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August 28, 2013

40K TACTICS: Eldar Headquarters

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Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel  I'm here to start in on our analysis of Codex: Eldar. The Craftworlders are back with a vengeance.


Eldar - Headquarters




The generic commanders of the Eldar are, unlike most armies, primarily support focused above all else; even the Avatar, a living demigod of war, benefits your army outside of combat. I hope you enjoy this article!

With but one inclusion into the mix, the generic commanders for the Eldar have seen few re-enforcements, though in truth this is unnecessary as each character has a clearly defined role in the army. Farseers and Warlocks provide different flavours of psychic support, whereas the Spiritseer - while performing a similar task - is very much a component for a force themed around Wraith constructs. The Autarch provides your army with reserves manipulations and a cheap, adaptable character to help out a unit of your choice, and the mighty Avatar - enjoying a renaissance with a massively improved profile - brings both a highly useful Fearless bubble and unmatched combat prowess to your force. Each of them fits into different themes and styles of army list; a Spiritseer lacks the option for a Jetbike and as such is limited to a foot-based or transported support role, while the Avatar similarly lacks the outright mobility in an all Jetbike or Fast Skimmer force. Each provides unique abilities for your army, such as the Autarch's reserves manipulation, and so they should be judged based on what they bring to the force overall, not just psychic might or combat prowess.



The Avatar of Kaela Mensha Khaine - A fragment of the Bloody Handed One, the Avatar is a burning maelstrom of death and destruction; seething with the fury of a dead god, it rouses the Eldar into a blood haze of reckless warfare. For what amounts to but a metal cast off from a deity, the Avatar is easily the most proficient generic character in the game with a ridiculous profile filled to the brim with tens and sixes. As a monstrous creature, all of its attacks are AP two owing to the Smash special rule and it can therefore halve its attacks at any point to double its Strength to ten; it crashes through terrain with Move Through Cover, and it benefits from the same cover rules as Infantry. As far as most monsters are concerned, the Avatar is very hard to kill; a Toughness of six, five wounds, a 3+ armour save and a 5+ invulnerable save allow it to withstand unreasonable amounts of punishment. As repetitive as it may be, this works incredibly well with the new Runes of Battle psychic power, Renewer, allowing the player to restore lost wounds to friendly characters; combined with an already very durable monster, this is a very nasty tactic to employ. Like those that revere its molten body, the Avatar has the full trio of army special rules, from Ancient Doom to Battle Focus and Fleet. The first provides situational benefits to the Avatar which become particularly useful against foes such as a Keeper of Secrets, whereas the second both boost his speed, allowing him to run a higher average distance to make it across the board, and make for more reliable random charge lengths. For a combat monstrous creature on foot, this is invaluable, and with 6th Edition's cover rules allowing an Avatar to benefit from area terrain, it should both get into a melee quickly and survive along the way. The third special rule is somewhat laughable on the Avatar, allowing it to play a game of cat and mouse with an enemy unit the player doesn't feel they want to engage, or to move into range with its ranged weapon and bombard the foe.

As a form embroiled in constant flame, the Avatar is immune to a wide number of weapons that would otherwise be a common defence against its wrath. It cannot be harmed by any Pyromancy psychic power, an attack with the Soul Blaze or Melta special rules, or any weapon described as using flames - such as heavy flamers, flamestorm cannons and baleflamers. Not only does that give it a complete defence against an incredible array of both melee and ranged weapons - poor Veterans with melta bombs - but it also effectively neuters the Wall of Death, a common defensive measure against assault units. The implications of this are rather staggering; squads armed with melta weapons as opposed to plasma weapons will find themselves entirely out of luck, while a Tzeentch Daemon with Change psychic powers will be a helpless bystander as the Avatar rips into its warping flesh. It isn't enough that the Avatar is also Fearless and, owing to its presence, inspires any Eldar within twelve inches to fight without remorse or fear, granting them the very same special rule.

But alas, it would not be the Avatar of the Bloody Handed God if it weren't a master of warfare, and true enough, Khaine's wrath embodied does not disappoint. With an incredible Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill and Initiative of ten, it is the purest manifestation of war martial prowess yet seen in the game outside of special characters. This means that not only will he hit all but a handful of enemies in the game on a three or higher in a melee, but the vast majority will in turn be hitting him on a five and up; an amazing defence against dangerous commanders and masses of grenade-armed infantry alike. He will also strike first universally unless faced with a few select Greater Daemons, or by charging into cover; however, with his boosted mobility and high stats, this should be of little concern against most enemies. A Strength of six and five attacks base give the Avatar some very nasty damage potential, allowing it to reave entire squads or halve its attacks and double its Strength for three Smash attacks rounding up - four on the charge - to crush anything else. As a character, there is little hiding from the Avatar either; the friendly power fist bearer will find no joy against such a monstrosity, and any commander foolish enough to accept the challenge should only leave a burning, flayed corpse behind. The Avatar is not without ranged options though, as its Wailing Doom - an AP one melee weapon - can also be used as a meltagun that, owing to his Ballistic Skill of ten, is virtually guaranteed to hit and, in conjunction with the Battle Focus rule, get to vulnerable points or maximise its melta range. Potentially, the Avatar can fire its Wailing Doom twice thanks to the Fast Shot Exarch Power, if you feel the need to make it even more deadly - and expensive - than it already is.

A lovely feature of the Avatar in the new Eldar codex is that it has access to a range of Exarch powers that really serve to ground its background - the master of warfare from which the Aspects were derived - in the in-game setting. One of these is actually pointless; the Avatar can take Night Vision, but has a ranged weapon with only a twelve inch arc. Aside from that strange outlier, the Avatar can take up to two useful and, sometimes, situational abilities that are decently priced; the most expensive, and hilarious, of which is Disarming Strike. With a Weapon Skill of ten, the Avatar will almost always gain a +1 bonus to the dice roll, and can as such disarm opponents such as the Swarmlord or Mephiston of their nasty weapons that could actually threaten the Avatar. You can configure him for monster hunting, granting him both Monster Hunter and Crushing Blow to strike at Strength seven with re-rolls to wound against others of his unit type, or maximise his ranged damage with Fast Shot and Marksman's Eye to single out plasma gunners and the like from units. The only limit placed on the Avatar is that one may be taken per detachment, though for thematic reasons, I see little actual purpose to taking two Avatars in the same force unless you are representing more than one Craftworld in your force. This aside, the Avatar is well priced with a hefty base cost, but it is a very mobile, tough, and damaging monster that simply outshines most any other monstrous creature in terms of overall capabilities and effectiveness released in this edition. A strong contender for any army list to be your Warlord.



Autarch - Where many warriors judge themselves based on success in the field of battle, those true Warlords amongst the Eldar focus their efforts on a successful tactical application of their forces. These are the Autarchs, Eldar who have walked the Path of Command and are both proficient combatants and master strategists. What must be understood about Autarchs before you equip them is that they are still principally a support character, and should not be equipped as a combat monster; they do not have the stats or options of a Chaos Lord or other combat-oriented commander, though they can be irritating for an opponent to deal with as any Eldar should be. Their Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill and Initiative of six means they are faster than other commander equivalents, with an identical melee proficiency but a slightly higher ranged potential. Their Strength, Toughness, Wounds and Attacks of three are as you would expect for an Eldar commander, and given the options at their disposal, it does limit their effective uses in melee from a wargear perspective. The best attribute of the Autarch for hobbyists is that they are incredibly versatile, with options allowing them to be tailored to almost any Aspect. They can take Jetbikes and a Laser Lance to join Shining Spears, or a Reaper Launcher to hang out with Dark Reapers, and even Mandiblasters with a Scorpion Chainsword to provide an extra set of hands for Striking Scorpions; there are many other options to use and explore. If you intend the Autarch to join a melee unit of any kind, I would definitely recommend a Banshee Mask; this cheap upgrade provides a nasty Initiative decrease of five to any enemy unit that the Autarch charges, which is particularly useful for your more sluggish forces such as Wraithblades. An Autarch also has access to the Remnants of Glory, and these are very interesting options indeed; one of which allows you to design your own Solitaire, fit with the Mantle of the Laughing God. The possibilities for themed and competitive builds alike are staggering.

The raw equipment of an Autarch does give them an edge over the basic warlords of other forces; they come stock with every applicable kind of grenade, a 3+ armour save and a hefty 4+ invulnerable save. Considering how cheap they are, and even when considering how prone they can be to Instant Death, they are pretty darned tough for their points. Still, perhaps the best reason to employ an Autarch, as befitting their training and skill, is their strategic manipulation of reserves; you can choose after rolling each individual dice for reserves whether to modify it by adding or subtracting one from the dice roll. This gives you a serious advantage to reserves that few other armies can enjoy, and given the number of deep-striking or outflanking units available to an Eldar force, this is a truly invaluable ability that you should make full use of in a reserves-heavy army list. That you can modify the rolls individually, and choose to add or subtract to them, gives you unprecedented control of your reserve rolls, and alone justifies the investment in an Autarch. A great choice with lots of customization options, but they should be kept cheap and simple as they simply won't compete with the nastier characters from other codices; their best trait by far is their reserves manipulation.



Farseer - In the previous Eldar codex, Farseers were taken for their amazing support abilities as a psyker; their powers geared to improving the survivability of a fragile force, and denying enemy psychic powers with great efficiency. Suffice it to say, those who enjoy their Craftworld miniatures should rejoice that the Farseer is very much still one of the most valuable - and important - defensive psykers in the game, albeit with some significant changes to how they function. The Farseer starts off as a Mastery Level three psyker, unusual for any army - even the Lords of Change are only Mastery Level two base - which indicates just how powerful and focused those who walk the Path of the Seer can be. This provides whatever unit they attach to a strong psychic defence, with a probable 4+ Deny the Witch save against anyone that isn't Mastery Level four - and only three such characters exist, as yet. With access to Divination, Telepathy and the Runes of Fate, a Farseer has a lot of diversity and potential to roll up mastery level two powers, particularly from the Runes of Fate. The availability of Divination and the Runes of Fate allows a Farseer to effectively take "double Guide" with both Prescience and Guide, granting re-rolls to hit, being the Primaris powers of their respective psychic lores. As to which lore to employ, that should depend both on your army list, that of the opponent, and whether you feel you want to risk rolls on any given table. Thankfully, while casting so many powers can be harmful, the Farseer does have a counter-measure in the form of the Ghosthelm; should he or she suffer a Perils of the Warp attack, they can ignore it by expending a Warp Charge point. Given that these are restored at the end of each player turn, this is handy both for casting your powers with little fear, and in case you face an opponent that can force such attacks on you - like Grey Knight Mindstrike Missiles.

Like other Eldar, the Farseer has a trio of special rules intrinsic to the functionality of the army; Ancient Doom, Battle Focus and Fleet. While the first is rather situational, the latter two are handy for playing out the "trickery" of the Eldar on the table-top; in particular regards to a Farseer, this allows them to cast Witchfire powers with a greater effective range, or get in close enough to throw a Singing Spear. Ultimately though, the Farseer is defined by both their survivability and their psychic powers; they are the purest reasons to include them in a force. They are superb psykers in an army built around their use, and all things considered, they are quite durable too. While a Toughness of three isn't great, having three wounds, a 4+ invulnerable save and a natural defence against Perils of the Warp more than makes up for it; the extra wound in particular really gives the Farseer some breathing space, unlike the Librarians and Sorcerers of other armies. That Perils is much less of a concern is a great bonus. In terms of options, a Farseer has a few to choose from; an Eldar Jetbike for mobile support is always a fantastic and cheap purchase, particularly in a more mechanized army list. The new Runes of Warding and Runes of Witnessing do provide useful one-turn-only benefits, but are perhaps a bit too expensive for such purposes. Aside from those, a Farseer also has access to the Remnants of Glory; owing to their cost and drawbacks, I would recommend these in specific builds after studying them extensively. For a Farseer that you feel confident enough in defending, and that is using the Runes of Warding, the Spirit Stone of Anath'lan may be of particular use owing to its reduction of required warp charge points for any given power despite its serious drawback of removing the Farseers' invulnerable save. Overall though, a Farseer is yet again a fantastic supporting character that is both cheap and very effective; their access to three very strong psychic disciplines only solidifies their standing in the game as one of, if not the, best generic psykers that can be found.

Spiritseer - Where a Farseer divines the future of their Craftworld and seeks to elude the cold grasp of fate, a Spiritseer instead embraces that chilling end in an altogether unusual way; communing with the spirits of the fallen, they walk amongst the citizens of two worlds - the living and the dead. A Spiritseer is effectively a lesser Farseer, what with one less wound, one less point of Leadership and a psychic Mastery Level of two as opposed to three. That they also lack a Ghosthelm, a very handy defence against Perils of the Warp, when one considers the price difference between the two doesn't seem to paint the Spiritseer in a great light. Of course though, there is more to the Spiritseer than just these rather significant disadvantages. Though the Spiritseer loses access to both Divination and the Runes of Fate, he can instead roll for powers from the Runes of Battle - a psychic lore that I would argue is superior to the Runes of Fate for general purpose army list building, owing to its lower warp charge requirements and duality of powers. As a unique part of their equipment - most of which cannot be altered, save to be exchanged for Remnants of Glory - they have a witch staff instead of a witch blade; the only real difference is that the witch staff inflicts soul blaze, as it is otherwise identical. A fluffy addition, nonetheless, for a mortal psychically attuned to the spirits of those who have fallen. They bear a 4+ invulnerable save that is very handy, though with only two wounds and a Toughness of three they should still be given your best efforts at protection.

The real reason that you should employ one of these listless psykers is that they unlock both Wraithguard and Wraithblades, two of the toughest Infantry units that can be found in the game, as Troops choices. This is a game-changer that redefines how an Eldar army functions, though it is dependent on just how much you are willing to invest in the ghost warrior theme. It is for such purposes that a Spiritseer finds their own niche in an Eldar army, as is their highly useful Spirit Mark ability; any single enemy unit within twelve inches of the Spiritseer at any time during the Movement phase can be marked, granting re-rolls to hit of a one to any Wraith construct or Wraithfighter that fires or strikes at the unit. Given the average Ballistic Skill of four for all Eldar, living or not, this is a very useful ability that really maximises the already terrifying damage potential of Wraiths. Obviously, the Spiritseer is designed to be a part of a force that will invest heavily into Wraithlords and their cohorts; otherwise, a Farseer is rather easily the better value supporting psyker for an Eldar force. That isn't to say the Spiritseer isn't without their perks, but I would say that in a typical all-rounder army, rather than a Wraithwing themed army list, a Farseer will likely prove the more valuable option.



Warlock Council - Seers who have walked the Path of the Warrior, numbering far greater than the Farseers; their destructive psychic potential harnessed further by their previous life. Warlocks are Mastery Level one psykers with a middling Leadership of eight and but one wound, identical in all but their equipment and psychic gifts to a Guardian or Dire Avenger. They are very cheap at half the cost of a basic Spiritseer, and share the same basic equipment - with the exception of the witch staff, as they instead carry a witch blade alike to a Farseer. With but a single wound and a 4+ invulnerable save to save them, they are very much another fragile Toughness three body; the difference between a Warlock and a Dire Avenger, particularly when Fortune is applied, is that the Warlock can use their save against any kind of wound. Their Leadership of eight, as a psyker, is not particularly helpful; they have a greater chance of casting psychic powers than failing the test, but it is nonetheless a sizable hindrance that limits their effectiveness as front-line psykers. For really, that is the reason you employ them; to both grant a 5+ or even 4+ Deny the Witch save to your units, and to provide cheap but effective psychic powers that buff those units up - such as Conceal, Enhance or Protect. Though they are limited to the Runes of Battle, it is a very strong psychic discipline where virtually every single power is useful in some sense. Perhaps the biggest hindrance to using Warlocks is that are very limited in terms of the number of units they can attach to; they are only allowed to join Guardians of both flavours, Windrider Jetbikes and Vaul's Wrath Support Batteries. This limits their use in an aspect-based army severely, particularly as they are intended as pseudo squad sergeants with a clear support focus. Still, in an army that features those units, Warlocks are of very high value; they provide strong bonuses to those units for both psychic defence and overall profile improvements, with a Primaris power that boosts their cover saves dramatically. Much like a Necron Royal Court, a Warlock Council is purchased as a single unit that doesn't take up a Force Organization Slot; they are then separated one by one into different units that they can never leave before deployment and, unfortunately, before psychic powers are rolled for, limiting their use in specific strategies somewhat.

Alternatively, Warlock Councils can be kept as a unit of up to ten that can complement another psyker, such as a Farseer or Spiritseer, and provide them with extra bodies and psychic powers. A unit used in this way can function as one of the Eldar's few true "death-star" units; a prohibitively expensive but certainly powerful squad that can soak up ridiculous amounts of firepower with the right psychic support. This is very reliant both on an attached Farseer to attain the Guide psychic power - that is sadly not even guaranteed - and, if they are Jetbike-mounted, having at least a few of the Farseers rolling up the Protect psychic power to give each model a potential 2+ re-rollable armour save and a 4+ re-rollable invulnerable save. Impossibly difficult to shift, their damage potential comes from the wealth of psychic powers available to them which, again, are limited by the random rolling and no guarantee of a witchfire power. Though the unit will likely be hard to shift, its lack of damage, reliance on psychic powers, and fragility if the right powers are either not rolled up or fail to cast, combine to make for what is definitely a far less viable choice competitively than before. For the individual Warlocks though, each can be mounted on a Jetbike or exchange their witch blade for a handy singing spear; the Jetbikes are cheap and recommended for a true "Seer Council" build of old, whereas the Singing Spears actually give the Warlocks a nasty ranged attack against vehicles and monstrous creatures alike. Ultimately, Warlocks are there to be used as you see fit; they are tailor made to act as supporting squad leaders for your Craftworlds' militia forces, and despite their weaknesses as psykers - primarily due to their mediocre Leadership - they are still valuable additions to an army that features Guardians and Windriders.

Example Builds - There are many ways to run our commanders; the diversity on offer here is what makes them so fun to use. Here are some builds that I hope you find useful or inspire your own creativity;

The Avatar of Khaine w/ disarming strike - 215
The Avatar of Khaine w/ fast shot - 205

Farseer w/ Spirit Stone of Anath'lan, singing spear - 120
Farseer w/ eldar jetbike, singing spear - 120

Autarch w/ warp jump generator, fusion gun, power weapon - 110
Autarch w/ eldar jetbike, laser lance, banshee mask - 100
Autarch w/ eldar jetbike, fusion gun, mantle of the laughing god - 135


Next time - Eldar Troops

I hope you found my thoughts on the Eldar helpful.  You can read way more about Codex Eldar, and we are open to any and all responses! So how do you run your HQs fellow Craftworlders?
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