Wolf Claw Strike Force Tactics Part 5: The Blackmanes

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Aoooo! Time for some more Space Wolf action, this time: The Blackmanes brought to you by Overwatch from Capture and Control aka “Salty John”! Check the Tactics Corner for more great articles.

Ragnar Blackmane’s great pack, the Blackmanes (duh) excel in close quarters fighting, with high numbers of Bloodclaws and Drop Pods a plenty, they drop upon their foes in search of glory on the battlefield and in the eyes of their Wolf Lord!

Article Series

  1. Wolf Claw Strike Force Overview
  2. Wolf Claw Strike Force Part 2: The Firehowlers
  3. Wolf Claw Strike Force Part 3: The Ironwolves
  4. Wolf Claw Strike Force Part 4: The Drakeslayers

Overview:

The Balckmanes are an interesting greatpack that came out to much fanfare when Curse of the Wulfen dropped a few months ago. One of the two most oft discussed aspects of that book. While they can technically take all the normal dedicated transports I would be shocked to see the formation fielded in anything but Drop Pods.

Composition:

  • Wolf Lord Ragnar Blackmane or Wolf Guard Battle Leader
  • 1-2 unit of: Wolf Guard, Thunderwolf Cavalry, and/or Wolf Guard Terminators
  • 3-5 units of Blood Claws
  • 2-4 units of Grey Hunters and/or Land Speeders
  • 1-2 unit of Long Fangs
  • 1-2 unit of Wolf Scouts
  • 0-2 Lone Wolves

Special Rules:

  • The Claws of Russ: Can take Drop Pods for free. All units from the formation in Drop Pods come in on turn 1. This does not count towards your Drop Pod tally for the Drop Pod assault rule.
  • Inspirational Example: While Ragnar Blackmane is on the table all “Claw” units in the formation re-roll to hit rolls in Assaults.
  • The Joy of Battle: All units in the formation that deployed from Drop Pods are Fearless and have a 6+ Feel No Pain on the turn they arrive.

DropPod06

Tactics:

Given their special rules it’s no surprise that the Blackmanes are a popular Great Pack for players to discuss and field. If the new GW Drop Pod FAQs hold true than you can expect to see more walls of Blackmanes Drop pods coming in turn 1 than ever before. That said this is a list that looks like a hammer, plays itself, style list when in reality is much closer to a glass hammer finesse type list. It requires a lot of thought to play effectively and well.

The general idea behind the list is lots of Drop Pods turn 1, break your opponent’s jaw, then weather whatever comes from your opponent the rest of the game while holding objectives and counter assaulting. The core of the list really should be Ragnar and a strong unit of Bloodclaws. A unit of Grey Hunters with a wolf standard should never be far away.  If you take a Blackmanes great pack you can take Drop Pods for free on any unit that has them as an option. Furthermore those Drop Pods come in on turn 1 and do not count toward your Drop Pod assault rule. Something I like about this is you can then take a few Deathwind Missile launchers, normally they are too expensive on top of the 35 points you pay for the Drop Pod. With the Drop pods being free though, taking a few Deathwinds to make your turn 1 drop just that much more effective can be great. A couple strength 5 big blasts can be just what the doctor ordered against Eldar jet bikes. Not like you see many of those on the table top these days.

With an all DP list, which Blackmanes usually are, you have to drop carefully. Drop Pods provide 1 turn of extremely effective movement and then your army has to hoof it on foot. With a normal DP list you can make up for turn 1 mistakes with your DP that coming in Turns 2-4. A full Blackmanes list doesn’t have this benefit. With all the Drop Pods coming in turn one, or at least the vast majority, choosing where to drop becomes extremely important.

DropPod00

Generally speaking you want to figure out three things with an all DP list. 1. What do I want to kill on my drop? 2. What do I want to block in, or out, with my Drop Pods? 3. What objectives do I want to make annoyingly hard to get with my Drop Pods? You can usually achieve all three of those if you’re careful, and doing so can go a long way to winning you the game. Winning with a Blackmanes list is easy against a lot of the mid tier armies, but extraordinarily challenging against the top tier shooting lists like Tau and Renegades.

Target priority is a big deal for this list, shooting/assault/drop wise, and more than likely you’ll need to find a way to get some Grav into the list through allies.

The major weakness of all Space Wolves lists is the lack of Grav weaponry. Many lists can overcome this through Deathstars and various CC units. While the Blackmanes have some great CC abilities their lack of Grav weaponry is felt. Generally speaking if you want to achieve your first priority, kill something important, you’ll need Grav. There are two really great ways to get Grav into a Blackmanes list.

  1. Skyhammer. Taking a Skyhammer Annihilation Force with a unit of Grav devs and the UM chapter tactics is a great addition to a Blackmanes army. I like to take heavy bolters on the other dev squad and use the two assault squads to tie up units.
  2. A White Scars CAD or Allied Detachment. With this you can take a Libby with Hunters eye, Grav cents, tac squads with Grav in a pod, and drop pod for cents.

There are certainly many variations for getting some Grav in your Blackmanes list but I’ve found these two to be the most reliable.

I’ve also found I like Murderfang in a drop pod as the auxiliary choice. It unlocks the special counter attacking rule, which with Ragnar and a bunch of bloodclaws around supported by a banner can be brutal. But Murderfang can be just what the doctor ordered for finishing off an injured Wraithknight, Imperial Knight, Stormsurge, or other nasty unit. He also shreds through units with the Rage, Rampage, and Shred special rules.

Murderfang

Blackmanes can be a great spoiler but a few of the tax units can be problematic. The Wolfguard I like to arm with 4 combi-plasma, alternately if your meta is vehicle heavy 4-5 combi-melta wouldn’t be remiss. It makes a unit that can back up the Grav nicely or it can hunt a unit on their own. The Bloodclaws need flamers, also a squad of 8 with 2 fists is a great unit for Ragnar to drop in with. Always include at least one squad on Grey Hunters with banner and melta. Speeders should have melta so you have more AT. With a Banner around and a few additional bodies a combined assault of 3 Bloodclaw squads led by Ragnar can be a great answer to Tau, Eldar, and Zombie hordes. 5 Bloodclaws, with a banner around, would get 5 attacks on the charge apiece, so 25 swings re-rolling failed to hit rolls. If they are in Ragnars squad they would also be strength 5 on the charge. Cutting through chaff, killing off wounded Monstrous creatures, or tying up a bigger unit is not out of the realm of possibility for a 5 man Bloodclaw squad in this formation. More importantly a well tooled squad with Ragnar and perhaps an additional character of some sort, a buff character like a  libby or Rune Priest or even a beat stick Wolf Lord, can be a surprise GMC or Deathstar killer in the right players’ hands.

Long Fangs are an interesting tax to deal with. I like to arm them in 1 of 3 ways. Bare, just two in a pod to distract and/or hold objectives. 3 Multimeltas to aid with vehicle destruction. Or third, 5 Long Fangs with 4 plasma cannons. If I go the third route then generally I am going to drop the White Scars Libby for a Captain in Cataphracti armor. Throw him in with the PC Long Fangs and now they have slow and purposeful. Conversely you can deploy the Long Fangs and drop their pod empty, especially if the GW FAQs for Drop Pods holds.

The Blackmanes really provide some amazing choices to bring a big hammer down on turn 1. The options to run with them can be endless, anything that supports a drop pod marine list will help out a Blackmanes list. Trying out new combos will be entertaining and might yield a combo the internet hasn’t discovered yet. If the new GW FAQS hold I expect to see a lot more Drop Pod based armies on the scene soon.

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What do you all think about the Blackmanes Formation?

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16 Responses to “Wolf Claw Strike Force Tactics Part 5: The Blackmanes”

  1. Requizen
    Requizen June 14, 2016 8:30 am #

    Instead of Wolf Guard in another Pod, what about using the TWC option to make a mobile hard point to support them? Maybe not building them into a star (though that’s always an option), but as you said once the Pods are down, there’s very little reactive movement, which the TWC provide in spades.

    • SaltyJohn
      OverwatchCNC June 14, 2016 8:56 am #

      It’s certainly an option, albeit an expensive one, and the Blackmanes wrack up points fast. I generally eschew TWC in a non-deathstar form because they are so less survivable and remain a big target. Given that the Blackmanes are so in your face already it could perhaps be worth trying. I might try that combo tonight.

  2. Dakkath June 14, 2016 9:39 am #

    Uh, I think you have the wrong composition listed. Everything I can find about the Blackmanes says it consists of:
    1 Ragnar Blackmane or Wolf Guard Battle Leader
    1 unit of Wolf Guard, Wolf Guard Termis, or Thunderwolves
    3-5 Blood Claws, Skyclaws, or Swiftclaws
    0-1 Lukas the Trickster
    4-6 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders
    1-2 units of Long Fangs
    1 unit of Wolf Scouts
    0-2 Lone Wolves

    • SaltyJohn
      OverwatchCNC June 14, 2016 9:47 am #

      Oops! You’re right, thanks for the catch.

      • PrimoFederalist June 14, 2016 10:18 am #

        Recommendations for Wolf Scouts? Camo cloaks for resiliency? My concern with it is that, without a CAD, Knight, or something else on the table, another alpha strike army will take out my one unit of Wolf Scouts off the table and I lose. I usually do add a CAD or Knight, though, but if I went pure Blackmanes I’m always nervous about being alpha struck.

        • SaltyJohn
          OverwatchCNC June 14, 2016 10:21 am #

          I run them stock with bolters or with BP CCW.

          You don’t need to worry about Alpha strike. In fact against other Alpha Strike armies I want to go second not first.

          You won’t auto lose. All your Blackmanes Pods come in turn 1 so even if you have bottom of turn 1 and your scouts are wiped top of 1 you don’t auto lose. You auto lose if you have no models on the board at the end of a game turn, not player turn.

          • Requizen
            Requizen June 14, 2016 10:25 am
            #

            What do you do if you go first against another Alpha Strike army? Seems pretty hard to come back from, 6+ FNP isn’t a huge amount of sticking power.

          • SaltyJohn
            OverwatchCNC June 14, 2016 10:30 am
            #

            Pray.

          • westrider June 14, 2016 12:41 pm
            #

            Your ability to deal with having to go first against a good list is pretty much THE big test of your ability as a Drop List Player. I still haven’t got the hang of it.

          • SaltyJohn
            OverwatchCNC June 14, 2016 12:51 pm
            #

            Most players try to drop as conservatively as possible onto objectives. This can work, I prefer to drop into the middle of the board and try to use the Drop Pods for cover as much as possible. Another option is to drop onto or around a large piece of area terrain using the cover of the terrain for the Marines and the Drop Pods as charge/LoD blocking pieces to help in keeping your drop alive.

            It’s usually plausible to survive to counter-Alpha Strike in this case but you’re severely limited in terms of mobility and ability to apply pressure for the remainder of the game given you always start the turn and your initial drop wasn’t reactionary to your opponents opening moves.

        • bahkara June 14, 2016 10:26 am #

          You could also put the scouts in Reserve if you care that much about them

  3. Dakkath June 14, 2016 10:24 am #

    Thoughts on skipping heavies in the long fangs and instead going with melta ancient + combimelta WGPL?

    • SaltyJohn
      OverwatchCNC June 14, 2016 10:30 am #

      I’ve run it that way too. It really depends on your meta. The Long Fangs are a must take so you can run them cheap or try to give them a task.

  4. Variance Hammer June 15, 2016 12:42 am #

    I really want to run this formation – slightly annoyed at how hard it is to get some Dreadnoughts into the list generally, and the tax is a little high.

    • SaltyJohn
      OverwatchCNC June 15, 2016 6:50 am #

      I use Murderfang with the Blackmanes often as the Auxiliary choice. Dreads are just too easy to kill, most games Murderfang doesn’t even get a chance to do something of note. I’ve begun thinking of ways to get him out of the list in lieu of another Auxiliary choice.

  5. Quinn June 15, 2016 12:26 pm #

    The Space Wolves Draft FAQ is out. Clears up a few things and puts to rest the Iron Priest dual entry question and long disputed Thunderwolf strength thing thankfully. What I did not see was a ruling on whether SW rules ‘counts as’ Chapter Tactics for all intents and purposes. Not sure it’s as big a deal with wolves as with BA and DA but I don’t see anything about it.

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