Note: this article refers to 4th Edition, I will update the article at some point. For now, basically the troops part should be relatively unchanged, but the change to vehicle damage makes quite a difference
The move to 4th edition has only really improved Warp Spiders- they can be very effective, but don’t let that marine armour save fool you, they are fragile and quite expensive. As you might have guessed by now, I am going to use some maths to choose the most efficient options for a squad. While maths cannot replace tactics, it should give you some idea of how to optimise your choices to get the most out of a very versatile unit.
If the thought of numbers has not scared you off, read on…
I will use the same broad categories as in the banshees vs scorpions article with the addition of an ork equivalent as the new codex has made them much more popular:
- GEQ- Imperial guard equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill, initiative, strength and toughness of 3 and a 5+ save.
- EEQ or Eldar equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill of 4, and initiative of 5 and a strength and toughness of 3 plus a 4+ save.
- OEQ or Ork equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill of 4, and initiative of 2, 2 attacks, a strength of 3 and toughness of 4 plus a 6+ save.
- MEQ or marine equivalent. This is an opponent with a weapon skill, initiative, strength and toughness of 4 and a 3+ save.
- TEQ or terminator equivalent. Same as the ME, but with a 2+/5++ save
Firstly, let’s take a look at the Exarch- lots of options can make this guy do anything, but some of them are not worth the points. Death spinners, Spinnaret rifle or dual death spinners? Take a quick look at the table 1, it shows the results against various troop types.
Table 1: Warp spider Exarch weapon options (number of kills)
The first thing worth pointing out is that the dual death spinner causes, unsurpisingly, twice as many kills as the single one- this upgrade is very cheap and upgrades the squad firepower by more than another spider. In fact the cost of an exarch plus this upgrade (17pts) is less than the price of another whole spider, making the exarch upgrade almost a given.
Onto the weapons… It is interesting to note that the spinnaret rifle is worse than the dual death spinners against everything apart from terminators, and then only manages to draw ( if I am being honest, I should point out that it is better against a 2+ save with no inv save, but they are very rare). Maybe things work out better against tanks? Surely that ap1 should be good for something?
Table 2: Exarch glancing/penetrating hits against vehicles
Unsurprisingly, 4 times as many shots gives 4 times as many hits, but let us consider major damage (weapon destroyed or imobilised) or destruction.
Table 3: warp spider exarch vs. vehicles: damage/destroyed
Oh dear, the dual deathspinners are just better at everything. It gets even worse if you consider the fact that many of the spiders targets will be fast skimmers or smoked transports, rendering ap1 useless.
So, it has 50% greater range, surely that is worth something? Yes it is, but you are wasting the rest of the squad if you need it. The final thing is pinning- unfortunately this is not too good, as far too many models are Ld 9 (17% chance of fail) or Ld 10 (8% chance of fail). In general, the lower Ld troops have poor armour so you are likely to cause a morale test due to casualties anyway if you shoot them.
So, when would I take the rifle? Never. And the dual spinners? I never leave home without them.
Powerblades. Now these are a bit more interesting as the rest of the squad are not really competant in assault but the change to their guns makes it a viable option. 5 attacks on the charge is not bad.
Table 4: kills for an Exarch charging into combat
The blades basically give you an extra kill in the first round. This is good, but won’t let you take on assault units- stick to heavily damaged units or those without power weapons.
The powers come down to personal choice. Whether deep striking will be useful for you will depend a lot on the rest of your list and your choice of tactics. Withdraw can be quite good. I don’t use it as I normally only take a small unit of spiders- if they have been assaulted they are probably dead and if I initiated the assault it will be to finish off or tie up a unit, again not making it worth the points. With 8-10 spiders it comes into its own, allowing you to hide in combat if you want.
Onto the troops themselves. How many to take? Well it depends a lot on what you plan to do with them.
Both large and small squads have their uses- I would always take an exarch. Table 5 shows the number of kills you can expect for a given squad size. The kills from the exarch will need adding to this.
Table 5: no. kills for a given warp spider squad size
As you can see, a large squad will put a dent in pretty much anything, even as far as killing 2 terminators. Smaller squads need to be treated more carefully, but can still mangle a lightly armoured squad. They are also really rather good against vehicles:
Table 6: no. damaging/destroying hits for a given warp spider squad size
This chart shows the number of major damaging (weapon destroyed or immobilised) or destroying hits for a given squad size- again add the exarch of your choice. Warp spiders are very good against av10 and av11 and their jump move should enable them to get those side and rear armour shots. If you need to hunt fast, light skimmers (landspeeders, piranas, vypers etc) then warp spiders are ideal.
Armour and use of cover
The marine armour save of a warp spider also keeps them safe from all the usual eldar killers: heavy bolters, autocannons and, to some extent, assault cannons- if your opponent wants to take them out he will probably need to use anti tank weapons. The downside is that he will use anti tank weapons if he has ever seen spiders before- they are very effective and annoying against most armies. The one thing I would suggest is to treat them as if they are not as heavily armoured as they are- try to limit the LOS to them and hide behind cover on the way up the board.
Sometimes it is worth the risk of jumping them into terrain if they are likely to come under heavy fire- for most squad sizes you are likely to lose one model due to the terrain tests. A marine shooting a S5+ weapon with AP3 or better will kill 0.55 warp spiders, so if you expect to be shot more than 4 times with these weapons, the jump into heavy cover (4+) could be worth it (e.g. jump 6 spiders into a building and you will probably lose 1, 2 rapid firing plasma guns will kill 2.2 spiders, or only 1.1 if you are in hard cover). I would not recommend jumping into woods unless it presents a large tactical advantage- the 6 AP3 shots needed to offset the losses of the jump are unlikely in most circumstances.
Take an exarch with your squad, they are very cheap for what they do. Arm the exarch with dual death spinners. Powerblades and exarch powers are a matter of personal preference and the role you have in mind for the squad. I personally like 5 in a squad including the exarch- they are capable in a range of roles and are not too expensive. For a more serious points investment, you could also consider 8-10 models, giving you a squad that will chew up most things. Whatever you take, don’t get carried away by their armoursave- they will get chewed up quite fast and are expensive, keep them out of sight as much as possible.