40k Unit Spotlight: The Eldar Autarch - Wargear and Tactics

 Hey Folks!
 Doing a special Unit Spotlight for one of the mighty Eldar HQ units - the Autarch!

 Now, I don't usually use Autarchs. In part because I love the heck out of Farseers and cram as many of them into lists as I can - but also in part because they always seemed a little too expensive for what they do.
 But, as the commander above is one of my all-time favorite models and one of my favorite of my own paint jobs, I think it's time I took another look at him. So, what are we looking at?

 The Autarch is 2/3 the cost of a Thunderfire Cannon, minus a meltabomb. It's not bad for a reasonably well-rounded character. Here's the Wargear you get:

 And here are the stats:

 You're looking at solid WS/BS/I, with a few wounds, high leadership and an ok save. In the Wargear, you've got Offensive Grenades (nice), Haywire Grenades (gravy), and a 4++ Invulnerable save from that Forceshield.
 On the downside, that dreaded S/T 3, that hurts. Also note that this most brilliant tactician comes packing nothing but a dinky pistol (rending or no) and you have to pay the points to remind him to bring *anything* else.
 *BUT, it does give you the chance to model a general with a holstered pistol and piles of grenades in each hand!

 That said, base is cheap. You get the HQ, and the +1/-1 to Reserve Rolls (your choice) which is ok. But, if you really want the minimum base HQ, take a Spiritseer. They come better stock, unless you really want that Reserves bonus.
 If you're taking a barebones Autarch, I highly recommend giving him the minimum of a Scorpion Chainsword (+1 S) and an Anvenger Catapult - which runs you under ten points over the base cost. If you bump it up to just over ten points, you can get the sword and a Fusion (Melta-) gun or Deathspinner (much better!)
 Or, you can be wacky, and take nothing but a Laser Lance, since it's both a CC weapon and a gun (sort of) and only 2 points more than the Chainsword/A.S. Catapult combo.

 And speaking of, let's talk about the upgrades!
 Here are the options:

 Want you want really depends on how you're running your Autarch(s) and who with.

 First, Wheels-
 All three of these are the same points cost, so don't factor that in the comparison
 1.) The Jetbike (+1 T, 12" move, Turbo-Boost 18", 2d6" Assault Phase move if you don't Assault, and Relentless). The Jetbike is solid, especially if you want to run your Autarch solo or with a unit of Jetbikes of some sort. It combines the mobility of the Hawk wings with Relentless, Hammer of Wrath, and an Assault Move from the Jetpack. If you run a solo Autarch with the Mantle of the Laughing God, this can really be a powerful tool.
 Arguably the best of the three in terms of points for value.
 Also note that this one comes with a twin-linked Shuriken Catapult if you want that to be your only gun.

 2.) The Hawk Wings (12" move, Deep Strike). The Hawk wings add what it says on the tin, they give you a 12" move but you get to keep your small(ish) unobtrusive base and hide better, and you can Deep Strike. Works great for putting an Autarch in units of Swooping Hawks. Interestingly, they don't confer Hammer of Wrath like Imperial jump packs do, both otherwise, they're the same.
 I like this option a lot, it suffers from not being a Jetbike, but it is (I think) the coolest looking of the three options.

 3.) Warp Jump Generator (Jetpack, 2d6" move in Assault Phase if you don't Assault, Relentless, Deep Strike). This is a funny one - in addition to the stats mentioned above, you can use it it Warp Jump like Warp Spiders (move 2d6 + 6" in the Movement Phase) before or after Battle Focus. BUT, if you roll a double on that Warp Jump, someone in the unit is removed from play. So don't try it (unless you're feeling saucy) without putting the Autarch with a unit of Warp Spiders.
 I like this one a lot because I *love* Warp Spiders, always have, so having your Autarch along with them is nice!

 In general, you want to take one of these three if you take an Autarch. It adds a huge amount to what they can do, and makes them viable adds to many other units in an Eldar army. I most often take the Hawk Wings because of the model, but most players swear by the Jetbike, and many armies use the Warp Jump Generator as possibly the best Fusion Gun delivery system of the three

 Next, Faces-
 1.) Banshee Mask (-5 to enemy Initiative on the turn the Autarch and his unit Assault). It's dirt cheap at the cost of a Meltabomb, but only works on the charge, so you could lose the points. Not to mention the Autarch and any unit he's with are likely to be I5 or better, so this is only good if you regularly face or expect to face enemies of higher Initiative. That said, if your Autarch is in a unit of Wraithblades, it's not a bad buy!
 Keep in mind also that this will work in multi-charges. You could Assault with your Autarch and Wraithlord or Wraithknight and have them guaranteed to strike first, a nice boost to those usually slow heavy-hitters.

 2.) Mandiblasters (a single S3 Hammer of Wrath-type hit every round of combat). It costs twice as much as the Banshee Mask, but a free Hit every round of combat, S3 or no, is nothing to sneeze at. It's handy if you expect to tackle flimsy hordes with your Autarch and his unit. Plus, it's thematic, especially if you run the Autarch with Scorpions.

 These are up in the air. For a What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) model, most Autarch kits have heads that include one of these two, so you're kind of stuck. But in game terms, these are extras and in no way necessary. The Banshee Mask benefits the whole unit (albeit for one turn) while the Mandiblasters only benefit the Autarch, but for all turns. Hard to know which is better in most situations.

 Aaaaand Guns-
 These are where an Autarch really shines, with the speed and high BS an Autarch offers, all of these are particularly dangerous in their hands! These are listed in order of Points cost.
 1.) Avenger Shuriken Catapult (18", S4, AP5, Assault 2, Bladestorm). Costs next to nothing and gives you a little dakka. Not bad at all, especially with Rending Lite from Bladestorm. Still, the other options are cheap enough that this isn't the best choice, unless you're going for theme or modelling.
 2.) Lasblaster (24", S3, AP5, Assault 3). Iiiiit's a flashlight. Good range, lots of shots, S3. It's ok, a good buy if you're running with Swooping Hawks because you likely won't be Relentless and might as well add a little firepower to the unit.
 3.) Fusion Gun (12", S8, AP1, Assault 1, Melta). This is probably your best buy in general. It trades the range of the Lasblaster for a far more powerful shot. Handy for tank hunting and staving off those pesky Assault Dreadnoughts.
 4.) Laser Lance* (6", S6, AP1, Lance) Listed twice because it's a gun and a CC weapon. Very cool weapon to model, goes great on a Jetbike. I would not take this unless you have Hit and Run, either by running with Shining Spears or taking the Mantle of the Laughing God. See in the section below for why.
 5.) Deathspinner (12", S6, AP-, Assault 2, Monofilament (S7 vs. I4 or less, AP1 on 6 to-wound)). An all-round solid gun. Between the Fusion Gun and Lasblaster for damage and rate of fire - there are plenty of cases where two S6/7 Rending shots will do you better than a Meltagun, and it still does the trick on *most* tanks. It's a bit of a toss up, but I would still lean towards the Fusion Gun more often than not for the same points.
 6.) Reaper Launcher (48", S5, AP3, Heavy 2). Awesome for busting Marines at extreme range, with the Autarch's high BS and Relentless from a Jetbike or Warp Jump Generator. Great for sniping, especially with the Precision Shots on a 5+ Warlord Trait.
 7.) Relic: Uldanorethi Long Rifle (120", S3, AP3, Heavy 1, Sniper). Speaking of sniping...  For those Autarchs who *really* want to stay out of the way, this sucker is tailor-made for a Mantle Autarch sneaking around the backfield. Most of the time 48" will do you fine, and I would tend to take the Reaper Launcher over this (more shots, often wounding on 2s or 3s instead of a Sniper's 4) - but it's still a lot of fun. Plus, Sniper weapons are great for Monstrous Creature hunting!

 **Note that you can take a SECOND of any of these instead of a CC weapon.
 Out of these options, the Fusion Gun always strikes me as the winner. It's the kind of gun you always need at some point, and when you need it, giving it to someone who can hit on a 2 is a good idea. That said, for the price of an Autarch with a Fusion Gun and any of the Backpack/Jetbike upgrades, and you're only 15 pts shy of a unit of five Fire Dragons, who will almost certainly do more damage in the right place... 

 And CC Weapons-
 These are also very powerful on an Autarch, but keep in mind that with his S/T 3 (or 4, with Chainsword and/or Jetbike) he'll fold to anything but token resistance - so be careful about over investing in these. These are also listed in order of Points cost.
 1.) Scorpion Chainsword (+1 S). Costs almost nothing, gives you that S4. Solid minimum buy. Goes nicely in Scorpion Green.
 2.) Laser Lance* (+3 S and AP3 - but ONLY on the charge! Base CC weapon if you're charged or after the second round of combat). It's interesting. It gives the Autarch the highest Base Strength of all the options, but only for one round (at best). Should never be taken unless you have Hit & Run.
 3.) Power Weapon. You get all the standard options (Sword, Axe, Maul, Lance) for the same price as everyone else. Never a bad choice. My standard go-to minimum for an Autarch is the Power Sword. Looks great, it's very Eldar, and AP3 without sacrificing that Initiative.
 4.) Relic: Firesabre (+1 S, AP3, Soul Blaze, *Soul Blaze spreads to any other unit within 6" on a D6 roll of six, roll for each other unit). Here's one that makes me scratch my head every time I see it - it's a +1 S Power Weapon, which is solid, but it's *double* the cost of a normal power weapon and, let's face it, all you're really getting out of it is the +1 S. It's ok, but it's not great for the price. The only reason to take this over the option below (for 10 pts more) is if you already have another Character wielding it.
 5.) Relic: Shard of Anaris (+2 S, AP-, Rending, grants Fearless, and also grants Fleshbane and Instant Death in a Challenge). You want to utterly destroy someone's precious shiny Character? Pop this sucker on your Autarch and go hunting! Seriously, this thing is great. Making any Eldar HQ base S5 is awesome, then making them (and their unit) Fearless is worth the price alone. Throw in that it's a Character mulcher and it is beautiful! Although it costs an arm and a leg, and you're still not likely to survive combat - it's seriously worth considering. Especially since it's only a measly 10 points more than the stupid Firesabre.

 **As above, you can always take two CC weapons in place of a gun.
 Of all of these, the only one that *doesn't* make sense is the Firesabre. It's not enough better than a normal Power Weapon, and not enough cheaper than the Shard of Anaris to fit where it is. Taking the Laser Lance pretty much locks you into one of two builds - Mantle or running with Shining Spears, but it's not a bad take. Scorpion Chainsword is the point-sippers choice, while the normal Power Weapon is a good standby.

 Finally, non-weapon Relics-
 Which of these you go with, if any, really depends on your points spread/how you want to play. The Phoenix gem is cool, but expensive and unreliable, while Faolchu's Wing is Lulz-worthy, but you'd better have a plan for using it. Then there's the Mantle of the Laughing God, which goes so well with a solo Jetbike Autarch it's not even funny! Heh.
 Here's the breakdown:
 1.) Phoenix Gem (Single Use- when the bearer dies, roll a D6, on a 2+, center a Large Blast on their base that hits all models, friend and foe, at S4 AP5. If a single Unsaved Wound is caused, the bearer gets back up with a single Wound). It's the price of a Power Fist, may not go off, and if it does, may not wound (or, since we're talking squishy Eldar, it might wipe the bearer's unit - oops). It's a very cool item, and on a tough-to-kill Autarch like a Mantle Seer, could be worth it. In most cases though, when your Autarch dies, he's in a place where he'll die right away if he gets back up. But, you never know! I've used it, I've never once had it go off (every time I've taken it my Farseer hasn't died...)
 2.) Faolchu's Wing (The Bearer may Run up to 48" (!) in the movement phase. After doing so he may not shoot or charge, but may re-roll failed Cover saves until the start of it's next turn). This sucker is 5 pts more than the Gem, and is tailor-made to get a solo Autarch where he/she is needed. Not so good if they're in a unit...   Still, if you're looking for a way to get the Fusion Gun in the best/most awkward place possible, this is your (expensive) ticket there.
 3.) Mantle of the Laughing God (Bearer may not join a unit, but gains Stealth, Shrouded, Hit & Run, and may re-roll failed Cover saves). This little chunk of joy made me so happy when this Codex came out, I may have cried a little bit. A Farseer on a Jetbike with this bad boy loaded up with Telepathy powers just ruins people's days all over the place! This and a Jetbike are THE way to run a solo Autarch.

 What about Bodyguards?
 You can run an Autarch with any Infanrtry unit in the Codex. In a short-ranged shooting unit (such as Warp Spiders) the Fusion Gun or Deathspinner is a natural fit. In longer-ranged units such as Dark Reapers, the Reaper Launcher or Uldanorethi Long Rifle stand out. Or you can always run an Autarch with sacrificial Guardians, Storm or otherwise, as meat shields (they'll practically guarantee a successful Phoenix Gem resurrection - if they stay alive that long) or you can trade mobility for the moving wall that Wraithguard/blades provide.
 Running an Autarch with Warp Spiders or Shining Spears is a good way to get the most out of that mobility, but both of those units are high-risk, and you can expect to lose that Autarch in either of these places.
 If you have a big unit that you want to make sure stays put (and don't want to spring for an Avatar), the Shard of Anaris is also a way of making any unit the Autarch joins Fearless, which can be a very handy buff in a valuable or blob unit. I use a Farseer with the Shard in a big unit of Guardian Jetbikes, and those suckers are hard to shift kitted that way.
 Swooping Hawks are a good unit to join an Autarch to, for an extra Haywire Grenade at high BS, and the Reserves modification. However, keep in mind that if you do that, your Hawks will Scatter on Deep Strike (they lose Herald of Victory) and will no longer be able to Skyleap. Which takes a lot of the oomph out of the unit, unfortunately.

 Also keep in mind that an Autarch can move from unit-to-unit, and really, that's where a general like this really shines. He doesn't have to be in the unit, or even on the table, to give a Deep Striking or Outflanking unit the bonus to Reserve Rolls, and he doesn't have to be a part of a unit to give them the benefit of his Banshee mask.
 Because of that, a solo Autarch with the Mantle of the Laughing God is arguably the best way to field one, especially since it adds the +1 T and grants Relentless, so he can plink away all day long and not worry about moving.

 So, how to build him?
 1.) The Heavy Hitter - Banshee Mask, Shard of Anaris/Laser Lance, Jetbike, Meltagun. This is kind of a classic, all-round solid Autarch. A lot of players run similar (if certainly not identical) builds. The Lance/Shard is a personal call, the Lance is a quarter of the points, but the Shard is all-round better, especially for Character hunting - and with the Lance you need to invest in Hit & Run, which can wipe the points advantage.
 2.) Barebones - I started the article with why not to do this, but if you want an autarch and you're cheap, Avenger Catapult and Scorpion Chainsword and call it a day!
 3.) Sniper - Jetbike, Reaper Launcher, Uldanorethi Long Rifle. Choose your gun per round depending on the best target, but stay the heck away from Assaults! Relentless from the bike lets you move and shoot wherever you want/need to be. This is a tough way to make up your points investment…

 General tips-
 Autarchs are pretty good at a lot of things, but they are expensive, fragile (fail that one wound to an S6 gun…) and outclassed by a lot of other things in the game. Keep them out of combat with really tough opponents, and hit your opponent where he's weakest.
 On that note, try a few builds, experiment with how your Autarch plays, and keep an eye on which pieces of gear/upgrades you can shave off because you don't use them.

 For my part, Autarchs compete with Farseers. It's hard to justify anything that competes with Farseers…

 Anybody out there swear by Autarchs and use them all the time? Tell me all about it!