What the New Eldritch Omens Battle Box Means for Craftworld Eldar

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It is at least possible that a few people who read this blog might have been too busy on December 25th to see the big Warhammer holiday news: a battle box featuring a showdown between Craftworld Eldar and Chaos Space Marines. If you have not already read the article on the Warhammer Community site, you can do so here: https://www.warhammer-community.com/2021/12/25/new-asuryani-clash-with-chaos-space-marines-in-the-next-warhammer-40000-battlebox/

But who are we kidding? Most of you probably told your families that the holiday pudding had given you the runs so that you could lock yourself in the bathroom and read the big reveal at least twice. I certainly did. (Don’t worry, my wife doesn’t read my blog.)

If one of you figures out who she is on Twitter and outs me, I will never forgive you. (Looking at you Big Chungus.)

To be honest, on December 24th I had no plans to weigh in on the new models. What could there be to say except: “look everybody! A thing you have all seen already!” But now it comes to it, I do have a few thoughts that I can’t quite keep to myself. Here they are in no particular order:

The New Autarch is Going to Be a Game Changer

The new sculpt is straight up gorgeous, but the MOST exciting aspect of this new kit is that it’s modular. As we know, this flashy space elf hero comes with three heads, two melee options, four ranged weapons, AND IS CROSS COMPATIBLE WITH THE CURRENT SWOOPING HAWK AUTARCH! This means that there will be new rules that will enable players to have enormous flexibility tailoring one or more Autarchs to particular roles in their warhosts.

Although there will probably be at least 12 different possible Autarch builds, I suspect that in practice there will only be three or four competitive ones: perhaps a backline Autarch with a Reaper Launcher who can buff support units while adding some fire of her own; a midfield Autarch with Swooping Hawk Wings, a fusion gun, and perhaps a Glaive- who can jump into the fray at a crucial moment; and an assault Autarch with Wings, a Star Glaive, and a Banshee Helmet that will probably function a bit like a Smash Captain.

This third version will definitely compete with the Jetbike Autarch, and it is distinctly possible that one of the two will be the obvious pick for matched play, (unless some Craftworld-specific melee relics change the calculation for particular sub factions.)

Now, the whole notion of a viable frontline Autarch (that ISN’T a Saim-Hann Autarch with a Nova-Lance,) depends on the new Autarch having a better profile than the current one. I think this is inevitable. All one has to do is look at the other contents of the battle box to make this inference.

Aside from the HQ, Craftworlds players get four Rangers with the usual Long Rifles and one model with some sort of mysterious new equipment that might be a floating pancake maker. The Craftworlds portion also includes three new Scout Jetbikes called “Shroud Runners,” with an anti light infantry load-out. Chaos players get a Warp Smith, (which can repair or damage nearby vehicles,) five Chaos Space Marine elites called “Chosen,” and a kit that can be built as either a Forgefiend or a Maulerfiend, (which is a terrifyingly powerful daemon engine that can heal D3+1 wounds per turn when the Warpsmith is nearby.)

Even without knowing exactly what that new Ranger special weapon does, or what the profile is for the Shroud Runners, it seems likely that in order for these two forces to be balanced against one another, the Autarch is going to need to have something other than that Reaper Launcher to threaten the Maulerfiend; it’s going to need a decent anti-tank melee weapon. The current rules for the Star Glaive confer a -1 to hit, and at Sx2 will only wound the Maulerfiend on a 5+. So, at the very least I think we can expect the new Autarch to have an additional attack AND/OR for the Star Glaive to lose the -1 to hit and perhaps also go to flat 2 damage for greater predictability. Whatever the case though, there will be new data sheets for the units in the box set.

There have to be, as the new weapons load outs are not legal under current rules and Shroud Runners would otherwise be unusable. There is of course a slim possibility that we will ONLY see very basic patches to the current data sheets for the Autarch and the Rangers to enable us to use the new weapons while we wait for an actual rules update in the new Codex, but I don’t think so. I suspect that GW will want the content of the Battle Box to remain up-to-date after the Codex drops.

That said, even if we do get a new and improved data sheet for the Autarch in the Battle Box, it will probably still fall short of the post Codex version simply because of the more powerful relics and Warlord traits that are presumably coming with that new book.

If I am right about all of this, then there are two concrete takeaways:

1) When you do get a hold of the Battle Box, you probably DON’T want to build the Autarch as it is depicted in the Warhammer Community article, (with both the Reaper Launcher and the Star Glaive.) The Glaive will probably cost more points than the other option, (the Striking Scorpion chainsword,) and the Reaper Launcher is obviously a pick for a backline Autarch who is unlikely to need a powerful melee weapon unless she also has wings. The combo depicted on the front of the box really ONLY makes sense for match-ups between lists made exclusively from the enclosed units with balanced competition in mind.

2) You should probably get your hands on an unbuilt Autarch with Swooping Hawk Wings now because they might be hard to come by when the box set drops. This way you will be able to make both a backline Autarch and frontline Autarch by mixing and matching the contents of the two kits. (If I turn out to be wrong about this, and waste $26 of your money, I apologize in advance.) There could of course be some stratagem in the new codex that lets melee Autarchs jump out of deepstriking Falcons and charge with a bonus or something, but based on the information currently available I think it is totally rational to grab that winged elf commander ASAP.

LAST NOTE ON THE HQ KIT: I am horrifically jealous of those of you with the skills to magnetize the spindly arms of infantry models. At least a few of the clever Autarchs reading this were once on the Path of the Bonesinger and will be able to grant themselves access to any build with just two kits. If you are like me on the other hand, you are probably eventually going to want to add several different versions to your collection, which will necessitate buying more than two new kits in the long run, (especially when the new codex drops with updated relics.)

The Rangers

Not only do the sculpts look like cool space-elf Freman wearing French-and-Indian-War style leggings, but the new special gear implies an evolving role for Aeldari Rangers, something other than the backline objective holders they have been historically. In fact, as the mine or drone or whatever is probably NOT a ranged weapon, I think it is reasonable to hope that these new Rangers will either be able to forward deploy, or engage in other shenanigans that involve setting them up in the midfield.

Many factions that have already been updated for 9th edition can access units that can forward deploy, (that is to deploy anywhere on the table that is at least 9” from enemy models before the game begins.) These pregame deepstrikers are invaluable for midfield objective control and for screening out aggressive melee units on turn 1 by interrupting movement relatively close to the enemy deployment zone.

Craftworlds badly need an affordable midfield screening unit that has additional utility, and it looks very likely that the new Rangers will fill that role. Also, let me go on record as predicting that GW revise the rules for Cameleoline Cloaks as they have been sub-par since the FAQ that torpedoed the current codex rules.

Lastly, It would make sense if that new Ranger weapon is some sort of trap that also affects vehicles, as this would provide additional utility against the Forgefiend/Maulerfiend that comes in the box set. Alternatively, it might be a device that buffs the Rangers defensively. Whatever the case, the new data sheet should substantially increase the potential of Rangers in the field.

The Shroud Runners

Wow, do these things look cool. We don’t know how modular they will be, but presuming the build depicted here is the ONLY build, Shroud Runners appear to have a Scatter Laser for anti-infantry fire and a Long Rifle for putting some wounds on characters.

Maybe Shroud Runners will be able to forward deploy, or maybe they will have a pregame move like Ad Mech horse dogs, or maybe even both. At the very least, we can assume that they will be effective at eliminating hard to reach objective holders and sweeping away our opponents’ own forward deployment units like Mandrakes. It doesn’t currently look like the Shroud Runners have enough sniper fire to reliably eliminate even a fragile enemy support character, but perhaps in combination with other Ranger units this will be a reasonable strategy, especially if the Long Rifle profile improves and/or there are relevant new stratagems to help Rangers with character assassination.

The arguably more important role for the new bikes MIGHT be to control enemy movement by screening out enemy melee units. The only issue with Shroud Runners in this role is that they are probably going to be fairly expensive. The Chaos models in this box amount to about 300 points, and so the cost for the Craftworlds portion is probably similar. Presuming the Rangers and the Autarch add up to no more than 180 points, (which seems certain based on similar units in updated codexes,) these bikes would still need to cost around 40 points per model, so three of them is an expensive as a speedbump unit- (even if they come in a little under 40 points.) On the other hand, if they carry a native -1 to hit and have other shenanigans to increase their durability, they might be resource-intensive enough for an opponent to eliminate to be well worth their cost even in a sacrificial role.

What IS clear is that  Shroud Runners will probably add some sort of new utility to Craftworlds lists. This means you probably are going to want at least six in your collection. As I have said before, in almost all cases a unit that is worth having one of is worth having two of. If I am correct that the smallest unit size for these will be two or three, then impatient Autarchs intent on full access to the bounty of the Craftworlds Warhost will probably want to either buy two battle boxes, or to trade the CSM half for another Craftworlds half, as it will be several months before we can expect to see any of these units for sale on its own.

But let me also go on record as saying that I think the CSM-for-Carftworlds trade is going to be harder to pull off than the reverse; there is more in the box to excite Space-Elf enthusiasts than there is to satisfy the Warp-corrupted lust of Chaos Space Marine commanders. They only have six new models, none of which is a new unit.

SO THERE IT IS!

Even though we didn’t get the new Aspect Warrior sculpt that most of us were expecting, the Eldritch Omens box set is an exciting moment for Autarchs everywhere. Personally, I will be trying to get my hands on two copies plus an additional Winged Autarch kit for the reasons mentioned above; I imagine many of you hope to do the same.

If you have your own thoughts about what these new units mean for Craftworlds, please share them in the comment section below.

Yours in pointy-eared anticipation,

Brent


4 thoughts on “What the New Eldritch Omens Battle Box Means for Craftworld Eldar

  1. Exciting times, Brent! And as always, a stellar read.

    Some interesting insights into potential points costs, I for one am. Hoping the Shroud runners have a rule that allows for movement after being targeted, ala Serbys Raiders from Ad Mech or 7th Warp spiders!

    All the best, Brent!

    Rhyan 🙂

  2. I told my family that the holiday pudding had given me the runs so that I could lock myself in the bathroom and read this nice articel at least twice. xD

    Thanks!

  3. I think the most interesting and hope-inducing part of the Autarch is the following bit of text: “two torso variants, and certain other still-secret options”.

    Now “two torso variants” could simply be male/female chestpieces. Fair enough. However it could also mean “Warp Spider jump generator and cape versions” with both being female. Likewise, from what we can see of the sculpt, it would be very easy for the model to support the inclusion of a pair of Swooping Hawk wings that can be used instead of the banner pole, and not even require a different chestpiece to fit on the back.

    Further, the advent calendar did show something that could easily be a new Death Spinner, held in one hand, that would go in the Autarch’s left hand instead of the fusion/pistol/launcher. Since every single other picture from the calendar was from this box, it seems almost certain that this is one of the ‘secret’ options.

    So best case, the kit could feasibly come as an always-female kit with jump generator AND Hawk wing options included. Worst case, the kit is just vanilla male/female and offers no further inherent wargear options outside of weapons such as a vanilla power sword, Avenger catapult, or other lacklustre nonsense. Time will tell, but I’d hesitate to rush out to get a current winged autarch, just in case!

  4. I told my family that the holiday pudding had given me the runs so that I could lock myself in the bathroom and read this great articel at least twice. 🙂

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