Start Competing: Raven Guard Tactics

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The stealthy killers of the Raven Guard have always had their dedicated fans but have, rather appropriately, kept to the shadows for much of the history of 40K. That changed in a big way with the release of the 8th Edition chapter supplements, as on release Raven Guard’s was one of the most powerful, providing a host of options for moving powerful units such as Centurions around the board, and synergising extremely effectively with other strong units like Eliminators. Raven Guard Centurions was one of the lists to beat right up until the specific combo it ran off was nerfed into the ground, and still saw use later on in 8th.

The start of 9th was rather quieter for Raven Guard, but the release of the new Space Marine codex has fired them back onto the scene in a big way. Many of the best units in the book slot right in to the Raven Guard battle plan of picking the enemy apart with surgical strikes, and they’re looking like one of the Chapters with the potential to really make bank in competitive play. If all of that has you interested in mastering the Trifold path and taking up arms in the name of this Chapter, read on.

Chapter Overview

Raven Guard were once in strong contention for being called the very best flavour of Marines, and while they aren’t quite at the very top of things right now, they’re operating right at the top of tier 2 on the competitive scene with a plausible shot at breaking through to tier 1. Their focus on deployment and mobility tricks plays very well with the 9th Edition missions, and they have great support for some of the best units in the Space Marine book. The main challenge with them is that the power level of their book is pretty uneven – it has some extreme highlights, but some sections are a bit underwhelming, meaning that you need to plan your list very carefully around their strongest assets.

Strengths

  • Deployment Tricks: Raven Guard get a no-questions-asked INFANTRY deep strike stratagem for 1CP and access to the incredibly powerful Master of Ambush Warlord trait and Infiltrators stratagems to allow them to get straight up in an opponent’s face.
  • Great Stratagems: On top of the two already mentioned Raven Guard get some additional strong options here, and they’re especially well tuned to the melee and short-ranged shooting units Marines favour in 9th.
  • Flexibility: While melee is where they really sing, the Raven Guard rules can support multiple different playstyles, and their ability to heavily adapt their deployment plan game to game means they can respond very effectively to a wide range of matchups.

Weaknesses

  • Weak Chapter Tactic: The mainline Chapter Tactic for the Raven Guard took a real hit on the way to 9th, and with smaller tables and a focus on close engagements it’s a lot less useful than it once was. It isnt’t totally useless, but you should definitely consider whether it’s the best choice for your plans or if you want to look at Successors.
  • Niche Doctrine: The Raven Guard Doctrine is very swingy – sometimes it will do very little, but some matchups (notably Daemons and Knights) it blows clean open. You can usually get some value out of it, but it isn’t on the Scars or Blood Angels level of winning the game for you if it comes live while you still have an army.
  • Weak Relics and Psychic Discipline: There are some OK choices in both, but no outright auto-take relics and not enough in the psychic discipline to lure you away from Librarius most of the time.

Rules

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chapter Tactic – Shadow Masters

This Tactic has two parts. First up, whenever any of your units are shot from >18″ away, you gain the benefit of Light Cover against the attack, even if you’re in the open. Secondly, if any of your INFANTRY units are entirely on or within a terrain feature and are shot at from >12″ away, they gain the benefit of Dense Cover against the attack.

Cover in the open is a strong ability – which is why, unfortunately for the Raven Guard, the first half of this now works at 18″ rather than 12″. That doesn’t line up very well with what 9th Edition wants you to be doing with Marines, which is shoving infantry and dreadnoughts right into your opponent’s faces. Theoretically it benefits gunline elements like tanks, but those are largely pretty weak right now, and likely to mostly consist of the occasional lone Whirlwind in a tuned Raven Guard list. It still provides some alpha strike protection and helps keep your backfield objective holders alive, but isn’t super exciting.

The second part is also pretty tricky to use effectively in 9th, as with Obscuring terrain you’re often motivated to make sure you’re sitting on the far side of a terrain piece rather than within it, and the kind of terrain you’re likely to be able to chill out in mid-field often has the Dense rule already! Like the first half it’s nice when it’s active, but you probably won’t get the benefit from it as often as you’d like.

Successor Tactics

Because Shadow Masters is a bit underwhelming, it’s definitely worth considering Successor options here. Raven Guard’s excellent stratagem sheet heavily incentivises Deep Striking and melee, so natural options to look at are:

  • Hungry for Battle: Gives you a cool +1″ to your charges out of deep strike, which can be further improved with stratagems for a very reliable charge.
  • Born Heroes: Striking fast and hard is a key part of your plan, and this favours an army planning on making some real hammerblows (though doesn’t stack very well with the Doctrine in some games).
  • Whirlwind of Rage: Your other big option for hitting hard on the charge, a bit more generically useful at the cost of being less reliable.

The first big win we saw for the Raven Guard book after the new Codex released combined the latter two here to really maximise its damage output. More on that list later.

Doctrine – Surgical Strikes

The Raven Guard get a huge buff to attacking characters while Tactical Doctrine is active. In some matches where opponents rely on Monster and Vehicle characters this is outrageously good – it’s very hard for Knight and Greater Daemon-based lists to win when every model in your army can contribute highly effectively to chipping them down. Against more conventional armies, however, it can be tougher to leverage – Tactical Doctrine is going to be active for turns two and three most of the time, and unless things are going very well for you your opponent probably still has their characters well screened at this point.

Raven Guard Phobos Units

Raven Guard Phobos Units. Credit: Dan Boyd

You do have some tools to work around this challenge, of course. Eliminators have fallen fairly sharply out of favour with many Marine players, but the lure of the Doctrine here means that you can still make use of them in Raven Guard. You also have access to a powerful weapon upgrade option for the Phobos Characters that makes them a threat to mid-quality characters pretty much all on their own for the relevant turns. It’s also a powerful deterrent to your opponent getting their characters into a fight until you’re through to Assault Doctrine, which can be an major upside against some lists. Finally, being able to switch this on in later turns via Adaptive Stratagy means that if you go into your turn seeing that you’ve got the perfect multicharge into a gaggle of characters lined up, you can massively boost your chances of taking them out.

All of this is nice but is neither going to win you games by itself or give you an overwhelming army-wide boost except in a small sub-set of matchups. Raven Guard need you to put the work in.

Stratagems

Let’s move on to the good stuff – if you’re playing Raven Guard or one of their successors, the Stratagems are probably a big part of what you’re here for. There’s some very, very good stuff here.

  • Infiltrators (1 CP) – Use at the start of the first battle round, before the first turn begins. Select 1 unit of friendly RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY unit from your army on the battlefield.  This unit may move as if it was the Movement phase but must end its move more than 9” away from any enemy unit. If both players have such an ability, roll off to see who uses it first. A unit can only be targeted by this stratagem once per battle. This ability has always been great, and the combination of alternating deployment and rolling for first turn after both players have set up makes it better than ever, as it gives you plenty of ways in which you can react to the exact situation on the ground, as well as just providing the raw power of helping get your best on-board units safely into position within mid-board terrain. It can also help units like Devastators assume effective firing positions out of the gate, or set up first turn charges with jump pack units. Really, there’s just a whole host of options here, and with the heavy focus on INFANTRY that the Marine Codex encourages this is excellent. The only thing to be careful of is not to go too overboard in committing yourself to paying for this if the roll off goes one way or the other – try to set up so that you need to blow it on at most 2 or 3 units for each possible result. A
Sneaky Raven Guard Aggressors

Sneaky Raven Guard Aggressors. Credit: Dan Boyd

  • The Raven’s Blade (1 CP) – Use this at the start of Charge phase and select one enemy unit on the battlefield. RAVEN GUARD units that declare a charge against only that unit may re-roll the charge distance this phase. Very good – Raven Guard have lots of support for bringing powerful units in from deep strike, and this helps them make combat. The drawback of only being able to declare a charge against the single target is also a bit less severe in 9th, as multi-charges are a bit less common. A strong bread and butter effect you will use with your melee units almost every game. B+
  • Stranglehold (2 CP) – Use this stratagem at the start of the first battle round but before first turn begins if your army contains any RAVEN GUARD SCOUT or PHOBOS units. Until the end of the battle round, roll D6 each time your opponent spends CP to use a stratagem. On a 5+, your opponent must spend an additional command point or else that stratagem has no effect and cannot be used again. You may only use this stratagem once per battle. This ability never really panned out to be quite as exciting as it initially looked in 8th, and in 9th it ends up even less valuable. With armies being much more constrained in the ceiling of CP they can reach, and big high-spend combos more often going off on turns two and three, it’s extremely hard to make back your investment here, and you have better things to do with your CP. D
  • False Flight (2 CP) – Use this when a RAVEN GUARD unit from your army falls back. That unit can shoot and charge this turn. Good, clean fun that means units such as Eradicators and Eliminators can never be pinned down.. A
  • Lay Low the Tyrants (1 CP) – Use when a RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY or BIKER unit from you army is chosen to fight. Until end of phase, when resolving an attack made by this unit against a non-VEHICLE CHARACTER or a non-VEHICLE unit containing any models with 4+ wounds, add 1 to the wound roll. Yes, Space Wolves and Salamanders both get this without having to jump through nearly as many hoops, but when this is on it’s still very powerful. The CHARACTER half of this won’t come up as often in 9th simply because it doesn’t stack with the super doctrine, but there are plenty of strong armies with relevant targets for the back half, and it’s worth using to help take out Beasts of Nurgle, Allarus Custodians and even enemy Attack Bikes. Niche enough that it’s a these days, but use it when you can.
  • See, but Remain Unseen (1 CP) – Use at the end of your turn. Select 1 RAVEN GUARD unit from your army that did not make any attacks during your turn.  Until the start of your next turn, enemies attacking this unit at range get -1 to their To Hit rolls. With Raven Guard you want to be operating a fairly relentless assault most of the time, but sometimes you’ll need to take a turn to get something into position or find you can’t quite reach your next target, and this becomes worthwhile. It’s also excellent if you’re performing any of the turn-long Actions, since in that case you won’t be attacking anyway, meaning it can provide some crucial help in certain missions. Does become a bit less exciting now you can’t stack the modifier, mind, but still a B.
  • Strike from the Shadows (1 CP)Use during the declare reserves and transports step of mission setup. Select one RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY unit from your army. You can deploy that unit in ambush, and they can appear during the reinforcements step of one of your movement phases anywheere that’s more than 9″ away from any enemy models. Yeah, this is basically what you’re here for if you’re picking Raven Guard – general purpose Deep Strike with no restrictions beyond being INFANTRY is absolutely fantastic, and makes Bladeguard Veterans, Aggressors and Eradicators all appreciably easier to set up and get usage out of in a Raven Guard list. Now that flamers have a natural range of 12″, there’s potentially even still room for a small contingent of Centurions to get mileage from this if you’re feeling spicy, and even just sticking ten Intercessors in ready to pop out and blow Rapid Fire is potentially strong. One of the two top abilities in the whole book, and a rare A+
  • Vengeance for Isstvan 5 (1 CP)Use in fight phase when a friendly RAVEN GUARD unit is chosen to fight  Until end of phase, when resolving a melee attack against a model with the WORD BEARERS, IRON WARRIORS, NIGHT LORDS, or ALPHA LEGION keywords, you can re-roll hit rolls. Could theoretically be useful against Alpha Legion if you don’t have a re-roll aura nearby, I guess, but even then probably won’t matter much. F
  • Ambushing Fire (2 CP) – Use this stratagem at start of your Movement phase if Tactical Doctrine is active. Until start of the next battle round, when resolving an attack from a rapid fire or assault weapon, when you roll an unmodified wound roll of 6 improve the AP of that attack by 1. Use this stratagem only once per battle. Can be decent in some lists, but you’re often going to be running a list that is killing people either with melee or weapons that already have good AP, at which point this is a bit of a wash. B
  • Decapitating Blow (2 CP) – Use this stratagem when the enemy warlord is killed by an attack made by a RAVEN GUARD unit in your army. Until the end of battle, all enemy units get a -1 penalty to their Leadership. This is slightly better in 9th than it was in 8th, because marginal morale failures matter more, but it doesn’t rescue it from a D.
  • A Deadly Prize (1 CP) – Use this stratagem at end of your turn. Select 1 objective marker within 3” of a friendly Raven Guard infantry and not within 3” of an enemy unit. Next time an enemy unit ends a movewithin 3” of that objective marker, roll a D6; on a 2-4 it does D3 mortal wounds, on a 5+ it does 3 mortal wounds. You cannot use this stratagem on the same objective marker more than once per battle. Didn’t see that much use in 8th, but could plausibly have more of a lease of life in 9th – ultimately your opponent has to come get your objectives a lot of the time, so they’ll have to eat this. Many players are also using small units like Kommandos and Flayed Ones to bully stuff like Servitors off objectives, and this can give them real pause. B
  • Strike from the Skies (1 CP)Use at the start of your Charge phase, select 1 Raven Guard jump pack unit. Until the end of the phase, the unit can be chosen to charge even if it advanced that turn and add +1” to charge distance. Great in combination with Vanguard Veterans, as it combines with The Raven’s Blade to get you into the region of a 70% charge hit rate out of Deep Strike, or even better if you’re playing with a Hungry For Battle Successor. Once they’re down, keeps them operating on the move. It’s also strong with any flavour of jump pack smash character B+
  • Master of the Trifold Path (1 CP)Use this after nominating a non-named character to be your warlord. Generate one additional additional warlord trait for them. All Warlord traits in your army have to be different. Extremely slaps on a Bike Chaplain in particular, as Swift and Deadly plus either Rites of War or Wise Orator is a winning combination. Adding Master of Ambush on top of Rites of War if you’re short on characters is also great. A
  • Favor of the Ravenspire (1 CP) – Same as the other supplements. Pick a Sergeant and give him a special issue wargear relic from one of Master-Crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, Silentus Pistol, Korvidari Bolts. You can definitely do worse than Master Crafting the weapon of a squad sergeant you’re planning to Master of Ambush with. B
  • Token of Brotherhood (1 CP) – The successor chapter stratagem that gives you access to 1 Relic of the Ravenspire. The Ravenspire relics are a lot less “mandatory” than, for example, the White Scars ones, but you might occasionally find slots for Ex Tenebris or Raven’s Fury. B-

This is a strong set of Stratagems, providing a lot of tools for surprising your opponent and making their lives a lot more fraught and risky in a highly appropriate manner. While a lot of this helps melee the most, plenty can be effective with shooting options as well, with being able to fall back and shoot being especially relevant on mid-board shooting threats. As long as you love INFANTRY, there’s definitely going to be something for you in here.

Warlord Traits

Raven Guard Gravis Captain

Raven Guard Gravis Captain. Credit: Dan Boyd

Like all the other supplements, Raven Guard get six warlord traits to choose from. Realistically, two of these sit head and shoulders above the rest, with a few others having fringe uses.

  1. Shadowmaster – Enemy units cannot fire Overwatch at the warlord. With Overwatch being less frequent;y used in 9th and Tau barely figuring on the competitive radar there isn’t much call for this – it’s an effect that’s neat to have, but not “spend a warlord trait on it” neat. C
  2. Master of Ambush – At the start of first battle round, before the start of the first turn, select one friendly RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY unit (which cannot be Centurions) on battlefield. Remove that unit and warlord (if they are INFANTRY) from the battlefield, then set them up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from the enemy deployment zone and any enemy models. If both players have this ability, you roll off to determine who redeploys first. This remains the single most reliable way to ensure one of your units can be right in your opponent’s face out of the gate, and while not being able to use it with Centurions makes it a bit less potent than it once was, it’s still incredibly good, giving you a huge range of options thanks to triggering at the start of the first battle round. in some games you might just want to go for the blunt force option, throwing something like Bladeguard or Aggressors straight at your opponent and forcing them to deal with them, but in others, or if you go second, you can be a bit more cagey. You might choose to position an elite melee unit safely behind Obscuring terrain in strike range of a key objective, or set up a unit of Eradicators in the mid-board so you have free reign as to what to shoot early on. You also don’t have to keep the character and the unit together, which opens up other options such as moving a unit to an aggressive posture and positioning a buff character like an Apothecary in the mid board for the rest of your army to form up around later on, or to help out your Phobos units. This forces your opponent to be incredibly cautious when deploying and gives you a bunch of powerful options even when they get things right, making it the other biggest reason, along with Strike from the Shadows, why you would use this book. A+
  3. Swift and Deadly – Raven Guard CORE and CHARACTER units within 6″ can advance and charge. This used to be a strong ability that was somewhat missing relevant targets, as many lists would feature smash captains as their only super mobile melee unit, so could just make use of Strike from the Skies instead. The 9th Edition book gives this multiple new leases of life, boosting it up to being one of the best traits. First up, almost all lists will feature multiple melee units, and letting Bladeguard do a convincing White Scars impression alongside a character is great. Secondly, with Vanguard Veterans now one of the best Space Marine units, you’re much more likely to have competition for the Strike From the Skies button if you bring a smash captain too. Finally, the Bike Chaplain is the absolute perfect unit to use with this, taking advantage of his massive Advance speed and big base to spread the Advance and Charge love both to himself and all his friends nearby. A
  4. Master of Vigilance – When resolving an attack with a melee weapon made by this Warlord, an unmodified hit roll of 6 inflicts a mortal wound in addition to its normal damage. Pales in comparison to Imperium’s Sword, and you’re unlikely to be trying to tool up multiple smash captains in a 9th list. C
  5. Feigned Flight – When the warlord falls back, they can move across models and terrain as if they weren’t there.  In addition, they can shoot and charge in a turn in which they fall back. Deeply “meh” – you can already access most of this via a stratagem (or all if it if your warlord flies) and it’s far too situational to want to spend a trait on it. D 
  6. Echo of the Ravenspire – Reprint from the main Codex. Once per battle, at end of the Movement phase, the warlord can vanish if they are more than 6” away from any enemy models. Remove the model from the battlefield and then at the end of your next Movement phase deploy the model anywhere more than 9” away from any enemy models. Traits like this are pretty tough to use in 9th, becuase you’re generally fairly limited in how many characters you bring and have some very high priority things to spend your picks on. Setting up a once-per-game effect that your opponent can see coming and plan for just doesn’t make the grade very often, and not being able to flex pick game-to-game keeps this from having much of a home. D

A very polarised list here, with two great abilities and four that will very rarely make the grade. Luckily, between Rites of WarImperium’s Sword and some of the chapter command options it’s pretty rare for you to have more than a couple of slots for supplement traits, and the two good ones here mean you’re getting more than enough from this book on the warlord front.

Relics

Like the other supplement factions, Raven Guard have access to two groups of relics: Relics of the Ravenspire, which are exclusive to the Raven Guard chapter (unless you use a stratagem to give one to a successor), and Special-Issue Wargear, which successors have access to.

Relics of the Ravenspire

The Relics of the Ravenspire are:

  • Ebonclaws – Replaces a pair of lightning claws with a pair that are Strength User, AP-3, d3 Damage and give you +2 Attack and the ability to re-roll failed wound rolls. Just doesn’t do very much over a pair of master-crafted lightning claws – you’re essentially getting one extra point of AP in trade-off for d3 damage instead of 2, which is probably a downgrade. Not worth it. C
  • Armor of Shadows – When resolving an attack against this model that has an AP of -1, resolve it at AP 0 instead. In addition, an unmodified hit roll of 1, 2 or 3 always fails against this model. Relatively underwhelming, just doesn’t quite do enough, though if you’re worried about an Apothecary getting killed there are worse ways to protect them. B-
  • Raven Skull of Korvaad – Once per turn, when resolving an attack by this model re-roll the hit, wound or damage roll. In addition, when this model is destroyed by an attack made by an enemy unit, until the end of the battle all friendly Raven Guard add 1 to hit rolls against that enemy unit. You’re much less motivated to try and build smash characters in 9th, which makes this a bit weaker, but on the flip side characters bring fewer of their own re-rolls now. It’s still not really something you’re super interested in. C+
  • Raven’s Fury – Model with Jump Pack only. This model can charge even if it advances.  When a charge roll is made, you may re-roll the dice. After this model finishes a charge move, select an enemy unit within 1” and roll a D6.  On a 4+, that enemy unit suffers 1 mortal wound. An OK option for a jump pack murder machine, but you’re very rarely going to be doing what this wants from you any more (i.e. deep striking a jump pack Captain planning to kill stuff). C
  • Ex Tenebris – Replaces a master-crafted stalker bolt rifle, oculus bolt rifle, or instigator bolt carbine. It’s Range 36”, Assault 3, S4 AP-2, 2 Damage and ignores Look Out Sir. Also, it gives its bearer +1 to hit rolls and ignores cover. This thing is no joke, and a serious attraction to including the relevant builds of the characters that can wield it in your army. The phobos Captain and non-Reaver Lt aren’t super prevalent in lists at the moment, but this is such a powerful weapon that if you’re going to use them anywhere, it’s probably Raven Guard. If you’ve got either of them in the army this is an extremely helpful upgrade, and helps both keep enemy characters on their toes and also just lets you pick off the odd enemy marine. B+
Raven Guard Primaris Lieutenants

Raven Guard Primaris Lieutenants. Credit: Dan Boyd

  • Oppressor’s EndReplaces a combat knife. Has Strength +1, AP-2, 1 Damage and gives +1 attack.  Against CHARACTERS its Damage increases to 3. This one gets a big boost from the Reiver Lt being low-key super worth it in 9th, as it takes a character who’s already a pretty good include from a utility and buff point of view and turns them into a brutal threat to any enemy characters who cross their path. Not mandatory, but a real good add if you have the model and a slot free. B+

The pickings here are, sadly, pretty slim. Both the weapons aimed at Phobos characters are decently strong, and worth taking if you’re already putting them in your list, but not strong enough that they make them army-defining. The rest of this doesn’t really stack up against mainline options.

Special-Issue Wargear

The Raven Guard Special-Issue Wargear includes three repeats and five new choices.

  • Adamantine Mantle – Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Solid, particularly for units that already have an invulnerable save. A decent fall back to have. B
  • Artificer Armour – Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon – Common to all Space Marine codex supplements. Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range, or giving Suppressor sergeants the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
  • Shadowmaster Cloak – Gives the bearer a 3+ invulnerable save while its model is wholly on a terrain feature. Technically this now does something that storm shields don’t, but still naaaaah. D
  • Silentus Pistol – The special pistol for Raven Guard successors. It replaces a bolt pistol or heavy bolt pistol with a gun that’s Range 12”, Pistol 2, S5, AP-2, 2 Damage, ignores Look Out Sir and gives +1 to hit rolls. Hey, cool, it’s very nearly Shrike’s pistol. This is actually a genuinely good gun, the mix of flat 2 damage and character sniping giving it a hefty leg up over the regular version. There might actually be a semi-real case for chucking this on a Bladeguard sergeant. B
  • Korvidari Bolts – The special ammo for Raven Guard successors. The model can opt to shoot these with a bolt weapon and gets +6″ range and can target units that aren’t visible, but only gets to make one attack when using these. Marginally more interesting than some of the special bolts, and semi OK on a Phobos Captain or an Eliminator sergeant, but probably not actually beating out better options. B
  • Shard of Isstvan – A model with this relic gets +1 attack and friendly units within 6” of that model automatically pass morale tests. This is better than it was in 8th because without their re-rolls occasional morale fails are more of a risk to Marines, and +1A is pretty much always fine. You never need this, but it’s OK. B

Sadly for Raven Guard, Master-Crafted Weapon is probably the best of the lot here – there’s a bunch of other things that are OK, but few things that really grab you. After the highs of the stratagems and warlord traits, relics are a bit of a low point in this book.

Psychic Powers

Raven Guard Phobos Librarian

Raven Guard Phobos Librarian. Credit: Dan Boyd

Raven Guard Librarians have access to the Umbramancy Discipline. It’s got a couple of interesting tricks, but is a little underwhelming overall.

  1. Umbral Form (WC 5) – The psyker gets a 4+ invulnerable save till your next psychic phase. You do not want to be casting this over Psychic Fortress from the main book. C
  2. Enveloping Darkness (WC 7) – Select a visible enemy unit within 18″ of the Psyker. Until your next psychic phase that unit can’t fire Overwatch and gets -1 to its To Hit rolls. This is pretty good. You’re less excited about it in 9th, but it’s still one of the stronger ones here. B+
  3. Spectral Blade (WC 5) – Until the start of your next Psychic phase, the Psyker’s strength characteristic becomes equal to its Ld value and when it attacks a unit with lower Ld, that attack has an AP value of -4. Arguably a better version of a self buff than a lot of the ones available, but still not something you want to put a Librarian in your list to access. C
  4. Shadowstep (WC 7) – Pick a friendly RAVEN GUARD character within 18″ of the Psyker. Remove that model from the battlefield, then redeploy it anywhere more than 9″ from an enemy model. This is much more the calibre of effect that you’re looking for to bring a Librarian along, and there’s some cool stuff you can do with this. Repositioning Chaplains or Apothecaries to get them where they need to be is pretty cool, if gives you angles on secondaries like Linebreaker and sending a Reiver Lt on an exciting quest to ruin your opponent’s action-based plans could be an occasional clutch move, especially in a Hungry for Battle Successor. However, this also loses some points compared to 8th because you’re no longer as interested in trying to move smash captains about, and bike Chaplains don’t really need mobility help. There’s some really good stuff you can do with this though, and it’s definitely an interesting one to add to a buff Librarian via the Tome of Malcador. A
  5. The Abyss (WC 6) – Select a visible enemy unit within 18″. Roll 3D6 and for each 4+, that unit suffers a mortal wound. If any models die from this, the unit gets -1 to its Leadership until the end of the turn. Not what you’re looking for, really C
  6. The Darkness Within (WC 6) – Select up to 3 enemy units within 18″ of the psyker and roll 1D6 for each, adding 1 if you rolled a 11+ on the psychic test. On a 4+, that unit suffers a mortal wound. There aren’t really any ways to key off doing a single wound to a unit in the Raven Guard codex, so the value on this one is pretty limited. D

Units

The Raven Guard have a single named unit in their Codex, their unique jump-pack equipped Primaris Chapter Master.

Kayvaan Shrike

Kayvaan Shrike infiltrating as a Crimson Fist

Kayvaan Shrike infiltrating as a Crimson Fist. Credit: Corrode

Shrike is a real bargain at 135pts, and one of the more interesting reasons to go for a pure Raven Guard list rather than taking a Successor. He’s straight up massively cheaper than custom-built jump pack Chapter Master, is the only Primaris character that can fly around (with the spicy statline to go with it) and packs both a relic-tier pistol and the equivalent of Master Crafted lightning claws. That’s super great overall, and if you are playing a Raven Guard list there’s very few reasons not to take Shrike – you probably do want a mobile captain to go with your moving castle, and there’s barely even a price premium here. It is a mark of how badly Raven Guard generally want to go Successors that you’re probably still going to pass on this option. Oh, one final thing – he’s got the Phobos keyword, which opens up some interactions with the Obscuration Discipline that probably don’t come up that much, but being able to use Guerilla Tactics is potentially a much bigger deal, especially for as long as it keeps its current dodgy wording that lets you immediately come back from strategic reserves.

Other Units of Note

Primaris Chaplain on Bike

Now look, obviously there’s a philosophical argument to be had as to whether this guy counts as especially notable in any Marine book since almost every list runs one, but the Swift and Deadly warlord trait is exceptionally good on one of these, and you should use this combo. It’s cool and fun.

Phobos Characters

The Phobos Captain and sniper Lieutenant are both more attractive here thanks to the presence of Ex Tenebris, while the already pretty great Reiver Lt. loves Oppressors End and (plausibly) being teleported around via Shadowstep to do mischief.

All the Best Options

OK seriously though, you know what’s great? Deep striking Eradicators and Bladeguard. It isn’t complicated but it’s very powerful. What if you like Vanguard Veterans and they already deep strike? Well, you get a bunch of boosts to your deep strike charges. Fun stuff.

Assault Centurions

The Assault Centurion has fallen a long way from the throne upon which once he sat, but if you run Hungry For Battle and deep strike them with Strike from the Shadows they’re still pretty terrifying, and now sport natural 12″ ranges on their flamers, meaning they can start doing some damage straight away. These have kind of dried up since the codex landed because of the lack of CORE, but in factions that can put “real” deep strike on them we think that will turn out to be an overcorrection – they’re still fantastically dangerous if you can get them into touch.

Eliminators

A mixture of being intensely dangerous to enemy characters while the Doctrine is up and also being able to be 2+ in the open while sitting on a home objective (if you keep the Raven Guard tactic) gives these more of a slot here than they see in most lists these days.

Scary Stuff to Master of Ambush

Starting a nasty unit right in your opponents face isn’t always the play, but it’s nice to have the option to do so when it’s right. You may already have this via Bladeguard or Vanguard Veterans, but if not you should consider tilting towards something scary like Aggressors, Terminators or even a big block of Intercessors. The latter threatening to either double shoot or double fight out the gate (depending on the flavour you take) is a real issue for some lists.

Playing Raven Guard

Your biggest asset when playing as Raven Guard, compared to other chapters, is how cautious the opponent has to be because of what you can do to them if you aren’t. Master of Ambush and Strike From the Shadows let you threaten the opponent with having units with no business deep striking or teleporting right up in their grill at a moments notice, and while they’re playing around that possibility you can focus on securing the objectives and taking over the game. Infiltrators can combine with the inclusion of Phobos units and the deep strike abilities to turbo-charge the rate at which you get up the table, and your goal with the opening moves of the game is to force your opponent to be cautious, then set up a situation where moving up the table walks right into your trap.

Even against the most cautious opponent, of course, some of the stuff you put into deep strike is going to do real damage when it emerges. Eradicators are incredibly difficult to fully screen out thanks to their 24″ range, while Centurions are more than happy deleting a swathe of chaff then daring any enemy units to come close to them afterwards. Units like Vanguard Veterans and Bladeguard need a bit more setup, and one of the things you’ll want to aim to do early is clear out enemy screens that might stop these doing the damage you want the turn they show up. The tradeoff you have for playing Raven Guard compared to White Scars or Blood Angels is that you don’t have a big late game power boost to fall back on, so you need to make sure your early punches land hard enough that it doesn’t matter. While not mandatory, there’s a real case for including some moderately durable horde-clearance units like Intercessors, Aggressors or Terminators who can use Infiltrators to start in the mid board and start blowing away screens. You also need to make sure you have a plan for getting enemy Infiltrators and Incursors off the table ASAP, and that’s something that Bladeguard or Aggressors can do well – Master of Ambush can start them close enough that they have a very high chance of landing a charge straight away.

You are definitely an army that wants to favour the first three turns of the battle, because this is when your deep strikes/teleports are going off, so you want to be a bit more aggressive about spending CP and resources to make sure that they go right. You also need to remember that your attacks from ambush are going to be your best opportunity to do big damage, and need to focus on removing your enemy’s best units with them. While the power Raven Guard offer you can make it very tempting to go all-in straight away every game, sometimes you need to take a more measured approach to make sure you land a blow that counts, and using Master of Ambush too aggressively is one of the ways to lose with the army. Always consider whether creating a strong castle mid-table is going to be a better use of turn 1 than going straight for the throat.

For an army like Raven Guard, it’s also especially important to make sure you’re taking a moment to reflect at the end of the game about how things went. When you launched your big strikes, did you overcommit? Undercommit? Forget something that could have been terminal and only got away with it because of good dice? Deep strike armies live and die on committing the right amount of force to the right fight, and it’s vital that you continuously assess how you’re doing at this in order to improve. The learning curve for this supplement is definitely steeper than some of the others, but it can be extremely powerful once mastered.

Tips and Tricks to Remember

  • Deployment Tricks Can Be Used Defensively Too: While the dream of Infiltrators and Master of Ambush is to absolutely body your opponent, they can and should be used to set up tough-to-crack defensive positions as well. In 9th almost every army wants to move to control the mid-board, and filling it with Space Marines nice and early makes that super risky.
  • Punish Incautious Enemy Infiltrators: If your opponent isn’t careful when deploying Incursors, Nurglings and the like you can near-guaranteed charge them out of the gate, letting you clear out the screening they represent.
  • Watch Your Stratagem Sequencing in the Charge Phase: Raven’s Blade  and Strike From The Skies are both “start of phase” effects, and because they affect your probabilities, your opponent isn’t going to be being unreasonable if they don’t let you activate them after rolling up a bunch of other charges. Make sure to declare them straight away if they’re key to your plan.
  • Look for Angles on Characters: On turns 2 and 3 your army is going to be incredibly deadly to any characters with pretty much any weapons. Look Out Sir protection is easier to crack through than the old character targeting rules, so keep an eye out for chances to clear out a screen and eliminate the characters lurking inside.

 

Raven Guard Aggressors

Raven Guard Aggressors. Credit: Dan Boyd

Army Lists

Two lists for you today – one Raven Guard Successor list that took down a GT straight out of the gates after the new codex landed, and a second list we’ve cooked up that makes use of the actual Chapter.

Jonathan Sleigh-Jones’ Raven Guard Successors

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Raven Guard) [97 PL, -3CP, 2000pts] ++

  • Configuration +

Chapter Selection: Born Heroes , Raven Guard Successor, Whirlwind of Rage

+ HQ [13 PL, -2CP, 280pts] +

Captain [6 PL, -1CP, 140pts]: Jump Pack [1 PL, 25pts], Master of Ambush, Storm shield [10pts], Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP], Thunder hammer [20pts]

Primaris Chaplain on Bike [7 PL, -1CP, 150pts]: 3. Exhortation of Rage, 6. Canticle of Hate (Aura), Chapter Command: Master of Sanctity [1 PL, 35pts], Litany of Hate, Rites of War, Stratagem: Master of the Trifold Path [-1CP], Swift and Deadly, Swift as the Raven, Warlord

+ Troops [5 PL, 305pts] +

Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] . 4x Incursor [84pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Occulus bolt carbine, 4x Paired combat blades
. Incursor Sergeant [21pts]

Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] . 4x Incursor [84pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Occulus bolt carbine, 4x Paired combat blades
. Incursor Sergeant [21pts]

Assault Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 95pts] . 4x Assault Intercessor [76pts]: 4x Astartes Chainsword, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Heavy Bolt Pistol
. Assault Intercessor Sgt [19pts]: Astartes Chainsword, Heavy Bolt Pistol

+ Elites [39 PL, -1CP, 765pts] +

Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 175pts] . 4x Bladeguard Veteran [140pts]: 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 4x Master-crafted Power Sword, 4x Storm Shield
. Bladeguard Veteran Sgt [35pts]: Heavy Bolt Pistol

Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 175pts] . 4x Bladeguard Veteran [140pts]: 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 4x Master-crafted Power Sword, 4x Storm Shield
. Bladeguard Veteran Sgt [35pts]: Heavy Bolt Pistol

Primaris Apothecary [5 PL, -1CP, 105pts]: Chapter Command: Chief Apothecary [1 PL, 25pts], Selfless Healer, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter, The Vox Espiritum, [-1CP]

Vanguard Veteran Squad [14 PL, 320pts]: Jump Pack [2 PL, 20pts] Vanguard Veteran Sergeant w/power fist, storm shield
7x Vanguard Veteran w/power fist, storm shield
2x Vanguard Veteran w/lightning claw, storm shield

+ Fast Attack [24 PL, 500pts] +

Inceptor Squad [12 PL, 250pts]: 4x Inceptor [160pts], Inceptor Sergeant [40pts], Plasma Exterminator x2 [50pts]

Inceptor Squad [12 PL, 250pts]: 4x Inceptor [160pts], Inceptor Sergeant [40pts], Plasma Exterminator x2 [50pts]

+ Heavy Support [6 PL, 130pts] +

Eradicator Squad [6 PL, 130pts]: Melta rifle
. Eradicator [40pts] . Eradicator Sgt [40pts] . Eradicator with MM [50pts]: Multi-melta [10pts]

[97 PL, 9CP, 2000pts]

The Standout Features

  • Successor chapter traits optimise the army for getting in the opponent’s face and kicking them in.
  • Multiple terrifying options to ship up the board with Master of Ambush.
  • A particularly nasty combination of abilities stacked on a Bike Chaplain to let the army maraud around the board.

Hitting fast and hard seems to be one of the ways to win with new Marines, and this list combines tools from the Raven Guard supplement with a Successor Tactic all about charging to do just that. Master of Ambush may no longer be able to teleport Centurions around the board, but a large squad of Bladeguard or the nightmare Vanguard Veteran bomb here isn’t going to be much less nasty to deal with right out of the gate, and both of them also provide some extreme counterpunch threat if this list parks them behind some mid-board Obscuring terrain going second. Similar to what we’ve seen out of some successful Wolf lists, this list gets pressure into the opponent’s face very effectively. The Chaplain can hand out both charge boosts and grants himself and nearby friends Advance and Charge, so can turbo-boost up the board right out of the gate and allow both the VanVets and a Master of Ambushed squad of Bladeguard to be active in close quarters straight away. With access to charge re-rolls from The Raven’s Blade, the second Bladeguard unit can potentially be stashed in Strike from the Shadows, ready to pop out into Canticle of Hate turn two for a re-rollable 7″ charge. Given that the army will already have some mid-board presence from the Incursors, that’s going to keep most opponent’s busy for a while.

During that time, the Plasma Inceptors start blasting. You’re probably already sick of hearing about these at this point but they’re real, real good, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s slightly alarming that out of the gate with the new book it’s not uncommon to see (as here) Marine players blowing a quarter of their points on just these. They’re great at killing almost everything, fast and durable, work extremely well with Chief Apothecaries and are competitively priced. They’re kind of at their best in lists like this that put something terrifying in the opponent’s face, as they can both reach out and neutralise whatever an opponent’s best counter is and rack up huge body counts while they’re distracted. If you are a Marine player right now, you kind of need to own these, so get on that!

Finishing things out, we have a single unit of Eradicators with a multi-melta. These are, of course, especially good in any list that can just stash them away in deep strike somewhere, as there’s plenty of stuff they have a good chance of popping in a single volley of fire. Nasty stuff.

Wings’ Raven Guard

Raven Guard Aggressors

Raven Guard Aggressors. Credit: Dan Boyd

Ultimately, Successors is probably the right way to go with this army right now – both the above build and ones with Hungry for Battle and Centurions feel very powerful. However, we know some fans at home like to see proper chapter lists, so we’ve cooked one up.

Raven Guard Battalion

2x Hero of the Chapter
1x Master of the Trifold Path
1x Relics of the Chapter

HQ

Kayvaan Shrike – 135

Primaris Lieutenant in Reiver Armour, Hero of the Chapter – Master of Ambush, Oppressor’s End – 75

Primaris Master of Sanctity on Bike, Canticle of Hate, Exhortation of Rage, Warlord, Master of the Trifold Path, Rites of War, Swift and Deadly – 140

Troops

Incursors – 105

Incursors – 105

Intercessors x10, bolt rifles, power fist – 210

Elites

Aggressors x5, Flamestorm gauntlets – 200

Bladeguard Veterans x5 – 175

Primaris Chief Apothecary, Hero of the Chapter, Selfless Healer – 95

Vanguard Veterans w/jump pack x7, 6x lightning claws/shields, Sergeant w/thunder hammer/shield – 205

Fast Attack

Attack Bikes x3, multi-meltas – 155

Heavy Support

Eliminators – 90

Eliminators – 90

Eradicators x5, multi-melta – 210

2000pts, 8CP

Like the Successor list the goal here is to make sure you have a host of incredibly nasty things to move into position with all the different movement tricks, but in order to try and leverage the Raven Guard chapter tactic we’ve skewed things a bit more towards mid-range shooting, and brought some Eliminators along to screen out the backfield and hold on to home objectives. Shrike providing an incredibly cheap Chapter Master goes great with some Attack Bikes and Intercessors, and you can potentially get the latter into position for a Chapter-Master boosted volley out the gate if you Master of Ambush them and move Shrike with Infiltrators. That’s hideously scary for any flavour of horde list, and if you have tougher targets you need to go for out the gate you could do the same with the Eradicators, or just use the Attack Bikes.

Because we also want to keep the opponent a little bit more at arms length, we’ve also chosen to bring along some Flamestorm Aggressors as one of the deep strike threats. The threat of bringing them down in our castle, roasting one unit and then pulling a re-rollable 7″ charge with Canticle of Hate. They’re also quite spooky as a harrassment unit to go off and handle a flank by themselves, as if they drop into cover then they’re very tricky to shift. The expectation with this list is that most of the time you’re DSing the Aggressors and Eradicators, with the Bladeguard being a sometimes treat (though they’re often going to be hustling up the board with the Apothecary), but you have a whole host of options depending on what you’re up against. The Vanguard Veterans are more of a counter-charge threat here than a primary damage dealer, but the way the squad is set up it can still do some hefty damage when needed (especially against anything you can Lay Low the Tyrants against), and Shrike is very dangerous if he pitches in to help.

Like any good Raven Guard list, this should be a gigantic headache to play against, and has a strong range of tools to make sure it can eliminate key targets against any kind of opponent. If they’ve brought hordes, the big Intercessor squad and Aggressors have got your back, while if vehicles and monsters are their plan then Eradicators and Attack Bikes give you an answer. All of it benefits from the standard Marine buff castle setup, and if you wanted to mix things up a bit then a Librarian with Psychic Fortress would also be a good add here. It’s definitely a list I’d enjoy throwing down with!

Where to Read More

Click here to return to our larger guide on Codex Space Marines. If you have any questions or feedback, shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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