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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Army Comparison: Grey Knights and Mechdar


Ah Mechdar, how we used to love you. So annoying to take down, so fast, so shiny and with so many pointy ears. How unkindly 5th edition as treated you. Odd how you are perhaps one of the most annoying match-ups possible for Grey Knights, the new poster boys of 5th edition and ironically shiny in their paint.

Although Eldar are quite restricted in their current build paradigms (Mechdar, Footdar and Wraithzilla), all of which have varying and questionable levels of competitiveness, for the most part Mechdar isn't terrible. The problem of course stems for the over-expense it pays for its Vehicles (90 points base!), lack of FoC swaps (seriously: Phoenix Lords make their Aspects Troops, please?) and in general some pretty blah units (Scorpions, Banshees, Dark Reapers, Warp Spiders, Shining Spears, need I go on?). Despite all this, Mechdar can put around 10 vehicles on the table and most of them are AV12 with annoying survivability traits such as Energy Shields or Holo-fields. Add in they are all fast skimmers and have reserve manipulations and they can be a pain to bring down. And that's how Mechdar generally work. They put out a bunch of S6 firepower, run circles around the opponent and hope their vehicle survivability remains high.

Of course the issue with Mechdar comes right down to that last line. 'Hope.' Great in Star Wars, crappy in wargames. If your opponent gets hot dice or your dice suck for even a turn, Mechdar crumble. Losing three Serpents is generally not something they can recover from and with the firepower available to some armies which doesn't care about AV12 with energy shields (i.e. lots of S8), these sort of turns are inevitable. Even without those sorts of turns, losing 1-2 Serpents on average rolls every turn is going to hurt the army to the point where it cannot compete. If I can on average easily kill all Eldar vehicles, leaving the player with relatively useless units inside, the game isn't going to go well for them is it? This has relegated Mechdar to a significant decline in 5th edition and whilst we shall cover their other 'major' builds in other posts, they still do oddly well against Grey Knights. This is of course in comparison to their other match-ups, this is all relatively of course. Let's take a look.

Grey Knights - Advantages

Grey Knights need no real introduction at this point. They are shiny Marines which shoot very well within 24" and counter-assault like no Marine with a stormbolter should. They are of course the psychic masters of the Imperium and excel within that 24" range. Let's take a look at advantages then.

Psycannons. This is just about an advantage every time Grey Knights take the field. Whilst Energy Shields stop rending against Wave Serpents and War Walkers, 7+6 is already penetrating AV12. Not getting rending in this case is irrelevant and with the amount of psycannons (generally 8+) a Grey Knights army can field, those 6's will show up. Of course, relying on just ~20ish S7 shots isn't going to drop multiple AV12 tanks quickly so the ever-hated Psyflemen steps in. Add in a bunch of twin-linked S8 shots which again don't care about Energy Shields and more importantly, have much greater range, and Serpents are looking a lot less durable.

Back this up with the ever common Stormbolter and when Wave Serpents/Falcons die, their infantry insides aren't far behind them. Mechdar is famous for its ability to run 2000 point armies with minimal infantry models and whilst some lists may use large Avenger or Storm Guardian squads, masses of Stormbolter firepower will see these squads evaporate quickly. Even tougher units like Scorpions or Wraithguard will fall quickly to the amount of stormbolter shots Grey Knights can put out. With psybolt ammo these also becoming very effective against the weaker vehicles of the Mechdar list such as Vypers or the less common War Walkers. Psybacks are also very effective at damaging these lighter vehicles which leaves the psycannons and psyflemen to target the tougher Serpents and spread the pain.

Following this up, even combat is an advantage for Grey Knights here. Whilst some Mechdar armies will try to shoe-horn in units such as Scoprions or Banshees, Grey Knights can easily wipe out the small Eldar units even when charged. Whilst more assaulty units such as Scoprions or Banshees could prove more problematic, counter-charges or good combat units such as Paladins and Death Cult Assasins (what Banshees wish they were) will see the Grey Knights through. Generally though, these type of units aren't seen or popular within Mechdar army builds due to the army premise and are more likely to be shredded by the S4/5 stormbolter fire before hand.

Eldar - Advantages

Runes of Warding. That's all that needs to be said right? Mechdar revolves around S6 firepower which is pretty decent at suppressing AV10-11. Guess what Grey Knight armies revolve around? Rhino chassis with Fortitude and Runes of Warding kicks this in the nuts. The important thing with Runes of Warding is not that spells fail ~50% of the time but perils happens very regularly. For Grey Knight squads casting through this is very dangerous as you can lose your Justicar/Knight of the Flame. For vehicles this is less scary but allowing your opponent free glancing hits on your stuff? Ya not a good idea and whilst sometimes the Grey Knight player will need to cast through Runes of Warding, more often than not just the threat will stop most psychic powers from being cast.

Mechdar obviously have a huge mobility advantage and combined with the 24" range of most of the Grey Knight weapons, can eek out a range advantage with their 36" and 48" range guns. Whilst this will often only last for the army as a whole a maximum of two turns as Grey Knights move into midfield, that's one to two turns of largely unopposed firepower. By using their mobility + range advantage, Mechdar can generate suppression to disrupt their opponent's battline and through sheer attrition of S6 firepower, drop tanks. What the mobility really allows the Mechdar general to do is pick the battlefield. By focusing on one flank of their opponent they can minimise return firepower and effectively only fight a portion of their opponent's army. This of course sacrifices midfield but with proper use of Dragons and tank shocking later in the game, the Mechdar army isn't sacrificing their ability to hold object

What's also very helpful for Mechdar in this match-up is their decent anti-infantry ability. The cost of this of course is not shooting down tanks but being able to throw a ton of S6 shots at Marines combined with large blast templates from Fire Prisms and Grey Knights will fall. Considering they have to hop out of their transports to bring most of their guns to bear, the combination of large (potentially AP3) blasts and masses of S6 can whittle down the Grey Knight numbers quickly. Remember though, this is where Grey Knights want to fight as they can bring a ton of firepower to bear in return so focus fire on the Mechdar's part is required to wear units down.

Mechdar can also use the Autarch to hide in reserves and therefore increase their lifespan. This should probably only be used against Grey Knight armies with a lot of ranged shooting such as six Psyfledreads as they lose any early advantage their mobility and potential range benefits can give them but denying your opponent two turns of shooting and then coming on has some appeal. To combine with this, it lengthens the lifespan of the Mechdar army a lot as well as there are fewer turns for the opponent to shoot it down. Against Grey Knights where S7 is the common anti-tank gun this can be very useful as they are only producing damage results 1/3 of the time (and only half of those are pens). With minimal melta, particularly fast melta, which other Space Marine armies can bring, the durability of Wave Serpents could see a little bump against Grey Knights.


It seems pretty good for Mechdar here and against lists without any Psyfledreads, I would say Mechdar have can match well with Grey Knights as they can out-range most of the army early on and the opponent is hoping for 6's to do anything with Psycannons and has little melta to go around. With Psyfledreads though, I think the Grey Knights edge becomes more apparent. Without sacrificing Fire Dragons to take them out, Eldar don't have the ranged dakka to drop the Psyfles and they can provide covering fire as the rest of the Grey Knights get into range. It just comes down to Mechdar again relying on the opponent to be miffed at AV12 tanks with energy shields. With a bunch of S7 shots that don't care about their rending being nerfed and S8 autocannons backed up with all the firepower in the world to take down Vypers, War Walkers and the infantry, well Mechdar are in the same boat as they against an army: "don't kill me too quickly."

Of course Mechdar have some advantages against Grey Knights in essentially removing their psychic powers from the game, extreme mobility and since Grey Knights often have to get out of their transports to fight at their most effective, aren't relying on their S6 to destroy Rhinos left right and centre. These advantages bring Mechdar closer to Grey Knights in terms of a match-up than against other Marine lists but they are more of an annoyance to Grey Knights than an actual threat, especially when ranged firepower such as Psyfledreads are on the table. This really stems from Runes of Warding as Mechdar can suppress Grey Knight mech and fudges with some of the powers Grey Knights have standard. The issue is, outside of Fortitude most of them aren't of much use against Mechdar as Grey Knights generally trump small Eldar squads in combat already.

Overall, it's bleak being an Eldar player atm but it's fun to match-up decently well against the new Marines. It's certainly not one where Mechdar have the advantage but thanks to a few little army quirks, the ravine isn't bottomless.

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