Hey everybody, Danny here for my usual Wednesday wackiness, and today, we are going to look at one of the newest codexes out there: Deathwatch!
The Formation: Purgatus Kill Team
Source: Deathwatch Codex Faction: Deathwatch
1 unit of Veterans
1 unit of Terminators
Any number in any combination of the following: Librarian/Vanguard Veterans/Bikers
Restrictions: The formation may not have more than 10 models (excluding Transport). One Veteran must be armed with a Stalker pattern-boltgun
Kill-Team: These all act together as one unit. They can never break apart, and are treated as a single unit for all game purposes.
Purgatus Doctrine: Reroll any failed Wound and/or Armor Penetration for all non-vehicle models in this formation that are targeting a unit with the HQ battlefield role.
Ok, so this is a bit weird and Deathwatch are a bit weird to begin with, but there is a method to this madness. Veterans are 5 models minimum, 10 maximum. Terminators/Bikers/Vanguard Vets are 1 model minimum, so while it says “unit”, really, you are buying 1 or 2 guys at most. This is what lets you gum them all together into a very complex, very versatile unit.
If you notice, you can get 4 librarians in this formation if you want, or you can have 4 terminators, 2 libbys and 2 vanguard vets, or whatever combination you want. As Deathwatch units have the most options and upgrades around, you can get the definition of a swiss-army knife. You can also really tune this unit to have a very focused mission, which I think is what it quite good at.
Ok, so Deathwatch seems bad, and this seems like a weird unit.
Yes, Deathwatch are strange, and they are expensive, but they bring some interesting Tek to the game, so they can make a surprisingly good addition to any Imperial army. This formation gives you some interesting build options that can be used as a silver-bullet for the current deathstar meta.
First, it is important to note that Deathwatch get to select Mission Tactics at the start of the game, which gives all models with the rule a reroll to all Hit Rolls of a 1 to a specific type of unit, defined by Battlefield role (so Troop, Fast, HQ, etc). Even a single formation still gets this benefit, and they can even change it once per game. This means you get to really choose who this unit is going to kill, and for me, this unit gives you a wonderful chance at a mean, mean punch to Deathstars.
So, the general idea is this: You choose Purgatus Tactics to give you a reroll against HQ, and coupled with the Purgatus Doctrine special rule, you also reroll wounds. The book makes it clear that if there is a single HQ in the unit, the whole unit counts as HQ, so this works on just about any deathstar whether it be screamer/dog/wolftide/jugger/biker/etc/etc. So now you have a unit that rerolls 1s to hit and all failed wounds against the deathstar, not bad.
Well, then let’s look at Veterans. Each one can bring a grav-gun, and while one has to take the Stalker, you can suddenly pack 4 or even 8 grav guns in the unit. That’s a 8 to 16 shots on the move and 12 to 24 if you can get relentless into the unit (like Biomancy from the libby). Of course, Veterans can also take 4 heavy weapons, namely the frag cannon that can either flamer template for S6, rending goodness or get 2 shots of S9 AP2 if within 12. The terminator can bring standard terminator weapons and the Librarian can take a grav pistol for an extra shot or even just some standard Deathwatch rounds.
The total scheme to this is that with a nice Drop Pod, you can land, turn 1, into the enemy and absolutely shred their Deathstar before it ever has a chance to power up. Terminators take up 2 slots, so really, you can do 7 veterans, 1 libby, and the terminator and have a crapton of shots that reroll to hit of 1 and reroll all wounds. In my preferred build, you get 7 veterans, 3 with frag, 3 with grav, and 1 with the stalker. The librarian takes an auspex and grav-pistol, and the terminator takes an assault cannon. This gives you 6 S9 AP 2 shots or 3 S6 rending templates, 7 grav shots, and 4 S6 rending shots that reroll 1s to hit and reroll all wounds. With the pod, you can land and punch the snot out of most deathstars before they have the chance to power up, immediately putting your opponent on the back foot. If you get the templates to land right, they can each wrack up a lot of hits.
Of course, you don’t have to trick this unit out to do such, but for me, it is what this formation is built to do. You could also use it to create your own Deathstar by packing up to 4 librarians while the Veterans take storm shields.
Ok, so that seems like it could hit hard.
It does, but as with all things, it is vulnerable. It really is a one-trick pony, and against a non-death star build, it could be pretty wasted. That is its biggest issue is that it really is best at landing first, doing a crap ton of damage, and completely messing with your opponent’s rhythm, but against a non-death star army or even another null-deploy, it is a bunch of sub-optimal points.
And hooboy, it is pricy. My preferred build is 489, which isn’t a massive investment, but that is still an investment. Seeing as against the wrong list, that is 489 points that will likely not survive any serious attention, and well, there went the big “surprise”.
This unit shoots well, but it can’t fight in melee (although the overwatch can be pretty devastating), so anything that does get to it will likely chew it apart as it really is just 1 libby, 1 termie, and 7 regular space-marine bros. This is almost 500 points of needing to go first, and well, there are plenty of games where you just don’t go first. Coteaz can help as can a Raven Guard Decurion, but this is still a formation that needs a lot of variables to go right, and that means there are more points of failure.
There is also the reality that this unit hits hard, but you can still flub your rolls or your opponent can make some beastly saves. Really large deathstars like Khorne-dogs, Wolftide, etc can also absorb a lot of punishment, so you may just get an early hit that doesn’t add up to a lot. You could also just biff your scatter and end up out of range to do anything impressive.
So overall, this is a unit that can be a real pain in the ass to the deathstars out there, but it can also be an epic fail, but then half the fun is trying, isn’t it? Of course, trying to win a shiny new army is also super cool, so check out the TFG Radio Patreon.