This is the last article I’ll write about Autarchs, I swear.
The final member of the Autarch trio, the Autarch Skyrunner is the variant that gets to Easy Rider his way around the battlefield on an Eldar Jetbike- and rest assured, they haven’t gotten any worse since last edition, though they are a little bit more expensive. Still, you get some very reasonable bonuses for riding one- an extra toughness, an extra wound, and a 16″ move value, plus you always move a 6″ more when you advance, with no need to roll the die. Combined with the Autarch’s basic package (which includes 3+ armor anyways) the Skyrunner ends up being a very solid unit, but from there we’re only getting started.
Of course, the Autarch Skyrunner comes with the standard suite of rules- Battle Focus and Ancient Doom are both handy to have, and Path of Command means that we will miss our shots and attacks on nearby units far less often as well as occasionally regain command points. Furthermore, the Peerless Agility rule gives us a 4+ invulnerable save without having to pay any points for that pesky Forceshield, offsetting some of the extra cost of the Skyrunner nicely.
The codex version of the Skyrunner comes with a Twin Shuriken Catapult on the bike as well as your choice of Laser Lance, Fusion Gun, or Power Sword- since the Laser Lance is purely superior to the Power Sword there’s little reason to ever take the latter, and with good profiles for both shooting and melee (S6 AP-4 Dmg2 on both, though only S3 if you didn’t charge) I think it’s a hard argument to take anything but the Lance.
If we open ourselves up to the equipment from the Index, however, we get a lot more options. We can still take the Lance- and certainly should, since that is the main selling point of the Skyrunner over other versions. The Reaper Launcher, being perhaps the best piece of gear on the list, is a natural second choice to go with it (though you’d do well to remember that it can’t be fired when you advance, as it is a heavy weapon.) A Fusion Gun is also a possibility for those who want more short-ranged mayhem (though it can’t be paired with the Reaper Launcher); most of the other possibilities rank well below these, though if you are seriously strapped for points an Avenger Catapult could take the second slot. A Banshee Mask is a natural choice to go along with a melee weapon, as it can shut down any attempts to overwatch you. Maniblasters are also an option for sneaking in a random mortal wound on enemy infantry, but I think turning off the awkward chance of your warlord getting ganked on the way into combat is probably better.
An Autarch Skyrunner is an excellent choice for many types of Eldar armies, because it can bring a lot to the table. It helps you regenerate command points- which is good, because you have a ton of ways to spend them. It gives you a reroll aura, something most xenos armies don’t get and Eldar, with BS3+ across the board, can take great advantage of. It gives you a long-range shooting weapon (assuming you took that Reaper Launcher) that can effectively target even units with penalties to hit. And it gives you a powerful melee threat, albeit one that is a bit fragile itself.
The power of the Laser Lance shouldn’t be underestimated. With S6 AP-4 Dmg2 on the charge (and S3 the rest of the time), not to mention an identical shooting profile out to 6″, the Laser Lance works practically like a Power Fist against most things. Wounding virtually all foot characters on 3s and Guard/Eldar characters on 2s, it is virtually guaranteed to hit (thanks to the Autarch’s own abilities) and will wound most of the time. With the fixed two damage, you’ll never roll low and fail to kill an important target- something that any tournament player can appreciate. Although it struggles a bit with most vehicles (i.e. the T7+ ones), if you can force the wounds through with something like Doom or Empower, it can still be a real terror.
The genius of the Autarch Skyrunner, though, is that it does everything reasonably well. It may not be top-tier in melee, but it’s enough to jump on a wounded squad of MEQs and finish the job- especially when you precede it with a hail of Shuriken and Laser fire. Carrying three shooting weapons, each of respectable strength, an Autarch is ready to engage the enemy in almost any phase of the game and has a startling reach- the 16″ normal move can easily put you in charge range of virtually anything you care to go after, and if you really need to get further the 6″ automatic advance will do the trick.
This multifaceted ability is important because Eldar armies often lack a bit in the melee department; although Howling Banshees, Shining Spears, Wraithblades, etc, are not uncommon, these units are all specialists and are likely to be off doing jobs of their own elsewhere- and unlike a Space Marine army, your basic troops just aren’t tough enough to survive direct contact with the enemy for any length of time. A single 5-man Tactical Squad can potentially just punch its way through your entire Troop slot if you don’t do anything about it- and that’s why you need units like the Autarch. While an Autarch may not want to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Robot Ghillieman, it will more than suffice for lesser units, and even someone like Celestine needs to watch themselves, as the hits from the Laser Lance and other weapons will stack up pretty quick and can quickly finish the job if the dice fall a little poorly.
The Autarch Skyrunner definitely has some competition in the HQ slot, however; Farseers, as I have already talked about, are fantastic units that open up some powerful stratagems like Forewarning and come with excellent psychic powers. The Hawk Autarch is nearly as fast and has the benefit of being able to place itself into reserve- something the Skyrunner cannot do without the use of a stratagem. (Note that it isn’t allowed to take the Shiftshroud, as it is not an infantry model.) So if you’re relying heavily on bringing units into the enemy backfield, the Swooping Hawk version may well bring a lot of usefulness- though it lacks the melee hitting power of the Skyrunner. Similarly, Warlocks and Spiritseers have some great spells and are much, much cheaper than the Autarch is, so if you’re just looking to fill out a detachment, they may be better options. But if you want an HQ that is gonna do work for you, an Autarch is definitely near the top of the list.
So how do you stop this guy? Well, there’s some easy answers, and there’s some trickier ones. As mentioned already, the Autarch isn’t really a melee beast- if they get tied up with a “real” combat unit, they are probably in for a very short ride to hell. Their defenses are mediocre overall, so a Thunder Hammer or the like will put them down pretty quickly if you get to swing with it. In fact, any time you charge an Autarch, they are in for a pretty bad time; not only are you getting to pummel them before they bring their offense to bear, but even if they do live to strike back, they’re doing so at half their normal strength due to the Lance’s rules.
Apart from that, all of the usual anti-character tools (snipers, psychic powers, etc) will work just fine on an Autarch and can drag them down about as easily as they do anything. It’s also quite possible to simply kill any units they are accompanying- if an Autarch is sitting with two big squads of Dark Reapers to give them rerolls, kill the Dark Reapers first; they’re the bigger threat, and the easier one to remove.
It’s also worth noting that an Autarch is usually going to be the army’s warlord in order to gain the benefit of the command point-regenerating ability; however, being a melee character who wants to mix it up, this can be rather risky at times, leading to an easy warlord kill. In ITC missions, an Autarch Skyrunner awards maximum points for the Kingslayer objective, and especially given their fragility this can be a big issue.
The Autarch Skyrunner is very arguably the best of the three (or four) Autarch variants, in my opinion. The combination of utility functions, ranged firepower, and close-in hitting power is invaluable and can be the difference between losing several of your squads to charges versus wiping out the incoming enemies. Especially as we start to see more multiwound models around, the Autarch’s ability to smash tough targets is incredibly useful to have in your back pocket, as many opponents will underestimate it when you spend the whole game sniping at them with missiles beforehand.