The universe of Warhammer 40k is full of shadows. The spectre of death haunts every waking moment for every creature fighting for survival, but none face death quite like Craftworlds Eldar. Their civilisation is fading, the skein of Aeldari existence is tenuous at best, and every death is an eternal damnation. Few factions in Warhammer 40,000 mix together an intriguing backstory with beautiful tabletop miniatures quite as well as the Craftworlds Eldar, bringing together the best of what Games Workshop can do in both storytelling and model design.
The Eldar have been a staple of Warhammer 40k since 1987, when the first proto-space-Elf model was released. Since then, they’ve changed and evolved considerably, taking on Elf-like fantasy ideas, and putting brand new twists on the formula of a grimdark future ruined by dark gods. There are now several different varieties of Eldar, from the mercurial Harlequins to the death-god-worshipping Ynnari. Each has their own flavour, rules, and models, with the largest and most commonly known faction being Craftworlds Eldar. If you think of Eldar or Aeldari, you’re probably going to think of Craftworlds Eldar first.
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the game or looking for a new army for 9th edition, either way settle back and relax as we guide you through space and time for a comprehensive look at Craftworlds Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 9th edition.
If, however, you’re after a broader summary of the grimdark future’s aliens, have a read of our Warhammer 40K Xenos factions guide. And if the exploits of humans and their corrupted foils are of interest, check out our Imperium and Choas faction guides, too.
Craftworlds Eldar Lore
The beginnings of the Aeldari Empire are shrouded in deep mystery. After the events that saw the universe shattered, the Necrons hidden, and the Old Ones brought low, the Aeldari became the dominant force in the galaxy. The core of their mastery of the known galaxy came through the Webway, an alternate dimension in which the Eldar built a labyrinth of tunnels that allowed them to travel quickly and safely throughout space. This sidestepped the perils of the Warp, giving the Eldar a safe way to expand their borders.
The Eldar paid for their twisted ways and pride in blood and terror
With safety and the vast resources of the Eldar Empire, the Aeldari became insular. They ceased looking outwards for new inspiration, preferring to explore their desires and hedonistic impulses. The Eldar Empire became darker; twisted needs and terrible acts becoming commonplace as they slaked their lusts on each other and the many lesser races that populated the galaxy.
The universe of Warhammer 40k always exacts a price, however, and the one that the Eldar paid for their twisted ways and pride was one they paid in blood and terror – and one that the galaxy continues to pay.
With each life they took in service of their own pleasure, and each foul act they inflicted, they fed the Warp with psychic energy. Eventually this energy burst forth new life in the form of Slaanesh, a new Chaos God devoted to pleasure at all costs. The birth of this psychic entity tore the universe asunder at the heart of the Eldar Empire, forming a region of terrible instability that will rage for perpetuity known as the Eye of Terror. Billions of Eldar died on this day, and Warp storms disrupted the universe making travel all but impossible for millennia to come.
Not all Eldar fell, however, some had left the Eldar empire in disgust, fleeing to the Exodite Worlds to live in simplicity like their ancestors, or fled on giant space-arks known as Craftworlds. Others, living deep in the Webway, were safe from Slaanesh’s birth and continued their wicked ways, becoming known as the Drukhari, or Dark Eldar.
If it had ended there, no one could doubt the Eldar had paid a fitting price for their vile empire, but Slaanesh’s curse went even further. Firstly, the majority of the Aeldari Gods were brutally slain, leaving only a few to escape into the hidden places of the universe. The second, and most damning, impact caused by Slaanesh’s creation involves death itself. Without Gods to shepherd their souls the Eldar swiftly found that after death they were consumed by this nascent dark God.
Alien races: Read our Warhammer 40k Xenos factions guide
Now, the Craftworlds Eldar fly through space, seeking survival in a hostile universe, and fighting death with every fibre of their being. Their Craftworlds – entire nations bound in semi-organic matter, powered by psychic energy from their Infinity Circuits – are the last vestige of this once great power. Aeldari society has completely changed, focused now on control and discipline, as they refuse to fall to the same terrors which blighted the Eldar of the past.
Some Eldar live only to retake their homeworlds, others try to seek out new ways to live in a galaxy no longer under their control. The Aeldari do remain united in two things, however: an overwhelming fear of being consumed by Slaanesh, and an utter hatred of all things Chaos.
Who are the Craftworlds Eldar Characters?
With extended lifespans and psychic abilities far beyond most other races, the Eldar can devote themselves to ideals and goals that would be impossible for other creatures. It is this focus and devotion that leads many Aeldari to become known throughout the galaxy, performing near-legendary feats. Many Craftworlds Eldar characters are legends not only to the Eldar, but their names strike fear into their enemies’ hearts (if they have them).
The Farseers are amongst the wisest and most powerful Eldar.Ttheir psychic powers and ability to predict the future make them essential to divert the Aeldari from disaster, both on the battlefield and off. Eldrad Ulthran isn’t just a Farseer, he was once chief amongst them on Ulthwé. With a history spanning millennia, he has been involved in many of the major events of the last ten thousand years – including the Horus Heresy. Devoted to defeating Chaos through any means necessary, anyone would find Eldrad Ulthran a power to be reckoned with.
Some Eldar focus their attention on warfare, taking up arms in one of the many Paths that lead to the battlefield. Some take that even further, becoming Exarchs – warriors who can never leave the path, and live as combatants for the rest of their long lives. For a few, a further step exists, taking up the mantle of a Phoenix Lord. Each Phoenix Lord is a semi-immortal entity that exemplifies a path, and Jain Zar is one of the most famous of these. A Howling Banshee, Jain Zar takes to the battlefield in a whirlwind of scythe blades, screaming terror, and never-ending flow of fighting stances.
The founder of the Fire Dragons, Phoenix Lord Fuegan exists only to vent his rage on his foes in the form of terrifying billows of flame. With thousands of years of experience of war, Fuegan is a terrifying foe on the battlefield, striding forth to setall to fire and ruin in his quest to destroy the enemies of the Aeldari.
Phoenix Lord Karandras hails from the Striking Scorpions, and is unique amongst the Phoenix Lords in that he was not the first Striking Scorpion to hold that title. Specialising in attacks from the shadows, Karandras is a deadly opponent who can often be found killing before his foes even know he’s there.
The Eldar don’t just lay claim to ground warfare, through the Swooping Hawk Aspect they master aerial combat as well. Phoenix Lord Baharroth is terror-from- the-sky incarnate, descending to deal swift justice without mercy or hesitation.
The Harvester of Souls and first of the Dark Reapers, Phoenix Lord Maugan-Ra is a grim figure to behold. Clad in bones and wielding a colossal scythe-like cannon, he deals death to all who cross him, especially amongs the forces of Chaos.
The first of all Phoenix Lords, Asurmen was the founder of the Dire Avengers Aspect Path, one of the most numerous Aspects of all. He is an exemplar of precision on the battlefield, devastating enemies with his elegant approach to warfare.
Perfection and discipline is key to survival for the Aeldari, and no one personifies this more than Prince Yriel. Devoted to the perfection of warfare, Prince Yriel can be found wherever the fighting is thickest, leading his armies to victory across the known galaxy.
If one day on a distant planet you hear a loud noise – duck. It is most likely Illic Nightspear, armed with his longrifle Voidbringer, taking a shot at your head. If the Eldar need a target removed and cannot get close to them, then Illic Nightspear is who they call upon. Able to inflict death at a colossal range, Illic Nightspear’s rifle is often the last thing many opponents hear.
The Avatar of Khaine
If one were to meet an Eldar they would be struck by their poise, elegance, and unearthly calm. Deep within them, however, rages a fire that will burn forever. The avatar of this fury is Khaine, the Aeldari god of war and murder. The Avatar of Khaine strides forth when the Eldar need it most, molten iron bursting from its skin, and blood ever-pooling beneath its hands. The Avatar walks the battlefield as a living embodiment of the rage of the Aeldari, causing entire armies to flee before it.
Craftworlds Eldar in 9th edition
With the release of the 9th edition of Warhammer 40,000, fans saw a lot of armies undergo drastic changes that meant almost having to re-learn how to play. Craftworlds Eldar have experienced the knife of rebalancing much the same as others, and without a codex available at the time of writing, there are many more changes ahead for the stalwart Aeldari.
Craftworlds Eldar have experienced the knife of rebalancing
Even without a codex of their own, Craftworlds Eldar have undergone some rapid developments following Games Workshop’s drive to encourage armies to play to their strengths. Here’s the good, and the things you need to watch out for, when you play Craftworlds Eldar in 9th edition Warhammer 40k.
In 9th edition, Craftworlds Eldar are a highly mobile force that can be spread across the board in surprising ways, long before your opponent has prepared for your arrival. Most vehicles you’ll have access to have the Fly keyword, and jetbikes are now aplenty, meaning you’ll be moving vehicles and characters up in your enemy’s grill, or taking objectives before they know what’s happening.
Eldar wouldn’t be Eldar without psychic powers, and we’re happy to report that this remains true in 9th edition. With three different Psychic Disciplines, there’s a colossal number of psychic abilities to choose from. Particularly noteworthy is Protect/Jinx, a Runes of Battle ability that gives a friendly unit +1 to saving throws or -1 to an enemy.
Doom, a Runes of Fate ability, lets you re-roll failed wound rolls made against an enemy unit within 24”. Finally, Focus Will, a Runes of Fortune ability, gives a friendly psyker +2 to their cast rolls during the current phase. These only scrape the surface of what’s possible for Craftworlds Eldar psykers; you’ve got a great well of abilities to choose from.
God-emperor: Our Warhammer 40k Imperium factions guide
There are a ton of Warlord Traits to select in 9th edition, with the absolute best being reserved for Custom Craftworlds. They get access to Expert Crafters, simply one of the best Warlord Traits available to Eldar players. With it, you’ll get to re-roll one hit and one wound roll each time a unit shoots or fights. That means your damage just got an incredible buff, giving you the ability to chip away at your foe with impunity.
Characters and HQ models have also seen their value increase for Craftworlds Eldar in 9th edition. Along with a points cut due to the changes in how they can avoid fire, models such as the Farseer Skyrunner and the Warlock Skyrunner have seen their competitiveness skyrocket. With access to impressive buffs, debuffs, and commanding mobility, your HQ models in 9th edition will be the core of any army you make.
On the other hand, Craftworlds Eldar can be a tricky force to play, which mainly stems from one core aspect: their fragility. Eldar are psykers and warriors without peer, but as in their lore, they are fragile and few in number. This means that, on the board, a careless commander can quickly see their army cut down, and any Eldar army simply won’t have the numbers of bodies to casually throw around without forethought.
Overall, 9th edition Craftworlds Eldar play much like you would expect them to, if you’ve read their backstory. They’re fast, brilliantly psychic, and have specialised units and characters that can be used to devastating effect. This is balanced with difficulties in going toe-to-toe with opponents and dealing with sustained battles, so any Eldar army must be played with foresight and careful preparation.
Starting a Craftworlds Eldar Army
Building your own Craftworlds Eldar army, regardless of how you play them on the battlefield, is a pure joy. Eldar models are delicate, beautifully balanced, and can veer into the territory of artwork when painted right. Any Eldar army you build will bring you deep pleasure to simply look at, and that’s something that can’t be understated when approaching an army.
In terms of the battlefield, however, the best option with which to start your army is the Start Collecting! Craftworlds box. This will give you a strong, small, agile force comprising a Farseer, 5 Wraithguard, a Wraithlord, and a War Walker, which gives you many of the most iconic models from the Eldar range.
From there, we would recommend bulking out your units, as you’ll have a few models on the board, but losing even one could derail your entire strategy. Some Dire Avengers make sense for any Craftworlds army, as they are the workhorse of the Eldar gunline.
If you want to swap out your Farseer for a different HQ, then the Farseer Skyrunner and Warlock Skyrunner are the best bets for characters who will stay alive, provide valuable buffs and debuffs, and help control the tide of battle.
Now it’s time to take over the board; plunging fast attack models directly onto objectives or your opponent’s most valuable units. We’d recommend a few Shining Spears who are currently performing very well in 9th edition. With some of these jetbike-riding lancers under your wing, you’ll be able to Deep Strike into key locations, or simply roll across the battlefield, making nowhere safe for your enemy.
Cultist carousel: Read our Warhammer 40k Chaos factions guide
Next you’ll want to bring a taste of death to the field. Dark Reapers are ideal for this, given they’re able to shoot at a huge distance, and have some of the best ranged stats in the entire game. In addition, their Fire and Fade ability means they can pop in and out of cover with ease. This boosts their survivability, making them a true thorn in your opponent’s side.
Finally, you’ll want your units to stay alive. We’d recommend a Wave Serpent for this. A dedicated transport ship that’s equipped with a shield, its durability will keep all cargo in its levitating troop belly happy.
Now you should have a force that will form the core of any Craftworlds Eldar army you choose to field. Combining fast attacks, flexible psychic abilities, and units that can deal incredible damage, this army should see your opponents have a very bad time indeed. With care and attention, a Craftworlds Eldar force can match anything. Remember to play smart and you’ll soon come out ahead. Show those filthy Mon Keighs who’s boss.