The dirty dogs of the 40K universe often play king maker at tournaments.
Dark Eldar are one of those armies that do just about everything differently. I love the army and the models are some of the best in GW’s entire range, IMO. Jess Goodwin really hit it out of the park with these.
Phil Kelly also wrote a great rule set with only a few real stinkers (Keradruakh, lookin right at you, bud!). But for the most part, everything in the book is fair to great.
What makes Dark Eldar so different? They have some critical rules that really set them apart from everyone else. Primary among these is the fact that their ranged weaponry relies upon the Poison rule which means they essentially ignore toughness. That is a core game mechanic and they just pick it up and throw it in the trash can.
So what, I can hear you saying!
The what of it is that the points every other army in the game pays for their toughness becomes moot! Why is the mark of Nurgle so expensive? Because it’s cool to go into battle with a steaming load on your britches and weeping sores covering your body? Or because it takes you to toughness 5 which makes you much, much harder to kill for most targets? DE though, make those points utterly wasted.
Now, this goes both ways too, as low toughness models will either notice no difference or actually benefit from this. Grots for example, would rather get shot by a Splinter Rifle than a Las Gun! However, this is generally offset by the low points cost of most DE units and soft targets are typically not difficult to kill anyway.
The other downside to this is that these weapons have no effect at all on units with an armor value. That said, most infantry weapons don’t either, or only effect AV10 vehicles (Tau excepted). So what you end up with are weapons that get better the tougher (and coincidentally more expensive) your target gets. Your weapon becomes more points efficient as your opponent gets better! Nice one.
Combine this with blazing speed to either get into striking range or dance away from it, the fact that in many respects the paper thin DE transport vehicles actually improved with the transition to 6th (strength 4 weapons have a harder time taking them down, jink saves, etc.), the sheer volume of poison weapons DE can bring to bear and the move to more infantry heavy armies and you have a recipe for success.
For the next few weeks you can combo DE poison weapons with Eldar’s Doom power, and assuming Eldar retain Doom which I think they will as it has been a staple power of theirs for ever, and Dark Eldar Poison weapons go absolutely bananas. Rerolling failed to wound rolls means these potent weapons go from a 50% wound rate to 75%. There are very few units in the game that can weather that volume of damage for long.
Units such as Warriors, Warriors in a Raider with Splinter Racks, Venoms, Hellions, and to a lesser extent Scourges and Wracks all exemplify this.
Nearly any player with an infantry army at a tournament when asked which army are they hoping not to pull will reply: Dark Eldar.
So why don’t you see them more often? They seriously pack a punch and we haven’t even covered the other benefits they have such as some incredible characters, hard hitting assault units, etc.?
They are extremely frail and suffer a massive weakness to going second against any type of shooty army. Particularly on your typically terrain sparse tournament table, this can be the kiss of death. Even with Vect giving you a seize on a 4+, you will still average going second in 1/4 of your games. If that happens to be vs. a shooting heavy army your tournament run can come to a sudden halt. This is exacerbated by not being able to go full reserves any more. This Achilles’s Heal is what stops a lot of people from taking the army. That and the fact that they are arguably the most evil faction in 40K.
What this means is that Dark Eldar often play the roll of spoiler in a tournament, if not knowingly. They can knock a lot of very well built infantry lists out of the running if they draw them on the way to the top that may very well have otherwise stood good odds of winning the tournament. The Deldar then them self can easily get knocked out by that mech IG player they don’t want to draw. Thus the role, not usually on purpose, of playing king maker by being the wild card in the deck that either wins or loses big.
So what’s a poor Deldar player to do?
Make sure there’s enough terrain on the table!!! Haha, not that you can control that all that much, but use what you have to get as much cover as possible. Also, when building your list either use loads of cheap infantry to absorb punishment or loads of cheap vehicles to increase safety in numbers. Good old Venom spam is still a great list. Night Shields are also fantastic for minimizing the impact of shorter ranged weapons or longer ranged weapons that are deployed poorly.
Hybrid lists can work very well too, particularly with only a few Venoms–which are easy to hide–and Deldar flyers which pack a serious punch and can stay off board to avoid that first alpha strike while those good old poison weapons take out common interceptor weapons such as Quad Guns and Saber Platforms before they arrive.
What are you Dark Eldar players out there doing to maximize your role as king ascendant as opposed to king maker?