Although a lot of xenos factions aren’t lucky enough to get access to a character with a reroll aura, some few do- including Craftworld Eldar. But an Autarch can be much more than just an aura, especially if you’re dipping into the Index options for their wargear. Click below to read the CA2018-updated article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The other “default” HQ for a Craftworlds list, alongside the Farseer, the Autarch fills the role of martial leader of the troops. Where a Farseer is mostly about passively buffing the army with careful application of spells on the right targets, an Autarch’s job is more involved- they not only have a passive buff that affects the whole army, but also have an aura that they share with nearby units as well as the ability to wade into a fight directly in order to influence the outcome of a battle. A Farseer might cleave a couple wounds off a unit if they are lucky, but an Autarch is a legitimate threat to most squads by themselves.
A note before we get too far into things: this article will specifically be talking about the Autarch on foot, as opposed to the Skyrunner (i.e. bike) and Swooping Hawk Wings versions, which will be discussed further in their own articles. We we will also go over the “legacy” equipment available from the Index version, though not in great detail as I don’t really think that the foot version is the right place to take advantage of it- but there will be more on that in later articles.
Your basic Autarch comes with a relatively solid statline. Although strength and toughness three are both a bit low (if standard for Eldar), five wounds, four attacks, and a 3+ armor save are all very solid features. With weapon and ballistic skill 2+, standard for an HQ model, an Autarch should be landing virtually every attack they make. Finally a 4+ invulnerable save makes sure that you won’t simply fold up and die to the first hit that lands, though it can’t be called particularly reliable overall. At 77pts with basic equipment, the foot Autarch is one of the cheaper options available to a Craftworlds army, though not quite the cheapest.
Special Rules and Wargear
An Autarch’s special rules list doesn’t impress at first glance, but that’s mostly because so many of their rules have text elsewhere. Battle Focus and Ancient Doom are common to most all Craftworld units and should be the baseline of what you expect; the Path of Command, on the other hand, is unique to the Autarch (in the various incarnations) and works like a souped-up version of the aura many HQs give. Not only does it let you reroll 1s to hit on all units from the same Craftworld within 6″ of the Autarch, but if they are your warlord, anytime you spend a command point you get it back on a roll of ‘6’, which can easily earn you 1-3CP in a game or more; the unreliability of it combined with only being able to get one CP per turn from it can be annoying, but anything that gives you more options to use the powerful Eldar stratagems is going to be good.
The standard foot Autarch comes with Plasma Grenades (d6 shots, S4 AP-1) as their only ranged weapon, which makes BS2+ a lot less exciting, and a Star Glaive (i.e. Power Fist) as their melee weapon. Lacking any options to upgrade or replace anything at all, this leaves the basic Autarch as a bit of a disaster, since they really aren’t all that much cheaper than the other versions but pack significantly less punch.
If you’re using the Index equipment, you gain access to a lot more options for your wargear that make the guy less of a trash fire; the Reaper Launcher is a great shooting weapon, as is the Fusion Gun- though you can’t take them both together, sadly. Pairing one up with a Lasblaster or Avenger Shuriken Catapult is probably a decent way to go, since those weapons have longer ranges and can reach out a bit further to hit things. Without access to many good melee options (a Power Sword or Scorpion Chainsword being the only ones available), the Autarch isn’t really well-suited to fighting in close combat, so you probably want to go with taking the Mandiblasters over the Banshee Mask; both are free, but the Mandiblasters at least give you a chance to inflict a wound on the enemy if you get charged.
The basic Autarch is… well, he’s not the worst guy in the world, but he’s not exciting, either. The only thing he really does is provide the reroll aura/CP regeneration to an army, though at point-blank ranges he can be useful for providing a counterassault unit with the Star Glaive, since it has a pretty reasonable profile overall. As the only one of the types of Autarchs that can fit into a transport, you also may be able to find a reason to include one in that respect.
However, with the Skyrunner, Winged, and Warp Generator versions being only marginally more expensive for vastly greater mobility, there just isn’t a lot of call to bother with the foot Autarch. Even if you’re planning on mostly staying in one place, the option to move around if needed, or to arrive by reserve, is pretty huge. However, if you’re desperate to trim off some points, the option does exist, and that’s a nice thing to have.
If you expand your options out to the legacy equipment, though, suddenly things look a lot better. By taking a Reaper Missile Launcher and the Mark of the Incomparable Hunter warlord trait (which lets you target characters regardless of whether they are the closest unit), the Autarch can do great work as a sniper- especially when paired with Rangers or Illic Nightspear to bring down characters in a single turn. Though the more mobile versions are still probably superior, if you plan to have your Autarch babysitting a gunline of Dark Reapers or similar units, you could certainly do a lot worse.
The Eldar relics do give you a couple of useful options to make the foot Autarch more viable, although I think at the end of the day they are outclassed by many of the other options and your relics are probably best used elsewhere. However, as already mentioned, if you are desperately trying to save points and still want to keep a guy who is able to perform some different roles, they can be useful. Faol’chu’s Wing gives you a 12″ move and Fly, allowing you to (mostly) keep up with faster units from the codex; it can work like a budget set of Hawk Wings, though it doesn’t give you the ability to place yourself in reserve- for that, you’ll need to take the Shiftshroud, though obviously you can’t have both. The Shard of Anaris is actually a pretty good weapon, arguably better than the Star Glaive that comes on the standard version; it turns your Power Sword from a pretty mediocre weapon into one that will give most other HQs at least some pause when it comes to a fight. However, since you have to buy a Power Sword to get access to it, it’s probably not worth the choice most of the time, unless you have 4pts laying around and nothing better to spend them on.
One other thing to note is the Path of Command ability, and specifically its restoring spent command points on a roll of 6. Unlike similar abilities in other factions, Path of Command triggers for each command point spent (rather than for each stratagem activated)- so you have much betr odds of getting command points back from 2CP and 3CP stratagems, a nice bonus. The ability also becomes more valuable the more command points your list starts with; it may not be exciting in a basic 3CP Patrol or 6CP Battalion, but if you have 10, 12, or even more CP available to you, it can get you quite a lot back. Eldar have a lot of good stratagems available to them- as do most of the codex armies at this point- and getting to pop one or two more of them off during a game can be pretty handy.
So we’ve talked up the Autarch’s strengths a lot, but of course there is a flip side to that. As characters, Autarchs may be somewhat difficult to aim attacks at, but once you do they will fold up fast. With only toughness 3 and five wounds, it doesn’t take a lot to bring one down- 3+ armor and a 4+ invulnerable might stave off a little bit of damage, but even just basic sniper weapons will be threatening significant harm with their regular wounds, to say nothing of any mortal wounds they cause. Psychic attacks, which bypass the character protections, will also make fairly short work of an Autarch. And, of course, assaults will do the job even faster- even just a squad of basic Guardsmen actually present a non-trivial threat to them. Basically, almost anything in the game that can go after them has a pretty good chance of ticking off a couple of wounds, and they really don’t have a lot of wounds to spare.
Also remember that an Autarch’s main benefit is to the units around them- the reroll aura is a big part of why someone will bring one, so if you can take out the units they are supporting, that really pulls their teeth pretty effectively. They do carry more firepower than your typical HQ when kitted right, but that’s really just because most HQs are only slightly more dangerous than a fluffy kitten in the shooting phase. By themselves, an Autarch is probably not going to shift the course of a game, so do like you would to any other utility HQ (like a SM Captain, etc) and take out the pieces they are supporting.
Although what they do has shifted significantly from past editions thanks to the changes in reserves and whatnot, the Autarch is still a great leader for just about any Craftworlds army- as only seems appropriate. Though the foot version of the Autarch is still probably the least useful of the three thanks to their lack of mobility and innately lower statline, they are still a very passable unit and can anchor a gunline or lead from the front spilling out of a transport. Even for the “worst” of your options, it’s hard to go completely wrong with an Autarch.
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