With 6th Edition changing everything we know about the strength and validity of armies in the tournament scene I think it's important to look at the most basic elements of each army to come to such conclusions. From a weapon's cost vs another to the changes made to toughness for biker units. However, I don't want to overlook the major players in a codex, either. This got me thinking about the meta for certain armies that stood the test of time with a certain build through all of the 5th Edition and how things may change for them in the coming months or years. One such build that comes to mind is Vulkan marines and how since Codex: Space Marines came out so many years ago this one build has been on top in respect to other builds using the same codex. There are, of course, other builds out there that are competitive, but there's a reason so many tournaments saw Vulkan more than others on average. This series is going to look at the Vulkan list, how things may change for it and what I believe will ultimately be its replacement as top-dog of C:SM builds.
So let's identify the what and why. First, unless you've been off in The Warp the last five years, you'll know that in exchange for Combat Tactics, Vulkan He'stan allows all melta and flamer weapons to become twin-linked; a major boon that only got stronger as the army grew and you added more and more weapons into your list. So why was this combination so powerful in 5th Edition?
It's no secret that vehicles were the power-houses of 5th Edition, a characteristic that followed throughout its existence. Vehicles were tough to crack open, and even when you did your odds weren't amazing at taking out your enemy completely. This is where the importance of AP1 came into play. Once you finally got that penetrating hit, it was imperative that your shot not go to waste by making that Leman Russ immobile or that Rhino weaponless. AP1 increased your chances of permanently taking care of that tank problem by increasing your odds of success from 33% to 50% once you got that penetrating hit.
But there are plenty of AP1 weapons out there. Not in abundance, but nothing seemed quite as frightening to that Land Raider as the melta-based weapons did. Obviously melta brings the unique element of 2D6 armour penetration which was seldom found in other shooting weaponry. The problem is, as any Imperial player will tell you, AP1 and 2D6 armour penetration will certainly increase your odds of success, but those elements are useless if you can't hit your target. The meltagun specifically was a weapon that relied on timing; getting up just close enough and making that singular shot count or next turn you're toast. Melta was just that dangerous.
Enter Vulkan. Giving every failed melta shot a second go was the bane of vehicles everywhere. Rhino-rush and IG parking lots alike trembled at the feet of this HQ. And for a good reason. Twin-linked melta and even regular old melta put a balance into 5th Edition that was severely needed, which is why melta was everywhere. Search any forum or blog on list building in 5th Edition and more often than not you'll see the comment, "I don't think you have enough melta," somewhere. But times have changed, and we're no longer in the land of vehicle spam, or at least I don't feel we will be for long. Ultimately, melta isn't the only reliable way to kill vehicles anymore. One could even argue that a 1 shot wonder is even less reliable than volume of shots now-days.
So what else does Vulkan bring? Thunder Hammers get a boost, of course. But with 6th Edition we saw a slight decrease in Thunder Hammer oomph thanks to their vehicle effects disappearing. However, the Assault Terminator squad that takes Thunder Hammers en masse may be more popular thanks to power weapons not going through their armour anymore. Outside of Assault Terminators, you'll be paying royally for more Thunder Hammers. So what else is there? Twin-linked flamers. Flamers were the red headed step-child of 5th Edition, typically just an afterthought for most armies. And while flamers see a little pick-me-up in 6th Edition, I don't think it's enough of a boost to put them into a requirement for any army. If you could get full flamer effect on Overwatch, maybe this would be the case, but D3 wounds, even spammed isn't going to mean much to the Space Marine statline equivalent. Add this to the fact that not all cover you'll ignore is a 4+ anymore; flamers, while better than they were in my opinion, still aren't a must-have.
I think that's enough Vulkan bashing for the time being. In all seriousness, I'm by no means saying Vulkan is no longer viable, I just don't think he'll be the king of the Vanilla-dex anymore. Either way it's late, I have work tomorrow and I'm tired. So stay tuned for Part II where I explain my thoughts on his possible replacement; Pedro Kantor.