Friday, June 21, 2013

winds of change part 3: Transitioning Jetbike Eldar into 6th with the new codex

Traditionally, Jetbike Eldar have always been sort of weak on the offense, fragile, but very sneaky and maneuverable. With 6th Edition and the new Codex, a lot has changed in that they are even more maneuverable and became quite resilient while packing quite a punch.

Jetbike Eldar are unique in that they fit somewhere between Footdar and Mechdar in terms of firepower and resilience while being superior in terms of maneuverability. Specifically, they used to have a mediocre set of WS/BS3 stats while relying on cover to get from place to place and you didn't really have access to much in terms of anti-tank and so on. Now, thanks to 6th and the new codex, you can bring your cover with you in the form of Jink saves and you get a nice bonus to offensive power thanks to the increase to WS/BS4, Bladestorm not to mention becoming A LOT cheaper points-wise. Another point to consider is how you cannot contest/claim objectives while embarked on a transport so having a natural scoring/denial unit with the mobility of Jetbikes is huge. Put it all together and you have a formula for pure win.

Jetdar Flash-back:
A typical Jetbike focused army pays homage to the Saim-Hann Craftworld that focuses on Jetbikes, Vypers and other generally fragile units to do damage and get/deny objectives. This army usually had 2 Autarchs to keep everything in reserves to enter play later on in the game where they could focus on vulnerable enemy positions while limiting incoming enemy fire. This tactic worked very well and was very fun to pull off but you really had to work for your wins and hope your opponent's dice were not super good as that would shut your army down. An example of a battle report in the old codex/rules can be found here and that was how I typically played the army. But now that a new edition and Codex are here, what does that mean for Jetbike armies?

Jet-setting with Jetbikes:
First, the game is fundamentally different so how the army can be played must be different. Namely, the survivability, offensive capabilities and maneuverability of the army has really changed a lot and I'll discuss these three topics in greater detail below and in individual unit entries.

Survivability is more important for a Jetbike army because you cannot start the game with everything in reserves-you must have at least half of your army on the table which means that you can start losing models first turn rather than your 2nd or opponent's 3rd. This is huge because how you build your list will need to take this into consideration and you'll need more durable units to start on the table in order to avoid giving up First Blood and to survive until the end of the game. Therefore, survivability will be an important consideration in terms of army list design and how you use your units but because a lot of our units got a lot cheaper and we have access to certain buffs, this can easily be mitigated against by simply taking larger units and those available buffs.

Offensive capability:
The offensive capability of a Jetbike style army has gotten quite a face-lift, that's for sure. Typically, Jetbike units were in the list because they were cool and fluffy while sometimes they killed stuff but you really needed to rely on other units in the army to do your heavy lifting in terms of offense because BS3 S4 shots only got you so far. Now, you can have a lot more Jetbikes because they are cheaper and since they are BS4 with Bladestorm, they can reliably threaten anything with a Toughness value. Furthermore, other support units like Vypers, Fire Prisms/Nightspinners and Warp Spiders have gone up in offensive power/utility. Put it all together and you have new changes that ensure the killing power of a Jetbike Eldar army are much higher than ever before.

Jetbikes were always as fast or faster than anything else in the game. Previously you could Turbo Boost 24" to get away from an opponent closing in on your position or simply go 12" in the Movement phase plus 6" in the Assault phase. Now, you can move 12" in the Movement phase then Turbo Boost 36"in the Assault phase for a total of 48" or you can move 12" in the Movement phase and go 2d6" in the Assault phase. This means that bottom line, nothing in the game can go as fast/far as our Jetbikes. In any game I have ever used Jetbikes, their maneuverability has always amazed me. Other units ended up getting faster in 6th as well so I'll go over them individually below. One thing I want to point out, however, is that since Turbo Boosting is in the Shooting phase, you can cast Blessings/Maledictions and still Turbo so casting Conceal on a Windrider unit still means you can Turbo for a 2+ Jink save.

Putting the army together:
Now that I've gone over some very basic changes and principles of Jetbike Eldar, what do we have to work with in terms of HQ units, Scoring units and support units?

HQ units:
Previously the main options Jetbike Eldar used for HQ were one or two Autarchs for the reserves bonus or a Farseer on a Jetbike for some Guide/Fortune goodness. Not much has changed but dual Autarchs is not really optimal now with the fact that Autarch bonuses no longer stack, changes to reserves (in terms of how much of your army you can reserve and the rolls needed). Therefore, having a single Autarch or simply a Farseer around will suffice and I'll go over the pros and cons of both below:

Autarch or Farseer?
So these are the basic choices we have since these are the only models that can take a Jetbike and be our Warlord in the HQ slot. If you take an Autarch, he gives you the Reserves manipulation bonus along with some decent CC potential and with the Mantle of the Laughing god, he becomes no laughing matter for your opponent. If you take a Farseer, you get the ability to Guide 2 units (Guide/Prescience) along with whatever other power you roll and he can also get a Singing Spear for a S9 shot while still being able to take a Mantle as well.

Ultimately, it's your choice and comes down to if you'd rather have a combat machine or buffing machine or both.

These guys fit very nicely in a Windrider unit because their Primaris power gives them Conceal for a 3+ or even 2+ Jink save. If you roll the +1 armor save power, that's not bad either. They can also take a Singing Spear for some nice extra anti-tank as well. All in all, a very nice support piece for Jetbike units.

Scoring units:
Every army needs something to claim objectives with and Jetbike Eldar have some of the best choices in the game...

Windrider Jetbikes:
These guys are probably one of the best scoring units in the game right now. Dropping to 17 points from 22 and gaining WS/BS4 with Bladestorm on top of the already phenomenal mobility Eldar Jetbikes possess means that you are getting one heck of a bang for your buck. Everything that was "bad" about these guys was taken away in the new rules...You have much better survivability thanks to Jink and the option of Conceal, you have much better maneuverability as I discussed above and you have much better killing power since S4 shots that can suddenly become AP2 and wound any Toughness value is pretty scary.

So basically, the way you use these guys is to either stay in reserves and then come on and Turbo Boost to a place they will be useful next turn or start the game on the table (but as hidden as possible) then move into position. Ultimately, you want to stay out of LOS as much as possible until you can get in range of your weapons and all the while moving within 24" to use the Cannons then move 2d6" away in the Assault phase to get out of danger. If you need to pull a hail marry or focus your whole army on a target, you can get within 12" to shoot up a target with twin linked BS4 Catapults and then still move 2d6" away. When the game starts winding up, you can use a nice Turbo move to get onto an objective that you cunningly placed in some remote/obscure area the opponent would be hard pressed to get to and win the game. What's not to love? For me, the Shuriken weapons were always fun to pepper my opponent's with but now that these weapons can actually do some crazy damage, getting up close to shoot the Catapults is a viable strategy.

Close combat:
Every army needs to have some plan with how to handle Close Combat. Either you ignore it all together and avoid it all game long or you get some units that can engage other units and come out on top. A typical Jetbike army will avoid CC at all costs and it has the mobility to do it, however, sometimes it is very handy to have a unit or two you can throw at the enemy to engage/eliminate them in close quarters combat. I'm talking about certain units that are not the most viable to shoot down (2+ cover saves) or that you want dead but otherwise failed to destroy from shooting or isolated and vulnerable units to a good charge such as Lootas, Pathfinders, Kroot or even Longfang type units.

Shining Spears:
These guys are probably one of the only real CC options we have for a Jetbike style army aside from an Autarch. In the new Codex, they went down 10 points and come with Skilled Rider/Outflank but sadly only have 1 CCW and no Grenades...Therefore, Shining Spears are not something you want to charge into a 30 strong mob of Orks or main line unit. These guys are there for harassing and destroying otherwise vulnerable infantry units or vehicles while the Exarch's S8 Spear option gives the unit something that can threaten tougher vehicles or even MCs. Indeed, the fact that the Exarch has access to Monster Hunter hints at the fact that this unit may be very good at taking out exposed MCs.

So what to do with these guys? Ultimately, a unit of 5 Shining Spears with an Exarch that has the Star Lance, Monster Hunter and Hit & Run will only run you about 160ish points which is not bad considering a similar load-out was over 252 points previously. Still, I miss the Shiruken Cannon option for the Exarch and such but this is still a decent unit you can throw at the flank of an opponent and hope for the best.

Support units:
Every army needs a helping hand in some area and Eldar are chalk full of great units that can do almost anything. A Jetbike army especially needs some help in the anti-tank or longer ranged anti-infantry department. That is where units such as Fire Dragons, Warp Spiders, Vypers and other Grav tanks from the Heavy slot come in...

Fire Dragons:
The consumate anti tank/MC unit with a Fusion gun per model. They took a hit by increasing 6 points but gained a 3+ save and Battle Focus so that is probably a good trade-off as you are more likely to get within 6" Melta range and survive whatever will be shooting you after you kill your target dead. A 5 strong unit is sufficient but with how expensive they already are, a small extra investment in an Exarch with Firepike/Crackshot might not be a bad idea as that essentially adds the power of 2-3+ other Fire Dragons by virtue of being BS5 and having a longer range. Therefore, a simple 5 strong unit with Exarch in a Serpent should be a good unit to throw at a particular target you know will give you a hard time such as a Land Raider. It's always good to have one unit like this around!

Warp Spiders:
Great mobility, firepower and pretty survivable with a 3+ save and the ability to get out of harms way with their mobility. Their gun is S6 but it becomes S7 against anything I3 or less which is a lot of things, especially vehicles. They also become AP1 on a wound roll of 6 so Monofilament weapons, along with Shuriken weapons, can really threaten any unit/MC in the game. A nice utility unit to get side/rear shots and then run away and at the very least, they are a great denial unit. 5-8 strong with an Exarch is all you need.

These guys are essentially the same cost as they were but can now shoot 2 weapons if they move 12" and have BS 4 so they are much better in general. Take a Scatter Laser Turret weapon for the Laser Lock rule and an underslung Shuriken Cannon and you have a very accurate platform with 7 shots each. This is my favorite way to run Vypers as they have the mobility to get side/rear shots a. With Vypers, you will get a lot of accurate, longish ranged anti-infantry or light vehicle shooting and if you stay behind cover effectively, you can stick around for a long time. Holofields are a worthwhile investment if you know you will be playing with Ruins for a tasty 3+ Cover save. Also, a Crystal Targeting Matrix might be fun to try out if you keep the Vypers in Reserve and then come on 30" for some Rear Armor shots.

Fire Prisms:
This fills the roll of long ranged anti-anything. You can choose any type of blast to suit your needs and no need for combining shots anymore. Ultimately, these have been more of a miss than hit for me but they still have a lot of potential for any army. Before I recommended taking 2 for the combined fire, now I recommend taking one with 2 Night Spinners.

Night Spinners:
The new rules breathed new life into this tank for me. Being S8 against vehicles and the fact that you can easily line up a barrage shot on rear armor and how barrage naturally hits side armor makes this a very effective unit to take out other vehicles and even infantry formations. Being able to use a Torrent mode of fire is especially nice for when you want to ignore cover and get a bunch of tightly packed models/vehicles.

Sample Army list:

HQ: 260

70(base)+15(bike)+10(Fusion Gun)+10(Laser Lance)+40(Mantle of Laughing god)+5(Banshee Mask)=150


Explanation: Autarch is there for reserves manipulation/harassment while the Warlocks join the 6 man Jetbike squads to provide Conceal and a S9 Spear. Keep in mind that an Autarch can charge with the Shining Spears bringing the target's I down by 5 (via the Banshee Mask) to help offset the lack of Grenades in the Shining Spears.

Elites: 295

Fire Dragons:145
22(base)*5=110+10(Exarch)+15(Fire Pike)+10(Fast Shot)=145
Wave Serpent:150
115(base)+5(Scatter Laser)+15(Holofields)+15(Vectored Engines)=150

Explanation: Fire Dragons have always been a solid go-to unit for making sure a vehicle or MC you need dead gets dead. More expensive this edition but still solid. Vectored Engines are there also to give extra movement by facing the rear of the Serpent towards the target when disembarking and then allowing the Serpent to turn so that the Rear is not exposed anymore thereby giving a decent amount of range for the Dragons.

Troops: 305

-Windrider Squadron:122

-Windrider Squadron:122

-Windrider Squadron:61

Explanation: 2 larger units of bikes will do most of the shooting and get a Warlock for some Conceal and a S9 Spear while the smaller unit of bikes will be held in reserves to sneak on and get objectives or take potshots. Being able to move 12"+2d6" a turn allows us to move and hide or we also have the option for 48" of movement a turn when Turbo Boosting. A Warlock who casts Conceal provides a 3+ Jink or a 2+ Turbo Boost cover save for some nice survivability. As an added bonus, no worrying about getting out of transports to secure or deny objectives plus with the changed rules, these guys can put out some scary and reliable firepower.

Fast Attack: 470

-Shining Spears:190
25(base)*6=150+10(Exarch)+10(Star Lance)+15(Hit & Run)+5(Monster Hunter)=190

50(base)+10(Scatter Laser)+10(Shuriken Cannon)=70*2=140

50(base)+10(Scatter Laser)+10(Shuriken Cannon)=70*2=140

Explanation: Shining Spears got a huge buff in terms of having a much lower points cost (10 points cheaper than in the old codex) and they come with Outflank and Skilled Rider now. The Exarch is also cheaper and Hit & Run with Monster Hunter makes this unit pretty effective against otherwise more dangerous targets and is a sort of mini-doom. Sadly, no options for Shuriken Cannons like before but that just makes this unit more focused on getting into combat faster...Why no Plasma Grenades, though?

The Vypers were solid Fire Support last edition and I routinely used 2x2 Vypers with Scatter/Cannon to great effect. Now that Vypers have BS4, can move 12" and shoot 2 weapons and Scatter Lasers have Laser-Lock, this set-up became MUCH better. A Potential for 14 shots at S6 is nothing to write off, especially with their mobility. 

Heavy Support: 170

Night Spinner: 170
115(base)+15(Holofields)+25(Crystal Targeting Matrix)+15(Star Engines)=170

Explanation: The Night Spinner now adds a ton of effective anti-tank to the army because it is S8 against most vehicles and hits side armor. As an added bonus, Crystal Targeting Matrix lets you move 30" to get in position to use the Torrent Weapon when a good opportunity presents itself. All around very solid tank that can help get targets in otherwise difficult to reach places. Star Engines are there because I had 15 extra points and figured why not give yourself 6" extra to get into a better position?

Overall, this army comes down to 1500 points on the dot and gives you 3 solid scoring units with a lot of firepower. You can deal with many units and shooting things with Shuriken weapons is kinda fun now as every time you roll your dice it's like watching a slot machine of your opponent's doom being rolled...6s FTW! If you wanted to save points here you could get an additional 135 points to work with by dropping the upgrades on the Night Spinner, the Vectored Engines on the Fire Dragons, a Shining Spear and Mantle from the Autarch and get more Jetbikes or another Fire Prism/Night Spinner.

So ultimately, the Jetbike army got a lot faster in 6th and with the new Eldar codex, a lot deadlier. I remember countless times just plinking away at 2+ armor with Shuriken weapons praying for my opponent to roll those 1s but now I look forward to shredding things with the Bladestorm rule and experimenting with how a Jetbike army will work out on the table top.


  1. Night spinners lost the Twin Linked rule, right? Have you been playing this way?

    1. The Night Spinners are no longer twin-linked, correct. However, they make great targets for Guide/Prescience =).

  2. I have one problem with the jetbikes, other than that, they are victories godly angels. Mine are modeled as exodite cold one riders and led by my favorite looking units, the warlocks with singing spears, so my inclination to field them is quite strong, but with Ld 8 and only one wound a single perils of the warp sends them into oblivion as soon as they step on the table. What is one to do? Save my points for the second spiritseer and wraithforge stone?

    1. I definitely think that with the changes to Warlocks meant that they should be increased to Ld 9 or get an additional wound or some form of save from perils...Honestly, everyone getting a Ghosthelm and having it still be a 3+ save from Perils would have been good enough. As it stands, Warlocks are a liability though I must say that when I played against them they got their powers off more than not and were annoying for me to deal with. Its just that one time you get a Perils or fail the power at a clutch moment that just makes you want to smack Kelly upside the head =(.

      Ultimately, just take an extra Farseer on a bike if anything? Otherwise, nothing wrong with testing out Warlocks to see how they work out for you.

  3. Any of those things would be really nice, I'd even consider paying the points if they were upgrades.. Part of me is thinking of giving them a second chance and just using powers when they're absolutely necessary utilizing the spear more than anything else making the warlock essentially an exarch that occasionally does something cool, since shining spears just don't make sense to me as I love being able to score with my jetbikes.. and I really want to field my models!

    I don't have room for another HQ, Eldrad is my wizard holding down the wraithline and giving me maximized power selection and the ultimate devastation of a refused flank alpha strike. In my next list up for experimentation includes three spiritseers just to see what mastery level ten feels like.

    1. I saw a few battle reports with a Seer Council that had 8 Warlocks, 2 Farseers on bikes with Baron from DE and they did pretty good. Between 2+ Cover and +1 armor save the Warlocks really made the unit very strong and the other powers were pretty nice too when combined with other disciplines...For example, Horrify+Terrify is solid and so on. The problem really becomes trying to get Fortune and other useful powers.

  4. lol, let's face it, it's just fortune. Everything else is icing on the cake. I just watched that list with beastmasters curbstomp the tau. I'm definitely gonna be modeling some more dragon riders to run a saim hann style as soon as I get over some real life expenses..