Brandon Grant’s Chapter Approved 2019 Astra Militarum Review

Last year’s ITC and LVO Champion, and Astra Militarum wunderkind, Brandon Grant weighs in with his thoughts on how Guard fared with the CA 2019 update! For more great Tactics Articles, check out the Tactics Corner.

To keep things simple I’ll be rating units before and after CA 2019 between 1 and 5 stars. The ratings are:

  • 5 Stars: Meta defining unit. Expect to see nearly every faction primary army to have these, and to see them taken in allied detachments for other armies.
  • 4 Stars: Excellent unit. This unit is the best overall in its battlefield role (HQ, troops, etc.) and best at what it does overall. Will sometimes be taken in an allied detachment or mixed army.
  • 3 Stars: Good unit. Useful in some situations and not in others. May only be viable with certain sub-factions, or might only be viable when filling specific battlefield roles in a detachment. Will see play in competitive events but won’t be spammed very often.
  • 2 Stars: Sub-par choice. Will rarely be seen outside of themed lists in competitive play, better options are available in the same battlefield role and/or at performing the same task.
  • 1 Stars: Poor choice. Will almost never see competitive play, other choices perform the same role with no significant drawbacks compared to this choice.

That said, let’s get started with units that received a points reduction:

Astropath

  • Before: 3 stars

The humble astropath is one of the weakest psykers in the game at t3 3 wounds 6+ save and only casting smite on 1 d6. However, he still casts one guard spell and denies once on 2d6. At 26 points he was a cheap way to get a single spell into your guard army but as he fills an Elites slot (already crowded with other good options) he doesn’t help fill battalions or brigades. With Eliminators becoming far more ubiquitous than before he has become somewhat of a liability. However he has dropped from 26 to 15 points, more than a 40% drop in cost. Few players were bringing more than one before, but with the cost reduction I could easily see 2-3 astropaths being taken. I would rate them higher but I see tauroxes and chimeras as a necessary tax in order to protect them from being alpha-struck by snipers.

  • After: 4 stars

Crusaders

  • Before: 1.5 stars

Crusaders struggled for relevancy after having their acts of faith toned down and losing access to 2++ saves in the shooting phase with the “Take cover!” stratagem. Their damage output has always been abysmal due to their low strength and low number of attacks: anything t6 or better is virtually immune to them. CA 2019 reduced their cost from 11 ppm to 9ppm. VS. AP 0 attacks regular guardsmen are still tougher than crusaders per point. Once AP 2 or better is involved the crusaders are better again. But besides being tough, Crusaders still don’t deal much damage to big threats. Their best battlefield role then is probably harassing midfield units that don’t fight back with lots of AP 0 or 1 attacks, have low toughness, low wound count, and good saves. Their role is still too specialized to see them in every army, and I don’t see their role being particularly useful at the moment.

  • After: 2 stars.

Ratlings

  • Before: 1 stars

Ratlings have suffered for a long time due to their low toughness and low leadership. They rely on moving after shooting to remain out of LOS: otherwise at best they have t2 4+ in cover. At 9 ppm they were rarely seen. Now they are 7 ppm. My issue with ratlings is that indirect fire is common and they provide easy kills. Their damage into other characters is now reasonable vs. low toughness and armor such as other guard armies, but in my experience infantry characters can usually hide from just one squad of snipers rather easily and still provide auras/spells usefully. Therefore, even with their points cost reduction I don’t see their role making a difference in the competitive meta.

  • After: 2 stars

Tempestor Prime / Tempestus Scions

  • Before: 2 stars

Scions have struggled to be costed appropriately: they innately can aerial drop, but their transports’ costs can’t reflect this or the transports will be too cost effective. Their hot shot weapons don’t shoot twice when arriving from reserves either, which severely limits their alpha strike potential. While Scion command squads have not changed, cost, the troop scions are 7 ppm down from 9 ppm and the Tempestor Prime is back at 35 down from 40. I see troop scions making a comeback to fill battalions with cheap objective holders and backfield harassers. They’re still too specialized to be spammed though.

  • After: 3 stars

Baneblade / Banehammer / Banesword

  • Before: 1 star

Guard super-heavies are poorly designed for the current meta. They cannot hide out of line of sight due to size, their size severely limits their deployment options, bs 4+ suffers a lot from hit penalties, and their lack of invulnerable save makes them easy for most armies in the game to remove in one turn. While they have received modest points decreases the meta leaves no room for their unit type in competitive play.

  • After: 1.5 star

Leman Russ Battle Tanks (LRBT’s)

  • Before: 2 stars

Even before CA 2019 LRBT’s received a blessing in the form of the change to demolisher cannons, pushing them to a 2 star unit. They still suffered from being bs 4+, no invulnerable save, high vulnerability to melee units, slow speed, and using direct fire weapons. Especially in a meta with character dreadnoughts with AP 4 lascannons that can reroll hits wounds and damage, the LRBT is showing its’ age. CA 2019 reduced their cost from 122 to 107 points. A basic LRBT will now run approximately 130-164 points rather than 145-184 points, a solid 10% reduction. CA 2019 has pushed the humble LRBT into a reasonably viable cost that could see play. Sadly they are still extremely vulnerable in the current meta and using them effectively will take a great deal of forethought.

  • After: 3 stars

Not all changes were points reductions. Some points increases include:

Ogryns

  • Before: 2 stars

In all of 8th edition I have yet to see ogryns on a table. With the last round of points adjustments they were 24 points, now they’re back to 30. They basically fill the same role that an infantry squad would while doing a worse job of it even before the adjustment. I don’t understand why they were increased in cost. I don’t think I’ll see them on a table again in 2020.

  • After: 1 star

Mortars / Wyverns / Punisher cannons

  • Before: 3 stars

Heavy weapons with mortars, wyverns, and punisher cannon armed tanks were all good units in the role of causing lots of wounds to low toughness units with low saves. All of these units were severely up-charged: 3 mortars will now run 45, up from 33. A wyvern will now run 113, up from 103. Punisher cannons were 20, now they’re 30 points. The meta has shifted away from all of these weapons since CA 2019 was first written, so I don’t expect to see any of these units in the meta for another year. If you want to remove hordes there are now significantly better options elsewhere in the codex.

  • After: 2 stars

Honorable mentions:

Lascannons and missile launchers are both 5 points cheaper. Neither of these weapons was particularly good for the cost before. I still don’t think we’ll see too many sentinels/heavy weapons teams taking missile launchers but it’s a nice option to have now. Otherwise, the reduction for the lascannon cost makes Leman Russ with hull lascannons slightly more attractive as well.

Overall impressions:

CA 2018 brought a lot of Guard units that were struggling into the realm of playability. The big winners this year for Guard were Scions, Leman Russ and Astropaths. The nerfs to anti-horde weapons were unexpected but will not affect Guard armies much in the current meta. CA 2019 therefore opens up new possibilities for Leman Russ themed armies and armies that use scions to fill battalions. I’ve built a sample list that uses some of the points adjusted units to the fullest:

  • Catachan Battalion:
  • Straken 75
  • Tempestor Prime 35
  • 4X Infantry Squad 160
  • Priest 35
  • 9 Bullgryns with mauls 378
  • 2X Astropath 30
  • Catachan Battalion (Artillery Company Vigilus Formation)
  • 2X Company Commander (one is warlord) 60
  • 3X Infantry Squad 120
  • Basilisk 108
  • Tallarn Battalion (Tank Company Vigilus Formation)
  • Tank Commander: battle cannon, lascannon, 2 plasma cannons 199
  • Company Commander 30
  • 2X Infantry Squad 80
  • Tempestus Scions (5) 35
  • LRBT squadron: (1) with battle cannon, heavy bolter 137
  • LRBT squadron: (2) with demolisher cannon, heavy bolter, 2 plasma cannons, (1) with demolisher cannon, heavy bolter 445
  • Chimera: multi laser, heavy bolter 73
  • >2000 points, 16 starting CP

This list has 2 astropaths that can hide in the chimera to take shelter from snipers if needed. The scions squad and Tempestor are there to hold far flung objectives, get recon points, or harass light units like scouts. The list also crams as many demolisher cannon armed LRBT’s into one squadron as possible: using three in one squadron means that with the Tallarn stratagem “Ambush” all three tanks can arrive from a flank for 3 CP. The lone LRBT can be ordered around by the tank commander by using the “Inspired Tactics” stratagem to use an extra order if needed. This list tries to live up to the “sledgehammer of the Emperor” that the Guard can bring to the table, with no less than 5 Leman Russ tanks and over 100 infantry models in the same 2000 points army.

I’ll be interested to see how Guard plays out at LVO and into 2020. I expect that CA 2019 was a positive boost to Guard but not one that will have them breaking the meta anytime soon.

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8 Responses to “Brandon Grant’s Chapter Approved 2019 Astra Militarum Review”

  1. Liam December 6, 2019 9:32 am #

    Thanks for the overview. I really appreciate this. How do you think pure guard responds to the new Marine meta? Are you even going to stick with guard, or move on to sisters or some kind of imperium list?

    Do you think that autocannon Russes have any play now that the base russ hull is so cheap?

    What about regiments? Does every competitive list need a catachan core for melee, or does pure tallarn or pure Valhallan have a chance?

  2. Mad_Hatter December 6, 2019 7:22 pm #

    I have 30 crusaders, but now I don’t know how to run them. Can I run them out of the AM codex or do I have to run them out of the new SoB codex. SoB has extra rules for them but you are limited to how you can run them and their max squad dropped from 10 to 6.

  3. Brandon December 6, 2019 8:19 pm #

    All armies have to be super resilient vs Marines, and guard can build for that. If it’s not resilient it needs to be outflanked our out of LOS turn one.

    Not sure when all the sister’s models will be available, but I do plan on collecting them. It might be some time before they’re ready.

    Autocannon russes are just OK. Battle cannon russes are typically more effective at the moment: strength 8 is a lot better than strength 7.

    I’m trying to come up with pure tallarn myself. Especially if the meta shifts away from horde melee I think it can work. A guard army definitely needs melee answers though no matter the build.

  4. Anggul December 7, 2019 12:42 am #

    Thanks for the article, interesting stuff.

    As a total newbie to Guard, what’s the reasoning for the sponson plasma cannons? Are they good for their cost even though they’re hitting on 5s when moving? Do Russes not actually move much in practice? Do you overcharge them?

    • kompatybilijny December 7, 2019 1:35 pm #

      Do not take sponsons at regular LR. Ever. All he deserves is a hull mounted heavy bolter. You always want Lascannon + Plasma sponsons on Tank Commander, because 2 Heavy bolters get you 6 Str 5 AP -1 D1 shots for 16 points, while 2 Plasma Cannons get you 2D3 Str 7/8 Ap -3 D1/2 shots for 20 points and these shots hit on 3+ rerolling 1’s. Always try to maximise the value you get from points you spend.

      • Liam December 8, 2019 11:52 am #

        The exception to this rule is Tallarn. They ignore the movement penalty for heavy weapons on vehicles, so you can load them down with whatever weapons.

        They will be more efficient on tank commanders, but like in this list, you can group together normal russes and infiltrate them to keep them safe.

        You trade accuracy for resiliency.

        • Pete December 24, 2019 9:32 am #

          I Take Side Sponsons on all of my Russ. Even with crappier BS from moving the 6 shots from heavy bolters will pay 16pts back before the game is over and they are far more survivable than they are on infantry.

          Played a 5,000 Point game against a guard list that was all Steel Legion LR without sponsons. I had a Catachan Bane Blade, Shadow Sword and 6 Leman Russes (3 TC 3 Reg) with side sponsons. The sheer overwhelming amount of firepower I put out vs his army was nuts. He even went first.

  5. Liam December 7, 2019 1:24 pm #

    Thanks for the response! I’d love to see an article on how a pure Tallarn list would work some time. I heard you discuss a little bit about it on a podcast once, and it sounded really interesting.

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