Boil, boil, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble! Wyches use drugs not magic, but the quote is still pretty applicable if you think about it. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Wych Cults are the third of the three major powers in Drukhari society; where the Kabals rule by force of arms and the Covens by dominion over the vital regenerative technologies, the Cults hold ultimate sway over the arenas that feed Comorrogh’s endless need for bloodshed and violence- a need that is every bit as crucial as hunger or thirst to a Drukhari. Wyches strive not simply to be the ultimate killers, as many do, but to be the most artful of killers, displaying their prowess and glory before the crowd, the better to gain influence and attention. Most Wyches train relentlessly to hone their bodies into living weapons, but even this is not enough- and so most turn to artificial enhancements from the Covens and Kabals, often in the form of designer drugs intended to boost their physical capabilities.
On the table, Wyches have a fairly standard statline for an Eldar, although with a few changes of note. The big one is 8″ movement; the extra inch might not seem like a lot, but it makes a difference when trying to get those charges off. Aside from that, they have weapon skill and ballistic skill 3+, as is common to all members of their race, and strength and toughness of three as well. Especially combined with their 6+ armor save, this leaves Wyches fairly vulnerable to being cut down by basic attacks- although they do have some limited defenses, as we’ll discuss in the following section. On the other hand, they come with two attacks apiece and a reasonable leadership value of seven, which makes for a fairly decent statline overall. One member of the squad can also be upgraded to a Hekatrix, giving her an extra attack and leadership. However, at 9pts each, they are a bit on the pricey side, especially considering how fragile they can be. Coming in squads of five to twenty, Wyches are a relatively flexible troop option, though arguably the worst of the three available to Drukhari.
Special Rules and Wargear
Like most all Drukhari, Wyches come with Power From Pain, which gives them escalating bonuses as the game goes on- most notably the ability to ignore wounds on a 6+. They also get Combat Drugs, like most Wych Cult units, which give them a bonus to one of their six characteristics- though you can’t double up on these bonuses.
Beyond that, Wyches come with two important bonuses that aid them in their primary role of melee combat. The first of them, Dodge, gives the unit a 6+ invulnerable save, which improves to a 4+ against attacks made in close combat. While this doesn’t exactly make them tough, it does at least mitigate their vulnerability a little bit, giving them a 6+/6+ to survive most attacks at range.
Their other ability, No Escape, is even better though- if a unit of Infantry in combat with Wyches wants to fall back, you and that player must have a roll-off; the unit can only escape combat if they win the roll. While hiding in combat isn’t always a guaranteed survival strategy (especially not with Space Marines becoming more common by the day), but it does offer a respite from the extensive shooting many armies can put out.
All Wyches come standard with a Splinter Pistol (12″ poisoned pistol 1), Plasma Grenades (6″ S4 AP-1 Grenade d6), and a Hekatarii Blade (i.e. chainsword). The Blade is the main thing we care about, since it brings us up to three attacks per model, which is starting to get dangerous. However, one shouldn’t underestimate the usefulness of the pistols- those extra few wounds can add up quickly if the Wyches stay locked in combat for long, which is what they generally prefer to do.
One member of the squad can also switch out their other equipment for a Wych Weapon, chosen from a list of three; if the unit is 10+ models, up to three Wyches can do so instead. Of course, we say three choices but there’s really only one. You could, if you were a fool, trade for Hydra Gauntlets (AP-1, one extra attack, reroll failed wounds) for 4pts, or a pair of Razorflails (AP-1, d3 extra attacks, reroll failed hits) for the same price, but the real money is in the Shardnet/Impaler. It has AP-1 and Dmg2 as well as granting a bonus attack, which all make it a reasonably-useful weapon just from its stats, but the ability is the thing we truly care about- if a model with the Shardnet is within 1″ of an enemy when you roll off for No Escape, the enemy has to use a d3 instead of a d6. This massively ups the chances of keeping the enemy in combat and is the primary reason to take Wyches- hence, we are more than happy to pay 8pts each for them.
The Hekatrix can also take a variety of upgrades if you want, though most of them aren’t particularly attractive. A Phantasm Grenade Launcher is cheap at 3pts and can enable mortal wound shenanigans, and so isn’t a bad choice. A Power Sword is pretty much strictly inferior to an Agonizer, so you should always lean towards the latter if you want a bit of hitting power in the squad- though I don’t think it’s typically worth the trouble. A Blast Pistol is an option if you are worried about tanks, but the short range can be a big limiter and the squad already tends towards being pricey, so it’s typically left at home unless you’ve got points you can’t easily spend elsewhere.
There are really two ways to think about Wyches. The first and most obvious way is to see them for what they are on the surface- a pretty mediocre close combat unit with poor survivability. And this is a view that makes a lot of sense- a Wych is fairly comparable to an Ork Boy in a lot of respects (6+ save, three attacks, rerolls on charges, etc) but is basically just inferior in that they cost more (9pts vs 7pts), have lower strength and toughness, have a worse squad leader, and have worse upgrade options via stratagems.
And if you’re using Wyches to just kind of… run across the field and try to punch things, this is probably going to be your experience with them- they’re just bad versions of the various horde infantry units that are available to other armies like Orks or GSC. However, I would argue that not only is this a bad way to use them mechanically, but also a bad way to use them thematically– Drukhari are a fast raiding force, after all, not a slow, slogging mass.
So let’s look at the other, more useful way to see the unit- namely, as one of the best tarpits in the game. No Escape is an amazing ability to have access to, because it gives you a built-in way to perform “virtual tripoints” on enemy models without having to fulfill all the weird conditions that might otherwise require- plus, it works on models with Fly, provided they are also Infantry.
Because, really, that’s what you want to be doing with Wyches- getting into combat with the enemy on your turn and sticking through the enemy turn, then breaking out to re-charge things. This is, of course, the dream for every melee unit, but Wyches are exceptionally good at it due to their large squad size and ability to deny the enemy fallback moves. Against a lot of armies this can allow you to simply hop from target to target, essentially using every enemy infantry squad as a safe harbor that your units can stay tangled up with as needed before moving on to other targets.
Of course, No Escape only works on Infantry units, but other models can be tripointed in a similar fashion- including vehicles in many cases, allowing your Wych units to continue bouncing around. Even if you don’t kill something, Cruel Deception will allow you to duck out of combat and still charge for 2CP- a very good option to have when you’re dealing with the tougher targets out there.
Now, this might all seem a tad pointless if you’re just jumping in and out of fights but not really killing anything, but there is a point to it, and that point is characters. Aeldari have access to a significant number of powerful or efficient characters- the two Avatars, Succubi, Autarchs, Solitaires, and even some of the Phoenix Lords as well as their many casters can all be devastating to the enemy’s when they find themselves unable to target any of these units with shooting. By staying locked in combat for most or all of the game, Wyches can ensure this is the case while also handling the natural enemy of many of these units, namely massed infantry models like Boyz or Guardsmen. A wall of 30-60 Wyches in front of your characters can often ensure that the enemy simply isn’t allowed to interact with them in any meaningful way for the majority of the game, a strategy players like Sean Nayden have used to excellent effect for much of 8th edition.
We shouldn’t completely underestimate Wyches prowess in combat, however; although their mediocre strength score can be a big limiter, there are numerous ways to mitigate this issue such as Combat Drugs and subfaction traits. And with three attacks per model with good weapon skill Wych units will generally put a large number of hits, which can clean up basic infantry units extremely quickly. Wyches aren’t typically going to shatter the backbone of your enemy, but they can easily wear down most things and some lucky rolls can see them put out a ton of damage.
Better yet, being a horde infantry with a good invuln save in close combat means that Wyches can seriously slow down the enemy’s hard punchers like Knights or Centurions. A squad of six Centurions puts out twenty-five attacks, which is more than enough to annihilate most targets… but against Wyches it’s gonna kill about six of them, which means that it will probably be four rounds of combat to chew through that single squad. A Knight, tap-dancing as hard as it can, is gonna kill three to four Wyches, which is a depressingly low number for a unit that runs in the 400+pt range. Wyches excel at fighting anything that relies on strong hits (rather than weight of attacks) to kill stuff, because they are one of the few units that comes standard with a reliable invuln to shrug things off while also getting enough bodies to make a delaying action possible.
Wych Cults have some of the best subfaction traits around around available to them, mainly in the sense that they are almost perfectly-suited to mitigating the weaknesses of the unit. Cult of the Cursed Blade is my default choice in almost all cases- it gives +1 strength (which lets you wound infantry on 4s or even 3s and vehicles on 5s) and ensures you never lose more than a single model to morale, which can also be a concern for big squads as Wyches tend to want to be present in. Cult of the Red Grief is also useful, since it allows you to advance and still charge, although overall I don’t feel this is nearly as good. The new “build your own” Cults also have some good options, including dealing mortal wounds on the charge, upgrading the invuln to a 3++, and more.
With all of that said, however, one final problem remains: delivery. Wyches need to get into close combat even more than most melee units, since they rely almost exclusively on being immune to shooting in order to stay alive, so delivering them there is absolutely crucial. And it is here, unfortunately, that the units tends to falter, because while their options for doing so aren’t bad, none of them are quite reliable enough to be a strong competitive options.
Going on foot is, obviously, out of the question most of the time- with the immense amounts of firepower being thrown around in 8th Edition squads simply won’t survive hoofing across the field, even if there are some magic boxes to hide in. There may be games where you deploy your Wyches on the field and run them around, but these are going to be the exception more than the rule.
Venoms are one option, but I think that generally they are not going to be a great one in the sense of actually being a delivery vehicle, as opposed to being a gun platform that happens to have a squad inside. Still, with as good as the Wych Cult traits can be, Venom spam is a legitimate tactic and having a punch squad inside each transport can be a rude surprise.
Raiders, on the other hand, are a better choice- the ten-strong unit you can fit inside is a lot more likely to be able to last and can carry more than one Shardnet, which is very useful for keeping the enemy locked in. The Raider also carries a very acceptable gun on it and is reasonably durable for the price as well as exceptionally fast, which is exactly the combination that Wyches need. If you’re trying this tactic, expect to be loading up no less than three full Raiders (and probably more than that) in order to put enough pressure on the enemy to get it to work.
Of course, the third option is to deliver them in a much more… personal fashion, namely via a Webway Portal- and this is the one I see most often, since it doesn’t require any extra investment of points, just some of the CP that you gained from the battalion those Wyches are presumably in. Putting them in the Portal allows you to make them immune to firepower on the first turn of the game, which is often the most dangerous, but still bring them down on a good position later on- 9″ away from the enemy is a bit further than we might like, but between the reroll to charge from Power From Pain that we get and a potential command point (if we get, say, a one and a six) the odds of making it are not wholly unreasonable, although definitely not something that should be relied on. However, we don’t have to any many matchups; by having them pop out behind some terrain somewhere in the middle or enemy section of the board, we can set up the Wyches to control a large amount of territory or threaten the opponent pretty easily starting on the second turn, which is solid. Of course, like any reserve strategy this has its flaws- vulnerability to anti-reserve strats like Auspex Scan or abilities such as Infiltrators, being screened out or blocked by enemy units, etc, etc, but as a general rule it is a fairly effective choice, especially since unlike a fleet of transports it doesn’t constrain the rest of your list- so you’re free to include two blocks of twenty Wyches alongside something else if you please.
If Wyches are so good at holding down infantry, and the game is jam-packed with infantry (and has been for more than a year now), why don’t you see Wyches more often? Well, simply put, they have a very exploitable weakness that we’ve already mentioned several times- they die when they are killed.
Barring the use of upgrades or stratagems, Wyches are T3/6+ models that can’t do anything at all from outside of 12″; that is a very, very risky position to be in, all the more so because of the proliferation of heavy anti-infantry shooting. While their invulnerable save and No Escape are nice gimmicks, they rely heavily on things going the way you want them to- something that, as we all know, doesn’t always happen. If a morale check or clever shenanigans (or even just the randomness of dice) allow an enemy to escape from a unit of Wyches, that unit is essentially dead, as they will evaporate to even things like Lasguns in pretty short order. And while those S5 AP-2 shots that are flying around these days may not be exceptionally efficient against Wyches, they certainly are not less effective and will easily shorten the lives of your squads down to nothing.
Even in close combat, Wyches are still not unusually tough against basic attacks- and enemies like Space Marines can easily wear them down when stuck in close combat, especially when they have a combination of pistols and decent melee numbers, as is reasonably common. While losing two or three of them per turn doesn’t sound that bad, the attrition can very easily add up, especially when you factor in overwatch and morale- lose two on the charge, two more in combat, one more in morale, and suddenly a full 25% of the squad is missing before you’ve even gotten to the enemy turn.
Wyches also struggle against anything resembling a tough target, like big tanks (especially the T8+ kind) or 2+ armor saves, which they will pretty much just bounce off of ineffectually. This is particularly a problem because many big things can effortlessly leave combat with them, which takes us right back to the “Wyches in the open are dead Wyches” issue, made especially bad because such units can often screen for the squishier members of the army.
While Wyches are not a bad unit overall, they often struggle to fulfill their intended role in the current meta because most gunlines are keenly aware of just how important flying screens are to protecting themselves. We’ve certainly seen some players do well with them in limited ways, but overall the unit is probably a touch weaker than it needs to be- especially because most of its options are entirely constrained by other factors. On the other hand, this is perhaps the best Wyches have other been, as No Escape has given them a distinct utility that we haven’t seen before, as do the combination of Combat Drugs and Obsessions. All in all I think it’s fair to call Wyches a very acceptable unit that falls just short of being excellent, although within certain contexts and armies they can potentially do so.
As always, remember you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.