Drukhari Codex Review: HQs: Archon

The word “archon” is derived from the Greek components “arch,” meaning ultimate or supreme and “on,” meaning above or on top of. If you swallowed that little lie, you are probably not fit for a life in Commorragh- so click to read on or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

An Archon is the leader undisputed of a Kabal- in the cases of lesser examples, such an individual might only control a single “splinter” of the greater Kabal, while the more prestigious among them hold dominion over thousands or even millions of souls. An Archon must be without flaw- able to command respect in the court, lay waste on the battlefield, and scheme without hesitation in the shadows, for to show even the slightest hint of weakness is to invite all of their peers to swarm over them like rats. Betrayal is a constant in Comorragh, and Archons understand it as well as they do the graceful flick of a knife into an opponent’s eye or the precise aiming of a darklight weapon at a tank’s weak point. Fed on thousands of years of suffering, there is no depth to which they will not stoop in order to rise to the heights of power in the Dark City.

On the tabletop, an Archon is a fairly common sort of HQ choice with a statline of roughly what we would expect from an Eldar model. 8″ movement is faster than most other infantry in the game (aside from those with jetpacks, of course) but not so fast as to be exceptionally notable; however, in a pinch an Archon can move relatively quickly. Weapon and ballistic skill 2+ are exactly what we would assume from a character, and strength and toughness three are similarly standard for a space elf. Five wounds isn’t amazing, but it does mean that you won’t give up full Kingslayer points if it comes to that, and five Attacks is actually on the high side for a generic character- though this is balanced by other stats. Leadership nine and 5+ armor save are both middling but typically irrelevant, so we aren’t worried much about either of them. Clocking in at a minimum of 72pts, the Archon is a tad on the pricey side compared to options in some codices, but they come with a very solid set of kit so it’s not a price we can be too sad about- just don’t expect them to fill a minimum battalion cheaply.

Wargear and Special Rules

Like most Drukhari models, the Archon comes with Power From Pain, which grants escalating bonuses as the game goes on. It’s not exceptional, but neither is it anything to sneeze at- consider it part of the baseline we measure from. They also have the Shadowfield rule, which gives the model a 2+ invulnerable save- pretty impressive, but the save can never be rerolled for any reason, and the first time it is failed the save is lost forever (forcing you to instead rely on the much weaker 5+ armor.) Although Shadowfield can sometimes screw you by failing on the very first save taken (note that you must do so one at a time, due to the nature of the rule), much more often it will allow you to shrug off hits from even very powerful weapons for a time. Remember also that you are not forced to roll your Shadowfield save- you can take any of your saves that you please, so if you just have one or two incoming Bolter shots but are expecting to get hit with something bigger later, you might wish to simply accept the potential for taking those 1-2 wounds to insure you still have your Field later in the turn.

The Archon’s only support ability is Overlord, which allows you to reroll 1s to hit with nearby units of the same Kabal. This is a fairly standard HQ ability and most players will have some experience with something of the sort, but I will note that since Drukhari are largely a faction that hits on 3s and 2s (either in melee or shooting), the ability to reroll 1s is more valuable than it might be for some armies.

An Archon comes standard with a Splinter Pistol (12″ AP0 Pistol 1), which like all Poison weapons always wounds on a 4+ except against vehicles and titanic units, which it wounds on a 6+ instead. This can be exchanged for a Blast Pistol (6″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Pistol 1) for 10pts, or a Blaster (18″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Assault 1) for 15pts. I’m not a huge fan of the Blast Pistol because of its shorter range; with its cripplingly-short range, the Blast Pistol isn’t often going to be an attractive option considering it costs virtually the same as the full-size gun. However, it does have the advantage of being a serious threat to enemy characters that get into combat with you, so it’s not the worst thing possible. The Blaster is a full-on squad special weapon, and on a character who virtually always hits it can be a real problem- especially because the Archon can’t be targeted most of the time.

They also are equipped with a Huskblade (melee S4 Ap-2 DmgD3), which isn’t a terrible weapon but generally does not impress all that much. Given that it is 4pts more expensive than the Venom Blade (melee AP0 Poison 2+) and the model typically doesn’t want to be getting into combat in either case, I think it’s usually worth it to save on cost. A compromise weapon is the Agonizer (melee AP-2 Poison) which sits right in between the other two in cost. However, compromise solutions tend to be the worst of both worlds and thus aren’t usually recommended- however, should you find yourself with a handful of points it’s not the worst thing in the world to have.

Lastly, an Archon can also take a Phantasm Grenade Launcher, which is an odd little piece of gear. Unlike what one might assume from the name, it is not a grenade weapon- instead, it is Assault d3, and should the target suffer at least one hit they are at -1 leadership for the remainder of the turn. While this is fairly innocuous on its own, it can stack with a variety of other rules to inflict some serious penalties- and, indeed, there is a 1CP stratagem that lets you do d3 mortal wounds after hitting with a Phantasm Launcher if you can beat the enemy’s leadership on 3d6, a very useful tool to have around. At only 3pts the Phantasm shouldn’t be considered mandatory by any means, but is a solid way to round out the last few points in a list.

Uses

Well, the obvious use for an Archon is to lead a Kabalite battalion, and since you have no other (non-named) HQ choices, it’s not as though there’s really any other way, is there? Being the only option in the codex- or, indeed, in the index either- means that every Kabal army will be including at least one and more commonly two or three of these dudes. Do keep the Rule of Three firmly in mind with them as it is a significant limiter on the number and types of detachments you are allowed to take with Drukhari army, and be aware that at lower point values (such as 1000pt doubles events and the like) you may be even more limited.

Now, what does an Archon do for us? Well, nothing terribly exciting, if we’re being honest. The reroll 1s aura is quite useful, of course, and even if they weren’t a forced choice we probably would probably be leaning towards the Archon anyways, but it’s not something that you will typically center an army around. With only a 25mm base the radius of the effect isn’t going to be enough to cover a large number of models, even when strung out; however, with a pair of them (as will typically be the case) you can probably cover most of your force without too much problem, at which point you are looking at Space Marine accuracy across a whole contingent of your army, always nice to have.

However, if we want to really get some mileage out of the Archon they need to be doing more than that. This is where the Archon’s kit comes in- with the addition of a Blaster and/or Phantasm Grenade Launcher, the Archon can start putting out firepower that will give your opponent some pause- it won’t stop their army in its tracks, obviously, but having a d6 damage weapon (as well as the potential for d3 mortal wounds) buried in your army behind a bunch of troops and vehicles can be very annoying, as your opponent has to concede that they simply aren’t going to get rid of that weapon until virtually everything else is dead. This can force them to play a lot more cautiously; a solo Blaster certainly isn’t a reliable weapon (as it almost always hits but still fails one-third of its wound rolls) but the possibility that you can inflict six wounds on any big target within a large section of table means that they can’t really ever consider themselves completely safe. This potential threat, rather than actual, is where the Archon tends to shine, as in practice the unreliability makes them less than ideal for actually crafting a plan. But if you’re looking at putting a Blaster into any of your squads, you may as well put it on the Archon instead, as they are harder to get rid of and more accurate.

The other half of getting utility from the Archon is through their melee ability. While they may not be a melee powerhouse, a large number of attacks with a weapon that wounds on 2+s can drag down weak squads like Guardsmen pretty easily in a pinch and can tie up tougher characters for obnoxiously long periods of time, especially those that are using -1 to hit weapons. This also works quite well against vehicles as well, as an Archon is well-poised to shrug off any big guns they might get a lucky hit in with during overwatch and then spend the next several turns bullying them as they try to escape. In a worst case scenario, the Archon can also help tie down a significant threat for a turn by selectively charging into it and minimizing the return attacks, although this strategy is a risk at best and often outright suicidal. Still, if you need to prevent them from getting onto an objective or assaulting one of your other units, it may be worthwhile to do so anyways, as not all plays are made from an ideal circumstance.

Countering

The Archon has two really glaring weaknesses that limit their ability to participate in many battles and that you can take advantage of when trying to deal with them. First off, they have only strength and toughness three, like most elves. Now this wouldn’t typically be worth pointing out since it’s just a feature of the Eldar chassis, but it is particularly relevant here because it means that offensively, an Archon will struggle to hurt most models. The Huskblade has reasonable AP but low strength, so enemy characters will generally outclass an Archon in a head-to-head fight, as wounding on 4s or 5s is not a good place to be. Similarly, the low toughness value means that even relatively weak attacks present a particularly problem for an Archon due to wounding them so easily.

Similarly, the 2+ invulnerable save is great when taken against Thunder Hammers but less impressive when used against Boltguns, and this is a fact you can take advantage of. Whenever possible, force an Archon to take random saves- that Laspistol you’re carrying might not be the most terrifying weapon on earth, but there is a nontrivial chance that it disables the Archon’s save entirely, which is a huge win. Naturally, abilities that can bypass the save are also valuable- such as a Vindicare’s rifle, although we should note that since the Shadowfield save has not been failed in this case (as it was never rolled at all), this does not disable it for future attacks.

Really, though, Archons are just generic support characters in most cases. If you have the opportunity to take one out then by all means do so, but they don’t enable any particularly outlandish strategies, so you won’t usually have to consider them a linchpin of the army.

Final Thoughts

Although not exceptional in almost any respect, the Archon is a solid workhorse HQ and you rarely will be sad to take one; the combination of good offense, acceptable defense with a useful gimmick, and reasonably cheap price alongside a generically powerful utility ability is something that you will almost always find helpful. They also synchronize well with the rest of the Kabalite army and can provide it with solid offensive buffs, the more so when you take their various warlord traits and relics into consideration.

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

14 Responses to “Drukhari Codex Review: HQs: Archon”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius September 4, 2019 7:19 am #

    Great, in-depth review, AP.

  2. Vipoid September 4, 2019 7:46 am #

    One error I noticed – The Blast Pistol’s range is 6″, not 12″. It’s literally a Fusion Pistol, except worse and more expensive.

    I have to say, you’re a lot more optimistic about the Archon than I am. I see his Shadowfield as being a horrible piece of wargear with outdated rules. Except that, unlike past editions, it’s no longer optional and you can no longer swap it even for a standard 4++ (which I’d do in a heartbeat). Given how it was costed in the past, it’s also almost certainly the reason why the Archon costs so much more than comparable HQs.

    I agree with you that his melee weapons are poor. And whilst he probably doesn’t want to be in melee, there is the question of where precisely he *does* want to be. Firing his Blaster from 18″ away? That probably won’t even be an option once Legends drops. So what we’ll end up with is a Master of Ordnance who costs 3 times as much and can’t issue orbital bombardments.

    Also, regarding his aura, do you not have any issue with the leader of a faction based around open-topped transports having an aura that doesn’t work inside, into, or out of said transports?

    I guess you can buff Ravagers, but you’ll forgive me if the leader of an army being able to effectively buff all of 1 model feels a little lacklustre, to say the least. What’s more, he has no mobility options, so if you need to quickly reposition your Ravagers then they’ll almost certainly end up leaving their own boss behind. But even if one Archon can buff a Ravager trio, it then raises the question of what the second Archon is doing. Because a Kabal Battalion has bugger-all choice when it comes to HQs.

    What’s more, his buff is completely redundant with his own Court – as all of them already reroll hit rolls when he’s nearby. And unlike every other HQ choice in the game with an aura, the Archon can only buff a tiny fraction of his army. Incubi? No. Mandrakes? No. Scourges? No. Any Cult unit? Also no. Any Coven unit? No yet again.

    The Archon is depicted as this towering figure – a master strategist and exceptional fighter, who walks into battle wielding the best wargear in Commorragh.

    The Archon in game plays like someone who found all his weapons and armour in a scrap-yard, who’s about as good a fighter as the Black Knight in Monty Python, and who’d lose a battle of wits with a stuffed iguana.

    • abusepuppy September 4, 2019 9:58 am #

      Yeah, that was my mistake; I pretty much never take the Pistol, so I had completely forgotten how short-ranged it is.

      I feel you’re overstating Shadowfield’s weaknesses a lot. Getting a 2++ for free instead of the 3+/4++ that most faction HQs get is not a bad deal, and while sometimes it can be very frustrating to fail it on the first try, the very nature of characters often means you don’t actually have to roll it all that often.

      I wrote the article knowing Legends was going to be a thing, but until that is actually released there’s no saying what will happen there so there’s no real use speculating. If we lose the Blaster so be it, even at 72pts naked he’s still not horrible.

      Being forced to disembark is somewhat annoying, but it’s no different than what every other faction has to deal with, and you can crowd quite a lot of Venoms around a single HQ if it comes down to it due to their weird shape.

      I’d love it if the Archon got an option for a jetbike again like they did back in the 3E book, but I’m not expecting it. They are not particularly exceptional HQs by any measure, but neither are they particularly bad and they come in a faction that is _chock full_ of fantastic units. Sure, he mostly just sits back buffing some vehicles- so do the leaders of most factions, as they’re either reroll machines or suicidal idiots, take your pick. Drukhari are par for the course there and while they can’t make an effective Suicidal Idiot build, the faction doesn’t really need it particularly badly.

      • Vipoid September 4, 2019 4:18 pm #

        I have to disagree on the Shadowfield. Firstly, what on earth makes you think it’s free? Surely it’s the whole reason why the Archon is so expensive?

        Second, I would literally take a 5++ over the Shadowfield. That’s how much I despise it. Because I don’t want to have to make every invulnerable save individually, with no idea as to whether it will even still exist for the subsequent rolls.

        As to not having to make saving throws often, surely that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy? I mean, you’re less likely to risk a model if you know that it has a garbage, unreliable saving throw. What’s more, if the excuse is that you don’t have to roll the save that often anyway, why would you want an expensive Shadowfield over a save that is both cheaper and more reliable?

        “If we lose the Blaster so be it, even at 72pts naked he’s still not horrible.”

        By what possible measure? His melee is awful, his shooting nonexistant, his defence is unreliable, his aura is shit. He costs significantly more than comparable models whilst bringing significantly less to the table. Seems pretty horrible to me.

        “Being forced to disembark is somewhat annoying, but it’s no different than what every other faction has to deal with”

        Well yes but other factions aren’t built around using open-topped transports. It’s literally our whole shtick and yet our gormless pissant of an HQ can’t even get that right. If he could take wings or a jetbike and if his aura affected our whole army – you know, like every other aura in the game – then I’d mind a lot less. At least then he could keep up with and affect most of our army. But no, he’s stuck trying to buff units that want to be in transports and thus are completely unable to be buffed even if he’s standing in the same damn transport as them.

        Sorry but stuff like this is just thoughtless and lazy design on GW’s part and I’m sick of people making excuses for them.

        “I’d love it if the Archon got an option for a jetbike again like they did back in the 3E book, but I’m not expecting it. They are not particularly exceptional HQs by any measure, but neither are they particularly bad and they come in a faction that is _chock full_ of fantastic units.”

        Right. I mean, who’d want the leader of an army to be even remotely fun, interesting or useful?

        • abusepuppy September 4, 2019 7:19 pm #

          You sure are angry about having an HQ that is exactly like the HQs of every other faction out there.

          • Vipoid September 5, 2019 7:29 am
            #

            I see you’ve resorted to straight-up lying. How mature.

  3. Faitherun September 4, 2019 7:55 am #

    Pretty solid overview.

    While I get there are a lot of options, would be nice to talk a touch about the warlord traits, relics etc. Obsession does nothing for him on its own, but writ of the living muse is still very solid, and a blaster with d6+1 damage is nothing to sneeze at neither.

    Overall though, the archon (and all the Drukhari hq) are a good-enough choice we are forced into taking.

    • abusepuppy September 4, 2019 9:51 am #

      I considered trying to cover those options, but I felt it would bloat the article too much; I think once you understand the role of the unit, it becomes much easier to look at the relics and traits available and pick ones that fit with that role better.

  4. NinetyNineNo September 4, 2019 8:07 am #

    Any consideration towards tooling them up to be better beatsticks through relics and WTs, or is that too gimmicky?

    • abusepuppy September 4, 2019 9:49 am #

      You can do this to a very limited degree, but I don’t you can get enough stuff on them to make them truly scary, at least not in Drukhari detachment- Ynnari can do it better, though.

      The reality is that while, yes, you can improve their combat abilities through the use of those bonuses, you would get a lot more value out of taking relics and traits that supported the rest of the army instead; I think it’s a fine choice to make if you’re doing something fun for a casual game, but not a competitive option at all. The Succubus, at half the price and with much better options, is where you should probably look for that job.

  5. sultansean September 4, 2019 3:08 pm #

    If you do want to take a beat stick archon. (Maybe because you are souping a Flayed skull battalion with craftworlds, who have terrible relics and warlord traits anyways.) Then an Archon with famed savagery and the Djin blade can be pretty fun, 8 S5 Ap-3 Dd3 attacks can mess up some things. Most of the time you are going to run him as black heart with the Writ, blaster and venom blade, but sometimes it’s fun to be different.

  6. AlamoMelt September 5, 2019 4:10 am #

    Are the blaster and grenade launcher index options, or is my “enhanced” digital codex full of errors again?

  7. sultansean September 5, 2019 10:35 am #

    The blaster and grenade launcher are Index options. So not long for this world I am afraid….

  8. r3v0lv3r September 5, 2019 11:03 pm #

    I really think Archon is good character, but after the GSC and SM releases every Aeldar and Necron characters look seriously overpriced.

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