After a few weeks hiatus, once again it is the most exciting of times – tournament time!
This weekend, along with several other goons, I’ll be going along to the Autumn iteration of Tides of War, a quarterly series of events held by the excellent Bristol Independent Gaming (BIG). Based on (very helpful) feedback on the last series of tournament reports I did, I’m changing up the format a bit. Rather than trying to cover details of my list and the tournament format at the start of the post-event write up, where it will inevitably get squeezed by my desire to start writing about exciting games before I forget the details, I’m going to do a short-ish tournament preview the week before, where I’m going to cover:
- The tournament format and style
- Details of my list
- Any exciting tricks or considerations for playing the army.
That way, anyone who wants a bit more depth about my army and the format before they start reading the game write-ups can have it, and anyone who just wants blow-by-blows and isn’t interested in the tryhard stuff can jump straight into that. I’m also going to be enhancing the structure of the reports themselves, but you’ll see how that looks next week. Without further ado, lets jump into it.
Tides of War is a one day event with three 1500 point games of Maelstrom of War (missions are set but only revealed on the day).
This really doesn’t need much in the way of explanation, as hopefully almost anyone interested enough in 40k strategy to read this is familiar with Maelstrom. Very briefly for those who aren’t, Maelstrom of War missions have 6 objective markers, and various “fixed” goals for each side to try and achieve, just like a basic “Eternal War” missions, but unlike those also have dynamic objectives for each side generated by drawing from a deck of cards. How cards are generated varies from mission to mission, but in general one has access to around 3 cards at any one time, and get VP for achieving them. In general, you can also win by blowing your opponent clean off the table (“tabling” them), though some events don’t have this as a rule.
Tides events make a few changes to the standard Maelstrom/Army Construction formula:
- No named characters are allowed in armies.
- All deployments are Dawn of War (i.e. 12″ zones on the long table edges).
- Tabling is a guaranteed win but is discouraged – winning by tabling gives a VP cap, scoring lots of Maelstrom points doesn’t.
Some armies are more affected than others by the restriction on named characters – it doesn’t affect me much because Eldar’s crop aren’t great outside Eldrad, but it’s more of a problem for something like Necrons where the named characters are some of the best units in the army. The fact that all games are Dawn of war is a bit more generally relevant – it makes gunline armies slightly less good, as Dawn of War deployment restricts how deep your deployment can be – in general, once you account for the size of a Tank’s chassis you’re going to be able to put one at most 30″ away from the enemy, and with fewer layers of protections in front of them.
As another strike against static shooty armies, BIG’s terrain setup is good – you can generally rely on a good quantity of area terrain plus LOS blockers big enough to hide tanks (though not many tables have huge central LOS blockers big enough to hide, say, a knight, as is popular at some events).
Finally, it’s always worth being aware, going into an event, of roughly how “cutthroat” the metagame is going to be. Tides events certainly have some hyper-competitive attendees and lists (last time my first two rounds were a Knight Castellan list and Triple Riptides), but in general they’re aimed at a slightly more relaxed level that appeals to a wider community than just the vicious tournament road warriors. From my point of view, this means that while I’m not going to take something unplayable to tides, I’m normally going to try and bring something interesting rather than the most horrifying list I can put together. Last time I took Necrons and managed a respectable 2-1. This time, I’ve found a different way to put myself on hard mode.
It’s a very exciting time to be playing mechanised Eldar – unless I’m very much mistaken, the newly released FAQ (which is live at Tides) is a big buff to my beloved space elves, especially in formats allowing you to double up on Battalions to generate silly amounts of command points. Being able to deploy an “attack surface” of only Alaitoc Vehicles with a 3+ save was already a premier level of alpha strike protection, being able to push those saves to 2+ is just filthy. It would be very silly for me to completely ignore that advantage.
Good news everyone.
Army List - 8CP 1499pts Battalion - +5CP 967pts Craftworld Mara-Nai (Alaitoc trait) HQ1: Autarch Skyrunner Khios-Sal (95pts), Laser Lance (8pts), Twin Shuriken Catapult (5pts) [108pts] WARLORD - An Eye on Distant Events HQ2: Farseer Ilen-Dain (110pts), Witchblade (0pts) [110pts] POWERS - Fortune, Doom RELIC - Faolchu’s Wing Troop1: 6 Dire Avengers (48pts), Exarch (0pts), 6 Avenger Shuriken catapults (24pts), Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (Exarch) (4pts) - [76pts] Troop2: 5 Dire Avengers (48pts), Exarch (0pts), 6 Avenger Shuriken catapults (24pts), Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (Exarch) (4pts) - [64pts] Troop3: 11 Guardian Defenders (80pts), 1 Heavy Weapon Platform (5pts), 1 Shuriken Cannon (10pts) - [103pts] Flyer1: Hemlock Wraithfighter (200pts), Spirit Stones (10pts) - [210pts] POWER - Jinx DT1: Wave Serpent (107pts), Twin Shuriken Cannon (17pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts) - [134pts] DT2: Wave Serpent (107pts), Twin Bright Lance (40pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts), Crystal Targeting Matrix (5pts) - [162pts] Super Heavy Auxiliary +0CP 532pts Craftworld Mara-Nai (Alaitoc Trait) LOW1: Wraithknight (402pts), Two Heavy Wraithcannons (100pts), Two Starcannons (30pts) - [532pts]
If you’d asked me to guess whether Wraithknights would get better or worse in the FAQ I certainly wouldn’t have guessed worse, but here we are. Nothing about them has technically changed, but the fact that they’re Titanic means that they don’t benefit from “prepared positions”, which when they’re already dangerously vulnerable for their cost if you don’t go first is a problem – especially as nothing has appreciably changed about how dangerous a Castellan is to it for the first turn. Having a gigantic target that doesn’t get the buff from prepared positions heavily negates any benefit the army gets from it, to the point where in many matchups I’m unlikely to even use it. However, I’ve been promising people I’d run a Wraithknight at the next Tides for months, and I’m nothing if not a man of my word.
This might be a complete disaster.
What’s Wrong with this List?
There are three main problems with this list as I see it:
- It’s low on bodies – while Alaitoc tanks are great, one of the takeaways I had from Battlefield Birmingham on longer reflection is that I’d swung the pendulum way too far away from simply having boots on the ground, which made me very vulnerable to a bad turn or a spike roll from my opponent. This army does not even slightly address this problem.
- It’s low on command points – Getting a dual battalion in 1500 is hard if you still want fun things but still doable – I’m taking a Wraithknight to a 2000 point game this week, and the other 1500 for that is two battalions and two planes, which would be a substantially better bet than this list. This is even more of a problem than normal because the Wraithknight wants access to delicious CP. Partially this is because I know that some people are going to let me run an army with 14CP in a few weeks. This makes other amounts look deeply deficient.
- It has a Wraithknight in it. Wraithknights looked a bit overcosted before the Imperial and Renegade Knights books came out, and look like a complete joke next to both relic-equipped Crusaders or Gallants and any flavour of Dominus Knight at all. Suffice it to say that were I inclined to swing a different way from the second Battalion with swapping up my list, for the same price as the Knight I could have two Fire Prisms, a Crimson hunter Exarch and change. I know which one is better.
Especially Problematic Matchups
The key matches where I think I’m at risk of getting totally wrecked are:
- Anything with a Castellan, especially any knight army running multiple big ones. Castellan plus one or more Gallants is likely the worst matchup (hi Corrode).
- Good Eldar or Dark Eldar lists.
Both of these present the clear danger that if they take the first turn, they’ll just straight-up kill the Wraithknight, at which point it’s game over. Plenty of armies might try and do this, but for some it would actually be a mistake – against a guard gunline an Alaitoc Wraithknight is relatively durable as their most cost-efficient shooting is only AP-2, significantly reducing the disadvantage of not having an invuln compared to other knights, as mathematically, a 5+ save plus -1 to hit is slightly better than a straight 4++ against BS4+ armies and equivalent against 3+ armies.
A House Raven Castellan or a competent Eldar force, on the other hand, have a pretty good chance of pulling it off. Knights are probably the very worst matchup, because at least if I run good and survive the Eldar turn their stuff is generally pretty good targets for a Wraithknight, but the 3++ Knights can crank laughs at Heavy Wraithcannons, and I really need a turn’s head start to have any chance of taking an army mounting that. In addition, a relic-equipped Gallant will trivially kill a Wraithknight in a single round of combat. Jerk.
Given that Knights are likely still the best game in town after the FAQ, the fact that this is such a bad matchup is the main reason a Wraithknight has gone from merely a less effective choice to an outright albatross around an army’s neck – the uniformity and depth of threats Eldar can field is one of their great advantages in the metagame, and putting a Wraithknight in completely negates that.
Hilariously, Harlequins specced to hunt knights are actually a good matchup for me, because the Wraithknight is a “Wraith Construct” rather than a vehicle, so the Haywire does nothing.
Is There Anything Good About this List?
Upsides of Wraithknights
While Wraithknights are horrible in the current metagame, I’d have felt substantially less bad about fielding one prior to the knight book, because though there are vastly better things you can do for the price in the Eldar book, Wraithknights let you do some cool things – pre-knight codex the deal was that knights got more raw power, but Wraithknights had access to all the buffs and synergies that Eldar excel in. If they get the 100-150pt drop they need in Chapter Approved they could start to see a bit of play. The Sword/Shield loadout should be priced in the same range as the Gallant, while ~420 points is probably a good spot for the loadout I have up there. We don’t talk about the Suncannon. Alternatively, a smaller drop, some buffs to their weapons and the return of fly keyword, which they had in previous editions, would also work. Give us back fly you cowards.
Chief among these advantages is the “Fortune” psychic power, which lets you give a unit (including a Wraithknight) a 5+ feel no pain. This is normally of no interest to the style of Eldar lists I play, as they thrive on similar redundant threats. That’s obviously great, but means that putting a proactive protective buff on a unit is of limited value, because your opponent can likely target another similar unit to better effect. Buffs like Fortune are generally best where you have either a unit that’s outrageously better than the others in your army, or threatens to do such bad things if left unchecked that your opponent has to consider going after them through the buff. As an example of this, Fortune is used to great effect by Ynnari armies to buff up their large units of Shining Spears, as they fill both these roles exceptionally well.
Coincidentally, so does a Wraithknight. Once you stick a 5+ FNP on an Alaitoc Wraithknight, following the same maths as earlier it’s suddenly as resilient as if it had a 4++ against BS3+ armies and slightly better against BS4+ armies, assuming everything they’re shooting at it is AP-4. Any less than that, and it starts to be a seriously difficult to shift – against a Guard Battle cannon line, you’re actually at that point doing slightly better than a 3++ knight would be, which as we’ve covered before, is an extremely good place to be. Unlike models I usually play with, a Wraithknight actually does want to rush towards the enemy and engage in combat as well, fitting into the criteria of “demanding an answer” – if you don’t have a Gallant guarding your lines, letting a Wraithknight get amongst you is likely to go seriously badly.
Part of this is because of something that neatly takes us on to our next topic – strategems. There are a few strategems in the Eldar book that Wraithknights especially benefit from:
- Supreme Disdain. This lets you pick a model in the fight phase and get an additional attack for each hit roll of six. This interacts hilariously with the standard titanic feet weapon that Wraithknights have – that says “for each attack make three hit rolls” not, importantly, “triple your attacks while attacking with this weapon”. This means that, with this strategem, each 6 on your original 12 hit rolls gets you an additional attack, which becomes three more hit rolls. Worked out to the shorthand people actually use, this means that this 1CP strategem gives your wraithknight an average of 6 additional attacks (or 8 if you’re in a re-roll 1s bubble). That’s obviously real good, and combined with Doom and Jinx gives you a chance of roundhouse kicking a partially wounded Gallant down before it can murder punch you, or going absolutely ham on anything smaller than that.
- Runes of Witnessing. This turns a farseer into a Space Marine Lieutenant for a phase, i.e. gives them a re-roll 1s to wound bubble. I need to remember this exists more generally given how comically bad my Farseers are at sticking Doom, and I’m hoping playing with the knight a bit will help train this, because while it’s a poor man’s Doom in most cases (but still worth using if you’ve missed the cast) it’s much better than normal combined with Heavy Wraithcannons, because at S16 you’re wounding near everything on 2s anyway, so it becomes as good as a full re-roll.
- Tears of Isha. Heals a Wraith Construct for D3 wounds. Pricy at 2CP, but very worth it on a Wraithknight if it shifts a bracket up. Also very funny on a Hemlock, which is a Wraith Construct and almost no one remembers.
All in all, while it won’t stand up to top tier lists specced for hunting large targets, a properly buffed Wraithknight can still cause big problems for armies like Marines and Guard, and is quite tasty against Custodes too. Obviously none of these matchups are really a problem for a well designed Eldar list anyway, but it’s worth calling out that it’s definitely not so bad as to make your good matchups terrible. It’s even potentially preferable to some of the things I normally take against the hated Tyranids – they struggle with alpha striking a knight, and it can actually go toe to toe with them in melee, while being great at killing their ranged nasties.
Low Drop Count
While I’ve listed “not enough boots on the ground” as a problem with the army, the swing in survivability from having Fortune on the knight is so great that, at least at 1500 points, I think you have to commit to aiming for a low drop count to maximise your chance of getting that first turn, doing a bit of damage and going “shields up”. To this end, the army can squeeze down to a tiny five drops, meaning that really only pure triple Questoris/Dominus knights are going to underdrop us – even the 1500pt Custodes army I played against at a previous tides had (I believe) 6 drops.
This also give us a bit of scope to play around with another thing from the Eldar book I underuse – the Phantasm strategem. If I want to, after deployment is done, I can redeploy 3/5 of my drops. This potentially lets me do some nasty bait and switches against something like Tau, who tend to deploy as a castle. Lets imagine I place my first two drops down – my Wraithknight and a Wave Serpent, say, at one end of the long edge. The Tau player is very likely to start building their castle at that end of the board. Then I put my third drop, the Hemlock, at the other extreme end. The speed of a Hemlock means they’re unlikely to react, and will hopefully continue to build their castle opposite my big drops. If I finish up by say putting my Autarch with the Hemlock and the second wave serpent with the first group, once deployment ends I have the option of picking up the half of my army at either end of my board and moving it to the other end. Against Tau this could be absolutely brutal – if they’re running Triple Riptides and i put my Wraithknight 37″ away from them, their riptides are likely only going to be hitting it on sixes (or maybe fives if they land lots of markerlights), which given the HBC isn’t the best Wraithknight hunting weapon anyway is going to brutally curtail the effectiveness of any alpha strike they try and pull off. My Wraithknight, plane and wave serpents, conversely, can all close to attack range without any penalties to their effectiveness.
This trick also has potential applications against Knight Gallants – if I can bait one into deploying at one end of the board I can then Zoidberg my way down the far end once deployment is complete.
The Other Stuff is All Great
Wave Serpents and Hemlocks remain some of the best units in the game. Shuriken fire combined with doom is still very deadly (though I have a lot less of it here than I’d normally like). Wave Serpents excel against gunlines in Dawn of War deployment too, because they’re very likely to be able to pull of bully charges to lock major shooting units down, which is one of the reasons they’re so great. Finally, the army is mobile which helps in Maelstrom, though notably deficient in anything that wants to camp a home objective, so I need to make sure to put them more centre board than I normally would.
- Space Marines
- Chaos Space Marines
I definitely feel like it can take a good crack at Tau, Nids or Custodes as well.
That’s the theory – on Sunday we get to see how it all works in practice. Imagine the Paragon Gauntlet punching a Wraithknight in the skull, forever.
Do leave some feedback if you feel this new format is going to enhance the battle report experience for you – it’s honestly helpful for me to sit down and write how to play my army anyway, but hopefully others can enjoy this (or in certain peoples’ case, be warned about my super sekrit anti-Gallant strategy) as well.