Dark Eldar Beastmasters are one of my favourite units in the Dark Eldar codex. I have been using them since I have being playing Dark Eldar and think they are needed in every Dark Eldar army.
This tactica guide is going to show a cunning Beastmaster how to get the most out of your packs of gore feasting beasts!
Know your beasts
As their name suggests, Beastmasters are beasts unit type. Beasts can move 12" and are not slowed by difficult terrain, even when charging. They also have move through cover (auto pass dangerous terrain tests) and fleet.
Beastmasters are quite an unusual and complex unit as they are made up of several different models which all have different profiles. Don't let these worry you though, all of the Beastmaster models mesh together perfectly well.
The Beastmaster is essentially a male Wych but without the dodge special rule and doesn't come with a pistol. The Beastmaster can be confusing as moves along on a skyboard, which is usually used with Hellions who are jump infantry. Games Workshop have fortunately been clever with this and to save confusion made the Beastmaster beast unit type as well. At the end of the day it doesn't matter too much as both unit types more 12" and that is the most important thing. One thing I ought to mention is that the skyboard has a splinter pod on it, basically an 18" assault 2 splinter rifle.
The Beastmaster is the guy who runs the show and you can take 1-5 of them per unit. Each beast or number of beasts is controlled by a Beastmaster. Really the only use Beastmasters have is for taking wounds and bringing the LD8, all beasts have low leadership.
Beastmasters are the only models in the unit who can earn pain tokens. I'll note that the third pain token the unit gains gives fearless and this rule will effect the entire unit.
Beastmasters have an option of taking a close combat weapon upgrade, all three options (venom blade, power weapon & agoniser) and totally a waste of points. The Beastmaster only has a single attack and investing points for something which is rubbish in close combat is a total waste. I guess if you have spare points and no idea where to dump them then venom blade might be ok.
Khymera are some kind of nightmare daemon dog pulled from the warp; they have some wicked but freaky looking models.
Khymerae are pretty handy in close combat, they have 3 attacks base and are I6, WS4 and S4. More interestingly they have a 4+ invulnerable save. They cost 12 points per model and you can take 5 Khymerae per Beastmaster.
A Khymera's role in a Beastmaster unit is to tank the wounds with the 4+ invulnerable and to bring some early smack down with mass attacks. Most times the entire Beastmaster unit will be striking first, but Khymerae are handy against those cheeky chaps who are I5.
The Clawed Fiend reminds me of a giant Care Bear crossed with the Joker.
The Fiend is the muscle of the Beastmaster unit and the most toughest, though is the most expensive and costs 40 points! The Fiend is S5, T4 W4, I5 and A4 and has a funky rule that for every wound lost the Fiend gains an extra attack; the Fiend could get 8 attacks on the charge! You can only take one Beastmaster per Clawed Fiend.
Personally I wouldn't include the Clawed Fiend in a Beastmaster unit. Reason is the T5 is lost as the unit is majority toughness 3, you can only get around this by taking Clawed Fiends in a unit only where the majority would be T5. Plus what does the Clawed Fiend do the Khymera and Razorwing cannot do? All of them beat face just as well, just the Khymera and Razorwing offer more advantages/benefits.
Uhmmmm birds, who is afraid of birds? Well you'll see why to be afraid of these little buggers!
At first glance you'll think that Razorwing Flocks are pretty weak, just think of a multi wound typical Dark Eldar. Then you clock on that they have 6 wounds and 6 attacks on the charge with rending! Do not be fooled thinking they are swarms because they are on a 40mm base and look like swarms, they are not!
The Razorwing's role in a Beastmaster pack is to punch through armour and take off a few wounds or deal with 2+ armour saves. Those extra rends can really bring things into your favour. Plus they can absorb a decent amount of small arms punishment as they have 6 wounds and should be in cover.
Rule of the Beastmasters
The rule of thumb for Beastmasters is to have the unit costing about 150 - 180 points, anything more and you are investing too much into the unit and anything less and you are not getting an effective unit.
Beast wise you will want to get as many Khymerae as you can, so you're looking about 5 of these. You then want just as many Razorwings too. As mentioned, I am not a fan of the Clawed Fiend, but if you really want one then make sure it is just one.
An ideal Beastmaster unit would be this:
3 x Beastmasters
5 x Khymerae
4 x Razorwing Flocks
Total: 156 points
What you have got here is a unit which about Tactical Squad in points but has a lot more wounds, can move faster, far better in assault and has a little bit of shooting.
Before jumping in with two feet, don't go charging in thinking Beastmasters are an uber assault unit - they are not. Their job is to finish off units or tie them up, like all other Dark Eldar they are a bully unit and will pick on something when the odds are extremely in their favour. So do not go charging them into full strength units of Hammernators, Ork Nobz or Paladins etc.
Beastmasters are not a primary smash face unit. Their job is a mop up unit or to act as a tarpit. Dark Eldar are a premium shooting army, but there's only so many shots they can fire. The Beastmasters role is to chase down those units which survive splinter storms and blaster barrages and finish them off. They should only engage units which are a threat to you or if they are in the Beastmaster's path. The cool thing about assaulting something close is you can use this to catapult the Beastmasters further into the fray as they will move the assault distance and any consolidation distances.
You want to be moving Beastmasters through terrain at all times so they get cover, remember as they are beasts they are not slowed by it. It doesn't matter particularly where they rush, this is because they really need cover to survive, so do not be too picky where you place and send them. Overall it doesn't matter as Beastmasters are fast enough to reach their target double time and should be in assault by turn 2, they can be in assault turn 1 if your opponent has moved towards you.
Beastmasters as supporting unit
Beastmasters work extremely well with a Venom Spam list. Reason is both units can move at the same speed and the Venoms need to get close to deliver the mass blasters. Both units support each other extremely well as units inside the Venoms open up transport vehicles, Venoms thin down the enemy troops and then Beastmasters move in for the kill or at least to stop the enemy unit from shooting next turn.
To give you an idea how effect Beastmasters are I'll show you some mathshammer. To keep it fair the enemy units will be full strength, but really Beastmasters should only engage when the odds are in their favour!
10 x Tactical Marines vs Beastmasters
Marines over watch with 20 bolter shots - hit 3.2 - wound 2.11
Beastmasters get 6 attacks - hit 3 - wound 0.99 - 0.36 dead Space Marines
Khymerae get 20 attacks - hit 10 - wound 5 - 1.7 dead Space Marines
Razorwings get 24 attacks - hit 12 - wound 3.96 (1.98 should be rends) - 2.65 dead Space Marines
Lets say 3 dead Space Marines altogether.
Marines attack back with 9 attacks - hit 4.5 - wound 2.97 - these wounds should be put on Khymerae, which you would lose 1.49 Khymerae.
The Beastmasters would win and the Marines would probably remain locked in close combat. The close combat would drag out, though ultimately the Beastmasters would bring them down.
Ideally the Beastmasters will only assault depleted units and not ones full strength, hence why they are a mop up unit and not a full on face smasher. The Beastmasters want to be assaulting units of about 6-7 Space Marines, this would mean the Beastmasters would probably finish the Marines off in the Marine player's turn - the Beastmasters then get to assault in your turn. This is key to the Beastmasters success, so make sure you only attack depleted units and this way they can move from assault to assault in the opponent's turn.
Another situation where Beastmasters work well is against enemy transports, particularly against those which have survived blaster shots and have been immobilised. Thanks to mass S4 and rending attacks Beastmasters are pretty handy against vehicles. As Beastmasters have a 12" assault range it means it is possible to 'wrap' the enemy tank with your Beastmasters or you can at least block all the exits. This is where the little trick comes in and you kill two birds with one stone:
1. Place Beastmaster unit so blocking all exits on a vehicle, on most vehicles this is easy as they have a single exit though a Rhino maybe harder. If Beastmasters wreck the vehicle then the unit cannot disembark through the vehicle access points and the enemy unit will have to emergency disembark, this means the unit cannot move, shoot or assault next turn. They are basically just pissing in the wind and waiting for the Beastmasters to bite their ass off. Plus it is another unit Dark Eldar do not have to worry about shooting them etc.
2. Place the entire Beastmaster unit so they are 'wrapped' around the tank. This is dependant on assault distance rolled and how far away you are from the vehicle before charging. Once the tank is wrapped the enemy unit has no place to disembark, so if the tank is wrecked the unit cannot be placed and is destroyed. If the vehicle explodes and is left as a crater, then enemy models cannot be placed within 1" of a Beastmaster model. Consider that a Rhino is 3"x5", this means the opponent will have a 1" corridor of space to place the remaining enemy troops - this should be 3 models. As the enemy unit has taken 25% damage they will need to take a morale test, if they fail then they cannot fall back as Beastmasters block their way and are destroyed!
Huzzah! Think like an Archon and win like an Archon :)
Now you are all clued up on how to run Beastmasters and how to get the most out of them. Go vile Archon and bring death to all!