Codex Supplement: Deathwatch Review- Stratagems

The new Deathwatch supplement is here. I’m going to take a look at the new stratagems in the book and how they will help you purge the Xenos menace! For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The Deathwatch have been folded into the main Space Marine codex. This brings a lot of advantages in terms of expanded unit variety and stratagems. Today, I’m going to take a look at the new stratagems for the Deathwatch to use in their supplement.

Here is the rating systems I will be using in the review:

  • 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 combined 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.

Obviously, most stratagems are Situational as you need specific things to happen to be able to use them. However, this rating does not refer to that, but rather that you will rarely be using the stratagem, even when the right conditions come up to allow you to use it.


Death to the Alien (1CP)– Use in the fight phase when you select a Deathwatch unit to fight. Until the end of that phase, when in engagement range of Tyranids, Orks, Aeldari, Necron or T’au Empire units, add 1 to the attacks characteristic of models in that unit.

Efficient. A nice bonus when attacking Xeonos units with your Deathwatch. Given the number of attacks Veterans and Intercessors can put out through Shock Assault, Astartes Chainswords, etc., this can turn your units into combat powerhouses. Particularly useful on units with lots of special weapons, as going up to 4 attacks with a Heavy Thunder Hammer is a potent threat, especially as you are probably getting the re-rolls of 1 to hit in combat. The only reason that this is not Competitive is that it will do nothing against the masses of Marines you are likely to be facing.

Prognosticating Volley (1CP)– Each time a model makes a ranged attack against an Aeldari unit, you can ignore any or all ballistic skill modifiers for that attack.

Situational. This would have been amazing when -3 to hit flyers were still a thing. However, you are limited to -1 to hit under any situation, so this will have less effect. Good for when you need to clear a unit out of cover or deal with a flyer and don’t have Watch Master re-rolls on your squad. Not one I see being used all too often, but handy if you have the CP to spare.

Synaptic Severence (1CP)- Use in the shooting or fight phase. Each time the unit attacks a Tyranid Synapse unit, a 6 to hit automatically wounds the target.

Situational. This one has seen a dramatic reduction in power and use from its previous version, which allowed you to target synapse characters with ease. This could be useful against some of the tougher Tyranid Synapse creatures, but a lot of the time you will just be using Hellfire Shells if you can. A one in 6 chance of auto-wounding is nice, but probably not worth spending the CP on most of the time.

Adaptive Tactics (2CP)– Use in the Command Phase if a Watch Master is on the board. You can change the battlefield role for your Chapter Tactics ability. Can only be used once per game.

Situational. There are a few ways in the codex to get the Chapter Tactics bonus against different units for a turn, so this stratagem isn’t too essential. It is pretty costly at 2CP, compared to some of the other stratagems you can spend CP on. Useful if you run out of units for the battlefield role that you selected, and now that the Tome of Ectoclades has been changed.

Atonement Through Honour (1CP)– Use in the charge phase. A Deathwatch unit that contains a Black Shield can heroically intervene as if they were a character.

Competitive. This is a powerful stratagem for getting your units into combat in the enemy turn. I can see this being useful for camping on an objective and getting to charge any unit that comes into range to try and steal it from you. A nasty surprise if your opponent is not expecting it.

Sanction of the Black Vault (1CP)– Allows you to give a Sergeant Artificer Armour, Master-Crafted weapon, digital weapon or Banebolts of Eryxia.

Situational. A nice bonus for a sergeant in a single squad. Not one I would probably be using all that much, as you are generally going to get more use out of these relics on a character model than a Sergeant.

A Vigil Unmatched (1CP)– Allows you to give a character a warlord trait from the Deathwatch warlord traits table. Can only be used once per game.

Competitive. The Deathwatch warlord traits can be pretty powerful, so this is great for giving your warlord an additional trait. One of the traits allows you to make a unit within 6″ objective secured, which is great for stealing it from your opponent. Also allows you to take any of the Chapter-specific warlord traits from the Space Marine codex, effectively giving you access to another 12 warlord traits. Could be useful for the Ultramarines trait, giving you the option of recovered CP when using a stratagem, or Salamanders to get +2S on your character. This would make a character wielding a Xenophase blade, a deadly prospect in combat.

Stem the Green Tide (2CP)– Use to fire Overwatch at an Ork unit that has declared a charge against the unit. If an Ork model was destroyed as the result of the attack, subtract 2 from the charge range.

Situational. This one saw a reduction in power from the previous version. It effectively costs you 1CP, as you would need to pay the CP to overwatch in theory. Gives you two units that can Overwatch against Orks if you want. I think this could be useful on a larger Deathwatch unit to ensure that you get the kill needed to activate the -2 bonus. Could be very useful against units that arrive from reserve using Green Tide or Da Jump, putting them up to an 11″ charge in most cases.

Priority Doctrine Adoption (1CP)– Use in the command phase on a Deathwatch unit. Pick a combat doctrine that is not currently active. That unit must use the selected combat Doctrine instead of the currently active one for that turn.

Competitive. Deathwatch already have a greater degree of control over the Doctrine active, so getting this stratagem for only 1CP is great. There are a couple of downsides; it cannot be used on a unit arriving from reserve and does not give you the choice of which doctrine to use. A nice bonus though for vehicles or backfield units to benefit from the Devastator doctrine for extra turns of the game. There is no limit on the number of times this can be used, so gives you a cheaper version of Adaptive Strategy (though not as good) that can be used on any unit, not just Core units.

Targeting Scramblers (1CP)– Use in the shooting phase after a T’au Empire unit has resolved its shooting attacks against a Deathwatch unit from your army. Remove all markerlights from that Deathwatch unit.

Efficient. This is a tricky one that could cause arguments over the definiting of “after”. Can this be used at the end of the phase to allow all markerlights on a unit to be removed? Or, does it have to be used after a unit shoots, allowing more markerlights to be placed on the Deathwatch unit after the fact? Still a useful stratagem to reduce the effectiveness of T’au firepower. Might also be useful if Markerlights see any changes in the future.

Overkill (1CP)– Use in the shooting or fight phase after a unit makes an attack against a Necron unit. Your opponent must subtract 1 from Reanimation Protocols rolls for that unit.

Competitive. This stratagem has also seen some changes to the previous version to make it more and less effective. You no longer need to have units in a certain range to use it, but it only works against one set of attacks now. Given the changes to Reanimation Protocols, I can still see a use for this. Useful if you are putting a lot of firepower from a unit into a blob of Necron Warriors, rather than just a couple of attacks.

Brotherhood of Veterans (2CP)– Use in your command phase. Select a Deathwatch unit in your army and select one Chapter Tactic or Successor Tactic from Codex Space Marines. Until the end of the turn, models have that Chapter Tactic instead of Xenos Hunters.

Competitve. For me, one of the best stratagems in the Deathwatch book. The sheer versatility of this stratagem is incredible. If your unit has been locked in combat, you can use Ultramarines to fall back and still be able to shoot (albeit at -1 to hit). White Scars allows you to advance (or fall back) and still charge. This will be really nasty on objective secured Outriders or Biker Veterans to get a first turn charge off. If you have a combat unit ready to charge in, using Space Wolves will boost their combat potential even further, or Blood Angels will allows you to take on some more powerful enemy units with ease. Sadly, this only lasts till the end of the turn, not the battle round, so no heroically intervening into enemy units in your opponent’s turn with this one. Equally, Dark Angels will boost your firepower for a stationary unit and can even help against morale in some situations.

Disruptive Launch (1CP)– Allows a Vanguard Veteran unit, Indomitor Kill Team with an Inceptor or Proteus Kill Team with a Vanguard Veteran to fall back and still shoot.

Competitive. While this was an inherent ability of the unit in 8th edition, it is still nice to retain the ability in some fashion. There is no penalty to falling back and shooting, so you can still keep up a good rate of firepower if you get tagged in combat. Does require a specific kill team build to use though, so may be a bit limited in your army.

Teleportarium (1CP)– Allows you to place a Deathwatch Infantry, Biker or Dreadnought unit in reserve and deploy using the Teleport Stike rule. Can be used twice in a standard 2000 pts game.

Competitive. A very powerful ability for the Deathwatch, which gives them great flexibility over Tactical Reserves in deployment. This will be very strong on certain units. For example, you can have a unit of 5 objective-secured Outriders deploying from Teleport almost anywhere on the board from turn 2 onwards. Also, deep striking a Redemptor Dreadnought into your opponent’s lines is going to be a threat that must be dealt with quickly.

Relentless Assault (1CP)– Allows a kill team with a Biker or Outrider to fall back and still assault.

Efficient. Not as powerful as the ability to fall back and shoot for most Deathwatch units, but still a powerful ability to have. Allows you to fall back towards the enemy army and still charge. Well suited for a combat unit or for stealing enemy objectives with an objective secured unit.

Shroud Field (2CP)– Use at the start of the first battle round. One Corvus Blackstar unit from your army cannot be targeted by enemy ranged attacks unless it is the closest eligible model to the firing unit.

Competitive. A fantastic stratagem that actually makes the Corvus Blackstar a viable choice for the army. The ability to almost guarantee that your Corvus will survive if you don’t get the first turn is well worth the 2CP cost, in my opinion. No longer will your expensive flyer get blown out of the sky on turn 1, leaving the unit onboard stranded deep in your deployment zone and really unable to do much for the duration of the game. Actually makes it viable to fill the Corvus with a combat unit and ensure that they can get deep in the enemy lines on turn 1.

Clavis (1CP)– Use at the start of the Fight phase. Select one enemy Vehicle within 1″ of a Watch Master. The unit suffers D3 mortal wounds and cannot be selected to fight until all eligible units from your army have done so.

Situational. A nice way to cause mortal wounds against enemy vehicles. Forcing a vehicle to strike last is useful against Dreadnoughts or other vehicles with some strong combat ability, especially if you have a combat unit that can kill it before it strikes. Otherwise, most Dreadnoughts are going to mess up your Watch Master pretty quickly.

Special-Issue Loadout (2CP)– Use in the shooting phase. A Deathwatch unit’s Bolt Weapons (excluding Bolt Sniper Rifles) gain the Special Issue Ammunition ability, but their type characteristic is changed to Heavy 1.

Situational. If if wasn’t for the Heavy 1 restriction imposed, this would be a very powerful stratagem. However, for most weapons with more than 1 shot, this isn’t that good. If you run the numbers, two shots with a Bolt Rifle are better than one shot with Special Issue Ammunition for almost all situations. I can see this having some use on a unit with Stalker Bolt Rifles or Executor Bolt Rifles. Going up to damage 3 on these weapons will make them very powerful for taking out elite units such as Bikers, Terminators, etc.


As you can see, the Deathwatch have access to some very powerful stratagems to help them out. For me, Brotherhood of Veterans, Shroud Field and Teleportarium are the stand outs of the new book.

I think most of the Xenos directed stratagems have actually gotten weaker. They will be useful in some situations, but I’m not going to be banking on them a lot of the time.

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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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1 year ago

I am looking over the deathwatch stratagems and it appears that the one “a vigil unmatched” is for giving the warlord two warlord traits as opposed to giving another model a warlord trait. Any comment on this?

1 year ago





Can GW please treat our community more seriously?

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