Unit Roles in 9th – Analysing Lists

This article is part of our series looking at Unit Roles in 9th Edition. If you’ve just arrived, you might want to go check out the Introduction, which talks through what this series is about and how it’s going to work. Otherwise, read on.

Units in 9th Edition can usually be grouped into one of six roles, four “Primary” Roles and two “Secondary” Roles. The Primary Roles are crucial building blocks from which effective strategies are constructed, while units from Secondary Roles can either amplify the capabilities of other units or broaden the scoring options available to a list.

The roles are:

We’ve run five articles looking at to one or more roles, one each for the Primary Roles, then a joint piece for the Secondary Roles at the end. For each role, we talked about what it is and how it’s used, some examples of standout units from it and how to play against it in the table. For each Primary Role, we also took a look at a competitive army list that used that role as the foundation of its strategy.

Applying Roles to Army lists

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Now that we’ve covered the principle it’s time to put things into practice. The purpose of understanding Unit Roles is to allow you, as a player, to build effective army lists that have a powerful battleplan on the tabletop.

To show off how to go about this, in today’s article we’re going to take a look at three army lists, break down how they’re using the roles and what sort of strategies are available to them based on that. We’ll then see if we can identify any gaps or weaknesses in the list, and whether there are any swaps or changes we can make to shore those up.

For the first of these, I’ll be using a list of my own – a Necron army that I’ve been testing out that I want to make the next big iteration on. For the other two, I reached out to the Goonhammer Patron Discord for volunteers, and have drawn two names out of a hat from those who wanted to be part of the action. In both cases, I’ll be sticking to the core “themes” of the army (I’m not going to to changing any factions, for example, and if there are clear “build arounds” I’m going to try and keep them) but still looking for options to improve the flexibility or reliability of their battle plans.

In most cases, the suggestions aren’t going to be “absolute” – 40K is a game with a tonne of variables, and whenever you’re making changes to a list, you need to test them on the battlefield to validate whether or not they’re going to work out. On testing, you might find that a weakness you were trying to address wasn’t as big a problem as you thought, or a new unit isn’t quite pulling its weight the way you want it to – in which case it’s worth re-examning where you’ve ended up, and where you might want to go next. The latest version of my Necron list has “V6” written next to it in my tracker, and I’m sure I’ll hit a V7 in the fullness of time once I’ve given the new version below the runaround!

What I’m Looking For

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Just before we hit the lists themselves, it’s worth quickly going through the kinds of things I’m looking for when approaching lists in this way. This isn’t exhaustive, but it provides a good baseline for the kinds of tests I’m applying.

  1. Can I identify what roles the majority of the units are here to play? I’ve got a pretty broad knowledge of factions and codexes, so I can usually get through this step pretty quickly, but when I’m faced with something more esoteric I make sure to grab the relevant book so I can understand what it’s capable of, and thus how it might fit in.
  2. Can I put those together into a coherent battle plan? Usually, for a top four list this will be pretty clear, but even then more unusual fare like the Attrition list we looked at can need a bit more evaluation before the structure of the plan emerges.
  3. Are the units good at their roles? There are far fewer “trap” units these days than there were in early parts of 8th, but some units need the right Force Multipliers backing them up before they’ll perform, or need to be loaded out in a certain way to really shine.
  4. Where a role forms part of the list’s battle plan, does it have enough resources devoted to that role to achieve meaningful impacts? A reasonably common mistake in listbuilding is to try and plug a weakness, but not to add either enough units or a potent enough unit to pull it off. That tends to result in it trying and failing to accomplish things in the new role as well as weakening its ability in others.
  5. Are there any Secondary Role units that are superfluous to requirements? Spending either too many points on Objective Utility units or taking Force Multipliers without enough units to benefit from them can have distinctly diminishing returns, and the points might be better spent elsewhere.

There are other, non-Role considerations at play too, most notably target profile and Secondary vulnerabilities. Lists with a highly uniform target profile (i.e. most things in the army require similar tools to take down) get some inherant defensive advantages in many games, because opponents loaded for a broad range of targets find some of their weaponry essentially “wasted”. That means if a list is very uniform I’ll generally hesitate to mix things up, but conversely if the list is already mixed, I’ll look for opportunities to put things in that might dodge attention thanks to their being higher value, similar targets. Secondaries is pretty self explanatory – adding either a fifth CHARACTER or a critical mass of Psykers or Vehicles to switch on the relevant kill Secondaries is something to avoid like the plague unless there’s a very good reason for it!

With that out the way, let’s dig into some lists.

The Lists

Wings’ Necrons

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Current List

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Necrons) [100 PL, 2,000pts, 9CP] ++

+ Configuration +

Dynasty Choice: Dynasty: Novokh

+ No Force Org Slot +

Bound Creation [2 PL, 40pts] . Cryptothralls
. . 2x Cryptothrall: 2x Scouring Eye, 2x Scythed Limbs

Bound Creation [2 PL, 40pts] . Cryptothralls
. . 2x Cryptothrall: 2x Scouring Eye, 2x Scythed Limbs

Dynastic Advisor [4 PL, 80pts, -1CP] . Technomancer: Canoptek Cloak, Dynastic Heirlooms, Relic: Veil of Darkness, Staff of Light

Viral Construct [1 PL, 15pts] . Canoptek Plasmacyte: Monomolecular Proboscis

+ HQ +

Catacomb Command Barge [9 PL, 185pts]: Gauss Cannon, Relic: Orb of Eternity, Resurrection Orb, Warlord, Warlord Trait (Codex 1): Enduring Will, Warscythe

Chronomancer [5 PL, 100pts]: Arkana: Prismatic Obfuscatron, Chronotendrils, Entropic Lance

Lokhust Lord [6 PL, 105pts, -2CP]: Dynastic Heirlooms, Rarefied Nobility, Relic: Voltaic Staff, Staff of Light, Warlord Trait (Codex 6): Honourable Combatant

+ Troops +

Immortals [4 PL, 85pts]: Gauss Blaster, 5x Immortal

Necron Warriors [6 PL, 130pts] . 10x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper): 10x Gauss Reaper

Necron Warriors [12 PL, 260pts] . 20x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper): 20x Gauss Reaper

+ Elites +

Lychguard [14 PL, 280pts]: 10x Lychguard
. Hyperphase Sword and Dispersion Shield: Dispersion Shield, Hyperphase Sword

Skorpekh Destroyers [10 PL, 210pts] . 2x Skorpekh Destroyer (Reap-Blade): 2x Hyperphase Reap-Blade
. 4x Skorpekh Destroyer (Thresher): 4x Hyperphase Threshers

Triarch Stalker [7 PL, 150pts]: Stalker’s Forelimbs, Twin Heavy Gauss Cannon

+ Fast Attack +

Canoptek Wraiths [10 PL, 175pts] . 5x Canoptek Wraith (Claws): 5x Vicious Claws

+ Dedicated Transport +

Ghost Ark [8 PL, 145pts]: 2x Gauss Flayer Array

++ Total: [100 PL, 9CP, 2,000pts] ++

As promised, one of mine first. Novokh is by far my favourite dynasty out of the new book, edging out the allure of the Eternal Expansionists custom option, and I’ve been tinkering with this build since the book landed. The current version has been performing OK and has racked up some convincing victories – but I’ve identified enough of a pattern in my defeats that some changes are clearly needed.

The main constraint here is that until I’ve managed to actually paint up the Silent King (he’s currently sitting in his box taunting me) I don’t want to start putting him in lists, but pretty much anything else from the Necron range is potentially on the table, as skeletons paint up nice and quick.

The Breakdown – Roles

Before we start changing things, however, let’s look at what this list is up to at the moment. This list leans hardest on Brawler elements in order to succeed, with the Lychguard, large Warrior unit, Command Barge and Lokhust Lord planning to operate in this way a lot of the time. Here we see one of the reasons I like Novokh so much right up front – the Novokh dynastic code and Blood Rites stratagem are what allow Warriors to operate as true Brawlers rather than just Position Holder or Attrition units, but they can still pull off the others as well, making them very flexible on the table.

Skorpekh Destroyers. Credit: Rockfish

Skorpekh Destroyers. Credit: Rockfish

The Skorpekh Destroyers can also play a Brawler role in some matchups, while in others they need to be held back to take out specific targets as Elimination threats. The Wraiths are theoretically here to threaten a bit of Elimination as well, being specifically well tuned for either hunting down Marine infiltrators or enemy Characters, but I’ve found a lot of the time they’re working a bit more like Position Holders, grabbing objectives out of the gate then soaking up a bit of punishment on the way down. They’re joined in that role a bit more deliberately by the Ghost Ark and mounted Warriors. These are classic Pawn Position Holders – chewing through the Ark and the Warriors right out the gate is a challenge for some lists, and they can help get the battle flowing and lure things into range of the Brawlers. If not dealt with, the Ark is great at making a nuisance of itself for the rest of the game by flying around ramming enemy shooting units, and can blow itself up via The Phaeron’s Revenge when finally dealt with. All good fun.

Attrition is our last Primary role, and has one unit slotted into it here – the Triarch Stalker. This is operating on the model of a reliable backfield objective holder that will do some damage over time, and is enough of a pain to deal with that most opponents won’t bother. It also provides a small amount of Force Multiplication in some cases via adding re-roll 1s to hit, which can be highly impactful if the Warrior blob has lined their guns up on a perfect target.

Moving over to secondary roles, we’ve got both some dedicated units in both the slots. Cryptothralls and the Immortals are both mostly here for Objective Utility, either screening out parts of my deployment zone or going into Strategic Reserves to be deployed as needed for Scramblers. With a total power level of 9, all three units can be put in to reserves for just a single CP, keeping the cost of operating in this way low. With ObSec and Novokh’s boosted charges, the Immortals can also make a swing for lightly held opposing objectives. The Necron Faction Secondaries make these units especially good to have around – all three can carry out the Ancient Machineries Action (since the requirement is CORE or CANOPTEK) and having an extra ObSec unit to go for Treasures of the Aeons can be clutch.

Finally, Force Multipliers. Outside of the two fighty characters’ contributions here, the two Crypteks are much more dedicated to the role. As long as Plasma Inceptors exist, bringing a Chronomancer is pretty much mandatory if your plan involves big Warrior blobs, because if they get taken out in a single volley of fire then Reanimation Protocols (a major component of their durability) flat out doesn’t work. With a 5++ you can usually tank through a volley from five of them (the most common unit size), and then bounce back up to a decent unit size and get further healed by the Technomancer. Because of the powerful shooting attack the Chronomancer has I’ve also chosen to equip him with the Prismatic Obfuscatron for some additional flexibility. By allowing him to move about without worrying as much about being shot, he can do some Attrition damage and like Position Holding in an emergency if I’ve ended up a bit thin on the ground. The Technomancer is the final entry here, keeping units in the game by reviving them and teleporting them around the board with the Veil of Darkness. They don’t have the obfuscatron, so need to be pretty careful, and for that reason I’ve paid the (extremely cheap) five points for a Canoptek Cloak to increase the speed and allow them to jump between units as needed. The heal is occasionally handy too, but overwhelmingly the speed is what you’re paying for in this list.

The Breakdown – The Plan

I mentioned up front that this list leans most heavily on the Brawler role, and that’s central to the plan here. Generally the goal on my first turn is for the Wraiths to zip forward to whichever mid-board objective provides most cover, while the Ghost Ark goes for a more exposed one. This puts the enemy under pressure to fight for objectives right out the gate, and does so with units that are non-trivial to shift. The Warriors and Lychguard generally follow close behind, with the Skorpekh generally being a bit more cautious initially, as they’re highly tempting shooting targets. The goal is to kick off an engagement with those first two big Brawlers then have the Skorpekh and Catacomb Command Barge join the fray once the opponent responds forcing the opponent to confront durable damage dealers on multiple fronts. The list is pretty light on shooting, but what shots it does have tend to stick around for a decent amount of time, and are generally pointed at whichever enemy Elimination units show their faces (or picking off straggling Position Holders or Objective Utility units when higher priority targets aren’t available).

The combination of the Triarch Stalker and two units of Cryptothralls contribute to this by screening out a surprising amount of space in the backfield, preventing enemy deep strikers from coming in behind me and ruining my fun. Because it’s strong at fighting for the midboard, that lets it play the primary and the Necron faction secondaries (especially Purge the Vermin) pretty effectively, especially on short edge and quarters deployments.

Get into battle early, wage a constant Brawl over objectives, and build up enough of a lead that the opponent is shut out of the game. It’s a reasonable plan – so how well does it work.

How it’s Doing

“Decently”, would be my answer to that, but not as consistently as I’d like.

If I had to break down the units that are and aren’t working well, it would be as follows:

Working Well:

  • Command Barge – the Enduring Will trait and Quantum shielding make it extremely hard to kill, letting it Brawl with far more impunity than most characters. The exception here is that the Orb of Eternity hasn’t pulled its weight at all – opponents are far too good at wiping whole units.
  • Foot Warriors – they’re good in any game where they don’t get vaporised out of the gate. The Chronomancer remains mandatory as long as they stay.
  • Ghost Ark/Warriors – perform their role consistently and effectively.
  • Lychguard – Durable, flexible at killing stuff, and especially effective in games where I’ve teleported them pretty early with the Veil, allowing them to gradually roll through a flank.
  • Triarch Stalker – I wasn’t certain if the theory above would play out on actual use, but it absolutely has, this is generally one of the last units to die in my army, and has often sat on an objective all game and/or picked up its points in models on the way to that.
  • Cryptothralls – They’re excellent. This list tends to use them more for home screening/Ancient Machineries than Scramblers, but having the option on it is very helpful.
  • Technomancer – The Veil of Darkness is excellent in the list, and while reviving models doesn’t always actually happen, discouraging opponents from trying to rack up chip damage helps.

Room for Improvement:

  • The Skorpekh Destroyers – They haven’t been bad, but as the biggest damage dealer by far I often have to play more cautiously with them than I’d like. Essentially, I’m being forced to use them as Elimination units all the time, where really I just want to pile them on as Brawlers.
  • The Lokhust Lord – People who’ve played against this list might be surprised by this, because he’s done a lot of damage, but notably he’s done the vast majorioty of it in shooting, and once I’m losing the Orb of Eternity, moving the Voltaic Staff over to the Command Barge essentially retains that. Also, Honourable Combatant has almost never meaningfully come up here, further evidence that the shooting is the superior draw.
  • Wraiths – Wildly variable in what they accomplish – sometimes they’re great but too often end up being used as excessively expensive-for-their-durability Pawns, and a few too many matchups no-sell their damage ability. Being able to threaten a lot of the board is good, though.
  • Immortals – they’re fine, but they don’t always achieve enough, and 165pts total on Objective Utility units is quite a bit.

In terms of how the plan has been going, the core is clearly sound as games that I’ve been winning go off as described, but it clearly has vulnerabilities highlighted by the games that I’m losing. In no particular order, these three things tend to be able to throw a spanner into my works:

  • Heavy investments in high rate of fire ranted Elimination threats. This list doesn’t really have any way to outright counter these, and as such it’s heavily reliant on terrain to succeed against them. When it can’t protect itself that way in these games, it tends to start strong but lose momentum around turn three, enough time for the opponent to turn the game around.
  • Operating on Dawn of War maps. There’s not quite enough ground coverage on these, and the tension between wanting to hold the Skorpekh in reserve and send them into battle is felt especially keenly here.
  • Running into enemy Brawlers that trump mine. The list is very short of a plan B if an opponent manages to get a unit of Rites of War Deathwing Knights into an awkward position.
Destroyers

Destroyers. Credit: Wings

Now, the obvious answer to these problems would be to pack in a potent, broad-spectrum ranged Elimination threat, but herein lies the rub – Necrons are kind of missing one. Lokhust Destroyers are clearly supposed to play this role, but they’re desperately marginal, and look like a complete joke when you line them up against examples from other factions. Extermination Protocols now costing 2CP also makes them very resource intensive to operate, and this list already wants to be slamming the Blood Rites button pretty much every turn. Options like Doomstalkers or Tesseract Arks do exist, but generally the price of entry before they’re dealing meaningful, broad damage is too high for a list like this where that isn’t plan A.

Essentially, what this list desperately, desperately wants to be able to do is cut the Wraiths, Immortals and res orb for a unit of five Plasma Inceptors, but sadly the mean old Marines are hogging those all for themselves. I would tentatively say that swapping for a unit of five Lokhust Destroyers probably would do some work to shore up the lists weaknesses, even though they’re mediocre as priced, but my concern there is that in matchups where they get countered hard the list will fold even harder. Instead, I’ve had a think about what is working and gone for a bit of a curveball for the next iteration, as follows.

The New List

++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Necrons) [48 PL, 960pts] ++

+ Configuration +

Dynasty Choice: Dynasty: Novokh

+ HQ +

Catacomb Command Barge [9 PL, 150pts]: Gauss Cannon, Relic: Voltaic Staff, Staff of Light, Warlord, Warlord Trait (Codex 1): Enduring Will

Illuminor Szeras [8 PL, 160pts]: Eldritch Lance, Impaling Legs

+ Troops +

Necron Warriors [6 PL, 130pts] . 10x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper): 10x Gauss Reaper

+ Elites +

Deathmarks [8 PL, 180pts] . 10x Deathmark: 10x Synaptic Disintegrator

Triarch Stalker [7 PL, 150pts]: Stalker’s Forelimbs, Twin Heavy Gauss Cannon

+ Fast Attack +

Canoptek Scarab Swarms [2 PL, 45pts] . 3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm: 3x Feeder Mandibles

+ Dedicated Transport +

Ghost Ark [8 PL, 145pts]: 2x Gauss Flayer Array

++ Patrol Detachment -2CP (Necrons) [51 PL, 1,040pts, 9CP] ++

+ Configuration +

Dynasty Choice: Dynasty: Novokh

+ No Force Org Slot +

Bound Creation [2 PL, 40pts] . Cryptothralls
. . 2x Cryptothrall: 2x Scouring Eye, 2x Scythed Limbs

Bound Creation [2 PL, 40pts] . Cryptothralls
. . 2x Cryptothrall: 2x Scouring Eye, 2x Scythed Limbs

Viral Construct [1 PL, 15pts] . Canoptek Plasmacyte: Monomolecular Proboscis

+ HQ +

Chronomancer [5 PL, 100pts]: Aeonstave, Arkana: Prismatic Obfuscatron, Chronotendrils

Psychomancer [5 PL, 95pts, -1CP]: Abyssal Lance, Arkana: Atavindicator, Dynastic Heirlooms, Relic: Veil of Darkness

+ Troops +

Necron Warriors [12 PL, 260pts] . 20x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper): 20x Gauss Reaper

+ Elites +

Lychguard [14 PL, 280pts]: 10x Lychguard
. Hyperphase Sword and Dispersion Shield: Dispersion Shield, Hyperphase Sword

Skorpekh Destroyers [10 PL, 210pts] . 2x Skorpekh Destroyer (Reap-Blade): 2x Hyperphase Reap-Blade
. 4x Skorpekh Destroyer (Thresher): 4x Hyperphase Threshers

++ Total: [99 PL, 9CP, 2,000pts] ++

What it does Better

With no easy access to Elimination options, I’ve tried to juice up the Attrition elements in the list and also shore up the abilities of the Brawler units to do their job effectively. The goal of those two things combined is to allow me to reliably maintain engagements with the enemy, and make it so that every turn a big brawl is going on has a higher “cost” to the enemy than it does right now.

To free up some space, I’ve cut out some of the elements that weren’t working as well and replaced them with a re-vamped character suite and a unit of Deathmarks.

For the characters, the Lokhust Lord, vanilla Technomancer and Resurrection Orb are out, and a Psychomancer and Illuminor Szeras are in, better aligning with the Brawler/Attrition plan. As mentioned above, being able to move the Voltaic Staff over to the Command Barge means that the impact of losing the Lokhust Lord on the army’s damage output is minimal, while both new characters provide increased attrition damage, via the Atavindicator on the Psychomancer and Szeras shooting. Szeras also provides the ability to augment various CORE units to improve their Brawling (though I’m sure I’ll roll BS for the Lychguard every time) and maintains the revival capability the old Technomancer provided, while the Psychomancer is aimed at reducing the chance of getting shut out by powerful enemy melee units. The ability to apply Fight Last via their spooky powers can put the opponent in a position where counter-charging into my Lychguard or Skorpekh is too risky, helping me dominate the mid-board against other Brawlers, and they also make a great Veil of Darkness bearer. I’ve found myself teleporting the Lychguard to go for a flank quite often, and if the Psychomancer rides along they can switch off the Objective Secured of any unit that’s in their way, increasing the impact of that play.

I will say that while I’m a big Szeras fan, I find he can be a bit uneven in impact and a Royal Warden + Technomancer might perform better – but  that would leave the list bleeding full Assassinate points, and having to play excessively cautiously with the characters (and getting punished badly for running out of steam on a late turn) doesn’t align well with the plan, so taking the more expensive Szeras to keep the count at 4 feels better.

In terms of the other units added, Deathmarks are a distinctly experimental choice, but one I feel could work pretty well with what I’m going for. They may turn out to be just a little too pillowfisted in actual use, but their ability to potentially take out enemy Force Multipliers (especially with the Atavindicator around to finish the job) again helps reduce the opponent’s ability to challenge my key units. They also provide a unit that can occupy a lot of space (helping with the Dawn of War issue), synergise well with Szeras, and have their teleport intercept option available in games where the opponent is relying on small units for Scramblers. Could be a choice that ends with me going back to the drawing board, but with no solution in the book that looks perfect, I’m willing to explore ones that might be good. Finally, using the last points left over from the cuts, the list sneaks in a small scarab unit. This provides a vastly cheaper pawn unit than the wraiths for matchups where I need to bait a well-concealed objective, and also another set of models that can perform Ancient Machineries straight away, ensuring that objective stays on the table.

As mentioned, I think it’s probably also worth trying just gritting my teeth and putting Lokhust Destroyers in, but this list appeals to me in that it opens up quite a few more plays, leans in on what’s been performing well, and doesn’t involve packing all my hopes into a very fragile 250pts+ basket. It’s what I’ll be fielding next time this list goes out, and I’m sure I’ll report back in a future article about how it played out.

Peter Venner’s Imperium

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

With my nonsense out of the way, it’s time to look at the first of two lists from Goonhammer patrons. This list is one that Peter put together and tested ahead of the Charity Hammer RTT, but he ended up going with a different option after testing it out. He was curious in what direction I’d have chosen to take it, so let’s see how it looks.

The Initial List

Patrol: Spotter Details, Gunnery Experts

Tank Commander, Demolisher Cannon, x3 Heavy Bolters (225 pts)
Tank Commander, Demolisher Cannon, x3 Heavy Bolters (225 pts)

x5 Scions (45 pts)
x5 Scions (45 pts)

Ministorum Priest (40 pts)

Manticore, HK missile, Tank Ace: Full Payload (150 pts)

Patrol: Death Korps

Death Rider Squadron Commander, *Warlord*: Old Grudges, Relic: Kurov’s Aquila (45 pts)
Death Rider Squadron Commander (45 pts)

x5 Scions (45 pts)

Astropath: night shroud (35 pts)
Astropath: psychic barrier (35 pts)

x9 Death Riders (135pts)
x9 Death Riders (135pts)
Death Rider Command Squadron (60 pts)
Death Rider Command Squadron (60 pts)

Patrol: Bloody Rose

Celestine (170 pts)

x5 Sisters (55 pts)

x9 Repentia (144 pts)
x9 Repentia (144 pts)

Rhino (80 pts)
Rhino (80 pts)

1998 pts, 7 CP

The Breakdown

Some units leap straight out at you when you see them, and Death Riders are certainly one of them. As we covered when we looked at a list themed around Position Holders, they’re one of the very best units in that role, and very capable of supporting a plan based around it. Sure enough, this list is clearly aiming to hold the enemy up with horses, then unleash a mixture of Elimination and Attrition threats to annihilate the opponent’s key units and cruise to victory.

Credit: Corrode

Most of the units here fall fairly clearly into their role – the Position Holders and Force Multipliers are all pretty clear, and the Full Payload Manticore is a strong Attrition choice. To deal the real damage, however, you have the Tank Commanders and Repentia, which provide both general purpose and a more trade-oriented form of Elimination threats. The Tank Commanders are also the kind of Elimination threat that will rapidly transition to being Attrition++ units if they can take out any of the enemy’s ranged solutions to them, as T8 means that chip damage doesn’t tend to do the trick against them. The flipside of that is that they’ll die very easily if the opponent gets a clear shot at them with the right tools (unless they roll very hot on 6++s from Celestine’s aura), meaning they sometimes need to be a bit cautious out of the gate. Things are filled out by some Scions, great Objective Utility units thanks to native Deep Strike and having ObSec, and always a strong Troops choice for Imperial Guard detachments that aren’t interested in the Infantry Squad game.

The tools assembled let us build a slightly more specific picture of how the list probably wants an ideal game to go:

  1. The horses get buffed up and sweep up the board with Celestine, providing a very durable brick on objectives.
  2. The opponent is forced to commit key units to push this back.
  3. Any of these that can threaten the Tank Commanders are eliminated by either the Repentia or the Commanders themselves.
  4. The Tank Commanders snowball the game from there thanks to the massive damage they can inflict when uncontested.

If the opponent is relying on threats they can’t hide then the Tank Commanders can also operate much more proactively, as they can tag team with Old Grudges to completely dunk something like a Knight turn one.

Rhinos and the smaller horse units provide some mobile objective controllers outside of the two main blocks, aiming to ensure the list still has things to grab positions with while the Commanders do their work, and it feels like the army has good angles on at least Scramblers and Engage on All Fronts, meaning that it’s likely to have a solid secondary plan most of the time.

Areas for Improvement

I asked the Patrons who contributed their article for any thoughts on things that weren’t really working, and Peter had this to say:

It’s flaws were a lack of sufficiently fast obsec or long term objective play beyond “lol horses” and trying to remove things with Repentia.
If you were able to out-obsec the list and hang on for a few turns, it tended to fall behind on primary and put itself in a hole that it struggled to get out of

If we look at what’s missing from the list with roles in mind, a possible reason for this emerges – the list is pretty much completely lacking in Brawlers. The horses aren’t totally harmless in combat, but won’t rack up the kind of damage needed to face down real melee threats, nor the volume of accurate attacks to chew through an Ork or Necron Warrior horde. That means that the list is definitely going to struggle against opponenents with hordier Position Holders and any powerful Brawlers that can pick up ObSec. It also means there’s a cap on how badly the list can punish the opponent for going all-out into the horses – the Repentia exist, but because of how vulnerable they are to Counter Offensive, you can only really afford to deploy one unit per turn into most targets. With the Rhinos kicking about as well, the list has a lot of Position Holders that need something ready to come to their rescue when the opponent charges them, and the Repentia don’t quite feel like they’re covering all these bases.

Given that the list is also a bit lighter on the horses than some of the builds we’ve seen, the risk of getting overwhelmed starts to make a lot of sense. The fact that the Tank Commanders are also extremely vulnerable to getting shut down in combat (as they can’t use their main gun when engaged due to Blast) only makes this worse, as the punish when things do start going wrong is going to be pretty steep.

The other thing I’d probably highlight for a change is the Ministorum Priest – because their aura doesn’t work on Cavalry, they only thing they’re really buffing here is the Repentia, and given the previous concerns about only really being able to operate with one unit at a time when it really matters (and the sheer deadliness of them even when not buffed) means that dedicating points to this doesn’t feel worth it.

In summary of what I think probably doesn’t quite work here:

  • The Position Holders chosen would benefit from some Brawler backup that isn’t there.
  • The second unit of Repentia ends up as a questionable Elimination threat, because it won’t always be safe to deploy it when needed.
  • The Ministorum Priest is probably an example of a Force Multiplier without enough things to buff.

In the event, Peter arrived at pretty much these conclusions himself, and ended up trading the Sororitas contingent out entirely for a Marine detachment with two big units of Vanguard Veterans, and played that at the actual event. These provide a much more effective second wave for the Death Riders, and thanks to bringing Rites of War along also shore up the ObSec problem substantially.

However, that’s not a route I can go down, having set myself the rule of sticking to the factions already chosen. I’m there on wanting some Brawlers though, so let’s see what I chose

The New List

Patrol: Spotter Details, Gunnery Experts

Tank Commander, Demolisher Cannon, x3 Heavy Bolters, Tank Ace (warlord): Master Mechanic (225 pts)
Tank Commander, Demolisher Cannon, x3 Heavy Bolters, Tank Ace (extra): Master Mechanic (225 pts)

x5 Scions (45 pts)

Patrol: Death Korps

Death Rider Squadron Commander, Warlord (45 pts)
Death Rider Squadron Commander (45 pts)

x5 Scions (45 pts)

x9 Death Riders (135pts)
x9 Death Riders (135pts)
Death Rider Command Squadron (60 pts)
Death Rider Command Squadron (60 pts)

Patrol: Bloody Rose

Celestine (170 pts)

x5 Sisters (55 pts)
x5 Sisters (55 pts)

x8 Repentia (128 pts)

x3 Mortifiers, x1 Anchorite, Heavy Bolters, Penitent Flails (245)
x3 Mortifiers, x1 Anchorite, Heavy Bolters, Penitent Flails (245)

Rhino (80 pts)

1998 pts, 7 CP

What it does Better

Credit: Starvolt

Sisters aren’t super long on Brawler choices, but one of the ones they do have access to are Mortifiers. These are reasonably durable (and crucially are generally going to draw the same kind of firepower as the Tank Commanders) and provide extremely broad damage dealing capabilities – each squad throws out 24 BS3+ heavy bolter shots and a cool 60 S6 AP-2 melee attacks – both profiles that are a cause for concern to almost anything. The list is also already sporting one of the Force Multipliers you really want alongside them, Celestine, who extends her benevolent 6++ aura to them, improving their already reasonable durability.

Their presence on the board makes trying to roll over the Death Riders a much riskier prospect, especially for hordes which they’ll completely evaporate, and their powerful shooting means that they’re not exactly idle when they’re waiting around for the right moment to strike, either, and provides them with a backup plan if they’re confronted by Brawlers they can’t charge with impunity. I’ve also maintained a single unit of Repentia as a backup plan to crack something especially deadly in melee.

The second unit of Repentia and their Rhino has been cut to make space, but that didn’t free up all the points needed, which meant that the Manticore and the Astropaths also got the chop. The Manticore is a perfectly good unit, but with getting overwhelmed being one of the concerns I felt taking a backfield model out and replacing it with more, crunchier front line units made sense. The significant extra ranged damage adding the Mortifiers racks up also makes losing the Attrition firepower less of an issue.

The astropaths also looked pretty cutable – while making the horses tougher is nice, sticking defensive buffs on one unit runs into the classic issue that the opponent can just switch targets, and I think with only two units the army needs to plan on the assumption that they’ll fold at some point, which again makes having a crunchier second wave better. The final thing I reconfigured is to take out one Scion squad and put in an additional Sororitas unit. In games where you don’t need Scramblers and enemy ObSec is a concern, this opens up the option to put the Repentia into Strategic Reserves and load up the remaining Rhino with Sisters to provide some slightly tougher, mobile ObSec capability than the list had previously. It’s a fairly minor change that won’t come up in every game, but can be handy to have in the back pocket when required.

The last thing I decided to do was to shore up the defences of the Leman Russes via adding the Master Mechanic Tank Ace ability. When you’ve got the stock three Tank Commanders this is generally less worthwhile than putting Full Payload on Manticores, but with exactly two in the list and the slots free, making both substantially harder to shift will shut down the ability for some opponents to reach out and reliably pop them (e.g. if they’re relying on plasma inceptors). This increases the chance of them staying in the game, and with the list also getting cut down to five characters, makes it much riskier for the opponent to mainline Assassinate.

I think the resulting list here can still aim squarely at the plan of the original, but is much more able to adapt to adverse matchups and should give hordes in particular vastly more pause before they try and do their thing. Obviously if you do free yourself from faction shackles you have a bunch of additional choices, but while keeping it within the Guard/Sororitas books I think Mortifiers really shine as the best choice here.

Matt Forehand’s Ravenwing

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Our second list here has an extra wrinkle to it – the force here comes from prior to the January FAQ and the new Dark Angels book, so our task is twofold – we need to assess what it was doing well prior to the updates, make sure we keep a hold of that magic, and then also adapt it to the new book.

The Current List

++ Outrider Detachment -3CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Dark Angels) [95 PL, 8CP, 1,990pts] ++

Chapter Selection: Dark Angels

Detachment CP [-3CP]

Hero of the Chapter [-1CP]

+ HQ +

Lieutenant(s) [16 PL, -1CP, 320pts] . Ravenwing Talonmaster: 1. Impeccable Mobility, Power sword, Twin assault cannon, Twin heavy bolter, Warlord
. . Corvus Oculus: Relic
. Ravenwing Talonmaster: 3. Outrider, Power sword, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter, Twin assault cannon, Twin heavy bolter

+ No Slot +

Ravenwing Ancient [6 PL, 120pts]: Bolt pistol, Chapter Command: Chapter Ancient, Frag & Krak grenades
. Black Knight Bike: Plasma Talon

Ravenwing Apothecary [6 PL, 115pts]: Bolt pistol, Chapter Command: Chief Apothecary, Frag & Krak grenades
. Black Knight Bike: Plasma Talon

+ Elites +

Ravenwing Black Knights [18 PL, 450pts] . Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Huntmaster: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon

+ Fast Attack +

Invader ATV Squad [8 PL, 170pts] . Invader ATV: Bolt pistol, Multi-melta, Twin auto bolt rifle
. Invader ATV: Bolt pistol, Multi-melta, Twin auto bolt rifle

Outrider Squad [6 PL, 135pts] . 2x Outrider: 2x Astartes Chainsword, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, 2x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 2x Twin Bolt rifle
. Outrider Sgt: Astartes Chainsword, Frag & Krak grenades, Heavy Bolt Pistol, Twin Bolt rifle

Ravenwing Darkshroud [7 PL, 135pts]: Assault cannon

Ravenwing Land Speeder Vengeance [6 PL, 125pts]: Assault cannon, Plasma storm battery

+ Flyer +

Ravenwing Dark Talon [11 PL, 210pts]: 2x Hurricane bolter, Rift cannon

Ravenwing Dark Talon [11 PL, 210pts]: 2x Hurricane bolter, Rift cannon

++ Total: [95 PL, 8CP, 1,990pts] ++

The Breakdown

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a Ravenwing list, this army is incredibly murderous, packing threats of every stripe, and going lightest on Position Holders. The centrepiece of the army is the full-sized Black Knight squad, and while they sit somewhere on the border between Elimination and Brawler units here they’re definitely that latter. A full unit is a whole bunch of invuln-sporting T5 models to chew through, they’re completely fearless thanks to Inner Circle and the ever-faithful Chief Apothecary can cheerfully be whacking models back into the squad every turn (presumably much to the opponent’s distress). Backing up that Brawler core you have a mixture of Elimination and Attrition threats plus a gaggle of Force Multipliers to ensure the Knights are operating at maximum punch. Dark Talons, like all planes, are pretty much locked into an Elimination/Attrition role, but unlike most of them they’re actually still pretty good, mostly because they mix a built-in invuln with pretty broad offensive utility. Their Rift Cannons are great in a world where invulns and damage reduction are everywhere, the hurricane bolters will do work against hordes, and the Stasis Bomb is a good combo with the Black Knight block, as it lets you set something up for them to trap in combat, protecting them from enemy firepower (and they can then use Swift Strike to bug out in the opponent’s turn). Finally, they’re a bit less worthless for objectives in Ravenwing than in other armies because of the new Death on the Wind secondary, meaning that they have two ways to rack up points (alongside Engage on All Fronts), making them a bit more 9th-suitable.

Ravenwing Dark Talon

Ravenwing Dark Talon. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The Invader ATVs also get in on the Elimination action with their multi-meltas, and when this list was written they also had the nasty combo with the Chief Apothecary available. Talonmasters, on the other hand, are pure, uncut Attrition. They have a horrendous amount of firepower strapped to their Land Speeders and cannot be shot until the enemy chews through whatever is protecting them (another thing that the Dark Talons can be handy for). They can also br protected by the Darkshroud, which pulls double-duty as both this and a more general protective Force Multiplier.

The remaining points in the list get spent on a Ravenwing Ancient, Outrider Squad and Speeder Vengeance, providing  a bit of an extra boost to various roles. The Ancient further soups up the Black Knights, the Outriders provide a small utility unit for grabbing objectives, and the Vengeance is a bit of extra damage dealing that can do the same in a pinch.

In terms of what the plan is, hitting the opponent extremely fast and hard is pretty much the order of the day – as you’d expect from any army packing all three damage dealing Primary roles, but light on Position Holders. The speed of the Ravenwing mean it’s extremely difficult to avoid their firepower, and thus they can be a bit more confident of landing a proper alpha strike even on the heavier boards of 9th Edition. The priority target of that alpha strike needs to be anything that can potentially bully the Black Knights in melee. From there, they can run a powerful Brawl in the mid-board (potentially helped by the Dark Talons trapping things in melee) while the Attrition and Elimination units focus on taking out anything trying to wrap around them, substituting for the lack of Position Holders in the list. As long as this list lands a good first punch, most armies will struggle to match the damage output it threatens, and moving fast and grinding the opponent out of the game should work out for it a reasonable amount of the time.

Areas for Improvement

So here there’s two prongs to this:

  • Replace anything that no longer functions with the new book.
  • Make sure we’ve got roles assigned correctly.

On the first point, the things that look a little suspect are the ATVs and the trait allocations on the Talonmasters – sadly one of the few things that Dark Angels lost in their actual book were the extremely good Ravenwing Warlord traits from the Index.

In terms of roles, there are two units that stand out as potential cuts:

  • The Ancient
  • The Vengeance

The Ancient is mostly only acting as a Force Multiplier for the Black Knights here, and we can probably do better. Like anything with Plasma weapons, Black Knights really want access to hit re-rolls of at least one, as it opens up the prospect of actually going full dakka with them in a situation that calls for it. As it stands, they’re too much of a key part of the lists’ plan to risk vaporising ~three of them with self-inflicted fire, but cut that down to 0-1 on an average volley and it’s much more viable. While it still won’t always be correct, bringing re-rolls (especially Chapter Master ones that could be applied to Talon Masters) would definitely help them perform.

The Vengeance isn’t bad and is perfectly fine, but it’s notably not really pushing the list “over the top” in any direction. It doesn’t help reach behind Obscuring terrain like the Dark Talons do, and isn’t unshootable like the Talonmasters, meaning that a lot of the time it’s going to be providing a fairly obvious target for an opponent looking to degrad your damage output. On the flipside, it does help to fill space and with Engage, so keeping it would be defendable if we couldn’t think of anything better.

The question we need to ask in that regard is if there’s any gaps in the battle plan that plausibly need to be addressed, and the answer to that is that yes, there are some definite risks. Notably, if the Black Knight unit runs into something that can smoke it at speed, this army is in a lot of trouble – without it to Brawl in the mid-board, the battle plan is going to crumble pretty fast. In addition, it’s a bit short of ways to bait the enemy into an engagement when the opponent has stuff that’s highly threatening to the Knights, and vulnerable to ObSec stuff overwhelming it around the edges. Essentially, like many heavy damage dealing lists, it’s pretty vulnerable if the opponent slams down a trump card early on, and it would be nice if it had more options to fall back on. In the spirit of keeping factions consistent, I’ll be sticking to pure Ravenwing for revising this list, which means we can’t just take a bunch of Terminators like most Dark Angel players

Luckily, while some of the tools the list was leaning on previously go away, a powerful new capability has been added in the updated book that we’re going to exploit.

The New List

++ Outrider Detachment -0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Dark Angels) [99 PL, 8CP, 2,000pts] ++

Chapter Selection: Dark Angels

Hero of the Chapter [-1CP]

Relics of the Chapter [-2CP]

+ HQ +

Captain on Bike [6PL, 110pts], Astartes chainsword, storm shield, Teeth of Terra, Hero of the Chapter: Imperium’s Sword

Lieutenant(s) [16 PL, -1CP, 320pts] . Ravenwing Talonmaster: Power sword, Twin assault cannon, Twin heavy bolter
. . Arbiter’s Gaze: Relics of the Chapter
. Ravenwing Talonmaster: Power sword, Twin assault cannon, Twin heavy bolter
. . Heavenfall blade: Relics of the Chapter

+ No Slot +

Ravenwing Apothecary [6 PL, 115pts]: Bolt pistol, Chapter Command: Chief Apothecary, warlord, Selfless Healer Frag & Krak grenades
. Black Knight Bike: Plasma Talon

+ Elites +

Ravenwing Black Knights [18 PL, 450pts] . Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Black Knight: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon
. Ravenwing Huntmaster: Bolt pistol, Corvus Hammer, Frag & Krak grenades, Plasma Talon

+ Fast Attack +

Outrider Squad [6 PL, 150pts] . 2x Outrider: 2x Astartes Chainsword, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, 2x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 2x Twin Bolt rifle
. Outrider Sgt: Astartes Chainsword, Frag & Krak grenades, Heavy Bolt Pistol, Twin Bolt rifle

Bike Squad [9PL, 150pts] . Biker Sergeant, Astartes Chainsword, Bolt Pistol, Frag & Krak grenades, Twin Boltgun
. 4x Space Marine Biker w/Chainsword: 4x Astartes Chainsword, 4x Frag & Krak Grenades, 4x Twin Boltgun

Bike Squad [9PL, 150pts] . Biker Sergeant, Astartes Chainsword, Bolt Pistol, Frag & Krak grenades, Twin Boltgun
. 4x Space Marine Biker w/Chainsword: 4x Astartes Chainsword, 4x Frag & Krak Grenades, 4x Twin Boltgun

Ravenwing Darkshroud [7 PL, 135pts]: Assault cannon

+ Flyer +

Ravenwing Dark Talon [11 PL, 210pts]: 2x Hurricane bolter, Rift cannon

Ravenwing Dark Talon [11 PL, 210pts]: 2x Hurricane bolter, Rift cannon

++ Total: [95 PL, 9CP, 1,990pts] ++

What it does Better

You’ve basically got two options for picking up ObSec in Ravenwing – take basic Bike units and Outriders or buy Rites of War. Current tournament lists are mostly going for the latter as they tend to be mixing Deathwing and Ravenwing, taking Attack Bikes as Elimination threats in the latter detachment, but here I favour the former choice. This list already has damage coming out of its ears already, and a bunch of points tied up in the planes which can’t really play any sort of board control role, so my feeling is that the original has hit the point where it gets diminishing returns from packing in additional damage dealers like the Vengeance.

Instead, adding in a couple of units of humble, basic bikers goes a long way to shoring up the weaknesses. With natural ObSec from the detachment, these can now actually push back against pesty enemy Position Holders, and are also much happier playing a Pawn role than most things in the list if the matchup calls for it. If you advance them onto a mid-board objective out the gate they’re sitting on a 4++, possibly further boosted by the Darkshroud, and that’s either going to take a lot of shifting at range or bait something into melee that’s then exposed to the Black Knights counter-charging. They can also take up a lot more space than a lone vehicle like the Vengeance or an ATV duo, helping against armies with powerful Deep Strike options. Having a couple of these crunchier units with ObSec means that when the list is running its primary plan (Brawling in the middle with the Knights and picking off encircling foes via Attrition) it’s much more likely to be racking up some points while doing so, and has a backup suite of tough bodies it can throw into the central fray if something goes wrong and the Knights get punked. The Outriders provide a third ObSec unit that can be held in reserve and zip to wherever it’s needed.

The other notable change is swapping out the Ancient for a Captain. Particularly with a higher volume of shots and chainsword swings after adding the extra bikes, the re-roll 1s are going to add a lot of damage over the course of most games, and turn on the ability for the Black Knights to go full plasma when the situation calls for it. In addition, unlike the Ancient the Captain can be very cheaply tooled so that he provides some role flexibility – by buying the tried and true combo of the Teeth of Terra, Imperium’s Sword and a storm shield he’s a mean killer in his own right, and helps provide some melee stamina in the late game. With a low model count list like Ravenwing, again especially with points tied up in fliers, you generally need to be a bit more cautious about spending points on “pure” Force Multiplier units, lest you become vulnerable to running out of steam to fight for the table, and to my mind that makes the Captain an easy trade.

I did kind of want to go a bit further in that direction and take Samael – Chapter Master is extremely handy for Ravenwing because it can be used on Talonmasters to make them extra mean. You could cut a model from the Black Knight unit to do that if you wanted, but given it’s so integral to the plan as it stands I wasn’t madly keen to weaken it too much. The change I might be tempted to do, if I tested this a few times and found I’d gone too far on paring back Elimination units, is to cut two of the corvus hammers and the assault cannon from the darkshroud and use the points saved to turn the Outriders into a unit of multi-melta Attack Bikes. These are are extremely good with the Chief Apothecary still and provide some dedicated anti-tank punch, and only losing a couple of their melee weapons isn’t going to massively impact on the Black Knights doing their job.

The list that comes out after these changes is much better equipped to play an objective game, and just generally a bit more durable on the table. 9th quite often rewards you for dialing back the flashy tools in favour of a few more basics.

Wrap Up

Hopefully that was a good tour of how to put some theory into practice and use unit roles. That brings the bulk of the series on them to the end, and we’ll soon be asking our Patrons which strategy topics they want us to cover next, so come join us if you want a say. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, let us know at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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