I think first we need to talk a little about their strengths/weaknesses. There are the obvious ones, and a couple less obvious ones that I want to draw your attention to.
- Weapon Skill 5
- Give Feel No Pain (FNP) to friendly models within 6"
- Give Furious Charge (FC) to friendly models within 6"
- Independent Characters
- Multiple priests per elite slot
- Independent Characters
- Only 1 Wound
- Not troops- this means that you can't deploy assault squads in Dawn of War missions. Sometimes this really is relevant.
- No plausible way to get an invulnerable save
- Can add up to a lot of points, very quickly.
- Takes up room in a rhino, giving you less special weapons on assault squads
Option 1: Barebones
Priest + Jump Pack (or in a Rhino) = 50-75 points
This option is probably my favorite option. Here's why: Priests don't really want to be in combat. They make the squad they're with quite a bit better, but the instant he dies, the squad is suddenly very squishy without much redeeming grace. As such, I try to avoid getting him into combat whenever possible- keeping your priest over 6" from the nearest enemy model many times ensures that he won't have a way to get into close combat in the first turn anyways. I'll talk more about this a little later.
Priest + Power Weapon + Jump Pack (or in a Rhino)= 65-90 points
This is likely my least favorite option. Like I said before, you don't generally want to get him into combat- and 90 points is a lot of points for a single wound model with no invulnerable save. On top of that, if the Priest is with your 10-man assault squad, those extra 2 power wounds can easily be soaked into a single melta gun or special weapon in the squad you're fighting. It won't have much impact, really.
As a side note however, if you must put a power weapon on the Priest, please use a Claw. It's better, because it allows you a reroll to wound. Yes, you're missing out on an extra attack. Still, do the math. Against T4, it's about the same. Against T5+ it's vastly superior than a regular power weapon.
Option 3: Tank Killer
Priest + Infernus Pistol/Combi-melta + Jump Pack (or in a Rhino)= 65-90 points
This one is a good one, if you must put some sort of upgrade on the priest. Your assault squads have a hard time killing a tank with only 2 meltas in there (trust me, they do). An infernus pistol or combi-melta is a good choice for a few reasons. The best reason in my estimation, is that it doesn't expose your Priest to direct threat (i.e. combat). The melta weapon is still capable of making an impact on the game without actually risking the Priest himself, since we can screen him with the squad he's in so the enemy can't charge their fist into him.. Melta is also excellent against Monstrous Creatures (where claws are less so), and against multi-wound T4 models (where Claws also lack punch).
Option 4: Terminator Armor
Priest + Terminator Armor = 85 points
Option 5: The Delux
Priest + Infernus Pistol + Jump Pack + Power Weapon = 105 points
This one is pretty over the top for a single wound model. If you want three of these, you pay 315 points. That's like... the cost of a nob squad, lol. Or any number of other more awesome units than 3 random dudes with no invulnerable saves. Unless you need to fill points, I recommend against this one.
Well, Sanguinary Priests are in a way what makes the Blood Angels codex special. There are certainly other things, but FNP makes your troops have what is essentially a 2+ save, and Furious Charge makes Wolves nervous in a way other combat armies do not. You can certainly have a competitive army that doesn't have FNP, and so I think it's comes down to this- all or nothing. You either have FNP on everyone in your army, or on nobody. No half-ass attempts to straddle the fence.
This doesn't really mean that every squad out there needs a Priest. If we run five 10-man assault squads, three priests will likely do us well. If we run two assault squads, two priests are likely necessary. Three squads? Two will still probably do. Use common sense- we don't want to pay too much, but skimping isn't going to get us anywhere either.
Remember that Priests are more efficient the more bodies they cover. So, a 10-man squad is going to be far better for a priest to cover than a 5-man. In a 5-man squad, there is also the issue of protection, which I'll talk about more in a bit.
Jump Priests are an easy out when it comes to Assault Squads with JP. It becomes more difficult when it comes down to Rhino Assault Squads however. Take a single guy out, and the output is about the same, only without the extra melta. You can always take a combi-melta with the Priest, however. The important thing is for the squad to have access to a priest. This could take the form of him actually driving in their rhino with them, or riding around in a 'support razorback' that has a small assault squad, but tries to keep within range of the bigger squads. Mounted priests are far harder to deal with than jump pack heavy-armies.
Protecting your Priest
Well, this is likely the most important section of this article. I think it's obvious enough that the Priest needs protection. He's an independent character, which means that in combat, anyone in Base to Base with him can strike, and anyone of the same squad not in base to base but within 2" of someone in their squad in base to base can also strike. This leads to people trying to make sure their fist is unengaged, their power weapon is based with you, etc. I want to give you some basic tips to avoid premature death on this fragile (but very important) model.
- Keep your Priest surrounded by your own guys at all times. If your squad gets charged, it will be you who gets to choose where your priest ends up. This means he can choose a guy without a power weapon, or away from the guy with a power fist who is unengaged.
- When charging the enemy, always try to engage enemy power weapons with your own models first. Granted, you need to move the Priest first, but he'll move into base with someone without power, and then your guys can charge in and ensure that an easy kill is not in the books.
- Conga-line your guys to keep the priest out of combat when you're the one charging. This means, keep him over 6" away from the combat. When you charge in, he'll move 6" up, but then the guys around him can base every model who is in range to consolidate into him. Again, avoid power weapons.
- Play him in the back. This is similar to the rest of these I suppose, in that you don't want to get him charged by a fist. He's just as effective in the back of a squad as in the front, and if you can avoid him getting mauled by a fist, it's very important that you do so.
So, what do you think? How do you run your priests? Is there a 'build' that I missed? Should your priests have power weapons? I want to know what you think of priests. Please let me know :)