This past weekend, I got a game in with my Tyranids against the Iron Hands with a Skitarii ally. It was a close game; the Tyranids pulling out a one point win. But the all-star unit in the game (on my side at least) was a full brood of Raveners. This unit of nine took out a unit of 10 Vanguard Skitarii, two 10-man squads of tactical marines, and took out the majority of a third before the game ended. I actually run the Raveners because they are fun, not because they are competitive, plus I like the way they look. I have been told that they are the second best unit in my army (after the Flyrant), and while I do not agree with that, I do not think they are terrible by any means.
Each Ravener costs 30 points and has the following STAT line:
WS5 BS3 S4 T4 W3 I5 A3 Ld6 Sv5+
How I run my Raveners is very basic; the full brood of nine with rending claws and no other upgrades. While I obviously have the option of making them shooty, their low ballistic skill does not seem to make them a viable shooty option. And since they come with fleet and basically ignore terrain, I prefer to get them into my opponent’s face as quickly as possible, not having ranged weapons means that I either run them or hold off and charge them. Their weapon skill and initiative, while not at the level of Genestealers, is still above a lot of other units.
So, what does a unit of nine bring? 45 attacks on the charge, 27 wounds, 5-up armour saves (ok, not great there), and a unit that cannot be ignored. They have deep strike and fleet, but are one of the few units that cannot get upgrades like adrenal glands or toxin sacs (which I may not take anyway).
As much as I love them, I admit that they are not unbeatable. In the first game where in that I played the fully painted brood, they were turned into mist in the top of the first turn (Giving up first blood). My opponent, playing Tau, hit them with marker lights, removed their cover saves and then upped the BS of a R’Varna. The R’Varna then hit the raveners 36 times and caused 29 unsavable wounds. That full unit just disappeared from the board. It should also be noted that S8 attacks can wipe an entire model off the board with one hit. The 5-up armour save means most weapons (in my experience) will just cut right through them. So, yes, there are some down sides to this unit.
How do I counter all of this? Well, with their 12-inch move and fleet, I try to terrain hop until I can get them into close combat. I also use their 12-inch move to cycle unwounded models to the front of the line so that when I finally can get them into close combat, I still have close to the full brood. It also helps if you can get them feel no pain. Any extra chance to save a wound is a plus, and in yesterday’s game, I made an obscene amount to feel no pain rolls (as well as rending rolls, I may have to have my dice weighed).
Is there a better option? Yes. A Shrike Brood can bring the same movement, a synapse range, fearless, for the same points cost. That’s just one option that is viable. For the amount of points I drop into this unit, there are plenty of more competitive units I can add into my lists.