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40K Editorial: The Wyvern Rocks

12 Minute Read
Apr 28 2014
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The Wyvern is the new King of Barrage in Warhammer 40k.  Here’s why:

Hello there ladies and gentlemen, I am Learn2Eel and I bid you welcome to what will be the very first article I have worked on for the new Astra Militarum. This is going to be a different sort of article as I am less interested in my usual reviews or tactics, but more just trying to challenge an astounding commonly held opinion on one of the bright births of 6th Edition. I want to use this medium to dispel all doubts about the effectiveness and usefulness of what I like to call the “Wondrous Wyvern”. If you are unsure as to just how good this new tank can be then please indulge me and at least have a gander about the comparisons to other such units in its role. I hope you enjoy this article, and I am excited to hear your opinions on what I feel is one of the stronger units in the Astra Militarum codex!

The Wyvern

The Facts

A Wyvern is a vehicle of the Tank type, meaning it can tank shock, it has armour values and all that nonsense. It has front armour 12, side 10 and rear 10 in addition to 3 hull points. This means that it is much more durable than a Rhino against attacks in the front arc, much less survivable for the side arc and identical for the rear arc. A Wyvern is Ballistic Skill 3 and comes stock with both a Searchlight and Smoke Launchers, as with the new Chimera. What defines a Wyvern, though, is its two Stormshard Mortars. Each of these fires two twin-linked shots at 48″ that use the small blast template while using the Barrage rules. The Strength is 4 and the AP is 6 for these shells, while all failed to wound rolls with them can be re-rolled due to the Shred special rule. All wounds caused by Stormshard Mortars ignore all cover saves and force opponents to use either their armour or invulnerable saves if applicable. This means a Wyvern fires four small blasts that re-roll to hit and re-roll to wound without requiring line of sight to shoot due to the Barrage rules. The other main trick of the Barrage rule for Wyverns is that wounds are allocated from the centre of each small blast placed, allowing for potential “sniping” of individual models by forcing them to take saves first. Additionally, all Wyverns in a unit that fire use the Multiple Barrage special rules, meaning from four to twelve small blasts are placed by flipping off the first template or subsequent templates placed after that shot’s scatter has been resolved. When considering all of its abilities, a Wyvern is priced at just under double the stock points cost of a Space Marine Rhino.

What does it mean?

A single Wyvern is capable of shooting four small blasts that re-roll all applicable rolls for the owning player, between to-hits and to-wounds, while saving throws provided by cover are ignored completely. This means a Wyvern is entirely self sufficient and can be perceived as always having powerful psychic buffs such as Prescience and Perfect Timing as well as the age-old lightning claw unique rules. Where a Leman Russ Squadron puts out powerful shooting, it is unreliable as there are no re-rolls of any kind outside of abilities such as psychic powers or Knight Commander Pask’s Warlord Trait. It is this self-sufficient nature that sees units such as Wave Serpents and Broadsides be so popular in a competitive environment; a Wave Serpent with a twin-linked scatter laser gets re-rolls on all of its shooting, while its main weapon has the Ignores Cover special rule. Having innate re-rolling capabilities gives you a distinct advantage in what is still a luck-based game at its core due to the function of dice rolling. Being able to re-roll to hit rolls is very good for anything that uses blast templates – even more so than regular “single” shots – but also re-rolling to wound means that a Wyvern is as efficient a unit as you could ever want.

This is where its Strength 4 and AP 6 are entirely misleading, particularly to those that feel their anti-infantry shooting is covered elsewhere. Strength 4 cannot hurt Toughness 8 or Armour 11 and higher, but it can hurt anything below those values in their respective fields. AP 6 might only really ignore the armour of cheap horde units, but denying cover saves completely means that units such as Plaguebearers or Imperial Guard squads going to ground behind an Aegis Defence Line are completely out of luck and must rely on their significantly weaker 5+ saves. Facing those units and relying on your Ignores Cover shooting to deal with them means you can’t use it elsewhere, but a brace or trio of Wyverns is perfectly suited to these; you don’t need to use a Strength 8 Ignores Cover large blast from a Riptide with Markerlight support that is better spent on vehicles or on heavy infantry. AP 6 might not ignore the armour of heavier units, but Strength 4 that always re-rolls to wound on top of four small blasts per Wyvern that re-roll to hit means you will be forcing an absurd number of armour saves on any given unit. Though dependent on spacing and the survivability of any given unit, re-rolling all the dice available for you to roll means the odds of inflicting damage are insanely high. An example run of three Wyverns against a ten strong Tactical Squad – both of roughly the same cost before upgrades on the Space Marines are considered – that are spaced 2″ apart should see something like twenty hits at the very least. Strength 4 and Toughness 4 with Shred thrown in sees about 15 wounds inflicted for 5 dead Tactical Marines on their 3+ armour save; with the Barrage rules in play, the Sergeant and any applicable unique weapon carriers can be singled out and eliminated with ease.

Comparisons to Contemporaries

I have already reviewed a number of units that perform a similar role to the Wyvern, and I feel that for those still doubtful comparisons between these units is the best way to try and alleviate any concerns about Wyverns. The Griffon will be used as it appears to be the main unit used as a comparative criticism of the Wyvern, while others such as the Whirlwind and the Night Spinner obviously deserve spots on this list. For the purposes of this post, I will be including a basic points differentiation based on a models’ cost in Meltabombs. If this is an issue, I own each applicable codex that these estimated points costs are taken from. The categories listed are what I feel are key to any anti-infantry barrage unit, and are the barometer by which we shall measure the effectiveness of each unit. There are many factors I am leaving out, of course, as I am focusing solely on each units’ performance in that specific role.

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Wyvern

*Cost = 13 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Armour Value 12/10/10, Hull Points 3
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3, Twin-Linked
*Rate of Fire = Four Small Blasts
*Range = 48″
*Damage Output = Strength 4 AP6, Shred
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = Yes
*Unit Size = 1-3
*Additional Effects = Not applicable

Heavy Quad Launcher (Thudd Gun)

*Cost = 11 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2-4 (Upgradeable), Armour Save 3+
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3
*Rate of Fire = Four Small Blasts
*Range = 60″
*Damage Output = Strength 5, AP5
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
*Unit Size = 1-3
*Additional Effects = Pinning tests inflicted by Thudd Gun suffer -1 Leadership penalty

Whirlwind

*Cost = 13 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Armour Value 11/11/10, Hull Points 3
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
*Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
*Range = 48″
*Damage Output = Variable (Strength 5 AP4 and Strength 4 AP5)
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = Yes / Ignores Cover = Variable (No on first profile, Yes on second profile)
*Unit Size = 1
*Additional Effects = Not applicable

Thunderfire Cannon

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*Cost = 20 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2, Armour Save 3+
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
*Rate of Fire = Four Small Blasts
*Range = 60″
*Damage Output = Variable (Strength 6 AP5, Strength 5 AP6, Strength 4 AP-)
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = Variable (No on first and third profile, Yes on second profile)
*Unit Size = 1
*Additional Effects = Strength 4 shell causes difficult or dangerous terrain tests

Night Spinner

*Cost = 23 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Armour Value 12/12/10, Hull Points 3, Jink
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
*Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
*Range = 48″
*Damage Output = Strength 7 AP6 (Monofilament potential AP1 wounds on 6s)
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
*Unit Size = 1
*Additional Effects = Not applicable

Shadow Weaver

*Cost = 6 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2, Armour Save 3+
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
*Rate of Fire = One Small Blast
*Range = 48″
*Damage Output = Strength 6 AP6 (Monofilament potential AP1 wounds on 6s)
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
*Unit Size = 1-3
*Additional Effects = Not applicable

Skull Cannon

*Cost = 25 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Armour Value 12/12/10, Hull Points 3, Open-Topped, 5+ Invulnerable Save
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 5
*Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
*Range = 36″
*Damage Output = Strength 8 AP5
*Barrage = No / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = Yes
*Unit Size = 1
*Additional Effects = Friendly Daemon units charging target gain assault grenade bonuses

Biovores

*Cost = 8 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Toughness 4, Wounds 3, Armour Save 4+
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3
*Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
*Range = 48″
*Damage Output = Strength 4 AP4
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
*Unit Size = 1-3
*Additional Effects = Missed shots generate Spore Mine units

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Griffon

*Cost = 15 Meltabombs
*Survivability = Armour Value 12/10/10, Hull Points 3, Open Topped
*Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3, Twin-Linked
*Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
*Range = 48″
*Damage Output = Strength 6 AP4
*Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = Yes / Ignores Cover = No
*Unit Size = 1-3
*Additional Effects = Not applicable

Of these units, the Wyvern is the only one with Shred and one of two to have Twin-Linking. Its survivability is average overall, while it is one of two (or four based on the Whirlwind and Thunderfire Cannon profiles used) to have Ignores Cover. Ballistic Skill 3 with Twin-Linking is superior to Ballistic Skill 5 without Twin-Linking due to the nature of scatter and average scatter rolls, meaning that it is the most accurate unit alongside the Griffon. The Wyvern has the equal highest rate of fire alongside the Thunderfire Cannon and both are the only ones to use the small blast template, swapping out one large blast for four small blasts. This exchange favours the Wyvern when Twin-Linking is considered as four small blasts have a greater potential spread than one large blast, meaning that the Wyvern is not only one of the more accurate pieces but also the one getting the most hits assuming average rolls. A Thunderfire Cannon is similar, but has no re-rolls outside of allied Divination psykers to make the most of this. Lacking Ordnance means the Wyvern has reduced damage capability against vehicles especially with Strength 4, but having Ignores Cover sees that typical cover-camping cheap infantry units on home objective are easily hard countered whereas the other units – the Skull Cannon excluded – are mostly reliant on Barrage to strip cover.

Strength 4 might be the equal lowest with the alternate profile used by the Whirlwind and the regular Biovore shot, but Shred means that it is statistically more effective than Strength 6 against Toughness 3 and is almost as effective against Toughness 4. Considering the vast majority of infantry units in the game share those two Toughness values, the Wyvern actually denies the main advantage Strength 6 has against infantry outside of inflicting Instant Death on Toughness 3 characters. The cost is also an important factor with the Wyvern being the equal second least expensive choice, sometimes by a big margin. Compared to a Whirlwind, a Wyvern is more accurate, has a higher average and potential number of hits, has better damage output and its Ignores Cover actually stacks with all the re-rolls. The Wyvern is quite a bit more expensive than Biovore but it has numerous obvious advantages over that unit with all the re-rolls, Ignores Cover, higher survivability and more average and potential hits. Compared to a Griffon, a Wyvern is cheaper, slightly less accurate due to the rate of fire but has far more potential and average hits, while Ignores Cover and the re-rolls to wound give the Wyvern the overall damage output nod. The unit size differences favour Wyverns and Biovores typically as the more shots in a unit the more chances you have of severely damaging or even wiping out your target and not having to expend shooting from other units that might have other more natural targets to deal with an enemy squad. The relatively low cost of the Wyvern is almost the icing on the cake with regards to squadrons.

Of the pieces mentioned, the Thunderfire Cannon is arguably the most effective unit in terms of overall value for points with Bolster Defences, three shot types and Repair rolls, but I believe the Wyvern has superior average damage output. Four twin-linked small blasts at Strength 4 with Shred and Ignores Cover are tough to beat, and while the Thunderfire Cannon has identical rate of fire, it lacks re-rolls of any kind and thus has drastically reduced efficiency. This is somewhat compensated for by higher Strength and Ballistic Skill values, but I feel the re-rolls on everything are more important here, though the additional Tremor effect on the weakest Thunderfire Cannon shell might see some situational advantage. Both units are fantastic with the Wyvern I feel being the superior artillery unit and the Thunderfire Cannon being the stronger overall unit. Shadow Weavers are the cheapest unit available and also one of the nastier ones due to potential Monofilament kills, though this mostly better against elite infantry rather than light infantry. They are inaccurate, particularly with small blasts, but their incredibly low cost and high Strength value means they can threaten light vehicles and all kinds of infantry due to Monofilament. Ballistic Skill 4 with one small blast per model and the multiple barrage rules means they are nowhere near as accurate as Wyverns, and their damage output is superior against Toughness 4 and higher but not Toughness 3 and lower. The lack of Ignores Cover and relying on Barrage means they aren’t as good at displacing cover-camping units, but they are superior for tackling units behind Aegis Defence Lines. I find that twin-linking and the much higher rate of fire gives the Wyverns the edge, but it is a closer comparison than one would think.

The question on everyone’s mind is how well the Wyvern stacks up against arguably the most cost-effective and equally rage-inducing artillery piece in the game; the Heavy Quad Launcher or “Thudd Gun”. Both can be taken in squadrons and both have an identical rate of fire with Barrage. Thudd Guns have better survivability with the Artillery unit type and are cheaper by two Meltabombs in addition to 12″ more on their total range. Having AP5 will mostly affect Guardians, Astra Militarum infantry, Dark Eldar Warriors and Tyranid Shrikes or Raveners, but the lack of Ignores Cover means that any such unit using cover will favour the Wyvern in that exchange. Strength 5 means the Thudd Gun can potentially crack the side armour of a Chimera-chassis vehicle or any other unit with an armour value of 10, but the lack of Ordnance means that it will rarely do much to vehicles at all – like the Wyvern. Strength 5 can harm Toughness 8 where Strength 4 cannot, but Shred on the latter means that the Wyvern wins out against Toughness 4 and lower opponents and Toughness 7. Against Toughness 5 it is a much closer comparison, while Toughness 6 gives the Thudd Gun the advantage. Ultimately I feel a Thudd Gun isn’t as good against infantry as a Wyvern is, but having Strength 5 for potential light vehicle hunting and the -1 Leadership penalty on any forced Pinning tests, as well as the extra range and lower cost have me giving it the nod again. For the comparison to be so close between the two is an amazing sign for the Wyvern as the Thudd Gun and Thunderfire Cannon are considered to be the best anti-infantry artillery pieces in the game. Interestingly enough, of these the Wyvern has the best overall damage output and requires no support; you don’t have to worry about allocating Prescience from an Inquisitor or Primaris Psyker to give them twin-linking. All three are fantastic units and while the Wyvern might not be the best, it certainly does amazingly well despite being the new-comer.

Conclusion

The Wyvern is one of the most efficient units in the game in that it is inexpensive, decently survivable – though it can hide, of course – and has re-rolls on all aspects of its shooting attack to maximise its damage output without the need for support units. Where a Riptide needs to be supported with Markerlights to reach its full potential, a Wyvern already reaches that potential by having re-rolls to hit and re-rolls to wound all the time. Luck still comes into play, of course, but it is an element that is severely reduced as opposed to most other units in Warhammer 40000. That the Wyvern can be taken in squadrons and has such a low cost while comparing so well in almost every way to its contemporaries means that not only is it a great unit for any Astra Militarum list, but it is also possibly the best unit in the game of its type. This is a unit that should be feared by any army that uses infantry of any kind, save those that either are universally 2+ armoured or Toughness 6. That it can be combined with the ridiculous firepower of the rest of the Astra Militarum codex and their cheap, powerful support units makes the new codex in essence the “new Tau” in terms of sheer reliability and effectiveness by eliminating random elements. Orders, Priests and Psykers might be stealing the spot-light at the moment with their insane augments to other Astra Militarum units, but the Wyvern is certainly up there with the best uses of points you could have.

A big thank you to all who took the time to read this article! What are your thoughts on the Wyvern and the Astra Militarum in general? Do you own any Wyverns; if so, how have they performed for you? I appreciate any and all feedback. Thanks again!

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