Way of the Warp: Selecting the Right Heavy Support for Your Chaos Space Marines
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Why do I need heavy support?
Well, some of you may consider this a no brainer but I figured I'd start at ground level and work my way up. Heavy Support is a unique part of your army, and as it's name implies it is basically your big guns, your most powerful weapons, tanks, and heavy hitter available. Troops and HQ's are obvious necessities for your army, but I often find you can get away with not fielding fast attack or elite choices in a Chaos Space Marine army. They just aren't always necessary. Heavy Support, on the other hand, gives you access to things you can't get with your other army. Mainly, a ludicrous amount of blast templates and long range tank hunting firepower. They can help thin ranks of hordes more effectively than your standard bolters, or destroy enemy vehicles too maneuverable or tough for your troops to deal with. Plus, most can do this at a very effective range.
So? What type of Heavy Support should I use in my army?
Well, Chaos has multiple Heavy Support options: Obliterators, Havocs, Vindicators, Predators, Defilers, and Landraiders. These can be split into two groups: vehicles and infantry. Obliterators and Havocs form your infantry, while everything else falls into the vehicle category. There is a fairly simple rule to follow when selecting heavy support… fall in with the crowd. If you're using an infantry force of Noise Marines, led by a sorcerer, no rhinos or anything, infantry HS (Oblits and Havocs) are your ideal choice. If you have a mechanized berserker list led by a Demon Prince, go for the vehicles like demolishers or defilers. This is a basic list building strategy that relies on stressing a certain part of your army. Too many tanks will overwhelm your enemy's ability to deal with them all, and any of his anti-infantry guns will be wasted. On the other side of the coin, too many infantry and your enemy's lascannons and big tank hunting powers aren't put to good use. You basically take the balance in the enemy force and through it out the window. That strategy can be applied to all armies, not just Chaos. So remember this:
No rhinos or monstrous creatures, stick with Havocs and Obliterators.
Demon Princes, Greater Demons, and rhinos should have you relying on your vehicles.
Cool. So what's the pros and cons of each HS option? How should I know which one to use?
Obliterators: These guys are nice tough targets, and pack plenty of guns to boot! They are expensive, but granted their special rules give them multiple weapons. So, an Obliterator will always have the tool for the job. However, there is one specific sacrifice you make: Quantity. An Obliterator, while versatile, still only fires one weapon per turn. In higher point games, when you have more and more big targets to worry about, this lack of shots could easily spell disaster if you roll poorly and can't take down your enemy. My personal advice: Strong units, a great use of spare points if you have them. They work great in lower point games, but once you start heading upwards of 1000 points you're gonna want to rely on some more guns to ensure enemy armor is destroyed. There are two special abilities not to be overlooked by Devastators: Deep Strike and Slow and Purposeful. I very rarely would condone the use of deepstriking Obliterators, as you want them shooting from turn 1 onward. However, there may occasionally come a point in time when it's necessary to keep them in reserves so don't forget about this little rule. Slow and Purposeful is wonderful, as it lets your Oblits move and keep up a constant stream of fire. Very useful for moving forward to more advantageous cover. Mainly, use this if you're enemy has first turn. Deploy them out of line of sight so that you can move them out and fire after your foe has taken his first turn.
Havocs: They are a very basic addition to an infantry force: More CSM's with big guns. They have the advantage of being able to hide quite well, compared to your tanks, and put out a high rate of fire with a bunch of different weapons. The biggest problem is cost and survivability. A basic lascannon costs more than 2 basic Marines, and if you take a small squad of 5 any casualties can put you out close to 50 points. Remember, these guys die as well as any basic Marine does. Keep them back and hidden in cover, a havoc squad out in the open can be as good as dead. Also, make sure to throw some extra Marines on for meatshields: That way, taking shots from enemy fire isn't nearly as damaging as it could be. As for weapon selection, try to stick with one type of weapon. If you want to go tank hunting, take lascannons. If you're gunning down hordes of orks, look at the heavy bolter or reaper autocannon. If you're not sure what you want, stick with the multi-purpose missile launcher. It's hard to go wrong with missiles. Some people swear by mixed Havoc squads, and I'm not one to blatantly oppose them. However, if you're looking for the most bang for your buck a single-purpose Havoc squad works best. This is a double-edged sword, as they can perform very well against chosen targets but against other targets their performance won't be as spectacular . Havocs can also potentially get a wealth of special weapons, but I advice not to. Your Chosen squads can get special weapons and use them to greater effect, so take advantage of the big guns havocs have. Havocs have access to some standard kit Chaos Space Marines do, like icons. Usually, I avoid using icons on havocs as most of the God-specific ones are un-necessary in my opinion, but Icon of Chaos Glory is always helpful for leadership tests. Rhinos are another interesting upgrade, if you want havocs moving around and being mobile. However, like Oblits I discourage this route as it detracts from the Havoc's main goal: Shooting. Even to get in a rhino, move 12", and disembark, costs you 2 turns of shooting. 1/3rd of your game, the Havocs won't be doing anything you paid for. Not a very productive use, in my opinion. HOWEVER, it should be noted that you can buy a rhino for the Havocs only to have it advance with your mainstream troops. With no more dedicated transports, if your berserkers lose their rhino they can simply hop into the "spare" and continue on their way.
Vindicator: This is a great choice, in my opinion, and can always find some use on the battlefield . Your demolisher cannon is great for taking out any swarms, but also makes a great MEQ Definition: Marine Equivalentkiller or in a pinch can destroy any vehicles that stray too close. However, in most instances take one for anti-hordes. You have better options for anti-armor than a demolisher cannon. Probably the best thing about this tank is it's low price tag, weighing in at a little more than an 8 man Marine squad. It is affordable and can always help you out in a pinch, and I highly recommend it for nearly any army. One important upgrade to take a look at is Demonic Possession: You don't want your Vindicator not shooting at any point in the game, and keeping it mobile is your best option too. Therefore, this upgrade still puts you in at less than a Defiler but will keep your Vindicator rolling on. The biggest downside of the Vindicator is it's small range, so you will probably have to keep it grinding forward if you plan on firing at the enemy. It doesn't have the battlefield control that a Defiler does, nor does it have the defensive capabilitie s. Still, if your army is moving forward a Vindicator will go with it, bringing it's wonderfully strong blast templates as well.
Predator: The amount of stopping power a predator can put out is wonderful. However, the main problem I see with a predator is that they're just soooo expensive. A tank hunting pred with turret lascannon and two sponson lascannons weighs in 15 points more than a Defiler, and can be killed with a lucky shot. If you really need three lascannons in your army, the predators is a cheaper alternative to havocs but I still dislike the high price tag. The more effective version, in my opinion, is an autocannon load-out. Considering that you can take a base price predator for less than 5 marines and place it on the field, it's an effective model against Orks, Eldar, Dark Eldar, and other armies with low armor vehicles. Another important thing I might add is on sponsons: Remember that they are totally optional! You don't have to take sponsons if you don't have the points or don't need them, so when you model them consider leaving them unglued so you can take them off. Predators are powerful, but generally I would recommend against them as with all the goodies they become very expensive.
Defiler:Now, here's where it gets interesting. Defilers are by far my favorite Chaos Heavy Support choice. The models are amazing, the fluff is great and they pack a real punch on the battlefield! Regardless of the role you need filled, a Defiler can help you out. They are great vs. hordes (battlecannon) and their secondary weapons (autocannon, lascannon) can cause some havoc as well. And, the best part about Defilers is close combat! These guys are great in combat, against the right enemy's at least. My preferred weapon selection is the basic reaper autocannon and close combat arm. I rarely spend points on the havoc or lascannon, simply because most of the time your Defiler will be shooting the battle cannon, so you won't be able to fire anything else. The autocannon is nice insurance in case the battlecannon is destroyed. I like to keep my Defiler's advancing constantly, and often I aim to get them into combat as soon as possible. Most weak enemies won't have a chance of destroying you, so it's quite plausible for the Defiler to engage and destroy entire squads of Space Marines without suffering any damage. I recommend them for any mech/hybrid armies, but one important note to keep in mind is that their armor isn't very impressive. Therefore, to stay in the game Defilers survive by avoiding anti-tank fire. Use them in large numbers or make sure you have plenty of intimidating demon princes and rhinos loaded with zerkers to keep your enemy occupied while your Defilers wreak havoc, free from anti-tank fire. And remember, COMBAT! With Defiler close combat weapons, you can tear through most enemies very efficiently and even high armor vehicles will have something to fear from a Defiler. Now, use three at once and watch your opponent's face as he tries to knock them all out!
Land Raider: My advice on these guys: Don't take them. However, that's my personal opinion. Land Raiders have certain uses, but ALWAYS make sure that you weigh their benefits with cost. Can you get something more cost productive? Something that does more? Land Raiders are essentially a predator and a rhino in one. Pretty multi-purpose tank, but expensive as well. However, the land raider has several cool benefits going for it... AV 14 all around. No matter what it's gonna be a tough nut to crack and either your enemy will ignore it or drown it in anti-tank fire. Both are good for you, as something is being neglected by said anti-tank. Also, the land raider is the only tank that can transport terminators . So if you have a big 'ol terminator squad that you don't wanna risk deepstriking, the land raider is a nice choice to bring them into combat. The last, and probably best, use of the land raider is for assaults. Yep, any unit can assault in the same turn they disembark from the land raider, which is nice and can get big 'ol units of zerkers into combat fast. Land Raiders are indeed a powerful, tough, destructive, and useful tank... however, for me it comes down to cost. You spend 220 points on one model that has a similair role to many others, at a cheaper price. And regardless of how tough it is, one lucky shot can still bring it down. In my opinion, the strongest way to use landraiders is in numbers: There are some super competitive lists at the moment that rely on land raider spam. Sure, most armies can take on 1 landraider. .. how about 6? Since they can be taken as dedicated transports you can cram more of them into your list instead of just using up Heavy Support slots. It's a fun little trick.
So yep, that's my advice on selecting heavy support options. It's far from a fool-proof definite guide, but it hopefully gives you some advice and ideas to think about when tailoring your Chaos army.