Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dark Angels Unit Reviews - Special Characters

In the spirit of Blog Wars I thought I'd cover the Special Characters in more detail and go over what they can offer to your army. Some are far better than others but with the exception of one they're all pretty useful. Here goes:

Azrael
He's a bit of an enigma really. At first you think he's awesome because you can take both Deathwing and Ravenwing as troops for about half the number of points it'd cost to include Sammael and Belial for the same result. Then you start to write a list and realise that he doesn't play well with others in that he can't join either DW or RW. This means you need to spend points on a squad for him. Sure you can stick him in a tactical squad for cheapest but that's somewhat wasting his abilities. Anyway, I'll get back to that. For now let's look at what he offers.

Stats-wise he's pretty solid. Fairly standard chapter master stuff but with 2+ armour and a 6+ FNP which is about 86% chance of saving a normal shot.The real fun comes from his special rules and chapter relics though. He gives your entire army Ld 10 which not only saves you a lot of veteran sergeants but with Stubborn for most of the army (that isn't already Fearless) you aren't going to be failing many Morale Checks. You get to choose his Warlord Trait which is a nice touch but realistically you only want For The Lion or maybe Brilliant Planning. 

His weaponry is pretty decent with a Master-crafted combi-plasma that causes Blind (more on that in a minute) and a +2S Master-crafted power sword. The thing that gets most people excited is his 4++ save for him and his unit.  This combination goes some way to helping with his foot-slogging issues. Personally I think the best way to use him is with an assault squad in their freebie drop pod. If you're feeling flush (points-wise) then by all means make it a veteran squad but either way you want him in the thick of it to make the most of Furious Charge (from For The Lion). 

Trouble is, I just can't get excited about Azrael. It's annoying that you have to buy a squad for him to get the most out of him. This pretty much ruins the feel of your army which otherwise only contains terminators and bikes. Before you know it you've spent 500pts on him and his squad which doesn't leave you much left for the rest of the army. Ultimately I think people will be using him with allies and probably in the form of Imperial Guard. Either way I'll struggle to find a place for him in my armies. 

It's worth noting that he hasn't really changed from the old codex even if he is 10pts cheaper!

Ezekiel
Whilst he still has the same problems as Azrael in that he needs a squad to tag along with, Ezekiel is just ridiculous for his points. He's disgustingly cheap for what you get and cheaper than he used to be! A regular librarian with Mastery 2 and terminator armour is 130pts. For another 15pts you can have Ezekiel who's Mastery 3! 

Let's go through all the stuff you get for just 145pts. Let's see he's a librarian with 3 wounds, BS5 (for those Witchfire powers), 3 attacks base and initiative 5. For his stat line alone I'd pay 145pts but there's more. He gets Mind Worm which if you get lucky with the focused witchfire could seriously gimp an opposing character if it doesn't kill them!! He gives all units within 6" a +1 bonus to WS. He's also got a Master-crafted force weapon which, although two-handed still gets 4 attacks thanks to his better stats. Personally I think that little lot is a bargain!

I'm determined to find a way to get him into my army just to give Mind Worm a go. It's a bit of a shame there weren't proper Dark Angels psychic powers but nevermind. I'd probably go with Telepathy for his other powers as he can fire off those ML2 powers and still get a Mind Worm. I reckon sticking him in a drop pod could be brutal if him and his squad can survive the initial fusillade of fire.

As a bonus the DV librarian makes for a perfect representation of Ezekiel (you can just stick a banner on him) which saves your precious pennies.

Asmodai
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Asmodai feels really badly thought out. When you compare Ezekiel to a standard Librarian there's no contest. If you can fit him into your army plan you ought to take him. Asmodai on the other hand isn't much better than a normal Interrogator Chaplain. He has an identical statline for a start. You pay an additional 30pts and don't get a whole lot in return.

Maybe I'm missing something but you lose an attack (as he only has one specialist weapon) and are forced to take The Hunt where a normal Interrogator could take a roll and maybe get something better. The only "bonuses" are that he causes Fear (which GW seems to think is much better than it actually is) and his weapon causes Instant Death. Well it would if your opponent doesn't pass his armour save as it's AP-. 

The less said about him the better to be honest. Save your points.

Belial
Back to the good stuff then. Belial is obviously the character of choice if you want to field a full Deathwing army (more on that soon). He got a bit pricier in this edition of the codex but he's got a bit more meat to him than he had before. In addition to the stuff he always had he's got a few nice toys. 

For starters he's now WS6 (not a massive deal but still) and his sword is nicer. It's still a master-crafter power sword but it's now got Fleshbane which means he wounds on 2+. He's got 5+ precision shots but since he's just got a storm bolter it's hardly devastating. 

The big thing here is that he's the first character in this list that plays to the DA army of terminators and bikers. The key thing is that his squad won't scatter when they arrive. I'm planning to make him out of terminator bits rather than buying the model but even so I'm determined to write him into a list.

It's a bit of shame that he doesn't give a few more bonuses to his terminator brethren but the not scattering thing could really come in handy. For the points I think he's a reasonable choice and certainly doesn't feel like a tax to unlock DW. The options are still there for swapping out his weapons but I don't know why you would anymore.

Sammael
First off no-one is ever going to take the land speeder. Seriously why would you? Waste a character for the sake of an AV14 2HP speeder. Forget it.

That aside, Sammael is pretty solid. Very similar statline to the other characters but you're also getting T5 of course. Weirdly as the toughest character he's also the only one to get Eternal Warrior. You'd have thought Azrael would have it but whatever. In my opinion he's a little pricey for what he is and I think that's purely down to his EW. Nice to have a plasma cannon in there but there isn't much else to get excited about. He's got an AP2 power weapon which is better than his special character colleagues but he just doesn't excite me to be honest.

Perhaps I've not been making the most of him as I've been using him with a command squad. This gives the squad more survivability with Skilled Rider's +1 to cover and his ability to soak up some wounds but really I think he needs to be with a big squad of Black Knights who are tearing around the place making a mess of things will at those plasma shots and rending attacks. 

Let's face it. He's going to see A LOT of use for the pure fact that he unlocks RW as troops. Don't get me wrong he's by now means a bad choice but there's just something not quite right there. Perhaps he should just have a 2+ save or something. 

Conclusion
There aren't really any stand-out characters (maybe Ezekiel) but with the exception of Asmodai it isn't difficult to see why you'd take them. In some ways it's a shame that you almost have to take them but personally I probably would've done anyway.

I didn't really intend this article to come across so negative on them. Don't get me wrong I'm happy with them on the whole. I think they just needed to be a bit more powerful for their points. Sure they're not awful but none of them feels like Draigo, Logan or Abaddon. Maybe with time one will stand out though. What do you guys think?

Incidentally, if you're looking for inspiration for converting your characters using the normal kits. Take a look at my mate Jamie's blog where he's done conversion for Belial, Azrael and Ezekiel.

4 comments:

  1. Nice write up. I agree in general with your points, I'd just like to add a few points.

    All the reviews in the blogosphere so far spared out Seraphicus, the Chaplain from the Limited Edition of Dark Vengeance. He's been added via the FAQ - Errata, stating he's an Interrogator Chaplain with a Plasma Pistol. What makes him special is that he replaces the Zealot special rule with the ability to grant himself and his attached squad a reroll for all to hit and to wound rolls of 1 (both shooting and close combat) against Chaos Space Marines. So should you have a lot of Chaos players in your area he is worth a consideration.

    Also I really like Azrael, actually he served me well in countless battles since the 2nd Edition. He is a combat beast IMO, just him not being an Eternal Warrior limits his abilities. With 6 attacks on the charge at STR 6 (or 7 if you picked For the Lion as his Warlord Trait) at AP 3 he can slay MEQs quite decently. Stick him to a command squad with the Chapter banner you actually have 7 attacks with him. Add an Apothecary to increase his survivability even more and you've gotten yourself one strong combat squad. But, as you mentioned, the problem is to get him into close quarters...

    Belial comes with a teleporting homer, which would be nice to get further squads of Deathwing directly to him with any risks (since Belial doesn't scatter himself when teleporting on the field). But as the Deathwing assault means all Deathwing units arrive the same turn and the teleport homer has to have been on the table at the start of this round already to take effect, it's kinda useless IMO. Unless I'm missing something here?!


    Also I've got a few questions you probably can help me with:
    - Does Ezekiel grant the WS+1 from his book only to other units or does he also get the bonus?
    - His Mind Worm psychic power is a focused withfire, which means he gets to chose who's been hit if he manages to roll a 5 or less for his psychic power test. But since it's also a shooting attack, i.e. he has to make a to hit roll, will he also be able to select the target on rolls of 6 (as in precise shooting)?

    Cheers,
    HellHenni

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    Replies
    1. You can have some deathwing on turn 1, some turn 2 and the rest on normal reserves. That's how you get use from Belial having a teleport homer.

      Usually the bonus apply to his own squad as well like a banner bearer gets the bonus too so I don't see why not for Ezekiel.

      Have to say I never thought about precision shots with psychic powers. It might only be one of the shots though. I'll see if I can find a rule about it.

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    2. Good article pal. I agree with it for the most part, though I do have a lot of love for Azrael. If you are playing at larger points values and can justify the points sink then him with a large veteran squad tooled for CC is brutal. Stick and standard of fortitude nearby and even more so. Like you say, mobility is an issue so you;ll have to tailor the rest of the army accordingly.

      Interesting point about mind worm. I would argue that as it's essentially a a normal shooting attack then you do get the precision shots in addition to the focussed witchfire power. Couldn't see anything to contradict it.

      Regarding the banner bonus, the only exception to this type of rule I can think of is Pedro Kantor, whose inspiring presence (+1A within 12")is specifically termed so it does not apply to him. (must have insecurity issues) This suggests that all others do apply to the bearer.

      Oh, and Alex, i found the link to that basing website. Looks great quality and value:

      http://basecrafts.com/index.php/basing-kits.html

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  2. Really good write-up.
    I must say I'm a fan of Sammy on his speeder. Used him all the time in my (admittedly ill-fated) Ravenwing army in the last edition and have had much more success with him under new edition and codex. Although originally I took the speeder because I collect Guardians of the Covenant (and it said in the fluff that Samael had the only jetbike in the universe! Or something similar)I have grown to appreciate it. An AV14 vehicle that can move 12 and hit 7 times (BS5 twin-linked has only ever missed for me twice) at 24" range gives a lot of options. He even has a 4++ in case he gets hit. Depending on how you read the unit entry he may even retain 'scout' (which I think all Ravenwing speeders should have as they are technically faster than the bikes!).
    Due to his manouverability it is petty simple to keep him alive (he can sit in front of one lascannon knowing my opponent is unlikely to 'waste' the shot) and he excells at 'finishing off' targets that the bikers couldn't quite muster the shots to deal with. I really reccomend converting up one of your spare speeders to try him out. Maybe I'll use him at Blog Wars just to prove a point? But I feel an Azrael/ Fortress of Redemption list coming on. Ian

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