Monday, 7 February 2011

Cutting to the Bone (Dark Eldar List)


Well my gaming has still not been happening. I’m still not getting back from work anywhere near a time that would allow me to go to my local club, and to make matters worse my mates have had 2 magic nights in the last 7 days with no indication of 40k in sight.

What this does means that apart from assembling models I’ve been tweaking army lists to ensure I’m happy with the intended army list I’m building towards.

Recently under the hammer was my Dark Eldar list. After looking at Beastmaster units and really liking them, I went ahead and ordered some Forgeworld flying rippers to represent razorwing flocks.

I really like the beastmaster unit, so I wanted to see if I could squeeze them into a 1750 point army. I took as my base my current 1750 point army (in this post). I didn’t really want to lose any units, but came to the conclusion that I would probably have to lose one of the wych units to fit it in.

That's by the by, as I want to talk about a technique I always use when building lists. When you build a list you always run out of points before you put everything you want in. Worse case you have an army with lots of interesting units which have nice equipment, but overall don't work well together and is probably a small army.

My technique to avoid this is to cut all units to the bone. If I see a piece of wargear that is at all situational, or may only be useful in some/most games but unlikely the vast majority of games it also goes. Squad leaders and characters are also on the cut list. Going from leadership 9 to 8 will only change the outcome of a leadership test one in nine times on average, would it not be better just to have more models ? Will a character be better than another whole squad ?

Taking this method to my Dark Eldar. I first started by stripping the enchanced aethersails from all the vehciles. To start with I didn't want to go any further as a wanted to include 2 liquifier guns (one on the wracks, one on the haemonculus), and a 4th trueborn. However taking a second look because I wanted to put in a beastmaster unit several elements hits the chopping board:
  • Succubus – although a nice cheap character, she only added 1 or 2 wounds per combat, so she went. The Haemonculus got the nod over the succubus because he's even cheaper and could give a wych unit Feel No Pain
  • 4th Trueborn – a situational upgrade, and I expect many times the whole unit would just get destroyed
  • Liquifier guns – again a nice upgrade with the potential for carnage, but sometimes it's dangerous to fire flamers when you're a combat unit because casulties removed may stop the charge, plus the random AP may tempt you into situations where you need a good AP roll.
  • Hekatrix Agoniser – a nice weapon, but's it's very expensive. Running some number crunching against MEQs, the agoniser hekatrix did more casulties (as expected) compared to a venom blade armed hekatrix, but as the agoniser was so expensive the venom blade hekatrix did more casulties per point.

With these changes I was suddenly up to 132 points saved. Although I was no where near the cost of the beastmaster unit I wanted, I was very near the cost of a 2nd trueborn squad, and it would be nice to a bit of redundancy trying to get multiple blasters in range of enemy tanks.

Lastly reducing 2 units of wyches from 10 to 9 models, allowed me to include the trueborn squad transported in a venom and upgrade the existing trueborn squad's raider to a venom.

The revised list is bare bones, but it does have more firepower and a very respectable 71 models, including 12 vehicles. 22 Lance weapons (14 Dark, 8 Blasters), and 8 Splinter Cannons.

Although these points of the list look nice the list is crying out for a huge number of upgrades, such as:
  • Agonisers
  • Liquifier guns
  • Wych weapons
  • Flickerfields for the Ravagers
  • A Combat Character
However once this list as been built it acts as a counter to any spending whims, because instead of saying “this upgrade would be nice” the question is also posed “what do I lose to fit it in ?” which helps to ensure any upgrades included are only efficient ones.

Finally at the end of the day, everyone includes some units which are not totally bought for their efficiency, but at least this method lets you know what you'll be giving up. For example I could lose a warrior squad and a trueborn squad to fit in my beastmaster unit, however I know I'll be losing 2 vehicles sporting 4 splinter cannons, and 8 models carrying 4 blasters between them. That's an awful lot of anti-tank and anti-infantry firepower, plus the loss of a scoring unit. Will I still do it; definitely, but probably not for all games :)


PS. For those that would like to see here is the final list

Bare Bones Dark Eldar List

Haemonculus - 55
Venom Blade

6 Incubi - 132
in Raider with Dark Lance - 60

3 Trueborn with 3 Blasters - 81
in Venom with 2nd Splinter Cannon - 65

3 Trueborn with 3 Blasters - 81
in Venom with 2nd Splinter Cannon - 65

9 Wracks - 90
in Raider with Dark Lance - 60

9 Wyches with Hekatrix with Venom Blade - 105
in Raider with Dark Lance - 60

9 Wyches with Hekatrix with Venom Blade - 105
in Raider with Dark Lance - 60

9 Wyches with Hekatrix with Venom Blade - 105
in Raider with Dark Lance - 60

5 Warriors with Blaster - 60
in Venom with 2nd Splinter Cannon - 65

5 Warriors with Blaster - 60
in Venom with 2nd Splinter Cannon - 65

Ravager with 3 Dark Lances - 105

Ravager with 3 Dark Lances - 105

Ravager with 3 Dark Lances - 105

Totals: 1749 Pts, 71 Models (including 12 vehicles), 14 Dark Lances, 8 Splinter Cannons & 8 Blasters

The list seems nice overall, with 5 raiders of combat troops going forwards, flanked by trueborns and warriors carrying blasters in venoms to both help open up vehicles and soften up enemy units about to be engaged. All supported by 3 ravagers at the back. What I really like about the list is that everything is a threat; give the opponents lots of threats and he's more likely to get target priority wrong :)


  1. Congrats, you have created a soulless generic army list, I'm sure you will do well

  2. You are entitled to your opinion, but a constructive comment would be better.

    Would you rather I fill my list with multiple characters, expensive deathstar units, and over equipped models, followed by whining about losing all the time.

    Every gamer has to choose between units they like and units which are effective (even those using top tier armies). I'm suggesting you cut your list down to make it easier to see what you could have had instead of those tempting upgrades and characters (and make a more informed choice).

    It's all about balancing your army to who you're playing. A friendly game against my mates or a person I'm playing for the first time will face a much more interesting list. However I'm not going to take a ridiculously fluffy and ineffective list to a super competitive tournament and then moan when I get slaughtered.

    My next tournament (A Small Matter of Honour in Basingstoke) is not a cut throat affair, so this list will not be inflicted on them, but it may come out for some of the tournaments later in the year.

    How do you build your lists, and how do you balance units you like and ones that are effective ?


  3. Seems like a pretty good list, Rathstar. Sorry been so long since I commented, I've been all over the US with the Army lately.

    I know for myself, I look at what has worked for me in the past, and am always making new lists to test and see if I can improve on the last one.

    I know you are talking bare bones here, and it looks good for a bare bones list, but I don't know about the MSU for the warriors and Trueborn. I myself have never liked small squads unless they were fufilling a points gap, simply because people look at them and say "ooo... an easy kill point, let me get rid of it!!!" And they usually die fast becaus of our bad armor saves.

    I know for myself, I rarely run a list without the Duke. He just brings way too much to the table for his low points cost to not use him.

    I will be entering a 2000 point tournament next weekend on the 19th, just a local one with about 8 others, and if you want, I can always give you a batrep or something with the list I use and how they went. I will also post a second comment after this one with my list that I plan on using at the tourney, if you would like it. I don't mean to gloat, or sound like a 40k god, but I have yet to lose a game here in my local meta, and its been since the last codex since I had a draw, so I think I am doing well with my lists. I will gladly share if you want them!!!

  4. Battle reports from the tournament would be great.

    Feel free to post your list, it's always good to discuss differences.

    I sometimes find bigger squads of warriors don't seem to accomplish much for their points. us the venom squads gets me more firepower for my points, but does bleed kill points. However if the enemy goes for the easy kill points early he's ignoring the ravagers and 5 raiders of assauly troops heading towards him. This is still a bit of theoryhammer as I need to get more test games in.

    What have you found works for you ?


  5. I have found that at least here in my local meta that 10 man warrior squads work well, because everyone gets pretty occupied by my blood brides pretty fast, so the warriors sit back and focus on AT with darklances, or offer supporting fire to the bloodbrides with Splinter cannons.

    I would try MSU with Venoms in a fun list before I just bring them to a tourny, and since I dont have any venoms scratch built yet, I have yet to try them.

    These are the mission types that we will be doing(you will see why I dont want to bring alot of kill points more than I have right now):

    Mission 1: Gods or War Arise

    Deployment: Dawn of War

    Primary Objective: Modified Annihilation
    H.Q.: 3 KP
    Elite: 2 KP
    Troop: 1 KP
    Fast Attack: 2 KP
    Heavy Support: 1 KP

    Secondary Objective: Have more units in your opponent's deployment zone then your own by the end of the game.

    Tertiary Objective: Assassination
    Kill your opponent's "Hero" while keeping your own alive. If you kill your opponents "Hero" while losing your own, you both concede this objective.

    Bonus Points:

    +1 Point for gaining more kill points than your opponent with your "Hero Unit" (H.Q. and Retinue)

    +1 Point for killing your opponents "Hero Unit"

    Mission 2: Death In Fire

    Deployment: Spearhead

    Primary Objective: Seize Ground
    5 Objectives: 1 in the Center of the Board, the other 4 objectives are placed in the middle of the table quarters

    Secondary Objective: Capture and Control
    The objectives in your deployment zone as well as your opponent's will count as your "home" objectives

    Tertiary Objective: Annihilation

    Bonus Points

    +1 Point for scoring more Victory Points with your "Hero Unit"

    +1 Point for destroying all of your opponent's scoring units

    Mission 3: The Beheading of a King

    Deployment: Pitched Battle

    Primary Mission Objective: Off with his head!
    Destroy your opponents "Hero Unit"; upon doing so, your army gains the Stubborn, Feel No Pain and Preferred Enemy special rules while your opponents army becomes Fearless, gains Furious Charge and Relentless. Do not remove the "Hero" model from play; instead, his body becomes a grisly trophy...

    Secondary Objective: This will make a fine trophy...
    Upon killing your opponents "Hero", drag his body to your deployment zone by any means possible (the unit that holds the trophy can move as normal and can use transports or other means of transport [i.e. Gate of Infinity]. If your opponent manages to destroy the carrying unit, the model is left on the table and is able to be picked up by any unit from either army. If your opponent captures the trophy, the situation is reversed as the "Hero's" army will not stand for their lords corpse to become a trophy.

    Tertiary Objective: Cleanse this filth!
    Modified Annihilation:
    H.Q.: 1 KP
    Elite: 1 KP
    Troop: 2 KP
    Fast Attack: 1 KP
    Heavy Support: 3 KP

    Bonus Points

    +1 Point for maintaining control of trophy throughout the rest of the game.

    +1 Point for destroying your opponents "Hero Unit" with your own.

    The "Hero unit they are talking about is going to be whatever HQ you bring, and they must have a retinue of some sort (aka warriors wyches, tac squad, whatever kind you want to bring for your army).

    I'm going to break the comment up to not be too large, but will post up my list in the next one

  6. Ok, so the list that I am taking to this tourney is a basic, all comers DE list. I have covered everything from anti infantry to anti tank, split between multiple different squads for each in order to not be destroyed if I lose one certain unit.

    2000 pt Herohammer Tourney list:

    Duke Sliscus

    9 Trueborn 2 Splinter Cannons 6 Shardcarbines Dracon Agoniser Raider w/FF (Dukes Retinue)

    10 Bloodbrides Syren Agoniser 3 Hydra Gauntlets Raider w/FF

    10 Bloodbrides Syren Agoniser 3 Hydra Gauntlets Raider w/FF


    2x 10 man Warrior squads with Dark Lance
    3x 10 man Warrior squad with Splinter Cannon

    Fast Attack:

    6 man Reaver squad with 2 cluster caltrops

    Heavy Support:

    3x Ravagers 3xDark Lance, Night Shield, Flickerfield

    Normally, I don't run the Warriors with Splinter Cannons, but I only recently added the Third Ravager, so I had a bit more freedom for AT so decided to make some of my Warriors into some anti infantry support for my bloodbrides, which they use to lack once they got into combat. The majority of my warriors will be advancing up the field on foot after the Raiders, throwing out shots at anythign that is in range and acting as a screen for my Dark Lance squads, which will be sitting on any objectives and helping the Ravagers with the vehicles. I am thinking about one last tweak of dropping the Dracon w/Agoniser from the trueborn and giving them another shardcarbine and one of the bloodbride squads Haywires, but I honestly feel that I have enough anti tank to cover all the bases. The main reason I through the Dracon w/Agoniser in there is because as you can see from the mission types, the "Hero" unit's are going to be well targeted, both in shooting and CC, so I wanted some extra CC punch in the duke's squad to help thin out whatever might charge them, and so that they can possible charge in and finish off whatever might be left after they let loose with their barrage of death!!!

    The Reavers are there to hurt something first turn with the bladevanes and caltrops, and then hopefully take alot of anti infantry and maybe some anit tank fire to keep it off my more important units. If they survive to the second round, they will just continue to zoom all around the board with the caltrops until they either are finally killed or the games over!!

    Bloodbrides should be obvious what they will be doing, but they will also be going after whatever I think is the "Priority" long range shooting infantry, as they are just oh so good at eating them up!! The second bloodbride squad will be serving as a screen/shock troop to the dukes squad, assaulting anything near his squad to finish it off after his squad has shot it to pieces, and to makes sure nothing really nasty can get ahold of him!!!

    The main reason I am bringing the Duke instead of just a Succubus or an Archon is pretty obvious, cause the drug rolls will really benefit my bloodbrides and reavers, while him and his trueborn will be a great anithorde unit and will work to thin out any really large/tough units the bloodbrides go against(not that they usually need it, but it never hurts!!!)

    All in all, I think this list will work well for this tourney, and in future games also, but if you have any suggestions for improvement, feel free to let me know!!!!

  7. So the list worked great for the tourney, but I lost by a bad call from the TO, because I didn't have the rule in front of me. I got 0 Battle points in the first round against a Black Templar player because he wrecked the Raider the Duke was in with his Trueborn, and if you read above, it was some massive KP for him and that squad,but they died because I went flat out in my movement phase, but got immobilised in the BT's shooting phase, so they should have got out, but because I didn't have the FAQ right in front of me, I couldn't show my opponent or the TO that when it says "turn" it means "player turn". I showed them after, and the Black Templar player won the tourney by the 3 battle points that he got from killing that unit in the first game, he had 18 BP, I had 15BP. Might have been different if it had been done the other way, but it might not have, who knows?? Was still a great Tourney!! In the last two rounds, I went from 12th to 2nd, so I can't complain too much!!! Will post up batreps if you want, just let me know. List worked alot better than I expected it to honestly, including tabling another DE player in the bottom of the second turn in the last game!!

  8. Interesting list, Rathstar. I'm curious as to how the Wyches and Wracks perform. I've never tried Wyches without an Agonizer and FNP (from Haemonculi) just because they die so easily if their ride gets blown up. The Wracks are bare bones indeed, but are probably still pretty durable.

  9. @Galador: Shame about the bad tournament ruling, I always take a few FAQs with me to tournaments, at least the rulebook and my own army's, plus any that I think that have any odd answers that are at odds with how most people use to play it.

    You list looks good, my only concern is that both your main close combat and your main anti tank is concentrated in only a few units (elites and heavy support units repsectively). Saying that I like the bloodbrides, they'll put out a lot of attacks, but why gauntlets ? I thought razorflails would be better. The only downside with razorflails is if you roll the reroll to wound drug roll, but you do have the duke to give you a choice.

    Battle reports would be great, if you want I could post them as a main post as a guest article (obviously giving you full credit).

    I like your recent addition of splinter cannons, as it allows the warriors to advance behind the raiders and be a more of a threat to the enemy. However I am worried that it compacts two thirds of your anti tank into the 3 ravagers. I think a sensible opponent should ignore the troop choices for the first two turns, if they can take out the ravagers and the raiders they'll have killed the majority of your anti tank (down to 2 dark lances from 14) and vastly reduced the mobility of your combat troops.

    Your list gives me a nice alternative DE build type to consider; your list has 3 raiders with close combat troops moving towards the enemy compared to my 5, but yours indivually pack much more punch than mine and their raiders are more protected. You troops have not got transports, but by not spending loads of points on expensive transports you've managed to get you model count back up comparable with my army (even with paying for your expensive elites). You army also has a much lower kill point total than mine, which is a big issue if I want to win a tournament - I'm confident in non-kill point missions, but anniliation scares my army with it's huge kill point total.

    Have you considered any FnP troops (using Haemonculus with your bloodbrides or wracks) ? I'd be concerned that even flamers and light infantry firepower could be very nasty for your three squads going forwards in your raiders until they get a pain token. Part of the reason I've gone for more but cheaper squads.

    @Nick Card: I'll still have one of the wych squads with FnP. What I've found is that it's expensive to give multiple wych squads FnP from the start. I find the Haemonculus' don't do much apart from give a unit a pain token, as their stats are pretty poor, and to make them better you need to give them expensive wargear which still doesn't add much because of their poor number of attacks. I take one to be a cheap HQ and, more importantly, to make my wracks troops. Yep if wychs are caught in the open they will die quickly, so you I try to advance next to cover so they can hop in if their raider dies, plus they can hide behind the raider wreckage.

    Apart from liquifier guns most of the wrack upgrades aren't worth it. The squad leaders weapon upgrades are iffy because he also loses an attack unless you've taken the stinger pistol (because you can't use two special weapons in combat unless they are the same). I've found them to be quite resilent, particularly if they have cover as well. It's also nice that they get FnP from Str 6 & 7 weapons unlike wyches. For wracks I believe more models is better than upgrades, but I'm tempted to put in liqifier guns (just need to convert one).


  10. I have run an entire Haemy coven army (as proxies) and they decimated all, but until I have actual models or at least decent conversions, I don't want to proxy an entire army all the time. I will tell you this though, 6 Haemys, 2 4 man Grot squads, 6 10 man Wrack squads, 2 Ravagers, a talos, and some Hellions are a NASTY thing to watch explode out of a WWP at you...... I ripped a necron army a new one in two turns with it cause I got lucky and everything came on on turn two except for 2 of the wrack squads, and I had set my portals far enough forward that everything got into assault second turn.... it was just ugly, so ugly.... metal men dropping like flies and not being able to get back up due to the whole squad dying..... was awesome!!!!! lol

    As far as the Batreps, we can do the guest article if its easier for you, how do you want me to post it??? Put it up here in comments, email it to you, or what???

    Also, I know it seems like all my anti-tank was actually a bit more spread than that. I dropped the dracon w/agoniser from the trueborn, along with the nightshields on the Ravagers and added plasma grens to the trueborn and haywires to both bloodbride squads.

    I had no issues with vehicles cause I dont really worry about blowing them up, I just shoot the most dangerous until its stunned and can't shoot back, then move on down the dangerous scale on vehicles until I have as many as possible that can't shoot at me.... at which point in time, my Raiders/ squishy CC troops don't have to worry about those Razorbacks with assault cannons or HBs lol!!!!

    I use the Hydra Gauntlets cause I have found that they work better for me personally statistically... even though mathhammer is supposed to say otherwise. I look at it like this.... I can either reroll to hit/wound on 3/4 attacks (depending on charge or second turn of assault) or I can get potentially 9/10 attacks from that single wych... and I seem to have good luck rolling 12+ total attacks from the three combined. with the flails, lets do with a charge, I have 4 attacks, 2 of which hit, then the reroll will give me one more. so three hits out of four. Against a MEQ, I need 5+ to wound unless I get the strength drug/FC, which I then need a 4+, but lets stay without either of those for the sake of basics. 3 hits, 5+ to wound, averages out to 1 wound, 1.5 with the reroll. so with three flails, thats 4.5 wounds on a normal round of combat.

    Now lets look at gauntlets.....

    3/4 is still standard for the wych, then +d6 from the Gauntlet. average there is 3, so thats 7 attacks on the charge. 4+ to hit, so thats 3.5 hits on the charge, 5+ to wound gives me roughly 1.66/1.75 (doing this in my head so not completely accurate) wounds per wych, which adds up to 5.25 wounds per combat on MEQ, or almost a whole extra wound!!! Also, I tend to roll quite high for some reason on the amount of extras...

    And just for the final comparison, lets do max attacks from both weapons with 3 bloodbrides....

    3 razorflails is 12 attacks on the charge, with the reroll your looking at 9 hits, 5+ to wound means roughly 4.5 wounds with the reroll against MEQ....

    3 Hydra gauntlets is 30 attacks on the charge... 2 base, +1 for charging, +1 for doubly armed, and +6 for the gauntlet rolling a 6.... thats roughly 15 hits average, with an average minimum of 5 wounds against MEQ.... and then imagine if you get the reroll to wound or +1 strength!!!!!

    They just are almost statistically the same, with the gauntlets being slightly better in the quick and dirty mathhammer (as I said, I did this on the fly in my head, so don't guarantee im accurate.) If I missed something important, let me know so I can redo my own figures!!!!

  11. Hi,

    Sorry I haven't replied for a few days.

    Re: the battle reports, which ever way is best for you is fine with me. If you want to e-mail the address is rathstar(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk.

    Regarding the wych mathhammer, there are two main mistakes. First a minor one is that the gauntlet swaps the +1 attack (for 2 close combat weapons) for +d6, so on average the gauntlet only add 2.5 attacks per model. The second one was "3.5 hits on the charge, 5+ to wound gives me roughly 1.66/1.75". Which you said meant 5.25 extra wounds for 3 models. However 3.5 / 3 (5+ to wound) * 3 (for 3 models) = 3.5 which makes the gauntlet less effective than the razorblades even with the mistake giving the gauntlet an extra attack each.

    I was going to do a blog post detailing the math hammer including factors such as the the combat drug roll and the duke's extra drug roll, but in the end the conclusion would be that the difference in effectiveness would be small enough to say that it's unlikely to change the outcome of the game. It's more likely the game would be lost or won on how you use your army rather than the upgrade choosen for the wyches.


  12. Yeah, Mathhammer has never been my strong suit, especially in my head!!! Thanks for the corrections, never even thought about that they replaced the +1 and neither has any opponent, its funny the little things that you miss...

    I know that in the few games I ran with Razorflails, they just didn't do well enough to satisfy me, simply because like I said even rerolls don't improve my crappy rolling much!

    The best thing I have found for my Hydras, however, is the psychological effect they have on my opponents. The look on their faces and they way they react when they see that those three wyches roll an extra 10-18 attackes EACH TURN, they usually commit everything they can to either tie them up in CC forever until they die, or it forces them to deploy/move everything they can away from them, especially if they have haywire grenades!!!! I love keeping shooty vehicles moving so they fire less because they don't want to give me 10 autohits with haywires, or they don't want me popping open their landRaider wit DLs and the wyches bogging their precious Assault Terminators down for the whole game, along with whatever special character they have attached to them!

    I will get to work on those Batreps and getthem email off to you in a day or two so that you can critique them and see what you want changed or better explained. I also have pictures of at least the setups of each game, so will add those also and you can put them in if you want!



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