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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Taking Enemy Objectives with...Guardians! Yes, Really...

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with my dude Scott, who I usually talk tactics and other 40k-related stuff with. We were going over the pros. and cons. of Guardian Defenders vs Storm Guardians in the role of taking objectives from enemy units. His feeling was that Storm Guardians are good enough at melee now that their assault makes up for the missing shots from an equivalent value of Guardian Defenders. I'm still not sold entirely, but it is a point worth making and a unit worth considering so I thought I'd go over the finer points of the comparison and how the units could be applied to give some reasoning behind both choices during list-building.

I want to save some time with the damage calculations because the figures aren't that different. I ran a comparison of 10 man units with no upgrades using the Heresy Combat Calculator.  Defenders kill about 1 MEQ more between shooting and assaulting, either giving cover or not. Both squads can probably kill about 4-5 MEQs in a turn. I chose MEQs because they're my standard for killing-power. If you can kill many of them without ignoring armor then you can do a number on pretty much any infantry.

From here the comparison gets more difficult and is likely to depend on your list. Guardians don't want to be in prolonged combats with or without 2 CC weapons. If you're not softening the target first you're risking losing combat and getting yourself swept. Or maybe just getting bogged down and killed over the course of a few turns. So you're going to need a plan on how to approach the objective you want to take. And you're going to need to specialize your unit's upgrades to that plan.

This is where the two units will really start to differ in both cost and role. Defenders can get a heavy weapon platform (HWP). Stormies have access to 2 special weapons (melta or flamer) and up to 2 power weapons. Both can get a Warlock. They're likely to want different powers, but conceal can work well for either.

Guardian Defenders need a transport to get in range with the bulk of their firepower, but assaulting is not necessary for them to get their kills. This makes it safer for them to trade shots with the enemy at close range. Using Conceal, they can easily get 3+ cover and dish out 3-4 MEQ kills per turn. They just need to utilize that Battle Focus to keep away from unwanted assaults. The platform might be helpful with a Shuriken Cannon, but I don't think it is necessary at all. I consider the HWPs harassment weapons to contribute to the battle while Guardians hold backfield objectives. Still, if you have the points, 10 Guardians (G's), a HWP and a Warlock make for a perfectly full Wave Serpent.

Where Stormies always excelled for me is in flaming the enemy with multiple templates. Tri-flamer units are still possible, but less likely because Destructor is a randomly generated power. But now that they have assault grenades and I5, assaulting entrenched units is a better idea than it used to be. Still, moreso than with Defenders, you have to commit to engaging the unit when you disembark. That's problematic to me because we don't have assault ramps. So we're stuck trading shots at 12" and backing off with Battle Focus until we can get into melee. At least for the first turn, that means we should have taken Defenders in the first place. If we do survive the turn after we disembark, we'll need to take overwatch and roll to get into combat. There are a good number of unknowns there and I don't like unknowns much when risking a unit this soft.

Stormies have it a little extra tough in my opinion because there are more hurdles for them to get into a situation where they are better than Defenders. But even in assault they are only 33% better on the charge, whereas Defenders are twice as good at shooting shuriken. When shooting, you are more vulnerable to other units on the table, but if you're hitting an isolated unit (which you need to do with either of them) you should be able to protect yourself well enough by running behind your tank.

You have to support either unit. They're only Guardians and even with their new stats and better wargear, they are not primary attack units. What would work well with Defenders and Stormies taking enemy objectives? I think there is a very long list in the new book. Let's assume the Guardians, whichever way you go, are in a Wave Serpent. That's some support right there. Scorpions, GJBs, Warp Spiders, more G's (Storm or Defender), Dire Avengers in a Serpent and Swooping Hawks could all work well at close range. At long range you could use almost anything, but since the target is likely to be in the enemy DZ, you're likely to want something mobile or tall, something that can get around or see over obstacles to get a good LOS. I like Falcons, Serpents, War Walkers and Vypers for this. Other options may work well at either close or short range, but I suggest having this pairing in mind before the game even starts. Look at the table's terrain and judge where your long-ranged support needs to be in order to make sure the target is weakened when your Guardians disembark. When using short-ranged support, time their arrival with your disembarkation. Crunch the numbers so you have a good idea of how many you can kill between the 3+ units (Guardians, Serpent and Spiders, for example). If you're not killing the target at long range over the course of a few turns, you'll need to know that your damage spikes high enough on the the one turn you unload your firepower that you won't take much damage in return.

Whichever one you take, they will die horribly if you blindly throw them at full-strength units. Eldar in general have a dire need to soften targets before infantry engage them. Even the best of our Aspect Warriors ought not be engaging full squads one-on-one. Without support we lose games due to attrition. We just can't afford to take the decrease in effectiveness that comes with taking casualties. And it doesn't help that most of our infantry units support each other with spectacular short-ranged guns. This is why lists have to be designed with battle groups in mind. I think if either unit is supported and is hitting a unit in a situation where they aren't going to get crushed in return, it really doesn't matter that much which you use. You just have to be aware of what it takes to apply your damage to the target and prepare accordingly. If you really want to assault, get what you need to survive out of your tank for a turn and to be sure that you will make it into combat with most of the squad intact. I think it can work, but you'd have to put some effort into it. More, at least, than hopping out and hosing the enemy with shuriken before backing away to safety and doing it again the next turn.

Do you have a preference for one or the other when using the unit aggressively?