Back in 5th, the Hawks were relatively unused for a couple of reasons. Skyleap was expensive to attach to a unit and with reserve rules being what they were, the Skyleap/Grenade Pack combo was not reliable enough for cost, and didn’t pack much noticeable punch against a lot of armies given the prevalence of mechanised infantry. They had haywire grenades, sure, which gave them a valid role of vehicle takedown, for whoever wanted an alternative to the Dragons. Unfortunately, that was one of their only real roles, as their anti-troop weaponry was lacklustre and they were too brittle for their points cost. 22 points a model was crippling, and even then you needed to pour points into the unit to get an Exarch with Skyleap and maybe a decent gun. The third reason (for me at least) was the models. Not particularly bad looking models, but models that were spectacularly annoying to put together and transport. We’re talking metal models with two individual wings apiece which had to be attached with poor contact points. It was nearly impossible to transport them without the wings falling off and was very frustrating. So I never used them in my games, which was a shame.
Thankfully, all of these points have been addressed in one way or another, which is glorious. There’s a lot of trash talk about finecast, but it is so much better or these models than metal ever was. The lightness of the material and the ease with which it adheres to superglue are major benefits and they can now transport well unless you’re really careless about it. Also, as I’ve gone for a piratical/raider theme with my craftworlders, the Scourge models fit in very well as alternatives. Scourges look freakin’ amazing, so I’m very happy that I have a ready-made excuse to use them in my Eldar lists!
The first change you’ll notice skimming through the book is that they are now noticeably cheaper, at only 16 points apiece, a significant reduction. All to the good. The next change is the weaponry. The Lasblasters have been improved, their strength and AP remaining the same, but being improved from Assault 2 to Assault 3. They’re probably not going to obliterate units with that, but it’s very nice to use to peck away at infantry from a respectable distance. The Grenade pack has been improved as well, giving an extra AP (down to 4 now) and also rocking some Ignores Cover, which is spectacular. Perfect for their ant-infantry duties and excellent counters for Nids, Tau and Guard. The size of the blast depends on the number of models in the unit, so you’ll want to have a minimum of 6 in there to get the large blast. Thankfully, the Hawks still have their Haywire grenades and with the confluence of vehicle combat rules and Hull Points are far more dangerous than they were in 5th. This is going to really put pressure on a lot of opponents to put down the Hawks as a priority, as even one or two surviving Hawks can deal significant damage to vehicles and have the manoeuvrability to strike almost where they please.
So that’s equipment. What about the special rules? Well there are two big ones (over and above the army-wide race rules). The first is they all have Skyleap as standard, although that rule has been altered a bit, both for the good and the bad. The bad is that you can no longer use it to escape from combat. Technically bad, but if your Hawks are in a non-vehicle assault, then things are going poorly for them anyway. Besides, you’ve got an exarch power for that problem should you be concerned about it. The good part is that Skyleaping now puts you into Ongoing Reserves, meaning that they will automatically turn up again next turn, taking a lot of the uncertainty out of the power. Speaking of the lack of uncertainty, the second ability is the Herald of Victory (rather presumptuous, isn’t it?) meaning that, if the entire unit has that rule, then they don’t scatter. Boom. You can use these special rules to nasty effect in the game, contesting objectives in the late game, repeatedly bombarding enemy holding units or stealth troops, putting pressure on backfield vehicles, all manner of things. Not to mention that when you Deep Strike in, not only do you get the Grenades, you also get a ton of shots and with battle Focus, you can retreat into cover afterwards, or at least spread out to mitigate templates. Bear in mind you have Fleet as well to reroll that run move if you don’t like it. A very aggressive playstyle presents itself for this unit. Almost Dark Eldar-style… One more tactic to remember is that Ongoing reserves are automatic, so you can deploy the Swooping Hawks and then Skyleap them on turn 1 for an automatic turn 2 Deep Strike rather than relying on the vagaries of the dice.
The Exarch is useful, but nowhere near as necessary as he once was. The usual characteristic upgrades present themselves and you have three powers to pick from. Night Vision, which is occasionally useful, given the propensity of the Hawks to stay at range. Not critical by any means, but at 5 points it doesn’t have to be. Marksman’s Eye (allowing precision shots at 5+) is cool, but I don’t think the Exarch really has the ranged weaponry for this to be worthwhile. Hit & Run is probably the most worthwhile power for him I think. Combat is really not where the hawks are meant to be and if you can escape it, then do so. Expensive though.
Finally, we have equipment. You can give the Exarch a power sword, but see my previous comments about Hawks and assault. I think there are better uses for those 10 point. You have two guns, one of them is a S5 Lasblaster and the other is a Lasbalster with Blind and AP3. I’m not sure on these. Marksman’s Eye will stack fairly well with these, allowing you to snipe out sergeants and special weapons guys, but I would really think about where else those points could be spent before purchasing any of these.
So that’s my view on the Swooping Hawks. Holy hell, they’re awesome now!
But does their Phoenix Lord follow suit? Baharroth will be next in the firing line.