Monday, 4 February 2013

Dark Angels Analysis - Black Knights

Sorry for the short sabbatical. I've really needed a bit of a break from posting for a couple of days, firstly because I was absolutely shattered due to only getting about 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours, and secondly because some of my posts were getting really sloppy. But anyway, time to round out the Dark Angels Fast Attack section. Black Knights.

Straight off comparing them to Ravenwing Bikers, they lose Combat Squads and the Twin-Linked Bolter. They gain a Plasma Talon, a Corvus Hammer, +1 attacks and leadership and Skilled Rider. For this they cost 15pts more.

Breaking down what this actually means. In a shooty role, they are a little better against some targets and a lot better against others. Their Plasma Talon is a Plasma gun with 6” less range, which leaves you with just enough to shoot a single shot each at a Terminator target whilst also being reasonably confident of not getting charged, it is twin-linked as standard however.

Rapid-fire is nice, but most of the time you're going to be using the single shot option due to the short range of the plasma. Sure, it will be devastating, but if you don't kill the target then you're likely to be charged in the next turn, as most of the time you aren't going to be taking a big enough squad to be able to take that. Pouring over 400pts into a unit with a 3+ armour/cover save isn't particularly great value for that durability, even with T5.

So against Terminators, assuming no Storm Shields, although most Terminator armed models will have an equivalent. And let's assume a maximum squad of 10 bikes shooting outside of rapid-fire range.

10 shots, 2/3rds of which hit, with re-rolls. 8.88 hits, 2s to wound against T4. 7.4 wounds. After 5++ save, 4.94 wounds. So 10 Black Knights shooting at a squad of Terminators will kill 4 – 5 Terminators, and you're paying just over 400pts for that. Don't get me wrong, a lot of plasma shots is still painful, but considering that you're only getting 1 shot when you actually run the maths is it actually worth that many points?

Alternatively, for every 3 models in the unit a Black Knight can swap his Plasma Talon for a Ravenwing Grenade Launcher. This comes with 4 different shots that you can fire, but before I go through that it's probably best to go through the special rules for some of the shots. Rad Charge is the first one, and it means that the opponent's unit suffers -1 Toughness for the remainder of the player turn.

The second is a Stasis Anomaly, which is a bit like the Dark Talon's version except the unit only suffers -1 to their Initiative and Weapon skill. So, if you're looking for something to reduce their WS and Initiative, I'd probably go for a Dark Talon, simply because it's cheaper most of the time, harder to kill and causes more of an effect. 

So, the shots, 24" S3 AP6 rapid fire blast. That rapid fire is nice, but then you probably don't want to get that close, and it's only a small blast and so it's not too difficult for your opponent to manipulate the number of hits that you can possibly get.

Next up is the Krak shell, which is still rapid fire but loses the Blast in favour of S6 and AP4. A bit like a Nephillim Jetfighter's shots really.

Rad shells, this is probably going to be the most popular choice, as anything that modifies your opponent's toughness is brutal. Yes it's only 12" range but it's now much easier to deal with that unit with the rest of your shooting eliminating the threat to your Black Knights, and even if it isn't there shouldn't be too much left, leaving the unit managable for your bikes. It's assault 1 and blast.

Finally you have the stasis shell, which is identical to the rad charge except it fiddles with the WS and I instead.

In terms of additional close combat capabilities compared to the standard Ravenwing Bikers, they do have that additional leadership and attack, and they also come equipped with a close combat weapon in the Corvus Hammer, giving them another additional attack in the form of dual close combat weapons.

The Corvus Hammer isn't too bad actually. It gives the wielder +1 strength and rending. So let's stack up the comparison in combat between Ravenwing Bikers and Black Knights, against Tactical Marines. 5 of each, both on the charge, ignoring overwatch.

Ravenwing Bikers first: 2 attacks on the charge base, and 3 for the Sergeant. Striking at the same time.

11 attacks from the Bikers. Needing 4s to hit. 5.5 hits, 4s to wound. 2.75 wounds. 0.91 wounds against the tactical marines.

Marines hit back. 11 attacks. Again, 4s to hit. 5.5 hits, 1.83 wounds. 0.61 wounds against the bikes.

Black Knights. Striking at the same time, with 4s to hit with 20 attacks. 10 hits, 3s to wound. 6.66 wounds, 1.67 rending, let's call that 2 rend and 4 wounds. So 3.33 wounds in total.

Marines hit back. Same as the previous combat, 0.61 wounds against the Black Knights.

I know that Ravenwing Bikers aren't built for a close combat role, but this is really just showing what your extra 15pts is buying you. Again however, the margin between the Black Knights would probably be even greater against Terminators, as, ignoring that invulnerable save the rending is just as effective. However, is the margin really great enough to warrant that 15pt increase.

Honestly, I don't think that either the enhanced close combat capabilities or the ranged improvements warrant the increase by themselves, but when taking both of them into account I would say that the price increase is fair. I still think that Ravenwing Bikers are probably the better option though. Firstly, you can take them as Troops with certain special characters. Secondly, if you're looking for a unit to score you linebreaker, then this unit can do it just as well as the Black Knights, except more cheaply.

Yes, the Black Knights do have skilled rider, which is useful in getting in close to do the damage with the 3+ jink save when you turbo-boost and auto passing dangerous terrain. The problem is that you only get to take advantage of the improved jink save if you don't shoot (although you still get a 4+ jink just for moving due to the skilled rider, which is extremely useful), and I doubt that you're going to get your points worth out of just combat. Yes you can't turbo-boost to get the jink in the turn that you charge but it should do a good job of helping to keep you alive until you get there.

Additionally, if you want a hammer unit, then you might as well go with Assault Terminators or Deathwing Knights instead, and then you can use the Teleport Homers on the regular Bikes to get them in close and safely. Although you can use Black Knights for the Teleport Homer, why would you when Ravenwing Bikers are cheaper. If you want to mess with your opponent's WS and Initiative even, you might as well take a Dark Talon, the only exception really being that Black Knights can mess with your opponent's toughness.

If I was going to take them, I would be tempted to take them as a small squad with a Ravenwing Grenade Launcher.

To conclude, I would say that Black Knights are a balanced unit, not particularly stand-out, but also not bad. The only problem that they have is that they suffer from, 'whatever you can do I can do better', so no matter which role you take them to accomplish, there's probably another unit in the Codex that can do it better, unfortunately.


  1. You mentioned an error with the Grenade Launcher, but it's not referenced in the text of the article.

    You also seem to have made a mistake on the Jink special rule. If the unit moves during the movement phase, they get the Jink cover save. And due to skilled rider it's a 4+ on a normal move and a 3+ on a Turbo Boost.

  2. I did yeah, thanks. Yeah that Skilled Rider oversight mistake was an oversight on my part, as was the Grenade Launcher. I only noticed that this afternoon while I was out and that's why there's only that line at the top there. Again, thanks for pointing this out, I like to know when I've made mistakes. I'll correct it now.