Tips and Tricks: The Backline Farseer, (and a shout-out to the Autarch)
Everyone loves the frontline Farseer. This bike-riding space elf is the undisputed MVP of many-a-competitive Craftworld list. She zips around the midfield, Dooming lynch-pin enemy units and handing out mortal wounds like a traffic cop trying to meet a ticket quota. Regardless of whether you’re fresh-faced Autarch new to 40k, or a grizzled veteran who remembers buying mono-pose plastic guardians because the metal ones with shuriken catapults and punk-rock haircuts were too expensive, the Farseer Skyrunner is an essential part of your collection.
But we’re not here to talk about this justly revered murder-elf. We are here to consider her oft overlooked but no-less-valuable colleague: the backline Farseer.
If the frontline Farseer is the all-star center-forward of a competitive Craftworlds list, the backline Farseer is the 90s soccer-mom of space elves, the indispensable support character helping your essential units be the best versions of themselves with an endless supply of Sunny Delight and encouraging platitudes harvested from feel-good daytime television. (In this particular extended metaphor, ‘Sunny Delight’ equates to shooting buffs, and ‘encouraging platitudes’ provide extra durability to your objective holders- just go with it.)
The job of the backline Farseer is not glamorous. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, she may never even see an enemy unit over the course of the game. Nevertheless, when used effectively, the backline Farseer is one of the most powerful tools available to a competitive Craftworlds player. What’s more, her inclusion is not mutually exclusive with the Frontline Farseer; many of the most competitively successful Asuryani lists run both.
What follows is a how-to guide for this more nuanced, but equally effective Farseer build.
The Backline Build
Leave the Jetbike at home. The backline Farseer, (BLF from here on,) does not rely on mobility and doesn’t need the extra durability provided by the skyrunner; (she’s a lover not a fighter.)
Only take a Remnant of Glory if you have nowhere else to use one. If you aren’t running Harlequin allies that make use of powerful artifacts, (and you don’t have any likely candidates to give the Phoenix Gem,) you can give the BLF Faochu’s wing, but it really isn’t necessary.
SIDENOTE: No Farseer ever needs a Singing Spear. To the Backline Farseer in particular, the Singing Spear is as useful as an ejection seat on a helicopter.
Select the psychic powers: GUIDE and FORTUNE, and swap out SMITE for the Runes of Fortune power FATEFUL DIVERGENCE.
Stop being disappointed in what I just suggested. I know that you already know about GUIDE and FORTUNE. I have not explained it yet, but this build is more nuanced than it initially appears.
Add several powerful heavy support units with a 48” range weapons to your list; give special consideration to units with indirect fire. Top candidates for these rolls include: Night Spinners, Support Weapons, War Walkers especially with AMLs, Dark Reapers, and Lynxes (a Forgeworld Unit.)
(We are assuming you also have other standard competitive units on your roster, perhaps a big unit of Shinning Spears, Wraithblades to hold objectives, maybe a unit of Forgeworld Hornets, etc.)
Learn to love the rarely appreciated stratagem “Runes of Witnessing.” (I will explain momentarily.)
Optional Step Seven:
Add an Autarch. I use the guy with wings for this because he has additional late-game utility for primary objective scoring and secondaries that reward board control.
Here is how it all works:
You deploy the Farseer completely out of Line-of-Sight in your backfield next to the three or more long range heavy support units you selected specifically for this purpose. To make this more concrete, let’s just say you have two Night Spinners and a squad of three Warwalkers with AMLS, all of which you deploy within 6” of the Farseer. (If you also included the Autarch, which I recommend, make sure the Autarch is also within 6” of these units.)
On turn one, you are going to move the Warwalkers into Line-of-Sight of the enemy while keeping at least one of them just barely within 6” of the Autarch and the Farseer.
In the Psychic Phase, you are going to cast FORTUNE on whichever of your units is about to seize some midfield objective that is totally out of Line-of-Sight of the Farseer, perhaps a unit of Wraithblades. You will cast GUIDE on your most powerful shooting unit with a high volume of fire; Hornets or Shinning Spears up in the Midfield are make good candidates. (Note that the target for GUIDE is probably not one of the three heavy support units clustered around your Farseer.) If the first of these casts fails twice- or succeeds but eats up your free reroll- cast FATEFUL DIVERGENCE second instead of GUIDE because it only has a Warp Charge value of 4 instead of 7 and so will almost certainly succeed.
At the beginning of the shooting phase, pop the 2CP stratagem Runes of Witnessing, which allows nearby units to rerolls 1s to wound, and prepare to see some fireworks.
Okay, pause. If you are like me, the first time you read “Runes of Witnessing” stratagem, you thought that it was overpriced and absurd. Why would anyone pay 2CP so that a couple of units can reroll 1s to wound, when for 0CP that same Farseer could just cast DOOM on the target and give every unit on the board rerolls against it? The answer turns out to be positioning and target diversity.
Against savvy opponents and particular factions, using DOOM on the best target- especially turn 1- might be impossible. Your Frontline Farseer may not be able to get within 24” of the the-thing-that-HAS-TO-DIE without giving your opponent an excellent chance of eliminating her.
“Runes of Witnessing” is essentially mini-DOOM that does not use up a cast, can’t wiff like a psychic power, and doesn’t require your Farseer to risk exposure. Furthermore, if you are using weapons with indirect fire, like Night Spinners, Shadow Weavers, Tempest Launchers, or D-Cannons, there is nothing that your opponent can do to prevent you from blasting anything you want with significant damage multipliers. If you are using the Custom Craftworlds Trait “Expert Crafters,” (and you should in competitive play,) “Runes of Witnessing” is often almost as effective as DOOM because weapons that wound on 3s now reroll all the 1s and one 2.
The other advantage to a backline Farseer using “Runes of Witnessing” is that if you are also running a Frontline Farseer with DOOM, you can create synergies such that just about every unit in your army is rerolling the majority of its attack dice, which is essential for Craftworld lists to be competitive given the considerable cost of our units. That is, you can spread your fire between multiple targets while still benefiting from lots of rerolls.
So let’s go back to our imaginary scenario for a moment. Remember how your three War Walkers and two Night Spinners are all benefiting from both “Runes of Witnessing,” as well as the nearby Autarch and “Expert Crafters”? This means, all three of these units reroll 1s to hit plus one other missed shot, AND reroll 1s to wound plus 1 other failed wound; that’s brutal, (AND consider that this combo cannot fail the way a psychic power can.) Now you “Fire and Fade” the War Walkers out of Line-of-Sight, rendering that entire block of savage massed fire untouchable by your opponent.
Meanwhile, your badass midfield killers- Spears or Hornets or whatever- are benefiting from GUIDE, and your objective holders, (possibly the same unit,) are shrugging off 1/3 of incoming damage with FORTUNE. That is an awful lot of value-add from a single space-elf; especially one that might never actually have Line-of-Sight to an enemy unit.
Another advantage to the backline Farseer is that she is ideally positioned to use the “Forewarned” stratagem against enemy deepstrikers. If your opponent drops a unit of Terminators into your deployment zone, you can immediately activate those War Walkers near the Farseer to light up these walking refrigerators while benefitting from the rerolls provided by the Autarch and “Expert Crafters”. This is a serious deterrent to sneaky infiltrators attempting to counter your backfield firing block.
If you are concerned about the additional CP cost introduced by the BLF build, you can offset it by including the Autarch and making it your warlord, which gives you a chance to recover any command point you spend on a D6 roll of a 6. (This is generally good for about 2 points per game.)
A Final Note on Variant Builds
You really don’t need to use the specific units I named in my example to make this work. Ten Dark Reapers can easily take the place of those War Walkers, especially as they can “Fire and Fade” into a Wave Serpent the same turn that they emerged, (thus protecting them from the indirect fire that is their bane.) The highly durable Lynx is a good addition if you need to use “Fire and Fade” elsewhere on the board and so absolutely must expose at least one of your backfield units to long range enemy fire. The point is that you have options.
Nevertheless, I think you will find that at least some indirect fire is essential to making this combo effective. As such, I consider at least one Night Spinner indispensable in this build, (although adding one or more Night Spinners means you probably need the “Masterful Shots” custom craftworld trait to help compensate for their poor AP.) A single D-Cannon support weapon can also be good for putting indirect fire on tough midfield objective holders, while individual Shadow Weavers are good for finishing off enemies softened up by other units, thus preventing you from having to devote more powerful shooting units to the task.
It’s also just plain easier to make use of the aura abilities of the Autarch and Farseer if the benefitting units don’t all need Line-of-Sight to an enemy.
Ultimately, what you include in your backline fire block will depend on what you have available in your collection or what you are willing to add in order to accommodate a new play style. There are lots of ways to make this effective.
On the one hand, the BLF might be tricky for new players because of all the moving parts. You have to position multiple units carefully in order to make good use of “Runes of Witnessing,” “Fire and Fade,” GUIDE and FORTUNE, while knowing when and how to utilize optional rerolls and remembering to account for bonuses provided by “Expert Crafter” and an Autarch. You also need to remember “Forewarned” is in your toolbox. That’s a lot to keep track of for a new player.
On the other hand, the BLF does not need to be repositioned every turn with careful attention to enemy units the way a Frontline Farseer does. Even if you muck things up for a turn with the BLF and fail to maximize your unit buffs or choose the wrong targets for your powers, you aren’t likely to accidentally get her killed with insufficient screening or failure to predict an opponent’s movement shenanigans. The Frontline Farseer, on the other hand, can easily be the victim of a new Autarch’s overly enthusiastic aggression.
So that’s it. The Backline Farseer offers some potent synergies that can greatly enhance the ass-kickery of almost any Craftworlds collection. Although you might need to experiment with different unit combos and endure the frustration of occasionally forgetting some critical bonus while you figure out how to make the BLF build effective, I think you will ultimately decide that this Space-Elf-Soccer-Mom is an all-star player in her own right.
If you have your own great ideas about ways to use the Backline Farseer or ideas for future blog posts, feel free to use the contact link at the top of the page to get in touch. I always love hearing from readers, especially the ones who also remember mono-pose plastic guardians with lasguns.
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