2 Jun 2013

Eldar Wraithwing - Revisited

Howdy all, Learn2Eel here, and I'm eager to talk about an army list I've long wanted to do - the Eldar Wraithwing, a force so tough and small that it really defines the term 'elite force'. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on how to use such an army!

Today is a different day, but it is nonetheless a good day to discuss the Wraithwing once more; an army that is growing in popularity by the second, particularly with the new models and rules to support it. If there is anything I have learned from the new Eldar codex so far, it is that themed armies are very much viable competitively; a mark of a truly rewarding and well written book. With that in mind, let us get to it!
Elf ghosts in SPEEESSSH!!

With the release of the new Eldar codex, players of all kinds have been given glorious new tools for their forces; updated units that function in a sensible and effective manner, or entirely distinct options that serve to spice up the existing roster. Though it has yet to be released at the time of publishing, Games Workshop have broken new ground with a codex-sized Iyanden themed supplement, focusing on the lineage and tragedy of the fallen Craftworld. To fit along with this, the tough Wraithguard have been redone in a far cheaper plastic kit that allows them to wield two distinct weapon options, with the added bonus of being able to field melee Wraithguard - simply named Wraithblades - out of the kit as well. Additionally, and standing well above any other model in both size and its capacity as a centre-piece display, the Wraithknight - a knight titan - strides the battlefields; with impressive firepower and survivability that would make even a Riptide blush, it highlights the incredible new potential of an "all-Wraith" or "Wraithwing" force. Designing a themed Iyanden army list has never been easier, with the new Spiritseer making for both an impressive commander model, and allowing the Wraithguard and Wraithblades to be taken as Troops without the need for squishy squad sergeants. With the removal of the irritating Wraithsight, and cost drops for most of the units involved, this is surely a mark of Phil Kelly's approval for such an army. Of course, the idea of a Wraithwing army wasn't always so appealing....


If you are an average Warhammer 40000 player or hobbyist, this was likely the first word that came to mind. What indeed. Gee, that Learn2Eel guy is crazy. Well I'm here to tell you that yes I did, and now with flower petals for your Tesla weaponry! Oops, wrong article. Anyway, Eldar Wraith units tend to be viewed with both scepticism and a lot of positivity - for what they bring to the table, they tend to be cheap, strong and unreasonably hard to shift. Wraithlords boast the highest toughness of any unit in a standard Warhammer 40000 codex, with Khorne's number making them immune to bolters. If that doesn't confuse you, they one up Tzeentch with their strength too. The little guys, Wraithguard, those larger-than-life Eldar Space Marines, are pretty strong and tough too - able to laugh off a gauss flayer as easily as a lasgun. Autocannons don't really frighten them either. If that doesn't give you an idea on just how durable Wraith units are, note that you would need to 180 S4 wounds simply to kill a 10-strong Wraithguard unit, and that doesn't include actually hitting them first! And unless you have krak grenades, most infantry units will be forced to flee against a Wraithlord that simply cannot be harmed by anything short of a heavy bolter. As well, a Wraithlord boasts the highest possible Strength in the game - Strength 10 - and thus is one of the few monstrous creatures that doesn't need to Smash when assaulting a vehicle or attempting to instant death a multi-wound model. It is also great when your Wraithlord - as a certified character - issues a challenge, wounds the enemy challenger with Hammer of Wrath, and causes them to die before they even get to strike; hint, it is hilarious against someone like Typhus or Vulkan.

If you hadn't guessed by now, this was the main (quirky) introduction to my original Wraithwing - The Eldar Variety article from several months prior, viewable here, and it serves to show how outlandish, but certainly possible, this kind of army list was. In the old codex, all Wraith units - with the exception of the Wraithknight - were incredibly expensive and offered very little in the way of long range firepower, meaning more mobile forces could simply stay out of range. That the unit was required to be ten-strong to be taken as a Troops choice, precluding the use of a Wave Serpent or any kind of regular transport, led to an army that could be defeated in the movement phase alone. Against conventional firepower, it was - and remains - an army that hates fixed score wounding above all else, such as poison or sniper weapons, but will laugh off most anything else. Thankfully, much of this has changed, and serves to make the army far more flexible and competitive; sadly, my sense of humour hasn't. Wraithguard have seen significant cost reductions that, when paired with the loss of a squad sergeant Spiritseer as opposed to the cheap commander, free up more points as more units are included. Though they are still unable to offer any resistance at ranges above twelve inches, though their Wraithknight and Wraithlord cousins certainly shore up this deficiency. Considering also that smaller units of five or six can be taken as Troops and thus carried around in the incredibly mobile Wave Serpents, there is now little need to view the army solely as a short ranged force that plods up the field; though that approach remains possible, Wraithguard and Wraithblades excel up close and should be ferried there as soon as possible. Of course, this doesn't mean the army is now without weakness; far from it.

Of course, Wraith units also have some laughably bad weaknesses that you really need to be aware of if you want to field them in any capacity. See that Dark Eldar player smirking across the desk, encouraging you to play an entirely Wraith army? Yeah, as you might have guessed, a high volume of Poisoned or high strength/rending firepower - available in massed quantities from Dark Eldar, Grey Knights and the like - will absolutely mess the army up in short order. If you are running Wraithguard as your main Troops units, Battle Cannons will become your worst nightmare, and force your already plodding units to hug cover or seek support from a Wraithseer. The army is almost universally outnumbered, and every unit barring the Wraithseer needs to be kept on a leash - if any fall out of range of an Eldar psyker, they could very well end up being useless for an entire turn due to Wraithsight.

Have I been here before?
You said it, boy. Dark Eldar and armies with massed Rending or Sniper weapons remain an Iyanden themed forces' worst nightmare, because they don't care about the high average Toughness of the army - what the force relies upon to survive, and pays out the nose for. While such armies certainly aren't as common now, they are very much a force you need to plan for; Dark Eldar are becoming increasingly popular owing to their capability to counter many of the new armies with surprising effectiveness. Grey Knights with their massed psycannons are brutal for any foe to face, particularly one with few models to lose. As well, Tau and Imperial Guard with the option to field more snipers than you can count on two hands, are relevant now in a big way; while not particularly common, there are nonetheless army lists designed specifically to deal with forces such as an Eldar Wraithwing or a monstrous horde. Additionally, our Wraithlords had to stay close to support the Wraithguard owing to their Wraithsight; though certainly a sound tactic, it nonetheless forced the army to bunch up and removed a lot of tactical flexibility and target engagement potential. Mitigation formerly came from the squad-leading Spiritseers using Conceal to grant their Wraithguard units a 5+ cover save while slogging through open ground to deal with masses of high Strength and low AP weapons - such as missile launchers and battle cannons - or the Wraithknight's incredible ability to confer Feel No Pain on any given unit. Against poisoned and sniper wounds, though, there was little defence in an army that could not use transports at all.

Now though, we have other options; we have a true fire-magnet, albeit an expensive one, in the form of the Wraithknight, as six wounds with good saves that can dance out of range consistently will be difficult for many armies to deal with. The mammoth Wraithlords now have greater access to heavy weapons, with all of them being significantly cheaper to grant the army some much needed long-distance firepower to deal with such imposing threats as battle cannon-armed tanks or small units of snipers. The use of transports owing to the smaller minimum squad size for Troops choices also allows Wave Serpents to provide effective fire support, durability and mobility for these units; poisoned shots won't worry a tank, and nor will all forces be equipped to deal with both a surge of Toughness eight monsters and armour twelve fast skimmers in a short time. When moving up the board to get in range with their unparalleled weapons - in terms of raw destructive capability - or nasty melee attacks, the Wraith units will have a greater protection than what could ever be achieved before, and will be able to react and move against a range of targets with far greater fluidity and freedom. The loss of Wraithsight is invaluable here, allowing the transport-laden Wraiths to advance while the Wraithlords are free to provide fire support as they advance. And of course, few armies ever want to be staring down - or, more accurately, up - at a towering Wraithknight advancing to their lines. Aggression, manipulating your movement phase as much as you can - the Wraithknight is a Jump Monstrous Creature for a reason - and making sure to engage the correct targets will be key to success with what is still a very elite force. And if you feel that you have the tools necessary as both a general and a hobbyist to do them justice, then they will truly be a very rewarding force.

So why would you field them? Firstly, Wraith units look and feel awesome - their aesthetic design and background make them some of the most kick-backside models in the Eldar force. Their unique, sleek models are very much a stylish clash with most other Warhammer 40000 models. Not to mention, their rules are good too - Wraithlords, Wraithseers, Wraithguard and the like are all good units. Running an army of them is fun and fluffy for an Iyanden player, or awesome for any budding Eldar player that likes their models. It is an engaging and challenging army to use that is not without faults, but also has some strengths, making it almost a paper-scissors army that works very well against some and crumbles against others. Whether that is to your tastes is purely up to you, but I find that kind of army both unique and interesting from a gameplay perspective - its elite nature forces you to really think about what you need to do to take victory. 

Very true, my good chap. The new plastic Wraithguard box is a sumptuous delight for any budding Eldar player, with the option for two units, each with a pair of weapon options. Wraithguard - and Wraithblades, by extension - are larger and more intimidating than before, with a nice, cleaned up look that gives them the freshness they so deserved. They also gained a noticeable boost on the battlefield, with their potent short ranged weapons becoming even more deadly against most vehicles and non-vehicle units; the option for AP two flamers allows them to be amazingly nasty in small numbers against large units of infantry. Wraithblades are the new Eldar equivalent of Terminators, with either a wealth of high Strength AP three attacks, or only a few resolved at AP two but with the benefit of a tasty force shield. The mighty Wraithlord, despite a cost increase, really benefits from a bonus attack when locked in melee, particularly for Smash purposes. That it can also take a ghost glaive alongside two heavy weapons that no longer count as twin-linked when taken in pairs is just gravy, and allows them to be a truly effective dual purpose unit fulfilling the roles of both fire support and melee power house. The removal of Wraithsight altogether is a massive boon for this army, as is the inclusion of the Wraithknight; incredible speed and durability serve to make it the perfect line-breaker and fire magnet for the rest of your forces, and it is devastating at range or in combat to boot. The Wraithseer remains a highly effective commander for your forces, and it will be interesting to see how Forge World FAQs it to match up alongside its revamped Wraith buddies. As to Wraiths as a fighting force, I feel their cost drops, stat boosts, removal of Wraithsight and general boost to durability - mostly owing to the new cover rules of the edition - make them a more balanced force to control, with less experience required to make them a truly effective fighting force.

Hell, I would slap myself over the head if I didn't mention the Hemlock Wraithfighter at least once; this fighter is an expensive, fragile but nasty unit against enemies that either rely on Fearless or have low Leadership scores across the board. How this stacks up alongside the other more traditional Wraith units remains to be seen, but as I have highlighted below, its strange Leadership-based attacks are sure to work particularly well with a Wraithseer....

As I am going to cover all of the new Wraith units in extensive detail over the next few weeks through my main Tactica series, I am going to leave you guys with my prior evaluations of the available Wraith units, with some little bolded touches added in.
"A little to the left." "No." "Fine. No bone-signing for you."

Wraithseer - This is a Forgeworld unit that is approved for Warhammer 40000, and thus should be acceptable for use in most gaming circles. Just be wary that certain tournaments will prohibit the use of any Forgeworld models. It is a HQ choice that can't be your Warlord, or rather, you have to field another HQ choice that isn't a Wraithseer, as it can't fill your mandatory HQ slot. Aside from that, it is essentially a Wraithlord that doubles as a psyker - though I am unsure as to whether it has access to rulebook powers like other regular Eldar units do, a Wraithseer has its fair share of good stuff. Firstly, it has an extended Wraithsight-preventing range that will really help in a Wraithwing army. From there, it has a distinct advantage over regular Wraithlords in terms of its statline; it has a higher Weapon Skill, an extra attack and wound, as well as a very handy 5+ invulnerable save. This means that not only is it a lot more survivable than a regular Wraithlord - at least when they are out of cover - a Wraithseer is also a much better combatant, and can be given some crazy additional weapon options such as a D-Cannon, Bright Lance or Star Cannon. It comes with the equivalent of a Wraithsword already, and thus is good at maximising its damage output - it also handily makes the Wraithseers attacks count as AP1.The Wraithseer also helps out your shooting, with cover saves for enemy units being reduced by one if a shooting attack at them was resolved by the Wraithseer itself or within 12" of the Wraithseer. Remember how nasty Wraithguard guns are? Can anyone imagine how nasty this is now with stronger ranged weapons across the board and easier access to heavy guns on Wraithlord?

As for psychic powers, the Wraithseer provides three at Mastery Level 1, and doesn't need line of sight to cast them; one forces an enemy unit in 18" to take a Pinning test at -2 to their Leadership, which can be very effective if used against the right units. Combined with a Hemlock Wraithfighter, this will be brutal. The second gives a single Wraithlord or Wraithguard unit within 12" Fleet, which is very handy to increase the chances of a successful charge. The last, and perhaps most interesting, gives one Wraithguard or Wraithlord unit, or even the Wraithseer itself, within 6" Feel No Pain - apparently, this has been specified in a 6th Edition FAQ to count as Feel No Pain (+4). I can't find that FAQ, so I won't say this is correct, but it is interesting to note nonetheless; an entire unit of Toughness 6 3+ armoured Wraithguard with Feel No Pain sounds like candy to me. Candy? You mean chocolate fudge with caramel and vanilla ice cream and cheddar cheese! But mostly the last one. Why? Give this to a Wraithknight and see how many people feel faint. All up, the Wraithseer is essential as one of the HQ choices in a themed Wraithwing army, as though it is expensive, it provides some much welcomed Spiritseer buffs, firepower and close combat threat.

Wraithguard - The main core of a Wraithwing army, Wraithguard are normally an Elites choice for Codex: Eldar, but when brought up to ten-strong and given a spiritseer upgrade for the Warlock, the unit suddenly becomes a Troops choice. A unit of S5 T6 3+ armoured infantry with AP2 guns that wound on a 2+ or destroy vehicles with impunity? Not to mention they cause instant death for every six on a to wound roll? Oh yes. Monstrous Creatures, Land Raiders, Rhinos, Terminators - you name them, and they will die if they get into range of Wraithguard. Of course, Wraithguard do have some crippling issues you need to contend with - the first is the puny range of their guns, with only a 12" firing base to work with. This doesn't give them a lot of room to breathe against fast-moving assault armies. Too bad those enemies will get roasted by the new D-Scythes. The latter is their cost - Wraithguard are awesome, strong and tough, but there are a lot of ways to kill them quite quickly, usually involving weaponry or units that are commonplace for armies such as Imperial Guard or Grey Knights. Still, these guys are awesome, and against the unprepared enemy, they will absolutely brutalise foes.

Wraithlord - Your big, tough monsters that can withstand punishment from nearly any source, Wraithlords are your hard hitters and will be the primary source of long-range firepower in your army. Wraithlords do have their weaknesses - their few number of attacks, their vulnerability to high strength low AP weapons such as lascannons if cover isn't used correctly, and Wraithsight, which can be thankfully mitigated with other units in a Wraithwing. Still, Wraithlords are very, very effective - despite being slow, they can pack a few long-range guns that, coupled with their good Ballistic Skill, can cause quite a bit of damage early in the game. With two flamers on their wrists, they can also burn through horde units with impunity that would otherwise pose a serious worry to them as far as tarpitting due to their few attacks. Wraithlords have the major advantage of being cheap as chips - I am hard pressed to think of a monstrous creature with a stat-line that imposing (they are immune to all forms of small-arms fire barring splinter weaponry) that is so incredibly cheap. Take three. Take two. Wraithknight ahoy!

Now, as I raised in regards to the Wraithseer, you need another non-Wraith HQ to actually make a legal army. The two best options for this, given the points cost of all the other units in the army, would either be a kitted out Farseer for psychic defence, buffs and the like, or an Avatar simply because having an extra awesome monstrous creature rounds off the whole 'monstrous' theme of the army. It's really up to you.
"I feel the blue. It sings to me."
Wraithwing armies are definitely going to be a big hit now, with impressive centre-piece models, cheap and efficient plastic kits, more diversity and a greater selection of units. The flexibility of small Wraithguard/blades units as Troops that can be mounted in Wave Serpents as opposed to just ten-strong foot-sloggers is simply unreal. Games Workshop have realized this too, with the new Iyanden supplement signalling a big - and unusual - move into themed supplement books to provide additional content for fans of that force. With the option to make a cheap, elite, easily assembled, subtly painted and naturally attractive force now open for Eldar players, I can see Wraithwing armies becoming one of the most popular themed armies in the game; though I am as yet unsure as to their competitive place, I think they will rank favourably and do very well with the hand of a skilled general.  I have myself been very anxious to see that Wraith armies were done justice in the new codex; with my fears absolved, I am eager to start up a themed Wraith force over the coming months. You can be sure that I will be posting up my experiences with the army on the table-top as I come to grips with the codex, and our humble Mr Jax will be sure to give you some great insights as to how to effectively paint such a visually striking force. Until next time!

Did you enjoy this retrospective article, or do you feel that we should leave our old articles out? Let us know in the comments section below - we appreciate any and all feedback!


  1. I must say that your articles are by far some of the best on the internet. You strike a very solid balance between pros and cons, giving thought to each as well as elaborating on points and assessments and supporting your assertions. While I'm not an Eldar player, it is very interesting to read these sorts of articles and learn the tricks that might be coming up with the new armies and units. The fact that you don't obsess about the minutiae and focus on the idea and principle of something is a lot easier to both interpret for practical purposes and remember when it comes to playing a game.

    Thank you very much for your exceptionally well written articles.

    1. Wow, I'm gushing! Thank you very much for your feedback! I try my best to be as balanced as possible with my articles, as when it all comes down to it, every gamer will have a different opinion on how to use any given unit.

  2. Great article! You show an excellent understanding of the subject and you convey it well in your writing. I always enjoy reading your posts.

  3. Wraithlord is only s8 now. And are you sure they still have wraithsight? Cause in army list picture i am looking now there is no such thing on wraith units.

    1. I touched on the fact that Wraithsight was removed - the indented parts in the article are quotes from an article written several months ago - but not that Wraithlords had their Strength reduced by two; frankly, because of the bonus attack, they actually average the same number of attacks at Strength 10 as before when they Smash.

  4. Extremely detailed and interesting article. You really do provide an unbiased and frank view in all your articles. Do you mind if I add a link on my own blog to this site? Really excellent work.

    1. Hey mate, you can link us if you like - I can add you to our blog roll as well if that would be helpful (we only implemented it less then a week ago); we are more then happy to have other passionate bloggers featured on our blog.

  5. Hi Jax that would be great thanks :)