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Friday, January 21, 2011

Dark Eldar Codex Review: Part 3: Special Characters (Part 1)

We're doing special characters first before actual HQs. Unusual but hey, it floats our boat for the moment. Like most of the 5th edition armies, the Special Characters are the weakest section in terms of percentages of the Dark Eldar book. They have some pretty good ones, some okay ones and then some downright terrible ones. All things considered the special characters open up quite a few specific builds and compliment other builds rather well. The biggest downfall of many of the Dark Eldar HQs is their expense and whilst many of them are quite survivable with a 2++ (it is not the new black), it just takes a single one and a lot of points can be very easily removed. So let's take a look and see how they stack up.

Asdrubael Vect

This guy is very expensive considering he’s only T3 and can be insta-gibbed. With a 2++ shadowfield and WS/I8 this can be hard though and he has four wounds otherwise to soak up baby hits. Combine this with an impressive number of attacks (5), a scary orbs of death (BS8 means it doesn’t scatter much) and a power weapon which always wounds on 3’s? Wow, I don’t want to get into combat with him unless I’m Tyranids with Lash Whips and the Swarmlord and even then… Vect’s real problem is that he’s vulnerable to just being torrented down/ID’d by S6 hits. He’s pretty strong in a fight against other combat units, but hard hitters will bring him down eventually.
This doesn’t justify his steep points cost. Just like any good character in close combat to be useful they have to bring something to the army and Vect brings some of the best disruption in the game by allowing the Dark Eldar army to seize on a 4+. This is a hugely valuable ability but given his cost and lack of other utility his use is hard to justify at anything smaller than 2000 points. This isn't your standard disruption like deep-striking or outflanking so let's take a look at the possibilities here.

By potentially seizing 50% of the time, this forces your opponent to either gamble and deploy normally or hedge and deploy defensively which gives the Dark Eldar an advantage in board control and/or allow easier reserving. Whilst still a bit pricey for this ability it can be very much worth it in terms of freaking your opponent out and forcing a mistake. Dark Eldar are not a “need to go first” army like many people initially thought. Whilst Vect does make your army more likely to go first, he’s much better at changing your opponent’s deployment. However, this ability is completely lost if your opponent forces the first turn upon you so you really have to wonder is messing with your opponent’s deployment in 50% of games (i.e. where you go 2nd) worth the cost? I generally think not but there are some excellent lists which can be built around this ability. Unlike the Duke then, Vect is not an easy fit into most DE armies and you have to build around him. If you are building an army that benefits greatly from going first- and some DE armies do this more than others- he might be worth considering. This is then a win/win situation for the Dark Eldar army as you end up benefit from going first if your opponent gives it to you or have a good chance to steal the initiative and disrupt your opponent. All things considered he's still quite expensive for what he does and really needs to have a list built with him in mind.

And that’s before we even get to the Dais! Subtract another 200 points for your available pool and you can get an AV13 Ravager with transport capacity. Pretty cool except you have to move 6” to fire all the lances (no Aerial Assault) and must start Vect + 9 other dudes in the Dais. Pretty limiting and doesn’t add much to the army for the very expensive point cost. If you taking Vect, leave this at home.With the new FAQ, the Dais is horrible and worthless and the end, that's really all that needs to be said about it!

Lady Malys

A bunch cheaper than Vect and whilst nearly as potent in combat, not nearly as survivable with only a 5+/4++. That being said, Lady Malys is the only true psychic defense in the Dark Eldar army and makes one unit completely immune. This would be great for a super unit but Dark Eldar don’t really have true super units with their best being Beastmasters (and Malys slows them down). It’s worth noting that, as with other ICs, you can keep Malys attached to the BM’s and simply have her break away on the turn they go for the charge. Can be risky with Fleet, but... Consider this ability more as a bonus and not the reason you ever take Malys. Rather, her deployment changes she brings to the table are a lot more potent. Lady Malys deployment shenenigans are more readily applicable than Vect’s. Vect may be a bunch nastier in combat and have more potential for getting an advantageous deployment but Malys can consistently benefit an army whether it is going first or second by redeploying units. Importantly you don't really have to design a list around Malys and she can fit quite well into most lists. A lot of people look too much at her psychic 'defense' and forget she actually has an awesome redeployment effect.

What this redployment particularly allows you to do is move static units (i.e. foot units with Dark Lances) to more advantageous starting positions. You can easily sit two sets of units on opposite sides of the board and force the enemy into an awkward engagement strategy with her. Furthermore her redployment allows you to move units into reserve which allows you to manipulate what starts on the table and move it to reserve. For example, you could start a squad on the table in DoW to potentially push your opponent back or encourage them to deploy something and then use Malys to drag it back into reserve. Being able to send stuff back into reserves is huge- no other redeployment effect can do this.

Malys really excels though when she can add some pre-game mobility to static units and whilst she’s a decently cheap HQ for any army and provides some pretty good combat prowess, gaining maximum utilization out of her ability to redeploy units is key to including her in your army successfully. Her combat stats are more than enough to chew through most basic units, having a multitude of power weapon attacks. Unfortunately she’s only S3, so getting her that second Pain Token as soon as possible is a priority. She makes a good escort for a less powerful unit like Wyches or Warriors and can add some further punch to good combat units like Incubi. This is all a bonus though to her deployment bonuses and for 130 points is a really solid purchase.
Drahzar, Master of Blades
One of the only models in the Dark Eldar book to have both Strength and Toughness higher than 4 to go along with his Eternal Warrior. Drahzar is a beast in combat and will turn most units into mince meat. With the standard high I and WS of Dark Eldar to go with a decent amount of attacks and the ability to generate a lot more with his Demiglaives, Onlsaught and Riptose, he can be very deadly. His Demiglaives at base S4 are really nice since he can get base 6A at S4 or 4A at S6 to really hurt high toughness targets or instant death T3 targets (hi farseers!). In fact, with Murderous Assault, Independent Character status and Darting Strike Drahzar is a very effective character killer in being able to get into base to base with ICs who have tried to hide. At the same time this opens him to being targeted by potentially buff characters so this should perhaps be used against non-combat ICs.
This all seems great until we realize Drazhar has no invulnerable (a 2+ goes so far) and is a staggering 230 points. Darting strike can help Drahzar avoid those power weapons which undo him so well but against units with all power weapons? Not so flash. As said above, this also limits his character killing ability as if he fails to kill his target, they are quite likely to smack him back. All that combat ability is great, even the ability to buff a single Incubi squad but he just simply doesn’t add to the army as a whole and for his points cost, is certainly a guy to leave at home. He and any unit he joins will very likely much through whatever they face (they’ll even scare Terminators until they strike back) but Incubi are quite capable of doing that alone and cheaper Archons can be quite scary as well and are well, cheaper.

This is perhaps the worst character, like ever. He's 140 points of uselessness and until GW recognises that characters like this either nee a pretty scary shooting attack (like a Demo Charge; hi Marbo) or can assault when they come in (hi Callidus; is it the Callidus?) they aren't very useful. Whilst he starts with a pain token he's still a T3/W3/5++ guy who is really easy to instant death with a couple S6 shots although you can get him a 3+ cover save with Stealth. If he even gets into combat he's pretty decent with good Dark Eldar stats backed up by strength 5 but still lacks on the defensive end. It's recommended that this guy is...well never taken really.

We'll leave it here as we don't want to have a huge wall of text. The next part will be posted soon and covers Lelith, Baron, Duke, Urien and summarises them all.

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