Sylvaneth have been a troubled faction for a while in Age of Sigmar – a beautiful but relatively small model range, endlessly tweaked faction terrain rules (and let’s not get started on transporting those wyldwoods) and almost all competitive lists lists built around the dominant ‘Warsong Bomb’ combo.
In no uncertain terms, the new book changes everything. That’s almost literally true. So without this review becoming a novel-length guide to the entire faction, I’m going to try and focus on the biggest changes and offer a broad perspective on what it looks like Sylvaneth are now, in terms of play-style, predicted strength overall, and the biggest winners/losers from the Tome.
A quick note on ordering, based on some learnings from our last Tome review. And we feel it actually makes sense to start with army abilities and sub-faction rules, before diving into units, then tackling Enhancements (so you can understand who they make sense on) before finishing up with the Grand Strategies and Battle Tactics.
- Army Rules
- Glades (Sub-Factions)
- Endless Spells
- Command Traits
- Matched Play Rules
- Final Thoughts
There’s a crazy amount of synergy in this book, and it all starts with and revolves around Places of Power.
Start of a battle you pick 3 terrain features wholly outside enemy territory and they become ‘overgrown terrain features’. By default, each Sylvaneth unit within 9″ can regen 1 wound. Where it gets interesting is how this combines with all sorts of rules – but the next army rule is From The Woodland Depths, which has two main effects.
The first is essentially the same as the old Walk the Hidden Paths – allowing one unit wholly within 9″ to teleport to within 9″ either an overgrown terrain or wyldwood – with two provisos. Standard teleport rules apply (not within 9 of an enemy unit) and crucially, the terrain piece can’t be in engagement range of an enemy unit.
For the rest of the review we’ll refer to these combined teleporting restrictions as ‘Walking the Paths restrictions’. And we’ll use the shorthand ‘within terrain range’ to mean ‘wholly within 9″ of an overgrown terrain or awakened wyldwood’.
Overall this is more flexible than before but does mean a clever opponent can limit your teleporting options by careful positioning.
The second effect is Strike and Fade, which is potentially huge, even if it requires some careful set up – once per turn, a Sylvaneth unit that has fought can immediately teleport, with Walking the Paths restrictions. This is potentially very tasty, allowing glass-hammer units to fight with impunity, or as a way to radically reposition a tanky slow unit, etc etc – I expect we’ll all be having lots of fun with this one.
Finally, Verdant Blessing remains, unchanged – a cast 6, 18″ spell to summon a wyldwood outside of 3″ of the usual objects.
A really tactical and interesting new addition are Seasons of War, which you can essentially think of as modifiers to the terrain rules, and therefore apply to units wholly within 9″ unless stated otherwise. These are added to your list, and you obviously just pick the one.
The Burgeoning gives units that didn’t charge a Ward of 6. Can’t complain. The Reaping adds 3″ to the terrain effect range – probably really useful given the average big base size of sylvaneth units, and allows you a bit more latitude. In many ways I can see this being my go to, as being slightly outside of ‘wholly within’ could ruin a whole turn’s worth of shenanigans.
The Dwindling allows for a hero phase re-roll of 1 cast, 1 unbindand 1 dispel – as in, 1 of each. Obviously strong given how good Sylvaneth magic is. Lastly, Everdusk reduces terrain effect range by 3″ but in exchange you get exploding 6s to hit in melee. I feel like the 6″ range is going to be too restrictive for this to be reliable, but you’ll see that there are a few ways to make certain units count as overgrown, which does make this more flexible than it appears at first glance.
Overall, I love these rules, they’re easy to remember, are all upside, and give you a meaningful tactical layer.
Glades return (obviously) but follow the 3rd edition paradigm of being streamlined and fluffy. And good!
Oakenbrow makes Treelords battleline and for bracketing purposes you halve the damage taken by all of the biggest trees – so also Treelord Ancient and Durthus. Durthi? In the new GHB meta, this is an interesting option to avoid giving up extra damage against your battleline units and allows you to lean into a tanky Ent list, which is awesome for obvious reasons.
Gnarlroot remains the magic pick of choice, allowing a once per turn cast on 3d6 removing one dice while in terrain range. Given some of our spells get better with higher values, this combined with the potential re-roll from Dwindling could be very nice.
Heartwood sees a big change – now it makes Kurnoth battleline, and allows you to pick 3 enemy units that your whole army gets +1 to hit against. This is a great CP saver and even though, as you’ll see, I’m not totally sold on Kurnoth Bows, it means they could make sense as MSU in this Glade.
Ironbark now gives you a command ability usable on a unit in engagement range of an enemy that has charged – on a 2+ that unit suffers d3 mws. A nice punishment for daring to charge your lovely stickmen – and here’s the kicker – it can be used multiple times, but not on the same enemy unit. Obviously fairly useless against horde units but the chance to kill a mid-wound model and deny its attacks could add up over the course of the game – overall, I think this is too niche to be taken competitively.
Winterleaf leans intro a control playstyle, and prevents enemy units from falling back. And if combined with Everdusk (which is a cool combo, and kind of a shame the others don’t offer a combined effect) that unit also can’t be removed – as in, they can’t be teleported somehow away either. Teleporting shenanigans are becoming more prevalent in the game so this is (situationally) more useful than it first appears.
Dreadwood plays clearly into Spite-revenants – making them battleline and allowing you to use Walk the Paths and/or Strike and Fade twice but with the proviso that one of those times it must be Spite-revs. I can’t really think of a reason this isn’t the weakest Glade going, but, y’know, if you really love Spite-revs and want to play more of a horde Sylvaneth, this is how you do it.
Harvestboon allows EACH unit of the new flying cavalry to make a pre-game move of 12″ – and they’re battleline in it. You will see that Spite-riders have a strike first effect, meaning if you can fit into a one drop, this Glade allows you to set up an alpha strike of as many bug cavalry as you want, all fighting before any enemy unit can retaliate. Risky but potentially hilarious!
Sylvaneth are a faction who’ve always had a pretty great time with magic, and it’s better than ever now.
Throne of Vines (casting value 9) heals 1 wound to the caster at the end of each phase until next hero phase – so a minimum of 6 and a max of 12! It’s a ‘heal over time’ so you trade immediacy for reliability. At CV 9 it’s a great candidate for using the Vesperal Gem on (more on that below).
Regrowth (18″ – cv 5) heals d6.
Dwellers Below (12″ cv 7) rolls a dice per model in a unit and does mws on a 5+. Could be fun now we’re more likely to see more, bigger units in general. As you will see, there are similar spells you can combo this with to potentially decimate big units – although part of me would like to see a little variation in effects, and something more targeted towards smaller units.
Deadly Harvest (3″, cv 6) does d3 mws to each unit in range. Not amazing but fine for combat-casters, of which we have a couple.
Verduous Harmony (18″, cv 7) brings back a model to a unit, or d3 models to tree/spite revs or dryads. See a healing theme emerging yet?
Treesong (16″, cv 7) is a great new spell that gives any unit in terrain range but specifically of wyldwoods an extra rend. Shame it’s not any terrain, but still potentially very strong, as in the right situations you could improve the rend of multiple units at once with this.
Overall, it’s a useful, fluffy and powerfully lore with some fun effects. At first glance it seems like it wants you to lean into big, tanky, multi-wound units to make the most from it.
I’m over the moon with what GHB22 is doing for endless spells in general and Sylvaneth’s fall in line, offering some excellent, highly synergistic effects at a new bargain price that means *gasp* you will actually use them.
Spiteswarm Hive (40 pts) got brought in line with 3e rules but still rocks – you choose between two effects, each applying to one unit wholly within 9″ in the hero phase – +3″ to move and charge or reduce rend by 1. Buut both go off on a 2+, annoyingly again – you’ve already paid the points, summoned the spell…and it can still fail on you? Bogus!
Gladwyrm (50 pts) is the same but well costed now – d3 mws on a 3+ to owt within 1″ AND heals d6 on a 3+. Get that in the mix and it will add tonnes of value to a melee.
Skullroot (60 pts), one of the damn coolest looking endless spells in the game, adds d3 units to a failed battleshock test AND, when it flies (8″) over an enemy unit, and any unit within 1″ of the tree, it does d3 on a 2+, or d6 if that unit is within 6″ of a wyldwood. There are plenty of opportunities for enemies to be near wyldwoods, but even if they’re not, this has clear and obvious value.
I mean, you’d be tempted to take all 3 right?
Heck, there’s an awful lot to cover here. Lots of varied stat lines, abilities, and huge changes to the old book. Again, we’ll keep this high-level – don’t want to miss the wood for the trees – (SORRY I HAD TO) in the interests of not just transcribing the entire book.
Let’s start the A-mama herself, the Beetle-Queen, Ol’ Thunder Thighs, Alarielle. She’s good now – potentially really good – but with provisos. Talon of the Dwindling, Swirling Glowspites and her spell, Metamorphosis remain the same, but Lifebloom has seen a crucial glow up – now, after she’s been killed, she comes back on a 6+battle round number, but you only get one attempt so choose when to try it wisely. She’s got a great 1 shot 2/2/-2/6 bracketing shooting attack, and the beetle horns are decent in melee.
The other great new addition to her scroll is a once per game ‘turn everything into Overgrown’, which obviously has big synergy implications.
Basically, Alarielle does a little bit of everything now, and seems very viable to me as a lynchpin piece that operates in all phases. If she gets shot off turn 1 by pesky Stormfiends or what have you, at least she can now come back to play in the later rounds.
A big investment at 840 – but if you subtract the cost of the best unit she can summon, that’s more like 590. You’ll need to build your list around her, but a very pleasing glow up from her previous incarnation. Difficult to gauge whether she’ll be competitively viable – 16 wounds on a 3+ with no built-in after-save can still be liquified by plenty of things without too much effort – but I think with careful use she can contribute meaningfully to a list.
Her (strong independent literally used to be her)right hand – The Lady of Vines – is an exciting alternative. A good, tanky wizard who can chip damage at range and hold her own against smaller stuff in melee, her main incentives are a once per game Dryad summon – although it’s super frustrating to me that it goes off on a 2+ and is therefore guaranteed to fail when you really need it – and a 12″, CV 7 spell to give an aura of a 5+++, which is potentially huge. She also counts as Overgrown terrain but with a 9″ range, allowing her to be a mobile, much-cheaper alternative to her ‘mum’.
Drycha remains largely unchanged, functioning as a harassment piece who buffs spite-revenants with a +1 to their wound rolls. But I still don’t see why you’d ever really want to run them even with that. She still offers plenty on her own merits, as a mixed range, 1 cast wizard with a super swingy warscroll spell that does MWs based on the difference between your roll and their leadership. Her notable strength is the ability to double either her melee or ranged output to 20 attacks, and fish for mws on 6s, which means flexibility, good horde clearing potential, and a potentially great Unleash Hell candidate. Hard to see how the tree-mech competes with the more specialised Big Trees, but her versatility and speed (9″) does mean she’s nice and flexible.
Warsong Revenant also remains pretty much the same, losing his knowledge of the whole lore but remaining a very potent wizard (the only straight source of +1 to cast) with 2 casts and his great warscroll spell, rolling dice equal to the casting roll and doing mws on 5+. The 4 up ward will keep him hanging around, and as you will see, there are plenty of Enhancements that will find a great home in him. He also has a 12″ +1 bravery to friendlies and -1 to enemies aura which, weirdly, kinda combos well with Drycha’s warscroll spell – and also the Skullroot. Bravery buffs are always welcome too as a way to just avoid having to use Inspiring Presence.
The Arch Revenant gained a huge ability, and nothing else on his scroll is worth a damn, including his melee output – but it doesn’t matter. He now gives +1 wound to Kurnoth (ANY attack) within 12″, and has a CA to give one unit of them +1 attack. If you take any Kurnoth – who, spiler alert, are now amazing – you’d be mad not to bring him too. A fantastic buff piece now with another 4+ ward to help him survive sniping attempts.
Durthu remains a beat-stick – in the truest sense of the term! Well, more of a beat-wood but that has its own problems…. anyway, he’s the big melee hero. The main change to him is that his ‘fight last’ ability now counts as a unique monstrous action BUT goes off on a 3 now. So less swingy, but unfortunately means you can no longer try to do it twice with two Durthus. Still great overall as he dishes out the damage, walks the spirit paths himself (so freeing up the generic version) and gets an extra attack for being in terrain range.
The Treelord Ancient is basically unchanged, which isn’t exciting, but his once per game auto-wyldwood has bigger implications before due to our improve army rules, and he’s the tankiest wizard yet – bar Alarielle – who is no slouch in melee with a few -1 d2 and 2 -2 rend 3d attacks.
The generic Treelord is also largely the same, buuuut has one really cool new ability called ‘Lash and Tangle’ – if he hits something in melee, it can’t pile in. So, charge him into the ‘end’ of an enemy unit so only one of them is in weapon range of him, fight, dish out a fair bit of hurt – and boom, only 1 or 2 can slap back. Against a bigger unit, this is potentially HUGE if you position him right.
The Branchwych remains unremarkable save for having the Warsong’s spell and basically being our cheapest wizard. Which isn’t a bad thing to be in such an elite army – unexciting but fills a role, so can’t complain.
Gossamids! Much has been made of their d3 mortals on 6s to hit ability but, with 2 shots each, that’s 2 mws on average and not much else on top given they have no rend. They exist, frankly, to be an annoying screen, with their ability to fly away on a 2+ after Unleashing Hell – again, guaranteeing them to hover in place when you most need them to buzz away. They’re also flimsy, and will die to almost anything with so much as a rock to throw. I’m not saying they’re bad – against predominantly melee armies, the ability to fly up, do a few lucky MWs, move-block and fly ‘safely’ away once charged could be very annoying. But at 220…it seems like a big risk to me.
OK, let’s talk ‘true’ battleline: Tree Revenants, and their woodier counterparts, the Drayds. The Revs have 2 wounds each now but still die to a mean look. Their Tree cousins teleport still (which is always useful and a great scoring vector) and get a free All Out A/D which is fine. Dryads picked up a -1 to hit and -1 wound while within terrain range, which is kinda funny and could make for a frustrating screen, but they do literally nothing else other than hope for cold rolls from your opponent. And require careful positioning – a big blob could be nice but fitting it wholly within terrain range makes it much less appealing.
Spite Revenants, if you were paying attention in the Glades section, are no longer ‘true’ battleline. And they still don’t excite me, with 6s to hit doing a mortal and 3 attacks each, that’s 2 MWs (and again, not much else) per activation. Now, there are ways to situationally buff them a fair bit by adding rend while near a terrain, but in all honesty, the amount of set up required to make them put out meaningful stats is going to be too difficult or unfavourable in the vast majority of circumstances. They’re kinda cheap though and worth running if you want lots of little bodies accompanying Drycha. Maybe.
Kurnoth of all variety fare much better, and frankly are going to be hard not to take. Scythes points went up to match swords at 250, and do -3(!) rend for 2D. Swords get -1 but do their 2d on 6s to hit. Bows, bafflingly, still hit on 4s but have flat 2 damage and are slightly cheaper. So you have some tactical decisions to make – for my points, bows are out in the cold at the moment as you’re paying a large premium for how tanky they are – which is great for swords/scythes who are also standing there on objectives dishing out pain. But statistically the bows do very little without some buffing and support – and while useful for MAYBE sniping out a support hero, there are just much better ways in the book to do that.
Also, all flavours of ‘Noth have an updated ‘Envoys’ ability – when the ‘Noth is contesting an objective, they make friendly units in objective range also count as being within 6″ of terrain. More mobile synergy!
The new Bug Cavalry are also wonderful. Tanky, fast, and they hit hard with a good number of attacks, -2 for both with the Seekers having d2. The main difference is the Spite-Riders have fight first, while the Seekers can revive something with up to 5 wounds on a 2+. So yep, chances are they can bring back a Kurnoth model per turn, per unit. Both flavours heal their own models back to full health if they kill a model, have a 6″ pile in and rally on a 5+. So they’re survivable, flexible, hit decently hard and fill a niche Sylvaneth were otherwise sorely lacking. Very impressive unit.
Overall, a huge glow up, which was expected. There’s speed, tankiness, some good reliable output and a number of fun plays. There are some outright swings and misses – Spite Revs, Dryads – and some situationally good but too costly (and therefore risky), like Gossamids and maaaaaaybe Alarielle – or that require maybe too much set up (Dryads…again) and potentially Treelords. But I think overall there’s multiple viable lists in here.
Gnarled Warrior makes your save unable to be modified, up or down. Obviously application on a 3+ Durthu or such! Lord of Spites reduces a unit’s attacks by 1 if it finishes a pile in within engagement of the hero – another great way to boost survivability. They’re both good, but Warsinger might be even better – adding 3″ to units within 12″ of the hero at the start of movement phase. Combine with Spiteswarm for 11″ move Kurnoth with a 10″ average charge, don’t mind if I do.
Wizard traits also run hot – Nurtured by Magic heals a unit d3 wounds within 18″ on a successful cast. Certainly not a bad incidental source of healing. Potentially HUGE is Warsinger, allowing a wyldwood to be where you measure the effect of a spell from – yeah, any wyldwood. This allows you to potentially be in spell range from turn 1, punish people trying to block your teleports, and all sorts – really interesting plays available here. Radiant Spirit ignores spell effects on a 4+, which seems more niche to me but is still a good counter to magic heavy armies if you pop this on a Treelord Ancient or you really want to ensure your Warsong remains alive and kicking, etc.
Hero wizards get Acorn of the Ages for an auto-wood within 12″. Luneth Lamp gives a wizard the option to banish an invocation with +2 to the roll – this is massively niche! Why you would ever take this unless you’re playing a casual grudge match against your invocation loving friend, I don’t know. Unless it’s a sign we’re somehow entering an invocation meta…. Preventing this page from being a complete waste of a dryad is the returning Vesperal Gem, allowing a once per turn auto-cast that can’t be unbound, but a 1 on a d6 roll does d3 mws to the user.
Other heroes can choose from Greenwood Gladius, which adds d3 attacks to a melee weapon. I can the whispers of ‘Durthu’ on the wind…. Crown of Fell Bowers picks a unit within 6″ and gives all units +1 wound against it. This would be decent if it was just the hero, but all units? Nice! Seed of Rebirth rolls a d6 when the hero dies – on a 2+ they survive with d3 wounds and all other damage negated. With all the healing Sylvaneth has access to, this could be huge on a chonky hero.
MATCHED PLAY RULES
Topline, most of these are unfortunately a bust, which is frustrating given the design space and the fact the forthcoming GHB Tactics all seem harder to pull off on average. Factor in the book’s lack of good Galletian Vet candidates and it feels like Sylvaneth have been a bit short changed in terms of scoring potential, at least in the short term.
Grand Strategy wise, it’s tempting to just write ‘bin’ and move on, but in the interests of being thorough… Chorus of the Woodlands asks you to complete 4 battle tactics from the Sylvaneth list. You’ll see why I don’t think that’s very doable shortly. Vengeance and Spite wants you to kill the enemy general with an Outcasts keyword unit – so, Spite-revenants or Drycha. Urm. That’s not going to be terribly easy. Drycha could do it, but if the general is any kind of monster, she’s not doing it alone, which means a big game as you will have to soften it just the right amount with other units for her to finish it off.
Baffling that they’d hinge a whole Strategy on a keyword only two units have. Baffling and aggravating. Roots of victory tasks you with having a wyldwood in each corner of the board, and there being no enemy units with 6″ of them. This feels more doable but also like a huge win-more strategy, as it basically implies you will have almost complete board control. Thematic but hugely risky for so many obvious reasoons.
Massive let down.
Battle tactics fare slightly better. Eradicate Trespassers wants an enemy unit within 6″ of a wyldwood to die. With good positioning, there should be plenty of times in a game the enemy can’t help but be in range for this, so overall it’s nearly as bankable as ‘bring it down’ or ‘broken ranks’ used to be, perhaps better in some ways as it’s any kind of unit.
Harness the Spirit Paths requires a unit to use From The Woodland Depths (i.e. teleport to a terrain piece) and successfully make a charge. Now, charges of 9″ are far too risky, so I don’t like it – unless you have a Spiteswarm Hive set up, in which case your charge is now a re-rollable 6″ – much more doable.
Balance the Cycle wants you to kill a unit within 12″ of a terrain piece by a unit added to your army that turn – which basically means you’ll need Alarielle to summon Kurnoth or a Treelord, and for them to make a 9 incher – in this instance Spiteswarm doesn’t help because it picks a unit end of hero phase and Alarielle summons end of movement. I guess you could summon in 3 bow hunters and plink the last couple of wounds off a weak unit – otherwise this is a massive gamble.
March of the Forest Lords is, thank god, another sensible one. Kill an enemy monster with one of your Big Trees. All of which are good – but Durthu is obviously a beast, so this one goes some way to making amends for the others.
Unleash Ghyran’s Wrath needs a wizard you pick to kill a unit with a spell or endless spell. Given, as I mentioned before, that none of the Sylvaneth spells are really reliable single-target damage, this isn’t super bankable. However, plenty of our wizards have casting bonuses and multi-casts – so Warsong using Unleash Spites, having a Gladewyrm or Skullroot kicking around from the last turn and another spell/Arcane Bolt means you may have a few chances to finish off the last few wounds needed to score this.
There’s a lot to take in here. Having noodled on it all for a few days, I think the book’s strengths lie in tanky, reliable damage units that have surprising mobility – but the best combos in the book require a lot of careful positioning and over-lapping failable effects – i.e. there’s a risk one part of your plan falls through and ruins the synergy.
It’s also a really expensive book – and even though on average the costs are fair, it makes list-building a challenge because of not many smaller costs that can slot into the gaps between 300+ models/units.
A corollary of that is it’s another highly elite army. Heartwood offers the chance to take battleline that doesn’t give up additional damage against them from the new GHB Bounty Hunters battalion, but it also means it doesn’t place super nicely with some of the keyword scoring opportunities. And in general, if you wanted to run a more horde or infantry based list, in light of GHB 22, your options are severely limited – in competitive reality, I’d go so far as to say, limited to zero.
However, I’m bullish on the book in the long term. It’s flexible and non-linear – Enhancements seem varied and have plenty of candidates for them, the book can lean into magic dominance, pure anvil lists, hyper-mobility and alpha strikes, or leafy, synergistic death stars.
If nothing else, for existing Sylvaneth players, it feels like the first time in many years the faction feels like it should. And I woodn’t trade that for the world.
What do you think of the Tome? Got any thoughts on combinations that we may have missed? How will the Sylvaneth slot into the current meta?