Thursday, 30 June 2011

Deathwing Tactics - The Alpha Strike Deployment

Who remembers when DW were black?!
Righto guys, another post in the series of Deathwing Tactics and Deployments. Having drafted out some of the Mission/Deployment posts, I found myself referring to a couple of concepts more than once, and from this, felt really they should get their own article. These two concepts are as follows.

  • Alpha Strike Deployment
  • Phalanx Deployment

Now both are strikingly different deployment types, and I find generally speaking I do just use what I refer to as the "Phalanx" deployment. While there are various other deployments (and variations upon both), and nothing is set in stone, I do find these are two of the archtypes I look at when looking at the board/mission. From this I can look to my opponents list, how the board is set up, what he might want to do, what side he gets, and potentially how he sets up (if going 2nd). With so many foot models (26 40mm bases, 6 biker bases, 2 60mm bases) there is potential to clog up or be forced into difficult positioning just on pure size of units alone, despite the model count of your army. I mean we can change things up as well, for example, kill point games against say a mech heavy rhino / pred's / vindicators, you can plonk two squads in the corners, couple in middle and just cover the entire board with good fire lanes and essentially out range him / side armour etc.

Lets quickly review these two and the differences. 

  • Alpha Strike is pretty much what we are used to seeing, with a little variation, we have a much smaller model count on the board, having (in this setup) only 3 terminator squads and the bikes (we start with only the bikes on the board), but this allows us to be super aggressive and look to cripple the opponents army straight off the bat, and set up 2nd and 3rd turn charges to mop up the remains.
  • Phalanx is where we look to keep everything tight and secure. If the opponent has no template weapons, we can pack together, this way there is no "obvious" choice to pick at, and everything is supporting itself, it allows multi-charges and generally should leave "no man behind". Name of the game here is to avoid isolation. Offers much wider range of deployment options / reactions, including DWA/Outflank/Reserves and 1st or 2nd options.
So Phalanx we'll cover in the next post, which is much more defensive, and can be a lot more variable due to mission, deployment and opposition, and more its how you use the bikes and terminators, target priority and game plan that is the major factors in this. With Alpha strike its all about knowing when to use it, or when to avoid using it, as it can go horribly wrong and basically lose you the game before a dice has been cast!

The Alpha Strike:

In much the same vein as say a Imperial Guard Veteran Alpha Strike, we are looking to use our Bikes Scout ability to get in some serious first turn action. However, unlike the IG version, we don't have the option of having our entire army set up on the board, and thus don't have the same fire support. However one key difference, with the Doublewing Alpha strike, we have the option of the charge. So lets break it down stage by stage, though I am sure many of you already know what I am talking about.

We are going to assume that most criteria have been met, which I'll explain later, and we are using pitched battle in this example.
  1. Deploy Ravenwing Bike Squad's 12" onto the board 
  2. Reserve all Deathwing - 3xSquads to be available for Deathwing Assault
  3. Scout Moves see you pushing bikers a further 12" forward
  4. 1st Turn Reserve/Drop - DWA come down first, a full 6" ahead of your bikers (3xTerminator Squads) - 
  5. 1st Turn Movement - Bikers now have 12" move - putting them on enemy deployment line
  6. 1st Turn Assault Phase - Bikers can still assault into opposition deployment zone
So a few stages, what's happening here? Well we are using our scout move (bikers set up by themselves on the board, this allows 3 of the 5 squads to DWA down on the board 1st turn). By getting to roughly the 24" mark (half way up the table) in the scout move (terrain allowing) we can cast a pretty wide net (remember each bike is a teleport homer, we have 6x bikes and 2x attack bikes - all separate) for the terminators to come down.  So this will net us:

  • 24" in from deployment + scout move
  • 30" in due to the 6" teleport homer range
  • 1.7" due to size of terminator base. The first terminator landing only needs his back edge touching the 6" zone, thus gaining a further 1.6" from the base, so our "front" terminator when placed has gained a full 3" to the front of his base, putting him 15" away from the nearest part of your enemies board edge! 
From here - the bikes can zip another 12" forward, which has them on or around the 12" deployment line. Now remember to make sure you leave some form of path with your terminators to get the melta's through - we don't want to block them out.

The bikers now take on another role here (after their delivery system), as not only can they hit 4 separate targets with melta weaponry, we can assault as well a further 6" - and get those melta bombs touching vehicles - so we can think about multi-assaults as well. If 2xMG's fail to wreck/explode a tank, quite often you can get a multi-charge, putting the krak grenades (auto hitting pretty much all the time) on the existing target, and meltabombs (or vice versa) onto another target! The attack bikes can do the same. Better yet, if your facing off against, lets say a standard Blood Angels MSU unit, the troops that potentially fall out might just be the 4 dudes and a melta-gunner, something that your bikers do well at tar-pitting - reducing further the incoming fire at your terminators - who can now look to shoot/assault mutli assault pretty much anywhere on T2.

The CML's generally will look to use the long range and extended "deployment" to get unexpected side shots, for example on corner placed AutoLas Predators, Hydra's and the big nasties like Vindicators (which will be priority firing).

Why, what, when, where and how?

Okay so we've actually covered the how, but lets look at what circumstances this tactic will most likely be utilised in.  There are some armies that you'll just flat out never use this against - in my eyes, Tyranids, Orks, both Eldar races and generally "foot heavy" lists (especially any that could quite easily follow up on the charge). Lets also, to an extent, include any list that your basically giving them "their chance" by putting yourself on the door step. This could be a Chaos list with a couple of raiders full of zerkers - this is where we go back to our "Tips for Deathwing" - assessing the opponent. Its just not worth the risk if you feel your playing to far into their wheel house. Also lets not forget, all reserve / deep striking armies! The likes of DoA/Jumper BA's or Demon's will net you nothing!

Why not the Eldars? They can be meched to high heavens as well - plus against Dark Eldar the bikes can chime in with bolters! Well Dark Eldar can go straight up Dashofpepper-esque "reserve alpha strike" or someone that might not have the list / confidence in doing that might just deploy in a corner since his raiders/venoms can move damn fast to reposition. Eldar are much the same, Wave Serpents and Falcons really don't gain the same disadvantage of being penned into a corner say a normal SM army might - and heaven forbid they have double autarch - they can reserve manipulation the hell out of the mission.

Orks and Nids should be fairly obvious. These lists want to get into combat with you, they need weight of numbers to bring you down - and you want to chip away at that (that said, the idea of CML'ing and Melta'ring a lone Tervigon on T1 - and bogging down a unit of gants with the bikes isn't shocking ... but very very situational, and dependant on your opponent/list). Again, putting yourself on their door step so they can get an all-engrossing charge on you, is not ideal.

The next bit for me is quite important. WHEN? Lets assume we have a ideal opponent to do this against. The roll goes first, and your opponent chooses you to go first. Not uncommon, some guys like to have the final say in missions, and its perfect as you now can't be seized. I'll grab that with two hands. You win to go first - this is trickier, as you know you could be seized, 1 in 6 chance, do you risk it? I am of the belief now days, especially at VP tourneys, that you want to - but like I say, Deathwing does like going second, it is a great reactive army, and being able to deploy according to mission and your opponent is dead handy. If you get that ideal set-up, its just worth the risk of the "seize" (I might think twice against a Coteaz list though lol) - you can always have one MM attack bike "hide" out of LOS and still project a decent enough DWA range if your worried anyway.

Another bit for the criteria will be the mission - and I'll look at this in more depth, but generally those bikes feed 4 easy kill points to people, so I like to use them very passively in kill point missions. With a low KP count you can generally just use the CML's to plink your way to a quick lead and try and stay ahead for the game.

So when assessing, we are essentially looking at:

  • Is it the right army type?
  • Are you going to risk it given the choice of first turn?
  • Can your opponent deploy to deny you the Alpha without destroying his own game plan/ability to win the mission?
  • Does the mission give me any benefit to Alpha'ing?

There is a lot of pro's to this, it is potentially crippling, especially to Mech MSU armies that don't have the ability to deal with 15 terminators just a few inches away from you. It is risky, but the reward can be huge.

There we have it, another of the tools in the deathwing tool box, and another reason why I love using bikers over speeders or hybrid lists.

So we've covered the aggressive deployment strategy, next up is the "Phalanx deployment", which is a lot more vanilla and defensive so to speak. It has a few variations which we'll cover, and I always describe it as the deployment you do if you really have no idea how to handle the opposition. I do want to mention that this is not just cut and dry, one or the other. There are times where using DWA is a good idea even without bikes on the board, but these are much more situational, dependant on missions, deployments and opposition types, which will get covered in the more mission/deployment specific posts.

I'd like to get the "Phalanx" post up early next week (between Sun-Tues) and follow up with some more unit specific tactics (Belial, Ravenwing namely) and a Hybrid list thoughts / tactics post as well before I get into my Deathwing Deployment in Action (for want of a better title) - this way we'll have a nice set of links to use in the series, save me writing it all up, and you guys trying to remember my drivel.


  1. I always have a hard time explaining why you shouldn't normally use this alpha-strike approach with DW. This article is full of goodies and lays out the pros and cons very clearly. Awesome job!

  2. Venerable Brother30 June 2011 at 20:12

    Another great read dude and we are really beginning to see the in's and out's of DW for those that haven't played them before..and for those that have but not since the FAQ.
    For me personally, I used to play with 2 Land Raiders and a Chaplain, with a combat oriented apothecary, banner, Belial squad...and it was wicked fun...but not that competitive, post-FAQ this is a great army and I'm really happy you are pushing them as far as you can take them..

    On the Coteaz thing...they are psychologically damaging to your want to Alpha Strke and yet of all the GK builds, they are actually the most vulnerable...look around on the web..Killswitch's post from a few days ago and Lee Brown's army for Brighton as just 2 examples (highly relevant to your next tournament ;) ), both of which feature Coteaz and a sizeable vehicle count, in addition neither feature Servo Skulls..the alpha is actually perfect against them.
    Look again at Brighton, there is a dual Raider list with termies inside. Fuck the termies, the Libbie in the list has no skulls...hit both of them up and screw it, if he seizes, he seizes...if not you are in a unique position (along Vet IG) to punish and cripple movement and offensive capability early..

    Just thoughts.
    Look forward to more.

  3. Cheers guys.

    Yeah there are some really vulnerable coteaz lists for sure - but again it comes down to whether you think its worth it (list wise), but for sure, if he seizes - its not the end of the world in most circumstances/missions - henchmen heavy will have a hard time getting you off objectives, and rhinos/chimera's are quite vulnerable to CML fire.

    The double raider list ... mmm ;D Getting those 2 boys out of the way as well is big VP's.

    Like I say its a great tool in that box, and will make people thing twice about what they want to do.

    Got an interesting game in tonight vs quite a good wolves list, I was really hoping to get pitched and get 1st, but alas, dawn of war and kill points, and 2nd lol. (Actually nice to get a really competitive list to play against outside of Andy at our store, the dude came 2nd at 2500 tourney last weekend - 2xRune 3xGH 2xLF 1xScout 4xTWC and smattering of mech and wolf guard like SW's do!)

    I am really really enjoying DW again, this series has really made me think a lot more as well with the army. Sisters and GK's are just going to be "relief", but I don't see myself dropping DW as my main army for a little while. Though I do need a back up as Andy is already sick and tired of playing against Terminators! :D