How much AA is enough?


When building a take all comers list, it can sometimes be tough to determine how many points you need to invest into air defense.

Now, we have to assume here that you are not aware of the meta you will be playing in, as when you are playing at your local club or FLGS and you know what everyone else will be bringing, but when you are going into a tournament or to play a pick-up game where your opponent will be an unknown until you are at the table.

With the changes to the interceptor/skyfire rules, it is no longer such an easy choice as to which units to take to fill this role. As these units are now much more specialized and situationally awesome or very poor, it is a tough choice.

If you take ground based AA assets such as a Quad Gun or Stalker tank, for example, you may find yourself in situations where they are only ever snap firing on targets. This can result in only getting “out of the box” uses out of them such as tank shocking or charge blocking, etc.

If you take air units of your own to fill the AA role, you can find yourself in situations where they don’t come onto the table until turn 4, or come onto the table before enemy flyers and actually get taken out by the units they were meant to hunt. Reserve controls help a lot here, but, they are not foolproof.


What I have found myself gravitating to, are ground based units that are useful in general terms but can also function in an AA role. Wave Serpents, Sicaran tanks, etc. are all excellent for this. While they are not as good in the dedicated AA role, they are useful in every other situation. They are also more reliable than flyers as they start on the table and as such, can start blasting FMCs while they are still on the ground. They also are always in position to counter enemy flyers when they come on, so long as they don’t get taken out, first.

Now, while I would never say flyers or dedicated AA units don’t have a place in a list, I have found that I have gravitated towards the more general purpose units that also fill the AA role for a more efficient use of points. You may find yourself short-handed if you come up against a full blown air-force list, but that is the risk you take.

What have you all found to work for you?


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

47 Responses to “How much AA is enough?”

  1. Avatar
    jamie September 26, 2014 12:37 am #

    I used to take eldar allies for my dark elder to fill the AA role with the crimson hunter as an exarch which worked to a point but low armour makes it a lil hard to survive

    now I follow the teachings of Frankie and I have no AA at all and go for an alpha strike to kill flying MC and spam lots of blasters and dark lances and pray for 6’s and after 2 games where only 1 flyer has been used its worked really well

  2. Avatar
    Julio Rodriguez September 26, 2014 1:07 am #

    I also don’t take any AA with my marines. Usually Meltaguns and Krak Grenades will help but most of the times I ignore flyers.

  3. Avatar
    MC Tic Tac September 26, 2014 1:08 am #

    What about the return of the…….

    Dakka Dread?

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 8:58 am #

      Not a bad choice at all. Also, look at the Mortis Dread (not the Contemptor version), you can take 2 twin auto cannons or twin las cannons and if he holds still he gets Skyfire and Interceptor! Very cheap, too.

      • Avatar
        Trentat September 26, 2014 1:33 pm #

        Yeah, I’m very fond of the Mortis Dread since he can _choose_ to have Skyfire+Interceptor…or not and fire on ground targets at full BS.

        It’s nice that Dark Angels aren’t limited to one Elite selection of them like everyone else and can actually field all 3 slots of them in a CAD.

        Access to DA PfG’s compensates for their middling (in current meta) AV12.

        What? Dark Angels have something good?!

        • Reecius
          Reecius September 26, 2014 2:05 pm #

          Yeah, they are great! I am glad they gave Dark Angels something special with them as they were originally a DA only unit.

      • Avatar
        Ghostwolf September 27, 2014 7:19 am #

        What book are the contemptor and mortis in? Are they allowed for SW or do I have to ally them in?

        The most common flyer I encounter is the Valkyrie and Vendetta. Razorbacks and concentrated dakka tend to do the trick. Every so often I use an ADL.

        With the new dex, things have changed a bit, but rifle dreads may be my new go too.

  4. Avatar
    N.I.B. September 26, 2014 1:31 am #

    It depends.

  5. Avatar
    Knight of Infinite Resignation September 26, 2014 2:31 am #

    As a CSM player my only options are the Heldrake with the gun rather than the flamer (too expensive for what it does) or ground based AA (too vulnerable and usually dead by the time a flyer arrives). So I don’t have much choice but to ignore flyers, or take allies! Thanks GW!

    • Avatar
      Graf September 26, 2014 9:00 am #

      Don’t forget the Daemon Prince. Heldrakes may take their flamer and use their vector strikes to take down flyers.

      Nonetheless, I’d suggest to ally with Chaos Daemons and take a Soul Grinder, they are great against air AND ground targets.

  6. Avatar
    trueknight September 26, 2014 3:30 am #

    I go back and forth on bringing AA…. Ive been running a pask leman russ in a punisher w 2 exterminator buddies and it seems to get the job done somewhat

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 9:01 pm #

      Yeah, especially when Pask is Twin Linked, he can drop FMCs.

  7. Avatar
    greggles September 26, 2014 3:33 am #

    I really like the SM Stormtalons as dual purpose units. They’re pretty cheap, and can influence the ground battles (and even hover to snatch points) after the enemy aircraft are dealt with.

    The sicaran though…what a tank. The fact that it ignores jinking makes it significantly more effective then you would think.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 9:01 pm #

      Yeah, the Storm Talon is legit, very cost effective.

      And I agree, the Sicaran is incredibly good.

  8. Avatar
    jonathan September 26, 2014 5:55 am #

    I don’t know how you can take no dedicated AA when there are so many flyer spam top lists out there. I’m thinking of Tyranid Crone / Flyrant spam, and Necron night scythes/dedicated flyer transports spam primarily. How can you possibly hope to beat those kind of lists without anti-air???

    Serpent spam works of course – but Serpent spam works for everything because that’s one of the most broken units in the game…
    Armor 12, 3HP, jink, 2+ ignore pens or D6+1 S7 shots with ignores cover, twin linked most of the time, transport + more guns + goodies all for around 125pts…ridiculous….ignores cover alone makes them so broken…2+ bike jink? ignore. 4+ flyer jink? ignore. 2+ aegis save? ignore. 2+ stealth cover save on an assasin? ignore. All dead from massive shots. Without that, I would be ok with them.

    it’s broke…and coming in at LESS expensive than my Dark Angel Land Speeder Vengeance which is inferior in every imaginable way…Armor 10, 2hp, jink, 3 S7 shots with gets hot or 1 Lg blast with gets hot, 3 hvy bolter shots…guaranteed to not get your points worth because if you survive turn 1 you’ll kill yourself turn 2…ughh

    back to the original topic…

    As a DA + IG player I usually run 1 or 2 flakk missiles plus an icarus or quad gun on a bastion or aegis. On top of that I like to have 1 other unit that is dual purpose…Black Knights with twin linked rapid fire plasma or Leman Russ punisher with a psyker to twin link him for 29 S5 shots against armor 11 flyers.

    This article makes me consider dropping the extra points. But with a mech-heavy high armor value list, i fear that spells certain death if I face a flyer spam necron list with tons of gauss.

    • Avatar
      Fagerlund September 26, 2014 7:20 am #

      If your opponent run a flyer-spam you simply outmanouver as much as you can and play the mission. They can’t score objectives while flying, so you simply wait for them to come down before beating them up.

      The best way to accomplish this is probably to realise that “all comers” is dead. You chose your list in a way that it does well vs most stuff and accept that you lose against some lists, just don’t get massacred.

    • Avatar
      jamie September 26, 2014 10:58 am #

      iv got mad skillz lol

  9. Avatar
    DCannon4Life September 26, 2014 5:59 am #

    Wave Serpents, Warp Spiders, and Hornets. My entire anti-air strategy revolves around my ability to roll 6’s at will. >.>

    • Avatar
      Novastar September 26, 2014 6:37 am #

      What’s your plan if your opponent isn’t named Will?

      • Avatar
        DCannon4Life September 26, 2014 8:04 am #

        I haven’t had to think that far ahead!

      • Avatar
        RoockieBoy September 26, 2014 2:56 pm #

        Awesome haha just made my day!

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 8:56 am #

      I need my twin link to get any consistency, but yeah, haha, same plan here!

  10. Avatar
    Karl September 26, 2014 7:06 am #

    Skyray. God I love my skyray almost never leave home without one.

    Low cost, effective as heck (some smart missles, some markerlight, some seeker missiles) against flyers and still very usefull against other targets.

    Being SW I haven’t found a solution as easy as the skyray tbh. Sure fangs with the full rocket kit but becomes costy.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 9:03 pm #

      Stormwolf is a beast vs. other flyers.

  11. Avatar
    LotLP September 26, 2014 8:00 am #

    Don’t forget – skyfire also hits skimmers at full BS nowadays! So if your enemy is bringing basically any xenos army with vehichles, that S7 AP2 armourbane missile the space marines tend to be fond of (for a low points cost too) is firing at full BS at that falcon grav tank over there! S7 *ARMOURBANE* AP2 is nasty yo.

    So there’s a decent chance you’ll be firing full BS vs your opponent, what with the xenos races being the top-tiered tourney races and all.

  12. Avatar
    Alan September 26, 2014 8:46 am #

    Comin’ straight at ya outta 2010, I actually still run a pair of rifleman. Decent enough AA in a pinch and I just like having more S7 (who doesn’t?). I’m always just weary of taking dedicated AA in forms of skyfire models, who are severely hampered when your opponent doesn’t run fliers, and running fliers yourself who depend on reserve rolls. I just personally like the ground units that can work as AA if need be. Even if not the most efficient, I know it will always be useful to have (and on Turn 1).

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 8:55 am #

      Yeah, they are a solid investment and they are cheap. With transports coming back on the scene, that is not a bad investment of points at all.

  13. Avatar
    Jural September 26, 2014 9:36 am #

    Volume of fire still works, and the necton annihilation barges just bring it to a whole new level, but don’t sleep on things like Dakka-Fexes. So far I think Only Tau has affordable generic skyfire.

    FMC with good ranged weaponry are also great anti-air, but very rare (am I wrong in saying it’s limited to the Hive Tyrant and Hive Crone?) The ability to start on the board and just ignore all the issues with reserves is amazing. It’s too bad the greater daemons and daemon princes can’t play. Vector Strike is a great toolbox ability, but you best not rely on it!

  14. Avatar
    Hotsauceman1 September 26, 2014 9:44 am #

    *Raises Hand*
    What about a Vindicare on a quad-gun? It can perform multiple roles if need be. And it ignores cover.

    • Avatar
      DCannon4Life September 26, 2014 11:51 am #

      Hilarious! What an insult to the Vindicare: “You want me to…what?” Still, probably super effective.

  15. Avatar
    Loopy September 26, 2014 11:10 am #

    Lootaz, of course. Just wish it was easier to protect them.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 9:03 pm #

      And Traktor Kannons!

      • Avatar
        Calle September 30, 2014 12:30 am #

        Is two tractor cannons enough for games under 1500p? With ammo runts + one extra grot. Twice the cost as a group of grots, but they will be harder to shoot off objectives. I usually bring a small group of lootas as well.

  16. Avatar
    xthexclincherx September 26, 2014 12:10 pm #

    As a Space Marine (Red Hunters) player, I often use their Chapter Tactics to give my lascannon devastators/centurion devastators skyfire for a turn… that works well. Also, the Contemptor Mortis dread has treated me well in 6th (a little less-so in 7th but that’s ok, it should get a rules update soon), and giving it Tank Hunter while standing still is great for peppering flyers with the dual Kheres Assault Cannons!

  17. Avatar
    Variance Hammer September 26, 2014 12:25 pm #

    I’ve found myself tending to follow two strategies:

    – Just ignore the flier – even uncontrolled, they’re not actually all that impactful on the battle unless your opponent is taking a bunch of them.

    – Saturation fire. Eldar Jetbikes which can maneuver to rear armor or Bladestorm FMCs and are twin-linked (which takes a little bit of the sting out of Skyfire). Wave Serpents, who will do some damage just based on the sheer number of moderate-strength shots and the shield ignoring cover.

    I’ve been playing again for the better part of a year now, and yesterday came to the realization that my Crimson Hunter has actually never fired on another flier.

  18. Avatar
    Trentat September 26, 2014 1:42 pm #

    HYMP Broadsides with Velocity Trackers get the job done pretty well, especially with the obligatory attached PENchip Buffmander.

    Many a player overlooks the fact that Velocity Trackers have the OPTION of having Skyfire, so can still fire on ground targets at full BS if they so choose.

    It’s just too bad they’re limited to a single support system and can’t have Interceptor as well. They should be durable enough to survive most opening air salvos though…except maybe Vendetta spam, but their points hike has made multiples of them rarer than the Dodo bird.

    • Avatar
      Alan September 26, 2014 5:43 pm #

      Honestly, I would just take EWO (interceptor) and forgo skyfire because a) it’s more expensive and adds up quickly and b) you can down most fliers through volume of shots with all that S7. And a lot of the shots won’t benefit much (snapshotting to BS 3) and others not at all (i.e. the missile drones). Riptides though, I would give them both skyfire and interceptor!

  19. Avatar
    AbusePuppy September 26, 2014 2:03 pm #

    A big part of the problem is that GW cannot seem to print effective AA units (either ground-based or airborne)- most of their attempts, like the Stalker/Hunter, Crimson Hunter, Nephilim, Hydra, etc, are either underwhelming or outright bad. The only really “successes” I can think of are the Skyray/Velocity Tracker from the Tau codex and the Flyrant from the Tyranid codex- and both of these are as successful as they are because they aren’t single-role units that do only one thing.

    Changes in the meta have meant that a strong AA contingent isn’t as necessary as it used to be, but _some_ kind of option is still needed for most lists. This, amongst other things, is one of the big strengths of Tau in general and the Firebase Support Cadre in particular- even in its most basic form it can present a significant threat to aircraft and with the right kit (especially on the Riptide) it can make things a real problem for them.

  20. Avatar
    Bdub September 26, 2014 6:28 pm #

    Traktor kannons FTW! apparently orks are terrible at shooting stuff that’s holding still, but stuff moving at the speed of sound is a piece of cake…makes as much sense as the rest of the ork society so whatevs.

  21. Avatar
    TutorialBoss September 26, 2014 7:09 pm #

    This is exactly why I’d like to see more 40k tournaments make use of “sideboard” style lists. That would go a long way to tempting me back into the tourney scene.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 26, 2014 9:04 pm #

      We’ve talked about it for ages, but we’ve never tried implementing it. Logistically it poses quite a few issues. But, I would like to give it a go at some point.

  22. Avatar
    vonvilkee September 29, 2014 8:37 am #

    One thing I didn’t see on the list was grav centurions. I’ve been impressed with their ability to drop flyers. Vehicle flyers now have crash and burn tests like the grounding tests of flying monstrous creatures it has worked for me. Also anything twin linked works well.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 29, 2014 3:32 pm #

      The only problem is actually hitting them. 6’s followed by 6’s (even with a reroll) is a tall order.

  23. Avatar
    TinBane September 29, 2014 6:09 pm #

    Yep. Exactly as Reecius says. 6 followed by 6 is 2.78% chance. So with 6 shots for instance, you only have a 15.5% chance of getting one or more damage points off. With 12 shots (!) that only goes up to 28.6%.

    You could fail to damage a skimmer, taking every opportunity you can to shoot, with 12 grav shots a turn! Not great investment!

    • Avatar
      TinBane September 29, 2014 6:10 pm #

      err, flyer. Not skimmer.

      • Reecius
        Reecius September 29, 2014 6:50 pm #

        Played a game today, fired 45 Grav Cannon shots, not a single 6! lol

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