Posted by Dan Byer
Rather than cut straight to the chase and post up some cut and paste army lists, I’m going to take some time to run through the new Codex Eldar units and see what they have to offer. There’s a lot of information to process, so the second half will come later in the week. I might even get my friends Steve and Jordan to suggest some starter armies based on their expertise and experiences.
The Farseer — Still the auto-include he once was?
For army-wide special rules, we have Battle Focus and some grudge match rules versus Slaanesh. Battle Focus is amazing, allowing you to run and shoot or shoot and then run with most of the infantry models in your list. Even War Walkers get it! In most game systems, being able to move twice is a huge bonus. Just ask anyone who has run into X-wing’s Turr Phennir how much fun it is trying to catch models that routinely duck outside of range immediately after they blast you.
When facing Slaanesh, Eldar are at -1Ld but benefit from Hatred in combat. This rule is pretty awesome, being very fluffy while Hatred does help (somewhat) to balance out the penalty. Spiritseers and Warlocks, being Ld9 and Ld8 respectively, will be pretty unreliable against Slaanesh, which makes sense given how terrified they would be of having their souls devoured.
Speaking of these psykers, let’s start the breakdown with the HQ options.
With all their psyker wargear shenanigans and the army’s dire need for re-rolls, fully equipped Farseers were simply a must and Eldrad was found in more places at once than Erebus from the Horus Heresy books. Seriously, that dude was all over the place. There are now multiple viable choices for HQs, as Spiritseers unlock Wraithguard/Wraithblades as troops, Autarchs have more gear to choose from (and allow you to fudge reserve rolls), and the Avatar is a bit more beastly, while still significantly buffing foot lists. Even before you get to the rest of the list, you can see there’s a lot more internal balance than before.
As is always the case with HQs, you just need to think about what role he is playing in your army, plan accordingly, and try to avoid over-spending. Naked Spiritseers or Farseers with a bike and Singing Spear are pretty straight forward, the Avatar remains a solid buy in an infantry list, while the Autarch remains a bit underwhelming it seems. Aegis/Comms Relay is a cheaper way to modify your reserve rolls, if that’s what you’re after.
When it came to Troops, a lot of folks were worried that Guardians would become the cheap, spammable objective campers (aka Chaos Cultists) of the Eldar codex. Instead, we see a rebalancing of the Guardians and Dire Avengers, where the former get a lot more offensively capable (WS/BS4 and I5) and the Avengers are no longer a one-shot wonder with double tapping Bladestorm.
Both units have decent damage output via the new Bladestorm rules affecting all shuriken weapons (which is essentially Rending Lite vs. non-vehicle units), and it’s their other skills that differentiate them. Guardians get weapons platforms and can be joined by Warlocks, while the Avengers have more range and some defensive powers to choose from. Both can use Battle Focus to run and shoot (or shoot and run), dancing around the enemy’s effective ranges and jumping into/out of cover as needed. Combined with Fleet to re-roll the run distance, this is a very interesting tactic for them to strike and fade, mitigating the disadvantages of having such short ranged guns.
I definitely think Dire Avengers got a lot more interesting (and don’t require a Farseer/Serpent to make them useful)… however, they did also get hit hard by the new pricetag for the box. With only 5 per box, they almost cost as much as when they were 10 per box. That’s pretty terrible, but hopefully most Eldar players have a unit or two from before.
Rangers are also an interesting choice, as they are very cheap little snipers with Stealth who (if you take the sniper special character, Illic Nightspear) can be upgraded to pricy but nasty Pathfinders, adding Shrouded and the ability to always allocate precision shots. Holy balls, that’s a lot of wound allocation shenanigans. Thankfully this is a very substantial points increase, so spammy Alaitoc armies won’t be annoying as they were in 3rd edition. Still, these guys will remain an effective, cheap, objective camping utility unit. As discussed with friend and 40k goon Jordan Murphy, a lot of armies now have ways to negate uber cover saves (Tau markerlights, flamer/torrent weapons, Sternguard rounds, Thunderfire cannons, Perfect Timing from Divination…), so that’s their biggest weakness.
Finally, you also have one easily overlooked unit, the humble Guardian Jetbikes. These guys don’t benefit from the Battle Focus rule (although Eldar jetbikes can still move in the assault phase, so who cares?), but they did get a hefty points drop and gain the Bladestorm rule for a bit more shredding infantry. Oh yeah, and they share the Guardians’ stat boost too.
Jetbikes used to just hide in reserve and turbo boost to objective camp late in the game. With a points drop and offensive boost, they can do the old job for less or they can actually be made into mainstay units that participate fully in the battle (heresy, I know!). If these guys ever get a new model, they will be incredibly popular. Even without a new model, the rules make them a very tempting option to theme your army around. I guess we should be grateful the repack of the old models made them a bit cheaper. It’s not too often that you can say that.
There is way more here than there used to be. Spiritseers are HQ (similar to a mini-Farseer in terms of casting ability), and not just Warlocks who babysit Wraithguard. They also can make your Wraithguard and Wraithblades Troops.
A Wraithblade unit with axes/shields can be decently punchy when given a few psychic buffs (Fortune helps a lot for re-rolls). Lack of speed is the big obstacle with them, as the units can’t go in a Wave Serpent. The sword variants are fairly punchy, but lack any kind of Invul/FNP save, so they are definitely more fragile. When it comes to the shooty Wraithguard, the Wraithcannons and D-scythes both have strong pros and cons. If paying the extra cost to take D-scythes, which are essentially AP2 flamers that penetrate vehicles and cause Instant Death on a 6, they will want a Transport to get them in position to delete an important enemy unit. All in all, you have four good choices for some durable Troops that are a decent offensive threat as well.
Wraithlords and Wraithknights appear pretty solid. Dark Eldar and other armies with poisoned attacks laugh at their T8, but they can still disrupt the plans of rank and file enemy troopers (who simply can’t hurt them). Cost is the big thing here, as they go up very quickly with upgrades, so keep them cheap and support your Troops by drawing away enemy firepower and you should be fine.
Also, remember that Wraithlords are characters, so in melee there will still be challenge shenanigans. For equipment, dual flamer and Ghostglaive should be plenty on the Wraithlord. Taking more than two weapons is questionable, as they can only fire two per shooting phase anyway.
The Eldar aspect shrines got a lot of changes; for example, Banshees now penalize the opponent’s Initiative score rather than striking at I10 themselves. Fire Dragons lose Tank Hunter but gain 3+ armor, Scorpions gain a full suite of Stealth, Move Through Cover and Infiltrate, Dark Reapers are Rlentless and can buy Night Vision, etc.
Some of these units are still going to be tricky to use, but you can be sure that Swooping Hawks will be popular for their cover save ignoring grenade packs and S3 AP5 Assault 3 lasrifles, and Warp Spiders are still going to be a beloved unit for many with their high damage output and insane mobility. Their Exarch can also be particularly deadly. Shining Spears, being one of the only fast assault units in the book, will also serve a purpose for folks who know how to use them.
Aspect Warriors will be great for plugging gaps in your army list. You don’t need to spam a whole bunch of them, but take a few to shore up whatever aspect of your army you are worried about.
Still to come, an overview of the vehicles and flyers. I’ll post it up later in the week once I have had more of a chance to look up what the various ugrades do, how much things cost, and all that lovely stuff.