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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Imperial Armour List Review: Corsair Eldar

IA11 included, as seems to be the standard these days, an alternate army list in it, this time for the Eldar faction. The last several books have had middling-to-poor army lists, though sometimes not without merit, but as a whole I have generally been happy with most of FW's recent standalone units but unimpressed with the lists they create.

Thus it was that I was rather surprised to find that not only is the Corsair Eldar army extremely different from the vanilla Eldar one, in many ways it is significantly better than its "official" companion. Now, admittedly, this is not a huge achievement given the state of Eldar these days, but I think it's fair to give FW some credit where credit is due on this.

In any case, let's take a look at this interesting little list we've been given.

So, the Corsair Eldar are basically supposed to represent the old-school "Eldar Pirates" that tend to get glossed over in fluff these days but are nominally still around. They give up almost all of the static elements of the Eldar army in favor of tons and tons of skimmers, jetbikes, jetpacks, and flyers. In this regard they are well-matched to doing what the Eldar are good at- as a mobile army, elements such as Wraithlords tend to suffer from their inability to keep pace with the rest of the forces on the table and Footdar lists lack the characteristic advantages of the race. So it's actually a little less surprising that Corsair Eldar end up being pretty good, but there's still some big surprises in store once we get to the list itself.

Mostly Corsairs use the same wargear as other Eldar do, but there are a couple interesting additions here. Fields seem to be a specialty of theirs- not only do they get the Shimmershield (5++ for the whole unit in CC) and Force Shield (4++ for the bearer), but also the Shadowfield (2++ until failed), stolen right off the Dark Eldar- this is a theme for them, as they get a number of ports over from the DE, not the least of which being the Webway Portal.

Their unique wargear is okay, if not great; Lasblasters (S3 AP5 Assault 2 24") are the standard gun for them, and they are pretty okay compared to the Bolter, at least in terms of raw numbers. Jet Packs, functioning exactly as per the rulebook (6" move, 6" JSJ move in the assault phase, Relentless USR) are available to basically every infantry unit in the codex, which ends up being a pretty defining feature. The Neural Shredder (S8 AP1 template, wounds vs toughness) is also available a few places and is a perfectly acceptable weapon. Huh, I guess we know where Callidius Assassins get those from, don't we?

HQ Units
Clocking in at 100pts with a standard Eldar statline (but with WS/BS/I6), the Prince looks like a pretty okay guy to start. He can give up to three units that can't otherwise do so the Deep Strike rule (chosen during army creation), and can bring a one-shot bombardment effect a la Space Marine Chapter Masters, but he doesn't have to stand still to do it. You get either a S9 AP2 Large Blast Lance, a S4 AP5 Pinning shot with a diameter of d6+6", or a shot that activates Night Fight for a turn. All three of them are usable, so that ends up being a definite upside. His gear, though, is fairly unimpressive- Fusion Pistol, Power Weapon, and Shadowfield are really the only standouts on the list. You can try and kit him for CC, but his middling statline makes this a poor choice and he doesn't come nearly as cheap as Eldar or DE choices, so he isn't a whole lot of use as anything more than a placeholder HQ. (Oh, right, he can get a retinue; they can all get Fusion and PWs, too, but suffer the same problems, so probably not worth bothering.)
Verdict: Meh.

Their replacement for the Farseer, and the comparison... does not look favorable to them. They are reasonably cheap (70pts) and come with three psychic powers, but none of them are really on par with anything the Eldar get. Withering Radiance wounds everything but T5+ on twos (Str = 10- Toughness), but with a 12" range and d6 hits, it's not really a killer. Spiritshield is... it's really shitty psychic defense- one unit has a 4+ nullify against psychic powers and Defensive Grenades against Psykers or Daemons. Soul Scry gives one unit rerolls on Ld (but not psychic) tests. None of them are really very good; the gear is slightly better, as we can get a Witchblade for 15pts or a Neural Shredder for the same; with both HQ choices being underwhelming, the Prince will likely get the nod (his bombardment is useful, at least) unless you are squeezed for points.
Verdict: Why are the Eldar bad at psychic powers?

Forge World's favorite unit in the world, one that they put into every goddamn codex ever, is the "Shitty Veteran Squad." Here's how it works: you take whatever the normal troop squad for the codex is, you take away all their normal options, you give them one extra attack, and let them take Power Weapons and fancy pistols. And then you're done, because fuck you, Forge World hates people who think that "veterans" shouldn't be worse than the unit they evolved from. Alright, technically these guys also get Shimmershields, but that's basically it. Oh, and let this be my chance to point out that FW gives a ton of units in this army the choice of either Haywire Grenades or Meltabombs; guess what, assholes, Meltabombs are always, always better. 8+2d6 to break rear armor 10 (or 12 at the worst) vs do nothing 15%, penetrate 15%, and glance 70%? No. No, fuck you, I am taking Meltabombs.
Verdict: Makes me angry like the internets.

Clearly this unit hadn't been in enough codices yet and needed to get printed a couple more times. Rumor is that Codex: Tau Empire and Codex: Chaos Legions will also have Harlequins in them. Anyways, they're exactly the same as they always are, nothing is different except that they can take a Corsair Venom. (We'll get to those in a moment.)
Verdict: Okay, but not great.

Here's the real meat of the section: you can take EL and FA units from the Eldar codex as Elites in this army. Now, the Eldar FA slot is total trash, but Elites have the all-important Fire Dragons, and really that was almost the only unit we cared about from the old book anyways. Oh, and it's really explicit that you can take Shadow Spectres, but so what? Fire Dragons, motherfuckers. This is 5E, everyone loves Melta.
Verdict: Fuckin' Fire Dragons, year!

Ported directly over from the DE book, but you can't have more of them than you have Corsair squads (which is irrelevant, as we'll see in a moment here.) This can be a nice way to get some poison shots or Lances into the army, but it's debatable whether that's worth one of your Elites choices. The option is there, however, so you can load up on anti-infantry shooting at a bargain price if you really want to.
Verdict: Well worth considering.

This is what really makes the army shine, and it's a huge surprise given that Forge World normally follows the old-school GW philosophy of "your troops suck but you're required to take at least two of them." Instead, what we have starts off fairly innocuous-looking; pretty basic Eldar statline, although notably they have BS4- that's cool, space elves really shouldn't be as bad as Guardsmen. 9pts per body isn't an amazing price, but it's not horrible, either; we can get up to ten models in the squad. Every five guys in the squad let us take one special AND one heavy weapon- technically there are choices here, but realistically it's Fusion Gun and Missile Launcher every time. Okay, so we can get some pretty good shooty in the squad, but we're still kinda fragile with out T3/5+. What brings them over the top is that for a flat 25pts, we can add jetpacks to every member of the squad. And jetpacks, as you'll recall, make you relentless. So for 175pts (or 185 with the Sarge upgrade, probably a good idea) we get a "Cyclone Missile Launcher" and a pair of Meltaguns together. And they can JSJ, and Deep Strike, and are scoring. Is that not fantastic? Of course it is, my friend. Not only can we put out pretty dangerous firepower- MOBILE firepower, no less- at range, anyone who closes with us is in for a nasty surprise. Oh, they're allowed to take a dedicated transport or whatever if you don't buy them jetpacks, but so the fuck what?
Verdict: Yes. Yes, take ALL of these.

Welp, they're pretty much like jetbikes in the Eldar base book; kinda expensive, but not awful. They can zoom around to contest things and you can cram a Shuriken Cannon on one of them, but you probably won't be fielding a ton of these due to Corsairs being so amazing. Still, they can be handy as a late-game annoyance.
Verdict: It's there, don't feel bad about it.

Sorta like War Walkers, but different, Wasps are likewise available in squads of three and come with a pair of guns. They're faster than their cousins, moving like jetpacks and being able to Deep Strike, but lack Scout; they can also move 12" in lieu of shooting/assaulting for the turn. They clock in at 55pts, with their guns unfortunately getting the usual ridiculously-inflated numbers that Eldar are stuck with- Shuriken Cannons and Scatter Lasers are the only realistic options here. With Corsairs being quite good at shooty themselves and other platforms being available, the Wasp is not really a premiere choice in any possible respect, so it's likely best to avoid them.
Verdict: Nah.

Dedicated Transports
Yes, they get Falcons as dedicated transports, and what's more they managed to pry those idiot Guardians out of the cockpit and let someone with BS4 pilot the damn things. They are 15pts more expensive than the usual Falcon, but really that small price bump is fine, given their enhanced accuracy. (What I assume must be a misprint lists their capacity at 10 models, despite squads of more than six being unable to select them.) The real question is: are these needed at all in the codex? Quite possibly not, as fire support (from Spinners, Corsairs, airplanes, etc) is already available and the high price tag on them plus the cost of the squad they carry can be prohibitive. Lacking the Wave Serpent as an option, however, we may be forced to settle for the more-expensive option for some squads.
Verdict: Good, but not necessarily what we need.

On the surface, this looks very similar to its Dark cousin; it lacks Flickerfields, but is 10pts cheaper, bringing it in at an absurdly-low cost. The weapon setup is Shuriken Cannon/TL Shuriken Catapult, which ends up being fairly equivalent, but the similarities stop there. Rather than being able to bring the Catapult up to spec as a second Cannon, we instead get the option to pay too many points to turn the main gun into something else, like a Scatter Laser (5pts), Missile (15pts), or Starcannon (20pts). Oh, and instead of Night/Flicker as options, we instead get the shitty Eldar options- yes, FW, let me pay 35pts to put Holofields on my 45pt transport. Thank you for your benevolence. What could have been a pretty cool vehicle ends up being fairly wasted, as it really can't compare with the firepower and efficiency of the DE version- thankfully, any Kabalites we bring along have their "proper" version of this, so we don't have to frown about that.
Verdict: Not completely awful, but could've been much better.

Fast Attack
Previously released by FW as an Eldar FA choice (and the only one that doesn't suck balls), the Hornet is an 11/11/10 Fast Skimmer that comes with a bunch of upgrades for its price. Aerial Assault, Scout, BS4, two Shuriken Cannons, and Star Engines all as standard for 65pts means that you have a fast, flexible shooting platform base; as usual, weapon upgrades are available but are generally mediocre, with the only one worth considering being Scatter Lasers for 10pts each. With no Wave Serpents to pour of S6 shots, the Hornet becomes a pretty solid choice in the Corsair army and is an easy way to add a bunch more vehicle hulls to a list. It may not be quite as able to kill things as some platforms, but it can threaten nearly any target and make a nuisance of itself with its speed and firepower.
Verdict: Very solid, even strong.

A 10/10/10 flyer (or fast skimmer with aerial assault blah blah blah in normal games), the Nightwing distinguishes itself by not only being reasonably affordable (145pts), but also being well-armed (two Bright Lances, two Shuriken Cannons, all AA guns) and getting a permanent 4+ invulnerable. Although it's unfortunate you can't swap the Catapults to Scatter Lasers for the extra range (which would give you much better protection), four guns is still pretty nice for the price and the cover save makes it at least vaguely survivable. Probably one of the better flyers you can get for under 300pts.
Verdict: Not cheap, but pretty okay. Might not fit the list, though.

Odd to find this in the FA slot, but it's not an awful place to be. Like many of the other choices, this is a copy of the Eldar version; however, it gains some utility in this list because the Corsair list, as a whole, doesn't have as much S6 spam (and thus less anti-infantry utility) as the regular Eldar do. Obviously it has competition from the other denizens of this slot- in particular the Hornet is better at chewing away at infantry and the Nightwing will perform better against most tanks- the Spinner ends up being a slightly-pricey utility choice that can be used to try and pin down groups of enemies and punish formations. In this role it can potentially have some purpose, so it gets a nod as a potential choice for a lot of lists (since it also has more survivability than its competitors.)
Verdict: Serves well enough.

Heavy Support
Another airplane, but this one weighs in at a pricey 225pts, but still is only 10/10/10 (with 4++), making it a risky investment. Its armament is... okay, coming with two AA Shuriken Cannons, a Pulse Laser, and a pair of Phoenix Missiles (S5 AP3 Heavy 3), which can be upgraded to be Nightfires (S4 AP5 Heavy 3 Blast No Cover Pinning) instead. So what's it for? Um... killing heavy infantry out of cover, I guess? That's a very mediocre role and, given the huge price tag and fragility, not one it fulfills very well, all the more so because of the other units available in the book.
Verdict: Pass.

Standard Eldar skimmer hull, with a TL Catapult underneath and a D-Cannon on top. The D-Cannon uses the normal fancy void-gun rules (wounds on 2+, ID on a 6, glances on 3-4, pens on 5-6) and is a large blast, but can also fire on template mode, which can be "thrown" six inches and otherwise works exactly like the normal shooting mode. For 125pts, the main gun is... just not that amazing and template mode is pretty brutal to troops, but its short overall range really limits what you can do with it- Eldar don't want to be hanging 12" or less from the enemy if they can help it.
Verdict: Probably not, but you wouldn't embarrass yourself using one.

The Firestorm is a Falcon designed for AA duties, having a fancy Scatter Laser (60" range, six shots, twin-linked) and the standard TL Catapult. Like the Falcon it can carry six bodies with it if you really want to, but in general it's not a terribly appealing choice, as it's expensive (180pts) and only middling against non-airplane targets.
Verdict: Take a Nightwing instead, man.

So Corsairs seem to be able to do two main armies: mech spam a la regular Eldar (but with better accuracy and no psychic support) or a strongly troop-based foot/mech hybrid list that uses mobile Missiles to provide a lot of its threat. I think the latter list is the most interesting and can really let Eldar infantry shine for once, which is nice to see; supporting the various S8 with Fire Dragons, Hornets/Spinners, and possibly some other stuff seems like a good plan. The HQ and HS slots are somewhat wasted, unfortunately- none of the choices really stand out for us, but we can pretty easily put ~2000pts or so into our other slots without feeling too bad about things, so that is less of an issue than it seems; having excellent troops helps a lot in this regard. I think something like this:

1850 Corsair Eldar list
1 Void Dreamer
5 Fire Dragons (Serpent w/TLCannon, Cannon, Stones)
5 Fire Dragons (Serpent w/TLCannon, Cannon, Stones)
5 Fire Dragons (Serpent w/TLCannon, Cannon, Stones)
10 Corsairs (2 Fusion, 2 Missile, Felarch, Jetpacks)
10 Corsairs (2 Fusion, 2 Missile, Felarch, Jetpacks)
10 Corsairs (2 Fusion, 2 Missile, Felarch, Jetpacks)
10 Corsairs (2 Fusion, 2 Missile, Felarch, Jetpacks)
10 Corsairs (2 Fusion, 2 Missile, Felarch, Jetpacks)
1 Hornet (2 Cannons)
1 Hornet (2 Cannons)
1 Hornet (2 Cannons)

Six tanks spitting out eight S6 shots per turn, five infantry units that can hide behind things and put out two S8 shots per turn, plus buttloads of Melta to back it up. If you wanted some more tricks you could potentially swap one Corsair squad for two Jetbike squads (to take objectives last turn) or some Wasp walkers to provide more S6 spam and tie things up in combat as necessary. Your infantry can be gunned down by torrent fire pretty easily, but JSJ and the ability to sit at 48" helps mitigate that a fair amount, as does the torrent shooting you have of your own. This army is excellent at manipulating engagement ranges and can be a real pain for slow/short-ranged forces (like GK or 'Nids) to face, but can also put out the firepower to support its runaround shenanigans, which is a stark contrast to normal Eldar.

A solid entry for Forge World, although far from flawless; the various Eldar weapons are still grossly overcosted, most especially Bright Lances and Starcannons, but we can expect that to remain the same until a new Eldar base book is released, as FW doesn't like "invalidating" GW's main-line products, even when they are demonstrably crappy.

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