Lias Issodon and the Deathwatch

I still consider Lias Issodon one of the best Independent Characters in 40K, in particular due to the versatility of his special rules and wargear, and I think he pairs up especially well with the Deathwatch faction, which right now is struggling in the competitive meta due to its extreme “glass cannon” nature.

In particular, here are some things about Lias Issodon that mesh well with a Deathwatch force:

[1] “Master of Ambush” Warlord Trait — Being able to GUARANTEE infiltrating himself and three other non-vehicle units is a very big deal for Deathwatch, not only because they have limited mobility options and they cost a lot for even their base units (meaning it can be prohibitive to purchase lots of transports for them), but also because it allows them to maximize their close ranged shooting and assault abilities, which really are the Deathwatch’s main strengths. Lias Issodon allows you to potentially put up to three Kill Teams with max Frag Cannons, or three units of Terminators with max Assault Cannons, or three units of Combi-Grav Veterans, 18″ away from their target before the game even begins. Turn 1, you either move the units up 6″ (i.e. for Frag Cannons, Heavy Flamers, etc) or stay still and unleash full powered Grav Gun Salvos, thus maximizing your “alpha strike.” Significantly, if one of these units has a DW Independent Character in it (like an Aquila Kill Team with a Librarian), then you can equip him with the Beacon Angelis Relic and “summon” a fourth DW unit in close to concentrate your close ranged firepower even better turn 1.

[2] Shrouded USR and Locator Beacon — Since Issodon has Shrouded in his special rules, he confers it to any squad he joins. This means that he can attach to an allied Deathwatch unit and give it a 3+ cover save in even basic terrain (Note: this will make him lose his Chapter Tactics and the squad he is attached to lose its Mission Tactics, so there is a drawback to this). This obviously works well for a “fire base” unit like a squad of Veterans with Stalker Boltguns camping back in your DZ. Alternately, if you Infilitrate him along with a DW Biker squad, then even in the open they will get a 2++ Jink save (i.e. 4++ save from Jink + Shrouded), helping them survive until they can charge in on Turn 2 with their cheap PWs. Finally, since Lias Issodon has a Locator Beacon as part of his Wargear, he gives a DW army the ability to have two separate units for bringing in Drop Pods, Terminators, Jump Infantry, Kill Teams, etc. with no scatter (i.e. Lias Issodon can bring in one and a DW character with the Beacon Angelis can bring in another), thus increasing the flexibility and precision of a Deathwatch force, which is critical for them, given their low numbers and lack of durability.

[3] “Cunning Strategist” and “Infiltrate, Isolate, and Destroy” rules — The “Cunning Strategist” rule basically gives your forces free Reserve re-rolls and causes enemy Reserve rolls to have a -1 modifier, in turn giving you better control of your reinforcements and improving your chances of out-massing your opponent at the critical time and place on the battlefield, even if he has a bigger overall army than you (which is almost guaranteed when playing Deathwatch). As for “Infiltrate, Isolate, and Destroy,” this gives you small bonus chance to sabotage/weaken an enemy unit or vehicle before the game begins. While it is not necessarily a game changer, I once got lucky with this rule and “Haywired” to death a Necron Triarch Stalker before the game even began, which meant that my opponent did not get to boost the BS of his surrounding Necron forces the entire game, helping my cause significantly.

[4] Allied Support — Of course, you can only include Lias Issodon with a Deathwatch army by taking him in a Space Marine CAD or Allied Detachment alongside the main DW force. While this can reduce it the points you have to spend on DW units, it also opens up the possibility of bringing some very solid reinforcing units that synergize quite well with the enforcers of the Ordos Xenos. Examples include Space Marine Scouts in Land Speeder Storms (great as cheap Objective Seizers and harassment forces to take the pressure off your main DW squads), Drop Pod Centurions with Grav Cannons (to provide heavy ranged fire support against TEQs, MCs, etc.), Quad Mortar batteries (for a versatile, long-ranged fire base to mitigate enemy hordes and even deal with light vehicles), Ironclad and Siege Dreadnoughts (to soak up enemy attention, provide good close combat punch, and serve as a “shield” for nearby DW squads), and Bike equipped Chapter Masters/Chaplains/Librarians (to lead the mobile DW Vanguard and Bike squads, since currently no DW characters can take Space Marine Bikes and only a Watch Captain can take a Jump Pack).

 

Overall, while Lias Issodon is an excellent addition to any Imperium army, I think he combines particularly well with the forces of the Deathwatch and really bumps them up from “struggling” to at least the “moderately competitive” level in terms of competing with other armies, especially if you flesh it out with some of the supplemental Space Marine units noted above. Since they are all Astartes, from a fluff and painting perspective, you can easily represent Lias and his Space Marines as “counts as” Deathwatch in order to not break up the flow and visual presentation of a pure Deathwatch army.

Ideas for Deathwatch Special Weapons

I think Deathwatch is a very interesting and challenging faction to play right now, especially given some of the really good things GW did in designing the codex and also some of the pretty significant missed opportunities that exist in that book.

One of the best things about the new Deathwatch book, IMHO, is the unique weapons like DW Shotguns and Infernus Heavy Bolters, which really set this army apart from all the other “Marine equivalent” factions, is true to its fluff and style, and also helps it be competitive.

Based on that, I think GW should have gone “all the way” in giving Deathwatch an entire armory of unique, better-than-average weaponry, both to reflect their fluff of getting access to the best/rarest equipment and to make them more competitive in the niche as a “glass cannon” army.

Here are my ideas for a “complete overhaul” of the DW armory along the lines of what I described above:


—DW RANGED WEAPONS—

*”Deathwatch” pattern Bolters and Combi-Melta/Flamer/Plasma/Grav (with Special Issue Ammunition) – No change except all Combi-weapons only cost 5 points to upgrade and all of these weapons gain “True Grit” rule (model that has a Deathwatch Bolter or Combi-Weapon and another, non-Specialist CCW get +1A)

*”Deathwatch” pattern Storm Bolter – Gains access to Vengeance (18″ S4 AP3 Gets Hot!, Assault 2), Kraken (30″ S4 AP4 Assault 2), Dragonfire (24″ S4 AP5 Ignore Cover, Assault 2), and Hellfire (24″ S2 AP5 Poisoned (2+), Assault 2) Special Issue Ammunition.

*”Deathwatch” pattern Bolt Pistols/Hand Flamer/Grav-Pistol/Inferno Pistol/Plasma Pistol – All gain “Quick Fire” rule, which enables them fire Overwatch at full BS (vice normal BS1) and, for template weapons, to automatically get 3 hits from Wall of Fire (vice normal D3 hits).

—DW SPECIAL WEAPONS—

*”Deathwatch” pattern Shotgun – No change

*”Stalker” pattern Boltgun – No change

*”Brimstone” pattern Flamer — Torrent (6″) S4 AP5 Assault 1 (5 points)

*”Hellion” pattern Melta Gun — 18″ S8 AP1 Assault 1, Melta (10 points)

*”Nova” pattern Plasma Gun — 24″ S7 AP2 Rapid Fire, Blind  (15 points)

*”Spectre” pattern Grav Gun — 18″ S* AP2 Salvo 2/3, Graviton, Concussive, Monster Hunter (15 points)

–DW HEAVY WEAPONS–

*”Infernus” pattern Heavy Bolter — No change

*”Deathwatch” pattern Frag Cannon – No change

*”Cyclone” pattern Missile Launchers (available only to DW Terminators) – No change

*”Beowulf ” pattern Missile Launcher (25 points) – Missile Launcher with multiple special ammo types “organic” to the Missile Launcher:

(a) Firefang Missiles – 48″ S4 AP5, Small Blast, Ignore Cover, Heavy 1
(b) Ironspear Missiles – 48″ S8 AP2, Sunder, Heavy 1
(c) Skyfury Missiles – 48″ S7 AP3, Skyfire, Interceptor, Heavy 1
(d) Venomcraft Missiles – 48″ S2 AP3, Fleshbane, Heavy 1

*”Wolverine” pattern Assault Cannon (25 points — available only to DW Terminators) – 24″ S6 AP3 Heavy 4, Shred, Rending

*”Draken” pattern Heavy Flamer (10 points — available only to DW Terminators) – Torrent 6″ S5 AP4 Heavy 1

–DW MELEE WEAPONS–

*”Deathwatch” pattern Close Combat Weapon (Free) – S: User AP5

*Heavy Thunder Hammer (30 points) – No change

*”Reaper” pattern Lightning Claw (15 points) – S: User AP3 Shred, Specialist Weapon, Deadly Precision (user gains +1WS when fighting with this weapon)

*”Xenophase” pattern Power Sword (15 points) – S: User AP3, Molecular Realignment Field (enemy units must re-roll success Invul saves taken against wounds caused by this weapon)

*”Furion” pattern Power Lance (15 points) – S: +1/User AP3/4, Swiftstrike (gains +2I on the charge)

*”Direblade” pattern Power Axe (15 points) – S: +1 AP2, Bulky (always strikes ay I2 with this weapon)

*”Shieldbreaker” pattern Power Maul (15 points) – S+2 AP4, Concussive, Sunder (re-rolls failed Armor Penetration rolls)

*”Bellator” pattern Power Fist (25 points) – S: x2 AP2, Unwieldy, Rampage, Specialist Weapon

*”Xenosbane” pattern Thunder Hammer (30 points) – S: x2 AP1, Unwieldy, Concussive, Specialist Weapon, Master-crafted

*”Praetor” pattern Relic Blade (30 points, only available to a DW Watch Captain) — S: +2 AP3 Two-Handed, Champion Bane (gains AP2 and “Pulverize” when bearer is in a Challenge)

*”Redemptor” pattern Crozius Arcanum (DW Chaplains only) – S: +2 AP4 Concussive, Rending

*”Vigilance” pattern Guardian Spear (DW Watch Master only) – S: +1 AP2, Two-handed, Block, Armourbane (Shooting portion has profile of a DW Storm Bolter with Special Issue Ammunition)

—DW SPECIAL ISSUE WARGEAR—

*”Durendal” pattern Combat Shield (5 points) – Gives model a 5++ save

*Omnispex (5 points) — Bearer’s unit gains Split Fire and Night Vision rules

*DW Locator Beacon (15 points) — Any friendly unit arriving by Deep Strike within 9″ of the bearer does not scatter

*Long-ranged Auspex (10 points) — If bearer does not shoot, he may nominate one enemy unit within 24″ during that shooting phase. That enemy unit has -1 cover save against all friendly shooting during that Shooting Phase.

*Digital Weapons (5 points) — No change

*Melta Bombs (5 points) — No change

*Rad Grenades (15 points) — Same as used by Ordos Xenos Inquisitor from Codex: Inquisition

*Blind Grenades (5 points) — Same as used by Vindicare Assassin from Codex: Assassins

*Psykout Grenades (5 points) — Same as  used by infantry units from Codex: Grey Knights

*Orbital Strike Relay (25 points, DW Watch Master only) — Same as carried by Inquisitor Karamazov from Codex: Inquisition

Custodes Tactica

With GW releasing 40K rules for the new Custodes models (albeit without a way to field them quite yet, aside from Unbound; I am going off the assumption that that will be corrected soon), I think they have solid potential for competitive play. Looking at their stats/rules, they have the following:

-WS5 BS5 S5 T5 W2 I4 A3 Ld 10 Sv2+

-Guardian Spear (Shoots just like a Bolter and, in close combat, has the following profile: S: +1 AP2, Two-Handed, Block — Gives a chance to block one enemy attack per turn, if you roll higher than their To Hit roll) and Power Knife

Custodes can trade the Guardian Spear for Sentinel Blade (Power Sword with 12″ S4 AP5 Assault 2 shooting profile built in, which also can make Snap Shots at BS2) for free, which means you go down to S5 AP3 and lose AP2 (and the Block special rule), but gain +1A (since the sword is not Two-handed and combines with the Power Knife for two close combat weapons) and the ability to shoot and assault the same turn (unlike the Guardian Spear, which cannot assault after shooting, since it is a Rapid Fire weapon).  More importantly, if you do NOT have a Guardian Spear, each Custodes can take a Storm Shield, giving them a 3++ and counter-acting a critical vulnerability, namely the lack of any Invul Save in their “natural” state.

Special Rules wise, the whole squad is Bulky, can Deep Strike, has Adamantium Will, is Fearless, and (most importantly) has Eternal Warrior! GK Paladins are dying with envy for these kind of stats! 😉 Seriously, though, this makes them quite flexible and reliable, with the option to deploy by Deep Strike or ride in Land Raiders, no danger of every failing a Morale check, and insurance that they will never lose both their wounds to a single attack (except it is a Destroyer attack, of course). One small interesting note is that all Custodes are Characters, not just their “sergeant,” meaning you can choose any of them to take a challenge (great for saving attached ICs) and also any of them can try and Look Out Sir! on a 4+ to preserve their wounds.

Finally, one Custodes in your army can trade his Guardian Spear out for a Custodes Vexilla Banner, giving Fearless to any friendly Imperium units within 12″ and +1A to any friendly Imperium. Combine all this with the Shield Captain “squad sergeant” (who is mandatory and has +1WS, I, and A above normal Custodes) and the option to add up to 5 more Custodes, at 10 MBs per model, and you have an expensive but potent unit, especially in close combat.

OK, now that we have gone over the basics, how do we get the most out of these expensive models? I think their primary weaknesses are lack of an Invul save (unless they drop Guardian Spears for Sentinel Blades and Stormshields), their lower mobility (Deep Striking aside), and their mediocre shooting (basically just Bolter shots at BS5). On the other hand, they strike at S6 AP2 with I4 and WS5, with 4A per model on the charge (5A if the unit has the Custodes Vexilla banner), they are T5 with 2W and Eternal Warrior to make them VERY survivable against anything that is not AP2/1, and they can mix up Guardian Spears/Sentinel Blade + Storm Shield combos to give them both hitting power and durability in the same unit.

Here are some ways I think to “force-multiply” them right out the gate and take them to the next level in terms of competitive game play:

[1] Azrael — Attaching the Dark Angel Chapter Master gives them all a 4++ (even with Guardian Spear), making them MUCH more durable without sacrificing their S6 AP2 attacks at full initiative. Additionally, if they are riding in a transport with him (say a LR Redeemer or a Spartan Assault Tank), then his 4++ is conferred to the transport, making it more 50% more survivable and thus more likely to deliver them to combat successfully. Finally, if Azrael your WL, then he can choose his trait, ranging from adding +3″ to the unit’s Run and Charge moves to giving the squad Furious Charge (so all the Guardian Spear Custodes are hitting at S7 on the charge, making them a real threat to most vehicles) to FNP for the unit if they are close to an Objective.

[2] Brother-Captain Stern — With guaranteed access to both Hammerhand and Sanctuary, he can make the already dangerous Custodes into almost invincible Close Combat monsters. Hammerhand makes their Guardian Spears strike at S8 AP2 (at I4 still) and even models with Sentinel Blades attack at S7 AP3. Better yet, Sanctuary ups any Custodes with Storm Shields to a 2++, allowing them to “shrug off” an average of  83% of all enemy AP2/1 attacks for the rest of the squad. Finally, he adds his own close combat power, especially his Force Weapon, into the mix and also gives the whole unit Preferred Enemy (Daemons) and enhanced Deny the Witch (which synergizes well with the Adamantium Will of the Custodes).

[3] Sevrin Loth — With guaranteed access to Endurance, Enfeeble, and Life Leech (in the Biomancy Discipline), he can double the survivability of the Custodes against anything that is not S10 (or has Instant Death inherently) via FNP(4+), he can reduce enemy Toughness by -1 (so S6 Guardian Spears “double out” T3 Space Marine, for example), and he can restore lost wounds to Custodes via Life Leech. Alternately, he can go Telepathy instead, with guaranteed access to Invisibility, again making the whole unit vastly more difficult to hurt via shooting or close combat. Finally, he is very solid Close Combat fighter himself, especially with his ability to have a 2++ save using the Armor of Selket.

[4] Ulrik the Slayer — While not as dramatic as some of the HQs already mentioned, he gives the entire squad of Custodes he is attached to Preferred Enemy, without any requirement to pass any Psychic Tests, and he also gives them FNP(6+), for a small buff in durability. Ulrik is not amazing as a fighter, but does have a BS5 Plasma Pistol and 5 x S6 AP4 attacks at WS6 and I5 on the charge, so he can add a little more “uummpphh” to the Custodes, especially against vehicles and units with 4+ armor or worse. Finally, if he is the WL, he also gives the unit Monster Hunter, which is quite solid for dealing with enemy MCs and GMCs that are more and more common in the game these days.

[5] Sanguinary Priest with The Angel’s Wing relic — A cheap way to give the Custodes FNP, without any need to roll for Psychic Powers or pass Psychic Tests. Additionally, the Angels Wing allows the entire unit to Deep Strike more safely/accurately and also makes it much less vulnerable to enemy Interceptor fire (mainly thinking of Tau here).

[6] Deathwatch TDA Librarian with Dominus Aegis relic — The DW Librarian can move normally with the Custodes or Deep Strike in with them, depending on the circumstances, and can also use any Psychic Powers he rolls to enhance them (imagine if he got Warpmetal Armor and cast on the Custodes squad, making the entire unit majority T6!). The Dominus Aegis gives the whole unit a 4++ if it does not move, which also activates on the second round of any combat (since they cannot move, by default, if they are stuck in combat), making the entire squad much more durable at a bargain points cost.

[7] Ordos Xenos Inquisitor with Rad Grenades, Ulumeathi Plasma Syphon, and Liber Heresius relic — The Rad Grenades reduce enemy Toughness by -1 on the first round of any combat, making the Custodes more potent in combat than they already are, the Plasma Syphon reduces the threat of Rapid Fire Plasma Weapons significantly, and the Liber Heresius relic allows the squad to Scout at the beginning of the game and gain Counter-attack and Hatred for one turn each later in the game, which can be quite useful in the right circumstances.

 

[8] Two Adepta Sororitas Ministorum Priests, one with the Litanies of Faith relic — The Priests gives the Custodes Hatred for re-rolls to Hit in the first round of combat (the Custodes already have the Fearless portion of Zealot), which is a solid buff in and of itself. More importantly, the Litanies of Faith allows both Priests to auto-pass their War Hymns tests, meaning that as long as they are alive, the whole unit AUTOMATICALLY gains Shred for its close combat attacks and AUTOMATICALLY re-rolls any saving throws (both Armor and Invul) in close combat… taken together, especially with a few Custodes with Storm Shields up front for “tanking” purposes, and you should be able to tear through even the most deadly opponents like Wulfen, Ork War bosses in Mega Armor, Hive Tyrants, GMCs, Iron Hands Chapter Masters with the Gorgon’s Chain relic, etc. etc.

Tactical “Buddy Team” — Dreadknights and DW Kill Teams

I saw this mentioned on a 40K forum, and I think the poster was exactly right: what Codex Deathwatch is missing in terms of a “critical, competitive capability” is something like a Nemesis Dreadknight i.e. a mobile, durable, hard-hitting Monstrous Creature that can economically threaten enemy forces and draw attention away from the potent, but very fragile and low in numbers, Deathwatch units. This would fill in several “tactical gaps” in the codex and also would take a lot of pressure off the Deathwatch units, making them more effective and more survivable.

Since there is no way that the Deathwatch are actually going to get a Monstrous Creature of their own (at least not until a new version of the codex comes out, probably several years from now, and even then pretty unlikely), the next best thing is to take allied Grey Knights and bring Nemesis Dreadknights into your army via that route. This of course involves a pretty substantial “tax,” given that Grey Knights (like Deathwatch) is one of the most expensive points-per-unit factions in the game.

With an allied GK Nemesis Strike Force, you have to take one HQ and one Troops choice and that “opens up” two Nemesis Dreadknights. Taking a Brother-Captain (HQ) with Psycannon and a 5 man GK Terminator squad (Troops) with Psycannon/MB on Justicar meets the “tax” and gives you a solid little unit with two Relentless Psycannons, eight 2+/5++ wounds, and access to host of Psychic Powers for the Grand Master, plus the ability to Deep Strike starting Turn 1. This plus two Dreadknights (with Heavy Psycannons, Heavy Incinerators, Personal Teleporters, and Daemon Hammers) comes in at 800 points, leaving you with 120 points for your primary Deathwatch detachment in a 2000 point army.

In terms of “pairing up” with Nemesis Dreadknights, I think a DW CAD with lots of MSU Veteran squads is the best way to go. Imagine the following battle group:

-Dreadknight with Heavy Psycannon, Heavy Incinerator, Personal Teleporter, and Daemonhammer

-Veteran Squad with 2 DW Frag Cannons, Rhino

-Veteran Squad with 2 DW Frag Cannons, Rhino

 

Since you have two Dreadknights from the NSF, you can create two of these battle groups in your army. The idea is to have the entire force advance together, with the DW Veterans using the Dreadknight for cover and also to absorb enemy attention, all while firing their Frag Cannons from the Firing Points of their Rhinos as they get closer and closer. At the same time, the Dreadknight moves forward and engages with its shooting weapons, while serving as “counter-charge” deterrent against enemy assault units (or an assault threat of its own, if the enemy is more shooting focused). This battle group also has four Objective Secured units (two Rhinos, two DW Veteran squads) and is mobile enough to “dash” out and get where it needs to be (i.e. 12″ move + 6″ Flat Out for Rhinos, 12″ move or 30″ Shunt for Dreadknights).

With this as the backbone of your army, you still have to take at least one Deathwatch HQ (probably a Librarian with the Beacon Angelis relic) and multiple options for Elite, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support. You can go “ultimate MSU” here, with one man squads of DW Bikers (with Power Axes) and DW Terminators (with CMLs and Chainfists), which play like Space Wolf Lone Wolves (except they have alternate options and can take objectives). You can take up to three DW Bikers and three DW Terminators in a CAD, giving you even more options for grabbing objectives and further ways to diffuse enemy combat power (i.e. if they ignore these single man units and concentrate on the Veterans/Dreadknights, then the DW Bikers and Terminators are free to grab objectives, shoot, and even charge/tie up enemy units. If they focus on eliminating these units, then they are committing combat power against them that is not directed against the advancing Veteran/Dreadknight battle groups.

While this will require a skilled player to use to maximum ability, I think it provides a unique and potentially very flexible (and dangerous) army that will have a solid chance of competing on the table top.

 

My 2000 point TAC list Analysis

So, here is my current Take All Comers (TAC) list at 2000 points, which is the level I usually play at. It draws from three different formations/detachments (White Scar CAD, Skyhammer Annihilation Force formation, and Aquila Kill Team formation) and is designed to provide flexible deployment options and the ability to deal with some of the most common, dangerous opponents out there, like Gargantuan Monstrous Creature, Psychic Deathstars, multiple Imperial Knights, close combat heavy Space Wolves, and all varieties of Tau/Eldar/SM Battle Companies:


—White Scars CAD—

-Librarian with Hunter’s Eye relic

-2 x Scout Squads with 5 models, all with BP/CCW

-2 x Fast Attack Drop Pods

-2 x Devastator Centurion squads with 3 models, Grav Cannons/Amps and Hurricane Bolters

-Battery of two Quad Mortars

—Ultramarines Skyhammer Annihilation Force—

-2 x Assault squads with 5 models

-2 x Devastator squads with 10 models, 4 Grav Cannons, and Drop Pod DT

—Aquila Kill Team—

-DW Veteran Squad with 6 models, all with Meltagun and Bolter, and one model upgraded to Watch Sergeant with Auspex, all in a Drop Pod DT

-DW Terminator squad with 2 models, both with Melta PF


So, the idea behind this whole army is provide overwhelming Grav and Melta firepower, backed up by the Ignore Cover Quad Mortars (thanks to the attached Librarian with the Hunter’s Eye) in either an alpha strike or a “beta strike” (i.e. if you delay the Skyhammer to come in on Turn 2).

The Devastator squads can combat squad as they come out of their Drop Pods, since they have 10 models each, allowing me to field up to six separate Grav Cannon/Amp units (4 x Devastator Combat Squads and 2 x Grav Centurions) coming out of Drop Pods turn 1 and thus deal with MSU opponents, or I can mass my firepower on a few key targets, if required. This also forces my opponent to split up his firepower, thus helping my Grav units survive longer. If I need to simply suppress a few targets, then I can Combat Squad with all 4 Grav Cannons in one Combat Squad and 5 Bolter Marines in the other Combat Squad, with the Bolter Marines “suppressing” and the Grav Cannons taking down heavy infantry/MCs/vehicles.

In terms of the Aquila Kill Team, its included primarily to give me a “vehicle assassination” unit using the 8 Meltaguns, but it can also switch over to Bolters with Special Issue Ammo to take on infantry, using the Aquila Doctrine to re-roll 1s to Wound/Penetrate against any target they encounter. The two Terminators provide 2+/5++ tanking for the squad, plus their PFs provide some very solid close combat capacity in case the unit gets charged (or needs to charge itself). The Drop Pod DT safely delivers the whole package and also ensures that I can bring in 4 Drop Pods turn 1 (2 from the Skyhammer Annihilation Force and 2 due to the Drop Pod Assault rule) if I want to.

The CCW/BP Scouts and “bare bones” ASM squads are included partly as the “tax” for their respective formations, but also serve roles as cheap objective seizers, skirmishers to block enemy forces from assaulting my Grav Cannon units, and even assault units in their own right to tie-up/bully enemy shooting units when required. The Librarian and Quad Mortars provide a backline “firebase” that can help against vehicles and light infantry, especially with re-rolls to Hit from Prescience and Ignore Cover from the Hunter’s Eye.

In terms of Chapter Tactics, I chose Ultramarines for the Skyhammer because being able to re-roll ALL shooting to Hits for the Devastators on the turn they come in (via Devastator Doctrine) is very solid and, on later turns, being able to use Assault Doctrine for the ASM is not too bad either. For the CAD, I chose White Scars because of the Hunter’s Eye Relic (which may be the single best piece of Wargear in the game, for its price of just 4 MBs) and because, even though I do not have any bikes, Hit and Run is SO very valuable on the Scouts and on the Grav Centurions (they are so bad at combat that they want to get out of it as quickly as possible and then shoot the unit that assaulted them in the face with lots of Grav weapons and/or Hurricane Bolters). Finally, the ability to re-roll Run moves is a nice little bonus for the Scouts, especially when they are trying to grab Objectives late game.

Overall, I think is a pretty solid force. Against MEQs, TEQs, and MCs/GMCs I have TONS of Grav shooting divvied up among multiple MSU squads, giving me the ability to take on everything from Marine Battle Companies to Eldar Jetbike spam to “Monster Mash” style lists. Against vehicles, I can use Grav weapons as well, I have the 8 x S8 shots from the Quad Mortars, and I have the meltas in the Aquila Kill Team for Super Heavies. Against hordes of light infantry, I am a little light, but I have the Quad Mortars (8 x S5 AP5 Small Blasts with Ignore Cover), I have Hurricane Bolters on the Centurions, and I have all the “auxiliary” Bolters and CCWs in the Devastator Squads, ASM squads, and Scout squads.

Honestly, I think Flyers and horde infantry are my weakest matchup (I guess I would not do well against an Astra Militarum “Air Cav” list, would I 😉 ), but overall I feel like this force gives me the flexibility to counter most competitive lists out there, provide I play well and make solid tactical decisions. I also think it provides me with solid deployment flexibility, given the control over reserves I have via the Skyhammer Annihilation Force units and the option to begin the game in basically a “null deploy” mode (I can also go for “full deploy”, with the Centurions, Scouts, Quad Mortars, and Aquila Kill Team on the table and their Drop Pods coming in empty just to grab objectives and block LOS).

 

Codex Deathwatch: Skitarii Allies

As I continue to look out how Deathwatch can be played in a competitive manner on the tabletop, another group of allies that I think work quite well to support them is the Skitarii faction. Here is how I see an allied force of Skitarii units (either from formations or in the Skitarii Maniple detachment) integrating with a primary detachment Deathwatch army:

 

———————————————-

[1] Skitarii Vanguard – Costing less than 2 MBs per model and coming stock with a 4+ save, FNP(6+), Relentless, and a 3 shot Radium Carbine, Vanguard are exceptionally good value infantry who can provide the “economy” complement to the expensive Deathwatch forces. While they are somewhat fragile, with their T3 and lack of any organic Transport options, Vanguard can put out plenty of solid firepower for their points, with the Radium Carbine generating lots of wounds, even on T8 Wraithknights, due to its high rate of fire and Rad Poisoning rule (each To Wound roll of a 6+ causes two automatic wounds, regardless of enemy toughness). Radium Carbines obviously combine brilliantly with the Misfortune power, if any of your DW Librarians roll that up on the Divination discipline. On top of this, they can take 2 Special Weapons (bumped up to 3 if they take a full squad of 10 Vanguard) and have access to 3 shot Plasma Calivers, long range Transuranic Arquebuses, and rapid firing Arc Rifles.

Of these, I think Arc Rifles have the most value for Vanguard allied to a Deathwatch army, since it provides solid S6 AP5 shooting against non-vehicle units and exceptional (and rare) Haywire shooting against vehicles. A couple of Vanguard squads using the “Protector Imperatives” from their Doctrina Imperatives rule along with max Arc Rifles (and an Arc Pistol on the Vanguard Alpha) can efficiently deal with enemy vehicles, even massed transports like in a SM Gladius detachment, leaving the Deathwatch units free to use their potent (but limited) firepower on more important targets like elite infantry, MCs, and HQs. Finally, Skitarii Vanguard have the special “Rad-saturation” rule, which causes any enemy units locked in close combat with them to have -1T. This combined beautifully with Deathwatch close combat units, since it reduces T6 enemies, like Riptides and Hive Tyrants, to T5 (making them vulnerable to ID from Heavy Thunder Hammers), T5 enemies, like Thunderwolf Cavalry, Necron Wraiths, and SM Centurions, to T4 (making them vulnerable to ID from THs/PFs), and T3 enemies, like almost all Tau/Eldar/DE/Astra Militarum/SoB infantry, to T2 (making them vulnerable to ID from Power Swords, Guardian Spears, Xenophase Blades, and the “Thief of Secrets” Relic).

Finally, when part of the “Skitarii Maniple” detachment, Vanguard gain both Scout (except the Outflank portion of that rule) and Crusader, making them surprisingly mobile and thus able to synergize well with DW units on Bikes, in Drop Pods, or riding in a Transport vehicle like a Rhino or Corvus Blackstar. Additionally, even though they cannot start the game inside a Deathwatch vehicle, Skitarii Vanguard can jump into an allied Deathwatch transport turn 1 and use it to enhance their durability and mobility (i.e. a squad of 5 Vanguard with two Arc Rifles combines beautifully with a DW Rhino, since it protects them from small arms fire, moves them up the board quickly, and has two firing points for their Haywire shooting to fire from).

 

[2] Sicarian Infilitrators – A somewhat unique and unusual unit, Infilitrators cost about the same as Terminators, but are significantly more fragile, with T3 and a 4+/6++ save. This is somewhat offset by their 2W, FNP, and Stealth USR, but in general they are quite fragile for their points. Where Infiltrators really gain their value, and where they become an invaluable ally to a Deathwatch army, is in their mobility, damage potential, and “debuffing” capability on the enemy.

With the innate ability to Infiltrate (plus Scout and Crusader if part of a Skitarii Maniple detachment), plus the amazing Dunestrider rule (+3” to their Movement, Run moves, and Charge ranges!), the Sicarian Infiltrators can easily get where you want them to be by turn 1 (or turn 2 at the latest) without depending on transports or deep striking (they also have a very robust charge range, thanks to extra 3” from Dunestrider). This combines well with Deathwatch forces by allowing Sicarian Infilitrators to be in position near enemy lines starting turn 1, when DW Veteran squads and Kill Teams will likely be arriving by Drop Pod. This mobility (i.e. 9” move + 3+D6” run = 14-18” displacement each turn, if they do not shoot or charge) also makes the Infiltrators solid units for claiming objectives, moving up enemy flanks, and/or escaping enemy forces when required. Overall, the Sicarian Infilitrators’ high mobility is an excellent complement to Deathwatch forces and, in a pinch, you can always load the Infilitrators into a friendly DW Land Raider or Blackstar after turn 1 for even more mobility.

In terms of damage potential, in many ways Infilitrators “mirror” Deathwatch units, with high damage potential residing in a relatively fragile unit. If equipped with Taser Goads and Flechette Blasters, Infiltrators can put out 5 x S2 AP- Shred shots at 12” (per model) followed by 4 x S6 AP- Taser attacks on the charge (again, per model), which makes them exceptionally at dealing with large hordes that would otherwise potentially “swarm” a Deathwatch army down (Note: Like with Radium Carbines, the Taser Goad/Flechette Blaster loadout combines marvelously with the Misfortune power, since you generate so many chances at getting Rending attacks). Finally, Infilitrators have the “Neurostatic Aura” special rule. More than anything else, this is probably the reason you would take them to ally to a Deathwatch army. Basically, it any enemy models within 6” of a Sicarian Infiltrator suffers -1 to its WS, BS, I, and Ld. In conjunction with the Infilitrators ability to Infiltrate and Scout, this means you get them right into the enemy’s DZ turn 1 and “debuff” selected units, which synergizes amazingly with a Deathwatch Drop Pod spearhead (and the ability to “teleport” in more DW units with the Beacon Angelus). In particular, the ability to reduce enemy BS by -1 means that, after the DW Drop Pods have arrived and unloaded the firepower of their squads, in the next turn your opponent will be shooting at (and charging) those units at significantly reduced capacity, which in turns enhances the survivability of your costly Ordos Xenos Marines.

 

[3] Ironstrider Ballistarii – As mentioned in previous articles, one of the weaknesses of the Deathwatch army overall is strong medium-long ranged shooting. The Ironstrider Ballistarii is an excellent ally to help compensate for this, with the options of either a TLed Cognis Autocannon (11 MB per model) or a TLed Cognis Lascannon (15 MBs per model) and the ability to take between 1 and 6 Ironstriders per squadron. Besides being able to be hyper accurate using Doctrina Imperatives (i.e. re-rollable 2+s to Hit on up to three turns a game), the Ironstriders can also provide significant shooting during Overwatch, against Flyers, and against units that have Invisibility cast on them (i.e. with TLed and Cognis rules, the Ironstriders hit all these targets with 50% accuracy, vice the normal 16% accuracy for “regular” Snapshots). Combine all this with the superior mobility of Scout, Crusader, and the Dunestrider rule (mentioned above) and you have an affordable, potent “skirmisher” unit that can supplement many of the weakness (especially in terms of long range firepower) of a Deathwatch army.

 

[4] Onager Dunecrawlers – Finally, whereas Ironstriders provide significant firepower support, albeit on a fragile platform, to a Deathwatch detachment, Dunecrawlers provide more expensive but much more durable shooting capacity as allies to the black and silver Astartes of the Ordos Xenos. With AV 12/12/11 and the ability to have a 6++, 5++, or 4++ save (based on how many of them are in each squadron) on a walker chassis that only costs 18 MBs “base,” Onagers provide a very affordable, at least compared to Land Raiders and Blackstars, vehicle fire support supplement to a Deathwatch primary force. Additionally, Onager Dunecrawlers can be equipped with multiple weapon options to support the needs of a Deathwatch army, including an Eradication Beam (close range, flexible shooting against both vehicles and infantry), TLed Heavy Phosphor Blaster (anti-MEQ at range plus the ability to “mark” a target and reduce its cover saves against other friendly shooting), Neutron Laser (long-range S10 AP1 Concussive Small Blast for anti-vehicle/MC work), and the Icarus Array (high volume/power shooting against any enemy flyers, FMCs, and/or skimmers, which makes it great against Eldar, DE, Tau, Necrons, and Tyranids). No matter what option you go with, have one or more Onager squadrons as an ally to your Deathwatch army is a significant boost which can make the rest of your units more effective with their shooting and ability to absorb damage away from the expensive/fragile DW squads.

———————————————-

As you can see, there are solid uses for each of these Skitarii units in an allied force to a primary Deathwatch detachments. I did not even discuss Skitarii Rangers, Ruststalkers, or Sydonian Dragoons (and these all have the potential to enhance a Deathwatch army as well), but even if you just stick to the Skitarii forces discussed above, I think you can make solidly competitive combination with the squads vehicles, and Kill Teams of a Deathwatch main army.

Codex Deathwatch: Land Raider Achilles

Continuing to look at options for a Deathwatch army, another Forgeworld selection available to them is the Heavy Support slot option, the Land Raider Achilles:

-Like most Land Raiders, it has AV14/14/14 and 4HPs, plus POTMS built in. In terms of firepower, it comes with 2 x TLed Multimeltas (so good overall weapons at medium-short range) and a Thunderfire Cannon in place of the normal TLed Heavy Bolter (obviously, a significant upgrade which provides critical “artillery” type support to the Deathwatch, which generally lacks this kind of long-range shooting). On the disadvantage side, it can only hold 6 models and lacks the Assault Vehicle rule, significantly limiting its role as a traditional close combat delivery transport.

All that said, what really put the Achilles in a class of its own its special rule called “Ferromantic Invulnerability,” which makes it Immune to the special rules conferred to Melta and Lance weapons and which reduces any rolls on the Vehicle Penetration chart by a factor of -1 (so, basically, the only way you can get an Explodes! result on an Achilles is with an AP1 weapon that is either S9/10 or a weapon that has the Armourbane or Rending rules). Of course, Destroyer weapons are a significant threat, especially if you can get multiple shots of them per turn and/or if you get the luck 6+ result on the Destroyer table. Outside of that, and perhaps massed Haywire attacks, there is very little in the game that can efficiently bring down a Land Raider Achilles. Finally, the Achilles can upgrade with a Siege Shield like the one available to Vindicators (no other Land Raider variant can do this), which makes it immune to Dangerous Terrain checks (so, basically, an auto-take option).

So, given that it is not an Assault Vehicle and only holds up to 6 passengers, how can the Deathwatch make best use of this mighty War Engine? Fortunately, the Deathwatch are one of the best armies in the game at packing in tons of combat power into a small unit and making very dangerous “pound-for-pound” shooting and assault units that can actually fit inside an Achilles and take advantage of its amazing durability and superior firepower. Here are some examples I can think of:

 

——————————————————–

[1] Aquila Kill Team with 4 Frag Cannons, Black Shield (with LC/PF), and PML(2) Librarian and Technomancy – While expensive, this small Kill Team can ride around in the Achilles with the Librarian potentially buffing it with Ignore Shaken and Stunned/BS5 (Blessing of the Machine), AV15/15/15 armor (Warpmetal Armor), and/or IWND and restored HPs (Reforge), depending on what powers he rolls up. Once they are delivered to their target safely, the Kill Team can jump out, unleash 8 x S6 AP- Rending Templates (with re-rolls of 1s, thanks to Aquila Doctrine) to obliterate almost any non-vehicle/non-MC unit (if the squad does get into CC in later turns, they first get to Overwatch with 8D3 Frag Cannon “Wall of Fire” hits and then the Black Shield can lay down some heat with up to 5 LC or PF attacks at WS5).

 

[2] Aquila Kill Team with 10 Hand Flamers (two per Veteran) and Librarian with PML(2) and Divination – The goal here is to roll up Misfortune on the Librarian… if you are able to do that, then move the LR Achilles up 18” turn 1 (12” move + 6” Flat Out), shrug off any enemy shooting (except maybe D weapons), and then move/disembark Turn 2, cast Misfortune on the target, and then hit it with 10 Hand Flamer templates. Even though the Hand Flamers are only S3 AP6, the shear amount of wounds generated should hurt almost any unit, even without Misfortune cast, but if Misfortune is “on,” then you should be able to kill even things like TEQs, Centurions, Crisis Suits, Lychguard, etc by the pure weight of AP2 Rending hits generated (and, of course, T3 hordes would just evaporate to this shooting any ways).

 

[3] Three DW Terminators, all with Heavy Flamers and Melta PFs – A bit cheaper, but still dangerous and versatile, battle group here, these three Terminators could use the Achilles to get up close with their designated target, then jump out and hit it with either 3 Heavy Flamer templates or 3 Meltagun shots (with re-rolls of 1s to Hit, using the appropriate Mission Tactics). After they have shot, they can use their 2+/5++ saves to absorb enemy counter-attacks and then either jump back in the Achilles to “rinse and repeat” or foot slog forward and charge into assault with weaker enemy units to put their PFs to good use.

 

[4] Six DW Veterans, all with double Inferno Pistols – Another version of the “Gunslinger” build mentioned in option 2, this squad use the Achilles to safely get it in VERY close (either 6” from a non-vehicle target or within 3” for a vehicle that it is seeking to bring down, then unleashes 12 x S8 AP1 Melta shots, which ought to be enough to kill almost any Super-Heavy vehicle and even many MCs, especially with re-rolls of 1s to Hit due to appropriate Mission Tactics. Another expensive build here, but potentially a very deadly one for taking out a lynchpin enemy unit in sort of an “assassin” type unit delivered by the LR Achilles.

 

[5] Five DW Vanguard, two with TH/SS and three with PF/LC, plus DW Librarian riding inside the LR Achilles – The Vanguard use the Achilles as a mobile, AV14/14/14 “shield” to block LOS from enemy shooting as they move up field (i.e. basically hiding behind it as they move) and, once they get within charge range, the Librarian disembarks and casts Prescience on them before they charge, making their attacks much more effective/efficient. Of course, as with all the other builds, the LR Achilles can also lend its shooting to support this Battle Group, with the TFC taking on hordes/light vehicles and the MMs helping against vehicles/MCs/TEQs.

 

Finally, aside from the battle groups described above, I think there are several allies that can help maximize a LR Achilles’ abilities in a Deathwatch army:

[a] Grand Master Azrael – Not only can be buff the squad he is riding with via his flexible WL trait, armor, and close combat stats, but he can even give the Achilles a 4++ when riding in it, making basically twice as survivable (and even difficult for Destroyer weapons to bring down quickly). Of course, he would have to start the game outside the Achilles, but could quickly hop in Turn 1 and join the DW squad for the rest of the game.

[b] Iron Hands Techmarine with Servo-Harness – He can use his 2+ save to “tank” for the squad, plus his Servo Arms and shooting weapons to increase its combat power, but more than anything he can repair damage and HPs on the Achilles on a 3+, keeping it alive even longer if your opponent is able to “attrite: any HPs.

[c] Inquisitor Hector Rex – One of the Forgeworld HQ options from Codex: Inquisition, he comes stock with a 2+/3++ save, plus solid close combat abilities (especially against Daemons). Better yet, he is PML(2) and has automatic access to both Sanctuary and Hammerhand. This means you can jump him into a LR Achilles Turn 1 to join a 5 man DW veteran squad equipped with, say, 4 Frag Cannons and 5 Storm Shields and then, once they disembark to shoot with their Frag Cannons, he can cast Sanctuary to bring everyone’s save up to a 2++, making even this small squad much more survivable. He can also cast Hammerhand to make the entire unit better at close combat, in a pinch.

——————————————————–

There are probably many other options/tactics for integrating a Land Raider Achilles into a Deathwatch army, but these are just a few I have come up with to try and maximize their effectiveness within this faction.