Friday, May 18, 2018

Harlequins: Making it work

Chopping up yo faces.

So.. my last post about Harlequins might have been a little too negative.  Don't worry though, just because I'm talking real sometimes doesn't mean I'm going to give up.  You guys have to remember that even though I'm a competitive player, I'm not WAAC.  Think about it:  I've been playing pure Kabal Dark Eldar since 3rd.  I have never owned a single Coven unit because I don't like the playstyle and I despise the fluff.  So what does this mean?  That means that I'm going to be playing boatloads of Harlequins and trying to get them to work on the table.

I've been constructing a lot of lists in the last couple of days with the new book and I've had a lot of thought experiments.  Here are some of the topics that I've thought about the most the last couple of days:
  • How viable is Harlequins as a standalone army?  They're so expensive and it's really difficult to get them to work from a raw points-effectiveness standpoint.  The more Harlequins you take, the less other "good stuff" you can take from allies.
  • Speaking of allies:  What makes a good ally for Harlequins?  Do you take them with Eldar or do you take them with Dark Eldar?  What about both?  Do you even have enough points to take both?
  • There are a TON of Strategems that I think Harlequins generally depend on.  Your model count is low, so you really need to spend CP on them every chance you get to make them worth it.  I think Harlequins might be one of the most CP-heavy armies in the entire game from what I've seen.
  • For my playstyle, I'm going to keep the army mechanized because I need to be able to preserve the fragile assault units inside while delivering them across the table.  However, I did think about big units of Troupes a few times because of all the overlapping and stacking buffs.
  • What is the best Form that I should take with my army?  I'm mainly thinking about Soaring Spite right now because my forces are mostly mechanized, but I'm also eyeing Frozen Stars for damage, Midnight Sorrow for tieing things up, and Silent Shroud for practicality with Eldar shenanigans.
  • I'm still working on the best layout for my Troupes, mainly because I'm focusing on 3 key design principles:  The Form matters, but cost-effective units matter more.  The Troupe must be able to be a melee threat to all targets.  The first Fusion Pistol is a must, the rest is luxury.

With that said, I got started working on some basic list principles:
  • Build with as much CP as possible because you should be using Harlequin Stratagems at every chance to keep the army alive.  This means double-Bat is a must-have.
  • Build with some kind of Black Heart so you can bring in Cunning and introduce Vect so you can repress enemy bull-shittery while having a CP-farm on your side.
  • Build as many threats as possible:  Keeping your Troupes alive so they can make a cost-effective return means you have to introduce some serious threats on your side of the table.
Should I take more Dark Eldar?

Here is the first list I came up with after some tweaking:

Soaring Heart
2000 // 13 CP

Soaring Spite Bat +5

HQ:
Troupe Master, Caress, Fusion = 86
Troupe Master, Caress, Fusion = 86

TROOP:
5x Troupe, 5x Caress, 2x Fusion = 118
Starweaver = 99
217

5x Troupe, 5x Caress, 2x Fusion = 118
Starweaver = 99
217

5x Troupe, 5x Caress, 2x Fusion = 118
Starweaver = 99
217

ELITE:
Solitaire = 98

+++

Black Heart Bat +5

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Cunning, Living Muse

Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91

TROOP:
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47

PARTY BOATS:
Raider, Dissie = 80
Raider, Dissie = 80
Raider, Dissie = 80

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125

>>>

Firepower:
12 Disintegrators at BS3+
24 Splinter Rifles at BS3+
6 Blasters at BS3+
2 Blasters at BS2+
6 Shuriken Cannons at BS3+
6 Fusion Pistols at BS3+
2 Fusion Pistols at BS2+

The list design here was really easy because I think all the right notes.  I originally had Razorwings in the army because I really like having some kind of air, but I didn't have enough boots on the ground for me to be truly influential.  When I first began army list construction, I noticed that I was hesitant to turn my Black Heart Spearhead into a Battalion.  I kept finding that second Archon as a bit of tax, but then I remembered just how many times I'm going to use Harlequin Strategems throughout the game.  While the firepower of the list looks pretty small, one can't remember the absolute monster that is Harlequins in melee once they get there.  With all 5 Players in a Troupe having 4 S5 AP-2 attacks, things are going to get all kinds of disgusting once you actually get in there.  To make things more exciting, I'm planning to make one of the Troupe Masters The Great Harlequin for that tasty re-roll 1s to Hit bubble.

Or should I take more Eldar?

Alaitoc Soaring Heart
1999 // 14 CP

Soaring Spite Bat +5

HQ:
Troupe Master, Caress, Fusion = 86
Troupe Master, Caress, Fusion = 86

TROOP:
5x Troupe, 5x Caress, Fusion = 109
Starweaver = 99
208

5x Troupe, 5x Caress, Fusion = 109
Starweaver = 99
208

5x Troupe, 5x Caress, Fusion = 109
Starweaver = 99
208

+++

Alaitoc Bat +5

HQ:
Farseer Skyrunner = 135
Doom, Mind War

Warlock Skyrunner = 70
Protect/Jinx

TROOP:
5x Rangers = 60
5x Rangers = 60
5x Rangers = 60

FLYER:
Crimson Hunter Ex, Lances = 175
Crimson Hunter Ex, Lances = 175

+++

Black Heart Spearhead +1

HQ:
Archon, Huskblade, Blaster = 93
Cunning, Living Muse

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125

>>>

Firepower:
9 Disintegrators at BS3+
4 Bright Lances at BS2+
2 Pulse Laser at BS2+
6 Shuriken Cannons at BS3+
3 Fusion Pistols at BS3+
2 Fusion Pistols at BS2+
15 Ranger Long Rifle at BS3+

This one is a bit different and I might be stretching myself too thin.  I've already dropped the Solitaire (which hurts my heart greatly) to make room for some Eldar allies, while greatly decreasing the amount of DE I have in the army.  The Black Heart detachment has been reduced to a small footprint just for the CP farm and fire support, but I've introduced fighters back into the mix with 2x Crimson Hunter Exarchs to give some heavy lances while the Doomseer and Jinxlock go do their thing.  I still have Rangers to be backcap but otherwise, I find this list a bit light on boots on the ground.  Missions might also be a problem, which is why I'm slightly in favor of the first list.

Regardless of which list works out to be better, both lists have a sizeable Harlequin presence with a lot of melee pressure.  The Caress' across the entire army really puts out some good threat, as well as the 22" moving and shooting Shuriken Cannons and Fusion Pistols without BS penalty.  Hell, I even have a pet unit in the first list because I think the Solitaire is the coolest thing ever.  With CP/Ravager farms in both lists, Warrior/Blasters in the first list, and Crimson Hunters in the second, which list do you guys like better?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Harlequins: Not sure if good

Harlequins are decent at best.

I'm just going to come out and say it:  I don't think Harlequins are looking too good from a competitive standpoint.  With the book firmly in hand now, I don't see quite as much value from them compared to Dark Eldar when the army first got teased.

Before I completely put them aside, just note that I think there are a few things that Harlequins bring to the table.  These are few, they're niche, and they're certainly conditional, but I think Harlequins can have some interesting options that no one else can really pull off.  For example, when you look at some of the things that Soaring Spite can do with their Masque Form, you'll know that the army will be able to move 16"+6" and still shoot with 6" Fusion Pistols without penalty for 28" threat range.  This awesomeness simply cannot be ignored.  Similarly, if you take Faolchu's Talon for your Soaring Spite Warlord, you can move an additional 6" in your movement, and when you blow up, nothing happens.  No explosion, no models dying, you just roll out of your drive-by mobile and find another joyride to blow people up in.  This is great and all, but it's also very niche.  Hell, even their big fancy Webway Gate wants me to drop multiple Talos or a fat unit of Grots out of them instead.

So here's where I have problems with the army:  They're melee Horrors.  They're melee-based units that cost a ton but still have the same statline as those little pink dudes.  You have an army of 1W T3 4++ melee Horrors that desperately want to be relevant in a meta filled with resilience and anti-alpha.  Everyone and their mother knows that T3 and 4++ with a single wound just get absolutely murdered by almost any type of shooting and even below-average melee fillers that play much better in attrition simply because of the points.  Harlequins are great if you think that killing MEQ with 3+ for almost 30 points is great.  You know what else is 30 points?  A Grot, and a Grot comes with so much more resilience because a single Grotesque can be T6 with 4 wounds and 4++ with FNP.  Speaking of 4W, this is actually much bigger than people realize.  It takes 2 D2 shots to kill, out of kill scope of D3 weapons, and makes D6 weapons very nervous.  It's pretty much the sweetest spot for being infuriating at 30ppm.  When it comes to bashing in a Marine's face, a Grot does just as much damage but can stay alive much longer vs. almost any kind of shooting and any kind of melee.  In fact, Harlequin melee stopped being relevant ever since stronger alternatives came out:  Genestealers, Grotesques, Dawneagle Shield-Captains, the list goes on and on.  Hell, even Wyches are better for the points if you want a melee option.  Marines are dead easy to kill with any competitive army worth their salt because single-wound that cost a lot are just not cost-effective in today's meta.  Attrition matters and Harlequins play the game the worst out of all the units in the game.  Every other army that wants to be in melee does it better for the cost.  For me, since I play Dark Eldar in a very shooty manner, why bother being in melee if you can shoot them to death from far away?  My T3 5+ AS with an FNP Warrior that cost 6 points is looking a lot more cost-effective next to a 28-point Harlequin with a Fusion Pistol and an Embrace.  You are essentially paying a premium for a luxury that's not needed.

Arguably the best Form in the book.

This brings me to match-up.  In any given competitive setting, you're going to be looking at your local meta or even the greater meta (GTs or national events) and comparing yourself to all the other armies out there.  You have to factor in the fact that Harlequins are not cheap, not in the slightest.  Their unit choices are limited already, but what you pay for is a unit that's not very durable but has a ton of bad match-ups.  If you run into a Tyranid list with a lot of Genestealers for example, you know for the points that you're going to fight an attrition battle that you're not going to like.  If you're fighting a lot of Gaunts, forget about it because you already lost the points game here (anything with Fearless sucks).  God forbid you to run into a unit of Wyches, or even worse, a unit of Grots.  With Meat Mountain being so popular these days, just running into a unit that you're not going to be able to really hurt while still taking assloads of damage in return is going to suck.  The worst part is when you start thinking about this from a points perspective.  Having Harlequins killing cheap fodder units is a waste of time and it's only going to get you shot up afterward and killed.  A canny opponent is just going to spread out his line so he sets up kill zones for your units afterward (why Midnight Sorrow might be pretty decent).  IG carparks are going to be super annoying and so are most armies with cheap armor and plentiful shooting.  I feel very confident with my pure Kabal army vs. any army that takes a decent amount of Harlequins for example.  When you bleed expensive models, your firepower and melee threat goes down a ton.  That's one of the reasons why I prayed to the dice gods that GW was going to give the army -1 To Hit all-around.  Alas, this was not to be.  Instead, you have to pay up the ass in CPs and bet on Psychic powers or other instances to keep your basic stuff alive long enough to be relevant.

Harlequins are points-prohibitive.  If you take them, you won't have a lot of anything else.  If you want to run them in any meaningful way, you will take them as a Battalion.  You will already need multiple HQs to get the most of your army like the Shadowseer and Troupe Master, and Troupes just naturally fill in the rest of the core choices.  The difficult part here is getting into a points zone where you can still be relevant and be a threat to the enemy without costing an arm and a leg.  It's not just the points that matter here, it's about being relevant and a threat to the enemy.  What I mean by this is that you need to pack anti-tank in any competitive list as well as being a threat in melee because that's what you're taking Harlequins for.  The army, in general, is bi-polar.  If you want them to be a strong AT threat, you take Fusion Pistols.  If you want them to be a big melee threat, you mix up Caress and Embrace.  The problem is that they both go on the same model and when that model dies, he takes both of those upgrades with him.  Some people argue saying that you can take them stock, or leave specials off them as extra wounds, but why the hell would you do that?  If you're just looking at a few models that can do damage, Wyches can fill that role for much cheaper.  Unfortunately, you have this current situation where both ranged and melee special weapons cost a good deal of points on an already expensive model to begin. This is why the attrition factor sucks so much for this army.  It's not very durable and every model lost feels like chunks out of the army's total strength compared to other armies.  Hell, most would agree with me when I say that Soaring Spite is arguably the best Form right now for Harlequins, but what people talk about but don't consider is how many points a boat filled with Fusion Pistol Troupes really are.  If you want to decrease the cost by removing Fusion Pistols, you lose out on the Form's benefits.  You cut the melee weapons and you're now a glorified Wych.  Grats.  More importantly, for how many points you're spending trying to make this clusterfuck work, you're also taking away points from allies who can possibly perform the same role better.  Case in point, you can buy an entire Black Heart Spearhead for less than 500 points if you just want something to shoot.

Too much, too little.

So what am I getting at here?  It means that if you put a lot of points into Harlequins, you need them to be a decent standalone force.  But if you need them to be standalone, in the fact that you need your points to also equate out to the ability to kill tanks and infantry, then you're simply increasing the cost of each Troupe unit.  Taking a deeper dive:  For 500 points, I can buy a Black Heart Spearhead with 3x Ravagers with Dissies on all of them.  What do Dissies do?  They can pretty much wreck anything because this buys the army 27 BS3+ S5 AP-3 D2 shots that can threaten GEQ, MEQ, multi-wound, single-wound, high-armor, whatever, you name it.  This is just from shooting because you're not counting access to Agents of Vect, Living Muse, Cunning, or FNP on all your vehicles.  You put 500 points into a Harlequin force and what do you get?  You do the math and get back to me with exactly what firepower you have in shooting and in melee and see if the numbers pay off for you.  First, you need to be a certain distance from the enemy to threaten them with AT Fusion Pistols, then you need to be in combat to get the most out of them.  To get in, you have to brave the Overwatch, hope none of your 28 point models die, roll to get in, and then you can really shine.  You have to play much cleaner, much more precise and pray for some good ol' dice rolls because there's a lot that can go wrong.  With Grots, you just push models forward and results happen.  With Ravagers, it's the same thing, but you don't need to commit because you're 36" away from your target.  With Harlequins, it's all risk, and I hate risk.  And so do most competitive players.

You know what else is risky?  Conditional effects.  When you look at Harlequins, almost everything in the army requires you to be within 6", roll something to enable (Veiled Path), cast a psychic power, drop multiple Strategems across multiple phases, or something else.  Most of these things can fail to bad luck, some can be outright countered (Vect, Denied), and others can be counter-played sufficiently to really take the wind out of your sails.  The best counter to melee-oriented armies is proper spacing and understanding threat range and averages.  A good player with solid understanding of melee threat range and bubble-wraps will be murderous to Harlequins.  In general, the army is almost too much fluff and not enough consistency when it comes to a lot of their army mechanics and that is a huge risk to competitive players looking to win a GT.  The variables are already great, with matchups and different strength of schedules and players, so you don't need more randomness.  It's almost like you're playing Orks, but you're trying to build a competitive army so you took Eldar or Dark Eldar allies and they're all looking at you like WTF, you took up half of my army points?  A common theme within competitive armies is that they're consistent in their performance.  Just look at some of the discussions around Harlequins being a competitive threat.  It always starts with:  Oh first you take this, then you do this, then you cast this, then you play this Strategem, and then you shoot and lel you embark back in your transport!  Yeah, that's nice, but I play Prophets of Flesh and my entire army has 4++.  That's what consistency looks like and that's why it wins games.  That's why Meat Mountain is doing so much work right now.  That is until people figure out how to beat it.

There is a mild saving grace for the army though, is that they're Battle Brothers with both Dark Eldar and Eldar.  I would say that both of these armies are very competitive with a multitude of unit options.  Eldar arguably has the best psykers (Doom, Jinx) in the game, Shining Spears, Dark Reapers, Wave Serpents, and both the Hemlock and Crimson Hunter Exarch are insane.  Dark Eldar can run Meat Mountain down your throat and cost-effective Kabal units, Ravager Spearheads, Agents of Vect, and CP manipulation up the wazoo.  There is a lot of good stuff in both of these armies, but ultimately it comes down to the points question all over again.  Is Harlequins competitive enough to share the same points as these armies here if you're trying to build competitive?  Only time will tell.  Personally, I think the best Harlequin lists will be the ones mixed with either Eldar or Dark Eldar.  Cegorach knows that I've been trying to make it work.

I really hope I made some solid points here.  Don't get me wrong, I own a ton of the little fuckers and I love them to death, but they're definitely more of a fluffy choice than a competitive choice for me.  There are just too many good unit choices out there that makes army building with them difficult.  I know, I've been trying to design a good army list with Harlequins/DE and/or Eldar for the last couple of days and it's mind-boggling.  When I have something good, I'll show it off.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

X-Wing: Second Edition is on the way!

Feeling fresh.

Oh man, I'm excited.  I haven't played X-Wing in a while because the competitive meta was just so stagnant with all the health regen, turrets,and bombs.  Now that they rebooted the entire game, I'm really pumped to get back into it.

The official announcement is here:
https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/news/2018/5/1/x-wing-second-edition/

There's a thread on the FFG forums that has all the consolidated info:
https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/274813-consolidated-x-wing-20-changes-thread/

Here's a quick run-down of what changed and what didn't..

These things have not changed in 2.0:
  • Models carry over (some models may be re-released with new sculpts/paint/features)
  • Dice are the same
  • Range ruler is the same
  • Range bonuses and obstructions work the same (except turrets)
  • Templates are the same size -- but have a line down the center for alignment on nubless bases
  • Basic game flow (but phases are renamed; some new phases)
  • Maneuver driven by hidden dials plus actions
  • Actions include: Focus, Target lock, evade, boost, barrel roll, cloak, reinforce, jam, coordinate, rotate arc (specific action mechanics may change)
  • Upgrade slots: EPT, modification, title, torpedo, astromech, bombs, missiles, crew, system, turret
  • Some upgrades will still take two slots
  • Tokens (some art changes, shape): focus, evade, target lock, cloak, stress, tractor beam, jam, shield, ion
  • Conditions are still a thing (Director Krennic)
  • Setup Phase is largely the same

These things have changed in 2.0:
  • New phases/phase names ("Strategy Phase")
  • Medium ship bases (confirmed: U-wing, ARC-170, K-wing, G1A, Kimogila, Scurrg, Firespray, TIE Punisher, TIE Reaper, TBD)
  • The new templates have a centerline that aligns to hash marks on the base and assists with bumping.
  • Green maneuvers become blue 
  • Red actions which gain a stress after taking
  • Push the Limit is gone; some ships may "link" a first action into a second and gain a stress (example: focus into target lock linked action)
  • New tokens: Force, charge
  • Force tokens which power force abilities for some pilots; they may also be used to change one Focus result
  • Charge/surge tokens which power some pilot abilities and ordnance
  • Token shape now indicates when removed: "End of Round" tokens are round; square tokens have other triggers to remove (e.g. ion, stress) 
  • Evade tokens to not add evade results; they just change green dice to evades.
  • No costs on pilot cards or upgrades; these are in the squad builder app. Baseline is now 200 points.
  • Each ship base has a bullseye arc and quadrants marked
  • Turrets adopt mobile arc mechanics
  • Turrets also get ranged bonuses and penalties, Ordnance does not.
  • New upgrade cards are full sized, landscape
  • New upgrade slots: Force Abilities ("Instinctive Aim"), Configuration ("S-foils")
  • Resistance and First Order will now be separate factions
  • Firespray-31 is no longer Imperial; Scum only
  • New pilots
  • No upgrade bar; either use ship build cards from the core set or the squad builder app
  • Pilot skill is now called Initiative and goes from 1 to 6 [Wedge Antilles: 6]; no Veteran's Instincts or ability to change
  • Damage deck - new. Repairing damage is now a thing. New cards ("Fuel Leak", "Panicked Pilot", "Wounded Pilot"); only 5 Direct Hits in the deck now.
  • Regen exists, but is powered by charge tokens and nets a weapons disabled (R2 astromech)
  • Decimator gets Reinforce and a red Coordinate
  • Some ships have built-in abilities: Phantom (Stygium); TIE Advanced (Advanced Targeting Computer)
  • Ordnance appears not to spend target locks (e.g. Proton torps); 
  • Ion tokens: 1 for small ship, 2 for medium ship, 3 for large ship
  • Bombs can blow up obstacles (and do damage in the process)
  • New abilities will affect the Setup Phase
  • They will introduce new obstacle types
  • Shield levels have been reduced on many ships
  • Barrel roll is not adjustable; they use the hash marks on the bases for alignment.Barrel Roll now only has 3 positions per side (6 total) – makes Barrel Roll more inline with Boost as you only have 6 total positions.If you declare and action and you can’t do it (ie Barrel Roll would land you on a rock), you just lose the action now
  • There is a "range 0" for own ship abilities.
  • Target Lock is now just Lock – and you can Lock on to objects as well as ships (friendly and enemy).
  • Certain ships have different attack values for different arcs now.

Took inventory last night.  Looks like I'm going to have to do some massive trading when the game comes out.

Rebels:
3 A-Wing (2 Aces)
4 B-Wing (2 Aces)
4 T-65 X-Wing (Core)
2 Z-Wing
1 HWK-290
1 Y-Wing
1 E-Wing
1 K-Wing
1 YT-1300 (Heroes)
1 YT-1300
1 YT-2400
1 Sabine's TIE Fighter

Imps:
3 TIE Interceptors
2 TIE Advanced
1 TIE Phantom
7 TIE Fighters (Core)
4 TIE Interceptors (Royal Guard)
4 TIE Interceptors (181st)
3 TIE Defender (Veterans)
3 TIE Bomber (Veterans)
1 TIE Advanced (Raider)
1 TIE Advanced Proto
1 TIE Aggressor
1 VT-49 Decimator
1 Lambda Shuttle

Scum:
2 BroBots
1 Slave I
1 H-6 Bomber

Resistance:
4 T-70 X-Wing (Core)
1 T-70 X-Wing (Heroes)

First Order:
7 TIE F/O (Core)
1 TIE Silencer

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

DE: Evolution of a competitive list

Double-face Archon is the best Archon.

Man, I am freaking excited to write this article.  There has been a lot of questions floating around lately that I want to address and the more I think about it, the more I can root cause it to this very topic.  I want to talk about the evolution of a competitive list, the aftermath of several games after you've finalized your competitive list.  This is essentially the Part 2 of my rather popular Army Building Guide.

Before I begin in the earnest, let's talk about what kind of questions have been asked in the last couple of days.  Yes, I do get Email and comments both on here and on the Dark City forums.  Some of the topics that have been talked about are:
  • How many Dark Lances vs. Dissies?
  • Take me through your thought process after the Big FAQ?
  • General question asked to all: What does a competitive DE list look like?
  • Warriors or Wyches and why?

While all these questions might seem like they don't connect at first, I assure you they do.  At least to the min-maxy type of player like me who likes to play in a competitive setting, all of these questions are completely valid.  They are valid because I've put this list through a lot of thought, theory and practice questions against a variety of lists and opponents.  Some opponents bring harder lists than others, some not so much.  At the end of the day, a lot of these questions can be answered with "well, that depends" because every playing environment is different, and therefore, every meta is different.  Regardless of whether or not you're playing in a local meta or in a GT, you must go into every environment with a gameplan.  This means knowing the meta, predicting the meta, and taking your list through the gauntlet so you can answer what works best for you (in terms of playstyle) and what will be effective on the battlefield.

So, now that you've read through that guide and have a general idea of how I like to min-max my army lists, let's take a trip down memory lane to the very first army list I posted.

This was before the big FAQ:

1998 - 7 CP
Flayed Skull Battalion - 3 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91

TROOP:
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
Venom, 2x SC = 75
122

5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
Venom, 2x SC = 75
122

10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, Dark Lance = 114
Raider, Splinter Racks, Dark Lance = 95
209

10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, Dark Lance = 114
Raider, Splinter Racks, Dark Lance = 95
209

10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, Dark Lance = 114
Raider, Splinter Racks, Dark Lance = 95
209

FLYER:
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lances = 145
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lances = 145

+++

Black Heart Spearhead - 1 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Warlord: Labyrinthine Cunning
Artifact: Writ of Living Muse

TROOP:
7x Warriors, Blaster = 59
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
144

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dark Lances = 140
Ravager, 3x Dark Lances = 140
Ravager, 3x Dark Lances = 140

>>>
Firepower Analysis:
20 Dark Lances at BS3+
9 Blasters at BS3+
3 Blasters at BS2+
4 Splinter Cannons at BS3+
21 Splinter Rifles at BS3+ with Flayed Skull + Splinter Racks
19 Splinter Rifles at BS3+ elsewhere
2 Razorwing Missiles at BS3+

Possibly the best DE gif to ever exist.

This is not a bad list, but let me take you through all the thought exercises I put myself through while playing with this list over 12 times now.  Remember, when you take your list through a gauntlet, the objective here is to build knowledge and experience.  Knowledge in the sense that you know what every unit in the list is designed to do and what you purchased it to do (very different things), and experience in the sense that in X matchup on Y battlefield in Z scenario, you know what to do with said units.

Here are the thought exercises that I ran through in 12 games.  There might be more, but these are the highlights.  I will write a short blurb about each:

Balancing Dark Lances with Dissies
I started off with a lot of Darklight, and most importantly, a lot of Dark Lances that have 36" range.  This was because my meta is saturated with competitive builds of Imperials (double SR/Dante, Azrael Hellblaster Deathstars, Guard CP bats/Custodes, AdMech Robots/Guard CP, or just Guard CP Tank Park).  While I thought the results were decent, I was finding myself less effective against MEQ out in the open.  Shooting a Dark Lance at a Marine is always satisfying, but it's not the best use of points because it's typically overkill.  It's pretty much just wasted on Guard and less effective vs. Shield-Captains on Dawneagles.  Therefore, I needed to strike a balance between lances for longer engagements and Dissies for volume and more efficient killing those targets I just named.  I can literally go on with this forever, but what you need to do is do a firepower analysis (or whatever your primary killing method is) and range band everything with respect to what units you're engaging.  The targets depend completely on your meta and your predictions for the meta.  More on this later.  Just remember that lances are better vs. T6/7 3+ targets (so basically Rhinos/Robots) while Dissies are better vs. everything else.

Venoms vs. Raiders
This one was an easier decision for me because I wanted more heavy weapons and transport space for Warriors.  It was either more Dark Lance presence for AT or Dissies for general purpose.  Either way, my meta called for less anti-infantry and more heavy weaponry which only the Raider can deliver.  I also noticed that in my first couple of games, losing Venoms also dropped my SCs which was surprisingly frustrating.  The next point will explain more.

Taking Dark Lances on Warriors
This is just playtesting at work.  I originally thought:  Great!  More lances the better right?  Not really, because I noticed that I tend to move around a lot while engaging, and the new Strategems like Fire and Fade kept my army active at all times.  Investing 20 points into a Dark Lance is good, but having it hit on 4+ after you move is not.  This is pretty much a 50/50 and after several games, I wanted to commit to something more efficient.  This is when I started weighing the importance of having a 10 point SC upgrade on my Warriors vs. 10 point Splinter Racks vs. Flayed Skull and the re-rolls.  I found that the Splinter Racks are good, but math says SCs are point for point much better.  It also stays there after you lose the Raider and further increases in damage with respect to range compared to racks.  Boom, made the switch and I've been liking the results so far.  In some ways, I would say that Warriors carrying SCs is more durable than Venoms because they're less of a fire magnet.

Converting from Flayed Skull to Black Heart
You can find me writing a lot about this, but I wanted to bring more units under Black Heart simply because I can take advantage of the Archon's Living Muse on the Raiders themselves.  The more I played with Black Heart, the more I saw an advantage in keeping my Raiders alive and thus, keeping the bulk of my firepower unharmed and alive as well.  As long as my Warriors are inside and shooting, I felt less pressure on my presence on the board and greater pressure on my opponent once more of his things started dying.  This is what I need because as Dark Eldar, you need to keep pressure and maintain momentum and tempo in a game.  Keeping my units alive was more important to me in that sense, and the more heavy weapons I can put in-range of my Archon, the better results I was having.  There's a follow-up to this below, and that's also because Black Heart transports work better for Obsidian Rose units.

Black Heart Air Wing to unlock AoV
I feel like a genius for discovering this and blogging about it, but not really because it was pretty much a braindead choice.  AoV is great and just having it in the army mindfucks your opponent every time he wants to use a Strategem.  Remember again guys, the more you make your opponents think, the higher your chances are of winning.

Min-maxing different detachments to spread obsession bonuses (Black Rose)
OK, this one I will take credit for because I think it's awesome.  My Kabal of the Black Rose is simply the original pure Kabal list min-maxed as much as possible to suit my playstyle.  Since I was already using Black Heart vehicles for their durability, AoV, re-rolls thanks to Living Muse and Cunning, I knew I needed to compliment that with an Obsession that would fit my particular playstyle.  Flayed Skull was great, I've played it a few times, but it was too much of a glasshammer that encouraged overly aggressive plays.  While I normally like that kind of play because I'm a highly aggressive player, my meta matchups needed something more flexible.  I also noticed that the closer I got to Shield-Captains, the more I subjected myself to losing Raiders.  This is more self-enlightenment more than anything else:  I'm an aggressive player but I needed more threat without exposing myself to painful Space Marine assaults.  I also needed something that I can poke and run because my meta have big scary melee units.  Great, Obsidian Rose it is.  Combine that with Black Heart and I have my Kabal of the Black Rose.  Boom.

Trying min-squad vs. decent squad Wyches in Raiders
This feels like the odd-man out here, but I needed to try Wyches because I have like 50 of them sitting in a bin.  They're great, I love them and I think they definitely will see play, but maybe not in a list like mine because the only thing I'm doing is taking away from my firepower.  This is the list schism that I was talking about in my previous articles on how to build lists, and that's if you start to branch off and try to do different things (especially polarizing things), you water down your ability to be effective.  When I mean polarizing, I mean specifically mixing shooting and melee whereas if you take the Meat Mountain + Wyches, you might get better results because there's more of a particular form of pressure that can overwhelm your opponent if they're not ready for it.  Either way, I see merits in both min-squads vs. the larger 8-9 man squads of Wyches in a Raider.  I still think Raiders are their best method of delivery, especially when you have shenanigans like Enhanced Aethersails and Fire and Fade (with a Dissie-mounted Raider) on T1.  If I wanted to play more casual, I'll mix up my lists some more, but if I wanted to just play the ranged game and shoot with my Black Rose, I will go for more shooting, period.

Switching to Dark Lances on my Razorwings
After a bunch of games, I started noticing one thing:  Once I converge with my Razorwings on that first initial high-five with my Living Muse Archon, they flew off to wherever I needed them to go.  I never saw them within ass-slapping range of my Archon ever again so I knew something had to change.  I knew I still needed Dissies, but just how many of them?  This goes back to the question about balancing Dissies with Darklight, but after even more min-max testing, I decided that Ravagers were enough for now.  Having 9 shots that are always in range of re-roll 1s to Hit and Wound was giving me the right results, whereas I've had more success moving Dark Lances to the Razorwings.  The range threat was still the same, but the big difference for me there was that my lances need 3s to wound most things I wanted dead vs. the 5s that I would need with Dissies.  Without the re-rolls, 3s are much better than 5s when dealing damage for sure.  The other factor for me was that I found my previous firepower analysis was a bit biased towards Dissies:  Having 15 Dissies and less 36" range lances.  My first couple of turns in my meta is more probing and poking, and I definitely needed some added long-range weight before I pounce forward with my superior threat range.  Notice how I'm using my experience in games to guide my decisions with what the list looks like in accordance to my meta and playstyle.

What my lists look like after the big FAQ
Well, the good news is that not much really changed for DE.  I min-maxed some shit here and there but overall, the Black Rose emerged pretty victorious after all the dust settled.  My lists are not overly ridiculous with more Ravagers than a bag can hold, and I typically build for more balanced lists than something completely over the top.  OK, the 20 36" lances were kinda hilarious though.  What I need to pay attention to going forward is not how my lists adapt, but how my competitive meta evolves.  I have initial predictions that I will see more Guard players because I think they came out pretty good with the CP boosts for Bats and Brigades.  Armies that relied heavily on alpha-striking with CC and dropping in the first turn also got hit, which further strengthens the power of gunline-oriented armies.  With that said, I need to think about which armies out there will take advantage of the FAQ the most and prepare my list accordingly.  For now, I think my mix is pretty decent since I just converted more units to carry lances, but only time and more playtesting will tell.

Well, there you have it folks.  The first list I posted was on the last day of March.  After all the experience and games, this is what I landed on today:

An artistic expression for my contempt for bad lists.

Kabal of the Black Rose
1999 // 10 CP

Obsidian Rose Bat +5 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster, PGL = 94
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster, PGL = 94

TROOP:
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104

+++

Black Heart Spear +1 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Warlord: Cunning, Living Muse

TROOP:
7x Warriors, Blaster, BP = 69

PARTY BUS:
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125

+++

Black Heart Wing +1 CP

FLYER:
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145

>>>
Firepower Analysis:
11 Dark Lances at BS3+
9 Dissies at BS3+
9 Blasters at BS3+
3 Blasters at BS2+
3 Razorwing Missiles at BS3+
4 Splinter Cannons at BS3+
41 Splinter Rifles at BS3+

Is this list perfect?  Hell no.  The big question up in the air right now is what the new competitive meta is going to look like.  However, you bet your ass that I will be actively thinking about all the topics I went over today as we keep on murdering our opponents.  Luckily, I've had enough games with the list above that I'm feeling pretty good, so I'm currently testing other lists to gauge which is more competitive.  That's another story for another time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

DE: Miserable Meat Mountain

Get. Cleaved. Hard.

Today is a special day.  Why?  Because I'm posting about a hypothetical competitive list that I've been working on that features Coven.  The idea of this list came from friends of mine in the competitive 40K circuit that has been actively discussing the validity of Coven.  Personally, I think that Prophets have some of the strongest units in all of the Dark Eldar book.  The 4++ across the entire army is absolutely insane considering all the buffs you can stack.

What you have here is a list that's capable of outputting a dramatic amount of firepower on top of having a huge amount of resilient, melee pressure that can move surprisingly quick across the battlefield.  All Haemonculus units move 7" (Wyches move 8") across the battlefield where Talos can move a surprising 8".  When you consider the fact that Talos can now Fly, you really to question all these massive, resilient meaty things are being thrown into your face in the most ridiculous way possible.

Here's the list, I'll go into detail below:

Miserable Meat Mountain
1993 // 9-11 CP

Black Heart Bat +5 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Cunning, Living Muse

Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91

TROOP:
5x Warriors, Blaster = 47
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104

PARTY BOATS:
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125

+++

Prophets Spear +1 CP

HQ:
Urien = 90
Diabolical Soothsayer

ELITE:
10x Grotesques = 350

HEAVY:
Talos, 2x Macro, 2x Haywire = 99
Talos, 2x Macro, 2x Haywire = 99
Talos, 2x Macro, 2x Haywire = 99

>>>

So what you do here is take Alliance of Agony to enable the Diabolic Soothsayer on Urien.  This automatically pays for itself and you can possibly get 2 more CP depending on what you roll.  All in all, this makes your CP count 9-11 depending on hot your dice are on this roll.

Urien himself is pretty amazing.  For 90 points, which is 15 points or so more than a regular Haemonculus, you get +1S and Ld. on top of the +1T for all units within 6" of him.  He's fast enough to keep up with the rest of your army, is T6 because his aura also works on himself, and is incredibly difficult to kill because he halves damage coming into him.  However, what makes him work is the rest of the units he brings along with him as part of your army.  With his +1S/T aura, he makes all the Grotesques shielding him T6, 4++, 4W with FNP.  Each of those beasts has 5 S6 AP-2 1D WS3+ attacks and that's going to do some serious damage to whatever they touch.  The Talos is even more deadly because they are now T7, 4++, 7W with FNP with 6 S8 AP-2 2D WS3+ attacks each with an additional 2D3 Haywire Blaster shots.  Sure, these hit on 4s, but it's still nothing to sneeze at, especially if you're a vehicle.

I can see a deployment strategy for these guys as Grots in front, Urien in the middle, Talos all around Urien.  This gives him a Spear of Meat that he can drive directly into the heart of the enemy, making them shit their pants while your Kabal units do their thing.  What makes a list like this work is that you cannot really ignore the cascading mountain of meat running into your lines.  Sooner or later you'll have to deal with them and they're an absolute pain to deal with.  If 10 Grots get into combat, they're going to throw out 50 high-strength attacks that are going to murder pretty much anything they touch.  They're incredibly difficult to kill and they will beat out most things in combat easily due to sheer attrition and unit preservation.  Unlike most fatty units, Grots don't die easily and so the overall damage of the unit will stay intact much longer.

In short, your opponents are left reeling from the damage that your firebase of Living Muse Ravagers and Raiders are inflicting, but they're too distracted to deal with them because of all the Coven units closing in.  If they focus on the vehicles (and you should play the range-game here at first), they're also making a mistake.  Hopefully, you've played smart enough to reduce as much damage as possible and watch your Coven units smash into his lines untarnished.  This is Tough Decisions 101 and Dark Eldar plays this game much better than most.  When it comes to pure pressure, I think Prophets is the way to go if you want to bring a melee force that can threaten anything from MEQ to Imperial Knights

Yes, I'm going to call this list experimentation Miserable Meat Mountain after the competitive Warmahordes Trolls list.  It's a Black Heart Bat and Prophets Spear, so it's relatively easy to construct.  Now, help me out with this grand experiment and field this list if you're capable of fielding this!

Monday, April 16, 2018

DE: New FAQ and updated lists!

New FAQ and updated lists.

Ho ho ho, a day after I blog about competitive play and Dark Eldar's place in the meta, GW drops a huge FAQ that extends to all armies and changes the way we play the game.

You can find all the good jazz right here, but I'll sum up the main highlights of how this changes the way I build my armies going forward.  Funny enough, DE didn't change all that much and it was really those other armies out there that got a big calibration.

Here are the big highlights from the FAQ:
  • Smite spam is now harder to cast
  • Character targeting changed so other characters can't block targeting
  • Battalions and Brigades now generate +5 CPs and +12 CPs!
  • You only get one kind of Ignore save wounds
  • Various point changes (increase to CW units and Dark Reapers)
  • You cannot have more than 3 datasheets in a 2K game except troops and transports
  • Soups got hit so you can't mix as hard, you just have to read it
  • Reserves also changed so first turn alphas are not as devastating

There's a lot of changes here the directly affects competitive play, but my favorite change of all is probably the rule of 3.  Not being able to spam is really awesome of the game's health.  The soup changes also make it so you can't just bring the most powerful units of all different books into a single detachment and that's awesome.  The only one I'm not too sure about is the fact that Battalions and Brigades generate so much CP now.  While I can understand GW's intention here to fix the more elite armies limited CPs, this benefits everyone.  This means that IG CP batteries with their cheap ass Brigades are in season.. even more so than they were before.  Lastly, the changes to Reserves alpha striking is not created equal with all the armies out there.  Some are much more effective than others, but other armies are made better when these kind of assaults are part of their strategic repertoire.

With that said, the only thing I'm really bummed out about is the fact that the Farseer, Warlock, and Spiritseer went up in price.  I was actually in the middle of writing out a list last night, but now that the FAQ has dropped, I'm going to update all the lists I'm using in one go!

Here they are:

Kabal of the Black Rose
1999 // 10 CP

Obsidian Rose Bat +5 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster, PGL = 94
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster, PGL = 94

TROOP:
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SC = 104

+++

Black Heart Spear +1 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Warlord: Cunning, Living Muse

TROOP:
7x Warriors, Blaster, BP = 69

PARTY BUS:
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125

+++

Black Heart Wing +1 CP

FLYER:
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145

>>>
Firepower:
11 Dark Lances at BS3+
9 Dissies at BS3+
9 Blasters at BS3+
3 Blasters at BS2+
3 Razorwing Missiles at BS3+
4 Splinter Cannons at BS3+
40 Splinter Rifles at BS3+

This my pure DE Kabal list combining the range power that is Obsidian Rose with the resilience of Black Heart.  I call this my Kabal of the Black Rose and it has been undefeated since the Codex came out.  A lot of firepower, a lot of pain.

Alaitoc Black Spear
2000 // 10 CP

Alaitoc Bat +5 CP

HQ:
Farseer Skyrunner = 135
Doom, Mind War

Warlock = 55
Protect/Jinx

TROOP:
5x Rangers = 60
5x Rangers = 60
5x Rangers = 60

+++

Alaitoc Wing +1 CP

FLYER:
Hemlock Wraithfighter = 210
Jinx

Hemlock Wraithfighter = 210
Jinx

Crimson Hunter Exarch, 2x Bright Lance = 175

+++

Black Heart Spear +1 CP

HQ:
Archon, Huskblade, Blaster = 93
Cunning, Living Muse

TROOP:
10x Warriors, 2x Blasters, SC = 104
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
189

10x Warriors, 2x Blasters, SC = 104
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
189

10x Warriors, 2x Blasters, SC = 104
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
189

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125
Ravager, 3x Dissies = 125

>>>

Firepower:
9 Disintegrators at BS3+
3 Dark Lances at BS3+
2 Bright Lances at BS2+
1 Pulse Laser at BS2+
6 Blasters at BS3+
1 Blaster at BS2+
3 Splinter Cannons at BS3+
4 Heavy D-Sycthes at Auto
21 Splinter Rifles at BS3+
15 Ranger Long Rifle at BS3+

This is my current DE + CW list and I think it's actually pretty decent.  I used it once so far and the combination of Doom/Jinx with DE firepower is just insane.  With the loss of so many lances, having the Crimson Hunter in the army actually helps a lot.

Black Skull Strife
2000 // 14 CP

Flayed Skull Bat +5 CP

HQ:
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91
Archon, Agonizer, Blaster = 91

PARTY BOATS:
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85

TROOP:
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SCannon = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SCannon = 104
10x Warriors, 2x Blaster, SCannon = 104

FLYER:
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145
Razorwing, 2x Dark Lance = 145

+++

Black Heart Spear +1 CP

HQ:
Archon, Huskblade, Blaster = 93
Warlord: Hatred Eternal, Djin Blade

HEAVY:
Ravager, 3x Dinsintegrator = 125
Ravager, 3x Dinsintegrator = 125
Ravager, 3x Dinsintegrator = 125

+++

Strife Bat +5 CP

HQ:
Succubus, Agonizer = 54
Blood Dancer, Whip

Succubus, Agonizer = 54

TROOP:
8x Wyches, Agonizer, Shardnet, BP = 83
8x Wyches, Agonizer, Shardnet, BP = 83
5x Wyches, Agonizer, Shardnet = 49

>>>

Firepower:
9 Disintegrators at BS3+
9 Dark Lances at BS3+
6 Blasters at BS3+
3 Blasters at BS2+
2 Razorwing Missiles at BS3+
3 Splinter Cannons at BS3+
25 Splinter Rifles at BS3+

This is my close-combat list with double Bats and a Black Heart Spear.  This list gives me some great killy units with my Blood Dancer Succubus and Hatred Eternal Archon.  I can also choose to go with more re-rolls with Living Muse and Cunning, but I think I'm going to use this for now because I want to be able to play CC armies occasionally.  I still stand by what I said before in previous posts:  Cults are our best CP battery (especially now with the Bat CP buffs).  Gotta go fast!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

DE: Competitive list predictions

What is competitive and what is not?

As players of all skill levels get more accustomed to the new Dark Eldar codex, one of the questions I see popping up all over the place is "what's competitive?"  Well, first thing's first.  The book has only been out of a couple of days, but I think I have my bearings point in the right direction for what is going to be good in competitive DE play.  However, what I can't see too clearly is just how much much of Dark Eldar is going to be in them.  What I mean by that exactly?  I'm referring to how many Dark Eldar units will make the cut into a GT winning list and roughly what percentage of the army will be from the book itself.

You've all heard about soups, right?  When you hear something like Imperial soup, this is referring to a mixture of detachments taken from different army books to form an army.  Most of the time, this is done for competitive reasons and why there have been countless articles out there complaining about this.  Thinking back towards the earliest days of Allies, it's true:  Not all army books are created equal and if no one allies with anyone else, this would make the imbalance stand out even more.  However, the same could be said about certain armies not being to ally with other armies.  Aeldari soup is nowhere close to having the number of options as Imperial soup, while armies like Necrons are pretty much left to fend for themselves.

Allied armies, in general, have room to be the most competitive.  While mono-faction armies can be good, they normally result in spamming of a key unit that's just outrageously cost-efficient or so good that you would be stupid not to take a lot of them.  An example of this can be the Index Tau Commander or the current Flyrant spam that you're seeing from Tyranid players.  Necrons are reduced to spamming crap like triple C'Tan vaults because they have no one to really ally with.

However, when you look at Imperials, you get crap like Guard CP batteries for dirt cheap and having access to an easy +6 CP from cost-effective battalions.  You can then supplement that with super-effective AdMech Robots and Shield-Captains on Dawneagles.

Some other competitive lists out there:
Ynnari Dark Reapers w/ Saim-Hann Spears
Shining Spears w/ Hemlocks
Magnus w/ Tzaangor herds
Morty Poxbombs
Dark Talon spam
Blood Angels w/ Tallaran Superheavy
Azrael Hellblaster deathstars
..etc

So, the question I've been asking myself over the last couple of days is where Dark Eldar fits in the picture now.  What do we have in our book that is so good that we might see mono-army builds, or what do we have that is incredibly cost-effective to the point that we can replace Dark Reapers or Saim-Hann Spears when it comes to battle prowess?  Above all, what do we have in our book that will make us a competitive pick to the point that WAAC players will take our army over all other options out there in the meta?

Prophet Grots are actually pretty gross.. in a super good way.

These are pretty serious questions to any competitive player and this is one of those things that will spark a lot of controversies.  Just recently, I came back from arguing on the internets about Wych hordes (100+ Wyches) being the next best thing.  The first thing I thought to myself:  ARE YOU GUYS NUTS?  Seriously, Wyches are pretty good, but I wouldn't rank them better to the cost-effectiveness of 6 ppm Warriors, plentiful Dissie/Blasters, or the sheer durability of a 35-point Grot that has 4W, 4++ and FNP with a healthy amount of attacks and great movement.  Truth be told, it boggles my mind when I see people screaming that Wyches are the best thing in the codex.  I'm not sure if they're just outright trolling, or all the dust from their shelved Wyches finally polluted their brains.

Maybe it's something Nick said over on his blog post about the DE book.  Maybe this is why people are going all apeshit over Wyches but yet missing the key ingredients on why a Wych heavy list like Nick's example works in the first place.  I'll tell you the secret:  Whenever you buy Wyches, you give up on shooting and other strong and competitive options there are in the entire Aeldari faction.  In order for Wyches to be effective, the unit composition has to be correct because you need the pressure to be applied correctly and effectively.  This means you need to also buy Reavers or Grots to be part of the attack because they are also high-value targets that threaten the enemy army in a bigger way (Reavers enter combat quickly and Grots just smash).  All this added pressure then takes away from your shooting elements such as a Black Heart Spearhead of 4-5 Ravagers sitting in the backfield raining shit on your opponents.  What this article doesn't mean is that you should go out and buy 100 Wyches to put them on the table.  That's just an expensive and stupid investment.

Now that I'm done ranting, let's get back down to business.  I want this thread to spark controversy but I also want to spark a serious thought experiment.  What do we have in our book that can possibly uproot the other unit combinations from the meta and say that ours is superior?

Here are my picks:
  • Blackheart Spearhead - Archon with Cunning and Living Muse, with a lot of Ravagers armed with Dissies.  Gives you an amazing trait, shooting consistency and access to Agents of Vect.
  • Grot walls or meat mountains - Go Prophets with big Grot walls, WWP them in or run them up the field with T5/6, 4++, FNP and 4W a piece with above average attacks.  The idea here is to combine the effort with Wyches or Reavers to apply maximum pressure.
  • Cursed Blade Wyches, but only in combination with Reavers or Grot Walls - Wyches by themselves are mediocre at best.  Even if you put 100 of them down on the table, I can't see them killing a whole bunch of applying good pressure until you mix them in with Grots or Reavers for added pressure.  Why Cursed Blade?  Because you will need the fearless or else people will shoot your ass to half and watch the rest crumble from morale.
  • T5 Reavers are really good too because they're fast enough to support any area of the battlefield and can supply decent anti-armor as well.

While I didn't call out Kabalite Warriors specifically, I do want to mention that I think we're still in the process of figuring stuff out.  I'm talking specifically about Obsession combinations like my Kabal of the Black Rose (Black Heart + Obsidian Rose) or even Flayed Skull Venom spam.  People are STILL debating what Obsessions to take for the Wych cults, but I think everyone and their mother agrees that Prophets is probably the best Coven.

Regardless of this early impression, I will say that in the next couple of days I'll be thinking heavily about Eldar soup and what that means from a competitive standpoint.  While Ynnari is pretty meh for me right now, I'm still very excited to mix in Alaitoc units with a Black Heart Spearhead.  I'm also excited to start playing around with just pure Aledari and say screw the Obsessions, let's just go for good value units.  Once the new Harlequins book drops, you will see that this endless debate on what's the best competitive DE list will change again.  Then again, we're not even sure we're ever going to see a pure DE list at the top tables.  I personally think Farseers are just so good I'm going out of my way to include them in my more competitive lists.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

DE: Tips and tricks on movement

Archon School is the best School.

I'm going to be traveling on business soon so I want to get this one out to you guys ASAP.  This is a quick article on some tips and tricks when it comes to vehicle-heavy play.  As you can see in a lot of my lists, it has a lot to do with vehicles.  However, in order for DE players to get the most out of their vehicles and the units inside them, you have to be very careful in how you play them.

Dark Eldar vehicles are powerful because they have Fly and great movement, however, they are fragile and if you use them incorrectly, they will die like bitches and so will your dudes.  If you're going to die, you better kill a lot of shit to make your death worthwhile.

Before we begin, here are some useful terms for you to remember:

Falling Back
Units starting the Movement phase
within 1" of an enemy unit can either
remain stationary or Fall Back. If you
choose to Fall Back, the unit must end its
move more than 1" away from all enemy
units. If a unit Falls Back, it cannot
Advance (see below), or charge (pg 182)
later that turn. A unit that Falls Back
also cannot shoot later that turn unless it
can FLY.

Open-topped: Models embarked on this model can attack
in their Shooting phase. Measure the range and draw line
of sight from any point on this model. When they do so,
any restrictions or modifiers that apply to this model also
apply to its passengers; for example, the passengers cannot
shoot if this model has Fallen Back in the same turn,
cannot shoot (except with Pistols) if this model is within
1" of an enemy unit, and so on. Note that the passengers
cannot shoot if this model Falls Back, even though the
Raider itself can.

Hovering: Instead of measuring distance and ranges to and
from this model’s base, measure to and from this model’s
hull or base (whichever is closer).

Airborne: This model cannot charge, can only be
charged by units that can FLY , and can only attack or be
attacked in the Fight phase by units that can FLY.

Look at this threat range man.

OK, now we're ready to begin.  First, I want you to look at this picture for at least 5 minutes.  Look at the measuring tape, and then bask in the glory that is DE movement and threat range.  You get out of the vehicle by measuring from the hull (including the tip of that Shock Prow) for 3".  You move 7" with your Warriors and 8" with your Wyches.  You then have roughly 1" because you measure to the edge of your 25mm base, so you have a total movement hull to edge of base of 11".  You then have a Rapid Fire range of 12", your Blasters reach out to 18", and the rest of your shit that matters literally hits from a mile away.  Just with Rapid Fire Splinters mean you have a total threat of a little over 23" out of a transport when you measure from the base.  This is why Obsidian Rose is so worth it to me, because it extends the threat range of this bullshit even further.

Before we continue, I want to say that if you're playing with Warriors in a gunboat, you want to stay in that gunboat as long as possible.  This is because the Raider is Open-topped and you can get much more mileage out of it with better durability (T5 10W 4+/5++/6+++) than shooting at paper armor Warriors out in the open.  You have much greater threat range inside a Raider as well, since the damn thing can move 14" and you can still Rapid Fire out of it measuring from the hull.  That means you have a threat range of 26" of threat, which is a few inches greater than your Warriors walking on foot.  Yes, you heard that right, your Warriors move almost as fast as your Raiders.  Let it sink it good and long.

So why get out?  Because your Archon's aura doesn't work while you're inside the Raider.  It only works when you're outside which is why it's very worthwhile to sometimes unload all of your shit within 3" of your Raider (so they can quickly jump back in next round), get within 6" of that sweet ass bubble of the Archon, and then unload like crazy.  It's like having Flayed Skull's re-roll 1s for all of your weapons.  If you have Writ of the Living Muse while using Black Heart, here's all those crazy re-roll 1s to Wound as well.  However, if you don't need the re-rolls, just sit in the Raider for as long as possible because even if the Raider is engaged, you can still disembark from it and not count as Fallen Back for your Warriors.  You just have to get out first before your Raider Falls Back.

Get out, get buff, shoot, get scooped.

This is what I mean when I say get out, get the bonus from the Archon, and reap the whirlwind.  You're still within 3" of your Raider so you can taxi back in next movement and your Archon is still in range because 6" from base to base is actually ridiculously long.  The biggest thing I want you to take away from this picture is that I angled the camera downwards deliberately here.  Your Warriors can fire from beneath your Raider because Line of Sight is a real thing (model's point of view).  Sure, they can probably only see something in front of them, but LoS is one of those things I will bring up time and time again with Dark Eldar.  LoS really matters for them because denying damage while doing damage is the key hallmark of the faction.

Another subtle tip from this example is that the Archon has 2 units in front of him before he can be shot at if your opponent doesn't have any flyers of their own.  Be very wary when there are flyers on the map because they can zoom across the battlefield and eat you alive if you're not careful.  Those damn Hemlocks of mine have claimed so many careless generals' lives.

Weapon ranges are important.

There is a lot going on in this picture so I'm going to try to explain piecemeal.  The first thing I want you guys to look at is the range and coherency of the models.  Note that all my units in the front drawing red are in Rapid Fire of that unit of Wraithguard while the most valuable damage weapons, the Blasters, are in the back marked yellow.  The reason why I chose to show this off is that when you pull models, you can pull the extra rifles from the front to possibly deny a charge, and to preserve your longer ranged weapons whenever possible.  As a shooty army, you should preserve as much damage whenever you can, however you can.

The second thing I want to show here is the placement of the Raider in front of the Wraithguard.  Yes, I know they're WG and they shoot like crazy, but pretend they aren't for a second and I'm just using them as models.  The Raider is long, a little over 7" and acts as a perfect defensive obstacle for units that want to charge your paper armor duders in the back.  By putting a Raider in front of them, you form an artificial wall for your opponents to go around.  Therefore, you prolong the charge distance of your enemies and keep your Warriors alive another round (possibly).  Sometimes, this means you have to make sacrifices.  For Dark Eldar, I strongly encourage you to employ such tactics because, for us, it's any means to the end.  It's both fluffy and is perfectly applicable in-game.

Here's where Fly comes in handy.  If you have units inside the Raider, once you Fall Back with the Raider, they cannot shoot.  What you do here instead is:  Disembark your Warriors out of the Raider first and then Fall Back with your Raider so they can both shoot.  You just need to be mindful that you're more than 1" away from the enemy when you get out.  If your Warriors are caught in the open and are now in melee, they can't Fall Back and shoot (not conventionally at least).  Try and avoid this at all costs.  Your Raider, however, has the Fly rule and can Fall Back and shoot.  This is why if they don't kill the Raider, they won't stop it from firing on them.  The same applies to our Ravagers as well.

Now you're in range, now you're not.

Next picture is just more salt to injury.  Let's pretend those WG don't auto-hit the Razorwing and therefore will murder him.  Instead, let's treat them like TH/SS Terminators or something.  They see a juicy target, or rather, multiple juicy targets to charge.  Hmm, that Raider is 9" away, and those Warriors are a little under 12 so it's not impossible.  Oh boy, here comes a flyer 1" away.  Yup, I just increased the charge distance of those Terminators to barely possible on the Raider and not possible at all on the Warriors.  It gets even sadder because if you declare the charge because you're not careful and account for the distance traveled, I can still Overwatch even if you fail.  This is the advantage of the Airborne special rule that flyers have.  Unless that unit has Fly, you should do this and make your opponent really upset.

MSU is wonderful when used correctly.

OK, this little picture shows you the value of having multiple units in a Raider.  The above there is 2 units of 5 Warriors (2x5 config) with Blasters in a single Raider.  Everything is in Rapid Fire range and the Blasters are slightly in the back (like they should be).  Red and blue symbolizes the first movement action I take, then the second, and yellow presents where the Raider goes everyone disembarks so I can scoop up blue squad next round if they're still around.  Always have an exit strategy and a follow-up plan.  Too many times I see players just do what's in the moment and not plan ahead.  This is not how Dark Eldar plays because misplays or stupidity can literally end the game for us.  You have to be methodical, cunning and smart with how you play the game.  Now that my plan is laid out, I lay into my targets with firepower.

MSU is an abbreviation for Multiple Small Units.  This has been around forever and I've played way too many years of DE, High Elves, Dark Elves and other MSU-based armies to understand the value of it.  For Dark Eldar, this has some great uses because it allows you to do shit like the above picture.

Here are some of the other benefits of having 2x5:
  • Can split up squad as and when needed
  • Same number of Blasters as 10-man units
  • Can double up on PGLs or other sergeant weapons
  • Less vulnerable to Ld
  • Can build Brigades fast, but you also fill slots quick

The biggest boon is your ability to split up:  Your opponent has to shoot one squad to death instead of 2 so he can oversaturate fire and potentially waste shots.  This is mainly because when you declare targets, you have to declare where all your shots are going and from which guns before you roll dice.  This means if you really want a squad dead, you have to commit.  Not that it takes a lot to kill off DE infantry units in the open, but being frugal on shots or some lucky 6+++ saves means that a sole Blaster dealing S8 AP-4 D6 damage is going to go around shooting you in the dick.

Likewise, if you spread wide enough, he now has 2 targets to charge instead of 1.  Look at the distance between the two units above.  He's definitely going to commit to one side if he wants a good chance, and even if he charges one squad, that's still another Blaster that's free to shoot and not in Fall Back mode.

It all comes together to make your opponents' life miserable.

We're almost done guys, hang in there.  Look at this example above:  I placed the Archon within buff range of both units while placing two Raiders there to form the Great Wall of bad decisions.  They obviously cannot go around to assault my dudes because that's an impossible charge.  They can't fire on the Archon because there are multiple units in front of him.  The only logical target there is the Raiders, and if they charge into them, Raiders are wide enough (almost 3") to stop any follow-up Consolidation prize in the Warriors in the front.  The only thing they can do is Consolidate into the other Raider, in which case I'll Fly away and shoot him with my entire army next turn.

Now imagine I had about 4 more squads of Warriors in the back there by my Archons ready to go too.  That is a lot of units now ready to follow-up, amplified damage via the Archon's bubble, and ready to lay waste to the units who over-extended and are now in Rapid Fire range of a lot more guns.  This is an instance where charging the enemy is actually bait because it draws them in closer to the kill.  What looks like suicidal Raiders at first are now very worth it because you might have traded an 85-point Raider that is now fodder, with 225 points of key damage dealers.  That is a huge points swing in your favor.

Great, now you're playing like Dark Eldar, or in fact, any Eldar:  There is a reason why you think you're superior to all your enemies and have this outrageous arrogance around you.  You want to force as many decisions for your opponent as possible because the more decision trees you construct, the more paths there are to failure.  Shore this up with baits, feints, LoS, cover, outranging, and movement shenanigans, and you're one step closer to becoming a better Eldar player.

Be mindful of your opponents' most potent weapons and their range.

We're going to take a brief moment here and explore what it means to charge the right way and charge the wrong way.  This is because we have to be constantly reminded me of our opponents' weapon ranges and what that means for our more fragile units.

What I'm going to attempt to do here is to charge my Raider first so I can tie up those units so my lightly armored Wyches can get in there unhindered and do their thing without having to worry about Overwatch.  This is very important for all Dark Eldar players unless you're playing Coven; in which case you probably don't give a fuck because T6 4++ FNP 4W Grots are balanced units.

For example, the Wraithguard up there all have 8" D-Scythes.  They will eat me alive if I charge in there while I'm in range of all their weapons.  Likewise, picture a unit of 10-man Space Marines with Meltaguns in there as well.  This is where your knowledge of weapon ranges come into play.  You know the range of the Meltagun (12", 6" melta range) and you know where the meltas are located.  Great, now don't be within their melta range and position your Raider so that you outrange his greatest chance to hurt you.  Bolters aren't shit compared to a lucky melta shot.

This is how you do it.

Vroom, 14" of movement later, now we're talking:  Look at the position of the Raider here after I relocated.  Now, only ONE of the FIVE Wraithguard with D-Scythes have range onto my Raider.  If I'm feeling extra cheeky, I can be at 8.1" away from him so he can't OW me at all (if you're out of range, you can't declare OW).  But then again, my charge will be a little longer, so there's a risk vs. reward scenario there.  However, I want to mention that my Wyches are positioned the same way, concaved a little because now only 2 of the WG can hit the closest Wyches vs. everyone else who was conveniently placed 8.1" away.  I will pull from the back, of course, allowing my closer Wyches to get the charge and bring the rest of the girls in.  If I'm running a 2x5 squad of Wyches, the principle here still stands.  To min-max, you move the Wyches in a checkerboard formation so both squads have the same chances to get in.  Remember again; measure twice, move once.  That is the Dark Eldar way.

Alright guys, this should be good for now.  Of course, there are a bunch more tricks that I know, but I think these are the main ones that'll help get you stated.  Keep in mind that I'll be more sporadic in the next week when it comes to posting!