Dark Eldar 7th Edition Codex Review

Monday, October 27, 2014

The dust has settled a bit since the new Dark Eldar codex was released just a few weeks ago. There have been many reviews, impressions, tacticas, and battle reports recently featuring the new dark kin and it's interesting to see how people's views of the army have shifted from the initial shock when the book first dropped. I've seen the full gamut of reactions, some dismissing the army outright as being terrible and unable to play on its own as a primary force, to some labeling the book "the best Codex: Eldar supplement to date", and then those who are rejoicing that the Internet has largely skimmed over the parts that make the new Dark Eldar a competitive force to be reckoned with. Opinions will surely evolve over time as more and more combinations are play tested (there are a bunch to try out) and as the army faces the gauntlet of a major GT or 2. Here are some of my thoughts on the latest 7th edition army update.

With 2 small children now (although I can't believe how fast they are growing!) I don't have as much time to play as I used to, so I watch a lot of battle reports and listen to podcasts on my commute to try and keep up with what is going on in the now constantly changing game of 40k. My opinions of the new rules and how they may or may not interact in-game are largely untested at this point, so take my views with a grain of salt. I'm sure most of you are already familiar with his greatness, but I would be remiss to not give a shout out to Skari and his unbelievably thorough Dark Eldar reviews and tactica videos. Truly some of the best content out there for aspiring Archons, both young and old, competitive and non-competitive gamers alike. So if you're looking for a deeper dive into each DE unit, Skari is your man with new content coming out almost daily. Now, on to my less in-depth codex review!

Book Format


The book itself is gorgeous! Fantastic artwork, mood-lighted photography, engaging background... it really is a joy to just sit and read through. I'm becoming more accustomed to the layout of the actual rules portion of the book as this is much different from the previous 5th edition format which I was a fan of, but the Dataslate presentation of the units makes a lot more sense given the major changes to army composition in 7th edition. You'll still have to flip around between the unit entry, the wargear list, and the armory/appendix, but that's always been the case with 40k codexes. I do think the printed layout and presentation of rules information could be a little more streamlined in general, but perhaps GW is more focused on their digital formats in that regard for ease of use. Anyway, I did want to briefly mention the wargear list on pg. 69. This is one area of the new book that has become extremely limited and restrictive with much fewer wargear options and less access to the remaining options for many units throughout the army. I also think it is a bit sloppy and confusing to have footnotes on particular items that, for example, are marked "Scourges only" when in reality Reavers and Talos can take those items too but for some reason those selections remained with the unit entry instead. I know this is nitpicking, but a little more consistency here (especially with rules-related information) would have been nice.

Here's my thoughts on each unit by battlefield role as presented in the codex.

HQ


Archon - A solid choice with a great stat line and is now the cheapest option points-wise. They can be configured to perform several roles, whether that be tanking wounds with a Shadowfield, adding some extra armor busting shots with lance & haywire options, or delivering another unit via webway portal. He's no slouch in assault either, but you need to be more careful and selective with his match-ups; by the time you equip him for a close combat role, I feel there are better alternatives for the points.

Court of the Archon - While the wargear list and Archon options are more limited, the Court is where things become wide open with any combination of bodyguards up to 12 models! This unit is awesome and you can't go wrong with any of the 4 types, they all serve a purpose. Lhamaean's wound everything on 2+ and cause Instant Death on a 6 in combat... for 10 points! Medusae cost a little more but for a S4 AP3 template, totally worth it. Sslyth are fantastic all around and even Ur-Ghuls have a place bringing 4 S5 attacks on the charge. Fantastic unit, one of the best in the book.

Succubus - Another solid choice and probably the best option if you're looking for a close combat character. She has access to AP2 melee, haywire grenades, webway portal, and some of the Artefacts of Cruelty, like the armour, are perfect for her. I really like the added options and flexibility of the Succubus and expect to see a lot of people actually running them with this codex. I think she's better than Lelith Hesperax in just about every way.

Haemonculus - I'm a big fan of the new Haemy (both the model and rules). Very respectable stats for a decent point cost and has a lot of options which allow him to fill various roles in your army. I think of him more as a utility character for how he can buff a unit's Power from Pain and safely deliver a squad via webway portal. I would probably try to keep him cheaper in points since he doesn't excel at shooting or assault (at least not over the Archon or Succubus respectively) but he synergizes well with a lot of units in the book. He gets even better when taken with the Coven Supplement, but I'll talk about that in a separate post.

Unique / Special Characters - I'm doing all of these together as I'm generally not that impressed with any of them. Urien isn't bad for what you get at 140pts and I can see him being used in Coven armies, but the biggest draw back to any of them is their lack of options. They can't be customized at all to better suit your army like the 3 generic HQs can. The slight point reductions on Lelith and Drazhar don't make up for the abilities they lost and they still have major downsides (like Lelith being S3 and no invulnerable save on Drazhar) that make them hard to justify for their points.

In the end, I'm happy that the 3 generic HQ options are so well balanced, configurable, and overall more compelling to take over the named characters. Despite losing the majority of our awesome special characters, they did a really good job making more of the remaining options playable which will add variety to the DE armies we see on the table.

Troops


Kabalite Warriors - The DE bread and butter troops choice, warriors are cheap and relatively configurable for shooting roles. Their base weapon still threatens all Monstrous Creatures or anything with high toughness. You can purchase either dedicated transport regardless of squad size now which is really nice, making the 20 man squad a more viable option. I think you'll still mostly see MSU with 5 in a venom, or 10 in a raider with splinter racks. They are the go to troops choice, especially compared to the only remaining alternative.

Wyches - I wont say they are unplayable... a skilled general will be able to get them into combat but they require a high level of finesse (and a good bit of luck to have them not all die from their exploding transport). They can still be thrown at things you don't want to deal with, just don't expect too much out of them. If their Dodge rule worked against overwatch or they could dodge out of their transport as it goes down I could see them being more useful, but as it is they just die too easily to any and all forms of shooting. Without buffs from a supplement or changes to some core game mechanics, Wyches are going to struggle to be effective on the tabletop. If you like taking an already difficult army to play and turning the difficulty setting up to expert/insane level, then Wyches are for you.

Wracks / Hellions - It's a shame neither of these units can be made into troops choices anymore, mostly because Objective Secured is a really strong special rule and also the loss of flavor and army builds these options allowed for.

Elites


Incubi - For their stats and wargear, 20pts per model really isn't that bad. They can still erase most units in assault. However, there is no way to give them grenades now which makes them harder to use. But they can still make a great bodyguard or counter-assault unit. Demiklaives took a hit, losing an attack and becoming AP3... no thanks.

Mandrakes - Mandrakes are back on the menu boys! Cheaper, killy-er, super survivable against armies that can't ignore cover. They provide the DE with options you can't get anywhere else in the book. Think outside the box with them a bit and you'll find a valuable asset to a lot of army lists & play styles. I'll be happy to see more of these beautiful models on the tabletop.

Wracks - Minimum squad size is 5, but with Acothyst options you can get 2 liquifiers out of this configuration. That being said, I hate that they nerfed the liquifier... completely unnecessary changes, making it S3 and costing 50% more. The jury is still out on the new Ossefactor gun, but I think it could work and am willing to give it a try. If you want to run wracks you should be using them from the Coven supplement, period. There is no reason to field them from the core codex. I'll have more to say about them when I get to the Coven book review.

Grotesques - Awesome unit that has a place in almost every type of list the DE can field. They are tough, can hit hard, can be fast if mounted in a raider, can give you serious staying power in larger units and very good board control whether being aggressive or hanging back to counter charge. I really like this unit, and unlike Wracks, they actually have some uses when selected from the core codex (vs the Coven supplement); namely, Furious Charge from the Power from Pain table. But they gain a whole lot coming from the other book as well, which I'll get to eventually.

Trueborn / Bloodbrides - Trueborn, or more commonly known as Blasterborn, are still going to be a thing. In fact, they really should have changed their name to Blasterborn since that is probably the only configuration you'll ever see now that their splinter options are more limited. Still a really good unit, especially when delivered via webway portal.
Bloodbrides are just terrible and shouldn't even be in the codex since they don't have an official model! Haha ;) But seriously, they suck. Unless you want to play DE on nightmare mode all the time.

Harlequins - Doh! Don't make us wait too long for that Supplement, GW!


Fast Attack


Beastmasters - This unit was toned down across the board, not just with the 12 model cap. Razorwing Flocks went up in points, became Swarms, and took the following hit to their stat line: -2WS, -2W, -1A. They were over the top in the last book, but they might have swung too far the other way in this one. The Clawed Fiend also took a blow to weapon skill and wounds which I find odd. Khymera and Beastmasters are still good options due to their inexpensive points cost and ability to get in your opponent's face and harass weaker squads. They can also bubble wrap your vehicles and offer nice board control. I'll go ahead and point this out now; taking a squad exclusively made up of Beastmasters is basically a better and cheaper Hellion squad. They are 3 pts cheaper, come with the same skyboard that provides splinter pods for decent shooting, and they are 'Beasts' instead of 'Jump Infantry' meaning they are faster and never slowed by terrain. Hellions can't get grenades anymore so you don't really want them in close combat at all. They do more damage shooting their pods, and once you get to that point you might as well run them as a squad of beastmasters.

Raider / Venom - Welcome to the Fast Attack section! This opens up a lot of options and I don't just mean for Eldar allies (which it obviously does). I didn't think the Dark Lance needed to go up in points, but I can deal. Luckily, I didn't glue those lances on so I'll probably switch them over to Disintegrator Cannons to keep them cheaper. Forgoing extra movement to take a single pot shot was rarely worth it anyway. Dual cannon venoms are still the business, and now they are the only vehicle with the privilege to have a flickerfield. I don't care for the new Night Shields but if you're going up against armies that don't have a lot of Ignores Cover then these can be great. The Shock Prow upgrade may also be worth exploring for AV14 Rams. Being able to take these as standalone FA choices, along with more FA slots in the DE detachment, make Raider/Venom spam lists even easier to build.

Reavers - This unit received a nice boost in the new book, coming way down in points and picking up Hit & Run. Their bladevanes no longer slash in the movement phase but provide S4 Rending Hammer of Wrath attacks. Cluster Caltrops upgrade these to D6 HoW at S6 Rending! You can now take up to 12 models per unit, allowing up to 4 special weapon upgrades. This can be a crazy good unit for busting through armor or cutting down weakened infantry squads. There's a number of ways to configure and use this unit and I think they are one of the big winners in the new codex.

Hellions - I never ran them before and I don't see myself running them now. Losing the Baron hurt these guys more than anything; no longer Troops and no more access to grenades. Larger squads can dish out a decent amount of anti-infantry shooting, however there are much better and cheaper options for this anywhere else in the codex (see Beastmasters above). I feel bad for the guys who invested and built their armies around Hellions from the previous book.

Razorwing Jetfighter - Another welcomed addition to Fast Attack! These flyers are basically the same as last time, just slightly cheaper. It is a solid flyer that brings a huge amount of firepower, mostly anti-infantry but with options can be made for vehicle hunting. You can field 6 for a nasty air force list that would give a lot of armies a hard time, although I plan on running 1 or 2 tops in more of a support role for the rest of my army. Overall, a very balanced and solid option for the Dark Eldar.

Scourges - With such awesome models, I was really hoping the new book would make them playable this time around, and GW delivered! They are cheaper, didn't lose anything in the way of stats or special rules (they even got to keep their Plasma Grenades!) and can now take 4 special or heavy weapons in a 5 man squad. The Solarite has more options than most squad leaders although I would keep them geared for shooting where they excel. They can bring some of the best anti-armor in the book and do so at a very reasonable point cost. Definitely a big winner in the new codex!

Heavy Support


Talos - Went up in points, but gained Feel No Pain and can be taken in units up to 3 models! That alone makes them something to consider, especially if you are playing a mostly reserved list and are worried about being shot off the table before things arrive in later turns. I definitely plan on running some for the added durability, something the Dark Eldar never really had access to before. They unfortunately lost Power from Pain which would have been nice for Furious Charge, but they do gain some buffs from the Coven Supplement depending on how you take them. Same goes for the Cronos, but we'll get into that in the Coven review.

Cronos - Like the Talos, went up in points in exchange for FnP and units of 3. Although I'm less inclined to take multiples of these like I would with the Talos. The biggest change is the Spirit Probe, a 25pt upgrade that buffs Feel No Pain by 1 to a max of 4+ for all DE units within 6". This is a great support buff and when used to trail a unit of 3 Talos or dropping a big squad of Grots nearby to benefit, you can really up your staying power and durability. I would pass on the Spirit Vortex and save 25pts... what's with all the Strength 3 weapons in the new codex??

Ravager - The old mainstay HS choice. Yes it got a slight points increase, lost Arial Assault, and has less vehicle equipment upgrade options... BUT it is still a great unit for 110pts base. 125pts gets you the classic tri-dark lance, or you can mix and match now at 5pts per lance. Not bad at all. The old entry was a little too good for the points, and despite all the complaints for the changes in the new codex, people will definitely still run them in their lists. Mine will still see play anyway.

Voidraven Bomber - A beautiful addition to the already beautiful range of Dark Eldar models. I'm a little skeptical on the rules design for this one, but I'm going to try one stock at 160pts and see how it does. The mine is greatly improved and the new Dark Scythes are really tempting for busting up parking lots & taking out TEQs. But the Void Lances are the best ranged anti-tank the DE have access too and I like being able to shoot them at other flyers (something you give up with the Dark Scythes which are Blast weapons). We'll see how it performs and if it ends up justifying its sizable points investment.

Formation & Detachment


Kabalite Raiding Party - I can't even bring myself to add up the minimum points this enormous formation requires. The Architect of Agony is a nice special rule, but does that outweigh the loss of Objective Secured Troops, especially 6 warrior squads + 6 transports, missing out on 12 Ob Sec units!? I don't think so. I was really hoping for something along the lines of the Apocalypse formation that treats your Raiders as zooming flyers for turn 1. Now that would have been awesome! Lets hope for useful formations in the future, because this one in the codex is not one of them.

Realspace Raiders - This is the unique detachment everyone has been talking about. Access to 6 Fast Attack slots in a single detachment is serious business, especially the FA options the DE have access to. You give up Objective Secured in this one as well, but if you are building a list to take advantage of a lot of super killy FA units then it may not even matter, you're going for complete annihilation at that point. I don't quite have the number of units needed to take advantage of this yet but I should be able to try this in the near future.

Closing Thoughts


This is already a wall of text so I'm not going to get into all of the various wargear options, equipment, and artefacts. One notable mention is the combination of the Armour of Misery (grants Fear and -2 Ld within 6" among other things), the Archangel of Pain (an additional -2 Ld with basically Soulfright), and Torment Grenade Launchers / Phantasm Grenade Launchers which cause Soulfright (units hit by weapons with this rule must take a Ld test, suffering a wound with no armour or cover saves allowed for each point this test is failed by -- wounds cannot be allocated to models who are Fearless or have And They Shall Know No Fear). This can be a very powerful combo against some armies while others are largely unaffected (Eldar Wraith builds, any Space Marine variant, etc. so a lot of common tournament armies). A lot of units in the new DE codex cause Fear now, so if your army is susceptible to low leadership you need to be careful against DE and be smart about your target priority. This combo gets even scarier in conjunction with rules from the Coven supplement, so we'll talk more about this in that review.

I have to say, I've tried writing a bunch of army lists with the new codex and each one ends up going in a totally different direction. This is a really good thing in my opinion as it points to multiple army builds. I can totally see the competitive player going with their tried and true Raider/Venom spam lists and doing quite well. But the new book offers a lot of new ways to play Dark Eldar and overall it feels like a very balanced codex with few auto-include units and even fewer unplayable units. As pointed out several times in this review, the Haemonculus Covens Supplement changes things quite a bit for Coven units, generally making them better, which I will cover in a forthcoming review of that book. I'm looking forward to expanding my Dark Eldar collection and trying out new ways to play them. Let me know your thoughts and experiences with the new book so far!