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Kyriakin

How to solve a problem like The Phoenicium

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Posted (edited)

It's mostly cirumstantial and/or anecdotal - but that's the only evidence we ever have access to  - but it seems pretty clear that The Phoenicium is the red-headed stepchild least popular of the Cities of Sigmar subfactions.

Their thread is, perhaps somewhat inevitably, just three three pages long, so I thought about kicking around some ideas about why this city is so lacking in popularity and how it can be salvaged before GW decide to have a god from another faction bulldoze it and call it their own.

The first issue is theme.

A thematically-tight city should be describable to a non-player in a single sentence, and that person should have a fairly strong grasp of what that city is. However, The Phoenicium awkwardly combines the two cool, but somewhat unrelated, themes of amber and phoenixes/birds. I feel you could make a cool army that leans into one of these themes, but not so much both together.

For example, phoenixes with some old hawk-riding Wood Elves (gyrobombers?), skycutter charots (counts as Scourgerunner Chariot, etc.) and using the Corvus Cabal as crazy, bird-worshipping counts-as Flagellants (since you want units to die for bonuses) would be pretty cool.

Conversely, leaning into the other theme with autumn-colored Wood Elves and pools of amber on the bases or embedded within tree stumps could work too.

Finally, the city is in the Realm of Fire and I guess this is the closest thing with have to a generic "Fire City" in the way that The Living City is clearly the generic "Life CIty". You can pretty much make anything fire-themed, so this is always a doable, if not quite accurate to the lore, solution.

Edit: Wow, I always thought it was Realm of Fire. Oh well, Realm of Life leans more into the autumn/amber theme above.

Another issue is the timing. The natural player base for a High Elf legacy faction got their shiny new toys announced pretty soon after Cities of Sigmar was released. While the reaction to some models in the LRL release was mixed, most with a High Elf affinity would clearly rather make that faction work (i.e. with conversions, counts as, etc.) than taking The Phoenicium. Furthermore, the kinds of hot and/or brownish colors that the above bird/amber/fire themes tend to neccicitate are the complete opposite of those that the WHFB High Elves had (i.e. white, ice blue, silver, etc.), so this might have required an army to be built from scratch - something many would be unwilling to do with LRL on the horizon. Unless, of course, you don't care about the theme, and would just use white/blue/silver High Elves with Phoenicium rules, but, such players would likely just use these WHFB models as LRL anyway.

This brings us to the rules. I'm not a particularly prolific or competative player, but it was immediately realised in CoS book reviews that, yet again, this sub-faction pulled you in two directions. Some of the most unkillable models/rules in the game, but requiring things to die for your main bonuses. Some briefly tried to make lists to straddle the divide (i.e. half and army of tough stuff and the other half comprised of things that explode), others went all-in with one dynamic (i.e. either everything lives or everything dies), while others just went for more genericly strong CoS lists that took advantage of toughness where it happened to occur and advantage of the death bonuses when they occurred. However, with the lattergroup of players simply avoiding the city's overall theme altogether, it meant that other cities - such as The Living City - ended up being preferable for these lists anyway. Either way, the schizophrenic rules were another reason why this city was just seen as "odd".

So, is there any hope of this city being crushed by the future narrative? If so, how would you salvage it?

Edited by Kyriakin
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1 hour ago, Kyriakin said:

Finally, the city is in the Realm of Fire and I guess this is the closest thing with have to a generic "Fire City" in the way that The Living City is clearly the generic "Life CIty". You can pretty much make anything fire-themed, so this is always a doable, if not quite accurate to the lore, solution.

First of all, interesting read! Im always happy to see topics like this.  (Just one minor correction. Phoenicium is located in Ghyran, just like Greywater Fastness and the Living City.)

Yes, I see your point. Right now Phoenicium and to some extend Tempest Eye feel like the weakest cities theme wise. Phoenicium seems to be too narrowly focused on the Phoenix theme. That in itself would be fine if the Phoenix Temple wasnt such a small/tight faction.
I think Games Workshop has to give them a more unique ruleset to tie the other factions more into the theme of the city. Maybe they could focus more on the religiouse aspect of the Phoenix Temple. A unique prayer lore for example would set them apart from the other cities. 

Of course, another welcomed solution would be to expand the Phoenix Temple itself, but thats hard to do without new models. 

Maybe they can focus on Phoeniciums role as premiere Aelven city in the Realm and allow them to take AELF units in the same way Barak-Thryng can take DUARDIN ?

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Poor old not-High Elves not-Lumineth yeah.

possibly could be pepped up by the rematerialisation to save their smoky bacon of a certain once and future Phoenix King...?!

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Posted (edited)

I, personally, look at the Phoenicium's problem from a slightly different perspective. Yeah, the theme is not as well defined as some of the other cities (but the same can be said about Tempest's Eye - with Swifthawks gone, they lost a bit of their flavour as well), but it's there. Phoenicium stands for death and rebirth, and their rules don't do a bad job of reflecting that. Phoenix theme is there, bonuses for dead units (a bit similar to the Ynnari in 40k) work fine with that, it's all cool.

Phoenix, a living symbol of rebirth, and actual avatar of the city's god(beast) (don't let the 'of Sigmar' fool you, it's the city of Ur-Phoenix ;)) accompanied by its chosen that don't die because it's not their time yet, surrounded by the adoring mob throwing their lives away for them - this is all cool to the point of me getting ideas for the next army project. :D

The problem lies, entirely, withing the quality of the rules.  Let's talk about the rules:

First,: Blood of the Phoenix is good. No drawback. Your birds are better. Solid.

Vengeful Revenants: +1 to hit and wound if any of your units had been destroyed in the same phase. So basically, this is an MSU faction using a lot of sacrificial units. Because as far as your combat buffs go, this is it. Nothing in the artifacts, spells or command traits will buff your units combat ability. You NEED your troops to die if you want to match what other cities offer. Also, if you want it to trigger on your turn, you need methods of killing your own dudes. This is not impossible, but requires a lot of forward planning with endless spells and luminarks.

Command ability (Living Idol): whatever dies around your phoenix hero can fight one more time. A good rule, honestly. Skaven have a less reliable version and it's said to be good. Again, you need a phoenix temple hero for this, reinforcing the theme. However, you need your troops to die for it to work. Again. Combos with Vengeful Revenants, sort of. Whatever died to trigger Revenants can be made to attack again.

So far, so good. I mean, rules requiring your models to die are, well, controversial, because regardless of how well it goes, if they trigger, it means that enemy has killed something. But let's continue:

Command traits.

Seeker of Vengeance: More attacks for your hero if something died. Actually solid for this anointed you're using to trigger Living Idol.  He's tanky enough to survive until he can attack. You will likely be taking this one, because, well... let's see:

Aura of Serenity: units around your general don't take battleshock. It's not bad. In any other city, I'd cal it great. However, you want things to die. If your chaff unit gets a few losses from shoting and few more from the battleshock, they're guaranteed to die whenever they charge something. And you want that to happen. So, you need to be careful with aura, because sometimes it WILL work against you. Sometimes it won't. But compared to the previous trait, it requires you to process a lot of data to not make life harder for yourself. And finally,

One with fire and ice: either your general can cast a spell, or knows the entre lore (if wizard). How to properly convey it... You won't bee needing this one. Likely ever. Because...

Spells:

Golden Mist: Good for healing your birds. This is the one your wizards will be taking. All of your wizards. I don't care that only one can attempt to cast it any given round, the rest will cast their warscroll spells instead. Because the rest of the lore is bad. Like, real bad.

Amber Tide: This is Cage of Thorns from the Living City, but worse. It's Transmutation of Lead (that you CAN take!) but worse. Yeah it's easier to cast, but if you want your movement debuffs easy to cast, use Mistyfying Miasma instead.

Phoenix Cries: This here might be the worst spell in the game, period. -1 bravery aura. That you need to succesfully cast, wasting a casting attempt. To put things into perspective, if you take a griffon, or dark riders, or kharybdiss, you get the same debuff for free, as a passive aura that can't be countered. There's not a single warscroll spell that is less useful than this. You won't be casting Phoenix Cries if you know what's good for you.

So, yeah, we arrived to the other serious problem with phoenicium: they don't have a spell lore, they have a spell. The other two are just for decoration. :D

Artifacts, then:

Amber Armour: Make your phoenix tankier! Solid.

Phoenix Pinion: Make your phoenix faster! Solid.

Pyre Ashes: Make your phoenix tankier again! I'm genuinely not complaining.

How-Ever! All three work only for the character you put them on. The city has zero support artifacts. As I said before: you need vengeful revenants to trigger, because this is ALL you're getting. +1 to hit and wound is solid, but your entire battleplan must rely on maximising its availibility.

And, finally, Phoenix Flight battalion:

Why not, honestly? Makes your birds even tankier, gives you extra command point that you need for the Living Idol, gives you another artifact to make them even better, And you ARE taking enough phoenixes to have it. I'd take it.

So, conclusion time

You have a city , rules wise, that requires you to use chaff units, use them well, and be really good at mindgames, forcing your opponent to make hard choices what to attack first - if something gets killed, you get buffs. If it gets killed in a right place, it will attack anyway. This is a tricky city, but compared to Tempest's Eye and Living City, with their movement and placement based trickyness, Phoenixium relies on activation order tricks. Which is kind of fun, but gives the control to your opponent. Unless you are REALLY good at creating choices without good outcomes, you can't count on things going optimally. 

And, as mentioned, you get ZERO support skills apart from that. No spell, artifact or command trait will make your dudes better at fighting.

Honestly, it looks like a fun city to play, but, as far as strength goes, a ruleset operating solely on your opponents mistakes is just not reliable enough to be attractive. 

Edited by dekay
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Some really interesting points! I'm starting to build a new Cities army and wanted to lean into a pseudo Devoted of Sigmar army. Phoenicium seemed like quite a good choice flavour-wise, but there don't seem to be any decent army-wide buffs and as stated above seems more about forcing your opponent's hand. 

 

The smattering of battle reports I've seen online seem to favour running it as a tanky army and any death-related bonuses are just nice to have. Perhaps that's the way its supposed to work? 

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Only a broken realm revamp can solve the poor rules of phoenicium

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Interesting read.! From what I’ve heard, it looks like a combination of the rules being mediocre or not particularly fun, and not having enough units to make the theme work. All three of the core units are popular, just not in Phoencium itself. If Anvilgard had 3 DE units and that’s that, it would probably also not have been that interesting (I guess still more so than the Phoencium though - because pirates). 

Speaking for myself, my first attempt trying to get into AoS was with buying the CoS book, because my friend (who already played AoS) thought this would feature the old high elf units.  The disappointment of the little that was left kind of immediately made me lose all interest in the Phoencium (and the game until the Pointy Aelves vid). Re-reading it after the Lumineth came out, i think it’s an interesting background, and could be pretty awesome. If they’d made an Ur-Phoenix model and some regular Phoenix, fire and ice themed units, I’m sure there’d be people who’d buy that. 

I’m biased of course, but I’d rather have GW stick for the Pheonicium with more of a High Elf theme (city of learning, culture etc.) than making it another Living City.

The thematic really matches well with the Lumineth, so much so that they easily could be another elemental Temple. So maybe we see a rules revamp and tie-in to the Lumineth in Broken Realms, I think that instantly would make the city more popular. 

I don’t think amber and Phoenixes are a problem, as both are tied to the same concept. Generally, in a war game a topic like that of the Phoenicium might never be as popular as something like pirates with monsters, or a gun-cannon-city, but I think with some decent rules and more units to play around, it’d be reasonably popular.

Let’s see, Broken Realms will for sure touch Ghyran, maybe they also find time to give the Phoenicium a re-birth. 

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On 1/2/2021 at 6:40 PM, dekay said:

Aura of Serenity: units around your general don't take battleshock. It's not bad. In any other city, I'd cal it great. However, you want things to die. If your chaff unit gets a few losses from shoting and few more from the battleshock, they're guaranteed to die whenever they charge something. And you want that to happen. So, you need to be careful with aura, because sometimes it WILL work against you. Sometimes it won't. But compared to the previous trait, it requires you to process a lot of data to not make life harder for yourself.

Good breakdown. I mostly agree.

I think it's worth noting though, regarding Aura of Serenity, all your combat buffs from units dying work only for the phase in which a unit is destroyed or are only triggerable in the combat phase. Since you can't fight in the battleshock phase, a unit dying to battleshock is not something you want, either way.

I think what really makes this a kind of bad option is that if you do go into the direction of a tanky Phoenicium build, the natural go-to unit would be Phoenix Guard, which are already battleshock immune if they are near an Annointed. And Annointed on Phoenix are pretty much the only unit that receives a heavy payoff from the Phonicium rules.

In any case, Seeker of Vengeance is probably just better in most situations.

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Side note - of all the oddnesses around Lumineth and their allies - Idoneth allowed, Cities not, though in background Cities seem to be fairly common and Idoneth more exceptional - no Phoenicium, fellow Hysh aelves, is at first glance surely the oddest

Maybe could be rationalised as Phoenicium suspecting lingering Slaaneshi taint in Lumineth? Bad blood resulting from Spirefall? I dunno

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On 1/1/2021 at 8:49 AM, Kyriakin said:

It's mostly cirumstantial and/or anecdotal - but that's the only evidence we ever have access to  - but it seems pretty clear that The Phoenicium is the red-headed stepchild least popular of the Cities of Sigmar subfactions.

For example, phoenixes with some old hawk-riding Wood Elves (gyrobombers?), 

Conversely, leaning into the other theme with autumn-colored Wood Elves and pools of amber on the bases or embedded within tree stumps could work too.

So, is there any hope of this city being crushed by the future narrative? If so, how would you salvage it?

One of the things about this game that people could remember is pre covid it changed every 3 months.  Phonecium may become really good in 6-18 months.  

I use my Warhawkriders as Gyrocopters and my Great Eagle heroes as Gyrobombers in LC.  I just need to find some logical stuff for them to drop (rocks?) since I've run out of spites :S

People on these forums also tend to drive what is strongest not what is near or dear to their heart.  Those are long time hobby-ists (like you perhaps?)  and I really liked the idea of the giant tree and what it did.  Golden Wood Elves would be neat to see.  Snakebite armour, maybe some gold weapons,.. I dunno.  

HE did get kinda gutted for CoS but I've seen some old HE armies being used as Lumineth in bat reps these days.  

If I was GW I would release a Warscroll in one of the new campaign books that gives that army a really good boost.  It only takes one shift.  

GW REALLY needs to re-release the skycutter kit... it was so neat.

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On 1/14/2021 at 3:24 AM, Lord of the Isle said:

Side note - of all the oddnesses around Lumineth and their allies - Idoneth allowed, Cities not, though in background Cities seem to be fairly common and Idoneth more exceptional - no Phoenicium, fellow Hysh aelves, is at first glance surely the oddest

Maybe could be rationalised as Phoenicium suspecting lingering Slaaneshi taint in Lumineth? Bad blood resulting from Spirefall? I dunno

This was one of the really odd omissions in the BT. Hopefully it's on purpose, and something might happen during the Broken Realms storyline or later. The symbol of the Ur-Phoenix and of Tyrion (and/or the Hyshian Sun Spirit, still a bit unclear right now) are identical. So, there could be something in the future if/when they get to the Tyrionic half of the Lumineth. 

But then, as you say they, made the Idoneth the sole allies of the Lumineth, and right now that's not exactly the direction the story seems to be heading (maybe big plot twist incoming!). : )

Otherwise we'd have to go with explanations like yours (bad blood, misunderstandings, maybe they felt abandoned etc.). 

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You can also take Idoneth as allies for Lumineth, but not vice versa. The whole thing just seems like a bit of a confused mess. 

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