Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Dark Angels codex review part 2 / 5 - Deathwing

Hi folks and welcome to the second part of my Dark Angels codex review. The first part looked at the release overall and the contents of the appendices in the book. This time we look at the members of the elite first company - the Deathwing. However, to balance the size of each review this section will also look at all the characters that have the Deathwing rule as well as the Deathwing formation and Detachment. Let us begin with the non-bone white chaps who have the Deathwing rule before moving on to the Deathwing proper.

Some changes to the big man, who is the same price but now a Lord of war but still arguably the weakest of the Chapter Masters from the big 4. He no longer makes deathwing/ravenwing troops sadly but retains his rites of battle rule . Lion helm is the new power field generator now, conferring a  4++ to Azzy, his unit and vehicle. Lions wrath has simply been downgraded to a master-crafted combi-plasma and protector no longer has a wargear entry, simply Azrael has a 2+ and FNP. (5+ now not 6+) The sword of secrets remains the same. As before he can choose his Warlord trait and also allows you to add +1 to any seize the initiative rolls. He has grim resolve and Deathwing like the others in this section. Overall he strikes me as being little more than a Chapter master in artificer armour with a relic blade and combi-plasma - hardly an ideal loadout and pretty expensive for what he does. Where he does excel is in bolstering other elements of the army with his global Ld 10 and the Lion helm. I don't think this is enough to justify his cost, however, and is hardly the melee monster that Dante/Grimnar/Calgar all are. In fact he'd lose to all 3 of them in combat, especially as he lacks eternal warrior.
Interrogator Chaplain

Same price as before and effectively the same options. He now has deathwing, grim resolve and also preferred-enemy: CSM as opposed to simply hatred which the other deathwing have. He's a pretty reasonable HQ to be honest

Poor Asmodai will likely spend yet another edition on the shelf as very little has changed with him aside from the core changes to rules as above and having the old 'hunt' warlord trait now built in. He did get a small boost of WS6 though. When you compare to other options, especially Ezekiel, there's really no point in taking him sadly. Although somebody did point out that using his BS5 plus the hunt warlord trait (precision shots, ignores cover) to fire emplaced weapons could be pretty brutal.

Standard Librarian rule and options with the same core rule changes as already covered. He does, however, get access to all the core psychic powers except biomancy and interromancy. A good, solid and relatively cheap HQ, however...

... Zeke is still significantly better. His book of Salvation now gives +1 attacks to models in 6" rather than +1 WS and he is still a level 3 psyker with master crafted weapons (traitors bane is no longer 2-handed also) Stats remain the same and he gets the same access to psychic powers as above. His warlord trait has also changed from the hunt to courage of the first legion, making all units in 12" fearless. A pretty solid HQ choice and if you're running a greenwing element he should be in the contending. 
Company Master

Not many differences from before aside from the fact you can now take terminator armour (but not a bike hence the absence from the wargear list. Shame really as it means you can run a generic Deathwing or Company Master in TDA but not the same for bikes. He loses access to the perfidious relic but gains access to a relic blade. Still a pretty sound option, but I personally think that Interrogator Chaplains win overall.

The Master of the Deathwing remains the same cost and still has the same wargear options, though his rules have changed around a bit and he now has one extra attack on his profile. Tactical precision is now more succinct simply stating Belial and his unit do not scatter when deep striking. Marked for retribution now means he rerolls all failed to hit rolls in a challenge. The hunt has changed to effectively replace his old marked for retribution rule. Lastly, he no longer has inner circle (replaced with Deathwing), deathwing assault and vengeful strike rules (now incorporated into terminator armour), but does benefit from grim resolve. Belial also no longer makes terminators troops. We will take a look at the loss of the deathwing assault rule later on.
Deathwing Terminator squad

20 point drop for the cost of the basic squad (4 points less for additional models) and the same changes for TH/SS costs as seen with codex marines. There is now a heavy weapons list in the wargear section but costs remain the same. Split fire is retained and they have the Deathwing and Grim resolve rules, but as with Belial the Deathwing assault and vengeful strike rules are gone, but terminator armour now grants vengeful strike anyway. The Formation/Detachment go some way to addressing this as we will see later. Also of note is that they can take a perfidious relic now as well as a land raider as a DT.
Deathwing Command squad

Same points drop and rules adjustments as with the regular squad, as well as a move from the HQ slot to the Elites slot. The same options exist as before, with the option to take a sergeant now and also a decent points drop (power fist worth) for the apothecary upgrade. Both the apothecary and Champion are one per army. The banners (changes summarised in previous part) also got a fair bit cheaper. Perfidious relic and land raiders are also available. Bottom line, small points decreases and slot change but again lost the ability to guarantee deep strike.  
Deathwing Knights

No points changes here and the changes to weapons have already been covered. They retain their shield wall rule for +1T but it also applies to any model with a storm shield that has joined the unit. You cannot hide is now simply the precision strikes rule.
Venerable Dreadnought
Has the venerable rule now as opposed to Deathwing vehicle, which is gone. (they did the same anyway) The Dreadnought also has the same changes in terms of attacks and points costs that codex marines got, as well as being able to be taken in squads of up to 3. Lastly, they have both the deathwing and grim resolve special rules, making them more effective with overwatch and against Chaos Marines.
Deathwing Redemption force

So the Formation has a number of restrictions and benefits. You can choose from the following:
                - 1 Belial / Master / Interrogator Chaplain / Librarian (all must be in Terminator Armour)
                - 2-5 Deathwing Terminator squads
                - 0-1 Deathwing Command squads
                - 0-1 Deathwing Knights
                - 0-1 Venerable Dreadnoughts (1 only, must take drop pod)
All models get preferred enemy: CSM and take the fight to the enemy, which grants units the ability to run and shoot the turn they arrive. (don't forget Terminators all get twin-linked on arrival too) Lastly, Deathwing assault means they all enter deep strike reserve and all enter automatically on either turn 2/3/4 (you choose) together without needing to roll. The drop pod ignores the usual drop pod assault rule. The best part about this formation is that it's a great way to slot in a small to medium deathwing force into a Lions blade strike force in a supporting role, though we'll come to that in a later blog post.
Deathwing Strike force
Alternatively, you can use this as a way of fielding you Deathwing army. 1-3 HQ and 2-12 elite slots. All units must have the Deathwing rule or be a dedicated transport. As with the Formation, Venerable Dreadnoughts may only have one per unit and must take a drop pod. The Warlord may reroll Dark Angel traits and this unit also get the take the fight to the enemy rule. Summoned to war basically means that all units must start in deep strike reserve and that if you have a Ravenwing attack squadron or strike force you can automatically pass or fail all reserve rolls. So, a bit more flexibility than the Redemption force with less restrictions but you need some Ravenwing support to guarantee that arrival. However, it's unclear how land raiders and non-terminator deathwing characters fit in here.
Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room. Neither the Deathwing formation or detachment allow you to start the game with any of their models on the table nor use Land raiders, as they clearly can't start the game in deep strike reserve. So the only way really to use you Deathwing Land raiders is as part of a combined-arms detachment. Perhaps more importantly, Deathwing lost the ability to deep strike in turn one automatically and, as you can no longer modify battlefield roles from elites to troops using Belial, even a combined arms detachment can't contain Deathwing only. Using the strike force you can use regular drop pod rules to deep strike a DP Vendread in turn one but that's about it. So hmm, not really sure what GW were trying to achieve with this. Deathwing can't really exist as a solo army now and can't readily field land raiders either. They are undoubtedly the biggest losers in this book with Ravenwing being extremely viable and Greenwing a close second, with mixed builds still being just as strong. I feel for Deathwing purists though. 
As far as Characters go I think Ezekiel stands out as my favourite Special character with any of the 3 Generics being viable also. Next time we'll be looking at the infinitely more viable Ravenwing.


  1. Fortress of Shields did get a potentially interesting change. It now works for any Model in the DWK Unit that has a Storm Shield, regardless of Faction. I know at least one guy who's considering bringing in some SW ICs on ThunderWolves with Storm Shields to pull the Unit up to Majority T6.

    I think GW's thinking with the Detachments forcing things to start in Reserves is to promote DoubleWing Lists, since fluff-wise, that's the main way they're usually supposed to operate, rather than as pure RW or DW forces. Not having a special DW Formation where they can take Land Raiders does seem weird tho.

    1. Excellent point about fortress of shields - though the idea of SW/DA working together is painful. I think the problems with mobility in that unit (plus cost) may hinder it somewhat but still, good synergy. As for the DW debate, its just a shame any other combo is possible in the book, just not pure Deathwing. I think a recent novel even had them fighting solo without Green/Raven support. Oh GW.