Lias Issodon and the Deathwatch

I still consider Lias Issodon one of the best Independent Characters in 40K, in particular due to the versatility of his special rules and wargear, and I think he pairs up especially well with the Deathwatch faction, which right now is struggling in the competitive meta due to its extreme “glass cannon” nature.

In particular, here are some things about Lias Issodon that mesh well with a Deathwatch force:

[1] “Master of Ambush” Warlord Trait — Being able to GUARANTEE infiltrating himself and three other non-vehicle units is a very big deal for Deathwatch, not only because they have limited mobility options and they cost a lot for even their base units (meaning it can be prohibitive to purchase lots of transports for them), but also because it allows them to maximize their close ranged shooting and assault abilities, which really are the Deathwatch’s main strengths. Lias Issodon allows you to potentially put up to three Kill Teams with max Frag Cannons, or three units of Terminators with max Assault Cannons, or three units of Combi-Grav Veterans, 18″ away from their target before the game even begins. Turn 1, you either move the units up 6″ (i.e. for Frag Cannons, Heavy Flamers, etc) or stay still and unleash full powered Grav Gun Salvos, thus maximizing your “alpha strike.” Significantly, if one of these units has a DW Independent Character in it (like an Aquila Kill Team with a Librarian), then you can equip him with the Beacon Angelis Relic and “summon” a fourth DW unit in close to concentrate your close ranged firepower even better turn 1.

[2] Shrouded USR and Locator Beacon — Since Issodon has Shrouded in his special rules, he confers it to any squad he joins. This means that he can attach to an allied Deathwatch unit and give it a 3+ cover save in even basic terrain (Note: this will make him lose his Chapter Tactics and the squad he is attached to lose its Mission Tactics, so there is a drawback to this). This obviously works well for a “fire base” unit like a squad of Veterans with Stalker Boltguns camping back in your DZ. Alternately, if you Infilitrate him along with a DW Biker squad, then even in the open they will get a 2++ Jink save (i.e. 4++ save from Jink + Shrouded), helping them survive until they can charge in on Turn 2 with their cheap PWs. Finally, since Lias Issodon has a Locator Beacon as part of his Wargear, he gives a DW army the ability to have two separate units for bringing in Drop Pods, Terminators, Jump Infantry, Kill Teams, etc. with no scatter (i.e. Lias Issodon can bring in one and a DW character with the Beacon Angelis can bring in another), thus increasing the flexibility and precision of a Deathwatch force, which is critical for them, given their low numbers and lack of durability.

[3] “Cunning Strategist” and “Infiltrate, Isolate, and Destroy” rules — The “Cunning Strategist” rule basically gives your forces free Reserve re-rolls and causes enemy Reserve rolls to have a -1 modifier, in turn giving you better control of your reinforcements and improving your chances of out-massing your opponent at the critical time and place on the battlefield, even if he has a bigger overall army than you (which is almost guaranteed when playing Deathwatch). As for “Infiltrate, Isolate, and Destroy,” this gives you small bonus chance to sabotage/weaken an enemy unit or vehicle before the game begins. While it is not necessarily a game changer, I once got lucky with this rule and “Haywired” to death a Necron Triarch Stalker before the game even began, which meant that my opponent did not get to boost the BS of his surrounding Necron forces the entire game, helping my cause significantly.

[4] Allied Support — Of course, you can only include Lias Issodon with a Deathwatch army by taking him in a Space Marine CAD or Allied Detachment alongside the main DW force. While this can reduce it the points you have to spend on DW units, it also opens up the possibility of bringing some very solid reinforcing units that synergize quite well with the enforcers of the Ordos Xenos. Examples include Space Marine Scouts in Land Speeder Storms (great as cheap Objective Seizers and harassment forces to take the pressure off your main DW squads), Drop Pod Centurions with Grav Cannons (to provide heavy ranged fire support against TEQs, MCs, etc.), Quad Mortar batteries (for a versatile, long-ranged fire base to mitigate enemy hordes and even deal with light vehicles), Ironclad and Siege Dreadnoughts (to soak up enemy attention, provide good close combat punch, and serve as a “shield” for nearby DW squads), and Bike equipped Chapter Masters/Chaplains/Librarians (to lead the mobile DW Vanguard and Bike squads, since currently no DW characters can take Space Marine Bikes and only a Watch Captain can take a Jump Pack).

 

Overall, while Lias Issodon is an excellent addition to any Imperium army, I think he combines particularly well with the forces of the Deathwatch and really bumps them up from “struggling” to at least the “moderately competitive” level in terms of competing with other armies, especially if you flesh it out with some of the supplemental Space Marine units noted above. Since they are all Astartes, from a fluff and painting perspective, you can easily represent Lias and his Space Marines as “counts as” Deathwatch in order to not break up the flow and visual presentation of a pure Deathwatch army.

Triumvirate of the Imperium: New Relics

I am excited about the arrival of the new Triumvirate of the Imperium characters (i.e. Celestine plus her bodyguard Geminii, Belisarius Cawl, and Inquisitor Greyfax), especially since it appears that ANY Imperium army can choose to take any of these three as a HQ choice, so Space Marines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Grey Knights, Deathwatch, Militarum Tempestus, Astra Militarum, Cult Mechanicus, Skitarii, Inquisition, Sisters of Battle, etc. can all take them in their armies.

Aside from what the characters themselves bring, which is significant, Celestine and Cawl both “unlock” special Relics that can be taken by any friendly characters in the same army. Here are my thoughts on what I think are some of the best of these:

—Unlocked by Belisarius Cawl—

[1] Memento-Mortispex (5 MBs) – At the start of each of your turns, choose a rule 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.

*APPLICATION — Perhaps the best new Relic available, I see this in the same class as the Hunter’s Eye and Gorgon’s Chain and Astral Grimoire (i.e. very competitive, don’t leave home without it). Being able to give an entire unit Cognis Weapons, Skyfire, Monster Hunter, or Tank Hunter, without any kind of Ld test/Psychic test/dice roll, is exceptional. Right out the gate, some of the best units to use this on include Grav Centurions, Astra Militarum blob squads, Kataphron Destroyers, Sternguard, Deathwatch Veterans, Deathwatch Terminators, Grey Knight Purifiers (with max Psycannons), Long Fang Packs (with max Lascannons), Blood Angel Gunslinger Vanguard Veterans, Sanguinary Guard with max Inferno Pistols, and Repentia Squads (with max Multi-Meltas).

Probably one of the very best options would be on a Dark Angel Biker Interrogator Chaplain leading a 10 man squad of Black Knights… the entire squad already has 18″ Rapid Fire TLed Plasma Weapons, so they can greatly benefit from Tank Hunters against vehicles, Monster Hunter against MC/GMCs, and Skyfire against Flyers and FMCs. On top of this, even if the squad Jinks (to take advantage of re-rollable Jink saves, from the Ravenwing special rule), you can use Cognis Weapons to make them Snapfire at BS2 which, combined with TLed, gives them a 50%+ hit rate even after Jinking, making them survivable AND potent in the same turn (usually you can only have one or the other).

[2] Omnissiah’s Grace (2 MBs) – Bearer has 6+ Invulnerable Save.  If they already had an Invulnerable Save, they get a +1 to their Invulnerable to a max of 3+.

*APPLICATION — Not that great on a character without an Invul save already, but on one that already has a 5++ or 4++, like most Space Marine Captain equivelants or models in TDA, this in essence gives you a “free” Storm Shield without the drawbacks of losing attacks in close combat. Grey Knight Grandmasters, Thunderwolf Lords with PF/Wolf Claw combos, Tech-Priest Dominus with Conversion Field wargear, Interrogator-Chaplains and Chaplains of all flavors, Cataphractii Terminator Captains, Imperium Psykers that can cast Forewarning on their unit, Watch Masters, Skitarii Ruststalker Princeps with dual Transonic Blades/Chordclaw and Conversion Fields, and TDA Inquisitors all can benefit quite a bit from this very affordable Relic.

[3] Saint Curia’s Autopurger (5 MBs) – Models charging the bearer and their unit do not get extra attacks for charging.  All models that are locked in combat with the bearer and their unit must pass a Toughness test at I10 step, or suffer 1 Wound for each test failed (can take saves as normal).

*APPLICATION — The debuff against enemy charging units is quite handy, especially against strong melee squads like Wulfen, Death Company, and Khornate unit which rely on Rage to increase their attack numbers, but where this Relic really shines is against low Toughness opponents (i.e. Eldar of all types, most T3 “human-based” forces, Gaunt/Ripper swarms, Necron Scarabs, etc) due to the second half of this rule. Forcing a wound for every failed Toughness test can be a game-changer, ESPECIALLY if you can combine it with Enfeeble (from the Biomancy discipline), Rad grenades (from an attached Inquisitor), and/or Skitarii Vanguard, with their “Rad-saturation” rule to reduce enemy toughness even further (imagine charging Eldar units reduced to T2 by Rad Grenades from an attached Inquisitor and then using this relic, causing Wounds on rolls of 3+ for every model locked in combat with you!). Overall, this is best used as a “crowd-control” Relic to rapidly thin out enemy hordes, especially since it inflicts these wounds at I10, before your opponents can strike back (I think this Relic is particularly potent against Genestealer Cult, who have high Initiative and close combat output, but low T and weak saves, meaning you can be charged by them and inflict massive damage before they even get to swing).

 

—Unlocked by Celestine—
[1] Blade of the Worthy (6 MBs) – Replaces a melee weapon.  S User / +2, AP3 / 2, Melee, Divine Fury:  At the start of the Fight Sub-phase, the bearer makes a Ld test.  If they pass, the sword uses the second profile for the duration of the phase.
*APPLICATION — This is basically an AP2 Relic Blade (with no draw-back from being Two-Handed) that requires an Ld test to use which, given that most characters potentially wielding it are Ld10, is pretty darn reliable (i.e. 91% chance of passing an Ld10 check). I think there are several ways to go with this… a Grey Knight Grand-Master could take NF Falchions, then replace on of them with this Relic, giving him the option to use an AP3 Force Weapon or a S+2 AP2 blade each turn (and both can be “buffed” up by +2 with Hammerhand as well)… alternately, you could give it to a Biker Captain Master (with AA) for a cheap, hard-hitting, mobile IC that can attach to a unit or go solo if required. Finally, you could give the Blade of the Worthy to an Astra Militarum Company Commander to make a surprisingly punchy combat unit that your opponent will likely not be expecting.
[2] Desvalle’s Holy Circle (7 MBs) – Bearer has a 4+ Invulnerable.  Enemy units cannot Deep-Strike within 12″ of the bearer.  If they scatter within 12″ of the Bearer, they suffer an automatic Deep Strike Mishap.

*APPLICATION — Like the “Saint Curia’s Autopurger” Relic, the first part of this piece of gear is solid (i.e. giving a 4++ to the bearer), but the real reason for taking it is for the second part of the rule, preventing Deep Strikes within 12″ and causing an auto-Mishap if they scatter to within 12″. This is such a potent piece of Wargear, especially when use to protect key units/vehicles (like your Warlord or an Imperial Knight, for example), against threats like Drop Pod Meltacide units, Wraithguard with an attached Dark Eldar IC with a Webway Portal, deep striking units with massed Flamer templates, enemy units that can assault on the same turn they Deep Strike (i.e. CSM Raptor Talon, Skyhammer Annihilation Force ASM), etc. etc. Putting this Relic on a mobile character, like a Bike or Jump Pack equipped IC, allows you to move this 24″ circle of “no Deep Strike” rapidly all over the table-top, thereby denying you opponent significant real estate and greatly hampering his tactical options.

Grey Knights and Allied Skyhammer

One of the combinations I have used in the past, to good effect, is allying a Grey Knight Nemesis Strike Force with the infamous Skyhammer Annihilation Force formation from the Space Marines faction (usually I go Ultramarines with this, for the “free” rerolls via the UM Chapter Tactics). Generally, I found that these two elements synergize quite well, especially if the GKs use the Nemesis Strike Force, which combines quite well with the Skyhammer Annihilation Force’s ability to choose what turn it will arrive on.

Here is the “foundation” of the list I used:

—Nemesis Strike Force—

[1] GK Librarian with PML(3)

[2] 5 man GK Terminator squad (with one Daemonhammer and one Psycannon)

[3] 2 x Nemesis Dreadknight (both with PT, Heavy Psycannon, Heavy Incinerator, and Daemonhammer)

 

—Ultramarines Skyhammer Annihilation Force—

[1] 2 x 10 man Devastator squads (both with Drop Pods and 4 Grav Cannons each)

[2] 2 x 5 man Assault squads (no upgrades)

 

The idea with these two lists is to maximize the Alpha Strike potential, especially with the potential for all units to come in from Reserve Turn 1 (or in the case of the Dreadknights, more often than not, start the game on the table and shunt 30″ upfield on Turn 1 to provide threat overload alongside the arriving Skyhammer units.

In terms of synergy, the Grey Knights bring the following to the army:

[1] Psychic Powers/Dice — Even this small force generates 6 WCs a turn and, between the automatic powers on the Terminators/Dreadknights and the wide-range of powers to choose from on the PML(3) Librarian, you can have tools to deal with any situation. You can even buff the Skyhammer units with power such as Prescience, Invisibility, and Phase Form, or alternately you can “debuff” the enemy with powers like Misfortune, Null Zone, and Subvert Machine.

[2] Anti-horde shooting — With Psycannons, Heavy Psycannons, Heavy Incinerators, and Storm Bolters, plus strong close combat abilities across the board, the Grey Knight half of this force can deal with hordes of light infantry that the Grav-heavy Skyhammer units might otherwise struggle against.

[3] Close Combat Power — The Librarian and Terminators hit solidly in the Assault phase by themselves, especially with guaranteed access to Hammerhand and Force Weapons, but the real threat here is the two Nemesis Dreadknights, who on the charge can generate 10 x S10 AP2 Force weapon attacks at I4 and WS5. Combine this with their superior mobility (from the Personal Teleporters) and strong durability (4W T6 protected by 2+/5++, which can bump up to a 4++ with successful casting of Sanctuary) and you have a close combat threat that can handle even the toughest units in the game, which is a strong compliment to the Grav shooting prowess of the Skyhammer Devastators.

As for the Ultramarine Skyhammer units, they bring to the army the following:

[1] Massed Grav-Shooting — With 40 Grav Shots a turn (including coming out of their Drop Pods, since they are Relentless), with re-rolls to Hit from Devastator Doctrine, and re-rolls to Wound/to Penetrate due to Grav Amps, all of which can be targeted at up to four different units a turn (thanks to Combat Squads), the Skyhammer Annihilation Force provides a threat that can be devastating to medium/heavy infantry, Monstrous Creatures, and even vehicles all game long.

[2] Mobile Skirmishers/Objective Grabbers — The two “bare bones” ASM squads have the ability to charge the same turn they arrive, making them an excellent “bully” unit for tying up enemy shooty unit or even a “sacrificial lamb” unit to assault powerful enemy combatants that you need to occupy for a turn or two while the rest of your Devastators and Grey Knights do their work. Additionally, with their inherent mobility, you can use the ASM to grab far-flung objectives all game long.

[3] Synergy Enhancers — You can also use the special rules of the Skyhammer formation to effectively “suppress” enemy units before they are charged simply by shooting at them; either they are forced to Go to Ground if they fail a 3D6 leadership check or, if they pass it, then they still cannot fire overwatch, making even Bolter armed Devastator Combat Squads quite solid at neutralizing key enemy units for a turn. Additionally, the ASM can be used as cheap skirmisher type units, screening other elements of your force from enemy assault and/or harassing your opponent’s plans with their maneuvering.

As you can see, the Skyhammer Annihilation Force is already a potent formation (one of the best in the game), but combined with these elements of a Nemesis Strike Force, they can make for quite a competitive Imperial “task force.”

Custodes Tactica

With GW releasing 40K rules for the new Custodes models (albeit without a way to field them quite yet, aside from Unbound; I am going off the assumption that that will be corrected soon), I think they have solid potential for competitive play. Looking at their stats/rules, they have the following:

-WS5 BS5 S5 T5 W2 I4 A3 Ld 10 Sv2+

-Guardian Spear (Shoots just like a Bolter and, in close combat, has the following profile: S: +1 AP2, Two-Handed, Block — Gives a chance to block one enemy attack per turn, if you roll higher than their To Hit roll) and Power Knife

Custodes can trade the Guardian Spear for Sentinel Blade (Power Sword with 12″ S4 AP5 Assault 2 shooting profile built in, which also can make Snap Shots at BS2) for free, which means you go down to S5 AP3 and lose AP2 (and the Block special rule), but gain +1A (since the sword is not Two-handed and combines with the Power Knife for two close combat weapons) and the ability to shoot and assault the same turn (unlike the Guardian Spear, which cannot assault after shooting, since it is a Rapid Fire weapon).  More importantly, if you do NOT have a Guardian Spear, each Custodes can take a Storm Shield, giving them a 3++ and counter-acting a critical vulnerability, namely the lack of any Invul Save in their “natural” state.

Special Rules wise, the whole squad is Bulky, can Deep Strike, has Adamantium Will, is Fearless, and (most importantly) has Eternal Warrior! GK Paladins are dying with envy for these kind of stats! 😉 Seriously, though, this makes them quite flexible and reliable, with the option to deploy by Deep Strike or ride in Land Raiders, no danger of every failing a Morale check, and insurance that they will never lose both their wounds to a single attack (except it is a Destroyer attack, of course). One small interesting note is that all Custodes are Characters, not just their “sergeant,” meaning you can choose any of them to take a challenge (great for saving attached ICs) and also any of them can try and Look Out Sir! on a 4+ to preserve their wounds.

Finally, one Custodes in your army can trade his Guardian Spear out for a Custodes Vexilla Banner, giving Fearless to any friendly Imperium units within 12″ and +1A to any friendly Imperium. Combine all this with the Shield Captain “squad sergeant” (who is mandatory and has +1WS, I, and A above normal Custodes) and the option to add up to 5 more Custodes, at 10 MBs per model, and you have an expensive but potent unit, especially in close combat.

OK, now that we have gone over the basics, how do we get the most out of these expensive models? I think their primary weaknesses are lack of an Invul save (unless they drop Guardian Spears for Sentinel Blades and Stormshields), their lower mobility (Deep Striking aside), and their mediocre shooting (basically just Bolter shots at BS5). On the other hand, they strike at S6 AP2 with I4 and WS5, with 4A per model on the charge (5A if the unit has the Custodes Vexilla banner), they are T5 with 2W and Eternal Warrior to make them VERY survivable against anything that is not AP2/1, and they can mix up Guardian Spears/Sentinel Blade + Storm Shield combos to give them both hitting power and durability in the same unit.

Here are some ways I think to “force-multiply” them right out the gate and take them to the next level in terms of competitive game play:

[1] Azrael — Attaching the Dark Angel Chapter Master gives them all a 4++ (even with Guardian Spear), making them MUCH more durable without sacrificing their S6 AP2 attacks at full initiative. Additionally, if they are riding in a transport with him (say a LR Redeemer or a Spartan Assault Tank), then his 4++ is conferred to the transport, making it more 50% more survivable and thus more likely to deliver them to combat successfully. Finally, if Azrael your WL, then he can choose his trait, ranging from adding +3″ to the unit’s Run and Charge moves to giving the squad Furious Charge (so all the Guardian Spear Custodes are hitting at S7 on the charge, making them a real threat to most vehicles) to FNP for the unit if they are close to an Objective.

[2] Brother-Captain Stern — With guaranteed access to both Hammerhand and Sanctuary, he can make the already dangerous Custodes into almost invincible Close Combat monsters. Hammerhand makes their Guardian Spears strike at S8 AP2 (at I4 still) and even models with Sentinel Blades attack at S7 AP3. Better yet, Sanctuary ups any Custodes with Storm Shields to a 2++, allowing them to “shrug off” an average of  83% of all enemy AP2/1 attacks for the rest of the squad. Finally, he adds his own close combat power, especially his Force Weapon, into the mix and also gives the whole unit Preferred Enemy (Daemons) and enhanced Deny the Witch (which synergizes well with the Adamantium Will of the Custodes).

[3] Sevrin Loth — With guaranteed access to Endurance, Enfeeble, and Life Leech (in the Biomancy Discipline), he can double the survivability of the Custodes against anything that is not S10 (or has Instant Death inherently) via FNP(4+), he can reduce enemy Toughness by -1 (so S6 Guardian Spears “double out” T3 Space Marine, for example), and he can restore lost wounds to Custodes via Life Leech. Alternately, he can go Telepathy instead, with guaranteed access to Invisibility, again making the whole unit vastly more difficult to hurt via shooting or close combat. Finally, he is very solid Close Combat fighter himself, especially with his ability to have a 2++ save using the Armor of Selket.

[4] Ulrik the Slayer — While not as dramatic as some of the HQs already mentioned, he gives the entire squad of Custodes he is attached to Preferred Enemy, without any requirement to pass any Psychic Tests, and he also gives them FNP(6+), for a small buff in durability. Ulrik is not amazing as a fighter, but does have a BS5 Plasma Pistol and 5 x S6 AP4 attacks at WS6 and I5 on the charge, so he can add a little more “uummpphh” to the Custodes, especially against vehicles and units with 4+ armor or worse. Finally, if he is the WL, he also gives the unit Monster Hunter, which is quite solid for dealing with enemy MCs and GMCs that are more and more common in the game these days.

[5] Sanguinary Priest with The Angel’s Wing relic — A cheap way to give the Custodes FNP, without any need to roll for Psychic Powers or pass Psychic Tests. Additionally, the Angels Wing allows the entire unit to Deep Strike more safely/accurately and also makes it much less vulnerable to enemy Interceptor fire (mainly thinking of Tau here).

[6] Deathwatch TDA Librarian with Dominus Aegis relic — The DW Librarian can move normally with the Custodes or Deep Strike in with them, depending on the circumstances, and can also use any Psychic Powers he rolls to enhance them (imagine if he got Warpmetal Armor and cast on the Custodes squad, making the entire unit majority T6!). The Dominus Aegis gives the whole unit a 4++ if it does not move, which also activates on the second round of any combat (since they cannot move, by default, if they are stuck in combat), making the entire squad much more durable at a bargain points cost.

[7] Ordos Xenos Inquisitor with Rad Grenades, Ulumeathi Plasma Syphon, and Liber Heresius relic — The Rad Grenades reduce enemy Toughness by -1 on the first round of any combat, making the Custodes more potent in combat than they already are, the Plasma Syphon reduces the threat of Rapid Fire Plasma Weapons significantly, and the Liber Heresius relic allows the squad to Scout at the beginning of the game and gain Counter-attack and Hatred for one turn each later in the game, which can be quite useful in the right circumstances.

 

[8] Two Adepta Sororitas Ministorum Priests, one with the Litanies of Faith relic — The Priests gives the Custodes Hatred for re-rolls to Hit in the first round of combat (the Custodes already have the Fearless portion of Zealot), which is a solid buff in and of itself. More importantly, the Litanies of Faith allows both Priests to auto-pass their War Hymns tests, meaning that as long as they are alive, the whole unit AUTOMATICALLY gains Shred for its close combat attacks and AUTOMATICALLY re-rolls any saving throws (both Armor and Invul) in close combat… taken together, especially with a few Custodes with Storm Shields up front for “tanking” purposes, and you should be able to tear through even the most deadly opponents like Wulfen, Ork War bosses in Mega Armor, Hive Tyrants, GMCs, Iron Hands Chapter Masters with the Gorgon’s Chain relic, etc. etc.

My 2000 point TAC list Analysis

So, here is my current Take All Comers (TAC) list at 2000 points, which is the level I usually play at. It draws from three different formations/detachments (White Scar CAD, Skyhammer Annihilation Force formation, and Aquila Kill Team formation) and is designed to provide flexible deployment options and the ability to deal with some of the most common, dangerous opponents out there, like Gargantuan Monstrous Creature, Psychic Deathstars, multiple Imperial Knights, close combat heavy Space Wolves, and all varieties of Tau/Eldar/SM Battle Companies:


—White Scars CAD—

-Librarian with Hunter’s Eye relic

-2 x Scout Squads with 5 models, all with BP/CCW

-2 x Fast Attack Drop Pods

-2 x Devastator Centurion squads with 3 models, Grav Cannons/Amps and Hurricane Bolters

-Battery of two Quad Mortars

—Ultramarines Skyhammer Annihilation Force—

-2 x Assault squads with 5 models

-2 x Devastator squads with 10 models, 4 Grav Cannons, and Drop Pod DT

—Aquila Kill Team—

-DW Veteran Squad with 6 models, all with Meltagun and Bolter, and one model upgraded to Watch Sergeant with Auspex, all in a Drop Pod DT

-DW Terminator squad with 2 models, both with Melta PF


So, the idea behind this whole army is provide overwhelming Grav and Melta firepower, backed up by the Ignore Cover Quad Mortars (thanks to the attached Librarian with the Hunter’s Eye) in either an alpha strike or a “beta strike” (i.e. if you delay the Skyhammer to come in on Turn 2).

The Devastator squads can combat squad as they come out of their Drop Pods, since they have 10 models each, allowing me to field up to six separate Grav Cannon/Amp units (4 x Devastator Combat Squads and 2 x Grav Centurions) coming out of Drop Pods turn 1 and thus deal with MSU opponents, or I can mass my firepower on a few key targets, if required. This also forces my opponent to split up his firepower, thus helping my Grav units survive longer. If I need to simply suppress a few targets, then I can Combat Squad with all 4 Grav Cannons in one Combat Squad and 5 Bolter Marines in the other Combat Squad, with the Bolter Marines “suppressing” and the Grav Cannons taking down heavy infantry/MCs/vehicles.

In terms of the Aquila Kill Team, its included primarily to give me a “vehicle assassination” unit using the 8 Meltaguns, but it can also switch over to Bolters with Special Issue Ammo to take on infantry, using the Aquila Doctrine to re-roll 1s to Wound/Penetrate against any target they encounter. The two Terminators provide 2+/5++ tanking for the squad, plus their PFs provide some very solid close combat capacity in case the unit gets charged (or needs to charge itself). The Drop Pod DT safely delivers the whole package and also ensures that I can bring in 4 Drop Pods turn 1 (2 from the Skyhammer Annihilation Force and 2 due to the Drop Pod Assault rule) if I want to.

The CCW/BP Scouts and “bare bones” ASM squads are included partly as the “tax” for their respective formations, but also serve roles as cheap objective seizers, skirmishers to block enemy forces from assaulting my Grav Cannon units, and even assault units in their own right to tie-up/bully enemy shooting units when required. The Librarian and Quad Mortars provide a backline “firebase” that can help against vehicles and light infantry, especially with re-rolls to Hit from Prescience and Ignore Cover from the Hunter’s Eye.

In terms of Chapter Tactics, I chose Ultramarines for the Skyhammer because being able to re-roll ALL shooting to Hits for the Devastators on the turn they come in (via Devastator Doctrine) is very solid and, on later turns, being able to use Assault Doctrine for the ASM is not too bad either. For the CAD, I chose White Scars because of the Hunter’s Eye Relic (which may be the single best piece of Wargear in the game, for its price of just 4 MBs) and because, even though I do not have any bikes, Hit and Run is SO very valuable on the Scouts and on the Grav Centurions (they are so bad at combat that they want to get out of it as quickly as possible and then shoot the unit that assaulted them in the face with lots of Grav weapons and/or Hurricane Bolters). Finally, the ability to re-roll Run moves is a nice little bonus for the Scouts, especially when they are trying to grab Objectives late game.

Overall, I think is a pretty solid force. Against MEQs, TEQs, and MCs/GMCs I have TONS of Grav shooting divvied up among multiple MSU squads, giving me the ability to take on everything from Marine Battle Companies to Eldar Jetbike spam to “Monster Mash” style lists. Against vehicles, I can use Grav weapons as well, I have the 8 x S8 shots from the Quad Mortars, and I have the meltas in the Aquila Kill Team for Super Heavies. Against hordes of light infantry, I am a little light, but I have the Quad Mortars (8 x S5 AP5 Small Blasts with Ignore Cover), I have Hurricane Bolters on the Centurions, and I have all the “auxiliary” Bolters and CCWs in the Devastator Squads, ASM squads, and Scout squads.

Honestly, I think Flyers and horde infantry are my weakest matchup (I guess I would not do well against an Astra Militarum “Air Cav” list, would I 😉 ), but overall I feel like this force gives me the flexibility to counter most competitive lists out there, provide I play well and make solid tactical decisions. I also think it provides me with solid deployment flexibility, given the control over reserves I have via the Skyhammer Annihilation Force units and the option to begin the game in basically a “null deploy” mode (I can also go for “full deploy”, with the Centurions, Scouts, Quad Mortars, and Aquila Kill Team on the table and their Drop Pods coming in empty just to grab objectives and block LOS).

 

Strike Force Ultima — New Formation

Looks like Space Marines have a new “web-released” formation (kind of like Skyhammer Annihilation Force was originally)…. STRIKE FORCE ULTIMA (not to be confused with “Strike Force Ultra” from the current SM Codex):

-SM Captain, who must have Terminator Armor (or Terminator Captain)

-1 Sternguard Squad, 1 Tactical Squad, and 1 Terminator Squad (or Cataphractii Terminator Squad)

-1 Drop Pod, 1 Razorback, 1 Land Raider, and 1 Stormhawk Interceptor

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In terms of special rules for this formation:

[1] Everything MUST be placed in Reserve and all non-vehicle units must either be embarked on a transport or be in Deep Strike Reserve.

[2] Everything (including the Stormhawk) automatically arrives turn 1, no rolling required

[3] When each unit from this formation arrives from reserves, or disembarks from a transport for the first time, all ranged weapons carried by these units increase their number of shots by 1 for that turn (this affects vehicles and combi-weapons too, per the wording of the rules). Note: The rules say that the extra +1 shot lasts until the end of the turn (i.e. Game Turn)… this means that, if you go first, all of these weapons get their +1 shot even in your opponent’s player turn, meaning they can use the extra shooting as part of their Overwatch, which is pretty amazing, especially with weapons like Flamers and Heavy Flamers.

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Overall, I think this makes for a very solid, competitive formation, whether used as the “base” of your army or as “allied element” to another army (given the very significant points investment it requires, taking Strike Force Ultima will limit what else you can take to some degree).

The ability to start in reserve, but be guaranteed to come in Turn 1, is a very important rule, allowing you to null deploy your entire army and still be sure that you will not lose the game at the end of Turn 1. Even more importantly, it gives you the ability to plan precisely how you want to use this force (and the rest of your army), without being at the mercy of Reserve Rolls and/or having lots of your combat power off the board until Turn 2 at the earliest.

Looking at each of the individual elements of this formation, here are some of my initial thoughts/impressions:

[1] Terminator Captain — In most cases, I would try and equip this guy with Cataphractii Armor, a Relic Blade, and the Shield Eternal relic. This not only makes him a very potent “tank” unit (2+/3++, with the ability to re-roll failed Invul saves of 1s), but it also enables him to attach to either the Tactical squad or Sternguard squad if they are riding in the Drop Pod or Land Raider and make them “quasi-Relentless” via his Slow and Purposeful rule. This works especially well with salvo Grav weapons and/or Heavy Weapons (like Multi-meltas and Plasma Cannons) and the ability to fire them twice on the turn this formation arrives from Reserves (or disembarks from a transport for the first time)…. imagine an 8 man Sternguard squad (with 6 Combi Gravs and 2 Grav Cannon/Amps) and attached Cataphractii Captain disembarking from a Drop Pod and then unleashing 24 Grav gun shots and 12 Grav Cannon/Amp shots at 18″.

[2] Sternguard — There are lots of ways you can go with these guys, but I would recommend either Melta heavy (i.e. lots of Combi-Meltas and two Melta guns), Grav heavy (i.e. lots of Combi-Gravs and two Grav Cannon/Amps), or Flamer heavy (lots of Combi-Flamers and two Heavy Flamers) to maximize their effectiveness, especially when you add in the ability to increase the number of their shots by +1 on that designated arrival/disembark turn. This rule effectively makes Combi-Gravs into 4 shot weapons, Meltas into Assault 2 weapons, and Flamers/Heavy Flamers into Assault 2 Template weapons for a turn, which is quite ridiculous. Alternately, if you want to stay cheap with the Sternguard, then you can just Drop Pod them in and unleash their Special Issue Ammo at Rapid Fire range with an extra shot per model, meaning a 10 man squad could put out 30 Bolter Shots using Special Issue Ammo in one turn!

[3] Tactical Squad — Like a cheaper, less capable Sternguard unit, I would probably go with a minimum 5 man squad equipped with either a Flamer, Meltagun, or Grav Cannon/Amp and a Sgt equipped with a corresponding Combi-Weapon. If you need a suicide unit to take out armor, for example, a squad with a Meltagun and Combi-Melta could Drop Pod in and put out 4 Melta shots on turn 1, giving it a strong chance of killing most tanks. Alternately, if you want to focus on enemy light infantry, then put a “Flamer heavy”  squad in the Razorback and the first time you disembark unleash 4 Flamer templates on your target.

[4] Terminator Squad — While not the greatest unit in the codex, and somewhat of a “tax” unit here, Tactical Terminators that automatically arrive Turn 1 and shoot an extra shot with each of their weapons can actually be pretty solid. For this, I would likely go with a 5 man squad with a Heavy Flamer and focus the unit against enemy infantry… with a good scatter, you can drop two Heavy Flamer templates on your target and 12 Storm Bolter shots on the turn you arrive. Alternately, if you really want to max out this squad’s abilities, then take a 10 man unit (with Ultramarine Chapter Tactics) with 2 Heavy Flamers and then use a friendly Scout Squad with Telion attached (and as your Warlord) to bring them in with no scatter via a Teleporter Homer. Once they arrive, have Telion use his Storm of Fire WL Trait on the squad, making all their shooting Rending… that translates to 4 x S5 AP4 Templates and 24 S4 AP5 shots on the enemy target, all with Rending, which should be pretty devastating to almost any non-vehicle unit they engage.

[5] Drop Pod/Razorback/Land Raider — Besides being the required transport for the infantry units above, all of these provide some significant flexibility and mobility to your army, allowing you get your units right where they need to be, when they need to be. They also benefit from the +1 shot special rule, meaning that a Drop Pod with a Deathwind Launcher puts out 2 x S5 AP- Large Blasts when  it arrives, the Land Raider can shoot 4 x TLed Lascannon shots, and a Razorback with TLed Lacannons can also put out 2 x S9 AP2 shots at 48″ as well. Finally, they can be used to claim objectives independently from the infantry and can also be effective in blocking LOS for shooting at the rest of your army as required.

[6] Stormhawk Interceptor — Even if you are using the new Death from the Skies rules (which make this flyer great against other Flyers/FMCs, but give it -1BS when engaging ground targets), its ability to have a guaranteed Turn 1 arrival and get an extra shot for each of its weapons when part of  this formation make it quite a competitive unit, I think. I would load it out with the Las Talon, CML, and TLed Assault Cannon… turn 1, that gives it 3 x S9 AP2 shots, 3 x Krak/Frag Missile shots, and 5 x TLed Assault Cannon shots. If you have a friendly Librarian with Prescience nearby and cast it successfully on the Stormhawk, then even shooting at BS3 against ground targets it has 75% accuracy and can really put out a lot of damage on a whole variety of targets. Turn 2, you can zoom off the board into On-going Reserves and come back in Turn 3 to engage any enemy flyers/FMCs at full ballistic skill, which can be a game changer with a bit of good rolling. Overall, I think the Stormhawk can be quite a solid contributor to your army when taken as part of this formation.

Angel’s Blade Tactica: Orbital Intervention Force

I have been taking a closer look at the Orbital Intervention Force (OIF) from the new Angels Blade Supplement and I think there are actually lots of tactical applications for this formation. First, let’s take a look the two different options within the formation itself, Tactical Terminators and Assault Terminators:

I – Tactical Terminators – While most would agree that Tactical Terminators are not the most competitive right now, if used properly, I think they still have a place in the game. The Orbital Intervention Force provides a significant bonus for them, allowing each Tactical Terminator to shoot twice on the turn that they arrive by Deep Strike. This is particularly effective with the Terminator Heavy Weapons, allowing a 5 man squad to shoot its Heavy Flamer, Assault Cannon, or CML twice. Alternately, you can max out the squad with 10 Terminators and 2 Heavy Weapons… combine that with Misfortune from the Divination discipline and a Tactical Terminator squad can put out 32 Storm Bolter shots and either 4 Heavy Flamer Templates, 16 Assault Cannon Shots, or 8 CML shots (either Krak or Frag missiles), all with Rending against a specified target on the turn they arrive. Obviously, in subsequent turns, they revert back to “normal” Terminators, but in that initial arrival strike, they can potentially make a decisive impact on the game if target against the right unit.

II – Assault Terminators – This is the real gem of this formation, I think. and probably the reason most people take it. Whether using dual LCs, with S5 on the charge (and I5, if they are part of a Detachment with the Red Thirst), or using the classic TH/SS “Hammernator” load-out, (which still competes for the gold standard of assault units in terms of durability and hitting power) the ability to assault on the same turn as they Deep Strike takes them from “solid” to “outstanding,” even if they have a Disordered Charge when they do this. Not only can they contribute to the fight as early as Turn 2, unlike a lot of other close combat focused units, but they are overall quite survivable and effective once they do get into combat. Alternately, Assault Terminators from this formation can make for a tremendous “counter-assault” unit to protect your more shooty units from enemy charges. Finally, you can enhance their abilities even more if you Drop Pod in Corbulo nearby (for +1WS to all hands and +1I for the Dual LC TDA models) and/or bring in Sanguinor for +1A to all hands, which helps make up for the penalty of having to do a Disordered Charge.

In terms of synergy potential, here are some ways I think the Orbital Strike Force can be effectively combined with other allied units to make a solid battle group:

 

[1] GK Interceptor Squads – With the ability to make a 30” Shunt move (+D6” Run) Turn 1, plus take a Teleporter Homer on the mandatory Justicar, GK Interceptors can make for an ideal “pathfinder” unit to get exactly where you need them and then bring in the OIF Terminators in on Turn 2 for massed shooting and/or assault.

[2] Inquisitorial Henchmen Warbands – With the ability to take a Mystic in each and every squad (basically a 2 MB cost Locator Beacon), plus access to a wide variety of Dedicated Transports, a Henchman Warband can, for example, load up in a DT Land Raider Redeemer and attach an Inquisitor with the Relic that grants a free Scout move if the pass a Ld test successfully. This gives them a 12” Scout move before the game begins, then another 12” move and 6” Flat Out Turn 1, setting up a Turn 2 arrival with no scatter/charge deep in the enemy DZ by up to 3 squads of Assault Terminators, which can obviously be extremely potent (not to mention any supporting fire from the Henchman themselves and their LRR’s Flamestorm Cannons).

[3] Ravenwing Black Knights/Darkshrouds – While obviously designed to bring in Deathwing, the fact that every Ravenwing Biker/Black Knight has a Teleporter Homer built into his Bike makes them exceptional for vectoring in an Archangel OIF. This is especially true of Black Knights combined with a nearby Dark Shroud, since they all have Scout (for a free 12” move before the game even starts) and can get a re-rollable 2++ cover save to survive enemy shooting Turn 1 (i.e. Jink + Skilled Rider + Stealth from the Dark Shroud + re-rolls to Jink saves because of the Ravenwing special rule). Black Knights are already highly effective shooting and close combat units in their own right, but combined with the ability to precisely bring in three squads of Tactical Terminators/Assault Terminators on Turn 2+ (all of whom can either shoot twice or charge that same turn) takes them from a serious threat to an absolutely un-ignorable one for almost any enemy force.

[4] Blackmane Great Pack with massed Drop Pods – With access to free Drop Pods and guaranteed Turn 1 arrival for all of them, the Blackmanes can saturate the table like almost no other force (except maybe a Space Marine Battle Company or an AM mechanized infantry force). More importantly with regard to the OIF, every one of these Drop Pods can be equipped with Locator Beacons, allowing you to bring in the Archangel Terminators anywhere within 6” of these Pods with no scatter before they shoot or charge. This should combine very effectively with all the combat power (both shooting and in assault) that the Blackmanes can bring to the fight in and of themselves, putting the enemy on the horns of a dilemma on how to counter this.

[5] Astra Militarum/Militarum Tempestus Mechanized Armies – As I discussed in the earlier article about the Golden Host formation, basically all AM vehicles (and MT vehicles too) except Flyers can upgrade with an Augur Array, which is basically this faction’s version of a Locator Beacon. Given that both AM and MT tend to focus heavily on shooting and are vulnerable to enemy assault, having the ability to precisely bring in a “counter-assault” force in the form of the OIF, using the Augur Arrays on their vehicles, improves the survivability and shooting efficiency of both of these factions significantly, as well as potentially surprising your opponent with the psychological “shock” of having their assault forces charged before they can even get to your battle lines.

[6] Khan/White Scar Mechanized Battle Company – The Khan list using lots of Scouting Rhinos/Razorbacks, all carrying MSU Tactical, Devastator, and Assault squads with max Grav Cannons and Flamers is already pretty well known for its success on the tournament scene. One of the few weaknesses of this list is typically dealing with powerful enemy close combat units that can come to grips with lots of its units in the Assault Phase. Since Tactical Squads can take Teleporter Homers on the Sergeants/Veteran Sergeants (for only a MB a piece), you can have up to 6 mobile, AV11/11/10 bunkers projecting 6” No Scatter bubbles around them throughout the entire battle space, giving you LOTS of options for bringing in the OIF Terminators with no scatter exactly where you need them to “reinforce the line” against critical enemy threats. All of this combines quite well with the massed Grav and Flamer shooting of Khan’s Battle Company I think, creating for a balanced and dangerous overall task force.

[7] Raven Guard 10th Company Task Force – The 10th Company Task Force formation obviously combines very well with the Archangels Orbital Intervention Force, with its ability to Infiltrate multiple units equipped with either Teleporter Homers or Locator Beacons. Raven Guard Chapter tactics make this even more effective, with added durability in the early game via free Shrouding Turn 1 on any units that don’t start the game in a transport. Whether using Infiltrating Scouts on foot, Infiltrating Scout Bikers (with a 2+ Cover save in the open from Jink + Shrouding), or even Scouts in a LS Storm moving 30” across the tabletop from Move + Flat Out (obviously they don’t get access to free Shrouding), this formation provides multiple ways to efficiently bring in the OIF exactly where it needs to be for shooting and/or charging on Turn 2+.

[8] Lias Issodon and Centurion Battle Group – Another powerful build in its own right, Issodon’s ability to Infiltrate himself and three other units is very potent and can overwhelm your opponent quickly. Combine this with the Locator Beacon that is part of his War Gear and any Teleporter Homers that the Infiltrated units are carrying and you have a very solid task force that can both pressure the enemy with shooting (especially if using multiple Grav Centurion squads) and still provide a real close combat threat via the OIF Terminators.

[9] Deathwatch Veteran Squad – Since every Watch Sergeant (who himself is a free upgrade) can take a DW Teleporter Homer, the Deathwatch are already well-equipped for vectoring in the Archangel OIF reinforcements. On top of this, DW Veteran squads can easily get in position via their Rhino, Razorback, Drop Pod, or Corvus Blackstar DTs (the last two can take Locator Beacons of their own, if you want). DW Veterans can also bring more firepower, “pound for pound,” than almost any other unit in the game, but they are also somewhat fragile for their points cost and can be vulnerable in close combat, so they combine very well with Assault Terminators coming in from DS and charging enemy units to take the pressure off them while they continue to employ their remarkable firepower to its maximum potential.

[10] Shadowstrike Kill Team – If you really want to double-down on the whole “assault from Deep Strike” concept, then you can take an allied Shadowstrike Kill Team. The mandatory Scouts can deploy forward with Teleporter Beacons turn 1, then Turn 2 you can bring in both the Vanguard Vets and OIF Assault Terminators with no scatter, potentially overwhelming the enemy battle lines with multiple powerful assault units getting stuck into combat simultaneously. Alternately, you can use the Vanguard Veterans for assault and take Tactical Terminators with Heavy Weapons to support them with lots of Flamer Templates, Assault Cannons Shots, or CML volleys as required.