Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Space Wolves: Skyclaw Assault Packs

Axe wielding, genetically engineered, Viking themed super humans clad in furs and power armour not enough for you? Well how about you strap a JETPACK on that bad boy? Is that concentrated awesome or what? Today I turn my critical gaze to those Space Wolves so desperate to get into battle that they're willing to ignore walking like Russ intended. They lock themselves to an anti-gravitic generator and two large turbines, then go jumping out of a perfectly good Thunderhawk. Okay, so that does sound kinda fun...

In 40k game terms, Skyclaws really are just Blood Claws... in the sky. (Okay, the naming convention is silly: Blood Claws + "in the sky" = Skyclaws? There better have been a lot of beer involved in that decision.) These units share exactly the same basic statline, weapons, and unit rules. Thus they have the exact same assault profile. Their cost/effect ratios are also similar enough that I don't care to run them. If someone REALLY wants them, maybe you can convince me to modify the graphs.

Though most are subtle, there's still a few differences:
1. Jump Infantry! This rule is really the only major difference and the key reason to take Sky Claws. This gives them the ability to Deep Strike and move like Jump Infantry. This remedies the biggest problem with Blood Claws: mobility. Yeah, they're stuck out in the open rather than hideable in a tank... but you can also move 12", shoot and still charge.
2. Cost 3 points more per guy. Yeah, that's it. Costs less than buying the squad a Rhino.
3. Squad cap of 10-men. You're not trying to fill up a Crusader though, so this isn't critical.
4. Access to only one special weapon. As with Blood Claws, Skyclaws are a close combat unit. The special weapon is there as a holdout or opportunistic weapon, not a primary consideration.*
5. Can only be led by an Independent Character, not Wolf Guard. Honestly, this was probably an oversight but we're stuck with it. Even though Wolf Guard can get Jetpacks, the Wolf Guard Pack Leaders ability does NOT allow them to lead Skyclaws. There's also no option for an upgrade character such as Lukas. So if you want to keep your Skyclaws from being Headstrong, you're flying an HQ choice in with them.
6. Fast Attack rather than Troops. Skyclaws can only contest rather than capture objectives, don't fill mandatory Force Org slots, and will cap at a max of 3 units. Additionally, they're vying for slots against some other strong contenders.**

*As their upgrade choices follow the same pattern as Blood Claws, my advice remains the same. In short: don't bother with either type of plasma; flamers and power weapons only if the force needs that; melta, p-fists and MotWulfen will be your staples.
**Why take Skyclaws rather than Thunderwolves? First and foremost, you can almost buy three Skyclaws for the price of one Thunderwolf. The T-wolf is certainly stronger, but more attacks might fit your need better. Second, Skyclaws are much easier to hide behind a tank or terrain, presuming T-wolves are all about the size of Canis. Third, an average 2-turns of Move/Run and Move/Assault will see the Skyclaws an average of 2.5" farther. Perfect Run/Fleet rolls will have the units move the same distance. This is probably minor though as either unit should have covered some 30"+ of board. I'm not saying any of these are critical reasons to support Skyclaws over T-wolves, but certainly ones that might sway a judgement.

Overall, Skyclaws are just a flavor of Jumppack Assault Marine. While they do have WS3/BS3, this is greatly balanced out by Berserk Charge. As long as your Skyclaws are on the offensive, they will outperform their similarly costed Vanilla Marine counterparts. Skyclaws are good for throwing out a lot of basic attacks, can threaten most tanks in a pinch, and have options to pack a nice assortment of weapons. They're an okay bodyguard to a Wolf Lord, but he doesn't really do much to bolster their weaknesses. A Wolf Priest is a favored choice of many generals as he gives the unit Preferred Enemy against one enemy Unit Type. The common consensus is that the re-roll will help balance out their WS3, even though math shows that's not normally true. My personal preference is for a Rune Priest because of what the squad provides him: a combination of mobility, ablative wounds, and CC punch. He provides them with a balm to Headstrong, some hard-hitting Shooting, and another power weapon. They'll often end up "in the thick" too, so his Runic Weapon will be well placed to shut down enemy Psykers.

In the final analysis: Skyclaws really aren't that bad. They don't seem suited to spamming multiple units, but that's a Blood Angels thing anyways. However, a decent size unit or two might mesh well into your army and playstyle. They're not the most exciting new thing out there, but they're solid enough to warrant due consideration.

**Image courtesy of Looney Toons, of a favorite character***


  1. While I understand the necessity of Skyclaws, they really do not fit the Leman Russ theme - Fighting with your feet on the deck. However, if you are going to break the rule, you should at least take it to the next level and allow a character to field Grey Hunters with jump packs as well.
    The problem with Skyclaws (I agree they better have been drunk!) is the WS, hitting on 4+ isn't bad, but it isn't great either.

  2. Really, I don't think WS/BS3 makes a big difference--as long as you get something in return. In previous editions, bloodclaws were cheaper than standard marines, or got true grit, or other benefits. Skyclaws don't really offer much more than a standard assault marine, but pay the same points and have lower stats.

    While they're not horrendous, there just seem to be better things to spend your points on as a Space Puppy player.

    Btw, great opener/pic... but where's the photo credit?

  3. @Magilla: I do have to agree about them being Grey Hunters and not Blood Claws. I'm the same about Swiftclaws too. Of course, a large part of that is because I run 13th company and I miss my Stormclaw Veteran bikers...

    @Warhammer39,999: The WS3/BS3 really isn't that big a loss, as I detailed in full with my coverage of Blood Claws. And I think Berserk Charge does balance that out. As long as they're charging, Claws are the superior choice. Of course "as long as they're charging" is the rub. They're going to be something an experienced player will get more out of.
    Photo credit and statline/berserk comments added to the main text.

  4. I plan on swapping a Pack in an out of my new SW army. I am not a fan of regular BC's now that they cost as much as GH's; in fact Skyclaws and their Swift Claw brethren will likely be the only Claw options I use. If you also add that to BC's need a Raider to be really effective in the Mech world, I'll pass for now.

    My Sky Claws will likely be lead by a Wolf Priest.

  5. @Big Jim: I have a pack with Jumppacks that's been knocking around since 2nd edition, so I'm glad they're not worthless. Still, I suspect they'll be a second-string choice unless there's a big metagame shift or I decide to run a pure "no tanks" list.

    I'm curious why you prefer the Wolf Priest. It certainly makes sense for background, but I don't think it does much for gameplay. The most common reason I've seen for adding a WP is to "fix" the WS3... but the normal problem with WS3 is when they're being hit, not hitting. The Preferred Enemy is nice and makes the unit 50% more damaging in CC, but doesn't do anything about the actual problem. With Claw derivatives throwing large amounts of normal attacks, I don't see much need to further supplement something they already do well. I'd rather have a Rune Priest lead them because of what they can do to protect him. That make sense?
    (Article updated to include these additional thoughts.)

  6. I guess the WP thing just goes back to my 2nd ed roots, as I always had them lead by one.

    You do make a good point about the RP, in fact moving with a constant cover save might be the way forward. Maybe with Stormcaller and Jaws O'TWW. With a jump pack he'll really be able to line up his Jaws attacks.


  7. I don't think the BS3 makes a huge difference; on closer assaults you're less likely to want to shoot for fear of ending up out of assault range. Been there, done that, not so fun.

    WS3 DOES have an impact if you're fighting anyone that actually likes assault; they'll hit you on 3+. However, Blood Claws just don't have what it takes to hang with more dedicated assaulty units; they're mid-level at best.

    Plus, I've had Ld8 screw me enough (between Tau and Black Templar marines) to be wary of it, which is their other problem. I'm not willing to slap an HQ with a jump pack, frankly.

  8. @Jim: That was exactly the kind of RP I was thinking... Or maybe Tempest's Wrath and Murderous Hurricane. Those powers would nicely increase the likelihood of being the charger rather than receiving.

    @Raptor: Yeah, I covered those in my main Blood Claw article and figured it would be blatant padding to repost in this one.
    Any reason why you wont jump pack a HQ choice? Is it fluff or just personal preference? It really is the only way to get Skyclaws something better than the Ld8.