Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Dilemma of Black Templars, Force Allocation Charts, and Cyclone Missile Launchers

So I've been brainstorming for 'Ard Boyz Templar lists a lot lately.  Through this process, and with a big thanks to Brother Loring, I have eliminated some bad ideas and weak points.  I think my current list idea is 10x better than what I was proposing before.  But that's a post for another day. ;)

Today I want to talk about a much heralded BT unit that I feel is out of place, at least in my mind.  I almost anticipate this drawing as much negative response as when I said Dark Elf War Hydras weren't the end all be all.  So yeah: I don't think 2x Cyclone Missile Terminators are the best foundation of a Templars 'Ard Boyz list.  Heresy?!  I'll explain...

My Marshal isn't amused
Now I have to explain myself.  They are a kickass unit.  They are something no one else can do.  For 265 points you get 4 Str 9 missile shots, five bodies in 2+ armor and Str 5 Storm Bolters.  That compares rather favorably with Long Fangs.  The Fangs fear infiltrating units getting into hand to hand with them early.  These guys don't, except for dedicated close combat units.  It really is quite good.  The one advantage the LF have is the ability to take a Razorback to get the 1+1 from the slot, and add to mech saturation.

Here comes the 'but.'

Cyclonators are really poorly placed in the FoC.  To take them at your barest, you have to put them in the Elites slot.  Unfortunately, the BT have a lot of competition for their Elites slot at high points levels.  The tank hunting Ven Dred with TLLC and Missile Launcher is one of the most efficient and dangerous units in the game right now.  10x TH/SS Terminators with Preferred Enemy and with or without Furious Charge is arguably the best close combat unit in the game.  It's tough to argue with something called "the best close combat unit in the game."  So if you take two cyclone termies you are limited to one of the other elite uber units.  And it could be argued that since BT don't use Drop Pod Assault, a MM/HF Dred in a pod is one of the better units in the codex.  Simply put, the Elites slot is packed.  And most sadly, it's packed with units you can't replicate in other areas.  There are no Fast Attack or Heavy Support assault terminators.  There are no heavy support Dreadnoughts.  So you're jammed...

...Unless you ship one or both of the cyclones off to the HQ slot.  The HQ slot is interesting.  It gives you a couple of bonuses.  First, it makes your whole army higher leadership.  Second, it adds a close combat element to the unit by way of the commander himself, but also the ability to put a storm shield on the Sergent.  This gives the whole unit a lot more survivability, especially in close combat.  Plus, and it's a big plus, it opens up your elite slots nicely.  However, the price you pay for this goodness is points, out the ass.  Minimally, a Castellan in terminator armor with a storm bolter and power sword is 105 points, and adds a net of 65 to the cost of the unit.  So bare minimum, 330 points.  Add in the equipment necessary to make the character a CC threat, and give the Sgt a storm shield and we are pushing 400 points.    

At 400 points, any efficiency you get from 2 Cyclones in a 5 man squad is gone.  The original goal of a points efficient MSU with double heavy weapons is completely gone.  Clearly, running them in HQ is an issue, from a points perspective.  Back to Elites.  Are the other Elites choices really that good/necessary?

Actually, yes.
I have resolved, after last year's 'Ard Boyz semifinals, not to play a firepower list that doesn't have a close combat element.  It just doesn't work, at least for me.  Eventually, as BroLo pointed out, you will face a dedicated CC list that can and will get to you, and then you fold.  Or you face an MSU list that you just can't kill that last member of a couple units and you lose on kill points/objectives.  Others may not agree with my maxim, but unless you're playing IG or Tau, you need a CC punch to mop up the people who survive your shooting, or to defend your firepower.  

I know that is a highly debatable statement.  However, we are talking about Black Templars, and we have access to "the best close combat unit in the game."  10 Preferred Enemy Assault Terminators with enough storm shields to make them survivable to heavy shooting, with an attached Emperor's Champ and you are afraid of absolutely nothing.  At 2,500 points, this unit won't run the table, and will die eventually.  But it will bubble wrap your firepower for the first few crucial turns, and it can also smash anyone's face it's likely to face.  I don't think I can pilot a list without a good dedicated close combat element, and this is the be all, end all of dedicated close combat elements.  It also makes the army way less linear, a concept from MtG that I will touch on in the next few days.  How could I resist that?

The Ven Dred isn't nearly as obligatory, but isn't nearly as expensive.  It's a full 100 points (or as I measure it, 1.5 Typhoons) cheaper than the Cyclonators.  If you pass on a unit of Cyclonators for the Ven Dred, you get more armor saturation and more shooting for less points.

Templars are also trapped in another way.  3 Predators in Heavy Support is very nearly obligatory.  That's not a debatable choice, unless you go almost mechless.  The problem is, committing to 3 Predators means committing to heavy mech to provide armor saturation so the Predators actually do something.  Having 3 units of terminators (930 points) in your army means you won't have armor saturation, sorry.

I hope after this long, rambling editorial, that even if you disagree with  my conclusion, you will agree that fitting in Cyclonators does require significant sacrifices.  So that raises a question: what happens if you don't include them, and bring Assault Termies, and you add more Typhoons and Dreds to make up for the firepower?

Actually... it works.  Hopefully, when I post my updated 'Ard Boyz list tomorrow, you will see that I actually get more close combat punch and more fire power and more armor if I leave them out.  Yes that's right: the army gets better in every measurable way if I leave the Cyclonators at home.

So where do Cyclonators work, in my opinion?  Low point levels.  At 1500 points, opponents will struggle to kill two units of them, because their dedicated CC threats will be much, much less scary to them, and it isn't likely they can simply shoot the Cyclonators off the table early.  And, this is a big 'and', you don't need the dedicated CC punch of your own. as much at lower point levels.  At 1,500 points, with no obligatory CC unit, your Elites slot is free to be dedicated to Cyclonators.



  1. Makes a lot of sense to me. Seems like you have approached the subject logically.

  2. I agree with the conclusion for everything above 2k points. There simply is too many CC units out there past that point for us to put them down on the table. However, 2k points or lower (my proposed threshold is higher), you can usually get away from having that dedicated CC-unit as the Cyclonators act as a decent speed bump against everything, but the toughest CC-units.

    'Ard Boys, I'm right there with you. But tournaments like Nova Open? They'll do just fine imo if taken in at least two 5-man units. One is too few, but I think three might be pushing it too.

    Normally I'd agree with you on the Ven Dread as well, as I've had great success with dreads in my gunline lists. However, they do suffer from a flaw that our crafty Cyclonators do not. Shaken damage results. It is pretty easy to shake an AV12 vehicle, no matter how much armor you have on the board. With the prevalence of Autocannons and Missile Launchers, they won't be going for our AV 13 Predators, they'll be shooting our dreads (who are more expensive and put out more reliable fire). Against Terminators, your enemy has to wipe them out before they stop shooting.

    But again, they don't fit in such a high points level list for the reasons you've listed.