That is one big bird…

Roc
Image is borrowed from Genzoman over at deviantart.com

The Shaltari have been a topic of much debate and concern all over the place. Mostly because of the gate mechanics they are able to accomplish some things that no other faction is capable of. I don’t want to talk about that, I want to talk about the Roc of the Shaltari fleet: the Gaia.

There is much lamenting and dismissal of this gargantuan hole in the sky, but can it offer something to the Shaltari ground forces.

What can it do?

For its mass, the Gaia is a much cheaper option than the Eden, which seems awesome at first. It can transport as much as three Edens in each activation, and two Gaias only cost 17 points more than three Edens. This can be an incredible boon if you need to transport a large group of Vehicles across the map.

The Gaia is also fairly durable with 5 damage points and, just like the rest of the little space hedgehogs, a passive save of 5+. This opens up the ability to fly into enemy AA towards the end of the game to drop units to grab a focal point. If the Gaia still has full health, it can often survive AA from one or even two vehicles. I would still avoid flying at a full squad of Rapiers, Kukris, of Helios.

Lastly, if you have a smaller battlegroup, say one of your Jaguars was destroyed or you have a group that has a total mass of 6, the Gaia still works. You don’t actually need to use the gate value of 9 for the Gaia to be useful every turn.

What is it missing?

Despite these advantages, the Gaia has a few things that make it less than ideal. While one Gaia is much cheaper than three Edens, it is also less flexible. Each gate can be activated once each turn. This means that the Gaia has one activation, while three Edens can be spread out over three different activations and thus, three different battlegroups. Edens are also able to spread their DP out over more units, although if we look at the point values, two Gaias for 152 points clock in at 10 DP and 3 Edens at 135 come out to 9DP. Really, they are very close and in some situations the Gaia has the advantage, and in others a group of Edens does.

Even though it is durable, the Gaia only has armor four, so if your passive rolls are not great, the Gaia can drop pretty quickly.

It is also slow. With a speed of 15” many players may think,” that’s not very slow for a heavy dropship.” In a faction about mobility and planning, 15” and 7” for an activation in which something materialized or dematerialized, the Gaia can be quite limiting.

How can it be used?

At 1500 point tournament level play, the Gaia seems to be too unwieldy. I have used one with a brick before, but the brick becomes stationary, which is not really the point of Shaltari. That being said, one Gaia, if played carefully, can be quite potent.

It is worth noting at this point that I like fastmovers and I usually take one in my lists. If you don’t like them, you don’t have to take one. It is also worthy of note that a Gaia is more resistant to fastmovers. It is possible for an Athena to take down a Gaia in one attack run, but if a player is rolling that well, you may just want to give up and play somebody else.

Is One Gaia Enough?
Clash: 1498/1500 points
Standard Army
Standard Roster [1498/1500 pts]
Gate Group [286 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Eden Gates: Eden [45 pts]
Eden Gates: Eden [45 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Court of Elders [205 pts]
Coyote: Coyote(Warchief) [205 pts]
Swordpoint [228 pts]
Tomahawk Squad: 3x Tomahawk [114 pts]
Tomahawk Squad: 3x Tomahawk [114 pts]
Warrior Clan [120 pts]
Braves: 2x Braves [70 pts]
Totem: Totem [50 pts]
Speartip [246 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Yari Squad: 2x Yari(+Light Ion Cannon) [54 pts]
Warfist [305 pts]
Dreamsnare: Dreamsnare [85 pts]
Jaguar Squad: 2x Jaguar [220 pts]
Arrowhead [108 pts]
Warspear Squad: Warspear [108 pts]

In this list, the Gaia and the brick function independently of the rest of the list. Once the brick is deployed, it won’t really move much. You can potentially use the Gaia and the Edens to move one squad at a time, but it will be difficult. By the same token, the Gaia can contribute to the mobility of the Tomahawks or the Coyote, as long as it doesn’t need to do anything with the brick that turn.

Two Bricks Two Cups
Clash: 1498/1500 points
Standard Army
Standard Roster [1496/1500 pts]
Gate Group [272 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Court of Elders [395 pts]
Coyote: Coyote(Warchief) [205 pts]
Ocelot Squad: 2x Ocelot [190 pts]
Swordpoint [110 pts]
Tarantula Squad: 2x Tarantula [110 pts]
Warrior Clan [70 pts]
Braves: 2x Braves [70 pts]
Speartip [236 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Yari Squad: 2x Yari(+Microwave Gun) [44 pts]
Warfist [305 pts]
Dreamsnare: Dreamsnare [85 pts]
Jaguar Squad: 2x Jaguar [220 pts]
Arrowhead [108 pts]
Warspear Squad: Warspear [108 pts]

On the other hand, if you want two Gaias, it is worth making more than one battlegroup that has a mass of 9. In this case, that battle group is the Court of Elders with the Coyote and two Ocelots. Typically, that group can sit on the back line and knock down buildings until the last couple of turns of the game.

This list will be tough to play, I think even harder to use than the list with one Gaia, because losing even one gate will cripple the list. It is also nearly impossible to be unpredictable, because there are only two gates capable of materializing anything other than scouts and infantry.

This list is also much lighter on anti-air than I feel comfortable with. With no Totem or Yaris shlepping ion cannons, this list will be at the mercy of a Phoenix and its ilk.

Tunahawks, Attack!
Clash: 1489/1500 points
Standard Army
Standard Roster [1489/1500 pts]
Gate Group [272 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Court of Elders [171 pts]
Coyote: Coyote(Elder) [171 pts]
Swordpoint [342 pts]
Tomahawk Squad: 9x Tomahawk [342 pts]
Warrior Clan [120 pts]
Totem: Totem [50 pts]
Braves: 2x Braves [70 pts]
Speartip [246 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Yari Squad: 2x Yari(+Light Ion Cannon) [54 pts]
Warfist [230 pts]
Caiman Squad: Caiman [95 pts]
Kukri Squad: 3x Kukri [135 pts]
Arrowhead [108 pts]
Warspear Squad: Warspear [108 pts]

I don’t know how well this one would work, but I’m building on the idea of the Scourge with their Hunter swarm. This has a swarm of Tunahawks! (it is a colloquial name to represent the worthless feeling that a player gets when deploying Tomahawks and realizing that they kind of suck.) With the Gaias, the main battle tank swarm takes on a new twist, it can take advantage of Shaltari gate shenanigans! The Tomahawks can be deployed on the table as a feint, forcing an opponent to deal with it, and the jump via Gaias to the other flank, creating a problematic situation for your opponent. Copious AA can stop this trick and strand the rest of your list very quickly though, leaving your Totem relatively useless.

Even More Points

Lately, I have been playing games at 2000 points, and it opens up some options for using the Gaia. I’m not sure if it actually increases the efficiency of the gates or not, because it is difficult to make seven battlegroups with mass nine in most of them. Something like this:

Gaias!
Battle: 1999/2000 points
Standard Army
Standard Roster [1999/2000 pts]
Gate Group [433 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Gaia: Gaia [76 pts]
Eden Gates: Eden [45 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Spirit Gates: Spirit [40 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Haven: Haven [20 pts]
Court of Elders [345 pts]
Gharial: Gharial(High Warchief) [250 pts]
Caiman Squad: Caiman [95 pts]
Swordpoint [249 pts]
Tomahawk Squad: 3x Tomahawk [114 pts]
Kukri Squad: 3x Kukri [135 pts]
Swordpoint [110 pts]
Tarantula Squad: 2x Tarantula [110 pts]
Warrior Clan [120 pts]
Braves: 2x Braves [70 pts]
Totem: Totem [50 pts]
Speartip [359 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Firstborns: 2x Firstborns [96 pts]
Yari Squad: Yari(+Light Ion Cannon), 2x Yari(+Microwave Gun) [71 pts]
Warfist [275 pts]
Dreamsnare: Dreamsnare [85 pts]
Ocelot Squad: Ocelot [95 pts]
Ocelot Squad: Ocelot [95 pts]
Arrowhead [108 pts]
Warspear Squad: Warspear [108 pts]

The Court of Elders, one of the Swordpoints, and the Warfist all fit within the Gaia and each group is fairly potent. The Eden can help move one unit around, the commander or the Dreamsnare if needed.

The Gaias are also useful for the infantry because one Gaia can drop Braves via Havens along with the Totem to make grabbing an objective much easier and safer. One Gaia can also potentially drop the Yaris and all of the Firstborns into one area if need be.

This army does suffer from the Gaia’s relatively short movement speed, but with three Gaias, they can be spread around the board to pull reinforcements almost anywhere that they are needed. Getting to an objective at the center of the table does require use of the Spirit gates, which can leave parts of your army vulnerable to fast movers or scouts.

Conclusions

I need to play around more with them to really find the value in Gaias, although I would need to buy a third to do so. I suspect that the Gaia will remain rarely seen in most tournaments because of its limitations, although it does present an enticing option when employing a brick, or a school of tuna.

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One thought on “That is one big bird…

  1. I’ve come around on the ole Tunahawks. Their demo capabilities have me favoring them over Tarantula currently.
    My Gaia is painted but has never been deployed, I suppose I should change that, but I can never find a list with it that gets me excited. The Eden shell game is my fav.

    Like

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