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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Analysis: Dante's Avenging Host

While the internet has been abuzz over the Angel's Fury Spearhead Formation that allows Blood Angels to—with a substantial investment of points—assault off the Deep Strike, I haven't noticed anyone talking about the other Blood Angels Formation that can Deep Strike without scattering and has Objective Secured on every single non-vehicle model.

I'm talking about the Dante's Avenging Host Formation from Shield of Baal: Exterminatus. It's a bit of a confusing Formation at first glance, since it includes a nested Formation that retains its special rules, plus gains those of the overarching Formation, and defies the standard rule of "each unit may only belong to a single Detachment". Sound familiar? Probably because the internet is also abuzz with rumours and leaks of the new Necron codex and its Decurion Detachment. I guess we all missed GW giving us a sneak-peak of this new approach...


Here is the full composition of Dante's Avenging Host, including the nested Blooded Demi-Company:

  • Dante
  • Mephiston
  • Librarian
  • Sanguinary Priest
  • Chaplain*
  • 1x Sanguinary Guard Squad
  • 3x Tactical Squad*
  • 1x Assault Squad*
  • 1x Devastator Squad*
  • Dreadnought*
  • Furioso Dreadnought*
  • 3x Storm Raven

Special Rules

All the units marked with an asterisk have The Red Thirst (+1 Initiative on the charge). All the non-vehicle units have Objective Secured. That's right, not just the Tactical marines, but the Assault and Devastator marines too, and more importantly the Sanguinary Guard and all those beat-stick characters too.

Now that's not bad, but it gets better. The entire Formation has the Storm of Angels special rule, which is basically the same as Dante's Descent of Angels Warlord Trait—Deep Strikers can reroll to arrive from reserve, and reduce their scatter by 1D6". So what's the point of duplicating this effect? Simple: the scatter reduction stacks.


Now before we all get too far ahead of ourselves, let's consider the cost of this mighty Formation. Before any upgrades it's going to cost you 1965 pts. If you only ever play 1850 or 2000 pts games, you may as well stop reading now. But if you have the opportunity to occasionally play 2500 pts or higher (try it, it's fun) then this Formation is something to consider, or watch out for.

Without going into intricate detail of how to configure every single unit in this Formation, let's just consider what you get by default:

  • Nipple Star – Dante, Libby, Chappy and Priest in a Sanguinary Guard squad. Give one of the characters the Angel's Wing so they don't get smoked by a Riptide on the drop, and chances are that with 2+ saves, a couple of 4++ invulnerables and FNP all-round you will survive to carve a good chunk out of your enemy the following turn. The entire unit has Objective Secured too, so you can bomb-burst apart in the late game to ninja multiple Objectives.
  • Mephiston – No longer the pseudo-MC of the last codex, the Chief Librarian is still a solid beat-stick who now works best inside a squad. The best place for him in this Formation is probably leading the Assault marines out of a Pod.
  • Solid anti-air/tank – Triple Ravens covers you against air threats, and will carve through mech armies too.
  • Objective Secured everywhere – Those Tactical and Devastator marines are probably going to be points-minimised, but they can be semi-reliably held back in reserve until turn three or four with rerolls, then precision Pod in for Objective grabbing.
  • Dreads – Sure, Dreads aren't the threat they were in years past, but when two of them precision Pod in alongside the Nipple Star, chances are they might survive to charge in and kill stuff before they get popped. They represent early-game pressure that you can apply to force bad decision-making by your opponent, rather than a 'real threat'.


Now don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming that Dante's Avenging Host is a super-competitive option—especially not given its cost—but I do consider it a pretty cool Formation that seems to have mostly escaped notice.

In the broader context of the game, I would take away these three key lessons from this Formation:

  • Precision Deep Strike is still possible
  • Formations-inside-Formations stacking special rules is a thing (confirmed by new Necrons)
  • GW is getting more generous with Objective Secured (with a catch...)
The third point is the big one really; giving all non-infantry models Objective Secured will devalue Troops units (a la 6th Ed) and also devalue vehicles, especially Troops Dedicated Transports (a la 6th Ed some more). Wave Serpent spam is a lot weaker without Objective Secured everywhere...

So we'll finish with a big prediction: in the next Edition / Revision of the Rulebook, the Combined Arms Detachment (and probably the Allied Detachment too) will be removed altogether. Once every Faction has their own unique Detachments and Formations, there will no longer be a need for the universal Rulebook Detachments, and they'll just go away. And you can bet that any Faction with powerful/resilient Troop Dedicated Transports (e.g. Eldar, Necrons) will not have codex-specific access to Objective Secured on those vehicles.

Of course, if this prediction is correct, then the last vestiges of the "standard FOC" concept will be blown away. And all those tournaments with arbitrary list-building restrictions will have to fudge their rules yet again. But since tournaments with arbitrary restrictions are fucking stupid, good riddance.


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