Thursday, January 24, 2013

Space Wolves - How to defeat Dark Angels

So Dark Angels have won the seemingly first "big" tournalment after the new codex. It's still early to see where exactly DA will fall, if at Necron /Chaos Demons power level or if will be more in line with the other Imperial armies.

We Space Wolves players have seen many armies rise and fall and we've always find a way to crack the hardest armies, so let's have a look at how can SW deal with those pesky Dark Angels! the interwebs may be going crazy with their 40 bolter shots per tactical squad and cheesy monk Terminators, but the answer is the same we've had in the past - cunning tactics, flawless execution and of course, lots of grey hunters and long fangs! there's nothing we can't bring down in combat, nothing we can't smack down to pieces with ranged fire if we do things right. Let's dive straight onto it:

Know thy enemy

For all their blings and new toys, Dark Angels aren't very different to what they used to be. They have great Terminator armies, excellent biker armies, and now will also make great hybrid armies plus some new gadgets - auspexes to reduce cover saves, Ravewing grenade launchers and son on. The below is a taxonomy of the builds that I think will become popular:

Deathwing - this is an army composed of some 25~30 scoring terminators, usually in squads of five with one heavy weapon. I would expect to see less hammenators than in 5th and rather mixed squads with a couple of storm bolters/power fist guys, a chainfist, a hammenator or two and the heavy weapon guy. Their Deathwing assault rule allows the controlling player to choose when each squad will enter by DS (if T1 or T2), and the first turn they will have twin-linked guns, so the alpha-strike potential is considerable. Now this army has good AI potential with lots of storm bolters and a decent AT via CML. Leaving the cheap home scoring unit or two aside this is a small and elite army, and such armies are taken down through sheer mass of bodies or shots. The key here it to take one unit at a time, and keep all the grey hunter packs together. 4 plasma shots per pack + 16 bolter shots, perhaps twin-linked with divination, will take a heavy toll on the DW. If the units have storm shields, try to land the plasma shots in those without it and send the bolter shots to the hammenators.

Plan the game in advance - once the Terminators are in the board, their mobility will be limited. Select the best placement for the grey hunters (usually close together, supporting each other and from a centered situation) and make sure that your Long Fangs have good lanes of fire. Now, in 6th Edition is a good thing to add a plasma cannon or two in the army as we see more and more foot hordes, and the split fire rule allows us to shoot each weapon to the right target.

In terms of target priority, DW Command Squads (perhaps with a revered Standard) and DW Knights make for juicy targets but keep in mind they do not score. If you have a chance to take one of those units down of course don't miss it, but in the most frequent case of having several targets to choose from, go for the scoring units. Last but not least, the terminators will be nicely packed together after deepstriking, ready to be jawsed to the pits of hell.

Ravenwing - where the DW has superb durability and limited mobility, the RW has a fragile nature but excellent mobility. All the bikers are scouts and have hit and run, which means we can't bog them down in combat and drown them in a mass of grey hunters. In top of that, the combination of jink, skilled rider and the nearby Darkshroud means they will enjoy a 2+ cover save to get to our lines, then shot the hell out of that with their TL bolters and plasma talons. Sammael will probably join the fragile RW command squad if there is any (and in that case they will carry the Standard of devastation for a lol-sy 4 bolter shots per rider), and will turbo boost 24" in the last turn to claim or contest objectives.

The first thing to consider is the objectives placement - RW are skilled riders but don't climb to the second floor of ruins, so use that to your advantage. Also keep in mind they outmaneuveur us, so the objectives need to be as close as possible - we want to play in the smallest court possible. Don't forget they all are Skilled Riders and as such pass all dangerous terrain tests. Second is we have the advantage of numbers. We need to drag the RW to a certain area and again hit a unit at at time, as hard as we can. The RW is a shooty army that wants to dance around us and shoot us at distance. The bikes are T5 but there will be  limited numbers, and a Grey Hunter charge is likely to win the combat. Keep in mind they will flee after the combat, so make sure there are no survivors (a full squad is 6 bikers, 6 wounds with a 3+) or combat squads with 3 bikers; nothing that can sustain a combat. As for the DA home objectives, expect to see a small unit or two, something like 5 man with a flakk ML; they can be easily dealt with either with the Long Fangs (no point in wasting missiles in a 2+ save unit), or with small outflanking or drop-podded unit. Now, considering the challenges to mobility in 6th edition for Space Wolves, this isn't an easy match-up and mistakes will be paid dearly, but one grey hunter alive is all that you need to claim an objective that your opponent cannot reach, so clench your fists and be ready for a long fight.

If the army has Land Speeders, let the Long Fangs have sport with them; even with cover saves, a few missiles is all we need to take down an open-topped, AV10 vehicle with 2 hull points.

Hybrid armies - this is where I suspect Dark Angels will be at their best. Azrael makes both DW and RW squads scoring, aside of providing a small suite of army buffs (Ld10 across units, select the warlord trait, 4++ to the unit he is with, etc). The standard hybrid army will feature a couple of DW units that will deep-strike close to our lines, a couple of biker units with locator beans, supported by some tacticals, devs and perhaps a Flyer. The good news is that Azrael can't DS with the DW or ride a bike, so he will have to foot-slog his way, come in a pod, or just keep his head behind the Aegis Defence line. In any case, their battleplan will be something like turboboosting the bikes T1 to help bring the DW T2, then hit with both hammers.

Playing to the Wolves strenghts 

The Dark Angels excel at their First and Second companies, which are composed of small elite units. One on one the Space Wolves will lose every single match-up, so it is important to keep the Grey Hunter packs together and have each unit supporting each other. Combined, the firepower or CC abilities of 2/3 packs can take anything the Dark Angels have to offer. Just make sure to protect them as much as you can from the initial strike that the DA are surely going to have (Deep-striking terminators or 2+ cover save bikers); careful placement of your rhinos or wolf guard terminators will soak up the brunt of the DA attack, then the Space Wolves are loose to counter-attack with everything else!

The rest of units -the "greenwing"- aren't as effective as our units and these are the engagements we want to take 1 on 1 - 5 scouts with bolter and 1/2 special weapons can decimate the small home objective unit (and if not will finish them in CC) and a Grey Hunter pack will eat a Tactical squad any day of the week. So make sure to not dedicate more resources than needed - we'll need them to deal with the Death and Raven wings.

For once, the Flyers play to the Space Wolves advantage - our ADL can take down their AV11 Flyers easily, and the points invested in flakk missiles are essentially wasted.

Dark Angels also don't have access to Sternguard vets that would be deadly to our troops, and heavy flamers aren't as popular. Iron clads or Furiosos aren't available as well, and when the odd multi-melta dread  in a drop pod comes across from time to time, well it's not a big deal to let it pop a Rhino and get some point-blank melta love in return.

Sniping is an important component of 6th Edition - make sure you go after heavy/special weapons, standard bearers and Ravenwing grenade launchers. Speaking of sniping, Jaws doesn't want to hear about your 2+cover save and will be happy show its teeth to any line of bikers or closely packed terminators.

Target priority should be fairly simple - DA can place hard-hitting units very close to our lines, leaving no room but to engage them. Always keep in mind 5/6 missions are objective-based, and all that matters is that by the end of the game we can have a lone Grey Hunter winning us that point.


The Dark Angels have a solid codex and some excellent elite units that can (and usually will) be made scoring, and have several interesting combinations. These units have excellent synergies and careful planning needs to be put in place to avoid being alpha striked and to be in a good situation for the counter-attack. The Space Wolves have to use their advantage of numbers, leverage the 2 special weapons per unit and their versatility to take on the DA units as they come, focusing to eliminate one unit at a time.

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