Faction Focus: Dark Angels

Hello, my brethren. Gather round the table as I share with you my secrets from Art of War about how to make your Dark Angel army kick some major @$$!

To first cover what Dark Angels do right and how to win with them, we need to first go over what they don’t do right and what traps in list building with them to avoid. Dark Angels effectively don’t have a chapter tactic. Rerolling 1’s to hit if you stand still is relatively useless when every other character in the codex gives reroll 1’s or full rerolls to hit for standing near them. Similarly, having only one model flee from morale is so rarely going to come into play as a Space Marine player, calling it niche or even negligible might be overly generous. Their mono-faction doctrine Relentless Hunt isn’t bad. Unfortunately, it’s tied to Devastator Doctrine, and due to the sins of Imperial Fist and Iron Hands players, we only get to make use out of this doctrine for one turn. I think this is a valuable learning point, though. Dark Angels don’t do ANYTHING that regular marines do better. Even their stratagem for plasma, Weapons from the Dark Age, isn’t useful since pretty much all units that can take plasma cost way too much for their durability level. This is why Dark Angels have struggled to find an identity for pretty much the entire edition. We’re largely relegated to a niche Supreme Command of Sammael and 2 Talon Masters souping into a different army. Times have changed, though, and Dark Angels got a tremendously useful Psychic Awakening that a lot of players have been sleeping on!

credit to 30kplus40k
credit to 30kplus40k

To play Dark Angels competitively, you need to focus on the aspects of your army that enable you to differentiate yourself from regular Space Marines. This means leaning heavily into your astoundingly unique character repertoire and the unique and powerful aspects of Ravenwing and Deathwing.

So, what do Dark Angels do well?

Let’s start with their surprisingly exceptional durability. Azrael is a chapter master that gives a 4++ invulnerable save aura to nearby infantry and bike units. That is amazing and makes all your troops last way longer than they should against high ap weaponry. This alone gives you the legs to stand up to the likes of mech Eldar which is traditionally a hard match for Marines. But the durability doesn’t stop there. You can use Master Lazarus or just a regular old Chaplain to give your army a 5+++ feel no pain from mortal wounds. This ability isn’t necessary in a lot of games, which is why I think I’d go for a chaplain over Lazarus. Still, a feel no pain vs psychic-heavy armies, sniper-heavy armies, or the new Ork Burna Bombas will be a lifesaver. Finally, you have the Darkshroud, which confers a -1 to hit aura onto nearby units within 6″. -1 to hit isn’t what it used to be, but it’s undoubtedly still strong, and if you’re going down the durability train, it gels nicely. One of the main weaknesses to the Darkshroud is that someone can just shoot it first and then get started, especially turn one before it can get its jink save up. But, with the new stratagem from Psychic Awakening, you can give it a 4++ invulnerable reactively from jink even without advancing!

credit to the Back 40k blog
credit to the Back 40k blog

It’s not all that difficult to have every model in your army walk around with a 4++ or 3++ invulnerable save between Azrael, Jink, and Storm Shields. That is insanely efficient vs the more elite armies out there. However, this does limit your build options a bit. Since the codex makes it viable to give every model in your army a 4++ invulnerable, which greatly reduces the efficacy of opposing high ap weapons (like lascannons), it’s probably not in your best interest to take ANY vehicles as they would give a fantastic target to those big weapons. This is totally fine, and you can make a strong, competitively viable list with no vehicles without too much difficulty, but I think it’s important to highlight why it’s in your best interest to stay away from them.

If being tough were all it took to be a top tier army, though, Iron Hands would still be terrorizing the scene (which they’re not). You need to be able to bring the pain offensively as well. Dark Angels have one of the best Chaplains and Litanies in the game. Asmodai is a five wound Chaplain for 110 point who knows multiple litanies (unfortunately he can only use one though) and gives a +1 attack aura. +1 attack as an aura is a fantastic ability, and the new Dark Angel Litany allows you to move with your nearby infantry and count a stationary. This means you can move and shoot with bolter drill and not suffer penalties for moving and firing heavy weapons. With that, in addition to their durability, Dark Angels are starting to find their niche. They can exist at the strange intersection between Ultra Marines and Iron Hands with the ability to move and count as stationary while having incredibly durable units as well.

That’s not all Dark Angels have, either. They have some especially unique units and rules that allow them to find their place competitively.

Let’s start with my personal favorites: Sammael (Sammy) and Talon Masters. Sammy in a Land Speeder and 1-2 Talon Masters accompanying him has been a strong plug-and-play type of detachment for years, but they’ve gotten a lot of support recently to elevate them to a higher level. They can pump out a lot of firepower with a twin assault cannons and twin heavy bolters, rerolls to hit, reroll 1’s to wound, and ignore cover, but they’ve suffered from a few unfortunate interactions. They are mobile, short-ranged units, which means they need to move into range of the enemy, but they have no mechanism to ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons. They also have the old rerolls to hit (where you can’t reroll the modified misses), which led to a whole bunch of lost efficiency. Now, though, Ravenwing has a Warlord trait to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapon within 6″ of the model with that trait. That is absolutely fantastic for not only Sammy and his friends, but also random nearby attack bikes which make excellent screens for characters. They can zip to out of LoS positions quickly or pump out a larger amount of firepower while being tanky from a 4++ from jink. Ravenwing also got another Warlord trait to once per game count the active doctrine as a different one. This will allow you to stay in Devastator Doctrine for the first two turns of the game and actually make use of your mono-faction doctrine to engage the enemy without getting in harm’s way with your Landspeeder/ Attack Bike entourage. Not only that, but you’ll also be ap -2 for two turns as well!

credit to Games Workshop
credit to Games Workshop

Deathwing Knights also got some absolutely amazing rules. They’ve actually always been a very points efficient unit. They all have ap -2 Thunder Hammers (that don’t suffer the negative to hit) and Storm Shields for only 35 points per model, which is great, but it’s the stratagems they have access to which really push them over the top. Combined assault comes to mind as it allows you to deep strike 6″ away from the enemy so long as you arrive within 6″ of a Ravenwing biker. 6″ charges from reserve are great, and, if they’re under the effect of Canticle of Hate, 4″ charges are even better. So, let’s get into just how hard they hit. 

Each model has 2 attacks base, an additional one for shock assault, 4 from Asmodai if he’s nearby, potentially 5 if you take a Deathwing Ancient (which you should, and I’ll get into why later). There’s also a stratagem that gives them one more attack if they attack any unit with 10 or more models. They have a stratagem now for +1 to hit, and they reroll hit rolls since they’re Inner Circle. A full unit deep striking and charging is 55 Thunder Hammer attacks that hit on 2’s rerolling 1’s and 7 flail attacks that are 2 damage, and the damage carries over onto multiple models. You can easily split attacks across multiple units and just lay down the pain. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have the old fight twice, which does not stipulate that they are within an inch of an enemy to trigger it, which is great for fighting units that would potentially kill them in return before their second fight like Centurions. Deathwing Knights are no slouches defensively, though, since they can count as T5 and -1 to wound with their defensive stratagems and models within 6″ of the Ancient with the relic banner have a 5+++ feel no pain as well.

Credit to Games Workshop
Credit to Games Workshop

To top it all off, Dark Angels also have amazing relics and the best psychic defense in the game. A Deathwing Warlord trait allows you to once per game block an enemy psychic power regardless of range, LoS, or their casting roll. Armies like Chaos and Eldar rely entirely on things like Warp Time, Quicken, Doom, and Protect, and they jump through hoops to get it off. Being able to turn it off automatically can flip those matches. Additionally, a Ravenwing Apothecary isn’t a bad value either. He can grant you access to the Reliquary of the Repentant, which is a 3″ aura of -1 invul for enemy units. In the right scenarios, this can be back-breaking for the enemy. Additionally, this little guy is a bike character, so he can deliver your Deathwing Termies 6″ away and, shy of snipers, there’s no way for the enemy to kill him before it’s time to deliver the pain train. A relics I find potentially powerful is the Corvus Oculus to get a long-range Talon Master that’s hitting on 2’s reroll 1s. 36″ on the assault cannon and 48″ on the heavy bolter in Dev Doctrine is solid long-ranged firepower. Alternatively, you can give him the Arbiter’s Gaze for a full ballistic skill overwatch and negating hit modifiers vs things like Eldar planes or Possessed.

Putting It All Together- Sample list

  • Dark Angels Brigade
  • Azrael 150
  • Sammy on Speeder 200
  • Talon Master 188
  • Asmodai 110
  • 5 Intercessors- stalker rifles 85
  • 5 Intercessors- stalker rifles 85
  • 5 Intercessors- stalker rifles 85
  • 5 Intercessors- stalker rifles 85
  • 5 Intercessors- stalker rifles 85
  • 5 Intercessors- stalker rifles 85
  • 10 Deathwing Knights- Watcher in the Dark 355
  • Ravenwing Apothecary 75
  • Deathwing Ancient- fist, storm bolter 76
  • Attack Bike- heavy bolter 37
  • Attack Bike- heavy bolter 37
  • Attack Bike- heavy bolter 37
  • 3 Eliminators 72
  • 3 Eliminators 72
  • 3 Eliminators 72

Dark Angels are a unique army that’s struggled to find their place in the competitive 40k landscape, but with the help of their Psychic Awakening update I think they’ve snuck into the scene as a solid contender I’d like to get them onto our live streams for you over in the War Room and on our twitch channel.  If you’d like to work the concept of the sample list more and refine it into a real tournament winner you can try out our coaching or list help services as well! Keep an eye out, my friends, and you too will soon be taught our ways.

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



15 Responses to “Faction Focus: Dark Angels”

  1. LordVader April 20, 2020 10:59 am #

    Ya can just soup DA with a codex marine detachment then walla, access to chief apothecary on bike.
    And then azrael-apo-chaplain intercessor ball with 4++ 5+++, no move penalty and reroll hit. 4++ in 6” but you’ll be surprised how much you can fit in 6”

    • Nick Nanavati April 22, 2020 6:37 am #

      This doesn’t work at all (thankfully). Dark Angel Intercessors don’t have the flesh is weak rule so the best they could get is a 6+++ fnp. I don’t even think they can actually access the marines stuff from PA so they couldn’t even get a super apothecary. And an apothecary on bike has been moved to legnds

  2. Andrew April 20, 2020 1:32 pm #

    How do you get your chaplain in range of deep striking Deathwing Knights in order to take advantage of the +2″ charge aura?

    • Michael Corr April 20, 2020 11:16 pm #

      A Jump Pack Chaplain can easily get into range by turn 2. The real trick is keeping him alive long enough to use the aura ability when the reserves come in.

      • Andrew April 21, 2020 12:44 pm #

        If only we could field a Ravenwing Bike Chaplain

        • Michael Corr April 21, 2020 11:14 pm #

          I know! I’ve modelled so many options for my Dark Angels and White Scars over the years that are no longer useable outside of Legends. It’s quite annoying.

    • Nick Nanavati April 22, 2020 6:38 am #

      You can string back the termies on the drop turn, and move and advance the chaplain. You wont always be able to but it’s also far from impossible.Just depends where you drop in with respect to to yyour home base

  3. Alex April 20, 2020 2:38 pm #

    I’m afraid that Inner Circle ability allow Deathwing Knights reroll missed hits only when facing Fallen..
    That’s a very interesting approach to make DA great again. Thanks for sharing!

    • Michael Corr April 20, 2020 11:15 pm #

      Yeah, the re-rolls of Inner Circle are practically useless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Fallen unit on the table.

    • Nick Nanavati April 22, 2020 6:39 am #

      Yeah I messed that one up, glad you enjoyed it though!

  4. Michael Corr April 20, 2020 11:14 pm #

    Great write up! I couldn’t agree more about the Chapter Tactic, it is practically worthless for most of the army, especially the Ravenwing and Deathwing elements. It’s great when your Chapter Tactic doesn’t apply to two thirds of the Wings in the army.

    The super Doctrine is also pretty garbage for most of the units in the army. A real shame, as I built a Dark Angels Primaris force when they first came out. I would love to run an all Ravening army for my Dark Angels, but the lack of CP for such an army is a huge hindrance to running it.

  5. nkumpy April 21, 2020 8:58 am #

    Thanks for the article! It sure made me think about dusting the minis off for sure. Do you think there is any place for either flyer, or are they still just too fragile without synergizing much?

    I like the fact that they look cool and are unique…so I might just being hoping to find a way to jam them in 🙂

    • Nick Nanavati April 22, 2020 6:40 am #

      Just too fragile for their price point on the fliers. I also hate units that have a forced move like that, but that’s just me.

      • Nkumpy April 22, 2020 1:53 pm #

        Yeah, that makes sense. Taking away control from the most important game phase has to have some SERIOUS upside to consider.

        It’s not like I quarantine-impulse bought 3 new flyer kits…..
        *sobs in Calibanese*

        Hahahaha…appreciate your time for a fellow Nick

  6. Hundog April 23, 2020 1:01 pm #

    I really enjoyed this article and the list seems really interesting. Definitely made me think about playing with DA.

    However I would also like to point out that Azrael only gives 4++ to models AFAIK. Sadly that is a huge difference.

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