Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of one of the Dark Angels’ unique flyers, the Ravenwing Dark Talon. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.
The Ravenwing Dark Talon is a flyer that has the potential to cause a lot of damage. It comes armed with an incredibly powerful primary weapon and a bomb that has the potential to seriously de-buff an enemy unit, but this comes at a very hefty price tag of 160 points. The Dark Talon has armour 11 all round and three hull points.
- Two Hurricane Bolters
- Rift Cannon- 18″, S10, AP2, Heavy 1, Blast, Blind, Rift Vortex.
- Stasis Bomb- S4, AP5, Bomb 1, Large Blast, One Use Only, Vast Stasis Anomaly
- Ravenwing- Can re-roll failed Jink saves
- Strafing Run
- Rift Vortex- If a double is rolled on the scatter, the attack is resolved with the Vortex special rule.
- Vast Stasis Anomaly- Any unit hit by the bomb has its WS and I reduced by 3 (to a minimum of 1). In addition, if a model suffers one or more unsaved wounds, it must pass an initiative test for each wound suffered or be removed from play.
The Ravenwing Dark Talon has weapons that sound really great on paper, but in an actual game, I find they struggle to really achieve much of anything. It is a solid flyer, but not really worth the hefty price tag compared to Space Marine flyers such as the Stormtalon or Stormhawk Interceptor.
The Dark Talon has armour 11 and three hull points. This makes the flyer pretty durable, giving most units are snap firing at it. It also has a re-rollable 4+ cover save if it Jinks, further adding to its durability. However, if it does this, it shuts down its primary weapon and renders itself pretty useless.
The Rift Cannon is actually a solid weapon for the Dark Talon. A strength 10, AP2 small blast is a potent weapon that any vehicle would like to have. With Strafing Run, it will be firing at BS5 against most targets, so actually has a good chance of hitting what you fire at. The Cannon also causes Blind, which is great for potentially shutting down the shooting and/or combat ability of the target unit if they fail the test. This can work well with the Ravenwing Grenade Launcher from the Black Knights giving a -1I penalty if you target the same unit. The potential for the weapon to go Vortex is fantastic and can potentially cause a huge amount of damage if you get lucky on the roll (though in all the games I have used it in, I have never had this happen). Even if it doesn’t, S10 will harm just about anything in the game on a 2+ and will Instant Death most standard infantry.
As good as the Rift Cannon is, there are a couple of disadvantages to it. The first is the painfully short range on the cannon. At only 18″, you need to get very close to your opponent to use it. This means that you are highly unlikely to be able to shoot at the same target in the following turn as your flyer must move a minimum of 18″, unless it chooses to Hover (but making itself much more vulnerable to enemy fire or assault). With careful positioning and movement, you can probably get two or three shots off before having to leave the board. The other problem is that any decent cover save has the potential to completely shut it down if your opponent does well with their saves. If your target unit is in decent cover, they will probably be saving half the wounds that the Rift Cannon does. With proper unit spacing, you will be likely to get three or four hits from the Blast, meaning the Rift Cannon will generally be causing only one or two wounds each turn against units in cover.
Due to this, you are best targeting units in the open that lack a Jink save or invulnerable save. The Rift Cannon can also be pretty potent when paired with a Character carrying an Auspex to mitigate the cover save of the enemy unit. The Rift Cannon is a prime weapon for hunting Devastator Centurions, as it will negate their higher toughness and 2+ armour save, as well as instant killing them with each wound. When the Rift Cannon goes Vortex, it has the potential to serious harm the target unit, but you can’t really count on this happening as standard.
The Dark Talon also suffers from a mis-match of its main weapons. Hurricane Bolters do not really compliment the Rift Cannon too well. Any really tough enemy units that you target with the Rift Cannon are unlikely to be phased by Bolter shots. Equally, when firing at low armoured infantry with the Bolters, the Rift Cannon is serious overkill. This makes it difficult to find a target which suits both weapons equally and you will usually be just hoping to get lucky with some Hurricane Bolter kills. Having Strafing Run does mean that you are almost guaranteed to hit with all your twin-linked Bolter shots when firing normally though.
The Dark Talon has an identity crisis thanks to its two main weapons. Does it want to be an elite infantry killer or a horde killer?
The Stasis Bomb sounds great for softening up an enemy unit for assault, but I find that I rarely if ever use it in an actual game. When I run a Ravenwing army, I generally want my units of Black Knights to be assaulting by at least turn 2. In order to get the best use out of the Stasis Bomb, the Dark Talon would need to arrive from reserve on turn 2, then fly over the intended target for the bomb and drop it so that the unit is affected by the Stasis Anomaly. In many cases, I find that much of the enemy army is out of firing arc for the Rift Cannon and Hurricane Bolters in the subsequent shooting phase. If the Dark Talon does not show up on until turn 3 or 4, your choices of target are then probably units that the Black Knights could deal with without the use of the bomb. Again, in all my games with the Dark Talon, I have probably only used the Stasis Bomb once or twice.
The Stasis Bomb can work very well in combination with a source of Blind for diminishing the enemy firepower. Combined with an allied Landspeeder Storm, you could drop the Stasis Bomb for the -3I penalty, then hit them with the Cerberus Launcher for an almost certain fail of the Blind test. This will reduce the enemy unit to WS and BS 1, severely diminishing their abilities.
Having Hover does make the flyer more useful in the endgame for grabbing objectives, but you need to make sure that it cannot be assaulted, as many units will be able to easily bring it down.
Overall, it is hard to recommend the Dark Talon for its points cost, which is a shame as I think it is a great model. The Rift Cannon is very powerful, but for the same cost you could take a small unit of Black Knights or unit of Devastators with a few Grav Cannons. Both of these units will provide better AP2 firepower and much more besides. However, it can be very satisfying when your Rift Cannon does go Vortex and cripples or destroys an enemy unit.
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