Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Harlequins: Not sure if good

Harlequins are decent at best.

I'm just going to come out and say it:  I don't think Harlequins are looking too good from a competitive standpoint.  With the book firmly in hand now, I don't see quite as much value from them compared to Dark Eldar when the army first got teased.

Before I completely put them aside, just note that I think there are a few things that Harlequins bring to the table.  These are few, they're niche, and they're certainly conditional, but I think Harlequins can have some interesting options that no one else can really pull off.  For example, when you look at some of the things that Soaring Spite can do with their Masque Form, you'll know that the army will be able to move 16"+6" and still shoot with 6" Fusion Pistols without penalty for 28" threat range.  This awesomeness simply cannot be ignored.  Similarly, if you take Faolchu's Talon for your Soaring Spite Warlord, you can move an additional 6" in your movement, and when you blow up, nothing happens.  No explosion, no models dying, you just roll out of your drive-by mobile and find another joyride to blow people up in.  This is great and all, but it's also very niche.  Hell, even their big fancy Webway Gate wants me to drop multiple Talos or a fat unit of Grots out of them instead.

So here's where I have problems with the army:  They're melee Horrors.  They're melee-based units that cost a ton but still have the same statline as those little pink dudes.  You have an army of 1W T3 4++ melee Horrors that desperately want to be relevant in a meta filled with resilience and anti-alpha.  Everyone and their mother knows that T3 and 4++ with a single wound just get absolutely murdered by almost any type of shooting and even below-average melee fillers that play much better in attrition simply because of the points.  Harlequins are great if you think that killing MEQ with 3+ for almost 30 points is great.  You know what else is 30 points?  A Grot, and a Grot comes with so much more resilience because a single Grotesque can be T6 with 4 wounds and 4++ with FNP.  Speaking of 4W, this is actually much bigger than people realize.  It takes 2 D2 shots to kill, out of kill scope of D3 weapons, and makes D6 weapons very nervous.  It's pretty much the sweetest spot for being infuriating at 30ppm.  When it comes to bashing in a Marine's face, a Grot does just as much damage but can stay alive much longer vs. almost any kind of shooting and any kind of melee.  In fact, Harlequin melee stopped being relevant ever since stronger alternatives came out:  Genestealers, Grotesques, Dawneagle Shield-Captains, the list goes on and on.  Hell, even Wyches are better for the points if you want a melee option.  Marines are dead easy to kill with any competitive army worth their salt because single-wound that cost a lot are just not cost-effective in today's meta.  Attrition matters and Harlequins play the game the worst out of all the units in the game.  Every other army that wants to be in melee does it better for the cost.  For me, since I play Dark Eldar in a very shooty manner, why bother being in melee if you can shoot them to death from far away?  My T3 5+ AS with an FNP Warrior that cost 6 points is looking a lot more cost-effective next to a 28-point Harlequin with a Fusion Pistol and an Embrace.  You are essentially paying a premium for a luxury that's not needed.

Arguably the best Form in the book.

This brings me to match-up.  In any given competitive setting, you're going to be looking at your local meta or even the greater meta (GTs or national events) and comparing yourself to all the other armies out there.  You have to factor in the fact that Harlequins are not cheap, not in the slightest.  Their unit choices are limited already, but what you pay for is a unit that's not very durable but has a ton of bad match-ups.  If you run into a Tyranid list with a lot of Genestealers for example, you know for the points that you're going to fight an attrition battle that you're not going to like.  If you're fighting a lot of Gaunts, forget about it because you already lost the points game here (anything with Fearless sucks).  God forbid you to run into a unit of Wyches, or even worse, a unit of Grots.  With Meat Mountain being so popular these days, just running into a unit that you're not going to be able to really hurt while still taking assloads of damage in return is going to suck.  The worst part is when you start thinking about this from a points perspective.  Having Harlequins killing cheap fodder units is a waste of time and it's only going to get you shot up afterward and killed.  A canny opponent is just going to spread out his line so he sets up kill zones for your units afterward (why Midnight Sorrow might be pretty decent).  IG carparks are going to be super annoying and so are most armies with cheap armor and plentiful shooting.  I feel very confident with my pure Kabal army vs. any army that takes a decent amount of Harlequins for example.  When you bleed expensive models, your firepower and melee threat goes down a ton.  That's one of the reasons why I prayed to the dice gods that GW was going to give the army -1 To Hit all-around.  Alas, this was not to be.  Instead, you have to pay up the ass in CPs and bet on Psychic powers or other instances to keep your basic stuff alive long enough to be relevant.

Harlequins are points-prohibitive.  If you take them, you won't have a lot of anything else.  If you want to run them in any meaningful way, you will take them as a Battalion.  You will already need multiple HQs to get the most of your army like the Shadowseer and Troupe Master, and Troupes just naturally fill in the rest of the core choices.  The difficult part here is getting into a points zone where you can still be relevant and be a threat to the enemy without costing an arm and a leg.  It's not just the points that matter here, it's about being relevant and a threat to the enemy.  What I mean by this is that you need to pack anti-tank in any competitive list as well as being a threat in melee because that's what you're taking Harlequins for.  The army, in general, is bi-polar.  If you want them to be a strong AT threat, you take Fusion Pistols.  If you want them to be a big melee threat, you mix up Caress and Embrace.  The problem is that they both go on the same model and when that model dies, he takes both of those upgrades with him.  Some people argue saying that you can take them stock, or leave specials off them as extra wounds, but why the hell would you do that?  If you're just looking at a few models that can do damage, Wyches can fill that role for much cheaper.  Unfortunately, you have this current situation where both ranged and melee special weapons cost a good deal of points on an already expensive model to begin. This is why the attrition factor sucks so much for this army.  It's not very durable and every model lost feels like chunks out of the army's total strength compared to other armies.  Hell, most would agree with me when I say that Soaring Spite is arguably the best Form right now for Harlequins, but what people talk about but don't consider is how many points a boat filled with Fusion Pistol Troupes really are.  If you want to decrease the cost by removing Fusion Pistols, you lose out on the Form's benefits.  You cut the melee weapons and you're now a glorified Wych.  Grats.  More importantly, for how many points you're spending trying to make this clusterfuck work, you're also taking away points from allies who can possibly perform the same role better.  Case in point, you can buy an entire Black Heart Spearhead for less than 500 points if you just want something to shoot.

Too much, too little.

So what am I getting at here?  It means that if you put a lot of points into Harlequins, you need them to be a decent standalone force.  But if you need them to be standalone, in the fact that you need your points to also equate out to the ability to kill tanks and infantry, then you're simply increasing the cost of each Troupe unit.  Taking a deeper dive:  For 500 points, I can buy a Black Heart Spearhead with 3x Ravagers with Dissies on all of them.  What do Dissies do?  They can pretty much wreck anything because this buys the army 27 BS3+ S5 AP-3 D2 shots that can threaten GEQ, MEQ, multi-wound, single-wound, high-armor, whatever, you name it.  This is just from shooting because you're not counting access to Agents of Vect, Living Muse, Cunning, or FNP on all your vehicles.  You put 500 points into a Harlequin force and what do you get?  You do the math and get back to me with exactly what firepower you have in shooting and in melee and see if the numbers pay off for you.  First, you need to be a certain distance from the enemy to threaten them with AT Fusion Pistols, then you need to be in combat to get the most out of them.  To get in, you have to brave the Overwatch, hope none of your 28 point models die, roll to get in, and then you can really shine.  You have to play much cleaner, much more precise and pray for some good ol' dice rolls because there's a lot that can go wrong.  With Grots, you just push models forward and results happen.  With Ravagers, it's the same thing, but you don't need to commit because you're 36" away from your target.  With Harlequins, it's all risk, and I hate risk.  And so do most competitive players.

You know what else is risky?  Conditional effects.  When you look at Harlequins, almost everything in the army requires you to be within 6", roll something to enable (Veiled Path), cast a psychic power, drop multiple Strategems across multiple phases, or something else.  Most of these things can fail to bad luck, some can be outright countered (Vect, Denied), and others can be counter-played sufficiently to really take the wind out of your sails.  The best counter to melee-oriented armies is proper spacing and understanding threat range and averages.  A good player with solid understanding of melee threat range and bubble-wraps will be murderous to Harlequins.  In general, the army is almost too much fluff and not enough consistency when it comes to a lot of their army mechanics and that is a huge risk to competitive players looking to win a GT.  The variables are already great, with matchups and different strength of schedules and players, so you don't need more randomness.  It's almost like you're playing Orks, but you're trying to build a competitive army so you took Eldar or Dark Eldar allies and they're all looking at you like WTF, you took up half of my army points?  A common theme within competitive armies is that they're consistent in their performance.  Just look at some of the discussions around Harlequins being a competitive threat.  It always starts with:  Oh first you take this, then you do this, then you cast this, then you play this Strategem, and then you shoot and lel you embark back in your transport!  Yeah, that's nice, but I play Prophets of Flesh and my entire army has 4++.  That's what consistency looks like and that's why it wins games.  That's why Meat Mountain is doing so much work right now.  That is until people figure out how to beat it.

There is a mild saving grace for the army though, is that they're Battle Brothers with both Dark Eldar and Eldar.  I would say that both of these armies are very competitive with a multitude of unit options.  Eldar arguably has the best psykers (Doom, Jinx) in the game, Shining Spears, Dark Reapers, Wave Serpents, and both the Hemlock and Crimson Hunter Exarch are insane.  Dark Eldar can run Meat Mountain down your throat and cost-effective Kabal units, Ravager Spearheads, Agents of Vect, and CP manipulation up the wazoo.  There is a lot of good stuff in both of these armies, but ultimately it comes down to the points question all over again.  Is Harlequins competitive enough to share the same points as these armies here if you're trying to build competitive?  Only time will tell.  Personally, I think the best Harlequin lists will be the ones mixed with either Eldar or Dark Eldar.  Cegorach knows that I've been trying to make it work.

I really hope I made some solid points here.  Don't get me wrong, I own a ton of the little fuckers and I love them to death, but they're definitely more of a fluffy choice than a competitive choice for me.  There are just too many good unit choices out there that makes army building with them difficult.  I know, I've been trying to design a good army list with Harlequins/DE and/or Eldar for the last couple of days and it's mind-boggling.  When I have something good, I'll show it off.

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