Rediscovering Angels Part 5: Vanguard Veterans

Hey there folks, hows the day?  Xaereth here once again from Delusions of Grandeur, seeking to share my views on competitive ways to play Blood Angels.  Some interesting stuff to talk about today, mostly about Vanguard Veterans.  Let's see what they have to offer us...

Here's the link to my last article, about Death Company.  They're somewhat similar to the VV, as far as options go, but play quite a bit different.  Feel free to take a look :)

Vanguard are expensive.  Let's just get that one over with right now.  They have good potential for a Blood Angels army, and have lots and lots of options, but you pay out the bum for those options.  The base unit expense isn't a whole lot, but at the same time, if you were to take that unit without upgrades, it wouldn't be cost-efficient by anyone's definition.

Okay, let's break it down. 115 points for a squad with a single power weapon, no transport, just footslogging, isn't going to do much.  Buying a transport for that squad would be at full price, and honestly, you may as well just get a much cheaper scoring unit with a cheap transport with a RAS, if that's what you're going for.  A RAS can have a power weapon + jump packs for 115- which means you're paying the same amount points per model on the vanguard for a single extra attack, a special rule that can't be used (because of no jump packs), and for the lack of mobility (which is the huge one- a 50 point cost difference in 5 models).  Pretty sore deal, right?  This breakdown pretty much ensures that in order for this unit to be points-efficient, the unit either needs to make use of at least some of the possible options, or not used at all.  Since it's no fun :-p to simply ignore this unit (since it can be good), we'll assume it's the former :-)

Alright, so let's take a look at the options that are actually good.  Power weapons of all types are available, as well as storm shields, melta bombs, and... jump packs.  In other words, enough to make this unit far too expensive to actually be viable.  But also enough to give the unit the tools needed to be able to do the job and make them actually worth taking.

First, I'd like to point to the idea that taking mostly power weapons is the incorrect approach.  Mixing power weapons with regular weapons only results in one thing:  wound allocation shenanigans from your opponent.  Even if you cause enough power wounds at a single Initiative to kill off an entire squad, a single wound caused that allows a save ensures that the sergeant with power fist is going to get a save.  I keep linking this article I've written to help explain it... I don't want to write the same article over and over, but it's something that people get wrong way more often than not.  It certainly applies to the VV.  If you've already read it, cool, let's move on.

We should ask ourselves:  what are the goals for this unit?  They're good at assault for sure, and have the ability to accurately deepstrike and assault right after that with power weapons.  Though sometimes it should be obvious that this unit is going to be used to penetrate deep into enemy lines, I think that it's fair to say that the unit can be used otherwise with a fair amount of success.  One thing for sure though:  they certainly want to be used in combat.

Let's tackle the Jump option first, since it seems to be the favorite use for VV (as it was intended to be, lol).  What sort of things are you trying to accomplish with them?  You want to disrupt your opponent's plans of course.  You want to kill dev squads, lootas, gretchin who are sitting on objectives, shooty vehicles, broadside teams, etc.  Usually you want to pick on a squad whose points are mostly put into supporting your opponent somehow via shooting, holding objectives, etc.

Contrary to popular belief however, there are multiple shooty/support units out there that are a little tough for 5 lone unequipped VV to tackle on their own.  15 lootas still get a boatload of attacks, as do 6 longfangs, and even Broadside teams can do some damage if we're not careful.  The key is to get rid of the squad in a single round of combat, and not allowing the opponent to react and save their squad/vehicle, etc.

In order to do this and make the unit viable in a take-all-comers list, we must make sure to include things in the squad that will ensure maximum combat efficiency.  Let's do a bullet list.  Yaaaay! Bullets are fun!
  • Fist/Hammer is going to be a must-take.  They don't require Furious Charge to make them hit hard, and strike at a different initiative, helping to play 'cleanup'.  In addition, they double their role, aiding in the destruction of vehicles when needed.
  • Melta bombs for the other members of the squad will help to take out multiple vehicles if you want to try for it.
  • A few extra bodies will help ensure enough attacks to kill off horde-type squads (like Lootas) and force them to run away.  It also helps to ensure that your fist/hammer won't have to take a save.
  • Power weapons are somewhat useless for this squad, due to wound allocation shenanigans.  Remember that the target squad is usually going to be pretty small, and you'll generally just kill the sergeant really dead with a single power weapon.  Also, for another 10 points, you can kill vehicles better.  Usually the squad will benefit more from another fist than 2 power weapons.
An important thing to remember is that this squad will usually not actually take its full points out before it dies.  The goal is to trade a few points in order to disrupt your opponent's ability to play the game.  Whereas we don't depend on your VV squad after their initial strike, we've hopefully taken out a unit that our opponent depends on lasting throughout most of the game.  Throwing a brick into their plan is often worth spending a little extra on.

Something I see many people doing, which I see as a mistake, is overloading the squad with storm shields, trying to form a mini-deathstar.  The thing people need to realize, is that used in the way described above, it doesn't really matter if their squad has SS or not- the squad is pretty likely to die anyways.  After all, storm shields only protect against power weapons and AP3 or less.  They don't do anything to help against 80 lasguns, or the like.  Maybe a single shield can be justified, to help against lone melta guns, but anything more is sort of excessive for a squad that will die next turn anyways.

So, here's my 'optimal' jump pack build:

6x Vanguard Veterans
6x Jump Packs
2x Power Fists
4x Melta Bombs

Total points:  250

OR, if you insist on 2 Vanguard Squads:

10x Vanguard Veterans
10x Jump Pakcs
4x Power Fists
(combat squad them)

Total points: 400

They don't hit as hard, and can't do quite as much, but still have roughly the same ability to kill tanks.  Add melta bombs and such as you want- they get expensive in a hurry though.  400 points for a couple disruption units is already steep.  Remember that these guys can also be used to simply start on the table with the rest of your forces- they're an expensive unit, but if there isn't a good target, they can at least benefit from FNP and provide a hard-hitting counter-charge.  Versatility is good.

Otherwise, they can still take a tranport and be a good counter-charge unit.  I'd recommend taking bodies over power weapons, for the same reasons as before.  Something like this:

10x Vanguard Veterans
2x Power Fists
Rhino w/ EA, Dozer Blade

It's around 300 points, and can provide a pretty good counter-charge for their points.  Buying the Rhino makes the cost of their mobility far cheaper than Jump Packs, and added to FNP, this unit can really do some damage.  Add in FC and the Sanguinor, and this unit really has the potential to shine, against any unit out there.  Blood Angels already assault well, but this squad of guys are definitely worth a look.  Maybe even take out a guy, add a Librarian, and give the squad preferred enemy.  They're a good use for it, compared to a RAS.

I think I'm going to leave it there.  Vanguard certainly have different roles than a RAS, in that they can disrupt enemy forces, Alpha Strike when they need to, etc.  They're a throw-away squad, and sort of like chess, they trade one unit for another, hoping to get the better end of the bargain.  You can tool them up to be good at combat, but beware the expense involved in such an endeavor. 

Let me know what you think :)


Dalinair said...

Good article, personally i do like to put at least 1 storm shield in mine, just for those random lucky melta hits or the like, Also found its nice to have a tiny bit extra survival skill over flat out killing power so that sometimes if your lucky you can force the combat to end in thier turn not yours, saving you from a good shooting when its their go.

I agree 6 is a good number but personally im not a fan of melta bombs, to me 1 is enough if at all since i want to use the unit to take out other units, not vehicles. This being because I dont need to charge vehicles, I can land with my RAS and just shoot them with melta instead.

Michael said...

I love VV, but just not on the table yet. I have played a couple games with them in my list, and they have not performed for me. One time I could not get them on the table, even with DoA. Another game they scattered the max distance away and got shot to pieces before they could get into assault.

Don't get me wrong, I am still going to play with them because they fulfill a role that my current army needs, but I hope they start performing better.

Black Blow Fly said...

You always run them with jump packs so you can take advantage of Heroic Intervention.

You either go small or big...

power fist & 4 power weapons + meltabombs

Thunder hammers, lightning claws and stormshields for everyone

The big squad is awesome as they can take the 3++ and basically become flying assault terminators... people just dont have teh balls to play them that way.


urbanesmalo said...

Is it worth taking vanguard over sternguard in a drop pod? The math says the vanguard will only get a couple more wounds over a sternguard kitted out with combi plas and meltas, and the stern guard cost half the price. You can even put a priest in their pod to help them survive some shooting.

Xaereth said...

Dalinair: I guess I just like Melta Bombs because against certain armies, you *need* to kill tanks, and lots of times they can be found in squadrons (like Hydras). Melta Bombs are lots more likely to actually do something than Krak Grenades. It just overall makes the unit more versatile, for not that many more points.

Michael: Yeah, those kind of bad things can happen to VV. Keep using them though, they'll pay off for you eventually :)

BBF: Heh... you're right, I certainly don't have the balls to play that squad. Well, I did once but kind of lost bad, and to a bad list. Vanguardstar didn't work out for me too well. I'd be interested in seeing how they worked in a tournament though. You should bring that big squad to Genghis or Adepticon :)

urbanesmalo: I like Sternguard well enough, and they can do some good things for sure. However, they *don't* deepstrike as accurately as the VV, and they also don't do something the VV are best at- wiping an *entire* unit out. If even a couple enemy models survive, it kind of makes the sacrifice of the squad not worth it.

Also, smoke popped makes vehicles far more resilient to shooting than assault. Overall, I don't think Sternguard are a *bad* choice, just that VV generally do the Alpha Strike thing better.

But that's just what I think. :-p

Philipp said...

i don't really see the point of the melta-bombs...for just 5 points more (and instead of melta-bombs) u get a sargeant w. power fist...

5 veterans, 1 sargeant, 3 power fists, jump packs...255 pts and that should take care of any tank as giving u an extra few power fist attacks

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