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Friday, June 4, 2010

Ravener vs. Shrike, FIGHT!

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"The Ravener and the Shrike went out one day
To find something to eat
The Ravener lept upon his prey;
The Shrike was more discrete."

Yeah, I dunno where that came from either, I was just thinking that these two sound a hell of a lot like the title of some kind of weird Lewis Carrol poem. So! Ravener and Shrike, Shrike and Ravener. Perhaps more than just about any other two units in the codex, they are very nearly identical in many respects. They share the common features of the Warrior genus, making them both passable gun platforms and excellent melee combatants. They even share the same force org slot, making choosing between them extra difficult. Whither the differences, then, and how to choose betwixt the two? (I'm sorry, I seem to have caught something, so I may be doing this all article.) Although they are very similar, they are not quite identical, so it's worth comparing them on their merits: speed, melee, firepower, survivability, cost, utility, and overall role.

The first and perhaps most difficult comparision is overall speed; the Shrike moves 12" and assaults 6", while the Ravener does the reverse. The devil here is in the details, though: both of them can run, but only Raveners are Fleet, giving them a distinct advantage in raw movement capability. On the other hand, Shrikes can fly over most normal obstacles and are thus hard to screen off the way Raveners can be. And on the gripping hand (bam, 5 reference points!) Raveners are better able to assault into/move through difficult terrain, presuming it can't be bypassed with a single move, as they don't need to make the dangerous terrain tests for entering/leaving it. They also have Move Through Cover, a nice bonus. Both of them can natively deep strike, so the scores are tied there. Overall, I think the Ravener's ability to cover more ground consistently and through harsh terrain is more useful, but it's a close race.

In melee combat, the Ravener starts out with a distinct advantage: I5 and A4 make him into a chopping machine, and two sets of Talons insure that he'll get some hits in. Factoring upgrades in, however, things swing majorly back in the Shrike's favor; Ravs can only take Rending Claws (which they should, as penetrating tanks and cutting up MEQs is a big deal), whereas Bonesword/Lash Whip, Toxin Sacs, Rending Claws, and Adrenal Glands are all available to Shrikes. Although pricey, these allow some truly devastating setups and can scale anywhere from "I want to do hurt a squad a bit" to "I want to destroy all that stands before me." This flexibility, combined with the raw power from Toxin/Sword, makes the Shrike the clear winner against anything with an armor save (and most things without, too, thanks to Toxin.)

Shooting is an odd duck, as neither of them are really designed for it. The Shrike's weapon upgrades replace its guns, unlike the Warrior, where the Ravener's simply add an extra weapon. Despite this, neither of them are really suited for carrying guns, as you'd generally rather take the melee upgrades so they're good at what they want to be doing. Raveners win on a technicality here, but we're going to discard the results as irrelevant.

Survivability is a place where both of them suffer badly. Three wounds and T4, yes, but no protection from ID and 5+ saves, AKA Bolter Fodder. It's pretty much mandatory that you keep them in cover- either by terrain or by screening. Shrikes have a couple reasonable screening options, mainly Gargoyles, and can in turn screen a Flyrant if you want to try and run the Air Force build. Raveners can enter terrain without fear of injury, though, and are more likely to be running behind your front lines with Termagants or Hormagaunts to screen them. Call this one a wash, depending on your build.

Cost is a major factor- although they start out around the same price (Raveners slightly cheaper, but not by much), Shrikes tend to quickly inflate in order to bring their powerful upgrades to the party. Raveners only balloon out in cost if you buy them guns, which you really shouldn't, as you want to be using Fleet as much as possible. Having some Marines auto-fail a Morale test and hop out of assault range is also a pretty poor deal for you and your 5+ save. So Raveners definitely come out as the budget option, while Shrikes cost more but consequently do a lot more.

Utility is my catch-all category; what else can the units do? Shrikes are king here, no questions asked; they have Synapse and SitW, so they can feasibly lead a backfield portion of the swarm and screw over enemy psykers by virtue of their presence. Raveners have... Acute Senses? What the- that can't be write. Someone tell Cruddance there's another error in the codex that needs to be fixed.

So what can we draw from this? Raveners are fast and reasonably choppy; against units like Guard and Orks (sans Klaw), they can do some real damage, inflicting wounds in large numbers. They can handle small groups of Marines, but don't expect them to do much against dedicated combat units. They need to be in Synapse or in combat, as low Ld and Feed means you will likely be wasting your 12" charge bonking yourself into a tank. This paints them as a first-wave assault unit, coming in with the main line of Tyranid assault and pouncing on vulnerable units that seem too far back to get attacked. (24" potential threat, remember.)

Shrikes are good at leapfrogging around the backfield with some friends causing havoc, eliminating straggler units and tearing apart isolated heavy weapons and vehicles trying hide in the shadow of a building. Having a higher combat potential, they can even engage "real" units in hopes of tearing them off an objective or holding them up until help arrives. They are, in my mind at least, best suited to forming a free-roaming "wing" to take care of problems you don't want to send the main force chasing after.

Thus, in the end, the units actually are not as similar as they might appear- still very close, of course, but their individual strengths lend them to different roles in different armies, much like Hive Guard and Zoanthropes. Shrikes can fit into a ranged army well, zipping off to other parts of the board to do a job where your wacky little 18" reach guns can't. Raveners want to hang with a strong melee army that can support them and offer countercharges and/or distractions to handle units that they don't stand a chance against. Of course, it would be criminal of me not to mention the money-price issue: Raveners have a plastic box out (not cheap at $45, but at least better than their metals were- and much more stable/easy to carry, too.) Shrikes require custom conversions or buying toys at extra-inflated prices from Forge World- very pretty toys, I must say, but no less inflated because of it. There are some tutorials floating around the web of varying simplicity (with this being one of the best, if a bit involved compared to some), but they do mean doing extra work, and I can't say I like the look of the "slap Gargoyle wings on it" versions.


Thanks to Kirb for the idea for this article.

5 pinkments:

MasterSlowPoke said...

I was wondering why you were comparing Tyranid Raveners vs Raven Guard Captain Shrike.

Chumbalaya said...

I like Raveners for the low cost, beast movement, and rending goodness. Shrikes have the potential to be much nastier, but they end up costing a lot more.

Kirby said...

Good write-up Puppy & thanks. I think 5+ save is the undoing of both :( and because of their speed they may have trouble enjoying the benefits of catalyst to make them semi-survivable in combat against non-cc units (so mainly important for Raveners). Further, Shrikes can also get some wound shenangians with a heavy weapon where Raveners cannot.

AbusePuppy said...

@MSP
They're both units with Fleet and Rending that have an alternate deployment method (DS vs. Infil), obv. I've gotten a lot of emails from people trying to decide between Marines and 'Nids and I think this article is exactly what they need.

Also I'm pretty sure that four Raveners would beat that dude to death no questions asked.

@Chumb
I'm partial to Ravs myself, possibly as a holdover from 4E when I also liked them too much. I wish they had more options, though. :\

@Kirb
The wound allocation tricks require forgoing Boneswords, though, which is a tough choice for a melee unit.

AbusePuppy said...

What is this doing here?

Easy answer: it is a sign of fakeness. It is the very fakest of the fake. Perhaps you don't know just how fake Stealth is, but he is as fake as fake can be. Why, if fake were real, he'd still be so fake you'd say "Man, who is this faker?" and vomit all over yourself.

What I'm saying is: this is your advance warning that I am not merely gullible, but rather a troll. Bell of Lost Souls, Warseer, and Faeit (sorry, mang, but it's true) will repost any garbage that they find, regardless of the source and regardless of how absurd it is. Did anyone even read the garbage I was spewing? I submit that they did not, because it is multiply self-contradictory, and intentionally so.

Please, 40K community. Stop being so damn credible about anyone who sprouts out of the woodwork and claims to be a prophet of future tidings.

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