I fully intend to do a post on all of the sections of the Space Wolf army but TheBaron over at Claws and Fists made a very interesting post about Skyclaws being the underdogs of the Space Wolf army. Since it ties in very nicely with my Thunderwolf Cavalry I'm going to talk about all the Fast Attack options available to us.
Firstly, I think we're pretty spoilt when it comes to Fast Attack. Each one of our choices has it's merits and it's certainly a better collection that the standard Marines codex. In general they all suffer from low Ld but bear in mind that 8 is still above average and means they'll pass a test most of the time.
Pros: T5, 2 wounds and optional storm shields makes them difficult to kill off. S5 rending attacks or S10 thunder hammer makes them pretty lethal too. Cavalry therefore effectively 19-24" charge range. Good selection of upgrades allows for wound allocation.
Cons: Only Ld 8 and small numbers which means they're likely to break. Only move 6" and run D6" so, unless charging, no faster than infantry. High points cost. No GW model so a conversion/third party alternative is required.
Best uses: Tool them all up differently and pile them into the enemy's most valuable troops. Give them a Wolf Lord to compensate for the low Ld if you can afford it. Great for drawing fire and protecting your transports. Alternatively just take them solo or in pairs and use them to bolster an attack.
Pros: Cover ground quickly. Turbo boosting and T5 means you can normally get them in on your enemy relatively unscathed by Turn 2. Attack bike gives you a mobile multi-melta. Berserk charge means they're good in an assault. Relentless means they can cover ground and still fire.
Cons: Only Ld 8 and small numbers which means they're likely to break. Only one special weapon unlike marine bikes. Relatively expensive when tooled up.
Best uses: Distraction! Tool them up with a meltagun, multimelta attack bike, power fist and give them a WG with PF and combi-melta. Go tank hunting! If you can afford it meltabombs will help!
Pros: Very mobile, can keep up with your transports. Deep strike to give your opponent something to think about. Berserk charge gives you a powerful first assault.
Cons: Only Ld 8 and small numbers which means they're likely to break. Only WS & BS 3 which means they'll struggle against other marines. Headstrong means they'll not shoot most of the time. Other armies do assault marines better. Can't take a Wolf Guard.
Best uses: Take a full unit with Wulfen and Power weapon and go for heavy weapons teams. Wolf Priest is pretty essential as he compensates for WS3 with preferred enemy, improves their leadership and overrides Headstrong.
Pros: Deep strike means you can hit your opponent where it hurts. Fast means you'll not be stranded once you've dealt with your initial target and you can get yourself a cover save. Relatively inexpensive. Great for anti-tank.
Cons: AV10 all round which means even bolters can cause you a headache. Deep strike can make you vulnerable and won't always get you where you want to be. No assault capability so 1/3 of the time you'll fail to kill a tank.
Best uses: Deep strike equipped with the ubiquitous multi-melta and heavy flamer combo. Go after some tanks and make your opponent worry about his deployment. Alternatively take 3 Typhoons and use your speed to help you sit back and pepper a target.
Pros: Cheapest unit in the Space Wolves army. No upgrades needed. Even a full 15 strong squad is only 120pts. With Wolfkin can be I5. Good number of attacks and effective 19-24" charge range. WS, T and S 4 means they're as effective as vanilla wolf guard in an assault.
Cons: Pathetic Ld of 5 means they're going to fail most tests. No ATSKNF means they won't come back either. 6+ saves means they need to hug cover if they're going to get into combat. Slow when not charging. No GW model so a conversion/third party alternative is required.
Best uses: Cover and ablative wounds for Thunderwolves/Thunderlord. If your lord has Wolfkin then they're I5 and Ld 7. Plus the TWC will mean that they can re-roll failed tests. For 80pts you can get 30 S4 I5 attacks on the charge/counter-attack with a good range.
Most players would only take the Land Speeder out of all that lot. I think this is a real shame as there's some characterful and very effective units in there. Not to mention that they make Space Wolves unique. When used correctly they can all be deadly.
Don't expect any of them to be very versatile because by their very nature they're a specialised unit. All of them perform the role of distraction pretty well. Your opponent has to make the decision whether to ignore them and focus on your Greys or take them down in which case your Greys get a free ride to his lines.
The only unit I'd keep in reserve is the Land Speeder. Although the skyclaws can deep strike they're unlikely to live long enough and also without the charge they aren't as effective.
I hope this brief list has been of use to people when they're deciding what to fill their FA slots with. As I said with the Special Characters, there's no right answer as it depends on your style of play. Personally I can't wait to see what I can do with the TWC and fen wolves.
In response to TheBaron I reckon that Skyclaws aren't the only underdog here. It isn't often you see Swiftclaws either!