Stop Competing: Dark Angels Tactics

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What the fuck is a Dark Angel?

Is there anything cooler than Space Marines? Buff men in impenetrable armor, carrying fully-automatic rocket launchers and hissing litanies of hate through their skull-masks. What if you took those guys, give them anime swords and anime robes, and replaced the furious chanting with brooding silence? Probably cooler, yeah? Incorrect, they are no longer cool at all. These are the First Legion, the Dark Angels, and they know precisely one, very specific, fear.

Throughout this post, we’ll be offering multiple Overcharged Plasma Hot Takes from our authors, in the tabbed parts of the text – if you want to read Greg’s opinions, you can refer to the “Goofus” tab, and Chase, who is actually good, will be in the “Gallant” sections. It’s a choose your own adventure post, and your choice is to follow the guy whose record in 2019 is 1-28, or the one who went 4-1 at a recent Major and is top-3 in ITC Dark Angels rankings. We think the choice is clear, so we’ve helpfully started all those sections at their “Goofus” setting. Corrode: Also, sometimes, it’s worth clicking on the “Wings” parts, in case you wanted useful information and not just Tweedledum and Tweedledee arguing with each other.

The Three Wings

Examples of the three ‘wings. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Goofus

In the vein of the preamble to the 4th edition Codexes, Goonhammer is here to tell you why and how should you play Dark Angels. We’re focused more on “Why you shouldn’t and hown’t play Dark Angels”, since the real trap choice is the army itself, but maybe there’s a couple of gems hiding away in there. Let’s find out, I guess.

Gallant

While some of us here at Goonhammer want to to play Dark Angels, there’s just one big thing you need to realize before you start. Dark Angels are, like all of the non-codex chapters, behind. They are way fucking behind. The bonuses that are afforded to the new Space Marine codex just makes their options inherently better, point for point. The codex unique models we have, all of Deathwing and Ravenwing, are just behind. Now you may be asking yourself, “But Gunum! What about our Vigilus Defiant Ravenwing formation?! Surely +1 to hit plasma guns on Bikers will save us from our mediocrity!” I hear you, I understand, but I disagree with you on the grounds that we have to take Bikes and this is now the 2 damage meta.

What makes Dark Angels unique and in my opinion, competitive, is Jink, (a 4+ Invulnerable save when a Ravenwing unit advances) and Weapons of the Dark Age and the burst damage that comes along with it. Alongside those two codex unique options, we also are just Marines, which for some is good enough! We have access to the deepest Forge World unit toolbox in the game and we can utilize those amazing models, like the Leviathan Dreadnought, to help carry us over the finish line.

Strengths

  • Some fun unique units.
  • A much smaller number of good unique units.
  • They look cool?
  • A couple of the stratagems are good. Literally a couple, there are two. Vigilus Defiant adds a third.

Goofus

After a last-minute PDF update, Dark Angels got Shock Assault and access to most of the Vanguard Phobos. This is less of a strength and more something approaching parity, but it does make them the second-strongest Marines. Unfortunately, every single other chapter is in a 999-way tie for first.

Gallant

Being Dark Angels, we did not receive the nerf that Space Marines did with the Phobos warlord traits in their codex. We get the BEST thing that’s applied to our book, Target Priority, where our warlord can give up his shooting to give a unit within 3 inches +1 to hit against something he can see. Do you know what that means? Plasma, overcharged, forever. Buff your Plasma-cutioners, buff your Inceptors, buff your trash plasma gun Veterans jumping out of a drop pod. With +1 to hit and Weapons of the Dark Age, the world is your 3 damage oyster. (Small note here, you should ask your Local TO on how they want to rule on this, as it technically was updated/reworded in the Space Marines Codex, and the fact it’s not been changed for everyone else seems like an oversight. But, RAW, it’s correct.)

Weaknesses

  • No Guilliman. Or any game changing characters.
  • You don’t get Doctrines.
  • Also your Chapter Tactic kind of sucks.
  • And your Relics.
  • You don’t get any of the cool new Stratagems.
  • Remember how lackluster Marines were pre-2019 Codex? It’s basically that.
  • Everything is super half-assed.

Goofus

The main problem, and it’s not a new thing considering how regularly this feels like it happens, is that Dark Angels were an early codex this edition, and the designers were cowards who didn’t feel confident doing the weird stuff. The book has strong “halfway crooks” vibes, where it has the same core design as regular Marines, and all the new things that got added are weirdly underpowered (and not entirely as a result of codex creep, either; Nephilims were just never good).

Space Wolves and Blood Angels got powerful units, Chapter Tactics, and Stratagems that synergized well and led to things like Wulfen in jets and Slam Captains, which took the character of their army and gave it life on the tabletop. Dark Angels got the ability to take a plasma cannon in Terminator squads.

Gallant

The only truly good, unique models in our book is Sammy on a Speeder, and Talonmasters. There are arguments to be made for Sammy with Black Knights and even the bullet magnet the Darkshroud, but the rest just don’t have the power to make it happen for you.

Black Knights I have a real hard time including in any lists, because of their high PPM and high target priority. If anyone, anyone, has a damage 2 gun, they will be a primary target. You can invest in their survivability with Azrael and a Darkshroud thankfully, giving you a shot of making it through that first round of double gatling Knights shooting, but counting on a 4++ just won’t get there.

Competitive Ranking

Plasma Inceptors

This is basically what every game will feel like: soaring, then slumping, then cratering. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Not great! And getting worse with every supplement that comes out as we get left behind, though getting Shock Assault and the Gravis armor updates helped quite a bit. Dark Angels don’t exactly clean up at the top, or even mid-tier, tables. That said, they’re still Space Marines, so they aren’t in Grey Knights or (yikes) Necrons territory either. Unfortunately, not having Doctrines puts them at a marked disadvantage compared to Astartes-normative Marines.

Special Rules

Grim Resolve

Your chapter tactic does two things, one utterly useless and the other only mostly useless.

The first thing is you can only ever lose one model to a failed morale test.

Goofus

If you run 5-man units this is literally never going to come up. Even regular Sergeants are Ld8, which means you need to lose 4 guys before you can possibly roll high enough to lose more than one guy, and at that point you don’t have 2 models to lose anymore. With larger squads, which you have no reason to take outside of Hellblasters since Dark Angels don’t get Veteran Intercessors or whatever, this may matter, but you still have to lose at least 4 guys a turn and roll high on morale – after the re-roll from And They Shall Know No Fear – in order to do it.

Gallant

You should never take Hellblasters ever. Just take plasma Inceptors so you have a chance to even use your guns. 

The other half of Grim Resolve is if you didn’t move you can re-roll 1s to hit when shooting.

Goofus

This isn’t bad, per se, just situational – assuming you play gunline, and thus aren’t using the good units in the book, which are mostly Ravenwing. It’s probably good for snipers (either Scouts or Eliminators? Suppressors? The Primaris sneaky-shooty bois from Shadowspear), which I haven’t used. Note that it works in any phase, so you can take your re-rolls in overwatch. It makes plasma slightly less dangerous, but you’re still going to blow up a lot, which owns.

Overall, I’d say take a Captain (they’re called Masters here, but it’s the same thing) or Azrael and use their aura that does the same thing but allows you to actually move, and just play like you don’t even have a chapter tactic.

Gallant

Purely because positioning is so important, your characters can go about trying to do anything and don’t need to babysit your backfield guns. Infiltrators will, sadly, always be moving to maximize their bubble coverage. Eliminators are where this truly shines, they are able to be deployed anywhere and get the juicy re-rolls they need.

I agree here, to a point, with my Goofy friend. If you look at it from a different angle, we don’t really need a Captain. LTs become much more important since we’re getting our re-roll 1s from not moving, so being able to have a mobile Captain – Sammy, Phobos Master, or a forward-pushing Gravis Captain – can give your more mobile units the re-rolls they need.

Inner Circle

Goofus

A special rule that the Deathwing and some characters get, allowing them to completely ignore morale (which is great since half of the units that have it are Characters that can’t lose models to morale in the first place), and get re-rolls to hit against Fallen (which is even better since you see just so many Fallen armies, they’re always popping up in game stores and tournaments everywhere).

Gallant

This is one of, if not the worst rule in the game. The only times I’ve ever seen it in use was when I was running a brick of 10 Black Knights and seven of them died to a Chaos Knight. Trash.

Ravenwing Attack Squadron

Goofus

A Specialist Detachment from the first Vigilus book, useful only for the stratagems. Tags all your RAVENWING units in the detachment with the ATTACK SQUADRON keyword, and unlocks some stratagems.

Gallant

These stratagems aren’t to be overlooked, as it allows some very handy options. One, for 2 CP you get to attack in the Fight phase then once you have finished the activation, you can just… leave. Just drive away. Perfect for Black Knights that have advanced up the table targeted by the Speed of the Raven stratagem, then Weapons of the Dark Age-d to delete something, then charged something else, to hopefully kill that as well, then flee to safety if needed.

The other Stratagem being when a RAVENWING unit deals a wound to another unit, you can spend 1 CP and the rest of the RAVENWING units in the detachment get +1 to hit. Another fantastic stratagem that can really lean into what strengths we do have. Dark Angels can get real scary when max-size squads of Bikers, or even Landspeeder Squadrons, are hitting on 2s.

Wings

It also gives you access to a second tasty power sword you can put on a Talonmaster.

Psychic Powers

Congratulations, weirdos, you got your own special type of wizard, and wouldn’t you know it, he mostly sucks!

  • Mind Worm (WC6): Do one Mortal Wound to a unit, and make them fight last. Ok? [checks notes] Ooooh, an enemy unit. Well, that makes more sense, but still isn’t worth taking. Nope. Wings Note: I honestly can’t believe this takes the time to state that it works on units that charged but then only lasts till the end of your turn. Classic Dark Angels codex.
  • Aversion (WC6): This is the good shit. Tag an enemy unit and make it -1 to hit. Hell yeah.
  • Righteous Repugnance (WC7): Give re-rolls on hits and wounds in melee to a unit. Not bad, but you’re probably spending your two powers on Aversion and Mind Wipe. If you have a second psyker, though, this is worth a look. Maybe. Wings Note: This is surprisingly fine in the abstract, it’s almost a shame the payoff targets aren’t really worth it.
  • Trephination (WC7): I really want to love this one but it sucks so bad. Closest unit takes (2d6-Ld) Mortal Wounds, with 2 more on top if you rolled an 11 or 12. It looks the same as Smite (including the hilarious targeting restrictions), since you typically aren’t going to roll box cars due to the basic nature of how dice function, but this is actually worse because you can pass the Psychic Test, then stuff the roll and do no damage at all. Also, it’s harder to cast, for some reason. Do not take this, and I want to stress that point: This is a worse version of the power that everyone gets for free.
  • Engulfing Fear (WC6): Opponent rolls 2 dice and picks the highest for Leadership checks within 6″. Why cast something that’s never going to happen. Engulf this one in my whole entire ass.
  • Mind Wipe (WC7): This one rips. Forces a (Ld+d6) rolloff with an enemy model. If you win, they take a -1 to WS, BS, and Ld for the rest of the battle. It stacks, too. Brain-melting the other player’s warlord is a powerful spite move. Hell yeah. Wings Note: Especially good against a Knight, where you earn a double hell yeah if you land this.

Short answer:

Goofus

Just take Mind Wipe and Aversion and forget the rest exist. God bless them for giving Dark Angels exactly enough powers to make one Librarian, this way there’s none of the hard choices or strategizing that you might have to deal with if there were 3 or more good powers. Really looking out for us here, Games Workshop.

Gallant

I only use the Phobos spells. Besides Mind Wipe and Aversion I just can’t.

Warlord Traits

Dark Angels HQs

Your two good special characters. Credit: Greg Chiasson

In addition to the normal traits from the main rulebook, you get this murderer’s row of trash:

  • Fury of the Lion: +1 strength to anyone within 6″ if your warlord charged or got charged. Considering how lackluster Dark Angels are in combat, this isn’t good enough to be worth building around, so you should never take it.
  • Courage of the First Legion: Auto-pass morale within 12″ of your warlord. Absolutely never going to matter, considering the admittedly slim benefits of Grim Resolve and the ATSKNF re-rolls.
  • Brilliant Strategist: Your requisite 5+ CP regen, plus a free re-roll once a game that I have never remembered to use. It’s fine, and also what you’ll have most of the time, since you should be using Azrael, and he comes with this.
  • Huntsman: Turn your warlord into a shitty Vindicare, by ignoring character targeting rules for the most useless types of gun (Pistol, Grenade) and also Rapid Fire. Would be useful on Azrael, if he was allowed to take it and wasn’t already locked into a different warlord trait. In principle I love it, but in practice it sucks. I’ve used this trait in about the only useful build for it – a Chaplain with a combi-plasma – in 15 or 20 games, and he has been less than useless with it. You can questionably rely on this to plink a wound off of something you don’t care about, maybe twice a game, if you’re lucky.
  • Master of Maneuver: Re-roll advances and charges for stuff within 6″. Whatever, bikes already auto-advance 6″ anyway. It could be good on charging, if you had a block of Ravenwing Knights, and even better, almost worth it, if you could somehow Field Commander another Ravenwing guy in an Attack Squadron to throw Fury of The Lion on him – it’s probably still never going to make its points back, but a biker gang with S6 pickaxes re-rolling charges and getting 3 attacks each isn’t bad.
  • Stubborn Tenacity: 6+ Feel No Pain, but 5+ if you stood still. I really hate them trying to make static gunlines happen for Dark Angels. No one wants to play like that, but the rules keep incentivizing it. Anyway, the trait is ok.

Short answer:

Goofus

Take either the 5+ CP regen and try to remember your free re-roll, or the 6+ FnP. Unless you’re running some insane gimmick build, in which case, godspeed.

Gallant

Look into the Phobos Warlord traits via the Vanguard Supplement in Shadow Spear. We may have terrible options, but how would you like…MORE Terrible options?

There is one stand out that I have spoke of earlier, which is Target Priority. Recently, Space Marines had the Phobos warlord traits rolled into their book, which included a big change – Target Priority can only be used on PHOBOS units. We did not have that luxury of getting anything awesome, so we kept the Vanguard book as our place to draw Phobos units from, which has the old wording. Though this is a HOT take, you can take a Phobos Master with Target Priority to give any of your CHAPTER models +1 to hit. Plasma is calling you, fellow sons of the Lion. Grasp it, while we can still hear its call.

Relics

Goofus

Who cares.

Gallant

Shroud of Heroes, make your hero of the Imperium -1 to be hit when he’s getting shot by your friend’s ocean of sniper rifles. The other option which can be used is a Talon Master with the Heavenfall Blade. You can keep him hidden long enough to maybe swat a plane out of the sky. Take that, you darn space elves!

Wings

Ugh, Fine.

  • Heavenfall Blade: Replaces a power sword or master-crafted power sword. It is a power sword with +2S, D3 damage and an extra attack. It is really quite tasty, especially on a Talonmaster.
  • Foe Smiter: A storm bolter with AP-1 and D2. Could be combined with the Huntsman trait to go after squishy characters in some matchups.
  • Shroud of Heroes: -1 to hit the bearer. If you could have this and the Heavenfall Blade on a Talonmaster it might be quite good, but you can’t. Chase still likes it for anti-sniper and it’s not like you have anything else to pick, so I guess?
  • Mace of Redemption: A buffed up power Maul. Meets the key criteria to be an OK melee weapon (+S, decent AP, multi-damage) but I can’t think when you’d take it over the Heavenfall.
  • Lion’s Roar: Am I reading this right? You use your relic slot to trade 6″ of maximum range on the plasma half of a combi-plasma for that half being assault 2 rather than rapid fire 1? Your relic slot means you sometimes get one more shot and sometimes one less? Good grief. Greg Note: Yeah man, it whips ass.
  • The Eye of the Unseen: Enemies within 3″ have -1LD, enemy characters within 3″ fight last. Could actually be fringe relevant dropped into your castle against some Chaos lists.

OK, I’m done now. Back to Greg-and-Chase-o-vision.

Stratagems

Here’s the good stratagems. It’s a short list, which is good since you won’t have a ton of CP.

  • 1CP Weapons of the Dark Ages: +1 damage on plasma weapons for a unit, which stacks with Overcharging. I personally love this one, it whips ass on Hellblasters, Plasmaceptors, and Plasmacutioners, and makes the decision to put plasma on everything slightly less stupid, but just as insane. Strong.
  • 2CP Intractable: Did you forego moving out of charge range to get those sweet re-rolls to hit, or just fuck up positioning your screening units? Well, the two or three models that survived combat can fall back and shoot normally, at the cost of multiple, extremely scarce, CP. No, you still can’t charge, and yes, this is just paying CP for an arguably better version (you don’t take the -1 to hit in shooting, but you can’t charge) of what all Ultramarines get for free, but you take what you can get.
  • 1CP Speed of the Raven: Ah fuck there’s three good stratagems, I forgot this one. It lets you use the Ravenwing ability to get a 4++ Invulnerable after Advancing, and still shoot like you hadn’t. Good as hell.
  • 1CP Signal the Attack: A model in your Ravenwing Attack Squadron can pop this after putting a wound on something, and now the other ATTACK SQUADRON units in that detachment get a +1 to Hit against whatever that something was. Makes it risk-free to overcharge at things, but then you miss out on the charm of self-murdering with your own gun, so who can say whether it’s good or not.
  • 0CP Pro Tip: If you’re in range of an Ancient, just overcharge all your shit constantly, all the time. You get extra shots, which is cool, and if the Ancient does his thing during Overwatch, the extra shots hit normally, not just on 6s. Do not do this.

Goofus

You also have a few that are unit-specific, and in typical fashion, they are specific to units that suck. For example, Deathwing Terminators get one to shoot immediately after arriving from Deep Strike, but you should not be running Deathwing Terminators in the first place, except for Knights, who don’t have guns. Whatever the opposite of synergy is, that’s what this book is built around.

Gallant

I think that the shoot when you come down stratagem is okay. But when it comes down to it, Greg’s very right here.

Do not play Terminators. I mean you can. But don’t.

Allies: maybe not the worst idea.

Vindicare and Knight

Some beefy chunks for the Imperial Soup. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The silver lining to not getting Combat Doctrines, let alone better chapter-specific ones, is that you have no reason not to “soup” in other armies. I’ll assume you’re already familiar with the no-brainer of dropping in a Custodes/Knights/Blood Angels detachment or two, or bringing an Assassin. You can still do that with Dark Angels, a chapter perhaps best known for their history of having friends and welcoming outsiders into their ranks with open arms.

I also want to consider something even stupider: Space Wolves.

Allying in Space Wolves allows you to use The Lion and The Wolf (1CP) stratagem, where you pick a Dark Angels and a Space Wolves model before the battle, and on a 4+ each of them takes a Mortal Wound (take an Apothecary if you care about this), and in exchange they both get +1 to Attacks, Weapons Skill, Leadership, and Strength. Some units to grace with this dubious honor:

Interrogator-Chaplain with the Mace of Redemption

Replace his Crozius with a power maul, and replace that with the Relic mace (S+3, d3 Damage), then nominate him to fight the Space Wolf chump. He’s now hitting at S8, which is the Good Number since it lets you wound Marines on a 2 and Knights on a 4. The extra pip of WS is wasted, but that was always going to be the case – your tooled-up CC dudes are pretty much all already WS2 anyway, and there’s almost no reason to put this stratagem on anyone else.

Librarians

As you would expect, stabbing a werewolf makes him better at using his Anime Sword, but who cares about that. We’re taking this purely to get the extra point of Ld, because it helps with getting Mind Wipe off. Dumb idea, sure, but that’s par for the course on Caliban.

Primaris Lt with Heavenfall Blade

This guy fucks. He’ll be going in at S7, swinging 5 times, hitting on 2s and wounding MEQs on a 3 (re-rolling 1s) for d3 damage each. Can’t hit S8 like the Chaplain, but his Aura is probably better since it works in shooting as well as combat.

Intercessor or Terminator Sergeant with Power Fist or Thunder Hammer

First of all: this is the coward’s choice, risk a real model you messy idiot baby. So you have a 50/50 shot of your Intercessor or Terminator leader being half dead now, but you’ll be getting 4 gross as hell attacks that hit on 3s, which isn’t nothing. You’re also getting some extra leeway on morale checks, which very much is nothing.

Subtraction by Addition: The Space Wolves Side of The Equation

It probably doesn’t matter, but you can either take a cheap Allied detachment with some min-spec HQ or sniper Scouts as a tax, effectively making this a 2CP stratagem, or try and make the Space Wolves useful, which is hard because they’re all dumber than a sack of doorknobs. Fortunately, they have a few good punching units, which is something Dark Angels lack.

Goofus

Options for this would be a Supreme Command of 3 Wolf Lords in Slam Captain-esque configuration, or if you wanted to go hard in the paint here, a Vanguard with 15 Wulfen in it.

Gallant

I play pure Dark Angels [pushes up non-existent glasses]. Keep the dogs in the kennel.

Units

We won’t be going into all of the units Dark Angels have unfortunately been allowed to use, because they’re the same, but worse, than what’s in the main Space Marines codex, which other authors have covered. And also because we don’t care.

You pretty much get everything in the main book except Centurions and Thunderfire Cannons, so we hope you weren’t planning to use those.

God Tier

  • None, look in a different book.

Pro Tier

  • Sammael (hover truck): Owns hard. Shooting, he gets 18 shots hitting on 2s, re-rolling 1s (3s re-rolling 1s if he moves, which he should), and in combat he is certifiably Good at Swords. Gives re-roll misses to Ravenwing and re-roll 1s to everyone else. Basically don’t take Talonmasters if you can take this guy, or take him and a Talonmaster, and zoom up the field failing to keep your jets in his aura, and then get pissed when the Dark Talons don’t do shit because d3 shots is trash and you already blew your CP rerolls on advances. Corrode: There’s some personal experience coming in here, I think.
  • Ravenwing Talonmaster: I (Chase) have a big spot in my lists for these guys right now, especially with the amount of shots that can come out of them. If you are able to stay still, their BS along with the chapter tactic of re-rolling 1s makes this unit, along with Sammael, a wall of bullets that needs to be respected.
  • Repulsor Executioner: As all of you know, this model is going to be everywhere. This platform of 30 shots is a bullet hose mixed with a durable chassis that simply cannot be ignored. You’re going to want to take the plasma version of this in Dark Angels. To clarify: you absolutely shouldn’t, but you’ll want to. Don’t, the laser one is better. If you go buck wild (and have the CP for it), Overcharging and WotDA-ing, this is possibly 2d6 shots at 3 damage when moving under half, compared to 4 shots at d6 (min 3) damage. This would be a toss-up if it weren’t for that minimum-3 damage on the laser, but that ignores the increased range, and the highly relevant fact that firing any plasma weapon is actively harmful to the user. Or, enjoy the plasma purely because you can high roll the shots. Roll a 6 and 1? CP re-roll that 1, get a 4 and let’s go to Plasma town. Not only that, put Target Priority on this, hit that other Executioner on 2s, and really show it who’s boss.

Mid Tier

Ravenwing Dark Talon

Ravenwing Dark Talon, one of the few genuinely great units in this reject book. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Aww yeah, there’s my lame-ass Mall Goth sons.

  • Azrael: Owns because he can overcharge his combi-plasma and instantly die, thus taking the coward’s way out. He’s a bit of a brick shithouse in combat, but the real reason you’re taking him is the auras. He gives everyone re-rolls to hit (not the Gucci re-rolls, so you’re still only re-rolling 1s and 2s against Flyers, not 3s), and infantry and bikes a 4++ Invulnerable save. Gives you an extra CP if he’s your warlord, and can re-gen CP on a 5+, which in my experience will never work.
  • Sammael (hover bike): Less good at shooting, but if you’re going to use him to buff your jets, he can keep up better – the truck moves 16″, where this one only moves 14″, but he advances 2d6″, which will give you an extra inch or two on average, and you can certainly fish for re-rolls, if he’s your warlord and if you’re bad enough at math.
  • Hellblasters: Take a unit of 10, then Overcharge and pop Weapons of the Dark Ages. Hell yeah, 3 damage plasma. Put an Ancient nearby and shoot even more when they inevitably eat shit and die. Chase: I feel these are the biggest trap in our book. On paper they look OK, but when it comes right down to it they have to be exposed and have to have the support of multiple characters to make them viable. Take plasma Inceptors instead, at least you can guarantee you’ll get every shot off, instead of losing half the squad on turn one.
  • Plasma Inceptors: Never ever overcharge these guys. 2d3 shots means that even with average rolls you can easily self-terminate the entire 180 point unit the first time it shoots (I always overcharge them). Or you can give up the S8 shooting and use Weapons of the Dark Ages to go up to 2 damage risk-free, coward. Chase: This is one of my go-to units that I fundamentally disagree with Greg about. At this time, just taking 5 of these is 10d3 shots. Mix in a LT to re-roll 1s to wound and you have a PROTECTED (due to deepstrike) wall of fuckery here. Especially at 3 wounds a piece now, and a points decrease. These are better than Hellblasters in almost every single way.
  • Ravenwing Darkshroud: Looks like idiot dumpster garbage, but is useful if/when you remember that it gives everything (Flyers included) within 6″ a -1 to be shot at.
  • Ravenwing Dark Talon (Greg): Good main gun (d3 shots at S10 AP-3 D3, plus d3 Mortal Wounds on top, if you did any normal wounds and pass a 3+ after), plus hurricane bolters for hosing down troops, and with Strafing Run you’re pretty good at hitting ground targets even without Sammael around. Bit fragile (T6 W10) compared to literally anything ever, but benefits hugely from Speed of the Raven to remain alive, and Signal The Attack to be useful while it does. Can also drop a bomb once per game, which I recommend dropping the first chance you get, because this dumb thing won’t live long enough to get a second. Take two or three, it’s one of the few genuinely good units you get.

Marginal Tier

  • Primaris Apothecary: This little fucker has rarely paid off, he’s cancelled.
  • All the other different kinds of bikes: Fine.
  • Deathwing Knights: Essentially TH/SS thicc bois that give up a point of AP in exchange for not being -1 to hit things. With the extra attack from Shock Assault, and points drops in every Chapter Approved so far, they are Probably Good now. Every other type of Terminator you can take sucks. I’d also rather not have to take the Flail on the Knight Master, who has the extremely cool rule of extra damage from his weapon rolling over instead of being lost. The weapon is damage 2, by the way, because they didn’t want to make anything the Dark Angels get too good, so enjoy that extra single goddamn wound of damage not going to waste, I guess.
  • Ravenwing Black Knights: Bikes that hit better in combat (one better in both strength and AP), and replace their boltguns with Assault 2 plasmas. These guys also fuck.

Never Used Them, But Probably They Blow Tier

  • Ezekial.
  • Asmodai.
  • Chaplains of all sorts, except maybe the Dreadnought, because it’s dope.
Different type of chaplains

Three different sizes of Chaplain. Credit: Greg Chiasson

  • Belial.
  • Dreadnoughts: Nothing special here, just take a quad-lascannon Relic Contemptor like everyone else.

Shit Tier

  • Nephilim: If you’re thinking of taking this, please just scrounge up 25 spare points from somewhere else and take another Dark Talon instead. It kills me to say that, because I legitimately adore the model, but it sucks so bad. Same frail-ass chassis as the Dark Talon but with worse guns, plus it can’t hover.
  • Ravenwing Dark Talon (Chase): T6 10 wounds. See Nephilim. Minus the “take this” advice. Don’t. You will lose all of these to most of the meta right now before they can do anything.
  • Deathwing Terminators: You can mix-and-match shooty and assault terminators in the same unit, which is stupid and you should never do it. Have fun with that. Chase: Something to be mentioned here is taking 3 TH/SS termies and 7 storm bolter ones. Being able to drop in and put down 56 bolter shots is not a joke. Then, since you have the three CC Termies, you can use a 1 CP strat to reduce any incoming wound rolls by one. No longer being wounded on 2s, or even 3s, makes these bois pretty tanky.

Lists

Dark Angels lists are inevitably going to end up looking a lot like any other Marines, for the obvious reason that they are Marines. So here we’ll look at some options that lean into the unique Dark Angel units, and try and put them front and center – obviously you can still run 3 Repulsor Executioners or mondo Aggressors if you want, and do the same thing as any other chapter, just not as well.

Hellblasters and buff characters

Hellblasters, the core of your inevitable Battle Pile, and some auras. Not pictured: screening units, which are already dead. Credit: Greg Chiasson

My Better-Than-Nanavati 1-5 NoVA GT list

I’m not joking either, I literally placed higher than Nanavati in the GT (he dropped early, I think – I only won a single game across like a dozen attempts with this stupid thing, so just to be clear and before I catch any guff over this I am entirely joking and Nick remains a much better player and person than I will ever be), and this is the meta-busting list I used. Follow along at home and see if you can figure out why this sucks.

Army List - There will be a quiz at the end

Air Wing (+1 CP, -1CP to make it a Ravening Attack Squadron)

  • FL Nephilim (with Lascannon)
  • FL Dark Talon
  • FL Dark Talon

Battalion (5CP, +1 for Azrael)

  • HQ Azrael WARLORD
  • HQ Primaris Lt (power sword and plasma pistol) RELIC: Heavenfall Blade
  • TR 5 Intercestos, power sword and grenade launcher
  • TR 5 Intercestos, power fist and grenade launcher
  • TR 5 Intercestos, power fist and grenade launcher
  • FA Ravenwing Darkshroud
  • HS 10 Hellblasters, plasma pistol on sergeant

Vanguard (1CP)

  • HQ Sammael in Sableclaw
  • EL Primaris Ancient
  • EL Primaris Apothecary
  • EL 3 Company Veterans, all with boltguns and bolt pistols

 

This isn’t a bad list, but there’s some problems. For one, the company Vets don’t do shit, they’re only there because I had  points left over and needed to fill out the Vanguard – this is more CP than I ever needed in the first place, and a waste of points. Thus, if you read above in re: don’t take Nephilims ever, you can figure out where the extra points to replace that thing with a third Dark Talon could have come from.

Still, you get a nice CP bank and some objective-holding presence from the Battalion, and the Ravenwing elements can put in work. Sammael advances up with the three flyers to try and alpha strike something, and the green guys Battle Pile up and Hellblast things as they press up the table under a cloud over overlapping auras. It’s generally harder to shift than you might imagine – albeit not extremely durable – owing to 2W Primaris troops and that stack of bonuses, but dissolves quickly against dedicated close-combat armies.

The Darkshroud can pick and choose which group it sticks with. I did try to include some Terminators in here, just to get all three flavors of Dark Angel into the list, but there’s not really a spot for them. Some improvements could be made, though.

Gunum’s 3-3 Nova List, The Plasma West

I beat Chaos, Tau and Orks. I lost to Knights, Chaos Daemons, and Custodes. You’ll see just by reading this list where the killing power was, and also the staying power. 

Let’s go! 

Army List

Battalion (5CP, Operative Requisition Borrowed -2 CP)

  • HQ Lieutenant in Phobos Armour  WARLORD – Vanguard Warlord Trait – Target Priority
  • HQ Master in Gravis Armour RELIC: Shroud of Heros
  • TR 6 Infiltrator Squad – Medic
  • TR 6 Infiltrator Squad – Medic
  • TR 6 Infiltrator Squad – Medic
  • FA 5x Inceptor Squad (Plasma Exterminator)
  • FA 5x Inceptor Squad (Plasma Exterminator)
  • FA 4x Inceptor Squad (Assault Bolter)

Battalion (5CP)

  • HQ Librarian in Phobos Armour 1) Shrouding, 5) Tenebrous Curse
  • HQ Lieutenant Storm Bolter
  • TR 5 Bolter Scout Squad – Sergeant Storm Bolter
  • TR 5 Bolter Scout Squad – Sergeant Storm Bolter
  • TR 5 Bolter Scout Squad – Sergeant Storm Bolter
  • HS Eliminator Squad 
  • HS Eliminator Squad 
  • HS Eliminator Squad

This list was a blast to pilot, but it was definitely a scalpel approach to the game. The list was 2000 points prior to the new Space Marine book upgrades and now lands at 1976 points. Essentially the game plan was:

  1. Pick an Assassin to match the game. 90% of the time it was the Callidus, to siphon off command points. 10% of the time it was the Vindicare assassin to snipe Weird Bois in Ork lists. 
  2. Put all the Inceptors in reserves, and place all Infiltrators in the middle, relying on line of sight to stay alive. My scouts were the objective holders, hanging back and locking down my table edges. 
  3. Turn 2: Bring the Inceptors down along with my Warlord, give them +1 to hit against the unit I need to kill, kill that unit by doing 1,000 (approximately) damage. Then watch those Inceptors die.
  4. Turn 3: Repeat Inceptor trade. 
  5. ???
  6. Pray everything is dead that can kill what I have left, then hold on for dear life.

I played against some great players, and the same four-Knight player twice. I used all of my command points on re-rolls, Auspex Scan, and Weapons of the Dark Age. 

Being in a world of 2W Inceptors was hard, but they did their job. Inceptors with 10d3 shots that hit on 2s and that you can overcharge without any fear of dying? Sign me up. I killed Knights. I killed Magnus. I killed a Tau Riptide through his drones and a 3++ invulnerable. Inceptors are straight murder machines when they do not Get Hot and also do 3 damage. Finally, since they are infantry, if anyone was brave enough to deep strike within 12″ of them, they made amazing Auspex Scan targets, dumping those 10d3 plasma shots into whoever was reckless enough to get close. 

The next key to this list was the 9 Eliminators. This was prior to the +1S +1W buff, so I had to really make their shots count. This was reflected by hiding them in an L blocker with my LT and putting every single round into one character at a time. Using the Chapter Tactic to re-roll ones to hit and the LT to re-roll ones to wound added up to a plethora of kills for the 9 sniper men. I don’t think I’ll be able to leave home without them again. 

Finally, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how the Gravis Armor Captain did, and why I gave him the Shroud of Heroes instead of the Heavenfall Blade. His job was pretty straight forward: I started him on the line, and I ran him forward to fight anyone and everything. Being -1 to hit from the Shroud of Heros at all times allowed him to stick in with anyone he stepped up to, and then he’d take them on a one-way express train to Power Fist Town. He was used as a counter charge unit, and I was thankful to have this tool in my pocket when I played against GSC.

This list hid like a meerkat, popping its head out to delete something, then hiding again. I scored pretty average each round, scoring 20 – 28 every game.

One thing I am sure you noticed, is that I am using no Dark Angels unique units here. Because they are not good. Except Sammy in his speeder. Man, does he get it done sometimes.

Flipmode Squad

Army List

Air Wing (+1 CP, -1CP to make it a Ravening Attack Squadron)

  • FL Dark Talon
  • FL Dark Talon
  • FL Dark Talon

Battalion (5CP, +1 for Azrael)

  • HQ Azrael
  • HQ Primaris Lt (power sword and plasma pistol) RELIC: Heavenfall Blade
  • HQ Sammael on Corvex WARLORD
  • TR 5 Intercestos
  • TR 5 Intercestos
  • TR 5 Intercestos
  • FA Ravenwing Dark Shroud
  • HS 5 Hellblasters
  • HS Repulsor Executioner

 

This comes out to about 1950 points, without any kind of wargear upgrades.

In general, fixing this list is left as an exercise to the reader, who is almost certainly better at 40k than the author, but it’s probably fine as-is;

You could, if you like, drop one of the flyers and put the jets into the Battalion, then mark the entire thing as a Ravenwing Attack Squadron, so you’d be able to use the +1 to hit buff on Sammael and the Darkshroud (or, more realistically, use them to get a wound in so you can pop the strat off of that, and then get the bonus on both jets), but the jets look cool so three of them is about right. Or, for almost the exact same price, throw in 5 Ravenwing Black Knights instead of the 5 Hellblasters. It trades a bit of shooting power for mobility and somewhat higher durability (T5 on the bikes is a good break point, and you can Jink for that 4++). Your call, really.

It’s certainly possible to drop a jet or two and stuff in more RepExes, to run the dreaded Tripulsor Executioners. Or swap them to the Macro Plasma Incinerators, and run the Tripulsor Plasmexecutioner list. A Dartripulsor Plasmexecutiongels list is probably not the best, but it may just be the Most Dark Angels.

Conclusion

Goofus

There’s a reason the Dark Angels are called the Unforgiven. It’s because they suck, and I will never forgive them for it. Namaste.

Gallant

Dark Angels feel like we are playing Index Marines. They can be durable, can hold on and scrounge up points, and you are able to have some crazy damage output, but when it comes right down to it, our bolters are AP 0. Theirs are AP-1.

Sometimes it’s hard being the good* guy.

 

Corrode: I’m sorry we let this happen. If you want to yell at us, check out our Facebook page or e-mail contact@goonhammer.com. Alternatively, yell at Games Workshop and make them finally give Dark Angels good rules.

 

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