The 1st Legion finally receives their updates, and what an update it is! These new rules address some of the biggest problems Dark Angels have faced, and help bring them up to a very interesting level. Will it be enough though? For more awesome tactical content, check out the Tactics Corner!
The Problem with Dark Angels
Dark Angels (DA) needed some love. They have consistently sat in the bottom portion of the ITC standings. Looking at 40Stats.com we can see that playing as DA was severely playing at a handicap.
The issues came in the core design of Dark Angels. They have always been focused on a three ‘wing’ approach. The Deathwing has been heavily terminator influenced, while the Ravenwing was bikes and speeders. The Greenwing was the foot soldiers.
8th Ed has not been kind to terminators, and this is by and large still true. Multi damage weapons and high AP have really served to mitigate what terminators could bring, while the termies themselves were still paying high points costs for middling damage and low movement values.
Looking to the Ravenwing to help with the mobility issues, you run into 8th’s handling of heavy weapons. Since Vehicles now treat heavy weapons the same as infantry they suffer the -1 to move and shoot with them. This would not be too big a deal, except almost every weapon the Ravenwing can take is heavy… This makes the Ravenwing into a BS 4+ army, like Tau, but while still paying the cost for BS 3+ weaponry.
Finally we have the Greenwing. Slowly with the introduction of Primaris units, the shortcomings of the Space Marine Infantry has been addressed, but it has not been enough to make DA themselves viable. Especially not when every other Codex Marine chapter could do the same but better.
The last thing DA had going for them was their plasma. In particular, they have a stratagem, Weapons from the Dark Age, which added 1 to the damage of plasma weaponry. A 10 man Hellblaster unit could then push out up to 20 shots doing 3 damage a piece. While this was nice, it was also expensive with short range and despite the numerous defensive buffs available, was easy to kill.
All of this combined to make Dark Angels a very difficult army to play. Enter then the new Psychic Awakening book, Ritual of the Damned.
TL;DR: Ritual of the Damned, while not fixing everything the DA needed fixed, has turned them into a force that can be viable now at the top tables. They are not Iron Hands level good (Thank goodness for that!), but they can compete now with Tau, Eldar, and yes, even NuMarines.
DA have gotten a few special rules to bring them inline with their Marine brethren. They got Angels of Death, which gives them Bolter Drill, Shock Assault, And They Shall Know No Fear, and Combat Doctrines.
They kept their Chapter Trait, Grim Resolve, exactly as it was. Re-roll 1’s to ranged hits provided they did not move and cannot lose more than one model to morale. While this is still not very good, it is slightly better now with a new Litany meant for DA alone.
Finally, they got their own Chapter Doctrine: Relentless Hunt. Whilst the Devastator Doctrine is active, they may add 6″ to the range of Heavy weapons and Rapid fire, and 3″ to Pistols and Assault.
This does not seem like a big deal, but it actually amounts to quite a bit. This lets you out range units you previously could not, and lets you stay still more to get the re-roll ones from Grim Resolve. This gives you more flexibility in your movement to catch angles previously unable to. It also can catch opponents off guard when they are used to 24″ Bolters, and think themselves safe, only to get tagged from further back than they were expecting. It is a small but significant buff.
Dark Angels also get the standard rules for Successor Chapters, although they do not get to pick any traits for them. This would be a Forge World or fluff based thing only.
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.
New Unit and Updates
Dark Angels got one new unit in Lazarus, a Named Character, and updates to their Primaris and Chaplin models to bring them inline with the rest of the Space Marines. For the Primaris, this is just a straight copy paste of the latest Codex Space Marine profiles. Chaplains, Interrogator-Chaplains, and Primaris Chaplains got updated to have litanies, knowing the Litany of Hate plus one extra. The litanies are all the same as for Codex Marines, plus one DA specific. Asmodai gets to know two, but can sadly still only shout one per turn.
The rest of the updates were simply to the Primaris ranges, bringing them up to par. The Primaris Captain did get an additional weapon option, a Bolt Carbine with Special Ammunition – Str 4, Ap -2, 1 damage at Assault 2 and 24″. I missed it on my first read through, and it seems Games Workshop did too, as it’s points had to be FAQ’d – stating it as a 4 pt upgrade.
So, we have then Lazarus, a 105 point model with some semi-interesting abilities.
|6″||2+||2+||4||4||6||5||9||3+ / 4++|
Enmity’s Edge: This sword swings at user strength +2, Ap -4 and d3 damage. When fighting versus a psycher, you may re-roll this hit and wound roll.
Frag and Krak Grenades and Bolt Pistol
The Spiritshield Helm: Units within 6″ have a 5+++ vs Mortal wounds. Lazarus himself has a 4+++.
Rites of Battle: As per Codex
Intractable Will: When Lazarus is slain, and within 1″ of enemy models, he may immediately fight. Does not stack with the banner or stratagem to do the same.
Lazarus. He is not bad, but he is not amazing either. Lets go over the good points first. He is a rather inexpensive character that can buff units both in re-rolling 1’s to hit and in a 5+ Feel no Pain save vs mortal wounds. He also has a decent sword that gets better vs psychers. Finally, his best point is he gets to swing when he goes down, which means he is always a threat in combat.
Now, the not so good
He only really has a sword, so that means he wants to rush up to get into combat. While some DA units want to do this, they are typically Ravenwing with the speed to do so, or Deathwing with the ability to teleport. Lazarus has neither. This means he needs to be in a transport to be aggressive, which then removes his auras from the field while he is. His 5+++ aura is nice, but only being for Mortal wounds really hurts him a bit. Vs the new Grey Knights or Thousand Sons it is pretty decent, but against most armies it is very situational. This also means he wants to hang back in a castle to impact the most units possible – which means no transport. Also, plasma overheating simply kills its wielder – if it did a mortal instead this would be quite nice… but that is not the case.
As such, from a design point of view, Lazarus wants to do different things. Push up and fight, but also sit back and buff in the castle. Both are viable, but not at the same time. I like him, but he is a little to scattered in his abilities to be competitive. A few small tweaks could change that, but with how he is, he is Situational
Dark Angels get an additional 22 stratagems. Some of these are the same as in Codex Space Marines (which is not a bad thing) and some are unique to them.
1CP – Duty Eternal: This allows a Dreadnought to halve damage inflicted upon it (rounding up). This is very good, and any armies which may field a dread will certainly make use of this. Competitive
2CP – Boltstorm: An Intercessor Squad firing Auto Bolt Rifles within half range will auto hit. Not bad, and can be nice vs anything that has a lot of negatives to hit. Can also be useful to Advance and shoot. Remember as well, DA ones get to shoot an extra 3″ whilst Relentless Hunt is up, so allowing this to proc at 13″. Efficient
1CP – Hunter-Slayer Missile: A Repulsor or Repulsor Executioner may fire at a Monster or Vehicle within 48″, hitting on it’s Ballistic Skill but without modifiers (so just what it’s wound track is on). Should it hit, it does d3 mortal wounds. This is rather specific in both the units which can use the strat and what targets it must go after. It does not need line of sight, which can be nice, although it is once per vehicle per game and cannot target something you are locked in combat with. 1 CP for d3 mortals is not bad, but all the qualifiers make this one Situational
1 / 2CP – Veteran Intercessors: This strat varies in cost based on the size of the Intercessor unit. A 5 man unit is only 1CP while 6+ is 2. You add one to the attack and leadership characteristic of each model in the unit. This can only be used once per unit and is used before the battle starts. This ups the damage out put a decent amount, but too often I find I want my CP for other uses. Efficient
2CP – Rapid Fire: An Intercessor squad with bolt rifles may use this at the start of the shooting phase to become Rapid Fire 2. There are a couple ways to make them count as stationary, as well as bolter drill and with Relentless Hunt pushing their range to 36″, this can put a good number of shots downrange. 10 models pushing out 40 shots is nothing to sneeze at. Efficient
1CP – High-Speed Focus: Oh boy. Use this strat when a Ravenwing Unit is selected for the target of an attack, they count as having the Jink ability (4++ vs ranged attacks) active, even if they did not advance in their previous turn. This is very nice. It allows you to not Advance a unit and still get their 4++ off, and it gives you some defense if you go second turn one. It can even be used on the planes. Memorize this strat, as it will be used a lot. Competitive
1CP – Big Guns Never Tire: Yes! This is what the First Legion needed. This makes a Dark Talon or Jetfighter viable again. It makes Dreadnoughts worth taking. The penalty to move and shoot with Heavy Weapons hurt Dark Angels pretty severely, and anything that mitigates that is golden. This is the first of three of the Holy Trinity of new abilities to make Dark Angels viable. Competitive
2CP – Vengeance of the Machine Spirit: Use this stratagem when one of the following units is destroyed: A Landraider, Repulsor, or StormRaven. You may choose to do one of the following, either auto explode, shoot one ranged weapon or fight with one melee weapon. For the attacks you use the top profile. While Landraiders and StormRaven’s are not that competitive, Repulsor Executioners are fairly deadly. Getting to fire twice with it’s main gun on death can often be worth the 2CP. Efficient
3CP – Target Sighted: An Intercessor squad with Stalker Bolt Rifles may use this to target a character even if it is not the closest model. In addition, on a 6+ to wound, they do a mortal wound. Able to get up to a 48″ threat range, these can seriously make characters pause. While the 3CP is a hefty price tag, it means you want to use 10 man units to maximize your value. In this case the DA Chapter Tactic of only losing one to a failed morale test can be handy as well. Competitive
1CP – Fury of the First: Use this strat when a Deathwing Terminator unit makes an attack. Until the end of the phase, add one to the hit roll. This could have been very powerful, if Termies had better weapons. At range, most of your attacks are limited to the bolter profile. At cuddle distance, this would be best used on a unit that has powerfists and/or Thunderhammers to bring it back to a 4+ to hit. A 5 man unit, on the charge, is pushing out 16 attacks, which can put some serious hurt on a unit. That being said, I am not sure this is enough to make terminators worth taking again. Situational
1CP – Steady Advance: An infantry unit may count as having stayed still for the purposes of bolter drill. While not bad, the Stoic Prosecution Litany is better. Save your CP for other strats. Situational
1CP – Hero of the Chapter: One of the biggest strats that helped make Marines the power houses that they are. This allows a non-named character to also take a Warlord Trait. 100% Competitive
1CP – Gene-Wrought Might: Same as with the Marines strat, this one lets a natural 6 to hit auto wound a target. This can be very useful when you have a high toughness unit and you can push out a lot of attacks. Not one you will always need to use, but when you do, it is clutch. Efficient
1CP – Stand Firm: Use this strat when a Deatwhing Terminator unit is selected as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, increase that unit’s toughness by 1. This help terminators a good bit. They probably should already be at toughness 5… but this is a nice boost to push them up some more. Think of it as a budget Trans-Human Physiology. Efficient
1CP – Targeting Guidance: Use this at the start of your shooting phase when a Landspeeder model is within 12″ of an enemy unit. This give full re-rolls to hit to all friendly dark angels that target that unit. Kind of like a localized Chapter Master. What makes this so good is that Talonmasters are so good. I’d expect to see several in every list. The downside is that you have to put them close to the enemy to make it work, which none of your speeders really want. It is good, but not amazing. When it can be used, look out, but I would not try to build a strategy around this. Efficient
1CP – Full Throttle: Used in the Movement phase after a Ravenwing unit has moved. That unit may move again. It can only advance once, and may not shoot nor charge this turn. This is an interesting one. For most Ravenwing units, you are looking at a 34″ move. It is clearly meant to take an objective. In the current ITC mission format, it could be very useful, especially to push a character over to an objective. That being had, it may not always be needed nor do I see many uses for this, but when it is needed it can win games. Situational (EDITORIAL CHANGE: Right when I published this, the new ITC missions came out for beta testing. There is a new Secondary, Postman which changes the value of this strat.
The Postman: Select a single model from your army that does not have the Vehicle, Monster or Titanic keywords to be The Postman (this model can be in a unit). This model may choose to gather intel on an Objective within 3” that you control at the end of your turn. You may only gather intel from each objective once per game. Earn 1pt per objective you gather intel from. If at the end of the game you have gathered intel from every objective on the table, you automatically score all 4pts.
A Ravenwing Apothecary is 60 points, and a character. Being able to zoom 34″ to objectives can make this a nice choice. If that stays as it is, I’d rank it as Competitive)
2CP – Combined Assault: This was the one that made the big splash when Games Workshop previewed it on their page. A Deathwing unit, when deepstriking, may do so wholly within 6″ of a Ravenwing unit and more than 6″ from enemy units, provided the Ravenwing unit did not advance this turn. 5″ charges. If within range of a Chaplin, it could even get down to 3″ charges. This helps overcome one of the biggest issues with the Deathwing – they are very slow. This helps mitigate it in much the same way that Ravenguard do for Centurions. Most Deathwing units are not as aggressively costed as Centurions (which Cents are probably a bit too cheap for what they give you now…), but it still helps to make these units viable. Also, note, a basic Master has the Deathwing key word, so this could be used to deliver a smash captain as well. Competitive
2CP – Trans-human Physiology: Same as what codex marines got – a non vehicle or servitor unit, when selected for an attack, can only be wounded on a natural 4+. 1-3 auto fails, regardless of any other special rules etc. Competitive
1CP – Adaptive Strategy: Once per game, if your warlord is on the table, you can shift backwards on the doctrine chart. So, Assault to Tactical, or Tactical to Devastator. Most of the time you will stick in Devastator. There are fringe cases you may want to drop to tactical, and this could be nice to get you back up to Dev, but it’s quite Situational
1CP – Evasive Assault: Use this strat when a Ravenwing unit charged or was charged – until the end of the phase it has a 5+ invul save. This can be rather nice to help a unit survive when it otherwise may not. Between Jinx and this, you can really help get the most out of your Ravenwing units. Competitive
1CP – Outnumbered But Never Outmatched: Use this strat when a Deathwing unit targets a unit that has 10 or more models in it. Add one to the attack characteristic of every model in this unit. This one can be sneaky. First off, just as it is it can be rather good, adding one to the attacks when hitting mobs. That being said, most Deathwing units are more geared to quality of attacks over quantity. However, if you have multiple units in combat, you can target with one attack towards the chaff unit, which then ups all the attacks for all your models to put towards the bigger target. Even if you are just attacking that mob of boyz, and extra couple attacks is always nice, as shock assault has shown. Efficient
1CP – Honored by the Rock: This is the strat to let a successor chapter take a relic from pure Dark Angels. Seeing as Dark Angels don’t get access to any successor chapter traits (at least not at this point in time), this may have a fringe use for a ForgeWorld unit to buff something…. Situational
Overall DA got some very useful and helpful stratagems. Deathwing got some new life breathed into them with some added durability, but in large part, added a way to get them up the board. Ravenwing got some nice synergy added in with the rest of the army, especially with Deathwing, as well as a bit of movement and durability themselves.
There were only really two misses in my opinion – no Chapter Master strat, and taking extra relics is still 1/3CP and limited to just the two extras. I don’t think many DA players will want more than even 3, but it sucks that getting 3 will cost you an extra CP over their marine brethren.
Speaking of Relics…
Dark Angels get two sets of Relics – Relics of Caliban and Special Issue Wargear. This is on top of the Relics of Caliban in the codex, giving them a total of 19 to choose from. The new ones are a definite step up from the codex crop, but there are not a ton of amazing ones. The ones that are good a very good though. Something to remember though, is DA are limited to 3 Relics max, with it costing them 3 CP for that third on. As such, I’d expect to typically only see them take two.
Relics of Caliban
Reliquary of the Repentant: This relic is for a Ravenwing model only, and it makes the invul save of enemy units within 3″ worse by 1. This is eh. Going from a 3++ to a 4++ is nice, or a 6++ to a 7++ or whatever, but (A) Ravenwing typically don’t want to be within 3″, especially their characters and (B) its very dependent on match-ups. Vs deamons, or knights, or something, it could be good. But versus Tyrannids or Orks, or Space Marines, it can be pretty hard to get into play if at all. Situational
Corvus Oculus: From 0 to 60 in three seconds flat! This Relic is amazing. It is for a Talonmaster and adds 1 to their ranged hit rolls (so effectively BS 2+) and adds 6″. This stacks with Relentless Hunt as well, giving you 48″ Heavy Bolter and 36″ Assault cannons. This, plus their new WL trait of Impeccable Mobility I expect to see in a majority of lists Competitive
Standard of the Unforgiving Hunt: Ravenwing Ancient model. Add 1 to the advance and charge rolls of Ravenwing units whilst within 6″. This one I was hoping they would FAQ a bit. While it is obvious the intent, you don’t actually roll for the Advance of most Ravenwing units, getting a flat boost of 6″ instead. Rules as Written, this would only impact those models which you do roll for – Speeders and Samuel. The unit you most want this to benefit, Black Knights, would not get the boost to their advance rolls. That being said, +1 to charge rolls and +1 to attacks for being near the Ancient (+1 also from shock assault) can Black Knights do some work in combat. Efficient
Blade of Burden: Deathwing Master only. Replaces a Power Sword. It is Str +2, Ap -4, and 2 damage. Any natural 6’s to wound does two mortal wounds instead of the normal damage. This could be a nice budget smash captain. With some good speed and delivery options, as well as a Decent Warlord Trail in Lay Low the Mighty, this could be a rather threatening character against the right threats. Efficient
Pennant of Remembrance: Deathwing Ancient model only. This gives any Deathwing units within 6″ a 5+++ save. This is very nice if you are focusing on a heavy Deathwing unit. Combo up with some other strats as listed above, and you have have a fairly tough unit to shift. Efficient
Key of Achrabel: Add 1 to the Strength and attack characteristic of a Deathwing Model. Smash capt. with 6 str 10 attacks on the charge. Competitive
Special Issue Wargear
Like all the other Marines, Dark Angels get the ubiquitous Adamantine Mantle, Artificer Armour, Master Crafted Weapon, and Digital Weapons. They also get 3 very good additional relics
Arbiter’s Gaze: A model with this relic ignores negative hit and ballistic skill modifiers, as well as hitting on it’s ballistic skill in overwatch. This is screaming out for a Talon Master, which unfortunately cannot take it. Next best is Efficient
Angel’s Ambit: Increase the range of this model’s aura by 3″. Best thing I can think of with this is on an Ancient to help catch more models in it’s bubble for +1 attacks. Efficient
Bolts of Judgment: This is the DA bolt weapon upgrade. This wounds units on a 2+, expect for Vehicles and Monsters, in which case it wounds on a 6+. This weapon has an ap of -2, and damage 3, and is a single attack. A Primaris Master with Master Crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle is probably your best bet on this one to push it up to range 42″. Efficient
Overall, DA got some very good relics. I hope at this point you are starting to see a pattern here, with Deathwing getting a bit of a boost but Ravenwing really taking the win here. Let’s solidify that and clarify these Warlord traits I have mentioned above…
Both Ravenwing and Deathwing got three new Warlord traits. The Phobos tree also got updated to match the codex marines one – basically their traits only effect phobos units. But, Ravenwing is where the gold is. So, let’s start with them.
Ravenwing Warlord Traits
Impeccable Mobility: Ravenwing units within 6″ ignore the penalty to move and shoot heavy weapons.
DA were broken by vehicles losing the ability to to move and shoot heavy weapons. This fixes it. Take the Angel’s Ambit relic to make this a 9″ bubble. This makes Talomnasters, Samuel, Bikes, Land speeders, flyers…. this makes all of them viable. Competitive. A+++++++. Pure Gold. Competitive. Competitive. Competitive.
Tactically Flexible: The warlord can choose a Ravenwing within 6″. When making an attack with this unit it may count as being in a different tactical doctrine than the one currently active, until the end of the battle round. These kinds of traits are rather meh to begin with, but the real kicker is this is once per battle. Situational at best.
Outrider: At the start of the first battle round, but before the first turn, this warlord and one Ravenwing unit may move up to 12″ (may not advance), but must stay more than 9″ away from enemy models. This one is not bad, and could be nice to push a large unit of Black Knight up the board as a threat that has to be dealt with. That being said, it is not better than Impeccable Mobility, and there are some other traits that may be better to use, although one can certainly build around this. Efficient
Deathwing Warlord Traits
Lay Low the Mighty: A model in a unit within 6″ may, when attacking a character, or a unit with a wounds characteristic of 8 or more, re-roll the wound rolls for melee weapons. Doom on a unit is always nice. This can be used to set up some pretty powerful attacks, if you choose to go all in on the Deathwing. Competitive
Inexorable: A Warlord with this trait can never be wounded on a 1-3. This is a permanent Trans-Human Physiology on the warlord. Good. Not amazing. You don’t want your warlord tanking hits. Efficient
Watched: This one is very interesting. Once per battle, you may deny an enemy psychic power. No roll. No range. Just deny. If you know your opponent has a must-have power to go off, this can be very powerful to have in your pocket. Otherwise this is a pass. Using Hero of the Chapter to pick this up as needed can be very good. Efficient
Of course, all the Warlord traits from the Codex are also available. These new ones are (almost) all quite good. There are some very nice combos that can be taken with these and the relics.
Psychic Powers and Littanies
I should probably throw a line in that the Phobos Psychic tree got modified to match the Codex one as well. Done.
Dark Angels also get all the Litanies from the Codex Marines book, plus one of their very own.
Stoic Prosecution: Whilst this litany is active, Infantry units within 6″ that did not advance or fall back this turn, may fire ranged weapons as if they were stationary. This is amazing. Not only does it allow moving and firing with heavy weapons, it also helps you trigger bolter drill at full range, and it lets you get to re-roll 1’s to hit for you Chapter Tactic, since you count as standing still. This combined with Impeccable Mobility gives you so much you can do. Competitive
Dark Angels have really been given a lift here. Iron Hands are still better, but this helps DA so, so much. Having tools to move and fire without penalty is huge (seriously, it is one of the big factors for IH wrecking face), and this supplement gives it to DA without making them super over powered.
I will cover next time units and combos for Dark Angels.
Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!
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