40K Review: Deathwing Strike Force Formation


Deathwing Horz

Michael here with a review of the Deathwing Strike Force Detachment; designed to bring the white termys to the tabletop in force.

For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.


The Deathwing Strike Force is a special Dark Angels Detachment designed to allow players to field a force of Deathwing units. The formation gives the player a great degree of reserves manipulation when combined with a Ravenwing formation, making it very useful to take the Ravenwing Attack Squadron or Ravenwing Strike Force. The big downside of the formation is that, unlike the Ravenwing Strike Force, this detachment cannot be used to build an all-Deathwing army, as all units must begin the game in reserve.



  • Compulsory- One HQ and 2 Elites choices
  • Optional: Two HQ and 10 Elites choices
  • All units in the Detachment must have the Deathwing special rule or be Dedicated Transports.

Command Benefits:

  • Summoned to War- All units in the Detachment must start the game in Deep Strike reserve if they are able to do so, or in reserve if they can not. If the army includes a Ravenwing Attack Squadron or Ravenwing Strike Force, you can choose to automatically pass or fail any reserve rolls for units in the formation.
  • First Knight of Caliban– you can re-roll your Warlord Trait on the Dark Angels table if this is your primary detachment.
  • Take the Fight to the Enemy– Units in the formation that arrive from Deep Strike can shoot and run or run and then shoot on the turn they arrive.


This detachment allows you to field (in general terms) a strike force of Terminators, Characters in Terminator Armour and Venerable Dreadnoughts. Some Dark Angels players may lament the ability to field an army comprised entirely of Deathwing Terminators, but the detachment does give some nice bonuses to a Deathwing Strike Force, which is designed to work ideally in conjunction with other Ravenwing units and formations in the army.


First off, the Detachment should always be used in conjunction with the Ravenwing Attack Squadron or Ravenwing Strike Force. Taking these formations/detachments gives you complete control of when each unit in the Deathwing Strike Force will arrive. This eliminates the random nature of reserves rolls and allows you to plan your strategy with much greater efficiency than normal. The Ravenwing Attack Squadron also gives a benefit to deploying using the Bikes’ Teleport Homers, extending their range from 6″ to 12″. This will make getting the Terminator units into position much easier, allowing your reserves to arrive exactly where and when you want them to in most cases. The army only has to include either of these Ravenwing Formations to benefit from the special rules, they don’t have to be on the board or even alive for you to still benefit from choosing when to pass your reserve rolls.

Any units that arrive from Deep Strike reserve also gain a psuedo-battle focus, allowing them to run and shoot or shoot and then run. This allows you to maximise your firepower (which is also twin-linked thanks to Vengeful Strike rule) and then spread out your unit to minimise the effect of template/blast weapons or to increase/decrease your range from the opposing army.


The downsides of the Detachment are that is can be quite expensive if you take a number of Deathwing units, and it is mostly composed of Terminators and Dreadnoughts, two units that are not considered highly competitive in the current game.

One possible tactic could be to use the Deathwing Strike Force and Ravenwing Strike Force in combination to try and combat an alpha-strike army. By taking at least one Venerable Dreadnought in a Drop Pod, you ensure that you have at least two units that can be deployed on turn 1, so as not to auto-lose. The rest of the army from both Strike Forces can then be held in reserve and can all arrive en masse in turn 2 using the special rules from each respective formation. Given the Deep Striking nature of the Deathwing army and the fact that most of the Ravenwing units can Outflank, this should give you the option to strike back at your opponent from any direction. If you are able to go second, you can null deploy your army and force your opponent to deploy most or all of his forces before the bulk of your army arrives to deal with them. If you are forced to go first, you can either risk that your single Dreadnought and Drop Pod will survive the enemy firepower or deploy the Ravenwing Strike Force and wait for the Deathwing to come in.


The Deathwing Strike Force is a fun detachment to use in your games, but doesn’t really have much of a place in competitive lists. This is less to do with the benefits of the Detachments (which are pretty good), and more to do with the fact that you are taking less competitive and cost effective units such as Terminators and Dreadnoughts.


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  • bobrunnicles

    Kudos to the use of the cover art to the old Deathwing expansion – thanks for the memories 🙂

  • orionburn

    There really are some awesome benefits to the DWSF, but in my DA group it’s pretty rare to see people using it. Just eats up way too many points. DW Knights are one of my all time favorite units, but it’s almost a necessity to take a Land Raider with them and that’s 500 points right off the bat. Tough pill to swallow compared to what else you can field for that many points.

  • Svenone

    I think this is shining the turd that is this detachment a little too much. As a DA player I gave up long ago the hopes of being competitive and have resigned myself to just kind of rolling the dice and seeing what happens. Playing Terminators is fun, sure GK still take the cake, but the gut punch that was giving Ultramarines basically the old DW rules and taking ours away was just brutal.

    The cost of this detachment cannot be understated, especially since as this post points out; in order for it to be effective you need to also bring ANOTHER expensive detachment with Ravenwing. Combining the most basic components of both detachments start at around 700+ points. You can just bring two IKs and call it a day for what this list would do.

    What makes it worse is that because you’re basically splitting your army by forcing half of it in reserve (and most of its points) you have to pray that your RW survive the first volley from your opponent, which means that you can’t go running them to midfield sitting in open territory. The codex fights and divides its effectiveness. While GW did some good things by updating this codex in some areas, it really traded some things in with some poor rules writing in other areas. I’ve got 3 DW Landraiders which as basically useless now.

    • orionburn

      I’d be happy without being forced to take a HQ slot with this. Anything to free up points. Too many times I’ve seen my Termies chewed up by rather week shots (but lots of them from the enemy) after deep striking. Yes, you can get them where you want, but to make the effective they’re almost always going to be in the line of fire from somebody.

      The run & shoot (or vice versa) is nice, but there are things I’d gladly give up to get the points cost down. I face a lot of Chaos players so DW serves it’s purpose, but the low model count seriously sucks when it comes to game time.

  • Steve L Duelist

    I always find I would have loved the DA 7th codex if the SM 7th did not show up a few weeks earlier. Thought I am happy with the codex when playing Ravenwing and Greenwing: Re-roll jink, grav weapons

    DW did not do well in the new codex. Their PS enemy CSM got shifted to the formation, detachment and Interrogator Chap, replaced with hatred CSM (the Interrogator Chap real job, make’em hate). average termy is +5 points more expensive than a SM termy.

    hoping the hunt campaign books rumors are floating about, will get DW some love make them more on level to other Space Marine veteran/ deep strike formations like 1st company strike force and skyhammer annihilation force of the SM, and archangels orbital intervention force of the BA

    oh yea DA got a cool new model for the Interrogator Chap, but none of the DW, or any DA formations (part from the Lionblade as command choice) support the model in power armor without and termy armor/bike.

  • memitchell

    An Extraterrestrial would look at the option to Deep Strike legendary Deathwing Terminators as very compelling, and in keeping with the GrimDark’s better narratives. And, then would read, “units that can be deployed on turn 1, so as not to auto-lose.” ET would naturally wonder what kind of game has cool Deep Strike rules, and then counters their “misuse” with an auto-lose function. And, then it would get back in its space craft and leave the primitive humans to their own fate.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      That rule is there to prevent people from abusing the rules and effectively robbing their opponents of a turn or two of the game.

      • memitchell

        I get that. But, it ain’t like the Deep Strike rule comes from ancient Sumerian hieroglyphics, and the only “fix” is an “auto-lose” the game.

        “Let’s build a car that goes 200 mph, and explodes if you go 200 mph.”

      • Steve L Duelist

        I would believe that if, Skyhammer, Ragnar’s Blackmane’s pack, and generally just drop pod armies were not release after the DW strike force.

        hek, the Greenwing have the option to “rob” a turn just grab to a full battle company and free drop pods.

  • petrow84

    After playing them for nearly a decade, the perks of having a Deathwing army IMO:
    – awesome minis and fluff
    – having good laughs on your ork/AM opponent’s army cases, when yours fit into your lunch box
    – the feeling when your airbrush purchase gets justified upon painting the first white model with it, after suffering with brushes for years to achieve an even, white coat from 533 successive, thin layer
    Aaaand, pretty much that’s all.

    • mrbleak

      You sure it´s not Ork players laughing at you after how Ghazghkull made Belial his bi*ch in the Lore ^^

      • petrow84

        Fair enough coughxenoscumcough 🙂

  • Eric Etheridge

    Dark Angel’s really suffered when we Lost the dakka banner. I never played termmie only, but the idea is cool. I often just pair this one with a cheap cad, take drop pods to ensure arrival. What really kills the terms is no charge from reserves.

  • Dennis J. Pechavar

    Have to agree with most of the reply’s in the comments section. The kick in the pants to me is that the DW Knights are finally good to use but the best HQ to put in them can’t make use of their special rule for added toughness as you can’t upgrade a Chaplain to have a Storm Shield! I had one converted as I had hoped they would allow one or give us a relic Shield that would count as one. No such luck. Sadly other than for “fun” games this is yet another army that is left out in the cold and as I own almost 100 termies of different types it is sad.

  • Boondox

    DA were cooler when they weren’t native american monks with 10,000 years of baggage.