We're now on to the meat and bones of the codex and over the next few days I'll be looking at each FOC slot in turn and discussing each entry. This process is always useful as it means that every single unit gets a look in and you can really start to see the combinations come to the surface. This introduction piece will stay the same every time so feel free to save yourself some time and skip it.
Today I'm going to look at the Fast Attack slot. This section is actually pretty easy to choose from. Essentially it's a toss up between bikes for grav weapons or anti-air from the Stormtalon.
It's a huge shame that you can't make them Troops in a Raven Guard army. It could be argued they'd be treading on the Blood Angels' toes but I think they're different enough for it not to matter. It would then make the Raven Guard chapter tactics a bit more valuable. As they are I can't see much of a call for Assault Squads in the current SM army. They mind find a role as the bullies of the book being able to pick on cheap scoring units like cultists etc. Put them up against anything decent though and they'll soon show that they're just marines with an extra attack. Sadly they're victims of the shooting focus of 40K at the moment and again it's the nicer models that suffer.
Land Speeder Squadron
There are potential uses for them as fire support but for my money you're better taking the more expensive stormtalon for that role. It may be double the price but I personally think it's worth it.
Escort Craft is of minimal use but does allow you to guarantee you get both your Stormtalon and Stormraven in the same turn to limit damage from Interceptor units. Strafing Run is a nice bonus and makes the Stormtalon a decent option for anti-infantry applications. Ceramite Plating is unlikely to save it as melta weapons are predominantly S8 but again it's a nice to have. I think the Stormtalon is often overlooked but I personally think it's the best anti-air option in the book. Not too expensive and not devastating to lose to Interceptor fire.
What it lacks in range it makes up for in damage. Mounted on a bike it has an effective range of 30" and with the Scout rule that's extended to 42" in turn one. That means there isn't anywhere on the board that can't be touched from the off. Thanks to Relentless from the bikes the grav-gun will be firing 3 shots in each shooting phase. Against marines you're wounding and usually killing on 3s. That's great but even better is that terminators and anything else with a 2+ save (looking at you, Riptides) is being hurt on 2+. Grav-weaponry is easily the stand-out wargear in this book. Ironically you'll struggle to hurt Kroot with them but your twin-linked bolters will sort them out instead. Against vehicles you inflict Immobilised on a 6 and strip a hull point. There's a debate about whether you strip two hull points or not but there's still the potential for a grav-gun volley to down a vehicle.
What some people are overlooking I think is the Concussive special rule. This is where the synergy in the SM book appears. Your bike squad might not be that great in combat but if you've hit your target with grav weaponry then you should be able to do a decent amount of damage on the charge with your opponent now reduced to initiative 1. Obviously this is only useful against multi-wound targets but it shouldn't be ignored.
Expect to see a lot of 5 man bike squads with two grav-guns on a table near you. They'll be fantastic in White Scars armies but even in a standard force a Captain/Chapter Master will allow them to be troops. They should be selling like hot cakes for GW right now.
Attack Bike Squad
As ever these come in two flavours dakka heavy bolters or tank hunting multi-meltas. Personally I think they're pretty overpriced for both roles. Granted they have a place when you're facing AV13 or 14 but for the most part I think there are better ways to spend the points. Throwing one into a normal bike squad might be worth it to allow combat squadding but as a seperate unit I think they're less useful.
Still, with Scouts you could pack your Fast Attack slots with single attack bikes which Outflank and try to take down a tank. There's potential for excellence there at least, if you can bring down an annihilation barge with your 55pt model then great.
Scout Bike Squad
Bikes are the standout unit here thanks to their graviton weaponry. Ironic really since most of the time they'll have been made into Troops. In their abscence my favourite choice here would be the Stormtalon. It offers decent anti-air firepower for a reasonable cost. The rest of the units here will be personal preference but I probably won't be including them if I decide to start an SM army.
Tomorrow I'll look at the heavy support slot before taking a look at some ideas for army lists over the weekend. I hope you're finding these articles useful and worth reading.