Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Make your way to the Deathwing, sir.

Due to problems with blogger, this post is about a week later than intended, which is actually quite relevant, since talk of 6th Edition is really ramping up now, making 5th Edition based posts even less prevelant, none the less, I'll still put this out there.

Deathwing is still an army near and dear to my heart. Its deeply satisfying to put down 30 models all in 2+/3++ that, barring some oddities, always have an answer for questions asked of them, unlike the world of mech. For much of 2011 I played with a very set and "honed" list, however, revisiting now, the list would look quite different. Today I am going to talk about some of the changes I would make to previous lists that I have run. With the dawn of 6th Edition and the rumours that terminators could well be on the rise again, could it be time to think about re-making the deathwing?

First, let's look at the previous list that was used, before talk of evolution can commence.


Belial - LC's
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx2, TH/SS/CML, TH/SS/Apothecary, TH/SS/Banner
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC

3x Bikes - MGx2, MB - Attack Bike w/ MM
3x Bikes - MGx2, MB - Attack Bike w/ MM

The list was solid. The American contingent of deathwing players often went for one of two camps, all terminators or mixing up terminators with the fragile land speeders or even mixing in random units such as the expensive devastators or even scouts. I decided to eschew that line of thought, and opt for the versatility of the bikes.

Originally the bikes offered a lot of what the army needed. They provided fast moving melta, but on a much sturdier platform than a land speeder, the real difference was the cost. A land speeder clocks in at a cheap 75 points for a CML and MM, where as to get to the attack bike, which honestly will give better performance, sets you back the better part of 200 points.

However, the bikes did offer huge plugs to the holes in the deathwings problems. Contesting and mobility was a huge issue for deathwing. Bikes with their 24" (and subsequent 3++ unless your looking at a flamestorm cannon or power weapons) was huge for late game shenanigans. The bikes also had some actual combat capabilities (though poor), and frequently would shut down a small 5 man squad via their T5 or just help get bodies into a combat. 

However, by far and away the best ability they had was their scout moves. Being able to outflank vs a heavy mech army that has no "reserve" manipulation (these days, really its only Coteaz your worrying about), is huge. It can be used to clog up the midfield in a mech heavy army, get into the flanks of fire bases, I've combined the charge ability (12+6" is no joke) to tie up units of long fangs for the entirety of a match.
Better yet, the scout move paired with accurate 1st turn deep striking can see you decimate an entire MSU army before your very eyes, even on less than stellar rolling. Frequently this would be my scout and 1st turn - bikes scout 12" (now @ 24" / mid table), first turn (didn't get seized), 3x Squads of deathwing deepstrike 6" ahead of those bikes (now @ 30") without scatter off the teleport homers, bikes move a further 12" (now at 36" mark roughly), which is their deployment line (in pitched), typically this is enough for a melta shot (6", certainly 12", which on the MM is fine) and possibly a charge - terminators fire last as you do want to decide if you run them which can pretty much ensure a second turn multi-charge.

However, as cute (and as powerful) as that is, these are the match ups your winning by just being deathwing. The ones where this doesn't work (Coteaz GK's for example), they deal with your bikes so easily (or land speeders) that you just want more resilient bodies the majority of the time. Deepstriking is still effective, you just don't need that pin point accuracy.

Deathwing for 5th Edition circa. 2012

So personally I feel like deathwing is still somewhat viable as an army, but for someone like me, it needs to stop being so "cute". Towards the end of my play with it, I was very passive and looking to win the game with incremental advantage, you could go so far as to say that I played the game not to lose opposed to win. This was very evident at Brighton Warlords where I drew a massive 3 times out of 6.

At the end of the day, deathwing is an army that just needs to ask questions of your opponent, as you ALWAYS have an answer of your own. Unlike relying on mech or cover, you know that at worst, someone is going to make you re-roll your 3++ saves (or the necron ability I forget, which I don't think is as bad).

Thus as such, the force should really just eschew all types of mech and "support". The book charges, except for the paper air-planes, a hefty premium on the units, and if you do opt for the air planes, they are often just in hiding mode or CML mode, which truth be told you don't over need more.

As such, you just need to ask the question, can your army deal with X amount of terminators before the assassins land on your door step?

The List:

Belial - LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx2, TH/SS/CML, TH/SS/Apothecary, TH/SS/Banner
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC
5x Deathwing - TH/SSx3, TH/SS/CML, LC

1x Typhoon (Missiles / MM)
1x Typhoon (Missiles / MM)


In this version it is a case of you just can't fit a 7th squad in anyway you try and squeeze it, thus you can go with the option of the typhoons and just reserve them. Alternatively you can opt for a squad of 3 bikes with MG's and MB's and have that option for a super accurate deepstrike or late game reserves. In honesty I think the typhoons are better, they'll start in reserve most of the time to avoid giving people something to shoot their HB's or AutoCannons at (for good value).

Alternatively, if your feeling frisky and want to try and shut down some GK momentum, Ezekial is not a horrible option. Dropping the speeders and FNP seems like a hefty cost, especially when a squad now HAS to walk (though remember its 4th Ed hoods ...), but he is pretty brutal himself, and another I5 attack.

The main factor is the jump from 26 to 31 terminators. It might not seem like much, but really think about that difference.


That is A LOT. I feel terminators have a bell curve of effective value for their numbers. Low numbers are ok, but really are only going to effect one or two plays in a game, 15 to 20 can actually get some work done, 25 up to about 35 just steadily increase, beyond that, its over kill and back down on the curve (I.E go get some support).

Many, actually nearly all my games would see me winning, but with fractions of squads or maybe that lone squad holding, or a squad and some bikes. Like I mention before, the likes of bikes or speeders and their survivability and offensive output is no where near the same as a squad of terminators (on the aggressive stance), and if you leverage that right, the gains of terminators should out weight severely the loss of the support.

A squad of bikes can go down to one, maybe two squads firing at them for a turn, even with 3++ covers. A speeder can go down to a lone bolt pistol, but with the abundance of S6 in the game right now, will likely not see much play in the open. A terminator squad, genuinely, requires a turn of dedicated shooting from a shooting based army, to even stand a chance of dropping them, worse if its the FNP + Belial Squad (any non-insta kill shot goes onto Belial + FNP).

Taking 2nd, your landing 15 terminators on the opponents doorstep for them to fire on from T2, they now have, at best 6 turns to kill your army. It just asks that question, can you do it? Not to mention, you have support. (You can get cute, reserve 5, still landing 3, but having 1 squad on "home" meaning they still need to get through the metal wall to contest, clever objective placement can sometimes see them taking two at end game, again its just a question your asking your opponent).

A meta aside: If your meta has a ton of ork players, worse yet, foot ork players. You might still want to pack dakka preds and go to 5 squads. This army has very few ways to deal with a mass of bodies, and honestly a bucket of dice probably will win combat more often than you want. If your meta is full of tyranid players, this can be the route to go, depending on what they pack - if they have the swarmlord (the dude that just wrecks termi's in combat) - being able to thin out their ranks for the 3 or 4 turns it takes to get to combat can be helpful, or taking out the stealers.

Just an aside, because, like any game, if you only play in a certain meta, it does mean more general lists built for everything might not do the trick.


This is not a totally original concept by any stretch of the imagination. Hulksmash over in the states opted for the straight up terminator approach and and some good success with it mid to late last year, and I found other players using this approach as well.

Essentially its a big and stupid tactic. Go big or go home kind of attitude. Its one of those armies that has a lot of scope, but also equally none. Early on, you'll discover tricks through deep striking (really not all that many truth be told, without manipulation) and variations of tactics, which most of the time will keep your opponent on their toes. But in reality, once experience comes with the list, it will do very little to shock or surprise you, and there is great value in that. My problem is that I knew my deathwing way to well, and I put too much stock in being able to get incremental advantage out of each little encounter of the game, I micro managed if you will. Instead, I needed to take my earlier approach to deathwing, and be much more aggressive, an army like this, removing those "finesse bits you tell yourself you need" and just stick to the plan.

With all that said, I really do hope that Deathwing get a nice lift in the new edition and codex, should they be the first to be re-done. My wish list see's terminators being prevelant in 6th sitting firmly at number two, which sort of goes hand in hand with my main wish, that Land Raiders are awesome. We'll see if that comes true.


  1. great post as always buddy. Great to see the old DW in the photos..such a shame you flogged those! Now you'll have to do it all again! lol
    Deathwing is a great army, definitely suffers from bad match ups though..

  2. i am not sure i agree you know. i have played man Deathwing armies at tournaments now, and none of them caused me great problems except for yours. i feel that the 4 vectors of fearless fast melta you had before are far superior to another easily(ish) torrented group of terminators.

  3. Deathwing takes some finesse to play well. But they're also a nice "I just can't be fucked" army to play when you want to leave your brain at home.

  4. Agreed on the bikes. The ultimate trick to Deathwing is getting somebody to shoot something that isn't terminators, in my eyes.

    Deep striking without scatter onto an objective is great. Also, the melta, as you stated, makes up for weaknesses else where.

    It adds a lot of variety to the list, too. Scout the bikes. Teleport the Deathwing. Outflank the bikes.

    I am supporting you in crossing my fingers for good Land Raiders. I've been finding that I sometimes rather have one than a squad since the Deathwing can die to a volume of fire from grunts. It is really hard for my army to hang around past turn 5.

  5. @Atreides - for sure it worsens the match up with Imperial Guard, but that is a small % decrease (since its only you that plays them competitively / and well), where as they are much more underwhelming against the more popular GK's (25% of the field at an average tournament), Blood Angels (~15%) and Space Wolves (~10-12%) and other MEQ (~10%), thus 50 to 60% of the field they are pretty poor against.

    Like I say, if my meta was only you, I'd have them each and every game and take the free wins (I've only lost to Atreides once with Deathwing, in my first game with them, I am the only person to ever take out every single tank he put on the field, the honor of making him get out each of his dudesmen is quite a privilege).

    @venerable - for sure. It has terrible match ups. 'Nids and 'Orks can be an absolute nightmare, too many bodies. Actually one of the hardest games I had was against a terrible nid army that had loads of Y-Stealers and Stealers, and a Swarmlord. Going at I1 with rending against you just sucked.

    DE are obviously a pain because they can just make you roll dice.

    Against MEQ, the only time I had "bad matchups" was when I was too passive. If you remember our game at BWL, I was very passive, and tried to eek out a incremental advantage win, and while I had bad luck (failing to kill a stationary rhino with 15 attacks), putting those terminators + 5 more on your door step would just ask so many more questions.

    Against something like DE you would need to find other routes, but I did that with DW anyway and thats part of the fun.

    As for remaking the army, if they are good (and I wont say again, they were a tier 2 army), I would for sure make them, hopefully they would have more options.

    I both loved and hated the original army I did.

    It was fine, for a 6 week project, but outside of Belial (who I could do so much better) all I see is the short cuts I took. I had a few bits I was pleased with (mostly conversion bits).

    I think I would go old school with a completely metal 90's army including the original CML models and go for either a traditional paint scheme or come up with something extremely striking (orange, yellow, pink, purple - seriously, you need to catch the eye). Also a small army to paint (20 terminators and some raiders) would be better than 80 "MEQ"