I've proxied the dreadclaw a couple times, enough to decide I actually wanted one.
The most important first step to using a dreadclaw is not to think of it as a fancy drop pod. This is, in many ways, the hardest step. After all, it looks like a fancy drop pod. It has to deep strike like a drop pod, it exists primarily to deliver troops, etc etc etc. By all appearances, it's a fancy drop pod, the cadilac of drop pods, but that is a lie. On a fundamental level, the drop pod delivers units with high reliability to tight positions for close range shooting, does so at little to no cost in points or force org slots. It has exactly the tools it needs to do this - inertial guidance, drop pod assault - and nothing else, which keeps them cheap enough to use (or spam).
The dreadclaw is a terrible
drop pod. Without inertial guidance, it can't reliably deploy close to the enemy, and it has a bunch of extra abilities (movement after arrival, assault ramp, frag launchers, melta blast, possession, etc), none of which help it do the drop pod's job, making its points cost absolutely ludicrous. On top of that, it isn't a dedicated transport for most units in our book, instead eating valuable fast slots. In transitioning from pod to claw, the whole thing seems to have gone pear shaped. Terrible. Garbage.
But maybe it was a pear to begin with? Maybe we've been comparing apples to pears all along? I'm not at all the first person to say this, but the dreadclaw isn't garbage, because it isn't the high class drop pod it looks like. What it is, is a ghetto stormraven, a storm raven with all the guns sawed off, no dread hook, and slightly smaller capacity, for half the points cost. So you don't try to use it like a drop pod, you try to use it like a storm raven that is only trying to deliver an assault unit. Now, arguably, the storm raven is a better gunship than a delivery option, which leaves the dreadclaw as not exactly amazing, but I never said the claw was amazing, just that it wasn't garbage.
So, when looking at transport ability, what are the differences between the claw and the raven?
- carries less (no dread, -2 capacity
- deep strikes (risk of mishap/scatter)
- possessed (might lose a random model)
+ 1/2 your claws rounded up arrive turn 1
+ costs less
+ deep strike (can potentially access areas the raven would take an extra turn to reach)
+ possessed (5/6 shrugs off shaken/stun)
+ half the price
+ dedicated transport for a couple units (sadly not all, and not the ones that most want it)
Well, now. Setting aside for the moment whether the storm raven is good as a transport
in and of itself, the claw doesn't look to be a terrible transport in comparison to it.
So, having established that the dreadclaw is far better off pretending to be a lousy storm raven than a fancy drop pod, how does that affect its use? Well, first, we don't spam them. In fact, since we're just concerned with delivery and not shooting, and only one claw arrives T1 (unless we take 3, which incus an excessive cost), we probably don't even take 2. Second, it deep strikes, which potentially shows up further forward than the storm raven when it appears, but mostly means you need an open area and scatter, so your position after movement isn't as ideal. However, since your guns fell off during the transition from bird to claw, you can use your flat out move to get back into an ideal position.
Now, the claw has to come in hovering, but the raven has to as well if it wants to deliver its unit into assault on the next turn. Both have 3hp and 12 armour to try and keep them up for that turn, but the dreadclaw is also smaller, and lower (in hover mode it's hopping around on it's tines) to make line of sight easier to block, plus it forgot all its guns, so it doesn't care about jinking, and it's possessed, so it can shrug off those stunned results. So it's not super fragile.
Keep in mind, it's no land raider, it isn't going to eat a whole opponent's shooting phase, but so long as you've got a fair bit of target saturation going, it's gonna force some real tough decisions on the opponent. Especially since, if they do down the claw, they still have to wipe out the unit that falls out to prevent the claw from having retroactively succeeded at its job anyway. And fortunately for us, we've got a lot of points efficient fast units that can be presenting a similar threat in a similar time frame. Rapid fire squads in rhinos, bikes, spawn, and maulers are all presenting similarly paced threats, in that they all land fairly reliably on turn two, assuming the opponent didn't move towards you on turn one. Unfortunately, a few of the more efficient of those units (bikes and spawn in particular) compete with claws for slots, so if slots are an issue (unbound and multidetachments not available for instance) then you're stuck with basic CSMs or chosen for the package, and sadly while those units aren't aweful, they aren't amazing either.
So, what's our use, then? We take one, put a nasty (well, nastyish, again we're probably talking CSMs or chosen, probably not even with an IC since those would rather be on bikes for the T boost) melee unit in it, drop it first turn in the open, flat out to a good position near a juicy backfield target. Next turn, you move, drop the unit, and it assaults. After that, if the claw is still alive, fly high, and just zoom around until it's time to push your way onto an objective at the end of the game. In the same army, we take (at least) two maulerfiends, 2 to 3 units of bikes / spawn, some similarly fast IC (bike/jugger lord or sorc, or maybe a nurgle mace prince), MAYBE a couple rapid fire units in rhinos (if we're feeling guilty about how few CSMs are in our CSM army), and whatever backfield campers / ranged support we feel is appropriate and can still fit. Since the rest of that list apart from the claw unit is basically the default CSM army these days, it's actually not too hard to work with, although obviously points costs are an issue.
And what do we put in it? Well, ideally, I'd say berzerkers. They're not a super terrible unit once you have an actual delivery vector, especially one that gives them such a good chance of getting a charge. Unfortunately, they can't take one as a dedicated transport, so if slots are an issue it's chaos marines (with meltas in the squad and some sort of power something on the champ, maybe MoS or MoK, maybe w/ icon if marked), or chosen (same, only maybe also with an extra couple meltas or power something or others in the squad). Chosen are painfully points inefficient still, but do improve somewhat with dread claw use, especially melee configurations. Basically, I don't recommend chosen for your claws, but I do recommend claws for your melee chosen. The situation is similar for possessed, they're a bad unit regardless, so if you're looking for a good unit to put in a claw look elsewhere, but if you're dead set on fielding possessed for thematic or aesthetic reasons regardles, delivering them via a claw is probably the best way to do it.
Theoretically, the claw can also be used to deliver a massive melee IC like Abby or Typhus, but the colossal points increase makes the claw too big of a target, ime. It and its unit won't stand up to the full attention of the opponent, and if you put an abaddon or the like in there the opponent can afford to give it that attention. Sure, you might luck out on jink saves, but it doesn't seem like an ideal tactic to me for anything other than 'gotcha' games where you don't have to tell your opponent what you're fielding before the game, and that's generally not super fun, and doesn't work more than once anyway.
Khârn, on the other hand, presents a potential exception to my 'no characters' rule. He hits like a train, and doesn't cost too much. There are already threads about trying to cram Khârn and a unit of CSMs or chosen down the opponent's throat in a land raider, I have to wonder if the points saved by converting that raider to a claw might prove beneficial.
I haven't tried it myself, though, and in general I think the rule of keeping the contents of the claw cheap in order to present the opponent more T2 threats should be the default.
So, all that said, is the claw good
? Well, I don't know. It's a heck of a lot better than it was, but it's still far from great. It may compare favorably to the storm raven as a pure assault transport, but, I mean, come on, who fields a storm raven for that? And while comparing it to a drop pod may be comparing apples to pears, the drop pod is a really delicious, super high quality apple that the vendor is practically giving away, while the dread claw is at best a sort of middling quality pear, with a couple bruises, and a price tag that's frankly a bit much.
But then again, pears are out of season, so what did you expect? If you want a pear, it's kinda the only pear around, so there's not a lot of room to complain. It's hard to find decent assault delivery in the CSM book at all, so the so-so dreadclaw can still claim its space.
If you've been running the typical, CSMless CSM assault rush, and you really wanted to throw some more power armored bodies into your list because, damn it, it isn't codex 'spawn and maulerfiends', then a squad of something in a dread claw can help you scratch that itch without having too adverse an impact on your overal strategy or success rate. So yeah, that may be a mixed recommendation, but it's a recommendation none the less. Particularly if you're looking for a more interesting way of fielding chosen than 'more expensive version of havoc squad with plasma guns'. Like, maybe you play Black Legion or Crimson Slaughter. Or maybe you just have those nice starter box models, and would really like to field them in a unit without having to hack off all those melee arms.
My handful of proxied games were enough to convince me that when I'm ready to shift focus from my Undead Legion back to the CSMs (likely around the time 9e is released and WHFB is consigned to the unforgiving pages of history), I'll definitely be saving up to add one to my own collection, and it will likely end up being the primary delivery vector of those fancy converted chosen I was working on when Nagash stole my will to 40k.
Edited by malisteen, 25 February 2015 - 04:32 AM.