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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Falcon PUNCH!: In Defense of a Humble Gunship

Don't be too misled by the title. =D This post isn't about how amazing the Falcon is. It's just that I've seen in numerous threads that people think the Falcon is a complete dud and the weakest link in the Heavy Support section. I don't think that's true. I know we're all disappointed it isn't the unkillable beast that it once was, but that doesn't mean it needs to be relegated to collecting dust on the shelf. The Falcon is much better than it used to be and I think it deserves some actual consideration during list building.

The first thing that makes the Falcon more attractive than its previous incarnation is the improved accuracy. If the old one suffered from anything before it was that the cost didn't warrant such inaccurate shooting. BS3 was terrible on such an expensive unit. That was true even before Holofields got nerfed indirectly by the introduction of hull points. The accuracy can also be further improved by taking a Scatter Laser and turning the tank into a dakka machine. I like this option because the Falcon is one of the few places in the codex where a single model puts out enough shots to make the laser targetting worthwhile. It is affordable, versatile and helps you get the most out of the Pulse Laser which has a strength and AP profile that I expect to still be somewhat uncommon in my mech lists.

The next improvement is the viability of multiple loadouts. On all of them I expect to take the underslung ShuCan, but changing the turret weapon has a number of benefits. The Scatter Laser is probably the most versatile as it gives you enough range to hang back, but also helps snap shots from the ShuCan hit if you advance at cruising speed and fire it as your third weapon. A ShuCan turret would be nice and cheap and would keep the role focused if you intend to be moving a lot, perhaps to deliver a small unit of Fire Dragons (a fine option compared to the Serpent since both tanks are vulnerable to melta at close range now). A Bright Lance, something I used to run anyway, is better for the improved BS. And the EML hasn't changed much here. I never liked those things, but it does offer a degree of versatility. It can't take flakk missiles, but that's fine because they're too expensive where you can get them.

Now if you're still with me, you're probably thinking "Dude! Dude, the Serpent's shield is mad crazy spice AND you don't need to use up a slot because it's a dedicated transport. It does everything the Falcon does and has the cool defense from the shield!" You'd be right, too. Mostly. It is indeed spice. The new shield makes the Serpent both more durable and comparable as a gunboat. It's also cheaper. But there is one thing a dedicated transport can't do that a Heavy Support one can: start anyone in the vehicle without limitations. In the right list, Falcons provide safety and maneuverability to units that might otherwise die horribly or never make it to objectives/targets. My preferred list type is a hybrid list and I was doing this last edition too. From the comments I got at the time, it seemed few people had seen lists like this when I posted them of forums. Using Falcons this way provides versatility that you otherwise can't get when using units like Rangers who can't take a Serpent but also can't survive Skull Cannons, Whirlwinds, markerlights, etc.

This particular list is almost pure mech, but here is a sample to show what I'm talking about:


10 Guardians
Wave Serpent - TL Scatt, US ShuCan
5 Rangers
5 Rangers

5 Wraithguard
Wave Serpent - TL Scatt, US ShuCan

Fast Attack

Heavy Support
Falcon - Scatt, US ShuCan
Falcon - Scatt, US ShuCan
3 Scatter Walkers

Total 1490

Recently my most frequent opponent says he feels Forgeworld stuff should be left out of regular 40k (something I said a long time ago and that he convinced me to change my mind on, but that's a topic for a different post). If you can't use the Nightwings, swap in Warp Spiders and something else. I'm hesitant to recommend the Crimson Hunter because I don't know how that thing is supposed to survive even one round of skyfire shooting, so I'd be willing to try this list with just dakka for anti-air. If you did run Crimson Hunters you could take two and give one the Exarch upgrade by dropping the Nightwings and 1 War Walker. Really cuts into the list's dakka though.

The real strengths of the list lie not only in excellent firepower, but also the ability to deploy Rangers on objectives, forcing your opponent to split their force to take the objectives at flamer/CC range. But then you can also put them in the Falcons when they are facing ignores-cover weapons at long range. And in Falcons they now have the speed to make the enemy adjust to your maneuverability. Both options allow you to heavily influence the way your opponent approaches you. And best of all, you can decide during deployment.

More Wave Serpents might be more competitive, but it would mean spamming not only the tanks but the units that can use them. I much prefer doing it this way and having some decent variety.

What are your thoughts on our Heavy Support? Is the versatility a Falcon offers worth the slot?