Dark Angels Review: Fast Attack: Ravenwing Bike Squad

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Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of one of the Space Marines’ premier bike units, the Ravenwing Bike Squad. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.

Overview:

The Ravenwing Bike Squad is another fantastic unit entry in the Dark Angels Codex. The squad comes with a host of special rules to really give them a big boost over a basic Space Marine Bike Squad and will generally perform well in a number of lists. The basic squad comes with three models (including Sergeant) for 75 points, with the option of increasing the squad size up to 6 and adding a Ravenwing Attack Bike.

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Wargear:

  • Bolt Pistol or Chainsword
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • Space Marine Bike
  • Teleport Homer
  • Two bikers can take a Special Weapon
  • The Sergeant can be upgraded to a Veteran Sergeant, who can take Melee weapons, Ranged Weapons and/or Meltabombs.
  • The Squad can include a Ravenwing Attack Bike armed with a Heavy Bolter, which can be upgraded to a Multi-melta.

Special Rules:

  • ATSKNF
  • Combat Squads
  • Grim Resolve- Fires overwatch at BS2 unless Jinking and unit is Stubborn
  • Hit and Run
  • Ravenwing- may re-roll failed Jink saves
  • Scout

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Tactics:

I think that the Ravenwing Bike Squad is a great unit for any Dark Angels army and the unit is well worth its points cost.

As Space Marine Bikers, the squad is quite durable. Toughness 5 with a 3+ armour save is decent against a range of weapons, giving them slightly enhanced durability against most basic infantry wepaons, but they will still fall as easily as marines to high strength, low AP firepower. Having the Ravenwing rule further boosts their defensive capabilities against shooting attacks, providing a 75% chance of blocking enemy fire when Jinking. This means that the unit will actually soak up a fair amount of non-Ignores Cover firepower. This actually gives them a small durability boost over White Scars Bikers, the other premier Space Marine Bike unit.

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In terms of offensive shooting, a Twin-Linked Boltgun is a strong weapon against a range of units. Paired with Relentless gained from the Bike, you can actually put out a fair amount of firepower with a decent-sized unit, firepower that will certainly worry any lightly-armoured enemy units. Uprgading two of the Bikers to carry Special Weapons is practically mandatory for getting the most out of the unit. Obviously, Grav Guns and Meltaguns will be the most popular choices in the current meta, though Plasma still has its uses if you feel like going all traditional with your Dark Angels or have a need to kill off your own unit.

The Teleport Homer is a nice addition, handy if you are taking Deathwing units in your army. However, given the state of Terminators in the game at the moment, this is unlikely to see much use. What is nice is that every member of the squad gets a Teleport Homer, rather than it just being an upgrade for the Sergeant. This means it will be more difficult for your opponent to snipe out a single model carrying the Homer, but will need to take out the whole unit. This bonus is even better when combined with some of the formations in the codex that extend the range of the Teleport Homer from 6″ to 12″, giving you more tactical options for your Deathwing units (if you take any).

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For me, giving Meltabombs to the squad Sergeant is a must. This allows the unit to take on any enemy vehicles that they may face more effectively and is great for popping Drop Pods, as you are hitting them automatically in combat and blowing them up on a 4+ (+1 for being open-topped and +2 for being AP1). With the upcoming changes to the grenades rule in combat, I find it even more beneficial to take Meltabombs now, as the rest of the squad will be hard pressed to take out tanks. I tend not to upgrade to a Veteran Sergeant or arm him with a Melee weapon. The Bike squad is not all that great in combat and there is little point spending the points on upgrades to increase their effectiveness, when their real strength is in shooting. For this reason, taking a Combi-weapon to compliment the squad’s Special Weapons is a good choice for the sergeant.

In combat, the unit is decent, but not great. As Bikes, they do get Hammer of Wrath hits when they charge, though don’t get the strength bonus of White Scars Bikers, so only hit at S4. After that though, they are still Marines with one base attack, so don’t be expecting too much from them in combat.

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Where the Ravenwing Bike Squad does come into its own is in the special rules the unit gets. As any White Scars player will know, Hit and Run and Scout on a Bike Squad are fantastic. Hit and Run stops you from getting bogged down in combat, giving you the chance to escape and utilise your Bolters or Special Weapons. Scout is great for getting into rapid fire range on turn 1 with your Bike Squads or allowing you to increase your deployment options by outflanking. What is great is that the Ravenwing Bike Squads get these rules as standard, not having to take a Special Character in order to gain access to Scout.

Grim Resolve can be useful. Stubborn is nice, allowing you to always test at Ld 8 for morale tests. However, losing combat is not really a big deal for Space Marines thanks to ‘And They Shall Know No Fear’. Getting to fire Overwatch at BS2 is a nice bonus, especially on all those Twin-Linked Bolters, so should actually help cause a few overwatch wounds if you are not Jinking.

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Combat Squads is also quite useful for the Ravenwing Bike Squad. For the squad, full strength consists of 6 Bikers and an Attack Bike, which splits up into two three-man units and the Attack Bike on its own. This is in contrast to Space Marine Bike Squads which break down into a 5-man squad and three Bikes and an Attack Bike in one squad. This means it is cheaper to build a full strength Ravenwing Bike Squad and gives you more tactical flexibility when they combat squad, giving you three units instead of two. For me, having the Attack Bike go out on its own is more beneficial than having it stuck with three bikers. I think that this gives the Ravenwing Bike Squad more flexibility over its Space Marine counterpart and can be very useful in tournament formats where the army building options are more restricted, such as those limiting the army to a single CAD or Highlander-type formats. You are still able to follow the restrictions of the tournament, but can combat squad your unit to give you three highly mobile units for grabbing objectives. I am planning on using this tactic in an upcoming tournament where you are limited with the number of duplicate squads. This option allows me to take a single unit of Ravenwing Bikers, but gain three units on the tabletop. Alternatively, I can keep them as one squad for any kill point based missions to give my opponent fewer scoring options.

Where the Ravenwing Bike Squad does lose out to the White Scars Bike Squad is in mobility and battlefield role. Ravenwing Bike Squads lack Skilled Rider, meaning that they are still troubled by Dangerous Terrain. This means you will need to be careful when manoeuvring your unit around the board, as it can be risky to cut through those ruins to get a better firing position or get into rapid fire range. There is always the risk you can lose a Biker to terrain that the White Scars can ignore. The other down side is that the Dark Angels Codex lacks a way to take Ravenwing Bike squads as troops choices. Previous editions allowed this, meaning that your Bikers could be taken as scoring units. With this choice gone, the Ravenwing Bike Squad is still scoring, but lacks Objective Secured. This makes it more difficult for them to grab objectives (certainly ones in the enemy deployment zone) and gives the Space Marine Bikers the edge in this instance.

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Despite this, the Ravenwing Bike Squad is still a very solid choice in a Dark Angels army. At only 4 points more than a Space Marine Biker, they come with some additional wargear and a whole host of special rules that make them more than worth it.

The Ravenwing Bike Squad is great for grabbing objectives in a game. Their high mobility and increased durability (thanks to the Ravenwing rule) means that they can zip around the board and are actually quite tough to put down without a high volume of shots or access to Ignores Cover fire. Many opponents get regularly frustrated when shots seem to just bounce off the unit thanks to their re-rollable Jink save. This often leads them to pour more firepower into the unit to try and eliminate them. This is great for other units in your army, such as Black Knights. Every squad trying to shoot at the Ravenwing Bike Squad is another unit not targeting your expensive Knights.

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I like to run an all Ravenwing army. In this, the Bike Squad is a unit that takes on the threats that the Black Knights are not dealing with. I will tend to run two units of Ravenwing Bikers; one armed with Grav Guns, the other with Meltaguns, both squads with Meltabombs. The Bike Squads can go after various threats that the Black Knights are not dealing with and more often than not, will simple be used for grabbing maelstrom objectives. In my army, the Ravenwing Command Squad and Black Knights do all the heavy lifting, the Ravenwing Bikers are there to hold objectives, harass enemy tanks and grab maelstrom points. This means the unit will invariable be jinking most of the time in order to survive for as long as possible. Generally, this means that their special weapons will mostly be wasted, as I will be using the Twin-Linked Bolters to snap fire. However, the Special Weapons are still useful every once in a while for taking on enemy vehicles or tougher monstrous creatures.

Unit Synergy

I actually find the Bike Squad to be a useful support unit for a Dark Angels Librarian. Many of the Interromancy powers that the Dark Angels have are quite short ranged. My Librarians are generally bike mounted for the increased durability and the mobility to actually get into range to use their powers. The Bike Squad makes a nice source of ablative wounds for the Librarian, allowing him to get close to the enemy with fewer risks. This also gives him access to Hit and Run, preventing him from getting bogged down in combat.

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Other characters in the army tend to go with a unit of Black Knights where their combat abilities are more useful. I don’t tend to find the Librarian that useful as a combat character, so prefer to use him to boost a unit of Ravenwing Bikers which are sometimes less of a target than a unit of Black Knights.

Obviously, the Darkshroud is a potent unit for adding to the durability of a unit of Ravenwing Bikers. Getting a 3+ re-rollable Jink save should seriously boost the survivability of the Bike Squad and allow them to keep grabbing objectives. I would normally save my Darkshroud to protect the valuable Black Knights (this is getting to be a theme), but there is nothing to stop a unit of Bikers riding on the coat tails of the Darkshroud to also gain the benefits. Alternatively, if you have a second Darkshroud (or are not taking Black Knights for some reason), it will really boost the annoyance factor of the Ravenwing Bike Squad, making them extremely difficult to shift.

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Formations

The Ravenwing Attack Squadron can take a unit of Ravenwing Bikers and either a Landspeeder or Landspeeder Vengeance. The formation gains Scout (for the Landspeeder) and a the Attack Squadron special rule. With this rule, if the Landspeeder scores a hit against an enemy unit, the Bike Squad gains +1BS when firing at the same unit. This makes for a great combo between the Landspeeder and Bike Squads.

There can be many ways to utilise this formation. I like to go for the tank-hunting option. For this, the formation consists of a Landspeeder with two Multi-meltas (or Multi-melta and Typhoon Missile Launcher) and a unit of Bikers with two Meltaguns. The Landspeeder should score a hit with one of its weapons, allowing the two Meltaguns to hit on 2+. This combination should spell the end of any tough enemy tanks on the field. The only downside of this is that the Landspeeder can destroy the tank on its own, leaving the Bikers out of position or having to target another unit.

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Alternatively, you can go for a basic Landspeeder and a Bike Squad with grav guns. The Landspeeder should be able to score a hit with one of its three Heavy Bolter shots. It doesn’t matter if the Heavy Bolter is unlikely to hurt the unit, you can then follow it up with six Grav Gun shots, hitting on a 2+.

This formation also gives you the bonus 12″ range for the Bike Squad’s Teleport Homers. This is great if you are running Deathwing Terminators in your army, giving you a greater threat range to bring these units down accurately.

The Ravenwing Attack Squadron can also be taken as part of the Lion’s Blade Strike Force. This gives the Bike Squad the ability to fire overwatch at full ballistic skill, which is obviously a very powerful ability!

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Overall

The Ravenwing Bike Squad is a fantastic unit to add to a Dark Angels army. They have a range of abilities that take them above most Space Marine Bike Squads and give you a lot of tactical flexibility in your force. They do suffer a bit from the lack of Objective Secured and ability to ignore dangerous terrain tests, but these are small setbacks on an otherwise very powerful unit.

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About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

4 Responses to “Dark Angels Review: Fast Attack: Ravenwing Bike Squad”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius November 28, 2016 3:12 pm
    #

    The issue for these gents has always been that Black Knights and White Scars bikers are better…

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr November 29, 2016 12:28 am
      #

      I can’t disagree on that point. I mostly use them in my Ravenwing Strike Force for grabbing objectives and taking on enemy tanks with Meltabombs in the unit, while the Black Knights do the heavy lifting. They tend to be ignored as my opponent focuses on the Black Knights, allowing them to score maelstrom points.

  2. MidnightSun December 1, 2016 10:58 am
    #

    Excellent review, well written and covering lots of useful points.

    I think that GW’s done a good job of balancing Ravenwing against SM Bikers in this edition; the point about not being able to give RW Objective Secured being a big point in SM’s favour is something I very much agree with. That said, I quite like the Ravenwing’s granularity, if that term makes sense, in their Combat Squads rule splitting them into three rather than two. Without OS the last-turns objective rush is certainly a lot less effective, but three tiny little units of guys all hitting objectives at once can make it quite difficult to stop them contesting.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr December 2, 2016 2:00 am
      #

      Cheers MidnightSun, glad you found it useful.

      I’ve been a fan of the Ravenwing for ages, the Dark Angels were my very first 40k army back in 3rd edition and I’ve stuck with them ever since. The latest codex has been great for the army after several lacklustre ones that were outclassed by the Space Marine codex.

      Getting objective secured on the Bikers would have been huge, possibly making them slightly better than White Scars (or at least a level equivalent). They are still great for grabbing objectives with their mobility, but sometimes you will not be able to shift that Objective Secured unit from the objective and they may suffer because of it.

      Not so bad in a normal army where you may have troop drop pods or other units to grab objectives, but I can sometimes struggle in my all Ravenwing force. It’s a pity that my other favourite objective grabbing unit, the Landspeeder Storm, is not available to the Dark Angels.

      The combat squad rule works really well for the Ravenwing Bikers, better and cheaper than the Marine equivalent in my opinion.