Friday, March 8, 2013

Competitive Blood Angels in 6th Edition: part 2

Today we will discuss the Troop options of the BA codex

Assault Marine Squads

The basic unit that shapes the backbone of almost every BA list, Assault Squads are units that can be designed to fulfill a multitude of roles, and can be armed to be effective against almost everything. Personally, I think that AMS are one of the best troop choices available at any Space Marine codex, because of their relatively low cost, mobility and flexibility.

 An Assault squad can be built in so many ways that would require an article of its own, to describe in full detail. They most common forms encountered are:

Jump Pack Assault Squads.  Probably the most straightforward approach, this unit is almost always composed of  9 marines with 2 special weapons and a Sergeant . Their basic role is that of an all-around effective melee unit , that can pose a threat to any target. Although this unit seems to have lost a lot of its usefulness, they can still perform excellently  when properly supported. Divination and Priest bubble is the obvious choice, that takes this unit a level above all other MEQ’s.  You should opt to throw these guys into combat as soon as possible, but they will not respond well to a reckless player, which means that, in order to get the most out of these 10 guys, the player must  have a clear picture of just how durable this unit is, and how much damage it can cause.  They are still marines, which means that they will succumb to melee specialists and/ or die quickly by the enemy’s firepower.

 Their true power lies in their resilience and mobility, rather than raw power. Use that to avoid enemy assaults and reduce as much as possible all forms of incoming fire.

The reason why JAS have seen a decline in the frequency of their use, is because people believe that they will get shot to death before they get into combat, then receive more casualties from overwatch before assaulting, and on top of that, they would not be as effective in taking out units in melee as they used to.
Let’s see what JAS have actually lost , and what they have gained in the edition swift:

  •           Furious Charge, is probably the biggest nerf that BA received, and this affects JAS more than any other unit in the book. Against MEQ, it just increases the amount of damage that RAS are gonna take.
  •           Random Charge Lengh. Another addition that makes it a harder to get into combat. RCL is not outright bad ( after all, the average 2d6 roll is approx. 7 ), and while Jump packs allow some more control over this, it is a rare occation indeed when JP move is gonna get held back in favor of the assault move.
  •           FNP. Most people believe that FNP has been nerfed in 6th edition, but I disagree with this claim.  FNP no longer occurs on 4+, but instead on 5+, which means that its change of happening has dropped from 50% down to 33%. On the other hand, FNP has now become almost universal, protecting all units from low ap , power weapons and the like. For a melee oriented unit, this is of huge importance. What do most people use nowadays? Plasma guns, aka ap2 rapid fire weapons. And when a unit, let’s say, a tactical squad is firing at a JAS, the plasma is the weapon that is expected to cause casualties. Bolter shots are classified as “ massed firepower”, and although your assault squad will succumb to the volume of shots,  they are cheap enough to make this event look negligible. What I am trying to say here is that, FNP is no longer a barrier that halves incoming damage from massed firepower, but instead a universal safeguard that offers a more complete protection. Not to mention how handy it is against power and rending weapons in CC.
  •       Hammer of Wrath.  Another new addition, although not of great importance,  as it is a rare occasion indeed, when Jump Packs are not gonna be used for rapid movement, but it is good to have the option to do some additional damage anyway.
  •       Prescience. Perhaps the ultimate form of supportive buff, this power allows constant rerolls to hit, in both shooting and melee phases. JAS get an incredible boost from this power, as they get more lethal not only in melee , but also in the shooting phase while under it's influence. This effect goes on for the entire game turn, thus allowing many, many dice to be re-rolled!  Furthermore, when assaulting fearless hordes, prescience can make the difference and turn the tide of the combat in your favor. 
Considering all of the above, do you still think that 6th has been so hostile to our basic troop unit?  They will still get to charge very fast, they will probably receive shooting damage for only a couple of turns before they start their own good work. Overwatch, although somewhat important, will almost never do enough damage to a JAS ( 3+ save is very reliable ), and even with In4, what is the worst that can happen? Are you that much afraid of enemy marines with bolters? Even a GK Strike Squad is not to be feared when you are the one making the charge.

When it comes to weapon loadouts for a JAS,  they should always carry 2 special weapons ( Flamers or meltaguns  ), and the Sergeant should be armed with a power weapon , usually Axe.  Many people will say that further points  investment makes this squad more effective, by giving power fists,  lightning claws and/or stormshields to the sergeants , but I would advise you to be somewhat conservative in this matter. It is better to keep their points cost at a minimum,  and invest those points elsewhere, in other units that will support your squad, instead of spending those points on the squad herself.

Aside from their combat prowess,  JAS make very mobile objective holders. When played successfully, a squad with jump packs should be thrown into battle early, dish out as much damage as possible to the enemy, and finally, run to objectives during the final turns of the game.

Razorback Assault Squad
                This unit exchanges most of its cc potential for a razorback with a heavy weapon on discount.  A RAS is almost always composed of 5 guys with their transport, and the occasional special weapon. They will spend the majority of the game inside the razorback, in safety, and they don’t need any support at this role.  Their low cost and high durability make them great overall, but the changes brought by 6th edition have made them rather lose potential.

 Perhaps, the most important hit came from the new vehicle rules, which mean that mech lists are much less durable. Now that glancing hits can wreck vehicles and getting a penetrating hit means that your weapon will almost always be useless ( 50% chance of being useless for 1 turn and another 35% of being totally gone ),  reduce dramatically the overall performance of the Razorback. Worse yet,  5 marines were never posing a threat to anyone, but now that they can no longer charge after disembarking from their transport, while needing to be outside of it for objective claiming, makes them easy prey for the enemy.

 However, although the days of Razorspam are probably over, when used with moderation, and not as a core of a list, RAS can still perform well even in competitive levels.

Land raider and drop pod squads will be discussed in the Tactics section of this guide.

Tactical Squads
 The second best troop unit of the BA codex, tactical squads have seen a rise in popularity in the current metagame. The new transport rules favor them, rapid fire weapons are much more useful now, and shooting has become the prevalent source of damage.  Their uses and weapon loadouts are indeed many and varied, and depend on what role is assigned to each squad. Their points cost is also not that bad, and they get cheap heavy and special weapons.
However, my personal opinion is that, BA tacticals are outclassed by the majority of the rest of tactical marines available to other Marine codices.  For this reason, I would advise anyone who design lists with tactical marines, to go for allied units of tacticals. DA Tacticals, for example are better in every way, and cheaper too, SW Grey hunters are awesome value for their points, and since you can have access to them without any drawbacks ( aside from the necessary HQ choice ), why not do just that?
Of course, at the end of the day it all comes down to the kind of list you are trying to build, and If you can spare the points for 3-4 troop units.

Death Company
 Ah….the DC…isn’t it amazing, what can a new edition do for a unit? I think that, among the units that got boosted by the new USR,  Death company can probably claim the 1st place. Their most hindering flaw turned into an incredible boost, and the DC has become a superb lethal weapon , completely under the control of the player. What can I say about them? They are blessed with FNP, FC and relentless, have WS of 5 and can do as many as 5 attacks when charging…most HQ choices don’t get that many attacks you know. And all that power comes from a model of 20 points. A true bargain indeed.
 Still, it saddens me to see that DC have not taken the BA listbuilding by storm. The reason is quite obvious though, and it derives from their rather restricted mobility.

Of course, you can give them Jump packs, but if you were really considering this option, you wouldn’t be reading an article about “ competitive” gameplay, right? 15 points per JP is insane, and should be avoided at all times ( best reserved for games of 2.500 points or more ).

 As a result, in order to get the most out of the DC, another transport options should be considered.

Land raiders are perhaps the best solution, offering several other advantages ( which will be discussed later ), aside from transferring a lethal unit to its destination. The cost of a land raider, although high, is very much justified by the rewards given by the DC. So, if you can spare 250+ points , I would really advise you to go for  a Land raider.

 Drop Pods.  A more revolutionary approach, the drop pod provides good positioning at dirt cheap cost.  A DC that comes into play from a DP, will need to survive an enemy turn in order to start dealing serious damage, which means that they need support ( which can be provided rather easily by the BA force ), or else they won’t survive long.

DC Dreadnoughts
Although completely outclassed by Furiozos in every way,  DC dreads are not that bad. They are cheap and can still hurt horde armies. Can be put into drop pods and sent to the enemy ( but only as parts of the second wave, they have become too fragile to withstand the enemy’s full force reaction ), and help pick up any remains of the enemy, or can be embarked in Stormravens and being kept in there until late game.  Not very much of an awesome unit, but the fact that they are troops ( aka don’t occupy precious Elites or HS slots ) gives them some sort of utility.

 There is not much to be said about scouts. Their main purpose is objective holding, and they are good at it. Should be usually considered after you have built the bulk of your list and you have some leftover points.

I was planning to add the Mech BA section to this part of the article, but this whole guide is getting lengthier than I expected.  As a result, Mech BA will be discussed in part 3.

That’s all for today,  thank you for your time.

Stefanos Kapetanakis, out.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Competitive Blood Angels in 6th Edition, Part 1

 Greetings fellow gamers!

February had been a very busy month for me, with all the mid-term exams and whatnot, and once again a lot of time has passed without any new posts… I should be ashamed of myself.

Anyways, today’s topic is dedicated to Blood Angels, and their competitive value in the dreadful 6th edition.
  It’s been already about 7-8 months since the dawn of the 6th, and as of today, I haven’t  been able to find a single satisfying  guide, analysis or tactica about the BA codex.  What’s  more,  there is no solid presence of BA in any grand tournament, nor any indication to encourage the claim that this army can perform adequately at competitive level.

  As a result, my only source of information derive from  various posts on forums, vague articles on blogs, and of course from the view of the majority of players.

Thus, using these rather  “crude” materials and without any solid facts to rely upon, I will attempt to write this article and share with you the results of my research, as well as the impression  that I have obtained from the Blood Angels Codex.

 To begin with, I will attempt to analyze some of the most popular BA units that are used nowadays:


The first unit I would like to talk about Is Mephy, aka the mini Carnifex.   I see this guy being used all the time, being included in almost 60% of all BA lists I come across, as the sole HQ choice.
Personally, I am not a fan of Mephiston. I believe that in 6th edition he has lost a lot of his shine.


  •        Plasma has become the most common special weapon, and while it is a little harder for them to wound Mephiston ( when compared to meltaguns ),  the increased amount of shots that come from rapid fire mean that Mephy goes down faster. A lot faster. At least FNP can compensate somehow, but yet,  once he comes into contact with the enemy, he won’t survive very long.

  •         AP3 weapon. This is where 6th has truly hurt Mephiston.  He is supposed to be the unstoppable killing machine of the Imperium, yet his weapon cannot harm a mere Terminator.  As a result, the effectiveness of Mephy has gone down significantly. He no longer is an unstoppable train of brute force , but instead has become an overpriced light infantry killer. To add insult to injury, he no longer stands a chance in melee against most decent CC HQ characters,  as it has become very easy for the enemy to lock him into combat with a cheap character with 2+ save, who not only is almost impervious to any damage dealt from Mephiston, but some of them ( like Inquisitor Corteaz , or a humble Destroyer lord with SMW and MSS ) can best him in a single turn of assault!

  •            Lack of Independent Character and Fearless.  Yeah, I am not reinventing the wheel here, we all know how bad it hurts that Mephy cannot join squads.  In 6th edition, this flaw of him has become rather more gaping, making Mephiston unable to withstand any focused firepower. He is as easy as ever to be picked out and swiped by any semi-decent shooting unit, and far easier to get locked in combat against enemy units who are Fearless.

Thus,  the enemy now easily drown Mephiston into a sea of bodies or simply focus-kill  him in a turn of shooting. What’s more, with every new codex,  we see more artifacts, abilities or upgrades that affect  models or units. For Mephiston, the worst of them is certainly the Mindshackle Scarabs(MSS )upgrade, who has a profound  impact on him.

All things considered, Mephiston  apparently has a harder time on the table than he used to. However, most people would state that all of his shortcomings could be diminished when supported by the rest of the army. 

It is always possible to keep Mephiston hidden, inside transports , or under constant support from Sanguinary Priests, and at the same time, use his mobility to avoid infantry units with 2+ save.   In my opinion, this is just ineffective, to design a list that will support a unit whose points cost is supposed to guarantee that Mephiston can operate on his own and be all-around lethal.

His performance in my playtests was rather disappointing. Against an IG player, who runs a list full on plasma veterans and the now- ubiquitous vendettas, I was hiding Mephiston behind 2 land raiders. When the Vendettas came in, they shot down my land raider, and then his deep striking stormtroopers shot him to death with melta and plasma weapons. Similarly, against a Necron player, he did not manage to deal any damage at all, since he slaughtered himself after the MSS taunt. Not to mention how hindered he gets  when confronted by chaos Obliterator spam or killy Chaos Lords who carry black maces.

All things considered, my personal opinion is that Mephiston is not the beast  he used to be, and although he can still wreak havoc against certain lists, he can be easily get outplayed by those players who know how to deal with him ( which is easier that ever ). I believe that he falls into the category of " putting all your eggs in one basket", and I would refrain from using him in my lists at any given moment.


Another very popular choice, Stormraven is considered by many to be one of the best flyers of the current metagame, combining durability with decent damage output.

 It is true, that SR is a very good flyer indeed, and perhaps the one who excels the most at taking down enemy flyers or other vehicles.  A twin-linked multi-melta with the skyfire rule is indeed a powerful tool, and the rest of the SR loadout has the potential to fulfill a multitude or roles, making the SR a true Jack of all Trades,

…and a master of none.  While it is a force to be reckoned with, the Stormraven requires a sum of points that most lists can ill-afford to pay. Don’t get me wrong here, 200 points is not much for a model that has the potential to change the course of the game, and I always reserve a spot for one in my builds,but the problem is, that sometimes one is just not enough.

      It is an undeniable fact, that flyers are , perhaps the most important element of the current metagame. Almost all IG players use 3 Vendettas, Orks max out their  FA slots with Dakkajets ,  Chaos Space Marines can also field 3 Heldrakes and Necrons can be expected to have 3-9 flyers in their list at any given moment.  In those situations, a sole Stormraven is certainly gonna lose the aerial superiority,  thus creating problems for the rest of the list.

 The only answer could be, a devastator Squad  with Prescience ( rather “meh” IMHO),  a quad gun and/ or another Stormraven or other allied Flyer.  However, for me , the question remains, whether Stormravens should be taken in pairs, solo or not at all.

Sanguinary Priests:

 When I started reading post and topics about BA in 6th, I was surprised to see that most people are reluctant to include Sanguinary priests in their lists. Of course, I can see the obvious reasons, with both FC and FNP getting nerfed, and characters being easier to get singled out in close combat, or even getting sniped ( in extreme situations )

Even though the changes to the USR were not kind to our priests,  it is my personal belief that they are still necessary  for the BA. With the exception of heavy mech lists and/or razorspam ( which are not very common in 6th ),  a single sanguinary priest can make a great difference in the game. In fact, the SP is the only thing that actually make BA units a bit better that the majority of other MEQ’s. Yes, even with FC, the enemy marines  still get to fight at the same initiative, and our assault squads are having a harder time to deal with cc oriented units, but still, I believe that this +1str bonus is always desirable, and combined with Prescience bonus, can change the course of an assault dramatically. FNP still offers an important boost to the survivability of our units, providing a somewhat decent defense against plasma weapons.  

 When all is said and done, sanguinary priests are there for  one reason only:  supporting other units. And for  50 points, I don’t think that takes a great sacrifice to have one of them in the list.


Speaking of priests, this article would not be complete without  a reference to this guy. . I had never considered using Corbulo  in my lists before, unti the moment I realized how  amazing he is. Not only he fulfill the role of buffer, but his  FNP (2+) on himself means that he can become a unique guardian for the squad he is attached to, shrugging of amazing loads of damage and increasing the potential of his squad tenfold. Furthermore, he grants a dice reroll per game, which allows for a plethora of applications which can save your day. In fact, the only disadvantage of Corbulo is his limited mobility, which means that most of the time he must be accompanied with transports. Othen than that, I believe that Corbulo belongs to the group of models that got a tremendous advantage in the 6th ed.

Furioso (FRAGiozo!) Dreadnought

While it has become common ground that Walkers are much less desirable currently, the mighty Furioso stands out as a significant exception. What if the Blood talons are ap3? What if Dreadnoughts are struggling to be effective in short range? The furiosos have found  a way to use the edition swift in the favor  and remain  useful and competitive. The answer, of course came from the Frag cannon, a weapon that  appears to be perfectly suited for the blobs of infantry that people use nowadays. Just  use a drop pod to throw it right in the heart of the enemy units and then proceed to incinerate everything in its path.
                I cannot stress enough the importance of Fragiosos  for the Blood Angel army. They have become one of the best units in the book, but we will talk more about their strategies and uses later on.

This concludes the 1st part of the BA tactica.  Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon!

 Thank you for your time,
Stefanos Kapetanakis, out.