Hi there! I'm waxing philosophical today, looking at some Theoryhammer and attempting to extrapolate out where the game is going with future codex releases as we head into 6th edition 40k. If this is not your cup of tea, you can probably skip it, since there won't be a whole lot of crunch here. This is purely an exercise...
Concerning the Future of the Eldar
Rewind to 2006. The current Eldar codex was brand new (hard to believe it was only five short years ago, isn't it?), 4th edition was in full swing, and all was right with the Imperium, more or less. The Eldar had the fastest vehicles going while still maintaining that "glass hammer" mechanic for which they are known, allowing them to zip their skimmers 36" right across the board, whenever they want or need to be there.
Returning to the present, we still have the ability to get a wave serpent full of pointy-ears or other fast skimmer 36" across the board, and with 5th edition rules we even get a 4+ cover save while we do so, but does that make us any stronger in the milieu of the 41st millenium? I say no.
Look at the other codices out there. Dark Eldar are beyond fast, with flying gunships that can materialize anywhere on the board AND fire all their weapons, as well as Webway Assault and a plethora of fast vehicles. The Blood Angels have the infamous Storm Raven (as do the Grey Knights), and deep striking land raiders, fast tanks that can outflank and Descent of Angels. Tyranids have mycetic spores and bomb attacks like the trygon and Doom of Malan'tai. Drop pod armies are everywhere and MSU-based lists cover the board with models so thick that there is very little room to maneuver in, limiting your options and allowing the enemy to control the flow of the game.
What I'm getting at is this; Eldar speed is no longer that fast. So where do we go from here? I am not talking about running Eldar in the current metagame, since I believe others cover that topic better (Fritz40K and Footdar Brent, for two good examples...). Instead I'm talking about how this problem is going to be fixed in the future, either in the 6th edition rules or in a new Eldar codex.
I have a few ideas in that regard. We will need either; more space to play in, fewer models per game, more powerful units and abilities, or the ability to manipulate the board.
Table size will not change. Four feet by six feet will remain the standard; it is hardwired into the game and every game store that supports 40k has already built their table to match this specification. Increasing the size of the table really isn't an option. Creating more space to move around in won't be forthcoming. Sorry!
I also don't foresee a significant change to the statlines of the Eldar. Sorry, but I don't. The Eldar statlines haven't changed since 2nd edition, so I doubt there will be any significant changes to unit statistics and only minor adjustments to weapons and equipment. (I do predict, however, that Wraithlords will be downgraded to T6. Hopefully they will give us some other toys in return, like an invuln save or no wraithsight)
Without a complete revision of the Eldar, it seems likely that there will be new abilities introduced that allow the Eldar player to affect deployment, first turn or reserve rolls. Eldrad's Divination ability was king in the old 4th edition "I-go-you-go" unit deployment model, but lacks utility in the current game. The Autarch's Master Strategist ability is much better, increasing your chance of getting early reserves. Unfortunately it's a one-way bonus.
The way I see things unfolding is the implementation of several new strategies for deployment or deployment interference. Any or all of the following could be introduced:
The Master Strategist ability will allow you to add OR subtract one from your reserve rolls, or perhaps allow for turn 1 reserves with selectable units along the lines of Deathwing Assault.
Eldrad's Divination (wait he's dead right?) will be augmented to become more meaningful; allowing a re-roll or 4+ on Sieze the Initiative, the ability to withdraw units from the board before turn 1, or redeploy a larger number of units.
Special character options that will allow you to influence the reserve abilities of both the Eldar player and their enemy.
The introduction of Webway Assault rules, either along the lines of the Dark Eldar rules, the old Wraithgate rules from Codex: Eye of Terror, or some fusion of the two.
Pathfinder rangers may get their Ranger Disruption roll back.
Add the Scouts rule to a whole lot more units
How do you think they will change the Eldar to be more viable in a world without deployment zones?