I have written a number of articles on Space Marines since I started the blog, and I had a chance to put my theories to the test against my friend Gregory Vettese’s Chaos deck with my vanilla Space Marines list.
Although I feel Blood Angels may be the slightly stronger of the two fleet cards (having tested a Blood Angels list as well), I think there is great appeal in the freedom that the vanilla Space Marines fleet card offers. There are a number of great units that you just can’t afford to play in a Blood Angels list (due to the faction-specific fleet abilities), so the vanilla fleet card is a great place to try them.
I do think there are very strong similarities in strategies and themes between both fleet cards:
- Armor boosting
- Reliance on powerful characters
- Individually strong units (especially assault units)
Before I go any further, here is my list as of writing this article:
The deck is heavily infantry-based and balanced between shooting and assault, but relies on assault to inflict the most damage. The deck also relies heavily on infantry-focused armor boosting to negate opposing attacks and keep units alive, primarily through Apothecary Singa, Captain Miller, and Squad Faustus.
In smaller battles where you need to remove opposing units quickly, you will need shooting units to protect your assault units. 3/2/3 is a superb statline for your tactical squads, and truly shine in skirmishes of 2-4 units as they can hold their own without much support. Squad Damocles, Squad Faustus, and Miller’s Bodyguard form a Pandora Prime trifecta of must-have shooting units, while Jeniel’s Retributor Squad is a Malogrim Hive addition that can give you additional tempo from destroying a unit…and comes with an armor boosting command line, to boot!
In bigger battles, you want Captain Miller to boost the speed of your infantry, turning all your tactical squads into speed 3, firepower 3 shooting monsters (as well as turning all your jump pack units into speed 4 blockers).
Space Marine assault units are tough enough to survive most charges, boasting 3 armor with additional armor boosts on units like Squad Navarre, Honor Guard and Squad Triton. Most assault units will also come with 3 speed, making them handy blockers in a pinch. Squad Horatius has an amazing firepower boost against charging units, deterring everything from Bikers to Greater Daemons.
Last but not least, the Vindicators are the ace in the hole that can turn the tide for you in a battle and demand an answer from your opponent. While you may only kill 1 or 2 units, you get to draw a card for each unit destroyed, which can translate into additional armor boosts through discard outlets like Apothecary Singa. That is plenty of value for one card. With their 4 armor, Vindicators are also a great choice to drop alone at a sector to threaten the opponent’s units.
Space Marines have access to a wide range of characters, but the only ones that concerned me were the ones that kept my units alive. Captain Miller does this with his one-time lock ability, but his speed boost is invaluable. Apothecary Singa I believe should be a 4-of in almost any Space Marines deck, because of his ability to save multiple infantry units from death.
I am currently playing 8 characters (with a single Chaplain Darmus as my “flex” slot), which is a number I am fairly comfortable with. Although I am not guaranteed a character draw in every deployment hand, I would rather have a hand with no characters than a hand with too many.
A Word on Squad Gathris
I played 4 Squad Gathris against Gregory’s Chaos deck to see if they were truly as hateful as they looked…and the answer is yes. In addition to the ability to kill virtually any unit, Gathris can rally ad infinitum, infiltrate and charge from your hand as a BA, and come with armor 4, making them difficult for most Chaos units to kill. Although their command line becomes a dud against most other factions, I think the sheer stats on this card make it worth including.
Managing Deployment Hands
The high quality of Space Marine units is offset by their low First Wave and reliance on characters due to their fleet ability. As a result, you need to mitigate losses by avoiding disadvantageous battles through smart deployment.
The worst mistake I’ve made with the deck is forcing battles where my forces were inefficient. That means battles where you have no characters, too many characters, or not enough shooting support.
Fig. 1: A suboptimal deployment hand – delay the fight!
Fig. 2: A strong deployment hand – push the fight!
Counterattacking is an ability that goes hand-in-hand with the high armor of Space Marines. The deck has 7 command lines that give counterattack, and up to 9 units that have or can gain counterattack themselves. Much in the same way that reactions can give you tempo in the form of virtual BAs, killing a unit via counterattack is essentially a “free” action to help put you ahead of the opponent, and should be leveraged as much as possible. This is especially important when playing a traditionally outnumbered faction such as Space Marines.
Side note: Rhinos make excellent counterattacking blockers against speed 1 shooting units such as Havocs and Terminators!
Contrebis – The Uncommon That Could
I thought it was worth writing a bit about Contrebis – Land Raider Crusader, which is a Malogrim Hive uncommon that should probably be rare:
There is so much this card does that it’s kind of crazy. It shoots at 3 (or even 4) firepower, charges 3 infantry assault units, and buffs any shooting unit on mere 2+ test. Plus, it’s incredibly hard to kill, and comes with a perfectly serviceable command line. Despite the non-flag and low die roll, there is no fighting force that can’t be made better with a Contrebis.
I hope this breakdown gives you some insight into my deckbuilding choices for Space Marines. Are there any units I should try? Any you think I should remove? Let me know your thoughts!
One reply on “Deck Tech: Vanilla Marines”
Don’t underestimate the synergy of Chaplain Darmus and Apothecary Singa: the more you kill through assault the more cards you get to keep your units alive to kill through more assaults.
Against non-Chaos forces, Squad Gathris is basically equivalent to Blood Angel Terminators. Against Chaos, Doom (2016) music plays when Squad Gathris is on the board.