Start Competing: Deathwatch Tactics

This page now references an out of date edition of the game. For Start Competing: Deathwatch in 10th edition and onwards, please click here.

The Deathwatch are a unique Space Marine Chapter, originating in 3rd edition and following a somewhat peripatetic course through 40k history before finally becoming a real, on-table faction with proper rules support in recent years. Unlike other Chapters they do not recruit or train their own Marines – instead they draw their forces from other Space Marine Chapters, with individuals joining the Deathwatch either temporarily or, more rarely, permanently, serving a tour of duty with these specialist alien-hunters. This gives the Deathwatch a unique character, being an elite force of veterans by their very nature – which has interesting consequences for their background, for painting and modelling them, and for how they play on the table. Like all other Space Marine chapters except the Grey Knights, their 9th edition rules come in the form of a codex supplement to the main Codex: Space Marines – massively expanding their options and granting them access to almost all of the units that other Space Marine chapters can take, while still keeping their own unique unit configurations.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chapter Overview

The Deathwatch are a specialist Chapter with their own unique structure. The standout feature of these are the Kill Teams, special squads which allow you to mix and match different models in the same unit – for example the Proteus Kill Team, made up of Firstborn Veterans including power-armoured Marines, Terminators, bikers, and Vanguard Veterans, or the Spectrus Kill Team, incorporating the Vanguard Space Marines such as Infiltrators and Incursors. These can be further specialised with Kill Team Specialisms, giving them an edge against particular unit types.


  • Veteran units. Every member of the Deathwatch is a veteran Space Marine, and it’s reflected in the units available to them. If you want to play the most tacticool operators that the Space Marine codex allows, these are your guys.
  • Buffing Dreadnoughts. The ability to hand multiple Redemptors an invulnerable save with the Dominus Aegis and then boost their shooting against a key target with the Tome of Ectoclades is fantastic for turbo-boosting them.
  • Alien-hunting. The Deathwatch bring their own unique stratagems to the table, giving them an edge against xenos armies.


  • Narrow focus. The flip side to the alien-hunting speciality of the Deathwatch is that it limits their options – even in your best-case scenario facing off against a xenos army you have four of your stratagems that do nothing, and against other Imperium armies or Chaos a full six of your stratagems do precisely nothing, and half your Chapter Tactic is inoperative. That’s a whole lot of your stratagem sheet which is only conditionally active.
  • Weak doctrine. Instead of getting a specialist doctrine of their own, Deathwatch get Mission Tactics, which allows them to use the regular Doctrines in any order they like. It’s a neat trick, but less unique than it sounds and the lack of any one doctrine that really gives them some oomph hurts.


Chapter Tactic – Xenos Hunters

Deathwatch get a two-part Chapter Tactic; the first part allows them to re-roll hit rolls of 1 for any melee attacks against TYRANIDS, AELDARI, ORKS, NECRONS, or T’AU EMPIRE units, while the second part lets them re-roll 1s to wound against any enemy unit from a Battlefield Role chosen by the Deathwatch player after deployment. The former is ok, with the obvious limitation that it does absolutely nothing against IMPERIUM or CHAOS (which tend to be the most popular factions in the game), while the latter is the stronger and more important part for general play. Being able to flexibly identify the key Battlefield Role at the table and target that for re-rolls is particularly helpful.

Doctrine – Mission Tactics

If your army is 100% Deathwatch, then instead of being forced to use Combat Doctrines as described in the Space Marines codex (requiring you to start in Devastator, then change to Tactical on battle round 2, then change to Assault by battle round 4), you can pick them flexibly in any order – Devastator is one use only, but you can pick Tactical twice or Assault three times.

It’s a clever idea for an ability, allowing you to tailor your army to the mission and the table at hand (why waste a turn in Devastator if your opponent has been able to hide completely out of line of sight from your Heavy weapons?), but overall it doesn’t quite get there – all Space Marine armies can take advantage of Adaptive Strategy, and lots of Chapters can move between doctrines to some extent (particularly Dark Angels), so your ability is less unique than it seems and you miss out on having a powerful boost in any particular doctrine.

Kill Teams and Kill Team Specialisms

Along with special issue ammunition, Kill Teams are the most recognisable part of the Deathwatch, and in 9th edition they’re back and bigger and better than ever – now you not only have the Firstborn Kill Teams, but also 3 different flavours of Primaris ones, utilising all the new units introduced over the last few years.

Your Kill Team types are:

  • Proteus: Firstborn Veterans, consisting of 1 Watch Sergeant and 4 Deathwatch Veterans. You can add up to 5 other models from either Deathwatch Veterans, Deathwatch Terminators, Veteran Bikers, or Vanguard Veterans. Up to 1 model can be a Black Shield. Veteran Bikers can Turbo-boost like normal, but only if the squad only contains the bikes (e.g. with Combat Squads). The unit has INFANTRY, CORE, KILL TEAM, and PROTEUS for keywords; a unit with any Vanguard Veterans additionally gets the MELTA BOMBS keyword. You only get FLY/BIKER/TERMINATOR in units which are only composed of the appropriate models
  • Fortis: ‘Regular’ Primaris Marines, consisting of 1 Intercessor Sergeant and 4 Intercessors. You can add up to 5 other models from either Intercessors, Assault Intercessors, Outriders, Hellblasters. Outriders can Turbo-boost like normal, but only if the squad only contains the bikes (e.g. with Combat Squads). The unit has INFANTRY, CORE, KILL TEAM, PRIMARIS and FORTIS for keywords. You only get BIKER in units which are only composed of Outriders
  • Indomitor: ‘Heavy’ Primaris Marines, consisting of 1 Heavy Intercessor Sergeant and 4 Heavy Intercessors. You can add up to 5 other models from either Heavy Intercessors, Aggressors, Inceptors, or Eradicators. The unit has INFANTRY, CORE, KILL TEAM, PRIMARIS, MK X GRAVIS and INDOMITOR for keywords
  • Spectrus: Vanguard Primaris Marines, consisting of 1 Infiltrator Sergeant and 4 Infiltrators. You can add up to 5 other models from either Infiltrators, Incursors, Reivers, and Eliminators. The unit has INFANTRY, CORE, KILL TEAM, PRIMARIS, PHOBOS and SPECTRUS for keywords

These have all their normal wargear options, e.g. Intercessors can take auto, stalker, or regular bolt rifles, or Eliminators can swap their bolt sniper rifle for a las fusil. There’s also some adjustments to unit abilities, e.g. Outriders keep Devastating Charge but only for themselves. Similarly, only Eradicators can use Total Annihilation. Probably most unique is the Spectrus Kill Team – Omni-scramblers requires at least 1 model in the unit to be an Infiltrator, but it continues applying to “the unit” as normal; the same is true of Terror Troops from the Reivers. The Multi-spectrum Array only applies to Incursors, however.

As you can see, this is all quite complex. It’s important to pay careful attention to exactly what the composition of the Kill Team is, and what impact this has on keywords and abilities. This is especially the case with the Mixed Unit rule, which additionally grants IMPERIUM, ADEPTUS ASTARTES, and DEATHWATCH as keywords, and has a couple of important provisos – chiefly that for the purpose of transports models are treated as having the keywords you would expect (e.g. a Terminator has TERMINATOR and so the unit cannot ride in a Rhino), and also that all models in the unit are considered to be INFANTRY for the purposes of terrain – though note that this has received an important errata, and units of only BIKERS remain BIKERS and cannot e.g. ride through walls.

As well as being able to take these four kinds of Kill Team, there are also Kill Team Specialisms. These cost additional points and apply to the whole kill team, with each one conferring re-roll 1s to wound against a particular Battlefield Role, or re-roll all wounds if you selected that Battlefield Role for your Xenos Hunters tactic (except Aquila, which instead lets you pick a second battlefield role for Xenos Hunters, and re-roll 1s to wound against either). You can only have one of each type of Kill Team specialism in an army. Besides Aquila, the specialisms and the Battlefield Roles they target are as follows:

  • Venator: Fast Attack or Flyer
  • Malleus: Heavy Support, Lord of War, or Dedicated Transport
  • Dominatus: Elites
  • Furor: Troops
  • Purgatus: HQ

If you have Kill Team Cassius, they are considered to have Aquila, which doesn’t stop you upgrading another unit to have the same.

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Special-Issue Ammunition

Special-issue ammunition used to be the gimmick of Deathwatch armies, allowing them to fire specialist rounds from their boltguns. In 9th edition this ability has been pared back, now only generally applying to “Deathwatch boltguns” wielded by Deathwatch Veterans, with the exception of one stratagem which allows other units to fire it as we’ll explore later. When firing a weapon with the Special-Issue Ammunition rule you can pick one of the four kinds of special-issue ammo, as follows:

  • Dragonfire bolts: Ignore the benefits of cover
  • Hellfire rounds: +1 to wound against non-VEHICLE or TITANIC units
  • Kraken bolts: +6″ range and improve AP by 1, cumulative with Doctrines
  • Vengeance rounds: +1 Damage

That’s a powerful set of abilities to have available, offering useful flexibility for taking on different kinds of targets in different situations. The main sticking point with SIA is just how limited it is; it’s a lot of ability for limited effect, though at least the stratagem makes it a little more widely available.


Deathwatch get a selection of stratagems suited to their role as alien hunters, plus a few more generalist ones which assist them with things like making use of their special issue ammunition. Note that sometimes when discussing faction-specific stratagems in other articles we’ll give it two scores, one for its use-case and one for when it’s irrelevant; we’ll not bother here and you can simply assume for yourselves that a stratagem is bad if it targets AELDARI and you’re playing against Chaos Knights or something.

Battle Tactics

  • Death to the Alien – 1CP – Opening up here with the first of the xenos-specific stratagems, in this case the generalist one which targets all the various alien keywords – TYRANIDS, AELDARI, ORKS, NECRONS, or T’AU EMPIRE. A DEATHWATCH unit within Engagement Range of an enemy unit with one of those keywords can play this in the Fight phase to get +1 Attack until the end of the phase. B+ against any of those – it’s a good stratagem when it’s relevant and combines nicely with the Chapter tactic.
  • Prognosticating Volley – 1CP – Use in the Shooting phase; until the end of the phase one DEATHWATCH unit can ignore any or all hit roll and BS modifiers when shooting at an AELDARI unit. Merely fine now that modifiers are capped at -1 anyway; nice if there’s a stack you need to overcome to avoid taking a penalty at all, or if you want to ignore a -1 from the Eldar to benefit from a +1 of your own. B
  • Synaptic Severance – 1CP – Use in the Shooting or Fight phase; until the end of the phase a DEATHWATCH unit in your army automatically wounds TYRANID SYNAPSE units on an unmodified hit roll of a 6. Not bad for e.g. getting a bit more value out of volume of fire from Aggressors or something when hosing down a big nasty, though in melee this just replicates what Gene-wrought Might from the base codex does. B-

Epic Deeds

  • Adaptive Tactics – 2CP Use in the Command phase if a WATCH MASTER from your army is on the battlefield; you can change the battlefield role you picked for Xenos Hunters once per battle. A powerful effect, allowing you to pick off priority early targets and then switch to another, for example against Harlequins or Drukhari where you may want to start by firing at Heavy Support/Dedicated Transports before switching to Troops or Elites. A
  • Atonement Through Honour – 1CP – Use in your opponent’s Charge phase. One DEATHWATCH unit with a Black Shield can perform a Heroic Intervention as if it were a CHARACTER. A decent stratagem to have available, with its value depending largely on how you feel about Firstborn Veterans teams vs. the Primaris ones. B


  • Sanction of the Black Vault – 1CP – Give a Sergeant either Artificer Armour, Master-crafted, Digital Weapons, Banebolts of Eryxia, or Artificer Bolt Cache. Like with all the other versions of this your most likely use is to give a Sergeant some kind of master-crafted weapon – though it’s possibly also worth giving a Sergeant the Artificer Bolt Cache to open up some access to special issue ammunition. Completely fine. B
  • A Vigil Unmatched – 1CP – You can give a DEATHWATCH WARLORD who is not a named character an additional Warlord trait, which must be a Deathwatch trait. One use only and all traits must be unique. There’s some reasonably strong traits here (as we’ll see in the Warlord Traits section) and being able to double up on them, or get one on top of a base Codex trait, is a good use of 1CP. A

Deathwatch Watch Captain
Deathwatch Primaris Watch Captain. Credit: Corrode

Strategic Ploys

  • Stem the Green Tide – 2CP – Use in the Charge phase after an enemy ORK unit has declared a charge against one or more DEATHWATCH units from your army. The DEATHWATCH units they targeted for the charge can fire Overwatch, and if you destroy any models from the ORK unit they get -2 to their charge. Can be particularly strong against units attempting to Tellyporta or Da Jump into your lines, as these are suddenly facing a much more difficult 10″ or 11″ charge – tough even with the powerful re-rolls available to Orks. B+
  • Priority Doctrine Adoption – 1CP Use in the Command phase; one DEATHWATCH unit from your army can pick a different doctrine than the current one to be active (e.g. if your army is in Tactical, you could choose Devastator). It’s nice to have even more flexibility with doctrines, though the lack of any particularly turbo-charged one for Deatwatch means you’re basically just getting more AP, and into a lot of armies with invulnerable saves proliferating that simply doesn’t matter. B
  • Targeting Scramblers – 1CP – Use in your opponent’s Shooting phase; after a T’AU EMPIRE unit has resolved its shooting attacks against a DEATHWATCH unit from your army. Remove all markerlight counters from that unit. Nice to waste a T’au player’s time and effort and reduce the impact of their shooting, mitigated somewhat by T’au just not being that good. Worth using when it’s relevant though. B
  • Overkill – 1CP – Use in your Shooting or the Fight phase, after making attacks with a DEATHWATCH unit against a NECRONS unit; your opponent subtracts 1 from Reanimation Protocols rolls made for that NECRONS unit as a result of those attacks. Decent for reducing how many Necrons can spring back up again. B
  • Brotherhood of Veterans – 2CP – Use in your Command phase; select one DEATHWATCH unit from your army and that unit can pick one Chapter Tactic or Successor Tactic from Codex: Space Marines instead of Xenos Hunters. Potentially very powerful, and offers tons of flexibility; just be aware that for some chapters their power isn’t in the tactic. Picking up +1 to wound in melee or Advance and charge are potentially worthwhile uses though, or being able to Fall Back and shoot. A
  • Disruptive Launch – 1CP – Use in the Movement phase when a DEATHWATCH JUMP PACK, INDOMITOR KILL TEAM with an Inceptor, or PROTEUS KILL TEAM with a Vanguard Veteran with jump pack unit Falls Back. That unit can still shoot. A replication of the old always-on ability to do this. B
  • Teleportarium – 1CP – Use during deployment (at Step 10, per the most recent FAQ) – one DEATHWATCH INFANTRY, DREADNOUGHT, or BIKER unit gain the Teleport Strike ability from Codex: Space Marines (i.e. deep strike). Use once in Combat Patrol/Incursion, twice in Strike Force, or three times in Onslaught games. Some powerful flexibility, opening up deep striking to units that can’t normally access it. B
  • Relentless Assault – 1CP – Use in the Movement phase when a DEATHWATCH BIKER, or KILL TEAM unit with a Veteran Biker or Outrider, Falls Back. That unit can Fall Back and charge this turn. Great just for refreshing Shock Assault, but also just a flexible ability in general, allowing you to peace out of a tough combat and into a weaker one, or open up a tough enemy unit to your army’s shooting before diving back in. B


  • Shroud Field – 2CP – Use at the start of the first battle round. Until the end of the battle round one CORVUS BLACKSTAR unit from your army cannot be selected as a target for a ranged attack unless it is the closest eligible target to the firing model. In theory this is pretty great, allowing you to protect a key transport and its contents from an opening volley that might disable them; it’s tempered by Blackstars still being quite crap, unfortunately. C
  • Clavis – 1CP – Use at the start of the Fight phase. One enemy VEHICLE unit within 1″ of a WATCH MASTER unit suffers d3 mortal wounds and is not eligible to fight. Great for bashing up a Dreadnought, or throwing the finishing blow on an enemy vehicle clinging on to life, and not having to give up attacks to do so. B
  • Special Issue Loadout – 2CP – Use in your Shooting phase when a DEATHWATCH INFANTRY unit is selected to shoot. Until the end of the phase, bolt weapons (except bolt sniper rifles for Eliminators) other than those that already have it gain Special-Issue Ammunition and change their Type to Heavy 1. Nice for getting to make a bit more use of the Special-Issue Ammunition rule, but quite expensive and limiting as it reduces your shot count and imposes a potential movement penalty as well. B

Warlord Traits

Deathwatch get their own table of Warlord traits, as below:

  1. Vigilance Incarnate – In your Command phase, pick one DEATHWATCH CORE unit within 6.” You can pick one Battlefield Role and that unit can re-roll wound rolls of 1 against that role. Yet more flexibility around your central gimmick, and not a bad thing to have in the back pocket. B
  2. Paragon of Their Chapter – Your Warlord can use one of the other Chapter Warlord traits found in Codex: Space Marines (e.g. Deadly Hunter or Merciless Butcher). There’s a couple of interesting options available, but the best traits mostly aren’t in the base Marine codex – though don’t miss Adept of the Codex for some command point regeneration. Note also that the rule requires you to use the trait of a particular Chapter if your model has that symbol (e.g. if you put an Ultramarines chapter symbol on your Warlord’s shoulder pad,  you are required to pick Adept of the Codex). If there’s something on the list that really excites, and you remembered to magnetise your pad, this is a decent pick. B
  3. Nowhere to Hide (Aura) – In your Command phase, you can select one enemy unit on the battlefield. Until the start of your next Command phase, DEATHWATCH CORE units within 6″ can ignore the benefit of cover for saving throws. A reasonably useful ability that pairs nicely with your ability to dip into the appropriate doctrine to maximise your weapons’ AP. B
  4. Optimised Priority (Aura) – DEATHWATCH CORE or CHARACTERS within 6″ can make ranged attacks while performing actions without that action failing. Another decent trait that helps give your units a little more flexibility, though it’s unlikely that you’re going to have so many units doing actions within 6″ of the Warlord that an aura matters. B
  5. Castellan of the Black Vault – You can give the Warlord the Adamantine Mantle, Artificer Armour, Master-crafted Weapon, or Digital Weapons relics on top of another Relic (remembering that all Relics must be unique). A great option for adding a little extra punch to a Warlord, or giving them a cheap defensive upgrade. B
  6. The Ties That Bind (Aura) – DEATHWATCH CORE units within 6″ can re-roll Morale tests, and in your Command phase you can pick one DEATHWATCH CORE unit within 6″ and give them Objective Secured, or if they already have that ability they count double. A fine ability for making the most of your obsec units, or giving the ability to another unit (e.g. some Vanguard Veterans) which is intended to rocket off and flip an objective. B

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Psychic Powers

In line with other Chapters, the Deathwatch have their own psychic discipline. Regular Librarians can pick from this or the Librarius or Obscuration disciplines (depending on what type of Librarian they are), while Codicier Natorian must pick from this list.

  1. Premorphic Resonance (Blessing) – WC6 – One DEATHWATCH unit within 18″ Overwatches on a 5+, fights first in the Fight phase, and gets +1 to hit in melee. A good power, giving you a lot of different pieces all at once to improve a unit’s prospects in melee. B+
  2. Fortified with Contempt (Blessing) – WC6 – Pick one DEATHWATCH INFANTRY or DEATHWATCH BIKER unit within 18″; until the start of your next Psychic phase they get a 5+ to ignore wounds. A strong, cheap defensive ability. B+
  3. Neural Void (Malediction) – WC7 – Pick one enemy unit within 18″; until the start of your next Psychic phase models in that unit have -1 Attacks and can only charge the closest target. Fine but with you’ll likely have minimal throwaway units you’d want to redirect enemy units into, and they can always just move around. B
  4. Psychic Cleanse (Witchfire) – WC6 – Roll 1D6 for each enemy model within 9″ of the psyker; on a 6 that model’s unit takes 1 mortal wound. Actually not bad for a Smite-alike if you get to cast it into a big blob of Boyz or something, but just not going to be relevant or better than Smiting most of the time. C
  5. Mantle of Shadow (Blessing) – WC6 –  Pick one DEATHWATCH INFANTRY unit within 12″; until the start of your next Psychic phase that unit cannot be targeted with ranged attacks unless it shoots, fights, or is the closest eligible unit or the enemy is within 12″. An ok power but there’s quite a lot of conditions there; it probably needs more commitment to be useful than you’re going to want to give it. C
  6. Severance (Malediction) – WC7 – Pick one enemy CHARACTER within 18″; that unit takes 1 mortal wound, and its aura abilities are reduced by 3″ in range – or turn off completely if the result of the psychic test was higher than the character’s Leadership. Turning off auras is a decent effect and this also drops a mortal wound; possibly best in the Space Marine mirror match where it will automatically turn off an unbuffed Apothecary completely. B+


Relics are a strong section for Deathwatch, with a number of interesting options, and course you can access the full suite of base Codex and Chapter Command ones as well. Unlike the other Codex Supplements, these aren’t divided into “Relics” and “Special-Issue Wargear” sections, as Deathwatch don’t have successors and therefore have no reason to worry about categorisation.

  • The Beacon Angelis. Once per battle, if the bearer did not arrive as Reinforcements this turn, it can activate the Beacon Angelis. In the Reinforcements step, one friendly DEATHWATCH INFANTRY or DEATHWATCH BIKER which is either on the battlefield (and didn’t arrive as Reinforcements this turn), or is in a teleportarium or Strat Reserves, can be set up on the table within 6″ of the bearer and more than 9″ from enemy units. This doesn’t include any kind of rider allowing you to use it on turn 1 for Reinforcements units, so its main use is either to bring in a unit from Strategic Reserves with greater flexibility on positioning, or to use it on turn 1 to redeploy a unit that’s already on the table to catch up with the bearer – a turbo-boosting Chaplain on bike is a good bearer, for example. A
  • Dominus Aegis. Replaces a storm shield, relic shield, or combat shield, gives the bearer +1 to armour saves, and gives a 6″ aura granting DEATHWATCH CORE and DEATHAWTCH CHARACTER units a 5+ invulnerable save. An exceptional relic for increasing the durability of your expensive Space Marines, and particularly fantastic handing out an invulnerable save to your Redemptor Dreadnoughts, a real unique strength for Deathwatch. A
  • Osseus Key. WATCH MASTER only; the bearer gets an aura which makes enemy VEHICLE units within 12″ -1 to hit with their attacks, and also makes them -1 Attack. Quite narrowly focused, but has potential against other Space Marines relying on Redemptor Dreadnoughts, or Adeptus Mechancis utilising Dragoon blobs. B
  • The Thief of Secrets. A power sword (and allied trades) replacement, giving S+1, AP-4, D1. It ignores invulnerable saves, which is a nice combination with the high AP, and against the various XENOS keywords it’s damage 2 instead. Cute, but not super reliable against non-Xenos factions where its low damage counts against it, and there’s better relics here that do more for your army as a whole. C+
  • The Tome of Ectoclades. Once per battle in the Command phase, you can use the Tome – pick one datasheet from your opponent’s army, and until the start of your next Command phase the bearer gets an aura allowing DEATHWATCH CORE units within 6″ to re-roll wound rolls against that datasheet. An absolutely exceptional relic if there’s a key unit in your opponent’s army which is either a linchpin you really need to take out, or which is being spammed in large numbers – Ironstrider Ballistarii and Drukhari Raiders are both great examples in the June 2021 metagame. A
  • Adamantine Mantle. Lets a model ignore wounds on a 5+. A solid boost in durability for a character, and best on characters who don’t benefit from taking artificer armour. B
  • Artificer Armour. Gives the model a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save. Fantastic for models with power armour saves who need the durability boost, i.e. bike and jump pack characters, especially those that don’t already have an Iron Halo. Storm shield characters can get down to an effective 1+ save by taking advantage of this. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon. Increases the damage characteristic of a non-relic weapon by 1. There are very few cases where this isn’t useful and it’s going to be most useful on the characters you want to take down bigger targets, especially since you can pick it up for “free” with Castellan of the Black Vault. Also the best pick for a squad Sergeant who wants a boost – mastercrafting a thunder hammer or lightning claw on a squad of Vanguard Veterans is potentially very spicy.
  • Digital Weapons. The model gets to make an extra attack every time it fights using the generic close combat weapon profile and if that attack hits, the enemy takes a mortal wound on top of the other damage. Probably not the best use of a relic. C
  • Banebolts of Eryxia. Pick one of the character’s bolt weapons; when you fire that weapon you can fire the Banebolts instead of its normal ammo. It only makes one attack, but that attack is S6 AP-2 damage 3. As these bolt things go that’s fine, but you can do better in this list. B-
  • The Blackweave Shroud. +1 Toughness, ignore mortal wounds on a 4+. Again, fine but you can do better. C+
  • Spear of the First Vigil. Replaces a vigil spear with a version which is Rapid Fire 2 on the shooting profile and S+2 and flat damage 3 on the melee profile. As a combination of weapons that beef up a Watch Master’s output considerably this is perfectly fine, but whether it does enough to make a footslogging melee character something appealing for your army is an open question. B
  • The Soul Fortress. LIBRARIAN only; ignore modifiers to Psychic tests and increase the Psychic Hood ability to 24″. There’s just kind of not that many psychic modifiers in the game anyway. B
  • Vhorkhan-Pattern Auspicator. DEATHWATCH CORE within 6″ get +1 to hit with ranged attacks against enemy models with FLY. How good this is depends entirely on what the meta looks like; if ground-pounding Guard tank lists are the hotness then it does very little. In a meta full of Drukhari Raiders, though, with Harlequins in Starweavers being a strong choice too, it’s very spicy. B for situationalness, but definitely worth keeping in your back pocket.
  • Artificer Bolt Cache. The bearer’s bolt weapons get Special-Issue Ammunition. Fine, but a single model getting this probably just doesn’t change anything enough to matter. C
  • Eye of Abiding. The bearer can ignore any and all modifiers to hit and wound rolls, Ballistic Skill, or Weapon Skill. Additionally, unmodified wound rolls of a 6 by the bearer ignore invulnerable saves. There’s some potential here to make use of the “classic” smash Captain since you can ignore the modifier to hit, if that’s something you’re interested in.  B

Deathwatch Kill Team
Deathwatch Kill Team. Credit: Charlie Brassley

Chapter Approved – Secondary Objectives

Deathwatch have access to four unique secondary objectives, one in each of Purge the Enemy, Battlefield Supremacy, Shadow Operations, and No Mercy, No Respite. The objectives are:

  • The Long Vigil – Battlefield Supremacy – Score 5VP at the start of your Command phase if there are no non-AIRCRAFT enemy units within 6″ of your deployment zone, and there is at least one non-AIRCRAFT DEATHWATCH unit wholly within your deployment zone. You cannot score this in the first battle round.
  • Cull Order – Purge the Enemy – After both sides have finished deploying, both players (starting with your opponent) alternate picking Battlefield Roles from your opponent’s army until three different ones have been picked. If your opponent doesn’t have three Battlefield Roles, then you pick as many as possible. You score 5VP at the end of the battle if you have destroyed all the enemy units for each Battlefield Role selected.
  • Cripple Stronghold – Shadow Operations – After both sides have finished deploying, your opponent picks one objective marker to be their “Stronghold” – if any objectives are wholly within their deployment zone this must be their Stronghold marker. Your DEATHWATCH INFANTRY units can attempt the Cripple Stronghold action if they are in range of the Stronghold objective marker and no enemy non-AIRCRAFT units are; it completes at the start of your next Command phase as long as the unit is still within range. Score 6pts each time a unit successfully completes this action.
  • Suffer Not the Alien – No Mercy, No Respite – Score 1VP at the end of the battle for each enemy unit your DEATHWATCH units destroyed with the TYRANIDS, AELDARI, ORK, NECRONS, or T’AU EMPIRE keywords.

This is something of a mixed bag of objectives. Cripple Stronghold is probably the weakest; maxing it is a strong win-more since it would rely on you getting to perform an action on an objective your opponent picked (which on the majority of maps will be their home one) 3 times, and if you can get away with that you probably don’t need to be overly fussed about where your points are coming from. Just getting it off once for 6pts doesn’t compare favourably with Retrieve Octarius Data or Raise the Banners in terms of difficulty/reward, and the medium reward of 12pts is still potentially too far towards the side of “you won this game anyway” and possibly no better than having a broader strategy around Banners.

Suffer Not the Alien looks very much like free points, but it’s in a tough category competing against Oaths of Moment from the base codex, and of course is useless against Imperium or Chaos armies. Additionally, a lot of armies simply won’t have 15 units to maximise the points here, and if they’re down in the 10-12 range you’re riding the line of needing to table them to score a fairly average return. If you roll into an opposing xenos army with a ton of very killable units (T’au with lots of small Drone units are striking here), then it’s worth a look, but be wary of punting on it against an opponent with a list it isn’t suited for.

Cull Order is an interesting one; due to the ordering your opponent picks 2 roles and you only pick 1, so you’re taking some amount of risk just in the distribution – a smart opponent can set you a very high bar if their list is built appropriately. Most likely it’s going to end up being way too difficult compared to its value; it’s possible for them to pick, say, all HQs and then hide one away, or all Troops while pushing hundreds of models of garbage at you, and a bit like Suffer Not the Alien essentially set the win condition to “table me.”

Finally we have The Long Vigil, which can be excellent in the right circumstances; if you have an opponent without much get up and go to get across the board and threaten your scoring, you can potentially max this out trivially and even 2 successful turns – which is pretty straightforward to score – is a respectable 10pt reward. The main thing to bear in mind here though is the category, as it competes with Engage on All Fronts, which with the flexibility Deathwatch have to ping things all over the board may work out better overall unless you can expect to trivially max this out.


Much of the uniqueness in Deathwatch units is covered in the Kill Teams section above, but there are a few other choices in here which are in datasheet form.


Watch Master

Deathwatch aren’t a traditional Chapter and so they don’t have Chapter Masters; instead each Watch Fortress has a Watch Master, which is basically equivalent, with the same abilities renamed i.e. Watch Master instead of Chapter Master. There are no Primaris Watch Masters, since GW doesn’t sell those. In datasheet terms this means you get a model with a regular Captain statline except for having 6 wounds, and also a 2+ armour save, which is pretty cool. The main thing you lose out on is any weapon options; instead the Master has a vigil spear, a combo of an AP-1 D2 boltgun with Special Issue Ammunition, and a S+1 AP-3 damage d3 melee weapon.

Overall the package here is Fine; it compares ok to a Chapter Master from another army, and you get a good weapon built-in. The main strike against is that he’s slogging around on foot, and still only has 4 attacks, which is fairly paltry.

Watch Captain Artemis

Artemis makes his return in 9th edition form, with the same Captain statline as before, and his upgraded combi-weapon – a boltgun with SIA and the Hellfire Extremis profile which is a flamer which always wounds non-VEHICLE/TITANIC models on a 2+. He also has a master-crafted power sword and his stasis grenade, which now doesn’t randomly murder him, and instead gives you a once per game Grenade which does d6 mortal wounds on a hit. He also gets to ignore wounds on a 6. Completely fine and completely unexciting; if you love his model then go ahead and run him, but you can do better with generic characters.

Chaplain Cassius

Making a cameo appearance from the Ultramarines codex is Chaplain Cassius, here thanks to the Kill Team Overdrive box (or whatever it was called) and the self-titled Kill Team Cassius. He gets a Deathwatch bolt pistol instead of a regular one, a slightly fancier crozius, Fiery Conviction which gives him +1 to litany rolls without being a Master of Sanctity/Wise Orator, and really nothing else special except for a designer’s note which says you kind of shouldn’t use him with Primaris models for fluff reasons. That’s fine, because you’re not gonna use him at all.

Codicier Natorian

Accompanying Cassius is his pet Blood Ravens Librarian, Codicier Natorian, who gets the same Deathwatch bolt pistol and an AP4 force sword, which is cute. He can also get +1 to cast for Smite or Witchfire psychic powers, and knows two powers from Xenopurge. Again fine, but not thrilling – nobody cares about the melee output of a Librarian.

Deathwatch Terminators
Deathwatch Terminators by Craig “MasterSlowPoke” Sniffen


Kill Teams

We discussed the mechanics for building Kill Teams earlier on, but what can you actually do with them?

Quite a few things. In general, Kill Teams give you angles to pull off the following:

  • Create large, tough to shift units. Taking either storm shield Veterans or Heavy Intercessors also lets you protect higher quality models behind relatively cost-effective durable bodies.
  • Make models troops that otherwise wouldn’t be. Kill Teams are all Troops, but they can still use Combat Squads. This means you can take five of the default troop model and five of something else, then split up pre-deployment and hey presto, you have a squad of specialist models that still has ObSec. This is especially relevant with the recent clarification on when Combat Squads happens pre-game, as you can now choose to put one half of the unit into deep strike with a Teleportarium.
  • Wallhacking bikers. Either four Bikes and a Vanguard Veteran in a Proteus squad or four Outriders and an Intercessor in a Fortis team gives you bikers that have ObSec and can drive straight through ruin walls.
  • Crank up those rookie numbers. Kill Teams let you bypass the three model cap that normally exists for Eliminators and Outriders.

There’s a truly outrageous number of things you can do with these, but here are some of the big ones:

  • Proteus: 5 Veterans (any equipment), 4 Bikers, 1 Vanguard Veteran with jump pack. This unit combat squads into a generically useful infantry unit and a very powerful positional piece. Bikers are tough for their price tag, and taking them alongside a VanVet lets them ride through walls without having to sacrifice much speed, all while ObSec. The second half of this unit can be tooled either to be cheap and cheerful, or to plug a gap in your roster.
  • Proteus: 5 Veterans, 5 Vanguard Veterans with jump pack. Vanguard Veterans with ObSec are good, actually.
  • Fortis: 5 Intercessors, 5 Assault Hellblasters. Assault Hellblasters are very nearly good on rate, but their fragility is killer. This build lets you bypass that by putting five brave Intercessors in between them and death.
  • Fortis: 6 Intercessors, 4 Outriders. Four bikes and a single Intercessor turns on wallhacking and gives you a unit that can stretch out to control a massive amount of space.
  • Indomitor: 5 Heavy Intercessors, 5 murder machines to taste. Heavy Intercessors are pretty durable, and can be made more so by palling around with the Dominus Aegis and/or Fortified with Contempt. This makes them great protection for your choice of Aggressors, Inceptors or Eradicators, and there’s enough flexibility in the types of weaponry here that you’ve got plenty of options to make a swiss army knife centrepiece for your army.
  • Spectrus: 5 Infiltrators, 1 Infiltrator with Helix Gauntlet, 4 Eliminators. Eliminators are already a pain to shift if they can lurk in cover, and adding a model that packs a Helix Gauntlet and an anti-deep strike bubble to a unit of four of them makes them a great holder for home objectives that can also do real damage. With the recent price cut to Eliminators, expect the stock of this build to go up considerably

Deathwatch Veterans

The bread and butter Deathwatch unit, consisting of a Watch Sergeant, 4-9 Veterans, and 0-1 Black Shields (max unit size 10). Realistically you’re never taking these because if you want them you’re just going to take the exact same thing but in a Proteus Kill Team instead, but it’s worth talking here about what the Veterans actually bring to the table. The key thing is options – they get Deathwatch boltguns by default, with Special Issue Ammunition, but they can pick a wide variety of kit from the Deathwatch Equipment List including basically any special weapon, Deathwatch versions of combi-weapons, and pretty much any melee weapon available to Space Marines. Alternatively they can pick up stalker-pattern boltguns, a Heavy boltgun with more range and AP-2/damage 2, or Deathwatch shotguns which can pump out 3 different kinds of special ammo of their own – either Cryptclearer rounds to bust up hordes, Wyrmsbreath which is an 8″ flamer, or Xenopurge with 12″ range, AP-1, and damage 2. It’s a potent combination especially if you’re deep striking in the Veterans, as we’ll see with a list later in the article.

Finally there’s also the two unique Deathwatch heavy weapons, the frag cannon and the Infernus heavy bolter. The former has either a frag profile with 2d3 shots at S6 AP-1 with Blast, or a shell profile with 2 shots at S7 AP-2 D2. The Infernus heavy bolter is just a combination of a regular heavy bolter and a heavy flamer. Up to 4 Veterans can take one of these, and while they’re reasonably potent they’re also 10pts per, on a squad you’re going to want to keep relatively cheap. The solo Black Shield is in effect a Veteran with no Chapter, and to represent this gains a ferocious fighting style, with 3 base attacks (4 if you give him a second melee weapon) and a power sword, which can go up to 4. For 25pts they’re completely fine to throw in with a unit to allow it to use Heroic Intervention in a pinch, but you can also just keep it cheap and use a regular Veteran if that’s not necessary.

Kill Team Cassius

A Chapter so special it has a special character Troops unit. They auto-pass Morale, which is fine, but really if you’re running this you’re doing it because you’ve gone all in on the Kill Team Cassius thing as a Bit and you don’t care if I say it’s bad or not, and it is.


Deathwatch Terminator Squad

If you’re reading this I’m going to assume you know what a Terminator is. These are those but you can take a mixed unit of gun guys and hammer/shield or claw guys, and up to 3 models in the unit can take an assault cannon/heavy flamer/cyclone missile launcher. That isn’t nothing – there’s surely at least the germ of something in a unit of 5 guys with 3 CMLs and two bodyguarding hammer/shield Terminators – but you’re more likely to see Deathwatch Terminators in Kill Teams, if at all.

Fast Attack

Veteran Bikers

A Bike Squad, but they can take the Deathwatch weapon options (shotgun/stalker-pattern boltgun/or up to 2 Deathwatch Equipment List guns). You can also give them other melee weapons, if you want to roll with a shotty and a power axe or something. Again, this is a datasheet that mostly just serves to list the options your guys in Proteus Kill Teams can have. We’ll see how that works out a little later.


Corvus Blackstar

The Corvus Blackstar is the unique Deathwatch plane/transport, and it looks extremely cool and is extremely mediocre. Flyers have had a rough run of it in 9th edition in general, and the Corvus wasn’t good to begin with. It’s reasonably cheap and comes equipped with 2 blackstar rocket launchers – Heavy 2D3 at S5 AP-1 D1 and Blast – and a twin assault cannon; it can swap the launchers for 2 stormstrike missile launchers i.e. 2 total shots at S8 AP-3 damage 3, and the assault cannon for a twin lascannon. It can also buy a hurricane bolter, and has some cute upgrades in the form of either an auspex array (ignore the benefit of cover) or infernum halo-launcher (+1 to save for the Corvus against attacks by enemy AIRCRAFT). It can also drop bombs with a Blackstar cluster launcher, which is pretty paltry with 1 mortal wound per roll of a 6, and has a transport capacity of 12 DEATHWATCH INFANTRY or DEATHWATCH BIKER models (bikes take up 3 slots and jump packs and Terminators take up 2, no PRIMARIS allowed).

It’s all just kind of Fine, but at 180pts you don’t really get enough here to make them worthwhile – you’re not lacking for options to get your Deathwatch guys around the table, and especially not a relatively fragile transport plane with mediocre shooting.

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Playing Deathwatch

The Deathwatch have a flexible offering, with a lot of different parts combining to make a whole. Like with any Space Marine supplement, what you’re looking for here is what it does uniquely well. The first and most obvious thing is the anti-xenos stuff in here; if xenos are riding high in the meta, then the Deathwatch are always worth a look to see if they offer a unique counter.

Beyond that, there’s a few key pieces in here which offer something you just can’t get anywhere else. The relics definitely offer something here, with the Dominus Aegis and Tome of Ectoclades standing out – a 5+ invulnerable saves aura isn’t unique, since all Marines can access the Psychic Fortress power, but it obviates the need to rely on a casting roll, or to worry about a key unit getting popped if you go second, or to bring a Librarian at all, depending on your list. The Tome is only a once per game effect, but re-roll wounds is very powerful and is rarely given out; here it’s a 6″ aura that affects all CORE units, which are probably what you’re building around. That offers a significant boost in damage output against a key unit or units.

Kill Teams offer unrivalled capabilities when it comes to getting exactly the combo you want on the table, for both Primaris and Firstborn Marines. On the Primaris side, you can build a very tough Indomitor Kill Team – a block of 30 T5 wounds with a 3+ armour save, 5+ invulnerable save, and 5+ to ignore wounds from Fortified with Contempt is a lot to get rid of, especially with an Apothecary backing them up, and they can also pop Transhuman Physiology if you do run into one of the things that is likely to be able to put some real hurt on them. Meanwhile, Firstborn offer a ton of flexibility in weapon choices, including some guns unique to the Deathwatch; John Lennon’s list below shows off an effective combo using the Deathwatch shotguns. Both Proteus and Fortis Kill Teams can also take advantage of quasi-INFANTRY Bikers, particularly the Proteus teams which can pair 4 Veteran Bikers with a Vanguard Veteran to allow them to combat squad and still retain their ability to bust through walls.

All this combines to an adaptable playstyle, with a tough to kill core pushing into the mid-board while the flanking units seize objectives or harry the opponent into the open. We’ll explore this more in the list discussion, with two fantastic recent examples of how to get the best from the book.


John Lennon – Onslaught GT – 1st Place

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The List

Army List - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Deathwatch) [116 PL, 1999pts, 6CP] ++

+ Configuration +

Chapter Selection: Deathwatch

+ Stratagems +

Relics of the Chapter [-2CP]: 2x Number of Extra Relics

+ HQ +

Lieutenants [4 PL, 75pts]
. Lieutenant in Reiver Armour: Vhorkan-Pattern Auspicator

Primaris Captain [5 PL, 105pts, -1CP]: 3. Nowhere to Hide (Aura), Dominus Aegis, Rites of War, Stratagem: A Vigil Unmatched, Warlord
. Heavy bolt pistol, Master-crafted power sword and Relic shield: Master-crafted power sword, Relic Shield

Primaris Techmarine [5 PL, 100pts, -1CP]: Chapter Command: Master of the Forge, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter, The Tome of Ectoclades
. 2. Paragon of their Chapter: Dark Angels: Brilliant Strategist

+ Troops +

Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts]
. 4x Incursor: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Occulus bolt carbine, 4x Paired combat blades
. Incursor Sergeant

Proteus Kill Team [18 PL, 254pts]: Jump Packs
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Watch Sergeant: Combat shield, Deathwatch Shotgun

Proteus Kill Team [18 PL, 254pts]: Jump Packs
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Watch Sergeant: Combat shield, Deathwatch Shotgun

Proteus Kill Team [18 PL, 251pts]: Jump Packs
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Deathwatch Veteran: Deathwatch Shotgun
. Vanguard Veteran: Chainsword, Storm shield
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Veteran Biker: Astartes Chainsword
. Watch Sergeant: Combat shield, Deathwatch Shotgun

+ Elites +

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus Rocket Pod, Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus Rocket Pod, Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus Rocket Pod, Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon

Relic Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, 150pts, -1CP]: 2x Twin volkite culverin

Relic Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, 150pts, -1CP]: 2x Twin volkite culverin

++ Total: [116 PL, 6CP, 1999pts] ++

The Standout Features

  • Drukhari Destroying Deathwatch Dreadnought Detachment.
  • Extreme buff stacking allows the dreads to hose almost anything else off the board as well.
  • VanVet/biker kill team halves provide efficient, mobile bundles of wounds to shield off the dread bubble.

Why it’s Interesting in 9th

Apparently John Lennon’s new bit is taking unloved Space Marine chapters and building the most nightmarish Drukhari-slaying concoctions possible out of them, and frankly all power to him for that.

Today’s build takes one of Deathwatch’s definite strengths, namely buffing Redemptor Dreadnoughts, and turns it right up to eleven. You’ve got your standard Dominus Aegis to give them a 5++, and the expected Tome of the Ectoclades to give them one turn of absolutely evaporating something off the board (along with the VolCons, who also benefit hugely from this relic) but the extra anti-Drukhari spice here is the addition of the Vhorkan-Pattern Auspicator, which is an aura of +1 to hit against units with FLY. This list has very clear thoughts on the subject of Raiders and that opinion is “no”.

The nice thing, of course, is that stacking all these buffs plus the flexibility of some other tools mean that it isn’t just Raiders this setup can eradicate. Nowhere to Hide should be about to shoot up in value, because stripping Light Cover off AdMech targets that have applied it with Firepoint Telemetry Cache is going to be hugely useful. That, plus the ability to fire high-AP Blast shots from the Plasma Incinerator, feels like it gives this list a much better shot at pivoting to clear out the new potential metagame threat (even if it hasn’t shown up in force yet) than John’s previous Ultramarine build, and that’s plausibly a driver behind the switch in chapters (assuming it isn’t just showing off at this point). The Dread firebase is rounded out by the presence of a Master of the Forge Techmarine, ensuring that any chip damage that does creep through the Aegis is swiftly dealt with.

It’s a powerful ranged setup, and has some melee punch for the lategame too, but until then the board needs to be contested, and that’s where Proteus Kill Teams sporting the most efficient mobile setup come in. Four Bikers and a storm shield VanVet provide fast, relatively durable units that get all the upsides of both being INFANTRY Troops and having the defensive profile and speed of bikers. It’s definitely one of the best ways to draw value out of these units, and I’m a big fan. The other halves of these teams are kept pretty bare bones, just sporting veterans with shotguns and a single combat shield on the sergeant, but the rise of ROD as a secondary choice means you want a few more small squads you can use to split up and tick off board quarters, and thanks to the clarification of when Combat Squads happen you can now also chuck them into Teleportariums without the other half of the unit having to come too, allowing you to bring them in wherever needed, and get some real value out of the surprisingly nasty shotguns to boot.

That pretty much rounds things out here, and completes a spicy overall recipe. Excellent ranged damage, mobile, flexible units for early positional play, and powerful set of tools for adapting to any situation – what’s not to like? Congratulations to John for another event win.

DeathwatchSH – East China Open – 2nd Place

The List

Army List - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Deathwatch) [106 PL, 2,000pts, 6CP] ++
+ Stratagems +
Relics of the Chapter [-2CP]: 2x Number of Extra Relics

+ No Force Org Slot +
Company Veterans [3 PL, 40pts]
. Company Veteran: Astartes Chainsword, Boltgun
. Company Veteran Sergeant: Astartes Chainsword, Boltgun

+ HQ +
Captain on Bike [6 PL, 110pts, -1CP]: 3. Nowhere to Hide (Aura), Astartes Chainsword, Dominus Aegis, Storm shield, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter

Librarian [6 PL, 115pts]: 1. Premorphic Resonance, 2. Fortified With Contempt, Boltgun, Force stave, Jump Pack

Primaris Chaplain on Bike [7 PL, 140pts, -1CP]: 2. Catechism of Fire, 5. Recitation of Focus, Chapter Command: Master of Sanctity, Litany of Hate, Stratagem: A Vigil Unmatched, The Beacon Angelis, Warlord, Wise Orator
. 2. Paragon of their Chapter: Ultramarines: Adept of the Codex

+ Troops +
Fortis Kill Team [18 PL, 300pts]: Malleus
. 5x Hellblaster w/ Assault plasma incinerator: 5x Assault Plasma Incinerator, 5x Bolt pistol, 5x Frag & Krak grenades
. Intercessor Sergeant: Astartes Chainsword, Auto Bolt Rifle
. Intercessor w/ Astartes Grenade Launcher: Astartes grenade launcher, Auto Bolt Rifle
. 3x Intercessor w/ Auto Bolt Rifle: 3x Auto Bolt Rifle, 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Frag & Krak grenades

Fortis Kill Team [15 PL, 320pts]
. Intercessor Sergeant: Astartes Chainsword, Auto Bolt Rifle
. 5x Intercessor w/ Auto Bolt Rifle: 5x Auto Bolt Rifle, 5x Bolt pistol, 5x Frag & Krak grenades
. 4x Outrider: 4x Astartes Chainsword, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 4x Twin Bolt rifle

Indomitor Kill Team [20 PL, 390pts]: Dominatus
. 3x Aggressor w/ Flamestorm Gauntlets: 6x Flamestorm Gauntlets
. Heavy Intercessor Sergeant: Hellstorm Bolt Rifle
. 4x Heavy Intercessor w/ Hellstorm Bolt Rifle: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Hellstorm Bolt Rifle
. 2x Inceptor w/ Plasma Exterminators: 2x 2x Plasma Exterminators

+ Elites +
Apothecary [5 PL, 90pts, -1CP]: Chapter Command: Chief Apothecary, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter, The Tome of Ectoclades

Relic Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, 150pts, -1CP]: 2x Twin volkite culverin

Servitors [2 PL, 30pts]: 4x Servo-arm

Servitors [2 PL, 30pts]: 4x Servo-arm

Vanguard Veteran Squad [14 PL, 285pts]: Jump Pack
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Lightning Claw, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran: Astartes Chainsword, Storm shield
. Vanguard Veteran Sergeant: Heavy thunder hammer

++ Total: [106 PL, 6CP, 2,000pts] ++

The Standout Features

  • Primaris Kill Teams provide powerful all-rounders and challenging To the Last targets.
  • VanVets and utility units ensure the board can be covered while the heavy units soak up the pain.

Why it’s Interesting in 9th

While many deathwatch lists make use of Proteus Kill Teams, DeathwatchSH is a big proponent of the value of the Primaris options, and navigated this build to a great finish at the East China Open.

Compared to the Proteus equivalents, there are several high value things that Primaris teams give you access to:

  • Assault Hellblasters in Fortis teams let you concentrate a much higher volume of flexible high value shots into a single unit than you can trivially get access to in Proteus builds. This is on show here in the Fortis Kill team, which cranks the value even higher by running as Malleus. Thanks to having the Tome of the Ectoclades as well, this list has multiple ways to get full wound re-rolls onto the plasma here, which will let them do spectacular damage to key targets.
  • Indomitor teams give you huge buckets of T5 wounds to protect the good stuff you can bundle into them. Opponents having to chew through five Heavy Intercessors, with Fortified with Contempt and the Dominus Aegis in place, before they can shut down Aggressors/Inceptors/Eradicators is a very big deal. The Indomitor team goes for a flexible damage-dealing setup, and specialises in going toe to toe with enemy elites via the Dominatus option, helping them tackle whatever needs to die.
  • Outriders have gigantic bases, letting you do lots of cunning movement shenanigans when you run four of them with an Intercessor hype man for wallhacking.

There’s stuff you can do with Spectrus teams as well (mostly involving stacking more Eliminators than should really be allowed in a single unit, but this list can’t quite fit those in – the only drawback of Primaris options is that they aren’t cheap. On some level that does turn around and become a benefit, mind – in this list, the three big kill teams are your To the Last targets, meaning your opponent has to tackle your crunchiest units head on if they want to deny you points. Since they’ll be digging through relatively expendable Intercessors and Heavy Intercessors before getting to the really good stuff, that provides plenty of time for the Deathwatch’s killing power to win out.

This list wants to dominate the table with the big Indomitor team and the Hellblaster Fortis team, but they can’t be everywhere at once, even with the bikes from the other Fortis team doing mischief. To help with that, a full VanVet brick (sized to let it split with Combat Squads if needed) provides some speedy melee flexibility, and a scattering of Servitors and Company Veterans take care of objective play. A Volkite Contemptor rounds things out, providing yet more flexible killing power to an already very adaptable list.

The main challenge with this build right now is that it needs to find a few extra points – it took a reasonable knock in the recent FAQ, needing to find 50pts to pay for increased costs on the VanVets, Chief Apothecary and Inceptors. Absent anything else, it could cut a Servitor squad and swap an Inceptor for another Aggressor to claw them back. That avoids taking out too many of the things that make it so ferocious to face, and the result is still a very different and very nasty build.

Where to Read More

This article is of course paired with the main Start Competing: Space Marines where you can find coverage of the core book, or check out other faction articles if you’re interested in multiple supplements and trying to make your mind up. As ever, if you have any questions or feedback, shoot us an email at