Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eldar unit overview/analysis (Fast Attack)

With a brief lull in my crazy law school schedule, I continue with my Eldar unit overview/analysis... I now discuss our Fast Attack options and their roll in an Eldar army.

The roll of Fast Attack:
Historically, "fast attack" options in any army have usually been lightly armored, fast moving units that can harass and recon the enemy. Think of light cavalry units that would perform hit and run attacks on the vulnerable areas of a battle line and how they would retreat at the first sign of danger/resistance. They can do some damage but have a "hello, my name is 'plz don't hit me'" name tag. In Warhammer 40k and especially with Eldar, this notion holds true as our fast attack choices are built to engage weak or overexposed parts of an opponent's army without taking too much heat themselves.

What we have to work with:
Sadly, Fast Attack is usually a very neglected spot for us Eldar players as we write our lists, and understandably so. We tend to focus on filling our Elites, Heavy, Troops and HQ slots before coming to Fast Attack because our Fast Attack options pale in comparison with any other slot (and we seldom have points left over anyway). I will try to give each option a dignified review but sadly, I think the tools we have in our Fast Attack "tool chest" are limited and broken. I believe that taking certain options will slow your "productivity," which in game terms means your ability to destroy enemy units and win.

On to the choices:
Indeed, we only have four options for our Fast Attack slots and, sadly, only one is worth taking in competitive play. The rest are merely for those one-off fun games/armies you will play.

Warp Spiders:
This is our one "solid" Fast Attack choice. For 22 points each, you get a model with standard aspect warrior stats but with a 3+ save, a Warp Jump Generator and a Death Spinner.

The Warp Jump Generator makes the unit Jump Infantry with the added bonus of being able to move 2d6" in the assault phase. If you roll a doubles with this extra movement, one model is removed as a casualty. This extra mobility is one of the biggest perks of this unit and makes them one of the faster units in the game as they can move 12" thanks to being Jump Infantry, Run D6" if not shooting and then jump an additional 2d6" for a potential 30" in one turn. On top of all of this, Warp Spiders can choose to Deep Strike and with how forgiving reserves are in 6th, this is never a bad idea because you can often appear where you need them most and get some nice side/rear shots on vehicles or engage a vulnerable unit like Lootas.

The Death Spinner is a12" Assault 2 S6 AP- weapon. Despite its short range, the Warp Spiders can make great use out of it thanks to their mobility and they have the added bonus of being able to "jump" 2d6" away from their target in the assault phase taking them potentially out of an enemy unit's charge or double-tap range. Also, since Hull Points have been introduced into the game, simply getting a certain number of glancing/penetrating hits will permanently put down vehicles. This means that this weapon can take out AV 10-12 vehicles rather well and is one place to get a fast, durable, and reliable source of S6 spam that Eldar are so good at.

For 12 points, you can upgrade one Warp Spider to be an Exarch which has one point better WS/BS/I/A meaning his shots will hit on 2+ and his close combat attacks will be more reliable.

The best option for the Exarch is an extra Death Spinner which is an amazing upgrade considering you get twice the shots of a normal Warp Spider on a better BS for cheaper than the cost of two individual Spiders.

Other options include a Spinneret Rifle which is a S6 Ap1 shot at 18" and Power Blades which are Power Weapons that grant +1 attack. The Exarch also has access to the Surprise Assault power which lets his squad Deep Strike and the Withdraw power which grants the Hit & Run special rule.

The Rifle is a waste as the one S6 Ap1 shot pales in comparison to the value of four S6 shots and since the rulebook lets them Deepstrike for free because they are Jump Infantry, you won't ever need Surprise Assault. Withdraw and Power Blades are worth taking if you think you will see Warp Spiders in combat but I would prefer to keep them cheap and use their mobility to shoot and run away and leave assaulting to the assault units.

Ultimately, a unit of 8 Warp Spiders with an Exarch equipped with an extra Death Spinner is the way to go. For 193 points, this set-up gives you 14 BS4 and 4 BS5 S6 shots, for a total of 18 shots a turn. Since they are Jump Infantry with a 3+ save, they don't have their effectiveness limited by shaken/stunned results and can keep doing damage as long as they have a model left in the unit. Last, but definitely not least, the unit is a "denial" unit which means that they can contest enemy objectives and if the mission is "the scouring" they are scoring. All of these reasons make Warp Spiders an effective and decent choice for any Eldar army.

The other choices...

Vypers can be a viable option if you take them in sufficient numbers, keep the Vypers protected, and have enough targets to keep your opponent busy with. I've already created a Vyper tactica which you can read here so I'll keep this write up short. The reason to take Vypers is to get a fast unit that can pump out a lot of shots as the only options worth taking in the turret are Scatter Lasers or Shiruken Cannons while the underslung Shiruken Cannon upgrade is a must. This will give you on average 6-7 shots per Vyper which is a respectable amount of fire-power. Your primary targets for this unit are transports or devastator type units like Lootas, Long Fangs and Heavy Weapon teams. They have the firepower to take out Rhinos/Razorbacks easily and the mobility to get side armor shots on Chimeras. In a pinch, Vypers can also be used to screen a unit from a charge or to limit enemy movement by zooming in front of them, which may prevent your opponent from reaching an objective.

All in all, Vypers have their uses and are cool, but we seldom have the points for them at the end of the day. =(

Shining Spears:
 For 35 points each, you get an Aspect Warrior on a jetbike with some decent wargear. I already wrote a Shining Spear tactica which can be found here, but I will speak a bit on them since things have changed in 6th.

For starters, with a max unit size of five, you are really limited in how effective the unit will be. This is because you are almost guaranteed to take some hits before charging into combat and perhaps even more over the course of any combat itself. Consequently, now, more than ever, Shining Spears fit into a specific niche of being a shooty, counter-charge unit rather than any sort of main line unit like Harlequins or Dire Avengers.

So with all of that said, Shining Spears can put out some effective shooting with BS4 with twin-linked Shiruken Catapults and S6 Laser Lances while the Exarch has access to a BS5 Shiruken Cannon and a S8 Lance weapon. The downside is that the lances have a 6" range and the rest of the unit's shooting, aside from the Exarch's cannon, is 12". This means you will have to get dangerously close to an opponent and one bad Jetbike assault move can be the end for this unit if you are not prepared to charge (or fail their charge).

Aside from shooting, in combat they have S6 Ap3 weapons on the charge but they only have 1 base attack for a total of 2 attaches each on the charge. With WS4, you will maybe get a few hits if you are lucky and will need the Exarch's 3 attacks to hit and wound to push a combat in your favor. This does not look good for the Shining Spears, statistically. To add insult to injury, they don't even have assault grenades so will always go last against a unit in cover!

So, how do you get the most of this unit? How should they be played in 6th? Ultimately, with a max of 5 models, you want to minimize incoming fire and casualties. The best way to do this is to find some LOS blocking terrain and pop out in the movement phase to take some pot shots at a target of opportunity then use the jetbike assault move to get back behind terrain. This way, you get some shooting and avoid taking unnecessary shots. You can also send them to an extreme flank to engage a Long Fang or Loota squad that is isolated from the main part of an army as with a potential 48" movement in one turn, they can literally get anywhere on the table. This is not a bad idea as you can deploy them near a Farseer/Eldrad, Fortune them and then send them on their task while they benefit from Fortune for the turn they will be exposed and charge the following turn. Adding an Autarch and or Farseer can greatly increase the unit's survivability and hitting power, but, at that point, you may as well get something else for the points.

Swooping Hawks:
I almost feel that even mentioning these guys is a waste of time but for the sake of completion, I will post a cool looking picture that we can hope they will look like in the next codex...They do anti-infantry and anti-tank poorly and die just as easily as anything else in our codex. Virtually anything and everything in our codex can do what these guys do, only better and cheaper.

Using Fast Attack in 40k:
So now that I've touched on our fast attack choices, I wanted to mention a few things about using our Fast Attack choices in 40k. Ultimately, they are fragile and fast. Keep them hidden by terrain or other units and deploy them so that they are not facing off against a lot of enemy fire power. Keeping them in reserves might be a good idea as they'll hopefully have less shooting coming their way after you destroy a few things or present more important/better targets for your opponent. This means that Vypers, Spiders and Shining Spears will need to work their way from cover to cover to get into good positions to take out their prime targets (notice how I didn't mention Swooping Hawks?). Be realistic about what you can expect out of these guys, they are not going to create huge swathes of destruction through the enemy lines but will hopefully do enough damage over the course of the game to maybe pop that odd transport that needs to die or put enough wounds on that devastator/loota squad to bring their threat level down.

Hopefully this write-up is helpful. Sadly, as I've pointed out, our Fast Attack is usually the last and least filled slot because everything else in our Codex is so much better and more points efficient. Next up, our tasty Heavy Support options!


  1. Spiders have become a regular unit in my army. They look cool and as you say the sheer numbers of shots you can pump out with this unit is awesome. As with anything in our army, they are not meant for CC (though the spinners sure do look like they could put a hurt on something...) and a playing table sparse on terrain is dangerous for any Eldar force. I've heard rumblings about a plethora of new units in the new dex, but that's a wait and see.

  2. The Warp Spiders are on my paint station, but I'm still in a flux how to really use them. I have tried them with an Autarch and they hit reasonably well on the turn they land, but I've also had games where they scattered putting them in a pretty poor position. My army has morphed quite a bit to a foot slogging list and I'm now debating of just starting the unit on the table and act as a quick reaction force to any areas of my army that needs it.

    I initially read how Hawks would be great against vehicles, but to be honest, I'm yet to see a lot of vehicles and my Fire Dragons are still sufficient taking out vehicles. I'm yet to really find a place for my Swooping Hawks as well.

    I've played with about 16 vehicles in a list, but the Vypers never really survived. The jink save is nice, but for the amount of points for 3 Vypers w/ Scatter/Shuriken Cannon, I'd rather just get another Wave Serpent with scoring unit of some type. Getting within 24" to shoot the Cannons becomes a pretty dangerous proposition.

    Great write up as always. Looking forward to reading how your games are coming along.

    1. Hi there,Yriel.
      Thanks for a detailed review, as always. Eagerly awaiting your analysis on Heavy Support choices and (hopefully) - on Forge World units that Eldar have.

  3. One potential future edit -- I believe that the Nightwing Interceptor is now considered a valid FA choice for Eldar.

    1. That would be good to know, any idea on where it says that, though? It would need to be some errata or WD article saying that the Nightwing is a valid FA choice like with the Nightspinner. Let me know and I'll edit my initial post, the Nightwing would be a sweet addition!

    2. It has the 40k vaild stamp on the entry in IA XI which is starting to be accepted more and more there is no offical GW errata like the Deathspinner. The Death spinner only got that release as the newer Prism got the option kit with it. However saying that the Nightwing is also near identical to the Razorwing in Points cost and load out/rules much like the Voidraven and the Phoenix are. Which would suggest that these are likely to be seen in any newer eldar dex through reason. Both DE units are Heavy Support tho.

  4. First off, good to see you're stil around, it had been a while since your last post! Always nice reading this blog :)

    That said, I think you were a bit too harsh on the Hawks. While I agree they certainly aren't the best at anything they do, they can still be useful in 6th. Haywire grenades alone are much better now with hull points, seeing as you can reliably take down any vehicle or building in a single assault phase. The problem is getting there without getting shot down, but with deep strike and being jump infantry, they have some measure of mobility, which helps.

    They can also be used for the Skyleap yoyo trick (deep strike, drop a large blast anywhere on the map, then jump back in reserves and start over every turn). Want to target the rear armor of those leman russes sitting in the corner of the map? You can with Hawks. Want to hit that squad hiding from LOS to hold an objective? Same thing.

    I'm not saying Swooping Hawks are in any way competitive, don't get me wrong. They're super fragile and quite expensive for what they do. But they can still be mildly useful in some situations.

    1. Here's to hoping the next codex let's them assault flyers!

    2. Thanks for the comments everyone!

      @Dirhavel, I think I was being pretty fair to the Swooping Hawks...

      First of all, their S3 guns can't touch ANY armor, and only the Exarch has access to a S5 gun with 3 shots; unlike Warp Spiders who have S6 across the board. This means that at best, you have to get dangerously close with the hawks to get those 3 S5 shots on an AV10/11 facing which is usually rear.

      Second of all, the blast template only hits side armor, still scatters (I don't think you use any BS to reduce scatter for this one either since it's technically not a shooting attack). Furthermore, the blast is only S4, which really is pitiful and if opponent spreads out, its useless.

      Third, Haywire grenades are great but the Hawks can't assault on any turn they arrive from reserves and once they assault, they are virtually guaranteed to be killed since they are only T3, 4+ armor and all bunched up from engaging the vehicle.

      Fourth and lastly, for practically the same points or cheaper, you can just get Spiders or a nightspinner which are both more survivable and more effective over the course of a game.

      In short, Hawks really ARE a waste of points =(.

    3. Also, here's to hopefully getting an amazing codex next year!

  5. One thing I think you should touch on are Hornets from Forge World. I currently have 6 of them in my army, running at either 2 squadrons of 3, or 3 squadrons of two. They're only marginally cheaper than Vypers, and do their job much better with +1 Ballistic Skill and +1 to their Front/Side armour value. In addition, they get the Scouts special rule, so Outflanking them can be deadly, especially if Eldrad has Scrier's Gaze from the Divination Tree.

    If I don't outflank them, I treat them much the same way I treat War Walkers; keep them cheap, Guide/Prescience them, and just fire away at infantry and light vehicles. Their Jinx save has kept them alive with luck, and the fact that standard Bolter-equivelant weapons can't touch their front and side armour is a godsend.

    The best part about them is that they're Fast Attack, so coupled with War Walkers, these bad boys can throw out an absolutely insane amount of Strength 6 shots.

    The two downsides to them is that they can be rather pricey with wargear upgrades [and on your wallet], and the fact that they're rather large models, being almost the side of a Rhino in terms of hull dimensions. Fitting them where they need to be can be a pain some times.

    My Rating: B+, and my favourite Fast Attack choice.