Playtesting Against New Astartes: an Aeldari Perspective

Hey guys Cavalier here, co-host of Splintermind the Dark Eldar podcast and commission painter for Frontline Gaming. Sharing my playtesting impressions of the new Space Marine codex.

Being part of the Narrative Playtest crew playtesting the new Space Marine dex was a massive under taking. It was the most time intensive bit of playtesting we’ve done but also the codex that I most enjoyed playing against even after we had moved on to new projects.

With the book not out yet, I’m limited in what I can say but the thing that struck me most as an Aeldari player. Previous to this new dex, Marines have been stuck in a weird spot for quite sometime. They flashed in the Index with Guilliman, Storm Ravens, Razorbacks and even Raven Guard had a brief period of excellence but that was 2 years ago if you can believe it. Since then they’ve been mired in mediocrity. The Primaris brought some much needed toughness to your basic Astartes, but the offense was just not there. That has completely changed and the basic Primaris infantry units are now the all-stars of the Astartes.

Biggest Threat

Throughout all the games I played against the new Marine dex, it has been the high impact shooting of all the new Primaris infantry units I found to be the biggest threat. The combination of Doctrines + Bolter Discipline is the bread and butter of new Space Marines and this really comes to shine with the incredible versatility of all the bolter variants available for Primaris units. Great range, volume of shots, with the ability through Doctrines to improve the AP was the game changer in my experience -especially in the case of Imperial Fists- which was what I played against the most.

They can attack you at almost all ranges with the biggest threat being a steadily advancing block of Primaris Marines with their buff characters and banners nearby being just hellacious. I found it incredibly difficult to survive in a protracted firefight with them even with my Alaitoc+Flayed Skull combo which has served me so well throughout the edition.  The penalties to hit while vital, are not enough (unless you are running all Flyers lol) to save you, because of the massive pile of wounds you need to chew through to take them out of the fight. Their ability to circumvent penalties to hit is also a major deal for Aeldari players who have survived on that for most of the edition.

Old and New Approaches

I found that by turn 2 with big blocks of Primaris mid-table (expect prepared positions a lot with Primaris players) they exerted excellent board control and were a massive pile of wounds that took a ton of effort to make a serious dent in. Ravagers, Hemlocks and Crimson Hunters are all certainly your friends against the new Marine dex, but I found that even still, against all infantry Primaris armies they had more bodies than I could handle with dissie/starcannon equivalents and that just stock bolter variant toting Primaris were hammering my go-to scoring options like Rangers and Warriors in Venoms through sheer volume of firepower.

The trick I found is getting them in combat. To this end I really think Shining Spears will take a tick-up in popularity again after the changes to Ynnari, but also Wyches with Shardnets (my personal favorite), Harlequin Caress Troupes, Skyweavers with Zephyr Glaives, dual blade Wraithblades and especially Howling Banshees.

I’ve written about Howling Banshees a number of times, but being able to tag multiple units without threat of Overwatch is so massive. Their offense without psychic support will most likely be somewhat disappointing, but they are the go-to table setter for setting up an Eldar assault. Shutting down the Overwatch so fragile units like Wyches, or expensive units like Shining Spears/Skyweavers, with a natural -1 to hit when targeted in combat truly makes them worth it. If there was one combo I’d recommend its Wyches with Shardnets + Howling Banshees. I’ve found again and again this combo to shut down Overwatch, then trap deadly shooting units, you couldn’t root out in your own turn, just to give yourself breathing room and focus your firepower on easier to handle units.

So the new approach I’d recommend is brushing up on your close-combat tactics, as trapping Astartes infantry units in combat can really help save the firepower of your best guns for the highest priority threat.


I definitely feel the new Astartes book has what it takes to make for some top-tier builds. The already considerable toughness of the basic Primaris unit is now supplemented with extremely versatile and dangerous firepower that will wear out any opponent. Trying to simply outlast them in a fire fight is very difficult if you allow them uncontested board presence, so get in there pin them down in combat and allow your big guns to focus on the highest priority units.

If you are interested in Aeldari discussion check out our podcast: Splintermind for exclusive Drukharii and all things Aeldari news and discussion. If you are interested in following my painting exploits check me out on Instagram! Thanks for reading and stay tuned!


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About Cavalier

Commission Painter for Frontline Gaming + Co-Host of the Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast

19 Responses to “Playtesting Against New Astartes: an Aeldari Perspective”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius August 16, 2019 7:26 am #

    Great article, Cavalier. And I agree, the new Marines are brutally good. IF I think as you noted are the fiercest shooting army followed by Salamanders who are the most powerful offensively (IMO) but mostly at close range.

    Also, glad you mentioned Banshees. Most people dismiss them but I get massive mileage out of mine as well. They don’t kill tons of stuff but they are incredibly useful.

    • Avatar
      Saieden August 19, 2019 9:14 pm #

      Yup, and even if you can’t survive combat, they’re so fast you can really screw with movement. I’d imagine a Kraken player would not be very happy with 5 models standing in an inch away from the middle of their stealer bomb turn 1.

      Not mentioned here also is that Reapers are the absolute bane of Primaris, so expect more of those I think, and triple Alaitoc Fire Prisms are also really strong with no clean answer outside of drop pods in a pure marine army imo.

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        abusepuppy August 20, 2019 2:25 am #

        I’m fairly sure that the Tyranid player will be fine with you putting extremely fragile models in front of their army turn 1. Especially since Kraken can fall back and still charge, so it’s not like you can even use the Banshees to delay them.

        Marines have plenty of answers to Fire Prisms- Predators (especially with full buffs) match them point-for-point pretty easily, Repulsors can typically outshoot them, and many of the Imperial ally options deal with them easily as well.

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    Lam Huynh August 16, 2019 8:27 am #

    personally i’m expecting the release of imperial fist supplement as we have 2 other known successor that have very strong trait and accompany named character(crimson – templar)
    the trio in combination with their shared doctrine benefit might makes for some very competitive combo

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 16, 2019 9:05 am #

      Imperial Fists are probably the second most powerful Chapter offensively but the difference is that they are lethal at all ranges. Salamanders are tops IMO, but want to get close to really pour on the hurt.

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    AlamoMelt August 16, 2019 9:45 am #

    I’ve been interested in reading your take on Aeldari and the new Marines, thanks for posting it. Close combat being the best way forward isn’t very reassuring though, but then I suppose it’s a personal problem that as long as aspect warriors are resin, I won’t own any aspect warriors. Or Incubi.

    I would have thought the new Marine bonuses for being charged as well as assault doctrine would out perform Aeldari CC units.

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    NinetyNineNo August 16, 2019 9:49 am #

    No flame intended, but I find it hard to wrap my head around the idea that the same rules team could write the new Marine codex as well as the Ynnari index and make any claims towards impartiality

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 16, 2019 10:36 am #


      • Avatar
        NinetyNineNo August 16, 2019 1:19 pm #

        What I’m trying to say is that the difference in quality (not just power, but fluffiness, versatility, internal balance and general care) between different releases is baffling. I’m not trying to be inflammatory, but when it’s presumably the same people writing these rules the vast difference seems intentional. Maybe the Ynnari index was written long ago (since the general quality of codices has been on a steady climb all edition) and just released recently, if we’re being charitable. But excepting that, the variance in quality suggests that either some of the releases are phoned in and some aren’t, the rules writers just don’t understand their own game, or GW is putting a proverbial finger on the scales so that their shiny new stuff sells. The last of which sounds conspiracy theory-y, but we know GW has done this sort of thing in the past, so…

        This isn’t just a Marines vs Ynnari thing — I totally agree that the former were underpowered and the latter were overpowered. But it’s just a frustrating example because it really does feel like one set of rules was written with care and dedication to make them both powerful and fluffy and the other wasn’t. Earlier in the edition this sort of thing was much more common (hell, Death Guard and Grey Knights released alongside each other) and it had been getting much better, so it’s frustrating to see one codex that appears to be head and shoulders above all others (and on the faction that gets an order of magnitude more model releases, lore and promotion that everyone else, to boot) while others simply appear phoned in.

        • Reecius
          Reecius August 16, 2019 4:00 pm #

          Well, that’s a complex topic. Ynnari specifically were written for 7th ed and got ported over to 8th largely intact and IMO, built upon a totally broken mechanic. It kept getting toned down with big nerfs and still remained the highest performing army in the game, lol. It was just fundamentally flawed. Who wrote it and what they were thinking I couldn’t say as that was before my time. Marines also largely got ported over as they were one of the very first books but they kept a lot of the weakness they already had. What we’re seeing now is the evolution of what an 8th ed codex is and can be and I can say this was a massive project. Up until now the goal has been to get factions out of index land.

          Also bear in mind, dexes aren’t all written at the same time, they come out in a linear fashion and of course the writers learn as they go. There’s also a considerable lead time from when a book is written to when it comes out, so the conditions of that time are not the same as when it comes out.

          Looking at it from the consumer perspective I totally understand how it can seem disjointed but one of the benefits of being on the other side of it is seeing how incredibly hard it is to make all the rules and such for the game. It’s so much more complex than I ever imagined it was and I have a much deeper respect for the design team.

          As for some factions getting more models than others? That comes down to simple economics. You don’t dump millions into a faction that doesn’t sell as well to pump loads of models into it. I mean, maybe that would work and it would stimulate growth? Or, you could spend the same time and resources (both of which are limited) to make more units for something you KNOW will sell well. From a business perspective that is a safer bet, you know? For us as players of the game it’s not a satisfying answer as we want more units for all factions but when you think about how crazy complex it is to bring a unit from concept to plastic kit on the shelf in a store, it changes your perspective.

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      sultansean August 16, 2019 12:45 pm #

      I mean practically the new marine codex is trying to buff what has been an underpowered army and sell new models.

      The point of the Ynnari index was to tone down an overpowered faction and provide more fluffy and thematic rules. And while I think that Ynnari is the coolest thing going in the 40k universe, and would love if they were still competitively viable, Eldar as a whole are still in a decent spot competitively and I don’t think the new marine codex will change that.

      • Avatar
        abusepuppy August 18, 2019 7:33 pm #

        > Eldar as a whole are still in a decent spot competitively

        We’ll see if that stands for much longer here. There are currently 4+ powerful meta factions that can either partially or completely bypass the Eldar gimmick of stacked hit penalties; once that stops working, Eldar don’t really have any game left.

        • Reecius
          Reecius August 19, 2019 7:23 am #

          I will be interested in seeing if that happens. As of now, the winning lists are mech Eldar, leaning heavily on flyers but I believe there are other strong lists out there in the Eldar world that simply haven’t been seeing table time. When/if forced to adjust, it will be interesting to see what emerges from that. I was playing a Biel-tan all infantry list with no negative hit modifiers and I won our cross county league with it against some really nasty lists. Now, that was a year ago and things have changed so I am not sure how it would do in the current meta but I feel there are builds in there that remain to be discovered.

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy August 19, 2019 9:08 am

            Foot Eldar suffer as much or more from the changes to SM compared to Mech Eldar- AP-1 Bolters will absolutely chew most Eldar infantry to pieces and the ability to ignore penalties will hurt them just as badly. I won’t say it’s impossible to win, but I would be very surprised if Craftworlds stay in the top tier for much longer, since the Wave Serpent is one of the few things they have left that hasn’t seen significant meta shifts against it.

          • Reecius
            Reecius August 19, 2019 9:35 am

            Yeah, Footdar aren’t popular this edition and I am curious to see how they match with Marines. I run them with Asurman to get that sweet invul save which helps quite a bit but yeah, the sheer firepower of Marines is going to be interesting.

  5. Avatar
    sultansean August 16, 2019 10:35 am #

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Cavalier.

    I’m still not convinced on the competitiveness of Banshees. I know you think their usefulness is for turning off overwatch. But a unit of intercessors is only going to kill 1.5 banshees on overwatch if they got to.

    But once in combat the 10 Banshees kill on average 2 intercessors and the Marines kill 4.5 banshees or 6 if assault doctrine is active. Assuming no re-rolls or psychic powers. That’s a 130 point unit which requires a wave serpent if you actually want to get there with 10 models vs a 170 point unit.

    I agree that Shining spears might come back a bit with their -4 AP flat 2 damage, hopefully with a return to their original points cost in Chapter Approved…

    I am excited to play with and against the new marines. I really love that GW is taking steps to give bonuses to completely pure armies.

    • Avatar
      Anggul August 16, 2019 6:00 pm #

      The Banshees aren’t there to inflict damage. Any damage they inflict is a nice extra. They’re there to stop a turn of shooting, and also to allow other units to charge without suffering overwatch.

      I do think the various melee buffs marines are getting will make this less effective though. With their -1 to be hit in melee, Howling Banshees could survive the attacks of intercessors and such pretty well. Maybe not so much any more.

      • Avatar
        Forbant August 18, 2019 2:48 am #

        Fact that 13 ppm power sword wielding iconic assault unit is delegated by players to just tagging enemy units because they can’t do any damage looks like a design flaw. 2A, S3, nufsaid.

        • Reecius
          Reecius August 18, 2019 7:01 pm #

          I agree basic MEQs just don’t cut it anymore, but if you’re holding out hope for an Assault Marine renaissance I think you’re wasting your time, unfortunately.

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