Angelfire introduces two new warband types, courtesy of a pair of powerful Outsider commanders: the Lawful Good Sword Archon (from Book of Exalted Deeds) and the Chaotic Evil Hezrou. Instead of our traditional analysis of the new arrivals' roleplaying and skirmish virtues, let's set up an observation post beside one of their upcoming battles.
Warband composition is something special for both these commanders. Neither has literal warband building abilities, but their abilities and commander effects encourage highly specific warbands.
Fearless Wings: The Sword Archon's commander effect reads, "Followers with Fearless gain melee damage +5." Increases to damage aren't that easy to come by when you're playing Lawful Good. There's little doubt that when the Sword Archon takes the field, it intends to be accompanied by an assortment of Paladins, Stone Golems, Lion Falcon Monks, and soon-to-be-unveiled fearless outsiders.
Demons Demons Demons: The Hezrou has the Demonmaster 10 ability, letting it remove the Difficult or Wild ability from evil outsiders that are up to level 10. It won't be able to team up with LE outsiders except in sealed deck or limited draft games, but there are plenty of worthwhile CE outsiders to choose from, and not all of them are demons. Blue Slaad, anyone, from Giants of Legend? Or to access the theme directly: Vrock, from Archfiends, which wasn't much use to CE warbands before because of its Difficult 6 ability.
The Sword Archon has the edge, but not as much as you might expect for a matchup between LG and CE. The Sword Archon is a bit too focused on cutting evildoers in half to focus on the responsibilities of command. It's not as if it's going to need its commander rating for rallying anyone: not in constructed warbands.
The Hezrou isn't shabby at tearing things apart with its massive fists. Unlike some commanders, it's also durable. Warbands that start by assassinating the enemy commander will need to hack at the Hezrou a couple dozen times.
The Sword Archon has slightly more AC than the Hezrou, a lot fewer hit points, and a lot more maneuverability. Flight is golden for a Large creature, enabling the Sword Archon to avoid Difficult terrain that can slow the Hezrou and other ground-pounders to a crawl.
Head to Head
Both commanders are on the higher edge of the point cost continuum, and they cost within two points of each other, so a head-to-head matchup has, at a minimum, some entertainment value. Without laying out all the stats for you, let's put it like this: with double the hit points of the Sword Archon, the Hezrou attracts the punters' early bets. But wait ... the Hezrou has around a 50% chance of hitting the Sword Archon with its best attack, and even when it hits, its tearing fists do less damage against the Archon's DR. If the Sword Archon has any armor-pumping friends around, the Hezrou has a problem.
Meanwhile the Sword Archon's one big attack is pretty much guaranteed to hit the Hezrou, even if the Hezrou manages to get adjacent so that its Stench ability cuts down on the Archon's attack. If the Sword Archon starts the fight with a charge, the following ability could end the fight in a hurry: Discorporating Dive (If this creature charges and damages an evil Outsider, destroy that creature; DC 17). We can't predict how much impact this ability is going to have on tournament play, but I'm sure it's going to provide dramatic moments in home games.
Next week: another Angelfire Face-Off: "Lawful Steel."
About the Author
Rob Heinsoo started playing D&D with the original brown box in 1975. He's now the lead designer of D&D Miniatures.