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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Armies in 5th: Dark Eldar Part 3: Glass Cannon

As discussed before Dark Eldar have a hideous amount of firepower available to them in various forms of Darklight and poisoned weaponry. This has to be balanced in some way and it’s not points. The basic DE Warrior is a measly 9 points with a very impressive statline except for S/T and Sv where it is the same as a measly guardsmen. All of the DE vehicles are a max of AV11 (generally AV10) and only two (the most expensive) are open-topped. This is balancing and whilst DE pack a hefty early punch, they are made of paper. This isn’t to say DE fold if their initial strike falters or they don’t get the first turn (discussed here). Obviously you have to play them differently and use terrain and reserves as much to your advantage as possible. Simply placing your army on the table-top and expecting them to survive so you can shoot back isn’t playing smart.

How they are you supposed to overcome Dark Eldar’s glass cannon nature? For the most part, it’s built into the army list. As the game goes on, units are going to get better through pain tokens. Remember that 9 point Warrior who had a very impressive statline and gun but was as weak as a 5pt Guardsmen? Well now he’s got FNP. And he’s still 9 points. Most DE armies are going to start with a certain number of pain tokens and as the game goes on, your units will generate more and your infantry will become a lot more durable. Whilst they will still fold under fire from S6+ weaponry, S6+ weaponry is also very good against your tanks. This is good for you as your opponent now has a lot of targets for S6+ weapons and not enough S6+ weapons. Furthermore, other units like Wyches, Beastmasters, Incubi, etc. are designed to be in combat and although they may or may not be as survivable outside of combat, combat is where they want to be. This happens later in the game and not only gets those units where they want to be but limits incoming firepower. Pretty basic there.

Some upgrades will also be of great benefit to keeping the DE alive. Flickerfields and nightshields are two prime examples. Flickerfields are pretty obvious, 5++ on a tank is amazing (except against Null Zone), even for 10 pts. Nightshields have a lot less applicability and although they screw around meltaguns (but really, a S8 AP1 gun is going to quite reliably kill you anyway) they are best used on long-ranged platforms with Dark Lances where that extra 6” can come in handy.

Reserves are also an important aspect of Dark Eldar. There is a reason why there is no reserve manipulator for DE; they pack a huge punch and being able to get 2/3rd of your army in for an alpha strike on T2 which is a lot harder to stop than Imperial Alpha strikes (DE don’t care about melta range except on Reavers/Scourges). If you’re not going first against an army which can blow you out of the sky (lots of autocannons for example) before you get to advance, reserving is a very good idea. The Duke is great here as he allows for two types of deployment (normal or deep-strike) which gives you some excellent options depending upon what type of list you are facing (i.e. reserving against T6’R’Us and you want to come in on the board edge but against a Tau or IG list, you’re more likely to want to DS). Not managing your reserves properly (even if it’s just a couple of units) will see you often complaining about how easy DE are to kill and the OP nature of other armies. So do it right (and Katie wants a full article on this which she may get some day...).

Finally, seizing is another way DE can limit their fragility. Thanks to Vect, DE have a very real chance to seize and when Vect is in the army, your opponent must account for you seizing. If not, your opponent’s army might not exist shortly. You may never even both with attempting to use Vect’s seizing bonus but rather force your opponent to modify his deployment and then deploy/reserve accordingly. If your opponent doesn’t ‘counter’ being seized though, DE have a very good chance to take advantage of it thanks to their speed and firepower.

Overall, yes DE are weak and very vulnerable to mass rate of fire weapons. However, with upgrades like retrofire jets, flickerfields, etc. and characters like the Duke and Vect combined with DE special rules (power from pain), DE are a maintainable army throughout a 7 turn game. They are obviously vastly different from a Marine or IG army in terms of momentum and attrition but they can maintain and re-gain momentum even if their vehicles hail spikey bits below them. It will be important to know when to reserve your DE army (or parts of it) and when not to take maximum advantage of DE strengths whilst minimising their weaknesses. Failing to do so will see the DE army fail.
Next article will be on mobility.

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