Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Space Wolves: are drop pods the way?

Dakka Dakka
One of the most popular army configurations for Space Wolves in this early 6th edition is using lots of grey hunters in drop pods, supported by long fangs, rune priests with divination and combi-weapon toting wolf guards. Is this the best Space Wolves can do without allies? let's take a look!

Setting the ground


Let's begin by understanding what a drop pod SW looks like, and how it works. A base list could be something like this (not necessarily the best version):

Rune priest
Cheap and cheerful. Swaps powers by divination and boosts the long fangs, or protects the area with hurricane, or mans the quad gun. Ocasionnally can be risked and sent vai pod with the Wolf Guard if there is a juicy target T1, like Jaws'ing

8-10x Wolf guard with combi weapons.
These bad boys provide the alpha strike of the army. If there is something that needs to go down T1, leave them the job. Tanks, artillery, MCs, you name it. Not many things will survive 15~20 BS4 S7/8 AP2 shots.

4-5 10x Grey Hunters with double special weapon in drop pods
This is the core of the army. The drop pod takes them where they need to get (i.e. an objective). Whilst they can do some damage when they arrive, only in numbers (i.e. at least 3 pods in T1) you will be able to hit hard enough. 30 bodies with T4 3+(5+ cover) makes them decently durable when the rest of your opponent's army retaliates.

2-3 6x Long Fangs, 5ML
After the GH, these are the bread and butter of most SW armies, and are what makes this army tick. Similar to the Grey Hunters, these are jacks of all trades, able to tackle light/med mech, MCs and hordes. While a missile is not particularly effective against any of those, 15+ missiles per turn (with the possibility of twin-linking some of those via divination) start to pose a serious threat.

1 Aegis with Quad gun
A quad gun is the only AA SW have access on their own, and whilst not cheap, you are likely to come across with Vendettas, Scythes and Storm talons / ravens pretty often. The Aegis can also be used to give cover to the long fangs, which is not always easy when you have some 20 dudes in the backfield and  you want to keep some space between them to better deal with blasts.

How it works


GH in Rhinos = wreck in midfield
This is pretty straightforward, really. One of the main issues with SW is getting them where they need to be (objectives), as their rhinos are likely to be blown out by T2/3. You can always foot slog them, but with the rise of dragons, manticores, plasma cannons, DE venomspam... they will take their toll. Don't get me wrong, foot wolves is a viable army in the right hands; the drop pods enhance it by getting them where you want to be, and providing a certain alpha strike capability to an otherwise resilient but not particularly threatening army.

So the list will sport at least 5 pods, 3 of which will fall T1 in front of your opponent's gunline. The opponent will likely protect their important stuff with cheap infantry / light transports so the army needs to have resources in the toolkit to deal with anything. In other words, the Grey Hunter packs need a combination of plasma, melta and flamers. Something like 2xplasma packs, 2xmelta packs and 1xflamer pack could work. Choose two of these to drop T1 depending on what you are facing. The third pod will be the Wolf Guard, and these should go to the juiciest target - Land Raiders, Thunderfire cannons, MCs, Hammerheads... whatever poses the biggest threat to your army, needs to go down now or it will likely wipe out a Grey Hunter squad per turn.

Some lists include Dreadnoughts (TL Heavy flamers?) to enhance the alpha striking. Given scouts can no longer come out of reserve and charge, I would leave them in the shelf.

The Long Fangs and the Rune priest stay in the backfield, using their 48" range to support the strike wherever needed. The Aegis means you can now put the Long Fangs in cover anywhere, so no need to deploy in ruins as in 5th anymore. Speaking of, a small GH squad or two is needed to take the home objectives. Something like a 5 Grey Hunter squad with a flamer comes at 75 points and is perfect for this job.


Strenghts and Weaknesses

The ability to drop a large number of bodies T1 in any part of the board is not negligible; it provides a certain alpha strike and puts pressure on your opponent from the get go (from deployment actually). It is also flexible as you can select what comes on T1, and where. I.e. if there's infantry they will be flamed/double tapped to death, if there is mech will see some point blank melta, if there are heavy infantry/MCs will be torrented with AP2 weaspons. From there, this many Grey Hunters are difficult to move from objectives via CC (counterattack, wolf standard and the ocasional rending attacks from the Wulfen) unless using specialized melee units, which should be hit when the pods come down.

But for all of that, once the troops are in the ground there is very little mobility. There is a lot of AP3 or better weapons in the boards, including specialized MEQ killers like Dreadknights, Flamers, Wraiths and the like. If the initial strike does not hit hard enough, all of your opponent's army will focus in these 30 bodies and whittle them down fairly quickly.

The army also has issues with mass 2+ saves, that can only be taken down through sheer weight of fire. And a quad-gun is not nearly enough AA - it's a single point of failure that can be destroyed T1.

My version of the list at 2000 points


Rune Priest, Terminator armour, chooser of the slain (Jaws, Murderous Hurricane).
I'm willing to pay the TDA so a) the Rune Priest gets some protection from all these blasts centered on his head and b) if I include him in the pod, he needs to carry some protection. The COTS is there to give BS5 to the priest if manning the quad, and to keep infiltrators at bay (remember the COTS can be placed anywhere in the board).

10x Wolf Guard (1 TDA with heavy flamer and power axe, 1 TDA with CML, storm bolter and power axe,8 power armour with 5 combi-plasmas and 3 combi meltas).
I think it's worth paying the TDA to the guy that will be placed closest to the opponent's guns, and 5-point heavy flamer is too good to pass. The CML stays with the Long Fangs - 17 missiles FTW! As for the combi-weapons, it could be argued that with 2 melta hunter units, they could all be plasmas. 

2x 10x Grey Hunters, double plasma, standard, drop pod.

2x 10x Grey Hunters, double melta, standard, drop pod.
10x Grey Hunters, plasma/meltagun, standard
5x Grey Hunters, flamer

Nothing surprising here. I want some variety in the special weapons to ensure I have an all comers list. The standard is a must, anyone charging the GH will have a hard time (it rerolls all the ones ni the phase, from overwatch to armour saves. Simply phenomenal for 10 points). The small flamer squad takes the home objective, while the foot slogging can take an objective or cover a flank.

3x 6x Long Fangs (5x Missile launchers).
This is a short ranged army list, with very little mobility once in the board so it needs a long range fire support element to ensure I can respond to threats across the board. 

Aegis DL with Quad Gun
The quad gun is the only reasonable AA Space Wolves can get on their own, and whilst nearly not enough to dearl with more than 1 flyer, it feels like a worthy investment.
The Aegis on the other hand... I am not a big fan of fortifications in general but recognize the value of deploying the ADL anywhere in my DZ so I can put my Long Fangs behind it. No more packing them in some ruins with suboptimal visibility!

Conclusion


As far as 6th edition go, this army style seems to better balance the game needs (occupy and keep objectives) with the Space Wolves capabilities. It doubles down on the army strenghts (great troops and devs) and reduces one of their biggest weaknesess (mobility) while providing some alpha-strike. There are some bad match-ups in the likes of Daemons with Fateweaver or Flyerwings, but this is true with any SW army (if not, I would be glad to learn more!). Space Wolves, and most armies for what matters, function better with allies, there's no doubt of that. If for whatever reason you want to run solo Wolves (for example tournaments in my area do not allow allies), this is one of your best shots.

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