Tactica- Wraithguard As Troops

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Yriel of Iyanden

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Wraithsight: Wraithguard as 5th edition Troops.

Things have gotten really interesting for the wraithguard player of late. For those of you who have been around and playing a Ghostwarrior themed list, we've gone from being a fluffy novelty list, to dead weight meeting requirements for wraithlords, to the recent codex boosts in T and wraithcannon- which legitimized the idea for many more to use wraithguard in their lists…

To now. Many more have considered and started using wraithguard in their lists when the 4th edition codex came out…but now with the importance of troops in 5th - are we going to see more wraithguard users?

I'll be the first one to tell you that in terms of overall variety- Eldar are pretty spoiled when it comes to options for Troops. We've got tactical-minded Avengers, big and cheap guardians, zippy agile jetbikes, and some of the best snipers in the game as troops where such a list in other codices register elites and fast attack for the same utility.

But many of us are concerned with how "squishy" those troop choices can be at times. Avengers aren't terribly squishy, but tend to handle so much fighting that we can get careless and let them eat heavy bolters or elite charges. Guardians are well- squishy. Jetbikes are individually fairly tough, and rangers have nasty saves against shooting, but jetbike units tend to be small, and rangers tend to die to the first things that charge. So if someone were to say these choices felt squishy- they wouldn't be way off.

Wraithguard are looked at as one of the most "non-squishy" Troop choices available in the game. They are also one of the most expensive troops choices in the whole game. There are certain special considerations we must make when taking wraithguard- specifically as troops.

First- a very brief overview of how 5th benefits and hurts wraithguard:

Movement: Wraithguard can now run. 'nuff said. This is one of the most obvious boons for the unit!

Shooting: The way shooting is worked out against different models in a unit starts to hurt that Spiritseer once the unit size decreases, so we have to make sure the amount of fire they're taking in late turns is also decreased. That said- with cover saves a plenty wraithguard will see greater durability in some aspects. Considering wraithguard short ranged weapons- the rules for cover saves doesn't really impact their shooting much.

Assault: Traditionally vulnerable to assault, the rending nerf benefits wraithguard tremendously. Also- the new rules for powerfists means most wielders will get less attacks, and this helps tremendously too. Also note that when assaulting vehicles we always count rear armor- so the natural wraithguard strength of 5 is a bonus here. On the downside- fearless can be a pain when you lose assault, as you end up taking armor saves by the number of wounds you lost by, so we must be careful.

All things considered- there are great reasons to field Wraithguard as a Troops choice for your Eldar army.


Let's look at the basics:

In order for wraithguard to count as a troops choice, you need to take the full size of 10 with a warlock, and upgrade the warlock to a spiritseer. So right out of the gate you're looking at an intimidating 381pts, or just over a quarter of your points in a 1,500pt game.

That (and the monetary cost per model) tends to scare off the majority of Eldar players. As a quarter, or sometimes up to half of your total points in a game, the mere consideration of points of wraithguard as a troops choice should lead you to believe that they should be a critical part of your strategy. Well- if you're spending that many points ona single unit- they better be!

Thankfully our 381 points comes equipped with "ports". What are ports? Think of your computer ports- you have USB ports, maybe a memory card reader, a LAN port, etc. In a similar way to your PCU, taking wraithguard as a troops choice allows you to chain combinations in your list and develop core strategies around them. Let's finish building our unit and hopefully you'll see what I mean.

The wraithguard troop forces you to take a warlock- which is good anyway because you're now ignoring wraithsight tests, and you have the option of adding a warlock power to the unit- plus you have a nice 2+ wounding, S9 against vehicles weapon buried in wonderful T6, Fearless and 3+ save. This will help tremendously when this unit starts to draw everybody and their mother owning a powerfist or every monstrous creature towards the unit.

So…should we pay up to 15 points for a warlock power? As warlock powers usually benefit the entire unit- I'd definitely say yes, because at the worst we're paying 1.5pts per model in the unit to benefit from the power, and this is cheaper than most grenade upgrades for other units! But which ones are good?

Conceal is the standby for any unit hoping to have durability, and it's one of my faves because it plays to the strength of wraithguard- that is nigh invulnerability when it comes to shooting. With changes to both cover saves and the way multiple hits on a unit are resolved, conceal is always a great choice.

Enhance is also considered a good choice, in that it helps when things do go down to close combat. The skill is useful against fast moving hordes that can reach your lines quickly, and unlike conceal it is one that your warlock can benefit from as well as any character attached to the squad. Enhance is a good idea against opponents that can't generate a lot of low AP shooting, and with the ease of cover saves in 5th, it becomes a more attractive option.

Destructor gives you a legitimate anti-horde option, albeit very short ranged in this 11 model troop configuration. That said- this is a decent choice for a power, but if you're not going up against a horde army I'd probably leave it at home as we can accommodate a "flamer" option elsewhere in our army.

Embolden was all but useless prior to the Eldar FAQ, and now it serves one purpose, although this only benefits the unit indirectly at best. A fearless unit has no need for embolden, but a Farseer joined to the unit can benefit by rerolling his psychic tests. Overall though, probably not the best warlock power for your unit.

Let's not also forget the fact that we had to upgrade the Warlock to a Spiritseer in order to gain our troop status. Now, here is another opportunity to chain a unit to the functional team. The Spiritseer upgrade allows you to double the warlock's effective wraithsight range, and while not absolutely necessary for our wraithguard unit (since she is already part of the unit), the Spiritseer allows you to take multiple units of wraithguard and wraithlords within a wider effective range. This is beneficial where the army includes wraithlords or wraithguard without warlocks (making them elites) and is looking for a longer "leash" with regards to taking wraithsight tests.

In fact it is common for regular wraithguard users to chain a wraithlord (or three!) to a unit of wraithguard troops, as this is a mutually beneficial relationship. The wraithguard provide the wraithlord a measure of threat management, as opponents will be more often looking to assault or shoot the more critical troops choice, while the wraithguard benefit from the wraithlord's potent ranged weaponry, good close combat skills, and even bonuses like flamers when hordes get really close.

So we have the makings of a decent Eldar ground team consisting of the wraithguard and Spiritseer, along with at least one wraithlord. But there is one more unit I mentioned earlier that can also be a part of this "symbiosis", and that is a Farseer.

There should be no question that Farseers are a brilliant HQ choice for any Eldar player. Farseers by their nature work to improve the skills of everyone around them, so it only makes sense that the Farseer should join our core combat team. Now, consider the "textbook" chaining of the three units:

Farseer- Fortune

10 Wraithguard- Spiritseer, Conceal

Wraithlord- Shuriken Cannon, 2x Flamers

This is a bare minimum of 581pts. Ouch. But it has a lot of advantages, and these advantages chain. So in our example we have a single unit 12 models strong (10 wraithguard + 2 psykers) that is sporting a majority T6 with a 3+/5+ rerollable, and a monstrous creature unit. This is already an incredibly powerful build. But we can look at this combat team and develop new strategic chains:

Farseer Fortune, Doom, Spirit Stones

10 Wraithguard Spiritseer, Conceal

Wraithlord Scatter Laser, Eldar Missile Launher, 2x flamers

This team is a tactical or "balanced" setting. The Farseer/Spiritseer combo still allow for the rerollable 3+/5+, plus the Farseer can now benefit the entire army by Dooming targets while maintaining the rerollable saves, and the wraithlord can deal out some damage to hordes while maintaining a respectable anti-tank weapon at range.

Alternately, you could go for pure shooting:

Farseer Doom, Eldritch Storm, Spirit Stones

10 Wraithguard Spiritseer, Destructor

Wraithlord Brightlance, Scatter Laser 2x flamers

Maybe not optimum, but can affect a number of opponents with various shooting attacks.

Or you can try for something closer to assault-based:

Farseer: Fortune, Mind War, Spirit Stones

10 Wraithguard Spiritseer, Enhance

Wraithlord Wraithsword, 2x flamers

So- those are examples of a few building blocks. I would not consider these optimized teams, but they're a decent starting point, and it gets you thinking about this high powered, moving line of scrimmage.

I'll share an example of one of my setups (this is for 1850pt games):

Farseer Fortune, Mind War, Spirit Stones


10 Wraithguard Spiritseer, Conceal

Wraithlord EML,Definition: Eldar Missile Launcher 2x Flamers

Approaching half of my total points, and haven't fulfilled compulsory yet! Still- I love how this particular unit operates. The main wall is supported by Yriel, who can be delivered directly from the lines to perform a pre-emptive charge on some of those powerfists that will be inevitably drawn to this line. The Farseer provides a focused ranged attack that is capable of picking out those pesky melta/plasma gunners buried in units with the powerfists too. The wraithlord is sporting decent early game anti-tank with a versatile EML Definition: Eldar Missile Launcherand two flamers for up close and personal hordes, and of course our wraithwall provides death to tanks, MC, TEQ's+ and is the primary focus for the army.

For tournament play- you can add things like Runes of Warding on the Farseer, and a Brightlance on your Wraithlord (as most heavy fire will be drawn to the scoring wraithwall).

If you're looking for real hitting power up front- there's nothing stopping you from dropping 1-2 more wraithlords and and trading Yriel for an Avatar for a highly competitive "bulldozer" type list.

Now…what do we do to complement our core theme? Well- if we're playing for balance- this core looks a bit slow, and it's not pumping out much dakka, and before we really start adding the 'gubbinz' to this list we need to make sure we cover scoring units, because we need at least 2 more (I know the wraithguard are scoring, but these days you will probably want at least 3 scoring units). I'll start with dakka and look at Dire Avengers- taking 10, and throwing in a Wave Serpent to boot. I'd probably also take a Guardian squad with EML Definition: Eldar Missile Launcheror Scatter Laser, and a Jetbike squad to give me added mobility and scoring. This puts me right at about 1,200pts.

For units past my core, I'll want to optimize output. This should be three to five more units, and with that core frontline I can decide to continue to strengthen that upfront presence, throwing in another wraithlord or two, or I can look to spread out threats and attacks in order to divert fire away from the core. The former tends to work better in killpoint games, as there is less killpoints to be made in total, while the latter may work best in objective games, giving you the most tactical flexibility. So think about what you'd rather field- a solid wraithbone battering ram, or a tempest of mobility and misdirection designed to deliver your tough wraithbone center?

Approaching a true "Ghost-Host"

Up until now we've looked at the ramifications of building your army core on one unit of wraithguard troops, but what about two, or even three troops of wraithguard? Truly this would be a highly unusual variant to what most opponents are going to expect facing Eldar- which is an advantage as they'll find themselves wishing they had more pieplates, heavies, specials, or powerfists, but you'll be somewhat set back in terms of having a less modile army, which may feel a bit uncomfortable the first time you feel outmaneuvered as an Eldar player. For now- consider using two units of wraithguard troops (remember we're talking units of 10, mounted elite units are always an option)

In previous editions I would say a second full unit of wraithguard seems redundant., but given this new importance of troops, two wraithwalls become a more attractive option.

This is where I feel you have the most freedom to revise the Spiritseer's warlock power. You can stay with Conceal as the standard, or you can change it up, taking enhance or one of the other powers on the second unit. If you decide on conceal you can run two massive, durable front lines with Fortuneseers up top and more wraithlords supporting, along with some dakka and countercharge. This is really just your core wraithguard team doubled with maybe a really cheap third scoring unit, and one response unit.

Alternately you can put enhance on the second unit and run it behind the first unit,giving it a 4+ save and having it bolster the assault when things get thick and dirty. For competitive play, you can take Eldrad to fortune both unit sand help keep the ling lines clean., along with Yriel and maybe infiltrating/outflanking scorpions to intercept assaulters.

You can look at this like a dual-wall or staggered wall approach. When you're running this kind of setup, you may have the temptation to field everything else for speed to compensate for the army's lack of mobility- and this would be okay if you were running one wall (as we saw earlier), or you were playing big points where you could reasonably afford it…but if you're taking two walls my belief is that the amount of points spent forces you to play to your strength- which is keeping the pressure on your opponent to kill that many robots. In an army containing two or more wraithwalls this is paramount to your strategy, so your additional unit choices should be more concerned with keeping the lines clean (pre-emptive or counter assault), providing ranged dakka, and having quick response scoring. Speed plays a role in the last function, but it should not be the focus for your additional units. In fact your additional units should be chained along either wraithwall, so don't be ready to spend the rest of your points on skimmers to try and make up for speed on a ghost-heavy list, as your speedy vanguard force will likely be too small and unlikely to benefit from the wraithwall versus units operating in and around the walls, benefiting from a durable cover save, providing counter-charge and attacking imminent threats.

Strategic sets

Many of us are familiar with the standard wraithwall setup:

w w w w w w w w w w w w
      S                          F

Where w= wraithguard, S = SpiritSeer, F= Fortuneseer, and WL = Wraithlord

But are there other configurations that might be beneficial? Let's have a look:

What if we clumped the wraithguard and put a pair of wraithords up front?

              WL  WL
              w F w S
              w w w w
            w w w w

 This is a "siege" setup that I've seen heavy ground-based forces use, except never with wraithguard, the reason being that wraithguard in the wall setup is more durable against shooting than the two wraithlords, and the formation feels wasted as the wraithlords (often with an Avatar) tend to hop into combat when threats draw close. These days- this is not necessarily a bad thing.

One possibility is that this "wraithgate" can serve as a delivery system for scoring wraithguard. The one real vulnerability this setup faces is templates, so your're probably better off sticking with a standard wall against IG or Space Marines with demolishers, but there are plenty of suitable applications for this, and one really cool benefit is that the setup allows you to take advantage of terrain.

Moving the gate up works best when the monstrous creatures can get behind or through terrain, as this improves the chances of a cover save, and their monstrous creature status gives them a better chance of moving through it faster. So let's say we have an enemy assault unit approaching the gate, eager to get their powerfisted hands on our robots. We move our wraithgate towards terrain, allowing the monstrous creatures to enter the terrain, and keeping the wraithguard outside of it.

e e e e
 e e e
e e e e
        |                        |
                    |  WL      WL  |
                          w S F w
                          w w w w
                          w w w w

Now the wraithguard can flatten out towards the right side, or away from the imminent threat:

e e e e
 e e e
e e e e
        |                        | F w
                    |  WL      WL  | w  w
                    |____________|  w  w
                                          w  w  S w
                                                w  w         
And now we have a chess match going. The enemy unit may have backup coming in from the left flank, or supporting fire from the strong side (right), but not a whole lot else can happen- he must now choose. He can charge one wraithlord and hope to kill it in a single round, only to be cut down by wraithcannon/ second wraithlord in the counter-assault, or he can cut across the middle, facing all the guns in the subsequent turn (bad idea!), or he slams down the left flank to reposition for a new attack, or to simply slip by- which he may want to do if he's scoring or can get at a vulnerable target once he's past the ghosts. None of the options are particularly good, and while some choices are better than others, the lines remain clean. Note with a wraithgate you are taking advantage of two things at the same time- the Wraithlord's ability to cross difficult terrain more easily, and the wraithguard's ability to run to give you better strategic position.

Note:These are pretty basic standard sets, and should be regarded as a starting point for the real work of getting multiple units to work together successfully. There are plenty of other things you can do with this set- and other units you can incorporate- working around this line of "scrimmage". Experimentation and experience with other Eldar units will help you tailor the strategy to fit your need exactly. For example- I like to work with a countercharge unit and a JSJ response unit with the moving wall, so my strategies incorporate things like Warp Spiders and Harlequins to keep the lines clean, but there's nothing stopping you from doing the same thing with Shining Spears and Jetbikes, for example.

Well- that's it for now looking at wraithguard as troops. I hope you enjoyed reading, and have some starting point when considering taking this unique troops choice.

- Yriel

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