The release of Kill Team Salvation sees the long awaited arrival of bespoke rules for Eldar Aspect Warriors with a new team dubbed The Blades of Khaine. Bringing eight 3 APL operatives to the table, this team should prove a strong addition to the available Aeldari line-up, and is the first non-Astartes Elite team since Void-Dancers. In fact, it is impossible to not compare this team to their clownish cousins, who have been considered one of the top teams since their release. With that in mind we will find ourselves continuously returning to them as a point of comparison.
Before we dive in we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a preview copy of the Kill Team Salvation boxed set and rules for review purposes.
Faction Ability – Aspect Techniques
Keeping with the standard set by Void-Dancers, the Blades of Khaine come with one of the lengthiest Faction Abilities in Kill Team, Aspect Techniques. Blades of Khaine teams may take any combination of the following: Striking Scorpions, Howling Banshees, or Dire Avengers, and each of these operative types has access to five Techniques. Techniques are special abilities that have the following restrictions: they may only be used once per activation and once per turning point, unless your entire team is composed of a single type of aspect warrior in which case they may be used twice per Turning Point.
Striking Scorpion – Patient Stalk, Sudden Blow
A concealed operative may use this technique when it performs a Normal Move, if it does, it must move within engagement range of one or more enemy operatives (but can not end its move there). ONE of those enemy operatives then suffers D3+2 Mortal Wounds. Similar to the Flux Bray’s ability this is a great way to finish off weakened opponents without risking a roll.
Striking Scorpion – Strike and Fade
After a friendly Striking Scorpion under and Engage Order incapacitates an enemy operative in combat, it may perform a Free Dash and swap to the Conceal Order. Excellent! Allows you eliminate opponents and avoid retaliatory shooting.
Striking Scorpion – Scorpion’s Eye
A Striking Scorpion may treat its Shuriken Pistols as Indirect for a single Shoot Action and they must target an enemy within Cover. A strong ability as it effectively means your pistols can ignore the Conceal making Shoot and Charge that much easier.
Striking Scorpion – Merciless Strikes
If you retain any Critical Hits during combat, strikes made by that operative have the Stun special rule. Perhaps one of the more underwhelming techniques as Stun on melee weapons is often less useful than its ranged counterpart.
Striking Scorpion – One with the Gloom
During the operative’s activation if it is within 1 inch of terrain and has the Conceal Order it is considered to always have a Conceal Order regardless of other rules. Super Conceal, as it is often called, is always useful and can be a great way to keep an operative alive on an objective early or late game, especially on more open boards.
Howling Banshee – The Woe
Allows a banshee operative to use the remaining unused distance from a charge to perform a second charge IF they incapacitated the original target. This is a fantastic technique allowing regular banshees to easily tie up additional enemies, or giving your Exarch an opportunity to perform a double kill.
Howling Banshee – Rain of Tears
Allows an immediate free Dash or Fall Back after resolving a critical strike, similar to Strike and Fade this is a fantastic ability, especially if you have an operative that is close to death as it will allow them to get a hit in, and then hopefully move away so that another operative may deal the killing blow.
Howling Banshee – Acrobatic
A Banshee gains Fly during any movement it makes during its activation, however the total distance moved may not exceed 6 inches. Fly is always good, and while this falls far short of having it on all your operatives, it can still allow you to pull off charges you might otherwise not be able to do.
Howling Banshee – Scream-That-Steals
Allows the Banshee operative to perform a parry in combat before the Attacker goes, meaning you can essentially double parry if you are the Attacker. An excellent ability, especially against enemies that have only 3 or 4 attacks, as this will allow the banshee to parry out their die pool. Combined with Rain of Tears this allows your banshees multiple methods of minimizing retaliatory damage in combat.
Howling Banshee – Shriek-That-Kills
For its activation a Banshee MUST make a shooting attack with the following profile: 6 atk, +3 hit/wound, 1/2 damage, 6 inch range, and Stun. A handy ability, primarily for the Stun, but also gives you a ranged option for your Exarch if you’ve opted for Mirrorswords as their equipped weapon. Take note that while they could use this ability twice they can not combine shooting it with any other ranged weapon.
Dire Avenger Aspect – Death of a Thousand Blades
Allows a Dire Avenger to make a second Shoot Action with their shuriken weapons at an operative within 2 inches of the original target. Fantastic, double shoot is always good, although the positioning requirement does mean that elite teams can very easily play around it.
Dire Avenger Aspect – The Slicing Hurricane
Allows an operative to perform their Shoot Action during a Normal Move Action, similar to the Harlequin ploy, and obviously another method in which to keep your operatives safe from enemy return fire. If you’re keeping track that means every aspect warrior has access to a safety ability.
Dire Avenger Aspect – Vigilance of the Avenger
An operative gains the No Cover special rule on their shuriken weapons until the end of the activation. One of the more underwhelming techniques available, although it is far from useless.
Dire Avenger Aspect – Unstinting, Immovable
If you retain a critical save you may retain one of your failed saves as a normal save.
Dire Avenger Aspect – Raging Heat of the Dying Flame
If an operative has either negative APL modification or is injured, it does not suffer from either for the activation. Another straightforward, and very useful ability, that allows you to get the maximum efficiency from your team.
The Blades of Khaine come with a simple array of choices having access to only the three aforementioned aspect warriors, an exarch variant of each, and NO specialists. In the case of the Exarchs they all come with the standard +1 wound and +1 hit/wound over their baseline teammates along with a handy 3+ armor save and extra attack. They also share their data-card abilities with the addition of the Exarch ability that allows them to Fight and Shoot twice during an activation – fantastic for 3 APL operatives.
Striking Scorpions and Exarch
Striking Scorpions come with the Mandiblasters special ability, which basically deals 2 mortal wounds whenever they select a target with the Fight Action. Warriors are armed with Shuriken Pistols and Chainswords, both of which have Rending. This means Scorpions have the capacity to immediately kill 7 wound models in combat, assuming they manage a single critical hit, and can easily take on elites with lower wound counts such as Legionnaires. The Exarch has three weapon options, all of which are some combination of pistol and very deadly melee weapon, and whichever you pick will come down to what your opponent is bringing.
Howling Banshees and Exarch
The Howling Banshee is nearly identical to the Striking Scorpion, but trades out the Chainsword for a Powersword, and Mandiblasters for a Banshee Mask, which reduces enemy weapon skill when performing a Fight Action by 1. This ability does not stack with injuries, which is a pretty big bummer, however this does get around abilities that make enemies immune to injury penalties, which can allow your Banshee to take on opponent’s such as Gellerpox Hulks. Also, take note that BOTH these abilities require a Fight Action to occur meaning that you won’t benefit from either when being attacked. The Exarch’s weapon options are very similar to its Striking Scorpion kin with the exception of the Triskele offering a genuine choice as it simultaneously acts as an incredible 6 attk melee weapon, and a rare 4 attack Torrent ranged weapon.
Dire Avenger and Exarch
The closest thing you get to a ranged option, the Dire Avenger comes armed with a Shuriken Catapult and fists. Additionally, their special ability, Defense Tactics, means they don’t suffer the penalty to hit from Overwatch. The Exarch has the typical option of going pistol and melee, but you may choose to give him a Shuriken Catapult, however he may not take any ranged option that shoots beyond 6 inches and simultaneously take any decent melee option. Lastly, he may take a Shimmershield, which grants a 4++ to nearby models.
The ploys available to this team are all useful if not more than a little uninspired or interesting. Much like their operative selection these will get the job done, but it feels like more could’ve gone into them.
- Bladewind and Starfall – One of these lets an operative Fight Twice, the other lets them Shoot twice, I think you can figure out which is which. Powerful? Yes! Interesting? Not really. Double Shooting pistols isn’t much to write home about for a team that has 3 APL, and no ranged special weapons, however Bladewind is likely to find usage for Banshees or Striking Scorpions.
- Fading Light – An operative may Fall Back for one less AP. If there is one thing that I’ve gone into on these reviews is that being able to manipulate the action economy will always be powerful. While this isn’t as game changing to 3 APL operatives as it might be for 2 APL ones this will still find its uses.
- Contempt – The best ploy available to the team. This allows you to prevent your opponent from re-rolling attack dice, and you may use it AFTER they roll. What is there to say? This is the closest thing to an interesting ploy available to this team, it’s unique, powerful, and your opponent will absolutely always be on the lookout for when you use it. This is up there with “Just a Scratch” as it basically allows you to lock your opponent into a terrible result.
- Eminent Grace – All operatives gain an inch of movement, and basically have FLY in relation to one another. Simple, straight-forward, and useful.
- Forewarned – Operatives may re-roll a single defense die for the Turning Point. As Above. Pretty good for Turning Point 2 for when you start to take lots of return fire.
- Ruthless Poise – Operatives may re-roll a single attack die when in combat against READY enemy models. It is odd to me that this requires the opponent to be Ready, and I don’t think it would’ve been broken by any stretch if it just allowed a flat re-roll.
- Khaine’s Vengeance – Same as above but for shooting attacks, BUT it only applies to non-READY models. This seems like a difference simply for the sake of having a difference, but it isn’t enough to really distinguish this ploy from Ruthless Poise mechanically.
Blades of Khaine have an excellent list of equipment from a competitive standpoint. However, many of these picks are “no-brainers” to the point that it is unclear why they simply aren’t data-card or team abilities.
- Weaponized Panoply [1 EP] – Dire Avengers armed with fists or gun butts gain 1 more attack. Why not just give Dire Avengers a better profile? Don’t get me wrong, this is a good piece of equipment but it just screams trying to pad out the options.
- Rune of Prophecy* [1 EP] – Once per game you may add or subtract 1 from your initiative roll. 1 EP for something that has the ability to swing a match? Why just not make it free!?
- Rune of Foresight* [1 EP] – When you select this equipment you may select one of your opponent’s ploys. The first time they use it, you gain a CP. Baffling why this is only 1 EP as it basically amounts to a free CP. Almost every team has a ploy they must rely on to function. Compare this to the Wraithbone Talisman and its cost is even more confusing.
- Rune of Shielding* [3 EP] – Once per game negates an attack die against this operative. Especially annoying when combined with the Contempt Ploy.
- Wraithbone Talisman [3 EP] – Once per game the equipped operative can use the Command Re-roll ability for free.
- Shadow-Weave Grenade [3 EP] – A Smoke Grenade…in fact so close to a smoke grenade that they couldn’t be bothered to change the wording.
- Plasma Grenade [3 EP] – Same as available to Void-Dancers, always a good option.
Straight up the Runes of Shielding, Foresight, and Prophecy might be the most obvious examples of “autotake” I’ve seen for a team, so much so that they may as well just made it a 5 EP team and included these items in the data cards of the individual operatives.
Aspect Warfare – If all three different aspect warrior types damage an opponent in the same Turning Point gain a VP. If it happens in a different turning point, gain a second VP. I really like this Tac Op, it isn’t insanely difficult to achieve, but gives your opponent a certain amount of counterplay as they can seek to eliminate a single type of aspect warrior from your team and thwart this secondary.
Master Techniques – Use all 5 of a certain aspect’s techniques in a single Turning Point. Repeat in a later Turning Point for the second VP. Basically the counterbalance to Aspect Warfare, while that Tac Op revolves around a diverse team, Master Techniques is for when you want to bring all Striking Scorpions to the fight, or hell, simply don’t own the other aspects.
Martial Harmony – This can best be described as the harder version of Aspect Warfare. This requires all three aspect types to meet different positional requirements to score a victory point. A Dire Avenger must control an objective marker, a Striking Scorpion must be within 6 of an enemy operative, and a Howling Banshee must be within 6 of the enemy’s Drop Zone. Definitely possible to score given this team’s mobility, and will likely come down to what team you’re up against.
Building a Roster
As I have mentioned this team doesn’t have a ton of options aside from the different Exarchs, however you will not be able to fit every team permutation into a single roster. That being said, there is more than enough room to have access to every useful team setup with the ability to take all 3 mono-aspect teams as the only thing not available to you.
This kill team is a mixed bag:
- First, the good – This team seems like it will fit nicely within the current competitive framework. Nothing jumps out as busted and all the abilities are useful and mechanically sound. Basically it can be best summed up as a less powerful version of Void-Dancers primarily due to a lack of Fly, 4++, and a total lack of ranged AP. I don’t want anyone to feel like this means it is a bad team, and I think people will enjoy playing it and will win the occasional big event.
- Now, the bad: This team is bland. Much like Phobos, this feels like a missed opportunity. We have a complete lack of specialists and aspects such as Fire Dragons or Dark Reapers who would’ve shorn up this team’s weaknesses. The Aspect Techniques themselves will likely lead to no small amount of confusion for your opponent as you try to explain to them you have the equivalent of 5 different ploys for each operative type. Most of the ploys themselves are rather bland, AND the equipment list is lazy as hell. It is annoying enough when a team comes with one option that is an auto-include, so to have nearly half the available equipment fall into that category is very silly.
That said, the models are pretty nice and they’re a significant improvement over the compendium team, so you could do much worse – as I’ve said above, they’re likely going to be a solid team.
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