Variance Hammer Eldar Review Part 4 of 9


Having already discussed the overall fluff and aesthetics of the book, the HQ choices, and a bit on the Wave Serpent, we now turn to Part 4 of my review of the 7th Edition Craftworld Eldar book, focusing on the troops choices available to aspiring Autarchs everywhere. Be sure to check out the Tactics Corner for more great articles!

The first thing is to note what’s missing. As the Spiritseer lost their ability to make Wrathguard and Wrathblade units Troops, they can’t really be considered part of this section, and outside the use of some formations (which we’ll discuss later), the era of the Wrath-only army is over, unless there’s a reworking or major FAQ of the Iyanden Supplement.

So how about the troops that are left?

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Guardian Defenders. Guardian Defenders remain the same points cost, and have roughly the same role as they always have – cheap troops who die like chumps to anything with AP 5, but have really nasty, if short range, guns and access to mobile heavy weapons platforms. Despite being civilians, they remain BS4, the average Eldar poet naturally being roughly as good a shot as a combat veteran or Space Marine.

As the Warlock Conclave can’t carve off members of its unit to attach to Guardian squads anymore, they now have a 35 point Warlock Leader upgrade (40 pts. with a Singing Spear). Capable of being taken in squads of 20, they can also take a Heavy Weapon Platform for every 10 models, potentially giving you a unit with 23 models in it, which is…considerable. The weapon options also remain the same, with the Eldar missile launcher representing both the most expensive and most versatile option. However, the EML now automatically comes with the “Starhawk” missiles as well, giving you an option to embed a lot of Skyfire missiles in your units, though at a pretty considerable price.

As with the last edition, Guardian Defenders can take a Wave Serpent. Contrary to last edition however, it’s not necessarily a clear auto-take, because you’re not sneaking your main battle tanks into the Dedicated Transport slot. That being said, Wave Serpents are still excellent transports – they can shield Guardians from the kind of firepower that simply tears them apart (Space Marines, Dark Eldar, anything better than a Guardsman…), get them to objectives faster, and generally act as a fire support platform. Additionally, if taken as a Dedicated Transport as part of a CAD, the Wave Serpent is Objective Secured, and there’s something to be said for an AV 12 Skimmer madly jinking on top of an objective, with the potentially to put out a lot of S6 firepower one turn as an objective holder, especially as Maelstrom missions become more important. I no longer think the Wave Serpent is an auto-take, especially if you’re trying to keep your troops units cheap, but it’s hardly a terrible choice even with the redesign.

Storm Guardians. If you find yourself looking at your WS 4, S3, T3, 5+ Armor troops and going “You know what? These guys need to get into close combat!”, Storm Guardians are for you. Appropriately armed for the task, just like the Guardian Defenders they can take a Warlock in the unit as well, and can get to a unit of 21 models if that’s your thing. As with the last edition, you can slip two flamers or fusion guns into the unit, as well as two power swords, though this starts making your Storm Guardians pretty expensive for what they do. Their formation makes this considerably less expensive to do, through it still doesn’t resolve the essential problem of being S3 and T3 in close combat with next to no save.

To be blunt, I’ve never seen a unit of Storm Guardians fielded on the table. I don’t know that I ever will.

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Rangers. The cheapest of the troop options, Rangers remain their sneaky, sniper selves. They’ve swapped out Stealth for Shrouded, which is nice if there are other rules giving out Stealth (i.e. Night Fighting). They’re useful for infiltrating, holding objectives, and otherwise being a cheap, throwaway nuisance, but I wouldn’t expect miracles of them – I can count the number of games where I thought “Man, I’m glad I brought my Rangers…” on one hand, and would still be able to do so after a serious industrial accident. On the other hand, for 60 points for 5, they’re hardly going to break the bank, and if they hold an objective long enough to collect 1 VP they’ve probably earned their keep.

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Dire Avengers. The troop Aspect Warriors, Dire Avengers will give us a preview of things to come for the other Aspect Warriors who will be reviewed in a later post. They remain the same cost, and have the same statline, save that the Exarch has picked up an extra wound and Battle Fortune, granting the Exarch a 4++, which is nice. They have replaced Counter-attack with Defensive Tactics, which allows the unit to choose either overwatch at BS2 or Counter-attack and Stubborn.

This is huge. Consider the graph below, of 2500 simulated games of a unit of 5 Dire Avengers firing a turn of overwatch at BS1 vs BS2.


As with the graphs in the Wave Serpent analysis, purple is the old 6th edition Codex, and the light blue is the new 7th edition codex. As you can see, firing at BS1 means a large percentage of the time your overwatch will do absolutely nothing (~16% of the time) and about half the time you’ll get one hit at most. Contrast that with the blue distribution – doing absolutely nothing is now an extremely rare outcome, and you can consistently expect somewhere between 3 and 5 hits from overwatch.

But is losing Counter-attack worth it? Again, we simulate, assuming the Dire Avenger unit gets to hit first (a pretty reasonable assumption) and that they’re hitting on 4+:


Here, the green distribution is the number of hits when overwatching at BS2 followed by 6 close combat attacks, and the pink is overwatching at B21 followed by 11 close combat attacks. Generally, I’d argue that the better overwatch is the superior approach – you’re less likely to do nothing, more likely to put in a significant number of hits, and more of those hits are coming from a Shuriken Catapult, which is higher strength, AP5 and has Bladestorm for those precious auto-wound, armor ignoring attacks. Even with a close combat focused Exarch (say, with a Dire Sword), losing that one extra attack is probably worth it for more hits before combat really happens. And it will absolutely be worth it if you’re expecting to take casualties from I10 Hammer of Wrath hits, or are fighting higher initiative opponents. The ability to have Stubborn is nice, and it might be worth it if you think you can survive the charge, but are expecting to lose and need not to run, but in my opinion the best way to survive a charge is to kill the other guy before he hits.

Which brings us to how to equip the Exarch. The twin-linked Avenger Shuriken Catapult is a nice bonus for Exarchs expecting to do shooting and taking charges – a couple rerolls are nice in overwatch, though in normal shooting, BS 5 is solid enough to not really need it. The power weapon and shuriken pistol gives a little bit of close combat strength with the extra attack (bringing the Exarch to 3) and AP3, which will make him more dangerous to marine-equivalents, while the rest of his squad definitely struggles vs. troops with decent saves. But you lose a fair amount of range and a shot – it’s a bad idea for a fire support Dire Avenger squad.

The Diresword and pistol combination is an interesting one. Again, he gets an extra attack, and they’re now at AP2, though only S3. But Soulrazor as an ability forces the opponent to take a leadership test for each unsaved wound, or be removed from play. That’s a very interesting combination if you’re using a Dire Avenger exarch to soak challenges, or fighting middling-poor leadership but tough troops (Orks). Finally, there’s the option to take a Shimmershield and power weapon. This gives the whole unit a 5++ save at the expense of all shooting from the Exarch. I’d only consider this if you’re planning to use your Dire Avengers as a speed bump of some sort, and even then, a 5++ probably won’t slow anything down. While it has been nice from time to time to go “No! I totally do get saves from that…”, if you find yourself in that situation, odds are most of your Dire Avengers are still about to die.

Finally, Dire Avengers can take a Wave Serpent. In the last edition, you took the Dire Avengers because it was the cheapest way to get a Wave Serpent. This edition…I think you take the Wave Serpent because of the Dire Avengers. I’m fairly excited about the idea of large-ish units of Dire Avengers mounted in Serpents. I think a role for Dire Avengers is as a close support but non-close combat unit. A largish unit of Dire Avengers, rolling in with a Wave Serpent, will do a number on essentially any unit of infantry, and it will be a tall order to counter-attack them off it. It’s at least something worth trying out, beyond just the 6th edition “Dire Avenger tax” on a Serpent Spam army.

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Windriders. One of the units that the recent internet uproar has been over, stemming from a small but extremely significant change. Overall, the jetbikes have remained the same price, and have the same basic concept behind them – an extremely mobile, slightly more durable platform. Like the Guardian squads, they now can get a Warlock attached to their squad as a sergeant-like upgrade. They also got an updated new look that makes them look much more aggressive and streamlined, and much more in line with the Dark Eldar bikes – which is wonderful, as while I settled on a jetbike conversion I liked, it involves stalking Ebay for bits, and that’s a touch tiresome.

But the major change comes in the form of the heavy weapons – now not only can they now take either Shuriken Cannons or Scatter Lasers, but rather than one for every three bikes, it’s available for every bike for 10 points a model, making each jetbike potentially a very fast Strength 6 weapons platform for 27 points a model.

This, clearly, is a big deal.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the popular competitive builds for the Eldar was built on lots of mobile S6+ shooting in the form of reliably twin-linked Wave Serpents. But that had been much reduced. So what is the long ranged, non-Ghost Eldar army to do? Fill in the gap with jetbikes! How many jetbikes?

As it turns out, the answer is…slightly less than one. Below is the distribution of the number of hits between the old Wave Serpent (green distribution) and a new one, with an additional Scatter Laser toting jetbike along for the ride (red distribution):


As we can see, the addition of an additional scatter laser more than makes up for the weaker Wave Serpent. Now, there are some subtleties to this, like some of those old Wave Serpent shots being S7, meaning the “old style” version is marginally capable of dealing with threats like Imperial Knights and other AV 13 threats, while the new version is utterly helpless in that regard – so it may need those additional hits if firing at vehicles. But it requires only a single bike to make up for the Wave Serpent redesign. With one-in-three heavy weapons, that’s a 61 point penalty to restore that firepower…with the new ability to take a heavy weapon with every jetbike, it’s really only a 27 point penalty. There’s no slack in terms of needing to take extra bodies.

What is all this getting to? The new jetbikes are good. Very good. Potentially one of the best units in the game right now, combining mobility and firepower in a very efficient package.

There are however some caveats to this. In my experience, jetbikes are not particularly durable. For Eldar they’re tough, but they’re only T4 and 3+ armor units – they’ll die as easily as Space Marines, and are considerably more expensive for it. And jinking if they’re taking AP 3 or better fire will rob them of most of their firepower. They’re also rather large models – there’s been a lot of talk about being able to just pop back behind cover with their assault move and remain free from harm. In my experience that’s very hard to do with anything other than minimum sized units.

Finally, I’ve found that jetbikes are either survivable or mobile, but rarely both. Turbo-boosting means they’ve just paid 10 points to not shoot, and getting in the enemy’s face exposes them to fire. Generally, the units are small enough that small skirmish units and the like can engage them and still do damage. When they crumble, they start crumbling fast. Adding Warlocks helps them considerably, but this also makes the unit more expensive. While they may match the firepower of old-style Wave Serpents, I doubt they will be able to persist with nearly the tenacity of the grav tanks. Deep striking troops, drop pods, and other weapons that can haul the initiative back to the side of the windriders’ opponent will, I suspect, represent major threats. Letting them sit around in the backfield and hammering away without pressuring them is a recipe for disaster, but this is hardly a new concept for the Eldar – or several other armies.

All in all, the Troops section of the Codex is as good as it’s ever been. There’s a core of Guardian-type troops that can make a competitive build – in this case Windriders rather than Wave Serpents – and some tempting options elsewhere in the Codex. I believe the Wave Serpent still represents a solid transport, acting as a transport and mobile base of fire for Guardians, and an element of a “Shock and Awe” attack with Dire Avengers where the fact that the Wave Serpent isn’t an assault transport shouldn’t matter. I’ll likely be taking less of them, but the loyal Wave Serpent will remain a feature of my army.

This post was originally posted on Variance Hammer. If you liked it, and would like to see more positive, quantitatively (for the most part) driven thoughts on 40K, please visit, or consider supporting their Patreon campaign.


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19 Responses to “Variance Hammer Eldar Review Part 4 of 9”

  1. Joshhodg June 7, 2015 1:00 am #

    I actually am not playing the new codex because of the loss of Wraith troops. My entire Eldar army is the ghost bundle from the Christmas sale. I have 1 Wraithknight, 2 Wraithlords, 3 units of 5 Wraithguard, 3 Spiritseers, 3 Wace Serpents and a Wraith fighter jet. So with the new rules I’m an unbound army which is frowned upon where I play. It was a super easy sell though. Ugh let me use the old book and my guard won’t have D weapons and my knight won’t be a gargantuan creature. The answer was a very quick sure.

    • MidnightSun June 7, 2015 4:10 am #

      Isn’t the Ghost Warriors still a valid formation? They all get Hatred and drawing LoS through them gives 4+ cover instead of 5+? I thought that was a thing.

      • Variance Hammer June 7, 2015 9:11 am #

        It is a valid formation.

      • Joshhodg June 7, 2015 11:25 am #

        It doesn’t allow me to take my full army. I can’t add my fighter or my HQs or my transports. Makes it hard to make the points come together.

    • Variance Hammer June 7, 2015 9:16 am #

      Also, my site makes it pretty clear what I think of “which is frowned upon where I play.”

      • abusepuppy June 8, 2015 8:50 pm #

        While some “no you can’t do that even though it’s legal” stuff is pretty obnoxious, the Ghost Warriors are a bit out of date and there’s a legitimate rationale for not allowing it (especially since the Wraith Host is essentially the same thing but updated for the new codex and also better in most every way.)

  2. Peter Almo June 7, 2015 5:48 am #

    I have toyed with the idea of a Dire Avenger Shrine in Wave Serpents for an alpha strike shooting phase. Roll up in the Serpents, hop out and pop killing strike, 90 bladestorm shots at BS 5, yeah.

    • Variance Hammer June 7, 2015 8:13 pm #

      I have started calling this the “Come at me Bro” army build.

  3. DCannon4Life June 7, 2015 7:13 am #

    I think your examination of the power weapon options for the Dire Avenger Exarch is incomplete (it seems you assume a power sword will be taken). They have access to Power Axes, Power Mauls and Power Lances (not the same thing as a Laser Lance) as well.

    • Variance Hammer June 7, 2015 9:14 am #

      It is admittedly incomplete – while I can’t imagine them particularly taking a power lance, especially in their new role, yes, taking a power axe or power maul is possible.

      That being said, I’ve mostly encountered people who think they’ll need killing power on their Exarch taking the Dire Sword. Either other weapon is of course possible, but has roughly the same summarization: “Your Exarch is better, but Dire Avengers struggle against anything where you go ‘Thank goodness I brought a Power X”.

  4. Sam June 7, 2015 10:42 am #

    I waited to reply until this post after reading your first four articles. It is clear your on a,path of being apologetic and understating the elder codex. Every time you talk about a buff to a unit you directly try to undermine it with statements like “they are powerful but” “this is a huge improvement but”. This isn’t a subjective review instead it’s your version of trying to undermine how powerful some of the changes are.

    Things such as jet bikes being not defensive monsters are hardly a deterrent to them. They are still some of the most durable troops with 3+ saves that no other jet bike has including harlequin or dark elder which makes no sense. On top of jink cover saves, on top of the faster most mobile ob secured unit in game that easily takes advantage of line of sight blocking terrain.

    Another example is your statement oh look they shoot a ton of str 6 and that’s great “but” the loss of the wave serpent occasional str 7 means they can’t kill knight. First one has little to do with the other as you said before the wave serpent is still an amazingly fast and durable transport with a good emergency shooting. Secondly the wind riders are so incredibly fast it has little problems reaching side of rear armor on knights or other vehicles with front av13. Regardless the power of wind riders vs knights isn’t my point it’s the fact your entire article series is clearly written in defense of elder with a clear bias like you feel the need to defend every overpowered unit or every improvement made to an elder unit.

    • happy_inquisitor June 7, 2015 2:16 pm #

      The new scatter laser jetbikes are undeniably good but as a (sometimes) Farsight Enclaves Tau player I see them differently to many others; they fit perfectly in the same role as a troops crisis team armed with missile pods. They hang back and shoot stuff from range while dodging in and out of cover while waiting to grab an objective. Point for point the scatter laser bikes have better shooting at some targets, pretty much the same against many targets and worse against AV13. They remain incredible at objective grabbing, although only at the expense of losing their shooting for a turn.

      What they do not have is the same JSJ trickery. It might look on paper like they do but I have tried and for the same points as crisis suits they have a much bigger footprint. Too big to just assume there will be LOS blocking terrain large enough for them or that their assault phase move will always be good enough to get them all there. In practice they just do not JSJ as well as crisis teams so they are more exposed to danger. They are far more averse to difficult terrain than crisis suits due to the higher model count, so they end up relying more on their jink for cover saves but that means their shooting goes to BS1. Losing an effective turn of shooting is a pattern for them and unlike crisis suits which go to ground there are no Eldar markerlights to make the problem go away.

      They are excellent. They are definitely as good as the equivalent crisis suit team but they are only better situationally and that does not seem like an overwhelming problem to me given that missile crisis troops really failed to shape the meta.

      • abusepuppy June 8, 2015 8:53 pm #

        > for the same points as crisis suits they have a much bigger footprint.

        But they need to spend fewer points to get the same firepower, so it’s a bit of a moot point.

        Jetbike squads, generally speaking, don’t come in large sizes. (I would never run more than six in a unit and usually only three or five.) With the small flying base, they’re really no more space-consuming than most similar things and less so than many.

        Crisis are a great unit, but they don’t hold a candle to Jetbikes.

    • Variance Hammer June 7, 2015 8:12 pm #

      I’m not inclined toward being particular apologetic about the Eldar codex – when this was written, most reviews of the Eldar were “And Lo, They Stride Forth Across the Battlefields As Gods…”

      As for jetbikes not being defensive monsters not being a deterrent – perhaps you should watch Frankie and Reece’s game from last week. I think that crumbling if you can put pressure on them is a big weakness, and discussing that weakness is probably worthwhile, especially for people who don’t own the codex itself.

      Similarly, I think most of the high volume shooting shifting from something that [i]can[/i] hurt all but the very heaviest armor in the game to something that can’t is indeed relevant. Especially as flitting all over the board to get those rear shots will put them in exactly the kind of position to take the kind of return fire they’re vulnerable to.

      Finally, “This unit is strong but…” is more useful than “This unit is strong.” Why? Because it contains more information. These units have weaknesses – they might not be big, and they’re certainly not promised to offset their strengths, but they do exist.

      And there’s no such thing as an objective review of something reporting anything other than purely technical specs. And given GW frowns on just republishing the codex on your blog, I won’t be doing that.

  5. Sam June 7, 2015 5:35 pm #

    Again the point seems to have gone over your head. It’s not about what cab or can’t hurt these units. Everything that worked last edition still is applicable today. these units are just undeniably better. However the point has nothing to do with that as this argument you can find in a thousand places on the Internet. The point is the author is completely biased review is no where near subjective because he is doing the same thing you are currently doing being overly defensive on every single buff the elders recieved on every single comment he makes. He feels the need to apply scenarios and examples about every possibly reason to justify some changes. Seriously what’s the point in comparing wave serpents to jetbikes? He is a doing a unit by unit comparison but felt the need to explain why elder jetbikes needed crazy scatbike shooting. This unit is Good “but” is literally every single reply he makes.

    • SimonW June 7, 2015 6:22 pm #

      Is it not fair complete to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a unit (even if it has more of one than the other) :)?
      Is it not also quite clear that 5 windriders with t4, 3+ armour and jink are markedly less survivable than an Av12 fast skimmer with jink and move through cover, for the same points?

      Comparing jetbikes to serpents is valid because before, serpents were the way you delivered the majority of your space elf shooting down range and now it’s jetbikes. I think the value in examining “how good is the main source of firepower now compared with previously” is quite apparent, and interesting too :)!

      Scatterbikes are good, but they’re also weak to many things. Yes, if you deploy opposite them in a way that you’re in their threat range and they’re not in yours, you’re screwed. This is also true against any gunline list.
      But if you get to shoot them, you only need to do 25% casualties to each unit for morale checks (which they have ~27% chance to fail at Ld 8). This means the Eldar player needs to shore up these weaknesses, adding to the cost of scatterbikes. Not to mention those Av 13+ units they can’t hurt without Misfortune, (which are somehow irrelevant 😛 ).

      I’m not trying to say Scatterbikes aren’t good- they are. They really are. They’re absolutely excellent, especially for 27pts. However they’re not some sort of world destroying super unit that never dies either.

      Scatterbikes have weaknesses. Saying “yes but they’re better than unit X” doesn’t mean these weaknesses magically disappear.
      Although I play Eldar too, so clearly I’m also fabricating any weakness in any unit in the codex… 😉

      *In addition, you mean that you think the review is not “objective.” Your argument is that the review is subjective.

    • Variance Hammer June 7, 2015 8:17 pm #

      The point of comparing the Wave Serpent to the Jetbikes is *in the review itself*. Because a codex review is reviewing a whole codex, not just each unit as if they existed in a vacuum.

      An Eldar player with a lot of Wave Serpents is going to see the volume of fire they put out reduced. It’s not unreasonable for them to say “Gee, I wonder if there’s a place where I can make that up?”

      To which the answer is “Yeah, if you’re talking purely about volume of fire, a new Wave Serpent and a Scatterbike is about the same as an old Wave Serpent. If you’re shooting tough stuff, probably a little more than that.”

      Is there some way that *isn’t* useful information?

  6. verci June 7, 2015 8:09 pm #

    Laughing my head off at the storm guardian review. Great article.

    • abusepuppy June 8, 2015 8:56 pm #

      Storm Guardians are “da best.” S3/T3/5+ models with one attack and no assault transport? QUICK, LET’S GET THESE GUYS INTO A FIGHT WHERE THEY BELONG! It’s especially funny because they will typically lose a fight to an equal points value of Guardsmen.

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