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40K TACTICS: Has the Balance Shifted?

7 Minute Read
Jun 7 2011
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Hi all, Jwolf here. I think the ground is shifting under our Warhammer 40k feet.  You feel it too?

Until a few months ago, Space Wolves had no problem claiming the title of best Codex in 40K. Everything your Codex did, theirs did better and cheaper, and usually with a few extra bonus abilities put in. The only Astartes that have mastery of the arcane technologies known as the “rifle sling” and “holster”, Space Wolves boasted the Troops with the best cost / performance ratio (Grey Hunters) and terribly effective fire support choices (Missile-armed Long Fangs), as well as the ability to disrupt enemy firebases with Wolf Scouts and amazingly effective Psykers with top-of-the-line Psychic defense. How many times did we see a list something like this across the board?

Rune Priest, Chooser of the Slain, Living Lightning, Murderous Hurricane
Rune Priest, Chooser of the Slain, Living Lightning, Jaws of the World Wolf
5 Wolf Scouts, Meltagun and Meltabombs
5 Wolf Scouts, Meltagun and Meltabombs
5 Wolf Guard, 4 with Combi-Melta / Powerfist, 1 with Terminator Armor, Cyclone Missile Launcher, Combi-Melta
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missile Launchers
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missile Launchers
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missile Launchers

Too many to count.

Now enter the Dark Eldar. Suddenly, there are these terrible little craft that zip around the board blasting a dozen poisoned shots into anything outside a vehicle. That’s 4 wounds from each one every turn, and with 5 or 6 being commonplace, those Long Fang Squads just seem to melt. Also, the flow of the game is no longer in the hands of the Space Wolves. In a Pitched Battle, Dark Eldar with Aethersails can actually reach the opposing board edge on turn 1. (Yes, Eldar could do that with Star Engines before, but unlike their Craftworld brethren, the Dark Eldar can actually do something once they are on your board edge).

Imagine the enemy has a list something like this:

The Baron
3 Haemonculi: 1 with Shattershard, 2 with Liquifier Guns
7 Incubi + Klaivex with Bloodstone. Mounted on Raider with Flickerfield and Aethersails
6 Incubi + Klaivex with Bloodstone. Mounted on Raider with Flickerfield and Aethersails
5 Kabalite Warriors, Blaster. Mounted on Dual Splinter Cannon Venom
5 Kabalite Warriors, Blaster. Mounted on Dual Splinter Cannon Venom
5 Wracks, Liquifier Gun. Mounted on Dual Splinter Cannon Venom
5 Wracks, Liquifier Gun. Mounted on Dual Splinter Cannon Venom
5 Wracks, Liquifier Gun. Mounted on Dual Splinter Cannon Venom
8 Wyches with Shardnet and Impaler and Haywire Grenades + Hekatrix with Blast Pistol. Mounted on a Raider with Flickerfield and Aethersails
Ravager with Flickerfield
Ravager with Flickerfield
Ravager with Flickerfield

Today’s Problem: With the Space Wolf list above, win Seize Ground, 5 objectives. Let’s give the Space Wolf player the benefit of the doubt and the first turn.

First, which side do you choose Wolf Lord? The side with 3 buildings but less overall terrain, or the side with the most difficult and area terrain? To answer the question, let’s consider deployment in each.

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Looking at the zones, it seems clear that taking the side with the three buildings is essentially required. If you take the other side, the Dark Eldar can rather easily hide all their vehicles, which is exactly what we do not want.

So, deployment. We know the Dark Eldar will deploy behind their central building, as it is the only area that hides their skimmers from Long Fangs. So we deploy like so:

This gives us two Long Fang Squads (one with a Rune Priest attached [dark green]), the other with the CML Terminator (light green) that will probably have turn 1 shots at some DE vehicle, or maybe two of them. Three Rhinos are deployed; one with a Rune Priest (dark green) and two with Wolf Guard in them. The 4th Rhino is held in Reserve with a Wolf Guard in it, and both squads of Wolf Scouts (one without a Wolf Guard) also begin in Reserve (to outflank).

The DE deploy as follows:

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Ravagers are orange, Incubi are maroon, wyches are blue, warriors are periwinkle, and wracks are lime. The Baron is the black ball of doom. The two lime Venoms with question marks are potential deployments; I think keeping them in Reserve is better, so they do not deploy. One Haemonculus is in each Raider.

Turn 1, a good round of shooting produces one dead Venom and one dead Ravager. The Librarian Rhino moves forward quickly, and the right Rhino moves up as well. This gives the vehicles on the far side of it cover against the Long Fangs’ shots, but the difference between 5++ from Flickerfields and 4+ cover isn’t significant enough to keep us from moving towards objectives in a threatening manner. The Rhino with a question mark in the center is a placed reserve; that is, it is positioned to act as a reserve-in-play. I think committing it to the right side of the building is the best move, but arguments for keeping it in place are very good as well – certainly the main DE thrust is headed towards our left flank to roll up the Long Fangs and gain possession of the Long Range Firepower title. I’ll count on our actual Reserve and our Librarian Rhino to make the left flank a fight so that DE forces are committed to an attrition battle there (which we will likely lose, but it will take time).

The Dark Eldar move forward, with the Incubi and Wyche Raiders moving ~31” due to their Aethersails, the two remaining Ravagers sneaking out to the left to mow down some Long Fangs, and one of the Venoms pumps a dozen shots into another Long Fang squad.

From here, the winning move is gaining control of the two nearer objectives on our right flank and contesting the rest. The tow squads of Wolf Scouts can likely wrest control of the objective in the Dark Eldar building from the 5 Wracks and 5 Warriors placed there, but they will face the Liquifier gun and a some unpleasant follow-up shooting from the Warriors, so they might not be able to get the job done. The problem is that even though the Dark Eldar seem committed to our left flank, any of their Raiders can practically teleport across the board, moving it’s deadly cargo into range to contest or steal objectives from us, and the Baron can easily take apart a wounded Grey Hunter squad on his own (or very effectively if joined to the Wyches, for instance). I think this battle is an uphill one, at least partially because the mobility equation is so significantly shifted in the Dark Eldar’s favor.

Against the Dark Eldar, I think a list more like the following will garner better results.

Rune Priest, Chooser of the Slain, Living Lightning, Murderous Hurricane
Rune Priest, Chooser of the Slain, Living Lightning, Jaws of the World Wolf
5 Wolf Scouts, Meltagun and Meltabombs
4Wolf Guard, 3 with Combi-Flamers and Powerfist, 1 with Frost Axe
Dreadnought with Two Twin-Linked Autocannons and Extra Armor
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
9 Grey Hunters, Meltagun, Powerfist, Mark of the Wolfen, Wolf Standard. Mounted in a Rhino
Landspeeder, Typhoon Launcher and Heavy Flamer
Landspeeder, Typhoon Launcher and Heavy Flamer
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missile Launchers
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missile Launchers

Reducing to one Wolf Scouts squad still maintains some strength against gunlines, but free up points for more vehicular firepower. Adding 3 separate anti-vehicle units that can fire to full effect on the move lets us maneuver for better shots and position our AT assets out of expected return fire – unlike the Long Fangs, who definitely bring more firepower per point, but are static and thus easy prey for the Dark Eldar.

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So Where are We?
But this brings us back to my original question. Grey Knights, it turns out, are murderous against vehicle-based firepower, and it is very difficult to nullify their vehicle-based shooting in return (thanks to Psychic Pilots and The Shrouding). So a shift towards a list better able to deal with Dark Eldar makes the Space Wolves player more vulnerable to Grey Knights. Has the balance actually shifted? I certainly hope so; one Codex being “top” for too long stifles the game. I will certainly let you all know how the Dark Eldar / Grey Knights / Space Wolves battles turn out at Wargamescon.

So how’s the meta shaping up in your FLGS between the Dark Eldar, Space Wolves, and Grey Knights?

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