Friday, March 13, 2015

DE: Army lists and playstyles

I'd shit myself too if I was that Guardsman on the left.

The Dark Eldar book has been out for a good long time now and I think we can examine what kind playstyles DE players have been adhering to.  While there's going go be a certain degree of overlap and a lot of unit mixing, for the most part we're looking at 3 distinct modes of play.

What are those modes?

Overwhelming Force
Most commonly found in the Realspace Raiders detachment (RSR) with tons of little units running around.  Unmanned Raiders/Venoms, 3x Heatlance Reavers with Caltrops, scattered elements of Warriors in Venoms/Raiders for core choices, and either Ravagers or Scourges for anti-tank support.  This type of play is hyper-aggressive since you'll see tons of jetbikes on the table, and with Skilled Rider, Jinks and assaults, the S6 Rending HoW hits can cause serious issues for enemy armor on the other side of the table.  With so many units to shoot at, which ones do you prioritize?  Surely the fast moving assault units right?  But what about the other units sporting lances and poison that are blasting away at my army?  The real strength of these type of lists come from overwhelming the opponent in every way, shape and form.  You overwhelm them with target priority, perceived threat, and the fact that each unit killed is not a huge loss in the grand scheme of things.

The downside to this kind of play is that you have limited durability and no centralized firepower.  You need every bit that you can squeeze out of your list to maximize its damage potential and if you lose too many pieces (because your stuff is fragile) too quickly, then things start to come apart quickly.  It can quickly snowball out of control.  One of the main limitations are also in the form of Reaver Jetbikes.  S6 Rending HoW is great, a Heat Lance can be great, but what if you're fighting large objects with good armor saves and simply don't care because they have the wounds to shrug it off?  What about FMCs that have been plaguing the meta and other units of extreme durability?  This forces the whole unstoppable force vs. immovable object scenario but in this particular case, the unstoppable force is also quite fragile.

Extreme Durability
The Haemonculus boys know what I'm talking about here.  You will see a lot of meat on the table with high toughness, multiple wounds, FNP and other ridiculous shenanigans that screams: Are you really playing Dark Eldar?  I've always viewed the Haemonculi style of play to be completely opposite to what Dark Eldar is typically aiming to achieve and that's exactly what happens here.  You run the Coven formations here with Grostesqurie, Dark Artisan and other Grot-based deathstars and you play mainly for mission objectives.  While most Dark Eldar armies lose effectiveness over time, meat mountains excel at attrition and playing mission objectives because most armies these days are not prepared for it.  You will not break, you are not easily assaulted, and it's extremely difficult to remove you from a point you're determined to stay on.  When you factor in the fact that you still have powerful shooting solutions in the form of lances and poison, you have a very solid army that can dish out damage and hold objectives at the same time.  This is a rarity in the Dark Eldar army.

So what is the downside really?  It really does seem like the best of both worlds right?  The problem with really meaty units that run Grots/Talos/Chronos is that they're slow.  They can take a lot of damage before they go down, but they take forever to transverse the battlefield and most of the time, cannot bring their full damage potential to bear.  You need maneuverability in order to deliver side shots or take advantage of opportune targets, and most of the Coven's expensive units simply don't have that.  They have to rely on other DE components to fill that void and once those options are expended, they have to play the objective game close to home or they lose.  They do not have the options to get across the battlefield and secure multiple points in the later parts of the game.

Supreme Firepower
Most of the lists that I build fit in this category.  The goal of this style of army is to just put an enormous amount of firepower down range in the form of poison and lances.  When your enemies close in, that's when your firepower increases dramatically because you're able to fully utilize your gunboats, blasters and splinter racks to skyrocket your damage output.  The design of the list is really quite simple:  Take a lot of poison and lance shooting and put everyone in vehicles to keep everything mechanized.  This allows you to move around the battlefield and pour out damage from all directions.  One of the greatest boons of this army is that everything is open-top.  This means that all your shooting platforms can Jink while the units inside can fire to full effect.  You will also be able to greatly conserve the amount of firepower you put out since the damage will be done in surgical doses.  An example of this would be popping a transport with a Raider while the warriors inside unload on the passengers.  Likewise, a blaster from a leftover warrior squad will still be able to pop a Land Raider so you can dedicate your Ravagers elsewhere.  Since the damage throughout the army is distributed quite evenly, the cheapest unit you field still has the potential to destroy the mightiest vehicle.  That's what makes this army truly terrifying:  It's fully mechanized, moves around the battlefield with ease, and puts out a ridiculous amount of firepower at all range bands.

Despite the huge amount of firepower this army puts out, it's still susceptible to a number of weaknesses.  There are absolutely no melee components in this army so its very vulnerable to being assaulted from sources that can't be easily killed via shooting.  If someone gets close to the boats, it's almost a sure thing it's going to get punched out of the air.  Outside of the transports that keep the warriors afloat, the entire army is wearing T3 5+ and highly vulnerable to vehicles exploding.  There is absolutely no durability to this army outside the transports.  For this reason, this list design epitomizes the meaning of glass cannon because while it hits really hard, it has no staying power.  It either wins really big, or slowly gets destroyed.  If you can't kill something by shooting it, you most likely won't have any other answers.


Joe said...

Great analysis and overview of the army! I think your supreme firepower approach/list is a smart move given how favored shooting is over assault in this edition, but I do love how DE have other valid playstyles now (I'm on a durable Coven kick myself at the moment). But I think it shows that we really do have a balanced codex, despite all the initial backlash; if DE could do all of those playstyles or even 2/3 of them in one list with little to no drawbacks we'd be the new Eldar codex... and everyone knows we're way cooler than those guys ;)

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