Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Court of the Archon unleashed!

So I have been play testing a list, checking it twice, trying to find out if its naughty or nice.  Among the articles I have written here in the last year or so has been some focus on melee oriented armies.  After all it became an unorthodox way to play as 6E took flight.  It deserved attention for the sake of those people who had always kind of “dug” close combat armies and now were feeling like their army had a 5th wheel on the car.

7th Edition is much more forgiving to melee armies, but it is still a shooting man’s game.  It takes creativity and often the use of units that don’t see the light of day as often as they should.  Such units are under valued at times because they come with a “tax” character, or because the unit has a built-in tax that players maybe don’t like.  Sometimes the units are looked at in comparison at doing a part of their job while not valuing the versatility they bring to other parts. 

First, the army itself:
Combined Arms Detachment 1
5 Wracks (Liquifier)
Raider (Disintegrator Cannon, Enhanced Aethersails, Torment Grenade Launchers)

5 Wracks (Liquifier)
Raider (Disintegrator Cannon, Enhanced Aethersails, Torment Grenade Launchers)

5 Kabalite Trueborn (3 Blasters, 2 Splinter Cannons, Haywire Grenades)
Venom (Night Shields, Flicker Field, Additional Splinter Cannon)

5 Kabalite Trueborn (3 Blasters, 2 Splinter Cannons, Haywire Grenades)
Venom (Night Shields, Flicker Field, Additional Splinter Cannon)

4 Grotesques (Liquifier Gun, Aberration has Venom Blade, Master Haemonculus upgrade)
Raider (Disintegrator Cannon, Enhanced Aethersails, Torment Grenade Launchers)

Archon (Plasma Grenades, Phantasm Grenade Launcher, Huskblade + Blaster Pistol, Ghost Plate Armor, Shadow Field, Soul Trap, Combat Drugs)

Urien Rakarth (Casket of Flensing, Ichor Gauntlet+Close Combat Weapon, Clone Field)

Court of the Archon (3 Sslyth, 4 Ur-Ghul, 2 Medusae, 1 Lhamaean)

Raider (Disintegrator Cannon, Enhanced Aethersails, Torment Grenade launchers)

BeastMasters (5 Beast Masters with 1x Power Axe, 4 Clawed Fiends, 2 Razorwing Flocks)

Combined Arms Detachment 2
3 Wracks

3 Wracks

Haemonculus (Venom Blade, Liquifier gun, Crucible of Malediction)

What is the plan here?
Now this is the third incarnation of this particular list.  Like most of my lists, I kind of mutate the list as I go, but try to keep the fundamental building blocks unchanged.  The original version had a Razorwing Jetfighter, and I REALLY like that model as I like the VoidRaven Bomber.  Both are fantastic.  But Dark Elder can suffer horrendously from their lack of Psykers and they have but one item that can handle Psykers.  It is the Crucible of Malediction.  This nefarious item forces a LD test on all Psykers within its range, once per game.  In conjunction with Torment Grenade Launchers (anyone within 6” of the Raider takes -1 to LD) the Crucible can be the most accurate Sniper shot you’ll ever get at a super Psyker army.  So the jetfighter had to go and in its place is a second Combined Arms Detachment carrying the Crucible. 

This force contains three hammers. 

One hammer,  the Grotesques, is sheer brute force trauma to the brain pan.  They charge at STR 7 and have multiple wounds, multiple attacks and high toughness, Feel No Pain and of course, are accompanied by the dark Overlord of pain, Urien Rakarth whose incredibly annoying ability to tank is well documented.  He can keep a strike force of Grotesques upright and fighting Fearlessly for a while in close combat.  Fair to say, the Grotesques provide immense punch and we deliver them through the use of the Raiders Aethersails, quite literally to the front door in round one.  The Aethersail also allows the craft to move an average of 7” further than normal, so if going second, it can hide a little easier at a safer distance than it could without the Sail before it does this.   Not as reliable as the Night Shield but then, reliable enough to deliver us to the point of attack.  The plan is to Jink when shot at and allow the Raider to die at the very gates of the enemy.
To protect the unit should the Raider hull not hold up for as LONG as we hope, we will be bringing the Archon with the unit.  First, the Shadowfield makes him a valuable shield for shots that aren’t STR 6+.  Second, he carries the Phantasm Grenade Launcher.  However the goal with him is to get him into position and defend the Grotesques for a round BUT…  In the following round he is to join a different unit right before the charge.  In this way I can bolster the other unit (Beast Masters or the Court) depending on which one needs the help most.  Fittingly, the Archon does not slow the Beastmasters down much when charging and gives them a real boost on leadership.  Alternatively, the Court of the Archon may need his help.  Since Grotesques are there as anti-tank above other duties, they won’t always NEED the Launcher, so taking it out and joining the other two units makes sense.  They are far more likely to attack peoples than Grotesques.

The 2nd hammer is the BeastPack.  It’s very fast and able to keep up with the suicide Raiders, charging in round 2.  The BeastPack is built not only for anti-personnel, but as a secondary unit for anti-tank charges.  They begin the game as majority toughness 3 so arranging them in the right order is important.  4 Skyboarders need to lead and take casualties.  Then you’ll want the Razorwing flocks because they now become majority Toughness 5 (technically) with 5 wounds (Because the Clawed Fiends are now in the majority once the 4 Skyboarders die).  In doing it this way you are ensuring the unit is as tough as it can be.  After it swarms over its first victim, the Skyboarder provides FnP to the unit.  So if you wanted some insurance, place 3 skyboarders and one Razorwing flock up front and two skyboarders In the back to protect the eventual FnP token.  Regardless of how you do it, the idea is the same:  Get to toughness 5 as Quickly as possible.  Because of the Clawed fiend rules, you definitely want to take a wound or two on them so make sure as you move to try and put one in danger a little bit just to up its attacks.  Each wound they take is another attack added to their profile!  Generally you want them on the side that has some cover for them to utilize on the approach.  As the Raiders are incredibly fast, it truly doesn’t matter that they BE on the sides at all; but it IS advisable to make sure their first movement takes them out of LOS or into cover to the extent possible.  As such, deploying them first makes sense.  Their placement kind of determines the other units placement; because you want the Archon close enough to join either the Beasts or the Court.  Placing the Beasts first makes it easier to plan out that strategy.
The Court is a hybrid unit.  It actually shoots frighteningly well at short range and just also happens to be good at melee!  It’s also very much like the beastpack in the way you place models in an attempt to eventually become Tough 5.  Same rules apply:  Lhamaean, and Ur-Ghuls in the front, Sslyth and Medusae in the back until ready to strike.  Medusae have to come to the front eventually to drop their EXCELLENT template weapons but not until then.  Despite how fragile the unit can be, it is deadly on the charge.  As it is the most susceptible to damage of the three hammers, you must carefully consider who their first targets will be.  When deploying them, give thought to this.  An isolated target they can slam into turn two, finish in turn 3, and charge again is ideal.  Think three moves ahead when using them.  Having said that they are astonishingly brutal, in particular once they have Power From Pain going on.  They can kill an entire Space marine unit in a round with little difficulty, though they generally are hoping JUST enough survive so they can nestle in combat for the enemies shooting phase.  First with two STR D6+1 and AP D6 templates, then with 9 poisoned shots from Carbines and and then with 31 STR 5 attacks (without a pain token) plus their other less impressive members attacks.  It’s really impressive to see.  I’ve drowned several units with wounds from it.  I’ll be the first to tell you they are a finesse unit, a Scalpel that is for surgical kills and preferably the kind that don’t leave them totally exposed afterwards.  So like the other units in the force you have to map out where you REALLY want them to be at the end of each phase before committing them.
So the hammers are explained and their usage and nuances clear, preferred targets made manifest and weaknesses exposed.  Okay fine.   Now what?

Well we literally shove them all into the enemies face round one.  Not much shooting going on.  Not much need.  We’re daring the enemy to come out of their coffins or to limit their fire.   Their choice.  We go in knowing the Raiders are forfeit so not a lot of Wargear needed. 
The fourth Hammer is a haemonculus.  He carries the Crucible to the front in a unit of 5 Wracks and unleashes it, trying to kill every Psyker there is within range.  He won’t succeed in killing them all but the proximity of the Torment Grenade launchers should give us two things:  first, hopefully some Psyker kills.  Second:  it will cause the enemy if he is Psyker heavy, to chase the Haemonculus instead of the hammers.  And let’s be honest:  that can only benefit me even if they succeed.  The force has actually functioned without the added threat of it and so with it, it becomes THAT much harder on the enemy because what do they shoot first?  Can they shoot their high percentage stuff at the Crucible at the expense of stopping no hammers?  What if they whiff on one or two?  Can they give up on it then?  At what price?
All the while, there are other units operating.  The Trueborn are skulking and taking aim, trying to pop the cans of the enemy open and force the squishy innards into the charge distance of my hammers.  But they ALSO move up aggressively, because they carry haywire Grenades and of course if all else fails, slapping sticky bombs on the side of Land Raiders works.  They yet provide another problem for the enemy because when the Trueborn are left in place, they and their venom can spew 24 Poisoned shots and 3 Blaster shots a round.  It really is a lot.

The added Wracks are just there for objectives.  Though small and weak as units, they can reserve and hide and generally make enemies commit things they’d rather not  to the task of the Wracks demise.   Another distraction so the enemy will see the hand but not the knife as I like to say.
The Wracks in Raiders are also Objective Secured and they are at least passable in melee.  More menacing though is the support they can give the assaulter with their Liquifiers.  An AP D6 flamer is nothing to sneeze at.  Poisoned attacks can also prove useful against things like riptides and less combat effective enemy groups.

So there it is.  Some have already contributed to the mutation of the list.  Your thoughts?


  1. Very interesting (and unorthodox) list! I too have been running a Court as a swiss army knife / distraction unit, although I run mine with 3 Sslyth and 1 of each of the remaining members so they start out at majority T5. It's not the most points efficient unit, but it can be a lot of fun and surprises a lot of opponents.

    Just wanted to point out that the beasts in the beastpack do not have the 'Power from Pain' special rule, and therefore would not benefit from FnP or Furious Charge. They can however benefit from Fearless if the beastmasters can get that 3rd token. Still, they are an awesome unit!

    1. We've had these discussions a lot but the rule is clear: The pain tokens are accumulated by the Beast Master or person with the rule. However the EFFECTS are shared with the Dark Eldar UNIT. So as long as someone with the ability is in the Dark Eldar unit, it is shared. However, models without the rule cannot have the pain tokens (obviously). So if the BeastMasters die, then the unit loses the tokens. Also if a character joins the unit with Pain tokens, it cannot leave any behind unless someone in the unit has the rule to take them. That is how we've always played it and every debate seems to come to the same conclusion in the end. I imagine the wording will be tighter soon enough.

      Another Example of that same thing is the Court of the Archon. Careful who dies, because if you lose the guys who can have pain tokens, you lose the benefit immediately. An Archon with Pain tokens empowers his UNIT with them also as do Haemonculus.

      In the next codex I am hoping they will tighten up the wording. They never envisioned it being used on allies when they wrote it and most agree that it is Dark Eldar units that can benefit according to the wording. it should read like this: "If at least one model with this rule who carries a Pain Token is in the unit, then the benefits are conferred to models from Codex: Dark Eldar in that unit. Only Codex: Dark Eldar models with the rule may actually have any tokens and if they are removed, the tokens are lost."


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