The Dark Fortress

Standard of Devastation. Maximising infantry bolters

19 April 2015 | 7th Edition

DA Tactical squad
Fear the bolter, blessed tool of the Emperor.
Models by Den of Imagination.

Is it wrong to build a complete list around the awesomeness of the Standard of Devastation? Well no, so let's have a closer look.

Note that this was first put together well over a year ago but never put online — and as such it feels the moment has already passed. The Standard of Fortitude is the new boy on the block.

This banner has made the Dark Angels playable and fun again — giving them a bit of extra 'bite'. This especially so for those who disliked being stuck in the Belial plus Deathwing Terminators rut.

There are a few pitfalls here though. Just because you have it doesn't mean you need to field a total static/footslogging anti-infantry gunline list to take advantage of it. No, don't just load up on Tactical squads with and ignore other important game elements like anti-tank, anti-flyer and close combat. There is the requirement to able to transport Tactical squads despite them needing to be stationary to get the maximum Salvo benefit. After all a game of 40K is still largely one of movement and positioning for maximum tactical advantage. Even in 7th Edition where shooting now rules. We'll cover all these aspects in the analysis of the sample lists.

The way to go about building this list is to make a reasonably balanced DA force and simply add the banner to it. Use the banner as an aid rather than a crutch. Remember that you probably already have 2-4 bolter-armed Tactical squads present anyway and they will already be gaining quite a good firepower boost as it is, so no need to go too overboard here. And what happens if the Standard Bearer gets killed off early in the game? You don't want to run the risk of ending up with a one trick pony mono list that fails once the 'trick' has gone.

Just to add that I'm not going to refer to the Standard of Devastation as the "dakkapole" as it's been popularly called. Hate that. I shall refer to it as the SoD.

What does the Standard of Devastation do?

Simple. It confers a two-fold boost. For 65 points (plus the cost of a Command squad of some kind to carry it) you get a Dark Angels Sacred Standard that allows any units from the Dark Angels Codex within 12" of it to re-roll failed morale and pinning tests. That's useful, but not the reason for taking it.

The real reason is that any Dark Angels unit within 6" of it treat their boltguns as Salvo 2/4 weapons.

So what is a Salvo 2/4 weapon?

Space Marine models armed with Salvo 2/4 boltguns gain two benefits:

  • They can move and fire two shots up to 12" (half the normal range). Essentially a cut down Relentless
  • Or, they can remain stationary and fire four shots up to 24" (maximum range). Yes that's right FOUR shots.

Note: models firing their weapons in Salvo mode cannot charge in the close combat phase of that turn. Nor are the benefits conferred to any allied units — Dark Angels Codex units only.

So what counts as a boltgun?

When the 7th Edition DA Codex was first released this was a bit hazy and caused some debate. The definitive list of weapons affected by the SoD has now been clarified as:

  • Boltguns
  • Twin-linked boltguns (as used on bikes)
  • Hurricane bolters (as used on Land Raider Crusaders)
  • The boltgun part of a combi-weapon.

Note: storm bolters, bolt pistols and heavy bolters, despite all being classified in the main 40K rulebook as being 'boltguns' are not covered. So no Salvo fire from Deathwing Terminator squads or heavy bolter-armed Devastator squads I'm afraid.

Let's have a look at a sample army list.

1850 points

A fairly well rounded competition-sized multiwing army.

Librarian (Warlord)
Psyker (Mastery level 2), Divination, Terminator armour,
Bike, Divination, power field generator,
Deathwing Command Squad [5]
Company Champion, Apothecary, Standard Bearer with SoD,
2 x th/ss, 1 x cyclone, 1 x chainfist
Tactical Squad 1 [10]
1 x combi-flamer, 1 x melta gun, 1 x missile launcher
Tactical Squad 2 [10]
1 x combi-flamer, 1 x plasmagun, 1 x plasma cannon
Tactical Squad 3 [10]
1 x combi-flamer, 1 x plasmagun, 1 x plasma cannon
Ravenwing Attack squadron [6]
1 x power sword, 2 x meltaguns
Devastator squad 1 [10]
4 x missile launchers
Devastator squad 2 [10]
4 x lascannons

Looking at the above and trying to rationalise it I prefer to think about how an army measures itself against the criteria of mobility, durability, firepower and close combat, amongst others.

Top heavy

In a 1850+ list two HQs are perfectly viable. But no Belial you ask? Nothing much wrong with him but as I don't intend to deep strike that Command squad let alone use Belial's Tactical Prescion I reasones that I could do without him here. So I've opted for two Librarians instead for the simple reason that I've always loved Librarians, right back to 3rd Edition. And have put one on a bike to get him around the battlefield.

The Warlord has the Mastery Level 2 upgrade as I've never seen a reason not to do so. He is upgraded with Terminator armour to attach to the Deathwing Command squad for possible Deathwing Assaulting. It also gives him a much-needed invulnerable save. He rounds out at a not too expensive 140 points. Prescience is a real force-multiplier and both Librarians take this to benefit any units they might attach too or be in the 12" sweet spot of.

The Power Field Generator is the wargear option of choice so taking one on the second Librarian. We'll see why later. Both characters add some much needed close combat capability to a list that isn't really that strong in that department.

Keeping the banner safe

This list is all about the banner so we need its parent unit to be as durable as possible. Power-armoured Command squads are fine but the banner suddenly becomes more vulnerable and the unit will probably need a transport. So in this instance a Deathwing Command squad has been chosen. Notice the inclusion of the Apothecary, it still irks me that he has lost his power fist, but FnP is just too useful to pass up thus justifying his inclusion. The Standard Bearer gets a storm shield and thunder hammer for the better invulnerable save, though his role is not to tank shots for the squad. The Terminator Librarian attaches to this unit.

An alternative to the Deathwing set up would be to field Azrael with a power-armoured Command squad. His Lion Helm conferring a 4+ invulnerable save to help keep the Standard Bearer alive. It depedends how you feel using a 215 point character.

Or, use a Ravenwing Command squad, with a biker Librarian attached. The T5 and Jink would help safegaurd the banner but the unit would need to keep pace with the Tactical squads to get the most out of the banner.


Don't get too static. It's easy to think that with the SoD you just need to stand and shoot to win games. There is a bit of that required yes but I don't see they can do anything meaningful in Turn 1 unless they are able to get into range of something. The transports allow this to happen for some decent salvo action in Turn 2. And there are still the physical objectives to go for. Note the fact that the Tactical sergeants are not tooled up for close combat because these squads don't want to be tied up in close combat. Why? Well it takes eight bolters out the equation which is not what we want.

The choice here is to footslog or Deathwing Assault the Command squad, not everyone's ideal I know. The alternative would be a Crusader to enable the hurricane bolters to benefit from the SoD (and usefully extend the range of the banner as you measure its effect from the vehicle's edge) but things then quickly start getting expensive quickly. See list 2 below for how this looks on paper.

Tactical squads need transports as we've mentioned before and Rhinos are good enough to get the job done (plus big enough to fit them in). No point in spending the points on Razorbacks as they don't benefit from the banner — besides, the heavy firepower is provided courtesy of the two Devestator squads. Options on the Rhinos are Drop Pods. They are more unpredictable but offer greater Turn 1 safety than the Rhinos. But be mindful it's harder to position units in relation to the SoD with drop pods plus we are not looking at an out-and-out alpha strike build here. The Devs don't need any transport, it's fine for them to be static — clever deployment will keep those long range weapons relevant.


All infantry at base are either Fearless or Stubborn while bikers are Fearless. Overall nice buffs for a Space Marine list.

Plenty of wounds here too. Relying mostly on the 2+/5++ or 3+ saves with FnP, storm shields and 4++ PFG saves sprinkled in. Everything's vulnerable to massed small arms fire or AP2/3. But then what isn't? T5 and mobility aids the bikers somewhat; while the Apothecary helps, it's really the reason for taking the PFG. This is a lovely bit of wargear and I can see no good reason not to take it in any DA army to be honest.


Are there enough bolters to make this build worthwhile as this is what it's all about. Look at the Tac squads' bolters for the Salvo effect. Three 10-man Tac squads have 24 bolters, (the sarges are armed with combi-weapons so have bolters too remember). All three squads in range of the banner. All stationary for four shots at 24" range. That's a cool 96 shots.

That's not including the Ravenwing's relentless twin-linked bolters or melta guns (I'm assuming the bikers are not always in range of the banner, or even on the table at this point) nor the non-Salvo weapons of three plasma guns (six shots) three plasma cannons (three shots) and the Deathwing Command squad's shooting too. Oh and did I mention the power-armoured Prescience, PFG-toting Librarian on bike cruising either with the Ravenwing or babysitting a Devastator squad? That's up to four twin-linked heavy weapon shots for the latter and a 4+ invulnerable save all round too, Again too good to pass up.

So I've reasoned that three full Tactical squads will contain enough bolters to make the Salvo fire effective. Four big scoring units would be more comfortable. But yes, there is enough firepower here. Should point out the obvious and say that the Tacticals' main job is anti-infantry. The plasma cannons can put one on armour but not reliably. The anti-armour role is for the Devastator squads and the Ravenwing squadrons.

Effective support

I like the fact that the Ravenwing Support squadrons become scoring in The Scouring mission and the two Devastator squads in Big Guns Never Tire mission so all angles covered. Twin-linked Relentless RW bolters are always fun which is why they are there, and fast late-game objective grabbing/contesting of course.

The Devs are there to offer a bit of anti-air capability. Not bothered with the flakk missile upgrade — hoping volume of fire and Prescience will do the trick.

Notice the lack of Attack Bikes. Even at T5 with 2 wounds these are easy First Kill victory points in my eyes so I've opted to leave them out. Your experience of this may vary of course.

I have seen the Aegis Defence Line an anti-air support option used in a lot of DA armies. If you like that route then feel free to swap the Devs for this. Personally I'd rather have the bodies on the ground.

Psychic defence/offence

Two Librarians. Psychic hoods are nowhere near as good as they were in our previous Codex but we (Space Marines) are all in the same boat with that. Prescience is a great buff to the DA particularly with the SoD. Force weapons are less effective than they were thanks to so much Eternal Warrior stuff around in the game and on the types of units you'd want the Librarians to face. Nevertheless they still have a job to do — force axes and swords are the two best choices. I prefer axes.

Close combat

What this list lacks… The Deathwing Command squad will do a decent job as will the two Librarians, though they are by no means close combat monsters, but that's it. You are relying on the Tactical squads' basic abilities. The Tac sarges have foregone even a power sword to boost bolt gun count, if this is a problem this can be easily fixed.

Deployment and tactics

You play this list as you would any other Dark Angels' mixed-wing list. Deployment is critical as always.

Tactical squads deploy within transports and move to firing positions. Or they don't, depending on mission and terrain circumstances. (See the Deathwing Command squad entry below.)

Ravenwing Attack squadron(s) could Turbo Boost but why as it's more advantageous to Outflank and come in on the table edges once a few more friendly units, and the SoD, are in more advantageous positions. Yes you're saying, but why not Turbo Boost and then teleport the Deathwing Command squad onto the teleport homers you ask? Well, you might be able to. But as you only have one Terminator squad coming in it's going to face a lot of enemy firepower, even an assault, and you don't want to be losing that banner too early in the game.

Devastator squads deploy from the off in cover. Cheeky sniping, that's what that 48" weaponry is for. If you can, don't move them. If they don't have a target or their position isn't great in Turn 1 don't be afraid to Run them elsewhere. But for these squads fields of fire and cover are the dual goals to go for.

The tricky unit is the Deathwing Command squad. Do they footslog from the off with their Relentless weapons, Run them, or Deathwing Assault them onto the table to get the SoD somewhere that allows as many friendly units as possible to be within 6" of it? In normal circumstances I'd say footslogging Deathwing works well. But here the SoD is going to be target priority number one for your opponent so watch out. They could deploy behind the Tac squads to gain cover saves. They could all then advance together for one turn.

In truth there is no right way here. As long as they are able to get it into a good position then all options are open. They want to be positioned fairly centrally — the 6" SoD bubble is fairly restrictive and you don't necessarily want to get boxed into a dead flank.

Librarians: attach the Warlord to the Deathwing Command squad. Another reason to think carefully about where the Deathwing Command squad deploys is the Power Field Generator's 3" bubble — it ain't huge but could potentially aid at least two friendly units if cannily positioned. The second Libby deploys with a Dev squad to utilise his Prescience.


The banner, however good, must be considered an aid and not the big red button to push for an insatant win. There is still plenty to do. Your massed Marines still need to stay alive long enough so that enough of them can benefit from it. Poor or cluttered terrain can easily neuter an SoD list by not allowing more than one (boltgun) armed unit within its bubble of influence. By its very nature tactics can become stilted. This example is just one of many infantry-heavy SoD builds that can be fielded. It is not as extreme as some but it is balanced up to a point (even given my insane preference for two Librarians) and will give you and an opponent a good game even if you lose banner early in the game, because as we should all know by now, balance is king.

In Part 2 we will look at the Ravenwing Command squad as the banner-carrying unit.


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