Tactics Shaman: Skating the Skaventide

Credit: Robert "TheChirurgeon" Jones

Skaven as a whole have had a wide variety of competitive builds since their sole book released in early 2019. As an army they’ve had very little in the way of support from supplements released on their behalf, and they only partially play with other chaos books, and when they do, it is usually only in very specific circumstances. The majority of their “updates” have solely been points adjustments up/down in General’s Handbooks, with the one exception being the FAQ/Errata adjusting the range for one of their endless spells, and how many Stormfiends can be taken per unit.

In the period between the 2018 winter FAQ and 2019 GHB, Skaven had 12 podium showings at events, with 3 of those being first place finishes. Those lists would range from Quad-Verminlord builds with a ton of endless spells (taking anywhere from 4 to 6 different endless spells) to combined arms with Stormfiends + skryre support heroes with bells and clanrats. During this time they were sitting comfortably with a win-rate of around 58%. Two General’s Handbooks later, Skaven have been hit with points adjustments, Warplighting Vortex saw its range cut in half (though understandably so), Endless Spells now limited to a maximum of 3 per army, and new armies have been added to the game that are able to bypass their power plays. And so these days Skaven are sitting at around a 44% win-rate.

The things that made Skaven terrifying in the beginning were that they were one of the magic-dominant armies, and through magic offense and magic buffs to their shooting their shooting also became dominant, making them a terrifying force to deal with. You would see Verminlord Warpseers casting x2 spells with +2 to cast, 36” threat damage spells, and then Skryre wizards giving Stormfiends the ability to re-roll all hit and wound rolls with More-more-more Warp Power! Sure they’d need a 7 to cast, but they’d have +1 for that due to the Arcane Gnawhole behind them and the ability to re-roll casting due to their Warpstone tokens, making all of this pretty reliable to pull off.

Unfortunately times have changed and the massive threat they had almost pales in comparison to the Magic Dominance of today, and the taxes you have to take to make an army mono-Clan (all Skryre, Pestilence, Eshin, etc) really eschews certain aspects of the army and leaves a lot to be desired with what you’re forced to leave behind.

 

Giant Rats, Packmasters, Rat Ogors, Clanrats, and Plague Monks
Giant Rats, Packmasters, Rat Ogors, Clanrats, and Plague Monks
Credit: Pendulin


Skryre builds can have the lowest army drop potential, but will be extremely fragile. Although the build’s damage can still be good with things like Stormfiends, Acolytes and Jezzails, you’ll be playing on a razors edge between having enough damage and having zero models on the board.

Pestilence armies may have some of the largest bodycounts you can put on the board (probably tied with Clan Verminus), but since the warscroll for the plaguemonks was changed – losing the Plague Harbringers ability – the army will now bounce off almost any army with high armor ahd has minimal ways to deal mortal wounds to compensate.

Clan Moulder armies may have the ability to take bodies, but with minimal ways to make them immune to battleshock and with some of the worst bravery and saves in the book (3, and “-”, respectively), the only real winners in this clan are Hellpit Abomonations. And those have random movement values, making them pretty unpredictable. 

Clan Verminus as a stand-alone clan is probably the most balanced of your options, but with the loss of the Forge World Clawlord on Broodhorror and the Aetherquartz Brooch relic from Malign Sorcery much of their competitive damage got neutered and are back to being mainly bodies to score objectives and screen your real damage-dealing units. However the Verminlord Warbringer will always be my baby, and he has been starting to see more play as of late.

Clan Eshin armies… I don’t really know what to tell you. If you want to win games… Don’t play mono-Eshin? 1/10, do not recommend.

 

Skritch Spiteclaw
Skritch Spiteclaw. Credit: Pendulin

So, back to the fact that Skaven have a 44% win-rate at the moment – as you can see above, these factions don’t do well on their own. The good news is that the army would much rather play a combined arms anyway.

Where Skaven used to dominate 1-2 phases of the game and be alright at the others, the army is now even more of a “Jack-of-all Trades, master of none” type. The army can be OK at magic, OK in shooting, and OK in melee, and it can have bodies on the table. Combining a gun battery with a support wizard from Skryre, a scouting screen unit from Eshin Nightrunners to add another layer in between your damage-dealers and your opponent, some nice hordes of infantry from Verminus Clanrats,  a Grey Seer on Bell to make everything immune to battleshock, and Verminlords to fulfill any delusions of combat grandeur you may have while also being stable enough mobile magic batteries..  You end up sort of like Slaanesh, you generally will run out of points before you run out of combos you’ll want to add. However, unlike Slaanesh, you will usually have SOME sort of board presence. 

A list that takes most of this into account looks something like this:

Allegiance: Skaventide


Leaders

Grey Seer on Screaming Bell (240)

- Lore of Ruin: Skitterleap

Arch-Warlock (160)

- General

- Command Trait: Deranged Inventor  

- Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism: More-more-more Warp Power!

Warlock Bombardier (120)

- Artefact: Vigordust Injector  

- Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism: More-more-more Warp Power!

Skritch Spiteclaw (140)


Battleline

20 x Clanrats (120)

- Rusty Spear

20 x Clanrats (120)

- Rusty Spear

20 x Clanrats (120)

- Rusty Spear

30 x Stormvermin (300)

- Halberd



Units

6 x Stormfiends (520)

- 2x Windlaunchers

- 2x Ratling Cannons

- 2x Doomflayer Gauntlets

10 x Night Runners (80)

4 x Spiteclaw's Swarm (0)



Endless Spells / Terrain / CPs

Warp Lightning Vortex (80)




Total: 2000 / 2000

Extra Command Points: 0

Allies: 0 / 400

Wounds: 169

A healthy mix of Masterclan, Verminus, Skryre, and Eshin. Eshin for pre-game scout/screens. 90 wounds in battleline from verminus + potential attack buffs if needed to the Stormvermin with the Clawlord. Battleshock immunity + magic from the Bell, and long range damage threat from the Stormfiends. 169 wounds of usually battleshock immune. The Skryre heroes will almost always all take the same spell, because the repetition is more important in case you lose one, than having more spells to cast. Skitterleap and warplightning vortex also is a brutal combo if you can get it off, especially now since its range was cut from 26” to now 13”.

The named Clawlord could also be swapped out for a basic one, to save the 40 points, lose some of those wounds, but gain the ability to attempt for a triumph or another endless spell. (if you wanted to stick with this list.

Some interesting recent ideas with this army have been integration into armies like Legion of Chaos Ascendant. Since all the Verminlords have the Daemon keyword, they’ve been included in a few lists for that army. This is also true for armies like Slaanesh that can ally in Nurgle units, allowing you to have access to Warplighting Vortex via Verminlord Corrupter, who is both Nurgle and of course a Skaventide wizard. One of the most lethal spells in the game, on a fairly durable platform. 

 

Skaven - Plague Monks
Skaven – Plague Monks
Credit: Pendulin

Today’s article is a little shorter than usual since Skaven have fewer supplements and are on the lower end of competitive armies. Skaven have a lot of little tricks that can all add up to a competitive force, but the army is one such that once its support pillars are cut out from underneath it, the army will fall apart pretty quickly. As always, if you have more questions on Skaven, questions about a list your thinking about, or tactics for or against them, shoot me a question or reach out on my patreon:

Otherwise see you next week.

Have any questions or comments? Have an army list you’d like advice on? Email us at contact@goonhammer.com and we may focus on it in a future week’s article!