12 Mar 2013

Chaos Daemons Tactica - Fast Attack

Howdy everyone, I am Learn2Eel and I am here to talk about the exciting Fast Attack selection from the new Chaos Daemons codex! With some very cheap and effective units available, a lot of tough decisions will likely be made by hobbyists everywhere as they decide which units to purchase. I hope you find this article both entertaining and intriguing.
A quick note; this Tactica was written during the release week for Chaos Daemons. Thus, the Tactica does not account for the new Tau release.

Fast Attack

Our Fast Attack slot is filled with cheap and effective units that are a lot more dangerous than an initial impression would give them credit for. They are all quite capable of laying down the pain to a multitude of enemy units, though they tend to be somewhat fragile - given, again, how inexpensive even large units of them are, this shouldn't trouble you too much. The only real worry is which one you want to take multiples of for redundancy purposes, as several of these units simply demand your attention.

Flesh Hounds of Khorne -The baying blood-soaked dogs of war endemic to almost every Chaos army, Flesh Hounds are a nasty unit that get their groove from raw speed, good durability and an intimidating charge. As beasts, they have a twelve inch movement that is unimpeded by terrain, and when considers they also have the Fleet special rule, they can reliably make it into combat within the first two turns, depending on which player goes first - given that they can only do damage in combat, this is very handy. The startling realisation that they have the Scout special rule actually means they become even more of an immediate threat for your opponent, as they can redeploy up to twelve inches away from their original position after both players have deployed their forces. A unit that expected to have at least two turns to fire at the Flesh Hounds and have space to move back may suddenly find itself in no mans' land; as long as the Flesh Hounds' owning player goes second, the little monsters can launch an assault in the first game turn! Obviously, you still need to be careful with what units you charge, and making sure that there are at least a few other units nearby so that the Flesh Hounds don't get overwhelmed without doing some good damage. Still, the possibility that you can potentially tie up a nasty ranged unit and massacre it after it gets only one round of shooting means your Flesh Hounds are performing their job quite well - drawing firepower, and attention, away from the main force. On these capabilities alone, Flesh Hounds are a very good and useful unit that demands your attention; Daemons traditionally suffer when targeted by massed shooting, and any unit that can mitigate this is well worth your time.

However, the good stuff about Flesh Hounds doesn't end there. Though they lack any kind of armour-ignoring melee attacks, each Flesh Hound strikes with three Strength five attacks on the charge, using their high Weapon Skill of five and resolved at Initiative four! Given their sheer mobility, it is also incredibly likely that they will get the charge off - re-rolling charge distances is another great feature of Fleet - and even then, they still have two Strength four attacks in subsequent rounds. Against typical units that you would want your Flesh Hounds to tie up, such as Tactical Marines and Devastators, a decently-sized unit of Khorne's dogs should reliably tear through them after a few rounds and suffer relatively minimal casualties in return. Their combat capabilities also mean they can reliably take on low Toughness, low Initiative monstrous creatures as well - still, it must be noted that you should pick your targets very carefully at all times, as quite a few combat-oriented units will towel them up. That you can reliably soak up Overwatch fire and the like with Flesh Hounds is quite beneficial, given as each model has two wounds at Toughness four; though they are prone to instant-death like any multiple-wound creature, they are so cheap and fast that enemies probably won't consider them a prime target for such weapons. Against small arms fire, they are about as tough as a Space Marine statistically, whilst wound-allocation and mobility allows them to really share the wounds around across multiple shooting phases without losing any models. Perhaps their best attribute is that they are very cheap for how they will typically perform on the battlefield - you can fit almost three Flesh Hounds into an army for each Bloodcrusher you would otherwise take. Their strength is in numbers, and a unit of ten is so cheap that you would be foolish not to consider them as a viable counterpart to other fast moving units - or even simply as a distraction that your enemy needs to be very aware of depending on their army list composition. Another note about their Scout rule - if an Independent Character joins them, they too gain the benefits. Given that Karanak makes such a good addition to Bloodcrushers for this very reason, a very nasty tactic is to take either Skulltaker or a Herald on a Juggernaught, armed with an Etherblade of some kind and the Locus that provides Rage, and throw both units up on one or both flanks. To put it simply - it is brutal, and unless your opponent can kill those units quickly, they will be in a lot of trouble. Flesh Hounds are a great unit that you should really have a look at!

Screamers of Tzeentch - Gliding mantas (no, really!) that tear apart the souls of those passing through the Warp, Screamers are visually distinct models that make up for a pretty decent melee unit that is exceptionally quick. As Jetbikes, Screamers can cover incredible distances very quickly, what with a standard twelve inch movement that can be followed by a 'turbo-boost' maneuvre of twenty four inches with the only drawback being that you cannot charge. Still, you can effectively reach your opponent's deployment zone on the first turn - this amazing mobility coupled with either powerful or quantitative melee attacks makes them a very strong threat that opponents can't afford to ignore. They are also quite durable, due to having two wounds each at Toughness four; though missile launchers and the like do put them down without a fight, turbo-boosting Screamers benefit from a +4 cover save that, due to being Daemons of Tzeentch, can re-roll their failed saving throws of one. Due to having the Jink rule, they can also do just fine - so long as they keep moving - if the fateful penalty to army-wide invulnerable saves occurs. Small arms fire works somewhat well against them, though whilst they are turbo-boosting - which they should be doing at the very least on the first turn - they are quite difficult to put down and can become a 'fire-sink' if your opponent doesn't target them with the appropriate weaponry and models. The really cool benefit to turbo-boosting with Screamers is that any one unit they 'fly' over suffers D3 Strength four AP - automatic hits per Screamer with their final position used for wound allocation purposes with any wounds caused! A unit of six, for example, averages about twelve hits and six wounds on a unit such as Tactical Marines, averaging two dead; not bad at all for what is essentially free hits simply for moving into position! There are a lot of ways that smart players can abuse their fly-by attacks, doing damage constantly whilst going out of assault and rapid-fire range and so on. This makes Screamers an excellent harassment unit that can be used to draw certain units out of position or be forced to keep suffering casualties that add up each turn.

Once they are in melee, Screamers perform decently well; each model puts out four Strength four attacks at Initiative four, Weapon Skill three on the charge. They do pretty well against most infantry-standard units, though Screamers work best in numbers and as such you should always be aware not to be heavily outnumbered against enemy units; standard Space Marines will probably be beaten in a hard-fought combat by a decently-sized unit of Screamers, but dedicated melee units may be a different story. But, this is where their special rule 'Lamprey's Bite' comes into play and allows them to strike against a range of other enemies - each model can trade all of its normal attacks for a single strike at Strength five, AP two with the Armourbane rule. Essentially, this allows Screamers to engage elite infantry units, certain lower-Toughness monstrous creatures - such as Daemon Princes - and, importantly, vehicles. Though the few number of attacks from a unit using the Lamprey's Bite does mean you can't engage hardier vehicles or large units of elite enemies reliably, when one considers that they are Jetbikes with their slashing attacks, they can dish out quite a bit of damage very quickly and can force an opponent to move their vehicles or small units away or risk being destroyed. If they actually focus fire on the Screamers, even if the mantas die they will have done their job, as your more important units such as Daemonettes and Lords of Change will face that much less firepower and be able to get up close without suffering as much damage, which can prove pivotal in any engagement.

Screamers aren't really an elite melee unit, and they should never be considered as such for any reason; they are a versatile unit that is meant for heavy harassment and to flood the target priority of your opponent. As a point of note, unless you are backed by Prescience and have a large unit, don't even think about charging into a Terminator squad wielding power fists. The only hindrance to Screamers is that they are somewhat costly per model, as they are almost ten pistachios more expensive than Flesh Hounds of Khorne, but for what they bring to the table, I think they are worth it. As far as unit size goes, it really depends on the points limit and how many units you want to field - I feel six is a great number for cost-effectiveness, and it also means they aren't too big a target for opponents to focus fire on and destroy, meaning their potential loss is less harmful to your overall efforts. I should also point out that Screamers make a great unit for a Herald of Tzeentch on a Disc to join - give him Prescience and watch the Screamers rip and tear!

Imagine this, but gigantic and filled with pus. Aw yeah!

Plague Drones of Nurgle -Tougher than any unit of their speed has a right to be, Plague Drones are a new kind of unit with some interesting unique abilities; they are the first of their kind as 'Jetpack Cavalry'. What this basically means is that they move twelve inches and take dangerous terrain tests, similar to regular Cavalry, but as Jetpack units they instead take dangerous terrain tests only when they begin or finish their move in a piece of terrain. They also have Fleet and Hammer of Wrath, which means they are pretty fast and reliable at getting into an assault, but their special Jetpack rule allows them to move 2D6 inches in the assault phase rather than launching an assault; given that Daemons of Nurgle cannot Run due to being Slow and Purposeful, this is invaluable as it allows them to get to their enemies quicker in the early stages of the game or otherwise move into position. The real benefit of having the Jetpack unit type in addition to being Cavalry is that they can actually move into the higher levels of buildings and ruins, which I am pretty sure regular Cavalry cannot do - this means that units can't hide from your Plague Drones by abusing this usual limitation. To boil it down for simplicity's sake; they are fast, they are reliable, they will get into an assault. However, that isn't even their best attribute - with a Toughness of five and three wounds each, Plague Drones are relentlessly hard to remove conventionally, with only massed Strength ten firepower from Vindicators and Railguns really able to put them down reliably. Given the wound allocation rules, you can and should abuse their positioning so that enemies can't kill models off without having to either attack from multiple fronts or really put the hammer down; the firepower it takes to kill even three of these in a regular game is more than enough to justify their cost. Though the +5 invulnerable save is a weak save, they are still statistically harder to kill than a Terminator and, given they are so speedy, they can jack up the target saturation in your army perfectly; they are very difficult to deal with!

There are a few trade-offs for those two major advantages they have, of course, most noticeably being that their offensive abilities are reduced in comparison to a unit such as Bloodcrushers and the like - though the units have a separate role and organisation slot, of course. Still, that isn't to say their combat abilities aren't great; on top of Hammer of Wrath at Strength four, each model puts out four Poisoned (+4) attacks at Weapon Skill three, Initiative two on the charge with re-rolls to wound against Toughness four or lower models. This means they can really put the pain on a lot of units, especially medium infantry, and their durability means they make for excellent 'tarpit' units that get into combat very quickly, tie up a nasty ranged unit and keep the other elements of your army safe from their escapades. They aren't too bad against higher toughness enemies, and though they do have a mass of Poisoned attacks, I must stress that you need to be very selective of what monstrous creatures you charge, and when; due to Smash, a Daemon Prince is likely to kill two or three before they can even strike, regardless of whether it charged or not. Nemesis Dreadknights will wipe out entire units before they can attack. There are remedies to this, though, through upgrades; one allows one of each models' attacks to inflict instant death which, in a decently sized unit, stands a good chance of outright killing a slow monster such as a Tervigon or Carnifex - it must be noted that this is very risky though. Thankfully, Plague Drones are a unit where you don't really need to worry about a lack of assault grenades - they are regularly Initiative two, and thus will usually strike last regardless. Their other upgrades are interesting; each costs the same, including the afore-mentioned instant death upgrade, though the other two are quite different, where one makes their attacks Poisoned (+3) and the other gives them a decent shooting attack. I think all of the upgrades are useful in particular circumstances, though I think the Poisoned (+3) upgrade is my recommendation for general play.

I also can't go past the icon which gives players another option to deep-strike their other units off of the very fast Plague Drones who, it must be said, are a lot tougher than the other units that can be used in this role. This is an important key to many builds available to a Chaos Daemons' player, and works well either with Plaguebearers or with Daemonettes, Bloodletters and the like. Though the instrument is an option if they deep-strike, generally speaking I think Plague Drones are quick and durable enough that they are probably best used starting on the board and working as a direct and reliable homer for those other units that desperately need it. The Plaguebringer upgrade is, like any other 'chips-cheap' character upgrade in the army, a good option simply for reducing the effects of the Warp Storm Table in relation to your more important HQ characters. However, on a dedicated melee unit, the Plaguebringer works well with an Etherblade or Greater Etherblade for hunting Terminators and power-armoured enemies alike; just be careful not to spend points that are better used elsewhere. Given that they are very expensive for a base model - albeit justified in cost - you need to be careful with how many you put in one unit, especially considering hard-counters such as Vindicators and Leman Russ Demolishers are not all that uncommon nowadays. Three is a good number, though a few more probably won't hurt too much - I would avoid going anywhere near three hundred points though, as two units of four would probably work better at that level and give you more flexibility with both the army list and strategic deployment options. They are a pretty hard-as-nails unit that hits hard through high numbers of Poisoned attacks, and has the speed to match. A very good unit!

Chaos Furies - What flies, has a Leadership of two, and suffers wounds if it fails a Leadership test? You guessed it - Chaos Furies are a funny unit that work decently due to how erratically cheap they are, even if they are quite abysmal if you can't guarantee a good combat result.  Their basic profile is both promising and damning, as they have a mediocre Weapon Skill and only attack each, but with a Strength and Initiative of four they are aren't too bad. Their Toughness of three and one wound means they are as durable as a Daemonette or Bloodletter against shooting, though they are more susceptible to suffering damage in combat than either unit, but not just for having a worse profile; per the Daemonic Instability rules, if the Furies ever lose combat, you can reliably expect to lose another five or so without any kind of saving throw. Well, not everything can be good, can it? What should grab your attention is that they are Jump Infantry, as well as their astonishingly low cost; each model does Hammer of Wrath at Strength four, which isn't too shabby, though only if they get into base contact of course. They move twelve inches, or six inches and grant a re-rollable charge distance. Given their absurd cost and stats, I think it necessary to point out that, as a dedicated melee unit, they are not meant to go up against other units of their kind; they are essentially your fast-moving, decently hard-hitting chaff that die in droves. Placement and which units to charge are of course key to using Furies successfully - that and being able to stand their awful models.

What really spices up Furies are the marks; you can dedicate them to one of the four Chaos gods and receive the same benefits as other Daemons of the chosen patron. However, one mark stands quite largely above the rest; Slaanesh, for two main reasons. The first is that it gives Furies the Rending special rule on their melee attacks, meaning that they generate quite a few armour-ignoring wounds provided they are taken in numbers and haven't suffered too many casualties once they reach combat. This makes them pretty nasty against Terminators, as they also force a high number of armour saves. The second benefit is the addition of Fleet, and the bonus three inches to Run moves; Furies that move twelve inches and either re-roll their Run moves, adding three inches to it or re-rolling charge distance with Rending attacks is pretty nasty! The best part is that they are also still very cheap for what they bring, with their fragility the only real worry you would otherwise have; the lack of assault grenades probably won't matter to you too much, as Furies really are there to tarpit and draw firepower off of other units. The other marks aren't bad, it is just that Slaanesh adds the most to Furies and makes them more than a decent unit; competitively, I likely wouldn't take Furies in any other configuration over dedication to Slaanesh. They effectively become somewhat less cost-effective, cheaper and faster Daemonettes that aren't scoring. If you look at them as chaff, they really aren't bad at all, but otherwise, they shouldn't be taken if you actually do plan either on their survival or actually walloping enemy units of note - unless they are Slaaneshi Furies, of course.

When the art matches the rules; awesome!
Seekers of Slaanesh - I have a quiz for you. Take a Daemonette; look at her abilities and points cost. Change her unit type to 'Cavalry', making her move twice as fast. Give her the special rules 'Outflank' and 'Acute Senses', allowing her to come on from a random table edge and reliably get the one she wants. Give her an extra attack. Now tell me how much you think that is worth; sound off in the comments below, listing out why you think they should cost that much. Let me tell you something; no matter how much you want to make them as cheap as possible, no matter how badly you need to make everyone want them, you haven't costed them like our wonderful authors have. Three poptarts more than a regular Daemonette gets you a Seeker, and that alone is just ridiculous; Daemonettes were already highly cost effective melee units that suffered only from fragility and having to either run across the table or deep-strike in. Seekers, whilst still rather easy to kill, don't suffer the latter disadvantage; they move twelve inches a turn, unimpeded by terrain - though they take dangerous terrain tests - and, as Daemons of Slaanesh, they run an incredible D6 inches plus six inches. They get across the table faster than any other unit of their kind, and they hit so hard too with four Weapon Skill five, Strength three Rending attacks per model at Initiative five on the charge! When one considers they have Fleet on top of their incredible mobility, they aren't likely to fail a charge either, and Hammer of Wrath allows them to sneak in a few cheeky extra wounds before the real combat starts too. The sheer number of attacks they have, on top of Rending and high Weapon Skill and Initiative values means they can tear through entire units - Terminators, Havocs, Carnifexes, you name it - both reliably and amazingly quickly. To put this into perspective, a crazily inexpensive unit of ten on the charge averages five Rending wounds, meaning they can reliably put a Carnifex or even a Dreadknight down in one round of combat! Against a unit of ten Tactical Marines, those ten Seekers average around nine wounds, four or five of which are Rending, and leading to one or two additional deaths from armour saves, meaning the unit averages about six dead Marines on the charge, all before they can strike back and thus giving the Seekers a lot of breathing room!

Seekers are so darn good for their cost, it is hard to really discuss the flaws they do suffer from; notably, their fragility and lack of assault grenades. The former isn't as much of an issue as you might think, given that you can take so many Seekers for so little that you probably will actually smile if your opponent shoots them and not your Keeper of Secrets and/or Daemon Princes. Still, to keep them alive, you should abuse their speed as much as possible and make sure to run behind line-of-sight blocking terrain at your convenience; to minimise the risks of dangerous terrain killing your Seekers, an attached Herald of Slaanesh with the first Locus granting the unit Move Through Cover works well enough. Still, the main issue you will probably have is Overwatch; flamers and even bolters can do a number on Seekers pretty easily, and as such you should work the Seekers in tandem with good damage-soaking units such as Fiends or even Plague Drones. Given the speed of the unit, charging through cover isn't too much of an issue as they are fast enough that they should be able to pick their targets pretty capably; however, it must be noted that Skull Cannons or Fiends, again, work very well to either grant assault grenades or give dramatic (i.e. broken) Initiative penalties to enemy units. In that sense, you do need other units to make up for their faults, but Seekers work well enough that this shouldn't be too much of an issue - that, and those other units are always welcome in an assault-based army, which happens to be where Seekers have their place. Seekers also work as 'homing-beacon' units carrying icons into enemy territory on the first turn that, due to their extreme mobility and chunky unit sizes due to a low cost, makes them probably the best in this role that you can take. They hit as hard, if not harder, than those other units, and they are a far less significant investment to make the tactic tick. Seekers paired with deep-striking Daemonettes is both fluffy and fun - though probably not for your opponent - as your Seekers take the mandatory icon to help the Daemonettes into position, then the Seekers run off into a viable target and hack away, reducing the amount of shots heading at the deadly handmaidens of Slaanesh.

Like with Plague Drones and their ilk, the instrument is only there if you have a specific strategy in place; Seekers are so fast and not much of an obvious threat to your opponent as others of their kind might be that they probably are best off just running up the field in record time. Really, a D6 inches re-rollable run move followed by a guaranteed six inches is crazy good, especially given they also move twelve inches in the movement phase. The Heartseeker is, again, a good cheap upgrade to take for mitigating the effects of the Warp Storm Table, and makes for a very cheap bonus attack for the unit, as well as a sponge to tie-up an enemy character for a turn. I don't think the Heartseeker really benefits from an Etherblade, due to her low Strength and Rending attacks, though in general I think she doesn't need upgrades whatsoever; the unit is best kept cheap, and they are very good regardless of any upgrades. As far as attaching a Herald mounted on a Steed of Slaanesh, I would recommend either the first Locus to make them immune to dangerous terrain, or the third Locus so that their already fantastic combat abilities for the cost are further amplified to ridiculous levels. The Herald can do well with any kind of weapon upgrade, though her Rending attacks should see her through for the most part. Really though, Seekers are so phenomenally good because they are ridiculously cheap; you could not have asked for a unit that is so cheap, so effective and so fast. They are fantastic, and units of ten are about the minimum I would take simply because they are that darn inexpensive!

Hellflayer of Slaanesh - Unique amongst the Slaaneshi chariots both for its inability to be taken in squadrons and being the only one outside of the Heavy Support section - at least, if you don't count the option for Heralds anyway - the Hellflayer is a cheap and fragile option. Taken on its own merits, the Hellflayer does some very decent damage on the charge and serves as a blocker for enemy units; with armour eleven all-round and only two hull points, it is pretty easy to destroy, and it isn't exactly quick either as it moves like any other vehicle. Still, being a vehicle dedicated to Slaanesh, it adds three inches to its Flat Out movements, and combined with Fleet, it can launch an assault pretty reliably too - deep striking is a good option with Hellflayers so as to get them to the midfield quicker and reduce the amount of turns they have to suffer from shooting. With a +5 invulnerable save, it also gets some joy during both the shooting and assault phases, though again, having only two hull points mean it isn't too difficult for a common opponent to be rid of. When it actually gets into combat, as a Chariot of Slaanesh, it deals D6 Hammer of Wrath hits per hull point it has resolved at Strength four AP nothing, but what is really of note here is the fact that they are Rending attacks! Provided it hasn't suffered any damage, it averages about one Rending wound when it launches an assault, which can be nifty to kill an expensive model here or there; the Hellflayer is so cheap that this actually isn't that bad, and it makes for a pretty good distraction unit. What makes the Hellflayer functionally different from the other chariots is that any unsaved wound caused by its Hammer of Wrath attacks grants a bonus attack to the rider, which means you are likely to get one or two bonus attacks. As far as the actual rider goes, the Alluress is essentially a Daemonette with two bonus attacks; she puts out the hurt decently, though obviously not as much as an actual unit of Slaanesh's handmaidens would, meaning you need to be careful who you charge into. Given that the Alluress only has one wound and a +5 invulnerable save, she is pretty easily killed too - especially with a Toughness of three. It works best because it is cheap; also, the model is awesome!

Still, it really needs to be compared to both the other Slaaneshi chariots and even the other units in its slot, and I must say that I would probably take the majority of those over the Hellflayer any time. As far as the chariots go, the standard Seeker Chariot is the most cost-effective of the bunch, whilst the Exalted Seeker Chariot hits the hardest at the highest cost; both outshine the Hellflayer in my opinion, especially given that they can be taken in squadrons and thus free up more room for other units in the slot. As far as other Fast Attack choices go, I think actual blocks of units are more valuable in this sense, especially given the Hellflayer can be quite easily taken out in one-shot from afar; as an open-topped vehicle, a simple lascannon penetrates it on a three and up and subsequently destroys it on a four and up. Compare this to Furies, Screamers and the like who don't suffer from the same disadvantage; even if they are obviously vulnerable to small arms fire, they don't die as quickly and as spectacularly as any vehicle would, especially in the 6th Edition environment. Whilst the Hellflayer isn't a bad choice and it is probably unfair to compare it to the other units in this way, I would say that if you want your chariot-fix, take the Seeker or Exalted Seeker Chariots and free up your Fast Attack slots for more valuable units such as Seekers of Slaanesh who actually work pretty well in tandem with the other chariots. Again though, they aren't at all bad, and if you do take them, consider running a pair with supporting Seekers of Slaanesh and Seeker Chariots to have a mobile, hard-hitting and fragile force of fantastically-evil models.

This is what our Fast Attack choices commonly do.
Example Builds - Our Fast Attack units have a lot of viable combinations, but here are a few that I have found to work quite well;

Flesh Hounds of Khorne (10) - 160
Flesh Hounds of Khorne (10) w/ attached Herald of Khorne w/ etherblade, juggernaught -270

Screamers of Tzeentch (6) - 150
Screamers of Tzeentch (6) w/ attached Herald of Tzeentch w/ disc of Tzeentch - 220

Plague Drones (3) w/ plaguebringer, icon, rot proboscis - 156
Plague Drones (5) w/ plaguebringer, icon, rot proboscis - 250

Chaos Furies of Slaanesh (20) - 160

Seekers of Slaanesh (10) w/ heartseeker, icon - 135
Seekers of Slaanesh (15) w/ heartseeker, icon - 195

1 comment:

  1. As always, good and accurate analysis.
    I would just add one thing : plague drones are excellent heavy tanks hunters, as they're fast enough to catch them and have a bunch of attacks to be sure to get sixes and glance it to death. It's particularly useful as deamons have problems to destroy big tanks (except the monstruous creatures of course, but only the flying ones are fast enough to do that effectively, and I prefer use them against other targets anyway)