Time to grab your torches and pitchforks everyone-the new Eldar codex is out and it is going to break the game! Or is it? Indeed, there is a heated debate brewing over how broken or not broken the new Eldar codex is and I wanted to take some time to discuss the issues of Eldar being "OP" and why I don't think Eldar are actually "OP" either in the older codex or this new one.
Since the last Eldar codex dropped two years ago, there have been a lot of allegations of Eldar being "OP" (overpowered). In my experience, however, there has not been much support for those allegations. Are Eldar strong? Yes, Eldar are definitely strong but I very much doubt they are "OP" in the sense that many people are using the term "OP". What does "OP" mean in a gaming context anyway? To me, saying something is "OP" in 40k seems like this nebulous concept that exists in people's minds of something that seems unfairly strong...Something that can and will beat them irrespective of skill or army composition.
Eldar are not that and on a personal note, I've found that when people lose games, they tend to blame dice, how "OP" the person's army was or maybe even the other player-I know that I've sometimes done this myself and that never got me anywhere. The times I've really grown as a player were when I got past my "nerd rage" and looked at games that I've lost and thought of ways I could have played better. Therefore, this article will discuss why I think the Eldar codex is not "OP" or going to break the game and anyone that thinks so needs to consider the following points...
The old Eldar:
Simply saying "because Serpents" or "because Wraith Knights" or "because they do well at tournaments and so many people play them" or using any amount of math/theory hammer is not enough to warrant Eldar being "OP". Saying "well, I lost because the guy took lotsa Serpents and had Wraith Knights and we all know how OP Eldar are!" is a cop-out but I've heard people say those kinds of things! Indeed, some people have a really hard time realizing they lost because they simply got out played by a better player and not because that player happened to take Wave Serpents and Wraith Knights.
Overall, yes, Wave Serpents and Wraith knights were very durable and had a strong offensive potential. Therefore, when spammed or used in combination with each other, they posed a problem for many armies. However, there were many armies that dealt just fine with Serpent Spam armies that even had up to 4 Wraith Knights and perhaps even a Seer Counsel (though those combinations were rare). Looking at the tournament scene in the past two years, while there were a lot of Eldar players, there still appeared to be a decent diversity of armies and play styles-in the top tables anyway. I even think Eldar were a minority at the top tables at the last few GTs I attended (BAO/Brawl in the Fall in 2014). White Scars/Centurion Star, Flyrants, Necrons, FMCs in general, Demons, Tau and even other Eldar all could go toe to toe with pretty much any Eldar build. And this is coming from a guy who routinely placed highly (top 3) taking a unit of Wraith Blades! Ultimately, I found that player skill went a lot farther than the army lists involved.
All this to say that there appears to be a VERY big disconnect between what people say on the internet and what we see in reality. It especially astounds me how much vitriol and general doom and gloom this recent Eldar release has garnered. Yes, the new Eldar appear to have some very strong options but to declare the game is broken is either hyperbole, at best, or an overreaction steeped in ignorance, at the worst-and neither adds anything to the discussion.
The new Eldar:
Moving on to the current and new Eldar, the biggest offenders appear to be Guardian Jetbikes able to all get heavy weapons; Wraith Knights being Gargantuan Creatures at 295 points; and, D-Weapons galore. All I can say is that in my real world experience, with many games played, I don't think these things will break the game or are even that bad for the game.
First, I want to discuss the shortcomings of leaning too heavily on math/theory-hammer and letting that be the basis for your opinion. Indeed, one can easily point out that X number of Bikes with Scatter Lasers can do Y shots which amount to Z wounds and therefore they are unstoppable/going to wipe the table. However, those numbers do not consider either (1) the skill of either player; (2) the components of each army; (3) the chance that all of those shots will actually be able to be directed at a specific target due to range/los restrictions; and, (4) various other circumstances that come up in real life game play. I certainly know that I've fallen into the trap of making a list thinking "math says I should do this many wounds a turn-it will be GLORIOUS," only to be disappointed with reality because my opponent rolled exceptionally well or I played exceptionally poorly, or any other number of circumstances! Therefore, while useful, math/theory-hammer alone should not be the basis for anyone's position or opinion-but that's just my opinion.
Jetbikes with all Heavy Weapons are not going to break the game or be THAT strong. I'd go so far as to say you probably won't even see max bikes with Scatter Lasers/Shiruken Cannons very often. First of all, I know what that kind of firepower can or cannot do having played with max Vypers/War Walkers for fun and it only goes so far. As have been pointed out, but ignored by people going "new bikes+heavy weapons are going to steamroll everything," are statements that illustrate the fragility of bikes.
Indeed, pretty much most all of my armies have had some Wind Rider presence and Bikes are not hard to kill by any stretch of the imagination. For one, large bike units have a large footprint and so they are pretty much impossible to hide completely from incoming fire. Furthermore, getting into position to get all of those shots against specific targets is easier said than done and Jetbikes in any amount can be caught and tarpited in combat. Then there is the problem of their Ld 8 which makes them vulnerable to Ld tests and Psychic Scream. Ultimately, saying "but they are so mobile and put out so many shots" is merely theory hammer and meaningless in a real world context of actual games. Wind Riders roughly have the same stats as Space Marines and we all know how easy it is to take down those guys-so what if Eldar Wind Riders can move so fast, they are rarely ever going to be out of range/los of all potential incoming fire.
Wraithknights being gargantuan creatures and costing only 295 points are not going to break the game, either. I think the main problem people have with Wraith Knights is how durable they can be and the ranged D weapons don't help either (but see below on D weapons). Personally, I don't think Wraith Knights would be worth it at any price point beyond 350 points and many, if not all, of the existing Gargantuan creatures are probably over priced for what they do.
One Wraith Knight is not going to be a big deal and without any limitations, the only way to get multiple Wraith Knights is either in the Craft World formations or taking multiple detachments-all of which have their own limitations/taxes that ensure you can't have THAT many. In average points limits, at most, you could reasonably spam 3-4 Wraith Knights and such armies won't do well in a competitive context against good players for the same reason that armies of 5 Knights are not dominating the Meta.
Anyway, from Grav Weapons to Psychic Shrieks to Rending and generally a lot of incoming fire, Gargantuan Creatures are not THAT hard to take down. I know-I've played with and against them in various circumstances. So with that in mind, with ITC rulings in place-limiting Wraith Knights to 1 per army and adjusting what Destroyer Weapons do will go a long way to preventing Wraith Knights from having any hope of dominating the meta. Overall, I maintain that no matter how many Wraithknights/ranged D weapons would be permitted, a good player would be able to deal with it and still win the game.
D Weapons readily available on various models/units won't break the game either-but this where I can most readily sympathize with people as D weapons in 40k don't sit well with me in general. After all, nobody likes having their models removed from the table for no other reason than a "6" was rolled. Heck, even in Monopoly, when you get a "do not pass go, go directly to jail" card, you can still have a chance to get out of Jail, but not with D Weapons! So as it stands, with how D weapons work, are they that bad in the Eldar army? Personally, I don't think so.
There are two main points to why I don't think ranged D is that big of a deal in the new Eldar codex. The first point is that the models/units that can take D weapons are no where near as durable as some of the other problem units. The second point is that the models/units that can take D weapons won't be getting as many shots/inflicting as many hits as some of the other problem units can.
Indeed, regarding the first point, there are several limitations on how D weapons work in the Eldar codex that are not necessarily present on some of the other big offenders like Revenants, Lynx and anything with Titan Holofields. For starters, nothing in the Eldar codex that has D weapons is as durable as a Lynx or some of the other platforms that D Weapons are available on. Everything that can have D weapons in the Eldar codex can be destroyed relatively easily-just like any other model in any other codex and I'll analyze below in greater detail each model/unit that can take D weapons.
Regarding my second point, the amount of hits that can be scored-over the course of an average game-and consequently the number of "6" results that one can expect to see are not as much as would be had by some of the other platforms with D weapons. This second point is true because typical platforms with ranged D weapons can fling out rather large blasts/templates (i.e., Hellstorm, Large Blast, Apocalyptic Barrage) which can cover multiple models/whole units. In some, and actually many cases, the worst offenders can fling out multiple blasts/templates at a decent range. Eldar units, on the other hand, are limited to either only affecting a single model per shot (like Wraith Cannons/Heavy Wraith Cannons) or are limited to pretty much engaging a single target once per game due to a limited mobility/range and survivability.
So lets analyze what models/units in the Eldar codex can take D weapons..
The Wraith Knight can have 2 36" Destroyer shots. Over the course of an average game, that's 10-12 shots per Wraith Knight, that survives until turn 5/6 and Wraith Knights can be tarpited in combat or killed much easier than typical D slinging platforms limiting the incoming number of Destroyer shots. Overall, you still have to roll to-hit for each shot and then roll on the Destroyer table. There are still a lot of chances along the way for the Wraith Knight's shooting to be ineffective (if it misses, rolls a 1 on the Destroyer chart or rolls a 1 on the d3 wounds) but there are now more of a chance for it to be more devastating (i.e., on the 2-5 Destroyer table result, rolling 2-3 and ultimately getting that "6" result) . Overall, Wraith Knight shooting is stronger, but I don't think by THAT much and if Destroyer Weapons have their rules toned down in ITC I don't think we'll have much complaints.
The Wraith Fighter has 2 18" Destroyer blasts that suffer a -1 on the Destroyer chart so you never have to worry about that "6" result on the Destroyer table-which means you will always get cover/invul saves against it. True, it has mobility to get anywhere it wants but its still a Wraith Fighter; meaning nobody in their right mind will take one. It simply costs too much for what it does and is so easy to kill.
Vaul's Wrath Artillery:
Vaul's Wrath Artillery have 24" Destroyer blasts which are pretty strong but they are still only 24", not very mobile (can't move and shoot) and are on Eldar Artillery... Seriously, if you have stuff die to Vaul's Wrath Batteries, either you deserve it or something went terribly wrong for you somewhere in the game.
Wraith Guard w/ Wraith Cannons:
Wraith Guard with Wraith Cannons can each fire a single Destroyer shot at 12". The most limiting factors here are that (1) you still have to roll to hit for each model; (2) you also have to roll for each hit separately on the Destroyer Table-which still leaves the possibility of the weapons either not doing anything or only getting 1 wound/HP per shot (i.e., more random rolls along the way); and, (3) you have a very short range so getting into position will be a challenge. Really, either you have to rely on Serpents to get to your target and risk getting shot down on the way or you have to rely on Dark Eldar Allies with a WWP to get 5+ Wraith Guard in a Wave Serpent (probably the best option) or 6+ Wraith Guard with no Wave Serpent into position. Special mention should be made to the Gate of Infinity Psychic Power which would potentially allow for Eldar units to get into position and wreck stuff multiple times over the course of a game but that is not a sure shot by any means (as you have to roll to get the power and then roll to get the power off with opponent not denying it).
Wraith Guard w/ D-Scythes:
Unlike Wraith Guard with D-Cannons-or any other option in the Eldar codex, Wraith Guard with D-Scythes each fire a template of DoOm. Yes, Wraith Guard with D-Scythes will absolutely erase whatever they target with an almost absolute certainty-something the above options can't boast as well as these guys-and this unit is where the biggest problem lies in the Eldar codex. Going from S4 and only Pen/Instant Death on a 6 to always auto wound/pen with d3 wounds/HP is absolutely brutal and D-Scythe equipped Wraith Guard gained the most benefit out of any other Destroyer wielding Eldar options. However, as discussed with the Wraith Cannon equipped Wraith Guard above, while getting these guys into position won't be terribly hard-once deployed, they are pretty much done for the game and will likely be wiped out with retaliatory shooting/combat (yes, please charge my D-Scythes lol...). Worth mentioning is how you will always get your invulnerable saves against D-Scythes as well, which makes them not AS scary and will be expounded upon below.
Dealing with D Weapons:
So with all of that said, while Destroyer Weapons are readily available on multiple Eldar units now, there are still plenty of ways to prepare for and deal with them. For example, keeping vulnerable targets in reserves, bubble wrapping vulnerable targets, having strong interceptor shooting or even invulnerable saves will go a long way to mitigate or eliminate the threat of Eldar D weapons (good invul saves specifically against D-Scythes). Heck, even spreading out as much as possible goes a long way to deal with D-Scythes. Against Wraith Cannons on the Wraith Knight, those are just 2 shots a turn you have to be careful of but that just means that the Wraith Knight will be target priority #1 for you.
Also worth considering is how there is an added level of "random" for how you can expect to see Wraith Guard fielded. This is because Wraith units coming in via Reserves/WWP might come in too early; or, on a turn where there are no good targets; or, too late in the game when their desired target is either in locked in combat or has already done its damage.
Ultimately, I still dislike D weapons in 40k so I propose changing all D weapons to doing nothing on a 1 while on a 2-6 doing a single auto-pen/auto-wound.
To close out this discussion, in several Eldar rumor threads, various people have accused me of wantonly casting aside arguments for why "Eldar are OP, no skill required, end of world-math hammer FTW says so" and in turn only hearing "L2P" from me. Well, if Eldar are giving you a hard time, learn to play against them-they are definitely not unbeatable and definitely won't break the game.
After all, part of the game is building a list that can handle the strongest things other players can throw at you so if you find your list unable to compete, maybe the problem is with your list or skill level rather than Eldar being OP. However, if players find that what the Eldar can bring to the table is too strong, then house rule things to be toned down, forge your own narrative! Personally, I imagine that many tournaments will consider implementing limitations on how many Wraith Knights can be taken (likely 1) as well as how ranged D weapons will function in the game in general, which would resolve any problems with Eldar D weapons.
So yes, Eldar have some strong options, but I don't foresee them breaking the game and look forward to some of the fresh and new ways to play Eldar.