Welcome to our guide to learning how to wield the elegant, sophisticated weapon that is the armoury of the Craftworld Aeldari. Like the other articles in this series, this one will focus on the core of what the Craftworlds Codex has to offer you, outlining the key units and strategies that form the bread and butter for players using them at every level.
As with the rest of our “getting started” guides, this article isn’t going to go through every single unit in the codex, focusing only on the ones that are generally useful to players starting out, and that will ideally remain so throughout your time playing the faction, along with the powers, stratagems and rules that you need to be aware of to play them well. We’ll be publishing a followup deep dive” later on where we do scan through the rest of the codex, highlighting options you might want to try out once you’re comfortable with how the core plays.
Craftworld Eldar are also a member of one of the “superfactions” in 40k, being able to ally with the other armies that have the AELDARI keyword. A future article will also cover this so called “soup” option, along with the option to dye everyone’s hair black, put on loads of eyeliner and play the death-obsessed Ynnari.
With all that out of the way, let’s start by covering the strengths and weaknesses of the army, hopefully giving you an idea of whether they might be the codex for you!
- High mobility.
- Exceptional vehicles.
- Some of the best psychic powers in the game.
- Fragile and expensive infantry.
- Poor melee options.
- Unusually vulnerable to a turn of bad luck.
Strong. Pure Craftworlds lists comfortably outclass weaker armies, and are very strong against popular books such as Space Marines. Recent rounds of nerfs have also largely left them alone (or at least, left pure Craftworlds armies alone), and that leaves them a consistent top performer in events.
Pure Craftworlds are also a great army to take your first competitive steps with, because their mobility and the array of cool tricks they have available to them mean that you will have lots of options available to you at most points in the game, and can come up with plans to adapt to most situations. While still not ultra durable, several of the best units can also soak up a reasonable amount of punishment from popular kinds of firepower, which can make them a lot more forgiving than Harlequin or (non-Talos) Drukari lists.
Playing Craftworlds means almost never seeing your opponent’s list and going “I can’t win” – there are good matchups and bad matchups, but there’s almost always a route to victory if you play it right and the dice don’t turn against you. Playing tons of games where winning or losing comes down to how well you play it is a great way to learn how to improve as a general.
The Eldar book has a huge number of datasheets in it, but as is somewhat characteristic of earlier codexes, there are quite a lot of options that are either a bit lacklustre or are made redundant by something else doing their job better. The major point rebalances in Chapter Approved 2019 have done a modest amount to address this – there are now far fewer choices that are bad but there are plenty that you don’t need to think about in order to come up with a list that showcases the faction effectively.
For this reason, we’re going to recommend focusing on a subset of core units when you start building up your army. We’ve picked these not only because they are what makes the faction good on its own merits, but also because they’re the ones that tend to get cherry picked into mixed lists. By starting out with these will give you a force that remains relevant whichever way you choose to expand. We’ll also quickly run down why the units that don’t make the grade fall short.
Before we talk about the units, we’ll quickly cover the army wide special rules, as these can heavily impact the evaluation of some units. Obviously psychic powers, stratagems and relics are also an important part of the army – we’ll talk about the former alongside the psykers that can wield them, and mix some stratagems and relics into the unit reviews as well when they’re especially relevant, covering some others that are more “independent” of specific options at the end.
Outside of their version of “objective secured”, which is common to all armies, Craftworlds units get two special rules that apply to a lot of units (Battle Focus and Ancient Doom), and then to pick one of five “Craftworld Attributes” (similar to Chapter tactics) for each detachment where all units are from the same Craftworld.
We can get Ancient Doom out of the way first because it’s extremely rare that it’s relevant.
This ability appears on all units in the codex other than grav-tanks and planes. In a turn where a Craftworld unit charges or is charged by a unit with the “SLAANESH” keyword, they can re-roll hit rolls. However, as long as any SLAANESH units are within 3”, units with this ability add 1 to their morale tests, making it more likely that some models will flee.
This comes up so rarely because of the the double whammy that
- It only applies to a sub-faction within a few armies, and because
- There really aren’t that many units in the Craftworld Codex that want to be in melee.
The only time this will likely seriously affect the game with the units discussed in this guide is if a unit of Wraithblades runs into some Slaaneshi models, in which case it’s great, but it doesn’t affect unit selection or evaluation in any way.
This is much more like it. Most infantry and biker models in the codex (notably excluding Wraith constructs) have this. It allows you to use all non-heavy weapons as if your unit remained stationary even if it moved or, crucially, advanced.
This is a decent bonus – the main Eldar infantry weapon is the shuriken catapult, which is a powerful but short-ranged Assault weapon. Battle Focus lets you use an advance to get units with these into a firing position without the normal penalties to hit. It also lets your units throw a grenade even after advancing, which is a nice bonus given that plasma grenades are substantially better than the frag grenades used by Imperial armies.
The upshot of this is that unless you’re planning on charging with your infantry units, you can pretty much be advancing with them all the time, meaning that your basic infantry is shuffling an average of 10-11” a turn – nearly twice the speed of the core troops of many armies, helping them to get into or out of trouble very efficiently depending on what the moment demands.
Like the majority of armies, taking a detachment entirely made up of units from a single sub-faction (in this case a Craftworld) grants a bonus to those units. Unlike for some armies, these don’t just apply to Infantry and Bikers – everything, including vehicles, gets them. As well as this, units from each faction get access to one extra stratagem, and the characters have an extra relic or warlord trait to choose from.
While there are five of these in the book, if you’re starting out trying to build a strong Eldar list there are only two that are worth considering for your core:
- Alaitoc: Shooting attacks that target an Alaitoc model at a range of >12” suffer a -1 to hit penalty. This is a huge boost to the survivability of your units, especially those that can stack further hit penalties through other abilities, and probably one of the most powerful faction traits in the whole game. To mildly counteract this, Alaitoc’s stratagem, relic and warlord trait are not especially relevant.
- Ulthwe: All units get a 6+ Feel No Pain. This is a less powerful defensive boost than Alaitoc’s in absolute terms, but applies more often, and Ulthwe also have a very powerful stratagem, decent warlord trait, and access to an exceptional special character. Has the mild downside that the bonus does nothing on one of the single best units in the book (the Hemlock).
You can’t really go wrong with either of these – Ulthwe gives you a good set of “all-rounder” bonuses, but Alaitoc will absolutely ruin low BS shooting armies such as Tau and Astra Militarum. In general, armies that lean towards using planes probably want to look at Alaitoc, while armies more focused on using closer range options such as Guardians and Wave Serpents will want the more dependable defences of Ulthwe and the psychic might of Eldrad backing them up.
At a very competitive event, of course, there’s nothing stopping you mixing these up, and using an Air Wing of Alaitoc planes backed up by an Ulthwe ground force (though do bear in mind that many events that don’t require “official” faction paint schemes still do require you to have different subfactions painted distinctly within the army).
Of the remaining three choices, two see occasional use in specific contexts, with only poor Iyanden being left out in the cold. Specifically:
- Biel Tan: You sometimes see Biel Tan seers used in mixed or supreme command detachments. This is mostly to give Warlocks access to the Spirit Stones of Anathlan, a powerful relic which allows you to completely re-roll a psychic test. This usage has dropped off massively since psychic powers stopped being cross-compatible with Drukari and Ynnarri got nerfed, as you’re much less likely to see mixed detachments or supreme commands mixed in to other armies.
- Saim Hann: Conversely, occasional Saim Hann detachments are on the rise as more people make use of Scatterbikes (which we’ll come to later). Saim Hann have an exceptionally powerful relic for a bike Autarch, and make Scatterbikes coming out of deep strike more powerful by allowing them to ignore the move and shoot penalty for heavy weapons, so a decent number of people are squeezing small detachments from this craftworld in if they want these two units performing at optimal effectiveness.
We don’t recommend you dive into this level of fine tuning straight away however, so our overwhelming advice is to stick to Ulthwe or Alaitoc as you start out.
We’ll break down both core units and a few others by battlefield role. You almost always want to start any army off with a Battalion detachment to get the five command points that provides. This is especially true for the Eldar, as the stratagems in this book are great, and options for regenerating CP “in-game” fairly lacklustre. That means that when building your first force, you’ll want to make sure to pick some choices from the HQ and troops sections first, and fill out from other sections once you’ve done that. Luckily, the “Core” units list won’t provide too much distraction from doing that – only a small handful of units outside these are critical parts of an Eldar force. We’ve made sure to include at least a few more options in the list of other powerful choices for people who want a bit more variety.
HQ – Farseer
You should always include a Farseer in a pure Craftworlds army, and they’re so powerful that the vast majority of “soup” armies that include a Craftworlds component are doing it in part to get access to one.
The main reason for this is that Farseers get access to what is probably the best psychic power in the game, which is Doom. When successfully cast on a target, this allows you to re-roll all wound rolls made by any of your units against it until your next psychic phase. This spectacularly increases your ability to down a single large target, and helps define the most common playstyle of strong Craftworlds forces – pick your opponent’s best target, delete it, rinse and repeat.
Farseers are also, helpfully, very good at casting Doom – to represent their superlative psychic mastery, once per turn they can re-roll one or both dice from a psychic test. This means that if you fail to cast Doom on your initial roll (and you need it to go off this turn), you should pick up any dice showing less than a four and re-roll it – doing this boosts your chance of succeeding on the power (with its warp charge of 7) from 58% to 84%. You can also use this to boost up your roll if you’re worried about getting denied – if you roll a 6 and a 1, you can choose to reroll the 1 in search of a higher, safer casting number.
Farseers also get to take a second power, and can cast 2 per turn. You should pretty much always be taking Doom as your first choice. When starting out, your second should either be Executioner or Guide.
Executioner is like a Smite, in that it does D3 Mortal Wounds – but if fired at a unit and a model from it dies, you get to do another D3 Mortal Wounds. This makes it exceptional against armies with costly single wound infantry like Space Marines (especially elite versions like Deathwatch Veterans). Having it in your arsenal also gives the option of throwing two rounds of Mortal Wounds at a single large target in one Psychic Phase – if you find yourself up against an Imperial Knight with four wounds remaining late in the game, for example, you might find destroying it with mortal wounds from a Smite and Executioner a safer option than Dooming it and relying on your (potentially quite diminished) shooting.
Guide lets one Craftworld unit re-roll all shooting attacks for a turn. This can be a very powerful boost to a single unit, and will be better than Executioner when it’s “good”, but requires you to:
- Include at least one good target in your army.
- Have that target still alive!
In general, especially in smaller games, Executioner is probably the “safer” option, but as you move to larger lists you’ll often find that Guide is what you want.
The remaining three powers can have their uses but are a lot less commonly applicable:
- Fortune: Give a unit a 5+ Feel No Pain. Most common Eldar strategies use redundant threats, so this is of limited use, as your opponent can often just change target rather than shooting the unit you’ve buffed. Can be useful with a large Wraithblade unit.
- Mind War: Pick an enemy character within 18″ and roll off, adding your Farseer and the target’s leadership to the respective rolls. If you win, deal MWs equal to the difference. Can be funny if you set up a big differential via other abilities, but generally a bit unreliable and hard to set up, so relegated to very occasional use in odd matchups.
- Will of Asuryan: Gives the Farseer a fearless bubble and +1 to their denies till the next turn. Has fringe uses on Eldrad (see below) as his third power (see below) or on a second regular Farseer against Thousand Sons, otherwise not as good as having more force multipliers.
As a final couple of boosts to their psychic might, Farseers have a useful special ability and a specific stratagem they can use. The “Ghosthelm” rule gives them a 5+ FNP against Mortal wounds, which improves to a 2+ (!) against Perils of the Warp. This is nice because it means you can keep a double six on a cast roll without worrying too much about it going horribly wrong, and enjoy your undeniable power.
Over in stratagems, Unparalleled Mastery lets you immediately manifest an additional power for 1CP if you succeeded on a Farseer’s last cast for the turn. This can be very handy for adding an extra Smite into the mix – returning to our earlier example, if you have one Knight on 4 wounds that needs to die and another fresh one that needs a Doom, you can avoid having to choose which to go with. When using this you should bear in mind the risk that if the second power doesn’t go off you won’t get the third – always make sure to use the most critical power for the turn on the first or second cast, and if you’re using it to “double tap” with Mortal Wounds, consider using Smite as the “middle” power because it’s easier to cast.
Psychic powers are really what you’re here for, and the Farseer’s profile is otherwise not that impressive – and this is in some ways helpful, because it encourages you to keep them safe and alive. The 4+ invulnerable save is helpful for this, but toughness 3 means they will die quite easily to any volume of fire. Positioning your units to keep your Farseer safe while still being able to tag the right targets with Doom is a key skill you need to learn as you play this army. You can give a Farseer a singing spear for five points, which is a fine thing to spend a few points on, but even that might encourage you to take dangerous risks with its range of only 12”
Farseers are a good choice for holding one of the better Relics in the Craftworlds book, Faolchu’s Wing. This gives an infantry model a 12” move and FLY. This is very helpful both for setting up casts or getting out of trouble, and doesn’t even give you the “Jump Pack” keyword, meaning you can still use a transport. If you have a foot Farseer in your army, this is very likely to be your relic choice.
Farseers come in two additional flavours, both of which are strong options worth considering:
- Farseer Skyrunner – a Farseer, but on a bike! This gives an extra wound and, more importantly, an extra point of Toughness, which is a big survivability boost, along with built in additional mobility plus a bit more firepower. A great choice if you have the points, and the usual choice when bringing a Farseer into a soup army.
- Eldrad Ulthran – an Ulthwe specific Named Character Farseer, who is better in almost every way. Eldrad gets an additional known power and cast (no more choosing between Guide and Doom!), bonuses to his casting, T4, and a built in 3+ invuln save. He is effectively an auto-pick over a normal Farseer in Ulthwe. His only drawback is that because he can’t take a relic, neither of the options for getting more mobility are available to him, but the benefits outweigh this substantially as long as you have a Wave Serpent to get him into position at the start of the game.
HQ – Warlock/Spiritseer
Where many armies only have one list of psychic powers, Eldar have two – Runes of Fate (as used by the Farseer) and Runes of Battle. Warlocks and Spiritseers are both additional psychic HQ choices that can pick off this second list, and the main reason you want them in the list is to get access to these, so we’ll discuss what these powers do first, then move onto the advantages and disadvantages of each unit.
All six Runes of Battle powers have two modes (which technically count as two different powers for most purposes, but you get both with a single choice), a “buff” that can target one of your infantry or biker units and a debuff that can target any enemy unit. As with the Farseer’s choices, a few of these stand significantly out from the pack.
The very best, and the one you’ll see most often, is Protect/Jinx. Protect gives one of your infantry/biker units +1 to all saves for a turn (including invulnerable saves). This can be good for putting shields up on a key character, and combos nicely with the Celestial Shield stratagem available to Guardians, which we’ll discuss in a bit. The real meat here, however, is Jinx, which does the opposite to an enemy unit – reduces all of their save rolls by 1 for a turn. This includes invulns, and crucially effects the roll and not the save, which means that following the changes to Rotate Ion Shields, a Knight can never have better than a 5+ while Jinxed.
The core of many successful Aeldari lists, never mind just pure Craftworlds, is landing both Jinx and Doom on a single target then absolutely eviscerating it in a single turn. Once both of these debuffs land, even the toughest target will get torn to bits by enough shots from the humble shuriken catapult, never mind the nastier toys in your arsenal. Even units sporting 4+ invuln saves look that much more killable once that save is changed to a 5+, and Jinx helping to answer the prevalence of Ion Bulwarked Knights is one of the things that kept Eldar competitive in the Castellan Hell that was the previous metagame.
The second best power is Quicken/Restrain. In counterpoint to Jinx, here the main draw is the “buff” half – Quicken lets one of your Infantry/Biker units move again (including advancing). This is pretty much always a useful tool to have in your back pocket – getting a Farseer into position to land a key Doom or (if you’re a gambler) pulling them back after over-extending is an obvious use just inside the psychic phase, and it can help to achieve things like re-deploying a Guardian squad into a better position. Restrain, which halves the move characteristic of an enemy unit, is a bit more niche, but just occasionally you’ll look at a board position and realise that it cracks a game state wide open. It’s held back from true greatness by the fact that, unlike more recent similar abilities, it doesn’t affect advance or charge distances, and a lot of mobile threats lean on those to get their mobility in.
After those two the drop off is considerable, and honestly these are so good that for a starter army you probably won’t ever need to think about the rest – they’re very much tools for specific builds. The only one that just about bubbles up to be worth thinking about to fill a slot in primarily Craftworlds builds is Conceal/Reveal if, and only if, you are running a large unit of Guardians or Dark Reapers. Conceal puts a -1 to hit modifier on shooting attacks at a unit, which can add a bit of extra survivability to a Guardian squad coming in out of deep strike. However, you can generally do that better by combining Protect with Celestial Shield. Reveal removes cover from a targeted unit, which can be useful but is more narrow than Jinx for obvious reasons. My overwhelming experience with Conceal/Reveal is that I’d usually just rather have a “spare” Protect/Jinx caster.
The other three are:
- Empower/Enervate: Give a friendly unit +1 to wound in melee, or an enemy unit -1. Good on Wraithblades, and can occasionally helpfully shut down an enemy threat, but generally not worth the slot.
- Enhance/Drain: Give a friendly unit +1 to hit in melee, or an enemy unit -1. Generally less good as a force multiplier than Empower as Eldar are better at hitting than wounding, but can be combined with a few other things with abilities that proc on 6s to hit to profitable effect. However, generally too much faff to set up.
- Embolden/Horrify: Give a friendly unit +2 LD or an enemy -1LD. Only ever relevant for building Mind War combos.
So those are the powers, but who’s going to cast them? Step forward Warlocks and Spiritseers. The former can be either on foot or on a bike (as a Warlock Skyrunner), and since the bike option is better in nearly every way for only 12 more points (as compared to the 25pt premium Farseers pay) the bike option is almost always what you’ll see (at 67pts). Spiritseers come in at 65 pts, so it’s basically a head to head choice between the two.
The advantages the Warlock has are:
- Higher mobility.
- Higher toughness
- Better shooting
- Access to the Seer Council stratagem.
With the major drawbacks being:
- Only 3 wounds (so at risk of outright dying from Perils of the Warp or an unlucky vehicle explosion).
- Loses Smite for Destructor, a bad version of Smite with short range and only doing 1W
The Spiritseer has:
- 4W, so outside of “hilarious mishap” range.
- Full Smite
- Better melee.
- A fringe buff for Wraith Construct units.
But at the cost of:
- No mobility option.
- No Seer Council
Consensus at the moment is that the bike Warlock is better, largely because of access to Seer Council and the ability to keep up with a Farseer Skyrunner. Seer Council is a 1CP stratagem that gives both a Farseer and Warlock +1 on all their casts for a turn if they’re within 6” of each other. Given that this army runs off landing Doom and Jinx on key targets, adding to the reliability of this is obviously extremely good – thanks to their built in re-rolls, Farseers cast Doom about 90% of the time once you add a +1 modifier, and it also makes Jinx a considerably more reliable prospect. Realistically, almost any starting Eldar army will want to fill out their initial Battalion with a Bike Warlock toting Protect/Jinx.
Once you’re past the first one I think the argument is a lot closer, with the greater flexibility and independence of the Spiritseer having a lot to recommend it. In particular, I tend to prefer a Spiritseer if I’m taking one of the powers where I might not want to cast it every turn (such as Conceal/Reveal or Quicken/Restrain outside a Ynnari army), as I have the fallback of just casting Smite, whereas that isn’t a good option for Warlocks.
Realistically either are going to be fine as you start out, and the Spiritseer just got its cool new plastic model released separately from the now-defunct Wake the Dead box, so certainly don’t feel too bad if you’re using one rather than a Warlock – but if you’re building the army from the ground up, probably buy the Bike Warlock first.
HQ – Autarch Skyrunner
Filling out the set of generally useful Craftworld HQ options comes the Autarch Skyrunner. You might argue that the existence of an Autarch Skyrunner implies that there are other kinds of Autarchs too, but the basic Autarch doesn’t bring enough to the table for his cost, and modern list-building science has demonstrated that the Autarch with Swooping Hawk Wings is actually a myth.
Autarch Skyrunners are pretty mean though. At 105 points with the effectively mandatory Laser Lance, they are a highly mobile and relatively deadly character that can keep pace with the rest of your army and provide a buff, and can change gears and assassinate mid-tier characters if your opponent is careless – they’ll comfortably put down a T4 4W character with no invuln (Space Marine Librarians beware) or a T3 character with 4W and a 5++, which covers plenty of other things.
Where these really shine, however, is in formats like the ITC where you can add Index equipment to them. First off, for the princely sum of 0 points (yes, really, zero points), you can add a Banshee Mask, which makes the model immune to overwatch. This makes it great for teeing up other charges, or for going after enemy fliers that are near your lines. You can also add either a Fusion Gun (because who doesn’t love a decent chance of killing two Space Marine Librarians in a turn) or a Reaper Launcher, both of which are very competitively priced for the amount of extra killing power they give you.
These options really push Autarch Skyrunners over the top – in non-index permitting formats they’re fine, but often you’ll find you could spend the points better elsewhere, but with the extra toys they’re extremely good. They also shine in mixed Supreme Command detachments being used to add Warlocks and Farseers to other lists – giving them the “Saim Hann” keyword lets them bring the Novalance of Saim Hann, by far the best Relic weapon in the book, and grants access to the ability to advance and charge via a stratagem. Combining all of these things gives you one of the very best roving hunters in the game. You can also consider using the “Windrider Host” and accompanying stratagem to let them zip away after doing their dirty work, which is expensive CP wise but can be incredible in some games.
The biggest downside of the Autarch Skyrunner is that the official model is awful – It’s a resin upgrade kit on top of the old plastic jetbikes, which I was glueing together as a literal child 20 years ago. Luckily, you can kitbash a pretty decent one with spare parts from the Dire Avenger sprue and a modern Windrider, and most tournament players have seen more converted ones of these (this also applies to Shining Spears) than they have real ones.
In this series we want to focus on the stuff that will put in work for you reliably rather than deep diving into the possible fringe uses of every unit. For that reason, for those units that will basically just not see play in most common lists, I’ll run through them at the end of each section with a quick note as to why.
- The Avatar of Khaine: Way too slow, and not quite murderous enough for its cost. It has some theoretically powerful buff auras, but they don’t actually chime with what the army is usually trying to do.
- Yriel: Has recently got a point cut, so if you ever want to take a Foot Autarch in an Iyanden list you should probably take him instead. However, you very rarely want to do either of these things.
- Illic Nightspear: A victim of the stern cap on the power level of snipers that was seen in early codices. He isn’t quite powerful enough for his cost, and in a pure Craftworld army you normally want to be spending your HQ slots on force multipliers, not lone operators.
- The Phoenix Lords: Further victims of early codex syndrome – none of them are nearly bonkers enough as lone combatants to justify their price tags, and most of them don’t buff enough relevant things to be worth it. Maugan Ra used to occasionally turn up, but the big price hike on Dark Reapers has weakened him, and his other main use in a Ynnari list has gone away now that he can’t be included in them Asurmen can be OK in a gimmick list, but specific gimmick skew lists isn’t what this series is about.
- Warlock Conclave/Warlock Skyrunner Conclave: Warlock Conclaves used to see very occasional play in old-style Ynnari lists for their ability to cast key powers at double range via the Concordance of Power stratagem, but this usage has almost entirely fallen off since the Ynnari changes. Someone recently did well at the BAO using an absurd list with a full Skyrunner Conclave acting as a hideous death star, which is extremely funny, but probably not the kind of list you want to be trying in an early foray into Eldar!
Once upon a time filling out troops slots in a Craftworlds army was a bit of a slog – you wanted one big squad of Guardian Defenders to deep strike, but after that were usually awkwardly filling out the slots with Rangers, as the other two choices (Dire Avengers and Storm Guardians) were a bit overcosted. The good news is that points cuts have left both the last two looking much more attractive, and all four Eldar Troop choices now have their uses.
As a general point, both types of Guardians and Dire Avengers have Plasma Grenades. These are great and you should always have one model throw one when a unit shoots (unless you could only do so by sacrificing firing with a non-default weapon). The S4 and AP-1 makes these outrageously better than the anti-personnel grenades of other factions.
Guardian Defenders are in some ways a great summary of the Eldar army as a whole – in most cases they are way more fragile for their cost than similar units in other armies, but are also phenomenally more dangerous if you can get them into the right place at the right time (and the army gives you the tools to do this).
At 8pts for a T3 5+ model, the basic Guardian is twice the cost of a Guard infantry trooper for the same resilience. However, with their BS of 3+ and two shuriken shots each within 12”, if you can get them into that range they’re more dangerous than a 13 point Tactical Marine (as the rending effect from the Shuriken Catapult puts it ahead of a bolter).
The trick to using Guardian Defenders is therefore to make sure they get to shoot something worthwhile before they get shot up. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Include a grav platform (or two at a full squad size of 20). These have 2W and a 3+ save, which means they’re great “ablative” wounds against small arms fire – you can choose to assign the saves to these first, and use the 3+ until the platform(s) die(s). This will go a long way if you are in cover or have Protect online, or both – you can potentially have 4 wounds on a 1+ save, great for getting rid of pesky AP-1 wounds.
If you do this, you need to roll the saves one at a time rather than all at once, as you have to move on to saving on the 5+ as soon as the platform dies. Generally platforms do their best work as ablative wounds, so don’t invest in one of the expensive weapon options; whack on a Scatter Laser or Shuriken cannon.
- Deploy them from reserves via the Webway Strike stratagem. This guarantees you get to bring them into play unharmed (unless you walk into Auspex Scan or similar – do not do this) and get a turn of full effect shooting, though be careful about choosing to do this against opponents with a lot of chaff screening. This is the most common way to use Guardians – if you see a full or almost full squad in a list, it’s probably going to do this. This is colloquially referred to as a “Guardian Bomb”. It is especially effective when combined with Doom and Jinx on a target, and Guide and/or, for Ulthwe, the Black Guardians stratagem on the newly arrived Guardians – at that point even against an Imperial Knight you can expect to shred off 7-8 wounds.
- Transport them via a Wave Serpent. This works well for squads of ten and a platform, though you more normally see a couple squads of Dire Avengers used like this as their extra range makes it easier to deploy them meaningfully from the transport.
- Buff them. Guardians can use the Celestial Shield stratagem to give the whole squad a 4++ against shooting for a phase. This can be improved to a 3++ by Protect at which point your models are suddenly a pain to shift (unless you immediately roll all 1s and 2s as happens every time I manage to set this up).
Because Guardians need support and stratagems to make them work you most commonly just see the one big unit in lists, but that one unit is very powerful and two boxes of Guardians (to build the full squad) is something you want to add to your collection early on.
Since getting cut to 6ppm, Storm Guardians are now notably cheaper to field a unit of than any other Troops choice, meaning that they have a role to play in filling out detachments and putting cheap bodies in the way of Smite-heavy armies.
Fundamentally, these are basically the things you should be using them for – they will never live up to what the shooting of the Defenders can do, and if you want melee infantry (though Eldar are really not great at that generally) you should be looking elsewhere too. If you have the points, a minimum-sized squad with couple of flamers is the only upgrade setup I might consider if you know you’re in a Smite/Horde heavy meta – it gives you a unit that will marginally outperform a similarly costed Dire Avenger squad when clearing chaff and also has more purely expendable bodies.
Finally, Storm Guardians have a choice of melee weapons – always take the chainswords. There’s almost no conceivable situation where the Aeldari Blade is better and I constantly rue the fact that half of mine are built with them.
Dire Avengers are my beautiful blue bois and no one can take them away from me. Realistically, they’re probably still a point per model too expensive because of how fragile they are, but much like Guardians their high relative “threat” for their cost and the fact that they fill troop slots means they have a part to play in the warhost.
You will almost always see Dire Avengers fielded in units of 5 led by an Exarch with two guns, usually riding in a Wave Serpent (two squads can fit in one, which is nice). This unit weighs in at a mere 58 points, making filling out detachments pretty reasonable, and thanks to Battle Focus and their 18” range can bring their powerful anti-infantry firepower to bear a surprising distance when jumping out of their ride.
This, combined with being small nimble ObSec squads, is what makes them worth having, as the Eldar playstyle focuses on getting the drop on powerful enemy threats and sucker punching them out before they can strike back against your fragile units. Much more so than non-deep striking Guardians, if you plan properly you can reliably get these pointed at whatever needs to die at any given moment, and pour shurikens into it until it melts. The smaller squad size (making it easier to grab cover) and 4+ base save makes them slightly less prone to immediately melting to return fire, though they are still much more vulnerable than most things at this price, so use them with care.
The one big mitigator for their fragility is the 4++ save and 2W the Exarch has. If your opponent has hit the squad with some high-AP firepower like non-overcharged Plasma, you can horrendously catch them out by assigning the wounds to the Exarch first – with a bit of luck or a judicious re-roll he can sometimes save a squad. This can be particularly relevant in the last few turns of a closely fought tournament game, where your opponent might be forced to point anti-tank guns at these things to get them off an objective – a plan that can be thwarted by a clutch 4++.
Technically there are a couple of other options for arming your Exarch – he can take a Diresword (a power sword which can cause MWs) or a power glaive, the latter with either a shuriken pistol or shimmershield, which gives the whole squad a 5++. All of these are trap choices as far as I’m concerned – the dual gun build adds an additional model’s worth of firepower for only 3 points, but leaves the Exarch cheap enough that you don’t mind using him as a 4++ ablative shield when required. For that reason my second favourite Exarch build after the two guns is just to take no upgrades at all!
Rangers (almost always Alaitoc) have been popular since the codex dropped as a relatively cheap troop choice that’s a pain to shift. Their special rules give units shooting them a -1 to hit, and they get an additional +1 to their save in cover. That means that Alaitoc ones at range are -2 to hit and have a 3+ save if they’re in a ruin, meaning scraping them out is actually a serious challenge. This is a good characteristic for a slot-filling unit to have in a tournament setting, as it means you can park them on an objective and forget about them. They can also Deep Strike, giving you the ability to steal an objective outside your deployment zone on some objective/deployment maps.
They’re also not totally worthless offensively – if you have multiple squads they start to be an actual threat to characters that stray into range, and can also contribute to dunking something bigger that’s been Doomed thanks to dealing MWs on 6s. Unlike most of the other options here, they also don’t really need any particular help or to be built around, so they’re useful for slotting into a smaller Eldar contingent where you don’t want to be paying for Wave Serpents.
Their use has declined a bit over time – they used to get a pre-game infiltrate, which let you pull nasty shenanigans against some lists or control space early, and small Eldar detachments have dropped in value with the recent Drukhari and Ynnarri changes, but you will still definitely see them in lists, and it’s worth having access to a few squads to fill out detachments.
The Elites section is probably the weakest part of the Eldar list, being a historical dumping ground for units that didn’t fit anywhere else, and which GW don’t really know what to do with now. Stuff that looked cool or OK early in the edition looks a mixture of quaint/tragic where we are today – they just don’t do things well enough for their cost. There are still a few units worth knowing about, but if you go and look at top Eldar lists on BCP you’ll probably see a good number that have nothing from here at all.
Howling Banshees are the exception to the elite rule – they have a function and are exceedingly good at it, meaning that in the right metagame they can be very handy.
Specifically, what Howling Banshees do for you is to shut down overwatch – their masks mean that overwatch cannot be fired at them. You can get access to this effect from a Bike Autarch, but the fact that you have a whole squad worth of models in the Banshees’ case means that if your opponent is careless or is forced to cluster up to benefit from auras, you can tag multiple units with a charge at once. This can give Tau or Guard gunlines absolute fits. In addition, against the kind of things they want to be charging they’re fairly resilient in combat, as the Exarch’s War Shout ability means that enemies attacking them in the fight phase are at -1 to hit (so, for example, most tanks literally can’t hit them).
To compliment the overwatch lockdown, Banshees are also extremely fast – they can advance and charge, get +3 to their charge when they do so and have a base movement of 8”. If you’re deploying out of a transport (which you should be, most of the time) and combo in the Matchless Agility stratagem (automatically advance 6”), their minimum total charge threat is 22” (3” disembark, 8” move, 6” advance, 5” charge) and their average 27”. Against unprepared players who haven’t faced them before this can completely take them by surprise, and even against excellent players I’ve successfully deployed a squad to tag multiple high value targets at once – that kind of threat range is exceedingly hard to play around.
What Banshees aren’t really great at is killing stuff. You should always stick the Executioner on the Exarch as if gives her the ability to strip a few wounds off a target (or maybe punk a random character with a high roll), but in general their S3 means that without Doom they won’t get much damage through, and you’re usually pointing them at something you want to “switch off” for a turn while you kill something else rather than your current priority/doomed target.
If your metagame is full of Tau or Guard Tank Commanders, Banshees are a strong addition to your list, just don’t expect them to kill anything!
Sword Wraithblades are the one Eldar melee unit that “gets there” in terms of killing power. I’m a bit lower on them than some people, but they can definitely be made to work, especially in the ITC format.
Specifically with Wraithblades what you want to do is deep strike a full squad of ten in, apply a bunch of buffs, and turn them into an unstoppable death star that rampages around dominating an area of the board. To do this you usually want to, at minimum:
- Cast Protect on them.
- Use the Stratagem from the Wraith Host detachment to lend a Spiritseer’s 4++ to them.
- Stick Enhance or Empower on them.
- Rack up some extra attacks with either the Supreme Disdain or Fires of Wrath Stratagems.
The reason that Wraithblades are actually (nearly) worthwhile is that their threat profile is pretty universal – they have a bucketload of attacks at S6, which means they can just delete hordes, but their AP-3 means that they can also blender large targets once you throw in Doom. With all the buffs applied they’re also extremely tough to shift.
The main problem with them is that you’re throwing a huge amount of resources into buffing them up, and most of the time you’ll be better off spending points on better “independent operators”. At the point they hit the board, you’ve probably plowed 4CP into them – one each for the specialist detachment and deep strike, and 2 more for the shield. You then potentially spend even more on buffs and making sure critical powers go off. Once the dust has cleared, if you then fail your charge or your opponent has some efficient way to put them down through their defences, that’s a horrendous amount of resources invested into a unit.
Ultimately, if you are here because of how cool Wraiths are (and they are pretty cool) Wraithblades are probably your most competitive way to make use of them in a Craftworlds list, hence why we thought we should cover them. You can also pick up a couple of boxes worth quite efficiently, as they’re in the Start Collecting box. However, if you’re building up from scratch, this probably isn’t the first place to look.
…and yeah that’s kind of it. Eldar have a lot of elites choices, but the rest don’t really make it. Part of this is because of just how shallow this pool is – because of the way detachment building works, a poor crop in a given force organisation slot drags down other units slightly because it makes it harder to build a Vanguard detachment (or the equivalent) that’s worth taking.
The other Elites choices in the book are:
- Striking Scorpions: These are really close to worthwhile, mostly on the back of their recent point cut and how brutally murderous the Exarch is. If you already have them, you probably won’t hate them if you slot them into an army now and again (I certainly try to), but we can’t recommend you acquire them.
- Fire Dragons: Fire Dragons are absurdly dangerous for their cost against vehicles without an invuln, but will pretty much always disappointed against anything else. As long as hordes and big targets with invulnerable saves continue to be common, these aren’t worth taking – in tournament land you can’t justify a very specialised unit that’s bad at doing its job against half of the things it should theoretically be good against.
- Wraithguard: Have a similar problem to Fire Dragons in that their guns really, really don’t like the horde/invuln-heavy metagame we’ve been in for a while. I like them a bit more than the Dragons because of how vastly more survivable they are – your opponent does at least have to point some serious firepower at them to clear them out, and I’ve occasionally taken out a squad with the D-Cannons (which I drastically prefer over the scythes) and had at least some fun with them. However, if you’ve got some Wraith kits and want to take them to events, build Wraithblades as above.
- Bonesinger: Not technically a codex option but not Forge World either (we’re mentioning Forge World choices when they’re relevant, but not trying to cover all the ones that aren’t), Bonesingers have a datasheet available on Warhammer Community, and are a cheap-ish psyker that can Smite or repair a vehicle. Unfortunately, “cheap-ish” is still more expensive than a Spiritseer, who is better in almost every way and fills an HQ slot.
For an army that’s supposed to be all about lightning strikes, the offerings in Fast Attack are quite slim, with only four choices in the main codex. However, there’s a serious gem in here along with some other units that are worth talking about, and one entrant from Forge World that we’ll cover.
Windriders (Eldar Jetbikes) armed with Scatter Lasers are an increasingly popular option in very horde-heavy metagames, as they throw out chaff clearing shots at range more efficiently than almost anything else in the Codex, and are very difficult for melee hordes to pin down. If you think you are likely to be coming up against lots of Ork, GSC or Daemon lists, adding a squad of nine of these will definitely help solve your problems. You generally want a large squad if possible, as that makes them great targets for Guide to improve their output and Forewarned (a stratagem that lets a squad within 6” of a Farseer shoot in response to a deep strike).
Combining these two abilities can give some armies absolute fits – a full, Guided squad of nine can reasonably expect to blow away ~17 Ork Boyz coming in off “Da Jump”, and similar numbers of Bloodletters or Acolyte Hybrids (though watch out for the “A Plan Generations in the Making” stratagem in the case of the Genestealer Cult).
The problem with Windriders is that their defences are tissue thin (though being Alaitoc can help with that a bit) and unless you’re running them as Saim Hann they get a hit penalty if they move and shoot. What this can add up to is that in matchups where they’re not well suited they can easily crumble or underperform, meaning you probably shouldn’t go much deeper than one big squad in a “normal” list.
In summary, Windriders need support and judicious use, but when properly deployed will do their job better than almost anything else, so are definitely worth having access to a squad of. Generally, you’ll always want to be using the Scatter Laser build – Cannons are too expensive and Catapults don’t quite do anything unique enough. However, the models are easy to magnetise, so it’s worth keeping them swappable – the catapult build is nearly good enough after the latest point change.
Swooping Hawks are another option that’s got potent anti-horde capabilities, but like Windriders they can underperform when they don’t have good targets. The main draw of the Hawks is their high mobility (thanks to Deep Strike, a 14” fly move and the ability to go back into Deep Strike mid-game) and high rate of fire. When up against T3 chaff, each Hawk having four lasgun shots out to 24” (plus the S5 shots of the Exarch) will rack up a body count quick, and a lot of the armies they’re gunning for don’t have great anti-personnel threat out to that sort of range. In terms of solely putting shots down on the board, these outperform even the mighty Windrunners for volume-cost.
However, these shots being only S3 means that against armies that have either high toughness or a good save, they do almost nothing. They can sometimes squeak out a few extra mortal wounds via their ability to drop bombs on things they Deep Strike near or fly past, but can’t punch up a bit like the S6 Windriders can (although if you’ve Doomed and Jinxed something big pouring their shots in probably is worth it and will net a few wounds). If you’re including these you need to have a good sense of when to pivot to using them solely as objective grabbers. They can do a pretty good job of that thanks to their mobility, but are still only T3 bodies, so keep them in cover or hidden. In general, if you’re faced with a wall of power armour or lots of vehicles, you probably want to start thinking about using them in an objective grabbing role.
These are in here as a warning. If you go through the 2+ years of accumulated internet chat about 8th edition you’ll probably see a lot of complaining about Shining Spears being broken. Shining Spears were broken, but their time has mostly passed. Specifically, when used with the old Ynnari rules a fully buffed up squad of spears was nothing short of a nightmare, able to ping-pong around the board and realistically aim to wipe out 2-3 whole units a turn.
With the old version of “Strength from Death” buried at a crossroads at midnight with a stake through its heart, and a hike to their cost, these are no longer the stars they once were. They are still OK, packing weapon options that let them excel against both hordes and hard targets, and reasonable defensive capabilities thanks to a 4++ against shooting (which you can buff to a 3++ with Protect) but they are not cheap, weighing in at a hefty 34pts per model. Extra actions from Strength from Death used to either let them rack up an appalling body count sufficient to justify their cost in a single turn, or hit and run ready to fight another day. Without that, they probably just won’t do enough before getting put down. The metagame has also grown more hostile to them with the ever increasing prevalence of high rate-of-fire D2/Dd3 weaponry, which is the perfect thing to shoot at them.
If you already own the Spears, they aren’t terrible, and they’re the kind of unit that can absolutely kerb-stomp some armies once you get away from the top tables, but unless they get a point cut in an upcoming book to reflect the removal of Strength From Death, they’re probably not worth investing in.
Hornets (Forge World)
Eldar don’t have that many Forge World options that are really worth thinking about, and unlike with some armies there’s absolutely no need to pay the resin tax to build a top tier army. We’re only going to cover two in this write-up, and the Hornet is the first of these.
Hornets have two pretty useful loadouts:
- Three, each with a pair of Hornet Pulse Lasers and a Crystal Targeting Matrix. This gives you six shots at S6 AP-3 D2, and with the 48” range you can often afford to stay stationary, and the Crystal Targeting Matrix can let them line up penalty-free shots when that’s not possible. Being able to take them as a squadron of three that stays a whole unit is a huge boon to this configuration, as it allows them to benefit heavily from Guide, and to potentially flit back out of range after firing via stratagem Fire and Fade (which allows a unit to move 7” after shooting).
- Solo with a pair of Shuriken Cannons and Vectored Engines. Hornets get a built in -1 to hit when they advance, and because Forge World is Forge World they didn’t think not to allow this to stack with Vectored Engines (which give the same buff). Add the Alaitoc buff on top and suddenly they’re -3 to hit, and some armies can literally no longer touch them. This can make them potent objective grabbers and space control units for flyer heavy lists.
NB: We didn’t come up with this – credit has to go to UK tournament regular Vik V for demonstrating this horrendous build to myself and Corrode.
Neither of these builds are must-have, but both do something cool and at least somewhat unusual, so if you want to get some resin toys these are a good unit to look at.
- Vypers: Too expensive given how constrained they are in what weapons they can take. If you could double up Scatter Lasers these would probably be at least worth thinking about as an alternative to Windriders that doesn’t die to a stiff breeze, but because you can’t they aren’t really ever worth it.
- Warp Spiders: These aren’t super horrible on paper, but they have a big problem in that the stuff they’re good against (elite infantry armies) is something that Eldar tend to crush comfortably anyway. Since they’re also not cheap, this makes them almost impossible to justify an army slot for.
The slightly weird alignment with theme continues because the Heavy Support section is deep and contains some excellent units. Several of these have seen and continue to see heavy play, and you’ll want access to a few of these. Part of this is because pretty much all of these play very well with the Alaitoc trait – they’ll often be at range, and it pushes their resilience up compared to similar units from other armies, but they also tend to have great threat projection, making them useful in a lot of different situations.
War Walkers are potentially the weakest unit to sneak onto this write up, but I’ve personally been experimenting with them recently and seen some success. The specific build worth using is dual Scatter Lasers, which provides an alternative platform for some anti-infantry fire that trades the sheer volume Windriders bring to the table for vastly increased resilience. T6 and a 5++ mean these are much more capable of taking a punch, and don’t just melt the first time someone points Endless Fury at them.
Similar to what was discussed for Hornets, these also theoretically have a role in being a cheap place to mount lots of heavy weapons that can benefit from Guide and other buffs. They suffer a bit in comparison for not being able to use Lightning Fast Ractions, but for 240 points you could probably do worse than lining up a squad of these with Aeldari missile launchers. A final theoretical use would be with shuriken cannons as a fast moving scout unit, as unusually for a non-infantry unit they get Battle Focus. I’ll probably test both these builds at some point, but am not super convinced they’ll perform, but the dual scatter build seems to be legit, so can be worth having (especially as they’re in the Start Collecting, so can probably be picked up cheap). You do always want the full three in that case to maximise the payoff from buffs.
Like Shining Spears these have been heavily nerf-batted over time to account for how good they were when either spammed in early-8th Craftworld lists or run as Ynnarri, but unlike the Spears are still worth thinking about (for all that I’m personally not the biggest fan).
Dark Reapers are expensive but horrendously powerful models. For 34pts each you get a Reaper Launcher (either one S8 AP-2 D3 shot or two S5 AP-2 D2 shots) and the Inescapable Accuracy ability, which means they always hit on an unmodified 3+. This means they’re basically good against everything – the big shots can take out large targets, especially aided by Doom, and the small shots have enough of a rate of fire to make a dent in hordes. To aid with the latter, the Exarch can also upgrade to a Tempest Launcher, a 2D6 shot indirect fire weapon firing S4 -2AP D1 missiles. This doesn’t reduce his output that much against any large target with T <8 (and only marginally against T8) but substantially boosts it against hordes. Alternatively, you can save a few points by giving him an Aeldari missile launcher (as of their recent point cut), which again gives you some extra flexibility (though drops reliability).
Dark Reapers also have a 3+ base save, meaning in cover they’re somewhat challenging to shift, but realistically if you’re using them you want to try and avoid them getting shot at all, as they’re so valuable that your opponent will be totally happy to point anti-tank guns at them. The best way to do this is usually to:
- Start them in a Wave Serpent.
- Use Fire and Fade to hide them after shooting.
Because hit penalties don’t affect them, they don’t mind moving out, shooting, then popping back into their cover, and if you are playing on decent boards with ITC terrain rules it is usually possible to find a ruin they can drop back behind for safety. If you’re using LVO/BAO style enclosed ruins (where some buildings have completely enclosed LOS blocking ground floors and can be hidden in by infantry) they get even better, as most indirect fire doesn’t have great AP so they’re pretty safe once reliably out of sight.
If you’re on less good boards or are not using ITC terrain rules you may find these less rewarding – they will have a colossal target on their head from the word go, and just won’t stand up to serious firepower if you can’t properly hide them. If an event you’re going to has a “set” terrain configuration it’s worth reviewing it before deciding whether to take these along, and if you’re attending one of the events that’s somewhat notorious for low-density terrain, then maybe leave them on the shelf. Be in no doubt, however – while they’re not quite the terrors they once were (a 25% point hike will do that), they’re still a good unit and worth having in the collection.
Night Spinners are an increasingly popular choice in Eldar lists, a fact that I feel incredibly smug about given that I a.) called it and b.) was thus doing it before it was cool.
The Night Spinner is good because it’s:
- Threatens a diverse range of targets
- Gives you some indirect fire, which Eldar are short on.
At only 112 points, these are very easy to slot into a list, and very tough for their cost once you factor in the Alaitoc buff. This gets you a Doomweaver, which is Heavy 2D6, 48”, S7 AP0 and D2, ignores LOS and becomes AP-4 on a 6 to wound.
That threatens a substantial portion of a 6×4 table, and is potent enough that your opponent probably can’t afford to just ignore it. Left to its own devices it will pick a few wounds off stuff here and there, or pick apart a few select targets (Mortar Squads and Ork Mek Gunz being some great examples). It’s also pretty handy for picking off lone characters who have ended up out of position and too close to it. Finally, thanks to its high damage potential and boosted AP on a 6 to wound, if you need it to contribute to bursting down a Doom/Jinxed target it will excel at that too.
There are a few extra tips for how to get the best from Night Spinners. When planning your shooting phase, it’s worth holding off firing them till late in phase – they’re very likely to have viable targets whatever dies, and a “1” on either of the dice for number of shots is a very good place to use a CP re-roll, so it’s worth leaving them till late so you can do so with confidence that you won’t regret it later on. It’s also worth finding the 5pts for a Crystal Targeting Matrix on their main gun if at all possible, as this can let them be mobile or move to hide in later turns of the game with less of an impact on their firepower.
All together, the Night Spinner brings a lot to the table at a bargain price, and more and more people swear by them. They’re also very easy to magnetise the turrets of so that you can swap them with our next entrant, the…
Fire Prisms have been somewhat out of fashion for a while, but they’re still fine and could plausibly be due a renaissance due to some recent metagame shifts. The main challenge with Fire Prisms is that if you’re taking them at all you pretty much always want to take three of them, as a lot of their value comes from the Linked Fire stratagem. The rules on this are horrendously long-winded, but the TLDR is that you pick one Prism and point it at a target, and delay its shooting till the end of the phase. Other Prisms can then channel their shots through it. If they do, they re-roll hits and wounds, and as long as at least one does this, the “main” prism gets the re-rolls as well when it fires.
If you’ve got a priority target you need dead, this is obviously phenomenal. It doesn’t just work on big tanks either – the Prism Cannon has three different modes tuned to different targets, and can fire twice as long as the tank moved under half speed (which it should always, always do). Factoring in firing twice, you can pick between:
- 2D6 S6 AP-3 D1 shots
- 2D3 S9 AP-4 Dd3 shots
- 2 S12 AP-5 Dd6 shots
You should almost always be using one of the first two modes – because D3s are better on average than D6s, the “middle” profile does both more damage and a more consistent amount of it to a big target on average, and consistency via re-rolls is the big strength of the Prism. The top profile should only be used if it will deny your opponent a save thanks to the additional point of AP, and thanks to the proliferation of invulns that’s incredibly rare. Technically if you’re looking for a “spike” in damage the top option might look attractive (if you have a CP to throw at the damage roll), but even then you’re probably better using the middle profile and saving the Cp for a 1 on the shots roll.
Once you run the numbers you realise that these things working together are hideously consistent killers against targets without invulnerables. The drop-off from their damage potential to actual damage is tiny thanks to all the re-rolls, and just two of these linking fire will reliably pop a Leman Russ, and three will down a Repulsor. They’re a bit less great against things with invulns, but even then have their uses, as they help the army go after multiple threats at once, something Eldar aren’t always fantastic at. Because they bring their own re-rolls, if you have access to a group of these you can “Jinx” one big target and point these (and perhaps some MW options) at it, then Doom another and point everything else at it, allowing you to apply reliable violence across a broad set of targets.
All of this sound pretty great, so why aren’t these everywhere? Well:
- They are only worthwhile in 3s, because one left by itself can no longer Linked Fire and looks terrible, so you want to keep at least two live for as long as possible. This constrains army design.
- Other options are better independent operators (albeit less reliable and deadly). The Night Spinner is cheaper and needs less help, the Crimson Hunter Exarch is more mobile and doesn’t get worse if your other ones die.
- Until recently, almost all viable large targets have been toting invulns, often 4++ or better. That’s shifting a bit – the new Repulsor looks mean (although a bit less so after its points change) and vanilla ones have already been showing up, and big Knights now cap out at a 5++ once Jinxed, which makes using these against them seem less atrocious.
I’m probably going to get mine out for a spin at some point soon. When I do, even more so than the Night Spinner, I’ll be trying to put Crystal Targeting Matrices on all of them, as allowing them to reposition (or fall back and blow away whatever tagged them) can be very helpful.
- Wraithlord: Priced to move after various iterations of FAQs, but too slow and now outstripped by the Forge World Wraithseer for most purposes (and even that is only really worthwhile in a specific Ynnarri build).
- Support Weapons: I hold on to the possibility that Vibro cannons might actually be really good if you spam the maximum of 9 of them, but don’t want to invest the money required to find out (and neither it seems does anyone else). The Shadow Weaver is the other option that could be worth looking at, but realistically the Night Spinner has won out as the indirect fire option of choice.
- Falcon: These are honestly very nearly fine after the points cut they got in Chapter Approved, but my experience of running them has basically been to wish I’d spent ten points less and taken another Night Spinner, because these don’t do anything unique to make them worthwhile.
Eldar only get a single dedicated transport choice but don’t worry – you won’t be needing any others.
Wave Serpents are probably vying with Crimson Hunter Exarchs to make a claim on the title of the best unit in the Eldar Codex. For a very reasonable 134pts in their cheapest loadout, you get a fast transport with a generous capacity of 12 (letting you sneak a few characters in with a couple of squads) that sports some decent anti-infantry firepower and is one of the toughest things for the cost in the entire game.
The baseline defensive stats of the Serpent are pretty good – T7, 13W and a 3+ is easily competitive with similarly costed units from other factions – but what turbo-charges them is the Serpent Shield. This reduces the damage from each unsaved wound by a multi-damage weapon by one to a minimum of one.
This is an astoundingly good defensive tool, and gives armies that are leaning on the (very popular) choice of high rate of fire D2 or Dd3 weapons absolute fits, because it halves the damage output of the former and cuts the latter by a third. Add in the fact that these are probably running as Alaitoc or Ulthwe and you have a recipe for intense frustration for your opponents.
Even better, in matchups where you don’t need the shield (or at a critical juncture) you can detonate it in the Shooting phase, which deals D3 MWs to the nearest visible unit within 24” on a 2+. This turns the shield off for the rest of the game, but in some matchups (such as Custodes jetbikes) that doesn’t really matter, and if having access to some extra MWs in a pinch makes the difference between a big target (such as a Knight) living or dying it can still be worth going for it when your opponent has relevant weapons. Once the shield is discharged, you can also fire it again in future turns by using the Overloaded Energy Field Projectors stratagem. This encourages you to fire off the shield early against matchups that don’t really threaten the Serpents. You should also generally fire one off if a Serpent has only narrowly clung to life through your opponent’s turn – once you’re down to 1-2W you’re not getting much benefit out of them.
Outside of the shield, Serpents are merely fine when it comes to killing stuff. You’ll generally see them mounting either a twin shuriken cannon or twin scatter laser on the top turret, both of which are fine for some mild anti-infantry firepower, but not nearly putting out what you’d expect for the cost – what you’re paying for here is the durability. My general take is to have the shurikens if possible, but not to cry too much if I have to swap to the scatters. You generally want to be using your Serpents in a quite aggressive and mobile manner, so the shurikens are generally slightly better thanks to their “rend” ability once you factor in the heavy penalty on the scatters, but if I need to free up five points in a list swapping out to scatters is one of the first places I’ll look. The extra range on the scatters can also be a virtue in some matchups if you need to castle up and let the opponent come to you.
Finally, in smaller games (1500 or smaller) I’ve actually had a lot of success taking a heavy weapon on the turret and a Crystal Targeting Matrix, as it lets the Serpent play a bit of a dual role, and forces your opponent to try and kill them when they might not really want to put in the legwork to chew through the shield. I used to use bright lances, but since the cut to their cost I’d now take Aeldari missile launchers, as that maintains the flexibility to go after infantry.
Any Eldar player is going to want to have at least two of these to hand early on in their collection, and honestly if you stick with the faction you probably want to consider getting a third. Lists running even more than that have put up serious tournament results, and a popular combination in current high-end Eldar lists is to combine the brutal power of the fliers (which we’ll see in a second) with the toughness of the Wave Serpent to hold the ground and objectives. Even outside skew lists like that they’re fantastic though, giving Eldar’s brittle but deadly infantry a place to lurk until it’s time to connect with their inner Drukhari and rack up a body count.
The only important word of caution is to remember that the Serpent Shield doesn’t work in melee. With T7 and a 3+ save, most “moderate” things still won’t take you down (even a claw Daemon Prince only puts in 4-5W on average) but heavy hitters like Marine smash Captains or Daemon Princes with the relic axe can trash one, so be wary.
In conclusion: get two, magnetise the weapons and assume you’re putting them in every list.
Craftworld flyers are the best in the game, and most competitive lists will run a few. You get three choices in the codex and a relevant Forge World one we’ll cover, and all of them are as good as or better than the choices available to most other factions.
One of the reasons they’re so good is that all of the Eldar Flyers have the “Wings of Khaine” special rule. Rather than just turning up to 90 degrees once at the start of their move (as most flyers do while in “Supersonic” mode), Eldar ones get to turn an additional 90 degrees at the end of their move. That makes them massively more maneuverable while staying in the -1 to hit supersonic mode compared to other flyers, and makes it almost impossible to chase them off the board (as you can sometimes do with flyers from other factions).
The built in -1 to hit of flyers also stacks horrendously well with the Alaitoc trait and the Lightning Fast Reactions stratagem, which gives a unit (you guessed it) an additional -1 to hit for a phase. At -3 to hit, Imperial Guard and most Tau units actually just can’t hit an Eldar Flyer without a buff, meaning you can completely no-sell a powerful unit’s firepower (this is a contributor to why Guard superheavies have largely vanished from the metagame, as flyer-heavy lists are a constant presence).
Finally, while recent FAQ changes have made it so that units can move and charge through AIRCRAFT (which all the Eldar flyers are), they’re still great for screening out melee deep strikers/redeploy abilities, as they still can’t deploy within 9″ of the flyers. This is phenomenal against armies that have ways of applying pressure turn 1 via this sort of ability (Orks and Tzaangors with the Dark Matter Crystal are the most common).
Crimson Hunter Exarch
The Crimson Hunter Exarch is our first entrant, and currently the most popular flyer in Eldar lists. The CHE mounts a pulse laser and either two starcannons or two bright lances. Most people take the starcannons as they’re 14 pts cheaper in total, and the fact that a Crimson Hunter Exarch with these is only 161 points means that the vanilla Crimson Hunter (which has to take bright lances) is almost never used, as it costs 160pts.
The pulse laser is a fantastic gun, getting two S8 AP-3 D3 shots out to 48” range, while the two starcannons rack up a total of four S6 AP-3 Dd3 shots. These are both heavy weapons, but to compensate for the fact that the CHE has to move every turn it has a base BS of 2+, meaning it hits on 3s like everything else. Unlike everything else, being an Exarch gives it built-in re-roll 1s to hit (basically why the vanilla option sees no play with the minimal cost difference) and it also has the built-in ability to re-roll wounds (all wounds, not just 1s) against anything with FLY. This makes them hugely dangerous against armies where a lot of the good stuff has FLY, such as Tau and other Eldar, and has niche uses in picking off characters with FLY that mess up and let a CHE land next to them (assassinating careless characters is something Eldar planes are great at and you should be looking for a chance to do, just watch out for Heroic Interventions!)
They’re also fine against anything that’s been Doomed, putting in plenty of accurate fire with decent damage. While the starcannons are the “default” choice (being cheaper and a bit more flexible), If you’re absolutely sure that your metagame is going to be heavy on things with T7/8, especially non-flyers, it can be worth considering taking one with bright lances, as these let them operate a bit more independently from your Doom caster. I ran one of each loadout in lists for quite a while, and at the time of writing I’m about to swap back to doing that based on the recent revival in Russ and Dreadnought chassis in the metagame – I miss the threat of the lance one just randomly sucker-punching that sort of thing straight off the table on a high roll.
There’s honestly not a whole lot more to say about these – they’re just really, really good for their cost, so good that you frequently see Alaitoc Air Wings of three of these accompanying Eldar forces mainly built from one of the other Codexes.
Once upon a time the Hemlock was one of the biggest generators of salt in the game, being regularly spammed in lists and generating a horrendous number of nerf demands. Over time people realised that, while they’re fantastic, they’re just a bit too fragile for their cost when spammed, and switched to either all Crimson Hunter Exarchs or two of the former and one Hemlock in their Air Wings.
I’m a fully paid up member of the latter camp, because the Hemlock brings some unique tricks to the table and is absolutely punishing in some matchups. Its guns are very different to the CHEs – they’re relatively short ranged (16”) but extremely reliable – they shoot D3 shots each at S12, AP-4 D2 and auto hit. While the damage ceiling is lower than the Crimson’s, this is an extremely dependable weapon profile that you can rely on to put a few wounds somewhere most of the time. It’s also especially good against other Flyers (which tend to be T6) and anything else relying on hit mods for its defences (flying over and wasting a carelessly deployed Vindicare Assassin is a hobby of mine).
The guns aren’t its only offensive trick though – the Hemlock is a psyker, getting access to Smite and the “offensive” half of one of the Warlock powers (realistically, you pretty much always pick Jinx). You know, just a casual, low-key psychic plane. Nothing weird going on. Smite adds yet more reliable damage potential against whatever it’s trying to kill, and the option to Jinx something basically wherever on the board is a great tool to have in your back pocket against targets that can stay out of range of your Warlock.
Finally, the Hemlock has the Mindshock Pod. This is one of the few worthwhile leadership tricks in the game, giving a -2LD modifier to enemies in a massive 12” bubble. While a lot of factions that spam infantry have anti-morale tricks, this can sometimes be great, letting you pick off a few models from a bunch of squads and reap a toll of more come the morale phase. It also lets you set up some possible combos with powers like Mind War, but those are a fringe thing most of the time.
Defensively, the Hemlock has a slight upgrade over the CHE in having Spirit Stones (which it does pay ten points for). This is a nice bonus for Alaitoc ones (it lets you ignore each unsaved wound on a 6+), but an annoying waste of points for Ulthwe, as it doesn’t stack with their built in ability. However, don’t let this fool you – because it has to operate closer in than CHEs (so are less likely to benefit from the Alaitoc -1) they’re still fragile for their cost, and need to be used carefully. I tend to try and pick out a useful target that’s on the far end of my opponent’s setup and land the Hemlock out and behind where they are, if possible. Even if they have something that can threaten it, it forces that unit to double back away from the rest of your army. Also, charging a Hemlock is no fun thanks to the auto-hitting weapons, but savvy opponents will realise that things with a decent invuln can pull off a charge if needed (unless they’re insanely unlucky) and can then trash your plane in melee.
If you do find yourself in this situation, it can sometimes be worth using Lightning Fast Reactions in the fight phase (which a lot of people don’t realise you can do), as combined with the 6+++ it often flips the average to the Hemlock clinging to life rather than dying. Because your offensive capability is all psychic or auto-hitting, being bracketed makes little difference to how dangerous they are (I’ve had Eldar flyer vs. flyer matches essentially decided by a Hemlock on one side clinging to life on a single wound at the end of a turn). You can also still boost the movement of a badly damaged Hemlock if needed, as you can advance with Impunity thanks to auto-hitting weapons, and planes add 20” when they do. This can also let you assassinate unsuspecting characters turn 1, as 80” gets you nearly corner to corner on a 6×4.
Finally, don’t forget that as a psyker you get a deny. I love catching out a player thinking their key caster is miles away from my characters and not noticing the conspicuous green and white plane lurking behind them.
Hemlocks may not be being spammed as they once were, but as you can see they bring a lot to the table, and the metagame can prise the one in all my lists from my cold, dead hands.
Nightwing (Forge World)
The Nightwing is a relatively recent appearance in the metagame, and has basically popped up as a consequence of the nerf to Doom and Jinx where they no longer work for Drukhari units. Previously most flyer spam lists had a trio of Razorwings accompanying Craftworld planes, and while that’s still common, Forge World has once again pre-thwarted some mainline balance changes by having the Nightwing on the books.
The Nightwing is a bit of a doozy. It clocks in at only 138 points, and mounts a twin shuriken cannon and two bright lances. It doesn’t have the base BS2+, but has a mandatory Crystal Targeting Matrix to compensate for move and shoot penalties. Given it has the same defensive stats as a Crimson Hunter, that would be worth thinking about on its own – it’s got a nice mix of weapons and is cheap. However, it’s even better than that because, while it lacks the CHE’s special offensive tricks, it has its own “one weird trick”.
In each of your movement phases, you choose whether it’s operating with “retracted” or “extended” wings. If you pick “retracted”, it picks up a 5++. That’s a neat little bonus. If you pick “extended”, the fun begins. Rather than rotating 90 degrees before moving, you can now pick an enemy unit, and instead pivot directly to face that. You lose your -1 to hit till you switch back to “retracted” mode, but get +1 to hit against the chosen target, meaning that if you can also maneuver to be closest to it you end up hitting on 2s thanks to your CTM.
That’s…a lot for 138 points, and Nightwings are almost certainly on the “to-do” list when the next round of point adjustments are dropped – people had basically forgotten they existed, but now they’ve popped up and people are kind of wondering why they haven’t seen play all along. A good part of that is that the model is an expensive Forge World one and very tough to convert because of the unique wing design. They aren’t quite as good as CHEs because you often want to be able to engage your targets from a generous distance, and Nightwings are a lot less good when you do this (thanks to probably hitting on 4s with their lances and no re-roll 1s), but if what you need to do is gank one big target they’re great, and the flexibility to mow down some infantry as well is handy.
I can’t honestly recommend you buy into these currently because of how confident I am they’re going to see a nerf, but they’re powerful enough that I’d be remiss not to flag them up for anyone who happens to have one on the shelf.
- Crimson Hunter: Never the right choice over an Exarch.
Lord of War
You might think that a gigantic lumbering war machine wouldn’t really fit in with the Eldar playstyle.
You’d be right – Eldar choices for Lords of War are basically garbage, and you shouldn’t take one.
The only codex LOW choice available to Craftworlds is the Wraithknight, who just doesn’t get there, even after a generous point cut in the latest Chapter Approved. This is a shame, because it’s a cool model, but the price just isn’t right on any of the builds. If you have one and want to run it, the sword/shield build and wraithcannons are the non-horrible options, but in both cases you’d be, vastly better off spending the points elsewhere – the sword/shield isn’t mobile enough and useless in some matchups, and the wraithcannons just aren’t up to scratch compared to the kind of guns a LOW should be toting. If you do insist on running one, probably bring a Farseer with Fortune to give it a 5+ FNP, as that’ll keep it in the game longer if (and this is a key part of the problem) you get to go first.
Maybe he’ll get even more of a cut in this year’s CA and become worthwhile (as they clearly really want people to use them), but for now he stays on the shelf.
A Whole Bunch of Forge World Options
None of these are better than using stuff we’ve covered in this article. The Scorpion gets closest and is occasionally seen in tournament gimmick lists, but not ones that win GTs. I will admit to wanting to own one, but that’s because it’s funny, not actually good.
The rest don’t even come close to being usable in a serious list.
Stratagems, Relics and Warlord Traits
That covers our big run down of the worthwhile units. Wherever possible we’ve discussed the stratagems and relics that are most relevant to specific units in-line with them, but it’s worth doing a quick summary where we refresh the ones already mentioned and then dive in to the remaining relevant ones.
- Matchless Agility (1CP): Automatically advance 6”. Handy to redeploy in a pinch, especially good with Banshees or a Guardian bomb that’s survived its first turn on the board.
- Celestial Shield (1CP): Give Guardians a 4++ vs shooting. Great to help try and achieve the above!
- Cloudstrike (1CP): Deep strike a VEHICLE with FLY, but cannot be used if you are using Webway Strike. Webway Strike is way more relevant, and this doesn’t come up. Some older Eldar strategy guides will tell you to use this with Fire Prisms, but it has been clarified since that Deep Striking counts as moving your full distance, so you can’t fire twice, which makes this a useless trick.
- Forewarned (2CP): Intercept shoot at a deep striking/redeploying unit with a unit that’s within 6” of a Farseer. Basically the best version of this effect in the game, extremely good with Dark Reapers, Scatter Bikes, War Walkers and sometimes even a big Guardian squad if they try and bring deep strike melee to bear on it.
- Concordance of Power (1CP): Double the range of a power cast by a Warlock Conclave. Useful if you have one, but you probably don’t.
- Unparalleled Mastery (1CP): Extra cast with a Farseer immediately after succeeding on their last power. Very useful.
- Linked Fire (1CP): See the section on Fire Prisms. If you have them, you’re spamming this.
- Lightning Fast Reactions (2CP): Give an INFANTRY or FLY unit an extra -1 to hit when targeted in the Shooting or Fight phase, lasting the rest of the phase. Fantastic on Alaitoc stuff in shooting, and remember that it works in the Fight phase!
- Webway Strike (1/3CP): Deep Strike one INFANTRY or BIKER unit for 1CP or 2 for 3CP. Fantastic with Guardians or Scatter Bike blobs.
- Overloaded Energy Field Projectors (1CP): Shoot a Wave Serpent’s shield again in a later turn. Great.
- Seer Council (1CP): Add +1 to a Farseer and Warlock’s casts if they’re within 6” of one another. Extremely great, you should always use this on a turn where you’re relying on getting Doom/Jinx of if you can spare the CP.
- Fire and Fade (1CP): Allows a unit to move 7” after shooting, it then can’t charge. Great for hiding Reapers or scatter bikes, also useful to sneak an extra 7” movement to grab an objective – nothing says you have to use this to run away from the enemy.
Treasures of the Craftworlds (1/3CP)
Standard extra relic strat. Craftworld relics aren’t great, but you’ll sometimes want the 1CP version, often to soup up a Bike Autarch in some way.
Feigned Retreat (2CP)
Lets a unit that falls back still charge/shoot. This can be extremely good on a Guardian Bomb that’s been tagged, and is also relevant for flitting a Bike Autarch into his next target if you have other ways to finish off whatever he was already touching.
Runes of Witnessing (2CP)
Gives a Farseer a 6” re-roll 1s to wound bubble for a phase. Doesn’t come up that often because it overlaps with Doom, but it has its uses, such as when:
- You’ve failed to cast Doom.
- Getting your Farseer in Doom range is too risky.
- You’ve got some stuff that you want to put into a target where it’s already wounding on 2s/3s, and other stuff you want to go into a Doomed target.
Some combination of the second and third option is a relatively common strategic situation against horde lists, so you should look out for chances to exploit this against them.
Phantasm almost needs an article all of its own. For 2CP, at the start of the first Battle Round (i.e. after you know who’s going first) you can redeploy up to three units. They have to stay on the board (i.e. you can’t move something “into” Webway Strike) but you can move a Transport with everything inside.
Because of how much stuff you can pack into a Wave Serpent, this lets you potentially reposition quite a sizeable chunk of your army for the cost, and notably it’s all the “range constrained” stuff like Dire Avengers. The most common way I use this is to execute my deployment such that by moving two Wave Serpents and a Bike Autarch I can switch between a “defensive” or “offensive” setup. This allows me to go for an alpha strike if I get the first turn and avoid a hammerblow if I don’t. In order to minimise how often I have to burn the CP, I’ll work out who is more likely to go first (based on the +1 or who “lost” the roll in Chapter Approved 2018 style) and make my initial deployment aggressive if it’s me, and defensive if not.
That’s really only scratching the surface of what you can do with this, especially once you get into mind games. The other important thing you need to know about is range tricks. If your opponent carefully sets up so their big anti air guns are in range of your planes on Dawn of War, you can move them to the opposite corner and get them out of range. Alternatively, if you deploy something like Scatter Laser War-Walkers a bit back from the front of your deployment zone and your opponent then painstakingly ensures their infantry is just out of range, you can swoop them forward and avoid the move/shoot penalty.
If you go through my archive of tournament reports you’ll probably see some more ways I’ve used it. For now, keep the above ones in mind, and always consider whether there are clever things you can do with it.
Alaitoc only. Makes a unit of Rangers in cover only hittable on 6s. Not always super relevant, as Alaitoc Rangers will often only be being hit on 5s/6s anyway, but helpful if your opponent has somehow got a lot of bolters into rapid fire range.
Warriors of the Raging Winds (1CP)
Saim Hann only. Allows a BIKER unit to Advance and Charge. Great on Bike Autarchs. Used to be great on Ynnarri Shining Spears.
Discipline of the Black Guardians (1CP)
Ulthwe ony. Adds +1 to hit to a GUARDIAN unit for a phase. Very good with a big squad, a nice value add on a smaller squad. Also notable that it lets a big squad in an Autarch bubble shoot at max effect without needing Guide.
- The Great Enemy (1CP): Re-roll wounds against Slaanesh in the Fight Phase. In a meta where lots of Chaos units are Slaanesh marked for Endless Cacophony, and Slaanesh Lords Discordant or Daemon Princes are making themselves known, this can be handy.
- Supreme Disdain (1CP): Extra attacks on 6+ to hit in the Fight phase. Very funny on Wraithknights, OK on Wraithblades (but the Wraith Host one is better if you only have 1CP), otherwise give it a miss.
- Starhawk Missile (1CP): An INFANTRY model with a Missile Launcher gets +1 to hit against a FLY target and does MWs instead of normal damage. Occasionally relevant on Dark Reaper Exarchs, though hilariously they don’t actually get the +1 because of Inescapable Accuracy.
- Tears of Isha (2CP): Heal a Wraith Construct for D3. Works on a Hemlock, but extremely rarely worth 2CP on it, and the other possible targets aren’t great.
- Vaul’s Might (1CP): A lacklustre buff for a lacklustre unit (support weapons).
- The Avatar Resurgent (3CP): If the Avatar died in the fight phase, it survives on D6 wounds instead. Obviously hilarious when it comes up, but the Fight Phase restriction stops it being actively good.
- Court of the Young King (2CP): A Biel Tan boost to melee aspect warriors that gets better if the Avatar is nearby. Overpriced and only relevant on mediocre units in one of the worse craftworlds.
- Guided Wraithsight (1CP): Double the range of an Iyanden Spiritseer’s Spirit Mark. Too fringe to be an attraction to the worst craftworld.
Eldar relics are kind of naff. They’re an early codex, so GW hadn’t really adjusted to how bonkers a relic weapon needs to be to be worth it over a “utility” one. There’s also a few bizarre gaps – no relic witchblade or singing spear (in favour of “three different terrible power swords”) is odd. Nonetheless, there’s a few that are useful:
The Good Ones
- Faolchu’s Wing: Already discussed under Farseers, gives an Infantry model a 12” fly speed without changing their other keywords (which means they can still ride in a transport). Probably the best, and putting this on a Farseer is my go-to.
- The Phoenix Gem: The first time the bearer dies, every unit within 3” takes D3 MWs on a 2+. If any do, the bearer survives on 1W. Theoretically useful for protecting a squishy character like a Warlock from snipers by parking them next to a unit (like a Wave Serpent) you don’t mind taking a few wounds, but I’ve soured on this use a lot – it’s a pain to keep set up in practice. I now stick this on a Bike Autarch if I think there’s a good chance he’s going to “trade” for a character in the middle of the enemy lines at some point. An important note – unlike some similar effects this doesn’t “de-stack” other attacks assigned to your character when it goes off, so it isn’t reliable if you’re being stomped on by a Knight or something.
- The Spiritstone of Anath’lan: Biel Tan only. Lets a psyker re-roll any cast, but they can’t cast any more that turn if they fail a second time. It’s thus pretty good on one-cast psykers with no built-in re-rolls like Warlocks, so sees occasional use in a Supreme Command where people really need Jinx or Quicken to go off. I tend to prefer the “Seer of the Shifting Vector” warlord trait for this, however, as it’s less disruptive to list building.
- The Novalance of Saim-Hann: The one exception to the “bad relic weapons” complaint, this is an absurd upgrade on a Laser Lance and if you have a Saim Hann bike Autarch in your army it’s probably specifically to get access to this.
- Shimmerplume of Achillirial: Gives an Autarch -1 to hit when attacked. Useful on a Bike Autarch when you expect him to need to be roving around engaging different threats rather than diving straight into the heart of the enemy army, as it makes him less likely to get picked off if he ends up in a place where one thing can shoot him.
- Kurnous’ Bow: A bad relic shuriken pistol.
- Shard of Anaris: A bad relic power sword.
- Firesabre: A bad relic power sword.
- Shiftshroud of Alanssair: I honestly can’t even remember what this does after all the FAQ changes, but I remember that it’s still bad.
- The Burnished Blade of Eliarna: A bad relic power sword that only Biel Tan can take.
- Psytronome of Iyanden: A once per game melee buff to nearby Wraith units. Fun for theorycrafting, but too hard to use reliably.
- Ghosthelm of Alishazier: Gives +1 to Smite casts. Not actually terrible, but wildly behind the modern relic curve.
- Blazing Star of Vaul: Adds +2 shots to a shuriken weapon. Again, not objectively terrible, but deeply below the curve.
Similar to relics, pickings here are slightly slim compared to other factions. Hardly any of them are bad things to have, but plenty of newer codexes have some real slam dunk winners, whereas these are merely fine.
The Good Ones
- Seer of the Shifting Vector: Gives the warlord one re-roll of a hit, wound, save, psychic test or deny per battle round. I’m a big fan of running this on my Jinx casting Bike Warlock, as it means that when you really need to land Jinx you have the choice of a “full” reroll from this or re-rolling one dice with a CP. Combined with +1 from Seer Council, that puts your chance of landing it around 90%.
- Fate’s Messenger: Gives you +1 wound and a 6+ Feel No Pain. In the ITC format (where you can change warlord traits game to game) I swap this on to my Bike Warlock if I’m up against potent snipers, as it makes him way harder to randomly kill.
- Fate Reader (Ulthwe): Roll a dice each turn, get a CP on a 6. Eldar are CP hungry, so ~2 over the course of the game isn’t a bad deal.
The OK Ones
- Mark of the Incomparable Hunter: Lets the warlord snipe characters. Most commonly seen on Bike Autarchs, and it can be quite funny on either a loaded up Saim Hann one or a regular one with a Reaper Launcher, but has the problem that making a Bike Autarch warlord in ITC gives up maximum Kingslayer points, which is a liability.
- Falcon’s Swiftness: +2 Move. Fine, probably loses out to the good ones. If you decide to bring the Avatar this is a good choice on him as it helps with his dire mobility.
- Natural Leader (Biel Tan): Give a Biel Tan unit within 3” re-rolls to hit in the shooting phase. Theoretically great but in the wrong faction – you don’t want to run backline gunline units as Biel Tan, and a lot of your close-range stuff already gets re-roll 1s from their trait or an Autarch. Also clashes with Guide.
- Puritanical Leader (Alaitoc): Alaitoc units within 6” auto-pass morale. Can help a bit, but if you want to run the kind of army where this is good there are better choices.
- An Eye on Distant Events: Warlord is immune to overwatch. If the Index flowchart didn’t exist, or goes away, this would be good on a bike Autarch, but for now you just take the free Banshee mask.
- Ambush of Blades: Grants an extra -1AP on 6s to wound in the Fight phase. This would require hefty volume melee attacks to be even slightly worthwhile so if you’ve read this far you’ll know it’s a hard pass.
- Wild Rider Chieftain (Saim Hann): +1 attack if you put all your attacks into a character and can always pile in towards characters. Not worth it – even if you want to amp up your capabilities, just take Seer of the Shifting Vector instead.
- Enduring Resolve (Iyanden): Your warlord gets an extra deny (or gains one if they don’t have any). If Iyanden was ever worth it there probably are some matchups where you’d flex to this in ITC, but it isn’t.
The final item on our list is some introductory suggestions for souping. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we’re not going to dive into the full breadth of possible Aeldari mix and match here – that will have its own, separate article – but we have three suggestions here for things you might consider, firstly a Craftworlds detachment which easily fits into another Aeldari force, and then selections from each of Harlequins and Drukhari which might fit in to your Craftworlds list. Once upon a time this would have been all about how to get Eldrad and a Warlock into your army for Doom and Jinx, but unfortunately those days are gone.
Aeldari Air Force
This is pretty straightforward in nature. Craftworlds planes are pretty much self-supporting, with Crimson Hunter Exarchs bringing their own re-rolls against many important targets, and Hemlocks bringing a Smite, a deny, and a great gun which can help Drukhari or Harlequins against …. mostly other Eldar planes, to be honest. An Alaitoc Air Wing with a combination of two CHEs and a Hemlock, or just three CHEs, is an evergreen detachment which slots in nicely.
This is a simple little detachment of 1 Shadowseer, and then 2-3 Death Jesters and 0-1 Solitaire.The Death Jesters bring great anti-infantry firepower, the Shadowseer offers a bunch of mortal wounds and/or the ability to reposition with Twilight Pathways – or, of course, fire the Solitaire off into the distance to devastate something. The Solitaire in particular is a win here, since we talked about Eldar’s lack of good infantry melee – the Solitaire is basically designed to be that, so it’s a helpful include.
Often, the detachment will give up a specific Masque form in order to take advantage of mixed Masques – most commonly making the Death Jesters Dreaming Shadow to take advantage of their stratagem and the Curtainfall relic, and the Solitaire Midnight Sorrow so that they can fight on death.
As highlighted in our Drukhari article, Black Heart Ravagers with an Archon are great. Cheap and cheerful, brings a high volume of mid-strength shots with decent AP which Craftworlds often struggle with (you tend to get 2 of the 3), and you get access to Agents of Vect. You can even make the Archon your Warlord and take the Labyrinthine Cunning trait if you feel like you really want to be able to regenerate CP, although this is less good than it used to be thanks to Tactical Restraint.
So those are your options. We appreciate that these articles are pretty mammoth, and don’t necessarily expect you to have read all the way through in one go, but if you have and want to dive into playing Eldar, the last thing we’re including are sample lists at 1000 and 2000 points. While most major events run at 1750 or 2K, plenty of smaller ones operate at 1000 points (and there’s plenty of doubles events out there). The 1K list is intended to show you something you can start off throwing down with (and is fine its own right with the right partner in doubles), and the 2K list shows you how you can grow that into a full army.
”Army Ulthwe Battalion – 996pts Eldrad – 135 Warlock Skyrunner – 67 10 Guardian Defenders w/ Shuriken platform – 95 10 Guardian Defenders w/ Shuriken platform – 95 5 Rangers – 60 Wave Serpent w/Aeldari Missile Launchers & Crystal Targeting Matrix – 167 Wave Serpent w/Aeldari Missile Launchers & Crystal Targeting Matrix – 167 Hemlock Wraithfighter – 210
Ulthwe Battalion – 996pts
Eldrad – 135
Warlock Skyrunner – 67
10 Guardian Defenders w/ Shuriken platform – 95
10 Guardian Defenders w/ Shuriken platform – 95
5 Rangers – 60
Wave Serpent w/Aeldari Missile Launchers & Crystal Targeting Matrix – 167
Wave Serpent w/Aeldari Missile Launchers & Crystal Targeting Matrix – 167
Hemlock Wraithfighter – 210
This gives you access to a bunch of what makes playing Eldar great off the bat. Your troops are safely encased in a highly mobile Wave Serpent, which 1000pt armies are going to struggle to crack quickly, and can jump out and unleash a hail of death when the time is right. Overhead, the reliable death engine that is the Hemlock swoops ominously, putting holes in your opponent’s tanks and elites alike. Finally, the psychic might of Eldrad outclasses what most other armies will field at this game size.
”Army Ulthwe Battalion – 936pts Eldrad – 135 Warlock Skyrunner w/ Witchblade – 67 20 Guardian Defenders w/2 Shuriken Cannon Platforms – 190 5 Dire Avengers w/Dual Gun Exarch – 58 7 Dire Avengers w/Dual Gun Exarch – 80 5 Rangers – 60 5 Howling Banshees w/ Exarch Executioner – 68 Wave Serpent w/Shuriken Cannons – 139 Wave Serpent w/Shuriken Cannons – 139 Ulthwe Spearhead – 515pts Autarch Skyrunner w/Laser Lance, Fusion Gun, Banshee Mask -119 Night Spinner w/CTM – 117 Night Spinner w/CTM – 117 3 War Walkers w/Scatter Lasers – 162 Alaitoc Air Wing – 546pts Hemlock Wraithfighter – 210 Crimson Hunter Exarch w/Bright Lances – 175 Crimson Hunter Exarch w/starcannons – 161
Ulthwe Battalion – 936pts
Eldrad – 135
Warlock Skyrunner w/ Witchblade – 67
20 Guardian Defenders w/2 Shuriken Cannon Platforms – 190
5 Dire Avengers w/Dual Gun Exarch – 58
7 Dire Avengers w/Dual Gun Exarch – 80
5 Rangers – 60
5 Howling Banshees w/ Exarch Executioner – 68
Wave Serpent w/Shuriken Cannons – 139
Wave Serpent w/Shuriken Cannons – 139
Ulthwe Spearhead – 515pts
Autarch Skyrunner w/Laser Lance, Fusion Gun, Banshee Mask -119
Night Spinner w/CTM – 117
Night Spinner w/CTM – 117
3 War Walkers w/Scatter Lasers – 162
Alaitoc Air Wing – 546pts
Hemlock Wraithfighter – 210
Crimson Hunter Exarch w/Bright Lances – 175
Crimson Hunter Exarch w/starcannons – 161
You can argue back and forth with this one if the Spearhead should be Alaitoc (you could swap the warlock over as his powers aren’t <CRAFTWORLD> locked) but being able to flexibly hang the Autarch back with the firebase or push him up with the main body and have his aura do work either way is a big temptation. You also need a matching keyword for Forewarned for the War Walkers, which is the ultimate decider in this list. If you wanted to go pure Alaitoc you could comfortably swap Eldrad out for a Farseer or Farseer Skyrunner, and shift some other stuff round, and I’d probably tweak this a bit before hitting a GT with it, but you get the idea!
And that’s it. With just over 17,000 words of Space Elf goodness above there’s inevitably some mistakes or stupid decisions in here somewhere, so if you spot any, or have any other feedback, hit us up at email@example.com or over on our Facebook Page.