Sunday, March 2, 2014

Critique Corner III: The Veterans of the Venerators

Welcome back to another Critique Corner.  While browsing the interwebz, I came across an email containing another list.  There must be something compelling about the Space Marine Codex because so far it seems to be the only real focus of the Critique Corner.  Perhaps there is something within that particular tomb of infinite wisdom that has people so invested in developing their skills with it.  That said, it is probably has the broadest spectrum of list possibilities and widest-spread player base for a codex.  I'll note having seen several lists from it that, top-tier lists not withstanding, the lists are pretty diverse and each unique from another.  This list is no different... in that it is very different. 

Today's list comes from Piero Manchego-Badiola.  He is running a 1,500 point list out of Codex: Space Marines, using Ultramarines successors for his Chapter Tactics.

The List
Primary Detachment
Chief Librarian Tobias (165)
      "Counts As" Tigurius

Ironclad Dreadnought (155pts)
    Ironclad Launchers
    1x Hunter-Killer Missile
Drop Pod (35pts) 

Sternguard Veteran Squad (253pts)
    Veteran Sergeant (1)
        Boltgun, Power Fist
    Veterans (8)
        2x Combi-Melta

Drop Pod (35pts)

Tactical Squad (180pts) 
    Space Marine Veteran Sergeant (1)
        Bolt Pistol, Power Weapon
    Space Marines (9)

        Heavy Bolter
Rhino (35pts)
Tactical Squad (165pts) 
    Space Marine Sergeant (1)
        Bolt Pistol, Combi-Plasma
    Space Marines (9)
        Plasma Gun

Scout Squad (63)
    Scout Sargent (1)
        Bolt Pistol, Bolter
    Space Marine Scouts (4)
        3x Bolters
        Heavy Bolter

Fast Attack
Stormtalon Gunship (125pts)
    Skyhammer Missile Launcher 
    Twin-Linked Assault Cannon

Bike Squad (145)
    Veteran Sargent (1)
        Bolt Pistol, Combi-Grav
    Space Marines (4)
        2x Grav Gun

Heavy Support
Devastator Squad (144pts)
    Space Marine Sergeant (1)
        Bolter, Chainsword
    Space Marines (5)
        3x Lascannons

Total: 1500pt

Alternative Build
Captain Emelius (175)
      SM Bike
      Artificer Armour
      Storm Shield
      Thunder Hammer
            Replaces Librarian Tigurius.

Legion of the Damned Squad (155)
    Legionnaire Sergeant (1)
        Bolt Pistol, Combi-Melta
            Replaces the Ironclad Dreadnought.

Ironclad Dreadnought's Drop Pod is replaced with a Rhino for the second Tactical Squad.

Veteran status dropped from first Tactical Squad Sergeant.

Alright, so given that their are two lists here, I'll try to point out what I like about them separately, as they feel like they have different overall needs based on their primary focus.  First and foremost I think they are framed around a very solid core.  The Tactical Squads, Bikes, and Devastator units offer a broad variety of units, and also really give you the most out of the Ultramarines Chapter Tactics.  I think there could be some things done to tweak the wargear in some places, but we'll get to that in a bit.  The lists both feel capable of responding to most lists at the 1,500 point level, but will probably have difficulty with top-tier competitive lists.  That said, it should offer a good balance for you to adapt strategies on the fly as needed.

Macro Scale Review
Alright, so the first list presented is going to focus heavily on the Sterngaurd Drop Pod as it's primary answer to the enemy's big trick unit.  The sheer firepower offered by the re-rolled shots thanks to Tigurius should really make that unit a priority for the enemy to focus on.  This may be a problem as you'll be throwing your warlord into the enemy ranks and twisting their arm into shooting the unit, leaving him with a large target on his head.  However, smart plays and the forgiving nature of the deployment from drop pods should keep the options open.

The Ironclad pod is solid.  Don't change it for this list.  However, even with... and sort of especially factoring in the reserves manipulation from Tigurius, run a third pod if you can.  It's a general rule of thumb that 3 or 5 pods work the best, as it takes the most advantage of the Drop Pod Assault's half rounded up mechanic, and in the case of your first list, it really helps alleviate the pressure that either your sternguard or Ironclad will take. Its not the end of the world with 2, but I feel like you'll just have a better threat saturation for the units crammed down the enemy's throat.

The rest of your units will do exactly what they need to.  The bikes give you a mobile threat to keep some of the monstrous creatures on their toes, followed nicely by the Stormtalon and Devastators to target light to medium mech.  While Lascannons can damage heavy mech, I still am a fan of melta for that niche.  If nothing else the grav weapons work nicely on them and you always have the Ironclad for some rear-arch melta shots.  The interesting element to me are the scouts.  The lower ballistic skill on them doesn't make for a very good fire base unit, especially with only 5 guys.  I'd honestly recommend if you really want a little unit of scouts, go for the sniper scouts.  That way they can sit on a point and offer some pinning shots.  That said, I could see five scouts with boltguns being a neat distraction unit to put some early threat on enemy heavy weapons units.  They aren't bad, but may not do much in the grand scheme of things.

This list to me feels very much like what marines want to do, rush the mid field, and present a large number of units with relatively equal threat levels.  This leaves the enemy scrambling to deal with too much at once, and hopefully presents some places for you to shore up your assaults.

For the Alternative Build:

The Captain on bike will shift the focus from the Sterngaurd to the bikes slightly, as that unit then becomes a troop, and contains you warlord.  This is a very potent swap, as it will make your sterngaurd a little less juicy for killing them.  Usually Sterngaurd will die, so reducing the effect of that loss is usually a good thing.  The bikes with the added character do nicely to promote beefier threats outside of the single bomb, and if nothing else, makes those bikes scoring.

The Legion of the damned replacing the Ironclad works alright.  It still leaves you with a solid (actually better) melta trick, while giving up some threat after the drop since you lost the scary S10 dreadnought ccw. 

The other swaps I'll go into a bit more with the Micro Reviews on the Tactical Squads.

Micro Scale Reviews

Tigurius is solid.  If you are going to run a librarian, and you're using the Ultramarines tactics... you can't go wrong with him.  For his points he's a steal.

Your Ironclad in a pod is solid.  I don't know that there is anything wrong with it except maybe the solo Hunter-Killer missile.  This is a suggestion that is completely dependent on your local play area, but if you don't see much mech, I'd swap the points for the single missile for the Heavy Flamer.  It really allows it to be versatile once it can assault, but the missile does work better for the shock drop anti-vehicle tactic better.  I'd honestly tell you to drop the veteran sergeant upgrade on the tactical squad and use those points to flush out a second missile on this guy.

The Sternguard are great.  Tigurius should really help them put the hurting on whatever they hit pretty well.  The only real problem here is that with Tigurius there, the squad doesn't want to combat squad as it drastically lowers the potency from prescience.  This kinda limits the nice tactic of combat squading and cracking mech with the combi-meltas, and shooting infantry with the rest.  It's just the knocks of blending Tigurius with Sternguard.  Also, the powerfist may be a bit much.  Since the whole unit can use Krak grenades on mass these days, the fist is just really expensive and is really subject to harshness if you get slapped in a challenge with someone who isn't initiative 1.  It's not bad for giving you some outs in a pinch, but I'd probably flop those points into a couple more combi-weapons for the squad, and then give this sergeant melta bombs if you're still keen on having some answers to walkers or the like.

Ok, so your troops are a little all over the place.  This isn't bad, as I generally like to have a variety of things to be able to answer as much as I can, and it's less boring to look at as well.  However, these units feel a little too spread out, and may be spending points on things they won't get much out of.  The first tactical squad has a rhino, which while it sounds good for getting them mid-field quicker, it is the only piece of mech you'll have on the table if you go second.  This means that little Rhino is gonna face down a hail of anti-tank fire, and will probably concede first blood pretty easily.  Not to mention your spending points for a heavy bolter in this unit which probably won't get to fire much.  If you're going to run the unit forward, spend those ten points on a combi-weapon for the sergeant instead.  This lets you either double up on some flamer weapons, or have the utility of melta or plasma.  Don't go for the grav, as it needs quantity of fire to really be reliable (see this article for more on that.)  The Veteran upgrade is very cool, and makes the unit a little beefier in it's resolve, but as I mentioned above, the 10 points could be used to get a little more than the point in leadership and the attack.   It does offer more out of that power weapon, but it's just a thought.

The other tactical squad seems decent, but if you're going to put a heavy weapon somewhere, put it here.  The unit shouldn't be moving too much, and if it needs to you have the option to combat squad or at least not be wasting the rhino to get the shots.  If you can find the 5 points (which you have several options for how to get them) you could remove the heavy bolter from squad 1, and use those 15 points to slap a plasma cannon into this unit.  Keeps it focused on targeting light mech and heavy infantry nicely.

The scouts are a bit of an enigma.  Props to being the most out of the box with the unit and using them as a bolter unit.  They have some options with their small footprint and bolters.  Infiltrating them next to an enemy unit which doesn't want to move like devastators or artillery can be very useful, as 5 models have a decent shot at finding a spot to get them out of line of sight for the 12" infiltrate mark.  However, as much as the bolters could work for this, the shotguns may be a better bet, as it allows for an assault afterwards.  The low BS and the need to move makes them only so so at shooting, and as such I wouldn't grab the heavy bolter on them.  It's just too many points for a unit that only gets 1.5 hits.  However, if you spend a little more, you could get the hellfire shell which is a great option for them.  This however would make them want to sit back and shoot, which may have been the intent all along.  If you wanna sit back however, run the snipers on them.  It's a unique weapon option to the scouts, and fills a roll in hunting big game.  Bolters are everywhere else in your list, so they aren't needed here.  If you were running under the Imperial Fists' chapter tactics, I'd make a stronger case for them, but as it, they might need looking into based on what you want them to do for you.

The Stormtalon is fantastic.  Leave it as is.  It's a great anti-air machine, and is superb at offering support fire to your ground units if the skies are clear.  Great use of pints.

Your bikes are great.  These guys are kitted exactly as they should be and offer you something to take advantage of the Assault rules for the Ultramarine Tactics.  Their fast and resilient nature give you a unit to contest objectives as well as keep up with and hunt downed Flying Monstrous Creatures. Solid choice.

The Devastators are good.  The fact that you only have three heavy weapons is a bit unfortunate, but it does give you a few extra bodies to throw under the bus early.  As with the bikes, it offers you the ability to take full advantage of the chapter tactics, so that is good.  Allowing them a turn to move and fire without penalties is solid.  I usually get around this hick up in the event I need to move them by simply firing at fliers and having the same odds of hitting anyways.  But since you have a flier, it's nice to have the option to reposition in the event you really need to move.  While it wouldn't use the chapter tactics, and would require twice the point investment, the Devastator Centurions with lascannon and missile launchers are potent little buggers.  However they do work much better when painted yellow, so it may be best to stick to your guns on what you have here.  The Devastators you have should do well to keep some bigger threats worried.  Just be sure to keep these guys far back, and be mindful of your chance to make them relentless.  It's a trick many people may not expect.

For the Alternative Build:
The Captain is great.  While he isn't using any special relics, he's a beat stick and a half with a unit which can really allow him to shine.  I'd leave him as is, and if you upgrade to 1,850 I would strongly push for The Shield Eternal on him.  Good stuff.

The Legion of the Damned replacing the dreadnought is a fair trade.  The unit is solid through and through, however there is one issue.  The melta trick, while more potent in its delivery than the Ironclad, makes them want to hunt vehicles.  However their special rule of ignoring cover doesn't work on vehicles targets, so you'll lose out a little there.  You also have less forgiveness in the drop, as you literally just have to drop and hope you make it to a spot where cover isn't granted.  Even with the re-roll on the scatter it's not quite as forgiving as the Dreadnought in a pod.  It's a matter of risk/reward.  It's a solid swap, but play it by ear based on your play area.  If you don't see many vehciles, look for some points to swap melta for plasma, and chew through heavy infantry.  Save the tank hunting for your Devastators and the Stormtalon.

The trade of the drop pod for the second rhino may be a good idea.  It allows for you to have an odd number of pods (as I mentioned earlier), and keeps your mech saturation at the same point.  It does offer protection for the squad, but if you do this, I'd stay away from putting any heavy weapons here.  It just means spending points on the unit, and attaining opposing benefits (i.e. heavy firepower for staying put, but protection and mobility to move forward).  If you leave them kitted as is, you should do well with a second Rhino.

Dropping the Veteran sergeant is probably a good idea.  I love the perk, and it's great that the option exists.  But the attack almost never gets to come in, and the leadership is pretty moot based on ATSKNF.  If you like the idea of having a sergeant who is just super bad ass, keep him around, but in terms of sheer mechanics, there are better places to spend the points (as you have done with this alternative build).

So overall they're both great lists.  If you tweak some of the wargear around, and spend some points in different places, I think the lists can work great.  The scouts are the only unit which may need a substantial re-work, but even so they can still be made to be useful as they are, though I'd still drop the heavy bolter.  The second list will probably go a little further in competitive environments, as you gain a more resilient warlord, and net another scoring unit with Mounted Assault.  As for the Ironclad vs the Legion of the Damned, that is a swap you can feel free to make as you see fit.  Both units offer great tricks.  If you can find the points, you should trying bringing both.  Though I may tell you to try for that with Tigurius on the board so you get some reserve manipulation to help as you then start having a fairly healthy chunk of your arm in reserve, which can often be a fickle mistress.  I hope these thoughts help you to hone your list for future games.


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