How many kinds of zombies does one game need? I hope the answer is at least six, because that’s what we got. Click to read the updated article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Eldar race do not live and die as humans do, even though they have forms resembling those of humans. Originally, when an Eldar soul passes from its body it joined with the other spirits of the dead alongside their heroes and gods- but with their pantheon destroyed, only Slaanesh awaits those souls now. Craftworld Eldar have found a solution to this problem: by capturing the departing soul in a piece of crystal, it can be protected and joined in a faux afterlife in the Infinity Circuit of each ship. In direst circumstances these crystals can be removed and the dead called back for war in bodies of animated wraithbone, nearly indestructable and utterly fearless.
On the tabletop, Wraithguard have a very beefy statline that is comparable to even some monsters and vehicles, despite their status as infantry models. Movement 5″ is a tad slow, but not exceptionally so and their assault weapons can make up for that fact. Weapon skill and ballistic skill 3+ are no worse than those of their living counterparts, as we might expect. But things really get going with strength five and toughness six on every model- this gives them a pretty massive boost to survivability and punchiness compared to what you see on most Eldar models and even comes in noticably above such beefy guys as Custodes or Grotesques. Three wounds each and a 3+ save ensure that it won’t be easy to put them down regardless of the weapons used, and one attack and leadership nine won’t typically be relevant but are there just in case. At 38pts per model for the basic setup they are a long ways from cheap, especially since they can’t be bought in squads of less than five.
Wargear and Special Rules
Wraithguard come with Ancient Doom (reroll misses against Slaanesh, suffer a morale penalty) like most Craftworld models do, but they lack Battle Focus- though their guns are still assault, so you’re not completely out in the cold. Still, it’s worth taking note of, depending on which loadout you pick. They do instead get Implacable, which allows them to fall back and shoot without penalty- although oddly the Wraithlord does not get this ability. Smart opponents will often surround you so there’s no way for you to get out of combat, but it’s still a nice thing to have anyways.
The main feature of a Wraithguard, however, is its gun. They come standard with Wraithcannons (12″ S10 AP-4 DmgD6 Assault 1), which are essentially just Meltaguns, though the extra points of strength are occasionally nice to have against those T8 targets. For 5pts per model you can instead switch them out for D-Scythes (8″ S10 AP-4 Dmg1 Assault d3), which like all flamer weapons hit their targets automatically. I strongly recommend the D-Scythes, as they are much more flexible and effective against a wide range of targets rather than being selective heavy tank killers- however, the inability to Quicken them out of reserves certainly does count a bit against the D-Scythe, so there is a bit more potential room for it.
On the minor off-chance that you get into a fight with something big, Wraithguard also come with Wraithguard Fists (who would’ve guessed?), which are AP-1 and do d3 damage per hit. It’s probably not going to deter anyone from getting stuck in with you (that’s your flamer’s job), but they give you a leg up on that you wouldn’t otherwise have and they can actually be somewhat obnoxious to a lot of units that like to get locked into combat thanks to the extra AP and damage. Plus, you know, they’re free.
If you’re going to try and use Wraithguard, you essentially have two obstacles standing in your way: delivery and protection. Because while they certainly are a very dangerous unit that can wipe whole units on their own, they are quite expensive and not at all fast, which means that in order to get any work out of them you’re going to need to find ways around those problems- otherwise, they’re just gonna get shot to death as they wander across the field and you’ll never see so much as single kill from your big, expensive unit.
So the first big issue is delivery; Wraithguard only have a range of 12″ at most, which is pretty short, and they don’t move fast on their own. So you’re going to need to jump through some hoops in order to get them into range of the enemy. Or more specifically, into range of the parts of the enemy army that you want to shoot at, rather than the ones that the enemy wants to let you shoot. Because, yeah, you could leave them on foot to hoof it forward and they would probably get to shoot at something, but killing off those three Cultists is probably not the job you want them to do before they die, so we should really be looking at other options.
Wave Serpents are one big, obvious choice. The Serpent is the only transport that Craftworlds have that is capable of holding a basic squad of Wraithguard (with enough room left to squeeze a couple of characters in, conveniently) and it’s also the best-protected one, so it would be our choice regardless. I’ve already extolled the virtues of the Wave Serpent at length in its own article so I’m not going to go over them too extensively here, but suffice to say that you could hardly ask for a better combination of speed, survivability, and price point. Wave Serpents are very good and you should probably own several of them.
The Serpent is also arguably your best delivery option because It allows you to place your models more precisely where they want to go, which the other method- the Webway Portal stratagem- does not. Although the Portal lets you place your models anywhere on the field, they cannot be within 9″ of any enemy unit, which is a pretty big limitation even in an absolute sense; regardless of your guns, you probably want to be near the enemy because that’s where the action is, so right off the bat this can be problematic. It’s even more so for Wraithguard, who have a very limited range to start with- and while, yes, the Wraithcannon version can theoretically shoot at an enemy the turn they arrive, this comes back to the same problem as we had initially; getting to shoot at an enemy unit is not the same as getting to shoot the enemy unit that you want to shoot at. Bubblewrap strategies are very, very common and if you’re in the upper half of a tournament bracket you will probably see them pretty much constantly, which will make getting at your targets very difficult. A Serpent can, to some degree, bypass this problem, though of course it doesn’t solve it entirely- you’ll still need ways to clear screens.
The third, and most subtle, way that you can solve the delivery issue is by using psychic powers, specifically Quicken. Now, there are lots of units in the codex that can probably use Quicken better than Wraithguard can, but it’s a pretty huge boon for them, too. With the ability to advance and shoot (particularly if they are D-Scythe versions), Wraithguard can cover quite a lot ground this way- between 14″ and 22″ per turn, depending on advance rolls. Between the raw distance and their infantry status- which makes getting cover easier as well as passing through the walls of ruins- you should be able to get at least one good volley off with them if you’re willing to dedicate a Runes of Battle caster to helping them.
The other half of the equation is keeping the Wraithguard alive beyond that initial volley. Now, their innate resilience will do some of your work for you here- T6/3+/W3 means that it will take a fair amount of damage to bring them down in most cases, but if you come under fire from Meltaguns, Lascannons, etc, you are going to be in trouble fairly quickly because Wraithguard don’t have an invulnerable save and their wound count is low enough that those d6 damage guns will generally get rid of them in one shot. The craftworld bonuses can help out some here; Alaitoc, although inapplicable against whatever unit they shot at, will still offer you pretty good protection against most of the enemy army in a lot of cases and should still probably be your first choice. Ulthwe is actually overall stronger I would argue, since your odds of shrugging off a critical wound are actually surprisingly high when you have three chances for each guy in the squad. (Iyanden, sadly, is worthless to us and showcases one of the more unfortunate aspects of GW’s design ethos.) But help from psychic powers and stratagems is also generally going to be required on some level; Fortune, Conceal, and Protect are all good options against various types of guns, but really the concern here should be that you will have a dedicated caster ready to help them. This isn’t absolutely required, but it will go a long ways towards ensuring you will get several turns of shooting out of the unit, and at 200+ pts you really can’t afford to have them be a one-and-one sort of affair.
The introduction of Vigilus Defiant also gives us another opportunity, as the Spirit Shield stratagem allows you to have them “borrow” a Spiritseer’s 4+ invulnerable save for a turn at the cost of 2CP. Although this isn’t exactly cheap, it can stack with other defenses (especially Protect or Fortune) to really make them hard to get rid of, especially if you’re fielding a big block of them and throwing it into your opponent’s face.
If you are looking at trying to run Wraithguard competitively, I think the option you have to go with is arming them with D-Scythes and putting them in a Wave Serpent. (Also, probably running two units, because one of anything is rarely enough.) The ability to advance and shoot freely, as well as the nigh-unsurvivable overwatch make the D-Scythe an incredibly valuable weapon, and the fact that it also gets to ignore all the penalties to hit out there on the side is just gravy. Wraithcannons have higher performance against vehicles, but it’s honestly not that much higher (about 1.56 average wounds on a Rhino, whereas the D-Scythe gets 1.33) and you lose out significantly against anything with an invuln, both light and heavy infantry, etc, etc.)
If you really want a unit of d6-damage weapons, Fire Dragons probably do that job better. They’re about half the price of a Wraithcannon squad and have better firepower output (thanks to the exarch bonus and rerolling 1s against monsters/vehicles) while still benefiting from most of the same advantages. And they’re faster (Mv7″ and Battle Focus) with the same armor save, albeit with a lot lower toughness and wounds characteristics. But if you simply take twice as many of them, you end up ahead against a lot of heavy weapon shooting while also getting a ton of firepower in the bargain; the only real downside is using models that are fifteen years out of date.
So what can you do against Wraithguard if your opponent brings some? The easiest thing is simply to not let them in range. We mentioned bubblewrap before, and it still applies here- if they can’t get within 12″ or 8″ of your vehicles and such, they can’t kill them. Make sure you have a good number of disposable infantry models to keep them pushed back from you and ready to absorb overwatch or tie them in combat as needed; more generally, having lots of low-value targets (i.e. a MSU strategy) will do better for you than anything that concentrates your forces into a few big targets.
Units that ignore overwatch, such as Banshees, anything charging from behind terrain, Smash Captain, etc, will all give them problems as well- Smash Captain in particular is bad news for them, since every swing of his hammer is killing one model in the squad, and other, similar high-damage weapons are also bad for them. Any gun with high stats is problematic for Wraithguard, since they are right in the middle ground that ensures they are maximally vulnerable to most of those weapons while not having the protections that some other units benefit from.
Wraithguard aren’t quite an all-star of the book, but they definitely aren’t a pushover, either. Underestimate them at your peril, because even just a small one- or two-strong unit can very easily wipe out a unit or critically damage a vehicle; remember that every member of the squad is carrying a special weapon and treat them with the respect that deserves or you’ll find yourself regretting it very quickly.
As always, 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.