The Farseer is one of the emblematic Eldar units. If you're fighting Eldar, then you're probably dealing with at least one Farseer. This post is aimed at familiarizing readers with Farseers, their use, and their tricks.
The Role of the Farseer
In some armies, the HQ unit is a wrecking ball like a greater daemon, or daemon prince. In other armies, the HQ changes the flavor, like Vulkan He'Stan in a marine army. The Farseer falls under the support role, like a Company Commander.
Farseers comes with a handful of neat pieces of equipment, and may purchase some other pieces.
The Farseer has a 4+ invulnerable save.
When the Farseer suffers perils of the warp, the helm prevents it on a 3+.
Wytch Blade, Shuriken Pistol
The farseer wounds opponents on 2+, hits vehicles at strength 9, and has base 1 attack +1 for two melee weapons. A Farseer may take a Singing Spear for 3 points, which costs a melee attack but gives it an S9, AP6 shooting attack out to 12".
Runes of Warding
This is an upgrade that forces the enemy to take all psychic tests on 3d6, and if the sum is 12+, then the enemy is subject to Perils of the Warp. It is highly recommended, as this is the only Eldar psychic protection outside of killing the other psykers. The average roll on 3d6 is 10.5, or about 11, so it's about as effective as a Ld10 psychic hood save that it tends to feed someone Perils of the Warp.
Runes of Witnessing
This is an upgrade that lets the Farseer roll 3d6 for psychic tests, and take the lowest. This does mean double 1's is still a perils of the warp test. In short, it can help you cast better, but is not as much a requirement.
Runes of Warding vs. Runes of Witnessing
Suppose two Eldar Farseers are on the table; both have the two sets of runes. What happens? The Eldar FAQ states that it works about like this....
-Farseer rolls 3d6 for psychic powers.
-Are the lowest two below the leadership? Then the psychic power goes off.
-Is the total on 3d6 above 12? Then the Farseer eats a Perils of the Warp.
The Farseer may use a second psychic power in a turn. This is the emblematic Farseer upgrade, as it's suddenly double the psychic fun. This means a Farseer must take a second psychic power to get the mileage, since you can't cast the same psychic power twice.
Farseer Psychic Powers
The Eldar codex has five psychic powers, and a Farseer must have 1-4 powers. Three of the powers are 'support' powers and must be cast at the beginning of the turn, and two are offensive shooting powers.
Doom is by far the most fun psychic power to cast, as the manual states that you must adopt a booming voice, point menacingly at the target of the power, and call out 'Dooooom!' in a deep voice.
Joking aside, Doom has a 24" range, requires line of sight, and means that until the beginning of the next player turn, anyone that wounds the target unit gets to re-roll failed wounds. In short, this is your called shot; this means you are going to nuke that infantry unit or monstrous creature until it's slag.
Guide has a 6" range, and allows the unit to re-roll missed shots. Guide is basically your remedy to the Eldar propensity to BS3. Guide does nothing for twin-linked weapons, since you can only ever take one re-roll.
Guide basically helps you hit when you need to hit. Falcons, Vypers, and War Walkers are all examples of units that have BS3 and could benefit from a friendly twin-linking boost. A BS3 unit that gets re-rolls has a 75% chance of scoring a hit with each shot, and a BS4 unit with twin-linking love has an 88% chance of hitting a shot.
Fortune is by far one of the most annoying abilities to deal with. Fortune has a 6" range from the Farseer, and allows the target unit to re-roll any failed saves.
Fortune is a defensive buff, pure and simple. It's a pain on units with good saves, high toughness, or both. Imagine trying to dislodge Wraithguard in cover (Toughness 6, 3+ armor save, 4+ cover save) with Fortune on them. It's not exactly easy.
Fortune, though, is only worth taking when you have a unit that benefits from it. Eldar infantry are not exactly durable, and the Farseer needs to keep pace with them. The short list of things that love Fortune includes:
-Rangers/Pathfinders in cover
The Storm is a shooting power with an 18" range. It places a large blast template on the target, and everyone under it takes a Strength 3, AP - hit. Infantry models deal with Pinning, and there are two bonuses for vehicles.
The first bonus against armored targets is that the Storm rolls 2d6+3 for penetration. That's not really a bonus, but it means that in a pinch you might hurt one. The real bonus is that when it hits a vehicle, you roll a scatter dice, and the vehicle faces that way. On a 'hit' on the scatter dice, you pick which way it goes.
The short, dirty trick with Eldritch Storm on vehicles is that you can expose a weaker armor facing, and then splatter it with shots that might have barely glanced its front.
Mind War has a special place in my black little heart for the morale effect. Mind War is a scalpel. It is a shooting attack with an 18" range. Pick a model within 18" and in line of sight. Roll d6, add leadership. The other guy rolls d6 + model's leadership. If you beat them, they take the difference in wounds
IE: I mind-war a Chaos Space Marine Aspiring Champion with a Powerfist. I roll a 6, he rolls a 3. I'm ld 10, he's ld 10. I'm 10+6 = 16; he's 10+3 = 13. The chump takes three wounds; no armor saves allowed. He DOES get cover saves and invulnerable saves.
Basically, Mind War snipes a model out of a unit. This is handy when the unit has a heavy weapon, special weapon, or something else like a commander that you'd like to kill.
Equipping the Farseer
There are effectively three ways to run a Farseer: mounted in a transport, riding a jetbike, and footslogging.
The Farseer costs 55 points base, but you have to buy at least one psychic power. I suggest you buy Spirit Stones for that second power, and Runes of Warding in case you deal with other psychic powers. This brings the Farseer's base cost up to 90 points. I also suggest no more than 2 psychic powers, as they can get expensive. Three would be the upper limit, and four is a waste and you should look into Eldrad at that point. More on him later.
The Mounted Farseer
The mechanized farseer will probably be riding in a Wave Serpent, sharing space with Dire Avengers. The safest thing for him to do is never get out, because if he's not out then he can't be killed. This also means you best stick to support powers, since they can be cast from the safety of your Wave Serpent.
You probably don't have a unit worth casting Fortune on, and if you did the Farseer would probably be in that unit as protection. As such, I suggest Guide and Doom. In lieu of Guide, I suggest Eldritch storm.
Thus, the mounted Farseer probably costs 135, and brings Guide, Doom, Spirit Stones, and Runes of Warding. Singing Spear to taste since it gives you a little more shooty power, assuming you're not using Eldritch Storm.
The Jetbike Farseer
The Jetbike Farseer should be leading a Seer Council. I will cover the vagaries of the Seer Council in a later post, but the short version is that it's a heap of flying, flaming death for your enemies. The Seer Council is a unit of T4, 3+/4+ save units. Between this and their innate killyness, Fortune is pretty much a must-buy. Doom is the second power, as the average Seer Council's power comes from massed heavy-flamer stand-ins.
Thus, the Jetbike Farseer at the head of a Seer Council costs 175, and brings Runes of Warding, a Jetbike, Doom, and Fortune.
The Walking Farseer
The Walking Farseer should be in with a durable unit, such as Wraithguard. As such, Fortune is a solid choice because it keeps the Farseer's bodyguard alive. The second power depends on the rest of your army: did you bring lots of BS3 shooty, like War Walkers or Vypers? In that case, Guide is a solid choice. Do you have accurate firepower? Consider Doom.
Note, though, that the Walking Farseer competes with Eldrad. A Walking Farseer with guide/fortune costs 140; Eldrad costs 210 but I'll discuss later why you should consider the extra 70 points.
Using the Psychic Powers
Your unit-buffing powers have a 6" range, and Doom has a 24" range. They must also be cast at the beginning of the turn. What does this mean to you?
You're going to have to do some thinking ahead when using a Farseer. You need to be within 6" to buff a unit. With Fortune, that's not such a big deal since the Farseer is usually attached to the unit you want Fortuned. Guide? Think about what you want shooting, and keep it close. This also means it's rare that you'll be Guiding mechanized units, since you can't see them.
Doom? Think ahead about your target. Where are you going? Do you have a Doom target? Against mostly mechanized enemies, you may not use Doom every turn. However, with Doom, you also want to drop enough firepower into the target to make sure it dies.
Mind War and Eldritch Storm? If the Farseer's attached to a shooting unit, then they're going to be shooting at the same target that gets the Farseer's shooting attacks. Sometimes, this isn't a bad thing. Consider a Doom/Eldritch Storm farseer with a unit of Dire Avengers: they work together. Farseer Dooms a unit, the squad gets out and cranks 20 S4 shots into it. The Farseer then slaps a volley of S3 hits into it.
The Farseer in Melee
The Farseer doesn't really want to be in melee. They have an amazing WS5, I5, and 1 base attack to go with that 4+ save. I suggest keeping the wytch blade, since it wounds on 2+ and hits at S9 against vehicles. Plus, the wytch blade and pistol give you a second attack. The only other melee upgrade a Farseer can take is a Singing Spear, which trades an attack off for a 12", S9, AP6 shooting attack. It only costs 3 points, but if you are running close to melee, you're either in a Seer Council and going to crank out a bunch of attacks, or you're going to be risking losing the Seer.
Bottom line? Avoid a fistfight unless you're Eldrad.
The dreaded Eldrad Ulthwuan, Farseer of Ulthwe
The long story short? Eldrad is OLD. He appears in the Horus Heresy series and actually has a brief talk with Fulgrim. Eldrad's been around a while, and is plenty powerful. He's also 210 points, which is no small sum. So, what does Eldrad have?
Eldrad comes with both sets of Runes, all five Farseer powers, and two unique bits of kit: the Staff of Ulthamar, and the special ability Divination. Eldrad is also more durable; he's T4 and his Rune Armor saves on a 3+.
The Staff of Ulthamar
The Staff does two things for Eldrad. If Eldrad is not in assault, he may cast a third psychic power, and it can be a duplicate of another power. This means you can get two Guides, two Dooms, or two fortunes. The shooting powers? No such luck, since there's nothing about 'Can Shoot Twice' in Eldrad's rules.
The second perk of the Staff is that it wounds on 2+ in melee and ignores armor saves. Given Eldrad's pistol and base one attack, it means he's not BAD in melee, but not great either.
Before scout moves and the battle begins, Eldrad may reposition D3+1 units in the Eldar army, so long as they don't move out of the scenario's DZ.
Divination lets you do some stupid tricks if you find out the enemy seized the initiative, or react to the enemy deployment. However, you should expect to be able to reposition only two units, and act accordingly.
Divination can be useful, but it's still not a substitute for good deployment. You can use it to set a couple units out if you go first, let the enemy react to them, and then potentially move them away.
So far, I've had the most mileage out of Eldrad in the Hybrid Eldar list I've been running recently. The main perk Eldrad allows me is two uses of Fortune; I can keep the Wraithguard fortuned, and the nearby Avatar fortuned.
Eldrad also works well with Wraithguard, as his 18" shooting powers can reach out and touch someone without necessarily costing you Wraithguard shooting, since they've got a 12" range. If this intrigues you, I suggest looking at Wraithguard in more depth. Eldrad can still work well with mounted Dire Avengers, and he can still double-guide.
Double-doom, though, seems a bit of a waste to me. You won't always have the firepower to really make it work, though I suppose a second Doom could ensure a mop-op operation finishes up when you want it finished up. Double-fortune is fairly self-explanatory, but requires two units worth Fortuning. Double-guide similarly requires two units worth Guiding.
Eldrad in Summary
In short, Eldrad's a step up in utility over a Farseer. He always has the right power at the right time, but make sure you could really use that third psychic power before you drop him into the army.
Running Multiple Farseers
Is it possible? Yes. First, ask yourself if you need four psychic powers a turn. Do you need two guides, two fortunes, two dooms? Do you want duplicate powers? How often will you actually use those powers I suggest running Eldrad before you invest in two Farseers. It gives you a measure of redundancy in getting psychic powers off, but it eats your second HQ slot. You might want that second HQ slot for an Autarch or an Avatar.
I can say I haven't tried that yet, as a mechanized army benefits from the options an Autarch offers, and the footslogging-Farseer list usually wants an Avatar for melee support.
There are a few ways to stop a Farseer from casting their powers.
1: Kill the Farseer
Dead psykers take no psychic tests.
2: Psychic Hood
A ld 10 hood should cancel a ld10 Farseer power about 41% of the time. (Thanks to dverning again on the numbers. Been too long since I had to do 2d6 odds; I'm just good at d6 now...)
3: Alter the paramaters of the psychic test
I can think of two things that muddle psychic tests. There's the aforementioned Runes of Warding, which can really hamper a Seer. The Tyranids also have The Shadow in the Warp, their only psychic defense. It means you take psychic tests on 3d6, and discard the lowest, and disregard perils of the warp. If you have Runes of Witnessing, then the powers nullify each other. (Thanks to dverning for pointing this out; I'd missed it)
4: Alter the Farseer's Leadership
Pariahs and the Culexus Assassin can lower leadership to 7, but must get close and are not exactly common choices. Any way you cut it, if you can do something to lower the leadership, you cut their odds of success.
5: Pinning the Farseer
A footslogging Farseer with a Fearless unit or a Seer Council's Farseer can't be pinned, but the point is that pinned isn't getting off the shooting powers. It's not the best, especially since the pinning test comes in at Ld10 if it comes, but it's something.
Farseers in Summary
Farseers are a support HQ. Their support powers are short-ranged buffs to your units that give you re-rolls to saves or shots, and they can give you re-rolls to wound. They crank out double psychic tests and have an offensive defense (Runes of Warding) against enemy psykers. They are somewhat nasty to stop, but if you can engage them in hand-to-hand, you might be able to take them unless it's a Seer Council.
However, they don't have any game-breaking powers; nothing as outright offensive as the Lash of Submission or an Imperial Battle Psyker Choir. However, they're still worth taking, and still worth taking out.