We will answer many questions about Storm Guardians in this article; we will not, however, answer the most pressing question: why on Earth are they called “Storm Guardians” in the first place. There are some things that man was not meant to know.
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Storm Guardians, something of an oddball offshoot of Guardian Defenders, are members of the craftworld militia that have been equipped for close combat rather than… er, well, slightly less close combat as Defenders typically are. Although often deemed abhorrent to place the body of the dying race in such extreme danger, it is occasionally done (and by some craftworlds more than others.)
On the tabletop Storm Guardians are a basic-level troop choice and have the unusual distinction of being the cheapest possible way to fill a troop slot for a Craftworlds army. At only seven points each, they are also the cheapest per-model option in the codex, though some options can push their price up a bit. A Storm Guardian’s statline is identical to that of their standard brethren- strength and toughness three mean that the Eldar are quite rightfully wary about getting into a fight, as they will struggle to wound most enemies while getting hit back pretty hard themselves. A 5+ armor save does them no favors in this regard, either, offering only the most basic level of protection. Weapon skill and ballistic skill 3+ are a nice bonus for such a cheap model, however, and a leadership of seven can be considered fairly average.
Oddly, Storm Guardians can come in units as small as eight members or as large as twenty-four, presumably in order to match up with the modeling side of things (as the upgrade kit for them comes with enough pieces for eight Guardians.)
Special Rules and Wargear
As all Craftworld Eldar, Storm Guardians benefit from the Battle Focus ability (allowing them extra mobility when shooting) as well as Ancient Doom (which gives bonuses in close combat against Slaanesh, but a penalty to morale.) As one of a handful of dedicated melee units in the codex, Storm Guardians actually benefit a lot more from Ancient Doom than most other units- they can be legitimately frightening to Slaanesh models under a lot of circumstances.
Their armament is really what makes Storm Guardians stick out, however. Each member of the squad comes with Plasma Grenades, which are a nice upgrade over Frag Grenades- with S4 and AP-1, they can be a legit threat to enemy infantry, though obviously only being able to throw a single grenade limits the overall applicability of the weapon. They also get a Shuriken Pistol, providing some basic ranged firepower and a gun that can be used if they stay locked in combat- not huge, but it definitely can stack up some extra casualties. Finally, and most importantly, each model gets an Aeldari Blade, which can be exchanged for a Chainsword if you prefer. Since the Chainsword gives you an extra attack, whereas the Aeldari Blade merely allows you to reroll misses, you should always swap out for the Chainsword- especially since it is now free rather than costing you 1pt.
Two members of the squad can also trade their normal gear for either a Flamer or a Fusion Gun. Both choices have some interesting merits; the Flamer gives a bit of close-in defense against enemies that attempt to countercharge you while also giving you an improved “softening-up” volley before you go in. However, the Fusion Gun allows the squad to be a major threat to heavy targets like tanks and monsters, and thus I think is generally going to be the superior choice. However, since one of the main virtues of the unit is cheapness, it may be that you don’t want to bring either of the weapons in the squad, instead just keeping them as a bare-bones harassment unit and objective-holder.
Note that unlike in previous editions, Storm Guardians cannot take Power Swords.
Storm Guardians are in a bit of a weird place and always have been- they have a lot of competition in the troop slot, including from some units that are classically considered to be significantly better performers than them (such as Guardian Defenders and Dire Avengers.) However, for those of you who have been keeping on the Craftworld (and Ynnari) armies that have popped up as of late, it is interesting to note that more than a few players- and talented players at that- have been including Storm Guardians in their armies. Not exclusively, of course, and not all the armies, but enough that it is worth taking notice of and asking ourselves to what end.
As I’ve already mentioned, one of the biggest strengths of Storm Guardians is that they are extremely cheap- seven points for a model, and only fifty-six points for a basic squad of them. While Rangers and Dire Avengers are only slightly more (60pts base), it’s not unheard of for those last few points in an army list to make all the difference- it might mean fitting in an upgrade or unit that simply wouldn’t be possible without making other, more unpalatable, concessions elsewhere. In this regard, Storm Guardians can be considered a very useful option to have around, even if not always a primary choice.
However, their usefulness needs to go significantly beyond that to compete with the other options in the codex. Storm Guardians may not excel at many roles, but they can be surprisingly functional at them. For example, a basic squad of them put out firepower that is, if not on par with Guardian Defenders, at least not so far below them as to be incomparable. Both units have guns that shoot out to 12″; the Defenders get essentially twice as many shots (though the use of Plasma Grenades can mitigate this a bit), but are really only useful in that shooting role, whereas Storm Guardians can fight as well.
Their fighting prowess is hardly exceptional, but for such a cheap model we shouldn’t expect exceptional performance. With each member of the squad putting out two attacks that hit on 3s, Storm Guardians can really lay out a lot of swings on an enemy unit that may not be expecting them to accomplish much. And although their attacks are pretty uninspiring in statline (wounding most targets on 5s, zero AP) Craftworld armies have access to tons of buffs that can make them more threatening- Doom, Empower, and Enhance are all readily available if you please, and the Supreme Disdain stratagem can stack on some extra attacks if you’re willing to invest a bit (especially if you’re also rocking Enhance at the same time.) Again, this isn’t a unit that will buzzsaw its way through the entire enemy army, but it can catch a weakened or isolated unit off guard and inflict some significant damage to them.
Storm Guardians are at their best when preying on other weak units- anything with T3 and/or a weak save is where they really can show their stuff, so enemy Guard and Eldar are prime targets. The explosion in success of Eldar armies, along with the constant presence of cheap screening units like Cultists, may go a long way towards explaining why we are seeing some Craftworld lists run a unit or three of Storm Guardians to fill in their troops- they are cheap enough not to be a big investment, but dangerous enough that they can get jobs done on the battlefield.
If you’re willing to invest a little bit more in them, however, it’s possible to get some surprising results from Storm Guardians. With the ability to take two Fusion Guns (i.e. Meltaguns) even in a minimum-sized squad, they are something of a rarity in xenos armies- special weapons buried behind regular troopers. Carted into battle by a Wave Serpent or via Webway Portal, they can provide a mobile and wide-ranging threat to enemy armor while not being quite such a dedicated specialist unit the way Fire Dragons or Wraithguard are. Guardian Defenders can do something slightly similar by including weapon platforms, but since they need a full twenty-strong squad to get the pair of them their cost is obviously quite a lot higher to achieve a similar result- and such a unit can’t ride inside transports, either. While a lot of Imperial players may be fairly unimpressed at this capability, since virtually every squad in their army can do something similar, xenos players will probably find the luxury of having a few special weapons tucked away in unusual places to be absolutely delightful and something that can really catch opponents off guard if they aren’t familiar with the unit. Don’t expect them to take out healthy vehicles by themselves, though- 5ish damage is about what you should be planning on from the unit, and you shouldn’t be surprised when they fail to inflict any damage at all. They are not specialists and shouldn’t be treated like a specialist unit.
Storm Guardians aren’t generally the sort of unit that is going to throw your plans into disarray, but as we’ve discussed above they can be a lot more threatening than some people first assume. So how do you avoid getting caught by them? Well, there’s a number of fairly easy steps. Storm Guardians are first and foremost a point-blank unit- they function only at ranges of 12″ and less, and ideally they want to be right on top of their target. Although they have the same above-average movement value as all Eldar, they cannot advance and charge or any other shenanigans like that- so if you keep good track of where they are, they shouldn’t give you any big surprises.
They also are essentially a glass cannon without the cannon part- in other words, quite fragile and not all that hard-hitting. If you are doing a good job of keeping the Eldar’s buff powers in check (and you should be, otherwise you’re going to be in trouble no matter what units you face) any squad of real impact should be able to take on some Storm Guardians and come out the victor. The unit’s main virtue is being cheap, and as in most cases you get what you pay for- most troops in the game will be able to steamroll Storm Guardians pretty easily, including Ork Boyz, Strike Teams, Tactical Squads, etc.
Last but not least, know how they’re getting around the battlefield and know how you can stop that. Wave Serpents are very tough tanks and are quite fast on the move, but they aren’t cheap and against high-damage weapons like Lascannons or Meltaguns they will fall quickly- know when you need to target the Serpents to get to the units inside. Similarly, the Webway Assault stratagem is a powerful tool in the Craftworld player’s arsenal, but it is not infallible- it can be countered in all of the ways that other reserve strategies can, tactics that should be familiar to most experienced players of the game at this point. If you can limit the mobility of Storm Guardians, it should be fairly trivial to get rid of them.
Although something of a niche choice in the codex overall, Storm Guardians can be a useful unit to have as an option and can even do a surprising amount of work when you send them at the right targets. With their price reduction and changes in functionality, they no longer are the complete laughingstock that they were previously- a common theme to 8th Edition. While a melee-dominant strategy is probably still not in the cards for competitive Craftworld armies (sorry, Reece!), it can still be a very useful tool to have in your toolbox, as it bypasses a lot of the defenses that many armies in 8E rely on such as cover or to-hit penalties.
As always, remember that you can get Games Workshop products at great discounts every day in the Frontline Gaming webstore, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.