Space Marine Review: Heavy Support: Devastator Squad

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the heavy firepower support unit for the Space Marines, the Devastator Squad. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

Overview:

The Space Marine Devastator Squad provides the heavy weapons firepower for the Space Marine army. They are an infantry unit designed to specialise in long range warfare, punishing the enemy army with their superior firepower and providing valuable support for the frontal assault units in the Chapter.

On the tabletop, the Devastator Squad is a great source of long ranged firepower for your army. They can function well enough on their own and can be armed with a variety of Heavy Weapons in order to perform a variety of battlefield roles. However, when augmented by a number of the Space Marine buffing characters, their damage output greatly increases, making them a considerable threat to the enemy army.

The squad consists of one Space Marine Sergeant and four Space Marines, with the option to increase the squad size up to 10. Each Marine costs 13 points (so 65 points for the basic squad).

I would give the Space Marine Devastator Squad the Competitive rating. They provide a nice and cheap source of long ranged firepower for the Space Marine army, and with the right support characters, they can deal a lot of damage to your opponent’s force.

Wargear:

  • Boltgun
  • Bolt Pistol
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • The Sergeant may replace his Boltgun with items from the Sergeant Equipment list.
  • Up to four Space Marines may replace their Boltguns with an item from the Heavy Weapons list (Grav-cannon and Grav-amp, Heavy Bolter, Lascannon, Missile Launcher, Multi-melta, Plasma Cannon).
  • The squad may be accompanied by an Armorium Cherub.

Abilities:

  • And They Shall Know No Fear
  • Combat Squads- Before any models are deployed, a Devastator Squad containing 10 models may be split into two units of 5 models.
  • Signum- Before the unit shoots in the shooting phase, you may choose one model within 3″ of the Sergeant. You can add 1 to the hit rolls for that model during the phase.
  • Armorium Cherub- Once per game, after a model in the unit has fired, an Armorium Cherub will allow the model to immediately shoot again. The Cherub is ignored for the purposes of morale.
  • Keywords: Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, <Chapter>, Infantry, Devastator Squad.

Tactics:

The Devastator Squad is a great source of long-ranged firepower in the Space Marine army. While they may not be as sturdy as a Predator or Razorback, they are a cheap unit and can be armed in a variety of ways to benefit the rest of your army. For tournament play, my personal preference is to take the Missile Launcher or  Heavy Bolter in the squad.

The Missile Launcher is a solid option for the squad. It can provide your army with some high strength, high damage firepower, all for a reasonable 25 points. With the Signum on the Sergeant, a unit of four Missile Launchers can be relied upon to hit at least 3 times a turn on average, wounding most enemy monsters and vehicles on a 3+. On average, you will be looking to do about 7 wounds on a standard enemy vehicle or monster. While this is not going to be destroying any vehicles in one volley, it should be enough to take them down a tier or two in effectiveness.

Another reason that I like the Missile Launcher is the option to switch to Frag Missiles for some anti-horde firepower from the unit. While Lascannons are the better option for taking on most vehicles or monsters, thanks to its boosted AP-3 (and bonus on wounding T8 models), with random opponent pairings, you can find yourself in the situation where you don’t have a prime target for your Lascannons. In these situations, the Missile Launcher wins out for me, as the option to do more hits and wounds on screening chaff units can be key for allowing your assault units to go after prime enemy targets or for clearing space for your own deep strike units to arrive in subsequent turns.

The Heavy Bolter is also a solid option for the Devastator Squad. It is the cheapest Heavy Weapon option and a unit of four Heavy Bolters on the Devastators can actually put out a considerable amount of mid-strength firepower, all for only 105 pts.

The Heavy Bolter and Missile Launcher also gives the squad access to the great Hellfire Shells and Flakk Missile stratagems, respectively. Using these stratagems on your Devastator squad is a great and reliable way to deal mortal wounds on enemy units/models. Thanks to the Signum on the Sergeant, the weapons using these stratagems will be hitting on a 2+ in most cases, meaning there is less chance of the command point being used on a wasted shot that fails to hit (or forces you to burn another command point to re-roll the miss).

The other Heavy Weapon options are also all solid choices with worthy inclusion in a list. The Plasma Cannon is great for multiple shots with good strength and AP, and mid-level damage. In addition, you can always risk an overcharging shot to cause more damage to enemy units or vehicles.

The Multi-melta is fantastic for taking on single models with high toughness and wounds, such as vehicles and monsters. It’s relatively short range for a heavy weapon necessitates some form of transport option for the squad to get the most out of their shots, especially to get into the key Melta range. Such a unit will likely be a prime target for the enemy firepower, so a transport is also useful for keeping the squad safe for as long as possible.

The Grav-Cannon is a solid choice for taking on heavily armoured, multi-wound models. It’s volume of fire is the best of the heavy weapons available, with a squad of four putting out 16 S5 AP-3 shots. The grav cannon will go through units such as Bikers, Marines and Terminators with relative ease, but will struggle against T6 and above as it will only be wounding on a 5+ at best. While they do have a high volume of fire, they cannot be easily relied upon to do so well against tougher targets, but their potential damage output can be really high if you are rolling hot. Again, the relatively short range does necessitate some form of transport option.

The choice of Heavy Weapons really depends on your army build and what role you need the Devastators to perform to compliment the rest of your army.

You will normally see the Devastator Squad fielded in units of 5. This helps to mitigate the effects of morale on the units. An extra model or two as an ablative wound can be useful, but this tends to increase the chances of failing a morale test, though with the right Chapter Tactics, this effect can be lessened. For only 5 pts, an Armorium Cherub is highly advised. Getting an extra shot with the unit for a single turn can be really useful for finishing off a tough target in a single shooting phase. You should always use this on the model benefiting from the Sergeant’s Signum where possible, giving you 2 weapons hitting on a 2+ and more chance of causing damage. As a back up, the Cherub can also be used as an ablative wound on the unit, but this is a bit of a waste of its abilities.

Another way to run the Devastator squad is as a minimum heavy support choice to help fill out a Brigade or other Detachment. A unit of 5 Devastators with a single Heavy Bolter is a cheap HS choice, coming in at only 75 pts. This gives  your army some more Bolter shots and a Heavy Bolter that will be hitting  on a 2+ each turn (in most cases). This can be a useful unit for gaining access to more command points in your army for use with the Stratagems.

The Sergeant can take a combi-weapon, but I would generally avoid this option in most cases. At the range your Devastator squad is likely to be firing at, the combi-weapon is simply wasted points. The only exception to this is if you are taking a squad armed with Multi-meltas or Grav-cannons. These shorter ranged heavy weapons will need to close with the enemy army, so additional shots from a Combi-Melta or Combi-Plasma can provide additional damage output for the army.

I would also probably avoid taking a melee weapon on the Sergeant for the same reason. If your Devastator Squad is getting into combat, then things are probably looking bad already, an extra power weapon on the field is probably not going to swing the odds in your favour.

While in 8th edition, you can fire at different targets with different weapons in the unit, you are probably still better sticking with one dedicated role for your Devastator Squad. Arming them with a variety of weapons makes it more difficult to decide which to remove as a casualty, as well as giving you fewer of the weapon type you may need in a game.

Unit Synergy

There are a number of Space Marine characters that really boost the damage output of the Devastator Squad. Any character that provides re-rolls is going to be a great boost to the squad, so a Captain and Lieutenant nearby will help the Devastator squad to cause maximum damage each turn they fire.

An Ancient is also a great unit to park next to the Devastator Squad. This gives you a nice pseudo-protection from alpha-strike lists, still giving your Devastators a chance of shooting back at enemy units when they are slain. An Apothecary is also a useful choice, giving you the option of reviving slain members of the squad each turn to keep your firepower up for longer. The Ancient/Apothecary combination can really up the firepower of the squad, allowing slain members to fire back at enemy units and then be revived in the following turn to begin the cycle again.

Battlefield Role

The Devastator Squad works really well as a backfield objective holding unit. You will normally want to sit them in terrain next to an objective. This gives them some really strong durability against enemy small arms fire and allows the squad to still fire to full effect thanks to their generally increased weapons range.

While the unit is not objective secured, there are normally various screening units between the Devastators and the enemy units, so it will take a fair bit of effort for the enemy army to get to them. Proper use of screening units and deployment is also key for keeping the Devastator squad safe from enemy deep striking units. Try not to leave space behind the Devastator squad where enemy units can be brought in to shoot at them at close range or charge the squad, thereby negating their firepower.

I tend to run two squads of Devastators (one armed with Missile Launchers and one armed with Heavy Bolters), supported by a Lieutenant and Ancient. These units form a solid firebase for a Marine army, able to block out a decent amount of your deployment zone. The Lieutenant and Ancient are great support characters for the unit. With the Missile Launchers wounding most units on a 3+, getting to re-roll half your failed wound rolls is great for the squad.

It is rare for my Devastator squads to be wiped out in a game. Most opponents focus on the faster and tougher threats in my Space Marine army, leaving the Devastator Squad free to fire to full effect each turn.

Chapter Tactics

There are some great Chapter Tactics for boosting the effectiveness of the Devastator Squads.

Raven Guard makes a very strong Chapter Tactic for the squad. As they are likely to be deployed at range, they will generally be getting -1 to hit against enemy firepower for much of the game. Combined with a 2+ cover save, the squad will be very hard to shift without some dedicated firepower. Strike From the Shadows can also be useful on the Devastator Squad. While more likely to be used for your assault units, a unit of Devastators with Multi-meltas or Grav-cannons starting that close to the enemy army can be a nasty shock to your opponent, forcing them to deal with them quickly, lest their firepower cause serious damage.

Salamanders is also a solid option for the Devastator Squad. Getting a free re-roll to hit and to wound each turn is great for boosting their damage output. A unit of Multi-melta Devastators can also get a big boost from Vulkan, getting re-rolls to hit and to wound with the squad.

Imperial Fists is a strong tactic for the squad. Ignoring cover is great for getting the most out of your Heavy Weapon’s higher AP values. In addition, a squad armed with Heavy Bolters can potentially cause more damage using the Bolter Drill stratagem, giving them additional shots on a 6+ to hit. This is great when using the Signum, giving one Heavy Bolter additional shots on a 5 or a 6 to hit.

Dark Angels Chapter Tactics are also great for the Devastator Squad. As they are unlikely to be moving, they will get re-rolls of 1’s to hit in the shooting phase. This essentially gives them a free Captain re-roll, which should really boost their damage output. In addition, only losing a single model from a failed morale test means it can be cost effective to field them in larger squads than 5 models. This gives the squad more ablative wounds and helps keep the Heavy Weapons Marines alive for longer. There are a number of useful stratagems and synergies for the Dark Angels Devastator Squad that will be discussed in more detail in their own review entry.

Overall

The Devastator Squad is great for providing your Space Marine army with some relatively cheap and effective firepower, and great for securing backfield objectives. All of the Heavy Weapon options have valid uses in your army, but the Lascannon, Missile Launcher and Heavy Bolter are certainly the most popular, thanks to their range and rate of fire. Properly supported with the right characters, the unit can cause a lot of damage to the enemy army and will likely be a prime target for the enemy firepower. The trick is to use your forward assault elements in the army to distract the enemy units and make themselves more appealing targets. This allows the Devastators to fire as much as possible and earn back their points cost over the course of the game.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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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.

20 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Heavy Support: Devastator Squad”

  1. Rob Butcher March 23, 2018 12:28 am #

    Nice write-up.

    I’m really not a fan of wasting a Heavy Support slot on a devastator squad with only one heavy weapon. And the argument about the “tactical squad” shooting one heavy weapon on a 2+ instead of a 3+ is not compelling. (It’s been argued on another site since the 8th edition was released.)

    I’d look at other options first.

    I do like the idea of basing devastators around the stratagems available.

    But the two biggest tactical questions in 8th edition, you failed to mention.
    (1)Devastators or Primaris Hellblasters? They do the same role, but the former has more flexibility of weaponry. Many players from earlier editions are slowly using a mix. Newer players tend to use Hellblasters as they came in the boxed game set.

    (2) Devastators or take a heavy weapon in your tactical squad? (Like Lawrence “Spider” Baker did at GT Heat 1, when he took five lascannons and six assault cannon razorbacks.)

    • Ste March 23, 2018 5:27 am #

      I use a squad of 4 plasma devs, and a squad of hellblasters with normal plasmas. I find the balance of both is great. The hellblasters are more consistent at 15″ and harder to shift, but the extra range of the plasma cannons, signium and cherub often boost the damage of the devs

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr March 23, 2018 7:26 am #

      Looking at your points Rob,

      (1) I haven’t had much experience using or facing Hellblasters yet. I think they could perform similar roles, but the Devastators do have the benefit of additional range on some of the Heavy weapons. Not going to be an issue in too many games, but could come in useful in Hammer and Anvil deployment.

      Also, if you go for the Heavy Bolters, they perform a very different role to the Hellblaster, so there is that to consider.

      (2) It depends on what you want the squad to do. If you only want a single heavy weapon, it is really a toss up based on the rest of your army. Are you using the Devastator squad to fill out a Brigade detachment, or going for more Tactical Squads to get a second Battalion? If you want to load up on Heavy Weapons, the Devastator squad is obviously better.

      I think the Devastators with a single heavy weapon do serve the purpose. They lose objective secured over the Tactical Squad, but do get the +1 to hit. If you find your opponents are constantly using objective secured units to steal objectives from you, you can go with the Tactical Squad. Otherwise, I like the bonus to hit for the Devastators.

      • Rob Butcher March 23, 2018 9:31 am #

        (2) sorry, but that’s unconvincing …. +1 to hit is not worth it.

        • Michael Corr
          Michael Corr March 23, 2018 3:35 pm #

          Fair enough. I think it would be in some circumstances.

          • Sossen March 24, 2018 2:28 am
            #

            I agree with you. +1 to hit is always active and very relevant on an expensive heavy weapon. ObSec rarely makes a difference in my experience. It comes down to whether those tactical marines are adding CP or not.

  2. Schmuvness March 23, 2018 12:44 am #

    Don’t forget the awesome boost the Signum provides. I usually have one Plasma Cannon in the Squad so this can safely overheat. Making that 21 pts Plasma Weapon very efficient. In Round one it fires 2d3 shots S8 ap -3 D2 at 36″ Range, hitting on 2+ and can’t overheat.

    • Dakkath March 23, 2018 4:24 am #

      Ooh, nice combo.

    • Ste March 23, 2018 5:25 am #

      Why can’t it overheat? I’ve been using a squad with 4 plasmas and I’ve been overheating, what have I missed?

      • Michael Corr
        Michael Corr March 23, 2018 6:04 am #

        As the Signum gives you +1 to hit, any 1’s you roll will technically be 2’s. Still a miss, but you haven’t rolled a 1 to hit, so don’t suffer the overheat.

        It’s a great tactic, one I definitely missed! It will only work for one Plasma Cannon in the squad, but it is definitely effective and should boost your damage output.

        • Ste March 23, 2018 12:57 pm #

          Ha! Look at that, I’ve skim read it once then been playing it as bs2+ since. I wont forget one now.

      • Venkarel March 23, 2018 8:36 am #

        Please note while it does not cause a overheat, it does miss the target because of the rule of 1’s. And moving and shooting plasma is general tantamount to suicide.

        • Venkarel March 23, 2018 8:36 am #

          I guess it really is shooting plasma at negative to hit target not just moving.

          • Dakkath March 23, 2018 11:53 am
            #

            shooting *overcharged* plasma

            Normal shots are still fine.

  3. Cavalier March 23, 2018 10:19 am #

    Nice article. I like the Chapter Tactics spotlight at the end. Great to see you include the Dark Angels as the non-Codex chapters usually dont get highlighted in these types of articles. Great stuff!

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr March 23, 2018 3:37 pm #

      Yeah, we’ve been asked to start including them at the end by some readers. I’ll probably write up their own separate review for some of the units that necessitate it. A lot of the comments and review could be applicable to codex and non-codex Marines, but there are a few units that are way better in some of the codexes (such as Dark Angels Hellblasters!).

  4. Reecius
    Reecius March 24, 2018 12:06 am #

    Another great article, buddy! Dev Squads are, IMO, one of the best units available to Marines. They’re so flexible and really efficient. Absolutely love mine.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr March 24, 2018 3:13 am #

      Cheers Reece! I agree, they are a great unit. Provide some nice long range anti-tank firepower for the force. Meltaguns are great, but you need to get really close to be able to use them reliably.

  5. Fobbah March 25, 2018 12:01 am #

    Is there a really a good case to take 4x lascannon devastators instead of a predator annihilator? The reduced robustness & lower mobility of the unit doesn’t seem worth it to me.

    I currently run two predator annihilators (one with chronus) in an UM gunline w/ rowboat as my main source of antitank shooting.

    I can see some utility in taking raven guard devs and parking them in cover though, that -1 to hit really adds up when you combo it with a 2+ armor save. I have seen havocs do some real damage in that setup with alpha legion (although they also have the benefit of a stratagem – endless cacophony – to fire twice, getting far more damage output from those precious lascannons).

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr March 26, 2018 12:28 am #

      The Las Predator is a very strong addition to the army, particularly when backed up by Guilliman.
      It depends what you want to do with the Devastators that makes them more advantageous than the Predator.

      For one, there are more of them. This is important for controlling objectives when the unit is not objective secured. The other is that they can block off more board space when spread out, helping to block enemy deep strikers.

      For me, mobility is not much of an issue. Both units tend not to move much anyway in order to fire at full effect.
      Chapter Tactics are also important as you point out. The Devastators gain the benefit, while the Predators do not. Raven Guard are great, but don’t discount Salamanders, Imperial Fists or Ultramarines for their benefits, as detailed above.

      It really does depend on what else is in your list and what you want from the Devastators in the game.

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