Genestealer Cult: Counter-Eldar Tactics

As I continue to look through the new Genestealer Cult rumors, I think more and more that they will be a very solid, competitive army, especially in the hands of a skilled player who can maximize their special rules, wargear options, and unit choices. Since Craftworld Eldar are generally considered the most “powerful” codex out right now (with Tau right behind them), here are my initial thoughts on how the new Genestealer Cult army can counter the Space Elves:

[1] Webber weapons — These are new (or “rebooted” old, really) weapons that Genestealer Cult units have access to. Web Pistols are S3, Webbers are S4, they are both Assault 1, Small Blast Weapons whose AP is determined by the the strength of their target… if a target is S3, for example, then they are AP3, if it is S4, they they are AP4, etc. Given that the entire Eldar Codex, except for Wraith constructs, Phoenix Lords, and the Avatar of Khaine, are S3 and have 3+ saves or worse, this makes Webber weapons very effective against almost all Eldar non-vehicle units. I think they will particularly shine against Eldar Jetbikes and Aspect Warriors, as their S3/$4, AP3, and multiple Small Blasts can really put out the wounds.

[2] Purestrain Genestealers — This guys cost the same as “normal” Genestealers from the Tyranids Codex, but are better in multiple ways, including coming stock with Stealth, 3A base, and a 5++ Invul Save. They also get access to the Cult Ambush and Return to the Shadows rules, which makes them MASSIVELY more dangerous; about the only advantage “normal” Genestealers have is Objective Secured in a CAD from their Troops status. Additionally, Purestrain Genestealers gain Furious Charge if they are joined by a Patriarch. Taken all together, especially with the potential to get VERY close to enemy units (and even possibly assault the turn they arrive, if you are lucky) when arriving from Reserves via Cult Ambush and the ability to go back into Ongoing Reserves and “rinse and repeat” via Return to the Shadows, and you have a truly deadly assault unit (their massed WS6 I6 Rending attacks will even strike faster and better than most Eldar) who can actually catch the mobile Craftworlders and tear them up in combat (i.e. 15 Genestealers with Scything Claws upgrades get 75 attacks on the charge, about 50 hits, 8-9 Rends, and about 6 Unsaved Wounds on a Wraithknight after FNP rolls, all before the Wraithknight even has a chance to strike).

[3] Broodmind Powers — With the ability to nerf Eldar stats (i.e. Mass Hypnosis), hurt them with solid Witchfires (i.e. Psionic Blast or Mental Onslaught), or buff friendly units to be even more dangerous (i.e. Psychic Stimulus and Might from Beyond), especially when charging out of Cult Ambush arrival or a friendly Goliath Truck, this discipline can work very well against Eldar in the hands of a Patriarch and/or Magus. Even better, if you roll up Telepathic Summons you can keep bringing in more free reinforcements (with free upgrades, to boot!), but the best is Mind Control. If you manage to get this ability off on a unit of enemy Wraithguard, Scatbikes, Warp Spiders, Dark Reapers, Fire Dragons, or Dire Avengers (or even an enemy Wraithknight with dual Heavy D Cannons), you can turn the Eldar player’s potent firepower against himself and potentially even change the course of the game in a single Psychic Phase.

Strategery…Grey Knights and allied Eldar (HQs)

As I have been looking at how to maximize a competitive Grey Knights army (they were my first 40K army, back in 4th edition, and thus my “first love” in Warhammer), more and more I think that in their current iteration they need to take some allies to be competitive, unlike in 5th edition, where they could take on top-tier lists and win with one Nemesis Force Weapon tied behind their backs! ūüėČ

So, there are plenty of options for Grey Knights among the forces of the Imperium, but I think, perhaps a little surprisingly, that one of the best potential allies for the Astartes of the Ordos Malleus is actually the Craftworld Eldar. While they are Allies of Convenience, and so cannot share benefits, Psychic Power Blessings, or have ICs join allied units like Battle Brothers can, a small Allied Detachment of Eldar can bring several things to the fight to substantially enhance a Grey Knights primary force built around a Nemesis Strike Force:

[1] “Commando” Autarch — Give¬†a¬†lone¬†Autarch Swooping Hawk Wings, a Banshee Mask, the Celestial Lance relic (from the Iyanden Supplement), and a Power Axe. Turn 1, move up 18″ (thanks to Swooping Hawk Wings), shoot with the Lance (S8 AP2 Lance at 6″)and¬†then charge another 2D6″ (with re-rolls from Fleet) for a very solid chance of getting into assault. On the charge the enemy cannot Overwatch, thanks to the Banshee Mask (this is great against Tau, especially) and the Autarch hits with 5 x S8 AP2 attacks, all at WS6 (so hitting on 3+s against all but the most elite opponents) and at I6 (so striking first 95%+ of the time). Against many opponents, that is enough to win the combat out-right, even running solo, and even if you do not win/Sweep the enemy squad (good old I6 means you will almost always winning a Sweeping Advance roll-off), you have at least tied up that critical unit for a round (or two or three) of combat, preventing them from shooting (imagine using this against, say, a squad of Grav Cannon Centurions).

So, how does all this help a Grey Knight army? Well, the ability to assault, defeat/tie-up a key enemy unit Turn 1 can be decisive when used in conjunction with a DSing Nemesis Strike Force. For example, say you Deep Strike your Grey Knights in (with the +1 to Reserve Rolls from the Autarch, of course) Turn 1, but your opponent has a Stormsurge just waiting to unload Strength D Destroyer Missiles and other massed shooting on them in the subsequent shooting phase… instead, you get the Autarch “stuck in” with the Stormsurge, preventing it from shooting for a turn, which buys the Grey Knights time to deal with other threats and then to charge the Stormsurge themselves on Turn 2, where their Nemesis Force Weapons can handle it quite easily. Put another way, this Autarch build allows you to potentially “neutralize” a disproportionately¬†powerful part of your opponent’s army for a turn (or two), which thereby allows your GKs both a better chance of surviving and also let’s them get into position to maximize their strengths (i.e. Psychic abilities, close range shooting, close combat hitting power, etc.).

 

[2]¬†Jetbike Farseer with “Spirit Stone of Anath’lan”¬†relic and Doom (Runes of Fate discipline) — While several of the Runes of Fate powers are blessings (and so cannot be used to support Grey Knight allies directly) or witchfires, and so can only indirectly support them by attacking the enemy, if PML(3) Farseer rolls up Doom, this can be a game changer for Grey Knight allies. Since Doom is a Malediction that¬†causes re-rolls to Wound/to Penetrate against an enemy model, no matter the source, this can be a tremendous benefit for a Grey Knight army, which can put out lots of S4 Storm Bolter/Psilencer, S6 Incinerator,¬†and S7 Psycannon shooting, but needs to maximize the damage that this firepower¬†does, given the low model count and lack of longer-range firepower that generally define them. With Doom successfully cast, GK Storm bolters and Psilencers (both types) in essence become S5.5, Incinerators/Heavy Incinerators¬†become basically S7.5, and Psycannons/Heavy Psycannons become S8.5 against all targets, except for purposes of Instant Death and against vehicles that their “base” strength cannot hurt (i.e. S4 Storm bolters will still not be able to damage AV11 vehicles, even with the re-rolls from being Doom cast on them). This also combines very well with Rending Psycannons, making them MUCH more effective against high toughness and/or heavily armored enemies that they would normally depend on Rends to hurt, such TEQs, Monstrous Creatures, enemy Warlords, etc. While normally costing 2WCs to cast, a Farseer with the “Spirit Stone of Anath’lan” can reduce that to only WC1, making it much easier (and safer) to get off, especially when combined with the “Runes of the Farseer” rule ¬†and Ghosthelm Wargear that every Farseer comes with. Finally, a Jetbike Farseer can use his great agility to get around the board rapidly and seize objectives in a pinch, making up for another of the Grey Knight weaknesses.

 

[3] Warlock Conclave with Jetbikes and Singing Spears — Using Runes of Battle, the Biker Warlock Conclave can “debuff” Grey Knights opponents in many ways, including removing any Stealth/Shrouded (Reveal), -3 to any enemy unit’s leadership (Horrify), -1 to an enemy unit’s WS/I (Drain), -1 to an enemy’s armor save (Jinx), and -1 to a target enemy’s strength characteristic (Enervate). Imagine a Dreadknight charging a Chapter Master with the Burning Blade relic and “Drain” cast on him… not only would they strike simultaneously now, but the Chapter Master would only hit the Dreadknight on a 4+ (vice 3+ before), giving the NDK a much better shot of killing the enemy warlord. Similarly, imagine shooting at a unit of Tau Ghostkeels with Shrouded/Stealth removed by Reveal, in essence leaving them with only their 3+ Armor save for protection? Or imagine Paladins charging an enemy TH/SS Terminator unit (which would normally cause ID to the Paladins with their S8 TH attacks) that has Enervate cast on it (the unit would still wound the Paladins on a 2+ and ignore their Armor saves, but the Paladins would only lose one wound at a time and would still get FNP from their Apothecary). Finally, imagine shooting at a Wraithknight, Stormsurge, Daemon Prince, or Hive Tyrant that has Jinx cast on it with massed Psycannon fire (i.e. those enemy MCs now have a 4+ save, which the Psycannon ignores even without Rending hits) or at enemy Wulfen with Jinx cast one them with massed Storm bolter fire (the Wulfen are reduced to a 5+ save, which the Storm bolters’ AP5 ignores). On top of all this, while a bit expensive, a Jetbike War Conclave is very fast, durable (3+/4++ and a 4++ Jink save, made even better if they cast Protect, for a 2+ armor save, and/or Conceal, for a 2++ cover save), and can seize objectives, shoot decently with their TLed Shuriken catapults (with good old Bladestorm for quasi-Rending) or Singing Spears, and hit solidly in close combat with their Fleshbane Singing Spears (these combine quite well with several of the buffs and debuffs from the Runes of Battle already described, and are particularly strong against vehicles, with S4 + Armourbane capable of hurting even Land Raider and Super Heavies with lucky rolls).

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As you can see, while somewhat subtle, these different Eldar Allied Detachment builds can measurably (and cheaply) enhance a Grey Knight primary detachment, in turn allowing the Knights in Silver to be more effective themselves and giving you a better chance of competing with some of the higher tier opponents out there.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Notorious Webway Portal (WWP)

If there is one single piece of Wargear that has more potential impact on the game of 40K than anything else, I would argue it is the Dark Eldar Webway Portal.

Costing 7 MBs, this simple piece of gear can be taken by DE Archons, Succubii, and Hameonculii. Provided the model is in Reserves/Ongoing Reserves, then it gains the ability to Deep Strike without scattering. Additionally, it any unit that the WWP is attached to also gains “scatter-less” Deep Strike, which is the really amazing part of this Wargear (this also includes any transport that the WWP bearer and his unit is embarked upon!).

Now, the new FAQs have slightly nerfed the allied application of the WWP, since the DE characters can no longer embark on allied transports before the game begins/in Reserve (i.e. Eldar Wave Serpents, Corsair Falcons, Harlequin Star Weavers, etc.), but even with this there are numerous tactical applications for the WWP and its bearer on the tabletop.

Just off the top of my head, here are some of the best units two join a WWP toting Dark Eldar character to:

–DARK ELDAR (PURE)–

1 – Court of the Archon with multiple Medusae — Being able to put numerous S4 AP3 templates EXACTLY where need them means you can basically eliminate an entire infantry unit of your choice on the turn you arrive from reserves, provided they don’t have a 2+ save or solid Invul save (i.e. the vast majority of non-vehicle units in the game). Basically, think of this combination as an infantry “assassin” type unit.

2 – 3 x Grotesques with Liquefier Guns in a Raider — Not only does this get the Grotesques up close and personal so they can put pressure on the enemy firing lines and set up close combat in subsequent turns, but the multiple Liquefier Gun templates are not to be ignored, especially if they happen to roll AP2/1. Combine this with a strong combat DE character (like a tricked out Succubus, who benefits from majority T5) and you have a real CC threat that the enemy cannot easily afford to ignore.

3 – 20 x Kabalite Warriors with 2 x Blasters, 2 x Dark Lances,¬†and a Blast Pistol on the Sybarite — If you want to put down a ton of Poison shooting at close range and/or seize objectives with a big “blob” of cheap Dark Eldar, this is the unit to do it. Not only can it threaten pretty much any non-vehicle unit because of Poison, but with 5 x S8 Lance shots (two are Snap Shots, unless they are standing still), this unit can reliable hurt vehicles and heavily armored infantry as well.

4 – Dark Artisan Formation (1 Haemonculus, 1 Talos, 1 Chronos, all forming a single unit) — With a WWP on the Haemonculus, you can put 2 Monstrous Creatures anywhere on the board, with no scatter, starting turn 2 of the game. Add is -1Ld for enemies within 12″, plus solid shooting and deadly close combat ability and you have a potential “spoiler” unit here that can greatly disrupt enemy plans and pull attention away from the rest of your army.

–CRAFTWORLD ALLIES–

1 –¬†10 x¬†Fire Dragons from Aspect Host formation — With 10 BS5 Fusion Guns that can be placed exactly where you want them, there is almost no vehicle (and very few MCs/GMCs) out there that can survive the shooting from this unit, so basically this is your “trump card” unit to surgically remove a selected enemy Super-Heavy, Lord of War, or other uber-unit in a single turn.

2 –¬†5-10 Wraithguard with either Wraithcannons or D-Scythes — Either weapon option is tremendous, with the Wraithcannons bringing “full-up” Destroyer shots at guaranteed close range and D-Scythes providing ridiculous AP2 templates. While not a cheap battle group, this one is much more durable than many other alternatives and can bring game-changing firepower to bear exactly where you want it, thus mitigating the two Wraithguard weaknesses of short-range and poor mobility.

3 – 20 x Guardian Defenders with 2 x¬†Shurikan¬†Cannons¬†Warlock Leader and attached Farseer — Not only can this unit put out¬†42 Bladestorm shots a turn at 12″, but the Warlock and Farseer can buff the entire unit in multiple ways and/or debuff enemy forces, making it even more effective (imagine Invisibility on this unit to make it very difficult to target). Finally, if the DE character bearing the WWp also has the Armor of Misery relic, then enemy units within 6″ have -2Ld, meaning the Farseer can use Psychic Shriek and other Leadership shenanigans from the Telepathy discipline quite effectively.

–HARLEQUIN/CORSAIR ALLIES–

1 – 12¬†x Harlequin¬†Troupe of Player with Fusion Pistols and special CCWs, plus an attached¬†Shadowseer¬†— Not only does this set up the 12 man Troupe for getting into combat on the other end of the board¬†(which is where it excels, but has difficulty getting, since the Starweaver transport can only hold 6 troops), but you can the Fusion Pistols to bring some serious heat (pun intended!) against enemy vehicles, MCs, or elite infantry before the Harlequins charge. Finally, the Shadowseer can protect the Troupe, debuff the enemy, or even snipe out enemy Psykers with Phantasmancy and Telepathy powers.

2 – Corsair Balestrike Band with Jetpacks (for Relentless and JSJ) and massed Dark Lances — This gives you the option to put massed Lance Fire on the table wherever you need it, whether to bring down vehicles or tough infantry/MCs, plus once you DS in with no scatter, you still have solid mobility due to the Jetpacks on the Corsairs. Basically, think of this as a longer ranged, more mobile, but not quite as destructive against vehicles version of the Fire Dragon battle group described above.

 

Hunting Spiders with Scorpions

As we have seen lately, the latest rage in the competitive meta is MSU Warp Spiders, combined of course with other powerful elements of the Eldar codex like Scatterbikes, Wraithknights, Jetseers, etc.

So, how do  Imperium players counter this trend? What has worked for you against opponents fielded 4+ squads of Warp Spiders?

Here is the best strategy I have come up with so far:

-I am making the assumptions that, number one, the MSU Warp Spiders are minimum 5 man squads and, number two, that we are playing with the ITC interpretation of Flickerjump (i.e. can only be used once per turn).

-(2) Whirlwind Scorpius and a Techmarine from an allied Space Marine CAD (they are Heavy Support choices and, as a Relics, require a Techmarine to “unlock” more than one). For only 23 MBs a piece, you get a Predator Chassis¬† that shoots a 48″ S8 AP3 Small Blast, Barrage shot… the kicker is that, if the Scorpius stands still, it becomes 1+D3 Small Basts (so an average of 3 x S8 AP3 mini-Pie Plates!).

-Given its 48″ range and ability to ignore LOS (thanks to Barrage), the Scorpius should be able to hit Warp Spiders even if they Flicker Jump. Provided the scatter is not extremely poor, you are getting 3 x S8 AP3 Small Blasts with a good chance of 3-9 hits, based on how clumped up the Warp Spiders are. Wounding on 2+s, this means you have a solid chance of either eliminating the entire MSU squad (with lucky rolls to hit) or at least severely wounding it, in turn rendering it basically impotent (i.e. 1-2 Warp Spiders are a pretty small threat against almost any unit in the game and/or can easily be cleaned up with some “spare” bolter fire).

-Taken all together, two Scorpius (Scorpiuii?) can neutralize/eliminate two Warp Spider squads a turn, meaning that by the end of turn 3 they can potentially have taken out up to six Warp Spider squads (or about 120 MBs worth of points), all for the cost of 46 MBs and two Heavy Support slots of your own.

-Even better, the Whirlwind Scorpius is not limited to just Warp Spiders as a viable target… it can easily engage other Aspect Warriors, Windrider Jetbikes, Eldar Skimmers (remember, it basically is shooting “Small Blast Krak Missiles”) and even Wraithknights in a pinch (S8 AP3 can actually threaten these GMCs effectively). Finally, if you are making an All Comers list, it is¬†effective against other armies as well, be it Marines, Necrons, Tau, Astra Militarum, Chaos Daemons, you name it.

Dark Reapers in the current Meta

While it really is difficult to find a bad unit in the latest Eldar codex, most of the attention has been on Wraith units (with D weapons), Jetbikes (with max Scatter Lasers or Shuriken Cannons), Wave Serpents, and formations likes the Seer Council or Crimson Death.

One unit which I think has become much more valuable in the current meta is Dark Reapers, particularly if they are taken as part of an Aspect Host (for BS5 shooting). With 48″ S5 AP3 Hvy 2 shooting for each model, they have unique anti-MEW capability out the gate. Add in Slow and Purposeful (for the ability to move and still shoot), Reaper Rangefinders (for the ability to ignore enemy Jink saves), and a special rule that makes their shooting Twin-Linked against anything that Turbo-boosts, moves Flat out, Swoops, or Zooms, and suddenly you have a unit that “counters” many of the competitive units in the game right now:

1 – Ravenwing Bikes/Black Knights or White Scar Biker Armies¬†— With the ability to ignore their 3+ (or even 2+) Jink saves, plus S5 and AP3, Dark¬†Reaper shooting is the ideal counter to a¬†Bike heavy opponent. With BS5 (from Aspect Host formation), a 5 man Dark Reaper squad inflicts an average of 4-5 unsaved wounds against a normal Bike units, which is enough to kill most “typical” bike¬†squads in a single volley, all at a distance of 54″ (6″ move + 48″¬†range) starting turn 1.

2 – ¬†¬†MSU Marine squads — With the shift toward MSU, both due to things like Demi-companies and things like massed D-weapons, many players are fielding lots of 5-6 Marine squads to maximize their damage output and minimize their vulnerability. Dark Reapers can hunt these MSU MEQ squads with ease, allowing Eldar players to “thin” the Power Armor hordes from long-range, even before other Eldar units get inside Shuriken weaponry range to deal with these threats.

3 – Necron Phalanxes and support units¬†— With long range, multiple shots, and AP3, Dark Reapers can attrite down Necron Warriors, Immortals, Flayed Ones, Triarch Praetorians, Deathmarks, Destroyers (all types), and Tomb Blades and allow the rest of the Eldar force to deal the finishing blow to these units.

4 – Tau Crises Battlesuits — With standard MEQ profiles, but multiple wounds and high mobility, Crises Suits are often the “flagship” unit around which Tau battle groups are built. With their long-range, shoot and move ability, and high accuracy, Dark Reapers can focus down threatening Crises Teams. For example, a 5 man Dark Reaper squad gets 10 shots, 8-9 hits, and 5-6 AP3 wounds, which is enough to kill outright (or critically damage, at least) even a full Crises Team, especially if the Reapers can fire from an angle to focus on the Suits and not their protective drones.

5 – Eldar/Dark Eldar/Harlequin Jetbike units — With their ability to ignore Jink and 3+ saves, Dark Reapers are the perfect counter to fighting enemy Eldar jetbike spam (of any variety). Take an Aspect Host of 3 x Dark Reaper squads and they can reliably gun down three Jetbike squads a turn, which means by turn 2-3, you should have eliminated pretty much any MSU Jetbike threat there is out there.

6 – Skimmer Tanks — With high BS, the ability to take Starshot (i.e. S8 AP3) missiles as an upgrade, and ignoring Jinking, Dark Reapers can be a strong counter to Wave Serpents, Raiders/Venoms, Devilfish/Hammerheads, Annihilation Barges/Ghost Arks, Land Speeders, Flyers in Hover mode, etc. etc. They also are half-way decent anti-flyer unit when equipped with Starshot missiles, since they re-roll to hit against any Zooming units/Swooping FMCs, meaning that they have about 30% accuracy against flyers and FMCs even when snap shooting.

Countering Craftworld Eldar: Red Scorpion Sternguard and Sevrin Loth

Since they came out in 5th edition, Sternguard Veterans have always stood out as one of the competitive unit choices in the Space Marine codex. With their solid stats, reasonable points cost (for their abilities), Special Issue Ammunition, and access to Special Weapons/Heavy Weapons/Combi-Weapons, they truly are the “Leatherman” of Codex: Space Marines, with the ability to to almost any mission you assign them.

While they are good against any opponent, I think Sternguard particularly come into their own when they are used against a Craftworld Eldar opponent. More specifically, they have all the tools (especially if you use multiple sqauds of them) to counter many of the most dangerous and common Eldar threats.

What really brings them up a level, however, is combining them with Psychic support, in particular Sevrin Loth, who can choose his powers from Biomancy, Telekinesis, or Telepathy dicsciplines. Of these, going with the Biomancy discipline and selecting Smite (Primaris, so get it for free), Enfeeble, Endurance, and Life Leech and then attaching Loth to a 9 man Sternguard squad in a Drop Pod can make for a deadly combination.

Give the squad two Grav Cannons/Amps and 7 Combi-gravs, then have the whole unit come down turn 1, cast Endurance on the squad, and engage your Eldar target of choice:

1 – Wraithknights — With Endurance on, the Sternguard gain FNP(4+) and Relentless, allowing them to shoot their Grav weapons to full capacity even when disembarking from the Drop Pod. That translates to 31 Grav shots, 15-16 wounds on the Wraithknight, 10-11 wounds after a 5++ save, and 6-7 Unsaved Wounds after FNP rolls. Thus, on average, the squad can kill a Wraithknight in a single volley. Even if they do nothing else the rest of the game, accomplishing that turn 1 should make them worth the investment.

2 – Jetbikes/Aspect Warriors with 3+ saves — Fortunately, even after they use their Combi-gravs turn 1, Sternguard still have many uses against Eldar, thanks to their other Wargear. With relentless Grav Cannons and Vengeance rounds on their Bolters, they have 10 Grav Shots/14 Vengeace Round shots that can target Warp Spiders, Shining Spears, Striking Scorpions, Windrider Jetbikes, and other Eldar units with a 3+ save. Grav shots inflict an average of 5-6 unsaved wounds and Vengeance rounds inflict another 6-7 unsaved wounds, plus Loth’s BS5 Plasma Pistol and Smite Witchfire might add another wound or two as well. This means that the squad will cause 11-15 unsaved wounds against these Eldar targets on an average round of shooting, which is more than enough to kill an entire squad a turn or, at worst, force Jetbikes to jink, still killing 5-8 models and making them useless for shooting next turn.

3 – Aspect Warriors with a 4+ save — When shooting at Dire Avengers, Banshees, Swooping Hawks, etc. Sternguard can use their long-ranged Kraken Bolts quite effectively. Between 10 Grav Cannon/Amp shots and 14 Kraken Bolt shots, the squad on average deals 11-12 Unsaved Wounds, easily killing the entire squad and likely any attached ICs as well.

4 – Rangers/Guardians in cover — With their 14 x Cover Ignoring Dragonfire bolts and 10 x Gravcannon/Amp shots, the squad inflicts an average of 6-7 Unsaved Wounds from the Bolter fire and 2-3 Unsaved Wounds from the Grav Cannons, so 8-10 Unsaved Wounds total, enough to kill anything but the largest Guardian squads.

5 – Vaul’s Wrath Support Battery — With up to 9 wounds, T7 for all against shooting, and a majority armory save of 5+, this can be a tough target for Space Marines to deal with (not to mention a dangerous one as well). Enter the Hellfire rounds. With 14 Hellfire bolter shots and 10 Grav Cannon shots, the Sternguard shoot inflcit between 10-12 Unsaved Wounds on the Vaul’s Wrath battery, killing it outright and removing that threat from their brother Astartes.

6 – Wraithguard/Wraithlords/Avatar — Between Gravcannon/Amp shots and Hellfire rounds (good old Poison 2+ here to deal with T6 and T8 opponents), the Sternguard cause an average of 7-9 Unsaved Wounds after the dust clears and all the Armor saves happen. Again, this means the Sternguard can take out basically an entire squad or a whole Wraithlord per turn. The Avatar has a 5++ to help mitigate the AP2 Gravcannon shots, but even he is likely to die on average rolling against this volume of shooting.

7 – Eldar Grav Tanks — Surprisingly, this squad can even be a decent counter to Wave Serpents/Falcons/Night Spinners, etc. The Gravcannons inflict an average of about 2 HPs/Immobilized results per shooting, taking away the Skimmers mobility and setting them up to be finished off by Loth’s Plasma Pistol and/or a follow-on charge with Krak grenades by the Sternguard (remember, with Endurance, they are Relentless, so they can shoot their Rapid Fire and Salvo weapons and still charge). Even squadrons of Grav Tanks can be quite vulnerable to this tactic.

So, you can see how potent and versatile the Sternguard are with Loth casting Endurance on them. Don’t forget, Endurance also gives them FNP(4+), so basically doubling their survivability against anything that is not S8+. If necesary, Loth can “tank” for the squad with his 2++ armo save, FNP(4+), and Eternal Warrior (though he only has 2W, so don’t go crazy with him and use Life Leeach to “regenerate” his wound if necessary).

The biggest weakness of this unit, outside of its mediocre mobility once it disembarks from the Drop Pod, is its dependance on Loth getting Endurance off. All the other powers (i.e. Smite, Enfeeble, Life Leech, etc.) are nice to have but in no way essential. Endurance requirs two Warp Charges, so it can be challenging to cast, especially if you have a limited dice pool and your Eldar has lots of Warp Charges himself with which to Deny the Witch (fortunately, he can only harness on a 6+ at best, since it is a Blessing power).

Overall, I would say that this battle group, used in efficient coordination with the rest of your army, can be a game-changer, particularly against a competitive Eldar opponent.