Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dark Angels: First Impression (2 of 2)

Employ anti-Tyranid Tactics!
This is a guest article by David Cacace, a frequent blog follower and bike enthusiast.  He wanted to share his thoughts about on Dark Angels, specifically Ravenwing.

Part one of the series can be found here.


- Now more than ever, Objective placement matters. Anticipate where your opponent will place their next objective, and group yours together very, very far away from theirs. Movement of 12+12+d6" means that you can go dish out damage and hop back in late game (or forward) for objective scoring.

- During The Relic, turbo boost isn't a run and gives you an extra 6" of movement that most armies don't get. With DA, you can easily grab the Relic and bring it back to your deployment zone *all in the first turn* by deploying up 12", scout up 12", grab relic, move back 6", turbo boost 6". This not only puts you back within your deployment zone but allows you to re-arrange your squad (they can move more than 6") to absorb incoming fire before your Relic Grabber (I recommend a Sergeant or Sammael attached to a normal bike squad, protect the banner!).

- As compared to C:SM, DA has a huge number of targets to shoot at. Running with 4 bike squads (+4 ABs), CS, BKs, Boombox, Landspeeders gives ~12 targets, each of which can do major damage in Turn 1. Compare this to the typical C:SM 4 bike squads, 2 TFC, CS, Landspeeders giving ~8 targets. Attack Bikes, which should be moved up as close as possible (don't get charged) during Scout forces your opponent to make some very difficult choices about what to and not to shoot. On the other hand, you have a much better chance of giving up First Blood now... especially if you go second.

- It is really nice, when faced against AV 14, to just move up an Attack Bike or two and blow it up instead of having to move up an entire bike squad (see, half of your army). Especially if that AV 14 thing previously had a bunch of Terminators inside of it, ready to eat you.

- Attack Bikes also serve really good Speed Bumps if you are expecting to get charged, then Hit and Run outta here (if they live!) for massive shooting potential.

- As great as the Devastation banner is, it is super vulnerable. Learn how to best position your CS+Sammael+Libby (if applicable) so that LOS/droppods/unforseen stuff doesn't take out the lynchpin of your army. Again, Manticores will hurt you.

- Scout also gives you the ability to Outflank - risky, to be sure, but it can protect you against early long-range bombardment (if you go second, say) and put some serious hurt on an exposed flank. I would recommend deploying Landspeeders/Boombox/Attack bikes to minimize losses.

- Black Knights are like the Swiss Army Knife of a Swiss Army Knife army. They can do everything!
 shoot, melee, move fast, good morale, good point cost for what they do. Expect them to be shot at early and often, and don't stock up more than 5-6 (you don't need 2 grenade launchers, I promise). Do try to have at least one unit of them, though.

- As great as the grenade launcher is (and it is good), it won't win battles for you, just make individual fights easier.

In terms of difficult opponents, here is what I have observed:
- GK Henchmen have just as much, if not more, alpha than DA, and are a force to be feared.

- Tyranid MC lists are difficult, but usually they are more melee, so if you can kite them (not easy) and kill Tervigons (see: not easy) you can pull out victories - but don't ever expect to wipe them off the board, it isn't going to happen.

- The new Daemons... look interesting, be prepared for lots of high T MCs and 2+ cover Soulgrinders.

- Space Wolf drop pod turn 1 lists are... ouch. Plasma, in my face. I recommend putting stuff in reserve and spreading everything else out.

- Anything with blast templates (see: TFCs) still suck just like C:SM. When facing said opponents, spread out a bit, with Shenanigans you can make it so you only get 1-2 bikes within a small blast, 2-3 within a large.

- Necron flyer/tesla lists still suck, and will continue to suck, for everyone. All I can recommend is to either A) be in melee or B) turbo boost to your opponents board edge in turn 1. This will effectively make you immune to Night Scythes for a turn or two. They still suck, though.

- The only Chaos unit that really hurts is the Heldrake. Specifically, Double Dragon lists. My strategy? It's S6, spread out and pray they roll 1-2s. Kill the ground units. Get into temporary melee if possible.

- Dark Eldar will make you roll a lot of saving throws. That's what they do. Learn how to roll 3+ a lot. Or,  alpha them before they alpha you. Remember that your bolters will be useless against armor 11 and you'll need to be within 18" to melta anything (Night Field)... this is where landspeeders really come in handy!

- Ork hordes are still tough opponents! Don't underestimate them. Salvo bolters will help, but again, don't expect to wipe them out.

- The best for last - Manticores suck. Blow them up with Attack bikes or watch your army get blown apart (see also: The Last Samurai, that final charge scene. That's you dying.)

Clearly... there is no Drednought discussion in this thread

Maybe this is something obvious but it needs to be said - to win with bikes, at the end of the day, you need to roll 3+. If you are terrible at rolling 3+, then maybe you should think about playing another army. I say this only because every time you lose a model, you lose a big portion of your army. If your opponent says, "OK buddy, take 6 armor saves," and you pass all of them? You are boss. If you fail them all? Wiped bike squad. Your job as a bike commander is to 1) not put yourself in situations where you hear the words "take >2 armor saves", but more importantly, 2) to roll 3+ when it matters. Which is almost every single time. How you go about doing 1) is proper movement, shooting, target priority, assault decisions, and a little luck. How you do 2) is based on 1) but is essentially luck(magical-statistics)-based. These two facts don't change whether or not you are running bike DA or C:SM... or really any 3+ army. If you want to win games, get really good at A) learning every single rule of the book (I'm always working on this), every single rule in the FAQ, every single rule in every single codex; B) play a bunch of games, learn how to play mind games (i.e. what to do if...) with your army when off the field; C) roll decently-good dice half the time; D) don't be a jerk when you play, because no one likes "that guy" when they play 40K.

I have really enjoyed playing/thinking about DA bikes. That being said, I'm still on the fence about what army to bring to Adepticon. The loss of TFCs is huge, but the solo-attack bikes/banner/special rules are amazing for DA. It will require more thought, more experimentation, more games. Until then, ride on, brothers!


  1. Recheck the rules, you're mistaken here:

    "- During The Relic, turbo boost isn't a run and gives you an extra 6" of movement that most armies don't get. With DA, you can easily grab the Relic and bring it back to your deployment zone *all in the first turn* by deploying up 12", scout up 12", grab relic, move back 6", turbo boost 6". This not only puts you back within your deployment zone but allows you to re-arrange your squad (they can move more than 6") to absorb incoming fire before your Relic Grabber (I recommend a Sergeant or Sammael attached to a normal bike squad, protect the banner!)."

    -A scoring model picks up the relic at the end of it's movement phase
    -Scouting/infilatrating is not a move, it's a redeployment in 6th, you cannot claim it at the end of scouting or infiltrating, only your first turn "move".
    -The turbo is a gray area, and I've seen events rule both ways on it, as it's in place of a run since they can't perform one. I'd agree though by RAW it's allowed, but it's something to keep in mind if you plan on it as a tactic.

    Just a note because I see a lot of people making this mistake!

  2. Interesting point, the subtle wording between "movement" and "redeploy" does indeed make a significant difference. You are indeed correct in the first point that you have to wait until the end of the movement phase to claim it - so I am wrong in that respect.

    However, considering the very specific wording again and the "greyness" of redeploy vs. movement and turbo-boost vs. run, I'd have to argue that you can, in fact, turbo-boost with the relic.

    Specifically, "Moving with the Relic" states that "...the model carrying the Reic cannot Run and can never move more than 6" in any phase." Furthermore, if you look under the Bikes & Jetbikes unit entry on pg. 45, under "Turbo-Boost", the wording is very specific: "Bikes and Jetbikes cannot Run, but can make a special Turbo-boost move..." Since this is not a Run action, but something else entirely, the "Moving with the Relic" wording does not specifically disallow the action.

    All things considered, it allows you to get the Relic into your deployment zone on Turn 2 (*not* Turn 1 as I had stated, my sincere apologies), as compared to Turn 3 by most other armies - and, you are 6" further in your deployment zone, as a further bonus.

    I don't really think that it is a significant disadvantage to the opponent. Bike armies are relatively low model count, and taking an entire unit out to baby sit the Relic just makes Alpha that much harder.

    1. David,

      In regards to scout, it is a re-deploy. This is a significant difference then how it was played in 5th edition. This also means that bikes are unable to claim jink saves before the game begins (which sucks).

      But I agree with your assessment on turbo boosting. As long as that model does not move fast then 6 inches in any phase, it is perfectly acceptable. Turbo boosting is not a run move according to any interpretation of rules. You found clear examples proving it is not a run.

      I have used this against my opponents and they had no problems with it. Good enough justification for me!

    2. I've always found it difficult to believe via RAI that all armies don't get the inherent Jink bonus on Turn 1 - simply because, really, the two armies face one another and stop moving completely? Then start fighting? It makes no sense. However, I've accepted RAW over RAI in this case, and need to work more on using terrain on Turn 1 rather than Jink for protection against AP1-3.

    3. Terrain is essential to keep any bike army alive. I've adapted after using codex marines so long that I do not care about not having the ability to get jink saves during the scout phase. Not that I have any plans of using Dark Angels any time soon...

  3. @Brandon/David

    One thing i have realised in playing pure RW (which is the only army i play now) and having played with C:SM i can say that the Ravenwing list relies alot more on having the ability to go first, at least in the way i use it (pure offence, i dont take any as you call boomboxes and take more bikes with either boltguns or dark knights) In that respect playing second hampers alot more than it would with C:SM. You see the DA are more than capable of winning games turn 1 and turn 2. Before the opponent has even a chance to bring out his reserves. For this you need that redicoulous opening salvo with ALL ur models. Its as you mentioned, losing even 1 model is a huge loss!

    Hence going 1st (scout then move then shoot) is most often a must.

    1. This is exactly why I don't like Dark Angels bike armies as they are and always have been way to aggressive for my tastes. Yeah you can force players to make mistakes, but you can get schooled real quick depending on what you are facing.

      Personally, I am more of a counter active player. Therefore, at present, Ravenwing doesn't fit my style.

    2. I definitely agree that the DA bike armies have huge advantages for going first - but then again, most armies in 40K do. It's the problem of the I-go-you-go style of play, even for "balanced" games like chess or checkers - the player going second has to play reactionary rather than offensively when the game starts.

      However, I think that DA and C:SM are about on equal footing when it comes to going second/playing reactionary. Take away the banner from DA, and you are looking at a slightly-modified C:SM army, with the same capabilities for high mobility and target priority smashing.

      The key, difficult tactic with both armies is deciding when and how to perform the proper alpha strike maneuver. With C:SM, you typically have to wait a turn or two to get into proper positioning, but you have the screening tools (see: TFCs) to partially prevent positional outflanks/denying in the early game.

      In comparison/contrast, DA allows you to perform said maneuvers in Turn 1 as an option (not a necessity), but leaves you very vulnerable in certain situations - for example, being Seized after an ambitious Scout move. This has cost me a game already...

      Like C:SM though, you don't have to do this. You can still choose to hang back, allow your opponent to make their opening moves, and choose targets appropriately. The big difference is that you don't have support structures for long-range, harassing template bombardment, and for each turn you don't perform that strike, its another turn you can fail an armor save.

      To get to some kind of concrete point, this is what I think Ravenwing armies bring to the table as an alternative stratagem to C:SM: armies such as IG, DE, and GK can devastate C:SM bikes in Turn 1, even if C:SM goes first - they just have a natural difficulty achieving the proper range to allow for the firepower needed to stop these armies in their paths, due to their limited range without Scout. Stillfrosty manages to do it, but I cannot ever seem to overcome 3 Manticores/2 Vendettas/blobs with C:SM, there are just too many targets, not enough Melta in range to take down armor. GK Paladin squads are another real challenge - 4 Prescience'd Psycannons are a real pain and getting within 12" for melta is a bad idea, unless you get all 4 squads in there. Even still, you'll only score ~3 kills on 8 meltas. Salvo bolters can take care of this threat pretty easily. (Side note, I never run plasma on my bike squads except a C:SM command squad, I've just lost too many to Gets Hot for my liking)

      I'm actually a pretty counter-active player too, and to be honest, I have to tone down how I play Ravenwing in friendly games. Recently, I destroyed half of the earlier-mentioned IG army before he got his first turn, and I felt pretty awful about it. When playing against Ravenwing (especially as C:SM!) it is super important to deploy correctly, to stay outside the danger zone if you go second.

    3. I should just make this reply a post in itself...

      I wouldn't feel bad about destroying half a guard army in one turn, unless you are teaching a new player. It is a game. But that is just me.


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