Normally I break the HQ section up into generic and special character posts. With the loss of a whopping FIVE special characters (Vect, Malys, Duke, Kheradruakh and Baron) there's a lot less choice though so I reckon a single post is sufficient. I can't really let that go without a comment either. Sure we won't really miss Kheradruakh or perhaps Lady Malys but I'll miss Duke Sliscus and I'm hugely disappointed we aren't seeing a new Vect and Dais model. Baron will mostly be missed by Eldar players but I'm kind of glad that little avenue for cheese has been closed off. It does have a dramatic effect on Hellions though but more on that later.
As I say, I'll be missing Duke the most as he featured in pretty much all my DE lists in the old book. Mind you I can't run the trueborn unit I used to put him with any more either! As I feel myself saying a lot recently, there's a lot of flavour that goes with these deletions and limiting options is rarely good in my opinion. It's not like in the Ork book where there was a little give and take either. The new succubus model is lovely but that archon is just plain awful and has no options at all. The voidraven was rumoured to have been done years ago (and that's believable) and the wracks are effectively recasts so it seems GW have barely created any new models for DE in the last 3 years. It's frustrating when Necrons got all of their SCs covered within a few months. Anyway, rant over, onto what we're left with. Must. Stay. Positive.
The Huskblade is now significantly cheaper and still causes Instant Death. It's the same price as an agoniser (which is now poisoned (4+)) but ID is too tempting for me. Even at S3 it's worth the risk of an enemy character failing his invulnerable save and against units with multiple wounds it'll pay dividends. The agoniser is better against high toughness though as the archon can't hurt a wraithknight without it but with it he can cause some real problems (assuming he keeps passing his saves). The blast pistol is a little too pricey if you're taking a huskblade and I find the 6" range too restrictive most of the time. Haywires are a good choice though if you've got the points to spare.
I'd be tempted to throw in a soul trap with my huskblade/agoniser as it might make all the difference in the second round of a challenge or for combats later in the game and it's better than it used to be. The phantasm launcher is a massive disappointment even if it is much cheaper. It's hugely situational and I'd much rather have my grenades back so I can use my high initiative thanks.
It's a choice between shadow and clone fields as ever, the shadow field now lasts until the end of the phase if you fail which might just keep you alive but it's double the cost of the clone field. For such a flimsy model I personally think the shadow field is the way to go to help him be viable.
We have to talk about the webway now. Frankly I'm gutted I don't get to use my template any more but to be honest I haven't since 6th edition stopped assaults from it anyway. The new webway has HUGE potential for both DE and Eldar allies. It won't be long before people are coming up with dirty combos. I imagine most will take a plain archon and webway for just under 100pts to give another unit a non-scattering deep strike. D-scythe wraithguard would be fun for example (if expensive).
As I said in the first post the Kiss is a good choice if you've got the points but we're already making the guy expensive with a huskblade, soul trap and shadow field so don't bother with anything else from the artefacts unless you fancy the Helm. Finally, don't forget you can give him his own venom if you like but I'd personally want a meatshield riding with him!
Court of the Archon
Sslyths are interesting with two T5 wounds, a decent number of shots and plenty of attacks. With their reduced cost they'd be a good meatshield for an Archon and push his effective toughness up. Ur-ghuls now cause Fear (as much use as that is) but without a save (except FNP) they're a waste of time still. The Lhamaean no longer boosts the Archon's poisoned attacks which is a shame since the agoniser is now a poisoned weapon. Her weapon is still tasty though with poisoned (2+) and 6s to insta-kill, just a shame it has no AP. She's the cheapest option but I'm still not convinced. Finally, the medusae was the one everyone wished they could take in the old book. They've gotten significantly more expensive in the new book though. The template is now fixed at S4 AP3 which is probably the average of what you would've gotten. The cost is prohibitive for me and they'll die too easily.
It's all about the Sslyth then, unless I'm missing something. Even just two in a unit will be enough to make your Archon effectively T5. You could take a third and then throw one of the others in a venom with them for flavour if you wanted but avoid the Ur-Ghul.
She's a bit flimsy to be your Warlord but makes a decent secondary HQ choice I reckon.
She doesn't offer much in excess of the much cheaper Succubus and that, for me at least, is the deciding factor. By no means terrible but still not going to see action despite being one of the few combat answers to 2+ saves.
Onto what's left then. The Hexrifle stands out as a solid choice. The liquifier gun is now fixed at S3 but still has a random AP. Could be good but mostly sub-par. The agoniser is always good but expensive now which makes me tempted to just go for a scissorhand.
Personally I'd just keep him cheap and use him as a means of manipulating the PfP turn number. Perhaps an Animus would be useful in that regard. He's another chance to get a webway portal in too.
The key to Urien is that he gives Master of Pain to every unit within 12" which means FNP 5+ on turn two for a good chunk of your army. His warlord trait isn't much use the majority of the time but I still think he'd make a good choice as warlord just because he's durable. He may be pricey but he actually offers a viable option I reckon.
As I've mentioned before Drazhar doesn't get a fixed Warlord Trait like Urien and Lelith. He remains the only Eternal Warrior in the book and is pretty durable with 2+ armour. He's a little on the expensive side despite a hefty price drop. With Rampage and his Demiklaives he can rack up a serious number of attacks that result in a pile of wounds even outside a challenge unlike Lelith. He's pretty lethal even on his own!
With a lot less options and some regular choices going from the book, Dark Eldar players will be forced to look again at the HQ section. I'm finding it pretty difficult to call actually. Archons, Succubi and Haemos all have their merits. Lelith is unlikely to see much action but Drazhar and Urien are reasonable choices if you can stomach the points cost.
I expect to see more courts simply because there are less options available and people will want to try out the nice models. I'm seriously considering an Archon with a court full of Sslyth as a meatshield to get him into combat.
It's certainly given me a lot to think about. I'm sure one option will emerge as the go-to for DE players but I think it's far from obvious at this point. Perhaps once I've looked at the other units it'll be clear. What is clear is that the rumours of bikes or boards for the HQs were false! Onto the Troops....