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

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.

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