Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Codex Eldar review - Storm Guardians


Greetings all, second review post up for the Eldar, this time I'm having a look at the close combat cousins of the Guardian Defender squad, the Storm Guardians. Don't be fooled into thinking this unit isn't worth a second look!
Check out the codex review tab at the top of the page for other reviews in the series.

Deployment options

As with the Guardian Defenders, the Storm Guardians unit has a couple of basic deployment options, supplemented by one of the stratagems available in the codex. Interestingly, range for the unit is exactly the same as it is for the Guardian Defenders, but given that the shuriken pistol only fires half as many shots as the shuriken catapult, and the strength of the Storm Guardian lies in combat, it's safe to say that it's even more important for this unit to be deployed either in a transport, or in the webway. Realistically, you don't want your Storm Guardians to be footslogging it across the battlefield to try and contact the enemy, because that famous Eldar squishiness will put paid to them pretty early.

My personal preference would be for them to sit in the webway, because of the way that the disembarking rules work for transports as you can't get out of a transport until after it has moved, however the Wave Serpent does have enough tricks up its anti grav plates to keep them pretty safe until turn 2 when they can get out and use that equally famous Eldar speed to get into position for a charge.

Mobility

You didn't really think an Eldar unit would have any mobility issues did you? Well no, they don't, their natural movement of 7" combined with the ability to advance and still fire their weapons thanks to Battle Focus means you'll never need to slow down with them (ironcially unless you're actually planning on charging something). If you are really struggling, you can always hit them with the Matchless Agility stratagem, meaning they advance the full 6" without needing to roll for it.

Alternatively, you can grab a Wave Serpent and whizz them round the tabletop in relative safety until you need to charge something. Just remember though that if you don't have a Wave Serpent available, then they will be exposed as they move between targets, and yep, Eldar Squishiness.

Firepower

The unit isn't really intended to be taken on the basis of its firepower, however it does have a couple of interesting options in this respect. As I mentioned above, the shuriken pistols give you as good a range as a shuriken catapult, and it's a decent weapon, the only downside is that only having a single shot with it means that you aren't really going to bring the volume of shooting that turns decent into excellent.

To supplement the basic firepower available however, you can take a pair of flamers or fusion guns. If you're going to go down this route, don't forget that the number of weapons you can take isn't relative to the overall size of the unit, so keeping the Storm Guardians down to a unit size of 8 means that you maximise any potential benefit you get in efficiency terms, though 6 meat shields with a guardian's statline isn't going to last long. A case can be made for either weapon actually. Storm Guardians (spoiler alert) are really not going to cut it against combat monsters, or really even hold them up for long (one dirty trick excepted) however against hordes, and equipped with chainswords, they really can get quite choppy if you give them the right buffs. Equally, a pair of fusion guns is nothing to sniff at in terms of vehicle targeting, and whilst they're not fire dragons, you can at least look at popping a transport to get at a softer cargo (for example perhaps tankbustas or lootas in a trukk).

Melee capability

So, here's the meat of the review for this unit - we are looking at a melee equipped unit after all.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that storm guardians aren't worth taking. I really want to be a bit more considered in my reviews however, so I've disregarded what everyone says and I'm going to look in more depth at this interesting unit.

Most unusually for a basic troop unit, the Storm Guardian Squad can take a choice of weapons for melee, the Aeldari blade, or the Chainsword. As ever, a chainsword gives you an extra attack, whilst the aeldari blade lets you re-roll misses. I'm therefore really struggling to see any reason not to take the chainsword, as in practical terms, increasing the number of attacks you can do (when you're hitting on 3's) is always going to be a better choice than re-rolling your misses. Well, statistically speaking it is at least! A unit of 15 of these models will net you 30 attacks in melee, not bad for their cost, though that's sort of where it ends as an effective unit on basic rules. S3 means you can only reliably wound gretchin, with even the humble guardsman proving a challenge.

However

They are not a one-trick pony, and if you're willing to take them along for the ride, and put some effort into buffing them they can actually become quite nasty. Sure, not as nasty as an equivalent number of howling banshees, and they require much more support to get there, which also costs points, but they could easily be a nasty surprise in your opponent's flank if they're not careful.

Buffing them up requires the following combination (or equivalents, there are alternatives here).

Ulthwe attribute
Warlord with Ambush of Blades in range (6's to hit become AP-1)
Warlock with Enhance (+1 to hit) and/or Black Guardians stratagem (+1 to hit)
Warlock with Empower (+1 to wound in the fight phase)
Autarch with Path of Command (re-roll 1's to hit)
Supreme Disdain stratagem (Exploding attacks on 6's to hit)
Warlock with Protect (+1 to saving throws)
Celestial Shield stratagem (4+ invun save in enemy shooting phase)

Those 15 Guardians we looked at above all of a sudden hit on 2's, and gain exploding attacks on the roll of a 4+/5+ (which also become AP-1).
Against T4 they will then wound on 4's thanks to Empower, whilst anyone shooting/hitting you back could easily be faced with a 3+ invun save on a 105pt unit. It's even more fun if you hit the enemy with the negative side of Enhance/Empower, as your enemy will then be at -1 to hit and to wound.

In our above example, assuming you hit all the benefits above, 15 storm guardians will put out (statistically speaking) 44 hits, wounding marines on 4's of which 15 are at -1 save. You should therefore easily take out a full tactical squad with this one unit with space to spare.

In short, taken straight from the codex, don't expect these guys to achieve much, but if they get sufficient buffs around them they can pack a nasty surprise punch!

Resilience

As ever with many Eldar units, resilience is not their strong suit, but equally and as we saw with Guardian Defenders, they do have a few tricks they can pull to catch the unwary off guard.

I've noted a couple of the components above, and obviously will talk about some in more detail in the stratagems section to follow, but once again if you can stack the buffs and debuffs well enough then you can create a monster.

Lightning Fast Reactions stratagem (-1 to hit)
Conceal (-1 to hit at range)
Drain (-1 to hit in combat)
Enervate (-1 to wound in combat)
Fortune (5+ FNP)
Celestial Shield stratagem (4+ invun in enemy shooting phase)
Protect (+1 to saves)

Stack up the right buffs and as an example, a 10-man primaris squad firing their bolters on rapid fire at this unit would kill on average, less than one storm guardian. Of course all of this does rely on you buffing the unit with Warlock powers etc, but it's certainly illustrative of what you can achieve!

Key unit upgrades

Well there are only two upgrades, and either isn't a bad shout as an option to upgrade the unit, however my inclination is to leave the tank busting to the specialists - even two fusion guns aren't guaranteed to pop open a vehicle. Horde control through flamers is a different matter however, and I would certainly be inclined to think that they're well worth the points - not only do they offer an effective way of getting even more massed dice rolling from the unit, they also provide a decent overwatch threat that would force your opponent to charge in from longer ranges.

Stratagems, auras, psychic powers and traits

Well, you really are blessed with a plethora of choice here. Put quite simply, the Storm Guardian Squad can make use of just about every power in the Warlock's arsenal, both positive and negative elements, and there are also a host of very useful stratagems to keep them around and to ensure they do their job, your issue will be not overspending command points on the unit and getting enough Warlocks into your lists to do everything you want to.

I don't want to re-tread all the ground I've covered above in terms of combos that you can run on the Storm Guardians to boost them up, and obviously putting all of your psychic and strategic support into such a unit means you're not giving it to other units in your army that may make even better use of them, but for me, the standout stratagems are Celestial Shield and Supreme Disdain (preferably buffed through +1's to hit so the exploding attacks happen more often). These are the two key elements around which the real abilities of the Storm Guardians can be built.

The Autarch's Aura will always be useful and as they're the best value combat character you can get, the Autarch should at least be somewhere near this unit when it hits a melee.

Ambush of Blades is the best warlord trait to benefit the Storm Guardians, and with the sheer number of rolls they can make, it also becomes pretty nasty too, though unless you're basing your strategy around them, there will be other traits that benefit your warlord more directly.

As for Psychic Powers, offensively I like enhance the most, as I think it performs the most work in relation to their purpose, whilst defensively I think you can't get much better than protect (particularly in conjunction with celestial shield).

Battlefield Roles

Inevitably, the Storm Guardian has only one general role on the field, which is to get into combat with the enemy. There are I believe many nuances to this however, as they performs so many potential roles. They can be an offensive strike unit, going for the kill on enemy units from stacking buffs up, whilst they can also be an incredibly effective tarpit unit stacking negative modifiers onto your opponent to slow them down and force them to either fall back and go round, or slog their way slowly through them one at a time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think that the Storm Guardian unit is one that can easily be overlooked by the careless, either when writing your own army list or by your opponent when evaluating your threats. Keep a few warlocks close by and your modest investment can become a real headache for the enemy - buzz a big unit of them into the enemy backfield either through webway strike (best option) or in a Wave Serpent and they could wreak havoc. Supported by a few warlocks in another Wave Serpent or a Falcon and your opponent has a major headache on their hands.

Do not, under any circumstances, underestimate this unit until you've killed all psykers and your opponent has run out of command points (interestingly Storm Guardians are the cheapest way of filling troop slots for a brigade if you're an Eldar player, so they might see some use even without knowledge of the above). Equally if you're writing an army list, consider how you're looking to play, as a unit like this can really throw a spanner into the works of the enemy plan.

Till next time, when Dire Avengers are on the list,
TBE