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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dark Eldar Codex Review: Part 8 - Headquarters

Sorry this has taken a while to get up! I'll hopefully have this review finished by next week sometime so you're all ready and set for the continuation of the Grey Knight reviews by SirBiscuit and VT2. 

The regular HQs for Dark Eldar are an interesting array of choices. There are some super cheap yet buffing options in the Haemonculus and then two choices which are focused completely on combat but otherwise don't add much to the army as a whole. Somewhat uniquely however, these options are decently viable in the sense they can make even a crappy unit in assault quite scary and utilise the good combat stats of the Dark Eldar to good effect. Whilst these options aren't your stereotypical 5th edition HQ in unlocking a certain unit/build or providing benefits to the army as a whole, they are generally decently cheap and do pack quite a combat punch for their points. Let's take a look at them individually and see what we think.


He starts out pretty cheap for an HQ but can get expensive quickly. Stats are both good and bad. S/T 3 is a big limitation- it means he really needs some kind of offensive upgrade to even be functional in a fight. Luckily he has a lot of these. He also starts with trash armor, which seriously needs to be upgraded one way or another and low toughness means he is going to be wounded a lot and is more susceptible to Instant Death. Welcome to the world of "not being a Marine. That being said high initiative plus plasma grenades means hell usually be striking first (and can bring Phantasm Grenade Launcher to ensure his unit does as well; this is huge for a lot of units which cannot access grenades such as Incubi) and high WS and A means hell be doing some damage.

The Archon has a ton of upgrades available which can make him a fighting machine but very expensive at the same time. We all love FoC swapping HQs but sometimes a combat beast is exactly what we want. That being said, we need to temper ourselves in how we equip the Archon. In the end he is still T3/W3 and a single one on a shadow field roll from S6 can see a large investment of points disappear. 

There are a bunch of options for the Archon to consider which GWvsJohn as already covered here by himself. You can run along and read the information and discussion there.

In the end the Archon is a good staple HQ who is pretty good at combat. He’s not super cheap like a Haemonculus but with a few carefully chosen upgrades can be quite scary in combat, relatively survivable for a T3/5+ model and isn’t going to break the bank. Make sure your army can utilise an HQ model like this however as either a buff to a so-so combat squad or as a counter-assault option and remember he can take Phantasm Grenade Launcher which is exactly what some units need.

Court of the Archon

The Archon does have a tiny, often over-looked unlock; the Court.

Bringing him with a Court is also very possible- they have some good options. All of the potential models either start with FNP or benefit from Power from Pain so can become decently survivable and importantly they all have fleet. They also operate under the general Dark Eldar statline with only Sslyths benefiting from increased strength and toughness (5). Let's look at each option individually then and remember, each Court has to take at least one member of each type.


Unfortunately Ur-Ghuls are pretty bad. Although they have strength 4 and three attacks whilst benefitting from FNP and furious charge, they have no save and are a pretty expensive 15 points per model. If you were able to get more survivable models into the Court to suck up hits like Beastmaster squads do, these guys might find more use but as they stand now unfortunately, they don't do enough damage for their points and are far too weak. 


So only the Lhamaen and the Archon get 2+ poisoned weapons? Yay 2 pistol shots pewpewpewpew and the ability to make all poisoned weapons 2+ in combat is...wait, only the Venom Blade is poisoned? And it's a 2+ already? Dayum. If this affected the whole unit or any of the Archon's close combat attacks it would of been good but as it stands you pay a 10point tax for a DE statline with a pistol which wounds on a 2+. Word.


Now we are getting somewhere! Strength and Toughness 5, 2 wounds with a pretty good attack stat, two close combat weapons and a shardcarbine mean these guys are both pretty good at combat, taking damage and shooting. Unfortunately they are expensive at 35 points a model and have terrible leadership if everything else should fall (though that really doesn't matter) and whilst they have pretty good defensive statistics in toughness and wounds, they still have a pretty bad save at 5+. The problem with Sslyth? It's hard to make your unit majority toughness 5 as you must take one of each other member. Even buying three Sslyths at a hefty 105 points leaves you one model too many to gain majority T5 which would of been a real boon to the unit as a whole.


These guys are like miniature Psychic Battle Squads but both their strength and AP are random and you get a blast per model. Pretty decent but very random and some decent utility to have at 15 points. Importantly as well it's a template so low AP rolls can kill a lot of guys with no cover saves allowed.

In the end the Court isn't anything spectacular but a small unit with a couple of Mudesae and Sslyth + the Archon can be quite deadly in assault with some decent shooting back-up. An obvious lack of anti-tank ability but with the option to take a transport these guys can bring a Raider or Venom along as they see fit to increase the potential number of tanks on the board.


The Succubus statline isn't as hot as the Archons (one less Ld is pretty important) but importantly comes with combat drugs and a 4++ standard. Not bad as those are points you don't have to spend on her. However, she doesn't come with as many options as the Archon but you can get Wych weapons to bolster a Wych squad if you so desire (i.e. 3x Shardnets) but none are power weapons so you are wasting that valuable attack statistic and high WS. In the end either a Venom Blade for a super cheap Succubus or an Agonsier to remain cheap but at least be able to effectively ignore armor. In the end keeping the Succubus cheap makes it a good alternative to a cheap Archon if you are tight on points but the Archon is generally better and has more options available to it. 


A good utility guy, you can potentially get a lot of them and they're pretty cheap. They give the squad durability (pain token) but are not themselves all that tough (T4/W2/6+ FNP) or particularly good at fighting. Most of the "unique" weapons for him really aren't worth it but Liquifier Gun is nice. You can see a full review of these weapons here. Most combat upgrades are better served on Archons or Succubus' if you are taking them as Haemonculi aren't that hot in combat with a more 'standard' statline. Importantly however the Haemonculus can take a few special upgrades which aren't seen anywhere else which I'll cover at the end here but you generally take Haemonculi to hand out pain tokens and unlock Wracks as Troops. Wracks as Troops are pretty huge as they are very durable for Dark Eldar and come with a pain token standard. With 2-3 Haemonculi in your army you can easily move those pain tokens around to where they are necessary whilst not breaking the bank. 

Haemonculus Ancients seem like something of a compromise between Haems and more killy characters; his bumps make him adequate at killing Marines, if not great, and can help a little when delivering a Dark Gate or melee weapon. For the price though a second Haemonculus (and pain token) is generally the better options as Archons/Succubus' are still  better combat characters regardless.

So let's look at a few of the Haemonculi options not covered in the linked post. First of all, the Haemonculus can take a Webway Portal and since they are pretty cheap and you can get a lot of these guys, they make excellent Portal carriers whilst also benefiting the unit they are joined to with a pain token. This is obviously important in a Webway army. Most of the wargear the Haemonculus has access to is pretty meh so we'll only look at the Dark Gate and crucible of Malediction. Although these are semi-viable options for Haemonculi they still aren't fantastic and generally keeping your Haemonculi cheap with things like Venoms Blades and Liquifiers (+ any WWPs if necessary) is the way to go.

Dark Gate -

It's a S10 large blast but with AP- and it's only a single shot. Not terrible and certainly useful against armies with multi-wound T5 critters (hi Space Wolves) and otherwise pretty reliable for causing some sort of damage against a tank but at 25 points? Eh those points could generally be spent on upgrades elsewhere but if you're really pandering for some S10 action, look  no further.

Crucible of Malediction -

Some of the only anti-psyker options Dark Eldar has (the other being Lady Malys on a single squad), this is only really effective against armies with lots of psykers (i.e. Grey Knights, Tyranids, etc.). Even then most psykers have pretty  high leadership values which means they are unlikely to fail the Crucible test and why this piece of wargear is only really beneficial against armies with lots of psykers. Otherwise, it's just too unreliable. That being said if you feel like you need some psyker defense, even if it is very marginal, the crucible gives you that option without breaking the bank.


All of the primary HQ choices for the Dark Eldar are pretty good (we'll ignore the Haemonculus Ancient as if he didn't exist!) and although only the Haemonculus really brings any army buffing ability to the table by unlocking Wracks and handing out pain tokens, both the Succubus and Archon can be cheap and effective killing machines and help the Dark Eldar out in combat immensely. None of them are going to break the back extensively but none of them are going to be super survivable either and will go down to a torrent of attacks or shots if they aren't supported correctly.

It's important to remember as well that the Archon allows access to the Court of the Archon and whilst not a fantastic unit, it does have some uses and opens up the option for more vehicles on the table.

In the end the minor cost you generally have to pay for a Dark Eldar generic HQ is pretty small and can really benefit your army. Make sure you understand what your HQ is doing however as going for a cheap Haemonculus when there are no good places for a pain token when spending ~50 extra points can net you an effective combat character is wasteful. Ensure that your HQ selection is always contributing to your army rather than an after thought and these guys will serve you well. 

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