Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dark Eldar vs. High-Volume Fire

Howdy there folks!  Today I want to talk a little bit about Dark Eldar, and the ever-present threat of high-volume fire armies.  There are plenty out there- obvious choices include Guard, Wolves, Blood Angels, Dark Eldar, Grey Knights... the list really just goes on. 

This article will teach you how to protect your DEldar army from even this... the Terrornator (seriously... that's what it's called)

I think the thing that makes me the most frustrated as a Dark Eldar player is my inability to shrug off certain things or threats to my army as inconsequential.  For example, running 60+ Assault Marines w/ Jump Packs and FNP makes me feel like small arms fire is inconsequential, since FNP gives Assault Marines a statistical 2+ save, making them shrug off almost everything.

This isn't the case at all with Dark Eldar, who are literally afraid of just about every weapon out there.  I had a game the other day where 3 Bolt Pistol shots killed 2 Venoms in a row.  Whereas this is unlikely to happen on a regular basis, the potential for it to happen is fairly obvious.

The question then is how to avoid getting annihilated by said overwhelming firepower.  It's a difficult prospect, and there's not a really simple answer to it.  We as Dark Eldar players are at a disadvantage when it comes to durability, and so we need to find other methods of winning :-p

His Red Beret makes him go... fasta?  Or maybe just gives him... longer range.

So, where to begin?

Well, I suppose we should begin with list building.  I don't want to spend forever on this aspect, since there's plenty of advice out there for it, and the article isn't really only about this single aspect.  Still, it's certainly a factor in how Dark Eldar deal with these high-volume firepower lists, and as such, we need to address it.

It sounds simple to build a good list.  I've heard many people (myself included) saying "I know the list is good, I just need to learn how to play it."  Whereas the list may very well be good, it's not always a foregone conclusion that the lists we use are only limited by our ability to wield them in a skillful manner.  In fact, they may very well be horrible.

So instead of teaching you how to build an awesome Dark Eldar 'Win' list, instead, I just want to touch on a couple things that I (as a competitive player) look for when I build lists (not just Dark Eldar).  Some of them may seem obvious, but I guarantee there are people out there who don't right now understand these concepts:
  • Redundancy- lists need to have a 'backup' plan to deal with whatever.  This usually means taking duplicates of the same unit
  • Target Saturation- this means that my enemy will have a difficult time deciding on target priority, since I have such a high number of threats to his own stuff every turn.
  • Units whose effectiveness are not easily neutralized with little effort.
  • Making sure the list can deal with any isolated threat
Redundancy can be achieved as described above- if a single squad of Reavers is our only hope of killing those pesky Psyflemen Dreads, then the enemy will gladly shoot them down first.  However, two or even three squads of the same Reavers makes this prospect somewhat more daunting (or impossible).  Even if two squads go down, the final squad has a good chance of succeeding.  Making sure that our army doesn't depend on that single Melta Gun to kill all AV14 is generally a great idea.

Target Saturation is very similar to redundancy.  Essentially, we want everything in the army to create a viable threat, and one that is similar in terms of reward to your opponent for shooting at them.  This forces the opponent to make some very difficult decisions on what to kill.  For example, killing the Reavers that were previously mentioned may be a good idea, but if it exposes the rest of the army to mass splinter fire because the Venoms haven't been shut down, it may not be a fair tradeoff. 

Neutralizing a unit is on the surface very straightforward.  If a unit is neutralized, it means that the unit has lost its ability to affect the game in a meaningful way.  An example of this would be putting an expensive HQ (tooled up Archon?) and a huge squad of Incubi in a Raider.  If that Raider dies first turn, the squad will be left foot-slogging the rest of the game.  While it may not be entirely ineffectual, the opponent has neutralized that squad for quite a few turns.  We want to avoid this, simply because it's an inefficient use of points.

Isolated threats are things such as Monstrous Creature spam, Razorspam, Missile Spam, etc.  If an army is incapable of killing AV14 for example, that army will very likely die an extremely grizzly death when it comes up against a tri-raider list, simply because it's not prepared for it.  If a list can't deal with 150+ Ork Boyz in a game, then it's going to have issues in the greater scheme of things.

Sadly, the only army in 40k that is scared of this is DEldar :(

In other words... we want to make a list that provides lots of threats while making it difficult for the opponent to destroy your chances to win in a single turn with a good round of shooting.

*Remember that even extremely shooty armies can shoot at a limited number of things.  When the total threat a list presents is spread out, the likelihood of many of those units surviving/not being damaged increases, simply because our opponent lacks the ability to even affect all of those units in a single round of shooting.

I could seriously go on for a very long time about this, but I think this is where I'll stop on the List Building advice.  Hopefully this helps a little bit at least.

So we've talked a little bit about lists.  What other stuff can we talk about, in the context of surviving against extremely shooty lists?

Well, we kind of want resiliency.  I realize that I said that our units aren't really resilient, but there's a different kind of resilience that we want to achieve, which I like to call surprising resilience.

We can define surprising resilience as finding ways to make our units harder to kill than our enemy had previously anticipated.  An example of this would be cover saves on vehicles where we normally would get none.

In fact, cover saves (somewhat obviously) double the survivability of most of our stuff, namely vehicles.  Whether a vehicle is AV14 or AV10 open-topped, when it has cover, it can ignore just about anything 50% of the time. 

Cover saves should be the lifeblood of Dark Eldar, honestly.  Where their stats fail them, the Rule Book can save them.  This isn't to say that Dark Eldar aren't still easy to kill- they are.  It simply takes more shots than the enemy is willing/prepared to spend on killing them.

That guy has some serious range.
 But isn't it hard/impossible to find great cover for 8+ DEldar Skimmers?

Well... if we're just looking for it in initial setup terrain, then yes, it's very nearly impossible.  However, what most people don't realize is that other models can provide great cover saves as well.  

I personally use Hellions and Reavers who themselves are in area terrain to provide 4+ cover saves to the rest of my vehicles.  They can stand in front of venoms, and the venoms can stand in front of the Raiders/Ravagers.  It's kind of a cluster-centric approach to it, but if it makes the difference between my models getting a 4+ cover save and a 5++ invuln.... it's often the best choice.  Here's a picture:

You can see that everything I have here garners a 4+ cover save.  On a board with very little in the way of good terrain, I was able to provide my own cover saves.  Keep in mind that I had to deploy first.  Also keep in mind that his army had 18 Longfangs, 2 CMLs, a Runepriest w/ Living Lightning + Grimnar giving the 2 CMLs and Runepriest Tankhunter.  He stole the initiative on me, and I was still able to win the game.  Think cover saves weren't a part of that? :)
Use your own models for protection, in conjunction with sheer offensive output.  It'll save plenty of models- it already has done that for me.  Whereas the difference between rolling a 4+ and a 5+ on a dice may seem small at first glance, it really does make an enormous difference throughout the course of a game.

So far we've gone over:
  • Building a list that provides sufficient threat across the board
  • Getting units cover saves
Now let's talk about denial

An extremely common tactic for deployment is the refused flank.  If an enemy has to deploy first with a shooty list, he'll generally spread his models out across the board.  In retaliation, the other army will simply deploy everything in the corner, so as to deny the enemy shots to begin with, and using the whole of your army to gang up on half of the enemy army.

Whereas the refused flank is a solid strategy (well, in the right situation at least), it doesn't end there.  Keeping models out of range of an enemy army who can shoot, but doesn't have a ton of range is also extremely useful.  While this example is fairly limited, here's a picture of me facing off against a Grey Knight player with a maximum range of 24":

I knew his army had limited range, so I even gave him first turn, and set up like this.  My superior range protected me in this case.
It's not a guaranteed thing that we will get to deny the enemy shots, but if we can, why not?  Hiding behind a huge building that blocks line of sight can be incredibly useful, especially for an army full of skimmers and jumpy stuff.  Remember, going second with Dark Eldar isn't necessarily always a bad thing.  There are plenty of situations where going second is going to be better than going first.  Having the ability to deny your enemy the ability to use his full army is a powerful tool.

Let's talk about the joys of stunlocking now!

Stunlocking is a funny word, since it's relatively rare that a vehicle is stunned instead of simply shaken.  Still, 'shakelocking' doesn't sound nearly as neat, so we're left with stunlocking. 

The idea is to suppress the enemy firepower.  We don't necessarily need to kill a vehicle in a given turn, as long as it's not going to be able to shoot in the next phase.  Therefore, glancing a vehicle and shake/stunning/weapon destroying it can be a viable strategy- if the (shooty) enemy can't shoot, then we're in good shape.

Lots of super shooty lists will be extremely difficult to stunlock to complete silence, especially for Dark Eldar.  They'll have lots of redundancy and spread out threats, and mostly, Dark Eldar lack the ranged ability to shut up 14+ tanks in a single turn.

Let's hope they kill two birds with that thing.  ...:-p

This simply means that making as many tanks shut up as possible is a good idea, though the use of the aforementioned factors need to also be used.  In short, shoot a vehicle until it can't do what it wants to do, and then move on, don't worry yet about the all-important kill- time enough for that later.

I personally use Hellions to multi-charge and stunlock lines of vehicles.  It's worked great thus far.  Of course, using Reavers and Ravagers and Venoms with Blasters in them has also contributed in a large way.

Also note that you can't stunlock infantry (should be fairly obvious).  In this case, our splinter weaponry is happy, since it can actually affect the enemy's ability to shoot.

In Review:
  • We want a list that can present a huge range of threat (which isn't to say that it has a ton of long-range firepower... just well-spread firepower)
  • Use of cover is essential
  • Clever use of deployment can really make our lives easier- denying enemy shots every turn makes their own army less efficient
  • Stunlocking works, though depending on it isn't likely to be the wisest of choices
Well, that's about it.  Hope you found this stuff useful in playing Dark Eldar.  It's worked out for me thus far.  Seems like the times I've done poorly are the times that I've failed to follow my own advice :-p

Feel free to ask questions, tell me what you think (nicely :-p), or talk about something entirely irrelevant.  Whatever you feel like :)

Have a good day, I'm going to bed!

(by which I mean this is going up in the morning, despite the fact that I wrote it at night)

(also, I'm tired enough, I'm not going to proofread it til tomorrow sometime.  lol)

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