40K: Where Have All the Flyers Gone (And An Apology)

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If you looked at the more notable tournaments this year, you’d notice, with a single exception, something is missing.  Where have all the flyers gone?

I want to apologize to all of the BoLS readers who took my Eldar Jetbike (last week) piece as anything other than the satire which I intended it to be. I was trying to make light of all the fear mongering plaguing the new Eldar dex.  When I posted an article on BoLS with rules that I had clearly made up earlier this year, which was also clearly marked HUMOUR in the title, people actually took it seriously.  In this case, I had hoped the over the top rules errors and math shenanigans would clearly indicate the intent of the piece.  I understand your disappointment and anger, and again apologize for any misunderstanding.    Now on with the show!

It is interesting to me, with all the conversation about flyers and AA, how little impact flyers have actually had on the competitive tournament scene in the past year.  The exception was Sean Nayden’s winning, and innovative, Nid list at the LVO.  All of the other top tier lists were all but devoid of winged models.  Here is a sampling to prove the point:

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LVO: Sean’s previously mentioned list contained 3 Flyrants.  However, he also created a great synergy between the Lictors and Mawlocs, and overwhelmed the board with Spore Mines.  On the other hand, the fact that those Flyrants were a central part of his winning strategy, especially against a range of opponents who clearly did not come prepared to deal with them, speaks to an inherent weakness in a codex that relies so heavily on winged HQs.  The second place “scout” list did not have a single flyer.  He also had no AA to deal with those Flyrants.  But why would he?  No one else (except Sean) brought flyers!

Adepticon:  The winning list here was Fateweaver and the Tzeentch boys.  Sure, Fateweaver is an FMC, but he never functions as a flyer in terms of game play.  He is there to provide all of his special rules madness.  Other than that, not a flyer to be seen.  The 3rd place spot was held by wingless Necrons.  No flyers.  I have been hard pressed to find the 2nd place list, but would bet bottom dollar there are not flyers in there.

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NOVA:  The top two spots were held by Eldar (with a spot of Dark Kin allies thrown in).  Tzeentch grabbed 3rd place and a fun combination of Necrons and Meganobs took 4th.  Again, no flyers.

Storm of Silence:  The top spot here was an Ork list, and 2nd place to a Blood Angels list partnered up with the new Skitarii.  Lots of Skitarii Vanguard in the 2nd place list;  not a flyer to be seen.

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So my point is what?  That there has been a plethora of articles and commensurate commentary during the same time period about flyers, AA and how some armies are not able to deal with flyers.  Also, how players who would otherwise not include flyers in their lists are forced to do so in order to stay competitive.  For me, the issue of flyers in tournament play is much like that of the psychic phase (Tzeentch summoning fun notwithstanding).  They both are part of the game, but are not central to having an army on the board that is competitive.  The other piece of the flyer puzzle is that in tournament play, unlike many casual games between beer drinking friends, the players are not aware of what their opponents will bring.  This forces them to create “all comers” lists, sometimes cheesed out, that can deal with almost any opponent or scenario.  Most of my games have been against people I know will bring a Stormraven, a couple of Heldrakes or a couple of “Bumblebees” (Storm Talons).  I know who I will be playing before the game, and can customize, to a certain extent, my ability to deal with a specific threat.

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Do flyers have a place in tournament play?  The results say otherwise.  What do you think?

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  • They die too easily?

    • DoctorBored

      Which is the exact opposite argument to what people were complaining about when they were released and everyone had to have one! XD

      • Spacefrisian

        Cause at that time there wasnt much stuff that could deal with flyers.

        • Pascalnz

          There still isn’t, in the lists that people bring but people got used to how to deal with them and voila, no problem any more

  • TimW

    Thank god, I can’t stand flyers in 40k.

    • Azrell

      The original apoc rules for them are better. They do fly overs or come onto the board like a skimmer.

      • nurglitch

        The Epic Armageddon rules for them are better.

  • Matt

    Prepare to see the hellturkey make a comeback as it is a hard counter to Eldar scatbikes.

    • Malisteen

      I don’t know. The line of sight nerf was pretty heavy, a careful eldar player couple probably prevent the turkey from hitting more than one bike with a single shot. I may be wrong, but I don’t see it being the hard counter you describe i as. Maybe if it gets faq’d back to 360. Or 180. Or even 90. But a 45 degree arc of fire reduces the torrent rule to being basically nothing more than a range extender.

      • Tesq

        that’s nothing to worry about the best use of heldrake is enter kill, exit, re-enter doing this until turn 4-5 then stay inside. It’s alredy enough to take back 170 points and usually it take back more.
        Heldrake it will always remain 1x staple in any csm army.

      • RexScarlet

        Players that know the rules will hold opponents flyers to the 22.5 degree downward angle (half of the 45 degree FoF).
        Players were getting wise by the end of 6e with flyers (useless FoF turret on stormraven, etc.), so when the Hellturkey nerf came, opponents were ready.
        .
        Flyers need simpler rules; maybe use the base and/or stem for range and LoS, and be given a 180 FoF, because a flyer should be able to invert, not to mention an Immelmann turn perhaps with a pilot check roll, etc. IMHO with the state of the game, these few tweaks will not change the power level of flyers, just let players use flyers more easily.

        • Tesq

          you cant prevent heldrake the first turn it enter, you can just make it enter from more left and go right or viceversa from you part of the table, simply made useless opponents move, also torrential help increase that 45 degree( just you need to stop 6-10″) before units, vp3 and ingore cover make it a lot easy to use. Haven’t found a game where it took back his point in 7th now that reserve enter at 3+. A 6 to hit 12 armor 5+ inv that can jink cos it will exit next turn with a s6vp3 torrential template that ingore cover it’s just what you need to rip and tear those loyalist dogs and their space elv friends on bike.

          • RexScarlet

            Most flyers have use, and hellturkey is one of those, but it is difficult to use now, as are most flyers rules wise.
            .
            How about the weapon of the front of the Valkarie/Vendetta that is mounted on one side of the cockpit, where can it draw LoS? OR
            The StormRaven turret that can barely draw LoS to anywhere?
            OR
            The Valk/Ven side door Heavy Bolters?
            etc.
            .
            I just think the flying rules need to be simplified, which will not make them OP, just more user friendly.

    • Chaosrex

      45* Fire angle ( down to 360…, could have made it 180 and be done) and the nerf that took Vector strike, is still a big hit for the drake.

      Even though i still play him.

      • Tesq

        actually it ended being abuff to vector strike where csm hadproblem field reliable ap 2 source, heldrake become a free s7 ap 2 source.

    • Agent OfBolas

      You are right.

      Since Eldars came out, I’ve jumped local tournament with sweet 1500 pts DK list including:

      HQ
      Bloodthirster
      Bloodthirster

      Troops
      8 cultists, shotgun
      8 cultists, shotgun

      F.A.
      heldrake, baleflamer
      heldrake, baleflamer
      heldrake, baleflamer

      Ally:
      IK – Knight Errant

      Works like a charm 🙂

  • Jared McWilliams

    Flyers aren’t noncompetitive, they are just not required to be competitive. Given they do not start on table, with the exception of FMC, they introduce randomness as to when they become available making them variable. Removal of variables in a strategy increases a strategies chance to succeed. I would guess if you look at the winning tournament lists very few of them have points that are tied up in units that arrive to the table on a random turn.

    • Tesq

      yea that’s because ppl can get better focus on opponents army turn 1, reserve should be something player MUST have not something a player can have, they both make games more interesting. And as csm player i need a tons of deep strike units for melta 🙂

    • SacTownBrian

      That is huge, loosing the tactical flexibility to decide if you start with them or not. But there are ways around it too, sky shield and st Tylus formation for example

  • Ronin

    I use 2 almost every game unless it’s under 1500. Of course, I’m not a tournament player by any means, but they’ve been a staple part of my army by giving mobility, allowing me to flank units in a more unpredictable manner, and drop into hover mode to contest objectives or get linebreaker. Plus, I’ve gotten so good at doing stormraven drops that some players had to shift their list just to deal with me. xD

    • Tesq

      +1

    • SacTownBrian

      I almost always play three stormtalons in the st Tylus formation.

    • petrow84

      I did not scratch-built 2 Valkyrie to let them lie on the shelf – they drop the hammer of the Emperor out of the sky! …well, at least a tiny bit of that hammer, for sure.

  • hazal

    I think it has to do heavily with your Meta, point limit and the rise of more objective based gameplay.

    Like everyone on this page that netlists, it will just take 1 flier focued list to win a tournament for a bunch of look-a-likes to pop up.

  • Patrick John Magee

    My Catachan Guard list has 3 in it, 2 valkyries and a Vendetta, had quite a good result with using them. Although the army is themed rather than tournament focused, so I guess that makes it mute. I almost always take a Stormraven in my Blood Angels, but that’s more of a delivery method for my termi’s and librarian for assault. in my Tau however, I never take a flyer, just doesn’t do it for me in that army, seeing as both the Codex flyers aren’t exactly stellar.

  • Svenone

    I agree you can’t really count the Flyrants as flyers, they are more MC than flyers. Flying Vehicles have the same issues that Walkers have, they’re from an old generation of game before rules changed to make other things better and them obsolete. I would wager that MOST Tyranid lists at any tournament contain at least 2 flyers as a standard. The flying Dakkafex is one of the best investments in this game.

    Wanna know what happened to Flying models? Imperial Knights replaced them. There aren’t really any flyers that are able to deal with them in a cost effective way, people needed to load those points in volume of high strength fire, weapons platforms, or in giant monstrous walkers themselves. Additionally the buff to bikes in the SM codex, and of course our ol’ friends in the Warlock council, meant that anyone with half a brain could simply outmaneuver flyers to the point of irrelevance.

    Oh yeah, and then GW releases something like the Voidraven Bomber which is overcosted both financial and in game points, and can’t do anything that the Razorwings can’t already do for cheaper. Kind of circles back to the post from earlier today over GW’s “balance” strategy.

    • Nonia Biess

      Ironically, before the new knights flyers were one of their counters (theoretically).

    • Dennis J. Pechavar

      DA’s have been hating flyers (read that jealous) ever since we got those crappy ones in our codex. Way too costly for what they do.

  • Antipaladin

    Knowing what will be effective competitively in tournament play is a casting of the runes at best. The lists that rise to the top tend to be… “Highly specialized” and reliant upon rules-hammering specific to the tournie in question and the emergent meta.

    So, are fliers competitive? Maybe. Are gretchen, flayed ones, or reaver titans? Maybe.

  • Anggul

    I would guess it’s because they’re another thing to factor into an all-comers list when there are already so many things to factor in. You can rarely have a counter to them all, though it depends on the points level.

    With the introduction of really tough things like super-heavies and gargantuans and the need to be able to counter them, they sort of replaced the ‘flyer and AA’ spot in people’s lists, because you can only fit so much in.

  • shinkaze

    Many fliers were increased in price and had the effectiveness of their rules reduced in codex revisions (Night Scythe, Vendetta) and new some new flyers are just kind of expensive to begin with (DA and SW).

    The 7th edition rule book clarified that flyers could not hold objectives. That hurt as well.

    • LordKrungharr

      I thought they could if they’re in Hover Mode?

      • Jet Voidweller

        Not all flier have hover mode.

    • Kyraxis

      At least the SW are good, if pricey. The DA fliers are just terrible.

    • Shiwan8

      Lets not forget the drakes that are now just flying bricks with glorified flamers in stead of the machines of death they used to be.

  • dvs0ne

    Nick rose played a IG/SW list for his semi final match at LVO. That list had at least 2 vendettas in it.

    • hazal

      Apparently only the winner counts for this statistical article. Not the top 4 or 8… or you know… a good sample size.

  • Jet Voidweller

    I have a strong feeling you will see the new eldar bringing crimson hunters and wraith fighters.

  • Secundum

    Fliers were good when they came out…Then Codex’s got updated and they became last editions toy.

    Also, that Eldar article was satire? 0_0

    • Michael Shaw

      ill believe it is satire when i start believing the moon landing was fake. Saying it was satire is just a way of saving face amidst the massive knee-jerk reaction the article was and the unnumbered errors within.

      • Secundum

        Will I agree with you, I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Houghten

    I stole them.

  • Hivetyrant36

    I just don’t understand why people hate flyers so much or why they can’t stand them. Just bolter them, or ignore them.

    • Chris. K Cook

      But they weren’t in 5th and by the Golden Throne the Neuterhammer boys will force us all back there one way or another. They’ll stuff that Genie of Fun back into it’s bottle!

  • Shawn Lyons

    In my play group, fliers dominated right until the 6th edition Tau book. Why bring a flier when it was almost always going to be shot of of the sky the turn it arrives and before it can do anything by a riptide.

  • Byungwook Kim

    Stormravens and wolf flyers are good I think. And flyrants. Not much point in any others.

  • Warrior_of_Sound

    For me the main issue with flyers is in the 7th with maelstroms/new competetive styled objectives in tournaments, the cost of about a 150 points is better spent on two troop choices with transports for just about any army i field

  • kaptinscuzgob

    trying the “i didnt make mistakes it was satire” defence? tisk tisk

  • Joe Kopena

    I’m not convinced that cherrypicking some lists from top results is conclusive of anything. In both of the communities I play in, flyers remain very common. Nightscythes in particular are all over the place, Eldar and Dark Eldar jetfighters (and Crimson Hunters just got buffed w/ a 4++ formation!), and of course Stormravens and even Stormtalons are all frequently used, and Valkyries/Vendettas. FMCs of course are always around, especially Flyrants. So… basically all of the flyers?

    In general people seem to have accepted them and adapted or not—whether by ignoring them as best as possible, often a viable strategy, or simply not playing 40k anymore—and they basically had to. Time moves on and drama dies down, whether or not the initial upset was justified or not. So they’re certainly lower profile now (game’s got bigger problems now!), but that’s different from not being used.

    And it *might* be the case that flyers are not prominent in top tier lists anymore, but I certainly would still expect to see quite a bit in a typical tournament. Hell, the other article posted last night, by Bob Baer with some (questionably effective) anti-GMC/SH weapons featured a Stormraven in the first item.

  • vyrago

    6th edition wanted everyone to buy flyers. 7th wants everyone to buy Eldar.

  • Drunkencorgimaster

    Good article but don’t waste your time apologizing to the idiots who have no sense of humor at BOLS. There are far too many to waste your time on.