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Friday, December 24, 2010

Blood Angels Jump Pack Army: Overview of Tactics and Unit Selection

Consider this my holiday article to you!

So Jumper armies...I get a lot of questions relating to them in terms of emails and PMs and whilst there are quite a few good articles on Jumper armies in relation to unit selection, a brief guide on how to use them and making certain variants, etc., there really isn’t condensation of information. So this article is going to attempt to do that. Whilst the other articles have gone into more depth in their perspective focuses, this will be a more overview related article which looks at how the army plays.

Now first off, some of you may have seen BFF's post relating to Jumper armies on BoLS (where someone kindly linked my How To from). This is a pretty good article for BoLS standards if you exclude the inclusion of the Stormraven (one-two vehicles in a foot army? No thanks). Just so we’re clear, Stormravens and vehicles fit well into Jumper or Jumper/Dev lists unless you really work to get them in (i.e. Stormravens and Speeders) which then becomes a completely different army dynamic. This post is not focusing on that.
So let’s begin. In the original How To’s on Jumper armies we discussed what units were good and bad selections. Obviously anything with a Jump Pack is in for a DoA army in terms of synergy. However, many army lists also include Scouts or Devastators for some backfield suppression/supporting fire. Before we take a quick unit run-down though let’s take a look at the Jumper army concept first. We’ll then have a better idea on what our units need to do and why certain ones are included and others aren’t.

A Jump Pack army is essentially all foot. The amount of points you need to sink into vehicles to get appropriate saturation means you cannot effectively run a Jumper based army and have enough vehicles. When you do do this, it becomes something akin to a Hybrid BA army which plays very differently. With the combination of multiple Jump Pack units in multiple Force Organisation slots, FNP/FC bubbles and Descent of Angels, Jumper armies are very capable of 5th edition. They have multiple tools for the job, are survivable on foot and can be impressive on the charge across the board (even Troops) and have deployment options which make them a reliable reserve and deep-strike army.

Here’s where a few people come un-stuck. DoA is a great tool to have but it does not mean your whole army needs to Deep Strike every game. Whilst it might be the primary deployment method for pure Jumpers, don’t use it every single game. I’ve seen many games when an individual would have been better off starting on the table so their whole army is available from the get-go. This is generally done against armies with little shooting (particularly AP3 or better) or armies which are coming in from reserve. You can even reserve some parts of your army (i.e. Vanguard or Jumpers in Jumper/Devs) and not others to create some disruption. It all depends on the situation and blindly reserving or starting on the table all the time is a recipe for a butt-kicking.

So whilst FoC options and DoA with a tiny bit of thought are built into the army, FNP/FC bubbles are not. These need to be incorporated (even for Sanguinary Guard) as they not only make your army more survivable but more aggressive and capable as a combat army across the board. Depending upon points level and army style (pure Jumper versus Jumper/Devs) anywhere from 2-4 FNP/FC bubbles are necessary to ensure coverage on your army. Furthermore, there is a distinct difference between Sanguinary Priests and Honor Guard FNP/FC bubbles. Although Priests are more vulnerable in combat due to their IC status, this also makes them more survivable from shooting as they can move from unit to unit. The Honor Guard on the other hand should be quite high up your opponent’s target priority list due to its swiss-army knife nature. A combination of the two types of bubbles is therefore preferable.

Pure Jumper armies are therefore in your face Marines which carry a bunch of meltaguns and are very survivable and capable in combat due to FNP/FC. The simple number of MEQ bodies which can be brought to bear will overwhelm certain armies and their army wide effectiveness in combat and meltagun use scares both mech, shooty, combat, etc. armies. They are very effective at putting the pressure on the enemy early and hemming them in whilst also focusing on a particular location of the board and relocating rapidly (which is why spreading your opponent out with Blood Lance is good). Mech lists without dedicated bubble-wrap hate Jumper lists as the amount of melta which drops on T1 can take out a lot of armor early and quickly. Most armies will also have trouble dropping 50+ MEQ statlines let alone 50+ MEQ statlines with FNP and good in combat. Jumper lists, whilst not the best combat army aren’t there, are no slouches with all the right tools for the job. Although they have no true super units, lots of S5/I5 attacks from MEQs is impressive and VV/HG can be outfitted as anti-super units and beater units like SG help increase the offensive potential. However, they have noticeable weaknesses.

Bubble-wrap and other deep-strike defences really hamper pure Jumper armies. Whilst tools like Vanguard Vets and Blood Lance can help mitigate these tactics, they are still effective to a degree and Blood Lance/VV are not guaranteed to work. Jumper armies also rely somewhat on their initial drop and damage they can deal (alpha-strike) and the ability for VV squads to tie up and block combat/fire lanes towards ASM squads. Remember that BA are much better on the charge due to FC and opponent’s will try to nullify this. Whilst Jumper armies are very effective at popping tanks on the drop thanks to meltaguns, the exposed units often have free passes at them next turn which is why tying units up with VV can be so important. Furthermore, due to their finite number of meltaguns (generally 14-15+), multiple wound models with high toughness such as MCs and Dreadnoughts with a combat focus are very annoying and potentially dangerous to Jumper armies. Although most squads should carry a PFist in case those units cannot be taken down (and focus fire + appropriate tactics should generally take them down), armies based around the Zilla concept can prove a tough nut to crack for Jumpers due to the lack of ranged firepower.

Where is this leading other than the list isn’t perfect? Well one of the key reasons Jumper/Devs works is because Devs cover a lot of those weaknesses. With up to 12 S8 or S4 blast missiles the lack of anti-infantry outside of combat becomes less of an issue and anti-mech (and importantly, suppression fire) is increased dramatically. This reduces the importance of the alpha strike by the Jumper aspect of the army. Importantly however, Dreads and MCs are much less of a threat as they are far more capable of being killed at range. The increased range of the missiles also helps Jumpers deal with fast Mech armies which can scoot 24”+ (i.e. avoid meltaguns as much as possible) and provides more MEQ/FNP bodies. The inclusion of Scouts can also make this firebase scoring.

Obviously there are drawbacks to this. You generally lose the VV which means your army is much less capable on the drop. You’re also not as flexible in terms of deployment as Devs like to start on the table. Those same Devs can also be vulnerable to outflanks/deepstrikes/beasts/etc. but don’t waste Jumpers defending them. It is often much  better to put the pressure on your opponent with your Jumper aspect as they will win you games. Consider it tit for tat. Jumper/Devs still don’t solve the issue with super units and are probably more vulnerable to them due to the lack of SS wielding VV. Although a bunch of S8 from the Missiles is helpful against Tyranid Warriors, Nobs, etc., it doesn’t help significantly against units like Beastmasters, TWC, TH/SS Termies, Seer Councils, etc. Therefore, once again mass assaults and delaying tactics are your best bet in dealing with these units or completely avoiding them if you can.

So that’s a brief overview of how the Jumper army and Jumper/Devs army operates and a culmination of the strengths and weaknesses of both. Here now is a quick unit analysis.

Libby – Excellent for a Jump Pack army as you can drop into the open and always have a cover save. Blood Lance also forces your opponent’s to spread out or have multiple tanks hit by a S8AP1 lance. Either way, the Jumper army benefits. Added bonus of providing psychic defense.

Dante – Great in higher point games (2000+) for providing SG as Troops and giving an accurate deepstrike; not too shabby stats either but lack of Eternal Warrior/3++ makes him vulnerable to hidden power fists. Expensive below 2000 points however.

Honor Guard – The ability to take eight special weapons whilst also providing a FNP/FC bubble is very nice. The come with the associated cost of a HQ though but as you’re generally taking at least one, that’s not really felt. These guys are great swiss army knives but you shouldn’t rely on them for their FNP/FC bubble as enemy’s will target them early and quickly. Consider them able to operate alone as they carry their defense and offense boost with them.

Sanguinary Guard – The beater unit of BA. Whilst not very survivable against anything which ignores saves, they are your best bang for buck in terms of offensive capacity for a Jumper army. Capable of taking small arms fire to the face and scaring most units in combat, Sang Guard are the offensive stabiliser of many a Jump Pack army and can make an army on their own which is more potent at starting on the board. They have issues with anti-tank though and their infernous pistols should be considered a minor duality boost rather than actual anti-tank.

Sanguinary Priests – Essential for any Jumper army. They have the advantage of being able to roam and hide in larger units compared to HG squads and make the army tick with increased defense and offensive potential. A minimum of two is your best bet with three at higher point levels, though four can also be argued. It is important however to maintain an appropriate balance between buffing and being actually able to deal damage. With WS5 and 2A each, these guys can also pack a punch in combat. Curoblo is an option as an upgrade character to babysit Devs/Scouts.

Techmarine - I'm not a fan of using the Techmarine as a sacrifical melta unit. 60 points for a combi-melta and an unimpressive statline? Ehhh...the main advantage of the Techmarine is Bolster defenses which make the Devs and Scouts in a Jumper/Devs army much more potent. You need to balance the choice of Priests, SG and the potential for 3+/2+ cover though and generally the Priests and SG will come out ahead.

Assault Marines – The bread and butter of a Jumper list these guys can carry three specials, are relatively cheap for what they do and add torrent of fire in close combat. Anywhere from 20-30 of these guys is a solid core for most point levels for 1000 to 2000.

Vanguard Veterans – if you’re going pure jumpers you need to take these guys. The benefits of VV provide are invaluable in being able to disrupt bubble-wrap on the drop, tie up units and attack stationary parking lots on the drop and generally make the rest of your army more survivable. They are also excellent units for tarpitting super units with a bunch of SS but can become expensive fast if equipped with SS and combat wargear.

Devastators – Useful in a Jumper/Devs army for providing covering fire which covers a lot of the weaknesses a Jumper army exhibits, these guys do great in small squads with a baby-sitting Priest. Make sure they have cover and your opponent will find removing 15-20 Marines in cover at range with FNP is difficult at best. And they’ll be shooting all game long.

Scouts – Same deal with Devastators but only a single squad should be taken for scoring purposes. The extra ML and ability to get 3+ cover is a nice bonus as well.

Although other units like Death Company, Captains, Mephiston, Stormraven, Land Speeders, etc. all work within the concept of the Jumper or Jumper/Dev army, they all have significant drawbacks. Death Company are really only useful when in a Land Raider due to their Rage and whilst they can be a great distracter unit, points are often better spent on VV/SG/HG. Mephiston can’t drop with the army which makes him very vulnerable to be starting on the table or coming in from reserve. We discussed the issues of minimal vehicles above but the Stormraven and Land Speeders don’t really provide anything the Jumper army doesn’t already do; fast weapons on the move. Captains as a general rule of thumb don’t add to the army as they don’t unlock anything or provide any bonuses.

Anyway, that’s a quick wrap of nearly everything you need to know about Jumper armies. Again, the linked posts above are probably your better sources of individual information relating to their topics as they go more in-depth but for a summary post, this will suffice (it better!).

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