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Monday, October 18, 2010

Dark Eldar: do they require the first turn?

More food for thought before DE are released. For those of you without a shiny copy in their hands I'm sure you've read how 'everyone' thinks DE need the first turn (or steal the initiative) to win. Otherwise they lose because they rely on AV10 open-topped (yet Ork Trukks are the bomb...seriously, wtf?). Well news-flash Internets, you're wrong again. Dark Eldar do not rely upon the first turn; sure you can build around it and the  characters which help get you the first turn (Vect & Baron) are good outside of that ability but the army does just fine without relying upon an alpha strike. Yes DE are a huge glass cannon but because they can put down ~8-9+ skimmers with 5+ invuls, fast status and a significant gun + huge mobility advantages with some upgrades (i.e. far, far better than the Trukk), poison shooting, infantry which gets stronger as the game goes on, etc., they can actually play a 'normal' game of 40k.

Why though? Sure I listed a bunch of nice qualities but how does this work out on the table-top? Dark Eldar are basically killing machines (if you didn't know, now you do). The amount of raw firepower and combat potential they bring to the table is amazing. Being able to fit in 6-12 Venoms/Raiders w/2x Splinter Cannons + Heavy Support let alone what's inside those transports at 2000 points is a lot of firepower. Ya you don't have the survivability of say Mech IG or SM variant Mech but you have way more firepower to bring down anything which is not a tank (Tyranid MCs are crying) backed up by the firepower to bring down all the mech from both range and up close.

Yes you are fragile but in terms of point efficiency, Dark Eldar are perhaps the best army in terms of killing things which means they have to be 'weak' in terms of survivability (something called balance...). Yes a lot of armies bring a lot of ranged S7+ shots to the field but Dark Eldar are quite capable of reserving (just like anyone else) and then moving 24"+ onto the table (that sounds new!). Their vehicles get invulnerable saves (Null Zone cheers) and can be in your face ASAP or sitting back using Nightshields and lol lancing you. Yes their armor drops to rate of fire weapons a bit faster than other armies but they kick your ass, too.

So let's focus a bit on the alpha-strike. Obviously Dark Eldar have the option to run a lot of short-ranged anti-tank weapons into your face early and then shove a bunch of poison or templates into whatever pops out but is it effective? Yes and no. Yes it's effective but any general should by now know how to defend against this style of army. Remember Air-Cav lists? Ya how often do you see them anymore? Sure there are Meltavets in Vendettas but they add some spunk to a static-ish army and are no longer "broken." Why? People figured out if you sacrifice a unit to push your opponent back and they unload in front of you and don't make your army crumble to bits...well it's a great sacrifice! The same defenses work against Dark Eldar. You layer units against their charges or short-ranged anti-tank weapons so you have a longer time to shoot down their mobile transports and torrent their infantry off the face of the table. Sure feeding DE units gives them FNP/FC/Fearless but the units which need FNP are generally getting it from free Tokens anyway. I'd rather delay the whole DE army and give a unit an extra USR than have DE running through my lines. If your opponent has build a force based around an alpha-strike or stealing the initiative: PLAN FOR IT.

It would be poor design indeed if a whole codex relied upon getting the first turn. What the hell would the point be of all the 'non-first turn' builds then? Or in fact, playing? Just roll a die and see who gets to go first and that determines the winner. Oh right, not even Games Workshop would do that! Yes there are first-turn lists for DE. Yes they can be very powerful if they go first (especially if they steal the initiative and you didn't account for that). No they don't suck if they don't get the first turn or their alpha-strike fails. Yes you will need to practice with the army and have a very good understanding of list building to get the most out of the codex. No I will not help you (jokes). Same thing over and over again I guess with new codices; there's no middle ground for most people. If DE can get an alpha strike off successfully or roll well on a bunch of early turn lance hits, ya they are going to look amazing powerful as they rip your mobility from underneath you and run circles around you. Most good armies can do this as well you know, DE are just more capable of enacting it and more fragile to compensate for this.

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