Let's talk Salamanders

I’d love to spitball different builds and uses for units. To start, I’m just going to give my impressions and experience with everything in the list, then go on to talk about putting them together into battlegroups and full lists. Let’s get to it!

Ghekkotah Warriors: the troop is a 60pt drop, but other than that I really can’t see much use for them. A 95pt unlock MIGHT have extremely niche use, but I’d be massively inclined to take Unblooded instead. Maybe someone will convince me that cheap nerve is valuable on the horde.

Salamander Primes: boring grinding infantry, they just do what it says on the tin. I think Ceremonial Guard generally grind better and Tyrants hammer better than the 2h version, so I don’t really see much room left for the “vanilla” option. Still, not like they’re bad.

Salamander Unblooded: I quite like the regiment, but I’m not sold on the horde. In a regiment, it’s a basic shieldwall infantry unit that actually projects a decent threat for a cool 120pts. Not a star performer, but it unlocks, it scores, it fights. The horde at 200pts really needs to do some work though, and at Def4 20/22 it’s fairly fragile, and Thunderous means it doesn’t grind very well. Better off with other options if you want a horde.

Ancients: absolute all-stars, one of the defining elements of the list. If you compare them to Dwarf Ironguard, human foot knights, and other semi-elite infantry, their cost is mostly justified on their combat stats alone - then they just happen to have Inspiring! Troops are great for keeping behind your main line to inspire and plug holes, and I’ve been really happy with regiments as part of my front line… though Spd4 hurts. A very strong unit with a notable downside, only the weirdest fast builds wouldn’t benefit from a unit or two.

Salamander Ceremonial Guard: Primes++, these take the upgrades very well. Phalanx greatly reduces the total number of units that seriously threaten you, and 5 extra attacks is pretty great when you’re already CS(1). In a game where concentration of force is so useful, it’s hard to argue with such a strong chassis - add Brew of Strength or Sharpness and your rock-solid anvil is also dealing hammer levels of damage. Very expensive, but doesn’t require much support, and is very dangerous.

Corsairs: shooting hybrid unit. 18" 4+ steady aim with piercing seems to be in a pretty good place right now, and Salamanders have enough shooting available that it can be a meaningful contribution, but I’m just not sure I see a place for these. They didn’t become regular like Flamebearers and Heartpiercers, and they also cost more to account for their superior melee power. I haven’t built with them yet and don’t intend to, but probably you could be reasonably well-served by a unit or two in the right list.

Ghekkotah Hunters: pretty bad, but maybe cheap enough to be fine. Pathfinder and Stealthy mean they can be fairly safe hiding in rough terrain, and though terrible, their ranged attack will often be good enough to force a nerve check. I guess you’d take them if you want something that can lurk most of the game, maybe sacrifice itself to chaff something, and maybe make a mad dash for a token. Or if you have models you like.

Fire Elementals: surgeable hammer that is probably soundly outclassed by Tyrants. Shambling and Surge are whole topics of their own, but safe to say that if you want to take the package it will do just fine.

Tyrants: another faction-defining option, they’re one of the absolute best hammers in the game. Relatively small base, good threat range, and excellent damage all by default; if you can successfully deliver these into high-priority targets, you will probably win the game. Def4 -/17 goes down pretty quick though, so these need to be kept safe. You’re probably taking two hordes. I’ve never really looked at the regiment, but it might be pretty good. Excellent unit.

Kaisenor Lancers: slightly confused design that doesn’t quite deliver. Importantly, 195pts IS pretty cheap by heavy cav standards, so although I don’t have very nice things to say about this unit, it’s not meant to be an elite option. Its main claim to fame is trading TC(2) for TC(1)+CS(1), which means it grinds way better than your average knight. Unfortunately, 14/16 with no waver-mitigation means it grinds pretty poorly! Like I said, confused design. I’ve got models I want to use so I’ll probably try to make a unit work, but I don’t expect to have a very good time doing it.

Scorchwings: I love to go fast, so I love this unit. Decent, extremely mobile shooting that becomes a legitimate threat if it gets a clear charge on a flank or rear. If this unit spends most of the game shooting and projecting a “threat cone” then it has probably been extremely valuable, but conversely, it’s very easy to leave it too exposed and see it casually shot off the table. Some people swear by regiments as super-fast chaff, but I like the horde because I like the design of the unit and really enjoy using it.

Rhinosaur Cavalry: another popular option, this is the chunkier version of a Salamander hammer. They have similar hitting power to Tyrants at a similar threat range, but they’re sturdier and don’t grind as well. The regiment is an excellent mobile wall to hide behind. Good option, looking forward to those new models.

Ember Sprites: great little elemental chaff. Scout really takes the sting out of Shambling, so I don’t even take Surge with these things. They’re fearless, they’re good at getting them where you want them, and they have a pretty useful gun. I generally take the regiment because I want chaff, but the horde throws enough dice that it starts hosing lighter chaff without needing to even trade for it. Good unit.

Greater Fire Elemental: here’s maybe a reason to put Surge in your list. 50mm bases with Shambling are very dangerous at close range, and with CS(3) and Vicious this one is especially so. Also a decent anvil, also shoots a bit, it’s pretty good! I don’t plan to ever use one, but you should have a good time if you do.

Lekelidon: extremely popular, and with good reason. It looks like a shooting option, and it sort of is, but more importantly is it’s an 85pt monster. It can score, it can chaff, it can position so your charges avoid terrain, it’s just a unit. It will also contribute small but meaningful damage throughout the entire game, and for a fantastic price. Three is overkill in some lists, but one or two will always perform well.

Komodon: extremely unpopular, with slightly less good reason. Where the Lekelidon is a support piece that happens to shoot, the Komodon more of a War Engine. Standing still and with a clear shot, it does ~40% more damage than the Lekelidon at double the range, and it’s somewhat more dangerous in melee. As soon as there’s a penalty to hit though, the damage advantage vanishes, and you’ve wasted 30pts. If you can get it clear shots all game, then it will act like a scoring bolt thrower that doesn’t get knocked over the first time a flying hero touches it, which sounds pretty good! I prefer the Lekelidon.

Fire Drake: the titan version does not fly, oddly. It is what I call a “light giant” - a decent chunk of nerve on a Spd7 75mm base which does decent damage and takes up space. This one trades durability and hitting power for Nimble and 12" shooting. That makes it better at scenario play, taking out light targets, and threatening flanks while being worse at getting stuck in and grinding. I haven’t been very impressed with mine so far, but I like it enough on paper that I’m going to keep using it.

Ghekkotah Slasher: another light giant, but with long-range shooting instead of short. I think the Fire Drake’s gun is much more likely to contribute meaningfully, so I really don’t see a place for this.

Phoenix: fragile support unit, if you keep it alive it will really help you grind. The more tough units you have the better this titan will be, and if Radiance of Life is hitting 2-3 things for several turns, chances are you’re in great shape. It also has a bit of support shooting and the ever present threat of a long-range charge, so keep an eye out for when it can be doing more than just heal. Definitely worthwhile in many builds.

Clan Lord: here’s your fairly boring Mighty Inspiring hero option. CS(2) is a nice touch. You’ll probably give it a raptor or wings if you’re taking it, which you might do if you need something Inspiring that can also solve problems like war engines and fliers. It has a role, I just don’t like it very much.

Herald: here’s the ASB. Seems extremely outclassed by Ancients as an Inspiring source, but maybe you want to give it the Surge book or the Lute without paying for a Mage-Priest? Very narrow design space.

Mage-Priest: spellcaster and Flamebound synergy-haver. Bane Chant (3) is nice, Surge is Surge, and Elite Fireball is ok. I have never wanted any of those things while building a list, but they’re right there if you do.

Battle-Captain: non-Mighty non-Inspiring hero. 3 attacks with CS(2) is an extremely credible threat to ground a flier, and the unique Path of Fire upgrade is very cool! You’ll have to decide for yourself how many units it needs to benefit to be worth it, but it’s definitely a legitimate choice, and very cool and unique to boot.

Battle-Captain on Rhinosaur: another very popular option. It’s as tough as a regiment, it’s a Nimble scoring unit, it’s Brutal and does decent damage. Block things up, corkscrew into annoying places, combo charge, run 14" onto an objective on turn 6, the list goes on. Very versatile, very valuable.

Clan Lord on Fire Drake: the Salamander dragon. It’s only CS(2) and it’s got 15 attacks on 4+ instead of the more usual 10 on 3+, but it works out fairly similarly most of the time. Its firebreath also benefits from 15 attacks, which might be what sets it apart. If you’re going to take it, you probably want either Sharpness to make it more dangerous in melee or Elite/Vicious to improve both its melee and ranged damage. I lean Elite/Vicious because it still projects a very good charge threat, but the shooting becomes dangerous enough to do real work. Your mileage may vary, dragons are their whole own playstyle.

Ghekkotah Clutch Warden: so many rules, such a low price, and still no one takes it. You could probably get some decent use out of it for the cost, but with so many high-value heroes and monsters, why would you? Someone go play a hundred games with it and report back.

Ghekkotah Skylord on Scorchwing: I so badly want this to be good, and it really seems like it should be, but I just have not been impressed. Maybe 120pts is just too many for a sacrificial flier, or maybe I’m being too precious with it. Seems like the Scorchwing regiment is probably a better buy.

Firebrand: about as good a reason to take an Individual on foot as you’re likely to find. Her stats are very good, her gun is useful, she inspires, and she makes Corsairs a tiny bit better in melee. If you want what she has to offer she’s extremely good.

Artakl: another excellent choice, and more generally useful. She has an extremely good gun, so if all she does is shoot all game, you’ve probably made a fine investment. The quick Duelist war engine hunter stuff is great too, as long as you don’t get her killed.

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I think it’s to 3E’s credit that Salamander armies can be pretty varied and still be more or less competitive. In 2E there was essentially only one meta list for Sallies, but 3E has added quite a few strong and/or viable options (tyrants + ancients topping that list), while also unseating some auto-includes (skyraiders with the jar of extra shooting range, for example, or skylords with the blade of beastslaying). If anybody is interested, I played Fire Elemental-themed Sallies throughout 2E and reported all of my games here: https://blood-fire.com/category/bloodfire/. There are even a couple 3E games in there! Frankly the concept only got stronger in 3E, and I’m excited to get my new list on the field once the official scorchwings get to me.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on your thoughts:

Ghekkotah Warriors: I’m always curious about the legion option myself, but I agree that the troops is all I’ve really given serious consideration to.

Fire Elementals: So obviously I’ve used hordes of Fire Elementals a lot which mostly made me aware of their shortcomings (Me 4+), tho the more I play with other (CS1) elementals the more I appreciate CS2 with the tasty vicious. Fire Elementals are fine, they don’t really shine until you give them nimble (for easier flank surges) or +1 to hit, and at that point a generic Salamander list probably circles back to Tyrants and just gets what they need there …

Tyrants: … tho I think it’s worth noting that I see Tyrants ‘fixed’ by items virtually 100% of the time. Pathfinder + strider are nearly mandatory, if not WC +1 or Sp +1 or something to get that engage. However as opposed to the Fire Elementals, these are much cheaper items on probably stronger platforms.

Lancers: Late 2E I saw some folks trying to make troops work, not sure if that carried over to 3E, particularly with how many chaff options we’ve got going on.

Scorchwings: Like regiments of S’hwings! I ran the Jaraiders horde late in 2E, and it was a ferocious shooting platform and scoring unit, and I’m happy to see it gone. I’ve tried a horde my couple times in 3E, and I think I’m not a fan, or at least I’m no good babysitting such a fast, expensive, fragile unit. Excited to run double regiments tho, love me some fast shooting chaff.

Ember Sprites: I use four regiments, and personally I think they’re the best unit in the list that got even better when they became fearless. Shooting chaff is brilliant, plus the number of things I’ve burned down by surrounding them with Sprites and rolling hot fire is silly.

Greater Fire Elemental: Wheeeeeeew yea, not amazing? When I started running Flamebound in 2E, I ran two of these purely on the anvil factor, but I put them away until Agnih-Bhanu hit the scene and changed my life. Sadly she’s gone (for now!), tho I’ve kept her model in my army for old time’s sake. I’ve actually found she can still lift, and I’ve so far nabbed a flank in every game of 3E (like 2 or whatever). Good value for the points, if not mindblowingly awesome.

Komodon: There was a time in 2E that I was going to make these work, but in 3E the loss in height actually turned me off, as I would now be getting negatives for shooting over my Sprites, and couldn’t shoot down over the H3 stuff. So I passed.

Fire Drake vs Slasher: I wrestled quite a lot with which of these to run my Ankylodon Battle Platform (a terrible 2E unit that was at least Def 6+ but mostly an idiot) as, and I actually came down on the side of the Slasher. Me 3+ and pathfinder tipped the balance for me, plus while the shooting is dicier, its range and high pierce was attractive in an army with 12" no pierce shooting, like mine.

Clan Lord on Raptor: I’m a fan of this build, real fixer that can get where he needs to be and take care of problems, if not cause new ones for your opponent. Also the only place I’ve taken the Effigy of Fire.

Mage-Priest: So again, playing an elemental army meant I’ve used two of these in virtually every game. Gaining inspiring (for Firebound) in 3E was HUGE for me, as I was always choked for unlocks and, as such, inspiring. My old setup was fireball (10) + surge (8) + heal (3) on one and fireball (10) + martyr’s prayer (7) on the other, which has now shifted to heal (3) + shroud of the saint in 3E. Heal on high def units is obviously great, and at least one surge is pretty mandatory if you’re taking 2+ elementals, but shoutout to the elite fireball (20). People are really down on fireball vs lightning bolt in 3E (lol it wasn’t different in 2E), yet I routinely have one turn late in a game where my priests cease their supporting to absolutely dunk on a unit.

[Aside: Sallies were generally overcosted in 2E, as you have to pay for flexibility when the meta doesn’t necessarily reward units that can do multiple things fine but not one thing great. This isn’t untrue in 3E, but I feel like the opportunity cost isn’t as bad, plus there are more units that are better at doing things the edition wants you to do - or maybe it’s because 3E wants you to do more than move quickly, shoot well and one-round units on the charge?]

Battle-Captain on Rhinosaur: Just tipping my hat to the Salamander version of the perfect 3E unit, the scoring, nimble, murder hero. I’m constantly waffling between Clan Lord on Raptor or Battle-Captain on Rhinosaur for my support bruiser.

Clan Lord on Fire Drake: I ran a wingless one almost constantly in 2E, primarily as a large inspiring bubble with a H5 shooting attak. He was a total nincompoop in combat (8 attaks @ 3+ I think) but the shooting was real, often in concert with all the other 12" shooting, or to snipe out support characters he could spot from his great height. Since the new edition mandates wings, and I don’t like dragons, I’ve passed on taking the ol’ CLOFD. I always see this with +1 to hit, tho I like the suggestion to use elite - that’s what I did on my CLOFD, as shooting was the name of the game for me.

Skylord: Just a closing thought for how far the mighty have fallen. A BOTBS Skylord was super common in 2E, and the only change I think was -1A and -10 points? And I think +6" to his shooting range. Maybe those 4 attaks is the thing keeping people moving on to the BCOR or CLOR, which occupy the same slot.

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