Wednesday, May 11

Death From Above! Part II

Decent of Angels Advanced Tactics Part II
Maintaining the Initiative

As mentioned in my previous article, the strength of a Decent of Angels list, as with any drop or deep strike list, is maintaining the initiative. Once your opponent gains the initiative and forces you to react to him you will start losing, no question about that and this can be said about just any army. This is especially true with a fire style army, as described in Duke’s series of articles outlining the various elemental styles present in most armies. Nothing will better prepare you for winning a game, especially at a tournament, than experience, but other factors will ensure that you have at least a fighting chance. Now, DoA armies are not the win all, be all army list. They have weaknesses, like all lists, and those can be exploited by anyone that knows them. Knowing what your own weaknesses are will help you defend against this. They have advantages as well…

Tactical Flexibility:
DoA have options, especially with deployment. Keep in mind that an army capable of deep strike doesn’t always have to deep strike. I prefer to, when given the chance, go second. One, this allows me that all critical chance during the last turn to seize objectives. More importantly, it allows you to make the choice of deep striking or not after your opponent has already deployed as well as forcing your opponent to roll reserves before you (remember that whole ‘make the enemy react to you’ bit… here is a big part of that). Just in case, though, always have a plan to go first, regardless.
 Additionally, it gives the opponent time to spread out. Should your opponent do this, big mistake. You now have the opportunity to knock out isolated units, drop behind his lines, or focus your forces on a flank.

Know your weakness: Where the DoA list is lacking:
-Tanks. With the exception of the occasional Storm Raven carrying a dreadnought, the DoA have no armor support. This is both a weakness, and an advantage. No tanks mean that your opponent’s anti-tank weapons and squads have nothing to shoot at… other than your jump infantry. Most balanced lists include a mix of both anti-infantry and anti-armor weapons, but when faced with a foe that has no armor, all of those weapons are turned on your infantry. That Tau railgun toting broadside is great at punching a hole in a 250 point Landraider from across the board, but less effective against your 20 point assault marine that just landed next to him. Losing a LR is a punch to the gut, losing a 20 point marine is expected. There is no doubt that you will lose infantry to anti-armor weapons, this is unavoidable, but will not hurt your army in the same way that it would a mech army. Having a Shield of Sanguinius Libby helps with this as well.  On the other side of the coin, tanks offer protection verses those anti-infantry weapons, as well as mobile cover. With the right distribution of Priests and their 6” FNP bubble and everyone in power armor, this will hopefully afford you some survivability verses these weapons. Tanks also afford mobility, but this is less of an issue because all the troops in a DoA have jump packs. This does not mean, however that you will be able to reach that DE Raider scooting along and keeping out of your short range.

-This leads to the next weakness, lack of long range weaponry. Most DoA lists will have nothing or very little that can shoot farther than 12’’. Keep in mind that your troops are dropping in at point blank range and can jump 12” a turn. Eventually that pesky Landspeeder or DE Ravager is going to get away after you fail to kill it on the drop in. Meltaguns are, in fact, the most inaccurate weapon in the galaxy!

- No assault the turn you drop (with the exception of VV). Although you more than likely blew glorious chunks in the enemy lines, melted tanks, and sowed discord in the enemy ranks, your forces are most vulnerable the turn that they land and survivors will be out for retaliation. Your tightly packed formations are juicy targets for pie plates! In addition, you probably landed outside of cover. Being so close to the enemy, you will get shot to hell and then charged. One of my mantras is “charge lest ye be charged.” Even a small unit of guard will be willing to charge a recently dropped pile of blood angels rather than be charged the following assault phase.

Mastering the Drop: Army placement
I have already discussed the art of placing an individual unit for best odds during the drop, now let me discuss the overall deployment of your army. With a reroll on reserves, the majority of your army WILL arrive on turn two (bad dice rolls can, and do, happen… I know). How you drop your force on the enemy will not only shape the rest of battle, it will also make or break the game as a whole. The key thing that I have learned is to not break up and spread your army out looking for juicy targets. Chances are your opponent is luring you out into a trap. They will leave ‘convenient holes’ in their lines for you to drop into, where you will pop a cheap transport then suffer a withering hale of return fire followed by an assault from the unit inside. If you spread out, you will be picked off as your opponent brings his whole army to bear on what will likely be your smaller unprotected force.
Converted Dante w/ 4 wings. 
My favorite tactic, but not my only, is to drop my army on a vulnerable flank… all of my army. Mutually supporting your squads with other squads increases effectiveness and survivability, in the military we call this "economy of Force," . An example, one of my 10 man assault squads is equipped with flamers. I drop this squad next to a tank that I plan on vap’n with another squad, then toast them with my flamers and bolt pistols from the other. Additionally, drop in a VV squad next to another tank, such as the Land Raider that Dante and his infernus pistol blinging Sanguinary Guard are about to turn to slag, and assault the death star inside… not to defeat them, but keep them from charging you (remember that mantra?) and delay them until your furiously charging reinforcements can join the fray. The following turns your army sweeps along the enemy lines, merrily shooting and assaulting everything in sight.
Concentrating your force, on a flank or not, forces your opponent to react to you. Units are forced to move to get a better shot (and thus leaving themselves open for any units that didn’t arrive turn 2), and you are more likely to maintain that bubble of protection offered by the librarian and priests. This takes finesse, as you take a mishap roll if you land on a friendly unit just the same as an enemy one. Focusing your force also leaves an opponent a bit more cautious when it comes to the assault phase. 10 assault marines can be dealt with fairly easily, but 30 or more is a bit more of a challenge. Even if you get charged, reinforcements are right next to you. After you’ve survived the following players turn, you now have all the jumpy goodness and flexibility to maneuver and assault as you wish!

One little trick we have been talking about is DSing two units next to each-other and ready to shoot a big target with a death star inside (Land Raider), for example the two units could be Dante w/ sang guard and a regular Assault squad. In the shooting phase have Dantes boys slag the Raider and then have the regular assault squad run in front of Dantes unit to protect them from the death-star as a speed bump. 

The Blood Angel DoA list is a ton of fun, but tricky to play. Don’t expect to win all your games, but learn from them and enjoy them just the same. Future DoA articles will focus on how to deal with particular armies and army types as well as how the DoA list approaches different types of game objectives.

What are some tips and tactics you are using to help keep your DOA alive in that all important first drop? We would love to hear them.

Happy Hunting,
Immortal Out.


  1. I personally agree 100% about using that economy of force... Too many times people get greedy and lose whole squads when the meltaguns miss.


  2. As a caveat to this post,
    The Dark Eldar wave II was just announced.
    (scroll down for the razorwing!)

    This is bad news for a DoA list, namely because of the venom. In my opinion, with a swarm of these running around (venom spam) with 5 man squads all toting poisoned (4+) anti-infantry death, these pose a huge threat to a DoA list because;
    -1. Even with a great drop, a few will get away… good luck catching them.
    -2. The ones you do get are likely kited to delaying or chewing up your fancy and expensive squad inside.
    How I deal with them? Combat squad. They have lots of 5 man units running around in miniature raiders, fine. I’ll just drop a ton of jump infantry. Even my flamers have a decent chance of bringing down these little guys (AV 10, +1 for open topped).
    I have to admit though, that the miniatures are beautiful. The Talos/Chronos is creapy (which is cool) and the scourges have a very ‘evil swooping hawk’ feel (appropriate). Personally, I can’t wait for the Craftworld Eldar update!

    Comments welcome!