Keys to the Spire, Part 1: Talking Drukhari with Archon Skari

Welcome, readers, to Keys to the Spire. I am Skari, Ancient Archon, and the Mon-keigh here at Goonhammer have pledged their souls in service to me. In return for this pittance I’ve agreed to grant you access to the mind that twists the fate of mortals and is unequalled when it comes to playing the spiteful political chess of the Dark City. Whether you are new to the Drukhari or if you have been playing them for a while (I still call them Dark Eldar!) this series will have something for you. We’ll explore the faction and what you can expect when you choose to play them. Learn the basics, what to expect, maybe some new tips and tricks that will assist you in your own pursuits within the Port City. 


Part I: What To Know If you’re New to Drukhari 

You have chosen to pick up, collect and play the Drukhari. First off, welcome! So, what is there to know about one of the lesser-known factions of the Warhammer 40000 game? We shall briefly discuss their lore and then a few of the main gameplay characteristics that differentiate them from other factions and armies that you will encounter across the table from you. 


Who are the Drukhari? – Get Inspired 

The Dark Eldar are a race of Aeldari that bear the closest resemblance and cultural ties to the Eldar before the fall and birth of Slaanesh. They are depraved essence-consuming pirates that feed off other creatures’ pain and misery in order to satiate the hunger they feel due to Slaanesh slowly leeching away their souls. 

The Drukhari live in a constantly shifting political landscape where backstabbing and treachery are simply the way things are. All drukhari are ambitious and paranoid to the extreme, they feel like everything is beneath them and they hunger for power. The overall ruler of the Dark City is Vect, he is very old and very sinister. Kabals, Wych Cults and Covens rise and fall at his hand like a puppet master orchestrating his marionettes he is always scheming and slithering to hold on to power. 

There are 3 main factional splits within Drukhari Society and each one plays a role within the lore, however these differences translate onto the tabletop game as well.

The Wych Cults are performers of blood sport and entertainers (gladiators). They saciate the masses within the City at large games where their bloodletting becomes art, a feast of pain that revitalizes those who experience them. 

The Haemonculus Covens are the flesh crafters of the Drukhari, they preside over the power of life and death being able to re-grow drukhari that have been killed. They also distill fear and pain into powerful toxins and elixirs that the Dark Eldar use on other races or just as often themselves. They create monstrous flesh machines of war that they use in battles.

The Kabals are like political parties of the Drukhari, powerful houses that rise and fall over the millentia. The Archons are the leaders of these factions and they are always trying to carve out more of the Webway dimension for themselves, some have been alive for many millennia and they are the true embodiment of the hubris of the aledari race. 

The Drukhari tend to battle by sending out what are called “realspace raids”. These are attacks usually on civilized planets that are a chance for the pirates to return with captives and other loot that they use for their various nefarious purposes. So, how does this translate onto the table, and what can you expect?


Incubi. Credit: Corrode

How do they play on the tabletop? – Get strategic

The Drukhari are a unique army to play on the tabletop. Here I’ll cover the main facets of the drukhari style of gameplay. 

Speed and Mobility

The first thing that you will notice when you play or encounter the Drukhari is their speed. Drukhari are one of the fastest – if not THE fastest – armies in the game. The infantry is fast – most units move at least 7” – and starting on the second Battle Round they gain the ability to Advance and Charge in the same turn with Power From Pain. But most of the time they will be riding in dedicated transports like raiders and venoms that are flying vehicles that move even faster (Raiders have a Movement characteristic of 14”). More importantly, this 14” Movement can be further increased by stratagems, such as the Enhanced Aethersail Stratagem, which makes a raider advance 8” giving it a 22” movement. You can further combo this with the Never Stationary Stratagem on a Raider with an Assault weapon like a phantasm grenade launcher to move an additional 7” after shooting, giving you a total of 29” of movement!

Here’s the thing, though – this is not the only way they get to move fast. Another example: Reaver Jetbikes have a Movement characteristic of 18”, and when they advance they move an additional 8”, giving them 26” of movement. Not only do they have the movement to go all over the table (making it even easier to cover 9th edition’s smaller tables), they can stack on the Advance and Charge bonus from Power from Pain in the second battle round or even bump that to turn 1 with the right bonuses.

On top of that, many of these units have the FLY keyword, allowing them to ignore terrain as they zoom across the table. In a game that encourages the completion of objectives this is incredibly important – Drukhari can be anywhere they want to be almost instantly.

Hitting Power

Drukhari are what you might consider a “Glass Cannon” army. They are able to do an incredible amount of efficient damage to enemy units (“the cannon” part), at the expense of their own durability (the “glass” part).  

Let’s start by talking about that cannon. There are a few different ways to talk about doing damage in a tabletop game like Warhammer. One way is to look at averages and variance when considering dice results that impact the game – more on that in a moment. You can also look at when and how the army is capable of doing damage, i.e. the number of phases of the game in which the army can act. The more phases of the game an army can act in (or specifically, do damage in), the more technical their gameplay can be and the more opportunities you’ll have to create awesome plays. Drukhari have the ability to do damage in the Movement, Shooting, Charge, Fight, and Morale phases, an impressive five out of seven. We’ll cover more of the specifics of these in a future article, but the big takeaway for now is that usually Drukhari will ABK (Always Be Killin’).

Going back to the sequence of damage, the Dark Eldar have easy access to re-rolls through abilities such as the Kabal of the Black Heart, which can help them mitigate or optimize the standard sequence of “roll to hit, roll to wound, opponent rolls saves, roll damage.” This is a major help when it comes to making Dark Lance shots more efficient. They also have access to the ability to re-roll wound rolls, such as with a Cronos’ shooting and melee attacks. Abilities like these ensure that Drukhari units will lose very few of their attacks to variance compared to other armies.

Intertwined with this is the final consideration – efficiency, or the point cost per attack for the faction – having really strong weapons and low variance is only helpful if they aren’t overcosted. And on that front, Drukhari units are aggressively costed, particularly compared to units in other factions that serve a similar role – compare Daemonettes to Wyches, for example. This usually means that the Dark Eldar will be rolling a lot of dice. Higher volumes of dice tend to even out the variance – you’re more likely to to see statistically average results than crazy strings of high/low results. When paired with re-rolls this can tip the math in your favor quite hard and the result is your opponent will be removing their models from the table at a rapid rate. If your opponent loses the tools they need to eliminate parts of your army, this can create a snowball effect, like compound interest… now they have fewer tools to kill you and your advantage compounds each turn of the game.

However hard Drukhari hit, they are still however, made from glass, and their fragility is one of the main things to keep in mind. 


“Every miniature in your army is going to die. It’s your mission to make sure they die where you want them to” – Archon Skari

With some exceptions, each unit in the Drukhari army is fragile. Most units in a Drukhari army are Toughness 3 and although you’ll have invulnerable saves on nearly every unit, there’s no Gravis Armour, Deathshroud, or Deathwing unit that really specializes in sitting around being difficult to kill on the Drukhari roster. As a Drukhari player you will usually be punished harshly, losing a lot of models, if you make a mistake with your movement or are caught out in the open or, as will usually be the case, if you can be seen at all.

Mass volume with average-strength weapons (such as the Adeptus Mechanicus’ cognis stubbers) and high-strength weapons with multiple damage and average ap (such as autocannons) are the bane of a Drukhari army: These are the perfect weapons to kill both vehicles and infantry at a rapid rate. Even the lowly chainsword and bolt pistol are weapons that are extremely dangerous against the low saves and toughness of the Dark Kin. 

The key to mitigating this is using the other strengths of the army to offset their fragility. You must use your mobility to get behind terrain and into places where the enemy has a hard time getting angles on your army; use your high damage output to target enemy units that rival you in speed and use close combat and special rules (like the wyches’ No Escape) to trap enemy units in combat, preventing the enemy from targeting you on favourable terms. 


Drukhari Wracks. Credit: Corrode

Your First Game Plan

If you are starting out with the faction here is an initial game plan: Expect to build an army that follows a “more is more” style, focusing on taking multiple small units (MSUs) over larger ones. This will build redundancy into your army and make your strengths more spread out and harder to tackle or neutralize. This will also help you in the Trade Game (something we’ll cover in my next article), and will give you the ability to cover more ground, taking advantage of your speed and the ability to take objectives.

Another important thing to remember is to not spend too many points on upgrades; it is very easy to take a Raider and spend 30 points on upgrades for it! Across three or four Raiders, those upgrades add up, quickly totaling 90+ points, which could have been used to take – another- Raider. So when picking and choosing upgrades make sure you have a plan for the unit to execute and spend the points appropriately to help optimize that unit for the least amount of points needed. 


Next Time: Advice for Veteran Raiders

For the newer Drukhari Archon, Haemonculus, or Succubus, there’s still much more to learn about the faction, though we’ve covered the basics here. The Dark Eldar are a very rewarding army (and powerful army) to play; they are an iconic faction within the 40k Universe with a unique play style. In my next article I will return with things to remember if you are a more experienced Drukhari player and in my final article we’ll cover tips and tricks from my treasure trove of forbidden tactical knowledge. Now go forth and raid as we continue to unlock the Secrets of the Spire!

Thanks, Skari! You can read more from the Archon on The Art of War 40k or follow his exploits on YouTube

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