40K Meta – Houston, We have a Dark Reaper Problem

Eldar Dark Reapers are kings of the hill in the 40K meta – but they have strayed a long way from their origins.

We’ve seen a lot of flash in the pan hits come and go in 8th Edition, from Stormravens, to Brimstone Horrors, to Malefic Lords. As each offender is tamed, a new challenger rises to rule the meta.

For the first time EVER – the humble Eldar Dark Reaper is sitting on top – but how long will it last – and why now?

The Problem

Here is a sample of two winning lists from recent tourneys.

Aside from the minor differences, you can see what makes these lists tick. The Dark Reaper is a potent unit and it is not easily stopped when combined with some other 8th Ed. tricks.

The Current incarnation of Dark Reapers. Solid Statlines, good unit size, devastating Reaper Launcher weapon stats, and Inescapable Accuracy combine for an all rounder unit with no obvious flaws. Now combine it with Webway Strike Strategem:


This removes the option of losing the unit to an Alpha Strike and ensures they will get off one volley against the enemy unit most likely to destroy them.  Now add on Fire and Fade to get back out of LoS. Wash rinse repeat.  Oh I almost forgot, make your max-sized units Ynarri to get off an extra round of shooting when you kill an enemy unit (you will).  Use the spammed min-sized units to maximize indirect Exarch Tempest Launcher fire to nail irritating foes hiding out of LoS.

The History of Dark Reapers

Strangely Dark Reapers have been largely ignored for 20 years. Let’s go back and take a quick look at the unit from it’s earliest days to see how it has evolved from it’s original design to what we see today.

Rogue Trader – the original design. 3 man units, very slow, with a missile launcher and dual ammo. Ability to hit fast moving targets.

2nd Edition: 3-7 models, Slow, More ammo types.

3rd-4th Edition – the longest era of Reapers. the 3-5 Squad size, the “classic” S5 AP3 Heavy 2 statline appears.


5th Edition: 3-5 Squad size stays. Exarch Tempest Launcher appears. 

6th Edition: Squad sizes of 3-10 first appear. Dual Starswarm-Starshot Reaper Launcher options appear, an homage to the early Missile Launcher options.

7th Edition: Very similar to 6th.

What’s Going On?

Reapers in all previous editions were hampered by Heavy weapons. They had to endure 1 turn of enemy firing once in position to get off shots. The Squad originally started off small and grew over editions. The squad always had heavy armor to protect them versus enemy fire, and were quite slow. The Reaper Launcher had multiple ammo types over the years, but usually one anti-infantry and one anti-vehicle.

8th given them a new lease on life with the combination of move and fire Heavy weapons and Inescapable Accuracy. This has turned them overnight into speedy units that pop in and out of cover, the webway, vehicles, or anything else to quickly dish out tremendous damage at 48″ range with little an enemy can do to stop it.  Hiding is of no help as spammed Exarchs will rain down Tempest fire en masse. With the recent announcement of a FAQ schedule by GW, we will all be stuck with them for a few months – so be ready.

Now we’ve seen the problem – next time we will talk about how to tame the Dark Reaper menace.

~ How would you deal with the Eldar’s new favorite unit?


  • Adelaide Lee Rosa

    First list seems fine to me. It has a good balance of units, including more Swooping Hawks than Dark Reapers (arguably Swooping Hawks are just as good, albeit at a different role).

    Second list is very spammy, and indicates an issue.

    • orionburn III

      I don’t get the issue with list #1 either. The second list is definitely tourney spam.

      Two units of Dark Reapers – they’re broken and OP!!!

      Two Plasma Obliterators – meh, that’s okay. lol

      • Steven Hyche

        The obliterators are in the list for the dark reapers.

  • Graham Roden

    Leave them alone. Eldar should be over powered in their aspect warriors, especially now. Imperial guard have suffered, overlords have suffered, no doubt everyone else will suffer at some point. Concentrate on driving the story forward, explain that Cawl had something to do with this insanity.

    • Mike Forrey

      I’m guessing you never played against the Eldar in 7th edition?

      • Graham Roden

        Nope, I only played 7th under the guise of 30k I did hear the horror stories though. Sadly I’m one of those guys that stopped playing years ago (4th) only to be reinvigorated by the Heresy and now 8th. I’m so far behind in my armies that I’m likely to get flattened no matter who I’m up against. I’ll find out in the new year when my Storm trooper force finally gets out for a game.

        • Commissar Molotov

          Aspect warriors definitely weren’t the problem in 7th – undercosted Wraithknights and scatter-laser armed jetbikes were the real problem.

    • Cergorach

      I agree in so much as that Eldar Aspect Warriors should be extremely powerful and deadly in their role, but should be balanced by unit costs. Being overpowered imho means that the cost too little for what they can do. The question is whether this is a problem or if the armchair generals are particularly slow with countering this unit…

      • chris harrison

        Everything could be balanced by points cost if GW were actually willing to do the playtesting required, but then fanboys of every army would storm the battlements.

  • Steven Hyche

    Im still confused why BoLS writers keep bringing up webway stratagem like it makes Reapers so strong. They can just deploy out of range and out of LoS without spending command points. Hell you even mention that in fire and fade. Lets say one of the above lists used your “strategy”. They would have used all command points for one alpha strike when clever deploying would
    Have saved them.

    • Simon Chatterley

      Clever deployment can be overcome by many weapons that can ignore line of sight. So you can keep your 10 Reapers off the board and then smash whatever unit you want to with no negatives. It’s just another feather in the cap of a unit that’s already very strong.

      So far the only hard counter this list has is a mirror match as that has great defence against the deepstrike and loads of ignore LoS shooting.

      • Steven Hyche

        ONce again thats not why they deep strike. The above list has 8 units of reapers. Deep striking two still gives you 6 to shoot at.

        Deep strike is used to get into soul burst range and is really not that key to using Reapers.

        Doom and guide are much more important to mention but seems to have been missed. The -1 to hit was also glossed over like an after thought but is also much more important.

        • stinkoman

          i share this POV as i have been on the receiving end of Doom/Guided reapers. They are one of the few units that can reliably kill what they shoot given the other tools the eldar have to make that happen. also, why are swooping hawks not used more like this first list? Arguably just as deadly (albeit different roles) when paired together.

      • Steven Hyche

        Also I play a lot of tournaments. I played against a very similar list at the last GT i was in. The plasma oblits are there to protect the dark reapers in the other list.

        • Simon Chatterley

          Well clearly you know better than everyone so carry on.

          • Steven Hyche

            Everyone else isnt claiming webway is the issue… just you and the writer.

          • Simon Chatterley

            I just said it was another feather in there cap. Read into that however you wish

  • Adam Richard Corrigan

    Reapers are pretty good but still very squishy. A rhino with 5 bezerkers is more than an answer.

    • Joshua C

      unless you dont go first and you lose that rhino to the soulburst of the first round of fire and the squad to the second round.

      • Adam Richard Corrigan

        How are you getting the soulburst at that range?

        • PiotrekEtoo

          Yvraine casts World of Phoenix on them

          • Adam Richard Corrigan

            Situational then.

          • LordKrungharr

            But scorn of sorcery might be able to shut that down cold.?!.

        • PiotrekEtoo

          She casts it on 7, +1 for her cat and you probably save your reroll for that spell. If not, other unit of reapers will do the job. She is essentially “Hey, 10 man (space elf) squad, shoot again!” type of thing most of the time.

  • Simon Chatterley

    Well I predict a Dark Reaper spam list will win the LVO and then GW will give them a nerf of some kind. Issue is what kind of nerf? The thing that’s makes so good is actually quite fluffy I guess…maybes make the reaper finder ignore cover again rather than always hit on 3’s? Sure in 7th it ignored jink did it not?

  • Weidekuh

    Best way to fix them: change squad size to max 5 models. This would greatly limit their power level through buffs and stratagems.
    Because you missed some important points as to why they are so good.
    -10 man units are worthy of huge potential buffs.
    – psychics: conceal, protect, doom or even word of the phoenix.
    – stratagems: fire and fade, lightning reflexes, “the deepstrike intercept one”
    -Alatoic – 1 to hit.
    – Autarch reroll 1 to hit.
    – they completely ignore the -hit meta

    A 10 unit can become extremely deadly and hard to counter. 5 man units are still very good, but the exponential power increase through buffs is halfed.

    PS: they could move and shoot their heavy weapons without penalty at least since 6ed…

  • Agent OfBolas

    I can’t see an issue. It’s a tournament game, in tournament games you are playing at competitive level so you are using JUST the most powerful units from Codex.

    Tournament lists are always CopyPaste lists, boring as hell, but for those who plays them only efficiency counts.

    • orionburn III

      I agree. I know we’d all love tournaments to be super fluffy lists but it’s just never going to happen. You’re going there to win so you’re going to bring the toughest list you can. There is nobody in my area that would run that spam #2 list in a friendly game.

      This is going to be a long year when every new army that wins a tourney gets talked about needing to get hit with a nerf hammer. Even if tournament lists were required to be a single battalion and that’s it you know people will still find something to complain about.

    • marxlives

      I partially agree with you there. I understanding wanting to tone things down because what happens in tournaments trickles down to the casuals, so you want to make the power curve to as level as possible for units, you will never get all levels equal but you try to get close. At the same time you are right. I hope this does not go a Conscripts and Commisar route by bascially FAQing the unit into be ignored.

  • Azatoth

    Ah the glorious days where Eldar (I dont care about GW name CR games) Psi powers could give Dark Reaper Exarchs 210″ range with autohits. 🙂

  • Vojtech Straka

    The second list is NOT LEGAL! Jeezus christ, you dont check it?
    You cannot have CW Relic, if your warlord is not CW, which it cannot be, if you play Ynnari, as it HAS to be Ynnari in that case.

    • OldHat

      But rules are hard.

    • You can get the relic by buying it with a strategem so I have no idea what you are talking about.

  • Snord

    Is this another issue which could largely be solved with more LOS-blocking terrain?

    • orionburn III

      This solves a lot of issues in most games. I can see people taking issues with the Tempest Launcher spam since it doesn’t require LOS. That being said you see a lot of Guard motor team spam in tourney type lists.

      Thing is we keep getting articles like this that claim a unit needs to be tweaked right away because of one or two tournament wins. Majority of the time things work themselves out on their own. Somebody will find a counter that murders a list like this. And then it starts anew claiming that the new murdering army needs hit with the nerf stick.

      • Drpx

        Welcome to competitive gaming. We vidya now.

      • marxlives

        True, I think it becomes an issue only because of the cost of putting terrain on the board for tourneys. Especially if you go the the full 3d route. But then the question becomes how much terrain. Most rulebooks outline this.

        For Warmachine it says that if you can fill a quarter of the table with terrain (2×2) then that is enough and then you take turns laying down terrain. For Dark Age, Malifaux, and Infinity its if you can fill half the board with terrain then that is the right amount and then you distribute it about the board.

        Does 8th have the same requirement. If not then they may need to release addendum terrain rules rather than FAQs, FAQs. In wargames terrain is the next most important rule set next to the core rules that deal with operations. I would say the operational core rules AND the terrain rules dictate the units rules in design and scale of importance.

        • Aurion Shidhe

          Amen! Terrain is so very important. It’s too bad that most tourneys I’ve been to have maybe a hill and a ruins set per board.

          • marxlives

            True, rule of thumb I try to include at least major piece of terrain that includes a unique terrain rule on each table. So elevated terrain, cover, blocking line of sight, rough terrain that may provide cover like a water filled artillery crater.

  • defensive

    I’m usually on board with trimming OP units, but this seems a little much.
    It’s just a GOOD (Not broken) unit, that just happens to counter the tournament meta.

    Can we not ruin this unit for everyone else, just because it beats out hit modifier spamming alpha legion lists, and leman russ spamming guard armies?

    Don’t just drop the nerf hammer on the first thing that wins a tournament.

    • OldHat

      If GW nerfs everything… then nothing will be good and thus everything will be good. lol

    • Ben Raven

      I agree. This is hardly an OP list. It is hard on certain builds…primarily abusive character spam usually involving Assassins or Tau. It is also really hard on the -2 to hit Raven Guard flyers. However, it gets devastated by the Imperial guard infantry/artillery lists. I think recent nerfs have made these lists more relevant but hardly OP.

      • Ronin

        I believe Raven Guard flyers don’t have – 2 to hit because they don’t have chapter tactics. It only applies to infantry, bikes, and Dreadnoughts.

        • Spade McTrowel

          Alaitoc Flyers, on the other hand….

          • Ronin

            Because maAAAAaaaggiiiicccc!!!

  • Sjon Cornelissen

    Do they also hit on 3+ in overwatch?

    • fenrisful2

      Nope, and positive modifiers like +1 to hit don’t work on them either.

      • Sjon Cornelissen

        Thanks! Good to know.

  • Michael Bradbury

    “an all rounder unit with no obvious flaws”

    How are they in close combat?

    • stinkoman

      ill let you know once my 15 death company survive getting through the bubble wrap and next round of shooting….

      • Simon Bates

        The same DC that have (IIRC) 2 separate stratagems, either of which can all but guarantee them a turn one charge or a charge from deep strike?

        • stinkoman

          against a canny opponent, your first turn charge will be against bubble wrap or scouts. that wrap can be hard to clear with BAs since you are putting so many points into BA signature units to get that first turn charge. Death Co. look scary on paper, but if you see a unit of 15, you know your opponent spent close to 300 points on them, plus another 140-200 for the character that have to baby sit them to make them a “sure” thing. 15 space marines (event with a 6++) are really not hard to clear.

          i’d almost prefer stormravens to deliver them without jumpacks. at least the raven will draw fire from the rest of the army.

      • HeadHunter

        If you’re using melee to get through the bubble wrap, the problem isn’t your weakness against the enemy inside it – it’s your tactics. 😉

        • stinkoman

          Maybe ill try rolling better. I’ve played against eldar plenty of times with DR spam (and won my fair share). But DC usually dont have any good targets against eldar as rangers and flying tanks are deployed well enough to deny any decent deepstrike targets.

          if you want to clear off bubble wrap, and believe me, i have played 8 games with pure BA now, it is really difficult. you need to build towards a more shooting marine list and trim a lot of what makes BAs, BAs. Their signature units are the DC, SG and a few characters (which you need a few to make DC a sure thing on the one target they will get). I left Baal preds out because they are out classed by razorbacks.

          The best way i’ve had success is to bring 500 pts of AM with Pask. I play against a lot of hoard(able) armies so i see a lot, and i mean a lot of large units like boyz, gaunts, cultists, etc. sometimes it is worth smashing into 30 gaunts and target prioritizing other units with shooting.

  • fenrisful2

    The problem is not Dark Reapers, the problem is Ynnari.
    Bring some artillery and the Dark reapers will only get a single salvo (two if the psychic power goes off) next turn they are gone, since they are easier to kill than space marines.
    A simple unit size reduction to 3-7 models should be the only nerf needed, if any at all.

    • Agreed on Ynarri. The entire concept of the army’s special rules has been a overpowered problem since it was rolled out in Fracture of Biel-Tann. 8th Edition tossed out all the other new soup lists from the Rise of the Primarch series except Ynarri.

      It feels like GW knows they messed up and tried to nerf them. But really they need to throw out the entire concept and come up with something different for Ynarri rules that doesn’t destabilize all the other Eldar faction armies.

  • Kabal1te

    Okay I haven’t been around 40k long enough to have seem that 2nd ed stat block before. What the heck are anti-plant missiles?

    • memitchell

      IIRC, they removed flora-based terrain, like trees. Being around long enough to remember means being around long enough to forget.

      • Commissar Molotov

        Yup, you could shoot away terrain!

      • I_am_Alpharius

        The nailed Orks too, because the are a Fungi based lifeform 😀

        • Spade McTrowel

          They weren’t fungi based until 3rd ed.

  • J Mad

    The problem is how Detachments are and restrictions. Oh and more/better terrain.

  • InstaAxeToast

    I would take these results wirh a grain of salt.

    The first list was pre Ynarri nerf.

    The second list was at the GW grand trouny and they were not using the chapter approved updated rules. So the player was able tobstash all of his dark reapers in Wave Serpents and essentially guarenteed to go first. Well, short of somebody going first.

    The real test will be the LVO. If somebody wins by spamming dark reapers that will be the justification for dark reapers to be toned back somehow. However, I doubt a list like the second will do very well with ITC rules and missions.

  • Kandahar

    Author: Houston, we have a reaper problem…. Me: No we don’t. We just have a cheesy tournament spam list. Nothing more nothing less

  • Spacefrisian

    Lolz they finally get a chance to shine and some bloke starts complaining, so what underused unit is next in line for being discovered as op? I think Seekers of Slaanesh, they can do 1st turn charges way to easy with there 18″/34″ range.

  • Simon Bates

    I agree they’re powerful, but much of your analysis is way off:

    “Reapers in all previous editions were hampered by Heavy weapons. They had to endure 1 turn of enemy firing once in position to get off shots.”
    Nope, they’ve been able to move and fire without penalty since 6th edition.
    “The Squad originally started off small and grew over editions.”
    Meh, it’s been back and forth, they could go as high as 7 in 2nd edition
    “8th given them a new lease on life with the combination of move and fire Heavy weapons and Inescapable Accuracy. This has turned them overnight into speedy units that pop in and out of cover, the webway, vehicles, or anything else to quickly dish out tremendous damage at 48″ range with little an enemy can do to stop it. Hiding is of no help as spammed Exarchs will rain down Tempest fire en masse.”
    So they’ve been able to do all of these things since early 7th edition (when they could be allied with DE characters with webway portals) and most of them since 6th (when they reverted to multiple ammo types and got Slow and Purposeful).

    I’m also not convinced they’ve always been ignored. In 3rd ed they were pretty good, especially in a Biel Tan army that could take them as a Troops choice. They may not have been a tournament mainstay before, but they’ve mostly been solid since 2nd edition.

  • Tyr

    I dont think the problem is DR. Its all the -1 to hit flying around. If that wasnt a thing, reapers would be totally fine. A decently mobile shooting unit, nothing more. But with -1, -2 to hit… thats makes inescapable accuracy a lot better. Suddenly, something that used to be almost invulnerable to shooting is shot away in one turn. Obviously, thats a rather cool bonus for a shooting unit.

  • Spade McTrowel

    Here is the solution to your not-problem in two easy steps:

    1) Reduce the ability to spam non-troop units. Fix or modify detachments at the event level. Contact your TO.

    2) Fix Ynarri. De-exist them. They are Eldar Heresy.