Court of the Archon

So, I’ve finally finished up the Court of the Archon for my Dark Eldar/Drukhari army, and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with how they all look together on the tabletop now!

 
We have the full Court here: from left to right, we have the Lhamaean, the Sslyth, the Archon himself, the Ur-ghul, and the Medusae. I’ll go into each of these in a little while.
 
While I had included a Lhamaean in my army pretty much from its inception, I hadn’t really thought about including the rest of the Court, principally because they look just so damn weird! But, as time has gone on, I’ve seen the value in having so many ablative wounds for the Archon, and the weirdness can also be really fun, so I was happy to pop the whole lot in there. 
 
Some (recent) history
The Court of the Archon is something that, from what I can tell, has been around forever. A mercenary band of bodyguards for the big cheese, I do enjoy the idea that they are assembled by the Archon who is too paranoid to trust his regular Kabalite Warriors to guard him during a battle. Slaves and pets, these retainers are so broken by the Archon’s will that they would rather die a hundred times over than see their master fall – it’s so very, very Dark Eldar, don’t you think?
 

Back in 7th edition, each Court model could be taken in the HQ slot, though for each Archon in the detachment, up to one Court would not take up a slot in the Force Org Chart. While that in itself is pretty good, as they were fairly cheap HQs to take if you felt the need for some within your list, a Court of the Archon was actually made up of between 1 and 12 of the models in any combination! For 300 points, you could take 12 Sslyth, if you felt the need! What’s more, they could take a Raider as a dedicated transport, which allowed for the unholy combination of 2 Archons and 8 Sslyth transported inside the Raider, or the Sslyth Party Bus as it became known… 
 
Looking further back to 5th/6th edition, this is a significant improvement, where you had to take at least one of each model in the retinue (though if you included Sslyths there, hits against the unit were resolved using his Toughness rather than the other models. Looking at it based on this, the 7th edition Codex added so much more flexibility to the unit (though, the 7th edition Codex was generally quite flexible anyway – shame it was outclassed so quickly, because there was actually a great deal to enjoy in that book, and I will always have a soft spot for it!)
 
The Index changed their slot to Elite, and limited us so that we could only take a Court of four models for each Archon without using a slot. Now, in the new 8th edition Codex, we’re still limited to four models for matched play, and they can only be taken if you also include an Archon in your detachment. There is still some flexibility in that you can take, for example, four Medusae along with the Archon (although the rule of three would technically prevent that, but anyway). 
 
The 8th edition Codex is a bit weird in how prescriptive it is, though – but that’s the subject for another blog…
 
 
So what do these models do?
In the main, Court of the Archon models are melee units that are almost designed to defend your Archon in a defensive cordon, preventing enemy units from targeting him in the shooting phase, and from charging him in the fight phase. The Sslyth are perhaps the most valued for being Strength and Toughness 5, whereas the others are all Toughness 3 so tend to fold easily, especially against dedicated melee fighters. Sslyth are also notable for being able to take shardcarbines, a fairly decent yet overlooked poison weapon that can only otherwise be taken by Scourges. Sadly, the Sslyth lost a wound between the Index and the Codex.
 
Ur-ghul are truly hideous creatures of nightmare, whose brutal ferocity knows no bounds within the lore. Within the game, this translates to a flurry of attacks whenever the model charges – six attacks on the charge is fairly good for a 15 point model, but Strength 4 means he’s not going to be particularly standing-out. But I do feel the Ur-ghul embodies what the Court is all about – distraction units to draw the attention away from the Archon they’re guarding. 
 
Lhamaeans are the mistresses of poison, and lore-wise, an Archon will always seek to have such a creature close at hand to distill the finest venoms for his weaponry. The poisonous Shaimeshi blade carries a toxin so deadly it can cause the brain to swell until it bursts from the skull, or the skin of a victim to begin eating itself – “even a kiss blown upon the wind by a Lhamaean can kill in seconds”. And the model really embodies that air of deadly, sinister effectiveness, the way she’s holding the blade in a reverse-grip as she stalks slowly towards her prey… In game, we’ve got a fairly-decent melee unit that is more often than not killed before she can do anything. At least, in my experience! I’ve taken her a few times now, and when I remember to use her, she just seems to whiff. On paper, adding 2 to wound rolls and dealing out additional mortal wounds on 6+ should be really good, especially with all the myriad other buffs that can affect her such as Power from Pain and the Archon’s aura of re-rolling hits of 1 (or all failed hits if she’s even closer to the boss). For me, however, I’ve never managed to get that perfect storm running. Interestingly, the Lhamaean has lost her splinter pistol in the transition from Index to Codex.
 
Finally, we have the Medusae, a weird emotional parasite native to the webway that Archons find particularly useful, as their strange powers of storing up extreme emotions during a battle allow their masters to later re-live the torments and agonies suffered by their foes. Basically a jellyfish-like collection of brains and spinal cord, the Medusae is kind of hilarious when you think that it is this weird brain-like creature that has taken over the body of another. The second Court model that has a ranged weapon, the Medusae can open its host’s visor to unleash “a wave of raw anguish, plunging (the enemy) into a coma from which there is no recovery”. Formerly an Assault 1 flamer, it is now a much better Assault 4 attack with 1″ extra range compared with an actual flamer in 8th edition, though notably is not affected by the Kabal of the Obsidian Rose’s Obsession.
 
They are definitely fun models, and I think aside from the Sslyth, which is only taken for his bodyguard ability, none of these are taken in a competitive environment. But the Court as a whole is a unit dripping with theme, and I am really chuffed to have finally gotten all of them painted up and ready for action. In their first outing, they managed to keep my Archon alive, so what more do I want?!