Dark Eldar Tactica (and Strategi...ca?)
“I am truly disappointed that cruel fate has placed us in this position, such that I really have no choice other than to unleash my warriors against your population centers. If only you would lay aside these foolish hopes of protecting your resources and return to your homes and families, much bloodshed and woe could be avoided.
Yet... there is still time, any who leave now will be spared and I give you my word that they will be granted free passage through the wastes. This offer of amnesty will stand for two of your hours before the terror begins anew. I can only hope that you consider your position carefully. Send forth a representative to discuss further terms if you wish, or several if you cannot trust one of your number to speak for the rest. I feel sure that all can be... accommodated.”
"The Dark Eldar are fast yet fragile."
"The Dark Eldar are a glass hammer."
"The Dark Eldar are difficult to learn, but deadly once mastered."
"The Dark Eldar are the veteran’s army of choice."
If you have spent even a modicum of time at a search engine trying to learn more about Dark Eldar then you have probably seen the words written above many times. I’ll tell you right now they are all true (except perhaps that veteran’s choice one, I always sort of thought that was GW’s marketing department earning their paychecks for the month).
The purpose of this article will be to provide new players wanting to learn about Dark Eldar a solid base with which to build their strategic (army building) and tactical (battlefield maneuvers) upon. I also hope that more experienced players will find new thoughts and ideas here, or offer up some of their own. After all, anyone who plays the Dark Eldar is well aware that our army list has a surprisingly varied number of options strategically.
Now, it has been my experience that most “Tacticas” are, in fact, “Strategi…cas?” because really what most Tacticas do is talk about unit composition and list building, and really that’s strategy (I’ll spare you actually bothering to define the difference, as if you care you can look it up, and if you don’t you really don’t need me blathering about it) Even in my last DE Tactica/Strategica I tended to emphasize unit composition and just sort of slapped together a tactics guide at the back of it and hoped people would keep reading till then.
Not this time – Tactics first, and then I’ll explain unit comp and how you can go about effectively bringing your tactics to fruition. If all you care about is “what is the most competitive way to field Wyches” then feel free to skip ahead to Part 2 of the Tactica and feast your eyes on an exhaustive discussion of units and equipment. You can always come back and read this section later, but I’m putting it first because it really is the most vital part of a competitive army.
Okay, so all the foolish newbs who believe they know everything have left to go see “how many Dark lances are in a good army at 1500 points?” and left us with people who are new enough to know they need help, and people who have played enough to know it never hurts to see if there’s something new they can learn. That’s awesome, because that’s the way you’ll become a better player. So, let us consider the most important question any Tactica can *possibly* answer for anyone who reads it, and it’s really a simple question that anyone who looks at a Tactica really wants answered;
How Do I Win with Dark Eldar?
"Our weapons are terror, dark lances and speed!" – Dawn of War, getting it right.
Well, there’s a few ways to answer that but let’s look at the most important;
- Know your army, what can it do and what can’t it do?
- Know your opponent’s army.
- Roll good numbers on the dice.
I can’t help you with 2 and 3, there are other tacticas and sacrifices to various dice gawds for them, but what I will help you with is number 1, and that’s getting you to know the Dark Eldar. They are not half as complicated as some people would want you to think, and we can break them down very easily. What we’ll be talking about below is how they win (their strengths), how they lose (their weaknesses), and also how you can use their strengths to overcome the weaknesses.
Let’s take a quick glance at our Army Special Rules and also flip past a few of our units and look at stat lines and equipment. You notice a few interesting trends.
We have a Power from Pain special rule where we get tougher as we kill things.
We see well in the dark and have high BS and WS scores.
We have high initiatives and practically everything in the army has Fleet and can be bought with a dedicated transport.
Most of our core units are Toughness 3 with a few 4 toughness units tossed in.
All of our vehicles are skimmers, and a lot of them have a special rule allowing them to fire all their weapons after moving at cruising speed.
Almost none of our mech has AV values over 11.
We have a lot of guns and weapons that ignore armor or toughness or reduce armor values, or work in unusual ways to hurt the opponent.
We have a lot of low armor values and wound totals.
It’s not rocket science here, folks. DE are built to hit things, and not be hit back. That is the core of the army – attack, attack, attack, and when you need to defend attack some more and hope that works out because you have a glass jaw the size of Montana with a few glaring neon signs pointing at it.
Thus the quick summation of the entire rest of the page below me is this;
Dark Eldar win by killing things and attacking first.
Dark Eldar lose by allowing themselves to be attacked.
How Do Dark Eldar Lose?
"To the shadows! Flee!"
What are the weaknesses of our army? As discussed, it’s our glass jaw. Our skimmers are armored with wet cardboard, our men are wrapped in tissue paper armor (with spikes, rawr!) and most of our ICs and special characters live in abject terror at the thought of a Str 6 weapon that can insta-kill them.
Well, crap, you say. Thanks a lot Thor – I just bought about $300 of these guys and they look awesome, and now you tell me they’re like fielding retarded bunnies (in spikes) with live bombs (also with spikes) strapped to their chests?
Not to fear, because the trick with DE is to play them…well, sort of like Orks combined with Tau – but faster…I’m not kidding. Let’s look at how we win, which involves how we overcome these weaknesses.
How Do Dark Eldar Win?
“The new Dark Eldar Codex sucks, you can’t spam Lances as well as you used to” – a 40k player at a tournament, shortly before I spammed Dark Lances on him.
More then anything else this is the tool the Dark Eldar use to win the most. Few armies can match our speed – whether it is speed via fleet, via our hordes of transports, via our skimmer tech, or via our high initiatives. Those armies that can compete with one of the above advantages usually cannot compete with two much less all three. Dark Eldar are fast – use it!
Flanking for Fun and Profit
One of the most touted Dark Eldar tactics is the omnipresent ability of our army to flank. What I mean by flanking is the ability for our entire army to move over to one part of the map and engage half (or less than half) of your opponent’s forces. For whatever reason when most people set up they seem to like to spread their army out across their whole table edge (though I’ll give most Ork and Nid builds a pass since they usually have to in order to fit). Dark Eldar can then excel at repositioning their army on their first turn to suddenly apply almost all of the pressure upon one side of the map or the other. Sometimes this can even be accomplished going straight up the middle if he's placed his static gun positions in a foolish way.
Pick Your Fight
With speed comes the ability to dictate the engagements. If a Carnifex is tromping towards your men we can often easily hop aboard a transport and just disappear. Raiders, Venoms, and Ravagers have unparalleled movement capabilities by combining the fast and skimmer vehicle traits, allowing them to ignore troops and terrain as they go to exactly where you wish them to be on the battlefield. If something dangerous is coming towards something that cannot handle it…leave. You can always pick it apart with Dark Lances or wander over a Dakka Venom to poison it to death.
Strike First and Strike Often
Part of picking your fight, but a little different, can we take a moment to consider how many other armies are capable of an almost assured first turn assault? Not too many, huh? Not that I’m advocating always lobbing your Wyches and Lord into the teeth of your foes, but it’s something to remember. Not only can the speed be used to reposition, but it can be used to inflict harm as well. Whether it’s the ability of a speed bump unit to use high initiative to slash up a few of the enemy that are killing them before they’re wiped or the ability for our assault forces to practically move the table width to enter assault, the Dark Eldar can pick their fights and should usually get to do some damage before their enemies are even capable of trying to hurt them back. Pick your biggest threats out of the opponent’s army, isolate them via flanking, and strike hard, fast, and first to remove them from play.
Fighting fair - the Dark Eldar way
An Airborne Horde
Unlike our ‘Light’ cousins and certainly unlike pretty much any army that is fielded in power armor, the DE are really not that expensive (especially when you consider our stat lines). Yes, we are basically Orks with BS 4, and anyone who knows how to play Orks well should understand how devastating Orks could be if they had good shooting and super fast skimmer transports. Field lots of Dark Eldar, field lots of threats. So many things in our Codex are good that you want your opponent looking at this swarm, *knowing* they are practically all going to be able to shoot him next turn and just flummoxed for what he should try to shoot first. Darken the skies, young Archon, your armies should blot out the sun.
Never Fight Fair
You’re a Dark Eldar, start acting like it. Leave the Marines and uptight Tau of the universe to talk about ‘fair’ and having noble duels unit to unit. When you attack something – crush it till it isn’t a threat anymore! You have a lot of firepower and assault capability on the board, and you should never be scared to have 3 Venoms toss 36 poison shots at something if that’s what it takes to make the something not a threat anymore.
Never Ever Overkill
On the flip side – each dark matter weapon is valuable to you, each skimmer that shoots at something isn’t shooting something else, and you can only deny so much of an enemy army from shooting at you by using terrain and your speed to stay out of range, so what do you do?
The answer is – kill something just enough. If your biggest threat is, say, a Predator tank with multiple lascannons (filthy buggers all!) you need to understand what it means as a threat. The threat is – it can pretty much kill one skimmer every round, which is bad! So you have to stop it, right? So you shoot at it and get a ‘Crew Stunned result’ Fiddlesticks, not dead yet, so we should shoot again, right…? The answer, is…maybe. Is there something else that’s dangerous you could use that lance shot against? Maybe that Landspeeder with the melta weapon and a bad attitude? The threat of the Predator is over for the round because it’s not shooting next turn – find something else, shoot it instead, make it not a threat. You will have to worry about the Predator again, but with as many weapons as you can bring to bear understand that the numbers game is on your side, minimize their ability to hurt you through your ability to hurt them first. That’s Dark Eldar defense.
Killpoints and Objectives aka Playing to Kill, Not to Win
Objectives And How to Ignore Them
This one might take some getting used to… In most generalized strategy guides for 40k I see that one of the overriding themes is “pay attention to the mission.” It is a wise piece of advice that hopefully teaches young generals to make sure they take a pile of Nurgle mooks and drop them soundly atop an objective in order to sit there for the rest of the game thumbing their nose at their opponents and going ‘Nyaah!’ while a nearby bush deflects lascannon fire…not that I’m bitter!
However, it is important for an aspiring DE commander to understand one important aspect about Dark Eldar. They are very good at taking objectives…and very bad at holding them. Remember, we defend by attacking, not by huddling down in cover with our awesome armor saves.
When playing an objective game therefore, your best strategy is outlined thusly; Your primary goal is to kill those enemy units that can kill your units. Stuff like heavy artillery or things that can easily pop your Ravagers. It is also usually a good idea to keep an eye on anything that is too mobile or fast – you want to be the fastest thing on the board so it’s usually a good idea to sunder his mobility. After that the bulk of the game should be hunting troops and otherwise just killing everything in sight. It is only on the 4th turn that you should even begin to contemplate getting your men to the objectives and really the 5th turn is when such movement should happen. Also, make sure you have another option to claim the objective because if the game proceeds past turn 5, as it often does, the troop choice you sent to the objective could well end up very dead.
Raiders and Venoms are built for contesting objectives. Moving flat out with some skimmers to zip in and contest two objectives while I control only one has won me more games then I can recall. The effort of gunning down these Raiders can often occupy your foe’s attention if the game does extend and that should allow you to just rush in with more Raiders.
Kill his units, contest his objectives, and be mindful of trying to hold onto anything.
Killpoints…And How to Ignore Them Too
Killpoints are not the friend of the Dark Eldar. With our proliferation of transports and fragile small squads it is very easy for us to be dropping almost twice the number of killpoints our opponent does.
But that’s okay.
First off, in 2/3rds of the games you play killpoints will not be an issue, objectives will. In that case simply play as outlined above and hopefully laugh as your army shreds apart all opposition. But then comes the question, ‘In competitive play, how do I win with Dark Eldar in Killpoint missions?’ This is a very good question and there are two schools of thought.
The first school of thought is that you work to minimize your KPs by taking less dedicated transports, maybe switch over to a Webway list since they don’t need transports and can field large footslogging squads. You stay mindful of not dropping out small squads of Wyches and you try to maximize your capability to kill with the modified adjustments.
I don’t like that style of play because, to my mind, it works against most of the Dark Eldar’s best strengths. I should take less dedicated transports and sacrifice my Lance spam in order to have some less KPs on the board? Really? What, pray tell, will I be killing my foe with then?
This leads us to the second option, and my preferred one – don’t sweat the killpoints. Seriously, to hell with it. Buy up a bunch of Raiders, fill them with Dark Lances and then just do what I, and many other DE generals do, and just table your opponent. If you table him then the KPs just won’t matter.
It sounds easy, and the truth is – it is easy. When you win with DE you tend to win big. I’m talking sweeping the enemy off the table in a bloody swath big. And when you lose, you tend to lose big too, so that almost nothing is left. So why fret about your kill point offerings? Either you’re pretty much wiping him off the table or he’s mauling you, and trust me you’ll have a better chance of winning if you happen to have five Raiders and three Ravagers on the table with a brace of Trueborn running around amidst the double Wych squads. This is not to say that come the last two rounds you shouldn’t be checking the KP totals and maybe trying to aim at softer targets while protecting your own if the two totals are close. But keep in mind with the DE that the best defense is to stay on offense and just focus on the killing…generally the KPs tend to sort themselves out.
Besides, though it does sometimes suck, we’re still sickeningly good at winning objective matches.
Army Building – The Golden Rule is Redundancy
Redundancy is a concept that should be dear to anyone who plays 40k. Everyone who knows harps on this – if one is good then probably two is better and three is best. The reason this works out so well is because it gives you multiple units that are useful to whatever your plan for winning is.
This becomes an easy tool for DE players to exploit because pretty much every slot in our army has good options that can be put into them, and our units are well built for being small and spamming themselves while not giving up much firepower. That gives us a somewhat uniform look, but then we have the advantage that most of the good units can be built to accomplish different (and sometimes multiple) tasks. A Warrior squad can serve as tank busters, assaulting swarms, or damage absorbing tarpits. The Ravager can be kitted out to eat tanks, infantry, or both. Lords and Haemonculi have a variety of little chores they can be built for.
With all of the adaptability it is easy to fill your army with a horde of Lances and Blasters to bust tanks and MCs while also having swarms of Splinter Cannons and Disintegrators to mow down massed infantry. Our close combat squads can range from near impossible to kill Wyches with an Agoniser to slowly whittle down the foe, to the flashy Lord or Incubi that come in with a rapid and aggressive power weapon assault almost assured to obliterate whatever they’re pointed at.
The trick with all of this is to make sure that it’s impossible for your enemy to blow away one or two squads that are vital to your army. Yeah – if turn one he pops your three lance Ravager and a Wych Raider that sucks, but make sure you still have another four or five Raiders with Lances. The RJBs with Heat Lance, and a sniper squad or two and he won’t have even begun to scratch your anti-tank capability. Much less what your other two Wych Raiders and the Incubi/Lord Raider will mean for your potential close combat power.
No matter what a unit does, be it kill tanks, carry a Webway Portal, or saw up massed infantry make sure you have one or two other units that can do the exact same thing. The focus is duplicating what they can do, so if you hate spam feel free to use different types of units, but definitely duplicate the jobs. The Dark Eldar are great at swarming with all sorts of heavy and special weapons and having some of the nastiest close combat options in the game – use them and go forth to claim souls for Commorragh!
Putting it All Together
"Let them resist. It will make my inevitable victory even sweeter, their screams of fear and agony all the more whole. Let them resist..."
Okay, so let’s look again at your army and try to hit home the important ideas to keep in your head on the battlefield.
First, and this is the advantage that makes all other DE advantages functional, USE YOUR SPEED! Warhammer 40k in the 5th edition is all about mobility, and that’s why everyone, and their uncle, fields armies of vehicles – because a unit in a vehicle is much more mobile than one without. Mobility helps you avoid damage, inflict it on others, and move to where you need to be on the battlefield (like an objective). DE have, quite arguably (and I do argue this) the finest vehicles in the game. They are affordable, they are fast, they are skimmers, they are open topped – all of those are amazing attributes for our vehicles.
So, on the battlefield, use this speed. Move so all of your army will shoot up half of his. Gang up on danger units and pummel them until they aren’t a threat for a turn or two – then move onto the next threat. Your opponent will be left trying to move his army around to try and hurt your army. Then pull back, reposition, there is almost no reason to have most of the vehicles in your army not moving 6-12” every turn. Pull back from the new threats, reposition your army on the edges of range and keep pummeling the threats that can hurt your precious mobility. Have assault units tear into unprotected infantry and lock down or kill those infantry units that are dangerous to you.
Never try to fight 1 on 1 with DE. We are weak, and counter attacks will hurt us because we’re easier to hurt than most armies. So don’t make it fair, attack with twice the numbers and wipe out what you attack. If he manages to survive and strike back he’ll only be able to stop one unit, have the other one finish him off.
With your mobility and speed it’s good that you understand your opponent’s army, because you really do have the ability to attack almost any part of it at almost any time. Take out the bits that make the army dangerous to you first, then mop up what’s left.
In objective missions, SPREAD OUT THOSE OBJECTIVES! Make them all as far apart as possible. Why? Because you’re fast enough to reach them all whenever you want even if only half your army is alive., whereas most other armies are not. You want your opponent to get in his head right away that he can only claim one or two objectives and try to ‘defend’ them. Just shoot the living hell out of him, focus on killing him, and at the last moment zip units out to claim 3 objectives and also contest his 1. DE own in objective missions and that’s what most missions are.
Recognize how sweet Power From Pain is. Our entire army can get Feel No Pain? Really? That’s broken! But try to maximize the effectiveness while you’re killing things. Every unit in our army is good with FNP, not every unit needs Furious Charge though. Pay attention to the order you shoot/assault and try to maximize getting the right effects onto units that can use them.
Finally, understand your army composition and why your units are dangerous. DE die easily and hit hard, that’s why you see so many DE armies using MSU tactics (multiple, small units). If a squad of ten Wyches is hit by a squad of Guardsmen with First Rank Fire then they are probably just as dead as a squad of five, so…why do you need ten? There are reasons to go that way, and we’ll discuss them later, but generally speaking understand that he who has the ability to target more is going to be better off. DE want to attack, and two units will let you attack twice instead of once, probably with more special and heavy weapons too, though even our poison las rifles are an excellent weapon.
Understanding Our Army Special Rules
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
These abilities are important because they effect multiple units in our army, and we need to understand how to best use them.
Power From Pain
Perhaps one of the best tools that has been given to the DE in this Codex, PfP actually re-writes two of our biggest weaknesses glass jaws and Str 3. FNP makes us massively more survivable, and it’s possible for huge swathes of our army to develop this power by the mid point of the game. 2nd, when we gain Furious charge our already high Initiative advantage is boosted, as well as our frail Str score – making our assault units much more potent.
Pay attention to the units that let you start with Pain tokens (Hameys, Wracks, Chronos, et al) Ask yourself where the powers that are granted are best (I personally believe in assault units, if I could get a pain token on every assault unit at the start of the game I would be a super happy player). Try to figure out how to maximize those units getting pain tokens.
Also, be aware how pain tokens move. If you start a Haemy with some Wyches to give them a pain token, when the units separate *you* get to decide who keeps the pain token. (cough*Wyches*cough). The use of ICs as ‘Pain Purveyors’ cannot be overlooked, Haemys are a solid little unit that upgrades any unit they join with FNP – that is stupid broken, and that is why the Haemy is one of the best units in the codex.
I will admit, I actually find Fearless usually a bad upgrade to get – though, honestly, by the time you get it usually you’re winning well enough it won’t matter.
This power generally only effects you in 1/3 games (or when up against certain necron lists), though I do note that Adepticon (the gold standard for scenarios at most venues) seems to be in love with having Night Fight effects. The general bit of awesomeness to keep in your head is that any round when Night Fight is in effect is an excellent round for the DE to be pressuring the opponent, gaining board control, and making a bloody nuisance of themselves.
I’ve had opponents keep everything in reserve just because I pointed out how I had army wide night fighting. That allowed me to take dominant control of the board and allowed me to really take advantage of the ‘Never Fight Fair’ idea of our army as my entire army got to fight his in small spurts.
Yet again Combat Drugs undergoes a shift. It’s less specialized, but is at least easier to keep track of during a game. Let’s consider these drugs we get and how they’ll effect our units who have this special rule (Wyches, Hellions, Reavers,a nd Archons if they take the upgrade…Haemys apparently decided to stop taking drugs in this edition.)
- 3d6 movement on run move – Reavers just lose out on this one, but having greater assured speed from assault units is always a big plus. Probably the weakest power overall, but still can help protect a Wych Squad going for a risky charge not to get caught in the open alone with their tissue paper underwear save flapping in the breeze.
- +1 WS – This is pretty decent for everything but the archon or succubus (who’ll hit on 3+ pretty much all the time anyway). It’s really awesome because it helps out your Agonisers really well, and generally boosts every squad with combat drugs.
- +1 Str – Weaker than the WS boost because it doesn’t boost the Agoniser, still this power is awesome because our assaults still become a lot more wicked when we can work in more wounds from the regular mooks in the mobs. Expect your Wyches to become better at clearing out squads, they can even start to eyeball large infantry squads better now.
- Re-roll failed to-wound rolls – This is a godsend with the Agoniser and is a super awesome power to roll as it increases the killing potential of everyone.
- +1 Attacks – Statistically wound re-rolls will do better for you, but I’m still not sad to see this power as it is a potent boost to Archons and Agoniser wielding DE, and that is still the heart and soul of DE assault.
- Start game with pain token –This is pretty crazy, as it puts roughly 1/3 of your army into FNP territory before a shot is even fired, and also probably bumps a few into Furious Charge range to start. Never sad to see this power, though I personally prefer to amp up the DE’s power to kill – since I play the army all about the killing, and the defense is a secondary aspect.
Poisoned Shooting Weapons
Oh…oh my. This is really almost more of a wargear discussion, but just notice this. You know what this means? We don’t care about high toughness when we’re shooting! Do you have any idea what sort of conniption fit that puts a lot of armies into? Big Bug Tyrannid? Boned! Wraithdar? Useless! Any army looking to take advantage of toughness scores is automatically downgraded versus us because all of our weapons are either poison or high strength. Pwned!
Dark Eldar Classic Army Types
I don’t want to provide you a series of lists – if you want that there are a lot of resources out there that list armies of all sorts. But, what I do wish to provide you is a better understanding of some of the basic strategies and weaknesses of the most common types of Dark Eldar Army Builds. I will discuss the more “classic” interpretation of the lists – but feel free to mix and match amongst them to generate an army list that will accomplish what you want it to.
“But Tho-wah, why for art you not talk bout Kabal and Wych army builds!?!”
I hear you ask this (and, yes, in my head all of you talk like cute little five year old children…with usually somewhat vulgar mouths…) But, the real truth of the matter is that the whole “Wych” and “Kabal” builds, nowadays, really just boil down to a simple question – are you focusing more on shooting or assaulting? Neither is stylistically much different from the overall Raider Rush or WWP builds (unlike the Haemy Coven, which does play differently) and truth be told most players field some sort of mix of the two. So, just for the sake of my own mind I’m simply calling them as the overarching themes of Raider Rush or WWP or whatnot, and not splitting up how Kabals and Cults can do those builds. In short – one goes bang-bang and the other goes slicey-dicey, other than that they follow the simpler themes below.
Deeper discussion on specific themes or army builds will be found at the end of the Tactica in the 'Useful Links' section I'll make (<--and I'll even turn this into a link later once I make that section and figure out how ;) )
Raider Rush aka Dark Eldar Air Force aka Raider Spam
The raider rush has many variations on the name but they all stick to the same basic concept. They field Skimmer transports. Lots of transports. I mean LOTS of transports. The true “classic” list will contain nothing that cannot move 24 inches in a turn.
This list will feature Warrior Squads and Wych Squads in Raiders/Venoms as well as a brace of Heavy skimmers (like the classic Ravager or one of the new fighters or bombers).
In 1500-2000 points you probably want to have 2-3 Ravagers and at least 5 skimmer transports to truly be taking advantage of this tactic. You can easily field more Raiders/Venoms (and should) as the points creep towards 2000. 1-3 squads of Reaver Jetbikes or Scourges can add a lot of harassment opportunities to your army and their ability to act as fire magnets and tank hunters in this build cannot be underestimated.
You will want to avoid units like Mandrakes, the Talos, and footslogging Warriors as they will often be too slow to be effective in helping your primary assault thrusts.
How Does it Win?
Speed, saturation of targets, and raw firepower/assault power.
By dropping out a lot of skimmers you hopefully exhaust an opponent’s anti-vehicle weaponry while giving him far too many priority targets to ever deal with. The army is also well suited to control the pacing of the match, and should be dictating when and where it gets into fights (hopefully always to its own advantage). The army is well capable of outmaneuvering and shooting up assault armies and moving in quickly to assault shooting armies. In addition, Raider Rush can usually generate a very aggressive capability to engage in assault or to unleash a torrential and highly directed barrage of Dark Lances and small arms fire that can rip apart everything from massed Ork hordes to Land Raiders. There are few places on the map to hide from Raider Rush.
How Does it Lose?
To build up this list properly you will be using a lot of dedicated transports. That will then, in turn, equal a lot of Kill Points on the table. The most common way for the list to lose is to simply give up so many killpoints that, short of tabling their opponent, there is no way for them to win a match. The list can also suffer if the enemy army has a lot of firepower which is all capable of punching through Raider armor at long ranges (like the ever frightening Leafblower IG configuration). Another danger is an army that is fast enough to respond to the sudden movement adjustments of the raider Rush. Finally there is the risk of the DE player not properly dictating the pace of the match, as soon as Raider Rush starts to be reactive instead of proactive they are in trouble.
There are not many pieces of Wargear that can so reshape the nature of the game so as to have entire strategies simply based around their use – the Webway Portal is one such piece of wargear. The “classic” list involves 2-3 Webway Portal carriers (it is a brave/foolish commander indeed who puts most of his army in the Webway and only buys one to put on the field). The carrier’s job is to rush forward aggressively in the first round or two, then drop the portal and allow the stream of waiting Dark Eldar to rush out at their foes at near point blank range.
The typical carrier squads are designed to be relatively fast while also being able to soak up a lot of damage (as a wise opponent will do everything he can to kill them quickly to deny the rest of your army the advantage of showing up midway across the board). The best plots are usually a Haemy in a squad of Wracks or a Warrior Squad. It is also usually a good idea to load the squad into a Raider/Venom for the initial boost of speed you can gain that will let you drop the portal down further and faster then if you try on foot.
The second part of the equation is the Webway Portal section of the army, which is all kept in reserve and enters through the portal once (if) it opens. They enter via reserve rules, but can choose to enter at the portal location BUT are *NOT* (as of 6th ed.) allowed to move and assault on the turn they arrive.
The usual mentality for building the reserve force is to include a lot of fragile/slow things that are very good at killing in hand to hand or very short range. Wyches are a popular option, and this is probably one of the only times you can get away with not mounting them in a Raider/Venom. The other classic portal drop, and probably the most common, is the Talos Pain Engine. This is one of the few builds you’ll see players totally forgo Ravagers in order to field three Talos out of the portal and straight into hand to hand combat with the enemy.
The primary goal is to play the risky game of dropping your portals close enough to the enemy lines so as to allow your forces to engage them easily while also not dropping so late that you give your opponent the time to destroy your portals and force your reserve army to enter from the table edge. Fielding multiple portals can help, as you can usually drop one on turn two and try to move another one closer for a turn three drop once you’re assured you have at least one open portal as a fallback option.
How Does it Win?
Quickly or not at all, usually…
The army wins by unleashing brutal DE close combat forces right in the guts of the opposition. There are not too many armies who will easily be able to deal with three Talos slamming into their lines accompanied by a DE Lord and 3-4 Wych squads none of whom have been weakened by any wounds via shooting.
You deny your opponent a lot of points he spent on heavy weapons by nearly instantaneously engaging them in battle before they can shoot enough to earn back their points. You also pressure his gun line units and make it so there are few places for him to hide weaker units that want to sit back and shoot or perform other support roles.
How Does it Lose?
There are a few major weaknesses. First off, you are never sure when stuff will finally come out of reserve, and the slow trickling in of your army will often give your opponent more time to have his entire army pound on whatever is on the table.
The army can also lose, spectacularly, if your opponent manages to kill off your WWP carriers before they can drop the portals. This then forces a lot of foot slogging units to hoof it across the board on foot, which is rarely an optimal option for a reserve army.
Another (extremely annoying) way to lose is if your WWP(s) is/are surrounded by enemy units. Given that your DE can't get out within 1" of an enemy, this means you have to foot slog... Meaning that you're boned.
Finally, the army can also lose if what they’re fighting is just a lot tougher in hand to hand then them. Orks can be a little tricky at times, as they can tar pit and rip up a Talos fairly handily. There are other hand to hand themed armies like Tyrannids, Space Wolves, and those accursed Daemons who tend to be just as happy that you’re charging them since they want to be in hand to hand anyway. That is not to say the WWP army is doomed versus them, but it has to be mindful of how and when it attacks in those situations.
The Haemonculus Coven
Its brief mention in the original codex caused quite a few Haemy lovers to develop this list idea, and with the new Codex it is now a fully realized list. The basic build is 6 Haemys (or perhaps 3 Haemy+Urien) along with Grotesques, Wracks, and Talos. Pretty much anything that’s toughness 4 or greater.
This army can still use aspects of Raider Rush in it, and tends to be surprisingly difficult to kill as it starts the game with a lot of Pain Tokens already in play – indeed this army sacrifices some of the DE speed in exchange for ignoring some of the DE’s classic glass jaw.
This army tends to operate best as a short range shooting/assault force with Talos and Grotesques roaring in on tank parking lots to shred them apart while the Wracks storm into infantry and the Haemonculus laugh in glee.
How Does it Win?
The Coven usually wins through the use of heavy and concentrated assault capabilities combined with some of the usual nasty DE dark matter firepower. This army tends to be assault and short range firepower centric, and is really looking to make use of its flamers and hulking assault troops with the Haemys mixed in and amongst them serving as support wherever they are needed. They also need to make sure they have the tools to pop any transports/vehicles on the board so the Haemy’s minions can get at the squishy infantry centers.
How Does it Lose?
The army tends to be slow (by DE standards) and needs to get into close range for maximum usefulness. Armies that have high power gun line potential (like mech IG) or who also specialize at mid range shooting wars tend to cause the list the most trouble. Also, beware a list fast enough to avoid having to brawl with the Wracks, Talos, and Grotesques – if the Coven can’t force the brawl it wants it tends to suffer.
This Section discusses Dedicated Transports, HQs, and Troops. What's competitive, how to equip them, what works, and what doesn't.
This section discusses Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy options.
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