Sunday, January 16, 2011

Deathwing vs. Loganwing - The King is Dead, Long Live the King

So these are interesting times indeed. I am getting people asking me whether Dark Angels or Space Wolves is a better codex to run one of the "wing" armies out of. It's amazing what a little FAQ can do. If nothing else, the fact that we are even having a DISCUSSION about whether a 4th edition codex is "better or worse" than SPACE WOLVES (?!?!) should be amazing to some.

So, SinSynn, this article's for you.

And I'm sure SinSynn will find it hilarious and ironic the first time someone pulls out their Space Wolf Terminators and sheepishly explains they are using them as "counts as" Deathwing. Har har.

It seems to me that no matter what, a couple of the "foothills" that I talked about in this article are now firmly on the 5th edition "plateau" in terms of raw power. I look at Black Templar and Dark Angels and I think that you can build armies out of them which are extremely strong. Having thought very long and hard about it, I am really really wondering whether I can beat a properly balanced Deathwing army with my Space Wolves. It seems I'm not alone in thinking that a Deathwing army may be one of, if not the strongest armies in today's 40k.

Now, that being said, there are still things that separate DA/BT from their more modern brethren. The biggest being flexibility and variety. While the FAQs have brought them up to date in terms of power, I think there are still "relatively" few builds to be had out of each codex. Now, they are not mono-build codexes, I think Dark Angels have a few different ways they can go, and while I haven't looked at Templar that closely I suspect we may find a few interesting builds in there as well (did anyone else see the unshakeable, unstunnable, move 12" and fire Vindicator in Black Templar or was that just me? Lol. Daemonically Possessed Chaos Vindis just got a little bit angrier... and crappier).

Anyways, let's take a closer look at Loganwing versus Deathwing and see what we find.

First, the big kahoonas. Belial is essentially a Captain in Terminator Armor with a Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield. Not a bad setup really. In terms of actual fighting prowess he's about on par with a Wolf Lord with identical gear. One less attack, but the Wolf Lord also costs 50 points more. So right off the bat Belial is looking like a pretty good deal. He also has Rites of Battle which are nice to have in a pinch. I like the option of putting him in a unit with a Narthecium and a Banner. Now you are paying about as much as you would for the Wolf Lord and getting the same number of attacks for Belial, but everyone in the squad also gets a bonus attack and they all have Feel No Pain. Not a bad deal.

The point here is not to say that Belial is great or terrible just to point out that he COSTS like a 5th edition character (unlike Sammael who is really overpriced).

But we're not really comparing Belial to a regular Wolf Lord, are we? No, we need to compare him to the High King himself, Logan. Logan is an absolute badass, there is no denying that. His advantages include the flexible Frost Axe/Power Fist combo, his Eternal Warrior status and his extra attacks. Not to mention his special rules and abilities which you can combo with different squads like Longfangs or Wolf Guard units. He is great, no denying it, but he also costs.

Like, twice as much.

So if you are playing Logan Wing you are off the bat investing over twice the amount of points into your HQ choices as compared to Deathwing.

Moving on to the main event. The Troops.

Deathwing Terminator squads are 215 points base, and I think we always want to give them the Cyclone Launcher. This makes them orders of magnitude more flexible than pure melee troops who will end up "dur dur dur-ing" around the table being run away from more often than not. Personally, I would give them all TH/SS and call it a day, but you can give one of them twin Lightning Claws if you must. I don't think it's wise, but that's just me. The point of these guys is not just that they are great in combat (though they are) but that they can waltz around in the open without a care in the world, soaking plasma-fire and massed dakka alike.

So or 235 points you have your basic Deathwing unit: Terrifyingly survivable, able to take on any foe in melee, and with a great ranged weapon to make sure they always can contribute to the fight.

So what can we do with Wolf Guard? Well, I suppose if we wanted to look at identical setups we could do that. A Wolf Guard Terminator with Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield costs 63 points. So a squad outfitted like that with a Cyclone costs 345 points. Yikes.

Now, Wolf Guard have other, better options than to pretend they can be TH/SS Terminators. They can't. Not at a reasonable cost at any rate. I think the best "all Terminator" setup is something like 4 Wolf Claws and a Chainfist with Stormshields and a Cyclone. So now we are talking 305 points, which is reasonable but still not great when you look at what Deathwing can get. But let's stop being obtuse and acknowledge that the REAL strength of Wolf Guard squads is their ability to mix cheap ablative Power Armor dudes with Heavy Weapon toting Terminators. So let's have 4 dudes with Power Armor (BP/CCW) and a Terminator with Stormshield, Chainfist and Cyclone. That's 165 points and we are looking MUCH better. No, we don't have the same survivability. But we are cheaper and can ultimately put more bodies on the table.

In fact if we REALLY wanted to go cheap we could just go with 8 Power Armor, 2 Terminators with Power Swords and 2 Cyclone Launchers. That's 270 points and puts us pretty close to the price point of a squad of Deathwingers with Power Swords and 2 Cyclone Launchers. That's 270 points and puts us pretty close to the price point of a squad of Deathwing and we have twice as many bodies. Against AP 3 and higher you are better off having a Terminator but against AP 1 and 2 shots you would prefer to have 2  Power Armor bodies in cover to a Terminator with a Storm Shield.

SO... it's pretty close to a wash.

Let's take a peek at support. In terms of Fast Attack the Deathwing get access to the cheapest Land Speeder setup around: 75 points for a Ravenwing Support Squadron gets you a Typhoon Missile Launcher AND a Multimelta. Wow. That's a great deal!

Let's see what else Deathwing get for support... Oh. Well, none really. The Dreads and Preds are overpriced. Their Librarians are 100 point Psychic Hoods which isn't the WORST thing in the world but... oh wait they're 120 points base? And are Ld 9!? Blargh. Venerable is cheap for their dreads but doesn't come with BS 5... nothing to see here folks... moving along.

Now let's take a look at Space Wolves. Holy Crapoli Batman. Thunderwolf Cavalry, Longfangs, Dreadnoughts, Rune Priests with amazing support powers and a super-hood that doesn't care what the Leaderships are. Cheap screening units in the form of Fenrisien Wolves. Lone Wolves that you can throw into the worst of things and not care whether they die. Wolf Scouts that can come on from anywhere and make armored gunlines and heavy weapons troopers alike nervous. Lots. And Lots. Of Support.

So which is best!?!? How do I choose?!?!?

Well... they are about the same. I think Deathwing's troops are stronger. I don't think there's really any question there. They can deep strike for free, have the ability to take on absolutely any foe in the game, and are Fearless. They are an amazing troop. But outside of some good speeder options Deathwing gets pretty hosed on the support front, so you have to really rely on those troops.

Space Wolves are going to have a more diverse army with lots of different options. Deathwing will have 6 squads of Terminators and some Speeders, and maybe some other Fast Attack options for Teleport Homer support.

The last thing I wanted to say about this is: This is great news for fluff enthusiasts.

What?? What does THAT have to do with anything?

Well, like I said in my article about codex creep linked at the top of this article, 5th edition codices are LARGELY balanced. So when trying to figure out what army to play, the question really OUGHT to be: "Which do you think are coolest?"

So if you are choosing between Deathwing and Loganwing, you have to think about what looks the coolest, who's background you like the most, whether you like having 30 Terminators with which to THUMP your way to victory or whether your prefer a more "combined arms" approach. Do you prefer more models or fewer? Do you want to paint Bone or Grey?

Or you could always suggest they read Descent of Angels and Prospero Burns and see which legion's background they like best.

See where I'm going with this?

When the game is balanced the choices become more about personal style and expression. People can become more invested in their armies because they can choose them based upon what they LIKE and not based upon what is GOOD (because there are lots of options that are good!).

We're heading that way guys. See what a dramatic difference a simple re-FAQ has made. Now think about the MENTALITY that supported this re-FAQ. They wouldn't have done this if they weren't thinking about balance. There's no other reason to re-FAQ such old codices.

This is good stuff. If you made it this far thanks for reading and please, let me hear your thoughts.