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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Deathwing: I'm Sorry, Your Viable Army is in Another Castle

The new FAQ was, for all competitive players, a big step in the right direction from GW. Finally they have admitted that not only do the internets exist, but they are universal enough that they are a viable form of distribution of official information- and only, what, a decade behind the times? But, as with Fantasy 8E, we are finally seeing some attempts to make a comprehensive update to the game in order to bring all the army books in line with the current rules set, even ones that are lagging significantly behind the times.

The internets have, as they always do, jumped on the new changes as the dawning of a golden era, with everyone posting their personal pet lists and declaring them the newest, greatest thing. Folks, I'm sorry but getting a 3++ save isn't enough to make Deathwing viable. There is a core of an army in there, but it is not thirty Terminators trying to score points.

Anytime a new change comes along, there is a tendency to declare it awesome or horrible without actually taking the time to evaluate it. But this is just the knee-jerk reaction- there is absolutely no reason that we can't use all our old tools to look at the army we have available and decide whether it's any good.

So Deathwing runs with a 3++ save now and has two-shot Cyclone launchers. What of it? While this gives them a good boost to survivability and extra firepower, they still have other issues- a "pure" Deathwing army still has extremely limited mobility (walking 6", basically) and very little ability to threaten an opponent at range- four or six CMLs simply isn't enough to down the dozen or so vehicle hulls that you can expect an opponent to have. How will it deal with Eldar or Dark Eldar, both of whom can outmaneuver it and spam mid-range firepower onto its units?

Worse, it has no real way to hurt infantry, either, at least in its most common setup. You'll see lots of lists with four to six squads of guys with a CML, maybe a Chainfist, and all the rest TH/SS. What can an army like this do against Tyranids or Orks, who will simply swamp it with bodies and laugh? Ten attacks per turn, even Thunder Hammer attacks, is not going to scare an Ork mob or swarm of Termagants. They will, as it has been said, bury you; you need a way to deal with infantry that isn't just hoping they get within 12" of you so you can charge them. You need... Storm Bolters.

Yes, that's right; Storm Bolters. While they may be trash as an upgrade weapon for most units/characters, in this case they're actually quite nice. We can shoot them on the move (which gives us a modicum of mobility) to full effect and they have not-unreasonable ability to hurt even MEQs and such by simply torrenting them down. And, most importantly, they give you a way to not simply auto-lose to large numbers of infantry, since you can start hitting them several turns before they can charge you. (Against shooty infantry, like Guard, you will probably have to waste your shots on their vehicle armor because your CMLs are all in regular squads.)

So, in my opinion, the best setup for Deathwing squads is most likely Cyclone/Chainfist/SB, TH/SS, and 1 PW/SB, 2 PF/SB; a second TH/SS in place of one of the vanilla guys may be a superior choice, I would have to actually test it out somewhat.

Even this setup, though, is not really a viable army- it still has lots of holes in its defenses. I think that some kind of pseudo-Doublewing army is the best choice, using Ravenwing squads as its melta and to give it mobility (both in the early turns to drop Termies where they are needed and throughout the game to respond to varied threats), but I can't say I have an army hammered out for sure. It probably consists of Belial, some number of Deathwing squads as above, a couple Ravenwing squads with Attack Bike and all the melta they can take, and possibly some support elements (Typhoons are actually 5pts cheaper, Dakka Preds are only 10pts more expensive) t round things out.

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