Craftworlds Codex Review: Elites: Striking Scorpions

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.

Overview

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.

Uses

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.

Countering

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.)

Final Thoughts

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.

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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.)

19 Responses to “Craftworlds Codex Review: Elites: Striking Scorpions”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius June 6, 2018 6:40 am #

    I know not many share this opinion, but I actually quite like Striking Scorpions. I always take a unit of 5 to 6, keep them off the board till turn 2 or 3, then have them pop on somewhere and go for backfield objectives, which they’re quite good at. They make mince meat out of most small backfield units, and with their small footprint are pretty easy to bring on in little nooks and corners of the board.

    Plus, hands down: some of my favorite models for both their looks and lore.

    • abusepuppy June 6, 2018 8:10 am #

      They’re pretty alright at clearing the backfield, yeah. I prefer Swooping Hawks, though, as they’re cheaper, put out more volume of attacks, and go active the turn they drop down. I have definitely had fun playing around with Scorpions, though, and when taken in larger units they can be very difficult to shift off an objective.

      • Reecius
        Reecius June 6, 2018 8:38 am #

        Yeah, I mean, they’re not the best unit in the dex (although humorously in any other codex they’d be a standout unit, lol) but they’re quite good.

        When you assault a unit in cover too, the Exarch can go ham. I’ve had him punch out characters you’d never expect him to on multiple occasions with some hot dice.

        • abusepuppy June 6, 2018 4:05 pm #

          Yeah the Exarch’s ability to go completely nuts on things is pretty fantastic if you have hot dice. I feel like that sort of thing is a much better model for “randomness can be fun” than Orks are- it’s an ability that will sometimes do nothing, and sometimes can do a lot, but you never feel like you missed out on something if you didn’t get it- rather, when you do get it, it’s like you’re getting something extra.

          • Reecius
            Reecius June 7, 2018 8:59 am
            #

            That is exactly how I look at it. It’s a pleasant surprise when it works, but I don’t expect it by any means, just like their Mandi-blasters.

            However, once in a while if you need to go into a support character or something similar and the Scorpions roll hot they can do a totally inordinate amount of damage relative to their points which is a nice ace up their sleeve. As you said though, not something to count on but when it kicks in it can be game altering.

  2. Zool June 6, 2018 7:53 am #

    The mandiblaster rule has changed from index to codex. Now the 1″ requirement is for the whole unit and not models. U just pick a single enemy infantry unit within 1″ of your unit. For each scorpion model in your unit u roll D6. U can even daisy chain to a character and still use mandiblaster with all scorpions with the codex wording.

    • abusepuppy June 6, 2018 8:09 am #

      Good catch- it definitely gives them a little bit more oomph in a fight against tougher opponents.

      • Zool June 6, 2018 8:33 am #

        U can even use mandiblaster-s on enemy unit u did not declare charge just piled in into the 1″ range.
        Or enemy character that made heroic intervention.
        Granted its only a lucky roll of 6 and many times u didnt make a single one.

  3. Visitor June 6, 2018 2:19 pm #

    Although I really like the models and have them painted, this is one of the rare units in the craftworld codex I would call terrible. They were ok when you could quicken them after arrival to get an easy charge off. Not great as there were better units to do just that but at least usable in friendly games. The FAQ hurt them bad though and under beta rules they virtually are dead.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 6, 2018 2:56 pm #

      I don’t agree at all. I use them in almost every game I play with Eldar.

      I wasn’t bringing them in on turn 1 anyway, and I wasn’t hitting them with Quicken, either. I play them now exactly the way I already was and they’re not terrible at all.

      If your expectation is to go up the gut with them and clean your opponent’s clock, then no, they won’t do that very well. However, if you use them as a harassing for grabbing objectives, going after small enemy units or shooting units they’re great at it.

      • Visitor June 7, 2018 10:56 am #

        Well i can imagine a small unit clearing an objective from typical objective holders in the 30-60 points range, thanks to the quite powerful exarch. But that is a niche pick and I rather not have such units as they delay my deployment, decreasing my chances to go first in most rulebook missions…

    • abusepuppy June 6, 2018 4:06 pm #

      I don’t think I would go so far as to say they are terrible, but they’re definitely one of the weaker units overall. However, that speaks more to the general strength of units in the Craftworlds book (and to the better balance of 8E in general) more than anything.

      • Reecius
        Reecius June 7, 2018 9:00 am #

        I agree. They are not an all-star unit, but they certainly aren’t bad when played to their strengths.

      • Anggul June 7, 2018 11:34 pm #

        I find the difficulty is that they tend to end up unsupported because most of the army is still shooty. In a more melee-heavy faction they would be more attractive.

        • abusepuppy June 8, 2018 4:33 am #

          A lot of Eldar (read: Ynnari) armies are running a very heavy melee component these days- Shining Spears are top-tier, as are Autarch Skyrunners, and there are lots of other units people have had success with as well (Howling Banshees, Yncarne, etc.)

          The key is picking their target; yes, a squad of Scorpions unsupported is not going to take on multiple Devastator squads or anything like that, but they are very good at popping into your opponent’s backfield turn 2 or 3 and messing up their game plan. The points/CP investment is fairly low for them and they’re great at stealing those isolated objectives out from under your opponent while being very difficult to shift once they’re there thanks to that 2+ save in cover.

  4. Kaughnor June 7, 2018 6:22 pm #

    Is there any merit to filling up the elite slots for a craftworld brigade with 3 min squads of scorpions?
    Not as cheap as banshee’s but cheaper than most eldar elite units. Their flexible “deapstrike” seems like it would lend itself to multiple different lists you might take to fill out rest of any given brigade list. No delivery tax leaves more points for other slots.

    • abusepuppy June 7, 2018 8:54 pm #

      I think it’s a plausible plan, yeah. Gives you a little more backfield threat and scoring potential than Banshees would, but you definitely are losing a decent bit of utility. I’ve more commonly run 2×5 Banshees and 1×5 Scorpions, but 2x or 3x Scorpions isn’t entirely unreasonable.

      I would definitely keep the exarch’s equipment more minimal in that case, though- probably just Biting Blades or even just naked, depending.

  5. Danny McDevitt March 13, 2019 10:16 am #

    So, I really like them now as a cheap elite slot. They are fairly durable, and fill up a brigade really well.

    • abusepuppy March 13, 2019 6:24 pm #

      Yeah, the price drop helps them a ton, as they now can make both a nice backfield objective-holder (sitting in cover for a 2+) or something to threaten the enemy’s backfield (as they can clear most basic units with ease.) It really opens up options for the brigade a lot.

      Making the exarch weapons cheaper is also very nice.

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