Greetings, y’all! After reading this article, be sure to find other great ones like this at our Tactics Corner! Join me for the Angels of Death: Salamanders Flameblade Strikeforce and Detachment Overview.
This is Anvil, breaking away for a bit from my typical Age of Sigmar article to do a 40k piece. Those that follow my AoS articles, fret not! This is only a temporary side-step as Salamanders have been an army that I’ve been playing for 13 years, since the good ol’ days of Codex: Armageddon, when they had Initiative 3 and Chaplain Xavier was their only special character, and they were able to have Eternal Warrior when almost nobody else did (including Marneus Calgar, and Lysander was still a Tactical Squad Sergeant). They embody the image of the blacksmith, bearing flamer and melta weapons to symbolize the forge, and wielding thunder hammers when the enemy came too close. Hold onto your butts, this is going to be a long one.
The new warlord traits for the Salamanders are pretty fluffy overall. Most of them seem to fit better with a Captain or Chapter Master compared to Chaplains, Librarians, or Techmarines, as the traits tend to really benefit from their stat lines and how they are usually equipped.
- Anvil of Strength adds one to their Strength, giving you the possibility of S10 thunder hammers or powerfists. There’s also the opportunity to wield the Burning Blade at S8, meaning that you can ID a lot of infantry characters at Initiative.
- Lord of Fire is primarily fluffy, increasing your FNP to 2+ against flame weapons, as they are fairly rare in the current meta, so it won’t come up too often.
- Patient and Determined gives you the option to add 3 to any die roll to see if the game ends. The fact that not only is it a choice, but you can apply it to any number of those rolls, gives you a huge advantage on games where it is close, as you basically almost get to decide if it’s over or not.
- Miraculous Constitution gives your Warlord It Will Not Die, which can further add to a Chapter Master’s resilience, either in Terminator Armor or on a Bike (though I will question if you are a true son of Nocturne if I ever see that model in person!).
- Forge Master is a very good one, further improving a Master-Crafted weapon to reroll all To Hit rolls instead of just one per turn, which includes Relics. What makes this one so great is that you will always have a Master-Crafted weapon, as per the Salamanders special rules, making him a potentially deadly combatant.
- Finally, there’s Never Give Up, granting the warlord and any Salamander’s unit within 12” of him to have the Stubborn special rule and the option to reroll their failed Leadership tests. Note that you don’t HAVE to reroll, only choose to. This can make for a solid Objective holding unit if need be, but I feel that this is not that good, due to the Flameblade Strike Force’s special rules, which we will get to in a bit. However, if the game is too small for you to use the Strike Force, then it will be a decent trait.
Relics of Nocturne
There’s a lot for me to like about the Relics of Nocturne: they brought back some old ones to use again, their are some that are references to famous characters within the chapter, and they can be spread out in your army to different models.
Drake-smiter and Salamander’s Mantle would be ideal for Captains and Chapter Masters, Nocturne’s Fury for a special weapons marine, Tome of Vel’cona for your Librarian, Vulkan’s Sigil for your Chaplain, and Wrath of Prometheus for any of your sergeants. Best of all, they are very decently priced, making it probably one of the best Relic tables I’ve seen to date. The fact that you can basically make Vel’cona, Chaplain Xavier, or (finally!) Chapter Master Tu’shan is what I am excited to play around with and do some hobbying to recreate their epic-ness.
A Master-crafted Thunder Hammer that gives you the option of sacrificing all of your attacks for a single Strength D attack. This weapon has the potential to swing a challenge in your favor when facing against an Eternal Warrior character or someone who has a Toughness of 5 or greater. This weapon is best to put on a Captain or Chapter Master due to their survivability and weapon skill, especially combined with The Salamander’s Mantle and a Storm Shield. If you find your character in combat with a tough character often enough, it might be worth taking. I personally would take it for fluffy reasons, or if my list is short by a few points, but I don’t know how competitive it will be.
A rather strong option for any squad to take, the Nocturne’s Fury is a flamer with an AP of 4 normally when moving, but becomes a Heavy 1 when you stand still. The payoff is that it gains Torrent in that mode, making it a deadly weapon for any experienced Salamanders player. It can be taken by anyone that can choose from the Special Weapons table, meaning that there’s a lot of opportunities throughout the army. While your Jump Pack infantry won’t be able to take it (as they can only take the flamer option or plasma pistols), your strongest choice is actually in a Bike Squad. Them being Relentless, combined with their speed, will be an excellent harassment unit.
The Salamander’s Mantle
Very straight-forward, this piece of gear will give you Eternal Warrior for less points than the Shield Eternal, and also freeing up your other hand for another weapon choice (including a Storm Shield if you really want one). Considering that not many people use Malediction or Witchfire powers, combined with a lot of people taking Librarius Conclaves to counter such powers, I feel you aren’t going to miss the Adamantium Will ability on the Shield Eternal either. It’s best when given to your Captain or Chapter Master, as the other HQ models have only 2 wounds maximum. If you want even more durability, consider the Terminator Captain with Cataphractii armor, Salamander’s Mantle, and a Storm Shield, for an Eternal Warrior with a 3++, rerolling 1s. That is some insane durability that might match or even surpass a Chapter Master! Throw him with a bodyguard or have him act as a wound tank to your Devastator Squad, while also giving them Slow and Purposeful (allowing them to move and shoot), for some insane synergy.
The Tome of Vel’cona
Instead of making Vel’cona a special character, they gave us the next best thing: his book. Only taken by Librarians, this provides several benefits, including having the Molten Beam power (it does not effect Psychic Focus, which is good), and increases the strength of your Pyromancy spells by 1. If you have Librarians in a Drop Pod army, this could be a great pick, as having another melta weapon in the squad could be enough to bring down a vehicle or super-heavy, alongside the other melta weapons the squad will take. I see this as another “fluffy” choice as far as Relics go. The Pyromancy discipline is not necessarily bad on it’s own, but it is outshone a lot by the other disciplines, especially the new ones in the supplement. Note: I won’t be covering the new powers in this article, as I feel one of our other writers will have a more detailed analysis of their tactics and effectiveness.
Holy crap, I am so happy to see this Relic again! Once carried by Chaplain Xavier, it’s been slightly changed since then, but it is still quite powerful. Once per battle, at the beginning of any Fight sub-phase, your Chaplain can reveal it, giving your squad +1 Attack for that combat. It’s simple, and temporary, but used at the right time could give you a devastating turn. I like running my Chaplain in Terminator Armour with my Terminator Assault Squad. They tend to do very well, but this will push them over the top. Terminator Squads, Vanguard Veterans, Assault Centurions, or Honour Guards are all great units to benefit from this, especially when it’s also the same turn that you benefit from Hatred.
Wrath of Prometheus
Wrath of Prometheus is a Bolter with 30”, S5 AP4, Rapid Fire, Rending, Master-crafted weapon, and it’s dirt-cheap, pricing the same as a combi-weapon. This gun provides some much needed long range fire that the Salamanders tend to lack, and could potentially put a wound or two on monstrous creatures. What I like about it is that it’s a great weapon to give to a sergeant, instead of an Independent Character. Scout Sergeants would be a good choice, or Devastator Sergeants, or even Jump Pack Sergeants in Assault Squad, as weird as that would look. Since it’s already master-crafted, it gives them another “free” master-crafted weapon. Wrath of Prometheus paired up with a power weapon or a Power Fist would make for a very flexible, albeit expensive, sergeant.
Salamanders are a mostly-compliant chapter with the codex astartes, and for a long time, they were essentially green Ultramarines, but with less special characters (not including Forge World). While it makes sense to have Warlord Traits and Relics specific to each chapter, I felt that they only needed some minor changes to which formations they could take and their own Strike Force, and that is exactly what they got. I will admit, I’m a little disappointed in the Flamebringer formation, which is just a Land Raider Redeemer with no additional special rules, it’s not enough for me to dislike the changes.
Flameblade Strike Force
The Flameblade Strike Force is interesting in comparison to the Gladius Strike Force. You give up the opportunity to get free transports (but you have to invest in a LOT of points to do so) and the free use of the Ultramarines chapter tactics for even more buffs to flamer weapons, more Warlord Traits, and the ability to make your units even harder to move off of objectives. In larger games, I feel that the Gladius Strike Force is going to be stronger overall, as your opponent has to deal with so many units and bodies to take the objective away from you, until the size of the game includes Apocalyptic Blast markers and enough weapons to leaf-blower your army off the table. In smaller games, like 2v2 matches or <1500 points, the Flameblade Strike Force is a lot more appealing. Unless your Salamanders army takes a fair amount of grav and plasma weapons in your core units, I just don’t see them benefitting all that much from the Ultramarines chapter tactics that you get from the Gladius, as they already have enough weapons rerolling from their own chapter tactics and special characters to really matter.
As mentioned earlier, the Flameblade Strike Force allows your warlord roll for traits on 2 tables instead of just one, with at least one of them being on the Personal Traits table. This is a nice little bonus, as a lot of Salamanders players run Vulkan He’stan as their warlord for the awesomeness he brings. This gives him a slight bump in power and spice, as he can get some nifty additional rules, like scoring victory points in combat with other characters. If you don’t take He’stan, then you will have a warlord that has a lot of flexibility when it comes to what abilities they bring to your army.
The Flameblade Strike Force also gives your army the Scorched Earth rule, which brings 30k rules into 40k, increase the Strength of your flamer weapons by 1. But it’s even better this time, as the Salamanders get to reroll wound rolls with their flamer weapons already. Flamers in the hands of the Salamanders is something that I feel a lot of players underestimate when they face against them or use them. Melta weapons with He’stan are extremely effective for sure, but having enough flamers in your army to take on infantry is a deadly one-two punch (pop the transport, incinerate the cargo). With the Scorched Earth rule, your regular flamers are wounding regular Space Marines on a 3+, and your Heavy Flamers on a 2+. With the reroll included, and I can tell you from experience, it basically ends up being you laying your flame template down, counting the models under it, and saying, “make X number of saves.” And that’s not even considering the Wall of Death rules! Combine all of what I just said with the fact that they auto-hit, and flat-out ignore cover saves, and it’s hard to argue to NOT take at least some flamer weapons. Even against 2+ saves, you can force a ton of saving throws on them, and they’ll eventually roll 1s. Experienced Salamanders players have mastered positioning their models over the years to get the most effect from those weapons, and Scorched Earth is just going to make it deadlier. Probably my favorite part about this rule is that we finally have some units benefit from their flamer weapon options when they previously didn’t. Heavy Flamers on Land Speeders and Land Speeder Storms are now S6, Assault Centurions have S5 Flamers, Land Raider Redeemers can glance armor 13 (and penetrate armor 12) if it ever gets the opportunity, Sternguard with Combi-Flamers and Heavy Flamers will wreck any infantry they come across, etc. I know my favorite unit to take, my Command Squad with 4 flamers and an Apothecary Drop-Podding in, will be even more fun to play!
Finally, the Flameblade Strike Force gives Salamanders an important tool for capturing objectives, in the form of No One Steps Back. Any unit in the formation gains Fearless if they don’t move during their movement phase, until your next movement phase. If you take a Battle Demi-Company, it will mean that your opponent has to kill every model in the unit before they can finally take that objective you’re on. It’s the one time where I want my space marines to automatically pass moral tests, and so I really like this rule; it’s not always active, but it will be when needed the most.
The biggest “weakness” of the Flameblade Strike Force? Lack of the Skyhammer Annihilation Force as an Auxiliary choice. You can still take it, but since it’s not a part of the Flameblade, that means they don’t benefit from Vulkan He’stan’s master-crafted melta weapons rule, which is a big hit to Multimelta-equipped Devastators dropping in with Relentless, and your Assault Squads won’t benefit from Scorched Earth if they bring 2 flamers. Fortunately, we can sort of make up for this by taking the new Cataphractii Terminator Armour Captain and attaching them to a Battle Demi-Company’s Devastator Squad with a Drop Pod. A relatively minor inconvenience for what we get.
Stormlance Battle Demi-Company
Technically, this isn’t a new formation for Salamanders, as they could take it when the Kayoun and Mont’ka books were released. However, they are now a Core formation choice for the Flameblade Strike Force. Again, it’s a very fluffy choice, as everyone in the formation must take Rhinos or Razorbacks if they don’t have bikes or jump packs, which is the preferred method of combat the Salamanders like to conduct. Models in your formation get to reroll to hit when targeting enemy models that are currently holding objectives, and they also get to move 2D6” after shooting their weapons (if they are equipped with jump packs or bikes), or D6” if they’re on foot.
This does allow them to hop out of their transports, shoot, and pile back into the vehicle in the same phase if your roll is good enough, but you can’t assault after you perform that move. It’s a strong balance of speed, firepower, and defense for your forces. However, I personally prefer to sticking with the Battle Demi-Company, as you can still take Drop Pods in that formation, you gain Objective Secured for all models in the formation, the unit choices are more flexible, and you still get the Tactical Doctrine, which is almost as good as the rerolls against objective controlling scum.
Another formation that is not technically new, but it’s included as an option for the Flameblade Strike Force. It allows you to bring the two Stormtalons in the formation on turn 2 automatically, and the Land Speeder unit can “mark” a unit, in which the Stormtalons can reroll wound rolls. It’s a great combination of speed and power, while also being flexible at taking on both ground and flying forces.
Dealing with air-support is probably the biggest weakness for Salamanders, and they could use any help they can get. Normally we would rely on the Anti-Air Defence Force to take care of it, and it’s pretty good for the points cost, but it struggles to deal with ground units when your opponent doesn’t bring any flyers or skimmers, and so it can feel like somewhat wasted points. If you have some room to spare, this is a great complimentary formation to the rest of the strike force.
The Stormbringer Squadron allows you to have even more Objective Secured units with the Scouts and their Land Speeder Storm transports, increase the Jink for the Storms by 1 when close enough to the Land Speeders, and allow the Scouts to disembark even if their Storm transport moved 12” that turn. If you want to just drown your opponent in Objective Secured units while still bringing some decent speed and firepower, this is the Auxiliary choice for you. The formation can stay fairly cheap when you need to, and can bulk out a lot if you have room for it, as you can have a potential 9 Land Speeders (3 Squads) and 3 Scout units, along with their mandatory Land Speeder Storms.
If it were up to me, I would probably aim for double Multimeltas on the Land Speeders, and Heavy Flamers on the Land Speeder Storms, with the Scouts equipped with either close combat weapons and pistols, bolters, or even combat shotguns. The Heavy Flamers, with the Scorched Earth ability, should be able to wipe out, or at least heavily damage, any infantry holding an objective, with it weakened enough for your Scouts to get into close combat with, while the Multimeltas would take out any vehicles or heavily armoured troops on the way, or even flyers if you have He’stan as your warlord. Paired with a Battle-Demi Company, and it might be too much objective secured shenanigans for your opponent to deal with fast enough.
Ravenhawk Assault Group
The Ravenhawk Assault Group, to me, is the mini-version of the Strike Force Ultra formation. It’s purpose is to bring several elite units to the table quickly to attack one section of your opponent’s army. Consisting of a Sternguard Squad, a Stormraven, and 1 of any of the Dreadnoughts (including the shiny “new” Contemptor), they gain the ability to have the Stormraven Deep Strike instead of entering the board normally (but it counts as Hovering that turn), and they get to “mark” an enemy unit the turn they come in, in which everyone in the formation gets to reroll hit rolls against that unit for the rest of the game.
This is probably one of the few times where I would say that the Sternguard benefits more if they take non-flamer and non-melta weapons, as otherwise, they get very little benefit from the second rule. However, taking flamers/meltas is still not a bad choice. I see this formation more as a way to include 3 awesome units without breaking from the Flameblade Strike Force. One interesting setup is to have almost all of the rest of your army equipped with melta weapons, while the Sternguard take combi-flamers/heavy flamers, the Stormraven with Assault Cannons and Heavy Bolters and Hurricane Bolters, and finally an Ironclad with two Heavy Flamers. Have them take up the role of infantry killers, with the option to Deep Strike instead of flying, and assaulting the turn they arrive after shredding anything that is unfortunately close enough. You still have the missiles on the Stormraven to assist against Monsters or Vehicles. The opposite is also true, where you have the formation equipped for vehicle/monster hunting. Regardless, it’s another flexible Auxiliary choice.
Overall, I’m very happy as a long-time Salamanders player, bringing back a lot of old rules that I grew up playing with, while injecting a hefty amount of flavorful choices while still retaining decent power. Do I think this is going to make them a top-tier army? No, not with the current meta, especially since other chapters that were already “stronger” got bumps as well with their Relics and formations. However, they are still no slouch on the battlefield, and I would not be surprised to see more lists that include some more flamers in the squads instead of pure-melta choices like we did during the 5th edition parking lots. Have a great day, and remember, “Into fires of battle, Unto the Anvil of War!!!”