Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems, (for your opponent); Where to Start with Forgeworld Eldar

I got back into GW games in 2017 after a such a long hiatus from the hobby that mix tapes had still been a thing the last time I collected an army. During my first six months back in the game, I never even considered buying a Forgeworld model. There was more than enough for me to figure out with a new version of 40k to learn, a codex with 44 different units, and the possibility of splashing in detachments from other Aeldari factions. Add to that the fact that Forgeworld units cost about 33% more in real world currency and aren’t always legal in tournaments at my local store, and you can see how I quickly arrived at the conclusion that buying anything from Forgeworld would be a ludicrous indulgence.

It was in month seven of my return to the hobby that I cracked. I had been getting my ass kicked regularly by a friend’s beautifully painted Thousand Son’s army; (if you are interested in the story of my many humiliating defeats, click here,) and I wanted a big and beautiful model that could go toe-to-toe physically and aesthetically with Magnus the Red; I wanted a Forgeworld Avatar. (I already had the GW Avatar from 1993 with its squat cartoonish proportions and open-mouthed face that came roughly to Magnus’s crotch, but it was too humiliating to put on the table.) Because I wanted the older Forgeworld option with the sword, (rather than the spear-Avatar that they FW currently produces,) I made my very first Forgeworld purchase on Ebay. The model was gorgeous, and never have I put so much time into painting a single HQ unit.

This did not stop Magnus teleported across the table turn one and killing Khaine’s Avatar outright with very average dice rolls, but MAN did those models look cool together on the table for the eight seconds they were next to one another.

It took me a few more months to realize that Forgeworld has a lot more to offer Eldar players than a better looking Avatar.

Getting Started with Forgeworld

If you are a total 40k neonate, you might not know that Forgeworld is a subsidiary of Games Workshop that makes additional models for most 40k factions generally not covered in the codexes. In order to access the rules for Forgeword models, you either need to purchase the “Imperial Armor” rulebook from the Forgworld webstore or find the datasheets in some shady place online. Also, because Forgeworld units cannot be purchased wholesale, new players are unlikely to see them on the self at a local game store.

In some cases, players buy Forgeworld models as collectors’ items once they have everything conventionally available for their army. In other cases, players branch out with FW options to gain a competitive edge. This was especially true in earlier editions of the games when Forgeworld units were often much more powerful than GW units, although 9th edition has brought them into better alignment. Nowadays Forgeworld units might not be objectively better than other units in the game, but they do offer new ways of overcoming obstacles, and sometimes these new solutions are more efficient for a particular task than anything in the conventional codex for that particular army.

In the case of Eldar, however, there are several Forgeworld units that really are better than almost anything in the codex. This is because at the time of writing, current Craftworlds codex units are almost universally either over-costed or underpowered for competitive play, while the Forgeworld eldar options were recently updated to bring at least some of those units in line with options available to top factions. As a result, there has never been a better time expand your Craftworlds collection to include units from Forgeworld.

What follows is an introduction to the most competitive Forgeworld options for Craftworld players looking make their first big investment in 40k’s luxury brand.

Our Best Forgeworld Options:

1) Hornets

Hornets are light, single-seater Fast Attack vehicles that are a bit like a Falcon crossed with a Vyper but more competitive than both. They can run in squads of up to three, providing mobile, hard-hitting firepower at a point cost in line with what an Ad Mech or Marine player might enjoy.

A squad of 3 Hornets moves 18” and puts out 12 shots at S7, -2 AP, flat 2 damage that absolutely butchers marines, light tanks, and most heavy infantry. As a single squad with considerable range, they can be buffed with GUIDE and kept intact with “Fire and Fade,” but if you need them to take an objective, they are surprisingly durable for their points with a native
-1 to hit, a 3+ save, and 24 wounds between them, (even more so if you cast FORTUNE on them.) This package only costs 270, which is a great deal compared with codex options.

On the downside, these sleek murder tanks cost $64 per model and are perennially back ordered. Nevertheless, if you are serious about making the most competitive mono-Craftworlds list possible, 3-6 Hornets are almost essential, (at least until the much-anticipated 9th edition codex arrives and hopefully restores our refined pointy eared warriors to their rightful place in the galactic food-chain.)

2) Shadow Specters
These ethereal aspect warriors are an easy entry into Forgeworld for a Craftworlds player who doesn’t want to break the bank. For only $67 you can pick up a squad of 5 Shadow Spectres that are easy to incorporate into a semi-competitive list, (although I think they work best in squads of 7 with the “Expert Crafters” Custom Craftworld Trait.)

Shadow Spectres are spooky floating killers that can deepstrike for free and absolutely wreck just about any infantry in the game. They carry Prism Rifles, which are an infantry version of the weapon that gives the Fire Prism its name. The Prism Rifle has two profiles: ‘dispersed’ and ‘focused.’

The ‘dispersed’ profile is for wiping out hordes: Assault D6, S5, -1AP, 1 Damage and BLAST. Against a horde unit, a squad of 7 Spectres fires 42 shots hitting on 3s, wounding on 3s, and generally reducing an armor save to a 6+. Brutal.

The ‘focused’ profile is for killing everything else, but especially heavy infantry:  Assault 1, S6, -3 AP, and flat 3 damage. I really can’t emphasize enough just how good flat three damage is. Weapons that do flat three damage can one-shot Space Marine Terminators, Ad Mech Kataphrons, Harlequin Bikes, Death Guard, Custodes, Necron Destoyers, Nurglings, Ripper Swarms, and those horrifically annoying new Ad Mech horse-dogs, (among other things.) Flat three is the new flat 2. You heard it here first. These guys have tremendous utility in the current meta.

The only problem with Shadow Spectres is that they are quite fragile for their 26 points per model, (probably a little too fragile for the most competitive builds.) You generally want to move them out of Line-of-Sight with “Fire and Fade” or plan your turn such that you stand a good chance of destroying anything that could counter-punch them before they move again.

One weird footnote: Shadow Spectres don’t really have an exarch. Well, technically they do, but he has exactly the same loadout as regular Shadow Spectres and no special powers. He is just a Shadow Spectre with an extra wound. Also, according to rules-as-written, you cannot add him to a squad until it has at least 5 other models. None of this makes any sense, as every other exarch in the game has a unique power and access to a special weapon. Nevertheless, Shadow Spectres are at least as good as every other Aspect infantry option even without a real squad leader. Also, on the upside, you don’t need to buy the exarch model from Forgeworld for $31 when you could just buy 5 more Spectres and declare one of them the floater-in-charge.

A NOTE ON IRILLYTH, THE SHADOW SPECTRE PHEONIX LORD
Irillyth might be the most dangerous Phoenix Lord in the game. His Spear of Starlight has a 24” range, Assault 3, S8, -4 AP, flat 3 damage. It also has a decent melee profile. If Irillyth- or as I like to call him “Creepy-Float McShadow-Murder”- accompanies a squad of 7 Spectres, he adds 50% their damage output against heavy targets and lets them reroll 1s to hit. Also, the fact that he has some melee chops and can “Heroically Intervene” gives your Spectres some defense against fast moving close combat units, which could otherwise devour them.

Despite all of this, at 140 points Irillyth might be a little too expensive for most competitive lists, especially as he takes an HQ slot away from a psyker essential for synergies.

The Lynx

I love the Lynx. Not only is it a gorgeous model, but it has 16 wounds and a 5++ invulnerable to fall back on, making it more durable than any tank in the codex. Best of all, its primary weapon- the Lynx Pulsar- is Heavy 6, S9, -3AP and FLAT 3 DAMAGE. This will chew up pretty much anything from terminators to enemy heavy armor.

If you are running a list that relies on presenting several powerful heavy targets to your enemy simultaneously, the Lynx is probably better than something you currently have in your roster. In certain lists, there might even be an argument for two of these with a nearby Autarch to enable them to reroll 1s to hit.

In case you needed another reason to consider the Lynx, it only costs 220 points. I mean, what is this, Ad Mech? Aeldari players are so accustomed to overpaying for their tanks and flyers at the moment that the Lynx offers a refreshing change of accounting.

New players might balk at the real world price however; $142 is steep for a non-titanic unit.

The Wraithseer

On a recent episode of the Aeldari podcast Splintermind, one of the commentators described buying a Wraithseer as a “right-of-passage.” If you are serious about Craftworlds, at some point you are going to want to add one of these venerable spirit warriors to your collection.

The 9th edition Wraithseer is essentially a better wraithlord that can cast one power from Runes of Battle discipline. At 9 wounds, the Wraithseer initially appears more fragile than his more conventional codex-cousin, but because the Wraithseer can ignore -1AP and has a 5++ invulnerable save, the two units are equally durable, (but unlike the Wraithlord the Wraithseer does not have a declining profile.)

There are two reasons to take a wraithseer: powerful weapon loadouts and additional psychic utility. Although the Wraithseer can only equip a single shoulder-mounted heavy weapon, this regal ghost warrior has access to the D-Cannon with its Heavy D3, 24” range, S12, -4AP and D6 damage that can target units not visible to the bearer. In the early game, the D-Cannon can be used to bully enemy tanks and monsters off midfield objectives while your Seer stays out of line-of-sight in a position just forward of your deployment zone, buffing other units with PROTECT or QUICKEN.

In Melee, the Wraithseer is a terror. His ghostspear hits like a gene-enhanced carnifex on amphetamines at S10, -3AP, D3+3 damage. But here is the trick: if you trade out SMITE for the Runes of Fortune power “Witch Strike,” the Ghost Spear becomes obscene at D3+5. If you’re running “Expert Crafters,” the Witch-Strike Seer can kill most things in a single round of melee. Even Magnus the Red and Space Marine Captains shudder before this majestic murder-wraith.

The argument for keeping SMITE instead is that it gives the Wraithseer more utility against close combat infantry, as the spear already hits plenty hard enough to kill a terminator or a bike. In some metas, this will be the better option, especially as the Wraithseer is best held back to counter-punch aggressive enemy melee units.

Another advantage is that because the Seer is a Heavy Support unit, you can assign it one of your go-to support powers like PROTECT/JYNX and free up an HQ slot for something else, perhaps an Autarch.

The Warp Hunter

What a great name. I can’t help imagining a sleek hunter-killer tank that can deepstrike for free out of the webway to ambush enemy units with devastating efficiency.

That’s not a what a Warp Hunter is.

A Warp Hunter is a standard Falcon chassie with a single comically large gun that can function like a harder hitting D-Cannon or D-scythe.

The Warp Hunter is good, but at 195 points it is generally regarded as too damned expensive for serious competitive play. A determined opponent can find a way to kill a Warp Hunter before it does makes trouble and because of its relatively low-rate of fire- either HD3 or H3, the Warp Hunter can easily wiff, especially against units with an invulnerable save.

It’s especially hard to see why you would include a Warp Hunter when for 25 points more you could have a much more durable Lynx that hits equally hard against tanks and monsters and harder against heavy infantry. If the Warp Hunter were 170 points instead of 195, it would be much more tempting.

Nevertheless, I think there is a way to use a pair of Warp Hunters to great effect: start them in Deepstrike with the “Cloudstrike” stratagem for 3CP and bring them in turn 2 or 3 to delete an essential enemy unit from a position out of line-of-site but in your opponent’s backfield. By this point, your opponent’s army will have been thinned a little and dispersed to contest objectives, so even though the Warp Hunters are not especially tough, it could be hard for your opponent to bring enough fire to bear to deal with them.

Full disclosure though: the Warp Hunter is one of a tiny handful of Asuryani units that I don’t own and have never used, so you might want to get a second opinion on this one. The other units that I don’t own and have never used are the ones I am about to not tell you about.

The Others Units…

There are several other Forgeworld units available to Craftworld players. These include a single flyer called a Nightwing, and four Lords of War. None of these is a good pick for players branching out into Forgeworld for the first time. The Nightwing is overpriced for its unremarkable durability and loadout, and the Lords of War are all overpriced considering that they require a substantial CP tax to include, so I will not discuss them here. If you want to learn about these additional options, I suggest looking up the Splintermind episode dedicated to a review of 2020 Imperial Armor Forgeworld book.
So that’s it.

Whether you are entirely new to Craftworlds or a veteran player looking to expand your collection, Forgeworld has some great options- especially while we wait for a 9th edition codex to drop. Although the 3 Hornets or a Lynx constitute a pretty significant expense in real world pounds/euros/doll hairs/etc. they will give you some new options that are much more competitive than the vast majority of what the codex has to offer. If you are feeling less flush, for between $60 and $70, you could add either a unit of Shadow Spectres or a Wraithseer. For players more interested in the hobby side of 40k, the Forgeworld Avatar is a great pick; that model is just plain gorgeous and highly rewarding to paint.

If you have additional ideas about how to incorporate Forgeworld models into current lists, or you just want to share pictures of your super cool paint job on Creepy-Float McShadow-Murder, don’t hesitate to use the “Contact” tab at the top of the page to get in touch.

Best of luck with your list-building,

-Brent

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