26 Nov 2013

Fortunes Change - 40K Fast Attack

Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel and today I am here to kick off a new series of articles discussing units or tactics that have received some hefty reversals in fortune either as a result of 6th Edition or of their new codex. I hope you enjoy this article, and I look forward to seeing your reception of this series-to-be!

In 5th Edition, most codices I read had a pretty common denominator; the Fast Attack choices were mostly sub-par. This was due to incredibly high points costs - particularly in the case of Bike or Jetbike units - or trying to develop mobile assault units that were thematic but, unfortunately, had a lot to be desired in the competitive sense, such as with Chaos Spawn or Swooping Hawks. It wasn't necessarily a fault of any particular codex author, as almost every book had the same issue. Contrast this to the Elites choices in those books, for example, and you can see a bit of a trend forming. For Space Marines, Sternguard, 'rifleman' Dreadnoughts, Assault Terminators and Ironclad Dreadnoughts were all great or good choices. With Eldar, many army lists employed either Striking Scorpions or Howling Banshees in some form, while Fire Dragons remained premier choices. This was indicative of yet another codex trend at the time, and one that would prove to change dramatically with the advent of 6th Edition and the re-release of these codices.

Fast forward from November of 2011 to November of 2013, and you start to see some very new trends shaping as a result both of 6th Edition and of inspired work from the codex authors themselves. We are seeing some very well balanced codices internally with Eldar and Tau becoming more common, with Space Marines continuing that recent trend and providing arguably their highest quality work to date. But one of the other odd trends that seems to be popping up is that, for the most part, these codices have seen dramatic improvements to their Fast Attack slots while the other slots haven't gone up or done too much. We've seen Warp Spiders graduate from being a situational but quite decent unit to one of the premier all-rounders in the Eldar codex, as well as previously notably 'weak' choices like Chaos Spawn and Flesh Hounds becoming some of the best units in their respective codices. It is an interesting change that makes me very intrigued to see the changes wrought to Tyranids when they are eventually released, given my previous appreciation of Raveners and Shrikes despite being over-costed. I can only imagine what a new codex will bring for the Great Devourer - I'm tipping something big! But enough of that. To really illustrate this change, here are some short overviews of each Fast Attack unit in the 6th Edition codices in both their 5th and 6th incarnations to give you an idea of how the changes have occurred.

Chaos Space Marines

Fast Attack

Chaos Bikers

5th Edition - 13 points more expensive per model, Leadership 9/10, optional more expensive Aspiring Champion upgrade, cheaper marks in large units, no Hammer of Wrath, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests.
6th Edition - 13 points cheaper per model, Leadership 8/9, mandatory cheaper Aspiring Champion upgrade, cheaper marks in small units, Hammer of Wrath, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests.
Net Result - Chaos Bikers have gotten immensely cheaper in any configuration, even when accounting for the increased cost of marks in large units of ten or so. The addition of Hammer of Wrath and more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests make this an easy improvement.

Chaos Spawn

5th Edition - Mandatory movement to closest enemy unit, Slow and Purposeful, no optional Marks, Beast unit type did not have Fleet or 12" move or ignores cover, 10 points more expensive per model.
6th Edition - Fully controlled movement, no Slow and Purposeful, optional Marks, Beast unit type has Fleet and 12" move and ignores cover for movement, gained +2 attacks on charge, gained Fear, gained random benefit in each assault phase, 10 points cheaper per model.
Net Result - Chaos Spawn, previously considered a "useless" unit, became a premier Fast Attack choice due to mobility, durability, good melee capabilities and cost per model.


5th Edition - 3 points more expensive per model, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, unit size 5-20, cheaper marks in larger units.
6th Edition - 3 points cheaper per model, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, unit size 5-10, cheaper marks in smaller units, gained Fear special rule, gained Hammer of Wrath.
Net Result - While I've found units like Raptors and Assault Marines to not be the best choices you can get, the fact remains that Raptors got cheaper, are less likely to die when using their jump packs in terrain, and even have the Fear special rule, as situational as it is.

When one considers the new additions, Fast Attack had it a lot better off than they used to. The Heldrake is easily the strongest unit the codex can throw out, and while Warp Talons are a sub-par unit, the Heldrake alone makes up for this. Combine that with each unit getting stronger, and it is easy to see just how this 'trend' started. 

Dark Angels

Fast Attack

Ravenwing Attack Squadron

5th Edition - Significantly higher base cost, significantly more expensive additional bikers, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, strict unit sizes of either 3 or 6.
6th Edition - Much cheaper in all builds, gained teleport homers, gained Hit and Run, gained Grim Resolve, gained Hammer of Wrath, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, significantly cheaper Land Speeder addition, completely custom base size starting from 3 and up to 6.
Net Result - This is a unit that got staggeringly better in every way, even before one mentions the significant points drops, making Ravenwing into one of the premier biker units - and armies - in the game.

Ravenwing Support Squadron

5th Edition - More expensive base, free multi-melta offset by higher base cost, pays for heavy flamer, more expensive assault cannon, cheaper typhoon missile launcher, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, worse vehicle squadron rules.
6th Edition - Cheaper base, free heavy flamer, weapon upgrade cost changes still lead to cheaper overall Land Speeder builds, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, better vehicle squadron rules, free Jink save due to new Skimmer rules, addition of hull points makes it easier to destroy if no cover saves allowed.
Net Result - Land Speeders got cheaper, they don't get destroyed if they fail a dangerous terrain test when moving quickly, vehicles that get immobilized aren't auto-wrecked but merely leave the squadron, and Jink saves make them slightly more durable even if hull points does offset this quite a bit.

Assault Squad

5th Edition - Significantly higher base cost, less options, strict unit sizes of either 5 or 10, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests.
6th Edition - Significantly cheaper overall, can take flamers, variable unit sizes of between 5 and 10, gained Grim Resolve, gained Hammer of Wrath, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests.
Net Result - No matter how they currently compare to Bikers, Assault Squads got so much cheaper and so much better.

Whereas the Elites slot only gained one new unit, the Fast Attack slot gained a crazy four new units with the Ravenwing Black Knights, Ravenwing Darkshroud, Nephilim Jetfighter and Ravenwing Dark Talon. Though the flyers leave much to be desired, the Darkshroud and Black Knights are both strong choices in almost any Dark Angels list, and this, coupled with every existing Fast Attack unit getting so much better, leads to a massively improved Fast Attack slot.

Chaos Daemons

Fast Attack

Flesh Hounds

5th Edition - 1 point cheaper per model, 2+ invulnerable save against force weapon wounds, 1 wound each, Leadership 10, straight Fearless, Karanak as a character upgrade.
6th Edition - 1 point more expensive per model, lost 2+ invulnerable save against force weapon wounds, 2 wounds each, Leadership 7, Daemonic Instability added, Karanak removed from unit, gained Scout special rule, gained Fleet and massive speed boost due to changes to Beasts, gained 4+ 'save' against psychic powers, gained Fear special rule.
Net Result - Flesh Hounds may be ever so slightly more expensive, but they are now one of the fastest assault units in the game through ignoring cover, Fleet and moving 12" in the movement phase, as well as gaining Scout. They are much harder to kill against small arms fire, and even though they are vulnerable to Instant Death, they only pay one point for that extra wound so it doesn't really matter. They might not be as safe a bet in combat due to Daemonic Instability, but with Juggernaut-mounted Khorne Heralds being so good as unit buffers, this likely won't be an issue. Any unit capable of a first game turn charge - and a devastating one at that - is to be rightly feared.


5th Edition - 9 points cheaper per model, unit size of 3-12, 4+ invulnerable save, 1 wound each, one S4 attack each, single melta bomb attack against vehicles, Leadership 10, straight Fearless.
6th Edition - 9 points costlier per model, unit size of 3-9, 5+ invulnerable save with re-rolls of 1s, 2 wounds each, three S4 attacks each, optional S5 AP2 2D6 armour penetration attack per model that can be used against any enemy, can turbo boost over enemy units in shooting phase and do D3 hits per Screamer at S4, Jink saves, Leadership 7, Daemonic Instability added.
Net Result - Screamers went from being a 'joke' unit that couldn't even do their job because hitting vehicles - particularly walkers - with melta bombs was so difficult, to being pretty nasty in combat against nearly any enemy unit type. They can cut through Terminators, any vehicle - including walkers - or light infantry as you see fit. They are faster than ever as Jetbikes and with boosted durability despite the loss of the 4+ invulnerable save because of Jink saves and two wounds each, and their amazing combo usage with Heralds of Tzeentch. They can even attack enemy units when outside of combat due to their slashing attacks, much like Dark Eldar Reaver Jetbikes.

Chaos Furies

5th Edition - 9 points costlier per model, Toughness 4, Initiative 3, Leadership 10, straight Fearless.
6th Edition - 9 points cheaper per model, Toughness 3, Initiative 4, Leadership 2, Daemonic Instability added, optional dedication to Chaos Gods, gained Hammer of Wrath.
Net Result - Furies became significantly cheaper, easier to kill overall, and are frighteningly vulnerable to being entirely wiped out just for losing combat. However, giving them the options for 'marks' to the Chaos Gods gives them a lot of added potential. Slaanesh turns them into ridiculous vehicle and unit blenders, being fast Jump Infantry with Fleet and having two Rending attacks each on the charge. Though they aren't nearly as good a "tar-pit" unit due to Daemonic Instability and their pitiful Leadership, they can be expected to do some damage and will set you back far less in terms of points. I think though that because any lost combat can lead to so many dying, I would say that they are probably on par with where they used to be.


5th Edition - 5 points costlier per model, Weapon Skill 4, Initiative 6, 4 attacks, Leadership 10, straight Fearless, assault grenades.
6th Edition - 5 points cheaper per model, Weapon Skill 5, Initiative 5, 3 attacks, Leadership 7, Daemonic Instability added, gained Fear, gained Acute Senses and Outflank special rules.
Net Result - Seekers became significantly cheaper, lost their assault grenades and thus are worse when charging into terrain, and their damage output is either weaker, the same or stronger depending on the Weapon Skill of the unit you face. They are ridiculously faster than they used to be through running D6-rerollable plus 6 inches, and they have more deployment options with reliable Outflanking. They also gained the far improved and unit-buffing Heralds of Slaanesh.

The Fast Attack slot got almost universally stronger, with units either becoming far more deadly and tougher or just much cheaper at what they do. When you throw in the addition of two more than decent units in the form of Plague Drones and Slaanesh Hellflayers, it is easy to see how Daemons continued the trend of much improved Fast Attack slots.


Well as it turns out, I somehow managed to lose my old Tau: Empire codex, meaning I can't actually do the same factual comparison I did for the other codices. Instead, I'll give out a run-down of what changed from what I remember from playing the army way back when it first released, in 5th Edition and now in 6th Edition. Be aware that there may be some mistakes here as I don't have the old codex to supplement this article, and as such, if you see any mistakes please let me know in the comments section and I can edit this right away! For added emphasis of just how Tau broke the trend somewhat, I added in a short summary on Elites as well.

Elites - Crisis Teams became much stronger due to being able to take two of the same weapon and count them as separate guns, something that was previously impossible. Taking two of any gun doubles their effectiveness, particularly when combined with Markerlights, creating for far more devastating units than have been seen before. Stealth Teams are better than I remember them being, though they are still out-performed even in anti-infantry role by Crisis Teams with dual burst cannons. With the addition of the Riptide, one of the best units in the game currently, the Elites slot definitely got much stronger than it was with more competition to boot.

Fast Attack - Pathfinders got much better because they no longer need to pay for a mandatory Devilfish, while Markerlights themselves are so much more useful than they used to be, especially in the context of 6th Edition. Vespid might not be the best unit, but they are still a lot better than they used to be with a sizable price drop and better overall durability and mobility. Drone Squadrons provide good sources of firepower when combined with Drone Controllers from attached Commanders, but they remain a better source of Markerlights. Piranhas are now priced similarly to Land Speeders and seem to be more useful than their previous incarnation. The addition of two flyers, even as mediocre as they are, gives the Tau player extra options. This is a slot that got stronger and more varied, but not to the same degree as Elites.

In summary, Tau bucked the trend of Fast Attack being the more positively affected by both the new codex and 6th Edition, as even though the Fast Attack choices are usually full, the Elites provide a Tau player with some of the best units in the game. Unmatched firepower comes at a low price for Tau, and combining their Fast Attack and Elite together leads to the most brutal masters of ranged warfare.


Fast Attack

Swooping Hawks

5th Edition - 5 points costlier per model, had to pay for Skyleap, lasblaster had 2 shots.
6th Edition - 5 points cheaper per model, Skyleap base, deep strikes with no scatter, lasblaster has 3 shots, gained run and shoot ability, gained Hit and Run.
Net Result - Swooping Hawks can now deep strike without scatter, letting them deliver precise anti-infantry destruction anywhere on the battlefield with their improved lasblasters and grenade pack. They've become a significantly cheaper, true jack of all trades unit and a solid contender for Fast Attack choices rather than a situational at best unit.

Warp Spiders

5th Edition - 3 points costlier per model, had to pay for Hit and Run (and Deep Strike, technically), had weaker Death Spinner, Jump Infantry classification, warp jump was a risky 2D6" move in the assault phase.
6th Edition - 3 points cheaper per model, Hit and Run and Deep Strike stock (unit type), stronger Death Spinner with Monofilament, Jet Pack Infantry classification, warp jump is a 2D6" jump in the movement phase, gained run and then shoot special rule.
Net Result - Warp Spiders got cheaper, they don't have to pay for rules such as Hit and Run, and arguably the biggest change of all is that their Death Spinners have Monofilament, making them Strength 7 against almost all vehicles and many non-vehicle units, with the potential for AP1 wounds. That they are Jet Pack units, plus Fleet, means that they can move 6+2D6+D6+2D6 ignoring terrain, for a total potential move value of 36" - and they can still shoot! Their average move distance while shooting is about 24", compared to the 12" move and then shoot that they previously had. This makes Warp Spiders both a deadly ranged unit and one of the nastiest vehicle hunters you can find, shocking your opponents with their sheer speed.

Shining Spears

5th Edition - 10 points costlier per model, weaker Jetbike, could purchase Skilled Rider and Outflank.
6th Edition - 10 points cheaper per model, better Jetbike, have Skilled Rider and Outflank stock, gained Hatred and Fear of Slaanesh units.
Net Result - Shining Spears got significantly cheaper and the new 6th Edition Jetbike rules favour them more than the 5th Edition rules did. Combine that with no longer having to pay for Skilled Rider and Outflank, and Shining Spears are a vastly improved unit.


5th Edition - 5 points cheaper per model, Ballistic Skill 3, more expensive weapon and upgrade options, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests.
6th Edition - 5 points costlier per model, Ballistic Skill 4, cheaper weapon and upgrade options, addition of Jink and better Fast Skimmer rules, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, addition of hull points balances out addition of Jink.
Net Result - Vypers stayed about the same durability wise - two glances will end them, but they have a 5+ cover save if they move - but they are much better ranged platforms due to the boost in Ballistic Skill and the significantly cheaper weapon upgrades, making them cheaper in all but the basic configuration.

Every Fast Attack choice got much stronger than their previous incarnation, taking them from mediocre and sometimes-seen choices to some of the more competitive units in the army. Add in two decent fliers with lots of potential situational uses, it is easy to see just how much Phil Kelly loves his Eldar.

Space Marines

Fast Attack

Assault Marines

5th Edition - 1 point costlier per model, mandatory Sergeant upgrade, more expensive flamer option, limitation on one specialist weapon per five models.
6th Edition - 1 point cheaper per model, optional Sergeant upgrade, cheaper flamer option, can take two specialist weapons at five strong, potential buffs Chapter Tactics buffs.
Net Result - Assault Marines got slightly cheaper, they gained a lot of utility as five-strong drop-podding "suicide" units with two flamers, and they can get some very good buffs such as Hit and Run and re-roll charge lengths from White Scars and Raven Guard Chapter Tactics, respectively.

Land Speeders

5th Edition - More expensive weapon options, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, worse vehicle squadron rules.
6th Edition - Cheaper weapon options, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, better vehicle squadron rules, gained Jink, better Fast Skimmer rules, hull points.
Net Result - Again, the durability of Land Speeders probably stayed about the same due to no potential for a wrecked result with a single glance and Jink saves being offset by only two 'wounds' in the form of Hull Points. Cheaper overall weapon options and the far more forgiving squadron rules give Land Speeders an easy edge.


5th Edition - 4 points costlier per model, mandatory Sergeant upgrade, Combat Tactics, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests.
6th Edition - 4 points cheaper per model, optional Sergeant upgrade, lost Combat Tactics, gained far better potential buffs from Chapter Tactics, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, gained Hammer of Wrath.
Net Result - Bikes got a lot cheaper, the buffs they get from White Scars Chapter Tactics - for example - significantly outweigh any they could ever get from Combat Tactics, and they are generally just harder hitting with Hammer of Wrath in combat.

Attack Bikes

5th Edition - Toughness 4 for Instant Death purposes, less forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, Combat Tactics.
6th Edition - Toughness 5 for Instant Death purposes, more forgiving Dangerous Terrain tests, gained Hammer of Wrath, lost Combat Tactics, gained far better potential buffs from Chapter Tactics.
Net Result - Attack Bikes are harder to kill with instant death, they gained a slight boost in melee, and much like regular Bikers the buffs they can get from White Scars Chapter Tactics put them far beyond what Combat Tactics could do to the same unit.

Scout Bikes

5th Edition - 2 points costlier per model, paid for Sergeant upgrade, more expensive locator beacon upgrade, cheaper cluster mines, Combat Tactics.
6th Edition - 2 points cheaper per model, free Sergeant upgrade, cheaper locator beacon upgrade, costlier cluster mines, gained Hammer of Wrath, lost Combat Tactics, gained far better potential buffs from Chapter Tactics.
Net Result - Cheaper by quite a bit, especially in larger units, and a better delivery system for a locator beacon than they ever were. Cluster Mines aren't as good, but having Hammer of Wrath and - I keep repeating myself - potential buffs from White Scars or Ultramarines Chapter Tactics makes up for any losses.

The Fast Attack choices all got stronger for Space Marines, and with the addition of a very decent flyer in the form of the Stormtalon, it immediately become a far more competitive slot in the new codex.

In Closing

As you can see, every 6th Edition codex with the exception of Tau has followed a basic trend where, even if the other slots did get 'better' overall, the Fast Attack slot was the one that saw by far the most improvements. This is an interesting change that has given far more value back into taking balanced army lists, where you can take units from any force organization slot and expect to do well rather than taking the mindless spam lists of 5th Edition. This is great game design and, while the fortunes didn't really go against the other slots of these armies, they certainly favoured the Fast Attack more this time around.

And with that in mind, it is time to close off this article. I am eager to see your reception and critiques of this article, and pointing out any mistakes I have made will be much appreciated. If you guys like this kind of article where I give out shorter and somewhat less refined comparisons of units from 5th Edition to 6th Edition, let me know and I will keep on going with the series! Until then, I hope you have a lovely day! Eel out.


  1. as usual, this article was insightful and gave me better perception of how the game is changing. thank you!

  2. I'm very glad you found it helpful! Thank you for the feedback! :)

  3. Agree with the army balance, interesting to see other army comparisons though and I wonder what the tyranids will do. I like this comparison format, but prefer your more focused articles. Keep up the great work.