Chapter Approved Matched Play Update – Aeldari Review

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Introduction

Honestly, that could have gone a lot worse.

“Shuriken dodged there, eh Ryal’thar?”

Welcome to my competitive-skewed review of the changes to the Aeldari superfaction in Chapter Approved. I’ll largely be homing in on the changes to Craftworlds units because:

  1. As regular readers know, I run Craftworlds as the core of my force.
  2. There are barely any changes to Drukari or Harlequins

The second point (and some of the Craftworld units that didn’t catch a nerf) is arguably at least somewhat surprising – Drukari were one of the top performing factions in the game prior to these changes, and plenty of people were expecting some of their key units to get taken down a notch. This lack of tinkering is emblematic of what appears to have been their strategy across the board – attempt to pull less well-off factions up rather than pushing the best factions down. I’m very much on board with this as a strategy (and not just because I painted a new Crimson Hunter last month), as I think it’s both more interesting and more likely to work – part of the reason that at least some of the good factions are good is because of the depth of choices they have available to them, and nerfing one will just cause another to rise to prominence, a risk you avoid by giving other armies comparably powerful options.

The good news is that I think for pick-up games and more casual play, I think Chapter Approved is a wild success – the vast majority of the units that were previously so bad as to be actively useless have been given some sort of boost to bring them into a realm where having them on the table isn’t actively dragging your chances down even in the most casual of games. There are also way more choices if you want to knock around with a fun list at a more casual event – I’ll certainly be getting out some of the “middle of the road” eldar units that have caught a buff for the next Tides of War (a regular less cut-throat event at a nearby store), for example.

For the overall health of the game, this change is great, and I do think GW have done a very comprehensive job of digging in to the codices and trying to leave no unit behind. This is a welcome difference to the attitude you often see in video games like Hearthstone, where good things get nerfed, but things that start bad or have previously been nerfed out of contention stay bad. In a game like 40K where a painted unit can represent a huge amount of investment in both money and time, some units being completely unusable would be a tragedy, and I’m delighted that GW have stuck to their word on trying to avoid that.

With that having been said (and this is important context to read the rest of my review in), my current belief is that once this change has had time to bed in, the hardcore competitive scene is probably still going to have the same armies on top and, sadly, the same on the bottom. I think there are a few mistakes they’ve made that lead to this:

  1. The best Drukari and Knights stuff probably did need a mild nerf.
  2. Some middle of the road armies have picked up a few buffs that are potentially too much (there are a couple of Craftworld units that fall under this banner that we’ll see later.
  3. The “bottom tier” armies (Grey Knights, Necrons, FW-less codex marines) received buffs that are comparable or less than some middle tier armies.

We’ll get into what I thought should have been nerfed in Drukari in a second, as I cover the things that dodged the nerf bat, but I want to finish establishing the context for this review first. I play primarily mechanised Craftworld (Alaitoc) armies with Drukari detachments, and this review will necessarily be coloured by that. I’ve played extensively against other kind of Aeldari armies (Drukari, Harlequins, Ynnarri and grab-back mixes thereof) in events this year and am at least broadly appraised of how most of them work and their strengths/weaknesses. I will be writing this assuming that the reader (like me) doesn’t mind running soup armies – though I will at least try to call out when I think a newly buffed Craftworld unit isn’t going to break through because there are better options elsewhere, so if you’re looking for advice on how to fill out your Craftworld Brigade, you can probably ignore it when i discount units on that basis.

My beautiful Brigade from my very first tournament, which did a surprisingly OK 3-2.

This review is also written on the assumption that the Alaitoc trait is staying as it is. It was heavily rumoured to be changing to “cover while outside 12”, but doesn’t appear to have. I’m mindful that last year there was similar surprise (and mild outrage) at no real change to the character targeting rules or Smite spam in CA itself – but then a few days later the first round of Beta Rules dropped and brought in the “characters can’t shield characters” change and the Psychic Focus update. It is not outside the possibility that could still happen this time, and would arguably make sense philosophically – point changes in Chapter Approved don’t technically invalidate the use of codices as written for people playing casually with Power Level, whereas changing a faction trait does, so it should be a free update for people who’ve paid for their book. Prepare for this all to be completely invalidated on Friday.

Finally, I do play mostly ETC-style events, so there are probably some subtleties of ITC-style games that people more used to that will call me up on (though my next big event is ITC, so I’ll soon be getting a crash course and doing some ITC specific playtesting).

For reference, here’s my army from my recent 4-1 run at the Allies of Convenience GT. A full writeup of the list and the way it works is available here.

AoC Open Army List - Click to Expand

+ ARMY FACTION: Aeldari
+ TOTAL COMMAND POINTS: 14
+ TOTAL ARMY POINTS: 1999pts
+ POWER LEVELS: 112
+ ARMY FACTIONS USED: Aeldari, Drukari, Alaitoc
+ TOTAL REINFORCEMENT POINTS: Not Applicable
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
== Battalion Detachment == Drukari [30 Power Points] [476pts] 5CP
HQ: Archon (Black Heart) (70), Husk Blade (6)  - [4pls]  [76pts] - WARLORD (Labyrinthine Cunning)
HQ: Succubus (Red Grief) , Archite Glaive (0), Splinter Pistol (0), The Blood Glaive (free) - [4pls] [50pts] 
HQ: Haemoculus (Prophets of Flesh)  (70), Electrocorrosive Whip (6), Stinger Pistol (5) - [5pls] [81pts]
Troop: 8 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (48), Sybarite (0), Shredder (8) - [4pls] [56pts] 
DT: Raider (Black Heart) (65), Disintegrator Cannon (15) - [5pls] [80pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0), Shredder (8) - [4pls] [38pts]
DT: Venom (Black Heart) (65pts), Twin Splinter Rifle (0) - [4pls] [65pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0) - [4pls] [30pts] 

== Battalion Detachment == Alaitoc [54 Power Points] [963pts] 5CP
HQ: Warlock Skyrunner (65), Twin Shuriken Catapult (5), Singing Spear (5) - [4pls] [75pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Protect/Jinx
HQ: Autarch Skyrunner (95), Laser Lance (8), Twin Shuriken Catapult (5) - [6pls] [108pts]
HQ: Farseer (110), Witchblade (0) - [6pls] [110pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Executioner, Doom
Troop: 5 Dire Avengers (40), Exarch (0), 5 Avenger Shuriken catapults (20), Exarch Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (4) - [3pls] [64pts]
DT: Wave Serpent (107), Twin Shuriken Cannon (17), Shuriken Cannon (10) - [9pls] [134pts]
Troop: 20 Guardian Defenders (160), Guardian Heavy Weapon platform (5), Shuriken Cannon (10) - [9pls] [175pts]
Troop: 10 Guardian Defenders (80), Guardian Heavy Weapon platform (5), Shuriken Cannon (10) - [5pls] [95pts]
DT: Wave Serpent (107), Twin Shuriken Cannon (17), Shuriken Cannon (10) - [9pls] [134pts]
Elite: 5 Howling Banshees (45), Exarch (0), 4 Power Sword (16), Exarch Executioner (7) - [3pls] [68pts]

== Air Wing Detachment == Alaitoc [28 Power Points] [560pts] 1CP
Flyer: Hemlock Wraithfighter (200), Spirit Stones (10) - [10pls] [210pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Jinx
Flyer: Crimson Hunter Exarch (135), 2 Bright Lances (40) - [9pls] [175pts]
Flyer: Crimson Hunter Exarch (135), 2 Bright Lances (40) - [9pls] [175pts]

With the preamble out of the way, time to dive into the review. In order, we’re going to cover:

  1. Units that caught a nerf – are they still good?
  2. Units that were “candidates” for a nerf and didn’t get one – should they have gotten away with it?
  3. Units that got a boost – are they good now?

Let’s go!

The Victims

Wave Serpents

Near and dear to my heart, the Wave Serpent has been my constant companion since my very first game of 8th Edition. It definitely needed a nerf.

Press X to pay respe…who are we kidding they’re still great.

Something had to give on Serpents – either the shield needed to change (probably to “is always in cover”) or the points needed to go up, and I don’t particularly blame them for choosing the latter option, and they’ve honestly been fairly lenient – given the (surprising and highly relevant) cut to the cost of Twin Shuriken Catapults, I expect almost everyone running the current favoured loadout of Twin Shuriken Cannons and an underslung Shuriken Cannon to switch the underslung across to catapults, at which point the net effect of the changes is a mild decrease in killing power and a five point hike. Tragic.

Serpents are obviously still fine, and still deeply necessary if you intend to run infantry in any number – Craftworld infantry pretty much universally die to a stiff breeze, and aren’t as expendable as their cheap Drukari brethren. What the change does achieve, however, is giving them a healthy nudge away from being auto-picks over a number of other units in the codex, especially as several of those have gotten point cuts as well. Realistically, prior to this change any attempt at building out Wraithlords, Falcons, War Walkers or Vypers that were worth taking was a pointless exercise – there was always a better Wave Serpent build. More subtlety, the changed deployment rules also somewhat reduce their utility – one of their points of power before was their ability to transport up to four units (two min squads, two characters) and bring your drop count down by four, which no longer matters for getting the first turn.

I’m certainly not expecting my Serpents to go anywhere, but already on building out lists I have found myself at least considering ways of incorporating other options, and that’s honestly a healthy sign.

Verdict: Still good, likely to see other options a bit more.

Shining Spears

I played against Ynnari Shining Spears once. It was not an edifying experience, and I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion.

Also, you try having fun painting a finecast upgrade kit on mid nineties plastics.

Everyone knew this one was coming, and if anything it’s slightly surprising how restrained the change is. That might still be expectation whiplash (lots of the pre-embargo rumours about their points changes didn’t factor in the Twin Catapult change). Between this and the lack of changes to certain Drukari things that we’ll cover in a moment, GW seem very confident that they’ve given other armies a serious shot in the arm, as I don’t think this is going to hold Spears back that much in Ynnari builds – 27pts across their best unit is really not that much. It might mean you see mono-spear lists a bit more often, which is healthy as the failure cases for that are a bit higher, but I don’t expect this to stop Ynnari being one of the top armies (and honestly it seems like nothing short of their own heavily redesigned codex is going to manage that), and plenty of people were already running mono-spear lists.

It does, much like the Reaper nerf before it, probably discount them from being much use in non-Ynnari armies – they already weren’t seen much, and they tend to have the major problem in lists that don’t build around them that they add a vulnerable “attack surface” for popular mid-strength D2 weapons that many other top tier Craftworld units don’t have.

In summary then, if you were hoping to see Spears go away prepare to be disappointed, but at least take solace in getting slightly more satisfaction from wiping a unit.

Verdict: Still good in Ynnari, likely too expensive elsewhere.

The Ones that Got Away (With It)

Hemlock Wraithfighters

Hemlocks are probably fine, fight me.

I can understand the hatred for Hemlocks – they are undeniably extremely potent, and auto-hit weapons generate a unique kind of helplessness to play against. They’re also disproportionately good against Primaris Marines, a very popular and (till now) underpowered army.

Remain afraid, badly painted Imperial scum!

210 points is a lot though, especially in the Aeldari faction. Although a pain to delete at range thanks to the Alaitoc trait, unlike their shiny red brethren Hemlocks have to close to at least reasonable proximity to their targets, leaving them vulnerable to counter attacks, and they just aren’t rough enough to still be good if you crank their costs too high, and while their damage is very reliable, in terms of quantity for your points you can do substantially better. I do have more sympathy for the point that they’re unfun to fight against in numbers – once you have three, the reliability starts to really shine, as three of them will delete a mid-high quality tank (with no invuln) a turn. However, the brutal truth is that the factions that you’re trying to compete against on the top tables don’t tend to run vulnerable centrepieces without invulns, which brings the Hemlock back to being pretty reasonable. While not completely absent, they’ve noticeably turned down in popularity in the last few months as well, most often being seen in numbers accompanied by other fliers, and honestly it’s probably the level of threat saturation that Triple Hemlock, Triple Crimson lists can put down that’s part of the problem. I’d certainly support a cap on the maximum number of “Flyer” units in the army as a potential fix here, and second place after that removing Alaitoc (which would hurt Hemlocks especially badly as the second best Eldar trait, Ulthwe, is irrelevant for them).

Verdict: Correct call, but monitor whether the 6+ flier lists keep dominating.

Speaking of 6 flier lists…

Razorwing Jetfighters and Ravagers

These are the first “misses” (one definite, one possible) for my money, and I’ve lumped them together for the same reason – the Disintegrator Cannon being 5 pts cheaper than it should be is the root cause.

At 135 and 125 points respectively for their favoured builds, the Razorwing and Ravager fall into the bucket we’ve seen time and again on “broken” units this edition – they’re just a bit too good at everything for their cost. When accompanied by a Doom wielding Farseer (which as far as I’m concerned they pretty much always should be), both can seriously threaten vehicles or monsters with their weapons, but both also have enough shots that if they need to turn their attention to infantry you don’t hate having them too much (whereas something like a Hemlock or Crimson Hunter looks a bit embarrassed when confronted by a wall of Plaguebearers).

They also both have good range, good mobility, and thanks to being T6 (a key breakpoint meaning Avenger Gatling Cannons don’t just murder them, and lasguns still wound on 6s), having a 5++ and (usually) a FNP they die as hard or harder than substantially pricier vehicles against dedicated anti-tank fire, and aren’t meaningfully worse off than other “mid tier” vehicles against anti-infantry. Both probably needed to be T5 to be reasonable at their current cost, as it is hiking them both a small amount would seem reasonable, and the obvious vector to do that would be to bump the Disintegrator, the gun every Starcannon wishes it could be, up by 5, bringing it to cost parity with the Dark Lance. I strongly suspect you would still see them picked over the lance every time.

I’m confident that 145 is the correct cost for the Razorwing (which has become one of the flier spam units of choice in the UK meta). Ravagers I’m slightly less sure on – part of their problem was that they were so good that they froze out other choices, but several competitors in the Craftworld range caught price cuts, so maybe just putting 5pts on their base cost and 10 on the Razorwing would have been better? They’ve already dropped a bit in popularity as the Razorwing has risen, so it’s quite hard to say, and sadly with the Razorwing untouched we may not get much more data.

Verdict – Razorwings: Definite miss, should have gone to 145, prepare to see these a lot.

Verdict – Ravagers: Unsure – probably needed to be 140 in old money, unclear post buffs elsewhere.

Talos

Hooooo boy.

Talos (specifically Prophets of Flesh with Urien) are probably vying with Ynnari spears to the best units in the game right now. Or, I should say, were vying with Spears, because welcome to the Talos meta, friends.

Now granted, I have a persona vendetta/curse relating to Talos, so my opinions are a little skewed, but come on.

The conclusion of One_Wing’s last attempt to beat Talos, late 2018, colourised.

Talos fall so hard into the bucket of “too good against everything” that they burst out of the bottom and messily eviscerate the poor sod holding it. The consensus “best build” that the metagame has arrived at can shoot haywire at vehicles then finish them off with Urien-buffed S8 scalpel attacks, or tear infantry squads apart with ten S6 attacks that often hit on 2s and always re-roll wounds, all while being absurdly tough to kill and clocking in at just under 100pts.

The two problems with them are basically that:

  • Being able to mix and match 1 Scalpel and 1 Flail gives them too much flexibility.
  • Prophets of Flesh turbocharges them too much – a 4++ and being able to hit the all important S8 removes any remaining weaknesses.

Realistically, these needed either a datasheet update to stop the melee mix-and-match or a 10-20 point hike. They got neither.

In GWs defence here, while people have been talking about Talos for a while it’s only been in the last few months in the UK meta where the Talos lists have been cleaning up, potentially at the point where the CA changes were already “locked in”. I potentially expect these to catch an “emergency” points change in the Spring Big FAQ at this point, because unless I’ve drastically missed something, I expect these to remain pretty much the unit to beat, which is going to leave a sour taste in the mouth of everyone hoping to have a go with their newly buffed units.

Verdict: A big miss, still overpowered.

The Winners

I’m going to run through these grouped by battlefield role, with named characters at the end.

HQ

Wing Autarchs

Seriously, who would put wings on? That would be ridiculous.

“Wings?”

Starting off with a bit of a damp squib – Autarchs with wings got 2pts cheaper thanks to their fusion pistol going down.

No one cared in the slightest.

Verdict: Still a hard nope.

Bike Characters

These got a 3 point cut across the board thanks to the change on twin catapults. That doesn’t really make a huge difference to how good they are – they were great, they’re still great and you’re paying slightly fewer points for them. That a Bike Autarch got more of a cut than the Wing Autarch thanks to this is frankly hilarious.

Exhibit A: Six free points on every list I run.

Verdict: Thanks for some free points I guess?

Troops

Dire Avengers

Dire avengers got a wafer thin cut of 1PPM (effectively 2PPM on the Exarch as you pretty much always take the extra gun).

This is a nice little bonus, and as you can see from my list above I do still run with one unit, but doesn’t ultimately push them over the line of being seriously competitive. Eldar synergies are good enough that you’ll get use out of them when you run them, but they’re fatally fragile, and in terms of putting boots onto the ground, changing from “literally twice the cost of a Kabalite” to “very nearly twice the cost of a Kabalite” isn’t going to cut it, and if you gaze out at other factions, in a world of 9PPM Sisters and even cheaper Skitarii it’s difficult to argue that these are bringing enough to the table.

At least owning Far Too Many Dire Avengers is less terrible now.

I’m not going to complain about getting 6 pts back on most of my lists (as I tend to run dual battalion and these fill a slot), but equally these need a slot in some sort of transport, so the WS hike bites some of that back. Over my last few events I’ve sadly put more and more of these back on the shelf in favour of more Kabalites and realistically I don’t see this reversing that trend – they probably needed to go to 10PPM to be widely competitive.

On the other hand, they were already fun in more casual games where I actually run my army as painted, and this is a nice boost for that.

The shimmershield also got a substantial cut, to the point where you could maybe consider running one in a full squad of ten, but honestly were I doing that I’d rather just run two units of five with vanilla Exarchs and tank anything that needs an invuln on their built in 4++.

Verdict: Nice but not game changing.

Storm Guardians

Storm guardians are the butt of many a joke in 8th edition, and as far as I can tell they haven’t really been good since their inception in 3rd, and even then really only as a squad of five riding around with a warlock and able to jump out and lay down 3 flamer templates.

We thought we might do better in Kill Team but it turns out still no.

In 8th they are pretty terrible at everything, and it is nice to see that recognised in dropping down to the same PPM as Kabalites. I have, once (in my very first tournament) taken these out as pure screening, and honestly at the ridiculous knock down price you now get a minimum squad for, they might actually be worth looking at for that when you need to fill a detachment and can’t spare the 10 additional points for an Avenger squad. Cheaper flamers and fusion guns are also nice for them, but really if you’re buying them flamers that indicates you have a dangerous aspiration for them to actually do something other than “die conveniently”.

Because they’re so cheap, can come in massive blocks of 24 and can benefit from a bunch of defensive tools (the Protect/Celestial Shield combo being the obvious one), I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that some fringe list (probably with a way to make them fearless, of which there are several) could arise that does actually want these in numbers. A couple of the changed units I’m very hot on work best as part of a static gunline – a cheap, surprisingly hard to shift screen could actually work really well with those.

Verdict: Still useless on the offence, but now have potential competitive applications in a well designed list.

Elites

Wraithguard

Both flavours of Wraithguard dropped 2PPM via their weapons getting a cut. While nice to have,I don’t think this is enough to get them onto the table in serious competition. Separate to chapter approved, they do also get some nice new tricks available to them in “Vigilus”, which lend themselves to “gimmick” builds dropping in large units of these via the webway then buffing them up. However, I think that’s a pipe dream in competitive play, and in the event that there was a way to make that good, sword Wraithblades are probably the infantry wraith to do it on because they can blender hordes and vehicles when appropriately buffed up.

Spoooooooky ghost friends.

I probably will get these out in a casual tournament at some point now though, so I guess good job encouraging me to use cool models.

Verdict: Still not getting there.

Striking Scorpions

These got a surprisingly gigantic cut, dropping 3PPM and an additional 3 points on the practically mandatory Exarch claw.

These are honestly worth looking good and hard at now – thanks to the Exarch they have a non-horrible melee output, and are also relatively resilient for their cost by the standards of Eldar infantry. They’re also useful in that they don’t need a transport to do their job thanks to being able to deep strike.

Snip Snip

I can certainly seem myself trying out one unit of these as backfield harassers, and they’re a big boon if you’re trying to build a Brigade (which is very much back on the table with the changes) because they don’t need a transport slot. If you’re running Biel Tan a bigger unit coming out of deep strike and using Court of the Young King is a nasty threat, but no one is running Biel Tan (other than fringe supreme command detachments looking for the re-roll relic) and no one is going to unless an Alaitoc nerf comes accompanied by a Biel Tan buff (alas for my poor green and white paint scheme).

Sadly, while they’re a lot better now I still don’t quite see myself running a unit of ten in a transport as a melee threat – Wyches kill better and Wracks tank better, and the scorpions aren’t good enough as generalists to justify it, but they’re a heck of a lot closer to being viable, and I’m genuinely willing to be proven wrong on this one. And actually if you put two squads of five in that transport that’s two snippy claws…hrmm. You could even chuck Karandras in, and that’s then quite the melee counterpunch. Hrrrmmmmmm.

Verdict: If a Craftworld Brigade list exists, these’ll be in it. Probably still outclassed by Drukari options otherwise, but the Exarch is such a monster that they could just get there.

The shattered fragments of the starry eyed Biel Tan player that started this edition, still lurking beneath my cold, unfeeling Alaitoc exterior wants these to be good so bad, please be good now.

Fast Attack

Windriders

This was a pleasant surprise – these needed a massive buff to be worth considering, and they actually kind of got one, with the Twin Catapult and Scatter Laser builds dropping by 6 and the Shuriken Cannon build by 3.

We’re back! Maybe?

The last option can still, I’m pretty sure, be immediately discounted – these are too easy to kill, especially with D2 weapons, to pay 25PPM for them, especially given they need to close within 24″ to attack. Both the other options are worth some level of consideration, however.

The Scatter Laser build is worth thinking about because they are the cheapest way to put truly outrageous amounts of anti-light dakka out via the newly discounted Scatter Lasers. They can also do this at greater range than the Shuriken Cannons, helping to avoid counter punches, and can still at least somewhat contribute to a “gank” on something that’s been tagged with the Doom/Jinx combo. I still worry a bit about the fragility here, but if the metagame skews horde heavy these are worth being aware of.

The Shuriken Catapult could potentially be really, really good. It’s a mark of how much the memory of these being terrible was hanging over me that I was kind of lukewarm on them still until someone pointed out that they now cost the same as an Intercessor. Obviously there are some things that each does better, but it’s not clear cut which the superior choice is, and let me tell you marine players are real excited about getting 17 point Intercessors.

17PPM – Who Wore it Best?

The other comparison worthy of note is to Guardian Defenders – in terms of Shuriken shots, you pay one point more for each two Shuriken Catapults in the squad. We all know that the “Guardian Bomb” (deep striking 20 guardians via strategem) is good, and doing the same with Windriders has a notable advantage – under the new deployment rules, if you know you have a 5/6 chance of going first you can deploy them on the board and use their rapid movement to get value straight away, whereas in all but the strangest of matchups you’re pretty much “locked in” to deploying 20 guardians in the webway.

The counterpoint to that is that it’s much easier to defensively buff the guardians once they’re in – Protect + Celestial Shield makes them a pain to shift, and Windriders can’t do that, but I don’t think it’s completely ridiculous to at least consider whether a bike bomb might be a better choice in some lists. On balance, it probably won’t be, but it’s close enough to not rule out. Ynnari don’t tend to run a guardian bomb, but I can see more chance of a fringe Ynnari list picking up these, as we all know how good soulbursting is with bike movement speed. We all know.

If you’re running Saim Hann, of course, you can also sensibly do that with scatter lasers, keeping them safe if you’re (probably) going second.

Min squads of three bikes now being a non-horrible choice is also good news for Brigade builders – pick your poison of either 3×3 with Catapults zipping about after objectives or 3×3 with Scatter Lasers being annoying at the back.

Verdict: Min squads will pop up in Brigades. Potential options for other uses depending on the meta.

Vypers

Meh? It’s nice that they got a drop because they were terrible and utterly unplayable before, but they have the misfortune of getting the same drop as War Walkers, and those are way better at doing this whole “light vehicle” thing. As another important point, there’s absolutely no build on these where I wouldn’t swap two for a Ravager.

Painted 20 years ago. Not relevant for nearly as long. Not changing now.

Saim Hann players can at least run them without being completely ashamed of their life choices, but these almost certainly aren’t going anywhere competitively. Maybe you could just justify Saim Hann ones loaded out with Catapults and Scatter Lasers as really cheap anti-infantry units that are slightly harder to shift that the equivalent points of windriders, but that costs up at 2/3rds of a Venom with about 2/3rd of the firepower, and I’d probably just buy Venoms, what with their whole “invuln save” and “-1 to hit” and “transport capacity” and “6+ FNP” yeah OK we’re done here.

Verdict: Nah.

Warp Spiders

These got a 2 point drop via their guns, but I’m still not really interested at 16PPM. It’s another nice minor buff but a full unit still ends up pricey enough that it starts to compete with the better vehicles and, more to the point, a full 20-model guardian bomb.

Verdict: Nah

Heavy Support

Falcon

We kick off with a bang here. The Falcon picked up a huge cut, both on its base cost and on various weapon options you would legitimately consider on them. I’ve already occasionally looked at these while drawing up lists and concluded that they were only a whisker too expensive, and I now think that a loadout of Pulse Laser, Starcannon, Shuriken Catapults at 125 points has a chance of seeing serious competitive play (and it’s honestly the fact that this now exists that was making me wonder if maybe Ravagers are OK at their current cost now. I don’t think that loadout is quite as good as a Ravager, but benefits from the pulse laser being one of the best guns in the game (flat 3 damage is delicious), T7, and being able to be Alaitoc. It’s also highly relevant for Brigades, as it fills a slot at a competitive price while also providing a place you can set up a unit of Dire Avengers, reducing the number of Wave Serpents you need.

OK I don’t have one of these painted but there’s a reason the turret parts are primed now.

I’m going to be playtesting adding one of these to my list (see details at the end) and I expect to see them get a serious look from a lot of people.

Verdict: Worth serious testing

Night Spinner

Now that’s a point drop. Combining the base cost and the change in catapults, these have received a 20% cut in their price, and now look like something you might even consider spamming the full three of. One alone can run into some variance issues, but in much the same way as with Skyweavers, put enough D6 shot weapons down and they become a bit more reliable.

Time to weave some doom.

A source of strong no-LOS shooting that’s also survivable is relatively new for the Eldar – Dark Reaper Exarchs using Fire and Fade could do a bit, but obviously being dependent on a strategem limits how many of them you can use at once, and they’re too expensive these days to use the regulars as “just” Exarch delivery mechanisms. No-LOS shooting is also obviously very useful in the ITC, and the Night Spinner will cheerfully put down a last guard character hiding in a building at the end of the game, for example. D2 means it’s also a great choice for clearing sneaky Shield Drones.

I think these are now a extremely aggressively costed, good in lots of situations (as the “rend” ability on their gun means that they’re happy to join in on a Doom-based gank on a larger target) and fill a notable gap in the Eldar range. I plan to playtest mine (luckily I was building a Prism/Spinner kit when the index was still live and the Spinner was the better choice, so it’s magnetised) and very probably get at least one more.

Verdict: Good, potentially great

Support Weapons

Man the heavy support changes are stacked here, as these are another unit that suddenly warrants a serious look.

Specifically this refers to the Vibro Cannon – the D-Cannon remains hilariously overcosted, and while Shadow Weavers could perhaps have warranted a look if the Night Spinner had’t got it’s big cut, given that it did I’d look there for that effect (though possibly still good in ITC as they might be small enough to hide in buildings).

The Vibro Cannon, however, at 40PPM looks really, really good, quite probably “lists running the maximum nine” good. If you’re running any you do want to run a lot – while three will do some nice damage, they do get less good as soon as they start getting killed off, and realistically I’d probably want to have access to at least six before I brought them to an event, and honestly at that point you may as well go all-in and buy yourself a foot Autarch to stand around with nine of them.

Doing that gives you some ranged damage output that looks competitive with most other things you could spend 360pts, and is helpfully split across nine separate units that need to be targeted individually (I’m honestly not too bothered by a Volcano Lance obliterating a 40pt model). Obviously in some formats giving up a large number of kill points is a problem, but until we see where the various formats go in incorporating elements of the new missions, we don’t know how much of one it is.

If Kill Points isn’t a problem or you’re willing to take the risk, I think a gunline of these, with the aforementioned foot autarch providing re-rolls, and perhaps some Night Spinners poking their noses into the bubble as well, is one of the builds that’s potentially opened up by these changes. 9 of these, three Night Spinners and an Autarch is just under 800 pts, so about 40% of a 2K army, and leaves you plenty of space for units to either guard the gunline or go out and do some mobile hunting. I’ll certainly be acquiring some of these to test at some point, and would definitely be interested in at least trying an army built around that core.

It is worth quickly flagging that there are a couple of slight gotchas with these, the main one being that “+X to wound” is a bit of a non-combo with Doom thanks to re-roll operations order. It still works out that once you’re at +2 to wound against T8 things Doom is pretty much equivalent to re-roll 1s, but it does diminish its effect slightly. The flip side of that is that a gunline of these could be where the rarely used “Runes of Witnessing” strategem could come into its own – most current Eldar armies never really build the kind of gun bubble it needs to be good (other than Fire Prisms, which take care of themselves).

Overall, very excited to see what comes of these.

Verdict: Vibro Cannons potentially extremely good, Shadow Weavers held back by the Night Spinner being better, but maybe still worth a look in ITC, D-cannon still trash.

War Walkers

These guys seem like they should be really close to being good now, but I worry that they’re just not quite there. I don’t think the Shuriken variant puts out enough shots at 60PPM to be worth looking at, but the other options suffer from wanting to be mobile but also not wanting to move with Heavy Weapons.

The potential thing that they do really have going for them is that they’re a great target for buff powers, and to maximise that you want units of three, which have become much more affordable. Three of these with dual Starcannons now comes in at just shy of 200pts, and that’s actually not wildly behind the curve of similar shots that Ravagers get. Once you put Guide and Fortune on them that’s quite a bit of bang and resilience for your buck – the extra point of toughness and the 5++ compared to Vypers is why these are way better in my opinion. Even a pair of these actually is as hard to put down as a Ravager at not many more points. The looming threat of the Talos, however, probably does more to keep these on the bench – I’d rather have two of those than three of these in most circumstances.

Equally, that starcannon setup does throw out mid-range shots at about the same cost-efficiency as Dark Reapers, trading in less accuracy for much higher survivability. I ultimately expect it to turn out that there are just always slightly better things you can be doing, but I’m willing to believe that there’s some sort of build of these that exists that’s actually good.

Verdict: Probably still not, but hey, surprise me metagame.

Wraithlords

Another decently chunky drop here, bringing the base version of these down to an extremely low cost for how tough they are.

Every Eldar player wants to watch three of these trash a knight and if they tell you otherwise they’re lying.

I’ve gone back and forth on these a lot since the update, and I’m honestly still not sure I know the answer. Gun platform ones are definitely out – War Walkers now do that a lot better, but I do think there could be a place for melee wraithlords in some lists. The obvious elephant in the room here is, again, the Talos – a lord with a sword comes in at about the same cost as Talos, and obviously in the proper configuration a Talos is going to be better in a wider variety of situations, but the Wraithlord does have a few things to recommend it:

  1. It’s a lot better at trashing Knights in melee, being S9 and -4AP.
  2. It’s less vulnerable to small arms fire thanks to T8.
  3. It’s a surprisingly good counter to Talos.

Being T8 and not a Vehicle actually goes a decent way to blunting the effectiveness of Talos in taking it down, as even buffed by Urien a squad of three narrowly misses killing one in a turn on average, while three Lords (allowing them a Spiritseer or Autarch to compensate for Urien) will trash one of the Talos in response, meaning they make pretty good line guardians against one of the better models in the meta. In formats that allow you to switch up psychic powers, you can also swap in the “Ennervate” power to tag onto a Talos unit, at which point they get even less good at putting lords down, allowing you to tarpit them for a bit.

If we see these, I think that’s where it’ll be – probably the base plus a sword with no shoulder guns, probably running around as a trio to provide an exceptional counter-charge threat (three will have a damn good go at trashing a knight in a round of combat assuming they’re in a re-roll bubble) or a thrust that can be sent towards the enemy demanding to be dealt with while the rest of the Eldar army get up to various forms of sky-bastardry (as is their wicked wont).

Verdict: Heavily contested by Talos, but the basic versions are so cheap now that they’re probably good somewhere.

Flyer

Crimson Hunter Exarch

Worth noting that the Starcannon version dropped by four points. Lots of people were already running these, and it’s certainly going to encourage me to give it a go on the one of mine that’s not got the guns glued in place.

Love a crimson hunter.

Verdict: Hey, more free points, cool.

Lord of War

Wraithknight

The one you’ve all been waiting for, the tallest and strongest fellow around, my (and many other eldar players’) largest son – is the Wraithknight good now?

Please?

Probably not. Boo.

These caught a big cut, but in my opinion it probably isn’t quite enough. Base cost for a sword and board (the only build I think is worth testing) now runs to 375, which is a nice drop but one cannot help noticing, still 20pts more than a Knight Gallant without getting access to a busted selection of warlord traits, Rotate Ion Shields and the punchiest relic fist in the west.

Obviously the trade has always theoretically been that it’s easier to buff Wraithknights than their Imperial and Renegade counterparts, and as long as you get the first turn, putting Fortune on one of these is a cool strategy to substantially increase their resilience as they march toward the enemy. It’s also much easier to put them in a re-roll bubble than for Imperial Knights, but the inability to get to a 4++ is you aren’t going first continues to be a gigantic drawback in a metagame that’s (checks notes) full of armies designed to kill Lords of War with 24 wounds and a 4++ in a single turn.

My messing around with lists has brought me to the conclusion that, if these are good anywhere, it’s potentially in a supreme command detachment of Craftworld stuff tapped into a Drukari list. These want a doomseer anyway, and a Supreme command of Bike Farseer, Bike Warlock, Autarch and Swordknight runs you in the region of 700pts. That’s honestly not half bad, and gives you the kind of army that’s probably:

  1. Still able to function if it loses the Knight.
  2. Probably able to punish enemies quite hard if they overcommit to going after the Knight.
  3. Does quite well out of having a gigantic distraction Carnifex.

One of the lists I’ll be playtesting for the new year tries this out and I’ve included it at the end of the article.

The other options still aren’t getting there. The points cost next to the Suncannon still appears to be misprinted as a number that isn’t “0”, and I’ve watched my Wraithcannon Knight get alpha striked off the board by  a mere 1500 points of Tau in a more relaxed event (or, relaxed until you start one watching your Wraithknight blown apart), and it still doesn’t kill enough against any army with invulns worth the name to be worth the risk of including it. It’s at least probably more fun for proper casual games now.

Verdict: I’ll be testing sword and board but I’m honestly not wildly optimistic. The other two stay on the shelf.

Named Characters

The Avatar

The drop here is nice, but he’s still very pricy for yet another unit that falls flat on its face as soon as he’s confronted by an invuln save, and kind of struggles to get himself into combat thanks to being precision-designed with all the wrong keywords to benefit from most powers or strategems. If there’s some weird board flood list where you’re running like 100+ storm guardians he could pop up to make them fearless, and there are some things that he will absolutely kill the crap out of, but if I want that in my army I probably just take two Sword wraithlords at a lower cost and hitting the vital S9.

Another for the “have not had cause to repaint from my childhood” list.

He’s more viable for casual games, if there’s a fringe list that uses him well then hey, it’s cheaper to do (I know there was a weird Eldar list using him that came near or at the top of a big US event recently, and no I still can’t figure out why), but I still don’t expect to see him come up much in more normal games – he just needs to do something a bit better than he does (honestly give him an Autarch bubble and he’s likey fine, come on GW he’s literally a god of war).

Verdict: Fringe use more likely, mainline use still a no.

Eldrad

Did…did Eldrad need a point cut? Wasn’t he already outstanding at 150?

I guess he’s cheaper now. Expect to see him everywhere in tapped in supreme commands, he brings so much more to the table than a regular Farseer its unreal.

Seriously, I didn’t believe this when it started getting rumoured and I almost still don’t. On top of him already being a compelling draw to an Ulthwe detachment, if some sort of Alaitoc nerf does land on the weekend expect to see him in literally every Craftworld tournament army, he’s outrageously good and this is borderline nonsensical.

Verdict: Went from outrageously good to outrageously good.

Jain Zar

Cool, she got cheaper, that’s nice, she still isn’t very good – I can put together a Succubus that’s more murderous than her for 50pts, and I’m gonna go ahead and do that if I want a melee killer.

…and another…

If disarming strike worked on non-infantry we could talk, but even then, heavy Craftworld armies aren’t really in the market for this kind of unit and mixed armies can do massively better in either optimised Succubi or a Solitaire.

Verdict: Nah

Karandras

I like Karandras slightly more than Jain Zar at the same cost just because:

  1. He gets S8 natively, which is a big deal and not something you can so trivially outclass with other units.
  2. He throws mortal wounds around (although infantry only again, why GW?).
  3. His buff on his snippy brethren can actually cause some hilarious spikes.
  4. In some matchups you can chuck him in reserve and keep him handing over the enemy

…and another, though at least this is “mid teens and slightly more competent” rather than “actual inept child”.

These are all upsides but I still don’t actually think he’s good – at best I’m marginally more likely to at some point take him out in a casual event as a comedy melee bomb with 2×5 scorpions in a Wave Serpent.

Verdict: Better than Jain Zar, still nah.

Fuegan

Is there any greater victim of the change to vehicle rules in 8th than Fuegan? I can’t think of one. It’s hard to be a legandary expert tank hunter when your single Melta shot can do naff all to most tanks worth the name.

He was not good at 150 points, and is still obviously not good with only 10 knocked off that.

Verdict: Nope

Yriel

I mean…yeah I guess if I’m ever running Iyanden and want a foot Autarch I will absolutely definitely take him now. He is a foot Autarch++ for fewer points. We can count GW.

I guess you could spearhead him, three Swordlords and a spiritseer with the Psytronome for a melee bomb that will can almost blender two knights in a single round of combat. That might be kind of funny honestly.

Verdict: Yeah, sure, if you’re running Iyanden why not?

Summary

That’s turned into a truly eye-watering number of words about space elves so lets wrap up with a quick look at our biggest winners and the army lists I’ll be playtesting in the next few weeks thanks to the changes.

Big Winners

Roughly in order:

  1. Night Spinners
  2. Eldrad
  3. Vibro Cannons
  4. Falcons
  5. Bike Characters

And more generally…

  • Anyone who wants to run a Craftworld Brigade

I expect to see all of the above on tables at tournaments appreciably more (admittedly not hard for 3 of the 5 entries as they’re currently seen) after this change

Brigades are definitely back in a big way for mid-competitiveness events – the Heavy Support, Elites and Fast Attack choices were tough to fill out with units that didn’t feel like overcosted garbage in min size squads or need an amount of help that wasn’t compatible with taking them in multiples. Three new good HS choices alongside min squads of Scorpions and Shuriken Windriders make this appreciably easier to pull off in a way that doesn’t make you hate yourself or your codex.

Realistically, Brigades are probably still not the choice in the most cut-throat scene – Fliers and Drukari/Harlequin detachments are too good to ignore, and both take up a chunk of points while not filling Brigade slots. However, my first tournament was with a Brigade list so I have a soft spot for them, and am pleased to see them at least somewhat back.

Dark Horses

I’m pretty confident that the above all get a decent boost. These are the things that could come out to play if the right list exists or I’ve underestimated them slightly.

  1. Wraithlords (Sword only)
  2. Windriders (Shuriken Catapults)
  3. Striking Scorpions
  4. War Walkers
  5. Wraithknights

I’m going to have a go with at least some of these and see how they play out.

Lists

I’ve got a big playtesting session for an upcoming ITC event coming up, and after the changes, these are the two lists I’m going to try:

List 1 – The Evolution

This list is a tweak to what I used at AoC to get in some of the newly improved things:

List 1 - Click to Expand

+ ARMY FACTION: Aeldari
+ TOTAL COMMAND POINTS: 14
+ TOTAL ARMY POINTS: 1998pts
+ ARMY FACTIONS USED: Aeldari, Drukari, Alaitoc
+ TOTAL REINFORCEMENT POINTS: Not Applicable
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
== Battalion Detachment == Drukari [30 Power Points] [466pts] 5CP
HQ: Archon (Black Heart) (70), Venom Blade (2)  - [4pls]  [76pts] - WARLORD (Labyrinthine Cunning)
HQ: Succubus (Red Grief), Archite Glaive (0), Splinter Pistol (0), The Blood Glaive (free) - [4pls] [50pts] 
HQ: Haemoculus (Prophets of Flesh) (70), Electrocorrosive Whip (6), Stinger Pistol (5) - [5pls] [81pts]
Troop: 7 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (46), Sybarite (0), Shredder (8) - [4pls] [50pts] 
DT: Raider (Black Heart) (65), Disintegrator Cannon (15) - [5pls] [80pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0), Shredder (8) - [4pls] [38pts]
DT: Venom (Black Heart) (65pts), Twin Splinter Rifle (0) - [4pls] [65pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0) - [4pls] [30pts] 

== Battalion Detachment == Alaitoc [54 Power Points] [986pts] 5CP
HQ: Warlock Skyrunner (65), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2), Witchblade (0) - [4pls] [67pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Protect/Jinx
HQ: Autarch Skyrunner (95), Laser Lance (8), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2) - [6pls] [105pts]
HQ: Farseer (110), Witchblade (0) - [6pls] [110pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Executioner, Doom
Troop: 5 Dire Avengers (40), Exarch (0), 5 Avenger Shuriken catapults (15), Exarch Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (3) - [3pls] [58pts]
Troop: 20 Guardian Defenders (160), Guardian Heavy Weapon platform (5), Shuriken Cannon (10) - [9pls] [175pts]
Troop: 10 Guardian Defenders (80), Guardian Heavy Weapon platform (5), Shuriken Cannon (10) - [5pls] [95pts]
DT: Wave Serpent (120), Twin Shuriken Cannon (17), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2) - [9pls] [139pts]
HS: Falcon (110), Starcannon (13), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2) - [9pls] [125pts]
HS: Night Spinner (110), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2) - [8pls] [112pts]

== Air Wing Detachment == Alaitoc [28 Power Points] [546pts] 1CP
Flyer: Hemlock Wraithfighter (200), Spirit Stones (10) - [10pls] [210pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Jinx
Flyer: Crimson Hunter Exarch (135), 2 Starcannons (26) - [9pls] [161pts]
Flyer: Crimson Hunter Exarch (135), 2 Bright Lances (40) - [9pls] [175pts]

Cutting a Serpent and the Banshees and making a few weapon tweaks lets me get both a Falcon and a Night Spinner, probably gaining me some net survival and letting me try out two cool new toys.

List 2 – An attempt at a Wraithknight list

I really want these to be good. Maybe? Please?

List 2 - Click to Expand

+ ARMY FACTION: Aeldari
+ TOTAL COMMAND POINTS: 14
+ TOTAL ARMY POINTS: 2000pts
+ ARMY FACTIONS USED: Aeldari, Drukari, Alaitoc, Kabal of the Flayed Skull
+ TOTAL REINFORCEMENT POINTS: Not Applicable
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
== Supreme Command Detachment == Alaitoc [693pts]
HQ: Warlock Skyrunner (65), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2), Witchblade (0) - [67pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Protect/Jinx
HQ: Autarch Skyrunner (95), Laser Lance (8), Twin Shuriken Catapult (2) - [105pts]
HQ: Farseer Skyrunner (130), Witchblade (0), Twin ShurikeN Catapult (2) - [132pts] - Psychic Powers: Smite, Fortune, Doom
LOW: Wraithknight (315), Titanic Ghostglaive (30), Scattershield (30), 2 Scatter Lasers (14) - [389pts]

== Battalion Detachment == Flayed Skull [54 Power Points] [1086pts] 5CP
HQ: Archon (70), Husk Blade (6) - [4pls] [76pts] - Warlord (Famed Savagery)
HQ: Archon (70), Venom Blade (2) - [4pls] [72pts]
Troop: 6 Kabalite Warriors (30), Sybarite (0), Blaster (17) - [53pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (30), Sybarite (0), Blaster (17) - [47pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (30), Sybarite (0), Blaster (17) - [47pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (30), Sybarite (0), Shredder (6) - [38pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (30), Sybarite (0), Shredder (6) - [38pts]
HS: Ravager (80), 3 Disintegrator Cannons (45) - [125pts]
HS: Ravager (80), 3 Disintegrator Cannons (45) - [125pts]
HS: Ravager (80), 3 Disintegrator Cannons (45) - [125pts]
DT: Raider (65), Disintegrator Cannon (15) - [80pts]
DT: Venom (55), Splinter Cannon (10), Twin Splinter Rifle (0) - [65pts]
DT: Venom (55), Splinter Cannon (10), Twin Splinter Rifle (0) - [65pts]
DT: Venom (55), Splinter Cannon (10), Twin Splinter Rifle (0) - [65pts]
DT: Venom (55), Splinter Cannon (10), Twin Splinter Rifle (0) - [65pts]

== Battalion Detachment == Mixed Drukari [221pts] 5CP
HQ: Succubus (Red Grief) (50), Archite Glaive (0), Splinter Pistol (0), The Blood Glaive (free) - [50pts]
HQ: Haemoculus (Prophets of Flesh) (70), Electrocorrosive Whip (6), Stinger Pistol (5) - [81pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0) - [30pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0) - [30pts]
Troop: 5 Kabalite Warriors (Black Heart) (30), Sybarite (0) - [30pts]

This wraps the Wraithknight in what I think is the strongest shell for him – a fast, deadly Drukari army that wants what the Craftworld characters are bringing to the table anyway.

The End

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading far too many words about Space Elves – I’ve definitely found putting my thoughts down on paper a helpful exercise, and I’m very excited to try some new toys out over the next few months.

 

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