Highway to the danjah zone

Highway to the danjah zone

Every 40k resource I visit keeps spouting this idea that assault is dead and shooting is the only game in town.  You can’t reasonably expect to survive the firepower of Tau long enough to get into combat.  Nothing’s as fast as Eldar.  You can’t run large units across the board at either army because they both ignore cover saves.  In short, it’s time to enlist: here’s your laspistol, and may the Emperor be with you in your struggle against those vile xenos.  He probably won’t be, though.

Truth be told, there are few things that delight me as much as an established metagame.  There’s absolutely no better opportunity to run roughshod over a tournament than when your opponents think they know what you’ll be playing before it starts.

Mediocre players rely on their lists to intimidate you.

Good players consider the odds.

Great players take risks.

The misconception that assault is dead isn’t completely off base; it’s just more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a failed one.  Marines have to wait a full turn after disembarking from a Rhino before they can assault; charging models have to withstand volleys of overwatch fire on their way into combat; and the possibility of rolling failing a three inch charge through open terrain is a real one.  These are legitimate weaknesses, flaws in traditional assault strategies which are taken advantage of to render an entire phase of the game obsolete.

The silver lining here is that these inherent flaws have become a blind spot for shooting strategies.  Good players figure – correctly – that they’re unlikely to face an effective assault strategy, and moderately skilled players follow the party line and assume assault is dead.  The key, the only real way to take advantage of this lapse in guard, is to wholly commit to exploiting that weakness.  Including effective assault units in a shooting strategy isn’t going to be enough to make assault matter in your games; individual units can be mitigated, ignored or destroyed.  Here’s what we’re going to do at 2000pts:

  • Kairos Fateweaver (Warlord)
  • Herald of Tzeentch, Exalted Reward, Mastery 2, Disc
  • Herald of Tzeentch, Mastery 3, Disc
  • 10 Plaguebearers
  • 10 Plaguebearers
  • 10 Plaguebearers
  • 10 Plaguebearers
  • Daemon Prince of Tzeentch, Flight, Armor, Lesser Reward
  • Daemon Prince of Tzeentch, Flight, Armor, Lesser Reward
  • 9 Screamers of Tzeentch
  • CSM: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch, Wings, Armor, The Black Mace, Mastery 3
  • CSM: 10 Cultists

This list is a rough draft, and there are plenty of flexible points that can be used to refine the theme; in particular you could shave the troops selection and refine the use of Daemonic Rewards.  That being said, it hits all the right notes; the typical failures of assault strategies in 6th edition have been mitigated by including assault units with incredible range and the ability to ignore terrain during the Movement Phase.

Our three Daemon Princes of Tzeentch will spend their first turn flying 24 inches toward gunlines, and we can add to that distance with a 2d6 run if we need to; they’re going to be in close combat by turn two.  Of the three the Black Mace prince will draw the most fire: once he reaches close combat he becomes an engine of destruction.  His two brothers are formidable in their own right, though, each taking a Staff of Change as their lesser reward – which means that between them they’re rocking 12 Str8, AP2 attacks on the charge.

By this point most of us are familiar with the Screamers and Heralds of Tzeentch.  The Heralds, tucked safely in the midst of the Screamers, use the Grimoire of True Names and Divination powers to provide the unit with a 2+ invulnerable save; all Daemons of Tzeentch reroll failed saving throws of 1, which means that each Screamer can soak an average of 36 wounds before failing a save (and they’re rocking two wounds each).  This unit of Screamers will move right along with our Daemon Princes, sitting down in the midst of a gunline (they’re jetbikes, so they can move and then turbo boost) and daring shooting armies to wipe it off the board before turn two.

It’s important to understand that the Screamers are not the only strength of this list or a strategy themselves; any unit, regardless of how effective it should be, can be mitigated.  The strength of this list is the fact that it’s wholly dedicated to fast and reliable aggression; it will overwhelm most opponents before they can build a strategy against it.  We’ve isolated the weakness of the typical shooting strategy (the dismissal of assault strategies) and invested about 1350 of our 2000pts into defying that expectation.

Fielding this army list is a risk; we’re ignoring the statistics that say shooting is more reliable and consistent than assault in 6th edition.  The point here isn’t to side with statistics and bring the most reliable army to a tournament, though; the point is to bring something that defies expectations and allows play skill to show on the battlefield.

13 Comments to “Highway to the danjah zone”

  1. interesting, but this can only be used at 2k points and more,due to the need for double force org. Please make a list for use in a 1500 and 1850 point games. the plaguebearers seem to be an after thought in this list, especially since you can get horrors for the same point cost, and they actually have a ranged attack, or is the point of them just to hold objectives?

    • This is actually a single force org list:

      HQ: Fateweaver, 2 Heralds (up to 4 use 1 slot)
      Troops: 4 Plaguebearer squads
      Heavy: 2 princes
      Fast: Screamers
      Allies: CSM prince, cultists

  2. Well all I have to go by is Army Builder,and Battlescribe, which both have them listed as HQ choices(Demon Princes).

  3. Nice article. I have been saying this same thing in my local group for a while now and have been trying to get this point across on forums with no effect. People assume it’s wrong and don’t bother trying it, but those who have played against it are starting to learn. My list is a bit opposite of yours. I run CSM main with Daemon Allies.

  4. I actively assault with my necrons all the time. Tying up shooting units with wraiths is pretty one sided. Not only letting wraiths do what they do, but also protecting my army from that unit!

    @mike when you take a greater demon in the CD codex you “unlock” the demon princes with their mark as heavies

    • Wraiths use a similar strategy: they circumvent the 6th edition assault restrictions by moving 12″ in the Movement Phase without being slowed by terrain, are durable against shooting and hit hard. There was a list with 18 Wraiths and 2 Destroyer Lords at the GTGT Southwest that could’ve won the whole event if not for a few too many player errors.

  5. While I don’t disagree that assault is not dead, I don’t think that the screamer-star is the best example to prove this point. The fact that a re-rollable 2+ invul save is needed to make assault function just supports the claim that assault is dead. Can the same assault effectiveness come from the rest of the Daemon Codex or CSM, Blood Angels, or Tyranids? Assault isn’t dead, but it is a lot harder now.

    • I understand that some players will disregard this as a Screamerstar list, and I’m okay with that. The core concept is that assault has changed, traditional methods are no longer effective and the key to winning now is speed (12″ per turn unhindered by terrain) and dedication.

  6. I remember people offering similar complaints when the 8th edition Vampire Counts army book came out in fantasy. “They suck now. You can’t win with them. Hand me my bottle and a rattle so I’ll stop crying.” A short time later, the Storm of Magic event happened and you could see how well each army was doing, both in the US and around the world. Vampire Counts was FAR from the bottom of the list in the world rankings. Apparently, the US had developed a very particular strategy and the new book changed how those mechanics worked. Rather than take a fresh look at the army and develop a new strategy, people simply wrote it off as a lost cause. The same is happening here. I love the phrase you use: “traditional methods are no longer effective”. After twenty years of playing this game, I’ve seen a lot of changes take place. You either learn to adapt and rethink your strategies, or you lose. (That’s true in individual matches as much as it is for the game itself.)

  7. […] week I posted an article on assault strategies in 6th edition.  While most of the feedback I received was positive – it turns out lots of people still […]

  8. […] to popular opinion, though, assault isn’t dead – in fact, it can still be a tournament-winning strategy.  The keys to building an effective Ork army are going to be fast, durable assault units aimed at […]

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