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Attack of the Clone-Twins: Iliatha Reborn


Nico

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My Matriarch Teclisa, agent of Malerion, welcomes you to the NicoLab. I’ve been reborn (or perhaps magically cloned) for the Third Edition of Age of Sigmar. In this post, we’ll:

  • Look at the long-ignored subfaction (Great Nation) of the Lumineth, Iliatha, now reborn for version 3!
  • Teach you how to play with and against these Clone-Twins.
  • Explore the hierarchy of rules in Age of Sigmar along the journey.
  • Perhaps the best faction for mastering the Core Command Abilities (Ossiarch Bonereaper players may be interested in a change).

What is Iliatha and why should I care?

Iliatha is one of the original 4 Great Nations (subfactions) for Lumineth. The narrative for Iliatha relates to one aspect of the experimentation with volatile magic that nearly brought down the Lumineth Race, namely magical cloning.

Iliatha is Matriarchal and focussed on life and improvement through “propagation” and  “communal and generational change”.

This extended to creating “clone-twins” and even quintuple doppelgängers of themselves:

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Ultimately these led to “paradoxical miracles” and “breaches in the laws of reality”. Naturally this opened the door to Slaanesh.

Since the Reinvention, new clone-twins have been limited to “two physical iterations”, but some of the original clones remain:

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They take measures to contain the dangers of clone-twins, sometimes by having each twin dress differently or study different military arts (the emphasis is on Vanari Wardens with spears and Vanari Sentinels with bows, but also Aelementiri (Stoneguard and Roo-Riders). See page 26 of the Battletome.

The narrative talks about Iliatha being “disturbingly” “close-knit”. Their shining hosts house “clone twins that are essentially one mind in  two bodies”. One regiment “will instinctively know which course of action another will take, lending them an uncanny unity….

The narrative talks further of simulacra amulets, which create a clone on the bearer’s death (who proceeds to slay the killer of the bearer). All of this calls to mind hints of Drukhari and hints of Sparta. It's worth bearing in mind that while the narrative may give examples of a specific pair of twins, when looked at as a society, the families of these twins intersperse them (randomly) throughout the companies. It is not a case of a single unit being twinned with another unit. The aggregate effect of having twins interspersed throughout the army and a healthy dose of forbidden sorcery gives the army its heightened unity and efficiency. 

One further point is that the narrative text for Unity of Purpose specifically mentions Wardens and Sentinels. The rule applies to VANARI keyword. The reason why it mentions only Wardens and Sentinels is that these were the only public VANARI units at the time when Iliatha was released. The Vanair Lord Regent (Regent), Vanari Starshard Ballista (VSB), Bladelords and Bannerblade arrived in wave 2 of Lumineth.   

Iliatha in Version 2

Due to underwhelming rules in version 2 of AoS and other compelling options (Syar), Iliatha was rarely seen in competitive play despite being the most populous of the Great Nations. The addition of Alumnia and Helon did nothing to improve Iliatha’s appeal.

The original version of Iliatha's Battle Trait, Unity of Purpose, (Unity) simply didn't function under version 2 rules. Some asked GW for clarification of how Unity worked. Ultimately, GW rewarded us with a total blank slate rewrite of Unity, which seems tailor-made for version 3 together with Ellania & Ellathor, an exceptional model that eventually received the correct ILIATHA keyword:

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Now for the first time, Lumineth have all 6 subfactions relevant! This is unheard of amongst Battletomes (Legion of Blood, Skullbugz, Barak Nar) 


The Hierarchy of Rules in AoS

Version 3 has made it easier to see a hierarchy of rules in AoS, which previously lurked out of sight in FAQs.

The 5 "Exception" Rules

The clearest explanation of the hierarchy of rules is within each of the 5 Exception Rules. One can find these by searching for the word "exception" in the Core Rules:

  • Rule 1.6.5 Cannot shoot or fight thrice.
  • Rule 13.3(1) Hit roll modifiers cap at net +1 or -1.
  • Rule 13.3(2) Wound roll modifiers cap at net +1 or -1.
  • Rule 13.3(3) Save roll modifiers cap at net +1.
  • Rule 13.4 Don't be a 40K player! You can't use a Command Ability to improve your rend after looking at your opponent's save rolls. You have to use it before the attack sequence begins. You cannot load the Hellfire Shell or Flakk Missile into the chamber of your gun after you already hit the target with it....

The 5 Exception Rules reign supreme over all other rules. There is design space for a future ability to break them, but it would need to include clear and explicit wording such as "disregarding the exception in Rule 1.6.5". 

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The Fundamental Principle

All 5 share the bracketed "exception" wording to the principle that:

Abilities take precedence over core rules.

It is worth emphasising this principle as it is a radical departure from past rulesets (before AoS when big rule books were more important); and the full implications can be striking. Notably, if 13.3(1) did not have the exception bracket, then any ability that applied -2 to hit would simply override 13.3(1) (because an ability takes precedence, overrides or trumps a core rule). 13.3(1) would end up being confined to only limiting other Core Rules that applied negative modifiers to hit (like Unleash Hell).

Another way to look at this principle is that every ability, however minor, is "breaking the Core Rules" by definition (whether it is rerolling 1s to hit or running and charging). This shouldn't come as a surprise, it is exactly what abilities are meant to do. 

It follows that the Core Rules are forever being overriden and, if you keep reading, you can find they are pretty low in the hierarchy!

FAQ to a Warscroll or Battletome Ability 

FAQs typically provide a targeted answer to how two things interact and resolve conflicts. 

Designer’s Commentary to a Warscroll or Battletome

Designer's Commentary to an ability will often give a precise indication of how a rule works or deal with a question in advance. See the commendable Designer's Note for "Derek's" Sludgeraker Venom (Swampboss Skumdrekk) for a perfect example!

Abilities

What is an Ability?

Rule 1.6 defines abilities more clearly by dividing them up into effects and restrictions. The sidebar example for Hawk of the Celestial Skies gives examples.

Abilities include almost everything on a Warscroll other than characteristics, weapons and mounts. Warscroll spells, Lore Spells, command abilities, battle traits and enhancements are abilities.

The Sidebar to Rule 1.6 ("Soft" Contradictions)

The sidebar to Rule 1.6 also explains the Fundamental Principle in a different way:

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It is worth noting that a given ability does not need to call out or cross-refer to a Core Rule in order to contradict and hence trump it. Any casual or slight or soft inconsistency between an ability and the Core Rules is resolved in favour of the ability (hence soft contradictions). This is in keeping with the idea of favouring the specific over the general. It is good games design insofar as the more-freestanding Warscrolls and Battletomes can be, the more accessible the rules are to casual and new players. They, rightly, are GW's primary audience, rather than the Matched Play tournament crowd.

The KO FAQ Fail

Perhaps the worst of the Kharadron Overlords FAQs (provoking gasps of rage in some quarters) has somehow survived and made its way into the Core Rules for version 3 as the sidebar to 1.6.2:

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This might have been useful if a series of examples were given. In isolation, however, the "specifically notes otherwise" test is difficult to apply. It doesn't sit easily alongside either the Exception Rules or the Sidebar to 1.6.

It doesn't mean that an ability allowing you to "run and charge" does precisely nothing on the basis that it doesn't "specifically" override 8.3 (which otherwise prevents you from attempting to charge after running). If the word "modify" is interpreted narrowly (for example to abilities that keep the vast majority of a given core rule intact and modify only a small part), then perhaps we can understand what this rule is trying to achieve.

1.6.3 Hard Contradictions

"Hard" contradictions by contrast are head-on collisions between two abilities. Rule 1.6.3 resolves these (last applied effect trumps). These hard contradictions are mercifully rare. One reason for that, is that automatically unbound (i.e. you don't have to roll the dice) is not the opposite of cannot be unbound.

Two vanishingly rare examples are:

  • Parting Shot is a must retreat, whereas Hosts Duplicitous (surely Derplicitous or Tree-Fiddy?) is cannot retreat. Parting Shots wins because SKINK keyword because of 1.6.3. The cannot retreat effect has already been applied when the Skinks are standing within 3" of the Tzeentch unit, but the effect of Parting Shot is applied after the command ability has been used, so it is the last applied effect.
  • If you cast Levitate in your turn (can fly), then this does override Warp Lightning Vortex (WLV, cannot fly) if you start the move within range of WLV. The Yndrasta sidebar to Rule 1.6.4 clarifies that the effect of an area of effect ability is deemed “applied” when the relevant unit in question is first within the relevant range: not (later) when it benefits from that effect (or in this case when it suffers from that effect). This means that the effect of Warp Lightning Vortex is already deemed applied when the WLV is setup and the unit is first within range. When the opposing commander casts Levitate in her next hero phase, the effect of Levitate is applied later. Levitate is last applied, so it takes precedence under rule 1.6.3. Kudos to Admiral Leigh of the great ship Aethercast for spotting this! 

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Abilities within a Warscoll or Battletome

The Sylvaneth Battletome is a great illustration of the way in which Warscrolls trump other rules. The Navigate ability is once per turn and instead of a normal move. However, Treelords, Derpu, TLAs and Tree Revenants are able to use Navigate instead of a normal move or a retreat and (implicitly) in addition to the once per turn rule. The specific rules on the Warscrolls trample (pun unavoidable) over the general Battle trait rules.

FAQ to a Core Rule

An FAQ to a Core Rule (obviously) prevails over the Core Rule that it is clarifying.

Sidebars in the Core Rules

The sidebars are a welcome development and generally explain how different core rules interact with each other or with abilities or provide helpful examples. Bring specific, they have a higher status than: 

The Core Rules

Bottom of the pile!

The new Core Command Abilities

Core or universal command abilities existed in version 2, but their reforging into the new Core Command Abilities has been one of the best parts of the version 3 Core Rules (along with the codification of strike first and strike last and the exception rules). The Core Command Abilities, along with Heroic Actions and Monstrous Rampages have created much of the interactivity in your opponent's turn that was missing in previous editions and could make being double turned a dull experience (especially combined with strike first/last or shooting spam that further reduced interactivity).

The Core Command Rule 6.0 is not an Exception Rule, so it’s subject to 1.6 soft contradictions. As a noteworthy example, the amended Using Relentless Discipline Points overrides 6.0.

There is an interesting question over whether the individual Core Command Abilities are classified as Core Rules primarily (and as abilities secondarily), particularly for the purposes of 1.6. My operating assumption is that they are primarily Core Rules (80%). Notably, the Core Rules FAQ 8.0 provided that a unit that received a Redeploy command ("cannot shoot later in the turn."), and later receives an Unleash Hell command ("can shoot...."), cannot shoot! The opposite conclusion would have been reached under Rule 1.6.3 (see above 1.6.3 Hard Contradictions) if Redeploy and Unleash Hell were primarily abilities.

If they were primarily abilities, then a further problem could arise with abilities that modify Rally and Redeploy for example Ardboyz Rallying on a 4+ roll, Vanquishers Rallying on a 5+ or Gobsprakk's Rerollable Redeploy. The existence of this type of ability suggests that they are primarily Core Rules.  

Arcane Bolt and Mystic Shield and the universal enhancements are more likely to be abilities.

As we’ll expand upon later, the clarification of the core command abilities into use, issue and receive steps allows for more complex interactions than in version 2. GW is already putting this new design space to good use.

Unity of Purpose

With all that said, we now move onto the Iliatha Battle Trait, Unity of Purpose (Unity). The v3.0 FAQ completely rewrote Unity:

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Unity allows relaying of commands: 1 use, 1 issue, multiple different units receive. This puts it the company of these other abilities that override aspects of 6.0:

The amended Maw-Krusha (Skull-shaking Bellow😞3 uses of the same CA, although the second and third use don’t use a CP, so it’s effectively 1 use, 3 issues, 3 different units receive).

The Killaboss on Vulcha, which allows for another use of the same CA in a given phase, whether in response to the same trigger or a separate trigger: (2 uses, 2 issues, 2 different units receive). This allows 2 Boltboyz units to use Unleash Hell in particular.

Notably the unamended Maw-Krusha’s ability had a problem insofar as it technically allowed you to pick the same unit 3 times to receive the same CA. Being an ability, this would override the rule of not receiving more than one CA in 6.0 (under 1.6 soft contradiction). This was unintended as we can see from the later amendment.

Unity: the Indefinite Relay
Unity is a Battle Trait, applicable to every Vanari unit. When unit X receives a command, you can pick unit Y, which then receives the same command.

Unit Y receiving that command satisfies the trigger for Unity (“After a friendly ILIATHA VANARI unit receives a command….”). It is a new instance of a Vanari unit receiving a command. So, you can pick a third unit unit Z, which then receives the same command. This can continue indefinitely.

Upon showing the new rule to a club mate (who plays Nurgle and is not encumbered with baggage from the version 1 Battletome), I was pleased to see that they also saw the indefinite relay effect.

In practice, this is less powerful than it may sound. The main applications are that multiple units can receive AOD in the same phase (though it’s unlikely that more than 2-3 meaningful combats will be involved). Multiple units can move an extra 6” instead of running. Multiple units can Unleash Hell at the same target. This reduces the risk of a single casting roll for Power of Hysh on a 30 block of Sentinels (as is seen in every Syar and Zaitrec list). Instead you can Unleash Hell with a 20 Block, a 10 Block and a Vanari Starshard Ballista (VSB). Power-level wise, this is similar to the Cabbages and Vulchas that we’ve already discussed above.

Unity causes the target to receive a command (rather than allowing it to receive a command in the normal way). This has the following implications.

Unity and Unleash Hell

As discussed above, the structure of the core command abilities allows for more complex interactions. Unleash Hell is perhaps the best example.

I’ve highlighted the text to illustrate the structure.

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The red text contains the trigger for use and any restrictions on use.

The restrictions on issuing are in yellow text contained in 6.0 (distances from HEROES and TOTEMS, and unit champions).

The green text sets out restrictions on receiving the command. However, for the second and third unit in the relay, Unity skips straight past all of these steps “that other unit also receives the command.” There is one use and one issue, but multiple units receive one after another.

The blue text is the effect of the ability. All units that receive the command can shoot (at -1 to hit). 

Finally, the purple text is the restriction on the effect. Units X and Y are both forced to shoot the charging unit.

Unit X must satisfy the 9” restriction in green text to receive the command. However, unit Y does not need to satisfy this restriction as it receives the command via an ability (not via the Core Rules), and to the extent there is a soft contradiction, the ability prevails.

This allows an Iliatha army to deploy deep and still Unleash Hell. This is particularly the case as the first unit to receive the command can be a VANARI Warden unit, that then relays the command along the chain to the shooting units far behind. The danger of this approach, which I’ve seen against Stormcast Vanguard Raptors is that an enemy that can shoot out one of the links on the chain can disrupt the whole army (which is so very narrative).

It’s worth noting that even though a unit within 3” of another enemy unit can receive the Unleash Hell command via Unity, it still cannot shoot out of combat due to rule 10.1.1, which prevents targeting any other units outside of 3”.

This is less powerful and flexible than the Vulcha, which allows for a second independent Unleash Hell in the same phase (which is hard to counter).

The structure of other Core Command Abilities is similar and simpler:

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A similar analysis applies.

One of the upsides is that this allows units Y and Z to receive the Rally command even if they are in combat. This has proven to be a nice-to-have in practice rather than anything pivotal.

Triangulation

The other implication is that it’s possible to issue commands in a triangle formation such that one unit receives two different commands in the same phase. Due to rule 1.6, Unity overrides the specific part of rule 6.0 regarding receipt of commands.

Specifically, unit X issues a command to itself, Unity relays the command to unit Y.

  • Now Unit X has issued and received.
  • Unit Y has received.

Unit Z now issues itself a different command. Unity relays this to Unit Y (and potentially onwards to Unit X). So Unit Y receives both commands.

It’s worth flagging at this point that AOA is of limited value for Vanari units (reliant on Mortals from unmodified hit rolls), and VANARI units have very few CAs. No +1 attack doubled up with +1 to hit and wound here. This is really only usable in the combat phase to give a key unit of Wardens AOD and Reroll Hits of 1 (the Iliatha CA, Strike in Unison). 

Purposive interpretation from the narrative text around the Rules

As discussed above, the narrative of Iliatha is units interspersed with magical clone-twins. The net effect of this is that the units act in a unified manner and copy each other as clones would do. This is in keeping with the effect of the rules: multiple units copying the lead of one unit by Unleashing Hell at the same target, clones putting up their shields in unison, fleeing clones seeing their respective twins rallying to the fight and following suit.

”The aggregate effect of having twins interspersed throughout the army and a healthy dose of forbidden sorcery gives the army its heightened unity and efficiency.”

The narrative is not that unit 1 is twinned with only unit 2, which would imply a more limited relay effect for Unity.

Games Played

I’ve played a handful of games with Iliatha and have tasted both defeat and victory.

Unity is a cool mechanic, but the 3” restriction is meaningful, and the sheer efficiency and counter-meta toolbox of Syar is hard to match (Goading Arrogance).

Another wave of Tyrionic Aelves with the VANARI keyword may be the thing that pushes Iliatha to the forefront! On the other hand, it’s unlikely that we’ll see many more command abilities, looking at recent Battletomes.

I’ll continue to recount my battles here as I play more games.

 

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Edited by Nico

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