Wraithsight - The Enigmatic Warwalker

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Yriel of Iyanden

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Whenever the subject of warwalkers comes up in my local store, there's always two parts I can count on. One- someone bringing up the futility of Armor 10 on a unit, and Two- the story of someone's friend or a Grand Tournament player who absolutely swears by them.
Most of us have heard the stories, yet we still give warwalkers the cold shoulder when it comes time to select our workhorse units. Is it just a myth? Are warwalkers this "hidden gold" that so many of us have examined in the codex and subsequently walked away from? Or are warwalkers just what they appear to be- a slow, poorly armored unit with poor reliability and a waste of a perfectly good Heavy Support slot. Let's take an indpeth look at our enigmatic friend, the warwalker.
First, let's explore some of the reasons why many Eldar players shun the warwalker:
  • Poor armor values
  • Poor ballistic skill
  • Slow!
  • Vehicle squadron can cause logistical problems
  • Vulnerable to assault
  • Other heavy support options appear more viable.
  • Monetary cost
Warwalkers look pretty awful on paper. Their a walker-based vehicular unit designed as a weapons platform, but with poor BS,Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skill abysmal armor, and dirt slow. Armor 10 means I'll be vulnerable to everything short of lasguns and grot blasters, and that includes being charged by your average space marine, which not only ties down the entire unit, but even the lowliest of the Emperor's finest, an 8 point Kroot Warrior, or even a 6 point Chaos Cultist with furious charge has a chance at downing a Warwalker. Warwalkers are also dirt slow and have to take dangerous terrain tests, which puts a damper on sneaking around in buildings or dense woods. Finally- the fact that they're a vehicle squadron means that a single heavy bolter has an extremely rare opportunity to wipe out an entire unit of walkers.
And one of the main reasons why people aren't taking warwalkers en masse is the fact that us Eldar players are spoiled when it comes to our other heavy support options, take a look:
Falcons are my first and favorite heavy choice option. This is the tank that can literally do it all- it's a scoring unit, and arguably the most reliable transport vehicle in the entire game. Good anti-tank option, good horde killing capabilities, and blinding fast- what's not to like?
Fire Prisms are very popular these days as a mainline Eldar battle tank. Good heavy armor capabilities, great horde killers, Falcon-level reliability, and the link-up option makes Prisms another very popular choice.
Wraithlords are also still very popular, particularly for Iyanden players. Still one of the toughest units to kill in-game, and now capable of a dual wielding heavy armaments, and a solid close combat presence. Not to mention this more reliable unit has better stats making it a better shot and one of the better Brightlance platforms available to us.
Dark Reapers still reign as the MEQ Definition: Marine Equivalentkiller-du-jour, and even more so with the recent armor boost in this latest codex. The unit can also be configured for a decent anti-tank as well as killing marines by the dozen.
Let's face it- the warwalker can't compete with any of those other units for reliability, and it's probably not the first choice for taking a Brightlance/EML. They're not fast- they aren't good in close combat, and they're more vulnerable to attacks than the other choices we have. But are they just a lost cause? I don't think so. The problem with warwalkers in my opinion is identity, and I think that if we review the warwalker's capabilities we can solidify its identity and maybe even find a role for which this mysterious unit excels. Let's have a look at some of its benefits:
  • Cost
  • Volume shooting
  • Scouts
  • Walker
Cost: can be an extremely critical factor, especially for us Iyanden players. A bare bones warwalker with 2 shuriken cannons runs an astounding 40 points, just 5 points more than a wraithguard or a Dark Reaper. An equivalently armed warwalker and vyper with scatter lasers cost the same points, but the walker is sporting twice the shots, which is very impressive. So a unit of three warwalkers with six shuriken cannons (or 18 S6 shots!) costs a mere 120points, the same price you would pay for 5 pathfinders. The low cost more than makes up for itself in the shooting department when you consider how much potential dakka you have on your hands, which brings us to:
Volume shooting: being the real steal in warwalkers. My 120pt unit of three will kill 7.47 guardsmen or orks per turn, or 2.461 MEQ's, or 1.24 TEQ's per turn. It can destroy armor up to 12 fairly reliably, and forget the odd landspeeder, attack bike, or rhino that gets in the line of fire. For 180points (just under the cost of an optimally configured Falcon) you can field an astounding 24 Strength 6 shots per turn, while staying out of range from those pesky bolters. Such a unit will flatten nearly anything trying to cross the field, and don't forget the massive amount of points you still have leftover!
TheScouts rule is also a boon for Warwalker fans. While the pre-game scout move may be a bit dicey in games, it has its uses (especially in scenarios where you are required to go first). My favorite part of this rule though, is how it affects Escalation games. Mech armies are a big deal these days, which means most if not all of the opponent's army may be stuck in reserve, leaving only foot troopers not in dedicated transports on the table. If you're going heavy mech and relying on falcons like I normally do- escalation hurts bad. Without warwalkers I'm deploying a measly 6 harlequins and 6 Dire Avengers, who have the awful choice of trying to spearhead the attack on foot, or desperately wait for their falcons to arrive. Warwalkers help tremendously here- being able to deploy anyway and get the jump on enemy threats to buy time for the speedy element of my army to arrive with my 120point unit pumping out 18 shots and moving before the escalation game begins- I have a chance to pounce on an opponent early, claim the more remote quarters of the table, or set up my dakka trap at least a full turn before anything really fast or hurty gets there.
Finally- consider the fact that warwalkers are walkers. Walkers aren't big flying "Windows that force leadership tests" the way our skimmers are. They block critical lines of sight while being totally comfortable firing behind a Falcon, which doesn't block its LoS.
So when reviewing this information, what can warwalkers do for you? For me- they're extremely cheap and mobile dakka platforms, that fit a very specific combat role for which I have designed them for.

Configuration

Warwalkers have access to the same heavy weapons that a guardian unit, wave serpent, vyper, falcon, and wraithlord. But as we should know by now- the platforms are far from interchangeable. We know for instance, that single shot anti-tank weapons are best in the hands of better BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skilland reliability, so wraithlords and wave serpents are better candidates for those weapons. And while starcannons are good, they seem to take me out of the range of desired points I'd be willing to spend on this fragile unit, so I'll leave them out as well.
Warwalkers can also mix configurations, like wraithlords can. I don't know how particularly good this is though. A balanced configuration like Brightlance/Scatter Laser might be excellent on a wraithlord, but it just seems pricey and convoluted on my warwalkers. At the very first weapon destroyed result, your opponent will select the highest threat or highest cost weapon to destroy, while a wraithlord really benefits from two weapons because it can still fire both, even if reduced to one wound. Not so with the warwalkers who use a standard vehicle damage roll. However, one thing walkers do better than wraithlords is that they don't twin- link a duplicate weapon taken so duplicate armament is good here. One configuration I like is:
3 Warwalkers 140pts
1 x 2 Scatter Lasers
2 x 2 Shuriken Cannons
Still an extremely cheap unit with good shooting capabilities. As a vehicle squad the unit benefits from a 4" coherency, allowing me to stagger my scatter laser walker back, or combat "fold" if one of the shuricannon ones is assaulted. It boasts an impressive 20 S6 shots, and the scatter laser walker not only gives me 2 extra shots, it can alleviate any potential problems I might have getting within shuricannon range.
I've seen some players field a single warwalker with 2 starcannons because "shuricannons/scatter lasers are ineffective.", and I don't think this person has really compared the numbers for the two units. Let me show you what I'm talking about:
A warwalker with two starcannons is running 80pts. Two warwalkers with shuriken cannons runs 80 points.
  • The Starcannon walker will kill 1.66 GEQ's/turn.
  • The Shuricannon walkers will kill 4.398 GEQ's/turn.
  • The Starcannon walker will kill 1.66 MEQ's/turn.
  • The Shuricannon walkers will kill 1.64 MEQ's turn.
  • The Starcannon walker will kill 1.0956 TEQ's turn.
  • The Shuricannon walkers will kill 0.82668 TEQ's turn.
  • Against Armor 10, Starcannon Walker will destroy 0.38 vehicles
  • Shuricannon walkers will kill 1.0 vehicles
  • Against Armor 11, Starcannon Walker will destroy 0.18 vehicles
  • Shuricannon walkers will kill 0.5 vehicles.
So- excluding the very minor advantage that the starcannon warwalker has against TEQ's (they both kill about 1 model), the starcannon is equaled or outclassed in every other target category. Why pay more for fewer models for equal or worse output? Not only does the starcannon setup have fewer models to absorb damage, putting a starcannon on anything is like painting a giant bullseye on something for those who still remember the dreaded starcannon days of old. The fact of the matter is, scatter lasers and shuricannons are cheaper, more versatile, and less "threatening" than the modern day starcannon, and simply a much better buy. Scatter Laser Warwalkers do one better by doubling the number of shots at the same range and at 25% cheaper than its starcannon cousin, so this is also a highly recommended setup.
You might be reading the example above and still be thinking to yourself, "Who cares? They're both AR10 and will go down to harsh language". I mean, all this math about shuriken cannons are great, except as we know, we're still dealing with a unit with very low survivability which is further enhanced by the need to be within bolter fire range. This fact alone is why warwalkers are considered the "Eldar artisan's choice" for a Heavy Support option, and not really the stuff of the mainstream Eldar player's regular units.

Warwalker tactics

Now that we've explored some of the benefits and drawbacks, and looked at some optimal configurations for warwalkers, we'll want to discuss specific tactics regarding this unit. Unlike other heavy support options like Dark Reapers or Support Weapons, Warwalkers are a highlytactical rather thanstrategic unit. What I mean is- successful use of warwalkers is more dependant upon tactical considerations, such as movement, formation, and timing versus strategic elements such as deployment and configuration. Warwalkers reward a commander who can think on his toes, and one who understands the long term significance of having massed dakka at just the right moment of the game. Very few regular warwalker users I've run into tell me they can get better than 3 or 4 rounds of shooting before the unit is destroyed, yet nearly every experienced player has told me it was well worth the investment. Let's consider a few key principles:
  • Threat management
  • Functional combat teams
  • Timing
Threat management: Certain Eldar units terrify opponents. Just say their name to an experienced opponent and watch them cringe. Dark Reapers. Wraithguard. Falcons. Fire Prisms. Harlequins. Even some weapon names strike fear- Vibrocannons. Brightlance. Starcannon. Threat management is the business of forcing an opponent to make tough decisions regarding what to concentrate his attacks on. A Falcon with Fire Dragons inside is commonly regarded as a key threat. Dark Reapers set in the building are also priority targets. One of the big selling points for cheap, dakka-based warwalkers is that they don't strike fear in an opponent the way many other Eldar units do. Most opponents ask me things like "What's the AP of a scatter laser?" When I reply, "Six" in my usual, confident tone most of them quickly turn their attention to the big gun wielding Falcons and Wraithguard, some of them question why I would ever take them, and even a few have laughed at me for having them on the field.
And then I darken the sky with S6 fire, the likes of which they have never seen before.
It makes sense on the outside to concentrate on those units who seem tougher, faster, and sporting insane AP2 auto-kill guns, not just from a perceived power perspective (alliteration!), but from a points-value as well. My typical wraithguard squad runs 330-396points. Harlequins run 162-208pts. Falcons on my list are 175 or more out of the gate. Why fire heavy weapons shots at a 120pt unit when I can save bolter fire for them, which I can have nearly any time of the game? That's the key behind threat management. Warwalkers don't necessarily invoke dread and fear the way many other Eldar units do, which is a bonus for keeping the unit alive longer. They aren't dug-in the way Reapers or Support weapons often are, which often frustrates opponents. Nor are they these zippy, fleet-capable units or skimmers zooming off at 24"+ per turn, so they don't draw fire from the movement perspective either. Your ability to present, rotate, and divert threats is key with cheap units like warwalkers, and it's something I've learned by using units like the three-man jetbike unit with shuricannon. Manage your threats correctly and you'll find it's easier to keep your warwalkers alive long enough for their devastating fire.

Functional Combat Teams

I never consider a unit alone. Nor should any experienced Eldar commander, IMHO. Eldar armies are too fragile to be sent alone, yet the good news is- we're fast enough to never need to. As a tactical unit- neither should warwalkers be stand-alone targets, or designed to face off one on one with any enemy unit.
The idea behind functional combat teams is that your army is made up of one or more combat teams that are given specific tasks during a game. As we discussed earlier, warwalkers supply some much needed tactical dakka, which is great for hordes and ground units, as well as pesky fast attack skimmers and light enemy transports. I like to team up my warwalkers with my favorite Eldar heavy support option- the Falcon, as the two compliment each other very well, especially if the Falcon is carrying some primo unit inside, such as a Harlequin team, fire dragons, or a Farseer with warlock council. The units benefit mutually from protection, and can run some nasty, specific set plays against an opponent.
Consider this setup:
Prince Yriel
With
5 Harlequins
Shadowseer, 5x Harlequin's Kiss
InFalcon, Shuricannon, Hull Shuricannon, Spirit Stone, Holofield, Vectored Engines
Plus3 Warwalkers, 4x shuricannon, 2x scatter laser.
I chose this setup as it is one I have used in the past. Very, very mean combat team.
I setup deep in a flank, with the warwalkers about 5" or deeper within my DZ. On tables where terrain is skimp, I'll place my falcon behind the warwalkers, which prevents LoS. Once this is deployed I can use my scout move to adjust, depending on what wonderful targets I may have within a 2 turn reach, or if I know I'm facing something like Drop Pods or Deathwing assault.
On my first turn- I'll continue to move warwalkers, behind area terrain if at all possible, keeping them nearby my Falcon, which moves ahead of my warwalkers. This now means target priority test if my opponent wants to shoot the warwalkers, and they're probably much more worried about the nastiness inside the Falcon at this point anyway. It also means the Warwalkers are free to fire at anything in front of the Falcon, giving it some much needed cover fire and further saturating the threat of the combat team. The warwalkers behind also protect the falcon's rear from deepstriking units, a serious threat to my wondrous flying machine and the close combat terrors inside. Second turn is either a blitz or a counter, and with a reliable unit like a Falcon escorting a dakka-rich warwalker squadron, it's likely to be too late to halt my corner blitz.
Other units also work tremendously well with warwalkers. Warp Spiders are also great for this, having the ability to jump in front, shoot, and jump behind the warwalker wall in the same turn. Jetbikes are cheap proximal response. I could even take a Doom/Guideseer on foot and simply march him behind the machines, which is also tremendously effective.

Timing

Anyone who uses warwalkers regularly will tell you mastery has everything to do with timing. We know this because warwalkers die easily, so the few rounds of shooting you can expect to get needs to be timed precisely to receive the best combat results. It's important to understand patience, not to sell out to the very first target in range unless you find it critical to your long term battle success. You'll want to strike on the same turn you've setup your counter/blitz, or on a turn where a well placed round of fire can tip the scales in your favor. You'll also want to do your best to keep the walkers out of harm's way until this opportunity presents itself. A single salvo of fire from a warwalker unit can just as often be the turn of the tide in your favor or your death knell if this was improperly timed. Bide your time, select your shots carefully, and hopefully you'll understand the value of this wonderfully cheap units.
So- what do we believe about warwalkers? I don't believe they are for every Eldar player. They take some care and skill to configure and use effectively, but they are a high risk- high reward type unit, specifically in the hands of a skilled tactician. Think of it like professional level versus novice sports equipment, like a Tour De France bike versus a standard 10-speed you can buy at Wal-Mart. If you aren't out to win the Tour De France, you might want a bike with a decent seat and easier gear change. And if you want to really master the Eldar army at a "professional" level, the Warwalkers just might be the unit you need to master to bring your game to the next level. As a long term, advanced level Eldar player- what better way to expand your knowledge of the Eldar by not bypassing those units you once overlooked, like warwalkers. Continue to challenge yourself to get to know and use these types of units. It can only make you that much better of an Eldar player.
Thanks for reading!
- Yriel
 




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