And here we are, at the closing of the Eldar Codex Mega-Review. We’re once more departing from statistical analysis to think more about the codex as a whole, what it means for you, your opponents, and how it exists in the context of the other Eldar codexes.
First, powerful or not, I think it’s clear that this is a labor of love for the development team. It feels like an Eldar codex should. And yes, it’s quite powerful. I think the biggest thing behind it is that this is finally a codex where I don’t think there’s a wrong way to play, or a unit that’s just going to drag your army down. Want tons of Aspect Warriors? I think they finally live up to their concepts, more than they did last edition. Prefer a Saim Hann-style windrider host? That’s definitely doable. Want to dominate the psychic phase? There’s that too.
That does leave the codex in a very powerful place, because there are very few bad choices and some absolutely great ones. How you handle that…we’ll get to later. There’s a few themes I see emerging in this codex though:
Rise of the Aspects. Aspect Warriors got good. Even the ones that require some finesse are powerful, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them on the table. Honestly, that’s pretty exciting.
Shifting Serpents. The Wave Serpent isn’t a gunboat anymore. But it’s far from useless, as this post explores. It still definitely has a role, and I think there are some great builds that could come from it. But it no longer gets to humm “Anything you can do I can do better…” when hanging around the other grav tanks. Which leads us to…
Alternative Tanks. Being able to take Falcons, Fire Prisms and Night Spinners in units of three is a big deal to reduce the crowding of the Heavy Support slot, and that they play well in multiples and are no longer eclipsed by the Wave Serpent means there’s room for all of them in a grav tank heavy list.
Army Defining Formations. One of the caveats to all of this is that the formations are very expensive. Occasionally you read comments about the Eldar codex online, and it starts getting to “Harness the Warp on a 3+ and Shredding Jetbikes and 4+ Re-rollable Crimson Hunters and BS5 Aspect Warriors and…and…” and you come to realize that the nightmare army they’re talking about is 6,000 some points. These formations are expensive, and definitely have a directed purpose. Within the detachment, if you’re also taking a Seer Council, you’re talking about three Farseers plus potentially two large groups of Warlocks. Deep Striking Falcons only happen when there’s three of them. An Aspect Host is three units of Aspect Warriors and their attendant transports. I can tell you from experience that two Crimson Hunters is pretty influential in how your army plays, and a third will definitely make that “What your army is about.”
I think that’s awesome, but don’t get carried away thinking all Eldar armies will do everything.
Ranged D. That cat’s out of the bag, and it won’t be going back in. Honestly, I think this is a good thing – it promotes large units of troops as a counter, and pushes back against the recent popularity of high points value single model units. I’m going to look at the effect of the ITC’s changes to the ranged D table in a future post, but it’s definitely something that exists in the game now.
Which brings us to the second part of this post, “Playing Well With Others”. There are two very different things I mean by that idea:
- The Eldar Codex as it combines with the Dark Eldar and Harlequins Codexes.
- Playing with other people.
Lets talk about the first a little bit. Someone once said that the Dark Eldar Codex is the best supplement to ever come out for the Eldar Codex, and I think that’s true. Both books have a lot to add to a “mostly Eldar” army:
Dark Eldar. The first and most obvious is Raiders and Venoms. The assault transports the Craftworld Eldar lack. While fragile, these are a good way to usher your units towards combat with a little bit of protection from small arms fire and more speed, plus a considerable amount of firepower. Combine these with Dark Eldar characters with Webway Portals and you can make some truly nasty combinations, bringing specialist units onto the board exactly where they need to be.
There are some more subtle ones however. I’d argue that Razorwings are a decent complement to a Crimson Hunter, as they are somewhat more flexible in terms of what they can kill in exchange for less air-to-air power, but that’s what the Crimson Hunter is for. And there’s a lot that the Eldar can add to a Dark Eldar army. The one that comes to mind the most is the Autarch – there’s no way to add a character to a unit of Scourges or Reaver Jetbikes in the Dark Eldar codex, but an Autarch can fit well into both, adding a bit of punch to either unit. Similarly, Craftworld units can add a little bit of durability, especially in their armored units, that the Dark Eldar lack, or tossing in some psychic potential to let the Dark Eldar play in that phase of the game.
And for sheer hilarity, there’s the Jain Zar + Lilith + a unit of Howling Banshees close-combat unit that very well may die, but will definitely ruin someone’s day if they get into close combat.
Harlequins. As I imagine they were designed to, I think the Harlequins complement the Craftworld Eldar well. Again, their transports, while smaller than Raiders and thus useless for transporting Wraithguard/blades into combat, can carry Howling Banshee payloads where they need to go. They add some more diversity to close combat units, and the Guardian Stormhost puts some cheaper bodies in the mix to offset the price of the Harlequins. They allow the unlocking of even more psychic goodies with their own Shadowseer-specific discipline, and are a linchpin of a full on assault on the enemy’s leadership. Plus the Solitaire adds another true close combat character beyond the Phoenix Lords. An unlike the Dark Eldar Reavers, where if they’re escorting a mounted Exarch you’re relying on fairly cheap bodies, Harlequin Skyweavers are a “heavy” option to accomplish a similar task. Given the loss of the Mantle of the Laughing God is forcing me to find an escort for my Autarch, I think it’s only proper that the Harlequins have just such an option.
Now lets talk about your opponents. The Eldar army is unquestionably a very powerful army. You should always be having a conversation with your opponent before a game, trying to establish what kind of game you’re looking for, and establishing the social contract you’re playing under. Is your opponent really just wanting to play their fun, narrative-focused Deathwing army? Or are they practicing for NOVA Open? Those will be very different games, with very different expectations.
The Eldar army can absolutely be tailored to those expectations. In my mind, if you’re going to a tournament, bring your best and be ready to stomp face. But in a friendly game? Dial it down a notch. Take a couple units that you’ve always wanted to play, but don’t “fit” in your tournament list. Try some of the more obscure strategies, like shenanigans Autarchs or trying to destroy your opponent’s Leadership.
Basically, don’t by That Guy/Girl.
But that’s something that will be true for every codex, and every game. But like that one kid on the playground who hit their growth spurt a little earlier than everyone else, you need to be mindful of your strength. Remember the point of the game is to have fun, and always ask the question “Will this be fun to play against?” That doesn’t mean your opponent has to win, but try to keep that in mind.
Similarly, folks playing Eldar? Reach out and try to establish that ahead of time. Do you want to try that blisteringly mean army that no one else in the store wants to play? Your Eldar opponent might be interested. I’ve had a lot of fun doing that – telling my opponents to bring their best, and I’ll do my level best to give them a tough game. Not interested in that? Tell them. But don’t assume all Eldar players have automatically stacked all the abuse you can imagine into their armies – as mentioned, that’s actually pretty hard to do points wise, and take it from me, there are ways to build friendly Eldar lists.
But most of all, have fun, and remember: The Dice Gods Favor the Bold.
This has been a pretty long series, trying to go in-depth with a major codex, include some statistical analysis as well as my own thoughts, and generally give a pretty comprehensive picture of the new codex? Did you enjoy it? Should I do more things like this? Or was this just an exercise in “TL;DR”?
Leave your thoughts below. Or, if you want even more control over what Variance Hammer looks at, consider contributing to our Patreon campaign. This review is the result of one such contributor, and believe me, I listen.