Tuesday, May 26, 2015

7th Edition Eldar on the Wing!

With more time reading through the Dex, and thinking back on battles won and lost, I am finding new things to be excited about in the Eldar codex.

In the last codex, when they made the Elite Warp Spiders into Fast Attack choices (and rightly so) it put an end to my dream of playing an army on the wing.

With the new Aspect Host Formation, it has made it possible once more, with a Battle Forged army (the only kind I advocate or care to play) to do so.

The basic idea was to have 3 units of Warp Spiders and three units of Swooping Hawks as the center of it.  Obviously its spammy, but it's a cool theme and I'll be honest:  "spam" is rapidly losing its weight with me as an argument not to play something, given the way certain codex's now read.  It is just WISDOM to do it in some cases.  The ridiculousness of Imperial Knights and even of the Eldar Wraith Knight illustrate for me very clearly the need to take extreme measures if one wants to actually compete in games where they are involved.  It isn't as if the Eldar have Meltaguns they can cheaply throw into units.  For Eldar you have to take a specialized unit (Fire Dragons) or you need to take fairly expensive and specialized weapons like the D-Cannons (24" range is easy for Knights to stay out of) or Hemlock Heavy D-Scythes (but their gun is nerfed and is actually worse in some ways than a Meltagun since it can't cause 4 Hull Points like a Meltagun can) or the dreaded Wraithguard.  The Wraithguard get the job done by dent of automatically hitting, so if you get enough of them, it's nigh impossible not to kill a Knight with them.

But if we are after a theme here, and we are, then Wraithguard and Fire Dragons just don't fit.  Only fast things do.

To make the list work, you need the ingredients.  Anti-air is on that list big time.  Swooping Hawks now make a haywire attack against flyers they pass over (against side armor if its  flyer)!  What's more is they can actually move 18" by using their wings, so this is fairly easy to do, albeit it will require that you position yourself well in round one and you will likely have to accept some enemy fire before pulling it off.  Still, it's terribly effective if you have enough of them and since the attack is in the movement phase there is no Jinking from it.  It's just not a shooting attack!  Only the Tyranids have something similar in their lists.

Obviously, Warp Spiders have been seen as their own form of anti-air, though that really is a hit or miss proposition without Psyker support.  What's next on the list?

Another thing every army has to have is some psyker defense.  While it isn't strictly speaking necessary, I think we can all agree that you are better off having it than not.  We are talking about the CraftWorlds here after all.  But to qualify for THIS list it has to be fast and nothing is faster in all of 40K than Eldar Jetbikes and the Skyrunners can be extremely effective units anyways.

So for this list I've decided to go with the Seer Council.  This is another Formation and having already tried the unit without Farseers, I assure you its far more devastating with them.  The Formation requires two plus a unit of Warlock Conclave.  I decided to choose 7 Warlock Conclave so that I can get a third Psychic power rolls from the Conclaves Runes of Battle.  Thinking about the list, I have decided that in general I will only want to have Psychic Focus on ONE of the Farseers.  the reason is that you cannot fire off the same power from a unit twice.  So it will make sense to have the first Farseer roll on the Runes (for Guide and the various other excellent powers like Fortune), and then have the second one get Psychic Shriek for Anti-FMC (Flying Monstrous Creatures) work as well as for general work from the Telepathy school of thought and then decide whether to roll on Telepathy or Runs after that.  If I have to give up Psychic Focus, I definitely will to make sure I get a shot at Fortune and Psychic Shriek both.  So it will come down to how the first Farseer rolls.   The risk of duplicating powers makes giving up Psychic Focus seem wise in most cases.

Psychic Shriek is terribly good against FMC's because the Warlock Conclave can cast Horrify on a unit first.

So we've done what we can about anti-air and we have done what we can for Psyker defense.  the Seer Council Formation gives you a considerable ability to blunt other Psykers.

Now we look at other areas.  Clearly as we've explored many times, the need to kill AV 14 is always important.  Fortunately the Swooping Hawks can haywire them to death.  But you can't ask the Swooping Hawks to do everything for you, so its wise to take Singing Spears on the Seer Council if you can afford them just to add a little more anti-armor output that DOESN’T require melee.  At STR 9, they are at least a halfway decent addition and the alternatives are few and far between for this theme.  So adding as many as you can afford is probably worthwhile.  They kill just about any vehicle and an Imperial Knight is GOING to show up and you will want it to be as weak as you can get it before it hits you and stomps you to death.  The Swooping Hawks can use the help so that their dwindling numbers wont make it impossible for them to finish their mission.

Then there are hordes.  This force is built for it.  The Horde is somewhat of a metabreaker type force because while you can take a lot of fancy weapons to deal with enemy units in usual numbers, a hordeish unit can make all those shiny things into really expensive paper weights.  You don’t see the horde armies as much now but being foolish enough not to have an answer isn't a path to victory.  We need fire hoses to unload on such forces and this force has them.  The Swooping Hawks drop their Grenade packs on unsuspecting hordes and then unload with their 3-shot lasblsters.  Now because you can take the Swooping Hawks as part of an Aspect Host, they can be at BS 5!  This turns the normally innocuous STR 3 AP 5 shots into an actually useful fusillade.  Consider that you can use Doom on a target to re-roll to-wound rolls; or perhaps even get lucky by selecting the Warlord trait Amush of Blades (re-roll 1's to wound 1/game for a phase).  Either one, or both, of those eventualities can make you pretty scary.  The Blinding effect of the Swooping Hawk Exarchs Sun Rifle is fantastically useful because many hordes don't have world class initiative (Gaunts being one exception).  As hordes go, I think we can agree that the Warp Spiders are also ideally suited for the duty as well, for they too can be made BS 5 with their bullet hoses!!!  The Seer Council may roll and get Eldritch Storm which is a really nasty power now that its fleshbane.  A 7" radius fleshbane blast?  Wow.  The possibilities are there.

2+ Elite armies like Paladins and Riptides are our next stop.  There's been a well known maxim in 40K since I started which is that if you force enough saves even 2+ armor will yield to your tender mercies.  The sun does however shine on a dogs butt every once in a while and we have to be ready just in case.  Elite type armies will find TWO threats in the force we are building, though I will freely admit that a themed force like this will certainly rely more on volume of fire.  The first answer is leadership.  This force does do a good job of attacking leadership.  The Seer Council can kill half a dozen wounds off in one stroke at times.  The Warp Spider Exarchs can take Spineret Rifles while Death Spinners are essentially Rending against non-vehicles.  Jetbikes have a similar ability with their Shuriken Catapults.  The Autarchs can take fusion Guns.  All of this adds up to a passable ability to take on 2+ armored foes, albeit we would want to do so at range for as long as possible.

Our last test is going to be whether or not the army is mobile enough to take objectives?  Clearly the Eldar Jetbikes have proven their worth many times over for taking objectives and an objective secured one is even better.  Couple these with the rest of the fast moving army and you really cant be denied any sector of the board very easily.

So such a winged host might look something like this:

Aspect Host Formation (+1 Ballistic Skill):
3 units of 9 Warp Spiders (Exarchs w/ Power Blades + Spinneret Rifles)

Aspect Host Formation (+1 Ballistic Skill):
3 units of 7 Swooping Hawks (Exarchs w/Power Axe + SunRifles)

Seer Council Formation( 3+ to harness Warp Charges):
2 Farseers (Singing Spears) + 7 Warlock Conclave (Singing Spears)

Combined Arms Detachment:
Autarch (Swooping Hawk Wings, Banshee mask, Shard of Anaris)
3 units of 3 WindRiders


This is a pretty darn compact force coming in at just 67 models, so don't be in a big hurry to lose models in senseless unit exchanges.  10 Kill Points is on the lower end of normal so you have to make every move matter.  The Warlocks really shouldn't get in melee if they can help it, as with most of the army.  Even though the units are actually outfitted to give a little hell back to the enemy when forced, this is more to allow them the chance to bounce out using Hit and Run, in the case of the Warp Spiders.  The Swooping Hawks who are far less melee capable can use their Power Axe to even the odds a bit and give them a fighting chance at surviving.  If they can just win by one, the LD shenanigans of the Seer Council could send the Swooping Hawks foes running into the hills and now that Exarchs come with two wounds, it's not as great a risk to lose initiative and strike with the AP 2 and +1 STR.  If you felt giving up your initiative advantage was a big enough threat often enough, a Power Maul would also work well.