Wave Serpents are all the rage at the moment. They are an extremely powerful bit of kit and Eldar players can easily spam them and get nine Wave Serpents into a reasonable sized army.
How do you deal with the damn things?
Sneaky like a serpent
In order to deal with something you need to know what it does. Like everything in 40k, the Serpent can be dealt with, it's just an extremely durable piece of kit.
The Serpent is an av12-12-10 fast skimmer. This means it can move 6" and all weapons normally and if it moves 12" then it can fire two weapons normally and snap fire the rest.
As you can see the Wave Serpent is a highly mobile piece of flying death. Using it's speed it can easily get into those side angles of armour and unleash dakka hell. As it is a fast vehicle it can unleash a deadly amount of fire power without sacrificing movement.
The Wave Serpent comes with a funky piece of wargear called the serpent shield, this shield can be used to change penetrating hits to glances on a 2+ or can fire D6 +1 S7 shots - this shooting attack has a 60" range and is also pinning and ignores cover.
The shield however can be used one way or another, if the shield is fired then the shield protection cannot be used until the next turn.
The serpent shield is anti alpha strike. If you get first on the the Wave Serpents (more on this later) then those penetrating hits will be dropped down to glances and the punk ass Eldar will laugh at you. The Serpents also excel at the alpha strike, first turn they can easily reposition due to their speed and unleash a salvo of shield fire into side armour - doesn't matter if you are in cover as it ignores cover. This is a huge game changer as weak ass troops i.e Pathfinders, Dark Eldar Warriors, Orks, Guardsmen etc will be using their armour save instead of cover to survive. Don't forget that the shield has the pinning rule too, this can be used to surpress units by forcing them to snap fire and remain in position - this gives the Eldar play huge control over your infantry units and get cut the Eldar player some slack.
There's two additional items of wargear that the Wave Serpent SHOULD always have; holo-field and twin-linked scatter laser.
The scatter laser is a S6 heavy 4 36" weapon and only costs 5 points to slap on the Serpent. The scatter laser has a cool rule; if the scatter laser hits then all shooting attacks on the same model re-roll to hit. Wave Serpents are BS4 so chances are that the fire power they are dishing out will rarely miss. As the scatter laser is twin-linked the chances of it missing the target are extremely slim.
Along with the scatter laser, the holo-field is mandatory on a Serpent or any Eldar skimmer for that matter. The holo-field gives a +1 cover save to a vehicle providing it moved. If the model doesn't have a cover save then it will give a 6+. The Serpent is a skimmer and gets the jink rule as long as it has moved, so at worst the Wave Serpent is going to get a 4+ cover save. If it is hiding behind a ruin or even moves flat out you are talking a 3+ cover save. When using night fighting the Serpent could get a 2+ cover save just like when hiding behind a fortification.
When you combine the reasonable av12 with the holo-field and serpent shield you have an extremely survivable war machine which can knock out an incredible amount of fire power. Due to the high amount of medium to high strength weaponry the Wave Serpent will destroy mech lists without any issues, this is a huge game changer as lists tend to go the hybrid route with smaller amounts of vehicles - the Serpent will just mow through these. On the other side of the coin it is interesting as the Wave Serpent is making mech popular once again, well at least for the Eldar codex!
Now you are clued up on the Wave Serpent, how do you beat it?
Defence against the serpent
As mentioned, the Wave Serpent is highly mobile and can easily get into side armour of vehicles and move into better positions to draw line of sight. When positioning your vehicles do not put them straight onto the Serpent, the Serpent can easily move around the side and dakka the weaker side armour. Position the vehicle at an angle, this way the front armour arc will probably still taking the damage as the Wave Serpent cannot get into the side armour arc.
This one is a little trickier as it depends where you play, but the Serpent cannot shoot what it cannot see, so hide your stuff the best you can. Don't think about using cover either, if the Serpent can see you then it can shoot you. All the Serpent needs is a sliver of sight and it is on you - tanks with turrets are particularly weaker as other armour will only cover the chassis and rarely block LOS to the turret.
When playing against Wave Serpents you always want to try and go first. Wave Serpent's holo-field only works if the Serpent has moved, if you get first turn then the Serpents wouldn't have moved and won't be getting cover unless placed using scenery etc. You need to alpha strike the Serpents and force as much damage on them as possible. The serpent shield will change those penetrating hits to glances, but like majority of vehicles the Serpent has 3 hull points and can be brought down through weight of glances.
Behead the serpent
When playing 40k I have told people many times that knowledge is power. As soon as you know what something can do and all about it then you can work out how to beat it. Here's a few handy tips how to smack those Wave Serpents sideways from Sunday's.
The Wave Serpent's funky shield only works on the front and side. If you can get into the rear armour then the Wave Serpent won't be changing those penetrating hits into glancing hits. The rear armour is av10 so it won't take too many punches, S4 weaponry would glance it to death.
Getting in the rear armour won't be easy, a savvy Eldar player will get that rear armour protected and well away from enemy ranged fire. The only way to get into rear armour is by using something which is just as fast or faster than a Wave Serpent i.e a flyer.
I will remind you that the holo-field will still function as normal if you are shooting into the rear armour.
Speaking of the rear armour, the Wave Serpent doesn't like to be assaulted and can be taken down just like any other vehicle via assault. Majority of units come with some form of grenades and can glance the thing to death at least. Serious close combat units such as Hammernators and monstrous creatures (who will auto penetrate) will destroy Wave Serpents. Fast moving close combat units such as beasts, jump infantry, bikes, cavalry and flying monsters will trash the Wave Serpent. Like when in combat against any other vehicle, the trick is to block the exit(s) so the unit cannot disembark or has to emergency disembark. The Wave Serpent has a single exit and that is positioned at the rear.
The holo-field is a huge factor in the Wave Serpent's survival, without it a Serpent wouldn't last as nearly as long. There are several ways to get around the holo-field:
Use ignore cover weaponry or ordnance barrage. Without cover the Serpent will just be bending over and taking it. Unfortunately there isn't much high strength weaponry which ignores cover which springs to mind. One I can think of is the impaler cannon on the Tyranid Hive Guard.
Ordnance barrage is a different story, cover is determined from the centre of the blast and if that drops down on the Serpent then it doesn't matter if the Serpent is behind a ruin, fortress or anything else as it will be using the 4+ cover save from the holo-field. I know the Serpent is still getting a cover save, but I would rather the Serpent have a 4+ cover save than a 3+ cover save.
On the the subject of cover, movement suppression in the form of damage i.e stunned or immobilised means the holo-field won't work for the Wave Serpent - this is the time to strike! Get your close combat units stuck in and auto hit the Serpent or lay down fire power and the Serpent won't get any cover bonuses from the holo-field or jink.
When shooting at Serpents (or any vehicles for that matter) you should always concentrate on one until it is destroyed or supressed. It is no good taking off a hull point of that Wave Serpent and another hull point of another one. Keep your fire on the same Serpent, weight of fire will bring it down, I know the penetrating hits will be changed to glances, but the Serpent can still be wrecked by losing the hull points. This is especially good to try and do when the Serpent has moved flat out (tougher to do thanks to 3+ cover save) as if a skimmer is immobilised when it moves flat out it is auto wrecked. Remember, the more saves you force the opponent to take then the more dice they have to roll and the more chances of failure.
When shooting at Serpents you want volume of fire power and weapons which auto score damage i.e gauss or haywire.
The last thing to mention is about the shield; it can either shoot or use to change the penetrating hits to glancing hits, if the shield is fired then it cannot be used until the next turn. If a shield is 'deactive' then this is the time to strike with your heavy duty weapons which will punch through the Serpent's armour. You do not want to rock up with meltaguns when the shield is active and just score a few glances, you want your weight of fire power against Serpent's when the shield is active, bring it down via glances. Shield down is the time to drop the Serpent.
On a final note, Wave Serpents are expensive, and a Wave Serpent spam army won't tend to have a lot of infantry. Go for the troop Serpents first or those based upon target priority, every Serpent lost is a blow for the Eldar player and they will lose a truck load of fire power. With Wave Serpents going down the Eldar will lose mobility and their weak troops will be exposed. Remember, to claim objectives those very troops will need to bail out still.