Dire Avengers - The most famous and accomplished of all Aspects, the Dire Avengers are elite warriors bearing graceful weapons and skill into battle. For a general purpose Troops choice in a mechanized or foot-based army list, Dire Avengers are easily the stand-out. They carry superb weapons, are more than decent in a melee with the right tools, and their range as well as the addition of Battle Focus make them a unit truly capable of "dancing" with enemy medium or heavy infantry. They are billed as an all rounder, and pay considerably for it; each Dire Avenger has direct cost parity with a generic Chaos Space Marine, and though they do have a wide range of advantages, they lack the staying power and outright versatility of such a unit. With a Toughness of three and a middling 4+ armour save, they are bait for heavy flamers and incinerators alike; they aren't as fragile as Cultists or Grots or any true meat shield, nor are they bolter bait, but such abundant weapons can and will still murder them in decent numbers. Though any kind of Infantry has natural hard counters, it goes without saying that Dire Avengers pay a lot and, if they don't perform well, die far more easily than the tougher Space Marines and Necron Warriors for a similar cost. This is where the psychic support so intrinsic to the Eldar, as well as an innate understanding of the special rules at hand, really gives Dire Avengers - and by extension, most other Eldar forces - the boost they need to both survive and maximise their damage potential. Dire Avengers gifted with Fortune from a Farseer or Protect from a Spiritseer will find themselves far less reliant on smart maneuvering, though a skilled player will no doubt exploit both their eighteen inch guns and ability to run and shoot or vice-versa.
And this is where the Dire Avengers truly start to shine; like any Eldar unit, simply looking at their basic stats and equipment is not the best way to judge them. You need to study both how their mobility affects both their defensive and offensive capabilities, as well as the support-based psykers that are spread so massively throughout the army - though certainly psychic support is nowhere near as necessary as it may have been previously. You simply cannot directly compare Dire Avengers with units such as Chaos Space Marines and Necron Warriors without discussing the aspects of the army that make them function. Intrinsic to the unit itself are two special rules; Battle Focus and Fleet. The first allows Dire Avengers to run and then shoot, or shoot and then run that, combined with re-rolls owing to the second rule, gives them unprecedented mobility as opposed to other armies' foot-slogging infantry. Now, combine this with the Avenger Shuriken Catapults, deadly weapons with the Bladestorm rule that, at a range of eighteen inches, not only will devastate any enemy with a Toughness value, but gives them the perfect range in addition to both Battle Focus and Fleet to get into range and attain ranged superiority compared to the infantry of other armies. Firing two shots each with an Assault profile leads to twenty shots from the unit at an effective range of - including movement and Battle Focus - twenty-eight inches, as opposed to a similar amount of shots from a Space Marine squad at an effective range of eighteen inches. The Dire Avengers lose out on merely two inches of average range when factoring in movement and run actions, but gain so many more shots. With Bladestorm thrown into the mix, this allows them to more effectively engage a far wider range of targets, including monstrous creatures, and can readily stay out of range of units with short range guns or the rapid fire ranges of most armies. This is a significant advantage that needs to be fully exploited to really prove the worth of the Dire Avengers; their design is centred around the idea of running and then shooting, or shooting at full range and then slinking away. Fleet makes these run moves so much more reliable, and gives them such an edge over their enemies that it really emphasises the theme of owning the movement and shooting phases with Eldar.
Adding to the Avengers' array of special rules is Counter Attack that, with Initiative 5 and Weapon Skill four throughout the unit, makes them a more than decent melee squad. They may not have the same hitting power or durability in an outright fight as heavier infantry, but with Doom and readily accessible Guide or Prescience in the army, this isn't as much of an issue as you might think. The inclusion of an Exarch, however, can seriously improve their staying power in a combat and give them that extra bit of punch to knock enemy units out and, using their high Initiative and Leadership, chase them down or stick around comfortably. The Exarch has a great stat line for what others might term a "squad sergeant", and the wide range of options available to one allows for some very important unit buffs; prominent among which is certainly the power weapon and shimmershield choice. Though a power weapon of any kind is useful, particularly on a character with two attacks base and a Weapon Skill of five, the really tasty treat here is the shimmershield; amazingly, it provides the entire unit with a 5+ invulnerable save that is applicable to anything where such a save could normally be taken. For a unit that will often be on foot or jumping out of a transport, not having to worry so much both about both the sheer number of cover-ignoring AP four or lower weapons and the attacks of monstrous creatures or elite melee units, is simply incredible. Combine Dire Avengers equipped as such with Fortune from a nearby Farseer, and you will have a unit that is both decent in assault, hilariously scary at range, and can tank almost any kind of damage with little cause for concern. Though they are expensive for what is typically a fragile unit, utilising their amazing mobility and almost unmatched firepower against any model with wounds to their fullest will give you a unit that functions well in almost any configuration. Particularly when supported with a psyker or Wave Serpent, they can go toe to toe with the elite units of other armies and emerge the victor despite their natural vulnerabilities; a unit designed, as such, for a flexibile and understanding tactician.
Guardian Defenders - Citizens of the Craftworlds, Guardian Defenders are skilled short ranged fighters that utilise heavy weapons in a desperate struggle against extinction. As their name implies, Guardians are a more defensive unit that, owing to their lacking firepower at range, are best used either as an objective sitter or as a cheap offensive unit in a Wave Serpent. Their Shuriken Catapults are undoubtedly devastating when they can fire; each model fires two Strength four AP five shots with the assault profile that bear the Bladestorm rule, meaning that they can shred any model with a Toughness value as easily as ice cream in a blender. The tricky part is actually getting them close enough to fire, as their guns only have a very minimal twelve inch range; they compromise sheer damage output for a lesser number of rounds spent shooting. In a similar vein, they aren't designed to last long either, with only a Toughness of three and a 5+ armour save to protect them; with bolters and ignores cover weaponry in abundance within the 6th Edition meta, Guardians simply won't last long without sufficient care and assistance. Provided you aren't facing Tau or deep-striking flamer-equipped enemies, Guardians should be able to provide a strong firebase deep in your deployment zone, or at least in some decently sized terrain. If you use them in this way, you can't expect to be doing much damage throughout the game, but the sheer firepower the unit dishes out to anything without an armour value should be more than enough of a deterrent to scare most opponents away. If not, you can reward them.....by shredding them with molecular disks. If used in such a capacity, I would definitely recommend giving the squad a heavy weapon; the boosted profile of Guardians, and the reduction in price overall, makes these options far more viable. If you feel you need some anti-tank punch, a bright lance will likely be your best bet; for giving Terminators something to think about at range, a Starcannon will more than prove its worth. The beauty of the heavy weapon platforms is that, per their special rules, the Guardian firing the weapon gains the Relentless special rule and thus can make full use of the Battle Focus special rule, handy for if they are used more as an objective taking unit.
|What if a Guardian aspired to something greater?|
If you deign to include a Warlock Council in your force, it would be prudent to include one such psyker in your Guardian squads; the benefits they provide, while random, are typically very strong and the duality of their powers adds a lot of versatility. Reducing the armour save of Fire Warriors so that you need not worry about rolling sixes to wound, or granting the Guardians Fearless to act as a decent tar-pit unit; these are but a few of the applications of adding what is a cost effective psyker, given their support powers. A generous advantage here is that the Primaris power grants Shrouded to the unit, potentially making them a very durable unit at either close or long ranges for any kind of objective-based gameplay. I must stress though that even despite having plasma grenades, I would very rarely charge Guardians into a unit save to finish off the remnants of your shooting phase; with only two attacks each at Strength three on the charge, they won't pose much of a threat to nearly any unit worth their cost in points. As to unit size, I would be careful with twenty-strong units; if you aren't backed by an Avatar of Khaine or a Warlock with Embolden, one failed Leadership test could lead to a massive investment slinking away.
Storm Guardians - Despite having an entry all to themselves now, Storm Guardians are a unit that really needs to be considered in the context of an Eldar army before they see use. Designed as an assault unit, Storm Guardians share an identical profile with their Defender cousins, though they exchange their Shuriken Catapults for Shuriken Pistols and Chainswords. Given that I already discussed the frailties and strengths of Guardians in general earlier, I do not feel such information bears repeating. As they are identical in cost and stat line, the contrast between damage output in both shooting and melee is rather necessary; Storm Guardians have fully half the firepower of Guardian Defenders, though in combat they have double the attacks when charged or a third more attacks if they both charge. Though this doesn't seem like a mark against them, the harsh truth is that Guardian Defenders are not reliant on assaulting and thus are far less likely to be gunned down in short order, even if both units generally operate at similar ranges. Guardians simply don't dish out the pain to most enemies, save the chaff of other armies - but such forces are usually so much cheaper and have a lot of firepower as opposed to the Storm Guardians anyway - for them to be considered an effective melee option for their points. They are an elite unit that wants to get into combat, but will both die on the way there and in the combat in absolute droves.
Guardian Defenders have the advantages of popping into position and running away with Battle Focus, shredding most enemies before they can react with sufficient numbers - provided they are used smartly, of course - and of bearing heavy weapons that make them effective at range. Though Storm Guardians may be more effective in a melee than Dire Avengers per point spent because of the greater number of attacks, they do not share the benefit of Avenger Shuriken Catapults, an increased armour save or an Exarch equipped with a shimmershield. They compete with a unit that simply outclasses them in terms of a front line all-rounder squad. The main advantages to using Storm Guardians is the addition of up to two power weapons and either fusion guns or flamers into the unit. The power swords added are expensive on what are again fragile models that, despite their three attacks on the charge at Weapon Skill four and Initiative five, are still quite feeble with a Strength of three. The fusion guns and flamers provide some nice offensive strength to the unit at range, but again, it simply puts them too close to the enemy and, given the high cost per model of Guardians, means that they still fall too easily to really justify getting so close. While Storm Guardians certainly aren't a bad unit, they suffer dramatically by competing with other units that, while fragile as well, have the benefit of actually being able to stay away from the enemy to be effective. Now, adding in a Warlock can change the complexity of this unit entirely. Whether it is through Conceal - though that won't save the unit against flamers of any kind - or a power such as Protect or Empower, both of which improve their survivability or melee capabilities dramatically, Warlocks add a much needed element to the unit that I would recommend if you employ them.
|To victory and some better food!|
If you really want to pump Windriders up to ridiculous levels, attach a Jetbike mounted Warlock to them and just laugh at enemies attempting to gun them down with AP three or lower weaponry. Take Conceal on the Warlock, boost them with Shrouded and, provided you don't stop moving, you can enjoy a 3+ cover save identical to their 3+ armour save that gives them incredible leeway against a wide range of enemies. Perhaps the best benefit of Windriders, however, is that they are a simpler unit to effectively implement to an army list as opposed to most of the other Troops choices; they are already very mobile, they are the toughest by far, and they have similar or superior damage output. Though positioning with a more elite unit can be trickier, as one wrong move can prove fatal, they are nonetheless an exceptional unit that, owing to a significant price decrease in the new edition, is sure to be the popular choice with competitive gamers everywhere.
Rangers - Do you like Guardians? What about Guardians with sniper rifles and a hooded visage? Rangers are, as the title suggests, a quirkier unit that is not intended for front line combat at either range or melee. Instead, they are best used to sit on your home objectives or move into a good firing position to unleash their powerful sniper weaponry. As it stands, they are best positioned away from most potential retaliations; with but a mere 5+ armour save and Toughness three to defend them, they will die very quickly if exposed. Thankfully, Stealth helps to alleviate this issue; they are designed to sit in a good base of cover, and pick off light enemies, squad leaders and weapon bearers, or provide more reliable wound rolls for a nasty monstrous creature. They are versatile and can even harm light vehicles at range, with the potential for Rending giving them some added bonuses against elite or armoured units with some luck thrown in the mix. Both Stealth and Move Through Cover make them ideally suited to moving through terrain and defending it, gaining a hefty boost to their survivability and mobility in such areas. About the only real limitation Rangers have, as opposed to Guardians or Dire Avengers, is that their sniper rifles being classed as heavy means that they cannot be used alongside Battle Focus.
Unfortunately, Rangers cannot be joined by Warlocks; a design choice as likely to be influenced by theme as well as rules, as adding in a cheap character that can reliably grant Shrouded to a unit already sporting Stealth would probably be somewhat over the top. Regardless, they make for effective fighters and provide some more than minimal resistance in combat as far as most sniper units are concerned; their Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill of four, as well as an Initiative of five, give them some leeway in combat, though admittedly it is of little note against most enemies. Ideally, they should be used to snipe out key targets and to deal with monstrous creatures at long range; unlike most armies, basic Eldar troops are actually incredibly well equipped to deal with high Toughness enemies, and thus are not as reliant on units such as Rangers to do the job. However, their short area threat gives Rangers a clear role, and helping to neutralize enemy units early on - such as sniping out their meltaguns or plasma rifles - is sure to come in very handy as your Wave Serpents and other forces advance. Use Rangers smartly and defensively, and they will prove to be a valuable addition to your force that really spices the mix up.
|Hijacked. Deal with it.|
Importantly, Wave Serpents are unlikely to concede First Blood like so many other transports are prone to; with armour twelve on the front and sides, as well as ten on the rear, it is a well armoured vehicle. Owing to its classification as a fast skimmer, it gains a 5+ cover save simply by moving even a mere inch, and can get a 4+ or even a 3+ if it turbo boosts and is outfitted with the affordable and highly useful Holo Fields. On such a well armoured vehicle that transports fragile infantry, this is a massive boon that ensures they are unlikely to be destroyed before they attain close proximity to enemy forces. That they can turbo boost even further than a regular skimmer, combing for a total move of up to thirty inches, allows them to get anywhere they need to be in record time while enjoying a strong cover save. If that wasn't enough, the Wave Serpent in particular has a unique defence against explosions that could seriously harm the frail forces inside; the Serpent Shield, while doubling as a ranged weapon, downgrades any penetrating hit to a glancing hit on a 2+. However, you need to be careful with this; it can only be used provided those armour penetration rolls were resolved against the front or side armour of the vehicle. All up though, it is an incredibly durable vehicle with easy access to strong cover saves and a strong innate defence for its embarked unit.
The Wave Serpent, as mentioned previously, has firepower comparable to a Space Marine Predator; no mean feat for a common transport. It comes stock with a twin-linked shuriken cannon, and a twin-linked shuriken catapult, aimed at gunning down infantry. As well, the Serpent Shield can be deactivated until the start of your next turn to provide a nasty ranged attack resolved as D6+1 Strength seven, Pinning, Ignores cover shots. Against enemy skimmers or models relying on cover saves, this is particularly effective; if nothing else, it is a potent anti-tank weapon with some good applications against other units that effectively comes for free. Now, as a fast skimmer, a Wave Serpent can move six inches, disembark its cargo and fire all three weapons at full Ballistic Skill in a frontal arc, or, alternatively, move twelve inches and fire two at full Ballistic Skill. Effectively, you can move incredibly quickly to get close to the enemy for transport purposes, and still fire some nasty heavy weapons at them while enjoying a tasty 5+ or 4+ cover save.
If you deign to use the Wave Serpent in such a way - and you really should - I would upgrade the Shuriken Cannon to a Scatter Laser and maximise the damage potential of the Serpent Shield, particularly against vehicles; the Scatter Laser itself is not insignificant, after all. Upgrading the Shuriken Catapult to a Shuriken Cannon may also prove to be a smart move, giving the Wave Serpent a bucket load of Strength seven and six shots all at a very good price. For other purposes, such as smashing through Land Raiders or laughing at Terminators, Bright Lances and Star Cannons are also viable options; the Eldar Missile Launcher is decent, but strangely over-costed compared to its counter-parts. Though many will stick with the Scatter Laser and Serpent Shield combo, it depends on your army list and what you need; if your Wave Serpents carry Fire Dragons or Wraithguard, then anti-infantry shooting or weapons aimed at light vehicles may be more to your liking, for example. However, when mounted with Guardian Defenders or Dire Avengers, I would heartily recommend a more anti-tank based build, particularly if your Wave Serpents are the main source of heavy weapons in your force.
|What? WAVE SERPENT is evolving!|
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