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HERESY! Survival of the Moderately Fit Card

Some cards are easy picks: Earth Caste Technician, Promotion, Archon's Terror. You don't ALWAYS run these, but you think about taking them out, rather than thinking about adding them in.

Some cards you look at, and can't imagine ever using. Dark Possession, I'm staring in despair at you.

But there's cards that you don't always consider, that have had a bad press at times, or had a lot of discussion as to whether they have any value.

This is the place of HERESY: to make you think about less loved cards, and hope to make you love them.

Read on...

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Eldar Survivalist

Okay, Asklepios, seriously? You're picking a card that many players pick automatically, and which has been popular on and off since its inception?

Well, yes, let's look at why.

The reason people like it straight off is because people love talking about card advantage. I know I do. This comes from the Magic: The Gathering days of CCGs, in a game where you draw one card a turn by default, but can afford to play more and more cards as the game goes on. The observation here was a sound one: drawing cards wins games.

Now most LCGs follow the same pattern: FFG games let you draw cards faster than in Magic, but still, drawing cards wins games. AGOT LCG diluted this effect from 1st edition to 2nd by capping the number of cards you can have in your hand from turn to turn, and that game has changed in balance dramatically, from a game of weenie swarms to a game of decisive plays and decisive characters.

But we're talking 40k LCG here, and after a little use of the Eldar Survivalists, people came to recognise that is nowhere as good as a Void Pirate or Rogue Trader.

One Command per One Resource Please

So let's talk about what we've all learned over the life of the game.

The first thing is that cards that give you one command for one resource are really good. We've had these guys since the start, and they remain the staple cards of many decks:

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We call these 1-for-1s, and as time has gone by we've been dead excited by cards that give you 1-for-1 and some fighting power as well:

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Hell, we even often choose to run cards that normally give you 1-for-1, and rarely do much more than that:

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1-for-1 is the heart of the command game, giving you a cheap command presence on as many planets as possible.

The handful of cards that are even more command efficient than this are right up there in the most-played cards.

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Almost as valuable to the command experience are 2-for-2s, two command for two resources. What you lose in breadth of coverage and maximizing number of deploy turns, you gain in card efficiency: one card to put down two command, instead of two cards.

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So let's come back to old friend the Eldar Survivalist:

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You see the problem here? You play this guy, you might not win his command struggle at all. And if you don't win the command struggle, you don't get the bonuses anyway.

Meanwhile, if you want to pay 2 resources for 1 command out of Eldar, do you play the guy who might give you that bonus, or do you play...?

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Anyone who played the game seriously would have pointed out that card draw and resources are there because you want to find the cards that help you win the game. The smart option, therefore, is just to include and play the cards that help you win the game themselves, but still give you the same command efficiency.

Being hard to "snipe" (that is, win command struggle with a warlord commit) make these cards even more appealing, and give them a command strength of a different sort.

The ever-wise Ktom said it well:

...the "2-for-1 command is tough in this era of 2-for-2 command" argument above, the bonuses on the Survivalist lets your opponent know that winning command at that planet is particularly attractive to you, so they know you have an incentive to send your warlord to that planet - making your warlord commitment that much more predictable to an astute opponent.

This never stopped people using Survivalist altogether, it just moved it from being a 5/5 first impression onto being a 3/5: a choice that some people put in without thinking, and got punished for, and which many players left out when they thought about what their deck should really look like.

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The Eldar Survivalist Survives

So having just laid into a popular card to tell you why its not as good as newer players think it is, let me tell you why we need to reconsider it again.

Let's talk meta.

A short while ago, almost every deck played huge numbers of 1-for-1s and 2-for-2s. Almost every solid tourney deck had a powerful command presence, and people complained (rightly so) that there was very little room in the game for more expensive cards, especially at costs 4+.

Most people played a handful of more expensive cards, for sure, but to be honest if your deck was running more than five units at cost 4+, then it had cost curve problems.

There were high/low decks of course (decks which largely forgo 2-4 cost in order to run swarms of 1 costs, and thus be able to afford 5 costs) but these were widely regarded as less consistent, less reliable and ultimately less competitive.

The meta has changed. STC fragment and other discounters have flooded us with Elite heavy decks.

A notable shift in the meta has been a lower number of deploy actions per deployment phase. Once, 4-6 deploys on turn 1 was de rigeur, now 3-5 is entirely acceptable.

This is good for Survivalist: if you want to play Survivalist, you ideally want to do it after other people have passed, so you can put it on a planet where a 1-for-1 doesn't instantly negate it.

But that's just half the picture.

I'm going to present two decks, which will hopefully show you what Survivalist can do.

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Deck One:

Shrieking at the Sun

I was unkind to Shrieking Exarch in my warpack review. I pointed out it cost 3 cards and 5 resources you'd expect something spectacular. I was unimpressed by the fact that you were paying that much for a card that essentially does a smidge of splash damage, is far less fighty than other units of its cost, and either generates just enough card advantage to offset its cost, or which gives you a load of cards at a time when you already have won because you have loads of cards. I also note that it's not discountable with bonesinger choir, demands a deckshape that can't fit in the excellent Drone Defense System or Missile Pod, and basically its inclusion makes your deck a worse one. I expected recall bias from when people found the card decisive making them forget all the times it was unplayable when they drew it, or when a simple Mighty Wraithknight or Wildryder Vyper would have done so much more to win them the game.

However, reviews don't tell the whole story, and actually while I stand by the idea that MOST decks don't want this card (hence the 2/5 rating that ran counter to the opinion of others), I think that like most cards, if you aim a deck at it, you can make it work.

Just so happens, Survivalist is key to this.

Total Cards: (51)

1x Commander Shadowsun (Core Set)

Shadowsun has problems, in that being Tau she lacks access to good control options. Also, if you lock her out of card draw she crumbles. What she does do, however, is present BIG threats for very little resources: so long as you can draw the cards.

Army Unit: (34)
4x Shadowsun’s Stealth Cadre (Core Set)
3x Eldar Survivalist (Core Set)
3x Wraithguard Revenant (Decree of Ruin)
3x Furious Wraithblade (Jungles of Nectavius)
3x Shrieking Exarch (Searching for Truth)
3x Gun Drones (Core Set)
3x Earth Caste Technician (Core Set)
3x Rogue Trader (Core Set)
3x Void Pirate (Core Set)
3x Vior’la Marksman (Core Set)
3x Recon Drones (Core Set)

What you have here is a properly old school collection: its not really 34 army units, its 27 army units with 6 attachments that you can play as units in extremis. What it has though is an old-fashioned wide and low cost curve, which in the elite-heavy meta can often end up with command presence on near every planet and tough decisions for the opponent. It lacks units that hit hard in their own right: you have to build your killbots yourself. A fun addition here is Revenant, so when you do play those Exarchs you can discard painlessly.

Attachment: (7)
1x Command-link Drone (Core Set)
3x Ion Rifle (Core Set)
3x Auxiliary Armor (Boundless Hate)

These are the building tools for your killer units.

Event: (8)
2x Squadron Redeployment (Core Set)
3x For the Tau’va (Descendants of Isha)
2x Superiority (Core Set)

For the Tau'va is the main combat trick. Superiority is a natural friend of Survivalist, Rogue Trader and Void Pirate, countering those annoying command units opposite them.

Support: (3)
1x Communications Relay (Core Set)
2x Ambush Platform (Core Set)

Ambush Platform functions best in deep drawing decks.

This deck doesn't look like it should work, but it does. It takes a turn or two to get momentum, but often by game end you've cut all the way to the 47th-49th card in your deck, so you have all your tools in play. It resists control by having multiple threats. It deals with big threats by hitting just as hard.

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Deck Two:

More Command, More Command!

It's with a little shame that I present such a conventionally accepted warlord with such a conventionally accepted style. Before Drone Defence System came and fixed Eldar's area effect problems, a lot of people played Eldorath/DE with decks stuffed with commamd. Just before all that mad discounting made Eldar vehicles one of THE Elite decks to look out for, people played Saim Hann Jetbike, and a wide range of 3-4 costers that gave the deck fighting power.

This ain't that deck. This is something that says "try something different". Play command and deploy delays as hard as you humanly can. Dominate command so hard that you're essentially playing a choke game, then lock down that choke with a Wailing Wraithfighter or three that keeps swapping over to the first planet. Someone snipes your command capper? Craftworld Gate it back to hand. Just win that command game, and win it hard, and everything else will work out! Maybe.

Total Cards: (51)

1x Eldorath Starbane (Core Set)

Army Unit: (28)
4x Starbane’s Council (Core Set)
3x Eldar Survivalist (Core Set)
3x Biel-Tan Guardians (Core Set)
3x Sslyth Mercenary (Gift of the Ethereals)
3x Rogue Trader (Core Set)
3x Void Pirate (Core Set)
3x Incubus Warrior (Core Set)
3x Warlock Destructor (Gift of the Ethereals)
3x Wailing Wraithfighter (Core Set)

In case you hadn't spotted, this is almost all command with barely any fighting power. Conventional wisdom says this approach will fail. Play unconventionally!

Attachment: (4)
1x Mobility (Core Set)
3x Promotion (Core Set)

Event: (14)
2x Foresight (Core Set)
3x Archon’s Terror (Core Set)
3x Gift of Isha (Core Set)
3x Doom (Core Set)
3x Superiority (Core Set)

Doom poses less self-threat when you've got Craftworld Gate and Webway Passage, and is less prohibitively expensive when you have such command strength. No Nullify? No room. These Heresy decks aren't meant to be flexible, rather they approach one particular crazy approach to the game, and approach it hard as they can.

Support: (5)
1x Alaitoc Shrine (Core Set)
2x Craftworld Gate (Core Set)
2x Webway Passage (Slash and Burn)

And here's the beating heart, with Webway Passage there to rearrange command, or to keep your Wraithfighter moving forward.


So there you have it: another column, way sooner than you wanted one.

Next one may be months away or some days. Lord Tzeentch commands unpredictability!

  • SenhorDeTodoOMal, Zouavez, sparrowhawk and 2 others like this


Sep 05 2016 10:10 AM
I always find it odd that this guy never makes it into my Eldar/Tau/DE lists yet Scrap Nabba is an auto include for Orks. I guess they have less options

Interesting observation! For me, they are very similar cards, though perhaps it is because the main downside of these cards is their resource cost, not their card cost, and that's what Nabba addresses. Also, let's not forget that Ork Events are all overpriced by 1R (by relative effect compared to other factions, not saying its bad design, but rather than this is the balancing factor to the ork faction), so Nabba helps deal with that.


Also,I'd say that being a resource generator Nabba meshes well with deck curves that run slightly higher, like say Elite decks!


Personally Nabba is far from an auto-include for me, but does tend to find its way into decks where I know I need a strong supply of resources.


So in Worr/ork, where I have a lot of cheap plays and reasonably priced events, I really don't use Nabba.

But in ork/chaos elites, where STC is my only repeatable discounter, Skrap Nabba is a star player.

On the subject of Skrap Nabba - I only find him an auto-include in Gorzod.  The main reason for that is that Gorzod needs resources because of his generally high cost curve, and because he can't rely on AM or Chaos for cappers.  Additionally, compared to Eldar Survivalist, his 1 ATK isn't much, but it makes him a bit harder to snipe.  The difference between "defenseless" and "not defenseless" can be bigger than it seems.


Also, cards > resources is simplistic and a little bit of a fallacy.  Probably true in the general case, but often wrong in specific cases.  You need a balance of cards and resources, and in a deck with a high average cost (say, greater than 2), resources are usually scarcer than cards.

Fun read. I'd argue that there's no reason for the first deck to not have a copy or 2 of the Enclave given the high number of Eldar units in the deck. If anything, the Enclave is one of the main reasons why the Eldar Survivalists are even still playable in my eyes

Fun read. I'd argue that there's no reason for the first deck to not have a copy or 2 of the Enclave given the high number of Eldar units in the deck. If anything, the Enclave is one of the main reasons why the Eldar Survivalists are even still playable in my eyes


For sure, I have actually playtested an Enclave version, but actually there's only 9 units here you'd pay and deploy normally that would be eligible for discount. The Revenants aren't meant to be paid for a at all. Ultimately, weighed it up and while Enclave would likely be a great addition, IMHO it wouldn't be stronger than the card it replaces, no matter which of the 51 you pick...

I'd disagree, since 9 units is more than enough to justify taking up to 2 copies (hell I've justified taking 2 copies for just 6 units before). Besides, just because you don't plan on playing the Revanent conventionally doesn't mean you wont be forced to at times. I'd personally go for -1 Revanent for +1 Enclave, and would consider -1 Ambush Platform for +1 Enclave. Should that be changed, I'd then consider -1 Trader/Pirate for +1 Wroth

Last night, double platform secured me a game against Necrons, with a mere Void Pirate suddenly receiving three gun drones, two stealth cadres and (from commitment) an auxiliary armour from the discard. That, combined with Exarch at the same planet turned a game that was going very badly into a complete and resounding victory. I love double ambush platform, it is just so damn useful.


I could go -1 Revenant for +1 Enclave though: the timing of the Revenants hasn't been that great, and with all the command bonuses and the timing of Shadowsun's ability, its getting to be a rare occasion that the revenants are worth putting into play.


In fact, I may well go -3 Revenant, -2 Furious Wraithblade, +2 Enclaves, +3 Warlock Destructor. Boring, I know, but a good card is a good card, no matter how heretical you are!


Also, Enclave excess can be ditched to Banshee, and Wraithblade synergises poorly with Superiority.


Hard call though, as Wraithblade plus some attachments is really scary.


Man, maybe I could drop those Survivalists....