The Dark Eldar Deployment: From Portals to Raiders How to Properly Play Dark Eldar

Hey all, Kevinmcd28 here again to talk about my new love and joy, Dark Eldar. If you listen to the 11th Company podcast or have been to any major tournament recently there are always only a handful of Dark Eldar players. For the most recent codex (regardless of it being out 6 months) it sure lacks in numbers compared to the older 5th edition codices. Dark Eldar have been given a wrap of too weak/easy to kill for play or are atleast too difficult to play. Now I agree, the codex is hard to play since it is full of Armor 10/11 open topped vehicles full of models with 5+/6+ saves that are only T3 and even a simple Auto cannon can ignore even your FNP save. One small miss step can leave a mob of wyches out in the open just to get cut down by a meagre combat squad of marines with bolters......and it does make it hard to keep the army together yet all people need to do is use the game to your advantage and formulate a deployment of your forces and the army can be an effective/competitive codex.

Now when I state deployment I am going beyond deploying your army before a game and am going back to the meta game involving how you plan on deploying your force. When boiled down the codex gives you two common options for how you plan on playing your smaller dudesmens and chicks with knives.....the Portal and Raider deployments.

Alright Ill be straight with people, everyone knows to surround the portal as well as everyone with a rock to throw can take down a Raider. The reason these deployments out right can be so easily countered is a major reason why most people have left the army after initial hype or decide not to give it a go. Now played in the right way and using speed to your advantage as well as the ability to move and shoot a practiced player can figure out Raider deployment so I am gonna focus on the Portal deployment and explain why people play it in the wrong way.

So for all those readers who do not have experience/know the army I'll explain your average Joe Gamer's portal deployment and army type. First of all you have an Archon (or haemonculi) in a Raider with the webway portal probably backed up by a few ravagers and the occaisonal support unit. He holds in reserve the units that cannot be deployed in a Raider (which is the bulk of his army) such as mobs of Wyches bigger than 10, beastmasters, Talos/Cronos, etc. Turn one he moves his Raider 12" and the portal sacraficial thrower thros out the portal so that turn two all the fun things come out of it about 28" max (if used correctly) across the table but generally just around midfield. The reason this does not work is that half of your army is set up to duke it out with your opponents full force for the first couple of turns. You also have 100-200 points dedicated into a sacraficial portal throwing unit. Though all these reasons are not the main reason this deployment is inneffecitve. The main reason is that after you've thrown the portal it is your opponents turn and all he has to do is move his forces up and surround the portal and then all of the DE players portal units (which are generally heavy numbered Wyche units or other units such as Talos/Cronos) are stuck coming on the DE players table edge far out of combat. These units are generally slow and are forced into an open spot but, what is even worse, is that it breaks up your army into piece meals that are generally easy to take care of.

Now I myself have played a portal deployment army in the first 3 games I played with this army, at the TempleCon doubles army. I learned a lot from the preperation for this tournament on the proper ways to use this style of Dark Eldar. Our plan, me and my buddy marcus (who I wrote an article about his Nid army on here recently), was to have an army based on a null deployment style and to use this as a feint. Let me ellaborate, he had a couple units of stealers as dedicated outflankers as well as a trygon and a hive tyrant as dedicated deepstrikers. The portal allows you to deploy ANY unit in your army out of it regardless if they were designated as outflankers, reservists, deepstrikers, etc. We decided to use this as an advantage by feinting outflanking to get our opponent to crowd together in the middle and then have units come out of the Portal. We found a bit of success using this style and later on, after reading and seeing how people were using the portal deployment, I realized that they were doing it all wrong.

Now let me say now that you shouldn't use an all portal deployment army. the core of your army should be mobile (aka Raiders stuffed with as many bodies as they can fit). The only things that you should ever throw out of the portal are units that can deep strike/outflank/can move VERY quickly. These are Hellions, Reavers, Scourges and they should all have a back up plan if they cannot get out of the portal practically (or safely). Anything that cannot make it out of the portal and is not effective coming on your table edge should never be portal deployed (such as wyches). The portal should be used as a feint or as a way to effectively make your opponent focus on two fronts. These fronts are, for example, a portal dropped near an objective on one side, and a rediculous ammount of Raiders full of knife weilding Wyches. An effective balance with effective back up plans is the only way I would use a portal. Now a portal is not part of my Tournament lists anymore but with these tactics and in this style it can be used effectivley still....

Instead I run a full Raider deployment. Now what you do see a lot today is warriors spammed in Raiders or Wyches spammed in Raiders (also there is a Wrack version of this type of army as well). I am an advocate for a 50/50 mix. The assault element of the Dark Eldar is way too effective to ignore yet the abilities of poisened rapif fire and anti-tank infantry support is also too much effective to ignore. By having your typical Ravager support as well as infantry fire support/ objective holders you can have your flavor of assault element which is in my case Hekatrix bloodbrides (I prefer them since my wyches aren;t ment to sit on any objective, I run the Baron so I have 3 troops with hellions and warriors, and bloodbrides get more attacks/higher leadership). assault holds off the front and shooting sits back and holds the line. I also run the Baron or his bonuses as well as using hellions as an assault element that breaks off when weak and pulls off to hide and take objectives far out. It is my version and flavor of Dark Eldar that can effectively use a mech deployment without relying on it too much. I get where I need to go and I pull the Raiders away to support/block/ hide and contest. I also use haemonculi to boost my assault element before the game even starts (by deploying them with bloodbrides ion the raider) to get them combat effective ASAP.

Another effective use for Raiders after they drop thier payload you use a mix of shock prows and aethersails, get out of gun range and then ram high prioty targets. If used effectivley you can get a S10 attack off without any cover saves (and even survive if you have a flickerfield save). It is an effective tactic against Land Raiders as well as storm Ravens if you are having trouble with them.

All in all you need to find a good synergy and mesh in the army. Synergy with your units is key and this can only be found in using the deployment methods properlly while abusing thier tricks and bonuses to the maximum without relying on them. With proper use of all elements and cover anyone can survive long enough to be a pain....more on this later....

So lets recap:

1. Use portals only with units that are quick or have another effective deployment method.

2. Raiders should stay out of trouble until they get you where you need to be then get out of there and use them in any effective manner. If you get blown up with a transport full of no-pain troops you will lose a good portion of them and strand them in the open.

3. Find a good synergy and mix of units

4. Dont rely on one style of deployment

So anyone considering using DE again? These are the main reasons I use DE as my tournament army and will be bringing them to the Colonial, check back in a month for a fulll review on the GT that I, as well as Jawaballs, will be playing in.


IDICBeer said...

Thanks for posting this, it's an interesting article and I look forward to seeing more of the same.

Xzandrate said...

Good article. Just for the sake of clarifying for any non-DE readers, the portal allows any non-vehicle unit to use it as a board edge.

I have to admit, the lack of a way to concentrate reserves has really hurt the portal list.

In the previous book, units could only come through the portal, so you could hold them till turn 3 or 4, allowing for must better reserve rolls. Unlike alot of other reserve heavy lists, we don't get to bring on half our drop pods, or add +anything to our reserve rolls.

I really wish there was a character, or something that gave us some reserve help, it fits the fluff, but didn't quite make the book it seems.

Kevinmcd28 said...

thanks Xzandrate I did not mention the specifics of the portal...the old Raiders through the portal style did mess me up sometimes when I wasnt use to playing against DE.....expect a similar article sometime in the future...I have enough new content for an article to be written on the subject

Pariah Stevo said...

I just started playing DE and I love them. I love there versatility as well as their speed. I keep hearing people complain that people aren't sticking with DE or getting this vast spamming of armies like the Wolfs and IG did. I think it is a good thing. Army hoping tourney buffs often don't want a powerful army, they want an army that is easy to play and has a natural, automatic advantage over all others. That is why such players are always switch to the next big thing. As you said, DE are wicked in capable hands, and I am glad DE has kept its niche, gamer elite, profile.

Anonymous said...

Good article; the army list I have been writing that I have yet to test is going to be designed along similar lines. Funny thing I was originally going to have two large wyche squads that would stay In the reserve and either walk through the portal or walk onto the table to support a static warrior squad. not sure if that's a good idea anymore. I am aiming for a force that had elements of mech but still used the portal to bring other units into the mix quickly.

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