Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the best unit in the Dark Angels codex, possibly one of the best units in the game, the fantastic Ravenwing Black Knights. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.
The Ravenwing Black Knights are far and away the best unit in the Dark Angels codex. They come with some great wargear and great special rules that give them their awesome utility on the battlefield. It is not uncommon for a competitive Dark Angels army to feature several units of Black Knights, they are simply that good. The basic unit consists of a Huntsmaster (unit champion) and two Black Knights for 40 pts a piece. The unit can be expanded to up to 10 models, quite a substantial unit size for a unit of bikers. A Black Knight has a Space Marine Veteran’s profile, mounted on a bike.
- Bolt Pistol
- Plasma Talon- 18″, S7, AP2, Rapid Fire, Gets Hot, Twin-linked.
- Corvus Hammer- +1S, Melee, Rending
- Frag and Krak Grenades
- Teleport Homer
- One in every three models may take a Ravenwing Grenade Launcher (more on this below).
- The Ravenwing Huntsmaster may replace his Corvus Hammer with a Power Weapon and may take Meltabombs.
- Grim Resolve- Stubborn and fires overwatch at BS2 (unless they Jink)
- Hit and Run
- Ravenwing- Gets to re-roll failed Jink saves.
- Skilled Rider
As I have said above, the Ravenwing Black Knights are an amazing unit, able to take on a host of enemy units and come out on top. However, they do pay a premium for their abilities and the loss of each Black Knight from the unit will be felt.
A Space Marine Bike unit is fairly durable to shooting and combat, but not worth the 40 points each model pays. The durability of the Black Knights comes from the Ravenwing special rule. Combined with Skilled Rider, the unit gets a 3+ re-rollable Jink save, greatly boosting their durability to enemy shooting. Their durability is improved further by the addition of a Darkshroud to the army. I would say that taking a Darkshroud with a unit of Black Knights is practically mandatory. This will give the Black Knights a 2+ re-rollable Jink save (usually comp’ed to 2+/4+ in many tournaments) and also prevents enemy units from firing overwatch at the unit when they charge. You will need to be careful of any AP3 Ignores Cover firepower in the enemy army, as the Black Knights will be a prime target for such weapons and will fell them as quickly as any other Space Marine Biker. Such units should be a priority for the Black Knights or the rest of your army, and should be silenced as quickly as possible!
Armed with Plasma Talons, Black Knights can put out a lot of potent firepower. These are essentially short-ranged, twin-linked Plasma Guns. Thanks to their Scout move and normal move, you can generally be in Rapid Fire range for the Plasma Talons on turn 1, giving your Black Knights a pretty potent alpha-strike capability. As potents as Grav weaponry is in the current meta, Plasma weapons can still pack a very strong punch against a wide variety of enemy units. In fact, the plasma talons will be able to damage vehicles with armour 12 or below easier than grav weaponry (though they do lack the instant immobilisation and subsequent stacking of hull point damage that grav gets). Gets Hot is still a pain, but thanks to being twin-linked, you have a less than 1% chance of killing one of your Black Knights with their own weapons. Though take it from a regular Ravenwing player, count on losing at least one of your Knights to Gets Hot each game!
The Ravenwing Grenade Launcher adds a bit more variety to the weapons of the Black Knights. They come with standard Frag (S3, AP6, Rapid Fire, Blast) and Krak (S6, AP4, Rapid Fire) shells, as well as two special shells. Rad shells are S3, assault 1 and Blast. In addition, each roll of a 6 to wound inflicts two wounds on the target unit regardless of toughness, with the additional wound being allocated and saved against separately. The Stasis Shells are the most useful for the Black Knights. These are only S3 and Blast, so don’t count on them doing too much damage. The real benefit comes from the Stasis Anomaly rule. If the unit is hit by the shell, all models in the unit suffer -1WS and -1I. This helps to boost the potent combat potential of the Black Knights even further.
If you wish to take a Grenade Launcher, I would recommend only one per unit. The Plasma Talon is still the best weapon available to them, but the Stasis Shell can be useful for softening up an enemy unit before the charge. It is very useful against other Marines, allowing the Black Knights to strike first and to hit on a 3+. I wouldn’t say that the Grenade Launcher is a compulsory choice in the unit. Given that the Black Knights are likely to be Jinking most of the time, you will not get to fire the Rad or Stasis shell and lack the twin-linked that the Plasma Talon has makes it more difficult to hit with these when snap firing.
Unless you get the first turn, you are likely to be Jinking with the unit and therefore firing snap shots. This means that the twin-linked Plasma Talons can still put out a decent amount of firepower each turn, but the real strength of the Black Knights is in their combat ability.
Thanks to their profile and wargear, each Black Knight will put out four S5 Rending attacks on the charge. I would normally run a unit of Black Knights as five or six-man squads, meaning 25-30 attacks on the charge (in addition to Hammer of Wrath hits). The damage output of this unit in combat is immense and they will easily win against most basic infantry and will give most dedicated combat units a run for their money, assuming they are not striking first with AP3 weapons. Rending means that you can ignore any armour saves and can even worry monstrous creatures, assuming you can roll those 6’s. If you are able to get a Stasis Shell off on the enemy unit before you charge, you will boost the damage output of the unit in combat even more. Two units of 5 or 6 Black Knights charging one unit are likely to decimate anything short of a tooled-up Deathstar.
Further boosting their combat abilities is the Hit and Run special rule that they inherently have. This is a brilliant special rule for any combat unit, allowing you to escape from unfavourable combats or to leave combat for another charge on the subsequent turn. In addition, Grim Resolve gives the unit Stubborn, meaning they will always be testing on Ld9, great for keeping them from fleeing from combat and getting shot at in the subsequent turn.
The Huntsmaster can take a Power Weapon if you wish, but you are just as well sticking with the Corvus Hammer. He can also take Meltabombs. Again, a nice addition, but that many S5 Rending attacks are likely to make a mess of most vehicles in the game.
I find that a unit of 5 or 6 Black Knights is a good size, able to take on most foes in the shooting or assault phase. More than this is generally overkill for all but the toughest of units. I would generally rather take two units of 5 Black Knights than a single unit of 10, as a single 400 point unit is a very tempting target for the enemy army.
There are a number of other units in the Dark Angels Codex that can boost the abilities of the Black Knights even further.
As already mentioned above, a Darkshroud is a practically mandatory choice when you take a unit of Black Knights. As well as boosting their cover save to an insane 2+ re-rollable, it also prevents enemy units from firing overwatch as the Black Knights charge if they are close enough to the Darkshroud. Don’t forget, it also gives them Fear. Although many units are immune to the effects of Fear, it can still significantly boost your combat abilities if your opponent gets unlucky with their Fear test. You only need a single model from the unit to be within 6″ of the Darkshroud to get the effects, so it is possible for one Darkshroud to buff several units of Black Knights or Ravenwing Bikers.
A Chaplain or Interrogator-Chaplain on a Bike also makes a great accompanying character for a unit of Black Knights. Not only will the Zealot re-rolls help to boost the combat ability of the Black Knights even further, but the addition of Fearless to the unit will be a great help in keeping them in fight. With Hit and Run as standard for the Black Knights, you will not necessarily be trapped in combat due to Fearless. The Interrogator-Chaplain also provides a nice bonus, with Hatred when facing Chaos Space Marines. In addition to boosting the morale and combat potential of the unit, the Chaplains can provide a valuable Invulnerable Save for the unit, helping to keep the Black Knights alive for longer if you don’t want them to jink or come up against a low volume of Ignores Cover attacks.
As Grand Master of the Ravenwing, Sammael also makes a useful addition to a unit of Black Knights. He is no slouch in combat, with an AP2 power sword that strikes at initiative. With Eternal Warrior, he can also provide value as a minor wound tanking character and can accept unfavourable challenges, with more chance of surviving than the Huntsmaster. One of the big bonuses of Sammael is having Rapid Manoeuvre as a Warlord Trait. This gives a unit he leads +3″ to their charge range, helping to ensure that the Black Knights make combat more reliably and even making longer range charges more favourable and worth the risk (especially if a nearby Darkshroud is preventing enemy overwatch).
A Dark Angels Librarian on a Bike can also benefit a unit of Black Knights. The Interromancy Discipline contains a number of psychic powers for boosting the combat output of the Black Knights. Righteous Repugnance is a warp charge 1 power that grants a unit Rage. As well as being relatively easy to cast, this will give each Black Knight a whopping 6 attacks on the charge. Mind Worm and Mind Wipe are great for reducing the WS or I of selected units/characters, making it easier for the Black Knights to dominate them in combat. Alternatively, you could just go for Prescience to provide the Black Knights with re-rolls in combat to further boost their combat potential.
A Techmarine on a Bike can also be of benefit to the unit. This is the only way to access a Dark Angels character with a 2+ save on a bike for tanking AP3 wounds, but he does lack an invulnerable save in this regard. His servo-harness also provides some useful high strength, AP2 attacks.
Of the five characters, I prefer the Interrogator-Chaplain to go with a unit of Black Knights. He is a decent combat character (especially when armed with some of the Dark Angels Relics) and provides Fearless and Zealot re-rolls that really boost the effectiveness of the unit. If you are lucky, you can also get Rapid Manoeuvre as your Warlord Trait to boost them even further.
Unfortunately, the Black Knights are not available for many formations in the Dark Angels codex.
They are not available in the Lion’s Blade Strike Force (the Dark Angels Decurion). It is one of the few times that a unit from a Codex is excluded in their own Decurion-type formation. This is annoying as Black Knights firing overwatch at full ballistic skill would have been sweet!
The one formation that does see the inclusion of Black Knights on a regular basis is the Ravenwing Strike Force. This formation has a couple of benefits for the Black Knights. If you choose to keep them in reserve, all units in the formation automatically arrive on turn 2. This allows you to hold off the Black Knights in reserve if you are facing an alpha-strike army, with a guaranteed arrival on the second turn. As the Knights have Scout, you can even Outflank with them as they arrive.
The second benefit is Speed of the Raven. This allows the units in the formation to turbo-boost on the turn they are deployed and not have to snap fire if they Jink. This is obviously pretty potent for the Black Knights as you get the full protection of their re-rollable Jink save, but also get full access to their impressive firepower.
I hope I have been able to convince you that a unit of Black Knights are well worth the inclusion in any Dark Angels army. They are a highly mobile unit that shoot hard and hit hard and will find a place in any competitive list.
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