Space Wolves Codex Review

November 17, 2020

Hi everyone, Aron from Art of War, and today we are taking a peek into the new rules supplement for everybody’s favorite and unequaled savage hunters, the Space Wolves. They had a strong start at the beginning of 9th edition, supported by the intense ferocity from their Psychic Awakening toolkit and the baddest man in the 41st millennium: Ragnar. Does this new set of rules, coupled with being included in the base Space Marine codex, still give the army teeth to bare? 

Chapter & Detachment Abilities

Credit to Games Workshop

First things first, Hunters Unleashed the chapter tactic has evolved from the previous edition. The first half remains the same, providing a model with this tactic a +1 to hit in combat if the unit made a charge, was charged, or performed a heroic intervention. The changed part of the tactic is now all units with this ability are eligible to perform a heroic intervention as if they were a character (Characters lose the free 6″ heroic baseline, more on this later). This is incredibly powerful for an army that wants to be in combat and immediately changes how your opponent positions themselves if they don’t want to be counter charged.

Savage fury super doctrine returns unchanged, providing one additional hit on an unmodified hit roll of 6 in combat when Assault Doctrine is active. It’s still a nice little boost as it previously was.

Other specific abilities some Space Wolf units acquire are Berserk Charge (Skyclaws, Blood Claws, and Swiftclaws). If the unit charged this turn until that fight is resolved add 1 to attack characteristics of the models in that unit (excluding Wolf Guard models)

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Headstrong had been reworked. If the unit does not include a Wolf Guard model, then instead of having to declare a charge if there was an eligible unit within range, now if you choose to declare a charge with the unit, the closest eligible enemy unit must be a target of the charge.

Swift Hunters is the last new ability which is available on Thunderwolf Cavalry (and mounted characters). Fenrisian & Cyber wolves provided advance and charge built-in for these units along with an additional 1″ on pile in and consolidation moves. This is the money maker ability right here, unlocking massive potential and pressure.

Tempestas Discipline

The Space Wolf specific discipline has undergone a makeover, and I think there are some excellent new/reworked spells in there that I feel add to the army’s resilience potential, but it comes at a cost.

One of the biggest questions to ask yourself when building your list is if it’s worth dropping the ability to take Abhor the Witch secondary in some of those key matchups or the increased resilience provided by some of these powers worth the trade-off?

Credit to Games Workshop

The key powers I am looking ar are:

Murderous Hurricane: 

  • WC6 select an enemy unit within 18″ of the psyker (no visibility required) 
  • If the unit is not wholly on or within a terrain feature, that unit cannot fire overwatch
  • In the fight Phase, that unit is not eligible to fight until after all eligible Space Wolves units from your army have done so

This can support a multicharge scenario where you are putting multiple units into a resilient or deadly combat unit where the opponent would usually interrupt and challenge a unit that you haven’t fought with yet, weakening your attack and potentially saving their unit from being wiped. Being able to stop such a scenario can be incredibly powerful and boosts your overall survivability also

Storm Caller:

  • WC6, until the start of your next psychic phase, while a space wolves unit is within 6″ of this psyker, it gains the benefit of light cover 
Credit to Games Workshop

Again, this can be a powerful ability to support an army geared around moving up the board aggressively. It also partners well with the cheaper Cloaked by the storm stratagem (2cp after resolving a Power from the Tempestas discipline each time a ranged attack is made against a space wolves unit within 6″ of the psyker subtract one from the hit roll)

These are the stand-out powers to me that provide tools to extend unit survivability and the ability to apply pressure to your opponents, forcing them to reconsider their gameplan. 

Stratagems

Sadly, a number of stratagems didn’t make the crossing from Saga of the Beast to the supplement (such as Touch of the Wild), but there is a steady stream of useable ones to take their place.

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There are some notable callout stratagems here. The first one I’d like to look at is Savage Strike for 1cp (unit up to 5 models, or 2 for 6+) in the fight phase if that unit charged this turn +1 to wound rolls. Simple, elegant, and absolutely useful in numerous situations. Wolves already hit incredibly reliably in combat, now wounding is even more reliable.

The next is a notable stratagem from Saga of the Beast that thankfully made the cut is Counter Charge for 1cp or 0cp (if a character unit uses the stratagem) 6″ heroic intervention. In my opinion, this stratagem and the chapter tactic providing army-wide 3″ heroic intervention is what really starts to set the wolves apart and shape them in the way 9th edition plays.

Keen Senses (1cp) has had a minor change available for infantry, bikers, and cavalry used in the shooting phase. You can ignore any or all hit roll, ballistic skill, and weapon skill modifiers, and each time you make a charge roll for that unit, you can ignore any or all modifiers to that charge roll, amazing for shooting unit and units that may have a charge modifier either by terrain (or if you know your opponent is likely to use a key stratagem to increase your charge distance later on)

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Pack Hunters (2cp) is the last one I’d like to dive into. This is used in the charge phase. Select an enemy unit that is already within engagement range of a space wolves unit from your army. Until the end of the turn, each time a space wolves beast or cavalry unit declares a charge against that unit, roll an additional d6 and discard one result. Additionally, until the end of the turn, each time the best model or cavalry model attacks using teeth and claws reroll wounds. This can be really amazing for cavalry units to cover huge distances (keeping in mind they can advance and charge) to provide support to a unit already charged that turn or if you have set up a prior turn counter charge/heroic intervention. 

Some other notable stratagems include Warrior of Legend (1cp). Give a non-named character warlord a second warlord trait from the Space Wolves traits. Deed Worthy of a Saga (2cp): activate a saga aura for a character who meets that Saga’s requirement but doesn’t already have a warlord trait. Runic Wards (1cp): any Space Wolves unit from your army within 12″ of a psyker who successfully passed a psychic test can attempt to deny that power. 

Credit to Games Workshop

Sadly, it is worth mentioning Healing Balms for Wolf Priests is now a stratagem, not a built-in ability. For 1cp, you can d3 heal an infantry, biker, or cavalry model within 3″ of your Wolf Priest. That’s a very salty Healing Balm when compared with the legions of Chief Apothecaries running around the Meta at the moment.  

Warlord Traits

There are some strong choices for warlord traits; those familiar with the previous Space Wolves traits from 8th won’t see any massive surprises here. They have been slightly changed with 9th in mind. As previously stated, there are the base warlord traits and the ability to unlock the saga aura effect at the end of a phase once a certain condition has been met.

As I see them, the callouts are Hunter, which, as a base ability, provides +1 to advance and charge rolls and gives the ability to advance and charge and fall back and charge. Performing a successful charge unlocks the saga aura and grants Space wolf core units within 6″ to advance and charge, and if the unit has the swift hunters ability (i.e., Thunderwolf Cavalry), they also get the ability to fall back and charge, aka White Scars mode.

Credit to Games Workshop

Resolve of the Bear is the other trait that I like the look of, which gives the character a 6+++, and each time an attack is made against this unit, your opponent can’t reroll wound or damage rolls. Unlocking the Saga is completed once this model loses a wound and then provides core units within 6″ a 6+++, which I think is a good way to get a makeshift apothecary aura for TWC or any other key units. 

Relics

From a relic perspective, the Wulfen Stone returns in an evolved form. It provides the bearer with a 6″ aura that allows core units within 6″ reroll charges, and once per battle at the start of the fight phase. You can select a friendly space wolves unit (no core restriction) the ability for their savage fury to trigger on an unmodified 5+. This synergizes very well with many key units, and with the way list construction works now, it will likely find its way into the majority of lists.

Credit to Games Workshop

A new relic, The Pelt of Balewolf, is something that could be very interesting on a TWC Lord paired with the Resolve of the bear warlord trait. Each time a melee attack is made against the bearer, subtract one from the hit and wound rolls. That is going to be one incredibly difficult character to shift. 

The Armour of Russ has been found again after its momentary disappearance from the Index. It has had its wording updated to be that of the new range of fighting after other eligible units from your army and provides a 2+/4++ to the bearer. 

The frost weapon from the Special Issue wargear is also fascinating, adding one to the weapon’s strength and damage. The common trend will likely be to have a character or pack leader with double lightning claws upgraded to the frost weapon.

Credit to Games Workshop

Secondaries

The main secondary I really like from this supplement falls under the no mercy, no respite category, and is called Warrior Pride. Score 3 victory points at the end of your turn if two or more space wolves units from your army are within engagement range of an enemy unit or have completed a charge move this turn. This plays exactly into how the wolves want to be playing, and unless something has gone terribly wrong, it should be a safe bet to score 9 minimum on this in most games.

Key Units

The way I am looking at the new look wolves is that Thunderwolf Cavalry are back in a big way and are going to be the core of the majority of wolves lists, and rightly so with T5, 4 wounds, advance and charge, new look storm shields, strong stratagem support and <CORE>.

Credit to Games Workshop

As has been the trend with Marine lists since the new codex, overlapping buffs and abilities pushed onto a strong foundation is where the real magic starts. Rites of War, possibly one of the most vital WL traits available to Marines, allows the TCW to be Obsec. The new Primaris Chaplain on a bike, upgraded to Master of Sanctity, is a fantastic platform who’s powerful litanies such as +1 wound in combat and +2″ charge further pushes the TWC stock upward.

Generally speaking, Marines don’t have access to cheap screens or backfield units. Fenrisian Wolves (7pts per model) and Cyberwolves (15pts and can be a unit of 1) come into play in a big way in 9th edition. These little units have a massive amount of potential from a secondary perspective from engage on all front to some mission secondaries where they can perform the actions (The Scouring, Vital Intelligence, and Scorched Earth come to mind). They are also decent cheap screens.

The Wolf Guard keyword may essentially mean nothing now, but Wolf Guard with jump packs, storm shields, lightning claws, a fist or hammer mixed in and now having two wounds are an excellent point efficient unit that can be a midfield blender or something to harass a weak flank or backfield. 

Credit to Games Workshop

It’s not Space Wolf specific, but Inceptors with plasma are in a fantastic all-round spot which can’t be denied and are my pick for a strong shooting unit choice to supplement the combat-heavy Space Wolves. They have the movement and innate deepstrike ability to provide you more and more options, no matter the opponent. 

9th Edition Playstyle

Wolves are in an exciting spot at the moment. I love the uniqueness of army-wide heroic intervention and how it plays into 9th edition and primary scoring. You don’t necessarily need to commit to an objective because you know your opponent will make a play for it, allowing you to counter charge 6″. Knowing that prevents them from even trying, which opens up the game’s mental and strategic aspects. It’s quite a lot of fun.

On the surface, Space Wolves can appear fairly one dimensional from the perspective that you know they are coming for the throat and want to be in combat. A good general will do their best to screen effectively, predict your movements, and make it as brutal for you as possible. This new supplement provides players with tools to lay in wait and pounce when the opportunity is right. The numerous methods of advance and charge, additional range on charges, and abilities to ignore movement restrictions and heroic intervention abilities, and these tools allow you to construct a game plan that isn’t just a mindless charge down the board every game. 

Secondary scoring, I feel, are some of the strengths available to Wolves as well (even before considering the book specific options). Engage on All Fronts and Deploy Scramblers play well into the general playstyle leaving you either an opponent-specific choice or mission choice. Rarely will there be a matchup leaving you scratching your head for a choice.

Here is an example list that talks to some of the points in this article and can play all parts of the board. 

Patrol Detachment 1 

Wolf Lord on Thunderwolf [Double Lightning Claw, The Imperium’s Sword & Saga of the Hunter, Frost Weapon] Warlord 120

Wolf Guard Battle Leader on Thunderwolf [PF/SS, Resolve of the Bear, Wulfen Stone] 115

Assault Intercessor Squad 95

Bladeguard Veteran Squad 175

Bladeguard Veteran Squad 175

Thunderwolf Cavalry [5x PF/SS] 300

Thunderwolf Cavalry [5x PF/SS] 300

Patrol Detachment 2

Primaris Chaplain on Bike [Master of Sanctity, Rites of War, Armour of Russ] 140

Assault Intercessor Squad 95

Wolf Guard [3xLC/SS, 2xPF/SS, 5xJump Pack] 150 

Fenrisian Wolves 35

Inceptor Squad [6x Plasma Exterminator] 300 

Total: 2000 

I hope this article on some of the fundamentals and updates to Space Wolves has been insightful. If you’d like to find out more about how to use the technical side of the army, list building specifics, please check out The War Room and The Art of War coaching services.