Saturday 27 June 2015

Battle of the Bikers- White Scars vs Ravenwing

Its time to pit the premier bike units of the 40k universe against one another. Its bike vs bike, (super)mano a mano.
With the recent release of both the Space Marine and Dark Angels codices, I thought I would take the opportunity to compare the two most pre-eminent bike-mounted units amongst the Adeptus Astartes; the Ravenwing and White Scars bikers. I will compare both units based on some random criteria I just made up in my head right now.

Being space marine bikers, both units have identical stats. The toughness 5 helps them a bit with survivability compared to a marine on foot.


Being space marines, both units have access to "And they shall know no fear" which is a powerful ability to have. The Ravenwing get a slight edge in combat with Grim Resolve conferring Stubborn. This makes the Ravenwing more likely to stick around after losing a combat (whether that is a good thing or not).

WINNER- Ravenwing

Being mounted on bikes, both units have a 12" move and access to turboboost, making them highly mobile units, great for grabbing objectives and escaping/attacking their foe. Both units also get access to Hit and Run (the White Scars through their chapter tactics), meaning they can escape from unfavourable combats and start harassing the enemy once again. Both units get access to Scout, allowing them to quickly redeploy or Outflank the enemy.
However, the White Scars have access to skilled rider. This allows them to automatically pass dangerous terrain tests, meaning that cover holds no fear for White Scars bikers. Ravenwing bikers still need to take dangerous terrain tests (whether in the movement phase or assault), so need to be more careful when moving around the battlefield.

WINNER- White Scars

Both units get bonuses to their jink saves. White Scars get +1 to the save via Skilled Rider, meaning they pass their save 67% of the time. Ravenwing get to re-roll failed jink saves, allowing them to pass their save 75% of the time. In addition, Ravenwing bikers can get a boost to their jink saves with a Darkshroud support.

WINNER- Ravenwing

As bikes, both units get Hammer of Wrath when they charge. However, the White Scars get +1S to their hammer of wrath attacks, giving them a slight edge.

WINNER- White Scars

The White Scars have access to larger squads than the Ravenwing, 9 models as opposed to 7 (including the attack bike), so if you like larger squads, the White Scars get the win. However, when deploying in combat squads, the White Scars split into two units, while the Ravenwing split into three units. If you are looking for multiple scoring units, the Ravenwing get the edge.


Thanks to the Grim Resolve rule, the Ravenwing get to overwatch at BS2. This should provide them with twice as many overwatch hits as the White Scars when they get charged in combat (assuming they did not Jink).

WINNER- Ravenwing

Both units have the same basic wargear, with the Ravenwing having access to teleport homers. This is very useful in their support role with the Deathwing.

WINNER- Ravenwing

Only the White Scars have access to objective secured (when an independent character takes a bike). I am a big proponent of this special rule as it has helped me win hopeless games in the past. I am annoyed that Ravenwing can no longer be taken as troops in the new codex, I feel it weakens an all Ravenwing army slightly.

WINNER- White Scars

The Ravenwing have access to some great formations. The Ravenwing Strike Force allows you to field an all Ravenwing army, with access to the great Speed of the Raven special rule. This allows you to count as jinking on the first or second turn when turboboosting or moving flat out, but without having to fire snap shots the next turn. This allows you to manoeuvre quickly and still fire to full effect in the next turn.
Both units can be taken in the codex strike force formation, the Lion's Blade strike force in Dark Angels, the Gladius strike force for the White Scars. The Gladius strike force gives you access to the three combat doctrines and gives the White Scars bikers objective secured. The Ravenwing do not get objective secured, but do get to fire overwatch at full ballistic skill! I feel this gives the Ravenwing the edge in the formations battle.

WINNER- Ravenwing

The White Scars bikers come in at 4 pts cheaper per bike (with attack bike being 5 pts cheaper). Whether the extra 4 pts is worth the cost for the Ravenwing with the additional wargear and special rules will need to be seen, but for pure points costs the White Scars come in cheaper.

WINNER- White Scars

Ravenwing- 5
White Scars- 4

Ravenwing win! By my count, the Ravenwing just beat the White Scars bikers (based on my entirely random and subjective opinions). There, now you have it, go away and re-paint all your space marine bikes black. It's ok, I'll wait here.

What? That's not enough to convince you? Who is better? The White Scars or the Ravenwing. There's only one way to find out. FIGHT!
I'm going to pit 5 White Scars bikers against 5 Ravenwing bikers with basic equipment only. The fight will take place over two rounds, one with the Ravenwing charging and one with the White Scars charging. There will be no Mathhammer here! I came to kick ass and roll dice, and I'm all out of ass (wait, that's not right.......). Each unit will get to shoot and then assault in their round. Each round was rolled three times with independent adjudication (ok, a bored cat was looking on). So pay close attention, as I start to play with myself.
The two units clash.......
...... with real dice!

ROUND 1: White Scars
In the shooting phase, the White Scars bikers opened up on their Ravenwing brothers. They caused an average of 9 hits and 3 wounds in the shooting phase, but the black riders saved all their wounds. In the assault, the Grim Resolve special rule gave the Ravenwing an average of 6 overwatch hits and one wound (which again is saved by the armour).
After crashing into the Ravenwing, the White Scars hammer of wrath caused 3 wounds, killing one Ravenwing biker. They followed up with an average of 5 hits, causing 2 wounds and killing one Ravenwing biker. In return, the Ravenwing caused an average of 2 hits, one wound and killing one White Scar.

With the White Scars shooting and assaulting, the result was one dead White Scar biker and two dead Ravenwing bikers.

ROUND 2: Ravenwing
In the Ravenwing's turn to attack, their shooting gave an average of 8 hits and gave an average of 3 wounds! (my rolling was on fire for the Ravenwing). This time, one of the White Scars bikers was slain by the bolter fire.
In assault, the overwatch fire from the White Scars gave an average of 3 hits, with an average of one wound and one dead Ravenwing biker. The Hammer of Wrath hits from the Ravenwing gave a great average of 3 wounds, killing 1 White Scar. The Ravenwing then strike, causing an average of 5 hits and 2 wounds, killing one of the bikers. The White Scars strike back, causing 1 hit on average and one wound, which is saved by the Ravenwing.

With the Ravenwing shooting and assaulting, the result was 3 dead White Scars bikers and one dead Ravenwing.

So from the real life, live rounds test, the Ravenwing again come out ahead of the White Scars!

The Grim Resolve overwatch rule helped to double the number of overwatch hits that the Ravenwing got compared to the White Scars. This didn't result in any additional wounds, but against less tough, poorer armoured foes, the casualties could mount up from assaulting the Ravenwing.

There you have it, the Ravenwing just edge out the White Scars when it comes to the Space Marines elite biker units. Did the result go the way you were expecting? Any disagreements with my category winners?


  1. I like how they gave each army a different attitude. With Scars feeling more aggressive with Skilled Rider and improved Hammer of Wrath getting them in your face quick and Hit and Run letting them do it again (did they already have that?). That and being cheaper so they can take more models. While Raven wing feel more defensive. Relying on their reroll Jink, Stubborn and improved over watch in addition to their synergy with death wing (teleport homers). I feel like both can hold their heads high as being strong until it comes to objective secured. I'm afraid the just wont have the firepower to push opponents off of objectives. Maybe grav will prove me wrong. I will withhold judgment until I've played a few games but my gut says its a big deal.

    1. I completely agree with you, I think objective secured is a game winner in this edition. I have had so many games where this special rule has brought me victory or denied my opponent points, and I wish the Ravewing had been able to keep it.

      I've never thought about the different attitudes before, its an interesting point. The White scars do seem more geared towards combat (and they have always had hit and run under chapter tactics). However, I have found that unless you have a tooled up character or at least a power weapon/fist in the unit, they don't cause a great deal of damage in combat.

  2. Nice post! What do you think about "having to use your best save available"? People say that for the RW, 3+ Save is better than 4+ jink, even though you may re-roll it... That eould take away one of the RW's abilities...

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      I would say that the Ravenwing Jink save is still better. A 3+ save has a 67% chance of success (two thirds of time), while a 4+ re-roll has a 75% chance of success (50% chance of saving, with half of the failed saves being saved on the re-roll, so a further 25% of wounds saved, giving a total of 75% saved wounds, if you get what I am trying to say). So overall, a 4+ re-roll has a higher chance of saving than a 3+ save on average.

      However, if you use the Jink you are then having to fire snap shots. It would depend on the situation. For example, if I needed the Ravenwing to stay alive to claim an objective, I would probably go with the Jink to give me the best chance of surviving. If I needed the unit to shoot in the next turn and I was not getting hit with AP1-3 weapons, I would probably go with the armour save to allow me to fire to full effect in the next turn. In most cases, I think saving the wounds would be more important than shooting, so if I was facing guns that would ignore the armour save, I would probably Jink rather than hope that enough bikers survived to be able to fire my special weapons in the next turn.

      Add in the buffs that Ravenwing can get from skilled rider and the Darkshroud, and the Jink re-roll gets even better. Black Knights with a Darkshroud will get a 2+ re-rollable save when they Jink. It's going to take a lot of firepower to get through that!

    2. Thanx for your quick response! I definately agree on the math you did there, there's no way to deny that hehe. What I really wanted to point out to you is that I see people say all over the internet that unless your RW bike is wounded by an AP1-2-3 weapon, you are FORCED to use your armor save, as 3+ (Armor) is better than 4+ (Jink), although it's obvious that thanks to the re-roll, the jinking is better. But they say it's the save what counts, not the re-rolls made after.
      This, though, wouldn't apply to the Black Knights, as their Skilled Rider makes their jink saves equal to their armour save (3+). In this case, jinking would be the easy choice, thanks to the ravenwing rule.
      Have you seen people say this too?

    3. Sorry for spelling out the math again, I wasn't sure about the question as I have never heard of a rule or occasion where you are being FORCED to take your best save. I can see no rule where you have to take your best save (though in most cases you would choose this).

      Under the 'Models with more than one save' rule it states "a model only ever gets to make one saving throw, but it has the advantage of always using the best available save". If you have multiple saving throws, you are allowed to choose one. You could choose your worst saving throw if you really wanted! As I said, I have never seen anything in the rules that forces you to take your best save (which is this case would still be the Jink save) and have never played anyone who tried to do this. If you have an opponent that is doing this, I think they have made a mistake in interpreting the rules somewhere.

  3. Excellent post. I like your method of comparison.

    Unfortunately, I still am split about which codex to base my successor chapter on. I currently run 29 bikes total: chapter master, command squad/apothecary/standard, chaplain, librarian, 3 attack bikes, 3 vet sergeants, 3 bikes w/ flamers, and 12 vanilla bikes. I could easily form as RW or WS.

    Objective secured, +1s HoW, no dangerous terrain checks, Chapter Tactics, and 5/4 combat squad split versus 2BS Overwatch, better Jink, "free" teleport homers, plasma talons and 2/2/1 combat squad split.

    My gut feeling is to go with White Scars (my bikes don't have plasma talons) with objective secured. I think I'll have to test play under both codex to get a real feel for this.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, I hope it was helpful with you decision.

      I have only played one game so far with the new Ravenwing, but I can tell you, the durability of the Black Knights has improved dramatically with the re-roll (with a Darkshroud, they are practically invincible!). I am still torn between the two armies, though fortunately, I already have both. Objective secured is a big deal for the White Scars and I feel this will give them the edge in a lot of missions.

      I like the Ravenwing command too. The banner gives an automatic pass to hit and run rolls, something that cannot be discounted. I've had a few games where this crucial roll has been failed and others where it has won me the game.

      Until the Ravenwing strike force formation is fixed, you will need Sammael to run an all Ravenwing force and will be unable to field any other characters.