Sunday, January 16, 2011

Deathwing changes

Assault Cannons. LOL.
So with the new FAQs released and the minor changes made to the Black Templars and the Dark Angels there's going to be people looking for how this affects their army. The Templars improvements have largely been confined (though not exclusively) to having better Terminator squads by making them more durable.

My interest is mainly with the Dark Angels, specifically the Deathwing formation, as I've always had a certain fondness for them as a unique build in the game. At least they were unique until Logan Grimnar showed up but even so Logan's best Wolf Guard build is a mix of Terminator and Power-armoured models within a unit instead of having them all in TDA because its simply too expensive - its 63 points for a Wolf Guard Terminator with Storm Shield and Thunder Hammer. Compare this to Vanilla Marines (200 for 5) or even BA (200 for 5 plus 5 per TH/SS) and you can see they are seriously overcosted.

But that's enough of that: back to the Deathwing.

There are 3 main things that the FAQ improved.

1. Storm Shields being standardised (across Marine Codices) to a 3+ Invulnerable save against both shooting and combat damage.
2. Cyclone Launchers also standardised to being Heavy 2 Frag/Krak.
3. Nartheciums providing Feel No Pain rather than sometimes ignoring the first wound per turn.

The Shield buff is a big jump in making them more survivable at range - they don't need cover now at all so they don't need to wander through terrain if they can avoid it. It also allows you to be more bláse about Deep Striking your squad into terrain with the Deathwing Assault rule because you'll have a 3+ save against any dangerous terrain wounds caused (which you'll be unlucky to suffer in the first place). There's also the extra punishment you can take in combat allowing you to do more damage by having more lads to swing back.

Cyclone Launchers getting pumped up to 2 S8 shots is huge - it gives you ranged anti-tank firepower to batter things at range and silence threats to your footsloggers where you didn't have the reliability that comes with multiple shots: the FAQ has literally doubled your firepower. You can hang back out of retaliatory range with the Speeders while pushing the Raider and Deathwing units into people's faces while they blaze away too.

Finally, FNP is a nice little boost to the Command squad as it allows them to take a hail of small-arms fire and still emerge alive and with Belial you can engage in wound-allocation shenanigans to keep your unit going for longer. It protects the unit better than the old rule as it doesn't run out after the first wound suffered per turn so you can play very aggressively with them and draw fire away from the other units in the army.

Now *here's* a Belial conversion.

Taking the above into account I managed to conjure up the following 1750 army:

Belial with Lightning Claws
Deathwing Command Squad with 4 Thunder Hammer & Storm Shields, Apothecary with Cyclone Launcher, Chainfist and Storm Bolter
3 x Deathwing Squad with 5 Thunder Hammer & Storm Shields, 1 Cyclone Launcher
Land Raider with 2 Lascannons and Heavy Bolters, Extra Armour
Dreadnought with Twin-Lascannon and Missile Launcher
Land Speeder with MultiMelta and Cyclone Launcher
Land Speeder with MultiMelta and Cyclone Launcher
Land Speeder with MultiMelta and Cyclone Launcher

Belial has Claws so the unit gets some I 5 power weapon attacks allowing him to kill stuff off before they get to swing at the Terminators. There's also the issue of his lack of Eternal Warrior making his use of an I 1 weapon a risky prospect when rushed by any half-decent combat unit. He's got enough Terminator buddies to take hits for him and they've got FNP against < or = S7 as long as its not AP 1 or 2. He can also help to play the wound allocation game taking Bolter hits with his 3 wounds before he falls over.

The list has plenty of firepower to take down vehicles that would otherwise drive off shooting down your Terminators rendering the game a glorified turkey-shoot. The Speeders are small units so they can fire at more targets and make it harder to take them all down. The Raider has Lascannons and, when combined with the new POTMS rule, can be used to fire at 2 more tanks. So, including the Terminators we have 7 Cyclones (plus 3 Meltas) and 3 Lascannons that can be shot at up to 10 different targets.

When you use Deathwing Assault you drop Belial and co. and another squad while you deploy one and put the others in the Raider if you want to gain ground. The Dread can either sit back with the Speeders on the baseline and join them pumping out S8 shots or advance using the Raider as cover while firing.

The squads are durable with them all having 2+/3++ and Belly's squad getting FNP to boot. The major change is to their combat ability. With the boost in saves against Power Weapons/Claw attacks that strike at higher I values you should have more men alive to strike back with your lovely S8 hammers that should help to swing combat your way. Having Cyclones also helps you to crack open transports and have your scary squads assault the units cowering inside.

The list will have problems being such a small force that's basically capped at S8 shooting but even then it can silence units/vehicles that would otherwise put the hurt on them, although AV14 will be a problem with the lack of Melta in the army. Remember: Speeders can't Deep Strike so to get within range of targets you'll have to move on from the board or hide for a turn or two before getting into position. Such things will make you ask yourself if you want to use the Speeders to crack open such things by getting up close and eschewing using your Cyclones in order to get the job done. You don't have suicide units as other armies do so you'll have to manage what you have carefully but that's the whole point of elite armies.

Google DeathRaven: Its this or a fat emo girl.

If I were to amend the above list I'd swap the Dread out for 2 Speeders with Meltas to supplement your fire and make said units harder to kill but I'm not sure if another 2 Melta shots on AV 10 platforms that may not even want to get close is worth 130 points (65 each).

I'm also wondering if I can shoehorn in a Ravenwing Attack squad of 3 Bikes plus Attack Bike with 2 Meltas and MultiMelta respectively to give the army some much needed AP1. I'd have to lose the Dread and probably a Speeder but the increase in firepower as well as the ability to turboboost for a 3+ cover before I make my move will enable to get into position and either slag tanks or even support the Deathwing squads that are advancing.

There's also the question of having a solitary Raider in here as its going to have to suck up pretty much all of the enemy's anti-tank attention and not even the new Smoke Launchers are going to save it. So, I've had a look at adding some Ravenwing to give the list some mobility as well as beefing up the anti-tank reach of the army.

Belial with Lightning Claws or TH/SS (I favour Claws for the reasons below)
Deathwing Command Squad with 4 Thunder Hammer & Storm Shields, Apothecary with Cyclone Launcher, Chainfist and Storm Bolter
4 x Deathwing Squad with 5 Thunder Hammer & Storm Shields, 1 Cyclone Launcher

Ravenwing Attack squad (3 bikes) with 2 Meltas, Attack Bike with Meltagun
Ravenwing Attack squad (3 bikes) with 2 Meltas
Land Speeder with MultiMelta and Cyclone Launcher

EDIT: God I hate getting lists wrong. The first variant I did up had too many FA slots so this is now legal with 3 slots and 10 points left over. I dropped a bike squad and was tempted to throw Sammael in there but I'm unsure if he adds enough to justify inclusion in the list. He's almost the same cost as another unit of Terminators and not only are they killy but they're also scoring.

So the Bikes add some much needed Melta to the army while giving it some mobility with Scout which can be quite handy if you are going first and move them aggressively and use their Teleport Homers to allow the Termies to land accurately and put them in the enemy's face. The bikes can then move off into side armour or short range of vehicles and open up and quite likely assault units that have fallen out of their rides. It'll all buy time for your Terminators to get into position. It'll also give you time to let you advance your footslogging units to support the Deep Strikers and take the heat off your Speeders that can sit back and blast units into submission. 6 Cyclones and 5 scouting Meltas (with 1 more on the Speeder) should be enough to silence just enough low AP weaponry long enough to allow you get into combat with your Terminators.

An alternative to this would be to eschew the Speeders altogether for something that gets right into enemy faces.


Deathwing Command Squad as above plus Company Banner
4 x Deathwing Squads as above
2 x Ravenwing Support Squads (3 bikes with 2 Melta, Meltabombs and MM Attack Bike)

The Ravenwing scout forward and use their Homers to get the first 3 DW squads down accurately i.e. into side armour of vehicles while they drive off and then shoot...side armour of vehicles. Before assaulting whatever is left.

One last one is the all Troops affair.

Sammael on Jetbike
Deathwing Command Squad as above plus Company Banner
3 x Deathwing Squads as above
Ravenwing Support Squad (3 bikes with 2 Melta, Meltabombs, Apothecary and MM Attack Bike)
Ravenwing Support Squad (3 bikes with 2 Melta, Meltabombs and MM Attack Bike)

Sammy takes the Jetbike so you:

(a) don't have any armour for the opponent to focus on and
(b) can have him join the Apothecary squad and have more FNP lols with them.

You can always boost them on their first turn up a flank and 3+ cover and FNP should get them through a lot with Sammael taking as many S8+ hits as he can - he'll get FNP against those as long as its not AP 2 so Krak missiles shells need not be a problem. Meanwhile the other unit has Scouted, you drop 2 units including Belly for more FNP sillyness and then work your way across your opponent's lines.

So was it good for you too?

From the above I feel that the update, while welcome, hasn't radically improved the lot of Dark Angel armies but it has done enough to make taking some units more viable as they have increased surviviability and damage output, both ranged (Cyclones with S8 shots) and in combat (better saves = more bodies to swing back). The tactics and the pitfalls will largely be the same but you do have better gear to present more of a challenge to your opponent than the previous incarnation did, although the issue of overpricing and lack of equipment for the non-DeathRaven units compared to Vanilla Marines is still a problem.

Hopefully the FAQ changes will mean that people will be willing to bring their currently shelved armies back into play and give them a run-around. Its always nice to see a variety of armies in the tournament scene (hint, hint Caolán).


  1. Hint received. As soon as Warpcon is over I promise to get back into DA and we can work out my list for Vaticon.

  2. LCs on Belial?! Why not make him 3++ and FNP for awesomeness...

    Interesting list!

  3. Any Mention of this affecting the GK, or do we still suck for another few months?

  4. @Caolán: Nice one. I'll be glad to batter it a few times in practice games.

    @Cian: No. Yes, you still suck ass. Take something other than DH to Warpcon. :P

    @Joe: I thought about it and I've seen it on forums but there's a few things that would dissuade me.

    He's not got Eternal Warrior. If something is willing to fight him they're probably solid in combat being armed with Power Weapons or their equivalents, or they've got enough high S attacks or other shenanigans that will cause Instant Death when they cause a wound (negating FNP).

    With a Hammer he's going to have to wait for enemies to attack first as they'll usually be > I 1. His higher I means that he can swing with his Claws and take out a few enemies before they swing at the unit, or him.

    The more enemies that try to snipe him (like Sergeants with Fists) the less FNP-ignoring attacks go onto your Hammers. This allows more of them to swing back as they face less incoming attacks.

    He can take damage from small-arms fire with his 2+/FNP so he can help to keep the Termies alive before they get into combat and with 3 wounds he can take hits. I like to treat him as a glorified Claw grunt and leave the rest of the work up to the unit.

  5. Stormy said; "He can take damage from small-arms fire with his 2+/FNP so he can help to keep the Termies alive before they get into combat and with 3 wounds he can take hits. I like to treat him as a glorified Claw grunt and leave the rest of the work up to the unit. "

    I agree 100%. this is pretty much how I have always used him. In fact most times I put him in one squad and the Apoth in another, giving both units an extra boost. This may change now that they have FnP but it is still a viable option for keeping more toys alive longer.


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