Third Time’s a Charm? – Psychic Awakening Phoenix Rising Review Part 2: The Ynnari

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In part two of our review of the new Psychic Awakening, Phoenix Rising (PA:PR) we take a look at the new rules updates for The Reborn. If you missed it, please see Raf Cordero’s excellent review of the story and background of Phoenix Rising.

Ynnari have had a wild ride in 8th edition, having reached the tippy-top of the competitive scene and then fallen rapidly to near obscurity. At the dawn of 8th edition, the Reborn took every advantage of their capability for free actions, resulting in some hilariously overpowered interactions. In 2018 a Ynnari list piloted by Nick Nanavati won the Las Vegas Open after a final day where 4 of the quarterfinal and 3 of the semifinal lists were being run as Ynnari. Attempting to mitigate the imbalances, GW took repeated and often misguided swings of the nerf bat but were never truly able to address the ‘free actions’ without completely killing the viability of the underlying codex units. By the Spring of 2019 GW pulled out all the stops, loaded their garlic-laced, silver bullets, dunked the entire gun in holy water for good measure and then mercilessly gunned down the Ynnari demon by releasing their faction update in the May edition of White Dwarf. Overnight the faction went from top-tier to niche, which had a lot to do with the lack of any coherence to the army. Nominally a close-combat oriented army, the Ynnari lacked a lot of synergies and abilities that would have allowed them to excel in this role. Expensive stratagems that didn’t quite seem to fit or had very limited use (how does a close-combat oriented army not have a “fight-twice” stratagem?) and most of all, the complete and utter destruction of the old Soulburst mechanic. The army lacked any real way to deliver a lethal blow and couldn’t defend itself in the “Shoot-First-Assault-Never” meta.  However, in this brave, new, reborn world the Ynnari did have a shining spot in a set of fantastic Warlord Traits and Relics. Unfortunately, the tax to gain access was significant – only armies that included one of the Triumvirate of named characters could claim to be Ynnari and access the traits and relics – the characters were expensive, even after some cost changes, and the trade-offs on army synergies were often too steep. Since May the faction has faded into little more than a curiosity – a place to run some very select combinations or in my case, a couple of extremely cool Wraithseer ghostly bois. So if the first take was far too hot, and their second take was far too cold, did GW find the sweet spot with the new Psychic-ly Awakened Ynnari? Let’s take a look:

 

Ynnari in Phoenix Rising

The first thing to note is that the faction’s Army Rules have not changed (see our prior review of Index: Ynnari for a rundown of all the Ynnari rules). While not unexpected, I think many players had hope of forming a Ynnari army that didn’t require one of the Triumvirate to lead it. However, Ynnari did receive a sizable boost here in the form of point reductions:

  • Visarch – 80 points (down from 120)
  • Yvraine – 115 points (down from 132)
  • Yncarne – 280 points (down from 337)

The new point costing has some interesting implications for bringing a cheaper Ynnari faction, especially with the Visarch. However, it’s debatable even at this new low cost, that the ever-loyal Visarch can carry his foot-slogging, T3, 4++  weight in a competitive setting and so it’s hard to see him as anything but a tax. The Yncarne’s points drop is much more interesting as the model itself creates a lot of potential for mayhem on the tabletop. I still believe the Yncarne is something that requires considerable planning and building around, but the point reduction here may prove substantial enough that it could lead to him seeing the table in more lists. Yvraine is also a welcome point drop, and costed similar to an on-foot Farseer and less than a Shadowseer. It’s a nice boost, and while she lacks the versatility of the other two, she is capable of dishing a significant number of mortal wounds, has an excellent deny with her +1, and can do some damage in combat in a pinch. I think she still represents the best option for bringing a Ynnari faction to the table. Frankly, I’m just thrilled that GW decided to drop the weird point numbers (132… 337…. what?) and so ultimately this is a big win.

The Warlord Traits, Relics, and the Revenant discipline all remain largely unchanged  with only some minor wording updates to clarify use or mechanics. This is actually great news as this was the area of the Ynnari update where the faction excels. There is one slightly baffling exception: Word of the Phoenix was updated so that a model may only be returned to a unit on a 4+ now – which dramatically reduces its utility.

Perhaps the area that players may have most liked to see significant changes is in the Stratagems. Widely seen as overly-expensive and of very limited utility, the Ynnari stratagems don’t offer the synergies and weakness mitigation that other factions may benefit from with theirs. Some are simply standard Aeldari stratagems or stratagems that already exist in another form in one of the underlying books (Ynnead’s Net, Deadly Misdirection, Lightning-Fast Reactions, Fire & Fade, Webway Ambush, or The Great Enemy). Many of the Ynnari strategems are leadership modifiers (Whispering Spirits – 2CP!, Reborn Together) or extremely niche, onerous, or utterly useless  (Acolyte of Ynnead, United in Death, A Taste For Death). Ironically, the best stratagems in the army are the two that allow you to choose an additional Warlord trait and the standard additional Relic stratagems. Alas, there were no overhauls here in Phoenix Rising – minor wording updates to clarify rules or mechanics and incorporate FAQ adjustments only.

Outside of the points, the Triumvirate itself has not changed significantly either. The Yncarne’s ‘Ynnead Stirs’ ability was broken into two traits; Ynnead Stirs (Ynnari auto-pass morale within 6″) and Blessings of the Whispering God (Ynnari gain 6+ FNP within 6″) but the tabletop effect is the same. The Yncarne also exchanged its Warden of Souls (+1 Strength and Attack when benefiting from Soulburst)  warlord trait for Fear of the Grave (-1 enemy leadership within 6″, -2 if a unit was destroyed by the Yncarne)  while Yvraine exchanged Favoured of Ynnead (6″ pile-in/consolidate) for Warden of Souls (+1 Strength and Attack when benefiting from Soulburst). The reasons for these changes isn’t clear to me and in the case of the Yncarne is a straight downgrade. Ultimately, I think this is minor as it’s unlikely that you’d want any of the Triumvirate to be your army’s warlord, but these changes don’t seem clear or focused to me in how these units are supposed to function. Is the Yncarne supposed to be a leadership bomb or is he supposed to be a monster that can jump around? Is Yvraine supposed to be in combat or is she a supporting character? I think the lack of focus here is troubling.

Yvraine, the Herald of Ynnead

Yvraine, the Herald of Ynnead. Credit: Corrode

The Verdict

Unfortunately there just isn’t much here in the way of help, which is a shame as the faction has some cool dynamics and a lot of potential. Ynnari players who were looking to resurrect their shelved characters (has the Visarch ever seen the table?) in order to bring about Ynnead’s rise may have to wait a little longer as GW still has not found the sweet spot. It really seems like they want Ynnari to be a close-combat, strike-first-and-fast faction but they haven’t developed the proper tools to do so. What results is an incoherent, unfocused faction where very few elements have any natural synergy internally or with the other codexes that makes you want to trade their own army traits and stratagems to gain the Ynnari’s. Perhaps the simplest fix is to allow any HQ to lead a Ynnari host, but I also understand why GW may not want to go down that route. Although it remains to be seen what the rest of Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising brings, and while it is certainly possible that the Drukhari and Aeldari sections of the book give Ynnari a much needed boost, I’m highly skeptical. Nonetheless, I’m going to keep trying out different ideas in my pursuit to “make them work” and if nothing else, PA:PR brings new options to the table.

 

More to Come

We’ll be continuing our coverage of the new Phoenix Rising book throughout the week, with a review of the new Drukhari Obsessions and unit rules on Saturday.

 

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