Has the Humble Rune Priest Become a Necessity? by Dave Symcox

2 Sep

There are perhaps the best and most varied HQ choices in the Space Wolves Codex:

Wolf Lords: rough, tough and rugged Charles Bronsons that can deal out justice in a ruthless and devastating fashion which makes them game winners.

Wolf Priests: the Hannibal Smiths from the A-Team, fearless leaders that inspire their troops and love it when a plan comes together.

There is even the esteemed geriatric Old Wolf himself: Logan; the Sly Stallone of the Wolves who just keeps making one more thrilling comeback which makes him the bane at any tournament for opponents.

…And yet, even in the face of such tempting HQ choices, I wonder whether the first pick in the games current meta is in fact Gandalf of the Wolf Crew; the Rune Priest.

The Rune Priest, usually taken with a chooser of the Slain is a bargain retailing in at 110 points. Straight off the bat you are saving a huge amount of points compared to the 275 of Logan, or the 200 – 300 of the Wolf Lord. He is used differently from Logan or a Wolf Lord; mine cowers in a Rhino which he only ever leaves if there is no other choice, a decisive cowardly tactic where I prefer to snipe from a distance than get stuck in.

“But the Rune Priest isn’t a game winner like them!” I hear some cry out.

Isn’t he?

For those 110 points you also have the option of taking 2 spells. By far the most popular are Jaws of the Word Wolf, Murderous Hurricane and Living Lightning.

Jaws is 24 inches and if cast allows the bearer to target enemy infantry in a straight line. Any that are struck take an initiative test and if failed are removed from play. Yep that’s right, even models that are immune to instant death. So for instance, if your whole army hasn’t been devastated by the feared Ghazgull’s uber charge when he has declared his Waaaagh, Jaws is a great counter that has the ability to kill Ghazzie and maybe even any Meganobs that are hanging out in a straight line with him. Maybe not game winner in this instance, but perhaps, instead I’d call it a game saver. Strangely, Jaws is not actually used all that often, maybe due to its range, or maybe due to the situation, but there can be no doubt that when it is cast it is perhaps the most feared spell in 40K.

A spell that is commonly used by the Rune Priest is Living Lightning, a shooting attack that causes D6 strength 7 hits and when combined with The Chooser of the Slain hits on a 2+. The secret to the spell is the unlimited range; as long as the Rune Priest has line of sight he could target your friend’s army at the other end of the gaming hall if he wanted. Thus it has become the favourite for wolf players, the reliable, simultaneously defensive and offensive spell that can do damage while at the same time keeping the Rune Priest out of trouble. If you need to add firepower to the long fangs: this can be it, if you desperately need to smash that transport last turn to stop it contesting: this is it.

Murderous Hurricane, Alex West’s (Mr Wolf of the UK) favourite spell, causes 3d6 strength 3 hits to an enemy infantry unit. Fairly good in itself, especially against models with lower toughness such as Dark Eldar, but there are hidden gems to this spell that make it even better. When cast, every model in the enemy unit must take a dangerous terrain test if they move allowing the space wolf player the possibility of sniping their opponents models, i.e. killing the power fist or melta gun. If a powerfist, or meltagun is killed from taking an unlucky dangerous terrain test; happy days, but it is random and unlikely; I see it more like an added treat. My favourite outcome from the spell is the difficult terrain test which must also be taken and has the ability to win games. We all make a last dash towards an objective in turns 5, 6 and 7, leaving it to the last minute to ensure the unit has done maximum damage against the enemy before sprinting to the objective. Given this knowledge, a cunning wolf player can cast Murderous on their opponent in the last turn of the game, not to kill, but to stop an opponent claiming that vital objective.

In itself these spells are a convincing argument, yet I wonder whether it is the change in the current Meta that is the real reason the Rune Priest is one HQ you can’t leave without.

Over the last couple of months, many of us have had the luxury of dealing with the new Grey Knight builds which have taken home games, gaming stores and tournaments by storm. In the last month alone our own Josh ‘The Master Debater’ Roberts has taken first place at the Toy Soldier tournament and Chris Green, the UK’s no 4 ranked player has taken first place at Battle of the Chumps. Grey Knights are well and truly on the scene!

There are many reasons why it has become Grey Knight city out there, some of which we covered in the Grey Knight Round Table in Episode 11: assassins, psycho-joke grenades, riflemen dreadnaughts, psych-cannons, Coteaz; but for me the main reason that the Grey Knights are so good is the Fortitude psychic power. In essence, if a vehicle is stunned or shaken, the following turn the Grey Knight player can attempt to shrug this off using the fortitude psychic power on a leadership value of ten. This means that any opponent shooting at the Grey Knight vehicles, especially the riflemen dreads that have become so popular had better kill it otherwise they will be shooting back. It is this ability which makes the Grey Knights so strong. Where any other army would be checked and paused, slowing their attack the Grey Knights are like the energizer bunny; able to fire back at maximum potential for longer.

It is the popularity of Grey Knights which has convinced me that the Rune Priest is vital. His spells are good and he is cost effective, but his ability to block opponents psychic powers through his Rune Staff on a 4+, especially against Grey Knights means he is my no1 choice. If you are able to get your Rune Priest into the middle of the park you have the ability to stop fortitude on any vehicle that is in 24 inches and thus reduce the maximum level that Grey Knights are able to fire back.

A viable tactic: not without its dangers. The middle of the park is the Grey Knights hunting ground and a Rune Priest, especially one as cowardly as mine is that baby deer on borrowed time. The Psych Cannons of the Grey Knight will tear through any rhinos, or razorbacks that stray into their range. Yet, I think the risk is worth the reward and there are a few things you can do to protect the Rune Priest and keep him alive for as long as possible.

Cover is vital! This may seem like a simple piece of advice, but when the game gets stretched this can often be forgotten. Use smoke launchers (at the right time), your own vehicles, wrecks and buildings ALL of the time to gain cover. The Psych Cannons may shred a rhino, but 50% less of the time when cover is involved.

Stay back, keep just within 24 inches, and don’t go any further. Yes this is still in the Grey Knights sweet spot and they will shoot you, but if they bust the tank there isn’t going to be Assassins close by ready to assault and destroy the Rune Priest.

Don’t be tempted to go too close and cast murderous or jaws. Most Grey Knight players are using dreadnaughts and are keeping their units within 12 inches of them, meaning the Rune Priest offensive spells are being cast at minus 4 to his leadership. His attacking spells just aren’t going to get off. It is the Rune Priest’s defence that holds the key, so don’t be tempted to stray too close.

Stay in the vehicles! Imagine it is one of those horror movies where the car has broken down and the guy that goes to get gas is killed by monsters. That is exactly what will happen to the Rune Priest if he leaves the vehicle. If you have him in a rhino and the Grey Hunters jump out to do their business – keep him in. He does have a force weapon and isn’t too bad in combat, but even a pissed up purifier will smash him in drunken brawl.

If the main aim is defence then the Rune Priest can even be mounted in a Razorback, especially those with the lascannon and twin-linked plasma gun combo; 24 inches are their sweet spot. Yes, the Rune Priest won’t be able to cast any powers, but with the 12 inches defence from the dreadnaughts he probably wasn’t going to be able to anyway.

Lastly, use your razorbacks and rhinos in packs. If the Grey Knights do smash a vehicle, ensure there is another within hobbling distance for the Rune Priest to scramble into the following turn and continue the magical defence you need him for.

So, if wolves want to survive in the current Meta shift, I think the Rune Priest has become a necessity.

Dave Symcox

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6 Responses to “Has the Humble Rune Priest Become a Necessity? by Dave Symcox”

  1. Thomas Meer September 2, 2011 at 16:39 #

    I think psychic power users in general are becoming more and more mandatory to be honest. Take the bog standard Marine Librarian, probably the most points efficient HQ in the army, much more than either the Captain or Chaplain. Tooled up combat HQs are fun for point and click players, but for more tactical flexibility you need a psionic.

  2. Gary Percival September 2, 2011 at 17:22 #

    and then BOOM..along come a Grey knight Storm Raven 😛

    • 40KUK September 5, 2011 at 14:23 #

      Ah, you may have a choice there sir… 2 Rune Priests. Also the Storm Raven is not all that common… in the UK it is just you at the mo.

  3. scott. September 3, 2011 at 15:42 #

    I would go a bit further and include Njal, his 3 up beat stick is pain and will mess with GK Librarians shenanigans, as far as i no lord of tempests cannot be stopped via psychic defence again another pain to deal with and he knows all the spells bonus, 245 is a chunk of pionts in a1750 list but every think else is cheap in the book i think theres a place for him at 1750.

    • 40KUK September 5, 2011 at 14:24 #

      Well, arguable the best player in the US at the mo, Tony Kopach would agree as he uses Njal in his 1850 list and has won Nova twice and adepticon with him.

  4. ImpGuardWolves December 14, 2012 at 17:55 #

    Great write up- thanks for sharing the advice.
    (wolves convert, combing with IG for some v6 fun)

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