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 Flying High or Crashing and Burning? 7th Edition and Flyers

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PostSubject: Flying High or Crashing and Burning? 7th Edition and Flyers   Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:53 pm

by Justin Cook

As the 7th edition metagame evolves, there’s been a flurry of new lists circulating around the web that seem to be one-upping each other as the ‘go-to’ standards for tournament play. However one thing that’s been common for the top lists as of late is a distinct lack of Flyers, and with that a lack of anti-air. Why is this the case? Are Flyer-heavy lists a hidden gem yet to be explored in 7th edition, or are they a trap that will leave players hamstrung in trying to achieve objectives and effectively kill their enemy’s ground elements? Let’s explore some common Flyer problems in 7th edition and see if we can figure out some good applications of air power.

One of the major downfalls to vehicle Flyers in 7th edition is their relative inability to play missions, especially with regards to Maelstrom objective scoring that requires rapid, dynamic response. Flying Monstrous Creatures (FMCs) also struggle a bit with this as they are quite fragile and both usually find themselves trading Maelstrom points for their lives, which may or may not always work out in the endgame. One of the key components of most successful 7th edition lists is they have a few (or many, in the case of lists like Sean Nayden’s Lictorshame) expendable units that can quickly grab Maelstroms and die without being a huge blow to the overall list’s effectiveness. Flyers and FMCs, whose average costs are roughly 200 points, don’t readily fall into this category, and coupling this with their restricted flight rules often makes them a losing combo in Maelstrom-heavy tournament formats. This is less true in Eternal War missions, but if you aren’t going second you may still find yourself sacrificing expensive Flyers and FMCs in order to try to hold the endgame objectives.

Another consideration when it comes to the shortcomings of Flyers is the damage potential they have relative to their cost. If you’re dropping 200-ish points into a model that is only reliably doing damage for two or three turns in a five-turn game, is it really worth it? Most top players will tell you no, unless that damage is extremely reliable/consistent. This is why there are certain Flyers that are currently getting spam attention, like the tried and true Nightscythe (which is the cheapest by far of all the Flyers for its damage potential) and the Tyranid Dakkaflyrant (Hive Tyrant with wings and two sets of twin-linked Devourers), while others such as the Storm Raven and Vendetta are missing the cut.Flyers-7th-damage

Even the favorable air options for most armies have to worry about consistency however, largely due to their restricted movement options. FMCs are a little better at this because they can always go to glide mode, and also can shoot 360 degrees as opposed to most vehicle Flyers that have a limited arc of vision. When I play with vehicle Flyers that have the hover option, I oftentimes find myself hovering them rather than flying them off the table in order to try and squeeze an extra turn or two of damage out of them. This move can be risky, so I weigh the risks versus the rewards, but it happens more often than not with Storm Talons, Heldrakes and the like. I see most people flying their Flyers off rather than risking them for the reward of a dead enemy unit and it surprises me how few people take advantage of that versatility. Calculated risks sometimes yield big rewards, folks!

Lastly, there are a plethora of decent anti-air units in the game, and some of them aren’t even that obvious. Volume of fire is often key for anti-air since Skyfire comes with the downside of having to snap-fire at ground targets. Any unit with a decent number of shots and a way to reroll their to-hit rolls can be good at killing aerial targets, such as Missile Broadsides (especially from the Tau firebase formation which grants Tank Hunter, doubly so when supported by Skyrays) and Guard Blobs with prescience, and the Bring It Down order which grants both Monster and Tank Hunter. Graviton weapons can also be great against vehicle Flyers, as any sixes rolled to damage inflict Immobilization, which has a 1/3rd chance of crashing the Flyer and at the very least causes the target to be stunned―which can be a death sentence against a canny player who will block the mandatory movement of the Flyer in the subsequent turn, yielding a crash result. This is why Grav Centurion deathstars usually don’t struggle as much against air power―they put out a high volume of shots, usually twin-linked, and rerolling vehicle damage yielding a nasty combo against Flyers and ground targets alike. Tau is obviously also good at killing air, and even high numbers of Wave Serpents can down Flyers since Scatter Lasers are twin-linked and provide a way to twin-link the Serpent Shield thanks to Laser Lock.

So I talked a lot about why Flyers aren’t so hot right now; why take them then? Well, I don’t think going overboard is a great idea, but having an air-focused list with good ground support certainly can still work in most formats. In the last article I posted about sources in tournaments (check it out, it’s a good read!), I posted a list with no less than eight Flyers and FMCS; this is a meta-buster list but definitely not a solid tournament army. More likely you want to include two to three air elements max in an army. Flyers and FMCs are dynamic, fast-moving units that can snipe enemy backfields really well and are flat out immune to combat-heavy armies such as deathstar Daemons. Any more than two or three flying elements and you are severely hampering your ability to play Maelstrom objectives, and you’re probably gambling that the air elements virtually table your opponent before games end so you can win Eternal War objectives.

In a way this is good news, as it shows the game has some balance (an ever-present complaint on internet forums about 40k). However, those folks yearning to play five Flyrants or early 6th edition Scythe spam are probably in for a rougher time than they’d imagine. Ultimately the use of Flyers should be metered; they can be a vital asset to a skilled general but in overabundance can easily cost you.

Martial Law-Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Flying High or Crashing and Burning? 7th Edition and Flyers   Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:13 pm

Fliers never stood a chance once necrons came out first, broke every troop deployment rule, targeting rule, and where so much cheaper than everyone else. Add in this artices gripe and you can see why only one or two armies build around the concept.
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