Sunday, July 14, 2013

6th Edition Eldar Codex: Making Flyers work

So as mentioned in my Tau Flyer article, when I was writing that I was actually testing THIS concept:  How to make the Eldar Flyers work.

By testing I mean actually playing it.  So after 12 games, I feel comfy speaking about it more than I did before.  My hesitation was the AV 10 of the Eldar Flyers.  Thy are quite fragile and the interwebz has made a lot of the issue in regards toAV 11 Tau fighters, let alone the AV 10 on Eldar ones.  I share some of the concerns just because on paper, a Bolter can take a plane down.  Got enough bolters, you're set against such a force right?

So the first trick was to address the anti-aircraft issue.  Put simply, a Flyer list is going to struggle if you cannot mitigate the anti-aircraft attacks.  To accomplish that you have to identify the primary threats to be disposed of.

Aegis Defense Guns or bastion guns are both problems.  Tough 7, 3+ armor, 2 wounds requires enough shots and the assumption that the enemy will in some way have cover.  We also have to contend with the Broadside threat.  Now most players have caught on to how good High Yield Missile Broadsides are and of course the Riptides which can be equipped with anti-aircraft ability.  Imperial Guard Vindettas are good at their job against planes and Triple Drakes can Vector Strike you to death like a hawk in the sky, leaving nothing but the bones for the vultures down below.

So for the ground based threats we know we need AP 2+ and we need the fusillade to be deadly in Strength.  As much anti-aircraft as possible must be eliminated before the Eldar planes can function.   After looking through the weapons section, I see only one weapon that can pump out the combination of volume, strength, range and AP we want in order to down 3+ armored guns as well as 2+ armored Broadsides:  The Star Cannon.  I was surprised by this at first, as I had not seen Star Cannons used much since they reduced their rate of fire to 2 in the latest codex's.  Until now, BS 3 made them less attractive.  Now they are BS 4, which very much resurrects their threat profile.  And so the list building began!

But a new question first?  Which platform to fire them from.  Cost-wise the War Walker made the most sense.  Vipers took up a space our planes would need on the FOC.

210pts  3 WarWalkers (all with Dual Star Cannons)

Packed with Star Cannon goodness, there is a very high probability of knocking out the Aegis gun immediately.  Since Broadside units can take a lot of Drones or use their own commander as a level of protection quite often, I opted for yet a second War Walker unit.  This one would have a little more utility:  Assisting the Eldar Flyers in their mission seemed a good idea but putting TOO many missiles in the War Walker unit bloats the cost way beyond reasonable. So I decided to give it a mixed purpose:  First as a last ditch measure if the first unit fails, but also be to Pin the enemy down.

160pts 2 War Walkers (1 w/ Dual Star Cannons, and 1 w/ Scatter Laser+ Eldar Missile Launcher w/Flakk).

I was satisfied at this point that any anti-air the enemy may possess could be handled CONVINCINGLY this way, as well as adding considerable offense against ANY target.  This also gave me a versatile anti-aircraft missile shot in place of a stagnant Aegis Line I would not have benefited from much given the non-stagnant nature of the list.

Now that this essential function was satisfied, I needed troops.  My first attempt was with Pathfinders, reasoning that the many Pinning checks I could force would be failed quite often by the enemy, given the special rules of the Hemlock (The WaithFighter forces enemies within 12" to re-roll their morale/Pinning  tests).  There were flaws in this that were made abundantly clear in test games which weren't as obvious on paper:  First, pinned units had the same basic chance against my flyers as not pinned ones, leaving my Flyers no less vulnerable plus Pathfinders didn't wound often enough;  and the Pathfinders themselves were simply too slow for the endgame on objectives.  Their freedom to deploy well and pin was not enough, in reality, to compensate for their movement shortcoming.  Eldar Missile Launchers were a far better use of the points to cause pinning, as they are mobile and force pin checks RELIABLY now (even their single shot is now pinning!).  It can also take on hordes as well as tanks.  My initial thought was "Okay, replace pathfinders with Guardian Defenders then, and plus I have the War Walker Missile which combined helps me replace the utility of at least two of the Pathfinder units".

120pts  10 Guardian Defenders (Eldar Missile Launcher)

The endgame on objectives still needed to be achieved and as aforementioned, the Pathfinders were just too slow and exposed.  Windrider Jetnbikes were the logical choices.  While not a pinning unit, they were less expensive than another Guardian Squad and could accomplish the mission from reserves.

51pts  3 WindRiders
51pts  3 WindRiders
51pts  3 WindRiders

Okay we wanted an Eldar air force so it's time to select that.  The Hemlock WraithFighter is to be our centerpiece and we will take two of them.  I was quite tempted to take three but then I realized that should I face Triple Drakes et al, impressive anti-aircraft would be necessary in a competitive environment.  A singular War Walker with Skyfire did not seem likely to be the answer.  In any event, the War Walkers primary duty was not anti-aircraft anyways.  So that left us wanting at least one Crimson Hunter, the most feared bird of prey in all of Warhammer 40K potentially.

On the Hemlocks, there really are no upgrades to consider so you just take it stock as is.  On the Crimson Hunter you must decide whether you want to purchase the Exarch for a whopping 20 points!  It's one of the most expensive upgrades out there but it gives your plane BS 5.  My thinking was that I may not have the plane for long and want to maximize it's damage.  The Perfect Strike ability seals it though.  If its hits fail to Glance or Penetrate a flyer (specifically), you can re-roll!  No flyer wants to hear THAT!  The other option you must decide on is whether to be firing 4 STR 8 shots (two of them are lances, 2 from a Pulse laser) OR...  replace the two Lances with Star Cannons.  The thing that ultimately decided it for me was that I WON'T always face aerial attackers and the Exarch can take Marksmans Eye (Precision Shot on a 5+).  The added volume of fire from the Star Cannons when engaging ground targets is simply too good to pass up and 4 STR 6 AP 2 shots to the rear of enemy aircraft using Vector Dancer is equally fearsome when combined with the Perfect Strike ability.

185pts  Hemlock WraithFighter
185pts  Hemlock WraithFighter
190pts  Crimson Huner (Exarch W/Marksmans Eye, 2 x Star Cannons)

The Hemlocks function is to close with the enemy the round they come on (hopefully in turn 2) and force re-rolls on the enemy morale and pinning checks.  Add to this their ability to use the power in the main Rule book called Terrify, and you're attacking the most impotant stat in the game twice a round:  morale.  The Hemlocks two weapons are small blasts, STR 4 AP 2 and obviously prone to being unreliable but you don't have to cause many wounds to force a morale check, especially when they are Terrified!  Once Terrified and falling back, the enemy unit auto-fails morale checks, which makes a unit falls back 4D6 to 6D6 in one turn potentially.  This unique mode of attack really puts pressure on the enemy to either come forward or face falling off the board in Horror.

And that brings us to how we can INSURE that this tactic can be as viable as possible.  Given that we are relying so much on enemy morale to fail, it's an obvious step to then try to take some form of support for the flyers attacks on morale.  Enter the Warlocks.  Though unpredictable in what power they will get, they roll on the Runes of Battle table for their powers and one of those powers is Horrify.  It is only 18" which limits it quite a  bit in practice.  It must be cast at the start of the movement phase like Terrify, limiting it further.  However, it reduces enemy LD by 3!  Imagine the impact that would have on a unit forced to take Terrify checks, Pinning checks, 25% checks and so on.  The downside is, power selection is random so you MUST invest HEAVILY in the Warlocks just to make sure you get it Horrify at least twice.

495pts  9 Warlocks (Jetbikes, 9 x Shining Spears).

Now this unit can do serious anti-tank work with their spears (STR 9 vs. Armour) but of course they also will end up with a huge repertoire of buffs and anti-buffs to influence the battle with.  Horrify is the target power but several others are noteworthy for Jetbikes, especially the one that makes them 2+ armor!  Overall the units function is support early and offense/contesting late.

With four troops choices, the flyers and their heralds taken care of, I felt comfortable moving on to the issue of who would lead this force. Remembering that we want a synergy with the abilities already on the table,I scanned the codex Warlord Traits first to see if here was one that would be of particular value. None really are, other than perhaps An Eye on Distant Events when close enough to the flyers so this really didn't influence my choice.  What did play big on the list though is the fact that, like in the Tau aerial attack post i put n the blog, we are looking to boost our chances of getting the planes in early.  No one but the Autarch and Prince Yriel can do that for us.  The Prince can't be placed on a Jetbike to keep up if I want him to be close enough.  The Spirit Seer would be great, adding another opportunity at Horrify, but he doesn't take a Jetbike, oddly enough, and Horrfiy's range makes a non-jetbike carrier a lot less useful.  That leaves us with the Autarch.  The Autarch is PERFECT for lists that rely on objectives because he gives you the Path of Strategy (+/-1 to reserve roll).  He also can take Remnants of Glory which really help him stay alive and avoid the Slay the Warlord Victory condition.

135pts  Autarch (JetBike, Phoenix Gem, Fusion gun, Power Weapon)

My last purchase hails back to many many games in which a super menace like Mephiston, WraithKnights, Riptides, Tervigons and the like have come in search of Line Breaker or just to kill me.  Having a potent attack to the fore as this army already does still leaves you wondering what to do about the truly ridiculous units like Thunderwolf Cavalry that can cross to the backfield in no time, or Furioso FragDreads et al.  The best all around weapon system Eldar have for ground attack is the EXCELLENT D-Cannon artillery.  I have Zero problem moving and running it up in turn 1 and then unleashing its extremely tough 7 crew on the enemy or alternately just waiting for the drop armies to show up and then bombing them into bite sized morsels that the rest of the force can more easily handle.  The SR 10, AP2 are ridiculously awesome but its Distortion ability has paid dividends in many of my test games, killing Mephison and others outright.  Major threats can be eliminated with one roll of the dice when you unleash Vauls Wrath on someone.

165 Vauls Wrath Battery (3 D-Cannons)

So I present to you the list as it has now evolved.  I'll summarize here and then give you the observations and results I have afterwards::

 210pts  3 WarWalkers (all with Dual Star Cannons)
 160pts 2 War Walkers (1 w/ Dual Star Cannons, and 1 w/ Scatter Laser+ Eldar Missile Launcher w/Flakk)
165 Vauls Wrath Battery (3 D-Cannons)
120pts  10 Guardian Defenders (Eldar Missile Launcher)
51pts  3 Wind Riders
51pts  3 Wind Riders
51pts  3 Wind Riders
 135pts  Autarch (JetBike, Phoenix Gem, Fusion gun, Power Weapon)
495pts  9 Warlocks (Jetgbikes, 9 x Shining Spears)
 185pts  Hemlock WraithFighter
185pts  Hemlock WraithFighter
190pts  Crimson Hunter (Exarch W/Marksmans Eye, 2 x Star Cannons)

Total Points:  1998
Total Models: 46
Total Kill Points: 12

First, the current list is 8-0 in this form, so it is a proven winner.  I don't think that if you added a unit of 'Finders in place of anything on this list, you'd end up happier.  Why?  Count the pinning/Terrify attacks.  There are already five units that can pin or otherwise get the enemy's head down in some fashion.  If you wanted more, you could switch out a War Walkers weapon to make one more unit Pin, or even give the Autarch a Reaper Launcher so he can Pin enemies too.   These changes would cost less than a unit of Pathfinders and add to the Pinning threat likely at the expense of one of the WindRiders.  All good ideas if you're willing to lose the one Bike Squad and perhaps you are willing?

The art of the list is this:
Warwalkers deploy (if there's an Aegis) or Outflank (if not).  Their job:  annihilate an entire anti-air Squad or just start ending entire OTHER squads.  And they will, believe me.

The Autarch and Seer Council flow towards the side the jets will likely be on.  At beginning of turn two, they need to be within 18" of their Horrify target.  Going second makes this easier to do.  Going second is a strong play for this army.  The Autarch will break off to attack a unit on his own to protect the rest of the Seer Council from being tied up if necessary and he is pretty hearty against normal threats, especially against low tough creatures his Phoenix Gem is sure to hurt..  The Seer Council are generally fast enough and tough enough that the enemy will really struggle to shoot them dead and will not very often be able to reach them in melee at all because the enemy closest to them are going to be running away very very soon.

WindRiders will  generally lag behind and prepare to gank objectives.  I have used the Cannons on them and they are very useful.  Remember that their guns will rend as will the Guardians who generally lag behind to claim rear objectives and pin people.

Meanwhile the Vauls Wrath Battery takes up position, soaks fire and generally scares the crap out of people.  The Seer Council can heal the actual Gun if it avoids dying totally, so sometimes its good to keep that in mind when you deploy it.  Best way is deploy towards the enemy with two Guardian Gunners followed by a gun and then two more gunners and so on when you can pull it off.  Four wounds on that Battery is not so easy to get in order to kill the gun outright and regenerating a wound on one makes for a much longer day for the enemy.

The Crimson Hunter annihilates flyer threats and then starts sniping heavy weapons while the Hemlocks force the enemy against the wall for the War Walkers and other units to inexorably destroy.  It is rare for the enemy to get to the backfield against this force with much strength and it is often a short lived effort.

Only three of the twelve games have gone the distance.  The other games were very early surrenders.  I am not only happy with the performance of the list but also happy with its uniqueness.  It isn't a list everyone is touting, but it has proven quite effective.


  1. You look like you have done the research and it all looks solid. I can't poke holes in anything you have said but it might be interesting to know what armies you have played against?

    If I imagined a battle against that exact list and my standard lists (orks and necrons) then I am not sure things would work out as smoothly.

    My general tendency against flyer-heavy armies is to just ignore the flyers and try to wipe out the ground forces, starting with the scoring units.

    But again, this is all armchair theory. I liked the article.

  2. Really solid list however I would drop the number of warlocks on jetbikes to 5 as I think 9 is a bit excessive. This could free up some points to grab a Farseer on a jetbike or a 3rd warwalker for that second squad. I might try out this list myself.

  3. Laser Cut Card:
    I posted that info on another forum. I'll transpolant it here. In order the opponents were these:

    1st Game: ended in Turn 3 enemy Surrender. (Tau)

    2nd Game: ended in turn 3 enemy surrender (Nathan's Blood Angels again)

    3rd Game: ended in turn 3 enemy surrender (Armored Imperial Guard)

    4th game: Ended in turn 2 enemy surrender. (Slaanesh Chaos Space Marines)

    5th game: Ended in turn 6. (Slaanesh Chaos Space marines)

    5th Games: Ended in turn 4 enemy surrender (Shooty Orks)

    6th Games: Ended in 5 (complete game, 8-0 Victory over Blood Angels)

    7th game: Ended in turn 3 enemy surrender (Salamanders)

    8th Game Ended in turn 6, 8-6 Victory (Tau + Nurgle Allies)

    The Troops are reserves, so knocking them out would be difficult. The Planes press the enemy back pretty effectively making 36" range weaponry a little less cool than it normally would be.

    In my one Ork game the Orks ranges made it almost impossible to do anything. They would approach, then run away. Only the Lootas could do anything and they were quickly killed by those aforementioned War Walkers. I lost the War Walkers in the end, but not before they had wiped out two Loota Squads (one in melee). Lootas are the most important unit to have against my force though.

  4. John O Conner: There is a rhyme to the madness of the Seer Council. Horrify is very important to the strategy, and you roll randomly for your powers now, as you know. So while it is a very expensive unit, it is also very necessary. If you roll 9 times, you average 1.5 Horrify's. Two is your goal so there's no room to take less in the Seer Council. Also, the bikes with their various Runes of Battle powers actually become VERY difficult to kill. T4, Shrouded with 2+ armor and super fast? It is quite possible with that unit! Their Spears are like mobile Lascannons and their TL Shurikens that rend are no picnic to get hit by either. So the size of that unit is a necessary evil. I do understand that it's ruthlessly expensive but you HAVE to support the flyers if you're going to build this list. You can't allow the enemy to make those morale checks too often, because this army only features 46 models! Surety above all is important for keeping the momentum of the force going. I found out in my last game against Tau how frustrating it can be NOT to have enough Horrify. Sure the enemy was re-rolling, but they were now re-rolling on normal LD and that cost me two jets. That was why that mission was so close in its score.

  5. Hi, interisting list setup! Will also want to try it one day.

    However, how do you deal with fearless armies?

  6. I encourage you to do so quite soon!

    Fearless armies are fine. Read the Terrify power, and you will see what I mean. =)

  7. Very interesting list. I like. Might be worth trialling some iyandan council + wraithguard instead of warlocks. This would also allow a seer instead of autarch. More powers more reliably. Not as fast but another terrify possibility or psychic shriek to compound the leadership shenanigans.

  8. The Autarchs ability to affect the reserves is priceless for this list in practice. I would agree that the Spiritseers would make for anice extra level of surety but the truth is, I need those reserves to be reliable, as you cannot use maledictions except at the start of movement. that rule really makes the reserves roll big.

  9. How would you adjust this for 1850 points?

  10. Two War Walkers would be deleted in that case. It scales very well I think.

  11. Just noticed this while glancing through, you talked about autarch can pin reaper launcher, he only gets starswarm missiles not starshot, so he can't pin via it. Although he can get the sniper rifle artifact and use that with his relentless bike i supose.

  12. Just one more option to consider. I think that is a decent idea actually.

  13. My largest concern was "And They Shall Know No Fear", because it's a specifically named power that isn't Fearless, and is therefore not countered by Terrify. Is this your opinion as well, and how do you handle it if so?

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. No problem there, because what "And they shall Know no Fear" says is that they are immune to Fear if they have this special Rule.

    While Terrify DOES make them treat enemies as having Fear, the marines are simply not affected by that fact. Effectively Space marines ignore the Fear that Terrify generates but still take the morale test.

    It is not really that big a deal. Most of the time there would be no combat happening to the ones falling back anyways so the Fear thing hardly matters.

  16. Thanks for the response. ATSKNF does allow marines to be useful immediately after a regroup as well, of which they have about a 65% chance of doing (2 morale checks at a 9). Has this been sufficiently effective for you in your test games? Reducing that would put your warlock council within bolter range a good bit of the time (18 in, -7 fallback, +3 consolidate). I will conceed the jetbikes go a long way to fixing that. Are you hitting multiple squads with a single Hemlock? Is the strategy only worthwhile with the 2 or is a single flyer sufficent?

    The total chance of a marine squad failing enough morale checks to fall back twice (neutralized) is 12%, which seems a bit low for a 185 point gambit.

    I'm mostly trying to separate the natural math from your tactics. Was this effective because it has good numbers or effective because you outmaneuvered your marine opponent?

  17. Two Hemlocks are essential for this and a third wouldn't hurt. But the Crimson Hunter is so good at its job that its hard not to take one. One Hemlock isn't enough.

    The issue for the enemy is this:

    Horrfiy: Drops LD by 3. Terrify: forces Morale at -3. Reroll if successful. That is a VEY good chance of knocking them backwards.

    Follow this up with just two-3 wounds and they are forced to fall back AGAIN in the same round. So a normal troops choice on foot falls back 4D6 inches, a Jump units 6D6. You can see how devastating that could be.

    Now that ZHemlocks are close, the pinning units in the army can also pin down two more units like this, though horrify may or may not be available tyo affect them, but the re-rolls will still work. So in theory, the Pinning units in my army in conjunction with the Terrify and the 25$ loss checks could force as many as three morale checks, all having to vbe re-rolled potentially (or some combination).

    Has it worked? Its 11-0. So yes: so far.

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