Author Topic: The Mattler's Mathhammer (8th): Aeldari Heavy Weapons  (Read 1026 times)

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Online The Mattler

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The Mattler's Mathhammer (8th): Aeldari Heavy Weapons
« on: November 19, 2017, 11:54:24 PM »
This article is dedicated to Odras of TheWarmaster40k, who invoked the ghost of my previous article series as soon as 8th edition dropped.  It has been a long time coming, but hopefully I'll be able to write several of these articles in the next couple few months.

I originally intended to write this article about the Aeldari Troops, but halfway through I realized that it would be useful to set up future articles with a dicussion of the most common heavy weapon choices available to the Aeldari.  Each edition has produced slight tweaks to the Shuriken Cannon, Scatter Laser, Starcannon, Bright Lance, and Aeldari Missile Launcher, so this article attempts to quantify the differences between these weapons in 8th edition, then discuss how that information affects their selection for various units.  For the most part, I will be following my standard presentation format for the article, which lays down the conditions of the calculations (because context is critical), the target types, the units themselves, their offensive and defensive efficiency in terms of points spent/lost per wound inflicted/suffered.  I will follow the results of the calculations with commentary on the relative performance of each unit, and attempt to address additional considerations that might affect the decision to include a given unit in an army.  You will see some repetition in each section (mainly explaining methodology) because I want each of these articles to stand on their own, but I encourage you to read those preamble paragraphs anyway, since I include commentary unique to the current analysis.

My articles assume that readers can access the relevant rules documents, so stats and points costs will be minimized to facilitate posting and updates across multiple forums, some of which have strict rules regarding the publication of intellectual property.

Purpose, Probability, and Personality
40k is both a game and a hobby.  I play the Eldar faction for its fluff and model range, but I can't use them in a game without understanding the rules.  Every rule in 40k can be reduced to a number, and 'psychology' is often a euphemism for exploiting another player's ignorance of probability.  The method I am using finds averages, benchmarks providing a realistic impression of units performance over many games.  When I say that one model inflicts X wounds on another per point spent, that's different from the output of a binomial distribution, which would tell you how likely it is for that model to inflict 1, 2, 3, etc. wounds on its target.  However, the averages of my method and those of the binomial distribution are the same.  Some folks assert that these calculations don't produce anything that can't be observed from experience playing many games.  That assertion is correct in principle, but complicated by the game's history.  Changes to 40k over time have made conclusions drawn from defunct rules interactions obsolete, and older players often retain biases that lead to mistakes (and subsequent rationalizations) that would have been avoidable with careful re-evaluation following an edition change.  It's also nice to be able to give newer players adaptable tools to evaluate units instead of insisting that they drive their tactical and purchasing decisions solely based on limited data from the slowly expanding sample of the games they play.  When I started collecting Games Workshop's models and playing their games two decades ago, I would have liked to have seen more community organization to help players of all sorts enjoy hobby, and articles like this one are my contribution to such a community.  Please point out any mistakes you see in my work, so that I can improve the resource I am attempting to build.

Assumptions and Parameters
1. All weapons in range unless otherwise noted.  Even Shuriken Catapults have rapid delivery systems these days through Strategems.
2. Firing models are stationary (or treated as such) unless otherwise noted, but I'll try to mention the cases when moving matters
3. A unit will use its most effective weapon on the  target, if it must choose.  I will note the weapon or fire mode accordingly.
4. Neither the attacker nor defender are in cover, although other articles will take cover into account if a unit is specialized for cover (e.g., Rangers, Scorpions).
5. Damage per attack is capped at the target's max wounds.  This can be a bit tricky for random damage, so I'll give you an example: if a W2 model suffers a D6 damage attack, the average number of wounds inflicted is (1 x 1/6) + (2 x 5/6) = 1.83.  If the target was W3 instead, the average number of wounds inflicted would be (1 x 1/6) + (2 x 1/6) + (3 x 4/6) = 2.50.

The purpose of these articles is to deliver unit evaluations with correct (but not comprehensive) calculations, so I decided to limit my target array to one profile per Toughness from 3-8, plus a Terminator profile because I wanted a W2 comparison with Space Marine bikers.  Note that only one profile has an invulnerable save; considering how AP works now, I didn't think it was a big deal, especially because the vehicle profiles tend not to have invulnerable saves.  There are exceptions (especially Primarchs) but for the moment they're beyond the scope of the broad comparisons I'm doing.

GEQ AS infantry, Guardians, little bugs in cover, etc.
MEQ Space Marines in their 50 shades of bland
TEQ Regular Terminators (no Storm Shields)
BEQ Space Marine Bikers
LVEQ T6, 3+, W6
MVEQ T7, 3+, W12
HVEQ T8, 3+, W26

Aeldari Heavy Weapons: Raw Damage
Before I examine these weapons mounted on platforms, I thought it best to update my Aeldari heavy weapons table.  It shows the raw damage output at BS3+, in wounds inflicted, of the various heavy weapons available to most Aeldari hardpoints against targets in the open.  The number in parentheses shows how the damage output of (most of) the weapons decreases when they move.  The differences in cost between these weapons is usually small compared to that of the model mounting them, especially when it comes to the Aeldari tanks, so at a glance the damage output is often sufficient to choose a weapon...but that's not the whole story.  The AML uses Starburst missiles for GEQ/MEQ targets, and Starshot missiles for all others.  Green numbers indicate the highest damage vs. a given target, and blue numbers indicate the second highest damage vs. a given target. 

Shuriken Cannon1.22(1.22)0.61(0.61)0.39(0.39)0.61(0.61)0.50(0.50)0.39(0.39)0.39(0.39)
Scatter Laser1.48(1.11)0.59(0.44)0.30(0.22)0.59(0.44)0.44(0.33)0.30(0.22)0.30(0.22)
Bright Lance0.56(0.42)0.56(0.42)0.68(0.51)0.81(0.61)1.55(1.17)1.55(1.17)1.17(0.88)
Aeldari Missile Launcher1.30(0.97)0.58(0.44)0.51(0.38)0.54(0.41)1.04(0.78)1.04(0.78)0.78(0.58)

At this point, since I listed those weapons in order of cost, you should be suspicious of the Scatter Laser and the AML.  Keep these results in mind when you see the offensive efficiency of the various Guardian Heavy Weapons Platforms.

Unit Configurations
Generally, you'll see me comparing what I think of as "minimal functional units", which are efficient model or unit configurations that can be duplicated without changing their efficiency.  Most of the time these minimal functional units will be single models, but Exarchs and other special weapon choices can result in multiple models being lumped together.  In this article, I will be comparing the Guardian Heavy Weapons Platforms:

GDShC Guardian Defender w/Shuriken Cannon platform
GDSL Guardian Defender w/Scatter Laser platform
GDStC Guardian Defender w/Starcannon platform
GDBL Guardian Defender w/Bright Lance platform
GDAML Guardian Defender w/Aeldari Missile Launcher platform

I chose the Guardians instead of a War Walker, Vyper, Wraithlord, etc. to carry these weapons because they are the cheapest way to field them, and so are also the best way to emphasize the differences in efficiency between them.  8th edition is more forgiving than its predecessors in this regard, since all units can now split fire, and every unit is able to damage any other unit.  To put it another way, you aren't punished for mixing weapons within a unit because you're much less likely to waste firepower.  Note that I have assigned a Guardian to each platform, since the platform is useless without a Guardian to fire it.  The resilience calculations are also affected, with the Guardian being killed as well.

Offensive Efficiency
The following table shows each unit's offensive efficiency expressed as points per wound (PPW) inflicted.  In parentheses, normal numbers denote PPW when moving.  Lower numbers are better.  Again, the AML uses Starburst for GEQ/MEQ, and Starshot for all others.  Similarly to the previous table, green numbers indicate the highest offensive efficiency vs. a given target, and blue numbers indicate the second highest offensive efficiency vs. a given target.


Now that you see the efficiency figures, it's hard to justify fielding Scatter Lasers or AMLs, but I'll get into the details a bit later.

The following table displays the average number of points of each unit killed per attack (PKA) of six different weapons.   The plasma weapon is not supercharged.  Again, lower numbers are better.

BoltgunHeavy BolterAssault CannonPlasmaKrak MissileLascannon

This table is here mainly to demonstrate a principle that new players sometimes have trouble understanding: cost and durability are inversely proportional to one another.  Since games of 40k are usually played with a points (or Power Level) limit, you might have the toughest model in the game, but if if it costs a disproportionate number of points, then it will fare poorly against an equivalent value of enemy models.  In the case of these heavy weapon platforms, the more expensive guns effectively have fewer wounds per point spent, and so make it easier for your opponent to reduce deplete your forces with a given amount of firepower.  In future articles, this kind of table will be more useful because the units under discussion will have have more varied defenses.

There's a enormous amount of useful information to be gleaned from the tables above, but context is crucial.  Although the raw numbers tell you the relative capabilities of the units under discussion, they aren't useful outside of evaluating the units in roles the units will play in an army.  Previous articles tended to compare units in a specific role, but 8th edition has changed how I do my evaluation because every unit is now able to split fire, and every unit is now able to damage every other unit.  Therefore, I'm going to organize my commentary on a per-unit basis instead of by offensive efficiency, resilience, etc.

Shuriken Cannon
Cheap and versatile.  If you need more anti-infantry firepower without sacrificing much anti-tank capability, the Shuriken Cannon is the best of the standard Aeldari heavy weapons.  Place it on mobile platforms in particular, since it pulls ahead of all but the most specialized weapons against T<6 single and multiwound models whilst on the move.  The relative short range puts the unit at greater risk of retaliation, sounds that mobility to limit exposure to fire lanes.  You'll need some dedicated anti-tank weapons too, though.

Scatter Laser
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!  The only targets the Scatter Laser can kill more efficiently than the Shuriken Cannon are GEQs and squishy Daemons.  Before you get too excited about the Scatter Laser's 15.53 PPW vs. GEQs, consider this: a Swooping Hawk's Lasblaster has a 14.63 PPW vs. GEQs, and it's far more maneuverable.  Speaking of mobility, the Shuriken Cannon practically ties the Scatter Laser if the unit is moving, so if you're going to bother with Scatter Lasers at all, save them for stationary units or equip them on Saim-Hann Windriders.  Just be aware that they aren't as versatile when it comes to opportunistic attacks against vehicles compared to the Shuriken Cannon.

I would have suggested equipping a Wraithknight with Scatter Lasers, but the Starcannon completely displaces them on those hardpoints; if you ever field a Wraithknight without a pair of Starcannons, you're doing it wrong.  Solid performance across the board, with specialization against multi-wound heavy infantry and bikers, it remains dangerous to all vehicles as well, even whilst moving.

Bright Lance
The dedicated anti-tank option from the common heavy weapon list; brutal against vehicles even whilst moving, and stationary Bright Lances can also melt down smaller multi-wound models if necessary. 

Aeldari Missile Launcher
I saved the worst for last; the AML's high cost makes it a terrible gun because it simply pays too much for its versatility.  Its one honourable mention is that it's the second most efficient of the weapons discussed for killing most transports (MVEQs), but even then the more flexible Starcannon has comparable performance.  The AML's range would be an asset if Dark Reapers didn't exist and the Aeldari army was slow.  No, the Starhawk Missile Strategem is not a good enough reason to take an AML; the CPs are better spent elsewhere.

Heavy Weapon Platforms (in general)
Considering how all units can now split fire, Guardian HWPs are far more useful now compared to previous editions, especially considering the reduce costs of the weapons themselves.  Any Guardian Defender unit advancing up the field or holding an objective can benefit from a HWP of some sort.  Remember also that the HWP has a good armour save and multiple wounds, so if you find yourself wanting to spare some CPs or would rather have more living Guardians than an extra heavy weapon, use the HWP to absorb anti-infantry firepower, especially in cover.  Even when the HWP is destroyed you retain the use of the Guardian that was controlling it, so your firepower doesn't descrease quite as much as you might initially think.

The inevitable (albeit unsatisfying) closing remark is that taking a mix of Shuriken Cannons, Starcannons, and Bright Lances will serve you well against most armies, but you can leave the Scatter Lasers and AMLs at home.  Place the Shuriken Cannons on moving platforms unless you plan on using a Crystal Targeting Matrix or have the positioning skills to prevent unnecessary movement.  Guardians, for example, typically need to move constantly in order to to bring their Shuriken Catapults to bear, so the Shuriken Cannon manually the best choice for them.  Regarding specifically, not only do they add firepower to your army, but they can also protect your Guardians from an anti-infantry salvo.

Assuming that the character count doesn't wreck me, this is the section where I hope to answer questions and thank other members for error checking.

How do these weapons compare to the Guardians themselves?  Dark Reapers?  Linked Fire Prisms?
Weapon/fire mode abbreviations shown in parentheses when appropriate.  The Fire Prism is equipped with  Shuriken Cannon and CTM, but the figures below only reflect the Prism Cannon using the Linked Fire Strategem and firing twice due to Pulsed Laser Discharge. Notice that the Prism's Lance mode is never the best choice in this target array.  It has a minor improvement over Focused vs. LVEQs when unlinked, but there are much better options (in this table, for instance!).
Best HWP Static15.53(SL)37.64(ShC)28.35(StC)22.68(StC)21.21(BL)21.21(BL)28.29(BL)
Best HWP Mobile18.52(SL)37.64(ShC)37.80(StC)30.24(StC)28.29(BL)28.29(BL)37.71(BL)
Prism (Linked, PLD)28.10(D)36.88(D)44.26(F)32.27(F)26.89(F)26.89(F)26.89(F)

Thanks to Fenris of 40kOnline for pointing out that 37.64 < 40.50.  Derp.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2017, 02:34:18 PM by The Mattler »

Offline Odras

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Re: The Mattler's Mathhammer (8th): Aeldari Heavy Weapons
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2017, 08:55:33 PM »
This table is here mainly to demonstrate a principle that new players sometimes have trouble understanding: cost and durability are inversely proportional to one another.
Yes, the number of times I have had to explain this.

Great post, hopefully I will have a chance to do some more soon when I get some time off work.

Online The Mattler

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Re: The Mattler's Mathhammer (8th): Aeldari Heavy Weapons
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2017, 01:58:00 PM »
I added a table in the appendix to compare the common heavy weapons with Dark Reapers and Fire Prisms using Linked Fire.  Enjoy!

Offline Odras

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Re: The Mattler's Mathhammer (8th): Aeldari Heavy Weapons
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2017, 05:57:41 PM »
When you say linked prisms, are you referring to the Linked Fire strategem which gives them rerolls? Also does this include them firing twice with pulsed laser discharge?

Online The Mattler

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Re: The Mattler's Mathhammer (8th): Aeldari Heavy Weapons
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2017, 08:24:34 PM »
When you say linked prisms, are you referring to the Linked Fire strategem which gives them rerolls? Also does this include them firing twice with pulsed laser discharge?
Yes to both.  I'll clarify the paragraph above the table.