As I continue to look at the new Deathwatch faction and how to integrate them effectively into the competitive 40K landscape, I think take an allied Oathsworn detachment of 1-2 Imperial Knights would be a highly effective and synergistic mix. As I discussed before, one of the problems with Deathwatch is the high cost (and so low model count) of even its cheapest units, especially compared to other MEQ based armies whose “basic” troops often cost about half as much as a barebones DW Veteran (in this, I think Deathwatch armies are very similar to the old, 3rd/4th edition Grey Knight armies, which had pretty limited unit options and very expensive “base” models, but which had relatively high combat power potential in each unit). I addressed one potential solution to this high point cost/low model count with my recent post on allying in the Space Wolf “Wolfkin” formation to provide lots of cheap bodies for screening, board control, and melee tie-up, as well as distracting enemy shooting away from the pricey DW units (basically, the ‘Wolfkin” are kind of the Imperium’s version of Ork Boy Mobs).
The other problems I think Deathwatch faction players will face is the lack of potent, medium to long-range firepower outside of Razorbacks, Land Raiders, and Dreadnoughts with Lascannons and/or DW Vet squads with Missile Launchers (which is VERY expensive way to get a “Devastator equivalent” type squad), their lack of very durable assault units (outside TH/SS Terminators), and their somewhat limited options in dealing with Gargantuan Creatures like the very popular Wraithknights and Stormsurges of late.
One way to deal with all this is taking 1-2 allied Imperial Knights, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article. While you can find justification for taking pretty much any of the Knight variants as an ally to Deathwatch (the Knight Gallant and Knight Warden both come to mind), I think one Imperial Knight variant stands out:
-Cerastus Knight-Lancer — With a basic Imperial Knight profile of AV 13/12/12 and 4A base, the Lancer differs from other IKs in that it has special Ion Shield which cannot cover its rear arc, but gives a 5++ in close combat and forces Super-Heavy Walkers and Gargantuan Creatures to have a -1 to Hit in close combat attacks directed against it. Additionally, it can give up its shooting to run 3D6″ (so a max potential movement of 30″ in a single turn). Finally, it Shock Lance can shoot at 18″ with S7 AP2 Heavy 6 Concussive and can be used in Melee with Strength D AP2, just like most other Knight CC weapons, but it also grants +1I on the charge.
On its own, the Lancer is powerful threat that enemy forces cannot afford to ignore and thus can serve as a very effective “damage tank” to take opposing combat power away from your relatively fragile Deathwatch units and allowing them to keep dishing out their own combat power for longer. It also provides an effective answer to LOW units, like Wraithknights, enemy Knights, etc. that would be difficult for the Deathwatch to handle on their own (i.e. if the Lancer inflicts an Unsaved Wound on a Wraithknight with its shooting, then Concussive reduces the Wraithknight to I1, allowing the Lancer to strike before it with a S10 Hammer of Wrath and 5 Strength D AP2 attacks, which taken together have a very solid chance of killing the Eldar GMC before it can even strike back).
In terms of synergy, the Deathwatch have exceptional access to Librarians (you can have multiples of these in EVERY Kill Team, if you want), which in turn gives them several options for force-multiplying the Lancer:
a) Invisibility — Obvious application here, an Invisible Lancer would be almost impossible to bring down before it charges into combat and even difficult to hit once it is in the Assault phase
b) Prescience — Being able to re-roll all of its To Hit (both shooting and assault) is a TREMENDOUS boon for the Lancer and makes its already effective shooting and devastating close combat abilities even better.
c) Magnetokinesis — Granting the Lancer a “free” move of 18″ in the Psychic Phase in addition to its normal 12″ Move and 3D6″ Run means it can basically be anywhere on the board at the end of Turn 1, ready to charge at will on turn 2.
d) Null Zone — Reducing a target enemy’s Invul Save by -2 combines very well with the Lancer’s shooting and close combat attacks, as it removes some of the only defenses those units have against the Lancer’s otherwise deadly offensive capacity.
e) Reforge — While not super powerful, repairing one lost HP and giving the Lancer IWND can keep it in the fight a bit longer, thereby forcing your opponent to dedicate even more combat power to deal with it (and, thus, less combat power they can use against your DW forces)
f) Warpmetal Armor — Along with Invisibility and Prescience, this might be the “ultimate” power to use on an allied Lancer. By increasing its Armor to AV14/13/13, Warpmetal Armor makes this Imperial Knight tremendously more survivable against both shooting and close combat attacks, with even S10 Railguns and Wulfen Thunder Hammers requiring 4+s to cause glancing hits on it.
Taken all together, I think a Cerastus Knight-Lancer, working in conjunction with MSU Deathwatch squads and/or Kill Teams, can make for a very effective, and hard to counter, combination in competitive 40K games, as well providing some balance to the weak areas of a Deathwatch CAD or Black Spear Strike Force primary detachment.