Though this post contains an army list, I felt a better forum for discussion would be here, as the post concentrates more on the How's and Why's of the lists creation. I would love to hear opinions and if I am missing something somewhere, if there is a glaring hole I am blind to, please let me know!
So, though I do very well with Dark Eldar in most tournaments, Huge nationwide ones are another story. Invisible units, no cover save armies, psychic shenanigans and the like quickly drop our army to the lowest of the low tiers in regards to competitiveness. Solid play, well thought out deployment and target priority can catapult Dark Eldar to the top 10-20%, but I want to hit the top table and play for first.
So, to begin... Why are Dark Eldar not competitive. What are the weaknesses? Can they be countered?
1. Dark Eldar are truly dependant on a solid Alpha-Strike. If we don't go first, we are in for a world of hurt! This can be countered by Null-Deploy, but as reserves for DE are sketchy at best, this is not a valid option. So if the opponent goes first, there has to be SOMETHING on the table that can take a hit to the chin and still survive. Sadly, the first thought of "Talos" is laughable, as a 3+ 5++ on super slow moving models is not a valid option in the world of str d weapons and gravspam.
2. Kill Points. It is my honest contention that if "Kill Points" were removed from each and every competitive tournament, Dark Eldar would instantly become one of the top 5 armies available. With cheap troops and hard hitting units that can swarm an enemy, Dark Eldar are custom built for a MSU build capable of decimating most opponents. Sadly, EVERY stinking major tournament has kill points, which is an auto-loss for DE in most cases. A single loss in a major tournament means you will NOT be on a top table.
3. No valid anti-air. though this is more of a "luck of the draw" issue, fliers with an armor value are hard for us to handle. Fliers with a toughness, well, if you don't take enough poison shots to counter this, you are playing DE wrong anyway. Our aircraft can't hold a candle to our opponent's air capabilities. Our only options are to hope we don't draw an airforce list, or ignore them while we kill the other units facing us.
So 3 glaring weaknesses. If we are going second (no alpha strike) against say, Tau, the game is over before it even began. truly, the entire game will rely on the "who goes first" roll for us. That is no way to run an army.
So what strengths do Dark Eldar have that we can use to our advantage?
1. MSU. Yes, yes, the weakness in Kill Point missions is also a strength in objective missions. With dirt cheap transports, multi purpose troop units and units like beastpacks and jetbikes, Dark Eldar are Kings of the MSU builds. Your opponent has a "super unit"? Great, glad your 1500 point unit shot down my 55 point raider. Now it's MY turn! All kidding aside, Small, fast objective secure troops and transports make winning objective missions just that much easier.
2. Speed. When your BASIC vehicle can move 30" in a single turn, and be objective secured on top of that, taking and contesting objectives is as easy as pie. Playing the relic and going second? Last turn, zoom your objective secured venom within 3" of the relic, and "control" it even if it is being carried by enemy troops. How easy was that?
3. Dual Purpose. This is an item of contention here at the Dark City, as people have differing playstyles. HOWEVER, I entreat that in top tier competitions, a unit that does not have the ability to harm multiple enemy units is almost useless. Taking 5 warriors in a venom will do jack and squat against a landraider. But add just one little blaster, and Wham! Dual Purpose! The warriors take a shot at the land raider, the venom at something else. Having the ability to harm both armor, hordes and MC's cannot be understated in its importance.
So that leaves us with the problem... How can dark Eldar survive a first round alpha strike, not lose kill point missions and retain its ability to use objective secured troops and vehicles to keep its edge in the objective based games?
Short answer is: It can't.
So we are forced to bring in allies. Keeping DE as primary, the first thought would stray to our more boring cousins, the "eldar" or even the black sheep carnies eldar have known as "harlequins". Never trust a carnie... they have small hands.
Now eldar may be enticing with a wraithknight for durability, jetbike troops and psychic support but, sadly, it is not enough.
1. It will increase your killpoints drastically.
2. Cant take a wraithknight without Eldar being primary (without formations, which have WAY too exspensive a tax) and besides... ever see what grav does to a wraithknight?
Seeing as how Dark Eldar is going to be my primary, come hell or high water, Eldar just don't make the cut. I need tough, not fellow t3 punching bags.
So desperate allies it is.
Since Dark Eldar have shooting covered, what could I possibly bring that would be tough, small in number, and great in hand to hand?
A few things I considered and rejected, and I ended up with what I hope is an answer. It has one weakness (armored fliers) which i hope to mitigate with a saturation of Lance Weapons. I do not need to destroy a flier, I just need to make it Jink!
I also wanted to make a list which will perplex my opponent when it comes to Target Priority. "What to shoot first?" I want my opponent panicking before a dice is even rolled as to which units he needs to kill.
So... the list I am fielding is:
HQ- 4 kill points
2 X lahmeians in venoms with extra splinter cannons.
The lahmieans are great. They will charge in first to absorb overwatch, and can even dish out a little punishment before dying. They are also good for contesting objectives late game, because, lets face it, why shoot at a single T3 model with one wound when you have much worse in front of you!
Fast Attack- 3 kill points
3 x raiders with Dark Lances.
These will hold the warriors from the troop choices. Raiders have more hull points, so are better suited against small arms fire, and if they Jink (which they will) I only lose 1 shot rather than 12 from a venom. What is worse for the opponent, a slower moving single shot raider with short range firepower inside or empty fast moving 12 shot venoms?
Troops- 6 Kill points
3x 5 warriors with blaster in venoms with extra splinter cannons.
The staple. The warriors go in the raiders (making the unit OS) while the venoms (also OS) can fly around with no movement restrictions affecting passengers. Three empty OS venoms.... will this be a target priority?
Elite- 2 Kill Points
5 trueborn with 4 blasters in a raider with Dark lance
1 upgraded to Dracon and Warlord
This unit is my Anti-Flyer and bait unit. OOOhhh, look over here! A Warlord AND 4 (5 including raider) lance weapons! Oh no, it's coming right for you! You had better shoot it!
Seriously, what do i care if I lose this unit? Warlord? So freaking what! I don't care if my opponent gets a point, all i care about is if I get a point off of HIS warlord! This unit looks scary, and you better believe I will be talking it up. If my opponent doesn't fall for it and ignores it, guess what? It is 5 lance weapons that can fire at 2 separate targets! He may soon regret it when his vehicles or centurions start disappearing.
Allies- 3 kill points
That is 3 (three!) separate Imperial Knights that have Rage, roll 2 dice when running, and can reroll all charge distances. Toting a sword and claw, they throw enemy vehicles as a large blast back at other troops, and can pretty much pidgeon hole enemy units in deployment.
Pretty much, the Dark Eldar may not even be on the board if I am going second. The knights run forward, killing everything they touch, while the Dark Eldar fly around, shooting everything they see.
Your opponent is left with a decision. Concentrate on the Dark Eldar, letting the knights run roughshod over their army, or concentrate on taking out the knights, while the dark Eldar rack up objectives and lay waste with a ton of shooting.
Pretty much, Pick your poison.
So, that is my list creation and evaluation process. There are a few stumbling blocks, but for the most part, this army i feel would just simply wreck face in local tournaments, and has the potential to do really well in a major tournament.
Now remember- I could go pure DE and do well, but I am pretty sure an overall victory is highly improbable. This list, I would say improves those chances quite a bit.
But allying in Imperial knights is a hard pill to swallow. They say politics make strange bedfellows, I say trying to achieve victory makes stranger ones.
Never fistfight with ugly people. They have nothing to lose.