Spotlight: Helldivers (2015)

In the very beginning of what would become The Overseer, I wrote something resembling a spotlight on the Helldiver. Four years later I’m having trouble finding an up to date article on them, which is rather strange considering the absolutely stunning ways this little machine can affect a game.

Not much to look at.

Since I couldn’t find a recent article I decided on doing one myself, and the more I think about the Helldiver the more spectacular it becomes. Without much further ado I would like to introduce you, or reintroduce you, to the king of burrowing, the master of correctly applied pressure, and the assassin of the unwary…


Landsharks of the Iron Kingdom


The Helldiver is not a main battle jack, but a tool we use to apply pressure, manipulate the battlefield, or kill the enemy caster in the late stages of a long game. It has average stats across the board, but average is pretty darn good when you consider the three point price tag.

The key to all the interesting plays is of course the burrow ability. The Helldiver advances and performs a special action, after which you place the burrow marker in base contact with the model, and remove the Helldiver from the table.

This means that during the other players turn the Helldiver simply isn’t there. There’s not a spell he can cast, not a gun he can shoot, and preventing it from resurfacing is all but impossible without running in a huge based model.

Burrow: This method of movement is actually slightly faster than running, keeps the Helldiver safe, and doesn’t even require focus. The only way to prevent a Helldiver from resurfacing is completely blocking the rather large area in which in can resurface, which requires either a huge base or a silly amount of other models. In the four years I’ve been using Helldivers I’ve never had a Helldiver killed like that.

When the Helldiver resurfaces it can be placed within three inches of the burrow marker. The Helldiver then adds his base size (1.57 inches), his charge range (8 inches), and his melee range (0.5 inches) to the effective range, ending up with no less than thirteen inches of threat from the burrow marker.

It’s easier to think of the burrow marker as the center of a huge circle in which the Helldiver operates. You choose the facing and placement when the Helldiver resurfaces, so charging sideways or even backwards is no problem at all, which can facilitate some very interesting plays.


Psychological warfare


The main purpose of a Helldiver isn’t actually killing things. It’s not that the Helldiver can’t kill things, but the second you dedicate the Helldiver to a kill you lose out on the most important thing the Helldiver brings to the game: uncertainty and threat.

Every single turn that burrow marker just lays there on the table, mocking your opponent, making him question every move he makes, and if he makes the wrong move the Helldiver will make good on it’s threats, and either kill something really important, or enable a game changing move.

Numbers: I usually bring two Helldivers when I field them, as I feel the added threat and uncertainty more than doubles with the second one. The sheer number of potential threat vectors an opponent has to consider is staggering when you bring two, and in the late game a Helldiver tag-team can either bring down most casters, or force them to camp.

I’ve spoken to several opponents, and been on the receiving end a few times, and the psychological effect of having two invulnerable death-missiles moving slowly but surely towards your caster, or prime target, is nothing to scoff at.


Wham, bam, slam you man!


The Helldivers have a gazillion tricks up their sleeves. The only drawback is that every trick they can do requires focus, and lots of it due to their average stats. This is another reason you don’t usually dedicate the Helldivers unless the right moment has come, because being burrowed means having them affect the game without spending focus on them.

  • Slam

The Helldiver is one of the best slammers in the game. You get to choose the placement when it resurfaces, which means that you can get exactly the angle you want, and it can slam from thirteen inches away. It requires one focus to perform the slam, and usually another focus to boost the hit. Remember that you can slam a large base, but you will take a penalty to hit (-2) and only slam it half the distance.

  • Head-Butt

Sometimes a slam isn’t possible, either because you can’t get the three inch range you need to slam, or because you risk slamming the opponent out of range. Head-Butt is limited to ten inch threat from the burrow marker, and large based models are off limits, but the nonlinear movement means it can often get in where a slam can’t.

  • Kill

If you brought two Helldivers you can tag-team a target, where one Helldiver knocks it down and the other one bites it’s face off. The Helldiver might not hit like a truck, but a fully loaded Helldiver can land either four power thirteen hits, or two boosted ones, and that’s without taking buffs/debuffs into consideration.


Who’s your daddy?


You don’t often see Helldivers running around in high level tournaments, with the notable exceptions of the one that turned up to enable Aphyxious2 assassination runs when he got nerfed again, and the two that seem to follow Skarre1 around like trained dogs, but I’ve been using them with several different casters over the years.

  • Asphyxious1

A couple of Helldivers actually enable a lot of plays here. Asphyxious1 cannot increase the accuracy of his army, so when something absolutely needs to die he sends in a Helldiver to knock it down first. The Helldiver team is deadly with him as well, as one knocks the target down and the other inflicts four power eighteen hits with Parasite and Scything Touch.

  • Asphyxious2

The last nerf to his feat made it way harder to get Tartarus in on the assassination run, and without Tartarus those Bane Knights won’t connect with a high defense target, unless said target happens to be knocked flat on it’s face by a surprise Helldiver attack.

  • Asphyxious3

I’ve been using two with him for a while now and it rocks. The Mobility spell increases the Helldiver range to fifteen inches, Carnage allows them to hit what they want, and Scything Touch makes them hit hard enough to bring down most casters. The downside is, that doing it all at once requires more focus than he has available, so it requires some additional souls or a Blood Boon proc.

In addition the little guys can benefit greatly from a first turn casting of Mobility, allowing them two more inches of movement in the first turn. Asphyxious3 fake-charging with mobility up, only moves one inch less than he would do while running, and the two additional inches means that the Helldivers can often engage a turn earlier than normal.

  • Deneghra2

While not as immediately obvious, the Helldivers actually synergize well with her. It’s not a power combination like with some of the other casters, but it does add to the whole theme of not letting the enemy do anything to your list. I ran them several times with Wrong Eye & Snapjaw, to complete the whole ‘you can’t hurt me, and you can’t move either’ theme.

  • Goreshade3 (by popular demand)

It appears that several readers enjoy Helldivers with Goreshade3, so I took another look. Infernal Machine adds some speed to the little guys, and of course the added accuracy allows them to more reliably perform a variety of their favorite tasks.

The Helldivers also allow Goreshade3 a more reliable spell assassination, in case of cold immune opponents or if he had to spend his feat on something else. Finally there’s the option for ‘dread-diving’. Infernal Machine adds Terror to the Helldiver, which it can inflict on a model/unit, and then burrow, effectively giving you a free chance at breaking something.

  • Mortenebra

The queen of Helldivers. No Mortenebra list is complete without two Helldivers, as Terminal Velocity makes them accurate enough to slam without boosting, and allows them to slam for free, AND adds another two inches of threat to the slams. Most of these benefits only apply to living targets, but the free slam still works against non-living models.

  • Skarre1

Skarre usually brings two Helldivers in top level tournament lists. The combination of Dark Guidance, full focus, and Skarres feat makes them downright silly powerful. If two of them get in on something, they can land up to eight power eighteen hits on it, hitting most Warcasters on better than average dice, which equals four or five hits total.


Tough as nails


One thing I haven’t really talked about is the surprising durability of the Helldiver. It rarely comes into play directly, because the Helldiver is protected underground until it strikes, but if you’re playing a caster that cannot Ghost Walk it, or simply can’t find the resources on the important turn, you might end up taking a free strike or two.

The Helldivers defense won’t hold up to a free strike, though it’s not a guaranteed hit, and it’s armor won’t hold up to the boosted damage either, but luckily the Necrotech who designed the Helldiver knew what he was doing, because the grid is amazing.

  1. It takes eleven damage here to disable the head.
  2. It takes fifteen damage here to disable the cortex.
  3. It takes fifteen damage here to disable movement.
  4. It takes eleven damage here to disable movement.
  5. It takes eighteen damage here to disable the head.
  6. It takes fourteen damage here to disable the head.

Unless the free strike inflicts at least 26 points of damage the Helldiver will simply shrug it off, and unless he lands that damage in column one or four the damage has to be significantly higher. I’m not recommending that you go around tanking free strikes willy-nilly, but it’s nice to know that most models have to roll really well to stop a Helldiver from getting to where it wants to be.

In a prolonged fight the Helldiver will suffer. The defense is high enough to cause a miss or two, and low powered attacks will have a hard time chewing through armor fifteen with 22 boxes, but anything that can actually fight will take down the Helldiver without breaking a sweat, and the Helldiver can’t retaliate without draining your precious focus.


Dirt Dolphin cheap


I’ve said a couple of times already, but I’ll say it once more to really drive the point home. The Helldiver is insanely cheap, comparable in price to most of our solo characters, which makes it super expendable on top of everything else it can do.


Baaa-aaaad humor is bad.

If you need a Colossal to stay put then block his path with a Helldiver. If you need a solo character killed then your Helldiver is comparable in cost, and I’ve even used one as ammunition for a throw once. If you’re not using him to threaten and bully the enemy, then go on and do something silly, get him killed, hell you can kill him yourself and use the wreck for cover… who cares he’s only three points.


The final conclusion


It’s no big surprise that I find the Helldivers a spectacular addition to the Cryx arsenal, and a full third of our casters can benefit greatly from them. I don’t think I can accurately convey the terror you can inflict simply by moving two burrow markers ever closer to his precious caster, and every once in a while they even get to act on their threats.

Tagged as: , , , ,

19 Responses »

  1. been looking at adding one of these to an army I’m currently collecting.
    your article has convinced me to grab a helldiver for the iron lich now.
    good stuff

    • One is fine and useful, but the second one really enables their late game assassination with Asphyxious1 (especially if you keep your feat, or manage to land Parasite on the caster the turn before) :)

  2. I’m missing Goreshade3 in the list of casters.
    Feat, Infernal Machine (+2″ thread- or burrowrange) and Scything Touch (+2 dmg) do things ;-)

    • I think Goreshade3 has enough trouble fitting what he wants in the lists already :)

      • I find he works with many things. Unlike Scaverous I had no trouble building interesting lists with him.
        Auto-hitting Helldivers with P+S15 or SPD7 are fun and underlines the assassination-potential of Goreshade3.

      • I agree that Goreshade already has a hard time fitting a lot of stuff in but this is mostly the case when he takes the Kraken.

        If I play Shade3 w/o the Kraken I’m going to bring the helldivers for sure. One of the thing I like about that Kraken in Shade3’s list is that you can easily slam/powerstrike a target to knock down the caster when it is immune to cold. And the helldivers fill this role quite nicely as well.

  3. Hi we’re the witch coven of garlghast and want to know why you no mention us bro?

  4. 16.03.2015 – Added a note about using Mobility the first turn with Asphyxious3.

  5. Hey Lamoron! Been reading your blog since I started playing Warmahordes a couple of years ago (starting with your spotlight on pDenny on the old blog just after I’d picked up the Cryx Battle Box.)
    Anyway, I’m going to be attending the Welsh Masters in May and have finally decided to make the leap from pDenny to eDenny. I’ve been reading back through all your articles on her and have put together this list based on that and my experience of the game to date.
    Was hoping to get your opinion!

    Wraith Witch Deneghra
    – Skarlock Thrall
    – Nightwretch
    – Nightwretch
    – Helldiver
    – Helldiver

    Wrong Eye & Snapjaw

    Master Gunner Dougal MacNaile

    Lord Rockbottom

    Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist

    Pistol Wraith

    Warwitch Siren

    Machine Wraith

    (max) Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters

    The Withershadow Combine

    The Devil’s Shadow Mutineers

    • That looks fun! I probably need to see the other list if I’m to evaluate the setup as a whole, but the only negative thing that comes to mind right now is ‘could use some more armor cracking’.

      • It’s going to be paired with this Goreshade3 list. Haven’t decided on objectives yet.

        Goreshade, Lord of Ruin
        – Skarlock Thrall
        – Ripjaw

        Aiakos, Scourge of the Meredius
        – Leviathan

        Darragh Wrathe

        Pistol Wraith

        Pistol Wraith

        Max Bane Riders

        Max Soulhunters

        Min Blackbane’s Ghost Raiders

        • Those lists seem a little light on armor cracking. If you face meat mountains or ARM buffed colossals you’ll be hard pressed to deal with them if they manage to take out your control pieces.

          You might consider Ragman with Deneghra2 as the easiest way to remedy the issue, but write to me at lamoron.overseer gmail, so we don’t clog the comments here :)

  6. A very important tip for the “Psychological warfare” segment. Bring an mp3 on your phone with that sound of the approaching shark from Jaws and play it whenever you move your Land Shark forward: Taaa-Da… Taa-Da.. Ta-da Ta-da Ta-da xD

    • This would most certainly be followed by a pelting with nearby objects, but I could try strategically placing pillows or cupcakes nearby, to make the experience more enjoyable :D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *