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40k Editorial: The Ultimate Power in the Universe

7 Minute Read
Oct 25 2011

So you’re playing a game of Warhammer 20k, just sitting pretty with your massive vehicle squadron of Land Raiders without a worry in the world. Suddenly, a 15 man unit appears from the 41st millennium and charges your formation. 

This unit will, on average, kill 16 of your Land Raiders on the charge. That’s 16 wrecked or exploded results and does not include immobilized kill results from being in a squadron (which would make it 24 dead Land Raiders). This article is about taking that unit in a standard 1750 point army.

Let me put some numbers down for you. On the charge, this unit will kill on average 34 marines; about 7 kills come from initiative 1, but the rest swing at initiative 10. That is 56 strength 10 initiative 10 power weapon attacks. Add to that rad and psychotroke grenades and it’s quite clear that it is the best close combat unit in the game (ignoring point cost). It might not be the most mobile unit ever, but it has the best mix of survivability, shooting, and close combat.
The ultimate (close combat) power(/unit) in the (40k) universe:
Librarian – mastery level 3, warding stave, quicksilver, might of titan, shrouding, hammerhand
10 Paladins – psycannon + mc sword, psycannon + sword, psycannon + mc hammer, psycannon + hammer, apothecary + sword, stormbolter + brotherhood banner, stormbolter + mc sword, stormbolter + sword, stormbolter + mc halberd, stormbolter + halberd
Techmarine – warding stave, rad grenades, psychotroke grenades
Techmarine – warding stave, rad grenades, psychotroke grenades
Techmarine – warding stave, rad grenades, psychotroke grenades
At this point, you may ask yourself, “self, how would I incorporate this unit into a 1750 pt list?” There is exactly one answer: buy an additional 1-man Paladin squad, which brings you up to 1750 pts and meets the minimum 1 HQ and 2 troop choices. Giving that Paladin a hammer so he can deep strike behind enemy lines and smash a tank isn’t a bad idea either.
What else does this squad do (besides eat your face in combat)?
In terms of shooting, it outputs 16 S7 AP4 rending and 17 S4 AP5 shots at 24” and a S5 large blast and 3 plasma pistol or flamer shots at shorter range. In terms of shooting survivability, it is a charlie foxtrot of 2+/5++ saves, stealth, feel no pain, and wound allocation shenanigans. In close combat, survivability jumps to a T5 2+/3++, 4 T4 2+/2++, 5 T4 2+/4++, and 5 T4 2+/5++ saves, again with feel no pain and wound allocation tricks, (although to be honest, you most likely won’t even get a chance to hit them in combat). Not only does targeting the unit with psychic powers reduce the caster’s leadership, the squad comes with a psychic hood. And finally, it’s scoring. Just keep in mind that the squad I’m talking about here is roughly 97% of the entire list’s point value and gives up 6 KP if it were wiped out; it’s really not overpowered at all. However, the impressive shooting capability combined with the unit’s survivability and scoring status means that it is an almost ideal unit to take and hold an objective. If 40k was an ocean, this squad would be a US Navy carrier strike group parking right off the coast of an enemy nation.

How do you use this list?
First things first, you could deep strike the solo Paladin to nuke a small infantry squad or charge a vehicle in the back field, but perhaps you may want to keep him in reserve and walk him on behind LOS-blocking terrain in a kill points mission or deep strike him to claim or contest an objective later on. That brings us to the other unit in the list, so the question should actually be: how do I use this one unit?
The best way is to remember an old adage, “the enemy gate is down.” Without context, that quote really has no meaning, so take my word when I say that it essentially means to keep the mission objective in mind. In 2/3 of your games, that objective is to hold more objectives than your opponent. Shoot/charge their scoring units, then survive and stand on an objective or two (if you string out) by the end of the game. Always be wary of AP2 firepower as it ignores both terminator armor and FNP and especially be weary of S8 or higher AP2 firepower as it causes instant death,  but those hits can be safely assigned to Draigo who has a storm shield and eternal warrior. It’s unfortunate that warding staves and swords only increase invulnerable saves in close combat, but that’s probably for the best in terms of balance. This list/unit will probably never table your opponent because it concentrates too much power in too small of an area that generally can’t effectively nor efficiently utilize smaller amounts of power. During deployment it can break up into two squads and the 5 independent characters can all do their own thing as well, but they’re better off staying with the Paladins to absorb ranged fire until the last minute.
How would you play against a list like this?
It’s really simple: shoot it until it dies, preferably with demolisher cannons, demo charges, medusas, fire prisms, melta guns, or anything at S8 Ap2. On the other hand, bolters can be used, but are extremely ineffective. It takes on average 36 bolter shots from a ballistic skill 4 firer (dire avengers, marines, sisters, etc) to cause a wound. It takes 11 wounds before the first model is killed, so unless a list frequently throws out 400+ BS4 S4 shots a game, it’s almost a waste of time. BS3 lasguns are even more ineffective, requiring on average 792 shots before the first Paladin is removed. This is all assuming that the GK player doesn’t assign any wounds to Draigo or the Librarian if possible; doing so would require even more low-strength shots before a model is removed. Another tactic to indefinitely delay the unit is a reverse bubble wrap, but it will meet with mixed results.
A regular bubble wrap is a tactic very familiar to Tau, Necron, and Guard players; you place cheap and somewhat expendable units right in front of your valuable ones so when the enemy charges at you, he not only has to hit the throw away squad, he will most likely wipe that squad out. When he does, his scary combat unit is standing in the open and can be lit up by the entire shoot player’s army. A reverse bubble wrap doesn’t protect your valuable units by wrapping them with a layer of expendable troops, it protects your valuable units by wrapping around an enemy unit. The bubble wrap layers advance as quickly as possible to block the path of the enemy unit and stop, ideally, just an inch from the enemy unit, but does not charge them. It just shoots and stands there, baiting a charge. The advantage is that it will only allow the enemy unit to advance 1″ a turn, gained only from a charge. Thus, all you’d theoretically need is 5-7 throwaway units to wrap up the Paladins as soon as possible and prevent it from ever reaching the mid-field, while always being vulnerable to shooting. I say “theoretically” because the Paladins’ answer to the reverse bubble wrap is to detach a techmarine and charge at a side of the bubble wrap to allow the rest of the paladins to advance. Alternatively, they could detach all the ICs and have them shoot the bubble wrap with flamers and such, then charge through it with the Paladins to the next layer. However, these actions happen after the movement phase, so the best that could happen is a 6″ charge into the next bubble wrap layer or a d6″ run if the next layer isn’t right behind the first.
Essentially, if you’re having trouble avoiding a large, unwieldy unit that walks 6″ a turn, you have other problems than this list.

What is the moral of the story?
1. Concentration of force is good, but mobility is king and this army does not have it. It also has a weakness to high strength and low ap firepower, such as demolisher cannons. Now if the unit somehow obtained personal teleporters (they can make them both bigger for a Dreadknight and smaller for an Interceptor, so Terminators should have access too) and storm shields, you might actually be able to field a list like this competitively. Probably not, but it might have a chance.
2. Grey Knights can field a 16 model army at 1750 pts with high “dead Land Raiders per game,” “dead Rhinos per game,” and “dead marines in combat per turn” numbers.
3. It’s really fun to make unorthodox Grey Knights lists.

What do you think about this army? Did I get it completely wrong and stumble across the next cookie-cutter-net-list? Are the human-habitable levels of the Death Star arranged perpendicular to the center point, like a planet or a shell, or are they stacked one ontop the other in the interior, like a building? How many points would a Land Raider cost in Warhammer 20,000 given their lack of rarity in that era?

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