The concept of card “hate”, or “color-hosing” is nothing new to card games. Magic: The Gathering introduced this idea in Alpha, its very first set, with iconic cards such as Red Elemental Blast and Blue Elemental Blast, used in vintage formats to this very day.
The earliest example of anti-faction cards that I can see is Ork Hunters from the Delos V expansion. I wrote an SCD article about Ork Hunters, which is a good starting point for discussing the nature of anti-faction cards in the 40K CCG.
Evaluating a 40K CCG card generally starts with analyzing the usefulness of the card both on the battlefield and in your command hand. A card can be fantastic on the battlefield, but an utter dud in your hand. Case in point: Squad Gathris.
Squad Gathris is a very interesting card to evaluate. On the surface, its stats are quite impressive. As a Grey Knight Terminator unit, it boasts high armor, firepower, and assault values, and comes with a very respectable die roll. Its anti-faction abilities are also very good.
Chaos carried a notorious reputation in the 40K CCG, and for good reason: it had great baseline units, but also combined the oppressive mechanics of die reduction and generous reaction abilities. Against a Chaos opponent, not only could you not pass your tests – you would be cruelly punished for even trying. Many actions you could take as a player could be countered by Chaos. Try not doing one of these things during a battle:
- Shoot with one of your units
- Charge one of your units
- Assault with one of your units
- Destroy a Chaos unit
- Roll dice
- Play a BA from your hand
- Draw cards
- Fail a test
- Infiltrate a unit
- Move a unit out of a sector
You might find it a little difficult, as Chaos has one (or more) responses for each.
Squad Gathris appears to be a (flavorful) attempt to give Space Marines a boost against Chaos. It can rally easily to kill multiple Chaos units, or dive onto the battlefield from your hand to take out that Greater Daemon (or Avatar) with ease. If you’re a Space Marines player up against a Chaos opponent, Squad Gathris is a no-brainer.
But…what if you’re not playing against Chaos? Does Squad Gathris still pull its weight?
Against most non-Chaos opponents, Gathris still functions as an effective battlefield unit. It still rolls a 4 off the top of your deck. It’s just useless as a command card. What can be done about that?
First off, if you’re playing the vanilla Space Marines fleet card, ideally you’ll be drawing 6 command cards which can help mitigate its uselessness. Second, you can leverage “discard outlet” cards that let you get some benefit out of Squad Gathris:
It’s not ideal to play cards with useless command lines, but we see them all time with “E: -1 flag” command lines on powerhouses like Jainan (PP) and Veteran Skarboyz (PP) – we just choose to accept the risk because the card’s benefits outweigh its downsides.
In the case of Squad Gathris, the question then becomes, “Is this unit good enough to put in my deck regardless of the opponent, compared to the other units I am currently playing?” That’s a question only you can answer.
As well, Squad Gathris isn’t the only card from Malogrim Hive to focus on hosing specific factions:
You can see similar design principles being applied to the units more so than the characters: effective on the battlefield, but even more effective against their “hated” faction. (As a side note, it would be an interesting discussion to determine whether these cards were designed more for “fluff” (for example, being introduced as anti-Xenos units like Deathwatch) or for game balance – or both.). Endym’Tor specifically stands out as a very strong unit disguised as an anti-Chaos unit.
So, is Squad Gathris in my own Space Marine deck? That’s still a question I’m trying to answer. But against Chaos: you betcha!