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Friday, January 27, 2012

Eldar Codex Review - Part 5: Warlocks


Warlocks are the baby psykers of Eldar and can only be accessed when a Farseer is taken (much like Command Squads for Space Marines) or as Sergeant upgrades for certain units (Guardian based). Their statline is decent enough with good WS/BS/Leadership but poor toughness and strength - very Eldar like and they can also bring along a psychic power.

The Review

So how useful are Warlocks? Unlike in past editions Warlocks come standard with a witchblade and are quite expensive at 25 points base. The Witchblade is a nice enough in close combat as it wounds everything on 2+ and counts as S9 versus vehicles - parking lots beware; WS4/I4/A1 is pretty limiting as a combat option though as well as only having T3/4++ - great for surviving against powerfists/weapons to the face but not so much against your standard torrent of attacks. Leadership eight is also pretty poor for such an expensive model which is used as a squad leader in some places - it begs the question of why would I take one when they are so expensive and not improving the unit's morale at all?

One of the main reasons to take Warlocks, particularly as squad leaders, is their psychic powers and what they add to squads. Unfortunately Enhance is a great way for Warlocks themselves and the mediocre units they lead to overcome their so-so combat stats but are still restricted to one attack base and T3/4++ or T3/5+ defensive stats. Destructor adds some nice damage which is cover ignoring. Embolden is a must have in any seer council to ensure the unit reliably passes leadership tests and doesn't run away with its tail between its legs (and ensure psychic powers get cast, even if they are blocked by psychic defenses) whilst Conceal has minimal application in the 5th edition environment when better cover is easily available for free. Each of these powers has certain uses and can combine quite well with certain units (i.e. Enhance with Storm Guardians) though all will likely see use in Seer Councils.

They can take Singing Spears which is a decent anti-tank option though with a limited range and a further reduction in combat prowess (no more +1A for two close combat weapons). If you need some ranged anti-tank in a squad with a Warlock, Singing Spears are a nice option but if the unit is combat oriented, the Witchblade with the +1A bonus is generally better.

Potential Uses

The most obvious use here is as a Seer Council though each Warlock has some use in the squads they can be bought for. Seer Councils have gone down in use as 5th edition has gone on for one major reason - psychic defenses. Warlocks are by and large, expensive and not very durable unless they have a Farseer with them casting Fortune. Psychic defense stops that roughly 50% of the time and even with Eldrad and a Farseer casting three Fortunes, it will fail to go off around twice every three games - that's a lot of points just to invest just for that. Even then, they are still T3/4++ models and are an assault based unit without a good assault transport (how to gain maximum use of assault units outof Wave Serpents will be covered in the Wave Serpent review). Still again, they are more a unit of durability than actual damage considering their points cost. Whilst they can put out a decent number of wounds thanks to witchblades, it's not a lot considering how much one is paying for them and they really need to be hitting parking lots, delaying the opponent significantly or munching units with mass destructors.

The other option of course is a Seer Council on Bikes where one alleviates some of the durability issues by becoming T3(4)/3+/4++ - much better for taking torrent of fire damage but much more expensive with the majority of the damage issues again. Mobility is far less of an issue though but we are still stuck on the concept of requiring Fortune to go off to really be worth it and it's an expensive points sink regardless.

Outside of Seer Councils Warlocks find decent use in Guardian based units. Adding a Warlock on a Jetbike to a Guardian Jetbike squad can give them a better ranged anti-tank gun (singing spear) which can Jump Shoot Jump and some reliability to their leadership with Embolden. A Storm Guardian squad will find great use out of a Warlock with Destructor and Singing Spear to add some anti-infantry and anti-tank punch with Enhance making them a bit less crappy in combat or Embolden making their poor leadership less of an issue.

Wraithguard obviously do well with a Warlock/Spiritseer leading them to stop Wraithsight and Enhance can make their hefty strength and toughness statline actually do things in combat but low number of attacks and no invulnerable save don't make this a really good idea - anything with high strength power weapons rolls through it.

Potential Changes

Leadership nine.

Making Warlocks act like a Royal Court or Wolf Guard squad would be an excellent change whilst keeping the one per Farseer concept. This would allow double Warlocks to be attached to squads (keep this option to Guardian based squads? Warlocks and Aspects whilst cool, probably isn't going to work game balance wise) whilst keeping a core of Warlocks together as needed. You lose some flexibility in needing to have a Farseer to take Warlocks in your other squads but having the advantage of being able to split them off as needed (i.e. different powers for different units against different armies) and potentially doubling them up is well worth it.

Another psychic power also wouldn't go amiss - some sort of ranged shooting power that isn't a template and wouldn't be too long ranged (otherwise Defenders with weapon platforms + Warlocks will rule the nest). Perhaps one that provides an invulnerable save in combat? There is the Singing Spear for this though... Changes to some of the psychic powers would be nice as well such as Conceal providing defensive grenades or always forcing difficult terrain tests to an assaulting unit (perhaps dangerous as well?).

Points are decent enough though perhaps a jump to 30-35 and the option to come with one psychic power standard would be better. As it is 25 is a bit expensive for what you're getting currently to the point where adding an extra 15 points for psychic powers makes them very expensive. This would depend on how the powers are worked though as well.

I'd like to see them with a base armor save as well just for clarity's sake. Not sure if there is a rule left out there which ignores invulnerable saves but it could always come back ^^.


Warlocks can add a nice bit of utility to units they can join but they don't add much. The lack of an improved leadership over your basic squad they are leading is a big question mark though and certainly something which needs a change.

As a unit themselves they are lacking - strong in past editions when psychic defense wasn't common but not so much now. Even when psychic defenses are not around or if you pour points in to make your psychic might as reliable as possible, the unit is expensive and really needs to be on Jetbikes to avoid being torrented away/rely on a transport. The unit is death against anything where it can bring multiple templates onto, relies on high toughness as defense or few but good attacks (or if they run into a parking lot) but against anything which puts out torrent or is your basic pleb unit, they aren't a great choice due to general lack of attacks yet take up a large part of your army. And this is assuming Fortune goes off.

Changing the Warlocks to be a bit cheaper and have more psychic options along with the ability to split them off from the main group would give them a lot more utility and army-wide use whilst reducing the squad size (around five?) would limit the impact of attempting to run a rock unit in the Seer Council.

In the end they have some nice options to fill out your force if running units which can support Warlocks (i.e. take them) and if you're set on a Seer Council they do add something to the army but aren't cheap and have some hard counters you see pretty regularly.

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