Friday, September 27, 2013

Illic NightSpear

Illic Nightspear is one of those characters in a codex where you see a LITTLE potential, but that potential is overshadowed both by the AWESOME Psychic powers of the Eldar codex or the awesome utility of the Autarch, or perhaps the beastly combat ability of the Avatar.  Regardless of the cause, Illic was one of the first characters people wanted to know about, and then as quickly as his celebrity had come, Illic faded from the spotlight.

It is certain that most readers will not have seen much of Illic on the field and even more certain that those playing Eldar will have quickly dismissed this figure of Eldar legend from their lists.  For those that are a part of the Unorthodox Empire, the Generals for which are listed to the right of this post, Illic represents that most wondrous of things in the 40K universe:  possibilities.

So let's take a gander at Illic Nightspear and see what wars we may wage at his command.

Illic carries a power sword that strikes at I9 when forced to, and he comes with 4 attacks, 5 on the charge.  It raises to respectability any unit he decides to join.  That sounds bad in what army?  None really.  WS 6 makes him plenty capable when called upon as well.  So as Tough 3 characters go, he's as deadly as you could expect him to be and he is in no way expensive, so this all sounds pretty decent for the price.  In fact his middling cost is likely one reason people looked into him.  In a list squeezed for points, you must at least consider characters like Illic.

Illic's gun is the real weapon however.  The eye popping BS of 9 makes hitting things essentially certain.  Even if he misses, he gets a re-roll.  The Void Bringer is a serious piece of AP 2 shooting hardware that can lay low any target from quite a distance.  If the shot wounds on a 6, POOF, Disruption goes off and bleaches the enemy model from existence.  Illic Nightspear can use the weapon separate from within his unit.  His Warlord trait allows him to hide while dealing out his death from safety.  All the shots are precision shots, so he basically acts like a Vindicare Assassin in that way.  Obviously things like Heavy Weapons and banner bearers are all worthy targets for Illic's attentions, nerfing the enemy capabilities through selective targeting.  Imagine the fun of ending Mephiston in one fell swooping die roll.  Though only a 17% chance of that happening, still…  I've done it with Disruption weapons.

Illic is both fleet and Shrouded, and this truly makes his unit a ghost until it wishes to strike; and of course the Battle Focus ability, which almost all Eldar units possess, allows Illic to fire on enemies and then melt into shadow using Shrouding to protect him whenever necessary.  In fact Battle Focus is a key to how Illic can be used.

Now Illic allows you to take Altaioc Pathfinders instead of Rangers.  Any number of your Rangers can be converted this way.  Why would you want to pay 25 points for an Eldar Pathfinder?  Good question.  They were that expensive before actually, but with the added benefit that their Ranger Long Rifles would be twice as deadly with Rending on 5's AND 6's to hit.  Not so anymore.  That deadliness took a new form in the new codex.  Now every Pathfinder gets the Sharp shot ability which means the entire unit is Precision Shooting its target…  with Blade storming (basically rending that doesn’t affect vehicles) Shuriken Pistols.  That is a seriously deadly combination en masse, particularly if they are given an ability from their Farseers such as Prescience, or from another psychic power of which there are several.  Being able to fire off, say, 10 Rending shots that can choose their specific target model could be useful, no?

Walker of the Hidden path is the ability that is fun to think about here.  In any force, the ability to outflank is very impactful.  I have spoken on this many times here and on other forums.  The mobility this lends one is extraordinarily useful and obviates the NEED of an expensive transport. Illic gives you a big chunk of flexibility because with Illic on the table, you have the choice:  Outflank as planned or come in wholly within 6" of Illic's position via deep strike.  Now this ability only works with Rangers and Pathfinders, but one unit Deep Striking could immediately join with illic, while the other Rangers or Pathfinders that drop in show up as well no more than 6" from Illic.  On the round they come in, they are firing their Shuriken Pistols and that is a LOT of shots reliably dropped all in one place.

So the best way to use this tactic is with an Autarch AND Illic.  The Autarch makes the reserve rolls all but certain or helps delay some of the reserves if it is not yet the time.  That means that a Psyker is probably out of the picture.  However, if you wanted a Psyker, go with a Jet bike Farseer and an Aegis Defense Line that utilizes the Comms Relay to gain back some of the reliability lost

Now let us assume you bring in 30 Pathfinders around Illic with a Farseer to cast prescience on one of them.  Against a MEQ unit, That's 13.33 wounds, of which 4.44 are Rends from Blade storming.  So you would kill 8.5 MEQ on the drop including Illic's shot, and even a TEQ unit would be toast.  With Doom, the enemy unit in question is a goner.  On the subsequent enemy round, the Stealth and Shrouded Pathfinders are getting 2+ saves in all likelihood against shooting.  Then they repeat their massacre.  Assault is the enemies only true weapon against such a combination. 

Now I am very aware that the opponents of this plan will say that it is a very large points expenditure to do this.  They're not wrong.  With Illic, That's 890 points worth of Pathfinders.  While you'd take a Farseer in most cases, opponents will even try to lump in the Bike Seer as yet another "expense" of the plan.  Here's my question:  if it works, do you care? 

A few things you got for your expense

  • You just planted 30 SCORING units in the enemy backfield
  • You just killed a unit on the drop.
  • The enemy couldn't do anything to stop you
  • They can't respond with shooting that matters unless it ignores cover
  • They must assault to silence it in the end and Illic can fight.
  • Line Breaker is pretty much assured.
  • You can repeat the death sentence twice more while wiping valuable heavy weapon assets from the enemies force QUICKLY through Sharp shot

Not a bad return.

Now we know that the one thing the enemy can do to our valuable scoring units is use Ignore Cover weapons or they can assault.  So we need a contingency plan to deal with those things to the extent it is possible to do so.  No one lives forever.

If you're running DFO (which I hate) you can use the Sky shield Landing pad which also provides Invul saves.  Turns out Illic's ability lets him literally deploy anywhere, including on top of one of these babies and it is the PERFECT things to use in DFO since you needed the Comms Relay.  But if you're using the Farseer option, you'll need DFO to do this.  If no Sky shield, then plan B:  Saturation.  Put simply, the enemy doesn't want a repeat of Illic's buddies and their firepower, but if there is something ELSE equally dangerous nearby, then they are forced into choosing.  Well it so happens that there are other units that infiltrate, wouldn't you know it?  And those units can run interference for your scoring units when they show up.  They also offer Illic a safe harbor until he can join and defend his less melee capable Pathfinder buddies.

So in a list using Illic I would take Striking Scorpions.  It's an ideal unit for two reasons.  First it is VERY hearty and they come with Stealth.  Add this to the Shrouded ability of Illic and you have a nigh impossible to kill waiting room for Illic to flip through his newest issue of GEQ (GentleElfs Quarterly).  The Scorpions then serve as the shield against assault and also as additional shooting when Illic is done scampering into his Pathfinder unit.  Scorpions can easily finish off anything the Rangers shot and set up the next target FOR the Pathfinders.

Okay so we now have a way to keep Illic and later the Rangers safe, so what to do about Ignores Cover type weaponry when we have no Landing pad?  Well our first defense is the Battle Focus ability to scatter once we fire so we aren't as juicy a target for Torrent flamers and other ignores cover stuff.  Battle Focus is important for making sure we keep surging as well to our next target after the drop.  Our second potential defense against the Ignores Cover brand of weaponry is the target priority issues we created for the enemy with Scorpions etc…  The third defense is a bit more forward:  Kill the units with that ability first.

Clearly Heldrakes are a problem.  For everyone.  Pretty much always.  Baal Predators, Land Raider Redeemers, Tau Smart Missile Systems, Imperial Guard Barrages and so on all provide a challenge to our cover saves. 

Imperial Guard Hydra Flakk batteries are clearly the last word in anti-aircraft and anti-Skimmer technology and they can come in units, unlike the Space Marine Stalker (which is actually a really good choice also but you can only get one as an ally and the other costs associated with Codex:SM would be higher).  No unit strikes more fear into Flyers AND skimmers like they do and lets face it:  Eldar Skimmers have a lot of Ignores Cover firepower, as do Heldrakes.  A pair of these in reserve could be one answer as could a pair of Vendetta because they strike fear into every armored thing of any kind.  Just let them stay off camera until the flyer shows up, then blast it from the sky.  Frankly this unit solves a lot of problems but does require the use of allies.  But what to do about those Riptides with Pathfinder assists?  The Vendettas are probably more useful as that goes.

Personally I'd make sure to kill anything that ignores cover first with the parts of your force not involved with the Eldar Pathfinders.

Lets take a look at our list and see what we are up to here:
70pts  Aegis Defense Line (Comms Relay, cause yeah)
140pts  Illic Night Spear
170 Farseer on Jet bike (Runes of Witnessing, Mantle of the Laughing God)
120pts  10 Rangers
250pts  10 Pathfinders
250pts  10 Pathfinders
250pts  10 Pathfinders
193pts  9 Striking Scorpions (exarch w Claw)
70pts Primaris Psyker
140pts  10 Veterans (Hvy Flamer, 2 Melta Guns)
65pts  Guardsman Marbo
280pts  2 Vendetta (Heavy Bolter Sponsons)

This is in keeping with our plan to use Illic to maximum advantage as well as maintain our theme.  What we are after here is to turn the flank with a stealthy strike team army that uses the shadows to hide, strikes hard and rarely misses its prey while obtaining superior position.   

It wins through forcing the enemy to come from all the way across the battle field to come get us instead of being able to just line up and fire.  Units deployed on one side of the board will never reach us and potentially never fire a shot.

The Vendettas are heavy duty anti-aircraft that can also expose the tender insides of the enemy transports.  Guardsman Marbo is a distraction who can hold up units from getting to us quicker, perhaps near the middle of the enemy line.  The Veterans can come and support the Pathfinders as exposable Deep Striking shields that pack a bit of punch.

The Pathfinders will force the enemy, through massive precision shots, to fight with their second or third tier weaponry instead of those they would rather use.  Imagine in your minds eye the surprise on the faces of those soldiers as their heavy weapons are picked off from afar.

The pinning attacks of the Pathfinders could also find some help if you were so inclined, by including a unit of Battle Psykers in the force.  Though Marbo would have to go it would help ensure that while the Pathfinders pummel their nearest foe, the Rangers can pin the next nearest, making approach almost impossible. 

One last note:  the Aegis Defense Line should probably be placed midfield, instead of way back in your deployment zone.  If going second, use it to lure the enemy to line up on the wrong side.  If going first, keep in mind that you can move and run to it with IG if you like, wherever it will force the enemy to split off in order to deal with them and away from the main thrust of your attack.  Ultimately for this force it makes little sense not to use it to slow down any enemy approaches sooner than later to keep them within your ranges when you still have more of your force available to fire.  Measure it in any event so that the Vendettas can fire , then turn and fire again at any enemy that gets close to it.  You may not actually need to do this but its wise nonetheless.  Just gives you more options.  It may just be a grey wall but its still one more tool in your bag of tricks for misdirection.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gretchin and you

At 3 points per fig, it almost seems like you couldn't waste points any worse than when buying them.  They are so much worse than Conscripts its not even funny and are but a point cheaper, as insult to injury.

Looking at where to find 20 points to strap in that PowerKlaw?  Drop some gretchen.  Need that extra gain to survivability only a pain boy can give?  Drop the Gretchen.  In short, they aren't just the worst stat line in 40K (though they literally are) but they are the FIRST thing to go when ANYTHING else is needed.

It is small wonder that Gretchen are almost never seen in 40K.  Orks themselves make sporadic appearances these days in 6E, so that makes it even tougher to see grots in action.

The way I see Gretchen used is as rear objective holders.  Why?

  • With a Twin-linked LD of 7, they actually don't run as often as it seems they would.  
  • Enemies don't tend to want to waste shots on them until later, secure in the knowledge that 5 cultists could end them... Or just two Marines.  They have plenty of time to deal with that rabble later.
  • They can be reserved so that even if the enemy wanted to shoot them, they'd HAVE to wait and who knows what objectives might be easier to take later.  since the grots cant shoot OR assault basically, they may as well run every round and try to take position.
There's no problem with any of that logic.  I get it.  Makes sense.  Why am I talking about Gretchen then?

I recently borrowed the army of the person who got me into this hobby, and he played orks.  I had quite forgotten that he had so many gretchen in his force.  In fact he has 60 in his force and owns more than that!  I got to thinking:  how in the bloody blue blazes did I lose to a guy who plays with GRETCHIN as the majority of his troops.  Hell, he didn't have a single trukk in there and I thought:  Well I'll be damned, his only real way to cross the board was on foot or in his ONE Battle Wagon.  Needless to say, as I thought back to those back breaking losses my Tau took to this army (8 in a row at one point), I was forced to shake my head in shame.

Wanting to redeem myself, I took this hodgepodge army and made a 6E army list, DETERMINED to try to play 8 games and win with it.

3 ZZap Guns (Extra Crew, 3 Ammo Runts, Runt herd)
3 ZZap Guns (Extra Crew, 3 Ammo Runts, Runt herd)
BattleWagon (Killkannon)
30 Boyz (3 Big Shootas, Nob W/PowerKlaw)
10 Meganobz
20 Gretchin
20 Gretchin
20 Gretchin
9 Lootas
13 Kommandos (2 Skorchas, Snikrot)
BigMek (shock Attack Gun, Eavy Armor, Cybork body, ammo runt)
Warbozz (Shoota + PowerKlaw, eavy armor, Cybork body)
3 Rokkit Buggies
3 Rokkit Buggies

Well I won't bore you with Batreps on it.  it went 7-1 and I felt suddenly a lot better.  The loss was in a tournament at the top table.  And do you know what?  While the Meganobz were the MVP's, the Gretchin were the main catalyst and were SURPRISINGLY useful.

Time and again I was pleased that the gretchin became my KFF while still absorbing fire.  a 2fer!  The grots took up space and disallowed Deep Strike shenanigans of any kind.  NOTHING could kill ANYTHING that wasn't gretchen without shooting THROUGH a grot.  Orks, who aren't known for their armour manufacturing skills benefited a LOAD by having this little rascals in the way and what made it worse for the enemy was the advancing bubble of worthless targets pressing them in further and allowing my MUCH meaner back units to do their thing.  Never were the Ork Boyz unable to get a charge off instead of being charged.  Never di the Meganobz have this worry.  They were always allowed to be the aggressors.  In addition, the zzap guns, Shock attack gun and buggies were almost never targeted because the enemy simply wasn't willing to wade through that many tough 7 wounds in the case of artillery, nor try to shoot at Buggies when that horde was a far more pressing concern.

The gretchin keyed everything.  They kind of acted like a GUARANTEE that I would always get the charge, never be charged in any way that mattered (they could charge the gretchin or...  More gretchin, basically).

The BIZARRE missions at the tournament really disadvantaged this list and I was still able to pull a 2-1 record from it.  In one mission, Area terrain CEASED to give cover!  I mean seriously?  The grotz were even MORE important in that mission obviously.

I was just really impressed as to what Gretchin could do for an ork army and I got to thinking:  Hell they could do this as allies!  I can think of a ton worse allies to take with you to battle.  A BigMek with Shock Attack gun is a steal of a price as an HQ from the experience I had, and the Gretchin do nothing but help you set the opponent up.  Fantastic for an allied contingent.

Tau in particular would really benefit from this low cost bubble wrapping.  A lot of their tanks could be defended this way.  But they aren't the only ones.

So go fill your shelves with old school gretchin models and give them a try in your force.  A surprisingly useful and oh so inexpensive value buy.