The day is finally upon us! As the first rays of the rising sun strike the enormous imperial aquila mounted atop Warhammer World, all around the globe eager 40k enthusiasts are cuing outside their local stores to pick up Chapter Approved 2021.
Or… at least, this is what would be happening if:
a) there were no such thing as time zones,
b) there weren’t a shortage of copies, pretty much all of which were reserved in advance, and
c) the changes to point costs and secondary objectives had not already been spoiled online days ago.
But I am telling you that over in universe 42B, (where none of this is the case,) the lines are long and fans are losing their shit. Literally. (Consider, however, that universe 42B is ruled by a capricious sun god who punishes shade-seekers with loose bowels, so we are probably still better off in our own universe of product-shortages and rules-leaks.) Good times.
Once again, this year’s Chapter Approved consists of two slim volumes packaged together: the Munitorum Field Manuel with updated point values for every unit in the game, and the Grand Tournament 2021 Mission Pack, which had significantly changed the options for secondary objectives.
In this article, I am going to discuss how these changes affect Craftworlds in competitive play. And it’s all good news! A few of our units received modest point reductions that might make them stronger contenders for a tournament roster, and our capacity to score secondary objectives has probably improved more than for most other factions. Although Chapter Approved 2021 does not come anywhere near putting Craftworld Eldar on level with top tier factions, it is nevertheless a nice little boost while we wait for our 9th edition codex. Also, I think the new secondaries will make the game better balanced and more dynamic.
Craftworld Eldar received points reductions to seven units, (which is more than any other factions in the game,) and no increases. Here they are, harvested from my own favorite 40K content producer: Goonhammer.
“The Avatar of Khaine dropped 35 points to 200
Fire Dragons dropped to 20ppm (-3)
Wraithblades dropped to 37ppm (-3)
Wraithguard dropped to 35ppm (-3)
Dark Reapers dropped to 32ppm (-3)
The Fire Prism dropped to 155 (-15)
The Night Spinner dropped to 135 (-10)”
Even though these cost reductions have not meaningfully altered the viability of Craftworlds in competitive play, they are certainly a nice little bonus to our current lists. I suspect that most Asuyani players just picked up around 30 points in their rosters, which could be used to upgrade some heavy weapons, replace a Vyper with a Hornet, or replace a Wraithlord with a Wraithseer, etc.
Moreover, units that you might have previously passed over as a little too expensive might suddenly be worth considering. That squad of ten Fire Dragons that I advocated for in an earlier video just dropped 30 points. The pair of Night Spinners you perhaps were not quite sold on just went down twenty points. (Totally worth it now.) Because Fire Prisms need to be run in groups of three to really earn their keep, that 15 point drop actually amounts to a 45 point reduction in a competitive list. Three prisms are now 465 points, which is much more palatable than the 510 that they used to cost.
Perhaps most intriguing for me personally is the 35 point drop for the Avatar of Khaine. Because of some changes to secondary objectives, controlling the center of the board has become even more desirable. And there are some very particular Craftworlds lists in which the Avatar of Khaine, in combination with specific infantry units and the stratagem “The Avatar Resurgent” is a serious contender for this role, (especially if he has “Expert Crafters” and “Hunter of Ancient Relics.”) This is a highly specialized build as you probably need nine command points set aside to resurrect the Avatar multiple times, but as someone who really loves that model, I am excited about any change that makes this fiery cousin of Khorne more viable.
The most obvious beneficiaries are Wraithblades and Reapers, both of which were already seeing plenty of competitive play.
The New Secondaries
For days now, clever 40k content creators have been analyzing the new secondary missions on their blogs and youtube channels. I have already seen at least three high-quality break-downs of what these new missions mean for the game in general, so I am going to focus on what these changes mean for Craftworlds. If you want a general overview, consider having a look at this guest post the 40k famous Nick Nanavati did for Goonhammer.
Let’s Dive In: The Most Competitive Secondary Objectives for Craftworlds
Just as in the previous edition of Chapter Approved, there are five different categories of secondary objectives, and players may not choose multiple secondaries from the same category. Many of the options from last year’s edition have new rules and new names.
1) BATTLEFIELD SUPREMECY
Engage on All Fronts: Thankfully, this one has not changed at all. I say “Thankfully,” because “Engage on All Fronts” probably remains the single best secondary objective for competitive Craftworlds lists against virtually any opponent. A player scores 3VP per turn for having at least one unit wholly within each table quarter and at least 6” from the center of the battlefield, or 2VP if only three table quarters are occupied.
Although maximizing the score for “Engage on All Fronts” might mean sacrificing a couple of Vypers or some similarly cheap chaff on turn one, the trade-off is well worth it. With so many fast units and models that can perform a deepstrike without spending CP, keeping up the pressure is relatively easy for a Craftworlds player. “Engage on All Fronts” plays to our strengths, is almost impossible for an opponent to counter, and has good synergy with other promising secondaries that are good picks for Eldar.
Behind Enemy Lines: This is the new version of Line Breaker. At least for Craftworlds, it’s an improvement over the older version. If you have one non-AIRCRAFT unit in your opponent’s deployment zone at the end of your turn, you score 2VP. If you manage two units: 4VP. Not impossible for a highly mobile army like Asuryani. Nevertheless, against most opponents and for most lists, “Behind Enemy Lines” is going to be harder to pull off than “Engage on All Fronts,” and will probably require you to sacrifice more units in order to score fewer points.
That said, in low point-value games, especially in 500 point play, “Behind Enemy Lines” might be a stronger pick than Engage on All fronts, as it simply requires fewer models. Also, in 500 point play it will be harder for your opponent to screen you out of her deployment zone while also playing the objective game.
Stranglehold: This is the new version of “Domination,” and while it’s better for the game overall, it’s a minor blow to Craftworld Eldar. “Stranglehold” is simple: you score 3 victory points at the end of your turn if you control at least three primary objectives AND you control more primary objectives than your opponent. Because primary objective control is the area where Craftworld Eldar struggle most, this is not likely to be a strong option for most lists.
More importantly, it will be harder for a Craftworlds player to prevent an opponent from scoring “Stranglehold” than it was to prevent her from scoring “Domination,” as now in a match with 6 objectives on the table an opponent only needs to control 3 instead of 4 to secure the secondary points.
If you come up against another low-model count army with very few Obsec units, “Stranglehold” might be a strong pick, but in the majority of match-ups you probably want “Engage on All Fronts.”
NO MERCY, NO RESPITE
No Prisoners: This is the new version of “Thin Their Ranks,” and the change is a solid win for Craftworlds. You might remember that “Thin Their Ranks” provided 1 victory point at the end of the game for every ten models you destroyed. “No Prisoners” instead provides 1 victory point for every ten WOUNDS you deal to enemy units that are not vehicles, characters, or monsters. This means that multi-wound elite infantry armies like Space Marines and Custodes are no longer immune to target elimination secondaries. Also, because Eldar are fragile army and usually have a low model count, they will almost always offer up fewer points for this objective than an opponent’s list. Against most opponents, you can probably be relatively sure of scoring at least six or seven points for this one- against some, you can hope for more than ten. Not bad at all.
Grind Them Down: This one has not changed; you score 3 points for every round in which you eliminate more units than your opponent. Although “Grind Them Down” is theoretically a strong option for Craftworlds, (because they are a low-model count elite army,) I suspect it will not be viable for the majority of competitive Craftworlds lists. The trifecta of “Expert Crafters,” “Engage on All Fronts,” and the secondary that has replaced Scramblers- called “Retrieve Octarius Data,” have enormously incentivized MSU style lists, (minimum sized unit,) which are likely to require sacrificing inexpensive units in order to score points. That’s a bad combo for “Grind Them Down.”
On the other hand, if you are running an Ulthwe army with large units to benefit from psychic buffs and stratagems, “Grind Them Down” might work for you against opponents opting for an MSU style build.
To the Last: This is a new version of “While We Stand We Fight,” with a minor additional caveat. Like its predecessor, “To the Last” grants 5 points at the end of the battle for each of your three most expensive units if they survive to the end of the game; (the caveat is that units that can split into smaller units once the game starts only grant a partial reward if not all the models survive, which is unlikely to matter to a Craftworlds player.)
This one can be good for Eldar, but it is incredibly tricky to use effectively. For some factions, “To the Last” is an auto-include that requires almost no finesse at all; not so for Craftworld Eldar. Like WWSWF, “To the Last” is not something you choose as a Craftworlds player because you expect it to score you many points, but rather to force an opponent to focus a disproportionate volume of resources on destroying super-buffed units, like five wraithblades souped-up with psychic powers and stratagems to have a 3++ invuln, a 5+++ feel-no-pain, and -1 to hit. This takes the pressure off the rest of your army, including your primary objective holders, forcing your opponent between to choose between allowing you to score 15 points, or giving your harder-hitting and more fragile units free rein.
That said, In order to make “To the Last” work you need to build your whole list around the units in question and in such a particular way that it warrants its own lengthy blog post to explain. Unless you are highly experienced both with competitive 40k in general and Craftworlds in particular, “To the Last” is probably not going to be one of your three best options for secondary objectives. And even if you are space-elf Sun Tzo, “To the Last” is not easy to use well.
Raise the Banners High: Another unchanged survivor from last year’s Chapter Approved, “Raise the Banners High” has never been a great pick for Craftworlds. If an infantry unit you control performs the action “Raise Banners” on an objective in range, you score an additional point per turn for that objective each time you score it in your Command Phase, plus an additional point at the end of the game. This secondary is good for armies like Space Marines and Custodes with lots of super-tough Obsec units that want to sidle onto an objective and hold it against all comers until the last turn. With the right combination of buffs, Craftworlders can pull that off on maybe one objective, amounting to perhaps four or five points at the end of the game. Not good enough. If you know you can hold at least two objectives uninterrupted from turn 2 on, “Raise the Banners High” might be a good third pick, but in most match-ups you are probably better off opting for something else.
Investigate Signal: Like the old “Investigate Sites” that it replaced, “Investigate Signal” allows you to score points for dominating the center of the map. You score 3VP if an infantry unit performs the “Investigate Sites” action WHOLLY with 6” of the center of the battlefield and at the end of the turn there no enemy units are WHOLLY within 6” of the center of the battlefield. This is a marginal choice for Craftworlds that only makes sense for very particular lists in very particular match-ups.
On the one hand, Craftworld Eldar are mobile enough to get to the center of the table quickly and killy enough to eliminate whatever else is there. (Even a six or seven Deathshroud Terminators are going to struggle to survive a turn against a dedicated Craftworlds force with access to DOOM and JINX.)
On the other hand, Craftworlders are too fragile to survive more than a turn in an exposed position and expensive enough that you probably can’t trade units for five turns to max this one out. For me though, the real dealbreaker is that Investigate Signal has no synergy at all with what are probably the two strongest for most competitive Craftworlds lists: “Engage on All Fronts” and “Retrieve Octarius Data,” as both require the units involved to stay away from the center of the table. Most Autarchs are probably better off taking a pass on this one.
Retrieve Octarius Data: Behold! This new and improved version of “Scramblers” is likely to be a go-to choice for Craftworlds players in a majority of games. Once per turn, a single infantry unit can perform the “Retrieve Data” action if that units is wholly within one table quarter and at least 6” from every other table quarter. (This action can only be performed once in each quadrant.) At the end of game, having performed the action twice is worth 4 points, three times is worth 8 points, and four time is worth 12 points. Woot!
This is a big win for Craftworlds. Swooping Hawks and Warp Spiders are among the fastest infantry on 40k; they can deepstrike without CP, and Warpspiders can use the “Web of Deceit” exarch power once per game to teleport anywhere they want on the table as though they were deepstriking. As a result, a Craftworlds player who invests less than 200 points in the appropriate units can wrack up 12VP for “Retrieve Octarius Data” while also getting closer to a maximum score for “Engage on all Fronts.”
ROD is better than “Scamblers” for three reasons: it’s is worth 12VP instead of 10, it’s harder for an opponent to prevent because it doesn’t require an action in the opponent’s deployment zone, and even in the absolute worst-case scenario you can probably manage to score 8 points, while “Scramblers” was worth nothing at all unless you completed all three actions.
Lastly, while “Scramblers” was low-hanging fruit for lots of factions, Craftworlders are going to have an easier time maxing out ROD than almost any other army in the game thanks to our speedy aspect warriors.
Deploy Teleport Homers: This a better version of the previous “Teleport Homer” secondary. Either an infantry unit or biker unit can perform the “Deploy Teleport Homer” action if they are within 12” of the enemy deployment zone. If that unit survives until your next Command Phase, you score 4VP if you are actually in your opponent’s deployment zone, or 2VP if the unit is merely within 12” of the deployment zone.
In 2K games, this is a foolish pick. The only unit robust enough to have a good chance at surviving long enough to score this is a fully buffed unit of Wraithblades, and those can be screened out by a wily opponent. In 500 point games, “Deploy Teleport Homers” might have real merit.
Purge The Enemy
Assassination: A slightly modified version of “Assassinate.” You get 3VP for every character you kill, plus an extra point for the Warlord. This one is obviously highly situational, but if you are reasonably sure that you can kill at least three of your opponent’s characters, it’s probably worth taking.
Titan Hunter: This has the same name as the old version, but has been significantly nerfed. Now you earn only 4 points for destroying a single Titanic model, 9 points for destroying two, and 15 points for destroying three. Again, highly situational. Unless your opponent is playing Imperial Knights, it is hard to imagine taking this one.
Bring it Down: A popular choice against vehicle-heavy lists, “Bring it Down” is unchanged since the January FAQ. You get 1VP for destroying vehicles with a Wounds characteristic of 10 or less, 2VP for a model with 11-19 wounds, and 3VP for a model with 20+ wounds.
Before the game begins, have a look at your opponent’s army and work out whether you can score at least 8 points with “Bring it Down.” Be sure to consider not only whether those points are theoretically possible, but also whether you stand a good chance of destroying the necessary units and also whether you would have wanted to prioritize them anyway. If the answer to all those questions is “yes” and you don’t have an easier way to score as many or more VP with a third secondary, this is probably your best pick.
You might also consider whether your opponent is running three expensive vehicles and likely to select “To the Last.” If there are three Plagueburst Crawlers on the table for example, “Bring it Down” might be a way of earning extra points for a task you probably need to accomplish anyway in order to win.
A last note on this one for Craftworlds Players: even if you aren’t choosing Bring it Down as a secondary, the January changes to this mission have been a boon. Wraithlords and Wraithseers are now worth only a single victory point for opponents who destroy them, and because Eldar players often run lots of vehicles, this secondary is a popular pick for our opponents. That said, when you are making your lists, you might want consider how many VP you might be giving up with easily destroyed vehicles like Vyper Jetbikes and War Walkers.
Abhor the Witch: Unchanged since January: a player scores 3VP for each psyker character destroyed and 2CP for each non-character psychic unit, and only armies without psykers in their rosters can select this secondary. Obviously, no Craftworlds player will ever take “Abhor the Witch.”
On the bright side, if your opponent is taking “Abhor the Witch,” she may not have any characters with psychic denial, in which case you might be able to pick up 12 easy points of your own with “Psychic Interrogation.”
Warp Ritual: This is soooo much better than the “Psychic Ritual” secondary that it replaced, but still a marginal pick against many opponents. If you have a psyker within 6” of the center of battlefield, it can attempt the “Warp Ritual” action in the psychic phase. (It only has a Warp Charge value of 3, so it is pretty much guaranteed to succeed.) You get 3VP if you succeed once, 7VP if you succeed twice, and 12VP if you succeed three times. AND unlike the old version, you no longer need the same psyker to perform all the casts. “Warp Ritual” sounds like an easy 12 points for a Craftworlds player.
“Warp Ritual” is not an easy 12 points for a Craftworlds player. For one thing, you need to be able to get a psyker within 6” of the center of the battlefield, which might be a tall order against opponents who want to dominate the center of the table, (a strategy that is incentivized by particular missions and some secondary objectives.) Another problem is that in order to perform a psychic action, your psyker has to pass on using any actual powers, and most Craftworld armies rely on the synergies created by those psychic powers. Lastly, (and most importantly,) psychic actions are subject to “Deny the Witch” in the same way that regular psychic casts are. So even if you CAN get a psyker into the middle of the table and you ARE able to take a pass on using that model’s regular powers, your opponent probably stands a 40% chance of blocking you with a dice roll if she has any models with psychic denial.
There are definitely match-ups in which very particular Craftworlds armies might be well suited to this secondary, but against most lists this is a trap.
Pierce the Veil: Unchanged from Chapter Approved 2020, “Pierce the Veil” is a psychic action that one of your psykers can perfrom within 6” of your opponent’s battlefield edge and at least 6” from all enemy models. If you do it twice, you get 8VP; if you do it 4 times you get 15VP. This is pretty damn hard to pull off with 2k points of an opposing army on the table, but in small point value games, it might occasionally be a great option.
Psychic Interrogation: This is the new version “Mental Interrogation,” and it’s probably the most viable of the Warpcraft options. If one of your psyker characters is within 24” of a visible enemy character, you can attempt a “psychic Interrogation” action, (which has a warp charge value of 4.) Every successful instance provides 3VP. The previous version of this power only had a range of 18”, but did not require line-of-sight. In my opinion, this new version is a little bit more user-friendly for Eldar, but still probably only makes the grade against armies with little to no ability to Deny the Witch.
The advantage to the new 24” range is that if your opponent has several characters but only a single model with “Deny the Witch,” she is unlikely to be able to protect all of them consistently against our highly mobile psychic characters. Also, unlike the other Warpcraft options, performing this action does not require your psyker to be positioned such that she faces almost certain death on your opponent’s next turn.
THE TAKE AWAY:
All-in-all, Chapter Approved 2021 represents a modest gain for Craftworld eldar. Most competitive rosters are probably about 2-5% cheaper than they were before, (which is a better reduction than almost any other faction in the game,) and the new secondary missions will likely enable Craftworlds players to reliably score a few more VP than they count previously count on.
In my opinion, the majority of competitive Craftworlds lists will find the most success leaning into “Engage on All Fronts” and “Retrieve Octarius Data” as first picks, followed circumstantially by “No Prisoners,” “Bring it Down,” and “Assassination,” depending on what the opponent brings to the table. More unusual Craftworlds rosters might be able to make use of “To the Last” and perhaps even “Stranglehold,” although these are not for inexperienced Autarchs. “Psychic Interrogation” might be a good third pick for lists with at least three psychic characters coming up against opposing rosters with more than three characters and very little psychic denial.
So that’s it. Chapter Approved 2021 is no substitute for a new codex, but no self-respecting space elf would ever complain about cheaper units and a few extra victory points at the end of the game.
Best of luck with you next list,