Friday, November 2, 2012

CSM in 6th Review: Plague Marines

Plague marines actually got cheaper in the new codex, despite apparent price hikes to the contrary. They lost their stinky blight grenades that caused no bonus attack for charging them, but instead, they gain poisoned weapons.  This change takes them back a few editions and they're now (once again) a threat to all monstrous creatures in close combat. Plague marines retain their tactical flexibility: they're able to take two out of flamers, meltaguns, and plasmaguns. Alternatively, two marines in a squad may take plasma pistols. This leads to a multitude of battlefield roles.

The plague champion gets access to melee and ranged upgrades from the armoury, as well as a gift of mutation, melta bombs.  Of course, they can also purchase Veterans of the Long War and can take an Icon of Despair and a rhino transport.

Regarding the Icon of Despair, I really don't think its worth it.  The ability to cause fear in opponents is a bit sub-par in a space marine heavy meta-game.  Without the ability to summon daemons / act as a homing device, this is one icon that has lost its touch and purpose. That said, they also function as an analogue of instruments of chaos from chaos daemons.  Therefore, if the express purpose of a particular plague marine squad is to tar-pit, then the icon will be valuable -- take it.

I feel a bit conflicted about the Gift of Mutation for plague marine champions.  On the one hand, they could get a good roll that makes it well worth the points.  This is particularly true for a tar-pit unit.  But a ranged unit, it is not so much worth while taking the upgrade.  So, I think this upgrade is situational.

Finally, since plague marine champions have I=3, I think that they're probably the one and only type of champion that can afford to have a power fist.  Since they're going to be striking after the majority of miniatures in the game, they're already relying on their enhanced toughness and feel no pain to avoid being killed in direct challenges thanks to the Champion of Chaos rule.  It's an expensive gamble, though, to be sure.  But one that I'll be taking.

Let's have a look at a few potential squad set-ups.

5 Plague Marines, 2 plasma guns, plague champion with combi-plasma (160 points)
A small squad of plasma death.  Team up with an infiltrating warlord to cause a little panic.  Or keep them in an advanced position in your half of the table: ready to shoot down enemy bikers that get too close.  Hold an objective late in the game that is in your own half.  Or add a fortification (Aegis defence line or a bastion, plus quad gun) for a strong anchor that won't be taken down in a hurry.  Add two extra marines to make the squad size to 7 and be a little bit fluffy about things (and a little more survivable).

7 Plagues Marines, 1 Flamer, 1 Melta Gun, plague champion with power fist, rhino with havoc launcher (255 points)
This has to be one of my favourite set-ups.  Although it can be criticised for not being "focussed" in the sense of going for mixed ranged special weapons, it is an all-rounder that has proved effective time and again.  Use the rhino to get close (or as a line-of-sight blocker) and ping the enemy regularly with the havoc launcher.  Get out, rapid fire, flame and melt.  Then charge on the next turn (or get charged and have a nice flamer overwatch against the chargers).  Hope the champion survives an opposing sergeant and unleash the power fist on them in return.  The power fist also provides a way to down dreadnoughts and other targets.  There's little not to like in this set up for me!  Add in the Icon of Despair if you think they're going to be doing plenty of close combat, or Veterans of the Long War if you know the enemy in advance.  Either way, its still cheaper than the previous edition.

10 Plague Marines, Veterans of the Long War, 2 flamers, champion with powerfist, Icon of Despair, Rhino with havoc launcher (342 points)
A combat tar-pit squad.  Add in a gift of mutation on the champion if there's some spare points left over.  Get stuck in as soon as possible to the enemy.

20 Plague Marines (480 points).  Better to use as 4 x 5 Plague Marines for the same points in many circumstances.
A "naked" squad of 20 plague marines.  Their high toughness and feel no pain means that they're not going anywhere fast (so long as someone else in the force takes care of pesky vindicators coming their way).  Spread them out to hold lots of ground, use as a road bump.  Claim objectives and stay put.  Take on a monstrous creature you want dead. In short, they're hard to remove quickly.  This set-up is strictly better as 4 lots of 5 man squads due to the extra attack on the champion (assuming you've got a Nurgle lord and they're troops), but some players dislike such small squads, even when T=5.


Mike Howell said...

Plague Marines still get blight grenades in the current edition.

Thanks for the write up. I have just started my CSM army and I'll try some of those builds.

Dan said...

I've been thinking of using them as an early game tank (Land Raider) busting unit with the 2 melta option plus a combi melta on the champion. Placed in a Rhino with extra armor they would advance early to try to take out the big tank, hoping the other player concentrates fire on the Defilers, Forgefiends, Vindicators, etc. They'd disembark and shoot three meltas at it at under 6 inches, hopefully blowing it up.

If this works, the Land Raider would hopefully explode, leaving whatever was in it sitting there. This is likely an assault troop and likely Terminators. If they ignore the plague marines, they get to enjoy 2 melta shots the next round. If they charge, they get overwatched with 2 meltas and I get the benefit of the blight grenades. In the H-t-H though, the Plague Marines are going to be somewhat durable against dedicated assault troops because of the Feel No Pain and may then tie up that assault unit for a turn or two (and maybe damage it). I didn't take a power fist because I'm looking at a five man squad, but you make a good point. I may also run my Warpsmith with them since there would be room in the rhino.

I have considered using chosen instead because they can bring 5 meltaguns and a combi-melter to the party, but they are a lot less durable in resisting the inevitable assault (unless you want to pay for MoS and an Icon of Excess or just for MoN).

jabberjabber said...

Hi Dan -- Yes, the inevitable counter-assault from the destroyed vehicle contents needs some thought. MoS plus Icon of Excess would work well with Chosen, as would a single MoN. But I can't overlook how cool a small squad of plague marines can be, despite the lower number of meltas.

Anonymous said...

I am NOT a fan, at all, of big squads for CSM; you lose efficiency in terms of weapons, and become easier to lock-up. Icons get cheaper, but you're not looking to take them anyway here, so there's no real reason. For ten more points they can be two squads, so you get an extra champion, and the option for more guns. More importantly, you can't be assaulted in one corner and have your entire huge unit pulled off of your objective into combat.

Unknown said...

I love the suggested 7 man unit with flamer melta and fist champion. A added idea is put a sorcerer with them on a paliqiun for added power, I can see biomancy being potentially good for them as well as telepathy.

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