Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Where do I expect to go with DE if the rumours are correct

Hi all.

Today I’m going to be looking at the rumours for the new Dark Eldar codex, and using them to look at putting together a cohesive strategy for the Dark Eldar going forward – I’ve read much in the last few days from naysayers and pessimists that the codex is nerfing the Dark Kin hard, and taking away all the ‘flavour’ from the codex, so I’m going to put forward what I see as the optimistic, constructive point of view.

Starting us all off, I guess I’d better list the rumours on which these thoughts are based!

  • Webway Portals are available to hq options and allow a unit and its vehicle to deep strike without scattering.
  • The court of the archon allows a free choice of models, with up to 12 in total.
  • Medusae now have a S4 AP3 template attack.
  • All vehicles now have deep strike as standard
  • Splinter racks works with all splinter weapons
  • Splinter cannons are now salvo weapons
  • Wyches no longer get haywire grenades
  • Reavers bladevanes now improve hammer of wrath instead of causing hits
  • Power from Pain gives turn by turn boosts for the army
  • Talos and Cronos can be taken in units of up to 3
  • Succubus now has an alternative weapon choice, with an AP2 option
  • New detachment in the codex that allows up to 6 FA choices.

And some key points from the rulebook that are also informing this strategy.
  • Deep Striking vehicles count as having moved at combat speed – and therefore passengers count as having moved, but can shoot at full BS
  • You cannot place a template so that it touches your own troops
  • The majority toughness of a unit is used, and the nearest models are removed as casualties
  • There is no limit on the number of models you may keep in reserve, although the game ends if you have no models on the table at the end of your turn.
  • You can take as many detachments as you like in your army so long as the minimum requirements of each are met.

Dark Eldar have (since at least their 5th edition incarnation) been best described as a ‘glass cannon’ army, striking hard but being fragile in response. The 5th edition rules allowed the Dark Eldar to hit their enemies hard and fast, with deployment via webway portal and units charging on the turn they arrived. 6th edition, which followed shortly after the DE codex, took this option away from (almost) all of the armies in the game, and charging on the turn you arrive has been systematically eliminated, always allowing the enemies a turn of shooting at least. The problem therefore for the DE was that a glass cannon army that allowed its opponent to shoot them first was always going to struggle, and therefore throughout 6th and 7th editions we saw DE lists boil down to the Eldar/Dark Eldar allied army, or the venomspam that started out boring and got worse (I have a personal rule that no matter how good a particular choice may be, I don’t take it more than twice in an army). Any assault options were shot out of their fragile transports early and had to slog across the battlefield on foot (I played several games where this happened, one in particular where my archon and his incubi unit failed 3 charges as a result of their venom crashing). The only truly creative list I saw (I’m not saying there weren’t others!) utilised large numbers of reavers as a mobile threat while kabalite warriors secured objectives.

Personally, I see the rumoured changes as putting that ‘alpha strike’ back in the toy bag of the evil space elves (yes, I accept it was possible before either through use of the Duke Sliscus special character or by equipping vehicles with retrofire jets, but it was less effective due to the pre 7th requirement for passengers on deep striking transports to snap shot only and splinter racks only affecting some weapons and not others). Now, we can fill raiders full of splinter weapons that will be firing at full effect on the turn they arrive, delivering our full firepower without fear of losing a substantial portion of it before it’s in range. Even more so, some of those can be placed on the table in the full knowledge that they will not scatter out of rapid fire range, or mishap.

So on to the list then…

First up, HQ
It seems that the HQ roles have been more clearly defined than before, the Succubus would now seem to be the obvious aggressive combat choice, the Archon has access to the cool gear with all the nasty tricks, and the Haemonculus will be the buffer/nerfer option.

I’ll start with just the one, an Archon. I generally work on the basis that the most tooled up combat lord is rarely going to kill enough of the enemy to make back their points, and with our base strength of 3 most of his weapons aren’t too scary. This guy is there for two reasons:
1.       Take a webway portal to get a guaranteed non-scatter deepstrike.
2.       Allow me to take a court of the archon, which is a combined unit to really threaten the enemy deployment zone.
I’m therefore likely to keep his equipment simple, WWP, and a decent gun if there are still some nice options. I may throw in a huskblade if they’re not too expensive as the unit is still likely to see combat.

Court of the Archon.
This may be on a raider or may be on foot, I haven’t decided yet, but it will be made up mainly of Sslyth and Medusae. The guaranteed non scatter deep strike lets me place at least three of those medusa templates exactly where I want them, and with no cover saves they will have an effect. For the stuff that does survive the templates (I’m under no illusions they would wipe out an entire significant enemy unit) each of the sslyth has a shardcarbine which should add in a few more wounds to the melting pot.

First up, 2 warrior squads in raiders with splinter racks – these guys will deep strike in with the court to focus firepower on a particular part of the battlefield – the alpha strike concept is great, but you can’t afford to leave units alive as Dark Eldar, because they will hurt you. One may be upgraded to Trueborn if I have the points to get an extra ten shots.

Incubi. 5 in a venom that deep strikes out of the way to get a charge the following turn – hopefully the other elements deep striking in will create enough of a distraction to allow this unit to enter play without too much attention – it’s not like there’s ten of them after all!

Fast Attack
A pair of Razorwing Jetfighters, I’ve always found their missiles to be great value, especially the necrotoxin variant.
Scourges. I’m hoping that the restriction on numbers of weapons in a squad is altered to allow a squad of five to take four special weapons, or that their points drop a bit, because a full unit is expensive. They would be fully equipped with haywire blasters though to act as my primary anti-tank, dropping in from deep strike again.

Heavy Support
Here’s the key to the whole strategy. With such a large deep striking contingent, I need something really tough on the board to start the game, and a unit of three talos (or two talos and a cronos to improve their FNP) starting in cover should be just the job, nine T7 wounds with a 3+ save and 4+FNP should cope with anything the enemy can throw at them on turn 1.

The second key element. Any kind of fortification with a comms relay. I realise there are other options for manipulating your reserves, but as these tend to be more random, the re-roll granted by the comms relay is well worth the points you pay for it (and the fortification that comes with it often provides either a nice cover save or line of sight blocker. I know of many players who would argue that dark eldar shouldn’t take fortifications in their lists, but I see this less as the Dark Eldar bringing fortifications, and more as the advanced elements of the raiding party having captured them, and bringing advanced communications equipment with them to time the attack.

Once all of these basic units have been taken, any extra points would be spent adding a bit more flavour to the army, tweaking it to a particular opponent through a process similar to the sideboard concept, partly for variety in my games, and partly because it seems appropriate for a raiding party to take troops and equipment appropriate to a particular task. Other units that I’d love to fit into the force would include Mandrakes, Reavers, Ravagers. I’d also like to take a big unit of wyches led by a succubus with a WWP, but they would be last on the list due to the issues with assault in the current ruleset.