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(Age of Sigmar) DEATH Summoning Guide

Demian

Vampire Count
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Messages
1,248
#1
Hello everyone!

I'm updating the Summoning Guide to Age of Sigmar, to express my views and discuss strategies concerning our ability to raise the dead to fight for our cause.

Regardless of whatever restrictions and house rules you have implemented in order to balance summoning, my aim is to provide useful information, because Age of Sigmar is quite another beast in terms of how to win.

I'll include the casting value of each unit, but focusing only on units that can be Summoned (Raising an entirely new unit). Those which can be Reanimated (adding another model to an existing unit) and which can be Healed via magic are not included here, since they follow another purpose:

Morghast Harbingers/Archai
Vargheists
Fell Bats
Bat Swarm
Zombies
Dire Wolves
Skeleton Warriors
Skeleton Archers
Skeleton Horse Archers
Skeleton Horsemen
Tomb/Grave Guard
Skeleton Crew
Ghouls
Crypt Horrors
Varghulf
Cairn Wraith
Banshee
Spirit Host
Hexwraiths
Carrion
Tomb Swarm
Terrorgheist
Zombie Dragon


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Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead

Nagash would require a particular guide to maximize his magical potential, but even without insight or skill, he is almost the most overpowered character in all Age of Sigmar (so far). So, when using Nagash, just bear in mind that he doubles any amount of miniatures he raises, and that he can auto-cast several spells due to his bonus to summoning.
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Summoning

If you plan to be summoning as your main endurance strategy, you may want to consider a few things beforehand:

  1. The first turn, it's likely that you will be able to freely cast any summoning spells, since very few enemy Wizards will risk travel within 18'' from your own Wizard. If you fear being threatened by enemy mages, simply deploy your summoners in the back of your army.

  2. There are diferent bonuses you have to Summoning magic, however bear in mind they interact with only certain HEROEs and within certain distances:
    • Casket of Souls: (Covenant of Power) +1 to casting rolls for any spell of Liche Priests within 18''
    • Corpse Cart: (Unholy Lodestone) +1 to casting rolls for any spell of DEATH wizards within 18''
    • Morghasts: (Heralds of the Accursed One) +1 to casting rolls for summoning spells of DEATH units within 18''
    • Mortis Engine: (Blasphemous Tome) +1 to casting rolls for any spell of DEATH wizards within 12''
    • Balewind Vortex (summoned scenery): +1 to casting rolls for any spell of any wizard on top of it. Doubles the range of spells. Must be summoned (cast 5+).
    • Arcane Ruins (scenery): +1 to casting rolls of any spells of any wizards within 3'' of the Ruins.
    • Dreadstone Blight (scenery): +1 to casting rolls of any spells of any wizards within 3'' of the Blight.
    • Garden of Morr (scenery): +1 to casting rolls of any spells of DEATH Wizards within 3'' of the Garden.
    Note that some rolls effect every spell, while others only Summoning spells.

  3. Some Units have a high casting value (10+) and thus, it is highly unlikely you'll be able to cast them without assistance of any or several of the effects above. Summoning is used to create advantages, which will maim your opponent's advance and give you Table Control. The Durability of our units tends to be low, so do not use summoning as an attempt to cover your losses, since enemy wizards will actively seek to dispel and come closer, lest they become heavily outnumbered and eventually, lose.

    That's what you need to provoke.

  4. The Range of all the summoning spells is 18'', so there is plenty of room for you to set up a unit, exactly where and how you need it to be formed. This is important because formations are key to winning in AoS.
As already stated by @najo in multiple threads, there is more than one (or two or three) ways to win a battle in Age of Sigmar. The most consistent one is to command your troops well and form them up so that YOU control the table, regardless of how many losses you seem to sustain in the first turns.

Summoning will pressure your opponent to rush towards you, to stop and kill your DEATH Wizards. Various Units serve different roles, and so we'll take a look at each, so you can summon the proper Unit when and where you need it.

Some Units are Shock Troops, designed to take charges and hold (or die) to lock an enemy in combat.

Some Units serve as Support troops, which can attack from afar (missile or melee) and stay close to other Units, so that when engaged they can pile up and attack just for being there. Some can provide passive bonuses to combat and should not actively seek combat, unless you want to maximize attacks against a dying foe.

Some Units are better Hunters, prefering to charge and seek out lone and vulnerable spots, threatening counter-charges and deterring other fast moving enemies from wandering too close. These troops are usually self sustaining/disposable, mobile and with decent/elite combat skills, but best used against sparse targets.

Last, other Units are Powerhouses, designed to enter combat and grind down an enemy. They have elite combat skills, are not self sustaining or mobile, but pack the biggest punch in terms of Damage, Rend and nice Hit and Wound rolls. You must plan to set up a charge for them, while not exposing other sensitive important units as well!

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Summon Harbingers & Archai
(cast 7+, summons 2 models)

If you didn't include any of these in your list, and you plan to use summoning heavily, this is the unit to summon first, since it is the ONLY Unit you can raise that will give you any bonuses, but only to summoning rolls. If you fancy, create a list without them (to include other minis) and summon them ASAP. Bear in mind that this roll is on the limit of the "average" threshold for probable rolls. You may fail this spell, so plan accordingly.

Harbingers hunt well, travel fast and have a very decent charge range. They can cleave through 5+ Saves easily, and have elite stats to Hit, Wound and Damage. They can counter-charge Cavalry, and threaten them from afar with their Harbingers of Death special rule that gives them 3 D6 on the charge. They won't be staying close to any non-Vampire heroes, so mind their effect bubble.

Archai are more of guardians than Harbingers, so they should stay close and guard your Wizards. 2'' attack range and elite combat stats make them very good to Support your units. Any flyers that wander too close to your wizards will meet them.

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Summon Vargheists
(cast 6, summons 3 models, with 11 summon 6 models)

A nice casting value, with the potential of doubling the model count with a good roll. This is a disposable unit, so when you need to maneouver beyond your formations and start chasing stragglers of the battle (Wizards, Damsels, War Machines), summon them.

They are your dedicated disposable hunters. They move 12'' and have elite Hit and Wound rolls. they are very good at nibbing at infantry, or other 1-wound models, since they maximize their use when killing models. Try to avoid summoning them too close to an enemy. Set them up on the back of your ranks, and have them wait a turn. By that time, maybe some lone wanderer will try to approach you by flying. You can send other dedicated hunters to destroy them (Terrorgheists / Banshees) or you can nib at some of their wounds, but Vargheists will not be as effective.
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Summon Fell Bats
(cast 5 summons 3 models)

A very easy cast, but no more than 3 models will be set, so you may want to cast this when enemy wizards approach, just to make them waste dispel attempts.

Fell bats have average combat stats and effects, but move 14'' and are ideal for chasing the squishiest targets AKA War Machines (but not chariots/tanks). They can also block and control long distances with their move, and can lock down an enemy and peel off some of their wounds when you charge them alone. They are not designed to kill, just to be a nuissance and prevent enemy cavalry/flyers from getting too close without a stop. They can last a couple of rounds against something not too overpowered.
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Summon Bat Swarm
(cast 5, summons 3 models)

Another easy cast, to be used at the beginning of the game to pressure enemy shooters and reduce their efficiency. They need to be within 12'' of the enemy, so most likely, you'll just Run them up and expect them to be slaughtered, but winning you a turn of diminished shooting! They are also great for breaking your opponent's formation, and baiting important units to a rushed charge and a bad position on the table. If you can, summon them as close to your enemy as possible.
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Raise Zombies
(cast 4, summons 10 models. With an 8+ summon 20 models)

A super easy cast, automatic by any wizard with 2 bonuses to their rolls. Zombies are meant to be shock troops, but become increasingly efficient, and even Powerhouses as their numbers grow. You can easily set up 20 zombies during your first Hero phase, and you should form them up around the sensitive units you mean to protect from dangerous charges. 18'' range and the ability to merge them to an existing zombie horde means this is the unit you want to summon when setting up your battle formations. They can spread all around 18'' and need only be 2-ranks deep to maximize their attacks, so spread them around every Terrorgheist, Zombie Dragon, Black Coach, Grave Guard you need and let the fight come to them. They replenish D6 during each Hero phase, so it's ok to lose them.
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Summon Dire Wolves
(cast 5, summons 5 models. With a 10+ summon 10 models)

Easy cast with a chance to summon 20 wounds worth of models. Dire Wolves are not the fragile things they used to be. They can chase flankers pretty good, and stall them for a few rounds. They can't fly, so they probably shouldn't go after shooters, unless your enemy leaves them a clear charge. They have average combat stats, so expect them to win by attrition more than by actually killing stuff. They are expendable, so spend them!
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Raise Skeletons (Warriors)
(cast 5, summons 10 models. With a 10+ summon 20 models)

Both Tk and VC have the same stats and abilities, so do not fear. Another easy cast with a potential of bringing 20 wounds worth of models. They are both Shock and Support troops, depending on how you're summoning them:

Sword and Shield: Shock. Consider giving them the Tomb Shields, since they will most likely never charge, to have them with a 5+ save. 2-deep is all you need.

Spears: Support. Better summon them behind a shock unit and have them stand close to them, to provide their 2'' attack range. Since the Wizard who summoned the Unit is a DEATH Hero, they'll always have their Serve in Death special rule active when you set them up (+1 to Hit).

This Summoned unit will not reach their maximum potential (Skeleton Legion special rule) due to the fact that you can't combine them with other Skeleton Warriors, like zombies do. So you'll mostly summon them to speed bump or bait a charge. 10 models is more than enough to set them in spear formation, just in front of your main attack troops. If you roll below a 10, use them as bait or shock. If you manage to get 20, you can consider giving them a flank and spears, so they can charge and peel off some wounds with their increased attacks for a turn.
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Raise Skeleton Archers
(cast 5, summons 10 models. With a 10+ summon 20 models)

A very nice support unit, having 10 missile attacks grants slow advantage. An easy cast and to be set up to take advantage of their shooting just as they are raised. They have the capacity to be raised as 20 models and take full advantage of their Hail of Ancient Arrows ability, so beating the 10+ casting roll will put a lot of pressure on your opponent, no matter if you target a Hero, Monster or even Cavalry with these arrows. They are free arrows.

You shouldn't need to summon more than 1 unit of these guys during the course of the game, and they are best summoned from turn 2 on, giving priority to your Zombie / Skeleton wall over these shooters that may not be within range from the start of the battle. If you have your formation covered, they (plus Skeleton Horse Archers) are your only real long-range shooters you can summon, but these use much less space and have a better chance to Hail arrows.

There on, you should Run and Shoot every chance you get, and annoy every hunter that may come too close to you (low saves).
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Raise Horse Archers
(cast 5, summons 5 models. With a 10+ summon 10 models)

Another support-hunter unit with an easy cast and potential of getting 20 mobile wounds for a single cast. They should be set up beyond your battle lines, in an attempt to always Run and Shoot. They can even Shoot and Run in the same turn that you set them up, giving them maximum reach over a flank that you can see is unprotected (Like the Angry Desert Wind ability). Don't be afraid to charge them into combat against squishy targets as well, since the skeletal steeds have a decent combat ability (but the Archers themselves suck)

Set them up if you lack pressure on a far away lone target, and at the same time, you want to outmaneouver slow moving units.
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Raise Horsemen
(cast 5, summons 5 models. With a 10+ summon 10 models)

Easy cast for a small tactical unit that will bait charges, and even screw the charge of long range flyers. these can be set up beyond your lines and form them close to your shock troops, just to draw attention. They have bad combat stats, although average rolls. They are fragile, but are meant to be distractions. If they are given ground, send them off to charge a very far away target and screw his plans.
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Raise Tomb Guard / Grave Guard
(cast 5, summons 5 models. With a 10+ summon 10 models)

These are small powerhouse units, with elite stats and meant to put pressure on existing combats, and threatening multiple flanks with killy stuff. They either get wiped before they can strike, or they will inflict severe damage to other units if they are left unatended. Perfect for those battle phases when more important units need to act first, but risk the Guards hacking at will. 5-wide and 2-deep guarantees maximum number of attacks, so these guys are versatile. Nagash can summon a very powerful unit, with 20 models (which is around the optimal number for they, if you don't plan on going full-on horde).

Tomb Guard: If you want them to endure and grind, more than slay outright, you should summon the Tomb Guard because of their Tomb Shield (although they can't charge) they can stand against a monster, be chopped to death and if they are lucky, strike back. Otherwise, you may even ignore their Tomb Shield and just send them off to a charge, and get their bonus next turn. The Bronze Halberd is iffy for me, since it is better to have a better chance at a second dice, than having a better chance on the second dice, but a crappy first to Hit roll. Unless you can give them +1 to Hit, they are not worth it, and are better off with their Tomb Blade. They always carry shields, mind you.

Grave Guard: since you'll be summoning so few of them, consider making them extra-killy with their Great Wight Blades, leave the shields at home when summoning them. Better stats and more chances to deliver cursed strikes.
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Raise Black Knights
(cast 5, summons 5 models. With a 10+ summon 10 models)

Not to be confounded with Grave Guard on horses anymore. They have very different stats, and serve as a mid-cavalry, rather than a shock troop, as before. Their damage output is very average, on par with human knights, and a mid save. Best when engaging units without Rend and can serve as shock cavalry to pin down units of, say, zombies, or other massed low-rend models. Very durable with their Standard + saves. You can use them to guard a scenery piece, adding a +1 to their save rolls, and from there, attempt to either charge or receive charges, depending on what you need them to do.
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Raise Skeleton Crew
(cast 5, summons 3 crew members)

As I understand, you can't crew other Warscroll's War Machines with your own, otherwise this spell would have been AWESOME!.

Nope, just use this to replenish missing Skeleton Crew Members. Remember this spell targets the Screaming Skull Catapult itself, with no Crew members remaining. This means, if you lost 2 members, and want your catapult to full operativity, you need to charge the remaining skeleton away from the War Machine, and have him killed. This is odd, as I'd picture you just need to un-man the machine in order to have an elegible target, but RAW says: kill them all.
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Summon Ghouls
(cast 5, summons 10 models. With a 10+ summon 20 models)

Another easy spell that can summon a vast number of Attacks to your side of the table. Best used when in proximity of any Ghoul King as he will boost their combat prowess when other DEATH heroes won't. They move 6'' so you can set them up, and wait for a future charge, as they are quite good for choppin off some wounds of low save models.
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Summon Crypt Horrors
(cast 6, summons 3 models. With an 11+ summon 6 models)

They have 12 wounds per 3 models, instead of just 10 as with Ghouls, but occupy more space to attack, so always form them in a single line, if you want to maximize attacks. Summon them near a Ghoul King, since he will bolster their attack output and are not the meat-walls they used to be in 8th. Still, having them guard a structure makes them very handy, and can heal themselves a bit, so they can sustain some wounds self-sufficiently. Re-rolls to Hit are of the most importance, since they have an average 4+ of it.

Use them as Shock troops since they have more wounds per-catsing than other summoned units, plus a decent save and a decent attack ratio.
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Summon Varghulf
(cast 7, summons 1 model)

Another hard-ish cast without the possibility to summon more models. Vaghulf is actually a very dangerous unit. He is tanky enough, fast and functions much better when in the thick of the battle (Bestial Fury ability), he just needs 10 enemy models near him to make him go berzerk.

He is best used when near a Strigoi Ghoul King AND being given his Lord of the Flesh-eaters command ability, which makes him almost auto-hit, but certainly auto-wound with his Dagger-like Fangs! Use this to pierce through armored knights and Heroes!

You can summon him before or beyond your battle lines. He can tank quite a bit, bait charges, or hunt infantry. He is very self sustaining with his Monstrous Hunger ability, but if you are going to use him as a shock troop, you can heal him as well by casting any spell with DEATH wizards within 18'' of him.

Summon him when you are anticipating a mess of a charge, against the frontline of your opponent. He reinforces, supports and absorbs damage very nicely.
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Summon Wraith
(cast 5, summons 1 model)

One of our limited HERO summons, with an easy cast value. The Cairn Wraith has a slightly above average rolls, which get better if he's fighting a unit with 5 or more miniatures. His Reaper Scythe works out defensively very well and can support your shock troops, and even become one himself because of his Ethereal ability. He moves poorly, so position him well before maneuvering.
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Summon Banshee
(cast 5, summons 1 model)

Another HERO summon, she actually has greater value than before, because of her Banshee Howl and today's low Bravery values on armies. She is quite a good support, although you may want to wait until the central skirmish has begun, and enemies are locked down in combat. She can pick her targets easily, along with a Mortis Engine's Ghostly Howl and the Screaming Skull Catapult to combo for maximum damage on either units or Heroes alike. She is small, versatile and doesn't draw too much attention, like Terrorgheists do. She would be a prefered summon over the Wraith if you can immediately use her howl and take advantage of free points.

She can Hunt and support well, but she shouldn't see much combat as her melee damage is below average.
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Manifest Spirits
(cast 5, summons 3 models. With a 10+ summon 6 models)

Our shock troop ethereal unit, with a low cast value and hard to stop presence. Spirit Hosts can defend a terrain piece quite effectively against any unit that does not inflict Mortal Wounds. Below average combat stats make them more of a shock - support troop than a killy one. Try to tie up HEROES with them, but mind their slow movement of 6.
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Summon Hexwraiths
(cast 6, summons 5 models. With an 11+ summon 10 models)

These guys took a hit in AoS, making them less of a threat than before in terms of damage output, but with great uses as well. They have the movement to harass a HERO or a Monster with Spectral Hunters and still draw and bait a charge, and maintain their position with their Ethereal ability.

They are our hardest summoneable wall unit, with a 4+ save and Ethereal.

Spectral Hunters isn't what it was before, but it's still a nice bonus all the same, specially if you make them Run and return to where they were, since you won't be charging them, unless they had a clear shot at a juicy elite unit, or a Hero/Monster. They can even use this ability when they retreat, providing an Ethereal wall against charges, and then, clear the way flying on top of the enemy, wounding them a bit and allowing you a clear frontal charge.

You should summon these if you need a durable shock troop to accompany your Cavalry/Flyiers to absorb damage decently, specially against HEROES or units with Rend. You can wait until the proper time to retreat them and get a devastating charge.
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Summon Carrion
(cast 5, summons 3 models)

These guys are the ultimate hunters for our army. Even when summoned, Carrions remain flying high and are immune to everything until they charge, just looming above and thretening your opponent's Wizards, War Machines and shooters in general. Once you place them and start moving them about, other wizards will think twice before wandering too far away, and in any case, they are well worth killing a Hero by themselves. They have a slightly above average combat stats and can deal with weak-ish stuff.
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Summon Tomb Swarm
(cast 5, summons 3 models)

Again from the Tomb King's Warscrolls, we have a perfect shock troop that works even better when summoned. 15 wounds for a easy cast is wonderful. This is the only summoned unit that can be set beneath the ground and re-surface them anytime during future movement phases (since they can't technically move because of the summoning spell restrictions).

Now, they can resurface in front of your powerhouse units and soak up a charge, then, next turn, they move beneath the ground again (gaining slain models, might I add) and leave a free and amazing zone unoccupied for you to charge/pile in and attack. They are simply wonderful.

Notice that you'll have to wait a full turn to start using them all around the battlefield, huntin really weak stuff or, as suggested, just as canon fodder for charges and establishing control points.
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Summon Terrorgheist
(cast 10, summons 1 model)

Our most feared minion, he has a very high cast value, so be ready to fluff this summoning roll, and try to back your casters up with as many bonuses as possible. This also mean that, with a dedicated magical army, even if your opponent will try to dispel you, you'll have the advantage of bonus cast, and that is quite an advantage.

The Terrorgheist can do everything, from becoming a charge-and-missile magnet, to toppling a named Hero like he was nothing (although no auto-kills like before, important models have too many wounds now!) and all in all, either hunt or support with the best of our abilities.

Don't forget to charge him into combat/near combat when his Wound count is low, so he can explode and deal Mortal Wounds (beware he hits friendly units as well)
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Summon Zombie Dragon
(cast 10, summons 1 model)

With a high cast and limited usefulness without a Vampire Lord riding it, a Zombie Dragon is more of a show than an important threat. His range is 2'' and 3'' to attack, so a Zombie Dragon can always support and fire his Pestilential Breath to an extent of effectiveness. This unit should guard your shock troops and support, but it can also take quite a beating itself and maintain a position. It's combat stats are slightly above average, but deals a lot of damage with successful wounds.
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They are all the Units you can Summon from the Undead. Summoning is almost the only magic we have left now, so learning how to master your summoning is crucial for an Undead player (with an Undead army, badum-tss!).

Comments, suggestions or anything I might have missed can and will be added :D

EDIT: Added the Balewind Vortex and a bunch of other scenery that help with casting spells, like Banat pointed out!

Added the Hexwraith's Retreat + Spectral Hunters combo.
 
Last edited:

Banat

Varghulf
Joined
Jul 13, 2014
Messages
791
#2
On Balewind Vortices

Almost a must.

Gives you a +1 to both casting and unbinding roles, and doubles the effective range of spells, making your summoning range 36" (giving you a HUGE advantage in terms of battlefield control).

Cast on a 5+ so nice and easy.

MOST importantly: "If this spell is cast, it does not count towards the number of spells the wizard can attempt to cast in a turn." HOLY WOW.

Your first hero phase MIGHT proceed as following,...

1. Summon Balewind Vortex. +1 to summoning.

2. Summon Morghasts, now on a 6 instead of 7. Now you've got +2 to summoning and a range of 36" to place summoned units in. All in your first turn, uncontested by opponent wizards trying to unbind you.

With added cheese...
With a nearby Corpse Cart and Mortis Engine your lowly Wizard is now +4 on summoning roles, and all of those higher end boosted troop numbers, as well as that tasty Terrorgheist, look a lot easier to summon.
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
10
#4
Am I missing something or would using Konrad to re roll all failed casting attempts for necromancers within 18" be a good idea? I know GW have left most of our names characters but there are lots of alternate points systems that include him like the south coast GT :)
 

Demian

Vampire Count
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Messages
1,248
#5
Hello! I am yet to update this guide with points (although they would have to be estimated points, so that I won't violate the forum's terms), however, you can build any list you like

in the case of summoning while using Konrad and 2+ Necromancers or Liche Priests (who are themselves also Necromancers) isn't such a bad idea, however you would need to account for casting bonuses from other units and leaving enough points in the Reinforcement points to summon whatever you want.
 

Oppenheimer

Crypt Horror
Joined
May 26, 2013
Messages
556
#6
I never noticed that Liche priests have the necromancer keyword. That's awesome synergy with Konrad's ability.
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
10
#7
So it seems that summoning is very powerful and because of that, most tournament organisers have nurfed it into the ground, too much so in my opinion, but how would you consider running a summoning list in a competitive format? what would you put together? Necromancers with konrad? just necromancers? how many? I guess it all depends on how much of a spawning pool the tournament allows?
 

Demian

Vampire Count
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Messages
1,248
#8
Arkhan seems like the best way to go, along with a Corpse Cart or Mortis Engine for the summoning buffs.

Or, Liche Priests, Casket of Souls and, yeah maybe Konrad. The best summoning pieces of late are:

- Mourngul
- Morghast Harbingers
- small Zombie units designed to block chargers

For that purpose, you'd need to consider leaving around 400 points in the Reinforcement pool just so you can bring a big big guy on the field (Mourngul) and with the help of the Sword of Unholy Power to auto-summon whenever you need it.

As for Konrad's list, using a single Necormancer and a Liche Priest should be enough, and therefore, using Reanimants in the army (like Ushabti, Necrosphinx and the sort) isn't a terrible idea if you don't like using too many Deathrattlers and should keep your Leader usage to a decent amount.
 

Deamon

Skeleton
Joined
Oct 1, 2014
Messages
56
#9
With Arkhan and a corpse cart Archers are also worth summoning since you have a decent chance to bring 20. This way you can get them in range of those annoying artillery pieces right away.
 
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