Codex Review: Harlequins
Today we review Codex Harlequins from a more competitive point of view. Can the latest Eldar faction hold up on their own?
Before I start, I just wanted to say that this is my favorite codex to date in terms of art. It’s absolutely beautiful, and most of the art in here I have never seen before. If you’re a fan of Eldar or Harlequins or maybe even art in general, I would pick this up just to keep it on the shelf. While the fluff is pretty cool as well, there’s nothing to date that matches the level of art presented in this book. It’s really just that cool.
OK, now that the sappy stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about the book and what it offers. First and foremost, I will say immediately that the book is not really competitive. It has some strong, competitive options, but the formations and detachments presented limits the book’s capability by a lot. Let’s explore this further.
Troupe – These guys are expensive no matter how you slice it. They’re close combat experts and sport a healthy number of attacks on the charge with Furious Charge, but they’re still T3 5++. By now, we’ve accepted the fact that stats like those get you nowhere in a competitive environment. This is further compounded by the fact that if you want to take some of the fancier toys like Neuro Disruptors or Fusion Pistols, you’re going to adding a ton of points to an already expensive unit. Math puts these guys at roughly 19ppm for the 4 players and the Troupe Master, while every additional CC option makes them even more expensive. Unfortunately, this is the crux of the problem with the codex; you’re spending 95 points for a min squad of these guys and they’re pretty much mandatory all around. When you consider that they’re 95 points for 6 wounds, it almost makes me want to take a full unit of Wyches. At least then I’ll know that not all of them will die to a blown-up transport. The only plus side is that they can take Starweavers are dedicated transports, but more on that later.
Death Jester – For 60 points, you get an IC that acts as another Shuriken Cannon at BS5. On top of that, they have Precision Shots and a special rule that allows them to kill a model, force a Morale check at -2, and have the poor guys run towards anywhere you like. While this is really cool, you’re still banking on a leadership test for the cool results. The main reason I would take this guy is for the BS5 Shuriken Cannon, that is really important because you can buy multiples of these guys, attach them to the 5-man units of Troupes, and have them ride in a Starweaver because their capacity is 6. This makes the unit really shooty, but also really expensive. Just know that this guy dies to a swift breeze and even in cover, he’s still going to die to Ignore Cover. For perspective sakes, the Starweaver is an AV10 vehicle that shoots double the amount of S6 and costs 10 points more.
Shadowseer – Next on the list is the Shadowseer. You’re pretty much only taking these guys for two reasons: If you’re comfortable being out of a transport (WWP Wraithguard deathstar anyone?) to cast most of his spells, or if you’re looking to do some leadership shenanigans with Dark Eldar/Eldar. I won’t get into it too much here, but by now you guys have probably seen all kinds of posts on the interwebs about their perceived power. Let me tell you one thing: This is a trap. You first need the Shadowseer, and then buy an extra level to bring him up to Mastery Level 2, and then need to roll the right powers, and then bring him close enough to the enemy, and then pass the psychic test..etc, you get the point. This is what I like to call the “stars align” scenario and that’s just way too many variables to plan a strategy around. There is a lot of points being invested here and I think that’s a huge trap for a lot of players. If you want to maximize on the codex, you will do better ignoring these guys entirely and just go for more shooting. After all, Eldar should be shooting from their vehicles because that’s what they’re good at.
Solitare – The big daddy of the codex and you can only take one in the army because he’s unique. What you truly need to understand here is that he’s 145 points for a T3 model with 3 wounds. Sure, he has Eternal Warrior and a 3++ save, but I really want the 145 points, T3, 3 wounds thing to sink in real deep. He has some pretty cool rules such as his 12″ move without giving a crap, 8 attacks on the charge and Blitz, but he’s really just a dedicated CC unit that cannot join units and can be lit up by shooting. This is a really shooty-heavy edition and everything on the battlefield poses a threat for a Solitare. My best advice to you is that if you want a cool unit to play with, take this guy and use every line of sight blocker you can to navigate the battlefield until you have a good target to charge. While the caress and kiss might sound cool, just know that you’re still looking for hot dice to get any real damage out of him because he’s still S3 base/4 on the charge. That’s just not impressive at all.
Skyweaver – At 50ppm and comes standard in a unit of 2, these guys are not bad. They still have Eldar Jetbike movement and have a natural armor of 4+ and 2W a piece, but the fact that they come with Shuriken Cannons is what you take them for. You threaten 36″ a turn and a unit of 3 (which is the number I recommend) puts out 9 S6 shots a turn with a possibility of AP2. Ideally, you can pop out of cover, deliver a hail of fire and then get back into cover. Hopefully with Mirage Launchers, you can keep some of these guys alive long enough to do some damage on the battlefield. With regular Harlequin stats, you can also give them Zephyrglaives for close combat, but I would keep them with Star Bolas because 12″ S6 AP2 Blast is a very scary tool against some armies. Sure, you can only use them once, but you’ll see a lot of dead MEQ if you use these properly.
Starweaver – My favorite thing in the entire book. They’re basically the same thing as a Venom except they come with 2 Shuriken Cannons and Mirage Launchers. The Open-topped and 6-model capacity is huge because this allows Death Jesters to join them for another BS5 Shuriken Cannon, potentially putting out 9 S6 shots a turn from a single firing platform. Keep in mind that you can take these guys by themselves, and for 70 points, they’re simply great to have in your list because multiple S6 shots gives you a lot of battlefield application. Best of all, both of its guns are forward-facing.
Voidweaver – Not my cup of tea mainly because it looks utterly stupid. I would immediately drop the Haywire and look at the Prismatic Cannon because I think it has greater battlefield application. S7 AP2 Lance is not all that bad, but the S5 AP3 Blast a very attractive option at punishing clumped MEQ. Even the S3 AP4 Large Blast can be pretty good too against GEQ mainly because of the AP4, and at 80 points with the suggested loadout, I can’t say it’s a bad unit. The aft Shuriken Cannon can shoot at another target, but I really feel like it’s wasted because of the positioning. To make matters even more complex, you can take these guys in squadrons of 3, but I wouldn’t buy more than 1 because of the negatives I pointed out above. It has no transport capacity either.
Alright, so I said the units overall weren’t so bad, so what am I complaining about exactly? Well, for one, I see the mandatory Troupes as a tax for the rest of the good stuff. At 95 per unit, they’re not exactly cheap, especially when you consider Dire Avengers are only 65. Skyweavers jetbikes are Fast Attack and so are the Starweavers which poses a big problem for me because I needed them to be troops. The typical detachment wants 3 Troops, 2 Fast and 1 Heavy which means you have to spend at least 285 points on Troupes which I would rather not. However, you can buy Starweavers as dedicated transports for the chaff Troupes so you have 165 points for 5 T3 5++ dudes inside a S6 shooting solution with 2 HP. For perspective sakes, a unit of 5 Warriors with a Blaster inside a dual Splinter Cannon Venom is 120 points. Different strokes for different folks, but I want you guys to realize what you’re paying for here.
In terms of raw competitiveness, I see the Starweaver, Skyweaver and Deathjester as the winners of this book. Everything else falls behind sadly with the Shadowseer and Troupe tax in dead last.
The biggest limitation in this book is its creative freedom when it comes to list building. Since you’re forced to either take the fixed Masque detachment or some of the multiple formations in this book, you’re basically shit out of luck when it comes to building a competitive list. While you can do something like Unbound, I think most competitive lists want the flexibility of having Objsec for more tactical use. The lack of an HQ also means that you cannot take these guys as allies since they don’t follow the regular allies chart, and you’re looking at a hefty points investment if you follow even the most simplistic of formations. In fact, I wouldn’t even look at bulking up the detachment and immediately focus on the formations because they provide some decent options out there.
Out of all the formations here, a few of them caught my eye. The default Masque detachment is not bad, but the mandatory troop choices are what really kills it for me. Ideally, I would want 3x Troupes inside Starweavers, 2 additional Starweavers, and a mandatory stupid Voidweaver. That brings me up to 715 points for the lot, and I have 7 additional Elite slots to buy Deathjesters for all of them if I want. Let’s pretend I’m insane and buy Deathjesters for every Starweaver, and all of a sudden I have 1015 points of Harlequins on the field. What does this do? Well, it puts out 48 S6 shots a turn, 15 of which are BS5 and can shoot at separate targets that can potentially force an exposed army to run out of cover and into the Voidweaver’s S5 AP3 blast. Pretty exciting right? Yes and no. Yes in the fact that the firepower is respectable, but for the same amount of points spent at 715, you can take the same amount of points in Wave Serpents with an Autarch. Are the two really comparable? Absolutely, because this is a game about points and that’s the one variable you can truly control (list design).
The next ones that stick out to me is The Serpent’s Brood and The Heroes’ Path. When I look at Serpent’s Brood, I see everything that I think is competitive lumped up onto one formation. You have the mandatory Troupe tax, but you have 3 Starweavers, a Voidweaver and 2 units of Skyweavers. If you take 3x Jetbikes, you’re looking at 875 with the suggested config and a Prismatic Cannon. Not the cheapest of the lot, but you get the Skyweavers for additional shots and Eldar Jetbike movement. Frankly, I would still go with the Starweaver spam in the Masque detachment as long as you keep things cheap.
Lastly, we have the Heroes’ Path. So you have the Death Jester, Shadowseer and Solitaire, but they can’t join units, cannot join other characters, but gain Infiltrate, Shrouded and Stealth. This is what you take on top of the Masque detachment, giving you a Solitare with Infiltrate, Shrouded and Stealth to increase his survivability while he makes his way to exposed enemy units. The Deathjester needs to go into one of the empty Starweavers before he dies from Ignore Cover, and the poor Shadowseer needs to be kept back, kept cheap, and hopefully you can roll something good on Telepathy. Why Telepathy? You will at least be able to Witchfire from a Starweaver instead of having a useless Primaris because he can’t join units. Plus, Telepathy just has better support spells since the ones you really want (Shrouding, Invis) are both Blessings. Remember, stay away from the leadership bombing bullshit. It’s a points trap, especially when you consider that the formation itself is already 265 points at its base.
Just for perspective, you know what I think 265 points for 3 guys can buy you instead? Maybe +4 Venoms/Raiders in a RSR detachment, 2 Ravagers, 2 Razorwings, another full stock gunboat + more with blasters, 2 half-stock gunboats with blasters, a gunboat plus a WWP Archon, a Wraithknight, a unit of Fire Dragons in a WS, an almost full squad of Dire Avengers in WS, the list goes on and on. While some of you might be getting irritated by my constant comparisons, I think it’s much needed when it comes to competitive choices.
When it comes to synergy, you have to consider the points investment that you’re going to commit to the army. If you take the suggested Masque detachment, you’re paying 715 points (3 Troupes in Starweavers, 2 empty Starweavers, 1 Voidweaver) for 33 S6 Shrukien Cannon shots from 6 AV10 Open-top vehicles with 2 HP a piece. The Harlequins themselves are not really going to do anything except for hiding in cover, out of line of sight and play the scoring game. Not being a normal force org means you can’t load up on Starweavers and you’re limited with how many you can take for Troop and Fast choices.
Like I said previously, the lack of list flexiblity is what’s limiting this codex, not the actual units themselves. Well, the Troupe tax is frustrating, but 165 points for 6 S6 shots is not bad. It’s just not as good as a unit of Dire Avengers in a Wave Serpent with Scatter Laser for 185. If both units inside are considered tax, you’re still spending money on a more accurate shooting platform, with greater damage, much more durability, and tactical flexibility due to Ignore Cover. Before you commit to this codex, and especially if you’re looking to pair either Harlequins or Eldar to your Dark Eldar, I think the choice for better allies is painfully obvious.
So that’s what I mean when I say the book is not really competitive. There are just better options out there with all things considered, especially if you’re looking to ally Harlequins with Eldar or Dark Eldar. Dark Eldar would rather have Eldar allies because of reliable psychic and shooting, and Eldar would rather have more of its own units because it has the capacity to do so. That makes the Harlequin codex the red-headed stepchild of the 3 Eldar choices sadly.
Play for the fluff, stay for the art, but keep these guys away from the tournament scene because there’s better options out there. For more Dark Eldar or Harlequin stuff, check out HERO’s Gaming Blog.