Psychic Awakening has given some key Asuryani units new life creating clutch combos with other Aeldari options. When combined with the brutal Aeldari long range shooting options a truly deadly balanced list can be achieved.
As soon as I got to playtest the Phoenix Rising book for GW, the aspect I got most excited for was the custom Craftworld traits, namely- Headstrong. This custom Craftworld Trait gives all units a +1 to charge. Its why my first article about the Phoenix Rising back in September was all about Headstrong. Its primary appeal to me was the ability to go out and kill Primaris Marines mid-field and from the safety of the Webway. The go-to combo is casting the Ghostwalk psychic power which grants a further +2 to charge for a total of +3 to charge- again out of deepstrike in the Webway, thus dodging potential Alpha Strikes on Turn 1.
Benefits of Investing in Melee
Aeldari units are famously fragile and the mere mention of heavy investment into a combat heavy Aeldari list is usually anathema to even veteran Aeldari players. However when capitalizing on the Webway stratagem to deepstrike into combat with very reliable charge distances, you surmount the primary obstacle most Aeldari players face with their combat units- simply surviving long enough to make combat.
Whats more with Marines representing such a dominant presence on tabletops at every FLG and tournament, your expensive hard hitting melee specialists are getting to grips with high priority targets those being- Primaris Space Marines.
In progressively scored missions, Marine players can march huge bricks of Marines forward and snag objectives and claim board control, extremely well and put out punishing firepower all the while. This forces vehicle heavy Aeldari armies to hang back, cling to LOS blocking terrain, play the range game, often times ceding board control and mid-field objectives.
Yet with a solid investment in melee, Aeldari players can take the fight to them, taking immense pressure off their highly valuable vehicle units and even Craftworld choices in the list building phase.
Best Candidates for Headstrong
Languishing on dusty shelves since 3rd edition, Shining Spears have been superstars for Asuryani players since the beginning of 8th. Shining Spears are a perfect candidate for the Headstrong CW Trait, since they can take an Aspect Shrine power which grants them an additional +1 to charge. With Ghostwalk cast upon them they go up to a phenomenal +4 to charge, when arriving from the Webway they can launch surgical strikes with extreme reliability avoiding an opponents Alpha Strike altogether. Against opponents lacking the range to inflict significant damage on them Turn 1 (consider yourself lucky!) you can pair this with the Quickening psychic power to move twice for absolutely ridiculous amount of threat range.
These guys are champions of slaying Primaris Marines and truly help you establish board control and take pressure off your long range options.
Wraithblades are an often overlooked option for Asuryani, but one that I’ve got great value out of even before their points cuts. With their Strenth 7 AP-3 D3 damage axes they can really go to town on Primaris Marines and even Marine vehicles. With Headstrong and Ghostwalk bringing these guys to +3 to charge out of the Webway these guys are great at going in and tanking a nasty Auspex Scan as well, something that Shining Spears are more vulnerable to. With a few psychic powers such as Protect, Conceal and Fortune you can grant them 2+, 3++ with a 5+ FNP and up to -2 to hit when you play Lightening Fast Reactions. That Invuln save is something they gain even in combat which Spears also lack, giving you a lot of staying power. They lack speed, but against Marines who are huddled around their buff characters, you probably wont have to go far to get where you want to be, especially when you are dropping them out of the Webway.
If you go for a Ghost theme you can take the Wrath of the Dead Craftworld trait to re-roll 1’s to wound, and if you place them in a Wraithost Detachment from Vigilus you get access to a +1 Attack stratagem which grants them 4 attacks on the charge. Speaking of Vigilus, you can go for the cheaper, higher volume of attacks version with dual swords to go up to 5 attacks on the charge and re-roll 1’s to wound (at Str 6 AP -3 Dmg 1) and compensate for their lack of an Invuln by using the Spirit Shield stratagem to grant them a 4++.
While a bit experimental Ive used a unit of 8 Wraithblades and a unit of 9 Shining Spears in a few lists (instead of Harlequins) and had good success. I think Wraithblades are a great unit often overlooked. Yet with the Headstrong trait and use of the Webway strat, you can overcome the slowness which often drives people away.
Now this choice is NOT as an offensive weapon, its purely a tactical tool. Banshees’ primary role is to shut down overwatch, and in a Headstrong detachment rocking out of a Wave Serpent they have a 21″+ 2d6 move, advance and charge when using Matchless Agility. These girls can get anywhere, especially if you move up the Serpent T1 and plan for them to wrap and trap turn 2. With an inherent -1 to hit, you can pop Lightening Fast reactions on them for a -2 to hit which greatly improves their survivability. This allows you to take vital units out of the game for a good few turns. If you are really capitalizing on your Aeldari melee with Shining Spears, Wraithblades and Harlequin options any time your opponent redirects combat options away from those heavy hitters to deal with the elusive Banshees is a pure win.
With that massive movement potential you can wrap vehicles, big units of Primaris, Dreadnoughts, pretty much anything and if they have poor WS they can taken out of the fight almost indefinitely.
With smaller units you can just use them to shutdown overwatch and setup charges for your big heavy hitting melee options.
With aid from Harlequins and even Drukhari, a Headstrong-centric list can really come into its own, as proven by the brilliant Sean Nayden in his epic LVO run.
Skyweavers- The Haywire options are obviously brilliant and give you very hard hitting anti-tank versatility which comes at a premium when investing in a close-combat heavy Aeldari list. In combat though Skyweavers are also very solid Primaris killers and a perfect compliment to Shining Spears. With Zephyr Glaives a unit of 6 will kick out 18 Str 4 AP-2 Dmg 2 attacks.
They are also fairly durable in Aeldari terms. With 3 wounds each, an inherent -1 to hit, a 4+ Invuln (4+ armor too) and access to a couple of stratagems such as Prismatic Blurr (+1 invuln when advancing) or Isha’s Weeping which grants a +1 invuln to a unit thats suffered casulties in a phase, these guys can match the 3++ Protected Shining Spears will feature and furthermore they retain that save in combat.
They have a number of interesting Masque options as well. Midnight Sorrow with its +D6 to Fall Back and a 6” consolidation can give you incredible flexibility in model placement. Furthermore the Midnight Chime which grants +1 attack when within 6” of the bearer (I recommend the Troupe Master for re-roll wounds) pairs very well with War Dancers a 3CP Fights Twice strat that can be invaluable when you have a unit that absolutley has to die. Furthermore if you play against Chaos on the regular Midnight Sorrow has a few unit anti-chaos strats that add to the value as well.
Frozen Stars as proven by Sean Nayden’s brilliant LVO run are probably your best value with +1 attack on the charge, are simply fantastic. They have one of the best Harlie strats in the book Malicious Fury (1 CP) which grants +1 to wound against Infantry, Beasts and Bikes.
Soaring Spite the perennial favorite allows you to Advance and shoot without penalty, and treats Pistols as Assault 1 for units embarked on transports. This is obviously great for moving the bikes at max speed and maintaining great accuracy with your haywire. This is recommended for players in a more mech heavy meta.
Overall Skyweavers are one of the best units in the Aeldari family, but be warned they die very quickly when committed to combat. They are only T4 with 3 wounds and any kind of decent melee attacks and can make short work of them. They also hemorrhage CP’s especially when playing defensively. Lightening Fast Reactions, Fire and Fade, Prismatic Blur is a 4CP cost per turn so you have to be decisive with them, otherwise you’ll find yourself running out of CP very quickly. They are a phenomenal unit but can be swept aside very easily.
Troupes- Often maligned as a “tax” or even useless, Harlequin Troupes are absolutely phenomenal in my experience. However that doesn’t mean they are easy to run. With a 4+ Invuln, 4 attack each and access to a variety of weaponry such as the Kiss: +1 Str -1 Ap D3 damage, Caress +2 Str -2 AP 1 Dmg, or the Embrace +1 Str -4 AP 1 Damage and the deadly Fusion Pistol Str 8 -4 AP Dmg 6 (melta) they can be extremely high impact. An opening burst of Fusion Pistol fire followed by their onslaught of attacks can handle almost any infantry target. That being said, despite their 4+ invuln they are T3 models with a single wound.
I have 2 methods of use that work great for me. I use Kiss + Fusion Pistol squads to pair with a Troupe Master (re-roll wounds within 6” in combat) to hunt characters, while I use Caress Troupes to solo operate and hunt characters. After a turn of shooting I try strip away just enough of screening units to get at characters then send the Kiss Players after high priority characters. With a volley Fusion Pistol fire followed by the Kiss attacks they are a great assasination squad that can rip apart your opponents aura buff game very quickly.
The Caress Players are great for going after small high priority infantry squads and just slapping them down with weight of attacks (using your Starweaver to tank overwatch).
Frozen Stars are simply phenomenal for Harlie Troupes. The +1 to wound Strat with squad of Kiss Players is a great dagger when you need to kill a character. So a squad of 5 fully kitted is pumping 5 Str 8 AP -4 Dmg D6 (roll twice choose the best) shots into a character, then hitting him 25 attacks wounding T4 characters on 3’s, re-rolling wounds and doing D3 wounds each time.
Worth mentioning is Starweavers are very easy to hide out of LOS. In my standard Harlie Patrol I take only a single unit but they work great in either the Kiss or Caress configuration, though I prefer Caress Players at present for freelancing duties as I’ve found my Troupe Master works well enough on his own for assasination duties.
Troupe Master- Mr. Trolljob himself, the Troupe Master is one of the most sneaky deadly HQ’s available to the Aeldari. His re-roll all wounds in combat aura is for my money phenomenal considering the tools available to Harlequins and when equipped with a Fusion Pistol and a good CC weapon there is very little he cant handle. He’s the perfect duelist for taking out enemy characters with Fusion and Kiss, or Fusion and Caress he can go after just about any infantry based character, and even handle business against small squads of Primaris or weaker infantry himself.
Whether you go caress or kiss is up to you, but for my money the Starmist Raiment which gives you a 3++ against shooting and denies Overwatch is an absolute must, especially since the Banshee Mask Autarch has gone to Legends. I use this guy to target a character at the center of a big brick of infantry, tagging multiple units to deny Overwatch and set-up a big charge for my Shining Spears and Skyweavers. This guy has been the bane of my local opponents and has Cegorach’s luck in surviving long enough just kill the most importan HQ’s and setup up the biggest charges of the game. My particular build uses a Patrol instead of an Outrider so I prefer him over the Solitaire simply for how I build my lists. I also like having the Fusion pistol which the Solitaire doesnt have. When this guy tag-teams with the Spears and Skyweavers he usually gets ignored in the first round of combat and gets to continue to troll with Fusion Pistol. Especially if characters try to fall back out of combat to nuke the Troupe Master with shooting, Cegorach’s Jest allows you to fire that pistol again so long as no other enemy units are within 1″. Look to use Torments of the Fiery Pit as well if you take any wounds and survive
For the sake of brevity the following units are all phenomenal options that fit perfectly within the list design concept
How it sets up your Shooting
So with a very aggressive melee wing perfectly equipped with dealing with Primaris Marines or anything lesser, this frees up your fire support options to gear up with the highest caliber weaponry to deal with vehicles and other high priority single target units exclusively.
With so much Primaris killing power in combat, you dont necessarily need to go all out on Nightspinners with Ignore Cover trait to do work. You could even skip Nightspinners altogether and go for heavier-hitting options that punch through armor all on their own with options such as Warp Hunter which with does not need LOS to target units with D3 Str 10 AP-4 D6 dmg in artillery mode, or the flamer mode which is 12″ range Str 10 AP-4 D6 dmg.
In an Expert Crafters detachment and an Autarch babysitting them, you get one free re-roll to hit, additional re-roll 1’s to hit and a re-roll to wound. At Str 10 AP-4 its phenomenal for killing Thunderfire Cannons, Whirlwind Scorpius, or Centurions (if your melee options aren’t up for it) or other options that are out of LOS and you can shore up your defense with Masters of Concealment, since you dont need Ignore Cover with the Warp Hunter .
Similarly Fire Prisms, Vibro-Cannons, Hornets with Bright Lances or Pulse Lasers, Wraithlords with Bright Lances and Glavies, really come into their own as support units rather than the heavy lifters and with a heavy melee contingent that can take the fight to the enemy you aren’t playing with your back against the wall, desperatley trying to evade Smash Captains or other highly mobile melee characters that will smash your tanks to pieces and force you to start fleeing to all corners of the board. You can capitalize on the high strength and typically -4 AP which does not require the Ignore Cover trait to be truly effective.
As with any army with considerable investment in melee, it takes considerable practice to get down. Knowing when to go all in is usually the biggest challenge, but with the quality of shooting you can include in a list its very balanced, flexible and fast.
Its also a nice departure from a reactive to an aggressive playstyle which really suits me personally.
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