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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dark Eldar Codex Review: Part 4: Special Characters (Part 2)

Here's the second part of the Dark Eldar Special Character review. We checked out Vect, Lady Malys, Kheradruakh and Drahzar last time around. We'll look at Lelith, Urien, Baron and Duke this time around and then do a quick summary.

Lelith Hesperax
Lelith has even higher combat stats than normal Dark Eldar with 9 in both WS and Initiative. That’s insane! Unlike other Wyches she also always has a 4++ which improves to 3++ in combat but like most Dark Eldar she also suffers from low strength and toughness. Luckily she ignores armor and will generally have 7-10 attacks depending on what she’s facing. Due to her reliance on combating low WS models to generate more attacks and lacking a good strength or way to bypass high T models, Lelith excels at crushing pleb units (even Space Marines) but when higher WS characters show up she becomes less effective as her low strength isn’t being buoyed by sheer number of attacks. Keep in mind that even against stuff like Captains she’s still getting +3 attacks so isn't 'bad' but certainly less effective. If you get her a couple of pain tokens though, she can become very scary to anyone in combat as she wounds on 4s and has FNP. Lelith with two tokens is a monster. She will chop down just about anything she touches if she gets to that point.

Normal vulnerability like most Dark Eldar to S6+ weapons and like Drazhar she doesn’t add much to the army other than being generally down-right scary in combat. There’s nothing wrong with this but it’s not really an effective application of points in 5th edition 40k. Although a lot cheaper than Drazhar, you’re still more likely to get more mileage off having a cheaper Archon/Succubus and spending the extra points on the rest of your army. She actually has a bit more survivability than Drahz because WS9 means most models hit her on 5+ and a 3++ means it ends up being rather tough to bring her down. Of course, she can just poof when hit by a Fist still, but she’s more resilient to it than she appears at first glance- remember, the Shardnet also gives the enemy -1A, so a Fist Sarge gets a single swing at her, hitting on 5+, wounding on 2+, and then negated on a 3+; in other words, less than a 10% chance of actually doing anything. Basically if you want a really scary combat character, go Lelith. She's not as bad as many other combat characters in she does get a bunch of attacks but she is still quite one-dimensional.
Urien Rakarth
Urien is a bit of a conundrum. In terms of what he provides in pain tokens and statline you might as well buy three normal Haemonculi. Whilst Urien can start the game with four pain tokens to hand out, he can also only start with two. Furthermore, up to three of these tokens must go to Wrack or Grotesque units which already start with a token each. The three Haemonculi will give you a steady three tokens every game on any unit but have to start with the unit they wish to provide them to. Even Urien’s statline isn’t too flash and whilst regenerating wounds is a nice way to absorb firepower for any squad he is attached to, he’s nothing too flash. His T5, regen and Clone Field mean he's pretty survivable in combat but the rest of his statline doesn't lead him too well to being a great cc guy though his 3+ flesh gauntlet isn't too shabby in combat. Lack of good save or invulnerable hinder his use though.

Urien’s real purpose however is in unlocking S6 grotesques. If Urien is in your army you can pay 5 points extra to upgrade Grotesques to S6 (S7 on the charge). This is a very scary prospect when you consider they are already T5/W3 and have a bunch of attacks and this is probably the only time they should be taken. They become excellent at simply attritioning units away and are very hard to insta-gib with T5. With lots of S7 attacks on the charge they are also capable of poking tanks through sheer weight of attacks. Making a gimmick army with Urien and bunches of Grotesques could be amusing- he can start most of them with two Pain Tokens, so you’re landing a bunch of S7 attacks before the enemy can strike- especially amusing with vehicles. However, he just isn’t worth the cost from a competitive standpoint, so he’s relegated to that one so-so build. It's possible to use him in a more balanced list with just one or two Grotesque squads but his high cost hinders this somewhat. If you're not improving Grotesques with him just go with regular Haemonucli and this is probably the best solution regardless.

Duke Sliscus

Hands down the best character in the book. Hands. Down. Duke offers a wide variety of options from improving combat drug users, deep-striking vehicles who can disembark their cargo, effective combat potential and 3+ poison for one group of Trueborn or Warriors. As with Malys, his utility power is his main strength; however, it can also be a problem, as it’s very hard to take advantage of all his different abilities effectively. Still, the price is right and he brings a lot of good stuff to the table, not the least of which being disembarking after deep striking. Finding maximum use for all of these options though can be difficult and when there is a Trueborn or Kabalite squad in the army, he must deploy with them. Annoying but at least he’s not stuck there and he can be run in an army without any Trueborn or Kabalite squads. The major drawback of the Duke is his statline. He’s no slouch in combat with 5 attacks on the charge which wound on 2+ (and ignore saves on a 5+) backed up by a Shadow Field but with only two wounds and a ‘measly’ WS/I 6, he isn’t super scary. He is however an excellent addition to most squads and his blast pistol adds that one extra anti-tank shot.

Duke is pretty easy to fit into any army as he is generally always going to improve some aspect of it. Whether it’s giving a unit 3+ poison or two rolls on the combat drug table, it’s hard to make a list which Duke simply doesn’t provide for. That being said, trying to make a list where he is always going to benefit isn’t the best idea as you will often dilute your force too significantly. Look to take advantage of two of his major changes in either a good squad for his 3+ poison, a lot of squads using combat drugs or a lot of vehicles which could benefit from deep-striking. Let the third option either be neglected or a tiny amount of utility. This is a fine line to dance around as you don’t want to actively neglect his other option and not take units because you’re focusing on his other abilities. If the units fit the army better than something else, use them and if you can create a list where the army is mildly benefiting from all three of the Duke’s abilities and make a better list than focusing on just two, do so. Rather when you start to build a list pick two of the abilities you want to gain the most from and see if you can work around that concept.

Overall the Duke is one of the best characters in the game. He's not terrible based upon his stats/wargear but he really provides for almost any Dark Eldar army and provides for it well. Lists can be built around him but he works well just as a stock-standard HQ.

Baron Sathonyx

If you like Hellions, the Baron is for you. After Duke, Baron is probably one of the better characters Dark Eldar have access to. Not only is he dirt cheap but he makes Hellions usable as Troops and importantly, makes the unit he is attached to very scary. By providing his unit with stealth and skilled rider, Hellions can make up for their poor save and move into cover and be highly unlikely to take casualties. From there the squad can either stand around with a 3+ save and pump out a bunch of poisoned splinter shots and act as an anchor for the army or move out and assault the opponent with potential S6 weapons. Issue obviously arise with the unit actually being able to effectively kill units outside of torrenting and Hellions not having any special weapons. Once again, also take note that he carries a Shadow Field with him, which is a big deal since he’s only two wounds. Hellions aren’t really an offensive unit; at best, they’re harassment, which the Baron helps with since he makes it easier to stay alive and get to awkward places. By also making them scoring they are a harasser which can win you games and frees up your Fast Attack choices.

The Baron also helps Dark Eldar get to pick who goes first which makes him a nice supplement to Vect in ensuring Vect can disrupt your opponent’s deployment as much as possible. Otherwise this is obviously a nice ability as it gives you a better chance to pick who goes first. The Duke and Baron also synergise nicely as the Duke is more likely to roll a good combat drug to benefit the hellions (i.e. +1 Strength) but limits their deployment options without a Webway. It's not a super potent combination but reliably makes the Hellions that little bit scarier. This is however an expensive combination for Dark Eldar HQ at 255 points.

The Baron is a bit more general-use than the other specific characters like Urien and Vect whilst less generalist than the Duke or Malys. To take maximum advantage of the Baron you really should be taking Hellions as troops which opens up quite a few options for full foot lists/webway lists and frees up your Fast Attack for other units to make a very focused and fast army. I think most of the time one big unit of Hellions (12+) for him to hang with and two+ smaller squads is the right setup. The small squads play like Wracks, hiding out and scoring points and the big one goes in to be annoying. Remember as well the Baron doesn’t have to go into a Hellion unit and can provide his special USRs to other units as well (Dark Eldar Warriors with 3+ cover, 3+ poison and FNP anyone?) but taking him without Hellions is a gross under utilisation of his abilities.


All in all there are some good special characters and some really bad ones. Urien, Drazhar and Kheradruakh are all pretty bad with minimal to little use whilst Asdrubael Vect and Baron have decent armies to be built around their strengths. Lady Malys and Duke are excellent characters for putting into your 'average' Dark Eldar list and adding new dimensions and improving certain aspects of the army. Lelith is a very good combat character without breaking the bank and importantly can get lots of attacks so is quite capable of demolishing whole squads by herself and remaining survivable. Whilst you the army doesn't gain much from her she's good enough to be worth the point cost to lead a Dark Eldar army.

Overall there are some obvious options to run for Dark Eldar through special characters. With the HQs any prospective general has an amazing choice and variety in how to lead their army and the good special characters (even Duke) aren't so much better than your regular HQs that they become automatic choices.

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