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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, Elysian Drop Troops


I was going to save my review of Regiments until after my generic Faction review, but the recent Forge World FAQ is so significant for competitive Astra Militarum play that the Elysians are getting an earlier review!

Elysian Regiment Rules

In brief, if you choose Elysian Drop Troops as your <Regiment> variable keyword for an eligible unit then that unit gains the Aerial Drop rule. Not all Astra Militarum units are eligible to take Elysian as their Regiment keyword—no Conscripts, tanks or artillery are the notable omissions. But note that this does not prevent you from taking Conscripts, tanks and artillery in the same Detachment (with a different Regiment keyword) you just can't Aerial Drop those units, or give them Orders from an Elysian Officer.

Elysian Officers issue a slightly different set of Orders:

  • Instead of Fix Bayonets (which is useless without Conscripts) they get Hold the Line to ignore casualties when taking Morale tests.
  • Move and Fire is an improved version of Forwards for the Emperor—instead of being able to shoot after Advancing, the unit simply treats all its weapons as having the Assault type, so you could move normally (or Aerial Drop) and fire Heavy weapons with no BS penalty. This is a nerf for Rapid Fire weapons, but remember that instead of shooting Lasguns, you can have every member of a squad throw a Frag or Krak Grenade!
The Elysian wargear list is slightly different, notably lacking Power Axes and Lascannon (for infantry), but you still get cheap Plasma Guns and Pistols so it's all good! They also have the option to take free Krak Grenades on most units.

Finally, eligible units chosen to be Elysian that would normally have the Aeronautica Imperialis keyword substitute it for the Elysian keyword, even if they would not normally have the <Regiment> variable keyword. Before the FAQ, this just meant that Elysian Officers of the Fleet could Aerial Drop alongside the troops. After the FAQ...

FAQ Goodness

Two items in the Imperial Armour Index: Astra Militarum FAQ have a huge impact on competitive list design:

  • Elysian Command Squads are not limited to one-per-Officer
  • Elysian Officers of the Fleet now buff Elysian instead of Aeronautica Imperialis units

Command Squads

Even this early in the new game, everyone knows that Astra Militarum Command Squads are very competitive—cheap BS3+ models with ubiquitous access to cheap Plasma Guns is a good recipe. And in the case of Militarum Tempestus Command Squads, the ability to Aerial Drop into rapid fire range makes it a great recipe. Adding Orders for rerolls to hit is just icing on the cake!

The Index FAQ unfortunately limited Command Squads to one-per-Officer, which was definitely a hit to efficiency, but not a total nerf. After all, a Tempestor Prime plus a Tempestus Command Squad is still cheaper than two Scion Squads for the same four Plasma Guns.

The Imperial Armour FAQ did not, however, follow suit and limit Elysian Command Squads in the same way. And since they can Aerial Drop, they are a perfect (and cheaper) alternative to Militarum Tempestus. Furthermore, having your Command Squads share their Regiment keyword with your other squads makes optimising your Orders usage so much easier. It really is all good!

Now I expect that this inconsistency will be fixed in the next Imperial Armour FAQ (whenever that is), but until then, enjoy the power of Command Squad spam! And if it does get fixed, then you can still use Elites slots for Platoon Commanders for cheap and easy spamming, which is not an option for Militarum Tempestus.

Strafing Coordinates

The Officer of the Fleet is a mediocre utility Character in a normal Astra Militarum list; his Air Raid ability is situationally useful but not enough to justify his points cost and Elites slot, and his Strafing Coordinates ability (reroll 1 to hit against one enemy unit within 18" for all Aeronautica Imperialis units) really only pays off if you're taking lots of flyers.

The FAQ erratas Elysian Officers of the Fleet to replace all instances of the Aeronautica Imperialis keyword on their datasheet with Elysian. This means that not only do Elysian Officers of the Fleet get to Aerial Drop alongside the troops, but their Strafing Coordinates ability now buffs every single Elysian unit in your list!

Let's consider this carefully: at the start of your Shooting phase, each Officer of the Fleet chooses one enemy unit with 18" and 'tags' them so that all Elysian units reroll 1 to hit against that target that turn. This is a very similar effect to the Take Aim Order, but instead of Ordering one friendly unit to reroll against any target, you allow all friendly units to reroll against one target. Just like Orders, Strafing Coordinates works automatically—and also just like Orders, it occurs "at the start of your Shooting phase" so it can be sequenced before you actually issue any Orders. This means that your Officers of the Fleet can 'tag' your targets of choice for the turn, then your Company/Platoon Commanders can Order your units to Bring It Down for a combined effect of reroll 1 to hit and 1 to wound!

Combined Effect

For a mere 56 pts (!) and an Elites slot you can take an Elysian Command Squad with four Plasma Guns. With at least one Officer of the Fleet (25 pts) and Elysian Company Commander (40 pts) you can double-buff your Plasma squad to get the following expected damage:


Now that's pretty damn impressive! A couple of each type of Officer, and four Plasma squads only costs 354 pts and will kill two or three tanks or monsters on the drop.

List Building with Elysians

So what do these Regiment rules and FAQ rulings mean to competitive list building?

Firstly, poor old Stormtroopers are obsolete; Elysian Command Squads and Elysian Veteran Squads are strictly better and cheaper. Being able to share Orders around easily, and benefit from Strafing Coordinates, is just more powerful then an improved Sv and a few Hot-Shot Lasguns.

With that out of the way, how you use Elysians depends on whether you want to build around them or bolt them on to another Imperium list.

Bolt-On

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think the best Elysian contribution to a competitive list is based on Elysian Command Squads with Plasma Guns, supported by Elysian Officers of the Fleet, and Elysian Company Commanders or Elysian Platoon Commanders (depending on whether you have more HQ or Elites slots available). You can build a very powerful alpha-strike with these elements, and a good alpha-strike wins often games in 8th Ed.

I think many Imperium lists will enjoy adding two or three Officers of the Fleet, enough Company/Platoon Commanders to issue Orders to all your Command Squads on the drop and up to five or six Command Squads depending on how many Elites slots you have spare.

Build-Around

The bolt-on option forms the core of a competitive Elysian list. You may use some of your Elites slots on Assassins, but the rest of them should be used on Command Squads. If a future FAQ limits Command Squads based on your number of Officers, then Elysian Veteran Squads are a decent substitute.

With your HQ and Elites slots now full, it's time for the Troops! Elysians don't get access to normal Infantry Squads, and their equivalent unit (Elysian Drop Trooper Squad) don't get access to a heavy weapon team—but since they don't have access to Lascannon anyway, this is not a huge loss. Cheap squads with a Plasma Gun + Plasma Pistol + Vox make good Objective grabber and camper units, since you can wait until turn three to drop them in to a less-threatened area of the board.

Alternatively, taking Infantry Squads or Conscripts from other Regiments is a still viable way to fill your Troops slots in a mostly Elysian list. As per usual, if you take Conscripts then you'll need a Commissar to babysit them, and a Priest provides a good cheap buff too.

The Tauros Assault Vehicle seems like a decent Elysian Fast Attack option, costing 54 pts for a very fast moving Heavy Flamer on a T5/Sv4+ platform; however, a Chimera from another Regiment costs 109 pts for two Heavy Flamers on a slightly slower but much tougher platform, and Hellhounds are 110 pts for a Heavy Flamer plus an Inferno Cannon. Given the alternatives, there isn't really a good reason to take the Tauros, especially since Aerial Drop is not great for units with 8" Heavy Flamers...

Don't bother with the Tauros Venator either, its firepower/resilience/cost ratio is pretty bad.

Cyclops Demolition Vehicles with Aerial Drop could be cute, but the Cyclops is still very much a meta-choice; if you're facing hard but slow units then their auto-hitting Mortal Wounds are handy, but they'll never chase down Stormravens and are useless against hordes.

I won't go into all the many Fast Attack and Heavy Support options available to Astra Militarum in general, but don't be afraid to mix those units (from other Regiments) into a mostly Elysian list. Elysians are very infantry-focused, but lack the numerical staying power of Conscripts, long-ranged firepower of Manticores, or short-ranged auto-hitting firepower of BBQ Russes / BBQ Chimeras / Hellhounds, and therefore really benefit from adding those components. Plus you need to take some units to start on the table so you can actually use Aerial Drop on all your Elysians. Just remember that all your non-Elysian units are not going to benefit from Strafing Coordinates.

Elysians have access to all the flyers—enjoy the stupid-goodness of Punisher Vultures that can Aerial Drop and benefit from Strafing Coordinates! Vendettas are expensive, but are still a good way to get some Lascannon into your list and are tough enough to start the game on the table.

Conclusion

Judging from what we've seen from the Chapter Tactics in the forthcoming Space Marines codex, it's likely that other Regiments might end up with better rules than the Elysian Drop Troops; however, right now, without a Codex Astra Militarum on the horizon or any tangible benefits to running Stormtroopers or other Regiments, expect to see a lot of Elysians on competitive tables!


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