Monday, April 9, 2018

DE: Don't lose focus when building your army

Stop making bad army lists!

First, I'd like to welcome a lot of the newer players joining the Dark Eldar.  We got a fantastic new book and there's a lot of things to learn.  However, one of the things I want to warn you about is that Dark Eldar is NOT a beginner's army.  There is a lot of tricks and nuances to the army that when managed poorly, will cause you lose many games.  Take it from me, I started with DE back in 3rd Ed. 40K and I actually received most of the army from a friend that was quitting it.  He warned me that the army was tough as shit and that he was tired of losing.  Thankfully for me, I've always wanted to start playing them and I absolutely love a challenge.  Coming from a competitive RTS background, 40K was basically a Power Point presentation of StarCraft.

OK, fast forward almost two decades and here I am.  Still playing the Dark Kin but with much more experience.  The next couple of paragraphs will be me trying to explain how to be a more successful Dark Eldar player in 8th Ed.  This is something you just have to trust me when I tell you:  The army is very simliar to previous editions, but the edition itself is very different.  Things die a lot quicker now and the alpha damage potential from other armies out there can be just as mind-blowing as ours.  In some cases, it might even be more potent, so you just gotta listen up, check the ego, and brace yourself for something that might sound harsh, but it will win you a lot of games.

STOP losing focus when building your army

This starts at list creation and this is a byproduct of having really cool units and being spoiled by choice.  I'm not saying that Dark Eldar have unit choices up the ass, no, that's not what I mean.  I mean that one of the biggest mistakes that newer players make is building their army in multiple different directions that branch away from their army goals.  Before you build a list, you must have goals in mind.  The goals should not be something as broad as "go kill your enemy", it should be something more specific with the exact tooling that you will need to get the job done.  Maybe it's just my min-maxy ways as a competitive RTS player, or maybe it's my Program Manager genes being tossed into a game, but I'm telling you right now that whatever list you bring, it must have purpose.

What do I mean by this?  I mean if you intend your army to shoot the enemy dead, it must do that and do it very well.  If you want to assault the enemy dead, it must do that and do it very well.  When you start building your list to do a little bit of everything, that's when things go to shit.  The new 40K articles and Realspace Raid requirements for all these little fucking patrols all over the place doesn't make things any better.  I'm absolutely serious about this:  Go read some of my earlier articles where I'm constantly complaining about HQ tax.  HQs, in our army is not very cheap, especially when you look at the Archon and the Harmonculi who are ~70 points.  I wish I can link you guys to some army lists I've seen on the internet so far with naked Archons all over the place without transports.  What's the fucking point?  You're literally spending 70 points for the dude to sit there and look stupid or the rest of the battle.  Succubus are the only HQs I would recommend for a cheaper HQ unit that can do some work, but that's not the point here.  The point here is that your list must be focused to do something well, and do it exceptionally well.  This is why I think that my pure Kabal all shooting army is still my strongest variant of the Dark Eldar and that my Kabal/Cult Succubus whip-my-hair-back-and-forth list is just for fun.  I know that it is weaker because it doesn't do anything exceptionally well.  Remember again, if you pay for something, make sure it does something.

Let's break it down some more.  You can start by looking at the damage potential that the list provides from a firepower perspective and then you can examine it from a melee perspective.  Can your melee components outfight other armies melee components?  I don't think so.  It does a pretty decent job at it, but Wyches aren't exactly a unit I would write home to mom about.  What about shooting?  Well, because you subbed in Wyches, you are taking away from your shooting component so it's definitely not as strong as a pure shooty force.  This makes you extra succeptible vs. the likes of Tau, AdMech or other pure shooty armies with a higher Alpha than you.  This puts you at an immediate disadvantage and forces you into a shooting attrition war which you will almost certaintly lose.  Playing defensive is not Dark Eldar's speciality, and even if they have some units that can do that, they are considered the outlier for what the army IS truly good at, and that's shooting.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all doom and gloom yet.  I will talk about some awesome and cheap melee units that we can bring forth shortly.

Yup, this can be you!

STOP using CPs as list-building requirements

Stay the hell away from those multiple Patrol armies with overinflated HQs.  Do NOT fall into the trap of building up Patrols with a bunch of useless HQs because you want the CP.  That's almost as bad as building a Brigade just to realize that you bought a crap ton of units but don't have the points to equip or use them properly so they end up being fuckall useless once they hit the battlefield.  Remember:  For every unit you buy, make sure it counts for something.  I'm not saying to be allergic to melee or not branch out into Coven units to hold objectives.  I'm saying don't go overboard and be mindful that more you pull your army into different directions, the weaker it will be at doing any one thing.  If you do want to make your army multi-faceted, make sure that it does both of these things as well as it can.  Just don't try to go in all 3 directions that the DE book is painfully telling newer players to do with all this Patrol garbage.

Don't believe me?  Do this:  Try and CP whore and build a Brigade army list for DE, as competitive as you can.  Then show me the firepower that the list can put out with respect to range vs. what the total number of wounds look like with respect to toughness and saves.  I am willing to bet that that army cannot fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.  When I try and ask people why the hell they need CPs as a requirement to build an design armies, they always give me the same piss-poor answer:  CPs win games (thinking multiple uses of Agents of Vect).  Yes, you're correct, well-timed and properly used CPs can win games, but I don't see Agents of Vect shooting or actively killing your opponent's units from the start of the game.  The only thing that can do that effectively are your units and you should not be handicapping yourself by locking into some rigid army structure just for CPs.  Agents of Vect is not going to save your ass from a Admech gunline, so you might as well drop all the shitty MSU Scourges and Reavers that are just going to explode and do nothing for you.  Not to mention you can get close to Bridgade level CPs with some good list tweaking.

Likewise, I'd like to see a triple Patrol list with Kabal, Wyches and Coven in there and it try to be competitive.  It will be decent at best, but never as good as a list with just Kabal/Cult simply because you're trying to do too many things at the same time.  Real talk though, let's take some of my own shit and dissect it on a Haemoculi table.

Check it out.  It starts with an idea, and then I'm going to braindump onto this page:
  • I've been throwing out the idea of taking Flayed Skull recently just so I can play with a killy Archon AND a killy Succubus.
  • I'm going to accept the risk that I will be losing some firepower in this list, but hopefully two killy HQs will allow me to make up that killing power.  I just need to make sure I can keep this HQs cheap and killy.
  • Let's take an existing Skeleton list that I have and then turn it into something that has a strong melee component that has good synergy with the rest of the list.
  • The entire army has to move fast and apply good pressure so it can overwhelm the enemy's fire priorities.  It's a go big or go home list.

OK, now let's break this down into actual game terms:
  • Killy Archon for me is the Famed Savagery + Djin Blade that can get 8 attacks at S5 AP-3 D3 wounds that hit on 2s with re-rolls to hit.
  • Killy Succubus for me is the Blood Dancer + Triptych Whip, Strife and Adrenalight that gives me 9 attacks at WS2+ re-rolling 1s and every hit of a 6 turns into 3 hits with an Agonizer.
  • I'm going to trim down as much as I can from my firepower to make room for these badasses and give them a full retinue of Wyches to accompany them in Raiders.
  • I need extra weapons and Warlord traits, so I'm going to need more CP to activate Alliance of Agony for the Blood Dancer and possibly more Prizes from the Dark City.
  • Now, let's make the entire army move FAST.  Really fast, so we're going full YOLO over here.  Keep in mind that through playtesting, I can move these boats under the Black Heart Spearhead to get those additional FNPs.

1999 // 10 CP
Flayed Skull Battalion +3 CP

Archon, Djin Blade, Blaster = 93
Trait: Famed Savagery

Archon, Huskblade, Blaster, PGL = 96

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

Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85
Raider, Dark Lance = 85


Strife Battalion +3 CP

Succubus, Adrenalight, Whip = 54
Trait: Blood Dancer

Succubus, Painbringer, Agonizer = 54

8x Wyches, Grave Lotus, Agonzer, BP, Shardnet = 83
8x Wyches, Serpentin, Agonzer, BP, Shardnet = 83
5x Wyches, Hypex = 40


Black Heart Spearhead +1 CP

Archon, Living Muse, Agonizer, Blaster, PGL = 94

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

Ravager, 3x Dinsintegrators = 125
Ravager, 3x Dinsintegrators = 125
Ravager, 3x Dinsintegrators = 125


9 Dark Lances at BS3+
9 Disintegrators 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+

The TLDR is this:
  • Don't branch out too much, you will lose focus and detract from your army goals.
  • Trying to be too many things will make your army suck and do nothing well.
  • Stop building shitty army lists focused on CPs.  Units win games, not CPs.
  • If you must branch, do 2 things decently well instead of 1 thing really well.

I realized this was part-guide and part-rant, but it needed to be done.  Have a good night all.

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