Wraithsight - Winning with Balance

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Yriel of Iyanden

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Shave the beard off your wraithlord! It's time for another Wraithsight article. This week's article is a bit preachy, so beware non-believers! Enjoy!
Why do people like tournaments? Aren't they just a haven for beardy powergamers, for strange looking people on a hygiene-hiatus, you know, those folks who have failed in all aspects of what we like to call "real-life" that perform all manner of unholy acts to try and win something- even if relatively meaningless- for once in their lives?
Yeah- in many cases that's probably pretty accurate (harsh as that may sound). But that isn't why everyone goes to a tournament. Honestly, for every 3-4 beardy trolls I've run into, I've encountered some reasonably cool folks. Tournies are great for meeting new players, being exposed to new talent, and most importantly, testing your skills as a commander.
And in the role of Eldar Farseer, you're prejudiced and stereotyped the minute you write "Eldar" next to your name on the roster. Eldar are one of the most hated armies in the 40k tournament circuit, and there's plenty of reasons why. Remember hygiene-hiatus, never-touched-a-woman troll? He plays Eldar. And he's not alone. Many, many, many trolls, idiots, noobs, and beards flock to the Eldar army, forever stigmatizing every decent player they've run into, forever melding the words such that people order an "Eldar and cheese burrito" for lack of memory. It's what you have to deal with, going to that tourney, wanting to win, but wondering how many 1,000point Seer Councils and 18 Vypers with Starcannon armies have been here before. You want to win, but you don't want to be "that guy", one of many continuing to ruin the proud Eldar name.
So, you write yourself up a balanced, reasonable list. Minimum 4 troop selections. Maximum 2 heavy support. No identical squads or wargear. And it looks great- it's fluffy, yet still highly functional, and has excellent mobility and solid scoring units. But how do you perform well- how do you have fun and do well with a list like this when the guy next to you is toting 3 wraithlords in 1,000points?
Well for me, successful tournament play with an Eldar army is 3M, just like the company who put 2 and 2 together and gave birth to the post-it note. I present here- the 3 M's of tournament success playing the Eldar army.

Mobility

No surprise here- the Eldar's true strength is in their mobility. Balanced Eldar lists will beat other balanced lists in the movement phase- and I'm not just talking about flat-out speed, because there are a few armies that can keep up with us quite well (Kult of Speed and Dark Eldar readily come to mind). We have the combined armor and special moves that gives us advantages- like all skimmer transports, warp spider movement, swooping hawks, crystal targeting matrix, elder jetbikes, moving weapon platforms…the list is wrought with mobility first and foremost, and no other army has the access to as much different movement than we do.
And in advanced games, movement is what really determines the flow and tempo of the game. The fact that you can dominate the movement phase means a skilled Eldar player can dictate the tempo of the game, he or she can choose where and when to fight, where to concentrate, where to collapse. Movement dictates your shooting, it dictates your opponent's shooting, and dictates everyones' assaults. Eldar movement is fluid, graceful on the field, and devastating when performed with skill, and one thing you want to do when you play in a tournament is display skill worthy of respect by your fellow players. Field a 30 man Dark Reaper army and all you're liable to receive are death threats, and no one will respect your "skill". When I design/ play my tournament Eldar armies, my intent is to win the movement phase, which can be difficult to do, but has the biggest payoff.

Missions

A key to tournament victory is achieving missions. So many people I've encountered write up lists and base strategies on simply killing their opponent, but often at the cost of effective scoring units, and forget mission conditions entirely. In the closer tournaments I've won, it was my mission points that gave me the lead. Killing opponents is great- and it does affect your victory of course. But if the mission of your 30 man Dark Reaper army was to penetrate the enemy lines, well that's 200 victory points you'll never earn. So maybe you kill X number of Marines but so what? You're opponent has outmaneuvered you and manages to beat you on mission alone. While you passively sat back and leaned on Reaper-Launcher stats rather than demonstrating any real skill, your opponent, you know the one you were supposed to smear all over the field, managed to sneak in some landspeeders and a scout squad past your lines, and beat you by missions.
Never forget your missions. How can you increase your odds of achieving missions? Simple- write a balanced list and work towards winning the movement phase. Keep some mobile units in the list, some anti-tank, some countercharge, and take useful scoring units that are even-numbered and can fight on the go. Even if you don't manage to win the match, achieving missions keeps your morale up, and further demonstrates your skill.

Massacres

One area that your balanced list will admittedly struggle in- is massacres. Powergamers write their lists to try and get as many massacres as they can, so they load up on heavies and elites that can get the job done quickly. Hey, no argument there, they CAN get the job done quickly, and experience shows that these are the armies that register a lot of massacres. Does that mean that your balanced Eldar list can't generate massacres? Absolutely not! Eldar are precision armies, and up against powergamers, a couple of well placed hits here and there early in the game will set you up nicely for a massacre.
Like I said, powergamers love to load up on heavies, elites, and optional unit choices. They're sporting 3 Lemans, or 3 Hammerheads, with minimal troops and maximized fire support. Balanced Eldar lists can kill vehicles fairly quickly- which is not only fast victory points for you, it means Mr. Uses-blocks-of-cheese for underarm deodorant has lost a great deal of his effectiveness (not including his smell obviously, that's permanent). Once he's lost his big guns and big tanks, he has two minimal troops left, hardly a challenge for an army that can move to anywhere on the board it likes. I admit that I've rarely had a massacre against a balanced force and a skilled general, but I've racked in plenty of massacres against beardy lists, and these stack up during a tournament. Take advantage of and play for a massacre when you can- it will help you overall, and massacre-ing a beard with a balanced list always feels more rewarding than the other way around.
That said, there are a few things that an Eldar player needs to keep in mind regarding tournament situations:

Escalation games

Escalation games can be particularly crippling for an Eldar Warhost. Eldar armies rely heavily on multiple unit coordination, mechanized warfare and transports, and special movement troops like jump troops. All of these are affected by escalation rules. So imagine having to begin your game without your skimmers, without jetbikes, dedicated transports, wraithlords, and fast troops like Warp Spiders and Swooping Hawks. In many of the lists we see, that leaves us precious little besides Reapers, Rangers, guardian units and 12" ranged groundpounders- not a good place to be if your opponent has infiltrating heavy bolters, or that non-statured Chaos Lord with Daemonic speed- there's no escape!
This is why balancing lists is so important in tournaments that run missions. If you're running a mechanized army, consider at least one static or footslogging element. Large-ish units of wraithguard, for example are good for escalation games, as properly configured they can handle the firepower that infantry will throw their way, eminently moving across the field, keeping your opponent on his toes (and notably, away from his armor!).

Scoring units

Mech-armies have been weakened in 4th edition due to the definition of scoring units. This rule particularly affects the Eldar once again, because of our beloved Wave Serpents. Wave Serpents are excellent tanks and transports, arguably the best in the game. And in the same spirit, Wave Serpents tend to be much more expensive than other army's dedicated transport vehicles, so paying the points to mechanize your force, while tactically sound and effective, may deplete your army list of more potential scoring units. Bear this in mind when making lists, and though personally I would not make major adjustments to an all-mechanized force, I would go in with the understanding that I may be short on scoring units overall.
So, enjoy tournament play. Dominate the movement phase. Stick to winning the mission. And rack in those massacres. But above all- remember to have FUN!
 




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