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Friday, June 14, 2013

Fire Dragons vs. Wraithguard: What Brand of Death Would You Like to Serve?




With their basic loadouts, I don't really see a huge difference in these units' damage potential against AV14. Both of them are likely to kill any tank they shoot. That's why I don't get comparisons that focus on their ability to destroy a singular vehicular target. I think it's better to compare them where they really do differ. As far as I can see, that means looking at the differences in offense vs multi-wound, high toughness models and vs vehicle squadrons. The defensive disparity really matters too and so does the Wraithguard's potential to be unlocked as troops.

When comparing these two units' capabilities against multi-wound models, the first thing I consider is the target's toughness. I lump those values into three categories: < or =4, 5 and >5. If the target is T4, the Fire Dragons get the job done at a good discount. When you hit T5, the Wraithguard will decimate the target where FDs will scratch them. But there aren't a lot of T5 multi-wound units running around. A few that come to mind are Attack Bikes, Nurgle Oblits, some Daemon MCs, the CSM Daemon Princes and Nob Bikers. It's a little situational, but I'd be glad to have S10 if those units happened to be on the other side of the table.

T6 is that sweet spot where people will go out of their way to field the unit. And there is a heck of a lot of it. Most MCs are T6 and there are a few exceptions in the Daemons, Eldar and DEldar books that take it higher than that. A single 6 to wound out of 5 shots isn't praying for a miracle and it would mean the end of a very dangerous and expensive Bloodthirster, Wraithknight, Dreadknight, Riptide, GUO, what have you. You get the point. That's something Dragons just can't do, and with as many wounds as MCs are coming with in the new books I think it's a very valuable benefit.

Against vehicle squadrons, I think Fire Dragons have a lot going for them as long as they get into their melta range. It's great and deserves mention that Wraithguard outperform almost in every way (not AP1) at 7-12" range. But once you get into melta range with Dragons it is a whole different story. Every single hit has a good chance to give you some devastating results. Getting one Explodes result or stipping enough HPs to destroy a vehicle is easy for both units. However being able to pen with almost every hit and then roll with +2 on the chart really matters when trying to wipe a whole squadron. With 3-4 pens you could actually reasonably expect to totally cripple the squadron. The problem here would be botching your rolls. It could easily happen. And if you disembarked that turn you can't assault with melta bombs yet. You can run with Battle Focus and hope for the best, but even with a new, shiny 3+ I don't like our odds in the enemy back field. Which brings me to...

Having T6 on Wraithguard. Many people are quick to point out that T6 is not that hard to wound, but remember that the other option is T3. Besides, Wraithguard aren't as easy to kill as some will lead you to believe. The enemy is forced to fire anti-tank weapons at infantry. What's that? Oh yeah, Dark Eldar and Tyranids get poison for super cheap. Okay, so you pay for toughness you don't need against 2 out of like 13 armies. But DE poisoned shots are on soft infantry and vehicles. You did bring lots of S6/7 dakka to make those units cry, didn't you? And that same S6/7 dakka will help clear the Nid bugs that want to poison you too. The fact is that lots of armies have to dedicate valuable weaponry just to deal with a unit that has done it's job well just for shooting once. And maybe fantastically well if they can't be prevented from shooting again.

Being made troops on the cheap by a Spiritseer is an incredible boost as well. I made a list I thought looked pretty solid save for only having 3 troops. Then I realized I had accidently made my WG troops by taking a Spiritseer. I took that HQ because it was cheap and useful and found myself with a unit of T6 troops with awesome guns as a bonus. Bringing tough troops without having to ally in other armies is an excellent boon to our codex. I think many people intend to run a Spiritseer simply because they're cheaper than Farseers. Unless I'm using all 6 troops slots for something else (pretty unlikely unless I were spamming a really cheap option like DAs, Rangers or GJBs), bringing Wraithguard as Troops sounds like an amazing alternative to using Dragons as Elites.

I'm not actually trying to call this comparison in favor of one unit or the other. I have both and intend to field both in some list or another. Even bringing them in the same list might be fun, though somewhat overkill. They really do work differently enough that they both hold value to me. They play differently and probably work better in some combinations than others. That is something I'm seeing in many places in the codex: units that fill a certain role, but accomplish it in different ways. I think it is the mark of a very well-balanced codex.