Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Scourge/Reaver Wanna-be Conundrum

Well, I guess my title could have been more clever.  That's alright.  Let's instead focus more on the content of this article:  Scourges (and how heavily the word 'conundrum' relies on the 'u' shape in its various forms, lol).

It's not what I'd consider a tactica by any means, but instead a question of why exactly Scourges exist, and what advantage is to be gained by using them competitively game-wise in the stead of Reaver Jetbikes, besides their clearly hard-hitting aesthetic presence. 

Don't get me wrong- it might not be considered an argument for scourges- we're just going to explore the question and their relation to Reavers.

Alright, it might take a minute to get to the 'meat', since I need to show you the steps of logic I've used to arrive at a conclusion.  If it seems to meander a little bit, well... I'll come to a conclusion eventually, and will hopefully even make sense (no promises though) :)

So, the first order of business:  What can Scourges offer us that the rest of the book can't do better, or that the Scourges add to in a meaningful, cost-efficient way?
  • Heat Lances (S6 AP1 Melta/Lance)
  • Haywire Blasters
  • Jump Troops w/ Assault Weapon Combo (deepstrike melta)
  • NOT Blasters, since they're more easily/efficiently acquired in other areas of the book
So it boils down to this summary:

We would want scourges in a competitive list because they can take Melta and are quite mobile with it.  While Haywire Blasters would have the potential to be good if the rest of the army could also have them, they are in most cases inferior to Heat Lances.

[NOTE] I can see the viability of Haywire Blasters in theory.  24" standoff range for a gun that can shut most non-GK/PotMS vehicles down for a turn is neato.  However, Ravagers have a very similar shake/stun ratio for less points, and have a much higher 'kill' ratio than than Haywire Blasters.  Yes, they can be useful in some situations.  As useful as Heat Lances, for nearly the same points cost?  We'll have to see..

So the question then becomes:  Do Dark Eldar need or even want melta?

(don't worry, I won't spend too long on this question, lol)

Well, not really need need need, but it's pretty useful.  Do the maths- even against AV12, Heat Lances far outshine their S8 AP2 brethren.  It greatly helps even the field against AV12 spam, as well as the less common AV13/14 spam.

Generally speaking, Dark Eldar want melta in a matchup vs. Guard, because they have lots of difficulty being efficient against AV12.  Whereas S6/melta/lance is as inefficient as it can get for a Melta Weapon vs. AV12, it's still much better than the other alternatives.  So instead of saying "need", we can say "are greatly aided by".

So far we've established:
  • If we want Scourges, it's because they provide Melta where most other units in the book do not (or less likely, because they provide Haywire Blasters)
  • Melta is extremely useful in the context of a competitive setting, because it helps to defeat lists that Dark Eldar generally find extremely challenging to play against.
  • Since the presence of Melta weaponry is desired, a list must then contain a unit which can take melta weapons.
  • Therefore, Scourges enter the equation of being a potentially useful unit.

The next question logically then, is:  What is to hold me back from taking Scourges every time, if reasonably priced points-wise?

Well...  there's only one other *real* unit that holds melta, and sadly, it takes up the same FOC slot that Scourges do.  This puts them in direct competition with each other, since if "Unit A" is 'better' than "Unit B", there would be absolutely zero reason to take "Unit B".  The unit I'm referring to is of course Reaver Jetbikes.

Let's pose the same question of Reavers that we did of Scourges:

What can Reaver Jetbikes offer us that the rest of the book can't do better, or that the Reavers add to in a meaningful, cost-efficient way?
  • Heat Lances
  • 36" Turbo-boost
  • Jump-shoot-jump mechanic
  • Ability to hurt units in the movement phase via Turbo-boosting
So, very similar to the Scourges in what they can offer:  namely, Melta.  This likely comes as no surprise to any of us.  The question then becomes, who does melta better?

Advantage for Scourges:
  • 134 points for min unit + 2 Heat Lances (vs. Reaver cost of 156)
  • More (1) splinter weapon shots
  • 4+/6++ Save
  • Can Deepstrike
Advantage for Reavers:
  • T4
  • Jump/Shoot/Jump
  • More CC attacks
  • Skilled Rider
  • Bladevanes
  • Combat Drugs
  • 1 extra model/ablative wound
  • 36" Turbo-boost
Both have a few advantages.

Remember:  Reaver squads require 6 models in the unit in order to have 2 heat lances, while Scourges only need 5, hence the 22-point swing.

Let's take a look at which unit is more realistic then:

(We're going to assume minimum 5-man/2 heat lance squad for Scourges, vs. 6-man/2 heat lance squad for Reavers, acknowledging that the Reaver unit costs 22 points more than the Scourges)

Use of Cover:
Both units require cover in order not to be simply shot off the board.  They both also realistically require movement each turn to be effective.  As such, both units will be taking a fair number of Dangerous Terrain checks.  Since the Reavers have the Skilled Rider USR, this gives them a distinct advantage over Scourges.  Advantage Reavers.

Saving Throws:

Along the same vein as the last one, both units will almost always be in cover.  This negates the 4+ save 'advantage' that Scourges have over Reavers, since in most cases both units will simply get a 4+ cover save.  However, Reavers also get their 3+ cover save when they turbo-boost, giving them the edge.  Advantage Reavers.


Well, we can take armor saves into consideration on this, obviously, which the Reavers have already won.  Otherwise, the Reaver unit has 6 models, all at T4, vs. Scourges having 5 models, all at T3.  Factor in combat drugs as something that might help the Reavers more, Clear Advantage Reavers.

Close Combat:

Scourges have a 4+/6++ in combat, vs. the Reaver's 5+.  However, Reavers also have an extra attack each, combat drugs, an extra body, T4, and I6 (vs. Scourge's I5).  The extra toughness and attacks with the Reavers will sometimes help to negate the slight advantage the Scourges have over them in combat, since they'll be potentially killing a few of their opponents before they can strike back, and their opponents won't usually be able to hurt them as often due to their T4.  Reavers also don't have to roll for difficult terrain to get into combat- they always get their full 6", though they then need Dangerous Terrain checks (Skilled Rider FTW).

But oh yeah, I forgot, Scourges have Plasma Grenades, so they can strike at their I5 when they charge, giving their 10 S3 attacks the chance to do all kinds of damage.  hahaha  Clear Advantage Reavers.

Deployment of Melta:

Well, Scourges have deepstrike, while Reavers have Jump/Shoot/Jump + Skilled Rider.  In order for Scourges to deepstrike successfully and not simply get blown away easily by enemy shooters in the following turn, they need to get into terrain, and risk losing one of their all-important lances to Dangerous Terrain.  If they simply jump up or appear out of a Webway Portal, they also need terrain, and again risk themselves before they can shoot.

On the other hand, Reavers can move up 12", shoot, and move back 6" into cover and away from the "hot zone", with rerolls on Dangerous.  This all followed by an impressive 36" turbo to get into position on Turn 1.  Scourges get to shoot their 9", and hope they don't get assaulted.  Advantage Reavers.

Anti-infantry Capability:

Scourges have 3 Carbines, which means 9 splinter shots at 18".  Reavers can rapid-fire their 4 rifles at 12", for 8 total shots, or at 24" inches for 4 total shots.  But really... it takes 3 shots to actually cause a wound anyways, which means that neither of the squads is much good at it in the first place.  Add in the Reavers ability with Bladevanes (actually overall better than the Scourges' shooting) and their (vastly) better close combat ability and Advantage Reavers.

Overall Mobility:

Scourges can move 12", then fleet, which isn't something Reavers can do.  However, Scourges who fleet don't get to shoot.  On the other hand, Reavers can move 12", shoot, then move another 6" wherever they want.  Or they can turbo 36".  Scourges can deepstrike, but don't know when they'll come in, or where, really.  36" on turn 1 is as good as a deepstrike in most situations, if you ask me.  :)  Advantage Reavers.

Use of Haywire Blasters:

Reavers don't have them.  Scourges do have them.  Lol.  Advantage Scourges.

So.... Reavers win everything, other than Haywires.  They do cost 22 points more, but that's simply because they get an extra model, and one that ends up helping them in more instances than not.  It's not like the extra 22 points is simply because Reavers cost more- remember that both squads' models cost the same.

Is it worth the extra 22 points for the squad overall then?  Seriously.... why wouldn't you pay an extra 22 points?  Scourges are left flat-footed and outclassed in every category by a wide margin.  I honestly can't see why they would be used (competitively) for their Heat Lances, unless for some reason a person had only 134 points to work with rather than 156.  Even then... it would make me cringe.

Scourges therefore should not be used as melta units.  Reavers win that contest.  In every way imaginable.

Haywire Blasters on Scourges then?

Well... maybe?  The thing is, 2x Haywires vs. 2x Heat Lances have about the same chance to shut a tank up (slight advantage Haywires).  At least with Haywires, we won't be charged next turn, right?  True enough, I suppose.

Still, with the Jump/Shoot/Jump ability from the Reavers, Heat Lances now have a standoff distance of potentially 15", which is actually a pretty good one, after factoring in cover, etc.  I would argue then that Heat Lances on Reavers trump Haywires on Scourges, though the argument isn't conclusive.  Take the Haywires if you want... I'll stick with Reavers :)

One more quick one then:  is the price for the melta reasonable?

Well, it's comparable to what you've pay for the same effect of 4 Dark Lances (and in most cases more survivable than however those Dark Lances are configured, as well as more versatile).  On a Ravager w/ FlickerField +1/3 of another Ravager (for 4 Dark Lances), the price difference is less than a point.

In other words, yes... very reasonable indeed, for such a versatile unit.  :-p

Does this all make sense?

Thoughts?  Questions? Comments?  I welcome all but the trolls, unless they're well-behaved trolls :)

No comments: