Cult, Coven or Kabal
The wych cult has, in recent years, been something of a joke among most players of 40k. When the Dark Eldar first emerged in 3rd edition, the Wyches were pretty good but as the years moved on, even new miniatures could not keep them on the table and they have been relegated to the shelves to fight off the dust… until now!
The wych cults of 8th edition may very well be finally able to stand alone from the Kabals and Covens of the Dark City – with new ways to build armies in 8th along with the changes to game play, Cults provide a nice change of pace when playing the Dark Kin, focusing on hyper mobile combat units instead of the firepower of the kabals or the monstrous durability of the covens. You can listen to my initial thoughts on the Drukhari HERE.
Army Wide Rules
Before we look at the units specifically, its important to discuss the army rules and understand what they offer. Wych Cults have 2 – Power from Pain (which most Durkhari share) and Combat Drugs.
Power from Pain (hence forth referred to as PfP) has had a rocky past. Gathering tokens or turn based effects have meant keeping track of things that for the most part – didn’t really have that much of an impact. No more. Power from pain is still turn based in the way it generates effects, but with cumulative effects and some serious benefits, PfP is a pivotal part of the Drukhari playstyle.
Turn 1 sees models with this rule gain a 6+ roll to ignore wounds taken. This is rolled after saves so it’s done per wound suffered (ie after any multi damage is rolled for) but it’s amazing just how many wounds you can soak over the course of the game. This is a nice way to start the chart, but its turns 2, 3 & 4 that really help the wyches.
Turn 2 allows models to reroll the dice when advancing or charging. Putting it simply – this is huge. Most of the time, charges that are critical will have a command point put aside to try and maximise the chances of success – but from turn 2 onwards, Drukhari don’t need to worry about that! Using this to manipulate just how far you can charge (perhaps getting to one end of a unit with your charge to limit return attacks?) is a huge benefit.
Turn 3 we see another significant buff to the army – adding 1 to the hit rolls for units in the fight phase. This generally means that even rank and file units will be hitting on essentially 2+. When you consider wyches do most of their work in combat, hitting on 2+ helps them mitigate the lower strength value they tend to have. It also stacks well with the succubus aura effect (more on that later).
Turn 4 we get the last of the big benefits (it might come a turn to late but it’s still great) – models automatically pass morale tests without rolling. Again, this ability replicates command point benefits and ensures that your enemy has to kill every last model towards the end of the game rather than simply forcing moral.
Turn 5 (and beyond – this is the last effect) sees enemies within 6” suffer a -1 to their morale. A nice effect when stacked with phantasm grenade launchers for seeing off enemy units late game but not so game changing in my games so far.
With all these effects being cumulative and almost army wide, it should be pretty clear that the Drukhari in general benefit greatly from this rule and the Cults get even more from them thanks for their tendency to fight up close and personal.
Combat drugs are the second effect that needs to be discussed and these are generally limited to the Cult units. There are 6 different effects to be had from the drugs and you can either roll for each unit randomly OR you can pick the drugs you want but you have to use each one once before picking any for the second time. There is some ambiguity in just what this means (can you use all 6 then use the one you want again and again or do you have to use all 6, use all 6 again and then again) – but I am inclined to air on the side of caution and go with the balanced approach of using them all in batches of 6 before duplicating.
The 6 options are
+1 Attack, +1 Strength, +2 Move, +1 Toughness, +1WS (ie WS3+ becomes WS2+) and +2 Leadership
Each of these effects tends to suit one specific part of the cults which can work out well with a rounded cult force. You could also pick the handful you want then gamble on the dice and roll for those units who are less vital or who want a drug you already have selected. We will look at which drugs for who later in the article.
There is a fairly decent selection of Cult specific units in the index and from forgeworld along with a couple of units that can be selected as either Cult/Kabal/Coven. Shortening the list down to cult only gives us the following…
HQ – Succubus, Lelith Hesperax (cult of strife)
Elite – Blood Brides, Beast Masters
Troops – Wyches
Fast Attack – Hellions, Reavers, Khymera*, Clawed Fiends*, Razorwing Flocks*
Heavy Support – Reaper, Tantalus (both these entries are Forgeworld units)
Transports – Raider, Venom
Flyers – Razorwing Jetfighter, Void Raven Bomber
*A note – yes these units are not specifically listed as Cult units but they are handled by the beast master who is – they belong in this list dammit!
As you can see, we have at least 1 choice in every category and more often than not – 2. Lets take a closer look…
The Succubus will be a pretty popular selection in a lot of Drukhari armies and the Cults like her more than the average dark eldar. Sporting great move, WS and BS stats (alongside the traditional S & T of the eldar race) with decent wounds and attacks – the Succubus is pretty solid for her cost. She has a built in 4+ invulnerable save that works all the time (a nice change!) and 2 special rules – Brides of Death (which allow friendly Cult units within 6” to reroll 1’s in the fight phase to hit) as well as No Escape (which is shared with Wyches and Blood Brides). She has the Archite glaive as a default weapon along with a splinter pistol and that pistol can be swapped for an Agoniser, Blast Pistol or Impaler (hint – take the Blast Pistol!).
For her cost, she can take on medium level characters pretty reliably. The Glaive is +2S and -3AP so she can tackle most enemies and will wound on 5+ at the worst in almost all cases. This means the +1S combat drug is of little value. The extra attack or toughness from drugs could be very beneficial while the extra movement or leadership is situational and likely better elsewhere in the cult. The WS buff is probably the worst since this would give her WS1+… and a roll of 1 always fails. On top of that the Archite Glaive is -1 to hit rolls so you end up rolling your attacks, getting reroll 1’s (thanks to Brides of Death) and any 2’s then get modified to 1’s… which miss anyway! From T3 onwards (thanks to power from pain) you will hit on 2+ but until then its 3+. While we are on the topic – the WS drug is probably the single worst one of the lot!
Lelith Hesperax is very similar to the Succubus with a handful of key differences. Her stat line is exactly the same as the Succubus and she has Brides of Death and No Escape like her unnamed counterpart as well. Her dodge invulnerable is increased to 3+ which is great and she gains 1 more rule – A League Apart. This rule allows Lelith to reroll all failed to hit and wound rolls when attacking a character in the fight phase.
Unlike the succubus, Lelith does not come with the standard weapons – instead choosing to wield a pair of penetrating blades along with her mane of barbs and hooks. The Blades themselves are user S with an Ap of -4 which is pretty epic as well as giving Lelith an extra attack while she has the pair. Only being 1 damage is a little bit of a letdown for the blades but its not super bad. She can swap 1 of the blades for an Impaler (at a cost) which is user S, Ap-1 and 2 damage… I don’t think that’s worth it to be honest and will likely just stick to the blades. Her mane of barbs and hooks gives her 2 additional attacks at user S and Ap0 which is cute but ultimately a novelty in most combats. The obvious drug for her is +1S though an argument can be made for +1A or +1T much like the succubus.
Leliths biggest issue is her cost – being nearly twice the cost of a succubus… and I cant help but think I would rather just have the pair of Succubus…
Hekatrix Blood Brides are the elite version of the Wych unit – simply gaining an extra attack over their more common troops choice brethren. Their options and rules are literally repeated from the wych entry as well – I wish they could take more wych weapons like they could in years gone by. The cost increase over a standard wych is pretty considerable and given the dodge save they have only works in the fight phase, I question if the Blood Brides are worth using. +1S would be my first pick for their drugs (again much like the wyches!) and you need to run them in decent size units to get the most from them.
The Beast Master is an interesting model in 8th edition. He is now a standalone character with fairly average stats for an eldar model with 3W and 3A. His big thing though ties in with the beasts – his beast master rule allows friendly beast units within 6” to reroll hit rolls in the fight phase as well as using his Leadership in the morale phase. While his LD is only 7 its still a step up for the beasts (who are normally LD4!). This rule also allows you to access a single beast unit in a battle forged army and in the same detachment without using a detachment slot.
He gets the option for an agoniser or power sword to swap for his Scourge but in honesty – I would not bother. What make him worth taking is the buff he brings to beasts – not his ability to fight! Drug wise, the first choice should always be +2LD – this buffs the beasts LD to 9 and all but makes them immune to morale. It’s a huge benefit for them!
The wyches are your mainstay unit of the cult (in theory!) and have not changed much over the years. Typical eldar stats are combined with the No Escape rule (meaning units wishing to fall back from combat must win a roll off against the wyches or remain locked), Dodge rule (4+ invulnerable in the fight phase) as well as PfP and Combat Drugs.
Their standard weapons – the splinter pistol (a 12” pistol with 4+ poison) and the Hekatari Blade (a combat weapon with 1 extra attack much like a chainsword) and an ok starting point but it’s the wych weapons that make them interesting. You have 3 to choose from – Hydra Gauntlets, Shardnet and Impaler or Razor Flails.
Hydra Gauntlets give +1 attack, are user S, Ap -1 and allow rerolls for failed wound rolls
Shard Net and Impaler are user S, Ap -1 and 2 damage
Razor Flails are user S, Ap -1, +1 attack and reroll failed hit rolls
Of the 3 – the Hydra Gauntlets are the clear winners. Rerolling wounds when you are S3 is a huge benefit. The razorflails do very little – especially once you hit T3 and will be hitting on 2+ while the Impalers 2 Damage is just too situational. You can have 1 set of these weapons in every squad and once the unit is 10+ models you can have up to 3 models with a wych weapon.
The Hekatrix has the usual options – Agoniser, Blast Pistol, Power Sword as well as adding a phantasm grenade launcher. In general – add the agoniser and probably the blast pistol. The grnade launcher is cool but I would only go that way if I had a few points to spend at the end of the built.
Combat drug wise, +1S is likely to give the best results but +1A can work as well.
Reavers are a unit I really want to like. Rules wise they are 2 wounds now, are fast, decent in combat and can be geared to shoot well… but they come at an extreme cost – they are SOOOOO expensive in the points department. The Champion can be handed an agoniser or power sword (take the agoniser) and up to 1 in 3 models can be armed with a blaster or heat lance in place of their stock splinter rifle (I prefer the heat lance but the blaster is a solid choice as well and much cheaper!).
1 in 3 can also have either a grav talon or cluster caltrops. Both cost the same so whats the difference? The Grav Talon inflicts a mortal wound on a unit within 1” on a 4+ when the reaver with it finishes a charge. The Cluster caltrops do basically the same but trigger when a unit falls back… and thanks to the way its worded – they work if the reavers fall back OR if the enemy do which is a nice buff. The caltrops are my preference. In combat the squad is armed with Blade vanes making them S4 and Ap-1 which is pretty nice with their base 2 attacks each.
Combat drugs, +1T is a buff up to T5 which is pretty amazing though with their weapons in combat, +1A could also be pretty great. +2 move makes them move 18” which is nothing short of astonishing while the +1S does nothing as the blade vanes have a fixed S value! I just wish they were cheaper!
Our dirty skaterboi unit is back! Typical wych stats with a move of 14” and 2 base attacks, hellions are a pretty solid all round unit. They have a decent shooting output thanks to their assault 2 splinter pods and in combat they rock Hell Glaives (+1S, Ap0, 2 damage). They also have a rule called hit and run – allowing them to fall back and still charge in the same turn… and they fly so they can shoot as well! The Helliarch can swap his Hell Glaive for an agoniser, power sword or stun claw but honestly, I don’t see much value in any of these over the glaive.
Combat drugs wise they have to be one of the most versatile units and as such get benefits from most drugs. Movement brings them to 16”, S or A ups their damage output while T makes them harder to get rid of. LD is of less benefit but still useful for larger units but once again… the WS drug is all but wasted. Interestingly since they do have fly, the WS drug plus the T3 PfP buff makes them quite adept at charging hard to hit flyers!
Khymera, Clawed Fiends and Razorwing Flocks probably need a post of their own… there is a lengthy discussion to be had there!
The Reaper is a variant of the Ravager – trading the triple weapon payload for a single weapon with 2 fire modes. Its slightly tougher than a ravager but not by much. Its main gun us what you buy it for – either Heavy D6, 36” S8, Ap-4 d6 damage or Heavy 2D6, 24” S6, Ap0, 1 damage. In either mode, the weapon inflicts an additional effect – when an enemy model is slain, the unit targeted may not advance in the following turn. It’s a cute effect if a little niche in its application. If the reapers main gun was not heavy it would be amazing but as it stands – its about on part with the ravager in its effectiveness… and costs about the same.
The Tantalus is perhaps the most amazing thing the wych cults can access directly. Super fast and durable as well as a huge transport capacity (16!) and great weapons at range and in combat – the cost of this vehicle is a bargin for the cult. It packs 12 shots at 36” from its pair of Pulse Disintegrators at a whopping S8, Ap-3 and 2 damage. This might very well be the best ranged output the dark eldar have! In combat it gets 6 attacks at S8 Ap-2 and 1 damage that hit on 4+! Add to this is the Scythe Charge rule which inflicts d3 mortal wounds on a roll of 4+ against enemies the tantalus ends its move near (within 1”). This vehicle deserves a post all of its own if I am honest – suffice to say that a cult force should always have 1 (Maybe 2!) of these and most Drukhari should consider it as well!
I won’t dwell on the Raider and Venom – they are largely synonymous with the Drukhari forces these days and players should already have a good idea of them anyway. Personally, the venom is my weapon of choice and I would still advocate for the double splinter cannon – but that’s my style of play. On the raider – go the disintegrator if you have the points.
The Razorwing and Void Raven both fill the niche fire support roles of the Cult and do it pretty well. Armed with solid weapon payloads and being durable (for Drukhari vehicles!) they excel at getting behind enemy lines to assassinate characters or simply busting up units and tanks with their wide range of missiles and main line weapons. The Razorwing is the cheaper of the 2 but its more squarly aimed at infantry killing with the missiles it carries. The Voidraven is more of your vehicle buster or monster slayer and should you take the missile option (yes you should!) this role is emphasised even more. I do with these flyers had the same rule as the Craftworld flyers – wings of khaine – but with their long range, moving these flyers on the table should not be a huge big deal. Again, if you have the points – go the disintegrators on the Razorwing while the Void Raven should have the Dark Scythes.
In my next post, I will offer my fledgling army list to you for my growing Cult!