The Dark Eldar are coming out over the next few weeks and I wanted to use this to revitalize my army and see what it would need to stay competitive or rather become competitive again.
So let’s start with the present situation. Right now, Dark Eldar are in the curious position of being not really a top tier list, but giving a lot of the top tier lists fits. They can handle Space Marine Biker armies or Space Wolves Thunderwolf armies extremely well as their poisoned weapons ignore the toughness increase and thus have an easier time killing the smaller number of T5 models compared to a greater number of T4 infantry Marines. The same goes for the strongest Chaos Space Marines lists as they consist of as many T6 models as possible (Nurgle Bikers with characters, Nurgle Spawn) supported by AV11 and 12 vehicles and T5 Plaguemarines, all of which being models that Dark Eldar eat for breakfast. In addition, they handle Jetbikeseers well enough as they have enough shots to force that double 1 to grind through their wall of saves and finally also have enough poisoned shots to down flying monstrous creatures easier than most armies. On the other hand, they won’t survive long enough against Tau and Eldar Wave Serpent spam as these lists bring too much S6 and 7 shooting with Ignore Cover. Raiders and Venoms just die against such armies. That means that Dark Eldar cannot be considered a first-rate army at the moment, as they have two match-ups that are almost auto-losses against two of the most popular armies, but can deal easily with the remainder of the top armies, especially at the hands of an experienced commander.
So what would it take to make them more competitive or at least let them retain their current position as second-rate?
1) Hellions: Right now, Hellions are amazing with the Baron and rubbish without him. There, I said it. Why? Because without the Baron’s re-roll on Dangerous Terrain checks, they cannot use ruins or forests to take cover, as they will have make too many Dangerous Terrain checks and will lose about a third of the unit just for landing in a forest, then moving out again. Furthermore, without the Baron’s Stealth USR, they are too fragile to withstand a stiff breeze, let alone bolter fire. I guess that the Baron will not come back as he has not had a model so far, but just giving the unit Move Through Cover would keep them a playable unit. Right now, they are a good unit that can first drop a bucketload of poisoned shots on someone, then follow that up with a charge to consistently take out infantry units, but with the caveat that once they have killed their first victims, they might end up in the open and get killed, so they are definitely not that powerful, but without a way of mitigating Dangerous Terrain, they will be relegated to the miniatures cabinet I am afraid.
2) They need to still have a way of getting Turn 1 more consistently. Right now, the Baron is mainly added to armies to give them a +1 to the roll to start the game. And this is in my opinion necessary, as there is no army that needs to start first more than Dark Eldar. Not necessarily to get the charge early on, in fact I think Wych armies are inferior to Kabal armies, but just to have the opportunity to kill key models early on. They are an army that has been deliberately turned into a glass cannon, more than any other 40k army, and therefore they need ways to kill or at least neutralize the biggest threats before they can shoot, as they simply cannot take mass fire to the face. Granted, there are ways to reduce enemy fire, but with Tau and Eldar being able to spam Ignore Cover on mobile units or units that can also ignore Line of Sight, there is simply less room to hide than before.
3) Reshuffle the Force Organization Chart : I know, some people might think that reshuffling the FOC is unnecessary, as it is possible to run multiple detachments or just go unbound, but in my neck of the woods, that’s simply not done and most people only play one or two detachments maximum. Tournaments definitely limit you to one primary or might allow a second one only if you give up your allied detachment. And as most 7th edition codicies got rid of FOC changes based on character choices, they would have to be included in the list. So where do I feel those changes are necessary? First of all, Wracks should become Troops. This would make sense as it would allow Haemonculus Coven armies with their own dedicated troops choice in addition to Kabals and Wych Cults. Secondly, Razorwing Jetfighters should become Fast Attack. This would be consistent with the 6th and 7th edition codicies as they all place all or at least some of their flyers into Fast Attack. I believe the only non-Fast Attack flyer (barring 5th edition books) right now is the Storm Raven in Codex:Space Marines, but that book has the Storm Talon as a Fast Attack flyer. Putting the Razorwing into Fast Attack would also help it maintain its identity if we really get a Void Raven bomber as some rumours say. This would also help alleviate the fact that Heavy Support is the most crowded section in the codex, or rather the section where every other selection is simply muscled out of the way by the Ravager, which is currently single-handedly dominating that section and keeping the Dark Eldar playable.
4) Make the Raider cheaper: Right now, the Raider is a nice vehicle, being an Assault Vehicle with a strong gun, but it is made out of paper-maché and can be downed by anyone with a decent gun (decent meaning everything better than a boltgun), especially if it is an Ignore Cover gun. Moreover, the Venom is only 5 points more expensive with 2 Splinter Cannons and even comes with a free 5+ invulnerable to at least have a tiny chance against Ignore Cover. In other words, with the Venom you get a better transport with vastly greater firepower and a modicum of protection, so why bother with the Raider? Granted, the Venom can only carry 5 passengers, but in the case of Incubi, 5 is all it takes to murder Marines and the other units are all so fragile that 10 are just as easily killed as 5, so spreading the bodies around and doubling the number of units will make them more survivable, though at the cost of making Kill Points missions a bitch to play for Dark Eldar (my 1.500 list could give up 20 kill points easily). If the Raider were cheaper, maybe it would become a viable alternative again. Come on, GW, you know you want to sell us the more expensive kit this time around.
I know that this is just wish-listing, but I look forward to dusting off an old favourite and taking hostages again. Pray they don’t take you alive!