Welcome to the Dark City! If you’ve always been Drukhari-curious but never knew how best to approach this weird collection of torture elves, Frankenstein elves, and pirate boats, then this is the article for you. The purpose of the guide is to run through the key units and strategies available to the faction, giving you an overview of how to get the most out of your Dark Eldar.
As with the rest of these articles, the idea is not to give an exhaustive review of every single unit and option. Instead, each section will give a brief summary of what’s available, picking up on key units/relics/stratagems and also highlighting clear trap choices, and then discussing how best to utilise the good stuff. This is also specifically a discussion of the codex – we ignore Forge World, and there’s a couple of index-only units which aren’t discussed or mentioned at all in the form of Kabalite Trueborn and Hekatarii Bloodbrides, but since they rarely seem to pop up anyway that isn’t a great omission. Where relevant, i.e. for the blaster on an Archon, index options will be included, but that’s about it.
It’s worth noting at this point that one of the key features of the faction is the simple AELDARI keyword, which lets them soup in with Craftworlds, Harlequins, and (to some extent – no Haemonculi allowed!) with Ynnari. This is less powerful than it once was following the changes to the Doom and Jinx psychic powers, but it’s still something you see done, particularly with standout solo options like Crimson Hunter Exarchs which are more or less self-supporting.
On that subject, let’s begin with a look at the significant strengths and weaknesses of the Drukhari codex:
Cost-efficient Troops, Heavy Support and Fliers
Power from Pain
Decent invulnerable saves on all vehicles
Zero native psychic options
Few and poor special characters (with one exception)
Glass hammer playstyle for Kabals/Wych Cults
Strong – Very Strong. Pure Drukhari is one of the best pure armies available, and with splashes from the Craftworlds and/or Harlequins books it’s right up at the top tier.
Their strength lies in a couple of key aspects. Firstly, they have access to some key weapons which are perfectly suited to the 8th edition metagame (see the Weapons section below).
Secondly, the army is fast and mobile with a high proportion of flying units, able to cover the board quickly and rapidly switch play. Never again will you look at a distant objective and wonder how you’ll ever get to it by the time the game ends, nor will you face the inevitable grind of a Knight or combat monster character running at you with no escape in sight.
That’s not to say that Drukhari make for an easy netlist to go out and win with. As you’ll see from the discussion on the next point, the way the army is structured can make it either fast but fragile, or tough but slow and easy to out-manoeuvre. Careful play is required to get the most out of the book.
The thing to mention about Drukhari right up front is that the book really contains three different armies, with their own separate options, traits, and stratagems. This is both a blessing and a curse – on the one hand, it hugely opens up the playstyles available, but on the other, the inability of large parts of the book to play nicely together can really inhibit your list-building options. It’s probably easiest to explain by saying that two different people playing “Drukhari” armies can have completely different playstyles, but after deciding between Kabals, Cults or Covens their chosen builds are likely to be much the same. This will make more sense if we discuss exactly what the different sub-armies are:
Kabals – the Kabals are what you might call the standard-issue Drukhari, forming the backbone of the army. This is where you’ll find the Kabalite Warrior, the regular-joe Dark Elf in space with his gun that shoots poison shards and his armour that’s designed to hurt people just by brushing against them. Kabal-based armies will feature lots of Kabalite units in transports, whether that’s the venerable Raider or the more modern Venom, as well as support from Ravager gunships and the Razorwing and Voidraven planes.
Wych Cults – where Kabals opt for a shooting-based playstyle, featuring lots of flying around in boats gunning things down from afar, Wyches are all about getting into your opponent’s face and meleeing them to death. My opinion is that they’re not actually very good at this, being very vulnerable to making an appearance and then getting gunned down in short order, but others have made a Cursed Blade contingent work.
Haemonculus Covens – this is where Drukhari get weird. The basic unit of the Covens is a Wrack, a twisted mutant Drukhari which trades ranged weaponry for T4 and the 5+ invulnerable save universal to Haemonculus units. Backing them up are the Grotesques, giant ogre-like mutants, and the Talos Pain Engines and their smaller Cronos soul-eater cousins. There’s very few options available to Haemonculus Covens, but happily the ones that are there are all really good (except you, Cronos, sorry).
There are three key special rules which apply to Drukhari, outlined below:
A nice straightforward one to start with – weapons with this rule (which is a lot of what’s in the book, including the basic splinter rifle which is the most common gun in the army) always wound on a 4+ against anything other than a VEHICLE or TITANIC unit, where it wounds on a 6+. This can be both a blessing and a curse – sometimes when you’re shooting at Guardsmen or other weak units, you long for a simple S4 profile – but mostly it’s really good and lets even your ordinary dudes punch above their weight.
Power from Pain
The Power from Pain table is a mechanic which is unique within 40k. All non-vehicle units in the book get access to the rule, which gives a number of stacking bonuses depending on the battle round being played. The important word there is “stacking” – you don’t just get a new rule, you also keep all the ones before. The table is:
1 – Inured to Suffering – a 6+ Feel No Pain save.
2 – Eager to Flay – re-roll Advances and charges.
3 – Flensing Fury – add 1 to hit rolls in the Fight phase.
4 – Emboldened by Bloodshed – automatically pass Morale tests.
5+ – Mantle of Agony – enemy units within 6″ take Morale tests at -1.
As rules go, this is a bit of a curate’s egg. The most universal bonus is the very first one, the 6+ FNP. Making all your units 16% more survivable than the statline suggests is very good and easy to make use of. The rest of it is all a bit weird – the Eager to Flay/Flensing Fury bonuses in rounds 2 and 3 are fantastic for melee-heavy Covens or Wych Cult builds, but almost meaningless to Kabals. Emboldened by Bloodshed is ok, but by round 4 the number of Morale tests a Drukhari army is likely to take is pretty low, and I’ve actually never remembered or used Mantle of Agony to know whether it’s any good or not. Like most Morale-based debuffs, it’s likely to be absolutely clutch for the one game where you line it up well – say with a Hemlock Wraithfighter from the Craftworlds book supporting a Leadership bomb on a key objective holder – and then completely irrelevant the rest of the time.
Unique to the Wych Cults part of the army are combat drugs. There are 6 options available, and you can choose each one once, or roll to see what effect you get. The effects are:
- Adrenalight – +1 Attack
- Grave Lotus – +1 Strength
- Hypex – +2 Move
- Painbringer – +1 Toughness
- Serpentin – +1 Weapon Skill
- Splintermind – +2 Leadership
In an ironic twist, 6 is probably the worst option, although 5 is also pretty bad given that most units hit on a 3+ which becomes a 2+ by round 3 anyway. All of options 1-4 have application for different things, whether that’s giving your Wych bomb more ability to actually wound things, or giving a Succubus that extra bit of staying power. Sadly all this potential is limited by the Wych Cult bits not being that good in themselves, but the drugs at least give you something else to think about.
Leaving behind the army-wide special rules, let’s now look at the key Obsessions available to the different sub-factions.
Like other 8th edition codexes, Drukhari have a number of different traits, here called Obsessions, which they can gain by taking a Detachment of a particular sub-faction. Following on from the three-way split discussed above, there are different ones for the different types of faction – 4 for Kabals, and then 3 each for Wych Cults and Covens.
The key Obsessions to know about are Kabal of the Black Heart, Kabal of the Flayed Skull, Cult of the Cursed Blade, Cult of Red Grief, and Prophets of Flesh. Unlike some other books the other traits aren’t useless exactly, but they don’t come up very often. These function like so:
- Kabal of the Black Heart: Units with this obsession count as being one round higher on the Power from Pain table than they otherwise would be. Units which don’t have Power from Pain get to use the first round bonus, Inured to Suffering.
- Kabal of the Flayed Skull: Units with FLY get an extra 3″ movement. They can also re-roll 1s to hit with Rapid Fire weapons, and ignore cover. Units embarked in a transport with FLY also get this bonus.
- Cult of the Cursed Blade: Units get +1 Strength, and when they fail a Morale test only one model has to flee.
- Cult of the Red Grief: Advance and charge, and re-roll charges.
- Prophets of the Flesh: Increase your Invulnerable save to 4+.
We’ll get into why these are the “good” traits in more detail later when we talk about specific builds and strategies, but to briefly touch on it now:
Black Heart in itself isn’t great since Kabal units get very little benefit from the Power from Pain table. However, getting the 6+ Feel No Pain save on vehicles is very helpful, and more importantly a Black Heart detachment of some form gets you access to Agents of Vect, one of the best stratagems in the game. There’s also a very strong relic and decent Warlord Trait.
Conversely, Flayed Skull’s stratagem, trait, and relic are merely ok, but making all the bread-and-butter units in a Kabal detachment (i.e. boats, and guys shooting out of boats) even better at their job is very useful. If you’re going heavy with Venoms and Kabalites, this is the Obsession for you.
Cursed Blade is an odd duck because it wasn’t really on the radar for a long time. However, the +1 Strength buff is good, especially paired with the Grave Lotus drugs to get you to the important S5 break point or Adrenalight for an absolute pile of S4 attacks, and the Morale gimmick can be very important on Wych squads which can be vulnerable to losing lots of models to Morale checks. This one may be quite specific to the “pure ITC” style event where Enclosed Buildings let you protect the Wyches from direct fire, but you can’t really argue with it being in a top 8 list at LVO so it’s included here.
Red Grief has two things going for it. First, it lets you use Reaver Jetbikes to tie things up from across the table – very helpful for gumming up a Guard or Marine gunline. Second, the Warlord Trait and relic are both very good, and let you create a cheap beatstick in the form of a Red Grief Succubus.
Prophets of the Flesh is the only game in town for Covens. The 4+ invulnerable save makes your tough units even tougher, and it’s also the home faction of Urien Rakarth, the only good special character in the Drukhari book. The stratagem and Warlord Trait are also really useful. A strong all-around choice, which crowds out the other two to the point that I barely remember what they do.
Before getting into the meat of the unit discussion, I’m going to briefly touch on seven of the key weapons available to Drukhari, since they crop in a lot of places and it’s easier to discuss them all together rather than tell you what a splinter rifle does every time it comes up. These are:
- Splinter rifles – the basic armament. These are 24″ Rapid Fire 1 poisoned weapons (always wounds on a 4+).
- Splinter cannons – a bigger, uglier splinter rifle, these go up to 36″ Rapid Fire 3.
- Shredders – 12″ range, d6 shots at S6 AP-1, which allow you to re-roll wounds against infantry. At less than half the cost of a blaster, these are cheap and cheerful and make your “good at killing infantry” units even better at that job.
- Disintegrator cannons – 36″ range, Assault 3, S5 AP-3 D2. You want as many of these as possible. Bizarrely cheaper than the dark lance even though it’s usually better.
- Dark lances – 36″ range, Heavy 1, S8 AP-4 damage D6. On vehicles, they become Assault weapons instead. Ostensibly these are a core part of the faction, although in practice they are often traded out for disintegrator cannons.
- Blasters – effectively a half-range dark lance, these have traditionally been the most common special weapon in the army.
- Haywire blasters – despite the name these are quite dissimilar to regular blasters. The basic profile is nothing to write home about – 24″ Assault D3, S4 AP-1. What you’re interested in here is the haywire effect – on a 4+ to wound against a VEHICLE, do a mortal wound; on a 6+, do d3 mortal wounds. Suddenly that mediocre profile transforms into a vehicle killer.
This section is very much a tour-de-force of what’s essential in the book, and not a comprehensive breakdown of every unit available. Since there’s quite a small number of choices available to a pure Drukhari army we have included everything, but only offer full discussion of the really important stuff. Also included is a key to let you know which units belong to which sub-army – K for Kabals, W for Wych Cults, H for Haemonculus Covens, and B for “Blades for Hire” which covers a small number of units which are outside of this system and can be mix and matched freely – a bit like Auxilia in the Astra Militarum book. With no further ado:
- Archon (K)
- Succubus (W)
- Haemonculus (H)
- Drazhar (B, Named Character)
- Lelith Hesperax (W, Named Character)
- Urien Rakarth (H, Named Character)
As you can see from the above, there’s a single HQ for each sub-army, plus a named character for each (although Drazhar is not actually a Kabalite). Sadly Drazhar is useless and Lelith isn’t much better, so that really just leaves the basic guys and Urien.
Archons are the leaders of the Kabals. Once upon a time they could be equipped with all manner of gear, given combat drugs, jetbikes, Hellion skyboards, the works. Sadly those days are gone and the modern Archon is a much diminished figure.
The basic profile is reasonable if not great – M8″, 2+ for both WS and BS, 5 wounds and 5 attacks. They only have a 5+ armour save, but this is mitigated by the 2+ invulnerable save on offer from their shadowfield – although this save cannot be re-rolled for any reason whatsoever, and the first time it fails it stops working for the rest of the game, so for the amusement of fate you’ll usually roll a 1 the first time a lasgun comes your way.
The gear list is fairly limited too. The basic equipment is a splinter pistol (which is ok) and a huskblade, which gives a neat +1S, AP-2, and damage D3. In the codex your options are to swap the huskblade for an agoniser, power sword or venom blade, and the splinter pistol for a blast pistol. In an environment which allows index options, there’s also the possibility of a phantasm grenade launcher and a blaster.
Finally, there’s the Overlord ability, which takes the shape of the ubiquitous 8th edition “re-roll 1s to hit” buff for friendly <KABAL> units.
After reading this you might be wondering why Archons are being highlighted as a core unit! Partly this is due to the requirement to take them – if you want to run a Kabal detachment which isn’t a pure Air Wing, you need at least one, and for a Battalion you’ll want two (incidentally – this is a point where the old Dracon profile for a “junior Archon” is sorely missed). However, there are a couple of other key things which elevate the basic Archon and its somewhat confused profile.
Firstly, there’s that BS2+. Since you have to take one anyway, popping a blaster onto the Archon and giving yourself a 2+ re-rollable blaster shot is a good way to get them on target that bit more often. This comes in at a hefty 17pts, and is also reliant on your particular game or event allowing you to take index choices, but mass blaster fire is often a key part of the Kabal-based Drukhari game plan so having another platform for one is helpful. This can pair nicely with the Hatred Eternal warlord trait, which lets you re-roll all wound rolls – helpful on the ever-cursed blaster. It also makes Archons a great platform for the 3pt phantasm grenade launcher, so that they can utilise the Torment Grenade Launcher stratagem to fire of d3 mortal wounds at things.
Secondly, there’s the infamous Black Heart combo, which I alluded to before. The Black Heart Warlord Trait is “Labyrinthine Cunning”, which allows you to roll a D6 any time a command point is spent, by you or your opponent. On a 6, you get one back. This has been somewhat reduced by the Tactical Restraint beta rule, but it’s still a good way to make your command points go that little bit further, especially when you have the most expensive stratagem in the game. On top of this, the Black Heart relic is the Writ of the Living Muse, which gives you an aura to re-roll 1s to wound for friendly Kabal units within 6″. What this means is that your Archon can heroically lead from the back, sitting behind a gunline of Ravagers firing disintegrator cannons, giving them re-rolls to hit and wound while farming command points. It’s probably not the role the fluff or indeed the high-mobility high-attacks profile has you envisioning, but it’s a useful strategy to get the most out of your boats.
Finally, there’s the Alliance of Agony stratagem. If you Warlord is an Archon, you can play this at the beginning of the game. For 1CP you can also pick a Succubus and/or a Haemonculus in your army and give them a Warlord Trait too. This is a great little bonus and opens up some interesting options, as you’ll see when we reach the Succubus and Haemonculus entries shortly.
That’s the Archon then – what about his equivalents in the Cults and Covens?
The first thing to notice about the Succubus is that she’s really cheap. At 54pts with her default loadout, she’s barely more expensive than many Guard characters, and will happily beat them up and take their lunch money.
Her profile is similar to the Archon’s, albeit with only 4 attacks and an even worse armour save. She trades the 2+ shadowfield for the less good, but more reliable, Lightning Dodge, giving her a no-nonsense 4+ invulnerable save which isn’t likely to suddenly dissipate. She also has access to Combat Drugs, which can improve her slightly lacklustre attacks or give her an additional point of strength (of which more later). Additionally, she re-rolls 1s to Hit in the Fight Phase for <WYCH CULT> units within 6″ thanks to Brides of Death.
However, her potentially most useful ability is No Escape. If she is within 1″ of an enemy INFANTRY unit which tries to Fall Back, you can force your opponent to make an opposed roll-off. If they win, they fall back as normal. Critically, if you win or draw, they can’t fall back. This can be a great way to trap a unit in combat, saving your Succubus from being shot to bits, and potentially tying up a key part of the opposing line.
In terms of weapon options, she comes stock with an agoniser and archite glaive, and can replace both of these with a Wych Cult weapon or replace the agoniser with a splinter pistol, blast pistol, or impaler. This opens up a couple of great options. Firstly there’s that Wych Cults weapons list – this includes hydra gauntlets, razorflails, and a shardnet and impaler. Most interesting here are the first and third options. Hydra gauntlets make her attacks AP-1, give her an additional attack, and also allow you to re-roll failed wounds. For a cheap Succubus looking to punch out light infantry, this is a really useful addition – you can get up to 6 attacks hitting on re-rollable 2s and also re-rolling to wound. The other possibility is the shardnet and impaler combo, which again gives you AP-1, D2, and also makes your opponent roll their No Escape on a D3 rather than a D6, which gives you great odds of beating them.
Alternatively, you can build the Red Grief monster Succubus. The regular archite glaive is a bit lacklustre, with its -1 to hit penalty and only being damage 1 not quite compensating for +2S and AP-3. However, the Red Grief relic is the Blood Glaive, which replaces the archite glaive with an altogether better weapon – S+3, AP-3, damage D3. Suddenly your Succubus can be a bit of a beatstick. This is especially true if you also give her an additional point of strength from combat drugs, making her S7 – a point where she wounds the majority of vehicles and monsters on 3s or 4s. On top of this, there’s the Red Grief Warlord Trait, which improves her invulnerable save to 3+. Suddenly she’s fast, hard to get rid of, can advance and charge, and is a genuine threat to hard targets, all for a mere 50pts (if you swap her now-useless agoniser for a splinter pistol, which you should). If you used Alliance of Agony to get her trait, she doesn’t even give up Slay the Warlord. This makes her an excellent fire and forget missile to go and take something down – between disembarking, move and advance, and her charge roll, I’ve successfully crossed the whole of no-man’s-land with her in a single turn.
A bit like the Archon, the major flaw of the Succubus is that one is great but two can feel like a bit more than you really wanted. Still, for what she offers for so cheap, she’s a great addition to a list.
Haemonculi are a funny old beast. For some reason they have more attacks than the Succubus, with a mighty 5. They’re a little slower than either her or the Archon (7″ movement rather than 8″), but critically they have T4 rather than T3. On paper they have the worst invulnerable save on offer at 5+, but since you’re going to be running Prophets of the Flesh just imagine that this is actually a 4+ and move on with your day. The other significant (and it’s really significant) buff they offer is Master of Pain – which adds +1 Toughness to all <HAEMONCULUS COVEN> units within 6″. This obviously gives the Haemonculus himself T5, and it also hugely increases the survivability of the rest of your units. We’ll talk about this more in the specific unit entries, but it’s a big deal.
Haemonculi have probably the most diverse list of weapon options available. At base they come with a stinger pistol (a poisoned pistol that wounds on a 2+) and Haemonculus tools (poisoned melee weapons). On top of this they can take an ichor injector, swap their pistol for a hexrifle or liquifier gun, and swap their Haemonculus tools for any of the “Weapons of Torture”, a list of weird and wonderful kit available to Haemonculi and their Wrack creations. Personally I prefer to keep them cheap and cheerful, but this is a rare bit of granularity in a Covens-heavy list, so it can be useful for using up a few awkward points.
There’s also a couple of tasty relics available to Haemonculi. For Prophets of Flesh, which you should always be, there’s the Vexator Mask. This has two effects – firstly, the bearer can’t be overwatched. Helpful to let you launch the Haemonculus face-first into an enemy unit and tie them up, stopping them firing at your Talos or Grotesques on the way in. Secondly, you can pick a unit within 6″ at the start of each Fight phase – yours and your opponent’s. That unit fights last. This is a fantastic trick, allowing you to fend off chargers, mess with activation order, and generally get to hit first – and when you hit first with Covens units, you generally hit hard. There’s also the Nightmare Doll, which gives you a 4+ Feel No Pain instead of the 6+ from Power from Pain. This is a bit second-order, but if you have two Haemonculi, it can be worth having.
Finally there’s Warlord Traits. Most of the Haemonculus-specific ones are a bit lacklustre, although not terrible, but once again Prophets of Flesh is the winner with the excellent “Diabolical Soothsayer” trait – this gives you an extra D3 command points at the start of the game, plus a free hit/wound/save/damage roll for the model with the trait. This has a couple of neat applications – the obvious one is straight up getting D3 extra command points, but it can also be handy to combine with Alliance of Agony, since you then make that stratagem effectively free.
Finally we have the only good special character in the book, Urien Rakarth. Weirdly Urien has 1 less attack than a basic Haemonculus, for reasons I don’t understand. However, he trades this for a basic Toughness 5, which means that he’s effectively T6 thanks to his own Master of Pain buff.
In terms of gear he comes with an ichor injector and a set of Haemonculus tools – not exactly a combat monster, this one! – and also the Casket of Flensing. This is a 12″ range, Assault 2D6, S3 AP-2 D1 gun which can only be fired once per game. Once I killed a whole Necron Wraith with it, but usually it’s very disappointing. I have no idea who dreamt this up and I don’t understand it – why is this very average gun single-use?
Whatever. You don’t take Urien for his damage output. His other rules include Haemovores, which gives you a chance to do mortal wounds to stuff near him in the Fight phase, and Contempt for Death, which halves damage he suffers (rounding up). He also has a Clone Field, which is just another way to say 4+ invulnerable save.
The real money with Urien is none of the above though, it’s Sculptor of Torments. This gives PROPHETS OF FLESH units within 6″ a +1 buff to both Strength and Leadership. This is huge. It makes Grotesques S6 and Talos S7, which hugely improves their damage output (particularly the latter – of which more later).
In terms of Warlord Trait, Urien is locked into having Diabolical Soothsayer – which is fine, since it’s really good. He’s a good choice for Warlord anyway, given that he’s usually running around behind a wall of Talos and Grotesques.
- Kabalite Warriors (K)
- Wracks (H)
- Wyches (W)
With HQs out of the way, it’s time to talk about Troops. There’s a single choice for each possible build, so we’ll discuss them all.
Kabalites are the standard Drukhari warrior, just an elf in razor-sharp armour with a gun that shoots poison so they can really enjoy your suffering. Profile wise they’re the same as any other ordinary Aeldari, with a 7″ move, WS and BS3+, S3 and T3, a single wound and attack and Ld 7 (8 for the Sybarite, their equivalent of a sergeant). With T3 and a fairly mediocre 5+ save, they don’t tend to stick around for long, although that 6+ Inured to Suffering can sometimes surprise you.
On the plus side, they are cheap at just 6pts/model. Your basic squad is 5 guys, but they can go up to 20, though I can’t imagine why you’d want to. Their basic weapon is the splinter rifle, the archetypal poisoned weapon, and they can also take a splinter cannon or dark lance (one per ten) and a shredder or blaster (one per five).
There’s a couple of basic things you can do with these. Very common is 5 guys with a blaster riding in a Venom, often in a Flayed Skull detachment. This gives you a ton of anti-infantry (anti-everything that isn’t a vehicle, really) firepower, and then an additional high-damage shot coming from the blaster. This is cheap at just 47pts for the squad (though that doesn’t include the cost of the Venom).
The alternative is a bigger squad in a Raider. Realistically, any of the weapons are good – depending what you want the squad to do and what the rest of your army can handle, you might opt for shredders and a splinter cannon for infantry-murder, or to pop in two blasters and a dark lance to really shred some tanks, or even a mix of all of the above.
The only real downside to Kabalites is how fragile they are, and thus their reliance on transports. They’re still great units, but once they’re out of the boats they often disappear very quickly.
Happily, your alternative option is to run very tough Troops. Wracks offer zero shooting output unless you give the Acothyst (sergeant) a special weapon, but they are T4, with a 4+ invulnerable save (again, assuming Prophets of Flesh) which can go up to T5 if they’re hanging out near a Haemonculus. They also have surprising combat punch, with 2 base attacks and Haemonculus tools mitigating their basic S3.
There’s not a lot else to say about Wracks – if you’re using a Covens list you’ll want at least 15, they’re good tough dudes who can take a bit of shooting, and at 9pts per you can throw three squads in your list for under 150pts to fill a Battalion. To sit around in the backfield holding objectives, you can’t ask for much more.
There is one trick worth highlighting here, and once again it’s thanks to Prophets of Flesh. For 2CP you can use the stratagem “Black Cornucopians” which lets you whip a unit of Wracks off the board, return it to full strength, and drop them anywhere within 6″ of a table edge and more than 9″ from enemy units. If you’re struggling to reach a key objective, or you have a single Wrack left and you’d really like there to be more, this is a handy stratagem to have in your back pocket.
And having discussed the tough guy Wracks, let’s talk about their complete opposite, the Wyches. These have a similar profile to the Warriors, although they gain an extra inch of Movement and an extra Attack. Their save is only 6+ though.
Wyches of course get Combat Drugs, and they have a Dodge save – which gives them a 6+ invulnerable save all the time, and a 4+ in the Fight phase. Finally, they get the same No Escape rule as the Succubus.
Much like Warriors, Wyches can be in squads of 5-20. Their basic kit is a splinter pistol and a Hekatarii blade, which gives them an extra attack for a mighty 3. Their leader, the Hekatrix, can take a blast pistol, and a power sword or agoniser, and depending on squad size 1-3 Wyches can also take Wych weapons as discussed for the Succubus.
On paper, Wyches seem like they might be alright. That’s a lot of attacks, and drugs can give them more, or alternatively S4 so that they hit a bit harder. However, they’re not cheap, and with T3 6+ they’re very fragile. With no ability to get out of a transport after it’s moved and then charge, they can struggle to make it to combat. Their best usage is the Wych bomb in a big squad, but that also makes them very vulnerable to Morale.
If you’re running a Wych Cult, though, you have to have them, so let’s talk about how to use them as effectively as possible. Firstly, the obvious solution is just to take 3×5 and keep them cheap to fill out a Battalion. It’s not great, but it’s possible.
Secondly, you might try them in a Cult of the Red Grief to go with your Succubus. This way they can zip up the board in a transport on turn 1, then on turn 2 they bail out 12+d6″ away and still get a re-rollable charge.
Thirdly there’s the Wych bomb – take a full squad of 20, drop them out of deep strike using the Webway stratagem, and charge into something. Using them this way your best option is probably to take Cult of the Cursed Blade, which gives you +1 Strength and also the pseudo-immunity to Morale, which can make that big squad stick around a bit longer after the initial charge.
The major problem with Wyches is that what they’re best suited to do is scrap with light infantry, and murdering light infantry isn’t exactly an area where Drukhari struggle. Most of the other options can do it from further away or on vastly less fragile platforms, too.
- Raider (K, W, or H)
- Venom (K, W, or H)
There’s two transports available to Drukhari, and they’re both open to any of the factions – although they get very little out of the non-Kabal factions.
The Raider is the original 40k pirate boat, originating way back in 3rd edition with the first launch of the Dark Eldar. The old model was one of the best in a rather dubious range, and the new one is a great re-imagining of it. On the table, it’s a very strong option. T5 W10 4+ save doesn’t sound great, but it also flies with movement 14″ (on its top bracket), has the Night Shields rule to give it a 5+ invulnerable save against ranged weapons, and crucially is open-topped, allowing the up to 10 models it can transport to shoot out of it. For a mere 80/85pts depending on armament, that’s pretty great. Gun-wise it mounts a single dark lance or disintegrator cannon – not great, but not nothing. A cheap and cheerful way to shield your fragile Kabalites from incoming fire, and zip around the board unloading shots into people.
The Venom is a smaller, lighter transport, which has half the transport capacity of a Raider and only 6 wounds, but also mounts a splinter cannon and twin splinter rifle (which can be upgraded to another splinter cannon). If you need 5 guys and their blaster to ride around the skies, while also packing a high rate of anti-infantry firepower, for a mere 65/75pts, then a Venom is your friend. They’re also -1 to be hit with shooting attacks and, like all other Drukhari vehicles, retain the 5+ Night Shields save, which makes that Ming vase of a defensive profile go a little bit further than it otherwise would.
- Beastmaster (W)
- Grotesques (H)
- Incubi (B)
- Court of the Archon – Lhamaeans, Medusae, Sslyth, Ur-Ghuls (K)
- Mandrakes (B)
The Elites section of the codex is exceptionally poor. Beastmasters are just guys who hang out with Beast Packs, allowing you to throw good points after bad, Incubi are a not-very-good combat unit in a book which has vastly better options in that field, and the Court of the Archon is self-admittedly a way for Games Workshop to include cool sculpts they were playing with, without much thinking about what they actually do on the table. The only use I’ve yet found for them is to take a single 15pt Ur-Ghul to ride in a Venom with an Archon, so that if the Venom is destroyed you’re at less risk of the Archon dying in the wreckage.
That leaves us with Grotesques and Mandrakes, and for my money the real winner is Grotesques. We’ll talk about Mandrakes first, and then come back to Grotesques after.
Mandrakes are our first Blades for Hire unit, which means that they don’t get any kind of Obsession buffs though they do retain Power from Pain. They come in units of 5-10, with an intriguing statline – 8″ move, S4, T3, with 3 Attacks. They also have that most bizarre of armour saves, 7+, which means they don’t get anything unless they’re in cover or have some other buff.
Special rule wise they have From Out of the Shadows, a rule which lets them reside in the shadow realm of Aelindrach (aka deep strike), and then the very cool Shrouded from Sight which gives them the double buff of a 5+ invulnerable save and being -1 to hit.
The interesting thing about Mandrakes is their weapons. In melee they have glimmersteel blades, giving them AP-1, and then for shooting there’s the baleblast – 18″ range, assault 2, S4 AP-1 attacks which also inflict mortal wounds on a 6+ wound roll. A squad of them can pour out a surprising amount of solid anti-infantry firepower, and then follow up with equally good melee attacks. Deep striking lets them be protected from early shooting, although the modern Tactical Reserves rules make that less effective than it once was. The only real strike against them is that at 16pts/model they’re not cheap, and like many Drukhari units they’re quite fragile. Probably not anyone’s first choice to include, but a neat alternative if you want to try out something a bit different – plus the models are really cool.
Once upon a time, Grotesques were what Wracks are now, except they were also shit and no-one used them. In the 5th edition rerelease, Wracks came into being to fit the small-guy Troops slot, and Grotesques became what they are today – ogre-sized mutant monstrosities. In 8th edition they come with a very tasty profile – M7″, WS 3+, S5, T5, W4, A4, and finally Ld8. Like their smaller Wrack brothers they only have a 6+ armour save, but who cares when you have the ubiquitous 4+ invulnerable from Prophets of Flesh? Well, except if you get Null Zoned or Death Hexed or play that really terrible Narrow the Search mission. But mostly who cares.
Your basic unit is 3 Grotesques, and you can get up to 10. Each one carries a monstrous cleaver and a flesh gauntlet – the first one makes them AP-2 and gives an additional attack, while the latter does mortal wounds to non-VEHICLE units on the roll of a 6+ to wound.
The application of Grotesques is extremely simple. Run them at things and hit those things very hard with a pile of high-quality attacks. They’re also very hard to get rid of.
The synergy here with a Haemonculus or Urien Rakarth should be obvious – boosting them up to Toughness 6, and potentially Strength 6 as well, makes them hit harder and much tougher to get rid of. About the only mark against them is not being Talos, although they’re also much cheaper and put more wounds on the table point-for-point. A great unit you can fully expect to build around should you so choose – although be aware that the “official” model is a single Finecast sculpt from the bad old days where that was acceptable, which can be yours for a mere £15.50 per. Our suggestion is to convert – Stormfiends, Crypt Fiends, or Ogor Bulls from Age of Sigmar make an excellent base.
- Beast Packs – Clawed Fiends, Khymerae, Razorwing Flocks (B)
- Hellions (W)
- Reaver Jetbikes (W)
- Scourges (B)
Beast Packs nowadays are three separate units, each more useless than the last. Right at the start of the edition there was a now-infamous build which relied on taking as many Razorwing Flocks as humanly possible and clogging up the entire board, ruining both your and your opponent’s day, but happily that’s gone the way of many early-edition gimmick builds. Sadly that was also the only use for any of the beast options. Hellions are less bad so much as a bit mediocre – they’re not unusable but much like the ordinary Wyches you want a big unit but it’s vulnerable to Morale, and at 14pts/per they’re a little too expensive for how easily they die to any anti-infantry fire which cares to come their way. One possible usage of them now is with Ynnari, where they can gain a 5+ invulnerable save which will keep them around that bit longer.
Reavers are exciting for two reasons. Firstly, they’re a Wych unit which is actually reasonably tough! T4, W2, and a 4+ save mean they’re vastly less likely to be deleted by a passing breeze than the rest of a Wych Cults army. Secondly, they have a gigantic 18″ movement, and then on top of that they can Advance another 8″ by default. If they’re in a Red Grief detachment which lets them advance and charge, they have a completely wild 26″+2d6″ threat range.
Weapon-wise, each of them totes an underslung splinter rifle, and the bikes have bladevanes which make them S4 AP-1, which is nice. You can throw in blasters or heat lances if you want, and there’s also the option of grav-talons or cluster caltrops to give them some mortal wound capacity.
There’s a couple of different ways you can go with the bikers. An obvious one is an Outrider detachment with the previously-described Red Grief Succubus and then 3×3 Reaver Jetbikes to fill it out. Their job is to suicide forwards on turn 1, tagging as many enemy units as possible to prevent them from shooting and giving your army a turn to get up the pitch. This works best against things like Guard gunlines, and is more or less useless against armies with a high preponderance of FLY or other means of falling back and firing. Alternatively, you can utilise the high max unit size (12) to throw in big units of them with grav-talons, giving you an effective turn 1 alpha strike of bikes flying across the table into your opponent’s face. There’s also the Eviscerating Flyby stratagem, which for 1CP lets you drop even more mortal wounds on something you’ve Advanced over. The former option is probably more effective, but the latter could be good fun and may surprise an unwary opponent who isn’t expecting you to pile into their deployment zone on turn 1.
Scourges are the second Blades for Hire unit under discussion here. These are somewhat like Swooping Hawks from the Craftworlds book, being jump pack infantry with a high-rate-of-fire gun. They move 14″, and have a 4+ save and 6+ invulnerable save, and like other jump pack infantry they can deep strike (here called Winged Strike). The real strength of Scourges is in their weapon options, however. Up to four of them can take an alternative weapon from a nearly-exhaustive list of what’s available in the book – any of splinter cannons, dark lances, heat lances, shredders, haywire blasters, or regular blasters.
The most effective of those choices are either the blaster, for a concentrated burst of high-damage shots, or the haywire blaster. Massing the latter is the best application of Scourges – either utilising their high movement stat and FLY or deep-striking onto the board to drop a pile of haywire shots into a hard target like a Knight or other crucial enemy vehicle. Like many other things in the Drukhari codex, this worked a lot better back when you could utilise Doom to make the haywire effect very reliable, but the theory still holds.
- Cronos (H)
- Talos (H)
- Ravagers (K)
Another rather thin slot here, with once again only 3 options. Happily, both Talos and Ravagers are really good. Cronos are a bit whatever, but they’re not actually bad, which is a nice change, though they won’t be discussed here.
You may detect a certain love for Talos in the following. This is because they’re really, really good. Talos come in unit sizes of 1-3. Their base profile is strong on its own – M8″, WS3+/BS4+, S6 T6, W7, A5, Ld8, Sv3+. Then throw in a 4+ invulnerable save (Prophets, remember?), and the buffs from Haemonculi/Urien which can bring them up to S7 T7. And they FLY (check the errata).
Then there’s the weapons. By default they have two macro-scalpels, but you probably want to switch one of them for a chain-flail. Additionally they have a gun mounted in their tail – there’s a few weird and wonderful options here, but by far the most common is the twin haywire blaster, functionally the same as the one mentioned before but twice as much of it.
What do those two melee weapons do? First there’s macro-scalpels, with the mighty profile of +1S, AP-2, D2. This can get you up to an effective Strength of 8 with Urien’s buff, and with the AP and Damage to really hurt what you’ve hit. Great for beating up on Knights, Primaris Marines, tanks, planes – basically anything you really want dead. The alternative is the chain-flails. These don’t buff your strength and they don’t give you any AP. What they do instead is to double your number of attacks, and also grant re-rolls to wound. That means each Talos is throwing out 10 S6 or S7 attacks at WS3+ which re-roll to wound. For murdering light infantry, or indeed anything with mediocre saves, these are fantastic. The sheer weight of dice can overcome a lot. Knowing the right time to choose between these two great melee options is crucial to utilising Talos effectively.
All this on a unit which is also blasting out 2D3 haywire shots per model and still benefits from Power from Pain, giving you a 6+ Feel No Pain, and then the potential to advance and charge and add +1 to hit rolls, meaning that by round 3 you’re piling in all those attacks on 2s to hit.
On top of all that, for 2CP you can re-roll wounds with the unit, perfect for when you really want to deploy macro-scalpels instead of chain-flails.
And they’re only 98pts per with the build described above. What’s not to like? Well, except that they give up secondary objectives in ITC like it’s their job, and they’re kind of slow and the best support that was available to them (Doom and Jinx) has been taken away. They’re still cool as hell though.
A Ravager is effectively an upgunned Raider. It loses the transport capacity, but gains T6 and mounts three disintegrators or dark lances.
Like many of the good Drukhari units, the application of Ravagers is very straightforward. You put them on the table with as many disintegrators strapped to them as possible, place your Archon next to them as described previously, point their 9 S5 AP-3 D2 shots at whatever you want dead, and roll dice until it goes away. They’re brutally effective, especially for a mere 125pts per. A Spearhead detachment of the Archon and 3 of these is a common sight, whether in a larger Drukhari army or souped in with other things.
- Razorwing Jetfighter (K or W)
- Voidraven Bomber (K or W)
There’s two flyers available to Drukhari, the Razorwing Jetfighter and the Voidraven Bomber. The Razorwing is clearly better than the Voidraven, but both have useful tricks and a Voidraven is far from the worst way to spend 165pts.
A Razorwing is an all-singing all-dancing murderer of the skies, with an armament including two disintegrators/dark lances, a twin splinter rifle/splinter cannon, and the wonderful triple-profile Razorwing missiles. The most common loadout is to take the first of each option, i.e. disintegrators and twin splinter rifle, to keep the plane cheap at 135pts. This gives you a pile of mid-strength high-AP mid-damage shots, plus the Rapid Fire 2 poison, and then your choice of missiles – of which the two most relevant profiles are either the shatterfield, which are d6 shots at S7 AP-1, re-roll wounds, or the necrotoxins, 3d3 poisoned shots which wound non-VEHICLE units on 2s.
Movement wise you’re looking at (on top profile) 20-72″, which you may recognise as the entire length of the board. You can always get a Razorwing where you want it, although sadly they lack the double-turn of the Craftworld flyers so it’s a lot harder to get them back out again if you misjudge your landing zone.
Defensively they share the same profile as a Ravager, though they gain the “Hard to Hit” rule common to all flyers, and of course you can only charge them if you have FLY.
Overall, Razorwings are a great way to deploy a brutal amount of firepower wherever you want it, although they do suffer a little from being so fast as they’re rarely in range to be buffed in the way that Ravagers can be. Still, they’re usually consistent performers, and you can’t argue with 135pts for what they give you.
Compared to the Razorwing, the Voidraven is a little lacklustre. It gains 2 wounds, which is nice, and it has a couple of unique guns – either of dark scythes or void lances. Dark scythes have the familiar S8 AP-4 profile, but they’re both d3 shots and d3 damage, while void lances are the only S9 weapon in the book and retain the d6 damage of the dark lance. Neither is really as good as just having more disintegrators. Voidravens also get missiles, sharing the shatterfield profile with Razorwings and also getting the unique implosion missile – Assault D3, S6 AP-3 D1. Quite why you’d ever want to use the implosion over the shatterfield is beyond me, and losing the option of necrotoxins is a real shame, but I guess it’s something.
Finally there’s the void mine. This is fantastic albeit gimmicky. Once per battle, you can pick an enemy unit you flew over, and roll 1d6 per model in the unit (up to a max of 10). For each 3+, do a mortal wound. Against vehicles or monsters, you roll 3d6 – and against a unit of vehicles or monsters, you roll 3d6 per model. Ironically the most relevant application of this is against other Drukhari armies to beat up on their Talos, but it can also be highly relevant against Kastelan Robots.
Overall, Voidravens are probably inferior to Razorwings – they trade the pure, straightforward brutality of the pile of guns for a couple of unique gimmicks which don’t really work out into a cohesive whole, and they pay 30pts extra to do it. When the gimmicks work though they really work – there’s nothing like straight up eliminating something with the void mine for a feels-good moment.
Other tips and tricks
That’s it for the unit breakdown. A large part of the possibilities available have been mentioned already, but for completeness this section adds some commentary on generally-applicable things which might not be relevant to a specific unit entry.
There are a number of key stratagems available which are generally applicable. Roughly in the order in which they appear in the Codex, these are:
- Webway Portal – alluded to in the Wych entry, this is similar to the Craftworlds version except it only applies to INFANTRY, BIKER or BEAST units. For 1/3 CP you can put 1/2 units into a webway portal, allowing you to deep strike them later in the game. Useful for Wych bombs, or perhaps a Grotesque bomb.
- Architects of Pain – for 1CP, you can pick a unit at the start of the battle round and use it as if it was one step higher on the Power from Pain table than it actually is. This is great for getting re-roll charges on a unit early in the game, or for making a key unit +1 to hit on turn 2 – Talos and Grotesques are a great target here.
- Lightning-Fast Reactions – common to all Aeldari codexes, this lets you spend 2CP to make a unit -1 to hit for a phase. Sadly this can only be used on non-Haemonculus units, so no -1 to hit Talos!
- Fleshcraft – for 1CP you can heal a Grotesque or Talos for D3 wounds, assuming there’s a Haemonculus within 3″ of them. Useful to keep them going a little longer.
- Fire and Fade – another 1CP stratagem which lets you move up to 7″ after shooting, although you can neither advance while doing so or charge afterwards. Mostly useful for taking a key objective that you were a little too far away from before.
- Cruel Deception – 2CP which allows you to fall back and shoot/charge.
- Screaming Jets – 1CP to put a VEHICLE with FLY into deep strike. This used to be used all the time to put Ravagers into deep strike for turn 1 protection, but is rarely seen since the Tactical Reserves changes.
- Hunt from the Shadows – 1CP to get +2 to saves from cover rather than +1. Can be clutch for keeping your fragile models alive just that little bit longer on a crucial objective.
- Enhanced Aethersails – 1CP to advance an automatic 8″ on a Raider or Ravager. Very helpful for late-game objective grabs, if you still have CP left by then.
- Agents of Vect – costing a gruesome 4 CP, this is a contender for the best stratagem in the game. When your opponent has used a stratagem, you can counter with Agents of Vect. You roll a d6 and on a 1 achieve nothing and squander your points. On a 2-5 their stratagem is stopped but they keep the points they spent on it, and on a 6 their stratagem is stopped and they lose their points. This is the Black Heart-specific stratagem and utilising it correctly is critical for blocking game-changing stratagems – common examples include Order of Companions on a House Raven Castellan.
- Masters of the Shadowed Sky – the Flayed Skull unique stratagem, this is much less spectacular than the Black Heart one. For 1CP you can gain +1 to hit against a model with FLY. Useful for countering flyers and similar.
The best relics have mostly been discussed already, but there’s a couple of other good ones.
- Parasite’s Kiss – the standard pistol relic Games Workshop keep trying to make happen. In this case it’s a splinter pistol which wounds on 2s, with AP-2 and D2, and which restores a wound to the firer if they kill a model with it. Hardly the best gun in the game, but not a bad inclusion as a free relic if for some reason you have a cheap and cheerful Black Heart Archon and aren’t taking Writ of the Living Muse.
- The Helm of Spite – the only native access to Deny the Witch for Drukhari. This has the bonus effect of causing your opponent to suffer Perils of the Warp if you do successfully deny.
- The Obsidian Veil – the unique Kabal of the Flayed Skull relic, this one gives you a 4+ invulnerable save which kicks in when an Archon’s shadowfield fails. Again, more of a nice to have than an essential piece of equipment, but not a bad use of a free relic.
In this section, rather than looking at the full range of possible Aeldari builds, we will discuss three inclusions which are commonly seen as bolt-ons to Drukhari lists, and then two common Drukhari detachments which are often included elsewhere.
This section originally read completely differently, back when Doom and Jinx were a thing. Instead, we’re now talking about Crimson Hunter Exarchs. Cheap and cheerful and self-sufficient, these are a great way to add some reliable firepower to a Drukhari list which can otherwise run out a bit after the requisite 3 Ravagers and 3 Razorwings.
Did you read the profile on a haywire blaster and think “I’d love this, but more?” Harlequins have the answer. Skyweaver jetbikes can take haywire cannons, blasting out d6 shots per model with all the same haywire goodness. They’re also tough, fast, and can come accompanied by useful units like Death Jesters with shrieker cannons. A great way to add a little more accuracy to your crucial haywire shots.
One thing that Drukhari lack natively is access to psychic powers and Deny the Witch (except for the Helm of Spite). Ynnari can help! With the new rules allowing you to drop the Ynnari characters in to any detachment except a Covens one, you can easily slot these guys in to provide something a little different. The Visarch isn’t much use since his key buff applies strictly to YNNARI units, but Yvraine is a great replacement for a second Archon since she brings great powers and is entirely self-sufficient, and the Yncarne can be an interesting choice for a big monster beatstick and distraction piece, even if he’s arguably a bit overcosted.
As you might have gathered, Razorwings are really good. Also, Agents of Vect is really good. So why not combine those two things and take an Air Wing detachment of Black Heart Razorwings to bolt into any Aeldari army? You get all that good firepower, and access to a really strong stratagem, for just over 400pts. An option that’s priced to move.
Similar to the planes, the straightforward firepower of 3 Ravagers backed up by a Black Heart Archon fits neatly into a Spearhead detachment and is good to go in any build. Once again, this also gets you access to Agents of Vect – perfect for making your Craftworlds or Harlequins army even more frustrating to play against.
So that’s it – nearly 10,000 words on how to play Drukhari. Maybe you’re reading this with visions of your torture elves flying across the table firing splinters into everything they see, or Talos drifting across the battlefield like gruesome wrecking balls. Possibly you’re already in Battlescribe jamming it all into a list. You might also just be reading it and shaking your head feeling overwhelmed. The best thing to do is just get out there and play some games! Good luck with all of your realspace raids, and if you have any questions, comments, feedback, or vitriolic abuse, fire it off to email@example.com and we’ll respond in kind.