Rediscovering Angels Part 4: A Closer Look at Death Company

Hey, what's up everyone!  Xaereth here from Delusions of Grandeur, hoping to help you take your Blood Angels to a new level!  Today I want to talk about the Death Company.  I think there are a lot of misconceptions about Death Company, and today I want to address a few of those, as well as talk about how to use them most effectively/efficiently.

I guess the first question, as always, is what do you want from the D-Co in your list?  The best approach is to look at like this:  will I usually be able to make this unit perform in a way that helps me win the game?  In short, is it a useful unit in your particular build?

Lets get the super-simple overview of the Death Company over with:

Good Stuff:
  • WS5
  • Furious Charge/Feel No Pain without Priest nearby
  • Lots and lots of options
  • Chaplain gives rerolls to hit *and* to wound
  • Take up troops slots
Bad Stuff:
  • Rage- it's pretty difficult to control them
  • Expensive points wise
  • No invulnerable saves
  • Average statline
  • Take up troops slots
So, I'm sure you all know all that.  But, it has to be said, so we're all on the same page starting off.

Many will argue that the bad stuff outweighs the good stuff, and it's hard to argue against that specifically- rage in particular will make Death Company do some incredibly inconvenient things from time to time, against certain opponents.  When a skilled opponent can simply make a potentially expensive unit like the Death Company chase empty Rhinos all day, it can get pretty old.

Let's face it, lots of what makes an expensive unit good is the ability to choose when and where that unit can do the most damage.  With the USR Rage, Death Company really struggle with this- at least, that's the perception most people have of them.  The key is to make them role-players in your army, using them as a brick to throw at your opponents window, and force your opponent to deal with the D-Co, or lose.

This requires a somewhat delicate touch, since simply ramming the Death Company down the throat of your opponent from the start will rarely work against a skilled opponent.  Given any amount of reaction time, a good player will simply avoid the DC until they have the time or resources to deal with them.  The best idea is to force them to react in a way that severely limits their options.  A frontal approach won't really do this.

So, we're left with non-traditional deployment options.  No jump-packs + starting on the table, no 'hide them in a Rhino and hope my opponent doesn't pop their transport, stranding the Death Company'.  Instead, consider this:  what's going to give me the best chance to force my opponent to react and make a tough decision?

Perhaps an obvious answer is to put them in a Land Raider, since it keeps the DC in control, ensures the 20"+ charge, and is tough for others to kill easily.  I would remind those who think this is a swell idea, that dropping that amount of points on a unit essentially makes that unit the focus of the army.  An army's core made up of a unit that is as undependable for a sustained period of time as the DC is, isn't what I'd call a good idea.  For the same points, 5 LC Termies + priest are going to do about the same amount of damage, and are far more survivable.

Here's the simple truth about Death Company:  they will murder one single unit dependably, and then do what they want until the opponent whittles them down, or you've won.  The thing is, throwing them at a fully functional gunline isn't going to yield the results that the points you've paid reflect.  Death Company are the ultimate 'mop-up' crew, delighting in chaos that is already in motion.

Death Company can kill tanks easy enough with infernus pistols/rerollable attacks given by the chaplain, and can kill just about any squad in the game if DC can get the charge.  They can be dependable to kill whatever they want- they might be a big chunk of points, but they will kill what they want.  If they have 6 turns of life, they'll likely kill 6 things, when properly tooled.  Another important thing to note is that while the rest of your army is generally advised to stick together in order to keep the FNP/FC bubbles in effect, the DC can operate independently.  It's nice not to have to support them in this way.  The main obstacle is how easy they are to kill.

This presents a problem, since DC die as easily as any other marine with FNP, and cost over double what a regular marine costs.  Finesse is required for DC, not only because they are hard to control, but also in judging where the threats to them lie.  Knowing how to deal with these threats before the DC swoop in is important, since a single guard plasma squad will mess with the DC something fierce.  Once the big threats are mostly taken care of and the battle is in full swing with little room for either side left to manouver, the DC can arrive and begin to create pandemonium.  Remember, if they can't be reliably stopped, not much in the game is as good at killing things as the DC is.

There are two ways to go with these guys, in my eyes.  One is the expensive way, and the other way is the cheap way.  Wheeee...

The Expensive (and somewhat risky) Way:

So, how to load these guys up?  I'll warn you now- it gets expensive quick.  I like Jump Packs for Death Company.  The reason is this:  most transports are unreliable for Death Company, and the kicker is that a squad that can be lead around by the nose as easily as the DC needs good manouverability in order to present a threat to things every turn.  If they get distracted by a random vehicle one turn, they need to be able to turn around and present a threat the very next turn in order to be effective.  If they don't have jump packs, this is simply impossible.  Put the packs on, and deep strike them in.  The packs will help you determine when and where you want to bring them in fairly dependably.  Put them in a place they won't get killed right away, and then let them go to town on the enemy's forces.

Jump packs and... infernus pistols next.  Death Company want to kill as many things as possible, and the pistols really help with that.  Not only do they help as 'insurance' against tanks, they can also help to pop a tank, then assault the squad inside the tank that same turn.  They can help to soften up a MC before they charge, or a squad of I5 incubi.  They help threaten Land Raiders as well.  Remember, these guys are pure offense.  Treat them as such.  30 extra points for two of them is not too many points for the added flexibility and possibilities.

What's next?  Probably a couple fists.  They don't need many, really.  But they need to be able to threaten everything, which fists help to do. Fists also have the added benefit of being at a different initiative level as the regular attacks, making every single power wound help.  Here's an article that helps explain it in more depth.  If you put a different weapon combo on everyone, it can also help to thin out casualties from plasma/melta weapons in squads, when they cause more wounds than your squad has, since you can just slap 2 AP2 wounds on your infernus pistol and the rest of the AP5 bolter rounds on the regular guys.

How many guys?  I guess that's up to you, really.  It's hard to put a number on this squad- 30 points base for a model is super steep, so getting lots of ablative wounds is sort of out of the question.  Still, I wouldn't go out the door with fewer than 6 models in this squad.  A couple casualties will slow down their momentum quite a bit.

Chaplains can be included as well, and can be pretty useful.  The bigger the DC squad, the more you likely need a chaplain to make them better.  Lemartes is head and shoulders above the other chaplains in the book for his points if you're going with Jump Packs on the D-Co.  Simply ridiculous, the things the man can do when he takes a wound.  The other chaplains are nice too, because they add an invulnerable save (which gives the DC a measure of protection against AP1/2), and can add another infernus pistol to the mix as well.  Gets expensive though, doesn't it?

So, here's what I'd want in a fully tooled 'expensive' Death Company:

Lemartes, 6x Death Company w/ 2x Infernus Pistols, 2x Power Fists, 6x Jump Packs- 440 points

It's a lot of points for the somewhat small group of dudes, but you can cut the cost to 290 if you take out Lemartes.  In exchange for these points, you get a wreckingball of a squad, who when allowed to multicharge, will destroy multiple vehicles, squads, and everything else.

The key, like I keep saying, is protecting them.  The rest of the army needs to be built to be able to take out the plasma squads/russes the enemy has.  Keeping them out of the charge range of the 5 LC terminators the other guy has, etc.  It's a finesse squad.

The other option of course is a Storm Raven, but then to get full use of the raven's points, you want a dread inside as well, and then you've spent a few too many eggs on one basket.  Still, coming in from reserve, the Raven presents a viable(ish) 2nd option.

The Cheap Way

Sarah Palin... lol.  Really?*
There are other ways to use them, of course.  You can take a 5-man squad and put them in a rhino or storm raven, slap 5 power weapons on them and call them good for 225 points (including the rhino), and qualifying for a DC dread to go in the raven at the same time.  5 power weapons on the DC= 20 power attacks on the charge that will generally kill 9 marines on the charge at I5.  Not bad, even against Orks, honestly.  Any more wargear and they start to get expensive again however.  Remember:  it's not a good idea to mix mundane weapons with power weapons at the same initiative. (refer to the article I linked earlier)

These guys aren't really used as a mop-up crew as much, since we aren't putting the points into them that would let them do it.  Instead, they're more of a counter-charge unit.

As a sidenote, if you're running DC in a Raven, you still have the option to give them Lemartes as an upgrade.  His jump pack is wasted, but they can certainly still use him if they want.  Just depends on what you want.

What about all death company armies?

Heh, I laugh when I see these kinds of armies.  The idea that you have to table someone in order to win the game is ludicrous to me.  Sure, these armies can be tough to deal with but seriously- if you want to play competitively, you're depending on the opponent not reserving anything, not deepstriking anything on turn 5, outflanking stuff into corners you're nowhere near, etc.  It's too tall an order to realistically try to accomplish in a competitive setting.  The fact that the army literally plays itself makes me extremely meh about it.

Two quick sidenotes about Rage

1) Rage can be bypassed, since it requires Line of Sight.  If for instance, my squad of Death Company are all behind my Land Raider, and they can't see any enemy units, then they can move as regular squad would be able to.  You can use this idea to gain a modicum of control over your squad, if done correctly.

2) Rage doesn't require you to charge the nearest unit.  It also allows you to keep moving the models in your unit to a better place for them.  All the rules say is that you need to move towards the nearest enemy unit- as long as you stay within 1" of the 'nearest' unit, you can slide the DC around the unit so as to be able to charge another unit (assuming you have enough movement).

Wrapping up

Death Company is a tricky squad to use correctly.  They're fragile, but they can sure pack a punch when used correctly.  Simply flinging them at the opponent is not really a good idea.  They require finesse.

What do you think of Death Company?  Stupid?  Useless?  Awesomesauce?  I'd like to hear what you have to say!  I haven't yet seen someone use Death Company in a list where I really feared them, but I certainly think it can be done in the right circumstances.  It just seems like a unit that can be good, but people don't generally have the extra points for it.  Kind of like Sternguard.  /shrug

Let me know what you think!  Until next time...

*A note on the pictures:  they all showed up when I searched 'Death Company' on Google Images.  The Sarah Palin one made me laugh.  Not sure how she made the cut.


Matthew said...

I would like to point out that DC are no more expensive than a squad a vanguard, sternguard or termies...Sure it's a lot of points if you put them in a landraider or raven, but a lot of times CHEAPER than that assault termie squad in a crusader, full combi weapon sternguard squad, or a squad of vanguard with packs and special weapons. You also forgot to add 4 attacks each on the charge as a positive.

Xaereth said...

Yeah, the extra attacks are for sure nice :)

Sure, they cost about the same as any of those squads. With the other squads however, you're able to control them after their initial assault/use.

The thing is, if you don't make them 'good' at assault (i.e. put power weapons on them, put a chaplain with them, etc.) they only have 20 attacks on the charge with a 5-man squad. That isn't going to make a big enough impact to warrant a Raider or Raven as transport.

Once you start putting weapons on them to give them the desired impact, they cost as much or more than any of the squads you mentioned, and can't control them afterward.


dzer0 said...

What about Drop Pods?

I have been kicking around the idea of having 7 Death Company with a Reclusiarch in a Drop Pod coming in first turn with a Death Company Dreadnaught in a Drop Pod Assault list. I think it may be possible to build a list with beacons, deep striking Land Speeders, Assault Marines, Vanguards maybe, etc to sort of support and keep everything together in waves.

I am thinking the only way to play Death Company may be to commit to the idea completely and build the rest of the army in support of the unit. Tough idea, but could be fun.

Alex said...

Hello All,
For the most part I agree with you, but think of DC as a big scary thing (Which they are of course). I have used 10 dc with jump packs and power weapons(8) and infernus pistols(2) to route 80% of a Nid army before. The other player is a well known turny winner around St.louis. Turns out this config can take on monsterous cretures and win on the charge every time even with as little as 3 men left. Such was the scare that every shooting and non-mosterous unit in range was sent their way alloying free rain for 3/4 of my entire army to do what was needed. The DC lasted 4 turns of total carnage before final death took them.,but in the mean time I still managed to kill 2 monsterous cretures a anti-tank squad and 1 almost 2 troop units, just with DC. I still lost the battle overall due to lack of troops but hey it was like my 3rd game with blood angels.

PS don't reserve everything if the nid player places everything.

Matthew said...

Actually, I was speaking in terms of a squad of 10 with chappy in a raven/LR. 40 rolls to wound at S5, WS5, I5 is nothing to scoff at even with no PWs or fists. 10 of them is the same as a stock 5-man termie squad, a squad of sternguard (10), or a squad of vanguard with packs (10). Maybe throw in a fist and/or a PW or two for good measure and they're still a very economical uber unit compared to the others. Sure the Raven/LR will make the whole unit even more but that LR or Raven does a lot more than the sternguards drop pod and same cost as termies in a LR and termie priest + HQ. Vanguard will still be cheaper over all, but divine intervention with 10 guys is very risky.

Rage is annoying yes but I have never found it an issue as long as the LR lasts two turns or the Raven survives to flat-out move towards the enemy. After that the DC are usually fine as they should be close enough to stuff the rest of the game.

I also consider a min 5-man a waste of points since there are several other better options.

Lemartes is also a waste in my opinion unless all of your elites and/or HQ slots are filled. If they are, then your DC or the other units you took are a bit over kill. DC are a troops choice yes, but I still consider them an "elite" unit so-to-speak.

Matthew said...

EDIT: First part should read "40 rolls that reroll hits and wounds..."

DK said...

Death Company cost 20 points each, not 30. I play with them because everyone around here was really sick of my assault terminator squad with priest and unleash rage, etc. SO, I started rolling with 15 death company out of a LRC. I have a few power fists in there for the strength 9 goodness, and some times will run them with a reclusiarc.

I should add two melta pistols... good call.

Thay kill stuf. A lot of stuff. Just start 12 on, move 12 first turn, and unlaod on turn two.

If I am playing lots of rail guns, I deep strike.

being able to keep them in the tank until they assault is huge.

they are a fun unit. try them out!

Xaereth said...

dzer0: I dunno man, I'd be pretty reluctant to put D-Co in a pod, simply for the flagging manouvers a skilled player might try on them.

I agree however, that a lot of times you *will* need to make your army around them- similar to Terminators or other big killy units that require a lot of points to make 'good' (Land Raider being an obvious example of that for Terminators).

Alex: Cool... I never said anything about them sucking once they got into combat. I agree with you there wholeheartedly that they rock in combat. It's getting them reliably into combat with a unit that you want them to get into that's the tricky part.

Matthew: Yeah, 10 dudes + chaplain can be good enough. Still, that's 300 points + transport costs, which suddenly makes them the center of your army weighing in at 1/4-1/3 of your total points. Just hope to god they don't get charged by any sort of walker, I suppose. You could give them a couple fists to help with this, but then it gets more expensive and... yeah. I'm sure you get what I'm saying. I'll stop rambling :)

DK: They cost 30 points with jump packs.

I'm sure it's a fun unit to use and that they kill lots of stuff. :-p Just gotta wonder what happens to them when they meet something nastier in combat and have to protection from Power Weapons. Seems dumb, but 5 LC Termies with a Chaplain would wipe nearly the entire D-co out on the charge.

I think they do a better job at cleanup that actually facing full-powered units. That must just be me though :)

DK said...

lol. Don't they cost 35 with jump packs?

GDMNW said...


I don't think anyone has pointed out that rage is absolutely hilarious...

I can never help but chuckle when my psychos go sprinting off after something they can't even scratch when there was a tasty unit within charge range. Grr.

Jeffery said...

I have a small squad of DC (5 man) but the largest game I've ever played is 750 points (group is working up to 1k). But I have to say that having my friends look at my army and go "Black Angels...oh god" is worth it. I think this stemmed from a good first game with them (like someone above said) I ended up rhino missile-ing them into a Tau fire line and wiping out the entire army before my tactical squads even got into position.

The Harrower said...

I like the Death Company a lot. I use a 5 man squad with a power fist and power weapon in a Razorback with a twin-linked heavy flamer. I have them lead by a Reclusiarch for the rerolls. I typically don't bring them out of the Razorback unless I can definitely get the charge. I use them to mop up my opponents army at the end of the game. They tear my opponents up and but the fear of God into them. I never leave them out as they are totally bad ass. Not to mention the Death Company Dreadnaught I get with the Blood Talons. Awesome stuff!

@GDMNW Um, then don't have them move at all so you can assault the tasty unit.

Post a Comment