Wolf Claw Strike Force Tactics: The Blackmanes


Salty John talks about the new Space Wolves Blackmanes formation, and right on the heels of a controversial FAQ buff to drop pods! 


Aoooo! Time for some more Space Wolf action, this time: The Blackmanes brought to you by Overwatch from Capture and Control aka “Salty John”! Check the Tactics Corner for more great articles.

Ragnar Blackmane’s great pack, the Blackmanes (duh) excel in close quarters fighting, with high numbers of Bloodclaws and Drop Pods a plenty, they drop upon their foes in search of glory on the battlefield and in the eyes of their Wolf Lord!

Article Series

  1. Wolf Claw Strike Force Overview
  2. Wolf Claw Strike Force Part 2: The Firehowlers
  3. Wolf Claw Strike Force Part 3: The Ironwolves
  4. Wolf Claw Strike Force Part 4: The Drakeslayers


The Blackmanes are an interesting greatpack that came out to much fanfare when Curse of the Wulfen dropped a few months ago. One of the two most oft discussed aspects of that book. While they can technically take all the normal dedicated transports I would be shocked to see the formation fielded in anything but Drop Pods.


  • Wolf Lord Ragnar Blackmane or Wolf Guard Battle Leader
  • 1-2 unit of: Wolf Guard, Thunderwolf Cavalry, and/or Wolf Guard Terminators
  • 3-5 units of Blood Claws
  • 2-4 units of Grey Hunters and/or Land Speeders
  • 1-2 unit of Long Fangs
  • 1-2 unit of Wolf Scouts
  • 0-2 Lone Wolves

Special Rules:

  • The Claws of Russ: Can take Drop Pods for free. All units from the formation in Drop Pods come in on turn 1. This does not count towards your Drop Pod tally for the Drop Pod assault rule.
  • Inspirational Example: While Ragnar Blackmane is on the table all “Claw” units in the formation re-roll to hit rolls in Assaults.
  • The Joy of Battle: All units in the formation that deployed from Drop Pods are Fearless and have a 6+ Feel No Pain on the turn they arrive.




Given their special rules it’s no surprise that the Blackmanes are a popular Great Pack for players to discuss and field. If the new GW Drop Pod FAQs hold true than you can expect to see more walls of Blackmanes Drop pods coming in turn 1 than ever before. That said this is a list that looks like a hammer, plays itself, style list when in reality is much closer to a glass hammer finesse type list. It requires a lot of thought to play effectively and well.

The general idea behind the list is lots of Drop Pods turn 1, break your opponent’s jaw, then weather whatever comes from your opponent the rest of the game while holding objectives and counter assaulting. The core of the list really should be Ragnar and a strong unit of Bloodclaws. A unit of Grey Hunters with a wolf standard should never be far away.  If you take a Blackmanes great pack you can take Drop Pods for free on any unit that has them as an option. Furthermore those Drop Pods come in on turn 1 and do not count toward your Drop Pod assault rule. Something I like about this is you can then take a few Deathwind Missile launchers, normally they are too expensive on top of the 35 points you pay for the Drop Pod. With the Drop pods being free though, taking a few Deathwinds to make your turn 1 drop just that much more effective can be great. A couple strength 5 big blasts can be just what the doctor ordered against Eldar jet bikes. Not like you see many of those on the table top these days.

With an all DP list, which Blackmanes usually are, you have to drop carefully. Drop Pods provide 1 turn of extremely effective movement and then your army has to hoof it on foot. With a normal DP list you can make up for turn 1 mistakes with your DP that coming in Turns 2-4. A full Blackmanes list doesn’t have this benefit. With all the Drop Pods coming in turn one, or at least the vast majority, choosing where to drop becomes extremely important.



Generally speaking you want to figure out three things with an all DP list. 1. What do I want to kill on my drop? 2. What do I want to block in, or out, with my Drop Pods? 3. What objectives do I want to make annoyingly hard to get with my Drop Pods? You can usually achieve all three of those if you’re careful, and doing so can go a long way to winning you the game. Winning with a Blackmanes list is easy against a lot of the mid tier armies, but extraordinarily challenging against the top tier shooting lists like Tau and Renegades.

Target priority is a big deal for this list, shooting/assault/drop wise, and more than likely you’ll need to find a way to get some Grav into the list through allies.

The major weakness of all Space Wolves lists is the lack of Grav weaponry. Many lists can overcome this through Deathstars and various CC units. While the Blackmanes have some great CC abilities their lack of Grav weaponry is felt. Generally speaking if you want to achieve your first priority, kill something important, you’ll need Grav. There are two really great ways to get Grav into a Blackmanes list.

  1. Skyhammer. Taking a Skyhammer Annihilation Force with a unit of Grav devs and the UM chapter tactics is a great addition to a Blackmanes army. I like to take heavy bolters on the other dev squad and use the two assault squads to tie up units.
  2. A White Scars CAD or Allied Detachment. With this you can take a Libby with Hunters eye, Grav cents, tac squads with Grav in a pod, and drop pod for cents.

There are certainly many variations for getting some Grav in your Blackmanes list but I’ve found these two to be the most reliable.

I’ve also found I like Murderfang in a drop pod as the auxiliary choice. It unlocks the special counter attacking rule, which with Ragnar and a bunch of bloodclaws around supported by a banner can be brutal. But Murderfang can be just what the doctor ordered for finishing off an injured Wraithknight, Imperial Knight, Stormsurge, or other nasty unit. He also shreds through units with the Rage, Rampage, and Shred special rules.



Blackmanes can be a great spoiler but a few of the tax units can be problematic. The Wolfguard I like to arm with 4 combi-plasma, alternately if your meta is vehicle heavy 4-5 combi-melta wouldn’t be remiss. It makes a unit that can back up the Grav nicely or it can hunt a unit on their own. The Bloodclaws need flamers, also a squad of 8 with 2 fists is a great unit for Ragnar to drop in with. Always include at least one squad on Grey Hunters with banner and melta. Speeders should have melta so you have more AT. With a Banner around and a few additional bodies a combined assault of 3 Bloodclaw squads led by Ragnar can be a great answer to Tau, Eldar, and Zombie hordes. 5 Bloodclaws, with a banner around, would get 5 attacks on the charge apiece, so 25 swings re-rolling failed to hit rolls. If they are in Ragnars squad they would also be strength 5 on the charge. Cutting through chaff, killing off wounded Monstrous creatures, or tying up a bigger unit is not out of the realm of possibility for a 5 man Bloodclaw squad in this formation. More importantly a well tooled squad with Ragnar and perhaps an additional character of some sort, a buff character like a  libby or Rune Priest or even a beat stick Wolf Lord, can be a surprise GMC or Deathstar killer in the right players’ hands.

Long Fangs are an interesting tax to deal with. I like to arm them in 1 of 3 ways. Bare, just two in a pod to distract and/or hold objectives. 3 Multimeltas to aid with vehicle destruction. Or third, 5 Long Fangs with 4 plasma cannons. If I go the third route then generally I am going to drop the White Scars Libby for a Captain in Cataphracti armor. Throw him in with the PC Long Fangs and now they have slow and purposeful. Conversely you can deploy the Long Fangs and drop their pod empty, especially if the GW FAQs for Drop Pods holds.

The Blackmanes really provide some amazing choices to bring a big hammer down on turn 1. The options to run with them can be endless, anything that supports a drop pod marine list will help out a Blackmanes list. Trying out new combos will be entertaining and might yield a combo the internet hasn’t discovered yet. If the new GW FAQS hold I expect to see a lot more Drop Pod based armies on the scene soon.


What do you all think about the Blackmanes Formation?

  • Jeremy Larson

    No mention of the formation’s biggest weakness: other full-drop pod armies. Nothing worse than having to drop all of your pods on an empty table.

    • OldHat

      I beg to differ. Seems like an empty table means I dictate where I build my Drop Pod walls without worry about the enemy. This can help mitigate their own drop to just busting a few of your pods, which really limits their alpha and lets you get a good retaliation.

    • Simon Chatterley

      If you drop 10 down and open your doors you own a massive amount of board if the droppod FAQ stays.

      You can literally dictate exactly where your opponent has to deploy and risk mishaps off the board edge.

      If I had that strike force I want to go first against a similar drop army

    • With the new FAQ for Drop Pods having to go first against another heavy Drop list is not bad, it gives you the ability to control the board and your opponents movement and deep striking better.

  • denzark

    Howsabout playing this list in a fluffy without the crutch of grav, White scars etc?

    • Victor Hartmann

      You certainly can, what is stopping you?

    • Simon Chatterley

      It’s just like how every Guard list has a load of Wyverns. There’s different tanks 😉

  • An_Enemy

    The Captain’s slow and purposeful does not convey to the unit. Unless you feel like ignoring the FAQ that spells that out.

    • Victor Hartmann

      It’s in the Slow and Purposeful rule, it’s characteristics convey to to the unit.

      “A unit that contains at least one model with this special rule cannot Run, Turboboost, move Flat Out, perform Sweeping Advances or fire Overwatch. However, they can shoot with Heavy, Salvo and Ordnance weapons, counting as stationary even if they moved in the previous Movement phase. They are also allowed to charge in the same turn they fire Heavy, Ordnance, Rapid Fire or Salvo weapons.”

      • OldHat

        I really feel like GW meant ‘they’ as in “the model with S&P” and not ‘they’ as in “the unit”. They should FAQ that… but it is probably too late.

        • Victor Hartmann

          Pretty clearly plural. Is there an infantry model which can fire with multiple heavy, salvo, and/or ordnance weapons?

          Besides, GW would have said “it moved” instead of “they moved” if it were singular. Or “charge in the same turn it fired” instead of “they fired”. “It moved” instead of “they moved”. Etcetera.

          • OldHat

            Not “pretty clearly” if it can at all be argued otherwise. It is my opinion that they intended it not to give the whole unit Relentless, basically. They are just not good at writing rules. I went ahead and submitted it though, so maybe they will FAQ it (doubtful).

      • An_Enemy

        Check the 30k FAQ where Cataphractii originates. They clearly say it does not confer. This is a 40k loophole.

        • Victor Hartmann

          30k rules and FAQs do not apply to 40k. If they add that to the Angels of Death FAQ for 40k, then you will be correct. Then again, they could have addressed it as a Special Rule in the BRB FAQ for 40k so it’s quite possible that they intend the rule to play differently in 40k. We should know for sure if and when they FAQ Angels of Death. Until then, S&P conveys to the unit.

    • Are you sure you’re not thinking of Relentless?

      • LordKrungharr

        No , it is the slow and purposeful that confers to the unit. Relentless is by the model only.

  • SilentPony

    If you want to be a dick, just drop all your pods in the opponents deployment zone, deploy your mans in either a 6″ circle around the pod, or in semi-circles in on direction. With a 3″ barrier that the enemy can’t deploy in, each pod controls like 17″ of space. 10 of those is more than enough to prevent your opponent from deploying a single unit, forcing them to admit defeat in deployment.

    Flawless victory.

    • zeno666

      Hahaha, this game is amazing 🙂

    • OldHat

      And no doubt you would not have a single opponent to play afterwards. 😀

    • Victor Hartmann

      Unless, of course, they have drop pods, outflank, or deep strike. Then they simply deploy anywhere they wish. Chances are, if they have none of those options, they’d just castle up and bubble wrap to minimize the damage.

      • SilentPony

        True. They’ll have like…3 units to your 10-15.

        • Victor Hartmann

          Why would “they” have only 3 units? Who is the “they” in your scenario?

          If it’s Tau, they’ll typically castle up and use Intercept to destroy your more powerful units.

          If they’re Space Marine drop pods, they don’t care about deployment zones

          Same with Grey Knights but Deep Striking instead.

          If they’re Guard, they’re castling up with a blob. Whether they have deep strikers, aircraft, and/or out flankers will depend on the build.

          Eldar can start with a bunch of Warp Spiders on the board and play “jump around the building” with whoever shoots at them, leaving them a beach head to walk their Wraithknights, and Wraithguard to walk onto.

          Most, if not all, armies have ways to manipulate reserves they can include if they’re depending on a reserves strategy. And any army which can’t call in reserves Turn 1 are going to have a force in their deployment zone or they auto-lose.

  • Dumbcow1

    XD Murderface in Murderfang made me lose it. Hahaha

  • Moonsaves

    I really hate what grav weapons have done to SM armies. It seems there is a mentality that any SM army without grav almost isn’t valid. There ash oils never be a “must have” option for any army.

  • I’m aware I listed the Grey Hunters and Speeders restrictions incorrectly. It’s 4-6 Grey hunters/Speeders not 2-4.