Sunday, June 9, 2013

An open letter to my Dark Eldar playing friends:

With the changes to 6th, the introduction of a lot of new codices, Dark Eldar can have a sort of tough time these days. This is a sort of open letter to any and all Dark Eldar players with some advice on how to improve your game/list building in an increasingly hostile environment...

As I go to many tournaments, the typical DE list I see is 3x ravager, some Trueborn in Venoms and as many other Venoms as possible. This worked very well a while ago when armies didn't always have an answer to this kind of firepower as you usually had a ton of S8 AP2 weapons and even more Poisoned shooting from venoms...However, I hardly see DE players winning tournaments or games and that breaks my heart. There are some things that need to be taken into consideration these days and Dark Eldar players will need to adapt or die. I want to discuss some ways DE armies should adapt in my view to the current meta and 6th in general. I'll primarily go over army composition, upgrades and what I call "playing your hand" or knowing when to commit your forces and where.

Army Composition:
As I mentioned above, the typical army was all about Venom spam with as many Lance shots as possible and while it really is a solid, game-winning it enough?

Moar Raiders with bigger Troop units plz...
While the volume of fire Venoms can put out is very high, it is not the be-all end-all in terms of Dark Eldar firepower. Furthermore, Venoms only have 2 HP and can only carry 5 models so if you want to take bigger units in transports, you can't. I'm not trashing the Venom, I'm just pointing out that it is more fragile than the Raider and more limited in terms of firepower (since it cannot hurt tanks at all) and more limited in transport capacity (since it can only carry 5 models).

So rather than taking as many Venoms as you possibly can, try taking some Raiders, too. You can carry more models, have 3 HP rather than 2 and have access to not just a Darklance but also a Disintegrator and it is this latter weapon I want to focus on. The Disintegrator offers you 3 S5 Ap2 shots which can threaten light vehicles (and you are fast enough to even get side armor) in addition to medium/heavy infantry. I think that 3 S5 AP2  shots can be more effective than 12 poisoned shots in some cases. Therefore, instead of taking 6 Venoms in the troops section, why not take 3 Venoms and 3 Raiders with Disintegrators? You will broaden the way you can threaten other models while adding a slightly more durable transport to your army.

With that said, I think that a Raider or three with a larger troop unit will serve DE players well:

(1) Since you need to disembark from vehicles to claim objectives now, larger units will be helpful for claiming objectives in a more hostile area such as those in the enemy deployment zone or where the enemy can focus a lot of firepower.

(2) The Extra HP on a Raider also helps ensure the transport will get where it needs to go. Now you can survive an Extra glance/bad pen roll and skews the dice in your favor.

(3) The addition of a Disintegrator to your arsenal allows you to more effectively threaten a wider range of targets. No longer is it 12 poison shots or a single Lance shot per vehicle, you can also choose a middle of the road weapon for the right target. Specifically, 12 Poisoned shots can kind of be a waste against an opponent who simply will not fail his 2+ armor save while a Lance Shot might be overkill or wasted as you want to focus those on vehicles rather than infantry...The Disintegrator is the answer in this situation.

Anti-tank and anti-infantry:
Dark Eldar seem to have a great deal of options for both anti-tank and anti-infantry but building these things into your list and actually using them in a game can be a challenge.  Yes, Venoms are great against anything with a T value and Dark Lances are good against vehicles, but sometimes that just isn't enough.

Wyches with Haywire are units that I think every DE army should have. (1) You can use them to multi-charge vehicles and glance them to death; (2) you can charge and engage dangerous targets and tie them up with 4+ invul and hopefully FNP; (3) at the very least, they are scoring units and can claim objectives. Rather than taking 6X5 warriors with blasters in Venoms, why not take one or two 10 strong Wych units in Raiders with Disintegrators? Proper use of these units will show you their worth over the latter option.

Splinter Cannons in Warrior Squads:
Yes, a Blaster or even a Dark Lance in a Warrior squad is nice, but you only get one shot and limited
utility. A Splinter Cannon in such a unit is a better buy because you can get more utility/shots. Specifically, if you are relying on a single shot in a unit to kill a tank (or anything), you are relying on dice and luck but if you are able to take multiple shots on something, you now vastly increase the chance to do something useful. Think about it, 66% chance to hit with a single shot, 50% chance to glance an AV12 vehicle (33% chance to pen) and then you have to deal with a cover save usually or an armor pen roll if you managed to pen. Why not just take a Splinter Cannon and give yourself a much greater chance of doing something useful? Not only will this allow your Venoms to stay farther away, you can offset the choice to take Raiders as discussed above.

Blasters/Dark Lances where you can spam them:
Obviously, the more S8 AP2 shots you have, the more likely you can hurt vehicles. However, this is especially true for units that can take more of your anti-tank weapons than other units. Specifically, a unit of Trueborn can spam S8 shots so they become a great choice to fulfill your anti-tank needs while a single shot from Warriors here and there simply will not cut it. Trueborn should be your go-to anti-tank unit also because they are not scoring and are easier to throw away than a Warrior squad you probably don't want to over-expose.  This is why Ravagers are great anti-tank platforms, they can have 3 shots rather than 1. Likewise, the more S8 the merrier in a Trueborn squad. Scourges are also a decent place to have some anti-tank since they can spam some unique weapon options, have decent anti-infantry shooting when all vehicles are gone and can score in The Scouring. Keep them hidden and you should be fine.

All too often I see simply just Venoms and Raiders with Flicker Fields and nothing else. Where have all the Nightshields gone? Of all of the armies out there, Tau are one of the biggest challenges to DE and Nightshields are the number one answer to this army. First, Marker Lights are only 36", therefore, Nightshields will ensure that you can be in range of enemy models with Marker Lights while the Marker Lights will not be in range of you. Second, Missile Pods and most other weapons are 36" or less, only really the Broadsides, Riptides and Vehicles can get longer ranged weapons so you can focus down these units while the other units are too far to help. Also, Crisis Suits can offset Nightshields with their jetpack move but you can focus them down as well and just stay out of their range completely early on. Going Second is helpful in this capacity.

Therefore, please, do yourselves a favor and take Nightshields on everything that can...They are not the be-all end-all in terms of vehicle protection but they go a long way in helping your vehicles survive longer. Also, now that you can pre-measure, you have no excuse for ensuring you are in range while enemy models are not.

Playing your hand:
This concept is knowing when and where to commit your forces. Sometimes people just think blindly sending their units forward while shooting things is a good idea...It's not. DE (and Eldar for that matter) is for those that are cunning and can take advantage of mistakes in enemy deployment and target priority. Is your opponent very powerful in close range or medium range? Stay back until those threats are taken care of then move up and claim objectives or engage other elements of the army. Is your opponent very powerful in long range but vulnerable to close quarter's fighting? Forgo a turn of shooting, boost units in his face and next turn get out and charge. There is a right time and place to commit your forces and just because the opponent has models in a part of the table doesn't mean you have to as well.

Therefore, this aspect of playing DE or even regular Eldar comes from experience. This concept is also focused on in Warmachine/Hordes as "Threat Range." Know the threat range of your opponent and manipulate it to force your opponent to play your game.

So putting all of this together, Dark Eldar players should have at least 1-3 larger scoring units in Raiders with Disintegrators and focus their anti-tank in Trueborn, Ravagers and maybe even Scourges while anti-infantry should be focused on from Raiders, Venoms and Warrior units with Splinter Cannons. Nightshields and proper positioning is another thing every DE player should focus on as well. Nightshields might not ALWAYS come in handy but proper positioning will. Just because an enemy spreads his army out doesn't mean you have to as well...Rather you should focus your army all in one side of the board and take stuff out one at a time from the part of the table you are on.


  1. Great article! I have been looking to start including a bunch more Raiders in my Dark Eldar lists. I think you are right, in the current environment Raiders really have a lot going for them over the venom.

    Do you typically run your Trueborn in Raiders too?

    1. I actually do not play Dark Eldar but I played against a lot of good DE players and had a TON of games against them to know what worked or didn't work.

      Trueborn in Raiders may not be a bad idea because Trueborn will have to be closer than usual to get good use out of the shorter range of Blasters. Moving them up with other high profile targets like Wyches is another useful strategy as it helps flood the enemy with dangerous targets while the rest of your army gets some breathing room. 4 Blaster shots from Trueborn and 3 Disintegrator shots from the Raider can definitely put some hurt on things. Not to mention a wave of Wyches to threaten Mech with Haywire or gunlines with combat.

      My friend has a blog over at and he focuses on DE with some Eldar here and there if you are interested, thanks for your post, though and let me know what works or doesn't work for you!

    2. Thanks for the reply!

      I have been reading Hero's blog for a year or two now. A great resource!

  2. The problem is that Dark Eldar can only be made 'competitive' for competition gaming if they stop being Dark Eldar.

    They're a raiding force. Played in the spirit of the fluff, DE are great fun and usable.

    The endless warping of 40K into a competition product is 'blanding' the armies step by step.

    1. I disagree.. 40k is a competitive game by nature since you are putting together an army list to win a game, the goal of playing the game revolves around winning games. Also, Dark Eldar can still make viable lists on their own and do well its just an uphill battle =(. I have friends that still win games with their DE just fine. Tau and Eldar make it very difficult these days.

  3. I have been playing dark eldar for years and have been very successful with them so far. I have one quite a few best overall and best general awards with the tournies in western Canada/USA. If I don't win one of these then I have always been the runner up.
    I love Dark Eldar! They are my evil babies.

    My pure DE lists tend to look something like this at under 1500.

    Baron (cause he's amazing)

    True born with lance weapons.

    3x5 kabalite warriors with nothing in duel cannon venoms.

    2x10 kabalites with cannons in raiders with lances

    Giant beast pack with 4++ dogs and flocks. (45-50 wound beast unit with stealth) to controll mud field and provide a large threat right away (ppl concentrate on this unit and tend to leave the rest of my army alone).

    2 lance ravangers

    Void bomber with 2 missles and flickerfield. (Primarly AT/AA. But the missles give it lots of utility and i always miss them when i dont take them. Being able to blow a big chunk out of a blob is always great.

    Knowing how to play dark eldar can be very tricky. But in the hands of a skilled player they are amazing

  4. Interesting insights, thanks for sharing.

    Here are some battle reports with my reaver based pure Dark Eldar list. The list changes slightly between reports, however the core elements stay the same (large warrior squads in raiders, large reaver squads and ravagers):

    BR17: The Black Buzzards VS Space Wolves - 1500pts
    BR18: The Black Buzzards VS Ravenwing - 1500pts
    BR19: The Black Buzzards VS CSM Triple Helldrake - 1500pts
    BR20: The Black Buzzards VS Tyranids - 1500pts
    BR21: The Black Buzzards VS New Tau - 1500pts
    BR22: The Black Buzzards VS Tau (Rematch) - 1500pts
    BR23: The Black Buzzards VS Tau Mech/Riptide - 1500pts
    BR25: The Black Buzzards VS Tau Mass Broadsides - 1500pts
    BR26: The Black Buzzards VS Eldar Mech - 1500pts

    I was hopping you would be able to give me some suggestions and advice (both tacticswise and listwise). I'm sure I could learn a lot from a player with such a good understanding of the game.

    Thanks. (also nice blog :D)


  5. Greetings from The Dark City!!!!

    So I must say that your ideas are sound, but your reasoning why isnt. I just wanted to go over your post and clearify a few things for you.

    First off why people take venoms over raiders w/ dissies is actually really easy to see. Both Venoms and dissie raiders have the same damage output of 1.33 MEQ killed per round. The difference is the venom has more shots, while the dissie wounds easier and goes through their armor. The problem becomes cover, and how it skews things. Even with a 5+ coversave, marines get more survivability against the dissie, while the venom doesnt care. Add in that a venom handles hordes like orks, nids, and guard blob, and the cost of a flickerfield (which is getting more and more important with how much ignore cover GW is throwing around) is already base included in the vehicle, the venom is a fair superior gun platform.

    That being said, the venom isnt the end all be all. The raider brings alot to the table. You mentioned the bigger transport capacity and the extra hullpoint, but what you really skipped over is the humble dark lance. Its weird that you mentioned the venom can only have 1 darklight shot, and then laud the dissie over it. Dark Eldar's premier anti-tank weapon is nothing but an over priced missile launcher. We all know that missiles have to be spammed to be a viable AT weapon. The raider gives you not only an extra darklight shot, but one that can be used at 36", instead of your typical venom squads 18" blaster. The squad inside normally replaces the AI that you lose from not using the venom. This helps create a balance between AI and AT that is needed for a sucessful army.

    Also as a side note, a dissie doesnt help against tanks. Even against most side armor, you need 6s to glance. S5 doesnt work as AT. Ask a tau player if you dont believe me.

    As for why people take blasters in their venom squads instead of a splinter is cannon is simple... you cant. To take a splinter cannon or even a dark lance for that matter, you need a 10 man squad. That being said it goes far deeper than that. Like I said darklight shots are glorified missile launchers. It takes an average of 3 shots to get 1 result against AV12 (hilariously the exact number on a ravager). To reliably deal with armor, you need mass darklight (and haywire support). A blaster is the cheapest and easiest way to get AT into the army, even if its only 1 shot. Spread across 5+ slots, those shots add up. Add in that S8 AP2 is amazing against MEQ and TEQ as well, its not a bad buy (even if a tad bit overpriced)

  6. Now again they arent he end all be all. I agree that a splinter cannon works amazingly well in a squad of 10 in a raider, as the tank itself doesnt add to the AI of the army. Also add that 10 warriors sitting in a ruins and area terrain can go to ground for a 2+ coversave, and still pour out AI fire like nothing since the splinter cannon can be snapfired for 6 shots, its a must on a 10 man squad. And yes, never take a dark lance. 25pts is WAY too steep in a warrior squad (now a trueborn squad... thats a different animal)

    Scourges are a below average unit in the FA slot. Your best bet for out of Elite/HS slots for AT are actually reavers. They are a fast, druable platform that can easily get 3 blasters or heat lances. Add in their bladevane and decent combat ability, and you got yourself the best FA slot you can get (well... really a toss up between them and beasts... but yeah)

    I love nightshields and use them alot. But your concept of them is skewed. Yes, they work wonderfully against tau. But most AT outranges you. Nightshields true purpose is to keep you out of doubletap/melta range. That is where they really shine. The problem with nightshields is now that you can premeasure, if you have elements that dont have nightshields (reavers, allied Eldar bikes, foot units) They draw more fire towards them due to the simple fact that you can check to see if the nightshielded unit is in range before you delcare shots. My opinion is that its either all nigthshields or none at all. Most people choose not to buy them and use those points elsewhere (most likely another squad, which adds target saturation)

    Well I hope that clears some things up and lets you see alittle more into the twisted mind of your dark cousins. If you ever what to stop by, TDC has a thriving CWE community as well, and we are always looking for more bright minds to contribute on both sides of the webway.