Thursday, January 10, 2013
Space Wolves in 6th Edition
In the comments section for my battle against Jamie, Sentinel asked for my thoughts on the state of the Space Wolves army in 6th edition so that's what I'll talk about here. Before I do though I'd like to mention that Sentinel has his own blog here (it's also in the Recommend Reading on the right) and also give a bit of a shout to Dominic and his Dark Angels blog (which will be my New Year New Army project - more to come).
State of Play at the End of 5th Edition
After a period of being one of the strongest books out there the Space Wolves started to see a bit of a decline in popularity towards the end of 5th edition. With new books from Dark Eldar, Necrons and Grey Knights they were no longer "flavour of the month". Whilst you could still produce a strong list with them they struggled against the likes of massed fire from Necrons or the initiative 6 attacks of the Grey Knights.
What remained constant, however, was that Grey Hunters were still arguably the best Troops choice in the game. The reasons are simple. For 15pts you get two CC weapons, a bolter, grenades, ATSKNF and Counter-Attack. Throw in some cheap upgrades like a Wolf Standard, a special weapon or two (also damn cheap) and attach a wolf guard and you've got a genuine Swiss army knife. Time and time again my Grey Hunters are the only thing left in my army yet they still achieve victory.
So let's look at 6th edition, the main things that've changed and how the Space Wolves army can deal with them. I'll also look at allies and what they can offer the wolf player.
There are a few options in the book for taking them down, some more effective than others. Rifleman dreads might get a 6 or two thanks to twin linkage but with S7 they'll struggle against the likes of Stormravens etc. Not to mention they'll be an early target and with AV12 and 3HP they aren't the toughest vehicle around. The go-to-guy for dealing with flyers for most armies is the Aegis line with quad gun. The trouble is that though they're better than a rifleman they still need someone to be static to man them which means something sitting there for the whole game trying to deal with flyers. Add in that you can only take one and it isn't difficult to take down and you can start to think of better ways to spend your points.
This leaves a final solution that we haven't discussed - allies. They're the most effective way for a Space Wolves army to get anti-air support but of course it depends on how you feel about diluting your army.
Looking at the rulebook matrix our options are everything but CSM, Daemons and Nids. We'll also have to avoid Orks, Necrons and DE if we don't want to worry about One Eye Open. That leaves all the loyalist Space Marines, IG and Tau.
With DA about to get a new book with flyers and flakk missiles in they may be an option for us but fluff-wise it's a bit of a touchy subject. The question we need to ask ourselves is what do wolves lack that allies can provide? Anti-air is a good start but also massed, mobile firepower. The best options in my opinion are vanilla SM and Tau. SM for the stormtalon and Tau for broadsides and crisis suits. I've had a reasonable amount of success using wolves as allies for a Tau primary detachment with the wolves hammering the enemy lines in close whilst the Tau pound them from range and pick off flyers. This leaves the fire warriors free to swoop in and claim objectives from their currently tough as nails transports.
Vanilla marines are harder to work into the army as essentially you swap wolves HQ and Troops for their inferior counterparts. I suppose a scout squad could make a difficult to shift unit on a home objective and maybe there's some librarian power that could be useful. The problem is I don't really know enough about the army and essentially I just want a stormtalon!!
To avoid rambling too much I'll have a quick rundown of the units in the codex and whether I think they're useful in 6th. Bear in mind this is only my opinion. I'd love to hear a counter argument to anything I've said. Quick assessments like this will always be generalisations and people will still find a use for most of these units.
Logan Grimnar - now that his weapons have been clarified he's still pretty brutal especially in a challenge. All of his old benefits are still decent and having 2+/4++ makes him even more survivable than before thanks to weapon changes. Points cost is the main issue here though so unless you're wanting terminator troops he probably isn't worth the cost.
Njal Stormcaller - despite having an incredible 3+ psychic cancel its still difficult to see why you'd spend so much when you can get two rune priests that do pretty much the same for cheaper.
Ragnar Blackmane - same as always really. With foot-wolves becoming more popular he could make a large pack pretty devastating but will struggle in challenges if he can't kill something with a power fist before it almost certainly kills him. Not decided on his effectiveness yet, need to try him out some more in 6th, but again pretty expensive.
Ulrik the Slayer - pretty cheap as SCs go. Making a unit fearless and able to deal with most MCs in combat is great but as with all chaplains it depends on your opinion of the power maul being AP4. Could make it difficult for him in challenges.
Canis Wolfborn - difficult to find a place for him as a thunderlord often does better and gets an invuln save.
Bjorn the Fell-Handed - suffers thanks to the Hull Points rules. Venerable doesn't really help him and it's a lot easier to get cover for vehicles now making his invulnerable save less valuable. AV13 is still nice with people taking less melta these days but he's still too expensive and restricted to footslogging.
Wolf Lord - most common use for these guys is still on the back of a thunderwolf. I'm still a fan of the claw/shield combo and even solo can be incredibly deadly. New cavalry rules have helped a lot (see TWC).
Rune Priest - still provides one of the best psychic defences in the game and with more psykers around this is still valuable. Divination powers give him some great utility thanks to how awesome Prescience is. Jaws is still effective and storm caller is more useful now especially if Night Fighting. Murderous Hurricane isn't as good though thanks to terrain rule changes.
Wolf Priest - Fearless is excellent now and Preferred Enemy helps shooting too so worth considering. There's also some nifty shenanigans with Saga of the Hunter (see below) but as ever it's the choice between wolf and rune priest that settles the matter.
Wolf Guard Battle Leader - never found a use for these guys in 5th and still struggle to see it. Main benefit is low cost if you're going to be using your Space Wolves as allies for another army and need a cheap HQ. Cheap way of getting Saga of the Hunter.
Wolf Guard - still good for accompanying grey hunters with a cheap power fist but can be challenged which can limit effectiveness. More likely to use them now they're foot-slogging and bringing a 2+ tank for your grey hunters helps. Terminators are obviously better thanks to AP3 power weapons but will likely lose out to rival terminators with power fists/hammers.
Arjac Rockfist - still my favourite special character in the book. Disgustingly cheap for how effective he can be and there's nothing cooler than throwing your hammer and blowing up a vehicle!
Dreadnought & Venerable Dreadnought - hull point changes mean they'll struggle whether footslogging or drop-podding. Venerable isn't as useful as it was too. As mentioned above, rifleman could be some use against flyers but still unlikely to see much action.
Iron Priest - never found a use for these guys either and with less mech around these days they're even less useful
Wolf Scouts - really suffered thanks to the rules forbidding assault from reserves. Still some use for delivering melta to a gun-line but ultimately will turn up and get heavy flamed or otherwise gunned down before assaulting.
Lone Wolf - as useful as they ever were and more survivable in terminator armour. Probably one of the first things to go to free up points for allies though.
Grey Hunters - as mentioned above, still probably the best troops in the game. Cheap and flexible. Think we'll see more full strength packs with plasma guns than we did before.
Blood Claws - always going to lose out to Grey Hunters but good fun to use when not worrying about competitiveness
Lukas the Trickster - with Blood Claws rarely seen Lukas isn't going to see much use but he's reasonable in a challenge thanks to his Pelt and wolf claw.
Thunderwolf Cavalry - new cavalry rules mean these guys get to the enemy a lot quicker with 12" move and then run in turn one followed by Fleet charge in turn 2 they're more effective than ever. Still going to be hit and miss but also still a lot of fun to use.
Swiftclaw Bikers - mine are going to become ravenwing bikers but I'd still be interested to try them out. Obviously struggle thanks to BS/WS3 but anything that increases mobility could be interesting.
Skyclaws - put simply other assault marines do it better and they're only slightly more likely to be taken than fenrisian wolves.
Land Speeders - when taken alone they're going to be shot down pretty easily with bolter fire now. Difficult to persuade myself to take one anymore.
Fenrisian Wolves - gorgeous new models but their low points cost is about the only thing going for them.
Long Fangs - still awesome and even more so when given Prescience by a nearby rune priest. Lack of flakk missiles mean they're not great against flyers though.
Predator, Whirlwind, Vindicator - grouped these all together because they have the same problems. Glancing hit changes can prevent them from being rendered useless quite so quickly but will die a lot quicker too thanks to HPs. Long fangs are more durable and reliable.
Land Raiders - a lot of points and with Necrons and the like being able to easily glance them to death it's tricky to justify the expense. Can't see me using them much.
Rhinos/Razorbacks - there's been a bit of a shift away from these but if people change their armies because they aren't expecting to face mech then mech-spamming could be the way to go for a surprise for them.
Drop Pods - still a fan of throwing one of these into a list to get some grey hunters/terminators into the thick of it but otherwise not much has changed. Taking an entire army of them is still difficult.
Interesting New Tactics - Foot Wolves
There's been a lot of talk about footslogging armies so I've been keen to try them out. I'm not totally convinced that abandoning vehicles completely is good for all armies but Space Wolves might be able to cope. I decided I wanted to stick to a pure wolves list for this so here's what I'm currently testing out:
1,850pts of Space Wolves
Rune Priest (Runic armour) - Jaws and LL but usually swap for Divination
Wolf Priest (Runic armour, plasma pistol, Saga of the Hunter)
3 Wolf Guard (CM/PF) - to go with Grey Hunters
5 Wolf Guard (Arjac, 4 terminators with claws & 2 combi-plas, 2 combi-melta) in Drop Pod
3 x 10 Grey Hunters (Standard, MotW, plasma, flamer)
4 TWC (Shield, fist)
2x 6 Long Fangs (5 MLs)
The interesting parts of the army for me though are the drop pod full of terminators and the outflanking squad. With only a single model in the unit needing Outflank, Saga of the Hunter allows the wolf priest with an 11-man pack in tow to appear on an enemy flank. Acute Senses actually has some use here in allowing a re-roll to almost guarantee you getting them where you want them. The combination of Fearless and Preferred Enemy with a large unit like that means they're pretty lethal. Runic armour helps protect the priest in a challenge too. Arjac and his terminators will do what they always do and go looking for something to smash up.
The general idea here is that since the two core grey hunter packs will be slogging it they need some distraction from the TWC, drop pod and outflankers to keep them alive to claim objectives at the end. This list is a little light on troops for 6th edition but hopefully the strength of this list will destroy enemy troops so it won't be an issue.
I hope this article has made people think about their Space Wolves in 6th edtion so they'll still have a home in the game. I'd love to know what you think about what I've said here and I'm more than happy for you to disagree completely with what I'm saying.
I think, as with all of my armies, I'm finding myself revisiting the codex a lot to see if there's any tactics that weren't any good in 5th but now find more use in 6th so I might come up with more soon. Ultimately, the codex still offers 40K players a lot. There are very few armies that wouldn't benefit from a couple of allied grey hunter units and a rune priest. The strength of the codex though lies in it's flexibility. There's no need to field a mono-build for success. At the point in 6th edition things are changing all the time. I'm sure the DA codex will be a catalyst for further change to the meta. All armies have had to adapt to 6th edition in some way and its down to players to look again at units they'd previously dismissed.