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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jumper/DoA Blood Angels in 6th edition - Initial Analysis

GMM Studios

A very popular army in 5th edition, how do they fare in 6th? There seems to be a lot of doom & gloom and for a pure Jumper army, this is probably true. But then, pure Jumpers were always rather limited - they had huge match-up issues which is why the Hybrid variants (Blood Hammer, Blood Skies, Blood Rodeo, etc.) generally did better overall. All 6th edition really does is put further emphasis on the hybrid (non-Jumper units) nature of such armies - let's look at how and the other changes 6th edition has brought for this unique army.

Reserves - one of the perceived big hits against Jumpers is their inability to go all DoA on you. This isn't that huge as you generally shouldn't have been doing this and with Hybrid armies, you can often get all the Jumper aspects of your army deep-striking anyway. Regardless, keeping part of your army in reserve is still a very viable tactic, you've just lost the ability to put your entire army in reserves which was useful in rare situations. Not a huge loss, but a little flexibility in that regard disappears. Add in that reserves now start at a 3+ on Turn 2 and units which do use Descent of Angels are even more reliable than before AND units which don't have the DoA rule are now more viable (i.e. TH/SS), particularly with a Corbulo re-roll.

Furious Charge - This is the real 'nerf' and it doesn't just affect Jumpers but all Blood Angels. Furious Charge no longer gives additional initiative bonuses and if you multi-charge, you don't get the strength bonuses. This limits the damage capacity of bigger units but importantly doesn't allow Blood Angels to beat their own brethern statlines down before they get to swing. Look for your models to take that bit more damage in in close combat now than they did before. Not a huge amount across the game as the scary units still smack them good (i.e. Halberds, DCA, etc.) but charging I4 power weapon squads now is probably less than ideal (this doesn't really include Strike Squads, 1A is still 1A).

FNP & Cover - Initially this seems like a slap in the face nerf. FNP (and fast vehicles) was what set Blood Angels apart and with Jumper armies generally not using the fast vehicles of Blood Angels, their main advantage lay with having FNP. This has been reduced to a 5+, a 1/6th reduction in efficiency. Against torrent of fire, this obviously hurts - all those MEQs are just a little bit easier to drop. However, with the increase in AP2 anti-infantry options we are likely to see (plasma guns), FNP hasn't really lost much in terms of overall effectiveness. It's no longer a 4+ save true but you get to use it in all but the most extreme circumstances (instant death only denies FNP). A decent trade-off to be gaining FNP a bit more often against weapons which really hurt such an army at the cost of some 'invulnerability' against small arms fire.

Cover is obviously a decrease as well but with FNP being allowed more often now, the 5+/5++ is better than the flat 4+ you had before against low AP weapons. It's a reduction against S8+ AP3- weapons indeed but they are often one shot weapons anyway and from a barrage of 12 missiles, that's one extra Marine dead on average. Again, not huge. This cover reduction also makes the meagre anti-infantry ranged firepower of Jumper armies a bit more effective and as we'll discuss later in a specific bubble-wrap post, bubble-wraps are less of a deterrent than they were before.

Charging & Jump Packs - If only Shrike gave Fleet to BA... The new way Jump Packs work for combat is quite nice and makes up a bit of the loss from Furious Charge. You have the standard ability to move 12" ignoring intervening stuff and dangerous terrain tests are MUCH less dangerous with armor saves being allowed. Assuming FNP this is now a 1/27 chance of losing an ASM rather than 1/6 - you can sit in terrain a lot more now. Add in random charge length and your general threat ranges are greater assuming an average of 7" (this post on the forums looks at these probabilities btw). We're going to assume they are roughly the same though - those crazy 10"+ charges will be offset by those 3" charges failed when you're in the open and you've got about a 70-80% chance to get the same distance (18") as before. This is offset however by being able to use your Jump Packs in the assault phase rather than the movement phase. This means you only get a 6" move but you gain Hammer of Wrath and get to re-roll your charge distance. Therefore if you're close to the opponent in the movement phase, you can gain more reliability on the charge and extra damage (at I10). This versatility is good because you can switch between two key concepts - mobility or direct damage. Having the option to be more mobile or more damaging is a very good trade-off and whilst Random Charge Length (RCL) can always throw a spanner in the works, this is generally going to be an improvement for Jumper based armies.

Overwatch - Overwatch is mildly annoying as Jumper armies will see little benefit of it themselves except when counter-charged (and they don't have rapid fire weapons so aren't getting a lot of hits in anyway). It's just that little bit of extra firepower they need to take as they charge into combat and what's even worse, trying to launch really long charges just in case you get hot dice gives your opponent more chances to hurt you - do this only at great need.

Special Weapons - meltaguns are still a great choice for Jumper units, they lost nothing and gained in the general lack of 4+ cover saves. What is relatively a nerf for meltaguns on most infantry in transports is nothing of consequence to the bloody Jumpers. Plasma guns are a bit better as with every other platform thanks to rapid fire changes and increased utility of AP2 and plasma pistols can put themselves on the not crap list anymore but on this platform, meltaguns really are the stars still. Hand-flamers and flamers get a nice boost with overwatch but the power of the meltagun is still pretty intense and since in general the Jumpers should be the aggressor, templates for overwatch defense is a bit counter intuitive.

Characters - With Jumpers often having their characters out in the open to get shot, this is a very nice boost. With the new wound allocation, getting anything through to things like Priests or Librarians is a tough sell - even with sniping there's LoS! rolls and in combat? Not happening often with challenges and since most BA characters have WS5, unit leaders have a harder time coming in to punk them. Killy characters obviously still can but you've got your unit leaders there as well to soak challenges. Overall, this means your army is more likely to benefit from character bonuses such as psychic powers/defense and FNP/FC bubbles - always a good thing when these stay alive.

Fliers - Not much Jumpers can do about flyers - hope for 6's! Their support/Allies can potentially help with this but if you're not running vehicles (which you generally won't be other than maybe Stormravens), are flyers such a big fuss? Most of them seem geared to anti-vehicular work so their impact on the Jumper army is likely to be less than others though they can still block movement and provide mobility to the opposing army. For now, something that will likely need to be taken on the chin if you're not answering this with your support/Allies.


So how does this all affect Jumpers? On the face of things it looks like they lost a little bit. Between reduction in FNP, cover and overwatch, they are going to take more small arms firepower. Charging is roughly the same with the decrease in reliability across open terrain more than made up with the flexibility in when to use your Jump Packs - assault or movement phase. This also helps makes up for the loss of the initiative bonus from Furious Charge and BA are generally better than most armies in combat anyway - just some units are a bit scarier (i.e. I4 power weapons) than before. All in all, not a huge decrease on paper for the main ASM force in a Jumper army though the real impact is more likely going to be seen on list building where some sort of Jumper hybrid (not necessarily mech hybrid) is going to be more viable.

This is highlighted by some BA units improvement. Sanguinary Guard for example now scoff at power weapon models - mass power axes/fists/etc. are still a bane to such a unit but these are far less common and thus more easily avoided. Vanguard Vets are in theory a lot scarier with increased charge ranges and a more reliable deep-striking option but that same increased charge range can backfire. With the mind-numbing rule of rage being changed to +2A, Death Company are units which put out a crazy number of attacks. Stomravens, whilst expensive, gain significant improvement through being a Flyer and are one of the few assault vehicles out there - you no longer really need to skimp for Speeders to make the saturation work - 50 Jumpers 3 Ravens? Mephiston fits better into the Jumper concept - less likely to be left high and dry if the army reserves though he is also a bit harder to hide than in a mech force and thus more susecptible to being shot down before he gets anywere. Terminators are still a very scary prospect which really got scarier, particularly with the ability to come in on a 3+ Turn 2 via Deepstrike - though we must ask ourselves, why not Deathwing (do you find yourself asking this a lot so far in 6th?)? Devastators are even better at opening the tincan transports due to hull points where the melta of ASM can become the safety net rather than the "my missiles failed so I hope this works..." approach (this is not a knock on missiles or melta, just a reflection of cheap transport durability in 5th). Attack Bikes are a lot tougher with real T5. And then there's Allies.

Allies offer a whole range of options - Deathwing for increased scoring, shooting and combat (how often we will see this listed) - 35-40 Jumpers, 15 Deathwing, Belial/Libby/2x Priests; Tau, Imperial Guard & Grey Knights for filling out that shooting role to give the Jumpers a more balanced approach and cover their match-up issues; Necrons for some flyer support (though be careful with Desperate Allies here); Space Marines & Blood Angels can combine for the best of both worlds finally - Null Zone, real TH/SS, no extra chassis tax if you don't want it, scoring Bikers with super Command squad, etc.; Space Wolves can bring more aggressive units (hello TWC) and fire support; hell Eldar for...okay ya Eldar don't provide that much (Sisters of Battle & Black Templars fit here, too - BT mainly because well you've got ASM though cheap LasPlas squads with some tank hunting Termies does sound nice...). 

When you think about it, 40 ASM + 2 Priests + Libby is under 1300 points (1245 the way I ran them before but let's add a few points in case we want to change some wargear, etc.). At 1850/2000 that's 550-700 points to play with. Drop an ASM squad and that's around 400-500 to play with at 1500 or 800-1000 to play with at 1850/2000 though your extra points will need to include more scoring and more aggression in this case. Lots of options there for filling out what to support the ASM core with - more options than you had before and that ASM core is relatively in the same position as in previous editions (though hundreds of games will determine the validity of this statement).  

So all in all I think Jumper based Blood Angel armies are in a fine position to take advantage of the new edition. Hell, everyone's worst nightmare of Halberd Purifiers nets you a 5+ still thanks to FNP changes and Sanguinary Guard rofl at them. Gotta be happy about that right?

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