Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shining Spears? Really?

Yeah, Shining Spears! What, you wanna fight? Well, maybe Shining Spears. I mean, sure. Why not?
I'll even break it down for ya like I did with the Swoopies, Farseer Fail-style.

But why, O Farseer Fail, WHY? Aren't the Shining Spears the one unit that is consistently full of FAIL, regardless of version?

Well hold on there, gypsy. Yes, this aspect has been traditionally overcosted (which is after all just another way of saying they suck), but let's break it down, shall we?

Back in 3rd edition the Shining Spears were introduced at a whopping 50 points per model - that's right, without even the benefit of 5th ed jetbike rules, you're paying more per model than you would for terminators.

Anyway, fast-forward to 6th edition where they are only 25 points a model. And they should be cheaper, given that they are an assault unit and assaults are much less forgiving to initiate in this version of the game.

1.  Mini-squad

Your typical 3-elf squad, for 75 points. They don't look like much, do they? Three jetbikes with all mod cons - turbo, jink, assault move, TL shuricats, but with a few nice plusses. Skilled Rider "Why yes I will take that terrain test thank you, and pass it!", Outflank (Used to be WIN now it's just MEH), and the Laser Lance.

The Lance took a hit, of sorts, but it's the same hit that every other power weapon took. It's still a S6 AP3 (note: not AP4 like before) gun with the Lance special rule and a piddly 6" range, and it's still S6 on the assault - first round only - and AP3.

You're now looking at 3 mediocre shots that will ping a rhino with relative reliability, followed by 6 potent power weapon attacks followed by - nothing.

Given that we're talking about three models here, I'll go ahead and say what you're thinking: these guys won't make it to their destination before being picked off by quad-guns or helturkeys. IF they even rate that high. And even with Turbo-Jink, they die to massed bolter fire just fine. And Overwatch is particularly bad against small units. And suppose they do deliver their payload without casualties - you are looking at what, 3 to 4 wounds vs. marines? And you can forget about using these guys to trim terminator units like before. Bleh.

That's why you're not going to buy a three- man squad. Go big or go home.

2. Maxi-squad

What ho, stranger? Spears can be taken in squads of up to nine models now? Hmm! So nine guys costs you 225. Now you are looking at 9 of those lance shots at close range - the better to esplode transports with! And a much more satisfying punch with all those extra attacks. Same shenanigans with movement, but harder to pull off if you are in constricting terrain because - oh wait yeah Skilled Rider!

Still a bit pricey if you're up against anti-cover or anti-jink weaponry but pretty stout. This unit will draw some attention.

3. Exarch

Oh exarchs, you so crajay! Although this guy only costs 10 points more than your average Shining Spear - making him one of the cheapest exarchs you can get btw - you are getting the usual value for your money: +1 I and +1 A. Not sold? Okay, let's keep going.

Exarch Upgrades: The SS exarch has the usual '2-out-of-3' options to pick from: Monster Hunter, Disarming Strike, and Hit & Run. Monster Hunter is the cheapest and may be decent if you want to go hunting high-toughness targets. Disarming Strike is my personal favorite for adding insult to injury ("Daemon weapon? *pa-CHING!* That looks like a combat knife to me!") - a simply superb option for exarchs considering what's waiting out there for them. Hit & Run is pricey but ultimately worth it, as it gives you that option of staying in combat to avoid being shot or pulling back out to reinitiate an assault on your own terms. Gold.

Exarch Equipment: Feeling a little third edition here, to be honest. You can swap your exarch's Laser Lance for a power weapon for FREE if you like - because who wouldn't want to give up 3 points of strength, right? Then there's the Star Lance, which is what Laser Lances want to be when they grow up. In the shooting phase the Star Lance is a myopic bright lance, but on the assault it's a killer - S8, AP2 and STILL a Lance weapon! Another great weapon for duels, but suitable for cracking land raiders as well (one S8 lance in shooting, then 3 more in assault). And if even half your unit remains for that assault, you will have more than enough models to wrap around those exits - bye bye passengers!

So my ideal build would be exarch with Hit & Run and Star Lance, and maybe Disarming Strike if you're feeling lucky. Put this guy in charge of 8 other Spears and you've got a deadly unit: eight S6 AP3 Lance shots, one S8 AP2 Lance shot, then in assault three S8 AP2 attacks followed by sixteen S6 AP3 - all against AV 12 at the worst.

This is starting to look like a hammer unit you can throw at almost any hard target... IF you can keep them alive long enough to get there.

4. No Phoenix Lord. 

I dig PLs, but the Shining Spears didn't get one! They do, however, have some intersting options in the HQ department - an Autarch or Farseer. The Farseer can provide some additional defense and amps up the offensive capabilities of the unit nicely, but I think the real gem here is the Autarch.

The JB Autarch can bring the same weapon as the Spears themselves, and tote a nasty varity of alt-weapons and gear for the shooting phase; deathspinner, fusion gun, reaper launcher, and so on. I won't even get into the But he can also buy a Banshee mask. And with that 5 point purchase, you've reduced any unit the Spears charge gets -5 Initiative. You basically get to make all your attacks first. Pretty good.

Also you're adding Ld10 to the mix and a whopping four attacks to the all-important charge.

I wouldn't want to stare down the barrel of 9 Spears led by an Autarch.

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