Welcome all to the second entry in my Eldar Codex Summary series! I have elected to focus solely on the HQ section here so as to give individual unit reviews to its constituents that I feel are appropriate given their importance to standard Eldar army lists, and I must say that I am highly impressed with almost all of the characters present in the slot. I hope you enjoy this article!
Eldrad Ulthran - At first glance, not much seems to have changed with Eldrad; his stats remain that of a slightly more powerful Farseer, he has a 3+ invulnerable save, he wields an AP3 Fleshbane force weapon that can generate additional warp charge points each time he passes a psychic test, he is a codex-high Mastery Level 4 psyker and he is generally just a pretty nasty character overall. However, there are some important changes to consider; he no longer provides Stealth for a single turn and doesn't allow you to redeploy D3+1 units before the game starts, but he now instead provides the Scout special rule to D3 units in the army per his Warlord Trait. The situational one-use-only Runes have been replaced by the far more useful Runes of the Farseer, allowing Eldrad to re-roll his first failed Deny the Witch or casting attempt each psychic phase; admittedly a buff applied to regular Farseers but no less important for the Mastery Level 4 Eldrad.
I like him more than in the previous codex because I think giving Scout to D3 units is generally more important than allowing you to redeploy D3+1 units, especially with the close-range and devastating nature of many Eldar units such as Wraithguard in a Wave Serpent. He also saw external buffs with the changes to Runes of Fate and the 7th Edition Psychic Phase overhaul that makes his potential to generate extra warp charge points each time he casts a power quite frightening for many opponents, though it is also good even just to "freely" ignore wounds using his Ghosthelm that are caused by Perils of the Warp. Of course, the over-arching problem with Eldrad from the previous codex remains; he just isn't as good as merely taking two separate Farseers, though allowing D3 units to Scout is a pretty darned awesome ability to have guaranteed via his preset Warlord Trait. I think he's a really good choice if you want a strong mix of melee nastiness and durability on your Warlord, and he becomes almost mandatory if you play a list that relies on lots of close-ranged damage output such as a Wraith-heavy list. He's a good choice in general, just not necessarily the best one overall; I'm happy to say that he is worth it for many Eldar lists, even if one or two Farseers is generally a superior choice for most armies.
Prince Yriel - Receiving absolutely no changes or points reductions from the 6th Edition codex, my review of Prince Yriel is based heavily on how I reviewed him in the past; he's a powerful damage-dealer in close combat that basically has to be used suicidally to make the most of his Eye of Wrath. He's not on the same level as the Phoenix Lords generally and isn't that far removed from their price points, especially considering his lack of Eternal Warrior on Toughness 3 makes him pitifully easy to kill even despite his four wounds. Re-rolling saving throws of a 6 makes him a pure damage dealer first and foremost with his base 4 Attacks, but it just isn't enough in practice given that most proper combat characters have a 2+ armour save. He wasn't so bad back when Eldar were released in 6th Edition with the way the meta was shaping up but he wasn't great either, and while I don't think he is terrible he just doesn't place that high on my "recommendable list".
Illic Nightspear - Though he didn't receive what would have been a comical Destroyer upgrade to his Voidbringer, Illic did see a few handy little buffs to his abilities that make him slightly more competitive than he used to be. His special rules now allow any unit of Rangers he joins to similarly Infiltrate anywhere on the battlefield while also treating all of their shots as Precision Shots, making him a slightly better buffer than previously. Honestly though, he is just underwhelming for his points; always having Precision Shots with an AP2 Sniper Rifle that can possibly inflict Instant Death really isn't that good in practice considering characters can always just take a Look Out Sir roll, while Illic himself just generally doesn't do that much else to warrant his price tag. Heck, compare him to a Vindicare Assassin and try to figure out why you would ever want Illic for roughly the same cost instead unless you are really partial to Rangers and want all of the buffs for them that you can get.
Asurmen - The first and greatest of the Phoenix Lords, Asurmen has a lot to live up to on the table-top if Eldar players want to field who is fluff-wise their best warrior and leader; the Phoenix Lords all thankfully received handy buffs in the new codex, and Asurmen is no exception. He is still a beast in close combat with four Strength 5 AP2 attacks stock with each having the potential to remove wounded opponents from play and bypass the usual Eternal Warrior rules, while he even gained assault grenades so as to not be slowed to Initiative 1 after charging through terrain. He now no longer has to sacrifice all but one of his attacks to gain a 3+ invulnerable save when fighting in a challenge and still retained his 4+ invulnerable save elsewhere, while the addition of Defence Tactics allows him to Overwatch at Ballistic 2; amusingly, he kept Counter-Attack and thus lets a Dire Avenger unit he joins benefit from both versions of the Defence Tactics rule. He also retains the ability to generate D3 Warlord Traits from the Craftworld Eldar Warlord Traits chart, though is no longer forced to be your army Warlord; not that armies featuring him would usually make another character their Warlord, but the extra freedom is appreciated.
While the buffs to Asurmen aren't massive, when you consider how the rest of the codex - particularly assault units such as Howling Banshees and Striking Scorpions - improved massively, the usage of a melee character-killer such as Asurmen becomes that much more of a good option. Though he's definitely not the straight out challenge-winner that Jain Zar is, he is much harder to kill wherever monstrous creatures or characters armed with two AP2 melee weapons are concerned while generally being a vary scary proposition for those same units because of the Soulrazor rule on his Sword of Asur. Additionally, while the Warlord Traits for Eldar still aren't necessarily fantastic, some of them are ridiculous on Asurmen when you consider he has three chances at getting the ones he wants; re-rolling saving throws of a 1 is hilarious on a Phoenix Lord, as is giving a melee-oriented character in a suitable list D3 Scout moves for the army. While other Phoenix Lords are better in specific aspects (haha) of the game, Asurmen remains the hardest to kill and has no actual weaknesses.
Jain Zar - To say Jain Zar is absolutely terrifying in the new codex is an understatement, and I would honestly be surprised if we don't see lots of competitive army lists begin to feature her as their Warlord of choice. While she remains a dedicated melee character that lacks an invulnerable save and is thus a very risky model to use where monstrous creatures and massed AP2 shooting are concerned, she classifies as one of the ultimate melee-oriented characters in the game now with the various and significant buffs she received. The first of these is that her Warlord Trait now adds 3" to her units' Run moves rather than just 1", combining particularly well with the 3" bonus to Run moves that Howling Banshees natively possess; a result of the Acrobatic special rule undergoing a rework, meaning Jain Zar now also ignores the Initiative penalty for charging through terrain. Jain Zar now also imposes a -2 Leadership penalty to all units engaged in combat with her as per the War Shout ability also gained by Howling Banshee Exarchs, though the major buffs come from her Mask of Jain Zar and the Disarming Strike Exarch Power come exclusive special rule. The Mask now reduces the Weapon Skill and Initiative of all enemy models within 6" of Jain Zar all the time rather than just when Jain Zar charges into combat, while it also functions as a Banshee Mask and thus prevents a unit from Overwatching against her and any unit she joins. This is significant in its own right but it is made truly ridiculous when combined with the new Disarming Strike that now allows Jain Zar to select a weapon her opponent in a challenge possesses and force the opponent to treat that as a standard close combat weapon, rather than being forced to win a separate roll-off.
If you can't quite figure out how brutal this is, let me explain it in detail; outside of monstrous creatures, almost no character in the game wields two AP2 melee weapons, the only kind that ignore Jain Zar's 2+ armour save. Generally speaking, most characters only wield one upgraded close combat weapon and a pistol because there is usually no reason - points allowing or not - to take more than one upgraded close combat weapon. Characters built for combat such as Chapter Masters and someone like Kharn the Betrayer wield a single AP2 melee weapon and are entirely reliant on it to actually damage enemy characters and even units in general. Not only is this crazy enough, but when Jain Zar always strikes before her enemies by reducing their Initiative by 5 and forces anyone that is Weapon Skill 8 or lower to now hit her on 5s with her -5 Weapon Skill penalty, she instantly classifies as the ultimate tool in dominating challenges. That she has an AP2 melee weapon with the Shred special rule on a good base profile seals her place as one of the best melee characters in the game, the only exception being the aforementioned monstrous creatures that natively have AP2 attacks.
The idea of using Jain Zar to run at someone like Kaldor Draigo or any other scary melee combatant you can think of and just tarpit them with the fact that she is also Fearless is pretty humorous in theory, though generally the fact that she just outright stops the vast majority of challenge-takers in the game makes her so darned worthwhile. It helps that she is pretty brutal in terms of damage and will rip most units and characters to pieces despite her mediocre base Strength value, while her lack of an invulnerable save means she is vulnerable to monstrous creatures and non-character models that wield AP2 melee weapons. On another note, she retained her price point from the 6th Edition codex and lost an attack with her unique Triskele no longer counting as a melee weapon which makes sacrificing an attack to use Disarming Strike somewhat painful, though ultimately I don't think most will care given her other buffs. Howling Banshees saw colossal improvements to their core rules that actually make them a justifiable and pretty darned good assault unit for an army that traditionally avoids that phase of the game competitively, though it is their leader that is likely to draw the most attention for all of her various and crazy capabilities. Something to keep in mind is the utility usage of her Mask when combined with whatever unit she joins; even with Weapon Skill 4 on Howling Banshees, most opponents affected by the Mask of Jain Zar will still be forced to hit them on 5s which adds a very strong defensive boost to them, while their high Initiative means the penalty suffered by enemy units to that stat will see Banshees strike before or at the same time as any opponent.
Karandras - Previously the most expensive of the Phoenix Lords in direct opposition of the background that dictates Asurmen really should be at the top in overall strength and thus cost, Karandras saw a whopping thirty point reduction and yet somehow still received a few massive buffs to his combat capabilities. Mandiblasters were improved out of sight in the latest codex but I doubt most could have guessed just how good they would be on Karandras given his unique set; at Initiative 10, Karandras inflicts an armour-ignoring wound on a 2+ in each combat phase, wounding gargantuan creatures on a 4+ instead. That it automatically hits and always wounds on a 2+ against non-gargantuan foes is insane given that it also ignores armour, making Karandras an extremely nasty melee combatant whether against a unit or in a challenge. He still retains his Scorpion Claw that acts as a power fist striking at the wielders' base Initiative, providing him with a whopping six Strength 8 AP2 attacks on the charge at Weapon Skill 7 and Initiative 7 on top of his awesome special Mandiblaster attack. Like all Striking Scorpions, he now also has the Shrouded special rule until he shoots or attacks in close combat for the first time, though he did lose the Monster Hunter and Stalker Exarch Powers to reduce his effective damage output against monstrous creatures and wound efficiency in the first round of a challenge.
The predatory Phoenix Lord even gained a unique method of deployment in the form of Hunter's Strike, allowing him and a unit of Striking Scorpions to automatically arrive from Reserves on turn two and move on from the opponents' table edge instead of using the usual Outflank rules. The guaranteed arrival is nice as is the potential to pop up in an opponents' backfield, and while most will probably still just Infiltrate with what is now a devastating melee character with both Stealth and Shrouded - and so too his awesome Aspect - this nonetheless adds more deployment options for Eldar to further spice up a players' tactics. Karandras is much like Jain Zar in that he is a truly brutal melee combatant that demolishes vehicles, monstrous creatures and characters alike with his wealth of Strength 8 AP2 attacks at Initiative 7 while hiding behind his 2+ armour save and Eternal Warrior. He is priced identically to the Phoenix Lord of the Howling Banshees and I feel he is a roughly equivalent overall melee character because he can hurt almost anything and isn't so afraid of monstrous creatures while simultaneously wrecking vehicles with ease, whereas Jain Zar is superior in challenges and has better unit buffing abilities.
Fuegan - Ranking as the equal most expensive Phoenix Lord alongside Asurmen which has a lot more fluff justification than would be the case with Karandras, Fuegan is theoretically the master of devastation and classifies as a model opponents have to kill quickly. He is the only Phoenix Lord with a modified stat-line due to his base Strength 5, while he mixes general survivability with raw damage output at both range and in combat; he fires a single Strength 8 AP1 Melta shot at 18" and has four Strength 5 AP1 Armourbane melee attacks, or five on the charge. All of his attacks gain a +1 modifier on the vehicle damage chart which makes him one of the strongest vehicle hunting characters in the game, while his ability to re-roll a single failed to-hit, to-wound or armour penetration roll each turn maximises his high damage output. He did unfortunately lose the ability to fire his Firepike twice in a shooting phase, though his Unquenchable Resolve remains unchanged; this means he gains +1 Strength and +1 Attack permanently each time he suffers an unsaved wound, gaining the bonus for each unsaved wound he loses. Not only is this absolutely rage-inducing for opponents when combined with Destructor/Renewer, but it just generally makes Fuegan a very scary melee character; opponents that fail to kill him in one go while fighting in close combat will be punished severely. He also keeps his Feel No Pain save and is thus the second most difficult Phoenix Lord to kill behind Asurmen, while his combination of powerful melee and ranged attacks sees him earn his place as one of the more generally useful Phoenix Lords in the codex that is always a good, if not great, option.
Baharroth - Of all the Phoenix Lords, it is the young Baharroth that has the most underwhelming capabilities while simultaneously being my favourite due to his classic model and inspiring background. He received a 25 point decrease to compensate for losing his very important 4+ invulnerable save that made him equivalent only to Asurmen and Fuegan in terms of actually having "saves" beyond the 2+ armour, a trade which I definitely don't feel was a good one considering the unique place it gave to the Swooping Hawk Phoenix Lord. Otherwise, he did see a few nice buffs; the competitive placing of Necrons makes his Blind aura more applicable than before, while his Warlord Trait now adds 3" to his units' Run moves rather than just 1" which is perfectly ideal for Swooping Hawks and even Warp Spiders. He acts as a Swooping Hawk Exarch by providing no-scatter Deep Strike to any unit he joins (though he doesn't give the unit itself the Deep Strike special rule, so he can't act like a Webway Portal) while he is now also capable of moving 18" in the movement phase due to his Swooping Hawk Wings receiving an awesome buff.
There's not much that really stands out about Baharroth other than the fact that he makes for a decently priced utility character with the awesome profile of a Phoenix Lord, the insane mobility, the awesome preset Warlord Trait, Eternal Warrior, Fearless and all the other various goodies such as Hit and Run. There's nothing to set the brazen Hawk lord apart from his fellow students of Asurmen, save that he provides you with a decently priced Warlord given his capabilities that has some very nice abilities where armies such as Tau and Necrons are concerned. That he gives no-scatter Deep Strike and Hit and Run to any unit he joins makes him a fairly decent support character that can tank many enemies in combat, but don't expect him to that much damage to anything short of 3+ armoured medium-Toughness foes. About the only real disappointment I have with Baharroth other than losing the 4+ invulnerable save and just not generally being a great fighter outside of 3+ armoured enemies is the fact that he can't Intercept flyers and flying monstrous creatures like the rest of his Aspect, a rules omission that isn't too painful but I still wish saw some inclusion and even an expansion. I just wish his standing as a competitive character wasn't seemingly defined by the fact that he freely provides no-scatter Deep Strike to any unit he joins, as well as Hit and Run and various other buffs all on a relatively cheap character.
Maugan Ra - Previously this Eldar mime of the Grim Reaper wasn't really that great given his good but hardly spectacular ranged weapon coupled with the fact that he was pretty much built entirely around being a ranged support character more than anything else. While this is still largely true, he has been improved massively with just a few important tweaks to his core rules; the first of which being that he can now fire his Maugetar twice at either the same or two separate targets, almost doubling his effective firepower (he lost the Fast Shot Exarch Power). Firing eight Strength 6 AP5 Rending shots a turn with a 36" range is pretty darned scary on a model that can fire on the move with Battle Focus thrown in, especially as he has the Split Fire special rule courtesy of his preset Warlord Trait. Being able to potentially down two vehicles at a time with some luck thrown in coupled with his long range makes him easily the best ranged character option in the codex. He also still wields the Maugetar as what amounts to a Relic Blade in melee which makes him a scary prospect for non-2+ armoured models to charge him, though ultimately he is still a ranged hero at heart.
Maugan Ra even gained an alternate shooting profile for the Maugetar which can also be fired twice but otherwise seems to be really situational in its use, substituting those eight powerful shots instead for a pair of Poisoned 2+ shots that are AP5, Pinning and Rending and cause any slain model to "explode", subsequently creating a large blast that inflicts further Strength 5 AP4 cover-ignoring hits on nearby models. This is obviously an awesome tool against hordes and light infantry in general, but against most targets the standard profile of the Maugetar remains superior; still, it is a handy buff that makes Maugan Ra more versatile overall. He did receive some unfortunate nerfs with the removal of Precision Shots, Night Vision and Relentless, though none of these special rules are that much of a loss considering what Maugan Ra gained in return. For those already furiously working out the averages with the Maugetar being able to fire twice each shooting phase with up to eight Strength 6 Rending shots, here are a few examples to save you time; he averages seven hits each turn, leading to at least one Rending result on average which makes him a terrifying proposition for light and medium vehicles in particular. I would say he is now finely balanced versus his points cost and the added option of Bio-Cataclysm shots allows him to deal with horde units better than most other units in the codex, making him a handy tool in an all-comers Eldar list albeit not necessarily a great commander.
Autarch - Forever holding a place as the ideal combat and pseudo-support character for reserve-heavy army lists, the Autarch sits an interesting spot in the Eldar HQ slot where he or she isn't nearly as good in combat as Phoenix Lord or as handy to have in general as a Farseer, but nonetheless acts as a decent utility. While this does mean you can't make a super-challenger like a Space Marine Chapter Master or get any of the awesome psychic capabilities of any of the codex's multiple psykers, I still feel the Autarch is worthwhile not just as a cheap Warlord option but also to add some extra tactical considerations for yourself and your opponent. An Autarch is more of a melee utility than anything else; being able to add a Banshee Mask to any combat unit of your choice is fantastic, while the character makes for a natural wielder of the Shard of Anaris. Another cool use is to employ Swooping Hawk Wings and a Fusion Gun and use him or her as a cheap Deep Striking annoyance for your opponent alongside some Swooping Hawks or alone, especially considering the native Ballistic Skill 6 and good saving throws. The nice thing about the Autarch is that it is cheap no matter how you upgrade it and comes stacked with all manner of nice base equipment, including Haywire Grenades and a 4+ invulnerable save, while the boost to Reserves gained by using one is generally seen as the "sweetener" that justifies its' price. The main reason Autarchs are so rare is that Farseers and even Spiritseers are just generally superior utility characters that aren't oriented around combat but instead make their presence felt in each game due to their strong psychic capabilities, though obviously a heavily reserve-based list will field an Autarch almost out of necessity. I like them for what they bring to the table generally and how versatile they are, but don't expect them to carry a game for you or hold up an entire unit as they simply lack the hitting power and survivability to perform either action.
Farseer - Ranking as quite possibly the best value psyker in the game for several editions running, the Farseer is a fantastic addition to any Eldar army list because of his or her decent survivability, low cost, high reliability when casting or denying and access to multiple incredibly strong psychic disciplines. They skip the "fat" many psykers bring by not paying for unnecessary combat or ranged capabilities, a strong armour save or mostly lackluster "psychic defences"; they provide you with a Mastery Level 3 psyker on a Toughness 3 model with 3 Wounds and a 4+ invulnerable save. They can expend warp charge points to ignore wounds caused by Perils of the Warp, they can safely hide in a number of units that either don't directly engage enemies or are extremely survivable, and they just generally aren't expected or "pressured" to fight because you don't pay for that awful filler. What really makes the Farseer so darned good is not just the fact that it is hilariously cheap for what it provides compared to most other psykers in the game, but that it gives out three awesome psychic disciplines to an army so incredibly powerful in every phase of the game like Eldar. The armies that gain the most benefits from psychic powers such as Invisibility are the ones that can abuse such abilities like no other with incredibly damaging units that would otherwise be lacking for survivability, or that gain the largest boost to their effective damage output by being provided with re-rolls to-hit. Given that Eldar bring the best mix of high Strength long-range shooting and excellent rate of fire, the obvious advantages of having access to both Prescience and Guide on a single Farseer for guaranteed re-rolls to-hit on two separate units are honestly a bit much. Now that these were made even better in 7th Edition with the way warp charge points are generated with relation to their Ghosthelm, and the free addition that allows them to re-roll their first failed psychic test or deny the witch test each psychic phase, Farseers are sure to dominate the HQ and Warlord slots of many Eldar armies. To note though on their re-rolls in the psychic phase, you can use these to re-roll any of the dice rather than all when attempting to cast or deny, meaning you can re-roll two sixes to avoid Perils or only re-roll the dice that didn't successfully manifest warp charges and so on; basically, Farseers are the most reliable psykers in the game, bar-none.
Warlock Conclave - The core 7th Edition rules gave this particular unit some pretty major buffs with the removal of relying on Leadership (of which theirs is mediocre) to cast psychic powers as well as being able to generate warp charge points to fuel other psykers, though as expected they were suitably toned down to fit in with the new edition. The new Warlock Conclave functions as an improved Brotherhood of Psykers with a Mastery Level that increases exponentially based on how many are in the unit based on set numbers, meaning the maximum Mastery Level of the unit (3) can only be attained by having the squad number up to seven or more Warlocks. While this does mean they know significantly less powers than before, each individual Warlock still generates their own warp charge points and thus fuel an absolutely brutal psychic phase for the Eldar player. Otherwise, their worth in a classic Seer Council build is much the same with identical stats, psychic powers and costs of the basic model and any upgrades. Losing so many potential powers does hurt the units' competitive potential significantly as guaranteeing they get the crucial powers such as Protect/Jinx is just no longer possible, though I would refrain from saying this unit is weak as ultimately just one casting of Invisibility alongside either Fortune or Protect will make them virtually unstoppable. They are a bit trickier to use than before but ultimately they are still a very solid unit, while the change to taking individual Warlocks as unit upgrades rather than having to split them off from the Conclave is greatly appreciated.
Spiritseer - If you want a discount Farseer that can generate powers from the Runes of Battle as opposed to the Runes of Fate or just generally field two or more Wraith-type units, the Spiritseer is an ideal HQ choice that is also defined by his low cost and impressive psychic Mastery Level 2. Retaining access to Telepathy makes the Spiritseer a nice budget replacement for the Farseer, but don't expect anything more in close combat; the Witch Staff is essentially a Witchblade that inflicts Soul Blaze on units' it hurts, which isn't all that impressive. Of course, that isn't the point of an Eldar psyker barring perhaps Eldrad Ulthran; you take these for what they provide to your army in the Psychic Phase with the main components of their success revolving around Blessings and Maledictions rather than any actual damage-inflicting spells. I do think that a Farseer is by far the better value HQ choice considering the improved survivability, extra psychic mastery level and inclusion of the Runes of the Farseer, but the Spiritseer is still a good choice that absolutely excels when paired with Wraiths - particularly Wraithguard and Wraithblades that are strictly close-ranged and act as the perfect bodyguards for Spiritseers. On that note, Spiritseers received a very handy buff with the change to Spirit Mark; rather than being a straight buff to a single unit of Wraithguard attached to the character, instead every Wraith-type unit - including the Hemlock - gains re-rolls to hit of any 1s against enemy units that get to within 12" of a Spiritseer. This is a straight buff for Wraithguard given their short ranged guns and the fact that the ability now affects more than one unit, while it is hilarious in conjunction with Wraithlords and Wraithknights that gain the bonus even when firing at the unit from across the board. This encourages both more aggressive uses of a Spiritseer as well as joining them to a Wraithguard or Wraithblade unit, and it helps that the Runes of Battle alone are excellent for such squads.
Thank you all for reading this article! My initial impressions of the Eldar Codex so far are that it is incredibly strong overall and can dominate in nearly any phase of the game, allowing players to tailor their army lists to suit their style of play and achieve success regardless of what they employ. While this does make for a relatively unbalanced codex in terms of external opposition, this is undeniably a dream army for those that might traditionally struggle to use their themed lists competitively. I would like to hear your thoughts about this