Craftworlds Codex Review: HQs: Avatar of Khaine

He was turned to steel
In the great magnetic field
Where he traveled time
For the future of his kind

Overview

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.

Uses

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.

Countering

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

As always, remember you can buy Games Workshop and other gaming products at great discounts in the Frontline Gaming Store every day.

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About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

21 Responses to “Craftworlds Codex Review: HQs: Avatar of Khaine”

  1. Dakkath January 14, 2018 12:40 am #

    The only thing the Avatar is good for is getting dunked on to show how “badass” the character of the moment is. Like a giant fiery Worf.

  2. Reecius
    Reecius January 14, 2018 10:44 am #

    The Avatar is a unit that can easily be bad if not played well. I use mine in every game and he is often one of the most important units in my army.

    I think the biggest issue for most players is they try to run him up the field and play him aggressively, aiming to get into melee ASAP. He’s too fragile for that.

    In my experience, he’s best used as a support character and counter-assault unit. I often don’t get into melee with him until the end of the game, where he inches up the table with a bunch of infantry, scaring people away, keeping my army together and providing an anchor. Then he jumps in to hit key units when my opponent is weak and their ability to deal with him is diminished.

    Also, if your opponent is bum rushing you with an assault force, he’s solid there, too. He can ace a high wound unit in one round of combat, particularly when hitting a character that has been jinxed. His ability to stay in combat with his strat is awesome as well.

    As I play Biel-Tan, the Court of the Young King start comes into play often for me, and it helps to make assaults from our of deep-strike. Scorpions and especially Howling Banshees love him and can strike from quite a ways away.

    The Avatar is not a top choice for every list, I agree, but in the right list he’s a critically important unit and one of my favorite models in my collection. I use him competitively and will continue to do so, rarely ever having a bad game with him so long as you play cagey with him and leverage his strats.

    • rvd1ofakind January 14, 2018 11:14 am #

      Bruh, where dat CD codex review at?
      Just got 1st place with it in an ITC RTT, so I’ll have something to say 😀

      • Reecius
        Reecius January 14, 2018 11:47 am #

        Want to write an article about your experience?

        With being sick then LVO prep I am not going to be able to write it until after the LVO, unfortunately =(

        • rvd1ofakind January 14, 2018 12:05 pm #

          Haha, I’ll leave that to you. My mindset “every unit is trash until proven otherwise because you can probably take something straight up better” doesn’t really gel with most people.

          LTDR:
          Pinks are amazing – clear the screens(they got FOUR buffs in the codex: str user, +1 shot when 20+, warlord trait to re-roll 1s to wound, buff to +1 on wounds), hard to kill with 4++, best tzeentch unit IMO
          Skullreaver DP is great against anything. No one survived a round against him
          Bloodletters with 3D6 charge tie up everything the turn after the screen is gone.
          Nurglings farm Recon and behind enemy lines(with letter help here)

          Sadly, I found all strategems to be “why not just deepstrike more instead” :/ The only one I used was khorne fight twice on the DP to kill hiveguard.

          • rvd1ofakind January 14, 2018 12:18 pm
            #

            And yes, my “don’t give away VPs on secondaries” strat worked well. Covering the board with bodies, the opponent can’t really do the positional secondaries. Since all I really give away is reaper, most got 4 VP for that and then couldn’t get much else. If I took a big guy – that’s easy 4 VP for them. Since I had was 1 wound models and characters – all the anti-tank weaponry was wasted.

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 14, 2018 12:31 pm
            #

            News at 11! High Model count armies good in 8th ed =P

            Yeah, that is true in any format in this edition. If you have board control and lots of little dudes you have a good army. That was the case at ETC, NOVA, etc., too.

            As I’ve been saying over and over in this edition: if your army can’t plow through 100+ little guys in 1-2 turns you are not going to win in competitive 8th ed. You just have to build it in to your list or you will get overwhelmed by horde armies.

          • rvd1ofakind January 14, 2018 12:55 pm
            #

            Also -1 to hit in shooting were fun to face with almost 0 shooting

    • Cavalier January 14, 2018 12:25 pm #

      Hey Reece… how would you say the Avatar would stack up against the Greater Daemons? I’ve got a couple of campaign games, coming up where the attacker is gonna be Nurgle Daemons and another (in a serperate game) where the attacker is gonna be Slaanesh. I’d love to include the big man for an epic throwdown… how do you think he’d do against a Great Unclean One or in the game after, the Keeper of Secrets?

      • Reecius
        Reecius January 14, 2018 12:34 pm #

        Ah, he’s not really comparable to them, IMO. He’s more like a Daemon Prince. His primary benefit is counter-attack and buffing nearby units with his really strong aura. I suppose, in that way he is similar to the GUO, but his role is very different to the others.

        If you mean: can he fight them in melee? Yeah, but you really want to swing first and if you can debuff them with something like Jinx, he should obliterate them as every hit that lands tends to do 4+ damage. If he doesn’t kill them right away, make sure to keep 3cp in your pocket to res him if they hit him back hard as he doesn’t take a punch that well. IME, so long as you attack on your terms (which you should as he should almost always be screened) then he does great against high wound models where his powerful attacks can really shine. However, if the opponent has a 4++ or better save, you can find yourself shut down pretty quickly as he doesn’t have a ton of attacks.

        • Cavalier January 15, 2018 5:15 am #

          Hey thanks for the great info Reece. Its a shame he’s not a bit closer to them in terms of power, cause I’d love to have a grand throw down, but I guess it makes sense. I do have play with a healthy amount of screening units, like Storm Guardians and units he wants to be around like Scorpions (to great success I might add) so perhaps I could do it. The particular game I’m going to be playing involves them coming at me, so it could certainly work. Anyway thanks man I love getting intel from you on using the more “niche units”. Its great to challenge yourself in games. Thanks bud

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 15, 2018 11:02 am
            #

            Happy to help =)

            And yeah, Storm Guardians are a solid screen for me and I too have had great success with Striking Scorpions and the Avatar. They combo well.

      • NinetyNineNo January 14, 2018 3:43 pm #

        Statistically he’ll get his ass kicked. He’s on the tier of the stronger Marine characters like Chapter Master (excluding the likes of Reece’s Smashfucker), not the big beasties like the Swarmlord and Greater Daemons.

        • abusepuppy January 14, 2018 5:39 pm #

          Yeah, he compares poorly to a lot of the characters with good invulns, such as the SM characters. He’s not really tough enough to absorb a charge from most “good” combat characters, and he’s not really kill enough to have great odds of killing them if he charges them.

          • Anggul January 17, 2018 1:57 am
            #

            It really saddens me that Avatars are still so easy to kill and lacking in attacks. A space marine Captain shouldn’t stand a chance!

            But then that’s the story for all aeldari combat characters. Phoenix Lords are supposedly demigods of war but they don’t hit very hard and most don’t even have an invulnerable save. Succubi are allegedly some of the best at single combat in the galaxy, but nope.

          • abusepuppy January 17, 2018 5:14 am
            #

            Not having an invuln is less painful than it used to be, at least, since most weapons are AP-2 or AP-3, which still leaves them with some kind of save. But they definitely lack on offense, since they are all wielding S4/5 weapons- not exactly terrifying to most opponents.

            It’s weird because the Avatar lines up pretty closely with several other similar characters (Calgar, Daemon Prince, Yncarne), but is almost strictly worse than all of them for a variety of reasons. It’s not always easy to make 1-to-1 comparisons across codices, but it really seems to lack any significant advantages compared to them while actually having worse synergy within the book.

        • Reecius
          Reecius January 15, 2018 11:02 am #

          Yeah, that’s not where he wants to be. He wants to go into things with a 5++ or worse invul save and lots of wounds.

          Like I said, he’s very similar to a Daemon Prince. Hits hard but squishy.

          • abusepuppy January 17, 2018 5:10 am
            #

            The difference is, a Prince is a psyker, comes with a reroll aura, can move quickly (thanks to Wings), and can throw down a boatload of attacks if you equip it with the claws. (It’s also 70pts cheaper.) The Avatar’s attacks individually hit pretty hard, but chances are you miss one, fail to wound with one, and suddenly you’re not even killing a basic Tactical squad.

    • abusepuppy January 14, 2018 5:43 pm #

      My problem with that strategy is that you have a 250pt piece of your army just kinda… standing around for a significant chunk of the game, and in 8E you really can’t afford that. Games are often won and lost on turns 1/2, and having a big chunk of your army doing essentially nothing during those turns is pretty punishing.

      For a similar price, you can buy two Autarch Skyrunners with Laser Lance and Reaper Launcher; they put out essentially the same damage against big targets in melee, much more damage against small targets, and have a significant shooting game while also buffing the models around them and being much faster to respond. I just don’t feel like the Avatar compares well to the other models in the HQ slot, even with its improvements.

      • Reecius
        Reecius January 15, 2018 11:04 am #

        Fair enough. As stated, for me, he’s there to buff the rest of the army and to zone out areas. The reroll charge aura I have found to be solid gold with melee units coming in out of reserves. Plus, the Biel-Tan stratagem is bad ass.

  3. Styro-J January 17, 2018 6:33 am #

    While the Avatar hits hard, the top combat character (possibly game wide) for me is Asurmen. He handles buffs incredibly well and can kill more than his Attacks. The last game with him (buffing only to Wound rolls) he cleared 10 Death Company on a Heroic Intervention.

    He has great saves and very solid damage output, the aspect invuls he throws out are just icing to his counter charge ability for me.

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