Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Space Wolves: Iron Priest

The spiritual zen of Judas Priest, the strength of Iron Maiden, Rockin' with his digi-weapon out... we have the IRON PRIEST! (Yeah, I should have known there'd be a cover band by that name.)

Here is an Elites choice that should give the aspiring Wolflord pause for thought. This guy steps in with a statline equal to a Wolfguard and is packing Runic Armour and a Thunder Hammer. A Wolf Guard with that kit would cost 16% more even without the additional Servo Arm and Battlesmith rule. You're getting a nice little deal on those toys. Downside? He's not an Independent Character... so you can't attach him to a unit. This little item certainly narrows his battlefield role. Additionally, he doesn't get any form of Transport.

What about his other gear?
A Wolftooth Necklace is certainly an interesting item if you're going to get him stuck into CC. It's a little on the pricey side, but might not be a bad idea given the number of attacks he has.
A Wolf Tail Talisman is questionable. The Runic Armour already gives him a 5+ save versus wounds from Psychic attacks. The Talisman just extends this to a 5+ versus any psychic against him or him unit. It's certainly not worth the bother if you have a couple Rune Priests around.
Saga of the Iron Wolf is even more questionable. Note that as a Saga, only one Iron Priest can be upgraded with this. The first thing it does is give +d3" to the move of a vehicle he is inside. But since he's not an IC this vehicle can't have anyone else in it except him and his minions. So the vehicle needs to be a Transport, empty of other units and still something that would benefit from additional move. This might be a cute trick to get a Crusader or Redeemer into position quicker... but you're probably better off putting a real unit inside it instead. So really, the only worthwhile thing the Saga does is give +1 to any Repair rolls. This balances out the same bonus given by a Techmarine's Servo Harness. Still, I'd rather have the flamer and plasma pistol...

So where could he be useful?
Well, he is still a Techmarine. Potentially he could play the Maytag Man and focus on repairing vehicles. But then again, why bother? A regular Marine army gets Troops with Heavy Weapons... making them the superior gunline mech. If that's the kind of army you want, why are you playing Wolves? There is a small case for one bought to babysit a couple Predators or the like, but this is a rather limited use for him. The Battlesmith ability is nice but probably better used on a tactical opportunity rather than considered as part of a strategic plan.
So maybe the above and a bit of fire support? Throw in some Thrall Servitors to get some Plasma Cannon shots and/or repair bonuses. Okay, not bad... but static "move or fire" AND BS 3. Plus your Iron Priest's isn't going to be ripping it up with anything better than a Bolter. This isn't exactly on par with a Conversion Beamer. Yet again, this version is possible, but stock Marines do it better.
But what about a different role entirely? Take his Thunder Hammer to the enemy! The first item to up is a bike. The bonus to Toughness makes him 4(5) and bike mobility lets him zip about the field with impunity. Spiffy! Too bad he's still Lascannon bait and Cyberwolves can't keep up with him.
But wait, there's still hope! For just 10 points more than the bike, you can get a Thunderwolf. This gives him the +1 Toughness, Strength and Attack.* Throw in some ablative wounds ala 4 Cyberwolves and suddenly you're talking a much more interesting unit. It's not THE best unit in the Codex, but certainly up there. It's comparable cost and effect to 3 Thunderwolf Cavalry, but different in Force Org and best-case target. The only glaring weakness to the unit is the lack of an Invulnerable save... but T5, cover, and a guy with a 2+ save go a good bit toward mitigating that. Plus, I don't know about you, but the idea of an Iron Priest and a bunch of Cyberwolves also gives me some interesting ideas for some conversions.

*There's currently a debate about the intended benefit of taking a Thunderwolf Mount and if the bonuses modify the base values or are simple additives. Because the description doesn't specifically say, RaW makes him S4(5) and T4(5). This makes his T-Hammer hit at S9. However, the stats for Thunderwolf Cavalry modify the base values, unlike previous 4(5) units like Bikers. So some interpret this to mean the RaI was to modify the base value. This would make him S5 and T5, causing the T-hammer to hit at S10 and granting immunity to Instant Death from S8-9 weapons. It should be interesting to see how this gets ruled, but until then I recommend playing the 4(5/9) RaW version. If a FAQ/Errata later modifies base value, all the better!UPDATE: The FAQ is in and the ruling is for T5 straight, so carry on my wayward sons!

Cheers and hope you've gotten a few ideas!


  1. I think he's more of a conversion-fodder unit, or a compliment to a T-wolf heavy list.

    Slap him on a t-wolf, give him four Cyberwolves, and it's 155 for a 'hidden' thunder hammer Thunderwulf (albiet, S9 based on how things add) and let it rip. Granted, I'd already be mostly maxed on my T-wolves in other slots before I considered him, but I do like the potential conversion options.

  2. Ugh. I totally meant to comment on the S9 bit. I even gave myself a marker and then forgot. Duly updated.

    So let's compare 150 points (3x) of Thunderwolf Cav: They have 6 Wounds (3x2) with a 3+ Save, but can't stripe wounds. Assault gives you 12 attacks, 15 on the charge, all at I4, S5 and Rending. They also get Frags. Pretty nice all around. Rending gives them a decent chance against tanks, big nasties and armour... The sheer number of attacks is also going to hurt people. So charging Marines, they can expect an average of 2.5 kills. Against IG you get 8.3.

    On the other side, Four Cyberwolves and an Iron Priest are going to be 5 points more. They're also 6 Wounds, but allocated 1x2 with a 2+ Save and 4x1 with a 4+. This allows for more control when ablating wounds/saves, especially when Instant Death is involved. Presuming there's a Wolfkin around (because there should be), this unit gets 12x Wolf Attacks (S4, I5, 16x charging) AND the Servo Arm (I1, S8, Pfist) AND the T-hammer's 3x (I1, S9, T-hammer, 4x charging). Here you're relying on mass amounts of attacks and guaranteed attacks, rather than 6's. Charging Marines, you're looking at 3.4 dead Marines. Against IG, you get 10.4.

    The only item I think might be a real deciding factor? The competition is much tougher for Elites slots than Fast Attack. Still, I'd contend that the Cyberwolf/Iron Priest is about on par with the Thunderwolf Cav. They are very similar in concept, but have subtle differences in execution. The Iron Priest's unit just isn't as straight forward in play and will probably require a bit more guile. I don't think there's a universally better choice and the decision should really be which one better compliments the rest of your list and/or meshes with your playstyle.

  3. Errr... in my (localised) version of the SW dex, this dude only has 1 wound. so much for discussing S8 instant death, or comparing him with cavalry (W2). with only 1 wound this guy is useless in all configurations.
    to be honest I was playing one since v3, so I'm really disappointed with the new codex.

  4. The Thunderwolf version seems to me to be the most worthwhile as well, but really only with a Thunderwolf themed army.

  5. @haihastur: ACK! Damnation, I'm usually better about not transposing between editions. I even went and checked before writing, but still crossed numbers somewhere and screwed it up. Thanks for the catch.

    It does make his a little less interesting in the other configurations; a bodyguard unit is critical if he's going to be effective. Yet even with this, I still think the unit compares favorably with TW Cavalry. It hits a little harder, but can't take a hit quite as well. It's all in how you want to gamble.

    @Hudson: I agree that the T-wolf theme army is certainly the easiest to use him in, but I think the TW-IP/CWolf config can work nicely in other settings too. For example, he'd fit right in with a stock Fenrisian Wolf army, the inevitable gunline mech, or even a Land Raider Wolfwing. But the non-standard place where I really see one (or multiple) excelling is in support of a Rhino Wall. The unit advances behind the Wall, provides repairs in a pinch, and is there to jump out and give some CC support too. I think a one-two of some Rapid Firing Grey Hunters followed by a mop-up charge (or counter-charge) of IP&Wolves is well worth the time, especially when performed en masse.