Hanging with your Psychopathic Cousins; Drukhari Allies in 9th Edition

If Craftworld Eldar are the well put together suburban teenagers of 40k Space Elves, kept on the straight-and-narrow with a rigorous schedule of study time, violin lessons, and lacrosse practice, then Drukhari are the glamorous and terrifying cousins from the big city; the ones who are always trying to get you to drop acid and feed Alkaseltzer to a pigeon.

Here’s the thing. A visit from your psychopathic cousins might be pretty inconvenient if you are the teenage protagonist of a John Green novel, and all you want to do is come-of-age in a fun and quircky way while not besmirching your chances of admission to a prestigious university. But if the author of your story turns out to be George Martin or Dan Abnett, those devious sadists from the big city might be all that stands between you and total annihilation.

As things currently stand in 9th edition, Craftworld Eldar need all the help they can get; and the fact is that our monomaniacal relatives make bad-ass allies, (that is when they aren’t hunting us for a laugh to smash our soulstones and feed our essence She Who Thirsts.)

In this post, we are going to do a deep-dive on how Craftworld Eldar players can make the best use of an allied detachment of Drukhari warriors in 9th edition 40k.

Who are the Drukhari?

When the Aeldari civilization was obliterated by the birth-scream of Slaanesh, a single city of the old empire survived: Commorragh. Built in the serpentine wyndings of the Webway, this last bastion of the depravity and excess that lead to The Doom was insulated from the psychic shockwave that created the Eye of Terror. Here, beneath the black spires of their ancient home, the inhabitants of the Dark City continue to devote themselves heart and soul to gruesome indulgences as they compete for power and status in a culture that views compassion as weakness and temperance as puritanical nonsense. Calling themselves “The True Kin,” the Drukhari view Craftworlders as misguided zealots and the rest of the galaxy’s sentient species as inferiors to be hunted for sport.

In order to maintain this rock-and-roll lifestyle without becoming vessels for Slaanesh, the Drukhari have mutilated themselves through a process of psychic excision, extinguishing the inherent psychic gifts innate to all Aeldari. Nevertheless, every Drukhari is still gradually depleted of spiritual energy by She Who Thirsts, and so they must pay what they call “The Soul Debt” by feeding on the suffering of other sentient beings. They abduct untold thousands in “Real Space Raids,” and subject them to agonizing torture from which they draw spiritual nourishment.

In case you weren’t absolutely clear on this, the Drukhari are serious badies.

Drukhari on the Table: An Overview

The Drukhari are really three factions rolled into one: Kabals, Wych Cults, and Haemonculi Covens. If we really boil it down to the vulgar basics, Kabals are a shooting army; Wych Cults specialize in fast hard-hitting melee units; and Covens rely on medium-sized monsters that bring extra durability to a more balanced repertoire of melee and shooting. A player cannot mix units from these three groups in a single detachment without giving up their sub faction bonuses, (so nobody ever does,) except in something called a Real Space Raider detachment, (which we will not discuss here because it is too points-intensive for an allied force.) Kabals, Cults, and Covens can each draw additional units from a fourth category of Drukhari mercenaries called “Blades for Hire.” In this article, we are going to consider each of these three Drukhari factions and how best to incorporate a single detachment alongside a Craftworlds force.

One quick note before we begin: the Drukhari units that are most competitive in a pure Drukhari list are not always the same units that are effective as allies. In part this is for the usual reasons: concerns about unit synergy with the allied faction, and whether the allied faction already has a unit that does a particular job better. But for Drukhari there is an additional reason that they play differently in Aeldari “soup” lists than they do in pure Drukahri lists, which is that Drukhari in rosters that include detachments from any other Aeldari faction lose access to their most powerful faction-wide bonus: Power from Pain.

Power from Pain is a rule that reflects Drukahri’s ability to feed on the pain and suffering of others. As the battle progresses, all Drukari units gain cumulative bonuses each battle round: a 6++ invulnerable save on turn 1, the ability to advance and charge turn 2, and so on. Some units rely so heavily on synergies created with Power from Pain that even though they might be top picks for competitive play in a straight Drukhari list, they become sub optimal in an allied roster. For this reason, you will find that the list of units that I advocate for here will leave out some of those praised on well-regarded 40k tactics sites and podcasts.

Let’s get started.

KABALS

The Kabals are vast aristocratic gangs that dominate the highest tier of Commorragh’s social hierarchy, chief among them is The Kabal of the Black Heart, ruled by Asdrubael Vect, undisputed Lord of the Dark City. If you decide to add a Kabal detachment to your Craftworlds list, you will gain access to superior troop units with powerful heavy weapons and additional tactical options for playing the primary objective game. They also synergize well with the most potent mercenary units available to Drukhari. A Kabal detachment is a strong pick for a competitive Craftworlds player.

HOW THEY PLAY ON THE TABLE

Think of Kabals as surgical killers who rely on open topped transports for mobility and extra durability. Most Kabal units want to keep the enemy at arm’s length by repositioning every turn while laying down withering fire. The exception is the Archon, a melee specialist and the only dedicated HQ option. This special lord or lady is a hard-hitting, points-efficient, powerhouse that can be traded for a more expensive enemy character, or can be used to quickly exterminate squads of heavy infantry.

Also, because Kabal units are cheaper and more durable than the equivalent Craftworlds units, including them is an efficient way to reduce the pressure on your Craftworld forces as your opponent redirects resources towards the dark cousins.

THE BEST ALLIED UNIT OPTIONS

The Archon

As I said above, the Archon is a real monster in melee and cheap for the points. I am of the opinion that there is really only one optimal build for an Archon in a competitive Craftworlds soup list, and it’s this: upgrade his pistol to a Blast Pistol and his sword to the Husk Blade, and then swap out the Husk Blade for the Drukhari Relic, “The Djin Blade.” Now your Archon costs 75 points, has 7 attacks hitting on 2s at S4, -3AP, Flat 3 damage. He can kill most enemy characters in a single round of combat, or can absolutely annihilate super-tough enemy infantry like Death Guard, Kataphrons, etc. It costs 1CP to give the relic to the visiting Prince, but it’s well worth it.

The only difficulty in making use of an Archon is how to deliver him to the fight. He isn’t tough enough to just march up the field, but as a Craftworlds player you probably already know how to work around this limitation. Start your Archon off in a transport. I prefer a small transport called a “Venom” that is cheap, fast, durable for its points and also has room for five Incubi warriors, (close combat Drukhari mercenaries that are one of the best units in the new codex.) I will talk more about them later, but they have good synergy with the Archon as they hit on 2s in melee already, and he allows them to reroll 1s if he is nearby.

That said, you should think of a Venom with an Archon and five Incubi as a delivery package for two separate hammer blows. In most cases you are better off having the Archon and the Incubi eliminate separate targets, perhaps even on different turns. if there is something super tough that REALLY needs to die, they can combine forces, but usually they won’t need to.

Lastly, be conservative with your Venom, especially first turn. Even though it carries a native -1 to hit with a 5++ invuln, at only 6 wounds it will not stand up to much dedicated fire in an edition where more and more heavy weapons do D3+3 or D6+2. Get it into position early, but keep the transport out of line-of-sight until you are ready to make your move, and expect savvy opponents to make a point of blowing it away possible.

The only other decision you need to make about the Archon is whether to upgrade him to a Master Archon. This costs 15 points, and has two benefits. The first is that once per game, your Archon can fight a second time at the very end of the fight phase. This can be especially useful when trying to assassinate enemy characters with abilities that allow them to come back to life with D3 wounds after dying the first time. It can also provide a large enough volume of attacks for your Archon to overwhelm a toughness 7 target that would usually be above his or her pay grade.

The second benefit is that including a Master Archon in your detachment allows you to upgrade one unit of up to ten Kalabite Warriors to “True Born” Kabalites, which have a 2+ ballistic skill and ignore all penalties to hit. Totally worth it in my opinion.

Kabalite Warriors

Kabalite warriors are an Archon’s private army of professional killers. They are the only Troops option for a Kabal detachment and are significantly more competitive than any of the Troops options in the Craftworlds codex. If you look at the stat lines side by side, this difference will not be obvious as Guardians and Kalabites have nearly identical data cards, but when you take into account the special weapons options available to Kabalites combined with the fact that Drukhari have access to two excellent open-topped transports, the comparison becomes very one-sided.

The standard Kabalite warrior costs 8 points, comes in a squad of 5-20 and has the same statistics as a Guardian but with an extra melee attack and a 4+ armor save. They carry Splinter Rifles, which are Rapid Fire 1 with a 24” range and the “Poisoned Weapon” designation. Poison weapons aautomatically wounds non-vehicle on a 4+ regardless of toughness. The Splinter Rifle is slightly worse than a Shuriken Catapult against most targets, but makes up for that difference with its 24” range and a stratagem that lets it wound vehicles on a 4+.

Where Kabalites really shine is their special weapons options. For every five Kabalites in a squad, one can replace a Splinter Rifle with either a Blaster or a Shredder. For every ten, one can replace a Splinter Rifle with a Dark Lance. These special weapons are excellent. The Blaster has an 18” range at Assault1, S8, AP-4, D6 damage, while the Dark Lance is Heavy1, with a 36” range, S8, -4AP, D3+3 damage! A ten-elf unit with two Blasters and a Dark Lance is only 115 points, and poses a significant threat to all types of tanks and infantry.

Like most Aledari, however, Kabalites are fragile. You can mitigate this by sticking them in a large open-topped transport called a Raider that comes with its own Dark Lance. From the safety of this floating murder-barge, our Dark Cousins can zip around the field putting the hurt on just about anything. Keep in mind that while a Raider is robust against small arms fire with its 10 Wounds at T6, 4+, 5++, it won’t stand up to significant Heavy Weapons fire. You can keep it safe with the “Never Stationary” stratagem which works like “Fire and Fade,” but because it has a different name, a player can use both “Never Stationary” on a Drukhari unit and “Fire and Fade” on a Craftworlds unit in the same turn. (Just make sure you fire with the embarked unit first, so you don’t have to move the transport out of Line-of-Sight before the embarked unit has showered the enemy with jeering mockery and shadow-fire.)

If you do run a single ten-elf unit of Kabalites in a transport, you should seriously consider upgrading them to “Trueborn.” This only costs 2pts per model and gives them all a ballistic skill of 2+, allows them to ignore all modifiers to hit, and raises their leadership stat by 1. Highly worthwhile. If you decide not to put your Trueborn in a transport, then you should definitely deepstrike them for 1CP using the “Webway Portal” stratagem.

Another option for Kabalites is to run a couple of five-elf units each with a Blaster and each in a Venom. These relatively cheap harassing units can help you play the primary objective game, while putting a little extra damage on moderately tough targets. You still want to avoid exposing the Venoms to significant Heavy Weapons fire, but it’s a more durable Obsec combination than anything in the Craftworlds codex.

Court of the Archon

The Court of the Archon is an oddball unit comprised of a variable motley crew of mutants and weirdos. They represent the engineered bodyguards and pets favored by the aristocracy of the Dark City. A detachment that includes an Archon may also have a single Court of the Archon unit, which is comprised of 5-8 models drawn from a list of four types of quirky sidekick, (of which we are only interested in the snake people called “Sslyth” and the melee ghouls called “Ur-Ghuls.”)

Although most initial reviews of the Drukhari codex dismissed this unit as an underwhelming afterthought on GW’s part, two notable dissenters have convinced me to include the Court of the Archon as worth considering in an allied detachment.

Nick Nanavati, a famous 40k tournament champion and collaborator on the Art of War podcast, pointed out that because all of the Sslyth and Ur-Ghul models have 3 wounds, a 5++ feel-no-pain save, and good melee stats, they make excellent objective holders for their point cost. For 136 points you can get a reasonably durable 24 wounds unit that fits in a single transport, and can do some real damage assaulting an enemy objective holder. As Craftworld Eldar have nothing comparable in their own codex to draw on- and as they struggle with objective control- the Court of the Archon is a decent option.

One of the biggest reasons to completely ignore this hodge-podge of murder mutants as an option is that you have to buy each model individually from GW and they are not cheap.

(The other “dissenter” I alluded to is Skari, probably the most famous Drukhari player in 40k. In preparation for writing this, I interviewed Skari on my Youtube channel. You can find our uncut conversation here.)

Ravagers

Ravagers are hover barges with sexy sails and three Dark Lances. Adding a Ravager to an allied list is the cheapest way, (at 140 points,) to gain access to several of these powerful D3+3 damage weapons. Although the Ravager is fragile at T6 with 11 wounds and 5++ invulnerable save, you can keep it around for a couple of turns by using “Never Stationary” to fire and fade out of line of sight.

Although there is no doubt that this floating tank is powerful and points efficient, I don’t think it is an optimal pick for an allied list simply because with “Expert Crafters” and some excellent heavy support units of their own, Craftworld Eldar already have tools that do well what Ravagers do. When adding allies to a list, it’s generally wise to focus on compensating for your core faction’s weaknesses or creating new synergies, rather than picking units with similar strengths to those that are already available.

Choosing a Kabal

If you do decide to add one of these detachments to your army, you will have to decide which of Commorragh’s Kabals your allies are drawn from. Doing so will confer bonuses on the detachment equivalent to those an Asuryani detachment gets from its chosen or custom craftworld designation. The Drukhari codex contains four options as well as “design-your-own” rules with the same ‘pick-two’ mechanic familiar to Craftworld players who own the Phoenix Rising supplement. I am only going to present the two that I think are the most competitive for an allied force.

1) Kabal of the Poison Tongue
Units from this Kabal have +1 to wound with their poisoned weapons; this applies primarily to the Splinter Rifle, (the standard Kabalite weapon,) and the Splinter Cannon, (which is on the Venom transport.) More importantly, Poison Tongue detachments have access to a stratagem called “Insidious Misdirection,” which works a bit like the Craftworlds Stratagem “Phantasm,” allowing a player to redeploy up to three units before the game begins

Although the bonus to poison weapons is nice, personally I have found it to not be all that helpful in most of my matchups. When targeting light infantry like Guardsmen, the Poison Tongue Splinter Rifle merely becomes equal to the Shuriken Catapults that I can already access. Against heavy infantry like Space Marines, the wound role is better but with no AP most of that fire just pings off the armor. (On the other hand, against high toughness targets with poor armor saves or 5++ invulns, poison weapons are strong.)

The redeploy stratagem, however, is a game changer. It also allows you to put additional units into strategic reserves WITHOUT HAVING TO SPEND ADDITIONAL CP. This is huge. Drukhari units are fragile. Now you can deploy them aggressively to manipulate your opponent’s own deployment, then remove your fragile Dark Kin from the board when you don’t get first turn, only to bring them in turn 2 to devastating effect. Awesome.

2) Kabal of the Obsidian Rose
Units with this Kabal designation add 6” to the range of all their non-pistol weapons, and can reroll one wound roll in both the shooting and fight phases, (like a mini Expert Crafters.)

For players who are not intent on any movement shenanigans in the deployment phase, I think this is the best pick. It gives an obvious boost to your Blasters and Dark Lances and makes the Archon hit just a little harder in melee. If you are mostly using Kabals for access to a few powerful support weapons and a melee Archon, this bonus will do well for you and it requires no special finesse to gain you additional traction at the table.

The Takeaway

Consider running a patrol detachment with some combination of the following:
-A Master Archon with a Blast Pistol and the Djin Blade. (He is a character assassin or Heavy Infantry Killer.)
-10 Kabalite Trueborn with 2 Blasters and 1 Dark Lance. (Their job is to kill all of the things and help control the midfield.)
-A Raider to Mount your Trueborn. (Another Dark Lance is also good for Killing)
-A Venom to Mount your Archon AND 5 Incubi (discussed in the Hired Blades section later in this post, but they threaten midboard objective holders)
-MAYBE: Additional 5 man Kabalite units perhaps with Blasters and mounted in Venoms. (These can help you play the objective game.)
-PROBABLY: Some other Hired Blade units that I have not discussed yet. (See the final section of this post)

WYCH CULTS

The Wych Cults are comprised of juiced up professional athletes who provide violent entertainment for their Drukhari brethren. Each cult maintains a massive arena where they host pit fights, jet bikes races, and contests involving the dismemberment of exotic species captured in Real Space Raids. Adding a Wych Cult detachment to your army will give you access to absolutely devastating close combat units and deadly stratagems that can enable you to bully the midfield life never before. Although they require more finesse to play than Kabals, a Wych Cult detachment is one of the most competitive allied detachments currently available to a Craftworlds soup list.

HOW THEY PLAY ON THE TABLE

Wych Cult units are viscous predators that can brutalize almost any unit they get the drop on in melee. On turn 1, they allow enemies to take the midfield and then fall on those enemies like the cast of Mean Girls in a Quinten Tarantino movie. Alternatively, you can use Wyches to counter-punch enemy melee units bearing down on your fragile Craftworlders, or to assassinate key enemy support characters with devastating efficiency. Wyches will give you a much stronger presence in the midfied, a powerful tool to use against enemy hordes, and enough board control to take the pressure off your backfield.

SPECIAL RULE: COMBAT DRUGS

Most Wych Cult warriors use performance enhancing drugs before battle. The “Combat Drugs” ability allows you to access stat increases for each unit with access to this power. For each unit with this ability you can either choose one of the following, OR gain two but they are randomly determined with dice rolls before the battle:

+1 Attacks if the unit charged or heroically intervened
+1 Strength
+1 Movement

+1 Toughness
+1 Weapon Skill
+1 Ballistic Skill -AND- +1 Leadership

These bonuses allow you to fine tune each individual unit to better perform the task you have in mind for it. This is an enormously powerful buff, especially as Wych Cult units have point values that reflect their stats BEFORE these buffs are applied.

THE BEST ALLIED UNIT OPTIONS

The Succubus

The Succubus is a terrifying whirlwind of death that cuts apart infantry like a possessed food processor with a score to settle. Although her stat line and base weapon loadout are both good, the real value of the Succubus is not apparent until you give her a relic weapon, apply a combat drugs bonus, and consider how she can make use of Stratagems and sub faction bonuses to turn the volume up to eleven.

The basic Succubus is kitted out for melee with a poison whip called an ‘Agoniser,’ and a Archite Glaive. She has six attacks that hit on 2s and are pretty good at killing light infantry. She also has a 4++ invulnerable save, an ability that allows nearby Wyches reroll 1s to wound, and she has the standard Wych power “No Escape” which requires an enemy unit that wants to make a Fall Back move from close combat to win a roll-off first. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. Here is how you make her amazing:

1: Swap her Agoniser for the relic, “The Triptych Whip.” This is a poison weapon that wounds all infantry on 2s, has -3AP, does flat 2 damage, and increases the bearer’s attack profile by 3. Now your Succubus has 9 attacks that will go through infantry like knife through soft cheese. (If you need her to wreck a vehicle, she can use the “Potent Metallotoxin” stratagem to render a vehicle vulnerable to her poison. Nasty, especially with that -3 AP.)
2: Use Combat Drugs to either increase either her number of attacks on the charge, or to increase her movement characteristic by 2.
3: Select “Cult of Strife” as your sub faction. Now she has +1 to charge and ALWAYS fights first, AND gains access to seven powerful Cult of Strife stratagems in the 9th Edition supplement War Zone Charadon: The Book of Rust. These stratagems enable her to:
-Re-roll all wound rolls
-Move over models and terrain as though she could fly
-Fall back and charge in the same turn
-Ignore Overwatch

4: Consider making her a “Master Succubus” for 15 points. (This is like the “Master Archon” upgrade discussed above.) This new title confers the power “Show Stealer,” which increases the range of the Succubus’s consolidation move by 3” and changes the restrictions for a consolidation move such that you no longer have to finish the consolidation move closer to the nearest enemy. This means your Succubus can charge something, (rolling 10 attacks that hit on 2s, wound anything on 2s, have a -3AP, do flat to damage,) and then run away before the opponent gets to hit back. This is especially strong if you leave the unit she just brutalized tied up in combat with a small unit of Wyches.

And get this: she only costs 75 points even with all of those upgrades.

Like the Archon, the only difficulty with the Succubus is delivering her into the fray. I recommend sticking her in a Venom with 5 Wyches or 5 Incubi and positioning the transport out of line-of-sight turn 1, but within striking distance of the midfield. If you used the build I suggested above, your Succubus has 8-10” of movement and +1 to charge; she should have no trouble reaching her target turn 2 unless the opponent yields the midfield completely, which is a different kind of victory in itself.

Wyches

Wyches are vicious melee troops that can either be used to overwhelm enemies with obscene numbers of low strength attacks or can be used as tar-pit units for tying up the enemy and scoring with Objective Secured. You can include between 5 and 20 in a unit, and as with Kabalites, the more you include the more access you have to special weapons, (all melee weapons in this case.) In theory, a unit of twenty Wyches with Combat Drugs and even the most basic loadout can roll 101 attack dice in a single round of melee and- if they are “Cult of Strife” Wyches you can spend 2CP on the stratagem “No Method of Death Beyond our Grasp” to have them fight again by rolling another 101 dice on the same turn. 202 attacks from a single troops unit in a single turn is nothing to sneer at, (even if in hanging out with your Drukhari cousins you have learned from their superior sneering skills.)

That said, I don’t think these large units of murder-wyches are the way forward when Drukhari are accompanying Craftworlders as allies. A mono Drukhari list has tricky ways to enable a large unit of Wyches to advance and charge, but in an allied list twenty Wyches are definitely going to absorb some enemy fire before they reach combat, and one thing Wyches are terrible at is absorbing enemy fire. They have have a 4++ invuln against melee attacks, but only a 6+ invuln against shooting. Even a unit of guardsmen can do some serious damage to Wyches in a single round of shooting.

If you do want to run a large unit of Wyches, the only really viable move is to deepstrike them with the “Webway Portal” stratagem and hope that with the +1 to charge granted by the “Cult of Strife” sub faction bonus and a Command Re-roll you can get them there. If it works, you can then use the stratagem “Invigorated by Evisceration” to give them a 4++ against shooting attacks also if they manage to kill whatever they engage. Nevertheless, this is just too high risk in my opinion for a 200-point investment.

Instead, my recommendation is to favor minimum-sized squads of Wyches in Venoms, and use them to Obsec Score objectives out from underneath opponent’s objective holders tie or up enemy units trying to reach objectives to prevent them from scoring. The Wyches jump out probably turn 2 and charge, (and the Venom can then charge a different unit, or zip off to help score Engage on all Fronts while putting some fire on vulnerable enemies.) Used in this way, Wyches benefit most from a toughness increase when you select Combat Drugs, as they are really there to manipulate your opponent’s units, which makes surviving a round of combat more important than inflicting extra damage.

If you want a unit of ‘killy’ Wyches, upgrade your Succubus to a Master Succubus as discussed earlier; this will enable you to upgrade a unit of 10 Wyches to ‘Hakatrix Bloodbrides,’ and then use the Cult of Strife Strategem “Hekatrix of the Crucibael” (in the “Book of Rust” supplement,) to give the squad leader, (called a Hekatrix,) the relic “Dark Lotus Toxin.” (Also give her a Blast Pistol and a Power Sword.) Give one Wych a Shard Net and Impaler. Use combat Drugs to increase the number of attacks by 1 on the charge. If you took 10 Wyches, they now have the following attack profile all hitting on 2+:
-40 Attacks at S3, -1 AP, 1 damage
-6 Attacks at S5, -3AP, Flat 2 Damage

-5 Attacks at S3, -2AP, Flat 2 Damage
AND you can use the “Cult of Strife” Stratagem “No Method of Death Beyond our Grasp” attack a second time at the end of the Fight Phase. Very little can survive that.

If you do decide to run the Bloodbrides, consider sticking them all in a Raider with a Succubus, (who enables nearby Wyches to reroll wounds.) Together they constitute a melee force that can challenge anything in the game. Nevertheless, you might consider going with those small basic units of Wyches for board control and using your Succubus and perhaps a couple of units of Incubi in Venoms as your killers.

Reaver Jetbikes

Reavers are the speed freaks of the Commorraghite arenas, daring bikers with the capacity to carry powerful heavy weapons and deliver stout blows in melee. (As a Craftworlder, I would strongly discourage you from comparing their stats and stratagems to those of Windriders, unless you are on the Path of the Imperturbable.) Reaver jetbikes can be useful in an allied detachment as harassers; they also enable a player running a Wych Cult detachment to get a few of those upgraded 9th edition heavy weapons that Craftworlders don’t have just yet.

The basic loadout for a Reaver jetbike is: a Splinter Pistol, a Splinter Rifle, and Blade Vanes which are a +1 Str, -1AP melee weapon. This a slightly worse shooting profile than a standard Windrider, but a significantly better melee profile as Reavers have 3 attacks, (the Sergeant has 4,) and that’s before you decide whether to boost their attacks with Combat Drugs. Because they have an 18” move, Reavers can threaten just about anything on the board first turn and can easily be used to screen out objectives or to create a log jam in your opponent’s deployment zone.

Every third jetbike can be equipped with a Heat Lance for only 10 points: Heavy1, Str8, –4AP, D6+2 damage. This is especially brutal as you can use Combat Drugs to raise the ballistic skill of the whole squad to 2+. Yikes.

As I see it, there are basically two ways to use Reavers in a Craftworlds soup list. The first is to run minimum squads with no upgrades except perhaps a single Power Sword. These three-bike harassing units nip around the board helping you to score Engage on all Fronts and tying up enemy units in combat.

The second option is to add two Heat Lances to a squad of six and have them hover around the back of the midfield, dividing their fire between infantry and hard targets while making use of “Never Stationary” to move out of Line of Sight every time they fire. They can combine this with a stratagem called “Eviscerating Flyby,” which allows every model in the unit to roll a D6 for a single unit they moved over. If the target is an infantry unit, every roll of 4+ inflicts a mortal wound. This is a highly efficient way to assassinate enemy support characters.

The Reavers are not as obvious and include as the Succubus and Wyches, but they have some play in the right list.

Hellions

I have to start this one by saying I just love the models. Hellions are acrobatic shadow elves riding Green-Goblin-Style hover boards and wielding enormous double-bladed glaives. While I was waiting for the new codex to drop, I had ten of them lined up behind my work computer, and sometimes while on Zoom calls I would surreptitiously play with them like a twelve-year-old. If you already own any Hellions, it’s hard to resist fielding them just to see the models on the table.

Hellions definitely pack a punch. A squad of ten that uses Combat Drugs to increase their attacks rolls forty one dice in melee hitting on 3s, Str4, -1AP, Flat 2 damage. Additionally, if they use the “Eviscerating Flyby” Stratagem, they can drop an average of 5 mortal wounds on something before they charge. After they eliminate a target, Cult of Strife Hellions can then use “Invigorated by Evisceration” to get a 4++ invulnerable save until the start of their next turn.

Nevertheless, the Drukhari talking heads of the internet are divided over whether Hellions are any good. On the one hand, Hellions are fast, brutally hard-hitting jump troops that can cut apart marines as though ceramite armor was just a paper-mache cosplay. On the other hand, Hellions are difficult to hide out of line of sight in large numbers and any army teched out to kill marines, (most of them,) can also kill Hellions efficiently. It’s not so bad if you have to trade your Hellions for a squad of Heavy infantry, but they are just expensive enough at 17 points per model that you can’t afford to have them do nothing and then get shot down by something mobile enough to get a bead on them early.

Whether or not it makes sense for you to include Hellions in your list probably depends on what your Meta is like. If you aren’t playing against a lot of White Scars, Ad Mech, Dark Angels, Drukhari, or other highly mobile armies with powerful shooting, Hellions might be a strong pick; otherwise, they probably only make the grade for casual play.

The Takeaway

Consider running a Wych Cult Patrol alongside your Craftworlders in order to counter punch the midfield with powerful melee units and perhaps harass the opponent’s backfield. This will both give your Asuryani Heavy Support units room to breathe and tie up key enemy units in the early game. If you do, select the “Cult of Strife” sub faction and add:

– A Succubus with The Tryptych Whip, bonus attacks or movement from Combat Drugs, and the Stratagems mentioned above quick to hand. Possibly upgrade her to a Master Succubus.
– A couple of minimum sized Wych units mounted in Venoms to harass the midboard
– OR 10 Hekatrix Bloodbrides; Use a stratagem to give the Sergeant a Relic as discussed above and remember you can make them fight again with the unique “Cult of Strife” stratagem
– A Raider or Venom for the Bloodbrides if you bring them
-MAYBE: Two small units or one medium size units of Reaver Jet bikes
-MAYBE: Add Hired Blade Units discussed later in this post.

HAEMONCULUS COVENS

Haemonculi are creeptastic fleshcrafters who haunt vast complexes of laboratories dealing in body modifications and creating grotesque monsters to serve their dark whims. Right up until the Drukhari codex dropped, I felt certain that Coven detachments would have the most to offer Craftworld players running soup lists. More than anything, Craftworlders need help with the primary objective game, and historically Covens have featured enormously durable monsters that could sit on mid-field objectives while dealing unignorably vicious ranged attacks. They were also murderous enough in close-combat to disassemble most challengers into bloody chunks of raw material in a single turn. In 9th edition, things have changed.

HOW THEY PLAY ON THE TABLE

9th Edition Coven units no longer have the invulnerable saves that made them so difficult to shift in 8th, and without access to Power from Pain, (which you may remember Drukhari lose when they appear in a soup list,) they just aren’t the equal of Kabals and Cults as allies. That said, there is one very specific Coven build that has competitive promise in an allied list: Dark Technomancers + Liquefiers = the lamentations your enemies.

THE BEST ALLIED UNIT OPTIONS

The Haemunculus

A Haemonculus is the only coven HQ unit. He is worse than both the Archon and the Succubus in melee and has no meaningful shooting profile. Instead, his job is to follow around one or more of your other Coven units, making them more durable by increasing their toughness by 1 and by returning D3 wounds to damaged monsters once per turn. For 20 points, you can upgrade your Haemunculus to an “Alchemical Maestro,” which gives it the ability to resurrect with D3 wounds on a roll of 2+ the first time it dies. Making your bonecrafter-and-chief a Maestro also enables you to upgrade a single unit of up to 10 wracks to “Haemoxytes,” which makes them more durable with +1 to their saves and the ability to ignore their first casualty in each phase. If you are going to try and hold an objective with Wracks this is probably worth doing, (but frankly, at 200 points for the most basic version of this build, you might be better off just taking the Phoenix Lord Asurman with 10 Dire Avengers and casting FORTUNE and PROTECT on them.)

Wracks

Wracks are surgically altered beings that have been chopped up and remade into walking torture factories. Most carry poison blades that wound on a 4+ and have -1AP and one in five can have a reasonably good ranged weapon. (The squad leader can also have a ranged weapon.) In theory, Wracks make effective objective holders because they are an Obsec. unit with a 5+++ feel-no-pain, and can get to T5 if there is a Haemonculus nearby. Without Power from Pain, however, they don’t have an invulnerable save and their standard save is only a 6+. At only 8 points per model, a couple of 5-Wrack units used for backfield objective control are points-efficient compared to options in the Craftworlds codex, but I would not make them a priority.

Probably the best way to run Wracks is to stick 5 in a Venom with two Liquefier guns and the custom coven bonus, “Dark Technomancers,” which provides a bonus to the wound roll and increases the damage characteristic by 1.

Grotesques

Grotesques are essentially Drukhari Wraithguard: heavy infantry that can be kitted out for melee or shooting. Without Power From Pain, however, they are less durable than Wraithguard and are slightly more expensive. Nevertheless, one very specific build has promise. Here is how it works:

-Take 5 Grotesques and give them all Liquefier Guns (225 points)
-Stick them in a Raider (85 points)
-Make your Coven Patrol a Custom Coven with “Dark Technomancers” (This adds +1 to the wound rolls and +1 to the damage of all your attacks, but inflicts mortal wounds on the unit making use of the bonus for unmodified hit rolls of 1. Because those Liquefiers hit automatically, however, the penalty will never apply to this build.)
-Fly around blasting enemy units with nasty auto-hitting flat 2 damage fire, and then use “Never Stationary” to move the transport of Line of Sight

This is guaranteed to cause your opponent some grief, and even once the transport is destroyed, the Grotesques are tough enough to draw significant fire away from your other units and perhaps contest an objective.

Talos and Cronos

Talos and Cronos are big floating flesh monsters that fill roughly the same roll as Wraithlords and War Walkers, except that they only have seven wounds, a 5+++ feel-no-pain, and can be run in squads of up to 3. Both Talos and Cronos have pretty decent melee and shooting profiles, but the Talos can take long range weapons like twin Dark Lances, while Cronos have a maximum range of 18″ and specialize in anti-infantry fire. A Cronos has an additional benefit: it can restore a wound to a damaged model or even resurrect a destroyed model in a nearby squad.

A unit of three Talos gives a Craftworlds player access to six Dark Lances, which sounds amazing as Dark Lances do D3+3 damage while our own Bright Lances are languishing at D6 until we get a codex. You can use 3 Talos the way you might use 3 War Walkers; blast something important, then make use of the “Never Stationary” stratagem to fire and fade them out of line-of-sight every turn. The problem is that Talos have a ballistic skill of 4+, so those six Dark Lances are still doing less damage on average than the 6 Bright Lances that you put on those three singleton War Walkers and run them with “Expert Crafters.” (Also, those three Talos cost 333 points, which is significantly more than the War Walkers.)

Don’t get me wrong: Talos and Cronos are not terrible in a soup list, and if you have hot dice on your 5+++ feel-no-pain saves they might stick around long enough to be a real problem for your opponent, but I am not convinced that they do the job better than Wraithlords and War Walkers.

(I say this as someone who was so convinced these things would be amazing in 9th edition, that I added 9 painted Talos to my Drukhari collection a year ago. Oof.)

The Takeaway

Unless you already have a bunch of coven units in your collection, this is not the most optimal direction to go if you are about to invest in an allied force.

If you are going to use Covens alongside your Craftworlders, consider a Haemonculus and some Wracks for objective control and then fill out the detachment with Blades for Hire.

BLADES FOR HIRE

The Drukhari codex contains four “Blades for Hire” units, any of which can be incorporated in Kabal, Wych Cult, or Coven detachments without penalty. These are among the most powerful tools available to a Craftworld Player adding Drukhari allies. Almost all competitive soup lists will want to make use of these mercenary units.

Incubi

Incubi are essentially Drukhari Aspect Warriors, consummate students the blade pathologically devoted to perfecting themselves as dualists and killers. They are easily one of the very best units in an already top-tier codex. If you are taking Drukhari as allies, you want at least one squad of Incubi, probably two.

Five Incubi in a Venom can counter just about any infantry or character unit in the game. They have only a single weapon, the Demi-Glaive, but it has two different attack profiles. A squad of five either puts out 19 attacks at S5, -3AP, Flat 2 damage, OR 26 attacks at S4, -2 AP Flat 2 damage. Because Incubi hit on 2s in melee and 6s to wound increase both the AP and the damage by 1, those attack numbers lead to even better outcomes than you might initially suppose.

If you are not already twitching to paint up some Incubi, consider that they only cost 16 points per model, so that squad of 5 that I just mentioned is only 80 points and needs no weapon upgrades. (That said, they do need a Venom to get around, which costs another 65 points, but the Venom has utility even after it has delivered the Incubi.)

I suggest running Incubi in squads of 5 in Venoms along with either an Archon or Drahzer, (both of which grant attack buffs to nearby Incubi.) Get them into a position out of line-of-sight from which they can threaten the midfield; wait for your opponent to commit, then carve her objective holders and assault troops into slop for the beast pits.

It is overwhelmingly likely that your Incubi will be destroyed after eliminating whatever you throw them at. They are only T3 with a 3+ armor save and only one wound, (except for the sergeant, called a Klaivex, which has two.) It doesn’t matter. Incubi are a trading unit and at only 80 points for 5, you are guaranteed to pretty much always get the better end of the deal.

Drazhar

This mysterious and mute master warrior is the Incubi Phoenix Lord. No, really. The lore implies that Drazhar was once Arhra, the original Striking Scorpian Pheonix Lord who became so subsumed by the path of Khaine that life as a champion of the Craftworlds was insufficient to slake his thirst for slaughter. (Frankly, if I were the Striking Scorpion Phoenix Lord and saw the current GW rules for warriors from my shrine, I might rage-quit and start my own thing in Commorragh too.)

Drahzar is obscenely good. He has two weapon profiles for his Executioner’s Demi-Glaive: 5 attacks at S6, -3AP, flat 3 damage OR 7 attacks at S5, -3AP, flat 2 damage. (Obviously he hits on 2s.) Here is the best part though: He can fight twice in every fight phase, so go ahead and double those attack numbers. Think of it this way: every fight phase, Drazhar has a damage output roughly equivalent to seven Star Cannons that hit on 2s. AND he is doing this on both players’ turns.

It gets better. Unlike most of the actual Phoenix Lords, Drazhar can take a punch. He has a 2+ armor save, a 4+ invulnerable save, and reduces all incoming damage rolls by 1.

Did I mention he gives nearby Incubi +1 to wound?

Stick Drazhar in a Venom with 5 Incubi and wait for something valuable to attempt to leave its deployment zone.

My FAVORITE thing about Drazhar though is that I am pretty sure he is giving us a glimpse of what the actual Phoenix Lords will look like in the 9th ed Craftworlds codex.

Scourges

Scourges are Drukhari warriors who have been transformed into avian predators by the dark arts of the Haemonculi. In the lore, they spend most of their time running high-priority messages for Archons. On the table, Scourges are what Swooping Hawks would be if they only cost 12 points per model and you could give them all Bright Lances, and if they had an extra attack. (To be fair, Scourges don’t have a grenade pack.)

I recommend considering a single squad of between five and seven Scourges with Blasters, which have an 18” range at Assault 1, S8, -4AP, D6 damage. The Blasters don’t hit quite as hard as the Dark Lance at D3+3, (which you could also give them,) but Dark Lances are Heavy weapons, so they confer -1 to hit when the Scourges move before they fire, which is always. Also, the Dark Lance costs 15 points, whereas the Blasters are only 10.

The Scourges are definitely not an auto-include, but in lists that need some extra affordable heavy weapons fire they can do good work. If you do use them, definitely make use of their CP-free deepstrike ability. You should be able to keep them alive for more than a turn by using “Never Stationary,” the Drukhari equivalent of “Fire and Fade.”

Mandrakes

These spooky shadow dwellers are the unseelie inhabitants of a realm called Aelindrach. They agree to fight alongside other Drukhari in exchange for weird tribute like the final breath of a captive or a lord’s true name. On the table, they provide first-turn board control, are exceptional at scoring secondary objectives, and pose just enough of a threat in both shooting and melee to keep an opponent on her toes. Every allied Drukhari detachment can be improved with the addition of up to two 5-elf Mandrake units.

Mandrakes’ greatest asset is their mobility. In the deployment phase you can set them up anywhere on the table more than 9” from the opponent’s deployment zone. This means they can screen your opponent out of moving onto objectives first turn, protect your backline units from fast melee units that can cross the board in a single turn, or set up ambushes that will make your opponent think twice about contesting the midfield. Additionally, Mandrakes have a power called “Fade Away,” which allows you to remove them from the board during the movement phase and then deepstrike them on the following turn. This is invaluable for scoring secondary objectives like “Engage on All Fronts,” and “Scramblers,” which Craftworlds tend to favor. This redeploy can also be useful late in the game for eliminating your opponent’s undefended backfield objective holders.

Although Mandrakes aren’t exactly tough, they confer a native -1 to hit on anyone targeting them and they have a 5++ invulnerable save, which is enough to at least survive moderate small arms fire.

They might not sound as flashy as many of the other units discussed here, but I have found Mandrakes to be worth their points in every game I have played with Drukhari.

Razorwing Jet Fighters and Voidraven Bombers

The Drukhari flyers are not Blades for Hire, but can be added to any Kabal or Wych Cult unit. Both are harder hitting and more durable than the Craftworlds flyers and both are reasonable additions to an allied detachment mostly because they grant access to multiple heavy lance weapons that do D3+3 damage. Of the two, I think the Voidraven Bomber is the stronger pick as in addition to two S9, -4AP Void Lances, it also has a once-per-battle ability whereby it can select a point on the battlefield that it flew over and roll a D6 for every unit within 6” of that point. Every roll of 4+ inflicts D6 mortal wounds on the target. Nasty, and Craftworlds have nothing in their arsenal like it.

There are two reasons that I am not clambering for you to consider adding flyers. The first is that they are almost impossible to hide on turn 1 and so if you DON’T get first turn and you brought a Voidraven, it is almost certain to be destroyed before it sees action. This can be mitigated if you are bringing lots of heavy targets that can’t be hidden such that destroying the Voidraven means letting other major threats go ignored, but you really have to build for that, and I am not sure such builds play to Aeldari strengths.

The second reason that I am not overly keen on the flyers in allied lists is that they are points intensive. If you are going to make one flyer an important part of your overall plan, then you probably need two flyers, the cheapest version of which is still 320 points. If I am adding this expense to say a Kabal detachment that already has: an Archon, 10 Incubi, 2 Venoms, 10 Kabalite Trueborn with Heavy Weapons in a Raider, and 5 Mandrakes, then I am closing in on 1000 points of Drukhari, at which point they are more than just allies. If what you want to do is run a Drukhari list with maybe a handful of Craftworld units splashed in, then the Flyers are worth considering.

Warlord Traits

You might have noticed that I have not discussed how to optimize the Archon, Succubus, or Drahzar with Warlord traits. This is because I am assuming you want to make a Craftwolrds unit your Warlord just as I am assuming that you plan to include more Craftworld Eldar in your list than Drukhari; the idea here is to discuss Drukhari allies, not to facilitate the subtle takeover of your War Host by the Dark Kin.

This article is aimed at Craftworlds players who are interested in adding perhaps six or seven hundred points of Drukhari to their lists in order to gain additional competitive presence, not at players who are focused on making the most competitive possible Aeldari list, (which frankly might just be pure Drukhari.) If you are interested in learning more about building a mono-faction Drukhari army, you can find excellent resources on Goonhammer and the Skaredcast Youtube channel. Our deranged cousins are lots of fun to play, and you can learn a lot about the game from running multiple armies with different play styles.

When You Play with Wyches, Expect to Get Cut: Making Room for a Drukhari Detachment

If you decide to make the leap into an allied detachment of Drukhari, you are obviously going to have to create room in some of your roster. It can be difficult to decide what stays and what goes, and the best answers might turn out to be counter intuitive. The key is to focus on having the tools you need to get to the win, not on making sure you still have as many of the “best” units as possible.

For example, a player revising a list to include Drukhari allies might be hesitant to eliminate her twelve Shining Spears. After all, Spears are among the only units in the codex that are the envy of other factions. Why then, in Isha’s name, would she eliminate her most competitive unit? Well, if she is primarily using Spears to punch enemy units off midfield objectives, then frankly she doesn’t need them anymore. Those Drukhari characters and Incubi in Venoms can do that same job better for fewer points.

In considering what Craftworld units synergize best with Drukhari, think about all of the tasks that Drukhari aren’t getting done for you. Drukhari are bad at eliminating enemy infantry at long range, have no indirect fire options, and no psykers. Also, if you are planning to use your Drukhari mostly to dominate the midfield, (and you probably should,) then you still need Craftworlds heavy support units to deal with hard targets at range and control your backfield, even if the Drukhari are helping out a bit with a couple of Dark Lances.

Before you finalize your list, ask yourself how your new Roster will address hordes, heavy infantry, tanks and monsters, gun lines, etc. And most of all, check and make sure you have a specific plan for getting to at least 70 victory points in the primary and secondary objective game and enough Command Points and Psychic Casts to fuel the particulars of that plan. For more about this, consider reading, “How to Design and Eldar Army List, Part 2: Unit Synergy and Resource Allocation,” if you have not already done so.

So there is!

Hopefully you have all the information you need to decide whether you want to invite a few of those scary cousins from the big city to help out on your next campaign. Eventually, we will have a 9th edition codex of our own, and we can kick the Drukhari back to Commorragh where they are still living the rock-and-roll lifestyle that lead to the birth of Slaanesh in the first place. In the meantime though, we need all the help we can get.

If you have other ideas about how to use Drukhari effectively as allies please comment below or drop me an email using the contact tab above. If you have not already subscribed to the blog, please consider clicking the button in the right hand column to receive an email when there is a new post. Lastly, if you haven’t watched my youtube interview with Skari, perhaps the most famous Drukhari player in the global 40k community, you can check that out here.

Best wishes in all your martial endeavors,

Brent


3 thoughts on “Hanging with your Psychopathic Cousins; Drukhari Allies in 9th Edition

  1. Jeez, Brent that was quite the deep dive! I think that chat with Skari was certainly informative!

    I think you’re right when you suggest keeping the allied points to 700, and fortunately for us the Dark Eldar are so criminally undercoated in some areas that we can really maximise effeciency with 700pts.

    I’ve got a game today where I’ll be giving the Covens a crack at allies.(Drazhar, 3×5 wracks with liquifiers in venoms, two talos with twin liquifiers all Dark Technomancers!) there’s something quite filthy about taking down Valkyries with liquifiers.

    Keep up the good work man, can’t wait to see more!

  2. Fantastic content; exactly what I’m after as a craftworlds player just building up my army. It’s hard not to get depressed at all the units dark elves have that are better and cheaper than ours, although I get your point that it might make them more playable until we get our new codex. Keep up the great articles, they are very much appreciated!

  3. Hi, very interesting. I will give the Drukhari a try (witch + incubi to take care of the midfield), but I am not sure you can take the relics as it is specified the warlord needs to have the drukhari keyword. I can be wrong though.
    Thanks for your articles. Very useful.

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