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.
Written by: Ezzeran, a Deathwing commander
We now have access to seven different characters in a DW army and their abilities, powers and stats are often different from our older list. With so many new options, wargear, weapons and stuff it's time to look at the role our characters play in a Deathwing army
If you want a shooty character a Librarian is your friend. FotA is a great power and even the humble Smite (or whatever they call it now!) is an AP2 blast attack! A good second place is a Techmarine. His shooting will be limited to his combi weapon or stormbolter but he gives himself or the squad he's with a re-roll of their shooting. With a DW army though (or all DA for that matter) you must buy Terminator Honours so by choosing a shooty character often those points are wasted.
However if you just want your character to be able to shoot, rather than be dedicated to shooting, your options are limited. Terminators cannot have pistols so our choices are: storm bolter or combi-weapon. That's it! There's nothing wrong with the storm bolter, it's cheap and those two Str4 BS5 shots are often useful. The combi-weapon though is a better choice. At long range you only get one shot but up close it's as good as a storm bolter — two shots and Terminators can still assault after firing! Then of course there's the other half…
Great for popping two AP2 shots off at enemy Terminators or even at vehicles. Overheat not usually a problem since we have 2+ saves.
Anti-tank, I give this to any character accompanying an all lightning claw squad (usually a Chaplain).
Can be useful if you're deep striking in a squad with 2 heavy flamers! I don't like these for characters, for them to be worthwhile you have to kill enough enemy models to ensure you can't assault!
If you want a dedicated assault character then any HQ character will do! All of them can be made into assault monsters. Weapon options for assaults are many and varied, some people have favorites others claim to know what's best. These are the models I currently use:
Master with twin lightning claws
Nothing says you're up for a scrap like paired lightning claws! With 6 attacks on the charge and re-rolls to wound you're an accomplished combat monster. If you can get Furious Charge it's even better (or ridiculous as some would say!).
Master with thunder hammer and storm shield
To be avoided. I really like my model of this, TH&SS is just so cool! But unfortunately the TH costs more than a power fist (which is just as much use) and the SS is wasted on a Terminator.
Master with Sword of Secrets
This is basically the only reason to use a Master. The other arm can have anything (I use a combi-plasma). STR6 power weapon is great against marines and works out about as good as a lightning claw. It can also wound high toughness easier as well!
Librarian with Force axe
I see no reason to give Librarians anything to replace the force axe. I now have a shooting weapon in the off hand but previously I did a power sword conversion for that extra attack.
Chaplain with crozius
Again, why replace the crozius? I use a combi-melta for my chappie but I can well see why a second HtH weapon would be used.
On the whole any 'Strikes at Init 1' weapons are wasted on characters. Striking BEFORE marines with a power weapon is what you need. I'd never use a chain fist for this reason, they are better left for squad members! The humble power sword is often enough and the cheap hero with power weapon and storm bolter is not a bad choice!
The basic hero is an expensive luxury these days. We pay a lot of points for the Rites of Battle rule which is all but useless for Dark Angels. Both the Master and Captain must have Terminator honours so getting into assault isn't a bad idea. They are both equally good in offense, the Masters' advantage is his extra wound here. The Master also has Ld 10 which gives the whole army Ld10. Deathwing being Ld9 and stubborn though this isn't really needed. Only use a Commander if you're wanting the Sword of Secrets!
Many players first choice these days. The Librarian has access to all the new psyker powers and is just as good as the commander in assault (better with +D3 attacks or re-rolls!) He also comes with a force weapon and phychic hood. Terminator Librarians, sadly, cannot have Familiars so for them a Furious Charging command squad is a good investment. At Initiative 6 you can often wound (then kill with the force axe) big enemy creatures before they ever attack (Chaos Lords, Hive tyrants, Carnifexes, Greater Daemons except LoC), Daemon princes all have Initiative 5 or less.
Again, it is difficult to justify the higher cost Epistolary except for one point: Ld10. The Ld is actually useful for the Librarian because although he'll likely pass psychic tests with Ld9 the higher is better for the phychic hood. Most enemy psychers have Ld10.
The best psychic powers:
This is a good power, short range but the AP is what you're after.
Fury of the Ancients
Many peoples' favourite. Long range and pinning.
Veil of Time
The re-rolls from this power are useful for shooting and assaulting and are often better than the +D3 attacks.
Might of Heroes
+D3 attacks is great against lots of poor infantry.
My fav at the moment! The Litanies of Hate rule is great, comes with a 4+ inv save (only one there is in Deathwing) and a power weapon and is cheap! I see no real reason to use the expensive Master of Sanctity unless you have points spare and crave the wound. The temptation is always to put them with a 7-man lightning claw squad with Furious Charge in a Crusader and execute a devastating assault on turn 2. GO FOR IT!
Unless you're playing escalation this is a great tactic, it can easily cripple the centre of an opposing force thus making the rest of the game mop-up. Beware of counter-charges and firepower ambushes though as your squad will be out in the open after the inevitable defeat of the enemy squad.
I haven't used them much since they do little of use. They're expensive, not as good in assault as the other characters, too costly to hide and use just to repair vehicles and cannot have the servo-harness.
They may be useful for Dread repair but with no harness its a poor chance of success. He does have that re-roll for shooting though which comes in handy for Cyclones once in a while.
A must for as many characters who can afford them!
An OK choice, I've seen it save more than one Librarian! In fact the Librarian is the guy who needs it most (against those tough creatures you often NEED all the hits you can get so you have a good chance of wounding!)
I've had a go with this a couple of times (last game it saved my Chaplain!) I wouldn't say it's compulsory but again, if you have the spare points…
I often buy these to fill out points. They are rarely useful (you almost always need to roll 18+ on the 4D6) but for 2 points who cares!
Addendum to the character guide
Don't forget that now you can attach characters to Command squads. The Master cannot be attached, but attaching a Librarian to a Chaplain's squad, or vice versa, can result in a very effective duo. Then of course, there's the supremely expensive 'Attach both characters to a Master's Command squad' option. If you don't mind paying around 600 points, you can have a cheap Chaplain, a cheap Librarian with Might of Heros, four Terminators including two assault cannons, and a Master with a Sword of Secrets, all with Furious Charge. Expensive? Heck yeah. Stupid to take in anything under 1850 points? Probably. Intimidating? You'd better believe it. Cast Might of Heros on the Commander and suddenly he has up to 8 attacks at 6 initiative and 7 strength on the charge — then you've still got 5 each from the Chappy and the Librarian!
Of course, as far as what's 'cost effective' this squad probably isn't. The Master alone, 9 times out of 10, will kill the entire kill zone before anyone else does their attacks. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you, but unless you're going up against a bunch of Khorne Berzerkers, you end up with a lot of wasted close combat ability. Of course, if you ARE going up against World Eaters — well, I've been using the above Command squad (or variants of it) since the Space Marines Codex came out, and they've almost won the game by themselves on numerous occasions. On far lesser occasions (maybe 1 in 10 games) they've lost the game for me by being annihilated on the turn they deep-struck.
Anyway, it's a fun option, and most people glance over it on terms of cost effectiveness. Me? I don't mind losing if I have a squad that can rip its way through two bloodclaw packs and some Wolfguard without hardly even a scratch.