Beating the Craftworlders… Sci-Fi Armored Werewolves with Laser Cannons!!!

With the new Craftoworld Eldar book out and lots of analysis going on, most people seem to agree that the majority of the codex is solid and fluffy, but that three groups of units stand-out as potentially overpowered from a competitive sense.

The three units that most point to as too good for their points are;

1 – Windrider Jetbikes (especially with the option for EVRY model to upgrade with either a Shuriken Cannon or a Scatter Laser)

2 – Wraithguard with D-Scythes (i.e. auto hit D weapons means they can “point and click” kill almost any vehicle or squad in the came, especially when coming in with no scatter on an allied DE Webway Portal)

3 – Wraithknight, with new Gargantuan Creature status (i.e. reduces sniper and poison weapons to wounding on a 6+ and gain FNP), all for less than 300 points

So, looking from a Space Wolf perspective, how does a cunning Wolf Lord combat these crazy new Xenos threats?

The answer, I think, lies in Long Fangs…. lots and lots of Long Fangs. And Lascannons. And Ulrik the Slayer.

Imagine the following battle-group:

-3 packs of Long Fangs, all with 5 Lascannons

-Ulrik the Slayer

-Skyshield Landing Pad

Putting all of the models on the Skyshield Landing Pad (for elevated LOS and a 4++ save) and making sure that each squad is within 6″ of Ulrik (for Preferred Enemy), this gives you very solid potential against the “Big 3” Eldar threats:

1 – Jetbikes — With 15 Lascannon shots, all with PE support and Spilt Fire (potentially targetting up to 6 different units), the Lascannon Long Fangs get 11-12 hits, 11-12 wounds, and 11-12 dead Eldar Jetbikes a turn (unless the Jetbikes Jink, which reduces the unsaved wounds to 5-6 on average, but which also neutralizes the Jetbike shooting… if multiple Jetbikers Jink, then that means multiple Jetbike squads can’t use their Shuriken Cannons/Scatter Lasers effectively). Over the course of the first 2-3 game turns, the Long Fangs should be able to wipe out (or at least neutralize via Jinking) a very significant portion of your opponent’s Jetbike squads, in turn allowing the rest of your Space Wolves to operate freely, get across the table into combat (which Eldar DO NOT like with Space Wolves), and/or seize critical objectives in Maelstron missions.

2 – Wraithguard — With their T6 and short-ranged but super potent D-weapons, the threat of Wraithguard coming in with DE Webway Portals or jumping out of Wave Serpents and laying waste up close is very real. Regarding Wave Serpents, now that they have been nerfed a bit, Lascannon Long Fangs are much better prepared to “de-mech” the Wraithguard and make them walk (which makes them much less of a threat). With 15 Lascannon shots, the Long Fangs should get 11-12 hits and 7-8 glancing hits (or better) against Wave Serpents, meaning they can potentially kill three Wave Serpents in a single shooting phase, thus preventing Wraithguard from getting in close for the killing blow. If you are facing a “footdar” army with lots of Wraithguard sans transports, then the Long Fangs can snipe them down with 15 Lascannon shots, 11-12 hits, and 11-12 dead Wraithguard a shooting phase (given that they will likely take 2-3 turns to get accross the board, you should be able to kill most of them before they get in range). The greatest threat is from Wraithguard with D-Scythes riding in on DE Webeway Portals… while you can’t do much to prevent this outside of bubble wrapping key units and deploying to prevent effective eldar deep striking, once they have come in and done their initial shooting, the Long Fangs can “counterattack” with lots of Lascannon shooting to the face, killing of those dangerous models quickly and preventing them from shooting more with their D weapons in subsequent turns.

3 – Wraithknight — This is where Lascannon Long Fangs really shine. With their 15 Lascannon shots, 11-12 hits, 9 wounds, and 6 unsaved wounds after FNP rolls, the Long Fangs should statistically eliminate a Wraithknight every shooting (unless it has a 5++, in which case they would need some extra help to bring it down in a single phase). Even if your Eldar opponent spams multiple Wraithknights via the Cratworld Warhost detachment, that is a lot of points and the Long Fangs should be a plink one down each turn meaning that, by turn 3-4, your opponent doesn’t have any Wraithknights left (and not much of an amy either, given their points cost).

Of course, none of this is full-proof, especially since there is no guarantee that the Long Fangs will be able to keep shooting all game long without casualties of their own or enemy interference, but the point is, combined with Lascannons and Ulrik, they provide a very strong, 48″ counter to the most potent Eldar threats in the new book.

Chaos Space Marines and the new Vindicator…

Forgeworld just came out with some new units, including the Deimos pattern Vindicator, which Chaos Space Marines have access to as a Heavy Support choice:

http://www.forgeworld.co.uk/Downloads/Product/PDF/D/Deimos_Vindicator_Laser_Destroyer.pdf

As you can see, if the Deimos Vindicator stays still, it can fire 3 x S9 AP1 TLed Ordnance shots out to 48″ (with the risk of a 1 in 6 chance of losing a Hull Point to “overheat,” like Plasma weapons). For the price of 5 PFs and a MB, that gives you a tank which is like the much more expensive Predator Annihilator (i.e. on TLed Lascannon and two regular Lascannons), but with AP1 on its Lascannons, all of its shots TLed (unlike just one on the Predator), and the Ordnance rule (allowing two dice, pick the highest, for each roll to penetrate).

Not only is this vehicle strong against vehicles, but it can perform like a long-range, 3-shot, vehicle based sniper, with 88% accuracy per shot and wounding almost anything in the game (except Wraithknights/Lords) on a 2+, with no Armor saves allowed. Put another way, think of this as a vehicle based Vindicare Assassin with slightly less range and BS, but cheaper, more versatile, and with 3 shots a turn, vice only one.

Since CSM generally lack effective long-range fire support (Obliterators and Havocs aside), I think the Deimos Vindicator (or even a pair of them… there is no Relic Vehicle rule like with Sicaran Predators) could be an excellent addition to a competitive Chaos Space Marine task force. Take two Deimos Vindicators, place them on a Skyshield Landing Pad for a 4++ save (doubling their survivability against shooting), and punch out 6 x S9 AP1 Ordnance shots at BS4 (twin-linked) a turn… this should provide an excellent firebase to support the maneuver of the rest of your Traitor Marines on the battlefield.

Jain Zar and Grotesquerie….

Looking at the new Craftworld Eldar book and there appears to be several strong combinations between them and allied Harlequins and Dark Eldar.

One particularly strong combination is combining Jain Zar and the Grotesquerie formation (one Haemonculus and two Goteques squads) from the Haemonculus Covens supplement. Have Jain Zar and the Haemonculus (with Flesh Guantlet and a Liquifier gun) join a squad of four Grotesques (all with Liquifier guns) in a Raider. Based on the “Latest Experiments” rule from the Grotesquerie, the Groteques all have either S6, T6 (which goes to the whole unit, through majority toughness rules), Fleet, Shred, Rage, or FNP(4+). The Haemonculus also improves their Power through Pain “status” by +1, meaning that by turn 3 they will gain IWND, turn 4 they will also get Hatred, and turn 5 they will additionally get Eternal Warrior.

Add to all this Jain Zar and you get a -1WS/Initiative bubble for all enemies within 6″ of her. That means that the entire squad should be hitting on 3+s (and likely being hit on 5+s, for most enemies) in assault and also striking before their enemies in combat. Additionally, due to her Banshee mask, enemy units cannot overwatch on the squad as it charges in (looking at you here, Tau). Finally, Jain Zar has Fear and her “War Shout” ability, which makes enemy locked in close combat with her have -2Ld. Combined with the “Freakish Spectacle” rule of the Haemonculus to net -3 Ld for the enemy (so at best they are Ld7), this means that if the Squad wins combat, as it is likely to do, the enemy is very likely to break and, with its initiative reduced by -5, basically automatically lose the Sweeping Advance roll off and be wiped out (unless they are Space Marines and have ATSKNF, of course).

Shooting-wise, this squad put out 5 x S3 AP (variable) Templates a turn, plus Jain Zar’s 4 x S4 AP2 Triskele shots (fire at BS7, so very likely to hit). Combined this should do great damage against hordes and even do well against heavy infantry (especially if the Liquifier guns get a low AP value).

Combat-wise, on the charge the squad puts out 21 x Flesh Gauntlet attacks (Poison 4+, with 6 to Wound getting Instant Death), most of which are S5, so good chance for re-rolls to wound against most targets due to Poison rules. Add into this Jain Zar’s 5 x S4 AP2 Shred attacks on the charge, all at WS7 and I7, and you have some brutal close combat output. Should you have to challenge an enemy (or be challenged), Jain Zar can “neutralize” one of their close combat weapons per turn by giving up one of her attacks… i.e. she can make an enemy “lose” his Thunder Hammer or Relic weapon while in the challenge while still having 4 x S4 AP2 Shred attacks a turn herself in the challenge. Translation: DO NOT get into a challenge with Jain Zar!

Since the whole unit can ride in the Raider, they should be able to rapidly move accross the board (12″ move + 24″ Flat Out with Aeither sails upgrade), survive enemy shooting (Jink + Night Shields gets you a 3+ cover save), and then set up a turn 2 charge (since the vehicle is open-topped) by Jain Zar and her Frankenstein bodyguards. Finally, with good use of Look Out, Sir! and model positioning, you can maximizie the survivability of this unit against shooting… Jain Zar can “tank” AP3 and below shots with her 2+ Phoenix Armor while the Grotesques, with their T5, FNP, and 3W each can “tank” torrent of fire shooting that might normally be a threat to Jain Zar and the Hamonculus.

Overall, I think this is a very affordable (points-wise), survivable, and deadly unit that can be quite effective in competitive games.

Killing Wraithknights part 3…. Dark Eldar and Harlequin Assassin style

Continuing to look at how each different army deals with the new Eldar Wraithknight and its Gargantuan Creature/LOW status.

Dark Eldar have taken a significant hit in this category, since all their poisoned weaponry are reduced to wounding on 6+s (and the Wraithknight has FNP), so they have to rely on Dark Lance/Blaster spam to deal with T8 Gargantuan Creatures (and even this takes tons of focused fire and may not even succeed).

One way to mitigate this is to take an allied Harquin formation, specifically the “Cast of Players” formation, which consists of the following:

-One Death Jester

-One Shadowseer

-One Harlequin Troupe

The entire formation gets Crusader USR and hands it out to allied Dark Eldar within 6″, so not a bad bonus. Also, the Death Jester and Shadowseer must remain attached to the squad, but they are useful enough and the overall points cost of this formation is low enough ot justify taking it without detracting too much from an overall Dark Eldar force.

Now, here is where the the “synergy” comes in. Take 12 Harlequin Player and equip the entire Troupe with Neuro Disruptors (the Shadowseer as well). That’s 13 Neurodisruptors total. Also, take Telepathy and Phantasmancy on the Shadowseer for access to Psychic Shriek and Veil of Tears as the Primaris powers. Finally, take the Mask of Secrets relic on the Shadowseer.

Next, attach them to a Dark Eldar HQ equipped with a Webway Portal and a Blast Pistol (Archon with a Shadowfield could work well). Finally, starting Turn 2+, having them DS without scattering right within 12′ of the target enemy Wraithknight.

From there, in the Psychic Phase, hit the Wraithknight with Psychic Shriek to try and strip some wounds off (average 3D6 roll is 11 and Wraithknight, after -2 Ld from Mask of Secrets, has Ld 8, so that 3 wounds with no saves, reduced to 2 unsaved wounds by FNP).

Following that, in the shooting phase, hit the Wraithknight with 13 Neuro Disruptor shots…. at BS4 and with AP2 and Fleshbane, that should translate into 7-8 wounds…. after the Wraithknight gets its FNP rolls, the end result shoul dbe about 4-5 unsaved wounds. Throw in the BS5 Blast Pistol and you might even get one more unsaved wound.

Now, between Psychic Shriek, the Neuro Disruptors, and the Blast Pistol you should be able to be able to, in a single player turn when the squad comes in from Deep Strike, inflict an average of about 7 unsaved wounds, which results in one dead Gargantuan Creature Lord of War for your opponent and a dramatic shift in combat power in your favor in a single turn.

Of course, the Shadowseer can also cast Veil of Tears in that same turn in order to make the squad MUCH more capable of absorbing enemy return fire after they assassinate the Wraithknight, in turn allowing them to be set up to move, shoot again, and hopefully charge the following turn, thus contributing even more to your overall game plan.

Imperial Assassins and neutralizing the Craftworld Eldar Jetbikes…

Another upcoming Craftworld Eldar unit that us getting lots of attention as “overpowered” is the Windrider Jetbike squadron upgraded with Scatter Lasers (every model can choose this upgrade).

Throw in a Warlock “squad leader” upgrade, which can give the squadron Shrouded or other Runes of Battle powers, and an attached a Divination Jetbike Farseer (for Prescience, ignore cover, all attacks becoming Rending, etc. etc.) and you have the makings of a cheap, robust, highly mobile, hard-hitting unit that makes the already top-level Eldar even more competitive.

This of course begs the question, how do you cost-effectively counter the new Windrider Jetbikes? There are several different solutions, but for any Imperium army, the option to take Imperial Assassins provides a versatile tool in combating this Xenos threat:

-Vindicare – With the ability to ignore armor, cover, and Invul saves with his Shieldbreaker rounds, not to mention his top level BS, the Vindicare is ideal at taking out Warlock squad leaders… this not only removes a 50+ point model, but removes Leadership, supporting Psychic powers, and the ability to make their Jink save into a 2+ cover save (which is key for them holding onto Objectives). Alternately, you could use him to finish off the last wound on a Jetbike Farseer, again debuffing the unit significantly. Finally, you can use the Vindicare and Hellfire rounds to strip one Jetbiker a turn, if all else fails.

-Culexus – With great survivability against shooting, multiple S5 AP2 shots at BS8, and dangerous close combat abilities, not to mention Infiltrate, the Culexus can get in close, shoot, and even charge Windrider Jetbikes and take them out of the game early on. As mentioned, he also wreaks absolutely havoc on Psykers, so he can strip the Windriders of any psychic buffs and effectively snipe out their Warlock/Farseer. Better yet, he can (and likely will) absorb lots of the shooting attention from the Jetbikes, preventing them from focusing on the rest of your army.

-Callidus – With only Snapshots at her the turn she arrives or Turn 1, she is survivable like the Culexus (at least early on) and her ability to position exactly where she wants to be means her Neural Shredder (SX AP2 template that always wounds on a 4+) makes her ideal for roasting down half a squad of Windriders turn 1 and, if she survives, Neural Shredding them again turn 2 followed by a charge with 6 x S6 AP2 attacks with her C’tan blade, giving her the potential for neutralizing or even destroying multiple Windrider squads a game.

-Eversor – The most maligned of the Assassins, the Eversor is the ideal counter to Windrider Jetbikes…. With 8 x S5 AP3 attacks on the charge and (if he starts in an Assault Vehicle like a Land Raider) a potential 30” charge range turn 1, he can potentially get into combat turn 1 and, between winning combat/Sweeping Advance (assassins have better Initiative than Eldar even), carve a path through multiple Windrider squads over the course of a game. Throw in his multiple BS8 pistols shots a turn and his MBs (to threaten any nearby Eldar vehicles and you have a unit that is ideally equipped to disrupt the synergy of Eldar Jetbike heavy armies.

Put all these assassins together (if you take the Assassin detachment) and you can potentially “defang” a Saim-Hann battle-group from the get-go and provide your Imperium army the ability to deal with the rest of his force effectively.

Fighting Fire with Fire…. how to kill the Craftworld Eldar Wraith Knight

As almost every probably knows, the Wraithlord in the new Craftworld Eldar book had a points hike and is now a Lord of War and Gargantuan Creature (giving it FNP, reduced damage from poison/sniper, and the ability to shoot all its weapons at independent targets, among other things). There are many arguments about the Wraithknight being overpowered, but the reality is that it is here to stay, so how do you combat it?

From a Space Marine perspective, the ultimate answer is a squad of 3 Grav-Cannon Centurions with an attached Librarian and all riding in a Fast Attack Drop Pod. Say the target is a Wraithknight with Suncannon and Shield, which gives it the most potential survivability possible.

Turn 1, bring this unit in with the Drop Pod within 24″ of the enemy Wraithknight (hopefully there is only one, given that it is now a Lord of War). Use Prescience on the squad from the allied BA Librarian to get the following:

-(15 shots)*(8/9 to Hit)*(8/9 to Wound)(*2/3 to fail 5++ Invul)*(2/3 to fail FNP) = 5-6 unsaved wounds, which is just enough, if you error on the lucky side of averages, to “one shot” the Wraithknight… even if it has 1-2 wounds left, with focused fire from the rest of your army (say a supporting Triple Lascannon Predator or a Biker Squad with Grav guns), you should be able to finish off the Gargantuan creature.

The good thing about this battle group is that it is not a “niche” unit that is only good at killing Wraithknights… Centurions in a Drop Pod with Libby support are excellent against a whole range of targets and are basically guaranteed to get the first round of shooting in without interference, given the mobility of the Drop Pod and their ability to start in Reserve. Also, you can potentially have 2 of these battle groups for redundancy and to engage multiple targets (heaven forbid you face an enemy with two Lords of War slots, meaning you have to take out two Wraithknights!).

As I have mentioned in previous articles, taking out the physical unit is a big deal, but even more than that is the wrench you can throw in his game when you remove his “uber” unit in a single shooting phase Turn 1 of the game… it is kind of the equivalent of scoring a touchdown on the first play of a football game, with the opponent thrown back on his heels by the suddenness and shock of your success, not to mention the havoc you wreak on plans by taking out a critical cog of his army.

Craftworld Eldar: Howling Banshees and the Avatar….. Harbingers of Dooooommmm!!!

Based on the recent rumors (which I am assuming are accurate, based on their level of detail and seeing them in multiple places), it looks like the Avatar of Khaine gains some improved abilities.

Among them is his 12” aura giving all friendly Eldar units Fearless, Rage, and Furious Charge, vice the old version which only gave Fearless to units within range. Banshees appear to have some significant buffs as well, with +3” added to both their run and charge distance and no penalties for charging into terrain (so., coupled with Banshee Masks, they should almost always strike first).

Now, given that all this is true, combining these two means you could potentially run an effective “foot-mobile” close combat battle group. Imagine the following:

-Avatar

-3 x units of 10 Banshees, each with Exarch and Executioner upgrades (from Aspect Host formation)

-Farseer with Bike, Mantle of the Laughing God, and Telepathy powers (Shrouded is best, since you can use it to protect all of the units within 6″ and even give them a 3++ cover save when they are in terrain).

Have all the units move up field as quickly as possible, using Fleet, Battle Focus, and Banshee extra Run bonus. Once in range, charge your selected unit with Banshees. As long as the Banshees are in range of the Avatar, each squad should get 36 x S4 AP3 attacks at I5 (and ignoring overwatch, due to new version of Banshee Masks) and 4 x S6 AP2 attacks at I6 (from the Exarch with Executioner).  On top of this, if Banshees are taken from the Aspect Host formation, then they can choose to have +1WS, so WS5, meaning they are hitting most units on a 3+. Against MEQs, that translates into 24 hits and 12 AP3 wounds, so 12 dead Marines, not counting the Exarch’s WS6 I6 S6 AP2 attacks. This also doesn’t even count the Avatar himself getting into combat and wrecking house with his MC abilities and S8 AP2 Wailing Doom attacks at initiative.

As you can see that is a very potent unit that is a real threat in competitive games, especially compared to the old version of the Banshees. Combine this with multiple redundant threats, like Fire Dragons, Wraithguard, and  supporting War Walkers and Fliers, and I think Banshees have a new lease on life.