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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reevaluating the Seer Council (Part 4): Telepathy

Because it has already come up and I see such potential in it, I want to cover the discipline of Telepathy even though I'd wanted to save the best for last. Telepathy has some powers that are nothing short of devastating with the new Seer Council. While some may have thought before that it was the weaker of the two BYB disciplines available to Eldar, I think it should be almost immediately apparent that it is one of the reasons to take a Council at all now.


Primaris: Psychic Shriek
I brought this up a few times in the Runes of Fate post and I also wrote about it before the new codex came out because it is one of those few witchfire powers that is better than almost any gun in the game. It cares not for your toughness, armor or cover. Even high Ld doesn't protect against it because on 3d6 the average roll is a 10.5. Basically, anything short of good invul saves or vehicle status stands little chance of protecting the target. The range is short, but it matches up well with the other ranged weapons available to the Council. Also with the Jetbike's speed, it's really not hard to be using this soon and to good effect.

Like many other Telepathy powers, where Psychic Shriek gets absurdly powerful is in combination with Horrify. Even a single cast drops Ld10 units down to Ld7. Now you're likely to hit pretty hard with the Shriek. Cast it twice and the target is Ld4. If they're not a horde-sized unit you have not-too-unlikely chance to wipe the entire unit with a single cast. A whole unit of any elite infantry dead before you even fire the first shuriken! That's incredible! And it works just as well against Riptides who are trying to protect themselves with ablative drone wounds. The dead drones and Ld penalties from Horrify will almost certainly cause the Riptide to run if you don't kill it. At any rate, this is something I intend to take just about every game. Rolling on Telepathy with your Farseer's last roll is not a bad option at all when you're not getting what you want. You might roll something great, and in any case you can always trade for Psychic Shriek, which is great.

This power also works very well with Horrify. The target has to take a Ld test to do anything of any value, so if you can debuff their Ld you can essentially ignore them while you get to killing something else. At only one warp charge, I see this is a fantastic power considering one of the best ways of dealing with a Council is to gang up on it. Powers like this that allow you to crowd-control allow the Council to do its job unimpeded. I do suppose the target could still cast non-shooting psychic powers and maybe turbo-boost if they are Jetbike type units, but I'm not sure on the exact wording. And the psychic test will be unreliable if we've cast Horrify on them.

Mental Fortitude
If you don't already have Fearless through either an attached IC or a Farseer's Shard of Anaris, this might be of some use. You can also cast it on nearby units and that could be useful if you have supporting units who need this. For just the Council however, I'm strongly considering spending the points for the Shard of Anaris. For not that many points you get a great weapon and Fearless for the whole unit. Very nice. If I had that I would probably swap for Psychic Shriek if my support units don't need Fearless.

Puppet Master
This is a focused witchfire power and a very good one at that. The only problem I have with it is that it forces the Council to target the unit with its shooting and therefore its assault. Unless you detach the Farseer, your options become quite limited. How would I make these decisions in a game? Depends on what I target. This power works best on vehicles because they have more guns and failing to get the "focused" part of the power to work becomes a non-issue. If I have multi-assault options from there, I might hold off on throwing my spears so that I don't prematurely destroy the target. On the other hand if I really do want to destroy just the vehicle, throwing the spears gives me another chance to do that because I might fail my assault range roll. Vehicles can also be free points toward winning assaults for Councils, so it may be worth making sure they are still there when the assault phase comes along.

Against infantry this power loses some of its pizazz because of the chances you will not get to shoot with anyone who has a decent enough gun. On the other hand there are always some units that only have awesome guns. Combat squads that have been split up to have four special/heavy weapons in one half come to mind. So do CSM Chosen and Havocs. And mirror match Eldar with Wraithguard or Fire Dragons. There are infantry squads where this could be useful, but there are just so many more where it won't be. Take a long hard look at the enemy army before deciding whether or not to keep this one. Chances are I would use it, personally.

I think this gem has been hidden away in this list just waiting for a power like Horrify to work with it. I know there are some who have been using it to good effect, but Ld penalties make this power one of the deadliest in the entire game, in my opinion. Units with Fearless are written and balanced to rely on it. And players who use those units are probably very used to not worrying about getting swept or running off the board. Savvy Eldar players ought to be able to do amazing things with Terrify.

It forces an immediate morale check, if Horrify is applied first you can significantly boost the chances that the unit runs at the beginning of the movement phase. The real fun begins if they don't run far enough from your units because charging forces them to roll against their leadership again. If they fail, they are removed from the game. It's not a sweeping advance, so it works against ATSKNF, a special rule which I loathe with all my being. If they do pass the test (not likely with enough Ld penalties) you have amazing chances to sweep them if you win combat (and they don't have ATSKNF *shaking fist*). If for some reason you just don't want to be anywhere near the unit you Terrified, that's no problem either. They're going to run and you can scoot back with your Jetbike assault move. Then you're 4d6" away from them; maybe more if they fail their regrouping test on their turn.

For the Council, Terrify is a return to days when they killed with sweeping advances and Fearless status on their enemies meant extra wounds for free. Terrify brings back slaughtering enemies for taking few to no casualties and then barely winning combat. They never used to hit crazy hard because they lacked the volume of attacks and had no way of getting through good armor saves. Now they have Jinx, Remnants of Glory and Terrify so they can still chop their way through enough guys with good armor or not, Fearless or not, and still win combat to sweep them off the board. Horrify, Torment Grenade Launchers and Enhance/Drain may even help us to ensure that the sweeping advance is successful.

Despite the ease with which we can get Shrouding, I think Invisibility remains valuable to a Seer Council. With it they can deny their targets Counter-Attack and force them to swing at WS1. That goes a very, very long way to keeping Warlocks alive through return attacks. Then there is the fact that it provides Stealth in addition to Shrouding, and thus a 2+ cover save from normal movement, not just Turbo-boosting. One more benefit that may not be immediately obvious is that casting this with a Farseer is safer than casting Conceal with a Warlock. Farseers have enough wounds to survive Perils and have Ghost Helms to protect them if they have Warp Charges left over to spend on it. Since this   can cut down on the number of tests you need to make it can protect your Warlock investment. And lastly, Farseers have better leadership so casting Invisbility will work more reliably than Conceal.

There are good and bad sides to the last Telepathy power. Of the bunch it is the most random and that is surely the biggest drawback. The 1-2 result does nothing against units immune to pinning, so Terrify becomes necessary against Fearless units. But in that case you might as well direct a different plan of attack at them all together because of the other ways to take advantage of Terrify. The 3-4 result is the best against most units because it prevents them from doing anything more meaningful than moving. That could do a lot to relieve pressure against your forces and allow the Council to work at wrecking enemy units. The 5-6 result causes the enemy to hit themselves once each with their best melee weapon. I got this off once against a big unit of Wyches and it seemed cool until they promptly failed to wound much and then saved most of the wounds they cause. There are units where this could be good but many units with decent armor will whiff against themselves because their S is the same as their T. A unit of Terminators would be pretty funny punching themselves in the face, but even Psychic Shriek has a good chance to do just as many wounds and only needs one warp charge.

Due to the three very strong powers that require the enemy to roll against their leadership, Telepathy is an incredibly powerful discipline to combine with Ld penalties. There are two places to get these, Horrify and Torment Grenade Launchers. The Council is not guaranteed to have Horrify, but with eight or so Warlocks, the chances are quite good. Torment Grenade Launchers come on flimsy vehicles and work at very short range, but they are cheap and if you are already taking Dark Eldar vehicles for Grisly Trophies, they may be of value.