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So, simple answers please guys:
Which of the Leman Russ derivatives should I bring with me?
I'm an absolute beginner;
Primarily facing Dark Eldar;
Not clever enough to figure out how to magnetise different weapons;
Only 500 pts, 1000 max (yes I do want a russ in my small pts game).
Which Russ variant and What upgrades if any?
Vanilla, lascannon, h. Bolter sponsons.
Really depends on what the rest of your list looks like. If you are just looking at the tanks in general can't go wrong with any of the following three:
1) Demolisher w/ Hull Heavy Flamer
2) Leman Russ Vanilla
3) Leman Russ w/ Hull Lascannon
Personally speaking I'd go a standard Leman Russ (long range and dirty enough against DE with the Battle Cannon), give it Plasma Sponsons and a Hull Lascannon. Oh and go for the searchlight, can't remember if they are standard or not, but fit it anyhow. DE like it dark.
The standard LRBT with a hull lascannon will never let you down regardless of opponent. The Exterminator, Eradicator and Executioner would also be good choices against Dark Eldar. The Eradicator can waste entire squads of light infantry, the Executioner is best for killing Monstrous Creatures like the Talos and the Exterminator is a transport-killer.
Avoid sponsons as a general rule. They can be useful but create issues with mobility, modeling and cost-effectiveness. The hull bolter is also a poor choice. I like hull lascannons because they combine well with the main gun but the flamer option is good, too...especially against space elves with tiny-ranged guns.Hail, fellow treadhead!(yes I do want a russ in my small pts game).
"My tanks have names, my men have numbers." -Col. Edmund Grahvess, 23rd Kronecker Prison Guard
The Vanilla Russ is awesome and will make him want to close sooner rather than later. Don't be sad if it eats lance shots the whole game, the AV14 is mighty tempting, but think of it as a shield for your Chimeras. The multilasers will do great vs his AV10 raiders so him shooting the Russ isn't such a bad thing. I'd deploy it well in cover so he has to beat your cover save too.
Copy, Improve, Innovate
I'll have to back up everyone else here and tell you not to overlook the plain old vanilla Russ with a lascannon. STR 8 ordinance vs. AV 10 open topped = dead Dark Eldar. Keep your Russes in cover, since they're going to be fire magnets for dark lances. Don't worry though, that's what you want them to be shooting at. Even with lances, Russes in cover can be a very tough nut to crack for DE. Meanwhile, your pie plates of doom are equally effective against their vehicles and whatever's inside.