Thursday, December 27, 2012

Late Christmas Greetings and Chaos SM review

Hey All! A late Christmas Greeting to all of you out there on the interwebs. I've been working on a Chaos SM list (2k) for SVDM GT upcoming in a few months while playtesting for Adepticon. I think I'm narrowing down on a couple of concepts that work.

Having written the article you'll read below, I am forced to add a post-script, above the article, to explain one point I think needs to be said. The Chaos SM codex is a good book, its real problem is not anything to do with the models in the book, they are all pretty good. The real issue comes from the lack of reliable infantry transportation. This is two fold, easy to blow up rhinos (due to glancing & hull points) / that you can't assault out of.  If either one of these factors were not there, it would be fine. But they exist, and this handicaps the book. That's it, full stop. Phil Kelly wrote a good book, lets not give him shit about it.  Even  mutilators which I looked at and thought were utter trash, turned out to be semi-decent after playtesting.

Every other marine book has ways other than rhinos to deliver there MEQ's faster / safer / more effective across the board. That, is the flaw / weakness in Chaos SM. I'm surprised no one has pointed it out sooner.

Having pointed out what should have been the obvious, identifying the problem, we can fix it and make it workable.

I have not yet gotten a chance to discuss what I consider listbuilding "theory" but as I mentioned in an earlier post, a lot of it revolves around the idea of the multi-tool. Taking a unit that is ok at many things and learning how to use it to fit situations. An issue with the Chaos SM codex is as follows: All the "really good" multi-tool units are asininely expensive. You can argue that regular Chaos SM with a mark + two upgrades make a good multi-tool. I might even nod my head slowly and solemnly in agreement while making eye contact to make sure you knew I meant it. However in my heart of hearts, I would be screaming to myself "BUT THEY LACK ATSKNF"!!!!! And that my friends, makes all the difference in the world.

For those of you who have not realized it, the assault phase is the winning phase. The movement phase is how you win, the assault phase determines IF you win. Everyone keeps going on about 6th ed being the shooting edition. Assault is DEAD! seems to be the rallying cry. I've got news for you suckers! Lining up guaranteed assaults is more difficult than 5th, but in this edition its more dangerous and effective than ever with one caveat... ATSKNF..

ATSKNF is a very (if not the most) powerful ability in the game. "Why?" asks you, my poor blog reader forced to read these words poured on to metaphorical paper. Well, the ability to prevent your opponent from capitalizing on any phase of the game handicaps them. It's like playing an army that can't move once it comes in. It could be the best shooting army in the world, but if it can't move, it won't win 4/6's its games right off (objectives).

Not being able to be swept in combat, forced out of an assault you don't want to leave, or to leave an assault you want to leave is powerful. You are denying your opponent vital turns of the game to do damage and move his models, if nothing else.

So, back on topic, Chaos SM's have a few "good" multi tools.
Good Bad
Chosen Speciality Weapons Price per model
Good assault easy to sweep
Leadership Efficiency is lost the larger the squad gets
Plague Marines Speciality Weapons Price per model
4+ Poisoned Efficiency is lost the larger the squad gets
FNP / T5
Noise Marines Excellent Anti-Infantry Torrent Price w/ icon for FNP is bad
Fearless Salvo weapons
FNP w/ icon
Assault vs. MEQ (I5)

If I had to choose between the them, I'd probably pick the plague marines. Hard to move bodies with good speciality weapons are not so bad. They are reasonably cheap for five guys, adding a rhino puts it in the "to much" range, but may be worthwhile.

I have a friend who likes the idea of spamming Chosen with Abby, I've got no issue with this kind of list, but you end up as a small elite army (similar in model count to deathwing). Meaning you can get blown off the board in a few turns pretty easily.

Noise marines - You can put out a world of pain with the level of dakka these boys put out. They arn't to bad in assault either. Their problem is they use salvo guns. Only being able to fire at 12 inches if you move is very painful. A skilled opponent will most likely lead you by the nose around the board then close rapidly only giving you a turn of firing before they are tied up with something. Its a rather expensive unit to have deck chairing, but they do put out some hurt in a very satisfying way if you ever do get to use them.

This leads us with some rather unpleasant choices. As we start piling up the "good" MEQ bodies, we end up not having points for the things we need to put pressure on our opponents. Lets be honest, if you sit across the board from someone with 40 - 80 MEQ bodies, its intimidating for the first turn or two, until you realize that you can focus fire squads into non existence, while they slowly walk/run at you. Not only that, if you want to foot slog marine bodies across the board, why don't you just play Blood Angels? Then you have guys in jump packs, with ATSKNF, and can still take good weapons / upgrades for cheaper than you.

If you want to marine spam, play Blood Angels or Grey Knights. Blood Angels are fast enough / flexible in their armaments to be effective foot slogging. Grey knights are shooty enough to be effective at laying out necessary torrents at excellent ranges.

What does that lead us to using? Well, Phil Kelly has provided us with an answer. Cultists.

Cultists are cheap and provide the much needed board presence to hold objectives reasonably securely, freeing up points to spend on getting all those nifty toys out of the rest of the book. If you set them up properly, your opponent is spending turn 2 on dealing with the rest of your army and if they clear that, its not till late game and now you have all these bodies taking areas of the board you needed to control.

Pro-Tip: Cultists, use about 50 or 60 of them, combination of squad sizes based on your local meta. Reserve deploy,

Ultra-pro tip: Combine with chaos daemon allies (plaguebearers) to gain two squads which can come in and steal your opponents backfield objectives / go for far objectives and be super resilient about doing it.

So what should we take from the Chaos Codex? Lets examine a few possibilities.

Small 5 man squads of plague marines in rhinos w/ plasma guns.
This squad if combined with an appropriate nurgle lord(to let them be troops) is really good at holding midfield and laying down some firepower. The rhinos can be given dirgecasters to support assault based units after dropping off their loads.

An obvious choice. Run them with nurgle marks always unless some you have some desperate over-riding reason - for example, using them paired with a khorne lord w/ juggy as wound soaks.

This guy is both better and worse than people think. I know it sounds stupid but its true. He's actually a good multi-tool. Take the bale flamer. (if you take the gun, you may want to consider if your actually trying to win). He is a good psychological weapon vs. your opponent, and can reliably eliminate 4 MEQ equivalents a turn (assuming you are playing a good opponent who spaces properly). He'll pay for himself in no time. BUT, pay attention to where he is. Don't just go, FLAME ON and bbq some marines. Placement is everything, remember your opponent has to pull from the closest to the dragon. Use him to snipe out special weapons / sarg's / characters.

All the chaos SM HQ's are in general, fantastic. The real VIP award goes to the Chaos Lords. These guys are insanely good. The sorcerers are not bad either, make sure to always tool out your chaos HQ's. They can win or lose games for you very easily. You should almost always be taking things that improve their toughness, movement speed, weapons, spell familars ect. Don't run your Hq's cheap for Chaos. Tool them out. They are terrifying and give you answers to things. Your HQ's become one of your best / most effective Multi-tools, more so than any other codex out there.
My favorite lists: Axe of blind fury, burning brand, spell familar, juggy, bike, sigil of corruption.

I have been experimenting with running a juggy lord w/ axe + nurgle lord on bike w/ brand / power axe. Running them with their respective spawn squads. It's been effective delivery. Two very assaulty, swift, and hard to remove squads.

I don't recommend running large squads of oblits. Keep them small, one or two guys. Nurgle mark them.  These guys become multi-tools for your army. You can deploy them on the board as normal, deep strike them, use them to tie up units. They don't do everything super well, but they give you some much needed punch and reach out and "touch" your enemy.

These guys are ok - Cheap and can move fast to support spawns in combat. Drop the magma cutters and take lasher tendrils instead. Their real drawback is many people are taking meltabombs on sarg's these days which can result in catastrophic failure early on. Try and be clever about where you assault with these guys and you'll be ok.

Things I would avoid in the book. Not to say they are bad, I just think other stuff works better.

Zombies - You pay the typhus tax on these guys to make them fearless and FNP. I don't think its really worth it. It's more about how you use typhus than it is about the zombies.  They can catch people off guard but your still just talking about a bunch of 6+, 5+ T3 models walking around. They arn't going to be doing real damage, just any attached Hq's (again typhus)

Lucius - He's good, but a regular chaos lord is better

Daemon Princes - unless you like playing just for funs. Don't. If he could join squads then I might be ok with him even though he's pricey. Sadly, that is not the case, he hangs out in the open constantly asking to be sniped. Avoid. If you want something fast that can do what he does, take a nurgle lord on a bike w/ the burning brand. Problem solved (and cheaper too!)

Mutilators - effective at backfield harassment, not that they are bad, its more like, why not take an oblitorator instead and have more functionality?

Raptors / Warp Talons - There is no way to make them scoring, so for their points they are too expensive for what you get. You pay a heavy price for such fast moving infantry. Play Blood Angels instead.

Possessed - These guys fall down mostly because the book lacks a good delivery mechanism for them. Failing that, they are also super pricey, conceivably they could put a serious hurt on in assault though and might be worth it.. assuming you can get them there reliably / swiftly.

You'll note I didn't include these next two on the list of good multi-tools

Khorne Berserkers - not that these guys are bad, but you can make cheaper bserkers out of regular marines, giving them a mark and icon of wrath + get two special weapons, more cheaply. You lose out on fearless, but I think the price justifies it. The regular marines have more options for flexible decision making.

Thousand Sons - decent dakka. AP3 sounds great but you are paying an arm and a leg for it. It's still just a s4 gun. They are as resilient as normal marines in almost every application, so they don't end up being worth their extra point costs. A 3/4+ is ok, but not fantastic (as you'll be saving on the 3+ in 90% of cases anyways).

Funny / good tactics worth mentioning

My friend Eric uses spawn to slingshot Typhus into turn 2 assaults. This is a very effective method of getting a slow moving model across the board quickly. He's very good in assault (though maybe not his points good, but still good). He's used this to great success to out-assault my orks (/sadface/).
Key element to this tactic. Typhus is in front of the spawns as much as possible turn 1 to tank for them against shooting. Then the spawns accelerate past him on turn 2 to get the charge. Typhus is more than capable of absorbing a ton of firepower, especially when he's a "t6" model to be shot at (due to the squad).

Burning brand on bike lord w/ power axe - This is effective beyond belief vs. MEQ armies. Use it.

Chaos Daemon allies - use them, they provide backfield harassment. When combo'd with spawn + maulerfiends, mean your opponent has a whole lot of decisions to make turn 1, all of them bad.

AV12 wall spawn. You can take hellbrutes, dragons, maulerfiends rather cheaply. It's a bad list, but watching the new "meta" struggle with. 9 AV12 guys with 5 + invulns and it will not die is rather hilarious.

That's basically where I'm at with the book currently. A lot of that may be rehash for most of you, but its out there now all the same.

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