If I Were Dark Eldar

Many moons ago, back in the days of third edition, I had a Dark Eldar army. These days, I am more of an Imperial man (with a dash of the Craftworlds and some forthcoming Harlequins) but I have thought about returning to the Dark Side. However, the long-suffering Alan has a Dark Eldar army, so it seems a little redundant in a small group to have two of them, but he and I were chatting about army options the other day and it got me thinking.

If I were to do another Dark Eldar army, what would I put in it for a start at 1,500 points?

 

Necessities

I am a fan of specialised detachments, so I would start with the Realspace Raiders detachment in the Codex. It is not amazingly awesome in terms of special rules, but it does have a very generous allowance for Fast Attack units, which is where I think this army’s strength lies.

To kick things off though, I would need an HQ and some Troops.

The Troops are easy – three units of Kabalite Warriors on Raiders (two units of 9 and one of 10, for points costs reasons that will become clear later). The Raiders each come with a Dark Lance, Splinter Racks and Night Shields. The Warriors, crucially, have no upgrades at all.

Accompanying one of the Warriors squads is an Archon, carrying a Power Sword, Haywire Grenades and a Webway Portal.

At least two, probably all three of these Raiders come onto the table through Deep Strike, the Archon allowing one of them to appear without potentially dangerous scattering (though it is a bit safer on a Fast Skimmer). The primary duty of the Warriors is anti-infantry, with the Raiders acting as gunships – 9 or 10 Warriors can put out an awful lot of firepower, especially if they are re-rolling misses, enough to give even Terminators concern and seriously putting a dent in just about anything else.

The Raiders themselves (and, at a pinch, the Archon) aim solidly for enemy armour, probably while Jinking madly (got to love the 3+ saves). With the help of the rest of the army, the Warriors then hit the juicey things inside vehicles.

Perversely, it is not the job of the Archon to engage in close combat and while he might fair well enough against common troops, he is no character-killer. The Haywire Grenades are present to help with armoured vehicles, though having joined a unit of Warriors, they are only going to get used in dire circumstances. The Power Sword is to give him some pep in close combat, but only as a true last resort. He will, after all, effectively be using Warriors as ablative armour…

So, why not give the Warriors any options? Well, I don’t think it is worth it. A Blaster might not go amiss, but points are better spent elsewhere, and as for a unit leader, well, if things go to plan I won’t need the extra Leadership or Attack. The obvious upgrade for an anti-infantry unit is, of course, a Splinter Cannon – but I do not think it worth it… You see, if the Raider moves (and it will be moving, all the time), the Splinter Cannon does not add any firepower over the two(ish) Warriors it actually costs. These units are going to take punishment, so best keep them cheap and put points into their survivability (which means the Night Shields on the Raiders).

 

Fast Attack

This is where things start to get fun.

A unit of Scourges, four of them armed with Haywire Blasters, will give even a Land Raider (or super-heavy) cause for concern. However, I would expect them to almost never survive a battle, as they will be a high priority target and be targeted immediately. Despite 4+ armour, they are just too weak and few in number to live long but will still upright they remain a powerful threat.

They are joined by three units of five Reaver Jetbikes, each unit sporting one bike with Cluster Caltrops for the heavy Hammer of Wrath. Yes, I could have another set of Caltrops if just one more bike was added, but that is not really the point. Five bikes are enough to give any vehicle shy of a Land Raider issues in close combat, as well as soak up a little damage without having their performance degraded too much. Crucially, this unit comes in at just 95 points a piece and, with three of them, that is cheap enough to be fairly cavalier in their use. They scoot around the table, taking advantage of Turbo Boosts and cover to get close to an enemy, and then dive in. Enemy transports will be their priority targets (to give the Warriors something to shoot at!) but backfield artillery and light tanks will be just as good.

There are still some Fast Attack slots left, so these get filled by two Razorwings, upgraded with Dark Lances and Night Shields. I would go for three, but instead plumped for…

 

Heavy Support

A Voidraven Bomber. This is a bit pricey in terms of points, but Strength 9 Lance weapons are never, ever to be sniffed at. Despite Implosion Missiles being very, very attractive when fighting Space Marine armies, they are too expensive at 1,500 points and, frankly, the Voidraven should be going after vehicles as a matter of course (though a Space Marine squad might be served well by having the bomb dropped on its head).

Now, there is a line of thought that says Night Shields are a bit pointless on Flyers, as Jinking degrades their performance too much anyway. There is some merit to saving points here, especially when near 50 points has been burned on them. However, after playing with Crimson Hunters with Craftworld Eldar, I think Night Shields are the way forward so long as you have three flyers. Units tend to multiply upwards in 40k, so three of one thing is actually more powerful than one thing three times, if you see what I mean – a synergy develops between them so, for example, one Land Raider is good but three are just downright awesome, beyond their actual points value.

With three flyers, you should Jink all the time (especially with a 3+ save), then fly the Jinking craft off the table in the next turn while the two others are still about to cause trouble. When they get targeted, they Jink and fly off, while the first comes back on, now able to position itself to attack any target. Rinse and repeat.

 

The Battle

In general, the army starts with the Reavers on the table and not much else. There is always the option to put the Scourges and a Raider on, but unless there is a specific plan, it usually will not be worth it – the three unit of five Reavers will be resilient enough to take first turn fire and will spend all of their time Jinking anyway. The Scourges would be my first choice to put on the table as well, as they are not quite as safe Deep Striking as the Raiders, but I would want to see a lot of terrain for them to hide behind if I did that.

In the first turn, the Reavers speed forward, turbo boosting right up to the enemy if my opponent allowed it (this would be largely dependant on being able to hide from terrain while being exposed to just one or two enemy units each in the opponent’s turn).

Second and third turns is where it all happens. The Reavers dive into their choice targets (transports as the first priority but support vehicles and units just as good, frankly) while the flyers arrive and blast any heavy vehicle they can see. Ideally you want to go for any transports that have survived the attentions of the Reavers though the presence of something really heavy like a Land Raider or Knight might divert them – these guys are the real hard-hitting power of the army and the guys on the ground are relying on them.

Finally, the Raiders appear – in the unlikely event that they drop without any flyers on the table, they become reliant on the Reavers cracking transports to give them targets. If that has not happened, they need to drop behind terrain and snipe at vehicles with their Dark Lances (though, in fact, if they have no targets then the plan has already started to go wrong and the army will be on the back foot – but that’s war!).

Absolutely everything in this army Jinks if an enemy so much as sneezes at it, and every unit uses its mobility as a key weapon – the enemy should feel like they are fighting shadows, getting smacked in the face and then watching the Dark Eldar units withdraw before a reasonable response can be gathered. Kind of like Craftworld Eldar in a way, though with a greater emphasis on the hit and run. They do not need to worry about retreating for a turn, as the army has the ability to reposition itself almost at will without losing firepower.

 

The Army List

So, the final 1,500 point list looks like this (actually comes to 1,499 points).

Archon: Power Sword, Haywire Grenade, Webway Portal
Kabalite Warriors x 9: Raider with Dark Lance, Splinter Racks and Night Shield
Kabalite Warriors x 9: Raider with Dark Lance, Splinter Racks and Night Shield
Kabalite Warriors x 10: Raider with Dark Lance, Splinter Racks and Night Shield
Reaver Jetbikes x 5: Cluster Caltrops
Reaver Jetbikes x 5: Cluster Caltrops
Reaver Jetbikes x 5: Cluster Caltrops
Razorwing: Dark Lances, Night Shield
Razorwing: Dark Lances, Night Shield
Scourges: Haywire Blasters x 4
Voidraven: Night Shield

 

Options and Upgrades

It is just left to consider what tweaks could be made with the army once a few games are under the belt.

Many might suggest swapping out the Kabalite Warriors in Raiders with units of five in Venoms. There are merits to this, primarily better firepower at longer ranges and being cheaper. However, the 3+ Jink on a Raider is very nice, and the 5+ Invulnerable on a Venom is… less. If you are getting glancing hits, the Raider is also more durable and with the mobility of these units, the greater firepower is eroded as a benefit. The Venom approach might be fun to try but it would not be where I started.

Swapping the Voidraven out for another Razorwing would save some points, though as I said above, Strength 9 Lances are too nice to ignore. It might be worth going in the other direction – saving points elsewhere (perhaps by having some Warriors in a Venom or two, though that would start to impact on the durability of the army as a whole) and then changing one of the Razorwings for another Voidraven.

It would be nice to tool the Archon up a little (who does not like a kick-ass leader?) with a Husk Blade (would always go for that above an Agoniser, the Instant Death is just too good) and a Clone Field or Shadow Field, but they are all really luxuries. Maybe if there were some points free in a 2,000 point battle.

I think the main area for change though would be the Reavers – perhaps another unit, perhaps bulking up the existing units (units of ten a piece would be a good place to aim for in a 2,000 point game, and would cause almost any enemy serious problems). If the points were free, the odd Heat Lance here and there among them might be nice but as they are going to be spending the bulk of their lives Jinking, I would not look upon it as a priority.

Once I was comfortable with this army, I would then start looking at the close combat options and, looking back to my third edition days, I would be thinking of 9 Incubi led by a tooled up Archon on a Raider. Expensive as hell, but there is nothing sweeter than this unit diving into a bunch of Marines!

 

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