10 Jan 2014

7 Days of Glory - Raven Guard

Since the dawn of the Imperium, countless heroes have risen to combat the forces of disorder. Their names sung in the annals of history and celebrated by trillions, each has shown such surest bravery and skill to be forever remembered as the finest champions of the God Emperor. But few among them can claim to have defended the Imperium time and again for over ten thousand years, and it is to this most glorious accolade that the Chapters of the Space Marines have taken. Their peerless prowess in combat and almost fanatical dedication to the preservation of the Imperium has marked them out as the Emperor's most favoured warriors, the aptly named Angels of Death. It is thus that the Codex Imperator dictates that the most revered of these Chapters shall be commemorated for their many heroic deeds; this is the week of glory, where the greatest of heroes are given the respect only they deserve.

The Raven Guard

Across the Imperium, from Istvaan to  Barbarus, the Space Marines are revered for their mastery of shock and awe tactics; striking suddenly to severely cripple enemy war efforts by decapitating important leaders and destroying critical supply chains. While every Space Marine Chapter distinguishes themselves from another in some form, it is the Raven Guard that most embody the tactics all Loyalist Spaces Marines employ. Using the shadows as a veil, they attack from all directions with great swiftness, embracing the knowledge that every battle fought to deny aircraft refueling, to assassinate key military leaders, and to force the starvation of an army through cut supplies is the key to winning a war efficiently. They do not use the brute force of Chapters such as the Black Templars to crush all opposition in a single devastating strike, but instead they debilitate and cripple the enemy until all that is left is a husk of a fighting force. The Raven Guard have long been synonymous with the wings of deliverance, and so do many of their battle brothers take to the skies with jump engines. With a grace and skill that no other Chapter could ever match, the Raven Guard glide through forests and ruins, leaping into an exposed cog of a battle line, crushing it, and swiftly departing with only massed corpses giving any indication they were ever involved. To fight the Raven Guard is to battle the shadows themselves, for to them, it is a great equalizer, where the greatest of warriors fight to the death with skill alone. As the darkness is their shield, so too is terror their weapon of choice. Soaring in the skies on mechanical wings, the Raven Guard bring deliverance to the foes of the Imperium, diving from the clouds into the inky depths of darkness. It is an example set by Corax himself, that he would journey to the Eye of Terror to combat its unknowable horrors. 

Chapter Tactics

Strike from the Shadows - This provides units that aren't Bulky (or larger) with both Scout and Stealth on the first turn, giving your foot infantry one big boost and one minor one. Scout for your ground infantry may not be as ridiculous as Scouting White Scars Bikers with grav guns, but it is still very nasty when abused; it is a massive incentive to break out the classic Rhino-Rush lists, for example. Scouting up Honour Guard in Land Raiders or other transports is incredibly nasty, though it also exposes the limitations of this particular Chapter Tactic. While Stealth is nice on the first turn, it won't apply to units in transports which, with Scout, you will want to be taking. It also doesn't benefit your jump-pack equipped units of which the other part of the Raven Guard Chapter Tactics strongly encourage usage of. Stealth is only really a boost for Devastators, while Scout is mostly useful for Tactical Squads, Sternguard Veterans and Honour Guard.

Winged Deliverance - This provides jump infantry units with the ability to re-roll their charge distances regardless of whether or not they used their jump packs in the movement phase, giving them a far greater reliable threat range. This is a pretty significant boost for Assault Squads just to guarantee getting into charge range on turn two or three, rather than having to decide on which phase to use the jump pack. Random charge lengths, after all, can mess up your plans pretty majorly if you roll something like a 2" charge after moving 12", leaving you in rapid fire range of an entire Fire Warrior gun-line for example. The other part of the ability is a bit less important, providing re-rolls to wound on Hammer of Wrath attacks; this is nice with the Strength 4 hits that jump-pack units will inflict, but it isn't anything special what with no AP value and hits only being inflicted by Assault Marines in base contact with enemy models at the Initiative 10 step.

Favoured Units

Experience and many trials have led to competitive army lists for each of the Chapters, and they usually revolve around a strong core of units unique to each list. This is the beauty of the Space Marine codex; so many units are affected in a staggering number of ways by the different Chapter Tactics, improving their viability exponentially based on the choice of army. For Raven Guard, I have listed three units that pop up in many of their builds in some form. Please be aware that these aren't necessarily the strongest units available to Raven Guard or the ones that receive the most benefits from their Chapter Tactics, but some of the most common that I have seen.

Tactical Squads - I've already covered Tactical Squads in depth, and Raven Guard don't really change them on a fundamental level. What Raven Guard do though is boost the most common build for Tactical Marines; fielding them in Rhinos with a special and combi weapon. While giving Stealth to the unit on turn one is neat, the potential for Night Fighting and the generally short ranged nature of Tactical Squads limits its potential, even with a 6" Scout move. What really does it in is giving the unit Scout and allowing it to take a transport, such as an incredibly cheap Rhino. Hmm. Basically, your Rhino-mounted Tactical Squads get a free 12" move, meaning they will be getting into short range with their predominantly 24" rapid fire guns one turn less than normal in most situations. This boosts the unit to a pretty high level, and is really an invaluable ability if only for countering the opponents' deployment.

Assault Marines - This one was always going to be obvious, as Assault Marines are essentially the signature unit of the Raven Guard. The Chapter Tactics don't provide them with the Stealth or Scout benefits as they are Bulky models, but they do get one amazing benefit; they can move 12" in the movement phase and still re-roll their failed charge distances. The other part, re-rolling failed to wound rolls with their Strength 4 Hammer of Wrath attacks, is decent but nothing to really write home about. Being able to use their jump packs in both the movement and assault phases means they have an average and reliable assault threat range of 19" with the re-roll giving them a high chance of getting above a six or seven. While not as big as the buffs given to Bikers by White Scars, it does nonetheless serve to make Assault Marines even more useful.

Honour Guard - One of the things I picked up on immediately with the Scout part of the Chapter Tactics was that it was yet another point in favour of Honour Guard over Assault Terminators in terms of making them your main dedicated melee unit. Honour Guard, with four power weapon attacks each on the charge and 2+ armour saves for almost half the cost of a stock Assault Terminator, are incredibly high value units. Add in the fact that they benefit from Scout with Raven Guard and not Assault Terminators, and they really stand out. Though they can't take a proper assault transport as a dedicated transport, sacrificing a Heavy Support slot to give them - and an attached Chapter Master with the Shield Eternal - is well worth the price. This gives Raven Guard an incredibly fast - deploy, 12" Scout, 6" move, 6" disembark, random charge length from 2" to 12" - assault unit and one that will be frightening as heck to pretty much any opponent. Raven Guard players can freely substitute the Land Raider Crusader for another transport, like a Drop Pod or Rhino, as Honour Guard do also come with bolters to make up for losing the ability to assault out of a transport. Attaching the Chapter Master or other characters is also unnecessary, as Honour Guard will typically tear right through most any unit that gets in their way. This can free up the Chapter Master to go on a Bike with a Biker Squad, for example.

Themed Army Lists

When I think of Raven Guard, I imagine mobile infantry carried in transports supporting jump-pack equipped hunters armed to the teeth. They are intended to be mobile, and deadly to boot at close range. Their Chapter Tactics more naturally benefit Tactical Marines in dedicated transports as opposed to Bikes, which is very much a welcome change from the usual competitive builds. While Assault Marines aren't the fantastic super melee units people make them out to be, they are nonetheless bullies of most other units, especially basic infantry. Giving them a much higher average threat range and slightly increased damage potential on the charge are very welcome, albeit not really major, buffs. To make the most of this, the common tactic for Raven Guard is centred around the classic Rhino-Rush tactic, something that Raven Guard do surprisingly well. With Scout on all their ground transports carrying non-bulky infantry, this gives me a strong impression of an army literally appearing out of nowhere and closing in on the enemy before they have time to strike back.

Chapter Master w/ artificer armour, shield eternal, thunder hammer
Honour Guard (6)

Tactical Squad (10) w/ combi plasma, plasma gun, rhino
Tactical Squad (10) w/ combi plasma, plasma gun, rhino
Tactical Squad (10) w/ combi plasma, plasma gun, rhino

Fast Attack
Assault Squad (10) w/ veteran sergeant, two flamers
Assault Squad (10) w/ veteran sergeant, two flamers

Heavy Support
Land Raider Crusader
Predator w/ sponson lascannons
Predator w/ sponson lascannons

Total = 1850

I actually like this list, as it is a bit of a change on the typical Rhino-spam lists you see for Raven Guard. There is a nasty Chapter Master bringing the most cost-effective assault unit in the book, Honour Guard, along for the ride in a Land Raider Crusader to act as the focal point of your attack and a massive fire magnet for your opponent. Trust me, Honour Guard and a kitted out Chapter Master in a Scouting Land Raider Crusader is absolutely terrifying, and people will throw themselves at it in desperation. This should allow the Rhinos with the solid Tactical Squads to advance, getting off reliable turn one shooting with a 12" Scout move, a 6" move, then a 6" disembark, assuming you also deployed the maximum distance. With all these rapidly advancing elements, the beefy Assault Squads should be fine to jump from behind cover to cover, using the Rhinos as cover if need be and spreading them out to defend from Ion Accelerators. The Predators provide effective long range fire support, targeting vehicles and monstrous creatures as necessary. With the Scout moves, all three of the melee units - even though Assault Marines don't have Scout - should be making combat by turn two, which is what you really want above all else. The Tactical Squads could get into rapid fire range with their guns on turn one, but will definitely be able to on turn two. Basically, this is similar in principle to the typical Khan-led White Scar lists; hyper-aggression with lots of damage output, though obviously this Raven Guard list is dissimilar in most other facets.

In Closing

I hope you enjoyed the sixth in a series of seven articles covering each of the distinct Space Marine Chapters represented in the 6th Edition Codex: Space Marines! The Raven Guard are the dark deliverance of the Emperor's Will, swooping like fell hawks upon the enemy and escaping in the blink of an eye. They are predators more than warriors, and use the fear of shadow and their sudden, untraceable strikes to force the enemy into willing submission. As Corax could flay dozens in a matter of moments, so too can the Raven Guard crush enemy resistance across a world in mere minutes through calculated, coordinated strikes that are beyond any commanders' ability to counter. Every clash is but a feint to strike at a greater goal, every battle brother but a tool of disruption and chaos. Their brutal strikes match those of their Primarch, and as descendents of the Deliverer, they are shrouded in a cloak of mystery; does the Great Primarch live, or will the Raven Guard be forever destined to carry out his legacy?

For more discussion on Raven Guard and other Space Marine Chapters, visit the forums over on +Bell of Lost Souls or view our Space Marine Tactica series. Have a lovely day! Eel out.


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  2. A propos HG in LR - great idea - i will test this today vs eldar, but first of all - You can not charge after scout move so "12" Scout, 6" move, 6" disembark, random charge length from 2" to 12" its no possible in 1st round. Another thing (i coud not found this in RB) - it is possible start game on board vechicle that is not dedicated transport? BTW great article - as always.

    1. 1) As long as you go second you can charge on turn 1. The limitation only applies to the person going first.
      2) Yes, anyone in the that detachment can start on a purchased transport. The dedicated rule stops other units (not ICs) from getting during deployment.

  3. As usual, great stuff, apreciate the obvious effort you put into all your articles ;) One small point... as I understand the rulebook, the Scout USR is only applied to Dedicated Transports (not unDedicated transports, such as HS Land Raiders) and to Transports that have the Scout rule themselves (i.e. the LS Storm), so I think Honor Guard cannot confer Scout to a Land Raider, unfortunately :(