Once more, I have to put a disclaimer on here. Everything you will read is obviously from my perspective: a competitive Black Templars player. I build armies with maximum efficiency in mind and am loathe to use sub-optimal units. What that being said, I'll give you what I think about things straight up, blunt, and with no-holds barred. As it should be, in my opinion. You don't learn how to play 40k competitively by holding hands and living in La-La Land. Just sayin'. :)
Alright, so what changed with the Cyclone Missile Launchers? Well, for starters, Games Workshop decided to make them not suck anymore by updating them with the 5th Edition stats. Instead of the single shot missile launcher, we got the double tap CML that everyone else had (except DA). This means the weapon is capable of putting out much more firepower than before. We'll take a look at some math to compare.
Assuming we have a single tactical terminator squad with two CMLs each and both have Tank Hunters (I'll get to that in a second), the previous version would get 0.222 glancing and 0.889 penetrating hits on a Rhino each turn (28.532% chance to destroy). However, factor in the new CML rules and you get a telling story: 0.444 glancing and 1.778 penetrating hits per turn (52.994% chance to destroy). That is a huge improvement. GW didn't up the price of these guys either.
Many other armies already had this tool in their arsenal and they aren't getting used. Why? Because they don't have the Tank Hunters special rule. For 3 points, our terminators gain the ability to take Furious Charge or Tank Hunters. That's like turning our CMLs into Lascannons. Not only that, we have the ability to take two of them in one unit! That means there are four "lascannon" shots coming from our terminators each turn.
Players might start going: "Hmmm. But I can take a Predator Annihilator for 145 points for almost the same killing power!". True, but there is a flaw in that argument. That player isn't considering the staying power of the terminator. Even in the minimal sized squads (5), your opponent has to put significant fire into them to actually damage your shooting potential. That usually means your enemy needs to kill 4 terminators before they actually hurt the CMLs. Not easy to do, especially if the terminators are sitting in cover.
It is this change that is prompting many to drop shooty dreadnoughts from their lists and replace them with these new terminators if they have the points. That is the catch: if there are points available. These guys aren't cheap. The basic unit of 5 with CMLs and Tank Hunters is sitting at 265 points, with most people adding in two Chainfists for 10 more points (gives wound allocation and some emergency "melta" in assault). That is essentially two shooty Dreadnoughts or almost two Tri-Las Preds. But as I mentioned, terminators have quite a bit of staying power, where vehicles do not. It is quite easy to simply toss an shot at an AV12 vehicle a turn to shake/stun it each turn (which might also destroy it in the process). That is not a valid option against the terminators.
In addition, these terminators do provide your army with a type of bubble wrap that shooty dreadnoughts are not really able to give you. While Dreadnoughts might hold up a normal unit in assault, a dedicated CC unit will smash it down quickly and you won't really hurt your opponent in return. However, the terminators (if they survive the onslaught of the dedicated CC-unit) WILL hurt some people. Plus, if there is not a whole lot of power weapons in your enemy's unit, you'll be making 2+ saves. The terminators won't hold up long against a huge torrent of attacks, nor a salvo of power weapons, but they'll give you a turn more to deal with the threat or simply lock up that unit in draw-out combat (not always a good thing).
So we see that terminators are generally superior to our previous firepower source in the Elites slot, dreadnoughts. However, that doesn't mean they fit in every army. Unlike the Typhoon Land Speeder, they are not cheap enough to be this magical unicorn that will make every list featuring them, significantly improved. Are they an extremely nice option to have? Yes. Do they open up a couple new army builds that might be competitive? Correct again. But unfortunately, they really are only effective in stand-off armies where you plan on sitting there shooting all game anyway. Armies that are designed to charge forward to get into combat, probably won't get the most out of these guys. Nor are they particularly good in Drop Pod armies (where the MM Dreadnought is king). There are cheaper and more synergetic options for your army in those cases.
In addition, you ultimately need to have a lot of free points available for you to use these guys. 1500-2000 points are the sweet spot. However, if you plan on going to 2500 points, then you're going to need some form of a counter-attack, which the tactical terminators are not particularly well suited. You can read Nikephoros discussion about that here.
Lastly, they do suffer from a negative special rule that all infantry-based units in the codex have. That rule is "Kill Them All". Essentially, it forces you to take a target priority test (Ld test) with a -1 Ld modifier. If failed, you must shoot at the closest enemy target. This could potentially be abused by a cunning enemy by placing numerous junk units in front of the more vulnerable vehicles. Fortunately, terminators have a Ld 9, so they'd pass the test with an 8 or lower on a 2D6. That is a pretty decent chance of passing (72.2%).
Now that the discussion is over, let's take a quick review of what we learned:
- CML Terminators are extremely expensive, clocking in at 265 bare minimum.
- They are best suited for armies that spend most of their time shooting the enemy from mid- to long-range.
- These terminators are ideally suited to act as a speed-bump for your more vulnerable units, such as your shooty crusader squads on objectives.
- It is extremely difficult to silence their guns, though its important to remember that they do suffer from "Kill Them All."
- These guys are not a panacea for your army. They are simply a tool that can be used by specific types of armies to improve their efficiency, nothing more.
The BT FAQ: What did we really get? Part One.
The BT FAQ: What did we really get? Part Three.