Friday, June 26, 2020

9th Ed. 40K and how it affects all Eldar

Bring on 9th Edition.

It's about that time folks. If you guys have been following 40K news in the last couple of weeks, you'll know that 9th Ed. is right around the corner. For a quick recap of everything that's been going on, I suggest you go to Auspex Tactics and catch up. Yes, I'm plugging that dude's channel because he's insanely active and posts updates literally minutes after articles themselves get released. I'd rank him among the top dudes I watch on YouTube.

Without too much mumbo-jumbo, let's get right into it. I'll lay it out the best I can in the only way I know how: As real as it gets. I will warn you ahead of time though, I think Eldar (all races) are not going to do too hot come 9th. There's a lot of rules here that'll take away from the Eldar identity and give it to the other races and are generally harmful to the playstyle of the army. Now, before you get super triggered and go off on me saying that the book's not out yet and we don't see all the rules, I promise you: I don't need to see all the rules to see where this is going. We have a lot of information in front of us already and I've been playing this game for over 20 years now. While the Eldar will get some noticeable benefits, they will be challenged heavily with some pretty stark negatives. Just a head's up, I don't plan on covering Ynnari as I don't consider them a full army yet with just WD rules.

Overview of the Eldar races

Before we go too deep in the pond of negativity, I think its important that we frame the discussion. First, we have to understand what the Eldar is and what they offer. I'll start with Craftworld Eldar (CWE) and then go into Dark Eldar (DE), before talking about Harlequins (Harlies). When it comes to CWE, they are a lot more durable compared to the other Eldar races. They are also much more specialized and depend a lot on psychic abilities to maximize their damage output. When it comes to their specializations, what I mean by this is that they have specific units in the form of Aspect Warriors and Exarchs that do a very specific job. For example, Dire Avengers kill infantry, Fire Prisms kill vehicles, Crimson Hunters kill Aircraft, and there's generally a bit of a blend when you mix in different weapon types. Another gimmick that the Craftworlders have is their Wraithbone constructs. They're beefy, have high toughness, multiple wounds, and have good armor saves. When complimented with psychic abilities, you take this to the next level. My closing statement is: Specialized, durable, psychic.

Next on the list is the Dark Eldar, better known as the Drukhari now for the newer players. They're pretty fast, generally faster than CWE but a lot more fragile. A lot of their units have below-bar toughness from their infantry to their tanks, but they do have beefy elements in the army like Wracks for Troops and Talos for monsters. When you take them with Prophets, you can build yourself a wonderful Meat Mountain to pulverize your opponents. These guys have no psychic abilities, but generally bring a lot of high AP, high-damaging shots like Dark Lances and Disintegrators to eat through enemy armor and kill high-value targets like Primaris. The Dark Kin are actually 3 different army books in one, each representing a unique fighting/play style of the army. The Kabal brings a lot of firepower and vehicles traditionally (how I play), the Wych Cults bring fast, paper-thin close combat and hit and run tactics, while the Haemoculi Covens bring the meat via durable troops, monsters and a lot of FNP. My closing statement here is: Fast, squishy (unless Covens), a lot of firepower.

Lastly, we have the Harlequins. They're like a mix of CWE and DE, but have their own gimmicks. They're very fast, hit very hard, but die to a soft breeze, even more so than the Dark Eldar. Sure, they have 4++ saves and a bunch of negative hit mods, but their Troupes are still T3 models with 1W. Their biggest strength is in their bikes and their heroes, especially since their latest WD drop made their heroes sing even louder. When you get charged by these guys, you most certaintly feel it. There is a lot of damage potential from this army, but their biggest weakness for sure is their fragility, and the fact they rely so heavily on not being hit and rolling invulnerable saves. Closing statement from me is: Close combat, hit mods and invul saves, hero-focused.

Changes coming to 9th

Now that that's been said, I'll start off by listing a lot of the changes we know about the core mechanics of the game:

In no order whatsoever:
  • The game boards will be shorter; changing from a 48"x78" table to 44"x60".
  • Detachments cost command points; promoting single-detachment armies and 12 CP at 2000 points.
  • Points are going up across the board. We have seen 18 to 20 point Intercessors (+10%) and 4 to 6 point Cultists (+50%).
  • Command Phase means CP is gained per turn. 1 CP per turn, unknown how generators will work.
  • Strategic Reserves means you can reserve unit(s) by Power Level to be brought in from flanking positions or Deep Strike starting from T2.
  • Blast weapons coming back to fight against hordes.
  • Characters and Look Out Sir! changing so you have to have the character nearby something.
  • Non-infantry move and fire Heavy weapons without penalty i.e. Monsters and vehicles.
  • Vehicles and monsters fire non-blast Heavy weapons in close combat.
  • Modifiers can never get more than +1/-1, rolls of 6s always hit.
  • Obscuring terrain blocks LOS minus titanic units, things above 18 wounds or aircraft. There's also different terrain keywords that do different things.
  • Overwatch is now a strategem for everyone except for Tau.
  • Multi-charge has changed so if you don't make all your declared charges, you fail to charge.
  • Morale system changed so you can't kill off huge units by doing a crap ton of damage to them.
  • Units with Fly can no longer shoot after Falling Back.
Keep in mind that this is not all the changes, but just the changes that I think will have the most impact for Eldar. Without going into the different Eldar races quite yet, I think we can pretty much compartmentalize these changes into a few buckets. These buckets, based on the changes we see so far, can really paint a clear picture where the game is going in terms of meta, effective unit choices and what the future of 40K holds. Yes, I wholly understand that the one of the biggest unknowns right now is unit prices, but GW has had a balance trend in multiple CAs to buff crappy units instead of nerfing good units. They do, however, go after the good units when they start taking over the meta. Unfortunately, they always seem to be late to the party on the latter.

Yes, this might happen in the very-near future.

Scoping out the meta

OK, so back to buckets to paint the meta with:

Melee edition:
  • Smaller board sizes means shorter distance to get your opponents in melee. This also means opponents have less room to maneuver aka hit and run so melee can catch them.
  • Strategic reserves coming in from board edges and essentially anywhere. Plus, you can put anything into reserve by paying CP according to Power Level.
  • Overwatch is now a strategem means you'll be able to force out one OW before you go in there and tear them limb from limb. You can also bait them out with a Rhino.
  • Morale system means that if your opponent means that if you kill off a huge group of units, the rest of your guys won't all run away.
  • Obscuring terrain means you can now officially, without ITC rules, hide your more vulnerable melee units behind things instead of horrifically dying from being shot off the board.
  • Units with Fly can no longer shoot after Falling Back is huge for melee armies. Once you tag a flying unit, you pretty much disable them unless they want to stay in there with you.
Vehicle/monster edition:
  • All vehicles/monsters being able to fire heavies on the move without penalty. This immediately increases the damage potential of all vehicles/monsters in the game.
  • Vehicles and monsters can also fire weapons out of combat while engaged. This means that a Grot can't tag your Leman Russ any more. This means your biggest guns can always fire.
  • Obscuring terrain also benefits monsters because most of the vehicles/monsters in the game are <18 wounds. This means you can now hide effectively from being shot off the board on the first turn.
  • A lot of heavy weapons will have Blast rules, so certain heavy weapons will be much more effective killing infantry while you can move around.
Quality of Life changes:
  • Mono armies are back because detachments cost CP now. This gives mono-armies like Custodes a huge boon and severely punishes detachments for trait/CP benefits heavily.
  • CP is gained every game round automatically. If you want to maximize on CP, you will most likely take a generator on top of this automatic gain, and a single Battalion or even a Brigade.
  • Strategic Reserves for everyone is just good. It increases the diversity of list building and breathes life into units that might not see play.
  • Characters and LOS! rules is just clean. No more not being able to shoot a character out in the open just because some unit is closer.
  • Modifiers being capped at +1/-1 means that you will never see a -2 To Hit flyer again. You can still use traits or strategems to mitigate your opponent's advantage, but you're still capped.
  • I'll say this again: Obscuring terrain is the single biggest change to hit this edition as it's applicable everywhere. It's one of the best rules for ITC and I'm glad its here to stay.
  • Units with Fly can no longer shoot after Falling Back.
Not so sure changes:
  • Points are going up across the board. Just for practice, I've been building all of my lists at 1500 points just to see how much I can retain. Using the Intercessor and Cultist example with a range of +10-50% increase, who knows what we'll see? This will make some units either really cost effective or straight trash.
  • Not sure about multi-charges failing the entire charge, but we'll see how it plays out. I guess you just have to be much more selective of what you charge so you can't play charge/tag shennigans.

General Meta Predictions

Now that that's done, let's quickly sum up what we think the meta is going to be: Melee, vehicle, monsters Edition. That is my prediction.

More specifically, I think the meta will swing towards small (MSU-style), durable, multi-wound melee units that are not as vulnerable to Blast (since it only starts kicking in at 6+ models). Do we know any armies like that? Custodes, GK Paladins, Tyranid Warriors, smaller units can also hide behind obscuring terrain better. Fast units like Smash Captains will still have a place as long as they're next to other units and hug obscuring cover. Monsters that can melee and shoot instantly got better as well. If you use the chart I laid out above, the more benefits you have combined, the better your unit just got. That means things like Wraithlords and Dreadnoughts who can both melee and shoot instantly went up in value.

Divining the future of the Eldar.

Eldar Ramblings

Now that we provided as much background, context and predictions into the greater meta, why is this necessarily bad for Eldar? All the races of Eldar have some pretty solid vehicles and melee right? We even have Wraithlords and Talos who can melee and shoot from combat! Yes, yes, that is true, but let's get right into it again and I'll provide some reasoning. This time, I'll list out the most dramatic things to happen to us in order of importance with some reasoning.

In order of importance (most dramatic effect):
  1. Obscuring terrain blocks LOS minus titanic units, things above 18 wounds or aircraft. There's also different terrain keywords that do different things.
    • This is the single biggest change, in a positive way for all Eldar. Virtually none of our units have 18+ wounds (except for the damn useless Wraithknight) and are extremely fast to take advantage of area terrain the prevents you from being shot while still coming to a firing solution. It prevents your more delicate models from being shot from DE/Harlequins, gives you a place to hide artillery units like Nightspinners and allows you to decimate armies through firepower with Kabal vehicles. I have entire articles written about how to take advantage of cover and terrain.
  2. Units with Fly can no longer shoot after Falling Back. Still no word on how this is going to work with Open-top units want to shoot from inside.
    • This is the single biggest change, in a negative way for all Eldar. Not being able to hit and run if you get tagged without a stratagem is straight trash. It doesn't even make sense, especially when it comes to the Eldar playstyle. Sure, you can sit still in combat and shoot away, but that's something that I can see for Imperials. I don't like this at all from a thematic perspective nor a gameplay perspective. Not being able to effectively hit and run on a smaller board just screams short-sightedness when it comes to game design. Hell, even Eldar bikes get hosed. Boo-hiss!
  3. The game boards will be shorter; changing from a 48"x78" table to 44"x60".
    • This is the single biggest change, in a negative way for all Eldar. Less room to kite, generally worse for Eldar outside of specific playstyles. The improvements with melee and strategic reserves means that there's just less places to fly, more ways to get ambushed and fewer chances to score last minute objectives. Smaller boards means that effective 24" firepower is more important and controlling the middle of the board will be pivotal. Eldar generally wants to be a non-attrition army (meaning they suck at it), having less room to maneuver for a race that really depends on it can force the races into limited playstyles i.e. Meat Mountains.
  4. Modifiers can never get more than +1/-1, rolls of 6s always hit. This translates to Lightning Fast Reflexes being not cost-effective most of the time, and you going from "can't be hit" to get hit, and get hit more.
    • Harlies - This is the biggest negative change that they have. My reasoning behind this is that the majority of the points factored into Harlequins, their psychic abilities, their strategems, and therefore, the durability of Harlequins has always been around stacking hit mods and improving their invul saves. With hit modifiers being capped, Harlequins just lost a HUGE chunk of their survival rate. I would go as far as saying that if the army goes up even a medium range of points, they're entirely dead in the water. The Harlequin army was designed AND priced at being able to modify hit mods and improve invul. Otherwise, no amount of damage is going to offset their squishy nature.
    • CWE - This only really affects Alaitoic CW stacked with Flyers. Towards the end of the Psychic Awakening/Marine meta, most competitive CW players was moving away from Alaitoic anyway to take advantage of Expert Crafters + something like Masters of Concealment (i.e. my Yme-loc CWE). However, this firmly sunsets the days of Alaitoic due to the fact that you can no longer mix detachments without paying CP.
    • DE - Not really concerned overall, minus the fact that it's not really worth paying Lightning Fast Reflexes (applies to all other Eldar too) for 2 CP on most targets. You certainty wouldn't bother casting it on your planes now either considering capped hit mods and the fact you already have a base 5++.
  5. Points are going up across the board. The only reason I'm not ranking this at the very top is because it's also the largest unknown.
    • Harlies - Like I said, if the points go up too much, the army is effectively dead. The fact that you can no longer really splash them without taking a CP hit is a considerable weaknesses. While their bikes are still considered amazing units, I don't really don't know about this army. Even with the buffs to melee and reserves, taking a Patrol of them with a fat-stack of Troupe with a Troupe Master/Shadowseer is questionable.
    • DE - I'm worried for the DE when it comes to points. I am hoping that they won't get points increases across the board because realistically, they stopped being highly relevant for a while now. Since Knights, DE have struggled and with Marines coming online, it's only gotten worse. Psychic Awakening didn't really give much benefits to DE as well and the same Kabals/Covens are still being played (Black Heart and Prophets).
    • CWE - I think this is actually tied with DE. A lot of the changes that made vehicles and monsters good benefits this race a lot, but a lot of it depends on how much the units will cost. I am hoping that GW realizes that they've way over-indexed on imperial effectiveness the last couple of months, supplements and CAs. It doesn't really help Eldar if the good units go up in cost substantially out of purchasing range, and GW has a problem nerfing units that they consider too good when the meta has already past them i.e. Crimson Hunters Exarchs or lol Ravagers.
  6. Non-infantry move and fire Heavy weapons without penalty i.e. Monsters and vehicles.
    • CWE - Being able to move and shoot with heavy weapons without penalty certainly has the biggest impact on Craftworlds. A ton of their units like the Wave Serpents, Falcons, Nightwings, Vypers, War Walkers, Wraithlords..etc all benefit from this. Even Crimson Hunters received virtually free Hawkeye on top of PA Exarch abilities which is really huge. What can I say? This is a really huge boon for Eldar, especially when most of those vehicles can take Crystal Targeting Matrix.
    • DE - This is where I'm a little salty, namely because they took one of the biggest faction identity traits of the DE and gave them to everyone else. The ability to move and fire heavy weapons on the move was something that DE was known for. In fact, it reads: "Change this weapon’s Type from Heavy to Assault if it is equipped on a VEHICLE". This change literally does nothing for DE except for taking away their faction identity and give it to everyone else in the game. I really hope they give DE something to compensate for this technology theft.
    • Harlies - Nothing, I got nothing.
  7. Vehicles and monsters fire non-blast Heavy weapons in close combat.
    • DE - Talos are going to be really freaking good man, that's all I have to say. They've already been good for multiple years now with Prophets as the best Coven, but being able to continue to shoot Haywires in a soon-to-be vehicle-heavy meta is going to be amazing.
    • CWE - Wraithlords will get some new life, being able to cleave things in melee while shooting two Eldar heavy weapons.
    • Harlies - Nope, still nothing.

Meat's back on the menu boys!

Things that have a lesser effect listed here. I won't say as much here but will leave a blurb or two:
  • Detachments cost command points; promoting single-detachment armies and 12 CP at 2000 points.
    • Less room to customize your army to min-max your detachments. For example, I could take extra range + durability by mixing Obsidian Rose troops inside Black Heart Raiders aka my Black Rose, but that's no longer a thing. Same could be said about min-maxing Alaitoc Flyers with Expert Crafter Nightspinners. However, this is not a clear disadvantage to everyone in the game because everyone suffers from this.
    • To note, I am really interested to see what they do with DE's Raiding Force rule. I really hope they don't forget about it.
  • Strategic Reserves means you can reserve unit(s) by Power Level to be brought in from flanking positions or Deep Strike starting from T2.
    • A lot of Eldar units are expensive to ambush in via CP by a PL basis. Maybe that's why we have the Webway strategem? Overall, I wouldn't say there's a clear plus or minus just yet as I can see some practical use out of the new reserve rules, especially when it comes to flexibility of what you can actually reserve.
  • Characters and Look Out Sir! changing so you have to have the character nearby something.
    • Those hidden Rangers really helped shield those Skyrunners when you needed them to.
  • Command Phase means CP is gained per turn. 1 CP per turn, unknown how generators will work.
    • Good for me, good for you. All three Eldar factions have ways to generate CP outside of the standard 1 per Command Phase.
  • Morale system changed so you can't kill off huge units by doing a crap ton of damage to them.
    • This might actually be OK for Eldar against specific high-value armies like Marines. CWE has things like the Hemlock, DE has Phantasmal Grenade Launchers (PGL), while Harlequins are just loaded with leadership-shocking abilities. Since failing morale instantly nabs a model now, this might be OK for armies that have these abilities. However, the weakness comes in the fact that if we shoot up a lot of hordes, we won't be able to kill nearly as much.
  • Blast weapons coming back to fight against hordes.
    • Until we see weapon profiles, we're not sure enough just how many things get Blast. We know from a preview that Nighspinners are still good, but we don't know nearly enough about everyone else. I would think that you can guess which weapons can be Blast based on previous editions. Just remember which ones had blast templates and use your imagination.
  • Overwatch is now a strategem for everyone except for Tau.
    • Good for melee, further pushing the notion that Meat Mountains are going to make a comeback (as if they ever left?). A lot of Eldar armies in the current and previous metas were much more focused on shooting with a central melee unit like Shining Spears. This doesn't really change anything for those armies.
  • Multi-charge has changed so if you don't make all your declared charges, you fail to charge.
    • This is bad for Shining Spears or things like Wraithblades that might make an appearance, but is a boon for not getting your flying vehicles combo-charged.

If there's anything to take away from this analysis is the fact that Harlequins get almost nothing when it comes to firing heavy weapons or vehicles/monsters. In fact, I would one of the biggest problems they'll run into is not being able to survive through any kind of game. I'm seriously hoping that we'll see some buffs or cost benefits come their way, otherwise, they're in some serious trouble. Otherwise, I firmly expect to see CWE/DE players trying out their more shooting-effective vehicles, but this is offset with their inability to fall back and fire now. This points the finger at a possible Talos/Wraithlord meta possibly, but that will all depend on the price you pay. In fact, the price hikes that are sure to follow will firmly determine the future of the Eldar race. I just hope they give something to Harlequins because they are not looking good at all.

Eldar Meta Predictions

With the meta swinging into smaller, MSU, more elite-type units in both durable, melee-focused infantry, or vehicles/monsters, I think Eldar will need to adapt to win. I do not foresee most Eldar armies to play an infantry-based or melee-based route, but more towards the vehicle and monsters. With a shorter-board to play on, I think the value of mid-game, mid-board control will be heavily emphasized in each game regardless of mission. Therefore, you need units that can stay alive in the center of the board to better play the objective game.  I also think that because melee will be so strong that there will be a heavier emphasis in being able to effectively screen as you don't want your vehicles to get tagged.

Breaking it down a bit, I foresee 2 key archetypes to come out of the Eldar meta.
  • First, do not play Harlequins. Until I see a dramatic reversal of the fates, they're dead to me.
  • Second, I am seeing the return of durability and Meat Mountain-style lists. This means Wraithblades with psychic powers to make them near unkillable, Wraithlords that can shoot and melee, supported by some Eldar tanks now that you have an effective meat wall riding up the middle for board control. For DE, expect to see Wracks, Grots and Talos with Prophets with Urien in the middle. This style of list really wants to run some supporting firepower like Ravagers, so I'm expecting them to play with a few CP down just to take the extra firepower. I don't believe CWE needs to worry about splitting detachments too much.
  • Third, I am seeing both vehicle-heavy mechdar lists from DE and Eldar to be effective. They won't be as effective as the MM or MM/hybrid list with vehicles, but they'll still have a place. Why? Because I think they'll be anti-meta. While everyone and their mother wants to shove elite and durable melee or vehicle units in your face, as a DE player you'll have 21 Disintegrators or a crap-ton of Poison shots for the monsters that they'll bring. Eldar can play this game as well, especially with their newly buffed vehicles/Heavy weapon rules. I just don't think they'll be able to play the game as well as their Dark Kin.

Phew, you made it through. With that said, I'll probably continue my spiritual journey playing games with the mechdar-style lists. I just don't get excited about playing meat mountains regardless of how effective they might be. What do you predict we'll see in the new meta? Do you agree with any of my predictions? What do you plan on playing? I know I'm going to be spending the next couple of days building 1500 point lists in preparation for the new price hikes. It's better to start lower to avoid disappointment in the future.

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