Foot Eldar FTW!

Fritz here, so you have been thinking about running a foot Eldar list? Maybe you heard how they are tearing up the tournament scene crushing everything in sight and you’ve been thinking about giving one a try? All kidding aside, is there a valid reason to run a foot ‘dar list at this point in the game, and IF one was to attempt it what would be the first step?

Why run a foot based list in a mech based world? From my own humble perspective as harlequin themed foot ‘dar player I would say to gain an advantage. When I brought my Saim-Hann army online during the heyday of 4th edition an all “mech” Eldar list was a rare beast. Foot/hybrid lists were the rage, assuming you could even find an abundance of Eldar players to begin with. At that time the only reasons I was placing mech was for the Saim-Hann “fluff” as opposed to any real advantage. With the transition to 5th edition my Saim-Hann become so much more powerful now that I didn’t have to worry about victory points, vets will remember various VP denial tactics, and objective based mission got even more ridiculous with tank shocks and turn five contesting- things I have become the Eldar poster boy for in my local gaming group.

From the Eldar perspective jetbikes and skimmers are no longer a novelty on the table- they are the standard Eldar force without or without a seer council. Pack five fire dragons and five dire avengers into a wave serpent, rinse and repeat five times, and then add on three fire prisms and you are all set to go. Now if you have ever played this type of list or faced off against it in the hands of a knowledgably Eldar player you know how annoying it is- my 40K bud Jawaballs can tell you as he hates facing my Saim-Hann.

The problem with this type of build is that while it is effective it is hardly surprising anymore, especially on the tournament scene- everybody knows what you are going to do and how it is going to play. Knowing and planning for it means your opponent can counter it without having to think of what to do.

Enter a foot based list and you are building on the element of surprise. Start pulling out your models and without a transport in sight your opponent is going to think they have an easy win. Surely you must be n00b since everybody knows mech Eldar is the only viable build to win games. When built correctly (and we’ll be getting to that in a moment) a foot ‘dar list is hard to figure out. Played correctly, and with a plan, your opponent is going to have to be thinking on the fly to figure out how to crack it, and too much thinking leads to mistakes in 40K. Of course the key in running a novelty like list is that it better have some bite to it… So you want to lull your opponent into thinking you are a newbie and then force them to figure out how the list operates on the fly, we’ll we are going to have to build a solid FE list first by keeping a few key points in mind.

The first hurdle to deal with is the fact that most of your units will have a 4+/5+ save and all of them will be toughness three (T3). Not being in a transport for protection you are going to need to have a way to keep them alive on the table- either through numbers or a special rule. You need to either nullify the effectiveness of your opponent’s shooting or have the numbers to take casualties and still be a threat.

From the perspective of scoring units guardians and rangers fit perfectly. Guardians are cheap, can be taken in units of twenty and come with a special weapon which will play a key role in the second part of the list. Rangers and their pathfinder cousins can also be taken in groups of ten giving you some numbers, along with collecting a 2+/3+ cover save. These two units form the defensive backbone of your army in terms of capturing and holding objectives.

With the units that you are going to send out to engage your opponent, or act as a speed bump for incoming units on your scoring troops things get a little more difficult in terms of choices in the Eldar codex. Unfortunately there are only really two viable units to fill this role- harlequins and scorpions. These units are going to be walking across the table and need some sort of protection for a turn or two before they can come to grips with your opponent. Harlequins do this with veil of tears, and scorpions do it via outflank/infiltrate and with a 3+ base cover save. Unfortunately banshees and dire avengers fail as their units sizes are limited to ten and their ho-hum 4+ save despite being aspect warriors. (On a side not while cover saves are around, there are times when you can’t go into cover or must expose yourself out of cover moving out across the table. In this situation NO Eldar unit can take a round or two of shooting so you need that bypass mechanism- VOT, outflank, infiltrate, etc.)

So you’ve got your core of troops for defensive objectives, elites to go out and die horrible to occupy your opponent, so now it’s time for some support units to control your opponent’s movement. These are the long range guns of your army which unfortunately only really limits us to wraithlords. You are going to need units that can stand up to all that anti-tank shots that will now be coming at them since they are the “tanks” of your list. T8 (wraithlords) with a 3+ armor save/4+ cover save when combined with fortune are tough to get rid of. Yes, war walkers put out more shots, are cheaper, etc, but they just won’t hold up. MAYBE some reapers if you play in a heavy MEQ environment, support weapons….never, forget the allure of the new plastic kit.

Topping off your army is Eldrad for his psychic power support- a must in every Eldar army, especially foot ‘dar and for his divination (KEY!) which we’ll get into another time- hey I can’t give everything away right?

So now that you are thinking about what units to take adjusted for the point levels you play at what about weapons and other wargear options? We’ll the first priority of a foot based list is to get your opponent on foot with you- busting open tanks is more important than ever. Now when I say “tank” you are probably thinking land raider, and when I say “busting” you are probably thinking brightlance. Yes, and no. Your list is going to need a way to deal with light armor- think AV 11 rhinos more than AV 14 land raiders. With razorbacks and rhinos starting at ~35 points you are going to have your hands full. Fortunately Space Elves is still the land of S6 weapons. Shuriken cannons, shrieker cannons, and scatter lasers are all good stuff. Anything that hits on a 4+ should be packing shuriken/scatter laser weapons like guardians, save the 3+ shooters for the brightlances and missile launchers which you will need a few of in your list. At the very start of the game you need to be taking out vehicles based on where your opponent is planning to have them by mid game to the end of the game. Waiting till they get there and then popping them means they have already done their job. The final base understanding in ironing out your list is that you need to build it in “waves”. The first wave is to go out and die, it has to be something to attract and keep your opponent’s focus. The second wave goes out after the first has died to tie up your opponent and prevent them from stopping your third wave which is there to complete mission goals, objectives, etc. Understanding and building your list with these basics in mind is the starting place for foot Eldar- next post will start to take a look at what exactly to do on the table with the space elves.

For those readers who may be “local” myself and Jawaballs will have a club table set up at Games Day this year to talk tactics, modeling, and hang out. I’ll have the harlequins in tow and ready to go for some real life demonstrations. And of course there is BOLSCon in July where I’ll be teaming up with my doubles partner Brent for a 2000 point Foot Eldar list as we throw our hat in the doubles tournament on Friday.