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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grey Knight Grand Masters - Strategy begets victory

So I'm back again.... My Grey Knight codex review is still on the back burner, as I furiously get games in prior to my last three tournaments of the year. I'm trying fairly hard to garner a spot in the Queensland Masters, and only getting lots of games in (and not having my town flooded again -_-) stands in my way.

When discussing GK HQ's, there really seems to be four things people talk about. Three of these modify your FOC and they will be covered again elsewhere. The fourth is the ubiquitous Librarian - that little box of utility gold that any GK army can use to its fullest extent, with wonderful powers such as shrouding and sanctuary, and unit buffs like might of titan and quicksilver (not to mention a psychic hood).

However, when looking at HQ's, the majority of the lists we see floating around the interwebs ignore the humble Grey Knight Grand Master. He is a reasonable combat character with a solid statline, hammerhand and psychic communion to boot. He comes with decent equipment (but no Power Armoured option, goddamnit), and can be given those precious grenades that techmarines exist to provide, as well as a single platform psycannon or add-on incinerator for a heavy hitting unit. The reason anyone looks at the the GM, and often passes him over, is Grand Strategy.

What can it do for me, and why does that justify 175pts worth of HQ, in a game where the rule for HQ's is "less is more" ?

Lets look at the abilities first and foremost, and discuss their applications-

Hammer of Righteousness - rarely taken, but often useful, this allows you to reroll 1's to wound for the duration of the game. Handy for adding that torrent of wounds to your opponent, especially with psybolt ammo and hammerhand. This means your chances of putting the hurt on any given unit are increased significantly, as you will only totally whiff on a roll to wound of 2 (assuming 3's to wound - crazy mathematicians, if you could throw down the improved odds in the comments, that would be great. I'm shit at maths.)

Shield of Blades - Space Grey Knight Wolves anyone? Granting the Counter-attack USR to the units in question, it allows for a more defensive stance.... which is totally useless to us in all cases, unless your playing a map that has nothing but difficult terrain to assault through. I honestly cannot think of a situation where Counter Attack is useful, as GK's are either retreating to maintain fire superiority distance, or assaulting to finish off a unit, counter attack seems silly and redundant. I have a sneaking suspicion Cruddance snuck this in here while Ward wasn't looking.

Spear of Light - Now we are getting somewhere. Grants the "Scout" USR to the unit, which is handy-dandy in an army that consists of 24" weaponry. Get your 10 man unit of paladins, Scout them, combat squad them, and all of a sudden its VERY hard to hide from those mastercrafted psycannon on turn 1. Same logic applies for purifiers/Strike squads - Move the unit up so that it doesn't have to move on its first turn, allowing you to unleash a full salvo from your usually Assault 2 psycannons, increasing your first turn damage output. It also allows you to reposition things that are important to your first turn - Rifledreads and the like that may or may not be able to see important targets (Ravagers come to mind) given your initial deployment, but may be able to draw a bead (or better still, get side armor shots) on something with a 6" scout move, plus a 6" move first turn.

Improving Spear's usefulness further, you are now able to outflank units that can not normally do so - again, incredibly handy in an army with such mid-range potential. Coupled with the use of Psychic communion, you are able to get these units into a position to ravage an enemies flank, with psycannon and stormbolter fire, or better yet, venerable multi melta dreads with heavy flamers. This sort of deployment is unusual for the units in question, and can be used as a deterrent and efficient counter for castling armies such as guard and Tau.

Unyielding Anvil - Just before we go too much further. I TOLD YOU SO, NAYSAYERS. When the codex was released, I made the point several times that regardless of the BRB's explanation, the codex overrides it, in spirit, if not in wording. Now that its been clarified, we have the wonderful option to make things like Dreadnoughts scoring, which is pure gold. Anvil up your rifledreads, and sit them on your home objective - now, if that dread is arm less, and immobilized, and stunned, its STILL holding your home turf, and being resilient while its at it. Couple the ability with a venerable dread, or dreadknight, and you have a very resilient contesting unit for midfield objectives, and in the case of the Dreadknight, one that can shunt back to an objective to contest or capture it late game. Scoring also benefits units like Paladins and Purifiers, who cannot usually do so in a normal list, and other excellent things like Interceptors, who can happily bounce out of assault and rapid fire range on a distant flank, and move to capture an objective or contest it late game.

So why is the Grand Master so useful? I mean, its not like any of these things is game winning, correct? Well, looking at it simply, no, they aren't. The D3 roll means you can't bank on how many extras your units will get (Hi there Shunt-scout Dreadknight lists, how we miss you). What Grand Strategy allows us to do, and is worth the points for, is skimp on Troops choices. That's right, min troops, max elites/fast attack/heavy support.

Why is this an effective option? So many 5th edition army lists revolve around a solid core of MSU or 1+1 troop choices, to get the most out of their army, whilst utilizing the FOC efficiently. This is generally the sign of a solid list - Enough scoring units to maintain a real presence in objective missions, whilst getting the "toys" you require from the elites/fast attack/heavy support sections to threaten your opponents army, and remove the things that counter your army.

Grey Knights have the express advantage of being able to dictate their troop numbers before the game, via Grand Strategy. It is quite feasible to simply take 2 x 10 man GKSS units in Rhinos as the core of your army, and build the rest of the list around Heavy, Elite, and FA choices. If you come up against an objective mission, as any tournament player is expecting, you have the option to increase your number of scoring units via grand strategy, without sacrificing points to do so. In non-objective missions, where troops are less important, you have the option to further increase the potency of your damage dealing units, via deployment with scout/outflank, and re-rolled wounds as required. Things like dread-heavy lists, and Interceptor filled armies, become viable, because you don't have to spend quite so many points on Strike Squads/Terminators to ensure that you can compete in objective missions. The Grand Master kind of contests the greatest issue the GK codex has, as an expensive generalist army - high points costs. Any GK players knows its extremely hard to get all the units you want into that 1750/2k list, and still maintain a balance of troops vs threats.

There is a downside - the mighty D3. This is people's biggest gripe, and why the GM gets a bit of a bad rep. Daemon players can tell you the variable of the 1 in 3 chance messing with your game plan - they deal with it every deployment. With Grand Strat, you have to take the good with the bad - simply factor that most of the time, you are going to get at least 2 choices, and if you get 1 or 3, either deal with it or rejoice, as the situation requires.

Next on the list will be a return to the GK codex review - comment away, contest, and discuss. Contention forces us to think, and makes us better players.

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