Hello everyone SaltyJohn here from TFGRadio bringing you a review of one of my favorite characters in 40k, both in the fluff and on the table top, Ragnar Blackmane! For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!
Ragnar Blackmane is the youngest Wolf Lord in the history of the Space Wolves Chapter. He rose to prominence in an interesting and unorthodox fashion, something Russ himself would most likely approve of, having jumped the rank of Grey Hunter and been promoted from Blood Claw to Wolf Guard. He threw the Spear of Russ into the eye of Daemon Primarch Magnus as he attempted to manifest himself from the Warp, did battle with and defeated an agent of the Officio Assassinorum in the depths of a Navigator house Vault, and fought alongside the 13th Company. His unorthodox rise through the ranks has created a young and brash Wolf Lord, in the Space Wolf tradition his Great Company, the Blackmanes, reflects his persona. They are filled with Bloodclaws and are experts at Drop Pod assaults. Often called upon by the Great Wolf Logan Grimnar to make planetfall at the head of an all out assault. In game terms this is reflected well in his basic stats from Codex: Space Wolves and in his Great Company formation rules in Curse of the Wulfen.
In 40k Ragnar can seem a bit underwhelming as an HQ choice. For 195 points you get a mid-level character in terms of on table ability. He re-rolls failed to hit rolls in close combat, when in a challenge due to the Saga of the Warrior Born, but only has a Strength 5 AP3 weapon, it does Rend though… He has a 4+ invul save and the ability to re-roll one failed save each assault phase due to Incredible Reflexes. He must however issue and accept challenges when possible, this can suck when the character in the challenge with him has a Str 8 weapon and 2+ armor. He, and all Space Wolf models in his unit have Furious Charge. That’s pretty good, and he himself has the Rage special rule. If you were to equip a regular Wolf Lord with similar equipment he would cost 125 points. However that model would not confer Furious Charge, have Rage, Rending, or a re-roll to a failed save. For 195 points Ragnar really isn’t a bad choice, especially if you’re going to run Blood Claws.
The place Ragnar really shines is at the head of his Great Company formation from the Curse of the Wulfen supplement. If you stick him in a Drop Pod with 9 Blood Claws with a hidden powerfist and a powerfist Wolf Guard leader in the squad you have quite a nice little unit. Here’s why. His unit of Blood Claws will have Furious Charge due to his special rule, they will also all re-roll failed to hits in Close Combat. Not just his unit though, he and all units of Blood Claws, Sky Claws, and Swift Claws, as long as Ragnar is alive. This can create a list with a bunch of “sleeper” units in the army. No one expects Ragnar plus 9 Blood Claws to put out as much damage as they do, and the two Powerfists on the charge are Str9 which is again a nice little surprise.
Ragnar Blackmane is not a character that will take down a Blood Thirster, see above, or another uber character. What he can do is buff an army comprised of Blood Claws which aren’t bad in Close Combat when part of his Great Company, and unlock a great formation. I go into a lot of detail on the Blackmanes here. You can also catch a glimpse of me taking the Blackmanes out in this battle report.
The trouble with playing Ragnar Blackmane, especially if you’ve read his fluff, is that he is expected to play like a close combat expert and absolute bad ass. This is a common problem among many different models. Does anyone remember the Angron rules White Dwarf put out? He was so bad that if you took him for an Apocalypse game his cohort of Blood Thirsters is why you’d take him, he would hide (yes, hide) and the Blood Thirsters would do the work. Khan, Vulkan, Cato Sicarius, all fall prey to this problem as well in 40k where they never can quite live up to their fluff hype in game play. Ragnar is similar, however if you learn to use him effectively he can be just as beast as you imagined him to be. He, and his unit, shines particularly well against any unit that has a 3+ or worse armor save. He himself will carve through a unit of 10 Chaos Space Marines, or loyalist marines (probably Dark Angels), in close combat with ease in 2 rounds of combat.
I am a huge advocate for learning what your models/units can and cannot do. Then making sure you never ask them to do something in the game that they’re not capable of. If you’re playing a Blackmanes list you don’t send Ragnar and his 9 Blood Claws against the 2++ re-rollable Deathstar. You send them to chew through as many of the chaff units holding objectives as possible. List fluency is a big deal in 40k, particularly competitive 40k, but even casually knowing what your units/models can and cannot do is a big key to victory.
As always, share your thoughts in the comments section! And remember, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off, every day.