Thursday, 9 May 2013

Synergy review of the Dark Eldar Codex - part 2:Elites

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 2 - Elites

The incubi are the heavy combat specialists of the list, and are one of the only units in the game to have AP2 close combat weapons that aren’t also unwieldy (and strike at initiative 5/6). There are no options for altering or upgrading the basic weaponry of the unit, but there are four options for the Klaivex upgrade.
Demiklaives: This option has two methods of usage, granting either extra attacks at the base strength of the incubi, or increasing the strength by two points for no attack bonus. The biggest synergy issue here is that the base strength of the incubi is only 3, meaning that given their main opponents are usually T4 or high, they really need the extra strength. Given that you’re most likely to be charging with this unit, the additional strength method of using the demiklaives synergises much better. Fortunately you don’t have to decide which method to use with the demiklaives until the combat begins, so you can choose appropriately at the time and on this basis it does synergise well with the unit.
Bloodstone: This is basically a flame weapon that the Klaivex can use to thin down an opponent’s unit before charging in. Its main drawback is its strength of 3, which makes it difficult to wound tougher models. Given that it has limited synergy with the unit, as though it has a good AP value, it’s unlikely to wound targets of that nature. It would however synergise well if you were facing a lower toughness but well-armoured target.
Murderous assault: Given the existence of challenges under the current edition of the rules, this option synergises far better than previously, and could even force an opponent to decline, removing their threat from the combat.
Onslaught: This option increases the potential damage output of the unit, and thus synergises well with its purpose (particularly if you roll a lot of 6’s!).
Conclusion: Most of the options open to the Incubi unit synergise well, with only the bloodstone  having issues. As such, as per the Wyches, the unit synergises well internally.
These guys read basically as upgraded wracks, and with a BS of 1, their purpose is clear, close combat brutality, they're strong and tough and come with a pile of attacks each. As regards upgrades, they're very similar to wracks. One can change his close combat weapon for a liquifier, and you can take a 'sergeant' style character, who can be equipped for more close combat specialisms (see my evaluation of wracks for an analysis of the weapons, the same points hold true for the options here). As with wracks, grotesques come with a free pain token, but unlike wracks they get a nasty rule that means that unsupervised there is a chance they'll go bonkers and get moved from the table. So here's where the best bit of synergy with this unit comes in. Pair them with an haemonculus, and the unit now has two pain tokens, meaning that not only are their worst tendencies curbed, but they cause even more damage into the bargain.
Conclusion: the purpose of this unit is clear, and all of the options available to it enhance its performance in these areas. It also synergises very well with one of the dark eldar's HQ choices, and as such it's a unit that can really work well with other choices in the codex, either providing some real punch up close in a combat orientated army, or a tough combat unit that's difficult to shift if you're just trying to keep your opponent at arms length.

First things first, I love the idea of harlequins in the eldar lists, both craftworld and dark, and the way they bind the two codices together through their background. 
The harlequin entry is one of the more complicated unit entries in the codex, but basically includes three upgrade characters for the unit, one to increase its firepower, one to reduce incoming fire, and one to increase close combat damage.
Harlequins are come armed for combat, with a pistol and close combat weapon. They also benefit from a higher weapon skill than wyches, and an invulnerable save. Harlequins do not however have a dedicated transport option, and are therefore relegated to slogging across the battlefield on foot. This does not synergise at all well with the other units in the codex on the whole, as their inherent fragility outside their transports means you'll rarely see them without such an upgrade.
As regards upgrades for the unit itself, the shadow seer synergises extremely well, granting plasma grenades to the whole unit, and requiring your opponent to roll a spotting distance to see if they can be shot at. Given the aforementioned lack of transports, it's likely that any harlequin unit would be the only foot slogging unit in your army and as such the shadow seer is practically a necessity to keep them alive.
The death jester is a slightly different matter however, as it comes with the option to take a shuriken cannon, increasing the ranged damage potential of the unit. Synergy-wise however, this option is at odds with the purpose of the unit. Harlequins are not a ranged option, and therefore need to close with the enemy to get into combat to take advantage of their strengths. This means more often than not, running in the shooting phase, thereby wasting the shooting of that upgraded weapon. The likely result therefore, is that the only time you'll get to use the shuriken cannon is on the turn you charge.
The troupe master is there for two reasons, to increase close combat damage through an extra attack and the potential to take a power weapon, and to keep the unit fighting longer with an extra point of leadership. These options synergise well with the unit's purpose.
Basic troop upgrades include the option to take a couple of AT pistols, though their extremely short range means you won't get to use them much, and probably only if you needed to bust open a transport to charge the unit inside. Alternatively they can also be upgraded with what I consider the most original weapon in the 40k universe, the harlequin's kiss. This has the rending special rule, enabling the harlequins to take on any close combat unit in the game, and letting you ignore their very average strength of 3. 
Conclusions: the unit has pretty decent synergy internally, albeit with a couple of conflicts, but their lack of a transport option and the alternative choices in the codex that fulfill a similar role means that they don't synergise well on the whole.

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that Mandrakes are worthless. I've only used them once and they were useful, netting me a couple of victory points, but I'll agree they're tricky. Nevertheless, as ever this article is about synergy, not tactics.
Mandrakes are the infiltrators of the dark eldar codex, and are initially armed for close combat. The problem here is that in order to threaten the enemy, they need a bit of help, as they can't charge on the first turn. Mandrakes have no upgrade options beyond the usual sergeant upgrade, and as such their internal synergy can't be altered. 
On a wider front however, the unit synergises well with the dark eldar army. The dark eldar often work best up close and personal, and their biggest threat is crossing the field to get there. The advantage of Mandrakes is that they start much closer to the enemy and can either get into contact sooner, deny an area of the field to the enemy, or distract your opponent's firepower from your more efficient units by providing a more immediate threat.

I'm not going to touch on these, as their purpose and upgrades are the same as wyches, they just do everything wyches do a little bit better. As such, their synergy is exactly the same.

Kabalite trueborn
This is basically a unit of sybarites, with plenty of upgrade options.
Splinter pistol and close combat weapon: the basic profile of a trueborn does come with two attacks, and so the twin combat options do enhance the abilities of the unit, thus synergising well (again, this is not a comment on whether taking the option is a good idea tactically). 
Shardcarbine: increases the firepower output of the unit at the expense of a little bit of range, but that range ties up well with the range of the blaster, another option that the unit can take. Again, the unit is enhanced by the option, and as all models can take it, it has good synergy.
Shredder: four models can take this anti personnel option, and with a minimum unit size of 3 it's possible to equip a unit specifically for using them to take out light vehicles and hordes. Again therefore, the option had good synergy.
Blaster: guess what, minimum unit size again means that you can create a dedicated unit of blaster equipped models, giving good synergy. It's enhanced by the ability to take two dark lances for an uber tank killing unit, or to equip the rest of the unit with anti personnel shardcarbines, creating a unit able to take out tanks, heavy infantry and hordes.
Splinter cannon: it's a great anti infantry weapon, and if you're kitting your trueborn out for an anti infantry shooting role then it synergises well, in fact the only downside is that if they're on the move, you only get one extra shot more than a shardcarbine for twice the points.
Plasma grenades: short range, and mainly useful for units that are going to get up close and personal, they only really synergise if you're going for the shredder option, and even then they only have limited synergy.
Haywire grenades: mainly useful in close combat where you can use more than one, unless you're going for the close combat equipped trueborn, they don't synergise well. If you are going for the close combat or anti tank options, they work very well together, allowing you to engage vehicles from range and up close. 
The dracon has 6 upgrade options.
Ghostplate armour: just gives your sergeant a little more survivability, but on that basis it synergises well enough.
Phantasm grenade launcher: works to enhance the unit's abilities when charging, and if you're going for the combat option, it's practically a necessity so depending on your tactics, it synergises well.
Blast pistol: anti tank as much as the dark lance and blaster options, but much closer range. As such, it synergises best with units expecting to get very close and so ironically goes best with combat units taking haywire grenades.
Venom blade, power weapon, agoniser: these weapons are all close combat options, and therefore synergise well if that's how you've equipped the unit.

Conclusion: the trueborn are the most flexible option in the dark eldar codex, and at a push can be adapted to whatever role you need them to perform. As such, the unit is able to synergise both internally and with the rest of the army, whatever is required.