Silent, sneaky killers who use chainsaws and the heaviest armor available to their faction to sneak up on the enemy… look, okay, sometimes this game might be a little weird, okay? Click to read the CA2018-updated article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Striking Scorpions are the Eldar aspect that focuses on the art of the silent kill- a role that places them dangerously close to corruption, as the fall of their founded, Ahri the First Scorpion, shows all too well. However, their role is also a very important one on the battlefield, serving as they do as the assassins and terror-sowers for a Craftworlds army. Moving with stealth and precision, they slip deep into the enemy’s lines to begin their bloody work, cutting through swathes of their inferior foes and sending those that survive fleeing in horror.
On the tabletop, Striking Scorpions come with a basic aspect warrior statline; strength and toughness 3 make them a bit on the weedy side for most units, although 3+ armor (as well as their other equipment) can do a lot to make up for that. Weapon and ballistic skill 3+ make their attacks quite accurate, and with two swings each in melee they can put out a good volume. Leadership 8 is pretty standard across Eldar models, as is a 7″ movement. One model in the squad can be upgraded to an exarch, gaining an extra attack as well as an extra wound, and at 11pts per model they are about as bargain-basement as you can expect for a power armor model.
Wargear and Special Rules
Like all Craftworlds troops, Striking Scorpions come with Battle Focus (advance and shoot without penalty) as well as Ancient Doom (reroll misses against Slaanesh in combat), both of which they can make reasonable use of. Neither are exceptional abilities, but they are definitely helpful to have around. Scorpions also come standard with Masters of Stealth, which allows them to set up in reserve and arrive in the usual fashion of such units; this precludes any kind of need for Webway Portal or similar abilities to get them close to the enemy, although 9″ is still far enough away that it is somewhat risky to go for charges. Still, reserve abilities are great and this is no exception.
Scorpions also benefit from Shadow Strike, which gives them +1 to hit (with both shooting and melee) against any target that is in cover. Although this won’t help you penetrate armor or other defenses, it can really up your hit rate and will give opponents some pause about stationing their units in terrain when Scorpions are nearby; it also has some excellent interactions with other abilities.
All Scorpions in a unit come with a Shuriken Pistol (12″ S4 Pistol 1 rends on 6s) as well as a Scorpion Chainsword (which adds +1Str in melee combat, but unlike other chainswords does not add any attacks- those are built into the Scorpion profile.) They also get Plasma Grenades (6″ S4 AP-1 Grenade d6) that can do some pretty good work at short ranges, and of course the Mandiblaster helm (roll a d6 at the start of each fight phase for every member that is within 1″ of an infantry unit, 6s cause mortal wounds.)
A Scorpion exarch can swap out their weapons in a number of odd ways, which mostly are weird relics of previous editions. The pistol- not the chainsword- can be exchanged for a Scorpion Claw, which is a standard Power Fist except that it doesn’t give -1 to hit and has a built-in Shuriken Catapult, which is pretty nice. The chainsword can also be exchanged for a Biting Blade, which has an extra point of strength, AP, and damage, making it a solid upgrade overall. You can also buy a pair of Chainsabres, but you shouldn’t because they are both bad and expensive. All exarchs benefit from the Sustained Attack rule, which gives them an extra swing for every 6+ you roll to hit with their attacks- potentially pretty deadly, if you’re toting one of the upgraded weapons.
We already talked more than a bit about Striking Scorpions in the article about Karandaras– specifically, we talked a lot about how to maximize their number of attacks by combining their own abilities (Shadow Strike, Sustained Attack) with Karandaras’s (Death by a Thousand Stings), stratagems (Supreme Disdain), and psychic powers (Enhance) to get truly absurd numbers of swings. So consider all of that pre-said here.
All of that really emphasizes the main strength of Striking Scorpions: chewing up weak infantry. Although they can perform reasonably well against MEQs and the like thanks to their Mandiblasters, exarch, and S4 across the squad, they are certainly not the best unit for doing so. No, a Scorpion’s main job is to chop cheap troops such as Guardsmen, Cultists, etc, into bite-sized pieces as quickly as possible and they are pretty good at doing so. They can’t compare to a world-class blender unit such as Berzerkers, but they can certainly perform well enough to get the job done, and unlike Berzerkers they come with their own delivery mechanism, so you don’t need to worry about them getting picked apart before they get to the enemy.
The Standard IG Command Point Farm is a fairly perfect target for Striking Scorpions, as are other backfield objective-holding units such as Mortar teams, weak characters, etc- these units almost always rely on isolation and aggressive elements to distract enemy firepower from them, but if something can get to them they will fold up extremely quickly. Scorpions, with their ability to arrive nearby and proficiency at chewing up weak targets, can potentially clear this entire contingent on their own with a little luck, and against a lot of armies denying them this consistent source of CP can be very big. Of course, the beta FAQ rules prevent you from starting this work on turn 1, but honestly you probably wouldn’t want to, anyways- that would likely leave too much of the enemy army too close to where your Scorpions would be arriving, and they simply aren’t made to take on an alpha-tier combat unit like Custodes or the like.
That’s the real problem with Scorpions- they are a “bully” unit, and not even a particularly exceptional one. Although they aren’t terribly expensive, they are pricey enough that their cost isn’t trivial and yet they are largely unable to fight other combat units, thus being relegated to taking on weaker targets such as backfield infantry. They aren’t even particularly good at harassing vehicles, since the exarch’s Claw is only S6 and thus will struggle a lot against your typical vehicle. The role for Scorpions is a fairly narrow (although hardly useless) one, which can limit their usability in competitive lists. Due to the reserve limitations, they also will generally arrive on turn 2 and not get a successful charge until turn 3, meaning that they don’t have nearly as much time to do work as you might like- at best, four turns of being “active” in a typical game, and often less than that.
The availability of Webway Portal (and similar stratagems in DE/Harlequins) also means that Scorpions struggle a bit to find a good role. Sure, sending a unit into the Webway costs some CP, but with the increases to battalions a lot of armies are absolutely drowning in CP these days and many of their competitor units have some significant advantages over them in terms of playing assassin- Howling Banshees have high-AP weapons and strong defensive abilities, Harlequins hit harder against almost all targets for the same price, Wraithguard are massively tougher per point and have good AP, Wyches are more effective at tying things down, Mandrakes can cause mortal wounds, etc, etc. If you set aside their innate ability to deep strike, Scorpions don’t have a lot going for them overall, though they aren’t completely without advantages. Still, they aren’t really good enough at anything that you’re going to see them in a typical competitive list, which is a pretty telling sign.
Scorpions do have one advantage that we haven’t talked about yet, though- they are quite cheap and the least-expensive unit in the Elites slot by a goodly stretch. This means that not only are they a pretty acceptable way to make a brigade, they also can fill out other detachments for a price that is noticeably below what a Craftworlds army generally pays for its options. While that may not seem like an exciting feature, it’s actually very important as it opens up options for taking other units as well as increasing the CP available to the army- and with as many great stratagems as Craftworlds have, that’s no small matter.
We also talked about Karandaras and his synergy with Scorpions quite a bit in his own article, but we’ll reiterate it here: by giving the Scorpions exploding attacks on 6+s, their Phoenix Lord adds a ton of value to the unit through multiplying their hitting power, most especially if you can get them bonuses to hit (e.g. Shadow Strike, the Enhance spell, etc.) By activating Supreme Disdain as well, you can get up to two bonus attacks (three on the exarch) for every swing that triggers it, and you can potentially trigger those attacks on as low as a 4+ with all bonuses. This makes the Scorpions into premiere blender units, all the more so because they are quite cheap compared to a lot of other such options.
Shutting down Striking Scorpions when you see them is basically a twofold job. One: make sure you block off your backfield as much as is needed. This doesn’t mean covering every part of your backfield, but you will need to avoid giving them an easy arrival spot out of LOS where they can hide/declare charges from. And two: have a counterpunch unit ready to deal with them once they’ve arrived/taken out a unit- Scorpions are at their best when they can pounce on something undefended and chew their way through them. If you leave some defense, even a very basic one, in your backfield, suddenly things don’t look as good. A squad with a couple of Plasma Guns can be more than enough- that’s threatening 1-3 dead Scorpions even ignoring any firepower from your other units, which should be a pretty big deterrent to them, forcing them to at least be a lot more cautious in their assaults. Scorpions don’t like dealing with “real” units, so anytime you can face them with good firepower, they are going to get gunshy (or dead.)
Striking Scorpions probably aren’t the greatest unit in the codex, but they do at least do what they are supposed to and for a fairly reasonable price. I would say they are a perfectly-acceptable unit for a casual player or a tournament army that wants to bring something a bit weird to fill an unusual role or to make a divergent army build. You probably won’t ever have them perform spectacularly for you, but neither will you be crushingly disappointed- they fall easily into the middle ground of units, which is not a terrible place to be.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at a discount every day at the Frontline Gaming shop, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.