Have you took a look at the new Eldar book? Curl into your nook ’cause we hooked it like a crook!
Shut up, I like words that rhyme.
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So, the new Eldar book is out and being played and so I think it’s high time we took a good, hard look at it to see what we can see. Like most of my “First Look” articles, this isn’t going to be a review of the codex per se– rather, what it will be is impressions I’ve gotten from my, well, first look through the book. It’s by no means definitive, but useful in terms of gathering what is important to pay attention to and what is still basically just background material. If there’s something that you think I’ve missed, by all means bring it up in the comments section below- it’s rather inevitable with every new book that something or another slips under the radar that will end up being pretty clutch.
The Physical Book
The actual book itself, like all of the new 7E codices, is hardbound and printed on the glossy paper that is the standard now. Unlike many of the others, however, its price increase comes with some actual benefits- it is not only longer than most any of the other codices (clocking in at 160 pages compared to the old codex’s ~105), but also contains significantly more illustrations, many of them entirely new (or at least new to print editions.) The fluff sections of the book are still about the same, feeling a little bit skimpy compared to 5E and earlier books, but perhaps that’s more a function of the rest of the book being so expanded- as, indeed, the book contains extensive paint scheme guides to various Eldar Craftworlds and Aspect Shrines, including several variants of each Shrine’s colorings. A large chunk of the book is still dedicated to nothing but photos of models, although this is made a bit more bearable by some good close-ups of characters and whatnot that have been given exceptional care.
The book otherwise cleaves to the new system of organization for the new codices, with each unit being given a single page dominated mainly by a picture and a handful of special rules and all wargear and weapons consolidated in a single listing towards the back of the book. Thankfully, extensive page references are provided to make looking things up easier, although I still prefer the unified army list at the back of the book that 5E/6E used overall. By far the most annoying thing I’ve noticed- both with this codex and with the Necron one- was the placement of the Warlord traits table as well as the lack of a quick reference version of it in the back next to the psychic powers- for something that players will need to roll every game and most will have trouble memorizing, it seems bizarre not to include it so.
The Craftworld Warhost Detachment
Like the other recent books, Eldar now have access to a unique type of detachment that consists of a combinations of different formations under a larger “umbrella” formation. It functions somewhat like more traditional detachments (such as Combined Arms, etc), but has combinations of units that take the place of “slots.” In the Eldar’s case, it is the Craftworld Warhost, whose universal benefit is always being counted as rolling a ‘6’ when Running with models in the formation. While this is undeniably a powerful ability (as virtually any movement-enhancer can be, especially in light of Battle Focus) it’s a very odd choice for a generic bonus because it simply does not apply to the new flagship jetbike models, nor does it have any functionality for vehicles of any sort. What I think this will end up meaning is that, unlike the Decurion, the Warhost won’t have the same sort of broad appeal to players because of its lack of bonuses and significant restrictions on many builds.
The Warhost, like the others of its type, consists of at least one Core choice along with up to three Command choices and 1-12 Auxillary choices for each Core choice. Unlike the others, the Warhost actually has three (or, really, two) variant Core versions to pick from. The Windrider Host is a Farseer, a Warlock Council, three Windrider squads, and a Vyper (with all models riding jetbikes as applicable) and can give all of its Shuriken weapons Shred once per game. Since the Scatter Laser is easily the better choice and the 6″ Run gives no benefit to its models, this version is actually surprisingly awkward despite its strong components. The other two variants are essentially identical but swap out for the two different types of Guardians included within them. Both require the Farseer, the Vyper, an artillery unit, a War Walker, and three units of their respective Guardians (Storm or Defenders), with the Guardians getting free heavy/special upgrades for the unit and everything else getting Preferred Enemy when in the vicinity of the Guardians or their target (again, depending on type.) Since both of these units have much better formation bonuses than the Windriders, I think they end up being superior choices for running it in many cases- although the Windrider Host has the advantage of being much cheaper basic entry cost and coming with very strong units.
The Command choices are relatively simple; you can get an Autarch or named character, an Avatar, or a Seer Council, which is a formation consisting of two Farseers and one Warlock Conclave that harvests warp charge on a 3+. None of them are exceptionally impressive, although the Council has some potential for use outside of the Warhost to form a hard-hitting deathstar that can be taken independently of the rest of the codex.
The Auxillary choices are just like with Necrons and Daemonkin- lots of good stuff, often with nice bonuses, but also some very awkward combinations that make it hard to build an army. Rangers and all of the multiwound Wraithguys (including the Hemlock) can be taken as solo models, but everything else comes in formations- and often pretty large ones. We’ll talk about the individual formations later, but the important things to take note of here are that Windrider Jetbikes, the artillery units, and Wraithguard are all available ONLY within their respective formations, all of which are expensive- you cannot just load up on any of these powerful units. That is a major strike against the Warhost, I think, especially combined with its comparative lack of benefits for losing Objective Secured.
I think the Warhost is most functional in an army that focuses a lot on using a combination of transports and Battle Focus to manipulate range to its advantage; being able to, say, drop Fire Dragons into one arc of a Knight and then Run into another with absolute consistency is a big deal, and for the shorter-ranged units (like those required Guardians) always getting maximum distance can really make their weapons shine like never before. It isn’t particularly good for spamming Jetbikes or Wraithguard, but it can bring a ton of pretty maneuverable guys to the table. It probably should have had some other more-general bonus that could be applied to all Eldar units to put it on par with the Decurion, but overall I think it is a very useable inclusion.
We’re just gonna tear through things one-by-one here and try and hit all of the different units and formations- there’s a lot of them, so I won’t go into extensive detail on any. Likely they’ll get more specific discussions in other articles by myself and others.
Eldrad is pretty much identical; like all Eldar, he lost access to Maelific Daemonology, but he’s still got an AP3 Fleshbane force weapon and has T4/3++ while sometimes getting free Warp Charge. Yriel and Illic are also pretty much the same and thus very mediocre; Yriel can’t use his Eye of Wrath while in a challenge now and Illic’s gun works like the old Distort rules rather than getting upgraded to Str D. He doesn’t let you pay to upgrade Rangers to Pathfinders, but instead confers their rules onto any Ranger unit that he joins- probably a lot better. Being able to Infiltrate up close to the enemy with your unit of snipers is still silly, though.
The Phoenix Lords are improved from prior versions, but still mostly not good. Asurmen gets d3 warlord traits, but only off the Eldar table- though this does give him the potential for a 2+ rerollable armor save. Jain Zar gets to keep the old version of Disarm, which is quite strong, and cripples the Init/WS of any unit she charges. Karandras can come on from reserve from any board edge (along with any Scorpions he joins, but not other characters) and he pew-pew mask cuts through armor, but for some reason lacks the Stalker rule that all other Scorpion Exarchs have. Fuegan is a 220pt meltagun. Baharroth really, REALLY likes the Blind rule, but is notable for being the cheapest Phoenix Lord while also having Hit and Run. Maugan Ra gets to shoot twice (at whatever targets) and is still surprisingly good in melee, but not even close to worth it.
Autarchs are still mostly the same, although they gain access to the Fusion Pistol. With how good the Farseer is, it’s a hard argument to really want one.
Farseers are amazing. They lose Maelific, which is sad, but gain the ability to reroll any number of psychic dice (casting or denying) once per turn- meaning you can reroll only failures, reroll a ‘6’ to try and avoid Perils, etc, etc. They also still have the Ghosthelm and access to many strong disciplines, making them one of the premier psykers in the game. See also the section on psychic powers later.
Warlock Conclaves are significantly different- while they still generate dice equal to the number of members, they do not have individual powers anymore (and cannot split off to units- instead, units can simply buy a Warlock as an upgrade.) Instead, they have a number of powers (and Mastery Level) based on the number of squad members; ML1 at 1-3, ML2 at 4-6, ML3 at 7+. If you lose models, your ML will go down and you’ll have to choose a power to forget. As the Runes of Battle powers are essentially unchanged, this makes them still not an ignorable unit, though with about a third as many power choices as before they are significantly worse.
Spiritseers don’t have to designate a target for Spirit Mark (it just works on anyone within range) and can’t make Wraithguys troops, but are otherwise identical. Just take a Farseer instead unless you REALLY want Runes of Battle and refuse to take any Warlocks for some reason.
Guardian Defenders are the same, with the addition of the Warlock upgrade. They seem… okayish? Storm Guardians can now be taken in squads of eight minimum (rather than ten) for some reason, but are otherwise identical. They’re still pretty bad. Why the fuck are Power Swords 15pts on a S3 model?
Windriders (i.e. Jetbike Guardians)… you have probably heard about, but if not: they are pants-on-head crazy. Same cost, same stats, but now with the option for Scatter Lasers instead of just Shuriken Cannons and with either one available on every model, for the same cost. (Protip: always take the Scatter Laser, on every guy.) For those that wanna do the math, they work out to about the same per-cost firepower as a unit of Broadsides does against T4 targets, but are also insanely mobile, bring their own cover save when needed, and are a Troops choice.
Rangers are… they’re guys who don’t matter. They have Shrouded rather than Stealth now I guess or something. Still can’t really use Battle Focus at all, still not very good.
Dire Avengers are around, although with the Wave Serpent no longer king of the world they won’t be seen nearly so much. They are our first showcase for the new Aspect Warrior system: all units get one special rule possessed by all members and another rule that only the Exarch possesses. Also, Exarchs are two Wounds in addition to being +1 to WS/BS/I/A, which makes them pretty attractive buys. Dire Avengers’ special ability is to choose between either firing Overwatch at BS2 (decent) and gaining Counter-Attack/Stubborn when charge but not firing Overwatch at all (garbage.) The Exarch comes with a 4++, which is pretty dumb and a terrible example of how every other Exarch functions so let’s just forget that these guys were the first on the list.
Howling Banshees! Still not good, but no longer the laughingstock of the entire craftworld. They keep the same setup as before, which is a bit unfortunate because they REALLY needed S4 to be viable, but Acrobatic now applies to both Run and Assault moves and lets them ignore the Initiative penalty for terrain (but not the -2″ penalty, oddly.) The Exarch gives enemies -2Ld while locked in combat, which is decent I suppose. Banshee Masks now cause Fear and prevent Overwatch, which is kinda cute, although it does make you wonder about why they would use them against Daemons of Slaanesh (against which neither effect applies)…
Striking Scorpions get several major boosts that bring them well into the realm of playability. First of all, they have Shrouded until they shoot or assault (in addition to natural Stealth), making them a lot tougher. Second, Mandiblasters always wound on a 4+ (except against Gargantuans, where they wound on a 6+), making them a lot more effective against most things. Third, their Exarch gains bonus attacks on the first turn of a challenge equal to the amount his Init exceeds his opponent’s- meaning, in most cases, that he is getting six WS5 attacks with that S6 AP2 claw of his. Badass.
Fire Dragons also got a big buff even though they didn’t really need anything to stay viable- they add a +1 bonus to any roll on the vehicle/building damage tables above and beyond what their guns give them, so rolling at +3 against most things and +4 on Open-Topped. So yeah, pretty much destroying Knights and any other vehicles they can push a damage result through on. The Exarch can reroll a single hit/wound/pen per turn, which is… eh, it’s not terrible I guess, but seems silly with BS5 melta weapons. If Wraithguard get banned, look for these guys to be a primary solution to heavy targets.
Speaking of which- Wraithguard are cray-cray. Same cost as before (so 32 each, or 42 with flamers) their weapons are now Str D instead of S10, which is a massive leap. They vaporize most targets with ease and the D-Scythe version in particular ignores cover AND armor saves with all of its wounds and can hit multiple models. It does suffer a -1 on the Destroyer table (boo hoo), but that will still annihilate most things in a heartbeat while being functionally immune to charging. Like Windriders, expect these guys to go completely out of control if nothing gets changed about them.
Wraithblades, to contrast, got a little bit better but not amazingly so. They dropped down to 30pts each and now come with Rage to match their fluff, while the weapon swaps are still free. Being able to stuff them inside a Raider may end up working out for them decently, but they’re still awfully expensive for what they do.
Wave Serpents, as expected, as now FA choices and significantly weaker, although still far from terrible. They got a 5pt discount and the Serpent Shield is a once-per-game in its offensive capacity, but fires 2d6 Str 6 shots and trades Pinning for Strikedown. The defensive function is identical, though it ceases once the gun is fired off. The real change, however, is Holofields being a 5++ rather than +1 cover, which makes them significantly less survivable. All in all, probably a very reasonable unit now, which is a drastic shift from its previous incarnation.
Swooping Hawks join the rest of their aspect brethren in being actually pretty reasonable. They move 18″ now rather than 12″ and can still drop bombs or leap back into reserves, but they scatter normally unless an Exarch is present in the squad. They can also make a “flyby” attack on flyers and FMCs they pass over while moving, hitting on a 4+ and causing a S4 AP4 Haywire hit for each strike- not amazing, but at least interesting, especially as they are quite cheap.
Warp Spiders got some very interesting options as well; their “warp jump” now only eats a model on a result of double 1s, rather than any double, so there’s very little reason not to use it every turn. It can also be used in response to an enemy shooting attack targeted at them, moving them 2d6″ immediately- and if that puts them out of range or LOS, the attack simply fails. They are prohibited from doing so while Falling Back, but not while Pinned, and if they use it can’t “jump” on their next turn. The Exarch lets the squad autopass all Fear/Morale/Pinning/Regroup checks, which is a decent little trick. Also of note is the change to Monofilament weapons- they still have faux-Rending against nonvehicles, but now roll to wound against Initiative rather than Toughness, meaning that there are almost no targets in the game they don’t wound on a 3+ or better. Sadly, however, they lose their +1Str against vehicles, so they are more of a dedicated infantry and MC killer than anything. Note that it works just fine against Gargantuan Creatures, so Wraithknights and Barbed Heirodules beware.
Shining Spears… didn’t actually change much, awkwardly. They now have a 4+ cover save all the time, but given you can Jink for a 3+ there is very little reason to use it. The Exarch rerolls failed wounds against MCs and pens against vehicles, but that is arguably worse than giving the whole unit Monster Hunter. Their Lances are at least AP3 even when stationary, which helps them a decent amount, but one attack and S3 when caught in a bad fight is a very awkward thing for them.
The Crimson Hunter dropped 20pts, which is a good start on it, and is otherwise… the same? Hmmm. Probably not really enough to make it useable when the Nightwing is around.
Vypers, on the other hand, have finally gotten cheap enough that their mandatory inclusion in the Warhost doesn’t feel like a punishment. At 40pts each (the same as a Tau Piranha) they are pretty solid little zippy shooters, especially if you give them Cannon/Cannon or Cannon/Scatter for setups. Still fragile, but cheap enough to potentially justify it.
The Hemlock, like anything else with a Str D gun, is pretty stupid. it didn’t change in price any, but bumped its way up to ML2 and gained access to all Telepathy, Sanctic, and Runes of Battle powers rather than the fixed Terrify it had before. While still pretty intensely fragile, it can hit hard enough the turn it comes on the table that it isn’t awful- and a Str D weapon on a flyer is always a big deal for killing Knights and the like. Mindshock Pod is a little worse than before (-2Ld rather than a reroll), but still helps push its primary job pretty well and can support the goofy Eldar/Harlie/DE build that focuses on Leadership modifiers.
Dark Reapers also see a major boost, dropping down to 25pts base and gaining the ability to reroll misses against Swooping/Zooming targets as well as anything that moved Flat Out/Turbo. They also still ignore Jink, which makes them into pretty decent bike or airplane hunters when set up right. The Exarch still gets to fire an extra shot with any of his weapons, lending itself well to shenanigans with emplaced guns and such. Getting pseudo-Krak missiles is still expensive, but 33pts total rather than 38 is a lot more bearable, especially when they’re alright at shooting down flyers and FMCs.
Vauls’ Wrath Batteries get the same treatment as other Distort weapons, turning the D-Cannon into an absolute monster for 55pts. The Shadow Weaver is still a nice little bunker for 30pts, but is pretty easily overshadowed by its bigger brother. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that GW modeled their own unit incorrectly, as the two crewmembers are both sitting on the platform (even if one is detachable), making it impossible to know which model to allocate wounds to first. Ooops.
Falcons have gotten a ton of attention for their ability to Deep Strike when in full squads of three, but the sheer expense of that plan (as well as its limitations due to being a squadron) seem not really worthwhile to me- it can’t carry Wraithguard or even squads beyond the minimum size in most cases. With the Wave Serpent no longer a fantastic guntank in addition to being a great transport the Falcon has a niche again, although it isn’t a particularly deep one.
Fire Prisms and Night Spinners are also available in squads now, with the Spinner also getting a 15pt price break. Both units can link fire, but the effects are surprisingly different- Prisms have to give up their shots to give the “main” unit +1Str/-1AP for each member, which feels like a pretty raw deal unless you’re trying to use the pie plate version to kill some Terminators or whatever. Spinners, on the other hand, benefit from the +1 Str for each extra vehicle, but also add an additional shot to the barrage- and since you would be anyways, there’s no real reason to ever not link fire with them.
War Walkers are the same, as are Wraithlords. Mmmmyup. Not a lot to say there at all.
The Wraithknight has been upgraded to a Gargantuan Creature, as it probably should be, but without the consequent price increase (or at least not much of one.) Gaining Stomp, immunity to Instant Death/autokill effects as well as Sniper/Poison, and Feel No Pain all for a mere 50pts, the Wraithknight is now even more of a strong contender even while you can’t take as many of them. All of its weapon swaps are now free, meaning you can pick between a pair of Str D guns, a 5++ and the Suncannon (why?), or a 5++ and a Str D melee option (that is also Master-Crafted.) The change to GC status also makes adding on secondary weapons a lot more attractive, as they aren’t limited to firing two guns or at only a single target anymore.
The Avatar of Khain is likewise a Lord of War, but is a lot less impressive. He’s S8 in melee combat now, which is something, and grants Fearless/Furious Charge/Rage rules to nearby Eldar, which is kinda a thing, but for as expensive as he is he really needs better than 3+/5++ for protection. Poor guy is still kinda stuck back in 3rd edition.
I’ve already talked about a handful of these previously- the Windrider Host, Guardian Battlehost, and Guardian Stormhost are all the core requirements for the Craftworld Warhost, and the Seer Council is a command selection. All of them are decent but not amazing and may occasionally show up as a reasonable way to bring some Eldar along to the party without having to invest massively. Some have noted the Seer Council as a potential deathstar, but it’s worth remembering that it will be much harder to roll up Protect (for that 2+ armor save) now that you get a maximum of three powers for your whole Conclave, not to mention not getting two or five Renewers to keep your Farseers alive.
The Aspect Host is the most promising of the new formations, being both flexible and powerful. It consists of three units of Aspect Warriors of your choice, each upgraded with an Exarch, and gives all models in the formation either +1WS or +1BS (your choice, and can vary game-by-game) as well as rerolls on Morale/Pinning/Fear. With the ability to get them some good transports if needed and most of the aspects being fairly solid choices, the Host is actually a pretty strong contingent for including in either an Eldar army or as a one-off solution in some other force. BS5 makes most of them exceptionally reliable at their jobs, whatever those jobs may be, and WS5 for the melee ones (if you try to push that version) can help as well. The most important feature, however, is the ability to mix and match any of the shrines that you want as needed, letting you bring a wide variety of specialist units to fill your army’s needs. I think without argument this is the formation with the most promise in it, at least ignoring the sheer silliness of Str D via the Wraithhost.
Oddly, there is also a Dire Avenger-specific formation as well, consisting of three units with a single Exarch amongst them. It gives +1BS to all the models and lets them fire an extra shot with their guns once per game as well as the Ld-type rerolls from the Aspect Host. It’s… decent enough, I guess? If you are trying to field maximum Avengers than certainly it’s just better, but I feel like generalist troops are not what most armies will want the Aspect Host for.
Crimson Death has three Crimson Hunters (one of them an Exarch) and gives them Preferred Enemy (FMCs and flyers) as well as a 4+ cover save, which improves to rerolling saves if they Jink. Though it does a long ways towards solving their main problem (i.e. survivability), three airplanes is a pretty big investment to ask for most armies and I don’t really expect it will show up a lot. On the other hand, flyers are really the only thing that RAW-Eldar struggle with at all (as Str D and massed S6 take care of everything else) so it might end up having a place in that sort of environment after all.
The Wraith Host is essentially a replacement for the old formation Eldar had, consisting of a Spiritseer, three units of Wraithguard/blades, a Wraithlord, and a Wraithknight. It grants them all Battle Focus and extends the Spirit Mark radius out to 18″, and unlike its predecessor doesn’t prohibit you from taking transports. Nothing about it is exceptional except for the fact that it gives you access to Str D weapons en masse, so its viability really depends on how that aspect of things is handled at tournaments.
Universal Rules and Gear
Ancient Doom, and Battle Focus are still present and largely the same, although Ancient Doom is now a universal Ld penalty anytime your units are locked in the same fight as Slaaneshi models. The warlord traits are also pretty similar- one-shot Stealth is now Scout for d3 units, +1″ Run is now +3″ Run, and 6″ Deep Strike beacon is now 12″, but otherwise it is the same.
All Eldar Missile Launchers come standard with Flakk (or Starhawk, more properly) but lose Pinning on their other fire modes. This makes their price tag a lot more bearable and can actually make stuff like missiles on Serpents or Guardians a somewhat-defendable choice, given their lack of other decent options. Dark Reapers still seem like the general go-to, though.
Scatter Lasers don’t twin-link other stuff anymore. Probably for the best.
Mantle of the Laughing God has been replaced by Kuranos’ Bow, a Shuriken Pistol with AP3. Unfortunate for running HQs, but you’ll usually have a pretty good place to bunker him with one of the artillery units, so not as bad as it could’ve been (and you no longer need to rush forward to drop Daemons anymore.) The Bow is pretty mediocre, but like most of the other “cheap gun relics” that have been pretty standard to every book nowadays it’s not awful or anything if you want a fluffy little thing to add to someone.
The Runes of Battle table is still pretty much identical to before, which makes it a solid choice. Conceal/Reveal is stil an amazing power and Horrify and Jinx are also both really huge as well. It’s rather unusual that so many of the “best” powers from the table are actually Maledictions, which are typically worse than Blessings.
Runes of Fate is very similar, but has had some substantive shifts. Will of Asuryan has replaced the garbage power of Death Mission; it’s WC2 and gives everything within 12″ of you Adamantium Will and Fearless, which is a fairly reasonable buff. Denying on a 3+ with rerolls can make you essentially immune to most spells. Eldritch Storm is now WC3 or WC4, depending on version, but is grossly more powerful- it gains AP3 in both versions, with the lesser one being large blast and the greater being apocalyptic (i.e. 10″) blast. It’s still only 24″ range, but that is a CRAZY big template that hurts everything, even vehicles, on a 2+ and has Pinning. You’re gonna see a lot of people rolling on Fate now, as it has very few “dead” powers in most matchups and a variety of good ones. However, it also has a lot of very costly spells (two WC1, four WC2, and one WC3+) so you’re really gonna need to be careful about where those dice go and make good use of your Spirit Stone of Anath’lan.
If it weren’t for Str D guns everywhere and Windriders with dozens of Scatter Lasers, I would call this a very good book and a solid successor to the Necron codex in terms of setting the new power level for the game at an appropriate (and interesting) place. Unfortunately, I feel those two screw-ups (as well as the lesser but still significant one with the Wraithknight) are gonna occupy a lot of people’s attention, as they rightfully should. How the Eldar book ends up being received will ultimately depend on what sort of solutions to those two problems, if any, the tournament scene decides to accept.
I want to like this book- it has more content and better content in terms of the fluff and art portions of the game than most of the previous books and while it is expensive, it feels much more like it’s expensive for a reason rather than simply to soak the customer for as much money as possible. The formatting and tone of the book are solid throughout and no glaring rules or editing errors jumped out at me, unlike many previous codices. For players that hate Wraithguard and all their kin, this is actually a pretty decently-balanced book for the most part and I suspect you’ll have a lot of fun with it… but for anyone with even the slightest conception of balance or power levels, there are some serious issues to deal with.