7 Jun 2013

Eldar Tactica - Special Ranged Weapons

Hey there everyone, I am Learn2Eel and today I want to talk about the new and improved Eldar! The Eldar are renowned for their amazing works of craftsmanship, and few other races can attest to the sheer devastation wrought by their ancient weaponry. I hope you enjoy this article!

With an extensive array of weapons of incredibly varying kinds, the Eldar are a force based around precision above all else; having the right unit for the right job, or even the right tool for the right job - depending on your interpretation - is essential. As such, knowing the function of the many and varied Eldar weapons and wargear is key to understanding which unit is suited for a given role; the lasblasters carried by the Swooping Hawks are ideal for hunting light infantry owing to their minimal Strength and AP, though the spinneret rifles borne by the weaving Warp Spiders are ideal for hunting units that rely on high Toughness values to make up for other deficiencies. It also pays to put the plethora of options available into practice through trial and error; working out their advantages and short-comings is key, and there is no better foundry to iron out the flaws in their use than the battlefield itself. Don't be afraid to experiment with the many options available to you; Eldar, while highly specialised, remain highly adaptable on a game-by-game basis. Working out what works in any given army list is sure to build both your confidence as a player and your skills as a general of an Eldar force.

At the time of writing, the Remnants of Glory had not received enough play-testing to be appropriately covered - they will be featured in a later article.

Special Rules

There are three major special rules that define many of the weapon options available to an Eldar player; given that they are relevant to multiple entries, I felt it prudent to detail them here. Keep these in mind when I discuss those weapons that do feature these special rules, as they serve to define their use.

Bladestorm - Unleashing a hailstorm of monomolecular bladed discs, a weapon with this special rule automatically wounds with an AP of two on any to wound roll of a six. Effectively a lesser version of Rending without adding the extra D3 to armour penetration rolls, automatically wounding any model with a Toughness value on a fixed dice roll that also ignores their armour saves is effectively an answer to armies with multitudes of monstrous creatures or high Toughness enemies - such as Wraith or Destroyer armies. The propensity to gain Rending wounds in even a basic squad is pretty amazing, especially given the high rate of fire from all Shuriken weapons; it effectively means that even the most basic Guardian is a major threat to a Terminator, or even a Carnifex, with a little luck. Pair weapons with this rule up to psychic powers such as Doom and just laugh as your opponents elite models drop like flies to your regular infantry.

Distortion - With the potential to open a rift to the warp, a weapon with this special rule can rip apart an enemy through the inter-dimensional claws of reality. Every to wound roll of a six made with such a weapon automatically wounds and inflicts instant death to boot; did I mention that all Distortion weapons have a relatively high Strength and an AP of two? A decent number of these will rip apart any multiple wound model in a single volley on average; from Trygons to the Riptide, if they don't die from the massed number of high Strength AP two wounds anyway. Similarly, against vehicles, these weapons automatically penetrate on an armour penetration roll of a six; though most Distortion weapons have a Strength of ten, meaning this is mostly pointless, it is nonetheless a hilarious sight to see your Strength four D-Scythes tear apart a Land Raider.

Monofilament - The spidery filaments of these weapons tighten with every futile attempt at escape, creating a web of death that is particularly difficult to escape for the slow witted. All weapons with this special rule automatically wound on a to wound roll of a six, with an AP of one - I have yet to see any functional use for AP one on to-wound rolls over AP two, so it is very much akin to weapons with Bladestorm in that sense. Additionally, against enemy units that either lack an Initiative value altogether or have a majority Initiative of three or lower, these weapons count their Strength as one higher than normal. Against vehicles, this means that most Monofilament weapons will be Strength seven or greater and, owing to their massed number of shots, means they can devastate even medium vehicles with little difficulty. The bonus against units with an Initiative value is particularly apparent against other Xenos armies, but only really against certain units; as Monofilament weapons already have base Strength six or seven, they typically wound on a 2+ anyway and thus this is most useful against monstrous creatures, biker units and other elite forces.

We ruled the galaxy....but we don't dwell in the past at all.
The Eldar have one of the more varied lists of available weapons; from eldar missile launchers that reflect their common contemporaries, to shuriken catapults that devastate enemy infantry and monsters at short range. Generally speaking, aside from the Autarch, most units will only have one or perhaps two weapon options available to them, limiting their role. Unlike Space Marines and Imperial Guard, there are few options to purchase "special" or "heavy weapons" outside of the Exarch themselves, and even those options usually confirm mostly to the rest of the weapons wielded by the unit. This places a heavy emphasis on destroying targets with the right units; Wraithguard armed with Wraithcannons cannot effectively deal with large units, but a Wraithknight bearing a Suncannon proves to be an adequate counter-measure.

D-Scythe - Between a Strength of four and an AP of two, the D-Scythe is an incredibly nasty, albeit expensive, template weapon that is so valuable because it both ignores cover and does not require rolls to hit. Maximising the damage with this weapon comes down to smart positioning of the Wraithguard carrying it; the more models you can line up, the more automatic hits you will get. The weapon can be reliably used against infantry of all kinds, from Terminators to Ork Boyz, and do a lot of damage owing to the average Strength and ridiculously good AP value. You may pay through the nose for it, but the weapon is darned good; a small unit of Wraithguard with these weapons make for an incredible objective-sitting, or capturing, unit. That it also features the Distortion rule and thus automatically wounds or penetrates on a roll of a six for either wounding or penetrating means it can be used to engage more than just the stated target of most other template weapons. Vehicles won't like being hit by multiple D-Scythes, as the risk of sixes to penetrate followed by a damage roll receiving a +1 modifier owing to the AP2 is quite significant. Similarly, those sixes to wound that also inflict instant death can be incredibly scary for any monstrous creature; they had best hope they brought an invulnerable save or won't get hit many times!

Heavy D-Scythe - Similar to the regular D-Scythe, the Heavy variant has a Strength and AP of four and two, respectively, though it differs by using the small blast template rather than the tear-drop template. With a range of eighteen inches, this may not seem like much of an improvement as it loses the benefits of ignoring cover and guaranteed hits; the range shouldn't be much of a deterrent though, as these are carried exclusively by the Hemlock Wraithfighter, a flyer that is thus incredibly fast. It is needless to say these will shred Infantry quite decently provided you get some favourable scatter rolls. Additionally, the instant death on to-wound rolls of a six while automatically wounding, or the automatic penetrating hit with an AP of two on an armour penetration roll of a six, are very handy in keeping the weapon useful beyond its initial targets.

Wraithcannon - The basic weaponry of the restless Wraithguard, Wraithcannons are one of the most fearsome tools of destruction that can be found at short ranges; each one fires a single Strength ten AP two bolt of destructive, reality-tearing energy with the useful Distort rule. Effectively, a single Wraithguard has a weapon that can reliably rip apart any form of tank - from Raiders to Monoliths - and do it with mind-boggling impunity; they penetrate AV ten vehicles automatically, and three hits against a Rhino without cover saves destroy it with no real roll required. That they inflict instant death on a to wound roll of a six means that a decent sized squad stands a strong chance of slaying even the toughest of monstrous creatures outright, such as Wraithknights or Riptides, with but a single volley. There is but one drawback to the weapon that relegates it, and by extension, its carriers, to either be transported or taken in large numbers to slog up the field; it has a puny range of only twelve inches, meaning that the very act of firing it means that nearby enemies will be in assault range of what is an admittedly above average unit, but not great, in melee. For a ranged unit that is otherwise sluggish and has few means of boosting its movement - Wraithguard lack Fleet and Battle Focus - this can be a serious drawback, but given the effectiveness and durability of Wave Serpents, this shouldn't be too much of an issue.  

D-Cannon - One of the more renowned Eldar weapons, the D-Cannon is accessed by few units, namely the support batteries and Wraithseer; few enemies would pity Eldar for such limitations though. With a Strength of ten and an AP of two, it is similar in a sense to a mere Wraithcannon; however, it sports not only twice the range, but manifests as a small blast rather than a single bolt. Understandably, this scares infantry like few other weapons can, as it is quite capable of eviscerating entire Terminator units with a bit of luck. Thanks to the Distort rule, it can also put on some instant death wounds that can be particularly threatening to monstrous creatures or lone characters such as Mephiston. In a pinch, it can reliably penetrate most enemy armour too, and the range means that it can stay away from credible threats - much unlike the regular Wraithcannon.

It's like being hit by this guy.
Heavy Wraithcannon - Effectively a Wraithcannon with triple the range, the Heavy Wraithcannons borne into battle by the towering Wraithknight are brutal in all but their rate of fire. They are best used to 'snipe' transports, tanks and, owing to the potential for Instant Death, monstrous creatures from long range. The awesome power of Strength ten AP two shots from such a range is as much a crippling psychological weapon as it is mobile long distance tank hunter.

Scatter Laser - The staple heavy weapon choice for War Walkers and many other vehicles in the army, Scatter Lasers are so popular because of their high Strength and welcome rate of fire; four shots at Strength six is highly appealing in an edition where vehicles have "wounds", and for dealing with an increasing number of monstrous creatures. The boost to Ballistic Skill across the army means that these only got that much better, and despite their minimal AP of six, they are every bit a threat to well armoured foes owing to its other stats. An appealing additional special rule added to the Scatter Laser in the new codex was the Laser Lock, allowing any weapon fired after the Scatter Laser - provided the latter weapon hit at least once - to be twin-linked, increasing the viability of mixed heavy weapons for Wraithlords and War Walkers alike.

Death Spinner - The signature weapon of the Warp Spiders Aspect, Death Spinners are nasty ranged weapons that are unlikely to worry most opponents as much as they should. Two Strength six shots per weapon at a range of twelve inches, despite lacking an AP, are pretty nasty and are sure to force a lot of wounds through on almost any unit. Their minimal range may seem a crippling issue, but considering that they are carried by a unit that can run and then shoot or vice-versa, and then make an jetpack move in the assault phase, fear of reprisal should realistically be less pronounced. What really makes them so valuable though is the inclusion of the Monofilament rule; wounding any model automatically on a six doesn't matter too much for a Strength six gun, but the AP one does - it makes these weapons a serious threat to all manner of elite infantry and Riptides alike. The boosted Strength value against low Initiative enemies also serves to create a truly devastating unit against most monsters and even vehicles; the sheer speed of Warp Spiders, coupled with a plethora of Strength seven shots, is sure to wreck all but AV thirteen front and side vehicles with impunity and put the hurt on units such as Nob Bikerz and Carnifexes.

Shadow Weaver - Despite the peculiar week-early FAQ to this weapon that appears to have changed nothing at all, the Shadow Weaver is a strong weapon that functions quite similarly to a Death Spinner; a Strength of six, albeit with a minimal AP of six, give it a good buffer against a wide range of targets. The differences lie in it being a more artillery-based platform, firing a small blast with the barrage rules that is handy for singling out important models in a unit, or wiping out Heavy Weapons Teams with a single shot. Though it lacks the sheer firepower of a squad of Warp Spiders, it does compensate with a greatly increased range of forty-eight inches, allowing it to fire from across the board - potentially without the need for line of sight. Of course, the swiftness of Warp Spiders is such that this quickly becomes a moot point over the course of a match, but I digress. Again, the monofilament rule is particularly useful here, though the chances of rolling sixes are reduced because of the lack of probable hits as opposed to the spidery aspect. Acting as Strength seven against the majority of vehicles and light infantry does make it quite the appealing option, however.

Doomweaver - The older sibling of the Shadow Weaver, the Doomweaver is quite similar to its lesser incarnation, with a few key differences; it instead strikes at Strength seven initially, and is a large blast that causes pinning tests. Or, at least, the first fire mode functions that way; the sheer power of a potentially Strength eight large blast owing to the Monofilament rule is devastating, particularly when combined with the Barrage rules for determining cover saves, allocating wounds and damaging the side armour of vehicles. The potential for AP one wounds is far greater here, and the damage it can deal to vehicles and elite infantry is far more significant than the Shadow Weaver; of course, it is a more expensive and rarer option, though, as it is carried only by the Night Spinner skimmer tanks. Playing on the mobility of Eldar vehicles, the Doomweaver has a tasty alternate fire option; a template weapon with identical Strength and AP that loses out on Pinning, but gains the Torrent special rule. In a word; ouch! This will reave Infantry of all kinds despite the pathetic AP value of six, and the chance of AP one strikes becomes so much more valuable when paired with ignoring cover saves altogether. A nasty weapon that is useful against many targets and is alone a great reason to field a Night Spinner.

Spinneret Rifle - The very powerful but somewhat costly weapon option of choice for many Warp Spider Exarchs, a Spinneret Rifle fires one or two Strength six AP one shots at a range of eighteen inches, double-tapping at nine inches owing to its rapid fire classification. In a unit that already piles the wounds on virtually any enemy with a Toughness value that can be found, and has almost unparalleled mobility for a foot-based squad, this is a particularly nasty weapon that only adds to the woe felt by Terminators and other elite units when they face down Warp Spiders. Though it is still a Monofilament weapon, its main benefit is the bonus point of Strength against enemies either lacking or possessing a low Initiative value, such as vehicles; a penetrating result scored on any vehicle with this weapon has a fifty percent or greater chance to destroy it one hit. That it is carried by an Exarch with a Ballistic Skill of five and the potential for Precision Shots makes it truly nasty both for sniping out special weapon carriers and squad sergeants, as well as causing Pinning tests and locking them in place. Truly a weapon worthy of such a famous aspect.

Our guns have the same range as pistols? What trickery is this!
Shuriken Pistol - As silly as it may seem, a Shuriken Pistol is identical to a Shuriken Catapult in terms of range; the benefit of the Pistol is its status as a close combat weapon, while the Catapult fires an extra shot. Next to the pistols of other races, the Shuriken Pistol seems fairly standard; the difference lies in the Bladestorm special rule that can potentially make it a nasty monster hunter when used en masse - such as with Storm Guardians. Wounding anything on a six with an AP of two isn't as pronounced for Shuriken Pistols as it it is elsewhere owing to the lower rate of fire, but the potential to pick off a few Terminators or a wound or two off of a monstrous creature is well worth it for what will likely be an assault unit.

Shuriken Catapult - Though reviled by many owing to their pitiful range for a weapon that is carried primarily by a shooting-based unit, Shuriken Catapults nonetheless can reave entire units or a monstrous creature once they make into range with but a little luck. Though they are essentially a Bolter with half the range that similarly fires two shots at twelve inches, but allows the bearer to assault afterwards, the differences couldn't be greater; the addition of Bladestom turns a below average weapon into a death dealing torrent of fire. The addition of semi-Rending effectively means that no unit with a Toughness value is safe from them; a Swarmlord with Iron Arm will receive no remorse from these, nor will a Wraithknight or Riptide. They are absolutely brutal and, provided they are used in numbers, can annihilate squads of Terminators, Tactical Marines, or even tough monsters such as Trygons in but a single volley. Statistically, a squad of twenty Guardians armed with naught but these weapons will - provided they are all in range, which is no easy task admittedly - average about four Rending wounds, outright killing many monsters and, combined with other non-Rending wounds based on the target, can easily wipe out units many times their cost in points. Bladestorm goes a long way to justifying the shortcomings of both the weapon and the unit that carries them, giving them unprecedented firepower at short ranges. Battle Focus also serves to let Guardians or any other unit fire these and move out of range, or move into range to maximise their damage potential; a truly amazing rule that will come to define the Eldar forces.

Avenger Shuriken Catapult - Given that the Avenger Shuriken Catapult is identical in all but one category to a regular Shuriken Catapult, I do not feel the need to reiterate statements that should be fresh in the audience's mind. However, that one difference is quite significant; a boosted range of eighteen inches, when paired with Battle Focus, means that Dire Avengers can reliably go toe to toe with Tactical Marines and their ilk at range and, with Bladestorm, outmatch them in terms of raw killing power by a considerable margin.

Shuriken Cannon - Between three shots, a Strength of six, an AP of five and a range of twenty four inches, it isn't difficult to perceive why many Eldar players prefer these over Shuriken Catapults on their fast skimmers. The boosted Strength provides less of a reliance on the Bladestorm rule to damage higher Toughness targets, while the range lets the unit keep away from targets they don't want to engage up close. The extra shot also increases the chances of a successful to wound roll of a six, making it a much more viable weapon against heavily armoured foes. It also has the means to damage light vehicles from other armies, and as such is quite a bit more versatile than its smaller cousins.

Shrieker Cannon - Available only to the Death Jester, a Shrieker Cannon is functionally identical to a Shuriken Cannon with one subtle addition; that of causing Pinning tests. Whilst certainly a handy rule to have, it does rely on the weapon scoring an unsaved wound first, and though the Shrieker Cannon is in capable hands and is quite powerful, it is unreliable - particularly in an edition where high Leadership values are common. It remains a good weapon for a decent unit upgrade.

Heavy Weapons? What does that mean?
Vibro Cannon - An interesting and popular weapon that has seen a change mostly to the way it hits targets, a Vibro Cannon is a neat heavy weapon option that seems rather unappealing at first, but quickly becomes more valuable when its special rule is considered. Typically, you will field these in a three-strong Vauls' Wrath Support Battery squad, and the reason for that is due to the fundamentals of the weapons. For each hit beyond the first by the same unit with Vibro Cannons, the Strength of each shot increases by one, and the AP of each shot decreases by one. This means that, for example, if three Vibro Cannons all hit a Land Raider, each shot will be resolved at Strength nine and AP two. With the bonus to Ballistic Skill for all Eldar, the chances of getting three hits isn't too slim, though it is more likely you will net two hits and thus have two Strength eight AP three shots. Though they are Pinning, they are definitely intended for taking wounds off of typically Fearless monstrous creatures, sniping off a few Terminators or Tyranid Warriors, and destroying light to medium vehicles with moderate success. They are cheap and easy to bring, as they do not cost any additional points over the default weaponry of the Support Batteries. They are very much more cost-effective krak missiles for your army, and viewing them in this light does give them quite a bit of mileage.

Did you find this article helpful in your efforts to understand the new Eldar force? Please let us know in the comments section below - we appreciate any and all feedback.


  1. You missed Prism cannon, but a great review. I do enjoy your reviews....

  2. Your reviews are VERY useful. What would be your favorite all comer load out for Wraithguard?

    1. That's a tough one to be sure. The Wraithcannons are suited to destroying everything from Tactical Squads to Rhinos, Trygons and Land Raiders. The only thing they don't really deal well with are units with strong cover saves or lots of bodies, such as Plaguebearers, Cultists and Termagants. The D-Scythes help here, but they are expensive.

      I think that the Wraithcannon would serve as the stronger all comer choice, but that is only because the basic Eldar troops excel at shredding anything with a Toughness value. Plus, few things come close to the devastation and objective-defending potential of Wraithguard armed with D-Scythes.

  3. Are you sure D-scythes ignore cover saves?