Generals Corner – Raven Guard Tactics. Part 1- Decapitation Strike Force

I have been playing the Raven Guard since I started playing 30k which was shortly after the release of Betrayal at Calth. The legion specific rules grabbed me straight away as did their reliance on infantry, drop pods, fliers, infiltrators and jump infantry.

I have collected about 9000 points of the mighty XIXth legion and have played many, many games against a variety of opponent’s. I have also used many different rites of war, however my favourite and probably the one I have the most success with is Decapitation Strike Force.

So here we go, this is my view on the rite of war and how I normally use it.

Let’s first take a look at what the rite of war actually does.

Benefits:
For Whom The Bell Tolls: Legion Astartes Raven Guard gain the preferred enemy independent character special rule – THIS RULE IS HUGE! With the new faq ruling that it affects the independent characters unit not just the independent character themselves it makes deathstars a little less scary and plasma guns even more devastating.

Fury From Above: Tactical squads, tactical support squads, heavy support squads and seeker squads can take a drop pod as a dedicated transport. In addition deathstorm drop pods can be taken in elite and heavy support slots – This rule is one of the main reasons we take this rite of war. Podded plasma’s yes please.

Predatory Strike: Rerolling to see who goes/deploys first – this helps tailor the game to our armies play style, if we want to go first then we have more of a chance.

Limitations:
Only one heavy support slot – this is a big one so if you are going to take a heavy support slot make it count. I normally stick in a leviathan, but also sometimes use an infiltrating support squad with lascannons.

Only one consul – this is also a serious drawback as it means you really have to think about what consul your army will benefit the most from. In my opinion you can never go wrong with a Chaplain, but I also love using the dual plasma pistol Moritat.

Cannot take fortifications or allied space marine legion detachments – again this rule sucks but you can still ally with mechanicum, militia or solar.


Lets crack on with my top tips for using Decapitation Strike Force

Tip 1 – to pod or not to pod
Well the main thought I have when making a Decapitation Strike list is whether to use drop pods or not. I know one of the main benefits of taking this rite of war is gaining drop pods as dedicated transports for some units, however in my experience running Decapitation Strike is all about synergy and having a fast paced army that hits before the enemy can unload all of their fire power.

That can 100% be accomplished with an entire drop pod army, raining down from the skies and striking deep in the heart of enemy lines. That being said, I love using jump infantry (they gain furious charge from Astartes Raven Guard and they are fast). I normally run two 15 man assault squads in combination with a two or three drop pods (which normally carry my support squads in). I find that the drop pods coming down turn 1 distracts my opponent from my assault squads just long enough to let them get into combat more or less unscathed. 

What to put in your drop pods?
Well I normally put a 10 man plasma squad in one drop pod, a 5 man melta squad  in another and then a tactical squad in a third.  The basic idea is that the melta team and tactical squad come down first and put pressure on the enemy by either destroying a dreadnought/vehicle without armoured ceremite or claiming a key objective. Then turn two my lightning and plasma team will come into play. The lightning will aim to blow up that pesky enemy spartan and the plasma team will roast what ever is inside. Normally using this tactic, my opponents big deathstar is normally not a threat anymore by turn 3, which leaves my jump infantry free to take on the enemies squishier units.

The other great way to use drop pods is to control the battlefield. Drop pods block line of sight, limit enemy movement and are just a general thorn in your opponents side. I normally try and stick a pod in front of  vehicle to block one of its guns or in front of an objective. Anything just to slow down enemy units and make them play to my game.

That is my main tactic when using drop pods in Decapitation Strike, my aim is literally to Decapitate the enemy force in the opening turns of the game. It relies on a lot of synergy between two or three key units, but the most important thing is how this tactic is supported, which leads me nicely onto tip 2…

Tip 2 – have some boots on the ground
In a list that focuses on the use of drop pods there needs to be some board presence turn one. Maybe something that can lay down some ranged fire power, or some infiltrating units that hug cover to wait for the right moment to make themselves known or just some units deployed normally to move up and support the drop pods when they come down.

This tip might not be for everyone as people like to run all drop pods or put different units in drop pods. If that is the case then you may find that your units are survivable enough without the need for some additional boots on the ground. However in my experience it is always useful to have a couple of units on the board turn 1 to either distract units away from your drop pods as they come down or to weaken the enemy forces so your podded units have an easier time.

There is no right way to do this but I sometimes use a 5 man lascannon team to soften up enemy vehicles as my drop pods are coming in, along with my assault squads which will get into combat quickly and reduce some of the enemies fire power. 

Last point I will add to this, there is no way to express the importance of infiltrating units in drop pod heavy armies. The fact that we can have both drop pods and infiltrators in this rite of war is something no other legion can do. It means we can get key units into position ready for when our drop pods come down which is not to be underestimated. 

It is also funny to go first and then not have deploy a single model because everything is deep striking or infiltrating. That way we can tailor our deployment to counter our opponents and still have the luxury of going first.

Tip 3 – prepare to take a beating
This tip is more of an observation from my experience running Decapitation Strike, but it might not be everyone’s experience.
I have found that I normally get peppered until all my drop pods, fliers and reserves have come on the board. After about turn 2 or 3 that is where I start to make real progress and cause real damage to my opponents army. So don’t be disheartened if your army takes an absolute spanking on turn 1.

Tip 4 – Fliers and speeders are your friends
In my armies, whether I run Decapitation Strike or not, I always take a flier. The reason for this is normally to add a bit of depth to the army but also because I am a big fan of planes. Normally an opponent will bring only one form of anti air which means if I target the threat with my turn 1 drop pods my flier can spend the rest of the game pretty much unhindered.

I normally always take a lightning to fill the role of anti spartan/heavy armour. This for me is key in a drop pod heavy army as most podded anti armour is either short range or will need to snap shoot if it moves.

Speeders whether they are javelins or regular land speeders are also not to be overlooked in a Decapitation Strike army. I find that outflanking Javelins enables me to out manoeuvre enemy light vehicles and help support my army as it gets into position.

My armies fast attack slots are normally filled with a squad of two missile Javelins, a Lightning and a squad of Dark Furies. The combination gives me an incredible amount of mobile fire power that balances well with my combat focused Dark Furies and Assault Squads.

Tip 5 – who should lead my army
In a drop pod heavy army, Strike Captain Alvarex Maun is a must! He is not very survivable or killy but his army wide buffs help bring all of the different units in the Decapitation Strike together and ties the army off with a nice little bow.

The reason he is so good is due to his warlord trait, his Bleeding Edge special rule and his Night Fall Pattern Strato-Vox. 

Warlord Trait (Co-ordinated Planet Strike):
Maun can reroll reserve rolls for fliers and drop pods – This is important as most of our units will either be drop pods or fliers. It just helps get our units on the board as fast and reliably as possibly.

Bleeding Edge:
If Maun starts the game deployed on the board the army can reroll their seize the initiative roll. – This is another important rule that allows us to dictate the flow of the game.
If Maun starts the game in a drop pod or flier with the deep strike special rule then he automatically comes in turn 2. – This rule is less important and I very rarely put him in a vehicle but I can see its uses.

Night Fall Pattern Strato-Vox:
Units arriving via deep strike within 18″ of Maun do not scatter and units arriving via deep striking vehicles gain the counter attack special rule on the turn they arrive. – This lovely piece of equipment allows us to put our pods where we need them and gives them a little bit more punch if they end up getting charged.

Maun is very fragile, with 2+ armour and no invulnerable save he will die quickly if he is on his own.  I normally attach him to a Mor Deythan squad and infiltrate him into a position where his 18″ bubble is most useful.

Tip 6 – target priority
This tip is fairly self explanatory and has been touched on in the previous tips. However I think the two main things to target when taking the Decapitation Strike rite of war are:

  • Anything that has interceptor – so our units don’t get shot off the board as soon as they arrive. I will try to use sniper Mor Deythan to precision shoot apothecaries with augury scanners early on in the game.
  • Anti Air – normally I will use my 5 man melta squad in a drop pod to try to take out any Mortis Dreadnoughts or Deredeos so that my Lightning can come on relatively unchallenged.

As with all other things in a dice game, the whole concept of being able to prioritise targets is somewhat unreliable. So normally I will go for the mentioned targets first and then will try to focus on other threats on the board as they present themselves.  The best thing about playing an alpha strike army whether its using drop pods, infiltrators, fliers or jump pack infantry is that  you will be up in your opponents face really quickly and hopefully that way they will panic and make less tactical decisions as they try and push you back.




There you have it!
My top tips on how to run the Decapitation Strike rite of war.

Happy decapitating!

Tom

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