Monday, March 23, 2009

Evaluation of 1500 points of Mixed Daemons

Evaluating an army list can be tricky - what works? / what doesn't? / why? Having played a number of games with the following list, it is about time to consider these questions and see if anything should be changed.

First though, here's the list:

HQ: Herald of Khorne on Juggernaut with unholy might (120)
Troops 1: 10 bloodletters of Khorne (160)
Troops 2: 10 bloodletters of Khorne (160)
Troops 3: 10 horrors of Tzeentch with the Changeling, chaos icon, instrument, and bolt of Tzeentch (215)
Troops 4: 10 plaguebearers of Nurgle, chaos icon, instrument (180)
Troops 5: 10 daemonettes of Slaanesh, instrument, transfixing gaze (150)
Fast Attack: 5 screamers of Tzeentch, unholy might (85)
Heavy Support 1: Daemon Prince, daemonic flight, iron hide (170)
Heavy Support 2: Daemon Prince, iron hide, daemonic gaze (130)
Heavy Support 3: Daemon Prince, iron hide, daemonic gaze (130)

That comes to 1500 points on the dot, with an impressive 5 scoring units, a daunting 59 models, and 10 kill points worth of units. Moreover, there's no vehicles (soul grinders) - making this a 100 per cent infantry army. This is interesting in the modern meta-game where there are a whole lot of vehicles and anti-tank weapons knocking around. It can catch some armies by surprise. Its also a fun army list that I enjoy playing and (importantly to me) folks don't mind playing against.

The star of the show is the herald, embedded in one of the 10-daemon large bloodletter squads. He has the potential to be a single-daemon army on the (furious) charge. But, best of all, he's a remarkably cheap HQ choice. That leaves plenty of points open for even more quality daemons in the troops section. The unholy might is useful some of the time, but not always. The Juggernaut is what makes the herald truly worthwhile, though. For a comparatively cheap investment, not only does the daemon benefit from a better stat line, but also gets a free iron hide upgrade. There's very little not to like. He's a solid build that only a couple of things could cause his removal from this list. Such reasons would include (e.g.) Skulltaker on a Juggernaut.

The two squads of bloodletters have also been great. Two squads means that typically at least one will survive the usual bolter rapid fire at close range and charge in to combat. With the Herald embedded in to one of them, they make an excellent "Herald delivery system". They could make a great "Skulltaker delivery system" as well! The only point of uncertainty is whether to split them in to different daemonic assault waves, or stick them in the same one? That still needs some thought and experimentation.

The plaguebearers are fantastic. If in the first wave, they hold the line for other daemons to deep strike off their icon. If in the second wave, they go directly for any objectives and hunker down. If playing annihilation, then they preferentially engage the largest monstrous creature available and bog them down until something else (bloodletters or a daemon prince) comes along to finish the job. There's very little not to like about toughness 5 basic troops. Apart from their slow and purposeful rule. But that is out-weighed completely by their other benefits.

Speaking of daemon princes, the two without wings have been awesome. With daemonic gaze, they're not going to kill entire squads in one turn of shooting, but it helps to soften up opponents prior to a charge. The daemon princes were chosen over soul grinders to try to get as many monstrous creatures in to play as possible. In extensions to 2000 points, there's a great unclean one to accompany them as well. However, swapping them out for soul grinders would certainly be an option - but it'd have to be both of them at least. Given the theme of the army is a 100 per cent creature list, this is not a swap that is at the top of the list though. The daemon princes are more than capable of wrecking tanks on their own without the need for soul grinders. Moreover, they're not going to be knocked out by one lucky shots (they are daemons and don't suffer from instant death!); a tank can easily be taken out by a lucky shot. But I do like the look (and firepower!) of the soul grinder models! Must resist....

The horrors of Tzeentch haven't performed very well. On the turn they arrive, they are certainly capable of pumping out plenty of shots that would put rapid-firing space marines to shame. But after that little volley, they are incredibly vulnerable and die all too quickly. For extra anti-tank weaponry, a herald of Tzeentch would have made a better choice than an upgraded horror with bolt of Tzeentch. For close combat, they're rubbish (of course!, but that's the point). Swapping them out for another unit of plaguebearers with an icon of chaos would be a good step forward. But it would pain me to do this! I'm very fond of my paint job on the horrors!! The other reason to keep them in is for their massed ranged shooting -- it can be effective against Saim Hann Eldar type builds.

The winged daemon prince is expensive, to be sure. Often, the wings have been of questionable benefit. They make the daemon prince faster and hence it can readily tie up units in close combat. It can also reach tanks for some tank-busting fun quickly as well. But, it might be better off being a clone of the other two daemon princes - with iron hide and daemonic gaze. This would save 40 points. None the less, the winged daemon prince is very imposing and has a certain psychological effect. It can also swoop in in the latter turns of the game for effective objective contesting duty. Perhaps it shouldn't be ditched all too readily.

The daemonettes of Slaanesh have had some mixed results. They have the potential to be very good - especially on the charge with the rending rule and with their grenade equivalents. But they share the same problems as the horrors of Tzeentch do - very flimsy. In extensions to 2000 points, there wouldn't be much of an issue - they'd make the list. The reason for this is that they are often ignored in preference for more immediate threats such as the bloodletters. They then sneak in and wreck havoc. In a pinch, they can also double up for a bit of light tank busting.

The screamers of Tzeentch have also had some mixed results. The problem appears to be in the small number (5) of screamers that are being taken - there's not quite enough to reliably guarantee their tank-busting duty. Hence tank busting is often shared between the daemon princes in most games. On occasion when they've survived rapid fire situations and charged tanks and dreadnoughts, they certainly do have the potential to deal with them in one turn flat. Further, when they survive to the late turns of the game, their jet-bike status enables them to zoom in to contest objectives with ease. If they were to be ditched, then they would be replaced with some flamers of Tzeentch, or some herald with breath of chaos for extra tank-busting duty.

Summary of Changes.
Certainly Change:
Ditch the horrors (215 points) for a unit of plaguebearers (180), identical to the other plaguebearer unit. This saves 35 points.

Potentially Change:
Ditch the winged daemon prince (170 points) for a clone of the unwinged daemon princes (130). This saves 40 points.

The saved points might go in to one of a number of choices: Skulltaker on a Juggernaut instead of the herald (55 extra points); purchase extra screamers to go alongside the other screamers; potentially think about a herald of Tzeentch or flamers of Tzeentch (or, most things with breath of chaos) for some extra tank-busting duty.

Following the principle of only changing one thing at a time, the horrors are going to go in favour of plaguebearers. Then, the extra 35 points are going to go in to screamers, or more troops of other types. However, I'm still left wondering if there's other changes I can make that retain the horrors (solely on the basis that I like the horror's paint job!). More experimentation required.


Paul said...

I disagree about the Horrors. They have a 4 Involn save, making them some of the best surviving troops we have. Add a Changeling with 9 of them, and you can down some Marines your 1st deep strike round, thus killing potential shots that will kill your +5 save Bloodletters and Daemonettes. Marine opponents will get nervous shooting when they see the Changeling because of their mediocre leadership. Plus, most people will ignore the Horrors as they are more concerned with other things, making them even better yet. If they do go after your Horrors, better yet! That leaves your real damaging troops full. They are a win/win troops vs Marines, IMO.

jabberjabber said...

Hi Paul -- curiously, since writing this article ages ago, I've come to agree with your thinking! I actually like horrors much more now than I used to. They've been very effective recently against space marines (particularly deep striking assault marines) for the reasons you outline above... I've even managed to use the Changeling successfully agains such a unit!

jabberjabber said...

addendum: The list I've been playing with most over recent months is probably this one:

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