Wargear Analysis: Top Relics in the 40K Universe (Part II)

Continuing to look at what I consider the “top 10” Relics in 40K right now:


 

[6] KUROV’S AQUILA (Astra Militarum) — Taken by Company Command Squad Officer only, this gives all friendly AM units within 6″ Preferred Enemy and also allows the Bearer’s squad to re-roll a single failed Ld test per turn.

*Rationale: A very simple, but exceptionally powerful, Relic. There are so many application to being able to give out a Preferred Enemy “bubble” in your army, but some of my favorite include giving it to nearby Leman Russ Executioner squadrons (PE allows re-rolls for Get’s Hot and also make the Plasma Blasts wound on a re-rollable 2+ against most infantry), infantry blob squads (this works for both shooting and close combat, don’t forget), nearby Basilisk batteries (basically auto-wounding anything they hit), and even the Command Squad itself (i.e. jump out of a Chimera or Valkyrie and unleash 9 x S7 AP2 Plasma shots, all with Preferred Enemy). This is especially outstanding because it is not limited to just one unit, but applies to all units with even just a single model within 6″ of the Bearer…. entire Astra Militarum gun-lines can improve both their accuracy and damage output with shrewd positioning of squads around this Relic. Finally, that re-roll of an Ld test can apply to an Officer of Fleet in the Command Squad, making his Ld7 much more reliable when trying to improve your Reserves or deny your opponent’s Reserve rolls. While it is expensive points-wise (12 MBs), I think almost any AM commander would do well to find a way to bring Kurov’s Aquila in their army list.

[7] PURETIDE ENGRAM NEUROCHIP (Tau) – Gives Bearer the ability to choose one of the following abilities each turn: Tank Hunter, Monster Hunter, Stubborn, Furious Charge, and Counter-attack.

*Rationale: While Furious Charge and Counter-attack only apply to the model and are generally not that great in a Tau army (where you almost never want to be in combat), Tank Hunter, Monster Hunter, and Stubborn all impact the entire unit that the Bearer is attached to. Stubborn is the worst of these three, since it is mostly useful for the Assault Phase and, again, it is already a very bad thing for Tau if you are having to use it there. All that said, being able to give “free”/automatic Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter to any unit that an IC attaches to is exceptionally useful, especially in the current Meta, where MCs, GMCs, and Battle Companies with loads of free vehicles abound. One excellent application of this Relic is attaching a Buffmander (Commander with Puretide Engram Neurochip, MSS, and C2 Node) to a max squad of Sniper Drones with an Ethereal attached as well… this gives you 27 TLed BS5 Sniper Shots at 24”, all with Ignore Cover and access to Monster Hunter… if you target an enemy Wraithknight, that averages 26-27 hits, 7-8 AP2 Wounds, and 5-6 Unsaved Wounds after FNP rolls… in other words, Sniper Drones with PENchip, Ethereal, and C2 Node support can straight up kill a Wraithknight in a single shooting phase, which is quite impressive! Alternately, if they can engage Magus the Red before goes into Swooping mode, they average 6-7 Unsaved Wounds on him a shooting phase (and that is accounting for a 3++ save for him), which should almost kill him or outright destroy him in a single volley. Against vehicles, combing the PENchip with Crises Suit Teams, Broadsides, or even Breacher Squads can dramatically improve their performance against armored targets. IMHO one of the best options is a 5 man Crises Suit Team with dual Missile Pods and Velocity Trackers and an attached Buffmander… this unit puts out 20 x S7 AP4 shots at 36”, all with built-in Ignore Cover, Twin-linking, and Tank Hunter… even against AV13 armor, that is an average of 4-5 stripped HPs a turn, without requiring any Marker Light support at all, and it can cause this same damage to AV13 Flyers as well, thanks to the Velocity Trackers on the Crises Suits.

[8] MEGA FORCE FIELD (Waaagh Ghazkull) – All models within 6” of the bearer get a 4++ save against Shooting attacks (if embarked on a vehicle, then only the Bearer’s vehicle gets a 4++, and not any nearby units).

*Rationale: Given Orks overall fragility to shooting (thank you T-Shirt saves), both in terms of troops and vehicles, the “normal” Kustom Force Fields carried by Big Meks are quite a valuable asset to any Ork army, since with savvy positioning of units you can reduce incoming damage by an average of 33%. Well, with the Mega Force Field Relic, you reduce enemy damage by an average of 50%, which obviously is a major force-multiplier for the army. While 6” makes for a somewhat limited “bubble” for this ability (and it only applies to MODELs, not entire units), it still can be a game-changer for everything from Trukk lists to Mek Gunz to War Bikerz to even foot slogging hordes, if you place the Mega Force Field Bearer in the right location. I think this works especially well with, say, a Big Mek on a Warbike riding behind multiple Battlewagons… you can probably fit 3-4 Battlewagons inside the Mega Force Field 6” radius, if they are packed tight together, and now you suddenly have multiple AV14 vehicles that shrug off 50% of the penetrating/glancing hits from shooting attacks against them, which in turn dramatically increases their chances of delivering their passengers into combat, which is where all Orks want to be of course! Another effective use of this Relic is attaching it to a group of Nob Bikerz and using it to help them get across the battlefield safely, especially since there are multiple threats these days that can ignore the Nob Bikerz’ Jink saves (i.e. Wyverns, Tau units with MMS Relic, Imperium units with Hunter’s Eye Relic, Leman Russ Exterminators, any Tau units with ML support, any units with the Perfect Timing and/or Phase Form power cast on them, Necron Tomb Blades with the right upgrades, Template weapons of all kinds, AM units with the Fire on my Target! Order, etc. etc.)

 

[9] MASK OF SECRETS (Harlequins) / ARMOUR OF MISERY (Dark Eldar) – The Armor of Misery reduces the leadership of enemy units within 6” by -2 and also gives the Bearer a 4+/6++, which is a boost for most DE characters. The Mask of Secrets makes the Shadowseer carrying it Fearless (only Shadowseers can take it) and reduces the leadership of all enemy units within 12” of the Bearer by -2 (Note: Nothing prevents the effects of these two Relics from stacking for -4 Ld).

*Rationale: The uses of these two Relics are myriad, whether used separately or in conjunction with Dark Eldar/Harlequin allies. They can improve the chance of breaking enemy units in close combat, they can allow you to inflict lots of wounds with Dark Eldar Phantasm Grenade Launchers, and they make all kinds of Psychic shenanigans possible. I think one of the best applications for these Relics is as follows: take a Succubus with WWP/Armor of Misery and Shadowseer with Mask of Secrets. Use the WWP to Deep Strike them both with no scatter 1″ away from the enemy model/unit that you want to “assassinate,” in this case, let’s say it’s a Riptide. You subtract -2Ld for the Armor of Misery and -2Ld for the Mask of Secrets, making the Riptide/Drones Ld5. You then either use the “Mirror of Minds” power from the Shadowseer or, if you did not roll that up, use Psychic Shriek (which is guaranteed, as a Primaris power). If you have and successfully cast Mirror of Minds successfully, then the Riptide is basically guaranteed to die, since the Riptide has Ld5 and, adding a D6, the highest it can get is a “11,” while the Shadowseer has Ld10 and adding a D6, the lowest it can get is an “11.” This means that the Shadowseer will always tie or be higher and so will keep inflicting wounds on the Riptide until it dies, since there is no way to stop the “chain” by having the Riptide get a higher “sum” than Shadowseer. If you do nor roll up Mirror of Minds, then at least you can use Psychic Shriek, which with 3D6 gets an average roll of 11. Subtract Ld5 from this and you have automatically inflicted 6 wounds on the Riptide with Ignore Armor and Cover (so only Invuls and FNP, if it has Stimulant Injectors, can protect it). I think using Psychic Shriek like this can work well on other MCs or even on dangerous enemy units like Wulfen, Grav Centurions, Dreadknights, etc. and remove a lynchpin unit in an enemy army with high reliability.

 

[10] MOMENTO-MORTISPEX (Belisarius Cawl unlocks for Imperium Armies) — At the start of each of your turns, choose one of the following rules to apply to the Bearer and their unit (or weapons as appropriate): Cognis Weapons (BS2 Snapfire, Flamers do 3 hits rather than D3 with Wall of Death in overwatch), Monster Hunter, Skyfire or Tank Hunter.

*Rationale: This may be my favorite Relic in the entire game, just for the sheer diversity it provides and how it plugs a kinds of gaps in an arm without being super expensive (i.e. need some way to deal with Flyers/FMC, but don’t want unbalance your carefully crafted army list with otherwise one-dimensional AA Tanks… take this Relic; need to have a potent anti-tank unit, but you do not normally have access to Tank Hunters… again, take this Relic). Some of the best units to use this on include Grav Centurions, Astra Militarum blob squads, Kataphron Destroyers, Sternguard/Deathwatch Veterans, Deathwatch Terminators with CMLs, Grey Knight Purifiers with multiple Psycannons, Devastator/Long Fang squads, Gunslinger Vanguard Veterans, Sanguinary Guard with Inferno Pistols, Quad Mortar Batteries, AM Command Squads, Ravenwing Black Knights, and even on a Techpriest Dominus in a Cohort Cybernetica. For only 6 MBs, this Relic provides so much flexibility and is guaranteed to work every turn, with no leadership test or harnessing of Warp Charges required. Aside from the high “tax” of taking Belisarius Cawl to unlock it, I think this would be useful in pretty much every Imperial Army. (Note: I am not sure this is intended or that it will be legal after future FAQs, but right now it appears that an Imperial Knight which is a Character, like the High King in an Exalted Court, can take this Relic, which would make it IMMENSELY more powerful in a number of different applications… i.e. imagine Avenger Gatling Cannons, Rapid Fire Battle Cannons, and Stormspear Rocket Pods all firing with Tank Hunter, Monster Hunter, or Skyfire, for example).


 

Later I will post some “Second Team All-Pro/Honorable Mention” Relics that are still good, but not quite as universally amazing as these 10 that I have already looked at.

Wargear Analysis: Top Relics in the 40K Universe (Part I)

I have been looking through all the different armies in 40K and here is my take on the top Relics in the game right now, the ones a competitive list should not leave home without (in no particular order):

 

[1] GORGON’S CHAIN (Iron Hands) — Gives Bearer a 3++, Eternal Warrior, and +1 to his FNP (does not replace a weapon); as the Bearer loses wounds, this item loses some of its benefits (but regains them it the Bearer regains the wounds somehow).

*Rationale: Not only is this one of the great durability enhancing Relics in the game (especially when combined with something like a Narthecium from an attached Command Squad or the Endurance power) but, unlike the Shield Eternal, you do not lose out on the ability to fight with two close combat weapons for +1A when using it. The classic way to use it is with an Iron Hands Chapter Master… give him a bike, Artificer Armor, PF, LC, and the Gorgon’s Chain and attach him to a Biker Command squad and you have a character that is 4W, T5, 2+/3++, with IWND and FNP(3+)… on top of this, he puts out either 6 PF or 6 LC attacks on the charge at WS6, so a true close combat beast on almost every level.

 

[2] HUNTER’S EYE (White Scars) / MULTI-SPECTRUM SENSOR SUITE (Tau) — Both of these relics do exactly the same thing, which is allow the shooting of their unit to Ignore Cover, with no test of any kind required (the Tau MSS only works if its bearer does not shoot himself, while the Hunter’s Eye still allows its bearer to shoot and benefit from Ignore Cover).

*Rationale: I don’t think I need to explain how powerful these two Relics are, especially when combined with a powerful shooting unit, since Cover Saves are one of the key forms of survivability for everything from hordes of light infantry to Jinking Bikes/Skimmers/FMCs to even vehicles using Smoke Grenade Launchers. Being able to remove this protection with 100% reliability is amazing and can be a game-changer in almost all circumstances. Some of the best uses for these Relics include attaching their bearer to Grav-Cannon Centurions, Missile-side Teams, Long Fangs with Plasma Cannons behind a Haemotrope Reactor, and Deep Striking Crises Suit Teams (with almost any weapons configuration), though the possibilities really are almost endless. Imperium forces probably get the most out of an attached White Scars IC with the Hunter’s Eye, since there are no limitations to its abilities and since Tau already have easy access to Ignore Cover via Markerlights, but these two Relics are definitely in the “don’t leave home without them” category.

 

[3] GRIMOIRE OF TRUE NAMES (Chaos Daemons) — Roll a dice, on a 3+ you cause the target friendly Daemon unit to improve its Invul save by +2, on a 1 or 2 roll, then they make it worse by -1.

*Rationale: Another of the most “famous” Relics (since several Chaos Deathstars are built around it), in conjunction with the Cursed Earth power (from Malefic Daemonology) you can bring a selected Daemon unit up to a 2++ (which becomes re-rollable if the are a Daemon of Tzeentch). Combine this with a powerhouse unit, like a Daemon Prince/Daemonic MC, a horde of Flesh Hounds, or even allied CSM Daemons (like Possessed, Obliterators, and Warp Talons) and you have a durable, mobile, and deadly unit which cannot be ignored, but also can shrug off entire armies worth of combat power. Of course, there is some risk associated with it, but that is why so many Daemon players us Fateweaver for the re-roll to the Grimoire (i.e. it goes from a 66% chance of success to an 88% chance with Fateweaver support).

 

[4] TALISMAN OF BURNING BLOOD (World Eaters) — Add 3″ to the Movement, Run, and Charge distances of the Bearer and his unit.

*Rationale: Another very powerful relic that you can build an entire Khorne army around. One of the best builds I can think of for this is a unit of World Eater Bikers from the Butcherhorde detachment, along with up to five attached Chaos Lords on Juggernauts… give the Talisman of Burning Blood to one of the Lords and outfit the rest with close combat Relics and you have a unit that is T5 across the board, hits like a freight train thanks to Rage + Furious Charge + Khorne Relics (and can even split into six different units to charge multiple elements of your opponent’s army), and also has ridiculous mobility. How much mobility? Well, this unit gets a free 2D6″ movement before the game begins (which does not prevent charging on turn 1, unlike Scout), can move “normally” up to 15″, then charge another 2D6+3″ (with re-rolls for failed charges), which gives it an average Turn 1 charge threat radius of 32″… pretty impressive! As I mentioned, the whole unit can use this, then split up later turns to maximize the “choppiness,” and generally cause all kinds of problems for an opposing army, especially a shooting-based force like Tau or even Eldar.

 

[5] ASTRAL GRIMOIRE (Thousand Sons) — The bearer can make one friendly unit within 12″ (this can be his unit, if he wants) into Jump Infantry for the Movement Phase each turn, with no requirement of any kind of Psychic or Leadership test.

*Rationale: This is one of my favorite Relics, and one that I have already tried building an army around, because it is so reliable and literally doubles the mobility and flexibility of otherwise slow-moving units, be it Scarab Occult Terminators, Obliterators, 20 man blobs of Rubric Marines, Possessed, or even Tzaangor Warherds. Add in some Psychic support to make the unit even more durable and potent in shooting and/or close combat and the Astral Grimoire can really turn a good unit into an elite, “flagship” battle group for your whole army that will be a threat to all kinds of opponents. So far, my favorite build is 10 x Thousand Sons Terminators with Combi-Meltas, Chainfists, Reaper Autocannons, and an attached PML(3) Sorceror (he carries the Astral Grimoire for the unit)… if you get a blessing off on the unit, then the Terminators can move 12″ a turn, shoot either Bolters/Reaper Autocannons or Meltas/Reaper Autocannons, and charge in with their Chainfists, all while rocking 2+/3++ saves to make for a unit that can really do a mix of everything well.

 


OK, that’s it for now, will look at the remaining Top 10 later, plus some honorable mentions in there as well 😉

Reborn Warhost: Wraithguard, WWPs, Harlequins, and the Yncarne

I have been looking at the new Reborn Warhost detachment from the Fracture of Biel-Tan book some more and trying to come up with an army that maximizes the many options provided by this force structure.

A few things that jumps out to me, now that the various “Reborn” Eldar can mix and match from Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Harlequins as a single faction (i.e. they are the Ynnari faction now, and so lose Battle Focus/Power from Pain, but gain Strength from Death and the related ability to use “Soulburst” when a unit is destroyed within 7″ of one of their units) are the following:

[1] Wraithguard with attached Dark Eldar ICs and WWPs are very deadly, especially now that they can “chain” together bonus Shooting phases in a single turn via Soulburst, if they kill a unit outright when they arrive by Deep Strike (which they are almost guaranteed to do, given massed D weapons). Being able to Deep Strike with no scatter is in and of itself exceptionally potent, but when you combine that with T6/3+ save model who are all packing 12″ range D weapons, you have a squad that can basically “point and remove” enemy units at well, even if they are Deathstars, Super-Heavies, etc. I think Wraithguard squads combine particularly well with an attached Succubus with Archite Glaive and WWP, since the Ghost Warriors give the unit majority T6 (thus allowing it to soak up lots of small arms fire that would normally be a major threat to the Succubus) and the Wych HQ provides very potent close combat ability that the Wraithguard inherently lack (i.e. 5 x WS8 S4 AP2 attacks at I8 on the charge).

[2] Harlequin Troups have always been top-notch in melee, but in their stand-alone codex lacked the combination of mobility and mass (i.e. they could not take max size squads in their transport, since the Starweaver only carried up to 6 passengers) to get into combat reliably and you were usually limited to 3 or less Troups anyway, based on what Formation or detachment they were taking. Well, the Reborn Warhost solves both of these problems, allowing you to take up to 6 Troups if you desire and, for three of these squads, you can include 10 models and load them into Ynnari faction Dark Eldar Raiders from the Fast Attack slots, which gives you some target saturation and lots of mobility to get your Killer Clowns into close combat, where they belong. Finally, since Harlequin Troups did not have “Battle Focus” or “Power through Pain,” they lose nothing by becoming Ynnari faction and in fact gain the bonus of “Soulburst” abilities, which can make them go from strong to down-right devastating (i.e. imagine a Troup of 9 Harlequin players and attached Shadowseer moving up 6″ in their transport and disembarking 6″ , then the Shadowseer casts the “Word of the Phoenix” power from the new Revenant discipline, which allows them to Soulburst and get a “free” additional 6″ move, followed by a 2D6″ charge, with re-rolls from Fleet, giving them a charge threat range of between 20-30″ in a single turn, with an average charge threat range of 27″). Additionally, if the Harlequin Troup destroys an enemy unit in close combat, then it can use Soulburst to try and charge another nearby enemy unit in that same assault phase, which both keeps the Harlequins in combat (and clear of enemy shooting, which is very dangerous for them) and ties up/destroys another enemy unit altogether.

[3] At first the Yncarne is not an overwhelming powerful looking Lord of War choice, especially given its high points cost (40MBs) and somewhat limited abilities (i.e. no Shooting ability outside of Psychic Witchfires, a MC with only 6″ movement per turn, etc.). Where he really shines, though, is his ability to “teleport” with no scatter to any location where a unit (friend or foe) was just completely destroyed (he can do this all game long, as many times as he wants, and can even use it to come out of DS Reserve onto the table as early as Turn 1). Additionally, he has an aura which gives all friendly Ynnari forces within 12″ Fearless and FNP, which is a big deal, especially for some of the units I have mentioned above (i.e. Wraithguard, Succubii, and Harlequin Troups all benefit significantly from these buffs). Finally, while it cannot charge on the same turn that it “teleports” to the site of a unit that was just destroyed, on the subsequent turn it can charge and the Yncarne can put out some very significant damage with its multiple S6 AP2 Fleshbane/Armourbane attacks, all at very high WS and Initiative.

So, taking all of these things together, I think a competitive “Reborn Warhost” detachment could look something like this:

HQ

-2 x Succubus (each with Archite Glaive, WWP) — 260 points

TROOPS

-3 x Harlequin Troups (each with 9 members, all with Harlequin Caresses) — 681 points

ELITES

-2 x Wraithguard Squads (each with 10 models with Wraithcannons) — 640 points

FAST ATTACK

-3 x Raiders (each with Night Shields and Disintegrator Cannons) — 210 points

LORD OF WAR

-Yncarne — 200 points

 

This list comes in just under 2000 points (which is the level I almost always play at) and, while a little light on model count (i.e. 3 vehicles and 50 infantry), it has very solid mobility, decent durability, and above average hitting power in both close combat (Harlequins/Succubus/Yncarne) and shooting (20 Wraithcannons!). While I don’t think this would be an easy, “point and shoot” army, in the hands of a skilled commander I think it could be very dangerous.

 

Gathering Storm II: Ulthwe Strike Force

Pulling out an oldie but goody from the Eye of Terror, with Gathering Storm II we have the “rebirth” of the Black Guardians, both as part of the Reborn Warhost detachment and a special formation called the Ulthwe Strike Force.

Black Guardians, Black Guardian Windriders, Black Guardian Vyper Squadrons, and Black Guardian War Walker Squadrons are based on their their “normal” Eldar counterparts, with a bump in points cost (+2 points per model for Guardians, +3 points per model for Windriders, +5 points per model for Vypers, and +5 points per model for War Walkers) and no access to Warlock squad leaders. For this extra points cost, the Black Guardians get a little more flexibility (they can either be equipped liked Guardian Defenders or Storm Guardians) and, more importantly, all four units gain the “Webway Assault” special rule, which gives them the ability to Deep Strike with no scatter, as long as they are more than 9″ away from any enemy units.

This ability to Deep Strike with no scatter, IMHO, is well worth the extra points costs and really bumps up the tactical flexibility and capability of all four of these units. What really makes them a competitive choice, however, is the Ulthwe Strike Force formation, which has the follow special rules: number one, if there are any Forces of Chaos units in your opponent’s army at all, the all members of the formation gain Stubborn and Preferred Enemy, which are quite useful but largely situational based on who you are fighting against. Second, and the real reason for taking this formation, is that if you include the max of four units, then you can begin rolling for them to come out of Reserves on Turn 1.

So, taking this all together, this means you can have four units of Black Guardians, Black Guardian Windriders, Black Guardian Vyper Squadrons, and Black Guardian War Walker Squadrons (in any combination) that can all come in from Reserve Turn 1, Deep Strike with no scatter, and then unleash massive firepower exactly when and where you want it… I think this is going to be a game changer formation and that it will work very well alongside other Eldar, Dark Eldar, Harlequin (Battle Brothers), Tau, and Imperium forces (Allies of Convenience ).

Here is are some thoughts on using each of the different Ulthwe Strike Force units:

[1] Black Guardians — I think the key with these ones are “go big or go home.” Given their relative fragility (i.e. T3, 5+ save) and the short range of Shuriken Catapults, you really want to Alpha Strike whatever your target is with maximum combat power and leave nothing left to attack you back with. Understanding that, if you take a squad of 20 Black Guardians with eighteen Shuriken Catapults and two Shuriken Cannon Weapons Platforms, you have the ability to put out 42 x BS4 S4 AP5 Bladestorm shots a turn at 12″ or less. That gives you the following average damage output:

*GEQs — 19 Unsaved Wounds

*Orks Boyz — 14 Unsaved Wounds

*MEQs — 8 Unsaved Wounds

*TEQs/Centurions — 5 Unsaved Wounds

*Riptides/Wraithknights — 3 Unsaved Wounds

*Daemon Princes — 6 Unsaved Wounds

*Hive Tyrants — 5 Unsaved Wounds

As you can see, from just one squad, that is some VERY significant damage output, so imagine pairing up two of these squads and Deep Striking them in with zero chance of scattering to vaporize a key enemy unit (or two) on turn 1. Of course, the key with this is to combine it with plenty of other dangerous threats so that you opponent doesn’t simply shoot your Black Guardians off the table the next turn in retaliation… I think things like massed Astartes Drop Pod units, massed MSU Eldar Jetbikes and Warp Spiders, Tau Battlesuit MSU lists, massed Astra Militarum Mechanized Veterans, Dark Eldar Raider spam, and/or Harlequin Troupe spam, can achieve this by providing so many targets that your opponent is over saturated (especially if you took out 1-2 of his key units turn 1 with a Black Guardian “alpha strike”).

[2] Black Guardian Windriders — We already know how great Windriders with Scatter Lasers are already, perhaps being the most under-costed unit in the game for the combination of mobility, durability, and firepower they possess. While Black Guardian Jetbikers cannot get Objective Secured and cost more than their conventional brethren, the ability to Deep Strike with no scatter Turn 1 makes them exceptionally potent units. Not only can you basically “null deploy” them (which takes away your opponent’s best chance of shooting them turn 1 and either destroying them or forcing them to Jink before they can shoot), but with no scatter deep strike, you can put their Scatter Lasers in EXACTLY the right place to engage enemy units with minimum threat of retaliation, hit the rear armor of enemy vehicles (usually AV10, which Scatter Lasers Glance on a 4+ and Penetrate on a 5+), and/or grab Objectives with no risk in a Maelstrom or Objectives heavy type mission. They get all this and still have all of the ridiculous mobility that Eldar Jetbikes are infamous for, making them a threat the entire rest of the game.

[3] Black Guardian Vypers — While not quite as dangerous (or cost efficient) as Black Guardian Wind Riders, a squadron 6 Vypers with dual Shuriken Cannons still puts out 36 x S6 AP5 Bladestorm shots at 24″ a turn, whether they are moving normally or arriving from Deep Strike, thanks to being a Fast Skimmer. Like with the Windriders, being able to Deep Strike with total precision means you can tear up the rear armor of an opposing vehicle squadron with maximum efficiency (i.e. on average, against AV10 rear armor, this squadron can drop 12 HPs a turn, which means they can kill an entire squadron of Leman Russes in a single volley). Additionally, due to the versatility of S6 and Bladestorm, a Black Guardian Vyper squadron can bring down enemy MCs or Heavy infantry with ease and even deal well with enemy hordes (i.e. a single 6 vehicle squadron with kill 20 Orks/Guardsmen/Cultists/Gaunts in one Shooting Phase, on average). Again, the problem is vulnerability to enemy return fire after they arrive, so placement and mutual support from friendly units is key to maximize the efficiency of Black Guardian Vypers. Finally, as a Fast Skimmer, Vyper squadrons can rapidly redeploy up to 30″ a turn, which makes them very useful for grabbing/contesting Objectives, getting into new firing positions, and/or escaping enemy forces that are closing in on them.

[4] Black Guardian War Walkers — Just like the three mentioned above, Black Guardian War Walkers are “glass cannons” with low survivability and very high damage output. War Walkers are the most expensive of the four options for the Ulthwe Strike Force, but in some ways they are the most versatile, with built-in Scout (so Outflank too), a 5++ save, the ability to tie enemy units up in melee in a pinch (since they are Walkers), and the ability to take two Eldar Heavy Weapons per model… this means you can kit them out for various roles, with everything from Heavy Infantry killers (i.e. dual Star Cannons, meaning a maxed out Squadron puts out 12 x BS4 S6 AP2 shots at 36″ a turn), Vehicle Hunters (i.e. up to 6 x BS4 Bright Lance shots a turn), or General Purpose Fire Support (i.e.dual Eldar Missile Launchers with 6 x Starshot, Plasma, or Starhawk missiles a turn for anti-tank/MC, anti-horde, or anti-flyer duties, respectively). Combine all this with Turn 1 no scatter Deep Strike and, in the hands of a skilled commander, they can be a finely-tuned “scalpel” for eliminating linchpin units of your opponent’s army before they even get a chance to engage.

Summarizing all this, you have to be careful and skillful when employing such fragile units, or your opponent will make you pay the price, but the ability to Deep Strike at the beginning of the game with no scatter is an exceptionally valuable ability for the entire Ulthwe Strike Force, making it a high-value ally for your army. One small note on maximizing this formation is that, if you can fit it in, I think it would be tremendously valuable to include an Autarch (via an Eldar CAD or Allied Detachment) in your army list, since his “Path of the Command” rule provides tremendous control over your Reserves and lets you reliably either bring in ALL of your Ulthwe Strike Force turn 1 for a massive Alpha Strike or, if necessary, keep them back until later in the game until certain conditions have been met (i.e. if you are playing Tau, eliminating some of their key units with Interceptor so they do not murder the Black Guardian forces as they arrive via Deep Strike).

Overall, I think this is going to be an exciting formation to play with and I am looking forward to trying it out as an ally in a couple of my current army lists.

Tactical Debrief: Ravenwing, Raptors, and the Archangels Orbital Intervention Force

I recently played a game with a new 2000 point army list that I have wanted to try out for a while.

Specifically, the list looked like this:

—RAVENWING STRIKE FORCE—

*Interrogator-Chaplain with Bike, Mace of Redemption (Relic)

*10  x RW Black Knights

*RS Land Speeder with TML and HB

 

—RAPTOR COMBINED ARMS DETACHMENT—

*Lias Issodon (WARLORD)

*Chapter Master with Bike, AA, SS, TH, Shield Eternal (Relic)

*5 x Bikes with 2 Grav Guns, Combi-Grav on Sgt

*5 x Bikes with 2 Grav Guns, Combi-Grav on Sgt

 

—ARCHANGEL ORBITAL INTERVENTION FORCE—

*5 x Assault Terminators (3 x TH/SS, 2 x Dual LC)

*5 x Assault Terminators (2 x TH/SS, 3 x Dual LC)

*5 x Assault Terminators (2 x TH/SS, 3 x Dual LC)

 

I was playing against a Death Guard Traitor Legion force, using their “Nurgle-specific” Decurion (i.e. the Death Guard Vectorium), which had lots of Plague Marines and CSM, plus a unit of Bikes, a squad of Havocs, a squad of Terminators, a Helbrute, and a Spawn (my opponent used the Chaos Warband and the Plague Colony as his two Core choices and the Spawn took up the mandatory Auxiliary choice).

As you already know, all Nurgle forces get +1T (from their Mark), FNP, Fearless, and Relentless as their “Legion Tactics” (but at the cost of -1I penalty to all units too). Additionally, the Death Guard Vectorium allowed them to re-roll FNP rolls of 1 and to gain Stealth against any shooting attacks 18″ away or greater. Finally, the Plague Colony has a 7″ aura of -1WS/-1I to all enemy units (he did not have the max number of units, so he did not get the -1T debuff, which would have been quite brutal). Taken all together, even though I think he was lacking in offensive hitting power (i.e. from Chosen, Obliterators, more Havocs, Heldrakes, etc.), my opponent’s list was VERY durable and ended up shrugging off significant amounts of damage from my army.

In term of my list/strategy, I attached Lias Issodon, the Biker I-C, and the Biker Chapter Master to the Black Knights and infiltrated the entire unit after he deployed, using Issodon’s WL Trait (we were playing The Relic and he had won deploy first/go first roll). I also placed the RW Land Speeder in LOS blocking cover in my DZ (since he has going first) and kept the two Bike squads and the Archangel OIF in reserve.

Looking at each of my units/battle groups, here is how they performed:

[1] Black Knights(Grade: A)/Issodon(Grade: A)/Biker I-C(Grade: A-)/Biker Chapter Master (Grade: B) —

My “deathstar” unit, but one that did not depend on any Psychic Powers to function. I had Infiltrate, Scout, Hit and Run, and Zealot on the unit via the various members and their rules. More importantly, I had a 2+ cover save on all the Bikers (Jink + Shrouded from Issodon), which was re-rollable due to the Ravenwing special rule (well, for all the Dark Angels, but not for the Raptors). Overall, this unit performed quite well, with solid shooting, close combat, and, most of all, DURABILITY… it absorbed all kinds of enemy shooting with no casualties and was able to move to the center of the board, pick up the Relic, and then eventually win combat with a bunch of Nurgle Marines (though I did lose the Chapter Master to his Nurgle Lord in a challenge)… once they won combat, I had Issodon take the Relic and start moving back to my DZ while the surviving Bikers shot/charged more of his remaining units. In the future, I would definitely take them again in conjunction with Issodon, but perhaps take only 5 in a Command Squad (Apothecary for FNP makes them even more difficult to shift) and trade out the Biker Chapter Master for something else. Finally, they also did a great job of “vectoring” in the Archangel OIF for no scatter DS (and charge) on Turn 2, using their Teleporter Homers.

[2] RW Land Speeder (Grade: A-) —

A very solid unit that jumped around all game and provided solid supporting fire with its two missile and 3 HB shots a turn. If there had been Objectives, I think it would have been even more useful, given that it has a 30″ displacement range (i.e. 12″ Move + 18″ Flat Out) each turn, but overall, I would consider taking it again.

[3] Grav Biker Squads (Grade: A-) —

These squads performed quite well also, coming out of Reserve and using their Relentless Grav to destroy his T6/FNP Nurgle Bikers and, in subsequent turns, shoot/charge other Chaos squads (though they were not too spectacular in close combat, especially against T5/FNP Nurgle troops, who were difficult foes for even my Terminators). These were my only ObSec units in the army and, given their relative speed, would have played an even more vital role if we were in a Maelstrom or Objectives focused game.

[4] Archangel OIF Assault Terminators (Grade: B-) —

These guys all came in on turn 2 and used the Black Knight Teleporter Homers to land with no scatter and then charge multiple Nurgle squads that were moving toward the Relic in the center of the table. Two squads charged his Terminators (who had themselves just arrived) and wiped them out in a single turn and the third squad multi-charged two Plague Marine/CSM squads (they had to conduct a Disordered charge anyway). Over the course of the game, I think I lost almost all (if not all) of my Terminators to combat with the Nurgle forces, in part because they had limited attacks on the charge, in part due to their durability with T5/FNP, and in part due to the Plague Colony debuff which made all my Terminators WS3/I3, which allowed his forces to strike simultaneously and to hit on 3+s (versus my hitting on 4+s). While the Assault Terminators did their job by destroying his Terminators and tying up several units, overall they were not as effective as I imagined they would be… I really think they need to “force-multiplied” somehow to maximize their useful in a competitive game…. I have been pondering this and I think I might try and swap them out for a Shadowstrike Kill Team with JP Vanguard, which can still use Issodon’s Locator Beacon for no scatter and do not suffer the drawbacks of a Disordered Charge when they assault from Reserve.

 

Overall, it was a good game with a very nice opponent and I learned a lot about what works (and what doesn’t work) with this new army list.

 

Assault Vehicles for All!

While I think there is a need for “macro-changes” in 8th edition to help rectify the current discrepancy between shooting and assault, one thing I think that would help accomplish this at the more immediate level would be to provide an additional, affordable assault transport for every major faction so that their close combat troop are not stuck with either footslogging, riding in non-Assault vehicle transports, and/or paying 200+ points for Assault Vehicles.

Here is my stab at making this kind of vehicle for each faction (minus Chaos Daemons):

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RETALIATOR APC — (FAST ATTACK choice for Space Marines, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Deathwatch, Sisters of Battle, Inquisition, and Chaos Space Marines) — 100 points

BS4   AV13/11/10   3HP (Vehicle, Tank, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 10 models (no Bulky/Very Bulky/Extremely Bulky models)

WAR GEAR:

-Pintle-mounted TLed Flamer (may upgrade to a TLed Melta Gun or TLed Plasma Gun)

-Siege Shield

-Omni Grenade Launcher — Every turn may choose to use Smoke Grenades (not limited to one use, unlike most vehicles) OR Concussion Grenades (enemy forces may not fire Overwatch at any unit that has disembarked from the Retaliator APC for the rest of the turn)

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Advanced Repair Servo — Can repair Immobilized or Weapon Destroyed results or a lost HP on itself each turn (instead of shooting or moving Flat Out) on a successful roll of a 5+

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TELEPORTATION POD — (FAST ATTACK choice for Grey Knights) — 80 points

BS4   AV13/13/13   3HP (Vehicle, Immobile)

Transport Capacity: None

WAR GEAR:

-Gatling Psycannon

SPECIAL RULES:

-Deep Strike

-Drop Pod Assault

-Psychic Pilot (3) — Always knows Force, Banishment, The Shrouding (from Telepathy), and “The Summoning” powers (“The Summoning” is a WC1 blessing with 72″ range and no LOS requirements that teleports one friendly Grey Knight non-vehicle unit or Walker unit to within 6″ of the caster with no scatter, using the rules for Deep Strike; you can upgrade it to a WC3 power which acts in the exact same way, except that the teleported unit can charge on the same turn that it is teleported)

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CERBERUS APC — (FAST ATTACK choice for Astra Militarum and Genestealer Cult) — 75 points

BS3   AV12/12/10   3HP (Vehicle, Tank, Fast, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 20 models

WAR GEAR:

-Pintle-mounted Quad Heavy Stubber

-Smoke Launchers

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Suppressive Fire — Any non-vehicle units hit by the Quad Heavy Stubber must take a Pinning Check at the end of the Shooting phase

—————————————

CHAMELEON — (FAST ATTACK choice for Craftworld Eldar and Harlequins) — 90 points

BS4   AV12/12/10   3HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Fast)

Transport Capacity: 12 models

WAR GEAR:

-TLed Shuriken Cannon

-Specter Holo-Matrix — Vehicle may re-roll failed Jink saves

-Star Engines

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Assault Vehicle

—————————————

SCORPION (FAST ATTACK choice for Dark Eldar and Harlequins) — 110 points

BS4   AV10/10/10   3HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Fast, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 18 models

WAR GEAR:

-6 x Black Venom missiles (72″ S6 AP1 Fleshbane)

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Unrivalled Assault Vehicle — Any units that charge into combat on the same turn that they disembark from this vehicle add +3″ to their charge range and gain +1S to all their close combat attacks during that fight sub-phase.

—————————————

KROOT WAR SKIFF (FAST ATTACK choice for Tau) — 60 points

BS3   AV11/11/11   3HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 16 models

WAR GEAR:

-2 x Heavy Kroot Guns

SPECIAL RULES:

-War Totems — Only Shapers, Kroot, Kroot Hounds, and/or Krootox may embark on this vehicle. On any turn that a unit disembarks from this vehicle, it gains Hatred, Rage, and Furious Charge for the rest of the turn.

—————————————

DA CHOPPA’ WAGON (FAST ATTACK choice for Orks) — 110 points

BS2   AV14/11/10   4HP (Vehicle, Tank, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 30 models

WAR GEAR:

-4 x TLed Big Shootaz

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per Ork Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-More Dakka! — All vehicle weapons can fire at full BS if the vehicle has moved 12″ or less

-Da Biggest to da Front! — Every Nob, Mega Nob, and/or War Boss in a unit that disembarks from this vehicles gains +1A until the end of the phase.

—————————————

NECRONTYR WAR BARGE (FAST ATTACK choice for Necrons) — 80 points

BS4   AV11/11/11   4HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Fast, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 10 models

WAR GEAR:

-Gauss Cannon (may upgrade to a Tesla Cannon)

-Quantum Shielding

SPECIAL RULES:

-Living Metal

-Combat Protocol Beacon — Any friendly Necron non-vehicle units within 12″ of this vehicle gain Hatred

—————————————

BROODOFEX (FAST ATTACK choice for Tyranids) — 130 points

WS3 BS3 S6 T6 W4 I2 A2 Ld8 Sv2+  (Jump Monstrous Creature)

WAR GEAR:

-Acid Spray

-Stinger Salvo

[***May take normal Biomorph upgrades, per Tyranid Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Fearless

-Instinctive Behavior (Hunt)

-Brood Beast — Up to 30 Termagaunts/Hormaguants, 15 Genestealers, or 10 Tyranid Warriors may ride on a Broodofex exactly as if they were embarked on an open-topped transport vehicle (i.e. they can all shoot their weapons, they can disembark 6″ and assault the same turn, they are vulnerable to Template Weapons due to the No Escape! rule, etc.).

Counter-Magnus Tactics: Space Marine Edition

I was recently at my local gaming store and, while playing a game of my own, watched a couple tables over as a player using the new Thousand Sons and Magnus handily defeat a pretty competitive Space Wolf player, who himself was running Wulfen and lots of vehicles (I had lost to that same Space Wolf player in past games myself). Ever since he was released, I have thought Magnus would be a very competitive LOW choice for any CSM players and, the more I look at him, the more I think he is very tough to deal with, even for very competitive tournament armies.

Looking at his basic stat line, he has the following:

WS7 BS7 S8 T7 W7 I7 A6 Ld 10 Sv4+/4++ (Flying Monstrous Creature) — Costs 130 MBs

*Special Rules — Adamantium Will, Deep Strike, Eternal Warrior, Fearless, Fleet, IWND, PML(5), VotLW, Daemon of Tzeentch (so re-roll saving throws of 1), Omniscient Eye (has LOS to all units on battlefield when using Psychic Powers), Unearthly Power (harnesses WCs on a 5+)

*Wargear — Blade of Magnus (S: User, AP2, Force, Soul Blaze, Transmogrify –> 6+ to Wound causes ID and models slain by this become Chaos Spawn) and Crown of the Crimson King (4++ save and ignore Perils of the Warp)

On top of all this, Magnus know all 7 Tzeentch powers, all 7 Change powers, and the unique Gaze of Magnus power (18″ S: D AP1 Beam power which requires harness 5 WCs successfully). As you can clearly see, Magnus is very durable (T7, W7, EW, re-roll saving throws of 1, can Swoop as a FMC, and 4++, which can boost to a 3++ whenever he has a Blessing cast on him), mobile (all the mobility benefits of being a FMC), strong in close combat (7 x S8 AP2 attacks on the charge, all at WS7 and I7 with the ability to make them ID via Force)), and, most importantly, able to put out ridiculous amounts of damage in the Psychic Phase (i.e. using up to 5 powers a turn, with everything from activating his Force Weapon to taking control of an enemy unit and shooting other enemy units with it to multiple Destroyer strength Witchfire abilities).

So, all of this begs the question, how can non-CSM players counter Magnus? Today I will look at this question from the perspective of a Space Marine player. Specifically, I think you have to break this question into two parts: (1) how to counter Magnus if you have first turn, before he go into Swooping Mode and cast a Blessing to up his Invul save to a 3++, and (2) how to counter Magnus the rest of the game, when he will almost always be Swooping and have a 3++ save due to casting blessings:

 

[1] Countering Magnus when you have 1st Turn — This is the significantly easier option of the two, since you don’t have to Snapshot at him (or use a Skyfire weapon) and since he only has his base Invul save. Solid options for Space Marines include the following:

a) 1st Company Task Force — Since Magnus is not a GMC, he does not have FNP and also is still vulnerable to Poison Weapons. Based on this, 2-3 squads of Sternguard in Drop Pods from a 1st Company Task Force can DS in turn 1, target Magnus with Preferred Enemy (thanks to the formation Special Rules), and then unload up to 20 Poison(2+) shots per squad on him while he is still in Glide mode. With even just one Sternguard squad like this, they average 20 shots, 15-16 hits, 15 wounds, and 6-7 unsaved wounds, which with some luck with bring down Magnus in a single volley.

b) Skyhammer Grav Devastators — Like above, if you bring in two squads of Grav Cannon Devastators turn 1, they have 40 shots, 26-27 hits, 19-20 wounds, and 8-9 unsaved wounds on average, which should statistically kill Magnus in Gliding mode before he can even get into the game.

c) Two Predator Annihilator Squadrons — With maxed out squadrons giving them Monster Hunter, two squadrons of 3 Predators each can put out 6 TLed Lascannon shots and 12 regular Lascannon shots. This averages out to 13-14 hits, 12-13 wounds, and 5-6 unsaved wounds after Invul saves on Magnus… not quite enough to kill him by themselves, but this still brings the LOW down to 1-2 wounds, which the rest of your army ought to be able to finish off with reasonable certainty.

d) 10 TH/SS Terminators and attached Inquisitor (with Rad Grenades and Relic that allows Hatred once a game) and Librarius Conclave (with Electrodisplacement) — Drop Pod in a unit right next to Magnus turn 1 (say a Tac Squad), then have the Librarius Conclave to use Electrodisplacement to “switch” themselves/Chaplain/Hammernators with the Drop Pod unit and subsequently charge Magnus that same turn. The Stormshields will help the unit absorb Magnus’ attacks and then, with 30 TH attacks they will average 22-23 hits (thanks to Hatred), 18-19 wounds (thanks to Rad Grenades bringing Magnus down to T6), and 7-8 Unsaved Wounds, which will kill him before can do any more damage to your army in later turns.

e) Shadowstrike Kill Team with two squads of 8 Vanguard Vets (all with PF/LC combo) — Since the Raven Guard Talon Strike force allows you to bring in Reserves starting turn 1, and the Shadowstrike Kill Team allows you to auto-pass Reserve rolls, you can Deep Strike and charge with the Vanguard Vets on turn 1 (with the Scouts able to prevent them from scattering, if properly positioned). Magnus will kill on average 4 Vanguard before they strike, meaning that the remaining 12 models get to hit back with 48 PF attacks, 24 hits, 16 wounds, and 6-7 unsaved wounds on Magnus when the dust settles (so he would either be dead on 1W at the end of the combat, which makes him easy to finish off next assault phase).

 

[2] Countering Magnus when he is Swooping and has a 3++ — This is the much harder path to travel, especially since it means you have to get a very high volume of powerful Skyfire shots to bring Magnus down:

a) 6 Grav Cannon/Missile Launcher Centurions with Land Raider Excelsior and Culexus Assassin support — The LR Excelsior can “cast” Skyfire on the Centurions and the Culexus, if moved within 12″ of Magnus, can “turn off” his Psychic abilities (including downgrading his 3++ back to a 4++, since the Blessing on him would be cancelled). Taken all together, the Centurions can then put out 30 Grav shots which average 20 hits, 15 wounds, and 6-7 unsaved wounds on Magnus. Throw in the additional 6 Krak Missiles with 4 hits, 2-3 wounds, and 1-2 unsaved wounds and you should be able to bring down a Swooping Magnus in one shooting phase, with average rolling.

b) 10 Sternguard with attached Librarian (with the Memento-Mortispex Relic) and Culexus Assassin support — If the Sternguard squad can get within 12″ of Magnus, the Librarian can give them Skyfire ( with the Memento-Mortispex Relic) and cast Prescience on them, in turn allowing them to unload on Magnus with 20 TLed Poison(2+) shots. On average, 20 shots like this yields 17-18 hits, and 14-15 wounds. Provided the Culexus is also within 12″ of Magnus to downgrade his Invul to a 4++, then the Sternguard would inflict about 6 unsaved wounds, leaving the Tzeentch LOW with 1W left, which the rest of your army ought to be able to bring down.

c) Two full batteries of Quad Mortars from the Red Hunters Chapter, a pair of Stormhawk Interceptor, and Culexus Assassin support — The Quad Mortars can use their Chapter Tactics on Turn 2 to both gain Skyfire, which allows them to put out 24 x S8 shots, resulting in about 16 hits, 10-11 wounds, and 4-5 unsaved wounds (if the Culexus Assassin is within range of Magnus). That leaves 2-3 wounds left, which the Stormhawk Interceptors ought to be able to finish off reliably between their 4 x Lascannon shots, 8 x Assault Cannon shots, and 4 x Krak Missiles (all firing at full BS on Magnus).

 

As you can see, taking on Magnus with Space Marines is quite difficult, especially if he is Swooping and has his Invul save bumped up by a Blessing, but these are some ways to try and deal with him early in the game, before he can do too much damage to your force. If you do succeed in killing him early, you should have a strong chance of defeating the rest of your opponent’s army, since Magnus is about a third of the total points in a 2000 point game.