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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Article: How I have come to love Dark Eldar as the best Army for 5th edition

Good Morning my fellow net-readers of biased and plethoric blogs about a sub culture known as Wargamers, allow me to introduce you to another one of such blog post for I share your deep insatiable thirst for the newest and meaningful idea about 40k mechanic.

A few months back, I wrote up a Space Marine Biker Tactica post which even then was showing a bit of edge as it was my army of choice for up until Blood Angels came out. It was fast, robust and accomplished my necessary 2 criteria of any army in games. 1) Each unit can function on its own as well as provide each other support and 2) minimize the statistical spread of pass/fail of all actions. When 5th edition was fresh, my biker army was one the most feared builds at most local “competitive” (I never had the money to travel much farther than the NW to test myself) events. It absolutely decimated Mech armies, was resilient to almost all form of anti-infantry aside from Powerfist and TH/SS terminators but I always has Combat Tactics as a deterrent to shooting from my opponent or even as a tool to escape possible charges from those very units. At the same time, a Captain kitted out properly was one of the best tar-pit unit in CC (2+/3++, Str6 PW, T5), but now the meta has changed and this change started with Blood Angels. The appearance of a Mobile FNP/FC MEQ army launched a three prong death strikes to my army. 1) Str5 CC negates much of my immunity to anti infantry capability, 2) My mobility is only slightly faster but not fast enough, 3) FNP neutered my ability to deal with infantry (Frag Missile and Twin Linked Bolters). Thankfully, a few months later came the Dark Eldar Codex and at first I was sceptical.

I wanted to play them as an assault oriented army with some decent support shooting at first, and as I collected the army, tried new units, experimented, I came to the conclusion Dark Eldar have become my Biker Marines 3.0 and here is why:

It dawned on my slowly that the reason I am very successful with Dark Eldars and was with my Biker Marines was not because of my generalship or the inability for some people to bring decent lists to local events but because Dark Eldar have one crucial feature that I have always taken for granted. The minimization of statistical spread of pass/fail actions, previously this was achieved by High BS and the presence of much redundant weapons but Dark Eldar have offered the opposite feature with a twist. The presence of Venoms, heck Splinter Cannons mostly, have provided an unparalleled versatility to anti-infantry. Some quick statistical work will allow you to conclude that a Venom has an average output of 4 Wounds per firing phase but the reality of the variance of both BS4 and the 4+ to wound widens the statistical spread along very close probability window of 2 to 6 Wounds per Venom. Considering that this fire output does not hinder the mobility of the army is even more of a bonus.

Venoms cover the ranged anti-infantry, and what about the Anti-tank, this is where it becomes some murky waters. While the ravager provides some of the best point efficient anti-tank, the rest of the choices become much harder to make. While 5 men Warrior unit with a blaster have been plastered on the internet as an obvious solution, I find them to be detrimental to the Dark Eldar cause. A) the guys themselves aren’t the toughest with LD8, B) single shot unit seldom make dependent units, C) they force you to slow down the vehicle they are in and also force your scoring units forward into dangerous ground. I like Venoms but I rather run mine with 3 Scoring Wracks, cheap, durable to an explosion and never slow down my venom. The other evident option are trueborn with blasters in a venom, and that is my preferred remedy but they do suffer some penalties from the earlier option, overcome some others but also take a much useful elite slot and I will go into why further down. But consider these as your best option post ravager, 4 Trueborn with 4 Blasters in a Venom; and if you truly believe 3 Blasters is enough, you obviously missed my previous mantra of any army, to reduce the statistical spread of pass/fail. The last remaining 2 obvious choices are found in the Fast Attack section, Reavers and Scourges. These can offer you some additional anti-tank in any format that you would prefer but at expensive cost. While I will not have easy access anymore to mobile melta and MM and AP1, I have gained Ranged (minimizing my opponents assault vectors) and gained Lance (which I do not see as a true horizontal upgrade from AP1 or 2d6 Pen but it does not change my overall strategy on how to deal with Land Raiders which previously as Biker Marines was always a risk since a LR always carries what I do not want to fight in Melee).

In a short retrospect, I have tried to breakdown all the appeals of Dark Eldar and you will noticed I have mostly mentioned their vehicles and here is why. Their vehicles offer to the general at hand great anti-infantry and above par ranged anti-tank but where Dark Eldar vehicles do not bring is a way to deal with FNP units. For much of my play testing with Dark Eldar, I had come to relearn my loathing for FNP units. Venoms are great at killing every form of infantry but not so much when it comes down to dealing with FNP units. For a long time I had hoped to play the averages, quantity over quality shots into FNP units and hope to either break them or hoped my opponent had one round of bad rolls but that is a foolhardy tactic but most often the only possible choice, You see a lot of venom spam list online with just a beast unit as a CC alternative and while that list functions well, the instant it hits a wall of FNP MEQ, it starts to fall apart at the seams.

My first solution to this problem was running two units of wyches with FNP, Agonizer, Phantasm Grenade Launcher and shardnet as a tarpit / war of attrition units to engage the targets that would give me the most grief or just to reduce my number of targets my venoms had to swarm with a plethora of poison shots. This worked very wells but was like making amputations with a paper slicer, it’s a dirty business. I slowly transitioned my way into incubis (after many attempts at different methods), incubis came to conclusion because of the emergence of GK armies in my area and to solve my previous FNP issue. I was willing to sacrifice a trueborn unit and some anti-tank capability to have a rock to my opponent scissor. Now do not misconstrue incubis as a great remedy, but they have shown to be the best remedy out of all my choices, with an Archon providing them a grenade dispensary and FNP they did what I needed them to. Most games they would stay in their raider in reserve waiting for my opponent’s army to commit the erroneous act of infringing into my half of the table and watch the unit get surprised at the sudden arrival of an obscene amount of WS5 Str4 PW making mincemeat of them. While this unit has problem with Halberd terminators and Purifiers, I do not fear throwing them down the bloody path of Khaine, obviously after the rest of the army has dented their numbers bit by bit first. I will not lament the fact that all the incubi upgrades are atrocious for their points (statistically speaking). An expensive solution but it is more of a surgical solution and it will tie into my overall arching conclusion.

I would like to mention that I also use a Court of the Archon as a solution to FNP, it is a very dice oriented solution but by keeping the unit small (5 strong, 2 Medusae), it allows me to take another venom in the list and have a mid to back field unit that can provide some quite destructive flamer templates as many of my tournament opponents have realized after playing against it once. (They never look at that unit the same anymore.)

I guess I should conclude what this whole self gloating article is trying to say. It’s quite short and simple, in all the years I have played 40k at the highest competitive levels I could attend, Dark Eldar have been the best army I have ever played with. Perhaps not the most competitive by some standards but has met multiple criteria with the highest results. Let me mention again that my mantra for any army is: 1) Each unit can function on its own as well as provide each other support and 2) minimize the statistical spread of pass/fail of all actions. Dark Eldar do quite well in both department, perhaps on paper not as much as some armies but in games and experience they have done if not equal, better than expected for me and my opponents. What everyone sees and what I refused to mention until now is an army with paper planes. Yes, the army’s vehicles are fickle in durability (I will not go into Flickerfields statistical amazingness) but the army doesn’t require you to play a 16 century battle into a 40,000 universe (which is to say Napoleonic style line your men and fire). Use reserves and terrain to your advantage, you certainly have the speed for it. I did lose my perfect record for Ard Boyz this year at Round 2 on the top table against a mech guard army but it was only a minor loss and if it had ended on turn 5, minor win for me and on turn 7 a minor win for me also. The table had no LOS or really any obscuring piece of terrain on the table and my opponent was convinced that his master of the fleet would be a detriment to my army. Little did he know his master of the fleet almost cost him the game considering how the odds were stacked for him even before the game started, an open table against an army of Av10 vehicles. A cakewalk as the internet would like to say but it’s never a cakewalk. Playing smart and playing to the objective of the mission only results in a good and great game!

May you never overcommit and roll averages my fellow bloggers!

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