9th Edition Faction Focus: Drukhari/Dark Eldar

An article by    Gaming Warhammer 40k        0

9th edition is on the way, and with it a whole raft of changes to the factions of Warhammer 40,000. With the Munitorum Field Manual out in the wild and the Faction FAQs released, now’s a good time to start taking a look at what’s changed for all of our favourite armies. Today, Liam “Corrode” Royle is talking about Drukhari.

Drukhari have had an interesting journey in 8th edition. When the book was first released, it was one of the more aggressively-costed things in the game, with powerful units that came in pretty cheaply, a set of excellent stratagems, and some great souping potential with Craftworlds and Harlequins. For a while, they were genuine top-table contenders. As the edition wore on, however, they slowly lost steam – the codex has some severe limitations from its structure, and although good players still got mileage out of it, Drukhari slowly slid down the tiers, not helped by an extremely lacklustre appearance in the first Psychic Awakening book, Phoenix Rising.

We were hopeful that Drukhari might pick up a little in 9th edition – they certainly have the right tools for a meta which is heavy on the power armour, and in an edition where hordes look to be going out the window a bit, power armour seems likely to continue to dominate. With that in mind then, looking at the points changes and the new missions, how have they fared?

Drukhari Archons. Credit: Corrode

The Points Update

Firstly, let’s take a look at the points update. You can find our full discussion of that here.

Let’s have a quick look at the initial rating for Drukhari from that article…. oh, that says ‘Rating: Losers.’

Oh no.

Remember when I said that Drukhari had some of the most efficiently costed units in the game? That is no longer the case. Let’s pull the headline changes out of that article:

  • Kabalites going to nine points.
  • Wracks, Wyches and a bunch of other stuff getting above-rate changes as well,
  • Disintegrators going up by ten points, making vehicles mounting multiple disastrously more expensive.

Kabalite Warriors at 6pts were a steal. At only two points more than an Imperial Guardsman, they benefited from better BS and WS, better Leadership, and 6+ FNP baked in, and poisoned weaponry which has its idiosyncracies but is mostly better than a lasgun. In a new edition where costs were generally going up, I expected these to go up one point to 7, which would have stung but would have been basically a wash in a world where their competitors had gone up too. Instead they went up to 9pts, a 50% increase, which is just laughable. Now they are four more points than a Guardsman for the same T3 5+ save body, and no amount of FNPs can make up for that.

The other Troops choices climbed a similar amount, with Wracks now costing a princely 12 points for a T4, W1 model with a 5+ invulnerable save (4+ in Prophets of the Flesh, but still) and no ranged attacks, and Wyches costing 11pts. A Wych costs the same as a Battle Sister. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide if those two models are equally valuable.

Disintegrators were the mainstay weapon of 8th edition, and anyone who played against a Drukhari army – or indeed against any other Eldar-based army for a while – got very used to hearing ‘three Black Heart Ravagers, triple dissies, with the Archon to give them re-roll 1s to hit and wound.’ At 15pts they were definitely costed somewhat favourably, especially compared to the less efficient, less broadly-applicable, and more variable dark lance. At 25pts, that efficiency is a thing of the past.

Glad I spent a bunch of last summer painting these! Credit: Corrode

It’s a similar story across the rest of the range. I don’t think I’ll surprise many Drukhari players by saying that the faction has a lot of units in it that are best described as pointless – the Court of the Archon models, the Beast Packs, Hellions (which got quite far in the ‘worst unit in 40k’ contest held recently), Incubi. All of those went up, except for some reason the Sslyth, which got 6pts cheaper. Nothing is quite as bad as the Troops section and its arbitrary 33-50% increases, but there’s an awful lot of units here that were already overcosted, and now they’re just… even more so. Anything mounting multiple disintegrator took above average increases (though the dark lance versions of same didn’t change much). The Voidraven gained 30 points for no reason I can fathom – they were fine but not exactly tearing up the tables (though note that the optional missiles are now, for some reason, free – which means it is about on rate). Even the humble Venom took a bump, with additions to its base cost as well as splinter cannons now costing 15pts for non-infantry.

Things are slightly better in the Covens slots, where Talos and Grotesques both increased about on par with expectations, and form a possible route for Drukhari players to go down.

In other articles we’ve talked about the nature of what the point increases are in 9th, and advised in a cautionary fashion that yes your stuff has gone up, but everyone else’s has too, so analysing it as simply as ‘number go up, bad’ isn’t necessarily helpful or relevant. While that’s true, it doesn’t really hold in this case – the mean increase per the MFM article was 13.4%, and almost all the Drukhari units, good and bad, saw increases greater than this, with the main exception being that the HQ choices increased by a standard 5pt increases across the board.

I think that Drukhari have suffered from two things here, which have impacted them more heavily than most other factions. First is the point previously explored, that the points changes were largely done algorithmically, with a fuzzily-defined objective of ‘make games smaller by making things cost more.’ Anyone looking in detail at the faction would have looked at units like Hellions and Incubi and thought ‘let’s take a chance on leaving these at what they cost already, and let them get relatively cheaper as other stuff goes up’ and seen how that played out. Instead, we get universal increases – some of them quite hefty – on units that no-one was playing anyway. Second, something that’s happened quite extensively throughout other factions is that the costs of units have gone up, but their basic equipment has been ‘in-lined’ – you pay more for the model but its basic weapon is free, for example. Sometimes this nets out to zero change, sometimes it’s a small overall increase, but generally that’s the pattern. For Drukhari, what seems to have happened instead is that that analysis didn’t happen – Ravagers are actually down 10pts on the chassis compared to their bumped price in CA19, but their mandatory weapons went up 5pts or 10pts per, so you end up with a net increase on the model which raises its cost compared to the CA19 version substantially. Razorwings, which also went up in Chapter Approved, saw a jump on the hull and still eat the same weapon costs increase. Same for Venoms, same for Raiders.

The only exception to all this is the Forge World units – both the Reaper and the Tantalus are untouched in cost. I don’t know whether this was deliberate or, more likely, simply that they were forgotten about entirely. It does make Reapers an interesting option, at least.

This leaves the army in a tough position. Smaller boards are bad for the kind of keep-away gameplay that Kabals in particular liked to play. Units that were already a touch above cost are now even more expensive, and they’ve gone up relatively more than most other factions. Not all hope is lost – the smaller game sizes might suit a Talos-heavy build, for example – but I’ve played Talos armies at 1750 in 8th edition, where you couldn’t quite afford to hit a critical mass of them and still have enough support, and it didn’t really work out. Grotesques were one of the more lightly-touched units, so they might do well. We’ll explore this more later in the lists section.

The FAQs

There’s not too much to say about the FAQ changes. I’ll repost the commentary from our FAQs article here:

Drukhari get a lot of changes by volume, but the vast majority cover two cases. The first is the standard sniper change, the second is that all the weapons and relics that previously had “super poison” and wounded on a 4+ with +2 to wound now just wound on a flat 2+ – an obvious but sensible change.

  • Hunt from the Shadows and the Cult of the Cursed Blade get pretty standard changes to bring them in line with 9th, affecting combat attrition instead of Morale itself.
  • The only mildly irksome one is that the FAQ still includes the Open Topped wording of “When they do so, any restrictions or modifiers that apply to this model also apply to its passengers”. This still causes weird issues with things that apply positive modifiers to the transport that wouldn’t normally be available to the passengers.
  • Oh, also, Fire and Fade allows you to move an Asuryani unit after shooting. This is clearly a copy paste error, hopefully it gets a quick fix.

I don’t think there’s much that speaks to the lack of care and attention put into the faction as updating a stratagem and forgetting to put the right keyword in.

Drukhari Wracks. Credit: Corrode

How They Play

With the nature of their three way split as an army, Drukhari offer three ways to play – fast-moving shooting from the Kabals, melee trickery from the Wych Cults, and hard-hitting monsters from the Haemonculus Covens.

In 8th edition, the two most common playstyles were a Black Heart based gunline of Ravagers with Venom-mounted Kabalite Warriors and Razorwing Jetfighters, often with a small detachment of Wyches to wrap and trap enemy units and keep them pinned in combat, or a wall of either Talos or Grotesques with a variety of different back-up options – Harlequins jetbikes were a favourite here.

In the new edition, there’s definitely some substance to each of these. Fast-moving Venoms are a great way to get onto objectives early in the game, and they provide an onion skin to defend the somewhat flimsy troops inside of them. Both of Talos and Grotesques benefit from the new smaller board size letting them get into melee more easily when starting on the table, and Talos also benefit from having reasonable guns which they can now fire in combat too. They’ll both be great units for making that hard mid-board push for objectives, too. Wyches are very interesting in an edition where the traditional wrap and trap is less effective thanks to the Desperate Breakout stratagem – they can still wrap an opponent, but their No Escape ability means that they have an additional, powerful tool for staying right where they want to be, i.e. in Engagement Range. Potentially they can even prevent a unit from Falling Back even when it’s used Desperate Breakout, which is a good deterrent.

There’s also one very useful Drukhari ability which has come into its own with the new 9th ed army construction rules. Drukhari really benefit from being able to take multiple detachments, since the sub-factions are each quite narrow. In the past this meant trying to squeeze in multiple Battalions, since those offered the most CP in an army which struggles to have enough CP to work with. What was often ignored is the Raiding Force rule, which allows you to gain +4 CP if you have 3+ Patrol detachments. This had a very brief life in 8th edition, since the codex came out just before the FAQ which made Battalions give 5 CP instead of 3, and once that was the case it was basically always better to take 2 of those than 3 Patrols. No more, however! If you take 3 Patrols it costs you 6 CP, but you get 4 back and then your last one is free because your Warlord is in it. Suddenly Drukhari are able to take 3 detachments for zero cost, which gives them some really helpful flexibility for getting the most out of their different subfaction traits.

This does mean that souping becomes a weird proposition. You only have 3 detachments to work with at the Strike Force points level, and if you’re going heavily in on Drukhari you kind of want all three. The opposite might be a better way around, with small Drukhari detachments squeezing in to otherwise mainstream Craftworlds or Harlequins forces – perhaps triple Ravagers backing up the Harlequins with some long-range firepower (although whether that stands up compared to just taking more of the favourably-costed Harlequins is another question).

Secondary Objectives

The GT pack isn’t officially available yet, so in the meantime we’re going to look at the Eternal War Matched Play missions.

Purge the Enemy

There’s not a lot of advice other than the obvious here – pick Bring It Down or Titan Slayers if your opponent’s army indicates that you should. Assassinate isn’t as easy for Drukhari as for some other factions – with minimal native sniper options, you’re going to struggle to prise out characters sitting in the backfield minding their own business. That said, against the right opponent it can make sense. Slay the Warlord is a trap and you should ignore it unless there is literally nothing else to pick.

No Mercy, No Respite

This is a rough section for the Dark Kin. Personally I think it’s a rough section anyway – Thin Their Ranks needs a very high model count on your opponent’s behalf to max out, and First Strike caps at 8 which isn’t great. First Strike isn’t a bad pick in theory for Kabals-focused Drukhari builds in a target-rich environment, but an 8pt cap is hard to stomach. Attrition is not a bad pick on its face – you can reasonably expect to score highly from it, and if you have experience with the ITC missions you have Kill More as a goal in mind anyway. Just keep in mind that many of your units are quite fragile – you don’t want to be trying to score this while your opponent is picking up easy kills from blasting Kabalites into bits. While We Stand, We Fight has potential for blocks of Talos or Grotesques, where your game plan is ‘don’t let these die’ anyway.

Battlefield Supremacy

Engage on All Fronts is an obvious pick here – if there’s one thing Drukhari are good at it’s getting places, and pushing the pace of scoring with units zipping into table quarters is a time-honoured tradition. Linebreaker also has possibilities, for much the same reasons, especially on the smaller boards we have now, and Domination can be a good keep-pace objective for similar reasons.

Shadow Operations

Investigate Sites sure is there. Relying on fragile units of Drukhari infantry to pelt it into mid-board and perform Actions is a bit of an ask, and a canny opponent can block it off by simply having a unit per turn to throw into the centre ground. Repair Teleport Homer seems much the same, but don’t miss the potential for a Webway Assault to drop a unit or two of something in a far-off corner of the enemy deployment zone, safely out of harm’s way – simply needing to be wholly within the deployment zone rather than at any specific spot on the table, and not being able to be interrupted (except by the obvious method of your opponent blasting the unit to bits) overcomes some of the issues that Investigate Sites presents. Especially worth a look if you can combo it with Linebreaker. Raise the Banners High is fine but again, your goal is quite often going to be for your infantry to fly up in a transport and then use it as a layer of protection against incoming fire, not jump out of it and start unfurling flags.

Warpcraft

This section isn’t really ‘for’ Drukhari, what with their complete lack of PSYKER models, but don’t miss the opportunity to harvest a few souls from your opponent’s psykers with Abhor the Witch. Scoring points for pumping Grey Knights off the table with dark matter is always good. It’s also worth remembering of course that there isn’t a complete absence of PSYKERs available – even ignoring the possibilities of Harlequins or Craftworlds soup, you could always look to slot Yvraine and/or the Yncarne in as one of your HQ choices, and then the other Warpcraft secondaries open up to you.

Yvraine, the Herald of Ynnead

Always and forever On Her Bullshit.

Lists

Let’s look at some lists, mostly using core concepts that will be familiar from 8th and seeing how we can try and make them work in 9th ed.

The first is a fairly familiar Black Heart/Prophets of the Flesh list, using two Patrols of the former and one of the latter to retain our base 12 command points:

Black Heart/Prophets of the Flesh v1 with Talos - Click to Expand

Patrol – Black Heart

HQ1: Archon, splinter pistol and huskblade – 65 – Warlord with Labyrinthine Cunning and the Writ of the Living Muse

Troops 1: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55
Troops 2: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55

Heavy Support 1: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160
Heavy Support 2: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160

Dedicated Transport 1: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75
Dedicated Transport 2: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75

Patrol – Black Heart

HQ2: Yvraine – 120

Troops 3: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55

Heavy Support 3: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160

Dedicated Transport 3: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75

Patrol – Prophets of the Flesh

HQ3: Urien Rakarth – 95 – use Alliance of Agony to get Diabolical Soothsayer
HQ4: Haemonculus with stinger pistol – 80 – Vexator Mask

Troops 4: 5 Wracks – 60

Heavy Support 4 – 3 Talos each with chain-flail, macro-scalpel, two haywire blasters – 345
Heavy Support 5 – 3 Talos each with chain-flail, macro-scalpel, two haywire blasters – 345

That totals 1980, which leaves you a few points to tweak gear – perhaps taking blasters instead of shredders, or adding vehicle upgrades or whatever. This is basically a 9th ed replication of one of Joe Maylam’s lists that I played against in 8th edition, and shows the effect the points changes have had – he had a Harlequins Vanguard detachment which has now retreated back to the webway.

Writing this out it’s not quite as bad as I feared – you still have a fairly good core of an army here – but there was some fear expressed in Goonhammer Towers that it might struggle with Knights, since you’re quite reliant on Talos punches and haywire to do the work there. There’s also an argument to be made to swap the Ravagers to dark lances instead of dissies for cost reasons, which would also help with the aforementioned Knights, but that loses you quite a lot of ranged punch against massed power armour. The Wracks are a bit placeless here, but they have some potential for doing Actions and could also be useful for trying to snatch early points on Linebreaker – Black Cornucopians them up to the undefended side of a deployment zone and run them out of line of sight and they can hopefully sit and score unmolested.

Credit: Corrode

An alternative spin on this swaps the Talos for Grotesques, but is otherwise much the same:

Black Heart/Prophets of the Flesh v2 with Grotesques - Click to Expand

Patrol – Black Heart

HQ1: Archon, splinter pistol and huskblade – 65 – Warlord with Labyrinthine Cunning and the Writ of the Living Muse

Troops 1: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55
Troops 2: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55

Heavy Support 1: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160
Heavy Support 2: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160

Dedicated Transport 1: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75
Dedicated Transport 2: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75

Patrol – Black Heart

HQ2: Yvraine – 120

Troops 3: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55

Heavy Support 3: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160

Dedicated Transport 3: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75

Patrol – Prophets of the Flesh

HQ3: Urien Rakarth – 95 – use Alliance of Agony to get Diabolical Soothsayer
HQ4: Haemonculus with stinger pistol – 80 – Vexator Mask

Troops 4: 5 Wracks – 60

Elites 1 – 8 Grotesques each with monstrous cleaver and flesh gauntlet – 360
Elites 2 – 7 Grotesques each with monstrous cleaver and flesh gauntlet – 315

This one is 1965, so again some room to play with (though frustratingly not quite enough to really add a unit – this happens quite a lot in 9th). Much the same points as the Talos build applies.

That’s all well and good, I hear you say, but what about something a bit more creative? Well, we did hit on one thing which might neatly solve the Knights trap, and also takes advantage of one of the few unalloyed wins for Drukhari – that so little attention was paid to them that nobody bothered reviewing the points for Reapers.

The Grim Reaper - Click to Expand

Patrol – Black Heart

HQ1: Archon, splinter pistol and huskblade – 65 – Warlord with Labyrinthine Cunning and the Writ of the Living Muse

Troops 1: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55
Troops 2: 5 Kabalite Warriors with shredder – 55

Heavy Support 1: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160
Heavy Support 2: Ravager with triple disintegrators – 160

Dedicated Transport 1: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75
Dedicated Transport 2: Venom with twin splinter rifle and splinter cannon – 75

Patrol – Dark Technomancers, Hungry for Flesh

HQ3: Haemonculus with stinger pistol – 80

Troops 3: 5 Wracks – 60

Heavy Support 3: Reaper – 150
Heavy Support 4: Reaper – 150

Patrol – Dark Technomancers, Hungry for Flesh

HQ4: Haemonculus with stinger pistol – 80

Troops 4: 5 Wracks – 60

Heavy Support 5: Reaper – 150

Elites 1 – 5 Grotesques each with monstrous cleaver and flesh gauntlet – 225
Elites 2 – 4 Grotesques each with monstrous cleaver and flesh gauntlet – 180
Elites 3 – 4 Grotesques each with monstrous cleaver and flesh gauntlet – 180

This gives you three Dark Technomancers Reapers. Reapers are a bit of an oddball, with an extremely Forge World gun which gets either 2D6 shots at S6 AP0 D1 or 1D6 shots at S8 AP-4 Dd6. Both profiles got Blast in the update, natch. Dark Technomancers allows you to make these +1 to wound +1 damage, and there’s also nothing stopping you using a Haemonculus aura to make them T7, either. They’re also randomly W12 rather than W10 like Ravagers. This rather neatly solves some of the Knights problem described above, since now you’re pumping out 3d6 dark lance shots per turn that also stop them advancing, for some reason, and wounding on 3s doing d6+1 damage, and still retains the combat punch from the Grotesques. The list sits at about 1960, which again means you have options – perhaps swap the second Haemonculus for Drazhar, who would fit in quite neatly, though that does leave you vulnerable to a determined Eliminator taking out your solo Haemonculus and dropping your Reapers back down to T6. The main challenge with fielding this list is that there must only be about a dozen people in the entire world who own three Reapers, and that may be overstating their numbers. Also it might not actually be good, it’s not like I’ve taken it out and playtested it, but it’s funny and takes advantage of some quintessential Forge World Bullshit which is a rare treat for the Commorites. Maybe don’t go out and buy three £47 Forge World models to try it out until after the new indexes drop because it might all be completely different then.

Keeping it old school. Credit: Corrode

Outlook: Questionable

Having written all this out, it’s hard to know exactly how to feel about Drukhari. Having written this article out over the course of a few days, my opinions have changed during. The points section is quite negative, but having written up some lists it doesn’t feel as bad as I was expecting – there is still some degree of game to be had. I think ultimately Drukhari are at the bottom end of the pile compared to some of the big winners from the changes, but a skilled player can probably still look to eke something out of them. I look forward to trying them out on the table and seeing how they fare, though I’m still going to be mad about 9pt Kabalites and waiting wistfully for a new codex to fix some of the structural issues with the book. As ever, if you have any feedback, comments, or questions for us, then hit us up on Facebook or Twitter, or e-mail contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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