Friday, January 23, 2015

Warhammer 40,000 Space Marines meta thoughts

Where has this very voluminous codex taken us?

I will tell you gladly that I am simply not an especially experienced Space Marine general.  Having said that, I've played against them for so long I probably know their codex better than I know almost any of them just because I've had to face them down quite literally hundreds of times.

Taking a stroll through the book made me think about them some, now that every codex BUT the Inquisition and Adepta Sororitas have become hard bound, completing the circle pretty much of the codex's.  That completion now allows us to look back and see the codex through the lens of those changes.

I think there are a few things in the codex that have become ubiquitous from a competitive standpoint.  The Centurion Devastator Squad is of course the one that comes to mind most frequently.  Its ability to benefit from force multipliers in the army is now dread legend.  Psykers in the force allow this unit to shine like a beacon (specifically but not exclusively the Invisibility spell allows this but there are others) and so long as this unit is allowed to maraud outside of close combat, it can bring victory from a seemingly crushing defeat.

Another unit that has really been very common is the Drop Pods.  Now that they can score and are as cheap as it gets, they have really taken on a new importance.  More than that, Space Marines, as tough as they are, need to hit at full strength to get the best mileage and taking losses crossing the field is simply unwise.  Rhinos were more common than Pods, but not anymore.  Riptides and other units have changed the meta and enforced the rule of maximum aggression to win from Space Marine armies.  Pod armies do very well, especially with Vulkan He'Stan leading the charge.  Vulkan and his Salamanders haven't been seen AS often because the next unit has taken on a new power.

Bikes!  Bike armies are very good now.  Their ability to score, their speed, toughness (Jink on bikes is just silly, and Night Fight which happens in half your games is an enormous boost for them) and their numbers make them fearsome.  Bike armies, often backed by an Imperial Knight, are a thing and have won tournaments.  At minimum they have shaken up the standings tremendously because they are somewhat of a metabuster.  NATURALLY resistant to the more heinous weaponry out there, tougher than average and with speed that allows them to use reserve manipulation and the like all make the Bike armies FAR more common and deadly than ever before.  Grav guns just did wonders for them as well.

There have also been some clear losers in this codex.  Despite being given ready and copious access to anti-air tools, you don't see a lot of non-flyer answers by Space Marine players being employed.  Almost every Squad can have anti-air capability, not to speak of the Hunter, and the Stalker, Aegis Defense Lines or Bastions.   Space Marines have chosen by and large to mount anti-air on their Storm Ravens or Storm Talons.  This is a live by the sword/die by the sword mentality that REALLY surprises me.  I had really thought that other relatively inexpensive and spread out forms of anti-air would be a thing.  But no.  Here we are, with the Storm Talon being one of the cheapest flyers in the game, seeing more use than any of the aforementioned!  But the Stalker and the Hunter have been nigh extinct in lists and certainly the highly competitive ones.

Predictable losers were Sergeant Chronus,the Whirlwind, normal terminator squads, The Terminator Captain, and Chaplain Cassius.

The Whirlind is really nice but the Space marine Codex was a little to early and they didn't think to make Whirlwind Batteries possible.  It might have helped the popularity of this very underused war machine.  Even its attractive price doesn't seem like it's enough of a winning wager for the top tables.

Normal Terminators are surprisingly out of vogue despite the game being so ballistic.  The 3+ Invulnerable saves REALLY win the day in most generals estimation and this is a trend in  army building in general:  take the toughest things and be a grind to kill.  I don't think this way of thinking has a lot of merit in and of itself, but it is in fact what's happening.  Assault Terminators are by a VERY wide margin used more frequently.

Chronus is interesting.  He is much improved but he has to go in an Ultra Marines tank (only) so unless you are using an UltraMarines detachment....  That alone limits his use before you even look at his entry.  His cost is high much like the Tau Empire Tank Commnder and the tanks you'd want to put him in are expensive but what's interesting about him is that he adds a servo arm to a unit, and that's really not nothing.  So the usefulness for him, as odd as it probably seems, could be to put him in a Rhino.  When the occupants are blown out, if they combat Squad'd, one half the unit can have the Sergeant and his power weapon and the other half can take Chronus.  Of course he can also just accompany the half that has the sergeant and bring the pain.  No matter what he does, it's very interesting that he can now actually do this.  It won't get him in a lot of UltraMarine forces but it's not the most horrible thing in the world considering that Servo-arms are AP 1 and STR 8.  He could also just accompany a Land Raider whose job is to go straight into danger, because his usefulness in making the tank nigh unstoppable is cool but if it is stopped, he can avenge it with the nearest unit.  A BS 5 Land Raider is pretty cool.  Honestly he's so much better than before and yet he just is not making it to the top lists.

 Cassius and the Terminator Captain have similar problems.  They are both REALLY tough which is what people now prize in tournaments it seems (see Wave Spam, IK's and the list goes on for details).  But neither one can power up a Centurion Devastator Squad and neither one is going to give the army important traits it wants or needs like Hit and Run.  So they end up being SECOND choices and by being a second HQ choice, their cost is instantly much scrutinized and for good reason.  HQ's are inherently pricey in part because of balance and in part because they really do a lot for the force in many cases.  So you really do need an excellent reason to take a second HQ.  Cassius in particular is awesome though.

Well that's enough rambling for now.  Any thoughts to add?


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    1. In all a good summary on the current Codex: Space Marines (C:SM). Before focusing on individual units, we should look at the book format itself. C:SM shows it's 6th Edition age b/c there are units that unlock or convert other units found within. The Chapter Master makes bike squads a troop choice as one example. 7th edition codices have all but removed these sort of unlocks. Formations and dataslates are the rule of thumb now. Games Workshop's intent is a completely different subject, and one I won't broach here to stay on topic, other than to ponder if C:SM will see a new book for 7th edition. That could potentially devastate the utter freedom Space Marine players enjoy when building lists. Another consideration to note about C:SM is the sheer amount of content you get in the codex itself: You get 7 different chapters with unique rules and benefits providing a space marine player with a number of different ways to play his/her army. No other codex gives you that kind of mileage- and they should.
      Next point of discussion is the graviton weaponry introduced in this book. It is a 2+/MC destroyer- a hull point stripper, and one of the primary reasons why Terminators aren’t more prevalent in the meta. Grave weaposn keep Wraithknights honest. Grav weapons being salvo are optimized by bike units’ b/c bikes are relentless and very fast; further supporting your observation as to the popularity of space marine bike armies.
      Next up are the relics found in C:SM. The Shield Eternal is what propelled the Chapter Master to the front of the stage (and in most cases the front of any army) b/c of the 3+ invulnerable save coupled with Eternal Warrior special rule- don’t forget Admantium Will for those keeping score. The SE is the primary component when building a tanky wound soaker. Teeth of Terra add +2 to user’s strength at AP3 with rampage and strikedown special rules, while, the Burning Blade adds 3 strength to user at AP2 with the blind and incandescent special rules. Both cc weapons are very expensive for what they do, in fact, I think that the relic shield provides the biggest bang for your buck whereas the other relic items can be replaced by something cheaper providing a similar role.
      There really isn’t a reason to roll on C:SM warlord traits instead of what is offered in the BRB. I admit #6 initially held my interest for the additional VP, but, it is just too specific and there aren’t enough force multipliers options offered in C:SM chart to invest in it.
      Tigirius is the best imperial psyker in the game when excluding Forgeworld. His points decrease, his force multipliers, and his ability to reroll powers thrust him in the forefront for consideration when building a list. When this codex first came out there were very few opportunities to affect reserves without additional investment. Tigie put all of the eggs into one basket.
      Chapter Masters with artificer armor, SE relic, on a bike becomes a T5 2+/3++ relentless eternal warrior that makes bike units troops. What’s not to love? What’s not to take?
      You pointed out that bikes are a go to choice for space marine players; why? Fast, relentless, can be taken as obsec troop choices, resilient due to toughness 5, jink, and Hammer of Wrath attack- all for 22 points ea, base. Chapter Tactics can confer onto these units the dreaded hit and run special rule, giving the unit the potential to hide from enemy shooting in combat, only to pop out at the end of assault in time for their next shooting phase.

    2. cont:
      Legion of the Damned are damned good. In fact they are pretty amazing: 25 points per is a steal when you consider 3++, relentless, fearless, ignores cover, can take a heavy weapon…They have to arrive by deep strike and are slow and purposeful. Equip the unit with a melta and multi-melta to go to town.
      Sternguard are also a great multi-tool not to be overlooked. Specialist ammo combined with their ability to take heavy flamers and ranged weapons make this unit very worthy for consideration in a competitive setting.
      Assault Centurions are laughable when compared to other elite units available in the codex. They also lack a reliable way to get into assault without paying the Landraider tax. Siege Drills are okay str 9 ap2 swing at initiative and armorbane- meant more for MCs and non-vehicle units in my opinion. Assault Centurions come stock with a regular flamer which seems grossly underwhelming for their points. Now, if that had been a heavy flamer, or even a flamestorm cannon assault centurions would be pretty scary. Pay the five points and swap out the flamer in favor of the melta gun. Magic happened when Space Wolves and Blood Angels received drop pods as a fast attack choice. Now that battle bros can ride in each other’s transports ala 7th edition, assault centies are now able to ride in drop pods onto the battlefield! With that delivery option in mind, assault centies become a lot less predictable and a little more dangerous.
      Troops: Troops are referred to as a tax in 7th edition. A shame, but, at least C:SM provides a very cheap tax option in the form of scout squads. 55 points base is not bad for scout, infiltrate, and ATSKNF special rules. Now that Landspeeder Storms are dedicated transports for scout squads (Wha?), an infiltrating scout squad can cover even more distance for late game objective grabs. A fast, obsec unit like the Storm can make multiple grabs obtainable, however, Storms are fragile (10 all around and open-topped) and will require care to pull off. The Storm is BS3 and has a couple of quirky weapons that don’t necessarily cause damage outright: The Cerberus is a template weapon that applies the blind special rule to those hit, and, a disruptor beacon that forces enemy mishaps within 12” of the Storm to mishap additional distance.
      Fast Attack: One of the most compelling entries you have already mentioned is the Stormtalon Gunship. It is a cheap, fast, albeit fragile anti air platform that can also shoot at ground targets. It has a special rule that allows it to ‘escort’ another unit arriving from reserves (so long as it isn’t deepstriking, or outflanking). Strafing run provides a +1 mod to BS when not targeting flyers and skimmers. The most common loadout that you will encounter is a Stormtalon outfitted with skyhammer missiles. 60” range, str 7 ap4 three shots. Combined with its stock TL assault cannon the Stormtalon eclipses other fast attack offerings such as landspeeders (durability is just too fragile in 7th where bolters can glance you to death), and attack bikes (not a bad melta platform, but, other more functional options eclipse the bike squad). Bike squads are often taken under a Chapter Master as troop units; so, that leaves scout bike squads which I feel are just too expensive to justify taking (when you should be purchasing SM bikers for 4 more points a model).

    3. cont:
      Heavy Support: Let’s skip right to the new units: Hunters and Stalkers. Pros: Cheap, Decent armor all around (12 front and side, with an AV 10 rear), both Hunter and Stalkers primary weapon are anti-air and come with skyfire special rule. The Stalker exceeds the Hunter b/c of its Icarus storm cannon array which provides 4 TL shots at strength 7 rather than one str 7 shot. That in itself is worth the extra 5 points. Included is the Stalker’s ability to fire at two separate targets albeit it at BS2. If only the Hunter and Stalker could be taken in squadrons, I think you’d see more on the table. The skyfire special rule is the other issue that the Hunter and Stalker face. The inability to shoot at full BS when targeting anything other than skimmers, flyers, and flying MCs is potentially limiting. Now that argument could be countered, at least in a competitive setting, where you are bound to face lists brimming with Tyranid Flyrants, Obsec Stormwolves, Eldar Wave Serpents, and of course any number of combinations of obsec jetbikes. Stalkers are a forgotten gem in this codex; the problem is you will probably want two, and, that limits other more popular HS choices such as Devastator Centurions, Stormravens, and still to a lesser degree TF Cannons.

    4. Bit on scarcity of hunters and stalkers relates to the model kit more than anything, I suspect. Model costs what land raiders used to cost in cash. Kit isn't terribly impressive. In addition, talon occupies a fast slot while hunter/stalker is a heavy slot. In most SM lists, heavy slots fill faster than fast slots. I strongly suspect these is at the core of why they are uncommon. People just aren't trying them.

      As for Chronus, main issue is that none of the eligible SM vehicles benefit enough from his inclusion to justify his cost. With FW allowed, his value is only a bit higher. It is notable that he can legally drive a super heavy tank from the same CAD. Though he will only add the improved BS, as super heavies already ignore stunned and shaken results. His cost is very high for only 1 point of increased BS.

      I will note that chronus, being a character, does allow you to effectively make a tank into the warlord, as he can be a "passenger" on tanks without transport capacity.

    5. Chronus is 50 points. a PowerFist is 25 normally. So you're paying 25 points for a guy who gives his tank great accuracy and then 25 points for the punch. So...

    6. Chronus can't voluntarily disembark, so the servo melee ability doesn't really play into it. I agree that he would be impressive in melee if you could disembark him when you needed to.

      You say increased accuracy, but which tanks are you really thinking of? It looks nice on paper until you start looking at the actual (non-FW) SM tank options. Twin-linked weapons really don't gain much from increasing BS4 to BS5. Templates gain nothing and blast weapons merely become marginally more accurate. Basically, it improves the few non-TL weapons that the SM have access to (on tank models).
      -HK missiles
      -Storm Bolters
      -Pred heavy bolters
      -Pred lascannon sponsons
      -Pred autocannon turret
      -LR multimelta
      -Hunter Skyspear
      -Razorback lascannon of the Las/Plas turret

      Of the above weapons/tanks, which are really worth a 50pt increase in the tank cost?

      If seeking the stunned and shaken immunity, the change to the snapfire system really improves our shooting ability for most weapons, especially twin-linked weapons. Blast and template weapon tanks could benefit, but your looking at only the Whirlwind, Vindicator, and the Redeemer (or heavy flamer razorback). No one would double the cost of a whirlwind for chronus. Vindicator or Redeemer could be a maybe, but the 50pts is a steep increase in cost.

      One could also argue that having to be Chapter Tactics: Ultramarines is also a steep cost. That one is player preference, certainly, but I do think it does limit Chronus by quite a bit.

      In general, I think the only real reason I'd include Chronus is if I wanted the option to make a non-transport tank into my warlord. He's a character model that's considered a passenger, so he's warlord trait eligible. A 65pt librarian would probably be a better choice for a transport tank, but for one without transport ability, Chronus is the only option. A unique option for the Ultramarines. Not exactly sure how viable this would be, but unique options are always nice to have, even if you don't use them.

    7. Whirlwinds do a lot of work when theres somewhere to hide them and a more accurate whirlwind sounds wonderful. That he effectively gets THAT as his transport is awesome and a thought that is really eorthy. I love this thought, truly. Very very good way to use him. And if no one pops him out... that means he fires all game. In what world is that terrible? Hmm. GREAT thought.

  2. I have to ay, some really excellent analyis there from both of you. The reasoning is sound all around and all the hi-notes are hit. I'm not really sure that the codex needs to be replaced and there won't be a big push by players for it I don't think. After all the circle is complete and they can take time to do supplements which is seemingly not as poor an investment as i thought it would be at first. They are using the Dungeons and Dragons 3.X approach of putting out books that "oh by the way" have all new Feats and Skills! Or in this case, all new Formations and characters. That approach made 3.X an enormous commercial success and I cant even count the books people bought like "FrostBurn" which they bought NOT for its fluff and environmental rules. Nope. The majority of players picked those books up for the Feats and spells etc... Warhammer is doing the same thing. We shall see what happens next. the Space Marines codex is strong and I think it is a victim of its own success because it contains so MANY units in the various slots. I think spreading out the awesome more amongst those units would create variety. right now i think what we see are "obvious winners" and "obvious losers". Codex's need to do something about the "obvious losers" and think wholistically moving forward about how to make each unit shine like we do here on this blog! I'll gladly offer my services to them if they want our expertise on the matter. =)

  3. Hmmm....A Whirlwind Warlord. 115pts, which is very steep, but it would allow for a warlord that could remain useful while staying out of TLOS. Very fragile. A unique option within a unique option. Chronus wouldn't really aid the whirlwind any, but the idea of being able to keep the warlord out of harm's way is appealing.

    I know I said no one would double the cost of the whirlwind, and they wouldn't to improve the whirlwind by so little, but to create a warlord which can hide out of TLOS all game, that they may just be willing to double the cost on a whirlwind...Interesting.

    1. Honestly I think this is just really an intriguing idea. Very good thinking gent. Worthy of the Unorthodoxy Empire.


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