Updated April, 05, 2021
I think I must be writing this post partially in the quixotic and hubristic hope that it might somehow find its way in front of one of the actual developers who writes rules for the game. This is obviously silly, but I can’t help myself. I am especially fond of the work of Robbin Cruddace and Elliot Hamer whose work on the new Harlequins content has not only made the faction more competitive, but also rewards players for running their harlequins in a manner consistent with the lore. In part, Warhammer 40k is a way of telling a story, and it is rewarding when the stories that unfold on our game tables are consistent with the broader narrative of the game.
I doubt that these talented and proven designers need my suggestions, and it is quite certain that the rest of my readers don’t need to read them. The truth is that I am really writing this because this it’s something I think about in the shower more than I should, and maybe if I put these ideas out into the world, I can move on to spending that shower time doing something useful, like planning my next list.
If you decide to read this, I hope it is because you enjoy thinking about tinkering with rules. I promise that my next post will be useful rather than self-indulgent.
But here we go.
Like all 40k players, craftworld enthusiasts are hoping that 9th edition will eventually give a boost to some of our most problematic units so that more of the models in our collections can find places in our lists without those choices immediately disadvantaging us. We also want our units to play in ways that are consistent with the fluff.
From a fluff perspective, it seems clear how Eldar should play on the table: they are a low model-count, elite control army. Their abilities, stratagems, and psychic powers should be good at debuffing enemy units and controlling their movement/shooting while also creating devastating combos that make even the most humble Craftworlds unit lethal. Because the Asuryani are a dying race that can hardly afford the loss of even a few aeldari lives, unit-trading should be heavily discouraged except when it can be achieved at a value of at least 2-1. A Craftworlds player should have paths to victory in competitive play that leave much of her army intact at the end of the game; (this is in sharp contrast with a Ynnari force where it absolutely makes sense that even when the death-elf player wins by a significant margin, everything in the army- except perhaps the triumvirate- should have died to achieve victory.)
I don’t need rules that make all my units better killers. Instead, I want the updated rules to make narrative sense and to create opportunities for each unit in the eldar line to play a useful role that isn’t better performed by something else for fewer points, (or isn’t wildly outclassed by a similar unit from another faction that plays like eldar but is overall way better- like Ad Mech.) Every unit and weapon should be the best choice for a particular obstacle or task.
I would especially like to see updates to units that didn’t see much tournament play in 8th edition. Although I have ideas about just about every unit in to codex, I will only address the handful of non-character units that were really left behind in a big way by 8th edition, or that have been rendered obsolete by the 9th edition point changes. (If you, dear reader, are actual rules-writer for GW interested in my ideas about units not discussed here, please click that contact tab above and I will sign an NDA faster than you can say, “unspeakable-secrets-of-the-Black-Library.”)
NOTE: I don’t discuss point costs below, but I am just assuming that many eldar units will see a moderate to significant cost reduction in the 9th edition codex to bring them in line with units from other factions, or significant improvements to stats and abilities. It currently feels like Craftworlds units are pointed to account for the benefits of buffs from at least one psychic power and one stratagem as though the effects of those buffs were inherent to the units datasheets, while factions with access to obscenely powerful auras and stratagems pay no such premium despite similar utility created by these combos. (Ad Mech, for example, pays only 3 points more for its dog-horse rangers than we pay for ours, but Ad Mech rangers have 3 wounds instead of 1, a pregame move, better movement, better shooting, better melee, better armor, and a stratagem that lets them run up to 12 inches away if anyone declares a charge against them.)
Here are my thoughts on specific units
Eldar aspect warriors are supposed to be elite specialists who can be combined to form an army with an answer to any obstacle. As such, I think the rules should encourage a player to include several small squads of aspect warriors in her army, while also discouraging the spamming one particularly powerful unit. I think the best way to promote this kind of build is to provide each aspect warrior shrine with a single powerful but situational shrine-specific stratagem. (That way, even if the stratagems greatly enhance a unit’s value there is still little incentive to include more than a single squad, as a particular stratagem can only be used once per phase).
There are at least two aspect warrior shrines that struggled to find a place in any competitive eldar list in 8th edition because they neither hit hard, nor offered a tactical advantage that wasn’t better achieved by a different unit; I am thinking of striking scorpions and warp spiders.
Striking Scorpions: In the lore, Striking Scorpions appear from nowhere behind enemy lines to butcher enemy infantry or assassinate key commanders. They are consummate ambushers who excel at taking the enemy unaware, and a wise enemy general advancing his forces in the field would need to do so with extra care when facing an aeldari war host because of the threat posed by these deadly infiltrators.
On the table, 8th edition Striking Scorpions rarely ambushed anybody. Instead, they would deepstrike on turn two or three to fail a statistically unlikely charge and then be shot down. Even if they did succeed on a charge, they did not inflict much damage or achieve a tactical purpose, and were very likely to be quickly slaughtered. Occasionally, they could grab an objective if your opponent was silly enough to leave one completely uncontested, but you could easily have taken that same objective with any number of other fast units or deep strikers. As a result, 8th edition scorpions were exclusively an emotional include.
How I would fix them: Striking Scorpions could use 1 more attack, but I don’t think they need major changes to their weapons; instead, I would add the following stratagem:
[“Scorpion Strike” 1 CP
Select a striking scorpion unit in deepstrike. At the beginning of your opponent’s charge phase, deploy this unit at least 6″ from enemy models and wholly within 3” of any terrain feature that is not in base-to-base contact with enemy models.]
Allowing Scorpions to deepstrike at the beginning of your opponent’s charge phase would make them true ambushers. Not only could they screen your units from enemy chargers if you kept those units in or behind unoccupied terrain, but if the opponent is not able to control the terrain in his own backfield, the Scorpions become a real threat to his heavy weapons teams, squishy objective holders, and commanders. In any case, Scorpions that survived the enemy fight phase would then be well positioned on your turn to move and charge unprotected enemy units just as they are meant to do.
With the addition of this simple stratagem, a single squad of Striking Scorpions would be worth considering in any eldar list, even though they aren’t heavy hitters in melee.
Warp spiders were introduced in the very first eldar codex in the second edition of the game. In the fluff, Warp Spiders take their name from tiny sparkling creatures that evolved from the wraithbone cores of the craftworlds’ infinity circuits. (See page 10 of Codex Eldar.) These mercurial animals can melt into the infinity circuits and then crystalize in a new location on the wraithbone structure as though teleporting. In addition to sparkling, they defend the craftworld by destroying fragments of psychic energy that find their way into the infinity circuits and might eventually coalesce into daemons of the warp. Like their namesakes, Warp Spiders are teleporting aggressive defenders; the Death Spinner they wield is the pinnacle of the sort of aeldari advanced weaponry that makes imperial technology look archaic. In second edition the Death Spinner had a large flamer template template, wounded automatically, had -2AP and killed any infantry model that failed the armor save regardless of wounds. It really did make imperial weapons look primitive.
In 8th edition, Warp Spiders were overpriced foot cavalry each armed with two thirds of a Shuriken Cannon. If Swooping Hawks were fast light infantry kitted out to deal with hordes, perhaps Spiders were supposed to be fast heavy infantry kitted out to threaten heavier targets at close range and hold objectives under fire. But in practice, they lacked the reliable armor penetration and damage profile to pose a threat to multiwound infantry and light vehicles, nor did they have the fire output to deal with hordes. Nothing was afraid of spiders. And at T3 with no invuln, they were not reliable at holding points except against the fairly trivial challenges. They do have a role in 9th, but it is to teleport around the field activating Scamblers; and no Aspect Warrior shrine should primarily be devoted to a non-combat role.
How I would fix them: the Death Spinner is clearly based on the same technology as Doom Weavers and Shadow Weavers, both of which can target units without line-of-sight. It seems obvious that the Death Spinner should be the close range version of this weapon, able to target enemy units on the opposite side of a wall or small hill. Also, in order to give spiders a distinctly different role from hawks, I would give them a stratagem that honored the 2nd edition idea that spiders were especially dangerous to multi-wound infantry models:
“Spider’s Bite” 1CP: Play when a squad of Warp Spiders selects a target in the shooting phase. Until the end of the phase, wound rolls of 4+ made for this unit’s Death Spinners have a damage profile of 2.
Now spiders have a unique and specific role: they hunt down hard to reach threats hidden from view- much like the creatures that gave them their name, AND with a CP expenditure they can pose a threat to the harder targets that hawks and wind riders struggle to damage. However, it might make sense to make Death Spinners heavy weapons, rather than assault, as the -1 to hit would provide balance and make them even less useful against light infantry, which are hawk’s specialty.
Other Aspect Warrior Stratagems:
Fire Dragons: “Hit and Run” 1CP
“Play this Stratagem in your movement phase. Until the end of turn, one unit of Fire Dragons may disembark after a transport they are mounted in has moved, instead of before.”
Now that a recent FAQ has established that eldar units can Fire and Fade back into a transport on the same turn they disembarked from that transport, “Hit and Run” would make it possible for Fire Dragons to deliver a blow without a 100 percent chance of being easily exterminated. This might initially appear overpowered, but it really isn’t if you consider that this combo is still significantly weaker than just giving Asuryani an open-topped transport like the ones enjoyed by Harlequins and Drukhari. Also- because it could only benefit a single unit, there would be no danger of Fire Dragon spam trying to elbow out Soaring Spite Harlequins with their 6 fusion boats.
This would also help distinguish Fire Dragons from Wraithguard with D Cannons. Wraithguard are best for Deepstriking, Fire Dragons are mobile fighters.
It also seems obvious to me that fusion guns need to be at least as hard-hitting as the imperial equivalent. In the lore, Craftworld tech is superior to imperial tech, so on the table they should at least be equal. At the moment, imperial weapons are generally better.
“Swooping Hawks: “Jump Back” 1CP
“Play this stratagem when an opponent declares a charge against a unit of Swooping Hawks. The Swooping Hawks may immediately move up to 12″ though it were the movement phase.”
Highly situational, but would enhance Hawks roll as mobile light harriers, especially when combined with the exarch ability that makes charges more difficult when firing overwatch. (I originally thought the movement should be limited to 6″, but that was before I realized Ad Mech has an identical stratagem for their horse-dogs that lets them move 12″.)
Shinning Spears: “Indomitable Agility” 2CP
“Play during your movement phase when one of your units of Shinning Spears falls back from combat. They may shoot and charge this turn as normal.”
This restores a single unit of Shinning Spears to their full 8th edition utility, but at a steep CP cost. Also, from a narrative perspective, I really struggle to see why melee jet bikes could not just keep flying and attack someone else, as they presumably are not actually stopping to fight.
Dark Reapers: “Web of Skulls” 1CP
“Play on a unit containing a dark reaper exarch. Instead its normal shooting attack, a Dark Reaper Exarch may make an attack with the following weapon profile: Pistol4, Range 6″ S5, 0AP. A unit wounded by this weapon is at -2 to its leadership until end of turn.”
This one is highly situational as reapers already do what they are meant to do effectively, but it gives them a little bit of defense in close combat while building off the lore that they inspire fear in their enemies. Also, its a nod to
the Second Edition and Rogue Trader days, when Reaper Exarchs carried a throwable melee flail made of skulls and chainmail.
Dire Avengers: “Vengeful Fire” 1CP
“Play this stratagem when an enemy makes a shooting attack that eliminates at least one model in a unit of Dire Avengers. Those Dire Avengers may immediately make a shooting attack against that enemy unit as though it were the shooting phase.”
The ability to stand firm and grittily return fire on the frontline would further distinguish Avengers from Guardians, as well as invoking their identity as vengeful shock troops.
“Mind-Piercing Shriek” 1 CP
Use this ability after a unit of Howling Banshees has completed a successful charge. Units within 6″ of the Howling Banshees lose ‘Objective Secured’ or equivalent abilities and do not benefit from auras generated by your opponent’s units until the beginning of your next movement phase.
Now a unit of Banshees isn’t just a fast-moving mediocre melee unit. This would give a single unit of banshees an important role to play both in the primary objective game and as a counter to combos created by powerful enemy auras.
The Avatar of Khaine
The Avatar is a living shard of the eldar war god, incarnated through the bloody ritual sacrifice of an aspect warrior dubbed “The Young King” for the purposes of the ceremony. In the fluff, the Avatar- with its molten body and signature weapon the Wailing Doom- is a terrifying and potent embodiment of the fury of the old aeldari empire and the capacity of individual eldar to dedicate themselves mind and body to violent slaughter. Each craftworld has a single avatar that only woken in times of greatest need.
On the table, the 8th edition Avatar was not something that anyone brought to war in times of great need. In fact, it only showed up in pretty casual games in which it would lumber up the board until it was probably charged and slaughtered in a single turn of close combat. (“The Avatar Resurgent” stratagem was supposed to prevent this, but at 3CP it is just too expensive to invest in a model that was already over costed and could easily fail to do damage to an enemy with an invuln save.) You could mitigate its slow pace a little by making it your warlord and giving it the “Falcon’s Swiftness” warlord trait to increase its movement by two, but it was still just too damn pokey to pose a reliable threat. Armies without melee, could usually just avoid it until its escort was killed and it could be shot off the table easily.
I think a lot of the design issues with the Avatar came from the fact that it was clearly pegged in some way to a Daemon Prince of Khorne. From a fluff perspective, this makes sense: both are incarnations of gods of slaughter. They have nearly identical stat lines, daemonic auras, etc. however a Daemon Prince of Khorne could have wings, which increased its mobility enough to make it a credible threat and there were stratagems that could enhance it in other ways. The Avatar just didn’t post the same threat or create equivalent synergies.
The new 9th edition point values put the avatar at 235, which is probably consistent with his mathematical damage output and relative defenses, but I have a suspicion that whatever math GW is using has not taken into account the fact that the Avatar will almost never fight first turn, and his limited speed and inability to circumvent obstacles means that he is unlikely to ever threaten a unit that the opponent really wants to keep away from him; the only really excellent targets for the Avatar are high wound tanks and monsters with no invuln or a poor one, so his actual tactical value on the field is less than his math, which doesn’t seem to be reflected in the points. Also, including an Avatar means taking an HQ space away from a high-value psyker, and because players can only have a single avatar in an army, there is no danger of Avatar spam if he is efficiently costed.
There are a few ways in which 9th edition gave the Avatar a little bump automatically. The smaller board size and greater emphasis on midfield objective control will make its speed less of an issue, while the ability to shoot with its sword in melee will slightly increase its damage output. Also, now that everyone starts the game with more command points, “the Avatar Resurgent” is more viable at least for a single use. That said, the Avatar still needs to be tougher in melee so that getting into close combat with the war god is something opponents are motivated to avoid, not gleefully instigate. Like Asurman, the Avatar should probably have +1 to its invuln save in close combat. From a fluff perspective, I think a better melee invuln makes sense given the molten body.
Currently, the Avatar also grants immunity to moral checks for Aeldari units within 12”. This was never that useful in 8th and will be even less useful in 9th edition as blast weapons incentivize small squads that already have little potential to suffer from failed moral because of naturally high aeldari leadership.
Instead, I think the avatar could be made useful with the following improvements:
-The Bloody Handed Bane: Enemy units within 1″ of the avataer must subtract 1 from their armor saving throws.
(This would give the avatar an edge against really tough enemy close combat units with invulnerable saves. The is an appropriate role and would also create synergy with other eldar melee units. )
-Fury of Khaine: When the avater is reduced to 0 wounds, he can with make one more attack as though it were the shooting phase, or fight one more time as though in were the close combat phase.
(This would increase the damage output of the avater to better match that of units with a similar point cost. This power would also create a potent- albeit expensive- synergy with “The Avatar Resurgent.”
-Improve the Wailing Doom: It should do D3+3 to be a more reliable damage dealer.
+1 to his armor saves in close combat.
I cannot think of a sub faction in all of 40k more exclusively associated with a single unit that craftworld Saim-Hann: the wind riders of Saim-Hann are known as wild riders. Every single member of the craftworld is part of a wild rider family, a clan of noble warriors who compete from the time they are young to outdo one another in contests of speed and agility on their jet bikes. When Sam-Hainn goes to war, they do so as one of the most potent cavalry forces in the 41st millennia, distinguished by the hit-and-run tactics of their wild riders.
In 8th edition 40k, however, Saim-Hann could not go to war at all unless they had lots of infantry walking behind their jetbikes to generate command points. Actually, the truth is that Saim-Hann pretty much never went to war in 8th edition. Their sub faction bonus was limited compared to those given to other craftworlds and didn’t do much to reflect the alleged strengths of their signature wild riders. Saim-Hann bikes could move and fire heavy weapons at no penalty and all Saim-Hann units could reroll failed charges; however, the only heavy weapons a wild rider could take were scatter lasers, which have a 36” range so don’t depend on mobility as much as the twin-linked catapults and cannons that seem more thematic for the in-your-face hit and run tactics they are known for. As for rerolling charges, wild riders don’t carry melee weapons, so they avoid close combat. To add insult to injury, the Saim-Hann unique stratagem could not benefit wild riders at all.
The current 9th edition update allows Saim-Hann bikes with heavy weapons to make an advance move and still fire. This resolves nothing, and I am sure it is just a temporary fix to address the fact that the 9th edition rules let all vehicles move and fire heavy weapons without a penalty.
How I would fix them: although I am normally against sub faction bonuses that focus on a particular unit, Saim-Hann seems like an obvious exception. Given that their windriders are the core of every Saim-Hann war host and every Saim-Hann craftworlder learns to ride a jetbike, their windriders clearly should count as troop units and should probably have at least CP driven access to “objective secured.” Windriders are fragile, so they could not camp on objectives with impunity, but they could grab them at key moments by eliminating small unsupported enemy troop units.
In place of the charge bonus that they received previously, I think all Saim-Hann bikes should carry a natural -1 to hit against shooting attacks the turn after they make an advance move, as they rely on their superior reflexes to avoid enemy fire rather than hiding in cover.
I would also replace their unique stratagem with one that grants a single squadron of wind riders the ability to make a regular move after shooting, essentially a second “fire an fade” that allows a full move so that they can strike the enemy with their close range shuriken catapults and then fall out of threat range, just as they do in the fluff. (Harlequins have a stratagem that does exactly this, except that it isn’t restricted to bikes, so there is precedent.)
These changes would make Saim-Hann play in a way that is consistent with the narrative, and feel distinctly different from the other craftworlds.
The eldar of Beil-Tan are the most militant and aggressive of the craftworlders, driven by a genocidal dream of restoring the old aeldari empire by exterminating just about everyone else. Because all aeldari of Biel-Tan must follow the path of the warrior upon reaching maturity, this craftworld can field far more aspect warriors than any other.
It seems obvious that the Biel-Tan craftworld bonuses should encourage the inclusion of aspect warriors and reward aggressive tactical play focused on the quick elimination of enemy units.
For some reason, the 8th edition Bel-Tan bonus instead encouraged Bel-Tan players to pass over aspect warriors in favor of guardians an jetbikes, conferring on shuriken weapons the ability to reroll 1s to hit. This made Bel-Tan a descent option for players who wanted to run hordes of guardian bombs and jetbikes, but even these builds really weren’t very competitive compared to bonuses offered by other sub factions. The designers did try to incentivize aspect warriors by also giving Bel Tan players a +1 to leadership values for these units, but with the naturally high leadership and small squads that characterize aspect warriors, that bonus was fairly meaningless.
I would love to see 9th ed codex replace the shuriken weapon reroll with an ability that allows aspect warriors to reroll unmodified hit rolls of 1 to reflect the savage motivation of these expansionist maniacs. This would make Biel-Tan the go-to craftworld for players who want to field large numbers of aspect warriors, which is as it should be; (it would also create interesting synergy with the changes I proposed for the Avatar.) The BLAST keyword would provide a check on the benefit posed by rerolling ones, as it makes aspect warriors vulnerable when run in squads of more than 5. I don’t think the rerolls would be problematic- in fact, they would rarely enhance damage output more than “expert crafters,” a bonus that applies to every unit in the army rather than just aspect warriors.
Alternatively- if a designer were to implement Aspect-specific stratagems, as I suggested earlier in this post, it might be interesting if those particular stratagems were 0 CP for Biel-Tan detachments. There is already a precedent for “0” CP stratagems, and a change like this would absolutely make Biel-Tan the “go to” sub-faction for Aspect Warrior driven lists.
I would also add an ability that triggered when an enemy unit is destroyed in the name of the space elf empire:
WARRIORS OF THE SWORDWIND
“when a Bel-Tan unit in your army destroys an enemy unit, it may immediately move up to 7” as long as that move brings it closer to the nearest enemy unit, although it may not end its move within 1” of enemy models. No unit may be moved more than once per turn using this ability.”
This second bonus would encourage Bel-Tan lists to favor aggressive units that want to close with the enemy as quickly as possible and create interesting tactical synergy with “fire and fade.”
The Wraith Knight
These poor guys. They are supposed to be eldar super weapon of the end-times, able to take on greater daemons in single combat with their ghost glaives, or blast enemies directly into the hellscape of the warp with the fearsome wraithcannon, the most powerful ranged weapon in the eldar arsenal.
In 8th edition, the wraith knight was pretty much totally absent from the tournament scene in anything resembling a competitive list. (I ran mine often in semi-competitive games because I love the model and the fluff, but I don’t think it ever came close to earning its points, especially with those tragically abysmal wraith cannons.) Heavy wraith cannons might look good on paper with S16 and AP-4, but they only have 4 shots, miss 1/3 of the time even assuming the knight is still on top profile, and are likely to ping off invulnerable saves if you try to use them on high value targets. They also have the same D6 damage profile as the bright lance and AML, both of which are much cheaper to field, not to mention the regular wraith cannon and the fusion gun.
In 9th edition, not only is a Wraith Knight with cannons almost as expensive as 3 Fire Prisms which hit exponentially harder with a single stratagem and have half again as many wounds, but it requires a 3CP investment just to get it on the field as you have to take it as a separate super heavy auxiliary detachment. Because of the unavoidable CP tax, the wraith knight should really be better than the heavy support units that you could get for the same investment of points without spending any CP, but it is actually far worse. 5 warwalkers with 10 bright lances, for example, have more than double the potential damage output, cost no CP, can deepstrike for free, and are easy to hide out of line-of-site turn 1, while your lord of war will likely come with an additional CP tax to stick it in reserve if you don’t get first turn as it has no invulnerable save and is unlikely to survive to turn 2 without a greatly reduced profile because it is impossible to hide.
The simple fact is that the wraith cannon needs to be better. Wraith weapons work by tearing a hole in the fabric of reality and sucking their targets into the warp. In the original codex that introduced wraith weapons back in the 90s they had a 50% chance of destroying the target regardless of armor saves or remaining wounds, (and that was just the small version of the cannon carried by regular wraithguard.) Obviously an auto-kill mechanic would be way over powered for 9th edition, but titanic wraith cannons should at least do more damage than all the conventional heavy weapons, perhaps rolling 2D6 and taking the higher result like a fusion gun at close range. And even that would not be bring them close to competing with the other options available for the same points and no investment of CP.
I would also add a bonus inspired by some of the harlequin and Drukhari rules: wound roles of 4+ could deal D3 mortal wounds in addition to any other damage, just as harlequin bikes and Drukhari talos do on wound rolls of 6; (these other units also deal 1 mortal wound for every wound roll of 4+ and they have D6 shots, so there is precedent for this mechanic.) This would be a nice nod towards the fluff as warp energy cares nothing for armor, and a wraith knight could still expect to do 2D3 damage even to units like Magnus the Red with robust invuln saves, which seems reasonable given the significant investment of points and CP required to field this alleged super weapon, which has no invulnerable save itself.
I will not go into detail about the other two loadouts here, but I think it’s obvious that the glaive and shield is the best option at the moment especially given that 9th edition calls for a smaller board and more center field objective control, both of which will make it harder for opponents to avoid large melee monsters. That suncannon however… oof. Goonhammer ran the math a couple of years ago and that thing needs some serious love.
In the lore, Windriders zip out in front of an Asuryani Warhost harassing enemies with lightening strike Fire and Fade tactics. On the table currently, they suck. They are too expensive and fragile to be throw-away control units and they don’t hit hard enough to threaten anything important. Also, they don’t even come close to the similar units that other factions- including Drukhari- can get for the same or fewer points.
Windriders could be awesome, and they don’t even need a new statline. If they had a pregame move, like the Ad Mech Horse-dogs,) and a stratagem that let them immediately fall back when a charge is declared against them, (also like the Ad Mech Horse-dogs,) they could zip out in front of the army to provide a movement screen in key choke points and harass enemy units. An enemy declaring a charge against a three-bike Windrider unit would face the possibility of being stuck in place after they nip away and the charge auto-fails. This totally in keeping with both the lore and the way Eldar should play on the table, and there is precedent with Ad Mech. (Keep in mind that those horse dogs have the powers I just described, are currently 4 points less than windriders, have three wounds instead of two, better melee, better shooting, and can ignore “Look Out Sir,” so this really isn’t a big ask.)
Windriders should have a native -1 to hit. They are just too squishy for their points in a meta where every faction can kill them easily because so many more weapons do flat 2 damage now and everyone needs to be teched out to kill marines.
Storm Guardians and their loadouts
The 9th edition point values still allow storm guardians to take either an aeldari blade or a chain blade free of cost. The chain sword allows you to roll an extra attack die while the aeldari blade essentially allows you to do the same thing if and only if you miss with your first attack. There is no situation imaginable in which you would not be better off with a chain sword and the only reason not to equip one is that the storm guardian upgrade pack only includes 2 chain swords but 4 aeldari blades, (although you need 2 upgrade packs to make a squad as they provide only 6 left arms and you need 8.) It feels uncomfortably like a plot to make a player spend $116 to efficiently equip 8 guardian models that are neither competitive nor are they special sculpts. This is the sort of nonsense that builds resentment among players, even if it is unintentional on the part of GW.
The dodgy economics aside, there is still the question of the swords themselves. Why just make one a better version of the other for the same points? What logic is there behind chain swords conferring an extra attack over a presumably lighter, steadier weapon?
I would love to see the following changes:
-Aeldari blades reroll hit rolls of 1
-Chainswords confer +1 Str
-All storm guardians receive +1 attack on the charge.
Is a 4+ armor save also too much to ask for? I don’t think so. Storm Guardians are Ob Sec pawns and should therefore be a little stickier.
I really want this weapon to be great, and it very nearly is, especially now that “Expert Crafters” is available to reduce the chances of flubbing the hit and wound role. Nevertheless, Brightlances are just too fickle to be reliable, and the Star Cannon offers greater versatility in tournament lists that have to be ready to answer all comers. The Brightlance just doesn’t offer enough of a bonus against hard targets to be worth it except in very particular metas.
Also, from a lore perspective there is something that bothers me about the Brightlance: it’s slightly worse than an imperial Lascannon, which has better range, higher strength, which is mathematically better than the additional -1AP offered by the Brightlance. The Aeldari are supposed to wield a level of advanced technology that makes imperial tech look somewhat primitive. GW has tried to achieve this aesthetically by making all Eldar tanks fliers and giving some aspect warriors armor form fitting light armor that is as durable as the bulky ceramite plate worn by space marines. Despite this, there is no getting around the fact that in game-play eldar players often look across the field at imperial tech, (especially that of the adeptus mechanicus,) and wish that they could one day unlock the secrets of imperial technology, which so often now seems to out Eldar the Eldar.
The simple solution for the Brightlance is to make it more reliable than an imperial Lascannon and more effective in its role than the AML. Instead of dealing a flat D6, I would love to see it reroll 1s damage rolls of 1 or 2. It still won’t hit quite as hard as Meltas at D6 + 2; however, if we could rely on not wiffing the damage roll, I think Brightlances would find a place in more lists. It seems they should be be at least comparable to what an imperial player can field. (Although, if I really had my way, they would do D3+3.)
UPDATE: Now that the Drukhari Darklance does D3+3, it seems a safe bet that the Brightlance will see the same change. Woot! (So does the Imperial Lascannon though, so Imperial tech is still a bit better on the table than the eldar tech that- according to the lore- is supposed to be dar superior.)
D-Cannons and Fire Prisms
With the Brightlance almost certainly going to D3+3, D-Cannons and Prism Cannons will also need an upgrade to make sense as an option. It seems obvious at least to me that the D-Cannon and the “focused” profile for Fire Prism should both go to D6+2 like the Drukhari Heatlance. As such, it might make sense for the middle profile on the Fire Prism to go to D3+1 so it continues to do half the damage of the top profile, while to lowest profile doesn’t need a damage boost, but instead of Heavy D6, Heavy 4 would make a lot of sense as the new weapons rules seem to be about making outcomes more reliable so the game is more tactical and less dependent on the capricious whims of the dice.
The Shuriken Cannon and Scatter Lasers
Can we all agree that this weapon needs to deal 2 damage? I mean, Heavy Bolters do 2 damage now. It just seems obvious. Shuriken cannons would become the anti-heavy infantry option, while Scatter Lasers remain a solid anti-light infantry choice, (although Scatter Lasers should probably come down to 7 points or go up to Heavy5.)
Shuriken Catapults and Avenger Catapults
These all need another 6 inches of range. Guardians need to be able to stand on a midfield objective with a screen in front of them and make use of Celestial Shield while actually participating in the battle.
The Phoenix Lords…
I will resist the urge to rant here. Suffice to say that all of the Pheonix Lords are overcosted and underpowered, which is why none made any appearance in a well performing tournament list at any big open ever in all of 8th edition. The fact that they also don’t receive custom Craftworld bonuses exponentially increases the disproportionate nature of their cost relative to other units.
I really would have expected Jain Zar at least to be good, as she just got a gorgeous new and expensive model, but as things stand Jain Zar is among the least competitive units in an already underperforming codex. She is more fragile than a troupe master as she has no invuln, she hits less hard because she can’t benefit from sub-faction bonuses, and costs literally twice the points.
But you don’t even have to consider harlequins or Drukhari to find hugely unfavorable comparisons. A 16 point Howling Banshee Exarch with “Hunters of Ancient Relics” and “Expert Crafters” is about as hard hitting in combat as Jain Zar, except Jain Zar costs 125 points instead of 16.
(I hope in the 9th edition codex she gets similar treatment to the Drukhari Succubus, which can make a consolidation move out of combat, preventing an enemy from hitting back.)
Step One: give every Phoenix Lord a 4++ invul to fall back on in addition to their 2+ regular save. If Autarchs and Farseers have this, obviously Pheonic Lords should too.
Step Two: Give the each Phoenix Lord SEVERAL of the optional exarch abilities from the Psychic Awakening book or let them choose three in addition to the standard exarch power. This makes sense from a narrative perspective and would significantly increase their utility.
A final word on Ynnari
Ynnari are obviously meant to be an aeldari melee army that draws close combat units from all three aeldari codexes, requiring 3 detachments as a detachment only becomes “Ynnari” by adding a member of the triumvirate after it has been built; however, Ynnari are also designed to be CP hungry. Now that additional detachments cost CP rather than generate it, this already-hard-done-by faction has become nearly unplayable.
Perhaps Ynnari should either be spared the penalty for additional detachments with the Ynnari keyword as their weaker faction abilities are presumably supposed to be offset by the wide variety of units available. Alternatively, allowing players give units the Ynnari designation BEFORE placing them in a detachment would make the problem go away.
Also, instead of making Ynnari slower that other elves- (they have neither “Quicken” nor “Rising Crescendo” and nothing to replace them,) and compensating with weird zombie powers that let them resurrect dead models, Ynnari should be fast and suicidally aggressive in melee with ways to score primary objectives even if they die before their next command phase.
Ynnari should be all about Pyrrhic victories as they are essentially a death cult. Even when they win, it should be rare for Ynnari players to have more than the Yvrainne and a handful of models left on the table at the end of the game.
So that’s it.
If you read to the end, then I appreciate you indulging me in what is probably a meaningless exercise. After playing this game for many years and doing some industry work on RPGs, it’s hard for me not to think about tinkering with mechanics. None of this is meant to cast aspersions on the actual designers of 40k who face the near impossible task of creating balance in a game with hundreds of units all of which need to be different from one another, satisfying to play, and consistent with the narrative.
I would say that I don’t envy them that task, but I think I do- it must be a blast. The part I do not envy is the inevitability of not being able to please everyone.
Regardless of whether anything like what I am hoping for appears in the 9th edition codex, I am excited to see our noble space elves get a bit of a reboot; I hope you are too.
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