Remember, stay on topic if you're going to comment. Discussion is good, but no flaming or anything like that. If I see it, the comment is gone. With that, read on! :)
Email: "Recently I've been trying to find a way to use Sword Brethren in a viable way. I have read threads on both the Bolter and Chainsword and the Miniwargaming forums concerning this unit, as well as Marshall Wilhelm's review of them on your website. All places agree, Sword Brethren are more effective than Crusader Squads but are worse than Terminators and not worth taking.
First off, thanks for emailing! I always appreciate receiving them, regardless of the content. The more thought-provoking, the better. Discussion breeds learning, so emails like yours is beneficial to the community. ;)
On to the meat and potatoes! I have to clarify something really quick before we get started. Sword Brethren aren't terrible. They have some nice quirks that makes the useful in some situations. However, when compared to Terminators and/or Dreadnoughts in the same slot, they fall short in a competitive environment.
So I began to directly compare Terminators with Sword Brethren. I listed what each one could get in comparison to what the other could, including weapons, options, skills, statistics, and standard point costs. I made a squad of each, an Assault Terminator Squad with a balance of Lightning Claws and Thunder Hammers while the Sword Brethren had a Bolt Pistol+Chainsword, Terminator Honors for everyone, 2 Storm Shields, a pair of Lightning Claws, and a Power Weapon. I found that it isn't worth it to make Sword Brethren into Terminators. But I did find that they do have some advantages as follows.
So the initial comparison was to create a close combat-oriented unit. I'm assuming that it was a 5-man unit. Unfortunately, we're looking at an unit that costs 205 points outfitted like you have, compared to 215 points for the Assault Terminators. We still have two 3+ invulnerable saves, but we're the lacking 2+ saves that the Terminators have. We have similar amounts of attacks, but the Sword Brethren don't get the sheer number of power weapon attacks that the Terminators can put out. Especially considering they are coming from 3 sets of Lightning Claws and 2 Thunder Hammers. In close combat, the Sword Brethren simply cannot compare unless we're fielding a large squad, which isn't cost effective to do so because of the lack of power weapons for everyone.
Marshall Wilhelm did give an almost excessive amount of analysis into these as you noted, but he missed something. He only mentioned one skill that they could have, Furious Charge. While this is indeed the one that will give them the most destructive power (unless they aren't supposed to charge, in which case Counter Charge will make you a more dangerous unit to assault) there is still another worth mentioning. Infiltrate. But I'll go into its advantage in a moment.
I agree, if he was going to do a page of analysis on these guys, it would have been useful to discuss all of the options available to the unit. But no one is perfect, including myself. :)
The next thing that gives Sword Brethren an advantage over Terminators is that they can take a Rhino or Razorback as transports. Admittedly a meager advantage, but nevertheless enough to note. A Rhino is a cheaper option and has the Repair ability but I found a better choice in selecting a Lazerback instead. Limited troop capacity but you don't really need very much as 5-6 members can still be dangerous. You're probably thinking 'but one Twin-linked Lascannon isn't impressive' and its not, unless you have the Infiltrate skill.
It is definitely useful to be able to take these "cheaper" transports, as opposed to being forced to using Land Raiders to cart the Terminators around. Mobility is extremely important and you have the ability to gain that for Sword Brethren.
Uh oh. I sense an incoming blunder with the mention of transports and Infiltrate. :/
You reserve your Sword Brethren and their ride, once they can come onto a table side (a Flanking one) they move 6" on and then fire 48" at the side or (if you're lucky) rear armor of Vehicles. This isn't dangerous against Transports since their side armor is the same as their front armor. And the really big stuff can ignore it since they don't have vulnerable sides. But many vehicles that can give you problems are the heavy support tanks, which have good front armor but mediocre side and rear armor.
Plus you essentially have a squad that can get really close to vulnerable enemy shooting infantry unless it is in a vehicle (you know, the ones that your opponent doesn't want you charging). Give them a Meltagun, Krak Grenades, and Bolt Pistol+Chainswords means that all of your opponent's squishy stuff (even nearby vehicles) is in danger.
Ack. I was hoping I was wrong. Unfortunately, as per the codex, Sword Brethren are not allowed to purchase a transport if they have taken the Infiltrate special rule. They may still make a flanking move, but they cannot do it in a transport. This will likely put them out of range of the vulnerable enemy vehicles. Because you have to move onto the board, you aren't allowed to fire heavy weapons that turn. In addition, you have a 1/3 chance of coming in on the wrong side. :(
As for the Storm Shields they should have 2 in case of power weapons and giving Terminator Honors to the guy with the Meltagun (and/or any others that have special weapons except for the pair of Lightning Claws) helps. But giving them to all members sacrifices one big advantage. This advantage is also why putting them in a Land Raider is a bad idea (aside from it not being a dedicated transport so I'm not sure you could bring them on the table side with them inside it).
Sword Brethren may not take Land Raiders as dedicated transports, but that doesn't mean they cannot use them as transports if you purchased one in the Heavy Support slot. But even if you did, I'd not advise doing so. You really want something that is dangerous in a vehicle that expensive to make it worth it. Unfortunately, SB are simply not that unit. Besides, Land Raiders do not have fire points (nor does the Razorback), so you won't be able to fire your meltagun from them. Best to stick to the humble Rhino, or perhaps the Razorback.
This advantage is price. A squad of 5 with the set up I mentioned above (3 Terminator Honors) and a Lazerback with Dozer Blade and Extra Armor costs 265 points. You've said yourself that to compete in 5th edition you need to be mobilized. A squad of 5 Assault Terminators with a Land Raider without any upgrades costs 450 points.
Its actually 280 points based on what you said, but I might not be getting your upgrades right. However, 15 points doesn't make a whole lot of difference in the scheme of your argument, so we'll pretend. You are correct, mobility is extremely important in 5th Edition. A player needs it in some form or another to be successful. Even in gunline-oriented lists!
450 points! That is between 1/3 and 1/4 of your army! You could instead buy two units of Sword Brethren for an extra 80 points. And that is a basic squad in a basic Land Raider. Your own Lysanthir's Shield squad in your Gun-line All Comers is 483 points and the Terminator Squads in your Heavy Mech list are 508 points each. With two Lazerbacks coming on the board sides you have a 8/9 chance of coming on the best side (important if your opponent has his squishy units in a corner). You also have the ability to not reserve them and start on the board closer to your opponent after he has already deployed. For example, directly over from his vehicles (at least 18" away, of course).
I need to make a quick correction here. I don't use Assault Terminators in my Gunline list, you are referring to my Mechanized All-Comers list. ;)
Assault Terminators eat up a lot of points. Its one of the reasons why I make sure to tell people that lists including them are not ultra-competitive. They create imbalance in a list, due to their points costs. That doesn't mean the lists will do poorly, but if those squads get knocked out, you've lost a large chunk of your army to irrelevancy.
The Heavy Mech list is a very good example of a "Rock list", because its focal point is the terminator squads. It does have a bit of redundancy (2x terminator squads) that helps ensure those units make it to their destination, but there are no guarantees. Fielding only a single terminator squad in a LRC (like I do in my All-Comers list) creates a huge target for my opponent. And there is a good chance they'll successfully take it out. But I do it because its fun to take terminators in a CC-oriented list. I make sure to let people know that the list is more casual in nature because of this.
Unfortunately, the rest of this paragraph is invalidated due to the illegality of taking a transport with a SB squad with Infiltrate. :(
Now this is not without its disadvantages. It is not as durable nor as protected since to achieve the full benefit you will have to disembark early on. It cannot fire on round one if you put it in reserves and the Sword Brethren cannot assault until at least the 3rd round. It may take a while before it arrives on the table. It isn't the close combat terror that Marshall Wilhelm described and will die if faced by anything that makes Melee its business (So this is better at killing mere Troops). And it is a Foot-Slogging close combat unit both of which things you have said are not optimal for a competitive list.
But they are a smaller target than Terminators. Terminators die fairly easily by themselves. Drop Pod lists have the same problems without having another Twin-Linked Lascannon on the table (though albeit cheaper). It cannot be killed until it has fired. The Sword Brethren can be decked instead with Bolters, 1 Terminator Honor for Ld 9 (unnecessary if you have a Commander in your army), and give them a Lascannon instead of their Krak Grenades, and the unit costs only 225, which means that two of them are the same price as a basic Assault Terminator Squad in a regular Land Raider. (Though if you take Tactical Terminators you will probably give them either Assault Cannons or Cyclone Missile Launchers costing even more points and you're unlikely to stay with a regular Land Raider).
You are 100% correct here. Sword Brethren would not be as big a target for your opponent, so their survivability might be improved because of this fact. They do have their uses. One such way is to create a shooting unit out of them as you mentioned, but personally, I prefer the slightly cheaper crusader squad due to their Troops status. You can create a Las/Plas unit in a Lazorback for a paltry 210 points. Its not bad if you've already filled the Troops slot. Because they're not Troops, they will probably not get shot at.
However, for 55 points more, you can get tactical terminators with CMLs that are much more survivable, put out significantly greater firepower, and provide you with a decent counter-assault unit. With that being said, the terminators have to fire at the same enemy unit, whereas the SB squad and their Lazorback can fire at two separate units. Which is potentially useful. In addition, the terminators suffer from being foot-based, which is a downfall.
Also, concerning the points, you said two things that seem contradictory. One was about Commanders, you said not to tool them up with lots of upgrades because they reduce the points you can spend on the rest of your army. The other thing you said was about Sword Brethren, you said that Marshall Wilhelm could have just said that Assault Terminators are better in almost every aspect. But Assault Terminators, or any Terminators, aren't just more expensive, they're much more expensive. Almost 200 points that you can spend elsewhere. 200 is a Marshall with a Master-crafted Storm Bolter, Storm Shield, Bionics, Artificer Armor, and an Adamantine Mantle; giving your army that useful Ld 10 along with a lot of survivability. 200 points is giving 5 crusader squads Lazerbacks instead of Rhinos. Are Assault Terminators really 150+ better?
Well, I disagree here. I don't feel its contradictory at all and I'll explain why. An IC is a single character that can only have an impact on a small part of the battle at once. They are also relatively easy to marginalize via shooting, bubblewrap, or movement blocking. While the same can be said about Terminators, for the same price, you get an unit that will decimate entire units in the case of Assault Terminators. A Marshal, for example, kitted out will kill AT MOST six enemy models in close combat on the charge. For the same price, you could take a unit of terminators that have 4 more models, giving you wound allocation. On the charge, terminators can kill, at most,
18 enemy models. They can also kill vehicles, monstrous creatures, and other deathstar units. Throw in the fact that they are likely charging, so will be affected by Furious Charge, and you have a high probability of doing a large number of wounds to your opponent. So we can see that the kill potential, with the same amount of points, seriously swings towards the Terminators.
Now, you could argue that this is not an equivalent points value because of the needed LRC for the Terminators. This is true. Sorta. Consider this: Would you make a point to take your IC and regularly charge him into battle alone (barring some exceptions)? Not likely. You'll put him in an unit to support him. Some people will stick them in terminator squads. This is not advised due to the extreme overkill nature of the unit, plus the actual cost of the unit itself. But what about a crusader squad? That is more like it.
Assuming we're using my IC-tooled Crusader squad in my All-Comers list (7 initiates/2 neophytes), that is 210 points including the Rhino. So we're saving perhaps 50-60 points total in comparison to the assault terminator squad in a LRC. This unit has more wounds, but are less durable due to their armor saves. They also don't cause as many wounds in CC due to the lack of power weapons. On top of that, they are riding around in a fragile AV 11 transport (with less firepower) that is relying more on luck to get to their destination than skill. What this squad does have over the Terminators, is again, their Troops status.
You can start to see the big picture here and why you have to make these cost-benefit analysis discussions in your mind. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to note that I've yet to come up with a ultra-competitive tournament list that includes Assault Terminators. Just because I say that they are superior to Sword Brethren, doesn't mean I advocate their everyday use in your lists. Tactical terminators are an entirely different story, simply due to their huge buff with the FAQ. Even then, they need to be included in lists that are either built around them or those that have similiar theme (i.e. gunline lists). I don't believe they are entirely beneficial in balanced mechanized lists due to their cost and lack of mobility. But that is another analysis for another time.
You advise against spending points on a Marshal even though he helps with Righteous Zeal checks and Kill Them All checks. Sword Brethren save that much, and even at 265 point they are a smaller target than Terminators, partially because people don't think 'Sword Brethren?! I need to kill those quickly' while they think similarly for Terminators. I do not mean to deride you I'm just pointing this out in case you missed it.
I don't advise against purchasing Marshals, but I do against spending huge points on them. It is my preference to simply use the EC for my HQ, because most lists don't need a Commander. But that doesn't mean they aren't useful, nor that they don't have a place in some lists. But those lists usually involve using him for his Rites of Battle special rule and/or his combat support utility. Because of this, I feel that spending minimal amounts of points to fulfill that role is best. If he dies mid-game, that's just fine as he cost very little. Its likely those points spent elsewhere are making an impact. However, if he dies mid-game and you spent a bunch of points on him, that hurts. Plus, he can only be in one place at once. Unlike support units, who either have extreme mobility (i.e. Land Speeders) or long range weaponry to target various enemy units around the board at will. A commander doesn't have that ability.
And don't worry, I welcome criticism and comments such as yours. Gives me an opportunity to explain myself. Sometimes it even results in me being wrong, which I will happily admit. :)
To summarize. Sword Brethren used with the Infiltrate skill in a Lazerback are a useful addition to a list. While they are not as effective as Terminators they are, nevertheless, cheaper and quite effective and striking your opponent's vulnerable areas. They will not carry the battle themselves but they can make that annoying, powerful vehicle less of a problem or clear a troop off of that far back objective, allowing you to bring your own troop up there or distract your opponent and give you a better chance at holding what you have. They give some of the benefit that you get with Drop Pods but are more effective and flexible than if brought in on one. And, if you set them as an assault unit then they make a very good place for your Emperor's Champion where he can put his abilities to better use.
I have to admit, I have never fielded this unit. Partially because I do not own any Sword Brethren, partially because I have never played against an actual opponent. But I do genuinely believe that Sword Brethren have a use to be found and that is the first big reason why I am emailing you about this.
They do have uses. Perhaps I'll do an article about some possible ways to accomplish this. It is simply my desire to create the most efficient and optimized lists that prevents me from making use of them. But if you're not worried about creating fine-tuned tournament lists, then there are possibilities available to you. Unfortunately, the way you propose simply is not one of them. I'm sorry. :(
The second big reason is that I would like to know how they would actually do, I lack the experience to know for sure how an opponent will react to reserve Infiltrating units so I hope that you might be interested to try this out or at least give your opinion about it.
See above. :/
And the final big reason is that I want to know if this is complete and correct. If it isn't then I'm afraid I will look at other units mistakenly as well. So if you could give me your opinion and reasoning on this I would greatly appreciate it."
The analysis was pretty good. It, regrettably, was based on the incorrect assumption that it was a legal selection in the codex. I'm more than happy to provide my opinion and hopefully, my reasoning was sufficient to explain my thought process.
Thanks for emailing and I welcome any further ones sent my way! :D