Faction Focus: Deathwatch

Here’s the 9th ed 40k Deatwatch faction focus article courtesy of the Warhammer-community team!

The Deathwatch may be well versed in forming kill teams of highly skilled warriors, but to make sure you’re ready to do the same in the new edition, our Faction Focus is here to give you a helping hand! What’s more, we’re joined by Watch Master Mitch Pelham, who will be using his wealth of experience to guide us through the ins, outs and do-you-mind-if-I-don’ts of the Deathwatch. Let’s get cracking.

Who Are They?

The Deathwatch are peerless hunters of the myriad alien threats that beset the Imperium from without or within. Though some volunteer especially, most Deathwatch warriors are handpicked from their parent Space Marine Chapter for their skill, experience and aptitude for slaying xenos wherever they may be found. The Deathwatch are armed with the finest equipment and wargear – often surpassing even that available to their former battle-brothers – for they must seek out some of the deadliest threats to the Imperium and destroy them before they can fester and take root.

How They Play in the New Edition

To lead the charge on this bit, we’ve borrowed Las Vegas Open judge and recent Grand Tournament winner Mitch Pelham – he knows his Deathwatch Doctrines from D-V,* so he’s well placed to give us some xenos-purging pointers.

Mitch: So what’s been improved by the edition for ‘the boys in black’? Well, let’s begin with what might be the most important change to the game – battlefield size. With the minimum size of a Strike Force game going down to a 60″x44″ board, the mainstay gun of the Deathwatch kill team, namely the storm bolter, gets even more deadly.

Let’s also not forget that, with many armies now having access to ways of ignoring AP -1 modifiers (or AP -2 if you’re playing against Adepta Sororitas of the Valorous Heart), Special Issue Ammunition and the Tactical Doctrine can turn your horde-mulching boltgun fire into an armor-shredding AP -2 and AP -3, which can easily bring down units relying on 2+ saves to survive. Combine that with your Deathwatch Veterans’ easy access to storm shields and you have one of the most versatile Troops units in the game.

With the average battlefield and army sizes being slightly smaller in general for the new edition – and Deathwatch being an elite force by nature – we can expect our favourite xenos hunters to be fielded as compact strike forces of relatively few units. This means every Deathwatch unit you do field will be precious and need to have both a purpose and a plan for how they will be used. The name of the game with Deathwatch is dropping into the thick of the fighting. Between the new Strategic Reserves, new cover rules and the Teleportarium Stratagem, every game should start with identifying how you want to deploy your forces.

Other tricks you can employ to protect your limited numbers include using the Tactical Flexibility Stratagem to make your 10-man kill teams into units of 5 at a moment’s notice should you face an enemy army packing loads of Blast weapons. You can also use Obscuring terrain to hide as many of your units as possible out of line of sight, then keep the rest of your forces in Strategic Reserves. This can force your opponent to play more defensively or risk opening up a flank or backfield opportunity for you to teleport into and lay waste to more vulnerable units or maybe even pick off one of their key Characters.

I haven’t even gotten into the movement tricks you can pull off with teleport homers – suffice it to say that the Deathwatch are a force to be reckoned with heading into the new edition, so get out there and suffer not the alien to live!

Key Units

Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that the Deathwatch are set to gain access to ALL of the new units in the awesome Indomitus set.** So, if you’re looking to reinforce your consummate all-rounders with a core of deadly Primaris melee specialists, such as Bladeguard Veterans and Assault Intercessors, you’ll soon be good to go!

In any case, here are a few units around which you’ll be able to build a powerful Deathwatch strike force in the new edition.


Mitch: A favourite tactic of mine is the Deathwatch Intercessor ‘Stalker Bomb’. This unit consists of 9 Intercessors armed with stalker bolt rifles and an Aggressor. The idea behind this combo is simple – use the Target Sighted Stratagem to pick out a Character or two with Special Issue Ammunition and Damage 2 weaponry. With the Aggressor there to negate the -1 penalty to hit should you need to move to line up the perfect shot, you can take down nearly any Character in the game!

Corvus Blackstar

The Corvus Blackstar can be an excellent option if you’re planning to stay out of the fight until you can get the jump on your opponent, as Mitch suggested. With its sizable transport capacity, you can fit a large squad and maybe even a Character or two within its hull. Simply fly off the battlefield in your first turn and return from Strategic Reserves exactly when and where you want them later in the battle without having to invest any CPs for the privilege!

Watch Master

Not only is the Watch Master one of the most stunning miniatures in the Deathwatch range, but he’s pretty handy in a fight. We don’t just mean his martial skill with his guardian spear either – his Watch Master ability grants your nearby units re-rolls on ALL their failed hit rolls, making him an awesome force multiplier. With the new maximum hit roll penalties of -1, this ability will be even more effective.

Thanks, Mitch! How will you be forming your kill teams? Will you be adding the mighty new Primaris units from Indomitus? Let us know on the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook pageInstagram and on Twitter using #New40K.

* That’s Decapitation to Venator if you’re interested. They’ve purged so many alien species over the millennia that the Doctrines beginning with A, B, C, W, X, Y and Z are no longer needed.
** No, not the Necron units (that would just be weird) – only the Space Marine ones!

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About Reecius

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One Response to “Faction Focus: Deathwatch”

  1. Michael Corr July 6, 2020 11:18 pm #

    I found the Watch Master section a little confusing. The text says “grants your nearby units re-rolls on ALL their failed hit rolls”, but the rule shown says “you can re-roll failed hit rolls”. Hopefully it gets changed to the better version, but it is still the old version at the moment. Does anyone proof read these articles before GW releases them?

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