Counter-Genestealer Cult Tactics: Eversor Assassin

We are just starting to see how competitive the new Genestealer Cult faction is and, from initial impressions and battle reports, it may actually be one of the top tier armies, especially in the hands of a skilled commander. Specifically, the unrivalled mobility provided by the “Cult Ambush” and “Return to the Shadows” rules, coupled with top-notch close combat abilities (i.e. lots of Rending attacks and the ability to Charge when arriving from Reserve/Turn 1), very reasonable unit costs, and highly competitive Psychic Powers all make them a very dangerous army to face.

Based on all this, I think one of the keys to dealing with a Genestealer Cult opponent is the ability to wipe out an entire unit in a turn, before they have a chance to “Return to the Shadows” to reappear somewhere else on the board and also, potentially, replenish their casualties, thanks to the Cult Insurrection rules. Some of this can be done via shooting, especially given the poor armor saves/low toughness of almost the entire army, but if you can beat Genestealer Cults at their own game in close combat, then this is potentially even more effective, since they cannot “Return to the Shadows” if they are within 6″ of an enemy unit (and, thus, cannot do so if they are locked in combat).

As I have thought about ways to effectively deal with Genestealer Cults, the Eversor Assassin stands out to me as a very solid “counter” option for any Imperium armies. Like all Imperial Assassins, the Eversor has the following stats:

WS8 BS8 S4 T4 W3 I7 A4 Ld10 Sv 4++

In terms of wargear, he comes with a Power Sword, MBs, an Executioner Pistol (can shoot with either a Poisoned Shot with no AP or a Bolt Pistol profile and can Overwatch at full BS, thanks to the Eversor’s Sentinel Array), and a Neuro-gauntlet (S: User AP- Fleshbane, Shred). He also has Frenzon, which allows him to charge 3D6″, vice the normal 2D6″, and gives him +3A on the charge, vice the normal +1A.

Finally, in terms of Special Rules, the Eversor has all the standard Assassin Rules (i.e. Fearless, Independent Operative, Infiltrate, Lightning Reflexes, Move through Cover, and No Escape), plus he has Fast Shot (may shoot his Executioner Pistol with 4 shots instead of 1), FNP, Furious Charge, and Bio-meltdown (when he dies, all models within D6″ suffer a S5 AP- hit).

As you can see from all these rules, the Eversor is really geared to be a “one man army” that takes down hordes of enemy light infantry all by himself… which is exactly what most of the Genestealer Cult faction is! 😉 Since almost all Genestealer Cult units have a 5+ save and T3 (the Patriarch is an exception, with T5 and 4+ save), the Eversor can do some amazing damage to almost any squad, if he gets the charge (which his Frenzon drugs help a lot with, giving him an average charge range of 11″).

For example, if an Eversor charges a 10 man squad of Hybrid Metamorphs (with Metamorph Claw upgrades and a Cult Icon), he can shoot 4 times with the Bolt Pistol profile of his Executioner Pistol, getting an average of 3.66 hits (thanks to BS8), 2.44 wounds, and so 2-3 dead Metamorphs from shooting. He then strikes at WS8 and I7 with 8 x S5 AP3 Power Sword attacks, yielding an average of 5.33 hits and 4.44 Unsaved Wounds, so another 4-5 dead Metamorphs, for a total of 6-8 Genestealer Cult models killed total. Assuming 3 Metamorphs survive, they get 9 x S6 AP- attacks back at WS5, yielding 4.5 hits, 3.75 wounds, and 1.25 Unsaved Wounds after the Eversor’s 4++ and FNP. Based on this, the Eversor survives and the Metamorphs lose combat by -7, meaning they have to run unless they roll a double 1… with I7 vs I4, the Eversor is quite likely to win the Sweeping Advance roll, wiping out the remaining Metamorphs if he does so. That is 110 points worth of models destroyed in a single turn by a single Assassin, who himself only costs 135 points… more importantly, the entire unit is wiped out (or at least severely wounded and locked in combat), meaning it cannot Return to the Shadows, replenish its casualties, and pop up somewhere else on the board.

Even against more elite combatants, like the Patriarch, the Eversor’s super high combat stats will allow him to hold his own… if the Patriarch is by himself (say you stripped off his Purestrain Genestealer bodyguard via shooting), the Eversor gets 8 x S5 AP3 attacks on the charge at WS8 I7 (so he and the Patriarch strike simultaneously and the Eversor hits on 3+s, while the Patriarch hits on 4+s), resulting in an average of 5.33 hits and 2.66 Unsaved Wounds, which might be enough to kill him in a single phase, if you roll lucky. Striking back simultaneously, the Patriarch gets 4 x S6 AP3 Shred/Rending attacks, resulting in an average of 2 hits, 1.94 wounds, and .64 Unsaved Wounds after FNP and Invul saves for the Eversor. As you can see, the Eversor is clearly set up to win this fight and, even if he doesn’t finish off the Patriarch in the first round, he should be able to finish off the Genestealer Cult HQ eventually with his WS8, 4++, and FNP shrugging off most of the damage from the Patriarch in subsequent Assault phases. Finally, even against Genestealer Cult vehicles, the Eversor has access to his MBs and, in a pinch, 8 x S5 attacks on the charge, which can wreck even Leman Russes (with their AV10 rear armor) with some luck, meaning he is a threat to everything from transports like the Goliath and Chimera to heavy tanks.

The key to all this, of course, is delivering the Eversor safely across the battlefield to charge range of the Genestealer Cult forces. His ability to Infiltrate can help here, as can tricks like borrowing allied transports (he can’t start in them, but can jump in them Turn 1), using fortifications with Escape Hatches to “sling shot” across the battlefield, and even Psychic Support (an allied Space Marine Librarian can drop in right next to a Genestealer Cult target with a Drop Pod, then cast Electrodisplacement to “swap” places with the Eversor on Turn 1, after which the Eversor can immediately charge the enemy that same turn). Alternately, if you have more of a long-range “gun line” army, you can simply have the Genestealer Cult army come to you and, once they are close, use the 3D6″ charge range on the Eversor to counter-assault them. While the Eversor is certainly not an auto-win choice against an enemy Genestealer Cult, his ability “remove” an entire squad (or Patriarch) per turn makes him a very solid, and decently affordable, addition to your army when facing this dangerous faction.

Counter-Tau Tactics: Vindicare Assassin

As I review the new Tau Codex, it appears that the Tau Empire will continue to be one of the top armies, given the buff to current units and new units/formations that they gained. I see them competing quite handily with Eldar, SM Battle Companies, Necrons, etc. as one of the more competitive armies out there.

In order to combat Tau, I think the key is to “de-synch” their synergy, especially with Marker Lights and their new rules that give bonuses for multiple Tau units engaging the same unit(s). One of the best unit, IMHO, to execute this “de-synching” is the Vindicare Assassin.

Reviewing the Vindicare’s stats, he is basically an advanced sniper with BS8 and AP2, Ignore Cover shots, always has Precision Shots (so can always pick the model he is hitting) and adds -2 to enemy Look Out Sir! rolls against his attacks. He also can pick his ammo, either Hellfire Rounds (Wound on 2+, vice normal 4+), Shield Breaker Rounds (Ignores Invul saves), or Turbo-Penetrator Rounds (S10 vs vehicles, D3 wounds inflicted on non-vehicle models for every Unsaved Wound caused).

So, how can these abilities be put to use against the Greater Good? Here are some tactics:

(1) Ethereal Sniping — Using the Turbo-Penetrator Round and the -2 to Look Out Sir! rolls, the Vindicare can reliably Hit, wound, and kill an Ethereal hiding in an enemy squad/in cover in a single shooting phase. This not only removes his Ld10 bubble, but also prevents the Tau player from using Invocation of the Elements to increase the firepower of his Fire Warriors (it also gives a bonus VP for killing the Ethereal).

(2)  “Signature Systems” Surgical Strike — Since Crisis Teams Shas’vres can take Signature Systems (like the PENChip and MSS) and buff their squad, thereby freeing up Tau Commanders to focus on other tasks, the Vindicare provides an excellent “antidote” option and, using the Turbo-Penetrator Round, has an excellent chance of “one-shotting” these Shas’vres and their invaluable Signature Systems. This can greatly reduce the efficiency of the unit, especially if it loses Tank Hunter/Monster Hunter, Ignore Cover, and/or Twin-Linked to all of its shooting.

(3) Vehicle Hunter — With a BS8 S10 AP2 shot and 72″ range, the Vindicare can reliably penetrate any vehicle in the Tau Empire arsenal (remember, no Cover saves from Jinking as well). This means stripping a HP, at best destroying the vehicle outright on a lucky 6+ roll, and at worst reducing the vehicle to Snapshots, which can neuter the offensive capacity of Hammerheads, Sky Rays, Flyers, etc.

(4) Squad Leader  Eliminator — Using his Hellfire Rounds, the Vindicare can easily remove Firesight Marksmen (reducing the Sniper Drones from BS5 to BS2), Fire Warrior/Pathfinder Shas’ui, Kroot Shapers, Stealth Shas’vre, etc. This not only reduces the Ld of the squad, but also reduces its combat power and also removes any special Wargear, such as MLs, that the squad leader might be carrying.

(5) Battlesuit Team Nemesis — While the Vindicare’s single shot per turn is not enough to threaten entire Battlesuit teams of Crisis, Broadside, Stealth, Riptide, Ghostkeel, etc., there is a way to make him an exceptional threat to these Tau units: Emplaced Gun Turrets! Having the Vindicare man the Krakstorm Missile Launcher on a Fortress of Redemption, the Plasma Obliterator fortification, or the Macro-Cannon on an Aquila Strongpoint turns any of these weapons into a BS8, Cover-Ignoring, Look Out Sir! reducing super Gun Emplacement that can literally destroy entire Battlesuit Teams every single shooting phase. This is not cheap points-wise, but if you build the rest of your army correctly, it can produce devastating results against a Tau army.

(6) Force “De-Multiplier” — While in most cases killing a single model will not be game-changer, sometimes the Vindicare’s ability to surgically remove a key unit can make all the difference. For example, if a Ghostkeel team is down to a single Stealth Drone, it still has an automatic 2+ Cover Save against any shooting greater than 12″ away. However, if the Vindicare picks off that last Drone, then the entire Ghostkeel Team is reduced to a 5+ Cover save, which obviously is a massive difference in its survivability. Similarly, if that Riptide is on its last wound, but has powered up its Nova Reactor for a 2+/3++ defensive posture and has Early Warning Override/Ion Accelerator and is about to Intercept your Drop Podding Centurions next turn, then the Vindicare can use its Shield Breaker Rounds and BS8 to Ignore the Riptide’s Armor, Invul, and any Cover saves and remove that final wound, thus saving your Centurions from eating a S8 AP2 Pie Plate when they arrive from Reserve. Finally, if a Stealth Team Shas’vre is about to bring in an entire Retaliation Cadre Turn 2 with no scatter using a Homing Beacon, you can “plink” that model (and his Homing Beacon) with a Hellfire Round (AP2, Ignore Cover, 2+ to Wound), thus making the arrival of the Tau Formation much less precise (and much more risky).

(7) Marker Light Suppressor — As mentioned, Marker Lights are key to a competitive Tau army. Thus, removing them can be the key to unhinging the Tau battle plan. Whether working solo with his Turbo-Penetrator Rounds, or manning an Emplaced Turret as described above, the Vindicare can potentially kill multiple MLs a turn, even if they are in cover and/or have some models “tanking” for them (the Vindicare can ignore the “tanking” model and shoot the ML models because with his ability to always have Precision Shots). Even if the Vindicare only kills 2-3 ML bearing models a turn, over the course of a game this will quickly add up and, say by turn 3-4, the Tau Army as a whole will have measurably less combat power.



Imperial Assassins and neutralizing the Craftworld Eldar Jetbikes…

Another upcoming Craftworld Eldar unit that us getting lots of attention as “overpowered” is the Windrider Jetbike squadron upgraded with Scatter Lasers (every model can choose this upgrade).

Throw in a Warlock “squad leader” upgrade, which can give the squadron Shrouded or other Runes of Battle powers, and an attached a Divination Jetbike Farseer (for Prescience, ignore cover, all attacks becoming Rending, etc. etc.) and you have the makings of a cheap, robust, highly mobile, hard-hitting unit that makes the already top-level Eldar even more competitive.

This of course begs the question, how do you cost-effectively counter the new Windrider Jetbikes? There are several different solutions, but for any Imperium army, the option to take Imperial Assassins provides a versatile tool in combating this Xenos threat:

-Vindicare – With the ability to ignore armor, cover, and Invul saves with his Shieldbreaker rounds, not to mention his top level BS, the Vindicare is ideal at taking out Warlock squad leaders… this not only removes a 50+ point model, but removes Leadership, supporting Psychic powers, and the ability to make their Jink save into a 2+ cover save (which is key for them holding onto Objectives). Alternately, you could use him to finish off the last wound on a Jetbike Farseer, again debuffing the unit significantly. Finally, you can use the Vindicare and Hellfire rounds to strip one Jetbiker a turn, if all else fails.

-Culexus – With great survivability against shooting, multiple S5 AP2 shots at BS8, and dangerous close combat abilities, not to mention Infiltrate, the Culexus can get in close, shoot, and even charge Windrider Jetbikes and take them out of the game early on. As mentioned, he also wreaks absolutely havoc on Psykers, so he can strip the Windriders of any psychic buffs and effectively snipe out their Warlock/Farseer. Better yet, he can (and likely will) absorb lots of the shooting attention from the Jetbikes, preventing them from focusing on the rest of your army.

-Callidus – With only Snapshots at her the turn she arrives or Turn 1, she is survivable like the Culexus (at least early on) and her ability to position exactly where she wants to be means her Neural Shredder (SX AP2 template that always wounds on a 4+) makes her ideal for roasting down half a squad of Windriders turn 1 and, if she survives, Neural Shredding them again turn 2 followed by a charge with 6 x S6 AP2 attacks with her C’tan blade, giving her the potential for neutralizing or even destroying multiple Windrider squads a game.

-Eversor – The most maligned of the Assassins, the Eversor is the ideal counter to Windrider Jetbikes…. With 8 x S5 AP3 attacks on the charge and (if he starts in an Assault Vehicle like a Land Raider) a potential 30” charge range turn 1, he can potentially get into combat turn 1 and, between winning combat/Sweeping Advance (assassins have better Initiative than Eldar even), carve a path through multiple Windrider squads over the course of a game. Throw in his multiple BS8 pistols shots a turn and his MBs (to threaten any nearby Eldar vehicles and you have a unit that is ideally equipped to disrupt the synergy of Eldar Jetbike heavy armies.

Put all these assassins together (if you take the Assassin detachment) and you can potentially “defang” a Saim-Hann battle-group from the get-go and provide your Imperium army the ability to deal with the rest of his force effectively.

Assassins and Killing the Necron Phalanx

With the changes to Reanimation Protocals, Necron Warriors (especially in blocks of 20 models) are exceptionally durable and difficult to take down. Throw in a few Ghost Arks to regenerate additional models and a Cryptek for a 5++ save against shooting and 4+ rolls on Reanimation Protocals and many armies will struggle to deal with large Warrior Phalanxes over the course of a game.

For Imperium players, one potential solution is the use of Assassins, with each of the four different types playing a different potential role in defeating the hordes of metal space zombies:

1 – Vindicare — With the ability to choose his target (and to reduce enemy LoS! rolls for ICs to a 4+), the Vindicare can use his specialized ammo to potentially “one shot” any Crypteks attached to the phalanx, taking away both a potentiall 5++ save and reducing the formation’s Reanimation Protocals back to a 5+.

2 – Callidus — Being able to pop up right next to the formation with no scatter (or even infiltrate right next to it) and then hit it with a strong template weapon turn 1 can significantly weaken it. Additionally, since the Necrons can only snap shot at her the first turn she arrives, the Callidus has solid chance of surviving until the next turn and charging in, where she can wreak havoc in close combat.

3 – Eversor — Potentially the best option, this one man wrecking crew was made to take down Necron Warriors. With a 3D6 charge range, if you start him in an assauslt vehicel, the Eversor has the ability to get off a Turn 1 charge against the Necron phalanx, basically negating their powerful shooting and either tying them up or downright destroying them in the assault phase. On the charge he has 8 attacks at S5 AP3, all at WS8, meaning he can cause multiple casualties and very likely recieve little to no damage in return from the Necron Warriors. This in turn, coupled with his high initiative, means he can quite possible charge the phalanx, win combat, and sweep the entire formation before Turn 1 is even over, completing taking them out before the game even gets going.

4 – Culexus — An awesome unit, but since almost all of his abilities are best used against Psykers (and Necrons have none), he is probably least useful against a full phalanx. That said, his Etherium means it is very difficult to shoot down and he is surprisingly good in close combat, even against non-Psykers, so he could potentially tie up a phalanx in combat for many turns, thus keeping them from shooting, claiming objectives, or other important actions.