TACTICS: SYNTHESIS & SYNERGY
We've covered a lot of units, but only glanced at how they work well with each other and how you can build lists around them. Now we're going to look at how to make those things work together and how to adapt to the various hard-headed threats out there. We're going to touch on flyers, list design theory, how to break the key links in an opponent's list using the tools you have available... you know, the fun stuff.
FLYERS & ANTI-AIR
First question when it comes to flyers and anti-air: do you need to consider them. This is no idle question, as not having to worry about this sort of thing will free up quite a few points and ease your concerns in your mind.
What I mean to ask by that is, more or less: are there enough flyers in your meta, your area, your FLGS, that to have a shot at winning you need to bring the flyer-killing stuff? We're not at the release of 6e anymore: with the release of the Wolves, pretty much everyone (except the poor, neglected Sororitas) has their own flyer; a very large number of players have at least one flyer or FMC in their lists, by now.
An additional consideration: even if several players regularly bring a flyer in their list, can you get away with ignoring it? Focus on playing the mission, getting objectives secured, working on your Maelstrom mission cards, getting into melee, whatever—can you afford to ignore that flyer and still win?
Because CSMs have pretty poor anti-air, to be perfectly honest. It's hard to have good anti-air unless you can field, say, your own flyer with high-strength, low AP guns like a Crimson Hunter, an AT-kitted Stormraven, or a Vendetta. Or, if you're going Forge World, Sabre Turret Platforms.
What options do CSM have, then?
- Flakk missiles: overpriced.
- Fortification quadgun or icarus lascannon: enemies can deploy cover to block the gun entirely (unless it's, say, on top of a Bastion).
- Heldrake with HAC: only AP4, so no explosions, and you pay full price for a Heldrake but don't get a baleflamer.
- Forgefiend with HACs and Prescience: Prescience is hard to cast, these days, and you're still only hitting on 6s.
- Allied Soul Grinder: 3 BS3 S7 shots might glance a flyer once, but... you're also sacrificing shooting your main gun/assaulting a unit with the Grinder.
- Allied Slaaneshi DP w/ Lash of Despair (and possibly Iron Arm): you can pay a ruinous price for a 50% shot at Iron Arm to make this guy reliable; otherwise you'll have trouble glancing AV12 at S6. Very expensive for a coin flip chance at being good and very fragile against enemy Skyfire. To be fair, it'll put the hurt on lighter flyers/rear armor 10/FMCs quite well.
- Snapping fire with Havocs, etc: an inefficient use of your scant shooting that should be focused on targets where it'll actually do you good. You can use Prescience here too, but with as many lower-S shots as a Forgefiend or half as many as-high-or-higher-S shots.
Your best bets are honestly a Prescience'd Forgefiend and/or a Slaaneshi Lash-DP. If you're taking a Lash Prince, you've guaranteed that your allied HQ won't be able to take Prescience, so if you want to take both, you'd need to go Crimson Slaughter->Sorc->Balestar. An upshot to these units is the fact that they still have a whole lot of utility against other opponents: even if you take out that flyer/don't end up facing one, the Forgefiend and Prince are still going to be able to choose their targets from the enemy with impunity.
There's a rare chance you'll be able to get a meltagun onto a Skyfire Nexus objective and there will be an enemy flyer nearby, or something, but... that's not something you can plan for or rely on, and a good enemy player will be wary of that sort of thing.
Let's talk Heldrakes, then. Heldrakes have a moderately high strength D3 auto-hit attack, right? Well, yeah... but by Vector Striking, with the new FAQs you are sacrificing the ability to shoot at that flyer, since you apparently lost the ability to spit metal out your ass-jet. All perfectly well and good if you have a Baleflamer and want to torch a squad on the other side of that flyer, but it's another argument against taking the HAC: you can only use half of your armament against any given enemy, so unless your opponent is absolutely spamming flyers...
Additionally, Vector Striking—unless you use the movement to fly off the board—is going to flash your AV10 ass at the enemy. If that's a Vendetta, don't be surprised if your opponent goes into hover mode and launches an unwelcome attack up your kilt. If the enemy flyer has, say, a Storm Raven's multi-melta (or is it an assault cannon) on its 360 degree turret, they may not even have to Hover. Or, hell, if it's a Crimson Hunter which can't hover, it'll still probably be able to get the angle thanks to Vector Dancer. And I don't even want to talk about a Flyrant or a Lash Prince in that position. Basically: beware flashing your rear armor, and consider the enemy vessel's armament, unless you are pretty sure your remaining shooting can take off any hull points/wounds you need to.
PLAYING AGAINST CSM (and what to expect from your opponents)
This is a CSM-geared look at playing against CSM, with an eye toward what to do if you end up against another CSM player—but also keeps a eye out for what you can expect a canny non-CSM player to try to pull against you, the CSM player.
Some armies *cough*Eldar*cough*Tau*cough* have the sheer quantity of shooting and the mobility to back it up that you may never come to grips with them, unless you got the first turn and your whole army is in assault range on T2. Trying to rush no-man's-land against a gunline is always demoralizing: still, it plays to those armies' strengths to have you come to them, and they know their priorities: kill your fastest and killiest stuff before it reaches combat. Mind you, I'm assuming you're playing a melee-obsessed list like most CSM players; you might be running a Noise Marine gunline, for all I know.
The important thing to draw from this, though, is the prioritization: you're probably not going to have the luxury of that much shooting to take out an enemy player's 2+ jinking Nurgle Mace Prince and/or their AoBF juggerlord in a bunch of spawn, and/or their allied Seekers. Capitalize the strengths of your list vs theirs, of course—hit that Nurgle 2+ jinking Prince with all the sonic blasters and blastmasters you have, by all means. Your strengths, like theirs, though, are likely to lie in combat, so the important determinant of the conflicts lies in who gets the assaults on whom; whose loadout trumps whose, and who has been knocked around more than the other coming into the fight.
Some things to bear in mind:
Getting the assault may be important, but when both of you are on bikes, that's a big threat bubble for both of you to be skirting around. To avoid this, bear in mind that...
Bait is a very kosher part of the play and counter-play of CSM. Feed your enemies those squads that aren't doing much, so you get the assault with your real, valuable units against their real, valuable units. Bear in mind your bait has to be tempting enough that they judge the exchange to be valuable enough to engage in—10 cultists aren't likely to sucker in the enemy's mega-deathstar, but a Rhino full of CSM who'll be forcibly disembarked and unable to fight next turn may well be... even if the enemy shooting kills the Rhino and they assault the squad itself.
A Mace Prince or AoBF Lord is going to strike before a power fist and probably kill the bearer—possibly even through a SoC's 4++. Heck, a lone Prince has the Initiative that it doesn't mind being assaulted by just about anything other than an enemy Prince, given that the enemy will have to challenge you, and you'll be just fine that first round of combat with your extra wounds spilling over. And if you're going to get drawn into a Mace-down or an Axe-off, try to a) have the assault and b) have dealt a wound or two to the enemy character before assaulting. Also it may help to d) pray to the Dark Gods that your opponent rolls a 1 for bonus attacks and you don't. No, I'm not telling you c), in case I play against you some time...
That in mind, keep in mind how the challenges will play out. Boons will make things a bit unpredictable, but you should be able to mentally map how the champions and HQs in a combat should play out. Sending out a sacrificial champ isn't necessarily the best choice, as it doesn't offer a one-turn-buffer anymore: since extra wounds spill over, you're just giving that character free rein against your unit for a turn. I really dislike that particular rule change in 7e, since it actively disincentivizes the weaker side of a combat from accepting challenges.
Plague Marines or a Nurgle Lord with blight grenades just about castrate Khornate charge bonuses. The defensive buffs of the former just about trump the first-round offensive bonus of the latter, unless you've got a real nasty Khornate melee monster.
Keep in mind who has assault grenades and who doesn't. Beware of/try to get into cover when using/against units without assault grenades, like Warp Talons, Possessed, Daemon Princes, allied Seekers/Daemonettes... I've had a squad of 20 grimoired Daemonettes lose combat by a painfully large margin against 7 Plague Marines in cover, striking last and with fewer attacks vs poisoned 3+ rerolls to wound. More fool me for making that assault.
Make your shooting count. Focus your fire to get first blood cracking a vulnerable unit like a Rhino—killing Rhinos is generally great, too, since it slows down your enemy and gives you the edge in mobility. All the more reason not to rely on them in your list, I say. If the enemy are hitting home in staggered waves, that gives you more time to pounce on his forces piecemeal. Shoot at enemy Havocs out of cover, shoot at the enemy buff-slingers, or that Daemon Prince who's only vulnerable briefly because you spent all your dispel dice to deny his Iron Arm.
And speaking of piecemeal, if you have a mobile force, or a deep striking contingent, or outflankers, see if you can get your opponent to split their army—then isolate and overwhelm. Deployment is important here: if all your fast stuff, most of your army, is on one flank but your firebase and HS choices are on the other, it'd be the work of a single movement phase to consolidate your forces, but you might bait the enemy into splitting into two prongs.
Chaos vs Chaos is a fun mirror match, all told—a nice challenge of generalship. Have fun with it!
Y/N: DARK VENGEANCE?
Ah, Dark Vengeance. Some of the most beautiful—but also some of the worst-equipped—models that GW has ever produced.
So, what to do, what to do. First, if your collection is limited to Dark Vengeance and little more, don't use the Lord mini they give you as the Lord, unless you're also going Crimson Slaughter and kitting him out fully as Kranon the Relentless (with Daemonheart, Blade of the Relentless, Slaughterer's Horns, and all). Rather, go with that cool Aspiring Champion in the 7e Dark Vengeance or that Chosen with the power axe—that'd make a nice Lord w/ Axe of Blind Fury, if I may say so myself.
Furthermore, the rest of those Chosen... are really less than ideally kitted out. They definitely cost too damn many points, are too fragile, and are too slow to be fielded together—I'd much rather see individuals of that squad used as squad champions and the like. Turn that power fist into a Plague Marine champion; remove one of the lightning claws from the dual LC mini and so you could make 2 minis with one LC, or kit somebody out with fisticlaws pretty easily. The power maul champion (canonically Draznicht, I suppose, thanks to his third eye that gives him Preferred Enemy precognition), um, makes for a neat Dark Apostle, though I'm unlikely to field him as such too often (read: likely not ever). Or you could swap out his maul.
The Helbrute and cultists are pretty perfectly suited to make a Helcult, though the fact that half of the cultists you get have to spend points to lose their bonus cc attack/still be worse than Guardsmen kind of annoys me. I'd much rather have 20 ccw cultists, all told (conversions are difficult on those minis, but I'm sure most opponents would be fine if you just told them that all were melee-weapon having). The various Helbrute formations upgrade the Helbrute from a mediocre unit to a useful, cool, effective one, so as far as I'm concerned, those are the only ways to take the unit.
You can attempt to carve off all of the Dark Angels iconography from the tactical squad, etc, if you ended up with that half of the kit as well, but I know from experience that it's not all that easy, and that some of those HQ characters have some awfully intricate and buried heraldry. The tactical marines basically only have shoulder pads to carve the DA symbol off of, but are left looking pretty basic and loyalist afterwards—ah well, nothing that can't be spikified with a quick rummage through the bitz box.
One option is to paint the DA like Fallen, of course (in the black armor they wore during the Horus Heresy, I imagine, rather than in the modern DA green, but with the same iconography). Take them next to Cypher, perhaps, in his Fallen/Chosen formation, with a bunch of special weapons added in!
Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't seen a glut of Chaos players with Fallen contingents, these days, thanks to Dark Vengeance (and aided by the return of Cypher!) but I'm not displeased by the lack of such... it lets those few that do crop up stand out more. I honestly think I've only seen one person take this idea and run with it, online or off, besides my brainstorming out loud about it.
So, Dark Vengeance: Y/N? Honestly, I think it is worth it, just for the sheer number of models you're getting for the price (especially if you're splitting the price with a DA player), and for the mini-rulebook that comes with it. That doesn't change the fact that you're going to end up with some beautifully modeled-yet-terribly-equipped minis that you'll be hard-pressed to include in a competitive list, though.
COLLECTING YOUR ARMY
Among defining factors that will act as real-world limitations to fielding all of the cool lists that you're be able to think up, far and away the largest is what actual Chaos Space Marines you have in your possession. As I see it, there are three main states of collecting an army: building from the ground up, working with what you have, or being spoiled for choice.
Building From the Ground Up
If you're starting with absolutely no Chaos minis, you have the benefit of a blank slate—but still have the daunting task of pulling together an army that you have no guarantee will be fun on the table, once you're done. Good for you for seeking out a tactica like this one, as it may well give you a feeling for what you want and a sense of direction you would otherwise be lacking in your list: some overall cohesion to aim for.
Which is not to sneer upon the merits of simply buying what you think looks cool: what is competitive this edition gives no guarantee of remaining as such in codexes to come, and if you want to prioritize having a cool collection of minis that you enjoyed building and painting and having on your shelf, then by all means go right ahead. Still, on the actual game board, you can avoid some embarrassment by not having to buy any units that—for now—are pretty useless.
At least units you buy—while they may shift up and down in competitiveness—are going to stay yours and, except in rare cases, stay legal for just about ever. I don't know how fast you, the tactica reader, are going to be able to collect your army, whether you intend to spend several hundred dollars/pounds/euro just getting the army off the ground, or if you're going to barely be able to buy a unit every now and then, but if you can manage even, say, a box a month, then in two or three years you're going to have an impressive force to be reckoned with—and that's not even counting deals you can get on ebay for cheap armies, or buying armies from people a your local FLGS leaving the hobby/moving to a different army, or whatever.
First off, you are going to need a Daemon Prince and a spare Spawn to tote to games, in case you roll a Dark Apotheosis or Spawnhood result on the Boon table. A shame the Daemon Prince that gets spawned doesn't technically have wings, but still: if you're getting a Daemon Prince model, build it with wings or (if you have the technical know-how and pieces, though it's really quite easy) try magnetizing the wings onto it. A Prince with wings and a Black Mace is a fun starting point for the army, certainly, or Be'lakor, and when you aren't playing with the fellow, you have your Apotheosis spare sitting around ready for use. Just what I think, mind.
From there, I say build your list in chunks. Start with an HQ and 2 Troops for the first 500/750 points, then build with a couple other fun units: a retinue for that HQ, if it was a special character or on a bike/juggernaut, for instance, a heavy support choice or two, and/or a transport vehicle.
It's good to decide on an overarching theme to build towards early: Are you going to bring a marks Lord/Sorc and bring some squads of cult troops? Are you going to have a fast in-your-face force of bikers/spawn, HQ killnasties, and maulerfiends, supported by Troops CSM in Rhinos with dirge casters? Or are you trying to run a solid gunline with maxed Heavy Support, anchoring the line with cheap MSU units of 5 Noise Marines with a blastmaster each? Are you going to be bringing in Daemonic allies or fortifications of some sort? Which codex or supplement are you going to run, and if it's Black Legion or Crimson Slaughter, is the background purist within you strong enough to demand that you paint that supplement's soldiers in their proper color scheme?
By that same coin, however, don't be afraid to proxy units (with your opponents' permission) to see if that is what you want for your mainstay army before you've bought all the units, or to try new things and see if you like those better. Who knows, maybe you'd prefer a Nurgle Bikerlord for that sweet T6, Fisticlaws (or BBoS) and Plague Marine Troops, rather than an AoBF Lord. Or want to try running both.
Play around. Have an idea of where you're headed, but don't lock yourself into some idea of exactly how you must build your army—you having new experiences, to say nothing of new dataslates/supplements/formations, etc, coming out, or a new codex dropping, should all readily be able to change your mind.
Working With What You Have
Perhaps you've started with your CSM recently, and want to win more matches so you read up on this tactica, now regret several past purchases. Maybe you inherited a large chunk of CSM from a friend on the cheap. Perhaps (*sigh*) you bought Dark Vengeance—hopefully the 7e box, then, with the extra cool Champion, and not the 6e-whose-tiny-rulebook-is-already-invalid version.
Use what you can. Don't be afraid to chop-and-swap bits and special weapons, or to convert CSMs into, say, Noise Marines or Plague Marines. My points on Dark Vengeance go into that sort of mindset quite well, I think: don't be afraid to get chaotic with your Chaos conversions. When this codex was released, I tore my Defilers (one of which I got from a friend in just such a dump-purchase as I described last paragraph) in half in order to turn them into Soul Grinders, and have had few moments so cathartic in the length and breadth of my hobby career.
And what you get is likely not to be all bad: I imagine that you'll find a use for, on average, more than two-thirds of piecemeal-acquired armies. Say what you will about how mediocre this codex is, it certainly smoothed out quite a few of the low points of the 4e CSM codex (while, sure, introducing Mutilators as a new low).
Being Spoiled For Choice
So you have 10k+ points of CSM and were just brushing up on tactics, here. Thanks, but I think you have your collection well in hand.
Let's wrap up with some general thoughts on improving your play that don't fit into the general “CSM” mold, but that can still improve your play.
Mathhammer: Bending the Odds in Your Favor
There are deeper layers to peruse, of course. You can get into Mathhammer, the crunching of statistics to optimize units, for example—but I warn you, then you'll lay awake at night calculating the average number of glancing hits that a Forgefiend using Prescience and Daemonforge will do to a jinking Wave Serpent, and the like.
(2.25, by the way, assuming the Serpent Shield downgrades all pens into glances and they don't have holo fields/some other way to boost their Jink)
Or how many glances/pens a S7 Armorbane weapon swung by Be'lakor would do to an AV 13 Knight. Or the percent odds of a lone melta exploding a Land Raider. Or how many unsaved wounds, on average, a Wave Serpent will do to a Swooping T6 FMC with a 2+ jink save (which the Serpent Shield will Ignore Cover on, but will only be twin-linked if the twin-linked scatter lasers manage to get a hit on 6s). Or how many average unsaved wounds a lightning claw will do versus a power sword (+bp), on average, with and without the assault attack bonus and against lower, same and higher Toughness-than-your-Strength opponents. OR...
You get the picture. There is an awful lot of brain-horsepower you can waste on the nuances of statistical averages, and the relative merits of how to finesse the odds in your favor.
There are programs and apps you can use for building army lists, to automate a lot of the manual adding of points in the head (to say nothing of getting rid of those annoying arithmetic errors), which also often store those lists for later perusal and tweaking, but also allow you to print them out for bringing into the store or to tournaments: I myself bought Quartermaster on my iPhone, and I daresay I have gotten far more than its moneys' worth out of it (after figuring out how to download army templates from an independent website, for legal reasons), and have found it worth every cent. Very crisp, clean and efficient. Army Builder seems like a popular (computer) program I've seen multiple people using, as well.
Streamlining your list creation process and having an easily accessible archive of lists is incredibly liberating, I have found. I frequently find myself whipping out the Quartermaster app to scribble up a new list that tries out some odd synergy I've been considering when I have a few free minutes.
That's All, Folks
Thanks for reading this tactica. I'd wrap a bow around it and tie it off for you, really, but I don't know if that's necessary. I mean, thanks for reading it; thanks for paying attention to my wordscribbles. I write this for you all, and it's your responses and spirited disagreements/debates/expansions on my thoughts that make it all worthwhile.
And before this circle-jerk becomes too self-congratulatory: good night, dear Heretics. Good night...
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
Last edited by Mossy Toes; 08-17-14 at 05:39 AM.
Reason: wrapped up