How to Clear the skies
Whilst the advent of 6th edition meant that everyone and their uncles, mums, lovers grandson uses flyers, using them well is still something i rarely see on the tabletop. In fact like many of the "ultimate armies" that have come and gone it seems that the fundamental power of taking an army that is inherantly more powerful than 90% of the ones you'll face across the table, flyers can often be so easy to win with that many players aren't really using them to their best advantage.
What makes flyers so good?
The key to knowing how to shut something down, is knowing exactly what its strengths and weaknesses are, and then turning that to your advantage. You see if you know whats the best thing for that Storm Raven in the enemy army to be doing, then you can make sure your prevent them from doing that very thing, and have a plan in place for when they do this.
Speed: Flyers are fast, Very fast, and being able to jump from one side of the board to the other can be a HUGE advantage. Especially in games that revolve around objectives. This is why the flyers capable of transporting troops are so highly regarded in particular.
Durability: Flyers can be incrediably difficult to bring down. Anything without skyfire, or that isnt flying themselves will need 6's just to hit, therefore tradional anti-armour like lascannons arent very affective. Whats more template weapons cant affect them, so that Vindicator that usually Smashes aside battle tanks is useless in helping win the battle for the skies. On top of all this they have the option of jinking, potentially giving them a cover save that may stave off that crucial attack when its really needed.
Firepower: Alot of flyers pack a resonable amount of firepower, and whats more they don't have to snapfire most of them when they've moved either. This means they can bring alot of juice to the table.
What are flyers weaknesses?
Manuvreability: Most flyers can only make a single turn, at the start of their movement phase AND must move at least 18". This means that there will be parts of the battlefield that suddenly become inaccessable to the flyer on its next turn.
Mediocre AV and HP: flyers armour value ranges from 10-12, which isnt all that great when it boils down to it. Even str 6/7 is a threat to most flyers, and luckily most decent anti-air and str 6-7 weaponry fires multiple shots, so is likely to score enough hits that something sticks. Even str 4 will worry a flyers rear armour. As flyers dont come with Hull points to spare, then even a few Glancing hits from boltguns could lane flyers in trouble.
Downtime: Flyers dont start on the table, and will ALWAYS miss turn 1. Any turn in which they cant see the enemy, or flyer off the table means even more downtime, where the flyer has no real impact on the game. If you can use movement against the flyers, the you can end up where even without taking them out they have done nothing for half the game.
lets get the obvious out of the way, flyers are a great way of dealing with flyers. This doesn't mean you need to fill up your force org with flyers, but having one or two certainly gives you some great tools for the job at hand. Obviously the biggest advantage they have is being able to shot using their full ballistic skill. In the flyer vs flyer war going 2nd is actually a big advantage, as you want to be able to get the first shot at the enemy and force his decisions in the movement phase.
Flying monsterous creatures also deserve a special mention as they get all the advantages of a flyer, in that they can shot at full BS, and they can vector strike. This is great as it means you can move over the top of another flyer in order to vector strike it and get into a advantagous position ready for later turns.
The winged tyrant with 2 sets of twin-linked devourers gets a special mentions as it forfills all the hallmarks of a great anti-flyer unit with plenty of mid str shots, all of which are twin-linked as well as the Vector strike.
Now if something were a flyer and could vector strike, then that would be anti-flyer gold, but thats just crazy talk, theres nothing that would be able to do both.....oh yeah unless you count the helldrake.
SKYFIRE and INTERCEPTOR
Just like flyers, skyfire is very useful, as flying at full BS means plenty of hits and most flyers are reasonably vulnerable once it comes down to it. A lot of armies nowadays have dedicated anti-air capable units, especially thanks to Flakk missiles but also with things like Hydra flakk tanks, the new marine hunter and stalkers there really are more options then ever, and it seems likely GW will keep giving us new toys with which to tackle Flyers and more codecies get updated.
Interceptor takes it to the next level as you dont sacrifice the ability to take on ground units, plus the option to take and out of sequence shot at those dakka jets that have just arrived can mean avoiding damage all together.
Aegis defense line. The main thing this brings is the option of an Icarus Pattern lascannon, or a Quadgun. However the other thing it brings is cover for your forces. These are very popular in armies favouring a strong "gunline" protecting its home objectives. One of the best things about it is that if you have a decent sized troop choice behind it, they can go to ground and have a 2+ cover save. If you set these up right near the board edge, flyers will struggle to get an angel where they can deny your cover. As long as they arent packing an AP3 torrent flamer then you should be fine.....
Bastion: Again this brings a choice of Anti-Air weaponry and cover for the squad ontop. however it has the advantage that unit can go inside the bastion. The bastion itself is one of the hardest things to destroy in 40k as it has no Hull points, which means glancing hits dont do anything to it, and very little to the unit inside as long as they have a reasonable save. The thing i think is most under appreciated about the bastion is that it gives you cover for any vehicles in your army [or you could hide a monsterous creature, unit, or whatever behind it. Bastions work great in any army that packs alot of armour, as its affectively another tank, abeit one that cant move, on the battlefield. This splits the enemy anti-armour amoungst another target whilst being extremely durable itself. In particular its fantastic against necrons as their tesla weaponry is basically useless against it, and their gauss weapons can only glance. The other thing with a bastion is that it can only be targetted as long as its occupied. Therefore you can start with a unit behind it, and if your opponent goes first they cant destroy it. Then you move your unit into it. This may be a small boon, but it could be the difference that gives you the drop in the enemy, and at the very least means your unmollested when it comes to that first round of Intercept fire.
The bastion is something I would recommend for any army, and I think for its points is a bargain.
It may seem counter intuative but you can use one of the flyers biggest strengths against them. Because you know flyers are going to have to move 18" there is a bubble of safety, where they wont be next turn. coupled with their restriction to make one turn at the start of their movement, they will also have blind spots that can be predicted. when you take into account the range of their weapons this could mean than a poorly thought out movement could cost your opponent. Two good examples are stormraven and the night scythe. Both have range 24". This means in theory if they shoot you they have to be at most 24" away. If you move directly towards them 6" then next turn they will have to move past you and not be able to target that unit [dependent on mountings etc]. Now of course they may be able to shoot a different unit instead, so its all about recognising what are their priorities. Also this can be mitigated to some extent by keeping your units close together. This may mean that becasue your opponent is closer to move units, then you move to get the position where you can hit rear armour, which opens up your whole squad to rapid fire.
Weight of fire
Against flyers weight of numbers is your friend, as you want to be able to get as many hits as possible, whenever you can. Rolling lots of dice, means your bound to get a few 6's, just ask any ork player. A unit of longfangs with 5 missile launchers has a reasonable chance of scoring a hit, and is a much better place to start your shooting phase. Sure IF it comes down to it it may be that you fire that single lascannon hoping for a 6, but you only if there isnt a better target, and only once youve fired all the better options first. Units of autocannons, ork loota's, assault cannons, high yield missile pods, or even a rapid firing unit of fire warriors.
Just like weight of numbers, Twin-linked means your rolling more dice, meaning more chances to roll those 6's. Twin-linked weapons are right up there on the list of desirable elements to help deal with flyers. Once again str6+ is desirable, 8+ great and multiple shots are even better.
Broadsides get the smiley face here, but auto-cannon dreads, scatter laser wave serpents and many other choices really fit the bill as well.
using cover is just as useful against flyers as it isnt against any other army, in fact more so in some ways as it can be easier to restrict LOS to a flyer whilst they can struggle to use the cover to their advantage. Keeping infantry in cover will often mean half the number of models will die when they come under fire, and if they are only getting to shoot your squads for half the game anyway then they could struggle to clear units off the board. Going to ground is often a great choice, as you'll need to score 6's anyway you might as well get the bonus save.
Divination is a great benefit when it comes to taking on the flying menace. Firstly the Primary power gives you twin-linked weaponry, and we already know twin-linked weaponry is great against flyers....this is even better than regualr twin-linked as you can put it onto whatever unit you like [ish]. This means you can put it on to higher str weaponry for example, and guns with a decent ap value, meaning when you score those hits, they realling stick. Next up perfect timing means a unit can ignore cover saves, so no Jinking from those nasty flyers.
Luckily flyers dont get invulnerable saves....unless of course you count the hell drake.
As with any challenges you face on the battlefield, combined arms, and correct prioritsation is the key to success. All of the above a great things that will help you to tip the balance, but to be truely affective, your going to want to combine as many of the above into your gameplan as possible. Luckily lots of the above are great against other enemies you'll face as well, so all isnt lost if you happen to face an army with nothing in the skies.
I hope you found some of the above useful, and if you have anything you feel you can add, any tactics youve found against flyers, or anything youve found useful please leave a comment.