He Who Deathstrikes, Wins!
Anyone who hasn’t been playing 40K in a cave for the past edition knows how incredibly powerful Manticores can be. With multiple strength 10 templates a turn, they can be devastating to the parking lot style armies we so commonly see in competitive lists these days. Light infantry hordes also fear these monsters as do multi-wound units. It is not at all uncommon to see 3 of these beasts in many tournament lists.
However, there is another vehicle that serves a similar purpose in the IG codex that is seldom seen…..the mighty Deathstrike!
Stop laughing, I’m being serious.
The Deathstrike has game winning potential. First of all, a very common misconception is the blast marker these little badasses uses. When it fires you measure a D3+3” RADIUS from the hit point. That means it’s actual size is a (D3+3)x2” diameter blast. That means it will be between an 8” and 12” circle! That is the Apoc giant blast template, for those who need a visual.
You get a huge, strength 10, ap1 blast that ignores cover, roles 2D6 take the highest on side armor for penetration against vehicles, nuke that can potentially destroy the heart of an enemy force.
But it only launches on a 6, you may be saying!
True, but since it gets a plus 1 for every turn it is on the board, that means turn 2 it fires on a 5, so long as it hasn’t had any damage modifiers applied to it. Oh, and it can’t be weapon destroyed, this baby has to be completely destroyed to be stopped. And further, with side armor 12 (as opposed to the Manticore’s 10), the Deathstrike is actually fairly resilient.
As is nearly always the case in 40K, where one is good, two is better, and three is best. If you have three of these peacemakers on your side of the table, statistically, one should fire turn two. This means that your bird flies through the air, mushroom clouding on your enemies causing massive destruction early game, possibly winning it for you right there. The potential scatter for this weapon if you can’t see your target is 12”, averaging 7,” and 9” with an average of 4” if you can draw LOS to the target. That means you will almost always hit what you are shooting at as the average blast is larger than its average scatter! Since the entire blast is full strength and ignores cover, your primary target is not going to be safe.
One in nine games, two will fire first turn. One in 27 games, all three fire first turn. Game over, man!
What if the opponent reserves? What about Dawn of War?
No problem. This weapon sits and waits increasing its odds to fire, like a cobra ready to strike, until the enemy enters play. Since this is not a blast marker but a radius weapon, even if the enemy gets close, you can still hit them with the money shot. You may get some of your own boys too, but hey, this is the Imperial Guard and life is cheap. In Dawn of war, both armies tend to lose a turn so to speak, so it can actually be beneficial as your first turn to shoot you are often the same distance away from one another as you would be in Pitched Battle deployments.
So how do you use this weapon of mass destruction? There are two ways, as I see it.
One, you make a bog standard Imperial Guard list and take a single Deathstrike for laughs and don’t count on it to be there when you need it but loving it when it does.
The second way, and that which I personally would do, is to build a list around the Deathstrikes. Take three of the buggers and a list built to protect the Deathstrikes and keep your enemy at bay until they go Deffcon 40K and unleash hell on your enemy!
I personally would make a power-blob infantry army with Straken and as many 30-50 man infantry blocks as I could fit, to build a huge cushion around the Deathstrikes. Place your mini nukes in cover wherever possible. The power blobs give you units that are good in combat, shooting, board control, scoring power and low in KPs. It allows you to buffer your Deathstrikes and the army performs well even with the points drain the Deathstrikes will place on your list. It also makes spectacular failure on the part of your Deathstrikes so much more entertaining when potentially hundreds of Guardsmen get caught in the carnage! I am sick, I know.
With this type of build you can keep enemy units out of the Deathstrikes minimum range as well with board control, and you can keep a unit or two of special weapons squads in reserve to come in late game and objective grab in case the Deathstrikes go AWOL and Hiroshima half your army.
The other way to go about building this type of list, is to build a typical, tournament IG list and instead of your usual Heavy Support choices, take the venerable Deathstrikes. This way you can bury them in Chimeras to keep them safe, and shoot the bejesus out of your opponent as normal, enjoying the extra money shot to the face that is the Deathstrikes popping off.
So, the question seems to be: to Deathstrike, or not to Deathstrike? That is a question only you can answer for yourself, but in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood, it really comes down to this: Do you feel lucky punk? The Deathstrike is random and fun. It is unreliable but has the potential for a game winning, early game punch. So try it out, even just proxying it in a game or two, and see how it goes for you.
And besides, if it results in Nuclear Winter, you can always call in the Valhallans!