Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sharing the Pain

Blood Angel players, now we can share the same pain as our Black Templar Battle-Brethren. The Land Raider Crusader pattern was first introduced for the Black Templar and then spread to the other chapters. The same has happened to the Storm Raven.

You can see in this paragraph the entire plan that was to come. After the Blood Angel introduction, it would go to the Grey Knights and now GW had the opportunity to give it to all of the other chapters excepting the Space Wolves.

I think the sting would have hurt a lot less if the Blood Angels would have been allowed access to the Stormtalon Gunship or the Land Speeder Storm. It is not a matter of sharing but balance between access and uniqueness. We have our own interesting units, yet it always hurts to give and not get any love back for our noble chapter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blood Rodeo Review

3++ updated the Blood Rodeo for 6th Ed.back in July. Essentially, I have combined three separate articles to be able bring the concepts together into one place rather than ending up disjointed. Set aside a little time to read it through properly and be able to advance this conversation and Blood Angel army build.

First, bikes are improved. That constant Toughness 5 is a huge benefit.It is like strength five and six weapons with multiple shots where it tips from being lucky to wound to being useful and consistent. It also brushes aside instant death from missiles and melta weapons.Blood Angels' Bike Squads only score in one of the missions and cannot be unlocked as Troops Choices.

Here's the final 5th Edition 3++ Blood Rodeo to review:

HQ -
Librarian w/Bike, Blood Lance & Sanguine Sword
Librarian w/Bike, Blood Lance & Sanguine Sword

Elites - 
5x TH/SS Terminators
2x Sanguinary Priest w/Jump Pack, Lightning Claw
Sanguinary Priest w/Jump Pack

Troops -
10x ASM w/2x meltagun, Power Fist, hand flamer
10x ASM w/2x meltagun, Power Fist, hand flamer
5x ASM w/meltagun, infernous pistol, hand flamer, melta bombs

Fast Attack - 
8x Bikes w/2x meltagun, Power Fist, Attack Bike w/MM
8x Bikes w/2x meltagun, Power Fist, Attack Bike w/MM

Blood Rodeo is about using a screen of biker models to protect the FNP/FC Assault Marines of a Blood Angels army for any unwanted assaults/attention and basically ferry them into combat. 
In 5th edition this looked at bringing Bikes from the Blood Angels army who had the benefit of FNP but as we all know, bikes aren't cheap and bikes without combat tactics are bikes stuck in combat, particularly when they are a screening force. The ASM + heavy units (TH/SS, Sanguinary Guard, etc.) were used to try and break that stalemate and the Bikes gave the ASM some extra ranged dakka and the ability to get off charges against their opponents.

There are a couple of things which make this list and concept work. The first one is obviously scoring ASM. Whilst scoring bikes are arguably better, we have scoring ASM which provides the list with the needed mobility, special weapons and combat prowess across multiple units. Whilst ASM aren’t great assault troops they are a sight better than Tactical Marines & Bikes and when combined with the FNP/FC bubbles Blood Angels have access to, they are greatly improved. This brings us to the 2nd point on why this list works. FNP/FC bubbles. FNP makes the whole army (Bikes & ASM) very survivable, especially in combat against anything without power weapons. As stated above, FC makes the ASM ‘good’ assault troops and even makes Bikes on the charge better than terrible but it still doesn’t make the army a good combat army as an entity. This is where the Terminators come in and the major concept of this list, bubble-wrapping. 

This works by ‘wrapping’ the ASM with the combat squadded bikes. The bikes aren’t great in combat even on the charge w/FC and are a higher toughness (which combined with FNP makes them very tough against anything which doesn’t ignore saves) and are therefore better able in this role to accept charges. This protects the ASM from charges and because ASM have jump packs, they are able to jump over the combat and assault the units engaged with the Bikes. Ergo, the Rodeo. This takes advantage of both the FNP and FC aspects of the Blood Chalice to great effect. Furthermore, with the FAQ changes to FNP/FC bubbles it is also easier to get the ASM those benefits by tucking the Sanguinary Priests behind the combat on the bike side (but not engaged in the combat). This is a key part of how the army works and should be practiced as once FNP disappears you‘ve just got a bunch of Marines & Bikes who are mediocre in combat. The obvious alternative is to have the Sanguinary Priests assault with the ASM as you can get an extra special weapon and a higher WS IC involved.
However, there is still the glaring weakness of no real scary combat units in this list and without VV or HG to suck up power weapon hits on storm shields, super combat units which ignore saves can be very problematic for the Blood Rodeo. Enter Stelek’s change: Terminators. Whilst TH/SS terminators don’t benefit from Descent of Angels, deep striking them on the enemy’s side of the engagement line (where the Bikes & ASM are involved in conflict) provides you with a huge rock unit which will beat most other rock units in combat (and anything else besides). This is another key point of the Blood Rodeo, where and when to deep strike these guys. Sometimes it is better to run the Terminators behind the Bike bubble-wrap and assault forward as a gap opens and sometimes it’s better to reserve them and have them walk on. Let’s take a quick look.
Reserve on foot: the only time you really want to do this is when you are playing defensively against armies like Daemons, Jumpers or Drop Pods. Since the enemy is approaching you, by the time your Terminators walk on you have either created a huge “no go” zone for your opponent or will be able to assault something on the turn your arrive.
Reserve: this should be the most common option as you want your Terminators to drop behind the engagement line and be able to wreck face by either threatening more of your opponent’s army or countering super units. The one problem with this is they may turn up later or earlier than you need them.
Walk: this should generally be against shooty lists with a large amount of Ap2+ weaponry. Dropping these guys in will generally have them shot to pieces by such weaponry as your opponent focuses on them. By deploying them on the table, you’ve forced your opponent to make a choice on what to shoot. Furthermore, armies like this such as IG and Tau need to be overwhelmed with targets and don’t really have units the Terminators are designed to counter anyway. It can also be difficult to bull the Terminators through your lines and requires a bit of finesse to do so.
So why Terminators? VV, HG or Sanguinary Guard would fit the theme of Blood Rodeo much better whilst still providing either a strong combat punch or steely combat defences through storm shields. For this however, we want both. This rules out Sanguinary Guard as they are incapable of receiving an invulnerable save. HG and VV are both options then (particularly VV who can benefit from Descent of Angels and Heroic Intervention). However, for the point costs Terminators are flat better as they have both great defences (2+/3++) and can dish out the hurt with 10-15+ TH attacks. Whilst HG and VV can both get combat weapons like LCs and storm shields for defence, that’s 35 points just for the upgrades and the Terminators still have a better armor save and can deal more damage in combat with their Thunder Hammers. Whilst they have less mobility, with the nature of the Blood Rodeo they can generally get to where they are needed one turn after they deep-strike in.
Let’s take a final peek at how the list operates on the table and what its strengths and weaknesses are. In most games the Terminators and 1 combat squad of ASM will reserve via Deep-Strike. This allows the Blood Rodeo to land units behind the engagement line and expand the threat zone. Whilst Blood Rodeo is a very mobile army, it is susceptible to being bogged down in combat due to the lack of raw power by the ASM and bikes. The majority of the time the ASM and Bike squads should therefore be combat squadded. Whilst this gives you a potential ~15 Kill Points, meh, still less than mech lists and it gives you a lot more flexibility and mobility. The bikers then run as a screen for the ASM and will generally turbo-boost T1 for a 3+ cover with the ASM moving and running behind them. This gets the whole army (minus what’s in reserve) in your face very quickly and once the Bikes are engaged in combat, the ASM can jump over them and assault the units behind. It’s important to attempt to focus the PFists squads on a unit you want dead which the Terminators are unable to get to. The army also has a large amount of melta and flamer weapons with which to tackle both infantry and tank based armies and it’s important to try and de-mech your opponent ASAP so your ASM can benefit on the charge. Remember, the Bikes are there to accept charges and die whilst the real damage in combat comes from mass ASM attacks and the Terminators.

Here's the 6th Edition Version of the 3++ Blood Rodeo.
Librarian w/Bike, Shield of Sanguine, Unleash Rage

2x Priest w/Jump Pack, Power Weapon

3x10x ASM w/meltaguns, PFist


HQ Captain w/Bike, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer, Artificer Armor
Command Squad, Bikes, 4x Storm Shields, 4x Power Axes8x Bikes w/2x meltaguns, Attack Bike w/MM

5x Bikes w/2x meltaguns, Attack Bike w/MM

195 points gives us the basic squad with Bikes & FNP, so only 60 points left. Yikes. They cannot get any armor upgrades so storm shields to avoid death to power weapons is pretty important. There goes all 60 points. A Lightning Claw is what was used previously and they are still probably a good bet as the storm shield takes away the advantages of the power weapon for getting +1A. The Librarian is also giving them Unleash Rage which will be helpful in making sure those hits count. I'd stick with Lightning Claws at this point - without the +1A you're not going to benefit at all with power weapons, Lances without Hit & Run are risky, particularly with the fearless units abound, Axes you're just better off getting the Thunderhammer or Powerfist for and Mauls will have issue punching through Marine armor though could be usable for simple torrent. However, this unit is being run to deal with Terminators and the like in combat so running mass Power Axes might be a good idea - leave the anti-infantry/Marines up to the ASM.

Regardless, I'd pay the extra 15 points per model for a power weapon of some type - if you end up using all Lightning Claws change the 4th one to a Thunderhammer/PFist and if you end up using Power Axes, you can forego the last (but grab some melta bombs in combat). Command Squad, Bikes, 4x Storm Shields, 4x Power Axes. At a minimum this puts you 60 points over. Time to shave some points and we'd also like to buff our Captain a bit. We want to keep our ASM core - 30 ASM is the minimum you really need to break things open and that's only the case because we have some other scoring units + the Command squad. We'll look to trim from one of the Bike squads then and turn one full squad into a half squad. A full squad costs 280 whilst a half squad costs 205 giving us the 60 extra we needed for the Command Squad and 15 to play with. Perfect...

We can drop a final Bike from the small squad (still five strong with AB so counts as a Troops unit) to get some extras here and there on the characters or Command Squad (like plasma weapons, melta-bombs, etc.). Otherwise, that's Blood Rodeo taken to 6th edition.

There's still a bit of inefficiency with the Priests + ASM and potentially running this with the Marines as the parent list with attached ASM and then some Hybridity with Dreadnoughts/Predators running around wouldn't go amiss.

The theory still works and as we looked at before with Jumpers in general, they should fare fine in 6th edition. Bikers as a pure army probably aren't going to work any longer - low model count with reduced cover hurts, particularly with more AP2 weapons out there but should still work fine as a Hybrid army - as is the case here. There are 50+ T4/5/3+ models out there and most of them have FNP, so even mass plasma isn't going to chew through them. All platforms are fast so mass melta is still an excellent option, particularly as they are looking to engage the enemy though some Plasma might not got amiss on the Bike platforms. Impact hits from both units can help raise the damage in combat but it's still important to take down MCs/Dreads before engaging them, particularly with the ASM who do not have combat tactics. Flyers will be an issue and you could replace something on the Libby for Blood Lance but even then, that's only one option and this lack combined with a general increase in power for 2+ saves in combat will probably see this specific Jumper build be less viable than it was in 5th. Anti-infantry is again mostly combat related outside of the Bikes bolters and with large fearless units coming to play, this may end up being an issue for such armies in 6th.

The updated Blood Rodeo is better. Although it has lost some durability, it has significantly increased its objective scoring power significantly. It is also more mobile losing the Assault Terminators. Without needing to deepstrike the Assault Terminators, it allows more of your army on the table immediately. As Stelek has already mentioned, Turn 2 is the new Alpha Strike. There are serious problems with leaving too much of your army in reserve with the decrease in cover and increase in power of overall shooting. 

It is also nice for your opponent to see an interesting army being put across the table from them and that isn't Ravenwing. Please post your thoughts and ideas to improve this list in the comments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Special Weapon Review from 3++

3++ did a special weapon review at the beginning of 6th Edition. Let's see how it is holding up now after some more time. Of course, we will only look at this from the Blood Angel perspective.

Special weapons were a little less varried than heavies in 5th edition. Meltaguns was generally the first and last option people reached for - it was the best way to drop tanks and dirt cheap.

Things haven't really changed with the meltagun itself. It's still the most potent anti-tank vehicle when everything works in it's favor; it still bypasses most armor values at close range and has a 50% chance to destroy a vehicle when it penetrates and it's still dirt cheap. Chuck in a general reduction in cover (specifically, man-made cover like smoke launchers) and meltaguns are arugably better than they were. Unfortunately though, the most common platform for them, infantry inside transports, have had their threat ranges reduced by ~3" thanks to the new disembarkation rules. This threat range loss is of course gained only at the extreme and often would put such infantry in a place to get blasted to bits next turn (aka over-extension) but this option is now hindered just that bit more. Furthermore, the 3" lost still leaves the current infantry squad exposed as they must disembark and then move 6" - you can no longer move the transport 12" and disembark behind it to gain some protection. Expect to see these mostly on mobile units (i.e. jump infantry, bikes, etc.) though taking them in transports isn't bad, it's just not as flexible as in the previous edition. 
Infernous pistols, also for Blood Angels, are like the meltagun but hit more by the threat range reduction. Again, expect to see them mostly on Jumper units.

The biggest drive is need. The need for meltaguns has significantly decreased. You need to deal with a wide variety of targets now (tough infantry, Helldrakes, flyers, blobs) and vehicles are now in trouble when you get to grenade them. Don't forget your meltabombs and flamers.

The big change of 6th edition is of course the potential for the plasma gun to become much more popular. With a reduction in cover and changes to rapid fire weapons, the low AP of the plasma gun can come into play more often (forcing multiple 5+ cover saves is a lot better than multiple 4+ cover saves) whilst the rapid fire changes allow the plasma gun to have an effective 30" threat range. The addition of hull points to vehicles also make plasma volleys a scarier proposition - consider them a more power autocannon volley at short range. They can take off hull points of lower AVs but thanks to their AP2, they are also a little bit better at actually causing Explodes! results on any penetration they do generate. They are expensive though, but their increased rate of fire makes them effective at both anti-vehicle and anti-infantry duty (though obviously they are inefficient against horde like units). For units replacing their meltaguns with something else, the plasma gun is generally what people will be reaching for. 
The plasma pistol has everyone jumping up and down currently as well but really, it's the same cost as most plasma guns yet only gets one shot and only at 12". Yes you can take two with gunslinger to effectively have an old rapid-firing plasma gun but it's +30 points. It can certainly be useful as it gets you more raw firepower in a unit already maxed out but it's not exactly efficient.

Losing the ability to assault after firing that plasma gun shouldn't be underestimated either for Blood Angels players. Good work blowing up that transport- you can't assault the contents now though and you are left out in the wind for your opponents next turn of devastating shooting. Don't forget that those sweet heavy flamers are also assault weapons too.

The flamer hasn't changed much - it's always been a bit of a niche weapon on infantry. Like the meltagun it really suffers from the new disembarkation rules and the general weakness of tanks. Throwing a tank forward for some tank shock "I get to move your models" fun is riskier than it used to be and not always worth doing to drop some templates on individuals. That being said, a couple of them in a squad can be killers on Overwatch duty against lightly armed units. Any unit of Orks or Termagants or Guardsmen, etc. isn't going to want to charge (or multi-charge) a squad with a couple flamers in their midst. They're still generally dirt cheap and having a couple in your army for clearing infantry or charge defenses isn't a bad thing but they aren't going to be popping up everywhere. 
 Hand-flamers for Blood Angels though will likely see a bit more use - like flamers they are a niche role but the free Overwatch hits is a pretty decent buy.

I just don't see the utility in taking a hand flamer yet from the available choices in the BA codex. The regular flamer is not bad, but it is not that great either at S4 AP5. You don't hit that sweet spot until the Heavy Flamer at S5 AP4 or the Flamestorm Cannon at S6 AP3 for extra crisp traitors. Use what the codex options give you rather than forcing them into your list for improved effectiveness. Remember, you need to be close enough to use them, which you should think about with the improvement to rapid fire and especially plasma guns.

Special weapons are where we are more likely to see a turnaround. Meltaguns are still good but the gap between melta and plasma has closed dramatically and in an edition where AP2 and number of shots matter, the plasma gun is ticking both of those boxes. Expect to see more but not as much as we saw in the LasPlas days of 4th edition.

This last sentence is backwards and leads in the wrong direction. It's not what will you see, it is what will you bring? You are trying to build a balanced list, not trying to list tailor. Your special weapons should be basically something you fill in at the end. Your list should already have long range firepower, counter-assault, mobility, anti-tank, anti-infantry already checked off your list mostly because relying upon troops like assault squads or tac squads to do the heavy lifting is asking too much of them. Every opponent is geared toward killing marines, so they just don't have the staying power that they should.