“I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. It’s frightening. Turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Flyer Spam arrives all the same. And now, it’s here. Or should I say, I am.”
Hey guys! Matt Root here. Welcome to another of my articles, Matt’s Root Cause Analysis, where I look at competitive lists and tell you what you need to know about GT winning lists!
Oh man, Eldar Flyer spam. Sigh. You may not like these cheese, but man, is it effective. A brutal, easy-to-play list with cool models and a tendency to table opponents, you can definitely qualify this as a Gatekeeper Army. So buckle up kiddos, because you need to know how to play against it.
Here’s an example list:
|Aliatoc Flier Wing
|Crimson Hunter Exarch- star cannons
|Crimson Hunter Exarch- star cannons
|Crimson Hunter Exarch- star cannons
|Black Heart Flier Wing
Eldar Flyer Spam is a nasty army. It has loads of high quality shooting, is hard to kill via shooting, is impermeable to assault (except to units with fly), and is fast as hell. It’s a tad one dimensional in its functionality, but that doesn’t prevent it from being brutally effective.
For those who don’t know it, the army contains (usually) two elements: a small ground force and the flyer aspect. We will talk about the two of these elements individually.
The Flyer contingent usually involves anywhere from 6-9 Aeldari flyers. This is usually 2-3x Crimson Hunters, 1-2 Hemlocks, and a 3x Razorwing Jetfighters. The most common iteration of this list has 7 flyers.
Almost every list will have a Flyer Wing of 3x Razorwing Jetfighters. Not only are these guys cheap, but you’ll see them taken as Kabal of the Black Heart so that they can allow the Eldar flyer to Vect strategems. However, the Razorwings also bring decent firepower to the table: they have a -1 to hit with shooting (as all flyers do), and have decent firepower with 6x Str 5, Ap3, 2 Dmg shots, 2-4 Poison guns, and a missile with multiple fire modes which typically dumps 3d3 bullets that wound on 2s. That’s an average of 14 shots per fighter, hitting on 3s, making this a largely anti-infantry vehicle. Its fragile at T6 and 10 wounds with a 4+, but note that it also carries a 5++ invul with a 6+ FNP which helps compensates.
The other flyers are almost always some mixed component of Crimson Hunters and Hemlocks. These guys are T6 with a 3+ armor and 12 wounds, but the real thing that makes them tick is being taken as Altaoic so that they are perpetually -2 to be shot when over 12” away from your shooting forces. The Crimson Hunters are the anti tank units, with guns at high str (Minimum Str 6 Ap3), rerolling wounds against units with Fly, and often rerolling hits of 1s (if they are an exarch). The Hemlocks are slightly different with Str 12 (!) Flamers that are Ap-4 2 damage flat at 16”, so they fry other fliers and vehicles fairly easily as well. They’re also psykers, allowing them to smite and cast Jinx. Rarely, you may see Nightwings, which are basically crappier (but much cheaper) versions of Crimson Hunters.
The reason these flyers are such a PITA is because the Craftworld flyers have the ability to pivot both before and after moving. This effectively means they are almost impossible to force them to crash, and it also means that they can literally move in a 180” line back and forth on the front of their army. For this reason, they are fantastic screeners against assault armies.
The ground force aspect is usually cheap and relies on hard-to-kill tricks. It may contain several Wave Serpents and Nightspinners, which can sit back behind the flyer line and shoot. Others will take just a couple characters like a Farseer or a Autarch which are (essentially) impermeable to being shot. Some take a few squads of rangers to hide out of LOS. Whatever the choice, this is a minority of the army, and it has two functions: 1) to have a ground force so that the army doesn’t auto-lose to “Boots on the Ground”, and 2) to offer some backfield objective control and some supportive shooting.
So, the army essentially takes a ridiculously fast mobile gunline with high quality shooting that you CANNOT hide from, that is -2 to be shot (the vast majority of the time), and a nearly untouchable backfield presence. A large majority of the army is immune to 90% of assault units out there, and it has decent psychic presence while not sacrificing a lot of killiness.
First, the list rarely has access to many CPs. Most lists usually have less than 10, so the Flyer player has to be extreeeemely picky about what stratagems they use. Even though they have access to Vect, they can usually only do it once (rarely, twice) before they blow all of their CP. For this reason, the list doesn’t have a lot of options in its bag of tricks. If you can bait the opponent into using an unneeded Vect or Lightning reflexes, it’s going to make your life that much easier.
Second, the army innately doesn’t have a lot of ground presence. This means that, generally speaking, the army sucks at holding objectives (remember, Flyers can’t hold them). It often relies on shooting you off of objectives and has little to no assault presence.
Third, the nature of the army means that it is susceptible to Boots on the Ground. In most missions (that use this), it means that if you kill all the non-flyer units, the Eldar Flyer player is officially considered tabled. Now, make no mistake: making this happen is not nearly as easy as it sounds, and a lot of players make the mistake of assuming that this is achievable (and lose as a result). The Eldar Flyer player will rarely present you with opportunities to actually target his ground forces, and if he does, it often comes at the expense of letting a flyer wreak havoc in your army.
Tricks to be careful of:
The army is fast. Keep that in mind when moving your characters – you may be used to screening your characters only from the front. Do that here, and a flyer will go past your frontline screen and smoke your vulnerable characters.
Be careful of Lightning Reflexes. -2 to hit on an Craftword: Altaoaoiciic (or however you spell it) flyer is rough enough. However, once you start putting shots into a flyer as an army with BS4 (say, guard) and you severely wound one of the flyers, the Eldar flyer can just Lightning Reflex and make his flyer literally impossible to hit at -3. Fair and balanced, amirite?
How to beat it:
There are two main ways to beat Eldar Flyer Spam.
Option one is boots. This is a fairly straightforward option: killing all of the ground units so that the Eldar flyer list is automatically tabled. Sounds easy when 1300+ pts of stuff is in the sky, right? Well, in reality, it’s much harder than that. Players can hide vehicles behind walls, get a single character behind a line of planes, and screen you out with flyer bases (which you can’t stop on). You need to decide to pursue this option very early in the game, because it becomes a race: while you are killing ground units, planes are killing you.
Realistically, most armies can’t accomplish this. The most successful army to pull this off is usually a shooty knight army – they have enough bullets to kill 3-4 vehicles a turn and still live through the counterfire. Be careful about this option.
Option two is playing the mission. Eldar flyers rely on smoking you off the table – kind of like a faster, more annoying Tau player. The firepower is brutal, but the board control is garbage – flyers can’t get objectives, so in an ITC mission, earning “Hold more” is usually a pretty simple affair.
If you choose this option, you need to identify which planes need to die first and murder them – quickly. Playing orks? The nightwings need to die first, because they have loads of anti infantry. Running your Custodes? Smoke the crimson hunters and Hemlocks, because those things can put you down.
Playing the mission often means trying to kill planes, which is one of the most unsatisfying things in 40k, because the innate minuses to hit means it takes a ton of firepower to put them down. However, that being said, keep in mind that each plane lost is a significant blow to the Eldar flyer – most players don’t take scary ground units (maybe a few Nightspinners), so they’re losing their killy units.
Whichever you choose, try to bait the CP use out of the Eldar opponent. Overcommit to a single plan so he uses lightning reflexes, and then shoot the other ones instead. Give him an obvious target for Vect so that he wastes it. Flyers are brutal, but they have crap for CP reserves, so making the opponent blow that reserve early means they can’t use it for the really important stuff later.
Hope this helps guys! As always, this is Matt Root as part of the Nights of the Gaming Table Pro to provide you with list breakdowns and tactics. If you’re interested in signing up click here!
See you next time on Matt’s Root Cause Analysis!