Friday, 11 November 2011

Mordrak's 'Ghostwing'

OR: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Mordrak Bomb

There have been a few prominent army lists, or playstyles, that have developed from the Grey Knight Codex to name a few: Coteaz + Henchmen, Purifier + Psyrazors, Draigowing, Greywing, Psyflemen Dreads, Psycannon spam, etc.  These are the catchy namesakes for the ‘stellar builds’ you see bandied about to identify the competitive varieties of Grey Knights you get in today’s game.

But why no love for the Ghostwing?

For the uninitiated, Ghostwing, a.k.a Mordrakwing, a.k.a Mordrak Bomb, is the utilisation of the Grey Knight character ‘Grandmaster Mordrak’ to build a Deathwing-esque (Terminators only) army list, making full use of the character’s First to the Fray 1st turn instant-and-no-scatter Deep Strike abilities to get up close and personal to the enemy, and bring the fight straight to their deployment zone. Variations of this include either bringing an extra Grandmaster for exotic grenade goodness, a Psycannon Inquisitor for firepower, or a Librarian* with a teleport homer for flexible psychic shooting options and to form a beachhead beacon for further Terminator drops, especially coupled with a Grandmaster’s ‘Psychic Communion’ power.

*The variety with the Librarian is the one I will be discussing in this article.

From what I can tell on the Interwebz chatter, Ghostwing is regularly dismissed as a one-trick pony, an interestingly fun, possibly fluffy, ultimately gimmicky list, and inferior to the likes of the versatile hordecrunching meta-gamed meched-up Purifier Psyrazor spam or even the tournament-busting steamroller that is the Draigowing.  People tend to try it, like it for a little bit, then dump it once their opponents get wise to the tactics of First to the Fray and army-build and/or deploy accordingly to negate this ‘human drop pod’ methodology (as I like to call it).
For all its’ detractors, I will grant that the Ghostwing is not for the faint-hearted. Sure, it’s very in-your-face, to be used as aggressively as possible for the win, but the main downside to First to the Fray is that once Mordrak and his mob are placed on the table, they become a fire magnet so that all manner of shooting be it small arms fire or AP1, AP2 weaponry, come crashing down onto it.
The key to playing Ghostwing is to think of the big picture: Army build to maximise Mordrak’s capabilities, then deploy as strategically as possible, then apply suitable tactics in accordance with the enemy and mission goals (this usually means an overwhelming Terminator-rush, but don’t forget to put in some good Stormbolter, Psycannon shootin’). If you're going to go Modrak, you have to go all-out Ghostwing, otherwise what's the point?
In my opinion, Ghostwing is an army build designed to play on the 2nd turn, leaving your opponent 1 turn of non-shooting to put him at a disadvantage. Even if you win the 1st turn, let him deploy, and go first, so you can amend your tactics accordingly. A ploy both psychological, and practical too!
Right, enough chit-chat. This is what I’ve built so far, as a 1500 point-list for starters:


- Mordrak + 4no. Ghost Knights – 3no. Halberds, 1no. Hammer
- Librarian – Nemesis Warding stave, Teleport Homer, 3 powers (Might of Titan, Shrouding, Warp Rift)

- Grey Knights Terminator Squad (9 no. + 1 Justicar) – 8no Halberds, 2no. Hammers, 2no. Psycannons

- Grey Knights Terminator Squad (4no. + 1 Justicar) – 4no. Halberds, 1no. Hammer

- Nemesis Dreadknight – Nemesis Daemon Hammer

- Dreadnought (Psyfleman combo) – 2no. twin-linked Autocannons + Psybolt ammo

TOTAL POINTS: 1500 points

No Mordrak means no Ghostwing, so in he goes in the HQ slot. Opinions vary as to the no. of Ghost Knights that should accompany him. Some like to max. out 5, and others like to take him as a solo Grandmaster (insanity!) in the hopes he’ll pop out some new Ghosts when he takes a couple of wounds. Personally I would never rely on his ability to sprout out new Ghosts as a given (the average he’ll sprout out is 2 per game), so a ghostly retinue is a must. I myself like 4no. just to get a nice neat squad of 5 (Mordrak is after all the ‘Sergeant’ of the group), and also because of the relatively low 1.5k points level.

Be careful not to apply instant kill wounds on Modrak otherwise you lost all the Ghosts. No Eternal Warrior means you have to play him carefully.

One of the downsides of Modrak’s mob is no psycannons, so a mix of halberds and possibly a daemonhammer is good, being free on offer after all.

The downside of the lack of dakka is supposedly mitigated by Stealth, as given by the Ghost Knights. You would think this would mean it would be advantageous to deploy Mordrak into cover (and hopefully pass the dangerous terrain tests, but if not, maybe sprout a free Ghost), or forgo shooting the Stormbolters when deploying Mordrak, but to run him and his mob into cover to avoid being pie-plated or plasma-cannon’d.

That would depend very much on your Librarian!

I personally prefer teleport homers over servo skulls, so a Librarian attached to Modrak’s mob is a must. Warding stave is utterly important for the lynchpin of this strategy, as he’ll need to stay alive for the homer to work and is more likely to snuff it from combat rather than shooting. Powers like Sanctuary to discourage assaults, or Shrouding to give other incoming Deepstrikers a better cover save, are useful. But bang for it’s buck, Warp Rift I find is the most useful of powers.
It’s Jaws of the World Wolf, but in Template format? Me likey. This will cause instant penetrative hits on vehicles, and will instantly remove as casualties anything that fails an Initiative test (Carnifexes and Nurgle Greater Daemons beware). Bear in mind even if you have say Initative 6 +Eternal Warrior characters, they can still fail this on a 6, thus a 1 in 6 chance of being removed from play. For MEQs with Initiative 4, this is a 1 in 3 chance of being instantly killed with no armour, invulnerable, or even cover saves allowed. Great for use against bunched-up squads hiding in ruins!

Obviously if you do decide to carry a Librarian along for the ride, and you do decide that shooting the Warp Rift is well worth it, you have to man up and take your lumps when the inevitable mass firire you attract comes crashing down on your scrunched up rosette of Terminators. That’s when you have to start making those all-important 2+ saves, or 5++ in desperation.

Back to the issue of the teleport homers. They don’t work with Summoning (for now until they reverse the FAQ), so don’t even think of it. It would’ve been great if it did, but it doesn’t. It also doesn’t work with Nemesis Dreadknights RAW (again for now, until they reverse this with an Errata), so there goes another good possibility. Still, combo the teleport homer with Mordrak’s Grand Strategy, and you’ll be getting in your squads of backup Terminators into play in subsequent turns to overwhelm your enemy with all those 2+ saves! While YMMV, I find No Scatter a must if you intend to play an effective Deepstriking list.

When it comes down to it, how you deploy Mordrak and his mob is the keystone of Ghostwing. There is a balance to be achieved, deploy them too out in the open and they get shot. Deploy them into cover they might fail difficult terrain tests. Deploy them then run you don’t get to shoot. Or forgo all this and deploy them where you’ll take out the juiciest of targets. The choice is yours!

The key here is to bring as many bodies as possible to the table, as you’ll be footslogging. I’ve gone for a whole 10-men squad with the option of combat-squadding for objective games, and also to bung in 2 psycannons into one squad should I feel like it. Give them all halberds for +2 to initative, if I had the points I would’ve given psybolt ammunition but for now stick a couple of Daemonhammers (1 per every 5 guys) to make up for the lack of melta.
Personally if you really must have melta, go for a Naked Dreadnought (comes with multi-melta). Don’t consider melta henchmen in Chimeras if you‘re playing Ghostwing, otherwise stick with Imperial Guard yeah? We’re trying to play with the strengths of Ghostwing (Terminators!) not muddy the waters here.
Keep them in reserve and bring them out with Mordrak’s Grand Strategy. Deepstrike the Terminators in close to Modrak with the teleport homer, or far away if you’re desperate or foolhardy enough to risk a 2 in 3 chance of scattering. I’ve always had bad experiences with scattering me, hence my hesistation in doing so. The option will always be there though.
Having overwhelming masses and masses of high quality, Initiative 6, 2+ 5++ bodies WITH grenades (the only basic termies in 40k to get them thanks to their wrist-mounted Stormbolters) is difficult for any army to deal with. Just remember, you have to bunch them up in a ‘flower’ formation when deepstriking leaving them vulnerable to Plasmacannon plates, so chances are you’ll want to run them immediately after deploying them, otherwise if this isn’t of urgency you can have them fire away with their dakka dakka.
The idea here is like with Mordrak, you deploy them and hope they last long enough so they can pit the serious hurt with shooting and assaulting in their next turn.

In this list I had either considered 2 psyflemen, or 1 with a dreadknight.

Suffice to say the virtues of psyflemen have long been extolled by all GK players. To recap, a psyflemen is a Dread with 2no. twin-linked autocannons, with psybolt ammo. That’s 4no., twin-linked shots at S8. All with Fortitude (psychic power to ignore shaken/stunned) and at 135 points total. A real winner that’ll crack mech’ed up armies.

The reason why I’ve not gone for 2 of them is because these dreads are most effective in their role as anti-tank/anti-mech and will thus be deployed as far away as usefully possible, leaving only Mordrak and his men as a valid target. Having a Dreadknight however, means my opponent will be forced to deal with a looming S6 T6 W4 monstrous creature bearing down on his army, which with Modrak’s Grand Strategy you can upgrade to a Troop or even give Scouts to really pump up it’s usefulness. Splitting fire with an even bigger fire magnet than the Ghost Knights will increase Mordrak’s survivability.

I take my Dreadknight naked, or with a cheap Daemonhammer, as I’ve found all the expensive gun options useless. I’ve also found the Personal Teleporter to be useful, but overpriced, as the Dreadknight will get shot to bits anyway, so I take it as slim as possible.

Enough listhammer, I’ve recently tested out this list against Dougie’s Chaos Space Marines. Here’s what he had:

-Abbadon & 5no. Chaos Terminators &Landraider
-10no. Chaos Space Marines – Powerfist, 2 Plasmaguns, Rhino
-10no. Chaos Space Marines – Powerfist, 2 Plasmaguns, Rhino
-5no. Chaos Havocs (Missile Launchers)
-2no. Obliterators

A sparsely populated board meeting the 25% cover minimum requirements, the deployment was Dawn of War, mission was Capture & Con trol (1no. objective each). Dougie won the 1st turn and I elected not to Seize the Initiative.

In short, I won the game by having 1 objective while Chaos had none. It could’ve been a draw had it ended on turn 5, but it continued to turn 6.

I had lost 1 Terminator Squad to Oblit’s Plasma Cannon and eventually Abbadon’s assault, lost my Dreadknight to small arms, Havoc, and Landraider fire, and Mordrak’s squad was down to 1 Ghost Knight (the Grandmaster and the Librarian were in full fighting health though, so more Ghost Knights could have potentially appeared).

Compare Dougie, who lost both Rhinos, both Chaos Space Marine squads, the Havocs, immobilised the Landraider, and Abbadon stabbed himself with his own Daemon Weapon on a roll of 1. Only the Oblits were left unmolested, while I still had plenty of Terminators strewn across the board.

Highlights were the Libby with his Warp Rift that killed 4 Chaos Space marines on it’s 1st appearance, a Chaos Terminator and immob’d the Landraider. The Dreadknight was tough, but eventually fell, so it did what it did. The Psyfleman was a great performer too, destroying the Havocs building and both the Rhinos (Psy-autocannons destroy something every turn!) Dougie was certainly on the backfoot by turn 2 when Mordrak psychic communion’d  the rest of his Terminator mob arrive to dominate one half of the table, and the game was mine to throw away if I hadn’t successfully footslogged my boys from one side of the table to the other. *phew*

Abbadon and his crew could have stopped this, but below average rolling plagued Dougie the whole game, and the extended turn really proved to be in my favour. A narrow draw turned into an clear victory.

If you asked Dougie he would tell you GK codex creep what done him in! Grenades on Terminators, counting as troops, with Initiative  6 (2+ from halberds) and Strength 5 (+1 from Hammerhands)?  5th edition Vs. 4th edition codex? Utter Matt Wardtastic!

But don’t let that put you all off though, we’ll have a rematch soon. Chaos must be avenged!


Let me address the concerns of Ghostwing:
Footslogging? If you don’t like it, stay away and keep with the mech’ed up wheeled bunker metagame. Otherwise, welcome aboard! Ghostwing makes a nice addition to the rest of the ponderous tac-dread armoured family, Draigowing, Loganwing, Nipplewing, Deathwing, etc. After years of pushing IG boxes about, this makes a nice change.
Gimmicky? First to the Fray may appear to be a one-trick pony, but I can assure you the permutations of this tactic aren’t as limited as one might think. As a psychological tactic this forces your opponent to deploy in a manner to anticipate Mordrak (e.g. castling up, but not bunching too closely, or meching up completely), which in turn you can always counter. Just because you can Deepstrike doesn’t always mean you have to! For a change, one can always have Mordrak starting on the board itself for a budget Draigowing steamroller, or even in a Landraider or Stormraven.
Fluffy? Most definitely. Mordrak’s rule completely fits in with my vision of a surgical strikeforce that teleports in to deal with the nasties and slaughter all in it’s wake. Just how I envisaged the Grey Knights to be, prior to the release of their 5th edition codex, and I’m not disappointed at all.
All in all, I’ve found Ghostwing to be a really fun, versatile, and quite effective way of playing elite Terminators, and I can't wait to test it out Vs. other armies. Don't knock it 'til you try it!

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