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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Marine codex 'review' (#15): light support

Predator: great.

At edition shifts, company tradition dictates that marine units that were formerly useless and a silly waste of money must be improved - sometimes, dramatically so.

Predators once came in two flavors, but both of them were useless to a ridiculous degree.
In fact, predators were so useless, the large majority of the game's players hadn't even seen a predator in person until 5th edition hit. A true legend in its own right.

Nowadays, this is the game's cheapest 'tank,' and what a tank it is.
The true term is light armor, and the humble marine predator is the king of this class.
With a front armor of 13, multiple guns, generous profile, accuracy, and an initial price-tag of 60 points, the predator's got zero competiton for the spot.

Yes, an actual tank costs you 60 points base. In case you didn't know, this is as much as 10 ork boyz. Orks suddenly don't seem either efficient, or like a good investment.

So, yes, 60 points. Armor 13 front, 11 side. You get all the standard vehicle gear, and not a single 'fun' piece of bling, because Mat Ward was operating under strict orders to make this unit sell.
Default gun is an autocannon turret, and - yeah. 10 boyz seem like such a horrible, horrible investment right now.

Autocannons are extremely useful, but your predator can also add a pair of world war one-styled sponsons, armed with heavy bolters. Think of them as automatic quarter pounders.
The whole shebang ups your predator's cost to an astronomical 85 points. My god, the humanity! 85 points for armor 13 with two heavy bolters and an autocannon!? It's true. Predators are crazy cheap, and crazy effective - at least in the 'destructor' pattern of old (heavy bolter sponsons, autocannon).

For a really insane cost, you can instead take a pair of sponson lascannons, and a slightly less insane sum upgrades your autocannon to a linked lascannon.
Predators with full las-loadout were traditionally called 'annihilators,' but the internet's largely forgotten this, and go with tri-las, or lasboat instead.
In case you couldn't tell from the 165 points cost, lasboat is a terrible idea.

Forumitis largely agrees with this assessment, and warseers everywhere will tell you not to put massed las on your preds, yo. And then the autolas is brought up.

'Autolas' refers to the silly need some people have of adding sponson lascannons to the default predator. It's not effective, at all. You're paying 120 points for what the internet calls 'a transport hunter,' but 'transports' are light armor, and light armor melts once you unleash two heavy bolters and an autocannon on them. If the 'transport' is a land raider, you most certainly don't want to shoot your lascannons at it, since that's on par with eggs against stonewall in effectiveness, and it means your autocannon won't even get to fire. Bad idea.

Remember, the only way to waste firepower is to not use it.

Other options include all the expected things, but only two of them are really worth your time - these being the stormbolter and hunter-killer missile.

Because predators are very basic, you don't get any special rules at all. No lumbering, no skimmer, no fast, and no 'fun' rules that have the exact same function as the three previously mentioned, yet doesn't bear their names.
This means you roll or deploy your predators in position, and you shoot, shoot, shoot, then shoot some more. Yes, predators are stand-off units, not meant for direct offensives. Once you've cleared out all targets, you sneak up slowly, while taking shots at 'hard' targets with your autocannon, or you move as fast as possible to redeploy.

That said, nothing's preventing you from rolling up behind your own razorbacks and rhinos, popping autocannon shots into the sides of light armor as you go, and take up position where the firelanes are better. That leads us to the next point.
Initial firelanes, line of sight, and where you want your other armor to go are all very important for your predators. If you don't have a clear plan in mind, you'll end up blocking line of sight to juicy targets, fail to herd enemy infantry and light armor into firelanes, and create endless roadblocks of rhino chassis all over.

Repeat after me: "Armor 13 front. Two heavy bolters, one autocannon. 85 points."
Predators are the premier marine heavy support, and not just because of cost. Armor 13 front makes you difficult to remove at range, and your firepower is very dangerous to infantry and light armor. Being a rhino chassis means you can stack terminators in front for a cover save, while other rhino chassis won't block your turret from shooting when you're rolling up behind them.
Adding preds equals adding more armor, and more armor is saturation.

A lot of people cling to their autolas'(es?), claiming that you need something to deal with transports. Fair enough, since you do.
'Dealing with transports' is why you bring all your army's hunter-kilers, autocannons, heavy bolters, and pLASmabacks. The big thing to note is these deal with infantry, too, and still chew up light armor nicely.
If vanilla predators were fast, like blood angel predators, autolas would be a slightly more realistic proposition, but your army as a whole don't need more anti-tank guns. It needs more units total that can deal with light armor and infantry alike, chewing up both effortlessly, at a very low price, and with good durability.

Lascannons come from sternguard and pLASmabacks. That's how it's gonna stay until they get a points drop on other platforms, and in 5th edition, massed las isn't anywhere near as useful as it once was.

Three destructors (aka, 'dakka preds') weigh in at 255 points, and bring a total of 3 autocannons and 6 heavy bolters. Unless you're running heavy support dreads, want extra crusaders, or happen to be trying out crazy things, these should always be present in your list.

What makes it good: criminally cheap king of light armor. Chews through infantry and light armor with great ease. Armor 13 front makes it the most heavily armored vehicle in its class. Armor saturation. One of the best units available to you.

What makes it bad: no nifty special abilities that let it move and fire at full effect. Lascannons are prohibitively expensive, and should be avoided. All things considered, it's still light armor. Don't pretend it's something else.


Whirlwind: bad.

The other rhino variant that no one ever bought, whirlwinds were never that good to begin with, and 5h edition hasn't made them any more useful.
In fact, the buffing of cover, and weakening of ordnance, has made it worse.

Whirlwinds are really rhinos with surface-to-surface missiles on top.
It's obvious that the whirlwind's not a popular unit, and the reasons for this are many and varied - the main one being 'it doesn't kill things reliably, ever.'

When firing, declare your chosen type of ammo. You can pick between strength 5, AP4 that doesn't ignore cover, and strength 4, AP5 that does. Both are large blasts, and both fail to impress. Yeah, you can shoot them indirect, so your 85 point, armor 11 ass can hide behind walls, but that doesn't change anything, and makes you scatter wide, too.

Still, it's a large blast, and those are rare. Obviously, this means the whirlwind isn't entirely useless, and being able to ignore cover completely is nice against toughness 3 dudes with no armor save to speak of.

Bad in 4th, and just as bad in 5th. How fortunate that there aren't any other large blasts that do more damage, bolted onto more durable frames.
If there were, no one would buy this thing in 5th edition, either, and GW would be so much farther of ever making the cost of the mould back.

Oh, wait.

What makes it good: large templates usually clean out infantry nice and smoothly. This one can be used without line of sight.

What makes it bad: the large blast is weak, and doesn't kill things reliably. Overpriced compared to the competition, and worthless when compared to what other books get. Not a predator. Whirlwinds suffer from 'one gun'-syndrome.


Vindicator: bad.

The fabled vindicator.
This thing packs possibly the most destructive gun in the game - a demolisher cannon of true terror and ownage.

When it fires, things die.

Unfortunately, it never gets to fire, because it's either out of range (24 inches), de-gunned, shaken, wrecked, or has been transformed into a crater.

The solution to this is obvious: take more than one. In fact, this is the only way to get anything out of vindicators.
One's gonna be dead, the other will be missing its gun, out of range, or immobilized, and the third might be in range, and will likely not be stunned.
Everytime someone lands a 'hit' on squads with no cover, the myth of vindicators being hardcore good is renewed for three months.

"Why isn't such a bad unit ranked as useless?" Because it has a couple uses, believe it or not.

First use is the fear. Even competent players are weary of vindicators, and will deploy so you can't shoot anything in the first turn. This gives you some control over your enemy's deployment.
Second use is fire magnet. Once the game starts, everything that can will shoot the vindicator until it's been glanced or penetrated once, then leave it alone for the rest of the turn. Why? No matter what they roll, vindicators are rendered useless for at least the next turn.
Third is the big gun. If you get to shoot, expensive units vaporize.
Fourth is the huge 'shield,' which sure doesn't look like a plow, at all. This thing lets you move around in terrain without risk, but costs extra points.

Then there are the plow jokes that can be made over the model itself, and that's really all there's to this thing.
Light armor that's not a predator, and costs almost twice as much as an unblinged one, yet manages to do so much less.

What makes it good: massive fear factor. Demolisher kills things out in the open. No questions asked.

What makes it bad: vindicators, much like monoliths, are n00bhammers. 'One gun'-syndrome. Expensive. Taking three means one might get to fire once. Those are some good 345 points.


Ed: to clear up the confusion two forumitis-afflicted visitors have expressed experiencing, predators are anti-infantry, that still hurts light armor. You know, in case you couldn't tell from the two heavy bolters and one autocannon, and thought you should use it to shoot down leman russes.
Yeah, pointing out the obvious. I'm generous like that.

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