Inspecting My Underwear: The New Style Death Stars by Dave Symcox

26 Feb


BEHOLD:  the time of the death star is over!

No longer do we see gamers at tournaments with an evil grin on their face and a horde of Wolf Lords, mounted on thunder wolf cavalry charging across the board, armoured with a 2+ save and saga of the bear to deal out death to whoever stands in their way.

No longer do we see our own Josh ‘The Master Debater’ Roberts, or Harry ‘Carry’ Allen with a plethora of Ghazghkull Thrakka loaded Battlewagons calling a Waaagh and winning the game in turn 2.

If you need any further proof, think about what happened to the Death Star at the end The Return of the Jedi.

Yet, I wonder whether a new death star has been born; or at least a vast extension of something devastating that already existed and has been given points to flourish.

With the advance of, yes, you guessed it Grey Knights; more specifically assassins, the death stars can no longer operate with impunity. A Bear lord can be taken down by five assassins, especially if they are surrounded by some kind of weird psychajoke wielding inquisitor, and that is not even counting what fate may have befallen the lord from shooting before he could even get in. Death Stars aren’t just a point in the general direction of your opponent and let them go ‘at it’ tactic anymore, (actually they never were). For instance, in order for the Bear lord to be effective against Grey Knights he needs Fenrisian wolves around him to protect from shooting and then support from the rest of the army to deplete, or kill the assassins before he can deal out the necessary damage that he has been bought for – not an easy feat to pull off without practise, let alone win a tournament.

There was a common saying when I first came back into 40K around January 2011: ‘close combat is the most devastating phase of the game’. In January 2011 that statement was true and the main facet making death star units so, SO feared. I wonder, at the beginning of 2012; stepping into the twilight of 5th edition whether the game has moved on. Daemons are rare, Genestealer hordes even more scarce and most importantly death stars which made their money in close combat are on the verge of extinction themselves. In place of the Deathstar, a new mixed species has been bred that steals the best bits from 2 very distinct former champions: multiple small units (MSU) and death stars, (large pointed killing machines), combining all into one easy manageable bundle.  What makes this new species particularly effective though is its duality and durability.

Let us look at a few examples from the Grey Knight codex; the Dreadnaught has to be our first prime suspect. The usual load out is psy – bolted autocannons dealing 4 twin-linked strength 8 shots, armour twelve with the all important fortitude power. On the podcast we have spoken numerously about how devastating the guns on these bad boys are and how indestructible they have become; especially in cover. These guys come in at 135 points each and it is common to see 3 in an army. Coming in at around 400 points for 3, these guys can easily blow up 6 vehicles in 2 turns: those are the 2 turns in which a death star is moving into position and hasn’t even done anything yet.

Another example would be the ever popular purifiers with 2 psych-cannons, 2 halberds and a daemon hammer – all for 149 points. They can deal out 8 strength seven shots for 2 – 3 turns, waiting in cover for you to get to them and when you do they are capable of killing whatever remains in combat, or instantly killing any biggie with their force weapons – once again, commonly taken in squads of 3.

For me, these are examples of the new death star. They can reach out and touch parts of the board throughout the game and rack up as many kills as any death star. Additionally, they are durable; there is an argument that a Grey Knight Dreadnaught is as reliant as any death star, given they are nigh unkillable at range when in cover and it takes a lot to get into the melta or combat range which will do the all important damage – even then there aren’t any guarantees. More importantly, these new death stars are cheap, yes not quite as cheap as the Dark Eldar venoms, but equally as devastating and 3 times more durable. This enables multiple units to be bought, and yes they are small, but they are not the MSU’s we have grown accustomed to. Venoms are an example of the MSU that we are used to; half the cost of a dreadnaught and although devastating when they fire 12 shots at infantry out in the open, any return fire, especially mass fire from an army that can fire at large amount of units can spell death for the whole glass hammer army. The new death star units such as Dreadnaughts can take that fire and still be around for revenge.

In the past, deathstars regularly could cost up to 500 points plus. For example, our own Sharan ‘The Conservative’ Reddy who has gained his no 2 ranking in the UK using his Blood Angels Death Star unit would compile of 5 terminators a priest and a landraider. A fearsome unit to have charging down on anyone and if you used right a game winner that Sharan has demonstrated can win tournaments. I’m not completely saying that the old style death stars as we know are dead and buried. In fact, Blood Angels, one of the last bastions of the traditional death stars customarily use their terminators backed up by a priest and Mephiston and loaded in a landraider pretty much within every variant list (and they are winning tournaments).  However with the old style deathstars: stop the landraider and you stop the army. Stop a Dreadnaught, or purifier squad which we have already established is hard to do and there are another 2 to come back at you.

These days, only players that can wield the old style death stars, understanding their pitfalls and advantages in each tricky situation are left (and they are winning tournaments). However, more commonly the points left over that would have gone into the old style death stars have instead been shifted into something else far more devastating. A mixed species that can deliver a plethora of fire backed up by some limited, yet effective  close combat that are soooo cheap that losing any one unit does not spell disaster for the wielder’s battle plans.

This my friends is the newest problem for us to solve.


One Response to “Inspecting My Underwear: The New Style Death Stars by Dave Symcox”

  1. MJay February 26, 2012 at 17:01 #

    Shooty and nasty in assault. I think its a good thing as with the death of deathstars it’s also limiting the effectiveness of all out msu.

    That or bloody gk breaking the game again!

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