Sunday, July 21, 2013

Here's How I Look At Eldar Now

I should be in the garage painting up any of a thousand different models, but I'm lazy and decided to write this instead.

With the new codex release, Teh Webz is all a-twitter with new meta builds, Eldar fanboy gushing, Eldar hater rage and all the usual nonsense that surrounds every new release. But for you, the budding/veteran/lapsed Eldar player, there are a few more important fish to fry.

Given that

A) Eldar list building has more to do with your local gaming circle than some global abstract be-all, end-all list-making would have you believe, and

B) you, as a player have a distinctive play style or preference

it is important to keep in mind that not everyone's analysis is particularly accurate. In fact, web-based research can only give you decent data on the purely statistical performance of a unit. That's why right now everyone is OMGing about guardians. It seems there's little room for discussion of anything but wraithknights and guardians these days.

No, as a mature and discerning Eldar player you need to think about the Eldar differently.

These days I tend to think of a unit and its capabilities in the following ways:
1. Minimum sized load-out.
2. Maximum sized load-out.
3. Plus exarch. 
4. In the case of Aspect Warriors - what can a Phoenix Lord bring to the unit?

With that skeleton of a criterion system, let's take a look at one of the perennial red-headed stepchildren of the Eldar: Swooping Hawks.

Swooping Hawks got a bump in a number of ways. For one thing, their lasblasters got an extra shot, and they now get Skyleap for free and don't scatter when using deep strike. Add fleet and battle focus on top for a re-rollable d6 run move to disperse after landing - we hate blasts and templates! Despite these improvements, there's been virtually NO noise about Swoopies!

My guess is that everything is still being judged by the MEQ ruler (though there is simultaneously no end to the whining and gnashing of teeth regarding how 'uncompetitive' they are - whatever). Also, since they didn't get any special cheese vs. flyers (the other ruler by which all things 40K are measured in the meta), there's another reason to give them a pass.

In that regard they are only slightly better than they were before when performing against generic space marines - again, statistically speaking - and so they have been cast aside as not being competitive enough.

However they come stock with some very useful tricks; haywire and plasma grenades - which, remember now, can be thrown in the shooting phase! They get that awful no-scatter deep strike which they can pull off every other turn, and they can just generally be annoying. An almost-perfect harassment unit!

1. Mini-squad. 

Five Swooping Hawks will cost you 80 points, compared to the previous codex where the same squad costed you 25 more. What you get for this is a small unit of standard eldar aspect warriors with jump infantry (not jet pack infantry like the warp spiders), battle focus, fleet, and that sort of thing.

This unit pumps out 15 shots after landing, plus the grenade pack, albeit a small blast version - you need at least 6 models in the unit to use the pie plate version.

Deep strike in without scatter, drop a small blast S4/AP4 which ignores cover, and unload a bunch of AP5 shots. IG should fear these things.

2. Maxi-squad.

10 Swooping Hawks will cost you 160 points. Same gear, same tricks, but this time the grenade pack drops a large blast template - should cover almost an entire unit of veterans hiding behind an Aegis defense line.

Thirty shots plus a pie plate, plus haywire for assaulting vehicles. Looking better.

3. The Exarch. 

The swooping hawk exarch is now 7 points cheaper, which should be something. Out of the box he appears to be nothing special so I can't think of any reason that you'd take him... until you outfit him with powers and wargear. 

Exarch upgrades: the exarch gets a choice of 2 exarch powers from a total list of three. Two of these powers only affect the exarch himself - night vision (ignore cover from night fighting) and Marksman's Eye (Precision Shot on a 5+). The third, Hit & Run, seems like a no-brainer if you're going to use your hawks in an assault capacity.

Exarch equipment: Two variations on the lasblaster. The Hawk's Talon is basically a S5 variant while the sunrifle gains AP3 and blind - what the what? OK so it's marginally better at popping marines but when it's only wounding on a 5+... ah whatever. You can also buy him a power weapon, but since it's his only CC weapon you won't be getting any additional attacks.

Hmmm, so an exarch with minimal equipment gets you almost nothing but 1 extra CC attack in assault. Bleh. On the other hand, an exarch with a power weapon and a sunrifle may well add some significant value when used against marines. Worth it? I dunno. Maybe.

4. Baharroth.

Baharroth clocks in at around 195 - more than an entire squad of Swooping Hawks with an exarch! For that you get the typical Phoenix Lord profile - a melee bomb. He comes preloaded with a Warlord trait (Falcon's Swiftness) and two exarch powers; Battle Fortune for a 4+ invuln save and the aforementioned Hit & Run.He also comes kitted out with a Hawk's talon and the Shining Blade - a power weapon with the Blind special ability. Which may be good since in close combat Baharroth is going to do all the killing.

He also gets a special trick - Sun's Brilliance. This lets him deep strike in (again with no scatter due to Herald of Victory) and all units within 6" have to take a Blind test.

One of the advantages of bringing a Phoenix Lord is that you can often skip the exarch. That's certainly the case here, so bringing Baharroth in a full-sized squad of hawks will have that added (invisible) bonus.

For 355 points you have 11 guys, deep striking in with no scatter, maybe blinding everyone in the area, dropping a no-cover pie plate, spreading out to minimize reprisal fire, unloading 33 shots (or 30 plus a plasma grenade). Any assault unit is going to face some withering overwatch fire (albeit low strength), and still have the PL to contend with. They will not have morale problems and the next turn they can move, shoot/run and assault or even just fly out again to deep strike in next turn.

Anyway, this is an example of how I'm breaking down units these days. Where weaknesses exist I make a mental note, looking for other things to shore them up from elsewhere in the codex. It's a long, slow process, but one I find helpful. Hopefully you will too!

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