Salty John talks Drop Pod Tactics!


Hello Overwatch from Capture and Control, or Salty John as listeners to TFG Radio may know me here again. It turns out I know a thing or two about playing Drop Pod armies.

At least according to Reece and Frankie. Recently a watcher/commenter of Signals from the Frontline asked Reece and Frankie about what Drop Pod lists are good to use. Reece referenced that I’d had success with the new Blackmanes and prior to that I’ve been almost an exclusively Drop Pod army player for 3 years. I wrote a previous article on Null Deploy armies that talked a lot about Drop Pod armies which you can find on Capture and Control and TFG Radio. Here I would like to discuss 3 lists I have had success with. Hopefully I can avoid setting off any internet landmines for Reece and Frankie this time around 😉

There are two basic ways I’ve run my Drop Pod army successfully. I piloted one version to a 3-2 showing at the Bay Area Open last year and I’ve used an Ultrmarines version with great success locally. The third is my new Blackmanes list which I love but haven’t had any tournament success with, as I haven’t played any tournaments with it yet.


First off my BAO 2015 Salamanders list.

Salamanders Gladius Strike Force

Demi-Battle Company

  • Vulkan (Warlord)
  • Command Squad 5x meltaguns, Drop Pod
  • 2x 10 Tactical Marines MG, MM, Combimelta Drop Pod
  • 1x 5 Tactical Marines MG, Combimelta, Drop Pod
  • 1x 5 Assault Marines, 2 Flamers, Drop Pod
  • 1x 3 Centurions with Grav

Salamanders CAD

  • Librarian lvl 1
  • 2x 5 Tactical Marines, Flamer, Combiflamer, Drop Pod
  • Drop Pod

Librarius Conclave

  • 2x Level 2 Librarians
  • 1x Level 1 Librarian

1850 Points, 61 models, 8 Drop Pods, 4 on Turn 1.


I built this list to be as close to the Salamanders list I’d been playing throughout the beginning of 7th edition. I left at the tail end of 6th edition because I wasn’t having fun anymore. 7th, and playing a Salamander Drop Pod army brought me back. The new SM codex dropped only a month or two before BAO 2015 so I didn’t want to change my proven formula completely. It does what most good Drop Pod armies do, drops in and hits you with a lot of twin linked shooting, Grav, and High Str weapons. With this list I beat 2 of 3 Battle Company lists I faced plus a Mechanicus army. I lost to a near mirror match in a Drop Pod heavy Battle Company and to Necrons. What I like about this Drop Pod army is the flexibility it gives you. All the constantly twin linked flamers and melta mean Doctrines are less necessary.

The Command squad I found to be an excellent “stealth star”. In three games I was able to get Invisibility, Endurance, and Forewarning which made the Command Squad plus Vulkan and 3 Librarians a tough little unit that could also dish out some pain in both the shooting and assault phases. It surprised several opponents over my 3 months playing it. The other thing I liked was the ability to summon daemons if necessary with the Conclave. It has a hard hitting Alpha Strike, plus Psychic shenanigans and protection, some unexpected goodies in the form of the “stealth star” and summoning were great as well. The list was surprising to many people. When they came around the top tables round 3 of the 2015 BAO to get the lists from us to post once the round was over the guy from FLG who asked about the lists was shocked I wasn’t a Battle Company and had a CAD. I feel the exact quote was “Wait, what? You have a CAD in there? Let me see.” Anytime you can be unexpected it pays off, even if I did lose that game and lose out on the top 16 as a result.


Ultramarines Gladius Strike Force

Battle Company

  • Captain
  • Chaplain
  • 4x 5 Tactical Marines, Meltagun, Drop Pod
  • 2x 5 Tactical Marines, Flamer, Drop Pod
  • 2x Land Speeders
  • 5 Devastators 4x GravCannons Drop Pod
  • 5 Devastators 4x Heavy Bolters Drop Pod

1st Company Task Force

  • 5 Sternguard, 2x Heavy Flamers, Drop Pod
  • 5 Sternguard, 2x Meltaguns, Drop Pod
  • 5 Sternguard, 2x Meltaguns, Drop Pod

Librarius Conclave

  • Tigurius (Warlord)
  • Librarian
  • Librarian

1850, 73 Models, 11 Drop Pods, 6 turn one.

This is probably more indicative of a “standard” 7th ed Drop Pod army. You’ll notice some similarity to the Salamanders list above but with the inclusion of some more shenanigans. The Ultramarines Battle Company is a pretty standard build given the UM get so many Tactical Doctrines. The need for all the “natural” twin linking through Vulkan is not as necessary here. When you can Tigurius, you Tigurius, no need to explain further. What this list does is insert a bit of the unexpected through the 1st Company Task Force. The task force gets to nominate a target unit to re-roll to hit against which can be great to hunt out a Warlord. But the best part for me is the leadership penalties. If an enemy unit is within 12 inches of 3 units from the formation (Drop Pods count) then that unit is at -2 leadership. Not takes tests at -2 leadership but literally has a Leadership value of 2 lower than normal. I’ve used this to run units off the board before, especially Eldar Jetbikes when they move those 3d6 inches straight back! The other bit that is unexpected is when you can use this in concert with Psychic Shriek. It can help you to put a Wraithknight, Stormsurge, or Deathstar out of commission early on in the game. Overall this is probably my favorite way to play Drop pods in a Vanilla Marine list.

Next we’ll tackle what Reece was referring to, and which I got a few emails about, the Blackmanes. The new Space Wolf supplement, Curse of the Wulfen, allows for the use of Legendary Greatpacks of which the Blackmanes are one. If you take a Blackmanes Greatpack you can take Drop Pods for Free, in addition those Drop Pods all come in on Turn 1. No need to roll. This led me to the following idea for a Blackmanes list.

Leman Russ

Blackmanes Legendary Greatpack

  • Ragnar (Warlord)
  • 5 Wolf Guard in PA, 4x Combi-Plasma, Drop Pod
  • 6 Bloodclaws, flamer, fist, Wolfguard Leader with Fist, Drop Pod with Deathwind.
  • 4 Bloodclaws, flamer, fist, Wolfguard Leader with Fist, Drop Pod with Deathwind.
  • 5 Bloodclaws, flamer, Drop Pod with Deathwind
  • 4 Grey Hunters, meltagun, Wolf Standard, Wolfguard Leader with Combi-melta, Drop Pod with Deathwind.
  • 4 Grey Hunters, Plasmagun, Plasma Pistol, Wolfguard with Combi-Plasma, Drop Pod with Deathwind.
  • 2x Land Speeders with multimelta
  • 2 Long Fangs with Drop Pod
  • 5 Wolf Scouts

Ultramarines Skyhammer Annihilation Force

  • 2x 5 Assault Marines with Eviscerators
  • 1×10 Devastators, 4 Heavy Bolters, Drop Pod
  • 1×5 Devastators, 4 Grav Cannons, Drop Pod

The idea behind this list is to give me 9 Drop Pods and 2 Assault Squads on turn 1. It’s a massive Alpha strike army with some big teeth. It hits really hard turns 1 and 2 but peters out quickly if it gets bogged down or my opponent is able to run enough of the army away from me before I can cut it down with Turn 1 Shooting and Turn 2 Assaults. The Deathwinds are surprisingly good at taking out large amounts of chaff units like Guardians, Firewarriors, Marines. This list nearly got me the dream Turn 1 table win. Blackmoor reserved a good portion of his Eldar army against me and my turn 1 drop killed, or caused to run off the board, all but his single DCannon battery. He ultimately won on turn 7 because I lacked the mobility to effectively go after his reserves when they arrived but it was my game until turn 6 because the Alpha strike is so strong. What I like about this Drop Pod list is 9 pods all coming in turn 1. With the prominence of Tau in the current meta and all the Interceptor fire they throw out I had found the DP lists I had been running no longer cut the mustard. They just weren’t survivable enough. With this list the 9 pods and two assault squads present Tau players with several tough decisions, and if I can hold up key units with first turn charges from the two assault squads I can follow up with Ragnar and the Bloodclaws who are no slouches in combat, especially if the Wolf Standard is alive still.

What this list lacks is mobility. I know that is a problem with all Drop Pod lists but a Blackmanes based DP army has this disadvantage to a greater extent. With a “normal” or more traditional DP based army you get roughly half the pods turn 1 and the remainder turns 2-4. So while mobility is lacking in normal DP lists you get some wiggle room when your back up pods come in. With the Blackmanes that isn’t the case at all. You get everything turn 1 and are hoofing it on foot for the remainder of the game. In my previous article on Null Deploy armies I made mention of how the army seems like it’s a straightforward list to play but in reality it is more of a finesse army than it is given credit for. I find finesse armies aren’t just delicate; many times it is a list that requires careful planning and execution to play effectively. The Blackmanes are a prime example of this, one wrong drop and you can go from lining up a potential Turn 1 tabling to losing on the bottom of Turn 6 because your foot slogging Marines can’t catch your opponents’ more maneuverable units.

I hope this was helpful to those of you trying to build your own Drop Pod based marine lists, let me know what you think or let me know if you have questions. Hopefully I didn’t step on anyone’s toes this time around.


What’s your favorite way to play Drop Pods? And remember, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop Product at up to 25% off, every day!


About Reecius

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28 Responses to “Salty John talks Drop Pod Tactics!”

  1. Azgrim April 11, 2016 12:26 am #

    I’ve been looking at running a drop pod army for a little bit now . How do you feel drop IG would do compared to its marine cousin. I was thinking something along the lines of 2 command squads and 6 vet squads in pods with some grave cents thrown in for flavor plus 500 points of whatever other goodies you want.It allows for way more speical weapons on the alpha.

    • Reecius April 11, 2016 5:26 am #

      I’ll let John answer the majority of that question, but I can say form lots of experience that Airborne Astra Militarum is a ton of fun! I play Elysians (who all come with Deep Strike) and they kick ass. I highly recommend giving them a go.

    • OverwatchCNC April 11, 2016 6:46 am #

      I’ve often toyed with the idea of taking the Space Marine motorpool (Flesh Tearers) and filling the pods with Vets, or Mechanicus. It looks great on paper, the only thing that’s ever given me pause is that version of a DP army lacks staying power. The difference between 10 Space Marines v 10 Guardsmen in terms of durability after the drop is pretty crazy. Reece is right though Elysian Drop lists are fun. I would say go for it and try it out, just make sure you’re dropping your pods into cover so the guys inside get out into cover.

    • abusepuppy April 11, 2016 6:55 am #

      IG can do okay as a drop element, since they are able to bring a lot more special weapons than Marine units can. However, they run into the problem of flexibility- part of what makes Marines so scary when dropping in is that they are not only an alpha strike threat with their various guns, but also resilient and punchy enough to provide an ongoing threat on the turns following their arrival. IG lack this permanency and even armies like Tau and Eldar can easily assault them and win fights.

      You also run into the issue of diminishing returns- since you have to take two Drop Pods (and, typically, their accompanying units to fill them) for every one that you want to bring for the initial drop, you end up paying a pretty significant tax in order to get a lot of guys arriving initially. On smaller drop waves (3ish pods) this is less problematic because you get to round up and so can “cheat” on the first Pod you have arriving, but if you want to see 5+ units showing up, you really have to pay out for it.

      That said, it’s not an awful plan or anything- against opponents that don’t have the melee presence to trump you and/or don’t have the firepower to eliminate your initial wave before others arrive, it can be very dangerous. However, I’m not sure it has the flexibility to be a truly top-tier list, though there are certainly a lot of armies that it will prove absolutely terrifying for (such as anything relying heavily on vehicles) and one should never underestimate the power of orders like Fire on My Target or Bring It Down.

  2. Karaghul April 11, 2016 6:35 am #

    All-out Drop Pod lists must be a blast.

    Never quite decided to play one due to the super-high $-cost. (And other than scratch-bulding, all alternative miniatures I ever found were almost the same price as GWs).

    • OverwatchCNC April 11, 2016 6:48 am #

      Drop Pods are one of the fairly priced GW models in my opinion. The problem is, as it is with Rhinos/Razorbacks, the number of them you have to buy. Personally I bought all mine on eBay pre built. But that’s because I refuse to build anymore drop pods after the first 7 I built when they came out in 5th edition. I hate putting them together with the burning passion of a thousand suns.

      • Karaghul April 11, 2016 7:01 am #

        Yes, exactly. The list itself becomes very expensive, not because one Drop Pod is expensive per se by GW standards, but because a Drop Pod is VERY expensive $/points cost (heck, the points cost is sometimes even 0 nowadays), and you might end up needing 12!

        And yeah, the same point can certainly be made for Rhinos/Razorbacks.

  3. Requizen April 11, 2016 9:36 am #

    Doesn’t Blackmane get pretty hard countered by other null deploy armies if it’s forced to go first?

    While I think Ultramarines is probably the best overall, I like the idea of Reecius’s army from Adepticon. Sternguard in Pods with ObSec are serious business, imo.

    • OverwatchCNC April 11, 2016 10:30 am #

      Yes, if forced to go first with any all DP or Null Deploy army you’ll have a much harder time winning.

      I also like Reece’s adepticon list. I am considering trying it out once we see what the new SM Supplement has to offer.

  4. westrider April 11, 2016 10:43 am #

    The Salamanders list isn’t actually a Gladius. There’s no Auxiliary Choice, just a Core and Command, and then the CAD on the side.

    I haven’t gotten to the point of writing any lists up yet, but I’ve been thinking about pairing the Blackmanes with some other source of regular Pods or fairly mobile Reserves, cutting into the Alpha Strike capability a bit, but leaving me some more flexibility for later Turns.

    • OverwatchCNC April 11, 2016 11:16 am #

      Correct, it’s just two formations plus a CAD.

      • westrider April 11, 2016 1:44 pm #

        Cool. I’ve just seen a number of people who don’t read the requirements right and try to gain the extra Gladius benefits without an Auxiliary, so I wanted to check.

        • OverwatchCNC April 11, 2016 5:45 pm #

          It’s just a typo. No shenanigans here!

          • westrider April 12, 2016 5:43 am

            As much as anything, I wanted to make sure it was clear for any newbies learning from this, so they didn’t take the wrong lesson away due to a typo.

  5. Alex r April 11, 2016 2:39 pm #

    Thank you for answering my question. My big thing was how to build one in modern 7th which i had no clue how to do. I need 4 pods lol

    • OverwatchCNC April 11, 2016 5:47 pm #

      You’re welcome, glad I could help. If you want full pods you’ll have to go big on them. If you’re planning on Blackmanes I suggest only trying at 1850. I’ve tried several times, including a 30 mam local ITC event this past weekend, at 1650 but the list doesn’t scale down well. It loses too much with those 200 points.

      • westrider April 11, 2016 7:04 pm #

        Yeah, the requirements on the Blackmanes are pretty hefty. Part of the reason I haven’t run it yet myself is that we usually play 1500 around here, and there ain’t much room left after you get the basics in place.

      • Alex r April 11, 2016 8:20 pm #

        Issue here in australia we use comp panel. Makes taking these lists very difficult the salamander one and the Ultramarines are my favorites and what i wanted.

  6. Maeglin April 11, 2016 10:44 pm #

    Love the idea of using the Land Speeders in the Battle Company. I imagine obsec on those would come in useful!

    I’d have tried to squeeze in the Chief Apothecary into the Salamander list rather than the single Librarian. 4+ Feel no pain comes in handy on Centurions.

    I wish I could afford the Blackmanes! I’m working towards the Champions of Fenris though.

    • OverwatchCNC April 12, 2016 6:39 am #

      With Centurions in Pods the choice is always between FNP or Prescience. I went with Prescience as I was lacking the Devastator Doctrine in that list.

  7. Rob April 12, 2016 4:42 am #

    The list I want to try is Space Wolves with the Blackmanes & Murderfang to get that extra countercharge. Do you feel countercharge works well with the blackmanes?

    • OverwatchCNC April 12, 2016 6:38 am #

      The one game I had the necessary auxiliary choice, it was Murderfang, it didn’t come up. I like the idea of having Murderfang as the Aux choice and trying to utilize the countercharge. The problem I see with that is anything that’s going to be charging your units will probably be a unit that’s able to handle the counter charge. Unless your opponent is unaware.

      • abusepuppy April 12, 2016 7:53 am #

        Well, having Murderfang around can discourage certain kinds of chargers, I think, but in the overall sense I would agree with you that he isn’t worth it. A Riptide or other mid-level MC would gladly charge some Grey hunters while being terrified of Murderfang, and even something like a Knight is going to think twice about joining a battle when he’s around, especially if it’s taken a few HP of damage already.

  8. Lord Krungharr April 12, 2016 4:56 pm #

    I have been hankering to try a drop pod list with three SM CADs to get six chapter masters in terminator armor. They can get storm shields to tank wounds from tau interceptor fire and then Unleash the orbital bombardments! Or is that not a good idea?

    • abusepuppy April 12, 2016 8:57 pm #

      Well, you’re spending 900pts on characters and all you have so far is a bunch of inaccurate one-shot blasts. You decide.

  9. Alex R April 13, 2016 2:42 am #

    hey just re wrote the salamander list, is it 10pts under?? i got 1840

    • OverwatchCNC April 13, 2016 8:16 pm #

      It’s possible, I wrote it from memory as I didn’t have any copies lying around from last years BAO.

  10. Rob April 15, 2016 10:33 am #

    A drop pod Salamander Battle Company sounds like a great idea with Vulkan as the captain, a command squad full of flamers, a second with meltas and squeeze an ironclad in there. Sounds rocking 🙂

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