40k Tutorial • Deployment 101

Man drawing a game strategy

Learn how to deploy like a tournament ringer.  Wanna improve your game fast? Get in here!

Hi everybody – it’s your friendly neighborhood Black Blow Fly here with a basic bare bones tutorial for newer players to the game that want to play competitively in tournaments. No dirty tricks or underhanded tactics… Just some basic techniques that might help you improve your game. I was at the LVO this past weekend and watched several games at the top tables during the final day. There were some armies that made it based on skill rather than spamming or dropping the most broken stuff on the table which was refreshing to see.

Drop Pods and Null Deployment

Null deployment is a style in which you deploy nothing on the table. This means you must have some units that automatically arrive from reserve the first turn… Typically the more the better too. Drop pods can do this as well as can the Grey Knight Nemesis Strike Force (NSF).

One of the major advantages of this deployment is avoiding the alpha strike while being able to hit your opponent with the alpha strike. This style can do very well versus certain armies such as flying circus if you go first since you can shoot them while their flying monstrous creatures (FMCs) are still on the ground. It may also force your opponent to start some of their key units in reserve since they don’t want to risk losing them the first turn.

A major drawback to null deployment is these types of armies have limited movement once they arrive. Serpent spam for example can jink then turbo boost away and run circles around you.


Space Marine biker armies have never been better than now. Of course the best chapter tactic for this style of army is White Scars:

– S5 Hammer of Wrath for bike squads
– Outflank and Scout if you take the Khan as your Warlord
– 3++ jink save
– Hit and Run

These are all huge advantages with no real drawbacks. Deploy all your units to overload the opponent… Bikes are hard to kill with T5 and the 3++ jink. If you don’t take Khan you can turbo boost all your bikes the first turn… Often it’s just as good if not better than the scout move.

This is a highly mobile army that can quickly decimate the enemy. I have found it’s better to go with all biker units to play to the strength of the central theme. It can do well versus flying circus and flyer heavy armies since you’ll always dominate the ground. Keep moving ! Versus flyers grav guns cause immobilization which automatically removes them from play if they roll a 1 or 2 on a d6… It sounds like a long shot but it’s actually very efficient if you have enough grav guns and that’s why I eschew mixing your special weapons with melta and plasma. Twin linked bolters can be brutal versus any unit they can wound. I run the attack bikes with multi-meltas to increase the odds versus heavily armored tanks and fortifications.

Defensive Deployment

As has been noted this is a very shooty game now. Never before can an army lay down so much fire power… Even more than the old leaf blower Imperial Guard… Whoops I meant to say Astra Militarum. Strangely enough assault armies can still win but they must be able to weather one to two turns of enemy shooting prior to locking horns and breaking off a piece. Heavy shooting has been augmented by ridiculous levels of cover saves often up to a 2++ if certain conditions are met such as night fighting or stealth in ruins.

The best cover is complete line of sight blocking then your only worry is barrage which is not all that prevalent except mainly for Thunderfire Cannons and Wvyerns which both can ignore cover. You can refuse flank versus barrage to keep out of their maximum range if necessary or even better deploy your units using the fire drill – every single model is at least two inches apart.

Defensive deployment is a must for dark eldar with their paper airplanes. Holding some of your units in reserve is another way to help avoid the alpha strike too… This is great for units that can outflank or are flyers (obviously). Your army must be properly designed from top to bottom for this style of play.


Deployment can make or break you. It is still one of the most important aspects to the game. A lot depends on who goes first or second but it’s not as critical now since you don’t have to move first to jink and casting psychic powers is a separate phase.

Deployment is often overlooked by players and they inevitably pay the hard price if they make mistakes and are sloppy. I didn’t touch on things like fortifications since I never use them but they are tools to help you.

Remember that practice makes perfect. In time you’ll get it down. Be focused.

  • Marc Durose

    with so many units on the table from left to right it hardly matters anymore…. 🙂

  • Marc Durose

    with so many units on the table from left to right it hardly matters anymore…. 🙂

  • MarcoT

    The bike star bit was hardly about deployment. And where’s refused flank, or bubble wrapping? Those seem like basics to me.

    • Haighus

      Yeah, most of this was just listing a few types of deployment (without details, except maybe null deployment), and then mentioning powerful army builds. I fell like it didn’t really say anything much.

  • MarcoT

    The bike star bit was hardly about deployment. And where’s refused flank, or bubble wrapping? Those seem like basics to me.

  • krootman

    Null deployment is my deployment of choice for my eldar army. Deploy 3 wks, and a jet seer and nothing else.

  • LordKrungharr

    If I can make another Dreadclaw then I’ll have some of that null deployment potential for my Chaos Marines, though it’s costly. With my assaulty beasts like Flesh Hounds, I agree that Scout may not be the wisest move if I think the enemy (like bikers) can and will move towards me quickly, then I can assault Turn 1.

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    You have the…

    Null Deployment: All or most of your army deploys by deepstrike/reserves. This prevents you from being alpha striked and gives you a good chance to alpha strike your opponent.

    Bubble Wrap: You deploy mos of your forces together. Your important units are placed behind one or two layers of mook units (so your good units cover saves and to prevent your good units from being assaulted).

    Refused Flank: When you deploy second and, in so doing, deploy everything on one side of the board. The goal is to hit one flank of your enemy’s forces with your entire army.

    • Haighus

      This is already a more useful post about deployments than the article above IMO…

      • Wraith

        Have to say it, they’re right. This is the kinda thing I wanted to read. Thank you for that, some things I – as a gaming noob (more a modelling/painting kinda guy) – hadn’t even thought about. THIS is deployment 101.

    • Bubble wrap is very important to negate the alpha strike and can be very effective versus drop pods.

  • Matthew Mullen

    I’ve found Land Speeder Storms a huge boon against Null Deploy armies that are becoming more common – With Infiltrate and Scout you can create huge bubbles where anything deepstriking in will scatter 4d6, which can really limit the effectiveness of a Drop Pod Alpha Strike. If you’ve already refused a flank you can up your opponent’s risk factor massively in terms of possibly scattering his pods off of the table. Given the risk my Alpha-Strike reliant bikes are at against such a force it can make a big difference.

    Plus, it’s never bad to be able to deliver a couple heavy flamers in to the opposing deployment zone turn 1, and the Cerberus Launchers are a huge help against low-initiative armies like Necrons and Tau.

    • mighty_pirate

      Unless they’re using a Leviathan Skyswarm that doesn’t suffer deep strike perils.
      Or using an Inquisitor with servo skulls (always deploying before your infiltrators & preventing them getting in proximity) with a GK Nemesis Force which then only scatters 1D6 within 6″ of them.
      If I’m going “all in” on deep strike I take precautions to ensure it’s not easily borked. 😉

      • Haighus

        Ravenwing combined with Deathwing works too 🙂
        All the bikes have beacons, so you can scout them up for the Terminators to deep strike turn one (and all of them, unlike drop pods).

    • Michael Shaw

      4d6? what am i missing here?

      • Matthew Mullen

        Jamming Beacons (page 126 of the Marine codex) – Units deepstriking within 12″ of a Storm double the dice rolled for Scatter.

    • Scouts are the new black… Those Storms are the best transport for Marines too. You obviously know how to use them to their full potential.

  • Bugsculptor

    This article is about list building for deployment options, not actual deployment! Ha!

  • Ahriman

    Basic tactics are basic…