Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dark Eldar's Power Rating

My favorite aspect of this hobby is analyzing army potential and building army lists.  Some like to paint, some like to model, but I like the game for its core mechanics more than anything.  I am first and foremost a gamer.. and a competitive gamer at that.  Every time a new book comes out, I go into my LGS 3-4 times a week and analyze the book to its core.  I read, I ponder and I write a ton of articles to catalog my thoughts and keep track of my predictions.  I've been doing this for the last 10 years.

It's been a long time since I was wrong about a codex or army book.  Every single army book that I've done research on has fallen on the scale of what I predicted months ago.  I predicted the latest CSM book would be stale with very limited builds, Eldar will be good even past their 4th Ed. dominance and that the new IG will simply roll face.  Of course when I talked it over to my friends at the LGS, it was a little more analytical than that (more in lines of what you see here), but the overall gist of it has been the same.

Enough of the history lesson and ego-stroking, let's get down to business.  How would I rank the Dark Eldar book?  Let's see.  This is my first internet blogged entry for a successful prediction (even though I have evidence I said Tyranids would suck), so let's make it accurate.  I think Dark Eldar will have a army power rating of 7/10.  It will be on par with what Blood Angels are right now.  Of course, certain power builds will have a increased power rating, but overall I think they'll fall on the fairly average scale.  The book is very well balanced internally with a lot of acceptable and fair options.  Nothing stands out as wtf-broken and nothing is a auto-include from what I can see.  What puts Dark Eldar down is the fact that none of their troops can reliably hold objectives unless you take Wracks.  If you take Wracks as troops, then you must take Haemonculi and thus you go into this slippery slope of fixed army lists.  The mass array of AV10 open-top vehicles in this current metagame is also quite tricky since there's a lot more spammable armor now with heavy weapons.  Despite how well the book is balanced internally, external factors will limit its power.

So how do I go about with these ridiculous power ratings?  I factor in two different aspects of gaming actually:  Internal balance and external balance.  Internal being how the book functions as a whole; how strong certain units are, how are they priced, how are the special rules and most importantly, what options are available to the player in both a casual and competitive setting.  Externally, I compare the balance of the book to the metagame and how it'll fare against other competitive builds.  I also compare how fluff builds can match up against fluff builds and if both players can carry on OK.  There's other minor tidbits here and there, but this should cover the basics.

How does Dark Eldar compare to the rest of the armies out there?

Imperial Guard - 9 /10
Space Wolves - 9/10
Eldar - 8/10
Blood Angels - 7/10
Dark Eldar - 7/10
Orks - 7/10
Tyranids - 6/10
Space Marines - 6/10

I rank Imperial Guard high because I think the entire codex is underpriced for what it can do.  I know fellas taking the same list they did in 4th except they saved like 600 points on most units going down in price.  That means a lot more tanks, a lot more shooting and lot more dead marines.  They can fight anything in the game really well and they preform well in something that 40K is all about; shooting.  Space Wolves are really good because the entire book is competitively (or questionably) priced and they have tons of unique and viable options.  There's an insane amount of cost effective units and they're definitely the strongest MEQ dex out there right now.  Eldar, even though they are overpriced as of now, still have some of the most flexible power builds in 40K.  Mechdar, Castle Eldar and Seer Councils are all very viable and competitive builds for Eldar that excel at multiple different match-ups.  I guess Eldrad wasn't kidding when he said that the Eldar race shapes the destiny of lesser races.  Blood Angels is a book that's also well-balanced.  Even though the Death Company has been made obsolete and worthless because of the the Rage USR, Blood Angels gained a lot of respectable and well-placed units.  BA are one of the only marine armies that can sport an unhealthy amount of tanks rivaling the number that IG can take, and all of their vehicles Fast.  As for Orks, there are some noticeable builds that can put out a lot of hurt:  Nob Bikerz are one, Speed Freakz are another and even mass horde Orks can be good in any given metagame.

So who's left in the not so good pile?  Books like Space Marines who are so well-balanced that they don't have anything to show for and Tyranids.  The standard vanilla codex doesn't have anything particularly awesome other than slightly cheaper Terminators with TH/SS and Vulkan He'stan to make them better.  Every thing else is simply OK.. which doesn't say much for the actual power of the book.  The Tyranid codex just suffers horrendously in the field of internal balance.  Half of the book doesn't make sense in terms of where the units are placed in the FOC and the upgrades options (or should I say lack of upgrade options) severely hampers their ability to make anything happen.  Not just that, but the recent string of FAQs are out to squash bugs in particular, I swear.  I can't help but have a extreme sense of book bias when comparing Robin Cruddace's work (he wrote IG and Tyranids).  It's almost as if he has never played Tyranids (he plays IG, I know this) and the sole piece of advice he got when writing the book was:  Nerf Carnifexes and sell more Trygons.

I would say that with these ratings, anything between powers 7-10 is considered good to overpowered.  I have never given a codex a 10, but I have given an army book a 10 in power rating.  That honor belongs to the 7th Edition Daemons of Chaos Army Book for Warhammer Fantasy.  To say that book was powerful was an understatement.  Just keep in mind that army book ratings have nothing to do with generalship.  I've seen garbage players run power lists straight into the ground and I've seen smart generals own it up with crappy armies.  These ratings are just there to rate the armies, not the players behind the armies.


Loquacious said...

Really thoughtful and interesting read. I'll definitely keep this in mind.

Ahrimaneus said...

I agree with pretty much all of your points. You made a logical and well thought out evaluation of the codices mentioned along with their strengths and weaknesses. Now, on to my 2 cents...

As far as the upcoming DE are concerned, as Phil Kelly states in the book, they are going to be vastly different depending on whose hands they are in. Anyone short of a seasoned, sly, canny player is going to be walking away from the table face-palming repeatedly, wondering why his gorgeous sadistic mini's just can't seem to get the job done for him. However, in the hands of a pro, who understands all his units' inherent strengths and weaknesses, this army has the capability to deal with anything and everything. They have an absurd number of diabolical little tricks you can use via arcane wargear, missiles, weapons, etc. to really put you over the top if used properly. The big issue is: you aren't allowed to make mistakes. If you have just one air-headed movement phase or target prioritization, or one missed assault because you misjudged the distance, this army is going to fall apart very, very quickly. It is the ultimate in surgical strikes. By the end of turn 3, either your opponents army is going to be in shambles, your you will be packing away your minis.

A couple of key things to keep in mind at all times and to practice thoroughly once you get the chance:

1. Dancing with Nightshields: Let's face it, there's going to be some armies you don't want to get close to until you've severely demechanized or softened them up beforehand. Dancing along that 36" range is going to be critical to limiting how many enemy vehicles can move up and shoot at you the following turn.

2. Know Who to Assault with What: Sure, Wyches can be quite beastly, but there are a number of units that you don't want them going anywhere near, and the same goes for other units in the codex including Helions and Incubi. Not to mention the fact that you don't want ANYONE in CC with TH/SS Termies. DE just don't have a good answer for them in hand to hand. Just blow up their landraider and shoot them forever instead.

3. Mastering the Movement Phase: This is perhaps the most critical of all. You need to be thinking about setting up your assaults, rapid fires, DL saturation, pretty much everything 2 turns before you do it. This means knowing where your raiders need to be and where they're going to go next at all times.

Sorry for the long rant, but I've been giving the dark kin a lot of thought in anticipation of switching from eldar to dark eldar, and hopefully some of it was interesting/helpful/worth reading.


HERO said...

Like a friend of mine said about Dark Eldar: "Only the most cunning will do well/survive with them, just like in DE society."

No truer words have ever been spoken about the design of this army. Accuracy, precision and flawless execution will be needed to secure victory. Death is my meat, terror my mine. Remember that!

Anonymous said...

hehe, i do like how you give good, thought-out reasons behind your raitings instead of saying, this book as crap units, or something that's too general. i am wondering how you rate the DH book. Is it a 1? 2? or a 3?

HERO said...

Thanks, I try to be as fair as possible. DH will probably get a 4. They're just too limited with what they can take to the table competitively and their rules and units are outdated and overpriced. No codex will ever get a 1 or a 2 unless it's completely unplayable and complete trash.

Minijunkie said...

I love reading this stuff but am also very discouraged :) i guess I'll mostly just paint the pretty models, I'm no tactical genius by any stretch.

Anonymous said...

After seeing your analysis on each codex, I am now curious.

How would you rate the Dark Angel SM Codex?
(Specifically I guess, Dual Wing/Ravenwing/Deathwing)

HERO said...

All the older books will be lower on the scale. Some not as bad as others due to the rules in the new editions. Dark Angels would probably be a 5 as a whole. I don't rate individual builds, I rate the whole book.

Brent said...

I have to say, I think you've got the Vanilla Marines a bit too low. The Vulcan build is still one of the top tournament armies out there.


Brent said...

Or, rereading your post, is it because the SM book scores lower on the Internal due to the mono-build Vulcan army?

Good post - thinking about the armies using your rubric is an interesting exercise.

HERO said...

Absolutely. One really good build doesn't do the book justice.. it just shows poor internal balance.

Unknown said...

Bikers x3 (Hybrid, Hybrid + Termies, Pure Bike)
Double Raider (with or w/o Vulkan)
Mech (with or w/o Vulkan)
Thunderbubble (with or w/o Vulkan)
Drop Dread

7 templates off the top of my head, all good. SM isn't a mono-build codex. Just like Tyranids. It may have the least in terms of the newer 5th edition books due to poor Heavy Support balance but that's about it.

HERO said...

Sure, it's not a mono-build codex, but 3 of those examples simply work better if Vulkan's in the army. Falls short of my expectations in terms of internal balance. 175 points for a 2+/3++ Captain that gives army wide bonuses for melta, flamers and TH/SS Terminators is a no brainer. I don't like no-brainer options.

RotatingPanda said...

In my local group, we have four players that all have several armies but each one prefers their chaos army over everything else. So, by your system, where would you place the powers of Chaos? (The Marines, not the daemons).

Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels Cruddace failed utterly due to bias or incompetence.

HERO said...

Chaos are a strong 7. They're the entire reason our metagame right now is mech in the first place. Dual lash killed footslogging lists cold.

Unknown said...

In response to Vulkan being a no-brainer:

Please discuss. Also, Vulkan is 190 not 175.

HERO said...

Edited cost :) Must of confused myself with Pedro. I'll discuss later.. I gotta nap X_X

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