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Project: Desert Astra Militarum #1

It's been a case of all-hobby, no-bloggy for the last few months. The new edition of 40k has reinvigorated my motivation to build a...

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Army List: Astra Militarum 1850 pts Anti-Eldar

In my post about killing Wraithknights a comment was left requesting a non-Eldar, non-Necron army list that could go toe-to-toe with the new Codex Eldar Craftworlds and their dastardly Jetbikes and Wraiths. Ask and ye shall receive! Here is how I would build Astra Militarum to deal with Eldar.


Firstly, I'm going to make some assumptions about what the new 'cookie-cutter' build will be for Eldar. This is not necessarily how I would build them, this is how I think 'the internet' will build them.

I am assuming that no arbitrary restrictions are in place; if you play in a restricted environment, I can't help you—I play real 40k and give advice in that context only.

I am building an 1850 pts list because that seems to be a pretty standard points level no matter where you travel.

The challenge is to build a list that can hold its own against the Eldar, but I will choose to build an all-comers list that should be able to deal with Eldar, instead of all-out tailoring to kill Teh Space Elves of Doooom.

I Can Haz Cookie?!?

Here we go, the new 'cookie-cutter' Eldar build, with lots of Windriders and a Wraithknight, plus some supporting elements to kill backfield hiders and flyers:
Combined Arms Detachment: Eldar Craftworlds
Farseer Skyrunner with Spirit Stone [130]
10x Windriders with Scatter Lasers, Warlock Skyrunner [320]
10x Windriders with Scatter Lasers, Warlock Skyrunner [320]
5x Windriders with Scatter Lasers [135]
5x Windriders with Scatter Lasers [135]
Fast Attack
5x Swooping Hawks, Exarch [106]
5x Swooping Hawks, Exarch [106]
Heavy Support
3x Night Spinner [300]
Lord of War
Wraithknight [295]
1847 pts 
I have chosen to use the Combined Arms Detachment to get Objective Secured on all the Windriders, and to break the three-squad limit of the Windrider Host Formation. There is not much value to using the Craftworld Warhost Detachment since only the Swooping Hawks would benefit from Matchless Agility.

There are two big Windrider squads in this list because the internet says, "OMG so shooty!!!1" and overlooks their general squishiness. They both get a Warlock to mitigate that squishiness, and to provide extra Warp Charge to the Farseer, who hides in one of those big squads. The Farseer will normally roll three times on Runes of Fate so he can Guide a big Windrider squad, and hopefully get Fortune or Will of Asuryan to buff his squad, or Eldritch Storm to nuke the enemy (assisted by the Spirit Stone of Anathlan).

I have also gone for a couple of MSU Windrider squads, who can focus more on claiming Objectives (especially in Maelstrom) and shooting from afar.

The Hawks are in for anti-air using their Intercept rule in the movement phase (basically Vector Strike with Haywire Grenades) and anti-personnel in the shooting phase using Lasblasters and Grenade Pack.

To assist the Hawks in killing infantry, especially those hiding in backfield, I have included a squadron of three Night Spinners. At only 100 pts each, these guys really are a bargain, and their Monofilament Shroud rule is so much better than the Linked Fire rule of Fire Prisms (Prisms only fire a single, stronger shot when combining fire, while Spinners fire multiple stronger shots). These guys can hide in backfield and fire a multiple barrage of three S9 Monofilament (Rending) Large Blasts that roll To Wound against Initiative. Solid.

And of course, there is a Wraithknight, because every time you fire a D weapon, a fairy loses its wings, or some other nonsense like that. The internet is crying about them, so let's see what it can do?

The Emperor's Not-Quite-Finest

Before we write the Astra Militarum list, I'll issue a couple of disclaimers:
  • Firstly, I'm writing this list as an all-comers build that can deal with Eldar, rather than purely as an anti-Eldar build
  • Secondly, I'm writing this list as independently as possible to the Eldar list, so I will try to cover myself against Mechdar and Jetcouncil builds, even though the adversary is really a Windrider/Wraithknight build
So this will not be a specific counter-build to the Eldar list above, since I don't think that would satisfy the spirit of the list request.

So what can we do with Astra Militarum to deal with the new Eldar? Here is my shopping list of capabilities that I will try to build into an army list:
  • Anti-psyker, to neutralise or kill a Seer Council
  • Anti-air, to kill Crimson Hunters
  • Direct fire anti-personnel, to kill Jetbikes and Footdar
  • Anti-AV12, to kill Mechdar
  • Anti-monster, to kill Wraithknights
  • Distributed threats, to avoid vulnerability to D weapons
There should be no surprises on this list, it's basically the usual ingredients of an all-comers build. So what units can we consider to achieve this list of capabilities?

Starting with anti-psyker, the Culexus Assassin is both the best and only option readily available to Astra Militarum, so that's 140 pts. Ideally we mount the Culexus in a Transport Flyer to give it the mobility to chase down a Jetcouncil, and to project a massive bubble of no-buffs-allowed.

Fortuitously, Astra Militarum have a Transport Flyer that is also a fantastic anti-flyer itself, the Vendetta. Seeing as we want to be able to kill (and survive) multiple Crimson Hunters, we'll take three Vendettas for 510 pts to fill out the Fast Attack slots of a Combined Arms Detachment. Vendettas will also do a great job against Wraithknights; each one should take one wound off the big guy each turn.

But it's not all about big guys and psychic deathstars, we need a way to kill off infantry too; preferably at range, and with direct fire, since Eldar do not do 'horde'. Astra Militarum have no shortage of anti-personnel options, with the Wyvern, Manticore, Vulture and Punisher being some exemplars. However, the Wyvern and Manticore are less suitable for this list since they rely on blasts, the Vulture fights for Fast Attack slots with the Vendetta, and the Punisher pays for AV14 that is irrelevant against D weapons. We'll have to consider alternatives, so we'll move on for now.

We need to be prepared to face the good old Jinking AV12 wall, so some infantry-based Autocannons or Lascannons that can take the Ignores Cover Order should do the trick. Given we need to hurt Wraithknights too, we'll go for Lascannons. This means we need an Infantry Platoon; a 30-man combined squad gives us three Lascannons with lots of ablative wounds for only 210 pts, so we'll start there. We could give the Platoon Command Squad a heavy weapon too, but they are very squishy on foot, so we'll instead give it three Meltaguns and a Heavy Flamer—and mount them in one of the Vendettas—so they can pop out and threaten a variety of targets when needed. This Platoon will cost us 280 pts. It needs some sort of Morale buff to protect the investment, so we'll add a naked Inquisitor for 25 pts for Ld10 Stubborn—I don't want a Priest making them Fearless because that would prevent them from Going To Ground.

Taking a Platoon unlocks some extra options too; we can take a Special Weapon Squad with another three Meltaguns to ride in the third Vendetta, and we can also take Heavy Weapon Squads or Sabre Batteries. The Special Weapon Squad costs 60 pts, so we'll pencil that in for now, and cut it later if we run low on points. I won't bother with Heavy Weapon Squads since they are just too vulnerable to S6+, and guess what Eldar bring a lot of? Sabre Batteries, however, are an attractive choice: for 150 pts I can get three Skyfire/Interceptor/Twin-Linked Lascannons with Artillery stat-lines. Skyfire is not really a liability against Eldar, and these guys fill a dual-role of anti-flyer and anti-tank. They can take the Ignores Cover Order to really hurt Eldar tanks and Crimson Hunters. They'll have to Snap Fire against Wraithknights, but with Twin-Linked and the Monster Hunter Order they can still put a wound on a Wraithknight each turn. I really like Sabres, so let's take two Batteries for 300 pts and cut one later if we run low on points.

The running tally so far is 1315 pts, and we have an Inquisitor, an Assassin, three loaded Vendettas, and a big Platoon with two Sabre Batteries. I'm happy we can deal with a Jetcouncil and any quantity of flyers or grav-tanks, and we can put some real hurt on a Wraithknight. But we still need to deal with infantry.

I've mentioned Orders a few times now, so we'd better include a way to get them! Yarrick is one option; he could replace the Inquisitor in the Platoon and issue Orders, but that doesn't really work well with Ld7 Sabre Batteries with no options for Vox-Casters. Taking more 25 pts Inquisitors to buff the Ld of the Sabre Batteries is one option, but I think we'll go for Command Squad with Creed instead. Creed issues three Orders per turn—enough to cover the Platoon and both Sabre Batteries—and he rerolls failed tests, so even the Ld7 Sabre Batteries have an 80% chance of success. Creed also gets two Warlord Traits—with Ideal Mission Commander rerolls—and both the Astra Militarum and Strategic Trait tables offer some great benefits.

My standard configuration for Company Command Squads is three Plasma Guns and a Regimental Standard, all mounted in a Chimera. This projects a big Ld reroll bubble and can deliver some nasty AP2 firepower to anything that gets close to the Platoon they will guard. With Creed, this unit costs 265 pts.

I still need to fill a second mandatory Troops slot, so we'll take a Veteran Squad with three Plasma Guns in a Chimera; these guys support the Company Command Squad in defending the Platoon, or the two can hunt down and kill Windriders who stray too close to my lines. These guys cost me another 170 pts.

We're now at 1750 pts, and while this list is lacking serious anti-personnel firepower, between the all the Plasma Guns, Lascannons, Multi-Lasers, Heavy Bolters and incidental Lasgun fire, I'm happy that I can hold my own in a battle of attrition against Eldar. More importantly, this list has a very distributed threat profile to mitigate D weapon potential: one big bullet-sponge Infantry squad, four MSU Infantry squads, two Artillery squads, two AV12 tanks, three AV12 flyers, plus the solo Assassin. Thirteen different units is not a bad quantity in an 1850 pts army; compare that to only eight in the Eldar army.

With our last 100 pts we'll buy a Void Shield Generator with three Projected Void Shields. This will cover our Platoon and Sabres, and will force the Eldar to waste one Windrider squad dropping the shields before they can use their D weapons. In an all-comers context, the VSG offers great utility against a variety of adversaries—especially those with insufficient direct fire anti-tank weapons—so it's definitely a worthwhile inclusion.

We end up with a list that looks like this:
Combined Arms Detachment: Astra Militarum
Company Command Squad with three Plasma Guns, Regimental Standard, Creed, Chimera [265]
Veteran Squad with three Plasma Guns, Chimera [170]
Infantry Platoon [640]
 – Platoon Command Squad with three Meltaguns, Heavy Flamer
 – Infantry Squad with Lascannon
 – Infantry Squad with Lascannon
 – Infantry Squad with Lascannon
 – Special Weapons Squad with three Meltaguns
 – Sabre Battery with three Lascannon
 – Sabre Battery with three Lascannon
Fast Attack
Vendetta [170]
Vendetta [170]
Vendetta [170]
Void Shield Generator with three Projected Void Shields [100]
Inquisitorial Detachment: Inquisition
Ordo Xenos Inquisitor with Bolt Pistol and Close Combat Weapon [25]
Officio Assassinorum Detachment: Officio Assassinorum
Culexus Assassin [140]
1850 pts
There is probably room for improvement in this list, but for a first attempt I think it should do quite well against the new Eldar. It has a solid Objective Secured firebase covered by Void Shields; a pair of mounted Plasma squads that can push onto a midfield Objective and threaten Jetbikes, Wraiths and grav-tanks using Orders; and three Vendettas carrying either a Culexus or triple-melta payload.

The Showdown

I'm not going to try and predict how games between these two lists would go; they are reasonably well-matched so terrain, deployment, Objective placement, mission, and first turn are all going to be significant variables.

The Eldar have the tools to kill all the Guardsmen, especially if they can get lucky and drop their Void Shield quickly. In fact, given that the Imperials have few good targets for D weapons, the Eldar player could consider using the Wraithknight to auto-strip two Void Shields first so all his S6 and Doomweavers can go to town on the Platoon.

If all thirty Windriders can shoot the Platoon unshielded then they have the weight of dice to wipe them out in a turn; however, if the Platoon Goes to Ground and has Stealth from Night Fighting or a Warlord Trait then the story changes dramatically, with those 120 S6 shots only killing a third of the Guardsmen at best.

If the Sabres can draw line of sight to the Night Spinners then they will kill the grav-tanks quite easily. Over a couple of turns, the Vendettas, Sabres and Platoon should be able to grind down the Wraithknight, and its demise would be hastened if the infantry-borne plasma and melta can be brought to bear—a less skilled Eldar player would likely lose his Wraithknight by the third turn in this matchup.

By the end of this hypothetical game, the Hawks should be able to kill off the Vendettas, unless the Astra player is much better at positioning than the Eldar player. If the Astra player prioritises the Hawks over the Windriders then he can keep his flyers alive, but probably at the cost of his infantry—I would rather keep my infantry for claiming Objectives, but this choice will depend on the mission.

In the end, I think it will be close. Eldar are not unbeatable.


  1. I completely agree with you that running maxed out scatter laser jetbikes units will be quite commonplace even though it probably isn't the best way to run them. A big unit like that represents a prime target to any opponent and like said they aren't that resilient. But it is easy to get swayed by the idea of all that awesome firepower in one unit.

    The old jetbikes were game winners. Cheap enough to be hidden until just the right moment, but now when you start investing points (bigger unit size and increased offensive capabilities) you will not be using them that way. First of all hiding them will be a lot harder, so they will take a lot more heat just by being seen more often. Secondly, they will be put in harms way more often as you'll want to get return on your investment. Scatter laser jetbikes will be shot at a lot more than naked ones and their relative squishiness will be evident. I guess some will be in for quite a rude awakening.

    With all that fire power tide up in that unit jinking will be less an attractive option as well. The new jetbikes are a double edged sword. Every shot into that unit hurts both the scoring (objective stealing) and offensive capabilities of the eldar player.

    Still, just to be clear, a great unit.

  2. Hi Thomas, you are 100% right on all counts, good stuff :-)

    I really like how Jetbikes can now be your front-line combat troops, since it is much more in keeping with Eldar fluff than hiding inside transports that act like main battle tanks. But while they are now powerful enough to be worth using as front-line fighters, they are still vulnerable in several ways, and will play very differently to their previous incarnations.

  3. Great write up thank you - just discovered your blog and appreciate all the detail you've gone into.
    Not sure if you cover every codex that comes out, but as a fluffy Dark Angel player will definitely be interested to hear your thoughts on the new codex if it comes out - not that I expect it to win any tournaments... ; )
    Keep it up

  4. Hi Bluey, welcome to the site, and I hope you find more articles you like! I don't think I can do a full analysis of every codex release, that would be a full-time job with the current release schedule... but I can certainly a brief review of DA when they emerge.

  5. Most kind, thank you :-)

    I've been busy reading your other posts and can see the amount of work you put in so quite understandable. I play IG too, so if you decide to write more posts about the Astra instead that will keep me happy! Also, nice work on the Taurox too.


  6. Thanks, that Taurox was a long and painful exercise that eventually paid off! I do have a fair bit more to write about Astra, so stay tuned...