine. All their armored dinosaurs are extremely vulnerable to your wide selection of AP troops, with a special shoutout to Dark Shards and Shades. Lizardmen lack missile infantry beyond their rather frail Skink Skirmishers, though their Chameleon Skinks will prove particularly annoying due to their missile resist and loose formations. Scourgerunner Chariots will run circles around the Lizardmen and, with proper positioning, can easily slip around their screening units to chunk the bigger Artillery Stegadons/Bastilodons that could potentially retaliate against your ranged forces. Try to kite them as much as you can, whittle down their frontline before sending in your Executioners and Blackguard to clean up.
- Tomb Kings:
- Vampire Coast:
- Vampire Counts:
- Wood Elves:
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