When I first came to Warseer seeking advice for improving my Eldar gameplay, I was horribly puzzled by the often repeated yet hardly ever properly explained advice that "Eldar units have to support each other".
I believe I am starting to understand how Synergy works, and the more I do the more I believe said advice to be of little use for fresh Warlocks and Autarchs.
Let me explain: At starting point levels -and I believe every fresh Eldar player should start out at 750 and slowly work his way up, coming back to 1K now and then- points are, obviously, at a premium. Paying 200+ points for a pure support squad and its transport just never worked for me, I'd much rather have a few hard hitting things that could stand on their own.
Looking back now, I think I missunderstood some of the advice. The way I see it now, it's not so much about using two or three units totaling at 600+ points to take out a single enemy squad worth 120 points (and this exact example has come up in recent tactica discussions here on Warseer).
I think the best summary of this approach to Eldar synergy can probably be made as:
Specialist units with vulnerabilities benefit from other specialist units in support range that can cover for their weaknesses.
The thing is, there is no general supporting. What I would tell a new player is: Don't bother until you get a good feeling for which units actually need the support of others.
Case in point, when I plan to run a Banshee Serpent up the flank of a Marine army, I'm extremely worried about Dreadnoughts as they should be tremendous deathpits for Banshees.
None of that bothered me overmuch in the past - as long as one doesn't face a Dreadnought one doesn't have to think about anti-Dreadnought strategies (even though I personally do try to keep a step ahead of my regular opponents, which might be the reason behind my current W-D-L ratio...)
But these days, before I ever take Banshees, I always make sure I have Fire Dragons or a Seer Council on my list already.
Now, I know some of the more experienced ("competitive") players will roll their eyes, a debate might break out on whether Banshees are *ever* worth taking, but that's not the issue I am talking about.
What I am talking about is that there should always be a specific thought, motive or reason when you talk about units supporting each other. There is no universal synergy - which I think is a paradox in itself.
So, my position is this: New Eldar players shouldn't bother too much with all the cryptic advice about mutual support and synergy. I think it is unreasonable to ask new players to look at units in anything else but a vacuum. An understanding of Synergy can only come with familiarity of the units and their strengths and limits.
And most of all, I think more experienced players should stop handing out the generalistic advice "Eldar units need to support each other". If you want to help less experienced players, give them specific combinations of squads that work well together and explain where their synergy comes from, but don't give them the feeling they are doing something wrong if they don't apply a mantra that doesn't really make much sense to them (yet).
Generally speaking, I think I would suggest avoiding to speak about synergy in general, vague terms at all. It's not only not helpful, it's also confusing. and that is never a good thing.
- - -
Finally, coming back to the issue of Banshees and the question if they are even worth taking, I'd like to get something else off my chest:
Speaking about units as if they were in a vacuum is generally agreed upon to be a bad thing. Yet so many people here talk about tactics and strategies (i.e. army composition) as if they happened in a vacuum.
One of the best signatures I've seen so far reads (something like):
"There is no single formula to determine the best solution, that can only ever be achieved by looking at every available option and comparing their relative pros and cons."
To put this in other words: Claiming that there are no or only a few competitive builds for any army is pretty subjective. I might be wrong here, but I think it depends a lot on situational circumstances, most of all the local metagame and the environment we, each of us individually, play in.
I will admit that certain builds work better all around, but squads that are useless in one environment can work pretty well in another. Heck, I've seen some of my own Eldar units switch from so-good-they-are-broken to so-bad-they-are-broken as my regular opponents expanded their strategies and model collections.
As I said, it's hard to argue the value of any given unit in a vacuum. I wonder how long it will take for me to switch from a strong a proponent of 3-strong Jetbike units to a critic of them. And when I do, it won't be because the models have different rules or stats all of a sudden. The game changes and evolves, at least for many of us.
I'll have to make a cut now, but before I do, I want to say:
I'm not trying to argue one way or the other, I'm not trying to bash anyone here, I'm just running out of time to shine light on both sides of the issue right now. I'll be back eventually. The topic at hand, anyway, is the issue of Synergy and whether it is understood correctly, whether we all mean the same when we talk about it.