October 2020 FAQ Update Review – Dark Angels

In advance of the upcoming release of Codex: Space Marines and as promised, Games Workshop dropped a massive FAQ update on us today (remember when we said fifteen books needed FAQs? Turns out it was more). There’s a lot to digest, so we’re poring over every word of the updates and noting what’s changed and our thoughts on what it means for the faction. In this article we’re looking at Dark Angels and the changes to Codex: Dark Angels and Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned.

Greg: Reader, I’m not going to lie to you: this is easily the best set of Dark Angels rules I have seen in my entire life, going all the way back to the original Angels of Death codex in second edition, and including all other GW games that contain Dark Angels. It’s completely batshit, and I’m losing my ever-loving mind over here about how good Dark Angels look right now. Every other chapter can go to hell, and I’m not sorry.

Gunum: What a whirlwind of a day. Checks notes to see if the Whirlwind was also something that was buffed for Dark Angels, it was not. I went from not having any idea how I was even going to build my army to now having every single amazing option in front of me. There are some pretty huge changes for the marines who are the most loyal, sons of the Lion. We’ll be going through them quickly here, with a more deep-dive later on. 

CORRECTION: A helpful commenter has pointed out that not only did we whiff on some fairly substantial changes to the Land Speeder Vengeance’s guns, Chase and I both completely missed that the Deathwing Ancient doesn’t actually exist in this PDF! Goonhammer regrets the error.

The FAQ here – and I’m not even sure this technically is an FAQ, since it’s more content than went into the old White Dwarf “codex” that Blood Angels got – does the sensible thing and just comes right out the gate and puts the 8th edition codex directly into the trash can. The only books you need, or in fact are allowed to use, are the new marine codex, and this PDF. That’s not actually bad, other than a weird quirk of the warlord traits that we’ll have words about later. Ritual of the Damned is handled somewhat strangely – at first read it sounds like it’s gone, and it mostly is! 

Similarly, if a Dark Angels rule from Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned does not feature within this document, it cannot be used.

But also!

This document will allow you to wage war using your Dark Angels specific units alongside those units presented in Codex: Space Marines, as well as use a selection of Dark Angels rules that were published in Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned

So apparently you can use the rules in PA4, but only if they’re also in the PDF. Makes sense to me, exceedingly clear ruling! The only thing you might want in there that didn’t make the cut is the chapter litany anyway, and since there’s no references to it on the datasheets it has probably been yeeted into the negative zone. rip.

General Rules, which generally rule

Let’s continue with the Doctrine, which in fact did not change, and still kicks unholy ass, with +6” range to Heavy and Rapid Fire, and +3” to Assault and Pistol, while in the Devastator Doctrine. Slight downside here, the Chapter Litany, Stoic Prosecution, has changed, in that it is straight up gone and no longer exists. I know time is a fake idea here in 2020, but that litany was extant for less than a year, so this deletion is very cool, and not at all something that sucks butt!

Deathwing/Inner Circle

Gunum: A big change we have to talk about is the change to Inner Circle. This went from a nearly useless rule to now being one of the strongest special rules in the game. We went from being able to really pound on those mega-common Fallen units and automatically passing all Morale tests to Each time you select this unit to Fall Back, unless it has the Vehicle, Ravenwing or Chapter Master keywords, roll 2D6: if the result is less than or equal to the unit’s Leadership characteristic it can Fall Back, otherwise, it cannot Fall Back and must Remain Stationary instead. (Inner Circle guys don’t get there by running) and the big one, wait for it:

Each time an attack is made against this unit, if this unit has the Infantry keyword, an unmodified wound roll of 1-3 always fails, irrespective of any abilities that the weapon or the model making that attack may have.

This (And I don’t curse lightly) F*cks.

Greg: I happen to take cursing extremely lightly, and he’s right, this righteously fuckin’ owns.

Inner Circle do also, still, automatically pass all morale checks, for whatever that’s worth (hint: not much). This remains almost entirely useless since half of them are single-model character units and the rest already have Grim Resolve to blunt the effect of morale, but having non-stop Transhuman Physiology, which isn’t a stratagem that non-Primaris marines can even use now, is so outrageously good that I expect to see something I never I thought I would, which is Imperial Fists and Ultras being proxied as Dark Angels. Strange times, friends.

I suppose, dear reader, you’re curious about what units benefits from this. Well, let us quickly list them for you: 

  • Azrael
  • Belial
  • Ezekiel
  • Asmodai
  • Interrogator-Chaplains (Terminator and Power Armor)
  • Lazarus
  • Deathwing Apothecary
  • Deathwing Champion
  • Deathwing Terminator Squad
  • Deathwing Knights
  • Deathwing Command Squad

Man, let’s just take a moment to look at that. That’s 11 units that cannot be wounded on better than a 4+. It’s an entire dang army with (at worst) a 2+/5++ and permanent inexhaustible Transhuman Physiology. This is certifiably insane and is hands-down one of the biggest winners in the update we received, if not the biggest in the entire batch of FAQs. I’d challenge any other army to present a change that is more powerful than this one. I’m gonna riot, this is so good.

Since this is just a preview, we won’t go more into this and its implications right now, but we’re sure you can use your imagination and see just how incredibly tanky these units now are (HMO: Oops, All Deathwing).


Ravenwing units with Jink still get their 4++ for advancing, but now also a 5++ as long as they don’t Remain Stationary. Peep the wording on this, and pretend I put the little stare-eyes emoji here, alongside probably an eggplant:

Models in this unit have a 5+ invulnerable save against ranged attacks. In your Movement phase, if this unit Remains Stationary, it loses this invulnerable save until the start of your next Movement phase

So even if you go second, you start the game with a 5++ and, like a shark, have to keep moving to prevent losing it. You were going to be moving anyway! This kicks limited quantities of ass!

A slight annoyance with this is that since the RAVENWING keyword and Jink ability are split out now, and one doesn’t confer the other, Land Speeders don’t get it (DEATHWING and INNER CIRCLE aren’t a perfect keyword overlap either, so you can still wound Blade Guard on 2 or 3), but the Vengeance and Darkshroud, and everything on a bike, does.

Warlord Traits

Warlord traits are an odd bird right now. The only allowed ones are the base set in the new Codex: Space Marines, since Codex: Dark Angels is only useful for kindling or lining your litter box, but most of the Ritual of the Damned ones survive unchanged.

DeathWing traits include Lay Low the Mighty and Watched (which has some changes to wording but still does the same thing, which is it just shut down a psychic power once per game whenever you feel like it, no, you don’t get to cast, because you kept fucking up). Inexorable is gone, but as we’ve seen, due to the volcanically improved INNER CIRCLE, that is, in fact, not actually a problem.

All three of the old Ravenwing traits are exactly the same, bar some wording and layout changes. I’m not doing all the typing to repeat them here. They’re still good!

One Weird Tip about the Warlord Traits is that since the ones in the old Codex are gone, any and all named characters that takes a trait must take Brilliant Strategist. Since, as we previously covered in the Codex review, this is Double-S Tier Platinum Ultra Plus, that’s not exactly a problem per se, but it does mean you can’t use the Hero of the Chapter stratagem on more than one of these dorks, because you can’t duplicate traits. Best bet is to put Brilliant Strategist on someone, and then drop a couple of Chapter Command traits on some generic idiot and use those traits (for example, the Deathwing or Ravenwing Chief Apothecary).


Foe Smiter is gone, rip to the biggest storm bolter with the hugest bolts, which there is no reason to cry about – just master-craft a regular storm bolter if you want it back, but you probably don’t. The Angel’s Ambit no longer works on psychic auras. Otherwise no changes, save for formatting

Gunum: Also a big RIP to the Heavenfall Blade. You will be forever treasured, even though you are much worse than what we can take now. Hello, Blade of Burden.


The Deathwing and Ravenwing Ancient/Apothecary/Champion have the right keywords to use the Chapter Command stratagems, and can accept the associated traits and relics, which owns bones. An entire graveyard fulla bones.

Azrael’s combi-plasma no longer overheats! It’s just a native S8 AP-4 D2 now. He also finally gets the good re-rolls, and grants 2 extra CP for being your warlord, but his invuln aura got changed to only work against ranged attacks. We finally have a real chapter master!

Sammael lost his speeder build, but kept the jetbike. Fortunately you can still use any Sableclaw models you have kicking around as Talonmasters, since it’s the same dang thing and there was technically never a model for Sammael in a speeder anyway, and the jetbike one is probably the coolest model in the entire 40k range, and if you don’t agree you can fight me.

Ezekiel traded in his old keys for new keys. Now, instead of just being a stand in Chapter Ancient/Cool guy librarian, he now also gives all Dark Angels within 6″ an extra attack, so long as they are not already benefiting from Shock Assault.

The Interrogator-Chaplain in Terminator Armor is an elite now, but the non-terminator one is still an HQ, which is strange and I don’t understand it, but ok! Their aura was also changed from -1 leadership to all enemy units within 6” being treated as though they are under half strength for morale tests. 

The Nephilim gets +1 to hit, and the missiles become D4, when targeting AIRCRAFT. Is it worth taking now? Probably not, but honestly the rest of this PDF has us so stoked that it doesn’t even matter. We have ascended and nothing can hurt us ever again.

The Dark Talon has seen some… Greg: nerfs! – the bomb now only does d3 Mortal Wounds instead of rolling for each model in the enemy unit.  Gunum: buffs!now if you are hit by the bomb, you can’t fall out of combat! Woo! But the Rift Cannon is now S12 and instead of regular save/damage rolls and that bizarre Rift thing, now just inflicts 3 Mortal Wounds if it wounds (Both: eehhhh).

Also, both aircraft have gained a wound to get them to the utterly game-breaking 11 wounds (still probably not worth taking).

Land Speeder Vengeances no longer blow their guns off when they get hot! Wooo! They still look dopey as hell but whatever, we literally can’t be mad right now.

Land Speeders use the datasheets in the main codex, so 5-model Ravenwing Speeders are a thing of the past. We can’t be mad, but sad is evidently still on the table. Why do you hurt us like this, GW. 

Deathwing Command Squads are back, bay-bee! Not sure why, since it’s just a terminator squad that lets you take an/a/an Apothecary/Champion/Ancient without eating up FOC slots? Well, if the squad is within 3” of a Dark Angels Character, you cannot target that character with ranged attacks. At 2ppm more expensive than regular Deathwing squads, and not taking up a slot at all if you took a Deathwing Captain, this seem like a no-brainer to slam in at least one. If you’re keeping score, that means that taking a Deathing Captain in a patrol lets you take these guys, and the three support characters, without eating up a single elite slot. Also, none of those models are unique, so feel free to double-up.

Ravenwing Command Squads are not back, bay-…oh, wait. Well, as it turns out, Black Knights kind of are the Command Squad, in that they inherit the ability to take the ‘wing special characters, but they lack the bodyguard ability. Ah well, still pretty good!

Deathwing Terminators have a 1+/4++ and cannot be wounded on less than a 4+. This is insane, and I still can’t believe GW did this. The sun is rising on Caliban, and dawn has appeared.

Sammael and Belial get the chapter master full re-rolls for their respective ‘wings.

Asmodai isn’t a double chaplain, but who cares, because now we have all the Chapter Command stratagems and can just make our own. Nobody cares about Asmodai, shut up! He also lost his +1 A aura and instead replaced it with, well, basically nothing. 

Deathwing, Deathwing Knights, Deathwing Command Squads, and Ravenwing knights are all CORE. The associated characters aren’t, as expected.

Points changes, abridged.

  • Azrael up 10
  • Belial up 15
  • Ezekial up 10
  • Asmodai up 15
  • Dark Talon up 25
  • RW/DW Ancient/Apothecary/Champion all up a bit
  • Dark Shroud up 10
  • Deathwing Terminators down 3ppm
  • Deathwing Knights up 6ppm


Gunum: Alright, now let’s talk about our Stratagems. We had some massive changes here that I think need to be looked at urgently. We didn’t really gain much of anything, but we did lose a few key ones. Speed of the Raven is -Mega Gone-. For a lot of us, this is a huge nerf for our armies. Locking down our movement, and losing the ability to turn on Jink while also charging anyone we want, is a pretty big hit to our bikers. On the Deathwing side of things, we also lost a bunch of stratagems. Most notably, Fortress of Shields, Deathwing Assault, and ALL OF OUR PSYCHIC AWAKENING ONESWell, almost. Another small one that is missing, that could have been -broken- huge is Inner Circle. Spending 1 CP to mega buff a character seemed pretty good. As Masters aren’t an actual unit anymore, I think I understand why this went the way of the Dodo. 

We honestly got to keep some of the strats that give our faction flavor, but the biggest grains of salt in this little FAQ are the losses of Speed and…checks notes how did i miss this.


Seriously. Salt will flow for some time on the losses of these stratagems and I think the loss of two of our most flavorful ones was a weird choice on GW’s part. I mean, I’ll still play it, of course. But man, gonna have to change the way I look at the world.

Greg: On the plus side, Combined Assault still lives, and with it the dream of danger-close deep strikes of Terminators on top of bikes. Fortress of Shields may be gone, but in its place rises Stand Firm, granting +1T for the phase. That’s not as good as -1 to wound, and it’s keyed to Terminators so it doesn’t work on Bladeguard Veterans, but hey, we’ll take it! Outnumbered But Never Outmatched is still here, which is a sort of melee version of Blast, giving +1A when you swing at a unit of 10+ models. Enjoy getting six attacks out of Lightning Claw terminators into a mob of Boyz. Yikes.

Evasive Assault and High Speed Focus are still here too, and due to the changes to the Ravenwing/Jink rules they’re highly relevant, allowing Land Speeders to claim those sweet sweet invulnerable saves.

Overall Impressions

Greg: Hell yeah.

Gunum: How do I feel about these changes overall? They. Are. Awesome. HUGE BUFFS for our bois all over the place. Some understandable model losses, (RIP Sammy and his Speeder. Many a conversion is now a really fancy Talonmaster) but overall I think this is a great refresher to our faction. The changes to Inner Circle and some great quality of life changes with our plasma weapons, and just some of our weapons in general seem to have really taken a step to make us quite the possible contender on the top tables. Seeing a resurgence of Terminators or Deathwing Knights? Knights are a unit that get people into Dark Angels to START with, so making them absolutely playable is a great choice by GW. Two big thumbs up for me, and if I ever can find time in the school year to actually slam some hams, I’m psyched as hell to see the lists I’ll be throwing together for these guys. 

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