What was the Beaststar ?
|[a Beaststar gets ready to support an Eldar army, link to battle report]|
A bit of history, the Beaststar came from the previous Dark Eldar codex. In that codex you could have up to 5 beastmasters in a unit, and each beastmaster could bring 0-1 Clawed Fiend or 0-2 Razorwing Flocks or 0-5 Krymerae. What you could do was take 5 beastmasters and 25 Krymerae to make a big fast assault unit. Then add in the Baron, a cheap (105 points) special character who gave the unit a higher leadership (ld9), Hit and Run & Stealth. Back then the Krymerae were only toughness 3, but sported a 4+ invulnerable save, so another buff was having a nearby farseer give them a reroll on their save making for an resilient unit with loads of wounds that could not be tied down by a blob and would kill units by the weight of attacks.
All this changed when the new codex arrived :( The maximum size of the beastpack was changed to 12 models, although you can now freely pick any of the available models to make up the unit. The Baron who gave the unit so many nice rules also disappeared from the codex.
Can we rebuild the Beaststar
Although we can only have 12 models in a beast pack now, we can have more than 12 wounds by using Clawed Fiends. Clawed Fiends got a bit better and cheaper in the new codex, being a poor man's Grotesque while not requiring a transport.
Now we could go for 12 Clawed Fiends, but it costs a whopping 360 points, for 36, toughness 5, wounds. While doable this is a huge unit before you add any characters. Krymerae are still not bad in the new codex; they went down by 2 points each, while going up to toughness 4 for the cost of their invulnerable save going down to 5+ from 4+. By adding in some Krymerae we can have the best of both worlds, majority toughness 5 while also have the first shots go against the Krymerae's invulnerable save.
My starter for 10 Beaststar is:
6 Clawed Fiends
totalling 240 points, 24 wounds (majority toughness 5) and a total of 2 Str 3, 15 Str 4 & 36 Str 5 attacks on the charge. However please note this unit is all about the charge as the Clawed Fiends have Rage. The unit would drop to 1 Str 3, 10 Str 4 & 24 Str 5 attacks if they are charged or it is the 2nd round of a combat.
Why the beastmaster rather than a 6th Krymerae ? It's not really for the leadership 8, its really that the three options for a decent character to join the unit is toughness 4 (see below), so having one Beastmaster keeps the majority toughness at 5 after the character joins. Another option would be to add a 7th Clawed Fiend instead of the Beastmaster pushing the unit up to 260 points.
Leadership 8 is Not Enough
As a unit get large in size, and more importantly points value your whole game will depend on whether than unit performs well or not. It also means it could be game over if a unit fails a critical leadership test. For the beaststar I propose leadership 8 is not really enough. In most games an opponent will see it as a threat and it is not that tough so it will be easy to force a morale test (4 casualties required). In this case you can't have a nearly 1 in 3 chance that the rest of the unit will run off the board. Leadership 9 is a minimum requirement, leadership 10 is better while being fearless is ideal. So bare this in mind when choosing which character should be used to supplement the Beaststar.
How do Star's fail ?
When looking at what character we might want to add to the Beaststar, we have to ask what does the Beaststar really need, and what will prevent it doing well in a game.
1) As mentioned above morale is fickle thing, and you can't have so many points invested in a unit which has anything but a very small chance of running off the table due to a morale check, being fearless would be preferable.
2) Being bogged down - some armies can have fearless cheap large units which will tie up the beaststar all game, large guard blobs with 4+ inv save come to mind, or really any large unit which has had invisibility cast on it. Alternatively they may be too tough for the beaststar to deal with, eg. thunderwolf cav. In this case the Beaststar needs a way to get out of these bad match-ups and on to better targets. Previously the Beaststar used the Baron who had Hit and Run, so another character with Hit and Run would be useful. Its possible to play the Beaststar without Hit and Run, but you have to be careful not to be tied down by a bad match-up.
3) Unlike other deathstars the Beaststar is not that tough (it has lots of wounds, 24, but has very poor armour saves) so anything that can improve it's resilience would be a great help
4) The beaststar can't deal with heavy rear armour or walkers (non-walker vehicles with poor rear armour will be ripped apart by the beaststar), so anything that can help with Walkers or units with high rear armour would be nice
Up first we have the Eldar Autarch. Stock he gives the Beaststar leadership 10, and helps with reserve rolls.
First upgrade you must give him is something to increase his speed. Unlike some deathstars such as Necron Wraiths with Characters the Beaststar can not afford to be slowed down by a character with the basic 6" move. The beaststar (and more importantly the rest of the Dark Eldar army) does not have the resilience to play the waiting game, it must rip the strategic heart of the enemy in the first 3 turns, and can not afford to play the attrition game. Options for speed are Swooping Hawk wings, a Jetbike or a Warp Jump Generator. I would advise against the Warp Jump generator because the Autarch would not be able to flicker jump in the Beastpack, and even if he could the unit couldn't. Swooping Hawk Wings gives him great speed being able to move 18" in the movement phase, great for springing from the back to near the front of the unit in preparation for a charge. However the Jetbike gives the Autarch toughness 4, the option for a very ling move of 48" if he leaves the beastpack, plus relentless allowing him to fire a heavy weapon on the move (eg. a repear missile launcher). Ultimately it's down to your personal preference, but I would advise the Jetbike.
The Autarch can also choose more wargear to help the beastpack. He can have a Banshee mask, meaning the unit charged can not fire overwatch at the beastpack, allowing them to easily charge units they may have worried about, eg. units with lots of shots and/or flamers, D-scythe armed wraithguard or large blobs come to mind. The Autarch can also include include some anti tank weapons in either a fusion gun or a reaper missile launcher. The Autarch can include some extra combat punch to unit, taking advantage of his high Weapon skill, Initiative and Attacks. If on a bike a lance is nice, but even a basic power weapon would help against marines with their 3+ save.
Finally if you want to go the extra mile the Autarch can take the relic than makes him fearless. However please note that with the cost of a Jetbike or Wings, a ranged weapon, a lance or a relic weapon and the cost of the Autarch can get quite costly, moving the cost of the Autarch and the Beastpack quite expensive.
When it gets to that level of points you have to ask yourself would two slightly smaller beastpacks be better than one with a Character, but that's a question for all 3 contenders.
Next up we have the Eldar Farseer. This time we have only one option to improve his speed which is to put him on a jetbike. Rather than some combat punch and a bit of shooting, the Farseer adds loads of support to the unit through his psychic powers. From the basic rerolls to hit powers the Farseer can really up the surviveability of unit through castings of invisibility or the power to reroll saves which is great on the invulnerable saves of the Krymerae.
The Farseer is also good at supporting the rest of your army with his psychic powers. Another good use of the Farseer psychic powers is using spells such as Psychic Shriek to deal with opposing units the beastpack might find differcult to kill (the beastpack will struggle against units with good and/or rerollable saves).
The Baron Rebron
The best thing about the old Baron Sathonyx was that he was cheap, and had Hit & Run, meaning it was hard to pin the beastpack down, and the distance they could travel between the end of the opponent's combat phase to the end of their next charge was phenomenal and easy to catch an opponent off guard. The average distance was 29.5" (3D6" Hit & Run, 12" Move, 2D6 Charge).
So what character can give us Hit & Run ? It's Baharroth "The Cry of the Wind" the Swooping Hawk Phoenix Lord. He comes in at a very reasonable 65 points over the cost of the old Baron. Although he doesn't have the Stealth of the Baron, he does bring toughness 4, a 2+ armour save, Eternal Warrior, a faster 18" move, and even Haywire grenades. Baharroth also Fearless, meaning once the Beaststar can stand a round of combat without getting too depleted they can Hit & Run away (provided they don't roll a 6) and charge something else.
As I have a converted Baron model (there never was an official model) I plan to add the Autarch Swooping Wings to him, however so far my search of ebay and my usual bitz sites have turned up a blank. I'm going to keep watching and I'm sure I'll come up with a pair of wings soon. Below's a picture of my Baron after assembly (I suddenly realised I don't have any pictures of him painted):
Overall the three character options all add something nice to the beastpack, with each giving different benefits. Being Eldar characters they all require a troops choice to make an Allied Detachment to keep the army bound, buts that's not hard with cheap and effective Eldar Jetbikes. You can either go with the 3 unupgraded jetbike to do the 5th edition come from reserve to do a last turn objective hop, or for 16 points more than a dual splinter cannon venom you can upgrade the 12 poison shots to 12 str 6 shots.
This is still theory hammer at the moment, but as soon as I find some Autarch wings I'm going to slap them on my Baron, paint them up and give the new Beaststar a whirl. They aren't as good as most tournament deathstar, eq. Necron Lychstar with associated characters or Thunderstar with friends but they can dish out the pain to most units in this shooting centric 7th edition, and plays well with the glass cannon approach of Dark Eldar. Lastly as most people have not played against Clawed Fiends I don't some people may underestimate how hard the unit will hit.
So here's my revised Beaststar, ready for playtesting:
Phoenix Lord Baharroth "The Cry of the Wind"
7 Clawed Fiends
430 points for a fast but fragile-ish (unit that puts out on the charge 42 Str 5 attacks, 20 str 4 attacks & 5 Str4 power weapon attacks. I think the rest of the army would need to put a bit more than usual focus on low ap weapons and anti tank to face walkers, Imperial Knights, Wraithknights, Stormsurges etc., but nearly everything else can taken care of by the Beaststar or avoided while the Beaststar takes apart the rest of the enemy army.
Do you think this unit could work ? Is it viable in a casual or competitive setting ? What do you see as its biggest weaknesses ? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the unit.