Monday, August 22, 2011

Codex Review: Space Wolf Rune Priests and Wolf Priests

[This article is part of the Codex Review: Space Wolves article series.]

Wow.  I realized that I haven't had an opportunity to write a new post in 5 days.  That's a bummer.  I miss getting to write as consistently as I did all summer, but work and the new school year has hit like a ton of bricks.  Nonetheless, blogging is therapeutic for me right now, so I am more than glad to spend time blogging when I should be working on lesson plans or something else important.

With that said, I really want to knock out this last article on Space Wolf HQs.  It is my opinion that we will touch on both the best and worst of our HQ slots all in one post.  While the Thunderwolf Lord is awesome for killing, I think the humble Rune Priest is perhaps are most versatile and reliable HQ slot while the Wolf Priest doesn't have enought positives to make him a candidate for inclusion over the other choices.

My scratch built Rune Priest
The Rune Priest really is a sweet guy, even though recent FAQs have cause many of his powers to be less reliable.  For 100pt. you get a psyker with WS5, 2A, 2W, and LD10.  He comes with power armor, a runic weapon, bolt pistol, and frags and kraks.  What makes this guy sweet is his runic weapon.  It is both a force weapon with added abilities and a pretty stellar pyschic hood. It acts as a standard issue force weapon, but just as an added bonus, it gets to wound Daemons on a 2+.  Then, if a psychic power is successfully cast within 24" of the Rune Priest, you can nullify it on a roll of 4+.  This is quite handy in many situations as you have a straight 50% of stopping any psychic power.  Unfortunately, it is slightly worse at nullifying pyschic powers against models with LD lower than 10 than a standard issue psychic hood.  The rune priest has access to most of the weapons and equipment from the armory though I prefer to keep mine cheap.  I occasionally will give him a wolf tail talisman for additional psychic defense, but only if I have the extra 5 points laying around. 

As mentioned above, the FAQ really made quite a few psychic shooting abilities less reliable since they all now have to be rolled to-hit.  No problem for a Rune Priest.  For 10pt. you can take a chooser of the slain.  This is essentially a marker on the field that fulfills two cool roles.  First, if it can draw a line of sight to the target of a Rune Priest's shooting attack, it increases his BS by 1 point.  BS5 is quite reliable and makes some of his psychic powers awesome to take.  It's second rule is that it prevents any enemy unit from infiltrating within 18" of it's location.  This is quite a fantastic use of 10 points in my opinion. 

The Rune Priest has quite a good list of psychic powers with almost every one being useful, though some standing out more than others. First is thunderclap.  It is not so hot really, which is funny because I just mentioned that most of the powers are great and then the first one mentioned isn't.  Anyway, you touch the large blast template to the edge of the Rune Priest's base and anything under it takes a S3, AP5 hit. I like the large blast part, but S3 AP5 just won't kill much.  On top of that, you have to roll to-hit in order to even lay the blast template because this power is a shooting attack. 

Second, we have living lightning which is my personal favorite.  It is also a psychic shooting attack and is a S7, AP5, assault D6 attack.  This power combined with a chooser of the slain essentially turns your Rune Priest into a rifleman dread in regards to shooting.  On average he will get 3-4 shots and hit 3-4 times.  This is a great power for taking out light mech freeing your long fangs and other heavy weapons to shoot down heavier armor. Again, this power is almost an auto-include in my mind, especially if you take the chooser of the slain.

Third, we have storm caller.  This gives every friendly unit within 6" of the Rune Priest a 5+ cover save.  This power is sort of meh.  It would have been cool if he could take the Hunter Saga as he would give the unit he accompanied a 4+ cover, but he can't.  Also, you generally can get better cover from most terrain. This could really come in handy if you want to keep a mech spam list tightly packed to provide a 5+ cover to your tanks, but the 6" bubble isn't all that big. 

Fourth, we have tempest's wrath.  This power makes all terrain, even open terrain, within 24" of the Rune Priest difficult and dangerous to skimmers, jetbikes, jump infantry, and unit deploying via deepstrike.  This again is meh simply because it is so situational.  It could hose a Blood Angel DoA army of a Daemon army, but do nothing to a mech army.  If you play a lot of BA or Daemons and want to tick off your friends, you could take this.

Fifth, we have fury of the wolf spirits.  While not especially powerful, the S5, AP-, assault 3 mode isn't too bad for shooting at high toughness models and the S4, AP2, assault 2 mode will definitely kill things, especially terminators.  Additionally, any unit taking a wound has to take a morale test.  I rate this power higher than tempest's wrath, and thunderclap, that's for sure. 

Sixth is murderous hurricane.  This is a fun power that can be a real nuisance, especially to an army that needs to cross the board to get to grips with you.  It is a psychic shooting attack that does 3D6 S3 hits at AP-.  This is okay, but then for the next turn, that unit affected treats all terrain, even clear, as both difficult and dangerous.  You want to watch a Ork Nob squad stop in it's tracks?  Drop this on it.  You may not cause many wounds directly (though with 3D6 attacks you should get a few), but then combine it with the damage of moving through dangerous terrain, this starts to pile up wounds.  On top of that, it has the psychological effect on a player that will force them to simply not move a unit at all.  This is a wonderful advantage to have. I really like murderous hurricane.

Last, we have jaws of the world wolf.  This is yet another shooting attack that draws a line out from the Rune Priest for 24".  Any model hit by the line takes an initiative test or dies, completely.  This makes Tyranid carnifexes cry like little school girls.  A few interesting things to note about this power are that: 1) It can be passed through terrain, so no hiding from it.  2) the "models touched" means you can't hide IC's, powerfists, etc. from it.  If the model is hit, it takes the test, not the model of your opponent's choosing from the unit.  This makes jaws a great sniper power.  Monstrous creatures affected by the rule can subtract 1 from their roll due to their size and strength, but they still are going to be hard pressed to pass an initiative test.  This power is also a favorite, though it's range is short.  It actually meshed best with murderous hurricane, in my opinion.

In the end, I keep my Rune Priests cheap.  I generally only add the chooser of the slain for the additional 10 points making this guy come out to 110pt.  He usually take living lightning and jaws when I play him.  If I take more than one priest, I generally take living lightning on both and give the second one murderous hurricane since they aren't allowed to take the same power and equipment loadout*.

This guy is perhaps the most points efficient HQ we have.  He can output a lot of damage via psychic powers and is far cheaper than Wolf Lords or WGBLs will be.

courtesy of Stuff of Legends
Our final HQ choice is the Wolf Priest. This is the Space Wolf chaplain.  I am not a huge fan of the guy as his abilities generally only help out his own unit and he doesn't have the killing ability of the other HQ choices.  That said, with a little imagination, he can provide the odd gimmicky role that might take your opponent by surprise. 

The Wolf Priest comes in at 100 points.  He has power armor, a power weapon, the fang of morkai, a wolf amulet, a bolt pistol, and frags and kraks.  He has the same stats as a Rune Priest with an additional 4+ invul due to the wolf amulet.  The Wolf Priest brings utility to the table via his rules and I think they are slightly less potent than a standard chaplain. 

First, the Wolf Priest grants the fearless USR to his squad.  This is essentially the same as a chaplain.  His other rule, oath of war, is where he falls short of the vanilla chaplain, in my opinion.  Where a standard chaplain allows rerolls to-hit against all units with a weapon skill, the Wolf Priest grants preferred enemy against a single type of unit.  You simply pick "infantry" or "monstrous creatures" as your unit type and the Wolf Priest allows his unit preferred enemy against that type of unit.  The unit type has to be made at the beginning of the game.  I don't think this is weaker as a vanilla chaplain offers rerolls against multiple unit types.  I guess an interesting use for this though, would be to nominate the unit type "mech" and put him in a drop pod with a bunch of power fist wolf guard/terminators. That could really do some damage.

That said, I don't think the Wolf Priest is very worthwhile, but I do see a possible use for him.  He is the only other HQ beside a WGBL that can take Saga of the Hunter.  This means that you can have a fearless unit that has a 3+ cover save at all times.  Good luck trying to move that unit off of an objective.  He might also be a good model to include in a large unit of blood claws with Ragnar.  That would make one especially hitty unit depending on what unit type you chose to give preferred enemy to.  Otherwise, I think this guy's main use is keeping a valuable unit from fleeing due to failed morale. Space Wolves have notoriously low LD for a marine variant and a Wolf Priest is one way to mitigate this. 

Other Space Wolf articles:
Codex Review: Space Wolf Wolf Lord and Battle Leader
Codex Review: Space Wolf Named Characters, The ehh...
Space Wolf Razorspam vs. Horde Orks- a Vassal Report
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8 comments:

Student Teacher said...

Keep in mind with Jaws, I am pretty sure you must be able to draw LoS to at least one of the dudes in the 24 inch line. The line itself may pass through cover to touch someone else the RP can't see, but I am pretty sure it has been FAQ'ed that he must be able to see at least one of them.

Dave said...

I agree, but I think judicious movement and placement can make it hard for your opponent to hide his models behind terrain, etc.

You only need to have a viable target to cast the power in a given direction, so if you position the rune priest correctly, you should be able to get other models, even those behind terrain.

IDICBeer said...

That's a spot on review, I have came to the same conclusions you have. Nice Rune Priest mate

Lord Rao said...

As always, good review Dave.
It may be worthwhile to point out that Rune Priests, while generally being added to a unit of Grey Hunters (as far as I see them used), can also benefit greatly from a bike, especially if on their own. This offers great flexibility against certain armies with short range (such as many Nid builds). It adds that little bit of movement and Toughness, and meshes nicely with their 'walking cannon' role if/when taking Living Lightning.

On the Wolf Priest, I am an unabashed fluff player at heart. This means I often take a big squad of Blood Claws in a LRC. If joined by a WG pack leader and a WP, they can really do some damage. The re-roll to Hit really mitigates their meh WS3. Only last game they basically took out an entire flank of Shrikes, raveners and gargoyles. That's fun, and gave me great freedom of movement the rest of the game. If the WP had had FNP he would have easily been the most cost-effective HQ, imho.

Dave said...

Excellent comment there, Rao. You don't see many, if any, Space Wolf biker lists, so that combo for the rune priest was totally lost on me.

The blood claw unit you described is nice, but I feel that you really need to go whole hog with and add in Ragnar to give them the additional attacks (possibly an extra attack per model, but definitely +2 on the assault) and furious charge. The only issue I see with this is that they will absolutely massacre a unit and then get plastered with return fire in the next shooting phase. I think the key to a huge, hitty blood claw unit is to get them combo assaulted into as many units as possible. Then, they can do some real damage.

Lord Rao said...

Well, putting Ragnar with the BC's isn't the best use, as he can roll a 1 for the no. of extra attacks, which is actually less than the +2 the BCs would get. It's for that reason you often see him paired with Grey Hunters or Wolf Guard, as you yourself explained when discussing Ragnar.

I actually did multi-assault those three nid units I described :). 't Was pure excellence, woot. And they did just fine without the 250-ish mediocre HQ that is Teh Blackmainzzz.

You are right about the risk of simply being left in a big nid-shaped crater with nothing left to fight, at the mercy of enemy return fire. But that's a risk you run with most assault units. On the whole, BCs aren't great and don't work well with the midfield counter-charge role most SW players adopt. Looking forward to what your thoughts are on the BCs when we get to them.

Really enjoying this blog m8, and the back and forth banter about the coolest Marines in the grimdark.

Dave said...

I want to say that they FAQed the Ragnar/Blood Claw thing to say that they would always get at least +2 attacks, but I could be wrong as I am often.

Dave said...

Yep. Just checked it:

Q. How does Ragnar Blackmaneʼs Insane Bravado bonus
interact with Berserk Charge? (p55)
A. The unit would gain +D3 Attacks when it charges, with a
minimum of +2 (as this is the minimum bonus conferred by
the Berserk Charge special rule) – these effects do not
stack.

So Ragnar won't give Blood Claws any less than +2 attacks on the charge. It's still kind of meh, though.

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