Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bringing Eldar into the 5th Edition, Part 1

Now, I must assume that because of the title some of you will scoff at the timing of such an article. However, I still see many people focusing on builds that would've been completely devastating in 4th edition Warhammer 40K games but are only capable of functioning on a mediocre level in the 5th edition. Predominantly, there's a lot of builds that utilize the concept of indestructible grav tank spam which tries to transport a nominal amount of infantry with the hope that 200 point wave serpents will be capable of killing their enemy so that their fragile troop of 5 dire avengers will never even have to see the board.

Unfortunately, this just will not work anymore for various reasons. In particular, as the game evolves and with new trends developing, the previous thought of more upgrades equating to increased durability are only proving to be marginally correct. In my opinion as well, I sense a desire for versatility when looking over some Eldar lists, which contradicts the core concept of the Eldar being specialists in their chosen path.

With this series of articles, I hope to help people move away from certain concepts that made the Eldar an unstoppable force in previous editions and to understand that their precious space elves are still very viable and very competitive in the new edition.

As these articles progress I want to focus on the various Force Organization Chart choices available section by section (HQ, Troops, Elites, etc). But the very first thing I want to get on the table is the concept that Eldar are over-costed and uncompetitive due to this since we have to pay a "premium price" on all of our units. The Eldar codex is fine. Yes, I said it. The Eldar codex is FINE.

Sure it can use a bit of a face lift, but what doesn't in terms of codices that have survived into 5th edition from previous editions? I'll post my thoughts on what units are "stinkers" and which ones are winners in the follow ups to this first article but what I want to get right out there is my opinion that the Eldar codex is fine and very competitive. I have defeated many many players to prove this point, almost all of which are using codices that were recently revised or released, including many Space Marines players.

That being said, I want to start my first discussion outside of the parameters I originally mentioned because I personally feel that this is where a lot of people get stuck on the idea that Eldar cost too much to be competitive. That's our main transport unit: Wave Serpents.

Now, the most common comparison that is drawn between Wave serpents and other transports is that of the wave serpent (WS) vs the Space Marine rhino, which is roughly costed at 35 points. I continually hear complaints that our WSs cost way too much to be competitive that there should be a cost reduction because other armies can transport their troops for less than 50 points.

I also see a lot of people contradicting their own complaints by stacking on upgrade after upgrade and they end up with a transport that costs nearly 200 points! If you're going to complain about the cost of your transport, why make it more expensive? Maxed out, with a twin linked bright lance, spirit stones, additional shuriken cannon, vectored engines, and star engines, we have a 190 point transport that's only marginally more capable of surviving than the 100 point version.

For starters, get the notion out of your head that a rhino and a WS are comparable by any means. Rhinos are 11/11/10, can move 12" max, have a storm bolter and can give themselves cover once per game using smoke launchers. The rhino is little more than an iron box on wheels that can travel from point A to B, as long as B is no more than 12" away. Then of course there's the risk of running over difficult/dangerous terrain or having to worry about manipulating other units in the way.

The WS is fast skimmer that can ignore any cover in its path and eschew dangerous terrain tests so long as you don't land in it. It also has an increased armor value of 12/12/10 with energy shields that allow it to ignore additional die effects (ordinance, melta, rending, etc) from shooting attacks. On top of all of that, it also comes equipped with a S6 Heavy 3 twin linked gun making this not only one of the most effective transports in the game (if not the best already) but a gun boat as well.

To close the argument of WSs being too costly or the debate of the rhino vs the wave serpent, it is apparent that the WS is capable of out performing any transport capable of being fielded in the 40K game. As an Eldar player, ask yourself the last time you've actually felt threatened by an enemy transport aside from it delivering its cargo. The wave serpent is a transport that flies from point A, bypasses point B while rolling down the window and tossing you the bird, and lands on point C.

Next, let's take a look at upgrading a Wave Serpent. In my opinion...don't! I know, I know, I must be crazy since so many tacita writers say that items like star engines are basically required. This all goes back to the concept that taking a unit that's already well costed and adding on upgrades to make it more costly for less effectiveness is just a bad idea. First off, weapons. What weapons should you upgrade your shuriken cannons to? Well, there's Scatter Lasers, Eldar Missile Launchers, Star Cannons, and Bright Lances. Keep in mind that a WS is only BS 3, twin-linked or not, and the foremost function of the WS is to be a transport, and when you have a transport that can move 24" you better be taking advantage of that mobility. That being said, when you flat out, you obviously cannot fire your main weapons so if you're someone who just had to have those 45 point bright lances on your WS, you're now left with a very expensive gun you can't shoot. Not very practical.

This solidifies a concept with the Eldar that will always ring true: to succeed with Eldar, you must use each unit to accomplish whatever task it was specifically designed for. This piece of tactical advice comes from the core rule book, not the Eldar codex. Wave serpents are transports and should rarely be used other wise. That aside, I've killed many marines and destroyed many rhinos with my off the shelf shuriken cannons. Our increased mobility give us the ability to take advantage of an opening and get into the side arc of vehicles like vindicators and easily lock them down from shooting because of the decent volume of twin linked shots coming from your 10 point gun.

The next upgrade for me that I see very little point in is star engines. In a normal game, you're playing on a 72" x 48" board. If you can't maneuver your forces into position with a 24" range then something is just being done wrong. To be quite honest, I think most people use them incorrectly because of disinformation from articles I've read in the past. You cannot use Star Engines after you disembark/embark troops. Period. Check the FAQ. So the idea of kicking out troops on an objective and then jetting out 36" across the board to contest an objective just doesn't work. And here's some food for thought, if you spent fewer points on upgrading your transports, you may be able to afford one more WS with another squad of infantry to send after that elusive objective.

I have a very similar opinion on vectored engines. I have never, ever been in a situation where I have vehemently wished that I had either of these upgrades. Sure, I've lost WSs that have flatted-out and were immobilized, but we're talking about a 15 point upgrade that probably wouldn't even come into effect due to the cover save you have on the wave serpent. Makes little sense to me. Do you know what's cheaper than upgrading your wave serpents with all of this stuff? Put a farseer in there with fortune. Now wish your opponent good luck as he's trying to get past your fortuned cover save and 12 armor value.

Last but not least are spirit stones. I have no bias for or against this upgrade. If I happen to be left with points left over I may add spirit stones. They're not a bad upgrade but they're not exactly one that'll make or break your game. If I do take spirit stones, I make it a point to only upgrade the WSs that are most aggressive in my line up (i.e. a WS carrying fire dragons for example, or striking scorpions).

As a closing comment, don't think that you should never upgrade your wave serpents. Always adapt your lists to your own playing environment. My suggestions should only be treated as general guidelines because there are times I will put scatter lasers on a couple of my WSs for the increased range and extra shot. But if you're someone who runs pimped out wave serpents and really feel that you're not putting enough on the table, slim them down. As 5th edition progresses and armies evolve, the game is now about how much you can put on the table rather than the single strength of an individual unit.

Next up, HQ choices!

–Farseer Frank with contributions and proofreading by Alfonzo