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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Featured Content: The "Army of Shadows" List

'sup folks? James here with a bit of an alternative army style for the Dark Kin that will hopefully get the creative juices flowing towards all of the complex and scary options we are likely to see in the up and coming Dark Eldar reboot.

This particular style of army list was once dubbed the "Army of Shadows' and was seen as a viable, if risky, take on the Dark Eldar. The core ideas around the list being fear, surprise and control. Your opponent fears what they cannot see, and no true Dark Eldar units begin play on the table. Opponents are then faced with, potentially, an entire turn of assaults and shooting after several turns of watching your forces just out of touch, and most importantly, you maintain complete control over where you bring your forces to bare and which targets you destroy first.

The core of this list is built around the special character, often unseen and unheard of from players all around, The Decapitator. Originally somewhat of a beast in combat, power creep has not been kind to our wonderful Mandrake Champion and there are many more powerful characters in the game at the moment.

Decapitator is mechanically very similar to the cost effect Dracon, but at roughly three times the cost. He attempts to justify this by adding an additional point in weapon skill, and his Power Weapon granting an additional 2 attacks base. His signature weapon and where he takes his name from, also treats 6's as double strength.

The most important aspect of this special character, and the only real reason we still look to him as a viable HQ choice, is in the way he deploys. You write down where on the table, outside of deployment zones of course, that the Decapitator is hiding, and before the end of your third turn you show the piece of paper to your opponent and place him on the board.

No rolling, no Deep Strike mishaps, he simply appears where you want him to appear.

So, we're building an army around a Mandrake Champion? Time to bulk out some Mandrake choices then! Three squads, full to 10 depending on the points value of the game being played.

With the way Mandrake deployment works, this gives you 9 'marker' models with which to deploy. Your opponent cannot fire at these models, nor assault them. He will know that 3 of the 9 models infact represent 10 Mandrakes which, whilst not the strongest assault troops in the game, or even our army, manage to do their main job of causing your opponent to sweat.

Again, these are a unit that has no aged very well over the years. At the time Fleet was a rule seen only on the Eldar, Dark Eldar and some Tyranids (at least, as far as I ever saw it in the game) and for those old enough to remember, worked exactly as the Run rules work currently. With Run available to almost everything in the game currently, our Mandrakes find themselves somewhat slower than previously expected, but still able to dart 34" across a table in 3 turns with good rolling (seeing as most tables will only have 24" between armies, and the opponent will often move towards you or objectives, you can see how mobile these guys remain).

Ignore, please oh please ignore, that Mandrakes are Warriors in combat with an extra attack each, but double the cost. This is one of the first things I hope to see addressed in the new book.

Troops? What other troops do we have available bar the wonderful and amazing Raider squads? Three of these, all equipped with screaming jets should suffice for the moment, more or less depending once again on points value. I personally give the Raiders Disintegrators, simply for the versatility that the Dark Lance doesn't quite match, and leave the Lances for the troops riding in the vehicles.

Disintegrators in sustained fire mode were almost designed to hunt and kill MEQ troops, with a higher rate of fire then our heavier weapon.

Now, we have the basis of our army down, but we're not entirely sure what to do with it. The game plan should follow something along the lines of this. Mandrakes deploy along your deployment zone, as close as they can get away with and proceed to run towards the closest targets, or spreading to multiple juicy targets to put your opponent on the defensive. Your Raider squads will aim to come down on turn 3, at exactly the same time as your Mandrakes and Decapitator reveal themselves and charge in. Your Mandrakes here show their true colors in the list, as nothing more complex than a way to tie up your opponents trouble units for a turn, or to lock down the shooty or specialist units into combat, whilst the Raiders unload fire into priority targets.

Of course, we lack firepower and dedicated assault in the list which we cover next.

Scourges. One of my favorite units in our aging codex ever since I saw the piece of art for them in the Dark Eldar section of the 3rd edition core rulebook. Four splinter cannons, 2 splinter rifles, never bothering with Sybarite upgrades and using them entirely to drop 16 S4 shots into the back of anything you either plan to assault, plan to shoot at with other units too, or just plain don't like.

For dedicated assault we will bring in yet another underused unit from the rulebook, which if confirmed rumors are to be believed we will see new models for within three months from now, the Hellions. A unit of Hellions won't win any contests for greatest assault unit of all time, but they're one of those units that will hit reasonably hard (harder with a Dracon or even Archon in the unit on their own Skyboard), and that no opponent in living memory has been able to remember exactly what it is that they do. Throw combat drugs into the mix with S4 on the charge, and they're a very nice Deep Strike friendly answer to an army without Jetbikes or Incubi.

There we have it folks, a blast from the past army list that you can bet hasn't seen the light of day in nearly 10 years, makes use of three unit types and a special character that not even all Dark Eldar dracon's properly understand, and will manage to cause your opponent many moments of abstract terror as they do not know what you have or where it's coming from.

I do warn you though, that this army style is not for the feint of heart. Deep strike rolls go poorly? Half your army will stick around off the table and put the worst of Daemonic Assaults to shame. Misjudge that combat? Mandrakes will be torn to shreds and your freshly deployed Hellion unit or Raider is about to get blasted to smithereens.

Of course, where do the Dark Eldar exist except for right here, on the edge?

Article by 'Collateral Jim'

If you'd like to contribute to TDEK please send your articles to cuchulain84@gmail.com. Happy Raiding!


  1. Interesting army list. It certainly relies strongly on the assumption that the enemy won't know what to expect.

    I suspect this army won't survive contact with the enemy. At least not until the DE get a new codex which beefs up some (or all!) of those units.

  2. @navdi

    Yes and no. The element of surprise is important and the more they know the less effective it'll be. However I don't think that's the critical decider.

    It relies a lot more on the assumption that your reserves will all arrive when you want them to. Not so much where, but the timing of. Scourges + Mandrakes + Hellions shooting a squad followed by assaults from Mandrakes and Hellions will kill a squad.

    The problem I have with the list is putting Dark Lances on the raiders. It means that the Dark Lance cannot be used on turn 3 when it arrives; nor can it be used if the raider ever wants to move.

    For a 1.5k game, I'd think about taking the Darklances off, putting on splinter cannons, and dropping in a Ravager or two with screaming jets.

    With Space Marine lists fielding 5 rhinos and 4 drop pods, you need AT.

  3. yeah with poor rolls and facing an Astropath/Officer of the fleet your reserves will be of the board until turn 4ish at which point your mandrakes are toast and they unload hell on your deep strikers

  4. Ahh, the metagame. I do tend to forget that my little corner of the globe is not a good representation of the world at large and the hobby in it's completeness.

    Now, I will admit that this list is not the most competitive in the game. It is far too random, lacks dedicated anti-armor (I rarely see more than a single vehicle in local games, we don't have tons of mech in my area) and fill fall to anything up to and including a stiff breeze.

    However, it is definitely a fun list and fits very well with the theme of the Dark Eldar. I would like to see each of the units represented here made far more cost effective and useful in the next Dark Eldar codex (November, if whispers are to be believed).

    To be honest, I was also wanting to show that when used together, many of the units that people consider no-go's for the Dark Eldar could pull their weight a little better.

    A quick word on tactics, also. The idea with the list isn't to hit a single unit or two with everything you have. All Deep Striking units are brought in on turn 3 (giving better chances of successfully deploying), where your Mandrakes and Decapitator himself are to dive into the targets you want tied up and unable to shoot at your deep strikers, or who you feel will survive a round of shooting or even just those you want softened up. Mandrakes are, in their current incarnation, not expected to survive combat with anything beyond Guardsmen or Tau consistently, and are treated as such in this list.

  5. @ Collateral Jim

    Don't get me wrong. I love the list and the idea. I've been toying with things outside the standard 4 raiders 2 dark lance teams builder.

    I was simply taking your model list and altering it for my area. People I play with get pretty aggressive. I engaged a guy with a list that has six empty drop pods in and dropped them all around foot-sloggers. They were pinned in by a wall of metal and half my army was out the game.

    I've been looking at a specialist list, using Kruellagh with Drazhar and Urien with some Grots and see if I can CC someone down. It'll go badly though. :P

  6. Please post those lists/battle reports as I have all three of those characters.