Saturday, January 30, 2010

Space Wolves Editorial

I wrote this back when the SW codex was fresh off the shelves and it was just recently published in Issue 6 of the Astro Mag.

The Space Wolves codex is fresh off the shelves and everyone is wondering how well it will perform on the table and, for those of us who don’t play the Pups, how to beat it. It is a great codex that is jam-packed with fun units that make for great narrative gaming, but it is also a codex you may have to fear on the table. In this editorial I will dissect the codex to try and see what type of lists you’ll see pop up in competitive games and how to counter them. As a quick disclaimer, this editorial is not the end-all-be-all of the Codex Space Wolves. Winning games is not about lists, it’s about tactical superiority. All this editorial serves to do is to get you, the gamer, prepared to fight the Wolves and able to counter any special tricks they may have up their sleeve. Now let’s dive in, shall we?

The first big thing to point out is the proficiency in hand-to-hand combat each Space Wolf has. Every Space Wolf has the Counter Attack USR which means assaulting a unit just to deny them an extra close combat attack doesn’t work as all they need to do is pass a leadership test and it’s plus one attack for every model. This is a problem when facing the Wolves because you constantly have to guess your opponent’s motives as to whether or not you’ll be assaulted or they’ll just sit back and fire. If you are playing as the Space Wolves, this is a great rule to have since you don’t have to assault in order to maximize the amount of pain you put on the enemy; you can sit back and let them assault you with the same effect. Of course getting into combat as soon as possible is, generally, the best strategy to use with the new Codex and we’ll get into the details of that shortly…

First we’ll go over the HQ choices I think you will see pop up in lists or have a lot of hubbub about in the near future. Logan Grimnar, in short, is a beast. And I don’t just mean his stats (5 base, 6 on the charge) but his wargear and Special Rules. I definitely see a lot of Wolf-wing lists in the future with Logan and his Wolf Guard taking advantage of his “The High King” rule but it probably won’t be a very competitive list (other than Deathwing veterans). Why? It’s expensive. Logan himself costs more than a 5-man terminator squad in Codex: Space Marines not to mention you have to buy the whole rest of his army yet too. Logan is easily one of the most powerful characters in the game, but at such a high cost I highly doubt you’d see him often in tournaments. He is the Marneus Calgar of Space Wolves and should thusly be treated as such (deadly, but still only ONE model).

Canis Wolfborn is, despite the youth of this codex, probably the most overlooked Special Character in this book. He, like many of the Space Wolves, is a Close Combat monster. He will only ever have a minimum of five attacks in close combat that can be raised based on how many models are in base-to-base contact with him plus always hitting on a 3+, being able to re-roll either rolls to hit or wound AND ignores armor saves. Biggest problem he has, however, is he is susceptible to Instant Death and AP3 or less weaponry. A quick fix is to give him a Fenrisian wolf squad to soak up some wounds, but against some armies it just won’t be enough. However, I do see a viable competitive aspect in Canis though the Rune Priest (which I’ll get to in due time) will be the far more popular choice. For you Space Wolves players out there, take a look at Canis and see if Fenrisian Wolves can work in your list…

Bjorn the Fellhanded is just awesome. I don’t think he is the best choice for an HQ but man is he made of win. If you score a glancing or penetrating hit on him ever the Space Wolf player rolls a D6 and on a 1+ he wins all games forever…. Ok…. Maybe I exaggerated. Still, he’s really cool. He allows the Space Wolf player to re-roll the dice that determines deployment zones which can be crucial in a tournament environment. In objective-based games, the Space Wolf player could take advantage of the “Living Relic” rule which means if Bjorn dies, he counts as an objective. Definitely a game-turning event if that happens due to the Space Wolf player’s own design. Now the down-side to this rule (and brace yourselves, it’s a big one) if you are playing a Kill Point game and Bjorn dies, he forfeits D3 Kill Points if the Pups don’t have a model in base-to-base with him. Yeah. Kill him in a Kill Point game and you can just guess where the wolves will be sprinting to. Easy pick’ns for pie-plates.

Ok, enough with the Special Characters, eh? The real HQ choices you’ll see pop up are the following: Rune Priests and Wolf Priests. Now unless you’ve been under a rock for the past six months (or skillfully avoiding the numerous “OMGZ SPACE WOLVES BREAK 40K” threads that have popped up across various forums) then you already know the controversy behind the Rune Priest and his “Jaws of the World Wolf” psychic power. First of all, yes it is very powerful when used correctly especially against models like the Carnifex who need to roll a 1 or 2 to not die. Ouch. At the same time, most models have I3 or I4 so you’re looking at a 4+ or 5+ to kill the model (respectively) and combined with a 91.68% chance to successfully use the psychic power you have a 45.8% chance to kill an I3 model and a 30.6% chance to kill an I4 model. One. Model. Word of advice: Jaws of the World Wolf… not as great as people think it may be (bar, of course, the unfortunate I1 models out there). Granted, it’s definitely still a worthwhile power to take with your Rune Priest, but by no means the end-all-be-all of psychic powers. Personally, one of my favorite Rune Priest psychic powers is the Tempest’s Wrath because it deters deep-strikers, jump infantry, jet bikes and skimmers entering within 24” of him since all terrain, for the offending units, is both difficult and dangerous. In the course of a game where speed is the key to victory, this can be VERY useful. However the best HQ, in my opinion, is not the Rune Priest. It’s…

The Wolf Priest! Ok, ok, maybe I’m biased because I think the Chaplain is the best HQ in Codex: Space Marines, but the principles are all the same. He adds a cohesive effect to the army, giving the unit he is with Preferred Enemy. WOW! Preferred Enemy! Better than the Vanilla “Litanies of Hate” which only allow re-rolls on first round of combat if the squad charged that turn, this allows re-rolls to hit EVERY TIME. Of course the catch is that you must choose a unit-type, but that shouldn’t be a problem because veteran list builders know to build a list with a purpose in mind for every unit. If I was building a list I’d pop this dude in with a Blood Claws squad and pick “infantry” and go to town. Other than that, the Wolf Priest is, effectively, a Space Marine Chaplain. And still the most effective HQ in Codex: Space Wolves.

Now onto Elites.

Wolf Guard are the versatile of versatile. They are the Veterans, Terminators and Sergeants of the Space Wolves and I guarantee you will see them in 90% of Space Wolf lists. Giving Wolf Guards Terminator Armor is cheap. Seven points cheaper than Codex: Space Marines’ Terminators cheap. With that you get a Power Sword and Storm Bolter which is pretty sweet. Now you might be asking “Why did you say Wolf Wing lists are expensive when talking about Logan Grimnar earlier?” Good question. Well you can, conceivably, have a cheap Terminator squad with Power Swords and Storm Bolters but, with a typical 5-man squad, you only get a potential 15 attacks rather than the possible 20 attacks at 25 points less with just regular Wolf Guard and Power Weapons. Sure some people will take them, but the only threat those particular Terminators bring to the table are their 2+ armor which can be easily broken with the Melta spam people seem to love to bring to the table. The threat you want with Terminators (besides the 2+ survivability) is high killing power (dual Lightning Claws) or high-toughness/anti-tank capabilities (Thunder Hammers or Power Fists, though preferably the former). In order to get this with Wolf Guard you need to pay three points more per model than C:SM for dual Wolf Claws (though, on the upside, you get to choose to re-roll either hits or misses), twenty-three more points per model for Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield (NOT worth it!) or eight points more per model for the classic Power Fist/Storm Bolter combo (again, NOT worth it). The most viable option here are the dual Lightning Claws but as a rule I say avoid Wolf Guard Terminators in squads. Instead it may be worthwhile to have a few Terminator-equipped Guard to through in your Blood Claws squads for some extra ‘oompf’ in combat, though I only suggest it at a high point level (1850pt minimum). Taking Wolf Guard without Terminator armor is far more deadly and definitely worthwhile for Close-Combat oriented squads like Blood Claws. If you want a full squad of Power Weapon toting badasses, Wolfguard can be a good option but, like Vanguard for Codex: Space Marines, they can get expensive real quick and lack a good amount of survivability. Their strength is absolutely separating them and making them pack leaders but what you give them is highly dependent on your personal play style.Wolf Scouts are neat. I do have a soft spot for Scouts, but these guys are just plain cool. Their “Behind Enemy Lines” special rule makes them very deadly because on a 3+ they can enter play from any table edge including the enemy’s. This can be game changing if used correctly because you can take out well hidden things early, or you can force your opponent to deploy in a manner that hurts his units’ potential performance in order to limit the damage from the outflanking scouts. Sure, they are just scouts, but they can be deadly. However, they cost fifteen points apiece. I love what these guys can bring to the table, I really do, but I feel that unless you have a solid strategy for Wolf Scouts in your list or have sufficient practice with them in a competitive setting (or you’re playing for fun) I would keep them out of your list. The best way to counter them is just shoot ‘em with massed AP4 weaponry like normal Space Marine scouts as the Wolf Scouts’ only strength is being able to effectively infiltrate enemy lines (which, again, if done correctly, will frak your day up).

Lone Wolves are very different. In essence, he is a watered down Captain for only twenty points. The down-side is that he is always on his own and can never join or be joined with a unit. Yet he can also change a Kill Point game around real quick since if he is killed he does not give up a point and if he is not killed he gives one up, but stays alive longer and potentially racks more points up for the Space Wolves player. Now a strategy to use is to take a Power Weapon and send him into combat side-by-side with some Blood Claws. That gives him extra killy power and forces the enemy to split up attacks (or not split up attacks and save his ass) which is useful. Think of him as an Independent Character that is running with a unit rather than in a unit. Play the Lone Wolf like that and he can be very useful. A problem is that if you want to give him deadlier weaponry, it gets a bit on the expensive side but can be worth it if you are facing a very tough enemy (such as Space Marines).

Time for Troops!

This one will be short and sweet: Grey Hunters are cheap and awesome. Give them ten guys and take two special weapons for the cost of one (expect lots of dual-melta squads)!

Blood Claws will be a bit longer as I love them and they should be in every single Space Wolves list ever (along with at least one Grey Hunters squad for some close-range fire support). Max the squads out at fifteen models, give them two special weapons for the price of one (flamers since they are, at the end of the day, an infantry-hunting unit) and enjoy your fifty-eight attacks on the charge (four per Blood Claw and three per Special Weapon toting Blood Claw). Everyone will hate you. Now this squad has the option to upgrade with Lukas the Trickster which is…costly to say the least. However, he brings a neat ability to the table: when he dies in Close Combat, the Space Wolf player and the enemy roll off and if the Space Wolf player wins any model in base-to-base contact with him is removed as a casualty. If you can fit him into your list, I’d suggest it. Grab a cheap (well, as cheap as you can get) 5-man Blood Claw squad and upgrade to Lukas. Get them into combat with a tough model (Carnifex, Avatar, C’Tan), wait for him to die and potentially destroy the target outright. Of course it’s uncertain whether or not that’ll happen but at the very worst you have tied up a deadly model (or models) for at least one turn and could’ve even wounded it as well (a 5-man Blood Claw squad with a Lukas upgrade has a 70% chance to wound an Avatar on the charge). However, I only suggest Lukas if you have enough room in your list and are not taking other highly-specialized Close Combat squads as it is a tad expensive. If you’re playing against Lukas, don’t let his squad get into Close Combat with anything valuable. Seriously.

Fast Attack time!

Thunderwolf Calvary are expensive and I only see them working well if Fenrisian Wolf squads are taken since said squads can re-roll failed Morale checks if they are within 12” of a Calvary model. Not to mention that they have six strength five attacks on the charge and have a beautiful 12” charge range. They are absolutely deadly in combat, but will get shot to hell unless you have some Fenrisian Wolves to take the heat off of them.

I will forgo talking about Swiftclaw packs as they are Blood Claws with a 12” movement range (bikes and jump packs). Treat them as Blood Claws and you’ll be golden!

Fenrisian Wolves are cheap, but fragile. But for one-hundred twenty points you get sixty attacks on the charge. Crazy awesome. Of course their 6+ save means they’ll die en masse in the first round of combat (usually) but that first round is really all you need to make up their points. Now another benefit of them is the fact that they are so fragile. Why? Because then it is the easy kill for the enemy and it will take some heat off of your other squads. If you saw fifteen close-combat monsters that you can kill very easily, why would you not shoot at them? At least thin their numbers down so it won’t hurt as much when they get into combat, right? Well that is, honestly, the best strategy to use against them, it still allows them to soak up wounds that would normally be targeted at Blood Claws or other highly valuable squads. Fenrisian Wolves are great for those two purposes: hard-hitting first round of combat and a unit to soak up wounds. It’s a beautiful thing.

Lastly, Heavy Support.

Long Fangs are the only unique unit in Codex Space Wolves under this heading and, thus, will be the only unit I talk about! They have a neat ability which allows the Sergeant to forgo his shooting phase and in turn allows the squad to split its fire. This makes squad-based versatility (which I am a fan of anyway) more powerful as it lets you make the most out of the squad in both the anti-tank and anti-infantry categories. Not everyone likes this idea and that’s alright, but this rule can still be useful for those that prefer the all anti-tank or all anti-infantry squads. Yet when it comes down to putting them in a list, I don’t see them being a popular choice only because they can only have five man squads and, as such, will be easy targets. If you have a good rushing screen of Blood Claws and Fenrisian Wolves, however, I think Long Fangs will last a bit longer and be a bit more effective. My opinion, though, is to forget about them and look for long range support elsewhere (like Predators, for example).

Well I hope everyone enjoyed reading my opinion on the competitive aspect of the Space Wolves codex and that I either helped the aspiring Space Wolf players out there or helped prepare you to fight Space Wolves next time you head down to your FLGS. Happy gaming everyone!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Getting into Space Puppies, and this post was overly helpful! Thank you a good bunch, sir.