Codex Supplement: Deathwatch Review- Relics

Hi everyone, Michael here to take a look at the new Relics available to the Deathwatch. For more reivews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The new Deathwatch supplement has updated the Relics available to the army for 9th edition, as well as adding in some new options for the force.

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.


The Beacon Angelis– Once per battle, if the bearer did not arrive as Reinforcements this turn, the beacon can be activated. One Deathwatch Infantry or Biker unit on the battlefield that did not arrive from Reinforcements this turn, or a unit that is in strategic reserves or the teleportarium, is removed and set up as reinforcements wholly within 6″ of the bearer and more than 9″ from any enemy models.

Competitive. I think this is still a solid relic, despite the changes that have been made. The relic cannot be used on the turn in which the bearer arrived from reserves. This means you can no longer deep strike a Jump Pack character on turn 2 and slingshot a unit on the board into a better position. However, with the expanded roster of Deathwatch characters, it is easy enough to put this on a Bike or Jump Pack character and have them advance into position to then bring on a unit, with the smaller board sizes making it easier to get into position in many cases. This relic also helps to bypass the regular restrictions to arriving from the Teleportarium or strategic reserves on turn 1, allowing you to press your advantage very early in the game. This could allow you to bring on a unit of Outriders or Eradicators in a key position on turn 1 to cause maximum damage before your opponent can respond.

Dominus Aegis– Replaces a Storm Shield, relic shield or combat shield. Add 1 to armour saving throws made by the bearer. In addition, the bearer gets a 6″ aura, giving all Deathwatch Core and Character units a 5+ invulnerable save.

Competitive. A great relic for boosting the durability of your Deathwatch units. Would work well on a Captain babysitting backfield firepower units or a Captain on Bike or Jump Pack moving up to support deep striking or assault units. Paired with Fortified with Contempt, this will really boost the durability of nearby units. Useful if you don’t want to pay for Storm Shields in your units or are unable to access Storm Shields, so a big boost for your Primaris units or your vehicles.

Osseus Key– Watch Master only. When an enemy Vehicle unit is within 6″ of the bearer, subtract one from hit rolls for that unit’s attacks and subtract 1 from their attacks characteristic.

Situational. Useful for degrading enemy vehicles to some degree. The -1 to hit could be useful for shutting down enemy firepower tanks, or for giving you a bit more protection in combat from non-Heavy weapons (as the -1 will not stack with the penalty from Big Guns Never Tire). The -1 attacks will be useful for enemy combat vehicles, but most will probably still squish the Watch Master with relative ease.

The Thief of Secrets– Replace a power sword, Master-crafted power sword or Xenophase blade. A melee weapon with S+1, AP-4 and 1 damage. The weapon ignores invulnerable saves. Against Tyranids, Aeldari, Orks, Necron or T’au Empire, the damage is 2.

Situational. There is little need to take this relic. If you want the effect, take a Xenophase blade and make it master-crafted in order to get damage 2 against all opponents. The only reason to take this is to get a Xenophase blade on a character that cannot normally take one, such as a Lieutenant, Primaris Captain or Biker Captain. AP-4 and ignoring invlnerable saves is fantastic, but it’s the damage 1 against a range of armies that is the problem, as you are going to struggle to take out enemy character and Marines. However, against the Xenos armies, it is a potent weapon to take on a combat character.

The Tome of Ectoclades– Once per battle in your command phase, you can use the Tome. Select one datasheet in the enemy army. Until the start of your command phase, the bearer has the following aura; While a friendly Deathwatch Core unit is within 6″ of the bearer, you can re-roll to wound against units with the selected datasheet.

Competitive. This relic has gotten weaker, compared to its previous version, but I still think this is a strong addition to the army, and probably one of the preferred relics for the Deathwatch. This has a lot of utility if you are coming up against multiple units with the same datasheet in the enemy army to give you a turn of strong firepower or melee ability. Could be very useful against spam-type armies, such as Venoms, Intercessors, or for taking on a Guard army with a number of Tanks. As it works in the command phase, you canot use it when disembarking from a transport, but the Deathwatch now have a much wider range of mobility options for their characters now, making it more likely you can get into position to use this relic to best effect.

The Blackweave Shroud– Add 1 to the toughness of the bearer. The bearer also gains a 4+ save against mortal wounds.

Efficient. Given the larger range of HQ options for the Deathwatch, this becomes a strong option for a number of them. Going up to T6 on a Biker or Gravis armour character is going to boost their durability against power weapons and certain ranged weapons. The 4+ save against mortal wounds also makes them more durable to psychic powers, or the few weapons that can deal mortal wounds. Nice for keeping them alive if you find yourself in combat with a psyker, or otherwise targeted by mortal wound-dealing psychic powers. Probably not one I would go for often, but useful if you are building a tough melee character.

Spear of the First Vigil– A Vigil spear that is S+2, AP-3 and 3 damage in combat, and Rapid Fire 2, S4, AP-1 and 2 damage in shooting. It also gets Special Issue Ammunition.

Efficient. A nice boost for the Watch Master’s Vigil Spear. Getting flat 3 damage instead of D3 is a big bonus, as it makes him a much more reliable combat threat for taking out multi-wound models. S6 also allows him to take on tougher units, such as Bikers, Outriders and Heavy Intercessors. The shooting profile is a nice boost too, upping his firepower output with the SIA. A strong choice if you want to boost your Watch Master and use him aggressively.

The Soul Fortress– Librarian only. Ignore any modifiers to a psychic test taken by the bearer and increase the range of the psychic hood to 24″.

Situational. This is a boosted version of the chief Librarian relic, allowing you to ignore any penalties in addition to boosting the denial range. If you wish to take a Chief Librarian, this is a strong relic to take.

Banebolts of Eryxia– Assigned to a bolt weapon, you can choose to fire the bolts instead of a normal attack. They are one shot, S6, AP-2 and 3 damage.

Situational. A strong option for a bolt weapon on one of your characters. However, I think the weapon loses any special rules, such as avoiding Look Out, Sir, so will be less effective on your sniper weapons.

Vhorkan-Pattern Auspicator– Any Deathwatch Core units within 6″ add 1 to the hit roll for ranged weapons when targeting Fly units.

Situational. The downside is that it only applies to core units, so you are unlikely to be targeting aircraft or fly vehicles with your core units, unless absolutely necessary. Could be useful against fly infantry or unit that don’t get the -1 to hit, further boosting your firepower. Too rare to be of much use for me though, so I would probably give this one a miss.

Artificer Bolt Cache– Bolt weapons that the bearer is equipped with gain the Special Issue Ammunition ability.

Competitive. For the right character model, this is a strong relic to take. Any character that has a sniper-type weapon that can target enemy characters is a strong choice for this. Getting +1 damage or +1 to wound will make their bolt weapon more reliable at seriously hurting enemy characters, plus they have the BS generally high enough to make the shot worthwhile.

Eye of Abiding– Each time the bearer makes an attack, ignore all hit roll, wound roll and BS or WS modifiers. Each time the bearer makes an unmodified wound roll of a 6, invulnerable saving throws may not be made against that attack.

Situational. The cap on modifiers makes this relic less interesting in my opinion. The ability to ignore invulnerable saves is nice, but only a 1 in 6 chance after getting a wound through. If you want a reliable way to ignore invulnerable saves, just got with a Xenophase blade or the Thief of Secrets.


The Deathwatch have access to a number of strong relics to boost the effectiveness of the army. For me, the Beacon Angelis and Dominus Aegis are the big winners. The ability to teleport a unit at will across the battlefield and boost the durability of nearby units with an invulnerable save are great. I think the Tome of Ectoclades can also still find use in the right army, but is now more limited in its scope.

I think the other relics could be useful additions in the right army, but I’m not sure I would spend the CP on many of them in most games, especially as there are better uses for your pre-game CP, such as Chapter Command upgrade or extra warlord traits.

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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.

6 Responses to “Codex Supplement: Deathwatch Review- Relics”

  1. abusepuppy November 27, 2020 11:42 am #

    With regards to the Auspicator, there are a decent number of popular units with the Fly keyword- for example, Vanguard Vets, any number of characters with Jump Packs, Harlequin vehicles and bikes, etc. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s a strong choice, but it provides an aura that meaningfully enhances your shooting against a pretty wide variety of targets, so I think it’s well worth keeping in mind.

    • Michael Corr November 28, 2020 4:51 am #

      I think against the right army, the Auspicator could be very useful. However, I think the other relics have more general utility for most units and armies in the game.
      It will be interesting to see how armies pan out once more events can take place. Maybe we will be clamouring for the ability to take out Fly units.

      • abusepuppy November 29, 2020 6:12 am #

        Yeah I don’t think it’s a super-strong meta choice currently, but it’s worth considering in terms of folks’ local scene and with some armies featuring a lot of Fly units it’s very possible it will be big in the future.

  2. MRC November 27, 2020 3:04 pm #

    Great write-up, appreciate the time spent on this.

    Couple small notes:

    1) I don’t think the Beacon Angelis can work on Dreads, unfortunately (would be cool if it did!)

    2) Banebolts of Eryxia, per my interpretation of the wording, do not cause a model to lose the other special rules to its Bolt Weapon (i.e. ignoring LoS!, getting to shoot when in Engagement Range if it is a Pistol, etc.)… in the description, it says “you can only make one attack with that weapon, but that attack has a Strength characteristic of 6, an AP characteristic of -2, and a Damage of 3.” Based on this and GW’s rulings on other kinds of Relic ammo (Corvadai Bolt,s for example), a Phobos Captain could use this on his MCed Instigator Bolt Carbine and still target Characters

    3) I would argue that the Spear of the First Vigil is actually a pretty darn “Competitive” option… combined with the WL Traits of “Paragon of Their Chapter” (use the Salamander Trait for +2 S) and “Imperium’s Sword,” on the charge he is doing 6 x S9 AP-3 Dmg3 attacks, all hitting at WS2+ (he can use his Watch Master ability to give himself re-rolls and re-roll 1s to Wound from the DW Chapter Tactics). That alone is pretty good, and you can use things like “Might of Heroes” from a friendly Librarian or “Exhortation of Rage” from a friendly Chaplain to really kick his killyness up into the stratosphere.

    • Michael Corr November 28, 2020 5:14 am #

      Thanks for the reply!

      1- Yes, the limit is to Infantry and Bikers only. I somehow forgot about this between writing the rule and comments!

      2- I think there is a good argument for it keeping the special rules, but I wasn’t sure. It says you replace the profile of the weapon, does this mean any special rules or abilities are also replaced?

      3- I think there is definitely a way to get a beatstick Watch Master. I’m not sure the Watch Master is the best option for the Deathwatch at the moment. The wider variety of HQ options available, plus their boosted mobility options, means it is more difficult to get the Watch Master into combat compared to other characters. You need a transport option or the Teleportarium to get him in reliably, but then you are restricted to not using his re-roll ability for that turn. I’ll need to play more (any!) games with him to see if he is worth taking.

      • abusepuppy November 29, 2020 6:14 am #

        With regards to the Bolts, they note that they replace the Strength, AP, and Damage values (as well as limiting you to a single attack), but do not specifically mention the special rules for the weapon at all. Given that, I would guess that they still retain the weapon’s original special rules.

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