Come join with me on a deep dive of the sneaky beaky Boyz in power armor! The Sons of Corax, the XIX legion, the masters of emo hair styles: the Raven Guard.
As I mentioned recently, I have started to play Ravenguard, chasing the meta as one commentator so lovingly put it. Sure, Space Marines are the new hotness now, but not a lot seems to have been said about Ravenguard. They don’t quite have the offensive power many other supplements scream out at you, nor do they seem to have a lot of flashy tricks to pull. They are a lot more about that most boring phase of the game, movement. Yet, as many a top player will tell you, the game of 40k is won and lost in the movement phase. As such, they drew me in.
I am going to be using the ranking system utilized on several other reviews, detailed as such
- Competitive: This is a codex entry (unit, stratagem, item, etc.) that has a place in essentially any competitive list built with this faction regardless of unit choices or is the source of a significant force multiplication effect for other units.
- Efficient: This is a codex entry that can stand on its own merit in a matched play list but works best when combo’d up with other units or in specific situations to become very powerful but may not always be seen.
- Situational: This is a codex entry that may not pass as competitive on its own merits but can be made effective in a creative list, as a meta-buster, or in a specific combo or scenario where it ratchets up in power to potentially very high strength but otherwise will not be seen very often.
A detachment of Ravenguard gain two benefits from their chapter tactic. First, if an enemy unit is firing at them from more than 12″ away, they gain the benefit of cover. If they already were in cover, and not a vehicle, they then become -1 to hit. I actually am not a huge fan of this. It promotes a gun-line style army which most of the abilities gained by Ravenguard promote a more melee and short to medium ranged style play. Cover over 12″ is nice, but if you really want that, it is available as a successor chapter trait.
This is the bonus a Ravenguard or Ravenguard successor chapter gains. While in the tactical doctrine, +1 to hit and +1 to wound characters. I like this. It is not super useful all the time, but it very much helps on the things it is good against. It fits the fluff of the Ravenguard very well too, which is always nice to see. A key thing to remember is a lot of Knights are taken as characters also, and this just makes tackling them easier. Characters are such an important facet of almost every army, being able to apply pressure and remove them is nice. While this is beneficial, it is not so good that you will miss it if its gone, making Ravenguard a popular chapter to soup with.
A note on Successor Chapters: As is the case with all the Supplements, if a chapter is a Successor, they may replace the work Ravenguard in all the below powers, traits, strats etc with their own chapter word. In addition, if the entire army is Pure Ravenguard, or pure Successor (same Successor -no mixing and matching) they get access to Surgical Strikes above. As of the November 2019 White Dwarf, a single Inquisitor model may join any Space Marine army and not forfeit their ‘pure’ requirement for Combat Doctrines.
The Unit (singular)
- Blackout: A two shot pistol, range 18″ at Str 4, ap -2, and 2 damage. It is able to target characters and does mortals on a 6+ (so on 5’s when Surgical Strikes is active)
- The Raven’s Talons: A pair of Lightning Claws, but at ap -3 and 2 damage.
- Frag and Krak Grenades
- Chapter Master: As per the Chapter Master Stratagem, but without needing to spend the CP to make him one.
- Diving Charge: Does a mortal to an enemy unit charged on a 4+
- Grav-chute: This is your standard deep-striking more than 9″ away
- Winged Deliverance: Raven Guard Jump pack and Phobos units within 6″ may re-roll charges.
Clocking in at a whole 130 points, Kayvaan Shrike is fairly good value for his cost. He gains a few pips of movement above what normal jump captains gain, and has a few nice pieces of wargear. The fact he gives you Chapter Master re-rolls without needing to spend the 2 CP on the strat is just icing. Shrike is a dedicated melee monster who can help others (and himself) be more reliable on the charge. His ability to re roll charges is decent, but rather limited. It will only effect the following units: Captains, Librarian’s, Lieutenant’s and Chaplin’s with Jump Kits, Vanguard and Assault Marines, Inceptors, Suppresors, Reavers, Infiltrators, Incursors, Eliminators, Phobos Librairan, Captain, and Lieutenant.
If you do make him your warlord (which I would not), he picks up an amazing ability to not be overwatched. Ravenguard (RG) have some very good warlord traits, and their double warlord trait stratagem, Master of the Trifold Path, cannot be used on named characters. Basically, if you take Shrike as your Warlord, you are giving up an additional power.
Looking at his damage output, Shrike is best against characters without invulnerable saves and Primaris units. Damage is not what you want Shrike for. He is there to help some units make the charges and to give a ‘free’ Chapter Master buff. The fact that Shrike is limited to only pure RG, and not successor chapters limits him further. On his own, he is not a bad unit, but compared to other choices (Chaplin, or Smash Captain), he just is not quite as good. He is not bad either, but over all I would rate him as Situational.
As I mentioned above, the Ravenguard have some amazing warlord traits, which can really change how the army plays
- Shadowmaster: Enemy unit’s cannot fire overwatch at this model. Sweet, short, and to the point. This is very, very effective. While it is not needed versus every army, on the ones that it is needed, it is an amazing trait, especially when charging in first to tie up unit(s) and shut down their overwatch. Efficient
- Master of Ambush: This trait is amazing, let me just start by saying that. Your warlord (so long as they are infantry) and another Infantry unit may re-deploy at the start of the first battle round but before the first turn. Let me stop there – so right off the bat you get to see who is going first, and then choose to move two units. I love doing this and baiting my opponents with a scary unit of say aggressors on one flank that they deploy to avoid, then bounce the unit somewhere else entirely. Continuing on with the trait – you may deploy these two units anywhere on the battlefield, more than 9″ from enemy units and from your opponent’s deployment zone. If your opponent has units that can deploy outside their deployment zone too, I like to use a unit of Phobos to claim the spot I want this unit to go to. Many lists are built around this trait, although an over-eager general can find themselves overextending easily with this, it is still Competitive in my book.
- Swift and Deadly: This gives the warlord a 6″ aura to allow units to advance and charge. The only reason I do not take this trait more often, is because there are so many other good warlord traits between the three tables Space Marines now get – Efficient
- Master of Vigilance: An unmodified hit roll of a 6 does a mortal wound in addition to any damage. Best case Scenario, would be a Chapter Master, with teeth of Tera, Imperium’s sword Warlord Trait and Might of Hero’s. That would net you 4 to 5 mortal wounds. Not bad, but certainly not good enough to contend for a prime warlord trait slot. Situational
- Feigned Flight: The warlord may fall back and charge, as well as ignoring terrain and models when falling back. This one can be absolutely nasty. If RG had some one to trap a unit in combat with them, it could certainly be terrifying. As it is, it relies on your opponent electing to remain in combat with your character beat-stick and not fall back. I don’t much like relying on my opponent to do what I want, so that drops this in my book from Competitive to Efficient.
- Echo of the Ravenspire: Once per game, the Warlord may remove themselves from the battlefield at the end of your movement turn, provided there are not enemy models within 6″, and deploy as per normal reserves rules at end of your next movement phase. This is a cheeky move that can, in some cases be good. However, those cases are fringe enough, and allow your opponent a chance to react. I would not call this one bad still, but it is certainly the weakest of the lot. Situational
The relics of the Ravenguard, like all other supplements, is broken into two categories. Relics of the Ravenspire, which are limited* to pure Ravenguard lists only, and Special issue Wargear, which successors and Ravenguard both may access.
*Baring a strat to allow successor chapters to pick up a RG relic
Relics of the Ravenspire:
- The Ebonclaws: This replaces a pair of lightning claws, becoming damage d3 and giving an extra attack and ap value. Efficient
- The Armor of Shadows: The bearer of this relic can only be hit on a 4+ and ignores ap -1, treating it as ap 0. This is an interesting relic, being more effective vs some armies than others. Tau won’t much care at all, while other space marines will probably have chapter master re-rolls available. This relic, to me, is a hard Situational relic.
- The Raven Skull of Korvaad: Once per turn, the bearer may re-roll a hit, wound or damage roll. In addition, if the bearer is slain by an enemy unit’s attack, the rest of your army gets +1 to hit the unit that killed you. Limited re-rolls, and a martyr ability in an army that can get some pretty good re-rolls already. Situational
- Raven’s Fury: A jump pack model may take this, allowing them to advance and charge. They also do a mortal wound on a 4+ to an enemy unit within 1″ after the charge. A decent relic that can help a character book it up the field to join some other units to support them. Efficient
- Ex Tenebris: This rifle replaces a Master Crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle , a Master Crafted Oculous Bolt Rifle, or a Master Crafted Instigator Bolt rifle. Effectively a Primaris or Phobos Captain or Lieutenant may take this. It becomes a 36″ Assault 3 rifle, at strength 4, ap -2, and 2 damage. It is also able to target characters, adds one to the hit roll, and ignores cover. I like this. I find it best on a Lieutenant, as his BS is 3+ it pushes him to 2+. With this rifle, he is rocking in at 70 points, and can move up to support some units mid field. At ap -3 in the Tactical Doctrine, this is a very good primaris killer, as well as all round decent gun. Competitive.
- Oppressors End: This replaces a combat knife, becoming str +1, ap -2 and 1 Damage. It gives an additional attack and against characters it becomes 3 damage. Not a bad little relic, but certainly not something I would take all the time, especially not as it is competing with Ex Tenebris above on the same units. Efficient
Over all, not a lot of standouts in the Relics of the Ravenspire. Lots of decent one, but not ones that make you stop and look. The trend will continue with the special issue wargear below.
Special Issue Wargear:
This list starts off with the standard four options available to every suppliment; Adamantine Mantle (5+ feel no pain), Artificer Armor (2+/5++ save), Master crafted weapons (+1 damage on one weapon) and Digital Weapons (a bonus attack that if it hits, does a mortal). None of these are very exciting, although some may have a place in armies, they do not lend Raven Guard anything unique. Let’s take a look at those that only the sons of Corax may take.
- Shadowmaster Cloak: Gives a 3++ when wholy on or within a terrain piece. Like a worse Storm Shield. The Armor Indomitus would be a better choice. Situational at best.
- Silentus Pistol: Games Workshop really wants pistols to be good. This one replaces a bolt or heavy bolt pistol, and clocks in at str 5, ap -2, 2 damage and a 12″ range. Not bad, but other things are much better. I am already trying to not burn 4+ CP on relics, and this one has never come up in my list of considerations. Situational
- Korvidari Bolts: Select a Bolt weapon used by this model. That weapon gains the following abilities: +6″ range, does not need Line of Sight, and only one attack may be made with it. Now we are talking. More on this below, but this is a strong Competitive choice.
- Shard of Isstvan: Gives the bearer +1 attack. In addition, friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ auto pass morale. The morale bit is a snooze, but the extra attack is nice. A fully buffed smash captain could net 8 attacks. Efficient
Ravenguard have a decent array of powers. Like most supplements, one or two really stand out with the rest being fair.
- Umbral Form: This gives the caster a 4++, for a warp charge (WC) of 5. Easy to cast, and most librarians don’t have invul saves on their own, this is not a bad pick up power for them, especially if they are going to be moving up and perhaps taking fire back. Potential combo with the Spectral Blade power below. Situational
- Enveloping Darkness: Selected enemy unit within range and Line of sight may not fire overwatch and is -1 to hit (shooting and combat) until the start of you next psychic phase. While a warp charge of 7 makes this a touch high, this is an absolutely amazing power. Competitive
- Spectral Blade: The Psycher’s strength becomes equal to their Leadership (so typically 9). In addition, if this unit’s leadership is higher than the target unit’s, the attacks are made at ap -4. Being an easy cast at WC 5 is probably the best thing to say about this power. Librarians are not typically known for their combat prowess and this power does not do much to change that. Situational
- Shadowstep: The other really nice RG power, but also WC 7. A selected <CHAPTER> Character may be removed from the table and placed down anywhere else more than 9″ away from enemy units. This can be crazy good – for moving to take objectives to lining up charges, to, my personal favorite, re-positioning a Chapter Master to support a different unit than your opponent was prepared for. It also has no restrictions on enemy units being near when the character is pulled, so it can even be used to get out of combat. While not the most reliable, jumping the librarian himself to be in range to cast enveloping darkness on a target that was not prepared for it is absolute gold. Competitive
- The Abyss: Which is right where this power can go. WC of 6 does not do much to rectify it. You select an enemy unit within 18″ and visible, and roll 3d6. The unit takes a mortal for each 4+ you roll, and should you slay a model, the unit gets -1 Leadership until the end of this turn. I believe the math on this makes it a better option than smite on the 4th or 5th casting of smite… Situational
- The Darkness Within: Not wanting to the The Abyss suffer all on it’s own, we get this power. Also a WC 6, you select up to three visible enemy units within 18″, and each unit takes a single mortal on a 4+. If you got an 11+ to cast this power (or a super smite) it becomes a 3+ for a single mortal. Situational
So, Ravenguard Psychers will probably only take the two powers, Shadowstep and Enveloping Darkness. If you love psychic powers, this may not be the supplement for you. Moving on the Stratagems!
- 1CP – Infiltrators: A unit may be chosen to move as if it were the movement phase, at the start of the first battle round but before the first turn. Wow. The unit must end more than 9″ from enemy models (but not their deployment zone). This has a lot of potential, such as bouncing a unit 9″ outside an enemy deployment zone with Master of Ambush then moving in further to get deep into enemy territory. Advancing a unit of aggressors up pregame so they are in position to fire without moving turn 1. Or simply moving a unit to an objective pre-game, or up to a piece of cover otherwise outside of your deployment zone. No limit on the number of times this strat can be used, but only once per unit. Competitive
- 1CP – The Raven’s Blade: Another very good strat. Select an enemy unit, friendly Ravenguard units may re-roll the dice (meaning you have to re-roll both if you chose to do so) when charging them, so long at the enemy unit was the only target of the charge. This can be very useful for getting Deepstriking units to land their charge, and the fact it can be used on multiple of your units for the low cost of 1CP makes this very good. Competitive
- 2CP – Stranglehold: Used at the start of the first battle round, but before the first turn. Every time you opponent spends CP on a stratagem, you may roll a die. On a 5+, that start costs them 1 extra CP, which if they elect to not spend means not only does their strat fail but they lose those CP. While this may seem decent, its a relatively high cost, for a low potential return means unless your opponent is burning 6+ strats in the first battle round, this probably is not worth it. I don’t like the dependency on your opponent and the high cost making this Situational
- 2CP – False Flight: Use when a unit falls back – it may still shoot and charge this turn. This is a standard one several armies now have and it is very, very good in every codex. I like anything that gives you more options, especially in the movement phase. Competitive
- 1CP – Lay Low the Tyrants: Used when fighting in the fight phase versus either a character or a model with 4 or more wounds, you may add 1 to the wound roll. Unfortunately, this strat may not be used against Knights, as wounding them on 2’s with Thunderhammers would have been hilarious. Nevertheless, this is still a solid strat. Efficient
- 1CP – See, but remain Unseen: Used at the end of the turn, you select a Ravenguard unit that made no attacks this turn. That unit is -1 to be hit by ranged weapons until the start of your next turn. Happening at the end of your turn means this can be used on multiple units as well. A squad of Incursors, popping smoke and this strat for a -2 to be hit makes a very tempting Engineers unit for ITC play. Efficient
- 1CP – Strike from the Shadows: Used during deployment, you may elect to put an infantry unit in reserve, deploying them anywhere on the battle per normal reserve rules. Eat your heart out Eldar, RG can use this strat as many times as they like, and only 1CP each time. Deepstriking Assault Centurions coming in and using the above Raven’s Blade makes for a decent combination, just as one obvious example. Competitive
- 1CP – Vengeance for Isstvan V: Used to allow re-rolls in the fight phase when fighting against a unit of Word bearers, Iron Warriors, Night Lords, or Alpha Legion. I first was very down on this at first, but with the Psychic Awakening book, Faith and Fury, this may actually see some play. Situational/Efficient
- 2CP – Ambushing Fire: One use only. Used at the start of the Movement Phase if the Tactical Doctrine is active. Until the start of your next turn, all Rapid fire and Assault weapons gain -1 ap on a wound roll of a 6 (so ap -1 goes to ap -2). No. If this stratagem were .5 CP I would still not use it. Sure it effects your entire army, but only on some weapons, and only on a wound roll of a 6. Every supplement has their version of this, and in my opinion in almost every one this is pretty bad. Situational
- 2CP – Decapitating Blow: Used when an enemy Warlord is slain by a Ravenguard attack – the entire enemy army is -1 LD for the remainder of the battle. Situational
- 1CP – A Deadly Prize: Used at the end of your turn, when a Ravenguard Infantry or Biker unit is within 3″ of an objective and no enemy units are. You in effect booby trap that objective, so the next time an enemy unit ends a move within 3″ of it, you roll a d6. On a 2-4, the enemy unit takes d3 mortal wounds; on a 5 or 6 it suffers 3. This is a fun strat that can be quite good when it is necessary. With the plethora of Phobos units and movement shenanigans RG can pull off, this can be very easy to set up early game. Anecdotal example: Had a unit of Eliminators pushed way forward and camped on an objective which I chose to booby trap. Got charged by a unit of 3 Thunderwolf Cavalry. Managed to kill one on the overwatch, and then did three mortals before they swung to kill another and leave the last on one wound. While that is one example, it shows the potential for this strat. Efficient
- 1CP – Force their Hand: Used with Tactical objective cards. If you have a Ravenguard infantry or Biker unit with 3″ of an objective marker in your opponent’s deployment zone which you control, you may select one of your opponent’s active cards and discard it. They then draw a new card. While ITC does not use cards, several other formats do. In such formats, I’d say this is Efficient, otherwise it is not even applicable. It can be quite good to effectively deny your opponent cards they can score, and as written, it can be used multiple times the same turn.
- 1CP Strike from the Skies: A Ravenguard Jump pack unit you select at the start of your charge phase may charge even if they advanced. The Warlord trait Swift and Deadly is a nicer version of this, but having this trait in your pack pocket is a nice ability to have. Efficient
- 1CP Master of the Trifold Path: This is your supplement standard of giving your warlord a second trait. They cannot be a named character (sorry Shrike) and must take as their second trait one of the Ravenguard ones. Absolutely amazing. Competitive
- 1CP – Favor of the Ravenspire: This is the RG version to allow a sergeant model to take a relic from the following list: Master Crafted Weapons, Digital Weapons, Silentus Pistol, or Korvidari Bolts. Only Master Crafted is really a draw (Korvidari Bolts want to go on a different unit noted below), and even then not so much. With how many other good relics and warlord traits are available, I don’t see this one getting used much. Situational
- 1CP – Token of Brotherhood: This allows a Successor chapter character to take a Relic from the Relics of the Ravenspire list. This is only as good as the relic list is, and looking back over it, mostly decent. It could have a place but not one that will always be taken. Efficient
Psychic Awakening: Faith and Fury – Chapter Litany
In the second Psychic Awakening book, chaplains in a Pure Ravenguard or RG successor army get this litany as an added bonus simply for existing. The Ravenguard one is Swift as the Raven, which when active allows friendly Ravenguard units within 6″ to fall back and shoot. If they have the Fly keyword, they may fall back and charge. As a nice Aura bonus that costs nothing to take, this can be quite useful when it’s needed, especially if that Chaplin is a Master of Sanctity allowing him to shout out two litanies a turn. Competitive
I want to take a look at a few combinations this Supplement allows you to pull off that a normal Marine book would not be able to. This is not every possible combination, just one’s that I think have some definite possibility.
Assault Centurions: Anyone who has been paying any attention to the competitive scene knows that Assault Centurions (or Asscents as I like to call them) are good now. Their weakness has always been with their movement of 4″. Raven guard give them two ways to get around this, via the Strike from the Shadows strat and the Master of Ambush Warlord trait. In addition, the Swift and Deadly Warlord trait allows them to advance and charge, while the Raven’s Blade strat helps them make that charge. Of course, they can make use of the successor chapter trait Hungry for battle to add 1″ to their advance and charge rolls, or a Chaplin with Canticle of Hate to give them an extra 2″ on the charge. While the Litany cannot be combined with any other bonuses to charges, the Raven’s Blade is just a re-roll so it can be added in. This is a set of options that all combine to make Asscents very reliable and able to move up the board a lot better than on their own.
10 man intercessors with Stalker Bolt Rifles: This is a unit that is looking to capitalize on the 3CP Stratagem Target Sighted from the Space Marine codex, allowing them to target characters. With Surgical Strikes active, 10 shots at 2 damage a pop and hitting on 2’s is not to shabby as far as sniper go. If shooting characters, the +1 to hit can help mitigate the penalty to move as well. Again using Strike from the Shadows, or the Infiltrators strat to move up the board pre game. Not a conventional unit, but one with some good potential.
Aggressors: Another Meta favorite right now, capable of putting out a lot of shots, and being able to move pre-game means if they are in range before the game starts, they can double fire. They also have some good Melee abilities, being armed with what amounts to power fists. They very much want a Chapter Master nearby for support re-rolls, and the Successor Trait Long Ranged Marksman helps both the boltstorm and flamestorm variants. Being able to advance and shoot via their own special rule, Relentless Advance, and then charge thanks to Swift and Deadly makes them quite a threat. Of course using the Aforementioned Infiltrators and / or Strike from the Shadows strat, as well as Master of Ambush trait gives them a lot of options to get into threat range.
10 man unit of Incursors with paired combat blades: Ok, hear me out on this one. First, they can infiltrate up the board and set themselves up pregame to help zone out areas and create effective landing zones for Master of Ambush. Second, this is running the Whirlwind of Death trait, which is any 6’s to hit automatically generate and additional hit. Paired Combat blades also allow any 6’s to hit to count as an additional hit, doubling down on the trait. This is also using the 1CP Strat Gene-wrought Might which states any 6’s to hit automatically hit and wound the target in close combat. So, at this point, a 6 to hit will = an automatic wound and 2 extra hits (the extra hits do not also get the auto-wound feature, per the FAQ). Adding in a Chaplin with Exhortation of Rage (6’s to hit let you roll to hit again) is probably too many eggs in one basket, as this unit’s benefit is in it’s relative ease and cheapness. So, lets add this all up – the first round of attacks on the charge would net you 31 attacks, of which 5 should be 6’s. Regardless of hit or not, you re-roll all non 6’s, which nets another 4 6’s and and another 15 hits on average. That means you are looking at 10 hits that auto wound, and 35 attacks to roll to wound with. Sure they are only strength 4, 1 damage, and no AP, but there are a lot of them. The reason this is good for Ravenguard over other chapters is the ease with which RG can get that chapter master into range. It’s not for every situation, but even when you don’t need it, you still have a decent troop choice with fairly good guns.
Snipers: I am lumping Scout snipers and Eliminators together here. They are made for targeting characters, which in the second turn of the battle, they get +1 to hit and wound thanks to Surgical Strikes. It increases their efficiency quite nicely, and for Eliminators changes the math so that having the Sargent boost a member of his squads shooting is no longer necessary on anything but a Knight.
Phobos Captain with Korvidari Bolts: I have saved my favorite for last. The Phobos Captain can deploy almost anywhere on the board, giving him immense threat range. With the K-bolts, he has a shooting range of 36″ (39″ if Long Range Marksman) on a 3 damage sniper rifle that does not need Line of Sight. Once Surgical Strikes kicks in turn 2, it is also ap -3 and even just at strength 4, that +1 to wound on most characters means it is wounding on a 3+. If facing an army with a fair number of characters without invul saves, picking up the Phobos Warlord trait Marksman’s Honors (which per the Ravenguard FAQ does apply the the K-Bolts) to push this to 4 damage can be quite devastating, especially to the likes of Guard and Tau and Chaos. In my experience, if the characters have invuls, or lots of 5+ wound characters, it is typically not needed.
These are not all of the combinations possible, but just a sampling of ones to show what Ravenguard bring to the table. They tend to be more combat oriented, and lean more towards their infantry, which is quite fitting lore wise. They can certainly make use of any of the units in the Space Marine Codex, but outside Stealthy, which any Chapter can take via Successor Traits, they don’t offer any unique bonuses to vehicles.
I am quite enjoying my few games with this army thus far, and will be publishing a separate article shortly explaining how they have performed for me in-game.
Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!
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