The runes have long foretold that this article would be about Farseers; you cannot avoid the path of fate. Click below to read the updated CA2018 article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Eldar have long held a reputation as being a psychically powerful race, a distinction that stemmed largely from their fluff. However, since 6th edition this fluff has translated more and more into the rules half of the game, to the point where Eldar really have been one of the best psychic armies in the game for several editions. You can argue the details of whether they really are the strongest (and what that even means), but few people would argue that unit-for-unit and spell-for-spell they don’t get some of the strongest psykers around.
The Farseer contributes to that superiority in no small way, being a very reasonably-priced HQ choice with extremely powerful spells available to them. As one of the “default” HQs of an Eldar army, alongside the Autarch, you are likely to see them in a wide variety of different forces, both competitive and casual. Your basic Farseer comes with a fairly standard Eldar statline- strength and toughness three leaves them noticably weaker than a lot of other models in the game, but five wounds is pretty average for an HQ model, as are hitting on 2+ with all sorts of attacks (though they’ll only get two swings in melee.) With a 7″ move they are no slouch getting about the battlefield and a 4+ invulnerable save makes them at least reasonably resilient- however, they lack any other armor on the standard Farseer. At 110 points, your basic Farseer is a very acceptable deal, coming in around the midrange for HQs in the game overall.
For 32 points more, you can switch over to the Farseer Skyrunner– technically a different unit, but like many things in 8th edition it’s essentially just an upgrade. Skyrunners come with an extra wound (for a total of six), an extra toughness (making them T4 overall). Just as importantly, they also gain the Fly keyword and a 16″ movement speed, allowing them to zip around the battlefield freely and, like all bikes, when they advance they automatically get an additional 6″- you aren’t going to get much faster than that on almost anything in the game.
Special Rules and Wargear
A Farseer comes with all of the standard special rules for a Craftworld model- Battle Focus allows them to advance and shoot normally and Ancient Doom provides rerolls in combat against Slaaneshi units. They also come with the basic gear for an Eldar psyker- a Shuriken Pistol lets you pretend to shoot at things (and every once in a while might even sneak a wound in on something) while the Witchblade is a melee weapon that wounds all targets on a 2+, regardless of toughness. The Witchblade also does d3 damage per swing, but unlike most specialized melee weapons is has absolutely no AP, so you’re relying heavily on your opponent’s dice in order to do anything. Farseers are not combat models, so don’t expect them to do much beyond plinking off a wound or three from something if they get locked in melee. Skyrunner versions also come with the standard Twin Shuriken Catapult, allowing you to throw out a few shots at shorter ranges when needed.
Either version can upgrade its Witchblade to a Singing Spear for 5pts, leaving the melee profile unchanged but adding a 12″ ranged attack (“throwing” the Spear) with essentially the same stats as it has in melee. It’s not critically important to have, but it’s a nice option if you’ve got a few extra points laying around, especially on a Skyrunner where it means you’re throwing down five shots for the model in total.
The more interesting part of the Farseer, however, is their psychic suite. All Farseers come with a variety of special rules to aid them during the psychic phase of the game, ones that just about any other psyker would turn green in envy over. Runes of the Farseer lets you reroll any number of dice once per turn for a psychic or Deny; with the high casting values on the Farseer’s powers this helps to give you a bit of reliability with them, but the bonus to denying enemy powers is great as well. Combined with the Warlord traits and artifacts available to them, this can mean as many as three “free” rerolls on powers in a single turn. Also, don’t forget that you can reroll any number of dice on such a check- that means, if you roll a 5 and a 1, you can reroll that 1 in an attempt to pass the power more easily. The selective reroll is extremely strong, as you can use it however is most efficient in a given situation; get to know the math behind casting powers if you’re going to play with a Farseer, because it can make a big difference.
Additionally, the Ghosthelm gives you a 5+ roll to ignore any mortal wound inflicted on your Farseer- not terribly reliable, but can slow down an enemy Smite or special melee weapon a bit, which is always nice. (Note that it only works on mortal wounds, not regular ones.) However, its real purpose is to protect you from Perils of the Warp- against wounds suffered from Perils, you ignore them on a 2+ rather than a 5+, which all but guarantees that you’ll be unaffected.
Combined, the Farseer’s wargear and rules make for a powerful general-use caster than can scoot about the battlefield buffing units and causing problems for the enemy. However, it is the Runes of Fate table that really makes the Farseer shine- although the powers on it have universally high casting values, they offer a variety of powerful effects in exchange, including many ways to get rerolls on various effects (something of a rarity in the game nowadays.) Farseers can cast two spells per turn and attempt to Deny two enemy spells, putting them towards the top end of psykers in the game these days.
Guide is perhaps the most well-known of these powers, giving any one Craftworld unit rerolls to hit with shooting. It’s not an exciting bonus, but with a 24″ range it can usually hit anything you need it to and rerolls are always great- slap it onto whatever unit in your army is most important to do its job this turn and you’re in business.
Doom is another staple power and, I would argue, one of the strongest spells in the entire game right now. Like almost every other power in the discipline it casts on a 7, and it targets one enemy unit within 24″. While in effect, anything that attacks the target can reroll failed wound rolls- and in an edition where wounding targets became noticably harder and in a faction with lots of weapons that trigger special effects on rolls of 6 to wound, that is an amazing ability. Being able to focus down a big target like Magnus or a Knight becomes much more possible with the aid of Doom, and even just using it to ensure that an enemy infantry squad dies without needing to dedicate undue firepower to it is likewise very useful. You’ll rarely leave home without it.
Fortune isn’t as strong as it once was when it let you reroll saves, but its current incarnation is still fine. It gives a 5+ “Feel No Pain” style effect to ignore wounds taken, which explicitly does not stack with any other such abilities that the unit might have (such as the Ulthwe Craftworld attribute, Spirit Stones, etc.) This can help protect a key unit for a turn or two in a pinch, but I prefer to play a more MSU-type army when using Craftworlds, so I don’t take it extensively. However, put on a big target like a Wraithknight or some Shining Spears it can get a lot of mileage, especially in combination with other powers and abilities to keep them protected.
Executioner is, I think, one of the more underrated powers available to them. At a glance it is very similar to Smite and will usually be used in the same way- it deals d3 mortal wounds to the nearest unit within 18″. However, if it kills at least one model in that unit, it then deals another d3 mortal wounds to the target, making it pretty deadly to most things. For a Farseer that wants to go offensive, Executioner + Smite every turn can put down a lot of damage onto the enemy, especially against elite units and those that rely on to-hit penalties or other abilities to protect themselves.
Will of Asuryan gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a better power than most people think. With a casting value of five it’s a lot easier than most spells in the discipline and it lets you pass morale checks for units within 6″ of the Farseer automatically- very nice for larger units of stuff like Guardians and whatnot, especially in light of GW nerfing a lot of morale abilities recently. Just as importantly, it adds +1 to your Deny checks with the Farseer, which can be extremely clutch against an army that relies on pushing through one or two key psychic powers.
Finally, Mind War is your “assassination” power. It targets an enemy character within 18″ and has both you and that player roll a die and add it the model’s Leadership, with the target suffering a mortal wound for every point by which your total exceeds theirs. Although it can only hit characters (unlike effects such as Purge Soul), Eldar have a variety of ways to manipulate Leadership values and can easily tilt the dice in their favor to snipe off a key support model or bring down a nasty combat character with ease.
As you can probably tell from the list of spells above, a Farseer is a pretty basic buffing/utility HQ. With a wide array of useful powers, they can do a bunch of different jobs pretty effectively and increase the efficiency of almost any of your units significantly, especially when you pair them up with a Warlock. With the Farseer’s spells adding rerolls or additional abilities and the Warlock’s giving out numerical bonuses, you can really do a number on things- for example, Empower and Doom together will push up even basic Craftworld units to wounding titans 55% of the time. By the same token, Guide + Doom can make almost any target wither in short order. Choosing your spells carefully each battle and making sure they sync well with what the rest of your list does and needs is absolutely critical to getting mileage out of a Farseer.
If you’re looking at an Eldar list and are willing to take one of the “higher-tier” HQs (i.e. not a budget Warlock/Spiritseer), one consideration is whether you want an Autarch or a Farseer. The Autarch we’ll talk about in future articles in more detail, but the comparison between them is not inapt- both of them bring a decent bit of direct functionality to the table (by casting offensive spells in the case of the Farseer, or by shooting/assault in the case of the Autarch) but are primarily focused on handing out buffs to nearby units and the army in general.
My general pick in these cases will be to take the Farseer over the Autarch. The Autarch is no doubt good- they can get a variety of powerful weapons and will randomly earn you back some command points, which is great when you’re already starting with 10+ CP as many Craftworld armies do. And as one of the few actual melee pieces in the codex, an Autarch can fill a very notable gap by taking out things that get into your lines and aren’t otherwise easily removed. The Autarch’s bonuses are also static, requiring no rolls to cast and working automatically regardless of what you do. However, the Farseer has a much larger radius of effect with their powers than the Autarch’s aura does, allowing you to really buff out the one unit you need the most (rather than a smaller buff on 1-3 units at a time.) You also gain a lot more defensively with a Farseer, since they add two denies to your repertoire and thus significantly increase your ability to dominate the psychic phase.
It’s also worth remembering that there are several stratagems that key off of a Farseer specifically, the most important of which is Forewarning. For 2CP, it lets you intercept one unit that arrived on the battlefield mid-game (typically meaning coming in from reserves, but can also include summoned units and the like) by shooting at it with any unit that is within 6″ of a Farseer in your army. Unlike other stratagems available to various factions, there is no range limit on this other than the range of your guns (and proximity to the Farseer, obviously)- so you can blast those Scions or Death Company no matter where they decide to try and drop down. With all of the strong shooting available to Craftworlds this can essentially mean that one unit which arrives from reserves each turn is vaporized, providing a huge disincentive to anyone trying to get close to you via shenanigans- you might not wipe out a full unit of, say, Hormagaunts, but you’ll probably take just about anything else down.
In addition to Forewarning, you also have Seer Council (+1 to cast for a Farseer and Warlock if they’re within 6″ of each other) and Unparalleled Mastery (cast a third power this turn) for only 1CP each, meaning that you can really lay down some psychic hurt if you want to go all out on things. Sadly, the Farseer is the only one who can use Unparalleled Mastery, and since they only know two powers your third cast will always have to be Smite- still, sometimes you need to do all three things you’re capable of, and it is at least cheap. Rune of Witnessing gives you a baby version of Doom for 2CP, rerolling all 1s to wound with units that are within 6″ of a Farseer; if you didn’t take Doom or just need to gain a few more rerolls, it can be nice to have. Since it’s used at the start of a phase, it also means that you can pop it off after failing your cast on Doom if you really need to do some damage- a bit of a desperation move, but sometimes it’s what you got.
Whether or not you want to upgrade your Farseer to be a Skyrunner can depend on a lot of different factors. If you have transports, for example, you might want to keep them on foot- after all, being able to minimize your number of deployments is very clutch, as is being able to put them where the enemy can’t shoot at them. On the other hand, a Farseer is an infantry unit, which allows it to pick up the Relic in that mission as well as a variety of other small benefits. If you’re playing the ITC Champion missions, a Farseer on foot also gives up one fewer point when chosen for Kingslayer. Perhaps the best reason to leave them on foot, however, is your option of relics- though there are a few different choices available, one of the easiest picks is Faolchu’s Wing, which grants you 12″ movement and the Fly keyword for free. Though you don’t benefit from the extra wound, toughness, or armor save that the Skyrunner gives you, it lets your psyker keep up with most units pretty effectively and is thus an easy replacement for the bike. Don’t underestimate the Skyrunner’s mobility, though- that 22″ movement each turn can really let you play some crazy mind games with your opponents and can enable late-game objective-grabbing shenanigans.
Taken in summation, I would say that all of this means that for a competitive Craftworlds army a Farseer is practically a mandatory inclusion. There are so many problems that they can solve for you that you’re hard-pressed not to bring one, and especially since they come in at such a reasonable price. Rerolls, character sniping, psychic defense, and reserve defense are all incredibly important things to have in a list, and a Farseer can not only bring all of those things to the table, they can bring them all in a single game. You really can’t ask for a much more efficient package deal than a Farseer, all things considered.
That’s right, a brand-new section just for you, readers! A very common question is “how do I deal with _____?”- which is sometimes a difficult one to answer (as it depends a lot on army composition, etc), but I think a valid one to ask. So, going forward from here, I’ll be spending a bit of time on the weaknesses of different units in my reviews and some general-case ways of dealing with them; perhaps not applicable to every army, but ones that can be taken advantage of by different factions in different ways.
Farseers are always tricky to deal with because a Farseer, by themselves, is not all that dangerous. Sure, they potentially have Smite, Executioner, and Mind War available, but they often are taking more utility-oriented powers and aren’t eager to put themselves on the front lines of the battle. So do you go after the Farseer, or the unit it’s buffing?
In a lot of cases, it’s easier to take out the Farseer’s buff target- Eldar just aren’t that tough and concentrating shooting (or assaults) will usually get rid of them without too much difficulty, as long as you can bypass their various shenanigans. However, by the same token Farseers aren’t that tough, so if you have a fast-moving melee unit that can get to them or some sniper weapons, you should be able to drop a standard Farseer pretty easily thanks to their weak Toughness and lack of any armor save. A Skyrunner is a bit tougher of a proposition, but if you see one dipping low on wounds, you can probably still drop it with a bit of work.
Another important thing to remember is that a Farseer’s powers are rather difficult to cast- they’ll fail a full 50% of them before rerolls happen, which means even with a reroll they’re still going to be screwing up a power about as often as not. For those armies that can apply a penalty to the enemy’s psychic check, this can make spells almost impossible to cast through the interference; for other armies, it more means that you can rely on a Farseer screwing up a power at least every other turn or so, giving you the opportunity to pounce on the Eldar player while they are short some of their buffs.
Like a lot of units in the new edition, Farseers do a much better job of fitting with their fluff- no longer are they suicidal summon-bots or bottom-tier spellcasters, but rather a powerful and flexible addition to the HQ slot in an army. If you want a unit that is extremely flexible, able to change the way they affect the army game-by-game, but without spending too many points or sacrificing too much else, the Farseer is a top-notch choice.
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