Thursday, August 1, 2013

Eldar and Finite Resource Management

Eldar continue to be the rage across the internet, but much of the discussion revolves around how units look "on paper" and discussions are taking place in a vacuum.  A chaos marine supplement may come out soon followed by the 6th edition space marine codex which will steal a lot of eldar thunder, but I believe this codex will prove to be one of the best ever in the hands of a strong strategist.  There's a lot to discuss, but I'm going to keep this relatively short and sweet for now.

One thing that struck me "on paper" and has developed even further after getting 5 games under my belt is the ability for eldar to control the flow of the game.  They have the fastest bikes and infantry in the game backed up by the second fastest vehicles.  Combined with ways to improve cover saves and better armor across the board than their dark brethren, eldar have now taken the throne as the top "glass hammer" army that utilizes speed to control where and when conflict occurs.

It's the improved cover saves, armor, and invulns over dark eldar that really give eldar the edge.  However, the player mentality remains largely unchanged at least based on the most popular battle reports on Dakka.  The difference is going to be what takes the best eldar generals to the top while others struggle with the "finesse" aspects and eventually give up the army like so many other "flavor of the month" armies that never take off.  The deployment of eldar armies and ultra aggressive movement in some of these battle reports have been so shockingly bad, I've been left both frustrated with their generals and extremely hopeful for my own upcoming performances.

Instead of talking about eldar list building or individual units in a vacuum with mathammer, I want to talk about finite resource management.  Namely: random game length.  While it remains random, we can rely on between 5 and 7 turns to begin a battle, fight it out, and vie for position on objectives.  This means only 5-7 enemy shooting phases with twice as many assault phases to cause casualties.  Combined with eldar speed, hitting power, and tricks to increase cover, armor, and durability, I firmly believe I can take this codex to a competitive level I've never achieved before.

Starting with deployment and the inclusion of pre-measuring, eldar armies have the ability to begin the game in a much safer position than almost every other army.  Slow armies and assault armies must deploy aggressively, sometimes granting free casualties due to the predictable nature of random game length.  Green tide orks and horde tyranids know they can only move 6" and run d6" every turn, even less in terrain.  They know that unless the enemy comes at them, they'll have to do this for 2-3 turns before they can assault and cause more casualties than they would with shooting.  If you play a shooting army and know you'll have 5-7 shooting phases, you should have a good grasp of how to sort your target priority and make your plan of attack while accounting for losses.

What eldar do have now is (with proper list construction) the ability to manage the game turns in a way that benefits them more than any other army.  With proper deployment, they can deny first blood to all but the most powerful shooting armies.  With proper movement, they can largely dictate the amount of fire that effects them and mitigate it with optimal use of cover and defensive abilities.  With the fastest bikes, infantry, and skimming tanks, they have unmatched potential to score and/or deny objectives.

What this means for eldar players (and opponents if you just read up to play better against them) is that while they aren't the best shooting army or best assault army, they have the tools to play the mission better than nearly every other army thus far.

Let's take the controversial wraithknight for example.  You don't have to look far to find people railing about how bad they are on paper, or championing them via their own experiences.  With its statline making it immune to most infantry weapons backed up by its speed, it has the potential to win games by itself.  I would gladly wager that people trashing it on the internet haven't actually faced one yet.  It's very easy to run some numbers while you're looking at your opponent's list to see what can actually remove it from the table.  Deploy it safely, move it intelligently, and focus down the units that can actually hurt it.  Do these things well and you'll find it can change the game's outcome.  Yes, the unit has a few counters, but it demands so many resources dedicated to taking it out that you can leverage this to your advantage in planning the rest of your movement and shooting. 

Applied to the finite resource management of shooting and assault phases, it becomes increasingly easy to control the final outcome of each game with eldar.  Jetbikes are another prime example here.  For 51 points, you get 3 scoring models that you won't miss in the early games by reserving them.  A 12" move and 36" turbo boost can put them anywhere on the table the turn they arrive which shows its potential the most when you place them out of sight and out of range of any shooting threats.  With favorable terrain and proper movement, these guys should nearly always survive to score, contest, or act as linebreaker in the final turns. 

Take these concepts of controlling the game's shooting and assault phases through deployment, speed, and durability, and you end up with an army that's extremely difficult to defeat.

Once all the dust has settled and people have moved on from spamming wave serpents or bikes, I believe eldar will epitomize the "balanced army" build.  Bringing spam whether it's 6 serpents, 3 wraithknights, or 9 war walkers creates other list imbalances that will become easily identified and exploited in the upcoming meta changes.  Well rounded eldar lists with a proper balance between speed, durability, killing, and scoring power will be where you find me.  I'll be blogging the hobby aspects of building and painting the army as well as reporting practice games and tournaments I attend with them along the way.  The "finish line" will be DaBoyz GT 2013 late in November where I bring all my painting and playing together for the big finale.  I hope you'll follow along and if anyone's own game improves either with or against eldar, I will count this journey as a success.


  1. I cannot agree more with this post - although I think the principle is more generalized - the tendency is to find a single unit (or a few units) and then spam then out over and over again. This creates one dimensional, easy to predict and respond to armies with very little tactical flexibility.

    The same goes for Daemons in my opinion - presenting a diverse threat profile greatly complicates the game for most players. Not only does the army have a much wider potential - it gives opponents many many more chances to make very bad mistakes.

    Any codex that enables composition of forces that synergize well together while simultaneously making opponents worse players is a success in my eyes.

    1. Yeah daemons are a comparable army, but instead of using mobility to avoid taking damage like eldar, they use it aggressively to control the table and opponent movement.

      I have the core structure of my GT list laid out, but I'm struggling with the last 500pts as I need some CC elements. The wraithknight can take on some units and tarpit others, but I need a unit or two that can handle a full-on daemon offensive.

      Right now daemons are one of my biggest fears with this army as their invulns counter low AP eldar weapons and some of their units are fast enough to chase down wave serpents.

    2. My Daemons have been consistently demolished by Wave Serpents. They are fast enough to almost always get away from my Bloodcrushers/Screamers and pack enough of a punch to even put serious hurt on Greater Daemons. Then the Eldar army can whittle down your aggressive fast units while the rest of the army tries to catch up, so unless your entire army is fast it gets split in two.

      I've tried deep-striking to get my slower units in the Eldar player's face but that one turn of sitting around is enough for the Eldar vehicles to move safely out of assault range.

    3. I think part of the problem if Wave Serpents are escaping is in what units you are using. Screamers should have no problem catching them - since they cannot move fast enough to get away and shoot. The Crushers will tend to die in droves - this is where I think Seekers and Flesh Hounds play a huge role. If you can spread out a large number of units across the field and threaten other areas with Daemonette squads - then that speed advantage disappears. Similar to hwo Green Tide controls enemy movement.

  2. Yea i agree. One of every thing in the codex works here. It a very strong and fun army to play.