The Horus Heresy Legion Focus: The Dark Angels

Welcome back to Goonhammer’s series for aspiring Praetors. We know that the Horus Heresy system can seem intimidating to players unfamiliar with its particular quirks, but this series aims to equip you with everything you’ll need to play out epic clashes on the battlefields of the far future with your very own army. In this series, we’ll be walking you through how to build your force and command it to glory, including everything from units to tactics to lead your army to victory.

The Dark Angels were the first legion, both to be created and to see action. Before many legions had even been developed the First were veterans of dozens of battles of the Unification Wars. Throughout the early stages of the Great Crusade they were the largest, most experienced, and most innovative of all of the Emperor’s Space Marines. They developed many of the tactics that the other legions would adopt as their signatures, and even after their fellows had caught up in numbers (thanks to some brutal losses the Dark Angels suffered during the crusade) and expertise, there remained none who could rival their flexibility. Nor, after they were reunited with their Primarch, their nobility of spirit and honourable natures.

When you come to play a Dark Angel army in Horus Heresy you don’t come with the question “how do I build a Dark Angel army” but instead “how do I portray the army I’ve built with the Dark Angels?” The six wings of the hexagrammaton, and the flexibility with which they can be included in an army, dramatically change the units you field. Let’s dive in and find out what the first legion can do for you in the 2nd edition of Horus Heresy.

Legion Special Rules

The Hexagrammaton

The Dark Angels, to reflect their varied tactics and approaches, don’t have a single legion special rule, but instead have The Hexagrammaton. This umbrella special rule provides every unit with the Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) rule a special unit subtype matching the Hexagrammaton wing that they are affiliated with. Each subtype has its own rules and these have different benefits for those that select it.

The Stormwing gives a bonus of +1 to hit when shooting a bolter, combi-bolter or bolt pistol, whether in your own turn or as part of a reaction. This choice is the obvious one for many Troops choices, especially the ubiquitous Tactical Squads. A 20-marine squad can throw out 60 bolter shots using Fury of the Legion, and +1 to hit means that they guys will be hitting on a 2+ most of the time. This turns bolter spam from lethal to absolutely brutal, hammering enemies with bolter fire in a way few others can match. It’s also a good choice for some Veteran Squads, depending on loadout, as it effectively brings them up to BS 5 to match their Weapon Skill. Despite fighting mostly with bolters this isn’t a worthwhile pick for Seeker Squads, because with BS 5 already any benefit will be pretty situational.

The Deathwing grants a +1 to hit in an assault with a chainsword, force sword, power sword…. with swords. It’s the sword choice. It also gives +1 Strength to ram attacks with a vehicle. That second aspect isn’t nothing but it’s rarely going to be a solid pick for a vehicle over one of the other choices, so only pick it if you’re absolutely sure ramming is on the cards. The bonus to hit is not a Weapon Skill increase, which is important to bear in mind. If your statline is WS 4 at base and so is your opponent’s they’re still hitting on 4+, it’s just you’re hitting on a 3+. That’s still a great benefit and honestly anything that’s going to be attacking with a sword most of the time is going to want to rock Deathwing, especially close combat Veterans, a lot of your characters, and any Terminators you’ve given power swords to swing.

The Dreadwing reduces the strength of Flame, Plasma, Volkite and Phosphex weapons used against them by 1, and forces all Poisoned attacks to increase the roll needed to wound. This is pretty solid as an all-round buff, and you’re probably going to want to throw this onto any of your Tactical Support Squads and Heavy Support Squads that are interesting in hunting infantry rather than vehicles, just to keep them in the fight longer. It’s not very useful on most of your other units however, and will probably see some of the least use of the wings.

The Ironwing lets you re-roll failed to Hit rolls of 1 when you’re shooting or hitting a Vehicle. Your vehicles also get to make snap shots at BS 2. This is for your Tactical Support Squads and Heavy Support Squads that are targeting vehicles, as well as most of your vehicles. Snap shots at BS 2 is very good on lots of vehicles, letting you barrel around the table without taking too much of a hit to accuracy, and you also get the re-rolls. All in all the Ironwing is a strong pick that will see a lot of use.

The Firewing is something of a more niche choice, giving you a +1 to wound against units containing at least one Independent Character. This will be nice on Seeker Squads.

The Ravenwing lets you go fast even if you’re not painting things red, which definitely feels like cheating. You get a +1 to the distance moved when you Run if you’re not a vehicle, and Cavalry get re-rolls to Shrouded which is very nice indeed. Shrouded is extremely powerful, being damage mitigation and therefore used in addition to another save, and getting a re-roll on it is great. You’re almost certainly going to want to make every bike model in your army Ravenwing, which does make sense. Finally if you’re a Vehicle you get +2 to Cruising Speed movement, which is nice. If you really really want to go fast I can see the appeal of this, but it’s really the Bike Wing and that’s absolutely fine too.

You select the wing of each unit when you choose it for your army, and all the models in a unit must selected the same one (except for Apothecaries and such that must choose the same as the unit they’ll be joining). You can only have one effect at a time, and if a character joins a unit with a different one you pick which one applies to the whole unit each turn. This last part is actually a real advantage, as it means you can choose, say, Deathwing for your character with a paragon sword, but then run them in a Dreadwing unit for a little extra protection until they reach their target.

Advanced Reaction: The Angels of Death

The Dark Angels advanced reaction is The Angels of Death which allows them to grant a unit Fearless and Fear (2) in reaction to a charge on a passed leadership test, or Stubborn and Fear (1) on a failed one. These effects last until the end of your next turn, so you get it for the rest of your opponent’s turn and into yours. The variable nature of this reaction is interesting, but the truth is most of the units that are going to want to use this reaction are likely high leadership, so likely to pass the check. The duration of the buff from this reaction is unusual – most reactions are transitory, and so having one endure for a full game turn is particularly good.

If you’re familiar with earlier editions of the rules (or rulesets based on it) you might be used to Fear forcing a leadership test to charge from a unit, but that’s not how it works in second edition – Fear is just a general 12″ radius debuff for leadership. The big impact this is going to have is if your opponent loses the melee that ensues from the charge. When they make their leadership test to see if they fall back from combat they’ll be at a disadvantage. This can then leave them open to being swept and destroyed. It’s a useful buff, but only on a unit that you’re relatively confident can already win a combat.

The other half of the buff is interesting too. Fearless simply means that if you lose the combat, you will not fall back out of it. This is absolutely invaluable for preserving a unit that you need to survive until reinforcements can arrive, but which you think has a chance of losing a combat. There’s little more devastating that losing a combat by one (potentially not even taking any wounds, thanks to vexilla bonuses or some traits), and then being swept and destroyed entirely when you fall back. Fearless is a hugely invaluable trait to protect against this, especially if your opponent is throwing out leadership debuffs. Stubborn is also useful in this way, as it ignores any debuffs, but of course you actually do have to roll so it’s not as effective. Either of them are strong protective measures for keeping an enemy unit locked into combat, and using it for that purpose can be a clinch in your strategy. Sometimes it’s worth using your advanced reaction to keep a lowly Tactical Squad in play if it means tying up your opponent’s primarch for an extra turn or two.

Arsenal of the First Legion

The arsenal of the first legion is made up of The Weapons of Old Night.

Calibanite Warblades are upgrades for power swords, available to characters (including sergeants) and they are effectively a +1 Strength bonus for 5pts. A strength bonus is actually pretty impactful, and it’s shifting you from a 4+ to wound to a 3+ to wound against baseline Marine targets. It’s not an exciting bit of wargear, but it’s a straightforward buff and useful on a lot of characters who aren’t going to be taking something more substantial – I can definitely see taking this on all your sergeants, especially those in Deathwing units.

Next up are some alternative plasma guns in a couple of different versions. They both sub in for plasma guns (or twin-linked plasma guns), with the whole unit needing to switch if there are multiple plasma guns. Plasma repeaters are slightly lower strength and shorter range gun than a normal plasma gun, but in exchange the type switches to Assault 3 (giving you more shorts at this close range) and Twin-Linked even if it didn’t have it before. You need to be really aggressive with these to make the most of them but it really could be worth it – that’s an awful lot of Breaching (4+) to be throwing out, and against normal Marines the reduced Strength won’t matter at all. Make sure you have a really solid delivery plan for whatever you arm with these, but they will absolutely do work if they get close – I can see a decent argument for a Tactical Support Squad of five Marines with these just popping up to blow a squad away pretty effectively. Expensive, but effective if used well.

Plasma burners are a really different proposition, and one that deserves some serious consideration. It’s a Strength 6 AP 4 Breaching (4+) flamer, in effect. You want to wipe a Tactical Squad off the map? No better tool. Unlike my cautious recommendation for plasma repeaters, I’m full throatedly endorsing these. These are absolutely majestic. You almost certainly don’t want a unit of more than five (because just like with flamers that many templates gets messy if you’re trying to crowd models around to be able to fire them without hitting one of your own) but five of them in a key chokepoint, holding defensible ground on an objective, or just sweeping in at speed to wipe out any defenders before a scoring unit turns up, these are going to be devastatingly brutal. You pay the cost at +10 points in addition to a plasma gun, but hot damn things are gonna evaporate.

One thing to note about both these weapon choices is that there’s no sub for plasma blasters or plasma cannons, which means you can’t put these on a dreadnought. This is a terrible, terrible shame. In fact there are very few vehicles you can throw one of these on full stop, which on the one hand is a blow against the Dark Angels as a fighting force, but is probably also the right call given how absolutely nuts running these on an armoured platform would be.

Terranic Greatswords are swaps for Independent Characters that replace a power fist. These are interesting, because they are actually very different to fists – most of the time a weapon swap is sort of similar to the thing it’s replacing. With AP 3, Rending (5+) and Murderous Strike (5+) however, it’s hard to imagine not taking this if given the chance, even with the reduced strength and the Two-handed rule cutting down on the number of attacks you’ll get. This will carve through power armour no issue, and has a really substantially good chance of killing a character in a single blow, all at full initiative. It’s also, potentially, a threat against vehicles – Rending is actually marginally better than having a power fist for that purpose. In short it’s hard to imagine not giving one of these to every independent character you field unless you have a really really good reason – especially if they’re Deathwing.

Finally for the Weapons of Old Night we have Stasis Missiles, a 5pt upgrade for missile launchers that fires, effectively, a short-range frag missile with Concussive (1) but without Pinning. Concussive is a really interesting rule that doesn’t come up much, effectively reducing the WS skill of the target if they suffer a wound (saved or not). This is interesting, but situational, and I’m not 100% sold on whether these are a worth including or not. On a dangerous combat unit just before you charge I can see the value, but you have to get a lot of things to line up to get it off, given the 24″ range and the need for a line of sight. If this could be fitted to havoc launchers it would be a very different calculus – pay for your transport to have them and then fire them off as the unit inside charges in. But you basically have to put these on infantry (there are almost no vehicles with a missile launcher) and you have to put it on all the infantry in a unit. So that’s really at least 25pts to upgrade a minimum size heavy support unit, and honestly at that point is it worth it? Situational at best. Unless you’re really struggling to work out what to spend that last 25pts on, it’s not worth it.

Scions of the Hekatonystika

The Paladin of the Hekatonystika is a 30pt consul upgrade that can go on any kind of Centurion and basically promotes them to being an Inner Circle knight. They get a free Terranic greatsword (which rules) and a stat buff raising WS to 6 and Ld to 10. Finally they get a bevy of special rules: Stubborn, Adamantium Will (3+) and one of the Orders of Hekatonystika. The closest comparison to the standard consuls here is the Champion, which is already a great pick, and this amps up the benefits and loses the mixed bag of Never Backs Down… for less points. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine not choosing this over the Champion, because it’s such a good package. Sure, Fearless is a massive boost to the Champion, but it’s so easy to force your hand when you’re running one, and find it being murdered in a challenge by Sigismund or equivalent. With the Paladin you get most of those benefits anyway, a really really cool sword (which you will get the buff from Deathwing from because what the hell are you doing not running this guy as Deathwing) and some nice little special rules.

One special note is the Order pick, and we’ll go into each of those in more detail when we look at the Inner Circle Knights Cenobium, but there are a couple of obvious picks. Slayers of Kings is great if you want to go Praetor hunting, while Reapers of Hosts will turn him into an absolute monster against larger units. +1 attack is the stronger buff, but rerolling 1s on hits can make the difference between victory and failure when engaged with a powerful character. Decide on the role you want for this guy and pick the appropriate one – the rest are more situational, though none of them are bad as such.

The First Legion

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

There are two warlord traits available to the Dark Angels, but this is actually a little deceptive because one of them is secretly six warlord traits in one. Because of course.

Marshal of the Crown is the deceptive pick, and probably the default choice for most Dark Angels armies of a single wing, though a less obvious choice for others. Your warlord’s Hexagrammaton Unit Sub-type specifies the effects you get from this, giving all units with line of sight to him and of the same type a +1 Leadership buff (to a max of 10). With the essential role that leadership plays in the game, this is actually a much better benefit than you might be expecting, and the fact it applies beyond the warlord and a unit he joins is significant. Of course, the more units of the same wing you have the more benefit you’ll get. You also get an extra reaction in a phase depending on the wing. More reactions is good, and these are mostly in the places you’d want them, with the possible exception of the Dreadwing who might well have preferred a reaction in the Shooting phase, but it’s clearly a case of needing to make up the numbers.

Seneschal of the Keys is the obvious pick for armies with multiple wings all working together. Pick a single faction and then once per battle declare a turn to be Decisive, giving the warlord and his unit +1 WS and +1 BS against units that have at least a model from that faction. This is a slightly different version of a similar trait that the Alpha Legion get, but the big shift is that this is more limited (only on a single turn rather than all the time) but is against a whole faction, not a specific subfaction of marines, making it a little more flexible. Is that flexibility worth it? Honestly probably not, given the preponderance of legions on the table, but it’s still a decent pick and improving the stat by 1 rather than giving a +1 to hit is actually valuable, as it makes the enemy unit have to work harder to hit you in melee.

Dark Angels

Dark Angels Rites of War

Every other legion has 2 or maybe 3 rites of war, so of course the Dark Angels have 6. Because WINGS.

The Steel Fist

The Steel Fist is the Ironwing’s Rite of War. It’s similar to the Armoured Spearhead rite of war available to all legions but dialled up to dumb as hell. You can’t take Sicarans as elite choices, no no no, now you can take Kratos as elites. It also drops the requirement to make a vehicle your HQ which means you can run this while bringing a Primarch along which is… very stupid. You also aren’t locked into this being your primary detachment, and while everything in the Troops slots (as well as Kratos squadrons) must be Ironwing, nothing else has to be. The big downside is you can’t have any Deep Strikes, Flanking Assaults or Subterranean Assaults, but you do get to throw any infantry unit you make Ironwing into a Land Radier or Spartan, even if they couldn’t normally take a Rhino or whatever, which is fantastic. Look, if you want to run tanks, lots of tanks, and then maybe some Knights in a Spartan, this is a great rite choice. Just remember your tanks don’t get line so they can’t score. It’s worth bringing a couple of squads of Tacticals in Land Raiders along for the ride because of this.

If you want to bring an allied force of Dark Angels for their TANK powers, then this is a tremendous choice. Because you don’t need to bring along Tacticals and such, you can just bring a lot of tanks, and you’re not restricted to this being a primary detachment like Armoured Spearhead is. 1000pts of a Praetor and some Knights in a Land Raider, plus as many predators as you can jam in, is a fantastic support choice for a more infantry focused legion.

The Eskaton Imperative

The Eskaton Imperative wins a small award for “silliest named rite” but also for “out Death Guarding the Death Guard”. This is the Dreadwing rite, and it’s one of the most out there and unusual choices for a rite, and one that requires some planning to get the most out of but can exceptionally powerful. Destroyer Squads and Interemptor Squads can be Troops here (but not Line, so be aware they cannot score – bring some Tacticals) and any Dreadwing units auto pass Dangerous Terrain tests (so you might actually, genuinely, want to make your vehicles Dreadwing even though normally that would be dumb). All Open Terrain areas outside of deployment zones become Difficult Terrain. Plus you slap down two markers in the middle of the table that makes everything within 6″ Dangerous Terrain. Then everything Dreadwing gets +1 to wound anything in Dangerous Terrain. There are some minor restrictions, but the big downside is that if there are enemy units in the enemy deployment zone that aren’t Pinned or Falling back your opponent gets d3 victory points.

Ok, so that’s a lot to process. Let’s pick it apart.

First up you can throw down a lot of vicious nasty troops, which is cool, but not a huge element of this. What’s much more impactful is the way you completely change the battlefield. The entirety of No Man’s Land becomes a mire – everything (your stuff included) is going to be very very slow… except for anything with Move Through Cover and, curiously enough, your vehicles. This may seem counter intuitive, but here’s how it breaks down: vehicles don’t get slowed in difficult terrain, but instead treat it as Dangerous Terrain. Anything in this detachment that is Dreadwing automatically passes any Dangerous Terrain test. Therefore Dreadwing vehicles in this detachment never suffer any penalty for Difficult Terrain. You can drive a Land Raider full speed across no man’s land without any issue and your opponent cannot. This means, despite your first instincts, that you probably want to run this as a mechanised list. Put Tactical Squads in Rhinos and your compulsory Interemptor and Mortalis Destroyer squads in Land Raiders, and then take a vehicle heavy list for the rest of your army. Trundle up the table ignoring any impediments to doing so.

I’m not convinced this was an intended interaction, because it’s absolutely brutal. Your opponent is going to have all their vehicles trapped in their deployment zone more or less, while yours will be crashing through ruins or slamming across woodland without a care in the world.

The Storm of War

For the Stormwing we have The Storm of War. This might be one of my favourite rites, even if it’s… not amazing, in all honesty. But it’s so much fun. Every unit of Tacticals, Despoilers or Assaults that’s 20 models or more can have a Centurion embedded in the unit that doesn’t take up a FOC slot. You can’t give him a consul upgrade and he’s a permanent part of the unit, but this is awesome. It’s like super charging the sergeant of your unit (albeit at a steep price). A 20-Marine Tactical Squad is already surprisingly good in these rules, but with a Centurion tagging along it becomes truly great. Plus because of the other special rules, they become Stubborn when you do this!

The thing where this becomes really very silly is that you can pack out the Elites slot with these squads too. And you can pack out Fast Attack with Assault Squads. The downside is you have to bring maximum numbers of Marines in units that are compulsory Troops but… is this a downside? Obviously you’d want to. That’s the point. You also can’t bring dedicated transports (which is fine because you want a Spartan if you want anything) and, the only real downside, you can’t Deep Strike, Flanking Assault, or Subterranean Assault. But that’s such a minor point here. So the downsides aren’t a big deal at all… but are the upsides actually worth it?

Honestly, probably not. As cool as packing an entire 3k list with just power armour bodies is, it’s not going to be amazing. Your opponent might struggle to chew through this many guys, but equally your guys aren’t going to be overwhelming a Kratos any time soon. You’ll win on objectives if claiming objectives is the goal, but if it’s not… well, you probably won’t? You’re not playing this to win, you’re playing this because you have a dream and an airbrush.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Unbroken Vow

The Unbroken Vow is the Deathwing rite and it’s Pride of the Legion, but with more swords and much less good. You can choose Terminators and Veterans as troops, but unlike in Pride they don’t get Line but do get Heart of the Legion. Your independent characters get +1 attack within 12″ of an objective. You have to place an additional objective in the centre of the battlefield and if you don’t control it at the end of the game your opponent gets VP (and more if they control it). Look, let’s get down to it: Heart of the Legion is great, and it’s even greater on Terminators. But not making them Line sucks. Putting another objective down that could only give up VP but not earn it sucks. +1 attack is not enough of a benefit. Just take Pride of the Legion. This is bad.

The Seeker’s Arrow

The Ravenwing get The Seeker’s Arrow. A variation on the Sky-Hunter Phalanx, this lets you take Outriders as Troops but this is another Dark Angels Rite of War that doesn’t make anything you get to take as Troops Line, dramatically reducing its utility. The restrictions aren’t terrible, and giving all your Cavalry Outflank is kind of neat – I can definitely see the utility here of pushing some Tactical Squads and a tank for support (you get one Heavy Support slot) onto the table to establish a position on objectives before bikes arrive from the flank. But Flanking Assault is tricky with a lot of units, and so you’re going to have to be very careful that your opponent doesn’t block your entry to the board. Rampage (2) on your independent characters ranks similarly to the bonus from Unbroken Vow – it’s nice, but it’s hardly making up for your Troops not having Line.

The Serpent’s Bane

The Serpent’s Bane is the Rite of War for the Firewing, and it’s actually got some interesting stuff going on. Seeker Squads become Troops, and you get to select three “priority targets” at the start of the game giving all Firewing +1 to hit them. You also get +1 Attacks on characters (not independent characters, so this will hit your Sergeants as well) when locked in combat with priority targets. Finally you can give three Troops units infiltrate. Now this is interesting, because Seekers? They can already infiltrate. So these infiltrating units are clearly intended to be the ones that score – a couple of Tactical Squads (20 Marine ones for true hijinks) and then a Tactical Support Squad (maybe with plasma burners) infiltrating is… very good. If you don’t care too much about scoring units moving up, or want to put a Tactical Squad in a Rhino or something, three Tactical Support Squads infiltrating is… very very good. But of course this can’t come without cost, and your opponent scores 3 VP for every Priority Target units that has at least a model left at the end of the game and isn’t falling back or pinned. The good news is, of course, that you’re probably gonna want to kill that stuff very dead, and you can pick and choose your choices carefully to make sure it’s possible. The thing is that, as nice as the buffs are, the ability to infiltrate plasma burners probably makes this worthwhile without you getting them, so don’t be afraid to use them to pick off easier targets in the slots available to you, and then mop up with your infiltrating war crimes units.

Deathwing Terminator Praetor
Deathwing Terminator Praetor. Credit: Jack Hunter

Legion Units

Inner Circle Knights Cenobium

The elite Terminators of the Dark Angels, the Inner Circle Knights Cenobium are a slightly different proposition to the rest of the units available to the Dark Angels. They are both part of the wings but also exemplars of the orders, the knightly organisations that exist within the legion that have many members, but few true adherents. The Cenobium are those true adherents, and they are one of the coolest set of minis available to buy and have some interesting rules to go alongside.

Just off the bat they’re WS 5 Terminators with Terranic Greatswords (which rule) meaning they’re very scary. The Preceptor, the sergeant equivalent, doesn’t stop there, rocking in at WS 6. That’s the same as a goddamn Legion Champion. These guys absolutely dominate in melee, which is where you’re going to want them as much as possible. They do tote Plasma-casters as well, which are basically the hand-flamer equivalents of plasma burners, with lower strength and less good Breaching, but that still makes them flamers with Breaching which is hard to not love. They also have Stubborn (which is nice) and Adamantium Will (3+) (which is solid but situational). They’re all characters which thanks to how wound allocation works makes the whole unit much tougher, and then one of the few good targets for Thaumaturgy. You’ll also pick an Order of the Hekatonystika for them, which we’ll touch on in a second. If you want you can throw a legion vexilla on one of them (you should), a grenade harness on the Preceptor (neat if you expect to encounter anyone able to wander freely around difficult terrain, like Death Guard) and you can swap any of the greatswords for thunder hammers (we’ll come back to this, but… maybe).

What’s the bad then? Well, at 275pt for 5 they’re one of the most expensive specialist Terminator options, but that makes sense for what they have on them. The real blow is actually that Cataphractii Terminator Armour. Sure, it’s a little more protective than the Tartaros, but you’re going to want these guys slamming into combat as much as possible and it would be nice if they could a) run and more importantly b) sweep. Without being able to sweep their utility as mass infantry mulchers is limited.

Which brings us to the orders. Each of them gives us a little benefit (on top of the wing you choose for them, and the general choice for that should be Deathwing but there’s an exception I’ll note below when it comes up) to tool them up to do something particular.

  • Augurs of Weakness turn them into vehicle hunters, with a +1 Strength bonus against Armour 11 or more. This is really the pick for thunder hammers if there was going to be one, because that 2x Strength is a huge boon here (turning it into Strength 9 against Armour 11 or better). If you’re going for hammers, don’t pick Deathwing, because it’s sword only, so instead grab Dreadwing for extra toughness or Ironwing to really crack those vehicles wide open. This is cool, but it’s a niche choice – there are better armour hunters out there.
  • Icons of Resolve gives you +1 Ld on a turn you get charged. Fine, but not exciting. Sure Ld 10 is cool, but… come on. This has more value on a Paladin joining another unit, but even then… not amazing.
  • Slayers of Kings gives you a reroll of 1s when fighting WS 5 or higher. This is, frankly, absolutely hilarious. Add the +1 to hit with their swords from Deathwing and this is brutal. This is probably the premier pick if you want these guys to hunt characters or other extremely elite melee units.
  • Hunters of Beasts lets you re-roll Wound rolls of 1 when the enemy is T5, or any failed wound rolls if they’re T6. This is pretty damn nice, and will chew through some targets, but bear in mind just how deadly Contemptors and other likely prey are, and expect to lose some knights on the backswing. Is it worth it? Marginally.
  • Reapers of Hosts gives you +1 attack when you’re in base contact with more than one model, and this is certainly very very good. However, it’s less good than it could be because, again, these guys can’t sweep. If they could this would be an A+ pick, but as is it’s still a solid A.
  • Breakers of Witches is absolutely amazing if you’re fighting Thousand Sons, Word Bearers, or Daemons of the Ruinstorm. It’s not remotely worth it otherwise. Not a good general pick.

Look, these guys are an amazing unit, can be tooled up to be some of the best character hunters in the game, and are covered in drip. Someone, please paint up six units of these, one themed to each order, and then meet me at Warhammer World. I need this.

Dreadwing Interemptor Squad

I’ve waxed lyrical at just how good plasma burners are, so here we have an elite squad with plasma burners, rad grenades, stubborn, Counter-attack (1) and the ability to upgrade 1/5 models to have a plasma incinerator, which is a plasma burner with torrent 9″. These guys rule, I’ve lost all objectivity, I think I have to start a Dark Angels army now.

OK, OK, let me drag myself back on track. These guys are good, but they lack the second wound of veterans which is a real shame, and they’re still just power armour chumps. A savvy opponent is going to do everything they can to wipe these guys out before they close. You’re incentivised to bump the unit to 10 to take full advantage of the transport options, but then 10 templates is too many templates, and it starts getting messy and hard to actually make best use of the full squad. At 125 points they’re still affordable for what they do, but they’re an elite pick and boy is that a crowded slot.

Deathwing Companion Detachment

An interesting choice, this gives you a unit of 5-10 Veterans that can only be chosen as a retinue squad for a Master of the Legion. Despite this restriction I can see these guys getting some play, because they have some extremely spicy special rules. The big one right off the bat is the Death-sworn Companions rule that overrides all rules that let your opponent allocate casualties on this unit, and thus making these guys the best bodyguards in the game. This is especially pertinent when you have monsters like Exodus hanging around, ready to snipe a Praetor to death. At 150pts with 2 wounds and artificer armour, this probably makes them worth it on their own. Luckily, they’re also pretty good at other stuff.

WS5 makes them pretty decent in combat, and each one comes with a Calibanite warblade, that can be upgraded to a Terannic greatsword for 5pts. It loses you an attack, but it’s still probably worth the upgrade. The rest isn’t that unusual for veterans, except for one piece of wargear: the Cytheron pattern aegis. Now this is an interesting piece of wargear, and a unique one to this unit. It swaps for their bolter and gives the bearer a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting and a 5+ against melee attacks. This on its own would be an interesting addition, but there’s a little extra buff too: if you have at least 2 in a unit you can choose to deploy them, granting the benefits to the whole unit and reducing the initiative of enemies engaged with them by 1. However, the models with them can’t fight when they’re deployed (but the unit as a whole can move). This is… very interesting. It’s probably not worth deploying unless you need that initiative boost over an enemy, as wound allocation means the models with the aegis can tank them if needs be anyway. Each aegis is 10 points, so you’re spending at least 20pts on getting the minimum 2 to do this (out of a maximum of 50pts for the whole unit). I think on balance I’d rather pay 15pts a model for a greatsword and aegis and run the whole unit with a 2+ 4++ and Murderous Strikes. It clocks in at an expensive 225pts, but it’s an absolutely scary proposition (especially because these guys are, well, deathwing so get the SWORDS bonus) and it’ll be the best possible ablative armour for a character. I’d run these as the bodyguard to a Praetor or even to the Lion if I was going all out.


Paladin of the Ninth Order, Champion of the Dark Angels Legion, Corswain is a Praetor level character whose capacity for violence is only matched by there being almost nothing interesting about him other than that capacity for violence.

He’s effectively a Legion Champion but more and he’s certainly very good at this. WS7 is brutally good, he has Precision Strikes (4+) meaning he’s going to be picking targets out of units very effectively, and he has The Blade which is a Terranic Greatsword but more with Murderous Strikes (4+) and Duellist’s Edge (2) which is extremely powerful. He’s absurdly protected too, with a 4+ invulnerable that goes to a 3+ in melee, which is bonkers good. He’s an absolute murder machine the equal of the best of the other legions, and if what you want is a blender on legs then he’s probably your guy.

That’s it. There’s nothing else interesting about him. If you take him as your warlord he locks you into the Deathwing version of Marshal of the Crown so you probably don’t want him as your warlord. You’re basically taking him because you would have taken a Legion Champion and you don’t settle for second best. Which to be clear is fine. I would 100% find space for him in many lists, he’s very very good. He’s just also not exciting in any meaningful way.

Marduk Sedras

Lord of the Twenty-third Order, Eskaton of the Dreadwing, Preceptor of the Shattered Sceptre, Marduk Sedras is an interesting proposition at a hefty 220pt cost, with some unusual special rules and one obvious oversight that makes him much better than he should be.

Firstly he has a unique warlord trait: Preceptor of the Shattered Sceptre. This lets him pick a unit of Inner Circle Knights of the Cenobium as his retinue, which is cool but not exactly amazing, though it does free up an Elite slot which is likely to be a significant point of tension for a legion with so many great picks for Elites. I’ve got to be honest this is a bit of a let down – the Inner Circle Knights are great (as you know by now if you’ve been reading this through in order) but swapping your whole Warlord Trait (other than the bonus reaction) to get to bring a unit without taking up a FOC slot? Uh ok.

Ancient of War is however very interesting. This ability grants Preferred Enemy (a faction of your choice) to all units that start the game with at least one model (or their transport) within 6″ of Marduk for the whole game. This is great (albeit something of a risk that you’ll pack all your units together tight at the start only for your opponent to slam artillery onto them repeatedly before you can split them up) and it’s probably the biggest benefit he offers.

His personal wargear is where we see something of an issue creep in, in the sense that Marduk is, effectively, a Praetor in Cataphractii armour but he’s also not because his armour, the Regalia of the Shattered Sphere, isn’t Cataphractii armour despite giving a 2+ 4++ (and a special bonus that he auto passes dangerous terrain tests). Why does this matter? Well, he can sweep. That means that you probably don’t want to make use of his warlord trait to give him a retinue, because then he’s stuck in a unit that can’t. Throw him in a Legion Tartaros squad instead.

The Death of Worlds is an interesting one. It’s a nice sword with a hefty +5 Strength bonus, but it suffers from being unwieldy. It does have one of the most unusual special rules though, reducing invulnerable saves made against it. This is one of the only ways of doing it in this game and it’s in theory useful, but hitting at Initiative 1 means he may never get to use it.

All in all, Marduk is a weird character. He gives out a genuinely amazing buff, and he has some great personal wargear, but his main weapon is of mixed utility (though, sidenote, he has a plasma blaster which rocks) and his warlord trait is lacklustre. Is he worth 220pts? I’d personally take a standard Praetor and then Corswain as murderous backup instead. Either that or you could skip both the named characters and bring along:

Lion El’Jonson

Lion el’Jonson. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The First Primarch, the Lion, the Son of the Forest, Primarch of the Dark Angels, Lion El’Jonson is one of the most expensive primarchs clocking in at a hefty 450pts, but he’s definitely bringing some bang for your buck.

The Lion has one of the most impressive Primarch statlines, with WS8, I7, and 7 attacks. That makes him absolutely brutal in close combat, even before we get to his very nice kit, and he’ll happily send someone like Lorgar running. On top of the usual Primarch package he brings Adamantium Will (3+) to the table which is a nice little buff.

Before we even get to any of his “proper” special rules, let’s talk about how he interacts with the Hexagrammaton wings. He basically gets to pick a new subtype at the beginning of each of your turns, meaning he can be remarkably flexible across the game. I’d open with something a little defensive (maybe Dreadwing) before segueing into Deathwing for even more bonuses with his sword (whichever one you choose, more on that later). You might get some use out of a movement buff but broadly you’re going to stick to one or two of the subtypes across the battle regardless. However, if plans change, you have options.

His unique warlord trait is Sire of the Dark Angels which gives a +1 Ld bonus to all Dark Angels who can see him (nice) and the Crusader special rule to all Dark Angels in the army (very very nice). Crusader is especially good for the Dark Angels, who are likely to have lots of close combat units wanting to sweep a lot of their enemies. However, remember that Knights of the Inner Circle can’t sweep so they won’t get the benefit, which really sucks. However on the Deathwing Companions this will be brutal and you should absolutely bring a unit to babysit the Lion.

Everything else in his profile just makes him personally more dangerous. And he’s certainly exceptionally dangerous. The Point of the Blade lets him guarantee a charge of 8″ or less, ignoring any Difficult or Dangerous Terrain penalties (but not getting any bonuses the unit would have either) which is fantastic, and totally removes the sense of risk you have around charging. He also has Stasis Grenades to, once a game, try and debuff enemy initiative on the charge. Ultimately you want to be throwing the Lion into combat as often as possible, and both these aspects give him massive bonuses to do so (over the usual ones).

This is in part due to The Leonine Panopoly which not only givs him a 2+ 4++, but also lets him reroll the first failed invulnerable save each player turn. Though this is fantastic, it’s also not, assuming a number of attacks in a single turn, quite as good as Corswain’s armour which cracks me up. Still, it’s almost certainly enough to keep him alive.

His ranged weapon, The Fusil Actinaeus, is one of the only primarch ranged weapons worth a damn, and it’s entirely down to that Rending (3+) (though Blind is also pretty nice). Ulimately he can actually do a decent amount of damage at range, which is unusual, though don’t expect him to be cracking open Spartans with it reliably. Don’t bother falling into the trap of putting him in Stormwing mode for a turn though, even though this weapon lets him benefit from it, because he’s already BS6 and there are very few circumstances where you need anything better than that.

The Lion’s Choler gives him increasing numbers of extra attacks as he loses wounds, leaving him with an eye-watering 9 when at 2 wounds or less. This makes him perhaps one of the most dangerous combatants in the entire game, and you can be confident taking on basically any single foe in single combat with him. And those attacks are all with one of two swords (you get to choose which one to bring). The Lion Sword rocks Instant Death, Fleshbane and Armourbane which means despite the (comparatively) low strength of this sword it’s a real threat against everything. It’s a bit swingy to try and use him to crack open tanks, but you can absolutely do it (and you’ve got a better chance than with his gun), but he’s just going to mince infantry and that’s what this sword is for – killing high-value high-cost high-toughness infantry. The Wolf Sword in comparison is for ruining large units of infantry. The special rule on it, Fearsome Ruin, will cause chaos when you kill people with it (and you will), but the sword as a whole falls down a little in that though it pumps up your attacks, it’s stuck at AP 3. Really something to kill power armour, and honestly if you’re wasting Lion El’Jonson killing power armour you done gone screwed up. The Lion Sword is the better pick for sure.

In conclusion, the Lion is an absolute monster of a combatant and he also throws out one of the best combat buffs in the game to his whole army. He’s almost certainly worth the 450pts, but you need to be sure to build your army around him to make the most of it. He’ll blend anything he hits, but he can’t literally fight the entire enemy army on his own (though he’s certainly willing to try).

Putting it All Together

Dark Angels are a tricky legion to summarise concisely because, as we’ve seen across all their variations, they can do a lot of different things and specialise in very different ways. That’s one of the strengths of the legion of course, but it’s also a huge challenge when it comes to building a list. If you’re approaching Dark Angels for the first time, you should probably work out the following:

Are you building a wing list? That is, are you intended to take a Rite of War that aligns with a specific wing, or otherwise intending to build into a skew that prioritises one or the other? This could also be one of the generic legion Rites of War, as long as it aligns with a specific wing of the hexagrammaton. For example, a Pride of the Legion list probably favours the Deathwing.

If you are, are you intended to keep to it strictly? Most of the Rites of War provided for the legion don’t give specialists Line and that suggests that it’s intended that most of the Rites should be taken with a mix of wings even if the core of your army is of a particular wing (along with your general). However, you absolutely can lean hard into a single wing, not take many or any models with another subtype, and do well. But you should think about it upfront.

Are you going to want to bring along some allies? The Salamanders are the only Sworn Brother that the Dark Angels have, though they have plenty of Fellow Warriors to call upon. If you’re planning on running an allied force, the big green guys or otherwise, you should consider what that legion does well and play to it. If you’re bringing the Salamanders along it could be nice and fluffy to run a lot of Dreadwing to align with them, but actually you might want to lean into Ravenwing or something similar to make up for the rather stoic approaches the Salamanders favour. Thinking about this now will help you build your forces.

Once you’ve worked out the answer to these questions you should start building your lists like any other Legion list. You want at least three Line choices in your list, probably more if you can get it (though remember that Command Squads are Line with their banner, and so are any squads accompanied by a Herald, so you can make up for it in a few places if you don’t want to bring many Troops along). You’ll need a way of getting your guys to objectives and around the board, and to meet the various threats you face. In particular you’ll need:

  • a way to churn through power armour troops to clear Line units off objectives;
  • decent anti-tank firepower to make sure you can handle any armoured units your opponent brings; and
  • some monster/dreadnought hunters who can throw out lots of wounds at AP1 and survive the Contemptor to the face, or can throw out a few with the Brutal special rule.

Example List: Stormwing (2500pts)

This list takes The Storm of War Rite of War and has fun with it at 2500pts, giving you a very solid backbone of Troops with enough other things to answer threats. The goal here is to have just enough tools to cope with a likely spread of threats while overwhelming your opponent’s ability to deal with a particular kind of threat in your army (massed infantry).

Put an Apothecary in the big squads of Marines and use them to push up the table. Each one has 10 (or 9 for a single unit to save 2pts) chain bayonets to give them punch, and because you’ll not be able to get all of them into combat most of the time anyway – remove the models without them first. With the three suits of artificer in each unit, Heart of the Legion, and an Apothecary, if you plant these on an objective or in a secured position you’ll find they stick around a long time.

Then you have your heavy hitters: your Praetor with his Deathwing Companions in a Land Raider can charge wherever some serious combatants need killing and engage with impunity, the Herald and the Inner Circle Knights are Line and so can claim objectives and hold them even more brutally than your infantry, but also can engage and murder Terminators, veterans and anything else too scary, plasma burners in a Rhino to get to a danger zone and clear it of enemies, and a Contemptor because you’re an idiot if you don’t bring a Contemptor. The thing you lack most of is anti-armour, but the Contemptor, and in a pinch your Knights, will do work, and the Land Raiders have some anti-armour firepower too. If you’re worried about it, give your Inner Circle thunder hammers and Augurs of Weakness isntead.

HQ [596pts]

Praetor [Stormwing] [Marshal of the Crown] [481pts]
– Terranic Greatsword [25pts]
– Archeotech Pistol [15pts]
– Deathwing Companion Detachment [Deathwing] [235pts]
– 5 Terranic Greatswords [25pts]
– 5 Cytheron pattern aegis [50pts]
– Legion Vexilla [10pts]
– Legion Land Raider Proteus Carrier [Ironwing] [230pts]
– Pintle-mounted Heavy Bolter [10pts]

Legion Cataphractii Centurion [Deathwing] [115pts]
– Herald [20pts]
– Terranic Greatsword [10pts]

Elites [870pts]

Legion Apothecarion Detachment [Stormwing] [165pts]
– 3 Apothecaries [135pts]
– 3x Artificer Armour [30pts]

Inner Circle Knights Cenobium [Deathwing; Slayers of Kings] [520pts]
– Legion vexilla [10pts]
– Grenade Harness [5pts]
– Legion Land Raider Proteus Carrier [Ironwing] [230pts]
– Pintle-mounted Heavy Bolter [10pts]

Legion Contemptor Talon [Ironwing] [185pts]
– Legion Contemptor [185pts]
– Gravis Plasma cannon [10pts]
– Gravis power fist with in-built combi bolter

Troops [1033pts]

Legion Tactical Squad [Stormwing] [268pts]
– 1 Legion Tactical Sergeant [25pts]: Artificer armour [10pts], Calibanite Warblade [15pts], Bolt Pistol
– 10 additional Legionaries [100pts]
– Additional Equipment [50pts]: 9 Chain Bayonets [18pts]; Legion vexilla [10pts]; Augury scanner [10pts]
– Centurion [Stormwing] [85pts]: Terranic Greatsword [25pts]

Legion Tactical Squad [Stormwing] [270pts]
– 1 Legion Tactical Sergeant [25pts]: Artificer armour [10pts], Calibanite Warblade [15pts], Bolt Pistol
– 10 additional Legionaries [100pts]
– Additional Equipment [50pts]: 10 Chain Bayonets [20pts]; Legion vexilla [10pts]; Augury scanner [10pts]
– Centurion [Stormwing] [85pts]: Terranic Greatsword [25pts]

Legion Tactical Squad [Stormwing] [270pts]
– 1 Legion Tactical Sergeant [25pts]: Artificer armour [10pts], Calibanite Warblade [15pts], Bolt Pistol
– 10 additional Legionaries [100pts]
– Additional Equipment [50pts]: 10 Chain Bayonets [20pts]; Legion vexilla [10pts]; Augury scanner [10pts]
– Centurion [Stormwing] [85pts]: Terranic Greatsword [25pts]

Legion Tactical Support Squad [Dreadwing] [225pts]
– Plasma Burners [100pts]
– Legion Rhino Transport [Dreadwing] [35pts]
– Dozer Blade [5pts]


That’s it for the Dark Angels – the First Legion and the first of our Legion Focuses for the new Horus Heresy. We hope you’ve found this article useful; if you have any comments or feedback, please let us know here or on