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Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, HQ Units

Let's analyse the HQ options available to Astra Militarum . Like all my reviews, this will be from a competitive play perspective, ...

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Analysis: Eldar Harlequins Second Wave


After waiting 7+ years for the release of the Jes Goodwin Prototype Jetbike, and 20+ years for the return of Harlequin Jetbikers to the rules, GW have finally given us the Harlequin Skyweavers—but was it worth the wait?


Skyweavers

Rules for the Skyweavers started leaking earlier in the week, and at first I was not impressed by what I was reading. I decided to withhold judgement until we saw all their rules today—and try as I might, I really can't find much that excites me about these guys.

Spotted way back at Games Day 2008!

Now the models are fantastic, and I will definitely be adding some to my collection. They should look great alongside the Russian Jetbikes I intend to convert into Shining Spears. But will these models be relegated to social games only? At this point they really just seem to be too expensive to be considered efficient.

For a whopping 100 pts you get a mere two Jetbikes, with the option for up to four more—these guys must be awesome at 50 pts each, right? Right? Oh dear...

Dilution of Purpose

Let's get one thing clear first up: Skyweavers are not an assault unit. Yes, they are Jetbikes with WS5, three attacks, and Hit & Run, but regular Harlequin Troupes hit a lot harder for a lot less points. Skyweavers are a mobile shooting unit that are not a pushover in assault.

The problem is that we seem to be paying lots of points for beneficial assault attributes on a primary shooting unit...

Shooting

Each Skyweaver model has two riders and two wounds to represent it; however, at only T4 they are quite vulnerable to Instant Death, and more significantly, each 'pair' of Harlequins only brings a single weapon to the table.

The Shuriken Cannon is a good weapon, but is paying 50 pts for a two wound Shuriken Cannon really competitive? How often do you see 50 pts two HP Vypers with Shuriken Cannon in a tournament Eldar army?

That said, mobile Shuriken Cannons are great at killing light armour, and the Haywire Blaster alternative weapon option is great for killing heavier armour, so Skyweavers may just be the go-to option for ranged anti-armour in a primary Harlequin force.


The Star Bolas is cute—extra firepower once per game, that could be situationally awesome or "meh". But if you want your Skyweavers to do anything useful in close combat then you really need to swap them out for Zephyrglaives...

Assault

Assuming you do take Zephyrglaives—Skyweavers are wet noodles in melee without them—then you have a shooting unit that can do a fair bit of damage in the assault phase too. Each Jetbike has four WS5 S5 AP2 attacks on the charge—respectable, but less impressive when considered alongside the mass S6 potential of a Troupe wielding Harlequin's Embraces.

Alternative

Eldar Jetbikes with medium strength AP2 attacks on the charge with Hit & Run for insurance... sound familiar? Remember these guys?


A Shining Spear costs 25 pts, has one wound and delivers two S6 AP2 AP3 attacks on the charge; a Skyweaver with Zephyrglaive costs 60 pts, has two wounds and delivers four S5 AP2 attacks on the charge. For a similar cost (taking two Shining Spears per Skyweaver) you get more assault phase output from the Shining Spears—higher strength and double the Hammer of Wrath hits—and the Shining Spears are also tougher with a 3+ save and 3+ Jink compared to the 4+/4+ of the Skyweavers.

Again, I ask you how often do you see Shining Spears in a competitive Eldar army?

Of course, there is something to be said for a model that shoots like a Vyper and assaults like a Shining Spear, but I'm not sure that makes 50+ pts per relatively squishy model is a good investment.

Bag of Tricks

I haven't mentioned Mirage Launchers yet—effectively Jinking without reducing your shooting is a nice gimmick, but too bad it's a once-per-game trick. I don't know how necessary it really is considering that they also have Holo-Suits for a constant 5++ save, and I see this as a missed design opportunity—I really would have preferred to see a Dark Eldar-esque Ld debuff ability to remind us that the Harlequins are in many ways the interface between the Commorites and Craftworlders.

Context

Now I must admit that I'm looking at the new Harlequins from the perspective of an addition to the already-potent Eldar arsenal, and in that context they just aren't that impressive. But depending on the Faction status, Allies Matrix and Formation options of the forthcoming Harlequins Codex, it may be possible to easily add small Detachments of Space Elf Clowns to many other armies for great benefit.

For example, I'm sure a primary Imperial Knights army would love to bring along some fast Shuriken Cannons to pop transports, and Orks would enjoy blitzing heavy armour with fast Haywire Blasters. As a gap-filler, these new Harlequins—and Skyweavers in particular—could find a valuable niche in several tournament armies.

Conclusion

So I'm not all that impressed by the Skyweavers, but I can see their value to some armies. Please keep in mind that this is just a preliminary analysis based on the trickle-feed of rules we're receiving from GW; when we see the complete picture, with Faction, Allies, Relics, Psychic Powers and Formation rules, then I'll have to revisit all these units to make a more definitive call on the newest mini-army in the 41st millennium.

8 comments:

  1. Shining Spears are only AP 3 aside from the exarch attacks (and they are AP dash turns after the assault). Shining Spears and Skyweavers are actually pretty comparable (4+/5++ or 3+ and weapons and speed, etc). I do think Skywaevers deserved the skilled rider trait (that way combat version would be good with a 3+ cover which they could always use to be as durable as other eldar jetbikes). All this being said shining spears are almost always more useful (unless they attack 2+ units or units in cover). Skyweavers can attack units hiding in cover more effectively than Shining Spears (flip belts). I think you discredit the Skyweavers a little too much, but in all fairness it is a unit with lots of potential IF and only IF it is durable enough to survive a round or two of shooting well enough (and that is the debate, and one I am unsure of as well). To be honest that is the problem with almost every unit in the Harlequin dex so far (nothing is quite durable enough to withstand shooting attacks in seventh). My hope is the shadowseer has a board wide effect of obscuring units either permanently like it does now to a given range or cover bonuses like shrouding. That would effectively make these Skyweavers ridiculous with a 2+ cover and 4++ any turn cover is ignored.

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  2. You're right about AP3, thanks for picking that up! But that doesn't change much really, since S6 is normally better than AP2; after all, you generally want to shoot 2+ units to death rather than charging them.

    I don't think SS and Skyweavers are comparable in points, because SS are significantly more durable; 3+/3+ is much better than 4+/5++/4+ and T4 W2 is a liability. Skyweavers don't have Flip Belts (or grenades) so they have no advantage over SS in assaulting into terrain. SS are far more efficient than Skyweavers in the assault phase.

    I too am waiting to see the rest of the Codex, especially the Relics and Psychic Powers, before making a final call. But considering that Skyweavers do not have direct access to Relics, and relying on psychic buffing to become viable (rather than just becoming a bit better) is a very risky proposition, especially for such expensive models.

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  3. Darn, I could have sworn Skyweavers got flip belts (oh well). Yeah, without the assaulting through cover bonus that makes Skyweavers a lot less useful. But the AP 3 the turn following the assault in my opinion will be useful to Skyweavers. And just like you, I think it will be the Shadowseer and relics that make or break the harlequins. Maybe also the Starweavers stats will change things too.

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  4. My concern is that the sub-par 4+/5++ of Skyweavers in close combat makes them less likely to benefit from staying locked in melee for an extra turn, compared to being shot at instead... which really devalues Hit & Run.

    I have big hopes for the Starweaver, because it really may make-or-break Harlies. If it has a large transport capacity (8+) then Harlies will be sweet, but if it's as small as a Venom then the clowns are in trouble.

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  5. I think if you want them as just ranged support, take them stock. If you want them to make use of their assault ability, upgrade to zephyrglaives. Maybe also haywire cannons so after that land raider is gone you hunt down backfield elite enemy units.

    I'm on the fence. I like these guys but I think you'll need 3-4 in a unit. For me, maybe 2 units of 2, separate, but targeting the same units and multi assaulting. Probably one Shuriken and one haywire each. If allied to my Eldar, probably all upgraded to zephyrglaives. In a pure Harlequin force, I think you could keep one of them with star bolas but I think zephyrglaives are a must unfortunately.

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  6. The Zephyrglaive dilemma is that you shouldn't be spending extra points on them for close combat buffs, since they really are a shooting unit—but then again, if you don't make some use of them in the assault phase then they're overcosted for a pure shooter! Then there is the opportunity cost of losing a gun to gain melee capability; I agree that Zephyrglaive will often be necessary, but I really don't like this unit design.


    I would not mix weapons or run them in units smaller than three; mixing weapons dilutes their purpose and efficiency and only two models (four wounds) is just too easy to remove with incidental small arms fire. If you run Haywire then you need five or six in the squad, since it takes 5.4 shots to strip 3 HP from a vehicle on average.

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  7. Have you seen the formations for harlequins yet. It looks like the Zephyrglaive may be the way to go as one of the formations would allow you to get a rerolled jink save, basically a 75% chance of saving making them a bit or durable than Shinning Spears. Every formation is really good, but they are somewhat limiting (I for example really just wanted to try out a Troupe with a SS and mess around with a Solitare, but getting those things in my eldar army is a little bit of a problem, as I will need death jesters, and another SS). But harlequins do look promising.

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  8. With rerolling Jinks, Skyweavers become pretty much equal to SS in power level. But how often do you see SS in a competitive Eldar army? I think they would need to be notably better than SS to make the cut.

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