When perusing the internet for Genestealer Cult faction rankings a Cult player is going to come across some demoralizing results. In the majority of faction rankings, win percentages, or any other stat that measures how successful a faction is in Warhammer 40k the Cult are usually ranked dead last. There are a variety of reasons for the faction’s struggles in 9th Edition, but that is not what this article is going to focus on. Let’s put our positive goggles on and take a look at a unit that is in virtually all of the competitive GSC army lists doing well out there on the tournament scene.
It is no surprise to veteran GSC players that the Ridgerunner is a staple of a competitive GSC army. With the release of the Greater Good Psychic Awakening book these little Cult sports cars got a huge boost that was carried over into 9th Edition. Their firepower, mobility, and durability is unmatched in the GSC codex. However, just like the rest of the army, just throwing 9 of these into your army list won’t ensure a Cult victory.
The obvious benefit from the Ridgerunners is the fire power they bring to the battlefield. There is really only one competitive build currently, so we will focus on the damage output of the Heavy Mining Laser option. D3 S9 AP3 D6 damage shots is already a decent bargain when stuck on the Ridgerunner platform, and there are even ways to increase this already high damage output! Overcharged Weaponry cost just a single CP and gives +1 to wound to the entire unit. This seems good on a S9 gun, and it’ll be very nice when you wound T8 targets on 2s. The other stratagem that boosts this unit’s firepower is Raking Fire which gives +1 to hit AND to wound on an entire unit of Ridgerunner’s Heavy Stubbers. While not giving the Stubber AP is a real downside in the meta of high toughness, high armor save, targets the amount of shots a unit of 3 Ridgerunners puts out will have your opponent failing some saves.
With this damage output in the shooting phase it may be a let down to see the Riderunner’s ballistic skill of 4+, but don’t worry, the Cult has a plan. The Jackal Alphus is a necessity in any Ridgerunner heavy army build. The 36 inch targetable +1 to hit for Cult units within 6 inches of the Alphus is invaluable, and note that the aura is Cult units. As long as one Ridgerunner is within 6 inches of the Alphus the entire unit gets +1 to hit against the target. Hive Cult Ridgerunners have the ability to get +1 to hit with the Chilling Efficiency Stratagem as well as re-rolling 1s to hit with the Hivelord Warlord Trait.
Oh, as a bonus tip for damage output, don’t forget the Primus’ ability to let a unit re-roll wound rolls of 1 on a target unit. This works in the shooting phase for those Riderunners!
Mobility is another area the Ridgerunner excels in. With a built in 14 inch movement they can get to whatever part of the board they need to get line of sight or control objectives. They also come with a pre-game movement ability, but make sure you don’t deploy the Ridgerunners as blips if you want to take advantage of the pre-game move since the move happens before the first battleround begins. If your opponent doesn’t have a lot of good targets for the Heavy Mining Lasers of the Ridgerunners then the unit can become an excellent roadblock at choke points on the battlefield.
If you are taking the first turn a solid play with a unit, or 2, of Ridgerunners is to pregame move them toward the enemy, and then use their 14 inch movement to block your opponents routes to those midfield objectives. Make no mistake, you are sacrificing your Ridgerunners with this play, but in some matchups against slow moving armies with limited flying units, keeping them away from objectives for a turn can make all the difference.
Another interesting play for a gaggle of Ridgerunner units is utilizing their giant foot print on the tabletop to deny your opponent a popular secondary. A lot of players are taking Deploy Scramblers in the current meta. Especially players who do not have access to 9th Edition Codex Secondaries. GSC is one of the few armies in the game with the ability to flood the board with bodies, or in this case big Ridgerunner bases, to block an opponent from getting their units in your deployment zone for those 10 Scrambler points. While this will not be a solid tactic for every game, keep this tip in mind the next time your opponent assumes they are getting Deploy Scramblers in a game.
If you have been keeping up with these GSC articles you will be familiar with reading about resiliency (FOR THE GSC CODEX). Ridgerunners are surprisingly resilient on their own with 8 wounds and their 6+ ignoring wounds from the Flare Launcher (which you should always take). They can become resilient, even by other army’s standards, if they are Bladed Cog. By casting Undying Vigour on a unit of Ridgerunners you now have a 24 wound T5 block that ignores wounds on a 5+. The sneaky resiliency of this unit means your opponent will generally need to put serious work into the Ridgerunners before taking them out. This is great news for the softer parts of the GSC army (basically everything else) since this will mean your opponent will have less firepower to put into your T3 5+ save infantry.
Now what to do with this awesome unit with great firepower, mobility and resiliency to actually get some GSC wins? The firepower the unit brings is self explanatory, but the best GSC players can use this unit in all phases of the game to get the most out of them. By maneuvering your Ridgerunners to block paths to objectives, zone out potential Scrambler points, tarpitting enemy units, and blasting away inside and outside of close combat the Ridgerunner can be like a swiss army knife for an army that generally brings a single unit to complete one task on the tabletop.