Friday, January 21, 2011

List Building Deep Dive – Dark Angels Part I

So I’ve been putting some thought into this topic since the FAQs dropped (as we all have).

Lauby has argued that the only REAL change to the Dark Angels codex was the equipment normalization, and that this only REALLY makes the Deathwing Spam army better. He then goes on to argue that Dark Angels are now stuck in the Eldar rut of “one trick pony.”

Well, yes and no. I agree that the greatest beneficiary of this change is Death Wing, but just because only one unit was really improved (not exactly true but let's say it were) that doesn’t mean that we only have one build.

Improving the Deathwing doesn’t JUST mean that a pure Deathwing army is the only way to go, does it? I don’t think so.

Looking at the Codex, I think we can largely discount “non-wing” options. They are for the most part overcosted for what they do. The Dreads and the Veteran squads are a possible exception to this rule depending upon your precise build and whether you are playing Ard Boyz or not, lol.

Dreads and Veterans are not terribly efficient (although the Dreads are interesting which we will talk about later) but like Stelek recently said “When you are hyper-efficient in one area you can afford to be less efficient in others.” (Paraphrased and unlinked because... I can't find the post now, lol). So because we've gained some efficiencies in certain areas, I think that options which may not have themselves changed, are still more viable than they once were.

Make sense?

So let’s break our options down into three broad categories we will be looking at for the Codex:

Belial only.
Sammael only.
Belial and Sammael.

So what do each of these options, broadly, do for us?

Belial moves a strong unit out of Elites and into Troops OR Elites. Reasons we might want him:

-We need the Elites slots for something other than Deathwing.
-We want to take more than three units of Deathwing, and/or we want them as scoring units.
-Feel No Pain on a Terminator Unit.
-+1 Attack Banner on a Terminator Unit
-Strong CC Character (ish).

The first two are valid reasons to bring Belial. The last three should be seen as nice benefits (the Narthecium will likely see a lot more use than the banner) but not a reason to take him.

What a lot of people seem to be neglecting is the new and improved Dark Angel Land Speeder. It is without a doubt the most cost effective Land Speeder option in any codex. For 75 points you get a Typhoon Launcher AND a Multimelta. Black Templar come in at a close second but the Ravenwing still get the hottest speeders for the price (as is only right and proper).

But those speeders compete directly with Ravenwing Bikers for slots. That’s bad. We like Ravenwing bikes because they give us meltas, FOC-breaking Attack Bikes, and Teleport Homers to support our Deathwing.

So we have to choose whether we want speeders or bikes or a mix, but we only have 3 slots.

This segues nicely into reasons we might bring Sammael. Sammael moves an overpriced but valuable unit out of Fast Attack and into Troops OR Fast Attack. Reasons we might want Sammael:

-We need the Fast Attack slots for something other than Ravenwing (probably those nice Speeders).
-We want to take more than three Ravenwing units, and/or we want them as scoring units.
-Feel No Pain on a bike squad.
-+1 Attack on a Bike Squad.
-We want an AV 14 speeder OR an accurate Plasma Cannon platform.

As with Belial, Sammael is rather unremarkable on his own, and certainly costs too much to simply want a speeder or Plasma Cannon. But if we decide that one of the first two reasons are sufficient to pay 205 points for, then we will take him. Feel No Pain is a nice benefit, but really it's a 3-4 model unit. The +1 Attack is thematic, but terrible. Lol.

So once more let’s look at our options:

Just Belial lets us take more than up to 9 units of Scoring Terminators. If we want Ravenwing support we cannot take Land Speeders (or at least not 3 of them).

Just Sammael lets us take cheap good Speeders AND still take Ravenwing as our troops choices. We are limited to three units of Deathwing, but they will not be scoring (which is both good and bad).

Belial and Sammael allow us to take Scoring Terminators, more than three units of Terminators, allows us to use our Fast Attack slots for Speeders, and allows us to take scoring Ravenguard units. Pricey though.

So I actually see three broad builds here that are “legitimate,” with some variations in between them.

Of the three, I agree that “Just Belial” is probably the best. However “Just Sammael” comes in second. The ability to take scoring bikes, Land Speeders and still get three units of Deathwing (with Cyclones) is not to be dismissed.

Just Belial has been covered in several places. I don’t really have anything to add beyond what’ s already been said by me and others. So next time we’ll take a look at a “Just Sammael” army and how it compares to a Vanilla version of a similar army.