Monday, June 20, 2011

Dark Eldar: 5 Games In

Well folks, I've been playing me a ton of Dark Eldar lately.  I've gotten 6 games in, though the first one was through heavy proxies, and the latest two weren't what I'd really consider worthy of battle reports (so I'm counting the two as a single game).  If you're interested, here's the link to my other three games, that I've done battle reports to:

Game 2
Game 3
Game 4

The games I've played have all been against good
players, who regularly place high in local events across the state, and all generally understand how to deal with any army similar to mine.  This article is going to be about things that I've observed throughout my games about Dark Eldar, and the things relevant to playing them if you have a list similar to mine.

First, I suppose I should supply my list at 1850:

Dark Eldar (Kabal of the Awesome Sauce):

Baron Sathonyx

7x Incubi // Raider w/ Flickerfield, Grisly Trophies, Aether Sail

19x Hellions w/ Helliarch
5x Warriors w/ Blaster // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons, Grisly Trophies
5x Warriors w/ Blaster // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons, Grisly Trophies
5x Warriors w/ Blaster // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons, Grisly Trophies
3x Wracks // Venom w/ 2x Splinter Cannons, Grisly Trophies

6x Reaver Jetbikes w/ 2x Heat Lances
6x Reaver Jetbikes w/ 2x Heat Lances

Ravager w/ Flickerfield
Ravager w/ Flickerfield
Ravager w/ Flickerfield 

Note that for 2000 points I add a beast squad with 3x Beastmasters, 4x Razorwings, 5x Khymerae, and drop a couple Grisly Trophies

The list is predicated on shooting a ton, while at the same time having an obvious presence in close combat.  I especially wanted the army to be able to ruin vehicles in close combat (which almost zero Dark Eldar lists can do consistently) and therefore have the Hellions + Baron tooled up so as to ruin said vehicles.  For those of you who don't understand, here's how it works (I'm going to link here a lot, so that I don't have to keep explaining it, lol):

Hellions start with the Haemonculus (who has a pain token).
Baron starts with the Wracks (who have a pain token).
Haemonculus leaves Hellions, but also leaves them his pain token.
Wracks leave the Baron, but leave him their pain token.
At this point, the Hellions have a pain token, and the Baron has a pain token.
The Baron joins the Hellions, and the unit then therefore has two pain tokens, giving them Feel No Pain, and Furious Charge.

So, it's some shenanigans to get what I want, but in the end, it also helps me get another (cheap) Venom in the list, and makes the unit at least a little bit of a CC threat, as well as a unit that won't ever die because they're so unthreatening.  /shrug

The Hellions then can charge tank lines, and actually have enough attacks at S5 (Baron at S7) that they can wreck/shut down tank lines with a solid multi-charge.  It's been unfortunate that I haven't had the opportunity to try this yet, but I think this will help my army be less dependent on their Dark Lances for anti-tank.  Sure,  24 Dark Lances sound great, until they statistically wreck/explode 1.7 chimeras/turn, assuming they didn't pop smoke.  Meh.  I see lots of Wyches with haywires in lists lately.  I guess I just don't see a long-term plan to get rid of those vehicles- glancing Chimeras all day long won't do a whole lot, to be frank.

Anyways, on to my observations, from my obviously massive experience I have to draw on (:-p):
  • Dark Eldar do require finesse- there isn't much leeway for mistakes with such a fragile army.
  • Dark Eldar shooting can be withering.  Seriously, I have a relatively low number of Venoms compared to most Dark Eldar players (though made up for partially with Hellions), but I haven't seen something I haven't been able to wither nicely yet.  Of course, 60 Blood Angel jump marines w/ FNP will change that, I'm sure.
  • Dark Eldar close combat is interesting- many times the close combat is a blowout, either in their favor or in the opponent's favor
  • Incubi are extremely difficult to use well- I still haven't managed it yet, except in games I didn't need them to do well, lol.
  • The more shooty a list is, the more difficulties it can give the Dark Eldar- shutting down the Venoms consistently is very bad if you're the Dark Eldar player.
  • Armies with zero shooting are going to be nearly an auto-win for me- not to be cocky, but... if I don't have to worry about getting shot, I can fly circles around any army out there and avoid combat while shooting at full capacity, then zip in for the kill at I7 (with FC).  I'm sure Blood Angels will prove me wrong though.
  • It should be exciting to finally play them in a tournament next Saturday/Sunday- I'm going to the Bugeater GT in Omaha.  woot.
  • Hellions have thus far been my overall MVPs.  They put out almost as many shots as my 4 venoms combined, and can then charge most units at will, putting out obnoxious numbers of quality attacks, even without good Combat Drugs.  Their versatility is what I like most, and the Baron gives them a ton of versatility.  Probably the most cost-efficient character in the game, to be honest.
  • Speaking of the Baron- he's already been fantastically helpful in helping me choose what turn I want.  I can see why people want him in their lists, even if he has to ride around with the Beasts, lol.
  • Reavers are also a unit that are extremely hard to use well- I'm getting better, but they still mostly die extremely gruesome deaths.  Can't wait to play my first 15x missile launcher space wolf army- Reavers will harvest a few Long Fangs with their Turbo-boosting awesomeness. :-p
  • Warriors in Venoms are actually really good.  Once you get into position, those 125-point venoms put out a lot of firepower, and can even threaten tanks, or elite infantry.
  • Probably generally want to go first with Dark Eldar, even in objective missions.  If you can hurt them enough throughout the game (which requires working vehicles), then you shouldn't have to worry much about objectives at the end.  If you start the game with more than half your vehicles stunned/dead, you might be in a little bit of trouble, lol.
  • Flickerfields:  pure win.
  • Cover is a life saver.  I've been using Reavers/Hellions to give my vehicles cover saves, and the Venoms also do a great job of it.  I expect terrain to be pretty slim in most tournaments- using my own models as mobile terrain will be a lifesaver, hopefully.
Well, I think that's about all the wisdom you're going to glean from me today.  Hopefully this was helpful- it was kind of just a ramble on my part, but they're what I've seen in my limited experience.  Next weekend, I'll get another 6 (competitive) games under my belt, and give you a solid report on it, even if I go 0-6 for the weekend, then do another of these for 10 games in!

As an aside, I'm painting infantry now- 5 warriors, 7 incubi, 3 wracks, and 1 haemonculus is all I have left and I'm done :)

Thoughts?  Questions?  Adulations?



tabyrd said...


I stumbled across your blog via Brent's Strictly Average page. I am curious to see how you do with your army. It is interesting to see how you have started off since it is so similar to how I started as well. I have a couple of questions about your switching tokens tactic and my list changes after 30+ games or so.

For the token swap, do you find the movement restrictions on the characters/squads to interfere with the swap or do you just have the squads next to each other? I mean in the turns they move/swap tokens, both squads are limited to only a 6" move that turn. Seems like potentially a waste of a turn if you need to position those hellions early.

tabyrd said...

List evolution. I love Hellions, let's get that out first and I'd actually gotten pretty great results with a size 15 squad. The problems I'd run into was (1)footprint: these guys take up a lot of space. Unless you are camped in a big piece of terrain (yeah flying bases and falling over models, FUN!!), getting cover can be tricky. (2)Being aggressive with the Hellions: If you aren't aggressive, the opponent can potentially ignore the 18" range of their guns and bust of your vehicles. (3)Combat punch? Part of this comes back to footprint. Do you fire guns before you assault, can you get all of your guys into assault? It seemed half the time I just was a counter assault unit hanging back trying to shoot. If I came in to assault, getting that many guys in to assault usually meant I had to forgo shooting and fleet instead to get enough of them (unit size) into combat which wouldn't always be the best use. (4)Antitank was my always my last issue. I would have tons of anti-infantry and any foot/horde list I faced would easily be crushed. Put up 5 or 6 vehicles against me and all of a sudden, it was a challenge. Its a different game if you dark lances fail miserably and your venoms can't shoot at anything. If you fly up with your hellions and swamp some fast moving vehicles and fail to roll 6's or manage only shake/stun/damage it vs wrecking it, you are potentially out in the open and not getting that almight 3+ cover save! You want those guys charging vehicles as a last resort and really. As soon as you start losing bodies,the squad's effectivity drops dramatically. I once had a storm raven fly up (4+) with a blood talon dread and terminators. Despite my entire army shooting, I only managed a stunned/shaken (extra armor) and a weapon destroyed. heatlances were next to useless. Despite trying to hide the centrally located hellions, that dread basically chomped enough guys that I lost combat and fled. I believe in 90% of the times I ever lost the Baron, it was due to his squad failing morale and breaking, not because he himself failed a save. Just a fringe case I know, but that big basket is fragile.

Whew, this was longer than intended. Same thoughts with Incubi, just hard to use right and without some character boost, they suck without grenades. And they are only S4. Ugh.

Bikes are great! I've added cluster caltrops to both of my 2 units and while yes, it does take some practice with them to keep them from dying, that extra d6 S6 is totally worth 20pts each when your opponent asked, what, how many wounds?

End of the day, I've been forced to take the Hellions out (at least in my current list) as well as Incubi and go with wyches with haywire grenades to reliably combat the mech I face. I can't rely on 'hot dice' with blasters/dark lances to cripple enemy mech. There's only so much shooting you can avoid before you vehicles start exploding. While the list I was running was able to table many great players/armies, I found there were some matchups where my anti-tank was SEVERELY lacking and there was nothing I could do about it, not and still keep the Hellion/Baron combo. I've tweaked it around to have a more well rounded feel and it ended up changing quite a bit much to my chagrin and those 18 or so nicely painted Hellions! DOH.

tabyrd said...

My current list without prejudice... (what? no Baron!?)

3xHaemonculii (2xliquifier,1xshatterfield)
9xbloodbrides w/HG, Syren w/agonizer, 3xnets; raider with aethersails
9xwyches w/HG, Hekatrix w/venom blade; raider with aethersails
9xwyches w/HG, Hekatrix w/venom blade; raider with aethersails
5xwarriors, 1xblaster, venom w/2xSC
5xwarriors, 1xblaster, venom w/2xSC
5xwarriors, 1xblaster, venom w/2xSC
4xwracks, venom w/2xSC
6xreavers, 2xheatlance, 1xcluster caltrops
6xreavers, 2xheatlance, 1xcluster caltrops
3xravagers w/DL + FF (though I like to switch out to disintegrators every now and then on one... they are just too fun if you think you can afford to give up those dark lances.

The basic idea, target saturation. If you go first, barring any unfortunate deployment snafus by your deployment allowing you first turn assaults, you aethersail all your wyches/blood brides who have FNP up into enemy lines, preferably blocking vehicle movement. bikes turbo boost into threatening positions and you open fire at targets of opportunity. You have a FNP wracks squad to hide on a rear objective, you have some aggressive blaster warrior squads (if you can call one blaster worthwhile) available if needed and you have tons of threats in his face that should hopefully preserve your ravagers to take limited fire in return. if you fail your 4+ cover save on your raiders and explode, you have FNP to see to the worst of it and you have 27 wyche bodies to do it on. Two squads are doable, but I've found 3 full squads hard to disable in a single turn of shooting. wyches love to eat up autocannon dreads. Your opponent if he can't deal with them with his vehicles, will have to get out. Yeah mission accomplished, now venom away! If he assaults, I can potentially tie up multiple units and allow the rest of my force to fight with limited retaliation, at least for a turn or two and that should eventually leave you in a good position to whittle down his numbers. This has fared equally well against deathwing in KPs, mech Coteaz GKs, FNP all JP blood angels, mech orks.

tabyrd said...

sorry to spam your board. After typing all that out, I felt obligated to fit it all in! lol. As much as I love those hellions and they way they look/play, they ended up hamstringing me in the end. I don't mean to talk you out of them, I just wanted to share my long road of experience with them. Good luck with your new Dark Eldar at your upcoming tourney(coming from a huge marine force, I love the new playstyle and root for any new DE guys!)

Black Blow Fly said...

Im sure your list will do well next weekend. Im very interested to see how you do. Good luck !

One thing about Hellions (dark eldar in general) is they are fragile. If they are assaulted and take a good number of wounds they can go bye bye just like that... so be careful with them.

I think Incubi are the perfect choice for an Archon's retinue... basically you need some ablative wounds to keep the number of saves on the shadowfield as low as possible. You can take a squad of four Incubi with a venom and attach the Archon... its really good.

Wyches are awesome and well worth their points. Their 4++ is why I rate them higher than Hellions.


Xaereth said...

tabyrd: Thanks for the input man, really appreciate it :) I guess I'll end up seeing if Hellions can do what I want of them or not (though I hope I don't have to take them out- 2 hours/model is a lot for a 20-man squad!

I haven't really noticed a problem with my various pain token shenanigans and movement, simply because it never really comes into play- the haemonculus and wracks just go into a venom right away at the start of the game, and the Hellions are free to move as they wish after the fact. If I'm in Dawn of War mission, the Hellions can move on, and afterward, the Haemonculus can move on and join them- the same can go for the Wracks. So no, I don't think it will do a whole lot to my own movement :)

I agree that trying to hit fast-moving vehicles with Hellions might be a fool's errand- that's why I generally won't unless the situation calls for it.

As to having them fail leadership- I agree that that is an issue, and one of the reasons I have Grisly Trophies all over the place- I have to fail pretty hard to run from shooting, and it won't generally be too difficult to get the fearless token, since I already have 2. /shrug

We'll just see- the tournament coming up will hopefully teach me a lot about this current iteration of my list, and what's viable and what's complete fail. Thanks for the info though and input, I can always use more :)

BBF- Heh, I agree that Archon + Incubi are pretty good at combat. I wish I had a third HQ slot for an Archon. As it is, I prefer having mobility from the Hellions as opposed to trusting an open-topped AV10 transport to get my 400-point unit where I want it. I guess for me it's the same with Wyches. Armies depending on transports can do well in tournaments until they go second and get shot down before they even go anywhere- Hellions get to jump around and do what they want regardless of how much they get shot up (until they're all dead of course :-p)

As it is, the Hellions ARE pretty fragile in combat, and I've been noticing that a lot lately, since many of the armies I've faced have strong CC elements. Against those armies, just charging in with the Hellions won't get me very far- shooting them up can help though. I think it's all in how you use them. I've used them so-so I think- but they have also lived through every single game I've played, and been extremely useful in every game as well.

Heh, everyone's giving me flack about Hellions... that's alright- if they fail they fail and I'll make adjustments. If they rock this tournament, then... I'll be happy. Lol.

I bet I get 6 opponents with double-lash/9 oblits this weekend. That would be hilarious :)

Mercer said...

I'm just starting Dark Eldar myself. How you finding the Venoms and the heat lances? I'm starting to think grisly trophies maybe needed as I've had one proxy game and Dark Eldar don't like exploding vehicles.

tabyrd said...

about Hellions,

If you can keep them a focus/nuisance and keep people shooting at them instead of your vehicles, you are playing them right! Just don't expect them to do all the heavy lifting on their own. It was when I faced a heavy mech force that I really started having issues with my overall army performance. Or when your opponent is saavy enough to avoid them altogether! Curses. I spent over 3+ hours per Hellion and I have close to 20 myself so I feel your pain! Give 'em hell.

@Mercer: venoms are great great great. :) You will feel like IG with 12 shots per at 36". Oh wait, there are guys inside that need to fire too! Nothing like multiple venoms firing down on squads out in the open. You don't even care about cover, fire fire fire and force you opponent to take saves! The only trouble is when they are all buttoned up, if you can't pop a transport to shoot someone, those venoms will be sitting around. There's also a question of what you put inside them. Contents will dictate what they are doing/where they are going. Heatlances on the other hand are a mixed bag. The only melta available, at 18" it seems like a deal until you realize that hitting a chimera in the front at long range means you need a 6 to glace?! Even close range, a 6 on 2D6 is not automatic. That means getting side/rear shots become very critical and that also means getting within 9". It takes some finesse to pull this off, especially if you want your heatlance squad to survive the next turn, but that's what makes DE so fun to play as opposed to marines. If you are relying on heatlances for added anti-tank, I suggest some redundancy with 2 squads. It can hamstring some builds spending that many points, but you don't want to leave it to a poor dice roll if you can help it. You either load up on them or take none at all. Practice makes perfect. Good luck.

Xaereth said...


I like Heat Lances alright- they do well against AV14, but kind of struggle with being efficient vs. any other armor values. Mostly, the goal with the Reavers is to kill whatever they can- and if they can get side armor shots on Chimeras, then more power to them.

As for the Venoms- I like them, but I see people spamming them, and I get a little sad- 4 is a lot, some people take like 10. 4 is enough for me, since my Hellions add up to another 3-4 venoms worth of firepower. I think their main strength is holding passengers who can also shoot out of them.

Grisly Trophies are great- virtually zero worries about failing leaderships, and for cheap!