1 Jan 2014

Tactica Space Marines - Heavy Support Part Four

Hey there everyone, my name is Learn2Eel and today I want to talk about the toys everyone wants, the Space Marine Heavy Support units! Space Marines have an unparalleled selection of diverse units in the Heavy Support slot, giving them far more options in the simple game of shooting than any other codex out there. I hope you enjoy this article!

Space Marines have always been the codex with the most options, and in few places is this more apparent than in the Heavy Support slot. Each choice has been given a range of buffs over the new edition, making for a diverse and competitive line-up that will likely guzzle up your points quickly - but the choice of how is very difficult indeed! There are just so many options to choose from here. For infantry-hunting artillery, you have the cheap Whirlwind and ridiculous Thunderfire Cannon. For punishing aerial defence, the Hunter and Stalker are inexpensive and dangerous choices. For transportation capabilities you have a flying gunship in the form of the Stromraven and flexible 'battle fortresses' with the three Land Raider variants. For destruction of vehicles and monsters alike, Devastators and their Centurion contingents raise their hand with great zest. The Vindicator provides a multi-purpose siege breaker, while Predators are the "every-man" unit with multiple configurations for dealing with wildly different targets. If there are any holes in a Space Marine army, the Heavy Support slot is usually the first - and best - place to look for aid.
A note here that this is the final article in a series of four concerning the Heavy Support choices, the other three of which can be found at our Tactica Index here.

Land Raider

Overview* - Land Raiders. Does the name send shivers down your spine? It should do.....if Senor Freeze is giving you a back-rub. Anyway, Land Raiders are the most dastardly durable (mwahaha!) vehicles that Space Marines have access to, with a crazy AV 14/14/14 and four hull points. Strength 7 and lower weaponry are completely useless against them, while even Strength 10 weapons struggle to reliably punch through their armour. These tanks double both as heavily armoured transports and as mobile fire-bases, one of few able to ferry Terminators and Centurions, and loaded to the teeth with guns. Each has a pair of sponson weapons unique to each variant, as well as a turret-mounted gun and access to a handful of pintle mounted guns. The transport capacity of each varies just as the weaponry does, with ten, twelve or a massive sixteen being the different unit caps available. They sound like the best units ever, right? Well, understandably, all Land Raiders have a massive points cost attached to them, with each running you well over two centuries worth of points. These units are a major investment for almost any standard game size, their very inclusion forcing you to build many or all elements of an army list around them. This is mostly because their primary function as a transport is what you need to focus on; yes, they have lots of guns and are durable, but Land Raiders do not compare to any of your other sources of firepower in terms of raw damage potential and cost effectiveness. The guns are there to provide some extra spark to a near impregnable ferrying machine, and this is something that too many players forget. Land Raiders are the transports for your most valuable units, particularly those geared for melee, as they are also your only ground-based assault transports. If you aren't using them primarily as transports, just with a few extra guns, then you may as well just save a few hundred points and take Rhinos instead.

The standard Land Raider brings a more divergent approach to the Land Raider formula, though being the "archetypal" pattern obviously makes such terminology seem odd. The fact of the matter is that while the other two are more fully geared to maximising their potential as assault transports, the standard Land Raider pattern tries to branch out into being more of a mobile fire-base and, unfortunately, doesn't really succeed. It has a pair of twin-linked lascannons, a twin-linked heavy bolter, and some extra weapons to taste - though the already exorbitant cost and availability of lascannons means these are often left by the wayside. The heavy bolter won't do much and is probably a down-grade on the twin-linked assault cannon found on the other Land Raider variants, simply because the extra range doesn't really matter when it will mostly be snap-firing as the Land Raider moves closer with its embarked unit. The two lascannons are strong, obviously, but without Tank Hunters or lots of shots, they can't claim to be as cost-effective or destructive as those carried by Centurion Devastators and regular Devastators, especially those hailing from the Imperial Fists. The simple truth is that while it tries to offer itself as a fire-base, it is outperformed in all but reliability - until Inquisitors with Divination or Tigurius are involved - in terms of shooting. The value here thus comes from Power of the Machine Spirit allowing this Land Raider to move 6" a turn and shoot both its lascannons at one or two targets with full Ballistic Skill and twin-linking. This gives decent firepower and actually allows the transport to do something while it ferries a unit across the board. For the most part though, you want your assault units to be getting into combat as quickly as possible, and the standard Land Raider is easily the slowest of the three - unless you want to waste its shooting that it pays for over the other variants. It is, after all, an assault transport and one of few that Space Marines have, and should be used as such.

*The first paragraph of this Overview applies to every Land Raider variant, and thus I have chosen to just do the "unique" segments only for the other two Land Raider variants.

How to Equip Them - Ah, dozer blades, how you smile at me from behind barred gates. So goes the sigh of all Space Marine players in envy of heretical Chaos Space Marines and their Heresy Era predecessors. For a classic Land Raider, I recommend extra armour only if you are actually using it is a mobile transport to deliver a close-ranged unit, as otherwise, none of the upgrades are really needed. Pintle mounted multi-meltas aren't a bad use of the points, but if you are using the Land Raider optimally, as in moving 6" each turn and firing both lascannons using Power of the Machine Spirit - then the chances of actually using the multi-melta to any real effect are slim. Of course, being shaken or stunned and using Power of the Machine Spirit to fire the multi-melta at a nearby vehicle or wounded monstrous creature isn't a bad option, you just need to weigh up whether that kind of situation couldn't be handled by a lascannon. For how expensive and obvious a target a Land Raider already is, I would really just leave them bare - they don't need anything else, aside from maybe extra armour, to fulfill their role well.

Where to Put Them* - Terrain providing, I have always preferred to use Land Raiders of all types as the spear-head of my mechanized force. Deploying them in the centre of a formation of Rhinos, Razorbacks, Vindicators and other juicy targets sends a clear message to your opponent that the Land Raider is a big, scary target just inviting them to shoot at it. That is the point; you want Land Raiders to be shot at, just because they are so ridiculously durable. Typical Wave Serpent builds, Broadside and Crisis Suit missile-spam, missile-spam, autocannon-spam and so many other top tournament builds have so many issues dealing with Land Raiders at anything but short ranges. Even Riptides with Ion Accelerators are effectively forced to either close into melta range with their fusion blasters, or continuously risk both nova-charging and then over-charging their Ion Accelerators to have but a slight chance at destroying your Land Raiders. Because of all this, I always prefer to make Land Raiders as obvious as possible by deploying them centrally; move around terrain in the centre to get to your target as quickly as possible, or if needed, go through it if it means guaranteeing a charge one turn or so earlier. This isn't to say you should be careless with them, as almost every army does have some means of destroying them from afar, however limited; use cover, even deploying behind or beside it, to obscure your Land Raider as much as possible. If your opponent is forced to take "pot-shots" against a Land Raider with a 5+ or better cover save, you'll be hooting in joy.

The alternative is to deploy a Land Raider on one of your flanks with the goal of smashing that side of your opponent's battle-line. This does favour deploying second as you can send your Land Raider and its contents at units that aren't ideally placed for dealing with an AV 14/14/14 behemoth; identifying where the melta weapons - the typical source of a Land Raider's destruction I find - and monstrous creatures are is key to keeping your Land Raider alive long enough to deliver its' contents. As for actual movement speed, this varies based on the Land Raider; a standard pattern wants to move 6" a turn to make the most of the two twin-linked lascannons. They are what distinguishes it from the other two and are understandably the source of its reduced transport capacity, so wasting them by only firing one at a time at full Ballistic Skill by moving 12" each turn doesn't sound like good returns to me. Use Power of the Machine Spirit to either focus on one vehicle, monster or elite unit - such as Centurions - at a time, or to split-fire at two targets and aim for slowing down or even destroying both of them. Getting a shaken result on two gun-loaded vehicles at a time is worth the reduced chances of destroying one of them, I've found. Crusaders and Redeemers generally want to be moving 12" in the movement phase, and either moving flat out, or using Power of the Machine Spirit to fire a pintle mounted multi-melta at a tank. Crusaders work really well against flying monstrous creatures for grounding purposes with so many twin-linked shots, and so moving them 12" a turn against a list composed heavily of such units is definitely a good idea - even if it is 12" backwards! Once up close or having deployed their units, Redeemers generally want to come to a stop or move 6" to really get the most of their flamestorm cannons; this is a consideration to take even when ferrying the unit inside, as like the Heldrake has proven, Strength 6 AP3 template weapons are just brutal.

*Instead of typing out the exact same stuff three times in a row, I've opted instead to write the "Where to Put Them" section for all three Land Raider variants in one spot.

Best Uses - I've found that the standard Land Raider is best used either with a valuable, short-ranged unit that isn't too concerned about melee combat, such as regular Terminators or even Sternguard Veterans, or with a cheap melee squad that doesn't mind waiting an extra turn or two to get into combat, like an Assault Squad without jump-packs. This is because of the two sponson-mounted twin-linked lascannons the standard Land Raider sports; these two weapons give the Land Raider a big range advantage over the other two variants, and allow it to punish tanks, monstrous creatures and elite units at long range. Because it only carries ten models - or five Terminators - and in a sense pays for those limitations with the lascannons, you don't want to waste the firepower on offer here. That isn't to say the firepower is anything special; remember that you are always better off going with lascannon-armed Devastators, Predator Annihilators and so on if you just want pure firepower. But the combination of strong shooting and a durable transport gives you a good compromise. Ferry a unit of you choice, and move 6" each turn. Use Power of the Machine Spirit to fire its two lascannons either at the same target, or seperate units, at full Ballistic Skill each turn. This not only protects a valuable unit, even one like scoring Tactical Marines, but it will also allow you to use those two twin-linked lascannons to maximum effect. I've found any other use of the standard Land Raider to just be a waste of its capabilities, or better filled by a Crusader or Redeemer.

Chapter Tactics - As a standard Land Raider really isn't comparable to a Crusader or Redeemer in terms of a dedicated 'assault vehicle', its usage is more as a slow-moving anti-tank vehicle. It certainly isn't the best source of firepower you can get, but it works well enough in most lists because moving 6" a turn and using Power of the Machine Spirit to fire its two twin-linked lascannons at separate targets isn't a bad use of the points. Provided you are also keeping a unit safe, moving up 6" a turn isn't too bad if the unit inside isn't too expensive and thus not too worried about staying out of combat a bit longer than they would if they were in another Land Raider variant. This lends itself well to mixed army lists using both infantry and vehicles, those that move at a steadier pace so that the Land Raider can act as part of a large 'hammer' strike and the lynch-pin of an assault brigade. You can also use the standard Land Raider as part of a gun-line and harbour a counter-assault unit, such as Assault Marines or Vanguard Veterans without jump packs, but it would be a bit of a waste in that role simply because it is so expensive and nowhere near as cost-efficient in terms of firepower as a Predator Annihilator or a squad or two of Devastators. So while Iron Hands are best suited to it, I think Ultramarines and maybe Imperial Fists can make better use of them.

Land Raider Crusader

Overview - The Land Raider Crusader is the most assault-oriented of the three Land Raiders and the best transport simply because it doesn't really care at all about shooting its weapons - something a Redeemer with flamestorm cannons can't attest to - and it has the largest transport capacity by four slots. Its shooting is geared for taking down infantry, and with so many shots and twin-linking, forcing them to snap-fire by moving 12" - or sacrificing them entirely by also moving flat out - isn't really that much of a sacrifice if it means your assault unit gets into combat on turn two. It also fulfills a unique role among the Land Raider variants in its usage against flying monstrous creatures, easily capable of forcing a ground test on one even when outside of rapid fire of its sponson guns. Indeed, a Crusader has two sponson hurricane bolters and a turreted twin-linked assault cannon. While the hurricanes could be seen as a downgrade on the lascannons offered by the standard Land Raider, the increased transport capacity, improved effectiveness against infantry and inclusion of frag assault launchers give the Crusader a huge edge over the regular Land Raider as a pure assault transport. The frag assault launchers favour Assault Terminators especially, though given such units are usually equipped mostly with thunder hammers, their best use is with characters still sporting weapons that strike at regular Initiative who lose access to grenades when wearing Terminator Armour. If you want the best value assault transport and the option to ferry a huge unit of Terminators, or even many characters attached to Honour Guard or Vanguard Veterans, then the Crusader is the right choice for you.

How to Equip Them - Like the standard Land Raider, none of the upgrades are really necessary here, though the multi-melta is definitely more valuable here for use with Power of the Machine Spirit as it allows the Crusader to be a truly versatile infantry and tank hunter. It is, again though, more of an after-thought of points than anything else. Extra armour is even more valuable here on the Crusader than for a standard Land Raider, as Crusader's are less worried about sacrificing their firepower so as to ferry their probably larger unit to battle.

Best Uses - With the largest carrying capacity by far, the Crusader is not only the best transport of the three Land Raider variants, but it is also the one with the lowest damage threshold in terms of sheer firepower. Now, don't take this the wrong way; two hurricane bolters as sponson weapons, in addition to a twin-linked assault cannon and optional multi-melta, are still pretty good firepower. That all but one of those aforementioned weapons is twin-linked and puts out lots of shots makes the Crusader a strong choice for attempting to ground flying monstrous creatures, or just stripping models off of enemy units through massed shooting. However, the point of the Crusader is that, with that huge carrying capacity of sixteen models - or eight Terminators - and the "weakest" (though I use that term lightly) firepower, it is the one that you want barreling straight for the enemy. This is not a standard Land Raider that wants to fire its two main guns each turn by moving 6". The Crusader wants to move 12" in the movement phase, and flat out 6" to guarantee a turn two or three charge at the absolute latest. Even one turn of such movement can often be enough to get in charge range on the next turn, though one must obviously be aware of all the short ranged anti-tank weapons that work decently against Land Raiders.

Chapter Tactics - There is but one obvious Chapter Tactic usage for Land Raider Crusaders and, oddly enough, it isn't Iron Hands. Instead, I have this strange, almost religious compulsion to say that Black Templars of all the Chapters should use them most. I mean, Black Templars are based around assault with their Crusader Squads who can bring Land Raiders as dedicated transports and more offensively-suited characters, but I don't get why they would make the best use of it ahead of White Scars with Hit and Run assault units or Iron Hands with their insane durability. I don't know, it is almost like....inspiration. I digress though, and I apologize, I'll try to stay on point from now on. Take Black Templars. Yeah, that is right! Or wait, hey, I didn't type that. What's happening? My brain is collapsing inside of itself! Black Templars. Yeah. That sounds right. Black Templars......

But seriously, Black Templar Crusader Squads in Land Raider Crusaders give you some ridiculously durable, flexibile and mobile scoring units that are stunningly difficult for many armies to deal with in even halfway decent numbers. Who would have thought a Black Templar invention would work best for its original creators? 

Land Raider Redeemer

Overview - The Redeemer sits firmly in between the other two Land Raider variants in terms of role and effectiveness. It isn't as good a transport as the Crusader despite also sporting frag assault launchers that the standard pattern lacks, but it only carries twelve models to the Crusaders' sixteen. It isn't as good a gun platform as the standard Land Raider overall, as though two flamestorm cannons are incredibly nasty, the only time they will see use is typically when the Redeemer is at its most vulnerable; quite often, unlike the other two, Redeemers won't get to fire their sponson guns at all! It helps that the Redeemer is ten points cheaper than the other two variants, but I do get the feeling its flamestorm cannons are over-stated. A pair of Strength 6 AP3 template weapons are undeniably brutal, of course, but a Land Raider Redeemer is no Heldrake. A Heldrake's true strength comes from torrent, 360 degree line of sight and an unprecedented mobility of 36" while still retaining the ability to fire. A Redeemer that moves 12" can at best shoot one of its flamestorm cannons as, with template weapon types, they cannot be fired at all as snap shots.

 It is hard to get in range of vulnerable infantry units without itself being destroyed, simply because no sane general will leave valuable units in range of a Redeemer. The 20" effective range through Power of the Machine Spirit for one template is great, obviously, but unlike the Heldrake, it really begins to worry about short-ranged melta and lance weapons at that point, the common answer to such vehicles fielded by Tau and Eldar alike. Besides, they cannot be used against flying monstrous creatures who are arguably its main weakness; monsters that, with Smash, can and will reliably eat a Redeemer in one assault phase. These are not limitations that a Crusader or even the standard pattern has to worry about with their main guns, and the issue comes from the Redeemer having a reduced transport capacity compared to the Crusader to compensate for the flamestorm cannons. It is a bit too much of a middling transport, especially compared to the other two variants, and its two template weapons just aren't as useful as they would seem when working out firing arcs and the like are concerned - it is impossible to flame a properly spaced unit with both flamers, for example.

How to Equip Them - I'm more in the Land Raider Crusader school of thought when it comes to extra armour for the Redeemer, as its boosted transport capacity and short-ranged weaponry are more suited to just cruising forward at all costs. The multi-melta is, again, more of a minimal addition that is nice, but unnecessary. I really wouldn't bother with any of the other upgrades as they are either ineffective or just add even more weak guns to an already loaded platform.

Best Uses - I feel that much of what I said applies to a Redeemer, and in some cases even more so as its sponson weapons - a pair of flamestorm cannons - are template weapons and thus there won't often be a reason for you to not be moving 12" to 18" a turn to get close with your ferried unit. Like with the Crusader, the boosted transport capacity of twelve and frag assault launchers naturally favour heavy melee units such as Assault Terminators or Honour Guard. Once it is close though, you will want to point the Redeemer at any exposed infantry your opponent has. There are few things that frighten opponents as much as Strength 6 AP3 template weapons, especially for elite forces such as Space Marines.

Chapter Tactics - Salamanders. No, but really, Salamanders. I don't care if Redeemers aren't affected by them still. They just fit! But seriously, Iron Hands give you the direct benefits, but as a short-ranged assault transport, White Scars, Black Templars and possibly Ultramarines making use of their Assault Doctrine are best suited to using a Redeemer.

Thanks for reading this article! Did you find it an entertaining or insightful read? Let us know in the comments section below, or continue the discussion with me and other members of the community over on +Bell of Lost Souls. Have a great day! Eel out.

"With steel we are stronger, but without a soul we are nothing."
- Kardan Stronos of the Iron Hands 


  1. The reason you take Crusaders with BT is because they come in your troop slot. A BT list with 3 AV 13 heavy supports, 2 crusaders full off crusaders is roughly 1400 pts. You can fit another crusader and your HQ, or an HQ and smaller troops with lighter mech, or even some land speeder typhoons.

    I was running this style of list with the last codex and it really puts the pain on Tau. There isn't a whole lot they can rely on to stop 5+ AV 13+ hulls.

    1. Don't worry, I'm aware :) I did sort of mention, but not clearly enough. Mostly a tongue in cheek passage lol, I'll edit it and try and keep it that way later.

  2. Yep, I built a Redeemer near the end of 5th edition, and now it sits all dusty. Strange that a FLYING vehicle can torrent a template after moving more than 6 inches, but a lumbering tank with access to high pressure pumps cannot...(heck, a IG flame tank can....)...the Redeemer needs a revision to its personal rules to make it worthwhile. As I type this I'm planning to go into the bits box and convert the Redeemer tank sponsons to the Crusader variant...

    Great analysis! I might go back through your best recommendations again to come up with a fun "best of" list for my Third Company Ultramarines...