Yesterday, I was rambling a bit about the (to me) rather un-fun trend in 6th Edition Codexes of adding no new Special Characters. Ok, there might not be any new kids in the book. Therefore, I took an in-depth look at the five Special Characters that actually are in the book.
- Azrael – Supreme Grand Masters of the Dark Angels
- Ezekiel – Grand Master of Librarians
- Asmodai – Master Interrogator-Chaplain
- Belial – Grand Master of the Deathwing
- Sammael – Grand Master of the Ravenwing
(Anyone tired of the word “master” yet? Better buckle in tight, if you read on!)
Anyhow, let’s have a look at them in that order. Who among those five is worth taking?
#1 – Azrael, The Keeper of the Truth
Azrael is an interesting concept: The greatest list-tinkering character.
The Supreme Grand Master brings a variety of rules to the table that free up constraints of the Dark Angels army list. Most notably, he unlocks not one, but two new troop choices. He clearly is a character that appeals to people who like to tinker with their list and build an unconventional force.
The downside, in my opinion, is that Azrael is a rather lackluster in and by himself. He certainly does not have the oompf to go toe-on-toe with Chapter Master peers such as Calgar, Logan or Draigo. Neither is he iconic to a particular flavorful army build akin to Commander Dante’s “Golden Army” for Blood Angels.
Azrael’s tinker-potential comes in three options:
- He unlocks Deathwing Terminator Squads as troops.
- He unlocks Ravenwing Attack Squadrons as troops.
- His Rites of Battle special rule boosts units with low (for Space Marines) leadership, making him an interesting choice for a power-armoured “green-tide” army full of Scouts and plain Space Marine squads without Sergeants.
And whatever army you build, Azrael allows you to pick (no dice) the Warlord trait to match.
Is Azrael worth it?
I honestly don’t know.
Azrael feels like a puzzle I’ll need to work on a bit longer. His potential for list-building is enticing. My main worry tends to be on what to do with Azrael himself on the table, once the list written. For an over 200 pt. character, he’s little more than a Captain with a power sword when it comes down to business. And especially in a Death-/Raven- doublewing, he seems to lack a natural place to be, other than in a Rhino off on a not-so-lethal flank somewhere.
#2 – Ezekiel, Keeper of the Book of Salvation
Ezekiel is a rather unusual, but ultimately disappointing character.
Ezekiel, Holder of the Keys, is a Librarian that has been written to get stuck in the thick of the action and kill characters. The problem is: He just is not up to the task.
His warlord trait (‘The Hunt’) pays off if Ezekiel slays the enemy warlord in close combat. His unique psychic power (‘Mind Worm’) de-buffs models it fails to wound, similar to (actually better than) a Stasis Bomb. His ‘Book of Salvation’ gives nearby units a Weapon Skill bonus. His master-crafted Force weapon clearly has some assassination potential.
The problem is, I believe, that he lacks mobility and/or survivability, even with all his tricks, to take on the “typical” enemy warlords you will face, with any reliability. At the end of the day, he is only a Librarian artificer armour. No invulnerability save. No jump pack. No Terminator/Storm-shield combo. No Mephiston-like raw power.
Is Ezekiel worth it?
Playing Ezekiel appears to be a gamble that hinges on throwing him (with some foot-bound assault unit) at the enemy warlord, blazing away with Mind Worm, then hoping his force weapon kills his opponent. It might work. It might not. Next, Ezekiel dies.
Worse, it will be utterly transparent to any opponent you play how you want (or need) to use Ezekiel, should you field him. And predictability of this sort is never a good thing. Personally, I’d got with a regular Librarian instead.
That said, the idea of a Kamikaze-Assassin-Librarian is fun. With, for example, some added precision shots boost (similar to Belial) to give a bit more leverage to Mind Worm and perhaps a modest inv. save (5++ ?), he could have been a great character.
#3 – Asmodai, Master of Repentance
Asmodai actually is a ‘Master’ title twice. Nice. Either way, after sitting out the 4th Edition Codex, Asmodai is back, still in black. He also has a new miniature to celebrate his return.
The only thing that separates Asmodai from a “regular” Interrogator Chaplain is his fixed Warlord Trait (same as Ezekiel’s) and his ChapterRelic, the Blades of Reason, which is a Str: User, AP: -, Instant Death Specialist Weapon..! hmmmmm
Is Asmodai worth it?
Asmodai offers nothing really valuable. With his choice of using his Crozius Arcanum or the Blades of Reasons, neither seems up the task of hunting the baddest model in the opponent’s army, nor do they offer distinctly different advantages compared to each other (say, one to hunt power-armoured foes and one to slice through hordes of foes).
Exactly that would be his task as a Warlord for your army, however.
Like Ezekiel, Asmodai is likely cheap enough to end up not being the Warlord of your army after all. Yet unlike Ezekiel, who brings some unique rules to the table, over and beyond his Warlord trait, Asmodai has no redeeming qualities of that kind.
I would likely opt for a generic Interrogator-Chaplain over Asmodai in all cases
#4 – Belial, Bearer of the Sword of Silence
Belial is (Azrael aside) the character to unlocks the Deathwing. Unlike Azrael, Belial comes with a good choice of rules and options that make hims far more suited to a Deathwing army (as he should be) than “a-little-bit-of-everything-Azrael”.
Chief among Belial’s virtues (besides Terminator troops) is his ability to deep-strike him and his unit with flawless precision, not least because that is a skill that combines nicely with the Dark Angels’ Deathwing assault rules.
Unlike most characters, Belial comes with a variety of weapon options. That is a good thing, given that his default sword is (for all its epic background) rather lacking. Most players will likely opt for the trusty old thunder-hammer-and-storm-shield-combo over the Sword of Silence.
With hammer and shield (or claws), Belial’s Marked for Retribution skill at shooting goes to waste. The latter is a rather interesting special rule, which builds on the new 6th edition wound-allocation mechanic of precision shots. However, on a character with (at best) a standard-issue storm bolter, it was probably wasted from the get-go.
Is Belial worth it?
I think so.
I have seen some fretting over the fact that Belial got a hefty prize-raise. However, the ability to deep-strike flawlessly on turn one or two (your choice) is a powerful tool.
Others fret over the fact that an all-Terminator force isn’t the cutting edge of competitive gaming. This may be true, but you don’t have to take a nothing-but-Terminators-army, just because you include Belial. I belief his in-your-face-teleport-assault might become a favorite, even in Dark Angels armies without all that many Terminators on their roster.
Belial will remain a popular choice for Dark Angels players.
#5 – Sammael, Leader of the Hunt
Sammael is probably both the worst and the best character in the Dark Angels codex.
The worst, if you choose to turn the second-most expensive character in the book (the only one with Eternal Warrior at that) into a 2HP speeder. It’s a fancy speeder with some near-Land Raider qualities of protection. But it still dies like a vehicle, not like a choppy close-combat Space Marine ‘Grand Master’ with all the tooling.
The best, if you keep him on his bike and exploit is mobility to get stuck in where it counts.
On his jetbike, Sammael is – by far – the most focused character in the book (Ezekiel the Assassin aside). Every rule, trait and piece of equipment helps him do what he does best: spearhead a bad, black, lighting-fast Ravenwing force. And Sammael, at the front, skilled rider, EW, an AP2 sword, Night Halo, a jetbike with plasma cannon, etc.. feels written to be the best part of this type of army.
Is Sammael worth it?
He enables the Ravenwing and plays himself “Ravenwing-style” like no other.
Clearly, Sammael is not a character to be left in prolonged fights of attrition, even with Eternal Warrior (thankfully he has hit-and-run too). Left to himself, he will die fast enough. However, that is not what the Master of the Ravenwing should be about in the first place.
More than for any other character, Sammael felt “spot on”.
Even with the new Dark Angels flyers being slightly underwhelming, Ravenwing appears to be the sweet-spot of this army. At least more than it was in the 4th Edition codex, where leaned very heavily towards the Deathwing (which is, of course, still strong in this one too).
So there you have it.
- Sammael, to me, stands out as a choice that is both flavourful and good at what he is supposed to do.
- Belial also does his job, though he seems to have been a guinea pig for a rule he’ll (almost) never use and recipient for one of the more uninspired “special swords” (gimmie that thunder hammer already!).
- Azrael at least is inviting to tinker with, yet feels a bit like a “list-building-tax” for the lack of (200+ pt. character-worthy) things he’ll be doing in the actual battle.
- Ezekiel is a fun idea, hamstrung by the improbability of actually working.
- Asmodai is .. missing .. something, anything.
Do you agree? Which character do you think is worth taking? Which character is not?