9th Edition Faction Focus: Blood Angels

An article by    Gaming 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 favourite armies. Today, Liam “Corrode” Royle is talking about the Blood Angels.

Blood Angels in 8th edition had a strange existence. The book when released looked… ok. Then someone noticed that you could create the horrendous Slamguinius combo, in an era when you had near-infinite CP available to fuel it, and could pair a trio of Blood Angels Captains with Guard and, initially, Custodes jetbikes, and then later on the meta-warping Castellan. Blood Angels Scouts also became very common as a way to take mid-field objectives and for being surprisingly fighty with the Blood Angels’ Red Thirst chapter tactic. Once the game changed, they kind of dropped out of things – you still saw them around but without being able to start with 20CP and regenerate so many that you finished with 22, fuelling the tricks a slam Captain could pull off became very expensive, and eventually other models came to fulfil a similar role better or more cheaply.

Then in late 8th, with the release of the Blood of Baal supplement, the Angels got a new lease of life. Suddenly a popular build emerged centred around a pile of their excellent special characters, surrounded by Sanguinary Guard and Death Company. An aggressive, fast-paced, flying army of jump pack units was exactly what many Blood Angels players had always craved, and here it was, and it was even good enough to win events with – even, or some would say especially, in the era of Iron Hands when it presented a good counter-meta pick to their shooting power.

Coming into 9th edition then, how have the Blood Angels fared? Are they still viable on the table? Let’s explore these questions, ably assisted by Stephen Box from Vanguard Tactics!

Blood Angels Intercessors

Blood Angels Intercessors. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Rules

There’s been a few changes to the rules which affect Blood Angels armies, especially the kind that were getting played right before the edition change.

Probably the biggest is the coherency changes, which require units of 6 or more models to have models within 2″ of each other, and also force the ‘coherency check’ at the end of each turn where any models which are out of coherency are destroyed. A common tactic for Blood Angels in late 8th was to push a big unit of Death Company into someone’s face and then string most of them back to a pile of buff characters hiding in a ruin – this is no longer a legal move, and even if you conspire to tail back by using an odd formation it only takes a single casualty to roll a bunch of the unit up. Those big units are also, of course, impacted by the new Blast rule.

On top of this there’s the impact of the new charging rules, which require you to land within Engagement Range of all units you charged, and which notably prevent you from jumping over enemy units you didn’t charge. Slam Captains derived at least some of their power from being able to leap over a screen with a big charge roll and assassinate something stood behind them – now you must declare the screen as a charge target in order to move within its Engagement Range, but also your charge will fail if you don’t land within Engagement Range of it, so it’s much harder for a single model on a 32mm base to just dive in and dumpster something without clearing the units in front of it first. Notably this is less likely to affect something like a big elite infantry unit, which is much more capable of ending its move within range of both things.

Edit: GW fixed the above interaction in the Core Book FAQ, which we covered in our roundup. Now, anything that can move over enemy units also ignores their engagement range, so you are free to charge over screens to your heart’s content, as long as you land outside their engagement range.

The new listbuilding also impacts how many characters they can take. Blood Angels characters are strong, and players were routinely taking 4+ HQs, which is harder to do now that dual Battalion isn’t an actively good thing to be taking.We’ll also talk about this a little in the points.

Finally, there’s the new requirement that you fight with real weapons and not your worst close combat weapon – no more pillow-fisted charges to keep your wraps in place!

The FAQs

Like other Marine armies, a whole lot of the Blood Angels changes are just clerical adjustments – adding ‘ignore Look Out Sir’ to things, deleting Power of the Machine Spirit, and so on. Between Blood of Baal and the codex, though, there’s one real changes to account for, which is that Phobos Librarians can now pick between the Obscuration and Sanguinary disciplines. This was probably always meant to be the case (base Codex ones and Dark Angels ones can do the equivalent) so it’s some handy housekeeping. This opens up some interesting options, as we’ll see from Stephen’s list below.

The Points

For the units in common with Space Marines, you can check out our faction focus on those here. There’s not much else to say on points changes that are the same for both factions except for the obvious, which is that melee units are better in Blood Angels and shooting is less good because the Chapter Tactic and doctrine push you so heavily towards the former.

Looking at the Blood Angels-specific units, there’s some heavier than usual changes on those all-important characters, some of which are frankly weird. Gabriel Seth goes up 30 points, making Flesh Tearers even less attractive than they already were. The Sanguinary Priest with jump pack also takes a big hit with a 20pt jump.

Tycho, Mephiston, and Dante also all take above-rate points changes, at 15, 25, and 20 respectively. It’s better news for the Librarian Dreadnought, Lemartes, and The Sanguinor though, who all take only a 10pt hike, and Astorath comes out even better at just a 5pt change.

It’s a similar story for most of the unique units, too. Death Company go up 4ppm (3ppm for the more relevant jump pack version), the Sanguinary Ancient jumps 11, Sanguinary Guard go up 4. The only arguably light-touch change is the Baal Predator, a mere 10pt change up to 100 base, although no-one has taken a Baal Predator in years so who cares.

Overall it’s not too bad – although the characters are more expensive, you’re probably taking fewer of them just because of how detachments work, so that kind of washes out, and two key named characters in Lemartes and The Sanguinor got off relatively lightly. The Librarian Dreadnought being cheap is also great – the Dread brings a whole extra dimension to your game as a somewhat unconventional character. Both Sanguinary Guard and Death Company getting high-percentage jumps hurts a little, and Sanguinary Guard weapons also took jumps (all three of encarmine sword, axe, and power fist are now a flat 10pts up from 8/9/9), but they’re still competitively priced for what they offer your army – especially in an edition where fast-moving, reasonably durable melee units which can shoot a bit and then push hard and capture objectives are extremely valuable.

How They Play

Stephen: In 8th edition, the BA were awesome at wrapping units and preventing key units from being shot, which is going to be much harder to achieve because of having to fight with melee weapons and the new stratagem Desperate Breakout. However, wrapping is certainly not impossible and certainly still a valid tactic.

There have been a few more significant 9th edition combat and charge phase changes meaning a few of the old classic tactics are now no longer on the cards, using characters to heroic intervene over units with their jump packs is no longer possible and smash Captains jumping over screens to pick out key characters are going to struggle. Personally I was never a fan of the “smash captain” so there is no love lost there. I have spoken at length about using my characters in the very different way to the normal expected route. 

One of the biggest reasons why I had so much success with Blood Angels in 8th edition and in the ITC missions was because of the Hold and Hold more primary and with many 42 point wins, I became accustomed to focusing on scoring the bonus point each round. In my harder match ups like Tau, the goal was to dominate the board, be a constant threat and score hold, hold more, bonus, score as high as possible on secondaries and deny what I could. 

When we break down the 9th edition missions, what that means is I can do the exact same. A good BA player should be able to dominate the board with the threat of some of the most powerful combat units in the game while scoring max points on the primary and denying their opponent from scoring. A good 20 point difference here should be enough to seal a win if the BA player picks the right secondaries and is patient. Point denial in 9th edition is just as important as scoring.

The New Units

I don’t think anyone at all will be surprised to find out that Bladeguard Veterans fuck in Blood Angels lists. Something about a unit with S5 and +1 to wound, +1 to charge, and gain a bonus Attack in the Assault Doctrine is really appealing, who knew? They’re a little harder to get around the place than their golden equivalents in the Sanguinary Guard, but Impulsors – as indicated in the Space Marines review – are great and cheap for what they offer you.

The characters in the box probably don’t quite make the cut compared to the Blood Angels’ unique versions except for the Judiciar, which has the two obvious strengths of being an Elites rather than HQ choice and bringing something completely unique (within Marines) to the table which plays well into the army’s key strength in close combat.

Outriders also offer a lot to Blood Angels, since they’re fast, tough, and have a pile of attacks – if you can keep them on the board until turn 3, slamming into your opponent with 19 AP-2 attacks with +1 to wound is extremely cool. Assault Intercessors offer some of the same, though they’re slower and not as tough – but great for objective grabbing.

Eradicators don’t necessarily have the same immediate appeal as the various combat components above but don’t sleep on their potential – they’re reasonably tough and a good way to bust armour early on so that your elite units can get at the contents of enemy transports or cross the board unmolested.

Lists

Let’s look at some potential lists in the new format.

First up we have Innes’ spin on Blood Angels, which has a great mix of old and new:

Battalion

Librarian Dreadnought – Wings, Quickening – 143
The Sanguinor – 140
Astorath – 110

5x Infiltrator – 120
5x Infiltrator – 120
5x Intercessors, bolt rifles, thunder hammer – 115

Impulsor, 2x storm bolter, shield dome – 131
Impulsor, 2x storm bolter, shield dome – 131

8x Sanguinary Guard, 5x axe, 3x power fist – 272
8x Sanguinary Guard, 5x axe, 3x power fist – 272
Sanguinary Ancient, encarmine axe – 85 (Warlord with Soulwarden, Standard of Sacrifice)
Sanguinary Ancient, encarmine axe – 85 (Icon of the Angel)
3x Bladeguard Veterans – 105
3x Bladeguard Veterans – 105
Ordo Xenos Inquisitor, power maul, bolt pistol, Arbiter of the Emperor’s Will (The Blackshroud, Esoteric Lore), Terrify

 

This is a great mix of the old and the new in the Blood Angels codex. There’s the familiar two big squads of Sanguinary Guard, now all packing axes and fists since cheap swords aren’t a thing any more, and a pair of Sanguinary Ancients to back them up with the two strong buff relics to keep them alive and get them charging after, along with everyone’s favourite character pair of Astorath and the Sanguinor. Driving around with them are a pair of Impulsors, one packed full of Bladeguard and another with some Intercessors in it for backield purposes, supported by two sets of Infiltrators to seize early points and zone out deep strikers (even two squads covers a lot on the new board sizes, per this Hammer of Math).

Second, Stephen has a list that’s more similar to the 8th edition version he was playing:

 

++ Battalion Detachment 12CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Blood Angels) [132 PL, 1,993pts] ++

-1 CP extra relic.

No slot: Culexus Assassin [5 PL, 100pts]: Animus Speculum, Psyk-out Grenades

HQ: Astorath [6 PL, 110pts]: Litany of Faith, Mantra of strength, Canticle of Hate, Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades, The Executioner’s Axe
HQ: Librarian in Phobos Armour [5 PL, 100pts]: Smite, 2. Unleash Rage, 3. Shield of Sanguinius, Bolt pistol, Camo cloak [2pts], Force sword, Frag & Krak grenades, Relic: Icon of The Angel
HQ: The Sanguinor [9 PL, 140pts]: Death mask, Encarmine broadsword, Frag & Krak grenades, Warlord: 4. Heroic Bearing

TR: 5 Incursors, 105pts
TR: 5 Incursors, 105pts
TR: 5 Incursors, 105pts

EL: 12 Death Company Marine [34pts]: Frag & Krak grenades, 5 x Thunder hammer [15pts], jump packs
EL: Sanguinary Ancient [6 PL, 85pts]: Angelus boltgun, Death mask, Frag & Krak grenades, Power fist [10pts], Relic: Standard of Sacrifice
EL: 8 Sanguinary Guard [34pts]: Angelus boltgun, Frag & Krak grenades, Power fist [10pts], Death masks
EL: 8 Sanguinary Guard [34pts]: Angelus boltgun, Frag & Krak grenades, Power fist [10pts], Death masks
EL: 8 Sanguinary Guard [34pts]: Angelus boltgun, Frag & Krak grenades, Power fist [10pts], Death masks

List deconstruction

Stephen: First of all you may have noticed the Culexus assassin. There are three roles for this guy. Now assassins don’t break army abilities they are a really good option to add some tools to a list that might be missing a trick or two. 

The main role that he fills is to help in my harder combat match ups. Combat has changed by the order of who fights first; in an ongoing combat the player’s turn that it currently isn’t, gets to pick the first unit to fight with. This along with anything that can make units fight last in combat is a huge issue for the BA. No doubt we will see hundreds of Judicars on the table that can do that, along with classics like the Vexator Mask, Armour of Russ and the Foul Blightsworn. These abilities means that BA cannot compete in combat with those hard hitting units like Talos, Wulfen, Blade Guard or Terminators that go around with these abilities by their side. However the Culexus has a stratagem that can make all units within 3” fight last meaning that everything would be cancelled out allowing the BA to fight first.

The second role is to encourage the opponent to take Assassinate against me, this brings my list up to 5 characters that I can play extremely defensively with and hopefully denying my opponent a good 9-15 points.

The third role is to just be extremely annoying for psykers that want to cast powers in the middle of the board to score primary points or to even hold objectives on his own as he can only be hit on 6s, meaning that a lot of shots have to be wasted in order to take him down. 

I wanted the list to fit into one battalion to maximise CPs. Going from around 10 pre game CP to now 17 over the course of the game is huge for a BA player and I will talk about the key stratagems shortly. The three HQs might look like a slight strange choice but there is some method in the madness. 

You will notice that there is no smash captain, no Libby Dread and no Mephiston. The key character here is actually the Phobos Librarian. And the reason for that is because he can forward deploy with the key relic Icon of the Angel. This allows you to re-roll any of the dice on the charge and he can be protected by the three units of Incursor. I love characters that can buff rather than kill meaning that I can give my Death Company a 5++ invulnerable save along with another attack.

The next character is Astorath and being able to give +1 to hit to the DC at the start of the game is huge and maybe even a 4++ save  if you are lucky. Then making DC fearless and giving them reroll hits and +2 to charge is crazy strong. The other thing that Astorath brings is the Executioners Axe and combined that with the Mantra of Strength means that be becomes flat damage 4 every time he rolls a 5 or 6 to wound (on the charge), which is perfect against the Custodes, which are a very popular in 9th edition, as they have 3-4 wounds each. This means that for every attack Astorath gets through, it is one dead Custodes Terminator or bike. 

Then the last character who is the Warlord is the Sanguinor, he gives all units with 6” +1 attack and makes units ignore morale. He will also give the Sanguinary Guard re-rolls to hit when they are within 6”. 

With these three characters this should mean that the DC who can move pre game, stringing back with the 12 models, can get a total of 30 thunder hammer attacks. 2 base, 2 extra for charging and 2 for the characters. This is enough attacks with +1 to hit and rerolls, +1 to wound to pick up any unit off the table and with the large unit size piling in and fighting twice for 3CP. The smaller board size also means there is nowhere to hide from these guys and they hit like a truck. 

Now for the troops. 

As Scouts went up in points the next unit that I was toying with taking anyway in 8th was the Incursors, these guys paired with a 5+ feel no pain, explained below, -1 to hit from smoke bombs and 2+ save in light cover means that they are very hard to shift. Which is perfect for controlling objectives on the mid board right from turn 1. This should help raise banners or investigate sites and start making a big impact on the hold and hold more. 

Then in regards to elites we have already spoke about how powerful the DC are, they are a throw away unit but can actually be quite tough to deal with, especially if you can wrap two units after fighting twice. By using Transhuman and a bumping up the unit to a 5+ feel no pain they can stick around longer than you expect. Plus your opponent has to deal with them. They can’t have 2-3 DC running around in their back lines with thunder hammers as they will still hurt most tough units in the game.

Now the Sanguinary Ancient is an auto include, no matter what build you take. This guy with the relic the Standard of Sacrifice means that every model within 6” will get a 5+ feel no pain. Pair this with Sanguinary Guard and the ability to Heroically intervene is a crazy strong combo in this edition when everything is about surviving on objectives. 

Finally we have the 3 units of 8 Sanguinary Guard all with power fists. Now you might be wondering why power fists, but there are 2 very good reasons for this. The first is that because now in 9th, if you have a melee weapon you have to use it means that hitting on a 4 is better than hitting on a 3, as you can choose to not reroll your misses if you’re going for a wrap. But the main reason is because of how cover works now. Ruins are extremely popular as a terrain feature meaning that, because they are defensible you can elect to get a +1 to the hit roll if someone is brave enough to charge you, then with re-rolls when they are with 6” of either Astorath or the Sanguinor then there shouldn’t be any issues hitting. 

There was a slight increase on the DC and the Sanguinary Guard but not enough to put me off from using them. 

Secondary Decisions

As I mentioned before, the BA play the mission really really well and a patient player will do really well with the BA. It is more of a counter punch list and using its manovoriabilty to win the game. So my top picks for secondaries are:

  • While we stand we fight: The Sanguinor, Astorath, Culexus Assassin
  • Engage on all fronts
  • Raise Banners or Investigate Sites

I would expect to score anywhere from 10-15 on While we stand we fight, 10 at least from Engage on all fronts and depending on the mission and objective layout 12 points on Raise Banners or Investigate Sites. This would mean paired with a strong 40 points on the primary a good BA player should be looking to leave the table with 80 points at the very least, including painting points)

 

Outlook: Strong

That’s it for the Sons of Sanguinius! Personally we think they’re very well-suited to the requirements of 9th edition – they’re tough, fast-moving, with powerful and resilient combat units, perfect for pushing forwards and seizing objectives and controlling the scoring. It’s a good time to be a space vampire!

 

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