Tactics and Strategy: Dealing with Death Stars in 40k

Death stars, Hero Hammer, or whatever you want to call it, has long been a part of the big tournament scene for years now.  From the Seer Star of 4th edition to the present day Super Friends Death Star, these armies have caused countless hours of rage and frustration at the table.  In 7th edition, they are making a strong comeback especially in ITC events.

First, let's examine a typical super friends death star list and cover the basics on how they work:

++1850 ITC Superfriends Deathstar++
+++Great Wolf Detachment+++
Iron Priest Thunderwolf mount Thunderhammer 4 Cyberwolves
Iron Priest Thunderwolf mount Thunderhammer 4 Cyberwolves

5 Wolf Scouts x2

3 Thunderwolf Cavalry 2 Thunderhammers 1 Wolf Claw x2

+++Dark Angels CAD+++
Chaplain bike Powerfist Lightning Claw

5 Scouts x3

Ravenwing Command squad with Apothecary and Champion with Blade of Caliban and Company Banner

+++Librarius Conclave+++
Librarian ML 2 bike Force Staff
Librarian ML 2 bike Force Staff
Librarian ML 2 bike Force Axe
Librarian ML 2 bike Force Sword

The basic premise of this list relies on the Conclave to get Invisibility and Endurance.  Typically the star will be formed on turn 1 with the Iron Priests and their wolves attached to the Ravenwing Command Squad with the Chaplain and all the Librarians.  The Command Squad with the banner lets the unit auto-pass hit and run checks and move 4d6 inches in the process which is huge for letting the star get across the board where it needs to go.  The chaplain allows hatred in the first round of combat so the entire star gets to re-roll attacks.  The command bikers will have strength 5 rending attacks, while the librarians will have high strength instant death attacks.  The cyberwolves are characters so they can soak up any challenge needed to keep the killing power alive.  Then the iron priests and the Chaplain clean up with massive attacks in the end.   The two Thunderwolf cavalry units serve as units for characters to break off and join as need be. Wolf Scouts for outflanking harassment and DA scouts to camp objectives.

The first couple of turns, the star will likely all stay together to maximize the use of invisibility and the Feel No Pain from Endurance.  They are looking to charge units on turn 2 followed up with Thunderwolf Cavalry units on the flanks to do the same.  The concept seems simple enough. Push forward and wreak havoc on the enemy.  Most people won't just sit there and let themselves get walked over however.  So, how do you stop it?  Or counter it?  Below are some strategies you can use to minimize the damage.

MSU Lists

MSU lists are predicated on the fact that they spam the board with a lot of very small units usually capable of cranking out a decent amount of firepower for a fairly cheap price.  They come in the form of Warp Spider spam, Drop Pod tactical squads or Sternguard, Eldar Jetbikes, etc.  MSU can be a decent counter to the star if played correctly.

The main thing you want to do when playing against a superfriends list with MSU is to spread the field.  Most likely an MSU list such as Space Marines Battle Company or Eldar jetbike spam has a good amount of mobility or at least the ability to get where they need to be quickly.  Early in the game your strategy here should be to use drop pods and light vehicles to block off lanes.  This is what I like to call "Speed Bumping."  Putting Rhinos and Drop Pods between the star and your troops can delay a death star long enough for you to score points or position yourself for later turns.  Summoned units make great speed bumps as well.  Your goal here is to out maneuver the star. Limit what they can touch and when they can touch it.

In the early turns of the game, unless the star fails to power up in the psychic phase, your focus should be on killing what you can kill by spreading the field on the flanks of the star or in their own backfield.  Drop in or move your units in position to kill Scouts and the supplemental thunderwolf cavalry.  Do not waste firepower on the star in the early phases of the game. Instead spend this time killing scoring units, which shouldn't be too difficult.  By turn 3 or so, your opponent will realize that he is going to have to start breaking off characters into smaller units to deal with threats on objectives. This is what you want him to do. With speed bumps in the way or shooting units to back up your other units on objectives you can start laying in firepower on the star as it slowly starts to break apart.  Yes, it will kill a lot of your army in the process.  But it's designed to do that.  The death star isn't that concerned with picking up objectives early, such as in ITC modified maelstrom. They want to beat you by attrition and pick up whatever objectives they can along the way.

Remember to play to the mission.  MSU is capable of scoring a lot of points. You're likely never going to kill off the star even as it starts breaking apart to go deal with your army.  But you want them out of position in the later stages of the game. 

The Culexus Assassin should probably be an auto-include in almost every MSU army these days, specifically those with little to no psyker support built in. The GW FAQ has now made it impossible to deploy in a transport, so you can't drop pod them in, but keeping them close to a key part of the board will deter the star from going there until they absolutely need to.  For example, if the primary mission is emperor's will keep your Culexus close to your own objective to deter him from coming there and have strong shooting units to support that objective nearby if he does. Having the blessings turned off is exactly what your opponent will be terrified of. Make use of it.

Super Heavies

The bane of many a death star; Super heavy walkers and GMCs are great counters.  In the early parts of the games, the star doesn't want anything to do with them because of Stomp attacks, which ignore invisibility.  A death star can quickly lose half of its unit in one round of combat with stomp attacks.  If you run super heavies or GMCs run them straight towards the star. They will probably kill it, but hopefully in the process you will stomp out a great number of models in the process.

These are some basic tactics you can use should you ever be faced against one of these death star builds.  They are not always guaranteed to work, but in the hands of skilled players they can be used to mitigate the damage.  There is a common misconception that death stars are easy to play.  That couldn't be more further from the truth.  Putting all of your eggs in a single basket and winning requires a skilled player to pull off.  In most cases, if you're playing in a tournament setting and are paired up with one, that player will have a good idea of what he/she is doing and what they need to do to win.

Do not be intimidated by these builds nor concerned about losing units.  Stick to the mission and spread the field.

Tactics and Strategy: Dealing with Death Stars in 40k Tactics and Strategy: Dealing with Death Stars in 40k Reviewed by Robert Chandler on 9:01:00 AM Rating: 5

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