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The Beastmaster is essentially just a characterized version of the Hellion, although few enough people will have seen a Hellion on the table to have any idea what that means. A 12″ move with Fly starts things out strong, and the standard Aeldari statline of weapon and ballistic skill 3+ as well as strength and toughness three is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Three wounds are about as low as any character can be, which is not exciting, and three attacks is similarly a bit subpar (but not completely awful), so we live with it. Leadership 7 is pretty abysmal, not even matching up to most squad leaders, and a 5+ armor save is bad, but merely in an expectable way. At 40pts for a single-model unit, the Beastmaster… does not impress.
Special Rules and Wargear
Like most all Drukhari infantry, the Beastmaster comes with Power From Pain, which provides a variety of escalating bonuses as the game goes on- most notably 6+ ability to shrug off wounds. They also come with Combat Drugs, which will give +1 to a single stat (or +2 to Move/Ld) before the start of the game, with the normal limitations.
Their main special rule is simply called Beastmaster (not terribly inventive, if we’re being honest) and gives all Drukhari Beasts within 6″ of them reroll 1s to hit and the ability to use their leadership. You are also required to include one unit of Beasts for each Beastmaster in a detachment, which do not take up slots. Lastly, the unit can’t have a warlord trait, for reasons.
Beastmasters come armed with a Splinter Pod (18″ AP0 Dmg1 Assault 2 Poisoned), which is a reasonable gun, and an Agonizer (melee AP-2 Poisoned), which is a pretty okay weapon. Neither can be switched out for anything; you’re stuck with the fixed loadout.
Alright, let’s be clear here: Beastmasters are pretty bad. They do have the advantage compared to the Court of the Archon that they are at least proper characters, so they won’t be easily targeted, but they are fragile (dying both to sniper fire and any kind of vaguely competent melee), hit like wet noodles, and serve to buff a unit that doesn’t really need buffs at all.
If you wanted to get extremely wacky, you could field a bunch of them alongside other Drukhari HQs (Archons, Succubi, etc) and just absolutely flood the table with cheap characters while fronting with a bunch of Venoms or other tricky-to-kill units, in order to… something? Hold objectives, I suppose? That’s the real problem with Beastmasters- they don’t really do anything useful, so when looking at what they would be brought for in a list we quickly run out of options.
Interestingly, they are members of the Wych Cults, meaning they can benefit from the Cult traits, but this by itself simply isn’t enough to get them any real traction. They aren’t even particularly cheap, coming in at nearly twice what some of the other bargain-tier characters from other books (e.g. Astropath) are priced at, but with very little to show for it.
Ultimately, a lot of their failings can also be set on the shoulders of the Beasts they nominally are supposed to lead. All three varieties are lackluster overall, and while having at least some strengths to their name simply are not tough enough, fast enough, or killy enough to really justify their inclusion. They are all highly specialized (having no guns or other abilities to their name) but aren’t actually particularly spectacular even in the context of their specialties, being easily overshadowed even by units within the codex- Clawed Fiends are simply inferior to Grotesques in almost every way, Wyches easily surpass Khymerae, and Razorwings are comically inept at everything except occupying space on the board. With all of these units being such poor performers, there is no incentive to include a Beastmaster to try and make them useful, and hence very little that can be said about the performance of the latter.
Take a photo of the model that you have almost certainly never seen before, then sweep this crappy unit off the table.
The Drukhari codex has a surprising number of strengths- many of its best units have survived edition to edition on the back of a strong statline, good general-performance guns, and special abilities that continue to be relevant no matter the edition changes. However, it is also home to some real stinkers- legacy units that have always been in a strange position and that have not been adapted well to later iterations of the game. It is these legacy units, including the Beastmaster and their charges, that almost always are overlooked when thinking about the Drukhari codex and how generally-solid it is, because both their model and rules support are both quite terrible. Pop quiz: can you picture the current Beastmaster unit in your mind? Do you know when it was released, even just to within a year? These forgotten units could easily be adapted into something cool and flavorful that gave an otherwise-diverse book even more fun options to play with, but sadly they remain essentially worthless even this late in the edition, with no real attempts to update them into being useful.
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