Craftworlds Codex Review: HQs: Avatar of Khaine

He was turned to steel
In the great magnetic field
Where he traveled time
For the future of his kind

Overview

The Avatar of Khaine- the literal embodiment of the Eldar god of war, given physical form by a ritual sacrifice. Its name is supposed to be evocative of the height of violence to which the Eldar can rise, but in past editions of the game it was basically a joke, with weak saves, bad speed, and combat stats that failed to impress. 8th Edition, however, has brought a lot of old units off of the shelf, and to a certain degree the Avatar sits with this crowd.

The Avatar’s basic statline is a pretty good one, as it is a full-size monster. Strength and toughness six mean that wounding it will never be a trivial matter except by the very heaviest of weapons and weapon/ballistic skill 2+ mean that its attacks should almost always land (and with five of them that is no joke.) Eight wounds puts it right up at the top end of where a character wants to sit- tough to bring down, but still can hide behind other units. A 7″ movement speed and 3+ armor save round out the statline with respectable, if not amazing, numbers. However, at 250pts, all of this comes at a pretty steep price tag, which isn’t enthusing overall.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Avatar, being a Craftworld unit, comes with the usual special rules- Ancient Doom provides rerolls against Slaanesh in the first turn of combat and Battle Focus lets it advance and shoot normally, though we are still disallowed from charging if we do so. Also, as it has the Craftworld keyword, it will benefit from any bonuses the detachment qualifies for.

Beyond that, the Avatar comes with two different defensive abilities that give it a modicum of resilience, even if it isn’t exceptionally so. Daemon gives it a 5+ invulnerable save, which is on the low end for anything that we want to qualify as a combat unit, but Molten Body also gives it a 5+ “feel no pain”-style effect, so it can shrug off about half of all incoming firepower one way or another. Our biggest protections will still be character status and the potential for the Alaitoc bonus, but every little bit helps.

Lastly, the Khaine Awakened ability lets us ignore morale and reroll charges with any Craftworld units that are within 12″ of the Avatar; twelve inches is actually a pretty big bubble in the scheme of things, but since morale generally isn’t a huge issue for Eldar it’s not as exciting as it might otherwise be. Still, some units (like Guardians) benefit a lot from it, and the times when you manage to dodge losing those 1-2 aspect warriors due the Avatar will be really nice, too.

Khaine’s little bro comes equipped with The Wailing Doom, a dual-purpose weapon; it can shoot out to 12″ with a Meltagun profile, and in melee it uses the same stats- quite a strong weapon, though not quite on tier with a daemon primarch or the like. Both versions roll 2d6 for damage and take the highest, so any hits that do go through are gonna be quite painful.

Uses

Let’s be upfront: the Avatar is the first unit I’ve done in my review series so far that I don’t think is viable for real competitive play. You can argue about the various Autarch variants and which of them is the best, or why you would or wouldn’t run them; you can discuss the relative merits of the different psykers and why you might want access to each of their abilities; but the Avatar… well, the Avatar is 250pts of your army that doesn’t do anything until it’s point-blank to the enemy and can’t benefit from any of the usual delivery methods (Webway Strike, Quicken, Wave Serpents, etc.) That is very problematic, because while the Avatar is faster than some other MCs, it’s not particularly fast overall and so will struggle to be where you need it to.

Worse yet, unlike the Yncarne (its obvious direct competition), it comes with no real utility attached and has mediocre defenses- it’s just a combat beast, nothing more. Rerolling charge distances is a cute trick, but it’s not often gonna tip a game and Eldar have a lot of ways to scoot around the board already; the extra 2-3″ of charge distance you get off the Avatar probably isn’t going to make a huge difference in the scheme of things compared to using Quicken, a jetbike, a transport, etc. So no, you’re not going to bringing this guy to the Las Vegas Open looking to make day 3 anytime soon.

With that said, however, the Avatar is no longer the trash fire he was in previous editions. Benefiting from character protection is absolutely huge, as even units like snipers will struggle to put any real damage on the Avatar. It can make a fairly reasonable “countercharge” component to an army, waiting behind the main line of shooting specialists to dive in and wreck anything that decides to close with your lines. It can also take up a support position in a spearhead of melee units, though the fact that most of the other Craftworld melee units quickly outpace it may be a bit problematic in that scenario. But you generally should be able to get it into combat at least once if you’re trying, and when it does get to combat it can cause quite a lot of damage to things, especially to big things that lack an invuln save like vehicles. Although S8 on its attacks is not overwhelmingly powerful, two dice for damage is going to be causing 4+ wounds with every swing of the sword.

The Avatar also benefits a lot from being able to take some of the better warlord traits- the Craftworlds table almost seems like it has a lot of custom-designed choices to be perfect for it (and maybe it does.) Eye on Distant Events prevents overwatch, which can be quite annoying; Falcon’s Swiftness brings your movement up to 9″- an incremental improvement, but not a trivial one; Seer of the Shifting Vector gives you one reroll per battle round, which gives you excellent flexibility on both offense and defense; lastly, and perhaps my favorite pick, is Fate’s Messenger, which protects you doubly- not only do you get an extra wound (putting you at nine total, just below the limit) as well as 6+ FNP- which, in a rare case, actually stacks with your native 5+ FNP roll. The Avatar benefits so much from the warlord traits that I think if you’re taking one, you really ought to be nominating it for the warlord position- which feels appropriate, given the fluff.

I would be extremely remiss if I did not point out one of the best features of the Avatar of Khaine here, namely the stratagem specific to it. The Avatar Resurgent is an expensive one at 3CP, but easily worth it- anytime the Avatar dies in the Fight phase (note: not just from melee attacks, but anything that kills you in that phase), after the unit that killed you has finished its attacks you pop back to life with d6 wounds remaining.  Now, this probably means you’re gonna be hurt pretty bad (and I would save a command point for it in order to avoid the dread ‘1’), but it does mean you stay alive. If someone was counting on killing you to save their own unit, tough bananas- you’re gonna get to swing anyways, and hopefully put some real hurt on them. Note also that there is no limit on the number of times per game you can use this stratagem, though of course you’re limited to once per phase as usual; if you have CP to burn (or are rolling really hot with your Autarch), you can keep an Avatar alive for a long time, so long as it’s not getting shot at.

Countering

Stopping an Avatar can be annoying, but usually won’t be excessively difficult. First off, it’s only any use in melee- so unless it’s within ~16″ of you, you can pretty safely ignore it and/or walk away. It does get a single shot at range, but while it might strip a few wounds off a tank, it’s not going to completely ruin your day. Second, while it is a character, it’s not really able to stand up to other heavy hitters in various armies. A Space Marine Captain on Bike with Thunder Hammer and Shield Eternal costs about 100pts less than it and should virtually always win the fight between them, not to mention the Captain’s aura being quite a bit superior. Third, although it does benefit from character protection, it is also a melee unit- and that means that it has to get in real close to do any work, so if you’re making the Eldar army come to you, it shouldn’t be hard to make the Avatar the closest target once it charges something.

Moreover, as a combat unit, the Avatar is really only any good for fighting other big targets- mainly ones that it can kill in one go, because it has pretty weak defenses. If you can get the drop on it by charging first, it’s not too hard to grind it down. Likewise, if you can tie it up in a bad fight (i.e. something with a strong invuln or a horde unit with lots of weak models), you can at the very least keep it from doing anything else and quite possibly kill it off eventually. Do beware the aforementioned stratagem, of course, as the last thing you want is that guy coming back with six wounds ready to kick your unit’s ass, but by the time he tends to be getting into combat your opponent has probably bled out a lot of their CP already.

As I said earlier, the Avatar isn’t really a strong centerpiece for an army. If your opponent is bringing one, you can consider it something of a handicap on their part.

Final Thoughts

Although I would rank the Avatar as one of the worse HQs that Craftworlds get access to, that is measuring to a pretty high bar- it’s hardly a bad unit, just one that isn’t good enough at what it does to really be considered great. If you want to run one in casual games I think you can do pretty alright with it, it’s just not up to spec when it comes to taking top spots at tournaments. It’s hugely improved over previous editions where it was an absolute joke on the tabletop and would probably just die before it got anywhere near the enemy, at least, and it can hit pretty hard if you’re throwing it into the right targets.

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19 responses to Craftworlds Codex Review: HQs: Avatar of Khaine

The other stratagem around the Avatar is the Court of the Young King. +3 to all charge distances with re-rolling all hits in the subsequent fight phase is pretty strong stuff for 2CP.

I am not sure that either the Avatar or taking a minimal Biel-Tan detachment are worthwhile just to access the full power of this stratagem but it could be strong. Pulling something fighty out of the Webway and only having to make a 6" charge before blending the target with re-rolls is not terrible; the question really is whether any of the combat aspect warriors are good enough to justify the investment. I doubt if it is actually *good* but combining it with the Biel-Tan warlord trait on a really big unit of Shining Spears so they reroll all their shooting and fighting hits after jumping out of the Webway sure sounds like fun.

Yeah, you're more or less right about stuff. It's a cute stratagem, but not a very good one- and honestly, the extra work needed to get the Avatar in range for when you're likely to use it feels like a lot of effort for a fairly minimal reward. But since it is Biel-Tan, and Biel-Tan is kind of a trash fire, I didn't really bother to mention it in the article proper.

Trash fire or not, biel tan full of shuriken with asureman and mostly footy aspect host with avatar seems to work for me. But then ofc i don't do tournamets so yeah in the highest lvl everyone runs alaitoc and reaper spam that's why i don't like competitive.

Actually, if you're talking about the kinds of lists that win to-level tournaments, Reaper Spam tends to fall by the wayside along with all of the other one-trick pony lists.

So I'm thinking that if GMDKs can be made to work, so can these things. Similar movement rates, and while GMDKs can have good guns, they still do most of their work in melee. And GMDks have a 4++ invo, but they also have 12 wounds and are targettable.

Yes, you can deepstrike GMDKs, but about a third of the time I start them on the board.

GMDKs can deep strike. That two thirds of the time you don't start them on the board (which I think is an underestimation, if we're talking overall rates) is kinda a big thing.

GMDKs have significant shooting weapons. The Avatar does not.

DMDKs have a reroll to hit aura, which significantly ups their accuracy in both shooting and melee. The Avatar does not.

GMDKs have a 4++, or more realistically a 3++ most of the time. They also have 2+ armor. The Avatar has neither of those things.

GMDKs come in a faction where HQs are expected to be expensive, with none of the choices sinking below 100pts and most being more in the 200 range. The Avatar is the most expensive HQ model in the Craftworld codex.

You can field multiple GMDKs to provide threat saturation, especially since they can be placed in a Supreme Command detachment. You can only field one Avatar.

GMDKs sync well with the basic Grey Knight battle plan of "drop in a lot of dangerous units in one place and wipe out the foe piece by piece with shooting/melee." The Avatar does not fit well with the Craftworld battle plan of utilizing reserves, mobility, and high-quality firepower to pick the enemy apart while being resilient.

The GMDK provides Grey Knights with a unique selection (presuming you ignore the regular DK, which is pretty much strictly inferior) that gives them a hard-hitting melee unit that can absorb a lot of the heavy firepower that might otherwise target their other units and wreak havoc on them. Nothing the Avatar does is unique, as immunity to morale, charge rerolls, and countercharge units are all available elsewhere through better methods and for better prices.

There is a role to be had for one, lone badass amongst a shooting army. Often called "counter-assault", the role is actually more complicated than that. Guilliman is OP, but Guilliman acts in a similar way.

GMDK re-roll bubble is weak, often made redundant by Draigo, anyway. By comparison eldar have so many psychic buffs a re-roll bubble probably isn't needed. A lot of the rest of your complaints are fairly meaningless because a GMDK is targettable, an Avatar is not.

What I'm saying is I'm not an Eldar player (I've entertained it), but I could probably make the Avatar work. Y'know, same way I make LRs work.

I'm really just thankful you didn't write three articles, one each about the Avatar on foot, on a jetbike, and with wings.

Yes, a singular counterassult unit can be very useful in a shooting army. An Autarch Skryrunner already does that job for half the price while also being a reroll bubble and source of bonus command points. Banshees and Spears are also often used in that role, and are vastly superior to the Avatar at it.

The existence of psychic buffs does not render the Autarch's bubble redundant. Only one spell (Guide) overlaps with its effects.

But yeah, I'm sure that you, the guy who never goes to tournaments and has never touched Eldar before are super-knowledgeable about how the army works. Should I maybe hand this article series over to you? Doubtless you have lots of keen insights like "I could make that unit work" or "I'm pretty sure that this other unit is better than you think" or "Guys no for real I am actually a very good player I just keep all of my tournament victories hidden in a secret box that no one can ever know about." You and your Land Raiders-and-Dreadnoughts super-pro GK army are just bustin' down the tournament scene, I bet, and everyone is desperate to hear your hot takes on the keen strategies you use.

…….what makes you think I never go to tournaments?!? I do (I used to A LOT), and I'm quite capable of evaluating armies I don't play.

My standard GK list does pretty well, actually, including against some of the "meta" lists. (it does not, at the moment, involve land raiders) But don't get into penis measuring, it's trashy.

It's a beat stick, puppy, not a force multiplier. That's OK, and it's appropriately costed for what it is.

No, I mean like actual tournaments, not "me and four friends played in my basement yesterday and I was THE CHAMPION." Curbstomping your shitty friends' lists doesn't really count for anything in terms of "making a list work."

>It's a beat stick, puppy, not a force multiplier.

It's not a good beatstick. A Captain on Bike with Thunder Hammer and Shield Eternal will almost always win the fight between it and the Avatar both when charging and when charged, and that guy costs 100pts less than the Avatar does, is faster, and comes with a reroll aura. A Carnifex has about the same damage output for less than half the price. The Yncarne does everything the Avatar does, but is also a psyker and has excellent mobility tricks. The Avatar just isn't good at it's job. It's not atrocious anymore, but it's certainly not good.

I think the best reason would be your constantly making wild claims about codices you know nothing about (as well as your fantastic, tournament-winning battleforce armies.) But there are plenty of others as well.

OK, seriously, never mind about what you think constitutes a "wild claim".

What, exactly, do you think I am lying about in regards to tournaments? Have I even made any particularly outrageous claim? Or are you just being a bitch just to be one (again)?

It feels like you're just looking to be a bitch. You seem to have an issue with this. But if you have a specific accusation, please make it.

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