I’m really liking Dark Eldar at the moment. They are a fun to play army, which get you thinking. They’re not a auto win army, sometimes you will lose, which can be a hard fought battle or you can win by the skin of your teeth. I think it’s that which makes them interesting, they just about lose/win.
The fast attack section of the D.E codex as some cool units. Some do some things better than others. Time to take a look.
Hellions are sort of like Wyches, but on a skyboard, which makes them jump infantry. They haven’t got a 4+ invulnerable save in close combat like Wyches, but do have a 5+ armour save – not like that is going to help much. Like Wyches Hellions get combat drugs, all rolls are useful here, particularly the +1 strength. This would make Hellions S5 base (thanks to hellglaive as it gives +1 strength) add in furious charge with those pain tokens and you’re looking at S6 I7 Hellions! Nasty!
The Hellions can take a Helliarch in a unit, who can access wargear. The wargear is just the normal stuff i.e agoniser but there’s two interesting items of wargear; phantasm grenade launcher and stun claw. The latter replaces the hellglaive (but still gives +1 strength) and allows the Hellions to ‘snatch’ a I.C out of combat on a 2+, the Hellions have hit and run btw and take the I.C with them to start a fresh combat. The claw is useful for picking up annoying I.Cs like Sanguinary Priests and Big Meks etc. Do the hit and run when it’s YOUR turn, this will allow another unit to charge the unit the Hellions just pulled the I.C out of combat and destroying them or tying them up while the Hellions pick on the I.C and hopefully will finish it off. The only issue I see is the Helliarch can take a single upgrade, so it’s stun claw or the popular agoniser, not both. But when your Hellion unit could be S5 base, striking first and with feel no pain you should be ok.
I don’t usually mention special characters, but I think the Baron needs to be heard about.
I’m not going into full detail about the Baron as some of his abilities are unique to him. What he does though is give a unit he’s with (and himself) the stealth rule, which is very handy, add in that the unit of Hellions he joins may re-roll dangerous terrain tests so moving through cover isn’t a problem and now you’re getting a 3+ cover save. He can also help with the hit and run move re-rolling initiative test and how far they run, handy if you have that I.C in a stun claw or want to escape combat. And of course the final thing, he makes Hellions troops!
There isn’t a huge amount of things Hellions can do. It’s combat and mild shooting is what they do (their skyboards are assault 2 4+ poison) and to be fair they only do combat if you get the right drug rolls, but most of them should be helpful one way or another.
I would definitely include the Baron with a Hellion unit for the points cost. 5+ armour save isn’t great so moving through cover with a 3+ cover save and re-rolling dangerous terrain tests is just awesome.
Get the Hellions to zip down a flank and keep running (remember they are jump infantry) moving from area terrain to area terrain to gain cover. Let them pick on small units (i.e Long Fangs, Combat Squads, Veterans etc) and they should beat face in combat quickly and get up to at least S5 quickly thanks to furious charge from that second pain token.
I know the tactics for Hellions is simple, but that’s because Hellions are simple. They just fly off and harass a unit. I would say their quality is snatching I.C’s from a fight so they can gang up on them, those Sanguinary Priests and Big Meks are serious annoying! Note that the I.C hasn’t got to be in base contact, just in the same combat, which is cool.
I will say before I start that I am probably biased towards Scourges as I use them currently in my D.E army.
Scourges are all about your long range fire power, whether this is anti tank or anti troop. Sure they basically evil twisted versions of Swooping Hawks, but just because they can move 12” doesn’t mean they have too. As standard they get a 4+ armour save, 6+ invulnerable save and plasma grenades which all makes them slightly more survivable than your standard Dark Eldar unit. Other than that they are exactly the same. They do however get access to nearly as much wargear as Kabalite Trueborn.
Scourges need to be setup in areas where your army lacks. If you’re doing Venom spam then you will need long range fire power so dark lances will be suited. Yes this will keep them static and yes they could keep up with the Venoms on foot, but if they are on foot then it’s heat lances and what’s going to get shot first – the meltas or the heavy 12 4+ poison skimmers? If you’re doing Raider spam then it’s splinter cannons for them.
Scourges do suit a web way portal list very nicely. If taking them on foot then they should have heat lances as you can get blasters pretty much every where in the Dark Eldar codex. With them coming out a portal (which is usually half way across the board) and the 12” movement this means they should be in 2D6 melta range quickly. Failing that they are jump infantry, which means they could deep strike.
Reavers are the jack of all trades of the fast attack. They are like a Wych, which can move fast than a Hellion and with a bit of Scourge light fire power. Like Wyches they have combat drugs and like Hellions they have a 5+ armour save, but instead of +1 strength from hellglaive like Hellions they get a pistol and close combat weapon giving them more attacks. Add in the cool reaver jetbike which has a splinter rifle and the interesting bladevanes. Now the bladevanes only work when the Reavers use their turbo boosters (they move up to 36”), the Reavers then inflicts D3 S4 AP- hits per Reaver in the unit. Now S4 isn’t awesome but if you have a unit of 6 Reavers and roll a good D3 you could end up doing 18 x S4 hits. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.
First turn turbo boost the Reavers down a flank and use terrain to block LOS, if you can’t then no worries as they will get a 3+ cover save. When you’re not turbo boosting don’t be afraid to move into terrain as these guys have skilled rider which is very handy.
The Reavers are best with heat lances as you can get blasters nearly every where in the D.E codex. Move up blast a transport and assault the unit, Reavers are better assaulting things they have a good chance beating in combat so small units just like the Hellions like picking on. If you roll good on the drug table they could start with +1 strength, worst result is the roll 3D6 for run and pick the highest as these fellas cannot run! If you fancy your chances in combat pile in (Arena Champion with agoniser will be handy here) if not remember the Reavers are Eldar jetbikes, which means they can move 6” in the assault phase. Do not forget this as it’s a difference between life and death and possibly winning the game. Move them into cover so they don’t get shot to death or use this move to claim a objective – very handy.
Beastmasters are quite a complex made of up of a variety of models of different toughness and abilities. You’ve got the Beastmasters themselves which are basically a beast on a skyboard. This may sound weird as Hellions (who use a skyboard) are jump infantry, but when you think about it it actually makes sense as it has the unit moving at a combined, correct pace. You have Khymerae which are the asborbing sponges of the unit, Clawed Fiends which are the heavy hitters of the unit and the Razorwing Flocks which dish out the mass attacks and the serious damage.
Now the Beastmaster does have some combat upgrades such as power weapon, venom blade and agoniser. All of these I would leave at home as the Beastmaster only gets a single attack and is there to take the beasts and leadership. If you do find you have points left and no where to put them then a venom blade would be fine, but nothing else!
In Beastmaster units I find that the Razorwing Flocks and the Khymerae are the best. While I never tried a Clawed Fiend I just cannot see the benefits of it. Sure it has a decent amount of attacks, but the Razorwing Flocks have more. Sure it can asborb wounds, but the Khymerae get a 4+ invulnerable. It’s strength is been S5 and T5, but the T5 is lost thanks to majority toughness. So you’re really looking at a 40 point model which can dish out attacks just as much as a Razorwing Flock and wound mostly on a 3+. For those reasons I wouldn’t take a Clawed Fiend.
Beastmasters are great for absorbing fire thanks to the multi wounds the Razorwing Flocks have, but that’s only small arms fire. Some people like to deploy them with the rest of the army, but I am not a fan of this. Reason if if anyone is clued up on how fast those Beastmasters can move and the damage they can cause then it will be S6 and above firing at them. Sure it’s fire power not going into your skimmers but a Beastmaster unit isn’t meant for taking fire power. It’s meant to rip up units in assault once the blasters have popped tanks. Several multi lasers from Chimeras can end the day for a Beastmaster unit. Sure you could move them from terrain, but this will bog them down as they don’t have move through cover. I have heard of the tactic putting Baron Sathonyx with the Beastmasters, but I am not a fan of this because the way the Baron moves and the Beastmaster moves is bad synergy.
Instead get them a webway portal and deploy them out of there. If you get first turn a portal can be dropped half way across the board and then you’ve got to wait for the Beastmasters to come in, which have a possible 24” assault range so they should be in range of most things if you pick your targets right. This means the Beastmasters aren’t getting shot, it gives your units time to open up transports, and they get into assault quicker. Sure you’re waiting on the fate of the reserves, but that’s just how it is. I would rather have my Beastmasters come in mid game as a whole unit and cause major damage than have them shot at from turn 1 and either fall back, be destroyed or have limited effect in game.
Picking the best of the D.E fast attack is a tough choice and really there’s no clear winner. All units do things better than others in areas, but some can do certain things better than others. I guess it depends on the setup of your army which depends on what fast attack choice you want.
If you wanted ranged fire power then Scourges are your bag. They can bring dark lances for anti tank and splinter cannons for anti troop.
If you want pure combat then it’s Beastmasters. I would personally get a portal, which can cause other problems, but it’s your call.
The last two units are Reavers and Hellions. I would say Hellions are probably the bottom of the pile of Dark Eldar fast attack. Sure Reavers aren’t better profile wise, but Reavers can move quicker and if they can in and out of terrain easily because of skilled rider – you want that for Hellions then you must have Baron Sathonyx costing more points. The Reavers aren’t too bad for close shooting and of course excellent for objective contesting thanks to the 36” turbo boost and the 6” Eldar jetbike move.
If you’ve got a favourite Dark Eldar fast attack then I’d like to know, tell me how it works for you and your tactics. Or is there another unit altogether you like in the Dark Eldar codex?