Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ravenwing Army Breakdown Part 1: HQ

Ravenwing Army Breakdown Part 1: HQ

I'm going to try to do one of these breakdowns every week or two between tournaments to talk about my favorite army, the Ravenwing. I'll start by going through each slot (maybe Elite and Heavy support together), then the detachments and formations. Finally I'll do some allies discussion and finish it off with something like an FAQ if people have enough questions. They'll be intermittent between tournament posts.

The only character with the Ravenwing special rule (along with fearless and hatred (CSM) like all deathwing), at first glance there's a lot to like about Sammael. A plasma cannon, 4++ and ap2 power sword at initiative look great, and his fixed warlord trait is one of the best in the game for Dark Angels. Unfortunately, Sammael is one of a few units that only looks good on paper. In practice he will rarely get to fire his plasma cannon because he will be jinking. His eternal warrior isn't all that useful and if you're using his invuln to tank for the squad something has gone horribly wrong to begin with. Also S4 means he swings like a wet noodle in close combat, even with his ap 2. For as much as 5 black knights Sammael just won't give you enough to make back his cost most games. His main problem is that he has a laundry list of rules that don't really mesh together. His warlord trait and skilled rider make closing the distance much easier, but then he doesn't do all that much damage in combat and won't be firing his plasma cannon if he's jinking. He could be decent at flying around in the back sniping things with his plasma cannon, but there are much much cheaper ways to get plasma cannons on the field and Ravenwing are already saturated with plasma. He might have decent potential as an ally for other armies because he's one of the few units that can pass out hit and run to his squad and his warlord trait could help a real heavyweight to get into cc. This would only be useful if you want to make the mother of all deathstars though, because his point cost is still a lot. A small point discount or another point of strength or two is all he needs to actually be the powerhouse he wants to be, but unless that happens I'd pass on him for competitive builds. His model remains one of the most gorgeous in all of 40k though.

My Sammael model, painted by a buddy wielding an axe gifted by another friend.

Similar issues to Sammael on his jetbike. The drive by attack isn't very good although this thing is tough as all get out with 14 av on 3 sides and a 4++. You may be able to get a little more mileage out of Sammael in his land speeder because he can jink or just avoid anti tank weaponry thanks to his speed and make decent use of his weapons. He's still very expensive for what he does and his awesome warlord trait and laundry list of utility are gone or mostly useless in his speeder.

Cheapest choice to lead a ravenwing army. You can get a lot of mileage out of these guys. They give your block of bikes fearless and access to a huge range of powers. There's something useful in pretty much every discipline and it would take awhile to analyze all of them, but I'll give a few highlights below. Interromancy is surprisingly useful, and giving this guy Eye of the Unseen can make him a makeshift chaplain as well.
Invisibility - This power is silly and we all know it. Never need to jink again.
Righteous Repugnance - Black Knights with Rage and Eye of the Unseen will smash a lot of things in close combat.
Aversion - Like a reverse invisibility from a discipline that sucks less.
Mind Wipe - Probably 1 warp charge too much because no one ever fails that leadership test, but hilarious all the same. Also as far as I understand this can be used on vehicles, they'll just auto-pass the leadership test.
Mind Worm - Short range is offset by the the speed of the bikes. Once against Eye of the Unseen can help guarantee this will suck someone's brain out.
Veil of Time - Useful against armies who will pile on the saves in cc or ignore cover.
Null Zone - You have a plasma fetish and they want to use protection.
Electrodisplacement - Like invisibility most of the rest of this discipline is bad, but if you're a crazy person and get this power it is OH SO ridiculous thanks to ravenwing’s speed and scouting.

As far as other gear goes for this gentleman, an auspex isn't a bad choice and can round out your list if you've got points to spare. Conversion fields are iffy because ideally he's rolling with people who have are rerollable jink, and the blind effect will rarely matter except against necron and idiotic tau players who shoot you at point blank. Shroud of Heroes is ok if he's gonna go rolling around on his own. Force mauls are unnecessary since you have black knights. Swords are ok but in an all comers list I'd also go with the force axe for some better ap for your squad.

One of my Librarian models, painted by my roommate and wielding another Space Wolf axe (sense a trend here?)

He's cheaper than an interrogator while keeping hatred and an invulnerable save. The only real benefit to him is that he's cheap though, because he ultimately doesn't do that much for your army that a librarian doesn't. Better combat is only useful if you expect to be slugging it out in cc a lot, and hit and run certainly works well with hatred, but with so many popular tournament builds using psykers a few extra warp charge and better deny the witch is going to be better than a 50% invuln a lot of the time. Also remember this guy doesn't get access to relics.

Interrogator Chaplain
If you're thinking about taking Sammael and then decide you don't like wasting points, this gentleman is an excellent choice. He can make a decent beatstick hq and the extra wound and 4++ over a librarian is nice. Unfortunately ravenwing are a jack of all trades army and a chaplain forces you into a more melee focused build. This doesn't make the chaplain bad, but unless you know what you're going up against the librarian tends to be a better choice. Easy access to a power fist and a shroud of heroes can make the chaplain stand out though, so I certainly wouldn't overlook him.

A weird choice, I've personally never tried this or seen someone try it, but it might have its merits. A 2+ armor save helps a lot against ignores cover weapons which usually don't have good ap, and he'll even get his save against things like baleflamers. The built in two power fists are pretty solid as well. I could see him being a decent choice if you want to follow a knight or other big allied vehicle around while also keeping your black knights alive. Ravenwing do make excellent allies and if you already have a different way of dealing with psykers (like a culexus) this could be a viable, if sorta silly, strategy. Remember, for the same cost of a techmarine with a servo harness you could have a level 2 librarian. Make sure you're willing to specialize your force at the cost of more general utility.

The librarian reigns king as the cheap utility choice to lead a ravenwing army, but the other options aren't necessarily bad. Techmarines and chaplains are cheap and enhance your survivability and melee strength at the cost of psychic defense and powers, while interrogator chaplains are strong but expensive and again only help in combat. Sammael suffers from his inability to hit very hard or decide what the hell he's doing, making him arguably the worst choice, but managing to stay above “awful never take him” because of his huge list of utility. If you have a specific plan in mind for a character take that one, but when you need a generic hq you'll be served best by a librarian.


  1. Nice review. I run Ravenwing myself and love the army.

    I've never had much success with the Librarian, he tends to not do much in my forces and either struggles to cast many psychic powers or kills himself trying to cast higher level powers.

    I really like the Interrogator-Chaplain. I run him with the Mace of Redemption in a Black Knight squad. He really boosts their combat potential with his re-rolls.

    You are right about Sammael, if he was S5 or S6, he would be almost an autoinclude in any army. At S4, he really struggles against other bike armies (somewhat ironic).

    1. Thanks!

      I could go more in-depth on psychic power usage if you'd like. I'd keep it specific to Ravenwing and what benefits them most but I could cover some psychic 101 if you find yourself struggling with them.