Monday, January 28, 2013

Protecting the bolter banner

At this point, one of the biggest questions for Dark Angels players and opponents alike is around the increasingly popular Standard of Devastation, aka bolterbanner. For those travelling the warp during the last few weeks, this is a nifty piece of wargear that turns boltguns onto salvo 2/4 weapons. So a static Tactical squad pours 40 shots at 24", and a 6-man Ravenwing squad 24 twin-linked shots at 24", after moving 12". This is all good but has two main problems: mobility and survivability. Mobility can be solved to a certain extent by using Ravenwing bikers who are relentless and thus can move and shoot 4 times at full range.

But this solution only complicates more the issue of survivability. Let's see. The standards can only be carried by Command Squads (m'kay), and said squads can not be increased in number. So bog-standard and Deathwing will always have 5-man, Ravenwing only 3 bikers. Wait a minute. That's 200 points in 3 T5, 3+ save models. Houston we have a problem. Now the question is, can we get around it? Let's see.

The squad can't be increased in numbers, but this doesn't prevent ICs from joining it. Given that Sammael is a must for running Ravenwing (unless you're taking Azrael, but since he likes to foot slog it, we'll leave him in the Rock), we are already investing in a IC that can join the command squad and help tank wounds. Sammy has Eternal Warrior and a 4++, so can take a few shots. Now I'm not proposing to sacrifice Sammael in this role, as he becomes very valuable in the late game to contest objectives (24" turbo-boost woo-hoo), but rather suggesting that he can be there to escort the bikers T1, then move on to other role.


Small but important note here: the bolterbanner is not meant to be used 5 turns out of 6 in a game; it is rather an ace down your sleeve to decimate the opponent's troops and devs for a turn or two. Use the Attack Bikes / Land Speeders multi meltas to de-mech, then shoot it's juicy contents. But then move onto other things - the Ravenwing is short and numbers and quite fragile. It needs to be on the move, using its superior mobility to harass the opponent at distance. If the RW gets bogged down in CC, odds are it will bend.
4 twin-linked shots with just the left hand, huh!

Sammael aside, Dark Angels have access to two good, cheap and versatile ICs that can take a bike in the shape of the Librarian and Techmarine. A level 1 Libby in a bike is a bargain at 85 points; Divination is not really needed since all the boltguns are already twin-linked and well, seems a waste to use it in a couple of melta or plasma guns alone, although it will serve us well if we get in CC. Anyway, our Libby can select his powers from 4 disciplines and I'm sure we can get some good utility out of it. He can also access the armoury for a cheap auspex (-1 to cover saves) or a generator field for a 4++. Very very good.

The techmarine is even cheaper, at 70 points in a bike, and comes with a 2+ save default. An additional bonus is boosting the cover save of a ruin, which is handy for our small home unit or devs. His ability to repair HP will most times be wasted, I'm afraid. But the point is he can take a few hits and save them like a champ with his 2+. Bless the Omnisiah when he is no more :)

Interrogator-chaplains could also be used, but these are markedly more expensive HQs and we can get re-rolls from a Libby for half the price. Better pass.

On top of that first layer that is the IC save, we can get up to a 2+ cover save if going first, thanks to combined effects of jink, turbo-boosting, skiller rider and a nearby Dark Shroud. Yes Helldrakes and Dreadknights will ruin your day, but keep in mind these have to start in reserve and can't touch us T1. And most heavy support teams in the game will have to face the 2+ wall anyway.

Ravenwing Command Squad aside, the banner could also find other placements. I find these to be subpar options but are doable nonetheless:

Power armoured Command Squad in a Land Raider Crusader: This is an expensive proposition, but one that serves a few purposes. First of all, we can transport Azrael and his retinue with certain protection. Second, the hurricane bolters add up to the bolter fiesta. Third, many armies struggle with AV14 nowadays. Fourth, Land Raiders are bulky and can block LOS to our bikers behind it. I wouldn't field Land Raiders, but at least this is an idea.

Power armoured Command Squad in a Drop Pod: now this is more to my liking. It is very aggressive but could work if supported by other elements, like Deathwing armies. Again it solves the issue of moving Azrael around, as 215 points is a lot to be left behind, or be carried in a Rhino. The Drop Pod also opens the door of having a terminator armour IC tanking wounds; Libbies and Chaplains are good candidates here.

Deathwind Command Squad: this boosts the standard bearer survivability (remember you can give him a shield) but really hinders mobility i.e. the banner will only affect a small area, vs. the Ravenwing's standard bearer ability to affect 12" banner aura + 12" turbo-boost move + 12" banner aura again = 36" of banner goodness.


Conclusion


The Ravenwing seems the best candidate to utilise the standard or Devastation thanks to their superior mobility and relentless, twin-linked bolters, but the standard needs to be protected carefully so it can make it to T3/4 when it will have fulfilled its purpose. To do so we can't add more marines to the command squad, but we can use ICs and 2+ cover saves to protect it. To recap, some possible placements for the bolter banner are:

  1. RW Command Squad + Sammael.
  2. RW Command Squad + Sammael + Libby
  3. RW Command Squad + Techmarine.
  4. RW Command Squad + Chaplain.
  5. Command Squad in a Land Raider Crusader
  6. Command Squad in Drop pod + Azrael / 2+ toting IC.
  7. DW Command Squad
What about you guys, have you used the bolter banner in a different set up? have a different perspective to share?


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