Editorial: Solving the Harlequin Problem

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How to succeed with Harlequins?  That is the tough nut to crack for today.  Here’s the plan!

For the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking pretty hard on how to best capitalize the Harlequin book.  If you guys read my last review, you’ll know that I don’t think the Harlequin book is good enough to be super competitive.  Don’t get me wrong when I say super competitive, I just don’t think it can hang out on top with the rest of the crap we’re seeing in the tournament scene right now.  What lists are those specifically?  Let’s take a quick gander..

  • Adamantium Lance – Trio Imperial Knights
  • Tyranid FMC – 5x Dakka Flyrants
  • Chaos Flying Circus – Flying Demon Princes with Biomancy
  • Mechdar – Wave Serpent spam with or without Wraithknights
  • IG Leafblowers – Standard IG carpark with or without allies
  • Tau Leafblowers – Riptides, Broadsides behind ADL
  • Deathstars – Draigo with Centurians, WWP Fortune Wraithguard
  • Tyranid Assassins – Built to overwhelm Serpent spam
  • Eldar Lynx – Designed to destroy Invisibility Deathstars with Pulsars
  • Necron Decurion – They don’t die, you die instead

That pretty much sums up the super competitive meta right now, and let’s just say that poor Dark Eldar and Harlequins will not be joining those ranks any time soon.  Harlies might be able to add a few things to the Eldar Deathstar with their Shadowseer, but I don’t think they have anything to make a big impact meta-wise in terms of raw combat effectiveness.  The big daddy of the codex is definitely the Solatire, and he’s just a T3 3W model that’s completely dependent on CC to make his points back.  While the Starweaver is a pretty solid buy at 70 points, the 24″ Shuriken Cannon is just not reliable enough to keep a AV10 open-top vehicle safe throughout the course of a competitive game.  I mean, if the Venom can’t survive on the table for more than a couple of turns dodging through buildings and shooting from cover thanks to its 36″ cannons, what makes you think a shorter-range clownmobile is going to fare better?

The only thing we can do right now is maximize on what the Harlequin codex does well, and that’s spamming a ton of S6 shooting.  When we look at the Starweaver, it’s only 5 points more than the Venom but adds a ton more battlefield application despite its rather subpar range.  Keep in mind what I said before about the competitiveness that is Dark Eldar and Harlequins in general.  At best, I see these armies fighting in the competitive mid-tier because the army itself does not have the sustain needed to carry through a longer game.  So what does that mean exactly?  It means that if you’re playing an optimized DE list and you’re a seasoned general yourself, you will do well as long as you’re not being matched up with top-tier tourney lists.  Everything else should be fair game as long as you’re facing powerful elements, but in moderation.

Looking at the Dark Eldar/Harlequin mix, you can clearly see one major flaw here:  You’re complementing your glass hammer tactics with even more glass hammer.  So I guess in that sense, you’ve upgraded yourself from wine glasses to stained glass.  The major shift in playstyle for the experienced Dark Eldar player will be this:  S6 over Poison, 24″ and not 36″.  You trade a much more powerful shooting solution for less range, which directly means that you’re going to be more exposed when you shoot.  This also means that battlefield terrain needs to be favorable, or else its going to be a bigger turkey shoot than what you’re normally used to.

HarlequinVoidweaver

So what does an optimized list look like?  Well, I’m hoping it looks something like this:

Dark Harlequins  1850 pts

DE CAD*

HQ:

Llama = 10

TROOP:

5x Warriors, Blaster, Raider/AS, Lance = 120

5x Warriors, Blaster, Raider/AS, Lance = 120

5x Warriors, Blaster, Raider/AS, Lance = 120

5x Warriors, Blaster (in Starweaver) = 55

5x Warriors, Blaster (in Starweaver) = 55

FAST:

Razorwing, Lances = 140

Razorwing, Lances = 140

HEAVY:

Ravager, Lances = 125

Ravager, Lances = 125

Ravager, Lances = 125

Masque Detachment*

TROOP:

5x Troupe, Starweaver = 165

5x Troupe, Starweaver = 165

5x Troupe, Starweaver = 165

FAST:

Starweaver = 70

Starweaver = 70

HEAVY:

Voidreaver, Prismatic = 80

Harlequins-graceful

The Plan

The idea behind this list is to shoot a lot of S6 while keeping as many lances in the army as possible.  Just like the rest of my DE lists, I focus on shooting and rely heavily on range band and firepower analysis.  Study the range of your weapons, look at the power that each of those weapons put out, and they lay it all on paper so you can see just how much firepower you truly have.

A typical analysis looks like this:

At full strength, the opening volley looks like 12 Dark Lances from 36″ and 33 S6 Shuriken Cannon shots from 24″.  If you extend (move forward), the maximum threat range is 48″ and 36″ respectfully. Should the enemy not close, and you don’t want to expose your Starweavers, you’re basically playing with 12 lances.  If you close with the enemy, you will add +5 Blasters at 18″ from the Starweavers and Raiders, and if both of your Razorwings fly in, you will potentially have +4 more lances.  Throughout all of this, the Voidreaver will be putting out 3 S6 shots and more likely a S7 AP2 lance as well, but once again, the range will be limited to 24″.  As your units die, so does the maximum firepower that your army can produce, so you’ll see your max lance count drop from 21 to god knows how many depending on what is killed.  It’s important you make a mental note of exactly how many lances you lose and from what range so you can better prepare battlefield tactics and make changes on the fly.  Each Starweaver killed for example, will cost you 6 S6 shots, so this is super important you know what kind of condition your army will be in as you move past the turns.

When you compare this to a similar DE list running Venoms, the biggest difference is obviously the the range and the Poison.  Vs. T4 and greater, you’re going to be forcing a consistent ~4 wounds from much greater range.  This is one of the strongest attributes that Venoms have, especially when you consider the fact that they’re dirt cheap, even with 5 guys inside totting a Blaster.  Unfortunately, the Venom is also a very polarizing unit:  It does absolutely nothing vs. vehicles so they’re completely dead points if things are armored.  This is where the Starweaver comes in, especially against the AV11 range.  AV12 is still very much a stretch and AV13 is out of the question of course.  When you look at the matchups from the top-tier competitive lists, you’ll see that Starweavers over Venoms will do better vs. all mech-related matchups minus 3x Imperial Knights, but will be slightly weaker vs. FMC spam.  The math here points in favor of the Venom for the raw amount of wounds it can inflict, but lucky 6s for AP2 can seriously hamper a Flyrant’s plans in a hurry.  After you study the matchups a little more closely, you’ll see that you’ll do better vs. some armies, but a lot worse vs. others (such as range problems vs. Tau, and T8 Wraithknights).

While I don’t think the power will change too drastically for DE/Harlies, I know that it will change the playstyle and dynamic of the army.  You will suddenly be able to threaten vehicles you normally wouldn’t be able to hurt, and inflict AP2 wounds out of the blue, the latter being rare and thus, unpredictable.  At least you can sleep at night knowing that the Solatire finally has a use, and that’s to punch Deathleaper and his Lictors in the face.

For more posts on Dark Eldar and Harlequins, check out HERO’s Gaming Blog.

  • josh kendall

    But where are the scourges, how they gonna take tanks

  • Thariinye

    I rather liked the idea that the Harlequin article on 3++ Is the New Black talked about — that the best part of Harlequins is not in their shooting (which is basically Eldar shooting with Venom-class transports), but in their Leadership Debuff from the Mask of Secrets.

    The basic idea so far seems to be this — you take the Cast of Players formation as an adjunct to a main force, give the Shadowseer the Mask of Secrets for the -2 Ld to everything in 12″, and then you use things that key off of that leadership — like Psychic Shriek, Pinning, or even *gasp* Fear (if they’re not Fearless/ATSKNF)

    The article seemed to want to have the cast of players be secondary to a DE force, which makes the Ld debuff even better (Armor of Misery or Haemonculus Covens) and gives you FA Raiders & Webway portals. However, DE are still pretty bad at Anti-tank, so I’d prefer running them with Iyanden Eldar instead, if we’re restricted to two detachments.

    If you take Iyanden, you can get a bunch of Spiritseers to ensure good Shrieks and reliable Veil of Tears, as well as Wave Serpents for Pinning/Anti-vehicle, and Wraithknights for anti-vehicle as well.

    It’s still probably not that competitive, but I like the idea and will probably be trying this one out.

    • How many points is said fear-bomb?

      • Thariinye

        The Cast of Players is about as much as a regular Land Raider, if you upgrade the Seer to Level 2. The Iyanden Spiritseers are extra of course, but their number is variable, as well as the number you’re putting into the unit.

        If you want to give them a bunch of extra upgrades, you can, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. Keeping them as cheap as possible makes it harder for your opponent to do correct target selection.

        • So if you were to run it, how many total points is it? It’s already at regular land raider with the level 2, so how many more points are you willing to invest in something that requires the right psychic skills, if you’re able to get them off, 6″ away from the enemy for armor of misery, and what not? I’m not willing to invest that many points in random and conditional strategies, which is why in my first review of Harlequins, I called it a gimmick; which is what it is. The article on 3++ written by AbusePuppy called it the same thing.

    • Secundum Ave

      Problem is, you then run into things like Necrons, with leadership 10 throughout, easy access to re-rolls, and what’s left get’s fearless.

      • Matt

        Shoot with DJ and even they are taking LD tests at LD6.

      • Thariinye

        True, against infantry-focused Necrons you’d be better off with DE or Covens as they have good Anti-Infantry and additional leadership debuffs. However, in my mind running either of those really makes your Anti-vehicle matchup have significant problems. DE would have to run a Bunch of Scourges, which still seems great in theory but I don’t know if they work in practice. Covens has terrible Anti-vehicle, they fill much the same role as Harlequins in the form of A-Infantry and some leadership debuff. I’d only run Covens with Harlequins if the tournament allowed more than 2 detachments, or I somehow knew all my opponents wouldn’t be running vehicle-heavy.

        Furthermore, Fearless doesn’t matter that much because if you really need to damage a Fearless unit you have things like Psychic Shriek, which ignores fearless.

        Also, as Matt just said, the Death Jester himself gives -2Ld from his shots, which means that if it gets a kill you get a Ld6 check, which is pretty easy to fail.

  • karandras

    Can someone explain how this list is legal for anything other than unbound play? My last comment was removed for pointing out that this list is not legal.

    • George

      How is it not legal? Harlequins have a different FOC, they require 3 Troops, 2 Fast and 1 Heavy and have an optional 7 Elites. Your comment was probably removed because it was wrong…

    • Skimask Mohawk

      you need one primary detachment to play a battleforged army; the most common being a combined arms detachment (classic foc), they have many different detachments they can take

      • Tobias Rau

        The problem with this army list is, that it has no HQ whatsoever. The Llamean is an retainer for an archon, this is propably the reason, why she is a part of a court of an archon.

        • Skimask Mohawk

          Totally my bad, I thought you were talking about just Harlequins by themselves

        • Emdee

          The court of the Archon takes up a HQ slot if you don’t bring an Archon.

          • Tobias Rau

            Ok I didn’t know that it is OK to ignore entries in the army lists like the addon “Retainer” at the court of the archon. In this way of interpreting the rules it must be OK to use a Space Marine Honour Guard as my only HQ if I leave my Chapter Master at home. Thanks for the clarification.

          • Emdee

            Actually the books are written in two different formats. The Dark Eldar book is written in the new data sheet format and the Marine book is the normal way. I actually agree that the court should not be allowed without the Archon, but due to the way it’s written dems da rules. I have asked GW to clarify this, but still no response.

          • deris87

            I’m not sure why the Court should require an Archon, besides that’s the way it was for one book. I don’t see a particular fluff or balance reason it shouldn’t be allowed.

          • deris87

            Your snide attitude is just compounding on the fact that you’re blatantly wrong. “Retainer” is a fluff term that has no rules significance–find a page number for me that defines “retainer” and details what it does. Court of the Archon is an HQ choice for a DE army that just happens to have the extra benefit that IF you bring an Archon too it doesn’t take up a slot. No necessary requirement and no other restriction. It is in fact quite possible that when Marines get a 7th ed book they’ll be able to do the exact same thing.

          • Jared McWilliams

            the post you are replying to was not snide, and to be honest is not blatantly wrong.

            While the court of the archon does have the battlefield role of ‘HQ’ it is questionable if the rule for retainer is optional or not.

            Some people read it as an optional way to take the court of the archon, some people read it as how you take the court of the archon because nothing about the rule is listed as optional. It is very ambiguous in its writing.

            If it was so blatant then no one would think otherwise, obviously it is not so blatant.

        • Rich_B

          Some people maintain that RAW means you can take a single member of a court of the Archon as a HQ. Bent, I know…

          • deris87

            I don’t really see why it’s bent. It is legal and if nothing else it’s a real easy kill to get.

          • Jerin Price

            Well “some people” includes the writers of the rules. Read the FAQ if you’re going to insult people on the internet…

          • deris87

            To be fair, the FAQ doesn’t say anything about the Court, but it really shouldn’t have to. It’s pretty clear cut that a Court is an HQ choice that can consist of one model. People are just getting their panties in a twist because it’s different from the last book.

          • Jerin Price

            My mistake. Could’ve sworn it was in there.

  • David Dutton

    Nice article, I think other armies present themselves with clear strategies, but the harlequin codex shows its strength in its acutal fornations and special rules.

  • Anggul

    I don’t think comparing something to the silliest of armies is a good way of deciding whether they’re good or not. If an army can deal with the above mentioned list types, it’s probably just as bad.

    • Since it is an article about competitive play, there is no “just as bad,” if you are going to try to win those are the lists you must handle, calling them bad is silly, anything legal in a tourney’s ruleset is fair game at the event, there is no “bad”

    • This. a million time this. If I could upvote your post a million times I’d do.

  • RexScarlet

    Whaaaa Clowns of Death are not the new Meta, the heck you say, so another 7e “new” codex that is below-average-par, whaaaaa?
    .
    So, 7e; rules are a mess, players need a dewy decimal system to keep track of all the rules publications, codices are average-below-par, there are still a top three Meta armies, and people will still say 5e rules stagnant, hilarious…

  • Koszka

    I love the idea of Armor of misery, helm of spite, WWP Archon + Cast of players ( + Mask of secrets). That’s -6 LD when the deathjester strikes!! This can be extremely useful if you can combo off some tank shocks too with those raiders ( albeit with some wargear upgrades. -4 LD is no joke!) Yes, fealess units / vehicles don’t care, but anything else will be hard pressed to handle such LD butchery!

    Also, the archangel of pain added in could get pretty freaking ridiculous! Sadly Marines / fearless don’t care…

    • Matt

      You can still force LD checks and make them flee. My opponent the other night camped squads a bit close to the edge and the Death Jester ran them off the board.

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  • Larry Mann

    I was thinking the mess of Lances should take care of tanks. Mostly that list just looks like it would just put me to sleep…no flavor at all.

  • Jared McWilliams

    Your analysis of what is the current “competitive meta” is correct minus bikes, but there is no real discussion of how to create a harlequin lists that can potentially succeed in that competitive meta.

    The list your propose assumes the ITC ruling that a lhamean can be a HQ choice, which is debatable and not the ruling in all tournaments.

    You have a decent analysis of poison (from a venom) versus shuriken cannons but state the biggest difference is the range, while leaving out the venom puts out 12 shots and the starweaver puts out 6 shots. Which is a pretty big difference. S6 shooting just doesn’t bring that much to the table, it allows an army with lots of poison to possibly open up AV12 and lower vehicles, ie transports. The list of competitive meta you provide doesn’t have much in that area. It has WS and IG carpark, which have mostly AV 12 front armor, which means on average it takes 9 shuriken cannon shots to do 1 glance.

    Trading trueborn/ scourges for starweavers is a bad trade for any dark eldar player. You are giving up good anti tank, for Anti Infantry that can also be bad anti tank. DE do not need more anti infantry shooting. What’s more the way you ally in harlequins as a masque you have taken no gear on the troupes, essentially paying a 95pt tax per starweaver to get starweavers. Not only is this list bad, but it in no way has any counters to address the lists you put out as ‘competitve meta’.

    The harlequin dex is not a full codex, it has few options, although more options than other ‘add on codexes’ like MT/LoTD.

    The other ironic point of this entire article is it’s “solving the harlequin problem” but its a DE list that has harlequin allies.

    This article although initially stated as how to succeed with harlequins, is how to try and make harlequin allies work.

    I suggest faolchous blade, or the heroes path for allies. The cast of players option is excellent for coven/ heavy wyche cult armies.

    adding a masque with the troupe members not equipped with anything to reduce the amount of anti infantry firepower you have at a gain of being able to hurt AV10-12 at shorter range is an anti-competitive choice.

  • K0rona

    The most powerful thing Harlies offer is leadership manipulation. Fear is good and the mask is amazing. DE already have some LD manipluation mechanics and so adding a Shadowseer with the -2LD mask and a death jester really lets you leverage that cool stuff.