Thursday, May 28, 2009

Farseer Primer

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.
Farseer Equipment
Farseers comes with a handful of neat pieces of equipment, and may purchase some other pieces.
Rune Armor
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.
Spirit Stones
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:
-Seer Councils
-Rangers/Pathfinders in cover
Eldritch Storm
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
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.
Farseer Basics
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.
Using Eldrad
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.
Stopping Farseers
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.


DebonaireToast said...

I'm not 100% sure that the Psyker Battle Squad's "Weaken Resolve" power could be used to stop a Farseer's psychic shaninigans. The rule states "For the remainder of the turn, the enemy unit's leadership is reduced...."

This seems clear enough, but in the BRB GW goes to great length to point at that when they say "turn" in the rule book and in the codices they mean player turn. (BRB page 9)

This is also the cause of the current controversy in some circles over whether IG players can give orders in their opponents shooting phase as well as their own. As the wording for orders is "each turn" rather than "in their turn".

Another case of muddled rules-writing me thinks, but we'll see what the FAQ has to say about it whenever it comes around.

Raptor1313 said...

Ok, so chances are that the Battle Squad's not going to stop a Farseer, then, if I read that correctly? That's good to know, but the battle squad can still just launch templates and try to kill 'em.

Of course, that implies success in getting psychic powers off versus Runes of Warding, since the psykers are Ld9 and unlikely to pull it off reliably, and Perils tends to exact a toll on the Battle Squad.

dverning said...

Hey, good write up. There's a few salient points I think worth adding:
1. Singing Spear having a 12" range.
2. Fortune working for cover saves. Since tanks can get a cover save (including a Skimmer Moving Fast), having Fortune for a tank is a good thing. One combo I use all the time is a Doom/FortuneSeer paired with Howling Banshees. First turn I Fortune the tank while it moves 24" into position. They next turn I Doom the target and Fortune the Banshees.
3. I'd contest that a Jetbike Seer only needs Doom if there's something else in the army that would also benefit (like Banshees or DAs). The S5 Destructor Spam doesn't really NEED Doom and it's sometimes worth saving the points on that and the Spirit Stones.
4. Minor point, but when using Doom/Eldritch Storm/DAs, you should throw the Elritch Storm first for maximum hits and THEN fire the DAs. :-)
5. Guide is actually pretty decent for Wraithguard and Fire Dragons.
6. Psychic Hood has to beat, not just meet. So the Hood only works 41.67% of the time. Still, that's enough to put a crimp in the plans of most Eldar.
7. Eldar FAQ, page 1, second question notes that Shadows in the Warp cancels out against Runes of Witnessing. So I'd say the SitW was considered.
8. The Psyker Battle Squad has a 37.5% chance of casting and a 37.5% chance of Perils. You can see a breakdown of that over here:
9. I think you undervalue the Singing Spear, especially on a Jetlock or tank mounted Seer. The extra tank popping is good to have around, especially on a unit that can Jump-Shoot-Jump.

Side note on Wraithguard: Enhance! Your write-up didn't touch on the pertinent Warlock powers. Making them WS5, I5 on top of things can really be that extra bit to break the enemy. I typically run a mixed list similar to yours, but have been known to field 20 or even 30 Wraithguard in a 1750.


Raptor1313 said...

I'll make the note on the Singing Spear. I suppose on a mechanized one, it could work out for a little extra oomph.

As for fortuning tanks...there's that, I suppose. I haven't used it as much because I don't ascribe to Banshees in tanks. Most of the folks I deal with have enough melta that even with a fortune save and even with the energy field, throwing an AV12 tank out there is a hefty risk. Plus, I'm pulling my Farseer out away from a chunk of the rest of the army.

As for Destructor Spam and doom...I've found it helpful against folks that can take saves vs. Destructor. If I don't have to assault the target to finish it off, I can always get my 6" move in the assault phase. Plus, I might take losses to the destructors; Fortuned 3+/4+ is by no means invincible.

For Eldritch storm...good point, I can clarify that. Still, since it's a shooting attack I'd assume everyone goes off at the same time in the unit, so it'd be moot. All wounding's worked out simultaneously, yes?

Guide on Wraithguard can work out; I've done it but Wraithguard don't get to shoot enough to really make it worthwhile taking for them alone. Guide's other problem with helping mechanized troops is that those troops must be on the table and within 6" of the Seer to get it off. If we're talking Fire Dragons, anyone that's seen them once and has vehicles or monstrous creatures knows that Fire Dragons must die, so leaving them out to set up fortune is inviting my opponent to kill them before they shoot.

Thanks for the psychic hood odds. I'd forgotten about the meet-or-beat when I did the numbers, but even then a ~40% chance of stopping a power is a damper.

I must've missed that part when I was pouring over the FAQ...should write tacticas earlier in the day. ;)

Regarding the Wraithguard write-up...

I could outline the powers, and probably will (I also plan on doing a Warlock article at some point, so there might just be a link in the Wraithguard article). However, Enhance doesn't solve Wraithguard problems against powerfists or other things. It doesn't change the fact that Wraithguard aren't very killy in assault. Conceal compliments their defensive tough-to-kill nature, and gives you something if you're moving between cover or can't find it. Fortune won't save you from plasma cannons in the open if you have Enhance, but even a Fortuned 5+ will save you 50% of the time.

dverning said...

Mmm, dialectic! I always enjoy trading back and forth with other.

I don't ascribe to Banshees in tanks.Then do you not use Banshees? I've always found them to be Heavy Bolter bait. Then again, maybe it's your local metagame. Around here I can rely on there being at least a 1/2 dozen meltaguns nearby... But with a 75% chance to ignore the shot (Fortuned Fast Skimmer) and the negligble peril to the unit even if it does get shot down... As far as I'm concerned, as long as the Banshees get in position, then losing the tank is an acceptable risk.

As for Destructor Spam and doom...Oh, by no means do I think it bad, just that it isn't an automatic requirement.

All wounding's worked out simultaneously, yes?Yes, that is the rules... technically no models should be removed until all hits from the unit are resolved and wounds allocated. But I find people often forget/miss that step and will just resolve things in a 4th ed "as it happens" mode. This can (inadvertent or not) cheat you of hits. So I still always advocate and teach to resolve your template hits first. Though true, this is more a play thing rather than a Farseer.

Guide on Wraithguard...I'd agree. I only do it when Eldrad has nothing better to do or when there's was a secondary unit to also support such as War Walkers.

Guide's other problem with helping mechanized troops is that those troops must be on the table and within 6" of the Seer to get it off....or the Seer is in the same tank. Also, good placement and screening of the Dragons can make them much more than a suicide unit. I know a lot of people use them as one-shots, but I'll only resort to that if it's REALLY worth it. I also play Dragon heavy pure-mech, so I've learned how critical it is to use 2 or even 3 vehicles in formation to keep them from getting wiped as soon as they hit the ground.

Enhance doesn't solve Wraithguard problems against powerfists or other things. It doesn't change the fact that Wraithguard aren't very killy in assault. Conceal compliments their defensive tough-to-kill nature, and gives you something if you're moving between cover or can't find it. Fortune won't save you from plasma cannons in the open if you have Enhance, but even a Fortuned 5+ will save you 50% of the time.Well, Conceal doesn't save you against Powerfists either. But Enhance can tip the odds when it comes to combat resolution.
With the speed that armies move in 5th combined with the short range of Wraithguard's weaponry... CC seems inevitable if you're going to do more than just have them stand there. People will start ignoring them.
Given that it's not too tricky to get cover in 5th, I feel good play can make up for Conceal. Even something as simple as putting a tank between you and the Plasma Cannons will not only give you a save, but a BETTER one than Conceal gives.

Anecdote of why I love Enhance: 'Ard Boyz 2008 and the mission was Dawn of War but ALL Troops could deploy. I had 120 Khorne Chaos Marines start at the 1/2 and Run into my deployment first turn. So Eldrad Fortuned 20 Enhanced Wraithguard and Doomed one 20-man CSM squad. My shooting dropped 8 due to bad shooting and great cover saves. My charge then contacted 4 units, but in such a way that two of his powerfists were too far away to get into range. He killed 4 Wraithguard and a Warlock. I killed 14 CSMs. Four failed Ld saves and 4 beautiful Sweep rolls later, my 20 Wraithguard had wiped 80 CSMs in one turn. That would never have happened without Enhance letting me strike first and strike true.

Consider it a challenge from one Wraithguard geek to another... try it out some time. :-)

Raptor1313 said...

Regarding banshees...
I don't bother with 'em. They pretty much require Doom to be of good use; most of the time with targets worth killing they need 4's to hit and 5's to wound. 10 Banshees (assuming Executioner Exarch) crank out 27 S3 power weapon attacks; hit with 13.5, and wound 4.5 times. exarch contributes 2 hits and another wound. Doom turns that into 7 wounds from the Banshees and 2-3 from the Exarch, which is a bit more convincing and will KO most small close-combat squads. Orks...different story, since a mob of 20 can absorb the loss of 10 boyz and still dump, say, 27 regular attacks and 3 PK attacks int you with 13.5 hits and 9 wounds (4.5 dead banshees) and then a couple of PK hits and a couple dead banshees. Combat gets close to a tie.

And, if you just spilled the mob out of a wagon, even more risk.

The other problem, I suppose, is coordination of the Banshees. I need a target worth assaulting that can't move away from me. I move my Serpent up 24" with a cover save. I do this because there's a unit I can assault, and my range is 2" disembark + 6" move + d6 fleet + 6" assault (or, optimally about 15-20 inches, assuming no intervening terrain). The enemy has a few options.

1) Nuke my transport.
a 4+ save with re-rolls means that any damage has a 25% chance of getting through. This doesn't helped me against massed autocannons, or enougn meltaguns

2) Block my assault
Put something else in the way, or put a sacrifical unit in front of what I really want. 10 banshees with the Exarch cost me 182 points, plus a transport that's at least 100 points or so.

3) Move away
Board up a transport and leave....walk, and put enough cover in the way...this one is a bit harder to do, but it is a possibility.

Ultimately, I'd run Banshees if Eldar could field a 'assault on disembarking' transport, or some kind of assault-ramp upgrade for the Wave Serpent.

If I lose the tank, even if it's in position, I'm worried about getting the unit shot up.

I could run Harlequins on foot, but that's because of the Veil of Tears where chances are the Harlies won't get shot at 'til they're in range.

There is something to screening Dragons, but it still seems to invite them getting shot at. I don't think Dragons are a suicide unit so much as that any opponent's going to do whatever they can to kill 'em off. Additionally, dragons are a bit of my 'MC/Vehiclce must DIE NOW' button.