What’s that in the sky- is it a bird, a plane? No, it’s the Swooping Hawk Autarch, here to provide rerolls and shooting support anywhere your army desires. (It’s probably good that it wasn’t Superman, that guy is kinda a dick.) Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Like its little brother, the Autarch on foot, the Swooping Hawk Autarch comes with a relatively decent statline, although not an exceptional one. Strength and toughness three are big limiters, meaning that you will be wounded quite easily and often struggle to wound enemies in melee- however, weapon skill and ballistic skill 2+ at least mean that you should land virtually every attack you make. With four swings in combat, that can potentially put down some decent damage. Defensively, the Autarch comes with five wounds and a 3+ armor save as well as a 4+ invulnerable save- again, fairly reasonable, but not exceptional. The big selling point for the Swooping Hawk version is the 14″ move value, which allow it to get across the field in short order. Clocking in at around a hundred points, give or take wargear options, the Autarch is priced pretty reasonably and is in the midrange for HQs.
Special Rules and Wargear
If you are limiting yourself (or your tournament rules limit you) to the basic gear available in the codex, the Swooping Hawk Autarch definitely feels a bit underarmed. Carrying a Power Sword for melee is at least something- it’s not great, but there are several good relic swaps for it and it at least is pretty cheap. The other hand has a Fusion Pistol- not the best we’ve seen, but it’s at least a dangerous gun at short ranges, and we’ve got the mobility to make good use of it. We also get Plasma Grenades in the bargain for taking out infantry at point-blank range; don’t underestimate what d6 shots with AP-1 can do to targets.
Like all Eldar, the Autarch is also packaged with Battle Focus and Ancient Doom, which are mildly useful. More importantly we have Path of Command to give us a reroll aura (meaning the Autarch should essentially never miss with their attacks) and the ability to regain spent CP on a 6+, provided they are our warlord.
The real gold for the Autarch is their movement abilities, however. Not only do we benefit from the speed of a Swooping Hawk, we also get their reserve shenanigans- we can arrive on the field anywhere more than 9″ from enemy units and we can fly off the field back into reserve during any of our movement phases if we’re in danger, provided we aren’t in combat and didn’t arrive from reserves this turn. These two abilities by themselves are often going to be enough to sell us on the Hawk Autarch, since it isn’t much more expensive than the standard one.
If you have access to the Index equipment, however, things only get better. You can pick any two items from the Autarch list, including a number of real goodies. The Reaper Launcher is essentially a no-brainer at this point, although there is an argument to be made for taking a Fusion Gun instead. (As per the listing, you can’t take both, as they are mutually exclusive.) A Power Sword makes a reasonable backup choice, as mentioned earlier, or a Deathspinner/Avenger Catapult if you’d rather stay shooty and try to pick off characters. Don’t bother with the Chainsword or Lasblaster, as there are better options available for those roles. A Banshee Mask is great if you need to shut down overwatch for one of your other units to charge; otherwise, you’re probably better off with the Mandiblasters, since they can at least put a random wound onto something that decides to assault you.
Much like the foot Autarch we’ve already discussed, the Hawk Exarch largely functions as a support piece with some useful additional duties in a list. The reroll 1s aura they provide is very useful to many different units in the Craftworlds codex- Dark Reapers don’t mind it, of course (though the Exarch in their squad already rerolls 1s), but the multitude of other aspects with good offense can also benefit from it a lot. Shadow Spectres are particularly noteworthy in that regard, since they gain double benefits from having more of their attacks land- even with the increase in cost, they can still be very deadly. Swooping Hawks, Howling Banshees, Fire Prisms, Shining Spears, and all of the other common units can also take good advantage of the aura- as any Space Marine player can tell you, auras are invaluable to have around.
Although they’re hardly a melee powerhouse, with a bit of kit they can do a pretty fair job. The Shard of Anaris is a fairly strong relic choice, upgrading your standard Power Sword to d3 damage and rerolling wounds; the built-in Doom means that it’s a lot more threatening than most Eldar units and it gives you enough swing power to put some damage on squads, especially weaker squads like Sisters of Battle or enemy Eldar.
Taking good advantage of the Autarch’s weapons is also a big priority; while they escort your other units, why not having them firing away with a Reaper Launcher to finish off enemy vehicles- or, better yet, use the Mark of the Incomparable Hunter to let them snipe at characters. Very few armies get effective shooting weapons on their HQs, so getting a BS2+ platform that carries an effective gun (and also does other stuff) is rather a rarity.
And while we’re at it, don’t forget that ability to regain command points, either. While it may be unreliable, sometimes getting you nothing over the course of an entire game, even just earning 1-2CP back can be a pretty big deal towards the end of the game. Craftworlds have a ton of powerful stratagems that you can use reactively to punish the enemy- Fire and Fade, Celestial Shield, Forewarning, and Lightning Reflexes are all mainstays, but there certainly are others as well. Getting to set these stratagems off an additional time or two per game can be very powerful, so if you’re including an Autarch in your army, they certainly should be your warlord. Also note that the Autarch’s ability can trigger anytime they are on the field and alive, so if you deploy them prior to using Webway Strike or Cloudstrike, you can potentially regain those points- and, in fact, if you have other Aeldari detachments in an army, even command points spent on those armies’ stratagems can be regained.
The Swooping Hawk Autarch does have a bit of competition in the HQ slot, though. While it is good, I think a Farseer provides superior utility (at least for the first one), so I would always pick up a Farseer before adding an Autarch of any kind- Doom and Forewarning are simply too good to pass up. But beyond that, there’s also the other versions to consider as well.
The Hawk Autarch is cheaper than the Skyrunner version by a bit, but really the tradeoff between them is more of functionality than of upgrading. The Skyrunner version is faster, tougher, and has an extra wound; it also gets the option for the Laser Lance, which is a fantastic melee weapon that easily outshines the puny Power Sword the other versions are forced to live with and is generally better than even any of the relic swords you can get. However, it is not infantry (and thus can’t pick up a relic, etc) and does not have the innate reserve abilities that the Skyrunner does- and in 8th Edition, reserves are clutch. I personally prefer the Skyrunner for its ability to clean out tough units in melee, but I don’t think the choice is a clear one- you may find your own list makes better use of the Hawk version.
The foot version is largely just inferior to the Hawk one; if you aren’t desperately scraping for points, there’s no reason to take them. And even then, the point different is so small that it’s a pretty small corner case, but it may occasionally happen.
The Warp Jump Generator version of the Autarch is sometimes used for people who really want to get around the field, but honestly, I can’t recommend it. The Warp Autarch, unlike the other versions, does not have an updated datasheet- that means it still uses the old version of Path of Command, which can’t net you any free command points. Moreover, using Warp Jump is very, very unreliable 4d6+7″ might seem like a lot, but it’s not actually so far as you’d assume. An average roll nets you a movement of 21″, and you cannot advance while doing so; but an Hawk Autarch moves an average of 18″ when it advances- slightly shorter, but also much less likely to screw you with a bad roll. And, of course, a Warp Jump Autarch has no innate ability to be placed in reserve,nor can they use Skyleap to get out of a bad situation. You get a small price break compared to the Swooping Hawk version, but overall it’s just not that great compared to the alternatives.
What do you do against a Hawk Autarch? Well, you have a couple options. Anti-character strategies are, of course, very effective- with only T3/3+, basic sniper rifles have pretty good odds of pushing a wound or two through on them, not to even mention the chance of popping off those mortal wounds. And with only five wounds to start, it doesn’t take very much of that before they are gonna be seriously considering using Skyleap to get away from your dudes.
But the Autarch is also pretty vulnerable to melee, as its character protections do nothing there- psychic powers can work for this, also. Spells such as Blood Boil, Tzeentch’s Firestorm, or Gift of Chaos can make short work of an Autarch, and even a lowly Imperial Guard squad charging at one can cause some real damage. Since a lot of Eldar units are very short-ranged, an Autarch often has to spend time on the front lines where they are in danger of getting shot, assaulted, or mind-melted by the enemy, and as the warlord of an army they are doubly in danger.
It’s also worth remembering that an Autarch, by themselves, is really not all that much of a threat. One buffing up three units of nine Dark Reapers is scary, but the truth is that it’s the Dark Reapers there that are scary- kill them off and the Autarch is unlikely to be an existential threat to your list. You shouldn’t ignore them completely, but always remember your target priority- every Reaper you kill in that scenario has very nearly as much firepower as the Autarch and is much easier to get rid of.
The Autarch with Swooping Hawk Wings is a very solid choice for a Craftworlds army, bringing not just good shooting but also passable melee, excellent mobility, a great aura, and a useful passive trait. For a tad over one hundred points, I don’t think you can ask for a whole lot more, and in combination with the many other unit buffs that Eldar can access it can make almost anything into a genuine monster.