Tactica- Eldar Support Weapons

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After the discussion on D-Cannons, I decided to summarize my thoughts and others on the general usefulness of these weapons. I have been been using them in my lists for the past few months off and on, and have gained a new respect for them. There have been some reasons to abandon them in 5ed but there are also benefits to taking them in 5ed.

Support Weapons - Ignored and Forgotten

Support Weapons are situationally stronger offensively then other options; Vibrocannons will hurt  infantry hordes more effectively than other Heavy Support units and D-Cannons are effective against whatever they hit. They need to be protected and are immobile so you have to build your army up around them. A single battery of D-Cannons will be a priority target for an opponent who knows their damage potential. A battery of D-Cannons screened by a Wraithlord and joined by a Farseer or Warlock provides highly effective map control with its 24" radius of death. As I mentioned it is the competition at the heavy slot that makes them rare sights in Eldar lists. Fire Prisms and Warwalkers are highly effective. Let us be honest though. In 5ed support weapon batteries have been largely ignored by Eldar players and it has been some time since I've seen them recommended for a competitive list. There are a few reasons contributing this.

1) The competition in the heavy support slot is fierce with four quite competitive choices. Fire Prisms can dish out a lot of pain, Falcons are useful as transports and as weapon platforms (and are arguably one of the better tanks in all 40K) and Warwalkers are real threat when outflanking or starting on the table. Wraithlords can run and they are used much more often in a mixed list with footsloggers then D-Cannons or Vibro Cannons. This means that are support weapons must fill a niche in particular builds where they can be a greater threat or deterrent then our other heavy support options.

2) They lack mobility. The game has evolved in 5ed. Mobility is the key to success for many Eldar lists. With the number of fast moving squads typically deployed in Eldar lists the vulnerability of a fragile and static element that can easily be picked off by outflankers or deep strikers seems risky. We will examine this presumed weakness later.

3) They are really expensive to buy! Okay, this will not stop seasoned veterans who are on the tournament circuit. It does deter the average Eldar player though. Like Gargoyles in Tyranid lists, no one really wants to shell out a lot of cash unless they really believe they are a useful edition and will perform well in games.

4) You should never field a single support weapon. You need to field them in batteries of two and three to get any consistency out them. This means that their true points cost is higher if you plan on using them.

5) Cannons can hit your own troops. It would seem you could avoid this in most cases but on the odd occasion it backfires on you, you begin to rethink the logic of cannons. You need very careful positioning to get the best use from them.

That said there are a number of positives aspects to support weapons that we can examine. They do not cost a lot of points, cover will mitigate their fragility, and they do not need LoS. This is very important in 5ed. It makes our support weapons much more dangerous if they are hidden behind cover. Support weapons have always been used in lists with a lot of infantry. Fully mechanized lists will not reap the benefits of these weapons. However, list with an Avatar and Guardian squads, Iyanden lists with walking Wraithguard and mixed lists at lower point levels can certainly benefit from support weapons. In objective based games the D-Cannon in 5ed can hide behind LOS blocking terrain (as they always have been able to do), and your opponent's army is going to have to come towards you because you've have objectives nearby. When they get within 24", start pounding them. Things they hit go away. I am thinking of incorporating two batteries of two into my Iyanden lists.

Note as well that although you cannot move and fire your support weapons that does not mean you should remain stationary the whole game. It is quite acceptable to give up a round of shooting to get into a good position. I have been testing Distort Cannons and Vibro Cannons out for the last moonth and have found that are surprisingly good in 5ed. Troops like to run at you now. When they are running into a circle of death it becomes very disruptive. So I will often run them up with my troops for a turn or two to control the mid to late game table position. You cannot ignore them and you really do not want to get too close to my Wraithwall (which they sit behind and to the side). It effectively increases the range of my Wraithcannons as opponent must get to the cannons.

Special Rules and Wargear and Upgrades

They are Artillery weapons with a guardian crew.  In addition a warlock may be taken to command the battery, All support weapons in squad must be armed identically with one of the following:
   Distort Cannon(D-Cannon): High chance to wound, chance to cause instant death, rolls a d6 to see if it glances or penetrates any armour value. Lowest range of the three.
 Vibro Cannon(V-Cannon): Hits everything in a single line away from it, with the Strength of the hits increased by the number of Vibro cannons in the battery.
 Shadow Weaver: Average strength guess range. Heavy blast template.

Taking a Warlock

A warlock can be added to a support weapon battery. This can provide two advantages. First, the Warlock is part of the squad and thus the Warlocks BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skillmay bew used when firing. Second, a warlock will allow you to give the squad conceal. Now you should be behind cover anyway but if you are caught out this adds a measure of protection. I rarely use a warlock. I just don't want to add more cost to the squad. I've seen them used though and if points are available they are not a bad upgrade.

Distort Cannons

D-Cannons do damage. Of the choices available, they are the most reliable. You will look like a genius if you use a battery of them and your opponent decides to field two Land Raiders. If your opponent plays Ork mobs you might look a little foolish. They are designed to take of Meqs, Teqs and tanks. Space Marines hate them and will give them a wie berth. Place them by an objective and keep them away from the board edges and outflankers will be hesitant to come in. Deep striking squads pose a problem though so its nice not to leave them totally isolated. Give them a bit of support and they will shine. Beware of their range though. It is short and their shots scatter. You do not want to hit your own troops.

I'm going to repost from a previous topic

Let us look at how effective D Cannons can be

Indirect 3" Blast
Direct hit: 33%
Average Drift: 7"
Cover hit: 35%

To be a little clearer you look at your best drift which is 3" or less
33% (hit) +[66.7% * 8.3%] = 38.5%
So we have a 38.5% chance of a what we would accept as a good shot.

We need ask ourselves how often we want to fire indirectly in 5ed. Simply, anytime you don't want to give your target a 4+ cover save. You only get a cover save if there's cover blocking you from the center of the template or if you're in area terrain that gives you a cover save. You can catch many units without cover because of an indirect shot.

Quite honestly I think a weapon that always wounds on a 2+ with the possibility of an instant kill is quite nice. It also negates common armour saves. The issue is getting your opponent within range. This means baiting and trapping him. Force him to move towards you using any of your squads as bait.

The overall accuracy of indirect blast weapons has taken a large hit in 5th edition.
Partial hits are 100% now instead of 50% so they can now drift and catch some hits.

Now we know that D Cannon batteries are fragile. We need a conceal warlock in each group. They are also most effective when spammed. This will run you 570 points if you max out your heavy slots. Typically you will not at that cost but even three cost 190 points.

As mentioned the biggest problem is the range of the guns. Twenty-four inches in 5ed is not good. You are getting very close to your enemy and you will need to support the batteries. Fast attack squads will get to them quick. That said D-cannon support batteries are a defensive and psychological weapon that can deny land raiders, deep striking obliterators and terminators, etc, whole sections of the board. They are a useful deterrent. Blowing up a Land Raider full of terminators is a great bonus but not an expectation.

Now I've played against D Cannon spam. It often consists of an Avatar and cheap Guided Farseer and multiple squads of Guardians with a warlock/conceal and EMLS/Scatterlasers. The list at 1500 points is actually a bit scary in objective based missions. All that said it does not take many hits for these batteries to make back their points and if deployed wisely with a good plan I think they can have their place still.

Vibro Cannons

Just a note on Vibro-Cannons; In 4th you could kill a tank with a glancing hit - in 5ed this is sadly no longer applicable so the V-Cannon has lost a bit of luster as it is more one dimensional now - good against hordes. Still an auto glance will slow your opponent down and still has value. Getting D6 auto-glances will stop three vehicles in a squadron 66% of the time. Vibrocannons are very good at counter battery fire.When you IG opponent sets up his gun batteries fire your salvos back! It is also not as reliable a weapon as the D-Cannon. The Vibrocannons range is much better then the D-Cannon and this will make it very useful against most standard infantry units. 

The Vibro cannon only hits 50% of the time. How often will you find the opportunity to hit more than 2 units in a single shot? On the upside, with guide, your odds improve significantly to 75%. One of the main advantage of Vibro cannons are their ability to pin units.

It can be devastating against Orks, Nids and IG. Get into a good position and deal D6 hits at S4 to each squad for each vibro cannon in your battery along a 36" line of fire. Ouch. Now this works well against Geqs but it really looks a lot worse when used against ICs and Geqs and Meqs. Like itsd brother the D-Cannon you look like a genius when you destroy two mobs of Orks but you look like a fool when the Land Raider full of terminators comes charging down table. Look at your meta. This can be a very effective weapon against certain lists. In fact it is one of our best weapons against Orks. You do need to use them in batteries though and an accompanying Warlock with conmceal is useful. A Farseer with guide nearby vcan be helpful as well. Like the D-Cannon, LoS is not required on V-Cannons. Again this allows us to situate the cannons in the safest areas of the board and allow them the benefit of cover.  It doesn't need LOS, so deploy it behind some cover and use it to pin a target squad and let your troops finish the job.

Now generally you do not think to use support weapons in a mechanized list. There are exceptions. I have a friend who uses V-Cannons in his Saim-Hann list. His bikes can stay out of range while his cannons pin a flank. I've never seen him hit his own troops and his bikes mobility allow him to fold up the whole flank in a  turn or two. Sometimes we need to think outside of the box. Most Saim-Hann lists would use Vypers for this task but V-Cannons in cover can be better. V-Cannons can be very pesky weapons in the hands of a good tactician. They cannot be ignored so it will force your opponent to try and get closer to you. V-Cannons can be a great psychological tool with the bonus that they can do some serious damage against some lists. They're medium range but can cause lots of wounds and are a very nice support squad for a number of lists. The proviso is that you absolutely need to field at least two of them to get any consistency.

Some lists are weal at dealing with swarms. This is where your Vibro cannons will shine. You could argue that Fire Prisms or SL Warwalkers will be better for the task but this depends on the overall makeup of the list you are playing.

Shadow Weaver

I've rarely used the Shadow Reaver. I've only now played two games with them. I will leave this open for others to discuss in more detail but I will give a short analysis based on their stats. On paper it seems the weakest choice of the three options. It is not as good at taking down infantry as the V-Cannon and it really is not good against any armored foes. It's alleviating grace is its cost and it's 48' range. Support weapons are useful when incorporated into Eldar armies employing a castle strategy. Shadow Weavers need a firebase as a distraction When running your squads along a flank the Weavers could allow for nice coordinated attacks. But your other support weapons will do the same job, and Eldar have a lot of STr 6 weapons available. All said, a full battery of  Shadow weavers are 90 points - three  48", S6 heavy 1, blast per turn cannot be all bad. I'll let others chime in.

Summary of Strengths

D-Cannon - range 24"
- area denial
- kills everything with ease
- AP2 denies saves
- best against tough armour and ICs
- does not require LOS so easily hidden

Vibro-Cannon - range 36"
- 36" attack hitting everything in its path
- auto glances vehicles
- AP- and glancing means to stun or shake vehicles
- best against swarms
- does not require LOS so easily hidden

Shadow Weaver - 48" range
- very cheap
- Str6 is good against light infantry
- its AP- so every thing gets a save and it is weak against vehicles


Support Weapon platforms are expensive. I have three platforms but I have magnetized them so that I can switch out the weapons when needed. This seems to be the cheapest way to get all the options as the weapon sprues are not expensive. The platforms, however, are special order and run up to a lot of money quickly.


Shadow Weavers are your mass anti-horde, Vibro-cannons get cheap shots on tanks and are decent anti-horde, while D-Cannons are good anti-tank and at times horde killers if your enemy to be bunches up in range. Support weapons will ignore LoS and/or draw cover from the center of the template and pin enemy troops. This advantages are not to be dismissed lightly. We need to assess whether the other options available which can be more versatile, durable and mobile than the support weapons, in fact, majke them obsolete. I believe they are more situationally effective. In a list with a mix of static and fast elements with  many soft targets to worry about, your cannons won't be nearly as vulnerable as you might think. They are often ignored until your opponet realizes how much damage they can do. That is generally too late.

In 5ed we need to protect objectives. Distort cannons fill the niche. They will surprise your foe. No one wants to get close to a battery of cannons. Even Vibro cannons can help thin out troops advancing on an objective. Yes, Falcons, Prisms, Walkers and Wraithlords will continue to hold the limelight but lets not forget that cannons have their place.  

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