Monday, August 13, 2012

Think Tank: The present state of the Eldar codex...

I am starting a new editorial of sorts where I speak my mind candidly about Eldar, the state of the game and all things 40k. This post will talk about Eldar and their way of war according to the fluff and how their codex doesn't match up in its current state.

The Eldar, Art and War:

As any painter worth his salt has the right tool to create the right effect which ultimately brings about the desired finished product, Eldar are portrayed as not just warriors, but artists that use the right tools to obtain victory. Eldar look at warfare as an extension of their creative process and a shot from a Bright Lance or the flick of an Executioner have superior aesthetic qualities as well as superior killing power when compared with weapons of any lessor race.

However, while going over the Eldar codex in my "Eldar unit overviews," I am noticing how at one point in time, each aspect did indeed have a particular role to play in the Eldar war machine but as the game has changed and how other armies have changed, this is no longer the case. Worn out are those brushes labeled "Striking Scorpions" and "Howling Banshees." Untenable  are those brushes labeled "Swooping Hawks" and "Shining Spears." Some of our brushes for painting the picture of victory are simply old, frayed and worn out having a dire need of repair or replacement.

The changing climate for Eldar:

I'd like to think of the guy in this
picture as being an IG vet...
When you look at what the game and average army looked like when Eldar were in their prime, they did not have the tools available then as they do today so Eldar did not necessarily get worse over the years, everyone else got better. Many people strongly oppose the notion of codex creep but they are blind to the obvious. When Storm Shields became 3++; when Space Marines got wide access to FNP and better firepower; when IG got access to Vendettas, Manticores, Hydras and Vets as troops; when Orks got access to Battle Wagons and Lootas, the game changed drastically for Eldar while the list of buffs to other armies only got longer.

Codex creep is essentially when newly released codices have more power and better options than they previously did to compensate for a tougher meta game. Taken individually it may not amount to much but collectively, the meta and the game in general has definitely seen an escalation of the average amount of killing power each codex/unit could put out. Eldar are sorely lagging behind the curb and really are in need of an update, anyone else feel this way too?

My soap box:

I think one of the biggest issues with the Eldar codex compared to newer armies and especially the newest edition is the focus of the army/codex. Our latest codex was made in an edition where troops were not vital to win the game, tanks were not the prevailing feature of an army and simply doing more damage to the opposing army than the opposing army did to you based on a percentage scale was the only means of victory.

Another issue is how the meta is flooded with Space Marine, IG or vehicle based armies like never before and these armies are much stronger than they were when the Eldar codex was last written. This isn't anyone's fault but the mass of players that have chosen the stronger army for themselves simply for the sake of having a stronger and easier to play army...or is it? Has GW encouraged the current meta to form by giving certain armies a stronger advantage than others, albeit out of ignorance and poor play testing?

It seems like a lot of our "sub-par" options are unusable because they can't do anything meaningful in the current "meta". Sure many of the newer codexes have useless units like Mandrakes, Penal Legion, Pyrovores and so on but they have so many other useful options in their respective codices that its generally not an issue. Not so for Eldar, we generally have to settle for sub-par or sub-optimal options. This has been what generally made good Eldar players good...knowing how to get the most use out of your sub par units against better armies and out playing the competition. Eldar approach war in a different way than the average army such as Space Marines or IG and in general, tactics against the many popular armies are not the best against Eldar which gives us some leeway. Not many people know how to play against Eldar, possibly because there simply are not many Eldar players.

Ultimately, it is no secret that Eldar are showing their age more and more and I look forward to a rebirth of Eldar ascendancy to the 40k universe. What will GW need to do for the upcoming Eldar codex to make them more competitive/viable? What kind of things really irk you about our codex that you would like to see changed? These are questions that GW is tossing around, no doubt, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Now I am not saying Eldar are bad, they are still very solid and strong. The thing I am merely pointing out is how Eldar have it rough these days and could use a little love from GW!


  1. I think you have made some very interesting observations about a tricky subject – and you’ve nailed what it is that makes Eldar unique. But I wonder if what we are dealing with is not simply "Codex creep", but a combination of the following: 1) The dominance of the tournament scene or “meta-game”; and 2) GW’s short-term and long-term business plans.

    1) Over the last five years, the tournament “meta-game” has become everyone’s game. The 14 year old kid who wants to get into GW now goes on t’internet for some chatter and advice and immediately finds pages and pages of “Draigo-wing” or “Nob Biker” lists. He ends up producing an army that he takes to GW and cleans up with. All his friends respond with their Logan-wing lists or Necron-Scythe lists and before you know it, the local GW is full of people new to the hobby battling it out like they were at a Grand Tournament. Players seem to think that battles are won or lost purely on the basis of army-list composition and we are constantly striving for the holy grail – a list that will be able to beat all-comers. What we are not doing is experimenting with new ideas and developing our generalship skills. Striking Scorpions, for instance, do still “work”, but perhaps not loaded into Wave Serpents in an Eldrad-led army list – as they have been played to death for the last few years. That was the meta-game speaking and we all obeyed.

    2) Reading through my old 40K 2nd edition codices and rulebooks recently I was struck by how basic Space Marines and Orks were to play then – as now. As GW's most lucrative intellectual property, the forces of the Imperium and the WAAAAGH! need to be the easiest armies to "pick up and play". As a result, their codices are written to the strengths of each new version of 40K and they have a steady supply of fresh new models so they can be constantly advertised. These armies are built for the short-term, aimed at newer players who GW have to assume might not be in it for the long-haul (though they rightly have their dedicated life-long fans!) In contrast, those armies who do not necessarily have as much market appeal (Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tyranids, Tau) are written with the long-term in mind. These armies are never over-powered, even when a new codex comes along. They are written with a balance that means they will still be usable ten years down the line. It costs a lot to re-launch and advertise a product line and codex and if, say, Dark Eldar were re-launched every four years, GW would quickly go out of business.

    I personally would like a quiet update and some plastic Wraithguard rather than a Matt Ward-esque codex that will allow us to annihilate all-comers but that will be out of date within 6 months.

    Anyway that’s my rambling response. Keep up the good work, I really enjoy reading your posts!

    1. Thank's for the comment, it was good reading. I like when you said "Players seem to think that battles are won or lost purely on the basis of army-list composition and we are constantly striving for the holy grail – a list that will be able to beat all-comers. What we are not doing is experimenting with new ideas and developing our generalship skills."

      What I have found is that a lot of people that I play against in tournaments (either local RT, GTs or otherwise) have no idea HOW to play their particular net list if they are playing one. They don't understand the nuances of how to use the tools that makes the list good and if they win it is because of dice or a careless/bad opponent and such. Being a good player involves knowing how and when to commit the forces of your army, not just pushing them forward and rolling dice.

      I was never one to throw down with net lists but always experimented with new tactics/units and that is how I came to settle on my standard lists that I tend to focus on in competitive play. These lists stray so far from the meta and expected army one faces in a game that I usually always had an edge against my opponent (they usually suffered from "what do I do, what do I target first?" syndrome).

      It's always funny to drop an Eldar unit hardly ever taken and have the opponent go "what the HECK is that?" I take it as a compliment that at my local GW store people are calling my armies OP when I use sub-par Eldar units to great effect. They think the units are good because I use them well but in reality, if a person who doesn't know what they are doing took the same list they would lose horribly!

      Anyway, thanks for reading my blog and your comment, take care!