Your friendly neighborhood Billyjoeray here. It’s been a little while since I’ve been ’round these parts and I had a hankering to talk some DzC shop! Today I would like to discuss what I am going to call “classifying your AA’s role” for lack of a better term.
We all know what AA (anti-aircraft) is and what role it plays in your army, in that it’s your only method of dealing with aircraft. There are two main types of AA units, which are better for different things based on their stats and characteristics. I’m going to call these “Aggressive AA” and “Defensive AA” and in my humblest opinion, I think a list is not very well rounded unless it contains elements of both.
Defining the Roles:
Aggressive AA can generally be characterized as being mounted on a chassis with a high movement value. These units often (but not always), come packaged with a weapon that has limited usefulness when used for Reaction Fire as well. Examples of these are all the Fast Movers, the Scourge Reaper, Resistance Lifthawks with guns upgrade, Shaltari Kukri, PHR Helios, UCM Starsprite Drones, etc. These units are much better utilized seeking out and destroying enemy aircraft during your activation than they are with reaction fire. This is usually for different reasons based on the pros and cons of each unit/weapon, but that’s not to say that some of the ones that are more generalized are still viable options to use in the other type of AA role, Defensive AA.
Defensive AA usually comes packaged on slow moving but really tough chassis, has long range and several shots per unit. These units tend to provide you with an “AA Bubble” which can protect your other units from enemy gunships and Fast Movers via Reaction Fire. Units like the Shaltari Jaguar, PHR Phobos, Resistance Zhukovs, UCM Rapier and Scourge Ravagers are all good examples of Defensive AA units.
When building a list, it’s important to bring AA (obviously) but it’s also important to make sure you bring AA that is going to fill the role that you need it to. If you only bring Aggressive AA units, you will be hard pressed to defend yourself against enemy air units, like FMs, since you will have a small reaction fire radius that can be more easily avoided. Conversely, if you bring only Defensive AA, you will not have the capability to destroy enemy aircraft that do not stray into your AA bubble, like Light Dropships escaping with objectives.
Building the List:
The best way to balance a list is to include elements of both and to also ensure that they are grouped into the battle group that will allow them to do their job! I have made some suggestions for what I, personally, have had most success with at 1500 points below.
Typically for an all-comer’s list, I want to include at least 2-3 Defensive AA weapons, to protect your vulnerable units and to establish an AA bubble. Up to 5 Defensive weapons can be used if your army is heavily focused on dominating the ground, like most PHR armies are, or you’re utilizing a castling type strategy. Any more than 5 defensive AA weapons is a bit excessive though, because it will tend to be overkill unless your meta features a very large amount of gunships/FMs.
A list without Aggressive AA will really struggle in objective based missions, or against armies that utilize heavy gunships. Aggressive AA is necessary to run down enemy dropships (especially objective carrying light dropships) to limit your opponent’s mobility and to score killpoints. They are also extremely useful for taking out enemy gunships before they have a chance to target your ground units. I think that at least one unit of 2-3 Aggressive AA weapons is a good spot to be at, but up to 4 is also acceptable, especially if spread out amongst 2 or more squads. Any more than 4 tends to take too many points away from your other Anti-Tank (AT) units, which are a necessity. Just like with Defensive AA, if you bring a lot of Aggressive AA, you may run out of viable air targets and will be left with a mostly useless unit that is relatively ineffective against ground units. This can be addressed by taking units with the ability to fulfill multiple battlefield roles, such as the Jaguar, Helios, or Zhukov (which can be absolutely devastating to skimmers)! This will give you more options once your AA targets become light or untenable.
Wrapping it all up:
If you take these suggestions into account, you should end up with about 6-8 AA weapons, split about 50/50 between Defensive and Aggressive, spread out between about 3-4 units. In 1500 points, this will likely be about 1/3 of your army, but if you take into account that about ⅓-½ of their army will be some kind of air unit as well, it makes perfect sense. With both the Aggressive and Defensive AA bases covered you can rest assured that your list will be able to counter any type of air based threat and you can spend the rest of your points on the other necessities, like Objective Scorers (troops and exotics) and Anti-Tank units. If you neglect or skimp on one of these types of AA, you may end up in a situation where you lack the tools necessary to counter a particular type of air threat, which may cost you the game in the long run.