18 Oct 2013

Tactica Space Marines - Unique Characters Part Four

Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel and this is my Codex: Space Marines Tactica! Today, I will be looking at a handful of the greatest heroes amongst the Adeptus Astartes; warriors and leaders that have scribed their names into legend through valour and skill. I hope you enjoy this article!

Space Marine players have access to the most extensive roster of unique characters in the game, providing so many diverse play-styles and inherent advantages that encourage players to experiment with a wealth of differing army lists. Unlike some other codices, few of these characters are solely based around damage potential; instead, they provide ground-breaking support abilities and potential for thematic army creation that you simply can't find anywhere else. Though they are restricted to their own Chapter Tactics now, the advice given in the previous Space Marines codex very much rings true to this day; these are templates for mighty heroes to lead your forces, built to give you something you simply cannot find from a kitted out regular character. Where Marneus Calgar allows you to control the morale aspect of Warhammer 40000, Kor'sarro Khan provides free early movement to an entire force, allowing them to dominate positioning and deployment. As Helbrecht is the lynchpin for an army-wide massed and devastating assault, Vulkan He'stan gives you the means to make a Salamanders army the true masters of anti-vehicular warfare. It is such that you cannot judge these characters on the merits of combat or martial prowess alone, but on how they allow for incredible strategic flexibility in the army list creation phase, and in tactical adaptability through their considerable, palpable aura on the field of battle. These Space Marines count themselves amongst the finest heroes in all of the Imperium, and each has their own mark to leave on your army.

Due to the extensive array of unique characters in the codex, Part Four of the Unique Characters section solely covers Darnath Lysander, Pedro Kantor, Helbrecht, Grimaldus and the Emperor's Champion. You can view Part One here as well as Part Two here and Part Three here. In the interests of time and my failing health (ha!), I've tried to keep this article shorter than the previous gargantuans!

An important update; due to the length of the article and the loss of a codex, I will cover each Black Templar-specific unit, as well as their Chapter Tactics, in a separate Black Templars article. This is to give a former codex army the justice they deserve. Sorry for any inconvenience! 

Darnath Lysander, Captain of the First Company

Overview - One of the most cost effective melee monsters in the game in 5th Edition, many will be happy to see that Lysander has changed little, save for an expected points increase. Given how he compares to a regular Terminator-armoured Captain, this is a justified increase that only serves to highlight how under-costed he was in the 5th Edition codex. Even now, he is still a far better alternative to any Captain build you could conceivably make at a similar cost, with Lysander's unique abilities and extra wound really tipping the scales in his favour. First off, he is a Captain and all that entails, but with the unique distinction of four wounds - but not four attacks, like a Chapter Master - that give him quite a bit of extra survivability. Paired up with Eternal Warrior, Terminator Armour and a Storm Shield, and you have one of the hardest nuts to crack in the codex, period. The only character that even compares to Lysander in this way is a Chapter Master with the Shield Eternal, and only really on a Bike does he edge the Captain out. The crazy survivability of four wounds, a 2+ armour save, a 3+ invulnerable and Eternal Warrior makes Lysander both the perfect tank against hard-hitting enemies like Wraithknights in combat, but also a wound sponge for your expensive Marines. Sticking him in front of Sternguard Veterans, Devatator Marines or Tacticals, either in Drop Pods or on foot, is a good way to give many opponents a break out of hives; those poor, poor Heldrakes will hate you with a passion!

Survivability aside, Lysander also brings the pain in the form of a special thunder hammer that strikes at a whopping Strength 10 and AP 1. Even with only three attacks base, this allows Lysander to absolutely tear through almost any unit or character in combat that you can imagine; even Hive Tyrants with Iron Arm will be scared to death of him! He is also one of the few models in the codex that can reliably smash through almost any vehicle that gets thrown at them, alleviating the need to take chainfists in your Terminator squads or meltabombs on your power-armoured Marines. The AP1 on the thunder hammer gives Lysander a 50% chance to outright destroy any vehicle that he inflicts a penetrating hit on, and this comes in real handy against those AV14 vehicles such as Land Raiders and Monoliths were those few damage results you get are really important. Besides, having S10 means that Lysander will inflict instant death on any model with Toughness 5 or lower, meaning most characters - from Daemon Princes to Khorne Lords on Juggernaughts - will simply evaporate when he appears. Between Weapon Skill 6 and his crazy hitting power, Lysander is one of the hardest hitting characters Space Marines have access to, and certainly of any in his price range or with the billing of a 'Captain'. What really makes him such an amazing character hunter on top of his thunder hammer is his Warlord Trait, giving him an extra D3 victory points if he slays the enemy Warlord in a challenge. With how hard he is kill and how hard he hits, 99% of Warlords in the game will do their best to hide from him; use this to impose yourself on the game! Be aggressive with Lysander by putting him with a drop-podding Sternguard unit or with Assault Terminators in a Land Raider Crusader, and watch with glee as your opponent is forced to deal with one of the toughest nuts to crack in the game.

With Bolter Drill becoming an army-wide trait for Imperial Fists, it was always a curiosity of mine to see whether Lysander would retain a special ability that made him unique outside of combat. Thankfully, Robin Cruddace did not disappoint, as Lysander is such an inspirational hero to the Imperial Fists that any unit with their Chapter Tactics within 12" of him can re-roll their failed Morale and Pinning checks. Much like Marneus Calgars' God of War ability, this may not seem like the best ability for an army that consists exclusively of units with And They Shall Know No Fear, but being able to keep your scoring units and other important squads in position is often key to victory in a game. Being shot off an objective by failing a Morale check, or being forced to snap-fire by failing a Pinning test are some of the worst results imaginable, especially for a low-model count army like Space Marines where you really can't afford any of your units to be rendered ineffective for a turn. This is also key to staying in a combat that you want to remain in; this is generally best used to tie up nasty enemy assault units for a player turn longer so that they destroy your unit on their turn, giving you a free turn to shoot at them rather than letting them charge again immediately.

What few downsides Lysander has tie more into his high cost more than anything else, as at his level you can start to invest in a similarly equipped Chapter Master with his own advantages and disadvantages. Generally though, if you want the hardest hitting character possible while not compromising on durability, Lysander is probably your best bet as at his price point no generic character can really match the package he brings to the table. A Strength 10 thunder hammer simply murders almost any character you can find and even some monstrous creatures, as well as laughing at those annoying Wraithknights. Those extra few points of Strength can make all the difference against characters like Typhus or Heralds of Khorne on Juggernaughts, characters who can give your other melee monsters a bit of pause - the latter mostly if they have the Grimoire activated on them. Added to his Icon of Obstinancy special rule and giving Imperial Fists the best equivalent to the "eternal monster" Iron Hands Chapter Master they can find, and I think Lysander is one of the stronger HQ choices for a Space Marine army. He gives you devastating melee prowess and a hilarious Warlord trait considering his abilities, incredible survivability that is only bettered by a specific Chapter Master build, a bubble for re-rolling key Leadership-based tests, and one of the hardest Slay the Warlord victory points to concede. For his points, you will find few better than Lysander in an Imperial Fists army.

Maximising their Abilities - I feel that Lysander is best used as the army Warlord rather than a supporting character, first up. He is insanely hard to kill, he mauls characters like few others, and his Warlord Trait is perfect for hunting enemy leaders. What's not to like? Given that Imperial Fists work well through a combined static gunline and mobile bolter force, Lysander is probably best off being used as a wound tank to a valuable unit - such as Sternguard with combi-meltas - in a drop pod. This gets him close to the enemy, allows him to detach and hunt units in melee at his leisure, and gives the expensive but deadly Sternguard a very capable and apt bodyguard to soak up wounds for them. This is one of the scariest units the Imperial Fists can employ, as it forces the opponent to divert far more attention to them than normally due to Lysander's presence; no one can ignore a Strength 10 thunder hammer in their back-line! Otherwise, the most common and popular use for Lysander involves sticking him with a nasty melee unit in a Land Raider Crusader - or Redeemer, though I prefer the former - to deliver a crazy death star right into the midfield at full speed. I'm not a huge fan of this setup as though it does make the most of Lysander and a melee bodyguard - preferably Honour Guard if you run a Chapter Master as well, or Assault Terminators with thunder hammers and storm shields - it is insanely expensive and outside of a teleport homer it really requires a Land Raider variant. I personally prefer using Lysander in a Sternguard unit as I feel that using him as a wound tank for a valuable unit, safeguarding them from potential early assaults and subsequently being able to charge units at his leisure allows him to perform to the fullest of his capabilities. He is hardy and damaging, and I feel this setup makes the most of these traits; he can quite capably solo most enemies, units or no, in combat with little to no support whatsoever, after all.

Pedro Kantor, Chapter Master of the Crimson Fists

Overview - Vote for Pedro! Anyway, Pedro is another support-oriented HQ in a very hotly contested slot filled to the brim with similarly constructed characters. What makes him one of the most valuable is not the game-changing mechanics he brings - such as Vulkan's master-crafting of all meltas or Khan's gift of Scout - but in the sheer number of differing abilities he has. From his equipment to the subtle way he affects your army list composition or the combat-based buffs he gives, Pedro seems very much like another junior incarnation of Marneus Calgar - at least without the pomp and scars. Though each individual ability isn't as great as those offered by the other Space Marine characters, Pedro has so many of them that combine to make him one of the premier HQ choices in the codex; he packs value through the roof and doubles as a pretty nasty melee character to boot, as long as you protect him from monstrous creatures and crazy monsters like Abaddon. When you throw in that he is the Chapter Master of the deliciously awesome Crimson Fists, and is regarded as one of the greatest heroes of the Astartes, what's not to like? Nothing, that's what! I'm not biased at all.....

First up, Pedro is equipped decently well for a Chapter Master, though he hardly has what one would call an optimal configuration. He comes on foot and without Artificer Armour, a Storm Shield or Eternal Warrior, making him incredibly vulnerable to Strength 8 attacks bandied about by units such as Riptides with Ion Accelerators or any Smashing monstrous creature. His 3+ armour and 4+ invulnerable save do give him better saves than most characters of other armies, but for a Marine leader, he is a bit lacking. He can't be used as a wound tank against the deadly Heldrakes like Vulkan or Sicarius can be, nor can he be thrown into a challenge with any sergeant or nob wielding a power klaw. This is in no small part due to his melee weapon, a power fist, that while definitely great for protecting a squad against non-character monstrous creatures, slaughtering Terminators and threatening most vehicles, leaves him very vulnerable to Unwieldy double-strength or high Initiative AP3 or AP2 attacks. As such, despite four attacks base and four wounds, he can't be expected to take on someone like Karandras or any similarly costed combat-oriented character; however, he can beat other Toughness 4 or lower characters without really nasty weapons into a pulp through his own Strength 8 attacks. This means you really need to pick your engagements with Pedro, and ensure that you have one or two other characters - even just a sergeant will do - in his unit to soak up those challenges and give Pedro a chance to win the main combat. Pedro himself aids in this effort even without considering his attacks, as his guaranteed Warlord Trait is Iron Resolve, giving his attached unit a +1 bonus to combat resolution provided he is alive. If you can avoid characters like a Khorne Chaos Lord on a Juggernaught, Necron Overlords with mindshackle scarabs, Phoenix Lords and others of such prowess, Pedro should comfortably help even a mere Tactical Squad to victory.

Pedro doesn't assist in your melee efforts just through his fist or his Warlord Trait, however, as he also acts as a living Chapter Banner; he gives all of your Crimson Fist models within 12" of him +1 attack. This turns Tactical Squads and Devastator Squads into the cheaper Loyalist equivalent of flailing Chaos Marines, and actually makes them a decent enough threat in an assault. When paired with the deadly Honour Guard or Assault Terminators, this creates a blender of devastation; Honour Guard in particular need not pay for a Chapter Banner themselves, and will each have a ridiculous five power weapon attacks on the charge. If they can't slay whatever gives Pedro pause, then surely nothing will anyway. That it affects any Crimson Fist within 12" increases its value two fold, allowing Pedro to provide a significant defensive boost to a friendly gunline. The popular use of this ability, and for Pedro, is sticking himself and a bunch of Sternguard squads in Drop Pods to make the most of their scoring status; add to each of them a bonus attack, and even assault oriented armies will be given pause, particularly when they have to endure Overwatch with Special Issue Ammunition. Sternguard Veterans with four attacks each on the charge, or three in subsequent rounds, can actually lead to some pretty surprising assault results.

Oh, that's right. Scoring Sternguard. Pedro makes all Crimson Fists - this is important as it doesn't specify units with the Chapter Tactics like other special rules, so you can't just have scoring Imperial Fist Sternguard for example - Sternguard scoring units, but not Troops. Sternguard are already a scary enough unit, particularly with combi-meltas and drop pods; add to their repertoire the capability of capturing objectives, and you may start asking yourself if you ever need more than the bare minimum of Tactical Marines. This allows Crimson Fist armies to operate off of a deadly orbital assault in addition to a strong defensive gunline; Tactical Squads and Devastators can hold the home objectives, while the Sternguard mop up the backfield and claim the opponent's objectives. This will force most armies to either split their fire or focus on one side at a time, leaving both or the other to inflict as much damage as possible through a reprieve. In terms of an army list, the choice to load out on Sternguard usually comes down to points, particularly in regard to having enough Troops choices to viably compete in an objective heavy game system. Pedro is your sole source of alleviating this issue, and on top of - for example - twenty Tactical Marines as Troops, you can easily add in twenty or more Sternguard to give you a very good forty scoring bodies for games of 1500 points or more. Obviously, some players will not want to employ that many - if any - Sternguard in their army, which does limit Pedro's usefulness; unlike some other characters who manipulate the force organization chart, whether subtly or no, I would still recommend Pedro just for his utility alone.

One of the perhaps more controversial rules Pedro has gives both he and any friendly Crimson Fist model - again, it won't apply to Imperial Fists and the like, even if they are part of the same detachment - Preferred Enemy against Orks. The reason this is a somewhat contested rule is because these kinds of army-wide buffs against specific enemies are largely falling by the wayside in 6th Edition; Daemons hate their opposing gods, but aside from them, these rules have mostly disappeared. Farsight used to do the same for Tau as Pedro, but his ability was instead changed to only affect himself. That Orks are a very popular army - and soon to be much more I expect in the middle of next year - doubles the issue here; giving free Preferred Enemy, or re-rolls of 1s to hit and wound with both shooting and melee attacks, for an army that focuses on Sternguard Veterans is incredibly nasty. Hellfire Rounds with re-rolls to wound? Dragonfire Bolts with boosted efficiency? Hell, Sternguard that actually get Bolter Drill with their special ammunition!? This gives Crimson Fists a very strong advantage over almost any Ork army, as even mechanized lists will be afraid of the tank-hunting, lascannon-wielding Devastators that the Crimson Fists will likely be employing. Nonetheless, whether you like it or hate it, it is a very strong buff and one that is very likely to swing any game to the Crimson Fists' favour against their sworn enemies.

When you add up all of Pedro's abilities, even the situational Preferred Enemy bonus against Orks, it wouldn't be a surprise to think that he is left well enough alone. But no, he has a foot-friendly version of the Primarch's Wrath; his special Storm Bolter, Dorn's Arrow, fires four assault shots with a Strength of 4 and AP of 4. With his Ballistic Skill of 5 and potential precision shots, this makes him ideal for singling out heavy weapon platforms in Guardian squads or simply slaughtering Fire Warriors and Dire Avengers. Though not the best gun in the world, it is certainly one of the stronger ranged weapons wielded by any Space Marine special character; that it also fits very well into the aesthetic and theme of the Crimson (Imperial) Fists with their Bolter Drill just adds to the strength of Pedro's current representation in the rules. On that note, this might be something to watch in an FAQ; per the rules, Dorn's Arrow does not benefit from Bolter Drill, despite being described specifically as a modified storm bolter. While it is understandable that it might not benefit from Bolter Drill, much like special issue ammunition for Sternguard, it is nonetheless an interesting debacle that I hope is resolved in Pedro's favour. But aside from this, Pedro also has an Orbital Bombardment; just be aware that as he is not Relentless, he cannot move and fire it much like a terminator-armoured Marneus Calgar or a Chapter Master on a Bike. In terms of Chapter Masters, Pedro isn't the best equipped, nor is he really the most impactful in terms of a single rule - like Calgar's ridiculous God of War ability. However, unlike the identically costed Shrike, Pedro actually does have a very decent wargear selection that makes him a strong all-round fighter, and his wide array of special rules perfectly compliment the common Imperial Fist Chapter builds you are likely to see. He gives strong benefits to any army list, and is pretty cheap in terms of just what he brings to the table. Not to mention he has an awesome model. Did I mention vote for Pedro?

Maximising their Abilities - Pedro is great in the sense that he really works in pretty much any army list; he gives a strong melee boost to any nearby unit to him, he can ward off most aggressors for his own unit, he gives a strong army wide buff against Orks, and he provides scoring Sternguard. He is a toolbox character that is great value for points no matter where or how you employ him. However, it is a good idea to build around his strengths and weaknesses; for one, he belongs either in a sturdy ranged unit, such as Sternguard or Tacticals, to protect them from nasty melee attackers. On the other hand, he needs to stay away from characters that will slice him in half with little difficulty, such as Trygon Primes, Abaddon and the Phoenix Lords. As such, he can also do really well with my favourite new assault unit for Space Marines, Honour Guard, who can dish out so many power weapon attacks - particularly with Pedro's bonus attack buff - to swarm such enemies in AP3 and AP2 wounds, allowing Pedro to more comfortably deny challenges. That Pedro provides scoring Sternguard does make them an even more valuable unit for your army than usual, and also emphasises their use in drop pods; this gives Space Marines a very potent backfield objective-grabbing unit that is devastating at range with a reliable delivery system. I would build a 'Pedro list' around the theme of scoring Sternguard, allowing you to minimize on Tactical Squads or Scout Squads - whichever is your preference. That Sternguard themselves work best with combi-weapons - usually meltas - and drop pods really boosts the viability of a drop pod assault list, though it does still work with some ground-based elements such as Devastators and Thunderfire Cannons that are always valuable in an Imperial Fists army list.

Did you find this an entertaining and insightful read? Cheers! If you have any feedback for me, feel free to post a comment here or speak to me over on +Bell of Lost Souls. Happy hunting!

"To the darkness I bring fire. To the ignorant I bring faith. Those who welcome these gifts may live, but I will visit naught but death on those who refuse them."
- Chaplain Grimaldus 


  1. You missed a few things on Lysander that I feel are key. 1st is that he lost the bolster defenses special rule. 2nd is he lost the army wide stubborn he used to provide. The 12" bubble somewhat replaces this but as you mention this was a replacement for his bolter drill ability. 3rd his warlord trait isn't extremely useful as most enemies will just refuse a challenge or avoid the combat since they are support heroes. Finally, the helldrake can easily out maneuver wherever Lysander is placed and then bbq the rest of the squad so its not much of a defense for that. Otherwise, great article as usual :)

    1. Forgot one thing, I also used to like the book warlord traits since you could get scoring for Lysander which with a bunch of terminators was really nasty. Now you have to take the challenge trait

    2. Argh, I made a long reply on the Warlord Trait thing and Blogger happily deleted it. ARGGGGH!

      Basically the gist of it was that I've always been out of luck when it comes to rolling for Warlord Traits, and most other players I've talked to have a similar experience. In that sense, having a guaranteed Warlord Trait means you are more likely to have something useful - unless it is one that causes Fear, etc - and Lysander's just makes him that much more terrifying.

      Thanks for the comments by the way, it is very much appreciated!

  2. I agree I probably should have covered their loss a bit more, but I think it really speaks volumes about just how under-costed Lysander before that he is still a great character despite going up in price and losing a lot of abilities.

    I've found using him and other scary character killers like Karandras makes for a really funny terror weapon against enemy Warlords, it forces usually reckless usage of Chaos Lords of Khorne on Juggernaughts to be really selective of their targets if you be aggressive enough. Such effects can win the game; in the Emperor's Will for example, secondaries are more important than almost anywhere else. Having Lysander as the Warlord, or having him as the bodyguard to another Warlord, can really scare off Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes alike who are usually on the hunt for such characters.

    With template weapons, you have to remember that regardless of Torrent all wounds are still resolved against the closest models, not just those under the template. Generally speaking, Lysander - particularly in a drop pod unit - will be coming down in a contested area where a Heldrake is unlikely to get much room at all to land. From there, you can either position Lysander in the most likely position nearest to where a Heldrake will be placed, or if the Heldrake has a lot of room to move, put him in the middle of the unit so at most you can only lose a few models.

  3. That makes more sense on the heldrake. I was thinking if he had plenty of room to maneuver. Good call on putting Lysander in the middle. I just feel Lysander lost some utility and a chapter master on a bike seems to make a better beat stick.