Beyond the Dark Reaper: A Case for the Crimson Hunter Exarch

Hey guys Cavalier here, commission painter for Frontline Gaming and co-host of the Splintermind Podcast. Today I’ll be discussing the need for long ranged offense in an Eldar army and where to get it besides the ubiquitous spamming of Dark Reapers.

So when 8th edition dropped the Eldar Index was a shock to the senses. My Hornets, Warp Hunter, scatter-laser equipped Windriders and Wraithknight had been downgraded or seen shocking points increases -some of that was clearly necessary. So working with what I had, my lonely eyes then turned to Wraithguard and Dark Reapers to step into the void left by the departure of those units. Without spamming Reapers -as I find spam makes my army predictable and weak to opponents able to counter that spam- I increasingly found I was overly dependent upon a close-range assault, particularly when it came to anti-tank and anti-monster duties. While I was able to still claw out a winning record in my games, I found my army was becoming very predictable and my regular opponents were able to just stuff the front lines forcing my Eldar into that deadly 12-24” range which is the last place you want 3/4 of your Eldar army to be.

Yet hope springs eternal and when the Eldar Codex dropped, the boost was immense and the disproportionate emphasis on a front line assault was lessened. The invaluable tool that is Scatter Laser Jetbikes were back via Saim-Hann giving me a super mobile anti-infantry unit that can handle anything from hordes to elite infantry. My Dark Reapers were still sitting prettier than ever giving me a solid backbone for my anti-tank, while Wraithguard in the Webway or D-Scythe Wraithguard in a Serpent supported by Y’vraine serving as a close range counter-part were an excellent combination.

Yet I still needed more backfield anti-tank/anti-monster. At that point I was still fielding my Hornets with Bright Lances, hoping that the Codex buffs would make all my other units that much better and that the sort of middling offense offered by the Hornets would be just enough that I wouldn’t have to invest more points into front line units like Wraithguard, Fire Dragons etc or field more Dark Reapers which was sure to elicit more groaning and moaning from my opponents.

For the longest time I tried to get by with the combination of units as stated above, yet I was finding myself creeping ever closer to that overloaded front line assault with my opponents adapting very quickly to what was really only a slight variation of my attack patterns from the days of the Index.

I then saw a model peeking out at me from deep within my hobby hutch. The Crimson Hunter. It was painted in my Y’nnari red… but at the time like all Elder players I was working on expanding my Alaitoc themed force and an idea struck me. Alaitoc Crimson Hunters are -2 to hit beyond 12” and they basically replicate the offensive output of the 7th edition Hornet which was so vital to my success during those halcyon days of Elder supremacy.

I furiously set to work between commissions stripping the paint off my old Crimson Hunter and picking up a fresh new one and was amazed by their performance on the tabletop once I got them there. With Scatter Laser Jetbikes, Dark Reapers and a pair of Crimson Hunter Exarchs I finally had the backfield long range firepower I needed to balance out my attack. Not only that but with the Alaitoc rules they are maddeningly hard to eliminate.


Lets simply list the important stats, wargear and special rules featured by the Crimson Hunter Exarch

  • Core Stats: An effective BS of 3+, T6, 12 Wounds and a 3+ Save.
  • Wings of Khaine: Allow you to pivot up to 90 degrees after you moved.
  • Hard to Hit: -1 to hit, which becomes a -2 to hit when taken in an Alaitoc Detachment
  • Standard Wargear: out of 2x Brightlances and 1x Pulse Laser- When with 36” range (max range of the lances) you are dishing out 4 Strength 8 AP -3/-4 shots per turn. Thus replicating to a large degree the type of offense offered by 7th edition Hornets.
  • Marksman’s Eye + Skyhunter: Re-roll to hit rolls of 1 with ranged weapons, re-roll To Wound rolls against units that can Fly.

Now I know many people will point to the Dark Reapers and make arguments on points efficiency etc. I am not arguing to forgo Dark Reapers all together, I’m certainly going to include one big unit in my lists. But allow me to make a case for supplementing them with the Crimson Hunter Exarch.

Mobility + Vision: The mobility of the Crimson Hunter is huge. It can get anywhere it needs to go and with old school Vector Dancer style pivot at the end of movement, it can set a good movement pattern to remain in friendly airspace, or leap out even snipe a character or high priority target if need be.

In this era of 40k there is more LOS blocking terrain than ever before, the Crimson Hunters can not only see over most LOS blocking terrain but can easily establish firing lanes while safely maintaining range to keep their Alaitoc bonuses in places.

Stealth and Self Reliance: Secondly they do not rely on Warlock powers to maintain their that all important -2 to hit. This allows you to rock a single big unit of say 10 Reapers with a Concealing Warlock alongside a pair of Crimson Hunter Exarchs giving you 3 deadly units with fantastic offense all protected by a -2 to hit when running an Alaitoc detachment. Furthermore if you are rocking an Alaitoc themed force you’ll usually have a healthy amount of Rangers like I do so those Crimson Hunters are usually well screened in the early turns as they fly in a holding pattern on my backlines, so getting inside that 12” bubble is no easy task even with some sneaky deepstrike tactics. Also if you are like me you should have a little additional deepstrike deterrence with your Dark Reaper and Farseer combo rocking the Forewarned stratagem to intercept any deepstrikers within line of sight and send them to oblivion.

Firepower: Thirdly they have very reliable high powered offense. The range, rate of fire and damage potential is very similar to the offense offered by the 7th edition Hornet. Yet not only is their strength, AP and number of wounds inflicted very nice, they are also very reliable, hitting on 3’s re-rolling ones, thus continuing the trend of being independent operatives without need of psychic support. If you run into flying enemies they become even better as they re-roll wounds against such targets. Though sadly they will suffer an additional -1 to hit against proper flyers.

Stratagems: There are also some excellent Stratagems that jive very well with the Crimson Hunter Exarch. If you run into another Eldar player, you can actually deepstrike your pair of Crimson Hunter Exarchs via the Cloudstrike allowing you to perhaps remove the rival Reapers and then reign death from the skies. Also Lightning Fast Reflexes is a great option in a critical moment when you find you need one of your Crimson Hunter Exarchs to survive, granting it an additional -1 to hit, potentially making it -3 to hit!

Conclusion: So in conclusion I really like the Alaitoc Crimson Hunter Exarch. I’m not arguing against using Reapers in your lists – because I sure as hell use them- but instead supplementing them with another couple of tools that can get the job done with fantastic mobility, range, elusiveness and a good volume of accurate deadly fire power all without need of psychic support. So I hope you enjoyed the article. Please share your thoughts down below… I’d be fascinated what you guys are using beyond the Dark Reaper for your anti-tank duties!

If you guys liked my article and are interested in hearing more Eldar specific content, give our podcast: Splintermind a listen. Its a Dark Eldar centric podcast, but we cover everything Eldar. Craftworlds, Dark Eldar, Harlequins and Corsairs. We get into in-depth tactics, painting and modeling advice, and even interviews with Black Library authors. Check us out by following this link. Finally special shout out to my buddy Eric from Variance Hammer. His love of the Crimson Hunter (and his statistical analysis) was definitely an inspiration. Thanks Eric!


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Cavalier

Commission Painter for Frontline Gaming + Co-Host of the Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast

28 Responses to “Beyond the Dark Reaper: A Case for the Crimson Hunter Exarch”

  1. AbusePuppy March 16, 2018 12:16 am #

    I do like the Crimson Hunter; I’ve used them to supplement Reapers and to fill other roles as well. They can be very useful in presenting a “wall” of unassaultable bases if you take 2-3 of them, which can slow early assaults in many cases. I actually prefer the Starcannons, though- their damage output against a lot of targets is very comparable to the Bright Lance and they are noticably cheaper.

    It does have to compete with the Hemlock, though, which has slightly superior firepower per point and can ignore the degradation chart, penalties to hit, etc.

    • Cavalier March 16, 2018 2:49 am #

      Hey AP thanks for giving my article a read bud. Glad to see you like the Hunter too. Yeah I definitley see it as a bit over looked. It does serve as a great screen as you mentioned too. The Starcannons are nice and they are cheaper. My only thing is I face a lot of IG with tons of tanks so I need the higher strength but against a lot of armies that starcannon is a great tool. I like it on the Wraithknight especially.

      Yeah I dig the Hemlock too… almost went with them but my army is front loaded with close range units that I needed to stretch the field a bit and get some units that weren’t in the teeth of the enemy for the whole game…. so I decided to go with the Hunter.

      I am thinking about getting a Hemlock though and running it Y’nnari red because its offense is awesome and it help spearhead a frontline assault. Anyway thanks AP I really appreciate your feedback.

  2. Beau March 16, 2018 3:19 am #

    I fought a Ynarri army with 6 flyers (4 crimson hunters 2 hemlocks 2 wave serpents full of troops and cat lady) with my DG soup list. Morty died on the first turn, my flying daemon princes on the second, plague marines on the third, and all my cultists/zombies on the fourth. The damage output was insane.

    • Cavalier March 16, 2018 4:15 am #

      Fascinating… I’ve been having to resist going out to get a 3rd Hunter and a pair of Hemlocks myself! Sounds absolutley brutal…. was it pure Y’nnari or was Alaitoc in there too?

  3. Derek McGrath March 16, 2018 5:15 am #

    Gotta say those black/red/gold paint schemes are wonderful to look at.

    • Cavalier March 16, 2018 5:45 am #

      Thanks so much man. I got lucky cause at the end of 7th I started making a sort of special ops themed sub-army to my Eldar in all black featuring my Rangers, Reapers, Striking Scorpions.

      I also got lucky that my Corsair themed Eldar were painted in red and gold cause it was a perfect match for Y’nnari.

      Anyway thanks man glad you like it. I want to do an article eventually on how to do a heavily kitbashed”counts-as” army so if you like the scheme you’ll get a chance to see a bunch more stuff. Thanks man

    • Reecius March 16, 2018 6:29 pm #

      Yeah, Cavalier’s Eldar are gorgeous! He’s also a painter for the FLG Paint Studio, too =)

      • Cavalier March 17, 2018 3:08 am #

        Thanks so much bud, truly appreciated. Looking forward to adding some new stuff to my Eldar between commission projects… but gotta admit I’m really looking forward to the next projects Jason has sent my way… perhaps a tutorial is in order cause one of the models is gonna be legendary!

        • Reecius March 17, 2018 5:53 pm #

          Yeah, that’d be awesome!

  4. Don Tomaso March 16, 2018 8:04 am #

    “I fought a Ynarri army with 6 flyers (4 crimson hunters 2 hemlocks 2 wave serpents full of troops and cat lady) with my DG soup list. Morty died on the first turn, my flying daemon princes on the second, plague marines on the third, and all my cultists/zombies on the fourth. The damage output was insane.”

    Sounds like anything but fun and balanced.

    Do we want to go back to eldar 7th when you won by roflstomp just by unpacking your broken eldar units?

    The “fun” of this entire minus-to-hit is debatable and people often dont like it. I guess there wont be any -2 to hit in the future.

  5. David Alastair Hayden March 16, 2018 8:40 am #

    I like the Crimson Hunter a lot but dropped it out of my tournament list. It’s in my strong trip to the gaming store lists, though. I use 2 Hemlocks for competitive play. Thinking about expanding to three of them. They’re just so amazing.

    And when people forget that bubblewrap needs to go completely around their support characters… Let’s put it this way: It may only take one Hemlock to whack Belisarius Cawl. Two can definitely do the job. Smite, smite, flame, flame will take out most everything.

    • Cavalier March 16, 2018 10:58 am #

      I hear you buddy. The Hemlock is great and I definitely need to get one, but I like how by using the Crimson Hunter my opponent can’t just stuff their front lines to repel the rest of my close range units. I run Wraithguard (Scythes and Cannons with Y’vraine backing up the Scythes) a big unit of Reapers and the Crimson Hunters and it really forces a lot of decisions on to my opponents and makes them engage me at different distances… which usually leads to me being able to more easily isolate and destroy chunks of my opponents army at a time.

      • David Alastair Hayden March 16, 2018 1:45 pm #

        I was running three units of Wraithguard, all with Scythes, 2 Spiritseers, Farseer, 2×20 Guardians, 2 Hemlocks, 5 Rangers, 5 Reapers. The Reapers performed very poorly in the tournaments I played in. 5 isn’t enough when an opponent can get into your backfield. My plan is to drop the Reapers and the Rangers, split one group of Guardians, and add in another Hemlock.

        • David Alastair Hayden March 16, 2018 1:47 pm #

          Dark Reapers are amazing. But my list doesn’t accommodate them well. A lot of people throw the best units together and think it will magically work, but even the best units won’t work if they don’t fit in. So I either need to drop the 5 or add more.

          • Cavalier March 17, 2018 3:13 am

            I love your approach man. I couldn’t agree with you more… at the end of 7th I was only running 2 units of Scatter bikes against even my toughest opponents. I was running assault aspect hosts (2x Scorpions + Shining Spears) and Dark Reapers and kicking the crap out of opposing armies. Its all about sticking to your playstyle and mastering it.

  6. Variance Hammer March 16, 2018 12:40 pm #

    Thanks for the shout-out buddy 🙂

    I’ve been in love with the Crimson Hunter since the model first came out, and I’m really enjoying it in 8th. I tend to field three, which is nice because it seems to the the threshold where my opponents start to freak out about the number of Elfjets and start making mistakes, but also a little dangerous as objective holding units end up being rather scarce.

    • Cavalier March 17, 2018 3:14 am #

      Thanks so much bud. Also lol… Elf-Jets. I love it! Yeah I know… I’m really having to hold off and not buy a third one because my opponents are gonna get mad. But damn I’m fighting some tough armies these days… may be necessary to pull out the big guns. Also yeah I hear you on objective holding thats the one down side. Anyway thanks man!

  7. alejandro delgado gonzalez March 16, 2018 2:20 pm #

    Yes i love them. And i find running 1 hemlock and 2 exarcs on a flyer detachment is great.

    I dont understand why people insist on hemlock being superior. 1 is great but thats it. I use it for jinx only. Hemlock do 4-12 dmg when hunter does 4-18 dmg.

    Hemlock auto hit is the same or worse than hunter 3s rerolling 1s. Since hemlock does 2d3 hits. It would be the same to do 6 hits with 3bs without rerolls.

    And like you said hunter can use the alaitoc traith but hemlock cant. Since he has so litle range.

    But i happy to see people watching hunter like an underperforming unit so i can use it without people criying about eldars being so broken that they autowin alone.

    • Cavalier March 17, 2018 3:21 am #

      I couldn’t agree with you more. The math says the Hemlock is slightly superior in terms of offense to the Crimson Hunter, but you gotta factor in survivability. To get into attack position you are gonna land yourself well within that deadly 24″ range where almost every army can put a whooping on you, and your opponent can move stuff into 12″ to knock down your hard to hit to only a -1.

      What I like about the Hunter is that it can stay out of trouble and force your opponent to either chase you, waste shots or ignore you all of which works for me.

      Also lol… I know about people crying about Dark Reapers. They are crazy good but they aren’t unbeatable (they have the same weaknesses as any other gunline type unit) and not everyone has 36 of them. Also I’d like all the codices to come out before they get nerfed, because I dont think we have a complete picture of the game yet. But as far as the Crimson Hunters go, they really just change the optics to where your opponent doesn’t read your army as cheesy but IMO they are just as deadly, equally hard to hit….they just under rated.

      • AbusePuppy March 17, 2018 7:59 am #

        I would argue that what needs to be changed is less Dark Reapers and more Ynnari + Craftworlds. The problem is the ability to combine a Ynnari detachment (that takes advantage of as much of the Soulburst mechanic as possible) with Craftworld ones to gain the CP/stratagems and essentially have the best of both worlds. Ynnari on their own are beatable; Craftworlds on their own are beatable; the two together are probably stronger than the game should allow, because among other things they invalidate a number of armies (such as IG and Tau simply by their presence in the meta.)

        • Cavalier March 17, 2018 11:44 am #

          Totally reasonable arguement AP. But I’d like to see how the meta shakes out after all the dexes drop. We are near the finish line with only Orks a few flavors of Space Marine after the Dark Eldar dex drops. I’m not against making adjustments but I think it’d be best to see how everything settles and then adjust.

  8. Don Tomaso March 17, 2018 12:25 am #

    “Dark Reapers are amazing.”

    Like saying that 7ed scatbikes and spiders were amazing. No they are not amazing, they are broken and people never spammed them because they were “amazing” but because they gave them an instant-autowin button!

    There is a reason pretty much everybody are awaiting a reaper nerf in this months CA for just the same reasons we awaited the guilliman+flyerspam nerf last time. Those too were not “amazing” but simply put, far to good for what they costed.

    • AbusePuppy March 17, 2018 7:57 am #

      There’s no such thing as an “instant autowin” button. If you don’t believe me, ask all of those players who brought Dark Reapers to LVO and lost their matches. Even when you have “broken” units in the game, player skill still matters.

      (Also, I’ll point out that Ghillieman + Flyers was nerfed because people disliked it, not because it was extraordinarily powerful. It a few GT-level events, but never anything larger than that.)

  9. Don Tomaso March 17, 2018 10:11 am #

    We can ask those top lists that all looked like copies of each other (with reapers) why said reapers were there and somehow spin it to sound like reapers and those lists are just “disliked” and not at all overpowered 😛

    Of course I exaggerated a bit there with the word “autowin” as there is no auto win and absolutes are not something one should advocate, even eldar didnt “autowin” vs orks in 7th while beating them 99 times out of a hundred blindfolded and you are most certainly intelligent enough to understand what was being said so why hang up on a word when you know how and what it was meant to represent?

    For example telling a 7th ork player that the eldar he was just tabled by (again and again..aaand again) are “just” amazing would be a rather smug insult.

    • alejandro delgado gonzalez March 17, 2018 2:08 pm #

      If they are autowin. Why are there 0 eldars on top 10 on last grand tournament and GT?

      I give you a hint. They are played with official rules . Nit on ITC with homemade rules. Im not saying they are bad. But they are different than officials ones. Like missions, victory points etc.

      And even on ITC rules that heavy favour eldars there are 0 eldars on actual top 10.

      Im tired of guys like you that dont know anything but see 1 event. Like lvo final and cry about something being op without any knoledge behind it.

      They were op in 1 event. And i showed you 3 events ( every event done after that final) where they arent op. In fact they could be called underpower since there are 0 on top 10.

      • AbusePuppy March 17, 2018 7:56 pm #

        I seem to remember an awful lot of Eldar making appearances at east coast American tournaments (which typically do not use ITC) as well as at many of the European events a few months back (which similarly don’t use ITC.)

        “Official rules” is not going to dampen how good Dark Reapers are.

  10. Don Tomaso March 18, 2018 12:31 am #

    “Nit on ITC with homemade rules. ”

    Ever asked yourself why it is that itc need special rules to bypass the flaws of 8th?

    Alpha strike needs to be toned down, terrain needs to be upped?

    Sadly reapers need a nerf, they kill to much for what little they cost.

    “Im tired of guys like you that dont know anything” reapers are not at all to strong? Check.
    Myself, I´m tired of eldar fanboys who whined that their army was perfectly balanced back in 7th.

  11. Dan Egan March 20, 2018 4:49 am #

    G’day, Cav!
    Fantastic read. Stole your idea of two crimson hunter exarchs in a previous battle, against a flyer heavy grey knights army. Wiped them down to four paladin marines while the Eldar only lost four wounds on the flyers and two windriders, and that was running them as Saim-Hann. Only receiving the -1 to hit.

    Good one, mate, and look forward to another column from you… Pointy ears forever!!

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