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Blood Angels for Tournament Play


CitadelArmyGuy

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Gentlemen, Blood Angels are a hybrid codex of choice. We aren't the Top Tier melee codex, and we aren't the Top Tier shooting codex. Some may find that contentious, but I feel I can hold my own if asked to defend that statement.

So if someone is choosing Blood Angels in a Tournament setting, then either they are loyal to the Chapter and don't care quite so badly about winning (a non-WAAC player) or they are banking on a confidence in their ability to overmatch opponents through a superior OODA loop. Wait, OODA whatnow!?

http://www.bolterandchainsword.com/uploads/1348958562/gallery_27375_7506_129336.png

The OODA loop is an acronym which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. I won't go too far into detail, suffice to say if the OODA loop spikes your interest you can read all about it on wikipedia (link wiki OODA Loop) or numerous other websites.

The bottom line is the OODA Loop is basically a formalized way to make decisions. All of gaming (40k or not) is based on decision making. In fact, Game Theory itself is the study of Decision Making.

Please examine the following list: Note that said list writer chose items which are all straightforward to use, and require little-to-no inspiration when employing them.

2x Ordo Xenos Inquisitor: Conversion Beamer, Lvl 1 Psyker

2x Henchmen Bands: 3x Warrior Acolyte

1x Rune Priest in Power Armour, (Jaws; Living Lightning)

1x Grey Hunters 5x men w/flamer

1x GK Strike Squad: 10x men, 2x Psycannon

5x GK Strike Squad: 5x men, 1x Psycannon

5x Razorback: TLAC, psybolt ammo

3x Psyflemen

Ok well we see that the above list plays itself. There is next to no decision cycle, and by using a list like the above the player has removed all coherent thought when it comes to an OODA loop. Now they do have small decisions to make regarding target-priority, but next to that it's just rolling dice. There's no thoughts towards scheme of maneuver, tactical employment, ambushes, diversions, or reactive play-style of any sort. This is the reason WAAC players get so much hate-- because they tend to use optimized lists. But not lists which are optimized for Game Theory play-style, but rather lists that are optimized for the opposite: removing the OODA loop almost entirely. Those lists have less Sun Tzu in them than a fortune cookie.

The OODA Loop is what separates Good Players from Poor Players. More than that, decision making separates Good Players from Amazing Players. An amazing player has many hours of game experience to provide referential templates, he understands the difference between Tactics and Strategy, and he understands that Objective is the most important principle of warfare when it comes to 40k. But more than any of those, a Tournament Contender makes the best decisions.

So back to Blood Angels, our favored Sons of Sanguinius. Blood Angel players have the task of playing the game without possessing anything Top Tier (well, Mephiston is a unique factor- he can accomplish things other codices only dream of. Death Company is unique but requires care to employ correctly). And make no mistake, there are other codices that have an even harder time than Blood Angels do—we are hardly the worst off when it comes to the Codex power-level metagame. But there is a reason why recent tournaments in 6th edition are now developing a disturbing trend where the top placers are the premier shooting codices. Dedicated shooting lists are easy to play and require very low decision making capabilities. Now, please don't take this a slander against these armies-- depending on the list-build, these Armies can be challenging to play and can require adept decision making-- but those builds are purposefully taking handicaps by refusal to optimize.

So if Blood Angels want to play competitively, a BA player must play to the strengths of our Codex. Not just in the way that is easily apparent either—it doesn’t mean loading up on Jump Troops and charge forth with chainswords revving. Sometimes that is the correct decision, but often it is not. But when you design a list that only plays one way no matter what you are facing, then you’ve done no better than WAAC players who remove their OODA loops. Make no mistake—Blood Angels are a finesse codex. We have certain fixed-costs and generally lower body-count on the battlefield. The reason we remain playable in spite of these limitations is the fact that we are the most resilient ‘fast codex.’ Other codices can be faster, but will be less survivable.

So what does speed give us with respect to winning through superior decision making? Mobility enables flexibility and ability for successful execution of maneuver warfare. Shooting lists generally only have two ways to mitigate threats: raw target elimination (obviously) and use of screens. However, hybrid lists are able to mitigate threats through a mixture of Elimination, Screens, Diversions, Fixes and Ambushes. If you try to fight an optimized list at its own game, you’ll almost certainly lose. However, a hybrid list is going to have an increased menu of options available to it. Hybrid lists are flexible, which is yet another key principle of warfare. The internet spews disdain about underpowered hybrid lists yet their owners can place and even win consistently in competitive play. This is because a Contender hybrid-player possesses high-level decision making with a wide library of tactics and strategies.

Having flexibility is not good enough by itself—a Player must understand his flexibility and select the winning decisions.

Now, we come back to the OODA loop. A flexible Blood Angel list means a player already has an increased number of decisions to make, right from Turn 0 (game setup). Finesse armies are extremely unforgiving, and your goal should be to make as many deliberate decisions as possible by defeating your ingrained ‘business as usual’ assumptions. For veteran players, you make more subconscious decisions than you think—often reinforced by years of successful results, but don’t mean they are always the best decisions. Newer or Poor players will become lost in the Observe step and never truly Orient. But make no mistake, Orient is the MOST crucial step of the OODA Loop. Blood Angels must Orient themselves correctly to all situations or they will fail to make the best Decision. Correctly orienting involves target prioritization and threat prediction, branching out in decision-trees all the way to the finish of the game. Hence Players with the highest powers of prediction are often the hardest to beat. You should orient on all the possibilities which can yield positive results, and which promote your Turn 0 strategy to win. A predictable opponent is supremely defeatable no matter their list. Force yourself to break patterns—a patterned player is a predictable player. Personally, I find games against experienced players can be a lot less mentally taxing because new players make crazy decisions that may not make sense—which can throw me off my game. If you can harness the power of a wildcard decision tied back into otherwise conventional play, then you can gain an edge not easily measurable. Finding a way into your opponent’s own OODA loop and playing mindgames can earn you a win--- this ties back into Sun Tzu’s proverb “All Warfare is based in deception.”

(note: this is also why cookie-cutter shooting lists favor removal of their OODA loop—because then their OODA cannot easily be subverted through mindgames or deception tactics)

Further explaining why our old man Sun Tzu was on to something, the fact the Blood Angels possess superior mobility means we can best employ his maxim “When strong, appear weak. When weak, appear strong.” Blood Angels can achieve Turn 2 melee fairly easily, but that doesn’t mean that should be your goal in every game. Sometimes you can win by placing a defense line in midfield, jump to it then go to ground every turn before finishing with an objective grab. Outside the box thinking only helps armies that can switch strategies mid-game. If there are 5 objectives, posture on deployment as if you are going for a certain 3 of 5, then instead use jump-packs to redeploy and go for a different 3 (ie Refuse Flank followed by Tactical Redeployment—a slower list may not react quick enough). Placing key items in reserves adds loads of flexibility, tempered against asset availability of course. When and what to reserve is yet again a major decision, and not one to be made lightly. The Orient phase of your OODA loop is when you tabulate your costs and benefits, and you evaluate the cost-benefit analysis during the Decide phase.

An unimaginative list can only win games through one way- and if you come prepared with a menu of options to face these lists, then you have answered their whole army. They cannot switch playstyle mid-game to counter your counter.

On the whole, Blood Angels for Tournament play can be highly successful. I would caution all the Battlebrothers however, not to attempt using the Blood Angel codex in the manner that 'Internet Tournament Players' write their lists (Edit: meaning Passive Maneuver, Power Projection doctrine). The biggest asset Blood Angels have at our disposal is supreme flexibility derived from mobility and balanced, objective-oriented play-style bolstered by deliberate, focused decision making.

Spammers are asleep at the wheel gentlemen. Let's show them a Better Class of Player msn-wink.gif

Post Article Edits:

A sample Battle Report that demonstrates the OODA Loop in action is posted here: http://www.bolterandchainsword.com/index.p...howtopic=262266

A non-definitive list of Blood Angel Competitive List-writing: For my general ideas on increasing flexibility in a given Blood Angel list, here are some personal thoughts. The list is by no means exhaustive, nor will every point work for every player. Most of the players on this forum will be familiar with most of this. But in general, and for me personally:

  • The core of the vast majority of my lists begin with 20 Jump Assault Marines and a Jump Sanguinary Priest.
  • Mephiston > than any other two Independent Characters. Caveat: Jump Librarian and Jump Priest may provide better Force Multipliers if your list contains 20+ Jump Marines.
  • Allies should provide unique options/abilities or else do not take them. Example-- BA Razorback Mechanized does not benefit from Chimera Mechanized IG, but Hybrid or Aggressive BA will benefit from cheap IG on foot (provide cheap screens, cheap scoring).
  • Prescience Librarians are better in more situations than Chaplains. Chaplains are ok, but outclassed by the GW introduction of Prescience. Librarians will always win the flexibility argument over a Chaplain/Reclusiarch now.
  • Reserves greatly increase late game flexibility, but greatly reduce early game asset availability. A list which must heavily utilize reserves must include some form of reserves-booster (Comms Relay, Descent of Angels, Drop-pods, IG Astropath [will only affect IG allies though], etc). Reason is that an enemy list with a Reserves influence effect (IG Master of Fleet, GK Warp Quake, Warlord powers) may severely mitigate you.
  • Know Thyself! (know your list). You must know what a list is good against, and what a list is weak against (As per the Problem Set-- LINK). In general, most Blood Angel lists are excellent versus Light/Medium/Fast Infantry and Light/Heavy Vehicles. In general, Blood Angel lists may struggle against Heavy Infantry, Shock Units and Hero-Level Characters.
  • Foot-Infantry generally play best in midfield (or possess long-range weapons of course). Deploy them as far forward in your deployment zone as possible- moving 6" per turn they will reach mid-table on Turn 2. Transports are almost essential but not always required.
  • Use Drop-Pod Tacticals to arrive anywhere Turn1. Use reserved-Rhino Tacticals to arrive to mid-board Turn2+ (Move+Flatout 24"). I personally cannot use Tacticals very well, they always underperform for my playstyle. If I played versus Daemons more, I'd use them more though.
  • The #1 best diversion-maker available is any unit in a drop-pod. Almost all builds can benefit from a single drop-podded Unit; think very hard if you mean to include 2-4 pods. The best pod inclusions for any list are 1 or 5+. 1 will be precision diversion maker, 5+ will be an Alphastrike list.
  • BA Predators should anticipate utilizing constant maneuver to continually change the battlefield situation. Moving 12" is huge, and may be strategically worth more than firing all weapons at full-BS. Stationary BA predators must having a very compelling reason to do so since we pay more points than SW/SM for the Fast classification.
  • Use multimeltas on Attack Bikes and double heavy bolters on Land Speeders for best value and maximized role-employment. Some espouse dual-MM on Speeders but they are less resilient than Bikes at melta-ranges. Dual-HB Speeders are 10pts per shot= great value. 180pts for 18 shots, cast Prescience and reap the deathly harvest (Look out for this enemy combo, Space Wolves do this too!).
  • Vehicles with Template weapons are suicide-units; generally poor value when facing an experienced opponent.
  • Fortifications do not violate flexibility doctrine if utilized aggressively; rarely will a 'backedge-backfield' fortification be a good idea. Forward deploy them, anticipate where you will need them in the mid-to-late game.
  • Excess wargear does not necessarily make a unit more flexible; Example- Meltabombs or Combi-weapons can be good, but Hunter-Killer Missiles or Stormbolters on vehicles are usually bad. No unit needs more than 1 Power Weapon per 3 models (usually less at 1 per 4-5).
  • You must have an extremely good reason not to take max-special weapons in Jump Assault Squads.
  • Terminators (any type) are not flexible. They are still playable though, as a rock to anchor your maneuver. If your Terminators survive a game, generally it means you did not use them aggressively enough.

This is a very rough list, and I'm sure there will be some contention over certain points of it-- which is why I made my previous comment about every player being different. I'm sure I'll revisit this list and add more things over time.
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an interesting read, amusingly flexibility is something all 'codex' marine armies should head for, it is after all a major pillar in Guillimans teachings too!

 

definitely some important points made though which will probably mean I tweak my own lists a bit.

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Heh, damn now I feel good that I play BA :P

 

Good read, I first had thoughts along this line when I had to play the new GK in 5th edition. How do you beat an army that shoots better than you but still beats you in melee? By being a lot more flexible than the opponent, it was still possible to win if I pulled it off correctly.

Having the ability to quickly concentrate a big part of our army in a small area, we can launch surprise attacks of considerable strength against unsuspecting, stationary armies. The key point is that your opponent shouldn't pick up on your intention until it is too late and he can't react anymore. Blood Angels are one of the few armies who can change their strategy halfway through the game and do something completely different than your enemy predicted. We are almost never truly out of position and we have a load of decisions to make every turn. For me, this is something that makes every game different, even when I play exactly the same army list, which is a huge win besides the competitive discussion :D

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Please examine the following list: Note that said list writer chose items which are all straightforward to use, and require little-to-no inspiration when employing them.

2x Ordo Xenos Inquisitor: Conversion Beamer

2x Henchmen Bands: 4x Warrior Acolyte

1x Rune Priest in Power Armour, (Jaws; Living Lightning)

1x Grey Hunters 5x men w/flamer

1x GK Strike Squad: 10x men, 2x Psycannon

5x GK Strike Squad: 5x men, 1x Psycannon

5x Razorback: TLAC, psybolt ammo

3x Psyflemen

 

Ok well we see that the above list plays itself. There is next to no decision cycle, and by using a list like the above the player has removed all coherent thought when it comes to an OODA loop. Now they do have small decisions to make regarding target-priority, but next to that it's just rolling dice. There's no thoughts towards scheme of maneuver, tactical employment, ambushes, diversions, or reactive play-style of any sort. This is the reason WAAC players get so much hate-- because they tend to use optimized lists. But not lists which are optimized for Game Theory play-style, but rather lists that are optimized for the opposite: removing the OODA loop almost entirely. Those lists have less Sun Tzu in them than a fortune cookie.

I feel like I'm missing something. Why doesn't that list allow a player to make smart decisions beyond target priority decisions?

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Nicely put, though I don't get your last paragraph. What do you mean by "the way internet tournament players write their list"?

Quite right, I phrased that a bit off. I should have clarified that I was specifically referring to Power Gamers who follow the doctrine of passive maneuver, power projection (shooting). While undeniably powerful, those lists approach every game the same way and are supremely predictable.

 

Please examine the following list: Note that said list writer chose items which are all straightforward to use, and require little-to-no inspiration when employing them.

2x Ordo Xenos Inquisitor: Conversion Beamer, Lvl 1 Psyker

2x Henchmen Bands: 3x Warrior Acolyte

1x Rune Priest in Power Armour, (Jaws; Living Lightning)

1x Grey Hunters 5x men w/flamer

1x GK Strike Squad: 10x men, 2x Psycannon

5x GK Strike Squad: 5x men, 1x Psycannon

5x Razorback: TLAC, psybolt ammo

3x Psyflemen

I feel like I'm missing something. Why doesn't that list allow a player to make smart decisions beyond target priority decisions?

The mentioned list removes decision because it plays every match the same way, with the same strategy and the same actions. One may argue the Strike Squads can deep strike. One can argue they have to decide whether to begin the game loaded in the Razorbacks or not. But in reality these are non-decisions; all reduce the effectiveness of how the army plays out. The army is quite elegant in its construction, but hence crippled in flexibility of execution. There's enough shots to wipe any would-be attackers that approach midfield. It laughs at opposing MSU, and Flyers are easily handled through two Prescience Inquisitors, 5 Twinlinked Psybacks and 3 Twinlinked Psyflemen. Anything that survives crossing the board with be slain in melee because again, Prescience Inquisitors with mass Force Weapons. It shuts down Psykers from the Psyflemens' aegis and the Runepriest. It is the ultimate Testudo list. But that's all you get-- there is the optimal way to play it, and that's it. One trick pony, with the optimal decisions for deployment and employment already predetermined.

 

As mentioned, it's a one trick pony but be sure it's a helluva strong trick or else it wouldn't be a Tournament playable. A complete newbie player could take this list and do excellently-- no finesse required. As I said before, a list like this is just rolling dice-- there's no real decisions to make except what to shoot at next. You aren't playing the game, you are playing the metagame.

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I understand what you mean, but I am not sure I wholly agree that a list that is simple to play and predictible is necessarily at a real disadvantage. A "complex" list can perform well but it needs to approach the "dumb" list's levels of point-efficiency. And that's because surprising a real good opponent is hard, sometimes very hard. Good players spend a lot of time getting to know the ins and outs of every army. So in spite of having an unconventional list, the good player will still have at least some idea as to what it is your are going to try to pull.
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I understand what you mean, but I am not sure I wholly agree that a list that is simple to play and predictible is necessarily at a real disadvantage. A "complex" list can perform well but it needs to approach the "dumb" list's levels of point-efficiency. And that's because surprising a real good opponent is hard, sometimes very hard. Good players spend a lot of time getting to know the ins and outs of every army. So in spite of having an unconventional list, the good player will still have at least some idea as to what it is your are going to try to pull.

 

Deschenus, I completely agree! Predictability is not a heavy disadvantage, if they have raw efficiency and overwhelming firepower on their side. Almost in the same vein as how 'over-confidence' is not a heavy disadvantage. You pointed out that they wil be hard to suprise-- absolutely! That was what I referred to when I mentioned they actually enjoy the absence of decision-making; because when they have no OODA loop, you cannot subvert it. Since they will play out every game the same (move to midfield, shoot everything) it means a Hybrid list will require some extremely creative problem solving and the utmost tightest play possible where even one wrong decision will cost you the match.

 

Make no mistake, I hope my article didn't introduce the notion that beating a firepower list with a hybrid list will be easy. Only that if you are creative, deliberate and objective, it is possible. Creativity is the domain of the Flexible.

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This is very well put, and is an apt description of how I play my army. According to many of my peers, and the internetz at large, I play a list that is full of terrible choices. Yet somehow, by having multiple units that can take on different roles, and by being highly mobile, I am able to pull out tournament wins. Another interesting factor that seems to play in to a lot of my games is fear. As an example, I had a single DC Dreadnought hold off about 600 points of GK strike squads in a Zone Mortalis game simply because my opponent was afraid of coming around the corner and getting slaughtered. My 125 point model effectively disabled 600 points of models just by being present.
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This has touched upon something very close to my primary heart. The problem with many of these optimised lists is they do require a different and simpler thought process to work, and essentially can create a paper-rock-scissors match up. They create a "kryptonite" to their sucess; they are supremely powerful but can be undone by a bad match up.

 

As an example, those Space Wolves lists which have a heavy slant towards shooting suddenly come up against a Drop Pod army and get chewed to pieces, since they have no counter and just stand there waiting for the attack. They can't put into reserve their sooting units because they'll still be neutralised when they come in.

 

Give me a balanced approach, which can turn the screw on any opposing list, any day!

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As a new player I often feel overwhelmed when it comes to tactics. It would be awesome if someone did a bat rep and applied the OODA concepts to it. Like explaining why they did what they did and categorize their actions into OODA. As a new player I'd find this a great resource to demonstrate how a player should be thinking during a game.
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Well if I can get enough breathing space at my next tournament (6th is very fresh to me) I'll jot down more notes and make a full battle report up, complete with pictures.

 

It's a hard sell mind, since things will be soooo hard for me I might not have the energy!

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As a new player I often feel overwhelmed when it comes to tactics. It would be awesome if someone did a bat rep and applied the OODA concepts to it. Like explaining why they did what they did and categorize their actions into OODA. As a new player I'd find this a great resource to demonstrate how a player should be thinking during a game.

 

I have a great game in mind, one of those 'stand out' matches. Its from mid-August though, before the rulebook FAQs came out and also I have no pictures. But I remember the game perfectly, almost in perfect detail just because of the decisions I had to make. Also, I was playing a fun friendly list and my opponent was playing a Tournament List because he was preparing for the NOVAOpen (hence, we played a NOVA mission as well).

 

I'll recreate it in powerpoint (fairly easy) and I'll open a new thread when it's ready for posting. I'll link the new thread here for reference as well, just will need the rest of tonight to get it ready.

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Gentlemen, Blood Angels are a hybrid codex of choice. We aren't the Top Tier melee codex, and we aren't the Top Tier shooting codex.

 

Spammers are asleep at the wheel gentlemen. Let's show them a Better Class of Player :P

 

No question this is truly an an epic post. I never heard of OODA before, but I played in a tournament last weekend and went 1-2 and finished in like 8th place. Even though I was 1-2, I could have easily went 3-0 and took the whole thing if it weren't for a few key mistakes.

 

Thinking back on those games I was surprised how close I was considering my 2 losses came from very different armies. I lost to a themed Deathwing list with 37 Terminators and a Ravenwing squad. The other game, I lost to a Dark Eldar Venom spam list with a big block of Helions and a Razorwing Fighter. Now my list was fairly straight forward, but I approached those games differently and this post made that gel for me.

 

I wish you would take this one step further though and not only show an example of a Battle Report, but also elaborate on what you need to put into a list to give you greater flexibility. I think that would help a lot of people (including myself) get better.

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@Harrower, I have no problem discussing selections and army-listing which I've personally found to be flexible. But that's the tricky thing with flexibility-- it can be elusive, and means different things to different people. Not to be cheeky or cop-out on ya, but to quote myself:

 

Having flexibility is not good enough by itself—a Player must understand his flexibility and select the winning decisions.

So that means there's an idea of flexibility, rather than a definition of flexibility. Very Zen, kung-fu stuff and whatnot B)

 

In more concrete terms, a Unit is selected as part of a greater whole in the List, and the end result must have certain pre-formed ideas on how it will approach any opposing list. Even flexible lists have to play the metagame (there's no truly escaping it, Game Theory starts the second you choose your first Unit), and what that means to any given player is very different.

 

For example, 40 Assault Marines. You could make a list with 4 squads of 10 or 5 squads of 8. Those two lists will play differently, neither directly being a poor way to organize. The 4 squads of 10 can split into 8 of 5 however, which multiplies the options you have available. But I guarantee there is at least one way to form the rest of the List where the 5 squads of 8 is actually the optimal choice.

 

 

 

Well its 2330hrs so sadly I'm off to sleep but I've got the powerpoint recreation done and once I write up the actual Battle Report I'll post it up tomorrow evening hopefully.

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Not to be cheeky or cop-out on ya, but to quote myself:

 

Having flexibility is not good enough by itself—a Player must understand his flexibility and select the winning decisions.

 

So that means there's an idea of flexibility, rather than a definition of flexibility. Very Zen, kung-fu stuff and whatnot :)

 

I get that and I see you are going all Book of Five Rings which is awesome, but this is heady stuff and I think it'll be lost on some people which is a shame because it makes A LOT of sense. I'm not questioning anyone's intelligence or anything like that, but this will help more people the closer we can take it from a nebulous idea to something that has more of a definition (I'm not trying to set boundaries and ultimately define flexibility and say what it is if that makes sense).

 

It's late, and I don't even know if what I'm saying at this point makes any sense. :D Let me try it this way. Here's a few things I've been doing to get more flexibility in my lists.

 

• I equip Sanguinary Priests with bikes. Makes the Priest more survivable and allows me to move the Furious Charge/Feel No Pain bubble somewhere else on the battlefield if I need to.

• Get more use out of AP2 weapons. Instead of just putting a Power Axe on a Sergeant and having him be single out in a challenge and killed before he can ever take a swing, I'll either make sure he's also in a unit with another Character (like a Priest) or I'll equip him with a Storm Shield. With a Reclusiarch, I always take Crozius Arcanum and Power Fist so I can respond to challenges accordingly. When shooting or firing on Overwatch, I have the Reclusiarch throw grenades.

• Air Superiority. With a single Storm Raven I now take Multi-melta, Assault Cannon, and Hurricane Bolters. The Lascannon was great against other flyers, but there have been countless times when my Storm Raven ran out of targets and was just ignored by my opponent. The Assault Cannon and Hurricane Bolters make sure it's a threat the entire game.

• Drop Pod Assault. I always take an odd number of Drop Pods and 1 extra. This allows me to deploy 2 Pods first turn and if I have an infantry unit and a Dreadnought, I can keep both in the Storm Raven and deploy 2 of the Pods empty.

 

I'm not try to thread jack or anything, so I hope this makes sense and helps to make an essential topic on our beloved Chapter even more useful.

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