Monday, May 27, 2013

Dark Eldar in 6th: Not What "General Knowledge" Suggests

My Dark Eldar, who are sitting on a shelf right now.

Today let's talk about something everyone seems to 'know' but has no real solution to: namely, that Dark Eldar suck in 6th, and don't belong in a competitive setting as anything other than a "spoiler army."

I'm actually of the opinion that Dark Eldar have been *buffed* in many ways this edition, with the exception of one fatal weakness: Fliers. With the advent of the new Eldar book coming out in the next couple days, we might just see a return to power for the DEldar. :)

A Few Weaknesses in 5th

Hindsight isn't really 20/20, honestly - look at the number of bad relationships people end, then eventually try again (and fail at). However, I think hindsight does allow us to examine the weaknesses of Dark Eldar in 5th.


What a rough list for DE for face last edition. I somehow won this game... but I probably shouldn't have.
I think this was the biggest fail for Dark Eldar, overall. Whereas their ability to kill a couple tanks was pretty good, the Dark Eldar weaponry really did struggle mightily against 20 vehicles.

Thing was, the need to kill cheap vehicles was paramount, because Dark Eldar really suffered from both Tanks' ability to shoot them, and the guys inside not being exposed to the extreme harm Dark Eldar could deal to them. Needing a '5' on the damage results table was just too inconsistent. Once Grey Knights came out, Dark Eldar couldn't even rely on stunlocking vehicles anymore. A dark time for such a cool army.

Lack of survivability

In the middle you can see my brown crudely-named "penis-templates" as craters of my dead Venoms.

I'm not entirely sure this is as 'weak' as many would have you believe - Dark Eldar vehicles and troops died pretty quick in 5th, though none of them were so points-heavy that you felt their cost was unjustified. With 5+ invulnerable saves and cover saves easy enough to get (in a wide variety of ways, i.e. Baron's unit, Turbo-boosting Reavers, etc.), Dark Eldar were reasonably resilient for the points expended.

Unreliable Reserves

Maybe I should have gone into reserves here... but he would have just whittled me down anyways :-/

I wasn't a fan of putting any Dark Eldar in reserves - it was too easy for an opponent to just pick you off piecemeal as you came in and did very little damage. But, if you went 2nd and your opponent had 38 vehicles, all of which could shoot, you tended to lose very quickly if there wasn't good enough cover available.

Why Those Weaknesses Mean Less Now

Simply put, the game has become more reliable.

Vehicles Failing

This game isn't nearly as miserable to play in 6th (picture taken in 5th though), now that vehicles aren't as awesome! I seem to remember that Leman Russ on the left never dying, despite like 4 Pens with melta.

Killing vehicles is a matter of math now, not just luck. If you shoot enough shots at an enemy vehicle you need dead, they're very likely going to die due to Hull Point loss. No longer do you have 3 Ravagers and 18 Reavers shooting at a single Smoked Rhino, only to stun it 7 times and immobilize it. Instead, it takes 6 glances and dies like it should.

I realize that someone can 'get hot' rolling, and that Rhino might still survive through luck, but the layers of luck for vehicle survivability have been stripped away. Instead of contending with both a 4+ save then a 5+ roll to destroy it, the vehicle now gets a 5+ (sometimes a 4+) and then it takes damage.

The point is that vehicles are much more reliably killed now. They aren't nearly the threat they used to be. People have widely acknowledged this, and it's fairly rare to see an enormous number of vehicles out there anymore.

As a direct result, we may also conclude that Dark Eldar benefit from the nerf of vehicles in that:

  • Vehicles are no longer a threat that sometimes can't be dealt with (fliers excluded, of course)
  • The lack of vehicles means much easier access to the troops that, before now, were so impossible to shoot at. Either an opponent only has infantry, or their transports can be destroyed reliably and you can kill the troops after you open their vehicle
Here's a fun fact: this speeder never died the whole game, despite me tabling the rest of the guys army in like 4 turns.
Sure, Dark Eldar vehicles are also now more reliably killed, but really - they were so easy to kill in the last edition, I honestly believe they lost less than other vehicles. 
  • They all got cheaper now - why buy a Flickerfield when you can move your Ravager and get a Jink save for the same effect?
  • Venoms have 2 hullpoints, but they seldom lived after 2 hits got through their invulnerable save anyways
  • Premeasuring means we can keep our Vehicles exactly far enough away from the enemy guns that matter, while staying in range of the ones we want to shoot. Survivability in terms of deinal has never been better for DE, and the speed/range of DE weapons means they can play keep-away better than most.
Survivability Lessened as a Blanket Effect

Don't you kind of feel bad for those marines? Look at the dead pile in the back there too, haha!
Without a 4+ cover save, Dark Eldar have a rougher time surviving now than they ever did. However, everything out there now only has a 5+ cover save, which makes everything else less survivable. Because Dark Eldar have a bunch of AP2 at their disposal, this lack of cover save actually hurts units with a 3+ save more, as they're paying more points for their armor save, while DE only pay for the amount of damage output they bring.

Dark Eldar haven't been hurt at all in a damage-output setting. Don't let people tell you that they do less damage because everything they have is poison - in a world that Monstrous Creatures are awesome and T4 abounds, it's hard to argue that any army does damage more efficiently than DE. 

Further, because the weapons that matter when killing high-toughness/low armor-save models actually have a high STR (S8 Lances, namely), the fact that poison abounds is really a point in DE favor, adding to their efficiency at being able to kill all infantry, including horde and elite.

More infantry on the table doesn't really mean more damage output vs. Dark Eldar - vehicles did a similar amount of damage with more range - it just means that Dark Eldar can do more damage quicker.

Reserves More Reliable

Simply put, a 3+ is much more reliable for your army than is a 4+. Further, the fact that nobody can start with nothing on the table means that you'll have less to worry about, since a smaller percentage of your army is already on the table. Honestly, reserves in general just help Dark Eldar - they're going to want to start mostly on the board anyways, and if the enemy has reserves, it weakens the amount of damage they can do to you at the start.

Dark Eldar mini-conclusion

Missile Spam Space Wolves. I also somehow won this game, despite him seizing the initiative. Ridiculously tough game in 5th edition for Dark Eldar.
In short, they can kill everything now. Sure, poison can't touch vehicles, but vehicles are much less of a problem. Ravagers and charging Hellions/beasts will do a fine job killing what few vehicles are out there. This, combined with the prevalence of Toughness-based models on the table today and superior maneuverability makes Dark Eldar second to none in terms of punching an opponent in the face, while losing much less in terms of survivability than most other armies.

Why They Aren't Used More?

Honestly... fliers. That's the only reason at all.

There's just no way to kill Fliers. I hear people saying "I have 19 Dark Matter weapons in my army, which will kill a flier a turn."

To that I reply: "Soooo 5 turns, you've killed 500 points of your opponent's army. Well done."

Not only can we not kill fliers, but we don't have any good ones of our own. Please don't tell me that Voidravens are anything approaching 'worth it' - 10AV and sacrificing a slot you could take a Ravager?


What makes this a problem is that Dark Eldar can't really afford to let fliers run rampant. Sure, they can handle a turn or two of Scythes unloading on them, but any more than that will severely hinder any chance at success Dark Eldar might have, due to the negating effects on their vehicles and mobility those fliers have. A Vendetta that shows up, shoots a couple things, then politely dies is already a pain in the bottom. A Vendetta who shows up turn 2 and kills something every turn until turn 6 is much, much (much!) worse.

Same with every other flier. Dark Eldar mitigate damage by causing damage. They can handle a little, in return for doing more than was dealt. If they can't return the damage, they're in a lot of trouble.

That's honestly the long and short of how Dark Eldar work - they trade damage for damage. If a good player learns to play them efficiently, they win. If not, they lose (and hard!).

It just so happens that Dark Eldar got a lot more efficient at killing stuff this edition, due almost entirely to Vehicles being nerfed. The only exception in their efficiency is in killing Fliers, which is unfortunately a huge part of the game right now.

Simply put, if they could reliably kill fliers, Dark Eldar would be an excellent army. But, they can't, and until they can be guaranteed to have a fighting chance to compete against fliers, they're going to be an extremely unhappy "rock" army.

So, here's hoping that the new Eldar book will have a few decent 'ally-able' flier killers. If they don't, I'm going to be very sad panda...

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