Today I will discuss Space Marine Predators. Predators are the most common and popular tanks, and arguably the best one – since Dreadnoughts are technically walkers and not tanks.
One of the most important aspects of 40k is designing a list. A Predator will most likely be a large part of your fire support, so you need to consider most of the patterns before you choose the right one. The main armament and side sponsons depends on the rest of the army list, but the most common type is:
Twin-Linked Lascannon and Heavy Bolters:
Being the most common set-up for the most common tank in the most common army in 40k must count for something, right? It is not a coincidence, the guns are not there for the looks. This tank configuration can move and still fire at full effect, something that is very, very useful both for offensive and defensive tactics. All the shots have at least decent strength and armour penetration, which of course only adds to its ability.
This Predator is best used as a mobile gun platform, and should be placed right outside a good fire lane, and move in and shoot as soon as it finds a good target. The versatility of the guns means it can reliably take on most foes from the smallest infantry all the way up to tanks, but should leave the really tough foes – Monoliths, Falcons and Tyranid Monstrous Creatures – to the units with more heavy weapons.
Twin-Linked Lascannon and Lascannons a.k.a. "Trilas":
I've seen this variation in quite a few lists, and it is hailed as being optimal for taking down Monstrous Creatures and other really tough foes that the Lascannon/Heavy Bolter Predator might have a hard time even denting.
Now, this variant is very static. If it moves, it loses 2/3 of its shots, and thus it will have to be parked and remain at a good spot. This means that it will also draw a lot of fire, since it will most likely be out in the open.
If you decide to use this pattern, I suggest you add it to a static force, with lots of shooty Tactical Marines, shooty Scouts and so on. Also, don't add just one, take two or even three – it will help the overall survivability of the tanks.
Furthermore, the tank struggles if it's faced with a foe other than the kind it is best suited to face. Because it is so static and because it is one of the first units you will deploy in an alpha or gamma standard mission, your opponent plays a part in what you get to shoot.
So the Trilas Predator is an expensive and hard-to-use pattern, but it can pay off if used with a lot of care and planning.
Autocannon and Heavy Bolters:
Dubbed "the infantry killer" by a lot of Space Marine players, this tank is cheaper than the Lascannon variants – but it is less effective against some foes. It is a common opinion that the Autocannon is outclassed by the Lascannon, which is untrue.
The Autocannon is best suited to take on heavy infantry and lighter vehicles. Anything with an armour save of 4+ or worse and any vehicle with an armour value of 10 will have to watch out for this vehicle. It is also just as mobile as the Lascannon/Heavy Bolter Predator.
Autocannon and Lascannons:
The most uncommon variant and there's a list of good reasons to that: it's pretty static and also rather expensive. I don't recommend using this variant, as you're better off with the more common patterns instead.
More of a gimmick or a joke than an effective unit on the battle field, this Predator is fitted with an Autocannon, two Heavy Bolters and a Storm Bolter. It fires 10 shots each turn, while moving 6" and all at the Marine BS.
This Predator is about as effective as the Autocannon variant, but it costs about as much as the Lascannon variant. I don't really recommend this for competitive play, but it has a place in friendly lists for sure.
Pimp my Predator!
So what other equipment should you glue on your Predator? The most important upgrade in the codex is Extra Armour. Extra Armour greatly increases the survivability of any and all vehicles it is added to, and the Predator is no exception.
The second upgrade that is at least viable is Smoke Launchers. It is useful if you go first, and you want to capture and objective in the last turn – just drive up to it and pop the smoke, which makes it harder for your opponent to damage it so much it won't be a scoring unit. It is also useful for protecting a vehicle if it has received a "crew shaken" result.
Dozer Blades might be useful for hiding tanks in area terrain, but that's about it.
The general rule about Predators is to keep them as cheap as possible. About 130 points is the maximum, really.
The tactics for the Predator are easy to explain, but hard to get a grip on when you're actually playing. There are only three rules of thumb that I'm going to preach about here, and you will have to try it out yourself, and practice using the tactics.
First of all, deploy the Predator with care. Make sure it receives as little incoming damage as possible, while it has access to a good fire lane – which will usually force you to move for a turn or two.
Secondly, keep the strong front armour faced to the enemy at all times. I can't stress how important that is. If you reveal the side armour to your enemy, the Predator is as good as dead.
Thirdly, make sure to prioritize the targets according to the pattern you've chosen and your other units.
Follow these three rules, and watch your Predator make back its points at least once or twice every game you play.