Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tactica: Reserves Denial

Yesterday I mentioned "An Autarch's Master Strategist making Reserves Denial more reliable" and Warhammer 39,999 rightfully pointed out that I was talking about something I've never mentioned on here. (Well, except maybe by inference.)

Reserves Denial follows a simple tenet: That which cannot be attacked cannot be killed.

I'd toyed with the idea in 4th edition, but the Reserves special rule was too irregular to really base a strategy on. It was one of those things that was situational and sometimes annoying, but not reliable.
Then out came 5th edition with Reserves in every basic mission. Reserves was suddenly reliable as more than just a tactic of opportunity. When combined with an Autarch's cumulative +1 on Reserves rolls, you could even base strategy off the idea...
At about the same time, the Space Marines codex had just released with the "new" Drop Pod Assault rules. Eldar have always been better at hitting hard but not really so much for taking a hit. Pods gave Marines a way to hammer Eldar lines up close and personal before the Eldar could whittle them down. There was a lot of debate on how to respond.
I'm sure I wasn't the first to talk about this idea, but I was certainly one of the early birds with this post. Rather than putting all your guys on the board to be slaughterd, why not hide them in Reserves for a couple turns? I called the idea Reserves Denial. Even though an Eldar list geared for this will be the master of this type of play, it can be a viable and even beneficial choice for any army. It's certainly a good tool for a player to have in their repertoire.

The advantages:
1. While in Reserves your units cannot be shot.
2. When everything is in Reserves, your opponent has nothing to deploy based on nor react to.
3. When entering from Reserves, you can react to the enemy deployment as you move onto the table. This allows you to match units to their best targets, concentrate firepower and generally take the initiative in the battle.
4. When entering from Reserves, you have the opportunity to strike before being struck in return. Heck, you might even have a chance to charge on the same turn.
5. It times perfectly with Outflanking forces.

The disadvantages:
1. You have less turns to accomplish your objectives.
2. You have to rely on Reserves rolls. Bad rolls can mean your army enters the board piecemeal.
3. You rely heavily on speed or having an opponent that comes to you.
4. It's usually pretty obvious when your army is geared to do this. There's several ways to counter it, especially by mirroring.

Why are Eldar the best at this?
1. Autarchs. A cumulative +1 on the Reserves roll is nice.*
2. Move & Fire weapons. Few things in the Eldar list cannot move and fire at full effect.
3. Speed. Eldar have Fast Skimmers, Fleet, Jetbikes and many other mobility advantages.
4. Anti-gravitics. It's theoretically possible to run a conga line of units down an entire edge and make someone unable to enter the board from Reserves due to the 'may not move within 1" of an enemy model unless charging' rule. Skimmers, Jetbikes, and Jump Infantry get to ignore this rule and can jump OVER enemy models.
5. Theme. Eldar are often referred to as a "glass hammer" army... that they hit really hard but shatter when hit in return. The background also supports a highly mobile form of warfare. This kind of play really is the Eldar bailiwick.

*A unit's cumulative chance to arrive is:
Normal: 50% Turn 2, 83% Turn 3, 97% Turn 4.
1 Autarch: 66% Turn 2, 94% Turn 3, 99% Turn 4.
2 Autarchs: 83% Turn 2, 97% Turn 3, 100% Turn 4.

***Image courtesy of r7ll's DeviantArt. Go check out his other stuff, it's NICE.***


  1. Reserve denial is indeed a very powerful tool to use against some armies (especially armies built to wear down or alpha strike i.e. orks or pod marines). I would warn against the use of double autarch however. If your list includes either Avengers or Banshees, the lack of a farseer will be acutely felt. I have attempted running double autarch before and every time have thought how much better the game would have gone if I had a doomseer to help my Banshees out of combat.

    An additional thing to consider is the way in which the Master Strategest rule is implemented. At our FLGS, we use the INAT FAQ with a few modifications (our biovores don't bleed KPs :)). The INAT specifies that MS is applied after making all rolls for reserves. This means that if running double autarch you may add 0, +1, or +2 after you know which units will come. However, the modifier must be added across the board. If you want the fire dragons that rolled a 2, you also must take the jetbikes that rolled the same. This can lead to some interesting quandries as you sometimes don't want a unit such as 3 jetbikes to arrive early on.

  2. I think I might print this post out, frame it, and hang it up in my kitchen - it's everything Eldar is, and very inspiring!

    Scores of jetbikes soaring in from reserve, turboboosting to safety, waveserpents zooming forwards to deliver their deadly cargo, warwalkers outflanking and smacking foes down in unison - it's an Eldar dream...