Still Trying To Make Dark Eldar Work

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I'm continuing to try new combinations from the Dark Eldar and Coven books. I think I'm starting to zero in on the type of list that is both fun to play and at least has a chance against most opponents (and that last part is hard to come by for the dark kin on their own).

I know at some point I need to just pick a list and play it over and over again until it's second nature. But I'm really indecisive about which units to focus on in the latest DE codex; there are a lot of things I'd like to fit in but points run out quickly with so many specialized choices and very few general/dual purpose units. Most of my lists recently have been fairly diverse and not overly focused on any one particular theme as I'm still surveying the options, but I would love to find a viable build that makes the dark eldar a much tougher glass (sapphire) cannon on the table.

The list I used at Huzzah was very top heavy with a large amount of points going into HQ's and the ability for deployment shenanigans. I struggled mostly with Imperial Knights and lists with a lot of high AV or Flyers. My reserve rolls and dice in general were quite fickle for the day, but a good thing to keep in mind when building a list around Webway Portals (invest in a Comms Relay, Autarch, or something to manipulate reserve rolls). The list:

Artisan + CAD (1850pts)

Haemonculus (warlord) - WWP, Scissorhand, The Nightmare Doll
Talos - Ichor Injector
Cronos - Spirit Probe

Archon - WWP, Blaster, Helm of Spite
Court - Lhamaean x1, Medusae x1, Sslyth x4, Raider w/ Splinter Racks, EA
Succubus - Archite Glaive, Haywire

Grotesques x4 - Aberration, Raider w/ EA
Mandrakes x3

Warriors x5 - Venom w/ cannons
Warriors x5 - Venom w/ cannons

Beastmasters x3 - Khymera x5
Reavers x9 - Heat Lance x3, Cluster Caltrops x3
Scourges x5 - Haywire Blaster x4

Ravager - Dark Lance x3

General thoughts: The Artisan is a fun little formation that can be thrown at a number of situations or simply perform as a deadly accurate speed bump you force your opponent to deal with, but it doesn't quite hit hard enough to justify always taking up the valuable 2nd detachment slot in environments that limit lists to 2 sources. If 3 or more detachments are allowed then the Dark Artisan would very likely claim that 3rd slot in a lot of my lists. But right now my local meta is still mostly entrenched in the 2 source limit and the Artisan hasn't completely won me over, so the search continues.

The Court of the Archon is an awesome unit so far from my experience. If you can spare the points to load up a bunch of Sslyth on a Raider with Splinter Racks then you'll have one of the toughest DE units available who can also outshoot a couple of Venoms and punch some faces in close combat. Another interesting aspect to the Court in this edition is how most tournaments are allowing a single Court model to fulfill the HQ requirement for force orgs. I'm ok with this interpretation as the min/max Lhamaean in a venom option, while fantastic at saving points on the HQ investment, is balanced by how amazingly easy it gives up Slay The Warlord.
As for Archons and Succubi, I've seen a little more value in terms of in-game performance out of the Succubus over the Archon, but I still think the Archon has the edge simply for unlocking a slotless Court and is cheaper when tooled for shooting/support which fits in with more lists & playstyles since melee-oriented only characters are more challenging to use to full effect. There's a lot I haven't tried in this slot like a fully geared up Archon with shadowfield and the whole nine yards configuration, or any of the named characters etc. so I'll be mixing things up for HQ's and trying some new stuff in my next list.

The Grotesques have mainly done well in most games and like everything else it comes down to knowing which melee matchups are more favorable and of course which things to avoid altogether. I'd like to add even more so I may need to pick up another box for them in the near future.

Mandrakes, what can I say. For 36pts you get an easily hideable, infiltrating unit of sweet looking models. Don't expect much and they might impress, haha.

Warrior / Venom squads... I need more. My lists are definitely lacking in the "overwhelming firepower" department. Plus, with more Tyranid FMC's on the rise these units could easily earn their points back threefold.

The meager 8 man beastpack has been surprisingly useful as it usually draws a lot of attention away from my more important units, which they can screen or bubblewrap, and are still super fast and aggressive. They'll wreck Wave Serpents if enough dogs survive crossing the board. I'd consider taking more if I had the models.

So how did the Reavers fare in this configuration? At 9 strong with 3 heat lances and 3 caltrops they certainly weren't cheap pointswise. I was thinking this would be a good unit to deliver via WWP as they can use their JSJ assault move to spread out after a few lance pot shots (versus Scourges who remain tightly grouped unless you forgo shooting to spread out, but that defeats the purpose). It's problematic to try and make a straight comparison to similarly equipped Scourges; the points difference between the 2 units (once you buy enough extra Reavers to unlock the heavy weapons, don't get me started on the new Eldar jetbikes...) is quite noticeable. While both units can provide excellent anti armor shooting they aren't exactly interchangeable for that role. Reavers with heat lances mathematically have the edge for exploding a vehicle outright, while haywire Scourge can glance things to death more easily. Scourge have slightly better armor but are actually less survivable than Reavers who can jink, have higher toughness, don't care about driving into terrain, and are much faster. I honestly like having both options available because some targets just aren't worth exposing your fragile and expensive Reaver unit just to try and get that explodes result.

In the end, my heat lances rolled poorly for all 3 games and barely knocked off any hull points compared to my Scourges which consistently brought vehicles to a halt (much better than the Ravager even). The Scourge didn't survive long after they engaged a target, but the same was true for Reavers too (it just hurt more to lose them because they barely did any shooting damage and were more costly to lose). I'm not just basing 1 bad day of poor dice rolls on this, but I honestly think the strength of Reavers lies with their Cluster Caltrops, and the unit gets too expensive if you try to equip them for both shooting and hammer of wrathing. I also think they might perform better with MSU vs the large squad, although I kinda feel that way about most things in the DE codex. Nowadays, killing 9 Reavers is just as easy as killing 3, but breaking the 9 man into 3 - 3 man squads multiplies their chances of survival by forcing your opponent to both overkill by shooting at a 3 man unit and commit more of their units to shooting if they really want to wipe all Reaver threats from the table.

There's much more to examine when comparing Scourge and Reavers, and several forums out there have all the math for various configurations if you're interested. But the bottom line is they are used for different purposes even though both may seem like just anti-armor units. Scourge are a little more specialized in the shooting roll as 4 haywire blasters are cheap and effective; but that's about all they can do. Reavers offer a few ways to play, up to and including assault where they have performed far better than expected and much better than just trying to shoot them. They are more challenging to use but I do enjoy having their additional options on the table. Both will remain in my lists and I'd love to fit more units of both if I can free up points elsewhere.
This post was supposed to go out weeks ago but sickness and loss of Internet foiled that. I wanted to get into more about the types of lists I played against and how my army dealt with some extremely powerful combos (like the 3 Wraithknight + 2 Imperial Knight list, yikes!) but that will come in a later post... the preview is my list was ill-equipped to deal with such a menace of a list (shocking, I know). I'll have the next installment on some of these topics out in the next few days. Till next time, thanks for reading!


  1. I think scourges are the true anti vehicle. I think reavers are anti heavy infantry. I watched my buddy absolutely massacre a group of necrons (with lord) from just the Hammer hits with caltrops. It was utterly ridiculous. He pinned the unit and help them in place with another unit to take the overwatch, then hit them with 3x caltrops and all the normal STR 4 hits, basically wiped the unit and took out the HQ.

    1. I agree with you, I think scourges are the most reliable anti vehicle for the points. The hammers from the Reavers are no joke and there are several good units for tying things up, easing their advance. It's a nice little combo ;)

  2. You're a brave soul, sticking with that Codex and not calling in Eldar allies.
    Good luck and go Xenos.

    1. Haha, thanks Sinsynn! So far the new DE/Coven has treated me well on the table (around ~70% win rate, although under 20 games total so still a small sample size).

      Screw Eldar, they are the training wheels of 40k ;-)