Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Keeping it real with Wraithguard; Wraithguard tactics/uses:

Everyone has an opinion on the usefulness of Wraithguard. Are they good? Are they terribad? As far as I am concerned, I think they are amazing and I don't feel comfortable without at least one unit in my list somewhere... This post is to talk about Wraithguard, some basic tactics and why I think they are so amazing.


So yeah, Wraithguard. For 35 points you get a Space Marine model with S5, T6 and a Wraithgun (12" assault 1, ap2; 2+ to wound regardless of toughness and against vehicles 3-4 glances and 5-6 penetrates). On the surface, I don't know if people think that looks great or terrible but to me, it looks like pure win. Mainly because I don't just see a statline but I see a unit in relation to how it fits in with my Eldar warmachine. This is key, as a great general (I would argue) is able to see everything at his disposal on the battlefield in relation to how the victory will take shape. For me, Wraithguard are essential in shaping this victory. 

Some Wraithguard basics: 

-They are slow when footslogging and to be scoring, they have to be footslogging. 
-They are T6 so they can take a beating (only traditional anti tank weapons with a low AP will really be useful at taking them out at range and only high Strength armor ignoring weapons pose a threat in close combat). 
-The unit is Fearless and so will never run which means that any ICs in the unit will also never run.
-They can be fortuned for added durability.
-They have one of the best guns in the game which can effectively engage any enemy but it is only 12".
-They can get a Warlock upgrade (which has many uses and benefits which I'll discuss in the next section).

Put all of the above together and you have a potentially very tough/resilient scoring unit with a devastating 12" gun. This basically means that they have the ability to generally claim a section of the game board and deny it to your opponent (like claiming and staying on objectives). They are also expensive and hard to kill so they can protect Independent Characters thus effectively deny a few kill points as well as victory points should you end up playing such a mission. 

The only way you will lose your Wraithguard is to massive anti tank firepower or a lot of high strength armor ignoring attacks in CC. Build your army to be able to mitigate or eliminate these threats to your Wraithguard and you have a real good thing going for you. This is what I try to do with my army lists and this is what I want to talk about in the rest of this article.

Unit composition:
You can take a Wraithguard unit anywhere from  3-10 strong with the option of adding a Warlock who can be upgraded to be a Spirit Seer in an Elites slot. To make a unit of Wraithguard scoring (by making them a troops choice) you need to take them as a unit of 10 with a Spirit Seer (which is simply an upgraded Warlock that negates Wraithsight within 12" instead of 6") so I am going to be focusing on the use of Wraithguard as scoring units so this will mainly be the composition of the unit. 

-Wraith units (Wraithguard/Wraithlords) suffer from wraithsight (roll a d6 at the start of your turn for every unit with Wraithsight, on  a 1 that unit can't do anything and gets auto hit in CC). An Eldar Psyker is essential to have either in the unit or within 6" since Eldar Psykers prevent the Wraithsight rule from taking effect.

So as I said, you can obviously take Wraithguard in smaller sizes but then they can't be troops and will end up competing with other Elite slots you will most likely want to fill with either Fire Dragons or Harlequins or whatever else suits your fancy. Therefore, a unit size of 10 with a Spirit Seer is the most realistic way to include Wraithguard in your army in an effective way since they provide you with a solid scoring unit and the freedom to still take other Elite units in your army. The only reason I can see to really take Wraithguard in an Elites slot is for fluff reasons but I am writing a tactical article not a fluff one =).

The Warlock upgrade:

I think the Warlock upgraded to a Spirit Seer deserves some special mention since you are forced to take one to make the Wraithguard unit a Troops choice. They come with a standard 4+ invulnerable save as well as a Wychblade (Wounds on 2+ no matter enemy Toughness value and S9 vs armor values) and access to 4 Warlock Powers. For this unit, only 2 are worth taking:

Conceal:   This power provides the unit with a 5+ cover save, even in the open. This power used to be a staple to all footslogging Wraithguard units (especially when fortuned) but since the new edition (which hopefully will be replaced soon), 4+ cover saves are easy to provide for the Wraithguard, especially with a unit of Harleqins in front of them who in turn can't be targeted from enemies over 24" away. This power is nice to have but I've found myself taking the next power over this one in all of my games.

Enhance:   This power provides the unit (and any ICs in the unit) with +1 WS and I. So the Wraithguard suddenly become WS 5 I5 and any ICs become much better too-Yriel becomes WS7/I8 and a Pheonix Lord becomes WS8/I8! I know that a lot of people argue that Wraithguard are not to be in close combat but I disagree with that point and I look at Enhance as a sort of like a "conceal" in close combat. WS 5 models hit you on 4+ now and your return attacks are a lot more meaningful (like a Warlock hitting a Dreadnought on 3+ rather than 4+). I say this mainly because I use my Wraithguard as a "main line" unit, one that I can take a charge with and then counter attack and wipe whatever gets into combat with my Wraithguard. They are like the 300 Trojans holding the line at Thermopylae.

So to recap:
If you take a unit of 10 WG with Enhance, the unit becomes more viable to throw around in CC and you can play more aggressively but make sure you get cover saves. If you choose conceal, you are basically expecting a lot of incoming fire and want to be more defensive. I think that it depends a lot on your meta game/preference but overall I would say Enhance is the stronger option.

Now that we know what the basic Wraithguard unit will look like as a troops choice, I want to discuss some of its strengths and weaknesses on the tabletop and then go into how it fits into the Eldar war machine and what you need to make the unit work for your army.

As a general review, the unit will be able to take small arms fire and non armor ignoring close combat attacks all day long without much trouble, they can't sustain too much incoming fire from low AP/decent strength shooting or close combat weapons that ignore armor. They also have a very short range gun which is effective against any target but especially noteworthy against things with a high toughness, feel no pain or a good armor save since the Wraithgun wounds on 2+ regardless of toughness and is AP 2. So how do you get the most out of this unit?

Using the Wraithguard:

The unit by itself is not very impressive, and I don't think any Eldar unit by itself is that amazing save for War Walkers but it is how the Wraithguard fit in with the rest of the army and how you use them to fight the oposing army that makes them a win condition of sorts.

I use my Wraithguard as a centerpiece/main line unit in my army. Think of the army like a scorpion/octapus/squid or what have you. The Wraithguard are that central aspect of the army that the enemy can try to engage while the rest of the army is fluid and mobile like the tentacles/stinger/pincers. As my Wraithguard move up or around on the battlefield, the rest of my army moves with them to support or engage threats to the Wraithguard and my army as a whole.

A quick example would be in a few of my games against Ghaz/Battle Wagon orks or even Terminators:

 I know that my Wraithguard can take on a unit of Boyz or 2, despite them having a powerklaw each but I can't take a protracted combat from Ghaz in and a Nob unit. I position my army to either take out Ghaz's/Nob Battle Wagon via shooting or block it from reaching my vulnerable Wraithguard while baiting and allowing the rest of his army to reach my Wraithguard where they bounce off (doing minimal damage) and then get countercharged by Harlequins and die horribly to the massive amount of attacks and no retreat wounds. What this looks like specifically is the use of skimmers to fly up to the Battle Wagons you want blocked so that they can't reach the Wraithguard even with a Wahg and you have a very nice speedbump. Hopefully there are Fire Dragons in those skimmers that can destroy the Battle Wagons the next turn (specifically the Nob/Ghaz Battle Wagons) and the Wraithguard move around to engage other targets in the army. Eventually you can dismantle the Ghaz/Nob unit with some good shooting/combat as I usually thrash them after the Wahg invul save wears off from Ghaz.

Against other armies that have a large TH/SS unit or Deathwing, the concept remains the same. You "dance" the Wraithguard out of charge range and hammer the enemie's vulnerable units and when you can move away from the terminator units no more, move to get a good volley of shooting off and charge with Harlequins.
The key to using the Wraithguard (and actually any unit) is to know when, where and how to strike with the unit. Moving the Wraithguard up to shoot a target only to get charged next turn might be a game winning or game losing decision and so it comes down to if they can survive the charge reletively unscathed. If they can, then go for it, if it will be bad for them and your army then best not get too close. Some times you will need to just keep the Wraithguard running othertimes you will be chasing.

Independent Characters:

A specific note should be made to the ICs you pick as your HQ and attach to the Wraithguard squad. I favor Eldrad and Yriel or Maugen Ra. Eldrad for his 3++ save that can tank plasma weapons and the powerfist if you are brave, Yriel because he is a beast in CC and can "yriel bomb" a unit that gets too close (better if that unit is doomed) and Maugen Ra because he offers amazing shooting support (s6 rending that ignores cover is great for those AV 10/11 vehicles), decent CC capability and he has a 2+ eternal warrior save that can tank Krack missiles and the like. Fortuned, these ICs add a lot to the Wraithguard in terms of boosting their survivability and also their offensive capabilities.

Regardless of what other characters you choose, you will definitely want one of them to be a Farseer that can cast Fortune on your Wraithguard. Fortune MAKES wraithguard the awesome unit it is and helps you realize their full potential in survivability which is one reason you end up taking Wraithguard in the first place.

The rest of the army:

The rest of the army should include enough ranged anti tank to take out transports (so S6 somewhere in there from Wave Serpents usualy) and big things like Land Raiders/Battle Wagons (EMl/BL on Wraith Lords and some Fire Dragons come to mind). This gives you enough to play with to protect and ensure you get a nice sucker punch maneuver going with your Wraithguard.


So in a nutshell, I have given you some basics about Wraithguard, the unit composition and how to tie them into your army and use them. It really comes down to practice and timing when using wraithguard as simply putting them in your army is not a good way to win but properly using them in your army is. Feel free to drop any lines about your thoughts and experiences on Wraithguard and if you think I am either spot on or way off in my description of Wraithguard and their usefulness!


  1. I'd been mulling over Wraithguard a bit since the 11th Company tourney. A buddy of mine performed very well with what I'd consider and unconventional Eldar army and what you've posted was very much the centerpiece of his army.

    After going through the WG ideas a bit, I've been leaning towards adding Karandaras to the mix. Some of us have reviewed the rules and appears clear that Karandaras' Stealth ability extends to the Wraithguard unit he joins (the GW rulebook FAQ clarifies this).

    From there, it becomes a matter of preference with what the Warlock gets: Conceal or Enhance.

    Of course, when you run 10 Wraithguard/Warlock/Eldrad/Karandaras in a single unit, it has to be the central focus of the list and then more points will be utilized to have Harlequins (a unit that I think is a must with Wraithguard).

    Great article and it came at a time I've been mulling over what to do with Wraithguard.

  2. It is true that Karandaras adds stealth to the unit but I don't really see that as being the ideal setup for Wraithgaurd. It might be worth a try, though so let me know how that works out for you.

  3. The Eldar codex reads: "this ability is conferred to any unit of Striking scorpions Karandras joins"

    My interpretation of that would be that he can only confer the stealth ability to Striking scorpions. What makes you think that you would be able to confer the stealth ability to a unit of wraithguard?

  4. Sorry, upon further reading, I stand corrected. Touche sir. I like the idea, and I might just steal it. lol