23 Mar 2013

Chaos Daemons Tactica - Greater Gifts

Howdy all, Learn2Eel here and I am back to talk about the new and (arguably) improved daemonic gifts for my new favourite army. Given that I have already covered the method in which Daemonic Gifts are randomly selected in great detail previously, I wanted to discuss the more specific combinations each Gift has, and whether or not any given one is worthwhile. This time, I'm focusing on the Greater Gifts and their applications. Enjoy!

Greater Gifts

One of the big talking points about the Chaos Daemons codex since its release has been the Daemonic Gifts, specifically the fact that our characters' "wargear" is determined randomly rather than chosen. Well, one only has to look at the Greater Gifts chart to truly understand the theme of risk and reward inherent throughout the codex, even if the risk is actually minimal here! Though the '0' options are arguably less popular here than they are with Lesser Gifts, based on potential combinations with certain units, it is apparent that the actual chart itself has significantly more valuable results for almost any character. For the most part, any gift you roll from this chart will provide a dramatic boost to your character, all for very little - clocking in at the medium price, or the middle between Lesser and Exalted Gifts, Greater Gifts are easily the most efficient choices you can take. My personal opinion is that they should be reserved for your monstrous creatures though, as Heralds tend not to need such benefits and unit champions should not have so much points invested in them. So, without further ado, let me show you why I think as much - a note on the formatting, as I have decided to have each 'tiered' weapon at the end of each Gift section.

1) Corpulescence - The Daemon gains +1 wound in addition to the It Will Not Die special rule. I have a lot of personal experience with this gift, given that I have rolled it for at least one of my Greater Daemons in all but one of my games with the codex. However, even without such experience, I can feasibly relate to you why this is so great, particularly on a Toughness six monstrous creature. Now, all of our Greater Daemons already have five wounds at least and a Toughness of six or higher (excluding Fateweaver, but he can't take Greater Gifts anyway). Given that they are already very difficult to bring down conventionally, granting them an extra wound makes them quite a bit more survivable; can I say a Trygon equivalent Bloodthirster in terms of raw durability that has a +5 invulnerable save and flies. ergo being a near dauntless predator? The It Will Not Die special rule is the icing on the cake here, as it allows the Daemon to - at the end of each of their own turns - attempt to reclaim a lost wound on a D6 roll of a +5. In a standard six turn game, you are looking at getting at least two wounds back, and given how difficult it is to kill a Greater Daemon outright and the fact that it will have at least six wounds as a result of this gift, you can understand why I think it is amazing. As long as your opponent does not have massed force weapons or an abundance of Strength ten weaponry - the latter is in regards to Daemon Princes - this gift will make it quite difficult to kill one of your very powerful monstrous creatures, unless they decide to focus fire most of their army on to that one Daemon. In that case, it's probably a win for you depending on the situation and provided you have enough viable targets left over. All in all, a pretty great (pun intended) gift to have.

2) Daemonic Resilience - The Daemon receives the Feel No Pain (+4) special rule. Ok, remember how almost all of our monstrous creatures have a Toughness of six, and are thus far less prone to instant death than most other enemies? Remembering also how many wounds said monsters have, and their +5 invulnerable save that saves them against massed anti-tank fire unlike an armour save? If your Greater Daemon wasn't already pretty tough to kill, this will make them absurdly durable - unless struck by an Instant Death weapon, you have a 50% chance to ignore any unsaved wound you suffer, including Perils of the Warp. On any of the Greater Daemons, that is absolutely ridiculous, and even a flying Daemon Prince gets a lot of jazz out of it. On a Bloodthirster, for example, something that is already pretty hardcore as a five wound, Toughness six flying monstrous creature with both a +3 armour save and +5 invulnerable save, giving it the ability to ignore any wound it suffers half the time means you are - effectively - doubling its survival chances. Against massed Bolter fire, for example, they have to hit you on a +6, they have to wound you on a +6, you have to fail a +3 armour save, and then fail a +4 Feel No Pain save. Against a host of plasma guns, they need a +6 to hit you, a +3 to wound you, then you need to fail both a +5 invulnerable save and a +4 Feel No Pain save. That is utterly bonkers and is my pick for the most ridiculous Greater Gift available - again, even a flying Daemon Prince will get a lot of love out of this, particularly if it is dedicated to Tzeentch with Warp-Forged Armour, granting it a +3 armour save with re-rolls of ones and then the Feel No Pain save. Much like most of the other Greater Gifts, this isn't recommended on a Herald due to the need of keeping them cheap, but I would definitely advise keeping this gift if you roll it on just about any Daemon - it is amazing. Just remember that it won't save you against force weapons and the like, so pick your engagements wisely; as tough as a monstrous creature with this gift is, it is not infallible.

"Blessed by the gods" turns up with this. Ok.
3) Dark Blessing - The Daemon may re-roll failed invulnerable saves. Now, unless I fail spectacularly at maths (which I admit I do, so take this with a grain of salt) the chances of failing a re-rollable +5 save is the equivalent of failing a non re-rollable +3 save. Given that the +5 saving throws all Daemons have is invulnerable, meaning it can be taken against any wound - excluding Perils of the Warp - this effectively grants you the equivalent of Warp-Forged Armour that can't be ignored by conventional weaponry, or even other monstrous creatures. When one views this gift in that light, it is very, very handy; much like the previous two Greater Gifts, it greatly increases the survivability of the Daemon, and it combines particularly well with a Lord of Change (or Herald of Tzeentch) that has access to Divination and thus, potentially, Forewarning - what's that, your flying Toughness six monster has a +4 re-rollable invulnerable save? Shoot me now! Though perhaps not as outright amazing as Daemonic Resilience, this gift is more useful against anything that could potentially inflict instant death - namely force weapons, or Strength ten weapons in the case of a Daemon Prince. Against Tyranids, this is also more of a life-saver if they are taking multitudes of psykers loaded with Biomancy, given that such armies will typically cast Enfeeble on such a Daemon at the first chance they get to make it vulnerable to Smashing monstrous creatures, Zoanthropes and the like. This is truly a great (I'm so sorry) gift to have for one of your Daemons, and one you should never swap out. Note also that this is of a lot more use on a Herald than the others given that they are more reliant on making use of the usual Toughness six of the Greater Daemons.

4) Hellfire Gaze - This is a ranged weapon with a range of eighteen inches, that strikes at Strength eight, AP one and has the Lance special rule. Given that most Daemons do need - or at least severely benefit from - the added bonuses to their survivability, many may outright wish that this gift wasn't part of the chart - I say different for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a potent, if medium-ranged, anti-tank weapon that can pretty reliably get a penetrating hit on most vehicles and would then have a 50% chance to outright destroy them provided they don't have any other classifications or special rules. On a flying Bloodthirster or Lord of Change, this means that they can reliably get into range in the first game turn - if either player deploys first - and fire off a nasty shot at a tank, providing a pretty good chance of attaining First Blood. Given that many games boil down to secondary objectives, particularly First Blood, this can be quite a useful tool on a flying monstrous creature - given that each of them has a Ballistic Skill of five or higher, and can still shoot a second ranged weapon (or witchfire) in addition to the Hellfire Gaze, it has a lot of potential to inflict some serious damage early on. To illustrate this, in one of my test games recently, a Lord of Change received this gift and proceeded to annihilate a Razorback in the first turn, granting me First Blood - though Night Fighting was in effect, I was so close that it could only benefit from a paltry +6 cover save due to Stealth. On top of only needing a +2 to hit, it had a 50% chance to penetrate the vehicle, and a 50% chance to cause an explosion result - I was perhaps a bit lucky, but it definitely wasn't an unlikely result. When you consider dealing with high armoured threats at range is often our bane, this can be a decent weapon to have - of course, on a slower Daemon such as a Great Unclean One, and even a Keeper of Secrets, this is probably of lesser use, especially given the weapon options available to such Daemons if they swap the gift out. Though it definitely doesn't stack up against the other gifts, if you do need some anti-tank firepower in a pinch, try giving this a shot - it likely won't disappoint, but it is best used on a Bloodthirster, Lord of Change or winged Daemon Prince; even then, you may want to consider their appropriate weapon option if the situation does not overtly require the Hellfire Gaze. A Herald actually makes good use of this, to be fair; a decently cheap, strong anti-tank weapon with a medium range is not a bad addition to what will usually be a character in a strictly anti-infantry unit.

5) Touch of Uncreation - The Daemon's melee attacks are treated as having the Fleshbane and Armourbane special rules. To answer a probable question; yes, this does indeed apply no matter what melee weapon you choose to employ at any given time. Now, for the points you pay, this isn't bad at all; to put this into perspective, the Daemon will wound virtually anything with a Toughness value on a +2, no ifs or buts, and rolls an additional D6 for armour penetration attempts. Obviously, given all of the monstrous creatures that can take Greater Gifts are already Strength six, this is far less useful against an army that sports no monstrous creatures or otherwise high-Toughness units; typically, this includes most Space Marines armies. Having the Armourbane special rule is also pretty useful, though it must be said that any of our monsters would be better off Smashing unless it is a rear armour ten or eleven vehicle; statistically, the re-rolls to armour penetration and higher Strength from making Smash attacks is more reliable than the extra D6 roll. Against a Dreadnought and the like, for example, you may not want to risk rolling badly and thus opt to Smash, guaranteeing several penetrating hits; it must be noted that Armourbane still applies even when employing Smash attacks, meaning you can penetrate Land Raiders on a +4 on two dice with re-rolls! Again though, much like with Fleshbane, this won't be useful against every army; Smash will typically be enough anyway, and quite a few 6th Edition armies don't feature any - or very few - vehicles as it is. In that sense, much like Hellfire Gaze, though it is still inherently useful, it is situational, unlike all of the other results. If you are facing enemies where it will make a difference, then by all means, keep it. Heralds are pretty laughable with this gift, it must be said; imagine a Herald of Slaanesh with an Etherblade, the Exalted Locus and the Touch of Uncreation. Wounding anything in the game on a +2 with a ridiculous number of attacks and a great profile, and rolling 2D6 for armour penetration with a bonus of four (her Strength), on top of Rending. Nasty!

6) Unbreakable Hide - The Daemon receives a +3 armour save. For clarification, this cannot be re-rolled if you attain it for a Daemon Prince equipped with Warp-Forged Armour or a Bloodthirster; you will be forced to swap it out for a weapon, at least if you don't want to just waste the investment. Anyway, this is yet another gift that can make the Daemon far more difficult to remove; a +3 armour save complements a +5 invulnerable save very well, particularly on a monstrous creature, and means they will effectively lose their vulnerability to massed small-arms fire. Of course, if you are facing an army that has armour-ignoring weapons everywhere, this may be of limited use; for the most part though, it will mean your Daemon won't "eat bolter fire" or even autocannons, which given our monstrous creatures typically lack armour saves, is a vital advantage. As mentioned previously, a Bloodthirster or Daemon Prince that rolls this up and already has a +3 armour save will have to take a Greater Magical Weapon - of which many are very beneficial and shouldn't be ignored. Remember that, and there is very little downside to what is yet another very valuable greater gift. As far as Heralds go, this is obviously quite useful given they are less likely to be facing armour-ignoring weapons, though I would still advise saving points spent on greater gifts for your Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes - they need the potential survivability boosts far more, given they are much larger investments.

Best magical weapon...OF ALL TIME...
Greater Weapons - These weapons typically have far greater use on Daemonic monstrous creatures as opposed to their Lesser counter-parts, given their cost and special rules or lack of AP are mitigated by the larger warp-entities. Of course, the exception is yet again the Greater Etherblade; this is a very valuable option that whilst perhaps still too expensive for a typical unit champion, it works wonders on the combat-oriented Heralds. Remember to look at these and consider how a monstrous creature ignores the usual penalties for taking such weapons, and you will likely understand my views.

Greater Etherblade (Undivided) - Almost identical to the regular Etherblade, the Greater Etherblade has one significant distinction; it increases the Strength of the user by one when it is used. Paying essentially ten pistachios for a bonus point of Strength is worthwhile depending on the user, at least in my opinion; much like any Greater Gift, I doubt it should be used on unit champions, and certain Heralds such as the Herald of Tzeentch or Herald of Nurgle don't need it to perform their roles effectively. To clarify; a Herald of Nurgle is already Strength five, and as such is likely better off using a standard Etherblade against regular enemies to save points, though it would obviously be very useful against a mostly high Toughness army such as Nid'zilla. In contrast, a Herald of Tzeentch is typically suited for support duties, though a Greater Etherblade actually combines well with a Herald mounted on a Disc of Tzeentch - Sweep Attacks at Strength four AP two are nothing to sneeze at on a flying skimmer! In any case, I feel this is pretty neat on a Herald of Khorne or Slaanesh, given they make for great character assassins or elite-infantry butchers. However, I question its use on a Great Daemon. A Great Unclean One doens't really require the boost in Strength to combat other monstrous creatures, given it already has Poisoned (+4) - that and the Plague Flail is a much better option here - whereas a Lord of Change is far better off taking the cheaper and stronger Staff of Change. Similarly, a Bloodthirster's sheer number of attacks and Furious Charge mitigates the need for the Greater Etherblade, though it may be worth it to both maximise its killing potential - wounding typical monstrous creatures on a +2 - and inflicting instant death without the use of the Axe of Khorne on Toughness four characters. A Keeper of Secrets arguably has the greatest use of the weapon, given they don't have Furious Charge, an Axe of Khorne, Poisoned attacks or a cheaper weapon that performs a similar role - in that sense, it isn't a bad investment for a Keeper. Still, this is a pretty good choice regardless of who you give it to.

Blade of Blood (Khorne) - Yet another AP two melee weapon, the Blade of Blood is unique in the sense that it is actually Unwielding; it doesn't provide any Strength bonuses, but it does grant the wielder the Rampage special rule. Effectively, it ignores armour saves and provides bonus attacks to the wielder if their 'side' is outnumbered in a combat they are witness to. As you might have guessed, I would not recommend giving this to a Herald of Khorne, given they typically rely on their high Initiative and potential for Instant Death - the Axe of Khorne - to ward off an aggresive counter-attack in challenges and the like. Though it may be of some use if they aren't in a challenge and are striking against units of elite infantry, Heralds will typically be a part of a unit that is quite large and will usually outnumber enemies anyway, meaning those extra attacks from his weapon will likely matter little. In fact, when facing a unit, the Herald of Khorne would be better served killing some enemy models before they can strike, rather than allowing to, losing a few accompanying models and then doing some more damage. As is my stance with Greater Gifts in general, I particularly would not give a unit champion this weapon - if you do want a Greater Magical Weapon, take the Greater Etherblade instead, as it will be far more useful. Of course, the opposite is very much true of a Bloodthirster - or a Daemon Prince of Khorne. Given that monstrous creatures ignore the Unwieldy special rule, you don't have to worry about your own weapon providing Initiative penalties, that and monstrous creatures are almost always outnumbered and thus are far more likely to receive its actual benefits. A Bloodthirster that already strikes at Initiative nine, Weapon Skill ten and Strength seven (Furious Charge) is scary enough with just seven attacks on the charge, but one that has eleven potentially should scare the pants off of any unit; Terminators not of the storm-shield-wielding variety will likely cry out for pity. Given that it is a specialist weapon, it provides a bonus attack due to a Bloodthirster already wielding the Axe of Khorne, and the D3 on top of that is just gravy. Of course, this does not apply in a one-on-one combat; it only works if the enemy models outnumber the friendly models, and thus just using the Axe of Khorne would be a better strategy against other monstrous creatures and the like. A Daemon Prince of Khorne would do well to take this as well though, given the rarity of monstrous creatures and the fact that - provided you took Daemonic Flight - you can pick your engagements anyway.

Mutating Warpblade (Tzeentch) - An AP three melee weapon with a very unique special rule that should be the sole reason you ever consider taking it; if the bearer slays an enemy monstrous creature or character in combat with this weapon, on a +2 a free Chaos Spawn (if you have the model) is placed within six inches of the deceased model's final position. It is then free to act normally on its next turn. Given the Chaos Spawn follows the rules of those found in the Chaos Space Marines codex, this is not bad at all; with three wounds at Toughness five, they can be used to soak up some firepower, plough into units and tie them up, and generally be a very fast nuisance - as Beasts with Strength five, they can get across the board quickly and hit decently hard. So, the effects are pretty good, and the AP of three is nice on a Tzeentch weapon. So what would I actually recommend giving this to? As before, a unit champion is a no-go, particularly given that Tzeentch unit-champions are kind of sucky. A Herald of Tzeentch is probably better off not taking a melee weapon at all, given their mediocre at best close combat capabilities, and just focusing on support and ranged firepower. An Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch can make some use of this, though given its main purpose is harassment, namely by vaporising infantry or destroying light vehicles, I would skip this and save the points on what is already a glass cannot unit; of course, it should actually defeat most standard characters in a challenge though, which means it might be a bad option on the off chance you are assaulted. As I must continuously stress, a Lord of Change or Tzeentch Daemon Prince should always take the half as costly Staff of Change due to the major Strength bonuses and potential to do some decent damage to infantry units that could otherwise tie them up. However, if your opponent does have a deluge of characters and the Strength bonuses of the Staff of Change aren't needed - Space Marines, perhaps - this isn't a bad option, but only if you roll up a Greater Gift you don't like or need. As cool as it is, most units that can take it aren't particularly suited for it - still, it is a funny tool that if used wisely can spawn (ha!) a few irritating models for your opponent.

Nurgle's inspiration for the BALEsword.
Balesword (Nurgle) - This is a weapon that follows the usual trend of Greater Magical Weapons and as such tends to be far more useful for monstrous creatures than it is for Heralds and the like. As an AP - melee weapon that inflicts instant death and is Poisoned (+4), it isn't too bad on a typical Herald; the chance to inflict instant death is worth quite a bit, as is the fact that the Herald's combat-based statistics do weigh up just fine. Still, the lack of an AP value does mean it is situational on a Herald - against Orks, or even low-armoured monsters such as other Chaos Daemons monstrous creatures, it isn't too bad, but it won't work too well typically against standard characters. Given the lowly Initiative and comparative Weapon Skill and number of attacks a Herald of Nurgle has to, for example, a Space Marine Captain, they aren't too reliable in actually getting the number of wounds through that is necessary to be worthwhile. Still, it must be noted - especially against power-armoured multiple-wound characters - that the Herald's high Strength and Toughness do give him a good chance of inflicting instant death on such characters. In that sense, it isn't bad at all, though I think it should be based on your perceived chances of actually getting to use a weapon against such targets; otherwise, a Greater Etherblade is a better option. If you are worried about vehicles, I should mention that the Balesword also has the Touch of Rust special rule; any armour penetration roll of a six is an automatic glancing hit - unless it would otherwise be a penetrating hit - much like the Necron Gauss special rule, which can be very handy in conjunction with Plaguebearers and the like to strip hull points off of vehicles. As far as a Great Unclean One or Daemon Prince of Nurgle is concerned, I have something else to say; given that the Smash special rule possessed by monstrous creatures treats all of their melee attacks as AP two, enemies that would normally rely on a good armour save to deny the effects of the Balesword would find themselves wanting. That, and the Nurgle Daemon Prince in particular can reliably kill such characters before they can even strike; the Great Unclean One, in turn, is so ridiculously tough that it will simply laugh off most opponents and crush them with ease. Both benefit hugely from this, both easily able to then slaughter enemy commanders and monstrous creatures with impunity; a Daemon Prince has the advantage of doing so before most foes can even strike back, whereas a Great Unclean One is tough enough to soak up any potential wounds and deal them back in due course. Overall, this is a decent option for a Herald, but a fantastic choice for a monstrous Daemon of Nurgle.

Lash of Despair (Slaanesh) - Unlike any of the other magical weapons so far - of the Lesser or Greater variety - the Lash of Despair is unique in the sense that it is a ranged weapon, not a melee weapon; this gives it an entirely different purpose, accordingly. As to what it actually does, it is an Assault 2D6 attack with a twelve inch range that uses the Strength of the user, and lacks an AP value. Obviously, it has different uses depending on the bearer, given the fact that most of the characters that can wield it are Strength three; of course, as I must note, spending more than ten points to upgrade a unit champion probably isn't advisable. On a Herald of Slaanesh, it is strictly an anti-infantry weapon that makes use of her incredibly high Ballistic Skill and can do a decent amount of damage provided average rolls; with decent rolling, it should kill a Space Marine or two, though it is obviously quite a bit more useful against light infantry. Whether this is worth twenty points on a Herald that is part of a unit that should either be in an assault or Running is a very good question; personally, I would say not as the returns aren't as worthwhile as, for example, a Greater Etherblade would be for the Herald. In that sense, I think lower Strength characters should typically avoid it. Of course, this is where the Keeper of Secrets and Daemon Princes of Slaanesh step in - particularly the latter. On either monster, it is a bare minimum Strength six weapon that, with 2D6 shots, can do a fair amount of damage to most kinds of infantry, owing also to their handily high Ballistic Skill. Against monstrous creatures, it can be an invaluable tool for stripping off a few wounds here or there which can make a massive difference given that neither the Keeper nor the Daemon Prince will typically have attacks suited to really taking on other monstrous creatures with ease. The real value of the Lash comes against vehicles; the number of shots it puts out and the high Ballistic Skill of either Daemon means that it averages about two damage results against AV 11, and three against AV 10, which is not bad at all! Of course, the minimal range is the real issue; a Keeper of Secrets that is in range to use this weapon will also be in charge range, meaning the weapon only really becomes useful in the mid-game when the Greater Daemon is expected to make combat. In that sense, I'm not sure the points are worth it here. I'm of a dissimilar opinion concerning a Daemon Prince though, but only if it has the Daemonic Flight upgrade; the reason being that a flying Daemon Prince can shoot at full Ballistic Skill at flyers and other flying monstrous creatures, making it a decent anti-flyer weapon. Given the speed of a flying monstrous creature, a Daemon Prince with the Lash is quite capable of flying over a flyer, vector striking it, and then blasting its rear armour - owing to its three-hundred and sixty-degree firing arc - with the Lash. Against most flyers, this is almost guaranteed to destroy them, or at least force them to Evade. It is also similarly potent against ground vehicles with good positioning. All in all, it is mostly a handy tool for a player looking to add some more anti-air options if they do not wish to use Soul Grinders.

In Closing

The Greater Gifts are definitely the most worthwhile you can find for the points, with the table having by far the most generous rewards for the units that should be taking them - your Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes, namely. These invaluable gifts serve mostly to dramatically increase the durability of such Daemons - particularly the former - and given the already incredibly powerful offensive capabilities of such Daemons; provided you roll decently you should be rewarded with amongst the strongest or toughest monstrous creatures you can find for the points. The weapon alternatives are quite valuable too, but mostly for the monstrous creatures; much like the random table itself, these seem tailor made to really increase the combat effectiveness of a Greater Daemon or Daemon Prince. Whereas Lesser Gifts are the ideal selections for Heralds and unit champions, I would avoid granting Greater Gifts to such Daemons; they tend to either find better options in the Lesser Rewards section as far as the weapons go, or they are so common that spending too many points on each one seriously short-changes your army list. As always, remember not to go too crazy on gifts; however, for any of the Greater Daemons and usually every Daemon Prince, I would recommend taking two Greater Gifts as much as points allow, given the amazing benefits they bring.

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