Wednesday 1 July 2015

Dark Angels Codex Review- Deathwing

Welcome to part two of my Dark Angels 7th edition codex review, part 1 covered the glorious second company, the Ravenwing. Part two will cover the illustrious Deathwing, the terminator elite of the Unforgiven.
I wanted to do something a little different with these reviews. Rather than go through the codex each force organisation at a time, I wanted to focus first on the aspects that make the Dark Angels unique; namely the Ravenwing and Deathwing. As before, I will cover the special rules, different units and formations that apply to the Deathwing.

All Deathwing units have the (aptly named) Deathwing special rule. This grants them Fearless and Hatred (Chaos Space Marines). Fearless is always a very useful special rule, enabling your units to stay in the fight. The fact that most Dark Angels characters have the Deathwing rule means that they can make almost any unit fearless.
Deathwing now grants Hatred of Chaos Space Marines rather than Preferred enemy that Inner Circle granted in the 6th edition codex. This is an improvement, allowing a re-roll to all failed to hit rolls the first turn of combat, rather than just the 1's. Obviously very situational, but a nice bonus when playing Chaos marines.

Grim Resolve:
All Deathwing units also gain the benefit of Grim Resolve. Obviously, Stubborn is of no use as all Deathwing are fearless, but the BS2 overwatch (improving with formation bonuses) is a nice buff as deep striking terminator units are more likely to be charged than to be doing the charging.

Deathwing Vehicle:
This upgrade for Land Raiders has been removed from the codex. Not a huge loss, but it did make Land Raiders more survivable.

The master of the Deathwing still costs the same points as in the 6th edition codex, but gains an extra attack on his profile. He has lost Vengeful Stike (TL shooting on the turn he deep strikes, indeed all Deathwing appear to have lost this ability). He still maintains the ability to not scatter during deep strike (along with a Deathwing unit he joins), which is a great ability to ensure that your troops arrive exactly where you need them to.
His sword is AP3 with fleshbane, so will have no trouble wounding the toughest of enemies. If his sword was AP2, it would be amazing, but he will struggle to deal with any heavily armoured opponents. He can replace his sword with a pair of lightning claws or thunder hammer and storm shield for free, so can deal with 2+ saves if he takes the hammer.

EDIT: It appears I do not read rules before reviewing them! Deathwing Terminators still get twin-linked shooting on the turn they arrive from deep strike, the Deathwing Assault rule has moved to the terminator armour section of the rules. Thanks to Matthew Walsh for pointing out this mistake in the comments below.

A nice terminator captain with some great bonuses, but is very expensive. He has lost one of his major abilities from the last codex, which was to make Deathwing terminator squads troops, one of the major reasons for taking him in the last codex. Without his ability, he may not see much play outside of a normal captain upgraded with terminator armour. His ability to deep strike without scatter is nice, but can easily be replicated by the abundance of teleport homers on the Ravenwing or with locator beacons on drop pods.

NOTE: As almost all the Dark Angels characters have the Deathwing special rule (with the exception of Sammael, Chaplains and Techmarines), they can all be taken in a Deathwing army. However, I will cover these characters in a separate entry focusing on the rest of the codex.

Deathwing Terminators:
The main body of a Deathwing army, Deathwing Terminators got a modest points decrease in the new codex. They are 5 pts more expensive than regular terminators, but for that cost get Fearless, Split fire and Grim Resolve, a pretty fair cost for three nice special rules.
They can be upgraded to carry thunder hammers and storm shields. The cost of the upgrade has doubled compared to the previous codex, but puts them in line with the upgrade cost for regular assault terminators.
They can take a Perfidious relic of the unforgiven, giving them Fear and Adamantium Will. A decent upgrade if you are likely to face a psyker heavy force and fear can come in handy if your opponent fails their test, but not of much use against a lot of armies.

Personally, I dislike forcing the Sergeant to take a power weapon over a power fist. I would prefer to extra power fist attacks in combat.

The Deathwing terminators have access to some very useful special rules and 2+ saves have become even better since 6th edition. However, Terminators, of all varieties, seems a bit overpriced for what they can do. They don't bring a great deal of firepower to an army for their cost. In combat, they only get 2 base attacks each, useful for taking out small elite units (assuming they don't get taken out first) with their power fist attacks. However, they will struggle to deal with horde armies in combat. Any large units with access to fearless or morale boosters (tyranid swarms, guard or conscripts with a priest and orks, to a lesser extent) will be able to tie down the Deathwing Knights for several turns as the knights will be unable to generate enough wounds to wipe out the horde in a single turn.

If terminators were toughness 5 as standard or had an extra wounds, they may be more useful, but they can struggle as they are.

Deathwing Command Squad:
The Deathwing Command squad has the same points cost and special rules as regular Deathwing Terminators, so the same comments above apply to them. They have also move to the elites slot rather than being an HQ choice (that did not take up a slot) in the old codex.

The difference comes in the upgrades available. The cost of the champion upgrade remains the same, giving him the halberd of caliban (+2S, AP2) and the Honour or Death special rule (must issue and accept challenges). The apothecary upgrade has dropped in price significantly from 30 pts to 5 pts, so there is absolutely no reason not to take it if you plan to run a Deathwing Command.

The Deathwing Command has access to two banners. The Deathwing banner has dropped a massive 25 pts, but now provides the unit with +1A rather than all Deathwing within 6". It also provides re-rolls to morale, fear and pinning checks to nearby units. No use for other Deathwing units, but a nice buff for other Dark Angels units. The other banner is a Sacred Standard, which gives the unit Relentless and Counter attack. As terminators are already Relentless, the bonus here is counter attack, which is useful for getting additional attacks for your command squad if they are assaulted. Whether this bonus is worth 35 pts is up to you to decide, it will depend on what army you are fielding and what enemy you are facing.

If you are planning to run Deathwing terminators, then the command squad is the way to go. They are the exact same cost as Deathwing terminators and the weapon upgrades cost the same. For an extra 5 pts, you get Feel no Pain for the unit (though you do lose the power fist on the Apothecary model, but don't need a sergeant with power weapon, so it kind of evens out).

They also get access to a Perfidious relic of the unforgiven.

Deathwing Knights:
The basic cost of the Deathwing Knights remains the same, the biggest change for the Knights is that their Mace of Absolution has changed from AP4 to AP3. This is a huge bonus, allowing the Deathwing Knights to chew through marine squads where they may have struggled before. Given that they also strike at initiative, the Knights should have no problem dispatching power armoured foes without any reduction in attacks compared to power fist armed terminators who may lose a few models before they get to attack.
They lose the Bane of the Traitor rule, but this was quite situations with it only affecting Chaos Space Marines and their weapons are AP3 as standard now, making them more effective against a larger range of enemies.

They retain the shield wall bonus (+1T when 3 or more models are in base contact), which is a nice bonus to their survivability in addition to the terminator armour and storm shields. It does make them a little more vulnerable to template weapons though, but should help them significantly in an assault. They also retain Precision strikes in the new codex.

I like the Deathwing Knights, both the models and their rules. They are even better now and I look forward to trying them out.

They, like all Deathwing terminator units, can take a Land Raider as a dedicated transport. This is a very good, albeit expensive, way to get the units into combat. Deep striking them in gets them to the enemy faster, but they will need to weather a turn of shooting before they can assault (if they are not assaulted by the enemy first). Whether they can do this depends on your opponent's forces and what other units you have that can harass the enemy to prevent them from shooting at your expensive terminators.

Venerable Dreadnought:
The Venerable Dreadnought cost the same as in the old codex and the same as the Space Marine codex equivalent. This means it gains Deathwing and Grim Resolve for no cost, so is actually better than the marine equivalent.
It gains the additional attacks that Dreadnoughts now have and has the extra survivability due to its Venerable rule.

A very decent choice if you like Dreadnoughts in your army.

As with the Ravenwing, the Deathwing have access to some unique formations in the new Codex.

Deathwing Strike Force:
The strike force consists of one HQ and two Elite slots with the option for additional HQ and elite slots.
All units in the detachment must have the Deathwing special rule. Fortunately in this case, the detachment does not have the same problem as the Ravenwing detachment as Company Masters, Librarians and Interrogator Chaplains have the Deathwing rule and access to Terminator armour, meaning you have a lot of options for which character leads your strike force, so the choice is up to you.
Venerable Dreadnoughts can be taken in the detachment, but they must purchase a drop pod as a dedicated transport.

The first command benefit for this detachment is Summoned to War. All units in the detachment must begin the game in Deep Strike Reserve. If the army includes a Ravenwing attack squadron or Ravenwing strike force, you get to choose to automatically pass or fail reserve rolls for units in the Deathwing strike force. This is a very powerful rule that allows you to choose exactly when your units arrive to best suit your battleplan and how the game is going.
The second benefit is a Deathwing battle focus, allowing the terminators to shoot then run or run then shoot on the turn they arrive from deep strike. Again, a nice ability allowing you to spread out your forces to guard against template weapons or to get back in range if you scatter a bit far from deep striking.

There has been some debate online about whether the Deathwing terminator units can purchase a land raider as a dedicated transport in this formation and allowing the land raider to deep strike with the terminators. From my interpretation, you cannot take Land Raiders in the formation. The Land Raider cannot deep strike, so cannot be placed in deep strike reserve, meaning it cannot be used in the formation. As amusing as the idea of deep striking land raiders is, I don't think it will be allowed by a large number of players (never mind the rules).

The biggest loss to the Deathwing is the change to the old Deathwing assault rules. In the new Strike force formation, the earliest a unit can arrive is turn 2. This means that it is impossible to field an all Deathwing army without entering the realms of Unbound army building, as you must have at least one unit on the board at the end of turn 1 to not automatically lose. As Belial (and Azrael) have lost the ability to make Deathwing terminators troops, the formation is the only way to take an all Deathwing army, but the formation makes the army unplayable on its own. I think that this is a real shame, as taking an all Deathwing or all Ravenwing army was a nice feature of Dark Angels armies and gave them a unique flavour. While it is possible to field an all Ravenwing army, this formation has its own problems that I have discussed previously, the impossibility of an all Deathwing army outside of unbound (which a lot of people don't like to play or is flat out forbidden in some circles/tournaments) means that it may make some people's carefully crafted armies unplayable.

Of course, you can still field an almost all Deathwing army, but will need to take an allied contingent, with perhaps another character in terminator armour and a unit of scouts as the compulsory troops choice. You just have to hope that they can hold the enemy off for a whole turn or else you forfeit the game.

Deathwing Redemption Force:
An auxiliary choice in the Lion's blade strike force (the Dark Angels version of the Gladius) that consists of an independent character in terminator armour and 2-5 Deathwing terminator units. There is the option to add a unit of Deathwing command, Deathwing Knights and a venerable Dreadnought (in a drop pod). All units in the formation must start in deep strike reserve (there appears to be a theme with these formations).

The entire formation gets Preferred enemy (Chaos space marines) and two special rules. The first is a modified version of Deathwing assault. This allows all units from the formation to arrive on turn 2, 3 or 4 (must be chosen after determining Warlord Traits). Again, any special rule that allows you to know exactly when your reserves will arrive is a powerful tool to fold into your battle plan. The second special rule is Take the fight to the enemy, the pseudo-battle focus as described above. They also get the full ballistic skill overwatch rule if taken as part of the Lion's blade strike force.

At a minimum of 490 pts (two units of Deathwing terminators and a Librarian in terminator armour), this is a lot of points to keep in reserve, especially in smaller games, though the disruption they can cause to the enemy plans when they arrive may be worth the cost. I say disruption, as two unit of 5 terminators do not put out a massive amount of firepower, compared to Grav Centurions or Grav cannon devastators arriving in a drop pod, but they are certainly not a threat that can be ignored for long. Once they get into combat, the terminators will likely make a mess of any backline vehicles, heavy weapons squads or objective holders, so your opponent will be forced to either shoot at them or send units to deal with them/hold them up.

The choice of whether to run a Deathwing Strike force or Deathwing Redemption Force is an interesting question.
Without a doubt, the best way to run the Deathwing is in conjunction with the Ravenwing, just as the background describes it. The Ravenwing have built in teleport homers allowing you to put your Deathwing exactly where you want them, assuming the bikes are in range (and with a 24" movement range, you should be able to get them into position on all but the biggest boards). The Ravenwing attack squadron also effectively doubles the range of the teleport homer, ensuring that the Deathwing appear where you need them in the battle.

If running in conjunction with a Ravenwing strike force or Ravenwing attack squadron, I would be inclined to use the Deathwing Strike Force over the Deathwing Redemption Force. The Strike force allows you to automatically pass or fail reserve rolls (when used with the Ravenwing) so is more adaptive than the Redemption force, which forces you predict in advance when the Deathwing will be most needed. In this way, the Deathwing strike force allows you to choose exactly when each individual unit arrives, rather than having them arrive en masse in a single turn. In addition, you are not forced to take two units of Deathwing terminators in the Strike force, you could instead take a Command squad and unit of Deathwing Knights to fulfil the minimum elites requirements for the Strike Force.

However, a lot of the time you may not want to field either formation in the game. In a 1500 pts game, each formation uses up about a third of your points costs. In their current state, I don't think Terminators can put out the kind of damage required to make that a cost effective use of points, especially as they must forgo a turn of assault when they arrive via deep strike. In combat, terminators can make a mess of most non-horde units thanks to their power fists, but with only two attacks base, they are never going to rack up a high body count against most enemies; four power fist terminators will kill an average of 5 marines on the charge and 4 in each subsequent round, so even a 10-man devastator squad will tie them up for 3 rounds of combat, assuming they are unable to bring down the any of the terminators in return.

If I am going to run Deathwing in my army, it will most likely be one unit with thunder hammers and storm shields or a unit of Deathwing Knights, for the bonuses in combat. A standard unit of Deathwing with 4 storm bolters and an assault cannon can put out a reasonable amount of firepower, but not enough to justify their post cost compared to a tactical squad or bike squad with grav weaponry, which works out significantly cheaper. As much as I love terminators, in the current game they are just not that cost effective and can be brought down by massed firepower or AP2 specific firepower. However, sometimes all goes right and the enemy just bounces off your 2+ armour save as the terminators cut them down. In games like these, the worth of terminators shines through, but unfortunately, these games are few and far between.

It's a shame that the all Deathwing army is no longer viable outside of Unbound, as it was something even I occasionally dabbled in. In the current objective based games, multiple scoring units and good mobility are key to winning (especially in maelstrom-type missions) and these are areas where the Deathwing suffer. Terminators have high mobility in the form of deep striking, but once on the board they are as slow as other infantry and will struggle to move from objective to objective. They can have a dedicated transport, but it essentially doubles the cost of the unit. Add to this a low model count for an all terminator army and they will struggle with most objective-based games.

I like the Deathwing and look forward to using the Deathwing Knights, with their new bonuses, at some point in the future. I'm just not sure the rest of the Deathwing will be making an appearance.

What do you think about the Deathwing and the new formations? Am I being too hard on terminators? Let me know below.

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. That's really helpful for me, I've had my Dark Angels for over 20 years and it's only now I'm making headway on them. It's still a while off until I'll have a fully functioning army but certainly this helps for when I actually look at army lists. I've about 20 Terminators to make up, 10 Knight sprues, a standard sprue and a Dark Vengeance set so I'll probably make 10 Knights and then use the remaining bits to make a Command Squad and a variety of other conversions so I have options - the plasma cannon, some Thunder Hammers and maybe lightning claws. I've got one cyclone already and bits to make two more, do you think they're worth it?

    1. Glad it helped you Dave. That's a lot of terminators to get built and painted, good luck! The cyclone can be useful to give your Deathwing a bit more firepower. With split fire as standard, you can use it to target a vehicle while your army goes after some lighter infantry with the storm bolters, or use its frag missiles to help with thinning out infantry. If you are running a lot of terminators, low model count is a problem, so any extra firepower is welcome.

      I like lightning claws on terminators. It gives an extra attack, something that is lacking on current terminators, as well as shred re-rolls and lets them chew through marines with AP3 claws. The only problem, as with all assault terminators, is how to ensure they survive to get into combat. Deep striking forces you to weather a turn of enemy shooting and a Land Raider is a very expensive delivery system.

  2. Check out the special rule for terminator armor.

    1. TL when deepstriking is now a terminator armor special rule

    2. I did not realise that had changed, thanks for the correction!

    3. I've added a note to the section above. Thanks again.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Thanks for the great overview. I hope they faq (i know i know) the deathwing issue, because it is quite the oversight.

    Then of course, for all we know, 8th edition is just around the corner, and it'll make sense then.

    1. Don't even joke about 8th edition Greg! The rife Age of Sigmar speculation and arguments are enough for the moment.

      Glad you liked it. I am genuinely excited about trying out my Dark Angels for the first time in forever.

      I did see on another review that the Deathwing army would still be viable with a drop pod dreadnought as the formation rules did not overrule drop pod assault. By my reading of the rules, I thought that it did, but I guess it is open to interpretation.

    2. I did it. Now bols will repost this, and say that a source said 8th is coming out and everyone will yell at me.


      Hmm...that would make sense, but then you still have the issue...if they can take out the pod and dreadnought before turn 2 (not very hard to do), you'd be tabled. :(

    3. I'm going to start my own rumour on 8th edition 40k.

      "This new edition will focus on massively ordered battles. Units will now be rank and file on square bases (no need to rebase your entire collection, the game will work just fine with your existing armies). Movement will be more important to the overall game, finally allowing you to flank the enemy forces and giving you a bonus for doing so!

      In order to add balance to the game, every army gets a Wave Serpent and Decurion detachment. In fact, it will now be impossible for any of your army to be wounded and for you to lose the game. Forge the Narrative all the way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

  5. Ayup, as Corrm says, there's nothing preventing taking a podding Dread to get a first-turn Drop Pod Assault (or three Dreads if you want two down on the first turn to give four fairly tough vehicle targets instead of two) but this only works with the Deathwing Strike Force detachment as the Redemption Formation has a wretched rule messing everything up.

    I'm still bummed out that the Codex Marines "Strike Force Alpha" Formation gives Terminators a chance to arrive on the first turn and their "1st Company Task Force" Formation allows Terminators to take a Land Raider. So frustrating.

    1. Yeah, it would be nice to have the option to use an all Deathwing army without going unbound.

    2. That is the option - pod in a Venerable Dread, unless you mean a pure Terminator army? In which case... :(

    3. I meant a pure Terminator army. The pod would allow the Venerable Dreadnoughts to arrive on turn 1. As you said, the Deathwing Strike Force allows them to deploy, but the Redemption force does not on turn 1.

    4. Aye, the DWRF isn't usable on it's own, which is a proper shame.

      Such a daft, needless change to DW deployment >:(