If you remember our previous bird-plane quiz then this one should be a cinch for you to figure out. Hint: airplanes very rarely have legs or arms. Click to read the CA2018 version of the article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Swooping Hawks are the carriers of vengeance in Eldar culture, bequeathed that role by Faolchu the companion of their culture’s first hero. Craftworlders believe that a soul that has died unfulfilled can come back as a hawk to avenge itself on those who wronged it, and the aspect cult carries much of that belief with it, for they are considered perhaps the most pure and righteous of the shrines.
On the table Swooping Hawks have a very standard Eldar statline. A movement of 14″ is pretty exceptional even for jump infantry; weapon and ballistic skill 3+ make them fairly accurate with their attacks, though strength and toughness three make them a tad on the fragile side. 4+ armor does little to mitigate this; it’s not terrible, but it definitely leaves them more vulnerable to anti-infantry weapons than some of the other popular aspects. Leadership 8 is pretty commonplace as well, though their own abilities can further boost this. As always, one member of the squad can be upgraded to an exarch, gaining an extra wound and attack. At 13pts per model, they come with a pretty solid package overall.
Wargear and Special Rules
Like all Craftworld models they come with Battle Focus (advance and shoot normally) and Ancient Doom (bonuses and penalties against Slaanesh in combat.) Neither are game-changers, but both can be fairly useful overall and definitely add to the Swooping Hawks’ theme of mobility. They also have the Children of Baharroth rule, which allows them to deploy into reserve and arrive on the battlefield in a subsequent turn. More notably, they also have Skyleap, which allows them to do the reverse– if they are not locked in combat, you can have them “leap” back into reserve from the table and redeploy somewhere else on a future turn.
Better yet, when they’re coming onto the table they get to make a bonus attack on nearby enemies, which can also be done to any enemies they fly over during their normal movement. Swooping Hawk Grenade Packs let them roll a die for each model in their unit (limited also by the models in the enemy unit) and every 6 causes a mortal wound to the unit- not devastating, but can stack up a couple of “bonus” casualties over the course of a game and is especially frightening to MEQs and other tough troops.
Last up, a Swooping Hawk exarch adds +1 to the leadership of any unit within 3″ of their squad; not an overwhelming bonus, but a nice one to have and can help tip the balance of effects that key off leadership (such as Mind War.)
All members of a Swooping Hawk unit come with a Lasblaster (24″ S3 Assault 4), an excellent weapon against infantry of pretty much any kind. The exarch can trade it out for a Hawk’s Talon (same profile but S5) or a Sunrifle (ditto, but instead has AP-2 and penalizes anyone wounded by it for the remainder of the turn); they can also take a Power Sword if they wish. None of the upgrades are particularly expensive, so you’ll see people taking one of the guns, generally the Hawk’s Talon, at least as often as not.
If it wasn’t obvious from the above, Swooping Hawks do two things really well: kill infantry and move around the field, often both at once. With a large number of shots- twenty out of even just a basic squad- they will chew of the screens of light infantry that are extremely common these days. Although S3 doesn’t impress against heavier targets, even Marines should take pause when the shots start raining down, as the sheer volume can still inflict significant casualties.
As for mobility, not a lot of units can compare to Hawks- the combination of a high movement value, fly, Battle Focus, and the ability to both enter and leave reserves at will mean that they are about as mobile as any unit possibly can be. They can bounce in and out of combat pretty much at will, pass over obstacles and blocking units, and cross the entire board in two turns if needed- all while shooting without any penalties and even doing extra damage thanks to their grenade packs.
So already, Swooping Hawks are in a really good place from a competitive standpoint, since killing power and mobility are two of the hallmarks of a strong tournament unit. Being able to get anywhere on the field means they can circumvent enemy defenses, strike at targets of opportunity, and score objectives as needed- all critically important to a tournament lists. And killing massed infantry is one of the most important things that a list can do these days; if you’re facing down 80+ troop models (as is going to be pretty common), you absolutely need an effective tool for dealing with all of them. It’s not just traditional horde lists that are bringing those kinds of numbers, either- you certainly see big blocks of Cultists, Poxwalkers, Guardsmen, and Orks, but you also see armies like Tau, Craftworlds, and Dark Eldar fielding large numbers of infantry models as well, as troops are back in vogue. Swooping Hawks give your army a way to deal with these models that can otherwise be lacking, as many other solutions are either very short-ranged (e.g. Guardians) or designed for dealing with heavier units (e.g. Fire Prisms or Dark Reapers.)
Hawks are also important as a harassment/disruption unit, which is another place their sort of general utility comes into play. Although they are certainly no great shakes in close combat (even with the exarch), there are most certainly units in the game that are weaker than them or that dislike being in a fight more, and they can very easily “bully” these units when needed. With their 14″ movement, it is often pretty simple to dive into the enemy’s backline and make an unexpected charge on something- often from a protected place, as Hawks are still a very fragile unit and don’t deal with overwatch well. But if you can pile the unit in and tag several tanks or heavy weapon squads, you can make your opponent’s day really inconvenient as they suddenly find themselves without a lot of the firepower they were hoping to use next turn to deal with your army. And yes, you probably will get beat up in these fights if the enemy units are even vaguely competent, but with as cheap as Hawk units are that shouldn’t be a particular problem, as you can gladly lose your 65pt squad to deny the enemy a turn or two of shooting with those Leman Russes. And since they have the Fly keyword, you can easily withdraw from combat and still shoot normally on the following turn- even dropping some bombs on the enemy as you do so in order to add insult to injury.
Swooping Hawks benefit a lot from having some friends to help them out; this is nothing unusual for Craftworlds units, but with their lower strength and AP values on their weapon (lacking even the rending feature seen on many other guns), Hawks need it a bit more than most. Doom is pretty paramount to them- it makes them vastly more likely to be able to hurt T4 or T5 targets, and even against T3 targets it is a major boost. Similarly, Jinx can be pretty huge in ensuring that they are able to push some damage through against MEQs or the like, though if you have to choose between the two I would definitely say lean towards Doom.
Swooping Hawks are a generalist unit and one that can do a lot of things surprisingly well, but they certainly have more than a few things they aren’t good at. They are quite fragile, for one- with toughness 3 and 4+ armor even just basic Lasguns can present a significant threat to them, and weapons like Heavy Bolters will make short work of the unit in most cases. If you get into assault with them will also fold fairly quickly, since they are even more vulnerable there- no cover saves to be had and typically a lot more attacks coming in. Attrition is the bane of Swooping Hawks much as it is most Eldar armies; they are cheap compared to most aspect warriors, but still come in more expensive than most other models in the game and thus don’t take well to being plinked away at by those solo weapons that many armies have scattered about.
They also are atrociously bad at dealing with vehicles due to their S3 guns; while most units may not particularly like trying to kill a tank with their basic weapons, Swooping Hawks are almost comically incapable of hurting anything with T6 or higher, especially if it has a decent armor save. Heavily mechanized armies, or those reliant on lots of tougher targets (such as “monster mash” Tyranids, etc) will leave the Hawks with virtually nothing to do on the battlefield.
While Swooping Hawks may not have a statline to impress or weapons that seem like blowouts, in the hands of a good player they can be incredibly versatile and effective, filling many needed jobs. A lot of top Eldar lists are running 1-3 units of them these days, whether Craftworlds or Ynnari, in order to fill up the FA slots to make an Outrider or Brigade detachment and you can expect to see them on the tabletop fairly regularly if you go to tournaments. They have a whole host of special rules, so it definitely pays to be familiar with them so you don’t find yourself saying “wait, they do WHAT?” in the middle of a game as the opponent drops some mortal wounds on a unit or says they don’t need to make a morale check.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.