Note: This article was written for the old (3rd edition) Dark Eldar Codex, not the current (5th edition) one.
I keep getting asked how my DE list works, and why I think it's superior to Wych or mixed shooty/assault lists.
So I tried to cover 5th edition basics a bit in my primer, to put the former into perspective.
My list is here:
I'll go into both versions of the list (nightshield and screaming jets), and explain why I don't have tank shock in the list.
Anyway, with that in mind...here goes how my DE army works:
With most armies having short-ranged anti-tank (meltas, multi-meltas) and using short-ranged firepower (heavy bolters, bolters, flamers) to kill infantry, I face few armies with lots of long range firepower.
Yes, the long range firepower armies do exist (my Tau are an excellent example) but without some kind of mobility...assault armies can get to you. That's 'bad'.
That's the first and most important key to unlocking the power of the Dark Eldar.
The second is blasts. They generally don't scatter, and small deviations (the norm) actually give larger numbers of hits.
So all that said, how do you actually run this army?
Well, let's see what's in it:
There are 6 warrior squads with 1 haemonculi attached to each, aboard 6 raiders.
The warriors have a shredder and a splinter cannon, the haemonculi has a destructor.
The warrior raiders have a dark lance, slave snares, and screaming jets.
I have 3 wych squads. 1 has double blasters, the other 2 have double shredders.
All are mounted on raiders with the same configuration as the warrior raiders.
I have 3 ravagers, equipped with a horrorfex and 3 disintegrators.
So there are two versions of this list:
The 'fun' version has Screaming Jets. So it's a bit random when it arrives, and you can be defeated quite handily as a result of this. It's still very much a dangerous list, the only caveat is it's reliant upon reserve rolls and scatters to function properly.
The 'tournament' version has Nightshields. There's nothing random about it. It's an alpha strike army, beginning to end. Designed entirely to hit you very hard where I want to, and leave you wondering where your army went.
That's the version I'll give tactics for.
A quick note, however. I left out tank shock because it's ridiculous. You zoom around on turn 1, enjoying a 4+ save. On turn 2, you tank shock with any raider he hasn't shot down. Raiders are HUGE models, so forcing enemy infantry into tight little balls is stupidly easy. Then you drop plasmacannons, shredders and destructors on them. Gee, did I win? Turn 2? Wow, that was difficult. Not fun for anybody, so...I toned it down a notch.
I got voted off the island with that list. Take it to tourneys if you want to win, you won't win any friends though. Orks hate Nightshield + Tank shock, they can't do anything but hope they stop you with DOG. (2 loota units only stops 2 raiders, see...)
Not that this list is 'nice' really, but Dark Eldar never have been 'nice'.
So here's how it works, it's pretty simple really:
You should let your opponent setup first, if at all possible.
Setup on a flank with alot of his infantry on foot there.
Unless he has long range anti-tank, you should be fine with your nightshields against most of his firepower.
If you are able to setup 24" away, that works best but you can setup further away if you want to.
The Raiders move forward 12", and everyone gets out except the wyches with the blasters, unless there is a land raider or something near them that you want to zap badly.
The Ravagers can move 12" if they want to, or just sit at 36" and fire 3 plasma cannon templates instead--all that really matters is how spread out he is or isn't.
So, you've moved up and you are out. The haemonculi should stay onboard, as will be discussed later. Unless the enemy has obliged you by moving forward and running towards you, so you can actually flamer him. Then by all means, get out!
You fire 9 Dark Lances at enemy armor. It isn't AP1, so in general while it can hurt mech hordes it's best against AV13 and AV14 armor (except Black Templar LRC and Monoliths).
If there's a high priority target around for your Wyches with blasters, they should add their weight of fire against that pesky Land Raider. You need alot of shots to bring them down, so pour it on.
Sometimes you'll face a all-mech list, like 5 rhinos and 2 LR, or 6 serpents...just sit back and knock them out with your dark lances and plasma cannons. Yes, it works it's just slow. Remember to take weapons off and immobilize, then move on to the next target. Don't fire everything at a Rhino with a Land Raider on the table! Unless it's immobilized and it's a LRC. Then leave it alone. ;)
Now on to firing at enemy infantry. If you've popped anyone out of transports, they may or may not be in range. Doesn't matter much, sometimes you have to alpha strike on turn 2, is all. So anyway, regardless of when you do it...it's time to fire at the enemy.
You do not want to get out and deploy in a little 'template me' circle. 12" away for the shredder(s). The splinter cannon (if a warrior unit) should be right behind the shredder. The splinter rifles (pistols) don't matter much, so if you don't want to get hit by blasts or templates, spread them out down the side of the raider. If he has no such weapons (or isn't in range, or you think you'll kill him), then by all means stick them in a pile at the tip of the raider and add those might 3 or 6 splinter shots. Why, might kill a guardsman with them. :thumbsup:
Anyway you should be in position to alpha strike.
Start with the largest squad that you can get the most shredder hits on, and fire the Wyches first. That way they get the chance to hit twice. For example:
I shoot ten marines out of a rhino. 9 survive. I can cover 7 with a blast. So I fire both shredders, and cover 12. That's usually ten wounds (S6 versus T4) and probably 3 or 4 dead marines.
Will your followup fire from the warriors probably not get as many guys under the shredder? Probably not. That's why you have a splinter cannon, so you can hit people who are spread out.
So let's do a basic count of the firepower:
10 shredder templates (S6 blast, BS4). If you get 2 guys with each blast on average, that's 20 hits on basic troops with a S6 weapon. Scatter laser effective, yes please. Also helps against T3 swarms, they get annihilated (if they fail their cover saves, of course).
6 Splinter Cannons (24 S4 shots @ 24"). That's also pretty good, especially since you can often wipe out a squad unexpectedly and not be able to do anything to them with shredders (out of range) but you can still fire the cannon elsewhere.
We discount all the splinter weapons. If they do anything, great--nice bonus. If they don't do anything, fine that's as expected.
For anyone caught in bunches out in the open, the Ravagers should fire plasma cannon blasts their way.
Usually though, I move my Ravagers up so I'm going to be in short range.
Then what do I do with them? Why, any squad I've weakened I pound them with shots. Sometimes there's just 2 marines left, and yes I'll fire the Ravagers at those squads. Each enemy unit eliminated magnifies this lists power, since that's one less gun/assault unit they can point my way, and while I'm fragile I have alot of units...each of which hurts.
So what about those Haemonculi? Well, you can't kill them by forcing them off their transport (they have 2 wounds and T4).
You can, however, zap the everliving :bleep: out of someone who either assaulted your small squads (hey, I'm dead...and you're in template formation, thanks!) or moved up and shot them to death with rapid fire weapons (again, I sacrificed a unit to get you into killing position).
While most players will ignore raiders with dark lances, I have a double threat still waiting for you after the alpha strike.
My raiders have slave snares. That's a D6 S4 hits on all infantry units I fly over during the movement phase.
Oh did the main rules get changed so you take morale checks in ANY phase you lose 25% of your numbers?
Wow, I will take it!
So I have 9 of those Raiders, and they'll punish you if you don't kill them.
But...but...there are so many squishy DE just standing out in the open, and half my armies dead...do I really want to leave cover and/or fire my heavy weapons at your raiders?
Well, you can choose not to...and 6 of those raiders will drop haemonculi out on your head, and fry you in your cover. It's variable AP, so it can be AP1, 2, or 3. So 50% of the time, it kills most things without any problem and 33% of the time, it drops terminators too.
The raiders will also fly over (doing the sideways shuffle) as many of your units as they can, before settling in to drop those haemonculi.
After that? If I've killed your tanks, I'll zoom 24" in crazy patterns over your army zapping you to pieces.
Otherwise, I'll "fire" my slave snares over what's in 12" of me and hit your vehicles with the dark lances.
I hope you've enjoyed reading how Dark Eldar are still horribly effective in 5th edition.
Yes, I want a new Codex too. Mostly so it isn't me and 2 other guys playing them. :'(