Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Craftworld Mael Dannan - evolution of a 2k list.


Greetings all,
well, thanks to everyone who voted in the poll to name my Craftworld Army, it really was fun to see how the vote swung back and forth, and very pleasing to see so many people taking part.

Now that I have a name for them, I thought I'd take a quick look at how my list has evolved from my last post on the subject (here).

So, taking on board my own advice, I thought I'd take a step back from everything and figure out precisely why I wanted to collect Eldar, how I wanted to play them and what that meant in terms of a themed collection. What that has resulted in is a refined version of my previous list, perhaps less 'competitive' but more in line with the narrative I'm working on, and certainly makes better use of the Craftworld Trait for Saim Hann.

In practice, what I'll probably end up doing is using both that previous list, and this list I'm about to show you in various games, because I can't possibly have an army that only has one possible composition, it's just not in my DNA (and let's face it, I'll end up with a really big Eldar collection cos I love the models too much not to want them all).

So, let's look at the army building process that went on in my head then, since I've written often enough about how to go about writing lists I'll use this as my own 'worked example' for you all.

First principles

Theme: Jetbikes, skimmers etc.
Style: Narrative.
Narrative: Aggressive, merciless, punishing. Specifically anti-chaos due to the subtle influence it has had on both the Eldar race and the Craftworld in particular.

Things I don't want to include for narrative and theme reasons.
Wraith constructs (theme).
Lots of foot based guardians (narrative and theme)
Loads of aspect warriors (narrative)

Rough outline & themes

So, starting from that point, for narrative purposes, Saim Hann was the obvious choice for a craftworld trait. Heavy weapons on bikes wouldn't be an issue, and getting into the opponents face would be supplemented by the re-rollable charges.

Saim Hann would also narratively fill my desire for plenty of bikes, though there was no need to make it solely a bike force (that might come later!). Saim Hann are certainly known for their wildriders, but equally their narrative doesn't eschew the use of other units as well.

Next up in terms of a theme, I wanted the army to fit with my background, a furious, driven force seeking vengeance on the universe for the wrongs they feel they have been done, so it would be important to make sure I included plenty of aggressive options in the list, close-ranged and punchy, and I'd also look to take what combat units I could reasonably include.

List composition

So, the next stage was to look at how to achieve that in a list. There were two obvious ways of writing a list, the first was to use a battalion detachment and as many others as I could to get the maximum leverage of command points. The alternative was to go more narrative based, and to solely use outrider detachments to avoid the need for troops units at all.

And I've still not decided, because the balance struck is a tricky one to decide on, however, the first version of the list is based on the use of a battalion. For those concerned I've not been completely comprehensive, I did look at a brigade but didn't like the structure it forced into the list with so many troops units that wouldn't fit the theme.

Essential elements

Based on all the above narrative and theme work, I could rule out various units from the codex, so the next part was to get a fundamental understanding of which units I did not want to do without.

HQ

First off, for narrative purposes all the HQ choices would need to be fast -moving. In practice, that meant either loading them up into a transport or taking the skyrunner versions. Having weighed up the options, my view was that for the number of choices I was taking and the individual benefits they would gain, skyrunner choices made more sense.

  • Individually tougher and faster, getting specific bonuses/psychic powers to exactly where I wanted them
  • Allows psykers to actually cast their powers freely, whereas footsloggers are too slow to keep up and if mounted in a transport can't use the powers for which they are present.
  • Realistically, for 4 HQ's, neither transport option is sufficiently cheap to include in the list for the cost of removing the jetbikes, although it would allow for more firepower.

If I'm going to use a battalion and outrider detachment, as a basic minimum I would need 3 HQ choices. Given that I'm not focusing on aspect warriors (howling banshees and shining spears being the key two I want to bring) it also didn't seem to make sense to take any of the Phoenix Lords, and whilst an Avatar is very cool and would be a very fluffy choice to represent the rage of a Craftworld, 250pts on 1 model with only 8 wounds seemed a bit steep.

Consequently, I decided to include a Farseer and an Autarch - the former for their buffing power (I'd probably be using both Doom and Guide, I can't see me wanting to get him into positions where the other powers would be useful) and the latter for the combination of aura buff (out of the range of guide), command point recovery and being the closest thing the basic Eldar characters have to a beatstick - with the Novalance of Saim Hann he'd be S8 on the charge and 5 at other times, whilst 4 attacks, hitting on 2's and re-rolling 1's isn't too shabby either!

Added to that would be at least one warlock, probably taking quicken as my first power of choice, then more if I have the points.

TROOPS

I need three basic units of troops, and I can't see any real narrative way of taking them. Rangers would be my choice subject to there being no other factors, and I can even see why narratively Mael Dannan would have access to them as scouting units bringing the fighting force to the enemy, but let's say for now that I don't have any. Next best narrative choice I think would be the Dire Avengers. Vengeance over Chaos being their main driving force, I can make a good case for using Dire Avengers (though I'll have to do something with that colour scheme to fit better with my grey/green). This is probably where I have the most issues with this list, as the Dire Avengers aren't really at the top of the narrative list for the army in my head, but this list strikes a balance between narrative and tabletop performance, and this part of it is a concession to getting access to 7 command points instead of 5. Given the effectiveness of Wave serpents I could always squeeze 2 units of dire avengers into 1 transport, using its speed to drop them off around the table as necessary. On that basis, I can justify taking 3 minimum sized units of Dire Avengers.

ELITES

Originally I had pencilled in a unit of Fire Dragons in this slot, however for reasons that will hopefully become apparent later I don't think I need them. In larger games or more varied lists I might very well look to bring some into my collection, but for now I'm happy that the points from not taking them will be better spent elsewhere. This slot however was an ideal opportunity to bring in the first of the real heavy hitters in the list, a big squad of howling banshees.

I've always loved the narrative of the Banshees, and the models do nothing to take away from that. Rules-wise I have to say I think the designers have done a great job with them this edition too, because their big drawback in 7th was that they would simply stand around for at least a turn before they could charge, no matter how you brought them to the table, and their fragility simply didn't allow that to work.

Now however, we are looking at a very different beast, and with stratagems allowing the Banshees to deploy from reserve (Webway Strike) they're extremely viable. Add to this that even flamers can't overwatch against them so they'll never take damage when they charge in and you have a very dangerous unit. It's a shame that in order to take advantage of their boosted charge range they have to have advanced, but even then they're a solid unit, and with re-rollable charges from the Saim Hann attribute a 9" charge shouldn't be too difficult to achieve.

FAST ATTACK

Always going to be the meat and drink of this list, I realised that with enough choices I could actually bump up the list to include two outrider detachments to get me to 8 command points, much more confortable in terms of in-game performance, though the brigade level bonus would still have been nicer ;)

Where to start then. Well, two units of windriders would provide the basic shape to the force, lots of jetbike models on the table being the order of the day. I've seen lots of argument back and forth about the weapon options for them, however my personal preference, backed up by some mathammer, is for twin catapult versions, pressing them hard at the enemy lines and then potentially using fire and fade to get away from reprisals. The experience I've had with jetbikes so far is that whilst scatter lasers are great, they really (really!) suffer against T4 and a 2+ save. In that particular case we were talking about rubric marines who get a +1 to their armour save against single damage weapons, and my catapult units performed much better thanks to the -3 AP on a 6 to wound.

So, without wanting to go completely mad on bikes, I included two units of six to start with.

I knew I wanted a combat element to my list so where else to look but the combat bikes of the Eldar, the Shining Spears? Nasty nasty unit now, and with a warlock around casting Quicken, they're pretty much guaranteed a first turn charge, so another unit of 6 (including an exarch with a star lance) would give me a really nice punchy combat unit (13 attacks on the charge, hitting on 3's, should be rerolling 1's from the Autarch and with support from Warlocks with enhance/empower for example, and a laser lance's -4AP and 2 damage, this unit has a maximum damage output of 26 and a realistic output even against T7 vehicles of 12 from a single charge (plus any extras that the Autarch can add, up to possibly 16 on his own). That being said, I probably wouldn't have enough Warlocks to do everything, but it's certainly worth remembering.

That got me my first outrider detachment, so for a second I wanted some heavier support. In came two single Vyper jetbikes, both with shuriken cannons and bright lances for some mobile firepower, backed up by 3 more windriders with shuriken cannons for some mid-ranged fire support at a decent strength.

The Vypers would allow me to move and shoot without penalty thanks to the craftworld attribute, and shuriken cannons would also back up my mid-range anti-infantry fire. So I've now got plenty of short range fire, mid-range support and some nasty combat threats, all I need for a really balanced army is some heavy fire!

HEAVY SUPPORT

There really is only one choice here given everything that I've outlined above isn't there. Yep, two fire prisms. The model itself is so nice I couldn't make a list without at least one, preferably two, and the stratagem for linking fire is just too much to resist. When I was fiddling around with points I decided to give one the crystal targeting matrix as I had enough for 1, which actually in tabletop terms makes sense, because in a game I'd only need to potentially manoeuvre one of them to get line of sight to a target before unleashing the stratagem, the second could stay still and gain the benefits of not moving while still hitting the target. Spirit stones are a no-brainer in my opinion, the points spent far outweighed by the potential return.

Lastly, whilst not technically a heavy support choice, I included a wave serpent. Twin bright lances is how I would expect to use it in the game with the two glaive squads of Dire Avengers inside, ready to be ferried out onto objectives or to support the combat units as necessary. Ordinarily I'd have had spirit stones on this model as well, but the serpent shield combined with the vectored engines made me think that might be a better option for this particular unit's role. You could certainly make a case for putting the crystal matrix on here as well instead of on the fire prism, but for now I think this makes more sense.

So, here's list one, using a battalion and two outrider detachments.

Battalion
Farseer Skyrunner
Autarch Skyrunner with Novalance of Saim Hann
3 units of 5 Dire Avengers, 2 Exarchs with pistol and power glaive, 1 with twin avenger catapults
10 Howling Banshees, Exarch with executioner
Wave serpent, with Twin Bright Lance, Shuriken Cannon, Vectored Engines
2 Fire Prisms with Spirit Stones and Shuriken Cannons, 1 with crystal targeting matrix

Outrider 1
Warlock Skyrunner
6 Shining Spears, Exarch with Star Lance
6 Windriders with twin catapults
6 Windriders with twin catapults

Outrider 2
Warlock Skyrunner
Vyper with bright lance & shuriken cannon
Vyper with bright lance & shuriken cannon
3 Windriders with shuriken cannons

Let me know your thoughts, and if you play Eldar, let me know how you think it will go!

Till next time,
TBE