Monday, July 9, 2012

Forgotten Friends: The Phoenix Lords!

I'm sure that other sites will cover the much-vaunted (or maligned, for the pessimistic) psykers of the Eldar warhost elsewhere. Let's take a look at how 6th Edition has changed things up for our old pals the Phoenix Court (with perhaps a little discussion of their Aspects too).

Common Ground

Each of the PLs share common abilites, such as Fearless (yay! no more penalties for losing a combat!), Fleet (Boo! No more free additional movement!), and Eternal Warrior (no change). Aside from these tangibles, though, there are a few other choice elements of the game that will benefit these ageless icons.

Weapon and Ballistic Skill 

The high WS/BS of these ultra-exarchs still gives them an edge in CC and shooting. The addition of Precision Shot, allowing the Phoenix Lord to pick out individual models on a To Hit roll of 6, makes them doubly dangerous. Look Out, Sir provides a little extra protection, and the Snap Shot (Overwatch) rule beefs up most of these Aspects nicely. If only they had some grenades...


Asurmen is one of my favorite Phoenix Lords. He's simply the most iconic non-psyker the Eldar have. A lot of people diss him; they look at his abilities and point cost and turn the page (that assuming that they even bothered to read any further into HQs than Eldrad).

While his overall abilities (Bladestorm, Defend, Battle Fate) haven’t really changed much with the new release, the changes to the Fearless rule do make him and his Disciples a much more effective tar pit unit.

Think of him charging around with a full squad of Dire Avengers (incl. the all-important Shimmershield exarch), bladestorming and assaulting units, dropping challenges and tying up key enemy units. Still maybe a little overpriced, but better than he was.


Well lookie here, an Eldar unit with grenades! We all know by now that Swooping Hawks have replaced (or at least risen to the level of ) fire dragons when it comes to tank-busting. Haywire grenades plus Intercept = dead flyers. Skyleap may be trickier due to the new Reserve rolls, too.

Hit and Run is as good as always, really; Eldar tend to make their initiative tests. It also nicely augments their ability to withdraw from combat since Fearless units can’t choose to fall back normally.

Hammer of Wrath certainly adds something here. Sure it’s only one attack at model strength, but anything more than what the Hawks currently have for assault is better, is it not? And yes, power weapons got the nerf bat, BUT since when do you assault terminators with swooping hawks? Not since 3rd edition, that’s when!

So Baharroth deep strikes in near some large, spongy unit, like an IG platoon, massed gaunts or ork boyz, announcing their arrival with a S4 AP5 pie plate. Where did you land? Inside 8 inches and close to a unit with lots of closely packed models? Then they all lob their plasma grenades. [edit: I misread this rule! Only one model may throw grenades instead of shooting their regular weapons. Oh well. I would recommend letting Baharroth throw the grenade since he will be reducing his scatter by seven inches!]

Maybe you are further than 8 inches away from the target; unload all your lasblaster/Hawk’s Talon shots. Oh, were they able to get off an assault? Overwatch. After all that dakka they will still have to deal with an Initiative 7 melee monster with a power weapon. Lots of luck with that, guys.


OH fire dragons. You are still the number one tank-busters for me. The reversion of Tank Hunters from a stinky +1 on the damage roll to a complete re-roll is a big jump for you, but I wonder how useful you are going to be if people stop playing mech? You will then be relegated to taking down monstrous creatures or heavy armor, hoping for a lucky Snap Shot before being assaulted into oblivion. Sigh.

I won’t mince words; Fuegan got the nerf bat treatment. Reducing Feel No Pain from a 4+ to a 5+ really did him no great benefit. His Fire Axe only gives him S5+d6 armor penetration now, so he won’t be popping anything but speeders and light transports from here on out.

BUT! The Fire Axe does state that it allows Fuegan to “attack as a monstrous creature”, soooo just how far does that go? Does that mean he gets the same special attacks as a true monstrous creature? Does Fuegan get Fear, for example? How about Smash attacks (for double Strength at AP2)? Food for thought!

That could turn him into a front-line wrecker of sorts, though any fire dragons accompanying him would probably melt in any assault with their lousy melee profile. But hey, that’s a lot of “Look Out, Sir” rolls, isn’t it?

Jain Zar

The result of the rules changes for 6th edition are not so favorable here. With power weapons being dumbed down to AP3, the range of units you will want to assault will be even narrower. Forget about terminators now, it’s all about knocking down power armor.

Furious Charge didn’t change much of anything for Jain or her scions since they already strike at I 10 and will typically beat most other units in regular initiative. War Shout doesn’t change at all. The Counter-Attack rule bestowed by Acrobatic is another zero sum change.

What Jain Zar does have here, though is the Silent Death, a good thing since Triskeles are one of the few remaining AP2 weapons.

Not much of significance has changed for Jain Zar, and I doubt we’ll see any more of her in 6th than we did in 5th, barring a new codex.


Karandras is my favorite lawnmower, sporting more attacks on the charge than any other model in the codex. The changes to his special rules make him… weird. Hmmm, Infiltrate, Move Through Cover and Stealth.

Move Through Cover lets the unit roll an extra die, which is not very exciting, and they can ignore dangerous terrain, if that ever comes up. Stealth is okay, but in a world with overall less cover may be fool’s gold.
Infiltrate may be a winner here. The change to the way Infiltrators are deployed makes them nifty, even though they won’t be able to pull off a first turn assault, or even launch assaults after Outflanking. Too bad he doesn’t at least come with Acute Senses!

Meh. Other than advancing him with scorpions behind a screening unit in a footdar list, I can’t think of what he may be useful at, what with this bizarre array of powers; none of them provide much synergy, making application difficult.

Maugen Ra

Now this fella is intriguing. Acute Senses does him absolutely no good, but Crack Shot and Fast Shot are as good as they ever were. 

The Maugetar is a potent weapon, with Crack Shot ignoring cover saves and re-rolling wounds (great with Rending) during Shooting, and then becoming a S6 AP3 weapon during close combat ( a light nerf common to all power weapons). 

For some reason I see him and his Disciples being accompanied by an Eldrad (“an” Eldrad, snicker!) or other dual-power farseer as part of a footdar list, supporting them with Prescience and hopefully Foreboding, making assaulting the Reapers a nigh-suicidal prospect for anything but terminators or large mobs led by a heavy IC. 

Out of the entire codex, Maugen Ra has possibly the best prospect of pulling off Precision Shots, but that’s nothing to build a list around. His utility has increased slightly, overall, and I always like seeing him in use. 


I don't think we'll be seeing too much more of the Phoenix Lords now than we did before - with the possible exception of Baharroth, Maugen Ra or Fuegan. 

Asurmen and Jain Zar haven't significantly changed for the better, and Karandras is just downright strange. 

Baharroth's Hawks have excellent anti-mech potential, but with the expected swing from mechanized to more infantry-based army lists, it is their crazy huge anti-infantry potential that most players will likely wish to exploit. They will descend upon infantry blobs like a flock of deranged, incontinent seagulls, sowing mayhem everywhere. Yuck, what an image. 

Fuegan + Fire Dragons will suffer more from the mech-infantry swing than the Swooping Hawks. While they are now about as good against terminators as anyone else, they will only really shine against monstrous creatures or as Fuegan-delivery-systems, and in the latter case a squad of guardians or harlequins would still be cheaper/better.

Maugen Ra could be successfuly exploited with Dark Reapers, but will require significant support. Being able to snap-fire reapers isn't as cool as it sounds, since you are essentially asking for a 6 to hit. You are likely looking at one meq dead per round of snap-firing, perhaps more if you are utilizing Prescience and/or Foreboding.

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