Unfortunately, this article refers to 4th Edition. I will get round to updating it at some point…
There is a lot of debate as to which assault troops to take for an Eldar army in 4th Edition. I am not going to go into all the ins and outs of the choices, but will present some maths to show which are the best choices for for a given opponent- theoretically at least…
Note: this has now been updated to include doom (see the end of the article)
First off it is worth noting that harlequins are probably the best assault troops in the game. There are only a couple of units which stand a hope against them and even then things are a bit dicey. However, their lack of transport options makes them very fragile and so fulfil a very different role to banshees or scorpions. Secondly, I will not be covering shining spears- most people will use them differently and they come from a different part of the force organisation chart so a comparison is not that useful.
I will use four standard opponents for for the comparisons:
- GEQ or Guard equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill, initiative, strength and toughness of 3 and a 5+ save.
- EEQ or Eldar equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill of 4, and initiative of 5 and a strength and toughness of 3 plus a 4+ save.
- MEQ or marine equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill, initiative, strength and toughness of 4 and a 3+ save.
- TEQ or terminator equivalent. Same as the ME, but with a 2+/5++ save
While this does not cover every opponent, is covers a reasonable range and most opponents will be close to one of the choices.
Striking Scorpion and Banshee Exarchs
The scorpion exarch has a range of options available to him, as does the banshee exarch. The table shows a comparison of the different weapons against the 4 targets (number of kills on the charge)
Red denotes most effective, orange second most and green third. The Scorpion’s claw is the most effective weapon against all normal targets, followed by the Banshee’s executioner. There is virtually no point to taking the mirror swords- ever. It is a little more complex for the scorpion as the claw is a power fist and so strikes last- if you can’t spare the points and need to strike first the the sabres might be an option and the biting blade provides some anti tank. Still, I would always take the claw- it is just too good and if you need to strike first, you can fall back on the chainsword.
Scorpions and Banshees: a unit comparison
Now I will consider a comparison between a unit of 9 banshees plus exarch (with executioner), 9 scorpions plus exarch (with claw) and the nearest equivalent points in harlequins (6+shadowseer, all with kisses) for reference. All units are charging.
As you can see there is not much to choose between them according to the numbers. The scorpions clearly win the GEQ column, but all units kill more than 10 models, which would probably be enough to wipe out most squads. However, this is not the whole story as a significant fraction of the scorpion kills are from a powerfist and so will strike last, resulting in more Eldar casualties. If we add in the lack of fleet of foot, scorpions end up being far less likely to charge, resulting in further deaths. Their only advantage is a better saving throw.
Which units to choose?
In 4th edition, both scorpions and banshees are viable options. What really differentiates the two is the delivery into assault. Fleet of foot is a real asset for the banshees, allowing them to run up the field on their own or easily assault from a stationary waveserpent. Infiltration does allow the scorpions to start closer to their targets for very few points, but they cannot assault in the first turn so will have to survive at least one round of shooting.
If you can afford the points for a waveserpent or falcon for transport, the banshees are a very good choice. If you can’t, the risk of being shot is too great with their relatively poor armour save so the scorpions are a better choice.
Adding in doom
Unsurprisingly adding doom to the mix alters things quite a bit. However there are a few things worth remember before we look at the numbers:
- you will need to add in a farseer (~100 points)
- Many armies have ways of stopping Eldar powers (psychic hoods, Eldar runes, shadow of the warp etc) so you cannot guarantee it will always go off
- If you rely on doom to be effective, you lose the flexibility of using the farseer to fill any gaps that arise- he needs to babysit the assault unit in question
Don’t let that stop you doing this though, as it is certainly worth using doom if it is available.
The claw still comes out on top, but we now see mirror swords being the best option for the banshee exarch. I would still prefer to take the executioner as it gives a degree of insurance in case doom fails. Putting these together with the rest of the squad (again claw/executioner)
There is no denying it, doom makes the banshees by far the best. However it is worth noting that all squads would kill 8+ models of everything but terminators, and even 5 of them will be going down. Should this make you choose banshees over scorpions? I think it is very close and still depends more on the transport options as before.