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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Eldar Codex Review - Part 7: Avatar


Way back in the day the Avatar was a paltry 80 points and a great beatstick. Ya he didn't run around with a good save or any army buffing abilities but it still took firepower to drop. These days he's twice the cost with a better save and...well yay?

The Review

The Avatar has a very scary statline. S6/T6/W4/3+/4++/WS10/A4 alongside being a monstrous creature means he can go toe-to-toe with nearly anything one-on-one and come out ahead. Not only does he pack a punch but he's got good defensive statistics as well and cannot be harmed by melta or flame based weapons. This can impact on how some Imperial armies deal with him, particularly if they've packed only Autocannons and meltaguns into their army. The problem is...well his base cost is the same as that of the Tyranid MCs who run around with T6/W6/3+ and whilst the Avatar obviously brings more combat capacity to the table, the fact of the matter remains he's a very hard to hide model who isn't that hard to kill. Armies should be prepared to deal with multiple T6/W6 models and Eldar cannot put out nearly as many monstrous creatures as other armies (Avatar + three Wraithlords of which the Avatar is generally a prime target).

His survivability can certainly jump a lot with Fortune in play but with psychic defenses being common this isn't a reliable option. Not to mention the opposing force can simply focus on other elements of the Eldar army until Fortune fails (very decent chance with psychic defenses around) or if this cannot be done before the Avatar reaches the lines, throw moving tanks or a sacrificial unit at him. In the end, the Avatar is just a beat-stick but has a hard time beating what he wants.

The Avatar also comes with a counts-as meltagun which is nice - he can actually drop a tank in the shooting phase and then wail on its occupants rather than scrabble against the transport's paint job. Furthermore, the Avatar does provide one aura to the Eldar army - Inspiring. Unfortunately, it's a bad aura as it provides any Eldar unit within 12" of the Avatar the Fearless USR. Yay? So when so-so combat units get beaten in combat, rather than being able to flee with their high initiative they take more damage? And when crappy units get into combat, they just die faster? This is not a good thing. Whilst units are sure to stand around when being shot or when shot out of their transport, the downsides once sides engage in combat can drag an Eldar army down. Fearless can be useful for some units like Harlequins who can bounce out of combat regardless (though they would suffer a lot from No Retreat wounds) or Seer Councils as with Fortune up they can take a few extra saves regardless but Aspect Warriors and Guardians? Not so much.

Potential Uses

So how can one use the Avatar? He's not a great beat-stick as he has difficulty surviving until combat and there often aren't enough targets with similar threat profiles to generate saturation to save him and his aura often hurts the Eldar army rather than benefits it. We mentioned three things which need to be looked at where the Avatar works decently - Fortune, Seer Councils/Harlequins as Fearless affects them the least and when there are similar threats to the opponent. This gives the basis of the Elfzilla list where the Avatar is most useful - Harlequins, Eldrad + Seer Council (Seer Council not necessary), Wraithguard Troops, Wraithlords for MC saturation and ranged anti-tank and some Guardians for backfield scoring/shooting duty.

It's not a great concept but allows units such as Harlequins and the Seer Council to benefit from Fearless, provides a combat presence to the short-ranged Wraithguard and has MC saturation with the Wraithlords. Outside of this though it's hard to find effective use for the Avatar where he doesn't stand out to the opponent. He can be used as a counter-attack option where his Fearless aura keeps units from running against shooting but he's quite expensive in this role, has limited attacks as a counter-assault unit and still leaves backfield units open to being romped in combat through No Retreat wounds.

Potential Changes

Two obvious things - provide some bonuses to the army (no a Fearless bubble is not a bonus) and be able to get into combat more readily. Whether the Avatar comes into play in some way like summoned Daemons from Chaos, can teleport, a beefy bodyguard or whatever - the simple fact of the matter is without a lot of other targets to saturate the field, the Avatar is too easy to shoot down before he can get to combat.

Beyond this, he cannot simply be a beat stick as there are few models who can actually do this well and efficiently. The game has been moving away from single models like this for a long time and for good reason. It's fine to have the Avatar as a single model be scary in combat but he needs to provide more or be a lot cheaper. Allowing his aura to do something useful would be of great benefit. The best example I can think of would be something similar, if not the same, as what Marneus Calagar currently has. Whilst the Avatar is alive every Eldar unit can choose to pass or fail leadership/morale tests. You're still getting that 'Fearless' bonus and the inspiring presence of the Avatar but you're not gimping your army and are offering a lot more tactical options to anyone who uses him.


The Avatar is like most combat beasties - it doesn't bring much for the army and under 5th edition, this is often a no-no when paying out lots of points. Whilst Avatar's are quite scary in combat, the fact they often make the rest of your army worse in combat due to a Fearless bubble and have a hard time getting to combat quickly puts this guy on the backburner in terms of usage. Solving either of those issues (army buffing and ability to get to combat) would make the Avatar go a long way to becoming more useful whilst keeping him as something you don't want to go toe-to-toe with in close combat. He can have some uses in an Elfzilla list but such lists often lack anti-tank options and are more about breaking the opponent on an anvil of tough models - something which often fails to work against the mass shooting of 5th edition.

In the end he's an awesome model and can smash things around in combat but he doesn't do enough for the army and isn't cheap enough to warrant just being a beat-stick or distraction for your opponent to worry over.

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