8 Jan 2015

Space Wolves - Unit Overview Part III

Howdy there fellow war-gamers and welcome to the third part of my Space Wolf Unit Overview series! I have elected to focus solely on the Fast Attack choices this time around and have been mightily impressed with all or most of them in a competitive sense. I hope you enjoy this article!



Fast Attack

Swiftclaws - Like all other Bike units in 6th Edition and 7th Edition codices, Swiftclaws have seen a rather significant points drop and improvements to their basic rules as a result of changes to the Bike unit type. The addition of Hammer of Wrath and Jink among other rules serve to make Bikes a far better value prospect than they used to be in 5th Edition, while the removal of the Headstrong special rule sees that Swiftclaws - like Blood Claws and Skyclaws - are far better off than they used to be. Actually having the ability to control your units and prevent them from making a potentially suicidal or useless charge would be good enough to justify this unit's superior status, but the 5 point drop per model only seals the deal; keep in mind though that the Attack Bike is slightly more expensive as a result. As for how Swiftclaws compare to other Biker units, that is a bit of a different story; they are a mere 1 point less expensive per model than standard Space Marine Bikers and exchange a point of both Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill for the handy Rage special rule. Seeing as all Space Marine Bikes pack in Twin-Linked Bolters anyway, the reduction to Ballistic Skill 3 isn't a major issue, nor is Weapon Skill 3 as opposed to Weapon Skill 4 for that matter.

Swiftclaws are undeniably superior melee combatants to standard Space Marine and Chaos Space Marine Biker squads with three attacks each on the charge thanks to Rage, as well as the option to add a "hidden" special melee weapon. Unfortunately, they do tend to come up short in other areas; Acute Senses and Counter-Attack are decent but don't compare at all to White Scars Chapter Tactics, while the inability to take two Special Weapons as well as Ballistic Skill 3 for those non-twin-linked weapons does hurt their versatility. Still, being a Toughness 5 Bike unit with 3+ armour saves and Krak Grenades means they are at the very least a good unit in a 7th Edition context considering their price. While it is true that Thunderwolf Cavalry have become even more appealing than before and many a Combined Arms detachment will struggle to fit in more than one or two units of Swiftclaws as a result, Swiftclaws still make a perfect supplement to those more elite choices and are a good unit in their own right.
Change? Stronger.
Competitive? Yes.

Rhino - This is the same cheap transport Space Marine players know and love (or loathe) as has seemingly always been the case, with the only real tweaks to its' rules coming in the form of indirect meta changes wrought by the rulebook and a handful of points decreases to vehicle upgrades. It is still hilariously vulnerable to any kind of focused firepower, the transport capacity remains unchanged and there's still little reason to upgrade it. Even with the buffs to vehicles in 7th Edition when compared to 6th Edition, Rhinos still aren't as good as they used to be in 5th Edition where the units they ferried could jump out and assault if the transport didn't move, while the removal of a glancing hit damage chart doesn't make up for the introduction of hull points.

At the very least, the way most players used Space Wolf units - specifically Grey Hunters, anyway - was to jump out of their transports, shoot, then use Counter-Attack when they were subsequently charged to turn the opponent's charge bonus against them. 6th Edition helped this with the addition of Overwatch and changes to how Rapid Fire weapons are fired, but for all of the other units like Blood Claws this generally wasn't an improvement at all. However, Rhinos are still "good" in the sense that they are among the least expensive transports in the game and have better overall durability than many that are more expensive; the lack of any tangible firepower is made up for the fact that you will never have to decide between shooting or moving Flat Out, allowing you to get your ferried units around the battlefield as quickly as possible. Of course, Rhinos could do with being Fast Vehicles but I guess they would be too cheap at their current price if that was the case.
Change? Weaker.
Competitive? Yes.

Razorback -While I've never been a massive fan of Razorbacks, one simply cannot deny how crucial they were to 5th Edition builds with the Space Wolf codex in particular - Grey Hunters, Long Fangs and "las-plas" Razorbacks formed the core of almost every competitive list. The changes to transports and vehicles in both 6th Edition and 7th Edition means they aren't as generally useful as they were in 5th Edition unless they were Skimmers. In an objective-oriented edition where determining how to score victory points can be randomly determined each turn via Tactical Objectives in Maelstrom of War missions, using a transport that is intended to shoot more than ferry units and has a reduced transport capacity to boot generally isn't ideal. The Razorback pays a lot of points for that heavy weapon replacing the top hatch, giving players the unsavoury choice of trying to pick between moving and firing or sacrificing shooting so as to get to your destination quicker, not to mention that you can't use Smoke Launchers along with your weapons.

As for the specific Razorback unit entry, little has changed save for the points cost of some variants; those that armed their Razorbacks with Heavy Bolters are out of luck, while the Heavy Flamer build ends up being a decent 10 points cheaper. The other builds are unchanged but this isn't really a good thing considering some of those builds were considered over-priced back in 5th Edition and still are currently, with either of the lascannon-toting configurations proving inefficient at best. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the far greater ease of destroying vehicles only serves to further highlight how fragile a Razorback is; it is no Wave Serpent and doesn't have the firepower to double as a battle tank, nor is it a particularly good transport in general. With how expensive it is compared to a Rhino and how inefficient its' firepower is compared to most other units in the codex, I just don't see a stable role for Razorbacks anymore in most competitive lists. While you can now take these as empty tanks due to their unrestricted place in the Fast Attack slot, doing so isn't really advisable as you may as well just take more efficient Predators instead if you aren't going to use these to support your infantry.
Change? Weaker.
Competitive? No.


Drop Pod - One of the more iconic and sought after transports exclusive to Space Marine factions, Drop Pods remain arguably the best choice to ferry any unit in the codex that is capable of using it. They don't need or want upgrades, they are cheap, they will always deliver your units to the general location they want to be in without having to worry about potentially being destroyed along the way - even Interceptor shooting doesn't compare to Rhinos or Razorbacks being forced to endure at least two or three rounds of shooting. That they specifically provide Space Marines - a traditionally medium to short ranged army - with an accurate and safe delivery method that your opponent will struggle to counter no matter how experienced they are is what makes them one of the best faction-specific transports in the game. The removal of proper null deployment from 6th Edition and 7th Edition placed greater value on Drop Pods than ever before as they remain one of the only proper means of pulling off this strategy, meaning opponents are far less likely to be prepared for the trick once it occurs.

The addition of an optional Locator Beacon is also greatly appreciated as a means of guaranteeing the safe, accurate arrival of friendly units via Deep Strike; unlike a Trygon, this is made worthwhile by the fact that half of your Drop Pods can arrive on the first turn of the game while all remaining Reserves arrive on turn two and onwards as normal. While the unit itself hasn't really changed much, the Space Wolf Codex kick-started one of the best changes for Allied Imperial factions since 6th Edition introduced that particular feature that has continued with the Blood Angels Codex; allowing you to take previously restricted Dedicated Transports as distinct Fast Attack choices. While this is cool for Rhinos and Razorbacks in some scenarios, it is undeniably at its' most important in relation to Drop Pods; allowing Sisters of Battle that bring two Special Weapons at greatly reduced prices compared to Space Marines is insane, as are placing Veterans and any number of other units in these awesome transports. There are some incredible ways to abuse this possibly unintentional change, but without diverting into a tangent, I'll just close this mini-review with the statement that Drop Pods are even more awesome than ever and that's really all the excuse a player needs to employ them.
Change? Stronger.
Competitive? Yes.

Stormwolf - While I am aware that players have long since made their own conclusions on the Space Wolf Codex and on this particular unit, I still feel the need to provide my own opinion and add to the litany of positive voices in favour of the codex competitively. The Stormwolf is one of the cornerstones of a good Space Wolf list and it is definitely a superior overall option compared to its' twin in the Heavy Support slot, the Stormfang, though often the choice between the two will depend on how crowded your Fast Attack slot is if you aren't using Unbound rules. However, seeing as the Stormwolf is a Dedicated Transport option for both of the codex's Troops choices, I doubt that straining the Force Organization Chart will ever be an issue for this flyer specifically. First off, the comparisons to the more generic Stormraven are justified; the two units are very similar in role and profile, though I definitely feel the Stormwolf has the edge over its' more ancient cousin. Both have identical survivability - meaning they are among the toughest flyers around - and are Assault Transports with hefty transport capacities, the Stormwolf having the largest with sixteen available spots albeit with the inability to ferry a Dreadnought. That the Stormwolf has only one Access Point as opposed to the Stormraven's three does mean I consider them both to be roughly equal as transports, especially as each of them has Ceramite Plating to protect them against Melta weaponry once they go into Hover mode to drop off squads.

However, as a straight gunship the Stormwolf is vastly superior to the Stormraven and feels like it was purposefully designed for hunting other flyers and vehicles of all kinds while still being a decent anti-infantry tool in your arsenal. Assuming you replace the Heavy Bolters with the Multi-Meltas, a Stormwolf puts out three Strength 8 AP1 shots at 24" - two of which have the Melta effect - as well as one Strength AP2 shot at 48", and all of these weapons are twin-linked at Ballistic Skill 4. The non-melta Strength 8 AP1 shot can be exchanged for a nasty Strength 6 AP3 small blast at the same range, while adding the Helfrost rule in to the mix makes for a truly scary monster and character hunter. That all of those shots are twin-linked makes the Stormwolf hugely reliable and efficient, especially as Power of the Machine Spirit essentially allows it to Split-Fire and make the most of its massed anti-tank shooting. In an edition where Super Heavies are available for use in regular games, having four powerful shots that are all AP2 or AP1 and re-roll to hit is fantastic on a supremely mobile flyer, not like the Stormraven where it can get two at best. Losing out on the Helfrost Destructor to instead twin-link the Helfrost Cannon while retaining a larger transport capacity and the Assault Vehicle special rule makes the Stormwolf the far more appealing choice compared to the Stormfang. Ultimately, the Stormwolf ranks as probably the best flyer in an Adeptus Astartes codex and it is an awesome generalist that puts even the Stormraven to shame, doubling as a great transport equivalent to a Land Raider Crusader while also providing some insane firepower to boot. While many players will want to save points by simply placing the assault-oriented Blood Claws in the Stormwolf to take objectives and charge enemy units the turn it inevitably goes into Hover mode, you can get away with putting more expensive Wolf Guard Terminators in there as well and give them the most survivable and affordable Assault Transport option available.
Competitive? Yes.


Thunderwolf Cavalry - If Loyalist players have been looking for a truly awesome unit to replace their Terminators as elite melee units without having to over-spend on support options to properly do so - I'm looking at you Centurion Devastators! - then Thunderwolf Cavalry are probably the best excuse to do so. Despite being priced identically to standard Space Marine Terminators, the differences and advantages in favour of Thunderwolf Cavalry are simply insane. With Toughness 5, 2 Wounds and a 3+ armour save, Thunderwolf Cavalry are more survivable than Terminators against everything except AP3 or Strength 10 AP3-AP2 shooting, though they can cheaply add Storm Shields to alleviate those weaknesses. With six Strength 5 attacks on the charge that are all Rending no matter what special melee weapon is chosen, if any, Thunderwolf Cavalry have superior damage output in combat than Terminators by a simply crazy margin. They still have Frag Grenades for striking at Initiative on the charge, unlike Terminators, while they can still threaten vehicles due to their base Strength 5 and Rending no matter what they are equipped with, unlike Terminators packing Lightning Claws. Where Terminators have to use unreliable Deep Strike or expensive transports to ensure they get anywhere without being shot to death, Thunderwolf Cavalry are twice as mobile given that they are Cavalry and thus move 12" in the Movement phase. Oh, and don't forget that Thunderwolf Cavalry get both Fleet and Hammer of Wrath as a result of being Cavalry in 7th Edition!

Unless you use Wolf Guard Terminators for suicidal Combi-Weapon delivery or as living tanks with the Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield combination, there really is little point to ever use Terminators of any kind over Thunderwolf Cavalry as the latter unit is just better in almost every way imaginable. These units are almost unstoppable in close combat and are among the games' most efficient melee units, especially as you can mix and match different melee weapons or Storm Shields in a squad while retaining their Rending attacks. Heck, the improvements over the still decent 5th Edition incarnations are amazing enough to make this unit worthwhile; a boost to Leadership 9 that renders Terminators even more pitiful by comparison, a hugely helpful 10 point drop per model, the option to mix and match melee weapons among the entire unit, adding the Rending special rule to all of their attacks regardless of the melee weapon used, significantly cheaper Storm Shields and minor price reductions on most other pieces of wargear. Don't forget that you can now take units of six Thunderwolf Cavalry as opposed to being capped at five, while an indirect buff came through the huge improvement made to Thunderwolves as a mount option for characters. The greatly improved Bloodclaws and newly introduced Space Wolf flyers being as amazing as they are provides far more incentive to play Space Wolves aggressively, giving Thunderwolf Cavalry a natural place in most Space Wolf lists. This is arguably the best unit in the 7th Edition Space Wolf codex and they remain as good a reason to start the army as ever. The only downside here is that Thunderwolf Cavalry no longer provide re-rolls on failed Morale tests to friendly Fenrisian Wolf units within 12", but seeing as you will likely be using Canis Wolfborn or Harald Deathwolf in an army featuring Fenrisian Wolves anyway, this is hardly a real issue.
Change? Stronger.
Competitive? Yes.

Fenrisian Wolves - I honestly cannot decide whether I like this unit or not and it frustrates me to no end, but that doesn't mean I don't understand their value to certain Space Wolf army lists. The Beast unit type is great in 7th Edition as the unit natively has Fleet in addition to their own exclusive Counter-Attack and Acute Senses, the third of which has been added to bring Fenrisian Wolves more in line with other Space Wolf units. If you want a good, mobile tarpit or interdicting unit then Fenrisian Wolves are great in that role and complement Thunderwolf Cavalry quite well so that the latter unit has a better chance of assaulting their preferred targets. In this role, the unit is unchanged as they can't natively Outflank anyway and their stats as well as points costs are unchanged, unless you count the slightly less survivable, fractionally more expensive Cyberwolf option. Still, I'm just not sure that a Space Wolf army really needs this kind of unit; the warriors of the Adeptus Astartes are not Tyranids in the sense that they have to choose their engagements so that their specialists don't end up fighting the wrong target. Space Marines can deal with vehicles and infantry just fine in combat, while Thunderwolf Cavalry counter pretty much every enemy you can think of. In that sense, what exactly do you need Fenrisian Wolves for?

Consider that they are basically more expensive Ork Boyz that lack ranged weapons, Objective Secured in a Combined Arms detachment, are worse in combat, have no meaningful upgrades to diversify their role and only really have the advantage of being Beasts. If they didn't eat up a Fast Attack slot I wouldn't mind Fenrisian Wolves as sometimes a tarpit can be useful if you are up against a proper gunline list that cares little for your army composition, but ultimately the points spent on ten to fifteen Fenrisian Wolves would almost always be better invested in the equivalent points of Thunderwolf Cavalry or paying for half or more of a Stormwolf. Of course, that's all before you remember that despite the fact that they cannot be Troops, all units in 7th Edition are scoring unless specified otherwise; if you play Maelstrom of War missions as often as I do, you quickly see just how useful these actually are as cheap, extremely mobile scoring units. They aren't necessary as a tarpit, but as additional objective-holders they provide great value to any Space Wolf list and this is a good enough trait for me to look past their sometimes significant deficiencies. Heck, most opponents will ignore them in favour of your actual Space Wolves and even a tiny objective-camping unit of five Fenrisian Wolves dishes out 15 Weapon Skill 4, Strength 4 Attacks at Initiative 4 on the charge which is enough to beat down on most other fragile choices pitifully easily. As you can tell, I'm truly divided on this unit but I will rate them as a competitive choice simply because they give Space Wolves a cheap, mobile scoring unit that has some decent synergy with other Fast Attack choices in the codex.
Change? Stronger.
Competitive? Yes.

Skyclaws - Essentially Bloodclaws that pay 3 points per model to exchange Objective Secured in Combined Arms detachments for a Jump Pack and an extra optional Special weapon, Skyclaws - like Swiftclaws - received a meaty points drop of, again, 3 points per model. While Swiftclaws got the larger price reduction it nonetheless gives Skyclaws a place compared to other Space Marine Assault Squads, making for a unit that is generally better in close combat - or at least on the charge, anyway - though it is worse in a ranged role. The Space Wolf "Chapter Tactics" translating to Acute Sense and Counter-Attack are decent for Skyclaws but definitely don't compare to what Raven Guard get instead. You also cannot take a "free" Drop Pod by exchanging the units' Jump Packs as changing their Unit Type is now impossible, though you can still get two Special Weapons and a Combi-Weapon in the unit as well as a hidden Power Weapon or Power Fist. You can still take a Drop Pod for them but it won't be with the discount most other Space Marine codices enjoy; with that considered, I find this unit to be roughly equivalent to most other Assault Marines overall even if I feel it could have been a bit cheaper to make up for its' Weapon Skill and Initiative deficiencies. The fact of the matter is that Swiftclaws gain a bonus to their Toughness, a twin-linked Bolter, Jink, Hammer of Wrath without having to sacrifice the 12" move and all for just 5 points more per model. As with most other Adeptus Astartes codices, Assault Marines and Skyclaws by extension are certainly decent on their own merits but are generally inferior to Bikes as anything but a cheap suicidal Deep Striking unit, though this is a role Skyclaws aren't great in with Ballistic Skill 3. This unit is also in a better place than it was even without considering the points decrease because removing the Headstrong rule helps them and other Bloodclaw-type Space Wolf units out immensely.
Change? Stronger.
Competitive? Yes.

Land Speeders - As much as I love the concept of this unit and have sworn by them in the past, one cannot deny that the introduction of hull points in 6th Edition hurt their competitive usage quite a bit. Of course, Land Speeders have always been a finesse unit and so they probably are proving as effective as they always have been, though of course Interceptor and the quantity of shooting in 7th Edition gives them even more to worry about than ever. Compared to their 5th Edition incarnation, Deep Strike is far safer than it used to be while both the Assault Cannon and Typhoon Missile Launcher upgrades dropped in price by a decent margin. While I probably would have been much more negative in my appraisal of Land Speeders if this was in the context of 6th Edition, that Land Speeders are now scoring units and aren't purely a denial unit as they were in 5th Edition makes Deep Striking builds that much more useful, especially for Maelstrom of War missions. Considering Land Speeders have always fell over against a wet breeze I generally don't see hull points as being that huge of an issue, especially as they are far better distraction units considering they can capture objectives.
Change? Stronger.
Competitive? Yes.

Summary!
Almost all of the choices present are good to great with Drop Pods, Stormwolfs and Thunderwolf Cavalry proving the absolute stand-outs, while the only true disappointment is still a decent unit in the form of the Razorback.


Thank you for reading this article; did you find any of the content informative or useful? Please let me know and provide any feedback you have for me in the comments section below - I appreciate and welcome all critiques!

6 comments:

  1. I felt the exact same way about Skyclaws and Swiftclaws. I think they are good alternatives to Thunderwolves in games under 1500 points. Fast attack seems so incredibly crowded for SW these days, I would take multiple CADs just to get those 6 great slots.

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  2. Thanks for the great article. I'm just getting back into the game since 2nd edition and this helps a lot! I like the info because I think this will allow me to more easily find a fun (as opposed to super competitive) list for myself and opponents.

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  3. This was a good read, informative and insightful. One thing though, how did you get four attacks each for the swiftclaws? I only count 3: 1 base, 2 for charging (with rage). AFAIK they only have CCW or bolt pistols these days

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    1. You are correct on the Swiftclaws, I'm shocked they don't have a pair of close combat weapons honestly! The post has been updated to reflect this.

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    2. I know what you mean, I must have read and re-read that entry 5 times when I got the book to make sure.

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    3. That’s why Wolf Guard on bikes might be a good alternative

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