Dear internet, It’s your old pal JStove again, and I’ve got more words for you to read.
Its pretty safe to say that at this point in the game, everybody gets one. Chaos Marines have the Black Mace Prince, Demons are of course half the army list, the Tau got a gundam, and the Eldar, not to be outdone, added the biggest, flashiest, most expensive single model in the codex-legal 40k universe to their arsenal, in addition to their old friends Khainey and Wraithy. The only codex from 6e we didn’t see get a giant fatty was the Dark Angels, who instead got a near complete overhaul of their specialist formations, with the introduction of DWKs and tons of new toys for the ravenwing. (Some of which are pretty disappointing.)
IN THE BEGINNING…
It used to be that monstrous creatures weren’t really involved. They were a token, not a staple. The guys we did have were the auto-includes, and nobody else showed up. For example, there’s all kinds of sadness in the tyranid codex that we won’t even talk about, like the carnifex rollercoaster. The old Chaos codex with the 140pt Eternal demon prince was pretty much an auto include, and the avatar went everywhere that footdar went. The only MC that wasn’t already part of a bigger picture was the dreadknight, he could come or go depending on how you built the list, but for the most part, he wasn’t really that involved in the Grey Knight scene.
The first shock of 6e was seeing the CSM demon prince lose his best perk, and the second shock was actually seeing him getting priced what he was worth. This was pretty much a hard one that for a while, I don’t think chaos players knew how to take. We were the first codex, so we had nothing to compare it too, but as 6th ed moved forward, and we saw Eternal Warrior get stripped out of a lot of armies wholesale, most significantly the demons, things kind of settled down- And even without having EW anymore, the DP is still a pretty tough customer.
6e gave the monstrous creature a home. Of course, that’s my theory in action. Its been tested by successful demon flying circus spam lists in tournaments, but that’s a rook list, not a balanced list. In a more traditional, balanced approach, we’re still seeing monsters. The riptide seems to have settled in nicely with the Tau, who wouldn’t want an AP2 pie plate that they can make ignore cover? Demonic fatties of all shapes and sizes are still hitting the table in both flavors of chaos, and now that the wraithknight is here, he’s everyone’s favorite debate topic.
Reecius wrote an article about it. That’s where I got the idea, unashamedly ripping him off. He wrote on BOLS that the wraithknight was good, when the conventional internet meta wisdom machine has already decided that it ain’t much to write home about. Of course, Reece thinks the internet machine is wrong, and I agree with him. Not just because he’s the future savior of humanity who will rescue John Connor from Skynet, but because I think he’s right. Here’s why.
THE 6TH EDITION MONSTER
The monstrous creature is a Rock in the game of rock-paper-scissors that is 40k. A lot of 6e critics will come out and say that rock-paper-scissor balance ain’t such a great thing. Well, they’re wrong. Yep, I said it. RPS is a great game, its a better game than previous editions of 40k, and now that its actually a part of 40k, its made 40k better for it. Old 40k had one rule- Use the most egregious hole in the rules to table your opponent. In 3rd and 4th edition, that hole was sweeping advance. Hop out of your rhino with a chainsword, roll your attacks, get into a fresh combat, and win the game without ever getting shot. In 5th ed, the game changed to “New plan boys, stay in the rhino!” I don’t think anyone who has played the game under any objective analysis misses the old times. I do think that the game got progressively better as time went on, but let’s be honest here… Is there anyone here who actually wants to go back to their 5e mech spam lists? I hope not.
The internet meta machine is still looking for that egregious hole in the rules, sifting through all the rocks, papers, and scissors, looking for the shotgun. Will they find it? Eventually, they probably will. Every edition has a weakness. A couple months ago, we all thought that weakness was flyers. Now, who knows? We only have 5 current army books and a couple of Ward books clinging to its nuts. Its still pretty early to say what the thing that is going to break 6e is going to be, and in all likelihood, it probably hasn’t reared its ugly head yet.
The point is, while the meta critics look for the hidden shotgun, the rest of us actually have to play the game as the designers intended- Rock, paper scissors. This is of course the critique that most of the internet is giving big models like the wraithknight, the flying demons, the riptides. “It isn’t immune to instant death! Poison weapons hurt it! Your opponent can actually kill it!”
Well of course friends, its a rock, not a shotgun. Don’t use it like a shotgun, rocks don’t fire 10 gauge slugs.
I WANT YOU TO HIT ME
The correct way to use a rock is to throw it. You chuck it at your opponent’s head, and theoretically, he’ll get beaned by it, drop dead, and you win. Of course, that’s how the internet meta wants the rock to work. Practically, your opponent dodges out of the way.
What you have to understand is, that’s part of the plan. Because if you keep throwing the rock, just picking it up and chucking it again while he runs, you’ll eventually tire him out… And then you can stab him with your scissors and take his wallet.
The rock’s job is not to kill everything. Its to distract. Its to be killed. As a matter of fact, in a game of monstrous creatures, there are 2 acceptable outcomes- You kill your opponent with the rock miraculously and then win, or your opponent spends all his paper trying to stop your rock… The rock dies, but he spent all his paper doing it, and you still have scissors, so you still win.
Dictating your opponent’s shooting phase is the most important thing you can do in 6e 40k. Dictating the assault phase is easy- Since all your models fight in his assault phase, you have the same opportunities you do in your own. You can also bully his movement with your movement. The only phase of the game where you can’t strong-arm your opponent and exercise complete control over his game is the shooting phase, or his paper. That’s why we throw rocks at him.
Getting your monstrous creature killed by your opponent isn’t just something that might happen in the game, its in 9 games out of 10, THE IDEAL SCENARIO. Making him shoot what you want him to shoot gives you control over the only thing you can’t control in your own turn.
Why is that the monstrous creature’s job? Easy, because rocks don’t suffer from attrition. You either keep throwing it or you stop throwing it. Units that have a wound profile are more resilient than a unit with an armor profile. A tank missing hullpoints is stunned, or immobilized, or missing guns. A Bloodthirster on 2 wounds fights exactly the same as a Bloodthirster on 1 wound or 4 wounds or a bajillion wounds. He is equally threatening regardless of how much gas is in his tank.
It’s also a practical guarantee. A land raider might take a lance shot and explode on turn 1. That can happen to a tank, but it can’t happen to a giant fatty. To murder a giant fatty, that lance shot has to hit him as many times as he has wounds. Is there poison? Is there instant death? Of course there is. There is always extenuating circumstances, but the point remains, fatty’s first job when he gets up in the morning and brushes his teeth is to catch bullets so that the rest of your army doesn’t have to.
If you spend 400 points on a giant fatty, and your opponent commits 800 points worth of shooting to kill it, you are winning the game. If he commits 800 points worth of shooting to kill it, but you still pass your invulnerable saves, even better- That’s a massacre.
That’s the point. You never actually expect the rock to connect the first time you throw it. You have to give your opponent at least that much credit. Continue to throw it until he gets tired, until he stops it, or until you can get close enough to kick him in the balls. The goal is to apply pressure, not to go for the David and Goliath move.
Which brings us back around to the wraithknight. Do I think he’s the best monstrous creature? No, I’m still pretty sure that honor belongs to the demon prince… That fat jerk has wargear options that could make anyone jealous, and the greater rewards table is the dumbest thing ever written. 2 rolls, all day, every day.
However, does wraithy have the tools to do his job? Absolutely. He’s a jumper, so that rock is getting thrown. He’s practically immune to strength-based instant death, which removes one of the threats that can actually kill him and forces the foe to rely on force weapons, poison, or random special rules.
He also has every gun he could ever want, twice, so he can do a pretty good job of convincing your opponent that he needs to be killed.
Is he huge? Yea, fits that bill too.
Does he cost a lot of points? That depends- How many points is “The only thing my opponent shoots at” worth to you? If the answer is “Wraithknight” then good job.
Just remember, his job is not to show up. His job is leaving. Khaela Mensha Khaine down in the featherweight division with his fearless guardian friends is the one doing the heavy lifting.