Having threatened to take my Dark Eldar to several Blog Wars and only managing it once I thought it was time to give them another tournament outing. I haven't actually used my DE in a tournament since 6th edition hit. The reason for this was the death of the webway as none of my vehicles were painted enough to take to the usual three colour minimum events. However, as I mentioned the other day, the Outpost don't require any paint on the models so it seemed a good way to end the year. My very simple list was covered here.
Game One - DE vs. Eldar
Having looked around the room and seen the usual plethora of big things, I wasn't surprised when I was paired up with Dan Eatch and a duo of wraithknights. However, considering nearly everything in my army wounds them on 4+ I can't say I was worried about them. The three wave serpents on the other hand....
I focused all four venoms and one of the ravagers on one of the wraithknights whilst the other ravager targeted a wave serpent. I assumed that four venoms would be more than enough to get the job done. That was of course assuming that Dan rolled a reasonable number of 1s and 2s on his armour saves. The first three venoms reduced the wraithknight to 2 wounds. When the fourth caused 6 wounds I felt confident that I'd not only downed one of the monsters but also secured First Blood. Sadly, the dice gods didn't favour me and Dan passed all six 3+ saves. All was not lost however, if the Ravager got lucky I'd still kill the thing. Unfortunately I only took one more wound leaving the wraithknight standing. The other ravager could only take a hull point from the wave serpent. Meanwhile my two raiders had blasted up the board so that I could make the most of the haywire grenades. With so many AV10 vehicles I was now almost guaranteed to give away First Blood.
Duke and his squad attempted to finish off one of the wave serpents with their blasters but could only take a single hull point despite being in the rear arc. This forced them to go in with haywire grenades to finish the job. With the rear hatch blocked the dire avengers were forced to many an emergency disembarkation and were therefore pinned. The wyches pulled a similar number on Eldrad's wave serpent but without the pinning. The venoms lined up to gun down the second wraithknight but could only strip four wounds. The reavers had lined up to sweep across the dire avengers that I hoped would be out if I blew up a wave serpent. Instead they fired their splinter rifles at the wraithknight and yet again it survived on a single bloody wound.
Game Two - DE vs. Space Marines (Minotaurs)
We were playing Purge the Alien on Dawn of War which is pretty much the last thing I should be playing with a paper army like Dark Eldar. Once again then I'd need to get the secondaries if I could. I started the game well with the venoms and Duke's squad conspiring to give me Moloch as First Blood. Sadly my opponent, Mark, had made the librarian his warlord but two VPs was a good start. The rhinos had stayed off the board so I focused my efforts on the remainder of the army hoping I'd have freed up the ravagers to kill the rhinos when they arrived. Once again the wyches blasted forward, lost their transport but were able to charge the scouts and stayed locked for most of the game. This allowed me to slowly chip away at the centurions, eventually killing them and the librarian over my first few turns.
The stormtalons arrived and tried to gun down some of my vehicles. One of the venoms died off but my raider held on with a single HP. The rhinos arrived one at a time but as ever the ravagers (even with help from the voidraven) struggled to destroy them. One of the tac squads disembarked though which allowed me to kill them off for another point with massed fire from Duke. A ravager was able to focus fire on the techmarine and kill him off to get rid of both him and the thunderfire.
With the other rhino far from the action and the rest of the army pretty much wiped out the battle essentially boiled down to me trying to chip away a few more VPs whilst trying to keep my vehicles safe. When the dust settled at the end of turn 6 I'd scored 12 VPs (incl. 3 secondaries) to Mark's 5 giving me an unexpected second win with my Dark Eldar. The last game was guaranteed to be tough though!
Game Three - DE vs. Space Marines (Imperial Fists)
This time around I wasn't so lucky and, despite getting to pick deployment for the third time in a row, I wouldn't be going first this time. I did, however, manage to get the Night Attacker warlord trait I'd been trying to get all day. Kev had some centurions, a thunderfire, three rhinos with tac squads, some bikes with a captain, a stalker and a stormtalon. The bikes and centurions were likely to make mincemeat of my vehicles so it was always going to be an uphill struggle. I had a brief glimmer of hope when I successfully rolled to Seize only to be reminded that it wasn't in play in the final mission. Gutted.
For some reason the bikes seemed invincible. Despite wounding them on 4s like everything else I couldn't seem to make Kev fail any armour saves. To look at the board at this point you'd think it was obvious that I'd lost. At the back of my mind though I was thinking about the mission which stated that if you controlled all three of your enemy's zones at the end of any turn then you won automatically with full VPs. To do that I'd need to shift the thunderfire, crippled stalker and centurions. One of the ravagers easily dealt with the thunderfire (thanks to jammy rolling). The centurions were another matter though. With Kev easily making 3+ saves on his bikes I didn't fancy my chances against the 2+ save centurions.
At the end of Kev's turn 5, I had to assess my options. I'd need to contest some of my own zones whilst still going for some of my opponent's. With Kev having scored all three secondaries I needed at least 4 more points than him from the zones. There was still a chance I could pull a win from this game. My ravager controlled the left hand enemy zone, the centurions would control the centre and my voidraven (flyers could score) swept into the right hand zone giving me a 6 VP lead in his half. In my own half I had tactical squads claiming two zones and a bike contesting the third with my kabalites. I swept the reavers back into my central zone to contest it but that still left me a point behind. My only hope was that the three remaining kabalites could finally gun down the last biker. In a final bit of luck they did the job giving me two points for the zones and a 10-9 victory.
Could I have won the event outright though? Obviously luck plays a major factor at tournaments. If I'd done better in my opening game then I'd have probably ended up with stiffer competition in the second and probably been smacked back down. The only way I could've won would've been to claim maximum points from the final game and that never really felt possible.
In the first game I really should've focused on First Blood though and concentrated all of my fire on a single wraithknight. There was nothing stopping me from doing it and to leave it on a single wound was hugely frustrating.
There's no denying I was lucky to go first in 2 out of 3 games and certainly lucky to get Night Fighthing throughout. Both of those things are HUGE for Dark Eldar. You really need to cripple your opponent early on to minimise the damage you'll receive in return. I gambled by not taking Baron to give me a better chance of going first but I always struggle with what to do with him. Duke did well (despite me forgetting my actual Duke model and borrowing a Farseer to replace him). He died in two of the games but not before doing his job. Having all those 3+ poisoned shots in a game dominated by big creatures is excellent.
In fact, poisoned shooting is excellent right now. Having four venoms causing on average 16 wounds per turn no matter what they target is difficult for any big thing to deal with. I'm not sure how effective they've be against tons of Tyranid MCs but at least they don't care about Iron Arm.
The biggest thing I'll take away from today is to not give up. In the final game I was very much on the back foot and the blood point totals of 738 to 1,320 attest to that. I've been in Kev's position before, feeling like you've got your opponent on the ropes only to lose in the last throw of the dice. It's why objective games exist I suppose but I know how frustrating it can be from the other side. They key thing though is to keep up the pretense that you've got no hope. If you've always got a wry smile on your face despite heavy losses then your opponent is going to get paranoid and realise they haven't got it all sewn up.
Right, that's more than enough rambling. This will almost certainly be my last tournament of the year and I'm glad I've ended on a high. Clearly people have forgotten how to play Dark Eldar so it's time they got some love even if GW doesn't seem to have a codex on the horizon for them.