Dark Angels Review: Heavy Support: Hellblaster Squad

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the Hellblaster Squad for the Dark Angels army. While this unit is a strong addition to any Space Marine army, the Dark Angels gives them access to rules and Stratagems that make them a must-have choice. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

Overview:

The Hellblaster Squad is a new addition to the Dark Angels army, and one that will be readily taken to by most players. The Dark Angels’ peference for Plasma weaponry is well represented by this Primaris unit, as they are able to put out a lot of high strength, high AP firepower, with the potential to cause a lot of damage to almost any unit in the enemy army. While this unit is very strong on its own, the addition of some supporting characters and some of the Stratagems that they have access to makes them an incredible unit in the Dark Angels army.

The unit consists of one Hellblaster Sergeant and 4 Hellblasters, with the option to increase the squad size up to 10 models. Each Hellblaster costs 33 points for the basic armament (165 pts for the basic squad).

I would give the Hellblaster Squad the Competitive rating. You will probably see at least one squad of these in most competitive Dark Angels armies, possibly even more. While expensive, the damage output for this squad is incredible when used correctly, and can be improved upon even more by structuring your army around such a unit.

Wargear:

  • Plasma Incinerator- Standard: 30″, Rapid Fire 1, S7, AP-4, 1 damage. Supercharge: 30″, Rapid Fire 1, S8, AP-4, 2 damage. On a roll of a 1 to hit, the bearer is slain after all this weapon’s shots have been resolved.
  • Bolt Pistol
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • All models in the unit may replace their Plasma Incinerator with an Assault Plasma Incinerator: Standard: 24″, Assault 2, S6, AP-4, 1 damage. Supercharge: 24″, Assault 2, S7, AP-4, 2 damage. On a roll of a 1 to hit, the bearer is slain after all this weapon’s shots have been resolved.
  • All models in the unit may replace their Plasma Incinerator with a Heavy Plasma Incinerator: Standard: 36″, Heavy 1, S8, AP-4, 1 damage. Supercharge: 36″, Heavy 1, S9, AP-4, 2 damage. On a roll of a 1 to hit, the bearer is slain after all this weapon’s shots have been resolved.
  • The Hellblaster Sergeant may replace his Bolt Pistol with a Plasma Pistol.

Abilities:

  • And They Shall Know No Fear
  • Combat Squads- Before any models are deployed at the start of the game, a Hellblaster squad containing 10 models may be split into two units, each containing 5 models.
  • Grim Resolve- You can re-roll all to hit rolls of 1 for this unit whenever it shoots (including Overwatch) so long as it did not move in its prior movement phase. In addition, this unit can never lose more than one model as the result of a single failed Morale test.

Tactics:

The Hellblaster Squad is a fantastic fire support unit for the Dark Angels army, able to put out a lot of high strength, punishing firepower on the enemy army.

With a standard Primaris Marine profile, they are a pretty durable squad. With T4, 2 wounds each and a 3+ save, it is going to take a fair amount of firepower to go through a squad, even more so if you can get them in cover to get a 2+ armour save. You will want a lot of protection for this unit, as they will most likely be a prime target for the enemy firepower. Fortunately, there are a number of units in the Dark Angels army that can help with this (more of this in the Unit Synergy section below).

For me, the basic Plasma Incinerator is the best weapon choice for this unit. This weapon has a great range (30″) meaning it can usually fire from the very first turn of the game. At S7 and AP-4, it has a good chance of wounding and killing most standard infantry models on a 3+, denying cover save to all but Terminator Armour or heavily armoured units in cover. It will also be wounding most vehicles on a 4+ in the standard firing mode, making it great for taking on almost any enemy threat you will come up against.

The Plasma Incinerator also has the option to supercharge, going up to S8 and 2 damage with each shot. The downside is that any roll of a 1 to hit will result in a lost squad member. With two wounds each and at 33 pts per model, the loss of each Hellblaster is a big loss. However, thanks to the Dark Angels Chapter Tactics of Grim Resolve, the unit gets to re-roll 1’s to hit if they did not move in their movement phase. This means that the unit gets a built-in Captain re-roll if they are stationary. This is great for helping to mitigate the risk of overcharging your Plasma shots with Dark Angels.

If you are planning on having the Hellblasters move much, a nearby Master (the Dark Angels Captain) will help you when overcharging the shots and should reduce the risk of killing your own unit from their own fire.

Overcharging the unit is a great choice and one that I used almost every turn. With S8 and 2 damage, you will be wounding most infantry on a 2+ and most vehicles on a 3+. A unit of 10 Hellblasters firing will decimate most enemy units and may even be able to cripple or destroy a range of enemy vehicles with a single volley, even at long range. The only thing to watch out for is if your opponent has units that are at -1 to hit. This will mean that you will lose a Hellblaster on a roll of a 1 or a 2 to hit, doubling your chance of losing squad members. I would only try this if you really need to try and kill an enemy unit in a turn and don’t mind losing up to a third of your squad in doing so.

Taking the Assault Plasma Incinerator takes each Hellblaster up to 35 pts per model. While this does have a shorter range of 24″, its benefit is that is is Assault 2, meaning that you will still be able to fire 2 shots with your Hellblaster at any range. With the standard Plasma Incinerator, you will need to get within 15″ to be able to fire two shots, which could mean two or three turns of walking across the table to get to the enemy army. The Assault Plasma Incinerator also allows you to advance and still fire, meaning your unit can fire on the move if they have to. Again, just be careful about overcharging with the -1 to hit from the Advance move.

One of the disadvantages of the Assault Plasma Incinerator is that it is only S6 on the standard shot. While this will have little effect on their to wound roll against almost all infantry, it will have an effect if they are targeting most vehicles or monsters, requiring them to wound on a 5+ in most cases. They will need to overcharge to wound a standard T7 vehicle or monster on a 4+.

If you have an army that is not lacking in anti-tank firepower, the Assault Plasma Incinerator is a strong option for tackling almost any infantry unit in the game. The extra shots will be the major concern for this unit, and the lower strength will have little effect on your firepower choices in most cases.

Taking a Heavy Plasma Incinerator will also increase the cost of each Hellblaster to 35 pts per model. The Heavy Plasma Incinerator has the benefits of longer range (36″) and higher strength on the standard shot (S8), but at the expense of being Heavy 1. This means you will only ever get one shot with the weapon at any range, and have reduced accuracy on the move.

A unit with the Heavy Plasma Incinerator makes an ideal backfield objective holder. Will a longer range, they can afford to sit back in cover and fire at key enemy units. The increased strength means they will be killing most infantry models on a 2+ and wounding most vehicles on a 3+. If you happen to have a club or local meta which is rich in Land Raiders, Leman Russus, Monoliths and other T8 threats, you can even overcharge to get up to S9 and wound these on a 3+.

As I said above, my personal preference is for the Plasma Incinerator. This makes the squad a bit cheaper, as well as giving them a good range and high Strength. I like to use the Hellblasters agressively, so they will routinely get into rapid fire range and be able to fire two shots each. In most games, S8 from overcharging will deal with any threat you can come up against, so I don’t feel the need for the S9 of the Heavy Plasma Incinerators.

However, as described above, all three options are valid choices to have on the unit. It depends on the rest of your army composition what role you want the Hellblasters to play. I think they are such a good unit that you could even go for several units with different armaments in the same army (though this does start to get quite expensive).

Another great benefit of the Dark Angels is the morale mitigation that comes from Grim Resolve. This means that you cannot lose more than one model to a failed morale test each turn. When combined with And They Shall Know No Fear, this makes the Dark Angels Hellblasters quite resilient to the effects of morale. It also means that you can afford to field the Hellblaster squad in units of more than 5 models. I frequently run a single unit of 10 Hellblasters in my Dark Angels army. This is because a bigger squad gains more benefit from the effects of some of the great Stratagems they can access, and have less to fear from a failed morale test than some other Chapters.

Stratagems

Weapons From the Dark Age is the stratagem that turns Hellblasters from a really good unit to a fantastic unit in a Dark Angels army. For only one command point, you can increase the damage characteristic of any Plasma Weapons in the unit by 1 for a single shooting phase.

This means that your standard Plasma Incinerator shot will be doing 2 damage each, while an overcharged shot will be doing 3 damage with each successful wound! There is little in the game that can stand up to a unit of 10 Hellblasters firing overcharged shots at them with this stratagem, especially if they are firing two shots each.

A unit of 10 Hellblasters with Plasma Incinerators and Weapons of the Dark Age will be doing 12 wounds to a standard vehicle (T7, 3+ save) on average at long range, and an average of 27 wounds at rapid fire range. That is before you even factor in the plethora of re-rolls to hit and to wound that they will have access to. A single unit of Hellblasters has the ability to decimate a key enemy unit, vehicle or monster in a single shooting phase.

This is why you will want to field the Hellblaster squad in larger numbers than usual, in order to maximise the impact that this stratagem will have on your firepower.

Another great stratagem that Dark Angels Hellblasters have access to is Intractable. For two command points, a Dark Angels unit can fall back and still shoot in the shooting phase. This makes it very difficult for your opponent to tie up a unit of Hellblasters in combat to stop them from shooting. You can always fall back, use the Intractable stratagem (if you have the command points) and fire at the enemy unit point blank.

Auspex Scan is another very strong stratagem to use on the unit. While you should be using your Scouts and other units to screen the Hellblasters from enemy deep strikers, as the game goes on, this gets more and more difficult to do. Auspex scan allows you to fire at and potentially decimate an enemy unit arriving from reserves before they get a chance to fire or assault. Just bear in mind that you will be shooting at -1 to hit, making overcharging a riskier prospect. The Hellblasters can also be used as a bait unit to draw out enemy reserves. Such a powerful unit is going to be a key target for your opponent, and they are likely to focus on them. Leave a gap for enemy reserves to arrive, then unleash the Auspex Scan to fire with the Hellblasters. Most opponents will be aware of this stratagem though, so it may not work all the time.

Unit Synergy

There are a number of units in the Dark Angels army that really boost the output of the Hellblaster Squad.

Azrael is a fantastic character to accompany the Hellblaster Squad. Not only does he give you full re-rolls to hit (as befits a Chapter Master), but his Lion Helm greatly increases the durability of the unit. The Lion Helm gives all Dark Angels Infantry models within 6″ a 4+ invulnerable save (against shooting and combat attacks). This is obviously a huge boost for the defensive capabilities of the Hellblaster Squad, allowing you to shrug off half the wounds the unit takes. With this defence in hand, you only need to worry about Mortal Wound attacks, as they won’t give you a save. Azrael is also a potent combat threat, giving you a character that can heroically intervene if the Hellblasters do find themselves in combat.

Alternatively, a Dark Angles Master makes a great accompanying character. He allows the unit to move and still get re-rolls of 1’s to hit. Particularly useful when overcharging their shots.

A Lieutenant is also a great option for accompanying a Hellblaster unit. Re-rolling 1’s to wound really boosts their offensive output, allowing them to re-roll all or half of their failed wounds in most cases if they are overcharging their shots.

An Ancient also makes a great character for supporting a unit of Hellblasters. This gives the squad the ability to fire on the enemy army if they are slain. This can help to protect the unit against Alpha and Beta strikes, allowing you to punish any enemy unit that is able to slay a member of the squad. The Chapter Ancient allows the squad to fire back at BS2+, giving you more chance that the shot will hit the target, especially if they did not move or have a character nearby allowing them to re-roll 1’s to hit.

Remember, you also have the chance to fire if you kill yourself from an overcharging shot. This gives you even more firepower to use against the enemy army.

A Ravenwing Darkshroud is also a great unit for accompanying the Hellblasters. This makes the unit -1 to hit against enemy firepower if they are within 6″ of the Darkshroud. When combined with Azrael’s 4+ invlunerable save bubble, this makes the Hellblaster squad incredibly durable.

How to Use the Hellblasters

In my Dark Angels army, I use a squad of 10 Hellblasters (with Plasma Incinerators), accompanied by Azrael, a Primaris Ancient, Primaris Lieutenant and Ravenwing Darkshroud. While this is a sizeable points investment for a standard tournament army (791 pts for the lot), it provides a firebase that is incredibly durable and has the ability to put out a lot of potent firepower each turn.

The Hellblasters go at the front of the deployment zone, with the characters and Darkshroud behind them. Scout Squads can be used to deploy in front of them to stop enemy reserves from getting to the unit and to block any turn 1 assaults on the Hellblasters.

I use the Hellblaster squad quite aggressively, moving forward each turn to try and get into rapid fire range as quickly as possible for the two shots each. The squad generally overcharges their Plasma Weapons each turn, getting full re-rolls to hit from Azrael and re-rolls of 1’s to wound from the Lieutenant. This unit will reliably delete an enemy unit each turn, overcharging and using Weapons of the Dark Age when necessary to cause maximum damage to the enemy army.

As such, they are a focal point of a lot of enemy firepower. However, with -1 to hit (from the Darkshroud), a 3+ armour save, 4+ invulnerable save and two wounds each, it takes a lot of enemy firepower to get through them. All the enemy firepower going after them is not taking out other units in your army that are going after objectives or firing their own weaponry at the enemy army.

I go with the Primaris Ancient as I like the model. With Azrael’s re-rolls to hit, I don’t think the Chapter Ancient is worth the extra points with this combination of units. Recently, I have been trying the Primaris Lieutenant with the Eye of the Unseen Relic. This forces enemy characters to fight last in the fight phase if they are within 3″, even if they charged or have an ability that allows them to strike first. This is great for allowing Azrael to cut down any enemy characters that threaten him or the Hellblasters, hopefully slaying them before they get a chance to strike.
Alternatively, you could go for a regular Lieutenant and give him the Heavenfall Blade Relic to add more combat punch to the army.

Overall

The Dark Angels Hellblasters are a fantastic unit, and a strong competitive choice for any Dark Angels army. They are strong in any Space Marine army, but I think the Dark Angels gives them access to the fantastic Weapons from the Dark Age and Intractable stratagems that boost their abilities to insanely powerful levels.

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.

18 Responses to “Dark Angels Review: Heavy Support: Hellblaster Squad”

  1. Polyproline April 23, 2018 10:15 am #

    Hellblasters seem like a great option for Ultramarines as well. No need for the Intractable stratagem when UM can already fall back and shoot. UM receive a -1 to hit after falling back, so overcharging can be risky.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr April 23, 2018 12:11 pm #

      Yeah, Ultramarines is a solid Chapter Tactic for them. The ability to fall back from combat and still shoot is strong.

  2. Don Tomaso April 23, 2018 11:12 am #

    Hellblasters are really good for dark angels due to their plasma strategem.

    For “normal” SM its quite a different story. Vs units like the bloat drone (name?) that came in the starter box or any other enemy vehicles they are priced with constant overcharge in mind, this means being stationary and hugging the captain bubble at all times.

    Not to good in a manouver and objective game.

    There is a reason we saw reaper spam but not SM hellblaster spam in the top 10. Not even dark angels hellblaster spam.

    If hellblasters were priced without overcharge as base then they would actually be competitive allaround.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr April 23, 2018 12:13 pm #

      A unit of Hellblasters in a regular Space Marine army should be able to deal with most vehicles at rapid fire range, but you do need to survive to get them there.

      I find they don’t have to be that static. If the Captain goes with them, they can still move and fire with overcharging to good effect in most cases. The problem that they and all Primaris have is they are limited by transport options, so mostly have to rely on how far they can move on foot.

    • Ty April 24, 2018 5:00 am #

      Unfortunately Space Marines don’t have the option of taking dark reapers. :p

      • Michael Corr
        Michael Corr April 24, 2018 5:22 am #

        I know! GW really needs to sort its act out. I’m assuming the next FAQ will rectify this gross error. I’m already in preparation to rage quit if it does not.

  3. WestRider April 23, 2018 1:02 pm #

    Looking at it from a slightly different angle, if someone does want to use Heavy Plasma Incinerators, I can’t think of a better place to do it than with the Dark Angels. They want to stand still anyhow because they’re Heavy, so the Grim Resolve re-rolls are basically a freebie, and make Overcharging them into mini-Lascannon a pretty regularly viable option.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr April 23, 2018 1:40 pm #

      I think the Dark Angels Chapter Tactic is solid. Free “Captain” re-rolls for most of the army if they don’t move is strong. The morale effects are also really good for taking big units.

  4. Reecius
    Reecius April 23, 2018 1:08 pm #

    Dark Angels Hellblasters are indeed savage. Their damage output can be game changing.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr April 23, 2018 1:39 pm #

      Yeah, they do a lot of work in my Dark Angels army.

  5. abusepuppy April 23, 2018 8:31 pm #

    Hellblasters are a solid unit, but I find the pricing on their gun options a bit baffling. All three guns seem pretty equivalent- each has advantages over the others, but also disadvantages, and to my mind at least they seem to roughly balance out. And yet the assault and heavy versions are priced higher than the “basic” gun is, and I can’t really understand why. You don’t tend to see either of them in competitive play much for that reason, since you’re paying a premium for a sidegrade.

    Aside from that, though, one issue that Hellblasters can have that isn’t mentioned much in the article is range. 30″ is longer than your typical infantry weapon, but it is far from infinite and especially in the larger deployments (Hammer/Anvil, etc) it means that many opponents will be able to start in a position where the Hellblasters don’t get to shoot at them turn 1. While some other chapters can mitigate this with stratagems (by putting them into reserves), Dark Angels are forced to hike up the board and weather a turn of enemy shooting unopposed, which can be pretty painful- Primaris marines are tougher than a regular marine, but still go down pretty easily overall. For that reason, it’s very common to see Inceptors or Black Knights in their place, as both of them are more maneuverable and thus better able to bring their weapons to bear despite the shorter ranges.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr April 23, 2018 11:25 pm #

      The pricing is a bit odd. As you say, all three weapons should have the same price due to all having advantages and disadvantages, not sure why the other two are just a little more expensive.

      Yeah, their range can be a bit limiting in a couple of deployment types if your opponent sets up far back in their deployment zone, but I’ve not had it come up too often.

      Another bonus is that they can force your opponent to deploy deep in their zone. Unless they have a highly mobile force, this can punish them in going after objectives during the game. With an effective threat range of 36″ on turn 1, I would be quite happy with my opponent deploying so deep in their zone as to avoid them on turn 1.

      I frequently run a unit of Black Knights and Hellblasters in my army. It forces my opponent to deal with them quickly, as their Plasma weaponry can be devastating. If you use the Black Knights aggressively, this gives the Hellblasters time to get up in range.

      • abusepuppy April 24, 2018 1:36 am #

        Yeah, running a combination of two or even all three of the plasma-heavy units seems to be a common practice with DA players, since it gives you access too slightly different toolsets with each. Hellblasters are the hardest-hitting of them, but I think also the hardest to apply fully- range and line of sight can both be big limiters for an infantry unit on foot, and clever players will often hide things that they want to protect such that the Hellblasters simply can’t shoot at them.

        With that said, though, I agree that they’re a good unit, although I feel that Raven Guard or Space Wolves make better use of them due to their ability to access alternative deployments. But it’s hard to argue with the raw stopping power that DA can offer them, and certainly DA has a lot of other stuff going for it in terms of its support pieces.

    • Zool April 24, 2018 11:03 am #

      I donk know when did 30″ infantry range became short. With Captain + Lieutenant u have high chance to hit wound and -4 AP goes straight trough even 3+ armor. Usualy thats where dark reapers fail with -2AP, on armor saves.
      Even outside dark angels with other chapters they are strong units.
      Too bad the primaris transport retardation was still not solved in this major FAQ.

      • WestRider April 24, 2018 11:36 am #

        30″ isn’t short for a basic Infantry Troop Unit. It’s more than respectable for, say, Intercessors. On what’s supposed to be an all-rounder Support Unit, on the other hand, it’s unimpressive at best.

        Compare them to pretty much any other HS Unit, in almost any Codex*, and they’re getting out-ranged, usually quite badly.

        *And many of the ones that don’t out-range them are fast enough and/or have inherent alternate Deployment options that make up for their lack of range. The only HS Option I can think of off the top of my head that doesn’t fit into one of those categories is the Carnifex.

        • Zool April 24, 2018 12:25 pm #

          They need to change the transport rules or introduce a cheaper near 100 point primaris transport model (i suggest the later is more likely to happen than rule change).
          If u place them in repulsor the range is solved and first strike defense too. The problem is not everyone wants to spend 300+ points for the cheapest repulsor loadout.

          • WestRider April 24, 2018 10:07 pm
            #

            Yep. It’s like all the Units over the years that have been totally viable. IF you were willing to shell out for a Land Raider to get them where they needed to go. A Primaris APC as opposed to IFV would really help, but so would a genuinely long-ranged Unit for them.

          • Michael Corr
            Michael Corr April 24, 2018 11:43 pm
            #

            A cheaper transport option for the Primaris would be nice.

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