9th Edition Faction Focus: Dark Angels

An article by    Gaming Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

9th edition is on the way, and with it a whole raft of changes to the factions of Warhammer 40,000. With the Munitorum Field Manual out in the wild and the Faction FAQs released, now’s a good time to start taking a look at what’s changed for all of our favorite armies. Today, Chase “Gunum” Garber is jumping into his favorite green sons, the Dark Angels.

Talking about Dark Angels always seems to light a creative fire under me. In 8th edition, they were one of the Dark horses of the power armor family, never really coming into their own until late in the edition with the Ritual of the Damed Psychic Awakening book. In the last ITC season, I gave it my all with what tools we had and came in 2nd overall in the Dark Angels rankings. Sadly, with COVID being so prevalent and ruining a lot of experiences, I won’t be able to try and overcome that finish this year. What I can do though is break down the excitement I have for the Dark Angels of 9th edition and talk about the changes, upgrades, and differences of play that this new edition is going to bring to us.

With all these changes that have been made, I know my fellow brethren have been waiting with bated breath on the Goonhammer viewpoints of how our army will perform in this new bright future. Well, with what has been announced with the new Space Marine codex and with the possible new toys we will get from that merger, I’ll be focusing on the here and now! The state of the game for us followers of the first with the unleashing of 9th edition.

Let’s get to it.

Overview

Okay, so the new missions from the GT packet as well as some of the rules changes do impact our play style a little bit. Let’s examine.

The Good

  • The smaller board size allows our Ravenwing and close combat assets the ability to get to where they need to be quicker. Being able to lay down fire from pretty much anywhere, at any time.
  • Like all Marine armies right now, it feels like a lot of the missions were built for us. Allowing our backfield of Talon Masters to cover our scoring units, while our front lines are out there taking objectives.
  • The start of turn scoring is very nice for us, as we can utilize units with a strong forward presence. Jinked Ravenwing bikers, Deathwing Knights, and Azraels 4++ bubble to keep our units holding objectives alive.
  • Low point increases on almost all of our HQ slots named characters with the Talon Master getting a little cheaper.
  • The smaller table size also allows our turn one range increase to be a lot more substantial, being able to threaten most places on our first turn.
  • Little need to take a pysker thanks to our army being able to provide buffs via Lazarus and Azrael.

The Bad

  • Though it is in the future, we still are missing some of the Space Marine units.
  • Our Deathwing and Ravenwing units both went up in cost.
  • While they have no single thing that gets hit badly above the raise on points, Dark Angels were already very elite and increases on their core units hurt.
  • Character targeting changes hurt them quite a lot, due to our high movement our characters can be caught out if we aren’t careful.
  • They can be a very low body count army, so the all-important board control can be a bit more difficult.
The Three Wings

Examples of the three wings. Credit: Greg Chiasson

When we are looking at Dark Angels, they seemed to get a cost increase more in line with the algorithmic points change as described in our review of the overall points changes. We’ve got a very inline point increase with the rest of the factions, so nothing to be too salty about there, thankfully.

Lucky for us, we didn’t lose out on any of our units to legends. I had expected us to lose our on our Chapter Champions or Smol Marine Ancient, but we were left untouched on that end. But in the world of 9th ed, of course, we have brand new units coming out! With the new launch box, we suddenly have access to a bunch of new units that we can find some real use out of. The Indomitus box contains an almost completely new set of models to add several capabilities that Primaris Marines previously lacked. We get the powerful Bladeguard Veterans and accompanying Ancient, Outriders, and Eradicators, along with the Judiciar, because GW wanted to give Dark Angels a model that would allow us to have our Wolfy Brothers Armor of Russ.

There’s also some changes which are general to all Space Marines, which I’ve taken from the Space Marines faction focus and added some Dark Angels commentary to:

We also have a new kind of Intercessor, the Assault Intercessor, packing heavy bolt pistols that look very much like they lifted entire boltguns from smaller, less adequate Firstborn Marines and started wielding them one-handed, and the new-style Astartes chainswords. The good news on all of this stuff is that it’s priced to move, with Eradicators, in particular, offering an awesome anti-tank option. Not only that, when combined with our chapter tactic we get access to really easy re-rolls to hit, as well as the extra 3″ on their guns. This will be making Eradicators a powerful addition to our Azrael death balls.

Also in good news, Forge World continues to offer surprise and delight – although a few units saw hefty increases (Relic Leviathan and Deredeo Dreadnoughts), others were treated to minimal changes, and one standout is looking around guiltily at an unexpected reduction in its cost, that being the Relic Contemptor. There’s every possibility that these costs were adjusted with the new Forge World indexes in mind and all will be made clear when that release, but for now, we are long on Relic Contemptors. Also the personal favorite of mine, the Land Raider Achilles, went down in cost a little bit. Things like that make me a little giddy.”

Now, there are two things I want to call special attention to, and that is two units that are staples to Dark Angels lists. Hellblasters and Eliminators. Hellblasters essentially stayed the same in cost as their weapons were moved into the cost of the unit. With the decrease in the cost of Plasma Inceptors, a unit I have been singing the praises of since the last edition, I still can see no reason to ever take these guys over the Inceptors. Their costs vs utility need to be brought into line to ever justify taking Hell Blasters. Finally, Eliminators went up in cost, and honestly, I still have a hard time no taking two or three units of these guys. They work so well with our chapter tactic as well as, with the limit of detachments now, there will be fewer characters floating around. Making snipers a very important tool to have for every single one of our games.

Dark Angels Intercessors

Dark Angels Intercessors by Tyler “Coda” Moore

Impulsors also went up quite a bit, as well as the Invictor Warsuit. Some of these cost increases seemed like somebody at GW wanted to just windmill slam points increases to any unit that was being used in more than 3 lists at a time. Luckily, our Deathwing Terminators didn’t go up much at all, and with our Combined Assault stratagem cheating them in from reserves, this may be the edition they’re finally good again. Being able to double shoot (via Deathwing Assault) and get +1 to hit with storm bolters, via Fury of the First lets these do a massive amount of damage on the turn they arrive. You can also bring some plasma cannons and buff them with Weapons of the Dark Age in your shooting phase for your second volley. I think is going to be a big combo play I’ll be using often. I see these units being used as a real hammer to tear units off of objectives. The fire twice is the KEY here, as it maximises the damage they can do straight away (though do bear in mind that because the first shoot happens in the movement phase, you will need to use Fury twice if you want maximum output).

As a side note, many units look like they’ve had horrendous increases, but it’s all to do with their weapons being in-lined into their cost now – Aggressors and Suppressors in particular. Inceptors, as I pointed out earlier, are a particularly big winner here, with the plasma version getting a net decrease compared to 8th and gaining the Blast rule to boot. These will become one of our ultimate trade units, with the number of shots they can put out at 3-damage, will even tear down Imperial Knight level enemies.

There are too many changes here to go through exhaustively, but overall our assessment of our unique Ravenwing/Deathwing units – this is all pretty great. Some of the changes hurt a little, and some of the shared units seem to have gone up for almost no reason. Overall Dark Angel players should feel pretty good with what we had received. The Nephilim Jet Fighter, Dark Talon, and almost all of our Ravenwing units have all hardly changed and we can be thankful for that.

The FAQs

Most of the Dark Angel changes in our FAQ updates were just fixing wording for 9th and pretty much copied from the Space Marine books – ignoring Look Out Sir with snipers, updating references to say, Engagement Range, removing the now-meaningless Power of the Machine Spirit rule, that kind of thing. We had some crazy things going on, but they have been adjusted back after some quick hot changes. I’ll go through some of the standouts here.

  • *Page 56 – Impeccable Mobility
    Change this Warlord Trait to read:
    ‘Whilst they are within 6″ of this Warlord, models in Ravenwing units from your army that have Advanced this turn do not suffer the penalty for Advancing and firing Assault weapons.’

This is a pretty fine change here. This is mainly a huge buff to Black Knights, causing them to get right up in the face of who they are planning on hitting with their little pickaxes and being able to give the Plasma Business to.

  • *Page 134 – Grim Resolve, rules text
    Change the second sentence to read:
    ‘Each time a Combat Attrition test is taken for this unit, it is automatically passed.

Protect our bricks of troops! Units of 10 Bolt Rifle Intercessors will never have to worry about more then one guy running away!

  • *Page 137 – Stratagems, Speed of the Raven
    Change to read:
    ‘Use this Stratagem when one of your Ravenwing units Advances. That unit can still shoot and charge this turn as if it had made a Normal Move.’

This was just a simple wording change to incorporate the new “Normal Move” term.

  • *Page 138 – Warlord Traits, Huntsman, rules text
    Change the first sentence to read:
    ‘Each time you select a target for a Pistol, Assault, Rapid Fire or Grenade weapon this Warlord is attacking with, you can ignore the Look Out, Sir rule.’

Again, just wording update to help with the Look Out, Sir term. We had some pretty cool combos in the first FAQ that came out with this, but that has now been invalidated.

Overall just simple verbiage update to our boys in green. I don’t mind any of these and I don’t see any real negative takeaways from either our codex or from Ritual of the Damned.

How They Play

I’ll be starting this section with some general observations of the army and what are things we can be able to do. Though our army feels a bit like a supplement for the Space Marines, using our Wings really will bring out that feeling of uniqueness that I think we all play this army for.

More in italics from the vanilla Marine version: First up, let’s talk about Impulsors. Impulsors were already good in 8th, though relatively few people played them – in part probably just because the model didn’t exist for months after the codex came out, which is one of those things that could only happen in a GW game. Still, some people had a lot of success with them, and towards the end of 8th’s life, they were starting to make their presence felt. In 9th edition, they become much more important because your goal is to get onto objectives and stay there. A flying transport with a 14″ move and a 4+ invulnerable save is a great way to do exactly that. Impulsors are very versatile – they can run up and dump Marines out onto objectives to do Actions or obsec onto things, or you can stay inside the ride and force your opponent to kill the surprisingly-tough tank first. Their shooting isn’t amazing but it isn’t terrible – two storm bolters is enough to matter against small GEQ squads and the like. They’re also great for screening, since they’re big and reduce charge distances, and they’re really fun for bully-charging stuff – many things that have good shooting can’t do much against an Impulsor in melee, which makes them great for slamming into the enemy shooting to reduce your opponent’s ability to blast you off objectives. Two-three sets of five Intercessors in an Impulsor is a fine way to start a Dark Angel list in 9th.

Second, Black Knights: This unit has had a breath of fresh air breathed into them. As anyone who has followed my Dark Angel adventures may know, I have never been a fan of much of our unique units. With the smaller boards and the addition of the Ritual of the Damned Ravenwing warlord traits, like Outrider, it’s easier than ever to get these guys into a great striking position. Also, the world is a dangerous place full of high AP weapons now, so being able to have things like Jink and Speed of the Raven it allows us to maybe even have some survivability to these expensive units.

Speaking of mostly dead, the slam Captain is not a thing of the past necessarily, but does see some reduction in its application – the new rules prevent you from just flying over screens (you can’t move through their Engagement Range) and you must make it into combat with every target of your charge, so a single guy with a thunder hammer is no longer able to simply leap in great bounds and assassinate whatever he fancies. It’s also less possible to create the truly disgusting ones we talked about in Hammer of Math previously since weapon buffs no longer come in last in the modifier stack – so you can’t add Strength to a guy and then get an exponential effect from the thunder hammer doubling it. Never say never – I’m sure there will always be utility found somewhere for a guy with a big hammer landing on things and hitting them with it – but there’s at least going to be fewer as they become less of a sure bet.

And just as a quick additional point to the above, my favorite slam captain, Mr. Sammael on Corvex, didn’t change in cost at all. I still think his bike form is the one to take over his speeder. Though the shooting from the speeder is great, in this world of point increases, I think saving what we can where we can is an important thing in our list building. Using him as a supporting smash captain can be a really helpful play.

Turning back to things you will see more of, Eradicators have instantly started popping up in all kinds of lists. They offer something Primaris needed, i.e. decent ranged tank-killing power, and with the new Strategic Reserves rules, it’s much easier to get them to show up and do that job. For 120pts/unit, expect to see 6-9 of these routinely. This is doubly so for Dark Angels, as we can give them a mighty range increase and easy reroll access. Not only that but with Azrael floating around, our new Primaris brethren will have some great 4++ protections that could see these guys have some longevity in our games.

Finally, something that is unique to our armies is the range increase provided by our Devastator doctrine trait, Relentless Hunt. The extra 6″ for Heavy and Rapid Fire weapons and the 3″ for Assualt can change the threat dynamic of our forces. Looking at things like Aggressors suddenly having a 21″ ranged, mixed with our Chaplain’s Stoic Prosecution, or looking at units like (Goonhammer forgive me), Hellblasters armed with their heavy variant giving them a 42″ range S8 -4 3 damage gun is pretty scary and something to be considered if they have the right support. The extra range is also a nice counter to careless Harlequin players who might be gambling on their -6″ range trick to catch you out on turn 1.

Deathwing Terminator Praetor

Deathwing Terminator Praetor. Credit: Jack Hunter

Lists

When I am looking at lists, I like to try and build towards a theme or certain secondaries. I also have a bit of a rule for each list I build where I have a unit who has a job to stay in our deployment zone, to push out into the middle of the table and stay there, and something to strike into the heart of our enemies lines. As a Marine army, we have a depth of options to choose from when we are building these lists. I’ll be doing two lists that I think can show off the things Dark Angels can bring to the table. First off, we will be looking at some Ravenwing!

Battalion – 12 CP

  • HQ
    • Ravenwing Talonmaster – Corvus Oculus; Warlord: Outrider [9 PL, 180pts]
    • Ravenwing Talonmaster [9 PL, 180pts]
    • Sammael in Sableclaw [11 PL, 210pts]
  • Troops
    • Scout Squad [4 PL, 70pts]
    • Scout Squad [4 PL, 70pts]
    • Scout Squad [4 PL, 70pts]
  • Fast Attack
    • Ravenwing Bike Squad x6 w/ attack bike [11 PL, 175pts]
    • Ravenwing Black Knights x10 [23 PL, 405pts]
    • Ravenwing Bike Squad x6 w/ attack bike [11 PL, 175pts]
  • Flyer
    • Nephilim Jetfighter w/ Lascannon [9 PL, 175pts]
  • Heavy Support
    • Eliminator Squad [4 PL, 90pts]
    • Eliminator Squad [4 PL, 90pts]
    • Eradicator Squad [5 PL, 120pts]

When we are looking at this list, I wanted to try and highlight some of the changes we will see in 9th as well as provide some options for secondaries. We only have 3 characters, so we can dodge assassinate, as well as just a couple of vehicles. What I like about this list, is though it is a bit of low model count, the damage output can be pretty high end. Outflanking the Eradicators, followed up by moving our Black Knights pre-game using the warlord trait on our Talonmaster can cause some insane forward pressure. The main weakness here is the small number of units. The costs of the jetfighter, and the 400pt Ravenwing Black Knights pull this list down, I do mean way down. But the amount of firepower these things can put out you’ll really see shine if you are able to get a great Outrider move off.   We can put out a -lot- bullets in this list and I feel it will have the mobility to cover the ground we need. Finally the scouts, or some unit to push back other infiltrators, I think is incredibly important. If I would change anything about this list moving forward, it’s turning the Black Knights into bricks of regular Ravenwing bikers with meltas and a multi-melta attack bike.

Okay, that was fun right! Lots of cool options, things we can do there. Finally, we’re gonna look into a Greenwing list.

Battalion – 8 CP

Stratagem: Relics of the Rock [-3CP]

  • HQ
    • Azrael – Warlord [9 PL, 1CP, 160pts]
    • Master in Phobos Armour w/ Hero of the Chapter (-1 CP) and Inner Circle (-1 CP) to have the Watched Warlord trait.[5 PL, 95pts]
    • Primaris Chaplain – Angles Ambit [4 PL, 85pts] – Stoic Prosecution
  • Troops
    • Infiltrator Squad x6 with Helix Adept [11 PL, 154pts]
    • Infiltrator Squad x6 with Helix Adept [11 PL, 154pts]
    • Intercessor Squad w/ Stalker Bolt Rifles [5 PL, 102pts]
  • Elites
    • Aggressor Squad x5 w/ Bolt Gauntlets [12 PL, 225pts]
    • Deathwing Knights x5 w/ Watcher in the Dark [12 PL, 230pts]
    • Ravenwing Apothecary w/ Reliquary of the Repentant [5 PL, 65pts]
  • Fast Attack
    • Inceptor Squad x5 w/ Plasma [20 PL, 250pts]
    • Ravenwing Darkshroud [7 PL, 135pts]
  • Heavy Support
    • Eliminator Squad [4 PL, 90pts]
    • Eradicator Squad [5 PL, 120pts]
    • Eradicator Squad [5 PL, 120pts]

Alright, now this is a list I’ve played and have enjoyed. Using the Infiltrators to jump out into the middle and creating a -fantastic- and durable death star. Placing Azrael in the middle of the Aggressors, the Eradicators, and putting the Chaplin nearby so that he can keep this unit moving as though it is stationary is a huge deal. Being able to double-tap our Aggressors and keep them protected with Azrael’s 4++ is a very powerful unit. Next, by keeping the Eradicators nearby our first turn is going to look pretty strong due to our range increases. Keeping the Dark Shroud always Jinking and providing our brick with a constant -1 to hit is another powerful boon in the game right now. Finally, we’ve got my go-to unit, the Plasma Inceptors. These guys are still THE go-to unit for Dark Angels once you start putting Weapons of the Dark Age on them. The damage output, especially with their weapons being blast now, makes them useful against every single unit in the game I feel. Start them in reserves and drop them next to whoever you don’t want to bet there anymore.

The one tech I’ve been enjoying, the Hear Me Out! of the list if you will, is the Apothecary and the Death Wing Knights. Using Combined Assault is a pretty great ability to have in our pocket that I can see plugging into a lot of our lists pretty easily. The cost of our Ravenwing Apothecary is at a great cost, even if our Knights are pretty expensive. Having a crazy alpha strike drop like these Knights has been pretty great. I think in future renditions of this list I’ll be changing these guys to storm bolter Terminators, but right now getting these mighty S8 attacks onto units right away is something that can’t be ignored.

Ravenwing Dark Talon

Ravenwing Dark Talon. Credit: Greg Chiasson

GT Missions Pack

Pick this up at your earliest convenience, if you haven’t got this yet. I highly recommend it. I bought it and was immediately impressed with how they lumped the Chapter Approved along with the missions and points in two very travel-sized books. Totally worth the money. Now there are a collection of difficult missions for us in this book, but the smaller board sizes and the needs of our opponents to hold objectives we can use to our advantage. With my Dark Angels, I’ve done about six games? And picking secondaries for these guys is a pretty straight forward process.

Going into these Secondary Objectives, we have five categories we can choose from, (six if you include the mission-specific secondary.) For Battlefield Supremacy I’m a huge fan of Engage on All Fronts. Now it’s not the highest-scoring secondary we could pick, but it plays right into what we are doing anyway. Being in all the table quarters at the same time, attacking everywhere. By using our Ravenwing or even our Deathwing to be present in every table quarter it is a pretty easy process to start getting these quick points right away.

Next, for No Mercy, No Respite I love to take While We Stand, We Fight. Now, this is essentially picking the 3 most expensive models in your army and don’t let them die. This is great if you’re picking Talon Masters and Sammy in his Speeder. Pricey for sure, but these are units that will always be firing at max range and we will be trying to keep them alive for as long as possible. Mind you, they will also be HUGE targets that need to be dealt with, so picking this is a gambit play that I enjoy.

For Purge the EnemyAssassinate is my go too for obvious reasons. Our army has great ways to attack characters, with the range increase on our Eliminators as well as the aggressive forward presence we can jump right onto peoples HQ’s and tear them down.

Shadow Operations sounds like a category we would be good at, but I’ve been pretty lackluster on this so far. I think Deploy Scramblers is our best choice here. Again, leaning into our mobility, there are not much people can do about our presence in the mid-table to get these points rolling with things like Infiltrators and Scouts in our back pocket.

Finally, we have the Warpcraft options. Here, I’ve found the best luck with Abor the Witch. This is something that works for us, as we have things we can do to fight back against Psykers without actually having any of our own. Watched along with Watchers of the Dark provide us with the protection of some of our more expensive units. Not only that but since this currently stacks with Assassinate, if we are running 3 squads of Eliminators, our first turn can be used shooting through walls with all 9 of our snipers and putting that fire into those key psyker units.

Outlook: Strong

At the end of the day, Dark Angels are still Marines, and having access to all kinds of options means we can play into missions and secondaries, which allows us to get those big W’s.  We are nowhere near the bottom of any of the factions right now and can still deliver quite the punch. That’s not even talking about things like the firepower Repulsors or Leviathan Dreadnoughts can bring to bear. Looking into our future of being rolled into the Space Marine book only adds to the shining green light of our future. Will Dark Angels finally get access to Thunder Fire Cannons? What about Assault Centurions?! I can’t wait to see what’s next for our boys in Green and what new things we can make happen! If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, let us know at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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