Hammer of Math: In Which We Mathematically Prove the Repulsor Executioner Sucks

This week Hammer of Math tests a common theorem: that the Repulsor Executioner sucks. 

When the RepEx was first released I immediately fell in love. A floating brick with a big gun on top that looked cool and was basically Cawl’s version of the iconic Land Raider? Sign me up. I bought two as thoughts of how awesome they would be danced through my head. Then almost immediately GW made them 10% more expensive, which was unusual back then when balance changes were significantly more rare. Back then things were similar to how they are now – marines were mostly bad, and the successful RepEx lists in that first codex era of 8th tended to pair Guilliman with a bunch of tanks in order to use his auras to get re-rolls to hit and wound.

The Repulsor Executioner saw renewed success in late 8th edition thanks to the release of a second edition Codex: Space Marines and with it the unholy nightmare that was Codex Supplement: Iron Hands, and the ability to shoot twice. Even after Iron Hands were nerfed the RepEx still featured heavily in many lists thanks to its offensive output. The waning days of 8th entered peak absurdity when players started putting three RepExes on a Skyshield Landing Pad in order to make them practically impossible to charge and very hard to shoot. It was a weird time.

Look at this shit. Credit: Scott Horras, LVO 2020

Unfortunately 9th edition was not kind to the Repulsor Executioner, featuring a host of nerfs and point raises that relegated it to the category of units that Greg would encourage you to bring. Common knowledge is that it’s too expensive, too easy to kill, and doesn’t do nearly enough damage. As a result the RepEx is now firmly in the realm of casual games and dust collection, and it seems that no amount of Balance Dataslates has changed that. In short, everyone knows it sucks.

But does it actually suck? This article hopes to find out.

Black Templars Repulsor Executioner. Credit: SRM

The Comparables

The RepEx falls into an odd category of being a heavy tank that also carries troops. The original example of this is the iconic Land Raider, which depending on which edition you played was either an impossibly tough conveyance of destruction or an overpriced death trap. Finding other, equivalent units was a challenge but courtesy of some help from our Patreons on the Goonhammer Discord we came up with the following list. As a reminder the Repulsor Executioner is around 315 points assuming you get the heavy laser destroyer and the icarus rocket pod.

  • The standard Repulsor, which is around 290 points for a las-talon and onslaught gatling cannon.
  • The iconic Land Raider, clocking in at around 250 points. (Rob: Note that the charts show the standard Land Raider and not the improved Chaos Space Marines version, which is T9 and has better guns for 20 more points.)
  • The Custodes Coronus Grav-Carrier, which is 220 points.
  • The Gorgon Heavy Transport, an Astra Militarum titanic vehicle that costs 340 points for the version with a pair of Gorgon mortars.
  • The Necron Monolith, clocking it at 300 points if you keep the gauss flux arcs. For an extra 20 points it can be really nasty against vehicles with four death rays but the flux arc version is a better comparison to the RepEx.
  • The Ork Gunwagon, a heavily armed transport that costs 190 points assuming you take the killkannon, lobba, and four big shootas.
  • The Leagues of Votann Hekaton Land Fortress, clocking in at 300 points with a magna-rail cannon after GW released a balance update before most of the army was even available. Before the nerf it was absurdly costed at 230 points.

Basically we looked for big, expensive, heavily armed and armored vehicles which had the ability to transport models. Note that for this analysis I am intentionally avoiding any Stratagems, subfaction abilities, or other things which would dramatically increase the complexity of the analysis.

Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner
Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner. Credit: Jack Hunter

Defensive Comparison

The first thing we can examine is the ability of these vehicles to take a hit. To examine the resilience we look at how many attacks it takes for three weapons to kill the target. The first weapon is the heavy melta rifle at close range. The second is the main weapon of the Repulsor Executioner itself; the heavy laser destroyer. From the Astartes perspective this weapon is the pinnacle of ranged anti-tank firepower. Finally we have the undisputed champion of long range destruction; the T’au railgun on a Hammerhead. For these runs I did 10,000 simulated attacks and then summed up how many were required to achieve the desired number of wounds. The median value is the number of attacks that showed up in the center of the distribution, meaning you have as good as chance as not of killing the target when you use that many attacks.

The heavy melta rifle is a particularly nasty weapon, especially if you can get within half range and use Eradicators to fire twice. A 300 point unit of 6 Eradicators getting 12 attacks has a very good chance of killing almost anything outside of the two Titanic targets listed. Note that the combination of no invulnerable save and 3+ Save characteristic means the Repulsor is only slightly better than taking a hit to a Battlewagon. Incidentally going from T8 to T9 makes the Chaos Land Raider significantly harder to kill, boosting the median number of heavy melta shots from 10 to 15.

The heavy laser destroyer’s additional damage makes it a nasty weapon at range, but in contrast to 300 points worth of Eradicators we see that the RepEx is far less effective at killing heavy targets. Even a battlewagon requires a median of 3 attacks to kill it, while something like a Monolith would likely survive two turns of three RepExes firing their main guns at the Necron vehicle. Once again we see that the RepEx is only slightly more survivable than the battlewagon and more vulnerable than all of the other options.

The railgun is pure brutality thanks to its combination of high strength, devastating armor penetration, ability to ignore invulnerable saves, and additional mortal wounds inflicted. Here we see the curve flatten out, with most vehicles dying to a median of three attacks while the Gorgon and Monolith require a few more thanks to their additional wounds. A pair of Hammerhead Gunships costs 290 points.

Repulsor Executioner Credit: Craig “MasterSlowPoke” Sniffen

Offensive Comparison

For the offensive comparison we’ll look at two targets. First will be a horde of Ork Boyz in a unit large enough to maximize Blast weapons. This will be our infantry threat, and in the case of Rapid Fire weapons we’ll assume that the vehicle is close enough to fire twice. The second will be a generic T8, 3+, 5++ target similar to all of the Tyranid and other big vehicle targets out there. I will be assuming that the vehicle is splitting fire, with the anti-tank portion of the weaponry attacking the big target while the defensive weapons clear out the chaff. The exception to this is the Coronus Grav-Carrier since the main gun has two profiles. This is where the Repulsor and Repulsor Executioner really show off how absurd they are; in the case of the RepEx there can be as many as six different profiles for attacking the same target. In my opinion Games Workshop had it right with Apocalypse, where all of the myriad of minor guns was wrapped up into a “defensive weapons” profile.

I suppose this is why Games Workshop thinks the RepEx is worth 315 points; the weapons outside of the heavy laser destroyer make it very good at clearing away single wound targets. The boosted strength of the heavy onslaught cannon allows it to chew through T5 targets; against something like a T3 guardsman the Repulsor might have more viability since it can field more low-level guns. The issue here is that killing chaff isn’t really something that Marines struggle with, and killing a median of 104 points of Boyz is difficult to justify on a 315 point Heavy Support choice. If you spend 5 points to give a Chaos Land Raider a havoc launcher it kills a median of 4 Boyz per Shooting phase.

Here you see the key problem with the RepEx; it’s just not that good at killing tough stuff. Then again none of the heavy transports really do much outside of the Hekaton Land Fortress firing the magna-rail cannon and MATR autocannon (especially with Judgement Tokens). The output of the RepEx is pretty close to that of the classic Land Raider, which makes sense given that the total damage between a heavy laser cannon and four lascannons is similar. The problem is that the humble lascannon just isn’t very good in a game full of magna-rail cannons and railguns. Again, this is against the loyalist Land Raider and not the improved heretical one, which would cost around 265 points and fire four soulshatter lascannon shots. Incidentally those shots do a median of 6 points of damage, making the Chaos Land Raider the most lethal option available. It’s notable that the output of an overcharged macro-plasma incinerator is only slightly worse than the heavy laser destroyer; the RepEx has a median of 4 wounds to the plasma’s 3 but the curves are pretty similar.

Raven Guard Repulsor Executioner
Raven Guard Repulsor Executioner. Credit: Dan Boyd

Wrapping Up

Obviously there’s more to a comparison than just how well a unit takes a hit or dishes it out, but when you’re spending 15% of your 2000 point army on a single unit lethality and resiliency are pretty important.

  • The RepEx is easier to kill than most of the other heavy transports tested in this analysis, second only to the Ork Gunwagon. Giving it a 2+ Save characteristic or making it T9 would help significantly.
  • The combination of heavy bolter and heavy onslaught gatling cannon made the RepEx the absolute best at killing Orks, which is a threat category that Space Marines have plenty of other options to deal with.
  • Against the T8/3+/5++ target the RepEx did about the same as many other heavy transports, which is to say not enough. Removing the ability to fire the main gun twice really hurt this unit.
  • The output of the macro-plasma incinerator was very close to the heavy laser destroyer, which makes it a more appealing choice since the incinerator is better at killing heavy infantry.
  • A perfect example of the disparity can be seen in the Chaos Land Raider which is harder to kill, does more damage against heavy targets, and costs 50 points less. The only downside is that it doesn’t also clear out single wound infantry very well, which is again not something that Astartes really need help with.

The challenge with the Repulsor Executioner is that it’s a massive tank that’s most effective against the kind of targets that Space Marines are already very good at killing. Equivalent transports from other factions cost fewer points while being harder to kill and (outside of the Hekaton Land Fortress) being equally mediocre against tough targets. It seems like Games Workshop continues to put a premium on flexible, multi-role units and transport capacity in a game where specialization is far more effective, and the Repulsor Executioner suffers particularly because of it.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments feel free to drop us a note in the Comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com. That’s also the best way to suggest topics for future articles.