The Transport in 9th Edition

Are we playing in the era of the transport?

In 9th edition, players win games by capturing and holding objectives. There’s no getting around this fact. The primary missions are the best way to get points on the board.

And what’s more, many of the secondary missions are quite tough to get maximum points on.

Indeed, the game has become a lot less focused on simply destroying enemy units. Don’t get me wrong: players need to have ways to bring the thunder, but destroying a couple of units a turn won’t necessarily be enough to win the game.

In a game in which players must capture objectives, the troop choice is king. Objective Secured has always been a powerful ability, but in 9th edition it has become yet more valuable.

For the competitive player, then, this prompts a question: how many Objective Secured units should I take in my army?

The trade-off is obvious enough: most units with Objective Secured aren’t as powerful as other units in the codex. And this stands to reason. A strong, well-written, well-balanced codex will present players with a variety of units that have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, a strong, well-written, well-balanced codex will also offer players a handful of powerful army lists. Unfortunately, many codex books don’t offer such options, but that’s an article for another time.

In 8th edition, players could select fewer Objective Secured units in order to take the more powerful units in the codex. In the ITC, players were awarded points for both capturing objectives and destroying enemy units — hold, hold more, kill, kill more — but players in 9th no longer have this luxury.

While there is one secondary mission that awards players points for killing more units that his opponent — in the Grand Tournament 2020 book this secondary is called Grind Them Down; in the Core Book this secondary is called Attrition — it only awards three points per battle round for doing so. In comparison to the primary objectives, this offers little in the way of points scoring.

For some armies, this simply isn’t a problem. It will come as a surprise to no one that Space Marines have access to a diverse range of durable, powerful troops units that come with a variety of interesting, effective special rules. Primaris Intercessors, Incursors, and Infiltrators are excellent choices. Indeed, these units offer rules and abilities found in the elite section of other armies.

Furthermore, I’d wager that in 9th we’re going to see some very powerful lists containing mostly Primaris troops. 60 or more of these boys on the objectives are going to be very difficult to shift for most armies in the game.

But most armies can’t rely on such powerful troops. With this in mind, then, are we going to see more transports hit the tabletop in 9th edition?

It’s a tricky one. There’s really one army for which their dedicated transport is an auto-include: the Drukhari. For my money, the Venom, even with the points increase, is still one of the best transports in the game. The Drukhari gunboat list still has significant teeth. More on that later.

But what about the more humble transports in the game? Is the Chimera worth taking? Is the Devilfish worth its points?

To begin to think about this, it’s useful to consider the opportunity cost of the transport itself. The Devilfish, for example, costs 103 points. That gives us a transport capacity of 12, a 12″ move, toughness 7, 12 wounds, and a 3+ save. As tanks go, this is pretty reasonable defense at a pretty reasonable cost.

Does the Devilfish give us any offensive capability? Put simply, it doesn’t. It’s modestly armed, with a Burst Cannon and two Gun Drones. Granted, a pair of Gun Drones is a really useful little unit, but all things considered, the offensive capabilities of the Devilfish aren’t really worth factoring in to the conversation.

I should point out that there is a caveat here. The T’au player can replace the two Gun Drones for two Smart Missile Systems for an extra 10 points, bringing the total cost up to 113 points. Furthermore, we can add a couple of Seeker Missiles into the mix, bringing the total cost up to 123 points. These options do offer some interesting ways to play the Devilfish.

But let’s put that to one side for now. If we were to forgo those 103 points for a bare-bones Devilfish, what else could we take? Or, to put it another way, how many more Fire Warriors could we bring? After all, we take the Devilfish in order to protect the Fire Warriors inside, but for 103 points we could take another ten-man squad of Fire Warriors.

Which is better? 10 Fire Warriors and a Devilfish or 20 Fire Warriors. Again, this is a tricky question. In order to better think about it, let’s compare it to something else. I mentioned the Drukhari Venom earlier — what does this model offer Drukhari players?

I really like the Venom. It went up in points in 9th edition, but it still has teeth. For 75 points, Drukhari players get a model with a transport capacity of five, a mighty 16″ move, toughness 5, 6 wounds, a 4+ armor save, a 5+ invulnerable save, and a native -1 to hit rolls in the shooting phase.

There’s a lot to like here. With the native -1 to hit and a 5++, the Venom is surprisingly tricky to shift. And what’s more, with the Kabal of the Black Heart, that boy will have a 6+ Feel No Pain roll on top of everything else.

It’s also got some very respectable anti-infantry shooting. For those 75 points, the Venom is armed with a Splinter Cannon and a Twin Splinter Rifle. The Splinter Cannon is a Rapid Fire 3 weapon with a range of 36″; the Twin Splinter Rifle is a Rapid Fire 2 weapon with a range of 24″. Both have an AP value of 0 and 1 damage, but both are poison weapons, meaning they wound everything but Vehicle- and Titantic-keyword units on a 4+.

At 18″, then, the Venom kicks out eight poison shots; at 12″, the Venom delivers 12 poison shots, all hitting on 3s. Moreover, we have the fact that it is an open-topped vehicle, meaning that those Kabalite Warriors inside can add their weapons into the mix.

Let’s ask the above question to the Drukhari player: would he forgo the Venom in order to take more Kabalite Warriors. No competitive Drukhair player would do so. The Venom is integral to the way that many Drukhari lists play.

However, the same cannot be said for the Devilfish. Most competitive T’au lists don’t run Devilfish. Of course, this could change as we continue to see tournament results trickle in from around the world, but for now we seldom see vehicles in strong T’au lists.

The comparison to the Venom is useful, but it only gets us so far. While the infantry models that both transports protect have a similar defensive stat-line, meaning that when unprotected, they will likely be destroyed, the transports themselves do distinctly different things. Drukhari players can build strong lists with multiple Venoms at the core, but the Devilfish doesn’t offer T’au players such flexibility.

This much is obvious: the question of whether to take a transport is faction-specific. And like most other army list choices, it is dependent on what else is in the force, as well as a myriad of other tactical choices that the player must make as he builds his list.

Are we playing in the era of the transport? I think we might be, but it’s too soon to tell. I’m definitely going to give the Devilfish a go when I get back to playing, and I’m looking forward to developing new ways to play my T’au with a couple in the force.

And if nothing else, more tanks on the tabletop can’t be a bad thing.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

secondhandhsop

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14 Responses to “The Transport in 9th Edition”

  1. Avatar
    Casey H August 12, 2020 6:49 pm #

    This really begs for another article on Rhinos and Wave Serpents.

    Land Raiders, now that bad touch has gone away. Chimeras, etc. So much more to discuss.

    -Casey H

  2. Avatar
    Rob Butcher August 13, 2020 12:18 am #

    I’d stop trying to figure out the difference between 8th and 9th in this manner, when you’re actually comparing the official GW GT missions to those of the unofficial itc.

    The GWGT Final 2019 was won by T’au using transports and CA2018 objective missions. Some of those rules have ended (flyers don’t have anywhere near the same board control).

    The games I’ve played/watched so far have seen the Impulsor having a major effect. Two impulsors negated the psychic firepower of the GK, then in another game four impulsors got the SM into combat with the necrons and effectively won the game in the first turn. (Both games are on TableTop Tactics.) My own games have divested into transports getting targetted quickly.

    I do wonder about armies that don’t have cheap transports!

  3. Avatar
    Vipoid August 13, 2020 1:09 am #

    “I really like the Venom. It went up in points in 9th edition, but it still has teeth. For 75 points, Drukhari players get a model with a transport capacity of five, a mighty 16″ move, toughness 5, 6 wounds, a 4+ armor save, a 5+ invulnerable save, and a native -1 to hit rolls in the shooting phase.”

    Now look at What Harlequins get for just 5pts more and tell me again how the Venom is well costed.

    • Avatar
      Martin August 13, 2020 2:23 am #

      I agree, the starweaver is really good now for it’s points. -1 to hit, 4+ Inv and 2 Shuriken cannons is really solid.

    • Avatar
      White_noise August 13, 2020 3:22 am #

      the venom is more expensive because you can put kabalite warriors inside.
      4 warriors with a blaster are 60 pts. Which means at 12″ you get 18 poison shots and 1 blaster shot from 135pts
      The Harlequin troops barebones are 60 and armed with pistols. So at 12″ you only get 12 shots (it is an extra 30 for fusion but the range drops to 6″)
      That is why the venom costs more.

      • Avatar
        Vipoid August 13, 2020 4:42 am #

        “the venom is more expensive because you can put kabalite warriors inside.
        4 warriors with a blaster are 60 pts. Which means at 12″ you get 18 poison shots and 1 blaster shot from 135pts”

        You realise that this is an insane argument, right?

        What if you’re not putting Kabaites in the Venom? What if you want to put Wyches or Incubi or Wracks or a Court in it?

        Further, why is this a positive even for Kabalites? Poison weapons have been garbage for at least 2 editions now, and nothing in 9th has changed that. Not only that, but Kabalites have already gone up in price 50% – far more than they could possibly be worth.

        • Avatar
          abusepuppy August 13, 2020 6:27 am #

          Poison weapons are fine. They aren’t a huge advantage, but they have served effectively for mowing down infantry for a long while and that’s not different.

          _Last edition_, when the Venom was printed and costed, holding cheap squads of Warriors was a huge advantage. Before we go trashing the Venom for being overcosted and bad, let’s remember that there was a significant chunk of 8E where Venom Spam was a major top-tier army and it lived almost entirely on the back of cheap troops inside cheap transports.

          In a straight comparison, the Starweaver is obviously better… and that’s exactly why you should distrust straight comparisons between units in different codices. Last edition, the Venom was king and the Starweaver was a sad also-ran; this edition, the comparison is flipped despite their relative prices and statlines being the same.

          • Avatar
            Vipoid August 13, 2020 6:43 am
            #

            “Poison weapons are fine.”

            They were tolerable on 6pt models as the standard garbage-tier weapons like Bolters/Lasguns. Except that they didn’t (and still don’t) have Bolter Discipline or FRFSRF.

            Now those models are 9pts – almost twice as much as a Guardsman – yet with 0 increase in offensive capability.

            Likewise, poison was not fine on any guns that were supposed to be worth a damn. It would be the equivalent of Heavy Bolters being Heavy 3 S4 AP0 D1. And Autocannons being heavy 4 S4 AP0 D1.

            These sound like good weapons? No? Then why is it fine for DE to have that sort of garbage?

            “_Last edition_, when the Venom was printed and costed, holding cheap squads of Warriors was a huge advantage.”

            You’re right. Venoms were useful in 8th. I don’t recall saying otherwise.

            “Before we go trashing the Venom for being overcosted and bad, let’s remember that there was a significant chunk of 8E where Venom Spam was a major top-tier army and it lived almost entirely on the back of cheap troops inside cheap transports.”

            Cool story. Are we going to go back to 6th edition next and pretend that stuff from then is still relevant to 9th?

            I note particularly the phrase “cheap troops in cheap transports”. What cheap troops to DE have in 9th? Because 9pts minimum is most certainly not cheap for models barely superior to Guardsmen and without the support.

            “Last edition, the Venom was king and the Starweaver was a sad also-ran”

            Not even sure what you mean by this. Are you trying to pretend that the Starweaver wasn’t used in 8th? Because I certainly don’t recall people footslogging their Harlequins.

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy August 13, 2020 10:11 am
            #

            9pt warriors are a totally different issue from Poison weapons, as a concept, being flawed.

            I don’t know what Heavy 3 poisoned weapon you’re thinking of, because I don’t think that profile have ever existed in the entire history of the game.

            Yes, Drukhari need some kind of autocannon-equivalent medium weapon to go in between Darklight and poison. Again, that is a totally different problem from “poison sucks.” The Disintegrator nominally fills this role (and is actually vastly superior to the Heavy Bolter at its job), but really isn’t enough.

            What I mean by saying the Starweaver was a “sad also-ran” is that you did not see Harlequins on the top tables for the vast majority of the edition, and when you did you did not see Starweavers. This is because the value of units fluctuates with far more than just the value of the unit itself- even when there were changes to the cost of the Starweaver+Troupe package, it remained unused because other factors rendered it an unfavorable choice.

            In other words, the problem with the Venom is not its poison weaponry, or its lower transport capacity, or its inferior save to the Starweaver. If made the Venom a carbon copy of the Starweaver right this instant, Drukhari would still be a middling faction in 9E. The problems are external, not internal, and the comparison to the Starweaver is thus meaningless.

    • Avatar
      AlamoMelt August 13, 2020 3:46 am #

      Don’t forget the Starweaver holds 6, so it can take a minimum unit AND a character.

  4. Avatar
    Kai Nieminen August 13, 2020 4:58 am #

    The Venom only has 10 shots at 12″, unless you pay an extra 15 pts to replace the Dual Splinter Rifles with a Splinter Cannon. 90 pts for that Venom is generally not a good investment.

    However, dont forget about Flayed Skull Venoms getting native re-roll 1s on all rapid fire weapons, ignore cover saves, and +3″ movement.

    Dont know how competitive that is, but I dont think its the silver bullet that this article makes it out to be (Venoms fold like wet paper to psykic and CC threats)

  5. Avatar
    Harry August 13, 2020 9:33 am #

    The Tau need to figure out how to strap a pair of smart missile systems onto their Devilfish

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy August 13, 2020 10:04 am #

      They did, it’s just when you’re BS4+ and moving onto objectives to die, that isn’t really the problem you need to solve, because it just makes you even MORE expensive than a Rhino while still not having enough firepower to matter.

  6. Avatar
    BK August 13, 2020 10:47 am #

    One way you could consider the Devilfish is that the total cost is 103 points but since two gun drones are useful and can do their own things separately – the real cost of the Devilfish is 75+8= 83 points.

    Breachers aren’t the worst obsec unit in the world to carry and the model itself is pretty large so good for screening with.

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