The Heart of a Strikeforce: Eldar Troops

Thus we start article number two of Eldar week. In the last article I talked about the HQ choices that will lead your army, so I decided to cover their troops choices next; being the other required units on a standard force organisation chart. Troops will probably make up the bulk of your army, unless you’re list-tailoring or being generally beardy, as they can capture and hold objectives regardless of the scenario. Before I start, I want to talk about some of the global rules that I referenced in my last article: Ancient Doom and Battle Focus. Ancient Doom gives your units hatred against all things Slaanesh, whether they are Slaanesh daemons or merely models with the mark of Slaanesh, your Eldar gain hatred against them which allows them to re-roll any 1s when rolling to hit or wound; however, the trade off is that you also take a leadership penalty of -1 when in combat with the units you gain hatred against. Most Eldar have at least a score of nine for leadership, so I’m not too fussed if it also gives me hatred. Battle Focus is one of the most broken parts of the new Eldar codex, allowing your units to run and shoot in whichever order you want to in the shooting phase, rather than one or the other. This takes your already mobile Eldar and turns them into what they should be, in accordance with how they are portrayed in the fluff. Also, I feel that I should write something about the new rule for all shuriken weaponry called “Bladestorm”. This is not the same as the old Dire Avenger Exarch power, giving AP2 and an automatic wound on any rolls to wound of a 6. Yes, Eldar players, all our shuriken weaponry is basically rending against infantry. Enough intro, let’s get right into it.

First, I will talk about Dire Avengers. These lads and ladies in blue have gone from a staple inclusion in most Eldar armies to… Well, it’s hard to compare them to what they used to do. The two main builds that I saw around before was either an Exarch with power weapon, shimmershield and defend, or an Exarch with dual Avenger shuriken catapults and bladestorm. Their Exarch powers have been completely changed, now able to purchase up to two out of three that come from a pool of shared Exarch powers rather than the fixed ones for each Aspect Warrior squad. Statistically they are identical to the old codex, now also boasting plasma grenades and counter-attack by default for an extra point cost. They have the Ancient Doom special rule, as well as the Battle Focus one, meaning that they can run and shoot in the same shooting phase with those pseudo-rending eighteen inch range shuriken catapults. Move up, unload pseudo-rending death and then run D6 inches away from your opponent or back into cover afterwards, with a re-roll if need be due to the fleet special rule. That being said, the dual Avenger shuriken catapults have been nerfed, now only counting as twin linked rather than having four shots, and the weapon upgrades generally cost more. You can also give your Exarch a power weapon as opposed to a diresword for a few points less, though in my opinion, it is not worth it. The power weapon and shimmershield sticks out to me as the best option for any Dire Avenger Exarch, as it still gives the whole squad a 5+ invulnerable save and turns them into a real tar-pit should they get charged. Just make sure to decline challenges from big, beefy, scary opponents! My biggest annoyance with Dire Avengers is the fact that Games Workshop have decided to make them financially impossible. Now, you get half the box for roughly the same price. I don’t know about you, but five Dire Avengers (six with a spare pair of Guardian legs!) for twenty pounds is just not affordable. Lucky for me, I already have all the Dire Avengers I will need.

Next up are Rangers. Not much has changed concerning Rangers, as they still sport all their old special rules, though they act like normal snipers now; meaning 6s to hit are precision shots, no longer AP1, and they have the rending special rule. They still have stealth, infiltrate, move through cover, as well as the two new rules stated in the first paragraph. They have gained an extra point of initiative and weapon skill as well though, unless things go horribly wrong, these are largely moot. What is nice is that they have been brought down to a measly twelve points per model, even though they have largely just been buffed. I will always be fielding at least one unit of Rangers in all of my Eldar armies, regardless of points. It’s a sixty point, five man unit of snipers with the stealth special rule who can capture objectives. Very useful! If your army contains Illic Nightspear, then you can pay an extra thirteen points per model, bringing the total up to twenty five points per model, to make your Rangers into Pathfinders. Pathfinders in this edition are basically normal Rangers with shrouded and sharpshot, giving them +2 to their cover saves as well as making all of their shots into precision shots. Watch your enemy weep as you kill all of his shiny weapons!

Finally, I will cover the last three choices in one part, as they are all three Guardian variant: Defenders, Storm and Jetbikes, renamed to Windrider Jetbikes. In terms of statistics, Guardians are much better. With an increased initiative of five as well as weapon and ballistic skills of four as opposed to three, along with the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus special rules added on and plasma grenades as standard, Guardians may actually do some serious damage on the tabletop now. They cost one point more now and do not have to take a heavy weapon platform, though just imagine their uses. Twenty Guardians is one hundred and eighty points; if they unload all their shooting, that’s forty shots that hit on 3s and have the Bladestorm special rule. That’s a lot of twelve inch range death that they can hand out for a very small amount of points, with the ability to then run away or into cover afterwards. However, one thing to note is that heavy weapons platforms are generally more expensive and nowhere does it say to treat them as assault weapons, meaning that if we want to fire our Guardian heavy weapon platform, we have to stay still like everyone else or resign ourselves to snap firing. Storm Guardians get the ability to take two power weapons in their squad as well as two special weapons between fusion guns and flamers. I believe that both Guardian Defenders and Storm Guardians benefit even more from a Warlock leader now than they ever did. Just imagine if your Warlock got the psychic power that increases strength by one; suddenly your Guardians are weapon skill and strength four with initiative five and two power weapons in the mix. That’s some cheap, yet very effective troops there, however they are still made of paper, sporting a 5+ armour save and toughness three. No matter, it’s the Eldar way: Kill them before they can effectively strike back. Windrider Jetbikes benefit from all the Guardian statistic increases, though they remain largely untouched. For every three, you can take a shuriken cannon, and squad size has gone down to a maximum of ten. The best part about them, however, is the fact that they are five points cheaper, despite all the buffs that they received.

All in all, Eldar now have a very solid selection of troops now that Guardians have gone from almost useless to deadly overnight. I believe that any combination of troops will work in any Eldar army, as long as they are used in the right way. You could viably field multiple Ranger squads, or an Ulthwe strike force of Guardians and Warlocks, or a Saim-Hann inspired mass of Windriders. Personally, I will be using a combination, though Dire Avengers will stay my preferred troops with a squad or two of Rangers to back them up. However, I may actually use my Guardians now… Hmmmmm… Let me know in the comments what you think of the changes, new rules, as well as my opinions. Don’t hesitate to tell me I’m wrong if you believe that I am, and feel free to post up anything I missed!

To Command a Strikeforce: Eldar HQs

With the new update, the Eldar HQ section has been largely revamped. Whilst some choices remain similar, there are changes to those units we knew and loved, as well as completely new choices emerging with new possibilities and potential strategies. In this article, I am going to go through each choice in detail, outlining possible ways to use them, what combinations may work and where the cheese is!

Firstly, we have the main man himself: Eldrad, High Farseer of Ulthwe. Eldrad was amazing in the last edition of the codex and he has only gotten better. Five points cheaper, an extra mastery level and some really fun special rules, Eldrad has gone from good to great. I will not go through all of his special rules one by one as many are globally available to other Farseers or units in the codex, such as runes of warding or battle focus.On the topic of Eldrad’s own special rules, he still has his 3+ invulnerable save, and the ability to re-deploy D3+1 units after both sides have deployed, but before scout moves are performed. He still has his staff, though it has been changed slightly. It is AP3, using his strength with the fleshbane special rule; however, it now gives him a one in three chance at giving back one of his warp charge counters whenever he passes a psychic test. Oh, did I mention it was a force weapon now as well? Yes, Eldrad can now cast on average about five or six psychic powers per turn, as well as inflict instant death with his force weapon. Ouch? Yes, ouch. He also generates his psychic powers from the divination and telepathy trees in the rulebook, as well as the runes of fate table in the Eldar codex itself; whilst I do not like telepathy, the other two tables are both very strong and Eldrad gets four roles total on them! A very, very solid choice for an HQ and a good choice for a warlord if you want one who will probably stay alive, though his fixed warlord trait of giving all units within 12″ of him the stealth special rule once per game for a single shooting phase isn’t the greatest.

Next up, another familiar face: Prince Yriel, Autarch of Iyanden. He remains largely unchanged, with an extra wound and the spear of twilight working slightly differently, he wades in at fifteen points less than he used to, with a general buff as he gets some of the lovely global Eldar special rules that have been introduced. Ambush of Blades, his fixed warlord trait, can be used nicely as it allows you to re-roll 1s to wound for every Eldar unit within twelve inches, which considering how much firepower the Eldar have now, that’s potentially going to hurt a lot. His spear no longer automatically wounds him at the end of the game, either, as it now just forces him to re-roll all saving throws of six. More risky, but potentially less deadly. I like him, for his points cost he is definitely worth taking, but he’s not too broken so if you’re playing to win, there are other choices that are just better. Plus, I dislike named characters, so I’m biased in that respect.

Next on the list is a newcomer to the codex: Illic Nightspear, The Walker of the Hidden Path. Illic is basically a pathfinder on steroids, with weapon skill and initiative scores of six, a ballistic skill of nine, a power sword for no reason other than to annoy people, and a sniper rifle of over-powered killing-ness; Illic is a must have for any competitive army and I haven’t even gone into the juicy details yet. Firstly, let’s look at his sniper rifle, Voidbringer. With a 48″ range, AP2 and the distort special rule which means he auto wounds on a 2+ (WRONG! It’s a 4+. Now you see why I am called Refined Fail) and causes instant death on a six, he kills whatever he shoots at. Not only that, he has the sharpshot special rule, which makes all shots, excluding snap shots, into precision shots. Not only does he kill whatever he shoots at, but he chooses exactly what he wants to shoot at, giving you the ability to surgically remove any characters, heavy or special weapons that your opponent may have. In addition to this, he has the warlord trait fixed that gives him the split fire special rule, and another rule where any outflanking, friendly Eldar Rangers or Pathfinders can just arrive within six inches of him via the deep strike special rule with no scattering, he can not only kill whatever he wants, but also help a load of other snipers kill what they want. To add insult to injury, he gives you the option to field pathfinders, as you cannot field them without Illic, though as they all have sharpshot as well, they are well worth the points if you have Illic in your army. I will cover pathfinders in more detail tomorrow in my article on troops.

We still have all of the Phoenix Lords, though they are not that impressive to me. They still have their insane statistics and new rules and weapons, but compared to Illic and Eldrad, especially for the points cost, I don’t really see them as being that useful. That being said, there are no longer the barriers that say a Phoenix Lord can only join their own aspect warriors, leading to the shenanigans when Jain Zar joins a unit of Striking Scorpions and gives them the benefit of her super-powered banshee mask, or when Fuegan joins anything close combat based and tears everything apart. Asurmen is like a powered up Dire Avenger with a 4+ invulnerable save, D3 warlord traits and a master-crafted diresword that gives him +1 strength. Jain Zar is a Howling Banshee with a pumped up triskele, an AP2 shredding close combat weapon and a banshee mask that also subtracts 5 weapon skill as well as initiative. Karandras isn’t that great, with a better mandiblaster than other Striking Scorpions, along with the stealth special rule. Fuegan is a close combat monster, and one of my favourite Phoenix Lords; boasting an AP1 axe with armourbane, fast shot for his firepike, feel no pain and a special rule that increases attacks and strength by one for each unsaved wound he takes. Think about that for a second. Yes, have him followed by a Warlock with the destructor / renewer psychic power for a potential of strength and attacks characteristics of ten with an AP1 axe. Ouch? Baharroth is a Swooping Hawk with an addiction to blinding opponents, which is not that powerful. Finally, Maugan Ra, my second favourite Phoenix Lord. With a thirty six inch range on his four shot rending shrieker cannon of pinning goodness that can also be used to club enemies to death at strength +2 and AP3 and precision shots on a 5+, he is very good at killing lots and lots of your enemies; combined with battle focus, he can run and shoot that cannon in one shooting phase. Also, did I say four shots? He has the fast shot Exarch power, so make that five shots at ballistic skill seven. For me, they are not worth the points for what they are with the possible exceptions of Maugan Ra and Fuegan; if I wanted to win, I’d take Eldrad, an Avatar of Khaine or Illic over any of the Phoenix Lords I think.

Then we have the Avatar of Khaine. The Avatar has gone from an eight out of ten on the broken scale to troll-face out of ten. His points cost has gone up by forty, but let’s look at what you get for that. He still makes all Eldar within within twelve inches to be fearless, and causes fear in close combat due to being a daemon. He is now also immune to pyromancy psychic powers, as well as any weapon with the soul blaze special rule to go along side his immunity to flamers and meltas. He is also now Fleet and has the battle focus special rule, so he can move, run and also fire his twelve inch melta. Wherever you run, the Avatar will get you! He also had his ballistic skill and initiative both increased to ten and gained an extra attack and wound. He also has the option to purchase a large variety of Exarch powers, such as +1 strength, monster hunter and disarming strike to name a few. In my opinion, they are largely unnecessary, but when your Avatar suddenly disarms your opponent’s daemon weapon totting daemon prince, the look on your opponent’s face is worth the extra points cost! Beware though, the Avatar is not an eternal warrior, so he can be killed by weapons that would inflict instant death, such as distort weapons, force weapons and other such items. Also, his save has been downgraded to a 5+ invulnerable save and a 3+ armour save, as opposed to the 4+ invulnerable save that he used to get. However, the fact still remains that the Avatar is under 200 points for his base cost for a whole lot of pain. Very worth the points, very painful. Take one if you want to win and possibly cause your opponent to cry.

Now getting onto the non unique or named characters, otherwise known as the only HQ choices that I take. First up: The Autarch. Autarchs have generally been buffed, though like before, they are nothing special. Seventy points base with a few new rules and the same statistics as before. Some points costs have been tweaked to balance better, though the nice thing for the Autarch is that he or she, depending on your conversion, can take items from the remnants of glory list. In particular there is a sword which gives +2 strength, fearless and rending, as well as fleshbane and instant-death in challenges. It’s forty points, but you can really surprise players when you run up to Scarbrand or any other expensive character without eternal warrior with a banshee mask, attack him first and get lucky in a challenge, slaying him or her or it outright. One hundred and fifteen points for an Autarch with the Shard of Anaris and a banshee mask, having a decent chance of inflicting instant death on your expensive character in a challenge? I’ll take it! Or you could take the Firesabre, otherwise known as the Smokey’s Bane or the Sword of Setting Everyone on Fire as it causes soul blaze that spreads to nearby units; paired with a Phoenix Gem and your Autarch is running into hordes, setting everything on fire, then exploding on a 2+ when he or she dies; then if said explosion causes any casualties, the Autarch gets back up with a wound to do it all over again. One hundred and twenty five points for a Saint Celestine with more of a troll factor? I didn’t think it was possible. All in all, I like the Autarch, even when not exploiting remnants of glory to make cheap yet effective powerhouses. It’s a diverse commander which can be set up however suits your army, providing a decent synergy between commander and units. If there’s one thing the Eldar need, it’s unit synergy.

Next, the staple unit for any Eldar army: The Farseer. This humble HQ unit has the same statistics as before, as well as the same statistics and special rules; though like the Autarch, he or she can take items from the remnants of glory section. They have the two global special rules, Ancient Doom and Battle Focus, but otherwise they are the same. Oh, but they’re now mastery level three and cost forty five points more. This sounds like a lot until you realise that you don’t have to pay for your psychic powers any more. You pay one hundred points for a mastery level three psyker with a 4+ invulnerable save. They can still take a jetbike, runes of warding and runes of witnessing, as well as a singing spear to replace their witchblade. The two runes have been changed for the worse, no longer having the anti-psyker net or the runes of I May Cause Perils But I Will Always Get My Powers Off. They are both now one use only, the runes of warding giving you +2 on a deny the witch role, and the runes of witnessing allowing you to re-roll a psychic test, potentially avoiding a perils of the warp. Oh, ghosthelms now operate like warp charge trading posts to get rid of perils. With mastery level three, you are likely to have a warp charge lying about, so perils of the warp are a thing of the past. Well, unless you happen to be playing against Tyranids.

Lastly, we have the Spiritseer. They’re mastery level two warlocks who let you take Wraithguard and Wraithblades as troops. They work best when used in tandem with wraith constructs, due to their spirit mark ability that lets you mark an enemy unit and then re-roll all 1s to hit against them with Wraithguard, Wraithblades, Wraithlords, Wraithknights and Hemlock Wraithfighters for that turn. However, it only has a range of twelve inches, meaning you have to get your Spiritseer close to your enemy. However, they also make very capable warlock leaders, able to roll twice on the runes of battle or telepathy tables which will allow them to take a good number of buffs and debuffs to help your army along. I like the Spiritseer, as he or she makes a very affordable psychic commander with a decent selection of abilities to pick from and use. Whilst he or she does best with more Wraith units, I could see them used effectively with no Wraith units as well. Plus, I dislike named characters, so between the Spiritseer, Farseer and Autarch I have two slots to fill. In that sense, I think that I will not take it that often in my army, preferring to use a Farseer and Autarch combination, but that’s personal preference.

I will dedicate a small part to Warlock councils here on the end, as they are a part of the HQ section, though they do not take up any slots on the force organisation charts. It’s a single squad of one to ten that you can either run as one seer council of doom, or break individuals off to lead squads of Guardians, Artillery Platforms and Windrider squads. I could see some people doing a combination, perhaps breaking two off to lead your Guardian squads whilst eight of them congregate around the Farseer, potentially on jetbikes. I will speak more on Warlocks in the article tomorrow about troops choices, as they augment troops very well, but now that they’re mastery level one and able to roll on the runes of battle table, they make very capable psykers, as the runes of battle table is far more powerful than the old warlock psychic powers. They are ten points more expensive than before, but they come with one more initiative point than before, as well as a better psychic power. However, they do have to make psychic tests on their leadership of eight when they want to manifest them. I will probably keep a Warlock council around to protect my Farseer and aid in turning the tables on my opponents with their buffs to my troops or debuffs to theirs’, but I will also split them off to lead any squads of Guardians that I may use. More of a psychic net means that more of my troops are doing more than they should for their points costs.

This article has ended up being far longer than I anticipated, so I apologise for the wall of text here, as well as the lateness of posting. For now, I should go and collapse on my bed, though keep your eyes open this week for more articles outlining my thoughts on the new Eldar codex!