Monday, 28 January 2013

Dark Eldar in 6th: Spreading Your Wings... And Your Claws

Right, let’s finish this section!  Beastmasters are a unit that I always thought were really cool, but to my detriment, I was never able to get them to work properly on the battlefield.  They kept losing combat due to mediocre leadership values (and that was when the squad leaders were alive) or kept running away when the Beastmasters got killed.  They not bad though, I just couldn’t use them right.  I’ve seen people use them to decent effect, but they’ve always been an odd unit and very easy to take apart unless the unit composition was well done.  And that was the real trick with Beastmasters as a whole; getting the composition right.  You had three monster types to choose from and you were fairly able to mix and match in a large number of ways.  You had the big lumbering creatures with T5 and a propensity to get even more violent when wounded.  You had small, cheap creatures with invulnerable save and a decent number of medium strength attacks.  You also had bird swarms with a lot of wounds and a lot of low quality attacks but with rending.  All were nice and interesting and came with their own strengths and weaknesses which made for a cool unit that was very easy to use wrong, as I found out several times.  The main core of the Beastmasters tended to be the Razorwing flocks, the huge number of wounds and the rending attacks providing an effective and durable unit against bog-standard infantry and light vehicles.  However, any S6 weapons would tear through them like nobody’s business, so quite often other animals were deployed, either the Khymerae for the INV saves or the Clawed Fiends for wound absorption.  That was how the Razorwings survived long enough to get where they needed to go to do their damage.  Unfortunately that tactic does not work as easily any more due to the wound allocation changes.  This is a slight detriment to the unit as it really relies on very solid positional play with a unit that is already very hit and miss.  Manoeuvrability is slightly increased in the new edition and moving through cover is less of a concern, so the situation for Beastmasters is very much ‘swings and roundabouts’ really.  I think that the loss of their wound allocation tricks outweighs the movement increase though, so they’ve probably got it worse overall.  Take them if you like the idea, but they’ll be hard to get the most out of, and I’m certainly not the guy to help you do that!
And the last on the fast attack list are the Scourges.  Out of all the new (at the time anyway)release wave of Dark Eldar, these guys were definitely the prettiest and really captured a dark fairy-tale feel in their design, but I sadly never really used them (although make no mistake; I own a few).  I didn’t really use them, not for any tactical or list-building reason, but purely because they were a last release in the wave, and I had already settled into a very solid Hellion-groove by that point.  Hellions basically filled their role for anti-infantry, and my Ravagers and Trueborn did their job with anti-tank.  Doesn’t stop me liking the unit though.  It definitely had value then, but does that value remain the new edition?
I think it does.  In fact, I think it increases.  Like the Reaver Jetbikes, I believe they have benefited from the new edition rules.  The more reliable reserve rolls and the more forgiving mishap table are real plus points, allowing the player to field Scourges in tighter spots to deal with more specific targets and to make the most of their first round of shooting and believe me, Scourges can shoot.  Your standard Scourge comes equipped with an Assault 3 Poisoned gun with a respectable 18” range, which can pack a hefty amount of anti-infantry even on the basic squad.  This is just as well, because the basic model is expensive.  At 22 points a pop, they need to be used correctly, because unlike Reavers or Incubi (both at the same price tag) they are not very durable, certainly not in the range of the other two.  They have 4+ Armour and 6+ Invulnerable saves, but that does not equate particularly well to long-term survival.  I feel that Scourges are precision weapons and you build the squad at the list stage for a specific target.
Fortunately, you have a wide variety of weapon options to aid in the hunt.  Indeed, there are six choices (although I favour just two of them) and you can equip two out of every five scourges with a special weapon which is second only to Trueborn in sheer payload.  The Shredder is the cheapest option, and was definitely a poor-man’s choice in the old edition.  It’s improved a little but now though, as vehicles are more likely to be damaged by blast weapons, but they’re far from ideal in this role.  Nevertheless, against tightly packed enemies, a S6 blast is a very handy tool, just not one I would equip.  It also hurts that blast weapons can’t be fired in overwatch, so that’s another mark against them.  The other anti-personnel weapon you have is the splinter cannon, which has many virtues such as a long range, a nice Assault mode and the ability to rip enemy units to shreds when stationary.  I really like the Splinter Cannon and Shardcarbine setup for squad as fairly points effective for the sheer amount of Horde putdown you have in the unit.  A 5-strong squad on the move with cannons can fire 20 poisoned shots and only cost 140 points, making them very good harassment units, possibly better than the Venom for the points cost.  And the amount that the cannon can bring to overwatch is not to be underestimated.  A full scourge unit can be a very worrying unit to assault if you’re only 6 or 7” away from them.  A full squad of cannon-Scourges can throw out 42 shots stationary, and that’s going to make even Hormagaunts a little reluctant!
If you want to use them more for tank hunting, then they have tools for that, in four flavours, no less.  Blasters and Dark Lances are well known, although Dark Lances are not a good fit for the unit as they are heavy weapons and Scourges are meant to be mobile.  Bad mix.  Heat Lances are useful if you can get with 9” of a vehicle, especially if you can get a vulnerable facing.  The Haywire blaster is an oddity.  A 24” Assault 1 weapon with a strength and AP of 4, it’s major strength is that it packs haywire onto each hit, which is nice because you are almost guaranteed a glance or better regardless of armour value.  However, its use as a vehicle suppressing weapon has been undermined by the vehicle damage rules.  They can be handy to finish off or weaken a vehicle now, but they can’t stop one from shooting back unless they kill it.  With that in mind, in would probably be better to field one of the other anti-tank weapons nowadays.
I don’t see too much benefit in picked a squad leader.  I mean, there’s the leadership bonus and the standard raft of DE close combat weapons, but this is a very shooty unit and I feel the points would be better spent elsewhere.  Nevertheless, tooling a Scourge out as a leader can look bloody awesome, so don’t let me stand in the way of that!

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