He was turned to steel
In the great magnetic field
Where he traveled time
For the future of his kind
The Avatar of Khaine– the literal embodiment of the Eldar god of war, given physical form by a ritual sacrifice. Its name is supposed to be evocative of the height of violence to which the Eldar can rise, but in past editions of the game it was basically a joke, with weak saves, bad speed, and combat stats that failed to impress. 8th Edition, however, has brought a lot of old units off of the shelf, and to a certain degree the Avatar sits with this crowd.
The Avatar’s basic statline is a pretty good one, as it is a full-size monster. Strength and toughness six mean that wounding it will never be a trivial matter except by the very heaviest of weapons and weapon/ballistic skill 2+ mean that its attacks should almost always land (and with five of them that is no joke.) Eight wounds puts it right up at the top end of where a character wants to sit- tough to bring down, but still can hide behind other units. A 7″ movement speed and 3+ armor save round out the statline with respectable, if not amazing, numbers. However, at 250pts, all of this comes at a pretty steep price tag, which isn’t enthusing overall.
Special Rules and Wargear
The Avatar, being a Craftworld unit, comes with the usual special rules- Ancient Doom provides rerolls against Slaanesh in the first turn of combat and Battle Focus lets it advance and shoot normally, though we are still disallowed from charging if we do so. Also, as it has the Craftworld keyword, it will benefit from any bonuses the detachment qualifies for.
Beyond that, the Avatar comes with two different defensive abilities that give it a modicum of resilience, even if it isn’t exceptionally so. Daemon gives it a 5+ invulnerable save, which is on the low end for anything that we want to qualify as a combat unit, but Molten Body also gives it a 5+ “feel no pain”-style effect, so it can shrug off about half of all incoming firepower one way or another. Our biggest protections will still be character status and the potential for the Alaitoc bonus, but every little bit helps.
Lastly, the Khaine Awakened ability lets us ignore morale and reroll charges with any Craftworld units that are within 12″ of the Avatar; twelve inches is actually a pretty big bubble in the scheme of things, but since morale generally isn’t a huge issue for Eldar it’s not as exciting as it might otherwise be. Still, some units (like Guardians) benefit a lot from it, and the times when you manage to dodge losing those 1-2 aspect warriors due the Avatar will be really nice, too.
Khaine’s little bro comes equipped with The Wailing Doom, a dual-purpose weapon; it can shoot out to 12″ with a Meltagun profile, and in melee it uses the same stats- quite a strong weapon, though not quite on tier with a daemon primarch or the like. Both versions roll 2d6 for damage and take the best, so any hits that do go through are gonna be quite painful.
Let’s be upfront: the Avatar is the first unit I’ve done in my review series so far that I don’t think is viable for real competitive play. You can argue about the various Autarch variants and which of them is the best, or why you would or wouldn’t run them; you can discuss the relative merits of the different psykers and why you might want access to each of their abilities; but the Avatar… well, the Avatar is 250pts of your army that doesn’t do anything until it’s point-blank to the enemy and can’t benefit from any of the usual delivery methods (Webway Strike, Quicken, Wave Serpents, etc.) That is very problematic, because while the Avatar is faster than some other MCs, it’s not particularly fast overall and so will struggle to be where you need it to.
Worse yet, unlike the Yncarne (its obvious direct competition), it comes with no real utility attached and has mediocre defenses- it’s just a combat beast, nothing more. Rerolling charge distances is a cute trick, but it’s not often gonna tip a game and Eldar have a lot of ways to scoot around the board already; the extra 2-3″ of charge distance you get off the Avatar probably isn’t going to make a huge difference in the scheme of things compared to using Quicken, a jetbike, a transport, etc. So no, you’re not going to bringing this guy to the Las Vegas Open looking to make day 3 anytime soon.
With that said, however, the Avatar is no longer the trash fire he was in previous editions. Benefiting from character protection is absolutely huge, as even units like snipers will struggle to put any real damage on the Avatar. It can make a fairly reasonable “countercharge” component to an army, waiting behind the main line of shooting specialists to dive in and wreck anything that decides to close with your lines. It can also take up a support position in a spearhead of melee units, though the fact that most of the other Craftworld melee units quickly outpace it may be a bit problematic in that scenario. But you generally should be able to get it into combat at least once if you’re trying, and when it does get to combat it can cause quite a lot of damage to things, especially to big things that lack an invuln save like vehicles. Although S8 on its attacks is not overwhelmingly powerful, two dice for damage is going to be causing 4+ wounds with every swing of the sword.
The Avatar also benefits a lot from being able to take some of the better warlord traits- the Craftworlds table almost seems like it has a lot of custom-designed choices to be perfect for it (and maybe it does.) Eye on Distant Events prevents overwatch, which can be quite annoying; Falcon’s Swiftness brings your movement up to 9″- an incremental improvement, but not a trivial one; Seer of the Shifting Vector gives you one reroll per battle round, which gives you excellent flexibility on both offense and defense; lastly, and perhaps my favorite pick, is Fate’s Messenger, which protects you doubly- not only do you get an extra wound (putting you at nine total, just below the limit) as well as 6+ FNP- which, in a rare case, actually stacks with your native 5+ FNP roll. The Avatar benefits so much from the warlord traits that I think if you’re taking one, you really ought to be nominating it for the warlord position- which feels appropriate, given the fluff.
I would be extremely remiss if I did not point out one of the best features of the Avatar of Khaine here, namely the stratagem specific to it. The Avatar Resurgent is an expensive one at 3CP, but easily worth it- anytime the Avatar dies in the Fight phase (note: not just from melee attacks, but anything that kills you in that phase), after the unit that killed you has finished its attacks you pop back to life with d6 wounds remaining. Now, this probably means you’re gonna be hurt pretty bad (and I would save a command point for it in order to avoid the dread ‘1’), but it does mean you stay alive. If someone was counting on killing you to save their own unit, tough bananas- you’re gonna get to swing anyways, and hopefully put some real hurt on them. Note also that there is no limit on the number of times per game you can use this stratagem, though of course you’re limited to once per phase as usual; if you have CP to burn (or are rolling really hot with your Autarch), you can keep an Avatar alive for a long time, so long as it’s not getting shot at.
Stopping an Avatar can be annoying, but usually won’t be excessively difficult. First off, it’s only any use in melee- so unless it’s within ~16″ of you, you can pretty safely ignore it and/or walk away. It does get a single shot at range, but while it might strip a few wounds off a tank, it’s not going to completely ruin your day. Second, while it is a character, it’s not really able to stand up to other heavy hitters in various armies. A Space Marine Captain on Bike with Thunder Hammer and Shield Eternal costs about 100pts less than it and should virtually always win the fight between them, not to mention the Captain’s aura being quite a bit superior. Third, although it does benefit from character protection, it is also a melee unit- and that means that it has to get in real close to do any work, so if you’re making the Eldar army come to you, it shouldn’t be hard to make the Avatar the closest target once it charges something.
Moreover, as a combat unit, the Avatar is really only any good for fighting other big targets- mainly ones that it can kill in one go, because it has pretty weak defenses. If you can get the drop on it by charging first, it’s not too hard to grind it down. Likewise, if you can tie it up in a bad fight (i.e. something with a strong invuln or a horde unit with lots of weak models), you can at the very least keep it from doing anything else and quite possibly kill it off eventually. Do beware the aforementioned stratagem, of course, as the last thing you want is that guy coming back with six wounds ready to kick your unit’s ass, but by the time he tends to be getting into combat your opponent has probably bled out a lot of their CP already.
As I said earlier, the Avatar isn’t really a strong centerpiece for an army. If your opponent is bringing one, you can consider it something of a handicap on their part.
Although I would rank the Avatar as one of the worse HQs that Craftworlds get access to, that is measuring to a pretty high bar- it’s hardly a bad unit, just one that isn’t good enough at what it does to really be considered great. If you want to run one in casual games I think you can do pretty alright with it, it’s just not up to spec when it comes to taking top spots at tournaments. It’s hugely improved over previous editions where it was an absolute joke on the tabletop and would probably just die before it got anywhere near the enemy, at least, and it can hit pretty hard if you’re throwing it into the right targets.
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