Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dark Angels Analysis - Deathwing Knights

With the tournament excitement over for this month, it's time to get back to regular scheduling. Today continuing with the Dark Angels Elites section. This will be the last post for the Elites section for a while, as I'm planning on including the Dreadnought in the Predator, etc, post later on.

Which means that the unit for today are the Deathwing Knights.

In the last Dark Angels post I said not to take Dark Angels Terminators in a close combat role. Yes there may be a case for it if you're taking them as troops, but that's for another time. The reason that I said this is because Deathwing Knights suit the role better.

Kitting up the Deathwing Terminators for close combat simply means dropping their Power Fist and Storm Bolter in favour of Thunder Hammer Storm Shield for 5 additional points, bringing them to just under 50pts.

Deathwing Knights cost just over 45pts, and with that you get a Storm Shield as standard, Maces of Absolution, a Flail of the Unforgiven on the Sergeant, +1 weapon skill, Hammer of Wrath, Fortress of Shields, you cannot hide, and the option to take a Perfidious Relic.

So, you could have a Thunder Hammer, Vengeful Strike and Split Fire (which doesn't matter as nobody shoots), or for 3 points less per model you get a concussive Power Stave which can also become a S10 AP2 close combat weapon once per game, striking at normal initiative. The Sergeant also getting one, except it can't use the once per game ability but is permanently AP3, he then also gets an extra attack, and you gain Hammer of Wrath, Fortress of Shields and You Cannot Hide.

I know which one I'd take.

I'd probably better explain what all of this stuff does.

The Deathwing Knights close combat weapons all come with 'Bane of the Traitor'. This means that their AP is improved whilst in combat with Chaos Space Marine units. Useful with the large numbers of them that appear to be floating about.

Hammer of Wrath is as normal, but what Fortress of Shields allows you to do is to gain +1 Toughness by positioning your models in a certain way. This is extremely useful so long as your opponent doesn't have multiple Demolisher Cannons knocking about.

You Cannot Hide then gives them Precision Strike, the close combat variant of Precision Shot. Absolutely fantastic for taking out those characters giving the squad a higher leadership or Power Fists before they strike.

Finally, you can take a Perfidious Relic, for about 2/3rds of the cost of a tactical marine. What it does is give you Adamantium Will and Fear, so all it does that is useful is give you Adamantium Will. So a +1 to deny the witch. Pretty nice, especially when you're fighting Tyranids or Space Wolves.

So, to conclude. You could say that if you're facing a lot of Terminators then Deathwing Terminators would be a better choice, and yeah, you could be right. But I've only ever seen 1 big squad of Terminators when they're run, meaning that you may not need that AP2 all of the time for the rest of the game. Although they may have Storm Shields, making it unlikely that the Deathwing Knights will eat through them, they can do a pretty good job of tarpitting (again), they have Storm Shields too so can weather the hits, and they strike at initiative, meaning that they're hitting on 3s and wounding on 2s with 2 attacks each at the least before the enemy even get to strike, whittling them down making themselves difficult to shift.

As for hordes, obviously they've got the high strength and strike at initiative, which is really important.

In essence, if you want close combat Terminators, go for the Deathwing Knights, if you want scoring Terminators, go for the Deathwing Terminators with Belial or Azrael. And if you want shooty Terminators, go for the standard Deathwing again.

I'm not going to debate the validity of close combat Terminators too much right now, but I'll do a little bit.

With the lack of a Librarian with Gate of Infinity (as far as I'm aware), the Deathwing Knights need a quick way of getting into combat. With the increase in the safety of Deep Striking. I would probably say that this is probably the best option. A small squad would probably do the trick here. You don't need the extra bodies to do the damage and all it will do is tie up more points and make it easier to mishap.

The reason that you don't need the bodies is because these guys should chew through anything that can take the hits if there are any. Against anything like a Marine plus, they have enough high strength attacks to force enough wounds at a good weapon skill to take them out. Ork Boyz squads. 16 attacks on the charge, 9 dead Orks. Remember though that 4 of those are AP3.

This unit is excellent for dropping back in your opponent's deployment zone and destroying deckchair units. They then look like such a threat that your opponent may feel it necessary to divert a chunk of their shooting or close combat units to come and deal with this, and so they are a huge distraction, because they take a lot to shift.

The only thing that Deathwing Terminators have over them in this respect is that they are able to score with the right special character, giving your opponent further incentive to double pack as otherwise you have 3 more points in most cases, but that's getting into special characters, and that's a post for another day.

Walking straight up the field, yeah they may make a good tarpit, but then you're going to be in LoS of a lot of shots, and torrent of fire is what kills Terminators. You can't make those saves forever.

In essence, what the vast majority of close combat Terminators lack is a large number of attacks, and this is a huge deal when you can't chase opposing units down. You'll be winning the combat and the enemy unit will leave, and possibly turn around and cause you a bit more grief. Which is why you need to pump so many models into the squad.

Look at the Vanilla Space Marine Terminator build. 10 Thunder Hammer Storm Shield Terminators, Librarian with Gate of Infinity. Fast, lots of high strength, armour save ignoring attacks. The problem that the Deathwing Knights have is that their weapons aren't save ignoring all of the time. Yes they have a lot of goofy rules but against standard Marines you may have a problem.

5 guys including the Knight Master charge into a squad of 10 tac marines. 12 attacks from the staves. 8 hits, 6.6 wounds. Then the Master. 2.6 hits, 2.2 dead. So 4.4 dead marines, let's say 4. 7 attacks back. 3.5 hits, 1.75 wounds. 0.29 dead Terminators. So they take the hits, and win combat by 4, but then the marines fall back, auto rally, and then you have to come back at them next turn after they've got a few more shots.

Compare that to Thunder Hammers. 12 attacks from the hammers. 6 hits, 5 dead. Sergeant. 2 hits, 1 dead. 6 dead marines. Thunder Hammer Storm Shield Deathwing Terminators are 50% more effective against marines than Knights. But then you still have guys coming back at you next turn, and they're more likely to fail their Leadership check and so you have less chance of finishing them off in the next assault phase.

In essence, it boils down to this. If you like the initiative, go with the Knights. If you like the AP, go with the Terminators. Personally, and I keep changing my mind as this post progresses, I think you're durable enough not to care if you strike first or last.

Anything that is going to penetrate that 2+ armour is going to be striking last anyway (with the exception of your Maces in Smite mode), and therefore, anything that strikes faster than a Thunder Hammer isn't going to hurt you in the vast majority of cases. So in the vast majority of combats, it doesn't matter if the Thunder Hammer on your Terminator is unwieldy, you'll get to hit with it anyway.

So in short, I'd go with the Terminators. Even though they're slightly more expensive. You never know though, I may come back again with another update to this post.


  1. I know this is almost a year old, but you also forgot about the hammer of wrath hits from the deathwing knights in your demo with the 10 space marines. Auto-hits with 2's to wound, so 5 wounds and an additional 2 dead.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, I'll change it as soon as I can get my hands on my Dark Angels Codex. I'm a bit 40k ignorant at the minute, I've left half my books on the other side of the country, lost my rulebook, and I'm too lazy to find the books elsewhere.