Drukhari Codex Review: Elites: Beastmaster

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Overview

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.

Uses

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.

Countering

Take a photo of the model that you have almost certainly never seen before, then sweep this crappy unit off the table.

Final Thoughts

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.

As always, remember that 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.

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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.)

9 Responses to “Drukhari Codex Review: Elites: Beastmaster”

  1. Avatar
    Vipoid March 18, 2020 3:05 pm #

    I agree with your assessment.

    Also, I find the rule that a Beastmaster can never have a Warlord trait baffling. Why not? Were the writers afraid that Beastmasters might actually outshine the proper DE HQs? Because maybe that should have told them something about the DE HQs. 😛

    That aside, the buffs Beastmasters give out seem pathetic even if Beasts weren’t already awful. It seems like they should really pick either a single Beast unit or a type of Beast within range, and give them a more significant buff.

    For all its power the DE book feels like very little actual effort went into it.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy March 18, 2020 7:26 pm #

      It’s a rule they put on a number of “baby” characters early on in the game, but eventually abandoned- presumably they were concerned about either some kind of abuse or of the cinematics of having a character that was really more of a squad upgrade be the leader of an army. However, they abandoned it pretty quickly, so you don’t really see it at all anymore.

      Yeah reroll 1s to hit and advance is a pretty sad bonus even if it were to affect all models in their faction; the fact that it is limited to a single type of squad is even more sad. If they redid the book I might expect them to allow beasts to reroll all hit rolls or something along those lines, or give +1str/tough or something like that.

      • Avatar
        Vipoid March 19, 2020 7:31 am #

        Huh. fair enough. I couldn’t remember seeing anywhere other than the Beastmaster (and possibly the assassins?).

        Regarding the Beastmaster, I think part of the problem is that he doesn’t really have a role. Previously, he was the sergeant-equivalent for Beasts, representing that there had to be *someone* in charge of them. But now he’s in this weird position where he’s technically a separate character, yet his buff is exceptionally weak and he’s nowhere near good enough at melee or shooting to be a credible threat himself.

        I think he should really have been elevated to HQ with proper HQ stats and (as you suggest) a much more meaningful aura.

        Also, instead of just handing out his crap Ld to beasts, I kinda wish he had something like:
        Break it up!
        Whenever a Beast unit fails a morale check within 6″ of a Beastmaster, you may roll a d6. On a 4-6, the morale check is treated as having been passed instead. On a 2-3 only one beast is lost from the unit. On a 1, the Beasts turn on him: the morale check is still failed and the Beastmaster suffers 1d3 Mortal Wounds.

        • Avatar
          abusepuppy March 19, 2020 7:54 pm #

          GW always drastically overestimates how useful morale-affecting abilities will be, in every edition. They have this perception that going from Ld5 to Ld7 is a huge bonus, when it’s actually pretty meaningless.

  2. Avatar
    gvcolor March 18, 2020 6:34 pm #

    Laugh at me, I almost always include a pack of 10 Khymera because I have 25 😀 I love all my old Warp Beasts and even the newer rendition – but yeah they last one turn, most people don’t know what the hell they are, so I guess it spares something more valuable getting taken out.

    Would love to see the Beastpack go back to being a mixed model unit for fluff reasons, besides all that you mentioned. You are sending these write-ups to the GW Rules Team, right? 😉

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy March 18, 2020 7:27 pm #

      Oh man if I could get GW to listen to the things I say, I would have waaaaaaaaaay more than the couple of thousand words I put up here for them.

      • Avatar
        Dakkath March 18, 2020 7:42 pm #

        I’d love it if you were on the design team.
        Wait, then we wouldn’t get these excellent articles because of nondisclosure clauses.
        Dang it.

        • Avatar
          Ohlmann March 19, 2020 2:02 am #

          Also, the problem isn’t just the writer, it’s also the instructions they get from high up. Most bafflingly, it’s how the infamous initial AoS rules were made. The one with the manlier moustache and all.

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy March 19, 2020 4:06 am
            #

            Yeah, there is certainly some blame to be put on the designers, but from everything I’ve heard there is a LOT of pressure from the corporate side constraining what they can do, or are told to prioritize, and under those kinds of restrictions even a good designer is going to struggle to produce anything resembling quality content.

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