Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Birthday Bash 2.0- Deathwatch Army Review

As is customary after attending a tournament, I like to take a look over my army and see how it performed in my games- looking at what worked well and what could be improved the next time. 

In order to set this review in context, you can find the battle reports from Game 1 (Necrons), Game 2 (White Scars) and Game 3 (Khorne Daemon Kin) in their respective links. 

As a reminder, my army consisted of:
Watch Captain Artemis
5 Veterans- 3 Frag Cannons, Storm Shield
Drop Pod
5 Veterans- Meltagun, 2 Combi-meltas, Auspex
Drop Pod 
5 Veterans- 5 Deathwatch Shotguns, Storm Shield 
Drop Pod
5 Veterans- 5 Stalker Pattern Bolters
4 Bikers- Power Weapons, Meltabombs 
4 Bikers- Power Weapons, Meltabombs
4 Vanguard Veterans- 2 Heavy Thunder Hammers, 2 Pairs of Lightning Claws
Corvus Blackstar- Inferno Halo Launcher

Overall, the army worked very well. It was well suited for maelstrom missions, had a reasonable level of durability and could put out a lot of potent firepower, with one unit providing some combat ability.
I will now take a look at breaking down the different units in the force.

Watch Captain Artemis
Artemis has a Watch Captain's stats and gets a couple of extra rules and some extra weapons on top. First off, he gains Feel No Pain (6+) and Fearless. The Feel No Pain is unlikely to be of use often, but may stop the odd wound. Getting Fearless is a bigger boost, ensuring that your unit will not run.

He also comes with a 2+ poisoned combi-flamer and a Stasis Grenade that he can use once to perform a D attack in combat. The Stasis Grenade is risky, as there is a chance he will hit himself with it in combat.

In terms of the tournament, Artemis didn't do all that much to be honest. In game 1, he managed to survive combat against the Necron Overlord. In game 2, he did kill off a few Bikers, but then died trying to take out the Techmarine. In game 3, he didn't really do anything at all.

Artemis is not bad, he's just no better than a standard Watch Captain in my list. Artemis does have a few bonuses though; Fearless and automatically getting the Vigilance Incarnate warlord trait. This is good, as I found the Mission Tactics very useful in my games.

If I was to take the army again, I would probably switch Artemis for a generic Watch Captain and give him either a power sword and bolt pistol (for the extra attack) or a Relic Blade (for the increased strength attack) and a Storm Shield. Giving him the The Tome of Ectoclades would help mitigate the Chapter Tactics issue a bit, giving his squad the extra Mission Tactics each turn.

Alternatively, I would take a Watch Master if I could spare the points in the list. Not only would this guarantee the extra Mission Tactics, I would also get a tougher character who is more potent in combat.

Frag Cannon Deathwatch Veterans
This unit performed very well in all three games. Being in a drop pod means they cannot be targeted before they get to fire. This is good, as this unit rarely survives to fire a second time.

It is an expensive unit to sacrifice for one round of shooting, but whatever they target in the first turn tends to be eliminated immediately. This unit can generally be relied upon to score First Blood if you are going first, or if your opponent is unable to score it in their turn. They performed best in Game 2, where they eliminated the White Scars Grav Command Squad in a single volley.

I think that three Frag Cannons is the right level for the squad. If firing the template, then two would probably be sufficient for most units without a large number of invulnerable saves or FNP rolls. However, if firing the solid shells, four shots is a little too unreliable to take three hulls points for me. As they are only AP2, you are having to count on rolling a 6 to explode a vehicle. I would rather have the 6 shots to ensure that I can destroy any vehicle that I target.

The only thing I would probably change is to drop the Storm Shield from the unit. Even though it is only 10 pts, it doesn't tend to have much of an effect. Just assume the unit is going to be lost after shooting and don't go putting your hope in a single Storm Shield.

Meltagun Deathwatch Veterans
This squad performed fairly well in my games. My practice army list had a distinct lack of anti-vehicle punch in the shooting phase and I though this unit would change that in my games. As it was, I think this unit only fired at a vehicle once in the whole tournament, and that was at a flyer, so it didn't really count.

Most of the time, I ended up firing their Bolters to use the special issue ammunition. I was actually reminded in a Reddit comment, that the Veterans can technically be armed with a Bolter and a Meltagun. Though pretty iffy from a fluff perspective, this would be a more valid choice than the combi-meltas. This would allow me to fire three Meltaguns each turn instead of for just one turn, as well as having the option to switch to the Bolters.

I would probably keep the Auspex as well. This was useful in negating the cover save of the White Scars in game 2, allowing me to kill them with my Meltaguns.

I would probably take this unit again, going for Meltaguns and Bolters instead of Combi-meltas on two of the squad.

Shotgun Deathwatch Veterans
The Deathwatch Shotgun was not a weapon that I rated highly when I first reviewed the codex, but it has grown on me over the games.
Getting access to five more template weapons (albeit at S3) can be a very effective tactic against weaker infantry or large groups of models. In addition, the D3 hits in overwatch can be pretty effective as well. For tougher units, you can use the two Shred shots, or use the two AP4 shots. Another bonus is that they are assault weapons, allowing you to charge if you wish.

I think this unit was quite effective in my games. Their best game was probably game 3, where they arrived to take out the Cultists and score me two points for that turn. Even though it was not the most cost effective sacrifice, it was well worth it in game terms.

Again, I would probably drop the Storm Shield on the single Veteran. It is a nice idea in practice, but unless the whole squad gets Storm Shields, it is not worth it. I can't recall making a single Storm Shield save over the course of the tournament.

Stalker Boltgun Deathwatch Veterans
Another quite effective unit in my army. This unit makes a great squad for holding a deployment zone objective in my maelstrom games. Given the slightly longer range of the Stalker Boltguns and the fact they get two shots each, means that they can still have an impact in the game, even if they are stuck at the back of the field.

Sniper is also quite useful (if I could remember it). I always remembered about the Rending shots, but there were several times that I forgot that they wound on a 4+ and ended up using the poisoned 2+ shells, when the Ignores Cover or AP3 would have been useful.

This was highlighted in games 2 and 3. I'm sure there are several times where I was rolling to wound the Bikes on a 5+ or going for the poisoned 2+ shells. Similarly, I think there were a couple of times where I forgot they wounded the Spawn on a 4+ and could have be a significant threat to the Bloodthirster with their AP3 shells (as they would not be wounding on 6's).

I think this unit was very effective in my games and would consider even taking a second unit of them to double the firepower available.

Drop Pods
The Drop Pods do deserve a special mention, as they were very useful in my games. One of the key bonuses was their being Objective Secured, allowing me to claim or contest objectives with ease in the game.

I think that three is a good number, ensuring you have two arriving on turn 1 and helping to only have one unit in reserve.

Their damage output was not great, but it doesn't need to be. If I had the points to spare, I would consider upgrading them to have the Deathwind Missile Laucher, as there were several occassions where a S5 large blast would have been a nice weapon to have.

Deathwatch Bikers
These two units were very effective in my games. They primarily served as mobile objective grabbers in the force. Skilled Rider gives them a great deal of mobility and some improved durability.

I armed them all with Power Weapons, but this was probably overkill, as they did not see combat too often in my games. I would probably drop this to a single Power Sword or Power Axe in the unit. I would keep the Meltabombs. Even though I didn't use them, I think it is still better to have them than not.

The lack of Hit and Run and some kind of Scouting ability is a big loss for the unit over other Space Marine Bikers. As a result, I don't really feel the need to give them a Teleport Homer.

I would definitely take these two units again, maybe even splitting them into 3 units of 3 to give my opponent an extra target to consider and giving me even more options.

Corvus Blackstar
This one I am torn on. It is a lovely model, but its hard to pin down its effectiveness in a game.

In terms of its shooting output, it is useless. Over the course of three games, it killed one model (the Attack Bike in game 2) and did around 3 hull points damage to enemy vehicles over the three games. The Assault Cannon is useful, but was easily shut down by enemy jinking in my games. The Stormstrike missiles didn't hit most of the time. I didn't drop the bomb once, and never really found a situation where I would wish to do so.

However, it is quite an effective assault vehicle for the Vanguard Veterans, who would have most likely been shot to pieces before they got to assault. I can honestly say that it probably helped me win game 3, allowing me to keep my Warlord and the Vanguard Veterans safe unit the crucial moment when I needed them to charge. I'm just not sure it is worth the 185 points for what it brings to the game. However, there is no real way to bring a combat unit in the Deathwatch that will be able to get to combat without it.

Vanguard Veterans
Another unit that can relied upon to eliminate a unit in combat. With two pairs of Lightning Claws and two Heavy Thunder Hammers, they can take on most enemy units and will obliterate any enemy vehicles in combat (except possibly ones that can attack back).

The biggest problem with this unit is getting them into combat. The Corvus Blackstar takes care of that, but it is a very expensive choice simply to get them into combat. They were very effective in Game 1, taking out the Doomsday Ark, Necron Overlord and Lynchguard. This was only because there was little left to shoot at them. As could be seen in Game 2, they were quickly taken out by simple Bolter fire from the bikes over a single turn.

I'm not sure I would take them again. They are great in combat, but without the Corvus Blackstar, I think they would really struggle to get there intact.

Mission Tactics
The correct use of Mission Tactics is very important for my army. As the Deathwatch are quite a small, elite force, you need all the re-rolls you can get.

Getting to change the mission tactics twice with my army was very useful, allowing me to adapt to the game situation and get the best out of the army. It is also very useful when using the AP3 shells to try and stop me killing myself with Gets Hot.

The army worked very well for the maelstrom missions in the tournament games. Had the missions been a mixture of maelstrom and Kill Points, I would not have done so well, as my army was almost wiped out in two of the three games. This had a lot to do with how I played the missions though, frequently sacrificing units to score maximum points each turn rather than playing it safe.

Based on these observations, a new army to playtest could be:
Watch Master- Meltabombs, The Tome of Ectolades
5 Veterans- 3 Frag Cannons
Drop Pod
5 Veterans- Bolters and 4 Meltaguns, Sergeant with Auspex and Meltabombs
Drop Pod
5 Veterans- 5 Shotguns and one Storm Shield
Drop Pod
5 Veterans- Stalker Pattern Boltguns
5 Veterans- Stalker Pattern Boltguns
Terminator- Cyclone Missile Launcher
4 Bikers- Meltabombs, Power Axe and Power Sword
4 Bikers- Meltabombs, two Power Swords
4 Bikers- Meltabombs, Power Maul and Power Sword

This army comes in at exactly 1500 pts. This army is mostly based on what models I currently have available, so may not be the optimal list possible.

I've gone for the Watch Master. He is tougher than the Captain, has access to an AP2 power weapon that strike at initiative and automatically gives me an extra mission tactics change and a new warlord trait. I've also given him Meltabombs and the Tome of Ectolades. This gives the Watch Master and his unit an extra mission tactic each turn. This could be useful if I want to put him into combat for the re-rolls.

I have kept the Veteran squads mostly the same. The Frag Cannon squad has lost the Storm Shield, but are the same other than that. I don't expect them to last long in games. The Melta squad has been given 4 Meltguns for some serious tank-busting and for something to deal with 2+ saves.

The Shotgun Veterans remain the same, keeping the Storm Shield in case I can tank challenges against the Watch Master. I've added a second Stalker Pattern Bolter team. This squad will be useful for holding backfield obejctives and for adding more firepower to the army.

In addition, I have added a third Bike squad and dropped the number of Power Weapons in each squad to two. The Bikers were very useful in my games, and having another unit with their potent firepower and ability to grab objectives will be useful.

I have also added a lone Terminator with a Cyclone Missile Launcher. This lone Marine can sit in my objective zone and fire away at enemy armour at long range with the missile launcher, or risk a deep strike in at the enemy armour to get to the vulnerable sides and rear. My only concern is that this will be an easy way to give up first blood in my games.

What is missing from the army is my Corvus Blackstar and Vanguard Veterans. This robs the army of some of the combat punch that it had, but they did not do a great deal in my games, so I don't think the loss will be too great.

Overall, the army has more firepower and mobility in the new list. I have gained an additional objective secured unit, as well as another mobile unit in the Bikers. The Warlord is now tougher and better in combat, and will boost his unit with the Tome of Ectolades.

So, what do you think of the conclusions I have drawn from my army and my new list? 


  1. Hey Mike, thoughts as follows:
    Artemis – I think he suffers from not having access to AP2, so I’d drop him in favour of that option in combat.
    Frag Cannons – I agree, 1 storm shield is unlikely to change much.
    Melta Veterans – Always need melta in an army if you can get it, and not losing the option of bolter fire makes them immensely useful!
    Shotgun Veterans – for such an elite army, the option of laying down 5 template weapons is huge. You are almost always going to be outnumbered so taking on hordes could be a problem, but this unit evens the playing field in that respect.
    Stalker Boltgun Veterans – probably the unit I’d be most likely to drop as I’m not a fan of static units that can’t infiltrate, but I think the specialist ammo probably saves them here – just a shame most snipers don’t have the same choices, space marine scout snipers would be extremely handy then instead of just a cheap unit to fill a few points.
    Drop Pods – the effectiveness of drop pods has been discussed in many places many times, and for 35pts there’s no better transport in the game, especially if they’re obsec. I tend to find the range of the deathwind is the limiting factor and unless you know you’ll be facing a horde army it can be quite overpriced for what you get. A range bump or pts decrease would be what’s needed to make me take it.
    Bikes – always useful, as you say if only for grabbing objectives. I think the option of power weapons in the unit gives them a huge boost, but also paints an even bigger target on a unit your opponents will want to be rid of early.
    Corvus – I would definitely keep this. Having a flyer in your army makes a big difference, especially if you’re using death from the skies rules, since it can affect reserves rolls. As with a lot of flyers, the weapons sound a little off balance, but never discount twin linked assault cannons!
    Vanguard Veterans – I’m a big fan of having a combat option in an army, having been burned by too many combat monsters in the past bouncing from fight to fight without me getting to shoot at them. The trick to using a combat unit effectively I find is getting them in a position where they either can’t be shot in return, or will take a couple of rounds to work through the opponent so you’re still locked in combat in their turn. Not always possible, but it makes a huge difference. I’d be tempted by jump packs on them though, the extra move really helps.

    As for the new list, it looks decent to my eyes, I only have one concern - you've made a warlord that's tougher and better in combat, but where does he go, and how does he force the combat issue? He has no movement option for catching a unit that doesn't want to be in combat, and no bodyguard unit to support him if he does get there.

    1. The flyer can be really useful at times, but I find it really struggles to justify its cost at 1500 pts.
      The Vanguards are also a great combat unit, but I think I will have real problems getting them to combat without the Corvus.

      I think a cheaper warlord option such as the Chaplain or Librarian would be good too.

  2. In my opinion there are a couple of things to note about the new list. While I think its a good list, I would try and keep the blackstar somehow, I find that a flyer is a great addition to an army. I know it didn't do much, but even making enemy flyers junk every turn is good in my books. As for the bomb, once you get use to it and figure how to use it, I'm sure it will prove its worth.

    I'm not sure on the lone terminator, it seems a lot of points to sink in to a unit that I don't think will be very effective and easy to kill.

    For the marines with the stalkers, I'm pretty sure they can also take regular bolters as well, the same as with the meltaguns, meaning that they would still have the option to move and fire if needs be.

    The watch captain is a bit of an odd ball in the list. Depending upon how you plan on using him he may be useful or useless. As a counter attack unit, placed within another unit (shotguns?) I think he'll be good but as an assault unit his got no support and won't last long.

    Either way, in a maelstrom mission, the new list will be hard to play against.

  3. I've enjoyed reading your posts over the past few months of me discovering your blog and seeing you getting use to the way the DW play.

    If you're keeping the above list which looks pretty solid, have you though of maybe hooking the terminator with a stalker squad to form an aquilla kill team? The extra re-rolls could come in hand as well as an extra +2 to add a bit more durability to the squad.
    That's my 2 cents anyway.
    Cheers and keep it up the great posts!

    1. Thanks Ross! I haven't gone for any kill teams in the list as the tournament format didn't allow formations. Otherwise, the Aquila Kill Team would be a great addition.

  4. I tend to agree with some of the comments about the Watch Master... without a close combat oriented bodyguard and/or an assault transport, I think he may not serve you as efficiently as you hope (he does provide an extra change in Mission Tactics, as you point out, which is a good deal).

    What about dropping the Watch Master and the MB on the melta squad (they have lots of anti-tank already), which would give you back 180 points?

    With those points, you could then take a Watch Captain with Jump Pack, AA, Lightning Claw, Power Fist, and the Tome of Ectoclades. You now have a tough, mobile IC who can attach to one of your Bike squads and tank for them, then hit hard in combat with a "bodyguard" in tow (and he benefits from majority T5 against enemy shooting). He also can choose between LC and PF attacks, depending on the enemy, and gets +1A from attacking with two Specialist Weapons (so 5A on the charge).

    You do lose out on the guaranteed extra Mission Tactics change, but the other WL Traits aren't too bad (especially "Bane of Monstrosities" and " Castellan of the Black Vault").

    Other than the Watch Master, I think you have a very solid 1500 point list. As everyone else has said, great reports and analysis, really enjoy them, and keep up the top notch blog!

    1. Cheers. I think you guys are right about the Watch Master in this list. A Jump Pack Captain would be great for the Bikers. Just a shame I can't get a Chaplain on a Bike or Jump Pack.

  5. The FAQ actually killed the option to take a Bolter along with a Special Weapon or something.

    1. It only specified taking a Shotgun an Bolter, but I think you are right. The spirit of the rule would prevent it.

  6. Sorry to be a bother but I don't know if I've made a mistake or not. I put your last couple Deathwatch lists through my list building spreadsheet and they come up over points. The list you used in the Birthday Bash tournament was over 25 pts and this list is over 45 pts according to the program.

    My guess is that you've either not equipped all your bikes with meltabombs or that you aren't spending points to upgrade stalker bolters (they're 5 pts/model).

    Can I ask you to check if you get the same numbers as I do for points in your lists? In the Birthday Bash list I have that you spent 700pts on Troops and 500 pts on Fast Attack. In this list I have that you spent 840 pts on Troops and 450 pts on Fast Attack.

    I'm thinking of running a list similar to these lists and I think I've made a math error somewhere.

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Fuhrmaaj, I have only equipped one set of Meltabombs in each of the Bike squads as you guessed. Sorry if this was not clear on the list. This should take the list below 1500 pts when you remove the extra 30 pts for 6 lots of Meltabombs.