It should be obvious by now that I have a thing for the Eldar. Which means the re-release of The Doom of Mymeara has got me super-excited, mostly for my beloved Corsairs. And because it was in dire need of it. But what’s got people talking right now is the ‘Skathach Wraithknight’, a variance of the standard Wraithknight in the same pattern as Forge World’s expanded line of Imperial Knights.
We now have what could easily be called the “Wraithknight Variety Pack”. But since Forge World’s units range anywhere from “Take only in narrative games you’re down with losing” to “Fit as many of them in the army as you can”, it’s worth breaking down these imposing Webway guardians to see where they’re at. And since Paul Murphy asked me to do exactly that…here we are.
Deathshroud Cannon: This one doesn’t really need much comparison, because it has an entirely different role than the original Wraithknight. It’s an infantry killer. From a leak of the rules, it looks like it can fire either a Hellstorm template or Massive Blast with Shred and Monofilament – and it’s got two of those (or one and a shimmer shield). Combined with two shoulder mounted Shuriken Cannons or Scatter Lasers, and able to fire all four weapons, that’s…a lot of dead infantry.
You know how I’ve been saying that hordes of cheap troops are the counter to D weapons? This is the counter to those troops. And if you could get in and amongst a Tau gunline…
Inferno Lance: This is the more interesting weapon to analyze, because the original Wraithknight is a nasty anti-tank/big creature platform all it’s own. The Inferno Lance takes the same basic tactic, but with an entirely differently philosophy – many (d3+2) Str 8, AP 1, Melta shots instead of few big-hitter Str. D shots. How do the two compare?
Versus an Imperial Knight
I set up the simulations in the usual way. 1000 simulated rounds of shooting at a “generic” Imperial Knight’s front arc – AV 13, a 4+ ion shield save, and six hull-points to go through. First, lets see how they stack up against each other while in melta range. The purple bars are the number of glances or penetrations caused by the Heavy Wraithcannon, and the sky blue the same caused by the Inferno Lance:
Here, you can see the two different philosophies at work. The Wraithcannon is a very “Go Big or Go Home” weapon – a high chance of just missing completely, but it’s also got a much higher chance of a good shot just obliterating the Knight with no save involved. The Inferno Lance on the other hand is consistently doing good damage – you can expect to do something most of the time, occasionally get lucky or hope a penetrating hit gets a good result. Which one is preferable is…well, a little bit of a tossup in my mind, especially since the mean for the two is essentially identical (2.1 vs. 2.2 glances or pens). It’s just picking your distribution. Looking at this, with the Wraithcannon ~22.5% of the time you just blow up a Knight, mic drop, and walk away. My guess, and this is something I suspect is increasingly important to Eldar players, is that your opponents will complain less about the more reliable, but less “shock and awe” Inferno Lance.
The same story is true with a slightly enhanced Knight enjoying a 3+ ion shield save:
The ability for the D weapon to simply punch through the save advantages it slightly in this scenario, but the Inferno Lance is still a pretty reliable performer, getting some consistently strong hits in. But what if we leave melta range?
This…is a little bit more of a problem. Outside of melta range, the Inferno Lance’s modest Str 8 shots struggle, and you’re now relying largely on just a sheer number of shots to cause some glancing hits. And most of the time you’ll cause at least one, but if you don’t believe you’ll be able to engage with your enemy at melta range, the original Wraithknight, which isn’t perturbed by being at long range, is probably your best bet. That being said, if you can’t play mobility games with a Wraithknight, something’s already gone sideways.
Another question is what if your local tournament scene is using one of the many potential nerfs to the Destroyer weapon table. Looking at a fairly common one, “D-1 for all ranged D” (my stance on rules tinkering should be clear by now), in melta range:
The short answer? You’re buying one of the new Wraithknights. Taking a “Go Big or Go Home” weapon and taking away “Go Big” has pretty predictable results. There’s basically no circumstance where you should be taking anything but the Inferno Lance. It’s more reliable and it’s better. Two great tastes that taste great together. How about outside melta range?
Even in what should be the Wraithcannon’s wheelhouse, where it is admittedly less reliable but enjoying a higher top-end than the Inferno Lance, I’m not convinced that it’s good enough to make up for the lack of performance once the Inferno Lance gets in melta range. And this is what annoys me about rules like that – “How good is this unit?” should not be answered with “Well, where are you playing?”
Outside of hunting heavy vehicles, the other role for a Wraithknight is hunting Monstrous and Gargantuan Creatures. The Wraithcannon is equally good at both roles, while the Inferno Lance loses the benefit of the melta rule, but still enjoys an excellent AP and high strength. How do the two stack up hunting a fellow Wraithknight?
Same story, assuming there’s no shield or other save of any sort involved. The mean number of wounds is pretty similar (2.8 for the Wraithcannon, 2.7 for the Inferno Lance), and the loss of the edge from melta not mattering is made up for with high strength. The Wraithknight continues to be a powerful but swing-y weapon, giving you your best chance to just take your opponents big baddie off the table, but also your biggest chance to simply do nothing at all. In contrast, the Inferno Cannon is just a reliable, workman like performer – unlikely to win big turn one, but consistently sending wounds your opponent’s way.
There is one last thing to consider: vehicles in squadrons. Using my beloved Hornets as an example, here I believe the Inferno Lance has the indisputable edge. The Wraithcannon can, at most, kill two of them. An Inferno Lance on the other hand, can get a great many more hits, each of which can be spread over the unit. If your opponent is fielding large squadrons, the Inferno Lance is likely the way to go. The same is true if you turn your Wraithknight toward killing tough but low-wound units, like Terminators.
Quite by accident, this turns out to be a great illustration of the fundamental idea behind Variance Hammer, and the conflict that arises when you move beyond just “On average…” in your analysis of a unit. Do you go with “The dice gods favor the bold”, and try to slam your opponent with a few critically disabling shots (and risk doing nothing at all) or do you favor reliability and predictability (that won’t deliver you the spectacular turn)? Does it depend on setting – a tournament, versus a friendly game?
To my mind, both are valid choices. The Inferno Lance is a viable, different, but not overpowering alternative to the Wraithcannon, that adds twist on the Wraithknight as a fire platform without being indisputably better (unless your group has fiddled with the D table). Well done Forge World.
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