Thursday, 25 January 2018

Codex Eldar review - Dire Avengers


Greetings all! Time for the third part in my Codex Eldar review, this time we're going to look at that most dependable of aspects, the children of Asurmen himself, the Dire Avengers.



Deployment options

The elite troops of the Eldar and by far the most numerous of the aspect warriors, that still doesn't translate into anything particularly spectacular when it comes to deployment as you might expect. In a transport, on the table or in the webway.

Thankfully, the Dire Avenger's particular version of the shuriken catapult comes with a little bit of a boost over the others, with 50% extra range. Don't be fooled though, 18" still isn't anything to really shout about, and even with a 4+ save showing their armour is better than that issued to the guardians, they're still not going to last any time out there. As with the guardians therefore the Dire Avengers really need to be deployed in one of three positions - completely out of line of sight, mainly to hold a home objective. 2nd option is to deploy them in a transport, either a Falcon or a Wave Serpent (which could hold two minimum sized squads) whilst the third is to place them into the webway ready to emerge onto the battlefield where they're most needed.

Of these options, the Wave Serpent/Falcon seems to my mind to be the most useful - Dire Avengers can't be placed anywhere they're going to be isolated and for their cost you really want them to be as safe as possible for as long as possible. The Wave Serpent/Falcon allows them to get to where their firepower is going to be the most effective on the table, and by keeping them inside the transport you can ensure their safety until they can make the difference.

Mobility

Eldar infantry - some of the most mobile in the game and the Dire Avengers are no different, plus as an assault weapon, the avenger shuriken catapult actually has a far more reasonable threat range than is immediately apparent, since they can move 7", advance D6 (though there is a stratagem that allows you to go 6" without rolling) and then still shoot with no penalty thanks to battle focus, meaning the potential range is actually more like 31" rather than the 18-25 you'd think. This can also catch your opponent out if they're not all that familiar with the Eldar book!

Outside that, you're limited to the usual Eldar mobility options of Wave Serpent or Falcon. Personally I like the Falcon, since the minimum unit size for Dire Avengers is 5 you can fit a squad plus a supporting Warlock/Farseer in the back, and still have that reliable pulse laser to fire (I really do rate the pulse laser, the fixed 3 damage is such a bonus over the potential to flop a bright lance's D6 roll!)

Firepower

The Dire Avenger squad is solely armed with avenger shuriken catapults, with no options for alternative types of weaponry for different targets, so you have a nice simple target priority for them - infantry! As I've shown elsewhere when I looked at Windrider weapons the shuriken can help out against vehicles thanks to their wounding mechanic, but it's still a low effectiveness target for them.

Instead, you get 10-22 shots out of the unit (more on that in a bit) depending on how much you want to invest, but crucially, with no natural re-rolls or buffs to this you need to really invest in multiple full units to make it worthwhile. That being said, massed shuriken fire is still nasty as a basic gun on your troops units!

The Dire Avengers do have one more tactic up their sleeves though, and that's if you're trying to shift them off an objective by charging them. Dire Avengers hit on 5+ rolls during overwatch, so are twice as effective as most other units in this regard. Now for those of you who like to run the numbers, that's not actually going to make a huge difference most of the time, but everything counts as they say, and there will be games where it stops a charge completely or just brings an enemy below the point at which they wipe you out.

Melee capability

Dire Avengers are not a melee unit, and the one never must you break rule with the Eldar aspect warriors is that each unit has its purpose, and to try and use it for an alternative purpose is to court failure. Consequently, times must be desperate for you to throw the Dire Avengers into combat, because it's not likely to go well! Even against guardsmen where you have a skill advantage you'll likely be drastically outnumbered.

Exarchs do have the chance to take a Power Glaive or a Diresword, but realistically the only time you'll be looking to do this is when you are so tight for points you can't afford to give them twin catapults, and even if that's the case there's certainly an argument to just take a single catapult instead. Of the two melee options they have, either is fine for the exarch, but the lack of attacks is what makes them inadvisable - when you have two attacks and only hit the enemy on 3's in a melee, it doesn't matter whether you're more likely to wound or do additional mortal wounds, neither is particularly palatable.

Resilience

Resilience of the Dire Avengers is a significant step up from the Guardians who contend with them for their particular role in the Troops slot, but equally it's like most Eldar, never going to be good! The 4+ save certainly helps, and there is an option to give the whole unit a 5+ save if the exarch takes a shimmershield, however if you do that then you're having to take a combat weapon for them, and we've already established that's not a great plan. In fact, if you're planning on giving them an invun, you might as well take Asurmen - at least then they get a good invun!

Ultimately though no matter what you do, they will still be T3 and so your opponent will still be wounding them easily and forcing them to take lots of saves. Yes, you can take Asurmen and boost the save up with protect from a nearby Warlock, but against a unit like this even saving two thirds of the wounds you suffer won't keep them alive for all that long. Quite honestly your best bet (in my opinion) is to keep them out of sight of the enemy, then with a very few exceptions they just can't be shot anyway.

Key unit upgrades

An exarch is a free upgrade for the unit and comes with an extra wound, so is always worth taking regardless of upgrades. However, once you do that, an extra shuriken catapult is only a measly 4pts, so you're effectively getting another model in the unit for a cut-price deal. As I've noted above, beyond exarch options the unit really doesn't get much in the way of upgrades and the combat options for the exarch are pretty undesirable. The shimmershield would be likely to be worth it on a bigger unit, but even then you're cutting down your offensive firepower in order to live longer. It's arguable whether doing so is a worthwhile venture.

Personally, I think that the best way to equip the unit is to go max firepower and be aggressive, taking the exarch with an extra avenger catapult and stuff them down the enemy's throat, using their path of war ability to force your opponent to keep them off objectives. Big units could certainly be a scary threat given the ability to buff them, although if you do that, bear in mind that guardian defenders put out more fire for the points, with the only drawbacks of them being range to the target, and total cost.

Stratagems, auras, psychic powers and traits

As with the whole of the Eldar book, the stratagems and psychic powers sections are where the faction really starts to work together and sing as an army.

Matchless agility is one of my favourites for the Dire Avengers, since it really does push out their threat range, the only real downside is it does mean spending a command point for a roll you might have got anyway for free, but then in clinch situations the reassurance of not needing to roll might be worth it!

Webway strike and Feigned retreat are also good choices, the former meaning you don't need that transport to get where you need to be and the latter meaning that if you somehow do survive an assault you can fall back, still fire at full effect and then either charge back in to finish off or sit and let the enemy take another turn of overwatch.

Of course an Autarch is always a good option for a shooting unit in an Eldar army, but given that you can't have one everywhere (even if you might want to) guide from a farseer is a good alternative. The only downside there is you might have better targets for it from units that put out more firepower than the Dire Avengers.

Battlefield roles

Well to my way of thinking, the Dire Avenger has a couple of roles on the battlefield. The first is as a nasty objective camper, in which case you keep them cheap as chips, stick in an exarch for his 4++ against any nasty lascannons that might shoot their way, and rely on your overwatch fire to discourage enemy units from coming close.

The second is more of a strategy if you're basing your army around the Dire Avengers themselves, in which case you take bigger squads, either in transports or in the webway and you push forward to threaten the enemy line with some chunky firepower. Seriously, if you go for the second option, you really will want to take Asurmen and a nearby warlock to cast protect on one of them, then you can boost the damage output in all manner of other ways and whilst the opponent is worrying about two big obsec blobs in his lines with a nasty character as support, you can go to town with Fire Prisms, Night Spinners etc stripping down their ability to respond.

Conclusion

The classic Aspect Warrior, and probably the most widely seen on the tabletop so a little victory there for the rules writers in translating narrative onto the table. The big advantage of Dire Avengers is their low minimum unit cost, meaning they're a great choice if you want to take a brigade or spam transports, or simply access the greater command point reservoir that is the Battalion whilst still giving your army a strong theme elsewhere.

Probably needs to be a staple unit in your collection unless (like the rest of the frothing hordes out there) you're looking to go with Alaitoc as your craftworld attribute, in which case take Rangers. Actually you might just want to take Rangers anyway, which funnily enough is the topic of next week's review post! Who'd have figured that one out!

Till next time,
TBE