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Black Blade

Breaking Down the Stardrake and Why it's Bad.

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Posted (edited)

Recently I became the proud owner of a Stardrake and have been lovingly assembling and painting it. I'm not finished but decided to take her out for a test drive in a few matches. In my experiences that day I learned a lot about the Stardrake, it's capabilities and it's rules design. 

My first match was against some Sylvaneth led by Alariele herself. I found myself looking from her and back to my Stardrake and then back to her again in utter disappointment. It is my understanding she is not considered optimal yet she seem to me more than worth her points. At 600 consider her abilities. Very strong attack profile, a 16" fly move, 16 wounds, heals everything d3 and herself 2 d3 each round. Casts 3 spells. a free unit worth between 200 and 300 points. This is only improved upon by Sylvaneths incredibly cheap and effective battalion options.

The Drake on the other hand... 40 points cheaper. Bad attack profile. 12" fly.  16 wounds. Additional damage output is locked behind highly conditional requirements like the Jaws and Tail abilities, these are near useless abilities that auto fail against heroes/monsters and likely to fail against elites. The ability that acts as it's shooting attack is alright if a little under powered on the thunderhead option. The arcane lineage ability is a nice addition that is lore friendly and useful, no complaints.  A bad command ability. It's best attribute is obviously its 3+ rerollable save that reflects MW onto surrounding enemies.

The only real value the Drake represents is an unkillable footprint provided you pour resources into it like crutch of a command trait Staunch Defender, throw a lantern on him and make sure you dont charge to keep your buff. Thats not worth 560 point if you ask me. The model is only viable as the Lord Celestant version because of its shield and then its just barely so if you exploit it. The biggest issue for me is the design is from the old system of Sigmar where being elite meant you had rend at all and units were not designed with abilities that made them death machines. It used to be elite units simply inflicted slightly more kills on average than Battleline to trigger battleshock more effectively (see: The Everchosen). Things have changed and the Stardrake has not caught up which is a shame because it's a beautiful and characterful model that only ever limped along as a crutch itself.

The Mawcrusha is another example of something I think that is at least more fairly costed at 440 when you look at its abilities and damage capabilities. My point in bringing up these behemoths like the Everqueen and the Mawcrusha is not just that they are relatively effective for their cost but that they also perform in a way that feels representative of the units narrative profile. My Freeguild general on griffon is a better fighter with a better command ability than the Stardrake and he is only 260 points, I think the Stardrake should have better, more reliable damage output to justify it's cost. I do not think a points reduction is the answer alone as it still doesnt have the right feel on the tabletop with its current rules. I should not feel disappointed every-time I play this beautiful centerpiece model.

 

Edited by Black Blade
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It’s just a different unit with different purpose. You can’t fairly compare it to Alarielle or the Freeguild general as they are point costed in line with different armies and both are fairly easy to kill in comparison to the Stardrake. 

Yeah it’s likely a bit overcosted (and alarielle is a little undercosted) but it’s not a bad unit, points may change with the next GHB as the meta changes and older warscrolls are less powerful in comparison. 

It’s a great and thematic monster that certainly has a role in an army, which of course becomes a focal point and main receiver of buffs, it’s the same in many other cases. 

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Give it the Staunch Defender Command Trait, a Castellant Lantern buff, and the Ignax's Scales artifact

Enjoy your unkillable behemoth!

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Rain of stars is such a good ability and can be used to start sniping key enemy characters early on and with no look out sir. Do not under estimate how annoying it is to your opponent! 

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Posted (edited)

I love the stardrake.  I don't own one, but my primary opponent has 2.  It is an amazing unit for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, it reduces casting by 1 and adds 1 to casting.  That's basically a 2 point swing (not quite that good, but still). 

Buffed appropriately (a lot) it becomes extremely hard to kill.  Nigh impossible for some armies. 

It's not a huge damage dealer, but boy does it suck.  That rain of stars can be brutal.  You can't get away from it, it does an average of 1 wound per target but man.  The rule of averages can be a b**** sometimes.  For and against.  

The most important factor is that eating.  Holy ****** can you devastate an army with that eating.  Charge a thinned out infantry line, attack with it last, split their unit and watch your opponent cry.  You have a 42% chance to instant kill any 5 wound hero.  Or, take a starseer and make that a 71% chance plus you can kill 6 wound targets.  Nasty. 

I agree though, take the celestant version.  That shield is worth 150 point by itself.  Especially if youre playing against a mob army.  Rip my 40 Savage orrucks.   I thought maybe with enough I could get through....damn that math.

I will give you though, if it gets killed, it's a huge blow.  Major risk of the big models but from experience I'd take stardrake over Alarielle (if she didn't get the 260 point freebie treelord) almost any day.  I never get my worth from her haha.

Edited by Vextol

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4 hours ago, PJetski said:

Give it the Staunch Defender Command Trait, a Castellant Lantern buff, and the Ignax's Scales artifact

Enjoy your unkillable behemoth!

Thats part of my argument though. I dont like that you can make it virtually unkillable. It really only works that way because of Staunch Defender which is arguably a bad trait either because its too powerful or its the only decent trait available.

4 hours ago, Carnelian said:

Rain of stars is such a good ability and can be used to start sniping key enemy characters early on and with no look out sir. Do not under estimate how annoying it is to your opponent! 

I agree, rain of stars is definitely one of the great things about the Drake. I feel the alt should be buffed though. Either target the whole unit like a shooting weapon does or keep wording and work on a 5+... not sure.

4 hours ago, Vextol said:

Buffed appropriately (a lot) it becomes extremely hard to kill.  Nigh impossible for some armies. 

It's not a huge damage dealer, but boy does it suck.  That rain of stars can be brutal.  You can't get away from it, it does an average of 1 wound per target but man.  The rule of averages can be a b**** sometimes.  For and against.  

The most important factor is that eating.  Holy ****** can you devastate an army with that eating.  Charge a thinned out infantry line, attack with it last, split their unit and watch your opponent cry.  You have a 42% chance to instant kill any 5 wound hero.  Or, take a starseer and make that a 71% chance plus you can kill 6 wound targets.  Nasty. 

Appreciate that you addressed so many elements. Firstly the unkillable nature is frustrating to me from a design purpose. Its uninteractive and uninteresting that my opponent just has to ignore it basically. I would give up a little survivability for a little more killy to even it out just a bit. I don't like the optics of my Drake pawing like a kitten at a Mawcrusha who beats the Drake to death with his fists. Etc. 

Could you explain your math on the last part above? How is it 42%? Also i don't think you can kill a 6 wound model with the jaws. 

Lastly. The Alariele comparison, in my view she is all she is and does minus summoning at 400 points. I think that makes her a steal.

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Tbf, a large portion of the Stormcast range is lagging behind the modern AoS unit design/power curve. If the Stardrake is in that group, it has lots of company.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Black Blade said:

Could you explain your math on the last part above? How is it 42%? Also i don't think you can kill a 6 wound model with the jaws. 

Lastly. The Alariele comparison, in my view she is all she is and does minus summoning at 400 points. I think that makes her a steal.

Sure!  You get three chances to eat someone (at full health) so you say "I'm going to eat that guy!"  then fail to roll a six.  Having failed, you can say "I'm going to eat that guy!" Again, same guy.  And so on and so on.  You only need to roll one six so odds of rolling NO six are 5/6x5/6x5/6 or 58%.  That means you have a 42% chance of rolling at least one 6, thus eating the 5 wound hero. 

And no, it can't eat a 6 wound hero. That's why you need a Starseer.  Curse of Fates turns your 6s into 7s and now you can eat those 6 wounders and almost guarantee you can eat the 5 wounders 😋  How does your unit  coherency feel 6 model group of morghasts?  Still like those big bases? 😆

There are only a handful of instant slay abilities in the game.  They are always worth a second look.

As for Alarielle, that's why I said not counting the treelord.  I agree, it's best to see her at 400 points and at that, she's a steal.  

Edited by Vextol
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I just gotta add that I love the stardrake as a SC player using one. I think with the right combo its nuts.

However...

I think it is pretty much in the 'not fun boohoo' category for your opponent.

Fixing that (making it killable) would render it very much  in limbo and the scroll would need a bunch of adjustments.

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Posted (edited)

My SO and a primary opponent has a Stardrake and runs it only as the Drakesworn Templar, and it is crazy good. A lesser known rule is that if the Templar hits, not wounds but hits a target with his massive 24" bow.. ALL other Dracothian units have +1 hit on all attacks vs that unit. That means, D3 mortal wounds on a 3+ for every mount plus +1 to hits in meele. So instead off treating it as a flying hammer, it works really well as a Scavenger in a cavalry heavy army, picking up scraps, eating 5 wound heroes, making casting attempts harder and harassing me with stars. If Evocaters could take dracothian mounts, I would be scared as hell.

Edited by Túrbóbelja

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One of the best counters to DOK out there atm, 0 up save reroll 1's 4 up mortal wound save.  Just soaks up all those attacks.

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He is not cheap and doesn't hit especially hard, but as other folks say it can play another role. 

Its near invulnerability has won me a few games. And since he is such a big piece, he often gets a lot of attention from other players. The more experienced one have just left it alone...

In the past, like many, I have used the combo Ignax Scales + Staunch + Castellant buff, making it near unkillable  

recently, I have replaced Ignax Scale by Smouldering Helm. So you lose the MW protection, but in return, with the Staunch + Lord-Castellant buff you get:

- for every 6+ save, the ennemy receives 1 MW. 

- A Stardrake with Staunch and/or buffed with a Castellant will get a 2+ save, re-rolling 1s. So he's saving nearly 98% of all hits with no rend

-Fully buffed, he'll do a MW back on a 4+.

So basically, send him into a large unit, and that unit will probably kill itself by doing a MW on half of their attack, and then let the battleshock wipe out the rest. It is a great anti-horde weapon

 

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The 4+ mortal back is amazing.  With malign artefacts, you can actually make it 4+ does TWO mortal wounds back.  I mean...that's dead sexy.


Being "unkillable" is just part of the meta.  30 grimghasts are ACTUALLY unkillable as long as the general is alive.  Treelord ancient has long been nearly indestructible.  The stardrake is 500+ points and from my experience it takes about 400+ to lock him up most of the game.  Add in his other abilities and he feels just about right  to me.  Not to mention, he really needs staunch defender to come into his own.  If he's locked up, that means you don't get staunch defender elsewhere. 

This topic drew my attention because I have an extremely profound respect for the stardrake.  He and I have had a few nasty encounters in the past 😆

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6 minutes ago, Vextol said:

If he's locked up, that means you don't get staunch defender elsewhere. 

Heraldor, retreat and charge away :)

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31 minutes ago, schwabbele said:

Heraldor, retreat and charge away :)

Whose charging?  Because if it's the stardrake, you just lost staunch defender 😆

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31 minutes ago, Vextol said:

Whose charging?  Because if it's the stardrake, you just lost staunch defender 😆

It can be worth the risk if the big guy/gal needs to be somewhere else in combat with a specific unit trying to avoid it (opponent knows to tarpit it with a pointless cheap unit)

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41 minutes ago, Turragor said:

It can be worth the risk if the big guy/gal needs to be somewhere else in combat with a specific unit trying to avoid it (opponent knows to tarpit it with a pointless cheap unit)

Definitely!  I was just saying you can tie him up,  force him to abandon his forces (and move staunch defender away) or push him somewhere non-advantageous.  Either way, you have some capability of dealing with him.

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An incredibly major point when comparing to Alarielle is she is a Named Char, which means no command trait, and no artifact goodness. Stardrakes have been kicking it and taking names on the table since their release. Once I lost a tournament with my damn Nagash stuck toe to toe with a 0+ re-roll 1s Stardrake that passed two Hand of Dust tests. Stardrake is easily 2+ re-rolling 1s causing mortals while being -2 to shoot. The combat is not great but when you factor the dragon eating things its incredibly efficient against units with 2-4 wounds per model. Alarielle is an expensive distraction carnifex which has never made a significant mark in tournament results, whereas the stardrake has appeared in winning stormcast lists since its release. 

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As someone that has played with a LCoSD extensively for the past year or so, including at Nova, a two day event in Ohio, and countless local tournaments here are my thoughts for what its worth:

People say he is unkillable but I lost him in 3 out of six games at Nova to MW, weight of attacks, or both.  I ran him with Staunch, castellant, and Ignax scales.  On paper nigh indestructible but given the MW output of some mid to top table armies saving 50% of the MW means he will go down if focused on.  Against DoK the amount of attacks witches put out mean I was rolling buckets of dice and double ones chipped a couple wounds off here and there while his rather poor damage output kept him locked up and boxed in.   Hand of dust and Archaon slayer of kings can do a number on him too.  Now I could certainly have played better at Nova(I don't consider myself very competitive on the gaming front) but the better Stormcast players weren't using the drake for a reason I imagine.  I just don't think you get enough bodies in a drake list.  Has the old Les Martin build been seen lately?  I know for a time it was quite good, but still needed a good player to get the mileage out of due to the lack of bodies.  

In my casual games he is almost always a beast even without staunch or the castellant because an opponent with a casual list isn't usually packing tons of MW's.  In local tournaments he can leave some folks feeling bad but still doesn't equal an auto win as objectives are a thing.  His scroll design is weird in that he can dominate casual games but not be worth it in high end competitive tournaments, which I believe we have seen with all the top players opting for the sequitor/evo/ gav lists.  

Does this mean he is bad?  Not really, for me.  I love the model and he usually pulls his weight in soaking up damage, but i do think the scroll is showing it's age in AoS 2.

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Posted (edited)

I think the Stardrake is a sort of "gate" unit. It's a challenge to put forth to opponents - can you figure out how to kill this thing?

Once your opponent figures out the trick to killing it, your army folds pretty easily. The problem when going to tournaments is you'll be facing a lot of people who have a strategy prepared to either tie up or take down your Stardrake, or otherwise render it irrelevant. At that point, the issue becomes you've basically invested your entire army into one model that is doomed to fail at the start of the game, and you don't have any backup/fallback plans to deal with your opponent if the Stardrake dies. It's basically the old, "all eggs in one basket" problem.

Ignoring the above problem, I think it's a great unit, and I would love to use one on my army, and to build a strategy around it. I think it's a very good "beginner winner" unit.

I also think it's a good point that this can be a very frustrating unit to bring against someone who doesn't have the resources or units modeled to deal with it. It's not fun to face this unit in "casual" games, as you can end up railing against it for an entire game, and the game can become quite boring/unfun for the opponent as a result.

Edited by Mark Williams
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50 minutes ago, Mark Williams said:

I think the Stardrake is a sort of "gate" unit. It's a challenge to put forth to opponents - can you figure out how to kill this thing?

Once your opponent figures out the trick to killing it, your army folds pretty easily. The problem when going to tournaments is you'll be facing a lot of people who have a strategy prepared to either tie up or take down your Stardrake, or otherwise render it irrelevant. At that point, the issue becomes you've basically invested your entire army into one model that is doomed to fail at the start of the game, and you don't have any backup/fallback plans to deal with your opponent if the Stardrake dies. It's basically the old, "all eggs in one basket" problem.

Ignoring the above problem, I think it's a great unit, and I would love to use one on my army, and to build a strategy around it. I think it's a very good "beginner winner" unit.

I also think it's a good point that this can be a very frustrating unit to bring against someone who doesn't have the resources or units modeled to deal with it. It's not fun to face this unit in "casual" games, as you can end up railing against it for an entire game, and the game can become quite boring/unfun for the opponent as a result.

I think thats a good point  nearly all infamous units, combos and lists are until people figure them out. So, yes, the SD has been around now a long time and most people know it. So what I think the secret sauce is, is using it in new ways with other units or strategies.

When that potential runs out (some think it has) then it's kind of going to always fall off the top tables.

I, however, am not convinced all Stardrake potential has been mined just yet even if I agree that it's never going to be a damaging monster in the conventional sense.

I'm using it in a very low model count list - against the current grain of thinking - and I quite like how it plays. It's by no means going to be taken on by the best and most experienced players and go on to win big tourneys, but it's something I'll play with for a few tournaments.

Basically, if the Stardrake is the only thing for the opponent to think about, then you won't do well but the more tricks you add the more you keep ppl on their toes, anxious and mistake-prone!

 

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Posted (edited)

It’s not an army, it’s not going to win you a game. But stick it in a force that works alongside its synergies (Lord Arcanum, Incantor, Evocators with lots of low cast spells are very very dangerous/versatile) and you can absolutely anchor your army with it.  If you can build an army which can reliably do damage and take objectives without relying on the SD you’re in a good place.

460 for a Templar is absolutely worth it in certain lists.  Give him Smouldering Helm from Aqshy which is a MW to attacker on a save of 6+, buff that to a 4+ with Staunch Defender and Castellant, and watch high attack units kill themselves. It will punch way above its price with that.

 

Edited by Nos

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The real problem with the drake is that he’s so many points and you can do much better things with those points. Unkillable or not, you could have had nearly 19 evocators instead (apologies if my math is slightly off but you get the point)

And while he may do damage, he’s one guy. So for multiple turns while he is mulching through a unit, your opponent is sitting on the objective and scoring by having literally 2+ models there.

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50 minutes ago, Luke1705 said:

The real problem with the drake is that he’s so many points and you can do much better things with those points. Unkillable or not, you could have had nearly 19 evocators instead (apologies if my math is slightly off but you get the point)

And while he may do damage, he’s one guy. So for multiple turns while he is mulching through a unit, your opponent is sitting on the objective and scoring by having literally 2+ models there.

No!  Damn those elevated 2018 whatsawhosits!  I'm looking forward to the Creamators; the 2019, slightly better version of the evocators that are 10 more points for 15% more power.  

This is a stardrake discussion though so I'm a little off topic.  I am confident the Creamators won't interact with the stardrake.  Maybe their mount, the farsnake (long lizard, saddle disconnected from rider) will be useful.

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29 minutes ago, Vextol said:

No!  Damn those elevated 2018 whatsawhosits!  I'm looking forward to the Creamators; the 2019, slightly better version of the evocators that are 10 more points for 15% more power.  

This is a stardrake discussion though so I'm a little off topic.  I am confident the Creamators won't interact with the stardrake.  Maybe their mount, the farsnake (long lizard, saddle disconnected from rider) will be useful.

I think you can safely assume that your shiny new stormcasts will last for a good 3-4 year cycle, if not longer. If anything, maybe a future GHB will change the power level of those bad boys (although I doubt the poster boys will take too much of a hit).

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t a problem unique to a stardrake. Very few units that aren’t Morathi strike the balance between offense and defense for the points, no matter how many relics/buffs you give them.

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