Sunday, August 22, 2010

Noise Marines and "Null Deployment" - Part Two

In the first half of this post, I noted that my prior Noise Marine list suffered from a general inability to kill tanks and had the redeployment capacity of a glacier. Fortunately, a few months back I stumbled on an idea that may help resolve both of these issues.

For those of you accustomed to reading the interwebz tactica, you have likely already come across this series of posts by Fritz on the topic of “Null Deployment” (henceforth ND). If you haven’t seen them, take a few minutes to watch the videos- they’re worth it.

In a nutshell, the ND strategy attempts to break out of the linear deployment paradigm (see below diagrams, first is "standard", second is "Null Deployment") by utilizing a force comprised primarily of troops which can Deep Strike, Infiltrate, or Scout. Though such forces are invariably made up of smaller elite units, they leverage their hyper mobility to outnumber and strike weak points in their opponent’s line before the opposing player has time to react. Ideally, practitioners of ND will benefit from their opponent setting up and spreading their forces across the 6’ of ‘their edge’; springing down on the relatively insolated units such large formations create. Similarly, by using units that can come in virtually anywhere on the board, you restrict your opponent’s ability to react to your forces, put their heavy weapons within LOS of your key units, and get their crack assault troops within range of you.

Of course no strategy is perfect, and some armies are better equipped for this style of gameplay than others. In addition, the heavy reliance on deep strike scatter and reserve rolls means that some of your plan requires a bit of luck – but hey, few plans hold up well without a little of that.

As far as the Noise Marines are concerned, their ability to warp in powerful (and relatively cheap) terminators and obliterators, as well as demons, scouting chosen, and a few other goodies certainly makes ND a real possibility. Add to this a generous helping of melta weaponry, and you’ve got a list which solves both of my earlier-posted problems. Bearing this in mind, I’ve created a list that utilizes ND mobility and melta goodness.

The overall plan is pretty simple: Terminators, and Chosen are on permanent ‘shock duty’. That is, their only mission is to show up on parts of the table that I want to keep my opponent focused on, and to team up on nasty combat units that I don’t want to touch my Noise Marines. Here the key is not to be phased when they get shot, chopped, and smelted to little pieces. As diversions, they serve their purpose well, as most people are loathe to ignore 9 Terminators, a chaos lord, and a bunch of plasma gun-armed Chosen in their backfield. The plasma guns are especially useful at taking about heavily armored marines, Tyranid big bugs, and even the rear armor of vehicles. Most opponents, if they know these guys are outflanking, will keep the nasty stuff off their flanks. This is a great tactical boon. If a few of Slaanesh’s favored get smelted by their own guns in the process, so much the better: what’s the fun of playing Chaos if you can’t incinerate a minion every once and awhile?

As for the Noise Marines, they are the only unit in my list which truly lacks ND abilities, but with their possessed rhinos and the ability to reserve at the start of the game (thanks to my eliminating the pesky demon units), they can still show up in unexpected places and risk a dash across a hail of fire. If they decide to camp early on an objective, the hail of shots from the havoc launchers often irritates players into focusing on the rhinos with their heavy weapons. Less pressure on the rest of the army.

The Oblits and Bikers I basically throw on ‘ambush duty’. What I mean by this is that I use the bikers (and their icon) to help warp in (without scatter) termies or oblits. Thanks to their turbo boost, bikes are not only fast enough to get into position quickly, but also survivable enough to soak up enemy fire along the way. Truthfully, I sometimes don’t even use the bikers to warp anything in – I just run them up the middle at full speed in the hope that my opponent will think a terminator assault is on the way, panic and throw some shots at them! The oblits are another fun unit to harass the enemy with. If my opponent is charging fortified Noise Marines, the oblits will go in behind the enemy; forcing them to either ignore the oblits (and take some twin-linked flamer or plasma rounds) or stop charging at my troops. Either way, it’s a win-win. The oblits can also be used to support the termies, but quite frankly, as the purpose of the termies is to die, sending oblits in seems to me like a waste of points.

A final quick comment is on the chaos lord. Here I’m sure a good argument can be made for using a lash-sorcerer with the termies instead. Truthfully, this may be the better move, but for now, I like having the extra punch that his high initiative and instant-kill blissgiver attacks give him.

So how does all of this play out? Well I’ve only tried this list a few times, but so far the results have been very promising. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll have a video ready to post.


  1. Not to nitpick on someone's blog, but I couldn't tell you the last time I saw a force spread across a deployment area like is shown in the drawings. I typically see a much more 'bunched' deployment, which would have a better natural defense against the ND style deployment as there are no outlying units to pick off without easy retaliation.

    That being said, I think Lash benefits this style of deployment a ton. You can pull a unit out of cover for easier kills, or you can push a close unit out of their charge range so you can shoot them a couple of times, or push them into charge range of one of your other units. Also clumping 'horde' armies together like 'Nids and Orks for your Oblits to hit with TL Flamers is freaking awesome too.

    Also, if you can fit it in, I like a Defiler in an ND list to come on the board from reserve. The Battle Cannon shoots across the board and can mess up mid-armor vehicles or wreck your opponent's deep strikers and scouts that are behind your lines.

  2. Comments and critiques are always welcome. If I knew the magic formula to win every game of 40k, I would have no need for a blog on the subject.

    I agree that in some cases, the spread out deployment modeled in the first diagram may be a bit of wishful thinking. And castling into a corner is certainly a viable tactic against ND in Annihilation missions - lord knows I've done it a few times myself. That said, on Seize Ground, there is a bit more of an opportunity to space out the objectives far enough to draw the your opponent out a bit. Capture and Control much less so, but here I think the key is to look at your opponents list and make an educated guess as to whether they are going to place their emphasis on the "capture" or "control" side of things. Here ganging up on the weaker side may still be a viable ND tactic.