Craftworlds Codex Review: Elites: Howling Banshees

It has been a long, weird roller coaster ride for Howling Banshees, but finally- after four editions!- they’re back to being good again. Not “I guess I could use them and not hate myself” good, but “get some for your tournament army” good. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

Howling Banshees are the premiere melee shock troops of the Eldar Craftworlds. While other aspects such as Striking Scorpions might sneak in and strike at the enemy where they are unexpected, Banshees rely on their blazing speed and soul-piercing screams to render the enemy helpless as they close in, then unleash the devastating power of their weapons.

Banshees mostly have the statline that would be expected of their type, although there are a few surprises lurking in it. Right off the bat, movement 8″ means that they are just a nudge faster than other Craftworld troops- and their abilities can make them faster yet. Weapon and ballistic skill 3+ mean that their attacks will generally land on target, while strength and toughness 3 leave them on the weak side compared to most units in the game (though still better off than, say, Gretchin.) 4+ armor is also on the middling side overall, as a lot of aspects benefit from 3+ armor these days, but since one generally doesn’t want them getting shot at in the first place this ends up being acceptable. Two attacks per model is very solid for a melee unit and leadership 8 is standard for “elite” units across the game. One model in the squad can be an exarch, coming with an extra wound and an extra attack- both very nice bonuses for a unit like Banshees. At 13 points per model, Banshees come in cheap enough to be very affordable as a slot-filling minimum unit or a full-strength hammer squad.

Special Rules and Wargear

As with nearly all models in the codex, Howling Banshees come with Ancient Doom and Battle Focus, giving them bonuses in melee against Slaanesh and full movement when shooting. In addition, they also get the Acrobatic rule, which allows them to advance and charge (meaning that there is no penalty at all for advancing with them) and adding +3 to any charge rolls on a turn in which they advanced. What this means is that in reality a Banshee’s movement value is 9″-14″, making them quite speedy overall.

It only gets better from there, though. The exarch in the squad comes with War Shout, which forces the enemy to subtract one from any hit rolls targeting the unit in close combat; this can be stacked with Lightning Reflexes if you really need to protect them and in combination with the Alaitoc bonus it can make them quite a bit more durable than their statline would have you believe. It is especially handy against vehicles (most of whom simply cannot hit Banshees at all) or units like Conscripts that have a poor weapon skill to start with.

The squad also comes with a very solid set of gear; all members get a Banshee Mask (opponents cannot fire overwatch against them) as well as a Power Sword and Shuriken Pistol. The exarch can trade her weapons for a pair of Mirrorswords (only AP-2, but can reroll all misses) or pay a token number of points to upgrade her Power Sword to an Executioner (S4 AP-3 DmgD3), which is usually worth it if you can manage to find those few cents.

Uses

That Howling Banshees are a fast assault unit should be obvious, but their actual role in a Craftworlds army is a bit less obvious. Nominally, they are MEQ-hunters, using their power swords to cut down heavily-armored troops; however, with their low strength value they will struggle to output much damage to most targets, even T3 ones. But that doesn’t actually matter all that much to a competitive army, because the secret is that you aren’t taking Banshees to shred your way through the enemy army (that’s what Shining Spears and Dark Reapers and Guardian Defenders are for)- they are a disruption element, designed to break your opponent’s tempo and buy you valuable time with their important units tied in combat while the rest of your forces pick things apart.

Looked at from that perspective, Banshees are an absolutely brutal unit. They are individually cheap, allowing you to purchase large units of them in order to cover the maximum amount of ground and hold as many different units down as possible. They are extremely fast, able to completely ignore the penalty for advancing and able to benefit from Quicken when needed as well as adding +3 to charge rolls most every turn. But lastly and most importantly, they ignore overwatch completely, allowing them to declare charges with impunity and lock down dangerous shooting units with no risk of taking additional casualties, even against units that have weapons that cause automatic hits.

So a single squad of Howling Banshees can dive into the middle of an enemy gunline and tie up two, three, four, or even more units at once- and sure, your opponents can just fall back with most of those units (unless they’re surrounded, of course)- but in most cases that means they will be unable to shoot, or have to expend some of their limited resources on stratagems or orders in order to be able to act normally. And even if they can, they’ll likely be taking movement penalties (for heavy weapons, etc) or having to abandon an otherwise-ideal position (perhaps on an objective, or in cover, or what have you.) Again: Banshees are not your killing tool, they are there to make a mess of things. They buy you time by ruining the opponent’s strategy while you enact your own. Killing off those units would be better than simply delaying them, of course, but it would also require a lot more investment of effort or points- and that’s the other half of the Banshee equation. If you can use 65 or 130pts of your models to keep 200, 300, or even 400pts of the enemy army busy, that means the remainder of your forces can face off against the enemy army at an advantage due to those units not getting to contribute.

Of course, as with a lot of melee units, the trick is in getting there; while their Acrobatic ability may make them fast, there are plenty of units in the game who are faster and which still struggle to get into combats. There are a number of potential solutions to the problem in the codex, but picking the one that is going to work for your army will be critical in getting them to function effectively.

The most obvious idea, of course, is transports. The Wave Serpent is one of the most effective transports in the game thanks to the combination of aggressive costing, powerful defensive abilities, and a natural synergy with the army as a whole. With a capacity of twelve models, you can easily fit a maximum-size squad into one with room left to spare- or you can cram two smaller squads inside, since 8E makes that a possibility now. With their long reach when disembarking, you can easily keep your Serpent back at a conservative distance from the enemy and then hop out the Banshees when it’s go time and get to the enemy without much risk- your minimum charge distance at that point is 21″, which should easily get you to what you need to hit. (Note that the Falcon is also available as an option for small units, but its desire to remain static and relative fragility make it a much less attractive choice in this regard.)

Another possibility is using the Webway Strike stratagem, which is well recognized as a powerful tool in the Craftworld codex. Able to drop any unit onto the field 9″ away from the enemy, it gets the Banshees near where they want to be with no muss or fuss and only a minimum command point cost (1 for a single unit, 3 for two of them.) However, as the Banshees will not have advanced that turn, they will not get the +3″ bonus on their charge rolls, making it a sketchy proposition at best without the aid of some other support. Even so, the ability to slot a unit of Banshees into the enemy’s back line where they are least wanted can be absolutely devastating, most especially because this is where their favored prey (i.e. shooting support units) tend to hide.

This naturally leads us into the third option, the Quicken psychic power. Accessible by Warlocks and Spiritseers, Quicken gives any one unit a free move- and for Banshees, that means quite a bit of ground covered. Quicken, of course, can be dropped on almost anything on the codex to good effect, but as Banshees are one of the faster targets for it (after Shining Spears, of course), they benefit quite a bit. Even with mediocre advance rolls you can expect 30″ or more of reach with a Quickened squad.

Of course, you don’t always have to invest heavily in Banshees for them to be effective- a cheap and simple 65pt squad can do a lot of work on the ground even if you don’t spend many other resources buffing them up. As infantry they are more than capable of hiding out in buildings or behind other terrain to avoid enemy shooting, and as an exceptionally quick unit they can easily jump out from behind their Safety Rock and pounce on something unsuspecting when the opportunity presents itself- remember, a Banshee squad’s maximum threat radius is 30″, and their average range is still 22″. Anything that attempts to come even somewhat close to your lines is potentially a target for them, and that can be a big headache for your opponents as they attempt to deal with your tiny, hidden squads of Banshees while also getting rid of your Dark Reapers, Rangers, etc, etc.

Although Banshees aren’t big killers on their own, their Power Swords can definitely cause some casualties against the right targets- AP-3 is no joke, after all, and the Shuriken Pistol might not be a terribly reliable weapon, but it’s one that threatens virtually everything in the game even when stuck in. With a bit of lucks rolling 5+s or 6+s, a squad of Banshees can put a surprising amount of damage on heavily-armored targets, especially though with lower toughness values but good armor saves- such as many Eldar units, for example. A little bit of help from psychic powers (Empower, Enhance, Doom) or stratagems (Supreme Disdain, The Great Enemy) can go a long ways with them, though you can’t really expect them to measure up to the “real” beatsticks in the game. Banshees should be bullies, picking on units too weak to defend themselves and that want to be doing work in the shooting phase.

Countering

So if you’re going to be facing down some Banshees, you need to remember that they are fast. They move almost as quickly as Shining Spears do on the table (though they don’t ignore terrain) and can charge pretty insane distances even without the aid of any psychic powers- up to 29″ with good rolls. When supported by Quicken or similar magic, they can effectively cross the table in a single turn and pounce on any unit that isn’t completely blocked off. Moreover, as they can ignore all overwatch, they are free to charge anything and everything that is within 15″ of them and then allow the dice to decide which targets they need to actually go after as the situation dictates.

So at a glance, we can see that two things are important: if you want to stop Banshees from getting to something, you need to physically block the pathway to it (they are unable to pass through gaps of smaller than 1″ or go through impassible terrain) and that you cannot cluster vulnerable units close to each other. Here by “vulnerable units” we mean anything you cannot afford to have locked in combat- because Banshees can and will draw two, three, or even more units into a fight, forcing them to either waste time trying to kill the unit (with a -1 or higher penalty) or fall back from combat and thus be unable to shoot/charge.

However, Banshees themselves are extremely fragile- once they get up in your face the Alaitoc bonus will largely stop applying and T3/4+ just isn’t going to hold them for very long, even if your opponent stacks multiple buff spells onto them. Unlike Shining Spears and other, similar units they are quite squishy once you get to start putting firepower into them; even Bolters will do quite a lot of work, and morale (or charges of your own) can finish the job. Note also that Banshees themselves have no ability to fall back and then charge (unless a stratagem is used), so locking them in combat with units of your own and forcing them to stay and face an unfavorable combat is very feasible. T6+ models are ideal for tying them down in this respect, but almost anything can potentially do, as Banshees just don’t have a lot of killing power unless they get several psychic powers stacked up (and even then it is merely acceptable.)

Because they lack so significantly in killing power, Banshees are extremely reliant on locking units in combat- and that means that units which can easily escape (such as those with Fly or similar rules) are their bane. Anything that lets you withdraw from combat or act normally while in combat is good here- the Ultramarines trait is an obvious choice, of course, as is the Hive Fleet Kraken one. But the Space Wolves “True Grit” stratagem can accomplish a similar job, letting you fire your weapons even while in combat- and given how fragile Banshees are, that can make short work of them. Other factions have similar ways around the problem- the Imperial Guard can use orders to fall back, the Adeptus Mechanicum can use a variety of tricks, etc. Virtually every army has some kind of ability to escape from or bypass combat, so making good use of these can go a long ways towards mitigating a Banshee charge.

Final Thoughts

Banshees are a very solid way for Craftworld armies to delay many types of enemy units and whittle them down; they may not be brutal killers on their own, but they can be very frustrating for an opponent to deal with and are surprisingly difficult to get rid of, especially in combination with judicious use of stratagems and psychic powers. Properly supported, they are an excellent inclusion to an Eldar army looking to bring some aggressive elements to the table and they synergize well with short-ranged shooting units (such as Fire Dragons) or other melee units (such as Shining Spears.) If you haven’t already, give them a whirl- I think you’ll find that they will make appearances in more and more of your armies once you do, because what they can do for you is invaluable.

As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies from the Frontline Gaming store at great discounts every day, whether you’re looking to expand an existing army or start a new one.

 

 

 

 

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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.)

18 Responses to “Craftworlds Codex Review: Elites: Howling Banshees”

  1. Victor April 18, 2018 4:30 am #

    Did you write this article before the FAQ? No more Quickening to units deployed by Webway Strike

    • NinetyNineNo April 18, 2018 5:41 am #

      Not a fan of that ruling. Hopefully it’ll get tweaked like the Smite nerf did.

  2. Venkarel April 18, 2018 5:48 am #

    Probably did I am sure AP is aware of the change, the idea applies out of your backfield as well, they are very fast.

  3. alejandro delgado gonzalez April 18, 2018 6:36 am #

    Problem with bansees is why would you get them over autarc on byke with mask?

    That autarc cost around 120 if im not mistaken. So the same as 8 bansees with ejecutioner.

    Autarc only has 3w less those bansees. But he has higer save and thougness. And an invul save so he is toughter. And is a character so cant be shot most of the time.

    He base move 16. So is even faster than bansees disenbarquing running ( 8+3+base+3 or 4 running) 15. And dont need to pay for a transport. Without serpent he is way faster and dont even need to run.

    On the offense he has 4 catapults. 1 laser and 1 fusion vs 8 catapults of bansees. So sligthy worse against easy targets but so much better against tought ones.

    After you realise he has 1 better bs and rerolls 1s he is better even against easy targets.

    On melee he does lower number of atacks. Only 4 vs 17 of those bansees. Yes those 4 atacks will kill 4 models usually but still will be worse than bansees on easy targets.

    But he can fly. So he can deny so many targets that bansees cant. There isnt nothing as good as charging a hemlock with my saim han autarc and delete it haha.

    So i think an autarc on jetbyke can do a better job than bansees on tarpit the shothy units of the oponent for the same points.

    Bansees should have 4 s base. There is no reason to not having it. Incubis has our scorpions strenght. With our banses ap. And higher number of atacks so after reapers and warlock nerfs on faq i think our poor melees could use a sligth bump. Like +1 s on bansees and +1 atack on scorpions( like every chainsword allready does lol )

    And yes you firgot post faq we cant move after deepstrike

    • Anggul April 18, 2018 7:06 am #

      On the other hand, an Autarch is a single model so can’t spread out across many units like multiple Banshees can, and each one takes up an HQ slot while Banshees help fill Elites slots for Brigades. Also multi-damage weapons are wasted on Banshees but great against Autarchs.

    • Víctor Yanguas April 18, 2018 7:13 am #

      You also want the Autarch alive for the re-roll hit rolls Of 1 and forma CPs refunding. Using him like the banshees seems a suicide proposition. Better the banshees forma that because of their bigger footprint as they,ve said before me

    • abusepuppy April 18, 2018 8:59 am #

      Autarch on Bike with Laser Lance and Reaper Launcher (one of the standard setups) is 130. A squad of Banshees is 65. That’s a pretty major price difference.

      The Banshees also fill an elite slot and can embark on transports, whereas the Autarch cannot (though foot versions can, they are much slower.) A squad of Banshees is also much more capable of locking multiple enemy squads in combat, especially if you take them above minimum size.

    • Weidekuh April 19, 2018 2:16 am #

      I use both and I can tell you, that they don’t play the same at all. Banshees are, as described in the article, bullies. They are kinda a tactical throwaway unit to disrupt your enemy. And they do it extremely well. You will never just throw your Autarch at the enemy . He has other uses that are too valuable for your army.

  4. Anggul April 18, 2018 7:08 am #

    You don’t remember just how annoying overwatch is until you get to ignore it. It’s such a good feeling, especially against multiple units at once.

    • abusepuppy April 18, 2018 9:00 am #

      Yeah every time I use them and am like “Okay, I’m charging these eight units” and people are like “fine so I-” “Banshees ignore overwatch.” “Damnit!”

  5. Reecius
    Reecius April 18, 2018 8:12 am #

    Banshees are one of my hands down favorite units in the Eldar Codex. Every game they are so useful. The crazy speed and the ability to hit multiple units in combat, deny overwatch to let other units come in safely, then be a general pest with their combat buffs is so amazingly good. They have won me the game on multiple occasions without doing much damage in most cases (although I have had games where they go hot and just slice and dice things).

    • Victor April 18, 2018 9:23 am #

      How many Banshees do you use? At how much points? I eager to mull my 20 Banshees out of the shelve, but I didn’t think still about a list to include them

      • Reecius
        Reecius April 18, 2018 12:27 pm #

        They’re so good it is ridiculous, particularly if you use good terrain.

        I use a single unit of 9 to 10, Exarch with Executioner. I typically keep them way back in my deployment zone, preferably out of LoS, wait to see the game develop a bit, then launch up the table with Court of the Young King/Matchless Agility and/or Quicken and go shoot through gaps in the other person’s lines, tagging as many units in melee as I can and trying to pin one model down so they can’t withdraw. It is amazingly good. So often my opponent is totally caught off guard by their enormous threat range and then a big chunk of their army can’t shoot next turn. It’s game winning.

      • Weidekuh April 19, 2018 2:24 am #

        I startet with a minimum unit of 5, added a second unit of 5 and then one unit of 10. I feel like the one unit of 10 is by far the best way to use them. 5 are too few to really do some enemy unit tagging and surround to stay in CC in the enemys turn. Two units are ok, but I really rely on Quicken to boost them over the table. You could play two big units and keep one for a second disruption round, after the first unit has died.
        You probably don’t need full units of 10, but 5 are too few in my opinion.

        Banshees are one of my favourite units! Sooo much fun playing them, because they are a very tactical unit. They could do 0 damage and still be somewhat useful.

        I always chuckle at people mathammering them and then deciding they suck.

        • Reecius
          Reecius April 19, 2018 7:36 am #

          Exactly! Mine usually don’t do that much damage but they very often win me the game. They are a tool, as you noted, not a sledgehammer. And I agree that the bigger unit is best as you need them to be able to take some casualties in melee and not totally fold or fall out of combats due to pulling casualties.

  6. Zool April 18, 2018 11:02 am #

    The first strike change with overwatch imunity was a good move in codex. Now they dont need the short range buff from jain zar and she is better hunting down infantry characters and disarming them.

    Army with 3x scorpions +karandras , 3x swooping hawks + baharroth , 3x banshees with jain zar and Maugan ra sniping from behind. Cost a tons of points and its not realy strong but who cares if its fun.

    If u want to win tournament run Lyanden craftworld with 200 advancing guardians and just shuriken down everything to pieces with a Dice app.

  7. Weidekuh April 19, 2018 2:30 am #

    I have a question somewhat related to Banshees, since I nearly always Quicken them.
    There was a FAQ that if you advance more than once in a phase, you don’t roll again, but use the movement (movement characteristic + advance roll) you already did the first time.

    Quicken says “move as it is the movement phase”. Does that mean I roll for advance, because the movement is in the psychic phase or that I use the same roll from the movement phase before, because it says “as it is the movement phase” ?

    Quite important in relation with the 6″ advance stratagem.

    • abusepuppy April 19, 2018 3:49 am #

      No, Quicken occurs during the psychic phase- the movement occurs “as though it is the movement phase,” but it occurs as though it were _a_ movement phase, not the specific one preceding it. You will roll a die to advance as normal, possibly including activating the Matchless Agility if you want to.

      It is possible to cast Quicken during your own movement phase under certain extremely rare circumstances (a Ynnari Warlock can do it if a nearby unit dies in your movement phase, for example) and if this is the case you would abide by the FAQ and roll only once and apply it to both of the movements you make, but this is an unusual occurrence to say the least.

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