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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blood Angels Codex Review: Part 5: Elites Part 3


Good day everyone,

Desc440 here. Continuing from the last review, we will now look at Sternguard Veterans and Sanguinary Priests. Edited by Kirby ;).

Before we do, though, I would like to apologise for the lengthy delay that separated this review and the last. In the intervening time, I moved 200 kilometers from my previous home and started a new job, so as you can imagine, I was fairly busy. With things winding down, however, I’m able to get back into it, and hopefully finish the whole review before long.

Happy reading!

Sternguard Veterans: Excellent

Sternies aren’t often seen in Blood Angels lists, but that is not to say that they are bad - quite the opposite actually. Armed with Special Ammunition and a plethora of different ranged weapon options, Sternguards are often referred to as “what Tactical Squads should be”; they are able to fill a variety of roles that support the Blood Angel army much in the way that Tactical Squads are generally portrayed in the fluff.

Each Sternguard Vet (how did GW come up with that name anyway?) comes equipped with a bolter and special ammo that allows him to shoot farther, ignore cover, put lots of wounds on anything or go through Marine armour like butter. Needless to say, this is very, very practical though in most cases, the hellfire (wounds on 2+) round is the best option. The only thing that a basic Sternguard can’t hurt is armour. Fortunately, any member of the squad can buy a combi-melta for the low low cost of 5 pts each (get yours today!). In addition, the squad can have 2 special or heavy weapons as well, regardless of squad size. You do lose your bolter + special ammo for this option though. Ergo, Sternguard squads are very potent against basically the complete spectrum of potential targets you may encounter through shooting.

One of the major weaknesses of Sternguard for Vanilla Marines is their defenses are the exact same as a regular Space Marine yet they are nearly 50% more expensive. Therefore, on the defensive front, Sternguards really benefit from two Blood Angels aspects: Feel no Pain and Shield of Sanguinius. As Sternies will often operate on foot to maximise their firepower and because they are a massive threat that is sure to attract fire, shrugging off small arms fire and having a measure of protection from low AP weapons is quite a boon. FnP can also mitigates the inherent risk associated with using Vengeance rounds and raise their usefulness in certain situations. The FNP/FC bubbles also make them a bit better in combat but still not stellar.

So how do you use Sternguards? Well, as previously mentioned, they can be used in a number of ways. One way that is often invoked is to use them as a drop pod suicide melta unit. Using combat squads you can create two suicide melta units or a suicide melta/plasma combo. This is a very expensive option though (335 points) and whilst you may take two targets down, you've basically sacrificed a large chunk of points. If you want to use such a tactic, make sure that the podding unit is well-supported by other units that are podding alongside the Sternguards. Otherwise, you will be spending up to 335 pts to pop a unit or two. Next turn your opponent shoots/charges your Vets and you’re now minus a considerable part of your army.

Another way to use them is as an ersatz-Devastator Squad. Two missile launchers or lascannons in a five man squad is a cheapish way to boost your fire output. This is one of the reasons you don't see Sternguard as much in Blood Angels lists compared to Vanilla Marines - transport cost. Whilst their basic costs are the exact same and they even get the benefit of FNP/FC bubbles, Sternguard ranged units have very little to gain from a fast transport, yet you pay for it anyway. With that in mind, if you have any Heavy Support slots available, Devastators are generally the option of choice for foot heavy weapons as they are cheaper, still benefit from FNP and can get four heavy weapons. On the other hand, if you eschew the long range application of firepower, load up a five-man squad with two heavy flamers or meltaguns in a Rhino + some combis and go a-flamin’/meltin’. This takes advantage of the speed Blood Angels pay for their vehicles and it can support other units such as Honor Guard or Assault Marines in a mechanised army as well.

Considering all the good things Sternies have to offer, you may be wondering why we don’t see them more often. The answer is twofolds: first, they have to compete against the other good choices in the Elites slot. Second, Blood Angels have anti-infantry capacities in spades, so it’s not like adding more is a critical requirement. Thus, Sternguard Vets are usually given a pass in favour of other units. That being said, Sternguards are still a very good unit, and their flexibility is something that can be real useful in take-all-comers lists. I strongly urge you to give them a go if you haven’t already done so, if only to try something different.

Sanguinary Priests: Good

These guys are one of the key elements of the Blood Angels army, and it is rather rare to see a list that doesn't include at least two. Taking one is a risk - there are a lot of abilities out there which can remove a single guy from a squad or even move your models. Tank shocks, Lash, Telion, Vindicare, etc. will all be aiming for that single guy if your army only has one. Even an early assault can bottle the one guy up and Blood Angels then become Vanilla Marines with meltaguns - not good. A really basic rule of thumb is take two or none and at higher points (1750+) three should start to be considered. Don't take too many though as they are support units. If you over indulge on support bubbles you won't have enough p

Obviously, the main feature of the Priest is his Blood Chalice. This nifty piece of kit gives all of your units within six inches Furious Charge and Feel No Pain. This is a massive, MASSIVE boost to both your offensive power and survivability. Marines with S5/I5 are now actually quite decent in combat and with FNP, even your basic T4/3+ Marine is pretty annoying to knock down. They are still going to cry against really good combat units but you've got a couple of those as well...with the added FNP/FC bonus to boot.

Aside from that, the Priest comes with WS5 and 2 base attacks, plus the ability to pick shooting and close combat wargear. Ergo, he can add a bit of offensive power to a unit on his own in addition to what his Chalice provides. Taking advantage of that WS5 can be important but this is where the Priest's main weakness resides - he's an IC without an invulnerable save. If he's bashing faces with his WS5 power weapon/lightning claw, the opponent can bash his face back. To take full advantage of the Priest in combat you need to be able to set up his assault so he only gets into base to base combat with a single Grunt and that whatever unit he is with, ties up any special weapons. This means he can target the squad but only a couple plebs can strike back.

Beyond this, the question you need to ask yourself is: are the 2-3 potential extra wounds worth the risk of losing FnP and FC on everybody relying on that particular Priest? Quite often people will avoid this completely and thus give him a Jump Pack and perhaps a pistol and hide him at the back of squads or stuff him in a tank. It's certainly the safer route and hiding in a vehicle has the added bonus of extending the chalice range.

This brings me to my next point: mobility and armour upgrades. Sang Priests have the ability to be mounted on a bike, to wear a jump pack or to sport Terminator Armour (this is the only way to give Priests an invulnerable save, btw). In the latter case, this is something I only do if the Priest will be attached to a unit of Termies. In the two other cases, I would advise to apply this rule: always have at least one priest able to follow your fastest unit. Ergo, if you have bikes in your list (that are not going to be used only as suicide melta), have a bike-mounted SP. For a time I tried to save points on the (frankly overcosted) jump packs in the hybrid lists I tried by having the Priest hiding in a Rhino or Razorback while providing his Chalice's bonuses to JP Assault Marines. Invariably, the transport would get immobilised or destroyed and the Assault Squad thus had to slow down not to outpace the now-footslogging Priest.

On a final note, we need to look at Corbulo. This Special Character costs more than double the points of a regular Priest, but comes with four nifty things: two wounds, Heaven's Teeth, the Red Grail and the Far-Seeing Eye. Heaven's Teeth is a S5 Rending weapon that sadly doesn't get to stack with Furious Charge for S6 goodness. Nothing "too flash", as Kirby would say, but not terrible either. Massively more interesting is the Red Grail. This is a Blood Chalice but when Corbulo makes his own FnP saves, he makes them on a 2+ instead of 4+. This ability combined with his two wounds makes him actually able to participate in combat without too much risk (just keep him away from power weapons and power fists). He can also be used to suck up AP 3+ hits from S7- weapons, which can be useful in small squads. Finally, the Far Seeing Eye allows you to reroll once per game any roll that you made. Sadly, this doesn't include rolls for deployment/first turn, nor rolls to end the game, so while useful, it's not an earth-shattering ability. All in all I would say that Corbulo is a bit too expensive for what he brings. Had he allowed rerolls for first turn and game end, he would have been totally worth it (close to auto-include, really). As it is, you'll get more mileage out of two standard Priests though if you have a Priest babysitting backfield units (i.e. Devastators) and points to spare, Corbulo is more survivable, gives them more combat punch and you get a re-roll once a game, so not a complete waste.


Sternguard Veterans are a very flexible unit that can fulfil a variety of roles. However, their primary role of infantry-killing is often already well covered by other means and it may be difficult to justify including them in a list at all. That being said, their great polyvalence makes using them to fill a capability gap within your force fairly straightforward, as long as you give them the proper equipment. Within Blood Angels they have the issue of being more expensive fire support due to fast transports but with the added benefit of FNP to increase the durability of their T4/3+ statline. Sanguinary Priests, for their part, are as near auto-include as you will see in this Codex. The massive improvements they bring to both your defensive and offensive capabilities means that it is very rarely a waste to include at least two of them. They are fragile however and need to be marshalled with great care in order to avoid losing them.

In the next review, we will being looking at the meat and potatoes of the Codex: the Troops.

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