Though the phrase "elite amongst the Eldar" has little real conventional meaning, the units represented here are still very much a competitive bunch with no real "stand-out" in an all comers army. As is the Eldar way, each unit is tailored to fight certain enemies; Howling Banshees tear apart power-armoured foes, while Striking Scorpions are more useful against less durable opponents owing to their sheer number of attacks. The competition for an elite melee unit is as much a crack-shoot as it is for a specialised tank hunter at short range, a role fulfilled exceptionally well by both Fire Dragons and Wraithguard. The Harlequins, as befit their nature, are a truly oddball unit that requires a smart tactician above all else to use in an effective manner; when they strike, though, they truly are devastating. Deciding which of these units to employ largely depends both on what kind of force you are using and what you need. If you are lacking for anti-tank, consider Fire Dragons in a Wave Serpent to even the odds; similarly, if you feel that elite infantry hugging cover may be an issue, then Wraithguard armed with D-Scythes may be your best bet.
Howling Banshees - Lithe and graceful warriors that terrify their opponents and crush them in a melee, the Howling Banshees - descended of Jain Zar - are a nifty assault unit with some crippling weaknesses. First and foremost, Banshees are built around combat against tough opponents; with each Banshee striking three times on the charge with a power sword, they are geared for hunting power-armoured foes of all kinds. Their shuriken pistols give them some light firepower at a range of twelve inches, with the powerful Bladestorm rule giving them some freedom to engage tougher opponents such as Terminators or monstrous creatures. Like other Eldar, they have a trio of special rules that give them some love against Daemons as well as a boost to their speed; for a melee unit, being able to run after shooting helps, though the re-roll on charge and run distances is easily the most valuable trait. A unique ability to Banshees represents their acrobatic fighting style; provided there are no characters attached without the special rule, the unit can run an additional three inches on top of their usual re-rollable run move, much akin to Daemons of Slaanesh. Though they can't assault after running, this nonetheless allows them to get into position much quicker if they are forced to foot-slog; whether through the absence or destruction of a Wave Serpent or Falcon, this is quite helpful. They have a good Leadership of nine, and a rather typical Eldar profile otherwise; their Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill is four, with an Initiative of five - though it isn't surprising, it isn't as befitting an elite melee unit as an extra point of Weapon Skill or Initiative may have been. Nonetheless, they received a slight price drop so that units of ten or so are more viable; combined with the cheaper Exarchs and upgrades, they will cost you quite a bit less to use.
Unfortunately, even given their reputation, Howling Banshees are not as great a unit as many would have hoped; they are peppered with draw backs that make them a rather mediocre and situational unit that requires the utmost care in their application. The main issue is the lack of any dedicated assault transport in the army, from which all other problems with the unit arise; they cannot charge out of their durable and mobile carriers, meaning they must either foot-slog up the field or endure a round of shooting on top of Overwatch to make it into combat. Now, this wouldn't be a major issue if the Howling Banshees weren't so fragile; a Toughness of three and only a 4+ armour save will not secure their safety against heavy flamers, massed bolters or even any kind of dedicated firepower. For a unit with a maximum size of ten that is quite expensive per model, this is a truly pressing concern; they can no more afford to lose models, hampering their melee effectiveness, than Dark Reapers can afford to miss their targets. They absolutely require a Warlock or Farseer to give them psychic support to survive such fusillades, though another option would be to include their Matriarch - Jain Zar - to soak up wounds at the front, though such a tactic is obviously risky for an expensive character. Their Banshee Masks have also seen a reduction in overall effectiveness from the perspective of Banshees fighting alone, though as part of a combo-charge, they are actually better. Instead of allowing the Banshees to strike at Initiative ten, they reduce the Initiative of enemy units assaulted by the Banshees by five to a minimum of one. This works wonders with other assault units such as Striking Scorpions, though it must be noted that most units don't have an Initiative of five anyway so its effectiveness is somewhat limited there. However, Banshees themselves lack assault grenades meaning that the masks will allow them to strike simultaneously with most foes if they charge through cover. While this is handy, it doesn't solve the issue that the Banshees suffer casualties far too easily and really rely on striking before enemies to reduce the number of attacks coming back at them. They are a unit that simply isn't designed to function effectively as a front-line combat unit, as the combination of Overwatch and strong firepower in 6th Edition will simply kill too many before they can strike; that charging through cover means they will fight at the same time as most foes is ultimately to their detriment, not to their benefit, as they can't afford to take wounds back in such numbers.
Still, there is potential to using Banshees; like any Eldar unit, they function so much better with psychic support. Adding some characters with Conceal or Fortune into the unit will give them a dramatic boost to their survivability and, even if they can't employ Acrobatic, they are at least quick enough either to run up the board or deploy out of a transport and endure what comes next. They also make for a great counter-charge unit in a more defensively-oriented force; they won't suffer much damage if you hide them, and they can do what they do best in conjunction with another unit. The Exarch is also a nasty character to include, particularly if you take an Executioner; though she can't take on entire units, her Weapon Skill and Strength of five paired with an AP of two - if you take the Executioner - will still do some pretty significant damage and give the unit some breathing room against 2+ armoured foes. She can take some cool options such as Disarming Strike and Shield of Grace to give her an edge against other minor characters, though ultimately she requires neither and becomes very expensive for a squad Exarch. A Wave Serpent is a fantastic transport for the Banshees and, if you do intend to use them aggressively, works best in conjunction with some other units to ease the pressure on the Banshees; Striking Scorpions with Infiltrate work very well here. Overall, Howling Banshees are a unit with a lot of issues related to their durability and assault delivery, but hit hard when they get there against more elite units while providing a more than decent counter-charge threat for opponents to consider.
Of course, where it counts for an assault unit - aside from their speed and durability, of which Scorpions have in plentiful supply - is their actual combat prowess, and suffice it to say that they won't disappoint for the most part. Each Scorpion strikes three times on the charge at Strength four with an AP of six, owing to their Scorpion Chainswords, which owing to their Space Marine-worthy stats allows them to deal with tarpit and horde units better than most other melee units. To give them some extra punch, each Striking Scorpion is equipped with a mandiblaster; provided a Scorpion is in base contact, it inflicts an automatic hit at Strength three with an AP of nothing on the enemy unit. Very much akin to Hammer of Wrath, albeit at a middling Strength, the real benefit here is that it applies in each combat phase and not just the first; make sure to remember your pile in moves as every extra wound caused helps, particularly against fellow high Initiative forces. All in all, the unit is decently strong in the assault phase; though they don't inflict the same damage against power-armoured foes as Howling Banshees, the higher Strength, similar number of attacks and inclusion of mandiblasters signify the Scorpions' greater utility and effectiveness against non-elite foes. In fact, Scorpions are better equipped to deal with foes to whom either Banshees cannot harm - such as Toughness seven monsters - or opponents with a 2+ armour save, as their AP of three is the only direct advantage Banshees have over Scorpions in an assault. Though Scorpions aren't exactly an ideal unit to use against such foes - especially given Eldar specialize in destroying them from afar - it is nonetheless an important fact to consider and one that serves to make them that much more appealing.
A Striking Scorpion Exarch makes for a very nasty character killer in a unit designed to overwhelm enemies with a significant number of attacks; they are a cheap upgrade that, with some investment, can reave squad sergeants and even some commanders alike with impunity. Perhaps the most intriguing, and expensive, option here is the same weapon that Karandras uses to punish nearly any foe indiscriminately; the scorpions' claw, a power fist on a Strength three model that strikes at Initiative. Between plasma grenades and an Initiative of six with four attacks on the charge - plus the Mandiblasters - a power fist that doesn't strike last with those stats is absolutely horrendous, particularly given the Exarch is also Weapon Skill five and, as with the unit, not easily killed from a distance. Though it doesn't give them the capability to effectively engage a Dreadnought or similar armoured vehicle, it nonetheless makes for a character that will slaughter most any other squad Sergeant or cheap character in the game easily, and proceed to tear through entire Terminator units alone. The Exarch powers on hand mostly serve to give the character a boost against monstrous creatures, and they are quite cheap; still, particularly if you took the Scorpions' Claw, the costs will add up to make for a very expensive squad leader. All things considered though, Striking Scorpions are a very effective melee unit that, combined with a natural delivery system in the form of Infiltrate, decent durability and greater effectiveness against most foes as opposed to their direct rival, are arguably the premier assault unit in the codex.
Fire Dragons - Revered as tank hunters without equal, Fire Dragons are arguably the most devastating anti-tank unit at short range that can be found in the codex. Each Fire Dragon bears both a fusion (melta) gun and melta bombs, allowing them to reave tanks and monstrous creatures at short range and in a melee. To say that is all there is to the unit would be doing them an injustice, but truly, that is what they are designed for and, though costly, they are incredibly effective at destroying such units. When your basic gear includes a Strength eight AP one gun with a twelve inch range, as well as a 'grenade' in melee with similar stats - both with the melta or armourbane special rule - then that doesn't really leave any illusions as to what units they are designed to engage. They will strike fear into small elite units such as Terminators, monstrous creatures such as Trygons, characters such as a Chaos Lord and any vehicle ranging from a Venom to a Land Raider. Like any Eldar unit, they come stock with Ancient Doom, Battle Focus and Fleet; the last two in particular serve to make them incredibly deadly when your opponent least expects them to be. The ability to run and then shoot or vice-versa with twelve inch ranged guns, allowing a re-roll to that run move, give Fire Dragons so much more mobility and allow them to fire and then run out of range; a brutal tactic in particular when employed alongside a transport, such as a Falcon. As to which transport works best, given that Fire Dragons are effectively a suicide unit - they pop in, destroy their quarry, and likely get shot to death - a Falcon may work better owing to the smaller transport capacity and stronger firepower overall. Fire Dragons function just fine in units of five, though a Wave Serpent is definitely the stronger all-rounder choice; my bet is to pick which suits your army list and go from there.
|Suicide squad, ready!|
Harlequins - Dancers in the webway, Harlequins are as mystifying a unit on the table-top as they are in the background; guardians of the Black Library, keepers of secrets. Knowing the tricks to using Harlequins as well as their extensive array of options and wargear is necessary to their effective use. As opposed to the other melee units in the Elites slot, Harlequins are the most fragile to an extent; they share a Toughness of three, but in place of an armour save, they have a 5+ invulnerable save. Against small arms fire, they are the most easily slain of the bunch; however, against cover-ignoring or armour-ignoring weaponry, they do indeed have an edge. Like with Chaos Daemons, a smart opponent will merely target them with masses of small arms fire and use their heavier weaponry on other more valuable and vulnerable targets. Though they lack assault grenades, Harlequins are not slowed by difficult terrain owing to their flip belts; given that they rely on their high Initiative to strike before most enemies and reduce the number of attacks coming back at them, you need to be very cautious as to which foes you assault. Unlike other Eldar, they lack both the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus special rules to signify their more neutral stance free of the Craftworlds; they lack the ability to run and then shoot, but it isn't too important here given that they are a dedicated assault unit. Their shooting capabilities are limited to shuriken pistols, with the option for two Harlequins to take fusion pistols instead; though expensive, they do help the Harlequins in dealing with well armoured vehicles or taking valuable wounds off of elite units and monsters. The minimal range of six inches for the fusion pistols, while not unexpected, is still very limiting and at that point, given the average charge range for Harlequins would be close to nine inches owing to Fleet, you likely would have assaulted anyway.
Harlequins are very nasty on the charge, predictably, with up to four attacks each on the charge at Strength four, owing to Furious Charge, and they can Hit and Run out of combat at a moment's notice. When taken in decent numbers, they can reave most units simply through sheer weight of attacks; their Weapon Skill of five and Initiative of six is of particular note here, as they can simply maximise their damage potential better than most. To really spice things up and make them almost unfairly devastating in an assault, each Harlequin can be given a 'Kiss'; their melee attacks gain the Rending special rule, with no downside if you ignore the rather significant price point. If they ever make it to combat - and trust me, most opponents will dedicate a lot of firepower to ensure they don't - a unit of ten Harlequins with the Kiss has a stunning forty attacks at Weapon Skill five, Initiative six and Strength four with Rending on the charge. Wow. Against your average Tactical Squad of ten marines, you are looking at twenty-seven hits, four dead from Rending, and about ten or nine armour saves - another three of which will be failed. Though it is a very expensive unit, it nonetheless is capable of gutting most anything short of a Land Raider when it launches an assault; most monstrous creatures will fall over in a heap unless they have some form of invulnerable save or six wounds, and that is merely on the first round.
Where Harlequins really become interesting are in the characters that can be purchased; the Death Jester, the Troupe Master and the Shadowseer, each playing a different role in their 'dance'. The Death Jester loses the option of a 'Kiss' and an attack from exchanging their weapons out, but gains a Shrieker Cannon; similar to a Shuriken Cannon, it fires three Strength six AP five shots with the Bladestorm rule, though it also has the handy advantage of causing Pinning tests. It isn't bad, though one could view it as an expensive form of adding in a less effective Dark Reaper for the cost that, in a melee oriented unit, isn't all that great. A fun choice though, as the range of twenty four inches allows you to cause such tests as you move into assault range; Pinning any enemy unit that can fire at your Harlequins is a welcome bonus, albeit random in terms of success. A Troupe Master is an expensive addition, but is effectively a 'squad sergeant' with an extra attack and point of Leadership that comes stock with a 'Kiss'. Afterwards, the Troupe Master can take a power sword for free instead of the 'Kiss'; though against most foes I would feel that Rending is more useful, it nonetheless goes without saying that a crazy dancer with five attacks on the charge at Strength four and AP three is nothing short of hilarious. The most expensive of the character upgrades is the Shadowseer, a psyker that only ever knows a single unique psychic power; the Veil of Tears. It is a very nifty power cast on a Leadership of nine that forces any enemy unit attempting to target the Harlequins to roll 2D6 and double it, using the total as their "sight" range. If the unit is out of range, and remembering that the maximum total is twenty four inches, then they cannot fire at the Harlequins - or indeed any unit - in that phase. The average total is fourteen, meaning that some smart placement and suitably generous dice rolls can potentially see your nasty assault unit get into a melee almost uncontested aside from Overwatch. Truly a powerful ability that, combined with providing hallucinogen grenades that grant the unit assault grenades, makes the Shadowseer a very worthwhile addition. Though they are expensive and require support either from their expensive character upgrades or psychic powers, and suffer the limitation of no transport option, Harlequins are nonetheless an interesting unit that will surprise you as much as they surprise your opponent.
|We are not in space. We have no purpose.|
Still, Wraithguard best used at range - however limited it is - to inflict maximum damage on your opponents. Each Wraithguard bears a Wraithcannon, a ridiculous weapon with a Strength of ten, an AP of two with the disadvantage of a mere twelve inch range. As you would expect, they can devastate anything that gets within range; Land Raiders, Tervigons, Terminators and any manner of foe you could name will be obliterated under sustained fire from Wraithguard. That any to wound roll of a six - of which you should average one in a ten-strong unit firing - inflicts instant death is just insane and should easily put down any monstrous creature, such as a Wraithknight, in but a single volley. The only thing you really need to be wary of is the minimal range; twelve inches puts them in charge range, and without Battle Focus, it leaves them dangerously vulnerable to mobile units or units with similar firepower at short ranges. This also precludes their use on foot, or at least it minimises any potential damage they can inflict until turn three and onwards on standard size game boards; a Wave Serpent, providing them both with protection and mobility, is a smart purchase for any Wraithguard unit numbering six or less.
This doesn't exclude the tactic of a ten-strong Wraithguard phalanx, however, as such a unit when paired with Conceal from a Spiritseer can endure unfathomable amounts of punishment whilst it advances, dealing death to anything that is stupid enough to move into range. However, if you decide to exchange the Wraithcannons for D-Scythes, you will definitely require the use of a Wave Serpent or limit the Wraithguard to a more defensive role sitting on an objective. The D-Scythes are template weapons with a Strength of four and an AP of two, with the same potential to either inflict instant death or automatically penetrate armour on a roll of a six; such strength and armour or damage modifiers is brutal on a template weapon that can be carried unit wide. That each of them functions as a flamer makes them particularly deadly against armies that positively need to assault you; in a six strong unit embarking from a Wave Serpent, the enemy unit charging will have to try to soak up 5D3 automatic hits that ignore all armour and can kill instantly. Such a unit is downright nasty, but it is expensive; each D-Scythe purchased is a significant investment, and the limitation for the entire unit to take them or not is somewhat limiting in bigger units.
Interestingly, and perhaps what makes them so infamous to enemies, is that Wraithguard can be taken as Troops choices if a Spiritseer leads the army. As a scoring unit, Wraithguard bring something that no other Troops choice can; insane durability and firepower that simply begs to sit on an objective and dare anyone to try and take it. Remember those D-Scythes that Wraithguard can bear into battle, that make for a brutal counter-measure against any potential assault? Or how about that phalanx that marches purposefully up the field, caring little for any and all punishment that is inflicted on them? Yes, Wraithguard make for a very strong Troops choice, whether mounted in the ubiquitous Wave Serpent or traveling on foot; they are tough enough and strong enough to wither and deal out damage in unmatched amounts.
An alternate option for them is the ghost axe and forceshield, granting them both a 4+ invulnerable save and a bonus of two their Strength. With an AP of two and Unwieldy, each Wraithguard strikes last with two Strength seven AP two attacks on the charge, perfect for decimating other elite melee units and bearing the brunt of punishment in return from power fists or monsters alike. Where this setup falls flat is in the lack of attacks; in subsequent rounds, each Wraithblade only has a single attack that, unless Guided or supported by Prescience - which is admittedly in great supply for Eldar - has few outlets to guarantee hits. For a melee unit, they are actually quite decent and, as you would expect, require a Wave Serpent to get into combat early on. However, I feel that given they are identical in cost, Wraithguard are probably the better investment as their guns are even more brutal and, despite being similarly close ranged, do not force them to be tied up in combat where they will plod on for many turns trying to destroy enemy units. That isn't to say Wraithblades are a bad unit, but given the guns that Wraithguard carry and the lack of available assault transports or grenades, I feel their ranged cousins are the more valuable choice. As Troops, they make for a nasty objective-clearer or, working in tandem with Wraithguard armed with D-Scythes, a brutal counter-charge unit.
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