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Monday, March 1, 2010

Building a Dark Eldar Army List; Part 3: The Dark Eldar Lord & Incubi

The HQ section of the Dark Eldar codex is rife with goodies but for now we’ll be focusing on the Dark Eldar Lords, more commonly known as the Archon and Dracon and their fearsome retinues. Tooled up and in close-combat these guys can take on almost anything in the game.

Let’s look at the typical basic setup most players field:

Archon/Dracon (Shadow Field, Punisher, Tormentor Helm, Combat Drugs, Plasma Grenades)


Archon/Dracon (Shadow Field, Agoniser, Splinter Pistol, Combat Drugs, Plasma Grenades)

Finding these items of wargear on a Dark Eldar Lord is pretty much a given and with good reason. The Shadow field gives us a 2+ invulnerable save (note: only lasts until he/she fails a save and is only one per army), the combat drugs enable us to increase most of our stats at will and the plasma grenades will mean we almost always strike first. The difference between the Agoniser and the Punisher is slight. A Punisher will be better against models with T4/5 or lower whereas the Agoniser will work best for anything with an exceptionally high Toughness as it always wounds on a 4+. A character may take up to 100pts of wargear and so far we’ve used up just over half of that. Let’s see if there’s any other equipment worth taking.

Crucible of Malediction: When used it forces the nearest enemy Psyker to take a Ld test, if failed the Psyker is removed from play. Though it would be hilarious to insta-kill a rune priest on turn 1, I’m not sure it’s worth the 20pts given its low success rate. Maybe if you typically face a lot of nasty Psykers... (Note: Can’t be taken with a Reaver Jetbike - FAQ)

Haywire Grenades: Definitely worth it if you have 4pts spare. Glancing hits on a 2+ and Penetrating hits on a 6+ will come in very handy against mech heavy armies, especially if you roll as badly with your Dark Lances as I do.

Hell Mask: Forces anyone attacking the wearer in close-combat to take a Ld test. If failed they will need 6’s to hit. At only 5pts it’s definitely worth considering, especially against low Ld armies such as Orks. (Only works if the character is alone).

Hellion Skyboard: Essentially a jump pack which gives the character a 4+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save if the character has moved that turn. Also gives you the option to Deepstrike. At 15pts it’s a decent option but it’s generally considered less viable than taking a...

Reaver Jetbike: Gives the rider +1 Strength and +1 Toughness as well as all of the benefits that come with an Eldar Jetbike (3+ cover save for Turbo-boosting, 6” move in the assault phase even when not assaulting etc) At 35pts it’s costly but can be well worth it.

Soul Seeker Ammunition: Even at 10pts it’s not really worth the ability to reroll misses for a S3 splinter weapon.

Terrorfex: Great but I find it’s more viable to use Horrorfexes on Raiders seeing as they do the same thing at a longer range for 5pts instead of 15pts.

Trophy Rack: I seldom have to take a Ld test for my Archon so increasing it by 1 doesn’t seem worth it for me but for 5pts you might consider it.

Arcane Wargear (One per army)

Animus Vitae: Even though the rule on Victory Points no longer counts this is 15pts very well spent. Basically it gives you +1WS and +1S as soon as you capture (i.e sweeping advance) something in combat and lasts for the rest of the game. I only wish I had the points spare.

Archangel of Pain: Uses the flamer template and any unit hit takes a pinning test at -2 to their Ld. At only 5pts it could be useful if you think you will just fall short of assaulting a unit. (One use only though).

Mask of the Damned: Means that any unit wishing to assault the wearer must take a Ld test. If they fail they stay where they are. At 15pts it seems a little pricey and seems less viable than some of the other masks.

Vexantrope: I’m a little confused on the exact effect of this mask. It states that a unit attacking the wearer must pass a Ld test or redirect it’s attacks onto another model within 2”. Now if we assume the wearer is alone then we can either read this as, they attack members of their own unit or they miss completely. As there is no clear answer I steer clear of it. If you wanted to take it then it's a respectable 10pts. (Doesn’t affect ‘unliving’ models).

Xenospasm: Works the same as the Terrorfex but for the extra 5pts any models hit by the blast also take a S3 ap3 hit.

Your Lord may take a Retinue of between 5 and 10 Warriors and/or Incubi. If the entire unit numbers 10 or less (including the Lord) they can take a Raider (unless the Lord is on a bike or a Skyboard, but you wouldn’t want be taking a retinue in that case anyway).  

The Warrior Retinue
The Warriors can be equipped in the same way as a Warrior Squad (no Sybarite upgrade or Special Weapons though).Best equipped with Splinter Cannons as they can be fired on the move (no point in giving Dark Lances to an assault unit). As well as decent amount of firepower it gives the Lord a few bodies to soak up wounds but just be careful he doesn’t flee because of it.  

Readers Rathstart & Thor665 both suggest taking a bare basic Dracon with a Warrior Retinue with 2 Dark Lances in a Raider. For a well rounded list it's not recommended but if you need to fit as many Dark Lances into a list as possible it's a pricey but valid option. If they stay in the Raider and don't move it basically becomes a mini-Ravager.

The Incubi Retinue
Quite possibly the best unit in the Codex. 25pts a model seems like a lot but each Incubi gets two S4 power weapon attacks (3 on the charge) generally hitting on 3’s. For the return attacks they have a very tasty 3+ save. Equip them with plasma grenades to make sure they make the most of their Initiative 5 and watch them mow down anything in power armour. Two can be given Shredders or Blasters but at the expense of their Punishers and one can be upgraded to an Incubi Master but I wouldn’t bother with any of that. Just spend the points on more Incubi if you want to pack more punch. Most players don’t bother taking more than seven of them, anymore than that is considered overkill. Without doubt always give them a Raider, they don’t have the fleet special rule so can’t make it anywhere fast on foot. They are probably too expensive for smaller games but for 1500pts+ I would always take them. (If you feel so inclined, you can give them a couple of Warriors with Splinter Cannons to make the unit a little more rounded or just basic Warriors if you want someone to take power weapon wounds on).

Should I take an Archon or Dracon or both?
The general rule of thumb is; for games of 1000pts or less take a Dracon. At 1500pts I take both an Archon and a Dracon. More specifically I (and many others) like to take an ultra-cheap Dracon armed only with an Agoniser and a Splinter Pistol and give him/her a Retinue of 5-7 Incubi as the secondary HQ choice whilst a tooled up Archon joins an assault unit or rides around solo causing carnage.  

How does a character with Combat Drugs work?
I thought I’d just give a quick explanation as to how a Character with Combat Drugs works as it can be a little confusing. Basically in each turn you may choose any amount of the six Combat Drug effects, however for each option chosen you must roll a dice. If you roll a double you have overdosed and instantly lose a wound but otherwise carry on as normal still gaining the effects of the drugs. If you roll a triple however you are killed outright.  So if you only choose one effect then you don’t need to roll at all and if you choose all six effects you need to roll six dice (and pray). The effects only last for one game turn, so next turn you need to choose effects and roll again.

Can a Lord riding a Jetbike use a Punisher?
The codex entry for RJBs states that a character can only use a single handed weapon as he/she needs one hand free to control the bike. However, this entry has since been replaced entirely via the 5th ed Dark Eldar FAQ and the new rules for RJBs no longer state that a character can only use a single handed weapon.  So yes, you can (and really should!) give your Jetbike Lord a lovely Punisher.

That just about covers the Dark Eldar Lord. Have fun experimenting with the different wargear to see how to get the most out of your Archons and Dracons. Let me know how it goes, Happy Raiding!

'But you haven't mentioned...' Have I missed something? Post below how you run your Dark Eldar Lords. If it's good I'll edit it into the article and credit you for it.


  1. Hi,

    Great article, only thing I think you missed is a cheap dracon dark lance squad (for when you've used all the troop choices).

    A dracon, 5 warriors with 2 dark lances is 105 pts, compared to 10 warriors with 2 dark lances it's 5 pts more expensive, and has 4 less wounds (but higher ld). So it's not as good as a troops choice but can be useful for fitting more dark lances into a list.

    A few more warriors can be added to offset the low unit size of the retinue, but normally i find it unnecessary hidden behind other warriors carrying more dark lances.


    PS. Love the paint scheme on the retinue

  2. I'll second the paint scheme - the all bone motif looks really nice next to the darker shades of the rest of your army.

    The Lance dracon is a viable option in gunline builds especially. Even if you don't buy into the concept of keeping him and his squad in their Raider you should also probably buy the Raider for them since it is yet another Lance platform and gunline DE wants 18+ lances more then likely.

    I'll note you misrepresented the Animus Vitae by accident. You get to activate it when you 'capture' a model, not 'kill' one. The front of the codex has the particulars, but basically you have to cause your opponent to fall back from combat.

    You also may wish to add some thoughts on the benefits of the mixed Retinue. You can make the unit more affordable and more shooty by fielding 3 Incubi and 2 Warriors with Splinter Cannons for instance - or maybe just field basic Warriors with your Incubi so when you're hit with a P.Fist/Klaw you can drop the wound on the Warrior and not have to risk your Lord or lose an expensive Incubi.

  3. Thanks for the comment guys. I've implemented most of your suggestions. I wouldn't recommend using Splinter Cannons in an Incubi Retinue though tbh. I don't think it has enough synergy with the power weapons. I've suggested Blasters instead seeing as they're cheaper and more likely to kill an MEQ.

    Thanks for saying you like the scheme too. The theme in my army is white is top of the hierachy and blue at the bottom. So the more white your armour is the more badass you are.

  4. Until about 1500 I use the Dracon with Shadowfield and Incubi.

    Beyond that point yes an Archon is needed, until you reach 2000 then it goes back to a Dracon becaase you have brought Asdrubael Vect into the game.

    For your 2nd HQ slot it is strongly advised you use a Drachite with Agonizer, Drugs, and Plasma Grenades. For about 90 points you get a great killy HQ that can jump squad to squad, and has an Invul save (4+ in CC, just like the other Wyches).

  5. @yergerjo. I'll be going into Special Characters and Wych Lords in another article. This one was getting far too long to fit it all in!

  6. Just as far as Blasters in retinues go - I am strongly against paying for an Incubi and then paying more for the right to remove his Punisher. The S.Cannon is superior because you can hand it to a Warrior and not affect the h2h potential of the unit. It is unfortunate you cannot equip Blasters to Warriors in a retinue.

  7. Oops, I'd overlooked that Warrior's in Retinues can't take Blasters. I agree that losing a Punisher for a Blaster isn't worth it. So I can see how the Splinter Cannon is the more viable option now.

  8. Hi, not sure it belongs here but what is your take on the nightmare doll in 5th ed.? The way I read it, you can use it to force a reroll of the die to determine first turn. I blatantly use this to ensure a (hopefully) crippling alpha-strike with DLs and Disintegrators. Using a raider and combat drugs this also all but guarantees a first turn charge by your archon. Or am I bending the rules here?

  9. Actually you don't lose the punisher on upgrading to Blaster.
    That was a rule written into the third and fourth edition books that you couldn't have more than one twohanded weapon.
    Now it's written into the codex what units upgrades weapons with, and Incubi just state they may be given, not that they exchange their punishers

  10. Except if i remember right, the entry of punisher states it cannot be used with any other weapon, hence meaning the Incubi does have to lose its punisher.

    I strongly recommend in an assault squad taking ablative warrior wounds. The first reason is that power weapons and power fists should be taken on them when possible. This both saves your incubi and lord, but it also can reduce the amount you win combat by, which can be vital if you want to win combat in their turn, rather then yours (and then get shot). Of course this can back fire if you fail to wound, and you lose combat due to warriors.

  11. The Incubi Master is quite a viable and overlooked model in many DE armies. The extra Initiative and Attack with a Power Weapon is worth the 18 points let alone access to the Wargear list. Add Drazhar to the unit and it is nigh on unstoppable in Close Combat with a tooled up Archon. That is a combination I use most of the time. My opponents have a hard time dealing with a unit that slaughters all it encounters. Monstrous Creatures rarely survive an assault with this combo and 90% of the time they progress from one side of my opponents deployment zone to the other. The other 10% is when they slaughter a squad in my turn and they have no cover to consolidate into giving my opponent a free firing turn on the squad.

  12. New dark eldar are out now. Update this!