Black is the New Black- A Competitive Guide to Iron Hands


Hey everybody, Nick Nanavati here to chat with you about everyone’s favorite flavor of the month: Iron Hands (IH). If you’ve been following the Internet lately you’ll see basically everyone is losing their minds over new IH, and admittedly with good reason. In a lot of ways they do almost everything (like most marines), however what makes IH tick is that they do it more naturally and synergistically than other marines.
Let’s start with the basics. IH mono-faction super doctrine is rerolls 1s to hit and move and shoot heavy weapons without penalty while in devastator doctrine. This is exceptional for a few reasons. First and foremost, your army starts in devastator doctrine. No other marine chapter thus far can begin using its super doctrine on turn 1, so that’s already a huge leg up. Second, moving and shooting heavy weapons without penalty is just a fantastic rule, and it makes units like fliers without power of the machine spirit, or short range heavy weapons like assault cannons and even heavy bolters function at full efficacy even while they move into range. Finally, rerolling 1s to hit is just icing on the cake. Especially for units like Fliers who will have to fly out of range of your captain/chapter master auras sooner or later, or for your artillery which will be sat in the far back.

IH have fairly average chapter tactics as is, 6+ feel no pain, slowed degradation on vehicles, and 5+ overwatch. 6+ feel no pain is certainly not a useless rule, especially if playing IH in a traditional sense of just running mass vehicles. It’s basically a 20% extra passed save rate. However, it’s hardly a reason to forgo using successor chapter traits. Slowed degradation on vehicles is actually far less useful than it sounds. Mostly what you care about with degrading vehicles is a decrease in ballistic skill, but IH have multiple ways to increase the BS of units. Furthermore, they have tremendous capabilities to heal damaged vehicles, so degradation just isn’t much of a factor for these guys. And that brings us to 5+ overwatch. That’s really good. Especially when you combine it with he strat for a 4+ overwatch. With full rerolls to hit near a CM you can have a virtually unchargeable tank/unit unless the enemy can charge from out of line of sight or has a means to ignore overwatch. Finally, Iron Father Feirros is criminally undercosted. While he’s not part of the chapter trait, he’s definitely a compelling reason to play Iron hands and not a successor chapter.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to keep IH pure instead of using a successor, that said, there are some neat things you can do with successor Chapters and Iron Hands. Master Artisans is just a great value trait. Rerolling a single to hit and wound is enormously powerful on high quality, low quantity shots. I’m looking at you repulsor executioners, dreadnaughts with twin las cannons, and smash caps with thunder hammers. My other favorite successor trait for IH is a tad unorthodox, but it’s actually whirlwind of rage. Whirlwind of rage is actually amazing in general as a successor trait since it stacks with the chaplain litany Ehortation of Rage. This basically makes it so that every 6 you roll to on a to hit roll becomes two hits (from whirlwind) and two additional attacks from Exhortation. You can combine this on a smash captain with thunder hammer and the warlord trait Merciless Logic which is essentially the same exact thing as Exhortation. If you doo combine these two powers, every time you roll a 6 to hit with your thunder hammer you will get one additional hit from whirlwind, and then 4 (yes 4) additional to hit rolls with thunder hammer attacks. Alternatively, you could combine these powers with the teeth of terra instead of a thunder hammer for more 3 more base attacks (albeit at a weaker profile), but it creates a lot more opportunities to rolls 6’s!

While we’re on the subject of crazy captain combos, you can make a nearly unkillable captain as well. A captain with Artificer armor, psysteel armor, All Flesh is Weakness and Reject the Flesh Embrace the Machine has a 0+ armor in cover/1+ armor in the open, a 3++ invulnerable from his storm shield, and 4+++ feel no pain. Not to mention the strat Cogitated Martyrdom basically turns any nearby infantry unit into ablative wounds for your characters.
The obvious power build for IH that jumps out at you is one centered around a castle of repulsor executioners, fliers, and artillery surrounding the Iron father and the Iron Stone for that glorious 5++ invulnerable and -1 damage, and it’s incredibly powerful, though pretty one dimensional. But that’s far from the only way to play IH. Alternative styles bring in anywhere between 1 and 3+ dreadnaughts with the March of the Ancients stratagem to make them virtually unshootable characters. While other armies you can actually make a pretty interesting balanced IH army with a “moderate” amount of shooting, and nearly unkillable center line units. Something like a classic gunline supported with 6 assault centurions with hurricane bolters, +1 save from psysteel armor, 5+++ feel no pain from Reject the Flesh, and an apothecary to randomly resurrect one of these death machines. That unit isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The weakness to most Iron Hands based lists are armies that can close the gap and engage them in close combat while preventing their fall back. This is actually why I personally don’t rate the leviathan too highly. I think White Scars will be their biggest opponent between ignoring overwatch, reliable deep strike charging, and Master of Snares to avoid being shot, while Harlequins are sneaking into a top spot in the meta very nicely with buckets of haywire, speed, and ignores overwatch as well. Personally, I think the best IH list will be a balanced version that acknowledges its weaknesses and attempts to remedy them, however this opens up the opportunity for a new weakness in the form of running into a mirror against an opposing IH army that simply brought more guns and outmuscles the more balanced version.
Whichever army you play you will need to consider IH, and their different variations to see success at the competitive level. We’re still waiting on the new FAQ, and last two supplements, so anything can happen still, but IH are certainly making a run for top dog. If you’re interested in learning how to refine your current IH build or learn how to beat them I implore you to check out Nights PRO!

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