Alpha strike Deathwing lists

19 March 2015 | 7th Edition

Well this has been a long time in gestation. Every now and again it's good to look at popular army list styles and modes of play. Here are some pure 'alphawing' list that seems fairly typical of what's being put together for Dark Angels at this juncture of 40K. And why not it has much going for it, so milk it while you can. One for the future archives maybe, once alpha-striking has run its course.

There is a general acknowledgement that where Terminator armies fail is lack of firepower, mobility, and numbers — well that covers just about everything. Terminators, no matter what armour colour they wear, are expensive and vulnerable to the plethora of AP2 weaponry around. They are hard work against armies that can field massed, cheap units that force you to take bucketloads of saves.

Discounting expensive transports, deep striking everything on Turn 1 around a non-scattering Belial is the best way to get this slow army onto the table and into an opponents face. Luckily it is something Deathwing are built for. And provided you don't get shot up too badly the first couple of turns after you've arrive, and can do enough damage to critical enemy units, then you can grind out an attritional battle over objectives. Remember though that you need to have something remaining on the table by the end of turn 1 or you will auto lose!

First principles

In fact the only principle: Everything deep strikes. No room for subtlety here.

Usually I start at 2000 points, but there are examples here at different sizes just to demonstrate varied approaches. Most of which can be scaled.

OK let the fun begin…

List 1: 1750. Banner of Fortitude and tactical Terminator overload

A shooty list built around the Banner of Fortitude relies on its first two turns to inflict as much havoc and damage as possible before sitting back and taking what's thrown at it. It isn't very mobile once on the table — but then no footslogging Deathwing army ever is. So well thought out deep strike deployment is key. It's a risky all-or-nothing approach. But one the current Deathwing seems destined to take.

Unit Points
Belial
w/ thunder hammer and storm shield (TH/SS)
190
Deathwing Command Squad
Halberd of Caliban, Standard of Fortitude
1 x assault cannon, 1 x chainfist
335
Deathwing Squad 1 (10)
2 x heavy flamer, 2 x TH/SS, 2 x chainfist
480
Deathwing Squad 2
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chainfist
250
Deathwing Squad 3
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chainfist
250
Deathwing Squad 4
1 x assault cannon, 1 x chainfist
245
  1750

This list is a convenient 1750 points. Scaleable by adding or removing the 245 or 250 point squads.

The basic principle is the inclusion of a large 10-man squad, armed with two heavy weapons. Heavy flamers are the wepon of choice here but it works with plasma cannons too. It's a big unit to soak up incoming fire, plus you can utilise those two weapon upgrades to their best with Split Fire. It's all about maximising your options.

Tactics are basic: attach Belial to the large 10-man squad and deep strike in. Then just shoot the hell out of everything. Try to get the banner to cover at least one other unit.

The Standard of Fortitude is an interesting option here. Undoubtedly valuable for its Feel No Pain 12" bubble it also forces you to bunch up your squads, if you don't you minimise the number of benefitting units. With mobility key in 7th Edition, and to a certain extent ability to cover a number of objectives, this could be seen as throwing an advantage to your opponent. Make your own mind up on that. For me the Apothecary has become a bit of a deadweight due to him losing his power fist. I'll take the risk (and spend the points) on having two units (possibly three) covered by the banner's bubble. If so it should pay for itself over the course of a game given the cost of a Terminator.

And as all units are scoring, the Command Squad is not sucking points better spent on a Troops unit.

I bet you're thinking that the lack of more resilient thunder hammer / storm shield (th/ss) models will hurt against AP2-heavy opponents is madness. Hence the need for the Banner of Fortitude. But in this edition of the game it's mass small arms fire forcing saving throws that is the worst enemy of the Terminator. Although there is plenty of AP2 around most armies don't have the number AP2 weapons that you can't either initially avoid (through line of sight or being out of range) or take out during the alpha strike phase. That's the ideal. Spending points needlessly without guaranteeing they will be useful seems unnecessarily wasteful.

I also have massive issues remembering to ensure that the th/ss models are placed correctly to tank incoming shots. Wound allocation is a whole lot simpler now in 7th: nearest models to firing unit get hit first. So get those th/ss models up front.

And here's the next major change that brought that about: in this current (7th Edition) DA Codex the tactical storm bolter Terminators are once again king. Vengeful Strike's re-rolling to hit on the turn you deep strike is huge, Split Fire is excellent, and then add Precision Shots. Massed th/ss squads are for the time being out of favour.

But two squads still run with th/ss models. One is the large squad that is used aggressively turn 1 or to back up units that deep strike in. The other is the Command squad where it is taken by the Standard Bearer.

Note the return of the assault cannon. Expensive though they are, with Vengeful Strike the heavier rate of fire is advantageous. Basically, in an alpha strike build, since we have twin-linked weapons the turn we arrive we should really be taking advantage of them to inflict maximum casualties. For me that means more shots. Your mileage may vary.

Undoubtedly this is a completely different approach to previous Deathwing list building.

List 2: 2500. Heavily-assault orientated units add greater punch

The addition of Deathwing Knights and the Interrogator-Chaplain are the defining features here. But the list isn't built around them as I'm yet to be convinced that they work at all in an alpha strike build simply because they do nothing on the turn they arrive — a criticism that can be levelled at any deep striking assault Terminator. Yes they are practically guaranteed to rip through anything they assault but I believe their best deployment option is in a Crusader escorted by a Librarian on a bike with a Power Field Generator. Another day for that.

Unit Points
Belial
w/ thunder hammer and storm shield (TH/SS)
190
Interrogator-Chaplain
w/ Mace of Redemption
170
Deathwing Command Squad
Halberd of Caliban, Standard of Fortitude
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x TH/SS
340
Deathwing Knights (7)
327
Deathwing Terminator Squad 1 (10)
2 x heavy flamers, 2 x TH/SS, 2 x chain fists
480
Deathwing Terminator Squad 2
1 x assault cannon, 1 x chainfist
245
Deathwing Terminator Squad 3
1 x assault cannon, 1 x chainfist
245
Deathwing Terminator Squad 4
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chainfist
250
Deathwing Terminator Squad 5
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chainfist
250
  2497

To an extent scaleable, one could get it down to 1750 but really this is one for large battles only.

Belial joins the 10-man squad, the Interrogator-Chaplain the Knights. Notice the Interrogator-Chaplain carries the Mace of Redemption. This is better in all cases than his standard crozius although obviously costs more points.

The Knights are bound to draw fire, hopefully taking some of the heat from the critical Command squad where we want the banner to stay alive for as long as possible. Knights' squad is seven strong allowing for a few casualties yet without affecting the effectiveness of Smite. The Interrogator-Chaplain will attach to this squad conferring re-rolls to hit. It'll be pretty frightening in close combat provided it actually makes it there.

One can argue the sanity of including both a Command squad, two HQs and the Knights but at 2500 points it's fine.

List 3: 1750. Dual HQ with podding Dreadnought

So here we're eschewing the Command squad and its banner for the slightly cheaper combination of a Terminator Librarian and a Dreadnought in a drop pod.

Unit Points
Belial
w/ thunder hammer and storm shield (TH/SS)
190
Librarian
w/ Terminator armour, Mastery Level 2 , Power Field Generator, combi-melta
170
Venerable Dreadnought
w/ multi-melta, heavy flamer
Drop pod w/ locator beacon
155
Deathwing Terminator Squad 1 (10)
2 x heavy flamers, 2 x TH/SS, 2 x chain fists
480
Deathwing Terminator Squad 4 (5)
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chain fist
250
Deathwing Terminator Squad 5 (5)
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chain fist
250
Deathwing Terminator Squad 5 (5)
1 x cyclone missile launcher, 1 x chain fist
250
  1745

Again another relatively easy list to scale.

I've always found dual-HQ Deathwing lists pretty effective and used one back in 4th Edition (DW Grand Master and a Librarian). For me the Librarian is a real force-multiplier.

His role here is varied but includes that of Power Field Generator bearer. He and it are expensive in a smaller list, but without the Command squad's Banner of Fortitude the 4++ could be crucial even if only a small bubble is protected. If he manages to keep the Dreadnought walking (in combination with its Deathwing Vehicle re-rolls) and/or a few models in the squad he's attached to then it's all to the good. I'm not going to go into great detail here on the psychic powers too much, but certainly you need to be thinking of Divination (for Prescience) or Telepethy (for Psykic Shriek).

Drop podding the Dreadnought is about the best way to use them in this game edition. Sadly they get stripped of hull points pretty quickly in their traditional footslogging support role so leave that for the Contemptors or Knights. But an accurate landing coupled with the multi-melta and heavy flamer open up a few more tactical possibilities on an alpha strike — even if he tarpits a unit to stop them from shooting, it all helps to protect your precious Terminators. Locator beacon is probably unneeded but just seems too useful as a 'just in case' to leave off.

So, have fun alpha-striking. Don't let anyone tell you that your Deathwing can't be competitive or fun.

Addendum

After this was put together, in order to flesh out numbers yet remain true to the deep striking aggressive philosophy, I have been toying with adding a Tempestus Scions detachment. Consisting of a five-man Command squad with medi-pack (for Feel No Pain), volley and plasma guns, and two squads each with hotshot-lasguns and two meltaguns.

The intention is use Forge Worlds' excellent Death Korps of Kreig models as the basis for this detachment where possible.

Adding between 15 and 25 additional models for 225-345 base, with useful rapid-firing weapons and a bit of armour punch will form an effective counterbalance to the small numbers of Terminators I think, without resorting to expensive power armour. And like Termies these too are fairly potent operating at mid-range. Should be good for objective-holding, screening and a general nuissance on a flank or backline. We'll see how it goes.

A closer look at Scions as an allied detachment will be undertaken at a later date.


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