19 Feb 2013

Wraithwing - The Eldar Variety

Howdy all, Learn2Eel here, and I'm eager to talk about an army list I've long wanted to do - the Eldar Wraithwing, a force so tough and small that it really defines the term 'elite force'. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on how to use such an army!
Elf ghosts in space!


If you are an average Warhammer 40000 player or hobbyist, this was likely the first word that came to mind. What indeed. Gee, that Learn2Eel guy is crazy. Well I'm here to tell you that yes I did, and now with flower petals for your Tesla weaponry! Oops, wrong article. Anyway, Eldar Wraith units tend to be viewed with both scepticism and a lot of positivity - for what they bring to the table, they tend to be cheap, strong and unreasonably hard to shift. Wraithlords boast the highest toughness of any unit in a standard Warhammer 40000 codex, with Khorne's number making them immune to bolters. If that doesn't confuse you, they one up Tzeentch with their strength too. The little guys, Wraithguard, those larger-than-life Eldar Space Marines, are pretty strong and tough too - able to laugh off a gauss flayer as easily as a lasgun. Autocannons don't really frighten them either. If that doesn't give you an idea on just how durable Wraith units are, note that you would need to 180 S4 wounds simply to kill a 10-strong Wraithguard unit, and that doesn't include actually hitting them first! And unless you have krak grenades, most infantry units will be forced to flee against a Wraithlord that simply cannot be harmed by anything short of a heavy bolter. As well, a Wraithlord boasts the highest possible Strength in the game - Strength 10 - and thus is one of the few monstrous creatures that doesn't need to Smash when assaulting a vehicle or attempting to instant death a multi-wound model. It is also great when your Wraithlord - as a certified character - issues a challenge, wounds the enemy challenger with Hammer of Wrath, and causes them to die before they even get to strike; hint, it is hilarious against someone like Typhus or Vulkan.

Of course, Wraith units also have some laughably bad weaknesses that you really need to be aware of if you want to field them in any capacity. See that Dark Eldar player smirking across the desk, encouraging you to play an entirely Wraith army? Yeah, as you might have guessed, a high volume of Poisoned or high strength/rending firepower - available in massed quantities from Dark Eldar, Grey Knights and the like - will absolutely mess the army up in short order. If you are running Wraithguard as your main Troops units, Battle Cannons will become your worst nightmare, and force your already plodding units to hug cover or seek support from a Wraithseer. The army is almost universally outnumbered, and every unit barring the Wraithseer needs to be kept on a leash - if any fall out of range of an Eldar psyker, they could very well end up being useless for an entire turn due to Wraithsight.

So why would you field them? Firstly, Wraith units look and feel awesome - their aesthetic design and background make them some of the most kick-backside models in the Eldar force. Their unique, sleek models are very much a stylish clash with most other Warhammer 40000 models. Not to mention, their rules are good too - Wraithlords, Wraithseers, Wraithguard and the like are all good units. Running an army of them is fun and fluffy for an Iyanden player, or awesome for any budding Eldar player that likes their models. It is an engaging and challenging army to use that is not without faults, but also has some strengths, making it almost a paper-scissors army that works very well against some and crumbles against others. Whether that is to your tastes is purely up to you, but I find that kind of army both unique and interesting from a gameplay perspective - its elite nature forces you to really think about what you need to do to take victory. 

What to field?

If you haven't run home scared yet, that either means you have a passing interest in this article, or you are really considering making a Wraithwing army. Well, firstly, to build up a Wraithwing army you need three key units - each of which I will detail here.

Wraithseer - This is a Forgeworld unit that is approved for Warhammer 40000, and thus should be acceptable for use in most gaming circles. Just be wary that certain tournaments will prohibit the use of any Forgeworld models. It is a HQ choice that can't be your Warlord, or rather, you have to field another HQ choice that isn't a Wraithseer, as it can't fill your mandatory HQ slot. Aside from that, it is essentially a Wraithlord that doubles as a psyker - though I am unsure as to whether it has access to rulebook powers like other regular Eldar units do, a Wraithseer has its fair share of good stuff. Firstly, it has an extended Wraithsight-preventing range that will really help in a Wraithwing army. From there, it has a distinct advantage over regular Wraithlords in terms of its statline; it has a higher Weapon Skill, an extra attack and wound, as well as a very handy 5+ invulnerable save. This means that not only is it a lot more survivable than a regular Wraithlord - at least when they are out of cover - a Wraithseer is also a much better combatant, and can be given some crazy additional weapon options such as a D-Cannon, Bright Lance or Star Cannon. It comes with the equivalent of a Wraithsword already, and thus is good at maximising its damage output - it also handily makes the Wraithseers attacks count as AP1.The Wraithseer also helps out your shooting, with cover saves for enemy units being reduced by one if a shooting attack at them was resolved by the Wraithseer itself or within 12" of the Wraithseer. Remember how nasty Wraithguard guns are?

As for psychic powers, the Wraithseer provides three at Mastery Level 1, and doesn't need line of sight to cast them; one forces an enemy unit in 18" to take a Pinning test at -2 to their Leadership, which can be very effective if used against the right units. The second gives a single Wraithlord or Wraithguard unit within 12" Fleet, which is very handy to increase the chances of a successful charge. The last, and perhaps most interesting, gives one Wraithguard or Wraithlord unit, or even the Wraithseer itself, within 6" Feel No Pain - apparently, this has been specified in a 6th Edition FAQ to count as Feel No Pain (+4). I can't find that FAQ, so I won't say this is correct, but it is interesting to note nonetheless; an entire unit of Toughness 6 3+ armoured Wraithguard with Feel No Pain sounds like candy to me. All up, the Wraithseer is essential as one of the HQ choices in a themed Wraithwing army, as though it is expensive, it provides some much welcomed Spiritseer buffs, firepower and close combat threat.

It's like that skinny guy - except...better.
Wraithguard - The main core of a Wraithwing army, Wraithguard are normally an Elites choice for Codex: Eldar, but when brought up to ten-strong and given a spiritseer upgrade for the Warlock, the unit suddenly becomes a Troops choice. A unit of S5 T6 3+ armoured infantry with AP2 guns that wound on a 2+ or destroy vehicles with impunity? Not to mention they cause instant death for every six on a to wound roll? Oh yes. Monstrous Creatures, Land Raiders, Rhinos, Terminators - you name them, and they will die if they get into range of Wraithguard. Of course, Wraithguard do have some crippling issues you need to contend with - the first is the puny range of their guns, with only a 12" firing base to work with. This doesn't give them a lot of room to breathe against fast-moving assault armies. The latter is their cost - Wraithguard are awesome, strong and tough, but there are a lot of ways to kill them quite quickly, usually involving weaponry or units that are commonplace for armies such as Imperial Guard or Grey Knights. Still, these guys are awesome, and against the unprepared enemy, they will absolutely brutalise foes.

Wraithlord - Your big, tough monsters that can withstand punishment from nearly any source, Wraithlords are your hard hitters and will be the primary source of long-range firepower in your army. Wraithlords do have their weaknesses - their few number of attacks, their vulnerability to high strength low AP weapons such as lascannons if cover isn't used correctly, and Wraithsight, which can be thankfully mitigated with other units in a Wraithwing. Still, Wraithlords are very, very effective - despite being slow, they can pack a few long-range guns that, coupled with their good Ballistic Skill, can cause quite a bit of damage early in the game. With two flamers on their wrists, they can also burn through horde units with impunity that would otherwise pose a serious worry to them as far as tarpitting due to their few attacks. Wraithlords have the major advantage of being cheap as chips - I am hard pressed to think of a monstrous creature with a stat-line that imposing (they are immune to all forms of small-arms fire barring splinter weaponry) that is so incredibly cheap. Take three.

Now, as I raised in regards to the Wraithseer, you need another non-Wraith HQ to actually make a legal army. The two best options for this, given the points cost of all the other units in the army, would either be a kitted out Farseer for psychic defence, buffs and the like, or an Avatar simply because having an extra awesome monstrous creature rounds off the whole 'monstrous' theme of the army. It's really up to you.

Tips and the Army List

Fielding a Wraithwing army will usually result either in crushing defeats or blazing victories, depending on the opponent you play against. Tough, protracted games tend to favour you due to your incredibly tough units. Whilst Dark Eldar, Grey Knights, Tau, Imperial Guard and Necrons should have little trouble with a Wraithwing army if they field a competitive army, many other races will struggle immensely to do anything to your forces. Even krak-grenade toting Space Marines will have a real tough time standing up to your Wraithlords, whilst Wraithguard punish any other unit that you don't want to see combat with. The Avatar head-hunts enemy Warlords, or the Farseer provides some very handy buffs that increase the armies effectiveness dramatically. Meanwhile, the Wraithseer punishes enemy formations. It isn't the perfect army list, but I think it is still a fun and engaging force that would give you a lot of value for money in terms of quality.

Some helpful tips I've found when fielding such an army revolve around carefully planning your movements; whilst the army is slow, you can use this to your advantage by hugging cover and thus minimising the chances that high strength, low AP weapons will actually do any real damage to you. Night Fighting is a blessing, whilst enemies that are forced to come to you will feel the heat from all the Wraithguard shooting at them. Your Wraithguard are your only scoring units, meaning you do need to be careful with them. Generally speaking, they aren't so much a great bunker unit in your backfield, but stick them on an objective in the midfield and watch their short range guns really come into play - force your opponent to attack them, and watch the carnage. Wraithlords, the Wraithseer and if you field it, the Avatar should be the main aggressors in your army, making space for your Wraithguard and using their exceedingly high durability to engage and deal with threats your regular Wraithguard shouldn't have to deal with. As each monstrous creature is a character, you can also tie up dangerous enemy units for long periods of time or, in an objectives game, essentially prevent an enemy Troops choice from ever getting near an objective. Denial and tying up units are both very important strategies to consider in this army, as the low model count of your Wraithguard inevitably means you need to keep them in a good position and away from chaff. The army will require some practice, but you should be able to put up a fight against a lot of armies if you work it right. Whilst fliers aren't easily dealt with, for the most part, you can ignore them - they tend not to have the weaponry to seriously worry your army, and as you should be getting right up in your enemies face, you should minimise the amount of turns said fliers get to shoot at you anyway.

I've also written up a Wraithwing army list for your perusal. Whilst Wraithwing armies definitely aren't overly competitive, they should still do fine most of the time and will be a fun, if challenging, army to use. Personally, I find them very rewarding units that you should consider - even if just as additions to a more common type of Eldar army.

Eldar Wraithwing 1500

Farseer w/ runes of warding, runes of witnessing, spirit stones, guide, fortune – 150
Wraithseer w/ eldar missile launcher – 200

Wraithguard (10) w/ spiritseer, conceal – 396
Wraithguard (10) w/ spiritseer, conceal – 396

Heavy Support
Wraithlord w/ two flamers, eldar missile launcher – 115
Wraithlord w/ two flamers, eldar missile launcher – 115
Wraithlord w/ two flamers, eldar missile launcher – 115

Why can't we be plastic?
Whilst Wraithwing armies definitely aren't overly competitive, they should still do fine most of the time and will be a fun, if challenging, army to use. Personally, I find them very rewarding units that you should consider - even if just as additions to a more common type of Eldar army. This army list gives each Wraithguard a permanent 5+ cover save so that they don't need to hug area terrain and thus be slowed, and with four missile launchers it has a decent chance to pop a transport or two each turn, exposing the units inside to your other short-range shooting and charges, as well as denying opponents their mobility. The Farseer provides necessary psyker defence, whilst giving out guide and fortune on top of the Wraithseers Feel No Pain power - essentially making one or two units a turn much more survivable, and with Guide, giving them a better chance against units such as fliers or simply maximising their damage potential. Is it the best Wraithwing army list you could do? Probably not, and I am sure that if this kind of army list does take your fancy, you are probably hard at work looking for ways to improve it.

Wraithwing armies, whilst not the best, are great fun and work well for themed armies and the like. Their aesthetics are great, and though they are a relatively costly army, they are a blast to both paint, model and play with. Do you like the idea of a Wraithwing army in general, or think they should be relegated to supporting members of a more balanced Eldar army? Would you be willing to invest the time and money into making such a force work? Sound off in the comments below - as always, we appreciate any and all critiques and suggestions. Thanks again, and I hope you found the article both entertaining and insightful!

1 comment:

  1. Great article, man! Always wanted to do a Eldar Iyanden "Wraithwing", but cost of the wrathguard always put me off... Here's to hoping for plastics!!!