Dark Eldar, four games in.

I had four games with my Dark Eldar army last week and last weekend. Looking back, I have to admit that Dark Eldar are slightly more powerful than I thought, but definitely not a tier 1 or 2 army. In fact, I won 3 of the 4 games, but I think that army selection played a role in at least two of the games, as well as some lucky rolls on my side or horrible rolls on my opponent’s side. I will briefly comment on each game, then see what conclusions I can draw from them and then see how I can change my army to adopt the conclusions made.

Game 1 against Space Wolves (Champions of Fenris supplement)

This was against Michael from the local GW. He played a rather fluffy list based on the Champions of Fenris supplement. It included two Rune Priests, a 10-strong unit of Terminators with 2 Assault Cannons, but only 1 Storm Shield, 2 units of Grey Hunters (double melta or double plasma), 2 units of Long Fangs (a variety of guns), a Venerable Dreadnought with Shield and Axe, a Wolf Lord with all the trimmings on Thunderwolf with 3 Thunderwolf riders. We played a Maelstrom mission where you first draw 6 cards, then one less each turn. However, he insisted on NOT replacing pointless cards automatically, which I did not appreciate, but in all, he drew 4 duds and I only 3, so it evened out I guess.

This game was decided on turn 1. I had first turn and rolled the Warlord trait that forces 3 pinning tests at the beginning of the opponent’s first turn. I actually chose to re-roll it, but rolled it again. So I decided that it was a sign and went balls to the wall, turbo-boosting my Raiders with my Grotesques, Archon, Haemonculi and Incubi right on top of his line, then set off the Warlord trait. As my Archon wore the Armour of Misery and the units gave a -1 to Ld as well on account of being from the Haemonculus Coven supplement, he got a -3 Ld penalry for some units. So the Grey Hunters with Meltaguns and the Wolf Lord with his T-Wolves both decided to eat dirt, whereas the plasma Grey Hunters with a Rune Priest managed to pass their test.

Still, the fact that I got to shoot first and took out two units in turn 1 meant that my transports escaped most of his fire, only the Incubi and Haemonculus lost their Raider in the fire. As a matter of fact, I managed to dispel an Ignore Cover spell on the Terminators, so they only glanced the Raider twice after jinking and it was only the fact that a Plasma Cannon scattered on top of the Raider that killed it. But the Incubi managed to survive most of the Grey Hunters’ fire as I had put the Raider slightly inclined, so they could hide behind it but still manage to walk around it and thus charge without the Ini penalty. So in turn 2, my Grotesques and Incubi along with the accompanying heroes got stuck in easily and wiped out the Grey Hunters and Wolf riders over the round, though the Wolf Lord survived for a couple of rounds before he got killed (he had 2+ armour and a re-roll per round thanks to his Warlord trait). He also rolled a ‘12’ on Ld checks on three occasions, so both his units of Long Fangs left their position in turn 1 or 2 and even his Terminators were unable to perform a countercharge that would have wiped out all of my combat elements as they ran away in turn 2 and had to spend a full turn to get back in position only to be wiped out by a full volley by my army. Michael was also unlucky when I rolled a ‘weapon destroyed’ on his Venerable Dreadnought and asked me to re-roll, resulting in it being ‘Immobilized’ instead. So my Dark Eldar just danced around it and shot it in the back as Dark Eldar should.

So the game continued until turn 5, but at that stage I had 15 points (I even got the objective that requires controlling every single objective, which I managed easily enough as everyone was dead or locked in combat) and he only had one guy left who was in combat with 3 Grotesques.

So it looked like a walkover, but once you take all the boxcars for Ld checks into account and the fact that his key units got randomly pinned turn 1, it doesn’t look quite as bad for the Wolves.

Game 2 against Chaos Space Marines

I played Thierry’s Slaaneshi Marines. He ran some Noise Marines, two Contemptors with Butcher Cannons, a Defiler, some Cultists, two Rhinos full of dudes, a Chaos Lord, some Nurgle Obliterators and that’s about it. We played the basic Maelstrom mission with 3 objective cards per turn, replacing all useless cards immediately, as one should. I rolled first turn but he seized on me. As a result, my Incubi and both Grotesque units spent the game walking as their Raiders were dropped immediately. I also was unable to make a jink save on turn 1. Still he didn’t score any points as all his objectives were on my side of the table. I had a poor first turn, not killing a single unit, only dropping a couple of models or taking a couple of hull points off a Rhino.

Fortunately, his dice went cold and mine went hot in turn 2, so his shooting failed to make much of a dent. All in all, I destroyed all his Rhinos and his Cultists skirmishing screen which penned him in in his deployment zone while I could score a few points. In turn 3, I got a bucket load of points for destroying a unit each in my shooting and assault phase (one of the Dark Eldar specific cards) and the generic card that requires killing a unit in assault and did a similar thing in turn 4 where I got both the Dark Eldar and generic cards that required a failed morale check, so I had another double point for fulfilling one card. We decided to call it there as he was unable to catch up with the points at that stage.

Games 3 and 4 against Tau

I played Kevin (actually I just realized that all three of my Warhammer-related friends named Kevin play Tau which is weird) in a two-game set. So we decided to do one each as starting and second player. We played the modified BAO missions as he is preparing for a tournament using them. He ran a standardish Tau list with double Riptide, some sacrificial Kroot and a Fire Warrior gunline, supported by two units of missile Broadsides and a Railhead, all with a sprinkling of Pathfinders and some Devilfish APCs to act as mobile scorers.

In game 1, he began and promptly used the Pathfinders and Missilesides to remove my Raiders to strand my melee elements. I managed to kill most of his Pathfinders by pouring truckloads of fire into them, but this meant that I could not actually reduce his weight of fire, only the quality of fire, in round 1. So he proceeded to blow up most of my vehicles over the first three turns whilst stalling my Grotesques and Incubi with the Kroot. Once I had cut my way through the skirmish line, I was in the open and my remaining units were shot down. In addition, the mission used kill points as a primary or secondary objective, so I lost quite badly, simply because I had too many fragile units to be able to dig myself out of that hole.

In game 2, I began and could take out the Pathfinders by moving my Raiders flat out to get them within 12” of them to use my Ld penalty bubbles, then causing morale checks on all 3 Pathfinder units, as well as on some Broadsides. As my Archon with Armour of Misery was within 6” as well, the Broadsides and one Pathfinder unit were at -3 Ld, which means only 5 or 6 for most Tau, they promptly legged it, as well as one other unit of Pathfinders, so there were only 3 of them left after turn 1. This affected his firepower and I was actually able to make jink saves for once. Thus my Raiders still ate it, but only after absorbing most of his firepower, so my melee units actually made it to his lines more or less intact. Another dose of morale checks at -3 cleaned out more of his units and I could charge in turn 2 without having to take overwatch fire from all his dudes. This let me clean up the other Broadsides and one Riptide as well as the Fire Warriors, meaning that it was just a mop-up after that. Nevertheless, I still conceded the kill points secondary to him, but winning on primary and tertiary as I had more objective points from the modified Maelstrom table and got First Blood, Warlord and Linebreaker.

Conclusions

Dark Eldar still play like Dark Eldar should, aggressive and fast. You need to pounce on every mistake your opponent makes. Having access to Ld shenanigans is great if the opponent is not Fearless for once and the Armour of Misery is quite cheap by itself. The -1 Ld penalty from the Covens supplement is also a freebie, so it is nice to have but if it doesn’t work, it is no biggie. I will definitely respect the Strategic Warlord trait 6 (the one which causes 3 units to take a pinning test in their first turn) as pinning is actually relevant against Marines, which are still the most common army to encounter.

I need more anti-tank. Even with 10 Dark Lances and 4 Blasters, I still had problems downing even Rhinos in cover, so I need at least another 2 guns.

My Archon with Agoniser is not that great. Either I need to invest another 40 points for a Shadow Field, or he is toast as soon as he encounters an S6+ opponent. And even with the Field he is still not that good. I love the Armour and he will stay in there just for that, but I will drop the Blast Pistol and Agoniser and just give him a Blaster. Having a BS7 guy with a range 18 S8 gun is quite cool and he only sets me back 90 points with the Armour and the Blaster, which is rather a bargain.

I rarely need 9 Incubi and a big unit just makes them a prime target. The Grotesques are there to soak fire, so the Incubi will be reduced to 6.

Overwatch fire still hurts toughness 3 units, so I need some cheap cannon fodder to take one for the team.

 

Retooling the list

So this is the new list with a few changes:

I dropped the Animus Vitae as I missed once with it, once failed to wound and only got the bonus once. Given that it is an S4 shot in a T4 world with cover or jinks being readily available, it is not really worth the points as it is a one shot weapon with a maximum 40% success rate even before cover. I will instead run the Helm of Spite, simply to mess with psykers and discourage them from rolling 6+ dice to get key powers through or at least punish them if they do.

The Lord got the changes I suggested and got his personal Venom, simply because he can. He is still most likely to join the Grotesques until they disembark from their Raider, then snuggle up in it alone to produce a greater -2 Ld bubble.

I bought a single Llamae as the Archon’s Court. She will bring her own ride (that’s what you get for sucking up to the big guy), but they must have hit a rough patch these days as she will be mercilessly used to absorb overwatch fire. Still, it gives me another Venom without having to dedicate a Fast Attack slot to it.

With the saved points, I bought an empty Raider. Not only does that give my another Lance, but I also have a spare ride to pick up one of the melee units if their own transport is downed early on.

Codex Dark Eldar Detachment

Haemonculus: Warlord, The Helm of Spite, Scissorhands: 105 points

Archon: Blaster, The Armour of Misery¸Venom with 2 Splinter Cannons: 155 points

Court of the Archon: Llamae, Venom with 2 Splinter Cannons: 75 points

5 Kabalite Warriors: Blaster, Venom with 2 Splinter Cannons: 120 points

5 Kabalite Warriors: Blaster, Venom with 2 Splinter Cannons: 120 points

5 Kabalite Warriors: Blaster, Venom with 2 Splinter Cannons: 120 points

5 Kabalite Warriors: Blaster, Raider with Dark Lance: 115 points

6 Incubi: Raider with Dark Lance: 180 points

Venom: 2 Splinter Cannons: 65 points

Raider: Dark Lance: 60 points

Ravager: 3 Dark Lances: 125 points

Ravager: 3 Dark Lances: 125 points

Ravager: 3 Disintegrators: 110 points

 

Coven Formation: Grotesquerie

Haemonculus: Scissorhand, Syndriq’s Sump: 90 points

4 Grotesques: Raider with Dark Lance: 200 points

5 Grotesques: Raider with Dark Lance: 235 points

 

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