Dark Eldar Tactica Part 1 An Introduction to 'how DE work as an army'
Dark Eldar Tactica Part 2 A discussion on HQs, Troops, Dedicated Transports, and Special Characters
Dark Eldar Tactica Part 3 The rest of the army - Elite, Fast Attack, and Heavy are mocked, praised, or given polite directions to the exit
We're in the home stretch here folks (and it only took me a pleasing...year? hiatus to get around to writing this section. That said, I'm here, we're doing it, and it really shouldn't be too complicated. I'm just going to go over all the pieces and give you rough ideas of their uses, both good and bad, and offer my personal thoughts on how viable they are or are not in an average DE list.
We all love weapons, because they kill the hell out of things. There are a lot I skipped over, because there's the usual pile of weapons that only come with one unit, so I left all that discussion with those units. This is for more general stuff that you'll see on two or more units in the dex.
Agoniser Utility: Competitive
These are pretty invaluable on assault units as they provide the answer to DE's problems both with high toughness and high armor saves in assault. I tend to consider these the only weapon worth taking on any squad leader of an assault unit, and though there are sometimes when maybe a Venom Blade or something else would serve you better, it is not common. When in doubt, take an Agoniser.
Darklight Weapons Utility: Competitive
Required? In the current 5th Edition these are...pretty much, required options. You'll note in basically every individual unit breakdown I kept mentioning these as worth it and competitive. Also, just for those who wonder, though there is no "how many Darklight Weapons in [given point build] is the right amount?" answer that is really true - the most accurate 'starting point' answer I've come up with is this; 1 Darklight weapon per 100 points in the list. You can break that rule, but pretty much every DE general I speak to agrees it's fairly accurate - so it's a good mental starting point to understand what we mean when we say 'bring some more lances'. Generally speaking the Lance and Blaster are very good to take, and the Blast Pistol suffers due to its limited range, though it can have some viable use in deep-striking tank hunting units.
Djin Blade Utility: Semi-Competitive
The Djin blade is...okay. The problem is that it's sort of stuck in an awkward null space where it never really shines. It's the same cost as an Agoniser - which can wound stuff easier. Is not much cheaper than a Huskblade - which via instant death is better at killing ICs and MCs. It's a bit more expensive than a regular power weapon - which is only giving up 2 attacks to it...2 Str 3 attacks. So...yeah. Basically it's 'sweet spot' is being set up in a unit where the Archon gan hopefully get 2 Pain Tokens quickly, because once he gets Furious Charge this can be pretty nice - but I fail to see a clear win unit to be set up with this in mind, besides maybe Wracks/Grots and a Haem, and that's just silly. It's not *bad* it's juts not really a stand out value for anything.
Electrocorrosive Whip Utility: Poor
I don't get what GW is thinking sometimes. Okay, so it's a power weapon that lessens strength...okay, great. That means we want to target ICs or MCs with it mostly, because they are multi wound units that we would want to have less strength. Oh...wait...they're also the things most likely to have high toughness or decent invuln saves, making our Str 3 power weapon...questionable... And with a lot of them (Warbosses, Thunder hammers, Mephiston, Some Nids) it's not even like the half strength will do much besides prevent them from instant killing us - they'll still wound on 2+. And this thing costs as much as an Agoniser, and can't be put on any high strength units (Grots and Hellions) and...what is this? If you want to model and paint a whip, model and paint an Agoniser.
Haywire Grenades Utility: Competitive
Grenades that glance on 2+ and Pen on 6+ versus *any* armor value? *cough* Yes please! These things are awesome, they're best used on quick moving assault units (hint: Wyches) though I suppose there are some possibilities for them helping Trueborn. HQs are a take or leave prospect usually, and dependent on the unit they're in. These are best versus parking lots or if you want some Wyches to Tarpit and kill a Dread.
Haywire Blaster Utility: Competitive
A Str 4 assault weapon that gets an *additional* chance to hurt a vehicle, and does so at glance on 2+ and Pen on 6+ versus *any* armor value? *cough* Yes please! These are one of the coolest guns in our codex in my opinion - we just suffer for places to use them, as they're only available with Scourges and Talosi, and those are not the most optimal units in the world. The gun itself is marvelous though.
Heat Lance Utility: Competitive
These are good, though I dislike their limited effective range as compared to Haywire Blasters or regular Blasters. I think these work best with Deepstriking Scourges, or Scourges/RJBs coming out of WWPs where, from the portal, they have a fearsome 21" threat bubble from the portal edges for a melta weapon, which is pretty solid. They can also work okay on a Talos, it just depends on the role you desire for the big boy.
Huskblade Utility: Semi-Competitive
It's an insta-death causing power weapon, which is pretty nice, and we discussed in Part 2 under Archon builds its use with the Soul Trap. Its weakness, is the DE base strength, getting Furious Charge to the unit with it via Pain Tokens is fairly desirable, as is playing with Soul Trap tricks. Overall its good - but the cost and the limitation as compared to the reliable Agoniser hinders its overall competitiveness.
Power Weapon Utility: Semi-Competitive
What can you say? The power weapon does its job, it suffers on DE due to Str 3 (because, whatever GW says, balance is versus T 4 - over half the codices have that or better on basically every unit in their dex) Works better on units with Furious charge, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Shredder Utility: Poor
Yeah, I'm doing it, I'm tossing the Shredder under the bus. The *only* win for it that I can see is in very small point games where you just can't afford a Blaster or enough S.Cannons. Its strength and blast status makes it of really no true value versus vehicles, as if that center point slips off you've wasted your time, and even if it's dead on it isn't likely to do much to AV 11-12 anyway. So, who-hoo, you can deal with AV 10 vehicles as long as any scatter is minimal. Versus troops it's equally kind of lackluster - most of our weapons don't worry about high toughness, we kill Hive Tyrants as easy as 'gants so something with high strength that lacks any AP value is, quite frankly, almost as useless as Decapitator (too soon?). If I see these in anything bigger than a 500 point list expect to be mocked, they're really weaksauce. Just buy another S.Cannon on your Venom and call it a day.
Splinter Weapons Utility: Competitive
Aw hells yeah! This poison weaponry upgrade is easily about 33% of the reason DE still rule. You have a horde of creatures? Okay, I'm going to shoot my poisoned lasrifles at you, eat through your armor, and do like eight wounds. Oh, you have a huge MC Daemon or something? Okay, I'm going to shoot my poisoned lasrifles at you, have a bit over half blocked by your armor, and do like three wounds. Consequently making our regular troops a threat to...*everything that's not a vehicle* I kill Mephiston with Splinter Cannons - lord of death, huh? Eat poison. I kill Ork Hordes with Splinter rifles. Brought a swarm, huh? Eat poison. You can all just keep eating poison...AP5 poison - because, y'know, screw you IG, GW still probably hates you for not being Marines. You'll have a lot of access to various splinter weapons, and in general it's good to get them because, after your darklight weapons pop open the transports, it will be volleys of poison that kill everything inside.
Venom Blade Utility: Competitive
2+ wounding poison weapon? Nice. That way when they're tired of being shot with poison and assault us I can stab them with poison (later we'll go by Duke Slisscus' place and eat poison, because we're DE, we're edgy like that). The Venom Blade certainly benefits by being on higher strength units for the re-roll effect (at least getting Str 4 is boss) but is, in general, an affordable upgrade that does a decent amount of work. It has issues dealing with MEQ, which is why the Agoniser probably remains superior, but it certainly has its place in a list.
The Arcane wargear section is perhaps best described as this "Hai, DE Players, this is GW, we lurvs you for buying all this stuff from us, please enjoy this dex and one of the best model lines we've yet made...oh, by the way, we didn't give DE *any* Psykers or *any* Psyker defense...please take these expensive one-shot psyker effect pieces of wargear and be happy...but they're *so good* we'll limit how many per army...for some reason...because they're actually mostly not that good...go, go be happy and play in the fields with them, go! No...stop looking depressed...look...here's $.05 get outta my face kid."
Yeah...it's kinda like that.
Archangel of Pain Utility: Poor
Even at 1/3rd of the cost I'm not sure if I'd take this. The range foible means that there's a chance it won't even effect what you want to charge (functionally 1 in 10 if the using model needs 7 or better) and then they have to whiff a leadership test (because, y'know, not many units in the game that we have trouble fighting aren't Ld 10) Then it donks initiative (because so many units are faster than us...) and WS, which is the one nice bit. Meh, too conditional, too much chance no gain happens, and too little actual gain for the effort of pulling it off.
Animus Vitae Utility: Poor
I'd probably have upgraded this if an Archon could equip it. But here's the gist, you put it on a Haem (y'know, those guys that give you a Pain Token to start) go into assault with him, kill something (using the animus Vitae as a weapon, which means a few WS 4 Str 3 swings that allow armor saves...ooooh, scary), make a Leadership test (because Haems are known for their awesome Ld value) and then you...get a pain token! Never mind that you'll probably get a token off killing whatever schmuck unit you assaulted so a Haem using the gentlemanly art of boxing managed to kill something. I really don't get it - Pain Tokens are great, but the important ones are the first and sometimes the second, after that, meh. This thing is useless.
Casket of Flensing Utility: Semi-Competitive
This one wins for awesome description of effect alone. If it works it's awesome, and if it doesn't work it's kind of silly, but on average this baby will generally do at least some damage for you as long as your roll for Str is decent. I wouldn't run out to the store for it, but it's basically fairly priced and odds favor it doing something okay for you - that makes it a nice standout on this list.
Dark Gate Utility: Poor
A Str 10 Large Blast with 12" range in an army as fragile as ours? Egads! I refuse to use this one personally because I'm horrified about what it will do to my lines if it scatters bad. It's a nice weapon, I suppose, but it's pretty pricey for a one shot, and isn't exactly 'all that' due to lack of any AP value making it a joke versus vehicles (except...oh, let's say Raiders, Ravagers, and Venoms, natch). I don't like or trust this thing, and think it's too pricey for what it is. If it had a 48" range I'd probably like it, but it would still be a debate whether I even put it in an army at that point since I could only take one. With that as a debate, what's the point of this thing as stands? That's right - not much.
Flesh Gauntlet Utility: Poor
Basically a poison, non-power weapon Huskblade. It's...okay. Personally, I think most of the time a Venom Blade will serve you better for inflicting wounds, or an Agoniser better for digging through armor. This sucker falls in an ugly mid ground between them where it has both other weapon's weaknesses and few advantages.
Hexrifle Utility: Poor
I love the fluff, I love the modeling possibilities...I hate the weapon. It's a sniper weapon that is phrased awkwardly in our Dex and basically suggests it can't use its rend versus vehicles, and other than that is just sort of a mediocre way to deal with MCs in an army drowning in Str 8 AP 2 shooting and poison weapons...yeah, what's the point? Show me your squad of 6 Haems modeled as snipers and I'll call you awesome, ask me if it's competitive and I'll call you foolish.
Liquifier Gun Utility: Competitive
Mostly talked about this in other units - but the Liquifier gun is really the best flamer in the game, because it's possibly an AP1-2 flamer, yeah, what the hell? Statistically it will 50% of the time ignore both cover and armor when shooting at MEQ - burn in hell beakies! We can even get a twin-linked version (ba-wha!) on the Talos. These things are awesome in a hat (a hat sadly lacking an attached gun, damn you Incubi!). I fully endorse Liquifiers, take some of them, get off a couple of shots and then laugh in glee and be converted for life.
Orb of Despair Utility: Poor
Aw yeah, now this is more like it, Str 10, AP 1, now this will put a hurt on vehicles and...wait, vehicles are unaffected by it? Um, and it wounds off Leadership...making Str 10...basically equivalent to a Str 3-4 weapon versus MEQ...the hell? Oh, and it has a range of 6(!) and is a small blast so if it scatters it has a good chance of coming back to say hello...what the hell is this even for? Killing Ogryns? It could probably kill Ogryns pretty well. At least it's expensive and you can only take one because spamming these would be broken. Um...yeah...the f---?
Scissorhand Utility: Competitive
Basically, the Scissorhand is kind of a better Venom Blade that costs a fair amount extra for the advantages it gives. Wounding on a 3+ but now with +1 attacks. It's a better option as long as you're getting to re-roll wounds, so it works great for Grotesques or Hames leading Wracks or Grots. Solid weapon, and if you have the points or want the punch upgrade it's a good step up from the V.Blade.
Shattershard Utility: Competitive
Oh joy, another one shot, only one allowed in army piece of...wait...wait, what's this thing doing? It's a sniping flamer? That forces a Toughness check or be removed from play? Not insta-death, removed from play - and ou can't assign out wounds, because it's not causing wounds, so I can use it to snipe for special/heavy weapons in a squad? Oh migawd, this thing is awesome! And, look, it's not even stupid expensive, hu-freakin'-zuh! I love the Shattershard, I consider it one of the first 'leftover points' upgrade options available to a DE army, it's really nice.
Stinger Pistol Utility: Semi-Competitive
What can I say, it's a 2+ poison pistol. It's fine for what it is, it's probably fairly priced for what it does, and it's just sort of there. Take it maybe on an assault Haem if (for some insane reason) you wouldn't rather have a Liquifier for only 5 points more). It's fine, it's just not great.
This section contains a few fluff entries (I'm not wasting my time or yours discussing the "merits" of the inherent 3+ save a Talos gets. But there are a few pieces here that probably should be touched on.
Clone Field Utility: Competitive
A fun piece of wargear, canceling hits is pretty ace as hits that don't get a chance to roll to wound are misses. The best use for this is paired with Ghostplate, use the Ghostplate to ward off minor hits, and shut down big hits from Powerklaws or Fists. Risky, but a nice way to control combats.
Ghostplate Armor Utility: Competitive
It's a good suit of armor and is fairly priced for what it does. If you want your Archon to be a bit more beefy and/or are avoiding the Shadowfield then this is a nice option. The big mistake I see people make is taking these things on upgrade characters like a Sybarite or something - since they can't be singled out in combat, you're not gaining much with this upgrade, and usually those units shouldn't be in combat anyway, and is it worth paying almost the full cost of the unit to give it a slightly better save when it only has one wound anyway? Yeah...
Shadowfield Utility: Competitive
Weaker than it use to be (you didn't use to have to roll your saves one at a time) the Shadowfield still remains a solid option. It's a 2++ save, how can it not be awesome? Also, Archons equipped with this thing usually end up dying after that first wound anyway since usually they're trying to fight MCs or something. I think this is an excellent investment for an assault Archon to take, and is, indeed, half the reason to take an Archon over a Succubus.
Soul Trap Utility: Semi-Competitive
The quintessential piece of wargear for Archon Strength boost builds. Overall I feel pretty neutral towards that strategy due to all the limitations to it, as usually the things you kill to get the strength boost are things you'd like the Strength boost to help you kill, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's not terrible though, and I keep hoping someone breaks it because I miss the old eat face Archons you used to be able to build.
Vexator Mask Utility: Poor
Why can't Archons take masks anymore? Also, this is a weaker version of the old Mask of the Damned (or was it the Hell Mask - I forget...doesn't really matter, it's a weaker version, and costs the same - that's the point). Also, seriously, that's a cool tool for an Archon in assaults, not so much for a meager backup dude in assault. I would love to pair this sucker with a Clone field, that would be a build similar to some of the old Archons and how they disrupted combats, this...Maybe, kinda, sorta, perhaps worth it if you have an assault Haem...frankly I doubt it. I say leave it at home, not worth it.
Webway Portal Utility: Semi-Competitive
I feel a little awkward judging an entire army build concept off just the wargear, but...hey. Overall I *like* WWP it's fluffy, it's interesting, and it has possibilities. That said, it just has enough inherent weaknesses that I don't think it's the most competitive option available to us. Generally, I do want to make this bit of advice clear: take more than one! If your army is all about WWP deployment, and the enemy manages to kill the first portal carrier, or do something else to invalidate him...wouldn't it be nice to have a *second* portal carrier who might yet be able to make things happen for you? Yeah. Other than that, it's a fun and pretty decent piece of wargear, and taking it pretty much means you're building an army based around it, that's pretty impressive.
Thor Approved Articles
There are a *ton* of great DE resources and websites out there on the net. That said, here at DakkaDakka we aren't doing too bad either, here's some top considerations from me to all of you. Some of these articles disagree with me, others agree, others just take slightly different riffs on the same idea. I think they're all smartly written and useful for any DE hopeful to read, because as great as I am (oh, man, I'm *so* great too!) I will admit that the more you hear, read, and learn the better of a DE general you'll be.
A very tournament centric look at kicking butt and making friends (or maybe we should say...acquaintances, amirite? Nothing but love, Dash ;) ) with your DE. I think he has some amazing insight into aggression and how it works for DE. A lot of serious talk about winning with DE, and links to other discussions he started explaining his Wych and Kabal list builds and how to win with them. For competitive DE play these examples have pretty much become the definitive "net lists" so, if you want to go competitive you ought to understand what they are and how they work, even if you want to break all his advice later and do your own thing.
An attempt to quantify all the available lists for DE, an interesting read that touches on some ideas (dark footdar - ba-wuh?) I shy away from quite aggressively.
If you liked the above, here's more from Ketara - a very focused breakdown of the Kabal list and how it works/doesn't work.
Erm... umm..... ah...
The above phrase was wonderfully created for this article by the amazing tactical mind of Boss Darvaleth and far be it for me to remove his thoughts. The truly sad (embarrassing?) moment about this is...I'm pretty sure his joke page got more replies than my three article pages...and I don't think he put as much work into it as I did. :( So, Boss Darvaleth, we salute your superior marketing strategy.
Besides, there's probably actually some deep secrets in there that I'm just missing. Somewhere between the extra ellipses is the true secret to DE masterplay, I am certain. When I decode it (and the complicated 720* Triple Falcon Raider Flank Maneuver...don't even ask what DE are doing with Falcons, you're probably just not competitive enough to understand) I'll get back to you.
Till then, go forth, own face, and make your fellow DE players proud.