Protectorate units are a mixed bag of great options, most with quite strong roles, some more niche, and a few... appear to be missing any kind of niche to fit themselves into. Luckily, as with much of the faction, most of them do have a pretty interesting place in some build or another. Today I'm doing a letter grade breakdown of all of the Protectorate's unit options.
Burn, baby, burn!
My grading rubric as before:
is a serious powerhouse of the faction. These are the pieces that will appear in most, if not all, lists, and whose effect on the games in which they're played will be massive.
is made up of very strong, very solid options. These are the core workhorses of the Protectorate, but aren't going to shock anyone with their extreme power.
is average (this isn't necessarily a bad thing.) These pieces pretty much do what you'd expect at their point cost, maybe fulfill too niche a role but still perform it well, or are more likely to be a choice for a very particular kind of build designed around them.
is a bit under average. These pieces are a hard sell, but not beyond saving. They may have a place if you really dig for it, but really seeing these pieces is likely to cause an eyebrow raise more than anything.
is bad. There are few truly terrible pieces in the Protectorate but... they exist, and there's really just nothing reasonable that can be done to get them into lists without reworking them in some way.
Plus or minus grades represent a half step in either direction just to give it some granularity. Let's get this started!
Choir of Menoth - A
I've played a list without choir in it a couple times. Regretted it every time.
The Choir are the defining unit of the Protectorate, almost more than any other piece in the faction. They make up some of the greatest warjack support available in the game, and in many cases are core to all other faction's designs when working on ways to fight us. They have some of the strongest denial abilities in the game in Hymn of Passage and Shielding, and Hymn of Battle pushes our 'jacks, which have a tendency to hit maybe 1 PS less than you'd think, up to hitting slightly above their weight class. Stacked in with damage buffs from casters, you get insane damage values from relatively cheap pieces (the Crusader reaching PS 22 with Ignite/Silence of Death Casters, 24 with Feora3, for only ten points), and are just all around one of the best units in the game.
Daughters of the Flame - C+
Daughters are a really solid little unit just waiting on the meta in general to shift a tiny bit. They are very good at killing single wound infantry and just jamming people up. They also act as one of the Protectorate's anti-tough options, as Anatomical Precision does not allow tough rolls. ARM 20-whatever Sentinels getting you down? Cut through them like butter with a unit of Daughters. They're also the main draw to the Guardians of the Temple theme force, which, while it has its issues, features Daughters with Ambush, which is a pretty terrifying prospect for flanking units or enemy support, as with the ambush + 14" run they can seriously be threatening people's back lines. Thyra gives them Vengeance, which is neat and lets them increase threat or get a few more attacks out. They're also just fast advance deployed models, which sometimes can force your opponent to hang back more than they wish. Lastly, they have Stealth, which is a very unique rule in the Protectorate and a really nice option to have. They have a job, they're pretty good at it, and don't really do much else, without being absurdly expensive. Pretty decent.
Just gotta throw this one in wherever I can.
Deliverer Skyhammers - F
There it is. The F unit.
I can't really begin to understand this unit. Their range is incredible at 16, there's no denying that, but with Inaccurate they aren't hitting anything directly, and when they do it doesn't do anything. POW 8 means their AOE 3, POW 4 blast damage is negligible, killing ARM 10 models on average (which damn near doesn't exist). So of course they're designed to use CRA... so for 13 points you can get a single RAT 11 RNG 16 POW 18 shot per turn, which gets whittled down over time. I'd rather just take a Reckoner for the boostable shot and more melee potential for only a few points more. If you want to threaten infantry, you basically have to be firing two five-man CRAs, at which point.... just take a Redeemer. They're meant to be sort of flexible, I guess, but they just don't threaten anything in any meaningful way. I guess you could bring them with Severius1 to bump up the damage output a teensy bit, and if you can aim, shoot something with a Reckoner, and two like two man CRAs you can... hit directly with POW 10 or so shots. Yeah, I don't know. There's not a reason to take these guys, we have jacks or just Cleansers for that matter to do the same sort of job way more effectively.
Deliverer Sunburst Crew - C
A pretty good little piece, just a little hard to fit into lists. AOE 4 continuous fire shots are pretty alright, and the changes to artillery rules were great for it. Pretty solid at infantry clearing, gun is POW 15 so hits at an alright damage value for its cost. Severius1 pushes it up to seriously good values and Malekus just adores this thing. The latter is the only place I'd seriously consider a Deliverer Arms Master to reroll damage rolls on his feat turn, pushing for spikes. They're as cheap a POW 15 as you can get, really, outside I guess CRAing Idrians.
Exemplar Bastions - D
How the mighty hath fallen. I'm not sure any heavy infantry unit in the game took the loss of 3 wounds more harshly than Bastions. In addition to Harbinger not being what she once was, these guys collectively lost 15 health while many of our other units got a lot better. They die *easily* at their armor value, and will be cut apart in short order from any kind of dedicated fire. They better have Defenders Ward or they will be cut to death by POW 12 guns pretty easily. That said, stack up the right defenses on them and they can hold some ground, and the big change that has happened recently is of course the addition of Exemplar Interdiction and the recent CID to the Vessel of Judgement. Stacked with their Seneschal for extra healing, Harbinger can actually get some mileage with these guys. Trouble is... I'm just not sure they have much of a place anywhere else.
Bastions, looking for their lost three wounds out in the desert.
Exemplar Cinerators - D
I'm a little unsure where to put these guys next to Bastions, they're probably a little better, mostly just on account of Vengeance and an extra point of ARM but... you'll still lose one to boosted shots very easily. A pair of Chargers will kill like... almost this entire unit with next to no fear of retaliation. Get Defenders Ward on them to push those defenses up a bit, but... at the end of the day, they're not tough enough to justify just being a few guys with PS 12 weapon master weapons. See Knights Exemplar for reasons why Exemplar heavy infantry are just a ridiculously hard sell.
Exemplar Errants - C-
This might be a little controversial, Errants are not well loved these days, and for good reason. Going from being one of the best units in the game to one you can barely justify taking for any reason, Errants are a bit of a sore spot on Protectorate's roster that we just keep rubbing. They have one, major, unfortunate flaw: they're almost strictly worse than Idrians at everything they do, for the same cost. That said... they aren't a terrible unit. I've used them and they do work, they're still decent, albeit small, guns and they're still weapon masters, throw Ignite on a unit of Errants and you'll just crush things. Advance Deploy makes them a little more forward-threatening than other Exemplar units. Assault means that in Interdiction or with a speed buff of some kind they can threaten the enemy AD line with small arms gunfire, and typically AD models are single wound infantry.
Their Officer gives a mini feat to remove enemy upkeeps and have Sacred Ward for the round, and is what gives them Assault. He's actually a pretty hard sell, honestly I'm more likely to take the unit with no CA at this point, as Assault is... ok, if even that on this unit and Purity is just a really situational minifeat.
I'll run them in Interdiction as a unit to abuse the 2" extra deployment, with AD they can seriously be in your opponent's face super quickly. Self Sacrifice is still a great ability that messes with enemy tech pretty often. If you *have* to take Errants over Idrians (such as with a theme), they're still a decent, if not exactly spectacular, unit. In a situation where you have the choice... just take Idrians.
Exemplar Vengers - B+
Mk. 3 Cavalry are a powerhouse, and Vengers are no exception. No, they're not storm lances, but I'd venture, with the buffs available to us, these are one of the better cavalry units in the game... which is fun given that our other cavalry are right up there with the best. Protectorate runs seriously great cavalry.
So what do Vengers give you? Well, between our Cavalry units, they're the armor cracker. Not nearly as effective against infantry, but hit pretty damn hard, especially with Battle Driven active and a damage buff (as well as Divine Inspiration, if you're running Kreoss3.) Their weapons are Blessed, a rule becoming more and more available to us recently but still great. If you need to focus a bunch of really painful hits onto a hard target at great distance, Vengers will do the job for you. They also take buffs like Defenders Ward very well, getting to 14/21 when Battle Driven is active which is not a defensive line to sneeze at. Unfortunately, they are tied down to the awful Lance rule which can make them a bit jank to use effectively. Still, Vengers are a very solid addition to the Protectorate arsenal and have been consistently really great combat units.
Flame Bringers - A
Ah, Flame Bringers. They sit among the best Cavalry units in the game (when/if Storm Lances get toned down someday, they'll definitely be up there). They're at a reasonable cost, fast as hell, have great defensive stats at 14/15, and can output a ton of hurt. With damage buffs, they'll crack armor. They're *very* good at clearing infantry. Remember if you did not charge, your mount can be used as a regular initial attack, which activates side step, allowing this unit to go for miles if they wish. They're also one of the few native pathfinder options in the faction. Lastly, you've got Reposition 5 (which is obviously great) and Critical Grievous Wounds. Crit effects are usually a bit mediocre just by their dicey nature, but on Cavalry they're pretty effective with the extra die to hit. Throw 3-5 Flame Bringers into a target, it is extremely likely the crit will be active by the end. Take them with Harbinger and throw Guided Hand on for extra consistency.
These are a hard unit to even explain why they're so effective until you see them on the table. I didn't believe it until I fought against them, then with them. That all said, they do die to shooting at 14/15 reasonably easily, but they take either DEF or DEF/ARM buffs really well. Defenders Ward gets them to pretty silly values, but they take spells like Arcane Ward really nicely as well. Just play this unit, be clever with their positioning, they'll do a ton of work unless they're really specifically countered in some way.
Flameguard Cleansers - C
These guys were a Mk. 3 surprise. The only thing holding them down really is, outside Malekus and I guess possibly Feora3, they really only threaten infantry in any notable way. With their minifeat, you suddenly have 11 assaulting models with 10" continuous fire sprays blitzing up the table. Even at RAT 5, you'll hit and kill tons of infantry just through sheer weight of dice rolls, and if you can bump that RAT up a little with Sevvy1, Feora1, Feora3, any of our knockdown tech like the Kreosses or Malekus, you'll just cut people apart. High Reclaimer is a great place to use them as well, they take Hand of Fate ridiculously well. Their defensive stats are poor but they do have Ashen Veil, which makes them a bit deceptive. Overall, if you need to kill just a gross amount of infantry, bring Cleansers. Also, with continuous fire they're really good at helping work through tough units or units relying on round-length feats or minifeats to stay alive, since the fire will start hitting them after those effects are over.
Need a light?
Holy Zealots - D
Another unit that fell far. Zealots have a neat recursion mechanic that, surprisingly, is actually pretty good. That said, they're hard to get much work out of unless you seriously go out of your way to make them work. You could take them with Malekus for a ton of feat turn pain but... outside the feat turn they just aren't likely to be doing much. They have a hard time hitting anything these days that isn't knocked down. They're pretty good at clearing up infantry, but have to be pretty close to do it. Minifeat is actually pretty good and makes the unit super difficult to get rid of entirely, but... they're a really difficult sell. If you want to have some silly fun, throw three units into a list with Vindictus and enjoy just never dying ever, although you'll have a hard time killing much in return but... sometimes, just gotta have fun with things. Overall Zealots are a rough sell most of the time, but can be built for if you really go out of your way.
Idrian Skirmishers - A
Idrians sit among the best units in the game. They're at a good cost. They hit their prey target like a ton of bricks, but have the flexibility to attack non-prey targets as well, which many prey-based units don't have. With Reposition they can move up, fire their 10" guns, and move back out of threat of enemies pretty easily. Advance Deployment with their great guns means enemies can't really move forward much without entering their threat. They're one of our only innate pathfinder units. CRA means they can be used to fight almost any kind of target you want, from solos, to infantry, to heavies. Brutal Charge pushes them up above Errants for raw damage output on a charge (really they're just better than Errants at almost everything.) They're good in melee, they're good at range, and they just give a ton of options.
So, what weaknesses are there? Well, they rely on a minifeat to not die to shooting, but Go To Ground is pretty good at that, helping them avoid blast damage and enemy gunfire for a turn. Their base defensive stats are seriously bad, though, at 13/12. They really want Defenders Ward or Arcane Ward or any kind of DEF buff. Sadly they don't take ARM buffs well since it's so low in the first place, but anything to bump them up to DEF 15 or higher is very welcome. Further, Prey is reliant on the Guide still being alive, which can be problematic but just means he has to hang back as much as possible. You can't Reposition and Minifeat at the same time, really, as it was ruled that you can't choose to Minifeat in the middle of the Repositions and if you minifeat first, they'll come out of dig in. This can make them a little vulnerable to melee on their minifeat turn, when they're often a bit clumped up.
Support Idrians well, and they'll crush things for you under the weight of POW 15 CRAs, PS 14 charges, or whatever else they feel like doing. Incredible unit, I'm prepared to buy a second unit for some more unique builds soon enough.
Knights Exemplar - B+
This unit is part of what pulled me in to Protectorate after the Mk. 3 transition. FA: U, ridiculously hard hitting knights with a great attachment. They're pretty decent when Battle Driven isn't active, just nice PS 11 weapon masters that can take a buff like Ignite and just smash heavies. Once Battle Driven is active, though, they go into the realm of insanity. Just a few will kill many heavies, especially if you take the Officer and minifeat to dice fix them further. Add in buffs like Hand of Fate or Ignite and they'll kill absolutely anything in their path. Further, the Officer gives them Overtake and Cleave, which is awesome for turning them into more of a swiss army knife, able to kill infantry or heavies alike with ease.
The Officer does push the cost of the unit up quite a bit (she costs more than 50% of the original unit cost!) but she does a ton for them, potentially doubling their attacks and making them able to seriously just smash through armor with no issues. These are a really well costed unit, with the base unit at a really good cost for what you get, and an amazing officer at the cost of a sizeable point increase. All they really need from their Warcaster is a good way to deliver them, as their base defensive stats are pretty bad and they aren't quick. Take Vindictus, Harbinger, High Reclaimer, anyone with Defenders Ward, even if just a couple of them and the attachment get there, your opponent will feel the hurt.
Basically why I'm here, frankly.
Temple Flameguard - C
This is a good unit with no place these days. They aren't really about killing things, mostly they're just a solid road block that's kind of a pain to kill, especially when you give them a buff like Arcane Ward or Defenders Ward. Even funnier if you're able to get a couple in the front line with a Reclaimer for Ashen Veil, they aren't really dying to charges any time soon. It's possible with the SR 2017 shift towards zone holding and attrition that the old TFG will come out of the box again, but their problem right now is all they're really doing is screening for a heavy that costs as much as they do. If you just take another heavy instead, then if you're playing a game where you don't need the screening unit, you have an extra heavy. If you play one where screening would have been good and you lose the heavy... well, those points would have been TFG that weren't doing a ton of work anyway.
Tough unit, if you want cheap souls them or Zealots are a pretty good way to go. They'll hold a zone really effectively, and really with buffs like Ignite they can do a bit of work with CMAs. Not a bad unit, they have a role, and all it's going to take is shifts in the meta or scenarios to get them onto the table again.
Visgoth Juviah Rhoven & Honor Guard - B
Cheap, tough shield guards with great utility built in. I take them in almost every list where they're available. Rhoven acts as great army support with the ability to hand out Eyeless Sight, particularly good on a model like a Reckoner which can then strip Stealth from its target. He can also remove continuous effects and animi in his CMD, which is only 6 so it's not super useful. Further, he's got a RNG 8 POW 14 AOE 3 spell that causes continuous fire on a crit. Couple with Battle Wizard and his MAT 8/MA 8, guy can actually kill a remarkable amount for an old dude with a stick.
Gius and Cassian are fairly tough bodies, they're shield guards that are typically pretty good at taking more than one shot to kill with their slightly out of place 8 wounds. If they're hanging around in the late game, they're PS 11 blessed weapon masters. Can't go too wrong with that, always super useful for finishing out banged up heavies when attrition trades are starting to die down. I take this unit alongside a Devout in almost all lists I play, the shield guards have proven invaluable time and time again.
Protectorate units are great, and we've got some really solid options along with casters that can support and deliver them. Most of the ones that aren't really played are just that way due to meta concerns or, not because they're bad, but because of a better unit option. Besides Skyhammers, every unit can have a place in a list if you're trying to accomplish a certain goal, and give us a ton of list building options when trying to work out how to deal with different threats.
See you all tomorrow!