After the release of Deathwatch, Space Wolves, and Blood Angels last year, one chapter has remained alone and aloof (in an extremely on-brand fashion) outside the supplement club.
The knightly forces of the Dark Angels have finally unpicked the Fallen plot that has been holding them back, and their Codex Supplement has been unearthed from the depths of the Rock. Games Workshop has kindly furnished us with a review copy to pore over, and a good thing too – this book is about to slam into the metagame harder than a charging unit of Deathwing Knights. Whether you’re a long-time Dark Angels fan, you’re planning out a fancy new army or just want to know what you’re going to be up against on the tournament tables, join our review team as we dig in. On the cards today we have:
- Wings: Occasional Dark Angel appreciator, chief devourer of new rules.
- Gunum: Hear Me Out mastermind and expert at pulling together some of the most esoteric Dark Angel lists in the business.
- Greg: Goonhammer webmaster, long-time Dark Angel enthusiast, proud winner of at least one tournament game.
Why Play Dark Angels?
One of the OG chapters from the earliest days of Warhammer, the Dark Angels have been throwing out vibes and serving looks for longer than most of us writing this have been alive. Even when Games Workshop wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them rules-wise, they’ve always had a strong model range, and look as amazing on the table as they do being carefully placed back in your bag after being stomped into the dirt.
There’s a whole host of reasons to play Dark Angels, but really there are three main ones:
- They have an entire company of marines where all they do is ride bikes with their friends, and another one that exists just to boss everyone around and talk wild shit, but they still have all the same tools and tricks as the regular marines that you know from the codex and the other supplements. For all the complaints about Deathwatch being “marines plus one”, there’s a legitimate case to make that this iteration of the Dark Angels might be a little too good at a few too many things.
- Swords and wings is a killer aesthetic, absolutely timeless.
If any of these apply to you, the Dark Angels might just be your guys.
Wings: On the more sensible side of things, if you like a chapter that takes the monk/knightly aspects of Space Marines up to 11, Dark Angels are for you. They march to battle in robes and ornate armour, and if you want to convert up some beautiful bikers, Bladeguard or Terminators this is absolutely the chapter for you. They also have fantastic support for themed forces on the tabletop, especially as of the new book. If you want to play an army of “whoops all Terminators/bikers” (delete as applicable) the Unforgiven have you covered.
Gunum: It’s three armies in one book. Biker Gang, Battle Priests, and Knights of the Round Table. How cool is that?!
They’re also really, really good. Like really good.
What’s in the Book?
In line with the new Supplement structure for 9th, this book contains:
- Fleshed out lore for the enigmatic denizens of the Rock.
- Army special rules for fielding a Space Marine list from this chapter or one of their successors.
- Special rules for Deathwing and Ravenwing detachments, letting you field powerful themed contingents with special rules to boot.
- Warlord traits, stratagems, relics and a dedicated set of secondary objectives
- An exceptionally powerful new version of the Interromancy discipline.
- Rules for all of their unique units.
- Crusade rules with a focus on hunting the Fallen – including a solution to the age old problem of hardly anyone actually having a Fallen army.
The Five Best Things About This Book
We think there’s a lot to like here – here’s what stands out to us:
- Huge amounts of flexibility, letting you reap benefits from every part of the Marine codex.
- Ravenwing and Deathwing rules that give you spectacular benefits for using their favoured units.
- Interromancy, which might be one of the best psychic disciplines ever printed, and feels fully tailored for 9th Edition.
- An excellent stratagem sheet means you always have a wealth of options in any situation.
- Raw power – we know what some of our audience are here for, and this book might be the most powerful GW have printed since Iron Hands.
Dark Angels have the honour of being the final Marine chapter to be fully inducted into the supplement club and mostly follow the standard template. We say mostly, because there’s a couple of places where Dark Angels just get a bit more than everyone else to support the Ravenwing and Deathwing. Rules-wise, this section includes:
- Rules for fielding Successor Chapters
- Sons of the Lion, a completely new super Doctrine for the new edition.
- Rules for fielding Deathwing and Ravenwing units and detachments.
- Warlord Traits – including four additional ones over the standard six to provide specialized Ravenwing and Deathwing options.
- Relics and Special Issue Wargear.
- The Interromancy Discipline.
- Secondary Objectives.
In line with every chapter except Deathwatch, if you want to take the rules in this book and combine them with one of the Successor Chapter traits from the Space Marine codex you can do that. As is standard, doing so loses you access to the named characters and higher-tier relics in the book (though you can buy access to one of those with a stratagem) and for Dark Angels specifically, there’s another price to pay. Unless your successor chooses to be Inheritors of the Primarch and take the Dark Angels chapter tactic, playing a Successor switches off the powerful Jink and Inner Circle abilities, meaning that Bikes, Land Speeders, and Terminators are going to be considerably less potent in the hands of Successors.
That does not mean they’re not going to see use, however – there are a wealth of options in this book that potentially combine extremely well with some of the Successor traits, and while you don’t get the signature Ravenwing and Deathwing abilities, Successors do still get the ability to build Ravenwing and Deathwing detachments (which we’ll cover in a second). All things considered, there’s potentially quite a bit more scope for making effective use of Successors in this book than in many we’ve seen recently, and here we’ll let the Grand Master of the Outer Circle himself take the wheel:
Gunum: There’s a reason Successor Chapters are the lead off of rules breakdown and that’s because the Outer Circle 1: is the best, and 2: actually benefits from all the amazing things from this book. Currently, the official outer circle is: Bolter Fusillades and Master Artisans. The Dark Angels have an ocean of bolt weapons on vehicles that normally cannot get re-rolls and Master Artisans provides even more support for units like the Land Speeder Vengeance or for the Rift Cannon on the Dark Talon. With the new book and the new tools, our tactics are looking like they may change. Tactics like the Outer Circle OG Whirlwind of Rage and Hungry for Battle are huge tactics I’m clearly going to be testing out. Heck, even things like Knowledge is Power or Tactical Withdrawal will be huge boons for us.
Now does picking a successor come with some costs? Yes. It does. We don’t get Inner Circle (OC4lyfe, Inner Circle can’t sit with us) or Jink (lame) nor do we get any of the named characters or artifacts. So yes, that sounds like a pretty big deal. Also, we lose out on the Dark Angels okay chapter tactics. As we’ll go into later, our new artifacts are pretty great so only being able to buy one is kinda lame. But, as a small little bonus, there is a collection of items in the Special-Issue Wargear specifically for Talonmasters so we can get the feel of having unique chapter artifacts still.
With these slight* (not slight) losses in mind, Inner Circle and Jink seem like things you’ll never be able to leave home without. I’d just like to present the idea that your opponent will roll 4+s. You’re gonna get hurt. Wouldn’t you like to be able to destroy your enemies better, vs just trying to live longer? Food for thought. Regardless, my fellow Green/Black-armored sons, I promise you that whether you are a 1st legionnaire or a lost son of the Lion. Now is a good time to be a Dark Angel of any variety.
Doctrine – Sons of the Lion
One of the big challenges with representing the Dark Angels on the table is how to handle the fact that they’re almost three armies in one. Alongside the conventional forces that many fans dub the Greenwing, you have the far more specialized Deathwing and Ravenwing, and the three contingents are going to be packing very different units a lot of the time, and wanting quite different supporting rules. This hit especially hard with the Dark Angels “Super Doctrine” in 8th, which boosted the range of guns in Devastator. Decent on Ravenwing (Gunum: or super awesome on Multi-melta Attack Bikes), OK on Greenwing (Gunum: Super awesome on Eradicators w/Heavy Meltas), but it did almost nothing for Deathwing (Gunum: Accurate), and on 9th’s smaller boards felt extremely missable.
The GW designers clearly understood that something much more exciting was needed here and boy have they delivered. Dark Angels get a completely revamped and completely unique super doctrine in this book, bringing support for all flavours of the Unforgiven and allowing savvy list-builders to reap massive benefits with combined arms forces.
How has this been done? Well, as previewed on Warhammer Community, the Sons of the Lion Doctrine doesn’t just have an effect in one of the three Doctrines. Instead, in each of the three Doctrines, one sub-set of Dark Angels units benefits.
As the game kicks off in Devastator Doctrine, the Ravenwing gains access to the Speed of the Raven ability. This increases their movement and lets them shoot after Advancing (taking a penalty as if all weapons were Assault when they do). This lets your faster elements zoom across the board to take firing positions straight out of the gate (while picking up the maximum Jink benefit), and is going to be especially nasty on units like Attack Bikes and Invader ATVs.
When things move on to the Tactical Doctrine, all your non-Deathwing INFANTRY gain access to the Fire Discipline rule. This lets them shoot with non-Blast weapons while in engagement range, treating their BS as 5+ while doing so. This is probably the least “splashy” of the three parts, but certainly not a bad thing to have access to, and lets you play very aggressively with units like, er, Aggressors, helps your Intercessors stay flexible, and makes bully charging your Eradicators a far dicier prospect. Don’t forget, too, that pretty much whenever this is active so is your Grim Resolve chapter tactic, so you’re pretty likely to be hitting on 4s rather than 5s.
Finally, once the Assault Doctrine drops it’s the Deathwing’s turn to shine. With the Implacable ability, their INFANTRY and DREADNOUGHTs gain re-rolls to wound in melee against CHARACTERs and models with 8+ wounds. Not complicated, but very brutal, and a super-strong ability to have access to in a world where Greater Daemons and Tyranid nasties are running amok.
What this adds up to is that you are massively rewarded for playing a force that combines all the different Dark Angel elements, you have the opportunity to draw a whole lot of strength from this. The tradeoff for this is that no single part is quite as powerful as the best existing superdoctrines, but that’s only fair given that you get to triple dip. It’s also worth flagging that Dark Angels have especially easy access to the ability to put a unit in another Doctrine via the new Tactical Appraisal stratagem, so if you need some early punch from a Deathwing unit or to let a Ravenwing unit rip across the table in an emergency, you’ve got options.
The only big gap is that there’s nothing here that rewards you for taking “conventional” vehicles, meaning they’re likely to be a fairly rare sight in Dark Angels forces. Given how extremely potent all the Dark Angel themed choices end up, we suspect you’re not going to miss them much.
Gunum: I’d like to make a quick addition here, as most of our unique vehicles are Ravenwing. This allows us to have a very strong turn in Devastator doctrine with things like the Land Speeder Vengeance or the Dark Talon. Being able to protect all of our unique vehicles with a 4++ and still fire their powerful guns is pretty sick. This is also a buff to Outer Circle, where the re-roll 1s for bolt weapons and the Master Artisans re-roll will help mitigate the -1 to hit from advancing. Not to mention the shooting in close combat.
Deathwing and Ravenwing
Dark Angels players have honestly been having a pretty good time of things with just their interim Index alone, and a lot of that has rested on the power of the Ravenwing and (especially) Deathwing rules within it. This book brings good news for Dark Angels fans – all of that’s still here, and it’s been turned up to 11.
The big power here has been two special abilities that the Ravenwing and Deathwing units in the Index had. Jink on Ravenwing units gives them a 5+ Invulnerable save against shooting that they lose if they Remain Stationary, but increase to a 4+ if they Advance, while the even spicier Inner Circle ability makes units fearless, and if they’re INFANTRY (so Deathwing and Characters) gives them “always-on” Transhuman Physiology, meaning they can never be wounded on an unmodified roll of a 1-3. Deathwing Terminator and Knight units have been rampaging across the tournament tables since, and that isn’t about to change – all the units that had these abilities still do.
Now, however, that’s only where the fun begins. The only drawback these abilities had in the Index was that they only applied to units that had them on the datasheet, meaning only the limited range Dark Angels-specific units got to benefit.
Gunum: And here we go…
Not any more. Thanks to this book, any RAVENWING units in Dark Angels detachments that do not already have Jink gain it, and the same thing is true for DEATHWING units and the Inner Circle ability.
This is, bluntly, completely wild and is a big part of why we think Dark Angels are pretty likely to take the crown of best Space Marines coming out of this book. Do you want your Bladeguard Veterans to have always-on Transhuman for free? Yes, obviously you do, you absolutely want that. Do you want your Attack Bikes to have a 4++ when they advance up and multi-melta something thanks to Speed of the Raven? Duh. Do you want to seriously think about whether some of the Storm Speeder builds could have a place in your lists? Honestly maybe! This gives you so much power for zero cost that it’s the kind of ability that forces you to go back and check out every datasheet that has these keywords, and ensures that the cream of the crop are going to be staples in Dark Angels lists.
Gunum: This has been a wishlist thing since we first saw these rules, and man it makes it hard to stay outside the lines. Giving Transhuman to BGV as well as Jink to just regular bikes is a massive buff and is very, very hard to ignore. It was one thing when IC was just affecting Terminators, but saving me CP on all my elite units as well as my bikers?! Gah. Must stay true to who I am…
Even some units who don’t have the DEATHWING keyword natively can get in on the fun. The new Rites of Initiation rule lets you pay a points premium to add the DEATHWING keyword to some units, covering Captains, the “Bladeguard” Primaris Lieutenant, Dreadnoughts, and all the vehicles that can ferry Terminators around. Obviously, the biggest benefit here comes for the characters, as only INFANTRY can benefit from the Inner Circle ability, but Dreadnoughts do need it in order to dip into the Implacable Doctrine effect, so if you’ve got a melee-specced one it can be worth thinking about.
The other vehicles don’t actually get any direct benefit from doing this, so why would you spend 10pts on it? Well, that’s where the final big bit of Deathwing/Ravenwing support now comes in. If your army is pure Dark Angels (or a Successor) and you build a pure Deathwing Vanguard or a pure Ravenwing Outrider that contains your Warlord, the detachment refunds you 3CP, and also grants Objective Secured to what seem to have been designated the “basic” models for that wing. That means Bike Squads and Outriders for Ravenwing, and all the Terminator flavours that are not Command Squads or Knights for Deathwing. This is another seriously spicy benefit likely to see a whole bunch of use. There’s almost certainly a real case for Outrider/Vanguard Dark Angel lists, and granting units ObSec for free is hugely welcome, especially on models as crunchy as Terminators or as speedy as bikes.
The Ravenwing and Deathwing have been big drivers of Dark Angels performance so far, and that’s not about to change – in fact, they’re set to become some of the standout units across the whole game. Great news for fans of bone or black armor.
Honestly, where to even start. In line with a developing theme you might be detecting, Dark Angels make out like mysterious, robe-clad bandits in the Stratagem section, sporting powerful tricks for a wide variety of situations alongside all the standard options you’d expect from a Supplement. Let’s kick off with two obvious wins, then we’ll let our team highlight some of their favourites. First up, as alluded to earlier, Tactical Appraisal is a real eye-catcher. For 1CP, you activate it in your Command Phase, pick a unit within 6″ of your warlord, and that unit then counts the Doctrine of your choice as being active till your next Command Phase. Sure, Marines can already access this via Adaptive Strategy, but in exchange for needing a bit of setup, this is half the price and doesn’t have the CORE limitation, meaning you can use it to turn on Speed of the Raven for Land Speeders or let a Deathwing character get juiced up to punch out a tank. Any Marine army would kill to have access to this, but the Dark Angels stole it and hid it within the vaults of the Rock. Speaking of sequestered treasures, Weapons From the Dark Age is back, and though it sports an increased price tag of 2CP, there really is no substitute for how horrendously nasty it makes plasma Inceptors. From there, let’s throw it to the team and see what highlights they’ve picked out.
Gunum: Honestly, there is a ton of stratagems we gain here, and as much as I’d like to dive into that. I want to talk about one that we no longer have. Combined Assault. This was a much-loved stratagem from the index we received that allowed a Deathwing unit to deep strike within 6″ of a Ravenwing bike that hadn’t advanced, as long as they were also outside of 6″ of an enemy unit. Now, this was a very fluffy stratagem that was used almost daily by me. It was hard to deal with and I was able to use it to decent success when paired with a Bike Chaplin. Sadly, with the early movement increases to Ravenwing units and the buffs to Terminators in general, I think it was removed for the good of the game. RIP Combined Assault. 2020-2021.
There is one beside Line Unbreakable, which I think is S tier good, that I would like to touch on quick and that’s the return of Deathwing Assault. When you arrive from deep-strike you get to add +1 to the wound roll in the shooting phase. Pretty Good when we have a wall of Terminators pumping out bullets at literally anything.
Greg: If I have a problem with these, and I’m not honestly sure that I do, it’s that the majority of them cost 2CP, and with the 1st and 2nd company detachments (not to mention the relics and WLTs) I think most lists will start down on CP. For balance purposes, I understand why, but it does introduce a breakpoint where you probably never want to spend all your CP, and instead end your turn with at least one banked, in order to have enough to pop off WftDA or Intractable on your next turn. Otherwise, they’re all good, straight up. Except for the one where you pay 2CP to fire a grenade that turns off falling back, which sucks.
Wings: I guess I’ll round out with a few more Ravenwing options because there certainly are some! They have the option of a pre-game move with The Hunt, melee hit and run with Swift Strike, and can have a Land Speeder boost shooting with Targeting Guidance. As Greg has pointed out, these do all run you multiple CP, forcing you to carefully prioritize game-to-game, but when these are good they’re really good. A very final thing to mention is that, much to our surprise, a version of the old strat that let you hide your Maelstrom cards is here. Secret Agenda lets you spend 1CP when you pick Secondaries or Agendas to hide one of them from your opponent, only revealing it the first time it’s scored. This is, honestly, kind of hilarious, and is potentially even pretty strong if cunningly combined with While We Stand, We Fight. It’s also worth remembering that all the “kill” secondaries don’t actually score till the end of the game, so if your opponent has valid targets for multiple of them, you can keep them guessing with this. Probably not often worth spending a precious, precious CP on, but super cool.
Dark Angels have a whole bunch of extra Character datasheets, and what better way to spice them up than by adding some powerful Warlord traits? The good news for anyone thinking that is that this section is another slam dunk – the traits are powerful, and there are more than in most books. Six options here can be taken by any Dark Angels character, but Deathwing and Ravenwing models get two additional choices each, letting you customize to your heart’s content. Most of these are new or shaken up from previous rules, but fans of deviously thwarting the machinations of elves and Daemons alike will be delighted that the once-per-game auto-deny of Watched is still here and still as much of a headache as ever. For the new ones, let’s throw things straight out to the team to talk about their favourites:
Wings: I’m a big fan of Fury of the Lion, which means that if the Warlord charged, was charged or heroically intervened in a turn they grant DARK ANGELS units within 6″ (including themselves, as surprisingly there’s no CORE rider) +1S. I expect to see this be a popular choice on the always excellent Bike Smash Chaplain, especially because with the standard “kit” this pushes the model to the critical S8 breakpoint. More generally, if you’ve got an aggressive Character you’re planning to charge with a lot, this lets the Dark Angels dip into the kind of wide-ranging melee buffs more commonly seen among Blood Angels and White Scars. If you prefer your Chaplains to stay as force multipliers rather than punch stuff themselves, it’s also a good combo with the Cup of Retribution for a big melee swing turn.
Gunum: Now, it’s no secret I haven’t been the biggest fan of our Dark Angel warlord traits. I rarely took any of them. The core codex traits are just so good it’s hard to compete. With the new warlord traits, is that going to change? Maybe. There is one I think that really stands out as “cool” but maybe not great. That’s Stubborn Tenacity. This new trait allows your Warlord, when killed, to just…not die. Not be removed. Just continue to exist. Well, until his insane endurance finally gives way at the end of the turn. Imagine, a warlord that your opponent goes out of the way to remove, for him only to die, then punch whoever killed him right back in their face. All the while still providing his aura buffs throughout the phase. I love it on something like a Smash Chaplain on a bike who gets touched by an Armor of Russ then rightly murdered. “Sorry little doggy, you’re still getting the stick.”
Greg: I love Stubborn Tenacity but it is so, so, so, stupid.
Wings: The other one that really needs a mention is Decisive Tactician, which gives a 6″ aura granting CORE units +1 to Advances and Charges. You may recognize this as an ability that’s good pretty much wherever it turns up and is spicy in a chapter with a bunch of Terminator support. Where it’s also super strong is in a Successor using Hungry For Battle, because it stacks to give you that sweet, sweet 7″ charge out of Deep Strike without needing to do anything so gauche as to have a Chaplain shouting at your guys. I’m honestly not quite sure how I feel about this one being here because it’s so out of the Dark Angels’ conventional wheelhouse that it does feel a bit like they’re stepping on the toes of other chapters. Good though!
Gunum: I know what you’re looking for you readers who are skipping ahead. I got you.
Are you feeling like you just can’t keep up with all these incredible rules? Well, if you want a breather this might be your only chance because Relics is one of the few places in this book that’s merely “great” rather than “slam dunk tier”. As with all supplements, you’ve got your premium Relics of the Rock, which are available to the Dark Angels themselves or via the Honoured by the Rock stratagem, and Special Issue Wargear that Outer Circle chumps can take to their heart’s content.
Both categories have got some good stuff, and once again it’s time for the team to pick out their favourites.
Wings: I may as well follow on from my Warlord pick here and talk about what the Cup of Retribution actually does. This is a Relic of the Rock for a Chaplain that gives them a once-per-game Litany they can use instead of one of their normal ones. This Litany automatically works (no feel bads of taking this then rolling a 1), and while inspiring gives the Chaplain a 6″ aura of +1A for your CORE units. Simple but very, very effective, letting your army hit like a monster truck on a key turn.
Gunum: The relic. The only relic worth talking about. The Pennant of Remembrance. The burning question of the masses next to “Did BGV get Inner circle?” is “Did the Pennant change?”. Yes. It did. A lot. The Pennant no longer provides a 5+++ to all Deathwing within 6″. I know, stop groaning dear readers. Instead, in your command phase, you pick a Deathwing Infantry Core unit within 6″ to take 1 less damage from all attacks.
I’ll let that soak in and hand it off to Greg.
Greg: Here’s something that won’t surprise anyone that’s ever read my posts: I have a soft spot for stuff that sucks. This means that I have an inexplicable number of plasma pistols spread around my Dark Angels army, just throwing points away. But now, with Atonement, an absolutely bonkers S9 AP-4 3 damage pistol, I feel vindicated. Incredible waste of a relic slot, and absolutely going into every list I can fit it in. One-shotting Gravis marines with a plasma pistol, my god.
Gunum Redux: -1 Damage to all attacks!!! It’s -insane-. Put this on our newly buffed Bladeguard?! How about that brick of Deathwing Knights you dropped down the turn before. This is insane. The applications of this along with the durability of our Deathwing is just bonkers. I’m not saying this is an auto take in every Dark Angel list. But I don’t think there is a list where I don’t take this on a Bladeguard Ancient.
Psychic Discipline – Interromancy
OK, back to the outstanding stuff – Interromancy is in real contention for the best Psychic Discipline in the game. Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the Warhammer Community previews has probably got some pretty high expectations coming into this (we certainly did), and this set of powers smashes those expectations into the ground then blasts Space Jam at top volume.
Let’s start with what we’ve already seen – Mind Wipe and Engulfing Fear.
Mind Wipe reaches out and switches off an enemy aura, while Engulfing Fear (as shown above) switches off ObSec and can mess with Actions if you roll well. Both of these are exceptionally good abilities in the kind of games 9th encourages, and we imagine many Dark Angels players were already dusting off their Librarians based on these alone.
The debuff fun doesn’t end there, however. These are joined by the return of Aversion and Mind Worm (both WC6). Both are amplified versions of what they used to do in 8th. Aversion gives an enemy unit -1 to hit, but now additionally applies -1A to the unit if they’re within 6″ of the Psyker. The front half of this is always fine, and having the extra effect available if things get crunchy is very helpful. However, when it comes to shutting down enemy melee units Mind Worm is clearly your pick. This does what it always did (1MW, make the enemy fight last) but gets 6″ extra range (a big difference to how easy it is to slot in) and benefits from opponents not being able to Counter Offensive out of it anymore (it uses the “not eligible” wording). This one feels really strong now, and is really going to help you dominate games.
Continuing with the theme of Fight Phase domination, we come to our one buff – Righteous Repugnance. Once again, this does what it always did (full hit and wound re-rolls in melee for a target unit) but that effect is so much more valuable in 9th (and the Dark Angels so much better suited to getting into a fight) that it feels like a whole new (and very spicy) toy. Use this on Terminators of any stripe or even just some Intercessors and watch the enemy melt.
Last and kind of least because of how good the rest is comes Trephination. This has been re-worked and is now basically just a better Smite – it deals d3 MWs to the closest visible enemy unit and increases to a flat 3 MWs if the psychic test beat their leadership. This works out as a better Smite against Ld <=8, equal on average (but less spiky) against Ld 9, and slightly worse against Ld 10. “Better Smite most of the Time” is pretty good going for a mortal wound power, and the fact that this is probably going to be the least-used option here despite that says a lot.
Greg: I think it’s telling that GW did such a thorough job with this book that even goddamned Trephination is good now. That spell has been trash since it was created, one of the worst picks in uninspired book after uninspired book, but in the glorious new world of 9th edition, even that is worth a look.
Gunum: Man. Is Mind Worm lasting for two combat phases bonkers to anyone else? It is literally oppressive.
This is some outstanding stuff overall, and expect to see Dark Angels sporting one of the highest rates of Librarian inclusion across the board, usually Ezekiel or a Chief Librarian. Mostly these will be sporting 3/4 of Mind Worm, Mind Wipe, Engulfing Fear and Righteous Repugnance, and we’ll have to see whether having the full toolkit of top-tier debuffs or having access to a force multiplier in a pinch wins out for filling the slots.
Closing out the rules section, armies with a Dark Angels Warlord gain access to three extra Secondary Objective choices. As is standard, these still have categories and you can only take one choice from this list.
First up, we have a spin on the “screw that guy in particular” theme we’ve seen in other Marine books in Martial Interdiction (Purge the Enemy). If you pick this, your opponent chooses one Character in their army, and you get points at the end of that battle if the Character has been destroyed by a melee attack, then bonuses if it was an Inner Circle or Deathwing unit that did the deed and/or the unit that destroyed them survives the battle. It’s a nice spin on the theme, trading being a bit higher risk of you getting nothing (as you can’t just gun the target down to bank five VP in an emergency) for being more flexible to hit 15 on. Also, there’s a special prize for the first person who manages to max this out by running the target over with a Land Raider that’s been made Deathwing. Take them alive indeed.
Next up, we have a strong reward for building around Ravenwing in Death on the Wind (No Mercy, No Respite). This is good clean fun – you get 2VP every time a Ravenwing unit that either moved 12″ or more in your movement phase or made a charge move this turn destroys an enemy unit. If you’re packing the knights of the Ravenwing there’s a very strong chance that “go fast and kill things” was already your plan, making this look attractive. The only thing really holding it back is that it shares a category with Grind them Down, and they’re good against similar kinds of lists, but there are still going to be cases where the fact that you can spike this much higher in a given turn make it a superior option – it gives you more flexibility to set up cautiously or lie low for a Battle Round if the situation dictates it. Gunum note: There is no cap to how many points you gain a turn on this, which is kinda cool. Use those Multi-meltas baby!
Finally, we have a very polarised objective that is going to swing wildly between being annoyingly excellent in a minority of games and terrible otherwise. Stubborn Defiance (Battlefield Supremacy) lets you pick an objective at the start of your first command phase, then in every subsequent command phase score points based on how long you’ve continuously held it with an Objective Secured unit that’s currently holding it (2/3/5/5 for two through five consecutive turns of holding). The scoring margins on this one are pretty tight – in order to max it out, you need to literally start an ObSec unit on it at game start, then hold it continuously with that unit all the way through the game. Your opponent disrupting your hold for even one turn is also extremely bad news – the way it hashes out means that if you start this out the gate, score it on turn two, but then your opponent prevents you from holding the objective on turn three, you’ll only be able to salvage two additional points if you hold it on turn four and five, for a total of only four points.
Gunum: I just want to jump in here and say I think this is the best secondary in the game. It allows you to have Priority Targets, the best mission secondary in the game, every single game. The objective you pick is your home objective, and you never leave it. It’s literally free real estate. Oath of Moment is for chumps when compared to this. Codex secondaries being allowed in match play was the worst idea.
Wings: So Gunum and I don’t agree on how good this is – I definitely think there are some games where this is outrageously good, but effectively all it takes is your opponent managing to sneak something in and take the objective for a single turn and things fall rapidly apart. It also commits you to keeping something much more substantial statically out of the game than you can pull with Priority (Servitors are right out). Part of the strength of Priority for me is also being able to pull a character back to backfill in an emergency, and part of the reason it’s so often so completely trivial is that you get to move objectives around. I think the percentage of games where this is actually, genuinely safe to take are pretty low – unless it turns out that you can do something dumb around combining this with While We Stand and just parking a third of your army at home and daring the opponent to come deal with your bullshit.
Gunum: The counterpoint of “Well. They will just break the chain and stop you from getting the big points.” is a real thing, sure. But even if that does happen, getting a minimum of 6 – 8 points here isn’t even close to a stretch. Not only that but if you do some good list building strategies and plan for this secondary from a list design standpoint. I think you can -really- set yourself up for success here.
Where these land overall definitely depends on how good Stubborn Defiance ends up being – if it’s strong as Gunum thinks then this list is consequently extremely strong, but if grumpy Mr. Pessimism Wings is correct then this list merely ends up fine.
Crusade and Lore
If you like hunting the Fallen and also understanding why the Fallen must be hunted (but to be clear, screw those guys) then you’re probably keen to know what’s going on in the Lore and Crusade sections of this book. As ever, we’ll have separate reviews for those two sections coming up in the next few weeks, so if that’s your jam make sure to check back in.
Similar to the other Codex to Index transitions, there’s not been a lot of change to the units themselves just the context in which they sit and the abilities around them. That’s not really a problem as such – Dark Angels have a bunch of really nice units, especially in the HQ and Elites slot, but if you’re a seasoned Dark Angels fan there isn’t a massive amount for you to see here, other than the one new datasheet (the Deathwing Strikemaster).
Starting out with Named Characters, Dark Angels get the standard trio of a Chapter Master, Librarian, and special Chaplain, and they’re joined here by the grandmasters of each of the two special wings, Belial and Samael, and a handsome Primaris guy.
Starting with the main trio, Azrael is your chapter master. He comes with the standard Chapter Master ability to grant a unit full re-rolls, has a reasonable set of relic weapons, and a couple of unique tricks of his own. The main one here is that he has a helper carrying The Lion Helm. This gives him a 6″ aura granting a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting to INFANTRY and BIKER units. This is pretty awesome, and has seen a lot of use in the Index alongside Ravenwing units that didn’t have Jink – but now all the Codex imports get that, it’s less of a draw. He gives you two bonus CP as well, which is a nice add-on, but his 170pt price tag is pretty steep and may see him benched.
Gunum: This guy is a G. His gun is still awesome, he still doesn’t kill himself with it. So big wins. The cost is still high but when you’re giving your brick of Deathwing Termies a 4++, or just protecting your backline. He’s an investment to be sure, but he provides such a force multiplier that he’s definitely worth a real look.
Ezekiel, on the other hand, is absolute fire now. He comes in as 125pts, which you may recognize as the same price as a vanilla Chief Librarian (and he has the third known power to match), but also sports relic weapons, an invulnerable save, and built-in +1 to cast for Interromancy. Given how great that is, expect to see him in a massive number of lists. He does also have an aura that allows units to get +1A in turns where Shock Assault isn’t active, so if you end up in a really protracted grind, he can even be a force multiplier.
Asmodai is out last of the main trio, and if we’re honest he’s pretty missable. He’s not a Master of Sanctity, and though he knows two Litanies can only recite one. He does have some other cool abilities, but realistically you’re taking a Bike or Jump Pack Master of Sanctity over him.
The two ‘wing commanders are both pretty cool. They each get a Chapter Master style effect that they can only use on models of their own wing, which is definitely nice to have around, and pack some suped-up statlines. Belial is a combat nightmare, while Samael is an all-rounder, being pretty good both in a fight or at range. With Deathwing and Ravenwing stronger than ever, expect to see both out and about in a lot of lists.
Finally, for the named dudes, Lazarus is a named Primaris Captain with a fancy sword and an anti-psyker aura. He’s OK, but there are so many great proactive things you can be doing in this book that spending points on a model like this that’s more of a counterpick is hard to justify.
Greg: I think Lazarus is slightly better than you’re giving him credit for. His aura is a 5+ against Mortal Wounds, not just psychic mortal wounds – it applies regardless of the source.
Gunum: He also fights when he dies! Which he probably will often, but that’s what we call value around these parts.
The other HQs in the book are Dark Angel variants of all the Chaplain builds, then the Ravenwing Talonmaster and the new Deathwing Strikemaster. Both of these are essentially special Lieutenants, sporting a standard re-roll 1 to wound aura for CORE. They’re also both pretty nasty in their own right. Talonmasters are fast and pack a whole bunch of dakka (plus nice relic synergies) and can strip away enemy cover for Ravenwing units via their No Escape ability. The Deathwing Strikemaster doesn’t get any Deathwing-specific buffs, but does benefit from being able to take a mace of absolution and a storm shield, turning him into a very nasty combatant as well as a buff bearer. Talonmasters are well known as one of the best Dark Angel units, and that doesn’t feel like it’s changed much here, while the Strikemaster definitely feels like they should have a place in lists.
Gunum: As the skilled Outer Circle player knows, the Talonmaster is a key component to any list. And that’s no different for my cousins of the 1st. Don’t worry my treasured family, this unit hasn’t changed. He stays powerful, shooty, fast, and undercosted. There’s the Deathwing Strikemaster too, I guess.
Elites are the land of various flavours of Deathwing Terminators, plus the “command squad” style models available to both Deathwing and Ravenwing. Deathwing Terminator units come in three flavours – basic, Command Squads, and Knights. All three are great – your basic Deathwing unit is exactly the same as normal Terminators but with more flexibility in their weapon loadouts which, since they now get native ObSec in Deathwing detachments, is very appealing. Knights are your elite murder nasties. Sporting storm shields, 2+ WS, and maces of absolution (thunder hammers without the hit penalty), they will comfortably win fights against almost any other elite unit and are extremely tough to shift. If you’re going for Rites of War rather than leaning on the native ObSec, these are super cool. Finally, Deathwing Command squads are very similar to the basic Terminator options, but trade losing access to ObSec in Deathwing Detachments (plus two points) for highly configurable squad sizes, a Bodyguard ability and optionally getting to be included in a detachment for free if you have a Deathwing Terminator Captain in the detachment. The big draw for these is taking two model units, one with lightning claws and one with hammer/shield. That gives you an 80pt unit that’s perfect for screening out space or performing Activities (thanks to natural deep strike), and crunchy enough to soak up some fire or murder a few enemies when needed.
Continuing the command squad theme, both Deathwing and Ravenwing get their Company Champion, Ancient, and Apothecary options in this slot. All of these work basically how you expect, and the two standouts are the Ravenwing Apothecary (because he’s fantastic upgraded to a Chief Apothecary, driving round and reviving dudes) and the Ancient in Terminator Armor – despite, as the keen-eyed reader has likely noticed, not actually being in this book, he’s in Codex: Space Marines – because you need him to carry the fancy Pennant of Remembrance. The rest are all totally fine, but not must-haves in the way of these standouts. Gunum note: Bladeguard Ancients can still hold the flag too. Go, team!
Finally, in Elites, you have Black Knights, the Ravenwing command squad equivalent. These units are extremely cool and very iconic, but they’re still maybe just a little on the pricy side. The improved stratagem sheet definitely helps, and it’s just about possible that a huge brick of these blasting with Weapons from the Dark Age or hit-and-running could be good, but they sure are competing hard with just taking more Terminators.
Gunum: Hello fans. It’s me. Gunum. Here to talk about Black Knights. Now before we get started, let’s all take a collective breath. We’ve been through a lot already and there isn’t much more to go. Take a break, drink some water, call your mom. Have you checked your oil recently? It is near the end of the month, make sure your car insurance is paid for. I hope you didn’t go too deep into stonks this week. Okay, I’ll wait for you to come back before I dive into this really iconic unit.
Okay. Welcome back! Wait, what were we talking about?
The rest of the units in this book are all Ravenwing, all the time, and in Fast Attack, you have two special Land Speeders – the Darkshroud and the Vengeance. The Darkshroud is a defensive tool, providing a bubble of -1 to hit, while the Vengeance packs a massive plasma array. The Darkshroud used to be an absolute staple, but the caps on negative hit modifiers in 9th means it’s not mandatory. It certainly isn’t bad, and can give some armies headaches, but don’t feel like you have to take one. The Vengeance, on the other hand, is very much tailored for the “whoops all Land Speeders” lists that a certain Gunum used to favour before he got all edgy and joined the Outer Circle. If packing a bunch of speeders is your jam, it’s a good choice, as its main gun is pretty tasty for the price tag now.
Gunum: Have you guys heard about our plasma-lobbing savior, the Land Speeder Vengeance? It’s a Speeder. It’s got super-charged plasma cannons. It can get up to FOUR DAMAGE AGAIN!!!! Why aren’t you two more hype about this!? Also WINGS I stopped using the Land Speeders because I couldn’t take them in units of five anymore. No reader, we still can’t do that.
Finishing out the Ravenwing roster, they get two different plane choices, and in an edition that’s intensely hostile to aircraft as a rule (because of what they did to 8th Edition) these have the distinction of being some of the best out there. The Dark Talon gives you a mortal wound gun that’s extremely nerve-wracking to play against (plus a once-per game bomb that can trap a target in combat with your Terminators, always nice) while the Nephilim is an air superiority craft that packs a super heavy bolter on the nose, making it a decent source of dakka even when your opponent is plane-free (and in 9th, they probably are). Between the native invulnerable save that being Ravenwing gives them, and having access to at least some buffs despite not being core, both of these are reasonable includes in lists if you want some strong fire support. They’re rarely going to be the best option, but are decent choices (and the models are awesome, so using them makes your army look rad).
Gunum: My sweet baby bird. The power of the Nephalim and its key role in my Outer Circle shouldn’t be ignored. This unit is the -key- reason why I love Bolter Fusillades. 16 Heavy Bolter-esc shots with 2 awesome missiles as icing on the cake?! Not only that, but it also kept its bonus wound to bring it to 11! Get in, Reader, we’re going flying.
This book is outrageously good. I have a lingering affection for the Dark Angels (I had a truly awfully painted army when I was a kid) and the Unforgiven had a terrible run through 8th so it’s definitely nice to see them finally get the care and attention they deserve, and where this book succeeds is in making playing Dark Angels easily the most fun it’s been for a long while, and really delivering on the promise of Deathwing and Ravenwing being able to operate as themed forces. Where I must confess to being a little bit worried is how fun it’ll be to play against – this book is a whole lot, the army gets a tonne of access to powerful abilities without really paying for them, and ends up with ways at being good at almost everything. The book releases we’ve had thus far in 9th have been pretty well-tuned power level wise, but this time I’m raising my eyebrow a bit.
It’s good. It’s really good. From the spells to the secondaries. Dark Angels have seen a wall to wall, fluffy and powerful improvement to their book and the options they have. Giving us back Weapons of the Dark Age and the new Objective Secured detachments is such a powerful energy that I am constantly being drawn into playing regular Dark Angels over my Outer Circle. Which is something I thought would never happen. I need to start hearing about how Greg is the best player in his local community with this book, I also can’t wait for Cyle’s inevitable switch over to Dark Angels.
More like Forgiven, am I right?
How They’ll Play
Probably pretty good. I mean, if you’ve read this far, you have to know that.
Realistically, a large proportion of Dark Angels lists are going to lean heavily on Ravenwing and Deathwing elements. The former gives you mobile ranged threats that are surprisingly difficult to remove, while the latter gives you some incredibly high-quality anvil units that can park on objectives and brawl through anything and everything that tries to stop them. Out of the gate, you’re going to want to try and use your Ravenwing shooting to neutralise the cost-efficient tools your opponent has to shoot out your Biker units, then bring Deathwing squads down to establish control of space and the scoring process. Once that’s kicked off, you can start grinding your opponent out of the game – break them upon your bone-clad ranks, and blast them out of the game. Brutal but likely extremely effective.
Since Gunum wants to go deep on the Outer Circle, I’m up first here, bringing you a list that shows off the strengths available to real, genuine Dark Angels. For these purposes, I’ve gone as hard as possible on the new Ravenwing and Deathwing hotness, and thrown the Greenwing out the window. Let’s take a look.
Ravenwing Outrider Detachment – 0CP
Primaris Master of Sanctity on Bike, Warlord, Wise Orator, Paragon of the Chapter – Fury of the Lion, Canticle of Hate, Mantra of Strength, Cup of Retribution – 140, 1CP
Samael – 150
Ravenwing Chief Apothecary, Hero of the Chapter, Selfless Healer – 115, 1CP
3 Attack Bikes, multi-meltas 165
3 Attack Bikes, multi-meltas 165
3 Outriders 150
3 Outriders 150
Deathwing Vanguard Detachment – 3CP
Ezekiel, Mind Worm, Mind Wipe, Engulfing Fear – 125
Deathwing Strikemaster, mace of absolution, storm shield – 110
10 Deathwing Terminators, 5x TH/SS, 5x lightning claws, Watcher in the Dark – 385
5 Bladeguard Veterans, neo-volkite pistol – 180
Deathwing Command Squad, 2 models, 1 TH/SS, 1 lightning claws – 80
Deathwing Command Squad, 2 models, 1 TH/SS, 1 lightning claws – 80
I’m not going to lie – building lists is hard here because there’s so goddam much stuff you want now. I’ve been staring at this for a while trying to work out how to get more cool toys in (notably, I really want a Talonmaster in here somehow) but alas deadlines beckon and it’ll have to do. This list takes massive advantage of Ravenwing imports from the main book getting Jink, which turns Attack Bikes into even bigger nightmares than they are most of the time, and allows Outriders to be very durable objective grabbers once they have ObSec (as they do here). Sammael’s re-rolls also make the prospect of firing Attack Bikes at the opponent very appealing. Over in the Deathwing contingent, you have a gigantic ObSec terminator brick to maraud around the mid-board, command squads to shore up the action game, and a big Bladeguard unit to take advantage of the always-on Transhuman. Watching over that detachment you also have Ezekiel, taking advantage of the fact he has the DEATHWING keyword, to jump in and bring all the debuffs you could ever want to the party. This list is durable, active in every phase and should pose a real challenge to many opponents.
Literally as I finish writing this, I realise I should swap the Bike Chaplain for a Terminator Chaplain in the other detachment, then I can have the Talonmaster I so desire. Ah well.
Okay. So. Hear Me Out. What if CP was just a tool for list building, allowing us to do cool things like have obsec bikers! Now is this list optimized? No, it’s not. Does it only start with 5cp? Yes, it does. But what do we get for all these CP purchases? Let’s go through it. First off, -3cp for the second detachment giving me obsec bikers and obsec Deathwing Terminators. Next, minus CPs for the extra warlord traits and Rites of War. Finally, I had to take the two things I wanted to try out the most. Using the Obsec Terminators with Deathwing Assualt, as well as the new Pennant of Remembrance following around a block of Blade Guard Vets. You’ll see my old faithful, the Nephilim Jetfighter is hanging out in the Ravenwing Detachment enjoying my Outer Circles re-rolls. Same with the Angriest of Chaplains leading my force, giving himself +1 to wound with the Teeth of Tera and smacking planes out of the sky. Whereas my Bike Chaplin has Master of Sanctity to give me +2 to charge, as well as +1 to wound in shooting against the closest thing. Something I may try and pop the turn my Deathwing Termies come down, or on further turns, so I can shoot their guns into CC with the same bonus!
Gunums Outer Circle (Warhammer 40,000 9th Edition) [5CP, 2000pts]
Nephilim Jetfighter – Avenger MEGA-BOLTER (This is the most metal of the bolters.)
Do I think this list has legs? Maybe. Maybe not. BUT it does show off what we can do to make use out of some of our new rules. I personally like the 3 squads of bikes with power fists and hidden multi-melta attack bikes. Since they are obsec and very fast, they will be able to challenge the middle of the table quite easily. I had to go with some sort of close combat weapon on their sergeants to give them a little more power in their actions. Finally, I have a Redemptor Dreadnought on the list for my backfield bullying. Adding in some much-needed plasma to burn what CP I do have on Weapons of the Dark Age.
You’ll also notice, this lists benefits from every stage of our new Super-doctrine and also has units that can continue holding down my home field objective to gain those sweet, sweet, Stubborn Defiance points.
If you’re a Dark Angels player, we hope you’re excited after reading all that. For everyone else…we guess you at least know what you’re up against. We can’t wait to see how this book impacts the meta, and with Death Guard also bringing a very different play style to the table, we’re likely in for some big upheavals. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org, and don’t forget to tune back in next week for the Crusade and Lore reviews.