Deathwatch Review: HQ: Watch Master

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the head honcho of the Deathwatch army, the Watch Master. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.


The Watch Master is essentially the Chapter Master of the Deathwatch army. As such, he is a character with a potent statline, some great wargear and the ability to inspire units around him to greater acts of valour on the battlefield.

The Watch Master is an HQ unit that costs 130 points. He has little in the way of options, so will only cost you 130 pts, but comes with some pretty good wargear as standard anyway, so not much of a loss.

I would rate the Watch Master as Competitive. As a Chapter Master, he grants you full re-rolls to hit for nearby units, without the corresponding command points cost of the Space Marine variant. He also gives you access to some nice stratagems, as well as cheaper stratagems, in addition to being a strong character on his own.

I think that each Deathwatch army should contain at least one Watch Master, as he is one of the best, if not the best, HQ unit available to the army.


  • Guardian Spear (Shooting)- 24″, Rapid Fire 1, S4, AP-1, 2 damage.
  • Guardian Spear (Melee)- Strength User+1, AP-3, D3 damage.
  • 2+ Armour save
  • 4+ Invulnerable save
  • Frag and Krak Grenades


  • Special Issue Ammunition
  • And They Shall Know No Fear
  • Watch Master- You can re-roll all failed hit rolls for friendly Deathwatch units within 6″ of this model.


The Watch Master is a fantastic character to lead the Deathwatch, and one you will want to feature in your army. Let’s take a look at the Watch Master on his own, before we discuss the benefits of having one in your army. He has a Space Marine Chapter Master’s statline, so has a solid foundation to build upon. This gives him WS and BS 2+, strength and toughness 4, six wounds, four attacks, a 2+ armour save and a 4+ invulnerable save.

Toughness 4 and 6 wounds makes him fairly durable to shooting and combat for an infantry character. He is also one of the few Space Marine Characters that can have a 2+ armour save (outside of Terminator armour). This helps boost his durability for shooting attacks and combat attacks that lack an AP value. Unfortunately, there is no way to boost his toughness or improve his invulnerable save with wargear.

He has some reasonable shooting prowess. He hits on a 2+ re-rollable with his Guardian Spear. This also gets the benefit of special issue ammunition, so can be even more potent against the right target. The built-in -1AP of the Spear means you can potentially go up to AP-3, and getting 2 damage per shot is great for taking on characters or damaging multi-wound models. You only get a maximum of 2 shots with it though, so you are unlikely to cause a lot of damage with it, though there are ways to boost this as we will see with the Relics below. The Hellfire shells allow him to wound on a 2+, great for taking on Monsters with poor armour and the potential to cause 4 damage in a single volley.

The Watch Master is strong in combat. He has 4 attacks that again hit on a 2+ re-rollable, meaning you can reliably get four hits in combat each round. His Guardian Spear allows him to strike at S5, meaning he will be wounding most infantry on a 2+ and denying all but the strongest armour. He also does D3 damage with each wound, meaning he has the potential to do 12 wounds to a single model in combat.  Against most rank and file infantry, he is going to tear them apart. He can also hold his own against a number of enemy characters if they don’t have good invulnerable saves. He is going to struggle against horde units though, as he simply lacks the volume of attacks to stop from being bogged down in combat.

He also benefits from Mission Tactics, giving him re-rolls of 1’s to wound in the shooting and fight phase against selected units. This is great if you wiff some of his Guardian Spear attacks in combat.

On his own, he is a potent character in his own right. He has some decent shooting firepower and can hit really hard in combat. He provides some great buffs to the Deathwatch army, as well as having access to some nice Stratagems to further boost his damage output.

Battlefield Role

For me, the key role of the Watch Master is to buff your Deathwatch Kill Teams. He provides full re-rolls to hit for all Deathwatch units within 6″. This is an incredibly strong ability when combined with the Special Issue Ammunition and Mission Tactics re-rolls to wound, greatly increasing the damage output of nearby Deathwatch units. Another bonus is that he doesn’t have to spend 3 CP to gain this ability, unlike his Space Marine counterparts.

I find the best place for the Watch Master is in the Teleportarium or in a transport vehicle. He lacks the option to take a Jump Pack, meaning he is slow to move around when deployed on the board.

I frequently use the Watch Master with two other Kill Teams in the Teleportarium. The three units arrive together, the two Kill Teams benefiting from the re-rolls to hit from the Watch Master to strike hard on the turn that they arrive. This works really well with a couple of units of Storm Bolter Deathwatch Veterans or an Intercessor Squad. The Watch Master boosts the accuracy of a Marine up to about 90%, making the most of their strong firepower.

A couple of Watch Masters in a Deathwatch army is a potent combination. One can go in the Teleportarium with the Kill Teams, while another can babysit backfield objective holders and boost their firepower output. I frequently use Kill Teams with Stalker Bolters and Missile Launchers, as well as Twin Lascannon Razorbacks. The Watch Master can boost these units on the battlefield and provide some valuable anti-tank firepower, an area where the Deathwatch can lack.


The Watch Master can make a strong warlord for the Deathwatch army. There are a number of warlord traits that can boost his ability to lead the army.

The trait you are probably taking most of the time is Lord of Hidden Knowledge. This is the common trait where you get a free re-roll to hit, to wound, damage roll or saving throw once per battle. In addition, each time you use a Stratagem, on a 5+ you regain one command point. This is a very popular trait in all the various versions of the rule across the codices. Command Points are key to getting the most out of your army in 8th edition, so any method of recovering them is very useful to your army. I tend to keep the re-roll for saving throws to make sure the Watch Master stays alive.

Castellan of the Black Vault is also a useful warlord trait, giving you +1 damage to your Guardian Spear. This makes each shooting attack 3 damage per wound, pretty good for taking on multi-wound models. In addition, each wound in combat will do between 2-4 damage, giving your Watch Master to do 8-16 wounds in combat against a single model, turning him into a combat beast.

The Watch Eternal gives him a 6+ save against wounds. Decent to keep him alive, but odds are you will only save one wound over the course of a game, so not really worth it in my opinion.

Most of the time you will be going for the Lord of Hidden Knowledge though, as it is superior to all the others in my opinion.

Making the Watch Master your warlord can be risky. If he is using the Teleportarium or a transport vehicle, he will most likely be getting close to the enemy army. This can make it easier for your opponent to get in close and pick him off with firepower or melee units, giving up Slay the Warlord. Having him in the Teleportarium also means that you cannot roll to re-gain command points until he is on the table.

In most competitive lists, you are going to pair the Deathwatch with a Guard Battalion to gain extra command points, as well as access to the methods of re-gaining command points that the Guard can access, so the Watch Master will be free to go support forward-ranging Deathwatch units to cause damage to the enemy army.


My favourite Relic for the Watch Master is the Tome of Ectoclades. At the start of each turn, you can pick a Mission Tactic and apply that Mission Tactic to all Deathwatch units within 6″ instead of the army-wide Mission Tactic. This works really well with a Watch Master and two Kill Teams in the Teleportarium. This allows you to pick the most optimal Mission Tactic each turn for the Watch Master and Kill Team to cause maximum damage to the selected unit. This saves you command points for changing your Mission Tactic.

The Banebolts of Eryxia are also strong as a Relic for the Watch Master. This adds 1 to the damage of a weapon that has Special Issue Ammunition, and each 6+ to wound with special issue ammunition causing a mortal wound in addition to other damage. This does not apply to the melee attacks though, as far as I am aware. This takes your Guardian Spear up to 3 damage per wound, as well as the ability to do mortal wounds. This gets better when you apply the Doctrine Stratagems to it, enabling you to do mortal wounds on a 5+. However, with only 2 shots at most, it cannot be easily relied on.


The Watch Master can find value in a number of the Deathwatch stratagems, including some stratagems unique to the Watch Master.

As I have mentioned above, the Teleportarium stratagem is one of the key stratagems that I use in my Deathwatch army, and the Watch Master benefits from it. This allows him to support Kill Teams with his re-rolls, as well as keeping him safe until he is deployed.

The Clavis Stratagem is also useful for the Watch Master if he finds himself in combat with a vehicle. It costs 1CP and on a 2+, does D3 mortal wounds to an enemy vehicle within 1″ in the Fight phase. This can be useful for causing extra damage to an enemy vehicle if you fail to finish it off in combat.

The Doctrine Stratagems are also strong for the Watch Master. These give +1 to wound against selected units. This means the Watch Master can wound most infantry on a 2+ (with Mission Tactics re-rolls to wound in some cases), or vehicle on a 4+. When combined with the Castellan of the Black Vault warlord trait, this can allow you to put a lot of wounds on an enemy vehicle or monster.

The Watch Master also gets a nice bonus from the Adaptive Tactics stratagem. If he is your warlord, the stratagem only cost 1CP, instead of the normal 2CP. This is a great boost, as you will find yourself wanting to change Mission Tactics a few times in a standard game with the Deathwatch.


The Watch Master is a strong addition to the Deathwatch army. The re-roll buffs combined with Mission Tactics and Special Issue Ammunition means he can really boost the damage output of any Kill Teams that he accompanies. In addition, he is a solid combat character and can put out some reasonable firepower in the shooting phase, making him a strong menace to the enemy army on his own.

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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.

10 Responses to “Deathwatch Review: HQ: Watch Master”

  1. Avatar
    Whiskie June 24, 2018 8:14 am #

    Great article man. I agree completely on all points. The Watch Master isn’t our most flexible HQ choice by any means (that probably goes to the Watch Captain which I look forward to possibly reading an article about 🙂 ) but he’s definitely the one with the highest impact. He’s honestly too good to not take. Re-rolls to hit is incredibly strong in an army that lives and dies on its shooting phases. The fact that he makes the Mission Tactic switching Stratagem cheaper is just icing on the cake.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 24, 2018 12:17 pm #

      Thanks Whiskie. I’m going to try and get most of the units from the codex reviewed, so expect the Watch Captain at some point in the near future.

  2. Avatar
    Matty June 25, 2018 2:24 am #

    Hi Michael, with the Deathwatch teleportarium, is the anything stoping us from depstriking Leviathans and Deredeos?

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 25, 2018 1:01 pm #

      As long as they have the Dreadnought keyword, you should be able to use them with the Teleportarium stratagem. If they only have for example, “Deredo Dreadnought” and not “Dreadnought” on its own as well, I would say they are not allowed to use it.

  3. Avatar
    Read_the_Book June 25, 2018 10:59 am #

    “A couple of Watch Masters in a Deathwatch army is a potent combination.”

    Uhh pretty sure you can only have one of them in your army…

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 25, 2018 12:59 pm #

      There are no restrictions on taking multiple Watch Masters in a Deathwatch army, as far as I am aware. There is certainly no limitation spelled out in the Datasheet for the Watch Master.

      This differs from the Space Marine stratagem, which specifically states you can only take one Chapter Master.

    • Avatar
      Whiskie June 25, 2018 10:22 pm #

      You can definitely take more than one Watch Master.

  4. Avatar
    WestRider June 25, 2018 1:43 pm #

    Really, the only downside to these guys is the lack of mobility options. If they could get a Jump Pack or Bike, they’d be 120% awesomeness.

    • Avatar
      Whiskie June 25, 2018 10:24 pm #

      Yeah I agree. It sucks that you’re forced to either teleport him in or use a transport to get him up the field. I do understand it though since his re-roll ability is so powerful the designers want there to be some kind of opportunity cost to taking him.

      • Michael Corr
        Michael Corr June 25, 2018 11:31 pm #

        I think this is just a case of “only available model” syndrome. The Space Marine Chapter Master variant can have a Jump Pack or be on a Bike. Greater transport options would really boost his utility and make him even more of an auto-include in the army.

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