Thursday, 9 May 2013

Synergy review of the Dark Eldar Codex - part 1:Troops

You may have seen my earlier posts about synergy in 40k and how it influenced the creation of my latest army list. That idea also made me think about reviewing my current codices to pick out the synergistic elements (and therefore to see where my army lists are disjointed). This is Dark Eldar part 1 - Troops.

I should note, I make no apologies for this being a text-heavy post, pictures aren't really necessary!

Main fighting style: Balanced
Dedicated transport type: Fast, open-topped skimmers
Firepower Units: Kabalite Trueborn, Kabalite Warriors, Scourges, Reavers, Ravager, Razorwing, Voidraven, Chronos
Close combat units: Incubi, Grotesques, Mandrakes, Harlequins, Hekatrix Bloodbrides, Wyches, Hellions, Beastmasters, Talos
Let’s start with the basics then, in the Troops section of the codex.
These guys are the basics that make up the majority of your army (unless you’re going with a coven or wych cult force) and come in units of 5-20, with a standard rapid fire weapon.  It’s anti-infantry, so you’re looking at threat ranges of 12” and 24”. They have transport options, which come with either the anti infantry splinter cannons, the elite infantry killer that is the disintegrator cannon, and the anti tank dark lance. The beauty of these options is that as they’re vehicle mounted, they can fire at a different target to the unit embarked upon the vehicle. We also need to bear in mind that the vehicles are open topped, so every model on board can shoot.
With regard to upgrades therefore, there are four available to the troops, and five to the sybarite, if you’ve taken one.
Shredder:  Cheapest of the upgrade options, with a range of 12” and it largely being anti infantry it synergises well with rapid firing splinter rifles, and although it’s only assault 1, it does have blast, so you should be able to hit multiple models. Works best (actually, only works) if you want your warriors up close to make the most of their extra shots. In a pinch, you could use a shredder to pop at light vehicles, but then you’re losing synergy with the rest of your unit.
Blaster: Three times the price of the shredder, an 18” range and anti-vehicle means the blaster has little synergy with your splinter rifles. Of course you can shoot it at infantry and if it hits, it’s going to hurt them, but its range means you have to get closer than you might like, especially if there are jump infantry around. The only benefit here is that it can be taken regardless of the unit size unlike the heavier weapons, so some allowance can be made for the wasted shots. You’ll see them taken a lot, but synergistically, it’s not a great choice in a warrior squad.
Splinter Cannon: Anti infantry, it has a greater range than your splinter rifles, and with assault or heavy options, it won’t prevent you from moving the unit, but it will bulk up your firepower if you decide to stay still. As an assault weapon, the range discrepancy with the splinter rifles is irrelevant, and just means you can utilise its firepower for a great proportion of the time. Minimum unit size before you can select this option means it can’t be taken with the Venom transport, but I’ll deal with that in the transports section.
Dark Lance: Very similar to the blaster, but with the ‘Heavy’ type, it doesn’t synergise at all well with the rest of the unit as it requires a different target, and for the unit to stay still to be at its best.
Splinter Pistol and close combat weapon: A splinter pistol is effectively a 12” assault 1 weapon, so actually reduces the firepower of your unit if you take it, regardless of what range you’re at. As such it has no synergy with the main unit.
Blast pistol: Very short range means you have to be right up behind a tank to get the most benefit, and as with the blaster and dark lance, you’re then wasting the firepower of the rest of the unit so it doesn’t synergise.
Venom blade, power weapon, agoniser: These are all close combat weapons, and your unit isn’t equipped for this, so they don’t work well together.
Transports: Taking the venom option requires a minimum sized unit, and trades off that smaller number of shots with the option to have two splinter cannons on the vehicle. It also costs more than the models it replaces to provide that firepower and prevents you from taking a splinter cannon or dark lance in the unit. On the other hand, taking a raider costs more, but gives you access to splinter racks that synergise extremely well with your main splinter rifle armament and torment grenade launchers can also discourage your opponent from trying to charge you if you want to get in close (I’ll need to check my rule book, but this may even result in you being able to overwatch, with re-rolled misses, and your opponent then failing to charge anyway)
Conclusion: The splinter cannon and shredder weapons synergise best with the unit, and while the sybarite is useful for the extra leadership point, the weapon options distract them from their main purpose. Either transport option is viable, but the raider gives more benefits to the unit being transported.

The second of the main troops choices in the Dark Eldar codex, and unusually, they have a completely different purpose to the other such unit. Wyches are a dedicated close combat unit, be that anti-vehicle, or anti-infantry. They have four possible weapon upgrades, and the hekatrix character upgrade has five options.
A lot of Dark Eldar players view wyches as a tarpit unit, that is to say, a unit that you throw into combat against your opponent’s most dangerous option and watch their 4+ invulnerable save bog that unit down so it’s not causing a danger to the rest of your army. That’s not personally my style, but that’s a tactical perspective and not really what this article is about. Whichever way you decide to use them, these models are not going to be hanging around shooting, so let’s look at the upgrades.
Razorflails: These let you re-roll failed hit and wound rolls with the model, and therefore synergistically speaking, is likely to increase the number of saves your opponent has to make, thus increasing the casualty count of your wyches. Great if you’re trying to kill stuff, probably not so good if all you’re intending to do is hold your opponent up. Its synergy with the unit therefore depends on your preferred tactics.
Hydra Gauntlets: Pretty much as per the razorflails to be honest, it increases the damage output of the unit and therefore synergises well with one of the tactical options. As an aside, both of these options are as costly as another wych, and so unless you particularly want to use a five-man unit in a venom, you actually get greater synergy from taking an extra wych as they’ll either provide more attacks or an extra ablative wound.
Shardnet and Impaler: This weapon reduces the number of attacks an opponent can bring to bear against your unit, but has no effect on its damage output, and so again as per the Razorflails and Hydra Gauntlets, synergises well with a specific tactic (in this case the speedbump). Again, it costs the same as an extra wych, so since the one attack it removes can only kill one model, it is only useful if the model carrying it survives more than one round of combat (and of course if they’re in base to base, they’re the first to die).
Haywire Grenades:  These guys are absolute beasts under the latest edition, and a wych unit equipped with them is probably the best tank killing option we’ve got (sorry Mr Ravager). If you can throw them in the assault phase, and take out a transport then charge the occupants, you’re onto a winner and that’s great synergy. If not, you can still use them against tanks in close combat, though realistically you’re going to want to start the turn within about 20” of it.
Blast pistol: It’s a dedicated anti-tank weapon, that you have to get up close and personal with. If you’re getting that close to tanks however, you’re probably better off taking haywire grenades as they’re far more reliable at stripping hull points. I’d have to conclude that the blast pistol doesn’t synergise at all well with Wyches.
Phantasm Grenade Launcher: Grants the unit assault and defensive grenades, and since the unit is highly likely to be charging something, I’d say it has just about perfect synergy with whatever purpose you have in mind for Wyches.
Venom blade: As with the Wych weapon upgrades, this option increases the close combat damage your Wyches are capable of providing, and as such works well. It has no AP value so doesn’t help against heavily armoured targets, but then wyches are only likely to be taking those on to slow them down so if that’s the purpose, you don’t really want to be wasting points on something like this.
Power weapon: This will increase the damage output of your squad, but it’s designed to work against armoured opponents, who you’re not expecting to hurt anyway, so I’d say steer clear. Backing up that point is the wyches strength of 3. Most units a power weapon is designed to damage come in at toughness 4, and so this weapon will only make a minimal difference in the long run.
Agoniser: Largely the same issues as the power weapon, except it’s more reliable at wounding since it works off a fixed figure. Still doesn’t synergise that well though I’m afraid.
Transports: These are used purely to get your wyches into close combat as far as I’m concerned, and therefore it really doesn’t matter what weapons you equip them with, as they should only be using them once the occupants have disembarked. There are however some upgrades that can boost your performance. Retrofire jets have some synergy, as they can reduce the potential damage to the transport prior to your unit getting into combat, albeit at the cost of your opponent getting a free round of shooting before you can charge, and a later entry into the game (potentially not till turn 4). Grisly trophies have a lot of synergy with the speedbump unit to my mind, though they do require your transport to stay ‘on-station’, keeping them in the fight longer against units that are causing them casualties. Finally, if you’ve taken a raider, torment grenade launchers can be an option for damage-dealing units, encouraging your opponent to fail their leadership tests. Again however, this does require the transport to stay close to the fight to have that effect, and you’ll find that they rarely survive long enough to do that.

Conclusion: The Wych unit has a lot of inherent synergy within it, with only a very few options not combining well with its tactical uses.

Not technically troops choice, but becomes one in any army that includes a haemonculus. I’ve not heard of anyone taking Wracks in the elites section, so I’ll deal with them here.
The standard armament for the wracks are two poisoned weapons, and is therefore a close combat option within the list. There is one upgrade option for the unit itself, whilst an acothyst has 8 weapon options.
Liquifier Gun: This is a template weapon, with a variable AP with the ‘assault’ type. Given that the majority of the wracks can only deal damage in the assault phase, the liquifier gun synergises well, for two reasons. First, it can be used to whittle down the opposition before the wracks charge into combat without significantly affecting their damage potential (you lose two attacks), and second, it can be used to limit the potential damage should the unit get charged, due to the wall of death special rule.
Stinger Pistol:  An acothyst can take one of these to increase the shooting potential of the unit, and will not impact on its damage potential in close combat, as it is a pistol type weapon.  Consequently, the pistol has good synergy with the wrack unit.
Venom Blade: Similar actually to the stinger pistol, it doesn’t add anything to the shooting phase, but increases the potency of the acothyst’s attacks. The weapon synergises well with the purpose of the unit.
Mindphase gauntlet: Another close combat weapon, this therefore synergises well with the main purpose of the unit. Arguments can be made for or against taking one tactically given its limited application, but again as a close combat weapon, it’s a choices that synergises well with the wrack options.
Hexrifle: On the face of it, this rifle doesn’t sit well with the wrack unit, as it’s clearly intended to increase damage from shooting. That’s not the whole story however since it’s an assault weapon, and so can be fired at the unit you want to charge with your wracks. It also has the sniper special rule, so could conceivably be used to single out those characters that would make a combat more problematic, and with its unusual wounding method, can be surprisingly dangerous. As a consequence, I’d say that the hexrifle synergises reasonably well with wrack units, and in tactical terms, small units of wracks with a hexrifle acothyst accompanied by similarly armed haemonculi could form an extremely potent shooting unit to take down high toughness but low wound models.
Scissorhand: Synergistically speaking, there is no reason not to take this option. It increases the Acothyst’s damage potential by both adding to the number of attacks and making those attacks wound more easily. As such it has great synergy with the wrack unit.
Flesh Gauntlet: This option is only really useful against multiple wound models, although it does theoretically increase the acothyst’s damage output, but only in a limited range of circumstances and therefore it’s synergy drops a little in that respect.
Agoniser: A close combat weapon that’s ideal for taking out higher toughness armoured opponents, it would give the wrack unit a bit more bite against such opponents, but against such opponents it’s likely to constitute the majority of damage done. Semi-tactically speaking therefore as the best targets for the wracks are less heavily armoured opponents it only has a limited synergy with the unit.
Electrocorrosive whip:  Another close combat weapon, it’s best used against opponents that may be able to instant kill your models. I’d say it was ideal for stymieing an opponent with (for example) a power fist and a desire to instant-kill you. Decent synergy.
Conclusion: The wrack unit is tactically limited to close combat to deal damage. Most of the options available increase that potential, either through close range shooting that doesn’t prevent the unit from charging, or from increasing the efficiency of the unit leader’s attacks. Tactically there is a second option available, which is to take a minimum sized unit and attach hexmonculi, which can then go character hunting, but I’d say this option is definitely non-optimal.