Friday, July 22, 2011

Why use one codex over another? (Part 3)

When you think of what's strong and what's weak in terms of 40K codex power levels it's pretty easy to determine where certain armies lie. However, when you drop away from those top tier armies like Dark Eldar, Blood Angels and Imperial Guard it becomes slightly more difficult to tell which army is the best. Tau? Spayz Muhreeenz? Chaos Daemons? Eldar? Each force has its ultimately unmatchable extreme that is unavailable to the others. So what are these extremes, and are they worth using an army in order to access?

Codex: Eldar contains one of those armies that falls somewhere short of 'top tier,' but it does have its unique strengths:

Autarch '+1 to reserves'
Avatar 'fearless bubble'



Heavy Support
Fire Prism
War Walkers

It's really tough to single out unique Eldar units because, as we all know, every Eldar unit has some unique quality to it. It's hard to say that Fire Dragons aren't a big strength of the codex. It's not that they're bad... it's just that they aren't resilient enough to survive by themselves; they need to ride in a Wave Serpent, which is horribly overcost for what it does. There are lots of units in the codex like this, and all of them are obviously the high-priced Aspect Warrior units. Anyhow, I just wanted to get that all out of the way so nobody is thinking "But Howling Banshees are too fabulous to pass up!" Well they're fabulous alright, but they aren't really that great unless they work in combination with a Farseer, or ride in a Wave Serpent, or both. The whole army is fragile, and it seems to me that the only way they can be effective enough is if their units don't rely on each other for combos.

In my opinion, Eldar armies should consist mainly of units that work unilaterally. Because of this, I come off as being a rather harsh critic of the codex... but I make no apologies. This is about why we should use Eldar, and so I will move on to my reasons.

Eldrad is amazingly efficient. If you use him and another Farseer there's a potential for repetitively using one or two psychic powers over and over. Spamming Mind War, Eldritch Storm, Guide and Doom is obviously a good thing. They can quickly eliminate specific models, disrupt armor and enhance your other units. Aside from just the psychic powers available, you have the Runes of Warding; they're pretty amazing as psychic defense goes. They make your opponent's average psychic test roll a 10.5 (fail!) with a huge potential for causing Perils of the Warp.

The Avatar is nifty, but not amazing... but with all his little neat bonuses as well as his relatively low points cost, he definitely falls into the 'highly autonomous' category. His 'fearless bubble' is great if you're using large units of Guardians (either type) to shield your army, and if you decide to run the 'Eldravatar' combo, that's a really hard defensive line to take down. Yriel has one thing going for him and that's his uber-template close combat anti-MEQ attack. And finally, if you wish to use a tactically flexible army that heavily utilizes reserves, the Autarch can give you that +1 to your rolls.

When it comes to Elites there aren't many options outside of Aspect Warriors save that old standby: Wraithguard. They're amazing at not dying. They're great at being used as a troop unit as well - there's nothing like T6 scoring dudes that can re-roll their cover saves.

The only other truly viable troop selection for the army are the Guardians (of either variety). They can be used as an agile assault force or in ten-man units with a heavy weapon. Aside from all the other armies that can take a cheap ten-man unit with a single heavy weapon, Eldar have one of the units that can do it cheap. A hundred and ten points for a 10-wound Bright Lance sounds good to me... especially when I can use six of them and they're scoring.

Fire Prisms are the Baal Predator of the Eldar. Cheap cost, highly versatile, fast-moving, and an even higher power setting if you spam... sounds like a great unit.

So the big problem here is that once you have all the high quality units I've mentioned, what else do you include in the rest of your 2000 point army? There aren't a lot of choices, but most of them are mediocre at best because they don't seem to compare to those of their 'dark' counterparts. If you wanted to have some good anti-troop capability from your Fast Attack choices, you might choose a Vyper Jetbike. How does it measure up? You can pay 60 points for two Shuriken Cannons with BS3. What do you get from the Dark Eldar as a transport option? The amazing Venom, which has 12 shots at BS4 for 65 points, PLUS has a 5+ invulnerable save, PLUS it can move 12" and fire both guns, PLUS it can carry up to five models, etc, etc, etc.

A lot of the units in the Eldar book fall prey to the game's current level of inequality, and as much as I would like to chalk this up to changes in edition (from 4th to 5th), the book is very obviously a victim of 'codex creep.' This is the gradual increase of power levels in newer armies since 5th Edtion has been released. However, I do maintain that Codex: Eldar remains a valid 'rogue' army that can do extremely well in the right metagame situation. Many times you'll hear of an Eldar army sweeping a big tournament, and it's my contention that whenever there is a new mission that requires a versatile army, the Eldar are the super-secret tech that no one will expect to win.

So if your local meta requires any of the following, you may want to consider using Eldar:

Large number of psychic powers - stopped easily by Runes of Warding
Giant units of Orc Boys - stopped cold by giant units of Storm Guardians w/Enhance
Mech Marines - easily slowed by massed Bright Lance fire

So can we effectively counter those army archetypes with other things out there? Sure. Almost everything the Eldar can do, the Dark Eldar can do better. They're better at maneuverability, firepower, and in most cases, defense. The only thing that the Dark Eldar lack is psychic defense. So as a result, I posit that Eldar are nearing the point of being completely defunct.

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