Nevertheless, I invite you all to give me a critique of the information presented and let me know if you think something is missing from it. There is a nagging feeling in the back of mind that I'm forgetting to include something important in the article. That it came as a result of the B&C and YTTH discussions. Perhaps it'll come to me, but feel free to leave me comments in the meantime. I appreciate all of them. :D
For your convenience, if you couldn't be troubled to click the link above (the permanent home for the article), you can find the tactica after the "Read More" button below.
How to Use the "Defensive" Drop Pod List
Recently, there was a great amount of discussion regarding my "Defensive" Drop Pod list (henceforth DDP) and it's ability to win games. As you may know, it is essentially a list designed by Stelek for 1750 points. Well, I pushed that points total up to 2000 and made some slight changes to the list. Nothing major. He goes into very basic detail on how the army works, but basically leaves the Black Templar player out to dry on figuring out how to play the list. Fortunately, you have me to guide you through the process, as I've played the list dozens of times with great success. I highly doubt Stelek can say the same.
Now, lets start things off. Bigdunc did a good job of summarizing what I had previously said in regards to how the DDP list works in his first post on B&C. Even still, we'll take a look at it. For now, I'm going to assume that we're using the list found here for the purpose the discussion. It contains a total of 9 Drop Pods: 3 containing Dreadnoughts and 6 minimum sized Crusader squads. In addition, we've got 6 Land Speeders present in the list. It is a "Defensive" Drop Pod list, but that doesn't mean it drops defensively. There is a big difference.
As I mentioned previously, the list does not play offensively. That means you do not drop your army in your enemy's face and hope to blast them off the board, as you simply do not have the tools or the numbers to do it. Because we're only packing 30 marines (and the EC), we cannot afford to provide easy targets for our enemies. Not only that, there is a very good chance that if you're dropping close to your opponent's army, you will not have the mobility to claim/contest objectives if those units are needed for the duties. The list is written with defensive tactics in mind. However, you don't drop down across the board and hope to win. There is merit in providing distractions for your opponent to deal with. This could entail dropping your Dreadnoughts/Land Speeders very close to your opponent's forces to present an opportunity to destroy key enemy vehicles. Or combining that force with a crusader squad or two. When this happens, the ideal placement for your pods is between them and the rest of the board (but particularly your objectives). Obviously, scattering plays a big role here. Fortunately, a whole 180 degrees of the scatter die is actually beneficial to your drop (i.e. scattering towards the enemy) should it happen.
The goal of this tactic is two-fold. The first, I already touched on. It is to destroy key vehicles or tie-up important enemy units. Ideally, this disruption drop wants to cut down as much of the enemy's mobility as possible. This allows you to claim the other objectives with minimal fear of your enemy coming into range to contest. This can also cripple your opponent's fire base, which also prevents your opponent from shooting down your Crusader squads who are sitting on those objectives. A prepared general that has castled up will have bubble-wrap to minimize losses. This bubble-wrap will likely give cover to those key units or vehicles, limiting the impact of the distraction. However, in comes the second half of why we do this drop. It blocks your enemy's movement. Against a mechanized opponent (likely MEQ), they will want to drive forward as much as possible to get where they need to on the board. Not only does the unit you dropped in block this movement, but so does the Drop Pod itself (and they are fairly large). Against a castled opponent using bubble-wrap, you've just blocked at least a turn's worth of movement towards other objectives. In addition, if your enemy charges into your unit, they lose that bubble-wrap against further distraction drops should the situation call for it. If they didn't castle up, spread out, and/or advanced across the board, this "distraction" force can easily target and eliminate whatever overextended portion of your enemy's army you deem useful (provided its near an objective).
It is important to note that time plays a big part in how this list plays out. One of the strengths of the BT Drop Pods are that they all stay in reserve, removing at least a turn of shooting from your enemy (two turns if you're going second). It is hard enough to kill MEQ units, but when you take a turn from your opponent, it makes it much more difficult. This means you always want to go second, if at all possible. Worst case scenario, you get all of your forces on turn two. This means you have to claim/contest as many of the objectives as possible (while still putting out a distraction force), because you're not going to be able to do it later. Ideally, you want 2-3 units guarding your home objective(s) and the rest of your forces can be deployed based on the situation at hand. Best case scenario, you get only 2 or less units on turn two. This allows you to feel out how the game is going to play out, while further eliminating the time your opponent has to kill you. It is likely that your opponent will be starting to maneuver into position to claim objectives should this come to pass, allowing you to manipulate the board to your needs.
When I mention board manipulation, I mean it. It is the second part of why this type of list is good. The BT player holds the initiative in the battle at all times. This by itself, wins games. It doesn't matter how your opponent deploys, what army type they are, or how they use their first couple of turns. Our basic strategy is the same. Bring in a distraction force, claim home objectives, and use further drops to claim/contest the other objectives. If your opponent decides to mess around with your distraction force, you've gained yourself time to claim several objectives around the board and it is unlikely that your opponent will succeed in claiming/contesting enough to gain a win. If they ignore your distraction force, you're able to give that force an offensive role that will likely further diminish your opponent's ability to claim/contest enough of the objectives to win. If they spread out right away to claim all of the objectives, you're able to pick and choose where to come in and effectively eliminate their splinter forces easily. While you're doing this, you have free rein to claim/contest every single objective with multiple units that will cause your opponent to split their forces in an effort to contest enough to draw. Unfortunately for your opponent, most armies are not fast enough to do this successfully, even mechanized.
What happens if they destroy your distraction force and then shoot full bore towards your home objective? Not only will they find it difficult to dislodge several units worth of marines (and potentially their drop pods) from the objective, this gives you the opportunity to drop in more pods behind your opponent in areas around the board where there is very little action (and objectives of course). When your opponent is committed like this, it is difficult to change the course and will be hard pressed to reach you. At worst, they will not get very good shooting off at your units on the way.
Black Templar Drop Pod armies force assault armies to commit their forces. If you drop a distraction force into the face of an assault army, they will lose time and mobility dealing with your force while they disembark, then assault (maybe), and then get back in their transports (unless facing footbased armies/jump armies). However, if they are footbased or jump based, its likely you're going to win anyway, as they simply do not have the protection or mobility to contest everything. Once committed, those assault forces need to advance to make use of their talents. The drop pod army does an excellent job of taking advantage of committed forces by using board manipulation. This will include movement blocking, claiming/contesting several objectives with drop pods, providing a distraction force, etc. They simply do not have the tools needed to reach everything you have and destroy it. Your enemy simply cannot compete with being able to place units where ever you choose.
But what if that assault force is infantry based (and/or horde)? That distraction force is even more effective at movement blocking. Its likely a single drop pod unit will be sufficient to block a blob unit from moving forward, and while doing so, block the rest of their forces. Drop 2-3 of these units forward, and you've just blocked their entire army from moving until they kill those units. Feed in a couple more units as necessary to contest their objective/provide continuing distraction while you're claiming the other objectives and the game is won.
How about gunline armies? Its likely they will castled up and will rely on shooting you off your objectives. Fortunately, the distraction force works here as well. If they don't kill them/neutralize them, then you will do damage to their firepower and they will lose the ability to knock you off objectives. This forces your enemy to commit firepower and resources towards sub-optimal targets, while your other forces remain relatively free from shooting. They will also be hard pressed to claim/contest objectives from you later in the game. Another benefit of this distraction force is that it will usually provide cover (pods provide partial LOS blocking) for your other forces, at least temporarily. If you didn't deploy in cover or behind your drop pods (yes, they DO block LOS for 5-man units), this will perhaps provide some critical cover for them.
As I just alluded to, how you deploy your units coming out of the drop pods is important. Obviously, you need to get as close to objectives as possible when coming down. If you have the choice in the matter, place objectives in cover, and then drop pods into that cover. If that isn't possible, you need to make sure to place the drop pods between your enemy's firepower and your marines. Often, this placement will at least get them out of LOS temporarily. With the new FAQ ruling regarding Righteous Zeal and Going to Ground, you can gain optimal cover saves for nearly no risk.
Now, there are some exceptions to everything I've said above. Armies such as the Loganwing, Blood Angels, and the Dark Eldar will give this army problems. The Loganwing, because it drops in tough, hard to kill units that will kill you if in charge range. Fortunately, they suffer from the bad Drop Pod rules, so winning isn't impossible here. Blood Angels are simply faster versions of most marine armies, so if you take away their mobility, they fall. In addition, most BA armies are built around assault. Which, as I pointed out earlier, causes them to commit their forces and allows you to manipulate the board/eliminate over-extended units. The Dark Eldar present a much more difficult problem. Not only are they fast, but they are all skimmer based vehicles. This means you cannot use movement blocking to hurt them and your distraction force might simply be ignored altogether. Fortunately for us, they are extremely fragile and easy to kill (without FNP). Their mobility is easy to knock out and so is their firepower. The Dark Eldar also suffer from "Glass Hammer" syndrome, which means that if their Alpha Strike isn't effective, they lose. Well, since you are reducing the turns they have for that Alpha Strike, the chances only get better for your win. Not definite, but easier. In any scenario, they will be difficult to beat.
Admittedly, the DDP doesn't do well in Victory Point/Kill Point missions. However, it can do well enough against "Deathstar" armies. Because of the expensive nature of those lists and their small numbers, you can take advantage of the alpha strike to neutralize key components of your opponent's list. Then you are free to either tarpit those "Deathstar" units with your MSU, or simply drop out of range. The list isn't designed to kill as its primary goal, but because of how we deploy, you have the ability to limit your enemy's chances to kill you. It has the ability to drop defensively or offensively, depending on your opponent and scenario. Playing these types of games will take all the cunning and skill you have, but again, they are not impossible tasks.
So lets summarize:
- Use reserves to come onto the board later in the game, which reduces the time your opponent has to both 1) Kill your forces, 2) Claim/contest objectives.
- Allows you to easily manipulate the board using distraction forces, movement blocking, and delayed deployment.
- Presents numerous targets to your enemy, all of which need to be dealt with in objective games.
- The Black Templar player always has the initiative, which can force your opponent out of their comfort zone and might cause them to make mistakes.
- MSU Pod lists beat Deathstar and horde armies nearly every time for reasons I explained above.
- Does not have firepower potential to do consistently well in VP/KP scenarios without lots of experience with the list.
- Low model count means that you could potentially lose all of your troops units to enemy fire, forcing a draw at best.
- You provide huge numbers of Kill Points to your enemy.
- Ultimately, you are a foot based army. If facing a highly mobile enemy, they'll be able to out range your units.
- Extreme Drop Pod scattering is bad. Their are ways to manipulate this, but if you scatter a large distance away from where you wanted, that unit may end up only being marginally effective the rest of the game. Unlikely, but the possibility is there.