I should really just stop starting out my various blog posts by extolling my desire for brevity. Much like my declarations that I’ll keep to a regular schedule or post up some fiction, it never seems to work. Well, sit back and install your reading eyes, because I’m back for more verbosity!
To finish of the Elites section we have three choices; one of them unique and the other two the upgrade or ‘veteran’ versions of the two troops choices. Hekatrix Bloodbrides are an upgrade to the normal wyches and I may as well start with them. They’re very similar to wyches but with a bit of price bump. For an extra three points apiece they grab an extra attack and an extra leadership, both very useful traits for a close combat unit. They also get a higher incidence of special weapons in the squad, allowed one in three rather than one in five for the regular wyches. Other than that, they’re basically the same. I didn’t go into the wych weapons much in the earlier runthrough, so I may as well address them here. All of them count as two close combat weapons and replace the model’s splinter pistol, so remember that during the pre-assault shooting, if you’re the type to ever do that! Razorflails allow the user to reroll hits and wounds, which is pretty handy against fodder-type enemies who rely on numbers like Imperial Guard or Gaunts. It’ll certainly help against the heavier combatants, but I feel it’s a better tool to sort the chaff, as most wounds will get saved by a regular Marine anyway. The next one is the Hydra Gauntlets which grant +D6 attacks rather than +1. This can lead to a bit of confusion, as I’ve seen many people forget that they shouldn’t count the model’s two close combat weapon bonus in the final tally i.e. a non-charging wych with 1 attack on her profile will have 1+D6 attacks using the gauntlets, not 2+D6. A minor point, but an easy one to get wrong, so I think it’s worth mentioning. I’m fond of the Hydra Gauntlets as they give the opportunity roll an obscene number of dice during any given combat and allow the unit to punch above its weight through sheer quantity. When I have room in a squad for more than one special weapon, I normally go for one of these to add potential to the otherwise mediocre combat potential of the wyches. The final choice are the Shardnet and Impaler, which is hands down the most tactically useful of the options and one that I am rarely without in any given wych or bloodbride squad. I’ve talked about them on the Wych articles, so you should probably head back to that one if you want a bit more info about them. Suffice to say, the opportunity to reduce the attacks of enemy models is well worth it, putting challenges unfairly in your favour and even bogging down Dreadnoughts and Monstrous creatures, making one of the ultimate close combat tarpits even tarpittier. Spellcheck tells me that is not a word. I chose to reject that analysis. Anyway, why am I talking so much about the weapons other than the unit? Mainly because almost everything I said about the wyches applies to these guys too. They do exactly the same job, but in a more condensed and expensive package. I’ve rarely (if ever) used them though. Their squad size is reduced to 10 rather than 15, which is fine for transports, but I can’t help it, I really like having unit above ten when I can, and these guys could be truly horrific in big squads! Oh well. The main reason I don’t use them is that the casualties hurt the unit more. They have an extra attack each, sure, but regular wyches can match that by simply adding more wyches to the tally. Admittedly they cost more, but individual wounds don’t hurt the unit as much and they are scoring units. Trust me when I say that wych remnants have won me many games. Anyway, if you’re going transport heavy, they are a good way of packing a lot of close combat punch in a Raider It should also be borne in mind that this unit (like so many others in the Elites section) makes for a good bodyguard unit for an archon or succubus, especially as you can drop a model from the unit and not lose one of the special weapon slots. Very handy, especially if you’re going monster hunting with a huskblade and a bunch of shardnets. Seriously, charge that unit into a Hive Tyrant, challenge it with the archon and you’ll not only have tyrant who can only strike with one or two attacks and your archon can reroll some shadowfield saves if there enough in the unit. You only need five! Anyway, that’s the bloodbrides. Not much that they can do that wyches can’t but not bad by any stretch. Just not my thing.
Kabalite Trueborn are a different matter however. Again, you pay an extra three points for an extra leadership and attack, but on what is primarily a shooting unit which is far less useful and upgrade. However, they get some very juicy weapon upgrade options that are worth taking advantage of, especially seeing as none of them are limited by unit size. This was the reason so many Tureborn were drifting about in fifth as, aside from the Ravager, they were the most points-effective way of getting more lance weapons into your army. They usual setup was to have three or four of them, all with Blasters in a Venom, making a compact unit that could put out a lot of anti-vehicle and anti-personnel shots whilst still being very mobile. However with the new edition, I can see this load out becoming less and less popular. Vehicles are easier to kill, so the necessity for a honkin’ great quantity of darklight is reduced and the changes to the vehicle movement and passenger movement rules do mean that the mobility of the unit is cut down a fair bit. The decrease of vehicle resilience is a double-edged sword, especially for Venom load out, as they were brittle enough to begin with, but now it only takes two glancing hits to total them, and Venoms aren’t cheap. Once the Trueborn are kicked out of their transport they are a very small and easy unit to kill and the relatively short range of their tankbusting guns will be fairly easy to avoid with your high priority targets. A shame, but what else can you do with them? You’ve got Shredders, which are small blast S6, which will be handy for anti-personnel and close-packed hordes and can also take down light vehicles at a pinch. Not a bad call, as they are cheaply purchased at 5 points each and you can buy up to four of them. However, they will suffer a similar problem to the blasters in that they are fairly short ranged and the unit is brittle. You could load them out splinter-style though, and this is a tempting option. They can go for two splinter cannons in a squad and everyone else can be upgraded to have shard carbines, replacing their Rapid Fire 24” guns with Assault 3 18” ones. Very scary for infantry, especially if you team the unit up with Duke Sliscus for the 3+ poison boost. Overall though, I think these guys have suffered in the new edition, just because their big popular niche has declined and your points could be more productively spent elsewhere.
And finally, we have Mandrakes… Isn’t it horrible when bad things happen to good models? These guys are gorgeous models, but I cannot for the life of me find a role for these guys. It’s not even that they can’t do anything different. Mandrakes can Infiltrate/Outflank, which is something that nothing else in the codex is capable of (bar one or two of the rolls on the Warlord chart). However, once they infiltrate or outflank, it doesn’t seem like they can actually do anything with any real competence. They’ve got a fairly standard DE statline, but with a number of perks such as a natural strength of 4 and 2 attacks and even come with a 5+ Invulnerable save. However, they can’t capitalise on these things easily. They only have a single close combat weapon, and no access to a second, so that decreases the value of the extra attack. The have no access to any special close combat weapons, so any opponent with a decent armour save will most likely laugh them off. They have no grenades, so charging through cover will make them strike last, which is especially damning when they only have T3 so can’t even pull off the Necron trick of surviving to land the punches. They do a have a fairly good ranged attack in Baleblast (18” Assault 2 S4 AP4), but that relies on them have a Pain token first. Add in the rule change that you can’t charge on turn 1 and can’t assault off an Outflank and you have a unit that has no real purpose other than combat, at which it is distinctly mediocre, and that it can’t easily get to. You could try to give them a pain token early on, but that would negate their Infiltrate and they can’t be given any Transports unless you do the first turn shuffle, which seems like far too much effort for such an unremarkable unit. If they could start off with a pain token and still infiltrate, or if they could deploy like Ymgarl genestelaers (which they should do, they materialise out of the shadows in the fluff) then they could be decent, if not outstanding. But they don’t, so they’re not. You could use them for taking on backfield units, but under 6th, they’d just get shot even more before reaching them.
And a closing point. I really want to be proved wrong on my analysis of Mandrakes. I like the models, but the unit is one of the very few black marks against the codex game-wise. If any of you readers disagree with my view on them or have found a way to use them where they’re effective please let me know. It would be most enlightening…