Start Competing: Deathwatch Tactics

Do you want some of the most elite infantry in the game? Do you want three different ways to teleport units onto the battlefield to murder your enemies? Do you want troops that can get in a fist fight with a Knight and hold their own? Are you into purging the Xenos threat with extreme prejudice? Then Deathwatch is the faction for you!

As with the rest of these articles, the idea is not to give an exhaustive review of every unit and option. Instead, we’ll cover each section with a general discussion of the good units, relics and stratagems, point out any traps, and then discuss how these pieces fit into a competitive army. This is primarily a review of the units in the Deathwatch Codex, but Deathwatch are very good in certain areas so we’ll also cover the units to bring in a soup list, where Deathwatch find their best use. 

Also keep in mind that any competitive article represents a time and place. This is article was originally written after the release of the 2019 Codex: Space Marines re-release, and has been updated to include new rules from the Index: Deathwatch article in the May 2020 issue of White Dwarf magazine.

 

Army Overview

Strengths

  • Movement. Deathwatch have some very strong movement options. They can deep strike up to three units and they have ways teleport units around the table. The Beacon Angelis relic improves on this by giving them some neat tricks.
  • Great Troops. Deathwatch have some of the game’s most versatile Troop options. They’re tough, shoot well, and pack a punch in melee, especially now that they have Shock Assault.
  • Special Issue Ammo (SIA) makes all of your bolters much more deadly and versatile and Combat Doctrines further boost them, allowing you to create some truly scary hails of gunfire.
  • Mixed Squads. Mixing different model types in your Troop squads lets you pull off a bunch of interesting tricks and gives you unique special rules.
  • Good at fighting Xenos. There are a selection of tailored stratagems that work well against Xenos armies.
  • Mission Tactics. You can use your Mission Tactics dynamically to provide a 17% boost to lethality for infantry, bikers and dreadnoughts against your current priority targets.

Weaknesses

  • Unit Selection. Narrower unit choices compared to regular Space Marines; in particular Deathwatch don’t get any of the Vanguard units or most of the stratagems marines have access to.
  • Relics. Very limited Relic selections – Deathwatch don’t have the ability to master-craft weapons and only have a single page of relics to choose from.
  • Limited marine choices. While Deathwatch now have combat doctrines and litanies, they don’t have access to any special chapter-specific options.
  • Points cost. Deathwatch infantry are even more expensive than standard Marines, making them a very elite army; you’re going to feel every model loss.
  • Anti-tank weapons. Limited access to heavy and anti-tank weapons and doctrines don’t help much. You’re going to be doing a lot of “weight-of-fire” on heavier targets and using a mix of ammo and buffs to take them down.

Competitive Rating

Moderate as a stand alone codex, moderate as part of Imperial soup.

Deathwatch used to be better as part of soup than as a standalone army, and now that has changed. Not necessarily because Deathwatch got worse – they certainly haven’t, and the White Dwarf update only makes them better – but because every other marine option now has reasons to take it over Deathwatch. They arguably do better on their own now, where they can fully maximize their tricks and Special Issue Ammo benefits. Because their Troops choices are the cream of the codex, a Battalion is the ideal Deathwatch detachment, and a standard monofaction army will typically include two. Monofaction Deathwatch will still struggle against vehicle targets, but you’ve got a few more options now that the army has access to doctrines and more multi-damage shooting.

Deathwatch have a lot of abilities and strategies that are very useful in specific situations – they have a varied toolbox. But remember that just because they have a tool doesn’t mean you have to use it – playing well with Deathwatch means knowing when and where to use each option.

Faction Rules

Deathwatch only have one book you need, but there are a few scattered resources you’ll need to play the faction:

  • Codex: Deathwatch has the faction’s base rules and all the core datasheets. It’s one of the older 8th edition codexes, but solid.
  • You need a copy of the Deathwatch FAQ (which you can download the current version of here), which contains updates to all the Deathwatch Datasheets and rules that came out shortly after the new Codex: Space Marines last year.
  • You need a copy of the new rules from Index: Deathwatch in the May 2020 issue of White Dwarf (Issue 453).

 

Special Rules

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Deathwatch have two special rules unique to their faction, and they share Angels of Death with Space Marines as a whole, which incorporates Combat Doctrines, And They Shall Know No Fear, Combat Squads, Bolter Discipline, and Shock Assault.

Mission Tactics

Before the battle, you choose a Mission Tactic. These have different names but each corresponds to a different Battlefield Role (Troops, Fast Attack, Elites, Heavy Support/Lords of War, HQ or Flyers) and gives you the ability to reroll 1s to wound against that target when firing with INFANTRY, BIKERS, and DREADNOUGHTS. This gives most of the army’s units a Lieutenant buff against units with the chosen role, and there are multiple ways to change it mid-battle. There’s a noticeable absence of Dedicated Transports in the list, but the 17% improvement in attack effectiveness is a significant targeted boost.

Combat Squads

Before deployment, you can split units with this ability that have 10 models into two units, each containing 5 models. Units of Aggressors, Bikers, or Inceptors containing 6 models can be split into two units of 3. This rule rarely sees play with regular marines, but will be an important part of Deathwatch play, where we can include these models in a Veterans or Intercessors Squad taken as Troops, then use Combat Squads to split them into two units, allowing you to create units of Hellblasters that have the Defenders of Humanity rule (commonly referred to as “Objective Secured”), giving them priority when holding objectives.

Special Issue Ammo

Deathwatch units using bolt weapons have the option to choose a special ammo type when firing their bolters. Each ammo type has a specific bonus, and they’re all pretty good, though note that you cannot combine the Bolter Discipline rule (which lets you shoot twice from maximum range if you don’t move) with Special Issue ammo, so when your units are stationary, they’ll have to choose between firing twice or using Special Issue Ammo outside of Rapid Fire range.

  • Dragonfire: +1 to hit against units that are in cover. This wasn’t initially great, but has a lot of value now that Raven Guard are everywhere, getting cover saves against firing units more than 12″ away. It’s also very helpful when combined with Combat Doctrines.
  • Hellfire: These rounds always wound non-vehicle, non-titanic units on a 2+. This is really good and you’ll use this most of the time you shoot, particularly since you can combine it with Combat Doctrines on every weapon for very efficient shooting.
  • Kraken: Gives the weapon +6” range (3” for pistols), and an additional -1 AP (to a max of -2). Doesn’t stack meaningfully with Combat doctrines on AP-1 weapons, but very good with Bolters, Storm Bolters, and Auto Bolt Rifles, where they can now match Stalker and regular Bolt Rifles for penetration power.
  • Vengeance: -6” range (3” for pistols), and an additional -2 AP (to a max of -3). Like Kraken rounds, these don’t stack meaningfully with Combat doctrines on AP-1 weapons, but very good with Bolters, Storm Bolters, and Auto Bolt Rifles.

To help visualize when to choose certain weapons and ammo types, we had Hammer of Math‘s Kevin Genson put together the following chart:

To summarize: While shooting twice with Bolter Discipline is good, against higher toughness targets you’ll be better off firing special issue ammo at a target instead, though the exceptions are noted in red above. The rest of the time (when you are already in range to shoot twice without Bolter Discipline), you’re going to find that Hellfire is going to be your best option against targets with T4+, as the upside of having a 2+ to wound offsets the AP benefit unless your target has a 2+ save. That said, many of your T5+ targets will be VEHICLES, and if that’s the case Vengeance Rounds are going to be the option you want.

For small marines the choice is always the Storm Bolter since it fires twice as much. But what about the Intercessor options? Are there targets where it’s better to use the three shots of an auto bolt rifle, or the two damage hit of a stalker bolt rifle? To determine that we put together the expected value for the optimal weapon combination and multiplied it by the number of shots or damage. The chart below shows the result.

Each cell shows the expected value based on the optimal selection of SIA, and the cells shaded in red indicate the optimal weapon choice. First off we see that the bolt rifle is an inferior option for every possible scenario, as it’s either better to have double the damage or triple the number of shots. In nearly every situation the auto bolt rifle is the superior choice, with two exceptions:

  1. Against higher toughness multi-wound targets in the Devastator or Assault Doctrines. Although they have not been FAQ’d yet it is likely that Deathwatch will receive the same rule changes as other Space Marines and not have access to the Devastator Doctrine outside of the first round. This makes the auto bolt rifle seemingly the ideal option for most targets.
  2. When the bolt rifle is combined with the Rapid Fire (2 CP) Stratagem from White Dwarf, making the bolt rifles fire twice as much. In that case rapid firing SIA is always the best option, and in general rapid firing regular ammunition is also preferable. This makes sense given that you’re doubling your firepower. Given that this is the only scenario in which the bolt rifle is the best option perhaps the limitation that Bolter Discipline not apply when firing SIA should be removed; this is a legacy rule from before the Space Marine codex update that improved assault and stalker bolt rifles to make them viable options.

There are a few caveats here. First, this analysis does not apply to VEHICLE targets where Hellfire ammunition does not work. Second, players may want to consider the benefits of the added range (and character targeting ability, see below) of the stalker bolt rifle when determining the best configuration for their forces. Intercessors equipped with stalker bolt rifles can serve as relatively inexpensive objective sitters and still reach out and threaten the enemy, as shown in the list Anthony D’Amore provided in our Start Competing article.

 

Angels of Death

Thanks to the White Dwarf Index article, Deathwatch now have the Angels of Death special rule, which includes Bolter Discipline, Shock Assault, And They Shall Know No Fear, and Combat Doctrines. The first three are always-on, but the last one only works in “pure” armies – a Battle-forged army where every unit excluding SERVITOR or UNALIGNED units has the Combat Doctrines ability. This means that Deathwatch can now be added to a Space marines army without losing Combat Doctrines (though they’ll still lose Chapter Doctrines).

And They Shall Know No Fear (ATSKNF)

The first rule is one that Marines have had throughout the edition – when a Morale test is taken for a unit with ATSKNF, it can re-roll the dice. This is a helpful ability for keeping your units around a little longer. It also has a side application – you can optionally choose to re-roll even if you pass the first time, for example if you have a single model being tri-pointed, which can be handy if you would rather remove that model and be able to shoot the unit trapping it.

Bolter Discipline

Way back in 2nd edition, “Rapid Fire” was a Marine special rule which let them fire more than equivalent units. As time went on Rapid Fire became the weapon type we know and love, and Marines, and their iconic boltguns, began to seem less and less effective. Bolter Discipline is the intended solution to that.

Bolter Discipline is basically an expansion of the states in which models are able to benefit from Rapid Fire. Normally it’s just for being at half range – so for example, your ordinary boltgun is Rapid Fire 1, and has a 24″ range, so if the model firing it is within 12″ of its target it can fire 2 shots instead of 1. Instead, for units with this rule firing Rapid Fire bolt weapons, they can fire twice if:

  • The firing model’s target is within half the weapon’s maximum range (the ordinary rapid fire state),
  • OR the firing model is INFANTRY and every model in its unit remained stationary in your previous Movement phase,
  • OR the firing model is a TERMINATOR, BIKER, CENTURION, or DREADNOUGHT

This is a big boost for regular marines but despite the fact that Rapid Fire bolt weapons and a massive part of the Deathwatch game plan, not stacking with Special Issue Ammo means that for Deathwatch, it’s more like a minor situational boost.

Shock Assault

Bolter Discipline makes Space Marine units better at shooting with their iconic weapons; Shock Assault completes the other half of the Space Marine puzzle, allowing them to get into the kind of close-range firefights followed up by melee charges that you would expect from the fluff. It’s a very simple rule – in a turn in which a unit with Shock Assault makes a charge move, is charged, or performs a Heroic Intervention, each model in the unit adds 1 to its Attacks characteristic. This means that a basic, 5-man squad of Intercessors with a Sergeant with a chainsword is putting out 17 attacks (3 for each Intercessor, and 5 for the Intercessor Sergeant). For taking on light or even medium infantry that’s a whole lot of punches at S4. Even better, it applies to characters too, increasing the effectiveness of your slam Captains, Watch Masters, and Chaplains.

Combat Doctrines

The only rule Deathwatch didn’t previously have thanks to an FAQ, and as printed in the Index, it’s currently the “pre-FAQ” version, which allows the controlling player to choose when to move to the next doctrine, theoretically allowing a Deathwatch player to stay in Devastator or Tactical Doctrine for the entire game. This is almost certainly an error that will be fixed via FAQ as soon as GW is able; without an adjustment Deathwatch don’t “work” in armies with other Space Marine chapters – you have two different Combat Doctrine rules at work!

Combat Doctrines represents the progressive method of war which Space Marines follow – opening up with devastating long-range firepower, followed by close-range engagements, and then finally a charge into melee. The three doctrines are Devastator, Tactical, and Assault. Players begin the game in Devastator. At the beginning of battle round 2, they automatically change into Tactical. In round 3, they can choose to either stay in Tactical or change into Assault. From round 4 onwards, they must move to Assault, where they stay for the rest of the game. Each Doctrine increases the AP of a particular weapon type by 1 (i.e. AP 0 becomes AP-1, AP-1 becomes AP-2, etc.). Note that while normally these bonuses do not stack with anything else that improves the AP of a weapon, they explicitly do work with Special Issue Ammo.

The three Doctrine modes are:

  • Devastator: Heavy and Grenade weapons
  • Tactical: Rapid Fire and Assault weapons
  • Assault: Pistol and melee weapons (remember, all models are considered to have a S: User, AP:0 close combat weapon)

As a general rule, Combat Doctrines doesn’t do nearly as much for Deathwatch as it does for other chapters; Deathwatch heavy shooting is mediocre at best, and the army relies more on its rapid fire weapons so Tactical Doctrine is likely to be the army’s preferred mode. While the new rules have a clause that specifically states that Combat Doctrines does stack with Special Issue Ammunition, the rules for Special Issue Ammunition themselves cap the maximum AP bonus you can receive from using the ammo: AP-2 for Kraken Bolts and AP-3 for Vengeance rounds. This is great news for auto bolt rifles, boltguns, and storm bolters, all of which can fully benefit, but less good on some ammo types with weapons that already pack substantial AP like stalkers. This will effectively allow Deathwatch Veterans wielding storm bolters to fire 4 shots at AP-2 at 15″ or AP-3 at 9″, depending on the bolts. Paradoxically for the better guns, the real upside is on Hellfire Rounds, where there is no AP cap so Intercessors toting regular bolt rifles can get lots of AP-2 shots that wound on a 2+ against anything that isn’t a VEHICLE or TITANIC unit.

 

Litanies of Battle

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Deathwatch Chaplains have access to litanies now! They’re exactly the same as the litanies that standard Space Marine chapters know, and the same ones are good here. If you have a Chaplain, you roll a 3+ at the beginning of the battle round, and if you succeed, you can use a litany (known as “inspiring” in the rules). Your Chaplain knows the Litany of Hate on his datasheet, which allows re-rolls to hit in the Fight phase for units within 6″, and one of the following:

  1. Litany of Faith – When friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ suffer a mortal wound, roll a D6. On a 5+, they ignore that wound. Doesn’t stack with other abilities. It’s OK, given that you’ll often not be running a Psyker. C
  2. Catechism of Fire – Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> unit within 6″. That unit gets +1 to its To Wound rolls when it shoots the closest visible unit. Good ability, but Deathwatch already have a bunch of ways to wound things on a 2+. Helpful at dealing with Vehicles, though. B
  3. Exhortation of Rage – Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> unit within 6″. When that unit fights, unmodified 6s give you another attack with the same weapon. The new attacks don’t cause further attacks. This is OK but it’s hard to get the volume of attacks you need to really make it worthwhile. C+
  4. Mantra of Strength – Add 1 to the Chaplain’s Strength and Attack characteristics and 1 to the Damage characteristic of its melee weapons. Not really what you want to be doing. C
  5. Recitation of Focus – Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> unit within 6″. Add 1 to the To Hit rolls of that unit’s attacks made with ranged weapons. A really solid way to make sure your units are maximizing their damage output. Also works very well with Hellblaters who don’t want to kill themselves overcharging. A
  6. Canticle of Hate – Add 2 to charge rolls for friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ of this model and friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ can move 6″ when they pile in or consolidate. Doesn’t stack with other abilities that increase these ranges, but you don’t have any anyways. There are some neat tricks you can pull off with this, and it’s very good. A

The big opportunity/combo here is making the turn 1 charge happen, and that’s completely possible. In order to do this, you put a Deathwatch character with the Beacon Angelis relic into a drop pod with a squad of the most brutal small marine murderers you can build — think thunder hammer + storm bolter veterans. At the start of the battle round, your Chaplain, nestled safely far in your backline, chants the Canticle of Hate, giving all units within 6″ a +2 to their Charge distances. Then at the end of your Movement phase, your drop pod full of yabbos arrives, they spill out onto the battlefield just over 9″ away from enemy units, and your character activates the Beacon Angelis to pull the Chaplain to the units’ position. They open fire with their guns, then in the subsequent Charge phase, get to enjoy the +2 bonus, giving them a very make-able 7″ charge attempt (ideally with a CP re-roll in your back pocket. Either have the Chaplain charge with them or hold him back where the drop pod can protect him from being shot. This is a nasty trick and strong enough that I suspect it’ll cause a lot of grousing and consternation from Deathwatch players who were hoping to never paint a single drop pod (uggggghhhh I hate that model so much). You might also try it with a Termite Pattern Terrax Assault Drill on turn 2, because having the drill get +2 to its charge distances and grinding into combat immediately is a powerful threat (and saves you from painting drop pods).

Even outside these tricks, Litanies is pretty good in general – Deathwatch are generally encouraged towards taking larger units that benefit more from these, and they also already have access to a suite of stratagems for +1 to wound in various places, so these are particularly good here, though with the trade-off that a lot of things will be coming in from Deep Strike so they’re harder to set up. They’re probably also quite interesting with various vehicles – in the more innocent time before the 2019 Marine codex Deathwatch looked at least somewhat exciting with the Repulsor Executioner, and being able to have a Leviathan Dreadnought blasting away with +2 to wound against the nearest target is at least mildly interesting.

 

Psychic Powers

Deathwatch have the standard Marine powers from the Librarius discipline, except from the old Space Marine Codex, so they’re all slightly worse. That means that their best options are Might of Heroes and Null Zone, but Deathwatch Null Zone has a Warp Charge of 8 instead of 7. These powers are still decent but there’s nothing particularly special about them for Deathwatch. If you’re going to use psykers, then you’re going to be better off looking to other factions to soup in such as Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Phobos Librarians, etc.  For completeness sake, the powers are below.

  1. Veil of Time (WC 6). Affects a <CHAPTER> unit within 18″. Until your next Psychic phase, that unit can re-roll Advance and Charge rolls, and always fights first in the Fight phase, even if it did not charge. A solid ability, and more useful for Deathwatch now that they have access to the Canticle of Hate litany to boost charge distances. B
  2. Might of Heroes (WC 6). Affects a <CHAPTER> model within 12″. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, that model gets +1 Strength, +1 Toughness, and +1 Attack. Helpful for boosting Dreadnoughts and other heroes to insane damage output levels. Also handy for making a Repulsor or Leviathan T9, and that bit harder to killl. B
  3. Psychic Scourge (WC 6). Choose an enemy unit within 18″ and roll a D6, then add your Ld value. Your opponent does the same. If you score higher, that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. If you score equal, they take 1 mortal wound. Basically a worse Smite, and not something we’re going to use very often. There are almost always going to be other powers you’d rather use. D
  4. Fury of the Ancients (WC 7). Roll 3D6 and select an enemy model within that distance and visible to the psyker (if none are in range, the power does nothing). Draw a straight line between the psyker and that enemy model; each unit along the line takes a mortal wound. This power isn’t great in its new, improved version in the Space Marines 2019 codex; here it’s utter trash. F
  5. Psychic Fortress (WC 5). Select a friendly ADEPTUS ASTARTES unit within 18″ of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, that unit automatically passes Morale tests and if it would lose a wound from a mortal wound in the psychic phase, roll a D6; on a 4+ it doesn’t lose that wound. The morale test part hardly matters but the ability to protect a unit from Smite-happy armies still has some value. Really, using this will be more about shunting your opponent’s Smites onto a different target rather than actually rolling the saves, but because Smite has to target the closest unit you can set up some nice defensive play with this. C
  6. Null Zone (WC 8). Until the start of your next psychic phase, enemy units can’t make invulnerable saves while they are within 6″ of the psyker, and when a Psychic test is taken for an enemy model within 6″, the result is halved. Null Zone is always difficult to use, as it demands your psyker be within hitting distance of the unit/s whose save you’re trying to deactivate, and in Deathwatch it’s hard to cast too. In a tournament environment, you’ll likely get the most value out of this against Chaos Daemon hordes, where removing their 5+ invulnerable saves and blocking psychic powers can be a real pain. The best platform for this is a jump pack Librarian. This is a very good power for regular marines, but only decent for Deathwatch, where it is inexplicably still WC 8. B-

 

Stratagems

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Deathwatch have access to a number of stratagems, sharing many with Codex: Space Marines, though there are some notable absences. They also have a few special stratagems of their own.

  • Auspex Scan (2 CP): An INFANTRY unit can shoot at a unit arriving on the table within 12″ at -1 penalty to hit. This has always been great with Aggressors or Centurions. And it still is, but bolt carbine Intercessors are another powerful new entry on the list of suitable users thanks to the extra shot they get. B
  • Death to the Alien (1 CP): Gives Deathwatch exploding hits on rolls of 6+ in melee against non-Imperium, non-Chaos, non-Unaligned units. This would be a lot more useful if Deathwatch had any way to get +1 to hit on their units to take advantage of the roll being modifiable, but you can get a little more mileage out of it by combining it with the Exhortation of Rage litany to get double exploding 6s. C
  • Teleportarium (1-3 CP): Use during Deployment to deep strike 1-3 infantry units or dreadnoughts (spend 1 CP per unit). This stratagem is one of the major payoffs for playing Deathwatch and is a build-around stratagem. With Teleportarium, the army can build large troop units that are very happy mixing it up at close range or melee and this lets you put them right where you want them, when you want them. There’s a slightly weird interaction here with bikers in the errata, where bikers in a Veteran squad are both bikes and infantry depending on what they’re doing, so if you’re concerned about it clear it with your TO. A+
  • Orbital Bombardment (3 CP): Once per battle your warlord can call in an orbital strike, doing MWs on a 4+ (or 5+ for characters) within a random radius of a point you pick. Has historically not been reliable enough to be worth this many CP, and that’s probably even more true now. Nick Nanavati opened up with this against a Tau castle full of Drones in the finals of the PTT Atlanta Open, and it worked out pretty well – against less compressed armies it might not be so relevant. C+
  • Only in Death Does Duty End (2CP): A Deathwatch Character can fight or shoot one more time when they die. Always useful. Still useful. A
  • Honour Your Brothers (3 CP): Allows an Infantry or Biker unit to fight again at the end of combat. Deathwatch Veterans and Fortis Kill Teams can become very, very, scary in melee if you kit them out properly, especially now that they have Shock Assault. With this stratagem you can seriously threaten tanks, important enemy squads, or even Knights and other Lords of War. A
  • Empyric Channeling (1 CP): Use at the start of your Psychic phase if you have a Deathwatch Psyker within 6″ of 2+ other Deathwatch Psykers. Your Psyker can immediately attempt to generate another power, adding 2 to the psychic test. This isn’t particularly useful for Deathwatch, where a mediocre (at best) psychic discipline means you’ll rarely want to take more than one Librarian. C
  • Flakk Missile (1 CP): An infantry squad using a missile launcher can shoot a special missile that does D3 mortals to a FLY unit. Your only option for missile launchers is on Veterans and it’s not a good use of points, so you’ll never use this. C-
  • Adaptive Tactics (2 CP): Use this stratagem at the start of any turn after the first to change mission tactics. Costs you only 1 CP if a Watch Master is your Warlord. The versatility this offers is great when you need it. A
  • Wisdom of the Ancients (1 CP): Turns a Dreadnought into a Captain for a phase, giving it a 6″ aura for re-rolls to hit on rolls of 1. Useful if you plan on extending your army and pushing your main re-roll bubble forwards, or need to deep strike a Dreadnought but want to hold your Watch Master back. Because Relic Contemptors and Leviathans have BS 2+, this is essentially the same as full rerolls for them. And because you can teleport them in, this will be something you may want to use fairly often. A
  • Stem the Green Tide (2 CP): Use this before a Deathwatch unit fires Overwatch at an Ork unit. For every Ork model killed in Overwatch, they have to subtract 1″ from their charge distance. Large infantry squads that can use this should be able to realistically kill 3-4 Ork Boyz without extra help or 7-8 if they’re in a reroll aura, have Mission Tactics on, etc. Played correctly this will completely stop an Ork charge, which is a huge benefit. B
  • Targeting Scramblers (1 CP): Use immediately after a Deathwatch unit in your army has been hit by one or more Tau Markerlights to remove all markerlights from them. This is conditionally very useful against Tau. If you use this at the right time you can throw off their math, but if you use it at the wrong time they can work around it. Pay attention to your opponent and how many markerlights they have available. B
  • Intercepting Volley (2 CP): One unit can take a free round of shooting at an Eldar unit with FLY that moved within 12” of a Deathwatch unit in the Movement phase. You get to shoot at -1 to hit. This is very, very solid if you can catch your opponent unaware and if they’re thinking about it then it creates a big bubble of danger around your models. The only problem is that against planes you’ll be adding that -1 to hit to another -1 penalty already on the flyer, so pick your shooting units carefully to avoid whiffing. Character targeting rule still apply to this, but if your opponent messes up and moves a FLY character like a bike Autarch into range before setting up their other stuff, you can catch them off-guard and wreck them. I’m pretty sure Wings did this once and paid the Iron Price for it. B
    Wings Note:
    I did. It was very shameful.
  • Synaptic Severance (2 CP): Use before picking a target for a Deathwatch unit in the shooting phase. That unit can ignore targeting restrictions to shoot at SYNAPSE CHARACTERS. Many Synapse creatures you’ll find yourself up against have enough wounds not to get character shielding, so the uses for this are relatively rare but they exist. Taking down Kraken Broodlords or Kronos Neurothropes can be powerful, and Malanthropes are also a good target if you’ve got something crunchy enough to go through their 9W like a Repulsor Executioner. B
  • Optimised Salvo (1 CP): Use before shooting with a unit with Special Issue Ammo. Each model in that unit can use different ammo for this shooting attack; declare all of your ammo types and targets before you start rolling. This is as situational and edge case as they come – when it’s useful it’ll be great but those cases will be so rare you will likely forget it exists. C
  • Overkill (1 CP): Use at the start of your opponent’s turn to give a single NECRON unit within 12″ of a Deathwatch unit -1 to Reanimation Protocols rolls for a turn. This could be decent at lower point levels but against Necrons in 2,000-point games you’re trying to kill off whole units so they don’t get Reanimation Protocols at all. On the off chance you do happen to leave a single Destroyer alive, go nuts. B-
  • Malleus, Furor, Venator, etc. Doctrines (2 CP): 6 Different stratagems that you can use before a unit attacks to give them +1 to wound against a specific battlefield role. This is quite good with high volume fire and Deathwatch can get units with 40+ shots relatively easily. A
  • Decapitation Doctrine (2 CP): Use in the Shooting or Fight phase to give a unit re-rolls to Wound when shooting the enemy Warlord. This is going to be most useful against Warlords who can actually be shot at, i.e. Knights, Swarmlords, Guilliman, Lords Discordant, and over-extending Coldstar Commanders. A
  • Clavis (1 CP): Use in the Fight phase. If your Watch Master is in combat with a vehicle he can deal 1d3 mortal wounds to it on a 2+. You’ll seldom want your Watch Master fighting vehicles, but if you end up in that situation, it’s a good way to get an extra point or two of damage.
  • Tempest Shells (1 CP): Use on a Deathwatch Infantry model about to shoot a VEHICLE. You only get one shot (which can be re-rolled), but if you hit you deal 1d3 mortal wounds. Best used with Captains or Watch Masters who will hit 97% of the time. Useful for pushing through an extra point or two of damage when you need it.

White Dwarf Stratagems

White Dwarf adds 14 new Stratagems to the Deathwatch, or 13 if you don’t count Adaptive Strategy. They’re all reprints from the new Codex: Space Marines 2019.

  • Duty Eternal (1CP): Use when a Dreadnought is targeted. They take -1 damage on them until the end of the phase. Currently this reads as the older, half damage instead of -1 version, but will be changed via an FAQ soon. The new version is still very good, mitigating a large amount of damage from popular 2 damage weapons.  A
  • Rapid Fire (2CP): Make a unit of bolt rifle Intercessors Rapid Fire 2 for a shooting phase. This is more challenging to set up in Deathwatch than normal, because you can’t just pull iit off to full effect at 30″ with Bolter Discipline, but this can double the output of an Intercessor unit for a turn, which if you’re in a Watch Master bubble is a shed-load of dakka, liable to blow hordes clean away. The existence of this makes a unit of ten bolt rifle Intercessors more interesting thought exercise to look at, especially under Tactical Doctrine, but you still may find Auto Bolt Rifles or storm bolters more reliable (and less CP reliant). B
  • Target Sighted (3 CP): Lets you fire stalker bolt rifles at a character even if they aren’t the closest target, and as an added bonus you do extra mortal wounds on 6s to wound. This is potentially very handy now just because stalker bolt rifles got a ton better in last year’s FAQs (picking up D2) – this now lets even a small Intercessor squad threaten to punk a lot of characters. It’s expensive, but every so often you’re going to use it and pop a character cleanly and it combos well with Mission Tactics and the Decapitation Doctrine Stratagem. B+
  • Boltstorm (2 CP): Auto bolt rifles auto-hit within half range. An odd one. Auto bolt rifles seem real good in this army, but 2CP is a lot for this – Deathwatch are pretty good at hitting things already, so you need a large squad to make this really do some work. That said, it’s great with some of the special issue ammo options, and does more for Deathwatch than it does for regular marines. B-
  • Big Guns Never Tire (1 CP): A VEHICLE can move and shoot heavy weapons with no penalty. If you have any vehicles and need to move them, this is a fantastic thing to have available. For Deathwatch it’s primarily going to be useful with Contemptors and the storm cannon Leviathan. A
  • Veteran Fury (1 CP): Add 1 to hit for a TERMINATOR unit for a phase. This does let any Terminator unit melee connect like an absolute truck, offsetting their hit penalties from fists or thunder hammers. Unfortunately, it takes a bit more than that for Terminators to get there in a Deathwatch army, and this can’t be used to target even a combat squad of Terminators split off acting as troops, as those don’t technically have the TERMINATOR keyword (they only have it for embarkation purposes). C
  • Steady Advance (1 CP): A unit gets to use Bolter Discipline as if it remained stationary. Not nearly as useful for Deathwatch as other marines, thanks to Special Issue Ammo not working with Bolter Discipline. Better on bigger units. C
  • Vengeance of the Machine Spirit (2 CP): A LAND RAIDER or REPULSOR gets to either auto-explode, shoot one weapon at top profile or fight (lol) on death. Very cool, and a neat way to get a bit more out of your stuff as it goes down, although sadly you don’t get to double tap with the Executioner’s big gun. Still, if it’s sitting in re-roll bubbles (it probably is) two shots from the laser destroyer, or two lascannon shots from the other models, is a big deal, and has a good chance of randomly punishing your opponent for their insolence. B
  • Transhuman Physiology (2 CP): For a phase, one non-VEHICLE or SERVITOR unit can never be wounded by an unmodified roll of 3 or less. This is extremely powerful – the absolute bane of Marine armies right now is being blown apart by powerful D2 or D3 Damage weaponry that wounds on 2s and 3s and has decent AP. This makes it that much tougher for your best squads to be focused down by this sort of thing, and this will be absolute bread and butter for anyone running powerful infantry models. It’s also helpful for keeping your (surprisingly) fragile storm bolter + storm shield veterans on the table, where every extra bit helps. A
  • Gene-Wrought Might (1 CP): For a Fight phase, unmodified 6s to hit from a unit auto-wound. This is pretty cool – especially once you’re in to the Assault Doctrine, this lets even your regular infantry actually put a smattering of hurt on something like a Knight with T8. Unlike normal marines however, you don’t have the Veteran Intercessors Stratagem to create the insane volume of attacks this really wants to work. C+
  • Hero of the Chapter (1 CP): Allows you to give a Warlord trait to a second character in your army. It’d be cool if the Deathwatch had better Warlord Traits, but there’s enough value out of being able to have both Castellan of the Black Vault (+1 damage to a non-relic weapon) and something like The Watch Eternal (which pairs very well with a Chaplain) or Bane of Monstrosities. Just being able to have Lord of Hidden Knowledge and a more active one is pretty neat. A
  • Hunter-Slayer Missile (1 CP): Lets a REPULSOR fire off a missile that does D3 mortal wounds in the Shooting phase (once per battle per Repulsor). Neat in a pinch but not something you really want to rely on, and it uses your current BS to hit but isn’t a hit roll, so it can’t be modified/re-rolled by auras or other abilities. C
  • Adaptive Strategy (1 CP): Lets you roll back the current Combat Doctrine, from Tactical to Devastator or from Assault to Tactical. This one was removed from Codex: Space Marines via errata and it has been reprinted here in its original, un-errata’d form. As such, don’t expect it to survive an FAQ.Here’s the thing; There’s a very strong case to be made for letting Deathwatch keep the ability to roll back the army-wide Doctrines, or sit in the current doctrine all game. It’s a cool special perk for the faction known for being all about special tactics and specialized combat, and one that doesn’t really make them overpowered. Here’s the problem: As soon as you do this, you create an incentive for Iron Hands/Imperial Fists armies to include a Deathwatch detachment in order to roll back to Devastator Doctrine every turn (though note that you’ll lose your chapter doctrine if you do this, so there is a bit of a trade-off). So while I think this would be a great addition to the Deathwatch army, unless they’re going to errata it to only work with monofaction Deathwatch armies, chances are almost certain it’s not going to stick around.

Warlord Traits

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Most of these are on the weaker side but there are a few that are situationally useful.

  • Bane of Monstrosities: Reroll failed wound rolls vs Vehicles and Monsters. This is decent if you want to build a Deathwatch smash captain, but less relevant than it used to be now that taking down a Knight is necessary but not something you have to do every game. B
  • Lord of Hidden Knowledge: This is the CP regen trait for Deathwatch. These have been nerfed but they’re still well worth having. This particular one is on the worse side of these abilities because it’s one roll per stratagem instead of CP spent, but the incentive to go dual battalion plus access to some of the Marine stratagems pushes this up in power quite a bit. B
  • Castellan of the Black Vault: Adds +1D to a weapon. When applied to a guardian spear the bonus applies to both options, which is a pretty good deal. For smash captains you probably want the ability to re-roll wounds, but if you use the Tome of Ectoclades this may be worth taking instead. It’s also your only way to get a damage boost since Deathwatch can’t master-craft weapons with a Stratagem. A-
  • The Watch Eternal: Gives a weird pseudo 6+ feel no pain for Deathwatch within 6” of your warlord. Has a weird clause where it only works for the last wound of a model, making it best/useful when paired with 1-wound models like Storm bolter/storm shield Veterans. Interesting as an aura. B-
  • Vigilance Incarnate: Change mission tactics for free once per game. This is basically worth 1-2 CP depending on who your warlord is, so you should probably take Lord of Hidden Knowledge before this. C+
  • Nowhere to Hide: Pick an enemy unit at the start of each of your Shooting phases. That unit doesn’t get cover from Deathwatch units within 6” of the warlord. This is surprisingly good if you’re using the warlord to buff up some large Kill Teams. B-

 

Relics

Deathwatch have a more limited selection of relics than other factions, with just 6 available to them.

  • Banebolts of Eryxia: Models with Special-Issue Ammo. Adds 1 to the damage of any Special Issue Ammo fired and also does a mortal wound on each To Wound roll of a 6+. Interesting boost but your characters just won’t fire enough shots for this to matter most of the time. Still, a very powerful upgrade and best on storm bolters. Doesn’t stack with Castellan of the Black Vault, which is a shame. B+
  • The Beacon Angelis: This one is a special callout. Once per battle at the end of the Movement phase you can teleport an infantry or biker unit to the bearer. This can teleport squads out of combat, around the map, etc. Put this on a jump pack captain and you get a lot of free movement that can surprise your opponent. Opens up a lot of options and neat tricks, especially now that Deathwatch have Chaplains with litanies. A
  • The Dominus Aegis: Replaces a storm shield. Still gives you a 3+ invulnerable save, but if you don’t move in the Movement phase, friendly Deathwatch models within 6″ get a 5+ invulnerable save. Interesting, but not really worth taking compared to the other relics. B-
  • The Tome of Ectoclades: This gives you slightly more flexible Mission Tactics near the bearer. You can change Mission Tactics each turn for a portion of your army, and you can apply either Mission Tactic to any DEATHWATCH unit near the holder, not just the Infantry, Bikes and Dreadnoughts that normally get the rule. Most notably, this can be used to give mission tactics to Repulsor Executioners. Note that you must specify the unit type at the beginning of each turn (even if the Tome is not on the battlefield) in order to get the effect. One of the faction’s best relics because of the dumb stuff you can do with it. A
  • The Osseus Key: Watch Master only, but extremely useful against vehicles – gives them -1 to their to hit rolls within 9″ of the bearer and if you’re within 1″ of one you can make an additional attack that, on a hit, does D3 mortal wounds. If you can deep strike and charge with your Watch Master you are practically guaranteed an additional D3 mortal wounds and your opponent will be at a -1 to strike back. Very useful against marquee units like Imperial Knights, and can also be combined with the Clavis stratagem to deal an additional 1d3 mortal wounds for 1CP. B
  • Thief of Secrets: Replaces a power sword with a D2 power sword that lets you pick a Xenos faction at deployment. You get to re-roll failed wounds against models with that faction. An incredibly situational weapon, although in the hands of something like a Primaris Watch Captain against T8 it’s roughly the equivalent of a power fist. In general you’re better off taking something else. C-

 

Units

Credit: TheChirurgeon

 

HQ

Deathwatch have access to many of the standard marine options, but two notable exceptions are that they don’t have Lieutenants and Techmarines. Fortunately, most of the benefits of the former are covered by Mission Tactics.

Watch Master

The Watch Master is the Chapter Master equivalent for Deathwatch. Unlike the non-named character Chapter Masters in Space Marines, you don’t need to spend CP on him, he’s not unique, and he’s relatively inexpensive. His only loadout isn’t a combat monster by itself, but the Chapter Master re-roll (albeit the old “failed hits” version, not the fancy new “reroll hits”) is a very strong ability and he’s possibly the cheapest source of it in the game. With the Tome of Ectolades, he can give hit re-rolls and Wound re-rolls of 1 to any unit in the army, turning him into a mini-Guilliman of sorts. A BS 3+ unit rerolling misses and natural wound rolls of 1 effectively gets 50% more shots. Finally, he got a 15pt cut in CA19, now making him effectively an auto-take.

Watch Captain Artemis

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Artemis is the named character Watch Captain, but he’s more of a “for fun” option than a serious choice for competitive play, especially given that he’s not priced to move. He gets a once-per-game stasis bomb that inflicts d6 MWs if it hits, which is very funny, but still doesn’t make him worth taking over a more mobile option.

Watch Captain

This is your standard Marine Captain. Where the Watch Master has a single loadout, the Watch Captain gets access to a variety of options. He can be kitted out as a monster killer with a storm shield and thunder hammer (Deathwatch haven’t received the price nerf yet on their thunder hammers so these make serviceable smash captains for the time being), or you can give him the Beacon Angelis, a jump pack, and a more reasonable loadout and use him to teleport a squad around. He can wear Terminator armor or become a Primaris Captain, but neither option gives a massive benefit over the jump pack version.

Librarian

Credit: TheChirurgeon

This is a standard Marine Librarian. He has the normal set of options, but there’s nothing particularly special about him. It’s often useful to have a psyker around so these sometimes see competitive use as a second HQ choice, usually with a jump pack (planning to deploy Null Zone somewhere crucial). Generally, you’re better off looking at other disciplines or sources for psychic powers, or countering enemy psykers with a Culexus or Vindicare Assassin.

Chaplain

The big winners of the White Dwarf Index: Deathwatch update, Deathwatch Chaplains now have access to Litanies, allowing them to give a handful of very helpful buffs to nearby units. Like other standard chapters, Deathwatch Chaplains can take jump packs, allowing them to move around and apply their litany auras as needed. The advantage that Deathwatch have over other chapters is that they can apply something like Recitation of Focus to a friendly unit, then that unit can teleport across the table using the Beacon Angelis relic or a Teleport Homer, enjoying the benefit of the litany for the rest of the battle round despite being far away from the Chaplain. The big combo for this is using the Beacon Angelis to pull the Chaplain to a unit arriving from Reserves in order to make an immediate 7″ charge. See the Litanies section above for more on how this works.

 

Troops

Most armies view troops as a tax. For Deathwatch, troops are the payoff. Both options are good and, fitting with fluff, one of your most effective options is  to bring a Deathwatch battalion to an IMPERIUM-keyworded army. 

Veterans

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Until the Assault Bolt Rifle update, these were the single most effective unit in the army and almost worth an entire article themselves. They’re still solid, but since the Auto Bolt Rile update they’ve lost most (if not all) of their edge over Primaris options (and don’t require sourcing storm bolters for 10-30 models). Still, storm bolter veterans are very good and put out a scary amount of shots, they’re just very dangerous glass cannons. There are many ways to equip these units but there’s a general set of guidelines for competitive play you can follow:

  • Veterans: The basic models in the squad and for a long time, the base model the army was based around. These are best with storm bolters and storm shields, which makes them a real pain in the ass to build and assemble and an expensive unit to source bits for. Other loadouts are viable, especially with the extra attack from Shock Assault making melee builds better, but storm bolter and storm shield is just more efficient than anything else you can do with small marines. Storm bolters give them an insane number of shots to take advantage of Special Issue Ammo, and storm shields keep them survivable.
  • Watch Sergeant: This is just a Veteran with better leadership and an extra attack. They can be equipped with the storm bolter and storm shield as well, but the extra attack makes improved melee weapons an option. Storm bolter and thunder hammer, for example, gives you an extra four thunder hammer attacks on the charge for 34 points.
  • Black Shield: This model has a similar stat line to the Watch Sergeant so equipment options are similar. The Black Shield has a special rule that forces the unit to Heroically Intervene as if it were a character. The drawback for this is almost non-existent since the rules for Heroic Interventions allow you to move any amount, not the full 3 inches.
  • Vanguard Veteran: This is a jump pack model with no bolter option. The traditional build is a bolt pistol and storm shield, but with the extra attack from Shock Assault might make melee weapons more reasonable. If this model is in a Kill Team that unit can fall back and shoot as if it had FLY, and that ability alone makes it worth considering one, but most of the time you’ll just be better off maximizing shots.
  • Biker: This is a 2-wound model with two bolters, an optional melee weapon and an optional teleport homer. The teleport homer is free and gives extra mobility options for teams with Terminator models, so you might as well take it. If one of these models is in a Kill Team the unit can Fall Back and Charge. The reason to add these to a squad is primarily to split them out with Combat Squads to have ObSec bikes.
  • Terminator: These are 2-wound, 2+/5++ save models typically taken with storm bolters and a power weapon. If a unit has a Terminator it automatically passes morale checks.

The unit works by being offensively dangerous because of storm bolters with Special Issue Ammo and defensively tough because of the way you can allocate low AP attacks to the Terminators and high AP attacks to the storm shield Vets. You can also stack the extra model types for special rules so you can teleport in, shoot, charge, hit hard in melee and then fall back and do it all again the next turn. There isn’t a perfect composition that everyone uses, so you can experiment a bit, but most competitive builds comprise a majority of Veterans with storm shields and storm bolters, with a Van Vet, Terminator and sometimes a Biker mixed in to draw on their various benefits.

Now that assault bolt rifles bring Intercessors up to 3 shots (with the ability to advance and fire), Veterans are a lot less necessary than they used to be, but their ability to take 3+ invulnerable saves and extra shot can make up for the extra wound. Even with this, they’re outclassed by Intercessors now, where the extra range and durability are bigger advantages than one extra bolter shot.

 

Intercessors

Deathwatch Raptors Sniper with Stalker Bolt Rifle

Deathwatch Raptors Sniper with Stalker Bolt Rifle Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Despite the name, this squad is actually the Fortis Kill Team. You have to take 5 Intercessors, and then can put in a mix of other Primaris models. If half of the models are T5 then the entire unit counts as T5. These are probably going to be the backbone of your army moving forward, since the update to Stalker and Auto bolt rifles makes Intercessors much, much better and the additional stratagems in the White Dwarf update gives them a ton of versatility that storm bolter veterans can’t really match.

Because Deathwatch can often struggle holding objectives, there’s a lot of utility to be found in 5-man Intercessor Squads that can fill out Battalion Detachments and add additional backfield objective holders. These work best with Stalker Bolt Rifles, where they can dish out long-range damage and the downside of moving and shooting is mitigated by not moving.

  • Intercessors: These are your bread and butter. The auto bolt rifle and stalker bolt rifle both received buffs which make them very competitive options. The auto bolt rifle is particularly devastating now that it can fire 3 shots at AP -3 with a 30” range and it gets full benefits from Combat Doctrines in the Tactical Doctrine mode, where it can use Kraken bolts or Vengeance rounds to get the full AP bonus and match standard bolt rifles for AP. Stalker Bolt Rifles are also a solid option now that they can drop 2-damage shots on an enemy – combined with the Target Sighted Stratagem and Special Issue Ammo, Stalker Bolt Rifles can be incredibly nasty and a good deterrent for opponents to keep characters away from your squads.The Sergeant can take a melee weapon, and for this the power fist is usually the best option but the others are decent if you need to save the points. As of the White Dwarf Update, Thunder Hammers are an option now but the upgrade in cost over a power fist makes them a tough option to swallow. If you’re taking them, you will want to avoid min-maxing Intercessor Squads with a single thunder hammer and instead look at embedding them in 10-model Aggressor/Inceptor units that can easily hide them and make them part of a nasty melee threat.
  • Hellblasters: These have no special rules but they’re a way to get plasma into Primaris ObSec units. In lieu of other heavy weapons, Hellblasters are going to be the Deathwatch army’s primary way to deal with vehicle targets, and so it’s worth looking at 5-10 of them in a monofaction Deatwatch army.
  • Reivers: There are three special rules here, but none are significant. First, Terror Troops gives enemies within 3” of the squad -1 to leadership. Second, If the Reiver model takes grapnel launchers then they can ignore vertical distance when they move (but not the squad) and Reivers get shock grenades, which let them disable overwatch. Combine that with the inferior bolt carbine and you have a model that’s never going to make it onto the table for you.
  • Inceptor: These are 3-wound T5 units with two close range heavy bolters or dual plasma exterminators, which are roughly equivalent to 1.5 Hellblasters. They also let you fall back and shoot. They’re worse at shooting and melee than Aggressors, but a single Inceptor triggers their special rule and the extra movement can help you make those tough charges. They make a good one-off inclusion in a squad of 4 Aggressors – add 4 Aggressors and 1 Inceptor to your 5 Intercessors, then combat squad them at the start of the game. They also have 5 Toughness so if you keep them in a squad with your Intercessors, you get the benefits of having a full squad of T5 dudes.
  • Aggressor: These are the real payoff for an Intercessor Kill Team. The new rules update makes them tougher and they hit harder in melee (up to 3 attacks base with a 4th on the charge) and if you add 5 Gravis models to the squad then you’ll have a unit with 25 T5 wounds. You can also use their special ability to ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons to attach to a unit of Stalker Bolt Rifle Intercessors, though this ends up being an expensive cost for the efficiency boost when you can use Kraken bolts to get the job done at a considerable range boost.

There are a lot of ways to build this. The major options I’ve seen are small backline squads with stalker bolt rifles (they work well with Special Issue Ammo), mobile auto bolt rifle squads with an Aggressor and/or Inceptor to move fast and brawl, or 10 man squads that add in Hellblasters or Aggressors, teleport in to get close and use the Intercessors as ablative wounds. You can also take 5 Intercessors and 5 Hellblasters, combat squad them out into two teams, and everything gets Objective Secured because you took them as Troops.

 

Elites

Deathwatch have a cut-down elites section, which mostly consists of upgrade models for the Kill Teams and Dreadnoughts.

Dreadnought and Venerable Dreadnought

Credit: TheChirurgeon

These are more or less the same, with the Venerable Dreadnought being the slightly more expensive but slightly tougher and more accurate version. These are typically taken as twin las/missile backline, since that covers the big, gaping anti-tank hole that Deathwatch have. 

Relic Contemptor Dreadnought

This also fills the same slot that normal Dreads do, but it’s better and more expensive and comes from Forge World in a bunch of little clear boxes full of resin. Compared to a regular dread it’s faster, tougher, more accurate, it has an invulnerable save and a FNP roll and it has better weapon options. The best loadout is usually quad lascannons and a cyclone missile launcher, which is one of the most efficient vehicle and monster hunters in the game. Dual autocannons can also be effective, but the other weapon options aren’t as efficient. If you’re trying to play monofaction Deathwatch competitively, you’re going to want one of these. Just make sure you wash it carefully first.

Redemptor Dreadnought

The chonk dread. The plasma is unreliable but if you kit it out for dakka with both of the gatling guns and storm bolters it puts out a very respectable 26 shots at 24”, which makes it a great target for the Doctrine stratagems. With a Watch Captain reroll, Mission Tactics (Malleus) and Malleus Doctrine, a Redemptor will put out 5-6 wounds on a Knight. Redemptors don’t fill a hole in the army like other Dreads do but it’s a solid unit.

Terminators

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Deathwatch Terminators have the all of the Assault Terminator options and all of the normal Terminator options, so you can build them as either. They aren’t amazing but they make for a solid deep strike threat that doesn’t need a stratagem to get there, and they can use the Deathwatch Teleport beacons from bikes to teleport back to your deployment zone. Otherwise they’re similar to taking them in a Kill Team. The one quirk of Deathwatch Terminators is that every model can have a power fist/meltagun and up to three models can take heavy weapons. This isn’t particularly enticing, but it does give you options.

Vanguard Veterans

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Jump infantry. The extra attack from Shock Assault makes these worth looking at, and the Combat Doctrine boost can help if you’re running mono Deathwatch, but they don’t otherwise benefit too much just from being in a Deathwatch army. Deathwatch troop options are nearly as good in melee, so you need a plan to take advantage of the jump packs Vanguard Veterans get to make the most of them. You’re also going to want to pair these with the Doctrine stratagems to give them a +1 to Wound rolls in combat against most targets. Otherwise, you’ve got a few nasty options you can take with Vanguard Veterans, and the ability to fill up the squad with lightning claws or thunder hammers is pretty nifty, but the costs add up real quick.

Aggressors

Aggressors got a major boost from Codex: Space Marines that did make its way to Deathwatch, and the extra wound and attack make them a real force. The only difference between stand-alone Aggressors and taking them as part of an Intercessors squad is that they don’t get the ablative wounds here. This is a solid squad as an Elites choice but I can’t see many situations where it’s actually better to take them as a stand alone unit instead of as part of a combat-squadded Intercessor unit where you can make wonderful use of both their 5-Toughness in a mixed unit and the ability to advance and fire without penalty on Assault weapons.

 

Fast Attack

Bikes

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Bikes were a very reasonable option when they could mix the Bolter Discipline rule with Special Issue Ammo to have a fast unit that hit hard at range. Without that there’s less of a reason to take them. All of the reasons that they aren’t commonly taken in regular codex Astartes lists apply here. They’re expensive, not particularly tough when compared to other options (particularly Gravis Marines), and other options have better firepower. Because they have AP 0 weapons, bikes get some of the biggest benefits from the White Dwarf update, now able to pile on an extra point of AP and then benefit from Assault Doctrine when they want to charge. They’re worth a second look now that they can do more as a mobile firebase.

Inceptors

These are tough, fast, and hard-hitting backline harassers in an army that has an easy time filling that role. There’s nothing wrong with Inceptors, but they suffer as a standalone unit due to their price. One option you can use is to deep strike them along with a Watch Captain or Watch Master for a fairly devastating alpha strike. This is particularly effective with Inceptors armed with plasma exterminators, but you have a very good chance of losing at least one to overheating. On average each plasma Inceptor will get off four shots, so they’re roughly equivalent to two Hellblasters. 

 

Heavy Support

Hellblasters

Hellblasters get two benefits from being in a Deathwatch army. The first is that you can take up to five in an Intercessor squad, giving them ablative wounds if you want or ObSec if you combat squad them. The second is that you can put a 10 man squad in the teleportarium and do a very, very scary deep strike attack. Otherwise they’re very standard, you want two shots so you don’t take the heavy variant, and you want S8 when you overcharge so you don’t take the assault variant. Take the rapid fire plasma incinerators.

Repulsor Executioner

We already wrote an article on this. To make it short, if you support an Executioner with a Watch Captain or Watch Master with the right tools, it is a very, very deadly anti-tank option for Deathwatch and the addition of Combat Doctrines only makes it more deadly as you apply an extra AP bonus to its dozen or so smaller guns. One particularly effective tactic is to sit a Watch Master with the Tome of Ectoclades next to an Executioner. This allows for the Repulsor to reroll 1s and 2s on To Hit rolls, and 1s on the wound rolls, effectively increasing the number of shots the unit gets by 50%. The Executioner also puts out obscene amounts of anti-infantry firepower as a bonus and is exactly the kind of vehicle the Deathwatch army needed. The Tome of Ectoclades is the only way to give vehicles Mission Tactics, but when you use it nearby DEATHWATCH units can make use of both the army-wide option as well as the unit type chosen by the Tome. 

Land Raider

I want Land Raiders to be good, but they just aren’t, even with the price drop that the ones in Codex: Space Marines. They’re not so bad that you’ll auto lose if you take one, but there just isn’t a good reason to pay the points, particularly for an army that can just teleport its fragile high-output units to the opponent’s backfield.

Mortis Contemptor

Read everything I wrote about the Relic Contemptor, but it’s slightly worse for fewer points. It’s a reasonable option if you don’t have the points for a Relic or if you don’t want to pay the Relic tax. 

Relic Leviathan

The chonky resin Dreads. These are typically taken with a storm cannon array for 20 S7 AP-2 D2 shots. You can deep strike these with teleportarium and they’re a reasonable unit in Deathwatch, and now that you can protect one with Duty Eternal and give it a re-roll aura with Wisdom of the Ancients they’re a much more attractive option. A teleporting Leviathan giving itself and nearby units re-rolls is pretty tough to deal with and is also something that demands the opponent deal with it immediately.

Rapier Carrier

The quad launcher variant is slightly less efficient than a Thunderfire Cannon, but those aren’t in the Deathwatch Codex. Rapier’s don’t have the stratagems that make TFC’s attractive in normal marine armies but it’s still a reasonably efficient model and it’s the cheapest way to pay the heavy support relic tax.

 

Flyer

Corvus Blackstar

Credit: TheChirurgeon

This is a model that I really like and I wish it were competitive. Deathwatch have teleportation stratagems so they don’t really need a flying transport. Additionally, the Corvus lacks Power of the Machine Spirit and Auspex Array doesn’t target flying units so it can be bad at shooting a lot of things it wants to shoot, and it doesn’t do anything else that a Deathwatch army needs. It gets a small boost from Combat Doctrines, but not enough to be worth looking at.

Xiphon Interceptor

The Xiphon hasn’t gotten a ton of play among Space Marines, but for the Deathwatch, who normally hurt for Lascannons and antitank fire, it’s a much better prospect. It’s an extremely mobile platform sporting four lascannon shots and 3 missiles and it both ignores the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons and gets a +1 bonus against Flyers and gets a huge boost from having Combat Doctrines, where bumping Lascannons to AP-4 and the Missile Launcher to AP-3 for turn 1 will help it throw out some nasty alpha strikes, especially if you can Here’s an area where I might try a Jump Pack Chaplain with Recitation of Focus and the Tome of Ectoclades. With some careful placement and Advance rolls, you can ensure that your Chaplain stays within 6″ of the Xiphon, allowing him to impart the +1 to hit bonus to the Xiphon with Recitation and then share the mission tactics of your choice each turn, allowing you to make the most out of the Xiphon’s twin lascannons and missile battery.

The +1 to hit against targets with FLY is a big boost if you need to take down Eldar flyers that would otherwise be exceptionally difficult to hit. It’s also very solid against units that FLY but don’t give you a shitload of modifiers to hit, such as Repulsors and Jetbikes, where you’ll be hitting on a 2+. 

 

Dedicated Transport

Repulsor

You don’t really need the transport options, but it makes for a decent light weapons platform, especially when you are boosting the AP of its smaller guns with Combat Doctrines. Most of the time you’d rather have an Executioner or a Redemptor to fill the same role, but if you plan on doing anything with the transport capabilities or the fact that it flies then it’s a solid model.

Drop Pods

Worth noting that now Deathwatch Drop Pods also get the ability to land on turn 1, in case you absolutely couldn’t wait for your boys to teleport in. Like with the Repulsor, the teleport ability really takes a lot of the value out of Drop Pods, but Deathwatch at least have more interesting units to put into a drop pod. Unfortunately, you can’t include jump packs, bikes, or Terminators in any unit taking a Drop Pod to the battle, which substantially reduces the unit’s on-board value, but there might be some situations where trading that for being able to get in your opponent’s face right away is worth it.

 

Tips for Playing Deathwatch

If you’re playing Deathwatch, whether monofaction or in soup, keep some of the following things in mind:

  • Don’t forget about Combat Squads. Seriously, this oft-forgotten ability in Codex: Space Marines is a neat trick for Deathwatch, allowing you to make squads that normally wouldn’t be particularly useful (Hellblasters) into strong objective-holding units. Build your army with a mind toward how you can split squads.
  • Maximize your damage output. Your ability to use Deathwatch effectively will depend in no small part on your ability to use SIA effectively against enemy targets. Refer back to our Special Issue Ammo chart (see above) and make sure you’re getting your best shots lined up each time you’re opening fire. That will probably be more of a range question with Kraken vs. Vengeance, but will need more deliberation if you’re debating Hellfire vs. Kraken vs. Dragonfire.
  • You’re still marines. Yeah, you’re specialized marines with slightly different rules, but a lot of the same tactics and strategies that work for marines work here, albeit with a smaller group of units. Smash captains are still good units, and Forge World dreadnoughts work pretty much the same way, only with some very fun teleport tricks.
  • Double up on Battalions. Your big payoffs in Deathwatch are all in the Troops slots, so take advantage by making sure your Deathwatch detachments are battalions so you can maximize your CP and effectiveness.

 

Sample Lists

Deathwatch aren’t really the powerful soup filler they were even as late as December of last year, but they can still add a punch to lists running AdMech, Guard, or Sisters. Now they may actually be better as a monofaction army, but unlike traditional marines, your biggest payoffs are in the Troops slot, meaning you’ll typically want 2 Battalions if you can manage to max out on potential CP.

Anthony D’Amore’s Deathwatch

If you’re going to try and whip up a monofaction Deathwatch army, you could do a lot worse than looking at Anthony D’Amore’s lists. D’Amore is widely regarded as one of, if not the best Deathwatch players out there, and has been advocating for the faction for some time. Once a proponent for storm bolter veterans, Anthony made a strong case for Auto Bolt Rifle after the FAQ updates improved them to Assault 3 last year, and has since shifted to Stalker bolt rifles in Primaris-Heavy Deathwatch armies. He’s also responsible for the highest Deathwatch finish at LVO this year, placing 76th against a field stacked with Iron Hands armies. This list, from an RTT in late February, represents an updated version of that one geared toward more modern threats. It doesn’t have the benefit of these rules behind it, but at the same time, Deathwatch don’t necessarily need to build around them in the same way as other marine armies. It’s likely that Anthony will look at trying out Auto Bolt Rifles again where the volume of fire can do more for the army now that Combat Doctrines are providing a boost.

For some additional insight, we asked Anthony to talk about his list, how the update affects it, and his plans moving forward:

The update over all is pretty vanilla, not a lot of surprises as far as what we got. I will be honest though, I’m a little disappointed we just got the ultra generic chapter tactics. I would’ve loved something a little more bespoke like the Grey Knights got, seeing as Deathwatch as an army are the definition of non codex operating procedure.

As far as changes, I’m probably going to be swapping one of my captains for a chaplain, just to toy around with the litanies. But that’s not really a big swap overall, I was looking to swap into something better as the model had not been performing the job I thought it’d do for me. The Chaplain is going to add some flexibility with the litanies and I think it’ll make things interesting.

From my view, Primaris marines are still several orders of magnitude better than Veterans. So the core of my list outside the 1 HQ swap isn’t going to change for the foreseeable future. I started adding Stalker Bolt Rifle Intercessors as small fire platforms that cheaply filled FOC troop slots for the double battalions. I was having a hard time finding ways to effectively hold objectives in my back field while the other 90% of my army was being shoved down the other guys throat. They’re real easy to hide and pretty great red herrings if my opponents target them. The option to use Target Sighted is only going to increase their value because of the perceived fear of their ability to delete characters with that Stratagem plus Special Issue Ammo. The big problem for me becomes that they will objectively lose effectiveness because I’m removing the Primaris captain in favor of the chaplain. So they wont have the ability to re-roll 1s to hit. But overall the litanies combined with the Beacon Angelis means I can deploy them in a way that literally no other marine army has access to.

Deathwatch Battalion (+5 CP)

HQ: Primaris Watch Captain w/Master-Crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle
HQ: Watch Captain w/Bolt pistol, Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield

Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifle
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifle
Troops: Intercessors – 5x Bolt Rifle, 5x Hellblasters w/Plasma Incinerator

Deathwatch Battalion (+5 CP)

HQ: Watch Captain w/Bolt pistol, Jump Pack, 2x Lightning claws
HQ: Watch Master

Troops: Intercessors – 5x Bolt Rifle, 5x Hellblasters w/Plasma Incinerator
Troops: Intercessors – 5x Auto Bolt Rifle, 4x Aggressor w/Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets, 1x Inceptor w/2x Assault Bolters, Sgt: Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors – 5x Auto Bolt Rifle, 4x Aggressor w/Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets, 1x Inceptor w/2x Assault Bolters, Sgt: Power Fist

Heavy Support: 9x Hellblasters w/Plasma Incinerator

+++ 1,997 Points +++

The army is well set-up to make use of the 13 CP it generates, and will likely want to use Hero of the Chapter to drop a second Warlord trait on one of its smash captains now that it has the option. The list also makes clever use of both Combat Squads to split up its 10-model unit with Hellblasters and the Mixed Unit Toughness rules to create large, hard-to-kill squads of T5 models filled with auto bolt rifle Intercessors who can Advance and shoot with no penalty, then close the distance with a re-rollable charge thanks to the Inceptor.

With the update, there’s also a discussion to be had about replacing one smash captain with a jump pack Chaplain, who lacks the aura but can add a lot of additional accuracy with Recitation of Focus or help Aggressors smash into enemy lines with Canticle of Hate.

Deathwatch as Part of Imperium Soup

As part of Imperium soup, Deathwatch no longer lends the same punch it once did, with several Space Marine options now giving you comparable punch, including Dark Angels for shooting and Blood Angels for melee. Deathwatch can still provide a very mobile fire base with devastating mid-range power however, and can fill that slot in an army that needs a heavier forward presence to support with long-range artillery.

Astra Militarum Battalion Detachment (+5 CP, 491 points)
Regiment: Catachan

HQ: Company Commander w/Chainsword + Laspistol
HQ: Tank Commander w/Battle cannon, heavy bolter, heavy bolters, storm bolter

Troops: Infantry Squad x10
Troops: Infantry Squad x8 + Mortar
Troops: Infantry Squad x8 + Mortar

HS: Manticore w/Heavy Bolter

Deathwatch Battalion Detachment (+5 CP, 1,005 points)

HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer
HQ: Chaplain w/Jump Pack, Catechism of Fire, Litany of Hate

Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifle, Sgt: Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifle, Sgt: Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors – 5x Auto Bolt Rifle, 4x Aggressor w/Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets, 1x Inceptor w/2x Assault Bolters, Sgt: Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors – 5x Auto Bolt Rifle, 4x Aggressor w/Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets, 1x Inceptor w/2x Assault Bolters, Sgt: Power Fist

Adeptus Mechanicus Battalion Detachment (+5 CP, 498 points)
Forge World: Stygies VIII

HQ: Tech-Priest Enginseer
HQ: Tech-Priest Enginseer

Troops: Skitarii Rangers x5
Troops: Skitarii Rangers x5
Troops: Skitarii Rangers x5

HS: Skorpius Disintegrator w/Belleros Energy Cannon, 3x Cognis Heavy Stubber
HS: Skorpius Disintegrator w/Belleros Energy Cannon, 3x Cognis Heavy Stubber
HS: Skorpius Disintegrator w/Belleros Energy Cannon, 3x Cognis Heavy Stubber

+++ 1,995 Points +++

In this list, the Astra Militarum and Mechanicus detachments offer lots of long-range, indirect firepower to support a a devastating forward punch from Auto Bolt Rifle Intercessors. You split the Aggressors/Inceptors to have a group of ObSec monsters plowing into your opponent’s front line while they’re being shelled by Belleors Energy Cannons, mortars, and the manticore. The Chaplain here serves to provide extra wounding support and take out vehicles with Catechism of Fire, and the Stalker Bolt Rifles can clear out characters using Target Sighted early on.

Another approach you can consider is going “all-in” on first turn charges, taking Veterans in drop pods with a Watch Captain and the Beacon Angelis plus a Chaplain to pull of the teleporting Canticle of Hate trick described earlier. Combine this with a detachment of Blood Angels ready to drop in and throw smash captains at an opponent’s face and you an look at slamming something like 1,500 points into your opponent’s face on the first turn.

 

Purge the Xenos

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide!  This should give you an idea of what you can do with Deathwatch, but also keep in mind that this is an incredibly complex army for the few unit slots it occupies. Experiment and feel free to change things up, many options get better or worse in your personal style. As ever, if you think we’ve missed anything, or got anything wrong, then hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com or over on our Facebook Page, and we’ll do our best to respond.

 

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