Monday, 29 October 2012

Space Wolf Tactics: Rune Priest

Unit Name: Rune Priest
Unit Type: HQ Unit. Unit consists of one model.

Construction: Using the space wolves pack or wolf guard terminator box. Alternatively the finecast models can be purchased.

Unit Deployment: In a unit in partial cover.

Unit in play: Support unit
Unit is most effective against: Light armour and low initiative models at range.
General Discussion:
When war is declared in the Fang the great wolf calls forth the rune priests to peer beyond the skein of fate and learn how destiny shall play out. These old dogs bring with them tools of war that are decidedly not psychic powers and you would be a fool and a heretic to say so.

There are many things that can be said about rune priests, they offer interesting powers to support your troops by denying the witch and can add a few shots to your army’s already potent profile. The character is suited however for a limited role in your army. They are not Mesphiton, a rune priest is not a combat monster that can blast apart your opponents and still cut them in two before anyone reacts in the assault phase. They are however a potent weapons platform and one that is easily mobile.

Would you follow him into the jaws of battle?
When you look at the priest’s stats you notice why he is not a combat giant. He has two attacks and an initiative of 4, this profile is no better than a wolf guard. While you may think that a force weapon can assuage these shotfalls you would be wrong, for combat get a wolf lord as they are suited for it immeasurably better.

In 6th edition force weapons have been altered slightly as the weapons form dictates how it behaves. However while the rules for different styles of force weapons are interesting, the fact is that a runic weapon is an unusual force weapon. This means that you are always striking at normal strength and initiative with an ap of 3. This is a fine weapon for cutting down light infantry but the real close combat threat for the priest is still going to any decent combat character. Squads that consist solely of multi-wound non character models are a minority in the game and those that do exist are better dealt with using a priests shooting powers and even paladins can be take down with weight of numbers and difficult terrain tests.
When it comes to challanges you will be unlikely to do any real damage against those characters that are combat orientated. Unless these characters are striking after the priest you will have little chance to kill them. The types of character you will deal with easily are the single wound squad leaders that are armed with power fists or the like and these exist solely to waste the few attacks you do have against a poor target.  The only target I foresee the rune priest doing well against in a challenge would be the great unclean one due to its daemonic nature and the application of a force weapon. For those that didn’t know a runic weapon wounds daemons on a 2+, this is great news against nurglings but irrelevant when dealing with a bloodthirster.

Where is the priests strength?
Rune priests continue to excel in making life difficult for other psykers, they have the greatest ability among space marine codices of negating a psychic power. Since you have only one shot at dispelling an enemy psychic power the rune priest must use the runic weapon with its 4+ to negate. While the runic weapon only works within a 24” bubble the majority of the army works best within that distance from the enemy. The librarians of other chapters are limited to unit’s within 6” of them when it comes to using their hood. Even at that they need to be a higher mastery level to gain a 4+ to deny the witch so in most cases they won’t have a chance of equalling the abilities of a rune priest.
If you would like to ruin an enemies day adding a rune priest to an elder army for or vice versa would be a great way of doing it since you would be forcing the enemy into taking psychic tests on 3d6 and trying to avoid getting caught in the rune priests area of effect.

What powers to choose?
As a psyker the priest has a range of powers available. Some of the selections are synonymous with the rune priests however others haven’t been seen on the board by most players. As always there is a limited utility for any power but as you have two to choose from the following, I think there are some better options available.

The first power of note is thunderclap. It is strength 3, ap 5 large blast psychic shooting attack. It is not to be recommended as it leaves your priest in a situation where he must charge to deny the charge bonus to the enemy.

Living lightening is a shooting power with D6 strength 7, ap 5 shots. These shots have unlimited range and are great for striping wounds off of large models or bursting light tanks. I can see this taking out tanks much easier now by glancing them to death. It turns your priest into shooting monster on his own while moving forward across the board.

The stormcaller power is no longer all that useful for footslog lists. A 6” bubble with a 5+ cover save is not much since the boards shall be far more filled with terrain.

Tempest’s wrath is a very niche power. After you throw away a warp token you get a 24” bubble of dangerous terrain for skimmers, jump infantry and deep striking units. If you face lots of dark elder or blood angels in your metagame then maybe it is a worthwhile power for you but it has a very limited scope in a tournament.

Fury of the wolf spirits is an odd power that give you five shots but with two different profiles. Freki is three strength five and ap – shots while Geri is assault two with strength four and an ap of 2. This power can do a lot of damage to a unit and maybe soften them up for the assault but it has a short range which leaves you wide open for a hit.

Murderous hurricane is very weak when it comes to shooting. 3D6 strength 3 hits with ap – are not likely to put much hurt on anything decent. While this power may be a leaf blower for hordes the space wolves have enough heavy weapons to do this anyway. The real benefit is slowing down dangerous threats, this leaves them open for another round of fire before you have to deal with them in hand to hand combat.

The last power is jaws of the world wolf. This power is still considered broken by a large number of 
people. It has a range of 24” and any model under that line is removed if it fails an initiative test. Not only does this power allow you to aim at specific models in a unit, it can tear apart monstrous creatures such the Carnifex. In general this is one power I always take just to be able to snipe characters and high power threats.

From that list of powers there are only three that I would take, jaws, lightening and murderous hurricane. Each of them offers a clear benefit to your army in almost every situation. I find that in standard armies taking two shooting attacks is best and as such one of these powers should always be living lightening. This gives you solid shots at long range until you close to be able to use jaws or murderous hurricane. Since taking two priests was the done thing until recently, you can have a perfect distribution of powers.
The other option that is popular is to take a rune priest and take divination powers from the rule book and using the primaris power boost the shooting abilities of long fangs or grey hunters.

Does my axe look big in this?
When it comes to wargear less is more with a rune priest. Taking any ranged weapons is a true waste; the only one I would take is the bolter as it fulfils the leaders of the pack rule. The armour options are now totally important. With sniper rules and precision shots you now need armour on your characters and since vehicles have taken a massive hit I think a foot slog list is the way to go. With this in mind, terminator armour is now a must in your army. Not only does this give you a save against most power weapons, it also allows you to have two 2+ saves against shooting, look out sir and the armour saves. The terminator armour does prevent sweeping advances but that is not a major concern for a rune priest.
The chooser of the slain is a mandatory wargear option for the rune priest. It bumps any shooting attacks by 1 BS when the chooser and the priest can both draw line of sight to a target. It can also keep infiltrators out of a large area of the board, 18” around the marker to be specific. This is often a priceless ability when you want to ensure a dangerous unit cannot tear into your flanks. With two choosers on the board the choices for infiltrators are severely limited.
As for the rest, the wolf tail talisman is a complete waste and the others aren’t worth talking about. While meltabombs might be a useful choice to differentiate characters, I wouldn’t bother unless you are running dual priests. Sagas are not to be touched for a priest as other HQ selections can do the job better. 

While I might seem down on rune priests due to their lack of combat prowess compared to other space wolf characters I still see them as a vital part of your army. Not only do they fill your requirements for a HQ selection they give you extra firepower for your army. If there is one things space wolves do well it is shooting, take the war to the enemy and do it with a rune priest firing magic over your shoulder.

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