Today on Tactics Corner we’re looking at the big daddy of all of the Eldar Aspects, the Warp Spiders. With big showings at LVO and across much of Europe, they’re a unit well worth knowing about. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and articles.
Warp Spiders, despite not having a Phoenix Lord, are a long-standing member of the Aspect club and have been around since 2E. However, they (and their guns) have changed greatly over the years, and with them their viability as a unit. As of 7th Edition they are on the upswing- in fact, they are arguably one of the top five units in the Eldar codex, and given the existence of things like Scatter Bikes and the Wraithknight, that is really saying something.
Starting things off, Warp Spiders have a pretty basic Aspect Warrior statline. They come with the usual strong numbers in most places (WS/BS4, I5, Ld9), though their marginal values for Strength and Toughness (three in both) mean that they will never be stars in close combat and will take a lot more wounds from basic weapons than some other units will. However, their excellent 3+ armor save can help mitigate this, as can many of their special abilities.
The Jet Pack Infantry type, once more combined with their other abilities, gives them excellent mobility (as well as the innate ability to Deep Strike.) All in all, a Warp Spider’s basic statline is nothing to sneeze at, but neither is it the part of them that is really going to wow you. Judged by this facet alone, we would be at a loss to explain why they were so useful.
Rules and Wargear
It is the Spiders’ plethora of special rules and tricks that really begin to show their value. Every Warp Spider comes armed with a Deathspinner, a 12″ weapon with Str6 AP- and two shots. The clutch point here is the Monofilament rule, which allows the weapon to wound against Initiative (rather than Toughness) and essentially gives it the Rending rule against non-vehicle targets. Though short-ranged, these weapons put out sufficient number of shots to tear through horde units with relative ease and wounding on 2s against virtually everything with Rending thrown in the bargain means that even heavy infantry and MCs will find themselves hard-pressed to stay alive against such a volley.
However, it only gets better from there. Their Warp Jump Generator not only gives them the Jet Pack type as already mentioned, but also allows them to make a special Warp Jump movement during the movement phase, adding 2d6″ to their normal distance moved and allowing them to ignore all models and terrain during the jump. If snake eyes are rolled they lose a member of the squad, but this is a pretty trivial risk to take for the possibility of moving as much as 18″ across the table in a single phase- and that’s not even the end of it.
As Eldar, Warp Spiders also benefit from the Battle Focus rule, meaning they can both Run and shoot in the same turn, and Fleet, allowing them to reroll Run and charge distances. This means that you can Warp Jump for 2d6+6″, Run for d6″, and then Thrust for 2d6″ more, all without giving up any of your normal actions- hence the unit’s reputation for insane mobility. They also get packaged with the Ancient Doom special rule like all Craftworld elves do, though it will almost never actually come into play.
But wait, that’s not all; as if they weren’t slippery enough already, the unit also has Hit and Run (allowing them to escape from combat with an Initiative test) and Flickerjump. The latter is done when the unit gets shot at and lets them make an immediate Warp Jump movement of 2d6″, but prevents them from doing so in their ensuing movement phase. ITC rules restrict this usage to once per turn, but even so it still means that they will be very, very difficult to pin down anytime there is LoS-blocking terrain on the table nearby them, as they can use their Run and/or Thrust moves to get partway to safety and then Flickerjump to make it the rest of the distance.
With all of that gear coming standard on every model in the squad, it’s probably for the best that the unit has very few upgrade options. Like all Aspect Warriors they can take an Exarch for 10pts, who benefits from +1WS, BS, I, and Wounds compared to a normal member of the squad as well as automatically passing all Morale, Pinning, and Fear checks they are required to make. The Exarch can upgrade their gun to twin-linked for 5pts, take a Spinneret Rifle for 15pts (S6 AP1 Rapid Fire), or add a pair of Power Swords for 20pts. You won’t typically see any weapon upgrades on an Exarch, but the Spinneret Rifle isn’t terrible- it’s essentially Rending 100% of the time compared to a normal Deathspinner and has a slightly longer overall range, though it needs to be marginally closer to get the second shot.
We’ve already mentioned that Warp Spiders are good. As in, really, really, good and one of the best units in the game. They never got quite as much attention as Scatter Bikes (at least on this side of the Atlantic) even with topping at LVO, but most players have been at least passingly aware of them. Their two big advantages are mobility and versatility- as already discussed, they can move a crazy distance every turn of the game, averaging something like 24″ per turn, which lets them take maximum advantage of terrain, positioning, and weak points in the enemy’s defenses. In this respect they epitomize the Eldar’s advantages, striking at the enemy’s weak points and avoiding direct confrontations. On “planet bowling ball”-type boards they may find themselves in rather dire straits, but on boards like those found at LVO and BAO (with abundant blocking terrain and ruins) they will thrive, dodging in and out of the enemy’s view to wreak havoc.
However, their speed isn’t the only thing that makes them valuable- indeed, in a lot of ways it just enables them to function, since their guns are hilariously short-ranged otherwise. Rather, it is the Monofilament rule on their weapons (combined with S6) that makes them a real danger- though they put out fewer shots than their cousins the Scatter Bikes do, the ability to tear up models regardless of their Toughness value (as almost nothing actually seen in tournaments these days has higher Initative than Toughness) and the potential for Rending hits are what push them over the top. They won’t perform as well against basic infantry for the most part due to the lower number of shots, but the sort of targets that usually give Scatter Bikes fits such as big MCs or anything with a 2+ save will often find Warp Spiders cutting them to pieces.
Like many units with exceptionally short-ranged weapons, Warp Spiders are typically (though not always) deployed to the battle by Deep Strike; since Eldar have very little scatter mitigation to speak of this can be a bit risky, but their wide movement range generally allows them to deploy in a conservative fashion and then use Battle Focus to get them where they need to be in order to shoot. In this regard, many players will want to have an Autarch, Comms Relay, or other reserve-manipulation effect in order to ensure that they come onto the board in a timely manner; similarly, taking careful note of where any impassible terrain or other obstacles are is also very important.
40K is, for the most part, an offensive game rather than a defensive one. Even fully-powered deathstars can’t really afford to just sit back and take casualties while waiting for the game to end; resilience is really just a means to an end, a way to enable your attackers to stay attacking for as long as possible rather than a strategy in and of itself. Often enough, the army that wins is the one that hits the enemy hardest while taking the least damage in return- and Warp Spiders excel at this game, as they can kill most anything in the game (bar vehicles with AV13+ on all sides) while remaining frustratingly hard to hurt themselves. Using them is all about asymmetrical battles and very careful range-measuring, but when it works it’s all but unstoppable.
There is another factor to their use in the game, though- namely, formations. Two major formations allow you to field Warp Spiders in significant numbers, and taken together they are the core of the strategy that many Eldar players have been relying on recently. Both of them are part of the Craftworld Warhost and significantly change the way it ends up being used, since they allow you to eliminate the otherwise-high “taxes” you have to pay in order to get its benefits.
The Aspect Host is probably the one that the most players are familiar with, since it is part of the base Eldar codex. Able to take three units of any Aspect Warriors the player pleases and giving all of them +1 Ballistic Skill (or Weapon Skill, if you are a fool) and rerolls on essentially all Leadership-based tests, the Host itself is a very solid choice virtually no matter what you include in it. It forces you to put an Exarch in every squad, which can be a bit expensive, but it’s not without its benefits (especially for Spiders) and well worth the price even with that considered. Hitting on 2s with everyone in the unit is absolutely brutal and only serves to increase the firepower of a very deadly unit to even greater heights.
What really pushed things over the top was the Pale Courts Battlehost option from IA11. Able to replace the core choices for a normal Craftworld Warhost, the Pale Courts is a bit unremarkable at first glance- however, like Spiders, its strength lies in its flexibility, as a variety of “traits” allow you to customize the units (and special rules) of the Pale Court in a variety of ways. The one most relevant to us here is the Aspect-Lord Shrine, which lets us take Aspect Warriors in place of the usual Guardians- in essence, it removes ALL tax on taking them (especially since another trait allows us to bring an Autarch in place of a Farseer, getting us the reserve bonus we want.) With as many as six units of Warp Spiders and an automatic 6″ run for all of them this setup really maximizes the strengths of the unit in a way that can be truly devastating.
Do Warp Spiders have any weaknesses, then? Certainly so. They are exceedingly mediocre in melee, with only S3 and one attack each, and a failed Hit and Run or Morale check can easily spell their doom and strong melee combatants that manage to catch them should wipe the unit out entirely. As already touched on, battlefields that lack much line-of-sight blocking terrain are also rather suboptimal for them, since this prevents them from using their Fancy Shenanigans to escape enemy fire. They also end up being a bit less than impressive against foes with high Initiative values; though these aren’t common, even just basic Eldar need 3+s to wound and those rare Hellions, Demon Princes, or other units can be even worse. It’s also important to remember that they are highly reliant on Warp Jump to do work for them and can easily be ground down by basic Boltguns and the like- if you can throw some weaker shots at them, you force them to either Warp Jump away (often putting them out of range for next turn’s shooting) or start rolling saves. And, as most players have seen, 3+ armor really only carries you so far, especially with T3.
Warp Spiders, though they may not be quite as blatantly-strong as Windrider Jetbikes or as hilariously-undercosted as the Wraithknight, are still a really strong inclusion to the Eldar toolbox and should never be underestimated. 6E and 7E have seen them gradually work their way back into usefulness and, speaking as someone who has loved the unit for a long time, on a certain level I’m glad to see that. However, the pendulum has swung a bit too far in this case, so beware the horde of teleporting ascetic warrior elves wherever your tournaments may take you.
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