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Friday, February 18, 2011

Dark Eldar Codex Review: Part 6: Troops (Part 2 - Wyches)

In the last article we looked at the overall Troop mechanics for Dark Eldar and how they compare to the MEQ-styled Troops. An important distinction was drawn: even with FNP these guys are not Marines. Whilst this may seem obvious, the combination of Dark Eldar being an aggressive army (you need to kill things to gain FNP tokens) and a lot of inexperience with competitive Xenos forces lately (reference: Tyranid FAQ), it needed to be said. Kabalite Warriors were then looked at in detail which leaves the Wyches and optional Troops of Wracks and Hellions to cover. We'll look at Wyches today and save Wracks and Hellions for another post. but let's keep in mind the general thoughts on Dark Eldar Troops discussed before.


Let's take a look at Wych stats first. Like most Dark Eldar they have good combat skills with high WS and I (6) but poor defensive statistics with T3 and a 6+ save. This means Wyches are relying on cover to stand up to even a weak breeze against shooting. However, Wyches have a 4++ in combat making them quite survivable there considering their price tag. Wyches also have Fleet and two close combat weapons with options to take a special combat weapon every five members. With their improved save in combat and plasma grenades allowing Wyches to take full advantage of their high initiative, this obviously indicates Wyches are a combat unit (no...duh...). Wyches benefit from Power from Pain and Combat Drugs which can drastically improve their offensive and defensive potentials. Let's get down to business then...

At first glance Wyches are the opposite of Kabalite Warriors with a combat focus rather than a shooting focus. Indeed, further divergence is noticeable when we look harder. Kabalite Warriors are quite capable of being a diverse unit, particularly in conjunction with either their Venom or Raider transport; in terms of firepower they are the Xenos Tactical Marines but certainly not in playstyle or defenses. Wyches however are very specialised and have minimal options for diversification. Let's first look at the Wyches primary role and then how we can diversify it so they aren't complete push-overs against certain lists.

Wyches are tarpit combat units (remember this; repeat this) and they are amazingly efficient at it against good combat units and rock units in particular. For 10 points you get a model with a 4++ in combat. Not even your bog standard 40 point Terminator with Powerfist and Stormbolter has that good an invulnerable save. Ever. That's about all Wyches have really going for them however. Without a pain token that 4++ simply gets overwhelmed by torrent combat units. Without a pain token Wyches simply die to any sort of shooting (flashlights included). Without two pain tokens Wyches aren't that scary in combat. Without point investment Wyches cannot do anything to vehicles in close combat and even then it's a pretty expensive upgrade considering their chances.

Can we see a theme? Wyches are not a front line assault unit. Against rock or beater units (i.e. anything with a lot of ignores armor save potential), Wyches are hyper point efficient. Against Guardsmen type units, Wyches will do quite well  in combat (even without pain tokens). To be a reliable assault unit however, Wyches really need multiple pain tokens and whilst point efficient, still aren't stellar combat units. Combat drugs helps their damage output considerably (the math varies from drug to drug and each one is better against a certain foe but no matter what you roll, Wyches benefit from it). What Wyches therefore do really well is tarpit opponent units. The more expensive and more rock-like, the better as this is creating a situation where you are committing less points than your opponent but still delaying the opponent effectively (much like blocking). At the same time, Wyches are capable of putting out a lot of attacks in combat and wearing units down. Outside of that though Wyches really need support from other combat units. When building an army around Wyches you must consider this or understand they are effectively just a tarpit.


Before we look at the Wych weapon upgrades though let's look at their anti-tank potential. They have two options. Haywire Grenades and blast pistol. Unlike the Kabalite Warriors, Wych squads should almost always be taking a Hekatrix upgrade to improve their Ld and get access to a special combat weapon. This lowers the perceived cost of the Blast Pistol compared to Kabalite Warriors but is only a single lance shot (unlike the Warriors who have access to a blaster as well). You basically cross your fingers and close your eyes when you the roll the die. I'd only consider this option if you intend upon attaching an IC which also has a blaster/blast pistol so you've got two Lance shots instead or if you're really desperate for anti-tank. Haywire Grenades allow Wyches to deal with tanks/walkers in combat (walkers specifically). The issue here is against most tanks this leaves the Wyches bunched up and exposed no matter what happens. Not a good place to be when you're T3 with a 6+ save or even FNP. I think Haywire Grenades are only a good choice if you're really low on anti-tank or running a lot of Wyches on foot so they can deal with walkers in combat. Otherwise at 2pt a model it's quite a steep investment and if you're relying on Wyches to deal with tanks in combat, you've got other issues in-game.

So let's now take a look at the Wych options.

Shardnet/Impaler: Any model in base to base contact with the shardnet/impaler has their attacks reduced by one. Combined with their other abilities (i.e. 4++ in combat) this really improves their survivability in combat. The shardnet/impaler is a very annoying weapon against units who have few quality attacks which makes them crazy point efficient against rock and beater units. However, even against units with lots of attacks it greatly helps the survivability of Wych squads. Otherwise put the shardnet/impaler next to a character model and decrease their offensive potential greatly.

Hydra Gauntlets: Meh. A random number of attacks without any sort of re-roll or bonus (other than more attacks) for a single model is pretty crappy. If this model had Rending (like Mark of the Wulfen) or some other bonus then it might be a better option. As it is it makes Wyches mildly better against units they are better against (poor and mediocre combat units) but doesn't really help make them into a combat beast themselves.

Razorflails: re-rolling both hits and wounds is nice but on such a few attacks isn't going to make a huge difference. If you combined this option with the Hydra Gauntlets...well nice. Once again the minor damage bonuses you gain from the Razorflails aren't going to help the Wyches become super impressive combat units by themselves whilst improving them somewhat against the units they already beat around in combat.

In the end the Shardnet/Impaler combination is the hands-down winner. Although it doesn't improve their offensive output, they become much more survivable in combat. The shardnet/impaler combines very well with their 4++ and can make them a very hard unit to shift if they gain a pain token and FNP.


A Hekatrix is a very good upgrade for the Wyches as it brings an extra pip of Ld and the option for another combat weapon. Unlike the Syabrite for Kabalite Warriors, the Hekatrix is very close to a 'always include' upgrade for Wyches. Let's take a look at the Hekatrix options.

Blast Pistol: There is less of a hidden cost here for Wych units compared to Kabalite Warriors as the Hekatrix is more often chosen for other reasons but is still steep at 15 points. As discussed before, this is only really a decent option when an IC is attached so you can get two lance shots from a unit.

Phantasm Grenade Launcher: Less necessary on the Wych squad as they already come with plasma grenades. Whilst the defensive aspect is there, shardnets/impalers should already be reducing enemy attacks and the combination of Dark Eldar transports and fleet should mean Wyches rarely get charged either. This one should probably stay at home for Wyches.

Venom Blade: The cheap upgrade and is very good. For 5 points you get a 2+ poisoned combat weapon. Whilst it won't drastically swing battles in your favor, if you're tight on points this option is an excellent buy which improves the Wyches' combat ability whilst not breaking the bank.

Power Weapon: This upgrade isn't too flash but is still pretty cheap and is very effective when a Wych unit gains two pain tokens and charges. Otherwise if you are taking lots of Wych units and are looking for more combat punch against high armored targets without sinking in lots of points to Agonsiers, the Power Weapon isn't that bad an upgrade. S3 does limit it though.

Agoniser: The Agoniser is expensive but like the Venom Blade overcomes the poor strength of Wyches whilst also ignoring armor. With two pain tokens the re-rolls to wound can become very handy. If you are looking for your Wyches to have some offensive impact, the Agoniser is the best weapon for this. However, across multiple units the points add up fast.


I would never recommend the Venom for Wyches; it just doesn't have the transport capacity and since the Dark Eldar codex doesn't allow transports to be taken for units which cannot fit in them, I'd say this is a no-go zone. Wyches excel as tarpits and are decent at torrenting infantry in combat. By making them smaller you are not allowing them to fulfil either role effectively. This leaves two options really; the Raider or going on foot.

When going with the Raider your FoC becomes diversified as you bring a Dark Lance to the table. This helps cover the Wyches poor abilities in terms of being able to damage tanks. Obviously you also increase the speed of Wyches in getting into combat which is very easy considering the Raider is an open-topped transport and Wyches have Fleet. I would highly recommend a shock prow for Wych Raiders to allow the Raider to tank shock. This allows the Wyches to be delivered more accurately and are capable of punching through bubble-wrap lines. Otherwise flickerfields and night shields are both very good but expensive upgrades to increase the survivability of the Raider. Remember, Wyches hate taking wounds when not in combat so Explosion results on their Raiders make them happy unhappy chaps, particularly if they don't have a pain token.


In the end there are really only two set-ups for Wyches. On foot or in a Raider. When on foot, aim to max out the squad size at 15 if at all possible. This gives you more bodies against incoming firepower and access to a third Wych weapon. On foot squads obviously benefit greatly from Webway Portals as they can get close to the enemy without suffering incoming firepower but certainly aren't necessary. Otherwise Wyches obviously need to go in a Raider to improve their pace across the field and to ensure they don't aren't useless in combat, need to be either nine or 10 strong. The only reason you would go nine is if you're attaching an IC such as a Haemonculus or Archon.

Wyches are a lot harder to simply 'fit' into a Dark Eldar army list. Unlike Kabalite Warriors they have a very specific role and if the army list isn't looking for that, they aren't really needed. If they are run as the core of a Dark Eldar army, support combat units are necessary such as Talos, Beastmasters and Incubi. Otherwise Wyches can add some combat ability to a normal Dark Eldar army and as a scoring unit, can great a scoring bubble on top of objectives which is hard to remove. Remember, Wyches improve dramatically with pain tokens and serious consideration should be given on how they are gained. 

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