Before I discuss specific transports, I wanted to say a few things about Space Marine transports in general. In 6th Edition, the prevailing theory was that Rhinos and Razorbacks were generally worthless as they were too easy to destroy and too likely to give up First Blood. I listened to this and spent a long time trying to run an army that was a mass of marines on foot. It failed. Miserably. Against just about every army. Transports provide two very important benefits to Marines.
First, transports make the squad inside much more durable. This is obvious in the case of Marine killers like Heldrakes and Riptides, which will destroy a squad of Marines every time they fire but have much more difficulty destroying the Rhino. Even if they do, the squad inside is usually safe for that turn. This durability also applies to a lot of other weapons. My Thunderfires and Stormtalons love seeing Marines on foot, because I can do meaningful damage to them much faster than I can in a Rhino. Even my Tactical squads would rather hop out of their Rhinos and shoot Marines with their bolters than rely on their meltagun to destroy an enemy transport, at which point they will likely have to absorb the firepower of the relatively undamaged squad inside.
Second, transports get the squad in range to do maximum damage. Any squad that won’t be doing most of its damage with heavy weapons needs to get its bolters and special weapons into range in order to contribute to the battle. To the enemy, a Tactical squad 24” away is a nuisance, but a Tactical squad 12” away is a fairly serious threat. Three Tactical squads 12” away from the right targets can be game winning. This mobility also allows your squads to pick their battles. On foot, they might have to fight that Great Unclean on deployed in front of them. In transports, they can pass him by and banish some much less dangerous Plague Bearers.
Transports have changed in three main ways in 7th Edition, and this has led many internet pundits to claim that it is the rebirth of mechanized army. First and most widely touted is the fact that vehicles can’t be destroyed by a single shot unless it is AP1 or AP2, and even then the chances are lower. This is a buff to vehicles, but is not nearly as significant as most people are making it out to be. I played Rhinos a lot in 6th Edition as well, and they were mostly destroyed by losing Hull Points then too.
Second, the units inside Shaken or Stunned transports can fire normally if they pass a LD test. This is big because it means neutralizing the transport for a turn does not neutralize the squad inside.
Finally, transports are now Scoring, and dedicated transports for Troops get Objective Secured in a Battle-forged army. This is also pretty big, as it allows you to add another Objective Secured unit to your army for a very small amount of points.
My main point here is that 7th Edition is not the resurrection of the mechanized Space Marine army. It never left. It is how Space Marines are designed to work. Without transports of some kind, Marines are just too slow and fragile to get into position to do the damage of which they are capable.
The Rhino is the most common Astartes transport, able to carry 10 Marines for a reasonable price. With AV 11/11/10, it’s durable against low to mid-strength firepower and only really needs to fear S7+. Rhinos come standard with searchlights and smoke launchers, both of which are quite handy in certain situations. They can self repair Immobilized results, but I can count the times that has worked for my on one hand. In general, the embarked squad will get out and start running, so the Rhino won’t be much use to them by the time it repairs. Rhinos are strongly recommended for Tactical, Sternguard, and Command squads.
Your Rhinos will get destroyed. Your job is to make sure that it doesn’t happen until after your Marines are in position. Remember to go Flat Out in the Shooting phase, allowing your Rhinos to move 18” each turn. Use any cover you can to mitigate incoming fire, and remember to use your smoke launchers if there is no cover available. You can’t launch smoke and go Flat Out in the same turn, so weigh up the advantages of each. If you can Flat Out into cover, than that’s a no brainer. If you can’t and your Marines will be in position next turn regardless of whether you Flat Out or not, then launch smoke. If you still really need the extra distance, I always Flat Out. In my mind, an extra 6” for my Marines is better than a 5+ save for the Rhino.
The only upgrade that I usually take on Rhinos is dozer blades. You’ll need to move through terrain to get cover and to reach the enemy faster, and the dozer blade drastically reduces the chances of stranding your important squad out of position.
The Razorback is essentially a Rhino with a reduced transport capacity of 6 but a heavy weapon turret. It comes standard with twin-linked heavy bolters, but can upgrade to a twin-linked heavy flamer for free or twin-linked assault cannons, twin-linked lascannons, or a lascannon and twin-linked plasma gun for some extra points.
The uses for a Razorback are limited because of its limited transport capacity and your desire to fire its weapon (which is relatively expensive). In general, it won’t be able to deliver a very threatening squad and you’ll want to move 6” or less to keep it firing at full efficiency. Razorbacks should be thought of less as transports and more as heavy weapon platforms. If you have 70 points left in your list, no empty Heavy Support slots, and want an extra lascannon, then the Razorback is a good buy. They’re an easy purchase attached to Devastator squads or small Tactical squads with a heavy weapon that will be sitting on backfield objectives.
It is difficult to discuss Drop Pods as a transport, as they are really a style of deployment and can be applied to a whole army to produce a completely different style of play. For the same cost as a Rhino, a Drop Pod allows a power armored squad, a Dreadnought, or a Thunderfire cannon to deploy via a very safe method of Deep Strike. As a bonus, half of your Drop Pods automatically arrive first turn and the remainder arrives from reserve. While this limits your available forces, it does place them into excellent positions.
In general, Drop Pods work best when you take one or all of your squads in Pods, rather than anything in between. When you take a single Drop Pod, you want to drop a disruption squad directly into the enemy army first turn. This is usually an Ironclad Dreadnought, Sternguard squad, or Command squad as they can all provide enough firepower to kill an important target and continue to be threatening. The enemy will have to deal with them immediately, allowing the rest of your army time to get into position.
If you’re taking a complete Drop Pod army, then you want to take an odd number of Drop Pods. This will give you an extra Pod arriving on the first turn. When landing Drop Pods, it’s best to aim them into spaces between impassable terrain or squads. The Drop Pod reduces its scatter by the minimum distance to avoid hitting these obstacles, so you can use them as buffers to guarantee your squads land in position. Just stay away from the table edge, as that’s the only way a Drop Pod can mishap.
The only upgrades available for a Drop Pod are the deathwind launcher and locator beacon. They launcher is a S5 large blast weapon with a 12” range. Due to changes in the Deep Strike rules, it can now fire on the turn the Drop Pod arrives. It has potential to damage infantry and will greatly help you clear bubble wrap units to shoot at juicier targets, but it’s an expensive upgrade. The locator beacon won’t be much help to other Drop Pods as they are already very reliable, but it will help any other Deep Striking units you may be taking. Just make sure your Pods with locator beacons arrive in the first turn.