Yes, maximum theoretical damage from melee far exceeds that of ranged weapons for damage to hordes, this is a correct statement.
WS: max 50 +5 from chapter characteristic modifiers +3 from deeds +10 for armour history +20 fury of sanguinus +20 from advances +10 from hatred +10 for hunter of aliens (or equivalent, depending on foe), +10 for master crafted weapon, +10 for sig. wargear bonus with their weapon, +10 attacking from higher ground, +30 attacking surprised enemies +10 oath of knowledge +10 frenzy +20 berserk charge -10 two weapon wielding (total 218)
Attacks: 3 (Lightning Attack) + 1 (Second Weapon) + d5+1 Unarmed attacks (Thunder Charge), max 10
The unarmed attacks do not have the +10 MC weapon or +10 sig. wargear bonuses, nor the -10 TWF penalty, and are thus testing against 208 If all tests are 8 or under, that's 20 degrees of success per attack (21 for weapon attacks), dealing a total possible magnitude damage of:
((11 (based on degrees of success) + 1 (armour history) x6) + (11 (degrees of success) +1 (armour history) +1 (power weapon) x4) + 10 (Wrathful descent)) x2 (whirlwind of death)) = 248
Now, I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty happy doing 248 damage to a horde. For what it's worth, with "average" rolls the damage is still 212, but as this already requires being from a Storm Wardens successor chapter, and your Blood Angels battle brother popping fury of sanguinus, while you sneak attack a magnitude 200+ horde of your chosen foe, it didn't really feel like "average" circumstances ;-)
Still, though, that can be improved.
Let's drop the pathetic Blood Angels battle brother and replace him with a Black Templar Battle Brother. Let's have him pop Holy Vengeance, and instead of charging them, let's move into position with normal movement, and make a standard attack with one weapon. We lose 30 WS (No Berserk Charge, no Fury of Sanguinus, no TWF penalty), so we're testing with a less impressive 188. We also lose the Thunder Charge bonuses, and wrathful descent. And yet. Max Agility 50+20 = 70, +10 for Corvus Armour, with a dilation field (granting unnatural agility) that's 15 agility. As we're testing against 188, all attacks hit, so that's 15 attacks.
((10 (degrees of success) +1 (armour history) +1 (power weapon) +1 (Devastating, power claymore) x15) x2 (Whirlwind of death) = 390 magnitude damage. With "average" rolls it's 300 damage.
Still, though, that can be improved.
Let's stop being the stupid chapter with a WS bonus, or even an assault marine, and instead be a Space Wolf Techmarine, who has taken the Saga of the Warrior Born for this mission. Note that we stopped having to be an Assault Marine when we stopped charging, and though other classes or chapters may not have frenzy, that does not affect the results with average rolls at all. A Devastator could do max 360 damage to a horde in melee with a power claymore using a dilation field with black templar backup during a surprise attack. Which is obviously more than he could do using ranged weapons.
This next bit, though, is a bit cheesy.
The Techmarine uses Logis implant with borrowed reaction from defensive spacing, then moves up and makes the standard attack, dealing let's say just the average 300 damage. Then uses his reaction to make what is specifically a "standard attack" with his power weapon (of any type) mounted on his servo-arm, which is obviously master crafted but not signature wargear. Also lacks devastating, so it deals a paltry 240 magnitude damage. On or before his next turn, he uses a borrowed reaction to use Logis Implant again (because we can, not because it's necessary), and triggers his saga of the warrior born.
As he dealt 540 magnitude damage last turn, that's a bonus of 540 to his WS. The enemy is not surprised anymore, so that's -30 (to be fair, I think they would still be surprised at this juncture ;-) just not for the purposes of in-game mechanics). If you're not insane, you'll rule that Saga of the Warrior Born must be applied to each standard attack made, which means out of the 15, it's only being applied to 8 of them.
((6 (degrees of success) + 1 (armour history) + 1 (power weapon) + 1 (devastating) x7) + (33 (degrees of success) + 1 (armour history) + 1 (power weapon) + 1 (devastating) x8) = 702 magnitude damage. This turn, its power waned, the Servo Arm does a pathetic 210 magnitude damage. So, across 2 rounds with a horde large enough, the techmarine does a total of 1452 magnitude damage, assuming average rolls. Which is more than can be done with a ranged weapon in the same time period.
So, what's the point of all this? The Techmarine is broken? The dilation field is broken? Holy Vengeance is broken? Not at all, though that last one is borderline, and those last two might want to be avoided in combination. We did gross things with Space Wolfs, Blood Angels, Storm Wardens, Black Templar, Assault Marines, Tech Marines, and if we wanted to, Devastators. If you ignore the ridiculous numbers, you'll see from previous posts of the max damage of devastators we're not competing against much here.
Ultimately, Melee has the ability to be much, much, *much* more devastating to hordes than ranged combat, and so long as a Black Templar is around, that's true even for classes who are solely focused on ranged combat. It's quite deliberately that way (though I don't think they quite intended for an average magnitude damage of almost 750/round to be possible across 2 rounds), as the average damage to hordes is exactly 0 for melee characters at any range beyond melee.
At ranks other than 8, which is to say, the majority of the campaign, and for many groups, the entirety of the campaign, melee classes normally get exactly 1 attack on the turn they charge in. After they attack, being adjacent to the horde, if it's not gone, they are at *much* higher risk of damage than their ranged counterparts. And, once the horde is dead, unless another one walked in on them, they must then fly off to another enemy, meaning more turns of having either 0 or 1 attacks and doing minimal to no damage.
So, a class that does 0 damage for turns not engaged in melee, 1 attack on their first turn in melee, then, after suffering counterattacks, having given up cover, and generally being much more prone to being dead than their ranged counterparts, actually gets a payout? There is a reward for this risk, in, on subsequent turns while engaged in melee, they do more damage than their ranged counterparts? I don't see an issue with this. If they're doing double the magnitude damage (which again, at ranks other than 8, without Whirlwind of Death, I don't see happening too often) or less of the Devastator, I don't see it as being a problem.
If you play exclusively at rank 8, or if your players are extreme munchkins and have twinked it to where the assault marine deals more than double the damage of the devastator on a regular basis, and he's feeling useless, then it seems that you would want to talk to him, and tone down his character a bit, or have the enemies realize what a threat this guy is, and emphasise the "risk" in his risk vs reward style of play ;-) Really, though, your "issue" with the Assault Marine doing "crazy" damage compared to the devastator seems solely like one theorycrafted while relying on the impact of Whirlwind of Death, rather than something that is likely to come up during regular play.
In your example of Tier 3, the Assault marine would do, on his "good" turns, where he actually gets to use lightning attack, and assuming he's not feeling like he's in the way of the people continuing to rampantly mow down enemies, testing against about 110 (70 + hatred and hunter of aliens, assuming he has the correct talents for whomever he's fighting, + signature wargear master and master crafted weapon) 4(dos)+1(power field) x3 is 15 magnitude damage. The loss of multiple attacks but the inclusion of wrathful descent gives comparable damage on a charge. TWF, armor history, psychic powers, etc can all add to that much better than they can ranged attacks, which is good, because if your devastator is doing 28 magnitude damage each and every turn as you say, the assault marine would feel pretty useless doing 15 when he's at his best. See the following link for an example of how it is more likely to play out in a real campaign.
(Edit, because it's not long enough already, right? FWIW the Max theoretical damage is done with the same setup, with the Space Wolf in question being a Librarian instead of a Tech Marine, wielding a Rune Staff and using it to channel Thunderclap at push level into each and every hit, while being backed up by a team of other psykers, including at minimum a White Scar and Raven Guard. I won't bore you with the math, but it ends up being 4488 magnitude damage over 2 rounds. Didn't feel the need to use that in particular, because I felt the point was already driven home, and we all know psykers are OP and broken anyway)
Edited by Dr. Quinn, 17 July 2014 - 09:30 AM.