Tuesday, December 23, 2014

7th Edition Blood Angels, or Why Space Marine Players are Still Jealous

As I've mentioned before, my oldest daughter recently started a Blood Angels army. Since babysitting money and allowance don't go very far in this hobby, I've been subsidizing it substantially, going as far as paying the entire cost of the "Shield of Baal: Deathstorm" kit as well as the "Leviathan" and "Exterminatus" book sets. (It's not all selflessness, though. I'll be starting a Tyranid army with the Deathstorm models, Leviathan has some great Tyranid formations, and I love the fluff in the Shield of Baal books.) We were going to hold off on getting the codex until my hobby budget had recovered, but we unexpectedly received a copy as a Christmas gift from a generous friend.

Bear in mind that I haven't played the army, but from what I've seen, the 7th Edition C:BA is a great codex. It has some good wargear, great army-wide benefits, and interesting units. That's why...

I Have Little Sympathy for Angry Blood Angels Players:
"It's lost all its flavor." "Now it's just like the Vanilla codex." "It's worse than the Vanilla codex." "Why didn't we get Centurions or Stormtalons?" "That's the last straw, GW, I quit."

This is the gist of what some very vocal Blood Angels players have been saying from the time the rumors starting flowing until the release of the codex. I'm sorry, but after reading through the new codex and the Shield of Baal datasheets and comparing them to my own codex, I can only say that I just don't feel sorry for those who are disappointed with the revised Blood Angels. Did people really expect 7th Edition Blood Angels to be as overpowered as the 5th Edition Blood Angels were back in the day, especially after seeing the power leveling that happened to the previous 7th Edition codexes?

In my first year of playing 40K, shortly after starting my Ultramarine army, I ran across a message board post where a Blood Angels player said, "why play Vanilla when Blood Angels do everything they do and more?" Since no one in the Cabal played them, I didn't actually see the 5th Edition C:BA until a few months ago. Good grief; no wonder C:SM players were so upset. Not only did 5th Edition Blood Angels end up with nearly every unit that Vanilla Marines had, including newer ones like Vanguard and Sternguard, but they had cheaper Devastators, Assault Marines as Troops, Land Raiders as Dedicated Transports for most squad types, fast Predators, and fast Vindicators. On top of that, they had unique units such as Death Company (a Troop unit with stats and rules that clearly belonged on a Elite choice), Baal Predators, Stormravens, Sanguinary Guard, and Furioso Dreadnoughts. Awesome wargear like hand flamers and Inferno pistols rounded it all out.

Eventually, the downward creep of the points costs in other codexes cut into the Blood Angels' competitiveness. Although many Blood Angels players were hoping to get away with a simple across-the-board points decrease, it became obvious with each 7th Edition codex that GW was deliberately trying to avoid codex creep and was scaling back some of the worst offenders. It should have been obvious that C:BA, like the Grey Knights codex, wasn't going to survive the transition from 5th Edition to 7th Edition with a mere decrease in costs.

Yes, GW has scaled back some of the more outrageous stuff in C:BA. The new codex better reflects the fact that the Blood Angels are supposed to adhere to the Codex Astartes with a few deviations stemming from their susceptibility to the Red Thirst and the Black Rage. Tactical Marines and Scouts are the lone Troops choices (just as they are in Codex-compliant Chapters), Land Raiders as Dedicated Transports are again limited to Terminator Squads (which befits their supposedly limited numbers), Furioso and Death Company Dreadnoughts are no longer infantry blenders, Death Company are Elites (which is appropriate for a squad type that isn't really part of any official Company), and Assault Marines have been moved to the Fast Attack Slot (where every other Chapter keeps them).

This latter change seems to be the biggest point of contention, with quite a few angry posts lamenting that they'll be forced to fill their Troop slots with "worthless" Tactical Marines instead of Assault Marines. The conspiracy-minded declare that GW stripped out all units except Tactical Marines and Scouts from the Troops section to force gamers to buy the new Blood Angels Tactical Squad box. This ignores the fact that nearly every 7th Edition codex has made it practically impossible to move other unit types to the Troops slot, which is effectively what the previous Blood Angels Codex had done with Assault Squads without even needing a special HQ to do it. With GW attempting to better balance the codexes against each other, it was inevitable that Blood Angels would have to deal with a limited number of Troops choices, just like the other Chapters.

(By the way, I think the new Tactical Squad kit is pretty awesome, but it seems better suited for a Blood Angels Sternguard or Command Squad than a Tactical Squad.)

They seem a bit too fancy to be basic Troops

This isn't just consistent with the options available to other Marine Chapters. From the standpoint of the fluff, Tactical Squads should form the backbone of a Blood Angels Battle Company, just as they do in any other Codex-compliant Chapter.

Why the New C:BA is Still Better than C:SM
I said that GW toned down the army a bit, but 7th Edition C:BA will still make most Vanilla Marine players envious.

Let's start with Tactical Squads, which are actually pretty good in the current edition, especially when entering play via drop pod. Thanks to a larger number of wargear options, Blood Angel Tactical Squads are even better than the Vanilla version. Their Tactical Sergeants have access to all the same wargear as their Vanilla brothers while also having access to Inferno pistols and hand flamers. And the list of heavy weapons they can take includes the heavy flamer (which is technically an assault weapon). Most Vanilla players would be very happy to be able to land a drop pod loaded with a combi-flamer (or a hand flamer), a flamer, and a heavy flamer on their opponent's doorstep. On top of all that, all Blood Angels infantry, bikes, and Dreadnoughts have Furious Charge, which is effectively a Blood Angels "Chapter Tactic". Put a power fist on your Sergeant and he's hitting at Strength 9 on the charge.

Strength 9 thunder hammers are just scary

And how about those Assault Squads that were sent to the Fast Attack section where all other Space Marine Chapters keep them? They're better than their Vanilla counterparts, too. Not only do they have all the same weapons options as Vanilla Assault Squads, but their Sergeants can take an Inferno pistol or a hand flamer, while up to two Assault Marines can take an Inferno pistol, a hand flamer, a meltagun, or a plasma gun. Again, I would gladly take these options over the plasma pistol or flamer that Vanilla Assault Marines can take. The ability to put three melta weapons in a highly mobile squad would make a Blood Angel Assault squad one of the better tank killers in the game.

There was much lamenting when rumors suggested that Blood Angels Vindicators and Predators were no longer going to be Fast. No, it just turns out that the ability to make those tanks Fast is called "overcharged engines" and is an upgrade rather than a built-in rule. Under the previous edition, the Blood Angels' Fast Vindicator was 20 points more expensive than the Vanilla Marines' standard model. Under the new codex, a Blood Angels' Vindicator with overcharged engines is a mere 5 points more expensive than the Vanilla Vindicator.

BA Terminators are priced identically with their Vanilla counterparts, but with Furious Charge they're more potent than my boys in blue. A bunch of thunder hammer Terminators can do some ugly things to the average vehicle when swinging at S9 on their first turn. And Wraithlords, Wraithknights, and Imperial Knights should be very concerned if some of those furiously charging Terminators get the chance to assault them.

But Wait, There's More!
The above is just what's in the codex. Shield of Baal has given Blood Angels an embarrassment of riches. For a mere 25 point increase over a similarly armed Terminator Captain, Shield of Baal's Captain Karlaen gets Master-crafted on this thunder hammer, gains Counter-attack, and has a special Warlord Trait giving him +1 to Seize the Initiative rolls and allowing him to re-roll Reserve rolls (whether they passed or failed). Other than Karlaen's abilities, I didn't find the Deathstorm datasheets to be particularly impressive, but the Exterminatus material is fantastic.

Do you want to field the Blood Angels Veteran Company, the Archangels? Take the Archangels Strike Force detachment, which is composed of a minimum of 1 HQ (in Terminator armor) and 2 Elites and a maximum of 2 HQs (again, in Terminator armor) and 16 Elites. The detachment has some pretty amazing Command Benefits, too. Would you you like to represent the 2nd Company, the Blooded, instead? Take the Blooded Demi-Company (as the name implies, it's essentially half a Codex Astartes Battle Company) and get a boost from the Red Thirst (+1 Initiative on the turn you charge into combat) in addition to your army-wide Furious Charge. Are you disappointed that you have a bunch of Death Company that don't count as Troops anymore? Take the Strike Force Mortalis: 1 Chaplain, 3 Death Company Squads, 2 Death Company Dreadnoughts, and 1 Stormraven. Strike Force Mortalis gains the Crusader and Fury of the Forlorn special rules, the latter giving you +1 attack if a squad is outnumbered.

I would be very surprised if Blood Angels get a supplement anytime soon since Exterminatus probably contains more good stuff than what's found in any other army's supplement. And speaking of supplements, my Ultramarines are still patiently waiting for theirs, GW. And yes, they would also like to be able to field their Veteran Company now that Space Wolves and Blood Angels can. Oh, and it would be pretty cool if you could work the Tyrannic War Veterans into it, too. The previous dataslate was interesting, but it would be nice to see how they fit into the 1st Company.

So 7th Edition C:BA looks pretty strong while supplemental materials make the army look even stronger. If my daughter ever gives up on the hobby, I might just have to adopt her army.


  1. I've only really been playing Warhammer 40k since the initial release of 7th edition, and I have to say, the game has seemed balanced and drawing in a lot more players. At least three game stores in the greater area of where I live have started carrying GW products now, and more people than ever in my local area are playing.

    I've read a lot of complaints on forums and blogs about the updated codexes, but as you point out, the update seems to be needed for balance. And with all of the new supplemental content coming out, armies like the Blood Angels and the Space Wolves have some awesome advantages. I, personally, can't wait for the completion of 7th edition, and to see what all of the armies get to their advantage.

  2. The codex got de-Warded, which shouldn't have been much of a surprise to anyone tracking 7th Ed codices. I started playing 40K in 5th, and my primary army I invested in was Blood Angels. I purchased heavily into Rhino/Razorback list and an all jump pack list. Players angry about losing troop status for assault squads probably spent a sizable chunk of change on said models, and I empathize with how that stings. Personally, I am not bitter b/c the new dex provides a competitive purpose for those models (that have been collecting dust on the shelf over the last two years). I mean, lets face it, assault-centric Blood Angels have not been competitive as a primary force for quite some time. And for those raging or whining I would remind them that it could be worse- you could be invested in Chaos Space Marines army instead.

    Overall BA players almost got the old FC back ala Shield of Baal CAD, DC can now score and deny (previously couldn't do either), Dante's axe swings at ini and he has EW, Mephiston got his much needed toning down, Corbulo's all seeing eye can now affect seize the ini rerolls again (FAQd in 5th ed), Drop Pods are a FA choice that can house allied units such as Centurions, and BA got a formation that can allow a 1st turn assault (the Dream Crusher). In conclusion I agree with you, the 7th Ed BA codex is a very strong book that allows old and new BA players alike their fun with a competitive edge.

  3. descent of angels nerf was the most annoying thing for me. otherwise the new codex was an excuse to pick up some trigger happy tac's and scoots with sniper rifles and 2+ cover saves.

  4. descent of angels nerf was annoying but the new tac's have proven way more resilient than the old jump boys were. cloaked siper scoots have also proven useful.


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