Last week I started an analysis of troop choices for allies in a Daemon army, found here. There were some great comments on the article and I want to address some of them and discuss some list building theory as well. First, though, I want to post my inspiration for list design:
More than being entertaining, there is a nugget of wisdom contained in this picture. When designing a list, it is important to have balance in the threat presented to an adversary which is usually achieved through some kind of diversity. In my Daemon builds this is reflected in my Elites choices - Fiends/Flamers/Crushers are present much different types of threats - although they all fall to roughly the same weapon types.
The inclusion of Soul Grinders also punishes enemies to emphasize too heavily massed strength 6/7 shooting at the expense of Lascannons, Meltas and other tank hunting weapons. These choices are complementary to one another in that most armies fielding heavy weapons (marines) that want to fire at the Soul Grinder are doing so at the expense of significant small arms fire. A unit of Grey Knights attempting to rend out a grinder sacrifices 16 Storm Bolter shots that could wreck a squad of Fiends, Screamers or flamers. In assault, if they do not have a Hammer the unit is in trouble. With most units also moving away from power fists in the unit, the Soul Grinders also wreck in assault. In summary, due to the way most armies are composed they need cannot bring their full firepower to bear against a Soul Grinder - since it is immune to their lighter weapons which they need to take down the assault oriented Daemons about to pile into them.
Bringing this back around to CSM allies - the allied units need to be those completely orthogonal to the normal vulnerabilities faced by a Daemon army in such a way that it diffuses the enemy firepower or consistent with their existing vulnerability profile. The way to kill Daemons - as everyone knows - is massed low strength shooting. Lasguns annihilate them, bolters destroy them but plasmaguns and meltaguns are only more effective because of their better to wound. On the same note, a Battle Cannon might as well be a strength 5 or 6 blast in most cases too. Allied troops should not make more weapons from an adversaries arsenal more effective. A unit of CSM makes them more effective. Cultists sitting in area terrain might as well be Daemonettes with respect to survivability. That said, Aidansab made a decent argument for CSM in his comment and pointed out:
I mean sure they are vulnerable to plasma, melta and other things but daemons are so up in the opponents face that to try to shoot for the CSM in the backfield and ignore the daemons dropping in their face would be near suicide. I believe that the CSM would go almost ignore.
I agree with this to an extent. The unit in the backfield is likely to be ignore - which means the cultists will enjoy this benefit at 9 points less a body. In my experience, however, I have run into Plasma Sponson Executioners before and they would have loved to have some CSM bodies to shoot at - cultists and CSM are just as vulnerable to the Executioner. The same goes for almost all long range weapons that are going to ignore armor anyway. It is important for that backfield unit to have too many bodies to be worth devoting time to, so opponents cannot afford to commit to destroying them before your daemons engage. A unit of CSM, however, can be more easily removed with a single lucky big gun.
I do agree that a unit of CSM will put out more damage than the cultists on aggregate, but their job is to stay put while I finish tabling my opponent. If we need CC punch, lets let the real heavy hitters - the Daemons - take care of it. In the case of my typical army build, a Soul Grinder is likely to be nearby blasting away with Phlegm as well.
One suggestion I do think is interesting is the hybrid approach mentioned by Aidansab:
I would take 1 unit of CSM 7-9 strong with MoN and no icon as well as 20-30 cultists and a Dark Apostle to stick in one of those squads depending on your opponent.
I like this concept quite a bit - it is more pricey and I would swap the Dark Apostle for a Sorcerer - more on that next week - but it lets you man the Comms Relay with which ever troop (or both) is likely to be better suited to it and then reserve the other one. Enemy playing an army with some Drop Pods - they are scary as heck for Cultists by the way - and some flamers. Bring out the CSM first. On the other hand, if there is an unseemly number of combi-plasmas, then the Cultists can make an appears.
Finally, I want to mention again why I think CSM allies are important for Daemons. Due to their deployment you cannot guarantee you will have a unit near the Comms relay after you Deep Strike on turn 1. The traditional backfield unit - Plaguebearers - cannot run now so they are a poor choice to try to put on the relay. Daemonettes/Horrors/Bloodletters are all possibilities but you need enough of them that they cannot reasonably be blown off of the relay and/or hope you can get most of them close to it. Even with moderate scatter, it is hard to get more than 2 or 3 next to it to control it.
Further, I really hate to waste one of my first wave drops on a unit that is going to sit in the back and do nothing. I would rather bring something that can affect the game a bit more and act as a force multiplier when in play. There are three potential units that can do this - Dark Apostle, Warp Smith and Sorcerer. I had originally intended to mention them today, but your comments/feedback was too good not to write a short post about it.