Nephilim Faction Focus: James Kelling Talks Craftworld Eldar

Welcome to War Zone: Nephilim! There’s never been a shake-up this large during an edition of 40k, and in June Games Workshop dropped a new missions pack with all-new secondaries, changed how CP works in games, published new, all-digital points for the first time ever, and published a new balance dataslate, dramatically shifting the power levels of some armies.

With any big changes comes a new series of Faction Focus articles and we’re doing the same for Nephilim as we did for Nachmund. In this article James “Boon” Kelling will talk about the Craftworld Eldar (Asuryani), covering how the faction changed, what it means for playing them, how they fare in the Nephilim meta, and offer a list with some thoughts on playing them.

The Notable Changes 

Of all the factions to receive nerfs with the shift to Nephilim, Craftworlds probably received the most comprehensive series of adjustments. While I don’t think they were the greatest offenders in a meta filled with over-tuned bugs, fish, and clowns, Craftworlds certainly held their own in the way of overpowering builds. Hail of Doom coupled with a myriad of additional traits was a particular offender here and a shakeup was more than warranted. Let’s look at some of the biggest changes in Nephilim and how they affect the puritan elves:

  • Secondary Changes. Two of the most common secondaries Craftworlds leveraged with their speed and hit-and-run ability were Stranglehold and To The Last. No one will shed a tear here as both secondaries were unfun and non-interactive. In their place the army gained access to its full complement of faction secondaries, which changed just slightly.
  • Broad, untargeted points adjustments. HQs of all types received at least a 5-point bump; Phoenix Lords received a 20. Aspect Warriors almost universally took a 1 or 2-point increase and nothing received a reduction. With a couple of exceptions, most of the vehicles also received an increase. The result is a roster of datasheets that remained relatively unchanged from an internal balance perspective. Units that were not seeing the table before the changes didn’t notably shift – some even took additional hits due to the blanket increases.
  • Stratagem Changes. Probably the most surprising changes came with the adjustments to Matchless Agility and Fire & Fade. Both changes struck at the ability of Craftworlds to hit-and-run or hit-and-scoot onto an objective – in some ways these double down on the changes that were brought on with the loss of To the Last. The more obvious adjustment came to Eldritch Storm, an iconic Eldar ability that now lies wherever Jimmy Hoffa is buried.
  • List Construction. Finally, changes came with the all-encompassing addition to the Hail of Doom Craftworld trait and the general reduction in CP associated with the Nephilim GT changes. Eldar can be a CP hungry faction, especially in pre-game, and the reduction in CP severely handicaps the force construction options as well as the ability to take CP-costing upgrades or relics. The most obvious casualty of this is the Exarch relics which are now hard to justify bringing for the cost.

This comprehensive series of adjustments has successfully curbed the worst excesses of the Hail of Doom builds. However, the fundamental order of the codex hasn’t significantly shifted. Baharroth cloudstrides his way away with a 20-point bump. The same Craftworld builds that you saw in Nachmund are likely going to be nearly the same builds you are likely to see moving forward in Nephilim with some minor exceptions.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Playing Nephilim Missions

The changes to mission secondaries and army construction are of particular importance to Craftworlds in Nephilim. Gone are the days of To the Last units engaging the enemy with impunity, or using your superior movement to grab three objectives a turn for Stranglehold. What this means is that secondary selection in Nephilim is now a lot more dependent on the individual matchup, mission, and opponent. It also means that there’s a lot of room for mistakes in this critical step and the Craftworlds player will need to really understand the dynamic of their army and how they will score over the course of a diverse competitive environment.

In most armies, secondary selection will almost always start with Psychic Interrogation. Even if you’re not using Ulthwe to near-guarantee a successful cast, the combination of fast casters (Skyrunners) and Strands of Fate dice means that Craftworlds can reliably position and cast optimally to avoid denials – the combination of Strands dice also greatly increases the chances of gaining a CP on the secondary which is big for a faction so hungry for CP.

For the remaining secondaries I think you’re going to be building your roster around securing one or both of Scout the Enemy (3-4 Ranger units) or Wrath of Khaine (Aspects of all types). Of the two I think Wrath of Khaine is more likely going to apply in Hail of Doom or Biel-Tan armies that can leverage the reliable shooting output of Dire Avengers to support the potent combat threats of the Banshees, Scorpions, Spears, or Aspect-characters (Phoenix Lords). The third secondary can be troublesome – The Hidden Path can be strong but is also severely handicapped in multiple missions – more on this momentarily. Fortunately, there are some meta-specific options that can be leaned into I Nephilim such as No Prisoners (Necrons), Bring It Down (Knights, Chaos Knights). In matchups where Hidden Path is challenging but opponent screening is limited, Behind Enemy Lines can be a sneaky choice for fast armies bringing a number of bikes. I think Engage on all Fronts, Grind Them Down, or Retrieve Nephilim Data you’ll want to avoid if you can as each provides some unique challenges or double-tasks your units. Let’s take a quick look at the faction secondaries:

  • The Hidden Path (Battlefield Supremacy): Hold a key position on the field. The first thing to note is that this secondary will play differently depending on whether you bring a Webway Gate or not.
    • Webway Gate: you must place it between no closer than 6” to your deployment zone and no closer than 12” to the enemy deployment zone. You score the number of points equal to the round in your command phase if you hold the Webway Gate by having more models than the opponent within 3” or if you have any Objective Secured within 3” (Baharroth).
    • No Webway Gate: in your first command phase you select an objective that is not within 6” of your deployment zone. You score the number of points equal to the round in your command phase if you control that objective.
  • Wrath of Khaine (No Mercy, No Respite): Score one point for destroying a unit with an Aspect Warrior unit in the shooting phase or the fight phase per turn. Score four points if you achieve both with different units (a unit cannot do both and score four points).
  • Scout the Enemy (Shadow Operations): A surprisingly flexible and reliable option when combined with Will of Asuryan. Any Asuryani unit can start this action, however, if it is a Ranger unit it will complete at the end of the turn, otherwise in your next command phase. To begin, the unit must be outside 6” of your deployment zone, and if it’s completed will score two points, if it’s completed within the enemy’s deployment zone it will score four points.
  • Scry Futures (Warpcraft):Any psychic unit can perform a psychic action on an objective that you control (warp charge four – no increasing warp charge value). Score three points for each unique objective successfully actioned.

I’m not going to spend much time on Scry Futures – it’s a secondary that you’ll take because you’re playing a six-objective mission and you’re confident you can both control one new objective per round and Psychic Interrogation isn’t a preferred option (maybe you’re playing Knights and they have only one character-knight that you want to kill). Otherwise, you’re almost always taking Psychic Interrogation, or to a lesser extent Warp Ritual. Overall, your secondary options are going to be highly dependent on the opponent, mission, and table you find yourself on – and I believe the selection stats for Craftworld secondaries in Nephilim bear this out.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Playing The Hidden Path

This is an interesting secondary. You’re locked into playing it one of two ways depending on whether or not you’re bringing a Webway Gate. If you’re bringing the gate, the struggle will be whether or not you’re able to deploy it to satisfy the Hidden Path secondary. You are datasheet restricted from placing the gate within 12″ of the opponent’s deployment zone or any opponent deployed units. However, by the secondary requirements, the gate must be deployed outside 6″ of your own deployment zone. Finally, there’s the 3″ terrain requirement levied by the Nephilim GT deployment rules. What this means is that in most missions you’ll be restricted to placing the gate in a relatively narrow 6″ band of the board in which you’ll try to navigate deployment between terrain and any opponent forward deployers that are trying to screen you out. Add it all up and the Webway Gate starts to look like a hinderance to your secondary options.

On the flip side, not taking the Webway Gate creates some very difficult limitations on certain missions. Recover the Relics, Tear Down Their Icons, The Scouring, Tide of Conviction, and in some cases Secure Missing Artefacts do not allow you to select an objective on your board half due to the selection requirement of an objective being greater than 6″ from your deployment zone. As we know from the objective definition, it is not an infinitely small point but rather a 40mm marker centered on a point. That is fully one half of the GT missions where you would select to control an objective on the board center or your opponent’s board half. When playing Secure Missing Artefacts, you’ll want to make sure you move the objectives before locking in your secondary pick – depending on how it’s positioned, one of the objectives may qualify for Hidden Path.

Other than that? It’s a fantastic secondary to select as the speed and flexibility, coupled with Baharroth’s cloudstrike ability, means that you can fairly reliably plan to control that objective in most games – cover and opposing faction dependent. If you think you can overcome the challenges that Hidden Path entails in selection or deployment it’ll be a fairly reliable scorer for you.

Playing Scout the Enemy

This has become my second default pick after Psychic Interrogation. In some ways you’ll want to build for this by leaning into Rangers units that can secure the points at the end of your turn, however it is not strictly required. Will of Asuryan provides a lot of opportunities for a wide range of units to fulfill both a scoring role while still providing offensive output. The key to Scout the Enemy is that any Asuryani unit can perform the action. Moreover, Eldar have multiple ways of finding their way into the enemy’s deployment zone using pre-game abilities, mid-game abilities, or pure speed. Finally, being able to score at the end of the game means a unit like Baharroth, Swooping Hawks, or Warp Spiders will be able to put themselves in position on T4 for a late-game scoring boost.

The key considerations with Scout the Enemy is three-fold:

  • How do you want to use your CP (a deep-striking Ranger unit can be a quick 4-points, likewise strat reserved or phantasm’d Rangers)
  • Missions where Raise the Banners is a solid choice (can reliably hold 2+ objectives all game long)
  • Games where your opponent can reliably screen his deployment zone for the full game (either isn’t required to move forward or has enough chaff to prevent any deep-strikers)

The times you won’t want to select this is when you do not think you can reliably get into your opponent’s deployment zone or neutral-zone scoring threatens to leave you in the open or out of position.

Playing The Wrath of Khaine

This is really the only Craftworlds secondary you need to truly build to achieve. I personally shy away from requirements that dictate where I need to move or prioritize my targets and so I rarely will opt to attempt this. However, for Hail of Doom or Biel-Tan lists that are leaning heavily into Aspect Warriors or Phoenix Lords this can be a fairly reliably pick against many opposing factions.

The risk with Wrath of Khaine is that your opponent can selectively target out your units to limit your ability to score this in both the shooting and fight phases – essentially handicapping your ability to maximize the scoring. Aspect units are not cheap and you will not have a lot of redundancy in your opportunities. The most reliable form of output will be Phoenix Lords who will benefit from abilities, phase damage restrictions, and character protection to ensure they can make their way to an opponent unscathed. However, you may find yourself subject to forced target priority – where in order to score you’ll need to shoot or charge a unit that is not critical to the overall game plan. Even then, a round of bad dice for you or good dice for your opponent may scuttle your plans.

This can be a good secondary, but you’ll want to really consider your opponent and matchup before selecting it.

Squaring Up Against the Meta

Let’s dig into the matchups and where the Craftworld’s strength lie. In the age of Nephilim, the Craftworld Eldar are as fast and hit as hard as they ever have, but their ability to lock-down a primary objective is highly dependent on the terrain layout and the extent of firing lanes therein. The datasheets are excellent and trade well, but the high price reduces redundancy and flexibility if you’re not careful or suffer a setback. Patience, careful (and flexible) mission planning, and purposeful movement is a requirement to playing Craftworlds at a high level.

The Positive

The good news is that Eldar are an adaptive faction and can play strongly into most other factions. Eldar remain strongest into power armored, elite factions generally. Even with the Armor of Contempt change the Craftworlds armory can leverage a lot of high AP attacks or mortal wound output where the low volume is balanced by the elite nature of the opponent’s army. Similarly, Eldar tend to perform well into Imperial Knights and some versions of Chaos Knights. That said, armies that can match you on speed and use their durability to close-in and engage will still represent a challenge – Blood Angels are notable here.

Fundamentally, the Eldar datasheets are still strong. Eldar can play in all phases of the game, output mortal wounds in nearly all phases (looking at you Shroud Runners and Wireweave Grenades), and carry their traditional high damage, high strength, and high AP armory onto the field. Combined with their bevy of unique buffs, powers, and wide-ranging, flexible stratagems, and speed – the force is truly a deep one that is capable of very unique, and exceptionally adaptive play on the table. As a faction, they are deeply rewarding to play once you’ve mastered them. However…

The Struggle

The struggle with Eldar in Nephilim will be the combination of durability and mission scoring. Historically, a series of tricks and abilities provided sneaky toughness and when combined with the faction’s inherent speed, it allowed the faction to play mission objectives as well as anyone. However, the game has become far more deadly as 9th has gone on while simultaneously dialing back some of the Craftworld’s defensive boosts or advantages which means that when caught out in the open or sitting an objective the elves will tend to wilt away rapidly without a lot of options for redundancy. Combined with a mediocre series of secondary options that are selectively useful, Craftworlds players will need to ensure that they are not making mistakes in secondary selection and will need to be exceptionally thoughtful in how and where they position their expensive, irreplaceable units. Mistakes with an Eldar army can be extremely punishing.

Factions like Tyranids and Thousand Sons can be a struggle for Craftworlds due to their ability limit the impact of psychics and psychic actions as well as their exceptional durability and speed (in the case of Leviathan Tyranids) or durability and mortal wound output (Thousand Sons). Both factions are capable of leveraging high-volume, mid-strength attacks that are perfect for chewing through T3 or T4 bodies with mediocre armor and can find ways to make those attacks on you as you struggle to keep them at arms-length or fight them off an objective. Perhaps the greatest threat is from Harlequins, who are even faster than the Craftworlds and can mitigate a lot of their strengths in the shooting phase while delivering a bounty of attacks perfectly tailored to carving up Aspect Warriors.

Credit: James “Boon” Kelling

The Lists

I’ll look at two lists that I think will come to represent the fairly narrow options for Craftworlds at the top level of play – the first is a GT-winning Hail of Doom list. The second is my own Ulthwe list that I piloted to a 5-0 Major finish.

The first list is a “traditional” 9th edition Hail of Doom army represented by Sami Keinänen who recently piloted the following to a strong 38-person, 5-round, 5-0 GT win a few weeks back.

Hail of Doom - click to expand

Asuryani – Patrol Detachment – -2CP, [51PL 1040pts] – Craftworld Attribute: Hail of Doom

HQ: Farseer Skyrunner [6PL, 125pts] (WARLORD)
– – – Psychic Powers: Doom, Guide
– – – Warlord Trait: Mark of the Incomparable Hunter (-1CP)
– – – Relic: Kurnous’ Bow (-1CP)

TR: 5 Rangers [4PL, 65pts]

EL: 10 Dire Avengers [6PL, 130pts] Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult
EL: 10 Dire Avengers [6PL, 130pts] Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult

FA: 10 Swooping Hawks [8PL, 200pts]
FA: 10 Swooping Hawks [8PL, 200pts]

HS: 1 War Walkers [5PL, 65pts]
HS: 1 War Walkers [5PL, 65pts]

NFO: 1 Warlock Skyrunners [3PL, 60pts]
– – – Psychic Powers: Protect/Jinx

Asuryani – Patrol Detachment – -3CP, [55PL 960pts] – Craftworld Attribute: Hail of Doom

HQ: Baharroth [7PL, 160pts]

EL: 10 Dire Avengers [6PL, 130pts] Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult
EL: 5 Howling Banshees [4PL, 110pts] Mirrorswords, Piercing Strikes

FA: 6 Windriders [8PL, 120pts]
FA: 6 Windriders [8PL, 120pts]
FA: 6 Windriders [8PL, 120pts]
FA: 1 Vypers [3PL, 45pts]
FA: 1 Vypers [3PL, 45pts]
FA: 1 Vypers [3PL, 45pts]

HS: 1 War Walkers [5PL, 65pts]

Classic Hail of Doom here. Leaning heavily on Shuriken Cannons and the many, many Shuriken Catapults, the list is capable of putting out a lot of high AP shooting through pure weight of fire. Mobility is key – backfield objective holders like War Walkers or Vypers (or cloudstriding Hawks) are equally capable of rapidly pushing up the field to grab mid-board objectives at a whim or threaten a key position. Windriders bring their full fury of Shuriken fire even on the advance… a measly 22″. The full complement of Dire Avengers rounds out the list with some foot-slogging backbone that plays well on terrain-heavy European boards. The list is capable of leveraging the Banshees and Baharroth for some opportune Wrath of Khaine, but I think that’s probably a bit of a trap here with so few melee options. More likely the list is leveraging its speed for Engage on All Fronts and Retrieve Nachmund Data with a fallback to Raise the Banners. The third selection is likely up to the matchup.

In comparison to the above, my own Ulthwe list is much less aggressive and instead of pure damage output leans into buffs and controlling vast sections of the board to create no-go zones for the opponent. 

Ulthwe - click to expand

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Aeldari – Craftworlds) [105 PL, 3CP, 2,000pts] ++

+ Configuration +

Battle Size [6CP]: 3. Strike Force (101-200 Total PL / 1001-2000 Points)

Craftworld Selection: Ulthwe: Foresight of the Damned

Detachment Command Cost

Gametype: 4. Chapter Approved: War Zone Nephilim

+ Stratagems +

Stratagem: Relics of the Shrines [-1CP]

Stratagem: Seer Council [-1CP]

Stratagem: Treasures of the Aeldari [-1CP]

+ No Force Org Slot +

Seer Council (Unit) [3 PL, 40pts]
. Warlocks: 4. Protect/Jinx, Seer Council (Warlocks Unit)
. . Warlock: Witchblade
. . Warlock: Witchblade

Seer Council (Unit) [3 PL, 60pts]
. Warlock Skyrunners: 5. Focus Will, 5. Quicken/Restrain
. . The Ghosthelm of Alishazier
. . Warlock Skyrunner: Witchblade

+ HQ +

Baharroth [7 PL, 160pts]

Eldrad Ulthran [8 PL, 145pts]: 1. Guide, 3. Fortune, 5. Will of Asuryan, Seer Council (Farseer), Ulthwe: Fate Reader, Warlord

Farseer [5 PL, 95pts]: 1. Fateful Divergence, 2. Doom, Witchblade

+ Troops +

Rangers [4 PL, 75pts]: Wireweave Net
. 5x Ranger: 5x Ranger Long Rifle, 5x Shuriken Pistol

Rangers [4 PL, 65pts]
. 5x Ranger: 5x Ranger Long Rifle, 5x Shuriken Pistol

Rangers [4 PL, 65pts]
. 5x Ranger: 5x Ranger Long Rifle, 5x Shuriken Pistol

+ Elites +

Howling Banshees [5 PL, 110pts]
. 4x Howling Banshee: 4x Banshee Blade, 4x Shuriken Pistol
. Howling Banshee Exarch: Mirrorswords, Piercing Strikes

Striking Scorpions [5 PL, 110pts]
. 4x Striking Scorpion: 4x Mandiblasters, 4x Scorpion Chainsword, 4x Shuriken Pistol
. Striking Scorpion Exarch: Biting Blade, Crushing Blows

Wraithguard [20 PL, 315pts]: D-scythe, 7x Wraithguard

+ Fast Attack +

Shining Spears [6 PL, 125pts]
. 2x Shining Spear: 2x Laser Lance, 2x Twin Shuriken Catapult
. Shining Spear Exarch: Heartstrike, Paragon Sabre, Shuriken Cannon

Shroud Runners [5 PL, 105pts]
. 3x Shroud Runner: 3x Ranger Long Rifle, 3x Scatter Laser, 3x Shuriken Pistol

Vypers [3 PL, 40pts]
. Vyper w/ Scatter Laser

+ Heavy Support +

Support Weapons [9 PL, 195pts]: 3x Support Weapon w/ D-Cannon

Support Weapons [6 PL, 130pts]: 2x Support Weapon w/ D-Cannon

+ Dedicated Transport +

Wave Serpent [8 PL, 165pts]: Twin Bright Lance, Twin Shuriken Catapult

++ Total: [105 PL, 3CP, 2,000pts] ++

The list is a mix of common and less-common choices, but each is a purposeful addition. The default position for this list is to establish a 24″ no-go zone using the D-Cannons to create the space, cover neutral zone objectives, and generally force an opponent to choose to rush in as fast as possible, or stay back entirely. They also provide excellent deep-striking deterrence combined with the Forewarning stratagem. While they will not gain the benefits of the casters, the D-Cannons in an Ulthwe build can leverage a number of stratagems and trait abilities to maximize their impact – careful positioning may also mitigate some of the impacts of the changes to Ignore Line of Sight shooting (remember, only one model needs to see for the full unit to gain the benefits of direct shooting). The combat elements of the army functions as a early-game counter-punch leveraging either the innate speed (Spears) or Wave Serpent (Banshees, Scorpions) to position themselves for a counter-charge or to clear an objective after the D-Cannons have softened up the target. The remaining support elements assist in buffing, screening, or scoring out of deep-strike/reserve.

A standout units that I have not seen in many (any?) lists are the D-Scythe Wraithguard. The unit is expensive but highly flexible and benefits greatly from the series of buffs that the casters want to apply. Most likely, the D-Scythes will be played out of reserve, arriving to gain the benefit of cover and if possible, fully in cover to gain the ability to Set to Defend. Then Fortune, Guide, Will of Asuryan, and Protect are applied with extreme reliability with the assistance of Strands dice, Ulthwe’s cast bonus, and the Seer Council Warlocks combined with Eldrad. The Shroud Runners may also benefit from these series of buffs depending on the need – in either case it makes the units extremely durable (well above anything else in the Eldar roster) and extremely deadly. Even at 1D, the pure number of shots, high-strength, and high-AP will force through a large number of wounds on any target with some mortal wound kickers. At 1D there’s nothing wasted as all wounds will carry over. I like problem solvers in my lists, and the D-Scythes are certainly that.

The list leverages the relic Ghosthelm to ensure the successful cast of Psychic Interrogation as a default secondary pick. The second pick will likely be Hidden Path in missions that support it or Scout the Enemy in missions that do not. The third pick will be game-to-game dependent, but if I have taken Hidden Path then Scout the Enemy may complete the third selection, or I may go with Raise the Banners. If I do not take Hidden Path I’ll look to Scout the Enemy as the second selection, then potentially Behind Enemy Lines. If ever Assassination, Bring it Down, or No Prisoners I deem to be a viable option at the table, those will fill my third secondary selection.

Wrapping Things Up

That concludes our look at Craftworld Eldar, but we’ll have more over the next few weeks as we cover each of the game’s factions and some of the subfactions. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at