Now, I hear a lot of good advice coming from the folks that like to build lists and help people out. One thing we agree on is that its good to have a cheap HQ option that has force-multiplication abilities of some kind (this is why I love my lone Kustom Force Field Big Mek for my HQ).
When it comes to Space Marines, the Librarian is great HQ buy. He’s cheap at only 100 points base. He has a force weapon and psychic defense. He also has access to several powers.
Now, for some reason, everyone has been brainwashed to think that Null Zone is a must-take on this guy.
What is Null Zone? Well, here’s a quote of its entry on page 57 of the Space Marine Codex.
“This power is used at the start of the Librarian’s Shooting phase. All enemy units within 24″ of the Librarian must re-roll successful invulnerable saves for the remainder of the player turn.”
Whoopidy. Freaking. Do.
Pop Quiz, how many units do you face on a normal basis that have invulnerable saves that you are worried about?
Terminators with storm shields.
Wolf Lords on Thunderwolf cavalry with storm shields.
Thunderwolf cavalry with storm shields.
Archons with Shadowfields.
Seer council with fortune.
Next question. How many armies do you face off against that are mechanized shooty list with no, or virtually no invul saves?
Razorspam (of all three flavors).
Here’s the real question though, how many of the units that have good invulnerable saves don’t have better armor saves?
Fateweaver. (Also, the units he makes so meaty, Bloodcrushers, have a 3+ armor save)
Essentially, unless you are blasting low AP weaponry at this foe, odds are still best that torrenting will bring these targets down as if you didn’t even have Null Zone. Or, to put it another way, why does your rifleman dread care if you have Null Zone up if he’s shooting at TH/SS terminators?
Lets look at each of those cases where an invul is good and see what Null Zone adds to the equation.
Thunderhammer/Stormshield Terminators: If you’re shooting something AP2/1 you up the chances that the wound gets through by 22.2%. That’s a significant bump; meaning that it’ll take 3-4 BS4 meltagun shots to kill one guy instead of 5-6 shots. Or, two las/plas razors should kill one terminator without Null Zone ~25% chance to kill per shot), and 1-2 las/plas razors should kill one terminator with Null Zone (~41% chance to kill per shot). Hmmmm. There just isn’t THAT much difference in Null Zone and non-Null Zone in these situations. It’s still probably the best bet to just fire ~18 bolters shots to down a single terminator. Either that, or ~11 Hellfire rounds from a Sternguard unit. And in either case, it doesn’t matter whether Null Zone is there or not.
Wolf Lord on Thunderwolf Mount with Stormshield and Thunderwolf cavalry: The stats for how many shots you need to hit and wound here are the same as above with regards to melta shots and las/plas. The thunderwolf cavalry is just rifleman fodder in this regard since the invul save is the same as the armor save, so Null Zone is pointless. The Wolf Lord is a bit tougher as he should be rocking a 2+ save as well. In this situation, the Null Zone’s advantage is highly preferrable since bolter torrenting isn’t as useful since the Lord is T5; requiring ~27 bolter shots to put a single wound on him. Still only takes ~11 Hellfire rounds from the sternguard.
Archons with Shadowfields: Well, considering that the re-roll makes the fail rate jump from 16.7% to 30.4%, that’s pretty solid. But, considering that this save can be negated after the first fail, its a much stronger strategy to to torrent wounds on the Archon and force lots of saves so he’ll fail and then die easily.
JetSeer Council with fortune: Before we jump into the numbers here, I want to talk about what happens when you have a power that makes you re-roll failures colliding with one that makes you re-roll successes. Essentially, you re-roll the whole roll; and, statistically speaking, two rolls have nothing to do with each other and are statistically identical; therefore you should just roll once, since the dice will not “remember” the previous roll. I just had to get that off my chest.
Now, two more points with this scenario. One, Odds are, if you are in range to use Null Zone, odds are the enemy was in range of your psychic hood. Odds are good that, without even doing anything, you have an inbuilt way of messing up this tactic. The psychic hood you have on give you about a 42% chance of stopping fortune outright. Two, on the flipside, odds are that the perfidious Eldar has brought along Runes of Warding on him, making your attempt at casting Null Zone more difficult as well. Exactly 50% of your attempts will fail.
What do those two points have to do with anything? Well, the point is that Null Zone isn’t really a guarantee in this situation like it normally would be (because of Runes of Warding), so if you set yourself up to take advantage of a Null Zone cast (positioning plasma-backs for double taps for instance) and it fails, you’re not going to be in an optimal position. It also means that since you already have a way of dealing with fortune built into your librarian, Null Zone isn’t nearly as sparkling since you get similar results without it. Essentially, 50% of the time, bringing Null Zone is as statistically significant as not bringing Null Zone.
This situation gets tricky since we should envision the four possible scenarios that can happen here: Null Zone goes off and Fortune doesn’t; Null Zone goes off and Fortune does; Null Zone doesn’t go off and Fortune doesn’t; Null Zone doesn’t go off and Fortune does.
The raw saves for each are (via dirty stats):
1. NZ+/F-: 66.7% from armor and 25% from invul
2. NZ+/F+: 88.9% from armor and 50% from invul
3. NZ-/F-: 66.7% from armor and 50% from invul
4. NZ-/F+: 88.9% from armor and 75% from invul
Lets look at those situations with different types of firepower working against them. The number represents the average number of shots needed to get a wound through the saves.
vs Bolter Hellfire Meltagun t/l plasma-
1. 9 5-6 2-3 1-2
2. 27 16 4 3
3. 9 5-6 4 3
4. 27 16 7 5-6
Stopping fortune is a huge deal in this situation because it ups the saves on the armor AND the invulnerable; but Null Zone only effects one of those, and you have the psychic hood regardless.
If you don’t bring Null Zone, you’ll still be in situation 3 42% of the time, which means that you can still torrent them down in those cases. For AP1,2, & 3, situations 2 and 3 are identical, so really, if you’re shooting low AP shots, Null ZOne is only important 21% of the time and then only offers about a 1 to 2 shot advantage over not bringing Null Zone.
So, while Null Zone certainly helps deal with this situation, it isn’t that big of an edge because you can’t always get it off, and the enemy’s invul save only gets a boost 58% of the time and that is irrelevant of whether you brought Null Zone or not.
Fateweaver and friends: Now, on the surface, the Fateweaver situation is very similar to that of the Eldar above as he is causing re-rolls and Null Zone would shut them down. However, his ability is passive and he doesn’t have any anti-psyker stuff so it becomes much more straight forward.
This is probably your best-case scenario for Null Zone as the entire Daemon list has invul saves and wants to come at you. With Fateweaver, those saves become pretty rugged (a 5+ re-rollable save, saves roughly 55.5% of wounds).
However, the kicker here is that Fateweaver’s ability works for cover saves and armor saves as well. If the daemons are getting cover, Null Zone is meaningless. If the deamons have better, or equivalent armor, then Null Zone is meaningless.
As I’ve mentioned before, snagging cover in 5th edition is easy, and I’d be amazed if the daemon player was unable to get cover. As well, the most common unit brought with Fateweaver are Blood Crushers, whose 3+ armor save presents the same issues as the seer-bikes above, but in a T5 package. Again, Null Zone has no effect here, and the middling advantages of changing a 55.5% chance down to a 33.3% chance aren’t that apparent when firing low numbers of low AP shots (it takes 2-3 krak missiles instead of 4 on average to get a wound through).
So, those are the units that Null Zone is best suited for, and we see that in each situation, the advantage is certainly there, but not terribly pronounced.
Consider now all the armies you’d fight against and all the units that have no invulnerable saves. And how your chosen power is essentially worthless in all those situations.
When you look at all that, you realize that Null Zone is very situational,and even in the situations it is good at, the advantages it offers aren’t so spectacular that you’d feel you need it.
In summation, I think Null Zone is a fine power, but I think its highly overrated and over-hyped. I don’t consider it, must-have by any means.
The only power in the Space Marine codex I think is non-negotiable is Machine Curse. There is only one army that has NO vehicles in it (Daemons at least have soul grinders) and with the way 5th edition is playing out, vehicles are so common that having a power that automatically effects them cannot be underestimated. Its a great suppression skill and has great range. I like it and either Gate of Infinity for late-game objective shenanigans or else Might of the Ancients. I’m also a big fan of Vortex of Doom on a librarian on a bike in a unit. You get relentless, and the speed to move up and use its short-range effectively. As well, should you hit yourself, you can put the hit on someone else in the squad. Avenger is also a great power. The rest of them I think are just middling choices at best.