Dark Eldar Mandrakes

Sunday, April 24, 2011

From what I've seen (on the Internet & locally) Mandrakes aren't a very popular unit selection from the new Dark Eldar codex. I think a lot of people disregard them, not due to their stat line or abilities, but because of their opportunity cost. In their place, you could take another squad of Trueborn, Bloodbrides, or Incubi just to name a few. There are a lot of options to choose from in the Elites category of the codex and some are much more specialized and focused than others. If your army lacks shooting, both anti-armour & anti-infantry, it's hard to beat the options a squad of Trueborn can bring to the table. Or if you really need some extra close-combat prowess, a unit of Incubi or properly tooled Bloodbrides can really rip things up in assault. Mandrakes aren't nearly as effective in close-combat as these other units and they don't even gain their shooting attacks until they've acquired a pain token. So what do they actually bring to the table and is that worth taking up one of the beloved Elite force organization slots away from one of the other more specialized units?

Whether or not they are deemed "worth it" depends on a lot of factors such as mission, points level, your opponent's army, your particular play style, amount of terrain on the board, etc. I'd like to reserve any judgments on their overall value until I've tried them out in each of the various missions/objectives and have faced off against a wide variety of armies. Anyone who has played this game for awhile knows that true value can only be assessed by actual in-game performance (results). Even then, results will vary depending on each person's experience -- some people roll 1's while others roll 6's. It's the beauty of the game. But from merely a codex perspective, let's look briefly at what Mandrakes have to offer.

Strength 4, 2 attacks base, 5+ invulnerable save, fleet, power from pain, move through cover, stealth, and the only unit in the codex with the infiltrate special rule. Coming from a scout heavy Raven Guard background, I love having infiltrators in my army. The ability to set up after everything else is on the table or to outflank from reserves ultimately affects your opponent's deployment decisions, and a mistake here can cost them the game. Now Mandrakes can't ride in a transport so they have no options for rapid re-deployment once they are on the table. But the rest of your army can of course be devastatingly fast. I like the scenario this puts my opponent in, just knowing the possibility that a unit could come in and disrupt behind their line. Sure this is more of a "passive" threat, but it's a consideration nonetheless that can throw a wrench in your opponent's deployment and give a boost to your army's overall positioning. Keep the Mandrakes in cover to take advantage of the improved cover save from having stealth. Once they've acquired a pain token, their Baleblast comes into play granting them an 18" ranged attack at S4 AP4, Assualt 2, Pinning (and lets not forget 'Feel no Pain'). Not too shabby.

In conclusion, they're not a "must take all the time" unit selection, but they're also not a bad disruption squad for the points cost. In the end that may be what I like most about them; that they're not some super vicious Incubi squad or Trueborn with maxed blasters in a Venom sporting two splinter cannons... Those types of units have huge red signs over them, flashing "shoot everything at me, I'm priority numero uno!" and your opponent knows it too. Mandrakes have a lot of potential without being a super obvious threat, yet can still cause your opponent to re-think their deployment strategy and as the game goes on and pain tokens start to amass they too can become a much more formidable unit.

On the hobby side of things, the models are awesome and totally wicked looking! Time to go finish painting my first 5 man squad.


  1. Nice write-up on Mandrakes, and good to see a Dark Eldar player seriously considering them

    Nice work on the Clawed Fiend (previous post) as well by the way :)