Eldar Tactics: The much-maligned Swooping Hawks

I love a good tactics article, but they tend to be long - so here's my attempt to be short and sweet, one unit at a time.

Image courtesy of CoolMiniOrNot

Swooping Hawks aren't seeing a lot of table time these days, which is a shame, because their rules updates from the latest Codex give them some of the coolest (if most difficult to use) rule sets out there

In Summary:
Swooping Hawks are expensive and fragile, but brutal against the heaviest armor, lightning fast, and excellent for thinning out large squishy mobs. Avoid any infantry/non-vehicle unit with decent toughness/save, it's not what these birds are for.

Quick stats:
Swooping Hawks are Jump Infantry, in units composed entirely of Hawks, Hawk Exarchs, and/or Baharroth, they don't scatter on arriving from Deep Strike. They can also still shoot and Battle Focus after arrival, so with careful positioning, you can drop, make a royal mess, and the run back behind LOS blocking cover (nice!)
They also have Skyleap, allowing the unit to jump off of the table in following turns and arrive again, allowing unparalleled mobility, and a quick escape route for the unit. However, keep in mind that the unit awards Victory Points as if killed if the game ends while they're in reserve. Consider loading up on Divination or an Autarch to ensure they jump in and out of the game when you want them to.

Let's talk Battlefield roles.
For one, Swooping Hawks now boast an impressive Assault 3 gun with good range and solid BS. Even with the unimpressive S3, that's a *lot* of shots, making this unit absolutely lethal to weak mobs (re: Kroot, Guardsmen, Cultists, etc.)
Add to that that they have the Swooping Hawk Grenade pack, which hits when they arrive from Deep Strike (every time) with a range of 24", ignoring both LOS and Cover, and AP4. If there are six or more members of the unit, it's a Large Blast - otherwise, it's a Blast. This does not need to be fired at the same target as their guns, although it can be.

Second, Hawks all come stock with Haywire Grenades. For those unfamiliar, Haywire Grenades are a brutally powerful Anti-Armor weapon. If they hit, they automatically glance any armor on a 2+, and Penetrate on a 6. With a good sized unit of these bad boys and their respectable Weapon Skill, high Initiative, and Offensive Grenades, that means a Swooping Hawk charge will reliably wreck anything from a War Walker to a Titan. It's that simple.

Now, that means that their two roles make them absolutely excel against the softest and hardest targets in the game. Amusingly, they tend to completely crumble when faced with Marine/Terminator equivalents. Although their sheer volume of shots makes them something not to me taken lightly.

What does an Exarch bring?
You get a Character, to take Challenges and potentially some extra wargear. The standout here is the Sunrifle - a beefed up version of the same gun the Hawks carry, but with AP3 (at BS5 no less) and with the Blind special rule. That's worth mentioning, because if you're going to charge a Dreadnought, you can tag it with that bad boy and possibly make it WS/BS 1 for the Assault. Not too shabby!

*Blind is especially useful when tangling with things like Fortresses of Redemption: Fortifications with heavy armor and a potential to fire a lot of Overwatch.

The Exarch also has access to Exarch powers (including the precious Hit & Run) and a S5 gun, but the S5 gun distracts the rest of the unit from their main role(s) in a way the Sunrifle doesn't. It does, however, give the Hawks an option to threaten AV10 outside of Assaults, something they don't have otherwise.

Also courtesy of CoolMiniOrNot

What about Baharroth?
The mighty Swooping Hawks Phoenix Lord adds a lot - the same things an Exarch does, plus he's a dang Phoenix Lord and is actually dangerous in combat - plus he has a rule that forces Blind tests on any units/models nearby when he arrives from Deep Strike. That's handy to reduce the number of shots directed at the Hawks when they're vulnerable, but it's not something to rely on. He also adds a 2+/4++ save and Eternal Warrior to tank wounds for the unit.
That said, he costs a fortune in points, and isn't the best choice for HQs in the Codex, despite what he does for the Hawks.

In Conclusion:
Swooping Hawks are a great answer to Titans, Cultist Blobs, and Land Raiders. They are very fragile with the 4+ and T3, but they can be a more than worthy addition to an Eldar army, if used correctly. They're a solid alternative to foot-slogging Fire Dragons at a slightly lower price-point and without the need for a Transport (although who wants to give up Wave Serpents?)

In play, stick to cover, use their epic speed, stay out of assaults (good god stay out of assaults), and keep them focused on the mobs and heavy armor. I know it's tempting to pit them against Marines, but don't do it. That's what Dark Reapers are for!


  1. Nice article! One thing is incorrect though - the Grenade Pack is Large Blast with 6 or more Swooping Hawks, not 7. Check page 66 of the codex.

  2. There is also one more mistake - you have to shoot the same target as you have bombed with the grenade pack, unless it's all dead or completely out of line of sight.

  3. There is also one more mistake - you have to shoot with the guns at the same target as grenade pack, unless grenade pack kills the whole unit - or it is completely out of line of sight.


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