Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bringing Eldar into the 5th Edition - Troops

Rather recently, I read an article about how to use certain a certain troops choice, and it made me realize the myriad of verious play styles that exist out there and how they could be applied to try and achieve victories in this wonderful game of 40K...but not all strategies should be left to hoping for a solid dice roll. What I think is really important for all Eldar players to recognize and understand is a core concept that's even stated right in the 40K core rule book (at least in the 5th edition version) about Eldar is that the key to victory is to use them for exactly what they were designed for. I don't care if Dire Avengers have an option to get an awesome power weapon in their squad. They're a rather fragile but highly skilled shooting unit. They should only be shooting, and should never be thrown into an assault, in my humble opinion at least.

I could write a longer tirade about that particular article, but I'll move on for all of our sakes.

The Eldar have some good options in the troops section of their codex, and not because we have a myriad of options, but because the units that are good, are really good, and I'm going to start off with the best: Dire Avengers.

The Dire Avengers are the epitome of Eldar specification at its best (aside from Fire Dragons, but that's a later article). Their 18" range is absolutely killer in this game where a battle can be turned by a decisive assault, and allows them to do something that is rather rare in the current 40k game: murder their opponent at range. These guys are cost efficient and, one the best things about them in my opinion, they can be taken in squads of 5. This allows for good combinations (Falcons w/5 Dire Avengers inside of them...mmmmmmm). There's two ways in my eyes of how these guys should be run: full 10 man squad with an Exarch with Dual Shuriken Catapults and Bladestorm, or in a squad of 5 to attach to a grav tank to make it a scoring unit. The melee options for the Exarch, while good, are made subpar because they don't offer anything to make the Dire Avengers a unit to be truly respected in close combat. Only the Exarch is good in close combat, not the rest of the squad. The strategy of hoping a bladestorm will bring a unit down enough so that an assault from Dire Avengers will be worthwhile is just bad. For starters, the Eldar have no assault vehicles, so if your serpent has moved, there goes the idea of charging. Not only that, hoping that a bladestorm will be enough to take a squad of, say, tactical marines to a point of being able to fall to an assault from Dire Avengers is a pipe dream. I have had plenty of times where a target of one of my bladestorms has lost barely anything. Dice are finicky creatures, so hoping they'll always be in your favor, or even average for that matter, is bad, bad, bad! And if you got that bad roll and now you have no choice but to assault because you put yourself in assault range, well, you're f%#@&$!

Now, for the staple unit of any Eldar army...fluff wise anyway. Guardians aren't to the point of being unusable...they're just not Dire Avengers. There are two ways to run them: ranged guardians with a heavy weapon or storm (black) guardians. I've run both, and, with good planning, they are usable. Regular guardians are intended to be a way of getting a "cheap" heavy weapon on the table. Unfortunately they cost too much to do this! But, if you really wanted to use them, I'd go with the Scatter Laser as my weapon choice. It's cheaper, has good range, strength 6 will always be useful, and with it's higher volume of shots, even a guardian can hit with his ballistic skill of 3. Stick these guys in cover with a warlock with embolden.

Storm guardians I think are a better way to go if you plan around them with the proper synergy. A full 10 man squad of these guardians with 2 flamers (forget the fusion guns) and a warlock with destructor can wreak havoc as an anti-infantry unit, but there's one problem with this assault unit: they suck in assaults. They are guardians after all. And, despite their 8 point cost, they're a little too expensive for a disposable squad. Fire Dragons make better disposable meltas and very few units in the Eldar codex can survive the initial charge of an assault. My thoughts on storm guardians is to run them next to an assault unit, ideally warlocks on bikes. This way, you can move your guardians in a serpent to the enemy along with your psychic biker gang, kick them out to fire their flamers, and use the warlocks to assault the survivors and hopefully allow your guardians to survive to get at least one more volley of fire from their flamers.

Next would be jetbike guardians. Not a bad unit, but not very big "wow" factor here either. The bikes give them the equivalent durability of a space marine and essentially make them very fast. They're a scoring unit, so some like to take the minimum squad of 3 and hide them behind LoS obscuring cover so they can jet out and grab an objective in the late game. Seems to be a waste to me. I like the idea of using these guys in jetbike themed armies, and that's about it. They have good synergy with a mechanized list, but again cost and little "wow factor" keeps these guys from making my lists.

Now, if the foot based game was still prevalent, the next choice, rangers, would likely be king. They are good at what they do: long range fire support and tough to kill with their possible 2+ cover saves. As far as durability goes, these guys are probably the most durable troops choice in the codex and they still get the old rending rule. They do have a lot going against them though right now. For starters, while long range, they have a low rate of fire and can't effectively deal with tanks. This makes getting something into assault range of them fairly easy, unless you dedicate a portion of your army (probably nothing more than one unit) to protecting their avenue of approach, you're not going to get much use out of them. Also, there's the cost factor again. Not too costly (cheaper than guardians with a heavy weapon platform), but they don't do much. Sure they can sit on an objective in cover with a 2+ save and take pop shots, but when the going gets tough, they fall to pieces. Although not superstars in assaults (as previously mentioned) Dire Avengers at least have a chance to do well.

In closing, Dire Avengers are so amazing, they're the default choice. The others aren't horrid, but they're not as good. Storm guardians can definitely kick ass and take names if used carefully, but the smallest mistake can lead to their downfall, and scoring units, in my opinion, should never really be considered fodder on a general level.

-Farseer Frank

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