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Picking Your Eldar Army 101

Submitted By: theriddles Date: May 15, 2009, 11:19:52 PM Views: 8149
Summary: Written by Theriddles. An article dedicated to the selection of the army and units, and the tactical intent. This is a 3rd edition codex article, but some of the principles are still useful. It could be updated to current edition, but this would require a fair amount of work.

We see so many lists on the strategy and tactics boards from newer players and vets alike who like the community to air their views. A common error is often pointed out and debates are raised over certain units and their uses.

Your general strategy should be in place when you deploy. You cannot be a completely reactionary force as your opponent will then control the pace and flow of the game. To have a strategy in place, you need to know well the units in your army and what they can do.
It is clear, then, that the selection of your army and the units within it are the very beginning of the tactical process.

Once you accept that, you have to sit down and ask yourself, "What do I want this army to do?"

The Eldar are unlike many of the other races in that we have very specific units who are good at one or two jobs. It is important to remember that a squad of howling banshees, for example, will not do the same variety of things a marine tactical squad will do. Once you have this in place, building your army depends on your style of play. If the answer is "I want this army to hit early and fast", your unit selection will be different to the player who answers "I want to shoot my opponent down before he gets to me."
While it is tempting to put lots of wargear into Exarchs and tool up your seer councils, it is inefficient. Have a squad do a job and make sure your army works together. Let the squads who are by their nature versatile be versatile and play to the strengths of the ones who are not. This unfortunately means that tactically you have to be so much more aware than some other armies, especially if you play Craftworld variant lists with expensive troops options.

General principles to work to:
1. If a squad is specialized, leave it that way. Do not put an Exarch there for 'versatility' as the rest of the squad is wasted when the Exarch does his/her thing. A good example of this would be the reaper Exarch with missile launcher. If used as anti-tank the other reapers are wasted. If used for ap4 horde pinning, the other reapers cannot fire at the hive tyrant heading towards you.

2. Efficiency is key. Less wargear on your guys means more guys on the board to do things. I am a firm believer in this. Any wargear you take should be essential (holo field and spirit stones on a falcon for example) to the role the unit is to perform.

3. Eldar units are, in the majority, fragile. If you are not protecting things with cover or transports, they will die. It doesn't matter that they have a good armor save or the cost as much as a marine, they are still toughness 3.

3.5. Guardians out of cover die, accept it. They are still useful.

4. If you are going to hit the enemy, hit them hard and as one so they have no time to react. Most armies will deal with a smaller threat in time to deal with the slower threat (infiltrating scorpions and footslogging wraithlords, for example).

In the assessment below, I will deliver a verdict on whether a unit is offensive of defensive. This merits explanation:

Offensive armies for Eldar players tend to adopt the swordwind approach. Fast hitting aspects, usually close combat ones, get up close and personal with the enemy. This is not, however, the only way to play. Ulthwe Strike Force armies are usually offensive, involving a close combat aspect squad and large amounts of enhanced storm guardians emerging from the portal close to the enemy. An army with large amounts of concealed and/or enhanced storm guardians is also counted as offensive.

Defensive armies concentrate on the large amount of firepower that the Eldar can produce. Guardian defender squads with heavy weapons usually form the core of these armies, with some form of counter charge to deal with deep striking, infiltrating or fast units. An Ulthwe army like this can be particularly efficient with two squads of black guardians and the supporting powers of a council. Vyper heavy Saim-hann armies can also do this, though in a different style of play.

Farseer/Seer Council -
a versatile choice. The average Farseer with wargear costs as much as an Avatar so the choice is yours. He is necessary for warlocks, though so that is a big consideration. Note that the versatility is a strength of the HQ choice, not of the unit on the field. By that I mean a Farseer with 100 points spent on wargear to make him good at several different jobs will invariably be a waste of points as he will only ever do one job in a battle. The same goes for the seer council. They can support your battle line with their powers and combat ability and they can bust tanks or deal with high toughness enemies. They can't do all of this at once, remember. Verdict – either

Avatar -
The avatar is a close combat monster. Because of his high initiative, he can take most HQ choices and units. However his downfall is his speed. While the rest of the Eldar army is fast with fleet of foot/transporting abilities, the avatar gets neither. Those who footslog him up the board usually find him shot to pieces (I personally do not see this a viable strategy to protect other units so will not consider this). The best way, then, to combat his poor speed, is to not play a fast hitting army. Verdict – defensive

Phoenix Lords -
a viable choice for a bit of variety. Most of them are overpriced but can add some really nice bonuses to a squad - Baharroth and a tooled up swooping hawk Exarch is pretty deadly with the hit and run ability, Asurmen will hold his own against anyone. All are assault based and should be used in offensive armies. There are two that I consider viable in defensive armies - Maugan Ra and Asurmen. Ra because he has a long range weapon (heavy 4 shuriken cannon is not to be sniffed at) and when joining an enhanced squad, he hits at i8 with s7. Asurmen is perfect to hold up a charging unit for a few turns while you re-deploy your guns. The others become nothing more than glorified Exarchs in these roles and are too expensive. Verdict - offensive except for Maugan Ra and Asurmen.

=N.B. this will cover almost all footslogging troops because of Craftworld variations and the fact that none of the elites in the vanilla lists are vehicles=

Guardian Defenders -
While the rest of the Eldar army is specialized, these guys are very versatile. Yes the armor is paper thin, yes it goes against the fluff to have them dying in droves and yes, the range on the gun is pitiful. However, consider that the best guard player I know has the most effective infantry army I have ever seen and he barely ever fires a lasgun. His heavy weapons teams are solid, have good leadership because of the rest of the army and there are so many of them it is very tough to take out the squads in cover. Guardian defenders with a weapons platform are a bit more expensive but serve the same job; in hard cover, you can put out lots of firepower with smaller squads or, with conceal, be mobile with move and fire platforms. Given that I have talked about efficiency, smaller squads with embolden in hard cover will stick around longer and put out more firepower over a game than a larger squad trying to move round the board and not getting into range. The squad in cover can always move up and fire shuriken catapults if needs be. Verdict – defensive

Storm Guardian -
though not able to put out the firepower of their defender brethren, for a paltry basic 8 points a model, you get initiative that betters or equals any other standard trooper in the game (apart from our DE cousins) and 2 attacks a model. With enhance, you beat almost all standard troopers and will generally hit on 4s. Weight of numbers is their friend. To get even 10 hits, statistically you need 20 attacks. The more attacks you have, the more hits and the more wounds. This is especially important against MEQ opponents. If you win combat, they need the leadership test and you should outnumber them. I have not included the “flamer squad of death” or the cheap tank hunting squads in the discussion as they have specific roles to do with falcons, which is discussed later. The verdict for them would be the same though. Verdict – either

Dire Avenger -
for one and a half the price of a defender guardian, you get +1WS, +1BS, +1I, +1Ld and a 4+ armor save. This means they will stand up a little better to basic arms fire, but not by much. They are still hampered by short range guns and lack of combat power (even with the Exarch). Without the powers of a warlock or heavy weapons, they must get up close and personal and need to take a transport to do so. Without defender guardians, this is the cheapest way to get a tank and dire avenger 'drop and pops' can be very useful when combined with other units. Verdict – offensive

Ranger -
more expensive than other race's snipers but the AP1 ability can be priceless. Excellent for downing monstrous creatures and general toughies that are meant to be fire magnets. Very weak if assaulted, should use range and infiltrate to protect themselves. Never forget the +1 to cover save. The defenders with big guns can go in a bunker and the rangers get the same save from a barricade. Verdict – defensive

Pathfinder -
the upgraded versions of rangers in the Alaitoc Craftworld list are more expensive by 5 points than their trooper brethren. However, for that you get ap1 50% of the time, making them much more effective marine killers and +2 to all cover saves. That combined with the fact that they will fight to the last man makes the pathfinder a far more efficient use of points than the ranger, but the role remains the same. Verdict – defensive

Striking Scorpions -
now we get to our elites troops, what many feel should be the core of the Eldar army. Scorpions need to be up close and personal with the enemy and have two ways of doing it effectively - stealth and transport. Either way, they need to be on top of the enemy first few turns. However, note that they have a top notch armor save and can't move very fast, so even if you infiltrate, you have a long way to go to the enemy but you will stick around a long while when you are there. As with the avatar, a defensively playing army can neutralize this by keeping the scorpions back to protect the line. Verdict – either

Howling Banshees -
not much argument here. Medium armor, every model has a power weapon, always goes first in first round of combat. The perfect shock troop. Offensive.

Warp Spiders -
another versatile unit. Great movement, very high strength gun, and good armor save. Smaller squads will weaken any unit before a charge and likely do vehicles from the back. Bigger squads can operate alone and bust light vehicles from the front. Can also be held back as movement can get them anywhere to clean up approaching squads. Verdict – either

Fire Dragons -
in terms of what they are effective against, it is clearly heavily armored troops and tanks. In a defensive army, though, you have plenty of big guns to take them out and fire dragons are not much cop in assault. Verdict – offensive</p>

Wraithguard -
solid and hard, but slow and expensive. Because of the short range gun and the fixed roll to wound, they are not so great a hitting heavily armored troops. Verdict – offensive

Swooping Hawks -
one of the few aspects where I think an Exarch is almost essential. It takes great patience to use them to protect a defensive line, but the same theory from the warp spiders is in effect, their mobility is key. Verdict - either but primarily offensive

Dark Reapers -
stand their ground and shoot. Devastating firepower. No questions. Verdict – defensive

Vyper -
very fragile but also cheap. Usually go down early but having done average output of damage. With a CTM, can afford to sit at back of board with distanced gun. Verdict - either but primarily defensive

Jetbikes -
yes they're not vehicles with an armor value but they serve the same role as the Vyper. Very good at harassing, useless in combat. Verdict – offensive

Shining Spears -
can be used as mobile cavalry or very accurate brightlance. This makes them versatile. The brightlance team is usually average in the cavalry role so can be used defensively with a counter charge unit. Verdict – either<

Falcon Grav Tank -
the jewel in many an Eldar army. Can carry small squads of troops such as the infamous 'flamer squad of death' (a usually suicidal unit) or a storm guardian tankbusting squad or the more expensive fire dragon squad. The variation in wargear makes it a very versatile choice but as with the Farseer; take it to do one thing very well. Verdict – either

Fire Prism -
Massive range, big gun. No questions here. Verdict – Defensive

Wave serpent -
surprisingly enough, the transport bears thinking about. Just because you buy it doesn't mean things have to go in it. Can race troops to the enemy, protect them in its shell while using twin linked anti tank weapons or leave its troops to do a job in a defensive line while it bugs the enemy's flanks. Verdict – either

Weapons Platforms -
static guns. Says it all. Verdict – Defensive

Wraithlord -
a close combat beast. Requires anti-tank guns, snipers or powerfists to kill him effectively. As with the avatar, he is slow and best served protecting guardians at the back. Verdict – defensive

War Walker -
a hideous amount of firepower from one unit, but very fragile. Useless in combat. Verdict – Defensive

An army picked at random from the boards - 1000 points vanilla.

1 Vyper Squadron (Fast Attack) @ 75 Pts – 1
Star Cannon (x1)
Spirit Stone

1 Vyper Squadron (Fast Attack) @ 65 Pts
Star Cannon (x1)

1 Farseer (HQ) @ 81 Pts
Witchblade (x1); Shuriken Pistol (x1)

7 Guardian Defender Squad (Troops) @ 153 Pts
Grav Platform - Star Cannon (x1)
1 Warlock - Witchblade, Shuriken Pistol, Conceal – 2

7 Guardian Defender Squad (Troops) @ 153 Pts
Grav Platform - Star Cannon (x1)
1 Warlock - Witchblade, Shuriken Pistol, Conceal

4 Dark Reapers (Heavy Support) @ 233 Pts – 3
1 Exarch - Missile Launcher, Fast Shot

1 Wraithlord (Heavy Support) @ 120 Pts
Bright Lance

1 Wraithlord (Heavy Support) @ 120 Pts
Bright Lance

This to me is a solid defensive army. However, some things i feel are unnecessary:

- 1. The Vyper has a low armor value, so can be glanced by even bolters. Multi shot heavy weapons and anti-tank will take it down easily, especially as it is open-topped. A 3 on the glancing hit table renders these Vypers useless and a 2 guarantees a penetrating hit next turn. Why add wargear that can only be used on 17% of hits?

- 2. The warlocks have witchblades and conceal. Normally I would be fine with the slow advance of the heavy weapons with a bit of punch in case they get assaulted. But why only a 10 man squad? Conceal is only a 5+ save, it's not amazing, but it's useful in numbers, which he doesn't have. If he wants to use conceal, the numbers have to go up. Otherwise, drop the witchblade (because who wants a heavy weapon in combat anyway? keep firing!) and take embolden for the inevitable casualties

- 3. Dark reapers are not heavily armored and they do die easily. Cover is a necessity for them, as is doing the damage while they are still on the board. Why, then, take an anti-tank weapon on the Exarch? In the krak missile mode it has the same number of shots as a standard reaper launcher (because of the Exarch power) and the same AP, but it will instant-kill characters. When in a game do you get to target multi wound characters on their own? In plasma missile mode it is two blasts at AP4 and pinning. This is nice, especially with the good BS, but what is the rest of the squad doing? Firing at medium armor targets with guns that are designed for heavy infantry. It's a waste of the squad.

Other than these points, the list is nice. The wraithlords can provide a counter charge to any assaulting units and there is some good firepower. The downfall for this player may come when he has to go to an army that can outshoot him (a good Tau army or average guard army).

Army number 2 - 1500 Biel-tan from the boards.

108.....Farseer with Jetbike, Singing Spear, fortune
108.....2 Warlocks on Jetbikes, Singing Spears – 1

65.......Vyper with starcannon
65.......Vyper with starcannon

176.....8 Warp Spiders
149.....8 Howling Banshees, Exarch with executioner
           135....Wave Serpent, Bright Lance and spirit stones.
85.......5 Fire Dragons
176.....4 Dark Reapers, Exarch with crack shot – 2

120.....Wraithlord with starcannon – 3
120.....Wraithlord with Bright Lance
190.....Grav-Falcon, starcannon, holo field, spirit stones

- 1. The Farseer on the jetbike is perfect. A great tank hunting guy. Why throw warlocks in there? This point is more of a personal one than anything else. The warlocks ensure that the job gets done but it's a lot of points for just a HQ unit who will do very little against infantry armies

- 2. If you are going to by an Exarch for the reapers, this is the best way to have him. Perfect for digging heavy troops out of cover. But in this army, they are the only unit at the back of the board. Any drop pods, infiltrators or long range pie plates (whirlwinds, basilisks, battle cannons etc.) will be picking them out first because the rest of your army is in transports. A mistake.

- 3. In 1500 points, this guy has one close combat choice hitting turn 2 or 3 and 2 wraithlords who at best get to a static enemy turn 4. It's not enough. The enemy has time to re-deploy their guns after launching a counter-charge at the banshees.

Army list 3 - the offensive army. From the boards again.

Farseer- jetbike, singing spear, mindwar, runes of witnessing, ghosthelm- 113 – 1

9 striking scorpions- Exarch, scorpions claw- 171
Wave Serpent- twin linked brightlance- 125

9 howling banshees- Exarch, executioner- 165
Wave Serpent- twin linked brightlance-125

5 fire dragons- 85

falcon- starcannon, shuriken cannon, holo-field, spirit stones- 210

- 1. Far too much wargear on the Farseer. He cannot use mind war and the singing spear in the same turn (must assault what you shoot.) to bust vehicles. He doesn't have the attacks to deal with any sort of combat. Aside from that, the list is ok. As you can see it is very low on models (which mechanized Biel-tan armies suffer from at low points levels) so he would have to be immensely careful against larger armies. But he does have the gunboat falcon, which must be used to thin numbers before any disembarking.

Rating: ***** by 20 members.


Algavinn of the Many Paths
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December 2, 2009, 09:18:08 PM
As noted in the summary, the article is actually by Theriddles, not me.  I merely was the one to plug this article into the system and categorize it.  It's caused me occasional confusion to come across articles that say theyre from me and they are decidedly not mine.  I dont really know how to fix that and answers are hard to find around here.  I stopped trying to submit my own articles for the database a year or two back, mostly being posted just in the relevant forum section as you have no doubt noticed.
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September 23, 2009, 01:43:35 PM
Algavinn, if you don't mind I grabbed a copy of this and will go through it and update to 5th Ed and the current meta-game.

Give me a week-ten days to get a PM back to you.. OK

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September 17, 2009, 01:26:06 AM
yesw, it is... however some people still play older editions, and many of the statements are still fairly true.
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Eradicate them all....

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September 15, 2009, 11:32:48 AM
this is like a 3rd ed. article?

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