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How to use summoning

Discussion in 'Understanding the Underworlds' started by Alabaster427, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. Alabaster427

    Alabaster427 Minister of Thriftiness True Blood

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    I'm seeing a lot of beef about summoning and it's only gotten worse as AoS gets updated. Granted, it isn't as fun as 8th edition and definitely not as fun as End Times, but it's still really powerful. But here's the thing, do we really need to double, triple, or even quadruple the size of our army in order to win? No. If you agreed to play someone and agreed to a points limit beforehand, would you still have fun if they were able to play with 2-4 times the agreed limit and you were not? No.

    The idea is simple. You have a sideboard of your choosing. This is mostly for matched play, but can used regardless. All death wizards know all death summoning spells, regardless of whether or not they're in your army list. In a 2000 point game, you need three battleline units which could be really cheap, like zombies and the rest of your points on wizards for summoning. Let's say I want to have 800 points for summoning. I field 2 units of 10 skeletons, 1 unit of ten zombies, a corpse cart with +1 to cast, a mortis engine, 1 unit of Morghast (either, but I prefer Archai). This is only 720 points that give me +2 to cast or +3 for summoning. Even if your opponent is in range to attempt to unbind, it's difficult to beat with +3. This leaves enough room for any of the Mortarchs and a necromancer or you could just take several small casters like necromancers and liche priests. On top of all that, I think that are artefacts/command traits to beef up summoning (I don't have my book with me). After fielding, you still have 800 points to counter your opponent with and they have no idea what you have in store. Most small casters are only around 100 points each can be easily hidden. A Necromancer is basically indestructable on turn 1, so can't be sniped before he summons. The FAQ says we can summon whatever we want (and are able) even if it's not in our list, so the possibilities are insane.

    Some tournaments allow a side board already for you to switch out models on your list between battles, but this allows to you bring whatever you want whenever you want. Even if you don't go first, your opponent won't likely be able to stop you from summoning, especially if you bring someone like Arkhan.

    So cheer up about summoning. Or don't. Whatever.
     
  2. Malisteen

    Malisteen Master Necromancer True Blood

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    I've been trying to use summoning this way, even before the Generals Handbook came out, but... it's doesn't work out so well. First of all, there's not really enough variety in what our units do, so the ability to tailor on the fly doesn't add all that much. Second, not enough of our units play in the same points ranges. With units you might consider summoning weighing in multiples of 60 or 80 or 100 or points, which means that unless you go in knowing you're summoning specific things you're likely to end up wasting points.

    Like, I tried leaving 240 points on the side for summoning spirit hosts, and in one game summoned skeletal archers instead for some shooting, but as a result I was left 40 points down.

    Then there's the issue of having to actually cast the spell. Like, yeah, 6 spirit hosts appearing right where you want them can be great, but spirit hosts are already pretty fast and maneuverable, so if you just deploy them you can already probably get them right where you want by the time you would be summoning them anyway, and if you didn't have to summon them you could put mystic shield on them instead, and do so more easily than summoning them anyway, and without worrying about the entire unit, or half of it, getting delayed by bad casting rolls or good unbinding rolls.

    There's maybe some value in summoning slow units off of a fast summoner, like a mortarch scooting around and dropping zombies on objectives or whatever, but even then it feels iffy. And apart from zombies, which can be summoned multiple times and mob up, most of our infantry just don't really operate in the unit sizes that summoning brings. 5 grave guard, or 10 skeletons, other that maybe claiming objectives just don't do much.


    There's a handful of units that kinda work with summoning, ime:
    zombies
    Bat Swarms
    Skeleton Archers
    Spirit Hosts
    Morghast Harbingers
    Banshees

    But apart from the bats and the harbingers most of those are probably better just deployed normally, and again the hot dogs/hot dog buns problem of the points not all lining up very well makes it difficult to swap between these on the fly from a sideboard or whatever.


    I don't mean all of this to sound quite as negative as it probably does. Honestly, both the game and our faction work completely fine without any summoning at all, so summoning mostly being a bad option isn't all that problematic. The only units that really suffer are Nagash and Arkhan, and even then Arkhan would be fine with a slight adjustment to the rule of 3 (a spell may only be attempted once per target, for instance, or may only be 'successfully' cast once per turn), or just the introduction of a death alliance spell list for him to knick extra spells off his allies from without leaving them void of good casting options. And honestly, if Nagash isn't a good choice for matched play and only really works in wonky narrative games, that's fine by me, imo that's where the big faction-leading special characters belong, anyway.
     
  3. Infernal Skull

    Infernal Skull Wight King

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    I try to think of summoning as essentially the ability to make some units in your army "deep strike" (but probably not charge on the turn they arrive).

    For my money, the Tomb Kings "tunneling" units do this much more effectively and reliably. Tomb Scorpions can pop up within 6," which is fantastic. Morghast Harbingers get the 18" 3D6 charge range, so they have a decent shot at getting stuck in when they arrive but there will only ever be 2 of them, unless you're summoning them with Nagash.
     
  4. Infernal Skull

    Infernal Skull Wight King

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    I'd even settle for more spells (or a single generic Death Spell) that allowed you to add models to any unit for replacing casualties, or healing the larger models. A few Tomb Kings units get that in lieu of summoning spell, and I think it's infinitely more useful to replenish losses than to summon a whole new unit that will likely be minimum size.
     
  5. Malisteen

    Malisteen Master Necromancer True Blood

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    It's certainly more useful as long as summoning comes from reserves, but replenishment doesn't.
     
  6. Unas the slayer

    Unas the slayer Wight King

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    Yeah, replenish is better, and certainly the cap to size by summoning doesn't help.
    The only exception to size is probably if you summon zombies, adding them to an existing unit... but even than, the fact that the summoned zombies must be more than 9" from the enemy, makes it basically impossible to do the trick on a zombie unit already in combat.

    Summoning may still be exceptionally useful, for its surprise factor.
    Example: Seraphon, a Slann with astrolith bearer and arcane vassal can summon a trio of salamanders at 38" (!) and blast a target that was thinking to be safe. Those salamanders can hurt more than if they were included in the initial set-up, so they are worth their reserve points.
    But it's not the norm, and certainly cannot be done for units that rely on bonuses granted by size (as skeleton archers)
     
  7. Infernal Skull

    Infernal Skull Wight King

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    And most of the core undead units rely on size: Skele Archers, Skele Warriors, Zombies, Ghouls. Minimum sizes are basically throwaway units. You wouldn't include a unit of only 10 skeletons in a list and expect it to do well, why set the points aside to summon one later in the game? And hoping for the high roll to get a double size unit means you need to set aside double the points, for a result that might not come up.

    I'm finding more and more that it's just not worth it to "play short" when there's a chance that those points will never hit the table. I keep thinking I'll do it for the Ghoul King's ability to automatically bring in a unit of Ghouls on the table edge, but always fall back on the Tomb Scorpion, which will come in closer to the enemy. And if I ever get a second one, that's TWO scorpions popping up to attack stuff in the back field. By taking them as 2 separate units, you get two chances that at least one of them will make it in.

    If I ever play a large enough game (My group is hovering around 1000 points), maybe I'll try Morghast Harbingers for summoning.
     
  8. Malisteen

    Malisteen Master Necromancer True Blood

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    Archers can be alright if you have the casting bonuses to summon drop 20 in a single unit. 20 archers buffed by a wight king have even odds of droping a 5 wound hero with a 4+ save. Not a great use of 200 points, mind, but that's more due to our archers being a bit pricey for their ourpout, outside of maybe khalida builds.
     

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