Wednesday, August 22, 2012
How You Beat Dem: Dark Eldar
Before Screamers and Flamers got a boost, Dark Elfdars were easily the most difficult army for Daemons to beat outside of Night Scythe spam. They can stay out of reach, quickly redeploy and have absolutely perfect guns for killing expensive, low save models like Daemons. The two main things to fear in the Dark Eldar army are the flyers, and the ubiquitous Venom.
For the uninitiated, the Dark Eldar are famous for running what is called "Venom Spam". A Venom is a fast skimmer that is a dedicated transport for lots of units, including troops. It has a capacity of 5 models, but more importantly, it has at least one, and almost always two Splinter Cannons, which each fire 6 poisoned shots at BS4 from 36" away. It is quite literally your worst nightmare. It costs a mere 65 points with the appropriate upgrades, and since it is a dedicated transport, it is a pretty effective tactic to take lots of them. It makes it tough for Dark Eldar to win kill point games, but c'est la guerre. That said, a non-Venom-heavy army is not super scary at all because 10 warriors in a Raider don't put out as many shots as a Venom unless they get within 12", which is where they don't want to be.
To beat the popular DE builds, you need to be able to catch and kill fast skimmers. Once de-meched, the squishy Elfdars are easily dealt with as your army excels at killing footdars just as much as their army excels at killing your when meched up. The trick is taking out those peckin' Venoms.
Bloodcrushers are way too slow to be of any use against the Dark Eldar. They bring some resilience, but once Fateweaver dies, they crumble in short order under the withering amount of firepower the Dark Eldar toss at them from a very safe distance. The best they can hope for is to camp next to Fateweaver near the objectives and push in late in the game when the DE have to come to you.
Flying Monstrous creatures are totally worthless. The DE have no problem shooting Fateweaver out of the sky, and can put so many wounds on him it's silly. It only takes 9 to make him suffer one. That's about two Venom's worth.
Some might say that you need Bolt of Tzeentch to help with de-meching those skimmers. Of course, you might think that, but you'd be wrong. Let's be generous and use the Tzeentch Daemon Prince. He has an 83% chance to hit. That his has a 67% chance to penetrate since a single glance does you little good. That penetrating hit has a 67% chance of not being saved because the Venom has a Flickerfield standard. That penetrating hit has a 67% chance to destroy it because it's open-topped. Any other result does you little good as even an immobilized Venom is a huge threat. This works out to a 25% chance for your best shooting attack to kill a Venom. Don't waste your points on Bolt.
No, you will kill Venoms using a combination of Flamers, Fiends, Seekers and Screamers. Flamers should drop in close to Venoms. If they can land within 8", they can kill one or more on the drop. Even Warpfire has a small chance to glance them to death. Do not drop them too far away from the board center or the DE will boost away and the Flamers will never catch them.
Use your Flamers and Screamers (and Fiends if you don't have enough Screamers) in combination to herd the Venoms such that they can't get away without having to move and turboboost. If they're not shooting, so much the better for you. Screamers and Flamers are fast enough to keep up with a Venom that shoots at them. Fateweaver is good for drawing fire for a turn or two. If you can avoid getting him shot by everything in the army, he may even last past the first turn. If he makes it to turn three, you're probably going to win.
A lot of the game is going to depend on terrain, and objective placement. All objectives should be placed as close together as possible so the DE have to come to you, especially if you brought Crushers. If there is a lot of LOS blocking terrain, that's great for you. If the board is largely open, you're going to struggle because the Dark Eldar can put out some shots.
Going first or second is a tricky proposition. A clever DE player who goes first will turboboost all over the board to increase your chances of a mishap, then just rapidly turboboost away to redeploy and attack you from a safe spot. However, if you go second, you get to attack them as the get off their transports to claim objectives at the end of the game. I'd probably choose to go second because they can't cover that much of the board. Moreover, as always, there is one less turn of shooting and I have a good chance to drop my Flamers near them for an alpha strike no matter what they do.
In combat, Dark Eldar are a lot like fighting Daemonettes or Fiends. They have high I, low T, generally low saves and lots of attacks. They are not your match in assault, but who is? They get mowed down by Crushers, but they'll eat Screamers, Bloodletters and Flesh Hounds alive and so are better killed by Flamers and Seekers. Most people believe that the Beastmasters and their nasties are the best assault troops in the DE army. That's probably true. Beastmasters are characters and so can put wounds onto Razorwing Flocks using Look Out Sir. Mostly, beast packs are like Seekers of Slaanesh with a lot of rending attacks at high initiative. Seekers will curb stomp a beast pack thanks to I6 and they're merely a ho-hum Daemon unit, so that should give you some idea of how much better you are in close combat than Dark Eldar.
I see allied firepower as the ultimate solution to Dark Eldar. I'm looking into taking an Imperial Bastion with allies packing anti-flyer/anti-skimmer firepower inside. DE struggle with anti-armor to a degree, and Dark Lances are usually the most you'll see in their armies. A Dark Lance has a very low chance to destroy a Bastion. Like 7% low.
The current CSM Havocs with Autocannons would be excellent fire support against Venoms. In the upcoming book, Havocs are getting cheaper, and should get skyfire rocket launchers, so you'd probably want to take that instead, because they have a good chance to glance a Venom to death with Krak missiles. Bring the Dragon or an IG Vendetta along, and you can count on another dead skimmer every turn. Between Flamers, Screamers, Fateweaver and allied firepower at range, you should be able to neutralize them in short order.
If you are fortunate enough to face a footslogging DE list, try not to be an asshole as you table them.