Praetorian Swordsmen are, in the fluff, the default troop for Skorne engagements. Their swordsmanship is based off the martial code of Hoksune. Hoksune is a complex code of honor/fighting style easily defeated by feinting (otherwise known as pretending). Seriously. That’s how Vinter conquered the Skorne and lead them eastward. What were we talking about? Oh yes, the models.
The base unit of swordsmen is fairly cheap at 8/13. They sport 2 POW 9 swords, at MAT 7. They can combo-strike to raise their damage to POW 12 and they have Penetrating Strike to allow them a single damage to a warjack/beast instead of a damage roll. To clarify, they were given a special ability to do participation-tropy levels of damage, because they are so unlikely to do damage.
In practice, I’ve never had much luck with them. On paper, they seem terrible, BUT, if we look a bit closer, realize we can usually get about 5 grunts around a heavy. That’s 10 points of auto damage. Their Combo Strike can’t really be ignored by low ARM infantry either. You see, low-ARM infantry tend to have high DEF to compensate, and with a MAT 7, swordsmen will find high DEF less a problem than not.
Worst-case scenario, with a DEF of 13, and ARM of 14, Swordsmen make fairly decent tarpit units. They’re hard to hit and can survive most blast damage rolls.
Nothing exists in a vacuum though. Their Officer grants Side Step which is Ok, but would be better with Parry. The real icing comes from Power Swell and Relentless Charge. Relentless gives Pathfinder on a charge so we’re less likely to need support on that front. Power swell lets us hit much harder by effectively giving the unit Weapon Master.
What else can we take with our One-sword-wasn’t-good-enough Samurai? Ancestral Guardians and Extollers, that’s who. Praetorians are there to die, gloriously. We might as well get something out of that in the form of souls and Vengeance. Tyrant Commanders are also good for giving them non-charge pathfinder, +2 SPD when advancing or standing them up.
As for Warlocks, you want anybody that capitalizes on infantry death. Makeda 1 and 2 have some form of Stay Death, SPD, Attack and DEF buffs.Zaal 2 collect infantry souls. Mordikaar can revive them. Zaal 1 can throw Last Stand on them. With Power Swell and an Officer that’s 22 MAT 7/8, 3D6 to Hit, 4D6 Damage (5 on a charge) POW 9 (Or 11 POW 12s) attacks. Granted, they won’t be there to tarpit afterwards. At least Zaal can then direct their souls and get rage tokens. Skornergy is dead. Long live Synergy.
The second “Tier” falls into direct support with no pizazz. Zaadesh has Inviolable Resolve and a good buffing feat. Xerxis 1 has Defender’s Ward, Tac Supremecy, Marches, Tactician and a super duper feat. Xerxis 2 can give them +2 Damage and his feat functions like Hand of God (additional die on attack/damage, drop the lowest) allowing you to make some potentially high rolls 2 x POW 11 (or 1 POW 14) MAT 7, 3D6 to Hit, drop the lowest, 4/5D6 drop lowest for damage. Not bad.
Thirdly, we have indirect support. These are your warlocks that assist by de-buffing the enemy. Rasheth, Morghoul 2 & 3, and Xekaar. Morghoul 3 seems a good choice for Mirage, Occultation and his Feat alone. He’s also the only of these 4 without an ARM debuff.
Lastly are the remaining warlocks that have a spell or feat that can benefit the unit, but why would you if there are better targets. With these warlocks, you’re definitely using the swordsmen as cannon fodder to stall the enemy. The only caveat would be to take Makeda 3 vs trolls. She can put Hand of Death on the swordsmen, allowing them to wade through whole swaths of Trollkin infantry.
As for minions and mercs, well, Saxon Orrik can give them Pathfinder (cheaper than the Tyrant) and the Gatorman Bokor can collect their corpses, though you’re trading one tarpit unit for another that gets no Faction benefits.
This type of unit needs a lot of buff stacking to truly shine. Fortunately, that’s something Skorne is good at. Be sure to try them with lots of warlocks to get a good feel for them.
Be sure to paint them too. That way you’ll feel a sense of ownership… and guilt if you go too long without playing them. Time sunk fallacy and what-not.