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Do Space Wolves lack a mechanical niche?


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#1
Squark

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So, after seeing the mixed reaction to the temporary errata that's tiding us over for a supplement, I started thinking about how GW has consistently struggled to make a "good" Space Wolves codex since 5th edition. And when thinking about what I thought Space Wolves were supposed to do (Or at the very least, what they did when I bought them at the tail end of 5th edition), I had a bit of an awkward realization; I couldn't find a single-sentence guiding statement for Space Wolves armies that doesn't tread on other Chapters' toes.

 

So, let's look at the other specialist Marine chapters, treating Codex Marines as a baseline.

-Blood Angels are fast and strong in close combat.

-Dark Angels sit on the backline and shoot things.

-Deathwatch are elites prepared for anything.

 

Each of these statements guides how the armies play and what mechanics they get. Blood Angels are fast and good in close combat, so their chapter tactics reflect that, and they have better access to Jump Pack units, as well as a faster predator. Regular Dark Angels get bonuses when shooting if they don't move, and their 1st and 2nd companies shore up the weaknesses inherent in a gunline. Deathwatch are pricy, more elite, and have their special ammunition.

 

So, with all that out of the way... What do Space Wolves do?

 

Post-5th edition, we've mostly been a gimmick faction- Thunderwolf Deathstars in 7th, Wulfen bombs in 8th. But 5th edition space wolves were different. We shot better than Blood Angels (But not better than the shootiest factions*), and we chopped better than most shooty factions (but not better than a dedicated melee specialist like the Blood Angels). Okay, that's something. But here's the problem; What we've got here is a faction that's average- Which is what Codex: Space Marines is supposed to be. So now GW has two flavor of Marines competing to be the best at being Generalists; One is inevitably going to win out. In 5th edition, Tactical Marines and Devastators were dreadfully overpriced, so Space Wolves stepped in. But when later editions made a Space Marine codex that was more balanced, Space Wolves suffered. 7th edition blood claws were a poor man's Assault Marines, while Grey Hunters either had a special rule (counter attack) that was very niche, or paid an absurd 2 points to get their Chainswords back.

 

Now, of course, you can argue that it should be a spectrum from Choppiest to Shootiest. So Blood Angels chop better but shoot worse than Space Wolves, who chop better but shoot worse than Codex Marines, who chop better (by virtue of being more mobile) but shoot worse than Dark Angels. But that's a pretty narrow niche we're filling**, and it's not surprising that GW has struggled to make Space Wolves actually work well there.

 

So I guess after all this talking, my question to my brothers at the Fang is, "What are Space Wolves supposed to do?" Because I'm kind of stumped.

 

 

 

*Yes, I know the current chapter tactics for Dark Angels are only a few editions old. That's a large part of why I mostly knew them as a gimmick faction prior to that point, focused on either the Ravenwing, or the Deathwing. Why take Green Marines, when they didn't actually do anything special?

** Tellingly, the main facet of our chapter tactic for most of 8th was mathematically worse for close combat in most cases***, but it didn't leave room for a bonus to shooting.

*** When the baseline for marines in close combat is hit on 3+, wound on a 3+, 4+, or 5+, adding one to wound rolls is superior to adding one to hit rolls. That's just math. While things were different if you had a really high strength weapon that already wounded on a 2+, such things were not terribly common.


Edited by Squark, 08 October 2020 - 04:47 PM.

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#2
Gherrick

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I think there is far more to any faction than simply it's melee and shooty metric. Mobility, versatility, and durability are also key components when defining a chapter. Space Wolves have consistently been the most versatile chapter first and foremost. SW have the most number of unique units save for grey knights. SW elites can usually customize wargear per model (one big reason the primaris chafe so many, IMO), where I believe other chapters still need to equip their first gen elite units with all the same gear with limited exceptions (please correct if I'm mistaken here).

 

With our current chapter bonus, we are also the most accurate in melee. With HI on all and Counter Charge strategem, it will make many armies think twice before engaging us in melee from intimidation alone. SW was often touted as "2nd best at everything", but I think we are in the top tier for melee now.

 

And our shooty still isn't too shabby either.


Edited by Gherrick, 08 October 2020 - 05:32 PM.


#3
Squark

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I think there is far more to any faction than simply it's melee and shooty metric. Mobility, versatility, and durability are also key components when defining a chapter. Space Wolves have consistently been the most versatile chapter first and foremost. SW have the most number of unique units save for grey knights. SW elites can usually customize wargear per model (one big reason the primaris chafe so many, IMO), where I believe other chapters still need to equip their first gen elite units with all the same gear with limited exceptions (please correct if I'm mistaken here).

 

With our current chapter bonus, we are also the most accurate in melee. With HI on all and Counter Charge strategem, it will make many armies think twice before engaging us in melee from intimidation alone. SW was often touted as "2nd best at everything", but I think we are in the top tier for melee now.

 

And our shooty still isn't too shabby either.

 

I'm kind of confused by what you mean here;
1) Durability is pretty similar across the board for loyalist marines (Okay, Iron hands and Raven Guard are more so, but I left out the various flavors of Codex Marine). Space Wolves are neither more or less durable than other marines for the most part

2) Mobility is mandatory for any melee army, although it does lead to different flavors of shooting (Close range skirmishers vs. Gunlines).  As for how it breaks down between chapters... non-specialist DA want to stay put, BA want to charge, and Space Wolves also want to charge, but aren't as good at it as Blood Angels. (Heroic Interventions are a bit harder to quantify the value of. It's going to take some actual playtesting to see how this shakes out. But I fall into the skeptical camp at the moment, which colors my viewpoint here I admit).

3) By versatility, do you mean in army building, or once on the table?

 

As for being the most accurate in melee... That doesn't exist in a vaccuum. The 8th edition change to WS and the wound chart makes Mathhammer very, very easy, and the simple fact is, it's worse than than Blood Angels bonus to wound in the vast majority of cases. Now, specialized units change things, but if a codex is relying on those specialized units, it becomes a gimick codex, that lives and dies on how that gimick performs in the current metagame. And our shooting is... the same as any baseline marine? Which isn't bad, but when comparing marines to marines, inevitably leaves us in the worst category available (Which doesn't inherently mean bad, it just means worse than other things. Which, granted, in the hyper competitive statistics-driven metagame the new tournament rules have created, is more or less the same thing)

 

Sorry if I seem a little... intractable here. Could you provide a little more detail as to what you mean?


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#4
TiguriusX

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Prior to 9th SW were the ultimate CQB and counter assault army. We hard countered the best assault armies in the game without breaking a sweat.

Our new role is TBD on the supplement
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#5
Squark

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Prior to 9th SW were the ultimate CQB and counter assault army. We hard countered the best assault armies in the game without breaking a sweat.

Okay, that's something. But how did Space Wolves do that (mechanically speaking), and was that actually a relevant niche? I admit to only being on the periphery of 7th and 8th, but I don't recall anything that actually supported that outside of one or two strategems.


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#6
Gherrick

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As for being the most accurate in melee... That doesn't exist in a vaccuum. The 8th edition change to WS and the wound chart makes Mathhammer very, very easy, and the simple fact is, it's worse than than Blood Angels bonus to wound in the vast majority of cases. Now, specialized units change things, but if a codex is relying on those specialized units, it becomes a gimick codex, that lives and dies on how that gimick performs in the current metagame.

I'd like to see the mathhammer results you are referring to. I'm not disputing them, but I'm curious about the specifics of the differential between hit and wound bonues.

 

Also, I have no idea why using unique units are "gimmicky". If we had to consistently rely on specific combo's of units+strategems to win, I'd possibly call that gimmicky. Unique units are an effective way of making any chapter stand apart from the boys in blue. Much like the grey knights, I don't feel SW should have ever been included with the other chapters, as at least all of the other chapters still use the codex astartes (even if DA and BA deviate a bit). I would have been fine if we weren't allowed primaris units, especially now that most infantry have 2W. It never fit well with the lore.

 

And our shooting is... the same as any baseline marine? Which isn't bad, but when comparing marines to marines, inevitably leaves us in the worst category available (Which doesn't inherently mean bad, it just means worse than other things. Which, granted, in the hyper competitive statistics-driven metagame the new tournament rules have created, is more or less the same thing)

I agree our shooty is at best average, although litanies now give a more thematic alternative than spells for providing similar benefits.



#7
Squark

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As for being the most accurate in melee... That doesn't exist in a vaccuum. The 8th edition change to WS and the wound chart makes Mathhammer very, very easy, and the simple fact is, it's worse than than Blood Angels bonus to wound in the vast majority of cases. Now, specialized units change things, but if a codex is relying on those specialized units, it becomes a gimick codex, that lives and dies on how that gimick performs in the current metagame.

I'd like to see the mathhammer results you are referring to. I'm not disputing them, but I'm curious about the specifics of the differential between hit and wound bonues.

Sure. It's a byproduct of how multiplication works, more or less. Because Marines tend to have better odds of hitting than they do of wounding, improving the odds of wounding has a greater effect than improving the odds of hitting by the same amount.

 

Blood Angels vs. Space Wolves (Chance of Hitting X Chance of wounding)

When strength is greater than or equal to 2X Toughness 2/3*5/6<5/6*5/6 (55.56% vs. 69.44%)

When strength is greater than toughness 2/3*5/6=5/6*2/3 (55.56%)
When strength equals toughness 2/3*2/3>5/6*1/2  (44.44% vs. 41.67%)

When strength is less than toughness 2/3*1/2>5/6*1/3 (33.33% vs 27.78%)

When strength is less than or equal to 2x Toughness 2/3*1/3>5/6*1/6 (22.22% vs. 13.89%)

EDIT:  This is kind of messy, and that kept bugging me while I was doing homework. So here's a much prettier spreadsheet, that also discusses what happens when there's a penalty to hit.

 

So, in short, our bonus to hit is only better if we were already wounding on a 2+, and most weapons don't do that. Now, the numbers change when there are penalties to hit in melee, but those are rare outside of power fists/thunder hammers, which also tend to fall into the first two scenarios. So our chapter tactic does have a niche (And that's why Smash Lords were one of our most consistently popular units), but powerfists and thunder hammers are not widespread enough to make up for the deficiencies elsewhere.

Also, I have no idea why using unique units are "gimmicky". If we had to consistently rely on specific combo's of units+strategems to win, I'd possibly call that gimmicky. Unique units are an effective way of making any chapter stand apart from the boys in blue. Much like the grey knights, I don't feel SW should have ever been included with the other chapters, as at least all of the other chapters still use the codex astartes (even if DA and BA deviate a bit). I would have been fine if we weren't allowed primaris units, especially now that most infantry have 2W. It never fit well with the lore.

I can see how what I said was confusing;I should have been more specific. I'm specifically referring to the handful of units that are genuinely unique to Space Wolves (Thunder Wolf Cavalry, Wulfen, Stormwolves/Stormfangs, and our Dreadnaughts), Blood Angels (Sanguinary Guard, Sanguinary Priests, Death Company, Baal Predators, and their dreadnaughts), or Dark angels (The Deathwing and Ravenwing). If a chapter is depending specifically on these sorts of units, I'd consider it a gimmick chapter (Tellingly, none of the units I listed are troops anymore)

 

Most of our other units, while they may have a different name, have a counterpart amongst Codex Marines that is very similar in form and function. A Grey Hunter and a Tactical Marine perform very similar roles on the battlefield. A Wolf Priest is a Chaplain who has one tiny extra gimick. Long Fangs are devastators who can't take ablative wounds. While the slight differences do feel make us feel different, they don't actually have much of an effect on battlefield performance (Which is for the best, honestly. 5th edition C:SM players had every right to complain when Grey Hunters were just better than Tactical Marines). The one edge case is Blood Claws, who I would say could be considered a unique unit prior to 9th, as the only melee focused Loyalist Astartes troop choice, but they've lost that uniqueness now that Assault Intercessors are a thing. Most unique wargear has similar issues; Unless it does something transformative like, *brainstorms* , a hypothetical Helfrost squad support weapon that slows down units it hit, it's just a minor statistical change.


Edited by Squark, 08 October 2020 - 07:39 PM.

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#8
TiguriusX

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Prior to 9th SW were the ultimate CQB and counter assault army. We hard countered the best assault armies in the game without breaking a sweat.

Okay, that's something. But how did Space Wolves do that (mechanically speaking), and was that actually a relevant niche? I admit to only being on the periphery of 7th and 8th, but I don't recall anything that actually supported that outside of one or two strategems.

Out at a pumpkin patch with kids today so replies will not be frequent

We had armor of russ to make anyone charging us fight last. We basically had the judiciar all to our codex

We had wulfen who fight on death...so even if you charge and kill wulfen they still do damage

All of our mechanics basically shut down enemy melee super stars

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#9
Squark

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Prior to 9th SW were the ultimate CQB and counter assault army. We hard countered the best assault armies in the game without breaking a sweat.

Okay, that's something. But how did Space Wolves do that (mechanically speaking), and was that actually a relevant niche? I admit to only being on the periphery of 7th and 8th, but I don't recall anything that actually supported that outside of one or two strategems.

Out at a pumpkin patch with kids today so replies will not be frequent

We had armor of russ to make anyone charging us fight last. We basically had the judiciar all to our codex

We had wulfen who fight on death...so even if you charge and kill wulfen they still do damage

All of our mechanics basically shut down enemy melee super stars

 

No worries about any delayed replies. Have fun with the family! (If I'm replying a lot, it's because I can only take notes on the minutiae of Taxation for so long without a break)

 

One relic (which can only be in one place at a time) and one unit are... well, a gimmick. They were a good gimmick, certainly, but if the entire army hinged on those things, it kind of points to us not having a clear role.


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#10
GrFlur

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[...]

 

So I guess after all this talking, my question to my brothers at the Fang is, "What are Space Wolves supposed to do?" Because I'm kind of stumped.

 

[...]

 

They are making us more and more Codex Compliant  :(


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#11
Jorin Helm-splitter

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I don't think it's a case of wolves not having a niche, and more that in 5th we were one of the few chapters to have one. We were a midfield army that relied on characters, this theme was supported by grey hunters (multiple specials allowing us to make the enemy make tough decisions), counter attack, and split fire helped us support these forward units better than anyone (until grey knights lol). 6th closed the gap between us and the other chapters with the introduction of chapter tactics and flyers. 7th was the gimmick edition (formations and summoning almost made me quit the game).

Now with 9th edition Heroic Intervention is basically replacing counter attack still leaving us in my opinion a board control army. What we'll need to identify are the units that will enable that strategy.

#12
TheUnlikelyGamer84

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With my lists I absolutely control the mid board and I have tried to do so all of 8th. Whether it’s woth drop pods of blood claws or incursors. I suppose I build my lists different than most but I had many heavy hitting weapons throughout 8th as well with minimal shooting. Very elite with Hammers and fists with shields everywhere. Someone spoke about durability. Maybe it’s just my meta but all the shields I had in combination with a board that has a proper amount of terrain kept my army alive and well. Not to mention a couple 5 man squads of wulfen terrified opponents. To the point that they dedicated to much to kill them and the rest of my army moved in to clean house whether by objectives or making it to melee. 9th has been great for my play style. Even with the nerfs to wulfen and impulsors.
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#13
TiguriusX

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Prior to 9th SW were the ultimate CQB and counter assault army. We hard countered the best assault armies in the game without breaking a sweat.

Okay, that's something. But how did Space Wolves do that (mechanically speaking), and was that actually a relevant niche? I admit to only being on the periphery of 7th and 8th, but I don't recall anything that actually supported that outside of one or two strategems.
Out at a pumpkin patch with kids today so replies will not be frequent

We had armor of russ to make anyone charging us fight last. We basically had the judiciar all to our codex

We had wulfen who fight on death...so even if you charge and kill wulfen they still do damage

All of our mechanics basically shut down enemy melee super stars
No worries about any delayed replies. Have fun with the family! (If I'm replying a lot, it's because I can only take notes on the minutiae of Taxation for so long without a break)

One relic (which can only be in one place at a time) and one unit are... well, a gimmick. They were a good gimmick, certainly, but if the entire army hinged on those things, it kind of points to us not having a clear role.
It wasn't a gimmick...SW were dominating tournaments

We won't be as dominant with the errata version...our niche mechanic is more subtle

The supplement will have a major impact on our place in the rankings

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#14
CrystalSeer

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The niche of space wolves is actually the type of combat they support. BA is about forming a spearhead and doing a direct coordinated attack to overwhelm a point. DA are about combined arms maneuver and recently ranged fire support.

What wolves have done is fight in a dissagregated fashion to exploit enemy weakness on the field. Our rules turn most of our units in to formidable bully units, which can work with characters to overwhelm enemy assaults and strong points.

This was further enabled by assymetric deployment options allowing us to bring on key assets to counter the enemy's plan.

From a thematic point of view, scout ahead, set the trap, then ambush going for the enemy's weak points.
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#15
svane jotunsbane

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like a pack of wolves taking down musk ox, combined with the old viking shield wall.


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#16
Triszin

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Depending on the supp.


Freak show wolves could become a thing again.

-ld and combat attrition de buffs
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#17
FabulousRex

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I've always thought that our niche could be summed up as:

Counter attackers, armed to the teeth.

Crystal Steel had it right, our units have always been Bully units. We have more deadly and more versatile units on an individual basis, but we pay extra for all of our toys.

Versatility means we can dominate the mid board, where the fighting is typically in all phases of the game. Boys Before Toys is the old saying, I say SW are Boys With the Toys.
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#18
Fang_Guard23

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The wolves have always had a unique form of versatility, they have a number of units, mostly with melee capabilities, so it's how you use them. 

 

The chapter itself is an army comprised of multiple armies, each with their own methods and fighting style, Bjorn Stormwolf prefers to fight with loud weapons and war engines, Engir Krakendoom fights with transports and bikers. you could use long fangs to provide long range support for melee units going up the board with reserve units or fast units to cut the enemy off from long range support. Mid board is one of our best methods of fighting with attacking the enemy flanks


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#19
TiguriusX

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The wolves have always had a unique form of versatility, they have a number of units, mostly with melee capabilities, so it's how you use them.

The chapter itself is an army comprised of multiple armies, each with their own methods and fighting style, Bjorn Stormwolf prefers to fight with loud weapons and war engines, Engir Krakendoom fights with transports and bikers. you could use long fangs to provide long range support for melee units going up the board with reserve units or fast units to cut the enemy off from long range support. Mid board is one of our best methods of fighting with attacking the enemy flanks


Most of that is fluff instead of game rules.

I can always say I am using bjorn stormwolfs company but it doesn't make my vehicles any better.

I'm hoping our supplement touches on this with our "successor" options representing each great company

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#20
temneb

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Our grey hunters have nearly always been tactical and assault marines in one. Weather it was the true grit rule that allowed us to use our bolters as pistols or Simply carrying a chain sword in addition to tactical marine kit. This one addition created versatility in our troops that others never had. We take a spot and dare the opponent to push us off. That versatility was awesome. I’d love but not holding out hope for, a grey Intercessor kit, assault Bolter, chain sword and pistol.

Edited by temneb, 21 October 2020 - 01:48 AM.


#21
Karhedron

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The ability of Grey Hunters to take more melee equipment than Tactical Marines is balanced by their loss of access to heavy weapons in the squad. Intercessors don't really have that option (AGL is more like a special weapon) so giving them access to Chainswords would be a pure upgrade for them.
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#22
temneb

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Also points cost vs tactical squads. We where typically paying more. I don’t see the issue if it’s properly pointed. But not holding out hope, we might see chapter specific primaris in 10th ed




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