Friday, 15 June 2018

London GT 2018- Dark Angels Tournament Army Review

As is customary after I attend a tournament, I take a look at my army to see what performed well in the list and what could be changed to improve the list in future games. 

As a reminder, my army consisted of:
Battalion Detachment
Azrael (Az)
Primaris Lieutenant- Master-crafted Auto Bolt Rifle (L)
Primaris Ancient- Bolt Rifle (An)
5 Intercessors- Bolt Rifle (I1)
5 Intercessors- Bolt Rifle (I2)
5 Devastator Squad- Heavy Bolter, Bolters, Armorium Cherub (D)
5 Scouts- Bolters, Heavy Bolter, Chainsword (S1)
5 Scouts- Bolters, Chainsword (S2)
5 Scouts- Bolt Pistols, Shotguns (S3)
10 Hellbalsters- Plasma Incinerators (H)

Outrider Detachment
Sammael (S)
5 Black Knights- Plasma Talons, Corvus Hammers (BK)
4 Ravenwing Bikers- Flamer, Twin Bolters, Storm Bolter (RB1)
4 Ravenwing Bikers- Meltagun, Twin Bolters, Storm Bolter (RB2)
3 Ravenwing Bikers- Twin Bolters, Storm Bolter, Plasma Gun (RB3)
Ravenwing Darkshroud- Assault Cannon (D)

10 Command Points

Overall, I think the army did reasonable well. Of my four games, I won two and lost two. Some recording errors in one of the games (Game 3) meant that I may have actually been able to pull out a win in three of my games.

I'll take a look at the unit in the army and how they performed during my tournament games.

The warlord of my army, Azrael is a solid addition to the list and part of what makes the list work so well.
The biggest boosts from Azrael are the full re-rolls to hit within 6" and the 4+ invulnerable save for models within 6". This did a huge amount for the damage output and durability of the Hellblasters, who he accompanied for most of my games.

He also gives me another command point, plus the ever useful "regain CP on a 5+" warlord trait. He is also pretty decent in combat, thanks to the improved strength of his Power Sword, so can be a big threat to enemy units and characters.

He only survived in one of the three games, where he was close to being killed off in the final turn. I don't think this was such an issue though, as they were big threat that took him out in the games; an Imperial Knight in game 1, a unit of Death Company in Game 2, a big unit of Shining Spears in game 3.

I think Azrael would go in the list once more, as he is the lynchpin that keeps the army going.

Primaris Lieutenant
The Lieutenant was used to give the Hellblasters re-rolls of 1's to wound, going with Azrael to buff them even further.

I gave him the Eye of the Unseen Relic, simply as he couldn't take a Power Sword to take the Heavenfall Blade Relic. In hindsight, I think this was a good choice. I didn't really rate this Relic much, but it was incredibly useful in a couple of my games.

In game 2, it ensured that a Blood Angels Captain with Thunder Hammer and Custodes Shield Captain could only strike last after charging in to combat. This was great for mitigating the damage that they could do in combat.

I would definitely take the Lieutenant again, but think I would go from a Primaris Lieutenant to a regular Lieutenant. This gives me more weapon options, so I would probably go for a Power Sword or Power Fist on the Lieutenant. I only went with the Primaris Lieutenant, as that was the model I had painted. I could also give the Lieutenant a jump pack for a bit of end of game mobility.

I think I would also stick with the Eye of the Unseen, as it was very useful in my list.

Primaris Ancient
I'm not sure how much effect the Ancient had in my games. His main role was to allow the Hellblasters to shoot again after they were slain. He did allow them to do this in most regards. In some games he seemed to be allowing almost everyone to shoot back, in others he seemed to do very little. I guess it evened out over the course of the game.

I would probably drop the Ancient from my list. The 4+ roll to shoot back is just a bit too unreliable for me. I would rather spend the points elsewhere.

I was reasonably happy with how the Intercessors performed in my games. They weren't too much of a threat to the enemy army, but were good at holding objectives or screening my other units from enemy deep strikers.

They survived about half the games, as they weren't really targeted until the big threats in the army were dealt with, such as the Hellblasters and Black Knights.

The extra range of their guns makes them a great unit for staying in my deployment zone, and the extra wound adds to their durability against small arms fire.

I think I would probably include the Intercessors once more. I might even add another squad or make a squad of 10 and a squad of 5.

The Scouts were a mixed bag in many of my games. They were amazing in the first game, hiding out of line of sight for most of the game and scoring me objective points every turn. In game 2, they were going to be used for blocking enemy deep strikers, but were mostly dead by the time they arrived. In games 3 and 4 they really didn't do much.

I still thinks Scouts are useful in the Marine army, but the change to the reserves rules make them less essential than they were for blocking enemy deep strikers. They are normally dead by turn 2, so don't really block these units so effectively.

I think I would probably go with one unit of 10 Scouts in the army. They can combat squad if I am facing enemy infiltrators, such as other Scouts or Nurglings, or I am not concerned about kill points in a game.

I would probably stick with Bolters in the squad, as I didn't find the Shotguns did much in my games. They were good for advancing and still shooting though.

Devastator Squad
The Devastator squad was armed with a single Heavy Bolter, mainly for the Hellfire Shells stratagem. Coupled with the Armorium Cherub, you can get two rounds of Hellfire Shells for only 1 CP. In addition, with the Signum for the Sergeant, the Heavy Bolter hits on a 2+ and can re-roll 1's to hit if they did not move thanks to Chapter Tactics.

This makes the single Heavy Bolter highly accurate in the army and a great way for dealing mortal wounds to the enemy army.

I would definitely take this squad in my army again. They are great for holding backfield objectives, as well as dealing damage to the enemy army at range.

The Hellblaster Squad was one of the main units in my army and the main focus of the force.

Backed up by Azrael, the Lieutenant and the Ancient, this squad was a major damage dealer in my games. Given the re-rolls to hit from Azrael, there was little risk to overcharging the Plasma Incinerators in the squad. In fact, there were very few occasions where I did not overcharge their shots.

The squad was instrumental in dealing with the Imperial Knights, able to do a lot of damage in a single volley when combined with the Weapons of the Dark Age stratagem. This allows each weapon to do three damage with each successful wound, really ramping up the damage output of the unit. This makes them great for taking on enemy vehicles or monsters with ease.

The line of sight blocking terrain and corner deployment zones did cause them some problems in my games. In some of my games, they had problems getting into range of the prime targets in the enemy army.

I would probably take the Hellblaster squad again, and keep it at 10 men to benefit from the stratagems. They were able to take a lot of firepower thanks to Azrael's invulnerable save, and were a big focus for the enemy guns.

Sammael was there to support the Black Knights, giving them re-rolls to hit with their Plasma Talons. As a support for a forward moving unit, he was often a big target for the enemy guns.

He did well to survive in two of the three games. In those, however, he didn't really engage with the enemy army; either moving off to secure an objective, or supporting the Ravenwing away from the enemy army.

His firepower wasn't great. The Plasma Cannon is good, but it somehow never really seems to do much damage in most games. He also has some decent combat ability on the turn that he charges.

However, I think a Master with a Jump Pack could perform a similar sort of role at a cheaper cost. A Master with Jump Pack, Storm Shield and Thunder Hammer is around 60 points cheaper. In addition, he could also take a Relic, such as the Shroud of Heroes, making him harder to hit against shooting and combat.

Black Knights
I wasn't too sold on the Black Knights. They can do a lot of damage in the first couple of turns, but were quickly targeted and wiped out by my opponents in most games. The unit did not survive past turn 2 in most of my games.

Even with the Jink invulnerable save, they quickly fell to enemy firepower. I think the problem with this was that I sent them after the enemy army too quickly in most cases, wanting to get them into shooting range and combat range as soon as possible. If I was a bit more conservative with them, they might have survived longer to have more of an impact on the game. They are not actually all that good in combat, actually struggling to take out even a unit of Guardsmen.

They still lack some durability, so are quite easy to kill off against a number of armies. I'm not sure if they would make the list again. They are a nice distraction unit, but are pretty expensive for that.

Ravenwing Bikers
These units were a big disappointment too. They lack serious durability on the board. They do get an invulnerable save if they advanced, but then their firepower goes to waste.

Most opponents had little trouble in finishing them off with ease. I really want Bike armies to work in 8th edition, as I have a big Ravenwing and White Scars collection, but they always seem to underwhelm on the tabletop.

These units were supposed to be mobile objective grabbers, but didn't really survive long enough to do so.

I might keep a minimum squad with Meltaguns for tank hunting, but otherwise I would drop them. My army still lacks a bit of mobility though, so they would need to be replaced. I think a Tactical Squad in a Rhino would be a good option and/or an Assault Squad with jump packs. They would have the benefit of being able to be held in reserve for later in the game to counter-assault or go after enemy characters.

The unit of 5 with 3 Plasma Pistols was of some success in my White Scars army, so a couple of squads of these might make a good replacement. Plus, they could always use Weapons of the Dark Age as well to get 3 damage on each shot when they overcharge.

I think this is a solid addition to the list. It provides some nice benefits to the Hellblasters, making them harder to kill and dangerous to overcharge weapons at them.

I think adding a second Darkshroud could be a good option. Putting one with the Black Knights would make them harder to kill.

In most of my games, I forgot to advance the Darkshroud each turn. I forgot that it would also get an invulnerable save against shooting. This could have saved it a number of times from potent enemy firepower, and I wouldn't really miss the shots from its Assault Cannon. I really need to replace it sometime with the cheaper Heavy Bolter option.

General Issues
Looking at the army overall, there were some trends in the gameplay.

The Hellblasters and Black Knights were a potent source of firepower for the army, able to cause a lot of damage when coupled with the stratagems. However, once they were dead, the army did lack a bit of punch to it. I might consider adding a few Missile Launchers or Lascannons to the Devastator Squad. My choices were a bit limited by the models I had available, but adding a few more Heavy Weapons might be a good choice.

The army also had a problem with mobility. Once the Bikers were dead (which was pretty quick), the army was quite slow on the tabletop. I think that adding a couple of transport vehicles or Assault Squad could be a nice option. It was also allow me to hold some units back in reserve on deployment.

Another problem with the army is that everything is on the board, meaning it is potentially a target for the enemy guns. This means the army suffers as the game goes on, as many of my opponents were able to bring on fresh reinforcements, while I had to make do with what I had.

New List
A new Dark Angels army could look something like this:

Battalion Detachment
Lieutenant- MC Bolter, Power Sword, Eye of the Unseen
6 Intercessors- Bolt Rifles
6 Intercessors- Bolt Rifles
10 Scouts- Bolters
5 Tactical Marines- Meltagun, Combi-Melta
Rhino- 2 Storm Bolters
10 Hellblasters- Plasma Incinerators
10 Devastators- Heavy Bolter, 3 Lascannons, Armorium Cherub

Outrider Detachment
Master- Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer
5 Black Knights
Ravenwing Darkshroud- Heavy Bolter
5 Assault Marines- 3 Plasma Pistols
5 Assault Marines- 3 Plasma Pistols

Much of the army remains the same, but I've changed a few units based on my experience. The Scouts and Devastators could combat squad if necessary. Having large squads is not so bad in the Dark Angels as they can only lose a single model to failed morale tests.

The Master could go with the two squads of Assault Marines in reserve. The ability to overcharge the Plasma Pistols on both squads can be brutal if you manage to get a good number of hits.

So, what do you think of the army? Any suggestions to change it up or improve it? 


  1. Nice write up. I'd have left the ancient in the list. The chance of firing again is too good to drop.

    1. I think it probably is more useful than not. I just wish we could get a 3+ relic banner to make it more reliable.

  2. Interesting read on your thoughts on the units you used. I think the Black Knights and Bikers were useful in keeping the enemy from focusing on the Hellblasters early. You still have the assault marine squads which may prove a more efficient way to harrass and distract the opponent, but I am concerned that with the deterrant of the ancient the hellblasters may get targeted much earlier with much more firepower. I could easily be wrong, so I look forward to future battle reports with the new list.

    1. That is the downside of losing the Biker, the Hellblasters may get more attention early on. Hopefully the combination of the Darkshroud and invulnerable save would help them.

    2. That combo sure is good, and makes them (imho) better than Ultramarine Hellblasters. As a long time fan of plasma I'm jealous of the Dark Angels :)

    3. Yeah, it seems like Dark Angels are all about the synergy and combo's.

  3. After an edition or two of Bikes being really bloody good, I wonder if you're not expecting a bit too much from them?

    I don't know new Dark Angels that well, so if there's a way to give them more heft I can't suggest it - but can you try using them as a reserve? That seems like it would suit their role as objective grabbers but also keep them safe until they're needed, preserve your mobility later in the game and give you that counterpunch you lacked - addressing all the pain points you brought up.

    Could be total cobblers, mind.

    1. They are nowhere as good as what they used to be, for certain. At the moment, it feels like the extra wound doesn't really have much impact on their performance.

      Unfortunately, there is no way to put the Bikes in reserve any more. That's why the assault squads are a useful alternative, for me.

  4. Hi Mike,
    I was the fanboy who introduced himself during the tournament. Was a pleasure to be able to meet you.
    I don't think I found the tournament as frustrating as you did but it definitely had its problems (which I wrote to the organisers about).
    I was fortunate enough to be playing the narrative event (with Ravenwing) which was great, and had lovely scenery.
    I find the Black Knights are a bit expensive for what they do, and you're right that they're not great in combat. However, they help your Hellblasters stay alive by distracting fire. I'd keep them, take one less unit of normal Ravenwing and the ancient and replace them with a Dark Talon which I find to be very good. The other two units that it's worth considering are the Talon Master (great for taking out Chaff and as a support unit) and a Librarian for the all important Aversion.
    Good luck in your next games.

    1. Hi CC, it was a genuine pleasure to meet you at the event. Thanks very much for coming to say hi.

      I actually had a Dark Talon in my list to start with. I hear all the time about how good they are. However, it never seemed to do much in my army. Maybe I just wasn't using it properly. I dropped it for the Bikes, which turned out to be not great either!

  5. Have you thought about Inceptors for firepower and mobility? I've seen good things about both bolter and plasma versions.

    1. I've seen a number of battle reports with the Bolter Inceptors and played against them. They can put out a crazy amount of firepower. I haven't had a chance to use them yet though, so definitely worth a try for the Dark Angels.