9th Edition Faction Focus: Space Wolves

An article by    Competitive Play Gaming Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

9th edition is on the way, and with it a whole raft of changes to the factions of Warhammer 40,000. With the Munitorum Field Manual out in the wild and the Faction FAQs released, now’s a good time to start taking a look at what’s changed for all of our favourite armies. Today, Jon Kilcullen is talking about Space Wolves and the impact of 9th edition on the army.

I’m back and ready to bring the internet my opinion and experiences so far with 9th edition using our favorite drunk ass space vikings. Unfortunately we really did not get to see the final form of wolves in 8th edition since Saga of the beast was released in the height of covid-19.  I really loved what SOB gave us, and looking around at some RTTs and talking with other wolf players I have seen it preforming very well or having the potential to preform well.  We need to keep this in mind as we transition into a new world of 9th.  Now lets get right to the salt: yes I am in-fact a pillar of salt about combat, it has drastically changed how you must evaluate our units and how we function on the table top going forward.  After a period of whining and crying to anyone and everyone who would listen I have moved into the acceptance phase  and now i have begun spamming games.  So lets get into this.

 

The HQ Slot

Photo credit: Jason Stevenson aka Favoured Son of Russ

Our HQ made out pretty well with only a moderate increase across the faction totaling 9%.  The majority of our iconic characters saw either a 5 or 10 point increase which is fine, some of them don’t make too much sense such as Ulrik the Slayer a model that STILL has not had his data sheet FAQ’d to be useful (come on GW you have had several chances now). The wolf lords and wolf guard battle leaders went up a non trivial amount that total 12/17% respectively which to me is just too much after you add the hammer and the storm shield. These are some really big changes for my lists as I normally include 3-4 of these angry vikings in my lists and now it’s time for them to hit the shelf. The points increase isn’t entirely unexpected as Space wolf smash captains were incredibly under-costed for the effects they could have on the game.

Arjac rockfist and Ragnar Blackmane make out like bandits with only a 5 point increase, Ragnar is by far the most savage threat we can field and Arjac had some fringe cases for being used. There is a lot of upside for Arjac as he’s priced to move compared to our other options and his ability to re-roll 1s to wound is otherwise tougher to fit in to lists due to how our detachments work and the limited HQ slots we have. One of the most important units for wolves coming out of 8th was the Wolf Priest with jump pack and he went up a significant amount (16.5%). This is pretty unfortunate as he is a must-take, but you just have to absorb this loss and move on.

How do all these numbers I am tossing at you relate to the game and how does 9th impact our HQ choices? 9th ed is a pretty big change for the Wolves for a few reasons:

  • With 9th your detachment of choice is typically going to be a single battalion so can you maximize your Command Points going into the game (these are the life blood of a combat army). Ultimately this means you will often be limited to 2-3 HQs. Hero hammer was such an important way to leverage your combat advantages in 8th so this is a huge deal, now every single character you are debating taking must have a very clear role and must provide a strong return on your points investment. Hard decisions must be made in list design now if you want to keep it to a single detachment; you can justify going to a patrol as well to get 5 characters but this brings its own challenges…
  • When we look at the secondaries, Assassinate is one we must always keep in the back of our minds when list building. Secondaries are extremely difficult to max in 9th edition so moving up and daring to take 4 or 5 characters is a pretty risky decision that I feel is not worth it.
  • Look Out, Sir initially felt like it was not a big deal as Wolves played more like a death ball hiding behind a wall of flying tanks; this is not how 9th is played, however. Games tend to be much much more open and spread out with multiple fights on multiple fronts, which opens up characters to being in dangerous positions far too often. This is tough to get used to and takes a lot of work to play around. Another reason for leaning on 3 characters and letting your elites be the hammer of the list.

Winners: Ragnar and Arjac +5 points

Losers: Old man Ulrik +15 points

 

Troops

Credit: Brian Tabata

Troops for wolves have been in a solid place for most of 8th: They did not feel like a tax and were fairly cost-efficient. Unfortunately 9th does not help us out a lot here. Blood claws’ points cost going up 25% makes next to no sense to me as almost no one was ever taking these models in the first place and now no one is going to. That is a really tough hit to just accept – and it feels like a casualty of taking a generalized approach to marines. Note that that is my one bit of salt for this section – I personally loved using Blood Claws and always found ways to edge out advantages from them. Pour one out, wolf brothers and sisters.

Intercessors took the largest bump of all the Primaris units, going up 17.6% to 22 points per model, while infiltrators saw the smallest increase at 9.1% which to me stands out as very interesting. The game plays so much differently now and there is a massive value on being able to start on the table contesting objectives from the start of the game. Infiltrators and Incursors are perfect for the new missions and style of play and Infiltrators so far are the only unit that I have found that can realistically help curb the otherwise ENORMOUS advantage your opponent has if they are going first. These units can dominate the board and buy you time to try and catch-up. In 8th these models were way too expensive but now with how missions are played they seem to be much more appropriately costed. Taking 20 infiltrators will occupy a massive area of the table and artificially impact an even larger amount space, allowing you to dictate where and when you are engaged. This unit has been performing well so far in my games and I’m excited to play more with them. Incursors are in much the same boat. Very solid choice for much the same reasons.

Winners: Infiltrators +2 points per model

Losers: Blood claws +3 points per model

 

Elites

Photo Cred: My terms charging into some chaos terminators *all ears emoji*

Here comes the heat: The Elite choices for wolves post-Saga of the Beast have always been extremely interesting and filled with extremely dangerous combat threats. Going into 9th you are really going to need to lean on units in this FOC slot, and armies will shift form hero HQs carrying the army to elite infantry taking up the mantle. There’s a ton to get through here so I am just going to focus on the big winners and losers. The biggest loser in this slot (excluding Wolf Scouts) has to be Wulfen, the RTT Killers, that see a 21.7% increase and have their shields double in cost along with the great axe increasing by 1 point. Even hammers going down 1 point does not offset the increases for the rest of the weapons. This takes an already really over-priced unit that really saw play on top competitive tables puts it straight into retirement. A full unit of Wulfen is now pushing almost 400 points. I really do not think this unit deserved a point increase at all especially when you combine it with the 9th edition rules that seem to nerf melee combat overall. They benefit from a smaller table but this isn’t enough to make up the difference.

The big winner here is oddly enough the same big winner from Saga of the beast: Wolf guard terminators. They saw a 0% increase with many of their weapon options going down in price. The storm shield doubling in cost definitely hurts but that’s offset by the chainfist and thunder hammer dropping 1 point each, respectively. Their ranged weapon options saw some very interesting changes: Storm bolters are now 3 points but combi-plasmas went down 1 point. This matters more – combi-plasmas was the most commonly accepted way to run these terminators to begin with. Combi-plasmas have gotten a bit more risky now that it seems that Fury of the Champion will no longer protect us from killing ourselves on rolls of 1 (see the Indomitus rules for a glimpse of the future on this), but we have a new option to step into its place: Combi-meltas. The combi-melta went down 5 points (to 10), making this a very tempting replacement option to include. I think there’s a case for adding 3-4 to a squad for sure. This unit is currently not affected by the rules changes for Storm Shields though I suspect that will come eventually and when it does having a 1+ armor save/4+ invlunerable save is not the end of the world either.

If you look back to our HQ winners you start to see the master plan unfold: Ragnar comes with the ability War Howl which allows units (excluding vehicles) to re-roll failed charges and this is a critical piece to solving the puzzle when looking at terminators – you will almost always be dropping in from deep-strike. This gives us a 48% chance of making a successful charge from deep strike before we add in the Wolf priest’s Canticle of hate litany which brings us to an 84% success rate. Arjac Rockfist’s ability Champion of the kingsguard which adds +1 attack to Wolf Guard within 6 inches and gives re-roll’s 1s to wound on top of Ragnar’s aura that gives re-rolls of 1s to hit. Add all of this together and you have a Wolf guard terminator unit that can reach combat out of the drop 84% of the time, coming in with 5 attacks each on chainfists that hit on 2s and re-roll 1s. The sheer amount of attacks this unit comes with now allows you to make very good use of Vicious Executioners when the Assault Doctrine is active – this is definitely worth the command points if you are going into another bully unit such as Custodes, Centurions, or Bullgryn.

An honorable mention here has to be the new kids on the block: Blade guard veterans and the Judiciar.  These guys are an amazing addition to the space Wolf army, especially considering how the new missions want you to play. The blade guard are a dominating mid-table bully unit that comes in at basically the price of an Intercessor squad. These units can be put into an Impulsor and dropped out on objectives where they will require serious dedicated fire to shift. In combat they can eat a ton of damage and return an immense amount with their master crafted power swords. Having the Wolf Guard keyword is just more synergy for the list as everything continues to build on each other. The Judiciar is a savage combat threat that can replace our smash captains and the fact that it comes in the Elite slot is absolutely amazing. Games Workshop gave us an amazing tool here with this sword-wielding boss. Tempormortis now makes the case to leave the Armour of Russ on the shelf and take some of the more interesting relics. All utility here with strong damage output for a very good price.

Winners: Wolf guard Terminators 0 points change, Blade guard veterans, Judiciars

Losers: Wulfen +5 points

 

Fast Attack

So this has always been a slot that has left a lot to be desired most of these units were overpriced to start with and they went up. The most iconic unit space wolves have might be the Thunderwolf Cavalry, who took a minor increase on their base cost, however their thunder hammer went down 1 point as noted before. This unit not changing in price is not bad but they still feel too over-costed to effectively use them. There is no reason this unit should be increasing in points at all. My “favorite” increase of them all has to be the Skyclaws. This is a unit that was never going to be played before the changes and now they might as well not be in the codex at their current point value, GW please. Swiftclaw bikes and Swiftclaw Attack bikes stick out to me as the winners of this section.  I was always a big fan of a unit of claw bikes after SOB was released because Skilled riders gave them that little bit of extra durability.  When the unit moves it gains a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting and if it advanced it gains a 3+ invulnerable save.  That is giving you some serious options and board control. The attack bike was a great plug-in for the unit as it was 4 wounds with a 3++/4++, it could tank a serious amount of shooting before going down. Now the attack bike is actually 14.3% cheaper coming in at 30 points and the claw bikes come in at 25 points for an increase of 8.7%. Unfortunately in the new mission sets this really only helps you if you go first, going first is already a massive advantage so these bikes are hurt a bit by the loss of full deploy and end of turn scoring. Still an option more than worth exploring.

Winners: Swiftclaw Attack bikes -5 points

Losers: Fenrisian Wolves +1 point

 

Heavy Support

Okay let’s get this over with: Long fangs went up 23.1% making a bad unit way worse.  Blast makes for some interesting thought experiments such as all missile fangs with cyclone launcher on a terminator but its a rather expensive unit that requires CP to function properly and then its just a couple 3+ save 1 wound models that give great value to shoot at.

The Eradicator unit at first glance seems like a unit that would be just what we need.  Reliable hard hitting shooting that is actually moderately durable but they suffer from the same problems long fangs do, which is they come in and fire once then are focused down and removed.  This puts a lot of pressure on the unit to make an immediately strong return on investment which is tough to do since you are firing D6 damage weapons with BS 3+, there’s a lot of variance here.

Winners: none

Losers: Long fangs +3 points

 

Flyers

John “JackMann” Beattie

Nothing too interesting here the flyers basically stayed the same and are still pretty tough to justify with how deadly every other army’s shooting is.

Stormfang +5 points

Stormwolf +5 points

 

Dedicated Transports

One of the most important sections for my 8th edition list with the Impulsor castle, I have been waiting for this point increase for a while now and it’s here.  It went up 33.3% with its guns also going up 1 point each.  This model now comes in at 131 points with the shield dome and storm bolters; this is a fair increase as this model was wildly under-costed and gave incredible utility. The drop pod also only went up 2 points but the real standout here is the Terrax Pattern Drill. The drill saw 0 point base increase and gained only 2 points on its guns, which is a big deal for the new edition. Having a T8, 10-wound model that also transports troops and is combat effective seems like a steal for its points.  Allowing this to come in and just exist in space could be a very good tool in 9th edition.

Winners: Terrax Pattern Drill +2 points

Losers: The Impulsor

 

How Space Wolves stack up

My initial reaction to the rules as they rolled out was to immediately classify all pure combat armies as losers but I do not think that is entirely fair when we have Genestealer Cult or Orks in this same world. I think it would be safe to say that right now Space Wolves are in the mid/bottom tier which is essentially where they were all of last edition so this isn’t a new development. This is not to say that they can not compete for top tables; using the units outlined above I believe there is a very strong board control list in there that can dominate going first and have the tools to get out on the board and fight for every point going second. Wolves’ style of play is gritty and very movement-centric – you are always aiming to plan a phase or three ahead. CP management is crucial to your success – this fuels your army when you are finally in position to fire off all your statagems. A correctly timed Touch of the wild + Seeking a Saga can turn a game on its head.

Let’s take a second to talk about the pre-game: Now your relics, Warlord Traits, Litanies and psychic powers must be listed on your list before the start of a tournament. This is really unfortunate as Armour of Russ was usually worth taking 80% of the time but in 20% of match-ups it was basically worthless and fringe-case relics such as some of the various swords and axes we have will unfortunately never see play now at the competitive level since it’s too risky to take these relics outside of casual play. This seems like a bit of a miss for me as now everyone is only going to take the absolute strongest, broadest relics only. Similarly, our Sagas must be chosen for the entire event, lowering our ability to tailor our lists on the fly which lowers our effectiveness quite a bit. Some of the Sagas were very good against specific opponents and useless others, such as Saga of the beast slayer. This limits us slightly, but everyone is in the same boat so now we can’t complain too much; it’s just more of a personal gripe I have with this.

 

Putting a list together

Through all my test games I’ve found that the main concern is finding a way to go second and still be able to compete for points successfully. This list is my best attempt at solving this problem. I call this list Maximum effort.

Maximum Effort

Space Wolves Battalion Detachment

HQ: Ragnar 125
HQ: Arjac 115
HQ: Wolf priest with Jump Pack + Power Fist

Troops: Infitrators
Troops: Infitrators
Troops: Infitrators
Troops: Infitrators

EL: Judiciar
EL: Blade Guard Veterans
EL: Blade Guard Veterans
EL: Blade Guard Veterans
EL: Wolf Guard Terminators – 7 w/combi-melta + Storm Shield, 3 w/Chainfist + storm bolter

FA: Outriders

DT: Impulsor
DT: Impulsor

Every single unit here must give you all it has if you are going to succeed going second against someone at the top tables of a tournament; that is all I ask for. Just like pre-Saga, all I really want is to get my foot in the door, let your play do the rest.  Every unit has multiple roles it must fill depending on what turn you are on and if you are going first or second.  Every unit must be both combat effective and durable enough to hang in the trenches and grind. Ragnar+Arjac are the wolves version of the bash-bros; they sync up incredibly well as combined they offer re-rolling 1’s to hit and wound, re-rolling failed charges and Wolf Guard get +1 attack (which just so happens to be most of the list). The Wolf-priest will always be rolling around with Canticle of Hate ready to assist Arjac and the Terminators when they come in, he himself is extremely combat effective as hes equipped with a powerfist and has a 4+ invulnerable save.  The Infiltrators are what shift the early game in our favor by forward deploying and artificially taking up massive amounts of space that enemy units are not allowed to deep strike in to. They are used to block out huge sections of the board and funnel dangerous units into our front of impulsors or terminators.

With this list, you can dictate the flow of the game early on, which is massively important in this new edition. This works because every single unit in this list is absolutely terrifying in combat so you are being overloaded with threats from the second the game begins.  Often its a tough call to waste important shooting on some infiltrators instead of firing it into terminators or blade guard.  The blade guard and terminators are the durable hammer units of the list that pose massive threat to basically everything in this game (even a Tau’nar) and the Judiciar is your Swiss army knife that can do many things given the situational requirements.

When we look at secondary choices I really start to like the list as it makes an already difficult decision that much more difficult and any time you force hard decisions on to your opponent this is winning 40k play.  The list does not give up Max points for Purge The Enemy  (unless you use Lone Wolf) .  It is very risky to pick battlefield supremacy when you do not know if you go first or second, combined with the large amount of infiltrators and serious combat that want you to come closer. Warpcraft will be pretty much impossible.  That leaves No Mercy, No Respite and Shadow Operations as the most likely choices tho these are by no means easy.  As far as the list picking secondaries, it is usually very good at board control so the mission specific secondary tends to be a worthwhile look, as does domination from the Battlefield Supremacy secondary.  Pick secondaries that are in-line with how the list wants to function and you will find great success with this list.

You will be taking Wulfen stone and almost always making the wolf priest your warlord with Saga of the Wolfkin. Both of these add +1 attack within 6 inches if the saga is complete, the wolf priest will be up to 5/6 attacks on the charge, and our terminators will be sitting at 6 attacks each realistically 5, there are very few things in the game that will survive the fully buffed combo of stratagems/character auras and doctrines that get stacked onto this terminator unit.  This edition saw the Combi-Melta gun go down to a cool 10 points, which in my opinion is a steal. There are 7 combi-meltas in the squad, giving the terms another tool to deal with whatever may show up on the table.  The 3 chain-fists are more than enough weapons to tear through most any enemy they encounter, sitting at strenght x2 -4Ap (-5 in the assault doctrine) 2 damage flat for 10 points.  Amazing deal for the reliability it brings to the squad.  This unit is hunting for enemy elite units and vehicles but can also destroy hordes in its path, they really do play exactly as the lore suggests (Thank you GW).  The Judiciar hangs out in the middle of them to keep them safe using his ability to make someone fight last within 6 inches of him.  Once you see an opportunity, the terms open the gate and unleash Ragnar and the Judiciar and swing for the fences before the terminators pile in and consolidate around them to start the process all over again.  Combat may have taken a seemingly endless amount of nerfs but once you are in combat, its still absolutely devastating if you can use your movement and abilities in a methodical way.

Blade guard veterans are delivered to their destination via the 2 impulsors along with Ragnar and the Judiciar, this keeps them safe for as long as possible and as you travel across the board, if an objective is not secured you simply dump a unit of Bladeguard Veterans out and leave them there.  They are extremely difficult to shift and small enough to reliably hide behind terrain to stay safe from most guns that require line of sight. The Outriders are another new unit to the crew and serve a very similar role to that of swiftclaw bikes, which is to hide early on and then advance out onto the table (using Skilled Riders) and capture a much needed objective and present another unit with extreme threat range that must be dealt with immediately.

Photo credit: My arjac

 

Rob Triplett’s 9th Edition Test List

We asked noted Space Wolves player and friend of the site Robbie Triplett to provide some feedback and input on what he’s thinking about bringing for Space Wolves in 9th edition, and he was happy to help us out with this list:

Space wolves Patrol Detachment (0 CP)

HQ: Primaris Wolf Priest, Warlord: Saga of Majesty, Relic: Armor of Russ (85)

Troops: Incursors (105)

EL: Blade Guard Veterans 105
EL: Blade Guard Veterans 105

HS: Eliminators w/ bolt sniper rifles 90
HS: Relic Whirlwind Scorpius w/ Scorpius multi-launcher, Storm Bolter 238

DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome, 2x storm bolters 131

Space Wolves Patrol Detachment ( -2 CP)

HQ: Ragnar (Hero of the Chapter: saga of Warrior Born -1 Cp) 125

Troops: Incursors 105

EL:  Wulfen (Pack leader w/ frost claws, 4x TH/SS) 226
EL:  Wulfen (Pack leader w/ frost claws, 4x TH/SS) 226

HS: Eliminators w/ bolt sniper rifles 90
HS: Relic Whirlwind Scorpius w/ Scorpius multi-launcher, Storm Bolter 238

DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome, 2x storm bolters 131

Total: 2000 CP: 9

Robbie: 9th edition is going to be very a very interesting time for Space Wolves. With the smaller board it is a lot easier for the more brutal close combat units to get into close combat a lot faster, and on the way we’re able lie in wait or weather fire a bit better with the new terrain features. At the end of 8th edition, the Impulsor spam list seemed to be the most efficient way to run wolves in the competitive meta. Even with the major points increase in 9th edition, the impulsor is still a very useful tool in catapulting infantry and characters up the board. I believe that Wulfen in this edition are poised to be a strong choice, able to hit hard and stick around, and able to “get there” thanks to their ridiculous threat range and their ability to advance and charge with a smaller board. Finally add in their ability to fight again on death even if they have already attacked and you have a unit that can do work. But the new all-stars in the army are the Blade Guard Veterans. They combine a cheap points cost with a sturdy save profile and they’re very good in melee. Add in the Space Wolves Chapter Doctrine and the fact that they are gaining the WOLF GUARD keyword and they’re an excellent addition to the army that can make use of our best stratagems.

I believe that the key to playing Space Wolves this edition is going to be board control, board control, board control. In my opinion, Wolves are a counter charge army – they wait for (or force) their opponents to come into position, then strike with lethal force in close combat. Leaning into this style of play is going to be key this edition because of the changes to missions: Holding objectives is much more important than in the previous edition’s competitive play formats. Wulfen being able to Advance quickly to the center of the board out of Line of Sight and set up for a counter charge will be important, while Impulsors can rush Blade Guard Veterans to objectives and sit on them, being difficult to kill (and on death spilling out some deadly contents). I also believe that having artillery that can fire at targets out of LOS will be a must-have in this edition to help control the board and deal with certain targets. Wolves definitely have a fighting chance in this edition and I am looking forward to them being quite competitive.

 

Final Thoughts

I have heard a lot of Space Wolf players suggest that they are finally ready to put their boys on the shelf and move on to something else due to the series of nerfs and the fact that all our Iconic units (outside of Wolf Guard terminators) basically were pointed right out of viability.  I would not go this far, the wolves spent all of 8th riding the bottom of the win rates in competitive play a long side grey knights and i believe dark angels, they are by no means a bottom dweller anymore, Saga of the Beast did amazing things for this army and I suspect most of you did not get to play that book in events due to COVID so think of it like this: You were living in the dumpster, you now have a home. I am for-sure concerned at the combat phase changes, the pre-game changes and the mission scoring but I am optimistic that somewhere in this book, there is a monster; this list is my attempt to summon that monster.

Embrace the grind, boys and girls–there is not much point in crying about what we did not get; it’s time to turn our attention to what we do have and find a path to victory.  I am absolutely confident that with the right amount of practice and determination someone will shock the world with the wolves, will it be you? I would love to hear your trials and tribulations a long the way as you seek that saga.

That’s all from me for now! I hope you enjoyed my take on the wolves and found this helpful.

If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com

 

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