The Dark Fortress

A Ravenwing overview by Master Toddius

5th Edition

Note: This tactica is now old and needs an update. Many facts will not be correct for current game. However the general gist is pitched right.

A bit of an insight by long time Ravenwing evangelist — sharing experience and thoughts on the Dark Angels' 2nd Company.

I personally don't play at anything under 1500pts just because the game changes too dramatically and the feel at that point is not something I want any longer. So here are my views of these units after playing a lot of pure Ravenwing games in 5th and a lot of games in 3rd as well.

Command Squads

This squad is very important in a fast attack army. It holds all the advantages when sweeping in to crush a unit in shooting and close combat. I hazard my Command squad in close combat in just about every game I play. One of the important elements to a fast attack army is to maintain the initiative in a fight. Initiative breaks down into:

  • Engage and destroy an enemy unit(s) completely
  • Outmanoeuvre the enemy forces and attack on your terms. Or in other words 'give them nothing but take from them everything.'

The Command squad can do three things for you very well:

  • Allow for hazardous shooting for both the enemy and the shooter with a margin of comfort i.e. plasma guns.
  • Give the squadron an extra attack in close combat along with any other IC attachments.
  • Gives cover to attached IC's.

The Standard Bearer and Apothecary are massive force multipliers. The Apothecary essentially can add a virtual wound for every turn the apothecary is alive. Which could mean seven extra wounds in one game. The Standard Bearer is a force multiplier in close combat which importantly enhances the power weapons in a squad. It has proven invaluable many times over in my games. Because that one round of bad rolling in close combat isn't so devastating when you have all those extra attacks and the Apothecary can keep the statistical wound in dangerous terrain in check when charging at an enemy and his objective.

Melta guns and multi-meltas

A lot of these conclusions are based on my meta gaming experience and play style. Not everything I'm about to say might jive with your ideas and tactics.

I think it's best to look at a typical 2000pt Ravenwing army that I normally run to give you a better idea. Because without an example of an army as a whole the clarity in the ideas won't manifest themselves very easily.

2000pts Pure Ravenwing

HQ 355pts

Grand Master Sammael of the Ravenwing in Speeder
Interrogator Chaplain on bike

Troops 1570pts

Ravenwing Squadron A 6x Man 455pts
Sarge: PW, Bolt Pistol / Plasma Gun x2 / Apothecary / Standard Bearer / AB / Tornado

Ravenwing Squadron B 6x Man 395pts
Sarge: PW, Bolt Pistol / Flamers x2 / AB / Tornado

Ravenwing Squadron C 6x Man 410pts
Sarge: PW, Bolt Pistol, Melta Bomb / Melta Gun x2 / AB / Tornado

Ravenwing Squadron D 6x Man 310pts
Sarge: PW, Bolt Pistol, Melta Bomb / Melta Gun x2 / AB

Fast Attack 75pts

Ravenwing Speeder 75pts
Heavy Bolter / Typhoon Missile Launcher

With melta weapons you need to take a look at the over all anti-armour anti-troop weaponry balance in your list. I'm actually beginning to think of removing the melta bombs from the sergeants and taking two plasma guns in another squad which will run within the 12" area effect of the Apothecary. The issue with the melta guns simply range. In order to even shoot them you have to commit to charge range by the enemy next turn. So with that commitment you're going to have to go all in. And in that sense the melta guns are interesting but the plasma guns are much more lethal for the rapid fire capability. Melta guns also are a all or nothing weapon against transports for the same reason. For tanks the melta guns are interesting because if you roll like me you'll need as many meltas facing down a tank as possible to disable or destroy it. There's a strange stigma with meltas that they have a terrible time hitting the target. I don't know why but it's one that's baffled me for 10+ years.

Multi-meltas are awesome for the sheer fact that they have twice the range as a melta gun. So multi-melta Attack Bikes have a great outflank range because a lot of times you can catch the enemy off guard and swoop in from the flank and catch a side or rear armour of a juicy expensive tank. They're also great because I can hit infantry (Terminators or any power armour) from outside charge range with a Str8 AP1 hit. Taken in numbers the MMAB's can lay waste to a number of different targets. They are the bread and butter of an Ravenwing army. They also count as scoring.


Having speeders that can score is enormous for Ravenwing. It's won me a lot of games in 5th Edition. I run one Tornado usually for every RAS (Ravenwing Attack Squadron) in the army. A lot of other players think they're too expensive and the armour is way to low and they rather have multi-meltas and heavy flamers on their speeders. And you know what I understand and sympathize with them. But the trick of the game is to balance the exposure of the bikes / attack bikes / and speeders to the enemy. If you leave the speeders out in the open and the bikes are behind cover then plan on losing your speeders. If you do the same with the attack bikes and leave the speeders and bikes behind cover then plan on losing the attack bikes. It's all about balance. I normally run a gunline of at least 4 Tornados (including Sammael) in a 2000pt army. This gunline can lay waste to vast amounts of enemy units. It is the tide breaker versus horde armies and can drastically change the enemies tactics in a game. The trick is to angle fire using Sammy as a blocker versus higher strength weaponry. The other part of the trick is to draw out the enemy into fire lanes that benefit the Tornados more than the enemy. There are a lot of ways to bait your opponent and no other unit will make him pay the price more than four assault cannons and heavy bolters opening up big.

Sammael in speeder versus on jetbike

I'm a fan of the speeder myself but the jetbike can still prove very useful in a Ravenwing force. The jetbike requires a lot of finesse to play because in order to get as many kills as possible he has to be used as both a shooter and a close combat unit. The mantle can make him very tough to kill but like in any close combat engagement you must support him as well as possible. The idea is to sweep into a close combat phase with the odds in your favour to crush the unit and then GET OUT close combat for the next turn. Fast attack armies are too fragile to be held up in close combat. You need to think MOVE all the time with them. Shoot and Scoot. Hand to Hand and see ya man. Maintain the initiative, I'm going to paint that in Latin on Sammael's speeder when I begin to repaint the entire force.

The plasma cannon on the jetbike is obviously powerful but it also can wound Sammy, and even with a BS5 it can scatter off target. That for me is a lot of negative variables. Some people swear by the jetbike but I'm not one of them.

The speeder version works great for me because:

  • As mentioned the armour 14 can create a great block against enemy heavy weapons for the aclose combatompanying speeders
  • A twin-linked assault cannon and heavy bolter with a BS5 = everything will hit almost always. Those two weapons have a large enough range to keep Sammy out of harms way in most circumstances. And the sheer amount of firepower will earn his points back fairly quickly
  • A gunline speeder group giving fire support for the bikes a is a great hammer and anvil approach. Taking a cheaper second string HQ unit geared for close combat with Sammael looking over his shoulder is a great tactic.

Chaplains or Librarians?

Again this is based on my play style but the Interrogator-Chaplain wins out here for me.

  • He has one more wound for the same points
  • He has an Iron Halo
  • Litanies of Hate is the crux of maintaining the initiative in a Ravenwing army. Coupled with the Command squad the initial charge is enormous, as it should be
  • The chaplain on bike is THE best IC unit in the the Dark Angel Codex when you compare points to ability.

The Librarian falls short for me because:

  • Dark Angel psychic powers in this edition are laughable. Just look at he Space Wolf powers and tell me this isn't true. Now look at the nid psychic powers…
  • Hellfire is the only viable offensive power for the Librarian and is WAY too random, so much so that it should be an rc power — not a marine's
  • The force weapon is interesting but more than likely the force barrier will be used in hand to hand
  • The one thing the Librarian is very good at is his version of the psychic hood
  • We also have a BS5 libbie which I suppose is good…

Personally I want the brutality that the Chaplain brings to the force. The Librarian is interesting for his particular gadgets but with the newer codexes coming out those gadgets become more and more 'last year'.

Power weapons versus power fists

I gear my RAS squads to kill the power fist in the tactical/terminator squad before it kills me. I want to strike at initiative after diminishing the enemy squad strength to a dismal low number. If you get yourself caught in the clutches of a Soul Grinder or Dreadnought (or anything else with armour 12 or higher) then you really screwed up and deserve to be there, frankly. With that many meltas running about the table the issue of needing a power fist against said units is a lack of tactical judgment then anything else. Ravenwing sergeants are the better of the two Space Marine Bike sergeants because we have a bolt pistol AND a power weapon. This gives us extra attacks in close combat. So take advantage of them. Plus the extra points in power fists can be used better elsewhere, like special weapons or better speeders.

I hope this has been useful. I've always wanted to see a large following of Ravenwing players. I've been trying to convince people that Ravenwing are awesome since starting to play them nine years ago.



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