Last week, I discussed the importance, or lack thereof, of the transport in 9th edition. One individual in the comments mentioned that both the Rhino and the Wave Serpent deserve a mention when talking about transports, and I completely agree.
Let’s begin with what is probably the best transport in the game: the Wave Serpent. This vehicle gives Aeldari players a whole host of options when it comes to offensive output and maneuverability around the board. Indeed, as tournaments get going again, I think we’re going to see some very strong Aeldari lists that focus on taking multiple Wave Serpents with minimum Dire Avenger squads inside.
One of the themes of my article last week was opportunity cost. Is the player better off taking a transport in order to protect and move vulnerable troops, or should he simply take more troops? The answer to this question is faction-specific, but in the case of Aeldari, the answer is almost always that he should take a Wave Serpent to protect his troops.
As I mention above, the Wave Serpent offers a lot of flexibility in weapons and supporting abilities, but I’ll start by discussing one of the more familiar load-outs. A Wave Serpent armed with a Shuriken Cannon, a Twin Shuriken Cannon, and Spirit Stones comes out at 170 points. As transports go, this ain’t cheap, but I would argue that it’s worth the price tag.
For those 170 points, Aeldari players get a 16″ move, toughness 7, 13 wounds, and a 3+ save. The Shuriken Cannon is an assault 3 weapon with strength 6 and 1 damage at 24″; the Twin Shuriken Cannon follows the same profile but at assault 6. But that’s not the whole story: on wound rolls of 6, Shuriken weapons count as AP-3. With a respectable ballistic skill of 3+, the Wave Serpent armed with these weapons can put out some solid anti-infantry firepower. Indeed, with a strength of 6, it can even threaten certain vehicles. There’s a lot to like here.
But the real value of the Wave Serpent comes from its defensive abilities. The in-built Serpent Shield has two functions: first, once per game, the Aeldari player can use the Serpent Shield offensively, picking a visible enemy unit with 24″ of the Serpent. This unit takes D3 mortal wounds on a 2+. This is pretty solid, and can be very useful for picking off that last pesky wound on an important target.
But it’s the second function that is so good: the Serpent Shield reduces all ranged damage by 1, to a minimum of 1. Reducing damage is a brilliant ability, and it native to the vehicle. Aeldari players don’t need to pay any extra points whatsoever to gain this ability.
If they were to pay an extra ten points, which I have done in my description above, they can put Spirit Stones on their vehicle. Spirit Stones give the vehicle a 6+ Feel No Pain roll. In combination with all damage being reduced, this is absolute money.
Those Aeldari engineers are clearly doing something right when it comes to transports.
There’s a lot more to the Wave Serpent that what I’ve discussed here, but the main aspects that make this transport indispensable are its speed and its survivability. In 9th edition, a 16″ move is worth a lot. The ability to immediately put strong, survivable units on multiple objectives from the beginning of the game is hugely powerful, and many armies will struggle to contend with the amount of primary points that such a strategy will yield.
Indeed, I don’t know how I would deal with multiple Wave Serpents as a T’au player. The -1 damage blunts the Riptide’s offensive capabilities by 50 per cent, which means that in order to destroy a Wave Serpent, I would have use 100 per cent more of my assets to do so than I would another vehicle with a similar defensive profile. This makes my strongest units very inefficient.
Granted, the T’au have other tools to deal with vehicles, but in a Battlesuit-heavy T’au lists, the Riptides do most of the heavy lifting. The Wave Serpent’s excellent defensive abilities really make it difficult.
All armies have tricky match-ups, but the Wave Serpent provides Aeldari players with a lot of tools to deal with some very tough situations.
Now that I’ve sung the praises of the Aeldari, let’s contrast the sleek, elegant Wave Serpent with, well, a tank that is distinctly not sleek and not elegant.
The Rhino is a real bread and butter, salt of the earth unit — and that’s why it’s so useful. The Rhino doesn’t need to be particularly quick or particularly shooty. It just needs to get its payload up the board, and for 78 points it does so handily.
For those 78 points, Marines players get a 12″ move, toughness 7, 10 wounds and a 3+ save, in addition to the Self-repair rule, which gets the Rhino a wound back at the beginning of the turn on the roll of a 6. There’s something particularly satisfying about this rule. The Rhino is a classic 40k unit; it deserves a little extra something.
The Rhino is armed with a Storm Bolter. It can also be armed with another Storm Bolter. We’re not exactly going to be mowing down hordes of Tyranids with this thing, but we don’t need to. That’s not why players buy a Rhino. We’re using a Rhino because we want to be on the mid-board objectives on turn one, and we want to do it without any fuss.
In the objective-focused game that is 9th edition, the extra speed that the Rhino grants can be very useful, but with Firstborn Marines gaining an extra wound, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll see even fewer Rhinos on the tabletop than we do at the moment.
Tough, resilient infantry don’t necessarily need transports. A transport can be helpful, sure, but if the troops are hardy enough to withstand much of the opponent’s firepower, perhaps an advance move would be good enough. Marines — be they Primaris or Firstborn — don’t need transports, but there’s a pretty good argument to be made that Aeldari infantry do. Of course, there are strong Aeldari lists that don’t take any vehicles, but you get my point.
And the same can be said for the T’au. There’s a good argument to say that T’au players should be looking to the Devilfish in 9th; those toughness 3, 4+ Fire Warriors don’t last long out in the open. I’m not convinced about the Devilfish yet, but I’d be even less convinced if my only Objective Secured units are destroyed by turn two. It’s very possible.
I don’t know the answer to the conundrum of troops and transports in 9th edition. But as games start to get going again, we’re going to see which army lists start to emerge at the top of the pile. Spoilers: it’s going to be Space Marines. We all knew that. But there are going to be a whole host of strong lists that don’t include Power Armour, and strong, reliable transports could certainly be up there.
I still don’t know how I’m going to deal with the Wave Serpent though. Damn Space Elves.
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