They don’t go “BAMF,” but they are implicitly corrupted by the realm they use to transport themselves and share a variety of demonic aspects with it, so I think we can safely call Warp Spiders the Kurt Wagner of the Eldar race. Click to read the updated article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Warp Spiders are one of the most enigmatic of aspect shrines, but also one of the most respected- they alone are willing to brave the dangers of the warp and its denizens for the sake of the Eldar race, making brief “shunts” through the Empyrean to appear unexpected among the foe. Unlike most of the other shrines, Warp Spiders do not have- and apparently have never had- a Phoenix Lord to lead them, something that sits at odds with information elsewhere in the fluff about the roles of the Phoenix Lords; whatever the reality may be, it is indisputable that they are one of the most mobile and dangerous of aspects that make common appearance in the craftworlds of their kind.
On the tabletop, Warp Spiders have a fairly standard statline for an Eldar, with a couple of notable high points. Movement 7″ is lower than might be expected, but it’s usually irrelevant due to their own abilities and can thus be discounted. Weapon skill and ballistic skill 3+ are fairly standard, as are strength and toughness three. One attack and leadership eight are likewise pretty universal, though their 3+ armor puts them on the better-protected side of things compared to most aspects. The exarch in the squad, as always, comes with one more wound and one more attack than their compatriots, so there’s no reason not to grab one if you’re taking a unit; they clock in at 18pts per model in squads of five to ten, putting them squarely into the “elite infantry” category, but not a particularly expensive example of such.
Wargear and Special Rules
As with all Craftworld infantry, Warp Spiders benefit from Battle Focus (allowing them to advance and shoot normally) as well as Ancient Doom (for rerolls against Slaanesh in combat but a small morale penalty.) Neither of these are actually particularly useful to them, as Battle Focus is almost completely obviated by some of their other abilities and thus you’ll rarely get any use out of it; still, they are there, just in case it happens to come up.
The Warp Jump Generator is probably the defining characteristic of the unit; it allows the squad to move an extra 4d6″ (averaging a 21″ move overall) and gain the Fly keyword, at the cost of not being allowed to advance or charge that turn. In effect, it changes your advance move from d6 to 4d6, which is a pretty good deal, especially since you can still shoot if you want to. This makes Warp Spiders one of the faster units in the game, though not the fastest, and the unreliability of their movement can be very problematic at times. They can also enter the field from reserves via their Warp Strike ability, which works in the usual fashion- 9″ away from all enemy models at the end of the movement phase. Unlike most units, however, theirs comes with a small downside- you have to roll 2d6, and on snake eyes you lose a model from the unit.
They also have Flickerjump, which comes with a similar downside (roll the dice to see if you lose a model when you activate it); it is triggered any time the enemy shoots at you, and if you choose to use it they must subtract one from all hit rolls against you that phase. -1s to hit are always great, especially since they stack with other things, so it’s definitely a handy ability to have.
All models in a unit of Warp Spiders are armed with a Deathspinner (12″ S6 Assault 2 rending), which is a pretty solid little gun. It’s not as exceptional as it was last edition, but it’s got a good strength value and a chance to randomly be AP-4 (which terrifies a lot of MEQs and the like), so there’s not a lot to complain about other than its short range. The exarch in the squad can be equipped with a second Deathspinner for +8pts, or can take a Spinneret Rifle in place of their normal weapon (18″ S6 AP-4 Rapid Fire 1) for +7pts, which are pretty reasonable options. I lean towards the second Deathspinner, but the Rifle is a bit more reliable. They can also grab a pair of Power Blade (S3 AP-2 one bonus melee attack), but since you can’t charge after using your Warp Jump I don’t think there’s a very strong reason to do so. Squads containing an exarch can reroll failed morale checks- not amazing, but pretty much guarantees you’ll get to fight to the last man in the unit, which is always nice.
Warp Spiders were a pretty brutal unit last edition because of the sheer number of rules they got to break (ignore toughness, ignore armor, ignore terrain, move on the enemy’s turn, etc), but they aren’t nearly as devastating now. Realistically speaking, there are several other choices that outshine them in a number of ways, but with the FAQ changes some space has opened up for them I think and so you may occasionally see them around the tables doing their thing, though they haven’t made any major tournament appearances yet.
The big advantage to Warp Spiders is the same one they had last edition: speed. Warp Spiders can cross the table in the blink of an eye (literally!) and hit hard enough to be a legitimate threat to most kinds of infantry. The changes to the to-wound chart definitely hurt them more than many units, since they end up having to wound a lot of foes on 3s rather than 2s, but against the various kinds of chaff (Cultists, Horrors, etc) you see a lot of as well as enemy Eldar and Tau, you’ll still be blasting them pretty hard.
The Warp Jump Generator is great for getting into your enemy’s face early on to harass them on a flank or the like, and it does have the big advantage of not needing to stay 9″ away from anything when you use it- unlike reserves. They do, of course, have their own reserve ability that they can use when needed, but I think more often you’ll simply start on the board and move to where you need to go, as they are more than fast enough to do that. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a small, mobile squad of infantry in the enemy’s backfield harassing their shooty units- while they can’t assault the turn they use Warp Jump, if you teleport into the middle of a tank formation and start shooting things, the enemy has to get rid of you that turn or else they’re gonna find all of their fire support suddenly occupied with trying to run over five tricksy men in black hats and unable to shoot.
The Spiders’ movement is their biggest strength, but it can also be a pretty damning weakness for the simple reason that is just isn’t reliable. 4d6 is a huge variability overall and there will absolutely be turns in your games where you see the dice come up 1, 1, 2, 2 and realize that maybe you aren’t going to get to cross the field this turn- and that’s a problem when your game plan was relying on that movement. Having several squads of Warp Spiders can help mitigate this somewhat, as even if one squad doesn’t get the roll you needed another squad possibly can, but it will always be something that you need to keep in the back of your mind: “Maybe this turn my Spiders just won’t be able to do what I want them to.”
Their Flickerjump ability is also worth talking about a bit here; it gives them an innate -1 just like some of the other Craftworld units such as Shadow Spectres, which is pretty handy. However, its ability to stack with the Alaitoc bonus is a bit limited, since their guns have only a 12″ range, and aren’t realistically strong enough to be wiping out whole units every turn. So while you will be able to stack the penalties to some degree, you won’t usually be able to get up to that coveted -3 or -4 that makes you functionally immune to shooting; also, unlike the Spectres’ ability, it functions only against shooting and not against melee. Still, it’s handy protection and especially combined with Infantry status it means they can be pretty tough to bring down with a lot of guns, since it’s very possible to hide out of LOS or to simply touch a piece of terrain for that 2+ armor save.
The biggest issue with Warp Spiders is not that they have any major failings in and of themselves, but rather that they are in competition with several very, very good units that can do similar jobs better and cheaper. Swooping Hawks, in the same slot, are cheaper by a large margin (13pts vs 18) and have a more reliable movement value as well as a stronger damage output vs T3 targets. Although they are a bit weaker defensively, their 24″ range generally makes up for this to some degree, and neither unit is really so tough that they can expect to live through the enemy dedicating a lot of firepower to getting rid of them. And, in the same vein, Guardian Defenders not only come in the troop slot (making them easier to access as well as benefiting from Objective Secured) but have several powerful stratagems that can majorly increase their effectiveness and are vastly more effective against almost all kinds of targets in the game thanks to costing half as much per shot. With both these units being staples of modern Craftworlds armies, Warp Spiders are hard-pressed to find a niche that they can fill that other units don’t; even in a Ynnari army, which wants to be close-in, the limitation of only being able to use each Soulburst once per turn means that you are better off giving the free shooting action to something like Dark Reapers.
Warp Spiders are extremely slippery and their combination of 3+ armor, minuses to hit, and high movement + Fly means that most armies are going to struggle to deal with them without dedicating an undue amount of resources to the effort. There are a few things that they really don’t like, though- weapons that hit automatically can be useful (especially those with improved AP, such as Warpflamers or Heavy Flamers), as can any kinds of psychic powers- the latter bypass not only the hit roll but also their armor save, and are thus pretty dangerous to the unit. Volume of shots (e.g. Lasguns) can also do some pretty decent work, as long as you can ensure they don’t have that cover bonus to their save- otherwise, it’s a real slog.
The best way to deal with them, however, is much simpler with that: prioritize other units. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the Warp Spiders entirely, of course, but your focus should be on taking down the harder-hitting parts of the Craftworlds army and only shooting at the Spiders with your “extra” guns that can’t go anywhere else useful. Locking them in combat is also a reasonable option if you have some units hanging around that aren’t otherwise doing much- they will teleport away, of course, but you might cause a casualty or two before then and it prevents them from being able to assault units that you want left alone, which is a major win; Warp Spiders are most useful in a disruption role, since unlike many other aspect shrines they are fast enough to get into the enemy backfield but also resilient enough to take a few punches without just folding up and dying. Prevent them from striking at your most vulnerable units and you’ve reduced them to little more than an overcosted gun platform, which shouldn’t be a big problem to deal with as the game grinds on.
Games Workshop has largely done a good job of reigning in the most abusive of rules this edition, and Warp Spiders are an excellent example of that; whereas before they were the terror of the tournament scene, now they are simply an interesting side note in the Craftworlds codex because they don’t get to ignore two thirds of the rules in the game anymore. This is arguably where 8th Edition has succeeded the best: in simplifying and paring down the huge morass of bizarre and game-breaking special rules that was 7E, they have made the game both more enjoyable for the common player (who no longer has to worry about so many “gotcha” situations) as well as more functional on a tournament level (as the meta is not wholly defined by a handful of insanely strong units.) Although it does sometimes mean that our favorite units are no longer as influential as they once were, I think it’s a more than fair cost for having a game that is accessible and enjoyable to all.
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