The space elf that looks just a liiiiiiiiitle bit like a Transformer, Asurmen! And unlike Transformers, he has gotten better over the years rather than worse! Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Hand of Asuryan and first among the Phoenix Lords, Asurmen is a living legend in the Eldar psyche and a god of war upon the battlefield known even to the lesser races for his deeds. Immortal in spirit if not in body, no matter how many times he is slain he will return when the call of destiny brings a worth Eldar warrior to don his armor and meld his spirit with their own. Though he may disappear for a time, always the tides of battle call him back once more to bestride the mortal world once more and leave his mark stamped bloody on the bodies of his foes.
Like his successor Phoenix Lords, Asurmen possesses a statline that is noticably above that of other Eldar models, though in the context of the overall game it can be considered roughly on par with the median HQs. Strength and toughness four put him a notch above everything else in the Craftworlds book (other than the Avatar, of course); weapon skill and ballistic skill 2+ mean that he will land virtually all of his attacks. Six wounds and a 2+ save give him excellent staying power, and five attacks means that he can dish out in close combat surprisingly well. However, at 175pts with all his wargear, Asurmen is definitely not cheap- though neither is he as expensive as models like Abaddon or Calgar.
Special Rules and Wargear
Armed with The Sword of Asur and two Avenger Shuriken Catapults, Asurmen is kitted fairly well. His sword is S5 AP-3 and d3 damage, which is a fairly reasonable profile overall- it wounds general targets on 3s and even Knights and other T8 models will be hurt on 5s. More importantly, however, 6s to wound with his weapon will cause d3 additional wounds to the target- so if you get lucky, he can do a lot of damage. He also carries two Avenger Shuriken Catapults (S4 18″ Assault 2, 6s are AP-3) for ranged combat; not a blowout, but better than many HQs get if we’re being honest.
He of course has Ancient Doom and Battle Focus as standard rules, and also comes with the same Defense Tactics rule that Dire Avengers get, so his overwatch shots will hit on 5+s rather than just 6s. In addition, he gets an upgraded version of the exarch power, possessing a 4+ invulnerable save that improves to a 3+ against close combat attacks. As he is the only one of the Phoenix Lords to have this, it’s actually pretty strong.
But the fun with invulnerable saves doesn’t stop there- as primogenitor of all the aspect shrines, Asurmen gives out not just bonuses to his own aspect warriors but to all types, though of course Dire Avengers get the best of it. Any aspect squad in range will benefit from a 5+ invulnerable save, which can be very useful for anything targeted by heavy weapons; Avengers, as his favored children, improve this save to a 4+ invuln- who even needs a Shimmershield when you’ve got Asurmen on your side?
Asurmen, as might be expected, is best when used in an army to lead units of aspect warriors- though you probably shouldn’t have him leading the army, as he won’t get a warlord trait due to a rather weird rule in the codex. But you definitely want to pairing him up with some squads of guys to hand out an invulnerable save to them, because if you aren’t using that he basically is just a foot Autarch with one or two wacky twists.
Dire Avengers are the obvious beneficiary of his ability, since they get the most out of it; with a 4+ invulnerable save, they pretty much cease to care what the AP of any weapons directed their way are, and if you want to go so far as to cast Protect on them they can be rocking a 3++ save against every attack that comes at them, making them pretty sturdy all in all (though they will still struggle with massed fire from Bolters and the like.) The more heavy firepower (or melee) your opponents like to bring, the more value this strategy has- it’s not going to get you a lot of mileage against an Imperial Fists all-Bolter army, but against a list that runs lots of Lascannons, Grav, Plasma, and similar weapons it will come out a lot better.
Don’t overlook other aspect squads when considering him, though- Asurmen’s bonus applies to all kinds of aspect warriors, and many of them will really appreciate having it. Howling Banshees and Striking Scorpions often find themselves taking some heavy punches from the units they engage in combat, and Asurmen’s aura can help ward much of that off- especially in the case of Scorpions, who naturally have a good armor save to go with it. Similarly, units like Dark Reapers that tend to come under heavy fire from the opponent’s big guns can benefit a lot from him, although depending on positioning that can leave Asurmen himself out in the cold in terms of contributing to the battle- and that’s something you don’t want.
Although he might not look it at first glance, Asurmen is actually one of the most dangerous close combat characters that Eldar have; he can’t compare to an Avatar of Khaine in terms of raw damage output, of course, but when it comes to cutting down squads few others can come close. The key is in his Sword of Asur, which deals an additional d3 mortal wounds on any 6+ to wound. While this can be useful in pushing a few wounds through on a tough target when you get lucky, the much more enticing prospect ends up being using these wounds to clean out members of medium/heavy infantry such as Marines or Terminators; as each mortal wound is allocated individually, every result of ‘6’ on his dice can mean up to four models dead, which is no small feat by itself. To get maximum mileage, Empower and/or Doom are recommended, as they will significantly up his chances of getting those critical sixes (especially Empower.) If you can slap a bonus onto him, it shouldn’t be at all surprising to see Asurmen off five single-wound models on his own, and against multiwound models the d3 damage on his sword makes him potentially a lot more dangerous.
Asurmen, as noted earlier, is also the only one of the Phoenix Lords to possess an invulnerable save (unless you get them in range of his aura- and yes, it does work on them, as they have the Aspect Warrior keyword); this means that it is much more feasibly for him to fights that his compatriots would be very leery of, as he can potentially shrug off a lot more return blows than he can. Although it is only a middling 4++ against shooting attacks, against close combat attacks it improves to a 3++, which is basically as good as anyone in the game can manage- and should you decide to go hog wild and try and tank something big (like an Imperial Knight) with him, you can slap down a Protect to bring him up to a 2++. That’s just getting silly, though, and most of the time you should content yourself with “merely” having a 3++ in close combat- it won’t hold you forever, but it will be pretty frustrating to anyone swinging back at you with the assumption that you will fold up to a Power Fist.
However, with all of that said, Asurmen is a pretty expensive dude who hands out only limited buffs to nearby models- unlike an Autarch he provides no army-wide benefits and unlike a Farseer or Warlock he cannot slap down powerful spells of your choice wherever you need them. You are not likely to see Asurmen taking a spot in competitive lists because he’s simply too pricey (and not fast enough) for what he does. Competitive games are won off of damage output and positioning, and Asurmen doesn’t really measure up in those regards and thus isn’t really in the running to be making any top spots at LVO or NOVA anytime soon.
If you’re facing down Asurmen across the table, there are a number of things you can take advantage of to make sure he doesn’t swing the game. If he is being used to protect some Dire Avengers or other aspect warriors, be careful about what guns you aim at them. Don’t waste high-AP guns trying to bring them down, because it’s just not worth the bother; throw some Heavy Bolters, Scatter Lasers, etc, at the targets you need dead and they should go down just as easily as normal. His aura doesn’t stop the most dangerous kinds of firepower for those units, so generally speak it shouldn’t be a big problem for you. If he’s back protecting some Dark Reapers in their deployment zone that are also hiding in cover, feel free to throw some Missile Launchers or Lascannons into them- their invulnerable save will be equal to or worse than their armor against those guns, so Asurmen basically isn’t doing anything at all for them at that point, and likewise if you shoot any high-RoF guns with AP-1 at them.
If, instead, your opponent is pushing Asurmen forward to use as a beatstick in combination with a Warlock or Farseer to buff him, try and take out that character or shut down the spell; Empower doubles the number of mortal wounds he dishes out on average, so keeping him from getting it is a pretty big deal. Like many other beatstick characters, Asurmen is quite tough to handle in combat but will fold up rather quickly when hit with major shooting- 2+/4++ and six wounds just won’t last long at all, as most Space Marine players should well know. Use screening units to absorb his initial charge and then withdraw to hit him with the body of your firepower as needed; characters that get into combat by themselves are practically dead already, and there aren’t a ton of Craftworlds units that want to come and hang with him (most of which are just as vulnerable to shooting as he is.)
Asurmen might not be the king of martial prowess that the fluff describes him as, but he’s a pretty dangerous guy in a fight and is surprisingly tough for a space elf. If you want to have some fun and try and bust out a ridiculous combo, slap that Empower onto him and dive him into an enemy squad- it might not doing anything amazing most of the time, but once in a while you’ll lay down five or six mortal wounds at once and really blow their socks off, which is pretty good times. The Phoenix Lords still aren’t the most fantastic units in the game, but they are no longer flaming sacks of garbage and burned-out soulstones, which is a nice improvement to see.
As always, remember you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts from the Frontline Gaming store every day, whether you’re trying to start a new army or expand an existing one.