The elites section of the Eldar codex has quite possibly been my favourite section since I started collecting them. It could be because it houses the Eldar dedicated melee squads, which I absolutely love to field in order to protect my dedicated ranged units. As we all know, an Eldar army relies on synergy between units rather than aiming for a specific idea. The way the Eldar warhost operates allows for many different types of units to be fielded, allowing for more diversity than any other army out there through units of specialists, rather than the more Space Marine approach of having every unit as a relative jack of all trades. These units all inherit Ancient Doom and Battle Focus like most units in the new codex.
First of all, my personal favourite: Howling Banshees. Whilst we all remember the days of our power sword wielding maidens charging into units of terminators, only to decimate them and strike fear into the hearts of the hordes of power armour wearing opponents, they are not the same in sixth edition. Their power swords only being AP3 has really swayed people against using them in the current meta, preferring to just take Striking Scorpions instead, though I believe that the Banshees still have a key battlefield role. Whilst their swords merely bounce off the armoured shell of a Terminator or other 2+ save models, they still carve a bloody path through anything with a 3+ or worse save. I’m not saying that you should charge them into hordes, as they still only have a toughness score of three and a 4+ armour save, but any non-Terminator Space Marine squad (these ladies will absolutely decimate Vanguard Veterans for about half the points cost) is a prime target; non-Terminator Grey Knights weep at the sight of Howling Banshees, as do Sisters of Battle, just watch out for those incinerators and flamers as they fire overwatch! Their masks now reduce your opponent’s initiative by five as opposed to bumping yours to ten when you charge, which again is nice as unless your opponent has an initiative score of ten, or some other way of reducing your initiative, you will be striking first on the turn that you charge in, which is invaluable for such a fragile unit. They also now run D6+3 inches, as opposed to just D6, and also keep the fleet special rule, which will really help you to charge your enemy and not the other way around. Their Exarch largely remains the same, although her Executioner has been made AP2, her Triskele is AP3 and her Mirrorswords are now master crafted and only give +1 attack as opposed to +2. With an initiative of six, she remains a great choice for challenging enemy sergeants only to chop them cleanly in half in a few seconds. Where Howling Banshees fall short, in my opinion, is through a lack of support. Without the ability for our Farseers to reliably take doom and fortune, these ladies have certainly lost some of their appeal as a dedicated melee unit on the tabletop; whilst they have AP3 attacks and will likely be going first, they only have strength and toughness of three and a save of 4+, which means you’re wounding Space Marines on 5+ without a re-roll some of the time. That hurts.
Striking Scorpions in my opinion have taken a hit. Their scorpion chainswords are now AP6, so they’ll ignore some armour saves, but the fact that their mandiblasters are no longer an extra attack has hurt their horde killing potential, now working as an automatic hit at initiative ten with strength three and no AP on a single model in base contact. I much preferred my extra attack as now I believe that Striking Scorpions just aren’t as effective as they used to be. They come with infiltrate and move through cover as standard, however, and also now get stealth as well, so they’re a bit faster and more durable than they were before, and at only one point more I can say that they are still very much worth taking. In terms of the Exarch, I feel that the Scorpion’s Claw is now redundant with the Biting Blade almost doing the same, striking at strength +2 and AP4 as opposed to strength x2 and AP2, but keeping the Exarch’s delicious initiative of six. My favourite choice for the Exarch are the Chainsabres, though I will be keeping an Exarch model with a Biting Blade as it is a very viable option, because it is now AP5, grants a bonus attack for being two close combat weapons, increases his strength by one like the normal chainsword, but also gives his melee attacks the rending special rule. For a measly ten points, I can definitely get on board with that idea! He can also take an Exarch power that increases his strength by one, giving you a model with four attacks on the charge, with strength five and rending. Definitely still a unit that is worth taking, though overall I feel that they aren’t quite as effective as they were before.
Fire Dragons are a double edged sword. The good news is that they have been given that much needed 3+ armour save, so they won’t just get annihilated as soon as they show their faces. The bad news comes in the form of their points cost. Now, Fire Dragons cost a whopping six points more per model. They do get the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus special rules as well, so they are overall a lot more of a solid unit, but you really do pay for it. There’s not much else to say about Fire Dragons, as they have remained largely unchanged apart from those points stated above. I will probably not include a unit of Fire Dragons in my army list most of the time as I prefer my anti-vehicle firepower to be long range or durable enough to be on the front lines; even with their 3+ armour save, at twenty two points per model they just don’t fit the bill. However, they are far from useless, especially with the Battle Focus special rule, I’m just saying that I won’t be taking a squad myself.
Harlequins weren’t really anything special in the last edition of the codex, being expensive, toughness three and only possessing a 5+ invulnerable save whilst being generally not as deadly as Howling Banshees or Striking Scorpions. In this edition of the codex, they are completely unchanged, though the Death Jester, Shadowseer and Troupe Master have been explicitly labelled as characters. With the general buff that the army has gotten overall, I find that Harlequins are still lacking, trying to do a job that can be done better by other units. I will be fielding a unit of Harlequins because they look amazing, especially when painted well, but thinking from a practical point of view I would prefer to take more of other units instead of Harlequins. They also don’t benefit from Battle Focus or Ancient Doom.
I will talk about Wraithguard and Wraithblades in one paragraph as they are effectively the same unit, just equipped differently. Wraithguard have the same statistics as before for a slightly lower points cost, both Wraithguard and Wraithblades costing three points less than Wraithguard used to, as well as not suffering from Wraithsight and gaining the Ancient Doom. Standard Wraithguard are equipped with Wraithcannons, which in my opinion have been vastly improved. They no longer wound on a 2+ and cause instant death on a 6, now with strength ten and cause instant death on a 6. Also, against vehicles it doesn’t glance on a three or four and penetrate on a five or six, it’s just strength ten with AP2. A unit of Wraithcannon wielding Wraithguard are now, in my opinion, far better at shredding tanks as well as infantry. Strength ten has a tendency to kill with ease anyway. They can also take D-scythes, which are basically AP2 flamers with the distort special rule, which is very useful considering how close range your wraithguard usually are, though it costs a heavy ten points per model for this upgrade. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to charge that unit! Wraithblades are basically Wraithguard equipped for melee combat. They are equipped with either two Ghostswords, which strike at strength +1 and AP3, or a Ghostaxe and forceshield, basically strength +2, AP2 and unwieldy (strike at initiative one) but also having a 4+ invulnerable save. You want a tar-pit unit? There you have it; toughness six, 3+ armour save and a 4+ invulnerable save, with strength seven, AP2 close combat attacks for only thirty two points per model.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Wraith units, so I won’t be using any, though I will still be taking a unit of each close combat Aspect Warriors, and occasionally a squad of Harlequins when I get the points for it. Hey, I field what I like the look and feel of, not what I think works well!