4 May 2015

Eldar - Codex Summary Part III

Welcome all to the third entry in my Codex: Eldar summary and review! While the HQ slot obviously provides Eldar forces with natural leaders and awesome psykers, the Troops slot nonetheless forms the crucial core of the army whether as part of a Combined Arms detachment or when using the all-new Craftworld Warhost detachment. Some codices are hamstrung deeply by their lack of versatility in the Troops slot or even any really solid choices, but this is most definitely not the case with Eldar; all units are solid at worst and some are counted among the best Troops squads in the entirety of Warhammer 40,000. As a veteran of many other armies, this kind of luxury should not go unappreciated as it makes such a huge difference to designing lists that are both fun and competitive at every level of play. I hope you enjoy this article!

Exarchs - Before covering the individual Aspects in this and following codex summary articles, I wanted to go over the changes all Exarchs underwent in the new codex. These surely must classify as the best squad sergeants in the game now with all the stat boosts they get over regular members of their Aspect in addition to the all-new extra Wound, making them easily comparable to lesser HQ choices form many other codices. Heck, each Exarch even has their own unique ability that comes stock in their base price that replaces the purchasable and often inferior Exarch Powers of 6th Edition; an example of this is enforcing a -2 penalty to the Leadership of enemy units locked in combat, or providing re-rolls to failed Leadership tests for the parent unit. That the Exarchs themselves remain a mere 10 point upgrade over a standard member of their Aspect is utterly ridiculous when you compare them to unit sergeants from other codices, even the very recent Codex: Skitarri that solidified the trend of two-wound characters leading squads. Basically, you want these mini-HQs leading your Aspect squads all the time as they are simply too darned good to pass up even if just for the stat boosts they provide. Changing the Exarchs to now keep the same armour save as the rest of the unit is a bit of a downer but in no way compares to the awesome buffs they received elsewhere, making them absolutely fantastic additions to any Eldar army.


Guardian Defenders - Billed as the citizen militia of the Craftworlds, Guardian Defenders are one of the more unusual units in the game in the sense that they are a Troops choice that isn't all that great at holding objectives, and nor is it particularly mobile in its own right. They don't really classify as "cheap" at just under 10 points per model, they are living bolter bait with Toughness 3 and 5+ armour saves, their guns are hideously short-ranged and they lack any kind of Leadership-circumvention to ensure they stay put. However, much like many other Eldar units that seem over-priced for what they do, the real value of Guardians emerges once you factor in their various special rules and the codex' easy access to awesome defensive psychic powers and unit buffs. I find the comparison between Guardian Defenders and Tau Fire Warriors to be an apt one considering both units have similar stats, albeit with the latter choice having superior armour and an increase of 18" to the range on their Strength 5 guns. While Fire Warriors seem like the obvious winner, their damage output against elite units is far overshadowed by the Guardian Defenders who conveniently have access to one of the most mobile dedicated transports in the game, the Defenders can actually somewhat survive in a melee, Guardians have superior Ballistic Skill and thus are not as reliant on synergies with other squads, and Eldar natively have higher base Leadership. The combination of Battle Focus and Fleet isn't as important for Guardians as it might be for Dire Avengers, but it still maximises their ranged damage output by potentially improving their chances of being in-range to shoot on a given turn while allowing them to use cover in an aggressive fashion. While I will refrain from saying I prefer Guardians to Fire Warriors, the truth is that many Eldar units are stronger in practice than they are on paper where every inch counts for their shooting as well as their greater access to potential buffs. They aren't a great squad by any means but they are devastating in Wave Serpents and make for a good solid core to the Guardian Battlehost.

Storm Guardians - The idea behind Storm Guardians seems absolutely insane given they bear the same stats as Guardian Defenders while exchanging their potent short-ranged guns for a pistol and melee weapon, but they are again another solid unit that does quite well once you actually ignore the theory-crafting and use them. Fleet and access to both Eldar and Dark Eldar transports means they are incredibly mobile and can easily get around provided they don't lose their ferry, while assault grenades and any of the various powers from Runes of Battle available by employing a cheap Warlock make them a decent enough combat unit, surprisingly. However, the real value of Storm Guardians is that they are a cheap Troops choice with a minimum squad size of eight models that can bring up to two special weapons, ranging from flamers to fusion guns, while retaining their "average" Ballistic Skill 4 typical of all Eldar infantry. As such, using a unit of eight with a pair of meltaguns in a mostly standard Wave Serpent gives you a mobile and flexible pair of Objective Secured units that put out very efficient long-range and short-range firepower for their cost, while the Guardians themselves can be used to "bully" weaker units in melee if necessary. Like Guardian Defenders, Storm Guardians gain massive boosts from the Guardian Stormhost by accessing two free powers weapons and the aforementioned pair of special weapons also at no cost; the choice between the two distinct formations isn't exactly an easy one and I feel will often come down to player preference based on whether they want to play a more static or mobile play-style.

Windriders - While I don't consider myself one for hyperbole and I like to think that I am above over-exaggerating the effect any given unit might have on the competitive meta, after having used these in quite a few games already I find myself being helplessly drawn to the conclusion that they are indeed one of the very best units in the game right now. Windriders were already fantastic in the 6th Edition codex due to their mix of powerful close-range shooting, scoring potential, good survivability and unparalleled mobility. Enter the 7th Edition core rulebook where the new Jink rules and heavier focus on mobility in Maelstrom of War missions gave Windriders another huge boost to their competitive place, but truly it is one minor change introduced by their latest codex rendition that simply pushed them over the edge into over-powered territory. Make no mistake, the option to take a heavy weapon on each individual Windrider in a squad might seem expensive by almost doubling the base cost of the model, but the ridiculous increase in the units' effective firepower is almost incomprehensibly good. The basic 12" ranged twin-linked shuriken catapult used by Windriders is nasty enough at close quarters and serves to limit just how good they are as an objective taker by forcing them to zip around if they wish to shoot, meaning they will often contribute nothing at all in the shooting phase across entire games. Introducing the option to take 36" ranged scatter lasers that fire four Strength 6 shots per model is just silly as you then take away the only actual limitation of the unit, providing a hyper-mobile Troops choice with Objective Secured the effective firepower of Broadside Battlesuits in equivalent points. The ability to sit out of most opponents' effective range with a unit that can move between 12" and 36" a turn that also has the ability to "Jump-Shoot-Jump" via its free move in the assault phase is brutal enough, but combine that with all the ridiculous buffs offered by Farseer and Warlock Skyrunners and you end up with by far the premier Troops choice in the Eldar codex, if not the game as a whole. For those that still aren't believers in just how good these are given that their base cost remained the same, stay tuned for my in-depth Windrider review that I should complete in the next few weeks or months; the theory really doesn't do this kind of unit justice.

Rangers - As far as sniper units in 7th Edition are concerned, Rangers probably rank as one of the better ones due to the fact that they are decently priced and innately have the Shrouded special rule to make up for their otherwise low survivability. Being Ballistic Skill 4 models with 36" ranged sniper rifles is fairly decent if you want a static Troops choice that has the potential to get a few Rending wounds here or there, but the massive nerf to sniper weapons' functionality against vehicles makes these generally inferior to Guardians as far as Troops that actually do more than just sit around. Having a static Troops choice is only really useful in Eternal War missions, and while Rangers certainly can be pretty quick with Infiltrate and Move Through Cover on top of the usual Fleet and Battle Focus, the second they move out of cover is generally the signal that their lives are about to end. Sniper units just tend not to do much of anything in 7th Edition unless they have extra special rules like Deathmarks to make up for the core issue that they lack the number of shots and reliability to efficiently do much damage to anything short of sniping a few wounds off of monstrous creatures. In that sense, you take Rangers solely for the fact that they are a cheap squad with both Objective Secured and Shrouded that can use Infiltrate and Move Through Cover to try and snatch some key objective points in Maelstrom of War missions, or sit behind cover on your backfield objectives in Eternal War missions. They aren't really useful in any other role, sadly.

Dire Avengers - Much like Guardian Defenders before them, this staple of the Eldar codex hasn't really changed much between editions save for a few minor buffs here and there that serve to make them even more generally recommendable. They remain a Troops choice and are part of two separate formations in the codex, both of which buff this otherwise good but not great unit to ridiculous levels by further boosting their already strong shooting. Overall, they just generally shine more than Guardian Defenders as they gain significant improvements relative to the points differential between the two units; a 4+ armour save means the majority of weapons carried by standard infantry don't ignore their standard saving throw. Similarly, an increase of 6" to their gun range compared to Guardians means most opponents won't be in charge or rapid fire range after the unit fires, making the Avengers' Battle Focus even more valuable as a result. The differences on paper don't seem like much but they make a huge difference in most games, especially considering Dire Avengers have higher Leadership values and are thus less likely to flee after taking expected casualties. Another point of note is that Dire Avengers no longer always have Counter-Attack but can instead choose between two distinct Defence Tactics representing their battlefield role, the first of which allows them to Overwatch at Ballistic Skill 2 with their Avenger Shuriken Catapults. This is a very nice little buff that further increases the gap between Dire Avengers and Guardian Defenders, while the alternate ability to gain both Counter-Attack and Stubborn in a pinch is generally less useful than the first aspect of the rule but can be very handy if you absolutely need the Avengers to hold a unit up for a turn. Windriders aside, I see Dire Avengers as the go-to Troops choice for many Eldar lists given how solid and downright nasty they are. A nice note here is that the Exarch now has a built-in 4+ invulnerable save that, coupled with the 2 Wounds and any of the various upgraded melee weapon options, makes him almost the equivalent of an Autarch at a budget price.


Howling Banshees - It's almost unbelievable just how massive a buff this unit received, even if everyone knew this particular aspect absolutely needed it more than anyone else in the codex. While I definitely don't feel these are over-powered in the slightest and fall just short of being truly excellent due to a number of different factors, they nonetheless went from being easily the worst squad in the codex to an all-round well designed unit. Compared to their 6th Edition incarnation, Howling Banshees now ignore all Initiative penalties for charging through terrain which is a sorely needed trait of any half-decent assault squad, and they crucially prevent opponents from firing Overwatch against them. Not only does this mean their Initiative 5 will no longer be wasted by charging into cover-camping enemies, but they also prevent units from getting any kind of defensive fire against the Banshees and thus ignore a lot of potential wounds that would otherwise halt them in their tracks. Hilariously enough, one could see Banshees as one of the few units capable of shutting down Wraithguard armed with D-Scythes, though obviously the lack of an in-codex assault transport and the general fragility of the Banshees hampers that idea. Generally, the unit still suffers from unit-wide Strength 3 which makes them fairly underwhelming in many combats, making the Howling Banshee Exarch armed with an Executioner virtually mandatory - on that note, she is insane in the new codex with the stat buff and forcing opponents to take Leadership tests with a -2 modifier. When you consider that Banshees now also add 3" to their charge moves rather than solely Run moves (they retain that benefit as well) and received a 2 point reduction per model that brings them in line with Dire Avengers, it is easy to see why everyone is jumping for joy about these ladies right now.

Striking Scorpions - Whereas Howling Banshees specifically excel at cutting through 3+ armoured "elites" with their usage of power swords, Striking Scorpions are undeniably the best overall close combat squad in the codex due to their greater survivability, deployment options and awesome Mandiblasters. With 3+ armour saves and innate combination of both Stealth and Shrouded, Scorpions are far more likely to reach a combat than the Banshees; combine this with Infiltrate as well as Move Through Cover and it is all-but guaranteed that they will fight something in close combat. On the note of Shrouded, this particularly awesome addition is wrought by their all-new Shadowstrike special rule; it provides them with Shrouded up until they either shoot their weapons or fight in close combat for the first time, though they do retain Stealth after their Shadowstrike expires. This means the unit has a 4+ cover save in the open and a 2+ cover save in almost any kind of cover save for craters, making them incredibly hard to kill unless the opponent has AP3 Ignores Cover weaponry; that they Infiltrate and thus can start the game in close proximity to enemy units or Outflank means they don't require a transport of their own. Each member of the unit has two Strength 4 AP6 attacks or three per model on the charge, making them an excellent unit to fight hordes and other lightly armoured units with; they are superior to Banshees against almost everything and are startlingly equivalent where Space Marines are concerned (due to the Mandiblasters). However, while gaining Shrouded is a very significant buff for an already decent unit, the change to Mandiblasters is easily their most awesome change and gives them a gigantic boost to their effective damage output against everything short of vehicles. Rather than functioning as a passable but always functioning form of Hammer of Wrath at Strength 3, it now inflicts automatic hits that always wound on a 4+ - bypassing Toughness values and resistances - that instead wounds on a 6+ against gargantuan creatures, regardless of individual model proximity. Combine this with an Exarch that gains bonus attacks based on the difference between his Initiative 6 and his opponents' Initiative in the first round of a challenge - the same Exarch that can have a non-unwieldy power fist - and you have one heck of a high-value combat unit.

Fire Dragons - While all of the craze about Wraithguard with Destroyer Weapons is deserved and not at all unexpected, I feel like Fire Dragons have really fallen under the radar of those reviewing the codex despite how awesome they actually are. These have always been among the more competitive units in the Eldar army because they are a squad entirely armed with melta weaponry in a codex filled with supremely mobile and durable transports, making them one of the best value anti-tank units in the game. They are quite tanky as far as Eldar infantry are concerned with 3+ armour saves while their minimum squad size makes them the codex equivalent of classic Sternguard Veterans, though the squad does sadly lack the means to use a Drop Pod outside of combining hilariously with any Dark Eldar character equipped with a Webway Portal. They have Battle Focus to minimize the risks involved with their minimal weapon range, while each member is equipped with Melta Bombs so as to obliterate any kind of vehicular opponent in a melee; conveniently, their fusion guns are also assault weapons. I think the only issue anyone actually has with Fire Dragons is that they aren't quite as nasty as Wraithguard overall, though they are cheaper to compensate and can handily fit into Falcons and Venoms. However, where they excel is in causing Explodes! results against darn near everything, making one Fire Dragon often more frightening than a single Wraithguard; their free boost in the new codex is a further +1 modifier to rolls on the vehicle damage chart, meaning they cause vehicles to explode or strip D3 hull points off of super heavies on the roll of a 4+. Regardless of their comparative worth next to Wraithguard, they are a fantastic tank-hunting unit in their own right and still double as monster or elite hunters in a pinch all at a very affordable price. Need I even mention how insane they become when they gain Ballistic Skill 5 from the Aspect Shrine formation, or that their Exarch is made more efficient with a free re-roll on any one to-hit, to-wound or armour penetration roll he or she makes each turn? If you like these but are afraid they don't stack up well next to Wraithguard, don't worry; they are still a great unit that you should use.

Wraithguard - I don't think I really need to explain why exchanging the Distort rule for the Destroyer rule at no extra cost or accompanying it with any other changes is both silly and makes me worry for future game balance, but at the very least I will point out how much better Wraithguard are now. The weapons retain their Strength 10 for Instant Death purposes and are still AP2 with a minimal 12" range, though much like with the Iyanden supplement, you can mitigate their limited shooting arcs with Battle Focus attained through the Wraith Host formation. In terms of raw damage output, the Wraithcannons are identical against all single-wound models and superior in every way against multiple-wound models due to each successful wound removing D3 wounds regardless of whether Instant Death is applicable or not. This means they entirely bypass Eternal Warrior - the only real defence against Instant Death - and each roll of a 6 removes D6+6 wounds rather than just inflicting Instant Death regardless of Toughness, making them so much stronger against monstrous creatures and particularly gargantuan creatures while still annihilating creatures such as Tyranid Warriors or Bullgryns (Strength 10 for Instant Death purposes). That 6s on to-wound rolls ignore all saving throws is absolutely huge considering how common invulnerable and cover saves can be, though the really significant boost comes against vehicles where each hit removes D3 hull points and allows a further roll on the vehicle damage chart on the roll of a 2+.

This makes Wraithguard an incredible weapon against super heavy vehicles and really any kind of heavier vehicle, utterly bypassing the need to roll for armour penetration; like with models that have a Toughness value, any roll of a 6 on the Destroyer chart against a vehicle removes D6+6 hull points. If Wraithcannons aren't scary enough for you, the rules designers deigned to provide D-Scythes with a similar buff; they are Destroyer weapons that suffer a -1 penalty to rolls on the Destroyer chart, meaning they wound or "penetrate" on the roll of a 3+ rather than a 2+, and are incapable of rolling up the game-breaking '6' result. While this might not seem so bad in theory, the fact that D-Scythes are template weapons and thus both Ignore Cover innately and inflict significantly more hits that are all guaranteed on top of the D3 auto-hits per weapon in Overwatch makes them utterly insane in practice. Having used weapon configurations for the unit in multiple games now, I can safely say my opponents are far more afraid of the D-Scythes because - Invisibility and forcing Snap Shots aside - they eliminate the random element of rolling to-hit and hit more than one model at a time per D-Scythe. Make no mistake, both types of Wraithguard are brutal and require some kind of transport or an Archon with a Webway Portal - "pro-tip"; take D-Scythe Wraithguard with one and watch the stream of juicy tears - to ensure your opponent doesn't do the wise thing of killing all of them before they get in range.

Wraithblades - I've always liked the idea behind this unit but never felt their initial introduction was well made, exchanging super-powered Distortion weapons for admittedly powerful melee weapons while the unit itself suffered several curses; no assault grenades, a general lack of attacks and no access to an assault vehicle. The changes to allies in 7th Edition fix the latter of the three issues, while the general value of unwieldy ghostaxes makes the former of the three almost negligible, especially given Wraithblades are Initiative 4 anyway. However, the fact that they only have one attack each is a problem that hasn't really been addressed, even though they thankfully - and "fluffily" - received the Rage special rule to give them a total of three attacks on the charge, or four per model when equipped with the paired ghostswords. Of course, actually getting the charge with them isn't necessarily guaranteed and they now suffer even more by being generally inferior to Wraithguard who are now hilariously armed with Destroyer weapons, so I see it as a good but not great addition; especially if you consider that a cheap Autarch using a Banshee Mask denies enemy Overwatch. They did handily receive a 2 point price reduction per model which does at least mean we don't have to shake our heads at how their kit-siblings are patently better with an identical cost, but otherwise I still see these as a solid unit that acts best as a bodyguard for one of the various psyker HQ choices more than a straight combat squad.

Thank you all for reading this article and hopefully attaining some insight into the new Eldar! I am grateful for all of the various buff made across the codex to units that either sorely needed some attention or just generally gained some great overall benefits, the most notable of these being Howling Banshees. With that said, do you agree with the opinions presented here and think this was a useful read, or feel that I am off the mark? However you feel, I would love to see you share your thoughts on the new codex and this article in the comments section below; I greatly appreciate any and all feedback! Thank you and have a very nice day!


  1. Outstanding well written article. Keep up the good work!

  2. Really helpful analysis, and good to read a break-down of all the units rather than just the headlines you get in a lot of places.

    I also really appreciate your honest analysis, which appear as unbiased as such things can be and without giving in to the nerd rage so prevalent in the online persona of our hobby!

    I look forward to reading part IV