Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dealing with Grey Knights

I hate to be bitter and jaded...but I am. I'm already sick and tired of reading about Necrons: Stormlord, Entropy, Night Fight, Tesla...shut up already!

I wanted to go back to complaining about Grey Knights. I mean, I'm still complaining about the last broken codex, and everyone else has moved on to the next one? No sir...around here, I'll complain until I'm damned good and ready to start complaining about something else!

Seriously, I had posted something on the 11th Company Forum awhile back in response to a discussion they had in Episode 91. I thought I'd re-post it here to share with more and hopefully get more feedback. Nothing earth-shattering, just my standard Wall of Text™,  describing how I'd try to get the game to go...the game-plan, strategy, etc.

I've finally gotten to finish Ep 91, and enjoyed the DE discussion at the end. I've found myself on the wrong end of GK armies quite a bit on Vassal, and have met with mostly frustration, but have had some limited successes (I should do more Vassal battle reports!), my successes mainly coming from the things you already discussed…dealing with Dreadnoughts early, and using movement to avoid the firepower of things I can’t kill this turn.

One thing I want to guys discussed using Beasts to "tie up" Dreadnoughts, and that the Dreads would eventually win on CR. The Dreads are only putting out 2 attacks, probably only doing 1 wound which goes on a 4+ save DogLizardThing, so he's only going to cause a wound every other combat round...not terribly inspiring. The Beasts then have a fair number of Rending attacks, with a not unreasonable chance to actually get a roll on the damage table every now and then. Personally, I’d rather have the beasts rip open all the Razorbacks/Rhinos and munch on the goodies inside. That leaves just the Dreads for the Dark Matter to shoot at, simplifying target priority…though admittedly it’s still a losing proposition in a straight-up gun fight.

However, something the Dark Eldar ARE good at is avoiding straight-up gun fights. With their speed they should be able to maneuver so that they can stay mostly out of LOS to at least some of your Dreads. Nova-style terrain gives me some nice “shadows” to hide behind. If you have 6 Dreads, and I can avoid getting shot at by 3 of them and focus my fire on the other 3…well…that’s workable, right? And if three big Beast units can run forward and start munching on your razorbacks…well, things aren’t sounding so horrible. With a few Wych squads in Raiders zipping up to support the Beasts, well…things sound downright jolly!

Sadly, things never really work out that way…the Beasts will likely attract a lot of shooting attention mitigating their abilities, the Dreads WILL get to shoot at something as there’s no real way to keep EVERYTHING out of LOS. But it’s a gameplan that can work, at least in theory, as “Pressure” is applied with the Beasts and Wyches, which can combine to kill vehicles and their occupants while attracting firepower. This leaves the Long-range firepower (ie Ravagers, Raiders, Trueborn, etc) relatively unmolested, and they can focus fire on a limited number of the Dreads.

Now sadly for me, I don’t have any Beasts, and have gotten burnt out on Wyches…so don’t really have those tools. But I can still apply pressure and put some tools on the table that can deal with the Dreads…which, as it keeps going back to, are the key. I mean, take out the Dreads and, for the most part, it’s just another MEQ army, with beefier guns…and DCA, which are extremely underpriced (Compare cost/effectiveness to Incubi? Banshees? Vanguard?)…but that’s a whole other rant. Run, cry, and whine, right? 

After BFS I looked over Neil’s list that he used there. I’ll repost here, so folks know what I’m talking about:

HQ: Coteaz
HQ: Librarian w/Shrouding, MoT, Warp Rift, Quicksilver
Elite: Venerable Dreadnought w/2x Twin Linked Autocannon, Pysbolt Ammo
Elite: Venerable Dreadnought w/2x Twin Linked Autocannon, Pysbolt Ammo
Elite: Venerable Dreadnought w/2x Twin Linked Autocannon, Pysbolt Ammo
Troops: 7x Deathcult Assassin
Troops: 7x Deathcult Assassin, 1x Banisher
Troops: 3x Acolytes w/Razorback, Psybolt Ammo
Troops: 3x Acolytes w/Razorback, Psybolt Ammo
Troops: 3x Acolytes w/Razorback, Psybolt Ammo
Troops: 3x Acolytes w/Razorback, Psybolt Ammo
Heavy Support: Landraider Redeemer w/Multimelta, Psybolt Ammo
Heavy Support: Landraider Redeemer w/Multimelta, Psybolt Ammo
Heavy Support: Dreadnought w/2x Twin Linked Autocannon, Pysbolt Ammo

There are four Deckchair Psybacks…no big deal. There are 2 Land Raiders…no big deal; but their contents ARE a big deal to how I’d go against this, the two DCA squads with Librarian and Coteaz The Manslayer along for the ride….and those are some bad news units there. But even worse news is the Venerable Dreads. The “normal” Dread is no joke either, and possibly higher priority just because it can actually die instead of making me reroll all my Wrecks to Shakens (isn’t that how it always works?).

I spent a little time thinking about how I would work this list…in something of a mission vacuum, not planning on quarters and objectives and what-not: of course in a “real” game that would be important, but as you’ve discussed on the show, the mental part of thinking through a possible matchup is important, and that’s what I’m doing…in a very verbose and long-winded fashion!

The list I had at BFS was not really a “normal” optimized DE list. It has tricks, but it’s not great:

Baron Sathonyx
Haemonculus (Venom Blade)
7 Incubi; Raider (Enhanced Aethersails; Flickerfield; Shockprow)
3 Wracks; Venom (2 Cannons)
5 Warriors (Blaster); Venom (2 Cannons)
5 Warriors (Blaster); Venom (2 Cannons)
5 Warriors (Blaster); Venom (2 Cannons)
18 Hellions + Helliarch (Stunclaw)
6 Reavers (2 Heat Lances)
6 Reavers (2 Heat Lances)
6 Reavers (2 Heat Lances)
and TU3R (The Ubiquitous 3 Ravagers)

This is just my thinking out of a game plan vs. Neil’s BFS list. I in no way mean to imply that I would win, that I’m a better player (or even in the same league), that my list is the best list possible, that Neil’s list is garbage, or anything else. General disclaimer: this is just my “ideal” of what I would try to do to that list and is in no way a judgment of anyone or anything.

I would want first turn. With the Baron, I think that comes out to be happening a little better than 2/3 the time? I read the math somewhere…whatever, odds are I’ll get first turn. I would deploy centrally, with my Hellions ½ in the cover provided by that piece of area terrain in everyone’s deployment zone, Incubi up front along with the Reavers. Venoms behind them, and Ravagers behind them. Now if he seizes (not unlikely…stupid Coteaz!) I’m screwed, but at least this way everything should have cover (Hellions will provide cover to the Reavers while being in cover themselves; the Venoms behind them, and the Incubi Raider, should be obscured; the Ravagers behind them should be obscured).

A trick I pull here is for the Baron to start with the Wracks (on foot), and the Haemonculus to start with the Hellions. On first turn the Haemonculus leaves his pain point with the Hellions, and gets in the empty Wrack Venom. The Baron then steals the Wrack’s pain point and goes to join the Hellions. This gives them two Pain Points right away, for furious charge and feel no pain. The Wracks and Haemonculous are then damned near useless…but they then become an able deck-chair unit (better than 3 acolytes!) with a Venom. In the event I roll the 6 for Drugs, giving free Pain Points, the Haemonculus starts with (and typically stays with) the Incubi in their Raider. Incubi with FNP are pretty resilient…and if they get that FC they become a whole barrel full of mean.

My overall plan is to get Heat Lances on the Dreadnoughts while using other Dark Matter to work on Land Raiders. I want to get the DCA out of their Raiders so they can be shot up by Venoms (or assaulted…see below). I want the Hellions jump on the Razorbacks and eat them. ~60 S5 attacks will generate about 10 rolls on the damage table, possibly getting rid of them in one assault phase if they’re left castled up. Of course, doing that without then getting flamed down by the Land Raiders might be tricky, but even if they are flamed down, then the Reavers aren’t, and the ability to kill off a lot of the scoring troops with Venom fire is possible.

My first turn intent would be for the Reavers to turbo in such a way that they are more than 20” from the Land Raiders, but within 21” of Dreadnoughts. I know…easier said than done. The intent is to get my 3+ cover from Turbo, while being in position to put Heat Lances on Dreadnoughts on turn 2 (is this what you call the Beta strike?) and staying out of DCA charge range. At the same time, the Incubi Raider is going Flat Out plus Aethersails to land within charge range of the Psybacks. The Hellions will jump forward, using the Reavers and/or terrain for cover (first turn jump will cost a few, as no Baron RR yet…but worth it with high probability of Seize). The Ravagers then need to expose themselves a bit, and this will be the scariest turn for me. If this goes well, I think I’ll be in a strong position, but if I fluff, it’s probably game over…the Ravagers need to shoot at the Land Raiders. Immobilizing or better is what we need here. With only 9 shots, it’s not likely I can do that to both, but getting one of them shut down will do the trick. In my ideal dream world, I’d blow them both up, but that’s really not likely…I’d expect an immobile and an ignored shaken/stun. (Each Ravager should generate one roll on the damage table, so decent chance to do SOMETHING…) It’s not unlikely one of the Raiders is destroyed, in which case the Venoms, if they have LOS, would unload on the DCA. 16 wounds from all 4 Venoms, that should kill 8 DCA if in cover…though some wounds would get allocated on IC, so some would survive, but still VERY favorable.

I know it seems odd to let the Dreads alone this turn, but I’m banking on the Reavers being able to survive until turn 2, when they can really start flexing their muscles, and I really need them to not be Flamestormed and DCA’d down.

Some quick math-hammer to distract myself…what if the DCA charge the Hellions? If Quicksilver, I roll over and die. If not…21 attacks (Defensive Grenades), 14 hits, 9-10 dead Hellions. Ouch! But simultaneous attacks…not counting drugs, 42 attacks, 21 hits, 14 wounds, 9-10 dead DCA. Cool! Coteaz or the Librarian would likely win combat then, but they’d be fearless, suffer a few wounds after 5+/FNP, then I’d H&R away and beat up Razorbacks.

What if Hellions charge the DCA? With FC, the Hellions are swinging S5 at I7…something like 60 attacks. That’d be a dead DCA unit before getting to swing.

So anyway, after my first turn the GK hopefully have some Bad Choices™…there are three Reaver units that are a large threat to the Dreadnoughts. There’s an Incubi unit that, while not a threat now, if left alone will walk thru WA units when/if they’re dismounted. There’s the Hellions, who are in cover behind bikes with FNP (which will be taken away by anything shot at them, but still!), there’s Ravagers, and some Venoms with a few Blaster shots (I kind of run them together as a virtual Squad…thinking they’re like a big Trueborn unit with extra Splinter Cannon firepower, if that makes any sense). What does he shoot? Reavers and Ravagers are the likely most probable targets. One of the Land Raiders will be mobile, probably, but I should be far enough away to avoid DCA or Flamestorm. Direct fire at the Reavers will have a 3++. I suspect the Ravagers will be the targets of the Dreads, and realistically I’ll probably lose all three. Maybe not all outright killed, but for sake of argument we’ll say they die. Tough choice then for the Razorbacks: maybe shoot some Reavers or some Hellions(12 shots; 11 hits; 9 wounds; 3 dead…very sustainable losses) or the Incubi Raider (I couldn’t care less if it dies, it’s already got it’s cargo where I want it).

If the Dreads decide to shoot at Reavers, things are a little more interesting. Simple math: 16 shots; 15 hits; 13 wounds; 4 dead. Combined with Razorbacks, that could be 7 dead bikes. Hell…that’s not even half the total and everything else in my army is unmolested. That’s FINE by me!

So I expect to start turn 2 with all my Heat Lances alive, my Hellions intact, the Incubi on foot near the Psybacks, and the Ravagers dead. One Land Raider is OOC. If there are DCA on foot, they are Venom fodder. Warrior Venoms would move to put Blaster shots on the functional Land Raider; Hellions would move to take out the Psybacks (see above…that should be 10 rolls on the damage table), the Incubi would likely assault a psyback too (hey, they’ve got nothing else to do at this point!). Now, my expectation of what the Heat Lances do to the Ven Dreads is a big question mark. 2 Heat Lances firing should get over one Pen…hopefully Shrouding isn’t up, if it is I’m pretty much f’d in the a, as they say, but if not I have a decent chance at one roll on the damage table with AP1 on each Ven Dread (though as I said, I’d likely hit the regular Dread first, just to because it’s easier). So…with the AP1 I hope to at least take an arm off two of the Vens and kill the Regular. That’s half the Dread firepower gone, and likely half the Razorbacks are at least WD or W/Ex. The Reavers then slide away from the Dreads, ideally in to cover. Getting assaulted by the Dreads is bad…getting shot at while out of cover is bad too (though the one-armed Dreads don’t pose that big a threat, so staying away from melee is priority).

The permutations of possible directions from here get too many to get my head around. I’d try to avoid getting charged by the DCA, while continuing to focus Heat Lances on Dreads. At some point I’m going to need the functional Land Raider dead. If I can come back on turn 3 with a few Blaster shots left on that Land Raider, maybe move a Reaver squad to try to take out the Immobile one…Incubi can clean up the Acolytes that fall out of dead Razorbacks, and the Hellions can lurk around hoping to get a charge on the DCA (or hell, even get charged by them, as long as I have 15 or so alive I should win!). No matter what, it’s definitely “a game” at this point, and not the blow-out that some seem to expect. It certainly is NOT the matchup I would want, but I think for me Purifier spam is far harder to deal with. But hey, I can’t even handle Stephen’s Space Wolves, so what do I know? 

I want to reiterate that this is just my “ideal” plan. The terrain will not cooperate. The enemy will not cooperate. Most certainly the dice will not cooperate:

<Ordo Bob> rolls 2 dice, 3+ to hit, Strength 6 against Armour 12, melta/monstrous...
* 0 out of 2 dice hit (3+) = (2,1)

But then sometimes the dice work out just right:

<Ordo Bob> rolls 2 dice, 3+ to hit, Strength 6 against Armour 12, melta/monstrous...

* 2 out of 2 dice hit (3+) = (6,3)
* 1 die glances (6), 1 die penetrates (7+) = (7,6)
<Ordo Bob> - Glance:
<Ordo Bob> rolls 1 dice, 4+ to save...
* 1 out of 1 dice save (4+) = (5)
* Amounting to 1 save, being 0 wounds.
<Ordo Bob> - Pen:
<Ordo Bob> rolls 1 dice, 4+ to save...
* 0 out of 1 dice save (4+) = (1)
* Amounting to 0 saves, being 1 wound.
<Ordo Bob> rolls on the vehicle damage chart, AP1...
* (5) + 1 = (6) = Damage result: Destroyed - Explodes!
<Ordo Bob> rolls on the vehicle damage chart, AP1...
* (6) + 1 = (7) = Damage result: Destroyed - Explodes!

Die, stupid Dreadnought….DIE!!!

(Note, the above were really two consecutive results using Vassal...yes, sometimes you really can blow up a Venerable Dread!)
So, if you’ve made it this far through my Wall of Text™, thanks for reading! I hope I can break the stereotype that “Venom-spam” is the “only” competitive build…I don’t think my four counts as spam, does it? And that Hellions can be a very useful and effective troop choice (they’re good for Nova-meta too…nearly 400 points of Troop down to the Baron and one model alive!). I think the Reavers are probably the most under-rated unit in the Codex…Heat Lances are incredible: get them on something this fast with jetbike-slide and skilled rider…hell yes, give me some more!

To add a bit to my wall, I’m considering a change to the list…frankly goes a bit more towards the Venom Spam. It loses the Incubi…which I REALLY love! They really do threaten MEQ of almost all varieties! Basically, take the list above, drop the Incubi and a few Hellions, and add in two Trueborn units with Blasters in Venoms. Big increase in both anti-troop and anti-vehicle firepower (goes from 48 to 72 Cannon shots…or 16 to 24 average wounds caused; and goes from 12 dark matter shots to 18). With the Trueborn moving way forward for turn 2 Blaster shots, it keeps the Pressure feel, though I frankly think I’ll miss the giant SHOOT ME sign the Incubi carry. :)

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