Wraithsight - Selecting Troops

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Yriel of Iyanden

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This week's wraithsight is all about troops- enjoy! - Yriel
There are many methodologies when it comes to putting together your army. Some people like to write up a tactical core- making up a certain percentage of a point target they are going for- for example I like to keep tabs on a 750 tactical fore for 1,000-1,250 games, and a 1,000pt core for 1,500+ games. Other people have regular core units that they use and begin their lists with- they consider these "compulsory" selections for their force. An example of this might be your favorite non-troops choice, such as never leaving home without your 6 Dragons in a Falcon setup.
And some folks like to build starting with the compulsory first, revamping them as points allow. In this case you might start off with a bare bones HQ like a Doomseer, a 10 man Guardian unit with a Shuriken Cannon, and a 5 man Dire Avenger unit. Then you might build from the outside-in, taking as many Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy Supports that will achieve the bulk of your strategy, going back to your Troops as more of an "afterthought".
None of these methodologies are particularly better or worse than one another- the key in my opinion is keeping the focus of your strategy firmly in your mind. But I would like to propose an alternative manner of building a list- that being establishing the firm identity and role of your troops choices in battle, and taking additional units to complement the core force. I guess what I'm getting at is the idea that Troops are compulsory for a reason. They're not their to make sure you "tithe" a certain amount of points for the sake of "fluff" or "fairness", they're there because a working, balanced army should have some focus around its core troops. To understand this concept further, we'll need to take a closer look at troops, and while we're gonna focus on Eldar troops (this is Wraithsight after all!), we take a brief glimpse at some other armies' troop selections.

What is the primary role of troops?

Looking across the gamut of codexes, troops can vary in their tactical roles widely across the galaxy. The tactical uses of an army's troop choices might give you an example of how the army is designed to be played. For instance- Space Marine troops choices are tactical squads, and scouts. Both sport decent statlines, and tactical Space Marines are fairly good all around- they can be configured for shooting, assault, and anti-tank (sometimes all in the same unit- which tells us something about Marines). Space Marine Scouts also have a number of configurations, such as close combat weapons and shotguns versus sniper and heavy weapon setups plays into their infiltrate abilities, and as a whole we can typify most Space Marine armies at being fairly good across the board, and some decent mobility within the force. Tau Troop selections- mainly Firewarriors and Kroot sport mediocre-poor armor, but some mobility in the Kroot and excellent range and high strength shooting in the Firewarriors- and again this is indicative of how the army is supposed to be played. Normally when someone asks me a question like "What are Dark Eldar like?" the first part of my answer is somewhat analogous to what we see in their troops choices, and then I follow it up with commonly used elites and support. As a general statement I might say something like "Dark Eldar are lightly armored, speedy troops with good close combat and shooting abilities, but poor armor and toughness at a fairly numerous quantity." I might then follow up with some general statements about wyches, raiders, and Dark Eldar Archaon/HQ's.
The Troops choices for armies generally give you an idea of the common tactical use of the army. Let's look further at Eldar Troops choices:
Dire Avengers: Are probably the most commonly selected troops choice as of this new codex (I tend to believe they have eclipsed Guardians here). Avengers are fast troops with decent stats and mediocre armor, and can be configured to provide volume firepower (Exarch with twin shuricats and bladestorm comes to mind) and/or defensive combat abilities (Shimmershield, Defend), or a round-about way to boost speed and provide some anti-tank would be to mount them in a serpent.
You could try to fit all three roles (Shooty, Assault defense/anti-tank) in one unit- which would probably look like this:
10 Dire Avengers 322pts
Exarch, Shimmershield, power weapon, defend, bladestorm
InWave Serpent, Twin-linked Brightlances, Spirit Stone
It's not a bad unit at all, frankly. However, you'll probably want to pare this down some (unless you are taking an all Dire Avenger army- which are decent armies in this new codex!). For the most part though- the best points turnaround for this unit is to focus on shuriken fire and close range firefights, so I might take this unit instead:
10 Dire Avengers 272pts
Exarch, Extra Shuricat, Bladestorm
InWave Serpent, Twin Linked Shuriken Cannons, Hull-Mounted Shuriken Cannon, Spirit Stone
This configuration is more focused for the shuriken fight, and 50pts cheaper to boot.
Guardians: Slightly less common in army lists with the re-birth of the Dire Avengers, Guardians still have decent tactical uses, just as fast as Dire Avengers, but worse stats, armor and basic weapon range. Versus the Dire Avengers they have advantages in a cheaper basic cost, an assault-grade heavy weapon (standard config), and can upgrade to have a Warlock/SpiritSeer lead them. Just like Avengers they may be mounted in a Wave Serpent for added speed/firepower. Optionally- you may configure them for close assaults, dropping the heavy weapons for assault special weapons and close combat weapons. Guardian units may be configured to be shooty/anti/armor/anti-horde as well, but again you probably don't want to try and fit all of these abilities within the same unit.
Your best bet with Guardians is to focus on the relatively cheap and survivable heavy weapons platforms that can stay on the move:
16 Guardians 183pts
Scatter Laser, Warlock, Conceal
A very survivable unit that has some low/med anti-armor capability, and good close range fire. If you were looking for a more "static", ground-based attack with buried heavy weapons, it's completely feasible to take several squads of 10 man guardian teams with a heavy weapon- even at the minimum size of 10, the units are fairly durable, and you could take an embolden warlock in there just to keep your weapons firing every turn.
Your other main option with guardians is to convert the unit to Storm Guardians, dropping the heavy weapon and shuricats in favor of close combat weapons and shuirken pistols. You can throw a couple of special weapons in the unit, flamers and fusion guns, and if you're going this route I would stick to the same type of special weapon. In this configuration, the Stormies are relying on flooding the opponent with low strength attacks at decent initiative, which can be advantageous when you slam them into, say Impeial or Tau lines. Any warlock configuration works well here- it really just depends on the specific role of the unit. One of my favorite things to do with stormies is to take 2 flamers in the unit and a destructor warlock- this unit can seriously shred hordes and is pretty fun on the table.
Honestly though- I'm no longer a big fan of the Stormies- they just aren't as points-efficient as Dire Avengers, nor can they pack the kind of cheap firepower you can get from standard guardians. I use them as a fluffy Saim-Hann unit, sort of a mounted vanguard that can do really irritating things like tie up a dreadnought for a turn or so with a decent chance of destroying it (via buried witchblade). My favorite Guardian configuration is:
10 Guardians 240pts
Scatter Laser
InWave Serpent, Twin-Linked Brightlances, Spirit Stones
240pts gets me a fairly decent battle tank and some cheap, shooty goodness in a troops slot. If I'm not remotely interested in getting my Guardians any closer to the enemy, I'll deploy them outside the Wave Serpent and just play them like separate units. Alternately- dropping 18 shuriken shots and 4 Scatter Laser shots anywhere on the table can be great fun!
Rangers/Pathfinders:
When static firepower is called for, or some decent range AP from a dug-in position, it's time for Rangers, and the recently prevalent Pathfinders. Rangers (and especially pathfinders) are pretty pricey, so your units will be smallish (5 man units are most common), which isn't necessarily a bad thing given their specific combat role. Used in conjunction with the rest of your army, your Rangers/Pathfinders fill more of a harassment/detainment role. You may not expect them to throw a barrage of fire at your opponent, nor rack up an incredible kill rate, but their role is to divert, distract, and delay. Pinning tests on low LD hordes are an excellent use of Rangers, given you can infiltrate them onto the board and guarantee your effect on a speedy horde or threatening assault unit.
5 Pathfinders 120pts
A great way to support a ground-based Eldar army would be to take a unit (or more, perferrably) like the one above. Rangers can be used on key enemy units to distract and stall while you pound away with Dark Reapers in a shooty army, or you can use your infiltrate move to draw the enemy's fastest units to a specific area of the battlefield to be ambushed and assaulted when the odds are in your favor. Rangers and Pathfinders are simply great at helping you channel your enemy's attacks.
Wraithguard: Are much less common as troops choices, mainly due to their restrictions and incredible points value. However, many players (myself included) are more than willing to attest to the value a wraithguard unit brings to an Eldar army. Wraithguard units are good at three things- 1) Destroying heavy armor and monstrous creatures, 2) Absorbing the most horrible amounts of punishment your enemy may throw at you, and 3) Using 1) and 2) to keep constant pressure on your opponent. A commonly used Wraithguard Troop formation is the "Wraithbone wall" setup:
10 Wraithguard 396pts
SpiritSeer, Conceal
Many people gawk at the notion of spending 400pts for one troops slot, and I recommend this configuration for people who are interested in a slightly different strategy with their Eldar army. I would not recommend this configuration for new players, as it's probably better for you to understand the cheaper, more basic Eldar troops choices as that gives you more chances to explore other units in your codex. Wraithguard as a Troops choice must have the full 10 members and upgraded Warlock to SpiritSeer, so there is little flexibility configuring this unit, and you're looking at 381pts before you've done anything with the SpiritSeer.
However, attach a cheap Fortuneseer to this unit, and witness possibly one of the hardiest units in the entire game. With a massive toughness of 6, even Plaguemarines are sulking in their jealous bloated skins. It means that the majority of basic weapons require a 6 to even cause one wound to the unit, and then they face a 3+ save (which is rerollable with the fortuneseer!) on a fearless, 10 man unit! Due to their wraithcannons, your opponents will think twice about getting too close with Lemans, 'Fexes, Greater Deamons, and Independent Characters. Deathwing Terminators will be sweating a drop too close in fact. Wriathguard are slow, expensive, and terribly short-ranged, but are tough as nails and too terrifying (and expense) of a target to overlook- making them the perfect reliability unit for an Eldar army.
Jetbikes:
Another of the less common troop selections (I believe this has more to do with model price rather than points values), Eldar Jetbikes are the culmination of speed, distraction, and firepower. I generally have two setups in mind when I select jetbikes- either as a cheap, mobile distraction sporting enough anti-armor to be worth shooting, or as a reliability dakka platform that keeps your opponent both frustrated and guessing where you'll strike next. Jetbikes are the troops unit of choice for Mech Eldar armies, zooming across the field, providing support fire against enemy transports and fast hordes, and being a general nuisance while the rest of your force sets up its massive ambush. Because of this role- jetbikes really shouldn't be over 6 models (or 6 + Warlock bike). A commonly used configuration is fairly basic:
3 Jetbikes 76pts
1 Shuriken Cannon
Not that impressive at first glance. But consider your S6 Shuriken cannon- which is just enough punch to thwart a rhino rush, or sneak behind a battletank for some damaging side and rear shots. Your opponent now has to choose whether to ignore this apparently meaningless unit, allowing it to claim table quarters or pop tanks, or he might try and line up shots/assault on it, nearly always spending more points in that effort just trying to kill a 76pt unit. With 2 twin-linked shuicats on the go as well- this little unit can thin down hordes and buy time for your real attack.
Simply double this unit (3 more bikes +1 more shuricannon) and add a fortuneseer and you now have a different role assigned- a reliable shooting platform that can get to any area of the field it wants to- in fact, the faster it gets there (turbo-boosting) the more reliable it becomes! A 3+ rerollable save discourages your opponent from even wanting to shoot at it, but the fact that it's towing a potent farseer and 2 shuricannons isn't something your opponent can ignore all game.

An all-troops army?

Considering the units above and their respective roles, we see how diverse and specialized an Eldar army can be. In fact, we might even consider the viability of an all-troops force as seen below:
HQ
Farseer 125pts
Fortune, Mind War, Spirit Stones
Troops
3 Jetbikes 76pts
1 Shuriken Cannon
10 Wraithguard 396pts
SpiritSeer, Conceal
5 Pathfinders 120pts
10 Guardians 240pts
Scatter Laser
InWave Serpent, Twin-Linked Brightlances, Spirit Stones
10 Guardians 266pts
2 Flamers
Warlock, Destructor
InWave Serpent, Twin-Linked Starcannons, Spirit Stones
10 Dire Avengers 272pts
Exarch, Extra Shuricat, Bladestorm
InWave Serpent, Twin Linked Shuriken Cannons, Hull-Mounted Shuriken Cannon, Spirit Stone
Total = 1495pts
And what do I get? I have a solid reliability unit in wraithguard that is great for soaking fire, terrifying armor/MC's and keeping pressure on my opponent. I have a cheap, speedy anti- transport/horde option in the jetbikes. I have Pathfinders that can distract and stall key enemy assault units, and terrifying tactical-level dakka that can be deployed nearly anywhere on the field, with 3 fairly reliable tanks that provide dakka, anti-tank, and anti- MEQ/TEQ where needed. The only thing this army is really lacking is countercharge, which I have to some degree in the stormies, but properly deployed and played, that really shouldn't be much of an issue as this army is designed to keep nearly everything away from it.
Looking at this list should really summarize in your mind what Eldar troops and armies can do. Due to their diversity and customization to combat roles- I would venture to say that the Eldar troops choices are among the very best in the game.
Try an exercise sometime if you can: Try assembling a list with the same FOC as above (1 HQ, 6 Troops, taking all troops units available) and see how many different armies can achieve the versatility we have here. I think you'll feel pretty fortunate to be holding the keys to your craftworld.
Thanks for reading!
 




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