Codex Deathwatch: Hunting Space Elves

So, one of the first things that always comes up for competitive players in the current meta, no matter what army you are running, is how to deal with Tau and Eldar, as they are generally some of the most dominant and difficult factions to face currently. This is true of Deathwatch as well, both in terms of fluff (they are Xenos hunters, after all), and in terms of likely opponents they will have to deal with on the tabletop.

Today I am looking at how Deathwatch armies can combat Craftworld Eldar. More specifically, I am coming to realize that Deathwatch Veteran Squads/Kill Teams are basically the Imperium’s version of Crises Suits… highly customizable, very potent, especially in shooting, but still somewhat fragile, especially with the baseline MEQ profile (you will notice below that I took a page out of Tau player’s book and have started naming different configurations of Battle Groups based on their “parent” Kill Team type and weapons load-out; i.e. all Battle Groups based on Aquila Kill Teams have “Eagle” in the name, Battle Groups that rely on Grav Weapons a lot have “Ghost” in the name, etc.). For this analysis, I am going to focus on Veteran squads and Kill Teams that are part of a Black Spear Strike Force (i.e. in other words, they have Deep Strike and the ability to change Mission Tactics at least twice a game, potentially even more if you are running a Watch Master and/or have the “Vigilance Incarnate” WL Trait).

So, let’s take a look at what some of the most likely (and dangerous) threats the Deathwatch might encounter when facing the Craftworlders and, of course, how they might counter them effectively:

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[1] – Eldar Jetbikes with Scatter Lasers — For their points, these easily compete for some of the best, if not the best, Troops in the game, with amazing mobility (I think the phrase “Eldar Jetbike” speaks for itself here) and firepower (4 x S6 shots at 36″ and BS4 PER MODEL is better than many vehicles or MSU squads by themselves) and respectable survivability (e.g. T4, 3+ save, and the option to Jink). Since they are so effective, even in small units, many Eldar players run multiple squads of between 3-6 Jetbikes

So, how can Deathwatch efficiently counter MSU Windrider spam? Obviously, the ideal way is to hit them with mass Frag Cannon templates and/or charge them in CC (where they are horrible and cannot use their dangerous Scatter Lasers), but given Jetbike mobility and Scatter Laser range, this is likely hard than it looks (Drop Pods can help, but even those can’t get DW Kill Teams into assault and, for any units containing Bikes or Jump Infantry, they cannot be used). I think an ideal build is as follows —

“FIREBOW” Battle Group configuration:

-Furor Kill Team with 6 Veterans (1 with Frag Cannon, 5 with Stalker Boltguns) and Terminator with CML.

This squad can put out 10 x SX AP3 Sniper Shots, 2 x S7 AP3 shots, and 2 x S8 AP3 shots at 24″ range (or longer ranges, with the Krak Missiles from the CML) a turn. With Furor Tactics and Furor Doctrine activated when shooting at Eldar Jetbikes, that translates to an average of 10-11 hits, 8-9 AP3 wounds, and 4-5 unsaved wounds after Jink saves. Against that vast majority of Eldar Scatter Bike squads, that is enough to either wipe the entire unit out in a single volley or at least cause so many casualties so as to make it combat ineffective (especially when forcing the Eldar to Jink). While this “FIREBOW” build costs 230 points, it can statistically bring down 135 points of Scatter Bikes a turn, which means over the course of a typical 5-6 turn game, you could potentially eliminate five different 5 man Windrider squads, for a total of 675 points worth of models (or about three times the points value of the FIREBOW Battle Group). The advantage of this Battle Group is that it not only works against Eldar Jetbikes, but has the versatility to be effective against almost any type of MEQ based opponent, can threaten vehicles and MCs, is Fearless, can Deep Strike or ride a Drop Pod, can tank AP3 shooting with the Terminator, and has reasonable capabilities in close combat (Terminator PF, double Wall of Fire with the Frag Cannon, etc.).

[2] Eldar Wraithknight with dual Heavy Wraithcannons — Another classic “power” unit that many competitive Eldar players field, this GMC has buckets of mobility (12″ move and Jump Gargantuan Creature status), durability (6W, T8, 3+ save, FNP, and “Unstoppable”), and combat power for its points cost and can be very difficult for most armies to deal with, including the Deathwatch. Really, a player needs the ability to bring it down in a single “volley” so that the Wraithknight cannot continue to shoot and assault and so you can use the rest of your army to deal with the rest of the Eldar force. To accomplish this, I think one of the best options for the Deathwatch is the following:

“GHOST EAGLE” Battle Group configuration:

-Aquila Kill Team with 7 Veterans (all with Grav Guns and Bolters) and Librarian with Grav Pistol, “Dominus Aegis” Relic, and Divination discipline, all riding in a Drop Pod or a Rhino.

This squad puts out 16 Grav Gun shots at 9″ on the turn it disembarks. If you successfully cast Prescience, plus throw in Aquila Doctrine for re-rolls of 1s to Wound, then coming out of the Drop Pod or Rhino the GHOST EAGLE Battle Group averages 12-13 hits, about 9-10 wounds, and about 6-7 Unsaved Wounds on the Wraithknight after FNP rolls, which is more than enough to bring down the Eldar Lord of War with average rolling. In subsequent turns, the unit can engage other infantry targets with its Special Issue Ammunition or target another high armor unit with its 21 Grav shots at 18″ (provided it did not move), making it an excellent “forward firebase” unit to hold objectives and maneuver the rest of your army around. Additionally, if the unit stands still, then the Librarian can activate the “Dominus Aegis” and give the whole squad a 4++ save, making it much more durable against AP3/2/1 attacks. The entire GHOST EAGLE Battle Group comes in at just about 400 points, so VERY expensive for a single squad, but if you can take down a 300 point Wraithknight turn 1, then kill another squad or two the rest of the game, you will have made your points back and, more importantly, taken out one or more crucial elements of the enemy army, which has psychological impact all its own.

[3] MSU Warp Spider squads with BS5 (from Aspect Host formation) — Another very deadly, mobile unit that “pound for pound” outclasses most other units in 40K, Warp Spider squads have seen a large spike in popularity since their recent success in the tournament scene. With some of the best mobility for a non-flyer unit in the game, plus lots of S6 shooting (with quasi-Rending) at BS5, these Aspect Warriors are a threat to everything but AV13+ vehicles. To counter lots of minimum sized Warp Spider teams bounces around the board, I think Deathwatch have to “fight fire with fire” with min-sized Kill Teams of their own, as follows:

“EAGLE SABER” Battle Group configuration:

-Aquila Kill Team with 5 Veterans (all with Bolters and DW Shotguns) and two Terminators with Assault Cannons, all riding in a Drop Pod.

Upon disembarking, they use Aquila Doctrine and Venator Tactics to fire 10 Vengeance Rounds, hit with about 7-8, and inflict about 6 AP3 wounds, resulting in 6 dead Warp Spiders on average. The Terminators also fire their assault cannon, averaging 6-7 hits, about 6 AP4 wounds, and about 2 more Unsaved Wounds, for a total average of 8 dead Warp Spiders (or 152 points worth of models). Even against a 10 man unit, that should effectively neuter the Warp Spiders for the rest of the game, allowing the EAGLE SABER battle group to turn its attention to other targets (like additional MSU Warp Spider squads, for example). Again, the versatility of this Battle Group is nice, since the combination of Bolters and DW Shotguns enables it to deal with a variety of foes and the two Terminators provide strong tanking power and CC punch, beyond their effective Assault Cannon shooting.

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There are obviously a myriad of other Deathwatch Battle Groups that you can create/use, as there is also plenty of other dangerous Eldar units (Farseers, Hornets, War Walker, Wave Serpents, Dark Reapers, and Wraithguard with D-Scythes all come immediately to mind) to counter, but I think you would have a hard time going wrong with these three Battle Groups if you face Eldar opponents on a frequent basis.

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6 comments on “Codex Deathwatch: Hunting Space Elves

  1. WestRider says:

    The Ghost Eagle and Eagle Sabre are unfortunately illegal: The Special and Heavy Weapon lists require you to trade in your Bolter. Only the Ranged and Melee lists let you exchange a CCW or Pistol.

    Also, the Eagle Sabre group still doesn’t have any way to deal with the Spiders FlickerJumping behind a wall or out of Rapid Fire Range.

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    • greysplinter says:

      Actually, yes they have to trade in their Bolter for the heavy or special, but they can also trade in their melee weapon for a Bolter 😉 … thus, you can have a Special Weapon/Heavy Weapon AND a Bolter… check the Wargear section!

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  2. I’m glad to know that others have arrived at the same conclusion of massed Grav Aquila teams for taking out Wraithknights. One thing to point out however, Deathwatch do not have access to Combi-gravs because… reasons? The Librarian COULD take a Grav Pistol, as I plan on doing, but he loses out on long-ranged access to Grav.

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  3. WestRider says:

    Forgot to mention: The Ghost Eagle is also a great place for an Allied Cataphractii Captain to pitch in. He brings the overall cost up significantly, but you can trim almost 75 Points out of the Kill Team with the extra shots he adds on from S&P.

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