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Blood Angels Tactica for Beginners by MrEconomics (5th Edition)

This guide is now out of date. Use at your own risk.

Pic by RAFF from the Dakka Gallery


Hello. My name is Tom, and I go by MrEconomics on Dakka. I am writing this article to assist anyone who is thinking about starting to play 40k and plans to begin collecting a Blood Angels army. While most of the advice below is aimed at those who are new to 40k, some of it may be of use to anyone who is new to Blood Angels or wants to make an existing uncompetitive army more competitive.

Before we begin, I want to explain my 40k background and discuss my goals for this article. My intention with these paragraphs is to help you, the reader, decide how much to follow my advice. I have been playing 40k for a little less than a year, and Blood Angels are my only army. I consider myself a competitive player, and I plan to be a tournament player eventually. At the moment, I have no tournament experience. I have acheived a pretty decent record for a 40k novice, I believe, of 4 wins, 6 draws and 2 losses. The fact that my army was put together recently should be helpful as well.

This article is intended to help someone who owns no 40k products and has no 40k experience get to the point where they have a good 2000 point army that could do well in a tournament in the hands of a decent player. I am not here to teach you the rules, give you advice on painting, or make you an expert tactician on the tabletop. I am going to mostly stick to giving advice on choosing what to buy and explaining my theories on how to make a competitive army list. My number one goal with this article is to help you avoid mistakes that I have either made myself or observed others making, mistakes that lead to wasted money and losing games.

Of course, there are many reasons to play 40k other than a simple desire to defeat other players. All of the advice I will be giving assumes you want to build an army that wins, and that you are willing to consider any legal army choice that helps this goal. In particular, I assume you do not prefer to take certain units because of how they look or other "coolness" factors. I also assume you are willing to acquire pieces of models that do not come standard in GW kits. For example, I assume you are willing to use Meltaguns in your Assault Squads, even though they do not come in the Assault Squad box. Finally, I also assume you will not avoid effective army choices because others think they are "cheesy" or "unfair" or "spam". As you will see, I believe good units should be taken in multiples, and I assume you are willing to do so.

First Steps

In this section, I will lay out the things you should do before you buy your first 40k models. I strongly suggest you do these things before you buy models, to avoid "oh, crap" moments later. If you have some money burning a hole in your pocket and simply can't wait any longer, I suggest you buy my "Easy 500 Point Army", which follows later. That list was selected to include only models that should always be useful to you.

Before you buy models, it's a good idea to do some prep work. I am assuming that you have already decided to play Blood Angels for whatever reason. If you are not fully committed, your first task should be deciding which army is for you. To do this, I suggest you read as many army codexes as you can. Borrow them from friends, look at the samples at your Friendly Local Gaming Store, or use other methods. Assuming you are playing Blood Angels, the first thing you should do is buy the 40k rulebook (usually called the Big Grey Rulebook) and the Blood Angels codex. It would be a very good idea to read them both completely before proceeding. Ideally, you should have most of the rules memorized before your first game. This worked for me, as I like to read and am generally good at that sort of thing. If it doesn't work for you, at least try to read the basics. You will have no idea what a good army is until you fully understand the rules and are very familiar with the Blood Angels codex.

One side note: Beware the suggestions Games Workshop gives on their website. You may be able to get good advice from a GW employee, but keep in mind that their job is to sell models. The advice GW gives on the web is completely terrible, and their sample army lists are a joke. I have seen many bad army lists on DakkaDakka, but GW sample lists are some of the worst I've seen in print.

Now, I am assuming you plan to fully paint your models. It is totally ok, in my opinion at least, to try stuff out with unpainted models. It is also totally lame, again in my opinion, to play unpainted models once you know what you want your list to be. In the sections that follow, I will tell you how to magnetize your models, so wanting to have flexibility is not an excuse. I suggest you get in the painting habit early.

Once you have the rulebooks and a basic grasp of the rules, I suggest you play a few games with other peoples' models. If you can go to an official GW store, you can ask to play an introduction game. They will be more than happy to help you, and you don't need to know the rules, so that can be a good way to help learn. Be warned: They don't use the full rules set. Non-GW stores have the stuff to do a sample game too, or you can ask people that play there to help you. Use these games to get a feel for the game, and get a sense for what sort of army you want. I suggest you play these sample games before you buy any models, in case you decide a different army is more what you want.

Now that you have a basic grasp of the rules and are set on Blood Angels, it's time to discuss which models are good, which are bad, and how to construct a decent army list. Obviously, you will get more out of what follows if you have done more reading than less. At the very least, the discussion below should help you decide which sort of army you want.

Blood Angels Army Builds

First things first: Some units are better than others. I am not going to go through the codex, explain what each unit is good at, discuss its pros and cons, and give it a ranking. You can read, and hopefully you can think, so the first two things should be blindingly obvious once you know the rules. What I am going to do is describe the two main types of Blood Angels army, list the units that fit in each one, and briefly discuss why that type of army works well. If a unit is not discussed, you can assume that lacking the unit will not cripple your army list. It does not mean the omitted unit is terrible, merely not essential and not one of the most obviously attractive choices.

As mentioned above, good armies tend to contain multiples of things. If there is enough interest, I might put together an article some day that explains why that is the case using Economic theory. For now, the main reason is that you want to keep your opponent from being able to destroy the things that scare him the most quickly. Obviously, it is much easier to kill one tank than three, so if your tanks are the main thing that scares your opponent, you don't want him to be able to quickly kill all of them. So, good builds choose one or two types of threat, and then overwhelm the opponent's ability to deal with them.

Now, the next thing we want to do is play to the strengths of the Blood Angels codex. One must accept that other armies can do some things better than Blood Angels can. For example, if you want to shoot as many Large Blasts as possible, an Imperial Guard army would be a better choice. Our goal is to pick at least one of the things the BA codex is good at and exploit the hell out of it. In particular, we want to avoid strategies that other Space Marine armies can do better. There are three major things that the Blood Angels codex has that most others do not: Almost all our vehicles are Fast, we have the ability to easily give units Furious Charge and Feel No Pain, and we have the Descent of Angels special rule.

If the terms used in the previous paragraph are unfamiliar to you, read the rulebook or the codex.

The first type of army is usually simply called Mech. It mostly uses the first advantage, the fact that all our vehicles are Fast. Being Fast helps in two ways. First, we can cover more ground. Second, our vehicles can move and shoot more weapons than standard vehicles. Another critical advantage is that we can get discounts on Razorbacks by taking Assault Marines as Troops. This helps get more vehicles on the table. The icing on the cake is that we can take a tank (the Baal Predator) out of the Fast Attack slot. This allows us to field more armor than other Space Marine lists.

Mech lists are always based around a core of Assault Marines in Razorbacks. They are usually supported by Baal Predators and either Predators with an Autocannon turret and Lascannon sponsons, or Vindicators. A Librarian is the standard HQ choice, but some people like Mephiston. Some use Sanguinary Priests or Honor Guards, some don't. The last common unit is Furioso Dreadnoughts, who can be upgraded to Librarians or not. Mech Blood Angels lists are generally believed to be some of the strongest lists in existence today. This is actually a problem in big tournaments, as every ambitious player is prepared for them.

The other type of list is usually called a Descent of Angels list. The idea is to leverage the Descent of Angels special rule, along with the glory that is Sanguinary Priests. Good versions of this type of list never include any vehicles whatsoever. This lack of vehicles is a major advantage, as it causes your opponent's anti-tank weapons to be much less useful than they normally are. Again, the army is built around Assault Marines, although this army tends to take them in squads of 10 instead of 5 and keeps the Jump Packs. A Librarian is the usual HQ, and you of course include some Sanguinary Priests with Jump Packs. For support, many use Honor Guards with 4 special weapons and JPs, as well as Vanguard Veterans. The last possibility is including Devastators to provide fire support.

DoA lists are not quite as powerful as mech lists, but they are less common and less feared, which is an advantage. They do have major problems against certain lists, however, and need more player skill.

So, decide which type of army you want. The good news is that Assault Marines and Librarians are good in both, so I am going to suggest you start by buying them, so you can change your mind later. To be fully flexible, though, you need to do a little more work. You need to magnetize your models, and that is what is discussed next.

Magnetizing Your Models, And Why You're Going To Do It

Magnetizing your models is an easy, cheap way to give yourself the ability to swap options on a model. For example, a model may have a choice of weapons. If you were to assemble the model by simply gluing all the parts together, you will not be able to change the weapon option in the future. Magnetizing the model allows you to make a switch.

While magnetizing models is mostly pretty easy, it does require planning ahead, as magnets do not come in the standard kits. This is why I am giving the subject it's own section and talking about it before we discuss buying your first models. It's very easy to buy those kits and decide you simply can't wait to put them together, so I strongly suggest you buy the magnets first.

I recommend buying disk magnets that are 1/8 inch in diameter and 1/32 inch thick. I bought mine from K and J magnetics online, and paid about $20 for 200 magnets, which were more than enough to magnetize my complete 2000 point army. You will also need a 1/8 inch drillbit, and a very small drillbit and modelling drill. The 1/8 inch drillbit I have is big enough to hold in my fingers and use on its own, but the small one needs an actual drill.

Buying Your First Models

When you buy your first models, it's important to plan ahead. Since your eventual goal is a 2000 point army, you should buy stuff that will fit it, even if you plan to play at smaller point levels first. This means you may not have the most competitive army at first, especially if you play at 500 first like I did. Consider it a learning experience. You should also buy everything you need to assemble and paint. That includes plastic glue, super glue, spray primer, paint, brushes, a modelling knife, a plastic snipper and of course magnets. Most if not all of these things can be purchased more cheaply at non-GW stores if you want to. Using GW paint is probably a good idea though, as it makes it easier to follow online painting advice.

The best deals are probably found online, but you should strongly consider buying this initial round of stuff at a local store, especially if you plan to play there. They can help you with painting and it's a good way to meet people to play against.

What To Buy

For your first models, it makes sense to focus on the stuff you need to field a legal list, which means a HQ and 2 Troops choices. For Blood Angels, the only Troops you should really consider are Assault Marines. The best HQ choice is easily a Librarian. So, to make a decent 500 point list, a good shopping list would be 2 boxes of Assault Marines (10 models), 1 box of Death Company (5 models) and a Librarian. All of these models will be useful in any Blood Angels army, mechanized or not, so I suggest you start here.

You may wonder why I suggest you buy Death Company models when they are not mentioned in my list of competitive units. A unit of Death Company is actually a bad inclusion in most lists. However, the models can be used as Assault Marines, and the Death Company box contains some extras that will be very helpful, like arms that can be used to hold two-handed weapons, that are not included in the Assault Marine box. In fact, you could only buy Death Company models if you want. I suggest a mix simply so you have some variety.

As for Librarian, you can buy Mephiston's model or one of the standard Librarians. I suggest you stay away from Librarians in Terminator Armor, as you probably won't want that.

It is also crucial to acquire some special weapons that do not come in the standard Assault Marine box. Meltaguns are pretty much essential these days, and getting some Flamers is a good idea too. If you plan to eventually have a list with lots of vehicles, you will probably want some Plasmaguns too, so you can make Lascannon/Twin-Linked Plasmagun Razorbacks. Sadly, these special weapons are not included in either the Assault Marine box nor the Death Company box. You will need to get them from the web, either from GW or third-parties. GW sells 5 Meltaguns or 5 Plasmaguns for $8 online. For whatever stupid reason, they do not sell Flamers. You can get them from a third-party, or try to buy or trade for some from a player you know. Thankfully, you can get by with only a few Flamers. I take 2 in my 2000 point list.

If you plan on running a mech army, this is a good shopping list. You can add vehicles later, but you don't need them at 500 points. However, you absolutely must magnetize your backpacks if this is your plan, so you can run them with Jump Packs now, and regular backpacks later.

If you plan on a jump list, you might as well add a few extra Jump Packs to the shopping list. Models sold individually, like Librarians and Sanguinary Priests, don't come with them so you'll need to get some extras separately.

Easy 500 Point Army List

Here is a potential way to run the models I suggest above as a solid 500 point list.

  • HQ: Librarian (Use the rulebook powers and take Wings of Sanguinius so he can keep up)
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines with 2 Meltaguns
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines with 2 Flamers

Next Steps

Once you've bought your first models, obviously you need to assemble them first. Of course, this includes magnetization. I also strongly suggest you paint them before you play. It isn't strictly required, but it's still a good idea for several reasons. First, you'll probably enjoy the game more if you play with painted models; there's just something unsatisfying about seeing a bunch of grey plastic on the table. Second, it will give you a push to paint everything, and you won't get in the bad habit of playing with unpainted models.

Most importantly, though, your opponents will appreciate it, and you will have better games as a result. This will be true even if your painting is not very good. It's sort of like speaking the local language when you travel; even if you can't speak it very well, those you talk to will appreciate the effort. I would say it's especially important to have a painted army if you have a mechanized list. The simple fact is that a lot of 40k players are not playing to win, they play because they like to paint or tell a story. These sorts of players often resent playing against strong lists like the ones I suggest, and this can lead to bad games. However, I believe you can encourage such people to give you the benefit of the doubt by painting your army. You send a signal to them that, while you do play the sort of competitive list they resent, you also appreciate the parts of the hobby that are important to them. My only goal in designing my army lists is winning, and my armies are of the sort that this type of person usually doesn't like. I've also never once had an opponent complain about my boring, cheesy army, even those who really had no chance of winning against me from the beginning of the game. I've never put an unpainted model on the table, and I believe that is why I've never had these problems. Paint your army.

Once you have a painted 500 point army, you should use it! Play at least 3 or so games so you can see if a jump army is what you want, and to make sure you know the rules, at least as far as infantry is concerned. After that, try to come up with a larger army list, and build towards it. The last section of this article contains two sample 2000 point army lists. One is the mechanized list I run, the other is a jump list I might run someday.

Good luck in the 40k hobby, and never forget to have fun.

Sample 2000 Point Army Lists

Mr. E's Mechanized Blood Angels

  • HQ: Librarian with Shield and Fear of the Darkness
  • EL: Furioso Dreadnought with Blood Talons
  • EL: Furioso Dreadnought with Blood Talons
  • TR: 5 Assault Marines, Lascannon/TL-Plasmagun Razorback, Meltagun, Power Fist
  • TR: 5 Assault Marines, Lascannon/TL-Plasmagun Razorback, Meltagun, Power Fist
  • TR: 5 Assault Marines, Lascannon/TL-Plasmagun Razorback, Meltagun, Power Fist
  • TR: 5 Assault Marines, Lascannon/TL-Plasmagun Razorback, Flamer, Meltabombs
  • TR: 5 Assault Marines, Lascannon/TL-Plasmagun Razorback, Flamer, Meltabombs
  • FA: Baal Predator with TL-Assault Cannon turret
  • FA: Baal Predator with TL-Assault Cannon turret
  • FA: Baal Predator with TL-Assault Cannon turret
  • HS: Predator with Autocannon turret, Lascannon sponsons
  • HS: Predator with Autocannon turret, Lascannon sponsons
  • HS: Predator with Autocannon turret, Lascannon sponsons

Total: 2000

Our Autocannons Are Useless!

  • HQ: Librarian with Jump Pack, Shield and Unleash Rage
  • HQ: Honor Guard with 3 Meltaguns, 1 Flamer, Jump Packs
  • EL: 2 Sanguinary Priests with Jump Packs 150
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines, Jump Packs, 2 Meltaguns, Power Fist
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines, Jump Packs, 2 Meltaguns, Power Fist
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines, Jump Packs, 2 Meltaguns, Power Fist
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines, Jump Packs, 2 Flamers, Lightning Claw
  • TR: 10 Assault Marines, Jump Packs, 2 Flamers, Lightning Claw
  • HS: 5 Devastators, 4 Missile Launchers
  • HS: 5 Devastators, 4 Missile Launchers
  • HS: 5 Devastators, 4 Missile Launchers

Total: 2000


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