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Eldar Tactica: In Defence of Starcannons

I like Starcannons. I just like them. While they are not as powerful (and possibly as overused) as they once were, they can still be worthwhile. What they do do, they are particularly suited to deal with aggressive hard targets, similar to Vespid in the Tau list. While they lost a shot, knocking them down to Heavy 2 they also took a points decrease, going down to 25 points from 35 in Guardian squads. A 71.4% decrease to their 66.7% decrease in shots.

I am going to compare Starcannons to Scatterlasers. Scatterlasers of course are better suited to taking out light vehicles such as Trukks, Dark Eldar Raiders, Vypers and Land Speeders. In addition, the Starcannon utility is limited by its two shots to the Scatterlaser’s four and the proliferation of 4+ cover in 5th edition, including forests. Furthermore it is not uncommon for Space Marine armies to reinforce cover (giving +1 to the save) in their own deployment zone.

So what are Starcannons still good for?

  Starcannon (Heavy 2 AP2) Scatterlaser (Heavy 4 AP6) Scatterlaser against FNP
4+/-- 2 2 1
4+/5++ 1.333 2 1
4+/4++ 1 2 1
4+/3++ 0.667 2 1
3+/-- 2 1.333 0.667
3+/5++ 1.333 1.333 0.667
3+/4++ 1 1.333 0.667
3+/3++ 0.667 1.333 0.667
2+/-- 2 0.667 0.333
2+/5++ 1.333 0.667 0.333
2+/4++ 1 0.667 0.333
2+/3++ 0.667 0.667 0.333

Starcannons (at a points premium of just under 1.5x) are well suited for three things. Firstly, hard targets in or out of cover with FNP saves. Plague Marines are at the top of the list, as are Death Company -- two units a player may otherwise have problems with. Scatterlasers, on the other hand (points-wise) are still surprisingly useful against Nob Biker Squads, with the 4++ cover save, since they get twice as many shots. Scatterlasers also make the opponent roll more dice for wound allocation (in general; assuming the squad is small enough and enough shots hit).

The Starcannon remains the weapon of choice for taking out units with a 2+ save, and the basic Mathhammer above shows this applies even when the unit has an invulnerable save. It is wimpy xenos plasma, but it is still plasma.

And lastly, despite the introduction of the 4+ screening cover save it (the Starcannon) remains quite powerful mowing down 3+ (MEQ) units in the open. Disembarked from Drop Pods (Space Wolves and Honour Guard come to mind), assaulting Berzerkers, Necrons (who are possibly getting the addition of FNP later this year), larger Tyranids; Assault Squads, Raptors and Bikes. Even considering the rules changes in 5th edition, Warhammer 40,000 (or “40k”, as I prefer) remains a dynamic game of tactics and mobility. Units are often left out in the open following a consolidation, for example.

So you’ve got your Starcannons, where do you put them. There are 6 places to take them. Guardians, Vypers, Warwalkers, Wraithlords, Falcons and Wave Serpents.


I personally am looking at taking them with Guardians, although I have to admit I do not play (40k) as much these days. The reasoning being that Scatterlasers disappoint. While on paper they seem like a worthwhile weapon they just never actually do anything, compared to the old Heavy 3 Starcannon of days past. Brightlances and Eldar Missile Launchers of course remain excellent choices for Guardian squads. And Scatterlasers I guess. You can always plunk your Starcannons at Orks and Gaunts anyway.

Vypers and Warwalkers

Do you really, really, really LOVE your Starcannons. Then these are the units for you. I like EML myself, other players like Scatterlasers. Some players mix them, taking the cheaper Scatterlasers as bullet-catchers for the Starcannons – or at least that worked out well in 4th edition. With War Walkers benefiting from 4+ cover they are not the expensive option they once were.


Wraithlords have weapon mounts. They are BS4. Do you like Wraithlords? Can you live without another Brightlance? Wraithsword and Starcannon, awesome! Do not forget that thing is packing Flamers, too.


The Pulse Laser is Heavy 2 AP2. The Starcannon is Heavy 2 AP2. Not only is its picture on the box, the Scatterlaser is Heavy 4 and well suited for light vehicle work. The choice is yours. Bright Lances (AP2) and EML (48”) are good too. Heck, I myself take Shuricannons, or at least I did in 4th. It is a gunboat, fool. I actually prefer Prism Cannons these days.

And finally …

Wave Serpents

If you are convinced Starcannons are a worthwhile heavy weapons choice then you are probably equally convinced they are a good; or at least a decent fit for Wave Serpents. I had been taking Shuricannons myself, but a couple TL Starcannons are a good fit here in a themed/ redundant list.

The Eldar Starcannon is once again controversial in 5th edition but I believe this is a good case for their use. While the Scatterlaser is possibly a safer anti-infantry choice the Starcannon is well suited for dealing with just those units you will have problems with, and remains generally useful against MEQ units. What is 30 points in 2000 or 1850? Death to the Mon-keigh!

- (teh legendary) Tacobake


I will say this for Scatterlasers. Orks (Waaagh!) and Gaunts can Fleet, unlike MEQ and MEQ go down just fine to aggressive Shuricats while Orks and Gaunts maybe attack before you get a chance to exchange small arms fire, meaning your Starcannon Guardian squads are less useful against these targets.


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