40K The Helldrake – In the Balance

7th Edition stirred everything around. Is the CSM Heldrake, too hot, too cold, or just right?

a guest column by Caitsidhe

As most of us are aware, about the only decent model in the Chaos Space Marine book was the Helldrake. It was good, too good for many and brought on endless complaints. Most of us CSM Players had to grit our teeth. It didn’t make any difference to other people that the rest of our book was garbage. We were demonized for using the one bone they threw us. Even so, most CSM players kept Helldrake use within reason. I, myself, usually only put one on the table and at tournaments I might plop down two. Now we gaze upon 7th Edition and the Faqs have already curtailed the chief complaint against our dragons. They no longer have a 360 fire arc. The rejoicing can begin. The word has spread far and wide that the Helldrakes are neutered. You hear it most often from non-CSM players and now and then from a few guys angry when anything they use gets a change. I have listed a few of the important limiting changes below:

The Nerfs
1. As mentioned above, they now only have a forward firing arc.
2. All fliers have a chance of being blown out of the sky by a grounding test of sorts of which failure means instant death.

Of course most people fail to discuss some of the beneficial changes as well.

The Buffs
1. Nobody gets to complain anymore. What everyone CLAIMED was wrong with the Helldrake has been fixed per their request. So use them, as many as you like.
2. Anti-Tank weaponry took a hit with the new chart. While you can still be hulled, the Helldrake sports an AR-12 in most places and is thus fairly solid.
3. Helldrakes benefit from the new Jink in the air or hovering. If you are really afraid of being destroyed, you have as good a cover save as anyone generally.
4. Helldrakes score by dropping into Hover now. They are really good at getting to objectives and liquidating anything there that might have contested them.
5. Helldrakes are AWESOME in hover.

Helturkeys in the Balance

Let me put #5 in perspective. The Helldrake compares favorably to most Skimmers in the game in that it has a solid armor rating, is not open-topped, has a nifty Invulnerable save, can use the Jink like everyone else if you need more, and can vector strike very effectively. It has the Torrent Weapon in the air or on the ground. As a Skimmer this means it can move 12″ Torrent out the Template another 12″ and still hit targets beyond that. The Dark Eldar and Eldar would kill for a Skimmer that had that gun.

There are new things to play with of course. If you add psychic powers to the mix (which I have done to test it out) a hovering Helldrake benefits from being Shrouded if you cast it. On the off chance they do need to Jink, why not give them the ability to do so at a ridiculous level? An invisible Helldrake is quite durable while hovering around (I have done this to both a Helldrake and a Defiler now… both to hilarious effect). I’m not going to linger on Psychic powers too long because they are an add on. It just bears mentioning that there are options if you are afraid to hover.

My point is that you shouldn’t be any more worried about hovering than those people who use Skimmers all the time. You are better off than most of them and if they can do it, so can you. The scuttlebutt is that the reduced firing arc has neutered the dragon. I’ll be happy to go along with that notion if it helps people sleep at night. So far, my own play testing, has not led me to that conclusion. It became apparent to me that the 360 degree firing arc was nice if I wanted to be lazy, but it was never required to hit the targets I needed to hit. So far, on the off chance I have not been able to stay in the air and barbecue people, I’ve just dropped out of it to turn as I like.

Happy BBQing!

So, what’s your take on the Heldrake and the entire CSM range now?  Are you budding Warmasters ready to launch your own Black Crusades?

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