Saturday 11 July 2015

Dark Angels Codex Review Part 6- Heavy Support and Lord of War

Welcome to the penultimate part of my 7th edition Dark Angels codex review. If you missed the previous parts, there are links at the bottom of the post to take you to them.
In this part, I cover the last two sections of the force organisation chart, the Heavy Support category and Azrael, the Lord of War for the Dark Angels.

The first entry in the category, the Ravenwing Landspeeder Vengeance, was covered in the Ravenwing review section.

Devastator Squad:
The big news for the Dark Angels Devastator squad (and Codex Space Marine devastators) is that they now have access to the Grav Cannon and grav amp. These weapons were the big winners when introduced in the 6th edition marine codex and it is easy to see why, with a high number of shots and ability to easily wound the toughest of enemies (assuming they have a decent armour save). While less effective against weakly armoured opponents (Ork boyz and Imperial Guardsmen have little to fear from it), there are more than enough weapons in the rest of the codex to deal with these units. At 35 pts they are a very pricey addition to the unit, but are well worth it against most opponents.  
Aside from the grav cannon, as marine devastators they can have access to all the standard heavy weapons and can field up to four in one unit. Gone are the days when Devastators would pay more for their heavy weapons, they now pay the same as a tactical squad. The benefit of devastators is that you can arm them to suit whatever battlefield shooting role you want. If tank hunting, load them up with missile launchers, multimeltas or lascannons. If facing hordes, you can fill them with heavy bolters and missile launchers. Although expensive, the upgrade to flakk missiles may be worth it if you are likely to be going up against flyers, as Dark Angels do not have access to a great deal of anti-flyer firepower apart from their own flyers, which are quite expensive. Failing that, you could always get your anti-flyer shooting from formations.  
As has always been the case for Devastators, you will probably want to focus them on one battlefield role as mixing a range of anti-infantry and anti-tank weapons in the same unit is going to be less effective, as some of the weapons may be useless depending on your target. A unit of 4 lascannons is going to be a more effective tank hunter than a unit of two lascannons and two heavy bolters, the same as a unit of 4 heavy bolters is going to be more effective against infantry. Of course, you could always take two heavy bolter and two lascannons and combat squad to give you two units of devastators (albeit at reduced firepower for each unit). My personal preference is to take 4 missile launchers. This gives you the option to focus on anti-tank fire (krak missiles) or on anti-infantry firepower (frag missiles) in one unit. You can always replace one missile launcher with a lascannon to help you crack tougher armoured vehicles. I don't tend to bother with the multimelta, as without a drop pod, you may struggle to get your devastators into the effective melta range of these weapons.
Overall, Devastators are a great unit for holding backfield objectives while still having a useful function on the battlefield, with their generally long ranged firepower. The fact that certain formations gives them objective secured adds to their role as objective holders.
The Predator is a decent tank that can be outfitted to suit whatever battlefield role you want. Same as the marine codex, if you have 3 predators in a squadron, you get monster hunter and tank hunter. This is a nice bonus to taking three of the tank, but you only need to knock out one for the squadron to lose their special rules. If you retained this rule for all models in the unit, it might (might) be worth the cost, but you are unlikely to take three just to get this time-limited special rule.

I love the Whirlwind, great model and a nice unit on the battlefield. It's a cheap tank and useful when facing hordes. It has a Rhino chassis making it pretty easy to destroy, but the bonus is that its weapon can fire indirectly, meaning it is easier to hide from the enemy, giving it a boost to its survivability. When you take 3 whirlwinds in a squadron, each tank gets pinning and shred. This is a very nice bonus, meaning that your whirlwinds should do more damage. In addition, three whirlwinds are pretty cheap to field, so it should be easy to get this bonus (assuming you have three whirlwind models).

Featuring one of the most powerful guns in the marine armoury, the Vindicator will make a mess of most units in the game. The downside is the short range of the cannon, meaning that you will need to close range with the enemy to get to use it (assuming they are not coming to you). This makes it easier for the enemy to get to the weaker side and rear armour of the Vindicator, making it easier to destroy.
Having three units in the squadron allows you to fire one Apocalyptic blast that ignores cover. If you get to use this special rule, it will likely cause a huge amount of damage on the enemy army.

Land Raider:
I'll group all three variants into a single entry as I feel they have similar flaws that limit their utility. The Land Raider is a very expensive tank that has a problem with focus. It is incredibly tough, having all round AV14 and 4 hull points, so is going to take a lot of firepower to take down (excluding lance or haywire weaponry). It is one of the only ways to reliably transport Terminators, and the different weapon load outs can have some decent firepower. My problem is that is you are using it to transport assault terminators, you most likely want to be moving as quickly as possible to the enemy and will be wasting some the firepower (all of it if you move flat out). If you are using it for its firepower, you are wasting the massive transport capacity.
On paper, the Land Raider is amazing, but is far too expensive to be cost effective. There are other reliable transport options for terminators for significantly cheaper (though drop pods and deep striking do not allow the terminators to assault, whereas they can assault from the Land Raider). If you are using it for it's firepower, there are cheaper options that will give you more firepower. Whenever I face a Land Raider, it is generally the unit inside that does the most damage rather than the tank itself. If I end up facing one, I tend to ignore it unless there are no other targets.

It's a real shame I don't like Land Raiders so much as I think the model is still amazing after all these years.

The Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels has moved to the Lord of War section. Azrael has had a few changes over the 6th edition codex. He is the same points cost and has the same stats as before, but he has gained Feel no Pain and his combi-plasma gun has lost the Blind special rule. Not a huge loss, but it was a nice bonus for when he got in to combat.
In combat, Azrael has a decent stat line. With 6 attacks on the charge at S6 and AP3, he should be able to take out most basic troops in combat. Defensively, he has a 2+ save,  a 4+ invulnerable (which now affects a vehicle he is in), feel no pain and 4 wounds, so he can take a fair bit of damage before he dies. However, he does not have Eternal Warrior, so one high strength attack that gets through his save will take him out of the game.

He adds a few nice buffs to the army. Any Dark Angels unit can use his leadership value of 10. With the addition of Stubborn for all units, this will make the Dark Angels very hard to shift from an objective, forcing your opponent to have to kill them all. He also adds +1 to seize the initiative rolls and allows you to pick which warlord trait he uses. His biggest loss is the ability to make units of Ravenwing bikers or Deathwing terminators troops.

Azrael is a very strong character and can bring some nice bonuses to the army, but he is a very expensive for what he brings. I like the model, but would probably not field him, taking Sammael instead.

There are some solid choices in the heavy support section of the Dark Angels codex. If you like taking these in a standard space marine army, you will like them in the Dark Angels army too. The only codex specific unit is the Landspeeder Vengeance, which is actually quite a poor unit.

Now that I have finished the standard force organisation chart, I thought I would take a look at what is missing:

Centurions- No grav Centurions for us! What seems to be a component of most competitive lists does not appear in the Dark Angels army. This makes Devastators a better choice as they are the only way to field multiple grav cannons.

Vanguard and Sternguard Veterans- These two powerful veteran units are missing from the codex. The Dark Angels do have their own company veterans unit, but I don't feel that they match up with the utility of the codex space marine veterans.

Stormtalon and Stormraven- The Dark Angels have their own flyers, so don't get access to the Stormtalon or it big brother transport, the Stormraven. While the Dark Angels flyers are nice, I still think the Stormtalon has better weapons options (and is cheaper).

Hunter and Stalker- Dark Angels do not get access to these two tanks. This decreases the amount of anti-flyer firepower available to the Dark Angels.

Landspeeder Storm- I would love to have access to this skimmer, as I think it is a great vehicle that has improved in the latest edition of the space marine codex. I guess the Ravenwing don't want the scouts cramping their style.

There are a few more options that the Dark Angels do not get including Scout Bikers, Ironclad Dreadnoughts and Thunderfire Cannons.

Even though the Dark Angels do not get these choices, they get a lot of flavourful and effective units to make up for them. If you want these choices, you can play a Codex Space Marines army, but the Dark Angels get access to some unique units and vehicles that can make them look and play very differently to their "vanilla" marine counterparts.

Up next is the final part of the review, which will focus on the different formations available to the Dark Angels.

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. the sternguard/vanguard vet lack makes sense. given DAs don't lavish things on their veterns the way a codex chapter does. that said they really need to do something to make DA vets stand out a little more.

    1. From a background perspective it makes sense. All 1st company are Deathwing and take terminator armour, so there are no Sternguard or Vanguard. The company veterans come from 3rd to 9th company (I think).
      As they are in the codex now, they are a bit lacklustre.

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  2. Land Raiders: I see two ways to use them well. Used aggressively, they only really usually need to be moving for one Turn before they unload their contents, and then they can sit in midfield and function as a gun tank. Defensively, they can act as a bunker for a counter-assault Unit to keep it from getting blown away as the enemy advances, using their firepower as they wait.

    I occasionally take MM Devs. Considering doing it more in a Battle Company. I just run a Squad of 5 with 2 MM, put them in a Rhino, drive it up Turn 1, and then bunker there in midfield with it. It's a nice way to keep them cheap while still being effective.

    I've always thought the Company Veterans were a poor addition to the Army, and GW's never managed to do anything interesting with them. As far as I'm concerned, all DA Vets are DeathWing :)

    StormTalon/Raven: It's a pretty big buy-in, but since Chapter Tactics don't matter for Vehicles, you can slot in a StormWing if you really want to use them. I'm considering doing that occasionally.

    I also kind of wish the DA could use the Suppression Force. With a RavenWing Land Speeder as the Spotter, that would be a lot more likely to get more than one use.

    The lack of Hunters and Stalkers makes a bit more sense if you include FW. Since DA are the only Chapter that gets unlimited access to Mortis Dreads, they've got ground-based AA covered there, and have less need for the Hunter/Stalker.

    1. I do like the Land Raider model, so am keen to field one (I have a standard one for my Dark Angels and a Crusader for my White Scars), I just need to find a more effective role for them.

      I more miss the Stormtalon/Stormraven as I think they are fantastic models. My white scars frequently run a stormtalon, it can put out a decent amount of firepower and can be used for late game objective grabbing if it hovers.

  3. Land Raiders are horrendously expensive aye, but they are one of the very few ways that our Terminators can get to assault into cover at initiative...pointless for anything but lightning claw and power sword chaps but it is absolutely immense for DW Knights, especially from a Redeemer :D

    The way I view LRs is how the military would: as a well armed transport vehicle they are a heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle rather than an actual battle tank. Armoured Personnel Carriers like the Rhino are designed to get infantry from A to B with only a modest armament for self-defence, IFVs like the Razorback and Land Raider are designed to deliver infantry to their objective and then the two units provide mutual support for each other; usually the IFV's heavy weapons engage armoured targets while the infantry handle other threats but obviously this varies depending on the loadout of each unit. To me a Land Raider is a delivery system that keeps on delivering; as you say it's paradoxically too expensive to be used as just a battle tank or transport but it requires very careful use of both capabilities to be worthwhile.

    I love the models to bits and I'm absolutely gutted that LRs can no longer be taken as Dedicated Transports for DW Terminators thanks to daft and/or terribly worded Formation/Detachment special rules when Codex Marines have no such issues with their Formations. :(