Dark Eldar Tactica (and Strategi...ca?) Edit
“I am truly disappointed that cruel fate has placed us in this position, such that I really have no choice other than to unleash my warriors against your population centers. If only you would lay aside these foolish hopes of protecting your resources and return to your homes and families, much bloodshed and woe could be avoided.
Yet... there is still time, any who leave now will be spared and I give you my word that they will be granted free passage through the wastes. This offer of amnesty will stand for two of your hours before the terror begins anew. I can only hope that you consider your position carefully. Send forth a representative to discuss further terms if you wish, or several if you cannot trust one of your number to speak for the rest. I feel sure that all can be... accommodated.”
"The Dark Eldar are fast yet fragile."
"The Dark Eldar are a glass hammer."
"The Dark Eldar are difficult to learn, but deadly once mastered."
"The Dark Eldar are the veteran’s army of choice."
If you have spent even a modicum of time at a search engine trying to learn more about Dark Eldar then you have probably seen the words written above many times. I’ll tell you right now they are all true (except perhaps that veteran’s choice one, I always sort of thought that was GW’s marketing department earning their paychecks for the month).
The purpose of this article will be to provide new players wanting to learn about Dark Eldar a solid base with which to build their strategic (army building) and tactical (battlefield maneuvers) upon. I also hope that more experienced players will find new thoughts and ideas here, or offer up some of their own. After all, anyone who plays the Dark Eldar is well aware that our army list has a surprisingly varied number of options strategically.
Now, it has been my experience that most “Tacticas” are, in fact, “Strategi…cas?” because really what most Tacticas do is talk about unit composition and list building, and really that’s strategy (I’ll spare you actually bothering to define the difference, as if you care you can look it up, and if you don’t you really don’t need me blathering about it) Even in my last DE Tactica/Strategica I tended to emphasize unit composition and just sort of slapped together a tactics guide at the back of it and hoped people would keep reading till then.
Not this time – Tactics first, and then I’ll explain unit comp and how you can go about effectively bringing your tactics to fruition. If all you care about is “what is the most competitive way to field Wyches” then feel free to skip ahead to Part 2 of the Tactica and feast your eyes on an exhaustive discussion of units and equipment. You can always come back and read this section later, but I’m putting it first because it really is the most vital part of a competitive army.
Okay, so all the foolish newbs who believe they know everything have left to go see “how many Dark lances are in a good army at 1500 points?” and left us with people who are new enough to know they need help, and people who have played enough to know it never hurts to see if there’s something new they can learn. That’s awesome, because that’s the way you’ll become a better player. So, let us consider the most important question any Tactica can *possibly* answer for anyone who reads it, and it’s really a simple question that anyone who looks at a Tactica really wants answered;
How Do I Win with Dark Eldar?
"Our weapons are terror, dark lances and speed!" – Dawn of War, getting it right.
Well, there’s a few ways to answer that but let’s look at the most important;
- Know your army, what can it do and what can’t it do?
# Know your opponent’s army.
# Roll good numbers on the dice.
I can’t help you with 2 and 3, there are other tacticas and sacrifices to various dice gawds for them, but what I will help you with is number 1, and that’s getting you to know the Dark Eldar. They are not half as complicated as some people would want you to think, and we can break them down very easily. What we’ll be talking about below is how they win (their strengths), how they lose (their weaknesses), and also how you can use their strengths to overcome the weaknesses.
Let’s take a quick glance at our Army Special Rules and also flip past a few of our units and look at stat lines and equipment. You notice a few interesting trends.
We have a Power from Pain special rule where we get tougher as we kill things.
We see well in the dark and have high BS and WS scores.
We have high initiatives and practically everything in the army has Fleet and can be bought with a dedicated transport.
Most of our core units are Toughness 3 with a few 4 toughness units tossed in.
All of our vehicles are skimmers, and a lot of them have a special rule allowing them to fire all their weapons after moving at cruising speed.
Almost none of our mech has AV values over 11.
We have a lot of guns and weapons that ignore armor or toughness or reduce armor values, or work in unusual ways to hurt the opponent.
We have a lot of low armor values and wound totals.
It’s not rocket science here, folks. DE are built to hit things, and not be hit back. That is the core of the army – attack, attack, attack, and when you need to defend attack some more and hope that works out because you have a glass jaw the size of Montana with a few glaring neon signs pointing at it.
Thus the quick summation of the entire rest of the page below me is this;
Dark Eldar win by killing things and attacking first.
Dark Eldar lose by allowing themselves to be attacked.
How Do Dark Eldar Lose?Edit
"To the shadows! Flee!"
What are the weaknesses of our army? As discussed, it’s our glass jaw. Our skimmers are armored with wet cardboard, our men are wrapped in tissue paper armor (with spikes, rawr!) and most of our ICs and special characters live in abject terror at the thought of a Str 6 weapon that can insta-kill them.
Well, crap, you say. Thanks a lot Thor – I just bought about $300 of these guys and they look awesome, and now you tell me they’re like fielding retarded bunnies (in spikes) with live bombs (also with spikes) strapped to their chests?
Not to fear, because the trick with DE is to play them…well, sort of like Orks combined with Tau – but faster…I’m not kidding. Let’s look at how we win, which involves how we overcome these weaknesses.
How Do Dark Eldar Win?Edit
“The new Dark Eldar Codex sucks, you can’t spam Lances as well as you used to” – a 40k players at a tournament, shortly before I spammed Dark Lances on him.
More then anything else this is the tool the Dark Eldar use to win the most. Few armies can match our speed – whether it is speed via fleet, via our hordes of transports, via our skimmer tech, or via our high initiatives. Those armies that can compete with one of the above advantages usually cannot compete with two much less all three. Dark Eldar are fast – use it!
Flanking for Fun and ProfitEdit
One of the most touted Dark Eldar tactics is the omnipresent ability of our army to flank. What I mean by flanking is the ability for our entire army to move over to one part of the map and engage half (or less than half) of your opponent’s forces. For whatever reason when most people set up they seem to like to spread their army out across their whole table edge (though I’ll give most Ork and Nid builds a pass since they usually have to in order to fit). Dark Eldar can then excel at repositioning their army on their first turn to suddenly apply almost all of the pressure upon one side of the map or the other. Sometimes this can even be accomplished going straight up the middle if he's placed his static gun positions in a foolish way.
Pick Your FightEdit
With speed comes the ability to dictate the engagements. If a Carnifex is tromping towards your men we can often easily hop aboard a transport and just disappear. Raiders, Venoms, and Ravagers have unparalleled movement capabilities by combining the fast and skimmer vehicle traits, allowing them to ignore troops and terrain as they go to exactly where you wish them to be on the battlefield. If something dangerous is coming towards something that cannot handle it…leave. You can always pick it apart with Dark Lances or wander over a Dakka Venom to poison it to death.
Strike First and Strike OftenEdit
Part of picking your fight, but a little different, not only can our speed be used to reposition, but it can be used to inflict harm as well. Whether it’s the ability of a speed bump unit to use high initiative to slash up a few of the enemy that are killing them before they’re wiped or the ability for our assault forces to practically move the table width to enter assault, the Dark Eldar can pick their fights and should usually get to do some damage before their enemies are even capable of trying to hurt them back. Pick your biggest threats out of the opponent’s army, isolate them via flanking, and strike hard, fast, and first to remove them from play. Also, be always aware of when you're giving up that advantage - yes we can take Incubi and assault them through cover to kill something. But, in so doing you're giving up your initiative advantage, so do you get an Archon with a Phatasm Grenade Launcher in the mix? Or do you opt to shoot the Long Fangs instead? Both are options - the point is to not expose your men to unneeded damage chances, and you're fast and mobile enough that you should never need to. Hit first, hit often, and claim your pain tokens.
An Airborne HordeEdit
Unlike our ‘Light’ cousins and certainly unlike pretty much any army that is fielded in power armor, the DE are really not that expensive (especially when you consider our stat lines). Yes, we are basically Orks with BS 4, and anyone who knows how to play Orks well should understand how devastating Orks could be if they had good shooting and super fast skimmer transports. Field lots of Dark Eldar, field lots of threats. So many things in our Codex are good that you want your opponent looking at this swarm, *knowing* they are practically all going to be able to shoot him next turn and just flummoxed for what he should try to shoot first. Darken the skies, young Archon, your armies should blot out the sun.
Never Fight FairEdit
You’re a Dark Eldar, start acting like it. Leave the Marines and uptight Tau of the universe to talk about ‘fair’ and having noble duels unit to unit. When you attack something – crush it till it isn’t a threat anymore! You have a lot of firepower and assault capability on the board, and you should never be scared to have 3 Venoms toss 36 poison shots at something if that’s what it takes to make the something not a threat anymore.
Never Ever OverkillEdit
On the flip side – each dark matter and poison laced weapon is valuable to you, each skimmer that shoots at something isn’t shooting something else, and you can only deny so much of an enemy army from shooting at you by using terrain and your speed to stay out of range, so what do you do?
The answer is – kill something just enough. If your biggest threat is, say, a Predator tank with multiple lascannons (filthy buggers all!) you need to understand what it means as a threat. The threat is – it can pretty much kill one skimmer every round, which is bad! So you have to stop it, right? So you shoot at it and get a ‘Crew Stunned result’ Fiddlesticks, not dead yet, so we should shoot again, right…? The answer, is…maybe. Is there something else that’s dangerous you could use that lance shot against? Maybe that Landspeeder with the melta weapon and a bad attitude? The threat of the Predator is, to a degree, over for the round because it’s only able to fire snap shots – find something else, shoot it instead, make it not a threat. You will have to worry about the Predator again next turn, but with as many weapons as you can bring to bear understand that the numbers game is on your side, minimize their ability to hurt you through your ability to hurt them first. That’s Dark Eldar defense.
This is an idea I've often espoused, but with the rise of Blasters = darklight weapons = dark lance mentality in some of the newer DE players has convinced me I really should expound on this subject. This is really interesting to me, because everyone always understands how it works and discusses it for assault units, and it matters as much (if not more) for shooting.
We all understand the basic logic that number of shots -> ballistic skill -> strength of weapon to target toughness -> and allowed saves equates to a bit of mathhammer that allow us to tell how many people we're killing. It's basic math, right? Yeah, as far as it goes. But there are aspects that are often ignored - and those are movement speed and range - and let me assure you, when it comes to shooting these are just as important as they are to assault units.
So, let's break this down;
1. What is a threat bubble?Edit
The basic answer is found in a simple bit of math;
Threat Bubble = Range of weapon + Movement allowed prior to shooting.
So - a squad of Space Marines with a Missile Launcher and Melta Gun have a couple of Threat Bubbles.
Missile threat bubble = 48" (0" move + 48" range) or 54" with Snap Shot
Bolter threat bubble = 18" or 30"
Melta threat bubble = 18"
The bulk of the game of 40k really does involve the overlap, control, and application of these bubbles. Probably you're already at least subconsciously aware of the threat bubbles in the game - but by becoming more aware of them and actively using them within conscious strategic and tactical choices you'll find yourself being a better player, I pretty much assure you.
Let's analyze how these can be used to better your play as a DE general.
2. Using Threat Bubbles strategically (list building)Edit
"Should I take 3 Trueborn in a Venom, or one Ravager?" Asks the newb player. "They're basically the same, right?"
"You should definitely take the Trueborn, they're just as good at anti-tank and help you with 12 poison shots as well," answers the excited and smug next poster.
Well...wait...are they the same?
Mathammer says they are - 3 str 8 shots at BS 4 with lance effect = the exact same thing. Right? Right...?
Nope, not at all.
Trueborn Blaster staying in transport threat bubble = 24" (6" move 18" range)
Trueborn Blaster disembark threat bubble = 30" ( 6" move 6" disembark 18" range)
Ravager threat bubble = 48" (12" movement 36" range)
So, over half again the bubble radius - that's *huge* swathes of the board, isn't it? Well...wait a minute there, what does this do for me? It gives you the knowledge of alpha strike - just for starters. Let's consider a few numbers; the average deployment between your deployment zone and the enemy's is 24" in all three scenarios in the rulebook (and how many tourneys really use an alternate setup method from one of those three?) and the distance from your deployment line to the enemy's back board edge is generally about 36"
So - from your deployment area, if you deploy forward right up on the line, and want to shoot at enemy vehicles (like, say GK Dreads, or some sort of Stormraven or something) you're looking at a shot of over 24" up to about 36"
Trueborn Blaster staying in transport threat bubble = 24" (6" move 18" range)
Trueborn Blaster disembark threat bubble = 30" ( 6" move 6" disembark 18" range)
Ravager threat bubble = 48" (12" movement 36" range)
Hmmm...suddenly the Ravager looks like it has a very important advantage over the Trueborn, doesn't it?
Quick pop quiz - what is the most important time to shoot up enemy vehicles? In Turn 1-2 or in Turn 3-4? (if you answered 3-4...please go play more games with DE and then get back to me ;) )
So - if you're building a list, and want lots of anti-vehicle shooting, and want to use that shooting early in the game to hurt enemy armor, what do you need? Ravagers and Raiders - because they have a better threat bubble than Blasters. Blasters, unless the enemy deploys right on the line, will never be an issue until Turn 2 at the earliest.
This is also one of the reasons Blast Pistols are often mocked. Their threat bubble is basically 12-18" which means that unless the enemy is helping you out a lot, they're not getting into play till Turn 2-3 at the earliest.
Now, another consideration; the Gunboat vs. the Venom. A Gunboat is better at killing stuff, so what is the Venom's edge? Its bubble;
Venom threat bubble = 48"
Gunboat threat bubble = 18" (optimum)
So, that allows Venoms to get in early hurt fast - which means, functionally, they'll be shooting at least 1-2 extra times in the course of the game as compared to the Gunboat. This is important in competitive play, as it allows DE to throw a lot of shots down the field into stuff like Longfangs or Lootas.
Now that we understand what a threat bubble is, and some basic logic to help us understand what our choices mean when putting together a list - let's consider some specific options about how DE (the most maneuverable of all armies) can use bubbles to help us, and to hurt our opponents.
3. Using Threat Bubbles tactically (moves in game)Edit
You now understand what a threat bubble is and have learned how to apply it to building your list, what next? Well, there's a couple of different ways to now apply this logic and use it to help you out in the game.
Now - there's a reason I call this stuff a threat bubble, that's because the threat bubble extends out in a circle from your unit, allowing you to sort of see a bubble around them. When playing - either consciously or subconsciously you're roughly aware of these bubbles - and it's important you move it up to the conscious level, because that's when you start taking real advantage of them.
Using Bubbles when defending
Okay, so it's the start of your turn, you're fighting something that isn't as cool as Dark Eldar and you're using an army that's cool...probably Dark Eldar. So you stop and visualize bubbles - and the bubbles you should be looking for first are the enemy's. What are his bubbles? How many of them will be on top of you within the next round? Which weapons within those bubbles you'll be in are a threat?
Do you know what you're getting here? You're getting target priority - without having to come online and listen to some slack-jawed genius give you an absolute list for an army and acting like it somehow is always applicable.
With target priority you can exercise the optimal DE method of defense via offense by spotting your threats and shooting them before they ever get a chance to hurt you.
DE are fast enough that, as much as any army can actually "flank" someone in 40k we can (and, don't listen to other people, listen to me, flanking is generally a pipe dream in 40k - it basically doesn't exist unless your army is very very fast and theirs is a little slow or terrain is really helping you out).
The point of the flank is to put the bulk of your army into a place where a lot of your army has some of his within their threat bubbles, and not much of your army is within his threat bubbles.
Using Bubbles when attacking
People all seem to understand the basic logic of target priority - even if they're not sure how to come about it. But something I see tripping up new players all the time is...I guess I'll call it shooting order.
When you shoot with your army, how do you do it?
Left to right/right to left?
All the vehicles then all the infantry?
Use the unit with the "best" chance to accomplish first, and then use the other stuff in descending order?
All the anti-tank then all the anti-infantry?
How would you feel if I told you each and every one of those methods was actually making your army less effective than it should be (even the last one, which is probably the closest to a good shooting order I listed)
Well, Thor, you ask, how does your high and mighty backside shoot?
Well...what would you say if I told you my method was so haphazard that I actually had a die system developed, where I put down markers next to each vehicle to indicate whether it has fired or not - and also whether its passengers had fired or not - and, at least I personally, really need to do this to help keep exact track of who has or hasn't shot since I'm constantly moving around the order each turn?
I would call my shooting method - Threat Bubble method.
Basically when you're going to shoot there are about three things to ask yourself.
1. What do I need to get done this turn (and what would I like to get done)?
2. What units are in range to help do it?
3. (and most important) what else are they in range of?
Let me walk you through it, this was a recent game I played vs. Blood Angels, and I'd dropped down and moved on from reserve a few units. As a quick lay of the land - he had a Landraider (with Assault Termies) A Razorback (with Troop option inside) and a Furioso Dread). I had two Ravagers (one a Dissie loadout), a Squad of 4 Trueborn popping out of a Raider right in front of the Landriader, and another Raider with some Warriors inside of it. - I'll walk you through my thoughts;
1. What do I need to get done this turn (and what would I like to get done)?
I want that Landraider dead, in a bad way. Secondary target is the Razorback. I really want at least one of them dead so my Dissie Ravager can make use of its shooting this turn. The Landraider is more important due to threat level - I mean, duuuur, right?
If I manage all of that I want my Dissie to shoot Termies first, then Troops. Finally, if I have the time, I wouldn't mind popping that Furioso, but I'm indifferent on that.
2. What units are in range to help do it?
3. (and most important) what else are they in range of?
The Lance Ravager can see the Landraider, so can the Trueborn.
The Trueborn and their Raider as well as the warrior Raider can see the Razorback.
The Trueborn and their Raider can see the dread. So can the Warrior Raider but there will be a cover save.
The Dissie Ravager is in good position to snipe at disembarking infantry.
So...what shot first? I mean, with 4 Blasters the Trueborn have the best chance to deal with the Landraider, right? Yeah. But...wait...the *only* thing the Lance Ravager can see is the Landraider - that means if the Trueborn shoot it, then I'm either shooting Lances at Termies (meh) or have just wasted my Ravager's shooting.
So, first I shoot with the Ravager - I explode the Landraider - I am awesome and do a victory dance.
So...now I shoot with the Trueborn, right? Well...wait, that Raider with the Warriors, its best shot is at the Razor, as otherwise cover is involved, so let's shoot that.
Pop, wrecked Razorback.
I've now got 4 Blasters and a Raider w. Lance sitting in the middle of my opponent's grill, and I can start pumping lances into Termies, or try to deal with that annoying Dread.
That's the advantage of targeting via use of Threat Bubbles. It allows you to maximize the firepower you brought so that very little to none of it is being wasted on any given turn. If you can put your bubbles in a way that you're hurting him with all or most of your army while only a part of his army can fight back then you are putting yourself into a perfect situation to exploit tempo advantage (and I think tempo advantage is the true way anyone wins at 40k).
So, that's threat bubbles.
Primary and Secondary Objectives aka Playing to Kill, Not to WinEdit
Objectives And How to Ignore ThemEdit
This one might take some getting used to… In most generalized strategy guides for 40k I see that one of the overriding themes is “pay attention to the mission.” It is a wise piece of advice that hopefully teaches young generals to make sure they take a pile of Nurgle mooks and drop them soundly atop an objective in order to sit there for the rest of the game thumbing their nose at their opponents and going ‘Nyaah!’ while a nearby bush deflects lascannon fire…not that I’m bitter!
However, it is important for an aspiring DE commander to understand one important aspect about Dark Eldar. They are very good at taking objectives…and very bad at holding them. Remember, we defend by attacking, not by huddling down in cover with our awesome armor saves.
When playing an objective game therefore, your best strategy is outlined thusly; Your primary goal is to kill those enemy units that can kill your units. Stuff like heavy artillery or things that can easily pop your Ravagers. It is also usually a good idea to keep an eye on anything that is too mobile or fast – you want to be the fastest thing on the board so it’s usually a good idea to sunder his mobility. After that the bulk of the game should be hunting troops and otherwise just killing everything in sight. It is only on the 4th turn that you should even begin to contemplate getting your men to the objectives, and managing to start drifting towards them. The 5th turn is when final claim movement should happen. Also, make sure you have another option to claim the objective because if the game proceeds past turn 5, as it often does, the troop choice you sent to the objective could well end up very dead.
Raiders and Venoms used to be our go-to options ofr contesting objectives, but now are not good at it on account of not counting as contesting units. So, if you can't kick an enemy unit off an objective it is a good idea to try to have a transport vehicle nearby that can pour out some men onto the objective. Wyches can still be pretty awesome at this if they can suck the scoring unit into assault safely, since Wyches are still devilishly hard to kill off quickly in assault.
Kill his units, contest his objectives, and be mindful of trying to hold onto anything.
First Blood, Linebreaker, Warlord Killing, and YouEdit
In addition to Objectives there are three other scoring points, and it's important to make them all work for you as best you're able.
First Blood - this one is a double edged sword for the DE. We usually bring enough quick firepower that, if we get first turn we're easily able to overpower a target and score the point. Conversely, if we don't, we're so fragile that it is almost laughably easy for our opponent to score the point on us. I would consider this one conditional - play to the overall goal of killing the enemy, and use your shooting wisely. If it works out that you get first blood, great! But don't alter your opening alpha strike for it, we'll likely get an easy alternate point.
'Linebreaker '- DE are...rather good at this. We're fast, fast and aggressive. Generally speaking the battle is going to happen inside your opponent's deployment zone. Be comfortable with that - pour yourself in, overpower, kill, kill, kill. With your entire army likely in his deployment area the enemy you are getting this point, and if he wants the point for himself he'll likely be putting a unit into a place it won't be helping to kill you. This is all great for us.
Slay the Warlord - DE are a mixed bag here. We're fine at killing a Warlord, but our Warlords are usually a little squishy. That said, our Warlords almost always are either something we want in the core of the assault, or something we want to hide and be safe with. Play your Warlord to their purpose, and they'll do as well as you can expect. As far as killing their Warlord, that was probably part of your plan anyway, so it's a point you'll probably get.
Army Building – The Golden Rule is RedundancyEdit
Redundancy is a concept that should be dear to anyone who plays 40k. Everyone who knows harps on this – if one is good then probably two is better and three is best. The reason this works out so well is because it gives you multiple units that are useful to whatever your plan for winning is.
This becomes an easy tool for DE players to exploit because pretty much every slot in our army has good options that can be put into them, and our units are well built for being small and spamming themselves while not giving up much firepower. That gives us a somewhat uniform look, but then we have the advantage that most of the good units can be built to accomplish different (and sometimes multiple) tasks. A Warrior squad can serve as tank busters, assaulting swarms, or damage absorbing tarpits. The Ravager can be kitted out to eat tanks, infantry, or both. Lords and Haemonculi have a variety of little chores they can be built for.
With all of the adaptability it is easy to fill your army with a horde of Lances and Blasters to bust tanks and MCs while also having swarms of Splinter Cannons and Disintegrators to mow down massed infantry. Our close combat squads can range from near impossible to kill Wyches with an Agoniser to slowly whittle down the foe, to the flashy Lord or Incubi that come in with a rapid and aggressive power weapon assault almost assured to obliterate whatever they’re pointed at.
The trick with all of this is to make sure that it’s impossible for your enemy to blow away one or two squads that are vital to your army. Yeah – if turn one he pops your three lance Ravager and a Wych Raider that sucks, but make sure you still have another four or five Raiders with Lances. The RJBs with Heat Lance, and a sniper squad or two and he won’t have even begun to scratch your anti-tank capability. Much less what your other two Wych Raiders and the Incubi/Lord Raider will mean for your potential close combat power.
No matter what a unit does, be it kill tanks, carry a Webway Portal, or saw up massed infantry make sure you have one or two other units that can do the exact same thing. The focus is duplicating what they can do, so if you hate spam feel free to use different types of units, but definitely duplicate the jobs. The Dark Eldar are great at swarming with all sorts of heavy and special weapons and having some of the nastiest close combat options in the game – use them and go forth to claim souls for Commorragh!
==Putting it All Together==
"Let them resist. It will make my inevitable victory even sweeter, their screams of fear and agony all the more whole. Let them resist..."
Okay, so let’s look again at your army and try to hit home the important ideas to keep in your head on the battlefield.
First, and this is the advantage that makes all other DE advantages functional, USE YOUR SPEED! Warhammer 40k in the 5th edition is all about mobility, and that’s why everyone, and their uncle, fields armies of vehicles – because a unit in a vehicle is much more mobile than one without. Mobility helps you avoid damage, inflict it on others, and move to where you need to be on the battlefield (like an objective). DE have, quite arguably (and I do argue this) the finest vehicles in the game. They are affordable, they are fast, they are skimmers, they are open topped – all of those are amazing attributes for our vehicles.
So, on the battlefield, use this speed. Move so all of your army will shoot up half of his. Gang up on danger units and pummel them until they aren’t a threat for a turn or two – then move onto the next threat. Your opponent will be left trying to move his army around to try and hurt your army. Then pull back, reposition, there is almost no reason to have most of the vehicles in your army not moving 6-12” every turn (especially with Skimmer Jink rules). Pull back from the new threats, reposition your army on the edges of range and keep pummeling the threats that can hurt your precious mobility. Have assault units tear into unprotected infantry and lock down or kill those infantry units that are dangerous to you.
Never try to fight 1 on 1 with DE. We are weak, and counter attacks will hurt us because we’re easier to hurt than most armies. So don’t make it fair, attack with twice the numbers and wipe out what you attack. If he manages to survive and strike back he’ll only be able to stop one unit, have the other one finish him off.
With your mobility and speed it’s good that you understand your opponent’s army, because you really do have the ability to attack almost any part of it at almost any time. Take out the bits that make the army dangerous to you first, then mop up what’s left.
In objective missions, SPREAD OUT THOSE OBJECTIVES! Make them all as far apart as possible. Why? Because you’re fast enough to reach them all whenever you want even if only half your army is alive., whereas most other armies are not. You want your opponent to get in his head right away that he can only claim one or two objectives and try to ‘defend’ them. Just shoot the living hell out of him, focus on killing him, and at the last moment zip units out to claim 3 objectives and also contest his 1. DE own in objective missions and that’s all missions are nowadays.
Recognize how sweet Power From Pain is. Our entire army can get Feel No Pain? Really? That’s broken! But try to maximize the effectiveness while you’re killing things. Every unit in our army is good with FNP, not every unit needs Furious Charge though. Pay attention to the order you shoot/assault and try to maximize getting the right effects onto units that can use them.
Finally, understand your army composition and why your units are dangerous. DE die easily and hit hard, that’s why you see so many DE armies using MSU tactics (multiple, small units). If a squad of ten Wyches is hit by a squad of Guardsmen with First Rank Fire then they are probably just as dead as a squad of five, so…why do you need ten? There are reasons to go that way, and we’ll discuss them later, but generally speaking understand that he who has the ability to target more is going to be better off. DE want to attack, and two units will let you attack twice instead of once, probably with more special and heavy weapons too, though even our poison las rifles are an excellent weapon.
Understanding Our Army Special RulesEdit
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
These abilities are important because they effect multiple units in our army, and we need to understand how to best use them.
Power From PainEdit
Perhaps one of the best tools that has been given to the DE in this Codex, PfP actually re-writes two of our biggest weaknesses glass jaws and Str 3. FNP makes us massively more survivable, and it’s possible for huge swathes of our army to develop this power by the mid point of the game. 2nd, when we gain Furious charge our already high Initiative advantage is boosted, as well as our frail Str score – making our assault units much more potent.
Pay attention to the units that let you start with Pain tokens (Hameys, Wracks, Chronos, et al) Ask yourself where the powers that are granted are best (I personally believe in assault units, if I could get a pain token on every assault unit at the start of the game I would be a super happy player). Try to figure out how to maximize those units getting pain tokens.
Also, be aware how pain tokens move. If you start a Haemy with some Wyches to give them a pain token, when the units separate *you* get to decide who keeps the pain token. (cough*Wyches*cough). The use of ICs as ‘Pain Purveyors’ cannot be overlooked, Haemys are a solid little unit that upgrades any unit they join with FNP – that is stupid broken, and that is why the Haemy is one of the best units in the codex.
Fearrless can be nice too - especially for holding objectives late game.
The general bit of awesomeness to keep in your head is that any round when Night Fight is in effect is an excellent round for the DE to be pressuring the opponent, gaining board control, and making a bloody nuisance of themselves. Since most battles will see Night Fight at some stage, be aware of how this will strengthen your position against most enemies.
I’ve had opponents keep huge forces in reserve just because I pointed out how I had army wide night fighting. That allowed me to take dominant control of the board and allowed me to really take advantage of the ‘Never Fight Fair’ idea of our army as my entire army got to fight his in small spurts.
Yet again Combat Drugs undergoes a shift. It’s less specialized, but is at least easier to keep track of during a game. Let’s consider these drugs we get and how they’ll effect our units who have this special rule (Wyches, Hellions, Reavers,a nd Archons if they take the upgrade…Haemys apparently decided to stop taking drugs in this edition.)
- 3d6 movement on run move – The weakest power overall, but still can help protect us in seeking cover or trying to get to an objective late game.
#+1 WS – This is pretty decent for everything but the archon or succubus (who’ll hit on 3+ pretty much all the time anyway). It’s really awesome because it helps out your Agonisers really well, and generally boosts every squad with combat drugs.
#+1 Str – Weaker than the WS boost because it doesn’t boost the Agoniser, but can boost Venom Blades and Power Weapons which are likely the new gold standard. Expect your Wyches to become better at clearing out squads, they can even start to eyeball large infantry squads better now.
#Re-roll failed to-wound rolls – This is a godsend with the Agoniser and is a super awesome power to roll as it increases the killing potential of everyone. Depending on your loadout +1 Str is better, but this is not a bad one to see.
#+1 Attacks – Statistically wound re-rolls will do better for you, but I’m still not sad to see this power as it is a potent boost to Archons and any special weapon wielding DE, and that is still the heart and soul of DE assault.
#Start game with pain token –This is pretty crazy, as it puts roughly 1/3 of your army into FNP territory before a shot is even fired, and also probably bumps a few into Furious Charge range to start. Never sad to see this power, though I personally prefer to amp up the DE’s power to kill – since I play the army all about the killing, and the defense is a secondary aspect.
Poisoned Shooting WeaponsEdit
Oh…oh my. This is really almost more of a wargear discussion, but just notice this. You know what this means? We don’t care about high toughness when we’re shooting! Do you have any idea what sort of conniption fit that puts a lot of armies into? Big Bug Tyrannid? Boned! Wraithdar? Useless! Any army looking to take advantage of toughness scores is automatically downgraded versus us because all of our weapons are either poison or high strength. Pwned!
Dark Eldar Classic Army TypesEdit
I don’t want to provide you a series of lists – if you want that there are a lot of resources out there that list armies of all sorts. But, what I do wish to provide you is a better understanding of some of the basic strategies and weaknesses of the most common types of Dark Eldar Army Builds. I will discuss the more “classic” interpretation of the lists – but feel free to mix and match amongst them to generate an army list that will accomplish what you want it to.
“But Tho-wah, why for art you not talk bout Kabal and Wych army builds!?!”
I hear you ask this (and, yes, in my head all of you talk like cute little five year old children…with usually somewhat vulgar mouths…) But, the real truth of the matter is that the whole “Wych” and “Kabal” builds, nowadays, really just boil down to a simple question – are you focusing more on shooting or assaulting? Neither is stylistically much different from the overall Raider Rush or WWP builds (unlike the Haemy Coven, which does play differently) and truth be told most players field some sort of mix of the two. So, just for the sake of my own mind I’m simply calling them as the overarching themes of Raider Rush or WWP or whatnot, and not splitting up how Kabals and Cults can do those builds. In short – one goes bang-bang and the other goes slicey-dicey, other than that they follow the simpler themes below.
Deeper discussion on specific themes or army builds will be found at the end of the Tactica in the 'Useful Links' section.
Raider Rush aka Dark Eldar Air Force aka Raider SpamEdit
The raider rush has many variations on the name but they all stick to the same basic concept. They field Skimmer transports. Lots of transports. I mean LOTS of transports. The true “classic” list will contain nothing that cannot move 24 inches in a turn.
This list will feature Warrior Squads and Wych Squads in Raiders/Venoms as well as a brace of Heavy skimmers (like the classic Ravager or one of the new fighters or bombers).
In 1500-2000 points you probably want to have 2-3 Ravagers and at least 5 skimmer transports to truly be taking advantage of this tactic. You can easily field more Raiders/Venoms (and should) as the points creep towards 2000. 1-3 squads of Reaver Jetbikes or Scourges can add a lot of harassment opportunities to your army and their ability to act as fire magnets and tank hunters in this build cannot be underestimated.
You will want to avoid units like Mandrakes, the Talos, and footslogging Warriors as they will often be too slow to be effective in helping your primary assault thrusts.
How Does it Win?Edit
Speed, saturation of targets, and raw firepower/assault power.
By dropping out a lot of skimmers you hopefully exhaust an opponent’s anti-vehicle weaponry while giving him far too many priority targets to ever deal with. The army is also well suited to control the pacing of the match, and should be dictating when and where it gets into fights (hopefully always to its own advantage). The army is well capable of outmaneuvering and shooting up assault armies and moving in quickly to assault shooting armies. In addition, Raider Rush can usually generate a very aggressive capability to engage in assault or to unleash a torrential and highly directed barrage of Dark Lances and small arms fire that can rip apart everything from massed Ork hordes to Land Raiders. There are few places on the map to hide from Raider Rush.
How Does it Lose?Edit
To build up this list properly you will be using a lot of dedicated transports. That will then, in turn, equal a lot of Kill Points on the table. The most common way for the list to lose is to simply give up so many killpoints that, short of tabling their opponent, there is no way for them to win a match. The list can also suffer if the enemy army has a lot of firepower which is all capable of punching through Raider armor at long ranges (like the ever frightening Leafblower IG configuration). Another danger is an army that is fast enough to respond to the sudden movement adjustments of the raider Rush. Finally there is the risk of the DE player not properly dictating the pace of the match, as soon as Raider Rush starts to be reactive instead of proactive they are in trouble.
There are not many pieces of Wargear that can so reshape the nature of the game so as to have entire strategies simply based around their use – the Webway Portal is one such piece of wargear. The “classic” list involves 2-3 Webway Portal carriers (it is a brave/foolish commander indeed who puts most of his army in the Webway and only buys one to put on the field). The carrier’s job is to rush forward aggressively in the first round or two, then drop the portal and allow the stream of waiting Dark Eldar to rush out at their foes at near point blank range.
The typical carrier squads are designed to be relatively fast while also being able to soak up a lot of damage (as a wise opponent will do everything he can to kill them quickly to deny the rest of your army the advantage of showing up midway across the board). The best plots are usually a Haemy in a squad of Wracks or a Warrior Squad, but I have seen good Grot and Harly delivery squads as well.
The second part of the equation is the Webway Portal section of the army, which is all kept in reserve and enters through the portal once (if) it opens. They enter via reserve rules, but can choose to enter at the portal location.
The usual mentality for building the reserve force is to include a lot of fragile/slow things that are very good at killing The classic portal drop, and probably the most common, is the Talos Pain Engine. This is one of the few builds you’ll see players totally forgo Ravagers in order to field three Talos out of the portal. Other very good options are, oddly, our Fast Attack options. Scourges, and RJBs all get a very impressive threat bubble coming out of a portal. Reavers are also able to come out using Bladevanes - never a bad thing.
The primary goal is to play the risky game of dropping your portals close enough to the enemy lines so as to allow your forces to engage them easily while also not dropping so late that you give your opponent the time to destroy your portal carriers and force your reserve army to enter from the table edge. Fielding multiple portals can help, as you can usually drop one on turn two and try to move another one closer for a turn three drop once you’re assured you have at least one open portal as a fallback option.
How Does it Win?Edit
Quickly or not at all, usually…
The army wins by unleashing brutal DE shooting/assault force right in the guts of the opposition. There are not too many armies who will easily be able to deal with three Talos slamming into their lines accompanied by a brace of Jetbikes and Hellions while Warriors form shooting enclaves around the Portals to secure them (especially if Portals are dropped near objectives...hint, hint)
You deny your opponent a lot of points he spent on heavy weapons by nearly instantaneously engaging them in battle before they can shoot enough to earn back their points and also lacking the usual DE field of vehicles where those weapons really earn their use. You also pressure his gun line units and make it so there are few places for him to hide weaker units that want to sit back and shoot or perform other support roles.
====How Does it Lose?====
There are a few major weaknesses. First off, you are never sure when stuff will finally come out of reserve, and the slow trickling in of your army will often give your opponent more time to have his entire army pound on whatever is on the table.
The army can also lose, spectacularly, if your opponent manages to kill off your WWP carriers before they can drop the portals. This then forces a lot of foot slogging units to hoof it across the board on foot, which is rarely an optimal option for a reserve army. One of the reasons Fast Attack slots make good portal occupants is they help alleviate this issue.
Another (extremely annoying) way to lose is if your WWP(s) is/are surrounded by enemy units. Given that your DE can't get out within 1" of an enemy, this means you have to foot slog... Meaning that you're boned.
Overall the WWP army has suffered more and more with each new iteration of the rules involving it, and is very much a gimmick army, and not that great of one in a competitive sense. Play it for fun and the unique style of it, but recognize what you're choosing to do.
The Haemonculus CovenEdit
Its brief mention in the original codex caused quite a few Haemy lovers to develop this list idea, and with the new Codex it is now a fully realized list. The basic build is 6 Haemys (or perhaps 3 Haemy+Urien) along with Grotesques, Wracks, and Talos. Pretty much anything that’s toughness 4 or greater.
This army can still use aspects of Raider Rush in it, and tends to be surprisingly difficult to kill as it starts the game with a lot of Pain Tokens already in play – indeed this army sacrifices some of the DE speed in exchange for ignoring some of the DE’s classic glass jaw.
This army tends to operate best as a short range shooting/assault force with Talos and Grotesques roaring in on tank parking lots to shred them apart while the Wracks storm into infantry and the Haemonculus laugh in glee.
How Does it Win?Edit
The Coven usually wins through the use of heavy and concentrated assault capabilities combined with some of the usual nasty DE dark matter firepower. This army tends to be assault and short range firepower centric, and is really looking to make use of its flamers and hulking assault troops with the Haemys mixed in and amongst them serving as support wherever they are needed. They also need to make sure they have the tools to pop any transports/vehicles on the board so the Haemy’s minions can get at the squishy infantry centers.
How Does it Lose?Edit
The army tends to be slow (by DE standards) and needs to get into close range for maximum usefulness. Armies that have high power gun line potential (like mech IG) or who also specialize at mid range shooting wars tend to cause the list the most trouble. Also, beware a list fast enough to avoid having to brawl with the Wracks, Talos, and Grotesques – if the Coven can’t force the brawl it wants it tends to suffer.
This Section discusses Dedicated Transports, HQs, and Troops. What's competitive, how to equip them, what works, and what doesn't.
This section discusses Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy options.
Wargear, approved links, and credits/thank you listing.