Monday, June 20, 2011

Dealing with the Grey Knight Deathstar

Initiative is perhaps one of the most important factors in close combat. The unit that makes its attacks first can potentially eliminate an opponent before that opponent has a chance to eliminate them in return. When high initiative is combined with increased strength, the ability to ignore armor saves, and the ability to cause instant death, a unit possessing all these qualities becomes extremely tough to remove from the table.

When we look at a unit like Grey Knight Terminators, we recognize them as heavily armored and difficult to kill with shooting, especially when backed by a Librarian with Shrouding. Paladins are even hardier due to their extra wound and Feel No Pain. Admittedly it's not just these terminators and their psychic powers that are nigh impossible to kill. It's their upgrades which make them brutally efficient.

The Nemesis Force Halberd takes the brutal efficiency of the Grey Knight Terminator to a whole new level. I usually play with a 'Deathstar' unit of these monsters that looks like this:

GKT unit (10)
Psybolt Ammunition
1 Justicar w/Halberd & Stormbolter
1 Terminator w/Brotherhood Banner
2 Terminators w/Daemonhammer
2 Terminators w/Psycannon
4 Terminators w/Halberd & Stormbolter
Librarian w/Master-crafted Halberd, Digital Weapons, 5-6 Psychic Powers
Inquisitor Coteaz

Altogether this weighs in at around 850 points, but it is by far one of the toughest units to crack, and it's definitely the toughest one in the codex. Its shooting capabilities are decent:
18 s5 stormbolter shots
d6 s4 psyber-eagle shots
8 s7 psycannon shots

But what really makes this unit shine is its ability to strike first in combat against almost everything in the game. And if the Halberd's I6 isn't putting their attacks at the top of the initiative order, then certainly the Librarian's Quicksilver ability will. One of the GKT's most important assets (especially compared to their contemporary counterparts, the Space Marine Terminator w/Lightning Claws) is their ability to maintain their high initiative when charging into cover - Frag Grenades are invaluable for this unit.

So what can you do against a scoring deathstar that has 24 I6 Force Weapon attacks that may end up being S7? And then what do you do with another 10 Daemonhammer attacks backing them up? Can you shoot them? You can definitely try to whittle down their numbers using massed dakka fire, but that is only going to be just so effective. You can saturate them with Lascannon or Dark Lance fire, but Shrouding keeps them alive 2/3 of the time. The fact of the matter is that most armies can't reliably shoot them off the table.

Close combat against this type of unit is almost suicidal. What can have a chance of tearing them apart? Higher initiative would seem to be the key... but what has higher initiative than 6? Only a few units come to mind:

Phoenix Lords
Prince Yriel
Dark Eldar Archon
Asdrubael Vect
Lady Malys
Lelith Hesperax
Dark Eldar Succubus
Eldar/Dark Eldar Harlequins

They also all have the ability to ignore cover when charging, either with Frag or Plasma grenades. But these all fall into the category of 'special' and don't seem like they would be very good at taking on an entire unit of GKTs with Force Weapons. Perhaps we should change our criteria to units that utilize wargear to overcome the initiative barrier:

Howling Banshees w/Banshee Masks
Commander Dante w/Furious Charge
The Sanguinor w/Furious Charge
Baron Sathonyx w/Furious Charge
Duke Sliscus w/Furious Charge
Kheradruakh w/Furious Charge
Hekatrix Bloodbrides w/Furious Charge
Dark Eldar Wyches w/Furious Charge
Dark Eldar Beastmasters (and Khymerae)
Dark Eldar Hellions w/Furious Charge
Reaver Jetbikes w/Furious Charge
Grey Knights w/Psyk-out Grenades
Tyranids w/Lash Whips
Tyranid Harpy
Genestealers w/Adrenal Glands

Once again we see a wide array of character, but this time we see that the Dark Eldar have a lot of options for taking on this Death Star, and especially when they have a couple Pain Tokens in tow. Also, what seems to be the most favorable option for fighting them would be the Tyranids - Warriors, Shrikes or Tyrants with Bone Swords and Lash Whips are capable of not only going before the GKTs (even in the case of Quicksilver), but are also to ignore their armor saves.

Shrikes are fast, allowing a second turn charge, can re-roll to hit if relying on a nearby Tyrant's 'Old Adversary' power, can re-roll to wound with toxin sacs, ignore armor saves, and at the very worst they will strike the GKTs at the same initiative if they must charge into cover. It's no small wonder that a unit of 9 Shrikes with Lash Whips, Bone Swords and Toxin Sacs weighs in at *gasp! 495 points. With the backing of a nearby Tyrant, these warriors will absolutely annihilate (on average) the entire 12-man GKT Deathstar. They simply must survive the barrage of GK firepower on the way to their target, hope that the Librarian (or Coteaz) fail to successfully cast Sanctuary, and pray that the GKT Deathstar isn't sitting in the middle of some juicy area terrain. Even if all things come together for the shrikes, it's still possible that not every GK model will pile into combat touching a Shrike; in this case, whichever GKT is not touching will actually get a chance to use his I6 to good effect, killing perhaps one Shrike per non-base-touching GKT.

But what would a powerful unit like this be without some irony? The funny thing about Grey Knights is that they're all psykers, and coincidentally they work rather well when they get a chance to charge a unit containing psykers. Those charged psykers are dropped to I1 and that's all she wrote.

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