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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To be or not to be: Warhammer 40,000 utility abilities

"Dovie'andi se tovya sagain"

With the recent release of the Night Spinner (check out the new poll btw), I thought I’d make a post about extra abilities. These are things that operate outside the norm of the Warhammer 40,000 rules such as Daemons always starting in reserve, targeting/sniping individual models, forcing dangerous terrain tests in clear terrain, etc. Whilst I wouldn’t be able to list them all here I thought I’d drop some general guidelines on how these should be appreciated in potential army composition and whether or not they are valuable.

First things first, 40k is a random game. We should all know and understand this and the less rolls that are necessary for something to happen, the better (Stats 101). These extra abilities then are often that extra dice roll or something that you don’t want to rely on but can significantly affect the game. Let’s look at that statement. They are not something you can rely upon. If your army is built around this ability working or coming into effect, this could be problematic. Whilst using something like a Tarot, Bjorn, Sicarius (blargh) or Corbulo combination can more often than not get you the first turn, it’s going to fail and you army has to be able to handle that. The second part of that statement. It can significantly affect the game. If this affect or ability does work (and well), the game’s momentum or outcome can change and this can be a major factor in including them into your list.

This brings up the obvious, is this ability significant and likely enough to warrant its inclusion into your list? If it happens once or twice every 100 games but gives you an “automatic” win for 5 pts...hell why not. If it’s 200 pts? No. More realistically, is it going to impact 1/7 or 1/5 games (often tournament game pool size)? If yes and it’s not too expensive, well it might be a good idea to take to help you out in that one or two games it comes into play. Also, how big is the significant factor (this generally relates to its point cost)? Is it likely to drop a specific model’s effectiveness (i.e. Deathleaper) or take out an opponent’s army early (i.e. Deathstrike). Again, weigh up the chances of this happening and the outcome on the game and what happens if it doesn’t happen. An IG list who has 3 deathstrikes which don’t fire is going to be worse off than a Deathleaper who doesn’t versus a Hood army.

If the ability/effect is relatively reliable in a tournament setting and can potentially affect the battle to a degree which is worthy of its point cost, it might be a good investment to take in your army as it’s not going to significantly impact your army if it doesn’t work due to costing and if it does work it can bag you an win which you might not of had before. We’ll look at some quick good and bad examples and if posters would like to request anything else, I’ll amend the post with more examples.


Telion – he’s not going to affect t a game massively but being able to target leaders, special and heavy weapons w/a potential Rend which is the same range as the rest of the Squad? It adds a little something to the list and squad and due to the points, isn’t an army change investment

Tarot – usually best combined with another ability to make you go first, Tarots are generally a good investment because they are on your psychic defence model (Inq Lord w/Hood) and relatively cheap. However, building an army that is a huge glass cannon and relies on the first turn is open to being seized or abused if it doesn’t get the first turn so be careful with army composition.

Deathleaper – Whilst the DL is taken for its –D3 Ld ability, it’s not a bad unit in its own right which is why it’s a good buy. Whilst 140 pts is a bit steep, over 5-7 games it’s very likely you will versus a 1 Hood army which means the DL can affect the game. Otherwise, it can lower a squads Ld or in general be a menace to your opponent.


Jaws of the World Wolf – whilst this isn’t a bad spell in its sense, the opportunity cost of it is. Taking Jaws of the World Wolf means you’re losing out on Living Lightning, Tempest, Storm Caller or Murderous Hurricane. A full analysis can be see here. Add in the unreliability to kill a sniped model or getting a bunch of models in a line and the opportunity cost for Rune Priests is often too high to warrant this spell.

Mind War – seems just like Telion but more reliable, yes? However, unlike Telion it has a much shorter range and like JotWW, has a large opportunity cost. Eldar much prefer the powers of Doom, Guide and Fortune over Mind War. Whilst it has some good utility, the other Eldar powers are much more reliable and likely to impact upon any given game. Full analysis can be seen here.

Night Spinner – I don’t really think the Night Spinner is “bad” but I it’s not good; if I made a mediocre section it could go there... However, I see a lot of people taking it for its terrain ability which is indeed what makes it better than the Prism against hordes but loses out in versatility. However, this ability is really only effective against one type of army, assault hordes and even when it hits mech or static armies that may move, it’s unlikely to cause significant damage or really slow the enemy. However, in reliability factors it is likely to happen over a course of a tournament but @ 115 points seems a bit expensive. However, the real cost is in losing Falcon/Prism slots. These guys are much more reliable in not relying upon a special ability to really earn their points. A full discussion can be found here.

To summarise: abilities like this are excellent in a list as long as it does not impact negatively on your overall army effectiveness. This is done by analysing the point cost, reliability and magnitude of effect whilst always looking what the opportunity cost of the unit/ability is.

5 pinkments:

Chumbalaya said...

The important thing is that these tricksy abilities are either cheap or come on units you'd use anyway because they help your army. Scouts are good for objective camping, Telion adds in his ability in addition to buffing the squad (stealth, lending his BS).

MagicJuggler said...

Sometimes, the utility is "hidden" so to speak. Telion's Sniping ability only really comes into its own when singling models out from the really big squads (dead Commissars); when dealing with squads of 5-10, torrent of fire can be arguably equivalent.

Take Termagants as our main example. They are popular as Tervigon unlockers, but if you're buying Termagants, why not grab the Devourers in the process? The extra range, and damage does outweigh the cost, even if it reduces their relative survivability. And rolling 30 shooting dice means you'll have higher odds of throwing out enough wounds that he has to take saves on specials or leaders.

Kirby said...

Oh btw, props for anyone who knows what the quote is from, no googling allowed.

Raptor1313 said...

I think Chumby hit it, though MJ's onto something as well.

You want the utility cheap, both in points and in opportunity cost. Telion's a boon to scouts also because he can give you a BS6 missile launcher, which isn't shabby for hunting armor. Admittedly, it only works in armies that have upgrade characters, but it's still potentially sick.

Bottom line is that you don't want to pay TOO MUCH for a neat ability. I like punking squad leaders, but dropping 100 on a Vindicare (even if I'm planning on the inquisitor and have a spare elites slot) is a bit much. There's a lotta other stuff I can gt for 100 points. Telion's 50ish (I think, not sure) on a unit I'm already taking as an objective sitter...not so bad.

Kirby said...

Aye with Telion's ability it's almost like an after thought (the best kind) but at the same time isn't as game changing as a Deathleaper or Tarot can be (following on from above examples). I think it simply boils down to if you didn't have it what else could you take in it's place and is it going to be better (i.e. opportunity cost).

In the case of the Rune Priest for example LL is more often than not a better shooting power, etc.

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