Wednesday, May 1, 2013

From the webway

"Onward, brothers, to glory!"

Now that a new Eldar codex is on the horizon, I keep hearing this: "Maybe they'll finally be playable!"

Um, what?

Few armies received as much of a straight-up power gain with the release of 6th edition as the Eldar.  The points-for-value gap between their vehicles and the cheaper, sleeker Dark Eldar vehicles was drastically reduced by the invention of Jink saves; the game's increased focus on foot units made some of their already-good choices stellar; and the ability to select from a large list of allies made them fantastic.

Let's take a look at a sample list I've built for 2000pt games.  This list includes allies but not dual force organization, since that's an element of the game that tournaments are adjusting to slowly.

  • Farseer: Runes of Warding, Fortune, Doom
  • Fuegan
  • Dark Eldar Archon: Shadowfield, Huskblade, Blast Pistol
  • (3) 5 Fire Dragons: Wave Serpent, Shuriken Cannon, TL Scatter Lasers
  • (3) 3 Guardian Jetbikes
  • 14 Storm Guardians, 1 Warlock: Conceal
  • (2) 5 Kabalite Warriors: Blaster, Venom: Splinter Cannon, Night Shields
  • (2) Nightwing Interceptor

That's a 2000pt army that I could win a tournament with.  It's not the best, most refined version that you could build; but it has all of the tools you need to succeed against a wide variety of opponents.  The Farseer, Fuegan, and Archon combination are your ball of hurt -- they walk across the board with a 2+/2++ rerollable save and draw all of your opponents' shooting.  Most players accompany these characters with Harlequins, but I've found that they're not really necessary; I prefer to stick the larger Storm Guardians troop unit with them, so that they have the ability to snag objectives once they've reached the other side of the board.  

That's sarcasm - they're really NOT worth it!

There's a distinct lack of melta in most lists these days, and I think as a result of that people are edging away from Fire Dragons.  Eldar armies don't play like Imperial armies, though; you don't drop cheap meltaguns just because everyone else swears by plasma.  Fifteen Fire Dragons should be destroying two or more tanks per turn, and they further increase the pressure on your opponent in the early game -- deal with those melta squads that can eat through tanks and Terminators alike before you've lost everything, or lay into the un-killable unit fronted by a character who fights like a monstrous creature and another with an AP2 instant death weapon?  When you put decisions like these to an opponent you can take advantage of what is effectively (but not actually) poor target priority on their part.

Eldar jetbikes are obnoxiously fast.  I played a game with a list very similar to this a week or so ago, and when my jetbike squads moved 48" on my first turn I had to stop to show my opponent their rulebook entry (he said, "If they could do that everybody would play them!").  The idea with these three bare bones units is to keep them in Reserve until you can't anymore, then to keep them out of line of sight until the last turn of the game.  They've effectively taken over the role that Wave Serpents filled in 5th edition, rushing out from behind cover on turn 6 to claim an objective and snatch a win from the jaws of defeat.  When you're playing against armies that are great at shooting but terrible in close combat you can also use them to ratchet the pressure up early -- nothing freaks a Tau or Guard player out more than a bunch of Eldar behind their gunline.

Kabalite Warriors are solid Troops, and in this basic formation they can occasionally pop a tank or down a couple of Terminators when you need to direct your Fire Dragons elsewhere.  Venoms are the paragon of points efficiency, often denying range to anti-tank weapons with their Night Shields and pumping out 12 poisoned (4+) shots per turn at an effective range of 48".  

It's also a beautiful model.

The only Forgeworld units I've included here are two Nightwing Interceptors.  I honestly believe that this might be the best Flyer in the game (yes, possibly even better than the Heldrake).  It clocks in at 145pts for an AV10 Flyer with 2HP; it's standard weapons (at BS4) are two bright lances and two shuriken cannons, a total of 2 Str8 AP2 shots and 6 Str6 AP5 -- enough to do a huge amount of damage to an infantry squad or down another Flyer.  The best part about it isn't the weaponry, though; it's that you almost can't hurt the stupid thing.  The Nightwing has both the Shrouded and Agile rules, so it carries a 5+ cover save at all times that improves to an almost-unbelievable 2+ when it evades.  It also has Vector Dancer, so it can turn both before and after making its move for the turn -- pretty much eliminating the need to ever leave the board.  

The final unit I want to examine here is the one I think benefitted the most from the change to 6th edition: the Wave Serpent.  I found these to be nearly unplayable in 5th edition, but today they're incredibly points-efficient.  The way I like to equip them, with a shuriken cannon and a twin-linked shuriken cannon, comes in at 110pts (in the list above I used twin-linked scatter lasers, which give you additional reach and one more shot, but at 15pts above the shuriken cannons probably aren't worth paying for if you have somewhere else you need the points).  The Venoms being used in this list are 75pts, and are some of the most efficient vehicles in the game.  The Venom will average 4 wounds against a squad of Marines; the Wave Serpent will average 3.  The obvious difference in their firepower is that the Venom can't so much as scratch the paint on a Rhino, while the Serpent's Str6 volley can potentially wreck one.  Both vehicles have a 5+ save (the Venom's is better, since it works in close combat, but a Jink save is just as effective against shooting), while the Venom has a better reach (36" range vs. the Serpent's 24").  By playing the Serpent you're effectively choosing to pay roughly ten points per point of armor value you're gaining over the Venom and another ten to remove the open-topped bonus on the vehicle damage table.  Their firepower is incredibly similar, and the Serpent is easily the more durable of the two.  Overall, I think that they're relatively similar purchases in terms of points efficiency -- something that I never could've said without laughing last edition.  

What kind of Eldar builds are you using?  Frankly, I'm surprised that they haven't taken down a major tournament since 6th edition hit.  Am I off my rocker?