Craftworlds Codex Review: Troops: Dire Avengers

I don’t know what they’re avenging or why their brand is being incredibly bad at it, but it’s time to talk about Dire Avengers. Click below to read the updated CA2018 version of the article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.


Dire Avengers are the most numerous warshrine of the Eldar aspect warriors; practicing the most balanced and universal of combat forms, they carefully weight strategies of both attack and defense when choosing their posture. Although they lack the razor-sharp focus of the other shrines, they alone are adaptable enough to react to the ebb and flow of battle and respond appropriately- and with their superior training and wargear, few enemies can resist them.

That’s the party line, anyways; in the game, Dire Avengers function as one of the basic troop choices for a Craftworlds army. While they have a fairly typical statline in most places- strength and toughness three, 3+ weapon and ballistic skill, 7″ move, etc- they benefit from a couple increases over their less-trained brethren. 4+ armor means that they are more resistant to enemy fire (with the jump being especially notable from Guardians’ 5+) and leadership 8 means that they are a bit less likely to run when things get iffy. As with all aspect warriors, the Exarch comes as a free upgrade in the squad and benefits from an extra wound and an extra attack in close combat, but unlike many other races does not have any bonus to morale. At 11pts per body (including basic wargear), Dire Avengers aren’t exactly cheap but neither are they particularly expensive.

Wargear and Special Rules

Like all Craftworld infantry, Dire Avengers come with a couple of stock rules- Battle Focus allows them to advance and shoot normally and Ancient Doom gives them some bonuses and penalties against Slaanesh models. As a mobile troop unit, Battle Focus is pretty useful on them, extending their effective range by quite a bit and making them fairly speedy when crossing the battlefield; you’ll be using it most every turn. Each member of the squad comes with Plasma Grenades (S4 AP-1 Assault d6), which are pretty handy at short ranges- definitely toss one if you’re in range, as they are better than your other weapons. Their main gun, however, is the Avenger Shuriken Catapult; like the version carried by Guardian Defenders it gets two S4 AP0 shots that become AP-3 on 6s to wound, but the Avenger version extends its range out to 18″ (a much more respectable number.)

The squad as a whole also benefits from the Defense Tactics rule, allowing them to hit 5+s (rather than just 6s) when firing overwatch- while it may not be a tremendous difference most of the time, it does double your average number of hits on a roll and the Avenger Catapult can be a fairly dangerous gun to a lot of things. Especially for larger squads, it is a big deterrent to enemies declaring charges on them.

The Dire Avenger Exarch gets a bizarre plethora of options available to them, although most of them aren’t particularly good. They can add a second Catapult to their existing one, essentially allowing them to act as two squad members at once (two wounds, two guns); you’ll probably see this one most often, as it is a fairly inexpensive upgrade to their firepower with no special strings attached. They can also take a Shuriken Pistol and either a Power Glaive (S4 AP-2) or Diresword (S3 AP-2 6s are mortal); however, since Dire Avengers are not in any way a melee unit, these options are pretty subpar overall and won’t generally get much use. Finally, you can swap into a Power Glaive and Shimmershield, the latter of which grants all models in the unit a 5+ invulnerable save. While not a strongly competitive option, this does at least bring something unique to the unit and can be an interesting choice if you’re trying for maximum survivability. The Exarch themselves also comes with a 4+ invulnerable save automatically; it’s pretty unexciting compared to many of the other Exarch abilities, but will occasionally be useful.


So the obvious comparison- a perennial one, really, as it has been there in almost every edition since 5th- is to line Dire Avengers up against Guardian Defenders and ask one (or the other) “why are you worth taking?” Because the two units have very similar statlines, abilities, and equipment, so it is almost inevitable that one of them stands out as clearly superior most of the time. And this time around, I think that unfortunately the nod goes in the Guardians’ favor- but that doesn’t mean Avengers are completely without purpose.

With a basic Guardian coming in at 8pts and a Dire Avenger at 11pts, the Avenger is significantly more expensive on a per-body basis and in an absolute sense does not carry any more firepower. If you can get them both into range, they hit exactly as hard as each other, and since the Guardian is so much cheaper this works out fairly poorly for the Avenger. Moreover, the Avengers’ nominal advantage (survivability) actually leans in the Guardians’ favor as well- though they are 50% more resilient against most weapons, they are also 50% more expensive, and Guardians have access to a strong defensive stratagem (Celestial Shield) and benefit more from cover, Protect, etc. Add in the existence of the Support Platform as a way to soak wounds efficiently and bring unique firepower as well as the Webway Strike stratagem to place a large unit of Guardians nearly anywhere on the table, ready to hit their target, and you have Dire Avengers looking not so hot.

But there’s a bit more to it than that when you actually put them on the tabletop. First and most notably, while Dire Avengers may have a higher model cost, they actually cost less per unit than Guardian Defenders do, at least in their minimum incarnation. Since they start out at five models and Guardians start at ten, they are actually a fair bit cheaper to fill a basic squad out- and as troops are one of the main ways to unlock more command points, keeping the squad cost down can be pretty important. Though they compete with Rangers in this role, Avengers perform very different tasks on the battlefield than Rangers and I think are more of an apples-and-oranges comparison overall, so we won’t go too deep into that matchup here.

Secondly, although Webway Strike can mitigate many of the issues with Guardians’ short range, it doesn’t eliminate it, especially if you are running multiple units of them. The difference between 12″ and 18″ on the tabletop is enormous- in a purely mathematical sense, the 18″ bubble (i.e. the maximum area you can shoot out to) covers more than twice the area the 12″ bubble does. Functionally, it means that Dire Avengers can use their excellent mobility to hang at the edges of their range band and shoot at enemies while remaining in cover, out of range of some return fire, etc, whereas Guardians will typically be forced to position themselves in unfavorable ways to be able to use all their guns- and they are especially vulnerable to being charged.

Thirdly, the Dire Avengers’ small unit size can often act as an advantage, more easily allowing them to get in cover or even get out of line of sight completely. There are few better protections in the game than being completely out of line of sight, and for a minimum-size unit like Avengers this is relatively easy to do (especially because they are also on 25mm bases and are relatively compact models.) As troops they will benefit from objective secured and thus even with a minimal number of bodies they can still claim objectives in the face of resistance, so every unit is a potential threat to your enemy’s plans.

All in all, while Guardian Defenders really want to be a unit that gets in close with the enemy and drops a hammer on them, Dire Avengers are best in playing a more defensive and fluid role. By darting in and out of range, they can attempt to selectively engage the enemy forces, using terrain to their advantage and pressing close or withdrawing as needed. “Cityfight”-style boards with lots of ruins and other blocking terrain are where they will do best; if you’re playing on a lot of empty tables, Dire Avengers are not the unit for you. By the same token, you will need other mobile units to support them and deal with heavier threats, as Avengers themselves are largely useless against vehicles, monsters and the like.

Competitively, Avengers probably are not going to make the cut for most lists- the Webway Guardian crew is much too powerful a tool for them to compete with for the most part, and Rangers synergize too well with other components of the army while also being cheap and durable. However, it’s certainly plausible to see one or two units of Dire Avengers in a tournament list filling out the last few troop slots from a brigade or double battalion; I don’t think they’re ideal, but they perform a sufficiently-unique role that you can do pretty alright with them.

One final thing to note: though many of the Phoenix Lords are a bit lackluster, especially in the context of their bonuses to their aspect shrine, Asurmen ends up being one of the better ones. He grants all nearby Dire Avengers a 4+ invulnerable save, which is no small potatoes- if you’re optimizing for it, combined with Protect, Conceal, and/or the Alaitoc bonus you can make your unit of space elfs surprisingly tough this way, and the big man is a pretty decent melee threat as well. Again, it’s not something I would recommend in a competitive setting, but if you’re having fun on the side or want to bring an off-kilter list, you could do a lot worse than Asurmen surrounded by two or three blocks of Dire Avengers.


It’s a bit embarrassing to explain, but there is a pretty simple way to beat Dire Avengers: you shoot them with guns until they die. For all of their fancy tricks and special rules, at the end of the day they are just T3/4+ models that are comparatively expensive on a per-wound basis. If you can engage a group of Avengers in a stand-up firefight with some Scouts, Sisters of Battle, or even just a Strike Squad, you will almost certainly win- Eldar shenanigans count for very little when you are simply slugging it out by the numbers, so if you can force this kind of engagement you are in a very good place already. Additionally, while their Defense Tactics provide them with some protection in the form of overwatch, if you can afford to soak a casualty or two (or if you can charge from out of line of sight), they fold relatively easily in close combat and don’t have any special way to escape. Dire Avengers are not a particularly complex unit, so the solutions to them tend to be similarly-simple.

Final Thoughts

Though they are arguably the “worst” unit in the troop slot of the Craftworlds codex, the bar is set surprisingly high in that regard and I would say that Dire Avengers are probably on par with many of the other troop units in the game; their guns are just as dangerous as any shuriken weapon and can randomly put significant numbers of AP-3 wounds onto targets if you roll well and Battle Focus plus a good movement characteristic means that they can scoot around the battlefield faster than most units. Though you’ll probably see other, more specialized units more often, that doesn’t make Dire Avengers bad in and of themselves and you can get some good mileage out of them if you play them right.

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


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.)

35 Responses to “Craftworlds Codex Review: Troops: Dire Avengers”

  1. Colinsherlow March 7, 2018 6:59 am #

    I agree with everything you said in this article.

    You have been doing a stand up job with these reviews puppy

    • abusepuppy March 7, 2018 8:29 am #

      Glad you’re enjoying it, I try to give every unit its fair shake. I’ve got a whole bunch more queued up, and it may be by the end of next month the series will be complete (possibly or possibly not including the various FW units.) Once the Tau codex drops I will begin working on that book as well, since they are another one of my main armies.

      • NinetyNineNo March 7, 2018 1:17 pm #

        Yeah, you strike a great balance between not sugarcoating flaws and not downplaying strengths. It’s very refreshing in an age where everything is
        either garbage or OP as far as most people are concerned.

  2. Reecius March 7, 2018 8:49 am #

    I absolutely LOVE my Dire Avengers and in most games they end up being my best units. I run 5 units of 5 with double Shuirken Catapults on the Exarch and Asurman in the middle of them buffing them up. They do work as a team and I often find myself wanting to bring more of them.

    • abusepuppy March 7, 2018 8:57 am #

      Yeah, I specifically called out Asurmen in the article because he gives them a pretty significant buff. There’ll be more on the subject once his own review gets posted, but he is one of the Phoenix Lords that benefits his aspect the most, along with Karandras and Maugan Ra I would say.

      • Reecius March 7, 2018 9:53 am #

        Yeah, i saw that you did, I was going to ask you to add that in if you didn’t as it is such a good combo =)

        He’s a beast, too, very good in melee and with him, the Dires become vastly better. As I also play Biel-Tan, they self-buff and the blob of them runs around kicking ass. I love it.

        Dires are also my top 3 favorite infantry units for background and aesthetics in the game.

        • abusepuppy March 7, 2018 10:48 am #

          I love the look of DA, I may have to give mine a whirl more often- I admittedly haven’t used them a lot in 8E, or at least not as much as I’d like. But I have been impressed with them when I did use them, as they are a lot better than they tend to get credit for.

          Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to buy any of the Phoenix Lords, their sculpts are just way too ugly to me at this point. I don’t like the “big hats” aesthetic on them, even though I love a lot of the characters- Jain Zar was one of the first HQ models I ever painted back in 2E. (I was bad at it, in case you were wondering.)

          • Reecius March 7, 2018 6:17 pm

            Yeah, they do all have massive hats, lol.

            You can always convert up a cool stand-in for Asrumen. He takes them up like, several notches in power.

          • abusepuppy March 8, 2018 4:42 am

            Yeah, I’ve seen some cool conversions for him based on the Visarch that look pretty doable. If I’m being honest, tho, Karandras and Jain-Zar are the two I’m really begging for resculpts/conversions of; Baharroth would be nice, too.

          • Reecius March 8, 2018 1:03 pm

            I want to see all of the Phoenix Lords get the plastic treatment as you know they will be so gorgeous with today’s technology.

  3. Danny McDevitt March 7, 2018 1:11 pm #

    Love Avengers – I ran 4 units of 9 in my LVO list with Asurmen. Definitely did a lot of work; though I think compared to the other choices in troops they’re slightly over costed? Maybe by a point or two.

    • Reecius March 7, 2018 6:17 pm #

      Yeah, IMO they go just perfectly with Asurmen. I also tend ot have the Avatar near them and the blob moves around just blasting things and then chopping them up in melee with the Characters.

  4. WestRider March 7, 2018 6:12 pm #

    I’ve been tempted to do a Squad of them just as a modeling/painting project, combining the imagery of the Marvel Avengers and the D&D Dire creature type.

    • Reecius March 8, 2018 1:04 pm #

      Yeah, they paint up beautifully. They strike a great balance with their design and I had a lot of fun with mine. Lol, I have like 60 of them painted!

  5. Anggul March 8, 2018 2:36 am #

    I love them.

    That ability to keep a little further away and the better save is so helpful. Guardians do more damage for their points but they then immediately die unless you invest Warlocks and command points in them, at which point they aren’t cheap any more.

    • Reecius March 8, 2018 1:05 pm #

      I agree. Dires are just the right combo of fast, hard hitting, cheapish, and durable enough. With Asurmen, as stated, they seriously kick ass.

      I play Biel-Tan and the re-rolls help a ton but I could see them doing great in the other Craftworld, too. Ulthwe would be nice, Iyanden to avoid morale issues, etc.

  6. Bearded Beheader March 8, 2018 10:21 am #

    I would disagree a bit. I’ve been taking them as standard for the past couple years. I always take a ten man squad with the Exarch with the shield. Gives the whole squad that invul save that no body ever expects. Plus they got the range and defense tactics.

    They are cost more, but tactically, I think they are far superior to Guardians. If you don’t Webway strike with Guardians or drop the CP to give them that invul save, they will get shot up. Plus, you can’t include a Warlock commander with the Guardians now, that has to come from an HQ slot, so giving them protection is costly whether in CP or actual points.

    • Reecius March 8, 2018 1:05 pm #

      Very good point. Dires can totally function on their own without issue if you need them to.

    • abusepuppy March 8, 2018 9:34 pm #

      You can’t just discount Webway Strike and Celestial Shield entirely when comparing the units, though- those are both extremely powerful components of why people use Guardians. Sure, it costs some CP, but not an exceptional amount and what you get in return is very strong. Guardians have proven themselves at the very top tables of 40K to be a powerful unit; Dire Avengers have not.

      The reason I don’t rate the Shield strongly is that you have to give up your gun to get it (in fact, you have to give up _two_ guns) and against the weapons that hurt you most (i.e. basic infantry firepower like Bolters and Lasguns) it doesn’t do anything for you at all. Shimmershield only matters against weapons with AP-2 or better, and people simply don’t shoot those at Dire Avengers very often.

      • Reecius March 9, 2018 9:51 am #

        Good point, AP. If you use Guardians you are using those strats.

        Although I do have to say the 4++ from Asurmen or the 5++ from the shield really are amazing for them. It drastically increases their durability as many of the go to long range firepower in the game at present is AP-2.

        • abusepuppy March 9, 2018 10:01 am #

          The 4++ from Asurmen I would definitely concur with- it makes guns like Heavy Bolters a lot less threatening. But I’ve played against Dire Avengers with the Shimmershield a number of times (though admittedly never with them) and never seen it do much of anything. I just don’t ever really shoot those high-AP guns at Dire Avengers- why waste a Lascannon on them? Why fire a Missile Launcher on Krak rather than Frag mode? It’s just not a good use of firepower.

          • Reecius March 9, 2018 10:08 am

            Yeah, unless they are the only eligible target. Often all i present to my opponent is Dires, FWIW, and the heavy stuff bounces off of them.

            However, obviously, YMMV.

  7. One_Wing March 15, 2018 2:00 pm #

    I find the 4++ on the Exarch to be more relevant than you’re crediting it with – if you run with vanilla exarchs and your opponent decides that they need the DAs off the board *right now* and throws some 1W plasma at them or something, allocating the wounds to the exarch until they die, hopefully allowing some shots to bounce off the invuln, can seriously throw off their maths. I actually find it a much more relevant buff than the marginal increase of accuracy on the Crack Shot exarchs.

  8. Martin October 11, 2018 9:28 pm #

    I think after Faq 2 that DA is now more viable beacuse rangers have been nerfed. Do you think that 5 DA in wave serpents will be more common in competitive lists than before or maybe just 10 guardians on foot?

    • abusepuppy October 11, 2018 10:00 pm #

      Rangers are still really good troops, and Guardians are still typically better than DA at most jobs. I don’t think you’ll be seeing DA any more than you did before, on any significant level.

      • Martin October 12, 2018 7:49 am #

        Too bad, I like the models.

      • Ty March 4, 2019 3:08 pm #

        Dire Avengers suffer from being a very good unit competing with even better units.

        • Reecius March 4, 2019 3:37 pm #

          Eh, somewhat. I mean, Eldar are spoiled for choice, but, the Dires put out great firepower once they get in to position.

  9. Reecius March 4, 2019 1:39 pm #

    With the changes in CA2018 they’re even better than they were and IMO they were already solid choices.

    I run 5 x 5 units of them with Asurman and they’ve never let me down.

    • abusepuppy March 4, 2019 4:47 pm #

      The price drop definitely helped them, though as noted they do suffer from competing with a number of very strong other choices in the troop slot. The fact that Storm Guardians are now cheaper than them by a significant margin also hurts their chances of being taken in a competitive list- Rangers or Guardians are more common as general-purpose units, and Storms are more common as bare-minimum detachment fillers.

      • Reecius March 4, 2019 5:57 pm #

        Yeah, Storm Guardians are the go to filler unit.

        However, as stated, I run 5 units every time I play of 5-6 Dires per unit and I love them. With Asurmen they are no joke.

  10. Kaughnor March 4, 2019 4:48 pm #

    Do you think they might pair well with mech lists. I want to love and use them. Been thinking with thier deceptively fast of move seven advance shoot they might better screens for tanks than rangers did with there changes. First turn they pop out off serpents and plug choke points. Just an idea.

    • abusepuppy March 4, 2019 10:28 pm #

      I have used them in combination with Wave Serpents a number of times. Typically, it’s because I don’t have enough points for Guardians but still want some firepower out of my troops- with a Serpent, the short range of a Guardian is largely mitigated, hence why they are a go-to.

      I think they actually work better more the way Reece runs them, i.e. in a foot list. With the ability to maneuver around the field, it’s easier to take advantage of their longer range and durability, so they gain more value there. However, if you’re scraping for points, they are hardly bad in a mech army- and especially for the minimum 5man unit, they are actually surprisingly close to Guardians in terms of damage output per point, so long as you make sure to put the second Catapult on the exarch.

  11. Purple Prose March 9, 2019 8:54 am #

    If you consider a minimum sized unit of DAs with an Exarch x2 Cat, the price per gun is actually 9.67 compared to a price per gun of 8 for Defenders. Of course, most folks will add to the cost of their Defenders by adding a HWP – at that point, the price difference is pretty nominal. Defenders are good to take in a large unit that relies on Webway, minimum strength DAs are great for the other applications (mech or on foot). DAs are particularly effective out of mech, as their range jumping out of a transport is over 32″, figuring nearly 4″ for the exit, 3.5″ for the advance, 7″ movement and 18″ gun.

    As was said, getting this very maneuverable unit of 5 into cover as it moves across the board is not usually hard, and with the 3+ save on a small unit, many opponents struggle with applying the right amount of firepower to remove them.

    • Reecius March 12, 2019 8:54 am #

      Good analysis. I use a unit of Guardians to screen and then 5×5-6 Dires for running and gunning, grabbing objectives, etc. I find them to be fun and effective. With their foot speed I rarely find them to be out of range to contribute.

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