Deathwatch in 9th Edition

Hi everyone, Michael here to take a look at how the changes to 9th edition may affect the Deathwatch. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

Deathwatch are one of my favourite armies to play in 40k. Their mixed unit abilities and special issue ammunition add a unique flavour to the army that I really enjoy using. So, with the core rules of 9th edition having been released, I put together some thoughts on how the army may function in games.

Mixed Units

One of the defining features of the Deathwatch army is the ability to mix different model types into one Kill Team. Each different type used added new abilities to the squad, such as passing morale tests, falling back and shooting, and falling back and charging.

Adding a Vanguard Veteran or Inceptor to a squad, allowed the unit to fall back and still shoot, “as if it could Fly”. The changes to the core rules that does not allow units that can fly to fall back and shoot is likely to impact this ability. I would expect a day-one FAQ or errata to remove this ability from the unit. I’m not sure what it would be replaced with, but this may alter the inclusion of these models in the kill team.

A Terminator in a squad of Veterans allowed them to automatically pass morale tests. This was useful, as you often wanted to take big units of Veterans in order to get maximum benefit out of stratagems and bonuses. While still a useful addition, morale does not appear to be as punishing for larger units in 9th edition, so this is not a necessary part of the Kill Team any more. However, there are still advantages to having a Terminator in the unit, such as access to the 2+ armour save, as well as a Power Fist or power weapon for combat.

Adding an Agressor to a squad of Intercessors will also be a great boost to the squad, allowing them to ignore penalty to move and fire heavy weapons, or advance and fire assault weapons. Given the smaller board sizes, it will be more difficult for your opponent to escape your firepower if you can move and shoot without penalty, especially with the bonuses from special issue ammunition.

New Models

It was confirmed that the Deathwatch will get access to the new models from the Indomitus boxed set. While this is a nice bonus, I think I will only be using the Bikes and Eradicators for my army.

The combination of the Outrider with special issue ammunition should provide a very durable and fast unit with a lot of firepower. This will be great for the Deathwatch, who can often struggle to get around the board, once they are deployed. You might even be able to add an Outrider to an Intercessor squad to give them the ability to fall back and assault.

The Assault Intercessors are nice, but the Deathwatch do not have access to the Impulsor to help them get into combat. Without it, you are stuck with the Teleportarium and getting a 9″ charge off on arrival from reserves. With the changes to the CP re-roll, this becomes more difficult, making the unit more prone to failing the charge and getting wiped out the following turn. The only other alternative is to use the Repulsor to transport them, but this is a pretty expensive option. The same applies to the other combat units in the boxed set.

The unit I am most excited for is going to be the Eradicators. These are going to be great for the Deathwatch, plugging an anti-tank hole that the army can struggle with. The ability to deploy from the Teleportarium allows them to stay safe from enemy guns, as well as ensuring that they can deploy with much greater options, ensuring they can get to the target you want to eradicate. The ability to get +1 to wound most targets through the Doctrines also means that there are very few units that will stand up to their firepower.

It is unlikely they will be allowed to join a kill team, but if they can, that will provide you with some nice ablative wounds to help keep them safe for longer.

Corvus Blackstar

The change to the rules for Heavy Weapons means that the Corvus Blackstar is now a viable option. Depending on the points increase, this could become a strong choice for the Deathwatch.

As it no longer suffers the penalty to moving and firing it’s heavy weapons, it can now be a viable support vehicle for the army. Combined with the Auspex array, you will be hitting ground targets on a 3+ and re-rolling 1’s to hit, giving it a nice boost to its firepower output. The addition of the combat Doctrines also means that it’s heavy weapons are more potent on the first turn, getting an additional -1 AP.

Armed with a Twin Lascannon and two Stormstrike Missiles, it can become a potent anti-tank aircraft. Equally, going for twin Assault Cannons and the Blackstar Rocket Launcher will provide some nice anti-infantry firepower, especially if the Blackstar gains the Blast special rule.

The new rules allowing it to leave the board and return also makes it more valuable, as you can use these rules to get into position to utilise its firepower to full effect, or to get into key position to deploy a unit inside on the following turn.

The strategic reserves rules will also allow you to start the Corvus and an embarked unit(s) off the table to keep them safe from enemy firepower. However, this could get costly in CP, especially if you have a high power level unit embarked in it.


I think 9th edition could be good for the Deathwatch. They retain the ability to get various special rules on a single unit, as well as the Veteran squad being one of the most versatile units to equip in the game. The Teleportarium is still a very strong way to deploy units, giving the Primaris squads improved mobility.

The Eradicators look to be a very strong addition to the army, giving them some much needed effective anti-vehicle firepower.

Special issue ammunition continues to be a strong boost for the army. The changes to the cover rules also means that the Dragonfire bolts may actually see some use in this edition (+1 to hit when targeting a unit in cover), especially when combined with the AP bonuses from Doctrines.

I look forward to seeing what changes the new edition will bring to the Deathwatch, and am eager when I can get them back on the tabletop.

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



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.

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