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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eldar Codex Review - Part 13: Fire Dragons


One would imagine this should be pretty easy - after all, in the 5th edition environment Fire Dragons, with the access to fast, durable transport Eldar brings, are perhaps one of the most important units in the Eldar codex, let alone all the others out there.

The Review -

Fire Dragons are again your typical Eldar with good statistics outside of save (4+), toughness and strength (both three). Unlike many of the other units we've reviewed however, the lack of strength really isn't an issue because Fire Dragons, being the advanced super-elves they are, use their advanced weaponry to deal with their main target: tanks. They are still however, relatively weak for their points - it's like they aren't Marines or something!

Regardless, thanks to a good ballistic skill and an excellent gun (the Eldar meltagun), Fire Dragons are a great anti-tank unit. They're unlikely to miss, have multiple shots at the target to ensure multiple shots can hit, break through any defenses and then damage the tank. Thanks to high strength, armor nullifying abilities (melta-rule) and AP1 - the Fire Dragons are really the anti-tank unit, particularly considering their Marine point cost. However, this is all the really do as a squad and they need to be close to be maximising their potential (within 6"). They also come with meltabombs so can finish tanks off in close combat or if they come up against a parking lot, smack lots of S8+2D6 hits against multiple targets.

The Exarch can add a bit of extra varability to the squad through their upgrades and weapon improvements. The Exarch can take either a Firepike (range 18" meltagun) or Dragon's Breath Flamer (heavy flamer) - both of which are nice options though the DBF is really a great and cheap way to make the Fire Dragon squad more effective against non-tank/MC units. It's only a single template but being able to launch a template + four+ melta shots into an infantry unit is a lot better than just five+ melta shots. The Exarch can also bring tank hunters to the table which doesn't really bring much since they squad is packed full of meltaguns but it does make the squad more effective when outside of melta-range and against units with extra defenses which deny the 2D6 penetration (i.e. Stormravens, Land Raider Achilles, Wave Serpents, etc.). Crack shot is great to help the Exarch be better at their job but doesn't really matter if they are taking the DBF.

Potential Uses -

They are anti-tank/MC, nothing is really going to change that. You can make them a decent dualistic unit with the DBF but it's still not going to make them an anti-infantry unit. Keeping the units small removes chances of overkill whilst ensuring the unit is still effective if they take a few losses. Wave Serpents are a must if you want to get the most benefit from them and we have another case where Farseer support isn't needed to make the unit decent but improves what they are already good at (i.e. Guide makes them more accurate, Fortune improves Wave Serpent defenses, etc.).

The Fire Dragon use is pretty simple - kill tanks. How you do this however, is quite important. They can, and often will be, used as suicide melta units. They aren't Troops so you're not that fussed if they die and they aren't over the top expensive so it's not like you're throwing a bunch of points away. However, whilst they certainly have uses as suicide melta, they can generate a lot more use when not thrown at the opponent.

This harks back to what we discussed in relation to threat ranges. You can throw the Fire Dragons at the opponent and often there are times when you need to (i.e. Land Raider full of TH/SS) but if you're up against 10 Razorbacks - why are you throwing away your three best anti-tank units to potentially drop three of 10 cheap vehicles? By holding the Fire Dragons back until later turns (with Eldar speed, this is often Turns 2 or 3) when they can disembark as part of the army and thus not be overextended, the Fire Dragons are more likely to survive next turn and engage multiple targets over the course of the game. This increases their damage potential and forces target priority issues upon your opponent for longer.

The threat range from the Wave Serpent has three variables - the first is your basic assault range we've talked about with Wave Serpents but without any benefits from tank shocking (they do still have Fleet of Foot though). Mass meltabombs against a stationary parking lot can be very effective and if your opponent is dumb enough to do this, don't be afraid to jump those Dragons out and go for maximum damage. Otherwise you have your more usual shooting threat ranges - one for melta and one not for melta. The longer the game goes, the more likely you can get those Fire Dragons into optimal threat range (i.e. melta range) but protected from the opponent's return fire (i.e. behind your tanks). If you're pushing them out as far as they can go to drop tanks early, any AP4 firepower the opponent has well chew through the Dragons pretty quickly.

Their basic use is pretty easy to understand - kill tanks and high toughness targets. How you execute this is very important - you want to maintain the Fire Dragon's presence for as long as possible as this generates maximum damage potential and forces your opponent to make tougher shooting choices each turn.

Potential Changes -

There really isn't much one would want to change here. Perhaps crack shot affecting the whole unit? That would be pretty powerful though and would need to be quite expensive and have some rules governing it. The option for any squad member to change their meltagun for a flamer wouldn't go amiss either but they are geared towards anti-tank so whilst that would make game sense, it might not make fluff sense. Maybe a special rule to make them immune to flame/melta weapons similar to the Avatar?

Overall though, not much really needs to change. They have a role, can diversify that role a tiny bit with the Exarch, and they do this very well. It's the perfect embodiment of the Aspect (specialisation) whilst not screwing them on the tabletop (duality).

Conclusion -

Fire Dragons are really a must for any competitive Eldar army, particularly mech-based ones. They operate very effectively from Wave Serpents due to their speed and ability to drop Fire Dragons off to most locations on a board within two-three turns. The trick here is not ensure the Fire Dragons are not being over-extended except against particularly targets (i.e. durable and expensive vehicles). By optimisation their threat ranges, the Fire Dragons will produce more tangible and intangible benefits throughout the game.

Few changes need to be made as the unit is an excellent specialist unit currently with a dash of duality from the Exarch. If most of the Aspects could be like this with options as running them as Troops through the Phoenix Lords, Eldar would be in a very good position.

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