Dedicated Assault part 1 - Leaders & Characters

Hey folks!

Today I want to talk about one part of the game that gives me the most trouble: Assault.
As an Ulthwe Eldar player, I love psykers and shooting. I also like Assaulting for the win, but I have found that more often than not I tend to be outmatched in Assaults. We Eldar players have some great options, but few with the combination of raw overwhelming power and, especially, durability of many other armies.

So! Today, I wanted to dig into every option the Eldar have for Assaulting/Counter Assaulting. Rather than focus on a Force Organization Slot, I wanted to focus on the role in the army, because this challenge can be tackled from several different slots.

Starting out, HQs first:

The Mighty Avatar of Khaine is the closest thing the Eldar have to an absolute beatstick. In the latest edition he took a bit of a hit by becoming more expensive, and having his 4++ save reduced to a 5++, along with losing the ability to rely on Fortune (now that Farseer powers are random), the Avatar is now much less survivable and easier to lose the points for.
That said, the newest edition also added a number of new perks. For example, the Avatar is now BS, WS, and I 10 (!) and can Battle Focus for the extra move, and still fire his meltagun Wailing Doom. And he still bolsters the army beautifully by giving every friendly Eldar unit within 12" Fearless.

He tends to be around 200 - 250 points, I usually keep him about there, using just Fast Shot to give him a double shot with his gun (at BS 10, S8 AP1, how can you not?). On the table I usually keep him in cover, and use him as a counter-assault unit or a tank hunter.
Also, he rolls Warlord Traits, and can have a random benefit every game, if you don't like a trait your other HQ comes with stock.

S6, AP2, Fearless, 5x attacks (+Ho'Wrath and +1 on the charge, also meaning 3x S10 Smash attacks if you so choose), Monstrous Creature (causes Fear, Moves Through Cover, Smash), 5x Wounds, Immune to Flamers, Soul Blaze and Melta.

T6, 3+/5++, has to run solo (can't hide in a unit for extra wounds), Fire Magnet.

Absolutely. One-on-one there's almost nothing else in the game that can take on an Avatar in most cases. Watch out for the now very popular Chapter Master on a Bike!

I find more often than not that my Avatar winds up toe-to-toe with TH/SS Terminators. One on one, he could annihilate them, but is quickly overwhelmed by even small units. He hits first and does some damage, but if any are left alive, they hit him back at S10, and force the 5++ save. He just doesn't have the staying power to stand up to that for long.
When it comes down to it, he suffers a great deal from being a solo model that ends up facing whole dedicated assault units. I've gotten lucky and taken on Nobz, Terminators, and large mobs, but the Avatar can't reliably handle large units or heavy Assault units on his own. That said, there's nothing better at countering Deep Striking Dreadnoughts or hunting tanks. He's also a solid counter to other MCs. Protect him, get him to vulnerable points in a enemy's army, and he can make a real mess - just keep him away from squads that can hit back at higher than S6.

Stick to cover (especially out of Line of Sight), abuse Battle Focus, and use Challenges - you never have to worry about wading through an entire unit of Ork Boyz to get at that one Klaw again!

Next, Phoenix Lords!

Eldar Phoenix Lords are *awesome.* I'll showcase two in particular, but every one of them (Asurmen of the Dire Avengers, Baharroth of the Swooping Hawks, Maugan Ra of the Dark Reapers, Fuegan of the Fire Dragons, Karandras of the Striking Scorpions, and Jain Zar of the Howling Banshees) is a solid choice for Assault leader and/or Warlord of any army. Each one is just shy of a living God of War, masters of their Aspect and, for the most part, best suited to leading a squad of their Disciples.

All of the Phoenix Lords come in with an awesome profile, and each of them has a ludicrous number of abilities that - for the sake of brevity - I won't go into right now. In short, they all have awesome stats (far higher than any other Eldar infantry), a 2+ base save, are Independent Characters that have a variety of benefits for the units they join, even if that unit isn't their Disciples. Several of them benefit from either Feel No Pain or some kind of Invulnerable Save. They also all have a ranged weapon and a CC weapon, but most specialize in either Close Combat or Shooting.

Baharroth is the weakest in combat, having only a basic Power Sword with no bonus to strength and no extra abilities.
Asurmen is perhaps the best army-wide leader because he rolls 3 times on the Warlord Traits table, re-rolls duplicates, and gets to use all three traits rolled. He's also no slouch in combat with a decent CC weapon (S5, AP2, Instant Death that ignores Eternal Warrior) and a 4++. While not as spectacular as some of the others, Asurmen is a very solid choice.

Jain Zar is another good combat choice, she's very fast, has some nasty weapons, and her Banshee Mask reduces an enemy's Initiative and Weapon Skill by 5 (to a minimum of 1) on the charge. However, I don't consider her the best choice because she is tied for the lowest Strength of all of the Phoenix Lords, lacks any sort of ++ save, and leads what I personally consider to be the weakest of the Assault units. We'll get back to that later.

Of the six Phoenix Lords, two have been dominating the hand-to-hand competition. They also happen to be my favorites!

First: Fuegan, the Burning Lance, Phoenix Lord of the Fire Dragons!

Fuegan is a beast - with all of the perks of a Phoenix Lord, and boasting a Firepike (an 18" range meltagun) with fast shot (fires one extra shot) and the Fire Axe, which strikes at his respectable strength 5, AP1 (yes, 1), and gives him Armourbane. Plus he has Feel No Pain (5+), and for every wound he loses (of which he has 3) he gets a bonus to +1 Strength and Attacks for the rest of the game. It should be noted here, that the +1 S/A lasts for the rest of the game, even if it's negated by the Feel No Pain save (!) or healed by a Warlock with Renewer.
Not only is he no-nonsense at range, but also able to rip apart anything from Terminators to Leman Russes in combat - if the Axe doesn't work, he has Melta Bombs, and he gets scarier as opponents try to bring him down.
While he is the leader of the Fire Dragons aspect, and can bolster a Dragon squad's non-existent CC abilities, he is probably best suited accompanying a dedicated assault unit, Wraithblades especially, and giving the unit some much-needed ranged teeth.
His Warlord Trait gives him Split Fire, which isn't the most amazing of the Warlord Traits, but can turn a one-trick pony unit of Fire Dragons into a two-trick pony!

Great stats, Fearless, Feel No Pain, decent strength, 2+ save, two-shot long-range meltagun, Monster Hunter

No ++ save (FNP isn't quite the same), and will be outclassed by many other HQs (especially MCs, although Monster Hunter and high init. will help with that).

Depends. In many cases, yes. In others, avoid it if possible. Watch out for Characters with a lot of AP2 attacks or a very high Toughness. That said, Fuegan is a trooper, he can probably handle it!

Put him in a large unit, ideally in a transport, and make as much use out of his Firepike as possible. A good round of AP1 shooting will likely soften up any unit, and tip the ensuing assault in your favor. Fuegan is probably best used with Fire Dragons (but watch out for Assaults), or Wraithblades or Wraithguard. If you play to charge aggressively with him, take the Wraithblades.

Second: Karandras, the Shadow Hunter, Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions!

Karandras is a close follow-up to Fuegan, only scarier. The leader of the Striking Scorpions is most notable for his classic weapon: the Scoripon's Claw.
The Scorpion's Claw is a Power Fist that, in the newest edition of the Codex, strikes in Initiative order. In Karandras' case, that's I7. So Karandras can waltz up to a unit of Terminators and dish out a whopping six (on the charge) S8, AP2 attacks that, at I & WS7, are likely to hit and hit first. Woe betide whatever is left of a unit that doesn't make their saves!
On top of that, Karandras has Stealth, Move Through Cover, and Infiltrate, as well as a special Hammer of Wraith attack that hits every round of combat at S6. He also has the Exarch ability Stalker, which lets him roll an initiative-off with his opponent in a challenge. If Karandras wins, he re-rolls to-wound (to take care of those pesky 1's).
His Warlord Trait is Ambush of Blades, which allows any friendly Eldar unit within 12" of him to re-roll 1's to-wound (once per game), either in the shooting or assault phase.

I especially like Karandras because he was built to be played with a unit of his Disciples, the Scorpions. Not only does his Infiltrate, Warlord Trait, and 2+ save work wonderfully with them, but he benefits a great deal from being backed up by a Striking Scorpion Exarch with a claw.

Solid Stats, 2+ save, S8 AP2 I7 attacks (!), Grenades, Infiltrate, Stealth, Stalker. No one hits harder and faster than Karandras.

No ++ save whatsoever, or Feel No Pain, 3 wounds, again low on staying power.

Hell yes! But if he is in a unit with a Scorpion Exarch and Claw, play it by ear. The Exarch could handle any moderately tough Sergeant and leave Karandras to clear out the rest of the unit. Or, Karandras could take on a meatier squad leader, and the Exarch could take on the rest of the unit.

Infiltrate. Take a large unit of Scorpions, and Exarch and Claw, and put them and Karandras in a Wave Serpent. Then get them in to combat ASAP. Don't forget Stalker or his Warlord Trait, and remember to make his charges count!

**I did not include Farseers or Autarchs in this list because, while they do contribute to Assaults nicely, they're army buffers, and should be considered in their wider role rather than in the Assault Unit slot.
That said, an Autarch with a Jetbike, laser lance and/or some of the new Remnants of Glory can be a very nasty prospect in combat, and faster and cheaper than any of the Phoenix Lords. While he doesn't benefit from the epic stats of a Phoenix Lord or the Avatar, he can handle basic opponents easily enough. The same goes for Prince Yriel of Iyanden, he's a beast in combat, but if you want an HQ who can stand the really tough combatants in 40k, Yriel is just a little too squishy to rely on.

A Farseer kitted out for Death Mission is something I would like to try, but I have no illusions that it will make for some unstoppable force in Assault.

The theme here is that all of the really powerful Eldar Assault Characters hit hard and hit fast, but they need to do the damage fast. If an enemy can weather their initial Assault, they're pretty likely to have more staying power than the Eldar.
Still, with the sheer number of high strength, low-AP attacks available to any and all of these Characters, there is little on the field that can stand up to them. Even Terminators will not be able to slow them down every time.

That wraps up my Assault part 1! Stay tuned for part two: Units!


  1. Nice breakdown! After seeing a fair few codex 'reviews' (although some are decent) it's refreshing to see someone focus on building an army for a particular style rather than general comments on units in a bubble. :]

    1. Thank you! I prefer that. There are a lot of general breakdowns out there, but none of the ones I've seen focus on those units on the table. I'll be working on more of these in future, but hopefully they'll be a bit shorter...

    2. No need to keep them short Noah, just keep them good :D

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  3. Karandras can pass his special powers on to the unit he joins. So if he gets with wraith blades in a wave serpent he can outflank. That sweet if you ask me!


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