Salamanders: A Hidden Gem- by Nick Rose from the Art of War
Near the end of 2019, Marines were coming out, and one of the last books was Salamanders. On top of that, the final big tournament at the end of the year was Pro Tabletop in Atlanta. That directed a lot of focus in the competitive community to create lists around Iron Hands, as they were the top contenders. Fast forward to LVO; Raven Guard and Iron Hands were dominating the scene, and no one bothered to look at the other books afterward because so much time has passed, and Iron Hands were dominating the scene.
Skip to today, and with all this downtime we have had, I’ve discovered a hidden gem a lot of people have forgotten about: Salamanders.
Why are they a gem? For three reasons:
- They have great stratagems
- Strong combinations with the Marine codex and psychic powers
- The basic Chapter Tactic of Master of Artisans and ignore ap -1 has a lot of value in the current meta
The Stratagems within the codex provide great value. Let’s go over the basic ones that create a core toolkit for the army.
- Crucible of Battle: Shooting or fight phase, add plus 1 to wound.
- Strength of the Primarch: Use in fight phase, add +1 Strength, 6’s is double dmg.
- Self-Sacrifice: Pick a unit and then select another Salamander unit. The first unit can’t get picked as a target until the other unit is dead. Think of it as alpha legion conceal.
- Rise from the Ashes: Bring a character back from the dead after it’s been destroyed.
- Stand your ground: +1 Save against Damage 1 weapons
- Born Protectors: In short, when one unit gets picked to charge, this unit gets to overwatch. Then it gets to Heroic intervene 2d6.
When you start adding these stratagems with abilities from the Space Marine book and Faith and Fury, you get a lot of strong combinations that push the damage potential of units to another level.
Example: here is a damage profile of ten Intercessors with Bolt Rifles using Rapid fire in any other codex vs. ones with FF and Salamander powers. The Target is T4 4+ save for reference.
Normally, you would get 15 Wounds out of 40 shots on that target, but in this case, if you had all the combinations, you get more than double the damage for a total of 32 wounds. With combinations such as these, you can maximize units and push them past their point values. In melee, with Crucible of Battle and Strength of the Primarch, you almost always have two ways to add +2 to wound, which can do a lot of work.
I’ll elaborate more shortly, but regarding durability, having plus one save has a significant impact on top of the ignoring ap -1. Considering that the basic premise of high-level 40k comes down to always making better trades for units, the Salamanders excel at enabling that favorable trade and moving towards a win.
To further emphasize the concept of favorable trades, the Salamanders stratagems ensure that you can continue to trade well throughout six turns. There are so many units you can work that punch over their weight. Here are some combos to try out.
- Snipers with +1 to wound on Sniper Rifles for Mortals on 5+
- Incursors or Reivers doubling up on Crucible of Battle, Strength of Primarch (15 Wounds on a Knight!)
- Terminators with Powerfist and Storm Bolters using Crucible and Strength of Primarch for serious potential damage
Two psychic powers that stand out are Fire Shield (-1 to hit and -1 to charges) and Drake Skin (+1 Toughness to a unit). These powers can add considering constitution that can help match or even beat Iron Hands durability. Now when you start using stratagems such as Self-Sacrifice, you can buff that protector unit and provide that extra needed durability.
Think of that ten-man Intercessor unit from our previous example: it has 20 wounds, and for it to lose every model, a player would have to do 40 wounds. With Drake Skin, they now must do 60 wounds. Now, that is still quite a bit, especially considering they’re -1 to hit. It means they would need 80 shots to remove that ten-man intercessor unit without Drake Skin. With Fire Shield on a unit of Drake Skin, they would now need 181 shots to remove the same unit. That is a lot of extra survivability that a lot of people don’t expect. Add the +1 save stratagem (Stand Your Ground), and now they would need 573 shots in our example to remove that one Intercessor unit of 170 points (poor GSC Neophytes and autoguns).
Now for the final piece that helps it come together:
The Salamander Chapter Tactic is Master of Artisans, which gives you a reroll to hit and wound. Along with the above tools, this trait gives you another way to improve your damage. The big one, though, is ignoring ap -1. With the changes to tactical doctrine and adjustments in the meta, a lot of weapons in the game are ap -1. You reduce their damage output by essentially cutting it in half.
- Tau: Air bursting Fragmentation with ATS, Smart Missile systems with ATS
- Marines: Cents, Intercessors, Basic Bolter fire, Thunder fires
- Ad Mech: Scorpius and Autocannons
- Chaos: Butcher cannons, Autocannons
- Heavy Bolters, Super Shoota, Death Spitters, etc.
So, what do you get?
Once you start pooling these combinations, you can alter the basic formula that bounds the game together in your favor. You gain the ability to create openings during the game that might not be available to other armies. When your opponent commits that Punisher tank to remove a unit and becomes unsuccessful, your opponent will have two choices: spend more to remove that unit, or move on to something else, keeping that unit alive. Then you can create moments that you can catch your opponent off guard when those ten Reivers come across and charge that Knight for 15 wounds.
That said, I hope you give Salamanders a chance. It has taken even me about 20+ games to get used to them, but they are a rewarding army.
Example Army List – 14 CP ~2000 Pts
- Captain on Bike – Thunder Hammer Storm Shield
- Phobos Librarian
- 10 Incursors
- 5 Incursors
- 10 Scouts with Sniper Rifles
- 5 Assault Centurions – Hurricane Bolters
- Thunder Fire
- Primaris Librarian
- Prime Chaplin
- 10 Intercessors – Bolt Rifles
- Tactical Squad 5 – man
- Tactical Squad 5 – man
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