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Monday, February 6, 2012

Eldar Codex Review - Part 8: Phoenix Lords Part 1


Ah Phoenix Lords - how cool you could be. What I'm going to do in these posts is look at the Phoenix Lords in general, how they stack up and what changes should be made to them overall and then look at specific uses and changes for each Phoenix Lord individually. I'll try and do three per post to give us two posts all up.

The Review

The short review for these guys is they suck and that's being polite. They are all 200+ points without an invulnerable save and unlike characters like Mephiston or Monstrous Creatures, Phoenix Lords have your standard MEQ statline T4/W3/2+. Tough sure but not exactly hard to kill and the lack of an invulnerable save really hurts them in combat. They do have Eternal Warrior so you have to actually take all of those wounds off the Phoenix Lords but it's not that hard.

Outside of this rather large downside, the Phoenix Lord's have quite a nice statline, particularly for Eldar with strength and toughness four. They are decent enough beatsticks with WS7/I7/A4 but again, very expensive and are only running around with so-so defenses. Leave any power weapons alive to hit back and they will make the Phoenix Lord disappear in a puff of smoke.

Phoenix Lords also come with Fleet of Foot which is a nice way to ensure they don't screw up any squads they join and stop them assaulting after they run (unlike some Dark Eldar HQs). Pheonix Lords are also fearless so they aren't going to be running off the board, always nice to know. However, they cannot join a squad of Aspect Warriors if it is not of their Aspect (non-Aspect Warrior squads don't care) which can be frustrating at times (though annoyingly understandable :P). If they do join a squad of their Aspect however, that squad becomes fearless as well.

Each Phoenix Lord then comes with a bunch of special abilities but all of those abilities are, at max, affecting a single squad. They can be very nice like Karandras' stealth or just plain useless. For the ~200+ point tag and no invulernable save, you'd want said model to bring a lot to your army but Phoenix Lords are essentially glorified Exarchs who can move between squads (but not different Aspects).

Potential Changes

So what changes need to be made to make them more viable? The most obvious one is a Force Organisation swap - it's what most of the useful special characters do and with units specifically attached to the Phoenix Lords' fluff, well it makes perfect sense. The only question here is balance but that will depend a lot upon how individual Aspects are changed as well. Regardless, it's the most obvious change to Phoenix Lords to make them benefit the whole army.

Another obvious inclusion is a 4++ and this shouldn't be increasing their cost either, it's a damn requirement for most HQs, particularly ones which aren't support based. Ensuring each Phoenix Lord simply isn't a buffed up Exarch is also important - let their abilities be similar but different rather than completely the same with some random tid-bits tacked on. If I can get nearly the same benefit for one-third

With that we'll look at the specifics of each Phoenix Lord now. It should also be mentioned that two new Phoenix Lords are needed - one for Warp Spiders and Shining Spears.

Asurmen - Dire Avenger Phoenix Lord

Hey he comes with a 4++, how nice... When we said before that Phoenix Lords are often just improved Exarchs, this was too true for Asurmen as he basically comes with all the wargear and upgrades the Dire Avenger Exarch can have but with a Phoenix Lord statline. He's also the most expensive Phoenix Lord of the lot which is just...confusing.

Potential Uses

There are very few ways to really use Asurmen. The best way is on the shelf unfortunately but any way you can maximise his usage of Defend outside of Dire Avengers is going to be your best bet. The problem is, most of the units who could make use of this are other Aspects though Harlequins, Seer Councils or Wraithguard units wouldn't sneer at it. You're not going to get much out of Bladestorm regardless, so losing that option isn't too big a deal.

If you wanted a Defend/Bladestorm model in your Dire Avengers, just buy an Exarch for one-third of the cost and then buy another squad to stand by them. Sure they're not Fearless but I'll take nearly the exact same benefits and double the firepower thanks.

Potenial Changes

With Dire Avengers already being Troops, Asurmen needs to do something else for the Eldar army and really needs something to differentiate himself from a glorified Dire Avenger Exarch. A significant drop in points cost would be beneficial to start with and some sort of aura of buffing ability he can give out to units outside of Dire Avengers would be appreciated. Re-roll morale checks perhaps? Otherwise perhaps a benefit to all Dire Avenger units taken perhaps? I'm at a loss here I'm afraid, otherwise Asurmen needs to drop around 100 points just to be worthwhile as an upgrade Exarch and even then, skip him.

Jain Zar - Howling Banshee Phoenix Lord

Jain Zar is the cheapest of the Phoenix Lords and probably one of the best beatsticks of them all and her powers are applicable to any squad she joins - all nice things. With a S6 power weapon, I10 on the charge backed up by Furious Charge (S7), WS7 and five attacks on the charge, well she can chomp through some units quite nicely and importantly scrabble against a tank's paint somewhat effectively. She's got a cute little S5 AP2 weapon she can throw at people as well which has some use. Her Acrobatic and War Shout abilities provide her and her squad with Counter-Attack and with Eldar high initiative, this is nice to get some more attacks in, often before the opponent strikes and occasionally hitting the opponent on 3's whilst they hit you on 5's.

That's about it though. She's a beatstick without an invulnerable save or an easy way to get into combat. Sure if she gets there she can churn through Marines pretty easily but a couple power weapons can ruin her day and she's still not bringing anything to the army.

Potential Uses

So how to use her? She's going to add some combat ability to whatever squad she joins and with Counter-Attack, the unit isn't too shabby when being charged either. Importantly, her combat ability ensures she's capable of smacking tanks, infantry and MCs alike and you know she's going to get her Attacks in. That's about it though and there's no real fancy way of using her beyond this. You still also have the issue of getting her and the unit to combat thanks to the ever-useful Wave Serpent having one rear entrance and no assault ramp.

Potential Changes 

Howling Banshees as Troops with some buffs on their part would, as shall be for all Phoenix Lords, a nice increase in ability. Improving her Furious Charge/Counter-attack abilities to aura based (much like Straken) would be excellent as well and with some tweaking could make Dire Avenger/Elfzilla based lists more viable. At a minimum she should at least apply this to her squad though an aura would be better. Improving her War Shout over the standard Exarch's ability would be good as well - perhaps Ld test taken at -2?


For the most part, Phoenix Lords need a major overhaul. Some of them have nice weapons and abilities but the base structure on which they are built is flawed and the end result is a lot of them are just beefed up Exarchs with a better statline - not something you want from your 200 point special character. Quick changes to this include a points drop, getting a 4++ minimum and allowing some Force Organisation Swaps in relation to Aspect Warriors (or some abilities which affect how they are treated in relation to scoring, army-wide buffs, etc.).

Asurmen is really unusable. For his cost you could get a 2nd Dire Avenger + Exarch squad and get nearly the same abilities from the Exarch but have twice as many squads. Jain Zar has a bit more use as she's a pretty good beatstick and can provide combat punch to any unit but that's about all she can do and a 200 point model needs to be able to do more than that in 5th edition. Overall, lacklusture for the both of them and if you're really looking for a beatstick HQ, Yriel is probably your better bet regardless.

Next post we'll cover the other four Phoenix Lords.

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