Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Wave Serpents, and how to use them.

40K has a great many Tanks, and even more armoured vehicles. It has many Skimmers. It has many Fast vehicles. Very few vehicles combine these attributes however, and most of them belong to those most enigmatic glass hammers, the Eldar. The Eldar are not an army to be taken lightly, on either side of the table. Playing against an Eldar army can feel like trying to fight your own shadow - they can dance around evading your most dangerous units, systematically eliminating the things you have that pose them any danger before swooping in to finish you off, or merely grinding you into the dirt from where they are if that is their wont.

Playing as Eldar is no less impressive, when done correctly - buit they are NOT an army a beginner should take up. Wielding an Eldar force is more like playing Tetris than the common Chess comparison. Tetris is easy if you're good, and have the correct pieces at the right time, but if you constantly get 's' and 'z' shaped pieces, and never a nice 'l', then you'll soon fill your screen with immovable blocks too close for comfort, or Ork Mobs as the rest of us call them!

Of all the weapons available to the Eldar, the Wave Serpent is perhaps the best. At first glance, it's not a hugely powerful option - No Fire Points, one Access Point, two twin-linked weapons, and averaging around 120 points. When you compare this to the Razorback in the SM Codex, or, even more pertinently the Chimera, you may feel short-changed.

This is where the 'Energy Field' comes into its own. This simple rule makes the Serpent quite simply the most survivable tank in the entire game. It's the vehicular equivalent of getting in a transport vehicle, that's how good it is. It's the e to the mc get the point. :)

The Energy Field allows the Serpent to perform it's many roles with aplomb. This post isn't going to be a detailed look at each one of these roles, but a general overview with an example for each. Beforehand though, a quick refresher - the weapon options for the Serpent are identical to the ones for War Walkers, Guardian Platforms, and Vypers - although it has the advantage of being twin-linked, essentially for free.

Okay, different ways to use a Serpent:

1) A mobile infantry shield:
The most obvious way, as it is the basic Transport role - keeping infantry safe until they can do their job. Unfortunately, the Serp is not optimised for this role, due to the fact that Infantry can't get out if you move over 12", and the fact that most Eldar Infantry are inferior to the tank they're in at everything but CC. Fire Dragons are a very obvious exception, that crops up below also.

2) A delivery system:
This is the most common role, and one that was fulfilled by Falcons in 4th. Basically, everything used to describe their role back then is still valid to a point - you still want to only deploy against an enemy you can take out in one go, and together, never piecemeal. The inherent problem eith this system is that it can promote recklessness and cause you to waste your rather expensive tank and troops a turn early - this comes with judgement and experience. It'd be impossible for me to definitively say whether you should rush or hold in any given situation, but, as a rule of thumb, if the enemy is within 20" (as in, 19.99 or less) then it's a good idea to fly 12, deploy 5 Dragons, and Melta at short range. Make sure the Serp is modelled on a low flying base if this tactic is likely to be used often - this grants a cover save for the vehicle when the opponent shoots through the Dragons. :)

This tactic is also viable for Wraithguard, Banshees, Seer Councils and Falcons of Harlies, although remember that even with Holo-Fields a Falcon is not as resistant to Melta fire as a Serpent, and it will often be unable to fire more than one gun @12" move - I say this largely because I love my Gunboats (PL, BL, H-F, SS, ShuriCan) too much not to recommend them to others. Note that Councils are even tougher than the tank itself. (And technically called Warlock Bodyguard Squads, but hey)

3) Popping the enemy's clogs:
This is for the EML or BL configurations of the Serpent. Note that these are the two most expensive weapon upgrades that the opponent won't be entitled to laugh at you for using, because the intermediate weapon should be relegated to 4th Edition, and not seen again until the next Eldar 'Dex improves it again... /rant.

These weapon options allow the tank to fulfill an anti-tank role in yuor force, which is ideal if, like me, you run 3 Fire Prisms. Anyone who tells you a Blast weapon is reliable ranged anti-tank is just plain wrong, or lying. Prisms destroy entire MEQ squads in one blast (if t-l) and can be used on narrow beam to take down so many TEQs it's not even funny for you after a while. Killing vehicles though, is not their strong point. To counter the lack of ranged anti-tank found in my list, I use 3 BLs on DAVU Serpents, adding some much-needed anti-Land Raider punch, and giving me better redundancy on my 15 Fire Dragons, in case they somehow fail to accomplish the task.

4) Cleaning House:
This is the task given to Striking Scorpion Serpents. Their ability to outflank allows them to get around to side/rear armour much more easily, and, while the Scorps have a jolly old time ripping apart enemy artillery/Lootas/holding Scouts/Gretchin/Battlesuits etc the Serp can jet off in pursuit of a Dreadnought/Vindicator or other vehicle that loses AV significantly at the back...Scatter Laser is the most valuable weapon for this role - good range, exellent RoF, high S, and it allows you to support the Scorps going in with excellent anti-infantry fire.

5) Sweeping up:
This is the name given to perhaps the most fun use of the humble Serpent - sweeping the enemy backline of all the static elements, especially those with a low LD. Perhaps best used in conjunction with Cleaning House, but also eminently viable with the Delivery System tactic (I should so go all ATT and name these properly...) it basically involves using the Tank Shock mechanic to create gaping holes in the enemy lines, flaunting your survivability by flying into the middles of units to force them aside, or clipping the edge of units to pack them tighter together for the ensuing pieplate from a Prism at your back line. The true beauty of this is that you have such a large footprint, and incredible mobility, that you can force the enemy to fall back right to their own edge, even Space Mairnes can't regroup if you're within 6" of them. This allows you to rout units that otherwise may have proven an issue without some daring.

6) Flying Vehicle Shield:
Essentially, this is the 'just killing time' role of the Serpent, as it does not prevent you from performing the unmentioned anti-infantry shooting (ShuriCan is cheaper than Scats, but Scats are better if you have the points - this will rarely be the case, however.) and the tank-hunting. Essentially, this technique is modelling for advantage, but there's nothing wrong with it, as it makes perfect sense - we're not talking about a 6" tall base so that the opponent never gets a cover save from a Lascannon Devastator here. Serps should always be mounted on a lower base than your main 'almost static' elements (MechDar should ideally never have anything that cannot move and fire, should the need arise) to enable bth untis to shoot without blocking each otheres' LOS. The enemy, however, will find a significant prtion of your rearmost vehicles obscured - at least 50% in fact, which, combined with the Foremost of Ulthwe, leads to a theoretical 75% safety from glances and Pens. The front vehicles, while not getting a cover save, are Wave Serpents. They will be fine. :)

Okay, that's all I have to post on the matter for now, as ever, Comments appreciated, and all will be answered (if they are relevant) :)
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