Thursday, February 26, 2015

DE: A response to the spoiler army

School's back in session.

Hey guys, I'm going to write a response to a post that I saw on The Dark City about the problems people have with the Dark Eldar codex.

Yes, as most of you know, I'm not a fan of the current book either.  Sure, it might not be the most powerful book out there, but what I really didn't like about it.  I was largely disappointed by the seemingly forced player options that pollute the entire book, and I felt that the book was largely uninspired and bland.  When people read one of my reviews on any given army book, one of the things I notice is that people think all too much on whether or not it will be competitive.  Yes, competition is hugely important to me and I want the book to be successful, but that's not why I look at book and shake my head.  As a player, I want to be able to take multiple choices that promote my options on the table-top.  The only way I'm going to feel good about this is if the points I'm investing in said unit is well-spent.  That's how you achieve value in a dice-game based around point restrictions.  You cannot change the outcome of poor dice rolls, but you can choose what kind of army you can make to mitigate your chances on losing.

So where does Dark Eldar fall compared to the other books?  That's a tough question because there's no number out there to describe them.  Dark Eldar, as some of the boys over at Frontline Gaming say, is a "spoiler army".  It's one of those armies that do so incredibly well against certain matchups because of their innate army design.  What are we talking about exactly?  Well, our ability to take long-ranged poisoned shooting attacks, and our ability to spam out a high value of lance attacks at seemingly dirt cheap.  With the 7th Ed. book, the only thing that the book did was make those things better (although at a few nerfs in other areas).  For the most part, you can now Venomspam to your heart's content, and with multiple CADs, you can now bring more lances than you ever need through the employment of multiple sets of Ravagers.  I didn't mention this before, but maybe that's one of the reasons GW decided to double nerf them both in points and with the loss of Aerial Assault?  Nah, that would be giving them too much credit.  Let's just say for now that some of the things in the book got invalidated (such as almost all CC, in an already shooting-dominant meta), and some things just got easier to spam.  Why else would empty Venoms be so readily available in the RSR detachment?

Now that we know what a spoiler army does, why isn't that a lance-heavy or poison heavy army do well in tournaments?  For one, over-exaggerated strengths come with great weaknesses.  Just like in any army that someone designs for a tournament, he plays for the mission package and all possible matchups that he will commonly face.  It just happens that the US have one of the most diverse metagames there is, mostly piloted by experienced generals.  Due to Dark Eldar's inherent strengths and tendencies to mass-produce cost-effective units, DE generals tend to build polarizing lists and rely on the dice gods for pairings.  This is largely because the more balanced approach is just not strong enough to face most adversaries on the table-top.

What does this mean exactly?  Well.. let's look at some Eldar builds for a second for matchup purposes.  Let's say you enter the 1850 event in the LVO with a lance-heavy DE build.  It should do OK vs. a WS/Dual WK build, but the effectiveness will drop dramatically depending on how many Wave Serpents he has.  To make things more complicated, if he's running a psyker-heavy build and you didn't splice in psychic yourself, Telepathy might throw the entire matchup into a deciding loss.  Now take the Venom-heavy build for Dark Eldar.  What does it do vs. WS/dual WK?  Kill the two WKs maybe and play the scenario or auto-lose.  Against a purely Mechdar list, you have about a 1% chance at winning vs. a competent player because Venoms are completely dead weight.  The vast majority of points spent will be target practice, which is one of the reasons DE players hate drawing Mech IG too.  They put out 4x the shots you do and pen you on the same amount you pen their stuff, but for half the points.  Sounds bad?  Is bad.  Anyways, let's say the if you pull a FMC Demons or Tyranid list with the Venom list, all of a sudden you're jumping for joy because that sings to the strengths of your army.  With a lance-heavy list, you may not do as well, but it's still possible to win the game if you play correctly.  In a big tournament like LVO where hundreds of people will be looking for that big win, it's eventually up to you to knock out that Tyranid FMC list so they don't face it later.  Likewise, you will be hoping you draw that and not the IG carpark.

This is why I say that Dark Eldar is difficult to place in a tournament setting.  If you min-max your lists as hard as I do, you will discover that too many lances or too many poison will cause extreme shifts in polarity; making certain matchups almost unwinnable.  I like having a fighting chance regardless of matchup, which is why I'm willing to take less Venoms for more lances because I feel that's where my army wants to be.  I can rely on gunboat re-rolls for shorter-range poison since it's more accurate, but at the same time, it's highly vulnerable to explosions, in which case MSU Venoms makes a better use of points.  More on balance later.

I'll say this right now, I don't think Dark Eldar can compete as a primary army in an arena as fierce as LVO.  Why?  Because we just don't have the tools or sustain to play in that type of arena.  We excel at damage, but as mentioned several times above, we shift too hard in either polarity.  It also doesn't help that I can count on one hand how many tournament-viable units we have from our book, but when people ask me about my Eldar, I can go on for hours.  This isn't any of our faults per se, but running DE as a primary army in a major event will have its consequences.  The first of these will be power polarity and designating yourself as a "spoiler" army, or trying for a more balanced approach and being outclassed by other armies.  Out of these two pretty sad options, players tend to look away and explore the third, more logical option (because the goal in tournaments is to win).  That third option is unlocked through the allies chart.  There's no hiding the fact that Eldar allies makes your list stronger; especially when the DE book can provide the poison/FMC protection while Eldar supplies the durability, anti-armor and other meta-specific counters (more answers exist in the Eldar book).  While both armies can put enemy armor to shame, Eldar can do it with longer-lasting units, and that's what you need in a good game between two experienced generals who can fully exploit eachother's weaknesses.

Do I agree that Dark Eldar is a "spoiler" army?  Yes I do.  It's their very design intent to be like that and it's largely due to the poison mechanic.  I personally don't like it because I think it forces us down that pre-determined spoiler path, but I also don't mind it because someone has to put Tyranid FMC spam in their place.  However, I will say that I'm not done with my Dark Eldar just yet.  My most recent pure DE list at 1850 puts out a healthy amount of poison and lance shots and it only gets worse the closer my opponents get.  For how to use this kind of pure DE list, read about it here.  I've really been enjoying it quite a lot, although I'm about to change it up big time vs. the Necron powerhouse players that's been plaguing my area.  That's when I bring out the Double CAD Lynx.

LVO Update:
Results from LVO, out of 256 some participants, the biggest major this year so far for 40K.
  • Highest placing DE is Rank 29, scored 45 battle points, running Dark Eldar with Eldar allies.
  • 2 people ran double CAD Dark Eldar, placing 101 and 165.
  • 6 people rank Dark Eldar/Eldar total
  • 2 people ran pure DE, came in 193 and 218.
  • There were only 2 Eldar players who took DE as secondary, one placing Rank 15, and he did so by just taking the WWP (shocker) + throwaway.
  • There were 30 Eldar players at the event.
  • There were only 10 Dark Eldar players at the event.  Only 2 placed in the top 100 (29 and 81).

Can't I'm surprised, none in the least.


greggles said...

40k is a very rock paper scissors style game these days. At best you can usually bring rock and paper, or paper and scissors, or rock and scissors, but it's really hard to bring all three.

There are some serious and potent combos between the harly codex and the DE one in terms of manipulating LD saves. It could create a new shift in power potency for DE. (my hope at least).

HERO said...

Leadership manipulation is gimmicky at best, I don't have much hope for it. The entire Harlequin codex, aside from the art, is pretty balls. I wrote an article for it previously titled Harlequins and the Kabal, check it out.

Nick C said...

I used to love bringing out my Dark Eldar, but with all the rock, paper, scissor matchups it makes it really tough. Some games are just not fun.

Harlequins have some nice gimmicks. I feel that just about any Harlequin army that gets the Warlord trait to add 2 or subtract 2 to the end of the game has a good shot at winning. Just keep your onset units alive.

Shawn said...

You Can Now Trade Your PS2 at GameStop

Ridvan said...

Good overview. I still like the dark Eldar for competitive play as I love being thAt wrench. And I do feel like some of the cc choices like grotesques really fill in some gaps, especially with te coven stuff. Then again, as a main dark eldar player and chronic optimist I am biased as all hell !

Matt Lewis said...

I reached the same conclusion with harlies, I wanted them, don't rate them as a standalone army and cant ally them in a useful fashion. Before the book hit i was considering a whole army, as the rules leaks came I downgraded that idea to a small but specific allied contingent (which I cant do unless unbound) so I threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Seen loads up for sale already ...

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