Out of all the units in the Dark Eldar codex, both old and new, the one that never really jived with anybody is Mandrakes. They have always been an odd unit that people really did not know how to use and never really had a place in the more popular list types. As we all know, despite being a blogger, I am not a fan of “ The internet says its bad so it must be” kind of mentality. I have a bit of a rant for next time concerning this in the wake of a game with Old School Terminator and a “Tier 1” blood angels list that came from the web, but I digress
So lets take a look at Mandrakes. I am determined to take em back from weird obscurity and ridicule. So we see they have a pretty decent stat line. A strength of 4 base is not to shabby in strength 3ville. Weapon skill 4 is on par with the rest of the codex. 2 attacks base is also nice. The have stealth, move through cover, infiltrate, power from pain and night vision. This is nice. They are the only unit in the codex with infiltrate as well. This means advanced set up from cover. It also means outflanking. These can be two very valuable methods of deployment in an army that can basically deep strike or do nothing. I think the two things people fixate on is the lack of a save, or I should say the save is only a 5+. Ok I will give you that, but it is invulnerably and better than a wyches save out in the open. They also have a 3+ save in area terrain. This is countered by the other reason people complain about them, they don't have grenades.
People have to remember that the average armor save in the codex is a 5+. The only real good invulnerably saves are the 4+ Wyches have in close combat and the Shadow Field. The balancing factor in the codex for the crappy saves is the Power From Pain rule. You kill a unit or gain a pain token from a Chronos and you have Feel No Pain. The first pain token is a double bonus for the Mandrakes as you gain an assault 2 AP 4 ranged attack that has a range of 18 inches. Thats 20 shots in a full unit of 10 at a ballistic skill of 4. Pretty nice against anything not in power armor.
I talk a lot about mutual support between units in regard to the Craftworlders. I am seeing an emerging pattern that is almost the same in the Dark Eldar. You have very specialist units mixed in with some very good generalist units that are fast and hard hitting. If you look at mandrakes as a supporting unit rather than a main close combat unit their strengths and uses become to be more obvious.
They can work in close support of a wych or warrior unit. Moving from cover to cover. If you have the ability to get them a pain token they become even more useful and flexible. Killing a small soft unit within charge distance or attaching a Haemonculus after the fact or even using the pain token generating powers of a Chronos Parasite engine. Mutual support is the key once again.
Deploying the Mandrake in cover and using them in guerrilla style warfare is the best tactic. Getting them a pain token as quickly as possible is your first priority. I have been experimenting with tactics involving Wyches and enhanced Aether sails to get amongst the enemy to help break down fire discipline and let the softer units advance and get into position. It basically allows you to tie up exposed units in close combat and chain assault tank walls with haywire grenades on turn 2. Having a unit of Mandrakes to support the Wyches, lets face it casualties will be high in the Wych front, will help keep the momentum of the assault and get them the pain token they need. It also allows you to keep your haywire equipped units engaged with vehicles. Having a Chronos in the back field to suck up the spirits of deep striking and drop podding units will also help the units up long as long as you can keep it within 12 inches.
I will have some more thoughts after getting a couple good games under my belt using the Mandrakes. I will also be talking about what exactly is a “Tier 1” list and who determines why it is so good.
Blood Runs, Anger Rises, Death Wakes, War Calls!!!!!!!!!!!!!