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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Army Comparison: Blood Angel Jumpers and Grey Knights

This has been talked about a bit and I've had a couple e-mails about it so here's an army comparison for Jumper based armies in the Blood Angels codex against the Grey Knights codex as a whole. This is a bit different from other Army Comparison posts as we are looking specifically at a certain arch-type of build within the Blood Angels codex, basically anything with a core of Jumper/Jump Pack models (yes including Hybrids) and how it matches up with Grey Knights in general. As usual in these posts, I'll be looking at advantages and disadvantages of both armies, pitting them against each and reaching a conclusion on which, if any, army has the potential advantage over others.

We'll begin with some brief outlines of the armies which is going to be obviously detailed for the Jumper armies and deliberately vaguer (wow that's word) for Grey Knights. We'll start with the Jumper armies.

Blood Angels Jumpers Summary

There are tons of articles on these type of armies on this website and I'll link each list as I throw them out to you as well as this great (if I don't say so myself) summary post of a lot of their tactics, choices and general gameplay.

Jumper armies are built around a core of Assault Marines as Troops which allows the whole, or majority, of the army to take advantage of the Blood Angel rule Descent of Angels. This makes them more reliable in coming in and where they land which makes meltaguns, a quintessential gun of many Marine based armies, very reliable coming in from reserve. From there having MEQ statlines on units with decent combat potential combined with FNP/FC from Sanguinary Priests makes the army very durable and quite potent in combat at S5/I5 on the charge. However, the biggest weakness of Blood Angel Jumpers revolves around deep-strike defenses, specifically bubble-wrap units. Even if the army doesn't deep-strike, bubble-wrap is going to delay the Blood Angels army as there are no tanks to break through infantry units. How the Jumper army deals with this is generally the defining feature of that specific list.

Vanguard Veterans for pure Jumper armies as they can assault on the turn they deep-strike. Devastators for Hammer based lists which also double as more reliable and ranged suppression. Stormravens and Land Speeders for Blood Skies lists which also double as ranged and reliable suppression like Devastators but also add several vehicles to the board (so FNP ignoring weapons can't always target the MEQs), are mobile and can deep-strike with the foot aspect of the army. General tank usage for Hybrid armies where you can tank shock through bubble-wraps and shoot over them reliably. Bikes for Blood Rodeo armies and although they aren't hyper reliable at removing the bubble-wrap in a sense of literally getting rid of it, they are more than capable of dragging them forward and beating them in combat over a series of turns which frees the Jumper aspects of the armies to move past the bubble-wrap and attack what is behind.

All this being said however, this ability to deal with bubble-wrap units isn't always going to be necessary against Grey Knight armies except against armies with henchmen units or when the army is deep-striking and bubble-wraps get deployed in defense. The important thing to remember about these lists outside of their specific ability to deal with bubble-wrap is their focus on close-ranged firepower such as meltaguns and Furious Charge fuelled combat.

Grey Knights Summary

Grey Knights are a shooting army which is focused on putting a lot of wounds out at range and on the go. We've discussed this a ton but their combat ability is utilised best as a back-up feature of the army. Their standard squads generally have excellent ability against both tanks and infantry alike which leads to a certain opportunity cost when going against mixed armies (i.e. losing anti-infantry when shooting psycannon targets and losing anti-tank/MC when shooting infantry targets).

Grey Knights generally lack significant range, a large amount of durable bodies, low AP weapons and although have decent combat ability with Force Weapons across the board, are very point inefficient compared to their shooting.

Blood Angels Advantages

We now get to the meat of the article and we'll start with the advantages Blood Angels Jumper based lists have in this regard. For the most part, these armies are combat focused which is a major weakness of Grey Knights. That being said, the Blood Angels player has to pick their fights due to the proliferation of Force Weapons across the Grey Knight army which forces the Blood Angels player to rely on I5 and combined assaults to limit the damage they could potentially receive from Force Weapons. All that being said, this is obviously a strength of the Blood Angels Jumper armies and something Grey Knights would rather not engage in.

Further extending this advantage is the ease of access to storm shields which can help negate the couple of wounds which can get through. When we add in the speed of most of these armies, whether it is via deep-strike or simple movement, the expense of most bubble-wraps and the general lack of spammable vehicles means the Blood Angel armies are more capable of getting into assault when and where they want. This isn't saying Grey Knights are defenseless against it but rather have less options in terms of unit sacrificing, bubble-wrapping, etc. compared to other MEQ based armies. It's the price of being expensive.

Blood Angel Jumper armies are also very rarely based on suppression but rather direct anti-tank with a lot of melta weapons. Although some of the hybrid based armies use ranged firepower (i.e. missiles) to suppress armor at range, for the most part these armies are built around a large amount of aggressive melta weapons. Combined with the very standard Librarian which comes with a psychic hood and Fortitude is much less of an issue (more tanks = dead, less shaken/stunned results from AP1). This gives the Blood Angels armies a distinct advantage against the Grey Knight mech which pays for a bonus they will rarely get to use and unlike other armies, allows the Blood Angel player to play against GK mech as usual. The very common Librarian also provides excellent defenses against the heavy psychic use of many Grey Knight armies which reduces their effectiveness in a variety of areas.

Grey Knights generally put out a lot of wounds through shooting but Blood Angel Jumper armies are quite often based around FNP bubbles. T4/FNP is very survivable against general Grey Knight shooting (stormbolters and psycannons) as they will generally get their 3+ & 4+ saves and with Jumper armies often having 40-50 MEQs, this is a lot of bodies to put down with that type of firepower.

Grey Knight Advantages

We'll discuss the elephant in the room first; halberds. Any assault based army has an obvious and distinct advantage over most Grey Knight lists due to their high point cost and lack of increased combat ability for those points. Although each Grey Knight carries a Force Weapon, they still die like regular Marines in combat whilst costing more and against Blood Angels in particular, Furious Charge negates a lot of the damage the Force Weapons can do. However, halberd equipped units, specifically Purifiers, Terminators or Paladins are going to give Jumper lists fits when taken en masse. GKT, Crowe or Draigo based lists all spring to mind and it really hurts pure Jumper based armies. Large halberd wielding squads are going to decimate small Blood Angel squads before they get to strike which means the BA player has to combine assaults a lot more and won't benefit from their I5.

All this being said though and combat is still where Blood Angels want to be. Mass halberds are only really points effective on the before mentioned units due to the number of attacks they have and amount of wounds they can inflict upon MEQ squads. Hybrid based Jumper armies have enough firepower to threaten these units from afar and pure Jumper armies should have some storm shields to absorb such attacks. In the end, appropriate halberd wielding units for Grey Knights are an excellent buffer or wrap against Jumper armies as they can strike before them even when they charge. This doesn't make them an aggressive assault unit though.

As an aside, the complete ignoring of armor and FNP saves in combat is a huge plus for Grey Knights. Any attacks that do wound will generally do damage but again, Blood Angels have the distinct advantage here.

The real strength of the Grey Knight list is shooting and whilst FNP reduces this advantage somewhat (except for Psyfledreads), it is still an obvious plus in the Grey Knights direction. Units with Priests should be focused upon to attempt to generate wounds on the Priests ASAP and although 3+/FNP is very survivable against stormbolters/psycannons, even those type of units cannot stand up to 50+ S4/5 and 20+ S7 rending shots for an extended period of time. This means Grey Knights need to keep their units shooting for as long as possible which is an issue when everything is so expensive. This is where Grey Knight mech shines however, as mobile blockers/bubble-wrap. Grey Knight mech is generally focused around providing extra hard to suppress firepower (lots of S6) and early mobility for Grey Knight squads. Since Jumper armies carry a lot of melta weapons and aren't focused on generally suppressing opposing mech, using it more aggressively as defensive blockers can really extend the shooting life of many Grey Knight units.

Finally, Warp Quake and Henchmen squads are particularly useful against these type of lists. Warp Quake obviously stops a lot of aggressive deep-striking if it goes off which can force a Jumper army to deploy passively (and thus be out of meltagun range and defeat the purpose of deep-striking) or start of the table (giving Grey Knight shooting more turns to have an effect). Add in Henchmen units which can act as cheap bubble-wrap and the Grey Knight army may be less mobile and have less sacrifice units available against an aggressive assault army but there are lots of options which can be used.


A lot of information to digest there with both lists having quite a few significant advantages over the other. As usual, whichever general is able to apply their army's strengths better will have the distinct advantage and it's therefore important to know what your army's strength are and your opponent's weaknesses. In most cases with these armies the Blood Angels player will be looking to get into combat as quickly as possible and use combined assaults plus Furious Charge to limit the amount of Force Weapon attacks coming back at them. Deviant armies will generally bring extra firepower or ability to break through defenses (i.e. tank shock) and may take away from the combat focus with mechanised or shooting aspects but the core of the army is still looking to aggressively engage in assault.

The Grey Knight army obviously wants to delay this for as long as possible. Whilst halberd armed units can give Jumpers fits, they are not a common mainstay in most lists (obvious exceptions). Due to lower model counts and less tanks compared to other MEQ armies, Grey Knights have a lot less ability to delay fast armies in getting to them and thanks to easily accessible FNP for the Blood Angels, Grey Knight shooting is less effective against them and therefore needs more time to effectively deal with them. This means Grey Knight mech generally has a different, more defensive role against Jumpers whilst Warp Quake and bubble-wrap Henchmen units obviously help delay Jumpers for as long as possible.

Ultimately I think the armies are very evenly matched with Jumper deviant armies potentially having a tiny edge thanks to FNP; I would consider this edge negligible however and whilst Jumper armies have the ability to engage the Grey Knights quickly, Grey Knights do have ways to slow them down and can sacrifice parts of their army to do this. Add in halberds and spells such as quickening and they can mount effective counter-assaults later in the game as well. That being said I would say halberd based armies (i.e. Crowe, GKT or Draigo lists) have a more distinct advantage over Jumper based armies due to the prolific use of I6 Force Weapons.

Edit: Since this wasn't apparently clear: pure Jumper armies have a lot less ways of ensuring they can maximise their advantages against Grey Knights and I think they have a lot more issues than the deviant lists do against GK. Furthermore, deep striking really isn't a primary form of use for most of these armies other than as supplements due to Warp Quake and opening themselves up to being charged (which takes away part of the BA advantage).

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