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Lightning and Thunder: an Assault Marine/Scout Opening Strategy Guide

By -Netput - 14th May 2017 - 08:45 AM

by Sparkskite

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Itís well-known that Tactical Marines are underperforming in 1v1; Relic already has plans to adjust the Tacticals in the first balance patch. However, Space Marines are still a viable race thanks to the strength of its Barracks units: the Scouts (the "lightning") and the Assault Marines (the "thunder").


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  1. Improved Listening Posts
  2. Tip of the Spear
  3. Your Choice
The Listening Post doctrines are crucial because none of your combat units are trained at your HQ. Therefore your Barracks cannot be deployed in a forward position without delaying your first ASM squad. It follows that Tip of the Spear is an essential doctrine for maintaining map control in the early game. Your third doctrine doesnít matter so much, but I highly recommend choosing from among Scout Strike, Improved Chapter Banner, and the two Landspeeder doctrines.

  • Venerable Dreadnought (Venerable Dreadnoughtís Command - Assault Leap)
  • Pick two: Kill Team / Jonah / Gabriel Angelos / Chaplain Diomedes
The Venerable Dreadnought is essential because it unlocks the extremely powerful Assault Leap ability. The other two Elites should be early game Elites. I recommend Jonah against Eldar, but otherwise it comes down to personal preference.

Early Game Build Order:

  • 1st Servitor: Barracks (in home base)
  • 2nd Servitor: Cap forward reinforcement point*
  • 3rd Servitor: Cap closest requisition node
  • Add two requisition generators
  • Immediately upon completion of Barracks:
    • Drop-pod -> ASM
    • Barracks -> Scouts
  • Send the 1st Servitor to scout and harass enemy points
  • Start the Listening Post with the 2nd Servitor (on the forward reinforcement point)
  • Send the 1st Scout squad towards the enemy, try to find either a builder unit or an isolated combat unit
  • 2nd Scouts
  • Call down the 1st ASMs, engage in 1st Skirmish
  • 2nd ASM

    * A resource node for your first Listening Post, which will serve as a forward reinforcement point thanks to Tip of the Spear
The First Skirmish[/h2]
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Your first Scout squads should be sent towards the enemy. Ideally, you should engage by dropping your ASMs on an enemy squad when you sense your opponent is looking away. However, avoid delaying the first fight too much, because you want to put your drop pod on cooldown as soon as possible.

You will likely hit 500 requisition for your second ASM squad during the first skirmish. It is crucial that you pay attention to your macro, because reinforcing the first fight with a second ASM squad can make the difference between winning and losing that fight.

A few micro tips: If the enemy targets your scouts, simply kite them away and allow your ASM squad to deal damage. Save your grenade stuns for whenever your opponent targets your ASMs. Itís okay to lose Scout models; they are mainly there for their stun grenade ability and to tank damage for your ASMs. Scouts are very cheap to reinforce, costing only 30 requisition per model. Losing ASM models, on the other hand, is not only expensive (75 req and 2 pwr each), but it will also significantly diminish your damage output. Proper use of blind grenades can make a huge difference in the first fight.

Because your ASM arrived via drop pod, you may use 1 jump freely to disrupt or to chase, but you should try to save the second jump. If you feel the fight turning against you, it is far better to jump out before you lose any models and wait for your second ASM squad to arrive before re-engaging.

Be patient with the Assault Leap ability: it has a long cooldown, so you have to maximize the value that you get out of it. Because it casts so quickly, it can be used to dodge enemy grenades. Also, because it deals AoE damage, naturally you want to hit at least 2 squads with it. There is one exception: if you can guarantee a squad wipe or drop several models, then you may target a single squad (for example, Assault Leap will often devastate a retreating Dire Avenger unit with no shields). By far, Assault Leap is the greatest source of burst damage and mobility in the early game. If you can simultaneously use it for offense and defense, you are significantly tipping the scales in your favor!

If the fight is close, remember to use your Chapter banner! A lot of players focus on getting the knockback from the banner calldown, but it is much more important to guarantee that you get the shields at 10 seconds. More conservative banner placement can be the difference between winning the fight and losing it.

The Early Game

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After the first skirmish, make sure to fall back with any weakened ASM squads to your Listening Post and reinforce them up to full strength. It isn't particularly worthwhile to reinforce Scouts. If you need more scouts, it is preferable to get an entire new squad. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is well worth forgoing the 25% reinforcement discount to have more blind grenades and to have greater sight coverage. After all, in combat the main utility of the Scout is the disruption provided by the stun grenades, and out of combat the main strengths of the Scout are increased movement speed and invisibility, which lend themselves to reconnaissance.

Scouts and ASMs are incredibly effective harassers. You should always be looking to engage in favorable trades whenever possible, especially if you have the Chapter Banner available. To achieve this goal, keep at least one Scout squad glued to your opponent's forces. Whenever his forces split apart, you can jump on the weaker half with your ASMs. Because of your superior mobility, you can severely punish your opponent's positional errors. The key is hit-and-run: if you stay in the fight too long and start dropping ASM models, you aren't actually pulling ahead.

In the case where your opponent keeps his army together and moves aggressively against you, there is no shame in retreating. It is key to wait for the perfect moment to strike. In particular, if you can bait the opponent into chasing, often his forces will blob up, which you can punish with stun grenades and assault leap. Also, if you sense your opponent is getting tunnel vision in his attacks, you can send a lone Scout squad to destroy unprotected resource nodes. A larger than average army is usually a sign that your opponent is skimping on listening posts, especially if you have been trading favorably and forcing him to spend more requisition on reinforcing.

If your opponent refuses to meet you head on, one possibility is to use your Chapter Banner to take down an isolated Listening Post. It is critical to scout your opponentís army before attempting this. It will take about 15 seconds to take down a Listening Post with two ASM squads and one Scout squad, but with proper micro and a Chapter Banner, you can take the Listening Post without dropping any models.

Depending on how the first few fights go, you should adjust your strategy. Ideally, you want to have a similar sized force to your opponentís so you may tech without compromising your defense and harassment capabilities. If you are winning your early skirmishes, you can afford to spend more on power generators and listening posts. If you are losing your early skirmishes, you need to rebuild your army and try to disrupt your opponentís economy. Most of the time you will end up with 3-4 ASM squads and 1-3 Scout squads as you move into the mid-game.

Transitioning to Mid-game:

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In terms of tech, you have two options: Landspeeders or Power Swords. In order to get the Landspeeder, you need 200 power for T2, 140 power for the Machine Cult, and 175 power for your first Landspeeder. That is a total of 515 power for your first Landspeeder. On the other hand, it costs 50 power for the Arsenal and 75 power for the Power Swords upgrade itself, for a total of 125 power.

My rule of thumb is the following: If you are significantly ahead or significantly behind, go for Power Swords. If the game is close, go for Landspeeders.

Power Swords:

When you are significantly ahead, then Power Swords allow you to threaten Shield Generators and even Turrets. Because you likely have a greater power income than your opponent, you can afford to delay your Landspeeder tech for the possibility of taking objective structures. Even if you donít take any Shield Generators, you will significantly restrict your opponentís movements.

When you are significantly behind, the best way to catch up is to get at least one Shield Generator, get one or two squad wipes, and destroy your opponentís power generators. Therefore, after getting Power Swords you should spend your next 100 power on getting both infantry upgrades so you can pressure your opponent before his T2 tech hits the field.

Note that in Escalation Phases I and II it is possible to take a Turret with just two Power Sword ASM squads and a servitor, losing only the servitor and 1-3 ASM models. First you want to aggro the turret with the servitor. Then you jump both ASM squads in and split them so they donít take unnecessary splash damage. Save the second Jump and the Assault Leap for escaping after the turret goes down. You need about 10-15 seconds to execute this maneuver. Therefore it is crucial to scout your opponentís army with your invisible scouts.


Now letís consider closer games. The problem with Power Swords is that they don't help you win fights against enemy infantry, they delay your T2 tech, and they don't counter your opponent's T2 tech. If your opponent defends properly, his T2 tech will be devastating when it hits. Therefore I highly recommend getting at least 1-2 Landspeeders before considering Power Swords.

If you are slightly ahead, it is worth it to get an Arsenal after starting the T2 research but before building the Machine Cult. This allows you to funnel excess requisition into Vehicle upgrades, which can make a huge difference in a close game. If you are slightly behind, you should focus on getting the Landspeeder out sooner and save the 50 power for upgrading the melta gun to counter your opponentís T2 tech.

Once you have your Landspeeder out, the highest priority targets are vulnerable power generators. If your opponent invested in Listening Posts, donít bother until you have 2 or 3 Landspeeders. The second best targets are infantry units, especially melee units. Because of the high lethality of Landspeeders against normal armor, it is possible to score multiple squad wipes in the first two minutes of having your Landspeeders out, especially when combined with your scouts and ASMs. The third best targets are unprotected Shield Generators, but this is often thwarted by a single worker unit (also, if you wanted to smash Shield Generators, you should have gotten Power Swords). Finally, if there are no easy targets, use your Landspeeders as highly mobile scouting units. The important thing to take away is that there is always something for your Landspeeders to do, so donít idle them!

Final Notes

This guide is by no means comprehensive. Several degrees of freedom still exist in the form of Elite selection and adjusting army-vs-economy spending in the early game. However, the opening build order is extremely reliable and puts you in a strong position to dictate the flow of the early game. Once you master the basic micro and macro elements of this guide, you can adapt the ideas of the mid-game transition according to your personal preferences.

Guide written by Sparkskite, Edit by Yukiko

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