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Space Marine Librarian Tactica

Submitted By: Venator101 Date: August 17, 2010, 07:32:34 AM Views: 3954
Summary: A guide on how to make the most of Space Marine Librarians in the fifth edition Space Marine codex.

My Tactica for using Librarians for Fifth Edition Space Marines

This Article Will Include:

  • The advantages a Librarian can bring to a Space Marine army.
  • A breakdown and analysis of their powers.
  • A breakdown and analysis of their equipment options.
  • Suggested Librarian builds.
  • My own personal ideas and thoughts on them.

Part 1: The Advantages of a Librarian

Librarians are, in my opinion, one of the most versatile HQ choices available to the Space Marine army.  A Librarian can be kitted out with any sort of role in mind thanks to the wide variety of powers and equipment at his disposal, hence he can become a decent shooting character, a close combat monster, or a supporting secondary HQ.

Librarians also provide something that can be cannot be found anywhere else in the fifth edition Space Marine codex, and that is psychic defence.  With psykers becoming a bigger and more powerful part of 40K, as well as being included more and more in army lists (personal observation), the presence of a Librarian allows you to at least harass enemy psykers, or in a best case scenario, stop their powers completely.  For this reason alone, many veteran Space Marine players include a Librarian into their army.  Of course, a Psychic Hood is not as good, in my opinion, as a Space Wolf Rune Staff, but it is better than just allowing all enemy psychic powers to pass through unchallenged.

Another advantage to using a Librarian is for their Force Weapons.  These potent weapons allow the Librarian to instantly kill enemy characters, and monsters, that are not protected by the Eternal Warrior special rule, or are otherwise immune to Instant Death.  This means that creatures and characters that might normally be difficult, or time consuming, to kill in close combat can be killed in one blow, often tipping the combat in your favour (these units commonly have a high number of wounds).  Just be aware though that using the Librarian's Force Weapon counts as casting a psychic power, so if he has not been upgraded to an Epistolary, then he will not be able to use any other powers beforehand.  In addition to this, due to its psychic nature, it can be blocked by an opponent's psychic defence.

Part 2: Psychic Powers

I will go through these one my one, offering my thoughts on how effective they are, and how they could be used.  Before I begin, however, it is important to point out that, and I have noticed people forget sometimes, you must choose your powers before the battle.  It is illegal to put a Librarian down on the board and then choose his powers based on your opponent's army.  Choosing psychic powers is the same a choosing wargear for him, i.e. it must be done before the battle, and any powers he has must be be written down in your army list.

Smite: The first and most basic power available.  On paper, and at first glance, it looks good, but once used in game, it will leave many people underwhelmed.  It is let down by its moderate strength, and the BS of the Librarian himself, but this is compensated for by a high rate of fire, and a low AP.  Against a typical squad of MEQs out of cover, this will roughly equate to one or two dead MEQs.  The real bonus of this power though is its low AP.  If you regularly go up against TEQs, or armies that can field a lot of Feel No Pain units (Blood Angels), then this power will become more effective.  Generally, however, there are better powers to take.

Force Dome: Force Dome is the first of the supporting type of psychic Powers.  It offers no offensive value, but allows your troops to be more protected by giving them an invulnerable save.  In the cover rich environment of fifth edition 40K, this power is rarely needed, or, for that matter, used, but, it does have its advantages when cast on units that would be better off avoiding cover most of the time, namely, jump infantry.  Any Space Marine unit with a Jump Pack counts as jump infantry, and so if jumping into, or from, cover is forced to take dangerous terrain tests, potentially losing squad members, but when benefiting from this power, the unit is more able to get to where it needs to go.   It also provides an invulnerable against low AP weapons, which would normally massacre Marines that are out in the open.

Machine Curse: A shooting power than does not seem to be used very often. This is only a mediocre power, but it does have its uses.  Allowing the Librarian to automatically inflict a single glancing hit on a vehicle can be very useful in certain scenarios, for example, if facing a large number of high AV vehicles, Machine Curse avoids the trouble of trying to penetrate with ranged fire.  It is also good when facing opponents who take a high number of artillery units (Imperial Guard mostly), since those glancing hits mean that you will most likely either destroy the gun, or keep it from firing that turn.  The problems with this power are that it is too situational, and that it is fired using the Librarian's average BS.  Also, if  you are facing a green tide of Orks or Tyranids, then this power is effectively useless, as it can only be cast on vehicles.

The Avenger: This is one of my favourite powers.  It is one of the most commonly used powers, due to its good strength, low AP, and template attack making it one of the better powers available to the Librarian.  It avoids the Librarian's average BS by virtue of the template, and also ignores cover, something which is very important in fifth edition.  The only disadvantages to this power are its lack of range, and that is allows 2+ saves and Feel No Pain rolls.  Against a tightly bunched up squad of MEQs though, this power can typically kill more than half the squad.  Even if the models are spread out, it should kill more than Smite.

The Quickening: Another relatively common power.  This allows the Librarian to increase his initiative to insanely high levels, providing him with the opportunity to strike before virtually everything else in the game.  This is a good power to choose if you want your Librarian to be effective in close combat.  This power, combined with the Epistolary upgrade, allows you to strike at enemy units before they hit back, and potentially use the Force Weapon to kill off enemy characters and creatures.  Even against a squad of MEQs, it reduces the number of attacks back by potentially killing off some squad members before they can strike.

Null Zone: The second of the supporting powers.  This is one of the most commonly chosen psychic powers in tournament play.  The fact that it reduces the effectiveness of enemy invulnerable saves means that against units that rely on them (Storm Shield Terminators, Daemons, Sisters of Battle), low AP weaponry, and units which contain many Power Weapons, become incredibly effective.  This is a useful power to give to a Librarian no matter what role you have in mind for him. Again, combining this power with the Force Weapon and Epistolary upgrade makes for a potent combination, meaning not only that the enemy will have less chance of passing an invulnerable save of their own, but also that you are more likely to cause a wound, and, therefore, inflict Instant Death on them.

Might of the Ancients: Another offensive power, and one of my personal favourites.  This power increases the strength of the Librarian, and means that he can deal with armour more effectively.  Even things like Land Raiders and Monoliths can be destroyed with this power.  In addition, his strength is raised to the point were he can now inflict Instant Death on toughness three models, without having to resort to using his Force Weapon.  Might of the Ancients pairs up very well with The Quickening, since increasing both the Librarian's initiative and strength makes him very effective against a normal MEQ squad.  It is also a useful power against Eternal Warriors, because it it means that they can be wounded more easily, and the Force Weapon is useless against them anyway.

Gate of Infinity: Another commonly used support power.  This is a very useful power if your list lacks mobility (Drop Pod armies for example), or you wish to move units around very quickly, and relatively safely.  It is only relatively safe, because while your unit cannot be shot at en-route to where it needs to go by your opponent, the deep strike nature of Gate of Infinity means that on terrain heavy boards, or against an army with lots of units, deep striking can be dangerous, not to mention that there is the risk of using the power itself.  Even a relatively minor scatter can cause a single casualty on the roll of a double, and if using this power to move expensive models, such as Terminators or Sternguard Veterans, this can be a hard pill to swallow.

As mentioned earlier, this power works very well with Drop Pod armies, or armies that contain two or more Drop Pods because they can be equipped with Locator Beacons, allowing you to safely use Gate of Infinity to deep strike nearby without fear of taking casualties, or scattering somewhere undesirable.  This also gets rid of the risk of losing a model due to the power itself, as if there is no scatter, there is no chance of losing a member of the unit being teleported.  Gate of Infinity also pairs up well with Scout Bikers.  A scout move turbo boost, followed by another in the first movement phase, means that you can have a dangerous unit appear right in the midst of the enemy to destroy or harass his forces.

Note about Gate of Infinity: There are several rules debates, which can be found in the rules forum, about whether you can use Gate of Infinity to escape from combat, i.e once locked in combat, can you use it to move to somewhere else?  My own personal opinion about the subject is that it can be used to escape, but it is very worthwhile to talk to your opponent about the subject before the battle to avoid any unpleasant and unnecessary arguments during the game.  You can check out some of the debates yourself here and here.

Vortex of Doom: The last of the powers available to Librarians.  This power takes the form of one of the most potent shooting attacks in the game, but for all that awesomeness, this power does have several significant downsides. The first, although it is relatively minor, is that this is a heavy shooting attack with a short range, so if you are trying to use this power the Librarian cannot have moved in the  movement phase, or launch an assault later on.  This disadvantage, however, pales into insignificance compared to the second, which is that this is the only power that can backfire on the Librarian, and if it does then he is in for a whole world of hurt.

To make the most out this power, it is strongly advised to make you Librarian relentless.  This can be achieved by giving him either Terminator Armour, or a Space Marine Bike.  Without one of these options, the power is effectively useless due to its short range.  Also, by joining the Librarian to a squad, should the Vortex of Doom backfire, any hit(s) can be taken on the less valuable squad members rather than on the Librarian himself.  If you do decide to do this, it will be worthwhile to keep the full two inch coherency allowance between the Librarian and the rest of the squad, so that the blast marker should only be able to touch the Librarian himself.  This could only cause one wound, which can be allocated to a different squad member as per the shooting rules.

That concludes the different psychic abilities that the Librarian has access to, so I will move onto the wargear.

Part 3: Equipment Options

Unfortunately, Librarians do not have access to the wide variety of equipment options that Chapter Masters or Captains, and, to some degree, Chaplains and Masters of the Forge, do.  This, however, is more than made up for by the different powers you can equip the Librarian with, as shown previously.  I will run through all the different wargear options, and show how they can be best used.  Note that I'm not counting the Epistolary upgrade as a piece of wargear, because I feel that this comes more under the psychic powers part, and will be selected if you want your Librarian to be a powerful psyker.  It is also perfectly acceptable, and it may be preferable in some cases, to leave him at Codicier level, and use the points to upgrade his regular equipment.

Storm Bolter: The first and most basic piece of wargear a Librarian can have. It is very cheap for what it does, giving the Librarian a good ranged shooting attack, while allowing him to move and assault.  The only problem with this weapon is that it removes the extra attack bonus in close combat which he would normally receive if he were just armed with his standard Bolt Pistol.  If you envisage your Librarian playing more of a supporting role than getting involved in close combat, then this is not a bad option to choose.

Combi-Weapons: The Librarian can be equipped with one of the same three Combi-weapons that all Space Marine HQs have access to, the Combi-Flamer, -Melta, or -Plasma.  As is the case with the Storm Bolter, if you see your Librarian getting into close combat regularly, then one of these might not be the best option to take, as, once again, he would lose the extra attack bonus he would normally receive.

The Flamer is a good weapon that gives a lot of horde control.  It pairs well with the Librarian's average BS (for a Space Marine that is), and his low number of attacks, meaning that he might not get bogged down fighting worthless units if he can take out a handful of them before he charges in.

The Melta is an excellent choice, and, in my opinion, the best Combi-weapon to take. In this armour rich edition, were many lists feature a lot of mechanised forces, this weapon allows the Librarian to take on the heaviest armour in the game, and have a decent chance of causing some damage.  It can be paired very effectively with the Might of the Ancients power, transforming the Librarian into an armoured killing machine.

Finally the Plasma is another good choice, although, in my opinion, it is the weakest of the three.  Its major disadvantage is that the Librarian cannot assault after firing it, which is a problem, since the targets it is most effective against (MEQs, TEQs and MCs) are perfect candidates for the Librarian's Force Weapon.  It can, however, be used quite effectively in conjunction with Gate of Infinity, allowing the Librarian to position himself behind enemy armour to rapid fire into its weaker rear armour, against which the high strength of plasma weaponry can be fairly effective at scoring penetrating hits.

Plasma Pistol: Quite possibly one of the best upgrades for a Power Armoured Librarian.  It gives him a strong shooting attack, while still granting the bonus for an extra close combat weapon.  Its downsides are that it has a short range, it is expensive, and, like all plasma weapons, it can potentially wound its user.

Terminator Armour (No Weapons): The cheapest and perhaps most cost effective way of protecting the Librarian.  It provides an invulnerable save, which a Librarian does not normally have, making him tougher when facing Power Weapon wielding foes.  It also gives him a measure of protection against Perils of the Warp attacks, although the chances of rolling two 5+ saves is, suffice to say, extremely low.  As mentioned in the Vortex of Doom section, this is the easiest and cheapest way to make the Librarian relentless, which allows you to use that power far more effectively.

Terminator Armour (Weapons): The second type of Terminator upgrade is one that includes several weapons: a Storm Bolter, and one of the three Combi-weapons mentioned previously.  The only difference here is that now, thanks the the Terminator Armour, a Combi-Plasma is more flexible, resulting in your being able to fire the Plasma Gun, and initiate an assault.  Furthermore, the increased armour save will help should you suffer a Gets Hot! result.  Taking the Weapon upgrades on Terminator Armour is a good idea if you want your Librarian to be strong in close combat, yet not waste one of his powers on giving him a good shooting attack.

Terminator Armour (Storm Shield): My personal favourite way of equipping Librarians with Terminator Armour.  This is the final, and most expensive, way of giving a Librarian Terminator Armour, so it should be considered carefully, and not just be an automatic choice.  Does your Librarian need that extra invulnerable save to keep him alive?  If you plan to make your Librarian a close combat monster, then this would be the most effective way to do it, as the Storm Shield gives him a very good chance of survival against Power Weapons and Fists.  As a further bonus, thanks to the superior invulnerable save, the Librarian has a decent chance of avoiding wounds from Perils of the Warp attacks.

Jump Pack: An upgrade not commonly seen on Librarians, although that is not to say it is useless.  With Chaplains usually being attached to Assault Marine squads, and Captains providing more raw combat ability, it is a rare thing to see a Librarian with a Jump Pack, but a Librarian equipped with a Jump Pack can be used to great effect, and he can bring abilities to the squad he joins which the other HQs cannot.  Attaching a Librarian with Might of the Ancients, for example, means that the squad's overall tank hunting ability is improved, while if he is equipped with Force Dome, the Librarian can protect the entire squad somewhat from low AP or Power Weapon attacks.  Another way to use the Jump Pack is to allow the Librarian to keep up with the faster elements of your force. With special and heavy weapons only being available to Tactical squads numbering ten models, this encourages full sized units to be selected, and unless units are split into combat squads, which is undesirable in annihilation missions, the Librarian cannot fit inside the Rhino.  If equipped with a Jump Pack, however, the Librarian can keep up by following the Rhino, and thanks to his small size, remain out of line of sight of opposing guns.  He can subsequently join up with the squad if it disembarks, or go off on his own, to assault and harass weak enemy units.

Space Marine Bike: This is the final piece of wargear available to choose from, and is one that is seen relatively frequently.  There are several advantages to being mounted on a bike, the most significant being the increase in mobility it provides.  This can allow for rapid movement across the table to attack enemies head on, or to contest objectives.  The second major advantage it confers is that of survivability. Riding a bike increases the Librarian's toughness, making him more resistant to small arms fire.  In addition, due to being able to turbo boost, the Librarian can gain an impressive cover save.  Another advantage the bike provides is the addition of a twin-linked Boltgun, which offers the Librarian a decent shooting attack, while still providing him with his full number of attacks, should he still be equipped with a Pistol.  Finally, as mentioned earlier, being mounted on a bike makes the Librarian relentless, so he can maximise any rapid fire weapons, and/or shooting powers, yet still be able to assault.

This marks the end of the equipment options, and the end of this section.  Next up is the suggested Librarian types you can use in your games.

Part 4: Suggested Builds

This section consists of some of the suggested builds for using Librarians.  Some will be my own ideas, while some will be tried and tested options.  I will list them under the general 'type' that they fall into, and add some detail about how they work.

Close Combat:

The Big Daddy: Terminator Armour, Storm Shield, Epistolary, Might of the Ancients, The Quickening.

This build is called 'The Big Daddy' for a reason.  Weighing in at 190 points, this build is almost too expensive to be worth taking, however the close combat prowess is staggering, combining excellent protection with excellent offence.  Against creatures vulnerable to instant death, either The Quickening (to strike first), or Might of the Ancients (to strike harder), can be cast, and then followed up by the Force Weapon.  Against Eternal Warriors, or normal infantry, both powers can be used.

The Middle Child: Terminator Armour, Might of the Ancients, Null Zone.

With this build being surprisingly cheap, it may appeal to some players.  It combines attributes from the build above, while being considerably cheaper, hence it offers decent close combat power, with a measure of protection.  Although this Librarian is no longer a good character assassin, he can still defeat regular infantry fairly easily, especially infantry which rely on their good armour saves, such as Marines.  Null Zone is useful here if the Librarian is supported by a lot of friendly Power Weapons (e.g. Terminators), or if facing Daemons.

All Rounders:

Hard Core: : Space Marine Bike, Bolt Pistol, Power Armour, Vortex of Doom, Might of the Ancients.

This build is more suited to biker armies.  In this example, I envisage the Librarian being the 'Hard Core' of a bike squad tasked with tank hunting.  The Librarian can add his Vortex of Doom attacks to supplement the squad's Melta Guns, and he is not bad in close combat either, which is useful, since the assault phase can be a struggle for biker armies.

Thanks For the Help: Jump Pack, Epistolary, Might of the Ancients, Force Dome.

While being on the expensive side, this is a very useful build to take.  A natural complement to Assault Marines, this Librarian can protect them as they cross the board, and once they are engaged in combat.  In addition, he boosts the squad's anti-tank capabilities considerably. When combined with a Sergeant equipped with a Power Fist or Thunder Hammer you also have the opportunity to get some Power Weapon attacks in prior to the big weapon being swung.

Cheap and Cheerful: Bolt Pistol, Power Armour, Might of the Ancients, The Avenger.

Being extremely cheap to field, this may be a good choice for an HQ in lower points level games.  This is because Eternal Warriors tend not to show up in such battles, and there will be few, if any, insanely powerful characters, or large creatures.  Having these two different powers gives you some flexibility, resulting in the Librarian being effective regardless of the army, and unit types, you are facing.  It is also worth noting this cheap Librarian build is useful defensively, since all Librarians come with Psychic Hoods as standard, allowing them to cancel other psykers' powers.  In the case of armies that rely on powerful psykers (Eldar mostly), this gives you an overall advantage because they rely on their psychic attacks more.

Special thanks to Hymirl for pointing this out.

Shooting Specialists:

Stay Away From Him...: Terminator Armour, Storm Shield, Vortex of Doom, The Avenger.

This is a good shooting build.  Wearing Terminator Armour, and carrying a Storm Shield gives him good survivability should the Vortex of Doom backfire, and being able to choose between the two powers gives the Librarian useful variety to counter whatever he is up against.  If he is facing infantry, The Avenger will do the job, while the Vortex of Doom can handle the tanks.  This guy is no slouch in combat either.  Remember that Force Weapons are still counted as regular Power Weapons when up against normal foes.

More Dakka: Terminator Armour, Combi-Plasma, The Avenger, Null Zone.

A good shooting character.  Being relentless allows moving, shooting and assaulting with the Combi-Plasma, and once you factor in Null Zone to force the enemy to re-roll their invulnerable saves, you can see that you end up with a nasty Librarian here.  If you combine him with a Sternguard Veteran squad, or Devastator Squad with Plasma Cannons, you will wreck any infantry unit in the game.

Supporting Leader:

Biggest Friend: Storm Bolter, Power Armour, Epistolary, Force Dome, Null Zone.

This build emphasises supporting and protecting you own units.  The Epistolary upgrade allows the casting of both powers, making the squad he as joined more survivable, and nearby enemies more vulnerable.  It could be argued that in the cover rich environment of this current edition, the Invulnerable save is not really needed, but a point in its favour is that it works in close combat too.  At the end of the day though, these are only suggestions, so it would not be too hard to choose a different power if you wished to.

Catch Me If You Can: Combi-Melta, Power Armour, Gate of Infinity, The Avenger.

This build is designed solely around the concept of Sternguard entering play via a Drop Pod.  Due to the different shooting options available the Librarian, he can either go after armoured targets with the Combi-Melta (ideally with five Sternguard  doing the same thing), or infantry with The Avenger (again, matched up with Sternguard doing the same with Combi-Flamers, or their Vengeance Rounds).  Gate of Infinity is used to move the unit to wherever it needs to be, or to escape from an undesirable situation.

I hope you will get some good ideas from these possible builds.  I am not saying that they are the greatest or the only way to equip, and use, your Librarian, but, hopefully, these builds will get the creative juices flowing when it comes to helping you to decide how best to use your own Librarians  :).

Part 5: Personal Thoughts and Ideas:

This section is for me to outline my personal insights regarding this wonderfully versatile character.

I think that Librarians are a bit underrated by most players.  I believe that when they see all the different HQs side by side, they seem to look poorly on the Librarian, perhaps because on the surface he seems to be the weakest of all four.  He is not as strong as a Captain, does not have an invulnerable save like a Captain or Chaplain, and has an inferior armour save compared to a Master of the Forge, but if you can look past these comparisons, then you can see how amazingly useful a character a Librarian can be.

You can tool him up to fit into virtually any role, as I hope I have demonstrated in this article, he offers benefits that nobody else can provide within the codex, and, with the apparent rumours of allying being removed from the new Inquisition/Grey Knight codex, and their psykers being boosted significantly, I think that the humble Librarian will be seeing a lot more use in the near future.

I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my tactica on Librarians as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  It has been good to get the old typing muscles back into action  :).

Thank you for reading.

Rating: ***** by 4 members.


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January 6, 2011, 05:25:27 PM
Aye I agree its a wonderful artical. Im glad I took the time to read it. I hope to see your views on other HQ's.
Algavinn of the Many Paths
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September 30, 2010, 02:37:45 AM
The thing you have to keep in mind is that this article is extolling the virtues of the Librarian himself, and is not an article about SM HQ slots in general, so the contrast talking about the benefits of other HQ choices isn't strictly necessary.  I would always be happy to see commentary about what possible drawbacks there are (especially if a particular HQ choice is really not a very good choice compared to the others so trying to sell it in the first place is questionable, which is not the case here), but given that there are 2 possible HQ slots if some one is so motivated to take more than one, I don't really feel that the article is necessarily missing something (at least in general and in the examples you point out, ie not taking a chapter master because you took the librarian etc, it's not a valid objection in and of itself).

But, with all that, it wouldn't be out of place to include a scope of when one might not want to take a librarian, or reasons not to, but there is certainly a line between including those details in an article about one specific unit choice, and an article about the whole unit type.
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September 29, 2010, 11:11:18 AM
I think this is a pretty good article and has a lot of useful information.  The one thing that I did not pick up on though is an thorough explanantion as to why you would not take a librarian. I think to make this, or any article like it truely valuable, you have to point out the opposite argument as well as providing all of the positives.

So in addition to the advantages, point out the Librarian's disadvantages as well. A disadvantage of taking a Librarian may be no more than that it means you are not taking a Chapter Master, Captain, Chaplain or Master of the Forge.  But if those characters provide more of a bonus then they are preferable to the Librarian and that is a disadvantage.   I am not stating that this is the case, just pointing out a possible issue.  Even in the specific builds you provided there are reasons to not take these particluar builds.  It may be driven by the type of army you are facing or it may be just the utility of the build is outweighed by what it does not provide.

Again I think the article is very well written and thought out, just as I read it thought of the above that might be touched on.
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September 24, 2010, 09:35:28 AM
Great article, I think it summarises a lot about Librarians and how useful they can be to armies for a whole variety of different reasons.
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September 23, 2010, 05:23:29 AM
I use a librarian every time without fail, I do think they are far undervalued.  People go for direct combat characters all too often and ignore the HUGE benefits offered by the utility and other such benefits built into the various support characters.

Well put together, thought out, and detailed article.  Thanks for putting it together for us Venator!

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