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Monday, November 15, 2010

Armies in 5th: Dark Eldar Part 2: Poison & Darklight Weaponry

An integral part of the new Dark Eldar is how their weaponry operates. Well over 90% of DE weapons fielded in most army lists are either poison based or ‘darklight’ (S8 lance) based. This is very different from the more common Imperium line of weaponry and is different still from Tyranids, Tau, Necrons and Eldar which provides DE with some unique advantages they can exploit with their lists.

Poison is amazingly potent against high toughness armies (i.e. Tyranids, Bikers, TWC, etc.) as it basically negates one of the army’s defenses. Combined with the high strength firepower of Darklight weaponry and you are looking at a lot of wounds generated on high toughness targets compared to other armies. Even against ‘normal’ T4 armies, poison is a sight better than the old S3 splinter rifle and with upgrades like Duke’s poison, splinter racks, increased rate of fire, etc., Dark Eldar poison weaponry has become a very potent anti-infantry force. Like most 5th edition books it seems a significant portion of anti-infantry firepower is almost in-built within any DE army.

Furthermore, the mass of poison can actually be of significant help against true hordes (i.e. Orks) but is relatively useless against mech. Some quick math to show the effectiveness of poison; a Warrior squad with splinter racks will put out ~9 wounds on all units (assuming Blaster/Cannon combo). Marine squads, elite armies and high-toughness, etc. as well as large, horde based units and armies are spitting bricks that the basic DE unit can do so much torrenting (compare a Marine squad firing at a DE Warrior squad will generate ~8 wounds assuming no flamer hits). MCs which cost 150+ pts and suffer 9 wounds from a basic squad? Ouch. And even 30 man Guardsmen squads in cover don’t want to take 13 saves at range. However, whilst weapons like the Splinter Cannons can put out 6 shots each and the overall effectiveness of poison, against multiple large units it isn’t going to cut it and a DE army which relies on 2xSC Venoms and splinter rack Warriors is going to find itself in trouble against true hordes. Whilst DE may be semi-survivable in CC thanks to FNP from Pain, extensive anti-infantry will often need to come from elsewhere (i.e. Liquifiers, Bombers, etc.).

Poison is also pretty useless against Mech. Luckily Darklight weaponry comes in extreme use here. Although Darklight weaponry helps very little against hordes, it is very effective against MC style lists and mech due to its good strength, abundance and lance status. When taken in droves (20+), the rate of fire across multiple units and good strength allows it to render heavy tanks (Av13+) and cheaper but lighter tanks (i.e. Av11) pretty useless. Although Dark Lances in particular are nowhere near as effectively spammable before, the combination of multiple and useful darklight weapons provides the DE with effective anti-mech/MC firepower across their whole army and at multiple ranges. However, due to most squads carrying around poisoned weapons, a DE player may find their darklight weaponry overwhelmed against Mech spam (i.e. 12+ tanks) as their basic guns can’t even glance AV10/11 and the DE therefore rely pretty much solely on their darklight weaponry.

What does all this jibber jabber mean? Basically it is very hard to go extremely wrong when building a DE list. Yes there will be a huge gulf between the good lists and bad lists in terms of firepower and balance but inherently, DE lists will generally have good anti-infantry and anti-tank thanks to their main weapon types; poison and darklight. Although extra effort needs to be expended to ensure both of these areas are covered appropriately (i.e. liquefiers, heat lances, etc.), DE lists already have good foundation blocks in place and the combination of the two weapon types provides most DE lists with a good, balanced array of firepower. This firepower also has the unique advantage of being some of the most effective army wide firepower against high toughness units/armies and has a very reliable core (i.e. Warriors) in terms of damage output since poison ignores toughness. This makes DE the perfect counter to most Hybrid lists in terms of theory match-ups as their mix of darklight and poisoned weaponry gives their weapons perfect targets to shoot at most turns. On the flip side, DE may find success is harder against pure lists (i.e. foot horde or Mech spam) because their army is so inherently based upon duality (which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong). Whilst this won’t translate into a disadvantage for DE when using a good list, poor list building may find DE lists suffering significantly against one army type or another.

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