Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Synergy review of the Dark Eldar Codex: Part 6 HQ

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 6 - HQ.

The ubiquitous leader of the Dark Eldar, these guys have a stat line most generic HQ characters would die for with one exception (toughness - what else?). Its basic points cost is relatively low so for very low point games you can get a decent leader quite cheap giving you more to spend elsewhere. The upgrade list is extensive however, and costly so these guys can quickly spiral out of control (and why wouldn't you in higher point games???)

Venom blade: Addresses the Archon's low strength, if it had an AP i reckon you'd see it on every Archon out there. Has very good synergy though in challenges or against monstrous creatures when used with a soul trap. then you move onto your huskblade instead!
Blast pistol: The archon does have a ludicrously high BS, so you've got a pretty good chance at hitting what you shoot at. problem is getting close enough to do so. As always, i wouldn't advise relying on it to pop a transport so you can charge the contents. If you're planning on doing shooting with your archon, there are better options plus his high attacks value means you don't always need the pistol/ccw combo.
Power weapon: Fairly bog standard, it obviously synergises with a close combat Archon, but is always let down by their basic strength.
Blaster: The big brother of the blast pistol i mentioned above, has sufficient range to be a threat without being in realistic charge range. If you put this guy in a unit of trueborn, that's a headache for any tank driver. Doesn't have great synergy with a combat build though (albeit as noted above, his profile attacks do account for this to some extent).
Agoniser: Basically a combination of some of the venom blade's wounding power with a power weapon's AP. This obviously synergises well with the combat build, though can be extremely useful when paired with a blaster archon too.
Electrocorrosive whip: Biggest drawback to this is that it would be most useful against monstrous creatures, but the archon's basic strength profile isn't capable of wounding most of them, at least not easily. I could see some merit in annoying challenge opponents, but the reliability of wounding your opponent with it in the first place means it doesn't synergise too well with the other options.
Huskblade: Probably my favourite of the Archon's weapons, when paired with a venom blade and using a soul trap the Archon can become an absolute beast in the latter stages of a game. As such, it synergises well with the combat build Archon, not so much with the shooty version.
Haywire Grenades: Gives the archon a chance to do damage to vehicles without using a soul trap to increase his strength. It synergises well if he's joined a unit also equipped with haywires. On its own, don't bother, you need multiples for the synergy to kick in.
Ghostplate Armour: It's relatively cheap, but the main use for this is as a backup if the shadowfield shorts out. So you'll need it, because that shadowfield is tempremental (yes, I've had them last all game, tanking wounds from a carnifex and a horde of gaunts, but I've also had them fizzling out at the first lasgun to even as much as look at it). It doesn't have any particular synergy with anything else however.
Combat Drugs: If you've got the points, why not, none of the bonuses are bad, and only one doesn't really change the Archon's performance. It doesn't synergise well however with the shooty Archon, as the title suggests.
Soul Trap: Great for boosting your Archon's strength, if you can find a character or monstrous creature for them to kill. Doing that might mean you need the venom blade though. Interestingly, its use isn't limited to combat, so you might be able to pick out a sergeant with your shooting (on a precision shot) to then increase your strength, but that's highly unreliable so it synergises much better with the combat equipped Archon.
Djin Blade: Has good synergy with the combat Archon, but ONLY if they also have a shadowfield, the potential to damage yourself without its proection is just too dangerous.
Clone Field: Nullifies a random number of hits against the Archon each combat, so works well with the combat Archon. Problem is, you can't take it with a shadowfield so it's only worthwhile if you're fighting something that doesn't ignore your armour save.
Phantasm Grenade Launcher: There's one glaring omission from the Incubi entry, and that's some form of assault grenades (fair enough point, what's the use in having the rule for charging through terrain if every combat unit bascially ignores it. Of course the alternative viewpoint is why would you have a combat unit that doesn't have assault grenades?). Attaching a combat Archon to the unit with a PGL is therefore an almost necessary option (answer me honestly, have you ever seen a unit of Incubi that doesn't have one?). It therefore synergises well with other units allowing them to strike at their native initiative. It also grants defensive grenades, helping to protect you against overwatch (though an Incubi coversave is almost certainly going to be better than this anyway.)
Shadowfield: Tactically it's practically a necessity for an Archon to have one of these if they're going to set foot outside their transport, and it's pretty important even if they don't. Doesn't synergise with anything else, save to keep the Archon (and his leadership) alive for longer.
Webway portal: Probably the best synergy in the Archon's arsenal, this lets your units get up close and personal without the risk of being damaged crossing the board. If only it allowed charges it would be the perfect synergistic item. As it is, it's pretty damn good, with its only drawback being you have to be out of a vehicle to activate it, so it's less useful for anything arriving in turn two, (it should be deployed by the end of the shooting phase of turn 2, if it's not you may not get the chance as the placement rules make it difficult to deploy once in combat.)

Conclusion: whatever your tactic, the archon can help you do it better. His shooting options are more limited than combat, but the the likelihood of you using a dedicated shoots archon is less anyway, plus his shooting options don't prevent him from still being useful in combat. Synergises well with the army as a whole, though he works particularly well in some builds such as the pgl equipped archon with an incubi bodyguard.

Court of the Archon
I love the fluffiness behind this idea, that an archon surrounds themselves with assorted advisors, bodyguards and vicious pets.
In synergy terms, the court does not have to be deployed with the archon, so doesn't need to be tailored to support their role, but (as with most analyses of the court) the requirement to take a minimum of 1 of each type of creature really hampers their internal synergy. As none of the creature types have any upgrades, in synergy terms i'll look at their roles, and in this instance I'll also look at what I'd do to make them more coherent as a unit.
Lhamaeans: This lady holds the most scope for improvement in my mind, as there's little reason to take more than one in their current form. They do enhance both shooting and close combat for the archon, but only if they've got poisoned weapons. The biggest problem here is that the only poisoned weapon the archon can carry for close combat already wounds on the value given by the Lhamaean, so there really is no need for her in close combat. Whilst the buff to wound rolls from shooting are welcome, again it only affects one weapon, and with only one shot and no ap value, the wound benefit is minimal.
In order to synergise better, I'd make the Lhamaen's rules the following. 0-3. The first Lhamaean in the units makes all poisoned weapons in the unit wound on a 3+. If a second Lhamaean is present, this increases to a 2+. The third Lhamaean in the unit makes any non-poisoned weapons carried by the archon count as poisoned 4+ (which boosts the electrocorrosive whip and huskblade options to make them more viable). These effects remain in play even if the Lhamaeans are killed or otherwise removed from play as the poisons they provide are distributed before battle.
Sslyth: No changes required, including the 1-3 limit. I've left this the same because the way I see it, a bodyguard is the first creature an archon is likely to take into battle. Where I would tweak this slightly is that you may only take more than 1 Sslyth if you have at least one of each other type of creature.
Ur-Ghuls: To represent the relentless nature of the Ur-Ghuls hunting down their prey, their charge range (note, not the charge range of the unit as a whole) counts as 2D6+2". As such, the unit is able to get into combat slightly more easily providing they can all still stay in coherency, and represents the court being led into combat by their hunter beasts.
Medusae: The rules for their eyeburst talk about paralyzing their victims with waves of anguish, so i was a little disappointed when it just counts as a shooting attack. I'd make them a 0-2 choice, and add in the rule that for every two unsaved wounds caused by their eyeburst attack their opponent gets a -1 initiative penalty.

Conclusion: the mix of abilities and attacks makes the court as it is synergise poorly with both its other members and the archon. A few relatively minor tweaks would solve that however.

Haemonculus (normal and ancient)
Both these guys have a relatively average statline, which to me says that they're mostly about the upgrades, and boy is it a long list. Hope you're sitting comfortably!
Venom blade: Seen it before, if your haemy is going to get into close combat, this is a synergistic option.
Stinger pistol: Basically an uprated splinter pistol, it's not going to be game changing, but certainly makes shooting before charging a bit more efficient and so synergises relatively well.
Power weapon: Usual problem, Haemies are only S3 so it's tough to wound, more so with their average WS. Synergises ok, but there are better tactical options.
Mindphase gauntlet: I like the idea, and it synergises pretty well in a close combat unit in principle, but the main issue is that most of the targets you'd use it against will be striking before you or simultaneously, so in practice it has little use except against a few low initiative units. Would be better if it counted as I9.
Flesh gauntlet: Basically it gives you the opportunity to ID stuff without needing to worry about their toughness. Problem is most things you'd want to use it against will be getting a save. Some synergy therefore, but limited.
Agoniser: Seen it before, a decent all rounder if your Haemy is in combat.
Electrocorrosive whip: Same as before, annoying more than dangerous, it suffers in the Haemy's hands for the same reason as the Mindphase Gauntlet.
Huskblade: Literally exactly the same benefits and issues as for the Archon.
Animus Vitae: Decent choice for boosting unit pain tokens without having to wipe anything out, it synergises very well therefore.
Casket of Flensing: Everyone's favourite(?) most random weapon in the game, its limited range means it only really synergises with combat builds. It has the potential to be devastating, which is also a problem as it can leave you stranded in the open.
Liquifier Gun: Best used in multiples and to defend against charges, it synergises pretty well if your Haemy is in a unit of Wracks, not so much if you're looking to stay at a longer range.
Soul trap: Not quite as useful as on the Archon due to the lower Ld of the Haemy, but otherwise synergises well in combat.
Vexator mask: Might keep you Haemy alive for a little bit longer, but as the test required is unmodified, I'd expect most things to pass more often than not. As such it falls into the irritant category rather than highly synergistic.
Scissorhand: If your Haemy is in combat, I really can't understand why you wouldn't want this, it synergises extremely well and actually can make a Haemy pretty in a fight.
Archangel of Pain: Another leadership based toy, so it's not likely to do much against most armies, it synergises pretty well if it works, but that's not going to be often.
Hexrifle: Turns your Haemy into a sniper, which can be fun, particularly in an objective-sitter unit.
Shattershard: Most effective against, erm, Eldar and Dark Eldar. Probably best not to bother using it against anything T4 or higher as you'll really struggle to do any damage. Doesn't really synergise with anything but close support untis due to its limited range.
Crucible of Malediction: Even worse than the other leadership based toys as it targets on psykers, who generally have high characteristics here. Would synergise well if the test were on 3D6.
Orb of despair: One use only and with only a small blast it's unlikely to affect the game much. It's got limited synergy with anything else your Haemy might want to be doing, and will only work if you're very close.
Dark gate: The limited range and large blast template means this is a very dangerous weapon. To yourself. Synergises well if you're facing a horde army, but even then it's let down by being one use only. Limited synergy.
Webway portal: Probably the most common piece of wargear carried by a Haemy before 6th hit, it's less prevalent now, but if you're running that suicide charge to get a WWP far up the table, better to do it with a Haemy than an Archon!

Conclusion: The Haemonculi are most used to provide pain tokens to other units (something I have a few fluff issues with, but let's not go there) it then can be useful to buff a combat unit as kind of a 'super sergeant' through something like a scissorhand. It has lots of options with limited usefulness on the tabletop, but there are a few gems in there if you look hard enough.

Ok so if you thought the archon had good stats, this lady's combat profile is positively obscene. Half the time you win a combat you'll not even have to roll the dice to run down your opponent, and she'll average more hits than some characters can roll to start with when she charges. As ever the main disadvantage is her toughness, but there is literally nothing you can do about that as she's stuck with her basic armour save and no way of upgrading it (that's GLASS hammer). 
Venom blade: a cheap upgrade option, it makes the most of her attacks and negates her poor strength, it synergises well.
Power weapon: less synergy here, you're fine against anything with toughness 3 but as soon as you hit that extra point, you're cutting down your wounds a lot!
Agoniser: as with the archon, this option takes the strengths of the venom blade and the power weapon and combines them, and for that reason it's probably the most common option you'll see.
Electro corrosive whip: anything that reduces the strength of the incoming attacks is good, but you have to wound them using your basic strength first, which for the reasons stated above is not guaranteed. Some synergy, but not much.
Hydra gauntlets: my personal favourite, this means that you can potentially roll twelve attack dice if you get the right combat drug roll. Without an ap value though it's definitely best left to bullying basic troops units. Synergises well I think with a unit of bloodbrides maxed out on hydras too, which can lead to 72 attacks on the charge, which I think you'll find would give even terminators cause for concern.
Shardnet and impaler: I wouldn't say this synergises too well, as you're never going to really drop enemy attacks low enough to make the most of it with your HQ likely to be fighting theirs. It's best left to more lowly models.
Razorflails: these also have some effect at minimising the lack of strength and for that reason they synergise well. Lack of ap might see you looking elsewhere in efficiency terms though.
Blast pistol: sure, if you're not going for wych weapons then take a blast pistol, but as elsewhere, don't rely on it to pop you a transport in order to charge something, cos the dice gods are cruel.
Haywire grenades: yes it has synergy if the rest of the unit have them and are going tank hunting. If you're on this trip though, don't bother with other combat upgrades. Personally I think tank hunting is a waste of the hq when basic wyches do it just as well.

Conclusion: she's a dedicated combat character, and most of her options enhance that role. Synergises particularly well with units of wyches and bloodbrides but is at home with almost any combat unit.