40K TACTICS: Breathing Life into Seraphim

This is part of a continuing series of articles delving into underused, but otherwise awesome units. I’ve received a ton of email (thanks!) and I’m choosing Seraphim because of the number of requests (see? it works!). If you have unit suggestions for future articles, email me at mkerr@chainfist.com.

I’ve always liked Seraphim. Somehow, even with the large variety of jump pack units in the game, Seraphim manage to remain distinctive — both in appearance and in play style. Historically they were an important part of every Sisters of Battle army, but are on the decline with rise of the mechanized army. So let’s see if we can give these ladies the attention they deserve!

This tactica is a little different than my usual articles, as I’m focusing on making a relatively weak unit a little more effective. I’ll give you some tactics to minimize the weakest areas and suggest some tactics and combos to make them a little more useful and an lot more fun.

There’s a lot to cover with Seraphim, including the complex Acts of Faith, so grab a cup of tea and get comfortable because we have a lot to cover.

Seraphim are one of the two Fast Attack choices available to a Witch Hunters army. They come in a squad size of five to ten Seraphim and are equipped with jump packs and twin bolt pistols (as well as frag and krak grenades). Up to two Seraphim can replace their bolt pistols with twin hand flamers (counts as a flamer) or twin inferno pistols. The entire squad can be equipped with meltabombs. The squad’s Sister Superior can be upgraded to a Veteran Superior.

Tip #1: Always upgrade the Sister Superior to a Veteran Superior. Not only do you get +1A, as long as she is alive the unit counts as having a Simulacrum Imperialis (which makes it a LOT easier to successfully use Acts of Faith).

Seraphim are Faithful units with the Adepta Sororitas, Hit & Run and Angelic Visage rules. The Angelic Visage rule adds +1 to the Leadership of any Adepta Sororitas unit within 6″ (to a max of 10). This won’t come into play much because of the ubiquitous Books of St. Lucius, but it can be useful from time-to-time.

Tip#2: Angelic Visage basically bumps Sisters units from LD9 (obligatory Veteran Superior) to LD10. This means units in range of Angelic Visage can choose between an “unmodifiable” LD9 or a “modifiable” LD10. In cases where the Leadership test is unmodified, Angelic Visage gives you a +11% chance to pull off that test. So don’t forget it!

Seraphim have their own version of the Hit & Run special rule which allows them to use the ability without taking an Initiative test. This makes Hit & Run tactics viable because the power is a lot more reliable than units with the universal special rule version. The Adepta Sororitas rule is common to all Sisters of Battle. It gives Seraphim the Shield of Faith rule (5+ chance to nullify psychic powers) and the Acts of Faith rule.

Tip #3: If you look closely at the Shield of Faith rule, you’ll notice that Sisters have a 5+ chance to nullify “psychic powers targeted against the [them], or including them in its area of effect“. If the power fails to affect the Seraphim, the power is nullified completely.

Example: Let’s assume you are facing a Rune Priest and he targets several of your units with Jaws of the World Wolf (say, your Culexus Assassin, Seraphim and an Inquisitor Lord). Since your Seraphim are in the power’s area of effect, you get to roll a Shield of Faith test. If successful, the power is nullified (i.e., canceled) and doesn’t work on ANY of the targets. How cool is that?

The Adepta Sororitas rule gives Seraphim the ability to use Acts of Faith rule.

Seraphim have access to Acts of Faith because they are a Faithful unit. They generate a single Faith Point (and can also generate a bonus Faith Point from Martyrdom when the unit loses its last model).

Acts of Faith are the secret sauce to making Witch Hunters a cool codex. They add a lot of options and flexibility to the army. If you ever play (or play against) Witch Hunters, then you need to understand Acts of Faith inside and out.

Here are the basics:

  1. An army with Sisters of Battle generates a number of Faith Points (these are consumed using Acts of Faith and replenished by Martyring Faithful characters and units). Most Witch Hunters armies only have a handful of these at the start of a game — usually around 6 to 8.
  2. Most Acts of Faith need to be declared at the beginning of a particular phase, so a Sisters player needs to plan what he’s going to do before his turn starts.
  3. You have to roll equal to or over the unit size OR equal to or under the unit size to make an Act of Faith work, depending on the power. This means that some Acts of Faith are easier when the unit size is large (e.g., Divine Guidance) and some are easier when the unit size is small (e.g., Spirit of the Martyr). Again, this forces a Witch Hunters player to apply Faith wisely.
  4. Only Faithful units can benefit from Acts of Faith. Generally that means that the unit has to be completely composed of Adepta Sororitas models and have at least one Faithful character.

Seraphim with a Veteran Superior have a built-in Imagifier, which allows them to roll 3D6 and choose the two most favorable dice when rolling for Acts of Faith. This makes Seraphim very reliable in the Acts of Faith department.

There are five Acts of Faith, but you really only need to understand two of them to make Seraphim work:

  1. Divine Guidance: When shooting, any rolls of 6 to wound count as AP1. In close combat, any rolls of 6 to wound count as being made by a power weapon. This is the Seraphim’s bread and butter and is very effective when applied to flamer templates (e.g., automatic hits means more chances for 6s to wound).

    Note: You don’t have to decide to use Divine Guidance at the beginning of the phase. You decide after you’ve rolled to hit (but before you roll to wound). Don’t forget!

  2. Spirit of the Martyr: The unit gains an Invulnerable save equal to its normal Armor save for the remainder of the phase. This is the power (combined with Books of St. Lucius) that gives Seraphim their ability to “tar pit” an enemy unit, removing the units ability to ignore armor saves and making them deal with the unit’s tough 3+ save.

    Note: You have to decide at the beginning of the phase to use this power — Sisters players are notorious for “forgetting” this limitation. That means that your opponent can simply choose to target a different unit in the Shooting phase. In most cases, a 3+ Invulnerable save is a major deterrent to targeting a unit.

  3. You’ll also want to have a decent understanding of The Passion (+2 to Initiative) and Hand of the Emperor (+2 to Strength), but you won’t be using the powers as much as Divine Guidance and Spirit of the Martyr.

I recommend a minimum of 3 starting Faith Points to effectively use a squad of Seraphim — 4 is better (e.g., ally at least a Canoness, Seraphim squad, and a Battle Sister squad).

The biggest mistake most players make when including Sisters is not understanding how fragile they really are — T3 armies (even in power armor) are pretty darn easy to kill. That means that you need a plan. If you can’t design and follow a plan when you play, then play a more forgiving army.

The second mistake players make is choosing Seraphim as a counter-charge unit (Imperial Guard players do this a lot). Seraphim are terrible counter-attack choices. Their real strength is Divine Guidance shooting and they should only assault to a) mop up a badly beaten unit, or b) to hide in your opponent’s shooting phase.

The third mistake is not understanding the role of Seraphim. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Seraphim aren’t an Assault phase unit – they are a Shooting phase unit. You want to get them *intact* to where they can put 2-3 flamer templates on an opponent. That means supporting them — deploy them smartly, shield them from enemy shooting and support them with other units that can better survive an assault.

Unit size is an critical part of building a successful Seraphim squad — and it’s a little counter-intuitive. In most armies you either want to minimize the unit size (e.g., Inquisitorial Storm Troopers, Space Marine Scouts, etc.) or you want to maximize the unit size to match their transport capacity (e.g., Ork Boyz, Tactical Marines, Blood Claws, etc.).

With Seraphim, you need to build a squad that can reliably roll equal to or over (or equal to or under) it’s squad size on 3D6. The ideal unit size is 7 Seraphim (giving you a ~80% chance to succeed on either roll), but you also need to factor in some attrition from your opponent’s desire to kill them (e.g., the first Sister you lose drops your chances of rolling equal to under by 12%).

If you use the unit optimally, you’ll start off with Divine Guidance and follow it with Spirit of the Martyr. For those reasons, I recommend that you go with an 8-man unit. That gives you a 89% chance of pulling off Divine Guidance and a 68% chance of pulling off Spirit of the Martyr.

Tip #4: Don’t take undersized squads of Seraphim! Your chances of pulling off Divine Guidance on a 5-man squad is only 52% — that’s a huge drop from the 89% chance you have with an 8-man squad.

There are two schools of though when it comes to Seraphim. The first is anti-personnel (flamers) and the second is anti-tank (inferno pistols). I’m only going to cover the former in this article.

Tip #5: Don’t chase tanks! Yes, the Inferno Pistol is neat, but it’s not that effective on the board (3″ melta range, no +1 to vehicle damage). If you feel like using Inferno Pistols, email me. I’ll be happy to go over the pile of reasons to avoid it. Don’t do it. Really.

Here’s the Seraphim unit that I use most often:

  • 8-man Seraphim squad (2x hand flamers, VSS with Book of St Lucius and Brazier of Holy Fire)

The two hand flamers and the Brazier of Holy Fire give me three flamer templates when it counts. The Book of St. Lucius gives the unit an unmodifiable LD9 to keep the unit on the table when my plan falls apart.

Note: You have a lot of wargear and upgrade options, but I recommend resisting the temptation. This unit is already pricey and Meltabombs would jack the unit up another 32pts. Even the much-loved Eviscerator on the Veteran Superior would push it up to around 240pts.

Now that you have your Seraphim unit, let’s give it spin (as always, your experience with the unit may differ from mine). I tend to deploy my Seraphim in a protected location on one of my flanks. Shielding them with Rhinos and Chimeras works great. Spread them out enough to discourage blast templates. The goal is to give your opponent better targets to shoot at — you really want the Seraphim to reach their target at full strength.

My goal is a Turn 2 Assault against most armies. Once you’ve closed on your target, you want to place your at least one Seraphim as close as possible to the enemy unit’s most valuable model (i.e., you want a model he won’t pull under any condition, like a Power Fist Sergeant or an Independent Character). This lets you blast away without losing your ability to assault. I always place my flamer Seraphim next to each other so I maximize template hits.

Dirty Trick #1: Seraphim work great with Rhinos and Chimeras. First of all, they provide cover for the fragile flyers. Secondly, they provide much needed support (extra shooting and assault from embarked units). But the best use of transports is tank shocking your target. Tank shocking forces your opponent into nice tidy lines that are perfect for multiple templates. If you are careful, you can get 7+ models in a 10-man squad under your templates — that’s 14-21 automatic flamer hits!

Always shoot your Seraphim first. This lets you maximize the number of models under the template and lets you know if you need any outside assistance before you assault them. Always shoot everything! And don’t forget that your bolt pistols are twin-linked.

Count up the number of hits you’ve caused before deciding to use Divine Guidance. It takes a little experience to know the right time to use the Act of Faith, but my goal is to outnumber my opponent by more than 2-to1 when I assault him — so I’ll use Divine Guidance if I’m not likely to get the unit down to my “magic 2-to-1 ratio” without some AP1 love. Always use Divine Guidance against units of any size with a 2+ save, even if there’s only a model or two left.

If you’ve done your job, and pulled off your DG roll, you should have done some serious damage to the unit. With 2-3 flamer templates, you may have even put a couple of wounding hits on the enemy’s upgrade character. If your Seraphim don’t outnumber the enemy by more than 2-to-1 at this point, I’d call in some support from your Inducted Imperial Guard or Exorcists.

When you assault, the goal isn’t to win the combat — the goal is to keep as many Seraphim alive as possible. That may mean using Spirit of the Martyr; it may mean putting your attacks against units that haven’t attacked by I4. The whole goal is to keep the Seraphim unit intact until it can leave. If you can keep the unit intact for two Assault phases, then use Hit & Run to leave the combat.

Most players see Hit & Run as a way to “re-assault” the same enemy. That’s not how it works with Seraphim. Seraphim don’t “finish off” units, they cripple them. If you are able to leave a close combat with a fairly intact Seraphim squad, then move on to another unit and let the rest of your army finish off the stragglers.

Here’s how it works for me:
1. My Shooting Phase: Divine Guidance shooting into Unit A.
2. My Assault Phase: Assault Unit A (use Spirit of the Martyr if any enemy can ignore saves).
3. Enemy Assault Phase: As #2, but use Hit & Run at the end of the phase.
4. My Movement Phase: Move toward Unit B.
5. My Shooting Phase: Divine Guidance shooting into Unit B, Opportunity shooting at Unit A.
6. Rinse and Repeat.

My goal is to cripple two enemy units before my Seraphim become too small to be effective. If I don’t pull this off twice in a game, I’m disappointed.

There are a few unit combinations to make Seraphim more effective.

Killer Combo #1: Seraphim + Canoness: A Canoness and Seraphim go together like “peas and carrots”. The Canoness (with Jump Pack, Cloak of St Aspira, Blessed Weapon, Frag Grenades and a Book of St Lucius) gives the unit a tremendous amount of punch. She provides an additional 2 Faith Points and gives the unit an unmodifiable LD10. She can have a 2+ Invulnerable save when she needs it and is armed with a master-crafted S5 power weapon.

Dirty Trick #2: As with my last article, these tricks aren’t really too “dirty”. While the Canoness is attached to the Seraphim, they lose their awesome Hit & Run ability. So the trick is to move the Canoness out of coherency with the unit during the Movement phase but into a location where both units can assault. This allows you to keep the Canoness and Seraphim as separate units when you make the assault (and allows the Seraphim to use their awesome Hit & Run ability).

Note: If there’s an upgrade character in the enemy unit with a weapon that ignores saves (or causes instant death), then make sure to assault with your Seraphim before your Canoness. Move a Seraphim into base contact with the Power Fist Sergeant (or whatever) and keep your Canoness away from him. If you do this right, you won’t have to waste a Faith Point giving your Canoness Spirit of the Martyr.

Killer Combo #2: Seraphim + Saint Celestine: Saint Celestine is one of my favorite models and (in large enough games) she’s a lot of fun on the table. She gives you all of the fantastic benefits of a Canoness (2+ save, Blessed Weapon, extra Faith and LD10) and she has the added benefit of having the Hit & Run special rule and a flamer. She’s pricey, but worth playing from time to time just to pull off a Miraculous Intervention.

Any Imperial army with a free Fast Attack slot can ally a squad of Seraphim. I especially like using Seraphim in Imperial Guard armies (the Books of St. Lucius and extra flamers are great), but they are very friendly units and can fit into any army build.

Note: I find that it’s best to include one (or two) allied Battle Sisters squads and a Canoness so you have enough Faith to fuel them.

Here are some ideas on using Seraphim as allies:

1. Space Marines: Space Marines work really well with Seraphim because a Space Marine army can advance with (and support) the Seraphim. Seraphim also work great with Assault Marines.

Combos/Tricks: Vulkan He’stan makes your Seraphim’s flamers twin-linked (a thing of beauty!). Kantor gives Seraphin within range of his Inspiring Presence a +1A. Sergeant Telion can act as a sniper to help you preserve Faith Points (i.e., if you take out the weapons that ignore armor saves, then you don’t need Spirit of the Martyr in the resulting close combat).

Dirty Trick #3: Although you can Deep Strike Seraphim, I wouldn’t do it. But there is one exception — in an army with Locator Beacons. Want the best chance of getting FOUR Divinely Guided flamer templates on your enemy? Then use locator beacons to put your Seraphim + Canoness exactly where you need them. Ouch! Tigurius can help make this work with re-rolled Reserve rolls.

Dirty Trick #4: I’ve been meaning to try out a Jump Pack Librarian with Gate of Infinity and Seraphim. There’s just something awesome about teleporting flamers around the board! I’m imagining a “now you see ’em, now you AHHHHH FIRE!” scenario!

2. Imperial Guard: Seraphim instantly add a lot of character to an Imperial Guard army — with the addition of one unit, your army becomes a Holy Crusade for the Emperor! Instant backstory!

Combos/Tricks: Creed’s Tactical Genius allows your Seraphim to make a 12″ Scout move (Turn 1 DG Flamers? Yes, please!). Straken gives nearby Seraphim Counter-attack and Furious Charge (S4 I5 Furious Charge Seraphim can become S6 I1 with Hand of the Emperor + Furious Charge or S4 I7 with The Passion). Seraphim love Guardsman Marbo.

3. Blood Angels: Like Space Marines, but better. The army is faster (thanks to Jump Packs and Overcharged Engines) and their characters are friendlier to allies. Try substituting an Assault squad with Seraphim for fun!

Combos/Tricks: Exsanguinators work on Seraphim (allowing you to keep the unit size large enough to use Faith effectively). Also Dante, Lemartes and Mephiston are fast enough to tag along Seraphim for some variety. One of my favorite combos is Seraphim + Death Company!

4. Space Wolves: Space Wolves’ also have a decent amount of fast units — allowing you to better support an advancing squad of Seraphim. There’s also lots of interesting modeling and background opportunities here!

Combos/Tricks: Seraphim work great with Rune Priests (and Njal and Seraphim would be a great pairing) since Jaws of the World Wolf can deal with pesky models and monstrous creatures that tend to eat Seraphim. I’m definitely going to try out Seraphim and a Jump Pack Wolf Priest, lol!

Dirty Trick #5: Lukas the Trickster is a great partner for the Seraphim’s reliable with Hit & Run ability. Get them both into an assault and use Hit & Run to escape the close combat before you choose to blow Lukas up!

As you can see there’s a place for Seraphim in just about every Imperial army – and if combined with planning, support and luck, Seraphim can move mountains for you!

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to encourage you to dust off your Seraphim or perhaps make you want to add some Witch Hunters to your existing army.

~Comments are welcome here and at http://www.chainfist.com/ — and as always, your mileage may vary.

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