The Defiler, Can It Be Made to Work?
As my Black Legion army is growing, I am more and more tempted to add units to my collection, simply because they look cool. I've never really been overly concerned with how playable a unit is, and if I think it looks good, then I definitely am likely to pick it up. This has led me to pick up a lot of "suboptimal" units in my time, but to me, that just means it's a challenge. I've had very good success so far running both Abaddon and unmarked Chaos Marines, despite the internet's general opinion of how both of those are garbage units. Next up on my chopping block are my Thousand Sons, but I'm also getting the hankering to make a lovely Defiler in the same style as many Knight Titans that we've seen on the internet for years.
So in the spirit of trying to make things work, lets take a look at what we get with a Defiler...
What's in the Box
A generic defiler, right out of the box, is going to cost you just under 200 points but for that, we're getting a Walker with 4 HP, and a mountain of Wargear and Special Rules. Weapon-wise, it's coming with a Battle Cannon, Reaper Autocannon, Twin-linked Heavy Flamer and 2 Power Fists, quite the Arsenal! At first glimpse, that sounds like basically a whole army worth of anti-personel guns, and possibly the ability to shred light transports with ease. Additionally, it comes with the standard smoke launchers, searchlight and Daemonic Possession, so penetrating hits aren't going to do much to stop it, unless it kills it outright...
Regarding it's special rules, it is a Daemon, for a 5++ save, and when combined with It Will Not Die and 4HP, it really means that it will take some concentrated fire to take down. Deamonforge is handy for a turn, though embarrassing when you suffer a HP of damage for using it, and lastly, it has Fleet, so getting it in combat isn't a challenge, if it survives long enough.
Alright, so some of that weaponry isn't always the best, so what can we do about that? The twin-linked Heavy Flamer can be upgraded to a Havoc Launcher, or a Power Scourge. The problem with either of those ranged weapons is that they CANNOT be fired along side of the battle cannon, since templates and blasts may not snap fire. The other problem here is that the Power Scourge is 25 points! Sadly, I'm not sure if any of these upgrades are worth it, but at the same time, I don't think any of them are the worst option of the group, they're all frankly so-so choices, so really, I'd just base it off of how I model the Defiler.
Well, that was a bit disappointing, what about the other gun upgrades? The Reaper Autocannon can be swapped out for an additional power fist or twin-linked heavy bolter, both for free, or a twin-linked Lascannon for 20 points. Since you'll usually be snapfiring additional weaponry anyhow, the twin-linked lascannon is a bit overpriced for something you're unlikely to hit with. The twin-linked heavy bolter may have an additional shot, and this an additional chance to hit, but who cares, it's S5. So really, it's between the Reaper Autocannon and the Power Fist. The Reaper is nice if you're going to be sitting back and shooting a lot, or as a back up weapon when the Battle Cannon gets blown off, but if you're going to be running into combat, the Power Fist is clearly better.
So they're good, right?
Well, no. Sadly, they cost nearly as much as a Land Raider, and while their special rules do add a lot to keep them aloft, their AV12 really doesn't do them any favors. They run the risk if getting popped by a single penetrating hit, which isn't that hard to do. They'll utterly get demolished in melee by any monstrous creature, and even with a full compliment of close combat weapons, they can get tied up in combat for a long time against a horde. If you're fighting marines only, they might be worthwhile, but against hordes, I'd be concerned that even with 5 attacks, you're going to get bogged down.
So, will this stop me? Probably not, I think I'll be getting a few, most likely armed with the default configuration, or possibly with Power Scourges, despite the high cost. Once I buy and build these ugly mothers, I'll be sure to let you know how they do for me!