Craftworlds Codex Review: Fast Attack: Windriders

Once the terror of 7th Edition, now reduced to barely even appearances in the most casual of games. It’s a MTV: Behind the Music special all wrapped up into a neat package, my friends, and you would do well to heed their example. Click to read the updated CA2018 edition of the article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

Windriders are members of their craftworld that go into battle riding on grav-powered jetbikes that skim just above the ground at fantastic speeds. More than any other race, the Eldar are able to take advantage of such technology, for their inhumanly-fast reflexes and superior senses allow them to perform maneuvers that even a space marine couldn’t hope to dare. Although their pilots are merely citizen-soldiers, part of the craftworld militia, they still can surpass even the best pilots of other races with trivial ease.

On the tabletop Windriders come with a reasonable statline, although one that has seem some significant shifts since previous editions (and mostly not for the better.) On the plus side, with a movement characteristic of 16″ they are one of the fastest units in the game, able to outpace anything except a handful of other flyers and bikes; weapon skill and ballistic skill 3+ are standard for Eldar models and they are no exception, making them pretty reasonable on offense. Strength 3 is poor, but you have very little reason to be in combat anyways so it’s not a big deal; toughness 4 is much better, though still a pip below most other races in the galaxy. Two wounds (thanks to the bike) is obviously pretty handy to have, though with only 4+ armor they are not as well-protected as you might like. Finally, leadership 7 is nothing to write home about, but with the small squad size it won’t usually be a problem. At 18pts per model in squads of three to nine, Windriders compare reasonably to similar choices in the book (e.g. Swooping Hawks), but are not particularly exceptional.

Wargear and Special Rules

Like all Craftworld models Windriders have the Ancient Doom (rerolls and morale penalties in combat against Slaanesh) and Battle Focus (advance and shoot without penalty) rules. Although the former is fairly worthless to them, the latter is very handy, as their mobility is their main asset and especially in combination with their Ride the Wind ability (always advance 6″ extra) they can move a pretty enormous distance across the battlefield.

Windriders come armed standard with a twin Shuriken Catapult (12″ S4 AP0 Assault 4 6s are AP-3) which provides some pretty decent firepower, albeit at a very short range- and since they don’t hit hard enough to wipe out most targets in a single volley, this can leave the unit in a very precarious position. However, any number of bikes in the squad can also swap out their weapon for either a Shuriken Catapult (24″ S6 AP0 Assault 3 6s are AP-3) or a Scatter Laser (36″ S6 AP0 Heavy 4), you’re not actually too bad off. The Scatter Laser will set you back an extra 5pts per model, but has to content with the Heavy penalty; the Cannon is +8pts per model and is assault, making it more functional overall, but also pricier.

Uses

With the changes from the Chapter Approved update, Windriders may not be the most exciting of units, but they no longer are abjectly terrible. They may, in combination with the rules from the Vigilus supplement, even actually be somewhat decent- although I would still hesitate to call them great. But they at least have a niche within the codex and can perform some unique roles, so they aren’t simply a useless trash fire. That said, they would still benefit a lot from returning to the troop slot so that Saim Hann armies could be functional once again, but I don’t think we’re expecting to see that happen anytime soon.

The thing Windriders do best, and have done for some time now, is to put out buckets of medium-strength firepower; they are actually one of the most efficient ways of getting these sorts of guns in an Eldar army, although there certainly are problems with the platform as well that may caution you away from using them. That sort of mid-strength multishot firepower is also a lot weaker than it has been in past editions- S6 guns aren’t wounding everything in the game on 2s and glancing vehicles on 5s anymore, so they can’t be relied on to do nearly as much work when it comes to clearing the field of enemies. With that said, however, they can still throw down a pretty impressive volume of shots and will do some real work against light infantry, so we can consider them a viable unit for competitive armies despite these failings.

So why would you bring Windriders? Well, there’s a number of reasons. Although S6 firepower isn’t as dangerous as it used to be (which is to say insanely lethal to almost every unit in the game), it’s still a good way of cutting apart hordes of infantry, which are a dominant part of the meta these days. Armies of all stripes bring large numbers of infantry to the table as a matter of course- perhaps not every army, but the vast majority of them, even armies like Knights or Tau that have traditionally been very elite forces. More than that, however, horde infantry are something that Craftworlds can struggle with unless they bring specialized solutions- unlike most other armies, the default weapons of basic Craftworld troops are extremely short-ranged and aren’t well-suited to picking off enemy infantry at a distance, so a Craftworlds army needs some more dedicated ways of getting rid of those sorts of threats without closing to point-blank ranges.

Now, that’s not to say that Windriders are the only such solution- Swooping Hawks are extremely good at those sorts of jobs and are exceptionally effective against T3 and lower models, amongst others, but there are reasons to look to other options; they are quite fragile, for example, and Windriders get the benefit of T4 over their flighty cousins as well as an overall edge in maneuverability (going up to 22″ per turn with no roll needed, as opposed to 14+d6″ for the Hawks.) The higher strength firepower on the Windriders also has the advantage against tougher targets like Custodes or light vehicles (against which Hawks are all but useless.) But as with any unit, it’s worth considering the needs of a list, the current meta, and other factors when looking at which option you pick- and the fact that you have multiple options is a big strength of the Craftworlds book overall, as there’s at least one or two good-to-great units in every slot.

Beyond their role as being a glass cannon unit, Windriders can also be useful in other ways. They aren’t quite the cheapest unit in the Fast Attack slot (that honor goes to the Vyper, by a 2pt margin), but they clock in noticeably below most options and they tend to mesh better with the other units that you may include in a list and thus are likely to get the nod in many cases when building a brigade or other detachment. And the minimum-size basic-equipment squad is actually surprisingly dangerous at short ranges, spitting out twelve S4 rending shots; of course, this is something that a lot of basic Eldar units can do, but few of them are so mobile while doing it. A minimum squad of Windriders can jet across the field, blast a scoring unit off an objective, and take it for themselves with pretty reasonable facility and for a very low price. Similarly, they can easily move into table quarters or the enemy’s deployment zone in order to score secondary objectives as needed and without giving up firepower elsewhere.

However, if you’re looking for something to accomplish a more active role in the army, you’re probably looking at the “standard” setup (Scatter Lasers for everyone) and making some use of the Vigilus Defiant specialist detachment. Some of the benefits there are pretty trivial, but there are some others that are fairly clutch. The main one we’ll care about is Tempest of Blades, which is very pricey at 3CP and requires a Farseer Skyrunner, but improves the AP of all weapons used by bikes within 6″ of it by one. AP-1 might not seem exciting, but it’s actually a huge improvement and will make your guns pretty terrifying to a lot of things, especially if you are spreading it across several units. Add in Guide and/or Doom and you’ve got a near-guaranteed way to cause some misery to whatever you shoot at, short of a superheavy target (and even there you can cause some nontrivial harm.) The up-front investment is pretty large for this strategy (1CP for the specialist detachment, 3CP for the strat, 300-500pts for the various units needed) but it can hit like a freight train, so if you’re willing to build for it then it can be quite scary.

Of course, that combo doesn’t really address one of the main issues with Windriders- namely, that they are quite vulnerable to enemy shooting. Although they have a pretty respectable range with the Scatter Laser (36″) that will keep them out of the way of many of the enemy’s smaller guns that might otherwise be annoying, for an aggressive army that is pushing into your face or for longer-ranged weapons out there (of which there are many), that won’t be enough. Worse yet, with two wounds and only a 4+ save, they are very vulnerable to multidamage weapons with high rates of fire, especially guns like the Avenger Gattling Cannon on Knights. Although some of the Craftworlds defensive spells can offer limited protection, your best odds are simply to not be where the enemy can shoot you- and to that end, the Fire and Fade stratagem is extremely helpful, as it can get you back behind protective terrain (or out of range) pretty easily for only 1CP, which is a godsend if you’re running something like a full-size unit of them. Dark Reapers and other vulnerable units also tend to want to monopolize the use of Fire and Fade as well, but a good player can probably manage their target priority and assess threats to know which units need it more- just prepared for situations where you have to make something of a Sophia’s Choice between two of your valuable units.

We should also bring up one other consideration, namely that of the Craftworld attribute you choose for your Windriders. In most cases, there really is no “choice” here- you go Alaitoc because Alaitoc is hands-down better than everything else due to the way it completely changes some of your matchups. However, Windriders possibly have an excuse to sometimes run with Saim Hann, as shrugging off the Heavy penalty with your Scatter Lasers is a pretty nice bonus  in terms of improving your firepower (especially if you intend to be using Fire and Fade to be out of sight anyways, largely negating the need for Alaitoc.) So if you’re looking to dedicate a significant chunk of your list to making full use of a specialist detachment, you may want to think of whether Saim Hann or Alaitoc is going to be most useful, which should include things like the relative frequency of BS4+ armies in your meta and other factors. It’s not a forgone conclusion either way.

 

Countering

Windriders are cheap enough now that they are actually something you should perhaps be concerned about seeing, but at the same time they are not particularly hard to get rid of. Although they throw out a lot of firepower (when kitted with the appropriate weapons, obviously), they are quite fragile and even casual shooting at them will start causing casualties to the squad. If you can aim basic guns at them, that’s good- and if you can hit them with some more dedicated weaponry such as Autocannons or Heavy Bolters, all the better. The medium-weight guns that have a decent number of shots but also some increased AP and damage are the ideal tools to use against Windriders, since they are working at full effectiveness on them.

Also, don’t forget about melee as a solution; although they can fall back and shoot without penalty, they have to survive for that to be relevant. Anything that can get in with them with a good number of attacks can probably tear down most of the unit and force a morale check- which, given their middling leadership and expensive models, can be quite punishing to the Craftworlds player. Similarly, mortal wounds and other “alternate” sources of damage are pretty effective on Windriders, due to their low wound count and high concentration of special weapons.

If you’re facing the more slippery type of Windrider squad, the minimum-size no-upgrades variety, the solutions are a bit easier. Make sure you have units around the area to keep them from scooting into your backfield (or other locales) unmolested and try to keep Objective Secured units of decent size on the objectives wherever possible- as Fast Attack units, Windriders will lose out to troops every time when it comes to claiming objectives, so unless they wipe them out to a model they’re not gonna be able to steal things away.

Final Thoughts

Windriders have been on a bit of a roller coaster these past two editions, but they’re back around to being a fairly acceptable, even good, choice in a Craftworlds army. While they may not take the tournament world by storm, they can do a solid job of several things as needed and they have some unique strengths that differentiate them from other units (e.g. Vyper, Swooping Hawks) that can fill a similar job. If you’ve got a ton of jetbikes laying around from 7E, maybe give them a spin in some of your more casual games- you might be pleasantly surprised and even consider making room for a few of them in your tournament army now and again.

As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day at the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one. Or even purchase Windriders, you poor, blighted soul.

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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.)

17 Responses to “Craftworlds Codex Review: Fast Attack: Windriders”

  1. Yorrik June 27, 2018 5:24 pm #

    Man, when 8th edition came out I was so jazzed to start an army I had been planning for a decade: Saim Hann Wild Rider host! I was going to do major conversions using AoS dark riders (flapping cloaks, baby!), there was going to be this laughing high king riding his jetbike feet in the saddle, squads of guardians representing the losers of the pre-battle ritual duels (so they were forced to suffer the indignity of fighting on foot)… I had it all planned out!

    Then I read the Saim Hann trait.

    I try to tell myself that there’s always next edition, but damn if it doesn’t sting.

    • abusepuppy June 27, 2018 5:51 pm #

      The sad thing is, it would be surprisingly easy to fix the Saim Hann trait (as well as most of the other non-Alaitoc traits) if they wanted to. They’ve shown with the newer books such as Drukhari adn Tyranids that they can make all of the choices interesting and functional if they really try, but sadly I’m not expecting them to go back and re-do the ones that are duds from earlier on. But just imagine something like this:

      Saim Hann (Wild Riders): Your Jetbike and Vehicle models treat all Heavy weapons as Assault weapons after moving. Your units can reroll failed charge rolls.

      Alaitoc (Fieldcraft): Your models add +1 to their armor save against shooting attacks if they are getting the bonus of cover or if the enemy is more than 12″ away from them.

      Biel-Tan (Swordwind): You can reroll hit rolls of ‘1’ when attacking with a Shuriken weapon or with any weapon carried by an Aspect Warrior.

      Iyanden (Army of the Damned): Your Wraith Construct units can reroll hit and wound rolls of ‘1’ while within 6″ of a friendly non-Wraith Construct unit. Your units have +1 Leadership, and your vehicles have +1 Wound.

      Ulthwe (Foresight): Whenever one of your models loses a wound, roll a d6; on a 6+, that wound is not lost. If the model already has a similar ability (due to a psychic power, etc) instead add +1 to rolls to determine if a wound is lost. Additionally, your psykers add +1 to Deny the Witch tests.

      • Dakkath June 27, 2018 5:59 pm #

        I’d be interested to see your takes on fixing the other books’ stinker subfaction traits.

        • abusepuppy June 27, 2018 8:22 pm #

          Hmm. Fixing some of the worst examples I can think of, working off the cuff.

          Dal’yth Sept: You models receive the bonus to their armor save for being in cover so long as they have not advanced or declared a charge.

          Imperial Fists Chapter: Reroll all hit results of ‘1’ when attacking with a Bolt weapon, or with any weapon for a Devastator squad. Reroll all wound results of ‘1’ when attacking a vehicle or fortification.

          Word Bearers Legion: Your units automatically pass morale checks when within 6″ of at least one Word Bearers character. When a character performs a Daemonic Ritual, they can reroll any of the dice and you may choose to place the summoned models anywhere within 12″ of the character and not within 1″ of any enemy models.

          Ryza Forge World: Reroll failed wound results during the fight phase for any unit that charged, was charged, or made a heroic intervention that turn.

          • Ibushi
            ibushi June 30, 2018 11:10 am
            #

            These edited traits are awesome, I love them!

            Having assault weapons across all jetbikes and vehicles would be incredibly fluffy and cool for Saim Hann or a counts-as Corsairs army (which also got ruled to oblivion)

    • AngryPanda July 2, 2018 1:04 am #

      That sounds amazing and you shouldnt let the edition stop you. Building armies takes so long you have a decent chance at a completly new codex or even edition. And you can always jump at counts as options. If they look that wild maybe a wytch cults rules may suit them.

  2. alejandro delgado gonzalez June 28, 2018 6:16 am #

    Aand still i get the typical. “those eldar bykes are soo broken” every time i use them on my store.

    Since they are eldar so for sure they are totally broken. And if you try to teach them. They only cry bla bla i dont care eldars are broken and i loose only because u played eldar.

    Ok

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 28, 2018 8:20 am #

      They’re a bit too pricey, honestly. But, I did get wacked by a player using a full unit of Saim Hann bikes with Scatter Lasers and backed with Doom, Guide and Jinx. Man they stung, lol.

      However, I think you can make the argument that ANY full size Eldar unit with those powers would kick your ass, haha. But, you can make it work.

      • AbusePuppy June 28, 2018 2:29 pm #

        Yeah, once you have Doom, Guide, and Jinx up ANYTHING is gonna be painful. It’s not the bikes doing the work at all there.

        • Reecius
          Reecius June 29, 2018 7:32 am #

          Of course not. But, the volume of shots on a mobile platform can do work was where I was going, for those with the models that want to use them. With the psyker support also on bikes it is a tidy little package. Again, not the best unit in the Eldar dex at all, but I always try to look for ways to make things work for those inclined to do so.

    • WestRider June 28, 2018 1:34 pm #

      It takes ages for people to get over the impression of stuff being overpowered. I still see people complaining about “leafblower” IG, even tho it wasn’t even great in its heyday of 5th Ed (outside of the specific environment of ‘Ard Boyz that it was designed for, with 2500 Point Armies in cramped Deployment Zones), and the term is meaningless in 8th because it was built around the mechanics of Blast Weapons in previous editions.

      • Reecius
        Reecius June 28, 2018 2:21 pm #

        Yeah, but then, the internet provides a loudspeaker for anyone, including those with big opinions but very little actual knowledge of what they are talking about.

  3. Nathan June 28, 2018 5:33 pm #

    Will GW just stop and hire abusepuppy ready.

    I’m in complete agreement, changes as you have suggested would be easy.

  4. Ibushi
    Ibushi June 30, 2018 11:09 am #

    Nice article AP, albeit somewhat scathing haha. Have been loving this series as others

    I definitely agree on the comparison with hawks and spears, and also that Saim Hann is not the best trait for bikes in general

    Saying that, my tournament list earlier this year included a Saim Hann Outrider detachment of Farseer skyrunner, 2x 5 hawks, and 5x scatter laser jetbikes, backing up two Ynnari Battalions, which included saim hann autarch and spears

    The scatbikes have performed EXTREMELY well, sitting at maximum 36″ range along the board edge, and pasting the likes of cultist bombs, termagaunts, guardian blobs, etc., by using the intercept stratagem, usually guided or with autarch nearby. Then like the old days, hop around the table with 16″ move to stay out of LOS, and snipe away all the T3 chaff units while spears and reapers go to town on tougher targets

    There are so many large units of T3 models, particularly ones that appear via deep strike, that the saim hann jetbikers are still a legit choice for the points over spears, hawks, reapers, or even prisms, since those units suffer from range, squad size, and needing stratagems

    If you focus on what they’re good at – avoiding trouble and clearing out T3 units – then they are still a great buy at 140pts and synergize well with the heavy hitters in the eldar book

    At the same time, Saim Hann trait on a Farseer Skyrunner and swooping hawks I’ve also found to be very helpful, simply for re-rolling charges. Those units will hang back out of trouble doing their thing all day, in which case the other CWE traits are also not life changing, but on the odd occasion you’ll want to pull off some really disruptive assault, like dropping hawks down and charging 9″ to tie up artillery, or pulling off long charges against small units to exert board control, gain extra movement, whatever – in those instances, especially late game, the free re-roll is awesome

    Just my few cents on this one, keep up the great articles sir!

    • abusepuppy March 20, 2019 10:25 am #

      I think that they are actually pretty decent these days, and I have actually considered running them as Saim Hann… but I’ve still never done it, because stackable -1s on yourself are worth taking a -1 to hit against the enemy.

      • Reecius
        Reecius March 21, 2019 7:38 am #

        Yeah, Harrison did very well with them at LVO (obviously) and I think with the points drop and the new detachment for them they have a lot to offer.

        • Brian May 14, 2019 7:17 am #

          Worked well with a full unit of Saim-Hann and scatter lasers. Moving and shooting on units targeted by Jinx and Doom, while still at a safe distance. Guide is also advisable especially if your opponent is going to deep strike units in his following turn and you want to shoot them down with your scatterriders. I accompanied them with two smaller units of 3 with shuriken cannons, as they move around the main unit to keep enemy units from deep striking within 9″ from the main unit and assaulting them.

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