Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wraithlord tactics

Wraithlords used to be one of the cheesiest units in 40k, back when Eldar used to be one of the cheesiest armies around. Gone are those days but there are still a myriad of ways to get the most out of your Wraithlords and I wanted to talk about some of them.

Indeed, Wraithlords used to be a symbol of dread, power and resilience. They could take on anything an army could throw at them and ask for more. In short, the above picture summed them up; they ate your enemies most powerful units and attacks for breakfast and then had the soft squishy units for dessert.

Today, its a much different game and playing field but you can still wreak havoc on your enemies forces with them and win games. So how do you get the most out of your Wraithlords today?

In todays game there are a lot of players out there who can spam a lot of high strength and low AP weapons, just what the Wraithlord hates. IG, SW and various other armies (BA, BT, Deathwing, GK) and DE especially are all relatively common and all have the firepower to drop a Wraithlord relatively easily so you are likely to have your wraithlords be easy targets and kill points. This is the problem I've had to deal with over the course of 5th edition so I've had to look for ways to increase Wraithlord survivability, so I just wanted to share a bit about that and then jump into how to equip and use the Wraithlords.

Protecting the Wraithlords in a hostile environment:

One thing you have going for you with the Wraithlord is that it is T8 and has a 3+ save with 3 wounds. This means that it will most likely survive mass high strength high ap (ap 4 or above) fire so Hydras, Lootas, Psyriflemen dreads, Manticores. You also do "OK" against S8 since they only have a 50% chance to wound you (needing a 4+) so Missile Launcher/Lance spam might either drop your Wraithlord fast or not at all but you still don't want to get hit by a ton of these and lose your Wraithlords. Soon as you start to deal with Las Cannons, Demolisher rounds, MASS splinter/poisoned weapon shots your Wraithlord will have even greater problems and the enviornment just gets more and more hostile as these things become more prevalent.

Rule #1: Use cover.

So the most important rule of survival for Wraith Lords in a hostile environment is simply cover. A 4+ (50%) chance to negate any damage (that already has a moderate to difficult chance to wound you) vastly increases the survival of a Wraithlord and allows you to bear the brunt of the enemy shooting phase a lot better. This is specifically important when facing things that will ignore your 3+ armor save.

Get down on the table and see where the fire lanes are, keep your Wraithlords out of them and behind stuff that blocks 50% of the model so you can get that nice cover save. You can also always bring your own cover in the form of Vypers, War Walkers and Grav Tanks.

I prefer using Wave Serpents as cover since they are pretty tough themselves and can turbo for a 4+ and also provide cover to your Wraithlords. of course, if there are pieces of terrain that COMPLETELY block LOS, that would be ideal as your Wraithlord can walk up while ignoring enemy fire all together.

Rule #2: Force multipliers.

What are force multipliers? They are basically a combination of things that when used together provide a utility that greatly outweighs their use on an individual level. Case in point, 1 Wraithlord is Heavy Weapon or powerfist bait and will likely get taken down in a few turns if not one. 1 Wave Serpent suffers from the same fate. Take multiples of each and you then extend the survivability of that element of your army into further game turns because it takes more effort and resources to deal with/kill whatever you throw down on the table. Basically, you want to take enough Wraithlords/Grav tanks or high priority targets to overwhelm your opponent thus ensuring you will have a few around at the end of the game.

What this looks like in practical terms is just taking more than 1 Wraithlord (take 2-3 instead) along with some other viable targets for the weapons that would normally be directed at Wraithlords like some grav tanks. This is why I typically take a Hybrid list with a few Wave Serpents and Wraithlords, the enemy will usually try to destroy the tanks while the Wraithlords run amok and do their thing. It forces the enemy to spread their firepower out more.

Rule #3: play it safe.

You've been told not to play in busy streets as a kid; the chances of getting hit by a car and dying are a lot greater in the middle of a street than in your back yard, right? Well, the chances of your Wraithlords dying are a lot greater if you play out in the open, get too close too fast to a bunch of melta/plasma or other short ranged deadly firepower and or get too close to a unit that has enough high strength attacks in close combat.

Basically, you want to keep your Wraithlords out of range and reach of your opponent's units and short ranged firepower as best as possible basically "playing it safe" rather than blindly rushing forward. There are times where you will want to get close, but only when there are things you want to charge (like tanks or easy targets in CC) or even to contest objectives.

There is always an invisible "no mans land" for your units and the Wraithlords are no exception. You will want to keep them always far away enough from the enemy so that they can't charge the Wraithlord unless you want them to (or can't avoid it in which case they make good speed bumps) as well as far enough so that they can't be the target of a drive by melta/plasma squads. The time to enter this no mans land  is when you are ready to pounce on something in CC or use your flamers in which case you might have to be exposed for a turn at the most and you better hope its worth it.

Now that I have talked about some survival tips to using your Wraithlords, I want to talk about how to equip them and how they fit into your army along with some tactics.

Equipping the Wraithlord:

I see three basic roles and ways to equip a Wraithlord in 5th edition. The first and major role I use Wraithlords for is anti tank, the second is anti horde/infantry and yet another is pure cheap close combat and all three have unique pros and cons. I personally favor the anti tank approach as it offers the most to your army without giving up much but I'll go over the other two incase you want to tailor your Wraithlords to suit your particular meta.

Anti Tank:

This is an all around winner because Eldar generally lack a reliable platform to put some solid S8 anti tank firepower. Give the Wraithlord an EML and BL (Eldar Missile Launcher and Bright Lance) and you now have a solid BS 4 anti tank beast that can move 6" and fire both weapons and I toss in the 2 flamers for added horde/infantry detail. This comes out to being 155 but well worth it as the 2 S 8 shots and ability to punch AV 14 at range is incredibly important. While they are no longfang squad, they are one of the best anti tank options the Eldar have and this loadout offers also something a Falcon or other grav tank platform doesn't, the ability to charge and engage in close combat along with being able to always fire so crew shaken and such are no problem (take that fortitude psi-riflemen dreads).

Anti Infantry:

This option focuses on maximizing the S6 shots and comes out to being around 125 points and totes a nice 7 S6 shots. You can also go for a middle ground approach and get an EMl and Scatter Laser so you can have some decent S8 shooting along with the frag option. Again, take 2 flamers to have the option of roasting clumped up horde units. This option is great and ideal against DE or armies that spam low AV (10/11) vehicles but again, S6 is so prevalent on other units and cheaper like with Vypers and War Walkers.

Cheap Close Combat:

If you are short on points and want a nice, tough unit to throw around a Wraithlord armed simply with a Wraithsword is a great option. You can forget about shooting and move/run at the enemy until you get there (though I still recommend taking 2 flamers since you'll be getting close anyway and they have the most damage potential). Re-rolling all hits is pretty nice when you want to make your attacks count and this is especially nice against tanks that moved over 6" where you'll need 6s to hit.

Using the Wraithlord:

Now that I've talked about how to "play it safe" and equip your Wraithlords, you will need to have an overall battle plan and basic knowledge of how to use the Wraithlords and I want to talk briefly on how to use them.

First of all, you will want to pick the appropriate targets. If I am taking Fire Dragons, I will usually leave them to take out the tanks that NEED to die (like land raiders transporting TH/SS terminators, Battle Wagons carrying Nobs and so on) and let the Wraithlords to take out other targets they can more realistically handle like AV 12 vehicles. AV 12 is that area where your S6 shooting will have a great struggle and S8 comes in to save the day (dice permitting). Take out those vendettas or razorbacks or Chimeras.

If you are equipped for anti horde/infantry, you will want to pop any transports with your S6 and then unload on models like longfangs/lootas hoping they fail as many wounds as possible. You will also want to be moving close to get into a good position to use your flamers. This works as well with the Wraithsword equipped Wraithlord, get in their face and flamer them.

One neat trick is to use a farseer with Mind War and take out a Powerfist in a unit and then just charge in the Wraithlord so that it will just tie up and eventually kill the unit without any fear.

A combined charge of Wraithlords can do significant damage and tie up a particularly nasty unit for a very long period of time as well. I've played games where I was faced with a nasty fast CC army and used my Wraithlords as bait to get charged early on and if they held, great I countered with Harlequins, if they died, I shot them up with Wraithguard and then charged with harlequins.

All in all, Wraithlords are now like an aspect warrior of sorts, they can be very fragile and do no damage to the enemy if not used properly but otherwise they can destroy units and ruin battle plans if used right.


  1. When competing for slots with Walkers and Prisms, which is the better HS choice?