We all love the new Ravenwing (yes, all of us *stares*) but there is a distinct lack of discussion around Deathwing. Unfortunately for good reason. With the FAQ changes to the last book, Deathwing Terminators were the only Terminators capable of bringing any mix of weapons they like – this was very advantageous as you could make a unit with a CML and a bunch of TH/SS. This can still happen… but at a premium.
Previous units cost around 235 points – more if you added Chainfists (and one was always a good idea). Now they are 270 for the exact same loadout. The benefit? Splitfire… Oh and squads up to 10! Shame they don’t have combat squads and nor can they be used as an Ally plug-in (and the anti-air Whirlwind we were looking for died with that idea, too :(). We knew Belial was going to get more expensive (and gained a non-scattering Deepstrike move but little else…) but did Deathwing really need to? Sure everyone else is now paying +5 points for TH/SS which is understandable, at 40 points they are a steal but Deathwing was already paying for that bonus in their initial cost really. Is Deathwing Assault, Fearless/Stubborn, Preferred Enemy against Chaos, twin-linked on turn you deepstrike and Split Fire really worth 35 points a unit? It does sound like a long list but not by a long shot, no.
Terminator based units and armies will always have the issue of paying through the nose for durability. In 5th edition, even with the update, running eight squads of Deathwing (so 41 Terminators) was a bad list. Sure it rolled over some people and sometimes, you just made armor saves like a boss but it really struggled overall. When you dropped down to 26-31 Terminators and brought in support such as Land Speeders, Predators and Dreadnoughts, the list became much more well-rounded and capable on the table top as it wasn’t a case of your opponent making you roll dice and if you got insanely lucky or they couldn’t make you roll enough, you won.
So the real question is – is this same concept viable now? Pure Deathwing was always going to be crap unless they became something silly in terms of points and you could flood the table with those larger squads (see above point). Deathwing assault is certainly a lot better and can add some nice flexibility in how these units are used…but in the end we are still paying 70 points more than the Vanilla variant for what is essentially an extra CML + this flexibility and a few cute rules. Worth it? Eh… you could get away with one or two squads with this idea but if you want them to be scoring, you’re still paying an extra 190 points for Belial – who with a 60 point increase, gained diddly squat really (though again, the accurate deepstrike is nice). Azrael is really the better option here as he does provide some nice bonuses but you need to make sure you’re using those correctly… and that doesn’t really involve Deathwing.
So let’s look at this.
Vengeful Strike + Deathwing assault is a nice combination as it allows you to choose however many units with this rule (and Terminator armor) can come in automatically in your first or second turn. That means you’re getting them when and where you want them (as accurate as Deepstriking can be at least) and thus minimising some turns of firepower against them. Always nice and when they do land, their shooting weapons (read: Cyclone) are more accurate. You’re not taking Stormbolters because then your Terminators die to everyone’s new favorite toy – plasma; and if you do take a couple of token Stormbolters, gaining twin-linked on them isn’t something to write home about. Twin-linked CML is nice but it’s no multi-melta and I still don’t see Deathwing with a nice USR like IDK, Tank Hunters? By using this as well, you’re not spreading out. Hope you’re not playing someone with a plasma cannon. Are they common again?
There’s still the extra points you need to pay over normal Terminators (+4 points) which for the added options of is understandable but… as indicated above, they’re cute rather than cut and dry advantages – particularly given the changes to ATSKNF (i.e. being Fearless and…Stubborn isn’t as big a deal). I’d rather have those extra points encompass the option to upgrade to TH/SS for free and have Deathwing Assault. Or you know, be WS5.
Oh wait, there is a WS5 option. Deathwing KNIGHTS. That sounds cool and only two points more than a normal Deathwing. Right on. Wait. They don’t have Thunder Hammers? FLAILS? They must be awesome! What? *cleans out ears* S6 AP4? Oh… And it can be S10 AP2 for a turn? And they are T5 if in base to base? Well…cute? Oh they have precision strike each as well. IF ONLY THEY HAD THUNDER HAMMERS.
Which of course takes us to the Deathwing Command Squad – what you will take if you’re running Terminators. It’s an easy choice to access by taking a cheap Librarian in Termiantor armor and whilst it has all of the same issues of the normal Deathwing squads, it can carry a banner and those banners can be quite nice to add to other unit selections within the Dark Angels book. This is where Deathwing Assault can really come in handy – you can drop in the Deathwing unit without exposing the Banner to unnecessary early firepower. This is probably going to be best utilised with the Banner of Devastation since Fortitude is providing a defensive bonus. And in the end, 2+/3++ models with Thunder Hammers are a nice combat option and they aren’t too expensive that a single unit (particularly if it’s bringing something else to the table) is digging yourself a hole.
And that’s really the crux of the issue here – taking multiple squads is digging yourself a hole. Again, you could probably get away with a couple squads and I’m sure there are uses for Belial we shall uncover later (or combinations with Azrael) but the concept of a Deathwing army, even hybridised, has gotten worse thanks to the general increase across the board in points without any real change in durability or ability to affect the tabletop. Fortitude might be able to make it worth it as even with FNP being a 5+, 2+/3++/FNP is a pain in the arse to deal with across the board – but that’s 85 points + the extra points per squad. Not the best way to start an army list unfortunately. Thank you Games Workshop :(.