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Monday, 16 February 2015

Analysis: Eldar Harlequins Fourth Wave


With most of the Harlequins Codex now revealed/leaked, it's time to assess if these last few puzzle pieces will improve the viability of the new Space Elf Clowns. Will you ever see the emissaries of the Black Library at a tournament?

Firstly, it is very important to note that there is still one critical piece of information that is still unknown: the Ally matrix for the new Harlequins Faction. I am assuming that they will be Battle Brothers with both Eldar and Dark Eldar—if this is not the case then I will have to rewrite this entire article!

Shadowseer

For 60 pts you get an Independent Character with Fleet and Hit & Run. Forget everything else, this is huge!

Hit & Run is an extremely powerful rule in 40k; it improves a unit both offensively and defensively, and is a fundamental element of nearly every viable deathstar. Independent Characters with this rule are few and far between, and when the most infamous of those—the Baron—was cut from the latest version of the Dark Eldar Codex it basically ruined the Seer Council concept. Now, GW have given us an even cheaper way to get Hit & Run, and you can take up to seven of these guys in a Harlequin Masque Detachment!

But it gets even better: Fleet is important for mobility; Psyker improves Deny the Witch for a unit, Warp Charge pool for an entire army, and offers some very good buffs in Telepathy and Phantasmancy; and Haywire Grenades lets you hurt Knights. Quadruple threat FTW!

This guy is solid. If you want to run any kind of Footdar army list, be it Craftworlder, Commorrite, Harlequin, or a hybrid, then you need multiple Shadowseers.

Phantasmancy

A good Primaris is fundamental to a good Discipline, and Veil of Tears is a very good Primaris. Way back at the start of the Harlequin release I wrote that Troupes needed some sort of shooting defence from their Shadowseers, and Phantasmancy does not disappoint. And Veil of Tears really is a fantastic power for any kind of Eldar or Dark Eldar unit on foot.

Dance of Shadows adds to the awesomesauce that is the Shadowseer. A targeted Stealth+Shrouded buff is simply amazing, especially for Eldar and Dark Eldar vehicles and Jetbikes that can generate base cover saves on-demand using Jink.

The two 'psychic gun' powers are nothing special.

Fog of Dreams, a.k.a. "Reverse Invisibility", is loltastic. Most of the deathstars you would love to cast it on will have Deny the Witch bonuses, but Knights, Wraithknights, Riptides, and various super-heavies can be shut down very nicely with Fog.

Laugh of Sorrows is basically Psychic Shriek with more variance in its result; not a bad concept, but it's really not worth WC2.

Mirror of Minds did not impress me at first, but I now think it will actually be very, very good. There are quite a few Monstrous Creatures around with Ld 9 or lower, and Mirror lets you burn them down fairly effectively.

Overall, the strength of this Discipline is enough to make me think that Shadowseers should always be upgraded to ML2 and nearly always roll twice on Phantasmancy. It is better for MSU army lists than Telepathy, which revolves around using Invisibility and Shrouding to buff smaller quantities of harder units.

Death Jester

Paying 60 pts for a Shuriken Cannon seems to be a recurring theme in this Codex! Like the Shadowseer, the Death Jester is an Independent Character with Hit & Run and has value just in that regard.

Furthermore, the Death Jester's special rule is phenomenally good—I would even go so far as to say game-breaking good. Fearless isn't as common as it once was in 40k, and a -2 Ld modifier makes a big difference to Morale check success rates, even for Ld 10 targets. Combine this with a Shadowseer with The Mask of Secrets, a Dark Eldar character with The Armour of Misery, Eldar Spiritseers and Warlocks casting Horrify, and Eldar Hemlocks, and you can make Death Jester shenanigans very reliable.

So what if you can make an enemy unit fall back in a direction of your choice? For one, you can pull them into easier assault range, even on the first turn—that alone is huge. Secondly, if your opponent has deployed near his back edge (or a flank), then you can push a squad off the table in your first turn too—even better.

But the biggest thing is that—based on the wording seen in the rules leaked thus far—you can trigger the Death Jester special rules multiple times in the same turn. Of course, you would need to have Death Jesters split across multiple units—and the Harlequin Masque Detachment does let you take up to seven of them—but imagine pushing squads off the table from anywhere on the board, simply by pinging them with a few different Shuriken Cannons?

Also note that—again based on the leaked wording—this rule triggers a Morale check and a fall back move. This means that if you can make a unit flee mid-phase with a Death Jester and inflict 25% casualties over the entire phase then it would have to flee again at the end of the phase! In the early-game this allows you to really spread the pain with multiple Death Jesters.

Now with all that said, you still have to inflict wounds to trigger the Death Jester effect, but an accurate Shuriken Cannon with its multiple shots and pseudo-rending should do the job most of the time—and don't forget the single-shot Poisoned option for T8+ targets.

Consider an army built around the Harlequin Masque and some Eldar or Dark Eldar allies, with a Shadowseer with The Mask of Secrets riding a Starweaver into midfield on turn one, and six Death Jesters knocking a few squads off the table before the enemy even has a chance to move...

The proper Codex wording of the Death Jester's special rule has now been revealed as a normal, end-of-phase Morale check. This is probably for the best, because forcing multiple mid-phase Morale checks with a -2 Ld modifier would have been bullshit good. The Death Jester is still good—and it's probably still worth the investment to back him up with a Mask of Secrets Shadowseer—but the primary use of his special rule will be to pull targets into easier charge range, not to push them off the table. This is actually pretty nice since it's sadly quite rare to see a 'flavour' rule actually work properly!

Enigmas of the Black Library

The Relics were leaked a little while ago, but I haven't wrote about them yet since we don't know if the list we've seen is complete. I am not super-impressed with what we have seen—the weapon options are pretty "meh" and only the Mask and Eye offer much utility. The Starmist Raiment is redundant on a Solitaire, and the only use I can imagine for it is a bit of insurance on a Harlequin Warlord.

Warlord Traits

Until I saw their three Warlord Trait tables, I would not have considered running any Harlequin character as a Warlord (noting the Solitaire is barred from Traits). However, there are some damn good Traits in this Codex if you nominate a Troupe Leader as your Warlord. Also, remember that the Flip Belt gives him a 2+ Look Out Sir even though he is non-Independent.

Some of the Traits available to Troupe Leaders (but not Shadowseers and Death Jesters) are pretty nice, but they are spread across the three tables (Light, Twilight, Dark) so there are some important pre-game choices to be made. Here are the highlights:

  • Light – Steal the Initiative on a 2+ is huge, especially if you're playing Death Jester shenanigans or you just want to put up your Shadowseer buffs prior to being shot. Extra deployment/redeployment options are nice too, especially if you're playing Hammer and Anvil and need to get up the table or want to LOS-deny a static gunline army.
  • Twilight – Random game length manipulation is beyond huge, it's truly game-breaking. I will go so far as to say that this is the best Trait currently in the game. There is a reason why Corbulo was tweaked to prevent rerolling this critical strategic roll. How many games have you won or lost just because the game ended when it did? And how would you like to be able to force a guaranteed turn six or make a turn five Objective-grab twice as likely to succeed? Amazeballs.
  • Dark – The internet seems to like this one the most, but I'm less impressed. The 'kamikaze challenge' ability is really not that great people—you have to lose your Warlord and then you get a slightly better than 50% chance to take his killer down with you. The internet likewise raved about the Grey Knight Brotherhood Champion in their old Codex, but how often did you see it get played competitively? The extra pseudo-turn of activity with your Warlord squad is pretty nice utility for tipping VP in your favour, but the Twilight Trait is better in that regard.
If you are running straight Harlequins, or Harlequins and Dark Eldar, then the Light table (ironically) is probably best; when allied to Eldar you should probably roll on Twilight, and enjoy the Windrider shenanigans.

Formations

I've already written about the high tax of the Harlequin Masque Detachment—and we can now see why you get taxed so hard to unlock seven Shadowseers and/or Death Jesters! In addition to this unique Detachment, there are quite a few new Formations in the Harlequin Codex that offer lower-tax options to field your Space Elf Clowns.

I will not write about the Formations in-depth at this stage—I'll wait until a clearer description of their rules are revealed/leaked—but I will pick out a few highlights:

  • Troupe + Shadowseer + Death Jester – This is a nice little self-contained squad, and an easy entry-point for players wanting to add some Harlequins to their existing army. I expect to see a lot of Dark Eldar armies bringing an 8-man Troupe in this Formation and popping the lot inside a Fast Attack Raider.
  • 3x Troupe in Starweaver + 2x Skyweaver + 1x Voidweaver – Being able to Hit & Run or Consolidate back into your transport is an innovative and very cool special rule. If you could do this with durable transports then it would be game-breaking, but killing Starweavers at close range should not be challenging. And 6-man Troupes are really not that scary.
  • ALL TEH CLOWNZ Web Bundle $$$ – If you're going to build a full Masque along strict fluff-lines then you should run the Formation version instead. Rerolling saves of 1 is very good for the Solitaire and your Warlord Troupe Master with Raiment. Rerolling Traits is very good given the strength of the Harlequin tables. And running and charging on the same turn (with Fleet) is simply amazeballs.

Conclusion

I wouldn't have believed it only a few days ago, but the new Harlequins are actually starting to look very competitive... Well played, GW. Well played.

7 comments:

  1. The death jester is just awesome...he helps so many slow moving armies. Got an ork walker list? Never reaching CC? Oh thats fun, why don't you just run your entire army at my orks?

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  2. I have been out of 40k for a good number of years (So much so I was confused when Necrons had a new book ... which I thought was there first new book lol) but I am tempted to get into it with Harlequins with my Eldar :)
    So much so got some stuff on order plus the Troupe Master Codex ...

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  3. Love the Death Jester! Don't quite understand the shrieker ammo though. Poisoned 2+ is great to high toughness targets but the bio explosion is good for hordes. Maybe it's just multi use?

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  4. The single Poison shot is better against T8 and the three S6 shots are better against T7 and below. I wouldn't take the explosion into account, any damage it does is just a nice bonus. Against a horde just fire three shots.

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  5. Welcome back to 40k! It's a great time to be in the game, with so many sweet models and flexibility in list building. There's really something for everyone these days, regardless of where you sit on the competitive–casual spectrum.

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  6. Yeah you're right, although it's also pinning too so that coupled with the bio explosion could be useful for tightly packed hordes. I started a post about it over on Dakka. I guess it's just situational but a nice tool to have!

    I am loving how the Harlequins are turning out though. I think I'll want two Death Jesters, two Shadowseers and a Solitaire in each force. Hopefully the detachments listed so far aren't the only ways to take the force.

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  7. I think that the Troupe+SS+DJ Formation is good if you intend to run the characters as part of the squad anyway. Then you can add the Solitaire+SS+DJ Formation to get your extra characters. I'm waiting to see the full rules for Formations to make a judgement.

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