Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The 13 Foundations Of Vengeance: Dark Eldar List Building

Art by Chris Trevas
I was happy to see a nice mix of armies at Adepticon this year. The Eldar and Dark Eldar did not have a great showing though. Yours truly included. I noticed the typical Craftworld lists with lots of war walkers, falcons and fire dragons. The Dark Eldar lists seemed to have lots of warriors and wyches and hordes of raiders and venoms. The later, the small squads and venoms, kind of surprised me. Maybe its just how I think about game outcomes and how I build lists, but I saw these spammed lists as a very bad idea.
Although they had lots of fire power and objective grabbing potential in theory, I saw the lists as inherently flawed and very weak in terms of how you, or at least how I, run the army. So what do I see as flaws in the Venom spam and mass small squad trend that seems to have been popular this time around?
The list does play to the strengths of the Dark Eldar army. Its fast, mobile and packs a potential punch with the amount of lance weapons you can pack into it. The real problem comes in when you see that you are losing your mobility when you use dark lances. Granted you can use blasters in your squads, but this lessons your range substantially. Since you can't shoot while embarked on the vehicle if it moves 12 inches you loose your mobility or your ability to shoot. You could disembark, but this leaves you very exposed. This is doubly bad if you have less than 10 in the squad. That was the main thing that really bugged me. You take a very fragile army and make it so the squads can get wiped out in one turn by a combat squad. You have a lot of squads that can get one shot with anti tank weapons. You can address a bunch or targets and maybe get some kills but its kind of an all or nothing deal. The return salvo is going to decimate you if you were not successful in suppressing your opponents fire. You are also going to get wrecked if you don't have first turn. As you know I am also not a fan of lists that have tons of kill points in it. Venom spam lists have tons of kill points in them. All this just won't do.

So what do I think is a good list. Well you have to take in a few different considerations. First you have to consider the type of mission you are playing. Tournament missions typically are multi tiered. This means you have to really look at what the objectives are. Kill points, objectives and some sort of table quarter or deployment zone control or denial is involved. You can't try and do them all, so you should gear the list to do two. As two out of 3 mission objectives wins you the game. I like to go for holding an objective and Kill points. This gives my army model some synergy. I have to deny table quarters and prevent units form contesting or controlling anything and I do this by destroying them. The next consideration is army size. You have to mind how many kill points you potentially could give up. Although its hard to do I try and limit the amount of Kill points in a Dark Eldar list to a maximum of 12, and that is if I am hurting for something. Limiting the amount of transports helps quit a bit as does limiting HQ choices. You have to be able to do the mission objectives while at the same time denying your opponent. Having built in safe guards, such as limiting the amount of kill points in a list, is the way to do this. You also want to go heavy on the troops. Good solid troop choices let you deal some death and complete your objectives. In my mind a solid troop choice is a squad of 10 Kabalite Warriors with a sybarite, deployed in cover or in a transport. You can even go bigger than 10 if you want to ditch the added firepower of the raider, but this limits your mobility and takes away an extra anti tank weapon. It does however eliminate a kill point your opponent could score rather easily. Increasing the survivability of a unit is how you make it solid and deny your opponent the kill. This means pain tokens and using cover for dark Eldar outside their transports. It means keeping your wyches locked in combat. It means using Flicker fields on your raiders and adding night shields to those vehicles that stay at range. In missions using victory points its good to avoid point sink death star units. Even at half strength they can give your opponent the edge when it comes to tallying victory points.

SO some tips to star with. I am calling this road to list building “The 13 Foundations of Vengeance”.   I will be posting more specific tricks ploys and stratagems as I get the list honed. As always though I am not going to post a list as You should develop that for yourself and play the crap out of it.

Now I go to lament my lack of funds and inability to go to Evolution Games tonight due to said lack of funds. If I learned anything form Adepticon, it is to over plan and save money like crazy before I go.

Until next time.........

Blood Runs, Anger Rises, Death Wakes, War Calls!!!!!!!!!


  1. Of the few games that I've played with my Dark Eldar I noticed that even though the Raiders speed limits firing power of the unit inside...they do have the ability to close the gap really quickly on the table with aethersails and even if they get shot down and explode; the open top rule manages to save almost all my unit except maybe 1 or two. So basically I've been sacrificing raiders in order to get my guys across the table fast. Maybe not the smartest move...but it's worked so far.

    Also, a 9-10 unit of Incubi lead by Drazhar is ferocious in CC. If I keep them locked in CC, they just slice and dice through unit after unit.

  2. I should have prefaced that statement by saying I'm used to playing Chaos very chaotically and my skills are more model based than game based. So I'm still a bit green at learning game strategy.

  3. The raiders do get your units into the fray quick. I use the aether sail enhanced bum rush for my wych units. I also agree incubi are beasts in close combat. Especially on the charge after they get that second pain token. I like to use Incubi as often as possible although I can't usually justify Drazhar due to his points cost unless he is my only HQ.
    Sacrifices are made and happen, but they should not be made unless you gain a great deal from the sacrifice.

  4. I really do agree with most of what u have said with big troop squads, been playing dark eldar for 10 years now and with the recent codex I have a love for 3 trueborn with blasters in venoms *3, 3 ravagers and then my 3 wych squads in raiders at 9 each squad. Through in a combat lord. And some anti horde haemonculi for gd measure and despite being 18 killpoints I can win comfortable and compete in all missions

  5. The haemonculi is really what gets me. I liek using them as well because of the liquifier guns and other arcane weapons that bring blast templates in. 18 kill points is the brain seizure for me. Granted I am use to running Craftworld lists that have maybe 10 KP's at the most. I have run the truborns in small venom riding squads with some good results. they pop the transport then the venom, armed with 2 splinter cannons, wastes the occupants of the transport. works decently as long as you don't leave them exposed. they really have to work to earn their points back and dying afte popping one tank, unless its a land raider, really makes them literal one trick ponies. It all depends on placement and using your terrain though.

  6. I run them to purely just rip open enemy tanks and transports so my wyches can do what they do best also the TB help mid game when I'm low on my ravagers, also I love the 2 cannon venom beautiful for the number of shots can throw down some hurt. Points wise that unit comes in at 156 so not to expensive. Also you need to give plenty of targets to your opponent as unlike our craftworld cousins we don't have armour so will almost always lose 5 tanks a game. And the haemonculi are awesome, I personally like the 15 point shattershard 1 in 3 chance to get rid of a dorn or grimmar yes please. Josh

  7. Yeah I am a fan of the shattershard. I like the many different options for weapons that do characterisitc tests rather than just strait wounds.

  8. Great article, and I'm looking forwards to the rest of the series.

    I agree with most of the article. The only part that made me raise an eyebrow was the comment on 12 kill points being a maximum. As soon as you start using transports (even full squads on raiders) the kill points shoot up. Dark Eldar simply do not have expensive mounted squads like Eldar do, and their transports are half the cost for the good reason that they are very fragile.

    You can try lowering the kill point total be adding upgrades to the unit and raider but I find very soon you aren't adding much to the effectiveness of the unit for the extra cost. I'd rather have 3 squads with minimal upgrades than 2 fully kitted out.

    Using large incubi squads can lower kill points, but I find they are normally overkill for most things they charge, and are still fragile for their cost.

    Other ways to lower kill points is to take units which don't require a transport such as our fast attack units. However if like me, you don't want to use hellions (because everyone is using them), and won't finish converting and painting my beastmaster unit for a while, plus preferring trueborns in venom for anti-tank blasters how do I keep my kill points down ?


  9. You raise a good point. It is nigh unto impossible to keep KP down in a Dark Eldar army. As you said once you start adding transports it gets out of hand. I am still trying to tackle this one. I have been experimenting with units that don't require transports as you mentioned as well.

    I have been keeping the KP down by kitting my units well and actually using Void Raven bombers as opposed to Ravagers. With the Blob squads and green tides I have been getting hit with lately, the array of missiles is actually nice. The 9, 2 Lances with a 9, 2 lance bomb is also nice. The only real problem is that fact they then become big targets. More so than the Ravagers for some reason.

  10. It is hard to get kill points down if doing any sort of mech force. Also I find I always want 5 or 6 troop choices to get enough bodies for scoring as DE are so fragile.

    The bomber is only as good as a ravager at tank popping, the extra points seem a lot for the extra ability. However your idea has got me thinking about the razorwing. Upgraded with a splinter cannon it's only 50 pts more than a ravager. The extra anti-infantry the razorwing gives would mean I wouldn't mind losing a venom, using the pts from it's occupants to fill out other units, and most importantly losing me 2 kill points in the process.

    Using a razorwing and a beastmaster unit would lower my kill points marginally, as long as I can cope with less troops. I'll to give it a go.