Way back when during the earliest days of Mk.I, many would recall the glory of the Iron Fang Pikemen (IFP). They were the consummate embodiment of Khador’s ideals; resilient, hard hitting, and fast to boot. However, with the advent of Mk.II and the resulting game/meta reset, it left the IFP somewhat overshadowed by the Winterguard (WG) Deathstar* and Kayazy Assassins.
*Max Winter Guard + Unit Attachment + Weapon Attachment(s) + Kovnik Josef
Their issues were simple:
- Mk.II saw the WG becoming cheaper than the IFP, where they were once equally costed. The UA was also nerfed.
- The meta had shifted to:
a) Become more mobile, thus Shield Wall was no longer what it was.
b) Infantry is still prevalent, and frankly IFP don’t kill infantry well due to their average MAT.
c) Anti-infantry became more common over time.
So, why would you take the IFP?
- The number one question you need to ask yourself, is “do I need anti-armor?”. The IFP are designed primarily to destroy heavy targets – they can kill other things, but their average MAT means they probably won’t hit them.
- Independent, especially if you take the regular UA for Pathfinder. They don’t need much support to do their job – anything you can give them just adds to their prowess.
- Reliable. They have fairly good defensive stats, hit hard, and can still hit higher-DEF targets with CMA if required to do so.
- Not a Character unit. Matters in a Character-restricted environment.
Interestingly, although many were initially a tad negative about their them, people have started to warm up to the IFP. With Colossals around the corner at the time of writing this article and a possible meta shift into “more high ARM”, it is likely that the IFP would see even more game time than in the recent past.
Generally speaking, I like my unit at maximum size, with the UA. That is not to say that they don’t do well at smaller sizes, but personally if I had only 5 points to spare and needed something to crack heavy targets, I’d take something like the Great Bears.
As for the UAs, you have two options:
Black Dragon UA (BD UA)– I listed this first because I have a little more to talk about the original UA. This new UA breathed new life and excitement into this unit, and for good reason. Their mini-feat is simply effective, granting them considerably increased survivability for a round with +4 ARM and immunity to stationary/knockdown. Precision Strike can be good, but its more useful against Warjacks rather than Warbeasts.
The original IFP UA– Although left out in the cold by many, I actually use these more often. Firstly, they are independent; if you wanted Pathfinder with the BD UA, you’d probably really want some way to grant them Pathfinder (e.g. Saxon Orrik). Secondly, you get their (somewhat maligned) mini-feat.
Often many people seem to only see this as the chance to walk 12” and Shield Wall once a game. Although that option is still very viable, I personally see two broad general purposes for the mini-feat:
a) Charge in, and mini-feat to pull back. This is especially useful when your opponent leaves something big and juicy in his front line, and/or left some melee at the back lines since you can act without much fear of reprisal. You may still end up being in his charge range, but then they would be open for a counter-attack.
b) Push deeper. Extremely useful when your opponent has some shooty units (or support). In a sense, the aforementioned 12” Shield Wall is a variant of this, but don’t forget you can always charge something, then mini-feat to catch shooty units in your wonderful 2” melee Reach.
So which UA is better? Neither are – you take them based on your requirement. The BD UA excels when your IFP is used more defensively. The IFP UA on the other hand excels when you use your IFP more aggressively, usually as the first wave. Pathfinder and the mini-feat can be incredibly important in some situations, while if you took the BD UA I’d almost say that Saxon Orrik is a must-have unless your Warcaster has some way to grant Pathfinder. Sometimes, finding those two extra points for him can be a hassle.
Using the Unit
As aforementioned, they are primarily designed to break heavy targets. The general idea is to point them at a heavy, and hope they are within charge range. The concept is fairly simple, but there are a few things to think about:
Shield Wall – One of the greatest mistakes I’ve seen, and possibly one of the reasons why people fail at using them, is their overzealous application of Shield Wall. Shield Wall is an option, and should only be treated as such. I generally run them spread out as I would with any other infantry, and only use Shield Wall when the situation warrants it.
This “situation” can be difficult to describe, but basically you use it when you don’t want to die to massed AOEs or very low-POW (=< 10) attacks. ARM 18 is otherwise still fairly poor. The mini-feats of both UAs compliment this; the regular UA gives them a free Shield Wall, while the BD UA gives them potentially 22 ARM. However, I’m also against notion that Shield Wall a “trap”. Although I admit I don’t often use Shield Wall, it is always an option one must consider.
Reach –Reach weapons give good “coverage”. This means they can cover more ground where your opponents would have to either kill them or eat many free strikes, and it also allows them to tie up shooty units more effectively. This is true for all units with Reach, but the IFP also provide many bodies on the table, thus giving considerable battlefield coverage. Also, this gives them the ability to have more models on any single target which is good if their prey is a single larger target.
CMA – Choosing when to CMA, and how big to CMA, can be difficult at times. However, since the IFP hit fairly hard and Khador isn't short on damage buffs, often your primary concern is actually hitting your target. Two-man CMA's are a good middle-ground choice. Of course it is also important to factor in how much damage you can do, but generally you'd only worry about not hitting hard enough against things with exceptional ARM, like a Devastator.
Critical Knockdown – Like all Critical abilities, you can never rely on it going off, but its particularly handy against Warbeasts (e.g. Warpwolves) which often would otherwise require CMAs to hit reliably. Free strikes from IFP are particularly vicious; their high base P+S combined with Critical Knockdown means that a hit would deal notable damage and runs the risk of stopping them dead in their tracks.