Monday, 29 June 2015

Dark Angels Codex Review- Ravenwing

Having picked up the new 7th edition Dark Angels codex at the weekend (love that new codex smell!), I thought I would review one of my favourite armies from the book, the Ravenwing.

I have always loved the Ravenwing, but they suffered a little bit in the 6th edition codex, being outclassed by White Scars chapter tactics in the Space Marine Codex. With the new 7th edition Codices out, the Ravenwing have improved significantly, maybe even being better than their White Scars brethren in some respects. This review will go through the units available to the second company and how they have changed with the new codex.

One big change to the Ravenwing in the new codex is that they now have their own special rule (which causes some problems with the formations, as we will see later). This allows any models bearing this rule to re-roll any failed Jink saves. This is quite a powerful ability, as it means that a Ravenwing biker will pass a Jink save 75% of the time, on average (compared to 67% for the next best thing, White Scars biker).

This ability even applies to the Ravenwing vehicles that can be fielded, giving them a bit more protection from enemy fire, albeit at the expense of their firepower. Not even White Scars skimmers gain this benefit, as the skilled rider bonus applies only to bike squads.
All Ravenwing bikers (Command squads, Black Knights and regular bikers) get Scout and Hit and Run as standard. Scout is a great special rule, allowing your battle line to rapidly redeploy to close with the enemy quickly or change your deployment, and will even allow units to Outflank; very handy for getting to the weaker side or rear armour of enemy vehicles without having to cross the board. Hit and Run is great for getting your bikers out of unfavourable combats or allowing them to charge in once again (after firing at the enemy unit of course). They also come with Teleport Homers as standard; great for your deep striking Deathwing support units, but not so useful in a pure Ravenwing army.

Grim Resolve:
Although they had this special rule before, it now has the additional effect of allowing squads to fire overwatch at BS2 if they did not Jink. This should provide double the amount of overwatch hits the unit produces and since bikers come with twin-linked bolters as standard, this should produce quite a few hits. Ravenwing black knights should find this especially useful with their rapid firing plasma talons.

With the Lion's blade strike force, Ravenwing units can gain access to the ability to fire overwatch at their full ballistic skill. Very useful if you are running them with any form of special weapon (especially grav guns). Unfortunately, you cannot take black knights in this formation. Perhaps some thought twin-linked rapid firing plasma guns at full ballistic skill was a touch too much.

You have to love a commander who sees the last surviving jetbike in the Imperium and says "How about we slap a plasma cannon on it?"

Give any player an HQ unit with the stats of a space marine captain, with fearless, eternal warrior, hit and run, a 4+ invulnerable save, a 3+ re-rollable cover save, the manoeuvrability of a jetbike and a master-crafted AP2 power sword that strikes at initiative, and I'm sure they will jump at the chance to field him.

He also comes with a plasma cannon and storm bolter and can fire both in his shooting phase. The plasma cannon is nice for taking out armoured targets, as long as you don't mind the slim chance he will kill himself with it.

At 200 pts, he is one of the most expensive space marine characters available, but he is only 50 pts more expensive than Khan on a bike and brings a lot more to the table defensively and in combat. Being S4 with no meltabombs, he will struggle to deal with tough vehicles or monstrous creatures in combat, though, but should be able to hurt most enemy units, save dedicated combat specialists. His warlord trait gives a nice boost to charge moves and turboboost moves, which is thematic and a nice bonus (giving a 10" charge on average).

One drawback is that he can no longer make units of Ravenwing bikers troops as he could in the 6th edition codex. This is a little disappointing. I had hoped with the mounted assault ability being retained in the Space Marine codex, it would stay for the Dark Angels, but unfortunately, this was not the case. As the Dark Angels codex stands, the only way to field an all Ravenwing army is with a detachment that has its own drawbacks (as I will discuss below).

Sammael's alternative ride has returned in the new codex. Sabreclaw is the closest you will get to a flying Land Raider, with AV14 front and side and a nice 4+ invulnerable thanks to the iron halo. It also benefits from the Ravenwing special rule and gets skilled rider.

In addition, the Raven Sword gives Sabreclaw a pseudo-vector strike, allowing it to attack any unit it passed over in the movement phase with D3+1 S4 AP2 hits, not too bad! This hits the rear armour of vehicles and does not prevent Sabreclaw from firing in the shooting phase.

Sabreclaw is a nice, tough vehicle to support your Ravenwing army, but I prefer Sammael on Corvex, leading a unit into the assault.

Ravenwing Command Squad

The Ravening command squad has not changed a great deal since the 6th edition codex. The maximum squad size is now 6 instead of 5 and you can still upgrade one rider to an apothecary, champion or to carry the Ravenwing company banner.

The banner has seen a couple of changes. It goes up by 5 pts and still allows you to automatically pass hit and run tests if within 12". In addition, it allows you to roll an extra D6 for hit and run distances, meaning you could potentially move 24" upon leaving a combat. It also allows re-rolls of failed morale, pinning and fear tests (as all marines are immune to fear, I'm not sure who this is supposed to benefit. Maybe the servitors in the army?). It is a useful upgrade to take for the unit for when you really need to pass your hit and run test (I have had Khan and a Chapter Master fail this on a 6 several times!).

Armed with plasma talons (essentially shorter ranged, twin-linked plasma guns), the command squad can put out a decent level of destructive firepower, easily bypassing the toughest armour. They also carry a corvus hammer, which gives them +1S and rending in combat, very useful for taking out tough foes. With 4 attacks each on the charge, the command squad can dish out a fair amount of punishment against most units in combat.

Another change to the command squad is that the Ravenwing Champion now has the Honour or Death special rule, forcing him to issue and accept challenges. Not too bad against unit leaders, but most independent characters will make a mess of a Black Knight with ease. The Champions blade of Caliban is now longer unwieldy, giving the champion four S5 AP3 attacks on the charge. Not too bad for the 5 pts upgrade.

Ravenwing Bike Squad
The bread and butter of a Ravenwing army, I have previously discussed the benefits of these bikers. Just to recap, they have the standard marine bike squad stats, but get grim resolve, hit and run, scout, the Ravenwing rule and a teleport homer as standard. The squad is 5 pts cheaper and each individual biker is 2 pts cheaper.

The teleport homer is nice if you are using Deathwing, but useless in a pure Ravenwing army.

One big change to the Ravenwing (and Dark Angels in general) is that they now have access to grav weapons. It only took a few years, but we now no longer have to be jealous of our vanilla marine brothers and can zoom around the board with grav guns to scare Riptides and Wraithknights and to take out vehicles. This brings Ravenwing into line with other bike squads and I for one will be building some new grav bikers to add to the plasma fun that Ravenwing can have.

Another small change is that Ravenwing bike squads can now be joined by an attack bike. Under the 6th edition codex, attack bikes could be purchased as part of a bike squad, but operated as an independent unit. Under the new 7th edition codex, the attack bike can join the squad (unless the unit combat squads, then it is an independent unit again).

As mentioned above, the loss of objective secured on Ravenwing bike squads (with either Sammael or Azrael in the old codex) is, in my opinion, a big disadvantage. This rule can be very important in a game, depending on the mission and your opponent.

Ravenwing Attack Bike
Attack bikes have become slightly cheaper in the new codex (though are still slightly more expensive than their codex space marine counterparts). Nothing else has really changed other than the new special rules for the army that all Ravenwing have access to.

Ravenwing Landspeeders
The price of a Landspeeder has not changed from the 6th editions codex, however, the cost to add a second weapon has decreased for all options, including a 10 pt decrease for adding an assault cannon. They are slightly more expensive than their marine counterparts, but get increased durability thanks to an improved Jink save.

Also, same as before, Ravenwing Landspeeders can be run in units up to 5 compared to a maximum unit of 3 for space marine landspeeders.

The ultimate Ravenwing support vehicle is the same cost as in the previous codex, but it gains a hull point and the assault cannon upgrade is cheaper. With its shrouded and Ravenwing special rules it gets a 2+ re-rollable cover save on jinking, making it very survivable against many weapons (which it needs being AV10).

The Icon grants stealth and fear to nearby Ravenwing units and also prevents enemy units from overwatching if the Darkshroud is within 6". This is a great boost for Ravenwing units, providing a 3+ re-rollable jink save (2+ for Black Knights and Command Squad).

The Darkshroud is a fantastic unit to buff Ravenwing and a brilliant model to match. It has a low armour value, meaning even bolters can harm it. The three hull points and 2+ cover save (with re-roll) help its survivability, but given its buffs to other Ravenwing units it will quickly be targeted and brought down by enemy fire. If your opponent has any sort of ignores cover weaponry (or can confer it on their units), then the Darkshroud will die and die quickly. If you are playing Tau, don't even bother wasting the points on this speeder.

Nephilim Jetfighter
One of the two flyers available to the Dark Angels, the Nephilim has not changed much in the new codex. It got a little cheaper and gained missile lock (useful for hitting with its blacksword missiles). It has a lot of mid-strength weaponry, so might be useful for taking out AP11 and 12 vehicles.

I have never used either of the Dark Angels flyers, so don't know their useful battlefield roles.

Dark Talon
The second flyer has seen a significant upgrade to its weaponry in the new codex. The rift cannon has gone from S5 AP- blast with blind to S10 AP2 blast with blind. In addition, there is a chance that the blast will turn into a vortex. This is a major improvement to the cannon with the potential to kill most units in the game.

The stasis bomb has also got a strength and AP increase. In addition to the stasis anomaly, any wounded model must pass an initiative test or be removed from play.

The flyer also gains strafing run which should increase the accuracy of its cannon and bomb.

The Dark Talon seems to be a powerful flyer now, able to damage and diminish most units in the game. Again, I have never used one, but would quite like to try one out in the future.

Ravenwing Knights
The elite of the Ravenwing, this unit sees a slight reduction in points from the 6th edition codex. As previously, the have skilled rider giving them a 3+ jink save (with re-roll thanks to Ravenwing) and come armed with corvus hammers to give a little more punch in combat. They come equipped with plasma talons as standard, meaning they can take down the heaviest armoured opponents with ease. The twin-linked re-rolls also help to ensure that fewer black knights will kill themselves when shooting at the enemy.

They still have access to the Ravenwing grenade laucher, though the weapon has changed slightly. The stasis shell remains the same, but the rad shell no longer reduces the toughness of the target unit, but causes two wounds on a unit on a roll of a 6 regardless of toughness. I think this change decreases the benefit of the rad shells slightly. Using the old rules, the decreased toughness made enemy units easier to wound and allowed the Black Knights to instant kill toughness 4 units when required.

I really like the Black Knights, both the model and the unit rules. I will be including them in my Ravenwing armies and they will hopefully perform as well as they did in the last edition.

Landspeeder Vengeance
The Vengeance got a decent points drop in the new codex and gained a hull point and the Ravenwing special rule. The Vengeance plasma battery is a large plasma cannon that can fire in two modes, getting either 3 shots or a large blast. It's range also increased by 12".

The Landspeeder Vengeance packs a mighty punch, however, it is still on a landspeeder chassis, meaning that even dedicated bolter fire will easily take it down. It can Jink to improve its survivablility, but then its role as a gunship is pretty much useless.

For the points, I don't think the Vengeance is worth it. It can put out some strong firepower, but its survivability is minimal at best.

The Ravenwing have access to some unique formations in the codex.

Ravenwing Strike Force
Now that Ravenwing can no longer be troops, this detachment is the only way to field an all Ravenwing army (outside of unbound).

The strike force consists of one HQ and two fast attack units, with the option to add additional HQ, elites, fast attack and heavy support choices.

All units in the detachment must have the Ravenwing special rule. Despite there being 3 HQ slots in the detachment, the only HQ unit in the codex with the Ravenwing special rule is Sammael, meaning that you cannot field any other HQ character in an all Ravenwing force. Given that the detachment has three HQ slots, I think the intention was to allow other bike-mounted characters in the detachment, but the rules as written does not allow this. This is supported by the detachment special rule that allows you to re-roll your warlord trait. As Sammael has a fixed trait, a re-roll would be unusable, which suggests that other characters were to be allowed. With little chance of an FAQ to fix this issue, you will need to come to an agreement with your opponent to be able to field a bike-mounted chaplain or librarian.

The detachment gives you a couple of special rules for your Ravenwing force.
The first is Speed of the Raven. This gives you the ability to turboboost or move flat out in turn 1 (or turn 2 if the detachment starts in reserve) and count as jinking, without having to fire snap shots in the following turn. A nice benefit which would allow you to rapidly redeploy your army in turn 1 and attack the enemy force with full efficiency in the next turn.
The second is Strike as one. This allows the entire detachment to arrive on turn two en mass if held in reserve. Any rule that ensures massed reserves on a set turn is very useful in overall battle planning.

One downside is that the detachment does not get objective secured. I am a big fan of this special rule and is a potential game winner in certain scenarios.

I like this formation (as I want to field an all Ravenwing army) and it gives some nice benefits to the force. It's just a shame that the rules were not fixed to allow other bike-mounted characters to join the army. I used to regularly field a Librarian with my Ravenwing and want to try out the new Dark Angels psychic powers. Hopefully I will get some nice opponents who will let me field them.

UPDATE DEC 2015: GW finally got around to fixing the Ravenwing Strike Force in an errata. Other characters are now allowed in the Strike Force as long as they are mounted on a bike. They do not gain the Ravenwing special rule.

Ravenwing Attack Squadron
An auxiliary choice in the Lion's blade strike force (the Dark Angels version of the Gladius) that consists of a Ravenwing bike squad or attack bike squad and a Landspeeder Vengeance or Ravenwing Landspeeder.

The formation provides scout (for the landspeeder Vengeance). In addition, it provides a special rule that if the landspeeder hits an enemy unit, the Ravenwing unit gets +1 BS when firing at the same enemy unit. This is a useful special rule allowing you to more effectively eliminate a chosen enemy unit with your ravenwing squad (when paired with special weapons such as grav gun, meltagun or plasma gun).
The other special rule is essentially a longer range teleport homer for the Deathwing. In addition, the units will benefit from the full ballistic skill overwatch that the Lion blade provides.

This is a nice formation that does not require many units in order to gain access to the special rules. My choice would be a Ravenwing bike squad armed with either grav guns or meltaguns, supported by a Ravenwing Landspeeder. The speeder would most likely be armed with a heavy bolter and assault cannon (or multimelta if paired with meltagun carrying bikers), meaning it is likely to get a hit against an enemy target and give the Ravenwing +1 BS against the enemy target.

Ravenwing Support Squadron
Another auxiliary choice in the main detachment, it consists of a unit of Landspeeders (must be at least 3 strong) and a Darkshroud or Vengeance.

The special rules for the detachment gives the speeders Grim Resolve, Interceptor, Strafing Run and a new special rule, called Ravenshield This allows the formation to overwatch an enemy unit attacking another Ravenwing unit within 24". This is an amazing ability to have. Imagine 4 assault cannons and 3 heavy bolters overwatching at BS5 on an enemy unit (formation allows overwatch at full BS and they get +1BS because of strafing run for shooting at most units). This has the potential to cause great damage to the enemy unit, in addition to the overwatch from the unit being assaulted.

I look forward to giving this formation a go, but it would require the purchase of another Darkshroud and a couple of landspeeders. Maybe that was the intention all along?

Ravenwing Silence Squadron
The last Ravenwing auxiliary choice in the codex. It consists of two Nephilim Jetfighters and a Dark Talon.

This formation lets the Dark Talon to use its stasis bomb without scatter and gives a bonus to removing a model in the subsequent initiative test. It also provides a bonus if the enemy warlord is killed in the attack.
As a formation, all three flyers come on from a single reserve roll, which can be re-rolled.

An interesting formation that gives a more accurate stasis attack and might be worth trying if you happen to have the three flyers available, but unlikely to see much play.

I am really happy with the new rules for the Ravenwing and look forward to trying them on the battlefield in the coming months.
The new special rules give the Ravenwing an improvement in survivability with a re-roll for Jink saves and improved defensive capabilities with Grim Resolve. The units now have access to grav weaponry, making them the equal of their codex space marine counterparts. The bikers have access to scout and hit and run, giving them almost the same abilities of white scars bikers (the scars still have the bonus of skilled rider, allowing them to ignore cover when moving).

The new formations provide some great special rules to the units, mostly boosts to firepower and overwatch capabilities. This makes the Ravenwing a powerful shooting force.

Some units can hold their own in assault. The Ravenwing Knights and command squad can get a fair number of attacks on the charge, with their hammers giving them rending to cause some damage against more heavily armoured enemies.

Overall, the Ravenwing have improved dramatically compared to the last codex and should provide some fun games and tactical challenges.

Hope you have enjoyed this review, if you have anything to add or tactics to suggest, please let me know below.

For the second part of my review on Codex Dark Angels dealing with the Deathwing, click here.

Part 1- Ravenwing
Part 2- Deathwing
Part 3- Special rules, Traits, Psychics and Relics
Part 4- HQ and Troops
Part 5- Elites and Fast Attack
Part 6- Heavy Support and Lord of War
Part 7- Formations


  1. Very nice review that covers everything well and makes me keen to start these at some point in the future (maybe once I have sold some of my current stuff off and paid my tax bill...).

    A shame that some of the wording seems to have fallen through the gaps with the codex (and as far as I have heard seems to be the case with the deathwing) and FAQ are slow if they come at all, particularly with the HQs in the ravenwing formation.

    But sounds like a fun fluffy and competitive army to play!

    Are you going to review deathwing as well?

    1. I was thinking of review the whole codex at some point. I figured that a lot of blogs would be doing this and thought I would focus on the Ravenwing to make it a bit different. I will probably take a look at the Deathwing and other army units if that is something people would be interested in.

      As for the Deathwing strike force, all the Dark Angel HQ units have the Deathwing special rule (as far as I am aware, don't have the codex to hand), meaning that they could all be taken in an all Deathwing army. I think some rules fell through the cracks. Maybe taking a bike should have given a character the Ravenwing rule? Hopefully I will have some nice opponents that let me used my biker librarian. Will maybe need to petition Alex to allow him at blog wars.

      There are a few rules errors or oddities that creep in. The other one that stands out is that the marine banners allow fear test re-rolls even though marines are immune to fear. It might have been for any allies, but the rules specify it only affects Dark Angels units. These sorts of errors or inconsistencies seem immediately apparent to anyone who reads the codex, so it makes you wonder how they are missed when the book is published?

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing dark angels players finally start punching at their weight. The new codex seems pretty good, and has some fun tricks in it.

    1. Me too Greg, I'm really looking forward to trying it out this week (and in future weeks). The error with the Ravenwing strike force just bugs me though. I really want a bike-mounted librarian to try out the new psychic powers.

  3. I've got a few questions regarding the fabled 2+ rerollable Jink save.
    I know the Ravenwing rule gives them reroll. But what lowers the save to the 2+? Is that purely due to the presence of a darkshroud?

    1. Skilled rider moves it to 3+. The shroud grants stealth, +1 cover save. 2+.

    2. Greg got there before me (he is everywhere on the Internet!).

      The Black Knights have skilled rider giving them +1 to their Jink save and the presence of a Darkshroud gives them Stealth as well, making it a 2+ re-roll for the Black Knights and command squad (and 3+ for everyone else).

      It is also interesting to note that the Ravenwing Support Squadron gets a 2+ Jink save as well as the Darkshroud confers Shrouded to the other Landspeeders as they form a single unit. They also get a 4+ cover save as standard as they receive the benefits for Shrouded and Stealth without Jinking.

    3. Sorry, 5+ cover save without Jinking for the Support Squadron, the Darkshroud would not confer Stealth on its own unit.

  4. Nice write-up! :] Regarding the RW Co. Banner, Marines are immune to Fear thanks to ATSKNF buuuuut they are not immune to failing Morale tests *or Pinning*. Fearless units auto-pass Pinning tests, but Marines have ATSKNF and not Fearless in 7th so they can be pinned...which, I suspect, is why 7th also removed Pinning from Sniper & Barrage weapons. Booooo.

    1. Thanks Mauler! You are right, it would come in useful for morale and pinning tests. I was confused about re-rolling the Fear tests as it would be of no use to marines.

    2. Most welcome, I'm looking forward to reading the rest today! Thanks for taking your time to write it :D