Saga of the Beast and Competitive Space Wolves

An article by    Gaming Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

Hello internet, it’s Jon Kilcullen of Northern Front here. After a review of their own, Goonhammer has kindly asked me to give my thoughts on the Space Wolves’ side of the new Saga of the Beast supplement as it relates to competitive play. As an avid follower of their content I could not say no. I have been a wolf player for the better part of 2 years now (I have only been playing for 2.5 years), and recently my team and I have come to some internet renown for creating a list known as The Frontier list. But enough about me – let’s dive into this book and see where it takes us.  

As the leaks and reveals hit Reddit, they seemed to be met with a growing sense of disappointment. Is this a fair initial reaction? Absolutely not. I want to address this right upfront: Just because this book is not on the same power level (seemingly) as Grey Knights, doesn’t mean that the sky is falling. I view this as a positive and not a negative – this book feels balanced. “Anything above nothing would be a win” was my stance going into this and boy did GW exceed my expectations.

 

Ragnar Blackmane

I am sure a lot of us have seen the datasheet for this beast but if you have somehow not here we go:

Ragnar now has an ability called Berserker Rage which gives him +3 attacks when Shock Assault is activated instead of 1. He also has an ability called Battlelust that allows units within 6” of him to consolidate an additional 3”. This is huge for a combat army – movement is life and every single inch you can get, you need to take advantage of. This will reliably allow you to get into places you need to be in and wrap secondary or even tertiary units you did not declare charges against. As some of you have guessed by now, the loyal puppers are dead. Pour one out for Svangir & Ulfgir. Ragnar is going full John Wick in this book and his statline, combined with the doctrines and a specific stratagem, reflect it.  

Rangar can get up to an astronomical number of attacks fully-buffed; math-wise he can drop Magnus in a single Fight phase. For a cool 120 points he’s a must have for every competitive wolf list in my opinion.  

 

Lords of Winter and War

Haldor Icepelt Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Haldor Icepelt Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

The time we have all been eagerly awaiting is here, Space Wolves now have access to Combat Doctrines, which in itself is a huge win and drastically cranks up the threat of the Emperor’s puppers. 

Credit; Games Workshop

Savage Fury is a nice bonus for going pure Wolves and it makes the Black Templars sad. This doctrine most likely will lend itself to allowing players to soup in Wolves without losing much efficiency since losing this Doctrine is a very minor thing. To me that’s a positive – there is a lot of play to adding a Space Wolves Supreme Command to almost any Imperium list due to their versatility and their value to a “passive-aggressive” play style.  

Now that doctrines are on the table this army plays much like White Scars, where both factions truly come “online” turn 3 when the Assault Doctrine is active. The Wolves have come home, seen their dogs are dead and are “now thinking they are back” – Full John Wick mode. Pray that Ragnar does not get his hands on a pencil. Thunder hammers hitting with AP -4 should not be overlooked – basically unless you are sitting on a 2+ armour save or invulnerable save you just die. This can both be a positive and a negative, however: If you are like me and you are looking for easy wraps on infantry to keep yourself alive, having AP -1 on your combat weapons can be a frustrating thing to deal with now.

 

Tale of the Wolf King: Litanies of Battle

In addition to Combat Doctrines, Saga of the Beast also gives us Litanies of Battle, which allows Space Wolves to use the basic six Marine litanies (faith, fire, rage, strength, focus, and hate) and gives us an amazing flavourful litany called Tale of the Wolf King and the Lord of the Deeps.  

Credit: Games Workshop

The title of the book is Saga of the Beast so clearly they are going deep on the beast slayer side of Wolves and this litany really reflects that. This single-handedly turns Wolves into a nightmare against any mech army (outside of T’au). Turning all your thunder hammer attacks into flat 4 damage is a real game changer. Now things start to really stack up here: flat 4 damage at AP -4 with the Assault Doctrine active will punt T8 no invulnerable save tanks right off the table with ease.

This litany makes taking power fists on everything much more appealing now as you have reliable 2-flat, up-to-4-damage weapon for the low price of 9 points. This also is another reason to really look at Thunderwolf Cavalry – they got a lot of buffs with the book and there is a way to get your crushing teeth and claws attacks up to flat 3 damage, but we will get to that soon.  

As far as litanies go the most important one to me is the Canticle of Hate. Movement is life in this game. This is never more true than when you run a combat-oriented army and view the Fight phase as your second Movement phase. Having the ability to get +2 to charge distances and get 6” pile-in and Consolidate moves is game-changing. This one litany in my opinion puts Wolves in the talks for being a consistent top-table contender. A lot of the book’s power is unlocked when you can now reliably make charges out of Deep Strike. I suspect this will help add more flavour and variety to the current top-tier Space Wolves lists.  

Recitation of Focus is a big one for the Wolf Guard Terminator combi-plasma bomb.  Having access to +1 to hit rolls means when they overcharge they can never die to a roll of a 1. A very reliable way to keep yourself safe and squeeze out every bit of efficiency you can.  This used to be done by using the Target Priority Vanguard Warlord Trait, but now that trait has been brought in-line with all other books and only works on Phobos units. 

 

Warlord Traits/Psychic Powers

Not much has changed here beyond getting access to 6 Vanguard warlord traits which to me are overshadowed by the basic Space Wolves codex warlord traits, I can not at this moment see myself ever taking these. 

The psychic tree remains the same – nothing changed here which is a bit disappointing to me, as it would have been nice to see a couple more abilities.  

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Relics of the Fang

Saga of the Beast added a host of new relics to our arsenal. Most of them are useful in fringe cases but having more options available to you to tailor your list to what you are facing is always great. The main issue with the relics is they still are at the codex cost (1 CP for a second relic, 3 CP for a third), making them quite pricey if you want to take multiples. Not the end of the world, just back to business as usual for us paw patrol players. The named relic that sticks out to me the most the 4-damage axe known as Wyrmsplitter.

Credit: Games Workshop

Wolves have a lot of power axe models and everyone wants them to be good on the table so here is your chance! Once again we find ourselves maximizing efficiency versus vehicles and monsters. Combine this with the Tale of the Wolf King litany and you are now doing 5 FLAT DAMAGE to monsters/vehicles, while with the Assault Doctrine active it will be at AP -3 with exploding 6s. There is play here for sure if you find yourself in a situation where you just can not find the points for that thunder hammer Wolf Lord. I will definitely be testing this out quite a bit in the coming days.  

Wyrdbane is another interesting one that stands out to me. This is a replacement for a force sword that allows you to reroll wound rolls. In addition, if the target is a psyker, the weapon does flat 3 damage. Interesting choice – at first glance I thought it would be great for going up against Thousand Sons but Wolves already have so much power into that matchup that you see its real value when you run into the new Baba Yaga of the 40k universe, the Grey Knights. Trust me on this one – you need all the help you can get in that match-up. Nick Weiss recently showed me exactly how that matchup goes. Spoiler alert: NOT GOOD.

Adding the wolf tail talisman also adds more survivability in the psyker-heavy match-ups as it subtracts 2 from the results of casts within 18”. This to me feels good as you finally have some psyker hate in our actual book to reflect the lore.  

Despite all this, to me the biggest addition is none of the named relics but the simple fact that we now have access to Master-crafted weapons.  This relic allows you to replace 1 weapon your model is equipped with and make it master-crafted which adds 1 damage to its profile. So a power fist now has base 2 damage, up to max 4 damage. Now we add in the litany and we have a 9-point weapon that has base 3 up to max 5 damage vs vehicles and monsters. That’s a steal in my opinion. 

It becomes hard to fit all these relics in your list since you’ll almost always want the Wulfen Stone, but there are definitely a lot more options here designed to terrorize big creatures and tanks.  There’s also a host of power swords, a helm and a bolt weapon that also have relics but to me the ones listed above stand out the most.  

 

Stratagems 

Okay we are finally onto the guts of the book and what really makes the wolves tick. Strap in, there is a lot to get through here. We’ve now got access to almost all of the basic Marine stratagems and those have been covered before, so I won’t go through those one by one. Instead, I’ll just highlight a couple important ones. The Space Wolves’ unique stratagems are where the real fire is in this section.

Duty Eternal:

This stratagem does not quite work like it is worded as it has been FAQ’d thanks to Bro… err I mean Iron Hands. Now it reduces damage by 1 for a SPACE WOLVES DREADNOUGHT model when it is targeted for an attack. Even in the post-FAQ version, this stratagem obviously helps out Bjorn and Murderfang, along with a host of other punchy dreadnoughts wolves have available to them. Murderfang in particular benefits from a host of stratagems and abilities. More on that soon.  

Hero of the Chapter:

This stratagem allows you to take a second warlord trait on another character in your army.  Do you like playing Space Wolves but also being Blood Angels? Taking the Saga of the Beastslayer and Saga of the Wolfkin is doing just that.  

Transhuman Physiology:

Possibly the most important stratagem to be added to the Wolves book. This allows your non-vehicle, non-servitor units to not be able to be wounded on rolls of 1-3.  Critical stratagem for Wolf Guard Terminators, Wolf Guard with jump packs, Wulfen, and Thunderwolf Cavalry. Every bit of extra durability you can get out of these units is absolutely critical when trying to consistently win games.  

Counter-charge:

This stratagem allows you to Heroically Intervene with any unit from your army, and moving up to 6” when you do so. This could be pivotal in some matchups and really catch some people off-guard. It’s a hammer in the tool box.

 

Now let’s get onto the Space Wolf specific stratagems: 

Touch of the Wild:

Absolutely wild. I can’t overstate how big this Stratagem is. The first thing that comes to my mind is using this on a Wolf Lord with a thunder hammer who has the Saga of the Wolfkin and the Wulfen Stone. You are basically killing everything that you come into contact with.  The most obvious person to use this on is Ragnar Blackmane. When he’s clocking in at 10 attacks on the charge (11 for a nearby Wulfen stone, 12 for Saga of the Wolfkin) you are looking at a massive amount of attacks, with every unmodified 6 generating 3 hits since this stacks with the Savage Fury doctrine. Combining this with Gene-Wrought Might puts this right over the top as you are now auto-wounding with those 6s. Finally we add in our litany and you are adding 1 damage to all these wounds vs vehicles and monsters. It’s a real WTF moment. Murderfang becomes even more murderous with this stacked on him. 

It gets pretty crazy pretty fast and if you really want a couple things to die immediately this is the way to do it.  

Vicious Executioners:

When you Select a Wolf Guard unit from your army to fight, until the end of the phase when resolving attacks made by a model in this unit against an infantry unit, an unmodified wound roll of 6 inflicts 1 mortal wound on the target in addition to the other damage.  

Just a fun little strat to help the Wolf Guard terms or Jump pack dudes out. It’s not game-changing by any means. 

Fury of the Champions:

An updated version of Fury of the First from Codex Space Marines. Select one Space Wolves Terminator unit from your army. Until the end of the phase, when resolving an attack made by a model in this unit, add 1 to the hit roll.

So this again hits the combi-plasma bomb unit.  Now you can reliably fire both profiles and effectively ignore the hit modifier while also using the Litany of Focus to not overheat on rolls of 1s or 2s.  You can also use this when the litany fails or when you require a different litany such as Canticle of Hate.  

Knowledge of the Foe:

0CP use this stratagem in the Fight phase when an enemy character is destroyed by an attack made by a SPACE WOLVES model in your army. You gain 1 command point.

Amazing stratagem that costs 0 CP! Space Wolves were already combat assassins designed to go out and kill other characters, now you are being rewarded for doing what you naturally do. Super powerful. This one has the added bonus of making Tyranid players a bit more salty than they usually are as Feeder Tendrils is just a worse version.

Death Grip Bite:

Now here’s a way to get flat 3 damage from your pups when targeting vehicles and monsters. If you are in the aura of the Tale of the Wolf King litany you now have +1 damage against vehicles and monsters, going from 2 up to 3. If the Assault Doctrine is active, your teeth are also now AP -2. It’s tempting – this adds a lot of interesting play to the Thunderwolf Cavalry unit. I have used this unit a lot in the past so to see that there may be play here I’m excited to see where this takes me. 

Storm Strike:

1 CP to add 1 to hit/wound/damage rolls for a helfrost weapon on a Stormfang Gunship. This isn’t something I’ll personally ever use but I’m sure the vast majority of the community will find a use for this one. 

 

Biggest winners

Wolf Guard Terminators

The clear winner in my mind is the Wolf Guard Terminator unit. Run with combi-plasma and an assortment of storm shields and power fists/ thunder hammers they are just so much more efficient than pre-Saga. Transhuman Physiology is a big deal for our Wolf Guard Terminators.+2 charge is game changing for them, allowing them to now reliably charge when they show up.  +1 to hit from Fury of the Champions and Litany of Focus are major additions. Finally we arrive at doctrines. Adding an extra AP to all their weapons turns them into a nightmare, adding exploding 6s is basically like having another 2 Wolf Guard for free.  Dust your Terminators off, they are back boys! 

Ragnar Blackmane

Ragnar is hard to overlook as one of the biggest winners considering everything that dude can now do. The sheer number of attacks this bro has is mind boggling. Stacking every strat and litany possible on him and tossing him into a horde of Orks or, worse, something with the Thousand Sons keyword, and he is going to absolutely blast them off the table using Touch of the Wild and our Chapter Doctrine, Savage Fury.  

The fact that Ragnar is now Primaris and does not have the doggos around means he can now be put into an Impulsor and taken up field very quickly, allowing him to finally reach combat reliably. This is a pretty huge buff in my eyes.  

 

Biggest losers

Credit: Games Workshop

The goodest boys. 

The lore must go on. Everything has to die eventually.  RIP 

 

What does all this mean for the meta?

Before this book dropped I was completely sure the Impulsor rush frontier list was the only reliable way to compete for top tables in the meta dominated by pre-nerf Marines and Grey Knights. Now that this book has arrived, I feel like this style of play is going to be seen much more than it was previously. The book went deep on combat and rewards you for your use of characters, aura management and movement.  

The toughest match-ups for Space Wolves pre-Saga were the post-Greater Good Guard gunline that is able to spam flat 3 damage with high strength, Grey Knights, who are ultra durable and dangerous in every single phase and T’au, especially with the new Crisis Suits/herohammer style.  

Post-Saga, the Astra Militarum/Guard match-up has become drastically better with the addition of Combat Doctrines and litanies. Your units coming out of Deep Strike are always maximum threat oriented and if you attempt that charge at +2 you are getting there more often than not.  Once you get in on Guard it’s over – nothing they have is going to walk over and remove you from their lines, especially if you are sitting there with the Armour of Russ. Making that wrap is life-or-death in this match-up and being able to kill tanks and Bullgryn once you are in is critical. Doctrines and Touch of the Wild/Transhuman Physiology allow you to really go deep here. Taking Thunderwolf Cavalry is also a very viable choice here as it will take forever to remove them and the guns you want to fire at them are needed for the Impulsors, meaning that no matter what they shoot at it’s a win for you.  

Grey Knights are such a hard match-up because there is just no wrapping these guys.  You have to go in and kill every single one of them and rely on volume to carry you through it. Someone like Ragnar with Touch of the Wild fighting 2-3 times in a turn can really shift this match-up fast. Taking a Wolf Lord with a 4-damage thunder hammer can really help clear out Paladins in a hurry as well.  

T’au are still a very hard match-up; they are neither monsters or vehicles so most of what we are geared to fight is not in their army. You need to lean into the Doctrine bonuses and volume of attacks to clear drones and get to where you need to be. Transhuman Physiology will definitely help you out a lot here but in my opinion this is still going to be a really, really tough match-up.    

I have been very vocal about how bad Wulfen are – and they were – but finally litanies have arrived and Transhuman is A Thing. These guys can now come out of outflank and almost always make that charge with a Wolf Priest in place – you don’t need to take a floating brick to run these guys anymore. Taking a large unit of them and stacking buffs on them could for sure be a way to go. I have definitely been looking at them as a replacement for my Wolf Guard with jump packs. The durability is just off the charts now.

I believe that Space Wolves will sit right around tier 1.5 to 2 in terms of their power. There are a lot of very favorable matchups now and most of it will completely depend on how well you master the Charge and Fight phases, which is a rewarding experience.  

 

The List

The list I have the most faith in at this moment is a slight variation of my Wheat City Open list, which you can find here.

Seeking a Saga:

Space Wolves Battalion

HQ: Wolf lord (warlord) Jump pack/Thunder hammer/storm shield
HQ: Wolf priest w/ JP/Power fist/bolt pistol

Troops: 5 man intercessor w/ bolt rifles pack leader has TH
Troops: 5 man intercessor w/ bolt rifles pack leader has TH
Troops: 5 man intercessor w/ bolt rifles pack leader has TH

DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome+storm bolters
DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome+storm bolters
DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome+storm bolters

Space Wolves Battalion

HQ: Ragnar
HQ: Rune priest in phobos armour
HQ: Wolf guard battle leader w/ JP/TH/SS

Troops: 5 Intercessors w/ bolt rifles pack leader has TH
Troops: 5 Intercessors w/ bolt rifles pack leader has TH
Troops: 6 Blood Claws w/ pack leader has PF + Wolf Guard w/bolt pistol + storm shield

Elites: Wolf Guard w/JP, 7x TH/SS, 3x Chainsword/SS

DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome+storm bolters
DT: Impulsor w/ shield dome+storm bolters

++++++

It does not look like much, but there is a lot of play to this style of Space Wolves. Ragnar can now be put in an Impulsor and rushed up the table inside the castle. The Wolf Lord and Wolf Guard Battle Leader keep the castle safe from pesky chargers by jumping out of the castle and using the Armour of Russ + Touch of the Wild to delete whatever comes in, as do the Wolf Guard using the Counter Charge Stratagem (yes, I start them on the table often) the castle is playing board control and crashing into enemy lines turn 2 or 3 depending on deployment map. The Intercessors are kept safe inside the Impulsors and almost never disembark unless they have to via transport being killed – they are a second wave of stuff getting in the way. So long as I can keep screens up, my characters will do the heavy lifting and what they can’t kill, the Wolf Guard will for sure.

This is essentially a modern day Rhino rush that plays very passive-aggressively.  

 

Time to Experiment

I don’t yet know if this is the right way to build these lists but for now I’m excited to see where this can take me. There are cases for so many units to be included in here and I have over 15 lists that I need to run through test games with in the next couple of days. I hope people are as excited as I am for the options this book provides us. 

Thank you for spending the time to read my thoughts on the new book and thanks to Goonhammer for asking me to do this. If you would like to contact me or discuss wolves in more depth I can be found on Reddit ‘seekingasaga’ or you can find my team via our Facebook page Northern Front gaming and get access to our discord (it’s free).

Until next time.

RIP puppers

 

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below, or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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