One of the most noticeable traits of the Aledari is their ability to be able to field units who excel above and beyond in very specific roles. The most obvious examples being the range of Aspect Warriors at their disposal. Whether you are looking hacking through power armour in close combat with the Howling Banshees, or blasting holes through a tank as if it were made of paper with Fire Dragons, amongst all the Aspect Warriors, there would be one to suit your need. Today we will look at one of the, somewhat lesser known Aspects, the Shadow Spectres.
Why take them?
If you want a single unit that can make melt any other infantry, monsters and light vehicles. Doesn’t matter if it’s a squad of marines or a mob of orks, there’s a weapons profile to handle all situations. Even with a small squad, of which you could do with just 3 models, there is a potential for a lot punch. Against your standard MEQ the coherent fire mode on their Prism Rifles will do the job. A single shot at range 18″ S6 Ap-3, but here’s the kicker, for every hit, you roll that many extra dice to potentially double your hits. It doesn’t end there however because for each successful roll on your extra dice generates a third round to score more hits. That means each Shadow Spectre has the ability to shoot 3 times in a single volley. Take into account the high strength and Ap-3 and any enemy unit with T6 or less is almost certain to endure a decent amount of wounds. However every model that fails to score their first hit will drastically reduce the volume of shots, but being Aeldari there are things to mitigate this drawback. It doesn’t end there as the Prism Rifle can use its dispersed profile, effectively giving every Shadow Spectre a range 8″ assault “heavy flamer” equivalent. Horde units can be vaporised instantly with enough Spectres and even Space Marines would struggle making that many 4+ saves.
The range is fairly short with both profiles, but this is countered with a 10″ movement, plus battle focus, meaning they can move anywhere between 11″ and 16″ a turn. If any unit was crazy, or brave enough to assault them, they can simply jump out and still fire without and issues having the Fly keyword.
This leads me onto the next big rule they have (the rules just keep coming), and that is their Spectre Holo Fields. Their Holo Fields gives them a flat -1 to hit in both shooting and combat, and if that wasn’t enough, enemies would still need to get through their 3+ armour save.
Their Exarch too adds some more abilities to the unit. Firstly he has the option to swap out his Prism Rifle for either a Haywire Launcher or Prism Blaster. The Haywire Launcher is a Heavy D3, 24″ range, S4 Ap-1 gun, that inflicts mortal wounds onto vehicles (in addition to any other wounds) on any rolls of 4+, and D3 mortal wounds of rolls of 6s. I wouldn’t bother with this weapon at all as the Heavy rule is a hindrance, especially as you want to keep this unit moving to maximise their Prism Rifle shots. That and the fact that there is already an abundance of units in the Aeldari codex that is more than capable of dealing with vehicles. Leave that role to the Fire Dragons, Dark Reapers, Fire Prisms, etc, etc. The Prism Blaster is not that much better either, its profile being Range 12″ S6 Ap-2 D3 damage and the ability to gain the extra shots. It might sound great so far but it loses out on the S5 Ap-1 flamer profile from the rest of the unit, and has 6″ knocked off its range, which doesn’t synergise well with the rest of the unit as you will want to be as far as you can get when using the coherent profile. Stick with the stock Prism Rifle on the Exarch as the main reason why you’d include him is for the Shadow of Death aura. It’s a 6″ aura that forces opponents to roll an extra D6 and discarding the lowest when taking morale tests. If all of that together is not enough reasons to include this unit in your army, I don’t know what is!
Cons & Weaknesses
With so many great abilities already you’d think that it would come with some major drawbacks. The truth is, that really isn’t the case. Yes, they do come with the standard Aeldari squishy T3, so they will go down with enough hits. The other negative point is that each model will set you back 33 points, so they quickly become very expensive if you decide to have a full squad, or multiple units of them. The Exarch isn’t a free upgrade either like you see with most of the other Aspect Warriors, but for 5 points, it is still worth having in my books.
Now where I have seen the Shadow Spectres die in droves is against any army/unit that is capable of dealing multiple mortal wounds or flamer type weapons. The Spectres main resistance is the enemies’ difficulty to hit them, and then a decent armour save on top of that. The moment they are targeted by mortal wounds or flamer type weapons, be prepared to suffer as there are going to be some casualties and every model removed hurts.
Lastly, although they do have a great defence against charging units with their dispersed Prism Rifle, the enemy simply has to place his unit outside of the 8” threat range. Yes, the coherent profile will allow extra hits, even on overwatch, but don’t expect miracles from that. So with a decent charge roll they can quickly be stuck in an unwanted combat. The good news is the Spectre Holo Fields also work in combat, but again, if enough hits get through you can expect some casualties.
Tricks, Tactics & Strats
Although the Shadow Spectres are pretty effective as they are, they can quickly become untouchable killing machines with the right perks. To start off with I’ll simply just mention the word Ynnari. It goes without saying that being able to have a unit as awesome as them firing twice can be devastatingly good, granted you would need to be in range to do so.
Going pure Craftworld is more my cup of tea and allows for some better results in my opinion. The best Craftworld trait hands down is Alaitoc for that additional -1 to hit from shots outside of 12”. If -2 is still not enough, having a Warlock/Spiritseer nearby to cast Conceal will stack it up to -3. Finally if you are going on full troll-tastic, why not use Lightning Fast Reactions stratagem on them for the -4 to hit and watch the burning hate in your opponent’s eyes.
Cover is also crucial for the Shadow Spectres improving your armour save to 2+. Again, why stop there when you can stack it with a Warlock/Spiritseer casting Project to bump that to a 1+ save. So not only can you make it near impossible to hit them, you’ll also be rocking a 1+ save to shrug off those lucky few hits. Combine this with the Fire and Fade stratagem and that will let you pop out of cover to get into range, melt your opponent, and then jump right back into your cover save.
Farseer support is also great when casting the classic Guide and Doom combo. Guide in particular is pretty disgusting with a full 10 man unit as you will be able to reroll your misses, then roll additional dice for every hit (with rerolls), and then do it a third time. When combined with Doom a 10 man unit will be able to ruin almost anything in their path. Statistically it will be able to destroy a Predator in a single volley, despite the higher toughness.
Finally the last trick up their sleeve is the ability to inflict some casualties from morale. Having an Exarch forces your opponent to roll 2D6 for morale, picking the highest. If you were also to include the Shadow Spectre Phoenix Lord Irillyth, that 2D6 roll becomes a 3D6 roll (picking the highest) thanks to a difference in wording from both abilities. This in conjunction with Hemlock Wraithfighters, Terrify, or various Harlequin units/abilities (if using a mixed roster), can make any unit flee off the board having only suffered a single loss with enough penalties stacked on top of each other.
In conclusion I find the Shadow Spectres very difficult to not include in my lists as they can offer a lot of versatility on the battlefield, even despite their points hike in the Chapter Approved 2017 book. They are also good to have three MSU of three models to take up your elite choices if you are trying to get a Brigade Detachment going. This unit is on par with being one of the best Aspect Warriors available alongside the Dark Reapers and Shining Spears. So start fielding them and see for yourself, but don’t go overboard as you might start losing some friends for doing so haha.
By Julian Chichon, SN Battle Reports
Disclaimer: This article is the authors opinion. Please note that opinions can vary. SN holds no responsibility of any tables being flipped by you or your opponent as a result from reading this article.