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Friday, 17 July 2015

Army List: Craftworlds 1850 pts Neo-Mechdar

Jetbikes and Wraiththings are getting all the attention (and hate) in the new Craftworlds codex, but I have yet to see a decent Mechdar list that takes advantage of empty Wave Serpents. So what can Eldar players do with all their Serpents gathering dust in their display cases?

Armour Saturation

Before we delve into the list, I want to briefly write about the concept of 'armour saturation'. Put very simply, it is an approach to list building that aims to overwhelm your opponent's anti-tank capability with lots of vehicles. For example, any decent army list can easily kill one, two or three Razorbacks; but how many army lists can easily kill ten? We've already started to see neo-Razorspam emerge in Space Marine double-Demi builds, and many players are struggling to inflict 30+ HP of attrition over five or six turns, and losing games to armour saturation.

It may have taken years to get there, but the average tournament player finally figured out that army lists that can't kill five or more AV12 vehicles are bad; but now that Mechdar is apparently back out of fashion, I expect most players will quickly revert to their old ways and stop bringing sufficient S7 to attrite mass AV12.

Grav-Tank Goodness

So what makes Mechdar a viable list archetype? Here are the top three reasons:

  • Speed
  • Firepower
  • Board Control
As Fast Skimmers, Eldar Grav-Tanks can move 12" and fire two weapons at full BS, or Flat-Out for a total 30" move to escape assaulters, snatch distant Objectives, and generally reshape the battle.

Eldar are one of the shootiest armies in 40k right now, and their tanks are no exception; both mass S6 and S8 AP2 are readily available.

Often overlooked, the large footprint of Eldar tanks makes them exceptional at board control and blocking. You can park on top of an Objective, and even without Objective Secured, deny that Objective to most enemy units that lack the speed to go around your tank to get into scoring range.

With AV12 HP3, a 4++ Jink and 5++ invulnerable save, Eldar tanks are fairly hard to kill, and if you can achieve armour saturation this resilience is amplified. But don't ever overestimate their toughness; this is an army that you definitely have to play smart if you want to succeed.


The changes to Serpent Shield and removal of Laser Lock significantly weakened the uber-Serpents of the last codex, but those changes have not made the Wave Serpent a bad unit—just a less ridiculous one. If you throw a Guide on a Serpent prior to discharging its Shield—which now fires 2D6 shots instead of D6+1—you can still do a lot of damage. And every other turn you can still fire seven BS4 S6 shots, which is still quite respectable for a fast, tough gunship. But best of all, Serpents are now significantly cheaper, since you can take them empty as Fast Attack units without needing to spend 65+ pts on unlocking infantry.

The Falcon is another efficient gunship. Instead of extra S6 shooting once per game, the Falcon fires S8 AP2 every turn. These two types of firepower complement each other very nicely; S8 AP2 efficiently kills Monsters and elite infantry, and mass S6 efficiently kills horde infantry and light/medium armour.

As in every Eldar list I write, the Crimson Death Formation deserves a place in a Mechdar list too. It brings even more S8 AP2 firepower—with optional Skyfire—and also some Lance shots to provide some limited capability against heavy armour.

Putting it all together, we get a list like this:
Combined Arms Detachment: Eldar Craftworlds
Farseer Skyrunner, Singing Spear, Spirit Stone (Warlord) [135]
Windriders, 6x Windrider with Scatter Lasers [162]
Windriders, 3x Windrider with Shuriken Cannon [81]
Windriders, 3x Windrider with Shuriken Cannon [81]
Windriders, 3x Windrider with Shuriken Cannon [81]
Fast Attack
Wave Serpent, Scatter Lasers, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-Field [140]
Wave Serpent, Scatter Lasers, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-Field [140]
Wave Serpent, Scatter Lasers, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-Field [140]
Heavy Support
Falcon, Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-Field [150]
Falcon, Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-Field [150]
Falcon, Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-Field [150]
Formation: Crimson Death
Crimson Hunter Exarch [160]
Crimson Hunter [140]
Crimson Hunter [140]
1850 pts
The Farseer joins the big squad of Scatter Jetbikes, who use their extra range to shoot from behind the front line of Cannon Jetbikes. The Farseer rolls on Runes of Fate since it really has no bad powers for this list, and Guide is essential for buffing a Serpent prior to discharging its Shield.

This army list comprises six tanks and three Flyers—all independent vehicles—plus the four Jetbike squads, for a total of 13 functional units. This is not a huge number of units, especially compared to some MSU lists, but it still plays like a MSU list. Maelstrom missions should be particularly easy, since you have the mobility to grab far-flung Objectives and hunt down any specific targets needed to score VP on-demand.

The total firepower generated by this list each turn comprises:

  • 48 S6 shots
  • 45 S6 Bladestorm shots
  • 18 S8 AP2 shots
Plus three single-use 2D6 S6 Ignores Cover shots when you need the extra firepower. All this firepower is evenly distributed across your 13 functional units, so overkill should be minimised.


The new Codex Eldar Craftworlds has made Mechdar even better. Whilst Wraithknights bring the dreaded D, and mass Jetbikes bring more dice, I think that a good Mechdar list like this one is much better suited to MSU vs MSU manoeuvre battles.


  1. Also keep in mind that one small change to the Eldar list—Void Shield Generator—completely invalidates the SM list, because Grav cannot affect Void Shields and you have no other shooting that can. That is the danger of tailoring a list so finely to counter something specific, which is why I don't worry about encountering such lists.

  2. Well, actually this list has several things that can bring down Void Shields, not the least of which is the 9 x S7 shots from the Stalkers (you can still have them start on the board if you have turn 1). Target the Lynx (a skimmer, so firing at full BS4, TLed) and you get 8 hits on average, followed by 2-3 glancing or better hits against the Void Shields, meaning 2-3 Shields down (with your list, you can only afford 2 Void Shields if you swap iit one for one points wise with the Skyshield).
    Also, the Psymera with 6 x S6 shots and its Snap-Firing S8 Multi-meltas. Also, good old Tigurius can opt for Telekinesis (Psychic Maelstrom) or Daemonology Sanctic (Vortex of Doom) or Pyromancy (Molten Beam) for multiple different Witchfires that can take out AV12 Voidshields.
    Finally, Tigurius has the potential to use Misfortune on the first unit target, making all the attacks against it rending. This means that Devastator squads can combat squad so they have Gravcannons in one team and bolters in another. You then rapid fire 20 Bolter shots at the target, which in turn gets transferred to the AV12 Voidshields protecting it. 20 Shots with re-rollable BS4 generates about 18 hits, which in turn gets about 3 Rending Hits; depending on the D3 roll for rending, that is as many as 3 Void Shields down (i.e. the max that a VSG can take). You are now free to engage the Bikers, Linx, and Autarch with NO protection (so a net loss compared to the Skyshield, which at least gives a guaranteed 4++).
    As for Servo-Skulls, if Eldar go first and spread out to "pop" them (would have to move at least 7" out of their DZ to get to them), then they have to leave large gaps in their bubble-wrap, weakening the protection of the Jetbikes and the Lynx (an opening holes for DSing units to get into).
    As for the Lynx flying turn 1, well then it is not shooting and it is also not being protected by the Void Shields or Skyshield, so it can be ignored and everything can conentrate on the Jetbikes.
    Finally, even if the ASM come no where near the Lynx (which, you are correct, is pretty likely), then they still can combine with the Grav units to annihilate your entire bike force rather handily (barring horrible dice rolls of course, but that is always the case). If you have average rolls, then between the 55 Grav Shots (all TLed with the Devestator Doctrine and 10 of them using the BS5 of the Sergeant's Signum) and the turn 1 charges of the Assualt Marines, there is better than even chance that all Eldar Jetbikes would be dead before turn 2 even begins. If that is the case, then all that is left is a Lynx running for its life (ASM and Scouts in LS Storms have the mobility to catch it) and 3 Crimson Hunters which are not going to win a dual against 3 Stalkers with Interceptor, Skyfire, and Ignore Cover.

  3. Rudd, you can't have it both ways. If you are going for the big null deploy / alpha strike then deploying your Stalkers is a big liability if you go second or get Seized. Not deploying them means that Void Shields are a hard counter. Rending bolters is not a reliable solution. Rolling on non-Divination means that the Jetbikes aren't dying anyway. Regardless of what you deploy, or what Discipline you roll, or who goes first, the Eldar player has options to counter your SM list. It would be a challenging game for both sides, but not the steamrolling you're expecting, not by any means.

    If the Eldar go first against a null deploy / alpha strike then they bomb-burst away from the Skyshield. The Lynx flies (you deployed nothing for it to shoot anyway) and all the Jetbikes zoom to far corners of the table. The Jetbikes don't need to bubblewrap a flying Lynx, after all. If SM disperse to engage multiple scattered targets they become much more vulnerable to the counter-attack. And the small Jetbike squads are very capable of hiding out of LOS, presuming you don't play your games on an empty table.

    You are also putting way too much faith in your Stalkers. Lose one and they lose Ignores Cover, and then they're significantly weaker against Crimson Death with 4++ rerolled. And 48" is actually quite feasible to out-range with Vector Dancer flyers. Vector Dancer flyers are also very good at taking advantage of tall LOS blockers (e.g. three-storey ruins) whilst still shooting.

    Ultimately, I think you are investing too much intellectual effort into this match up. Remember that this is not a hardcore competitive Eldar list. And also keep in mind that while your tailored SM list (it is tailored, because it has a lot of weaknesses) might roll Eldar bandwagoners, a good Eldar player is not going to struggle against it. Against Eldar with more Jetbikes / Wraithknights / tanks, this SM list would struggle.

    And no, I don't think the game is dominated by Astartes at all, not for several years now ;-)

  4. My dreadmob works in a similar fashion. 4 AV13 dreads, 3 av12 dreads, and 9 av11 dreads gives some armies fits.

    I think it's great for eldar though,as all your stuff is so flipping amazing, you won't really have any hard counters.

  5. Mass S7 really hurts, so certain Tau and Cron builds will still hard counter Mechdar. Marines with lots of Drop-Grav are a difficult matchup, although a Void Shields Gen can be added if you think you'll face mass Grav. But this sort of list works really well against deathstar builds due to its mobility and firepower.

  6. Charlie, what do you think of trading out (1) Wave Serpent and (2) Windrider Jetbikes for (2) squads of Swooping Hawks with Exarch upgrades?
    It seems to me that your list is very strong and would do well against almost any opponent. The one threat that I think you might struggle with is massed AV13/14, be it massed Ork Battlewagons (I just played a game against this the other day and it was quite challenging), massed Leman Russes, or even Black Templars playing with lots of LR Crusaders.
    Currently you have 18 S8 shots, 6 of which are Lance weapons, but 12 of those shots are on Crimson Hunters which come in at turn 2 at the earliest. Even if you had all 12 x S8 "normal" shots and 6 x S8 Lance shots all firing together at an AV14 target, you would get an average of 3-4 stripped HPs a turn, which is enough to focus down a single AV14 vehicle, but uses ALL your S8 shooting and probably isn't sufficient against an army fielding multiple AV14 platforms.
    This is why I suggest the possibility of using two small squads of Swooping Hawks. With their extreme mobility (18" move + 2D6" Charge with Fleet mean they can routinely get off 1st turn charges and reliable charges in later turns), they have the potential to Haywire down two AV14 vehicles a turn, which gives you an antidote to this kind of threat.
    Aside from AV14 potential, I think Swooping Hawks have tremendous utility for other purposes, including anti-horde shooting (Lasblasters and Grenade Packs) to free up your Scatter Lasers/Shurikan Cannons for more essential shooting and, perhaps most effectively, securing objectives with their 18" move and D6" run with Fleet (or they can Skyleap, then DS back in next turn with no scatter onto Objectives anywhere on the board).
    While they are a bit fragile due to only 4+ saves, I think they might supplement your current force decently well. Giving up a Wave Serpent does reduce the Armor Saturation principle and losing two Jetbikes reduces your shooting by 8 x S6 Scatter Laser shots, but I think the trade off might be worthwhile.
    What do think of this?

  7. Hi Rudd, Swooping Hawks are a good unit and you're right, this list does need more anti-AV14 to deal with mass heavy armour lists. But as is usually the case, you can't fit everything you want into an army list! The change you suggest is certainly viable, or alternatively you could swap out one Serpent and one Falcon to add a Faolchu's Blade Formation for ranged Haywire, like I have on this list: http://elite40k.blogspot.com/2015/07/army-list-evil-clowns-1850-pts-counter.html

    The trouble of course is that any such changes dilute the armour saturation effect and weaken the whole army. If I had to choose between armour saturation or better coverage against heavy armour, I would probably choose the former and rely on manoeuvre to win against the latter—remember that it's all about VP!

    Of course, there is always the option to drop two tanks for a Wraithknight if you really want coverage against hard targets...