Blood Angels going forward: My impressions after the first few months and how I think I will play them henceforth

As promised in the last article, I wish to discuss my current Blood Angels, what works, what might need to be changed and how I feel about playing them in the next few months.

General impressions:

This truly is a different game compared to the last time they were good.

One thing I noticed in all my games so far is that the casualty box is filling up rapidly each game and that I often end up with only a few models left on the table. Of course, this could be a sign that I am getting rusty and losing my edge or that the young bucks are catching up, but at least to some degree it is due to the changes in the game compared to their last heyday during 5th edition. Overwatch fire is a big part of it, even if it only causes a few casualties here and there, melee units suffer more from loss of momentum due to casualties than shooting units. This is because in a melee, everyone (or at least most people) fight, so the less people you have in melee, the less damage you deal and the more enemies survive, thus letting them deal more damage in return. This is also true for shooting, but to a lesser extent, as shooting does not drop off quite as quickly with most models only contributing a single or two shots to the unit’s fire, so as long as the guy with the plasma cannon in the back is still going, the output will remain roughly the same. More importantly morale not being modified by the amount of casualties you take. Furthermore, melee units still tend to be more expensive than shooting units, especially as they often require a means of increasing their speed such as a transport or jump packs. Furthermore, the Internet has really taken over 40k and the number of people playing net-lists or popular unit combinations has increased, making lists a lot harder, especially in terms of dealing out damage. With the Marine being the gold standard of 40k, most good lists are built around killing Marines, so Marine armies, particularly those relying on regular T4 3+ armour dudes tend to suffer from being everyone’s preferred target. Finally, GW has really put the focus on shooting in the last couple of editions, with more and more armies receiving highly efficient shooting, so the old plan of charging them, then applying chainsword to groin is starting to show its age.

Melee is not dead though

Having said that, melee is still a very potent tool and this for a number of reasons. First of all, the leadership penalty for losing combat can really hurt armies playing high-quality units such as Necrons. Leadership 10 is amazing on paper, but once they have suffered a few casualties it drops down to 6 or 7 and passing a test on those numbers is not quite as easy. Secondly, winning a close combat can immediately wipe out an enemy unit on the spot if they are run down whilst fleeing, whereas you often have to kill every single member of a unit to get rid of them when shooting. Moreover, there is no cover in melee and cover is one of the most important mechanisms in the game. I have recently made the comment that it might actually be preferable to play on an empty board against Tau because they will ignore your cover anyway, but still benefit from a 4+ or even 3+ cover save themselves, so just get rid of it and you might be better off against them. While this was hyperbole, it is true that some armies rely on their cover saves to survive enemy fire, so charging them removes an important part of their defensive strategies. Most importantly though, a lot of people simply no longer expect an all-in assault and won’t be bringing the kind of units or equipment necessary to stop it. When was the last time you saw Kroot in a competitive Tau list? Marine lists now often rely on Grav Centurions or Bike Squadrons, all of which have very few attacks, let alone specialist melee gear. Heck, even Tyranids now play with a majority of gun beasts, which admittedly still pack a punch on account of being Monstrous Creatures, but lack the number of attacks they could have if they had close combat weapons instead of guns. Likewise, you see Lootas and Big Gunz in Ork lists, taking the spots previously held by Nob Bikers and Boyz, so even the Orks lose part of their close combat power by attempting to conform to the credo that a modern 40k army has to win its games in the shooting phase.

2+ armour can go suck a bag of dicks for all I’m concerned, as can Storm Shields.

This is more of a personal pet peeve of mine. During the last few games I got extremely frustrated playing against players with either mass 2+ armour saves or 3+ invulnerable saves on fast units, such as Iron Priests tanking wounds for their Iron Wolves, Chapter Masters with Artificer Armour and Shield Eternal and so forth. These units are unrealistically tough as they can absorb 5/6ths of all wounds dealt to them and even the best weaponry still being saved in 2/3rds of the time. Granted, there are way around even a 2+, but these ways are often linked to a serious penalty. For instance, there is hardly a point giving a Veteran Sergeant a Power Axe because he will be dead before he can swing it due to the Initiative penalty, especially now that he can be simply singled out by being challenged. Even if he survives the first wave of attacks, he might still bounce off the enemy 3+ invulnerable, so it is not really worth the effort or the points. In shooting, you have meltaguns and so forth, but more often than not, a clever player will arrange his unit in a way that lets a regular model take that hit whilst still being able to allocate the small arms fire to the character with the 2+ armour save.

All being said and done, the new Blood Angels are fun to play with and I guess against.

As I mentioned above, everyone builds their army around killing Marines, so there have been very few moments so far where an opponent was unable to do at least some thing to my army, thus avoiding a frustrating experience for both of us. Compare that to for example Eldar who approach the game from an angle that is radically different from other armies and you can have games where people are just overrun because they haven’t prepared for that kind of match-up. Even Dark Eldar can do that by being so focused on sheer volume of fire that an opponent can be left utterly defenceless once their few units able to deal with a mass of Venoms and Raiders are taken out. With Marines, you know what you get and you can prepare for it. And for me as the player of the army, it is also more exciting to have games going down to the wire, instead of seeing if I managed to skew my army so hard the opponent is unable to match the skew and massacred. Compared to regular Marines, Blood Angels have some rather tough and mobile units such as Sanguinary Guard and Death Company, so it is possible to just grit your teeth and wade through the enemy fire to apply sword to face, which has always been my favoured playing style. Leave the sitting behind the Aegis line to the Imperial Fists, true mastery of war can only be found in melee.

Having said that, it is now time to look at the units in my list and how they have performed:

Librarian (Warlord): Veritas Vitae, Jump Pack, Mastery Level 2

A steal at a mere 120 points. Not only does he pack quite a punch with a potential 8 S5 attacks at potential Ini 7, he is primarily there to support the main melee units with Shield of Sanguinius and Unleash Rage or use Blood Lance and Fear of the Darkness to deal damage to opposing armies. Finally, the Veritas Vitae is such an amazing piece of wargear! As I have returned to playing a regular Combined Arms Detachment, I can re-roll all my rolls on any Warlord trait table (most codex-specific detachments only allow that on their own table) and when I say any I mean Strategic, because it is just the best table. Period. Granted, 6 is a bit weak, but even ‘just’ causing 3 pinning checks can swing a game. But so many of the results are just game-breaking on that table. Stealth (Ruins) and Move Through Cover (Ruins) are the bee’s knees with most of us relying on GW or Battlefield in a Box terrain, so the usual 40k table will have a lot of ruins. This is particularly true for a Jump Infantry army, as they can jump into and out of ruins without the need for a Dangerous Terrain check. Night Attacker might sound ‘meh’, but if your army needs to cross the open ground in one piece, every single cover save helps. You can’t build your battle plan around passing a 6+ cover save, but it might just happen and throw a big wrench into your opponent’s plan. And as you also gain Night Vision, you won’t be randomly lucked out by a 6+ cover save yourself. Then we get to number 3, Master of Ambush. This is the best Warlord trait hands down for a melee army. Infiltrating 3 units plus your Warlord is so strong, especially when one of these units is a Death Company and the other one a Sanguinary Guard. Not only will they deploy closer to the enemy, but also after the enemy’s deployment, so you can easily overwhelm a flank by concentrating forces on that side. As I have a total of 4 rolls on the Warlord traits table (the normal one plus the re-roll if needed, the additional one from Veritas Vitae and a re-roll for that one if needed), I have a 4 in 6 chance of getting that trait and I have yet to lose a game having rolled that trait. Trait 4 is still pretty good, +1 to Seize the Initiative is good enough to make people deploy more defensively or even give you first deployment, something you always want as a Blood Angel (especially when you also have Master of Ambush) and the re-roll on reserves is great. I have often bought an Aegis Line or Imperial Bunker just to get a Comms Relay, so getting a free one is funky. The fifth one gives your opponent a -1 on reserves, which is not as crippling as before as all reserve rolls are now 3+, but it still drops success from 2 in 3 to 1 in 2, so I take it if necessary. Tl:Dr? To make a long story short, the Veritas Vitae is the best item in the codex as it makes Master of Ambush a reliable choice and thus something you can base your plans on. It is the single reason why I have gone back from the Flesh Tearers detachment to a CAD and I haven’t looked back (much). I would go even further and say that everyone not giving it to their Warlord is making a mistake there and then, unless you build your army against a special character’s specific Warlord trait. And to be honest, none of the special characters have a trait that would make me reconsider. Even Dante’s guaranteed Descent of Angels is not that great unless you tailor your whole list around it and even then you are still playing a deep-strike list which is not the way to go with this codex.

Sanguinary Priest: Bolt Pistol, Jump Pack, Power Sword:

I bought him for the Feel No Pain, but I am keeping him for the +1 WS. Having WS5 is a great way of dealing more damage as WS4 is the benchmark, so you will be hitting 95% of all people on a 3+ and more hits are more wounds and more wounds are less people who can strike back and hurt your guys. On Sanguinary Guard with their master-crafted Glaives and Axes Encarmine, that single pip turns a strong unit into an infantry blender, as you go from 50% hits to 66% hits on the first roll, meaning your single re-roll will carry more weight as it will be needed less often. So a Sanguinary Guard with 3 attacks with WS4 will hit 1.5 and then re-roll one die, getting another 0.5 hit for a total of 2. On WS5 he will hit twice, then re-roll one (so, in essence, all your misses) for another 0.66 hit and a total of 2.66. This adds up very quickly. Needless to say, just the mere fact of having a 5+ Feel No Pain in addition to a 2+ armour save and the option of a 5+ invulnerable if you roll up Shield of Sanguinius will make that unit so insanely tough and thus be able to keep up with other super tough units such as Thunderwolves or Hammernators.

A brief aside to GW: Seriously? Why the fuck do I need to buy that bolt pistol for a point? Not only does it piss off the OCD side in me by being a non-divisible by 5 number, but in a codex where every other option is 5 or 10 points, it might as well cost 5 points. No, bad game designer! Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

5 Sanguinary Guard: Chapter Banner, 2 Glaives Encarmine, 2 Axes Encarmine, 1 Power Fist (in 2.500, I go to 10 with double the weapons chosen)

My main hammer unit. They are mobile, tough and hit quite hard. They normally don’t last until the end of the game, but I usually point them at the hardest enemy unit I can find and see who gets out alive. On the whole, this results in one unit being dead and the other one crippled, thus letting the rest of my army do their thing one way or the other. Of course, some enemy armies have no real hammer unit, in which case I use them as a wrecking ball that charges from unit to unit and breaks the enemy’s back. With their mix of weapons, they have some high Ini attacks to thin down the enemy, as well as low Ini attacks to break enemy armour. The Chapter Banner is also nice on the Librarian and Sanguinary Priest, as they also gain a bonus attack from it. In larger games, I double them and then they become rather unfair, being able to absorb 83% of all small arms fire, plus another third of the remaining hits with Feel No Pain.

Lemartes, Guardian of the Lost

He is mainly there to cheat by being an Elites choice that has all the hallmarks of an HQ choice. His special rules are decent, a 5+ FNP sometimes keeps you alive a bit longer and Rage is another attack for free. Finally, he has Ini 6 which is a good way to reduce return strikes and once he is hit, he goes to 6 S8 Ini 6 attacks on the charge. Even with all that, he is mainly there to grant a re-roll to his unit without forcing me to play two detachments or give up one of the two HQs. Small hint on the side: As he is a character, he counts as a single unit for Master of Ambush, so you have to count him as one of the three units to gain Infiltrate (I usually don’t give it to the Sanguinary Priest and deploy him centrally, so I can deploy the Sanguinary Guard in a chain on either side to get him into unit coherence when they Infiltrate). Pro Tip 2: Allocate small arms hit to him as long as he has two wounds to gain the Rage Unleashed bonus early on.

 

9 Death Company: Jump Packs, 1 Power Fist, 1 Power Maul

My second hammer unit. I usually have them break the enemy’s line whilst the Sanguinary Guard tie up the enemy’s main unit. With Lemartes, they gain a re-roll to hit with 5 attacks each one the charge and Furious Charge, so very few units actually stand a chance to survive their first wave of attacks. I might switch the Power Maul for a Power Axe, just to be better prepared against 2+ armour. The fact that they can now hold objectives makes them much better, especially as very few opponents actually wish to go near them. Just keep them away from S8+ blasts as they will murder them.

10 Tactical Marines: Flamer, Sergeant with Combi-Flamer, Heavy Flamer, Drop Pod

Short answer: Because we now get Heavy Flamers and I wanted to give it a shot. Long answer: I needed a third Drop Pod to have two drop on turn 1, so I knew I had to take a Tactical Squad. Furthermore, all my other units carry anti-tank weaponry, which means that my anti-horde option is mostly hitting them with blunt and spiky objects in melee. So the fact that I could put three flamers into the same unit is very handy, as it gives me one unit that can wreck a horde in a single shot without the opponent being able to pre-emptively kill them. If facing Tau, they can also drop next to a unit of Pathfinders and ruin their day. So all in all, it is a great utility list that fills a gap that the rest of the army struggles with. The fact that both the unit and the Drop Pod have Objective Secured are just the icing on the cake.

9 Scouts: Combat blades

They used to be ten, but I had to find some points and they were the easiest place to get them, as taking away an Assault Marine would have reduced their resilience to shooting and taking away a Tactical Marine would have cost me the option to get a second Flamer. Right now, I am not really happy with them, as they have little shooting output and their melee output after the charge is also not that tremendous. In fact, the last time I ran them they were WS4 and the drop to 3 does tell, as we know that 4 is the benchmark. So while Sanguinary Guard benefit from the raise to 5 to hit WS4 on 3+, Scouts in turn are hit on 3+ by average units, so they tend to look like unfortunate victims in combat. I am considering dropping them for two units of 5 with shotguns, as I currently think that shotguns are an ideal compromise, giving them 2 S4 shots like boltguns, without keeping them from charging afterwards. In order to field two units, I would have to find another 11 points first though.

5 Assault Marines: 2 Meltaguns, Sergeant with two Inferno Pistols, Drop Pod

5 Assault Marines: 2 Meltaguns, Sergeant with Combi-Melta, Drop Pod

I will discuss those units together as it makes more sense that way. I have to make a confession here: I have never played with Drop Pods in my Blood Angels before. This was partly due to the fact that I had access to free fast Rhinos, so why bother with Drop Pods and partly due to them being such an absolute pain to paint, a problem I am still struggling with today as the three Drop Pods keep staring at me in their red undercoated state. Add to this that Drop Pods always put a strain on army-building as you want to have an odd number of them to maximise the number you get turn one and I never really got round to using them. Boy, was I wrong. Those two units have been performing well above expectations in every game I used them, even in the ones where they failed to kill two Monoliths in the first turn, because let’s be honest, there is a reason why Monoliths are 200 points and I couldn’t really expect to blow up two in turn 1. Nevertheless, the ability to put three to four meltaguns next to a key vehicle on turn one and blow it to smithereens is so back-breakingly powerful and two units do it twice as well, which squares their power (blowing up twice as many units per turn means doing it in half the time and it also halves the return fire taken, thus squaring instead of doubling. I don’t know, it works in my mind and I studied languages, what do I know of maths?) As an aside: I still think that Seize the Initiative and First Blood are two of the worst game design mechanics, but if I have to live with them, I might as well take advantage of them and these units do this so well. There is nothing more demoralising in 40k than being Seized on, then having one’s favourite tank destroyed before firing a shot and having the other guy gain an extra point for it as the icing on the cake. They would be excellent without that anyway, so with that extra bonus, they become amazeballs (or whatever the superlative of excellent is).

10 Assault Marines: 2 Meltaguns, Veteran Sergeant with Power Axe and Meltabombs

Sadly the underperformers to their drop-podding brethren. I used to run them with the Librarian and the Sanguinary Priest when I played Flesh Tearers, as that army had no Sanguinary Guard and thus needed a second main assault unit to go with the Death Company. As I went back to playing ‘pure’ Blood Angels, I added the Guard instead of the second 10-strong squad of Assaulters and moved the two characters to that unit, leaving the Assault Marines slightly underpowered as they lost their main damage buffs and their Feel No Pain save. They still perform adequately, blowing up transports and mugging secondary units, but they simply cannot go to toe-to-toe with serious threats. In the game against Space Wolves, they were supposed to go up against his secondary melee units, such as his Grey Hunters, and they managed to do fine, but only after I had to dedicate other units to soften up the enemy first. When they got past that first unit, they were so weakened that they no longer contributed anything valid to the board. The same happened against the Necrons too. Part of this might be due to the fact that in both cases, they ended up winning their combats in the wrong turn, meaning that they stood in the open during the enemy’s shooting phase, but with so many armies now going back to MSU builds, this will happen more and more often. I have been considering dropping them to 5 guys with another Drop Pod and then also splitting the Tactical Squad to two units to add another Drop Pod and a fourth Flamer (so the original squad would keep the Combi-Flamer and Heavy Flamer and the new unit would get the original’s Flamer and gain a new Combi-Flamer on the Sergeant), but that could mean buying another two Drop Pods, so I guess they will stay in the army until I have finished painting the three Pods I already have and then we’ll see. It might also be that I am overly pessimistic as the rest of the army is working so well and they are just doing ok.

Baal Predator: Twin-Linked Assault Cannon, 2 Heavy Bolters

There used to be two, but I needed some points, so I swapped out one for a Vindicator. They benefitted from a 10-point discount on their overcharged engines and would be perfectly ok, if it wasn’t for the vastly superior Sicaran stealing their spot in the limelight. It does what it has always done, spraying lots of hot lead in the general direction of the enemy to pin down light infantry, soften up targets for assaults or even being a good deterrent for flyers, as a twin-linked Assault Cannon has good odds of dealing damage to most flyers or flying Monstrous Creatures in the game. It tends to be singled out relatively early on, but it always brings back its points, so it can stay for the moment.

Vindicator: Overcharged Engines

Because a Fast vehicle with a Demolisher Cannon is fun. I sometimes feel reluctant using it, as I tend to get up into the opponent’s grill as fast as possible, so firing a wildly inaccurate pie-plate close to my own units can be worrisome at times, but so far I have only killed one of my own with it and that was an 11 on 2d6 which does not happen that often. Vindicators are no longer the terrors they used to be, with people generally spreading out further and cover being so readily available, but they still keep people honest. In addition, like the Predator and the Sicaran, they have a reasonably tough front armour of 13, so they do take some effort to remove, thereby reducing the amount of fire being directed towards my infantry. And every now and then, you land a beautiful hit right in the middle of an enemy elite unit and watch them evaporate and it all makes sense again. Risky? Yes. Worth every penny? Double yes.

Sicaran Battle Tank: Accelerator Cannon, 3 Heavy Bolter, Battle of Sarosh (Legacy of Glory)

I have sung the praises of the Sicaran more than once, so I will keep it short. I have recently added the Battle of Sarosh (Legacy of Glory) to it. Legacies of Glory are an upgrade from Imperial Armour 2, which can be added to a single Marine tank per 1.000 points and only one tank per army (or detachment, can’t remember right now) can have the same Legacy. They represent the tank having taken part in a legendary battle and gaining extra bonuses from that experience. The Battle of Sarosh must have been a flyer-centric battle, as it is a one-of bonus giving your tank Interceptor, Skyfire, Night Vision and Tank Hunter for a turn, which is a complicated way of saying that you measure the range to an enemy flyer, then tell your opponent to remove it. As my army is rather light on anti-air as the tendency so far had been to avoid flyers in my local area, I need this upgrade, especially now that people start running Tyranid lists with three+ flyers or double Doom Scythes, not to mention my old nemesis, the Heldrake. Adding the Legacy cost me 30 points and I had to do some serious thinking to find them, ending up costing me a Death Company trooper and a Scout, but that one shot per game that just drops a flyer from the table before it could even fire is usually worth it.

So where do I go from there? As I said above, I will swap the Scouts with Combat Blades for Scouts with Shotguns, not sure if I will stay with a large unit, two small units or if I go to one small unit and add some models to the Death Company instead, but the Scouts will have to go I am afraid. Phew, my computer says that I have now crossed 4600 words to talk about one army, which is a lot. So I hope it was as good for you as it was for me and see you next week I guess. The wife has to concentrate on finishing her Master’s, which means I will have less time to go play games elsewhere as I will be on puppy duty, so I will have more time for blogging and painting over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for that.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Blood Angels going forward: My impressions after the first few months and how I think I will play them henceforth

  1. This was a great read and I appreciate the assessments. I’m also playing BAs and have had numerous close game, and our issues are the same. I’ll be taking up some of your suggestions above!

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