Craftworld Eldar- are they the end of the game? (No.) Are they a complete garbage army? (Also no.) If you want a look at what inside the new codex will be making it to tournaments, look inside. (Okay.) Also, who is that behind me that keeps whispering? (Probably Alpharius.)
Every time a new codex is released, there is a flood of panic and shouting on the various internets about how strong it is (or isn’t.) If you’re not interested in spending the $50 to pick up a copy yourself, or don’t feel you have the acumen to pick out the signal from noise on the new book, it can be tough to get a handle on just what has changed and what that all means for you when you go to your local tournaments.
Fortunately I, as a differenter-and-more-trustworthy section of the internet (cue sarcasm) am here to clear all of this up for you. I would say that you should take anything in here as an absolute statement of divine truth, but if you’re struggling to take in all of what’s going on with the rapid codex release schedule- and lord knows most of us are- I hope you may find this review helpful to picking out what is going to be most important.
This review will largely be focused on using Eldar in competitive play, though I may comment on more casual-oriented play in passing. It also assumes that the reader has at least a basic familiarity with the army as a whole and understands what they do and what they are capable of- if you’re looking for a more general overview of the faction or one that takes more upbeat approach to things, Reece has done an excellent job with his three part review of the book.
Craftworlds or Ynnari?
So let’s get the big thing out of the way first: Eldar still have the option of bringing a Ynnari army instead of a Craftworlds one. And Strength from Death is still a really strong ability for models to have, easily stronger than any of the Craftworld attributes. So a lot of people are saying that you won’t see any Craftworlds armies at all, just Ynnari armies taking advantage of some of the features of the new book- and that’s certainly possible. But I don’t think it’s that simple.
Strength from Death is no longer just competing with Battle Focus in terms of what you have to compare it to- it’s competing with Battle Focus, your Craftworld attribute, a set of improved warlord traits, relics, and Objective Secured for your troops. Now, in spite of all that, it’s still not an easy call- Strength from Death is just an absolutely fantastic power and it’s really hard to beat. But I think that you will, at the very least, see people trying out Craftworlds because they have a number of ways that they can shine over Ynnari.
One of the most important will be the new ITC Championship missions, which emphasize different styles of play than the book missions or current ITC missions (or the NOVA/Renegade missions, for those who use them.) The cumulative scoring as well as the end-of-battle-round point totaling gives a significant advantage to armies that can take and hold the middle of the field while remaining resilient- players will be struggling to hold more objectives as well as to kill more units each turn, making your defensive prowess much more important than it was previously. And Craftworlds have some strong defensive abilities against any kind of shooting attack as well as some decent anti-melee tools, so they certainly have the potential to be a viable choice over Ynnari. Both armies struggle significantly with the Smite spam that is so dominant right now, but you can expect that issue to be addressed by GW before the end of the year, so don’t take it as an insoluable problem with the army.
However, there’s a good possibility that you’ll see mixed Ynnari/Craftworlds armies showing up; Ynnari units are able to embark on Craftworld transports of the appropriate faction, so it’s possible to get the best of both worlds by having a unit of Ynnari Wraithguard embark on an Alaitoc Wave Serpent. Ynnari can also make use of most of the Craftworld stratagems (as they have the appropriate keywords) if you take a Craftworld detachment somewhere in your army- however, as they tend to have a lot fewer command points than most armies (and can’t bring in an Autarch to regenerate command points), they will be a lot more hard-pressed to get use out of them consistently.
Long story short: don’t count Craftworlds armies out yet. They’re better than you probably think.
Alright, so this is the first step in our journey of assessing what’s worth taking from the book, and it’ll be a short one. Eldar have five Craftworld attributes to pick from, but for the overwhelming majority of armies there is only one, perhaps two at most, “real” choice. The Alaitoc attribute is simply so much stronger than any of the other possibilities that you’ll rarely see anyone running anything else except for fluff reasons. The other Craftworlds have some useful strengths, but in the general sense Alaitoc just has a vastly broader application in the course of most game. Ulthwe can save you some casualties on a unit or some damage on a multiwound guy… but Alaitoc will almost always protect you better. Iyanden can mitigate the additional casualties you take from morale and keep your big models effective longer… but Alaitoc will help insure you don’t need to take the check (or consult the damage table) in the first place. Saim Hann is all about bikers and melee, neither of which are particularly good in this book. Biel-Tan gives a largely-irrelevant bonus to aspect warriors and gives you rerolls on basic weapons- but Shuriken isn’t where you want to be getting most of your firepower, and there are other ways to get rerolls.
In short, Alaitoc is the place to be. They help mitigate the short range of many Eldar weapons, they give you a notable advantage in the mid-range firefights that are common in 8E, and they are particularly punishing to BS4+ armies and those dependent on rerolls or plasma, all of which are top-tier right now. Use Alaitoc in every army and you’ll rarely go wrong.
Eldar don’t have a lot of eye-grabbing strategies the way some other factions do, but there are a surprising number of sleeper hits in the list that will catch players off guard. The faction as a whole also sits in a decent place in terms of bringing the battalions/brigades you need to get enough CP to make good use of your stratagems- while Eldar units aren’t quite as cheap as Guard or Tyranid ones, they have good units in every slot and can bring effective choices for 60-80pts in each slot. They also have some extremely cheap HQ choices (all the way down to 30 for the humble Warlock), an important feature in terms of unlocking multiple detachments. Last but not least, the Autarch allows you to regenerate command points on a 6+ when you spend them so long as they are the warlord- while this may not net you a lot most games (often 1-2), a hot streak can easily see the army burn through 15+ CP in the course of the game, and Eldar have a bunch of stratagems that they can use on a turn-by-turn basis to make use of these shifting winds of fortune.
Cloudstrike and Webway Portal have gotten the most attention so far, and not unrightfully so- they allow you to bring in either a vehicle or one/two infantry or biker units (respectively) from reserves, although they are mutually exclusive with each other. (Note that Cloudstrike can be used any number of times and prevents disembarkation, while Webway Portal can only be used once.) Although less flexible in some ways than the Alpha Legion, Raven Guard, and other similar stratagems, they have a number of advantages as well- since the units are off the table entirely, they help mitigate the effects of going second in many situations, allowing you to protect key units from enemy fire. Just as importantly, they apply to a much wider range of targets- you can bring down a Lynx or Warp Hunter a short distance from the enemy to inflict a terrifying number of autohits and vaporize a key target if they don’t shield themselves from it properly, and with the weakening of Commissars it will be harder for many armies to wall off entire sections of the board. Even “just” dropping a large unit of Dark Reapers, Shadow Spectres, Fire Dragons, or Wraithguard can be quite terrifying for the enemy. Combined with the many ways Eldar natively possess of putting units into reserve and their defensive abilities, you can potentially protect most or all of your army from enemy interference in the early turns of the game.
Matchless Agility doesn’t sound sexy (it guarantees an advance of 6″ on one of your units), but it is an incredibly useful stratagem to have in your back pocket for an emergency. How many games have you lost because one of your units couldn’t quite move far enough to get onto an objective? Matchless Agility means that when it really matters, you won’t fuck up that roll.
Lightning-Fast Reactions is a bit expensive at 2CP, but as part of the aforementioned defensive strategy it can be quite useful- making your army -2 or -3 to be hit via the Alaitoc trait stacked with other bonuses is a pretty huge way to minimize the enemy’s first turn. Since it is used reactively to the enemy declaring a shooting attack, it also is quite powerful as a way to deter them from targeting a particular unit that is holding an objective, etc. Remember that it works on anything that is an Infantry or Fly keyword unit- which is almost everything in the codex short of the Avatar or his ilk.
Overloaded Energy Field Protectors, a rather awkward mouthful of words to spit out, is another one of the variety of conditional abilities that do d3 mortal wounds. This one keys off of a Wave Serpent, allowing you to discharge its shield a second time (though, notably, you can’t do so twice in the same turn.) For tough targets like primarchs, sometimes you just need those last few wounds to push through, and having a stratagem like this is always very useful. It helps, of course, that the Wave Serpent is just a good vehicle in general.
Fire and Fade has gotten a lot of eyes on it as a replacement for the JSJ shenanigans of previous editions, but I would caution players to be careful with it. Now, yes, at only 1CP it is relatively cheap and gives you a bonus 7″ move to get further out of range or behind some terrain- a quality ability, I will not argue. It allows even basic Eldar infantry to move 15-20″ in a single turn without penalty so long as they don’t care about assaulting and can let you reposition almost effortlessly when the need strikes. However, the cost will quickly add up if you’re using it every turn and it is used in an active (rather than reactive) fashion, so the enemy will know exactly what to expect when you use it. Don’t center your strategy around being immune to retaliation because of this stratagem, because units are faster than ever and killier than ever in 8th Edition.
Phantasm is a neat little stratagem that lets you redeploy three units before the game starts. It’s at its best against middle-tier players, those good enough to recognize a mistake in deployment (e.g. putting all of your heavy firepower units on one side of a piece of blocking terrain) and react appropriately to counter it, but not good enough to remember that the stratagem exists and thus that you can “fix” your mistake before the game starts. It also has uses to fix a legitimate mistake that you’ve made or to push back enemy units (such as Scouts) that can deploy in front of your lines and cause problems. Always do a quick check of your setup to determine whether Phantasm is useful before the game starts- matches are won and lost at deployment, and fixing an unexpected error or an enemy’s clever move will usually be worth the price of admission.
There are a number of other more niche stratagems that could be put in here for honorable mention or that will see extensive use in particular armies- Celestial Shield, Forewarned, Linked Fire, Runes of Witnessing, etc. The key thing to understand is that Eldar have tons and tons of stratagems that give them defensive or mobility bonuses over the course of a game; they may not be able to lay down the hurt the way a unit of Obliterators dealing out Veterans + Cacophony can, but they are often able to weather far more firepower than you would expect from weedy little T3 dudes.
Warlord Traits and Relics
The Craftworld warlord table is pretty excellent overall, with some very powerful choices available to you. Especially with ITC’s ruling that you can change traits from game to game (as per the mission text), you have an excellent swathe of tools available to deal with different sorts of armies. There is essentially no reason you would ever take one of the BRB traits in a Craftworld army, as you have strictly-better version of most of them available to you.
Seer of the Shifting Vector is going to be your go-to in most cases. One reroll on anything your warlord does per battle round (not player turn!) is pretty huge, most especially because you can use it for both psychic rolls and saving throws. Shutting down a clutch enemy power, getting one of your own powers off, or passing an invulnerable save can be very big- note that this stacks not only with the Farseer’s innate reroll on psychics (potentially letting you reroll both powers you cast, if you’re having a bad turn) but also with the Command Reroll stratagem; since most every Eldar HQ comes with a 4++ innately, in a pinch they can weather quite a bit of damage with this ability.
Mark of the Incomparable Hunter has some potential, but with the removal of most of the Autarch’s effective shooting, you will probably not be able to take advantage of it. You can still occasionally fire off a Fusion or Lance shot into an enemy to cause shenanigans, but you’re not going to be playing sniper with this. The only exception is a Wraithseer equipped with a D-Cannon: those d3 shots for d6 damage apiece can put some fear into even models like Ghillie-Man or Celestine. It’s a pretty expensive gimmick, but cute when it works.
Falcon’s Swiftness doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but +2″ movement is a lot better than most people think. That gives a bike character a base movement of 18″ (24″ when they advance) and can let a foot character keep up with even fast troops surprisingly well. I don’t think I’d often pick it due to the relics available to the army, but the option is always there.
Two of the Craftworld-specific traits deserve mention here, specifically Alaitoc and Biel-Tan. Alaitoc gives you a 6″ bubble of ignoring morale, a pretty decent ability in general- and since you’ll be taking Alaitoc anyways, it’s worth thinking about. You usually will want to take Seer instead, but against an enemy with lots of morale penalties or if you’re running a big block or two of Guardians for other reasons, you maybe consider it. The Biel-Tan trait is utterly amazing, giving rerolls on all shots to one unit within 3″ of your warlord each shooting phase… but you have to be Biel-Tan to use it, so you won’t actually see it on the table very often.
The Remnants of Glory (i.e. relics) are a bit more lackluster overall. Though there are some good ones in there, as a general rule many Craftworld armies are gonna struggle a bit for which one to pick, not because there are so many great choices but because so many of them are simply not legal choices for the characters in an army. It will be a rare day indeed that you’ll spend CP in order to add extra relics to your army- something that other factions have a reasonable chance of doing.
The big winner is consistently going to be Faolchu’s Wing, which gives one of your infantry models a movement of 12″ and the Fly keyword. I generally think of it as a free upgrade to a bike- it lets something like a Spiritseer or the like keep up with other units and can save you some points on an HQ model, though it does not come with the improved statline (armor, toughness, wounds) that bikes usually have. Still, it’s a nice little point-saver and fits into what you want a Craftworld army to do pretty well.
The Phoenix Gem is another strong choice for many armies, since it has no limitations on who is allowed to take it. (Note that this includes models like a Wraithseer, who is not unique and carries no relic of its own, but not the Avatar.) When the model dies it does d3 wounds to each nearby unit on a 2+, and if any models are slain as a result you pop back to life with a single wound remaining. It can trigger on both friendly and enemy units, potentially protecting even a character that is hanging out in your own lines, but it will be much more useful for someone who can dive into the enemy lines and do some damage. Realistically, though, an Autarch is one of the few characters that can effectively do this, and of the various Autarchs only the foot and Skyrunner versions are likely to want it.
There are several different “replaces a power sword” relics available- which is particularly hilarious since power swords are actually pretty rare in the army, with only the Autarch with Wings being likely to have one. But of the three of them, the Shard of Anaris is the clearly superior one, upgrading it to d3 damage and giving a reroll to wound. (The Firesabre is slightly better for clearing out single-wound infantry models, but that isn’t a job your Autarch should be taking on.)
Alaitoc’s relic, the Shiftshroud, deserves some mention as a way to stick a character into reserve to show up later as well as giving the enemy -1 to hit them with shooting. Being able to sneak a psyker into the right position is a useful tool to have, especially if you’re planning on deploying a bunch of other models into reserves as well.
Like the other factions, the Craftworld psychic tables were filled out to a full six powers each with the codex, giving them a number of new options to play around with. Several of the powers were also changed significantly, making them useful in different situations, so make sure you know what your spells do. Like warlord traits and relics, ITC allows changing your psychic powers with each battle- don’t get so focused on your “usual” plan that you completely ignore other options that can win you a game.
All of the Runes of Battle powers are pretty similar now- their “buff” version targets a friendly infantry or biker unit within 18″ and gives them a bonus of some kind, while the “debuff” version targets an enemy unit (of any type) within 18″ and penalizes them. No longer can you share one of the auras amongst several clustered units, but the extended range means that you have a lot more flexibility in terms of using them on the units that need them most. Remember that you have the Concordance of Power stratagem to double their range to 36″ if you absolutely need to hit a particular unit with them, though generally this won’t be worth the one CP you have to spend on it.
Conceal is still a very strong choice to make a unit harder to kill, stacking with the Alaitoc trait and Lightning-Fast Reactions stratagem to really rack up the penalties. Reveal isn’t a bad power to have around if you need it, but ignoring cover just isn’t as impressive as it used to be, so you probably won’t be busting it out very often. (Notably, it is also purely worse than Jinx except in terms of casting value needed.)
Speaking of which, Protect and Jinx are both fantastic abilities. Protect adds +1 to all saves the unit makes, including invulns- this can make for a very tough target indeed combined with other factors. A 3++ on a unit of Guardians is no joke, nor are aspect warriors standing in cover for a 2+ or 1+ save. By the same token, Jinx can strip a point of saves from any target the enemy has- casting it on a big unit like a Knight, a primarch, or a block of Conscripts can swing things quite a bit. It’s isn’t as swingy as something like Death Hex or Null Zone, but it is far more broadly applicable- even just dropping the save of some Marines to a 4+ can be very useful.
Quicken and Restrain are the third pair you will consistently see used. Quicken is like Warptime, granting a free move to one unit- this can propel a squad into combat far quicker than you might expect, though Craftworlds don’t have nearly as many big hitters to throw forward as some other factions. It also doesn’t work on monsters, vehicles, etc, the way Warptime does- so no first-turn charges with a Wraithknight, sorry. On the flip side, Restrain halves a unit’s movement, no questions asked; against something like a Magnus/Mortarion list that relies heavily on getting early charges, this can be pretty crippling. Note that it does not stop them from advancing, though, so will only be of limited impediment to many basic infantry units.
On the Runes of Fate side of things, the powers remain mostly identical. Medium-to-long ranges let your Farseer reach around the battlefield and put bonuses where bonuses are needed- however, the huge improvements to Runes of Battle mean that you are much more likely to run both sorts of psykers in an army these days. All of the Fate powers have comparatively high casting values, meaning you will need to make extensive use of rerolls to get them off with any consistency- lucky, then, that Farseers have such easy access to those rerolls.
Doom is still your go-to power. Most weapons wound on a 3+ or 4+ these days, and Doom is one of a very small number of ways in the game to improve that at all- more importantly, potentially improve it for multiple units. As with Jinx, slapping it onto a big enemy target can spell very bad times for it, especially if you have a bunch of Shuriken or sniper weaponry nearby to try and trigger some lucky sixes.
Executioner seems to have been largely overlooked in favor of people drooling over Mind War, but I consider it to be the superior of the two. While it doesn’t get to single out a character the way its companion spell does, a strong likelihood of doing 2d3 mortal wounds to any kind of multi-model unit is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you follow it up with a Smite.
Guide is, of course, a good standby power that will be useful almost all of the time. Although an Autarch can do some of the same work, Guide is able to provide a large bonus and in a more selective (and wide-ranging) fashion, so it still has a lot of utility.
The Eldar HQ range remains surprisingly close to where it has always been in past editions. Not every character in the army is seen driving around on a Harley at all times, but the option is still a solid one and the same set of HQs will still be seen the vast majority of the time. Eldar character sit in a very middle-of-the-road position in terms of cost; most of them are 100 to 150pts, though very notably they do have some extremely cheap options to fill out a detachment at a discount.
The Farseer is still your go-to choice in most cases. As discussed above, the Eldar psychic powers have some real winners in them, most especially Doom- and the added psychic defense that a Farseer brings (two denies with the option for a reroll, or even two if it’s your warlord) is going to make the job of enemy psykers a lot more difficult. Being able to customize your powers round-to-round is pretty huge, and Eldar players absolutely should take advantage of all of these strengths by bringing at least one psyker in every army.
The Warlock, although coming with a pretty laughably-poor statline, is cheap as chips and has access to an amazing number of powers thanks to the “double-up” nature of Runes of Battle. The debuff powers are typically what you will be wanting to make the most use of (which means that a Hemlock potentially fills this role as well), but you really can’t complain about paying 30pts for a psyker. Oh, and don’t forget that they can cast their shitty little version of Smite in a pinch- one wound isn’t a lot, but it’s better than nothing. For 15pts you can upgrade to a Spiritseer with more wounds, a full Smite, and the ability to buff Wraith units, but this is a 50% increase so it’s actually not as much of an auto-take as it seems at first glance.
The Autarch is… jeez, he’s a mess, but he’s a mess you’ll probably take anyways. Path of Command is a pretty good ability to have around for both halves of it, but the problem is that GW’s new “we don’t want to confuse new players with conversions” policy makes the Autarch’s wargear absolutely bizarre. A foot version has no options at all and just carries a punching glove- don’t run this version unless you are desperate for points or really, really need to stick him into a transport. The Winged version gets a power sword and fusion pistol (as well as Mandiblasters), which is a passable setup at least, and lets you put them in reserve if that’s what you’re looking for. The Skyrunner version is actually about the same price as the foot one and has the option of either a sword, Fusion Gun, or Laser Lance. Protip: always take the Lance, as it’s functionally almost as good as the sword and gun put together for a fraction of the price. The big strike against the Skyrunner is that it isn’t infantry, however, and so can’t carry the relic, benefit from cover easily, etc.
Of the many, many named characters most of them are rather mediocre overall, though no longer abjectly terrible now that their prices have dropped below the 200pt mark. Baharroth is worth watching as a cheap source of mortal wounds and a reasonable combination of shooting and melee- he buffs Hawks, who are pretty alright now, so you might sometimes think about bringing him. Maugan Ra and Karandras are basically only worth thinking about because they sync well with their respective aspects- however, I don’t expect they’ll make any real waves. Illic Nightspear is one of the best character-hunters in the game these days, with a Dmg3 sniper rifle that hits on 2s and wounds on 2s against most things. But with Commissars getting the bat recently, I don’t think the need for him is as strong anymore, so he may or may not make an appearance. Still, in combination with some Pathfinders he can really screw up a character-centric strategy, so keep that guy in your back pocket- helpful, as he matches up with the best Craftworld choice for armies.
Eldar troops during their Index phase were some of the worst garbage around- the worst possible combination of fragile, expensive, and short-ranged. The codex has seen some massive improvements to some of these units, making it a lot more possible for an army to bring a significant number of Command Points to the table. While they still aren’t exceptional, you at least won’t hate yourself for filling 3-6 slots with them in an army and in some cases you may actually want to seek out troop units for the utility they can bring.
Rangers are probably the biggest winner, with their point cost being very nearly cut in half while losing nothing in the process. Combining their innate ability with the Alaitoc trait gives a very, very difficult unit to shift for 60pts and having some character-hunters around is hardly a bad thing- a squad or two of them has good odds of picking off a weak enemy character, or dropping a stronger one in combination with Mind War or the like. Their ability to deploy into the midfield is also very clutch, letting you take control of objectives early to get the lead on points during a mission- not something which should be underestimated. Remember they come with shuriken pistols for when they are locked in combat- it may not add a ton of firepower, but every little bit helps when you are desperately slapping at those 2-3 Space Marines that are trying to ruin your day.
Guardian Defenders didn’t really change any on the surface, as they (and their weapons) stayed the same price in virtually all respects. However, the new stratagems and psychic powers give them a lot more mileage and they can potentially make a pretty fair bubblewrap unit- Celestial Shield lets them shrug off a ton of damage (especially in combination with Protect, Fortune, or both) and the Alaitoc warlord trait can ensure they stay in place regardless of casualties. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that “cheap for an Eldar unit” means anything like “actually cheap,” because you are still paying anywhere from 1.5-3 times what other armies do for their bubblewrap. Expect to see one unit at the most on the table, and often not even that.
Dire Avengers also deserve some mention because they got so much cheaper. They still aren’t great- 12pts is not a small amount- but they are an alternative to Rangers that is a little more mobile and more capable of holding midfield effectively. 64pts for five of them with a bonus Catapult on the Exarch should be your standard.
Storm Guardians only get mentioned because they are the cheapest possible troop option, by a whopping 4pts. They made an interesting appearance in a Ynnari army at the SoCal tournament recently, which should give a lot of players pause to reconsider them- being able to slot Fusion Guns into your troop slots can be a helpful thing. If you’re using them for anything but a “cheapest possible option” you should be taking the Chainswords over the Aeldari Blades; more attacks are better than rerolls.
The Elites slot has a ton of strong choices in it, especially when you include Forge World in the mix. Fortunately, most of the detachments available give you more Elite slots than you might otherwise expect, so you should rarely feel too crowded here. Vanguard detachments have a lot of value for Eldar, which is strangely appropriate.
Shadow Spectres are going to be a major force for any Eldar army that can afford them in a fiscal sense- the innate -1 to hit (which works in combat, incidentally) along with fast movement and a great gun with two very strong profiles is a powerful choice. Craftworld armies will probably play them a bit more cautiously than Ynnari do, holding back at 18″ and sniping at targets with their lasers while remaining largely immune to counterfire, but never underestimate the power of a heavy flamer in a pinch (or on overwatch.) Since their gun relies heavily on rolling multiple hits in a row, a nearby Autarch is something of a necessity if you don’t want to be Guiding them every turn. Illyrith is still a complete joke who FW hasn’t fixed, so don’t bother with him.
Wraithguard are also still big hitters, having gotten an upgrade to T6 without any losses at all. D-Scythes will make short work of most things they target, though not quite to the same degree that they did in 7th Edition- still, that’s probably fine overall. However, since their short range means they interact more poorly than most units with the Alaitoc trait, armies that want to make use of several squads of Wraithguard probably want to include a Ynnari component, which can be a bit awkward for listbuilding. Wraithcannons still aren’t really worth it overall, as they are a bit too swingy.
Howling Banshees are a unit that I am still leery of due to their 4+ armor and S3, but with +3″ to advance/charge and the ability to charge even when you advance, they have a shockingly long threat radius. They tend not to hit as hard as their bigger brothers, the Scorpions, but speed and denying overwatch are both very useful facets, opening up lots of multicharge shenanigans to lock down sections of the enemy board. Two the stratagems have particular use for them- Matchless Agility to get them into fights quicker and Feigned Retreat to let them break out and go after a new target as needed. Remember, though, they aren’t Harlequins and can’t fly- you still have to cross over terrain, around enemy models, etc.
Striking Scorpions have gotten a significant price reduction as well as some handy stat upgrades and they may become a useful part of the Eldar army, as they are great for chewing apart the hordes of massed infantry that Eldar can otherwise struggle with. Showing up on the field to be pitched forward by a Quicken is a pretty solid way to deal with things, though they can’t really be compared to meatgrinders like Khorne Berzerkers. Keep in mind that their Mandiblasters trigger before any models have gotten to fight and go off every turn, potentially offing a couple of their opponents before they get to strike.
Fire Dragons are basically just Wraithguard on the cheap- their guns are basically just as effective in killing vehicles (and the built-in reroll to wound monsters/vehicles is pretty nice), but will do very little on overwatch or other times that Wraithguard often shine. Like their bigger brothers, they really work best in Ynnari due to their short range.
The Fast slot isn’t as good as you might expect from an army like Eldar that is intended to be focused on quick-moving units, but it does have a couple of standouts and interesting possibilities. Several of the units in it got major upgrades and changes, so this part will be a bit speculative- but I think it’s safe to say that if Eldar manage to make any kind of appearances at all, some of their FA units will be part of the mix.
Swooping Hawks are my current pick for the biggest winner in the slot. With an upgrade to four shots all the time and the ability to potentially drop bombs when the arrive, their firepower is massively increased- and with less need to get close to the enemy and the Alaitoc bonus, their survivability is a lot better as well. With missions focusing more on the turn-to-turn nitty gritty of what’s going on Hawks will be a very useful tool for clearing and claiming objectives, and their masses of S3 shooting are the perfect tool against the infantry armies that predominate right now.
Shining Spears are one of the interesting possibilities I mentioned before- they are still a little bit on the expensive side (31pts/model), but with 3+/4++ and the Alaitoc trait as well as the potential for other buffs, it’s very possible that they can stay alive. Moreover, the option for Webway Strike and Quicken give them significantly-better odds of getting into combat against the targets they want and their shooting is a lot better than one might assume at a glance- an AP-4 Dmg2 shot and four Shuriken followups is a lot of output from what is nominally a melee unit.
Warp Spiders, although they are a unit that holds a special place in my heart, are probably not worth it overall. Their extremely short range has a bit of a poor interaction with the Alaitoc trait, though the ability to combo it with Flickerjump and/or Lightning-Fast Reflexes potentially gives them some survivability. Even with the price drop, though, I don’t think their guns have enough punch to be worth it- especially not with the Exarch losing access to the Spinneret Rifle.
We’ll also quietly shuffle the Hemlock Wraithfighter under this category even though it doesn’t technically belong. Benefiting from a 10pt price drop (and remember, Spirit Stones are not part of its wargear list, so it does not pay for them under most interpretations- though an official GW ruling on the matter, rather than just an ITC one, would be useful) on an already-good unit as well as the stacking of Alaitoc’s trait, they are excellent hunter-killer units that can bring down heavy targets in short order. Anything T6 or less is in for a seriously bad time against them, taking ~7 wounds per turn from the combination of autohit guns and Smite. You also have access to the debuff half of the Runes of Battle powers, giving you the excellent Jinx and Restrain, two of the most important ones. Hemlocks should continue to be a major figure in Eldar lists for the foreseeable future.
A lot of Eldar HS units were costed in pretty absurd ways before, so the codex brings blessed relief on that front- while they may not all be top-tier, you at least aren’t shooting yourself in the foot to use them. However, as the various guntanks still have to compete with the Wave Serpent for their role, I think you still won’t see them for the most part- though there are exceptions.
The Vaul’s Wrath Batteries are something I struggle a bit to assess objectively, as I really like the possibility of fielding them but want to compare them to other options in an accurate fashion. All three variants got major price drops and other small tweaks (like a bonus wound), but to varying degrees. The D-Cannon is an absolutely brutal weapon for its cost, limited only by its short range- d3 shots for d6 damage with no LOS needed can put the fear in most things, and at 75pts they are pretty affordable. However, with Eldar lacking a ton of great long-range weapons, I am inclined to think that the Vibrocannon might get some attention- with d3 shots of its own it puts out a respectable number of shots and it starts out with an Autocannon profile, which is hardly terrible for 60pts. The real magic is that every successive Vibrocannon that shoots the same target gets +1 to wound and -1 to AP, so even a tough target can find itself taking a lot of damage in pretty short order. Against lighter targets, it prevents non-Flying units from advancing after getting shot, which can be a very useful way to slow down certain types of enemy. The Shadow Weaver is pretty cheap at 55pts, but there is very little to recommend it apart from its reasonably-small size and ability to fire without LOS; a Night Spinner puts out more shots with a better statline and is more resilient to boot. If you’re looking to take a Brigade, Vaul’s Wrath Batteries have some potential, though at the cost of being fairly easy kills in scenarios.
The Fire Prism got the same boost as Leman Russes, being able to fire twice as long as it moves slowly. Combined with the Linked Fire stratagem this can put down a lot of damage fairly quickly (though as previously, the Focused shot remains the best to use against most targets.) While the Night Spinner is nominally the anti-infantry tank, the Prism’s excellent gun stats mean that it can do a very fair job its own at shredding such targets, especially heavy infantry, and so I think gets the nod. Prisms compare pretty evenly with Vaul’s Wrath against a variety of targets, but with superior mobility they arguably come out ahead if you have the points to spend on them.
Dark Reapers remain the king of the Heavy slot this edition, putting down superior numbers against a majority of targets. While their resilience leaves something to be desired, the ability to arrive by Webway or even simply walk out from behind a piece of cover (not to mention climbing up to the top of ruins, etc) makes them a pretty superb unit overall. While they do only middling against light infantry targets thanks to a lackluster number of shots, anything above that weight class is in for a bad time with them around and they particularly love units that try to play shenanigans with to-hit numbers (such as enemy Eldar or flyers.)
The Lynx and Warp Hunter deserve special mention here because of their interaction with some of the stratagems. While neither unit is terribly exciting on its own, being rather expensive choices without survivability to match, being able to Cloudstrike them in gives the two a whole new life. The Lynx is the most flexible here- an 18″ range autohit weapon is virtually impossible to stop from doing what it wants, even with the difficulty in placing such a bulky unit. But if you want a tool that shreds infantry (3d6 hits wounding on 2s) and puts reasonable damage on larger units, the Lynx will absolutely do that job. The Warp Hunter, on the other hand, is quite a bit cheaper (~100pts) and specializes in dropping big targets- its 12″ reach is a bit easier to avoid, but with d6 autohits for d6 damage it is more than enough to drop most targets in a single volley if you’re willing to dedicate a Command Point and/or Doom to the task.
As with the FA slot, I am going to sneak the Wave Serpent into this category despite it technically not belonging. The Serpent was a pretty acceptable vehicle even before, carrying a good number of models while being quite resilient and having more firepower than you might expect. With the codex release it saw price drops on several of its weapons (most notably the Twin Shuriken Cannon) that allow it to fulfill many of its roles even more efficiently. The Serpent can be brought in either of two major configurations- either with all Shuriken Cannons to allow it to fire while advancing, giving the enemy major penalties to do anything to it and thus reliably deliver almost anything in your army onto their doorstep. Alternatively, running it with Lances or Missiles up top makes it into a flexible guntank with a transport capacity and excellent resilience- a jack of all trades unit that can do a great job of moving into midfield and harassing the enemy.
So What’s It Mean?
All put together, where do Eldar sit in the rankings? I expect they will stay a bit below the top-tier codices for the time being; while their stackable hit penalties are pretty nasty against some armies, against many others they are of middling effectiveness or even completely useless. The rush of panic as people declare 8E to be a resumption of 7E and 6E where Eldar were a hugely dominant force is nonsense; they are a pretty good army, to be sure, but not one that has the appropriate tools to stop what a lot of the top lists are doing right now. If and when GW finally scuttles Smite spam- which you can expect to happen pretty soon- Eldar will be in a lot better position to deal with things, but I still don’t think that they will be ruling the roost.
I expect Eldar armies will focus a lot more on defensive measures than others do, though the nature of 8E probably means that they will still be hitting pretty hard overall. Holding the middle of the field with a combination of fast-moving units that shift away from enemy advances while whittling them down seems like a pretty viable strategy, and their ability to bring in reserves where needed and deliver some firepower is going to be a very useful attribute.
All in all, I’m relatively happy with the Eldar codex. Though Alaitoc is hands-down better than any of the other Craftworld choices, if you can set that aside I think there are a lot of useful units in the book and very few units that are truly bad- indeed, the internal and external balance is arguably the best it has been for them in a long, long time, perhaps even all the way back to the 4E or 3E books.