Greetings all, welcome to the fourth article in my Eldar Codex Summary series! Given that the wait for this article has been massive due to my internet shortage problems, I'll skip the usual meaty introduction and go right into the review!
Wave Serpent - Arguably the most infamous dedicated transport in the game for several editions running - barring 5th - due to multiple iterations of an incredibly powerful unique weapon system, the Wave Serpent dominated tournaments throughout 6th Edition and early 7th Edition and will likely remain a popular choice despite some heavy targeted nerfs. I'm glad to see the Wave Serpent has been heavily toned down with the new codex, a design choice that I always felt was necessary but difficult to do correctly; the Wave Serpent is unique in that it is both the Eldar's primary transport and a main-line battle tank, so balancing it is quite difficult. A minor points reduction, the removal of the Laser Lock rule from Scatter Lasers and a change to a one-use-only profile for the offensive half of the Serpent Shield brings the Wave Serpent into a nice medium territory, making players prioritize them less as reliable anti-air gun platforms and more as actual transports. They are still extremely mobile and durable, even if Holo-Fields were changed arguably to nerf Wave Serpents indirectly, and thus fit right into the 7th Edition Maelstrom of War missions while still providing some very appreciable firepower.
A Wave Serpent is a superior transport to many other codex equivalents with a twelve-strong carrying capacity, it has much better survivability with AV 12/12/10 as well as Jink saves and the Serpent Shield, it is hyper mobile as a Fast Transport with access to numerous movement-affecting upgrades, and it even has firepower almost equivalent or even superior to a Space Marine Predator. I still rate Wave Serpents highly for most Eldar units, even if the change to Battle Brothers and Dedicated Transports in 7th Edition does see Dark Eldar Raiders and Venoms become more valuable overall for certain squads - notably assault units such as Howling Banshees. I also like the change to Serpent Shields with the one-use-only weapon profile actually deactivating the defensive properties of the Shield for the rest of the game, introducing some great tactical considerations to a unit that has been classically a point-and-click option for the past few editions. Removing Laser Lock from Scatter Lasers also stops these being used as semi-dedicated anti-air options in an Eldar army and thus giving players greater incentives to use the highly valuable and awesome Crimson Hunters, diversifying their army further. Overall, I think the rules designers behind the Eldar codex definitely got this one unit absolutely right and I believe most critics of the codex would agree with me on this aspect. Speaking of aspects...
Swooping Hawks - As my personal favourite Aspect Shrine and easily one of the stronger of Asurmens' pupils in the codex, to say I was jumping for joy at the buffs this unit received in the new codex would be quite the under-statement. I've always viewed Swooping Hawks as the under-appreciated stars of the 6th Edition codex due to their insane versatility and scoring capabilities in a 7th Edition Maelstrom of War codex; having no-scatter Deep Strike and the ability to freely return and exit ongoing reserves each turn is easily one of the best tools a player could have access to in the current meta. That each model possesses Haywire Grenades and high rate-of-fire anti-infantry guns makes them arguably the best generalists in the Eldar codex, while their unit-clearing grenade packs remain identical in basic function and thus make them devastating against almost any target short of monstrous creatures. That an already strong unit received a swathe of buffs is somewhat indicative of many other players' complaints with the Eldar codex as a whole, but ultimately I feel it just puts a great Aspect Shrine in its deserved place with the spotlight. The first and most significant improvement is a whopping boost to their mobility with 18" move speed rather than the usual 12" typical of jump infantry, making them one of the fastest ground units in the game and an absolutely terrifying anti-vehicle assault choice with their squad-wide haywire grenades.
The second major buff seems more crucial at first-glance but I've found hasn't been as significant in practice, that being the ability to effectively "assault" swooping flying monstrous creatures and zooming flyers with their haywire grenades in the movement phase. Their 18" movement coupled with each member of the unit hitting the target on a 4+ with their deadly anti-vehicle weapons makes them a very scary area-denial unit, but they generally struggle to actually get the chance to fully move over a flyer. Still, acting as an area-denial tool against zooming flyers in particular is a very important trait given that it can force opponents to either sacrifice the flyer so that it gets a chance to shoot at their desired target or move it along another path to a spot where it won't be able to contribute damage output as effectively. That Swooping Hawks can carry out this special attack when moving or their grenade pack when deep striking and subsequently shoot and run with Battle Focus makes them a powerful harassment unit in almost any turn of the game. About the only real "nerf" to their capabilities is that they require the Exarch to benefit from no-scatter deep strike, but given how valuable both that benefit and the actual profile of the Exarch are this is of little concern to those wanting to field Swooping Hawks at their fullest potential. Units of five or six plus an Exarch (for total squad sizes of six and seven) seem to be the best composition, but ultimately I feel it is impossible to go wrong with Swooping Hawks seeing as they have such a gigantic threat range against anything with low to medium Toughness or any kind of vehicle, are incredibly reliable and efficient, and possess abilities ideally suited to the adaptive tactics required in Maelstrom of War missions.
Warp Spiders - I've always loved the idea behind Warp Spiders and found their 6th Edition incarnation to be suitably brutal and hard to deal with for various armies, and I feel that their latest iteration - while perhaps not quite as destructive overall - perfectly captures the ambush theme of the Aspect. These are still potentially the fastest infantry unit in the game with a 6" move, a 2D6" warp jump move, a D6" run and then a 2D6" jet-pack move giving them a theoretical potential move distance of 36" - while achieving such a number is obviously highly based around luck, it nonetheless gives Warp Spider players unprecedented repositioning capabilities ideally suited for Maelstrom of War missions. They retain their codex-high 3+ armour saves and native Hit and Run allowing them to reliably escape combats where necessary, and all of the other usual army special rules apply like Battle Focus - which is insane on such a mobile, highly damaging close-range unit - and Fleet. Of course, the new codex' theme of buffing or at least tweaking Aspect Warriors certainly applies to Warp Spiders and I am happy to report most of the changes are beneficial, though one does somewhat hurt their general usefulness. First up, using these as part of an Aspect Host gives them a massive damage boost, while further employing the Craftworld Warhost detachment makes them unbelievably fast with a guaranteed 6" run move further exacerbating the power of Battle Focus.
A more direct buff comes in the form of the Flickerjump special rule which serves as a bonus to their standard warp jump, allowing them to perform said warp jump in the enemy shooting phase when they are declared as the target of an enemy unit. This ability is both thematic and downright hilarious, allowing the Warp Spiders to gain a free move - a silly opponent may just grant you a last-turn objective grab in their efforts to kill the unit - and perform loads of awesome tricks like jumping into cover (remember, warp jumps ignore dangerous terrain) or even moving out of range or line of sight. The latter two uses are the most amusing as even if the Warp Spiders become impossible to shoot for the aggressor unit, that unit cannot declare another target in that shooting phase and thus lose their ranged damage output for that turn; while actually performing this feat is difficult and highly situational, the added tactical options presented by the flickerjump are greatly appreciated. This rule does have a down-side by preventing the Warp Spiders from performing a warp jump in their next movement phase, but the fact that it is optional means you can use it at your discretion to gain an advantage where possible. On the topic of warp jumps, these now only cause a member of the squad to be claimed by the warp on the roll of double ones rather than any double, providing a very nice boost to the units' safety and reliability. The Exarch also received some expected love with his or her presence allowing the squad to automatically pass all Pinning, Fear, Regroup and Morale tests; for a unit that is naturally oriented around close-range engagements and is a high value target for almost any opponent, this is a very handy ability that ensures you get full value out of a generally expensive squad.
The only real "nerf" - and I am not sure it really classifies as one, honestly - comes to their primary weapon, the Death Spinner; the tweak to Monofilament affects Warp Spiders more than any other unit and ensures they don't gain a Strength bonus against foes with low or entirely lacking Initiative values. This is obviously intended to stop players from using Warp Spiders as vehicle hunters with effective Strength 7 shooting, though considering their guns are already Strength 6 this isn't too much of a nerf, especially when you consider how much better it is against almost everything else. As Monofilament weapons now roll to wound against the enemy units' Initiative values, Warp Spiders have now transitioned into the premier monstrous creature hunters in the codex; their Strength 6 guns wound C'tan Shards on 2s, Wraithknights on 3s and I think roughly 80% of units possessing a Toughness value in Warhammer 40,000 on 2s generally. They are a hard counter to monstrous creatures and even gargantuan creatures that traditionally rely on their high Toughness values to survive incoming shooting attacks, a trait which Warp Spiders effectively ignore; Tyranid monsters in particular are terrified of this Aspect Shrine, as most opponents should be that don't use mechanized lists. While Warp Spiders are obviously weaker against anything that has both Toughness 5 or greater and Initiative 5 or greater - the Avatar of Khaine and most Greater Daemons mostly - they are generally as good or superior to their old incarnation against most everything else. I think the trade-off here is well worth losing out on ridiculous anti-tank shooting as Warp Spiders still present a very high threat to light and even some medium vehicles, leaving me to rank them yet again as one of the stronger units in the codex just as with 6th Edition.
Shining Spears - Of all the Aspect Shrines featured in the Eldar codex, this is the only one I feel actually stayed roughly the same in terms of overall competitive usage, something I find rather sad given they confusingly didn't receive new models alongside the redesigned Windriders. They saw some nice buffs and one or two irritating nerfs, the overall change being that they don't compromise their shooting as much while being much stronger in protracted combats - not that they really belong in those, mind. The first major change comes to the units' Laser Lances and the Exarchs' Star Lance, each now being AP3 and AP2 respectively in all rounds of combat rather than just on the charge; this obviously makes them far deadlier in any combat phase in which they didn't charge compared to their prior rules incarnation, becoming somewhat comparable to theoretical jetbike-mounted Howling Banshees. The buff to the Exarch by providing him or her with two wounds on top of the cheap Star Lance upgrade makes for a very scary squad leader in a challenge easily capable of beating down actual HQ models that cost well over double or triple what the Exarch is priced at. The lack of additional combat weapons and possessing only one attack each save for the Exarchs' two does mean they still aren't great at staying in combat and are worse than Howling Banshees as far as damage output in any round in which they didn't charge, though obviously their incredibly high strength attacks on any turn they do charge in makes them very scary elite and monstrous creature hunters. Obviously, they are suited to killing high value units that lack 2+ armour saves and Initiative 5 to negate the Spears' primary advantage of striking before enemies, especially as Toughness 4 and 3+ armour saves are easy for almost unit to beat down in combat through attrition or power weapons.
This brings me to one of the major failings of Shining Spears that oddly wasn't addressed in the new codex, that being their lack of assault grenades; they don't have the durability to survive attacks from any kind of dedicated melee unit they are supposedly designed to deal with, and they lack the tools to safely charge enemies through cover. Their main buff came in the form of boosting their damage output in protracted combats but squads of Shining Spears are expensive enough as to lack numbers and thus the means to win any kind of attrition battle. Their lack of attacks means they are prone to flunking their rolls and failing to kill their target even in a round that they charged in, forcing you to cast Prescience on them where possible rather than another more valuable unit. Now, this isn't all to say the unit didn't receive some handy buffs - having permanent AP3 and AP2 melee weapons is very nice - such as the addition of an always-active 4+ cover save without having to Jink, conditional only on the unit moving in each movement phase. This allows them to use their potent shooting attacks more often without having to Jink and thus Snap Fire just to survive the first round of AP3 shooting directed their way, though they can still retain the option to gain a 3+ Jink save when necessary while always passing Dangerous Terrain tests due to their Skilled Rider special rule. Their Exarch also gains some handy bonuses against monstrous creatures and vehicles, re-rolling all failed to-wound and armour penetration rolls against those respective unit types; that's not bad at all for a character packing three Strength 8 AP2 attacks on the charge!
However, one crucial change to the way the unit functions did occur; the removal of purchasable Exarch Powers means Shining Spears can no longer gain the Hit and Run special rule, an ability that typically defined their competitive usage in the previous codex and something I think everyone agrees they should have as standard. As mentioned prior, Shining Spears excel at killing targets on the charge and are poor in protracted combats, limitations that were easily fixed with the addition of Hit and Run; the potential for benefiting from their boosted Strength values on the charge and nasty ranged attacks more than usual was well worth the minor points cost of the ability. This leaves me feeling rather mixed on Shining Spears as opposed to outright positive and upbeat as with all the other Aspects present in the codex; they gained some nice buffs, certainly, but none of them are really enough to make up for losing out on Hit and Run or simply fixing the core issues present in several editions of their rules. They do benefit immensely from an attached Autarch with a Banshee Mask and the Shard of Anaris to ensure such a high-cost unit doesn't just run away or be rendered useless by failing a Fear test, while they also gain some much needed love in an Aspect Host with Weapon Skill 5 greatly improving their effective damage output, but I find at that point that one would simply be over-investing in a unit that simply doesn't shine next to its' fellow Aspects.
Crimson Hunter - While I have always been a big fan of this unit and appreciate its' role as a dedicated anti-air Aspect in the codex, the powerful combination of Laser Lock and the Serpent Shield on Wave Serpents sadly made these mostly redundant in the 6th Edition codex. Now that Eldar players can't use their primary transport and battle tank as highly reliable anti-air units due to the removal of Laser Lock and rework of the Serpent Shield, Crimson Hunters have been given their chance to shine and received a very handy and sizable points reduction to make them even more enticing than they already were. The meta changes and core rule tweaks that served to reduce the value of Intercepting Skyfire units or weaponry provides a passive boost to the Crimson Hunter competitively, the greater emphasis on using actual flyers as anti-air (ironically this is also the case for Eldar) conversely giving the Crimson Hunter more targets to destroy. These remain the most efficient flyer-destroyers in a standard codex as far as actual damage potential and reliability is concerned, their ability to re-roll failed armour penetration rolls against enemy flyers with their four Strength 8 AP2 shots making them a premier choice in that regard. They retain the theme of being incredibly fragile yet deadly and swift, as possessing Vector Dancer makes them highly maneuverable and largely immune to the common "area blocking" tactics used against zooming flyers. Crimson Hunters have all the tools necessary to dominate the air - especially in the Crimson Death formation that gives them a passive 4+ cover save that becomes re-rollable when Evading - and are priced aggressively to boot, while the Exarch upgrade remains a valuable option if only because of the greater efficiency and character sniping potential offered by Ballistic Skill 5 and Precision Shots on a 5+. I think all Eldar lists should feature at least one Crimson Hunter if only because they are an amazing anti-air unit that ranks as easily the most reliable and efficient in the codex, basically mandating their inclusion to at least contest enemy aircraft.
Vyper Squadron - Seemingly no army is complete without some kind of Land Speeder equivalent, and this is true of the Eldar Vyper Squadron; an extremely mobile, incredibly fragile and inexpensive skimmer with good damage output. Having two hull points with AV 10/10/10 and the open-topped classification is a recipe for a short life-span on the tabletop, though being cheap fast skimmers that pack a uniquely powerful punch due to their access to Eldar heavy weaponry means Vypers are a surprisingly valuable unit. They can be used as cheap and quick objective grabbers that provide medium to short-ranged harassment, or as a more mobile equivalent to War Walkers that dances around the board attacking whatever you need to pressure. The usual setup for these involves two shuriken cannons, giving each Vyper a total of six Strength 6 AP5 shots at 24" with the Bladestorm rule, pairing perfectly with their fast skimmer classification so that they can move 12" a turn and still fire both guns at full Ballistic Skill. To ensure the "tax" of being forced to use them in any of the three Core formations as part of a Craftworld Warhost isn't too painful, Vypers even received a modest price reduction that ensures anyone can look at these and see a potentially useful tool in their army list. These are by no means the best unit in the Fast Attack slot and their fragility does make them more the choice of players adept at controlling the movement phase well, but they are very solid and deserving of a mandatory place in the Eldar unique detachment.
Hemlock Wraithfighter - Much like the Wraithguard and Wraithknights before it, the Hemlock Wraithfighter has received a wealth of attention in the new codex due to the change from Distortion to Destroyer for these units' trademark weaponry. While the two Heavy D-Scythes still aren't necessarily the most accurate or reliable weapons seeing as they each fire a single AP2 small blast using the "toned-down" Destroyer weapon rules on D-Scythes, they are nonetheless supremely better than prior versus vehicles and monstrous creatures while generally making a mockery of models with multiple wounds. This significant buff is enough to skyrocket the Hemlock's otherwise situational competitive usage, though the buff to its psychic potential by boosting it to Mastery Level 2 is pretty darned beastly as well. Being able to guarantee a combination of Terrify with the Mindshock Pod did give the Hemlock a nice albeit narrow role, so I feel giving it a potential two extra psychic powers (Psychic Focus) from Telepathy in particular is very nice indeed; how does an Invisible flyer sound, or how about a flyer casting Invisibility on other units? Otherwise, the new Mindshock Pod is generally better from what I can tell, at least from the perspective of a Fantasy player wherein Battle Standard Bearers exist; that the -2 penalty also affects Fear tests gives some extra situational uses to it as well. Overall, the Hemlock was elevated from a very finicky unit with a narrow role to a powerful psychic model with scary firepower and lots of utility, receiving no points increase or other notable nerf to compensate for such large buffs. This is a very good unit now and I heartily recommend it to any Wraith-themed army list, let alone a force that has a spare Fast Attack slot and isn't concerned about filling it with an anti-air choice.
Thank you for reading this latest Eldar Codex Summary article! I must apologize for the long delay but I guess it isn't really my fault given all the various internet and work issues I've been having lately; still, it doesn't hurt to accept culpability after all. I hope you enjoyed this work and I look forward to reading your feedback in the comments section!