Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Daemon Days

Greetings Gentlereaders!

I hope you had a good weekend, got in a game or two, maybe even went to a tournament.  I haven't had the chance to play much except at the last Game Preserve tournament down in Bloomington.  I had quite a good time and got to see some of the newest top lists.  I was surprised by my Tau dueling a combined Guard/Wolves army down to secondary objectives and their ability to control territory through weight of fire, even if it didn't win the game.  What I only got to see second hand is the rise of daemons in power since their update in the August WD and I'd like to talk about that some today.

About a week ago, Larry Vela reported from the Feast of Blades tournament about what he called The Unbeatable List.  With a name like that I'm a moth drawn to the flame of trying to crack it.  I can't talk about how to try to stop this list for every army because of the different abilities of each army to bring different types of units to perform different roles and this army can come in at least two varieties.   This article will talk about the threats daemons pose and how to slow daemons down initially.  Tl,dr: bring allies to bring down daemons.

First let's look at the FoB version of this army:

Herald of Tzeentch
3x 9 Flamers of Tzeentch
2x Pink Horrors of Tzeentch
3x Plaguebearers of Nurgle
Fast Attack
3x 9 Screamers of Tzeentch
Aegis Defense Line w/ Communication Relay

There's no getting around the qualities of this list.  It is an entirely reserves based army that has the ability to re-roll their reserves rolls and the ability to drop half their forces on turn one without needing to deploy, guaranteeing they can alpha strike their opponent.  Additionally, the screamers can turboboost when they deep strike and apply their AP 3 or armorbane strikes to units they fly over.  With three screamer units and three flamer units this army can present a large threat to any type of opponent whether or not they get their preferred wave.

There are five units of troops that present a low threat to their opponents compared to the flamers and screamers, so they will receive less attention while the distraction units are alive.  The durability of these troops units is massively bolstered by the aegis line, which cannot be destroyed, making them even less likely to be targeted while the distractions are alive.   I remember talking about this in the Maniple concept and am glad to see it in action, but now it's time to try to break it down.

As it stands, the flamers and screamers demand attention and require the right tools to deal with.  There are two ways to deal with theses threats that work best in collaboration: you can either try to kill them or you can try to zone them out.  Zoning is by far the more difficult of the two, so let's see how you could try to do it.  In principle this is basic deep strike defense, but the speed of daemons exacerbates the problems of deep strike defense.

The basic principle of deep strike defense is using cheap, generally useless units (e.g. kroot, conscripts) as a screen between your more important units and areas where your opponent can deep strike safely.  In the link you can see the principle of spacing units just far enough apart that only a direct hit has the possibility of landing a unit between your screens.  Ideally, you could use these screens to absorb enemy movement and assaults while you shoot them.  Unfortunately, as screamers are jetbikes and flamers are jump infantry, these daemonic threats are able to hop over screens and still wreck havoc if zoned.

Thankfully, there are units that can enhance screens that are made available through the allies system.  My first thought is to use the grey knights  to complement my army, especially if I am play a xenos army with less durable troops.  While strike squads are expensive and no more durable than marines, they bring the warp quake psychic power that causes all units deep striking within 12" of the squad to automatically mishap.  Don't like strike squads?  Bring a terminator squad and Inq. Coteaz: whenever a unit arrives from reserves within 12" and LoS of Coteaz his unit gets to shoot them right then.  Screamers can drop outside of 12" and still be effective, but their attacks are armor penetration three so no one in that squad is worried.

If you aren't a fan of grey knights, have a lot of psychers in your local play group or aren't massively concerned by daemons I would suggest you bring a rune priest for his tempest's wrath power that causes all skimmers, jetbikes, and jump infantry to treat terrain within 24" inches of the priest as difficult and dangerous.  In pure deep strike defense, this is worse, though it does cause more dangerous terrain tests in following turns.  If you aren't worried about denying the deep strike, simply bring a codex space marines librarian or a grey knight banisher to force them to re-roll their saves. The variety of marine tricks to deny daemons is not to be overlooked, especially for the price.

Now for the simpler, more difficult solution: kill them.  Flamers and screamers only have a 5+ invulnerable save and toughness four, though are two wounds per model.  So first off, disregard your armor penetration value, as they have an invulnerable save.  Next, remember that they are daemons and thus have their own special definition, including Eternal Warrior, so disregard any attempt to cause instant death.  What does this leave us looking at?

Well, before we talk about shooting them down, a caveat against trying to assault daemons.  It can be done, but it is difficult to do so well.  Screamers have strength five and armor penetration three in melee at initiative four, so they are elite combatants themselves and can kill other non-terminator elites well.  Flamers can use their breath of chaos (as it is not a psychic power) on overwatch and expect to cause one wound per model, allowing only invulnerable saves.  If you have a screening unit (e.g. kroot or cultists) backed by an elite, preferably terminator unit, you can have the screen eat the overwatch and either allow the terminators to charge unmolested or simply bog the daemons down in close combat.

Our ideal weapon would wound on a two and have plenty of shots, so a midrange rate-of-fire weapon like an autocannon, scatter laser, tesla destructor, or heavy bolter.  These weapons aren't generally on high ballistic skill models (except dreadnoughts and havocs), though twin linking can become equivalent to more shots in terms of expected value.  Ideally these weapons would be in the units behind the screens so they wouldn't be killed with the screens.

In short, xenos and guard generally have the types of weapons to kill daemons in good quantity and have cheap screening units.  Marines generally rely on their special rules to augment their lower numbers and are more reliable scoring choices than non-marines.  Daemons are currently a powerhouse codex, but this list type only relies on one codex with its strengths and weaknesses.  Each codex has them and if played alone can be susceptible to having its weaknesses exploited.  The way to exploit the daemons' weaknesses is to combine your forces to exploit those weaknesses in multiple ways.

How would you deal with these daemon days of 40k?

I'm Underground Heretic and I get to live with that every day!


  1. Contrary to the popular opinion, Screamers cannot turbo-boost after deep striking. Check out Turbo-Boost in the main rulebook-- models which have entered play that turn cannot do it. Models which may run can do so after deep striking- but not models which cannot, such as vehicles, jetbikes, and the like. Doesn't make Screamers a bad unit, by any means-- just means they don't do what people think or want them to.

  2. @SoH: certainly one of those things to look out for as people learn new rules.

  3. I'm looking at the book and it says that "units can fire (or Run) as normal" but there is no prohibition against turbo-boosting (p.36). Under turbo-boost its says bikes and jetbikes "cannot Run, but can make a special Turbo-boost move, instead of firing in their Shooting phase," again with no prohibition against doing so after a deep strike, though it does prohibit subsequent voluntary actions (p. 45).

    As shooting is a legal action for jetbikes after deep striking and turbo-boosting is an action taken instead of shooting, with no prohibitions listed under either the deep strike rules or turbo boost sections I must conclude that turbo boosting after a deep strike is legal for a jetbike.

  4. Right, but Turbo-Boost is not a Run move, and it's not shooting. It says that units can fire or run. It's a "the rules say you may by omission" versus "the rules say you may not because they don't say you can" question of interpretation, perhaps.