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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Analysis: To Kill a Wraithknight

So much crying over the newest Gargantuan Creature on the block! But how hard really is it to kill a Wraithknight?

Ask yourself the question: "Can my army list reliably wreck three Wave Serpents?" If you answered "yes" then good news, you can kill a new Wraithknight! If you answered "no", then stop telling the internet how much you suck and go redesign your army list instead.

More Machine Now Than Man

We need to start by quantifying the difference between vehicle and non-vehicle units in the 40k ruleset. These were very different way back in 3rd and 4th Ed; however, the addition of vehicle saving throws in 5th Ed, Hull Points in 6th Ed, and the pseudo-removal of 'Explodes' from the damage chart in 7th Ed, has resulted in a fundamental convergence of damage mechanics for both vehicles and non-vehicles:

  • A roll is made to contest a weapon's Strength value against a target's 'defence' value
  • If successful, a saving throw may be taken
  • If failed, 'wounds' are reduced by one (or more)
  • If you get reduced to zero 'wounds' you die
For non-vehicles, 'defence' value is obviously Toughness, 'wounds' are Wounds, and the full range of saving throws—armour, invulnerable and cover—are available. Vehicles instead have AV and HP respectively, and lack the option of an armour save, but essentially conform to the same model.

Where is all this going? I want to highlight that the high Toughness of the Wraithknight is not actually as intimidating as it must seem to so many fearful players.

Lost in Translation

Next we need to establish the relationship between vehicles and non-vehicles so we can translate the characteristics of one into the other to enable an 'apples with apples' comparison.

Wounds and HP are obviously equivalent; get reduced to zero of either and you die. But while most non-vehicles have only a single Wound, the standard for vehicles is 3 HP, making them far more resilient in general—but note that there is very little variance in HP amongst the wide variety of vehicles in 40k.

Toughness and AV is a little harder to translate, but they are in fact linearly related. The simple formula for conversion is:
T + 4 = AV
Don't believe me? Let's step through a few example conversions to establish the proof.

T6 = AV10

We'll start at the minimum AV value for vehicles, and the typical minimum T value for Monsters (although some are only T5). How do we successfully wound or glance/penetrate such a target?

  • S3 wounds T6 on 6 / cannot affect AV10
  • S4 wounds T6 on 6 / glances AV10 on 6
  • S5 wounds T6 on 5+ / glances AV10 on 5+
  • S6 wounds T6 on 4+ / glances AV10 on 4+
  • S7 wounds T6 on 3+ / glances AV10 on 3+
  • S8 wounds T6 on 2+ / glances AV10 on 2+
  • S9+ wounds T6 on 2+ / auto-glances AV10
My formula is looking good so far; let's check the other end of the T versus AV scale.

T10 = AV14

I'm quite sure that nothing [currently] in the game has T10, but there are certainly quite a few AV14 vehicles around—and even a single AV15 Fortification—at this time:

  • S7 wounds T10 on 6 / cannot affect AV14
  • S8 wounds T10 on 6 / glances AV14 on 6
  • S9 wounds T10 on 5+ / glances AV14 on 5+
  • S10 wounds T10 on 4+ / glances AV14 on 4+
Hey look at that, it works again! Hopefully you'll take my word that this formula applies linearly between T6-10 and AV10-14, but feel free to work it out for yourself if you aren't convinced yet...

Portrait of a Wraithknight

Try to put aside that scary-looking T8 / W6 / Sv3+ stat-line for now and consider what a Wraithknight would look like if it instead followed the rules for vehicles. Using the principles outlined above, we could model a Wraithknight as an AV12 HP6 vehicle with a 3+ save.

Now hopefully AV12 HP6 doesn't seem anywhere near as scary to you—if it does, you are simply not qualified to objectively assess the strength of new codexes, so stop crying on the internet and go improve your game.

A single, hypothetical AV12 HP6 vehicle is very much like two typical AV12 vehicles. You can kill two AV12 vehicles, right? Of course, this AV12 HP6 vehicle happens to have a 3+ save; but there are already real AV12 vehicles with a 3+ save in the game—Wave Serpents. And every other Eldar tank that never gets fielded because everyone just spams Serpents instead. But anyway, the Serpent is an AV12 HP3 vehicle that has a 3+ save, and Serpents die all the time. The Wraithknight is just two Serpents, so what's the big deal? Why does it seem so scary to so many?

And it gets better: the 3+ save of this hypothetical AV12 HP6 vehicle is an armour save, so if you're packing AP3 or better then killing this guy just got a whole lot easier!

However, there is a little more to this story, since the Wraithknight is no longer just a Monster, it is soon to be reborn a Gargantuan. Most significantly, this means it gets Feel No Pain by default. That extra 5+ save is something that cannot be directly translated to the vehicle rules, but we can abstract it by increasing the vehicle-Wraithknight's HP by 50% to 9. Think about it like this: if 33% of unsaved HP loss it blocked by FNP, then you need to do 9HP of damage to wreck the 6HP vehicle-Wraithknight.

And that leads to my hypothesis: one new Wraithknight can be defensively abstracted into three current Wave Serpents (or Falcons, Fire Prisms, Night Spinners, etc.)

And if you can kill three Serpents, you can kill one Wraithknight!

But yet again, it gets better, because there are ways to get around that FNP save, notably D weapons and weapons with Instant Death built-in (e.g. Force Weapons). Remember, even though Gargantuans don't get one-shotted by Instant Death, it still bypasses their FNP (and inflicts D3 Wounds).

And to ice the cake, look back at my comparison between T and AV, and you may notice one more critical detail: a S5 weapon can hurt a T8 target on a 6, even though it cannot hurt an AV12 target at all. While I'm not expecting Adepta Sororitas and their Rending Heavy Bolters to become an overnight counter-meta choice, stranger things have certainly happened in this wonderful game...

Finally, for all those crying that Poison and Sniper only affect Gargantuans on a 6, remember that Poison and Sniper does absolutely sweet-fuck-all to AV12 anyway, so you're still out ahead.


In a metagame already full of Imperial Knights and non-Gargantuan Wraithknights, you're mad not to include meltaguns (or something else that fills that role) in your army lists. Big, powerful, single models are already a thing! The evolution of the Wraithknight into a Gargantuan changes nothing!

In fact, the only army likely to suffer from this change are Dark Eldar; and they can easily adapt to rebalance their distribution of Poison and Lances to compensate.

So everyone, please, calm the fuck down. You can still kill Wraithknights.


  1. You left out:

    - explodes results
    - immobilized results
    - gradual decreasing in ability to be effective as weapons get destroyed as hull points are removed
    - Feel No Pain
    - haywire doesn't effect it
    - toe in cover gives cover
    - stomp attacks
    - ability to get buffed by psychic powers that exclude vehicles (including invisibility, run THOSE numbers)
    - 12 inch jump move followed by an actual threat in the assault phase.

    I agree with your premise, people are over-reacting. But you came across as smug and dismissive. "stop crying on the internet and go improve your game" is your advice? Most of your stuff is pretty even handed, this post was not. In what appears to be an attempt to calm things down, you made a straw man that doesn't hold up to any sort of scrutiny. The game is never played in a vacuum which is why math-hammer lists are notoriously ineffective in competitive play. At best this shows an emotional tirade born out of frustration, at worse a lack of comprehension of how the game actually functions. All your charts were good and will help to calm those new to the game by demonstrating that a WK is not an un-killable monstrosity. But that isn't the complete picture is it? If you can't see that a Gargantuan Monstrous Creature with jump and access to S:D weapons on a T8 platform with 6 wounds for a mere 295 points is game changer, you aren't playing the same game I am.

  2. Couldn't agree more, add in the fact that alot of wave serpents are taken down by melta and ignores cover medium strength weapons with poor AP, neither of which are as effective against a WK.

  3. Thanks for the input, but you've made a lot of mistakes, that I'll address in turn:
    Explodes is rare, like Instant Death, and has the same effect (D3 W or HP)
    Supers (e.g. Imp Knights) already ignore Weapon and Immobilised, and again these are rare (Pen then 1-in-6) and not really relevant
    FNP was specifically addressed, read again
    Haywire is a difference, but not common enough to matter
    'Toe in cover' is bullshit, it's not a 7th End terrain rule, it's a hangover from Luddites who can't move on from previous Ed terrain rules
    Stomp is irrelevant to defence
    What psychic buffs ignore vehicles? Invis works perfectly on vehicles, go brush up on your rules
    The WK always moved 12", all Gargs move 12", and again that's irrelevant to killing it

    You have missed the point entirely I fear. Defensively, there is very little difference between a WK and three Serpents, which you should be easily capable of killing.

    If you really think the WK is a "game changer" then you really don't understand the game. The game has not changed at all. The metagame will likely change away from single expensive models vulnerable to D to MSU and more distributed threat builds. But the WK is not hard to kill, and is not even much of a threat if you're already playing MSU.

  4. How exactly is melta ineffective against a WK?

  5. You said: "If you really think the WK is a "game changer" then you really don't understand the game"

    AND you said: "The metagame will likely CHANGE away from single expensive models vulnerable to D to MSU and more distributed threat builds"

    Apparently we don't agree on what the word change means.

    Toe in cover is not a rule? From ruins section of the BRB "models in ruins receive a 4+ cover save regardless of whether or not they are 25% obscured."

    You tried to compare the ability to survive between AV12 and the WK, not me, so the 12" move is completely comparable (closing the gap quickly often makes the difference, again, I play 'nids, I have a lot of experience with not getting there) as is stomp b/c ongoing combat matters. You mentioned FNP but didn't use it in your math-hammer. (I did indeed need to brush up on my psychic powers, I play 'nids and we haven't had access to the ones in the BRB since our codex dropped, so my derp there.)

    Again, I agree with your basic premise (if that premise is Wraithknights are killable so don't freak out). What I took issue with is your douchery in stating that people who are freaking out should "stop crying and improve your game." Your premise and conclusions are right but your comparison shows confirmation bias. My grandmother used to say honey gets more flies than vinegar, just sayin.

  6. I think you need to read again. There is a whole paragraph about FNP.

    And I still have no idea what you're on about regarding the 12" move. Vehicles move 12". Gargantuans move 12". Jump moves 12". So what? It makes no difference to killing the thing!

    We obviously don't see game change in the same way. How you play and win the game is not being changed by this new codex. What will change is the popular/effective army builds, i.e. the metagame.

    Did you play competitively back in 5th Ed? Melta was everywhere, and made high AV irrelevant just like D. The metagame adapted with MSU lists full of AV11 and AV12 but nothing tougher than that, since melta wasted the investment. I predict the same will happen again. The WK is not going to change the game, it will just force an adaptation in the metagame.

  7. True, you don't get 2D6 within half range, but you also don't have to get as close to engage and you bypass the target's save (melta doesn't bypass Jink, after all). If you are packing melta then you are well equipped to kill Monsters.

    While you won't be doing D3 wounds with melta, you will with Force Weapons or other Instant Death attacks. Vehicles and non-vehicles are not exactly the same, but they have equivalencies. If you build to deal with one then you should be capable of dealing with the other; if not then reconsider some of your build choices.

  8. Regarding terrain rules, your quote is correct; however, how does "a toe in cover" constitute a "model in ruins"? Area terrain no longer exists—that's purely a hangover from past editions. Unless a WK or other Monster can be placed IN the ruin them it is not entitled to a cover save. People realised this right at the start of 7th Ed, but in a good old knee-jerk reaction, many just kept on playing as if 'area terrain' was still a thing.

    Now don't feel bad if you've been playing this wrong, many people do. But remember that GW write codexes (and cost units) on the assumption that people are playing by the rules; they cannot account for house rules, tournament artificial restrictions, or misplayed rules. You should find that Monsters are much less favoured by the ruleset if the terrain rules are played correctly!

  9. the thing that worries people isn't the WK becoming a GC, most people'd be fine with that. what worries them is the ranged D weapons

  10. Hi Brian, thanks for the comment. I realise a lot of folks are worried about the D shooting, but I addressed that in my last post. In short, I'm not too worried about it, because there is not a huge difference between S10 Distort and D. The only thing that really changes is its effectiveness against other 'titan' class targets. I think we'll see less titanhammer and more MSU lists as a result. But the game will quickly find its new equilibrium and move on.

  11. Just found this blog and really like it so far so I figured I would chime in with a few points. The reason he kept bringing up a 12 inch movement is because it makes it easy to avoid non drop pod melta and close combat instant death weapons. Not a huge issue for long range stuff but it does play a role.

    The other part your missing when comparing a WK to AV 12 is that most av 12 vehicles have armor 10 on the back and in close combat. This allows you to harm a vehicle with units that would never harm a WK.

    In addition things that destroyed vehicles easy, haywire templates from nids, legion of the damned melta. Are probably doing very little if anything to a WK. Vehicles were always getting glanced out in combat by high volume high ap shots and that won't cut it against a WK. It will take close to 100 strength seven shots firing at

  12. (Wow got cut off) firing at bs4 to take down that knight. Also a full 5 man stern guard unit will only average 1ish wound when shooting at a WK. And many armies just can't deal with it at all. Mainly my nids and daemons. Necrons and centurions can mess it up though.

    Also every tourney I have ever played in has has the toe in cover rule for 7th. If you can give me an example of a TO ruling against toe in cover I would love to use it in the dark star gt next week.

  13. Gargantuans are only wounded by poison on 6s...
    ...yet there's no mention of lifebane being tweaked against them.
    Get your stuff with lifebane out.
    Or go for instant death stuff. True, Gargantuans don't outright die from, but they'll still lose some more wounds.
    Even poison is still okay considering those st3 and st4 models/weapons couldn't wound the Gargantuan at all without the poison rule. Yet they still wound it on 6s...

  14. Hi RAGM, welcome to Elite 40k!

    The reason I don't see 12" movement as relevant is because every other target in the same class as the WK also moves 12". Vehicles, Knights, etc. So if your plan to kill those targets relies on slow, short-ranged shooting or assault, then you were already struggling, the WK becoming a GK doesn't change that.

    The two most common archetypes of anti-tank weapon are Autocannon and Meltaguns. Against a WK, melta is better because it bypasses its armour save. Not getting 2D6 penetration is not really a big deal, if you see that as a bonus for getting closer instead of a penalty for not getting closer. Against a competent opponent who can position properly it is very difficult to get 2D6 melta shots a lot of the time.

    Yes, blazing away with S7 at a WK is not going to be productive (it's actually ~80 shots, not ~100, but the point stands). But if your army list was built purely on S7 then it was pretty shit anyway! Have a look at the post I wrote on tailoring my Eldar tournament list, I explain why a mixture of firepower classes is so important. Now if you find yourself fighting agains the 'new cookiecutter build' Eldar then your S7 firepower will be far more productively employed against their Jetbikes ;-)

    Regarding the "toe in cover", I'll give you a couple of Rulebook references:

    p108, "Ruins are difficult terrain. Models in ruins receive a 4+ cover save, regardless of whether or not they are 25% obscured."

    p108, "...when one of the following rules refers to a model being 'in' a piece of terrain, this means that model... is actually standing on the piece of scenery..."

    Now read through the entire terrain section of the Rulebook, and try to find any definition of a base being an extension of a terrain piece (like in previous Editions). It is not there. The base of ruin no longer counts as a ruin itself in 7th Ed. So if you want your WK or whatever to claim a cover save then it must be "actually standing on the piece of scenery", not just its base.

  15. I'm glad someone is picking up on that very important point, Chris, well done! Just like vehicles having a unique vulnerability to Haywire, non-vehicles have a unique vulnerability to Fleshbane, other fixed To Wound attacks, Sniper, Poison, Force, etc. Sure, Sniper and Poison are reduced in effectiveness against Gargantuans, but that's still infinitely better than zero effectiveness against vehicles!

  16. Yes wounding on a 6 is still better than not being able to wound but still not good. Also fleshbane is hard to come by in most codexes and you would need to get into combat first which will be hard to do against a smart opponent. I had some other comments about why this is bad above. Still it haven't seen a non centurion or eldar list that can effectively deal with the new knight without completely ignoring the other 1550 points of the eldar army for multipule turns.

  17. Pretty much every Faction has access to ranged D of its own, and that is the single best way to kill a WK. Also flyers; Eldar anti-air is really only Crimson Hunters now, and Vendettas are great for killing WK, and Helldrakes kill Jetbikes.

    Astra should be fine. Khorne Daemonkin are really strong against Eldar. Centurions are widely available and a great unit anyway, so expect to see even more of them.

  18. Thanks for that, it's great seeing some sanity in the sea of untested madness

  19. Yeah I agree completely with the ranged d comment, I am strictly a tourney player so most of the time the ranged d is bandec anyways. For me this is the main reason why the sky is not falling. Agree also on the flyer comment as a nid player it's my primary build anyways. Vendettas are good but still only doing about 1 wound a turn. I'm curious how you think the khorne book is particularly strong against the new eldar if the ranged d is allowed. If it's banned the on yeah they would be a nightmare.

  20. Eldar are still going to struggle when overwhelmed by multiple fast assault threats. KD can bring lots of Maulerfiends and Flesh Hounds that can both spread out to cover lots of table space (making running away harder) and close the gap very quickly. Eldar have nothing that will stand up to that sort of assault threat. And while Stomp does prevent a WK from being tarpitted all day by Fearless Conscripts, it is still easy to lock a WK for one turn so you can whack a Bloodthirster into it. No one is going to trade two ranged D shots for D melee attacks on their WK, so it will get slapped by a real assault monster.

  21. You're welcome Pascalnz, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  22. Completely agree with what your saying about terrain but here in the states it has been ruled in every major tourney that toe in cover is the standard.

    Also it would be interesting to see you put together a list that you would play against the new eldar not using eldar yourself or the new crons. Might make for a good article because while I agree that they obviously can be killed most armies can't do it fast enough to not get wrecked or completely ignore the other scary targets eldar has. Like have repeatedly stated drop pod or deep stike cents work but they are the answer to most gc

  23. I've posted one for you ;-)

  24. Such long article about sitting WK compared to 3 standing Serpents. Did you noticed the weapon of WK has changed? You just left out problem of fire power of WK comparing to Serpents. To be at least a bit more realistic try to compare battle of 2 riptides against 1 WK or 3 Serpents. Do you see? There is no problem to kill WK. There is a problem how quick WK cam kill you. After killing one Serpent it cant any longer use its guns, and even costs of Serpents are little higher.

  25. A fresh note from practice:

    I'm just back from a team tournament where I played with a typical Eldar power-list with 5 serpents in it - naturally, it was still by the old codex. So, in the course of 4 games my opponents have scored a total of 13 kills on my serpents, and just ONE of them happened to be due to "Explodes" result.

  26. Actually the entire point of this post is about killing WK, not about it's weapons. You can read the previous post about that.

  27. Curious, why not take the d sword on the WK now ? it seems very viable to me, straight towards your opponent as a fire magnet, the 5++ stacking with FNP is fairly significant too, makes it twice as hard for weapons that would bypass your Armour (most of the weps people will use to try and take it down)

    You also get max value from the new addition of stomp and the fact it's initiative five, is anything else I5 D ? in some ways the wraithcannons is a waste of its raw damage potential... also I cant roll 3+ to hit with two dice very consistently... then cover or invulns etc etc , how often are you just praying for sixes ? the sword version potentially offers many more chances for those sixes plus sixes from stomp and 'ignores' cover...

    The only thing that I actually prefer about the cannons is that you can potentially 'tin open' a transport then assault the contents. The new WK is significantly better at this than it used to be.

  28. Hi Matt, I agree that the melee WK is really good. You can give it two Scatter Lasers to let it pop light transports pre-charge. Eldrad as Warlord is guaranteed Scout for your WK, so second turn charge is highly likely. Renew is nice but the way Warlocks are now you can't really count on getting it. However, Hemlocks are an alternative source of Renew.

  29. Had not thought of eldrad trick. To be honest I shy away from psychers and high points investment in hq.

  30. I'm also not a fan of expensive single models, or over-reliance on psychic powers—I prefer good honest firepower, and lots of it! But if you're fielding a WK you're already taking steps down the deathstar path, so you may as well take a couple more steps and bring Eldrad along too ;)

  31. I'm going to run it with sword and shield and nothing else, see how that goes. I have Eldrad though so I can always do tests to see if it's worthwhile

  32. One other thing from mulling over Swordknight. You are going to get max value from the blind effect of the sheild too (assuming it is retained)

  33. The Blind shield works the same, and while it's not something to rely upon, it is a nice little bonus. But I think the biggest advantage is the pressure it will apply to your opponent, which could force errors from some players.