Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Adventures with Grey Knights: The "Wrecking Ball"

Merry Christmas Friends!

I hope you all had a great holiday, and that the Emperor saw fit to reward you fresh reinforcements for your armies. This winter break has allowed me to get a significant amount of painting and battling done, and today I want to share one of my favorite new lists that I've been playtesting - The Grey Knight Wrecking Ball.

Now I know that Grey Knights might not be the most well-liked force in the 40k universe, but hopefully this list will change some minds out there and bring some often unseen units into the fray. So without further ado, my Christmas gift to all of you:

Grey Knights 1500pts "Wrecking Ball"

Grey Knight Grand Master - Rad Grenades, Nemesis Daemon Hammer - 195pts

Inquisitor Coteaz - 100pts

Inquisitorial Henchmen Warband - 4x Crusaders, 6x Death Cult Assassin - 90pts

Grey Knight Strike Squad - 10x Grey Knights, 2x Psycannons, Psybolt Ammo - 240pts

Grey Knight Terminator Squad - 6x Terminators (5x Halberds, 1x Hammer), 1x Psycannon, Psybolt Ammo - 285pts

Fast Attack:
Stormraven Gunship - Twin-linked Multi Melta, Twin Linked Lascannon - 205pts

Heavy Support
2x Dreadnoughts - 2x Twinlinked auto cannons each, Psybolt ammo - 270pts

Chimera - 2x Heavy Flamers - 55pts

Total - 1500pts

So, let's start with what this list is trying to do. As implied by the title, the "Wrecking Ball" consists of the Grandmaster and his band of Merry henchmen riding along in the Storm Raven. So what's so great about Santa and his little helpers in their magical flying sleigh? Well let's look at the stats. First off, everything in that unit has an invulnerable save, a 5+ for the assassins, a 3+ for the crusaders, and a 4+ for the Grand Master himself. This means that the unit is very survivable, and in the unlikely event that their transport does get shot down while flying, there is still a good chance the occupants will live to fight another day. Furthermore, new wound allocation means that you can use the crusaders as a barrier to absorb incoming fire (including overwatch) that could hurt your squishier assassins. While the unit may be majority T3, that 3+ is still a tough shield to crack. This means that, when coupled with the speed of their Stormraven transport, they will survive long enough to get to the assault, where they dish out tremendous amounts of hurt.

On the charge, each assassin deals out 4 WS5 power attacks each, for a total of 24 attacks just for them. This on it's own will easily make short work of any MEQ unit, but it gets even better. Hammerhand from the Grandmaster means these guys will be striking at S5 (yes, even henchmen benefit from hammerhand) and the rad grenades reduces their targets toughness by 1. To put that in perspective, the assassin's, against a squad of standard space marines, will be striking first at I6, with 24 attacks (because the Storm Raven means you will almost always get the charge), hitting on 3's and wounding on 2's...and ignoring armor. NO MEQ squad in the game can survive that without some serious luck, and that's before the Grand Master and the Crusaders hit. Sure the Crusaders are slow (I3) and weak (S3) they still carry power weapons and benefit from hammerhand and rad grenades, so they can finish up if (somehow) the assassins don't. At this point, you might be thinking, "Well that's great, but what about that pesky 2+ save?" I respond with volume of attacks and the Grand Master's Daemon Hammer. The assassain's are dishing out so many attacks on the charge that I wouldn't be the least bit hesitant to throw them at some terminators. Your opponent can only make so many 2+ saves before they start failing, and you start grinning. On top of that, the Grand Master can (literally) bring down the hammer at AP2 to finish the job. This unit, in my opinion, is one of the best assault units I have crafted, and I am hard pressed to find anything else that can do that much damage on the charge. Even if such a unit exists, It most likely does not have the reliability of the Storm Raven to ensure that it will always see close combat, which brings me to my next point.

The Storm Raven brings the henchmen combo from "great assault unit" to "wrecking ball" status. Not only is this flyer a weapon in itself (you can kit it out with whatever you want, I just personally like the anti-armor capabilites of the multi-melta lascannon combo), but it gives the henchmen the capability to be anywhere on the battlefield and assault any target by turn 3. Turn 2 you zoom onto the board, and the next turn you drop into hover mode and unload its ferocious payload wherever you want. Being one of the few fliers that has AV12 all around, your opponent will have a tough time taking care of it before this happens, all the while the Storm Raven will be picking off high priority targets or dropping plasma blasts on infantry (depending on your loadout). Mindstrike missiles, while often situational, can be absolutely devastating against enemy psykers, now that 6th edition says they get absolutely no save against perils. Just make sure you don't accidentally hit your grey knights with a blast, because they all count as psykers (and yes this has happened to me, ouch!).

In combination with the speed of the Storm Raven and the hitting power of it's cargo, this "wrecking ball" hits fast and hard, but I do concede it is not without its weaknesses. First of all, that's a huge point chunk of your army sitting in a flying plastic deathtrap. If an opponent is dedicated to anti-air and your ride gets shot down, you might just be out of luck. However, the high armor of the Storm Raven helps mitigate this risk, and the invulnerable saves on the guys and gals inside means that they still have a good chance of surviving. Second of all, the usefulness of this unit is dependent on a good reserve rolls. If your wrecking ball doesn't come in until turn 3 or 4, it's basically too late to be of any use and the rest of your army may have already been destroyed. However, the divination table offers some options that Coteaz can take advantage of in order to ensure that your Storm Raven arrives in time to do the most damage. While I'm usually not a fan of death-star type armies, this list takes a different approach, adding speed and efficiency, especially when comparing the total point cost of the ''Wrecking Ball" when compared with other death stars out there.

So, where does the rest of the army fit in? Well first of, please avoid screaming "cheese!" at the psyflemen dreads, I tried to avoid spamming them by only taking 2, but let's face it, they're just so good. Furthermore, they fill so many gaps in the army, mainly high-strength long range fire. The reinforced aegis just puts them over the top against psykers, so it's hard to avoid taking some of these beasts along for the ride. You may also notice that the list is a little short on scoring units. However, the Grand Master's "Grand Strategy" ability is awesome to make the dreads scoring, so they can just sit in back on objectives and pick apart the enemy from 48" away. Even if you decide not to add more scoring units, Grand Strategy has many other buffs that serve your army well.

As far as Coteaz goes, he is, in my opinion, one of the best HQ's for his points in 6th edition. If you've seen my article on HQ choices, you'll see that the two powers Coteaz can take in divination provide great army-wide buffs, he makes your wrecking ball a scoring unit, his artificer armor lets him survive longer, and his Daemon hammer makes him effective enough in combat. The kicker? This guy is only 100pts. For what he does for your army, especially by making the wrecking ball a scoring unit, he is an absolute bargain, and I've been taking him in almost all my GK lists now that he can roll 3 times on divination, and is always guarenteed to get at least a better version of guide. A farseer with a Daemon Hammer and a 2+ save? Yeah, I'll take that. I usually like him to ride with the strike squad in the Chimera, but that brings me to a slightly awkward part about the army.

The Chimera with the dual heavy flamers (because why not?) is actually bought as a dedicated transport for the henchmen, but they're riding in the Storm Raven instead. Therefore, I like the strike squad to have the extra point of front armor and multitude of firing points that the Chimera offers, but it makes the first turn very  awkward, since the Grey Knights (and Coteaz) have to start outside of it and then board it on turn one. This usually isn't much of an inconvinience, but it does leave your strike squad open to some potential hurt at the beginning of the game. Just get them on board as soon as possible and start moving toward the center and you should be fine. The Chimera allows both psycannons to shoot out of the top, as well as 3 more S5 psybolt stormbolters, which is just so much better than the rhino in my opinion. Plus, the dual flamers can wreck some armies, and you'll be glad when those opportunities arise. As far as the Terminators go, they're just there to fill out points and act as a tough scoring unit. I prefer halberds, but I always include one hammer for TEQ's, and a psycannon on the Justicar so he can pick his shots. They are also pretty versatile in that they can teleport onto the battlefield, which allows them to get into better position, especially Coteaz gets the power that modifies reserve rolls from divination, because Grey Knights love that board center.

While I've done a good amount of testing, there is still definite room for improvement on this list. I've found that the terminators are easily replaced because with Grand Strategy you usually have around 4 tough scoring units. Sometimes for fun I like to throw in a dreadknight (because everyone hates them so much) and make him scoring. If you find that you really don't like the risk of the Storm Raven, you can always opt for a land raider. You just always want to make sure that your wrecking ball is getting the charge, and the Land Raider is a little too slow and cumbersome for my test (though I admit I haven't really tried it). If you're feeling extra cheesy, you can always throw in another psyfleman dread, but other than that just have fun! I find it's a very versatile list that can still be really cinematic - I like the idea of Coteaz and his boys scouting ahead and then calling in back up from the Grand Master circling overhead! In my opinion the death cult's are one of the most underrated unit in 40k, so you can certainly surprise your opponent who will most likely severely underestimate them. I also try to avoid doing what everyone and their mother on the internet does on the interwebs with their armies, because that's just not fun. That's why I encourage you all to come up with your own strategies, or change this list to fit your own style. This is just a pallet for you 40k generals to build on. Let me know what works, and what doesn't work, but until then, good hunting!

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