Hammer of Math: Warp Missiles and You

“Primaris” Kevin is on break this week, so the Warlord Wednesday crew has decided to take a look at what might be the most unusual weapons in Adeptus Titanicus – the Warp Missile Support Rack.

Warp Missiles. A hot topic of discussion amongst Titanicus players. A very different weapon than anything else in the game for sure. The only one-use weapon you can equip a Titan with (so far) and at a glance, it may seem very deadly – it ignores void shields, packs a good long range modifier to hit, and has a flat chance to cause Critical Damage on a 4+. But how should you take these weapons? Are they worth taking? Does any Legio make better use of them than others? Read on for the answer to these questions and more.

Edit: This has been written with the assumption that rules as intended, a Warp Missile causes critical hits rather than critical damage on a roll of 4-6. Rules as written with this result, the Warp Missile would have no effect if fired at a Knight Banner and would be significantly worse versus Titans. We’ve reached out to GW to clarify this in the next AT FAQ and will keep our eyes peeled.

What are Warp Missiles?

The Warp Missile Support Rack is an option for Reaver Carapaces that can be taken in place of an apocalypse missile launcher, vulcan mega bolter, or turbo-laser destructor. At 10 points, they’re cheap as dirt, and have solid stats: with a 20” short range with +1 to hit and an 80” long range with +2 to hit making these very accurate weapons. This is crucial, since they also have the Limited (1) trait, which means you only get one shot with them before your carapace mount is left empty, so you’ll need to do whatever you can to make sure they count.

Adeptus Titanicus Warp weapon trait – Credit: Warhammer Community

Any hit with a warp missile is going to do some amount of damage. The only question is how much. Any hit has a 50% chance of causing critical damage, which come with some nasty side effects. Not only that, but if you bring enough of them and can make them reliable enough, 3 critical hits is enough to kill a Warhound or Reaver (though on the Reaver you have to focus the head), and 4 critical hits to any location will destroy a Warlord outright.

So: how many warp missiles do you need to be able to take out that Titan? For most legions, this math is pretty easy: assuming an unobstructed shot at longer than 20” range, you’re looking at a +2 to hit counteracting a -2 penalty to call shot to the location of your choice. So we just need to figure out how many critical hits you can expect a warp missile to cause on average, then divide our target (3 for a Waround or Reaver, 4 a Warlord) by that number to see how many missiles we need to fire to expect to see that many critical hits.

Critical hits per warp missile is easy: 3+ BS with a -2 penalty and offsetting +2 bonus has a 4-in-6, or 66.67%, chance of hitting. Each of those hits will deal a critical hit on a 4+, meaning it has a 50% chance of causing a critical hit. 66.67% * 50% = 33.33%, meaning each warp missile fired at 3+ BS has a 1-in-3 chance of causing a critical hit. Put another way, the expected value of each warp missile you fire at an enemy Titan is 0.33 critical hits, meaning you’ll need to fire an average of 3 warp missiles at a Titan to reliably cause a crit. This means we need nine warp missiles to take out a Warhound or Reaver, or a staggering twelve Reavers bringing support racks to expect to drag down a Warlord. With Reavers clocking in around 300 points, we won’t be able to afford enough of these things to reliably kill a Titan on their own.

Building for Warp Missiles

What if we had some way to increase our Reavers’ reliability, though? There are broadly two ways to do this: by improving your BS, or by adding re-rolls either to the to-hit roll or to the warp roll.

Let’s take a look at Praesagius, since they’re the easier of the two to math out: their Precision Volley stratagem adds +1 to hit rolls at long range, letting them call shots with warp missiles on a 2+ will improve the chance that each missile will hit from 66.67% chance to 83.33% chance. This gives each of their warp missiles a 41.67% chance of dealing a critical hit, or an expected value of 0.42 critical hits. That means you need 7.14 warp missiles to have an expected output of 3 crits, and 9.52 to average out to a dead Warlord.

Condit: Before you ask, using Praesagius’s trait to re-roll location dice isn’t worth it if you’re using the stratagem – you’re already as good as you’re going to get with the called shots at 2+, so just take the win and run with it – rolling the location die can only make things less reliable here.

Things get a little weirder when we talk about re-rolls, especially because they’re hard to come by, and a lot of the effects that grant them don’t help us here. Gryphonicus is out, since you’ll only get the re-roll 1 on a single Titan before giving up the claim. Vulcanum likely won’t help, as you need to fire this round 1 and will probably need to make your entire maniple out of Reavers to have a decent shot at it, leaving you without much room for a sacrificial lamb to get your re-rolls going. And with this being an early-game play, Mortis won’t have time to spin up their tally.

With all that in mind, the easiest way to get this re-roll is probably Legio Fureans, who can “bank” a re-roll by foregoing an activation in round 1, setting up for a powerful strike either in the first combat phase if they didn’t move, or in round 2 if they decided to move and skip the first combat phase. They also benefit from Hunting Auspex, which reduces the called shot penalty by 1, letting them get called shots on 2+ (+2 from long range for the weapon, -1 for the called shot boosted by Hunting Auspex), making a Fureans Reaver one of the best platforms for a warp missile rack in the game. But is it worth it?

Assuming you only bank a single re-roll, your Fureans Reaver can expect to deal 0.69 (Ni.ce) crits with its missile, meaning you need 4.32 warp missiles to reliably take down a Warhound or Reaver, and 7.2 to core out the Warlord. Now we’re talking – 4-5 Reavers is something that is achievable in a list, and being able to reliably put out 2-3 critical hits at the top of a game could really put a wrench in your opponent’s plan. Note that they’re still not incredibly reliable here – you only have a 69.44% chance of getting a crit with each warp missile, and anyone who’s played XCOM will tell you that’s something you shouldn’t rely on in the clutch. However, if you’ve built so that you’ll be able to rebound from a sub-optimal turn, you can certainly make this work.

But can we make it more reliable? The answer is yes: by giving up both activations on the first turn, Fureans Titans can bank a second re-roll, allowing them to re-roll both the hit roll and the warp roll. When we add this second re-roll, the chance each missile will crit grows from 69.44% to 72.92%. At this success rate, you need 4.11 racks for a Reaver or Warhound, and 6.86 for a Warlord. You’ll notice that this increase isn’t drastic, and we don’t think it’s worth giving up a Titan’s entire activation for this marginal gain.

The Rest of the Picture

Canny readers will note that this isn’t the end of the analysis, though: a critical hit also deals 2 points of structure damage, and if a Titan gets to the end of its structure track, any additional damage is cancelled and transformed into a point of critical damage. What this means for our analysis is that, if a Titan takes three critical hits and winds up at the end of that structure track, any damage it takes will result in an engine kill – you don’t need the final crit after all.

With that in mind, what do you really need to score with your warp missiles to take down a Titan? Let’s look at the Titan with the least armor, a Warhound. It can take 4 structure points on its head track and 5 on each of its body and legs tracks before it starts taking critical damage. The easiest kill here is to the head – 3 crits will actually result in an engine kill – the third crit’s structural damage will convert to the final pip of critical damage you need to push it to catastrophic. But how likely is it that structure damage from missed criticals will pick up the slack if you only get 2?

Let’s go back to the beginning: called shots at 3+ from our “standard” Reaver need an average of 6 missiles to deal 2 criticals. However, missiles that don’t crit still have a chance to do something: in this case, an average of 1.22 structure damage. In other words, while 6 warp missiles will average 2 criticals, they deal an expected 7.32 structure damage, or 3.32 more spaces down the structure track than we would expect from the critical hits alone. Is that enough to result in an engine kill? Yes, as it turns out: that extra 3 structure damage will, on average, result in an engine kill against a Warhound no matter where you hit it. In fact, if you aim for the head, the 1.65 expected crits from dropping down to 5 missiles gives us an expected 3.3 damage from critical hits, and the 6.1 expected total structure damage is 2.8 more than we expect from the crits. In other words, killing a Warhound with 5 missiles to the head shouldn’t be all that unexpected.

The math gets better for Fureans. Assuming a single re-roll, Fureans only needs to bring three warp missiles, or half of what most legions need to bring, resulting in 2.07 expected criticals and 5.55 structure damage, which is 1.41 over the results from the criticals. This isn’t a sure thing: you need a full 2 more structure damage over the two crits to score an engine kill by targeting a Warhound’s head (3 for the body or legs), but it’s also not outside the realm of possibility. And if you do target the head and only hit the average, you’ve still dealt enough damage to wound its Princeps, which any Titan commander will tell you doesn’t bode well for the long-term future of that unfortunate God-engine.

Legio Fureans Warhound
Credit: Genola

If you want to hunt larger game, though, Fureans is the way to do it. A Warlord’s head track can take 6 points of structure damage before the crits start. With a single re-roll, 4 warp missiles to the head will generate an average of 2.76 crits. Each of those missiles also averages 1.85 damage, or 7.4 structure damage across the 4. That’s 1.88 more damage than is expected from 3 crits, which just happens to be enough to kill the Warlord, assuming you were lucky enough to pick up the third crit. In other words, 4 Fureans Reavers with warp missiles, Hunting Auspexes, and a single re-roll each have a decent chance to take down a Warlord. It’s definitely not guaranteed, but it is concerning enough that you should definitely be wary if you see some 80s-themed Reavers with goofy-looking missiles on top lining up on the other side of the board.

One final note – don’t forget that you’ve got other guns on your Reavers. A lot of the math we’ve run through assumes you’re aiming for the head, largely because those structure tracks are shorter, reducing the amount of damage you need to pick up to score a kill. However, while the quick kill is nice and the effects of critical damage to the head are devastating, if you’re looking to drop an engine fast, consider calling your warp missiles to the body. You’ll only need to pick up 2 critical hits to result in VSG Burnout, which will collapse your target’s shields and let you start laying into armor locations with your other armament. Laser blasters are a decent way to do this, especially with Fureans – the Hunting Auspexes you’re bringing anyway will let you call shots into the body with laser blasters on a 5+ or with gatling blasters on a 4+. Alternatively, Praesagius can follow up a precision warp missile barrage by abusing their trait to fish for hits to the body with their other weapons, potentially dealing the damage you need to get the kill. If you’ve got 3 or more Reavers in your list and some way to make them more accurate, some clever list-building could make taking a few warp missiles a nasty trick that your opponent may not be expecting.

Bair: The only thing to remember here is that the long range on the missiles is 20″+ so you only have 4″ of error to get those gatling blasters in range as well if aiming for VSG burnout, and laser blasters will be at -1 to hit at long range too over 16″. The only weapons really in range after this bombardment would be laser blasters and volcano cannons, and unless you’re Fureans or Praesagius these aren’t likely hitting the same area your missiles did.

Fire for Effect

When all’s said and done, warp missiles are an unusual weapon that can be difficult to use yet extremely rewarding, assuming the dice go their way. However, like anything in Titanicus, if you plan around them and build your list to take advantage of their particular strengths, you can get spectacular results.

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