Recently I have received quite a few questions about one of my favorite units, The Swift Claw Biker Pack, this has been at the game shop I hang out at, Tournaments, and via PM and Email. Of course this made for some very good discussion and also prompted me to do a little more research.
After reading several Space Wolf Tactica articles it dawned on me that very few recommend the use of this unit. In fact many simply state that they are a waste of points and that the points are better spent else where.
My hope with this discussion is to shed some light on the uses and composition of the Swift Claws Biker pack and maybe even entice a few Wolf Lords to give them a try, or at the very least invoke some discussion on the matter about this under-used and frequently under-estimated unit.
I am a long time fan of my BloodClaws on bikes, and they have been a main stay in my army for several years. The most recent edition of the Space Wolves Codex only made me want to take more bikes as I feel they have improved over the last Codex that we had.
1. They dropped in points cost
2. They gained an additional weapon, giving them an additional attack in close combat.
3. They can now add an Attack bike at a minimal points cost
4. They now come with Frag Grenades.
Now, add in the fact that the 5th edition of the game is "The Mech Age" and you have a unit that is not only faster than mechanised units, but also reduces the effectiveness of much of the enemy's anti-tank fire power, especially with good use of the "Turbo-boost" rule.
1st lets look at the slot they take up, and how many units to take.
In a 1500 points game I typically take just one unit of Swift Claws though the unit will be slightly larger than if I were going to take 2 units, supported by my HQ on a Bike (usually a WGBL). I should note that other than campaign play, I rarely play games at 1500 points, when I do my Wolf Guard Battle Leader is equipped as follows: WGBL on a bike with a Frost Blade and Melta-bombs this comes in at a cheap 135 points. A Wolf Priest on a bike would probably be a better choice for tournament play, but since I only play at this point level in campaign situations, the Battle Leader is a better choice for storyline purposes.
Once I hit the 1750-1850 point mark, I typically take 2 units of Swift Claw Bikers, and upgrade the IC to my "Standard" Wolf Lord. After last years Mechanicon I began rethinking my list a bit, and have since added a second HQ to my “Standard” 1850 Tournament list. A Wolf Priest on a bike is the new staple here in addition to my Wolf Lord Thorgrimm. The Wolf Priest not only Makes the unit fearless, but I am finding that the preferred enemy he gives the pack is a huge bonus.
Wolf Lord Thorgrimms load out is as follows: Wolf Lord on a Bike with Runic Armor, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield, Saga of the Bear (if I have the spare points I take a Wolf tail talisman).
At 2000+ I take a second HQ on a bike. Originally I was using two Wolf Lords on bikes at this points level, but having since started using the Wolf Priest, I have been taking my 2nd Lord on a Thunder Wolf. The combination of the Bikers hitting followed up by the Thunder Wolves has proven to be devastating. Also and perhaps more importantly the Thunder Wolf adds to the survivability of my Warrior Born Lord. All too often he was being felled by a lucky Power fist hit, the T5 of the Thunder Wolf helps mitigate this weakness.
Of course the above is a guideline, and I occasionally vary this depending on mood, and trying new builds.
You can see that in a typical size game for my Gaming Group and in Tournament play I typically go for 2 units, why is this? Well, the tactics that my army uses relies on speed, 1 unit is good, but I find that if that unit goes down I am struggling, and fighting an up hill battle. These guys truly set the pace of the battle (more on how I accomplish this later), it has often been said in my group that if you want to beat me, you need to get rid of the Bikers quickly.
I am trying to figure out an even more biker heavy build, but that is more of a themed list and less balanced for the purposes I am trying to demonstrate here.
Now lets talk about the units composition. In my "typical" army list I use the following: Three Bikers, one with a Melta-gun, and one with a Power-fist, Plus an Attack bike with a Heavy Bolter. All of them are upgraded with Melta-bombs and are led by a Wolfguard with a Power-fist. I have recently added a combi-melta to the Wolf Guard on the bike, this has proven to be a very valuable addition.
This gives me a unit of 5 models (6 or 7 if they have an IC or two attached).
2 of these units gives me 10 bikers plus any ICs I have mounted. I could take larger units but I find they become unwieldy, being more difficult to get into position, and or take cover (more on this later as well). As people are getting accustomed to my play style and learning what is important to target, I am re-thinking the numbers a bit. I think I can add one or two bikers per pack, and maintain the maneuverability of the units while slightly increasing their size. I will write more on this after I get the models painted and run a few games with it.
Vrox, from the Bolter and Chainsword had asked me a question as to the reasons for the change of my standard Swift Claw Biker load outs. Below is my response, a bit of history involving the how and why of the changes I have made.
"Well Vrox, to be honest, I have tried quite a few load outs. My current load out (as described above) is the result of trying out several configurations."
I don't want to get off topic by starting to ramble on about the "Old Codex" but I will take some time to talk about it to explain the progression of my use of ICs on bikes and the use of Blood Claw Biker Packs (Swift Claws) (at Vrox's request).
Towards the end of our last Codex I was running one Large Blood Claw Biker pack with 2x Powerfists and a Wolfguard Pack leader with a 3rd (or a pair of LCs). This was led by a Wolfguard Battle leader on a Bike with a Boltpistol, Frag, and a Frost Weapon, this IC only cost me 117 points! Now, I also ran a Grey Hunters Attackbike Pack with Heavy Bolters this was also led by a Wolfguard Battle Leader on a Bike with Boltpistol, Frag, and a Frost Weapon.
This worked well at the time for a few reasons:
The larger pack was needed because each BloodClaw had few Attacks
The lack of Frag needed to be compensated for with numbers when attacking into cover
I was still running 2 Biker Packs with the potential to split into 4 different units
The Attackbikes were better as a support unit, especially given their higher BS
With the new Codex, I was forced to immediately make some adjustments. 1st off, I only had one fist in a Pack this reduced the high Str hitting potential, but the addition of the extra weapon added some power by increasing the overall attacks. The addition of Frag grenades, allows me to strike units in cover at initiative, this is a huge bonus. I lost Attackbike packs but gained the ability to take them in a Swift Claws pack. I should note here that while I love the addition of the attack bike to the Blood Claw Biker Packs, I do still miss my Grey Hunter Attack Bikes. My First Configuration with the "new" Codex was just as I am running the packs now, and my current Packs are more effective than they have ever been.
Where I really needed to tweak things was in the ICs. My first attempt saw me running them just as I had before. But, I had to alter some Wargear to make them different with the new rules for our HQs.
So, I took one Battle Leader with a Bike, Frost Blade, and Wolf Tail Talisman, and the Other without the Talisman. The hardest thing for me to swallow here, is that I was paying more points for fewer attacks! Also, in the last edition of the Codex, the Battle Leaders would frequently break from their respective packs and join together to hit hard units. I found that with my new configuration I didn't do this as often and this reduced the effectiveness of the 2 characters.
After a few games, I felt the Sagas calling me, these new rules were too cool not to try. 1st I tried giving Warrior Born to a Battle Leader, but he was to fragile. (I now reserve Warrior Born for my TWC Lord)
So, I upgraded him to a Lord and gave him a Belt of Russ. Still I found that the random Power Fist could spell his doom before he really got rolling.
So, Saga of the Bear it was.
At first I was sticking with the Frost Blade, but then I found with such durability I could tackle Big Nasty stuff, so I switched to the Thunder Hammer, nothing could kill him in one blow anyway.
At that point the Belt of Russ, while good was kinda silly especially since my Bolt Pistol now didn't give me an extra attack, so in comes the Storm Shield.
I played with this Lord for quite some time, and it was only after a couple of Tournaments, that I noticed that the difference between a 3+ save and a 2+ would be huge, I am already spending so many points on my Lord that I figured whats a few more. So in came the Runic armor. I haven't looked back since...
My second IC leading the other pack has changed little. I still run the Wolfguard Battle leader quite frequently. For his points I could run a Wolf Priest on a Bike, and that is certainly a model I am working on and will be using in the near future.
Sorry for the rambling but I really wanted to set the scene and give you guys some insight into my thought process whilst building a list based around Swiftclaws. In the next part of this article I will explain the tactics I employ when using Swift Claws.
Thanks for reading
Ted Nagel AKA (Littlebitz)
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