Dark Eldar: Building an Effective Army List
Hello and welcome to the second installment of my Dark Eldar tactica series. While I was tempted to do a unit by unit review of the Codex, I’m instead going to focus on the primary units you will find in some of my personal army lists. A broader review may come at a later date if there is a demand for it. My goal for this article is to share what has worked for me, allowing you to integrate your own experiences.
Successful Dark Eldar armies need to maximize their strengths in order to generate successful results. Their most obvious strength is speed, followed by the ability to put out some good long range firepower in the form of Dark Lances and Splinter Cannons. Backing up this long range firepower we have some decent mid-range guns like Blasters, Heat Lances and Haywire Launchers.
By using the combination of speed and long ranged fire power, Dark Eldar have the ability to control the flow of the game. In most cases, I will deploy castled up on an extreme flank. This allows me to focus all of my firepower at one side of my opponents forces, and keeps me out of range for some of the return fire. If my opponent reacts correctly, I can again shift the moving castle in order to minimize return fire. Alternatively, if my opponent has been softened up enough, I can engage with mid-range support elements.
The Dark Eldar army is not a strait forward army to play. It requires bobbing and weaving, picking and popping and other shenanigans in order to be most efficient. The learning curve is stiff, but once you figure out the capabilities and limitation of various units the army will reward you.
Reserves is not an ideal deployment strategy for Dark Eldar simply because we have no way to manipulate reserve rolls. However, there are a few armies that will give Dark Eldar difficulties even if the Dark Eldar player gets the first turn. Against these, I recommend going second and reserving in an attempt to shorten the game as much as possible. Use your mobility to capture objectives and minimize your opponents ability to get easy Kill Points off you.
- Mech Guard - Too much shooting and AV12 for most Dark Eldar armies to deal with
- Mech Eldar - Massed strength 6 and the ability to neutralize our mobility makes this match-up one of the toughest
- Space Wolves - The least scary of the three, but 48" Missile Launcher range makes things tough.
On to the Army...
Three Ravagers with 3x Dark Lances
Three squads of 3 Trueborn with Blasters in Venoms (Splinter Cannon upgrade)
Between these 6 units you get 18 Lances and 6 Splinter Cannons – a great fire-base for any Dark Eldar army. If you choose to leave them bare, it’s only 753 points. As these are my “essential” units, I will usually make the points available to upgrade the Ravagers to have Flickerfields and Night Shields, and equip the Venoms with Night Shields. With 90 points in upgrades, that’s 843 points spent on the heavy hitters of the army. Another way to make these even scarier is to add a fourth Trueborn to each squad.
I like to err on the safe side when it comes to Dark Eldar Troop choices. I'll usually require the full six in 2,000 point games, five in games at the 1,850 level and four at 1,500. Since Dark Eldar are so fragile, I think it's important to have excess Troops around to grab objectives.
- 5 Warriors with a Blaster in Venom / Raider
- 10-20 Warriors on foot with a Dark Lance, Blaster
- 10-20 Warriors on foot with a Splinter Cannon, Blaster
Warriors are a nice, point efficient Troops choice for the Dark Eldar army. In order to keep up with the fast moving (and fragile) Dark Eldar theme, I'll go with 5 with a Blaster in a Venom or Raider - depending on what the list is lacking. The foot based options for Warriors, I use less often. Although I have found 10+ Warriors with a Dark Lances, accompanied by a Haemonculi (for FNP) and Baron (+1 cover save) to be quite a solid objective holder.
As for other upgrades, Syrabites are important if you have the points for them. Leadership 9 can be a life saver in game making (breaking) situations.
- 5 Wracks with Liquifier in Venom / Raider
- 10 Wracks (+Acothyst) with 2x Liquifier in Raider
Since the Codex came out, I've been very fond of Wracks with their T4 and built in FNP. Taking a squad of ten helps me justify taking such fragile Warrior squads as the Wracks have some solid staying power. The Liquifiers are a nice bonus, and allow these guys to ignore MEQ armor half the time.
In the ten man squads I will always take an Acothyst and give him a Venom Blade. If I have the points I might splurge on an Agonizer, but I think the VB is more point efficient.
- 9 Wyches with or without Haywire Grenades and Agonizer Hekatrix in Raider
I will generally always take a Haemonculi to accompany my Wyches. They are far too fragile otherwise and require Feel No Pain. Giving them haywire grenades makes them a threat to enemy vehicles and threatens vehicles that would otherwise ignore lance effects. I usually don't bother with any Wych special weapons, but an Agonizer on the Hekatrix gives them a nice edge in close combat. While they require a good combat drug roll to be reliable in assault, they are still a nice counter to enemy vehicles with their haywire grenades.
- Haemonculi with Liquifier, Shattershard, Crucible of Malediction, Venom Blade, Stinger Pistol, etc...
Haemonuli offer a few nice things that have earned them a perennial slot in my army lists. First, they allow you to take Wracks as Troops which gives you a solid, T4 troops option. Second, they offer up a pain token to start the game. This combines especially nice with Wyches or a larger Warrior squad on foot.
Their gear should be determined by the amount of extra points you have to spend. Don't be afraid to run them with just a Liquifier or Venom Blade. Their main purpose is to unlock Wracks and provide that pain token. I have had luck running a Haemonculi Anicent with an Agonizer with my Wyches, just to give a nice extra CC punch.
- Succubus with Agonizer
While everyone else was clamoring over Archons, I was happy with my 85 point Succubus. 5 Base Agonizer attacks, 6 on the charge, and combat drugs included. A nice, inexpensive way to add a CC punch to an army, especially if you play in the 1500-point range.
Baron is one of the least expensive named characters around. His +1 roll to go first is a fantastic force multiplier. It can put you in a position to get off a good alpha strike, or if you choose to reserve, force your opponent to take the first turn and twiddle his thumbs until your army arrives.
The other benefit Baron bestows is Stealth. I've found great utility in attaching Baron to a footslogging Warrior squad in cover. A 3+ cover save and 4+ FNP (from the attached Haemonculi) make for one really annoying Troops choice.
By taking Vect, the mental chess match starts before the game begins. With his 4+ to seize your opponent will almost always be deploying defensively (or just hand you the first turn to avoid any confusion). He's also an absolute beast in close combat. The problem I have with him is that he's not conducive to MSU based armies. He's better suited for armies that are built around assault, or have a strong assault theme.
I'll usually stick him with Wracks so that he gets FNP to start the game, and has a tough squad to pal around with. The downside is that he can't fleet, but if there's a good target within striking distance it doesn't hurt to separate Vect from the squad to get that fleet roll. Separation also comes in useful during lost combats as Vect is fearless, but the squad he's with is not (unless they have 3 pain tokens, of course).
I wanted to briefly touch on vehicle upgrades in this article. Different people have had success with different configurations, but I'm a firm believer in both Night Shields and Flickerfields. I get both, on every vehicle if points allow.
Flickerfields effectively give you an extra Raider / Venom for every three with Flickerfields. If I have 12 vehicles in my list, my opponent is going to feel like they have to kill 16. Not bad for 10 points a pop.
Night Shields don't do much against Missile Launchers and Autocannons, but just watch the face of your opponent when you tell them their plasma guns need to be 9" away to rapid fire, or their melta guns need to be 6" away to fire at all. Midrange, supporting fire is severely hampered by Night Shields. They also force your opponent to play their army slightly different than what their used to. Any advantage is a good advantage.
Other Useful Units
I've listed the units that I use regularly in my lists. I do think there is room to expand, and units such as Hellions, Reavers, Scourges, Beasts and Grotesques can be good additions.
A Sample List:
HQ Haemonculi (Shattershard) - 65 Baron - 105
ELITES 3 Trueborn (3 Blaster) - 156 Venom (+Splinter Cannon, Night Shields) –  3 Trueborn (3 Blaster) - 156 Venom (+Splinter Cannon, Night Shields) –  3 Trueborn (3 Blaster) - 156 Venom (+Splinter Cannon, Night Shields) – 
TROOPS 5 Warriors (Blaster) – 135 Venom (+Splinter Cannon, Night Shields) –  5 Warriors (Blaster) – 135 Venom (+Splinter Cannon, Night Shields) –  5 Warriors (Blaster) – 140 Raider (Flickerfields, Night Shields) –  10 Wracks (Acothyst, 2 Liquifiers) – 210 Raider (Night Shields, Flickerfields) –  10 Wracks (Acothyst, 2 Liquifiers) – 210 Raider (Night Shields, Flickerfields) –  13 Warriors (Dark Lance, Blaster) - 157
HEAVY SUPPORT 1 Ravager (Night Shields, Flickerfields) – 125 1 Ravager (Night Shields, Flickerfields) – 125 1 Ravager (Night Shields, Flickerfields) – 125
- 22 KP
- 11 Vehicles 6 Troops
- 13 Dark Lance
- 13 Blaster
- 10 Splinter Cannons
- +1 To Go First
- Night Shields and Flickerfields on everything
- Biggest downside is Leadership 8 on the Warriors
The squad of 13 Warriors is accompanied by Baron and the Haemonculi. They along with the Raider Warrior squad will guard my "home" objectives. The Wracks and the Venom Warrior squads will go out to claim enemy objectives. Generally, the Trueborn will support the attackers, while the Ravagers will support the defenders. More on the "Attacker", "Defender" and "Support" elements will come in the next article.
Questions, Comments, Gripes? Let me know!