This is part two of my four part series covering different types of Eldar armies and how they will transition into 6th with the new Codex. This post will cover an Eldar army comprised entirely of models on foot, affectionately called "Footdar."
While Mechdar is all about maxing out on as many Grav Tanks as you can, using their mobility and firepower to achieve victory, Footdar are about flooding the field with models on foot that are either (1) so resilient that no normal amount of firepower or combat can dislodge them; (2) are so numerous that no normal amount of shooting or combat can hope to remove them all from the table; or, (3) a combination of the above. Examples in the first category include Wraith units, Stealth/Shrouded units like Rangers/Pathfinders and Harlequins while examples in the latter category include Guardians, Dire Avengers and Aspect Warriors. Ultimately, Footdar can be built in so many different ways that I'll just go over some basics and cover the units most likely to be seen in this type of army followed by a sample list. I will give a more detailed overview with the HQ/Troop options as they are more integral to a Footdar army and the other options will get more of a general gloss over since really, how you build your army comes down to personal preference/meta.
So what did a typical Footdar army look like and what will it evolve into with the new Codex and 6th edition rules?
Mainly, by skimping out on the Vehicles in the Eldar codex, you were able to put a lot more bodies on the table which allowed you to sort of balance out the lack of mobility and forgo the protection that transport vehicles often provided.
-The Guardian/Dire Avenger heavy armies were most likely lead by Eldrad/Avatar where the Avatar was Fortuned for maximum survivability and to ensure a perpetual Fearless bubble while the ground units either tarpitted other units in combat or shot them up with the cunning use of Shuriken weaponry and the odd support weapon shot here and there. Wraithlords were thrown in for good measure to add some much needed long ranged fire support and close combat potential and when Harlequins became available, they were usually in the mix as well.
-The Ranger/Pathfinder army focused on taking a lot of units that would ultimately have a 2+ cover save and annoy people by not ever dying to shooting so close combat was the only way to dislodge these units. However, with proper close combat support from units like Harlequins and maybe even some Wraithlords, this army was dangerous at range and in close quarters.
-The Wraithguard army focused on having a few units of Wraithguard with Farseers for Fortune, Wraithlords for long ranged fire support and perhaps a Harlequin unit or two for counter-charge duty. This army was successful due to the sheer resilience a wall of T6 3+ save models with Fortune up could be so dislodging them from objectives or getting killpoints from them was virtually impossible. Also, the army had a super effective kill zone if an enemy got too close. This was my favorite army to play and I did very well with it, despite what the internet had to say about Wraithguard in general.
Now with 6th and the new Codex in play, we have a lot more to work with when making a Footdar army. For starters, a lot of our units got cheaper and/or more effective for this style of play. To effectively discuss this topic, I'll focus on three major areas that I'll discuss individually then apply them to unit entries that players will most likely use for a Footdar army. These topics are: Mobility, survivability, and offensive capability.
Mobility is important because (1) there are objectives on the table (usually) that you want to get to; (2) there are enemy units you sometimes want to avoid; and, (3) there are enemy units you want to get near so that you can either shoot them or charge them. Footdar players will have to focus on these three concepts when moving their forces as they are more limited than faster (mechanized) armies in how fast/effectively they can get to certain places on the table. Therefore, every move of a unit needs to have the "end game" in mind; that is, where will this unit be at the end of the game to let me win? If you can afford to stay in your deployment zone, then you don't need to worry so much about moving that unit. However, if you want a unit on an objective in the enemy deployment zone by the end of the game, you'll need to worry a whole lot about movement because you'll have to make sure the unit can get where it needs to go with minimal interference from enemy units. This means using other units you have to destroy, tarpit, or divert enemy units/shooting that would otherwise get in the way. Think of Footdar as a sports team where units that can stay back are like the defense trying to hinder/keep enemy units from getting near your objectives while the units that need to move into enemy territory are the offense and with proper support, can score a point on the enemy. Consequently, I'll point out which units are better on the offense vs defense as I discuss them.
Wrapping up my discussion on mobility, there are 2 specific rules that interact together quite nicely that change everything about how many units in a Footdar army will move on the table. These rules are Battle Focus, which allows us to run then shoot or shoot then run, and Fleet, which lets us re-roll run and charge distances. Most of our units can now move 6+d6" with a re-roll on the d6" part without having to sacrifice shooting at a target. I say most because Rangers can't run and shoot their Sniper Rifles, though they can with their Pistols, and Wraith units don't have Battle Focus or Fleet. Still, these rules make Guardians/Dire avengers and many Aspect Warriors more maneuverable, survivable and lethal. All of this will be discussed in greater detail with individual unit entries but the main point I want to drive home is that a Footdar player has to keep in mind where he wants his units to shoot/assault to accomplish the end game goal of victory. Targeting the right enemy units and moving into the right position on the table is the only way to accomplish this and Battle Focus with Fleet go a long way to help us in this matter.
Traditionally, many units relied on Conceal, Fortune, Wargear or numbers to be survivable. Now in 6th, with our new Codex, what do we have to work with that can help us improve unit survivability? After all, Conceal is no longer available to every unit that previously could have Warlocks, Fortune is randomly generated so it cannot be relied upon and a lot of our Wargear changed. Well, for starters, a lot of our units got better stats, rules, Wargear or just plain cheaper to compensate for the changes in 6th and the new codex. Increased WS to 4 means units that were WS3 are hit less easily; Battle Focus and Fleet means that we can put an extra d6" between an enemy unit and our own units so we don't have to make the choice of shoot and die or run and live as often as we had to; majority of our units got cheaper so we can field bigger units than we previously did; certain wargear options have changed to be more protective and the list goes on...
I'll discuss how each unit can be made more survivable in their individual discussions but overall, hugging cover, limiting enemy Line of Sight to your units and all around better play is what it will take to make a Footdar army work.
-First, as briefly mentioned in the mobility and survivability topics above, the Fleet and Battle Focus rules play a huge part in offensive capability for a lot of our units. As an example, people always gripe about some of our weapons only being 12" but if you think about it, Guardians, Fire Dragons, Warp Spiders and any other unit with the Fleet/Battle Focus rule actually has a respectable threat range because now they can add d6" to their weapon's range or get close and put d6" of distance between them and enemy units, all with a re-roll (thanks to Fleet). Ultimately, most of our units can now operate as mini Jetbikes with an additional d6" of movement and any Eldar player worth his salt knows how awesome our Jetbike movement in the assault phase is. Using this extra movement, you can get just into range of an enemy unit, light them up and then if the enemy gets too close, run away thereby always being in range of your weapons while not ever being close enough for the enemy to do any meaningful damage.
This last concept I just described is something I can see good Eldar players pulling off to deadly effect. It will look like our units going close to enemy units to get in range of shooting, then running away when the enemy gets close and essentially kiting them to their death. I will have to write a special article for this tactic alone as I can see it as being an awesome Eldar strategy.
-Second, WS/BS4 across the board for all of our units that were WS/BS3 is another huge buff to our offensive capability. No longer do our units get hit on a 3+ by most things in the game and no longer do we have to rely on Guide to get an effective shooting phase out of our units. Remember that even though Fortune/Doom are randomly generated, we still have easy access to 2 "guides" through Guide and Prescience so 2 Farseers can buff 4 units with re-rolls while potentially throwing down a 3rd buff from Runes of Fate or Divination. Ultimately, this upgrade means we hit more and therefore do more damage which is always a good thing.
-Third, buffs to many of our weapons, cheaper/better weapon options and cheaper units in general make for a more lethal and effective shooting/combat phase. Shuriken, Monofilament and Reaper weapons, amongst other wargear and options, come together to ensure that many units we have can pose a significant threat to any unit your opponent can throw at you. Specifically, Shuriken weapons auto-wound on a roll of 6 to-wound while becoming AP2 so MCs, Meqs and Teqs beware. Monofilament is resolved at +1S against I3 or less units while being AP1 on a roll of 6 to wound. Reapers have access to Krack Missiles that ignore Jink saves so we can spam S8 in a single unit. The list goes on but I think it's best to dig deeper in my discussions of individual units with access to the upgraded rules/wargear.
Composition of a Footdar army:
Now that we kind of understand what Footdar was before and how 6th and the new Codex has changed our army in general, lets move on to talking about individual units themselves and how they fit into a Footdar army along with how they were buffed in their own way...
We have many options for HQ but only a few really help a Foot army out that much. What you really want in an HQ is one that can support and increase the effectiveness of your army in general. Therefore, there are only really a few options that really appeal, namely the Farseer, Spiritseer or Avatar.
More expensive but gets 1 more wound, access to Exarch powers and gains Battle Focus/Fleet. Pretty useful for a Fearless bubble if you can keep him alive and he is more likely to get into combat as well. He can throw his Spear twice with Fast Shot which is cute as well.
If you want Wraithguard as troops and access to some awesome Warlock powers, this is a good option. You don't get Ghosthelm or any other real options but it's still a solid utility character. Also useful for giving Warlock buffs to other units that normally can't take Warlock powers since it is an IC and can join Aspect Warriors and so on.
Every army needs units that can claim objectives and these are the units we have to work with...
Since Guardians are the civilians of Craftworld Eldar, they are not the best Eldar have to offer us in terms of survivability/offense but they are a cheap and effective toolkit for any particular role your army might need. They have increased utility, flexibility and options in the new Codex so I'll discuss each type of Guaridian (Defender/Storm) individually below.
One thing I want to point out is how people continually gripe about the Guardian Catapult being only 12" but you never bought Guardians for their Catapults just like you never bought Guardsmen for their Lasguns...You bought them for the Weapon Platform and Scoring status and now that their Shuriken weapons can actually do a lot of damage, that's just icing on the cake. Plus, keep in mind that all Guardian weapons now essentially get +d6" to their range. For those that still want to complain about Guardian Catapults being 12", if you really want to kill stuff with Shuriken weapons, take Dire Avengers instead...For everyone else that wants a decently survivable unit with 1 or 2 BS4 heavy weapons that can move/run and shoot, take Guardians.
building the defenders:
When putting together a Defender squad, I try to think of what kind of shooting my army could use the most. If you want anti tank, because Guardians are BS4 now, a Brightlance or Eldar Missile Launcher is not a bad idea. However, I still think the best option for the Defenders is a Scatter Laser because it can help threaten light vehicles at range and if you want to shoot your Catapults at an infantry unit, you are not wasting a Bright Lance shot that might prefer shooting at another vehicle or MC. A 10 man unit with Scatter Laser and Warlock comes out to about 145 which is pretty good for what you end up with, not the cheapest but rather survivable and has decent damage potential.
Bringing the Storm:
Ultimately, if you need an anti-tank unit, 10 with 2 Fusion guns and a Warlock with a Spear isn't a bad way to go. If you need anti infantry, 2 flamers would work as well. Though, I don't see how these guys can ever be superior to a simple Fire Dragon unit with a Flamer, I'd skip these guys all together as they are a unit that doesn't really offer much of anything to a Footdar list that other units can do better.
Building your Dire Avengers:
There really isn't much variety in how to build these guys...You mainly just want a lot of decently ranged S4 "rending" shots so a simple squad of 10 works just fine. Conversely, if you want a little extra protection or you KNOW you will be facing things that ignore your armor and cover (like Hell Drakes), an Exarch with Shimmer Shield isn't a bad idea as it will give you a model that can give the unit a 5+ invul and get get a 3+ invul himself in challenges to protect your units from super killy things like Demon Princes that would otherwise destroy such a unit.
In the old codex, these guys had nifty rules that let your shot be AP1 on a to-hit roll of 6 and came with Stealth, move through cover and all that jazz. Now, they are a lot cheaper but only offer us the base Sniper rules with Stealth, move through cover and infiltrate. Still a nice place to have some Sniper weapons and a decently priced unit for what you get. Can be upgraded to Pathfinders if you take Illic but I am not sure that is worth-while, no matter how fun 5+ Precision shots are. Otherwise, a very static backfield kind of unit to plunk down on an objective in cover.
As discussed above, our standard Wraith infantry. They are ultimately cheaper and have more effective guns as S10 essentially still wounds everything on a 2+ while their weapons can Instant-kill anything on a to-wound roll of 6 (so multiple wound T6 models beware). Also, S10 is easier to penetrate vehicles with so rather than always glancing on 3-4 and penetrating on 5-6, you get a sort of scaling bonus to armor pen for armor weaker than 14. The other options that Wraithguard now have are super cool too. D-Scythe, while costing a bit much per model, is a very solid upgrade as it can still auto-pen or Instant kill on a 6 as well as do a lot of damage to tightly packed infantry/vehicles. It is also an annoying unit to charge with d3 S4 AP2 shots per model.
Ultimately, you can spam multiple units of 5 Wraithguard with different weapon options but if you are walking, one or two units of 10 with a Spiritseer/Farseer in them is sufficient. Still, I'll probably wait until the Iyanden supplement comes out to build a Wraith-centric army.
Close Combat elements:
Every army may need to face threats in Close Combat and this is still a part of the game last I checked. Some armies focus entirely on this part of the game (mainly Demons) so having a solid close combat element is never a bad idea...
These guys got quite an overhaul in that they now come with Stealth, Infiltrate and Move Through Cover. The fact that the Exarch can now take a Fist that is not Unwieldy or a Specialist weapon is huge too as we have a unit that can deal with hordes and power armor equally well. The Exarch is going to trash many Sgt. type upgrade models in a challenge as well so that fist/power weapon wielding Sgt. in a Space Marine unit won't be doing much while it gets its face smashed in by the Exarch leaving the rest of the unit free to trash the unit with their flurry of S4 attacks. An 8-10 unit with Exarch, Fist and whatever powers you want is a solid option and I think Scorpions may surpass Harlequins in terms of survivability/mobility and offensive power.
Well.. They exist. No grenades or real way to get them into combat is a problem. They can be a good counter-charge unit if you hide them and then move them out to charge whatever is already engaged with you, though they are still only AP3 and don't have any great abilities. I really see this unit as a counter-charge unit more than anything so their application will be limited and unique. A Spiritseer with +1 S, +1 Save or +1 ws/I might be a good addition as will a Warlock casting -1 armor save on the intended target thereby making Terminators easy prey for the Banshees. If you really want to take this unit, 8-10 strong with Exarch and Executioner is probably the way to go.
Every army needs some support elements in the form of units that can take out particular targets. Whether it is extra anti-infantry or anti-tank, the Footdar need more than just their Harlequins and Guardians running around...They need some solid specialist units that can engage key targets effectively..
This is a very mobile and multi-purpose unit in a sense. It can spam S3 shots at 24" and when it Deepstrikes it doesn't scatter and you can throw down a S4 AP4 small/large Blast that ignores cover. It has Hit & Run and can enter ongoing reserves on a turn it didn't Deepstrike which adds to the utility of the Grenade pack. Haywire Grenades are nice for undefended vehicles as well, although I think Storm Guardians and other Aspects should have had access to Haywire. A Decent anti-infantry and vehicle unit for a decent points cost, though you might as well take Warp Spiders...
Much cheaper and much deadlier. Weapons are now S7 against I3 or less (which includes most every Vehicle). Very mobile with a lot of options in how they can move between Warp Jump and regular Jetpack movement. This is a solid harassment unit that is likely to take out vulnerable infantry units and vehicles (as you can easily jump behind things and get rear armor then run away).
Now that they have Slow & Purposeful they can move and shoot and that means you can also move
them into position with a Wave Serpent and still shoot when you disembark. Options for Krack Missiles is a definite plus as is ignoring Jink saves. I think this is a very solid Fire Support unit for Footdar and is as close to Longfangs as we can get.
Vaul's Wraith Weapon Battery:
Used to be useless but now they give us interesting options. Blast with Monofilament, Blast with Distort rules, or Vibro with the potential to get 3 S9 AP2 shots...Interesting if you can get a Warlock in the unit with Conceal or +1 armor save but you might as well just take something else, honestly.
Our only Walker which boasts a considerable amount of firepower for a decent cost. Two Scatter Lasers per Walker at BS4 and Guide are going to add a lot of long ranged fire support for your army. Beware of Av10 and 2 HP...2 Brightlances each and Outflanking them isn't a terrible option though as BS4 means you don't have to rely on Guide to be effective.
A solid fire support unit that can add utility with 2 Flamers and some solid CC punch. Now you don't
A bigger Wraithlord that offers some unique weapon options and mobility on a MC. This model is sure to attract a lot of shooting that would otherwise be directed at your other units so in that sense, not a bad idea. Think of it as our Tyranofex with a Jump Pack.
So with all of those options touched on, what would a typical Footdar army look like?
Explanation: Farseer is just there for buffs and can be an easy to hide Warlord. The Avatar is there for taking shots and giving us a fearless bubble. Fast Shot is there to make him a decent Tank Hunter and more effective in the Shooting phase. The Avatar can also hang back behind an Aegis and shoot twice with an Icharis Lascannon at BS 10...if you can fit one in.
Fire Dragons: 211
22(base)*8=176+10(Exarch)+15(Fire Pike)+10(Fast Shot)=211
18(base)*8=144+32(8 Kisses)+30(Shadow Seer)=206
Explanation: Fire Dragons are a solid and decently survivable anti-tank/MC unit for anything that gets too close. Harlequins are good CC support unit that can go toe to toe with almost anything your opponent will throw at you.
Guardian Jetbikes: 51
Explanation: decent and solid troops that typically feature in Footdar armies.
Fast Attack: 192
19(base)*8=152+10(exarch)+10(Fast Shot)+20(Spinneret Rifle)=192
Explanation: A fast harassment unit that can easily get linebreaker. Spiders can pretty much threaten any unit or Vehicle (as long as the Vehicle is not AV14 on the back).
Heavy Support: 530
-Wraith Lord: 160
-Wraith Lord: 160
-War Walkers: 210
Explanation: Wraithlords are great places for 2 Brightlances and they are good in combat against anything really. War Walkers just put out so much shooting. Both units add a lot of unique shooting to cover the army's weaknesses.
This army comes out to about 1845 and offers you a wide range of units to work with that can threaten and handle just about anything your opponent can throw at you. You get 4 Brightlances, a decent amount of Melta and a ton of anti-infantry and light vehicle shooting. You could always drop the Avatar for another Farseer and take more Troops or an Aegis as well.
One key ingredient to winning a game of 40k is having models left alive at the end of the game. If you can manage that, you've probably done something right with the surviving units/models. Beyond that, you also need to make sure you have them alive and in the right spot while making sure your opponent has less alive and those that did survive are in all the wrong spots. This is 40k in a nutshell but it is more vital for Footdar armies because you don't have much room for error in terms of positioning and targets you choose to engage. You only have between 5 and 7 turns to kill what you need to kill and get where you need to get, after all...So Footdar will have a lot more offensive capability with the new weapons and rules for our army than it previously did but it will be limited in terms of survivability since we have limited access to Fortune and such. All in all, more viable but still fragile.