2015 Space Marine Codex: Raven Guard tactics – Part 1

Note: These articles were written before the Damocles book. Read a few of my (Tibbs, not GreyCrow) thoughts on the rumored formation here: Raven Guard Formation Rumors

Hello guys, GreyCrow here! First of all, I wanted to thank Jeff for inviting me to share my thoughts on how Raven Guard armies can take advantage of the new Chapter Tactics in the 2015 Codex: Space Marines. To introduce myself briefly, I started playing 40k in 1998 with the 3rd edition and played up until 4th edition when my studies drove me to take a break. Two years ago I returned to the hobby, and I spend most of my hobby time either fighting players or thinking tactics. I play in a very competitive meta, but I’ve never been that interested in going for the obvious cheese or the deathstars. Rather, I’ve always loved the fluff surrounding the Space Marines and worked to make fluffy armies work tactically against tough lists and have had a decent track record since!

Now, for us Shadow Captains, students of the Raven Lord, let’s take a look at how we can take advantage of the new Codex to toughen up our Raven Guard armies, shall we?

What is the Gladius Strike Force?

Fluffy just got mean

Fluffy just got meaner.

And why should we care? The first and obvious lever we can pull is to try to understand and take advantage of the Gladius Strike Force which will be the focus of the first two parts of this series, because this detachment is the new fancy tool at the disposal of Space Marines and Raven Guard armies. Moreover, just because we are clad in black that we can’t take teachings from what the boys in blue have written in their fancy book, right? This will allow us to look at our army from a strategic standpoint (or helicopter view if you prefer) and understand the key dynamics of the detachment and its formations.

The second lever is how to adapt our tactics (aka how we apply that high level strategy in the actual battle) with Raven Guard units to take advantage of the changes to the Chapter Tactics, by first understanding the new strengths of our set and taking a look at how they affect flagship units that we are likely to field as Space Marines.

Making good use of Space Marine tactical doctrines

There are two reasons why a Space Marine Captain would field the Gladius. Firstly, because it looks frankly good on the table: offering a fluffy and structured army that seems less haphazardly thrown together than many lists that were effective under the 6th edition Codex. Secondly, because it unlocks the use of three types of doctrines, which were introduced as the Ultramarines’ Chapter Tactics in the last edition.

Doctrines are one-use bonuses that apply to all the units that have Chapter Tactics, and what they are in essence is a free armywide discount “Prescience” Power that is effective during your turn. Now, if that doesn’t sound effective, I don’t know what is. Librarians with Divination that were selected in order to unlock Prescience just suddenly found themselves out of a job or repurposed to do something else even more useful.

The three types of Doctrines are pretty self explanatory, but they’re now much more effective than the past edition’s doctrine. The Assault and Devastator doctrines alow you to reroll To-Hit rolls of 1 respectively in the assault and shooting phase for any model in the Gladius that has Chapter Tactics. On top of that, models in their namesake squads and their variants (including any Independent Characters attached to them) will reroll all failed To-Hit rolls in the assault and shooting phase, respectively. This is massively powerful; it is either a free one-turn Chaplain for melee-oriented units or Prescience on your Devastator/Centurion Devastator Squad and I’m sure I don’t have to explain how effective it is.

The Tactical Doctrine is by far the star of the Doctrines. Offering rerolls To-Hit rolls of 1 in both the Shooting and Assault Phase, and providing Tactical Squads and any attached Independent Characters the ability to reroll all failed To-Hit rolls, it is the biggest buff the army will receive and will thus have to be used intelligently. The principal advantage of the Tactical Doctrine is that fielding a Gladius Strike Force gives you two Tactical Doctrines: one that applies armywide and one that applies to members of the Demi Company only.

There are two keys to take the best advantage of the doctrines. The first one is timing: when declaring the use of the doctrine at the beginning of your turn, you will have to go for the doctrine that both maximizes the number of rerolls you will get and minimizes the rerolls you will waste. For example, while it may seem satisfying to use the Tactical Doctrine Turn 1 in a Drop Pod assault list to maximize the damage output of your Tactical Squads in Rapid Fire range, you will be missing out on the assault part of the Tactical Doctrine that you might need later on. In that case, playing the long game and picking the Devastator Doctrine might be more effective.

The second key is numbers. Building your army list around the Doctrines incentivizes fielding a high number of models so the rerolls might apply to a large amount of shots/melee attacks. To test this, I recently fielded a 70-Marines list at 1850 points in a Gladius Strike Force (30 in the Demi Company, 20 in the First Company and 20 in the Tenth Company formations) and it increased the effectiveness of the firepower so much that the Ultramarines player in front of me conceded by Turn 3 because there was no way for him to recover.

It doesn’t mean that this is simply a numbers’ game to get bodies on the table; low volume/high quality firepower will also benefit greatly from the doctrines. That said, I firmly believe that having a healthy dose of power armour on the table will get more mileage than low model count Space Marine armies. It allows sufficient resilience to force the game to last at least 5 turns while pumping out constant and reliable firepower from many Marines.

Check back soon for the next part in the series: Structuring your Gladius Strike Force

EDITOR’S NOTE: I want to keep these short and easily digestible since there’s so much good stuff here. This will also allow more focused comment threads. I’d love to see a good discussion here, so let’s all make GreyCrow feel welcome. He worked hard on this series, and it will be pretty impressive once it’s all done.