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Monday, January 10, 2011

Dark Eldar: Duke Sliscus + Webway Portal

So whilst writing the introduction to the Dark Eldar review the concept of a Duke Sliscus and Webway Portal army occurred to me. I'm still iffy on it's viability but the deployment options gives the army a wide range of flexibility and the Duke really buffs the army in many ways. First let's look at what the deployment combination of these two would do. First off, Duke essentially gives all DE skimmers retro-firejets++ which allows them to Deep-strike and units to disembark upon the turn they arrive which combines very well with a Webway Portal's inability to allow vehicles through. The combination of the two allows vehicles to be purchased in a WWP army and deep-struck whilst the infantry aspects utilise the WWP to come onto the board in midfield. The question then becomes is this worth it and are there enough points to go around to make it work? Well let's find out. (Note: this post is quite long as I explain a lot of the reasoning for choices)

We obviously start with Duke Sliscus. This gives us a very capable combat character who opens a lot of builds and provides for the army quite well. Not only does he give the vehicles the option to deep-strike but the Trueborn/Kabalite unit he starts with has 3+ poisoned guns. Not bad. He further increases the potential of certain squads by allowing two rolls on the combat drug table which increases the likelihood you'll get the desired result for the specific game you are playing. All this for 150 points and you can see why he is such an awesome buy. The next obvious step is to buy a couple of Haemonculus with Webway Portals. We're going to go with two to ensure we are able to drop one off on T1 and our army isn't left stranded in reserve. These guys cost 85 points each so our HQ takes up an impressive total of 320 points so we basically have 1750 points to build our army. Let's see what we can do.

A staple for most WWP armies is a large Warrior squad. These guys are the perfect place for a WWP character to hide in the early going because they are cheap, scoring, have numbers on their side and provide good shooting both against infantry and anti-tank. With a Haemonculus along for the ride they also gain FNP which makes them very tough to shift from cover without S6+ cover ignoring weapons. Basically these guys are durable, provide for the army in the long-run and allow the WWP to be dropped off reliably. So we'll take one squad of these guys at 20 strong and chuck in two dark lances. Since our HQs are starting in this squad we don't need to worry about a Syabrite though a phantasm grenade launcher might be a good investment... Remember as well that starting the Duke in this squad gives you 18 rapid fire 3+ poisoned weapons but in Dawn of War you have to choose whether to deploy the WWP further up field or have 3+ poisoned Warriors. This squad sets us back 230 points.

We have a lot of options regarding what should come through the Webway Portal and combat units are the most obvious, particularly slow combat units like Incubi or Talos. Both of these units operate very well in WWP armies but we are looking for some vehicle support which is capable of deep-striking as well due to the Duke. So we'll focus on that aspect of the army first before moving onto what comes through the Portal. The obvious inclusions here are Ravagers and Trueborn in transports. Both of these options don't require to come in via reserve and add very potent anti-tank and supporting anti-infantry firepower. Trueborn in particular benefit greatly from the combination of the WWP and Duke's special deep-strike rule as they are able to overcome the short-range of many of their guns. Although Ravagers don't benefit greatly from the Duke's deep-strike ability due to their range and mobility, the option to deep-strike into side angles rather than coming on from the table edge is a welcome bonus and something not to be ignored. Both units can also deep-strike quite safely due to their range and mobility on subsequent turns.

With this in mind we'll take three squads of both Trueborn with Blasters in Venoms and Ravagers. We're giving the Trueborn blasters as they become excellent anti-tank units who again can come through the Portal or drop in with their Venoms. We've also provided them with Venoms for a smaller profile when deep-striking and increased anti-infantry firepower though Raiders are also an option. Three squads of three strong with three blasters and three Venoms with double cannons sets us back 438 points. The Ravagers will come equipped with three dark lances for maximum anti-tank firepower and a flickerfield to ensure they will also have a save even in the open. Three of these guys at 115 sets us back 345 for a total of 783 points for this block which is quite expensive but provides excellent mobile anti-tank. This is one of the reasons Razorwings were not included due to their extra 40 point price tag though if the points can be found for one or two of these guys, their multiple 5" blasts would be very beneficial.

We've used a total of 1333 points so far with our core HQ and Troops set and the majority of our anti-tank and deep-striking elements in place. Time to look towards what comes out of the Webway. Unfortunately we've used up all of the slots of some of the most obvious WWP choices such as Talos and Incubi and only have Troops and Fast Attack slots left. Luckily for us, the DE codex was built well and we still have a large amount of options. Due to Hameonculus as Troops we've got the following choices: Warriors, Wyches, Wracks, Beastmasters, Scourges, Hellions and Reavers. For the moment I'm going to immeditaely remove Warriors and Hellions from consideration. Hellions aren't really worth it without the Baron and whilst Warriors have merit as mini-blaster units in Venoms, the list wouldn't be maximising the potential of the Webway Portal and we'd then be looking at a modified Venom spam list. Warriors are also medicore at best in combat even with FNP and FC. I'm also going to elminate Wracks who are a good objective holding Troop choice but only so-so in combat. A squad of these guys could replace the large Warrior squad as the starting Troop but for the moment we'll scratch them out as well.

This leaves Reavers, Scourges, Beastmasters and Wyches. We're obviously going to take some Wyches as we need one more Troop and these guys/girls are great tarpits and torrenting units in combat but suffer terribly against shooting. The WWP makes them an ideal choice here then as they can minimise the shooting they suffer and won't take damage from being inside a transport which explodes. All bonuses. With fleet they also have a 13"-18" charge range from the WWP which gives them a nice amount of reach. Three squads of 10 should do nicely with a Hekatrix, 2x Shardnets and a Agoniser. The Shardnets enhance their tarpit ability and cover their weakness against opposing torrenting units. The Hekatrix gives an important Ld9 boost whilst also providing some armor ignoring ability. The Agoniser isn't a set choice as these guys are primarily a torrenting and tarpit unit but is a nice option to have as supporting attacks. Wyches also benefit from the Duke's ability to roll twice on the Combat Drug table. For the moment three of these squads is ideal and costs 160 each. This leaves us only 187 points for our Fast Attack so let's drop all three of the Agonisers giving us 247 points instead.

Since we've dropped the Agonisers from the Wyches our combat punch is pretty minimal whilst our army is very in your face so we need to be able to support them. Whilst Reavers can be decent in combat with drugs, their poor save and lack of easy way to get them FNP limits their use. Whilst they are great coming out of the portal and being able to put in some mobile anti-tank or anti-infantry firepower, not what we are looking for in this list currently. This is not to say they are a bad option but just not where I want this list to go. Running Reaver squads with Heat Lances (or even Scourges with Heat Lances) is a very viable choice for this army and adds some more reliable anti-tank. If we were planning on just using the Wyches as delaying units and had other scoring units availabe to use Scourges would be a good option to provide some mobile special weapon fire but with the Wyches as some of our primary scoring options, Beastmasters are a better choice here. With their very impressive charge range and being decently survivable to both shooting and in combat whilst being able to chuck out a lot of rending attacks, Beastmasters are an excellent support unit for Wyches. Although both of them combined are relying on weight of attacks to drag units down, they have a lot of attacks between them which is going to drag down even the toughest of foes.

However, with only 247 points available we aren't going to be able to make very impressive Beastmaster units and we need at least two (relying on a 4+ reserve roll for a single Beastmaster unit is not a good idea). We therefore need to free up some points and whilst I'm loathe to do it, the easiest way is by dropping a Haemonculus. This frees up 85 points and takes us to 332 availabe points and allows us to take the staple Beastmaster unit of 3 Beastmasters, 5 Khymera and 4 Razorwings giving us a total of 28 wounds, 26 I6 A and 24 I5 rending A and leaves 20 points free for upgrades. Let's take a peek at our final list then.

Duke Sliscus
Haemonculus w/Webway Portal
3x3x Trueborn w/3x Blasters, Venom w/2x Cannon
20x Warriors w/2x DL
3x10x Wyches w/2x shardnet, Hekatrix
2x3x Beastmasters w/5x Khymera, 4x Razorwings
3x Ravager w/flickerfields

Totals: 1950 points
6 vehicles
24 beasts
61 infantry

So we've actually got 50 points remaining for upgrades or potential changes. We can give combat upgrades to the Hekatrixs or add some more Wyches in general which I think is the better option and gives us one squad of 15. Let's take a look at the list then and how it feels.

The army is very in your face and limits the amount of damage it can take by coming in from reserve. The biggest issue I foresee is ensuring mech gets popped. Whilst you have 11 lances and 10 blaster type weapons, these are only spread over eight units and with some poor reserve rolls, can leave your army a little bit stranded. Those extra points we spent on Wyches might be better spent on buying Blast Pistols for the Wyches as a safety net just in case. Otherwise there is a pretty good mix of anti-infantry firepower from shooting and combat which can enjoy the breaking open of cans. The Warrior squad which starts on the table is very survivable in cover w/FNP and provides excellent midfield coverage, particularly if the Duke starts with them. Although there are only six vehicles they are all in reserve which protects them to an extent. The Duke's ability helps them choose their deployment depending on what army is being played against to maximise their potential and chances of survival. The Duke also helps the Wyches in picking the best drug for the game and the Wych/Beasmaster combination should be able to assault on the turn they arrive which further minimises the amount of incoming firepower the DE list will receive. There are a lot of infantry on the board which are very survivable in combat, particularly if pain tokens can quickly be acquired.

I think there are quite a bit of variations on this list whilst utilising the Duke and WWP. Running Raiders as transports and Talos as Heavy Support for example or a modified Venom Spam as discussed before. In terms of scaling I don't think this list would do too well at lower point values as you'd lose some redundency or lower your vehicle count too much whilst at higher levels it scales very well. You can increase your combat potential with more Wyches/Beastmasters and add Raiders to the Wych squads to increase the number of vehicles flying/deep-striking around whilst upping the anti-tank potential of the list (you should be able to fit in another Wych Squad w/Blast Pistol, Beastmaster unit and 3x Raider [or drop all the Blast Pistols and get a 4th Raider] with flickerfields).

Anyway, let's get the discussion ball rolling. Is the army too diverse and should it stick to token WWP in a Duke Venom Spam list or simply scratch the Duke + Skimmer concept within a WWP list?

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