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8th Edition Dark Angels: A Competitive Analysis


Dark Angel by Totem Pole

Greetings, fellow Sons of the Lion! In this article, I will attempt to rate the entire Dark Angels army, or at least everything that isn't from Forge World. There will be an exhaustive unit listing by category (everything from both Codex: Dark Angels and the relevant units from Index: Imperium 1), as well as how good it is to add various allied Imperial forces, as well as a few common list archetypes seen in competitive play for Dark Angels. The following rating system will be used to rate each unit:

Outstanding : This rating denotes units that are the absolute best things to take. Almost always seen in competitive play.

Competitive : Slightly less good, but still highly useful in competitive play.

Solid : These units are either list fillers or units that have somewhat more niche uses.

Situational : Units with this rating are very rarely seen in competitive play, although they could have certain uses in casual play or extreme edge cases in competitive play (such as in gimmick lists).

Useless : The worst units to take in a list; most are bad even in casual play, let alone competitive.

In addition, pros and cons of each unit will be weighed. This analysis is current as of the Spring 2019 FAQ.

Unit Analysis



Rating: Outstanding

Azrael is the Chapter Master of the Dark Angels, and he is an absolute boss on the tabletop. His main use is his two aura abilities: full rerolls to hit on any Dark Angels unit within 6", and a 4+ invulnerable save on any Dark Angels INFANTRY and BIKE models within 6". This is massive; as the combination of an offensive and defensive buff can really allow you to put the hurt on the enemy while taking less damage in return from their stronger weapons. In addition to these abilities, Azrael himself is no slouch in combat, packing a whopping 5 attacks at Strength 6 that cause mortal wounds on a wound roll of 6+. His gun isn't terrible either, but you should never, ever supercharge the plasma part as it's really sad if he blows himself up. Actually, it can be okay to do this if he's on his last wound and probably about to die anyway, but honestly if it's down to this you are probably about to lose the game anyway. In addition to the auras and weapons, he also grants an extra Command Point if he is the Warlord, and his Warlord Trait is the best one from the Dark Angels book. The best use for Azrael is to build a strong infantry firebase around him (Hellblasters, Devastators, and Aggressors are all good choices for this), allowing his rerolls to benefit as many guns as possible. Vehicles can benefit from the rerolls, but they won't get the invul save buff, so keep that in mind (and watch out for those explosions). The only real weakness of Azrael is the fact that he forces you into a somewhat static playstyle, which certain other armies do a better job with. That being said, you can still bring the pain pretty good with Azrael, and he's a worthwhile inclusion in many Dark Angels lists.

Pros: Excellent aura buffs, extra Command Point if he is the Warlord, excellent Warlord Trait, decently beefy in close combat

Cons: Footslogging, which means your units that want to use his buffs have to stay close and won't move far on their own, which can leave you outmaneuvered. Has to be built around to get his value, which means enemy snipers will be putting a bullseye on him a lot.


Rating: Situational

The master of the Deathwing is a pretty deadly combatant in his own right, but he really comes into his own when he leads a force of Deathwing Terminators, as he provides them with full rerolls to hit. Even non-Deathwing units get to reroll 1's to hit near him, which is nice. His own combat abilities are pretty solid, with 4 attacks that always wound on 2's against non-vehicle targets and deal 2 damage apiece. In addition, enemies that swing at him in the Fight phase are -1 to hit thanks to his Parrying Blade ability. The only reason I rate Belial as Situational is because his aura buff is mainly good for Deathwing, who are not exactly strong in the current meta. If you insist on running Deathwing however, you definitely want to bring Belial along to get the maximum bang for your buck.

Pros: Strong in CC, nice aura buff for Deathwing

Cons: Expensive, Deathwing as a whole are not very good, moves slowly and can be kited easily.


Rating: Solid

Ezekiel is the Dark Angels' chief Librarian, and he's a pretty solid psyker. He can cast and deny 2 powers per turn, which is fairly decent. He gets to choose 3 powers from the Interromancy discipline, which makes him fairly versatile, as there are several decent powers in there and he can choose which ones he wants to use depending on how the game develops. Besides the extra Deny, an advantage Ezekiel has over a standard Librarian is the fact that he gets a 4+ invulnerable save. Few Librarians in the game that aren't in Terminator armor get an invul save. Ezekiel is not as beefy in combat as the other named characters, but his strength is his psychic powers. One other ability he has is that INFANTRY and BIKE models that die near him in the Fight phase get to make one last attack before they are removed, which could be good if the model in question has a strong melee weapon (e.g. Deathwing Knights). A situational ability, to be sure, but not bad. At the end of the day, if you are thinking of taking a Librarian in your list, consider taking Ezekiel instead; even just the extra Deny attempt is sometimes worth it.

Pros: Decent list of psychic powers, can attempt to deny 2 enemy psychic powers per turn, decently survivable with his 2+/4++ save.

Cons: More expensive than a standard Librarian by a good margin, no mobility options such as a Bike or Jump Pack, meaning he might have trouble getting to where he's needed depending on the flow of the game.


Rating: Situational

Asmodai is the special Interrogator-chaplain character for Dark Angels, and he does what all Chaplains do, which is granting rerolls in close combat for nearby Dark Angels units and allowing them to use his own Leadership value. Asmodai also gives a debuff of -1 Leadership to enemies near him, but honestly that isn't usually worth too much since a lot of armies can get around morale issues. This is a standard thing for all of our Interrogator-chaplains. Now let's look at what abilities are uniquely Asmodai's. The main one is the +1 Attack buff for friendly Dark Angels within 6". This is very nice, but the big problem is that Dark Angels don't have a lot of units that want to be in CC, and the ones we do have are hard to make good use of (e.g. Deathwing Knights). Asmodai also carries the Blades of Reason, which, although they cause d6 damage per hit, are not that good as the attacks are only strength 4 and AP0. He does also have the standard Chaplain's Crozius Arcanum. Overall he's not terrible, but there are almost always better uses of his point cost, which is not insignificant.

Pros: Pretty decent aura abilities

Cons: Expensive for what he does, stuck on foot meaning he needs to ride in a transport with the unit he wants to buff, automatically excluding Primaris units that could benefit from him.

Sammael on Corvex

Rating: Solid

Sammael is for Ravenwing what Belial is for Deathwing, granting full hit rerolls to friendly Ravenwing and giving other Dark Angels rerolls of 1's to hit. Sammy is also somewhat of a monster in melee combat, having 5 attacks that are Strength 8 if he charged, Strength 5 if not, and do 2 damage apiece. His ranged weapons are nothing to write home about, with 8 bolter shots thanks to the Bolter Discipline rule and a plasma cannon (just like with Azrael, supercharging is a desperate act that should not be done in normal circumstances). His speed means he can easily keep up with Ravenwing bikes and Black Knights, granting them rerolls and good melee support. Overall he's not too bad, but he's infinitely more powerful when he leaves the jetbike at home and takes his Land Speeder.

Pros: Fast, good aura ability, decent warlord trait, strong in CC, very cool-looking model

Cons: Expensive, inferior to his Land Speeder version

Sammael in Sableclaw

Rating: Outstanding

This version of Sammael is the one that really puts in the work. He actually moves even faster than his jetbike, and he has far better guns, putting out 6 S5 AP-1 shots and 12 S6 AP-1 shots. The guns are Heavy though, so he will be hitting on 3's most of the time, rerolling 1's only due to rerolls happening before modifiers. Still, he can absolutely murder hordes, especially when supported by one or more Ravenwing Talonmasters. His CC ability and aura buffs are exactly the same as his jetbike version, but he's more durable and better armed in the speeder, so it's almost always better to take the speeder.

Pros: Great weapons, very fast, can really hurt horde armies that could otherwise bog down the shooty units in Dark Angels.

Cons: Even more expensive than the jetbike version, the large size of the model means it's harder to hide, vulnerable to certain anti-vehicle weapons such as Haywire weapons.

This article is a work in progress.


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