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The Viability of Celestians

Submitted By: Date: June 22, 2006, 05:56:09 AM Views: 2494
Summary: NB: this article is really rather good. However it does not address the changes with only troops scoring. This makes ordinary battle sisters better at the full squad size and makes Celestians better in small squad size roles (such as tank hunting). Relatively minor revisions would fix it -Small_furry_spider. The Celestians are an elite choice in the Witch Hunters army list, and one that seems to excel at close combat fighting. However, they can still not face up against other combat specialists, and this can lead to major disappointments about their performance. This article is based on the community discussion on this and tries to analyze the army as a whole and through that answer the question: How viable are celestians for your force if they can’t seem to go head-on against other combat troops?

I personally love the celestians, and I nearly always use a squad of them armed for combat in a rhino. The reasons for this follow from what is outlined in this article, so I won't go into that. However, if you are disappointed in their performance then ask yourself the question: How am I using my celestians and what expectations do I have with them?

For instance, like with my seraphim, I know that my celestians, even though they are one of the best assault elements in my army, are not dedicated combat specialists like most other armies can field them. As a result, I don't want to have them in combat against other combat specialists, unless those have been greatly reduced in numbers before the combat. Remember that the Sisters are primarily a short-ranged firefight army, and this is where they can take on every other army! The celestians are every bit as good at short-ranged firefights as the basic battle sisters. Remember that this is reflected in their cost as well. If all you do with them is assault, then you're probably not using all those lovely bolters.

Ask yourself this: How many squads of 188 points do you know that can stand up against 16 bolter shots, a flamer and a heavy flamer, all with divine guidance on them, and then have enough power left to successfully assault 10 power armoured models with good WS and I, holy hatred and a veteran with an eviscerator and a book of St. Lucius? The power of the celestians does not only lie in their pure combat abilities, but mostly in reducing their opponents numbers pre-combat so that they become a relatively strong combat squad (relative to the squad that you just fired on).

Even if you are using them as a pure assault squad (depending on circumstances, this can still be a good role for them!), remember the above. They are meant to be relatively strong compared to reduced assault squads, not strong against full assault squads. So if you plan to go straight-out assault, you should expect them to lose against dedicated assault troops. In other words, use your other squads (basic sister squads, retributers etc.) to reduce enemy numbers before you join in the combat. Your army should work as a team: Your celestians are not able to get the most out of firefight if they wish to assault (because you can't assault and fire bolters in the same turn), and your basic sisters are not capable of getting the most out of assaults (because of their average WS, S, and I). See where these two fill each other’s weaknesses? The battle sisters can soften up an enemy, and the celestians can finish them in assault (or just keep them locked for a decent time) so the enemy cannot target your weaker battle sisters with superior combat forces.

All in all, it’s understandable that people can get disappointed by them. As with Inquisitors, the celestians still have human strength and toughness and that's not going to change any time soon (GW has done a decent job at keeping all humans human in their stat line). It is an inherit weakness that we'll have to live with, and it has some implications for the options left to the sisters. For instance, there will never be a human assault choice than can compete against the dedicated assault elements of super-human marines, bio-engineered Tyranids, or extreme specialization ability of the (dark) eldar. Those races all have better basic models to start from, or a much better capability to specialize in the assault aspect of war. This fact alone means that we can't rely purely on assault, and when dealing with such threats as above, some pre-combat work needs to be done in order to bring their combat potential to "human"-levels.

Luckily, as opposed to Imperial Guard, we are the only human force that has been given enough tools to be a fearful combat force nonetheless (again, never as fearful or powerful as some of the dedicated super-humans, but able to hold our own and pack at least a bit of a punch). We get power armour and bolters, just like the space marines, but at a cheaper price while still being able to fire the bolters at the same efficiency. This means that we can field more of those, and as a result, are better with bolter-fire than the marines. Also, we have two choices (celestians and seraphim) that have improved combat abilities so that we are not completely without a punch after we've unleashed our 12" bolter-fire hell. And finally, we have acts of faith which allows us to boost the combat abilities of those squads that are currently in combat while leaving the other squads at their mere-human abilities. Compare this last statement with Tyranids for instance. If they would want to have a better Initiative in combat, then they would have to pay points for it for every squad that they want to give this ability! Even the squads that get shot down, or have too few survivors left to be of any threat. With the sisters, you always have the option of a higher initiative, and always on the squads that are actually in combat. Nothing gets wasted in this way, but at the price of sometimes failing your roll and having only a limited amount of faith points at your disposal (but then again, a pure Sisters of Battle force can get so much faith points that you are pretty free in spending them). And finally, the army also has bigger squad sizes which help to compensate for the stat line, and we have the only human character that can go up against marine combat characters, and actually come out on top!

These last two paragraphs are about the Sisters of Battle as an army, not specifically the celestians, but it is important in this case, as the basic idea that we play a human army simply has some implications about our combat abilities on a squad level, and as a result, on what we can expect from our better assault choices like the celestians (and seraphim). Being human simply means that you can't run into everyone on the battlefield. As a result, playing with a human force requires you to think about what assaults you can afford to get into, and which ones you should avoid. The celestians merely allow you to get involved in more of those combats because of the increased combat abilities. Because you need to evaluate every combat on the battlefield before you get involved in it, it requires you to think about the army, and know the abilities of your forces as well knowing your opponent's abilities (as opposed to Khorne berserker armies, who really just need to think about how they are going to get into combat, and not when, where and if). In other words, the sisters require a bit of learning before you can really appreciate all of their choices. It's all too easy to get too high expectations of a squad based on what their equipment and special rules suggest. In the case of the celestians, their increase in WS, I and holy hatred might suggest that they are the assault troops in the army, and many people will use them in assault as well. However, this can lead some people to expect them to be able to hold their own in many more assaults than they can realistically handle. The same could be said about assassins. If you complain about them not being able to make their points back, try to think about what your expectations of the assassin is. In no case can you realistically expect a 2-wound model to cover nearly 100 points on it's own without any support from the rest of the army. In the same way, you can't expect the celestians to deal with every assault threat without the support of the rest of the army.

I hope that this gives a little more insight in the army as a whole, and the role that the celestians play in it. I'm not trying to say that you should always field them (you could certainly still win without them), but you should always consider them as an option, because they can really be worth their points, and even more with a bit of luck.

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