First time posting in this side of the forums. Hope this post can provide some use.
There have been plenty of discussions in the Dark Angels subforum, about how to improve the Deathwing Terminators. In the current edition, these units suffer from a short list of severe deficiencies, that makes it little more than a fluff choice and a handicap to use them.
What follows is a summary of my own personal analysis of the unit and a proposal of fixes. I hope other users form the DA subforum might add to this, and that a discussion may be created with which to come up with an effective proposal of how the rules for the Deathwing could be improved.
At present, the Deathwing have the following issues, which boil down to mobility and survivability:
1) They have too little resilience to small arms fire.
As per the lore of the unit, Tactical Dreadnought Armor is supposed to be quite more durable than what it currently is on the board. The high cost of a unit of Terminators does not balance out with its low survivability once on the board. Their 2+/5++ save only really means something when faced with AP-4 weapons, and even low AP weapons can shoot a unit of Terminators out of the board with relative ease, when they are supposed to weather through small arms fire.
2) They can use their shields to reduce wound rolls against them, but for some reason, only against melee attacks.
Back in previous editions the Deathwing could lock shields to improve the units survivability. Which is something that made it into 8th edition. Only, it made it in a way that is kind of pointless. This ties to the issues with mobility for the squad, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself.
In essence, the squad that has three shields can, for 1 CP, reduce wound rolls against them by 1, in the fight phase. Which is good. But makes little sense for it to be useful only against melee attacks.
Makes no sense lore-wise, and game-wise. Specially when you consider...
... 3) The Deathwing lost pretty much all its mobility in 8th edition.
Inside of 8th edition the Deathwing lost its ability to move after deepstriking, and its ability to deepstrike by a teleport homer carried by a Ravenwing squadron.
This damaged the units terribly. Not only by taking out the synergy between the Deathwing and the Ravenwing (which is the theme of the Codex), but also by forcing a squad to just act as a sitting duck once dropped.
Dropping beyond 9 inches of the enemy in a codex that has almost no way of aiding charges, save from one warlord trait (which forces you to waste an HQ slot and your choice of warlord, just to rerroll charges), and a command rerroll, means you will often drop, fail your charge, and sit there while you get blasted out of the table.
In essence, the Deathwing do little in melee because they cannot get IN melee. With their low survivability, their use boils down to drop-shoot-die, in every match. Which is specially grievous since 2 out of the 3 stratagems that they have (Fortress of Shields, which gives the -1 to be wounded, and Never Forgive, Never Forget, which grants possible extra attacks against the Fallen) are for melee.
4) And, speaking of Stratagems, they have almost no good stratagems nor synergy with the rest of the codex
The three stratagems the Deathwing have are
Fortress of Shields, which only works in melee, and the Deathwing can hardly ever even get into melee.
Never Forgive, Never Forget, which only works on melee, and the Deathwing can hardly ever even get into melee. Aside from the fact that it is meant to be used against Fallen, who few players use, really.
Deathwing Assault, which allows a squad to fire twice in the turn in which they deepstrike. Which is good, but not as good as it sounds, since (a) you reduce your enemy in size and put yourself at a larger distance for a charge; ( costs 2/3 CP, which is expensive; © is pretty much just storm bolters, which are good with the Beta Rules, but not all that great save for killing screens and chaff; and (d) still means you are only getting back the 1 round of shooting you didn't get to use, on your 1st Turn, while the squad was waiting to deepstrike, which means that net-number of shots, you spend 2 or even 3 CP just to stay even.
So, 2 out of 3 are for a situation in which you will hardly ever get them in, since you are always rolling for 9+ inch charges with little to no ways of improving them, and none of this stratagems give any of the synergy between squads that is a central theme of the codex and was an actual mechanic from previous editions.
5) Other issues
The previous points are just the general idea. With a unit being so iconic in the codex, it makes little sense that the Deathwing Terminators are just so underpowered and hindered in their effectiveness.
Every codex that has a signature unit has a way to boost them and make the most out of them, after all. Blood Angels, for instance, are all about Assault Marines, and (last revision of Jump rules aside) they have some tools to get them into combat, and use them properly.
Dark Angels have had something akin to this, but only and exclusively for the Ravenwing. The Deathwing? Nothing at all.
In fact, amongst other issues the 1st Company of the First Legion has, is the fact that:
- unlike the Greenwing and the Ravenwing, the Deathwing have no lieutenants.
- when the point costs were reduced for the Terminators across the Imperium armies, they forgot to adjust the costs for the Deathwing Champion, Apothecary and Ancient
- the weapon options for the Deathwing are kind of limited when compared to Terminators of other codices.
So, what rules can be offered to change this up a bit?
A lot of players have different ideas. Myself, I'm thinking of the following, which is heavily inspired by the current balance of power of the edition and the old rules and flavour the Deathwing had in 7th and earlier editions:
1) Make Fortress of Shileds be activated in the movement phase, and make it work against all attacks until the beginning of the next turn.
2) Add a stratagem that allows a squad to Deep Strike entirely within 3 inches of a Ravenwing unit, and entirely 1 inch away from enemy units. Make it cost 1 CP for a squad of 5 models, and 2 CP for a squad of 6-10 models.
3) Add a stratagem that allows a squad to Deep Strike in Turn 1. Make it cost 2 CP for a squad of 5 models, and 3 CP for a squad of 6-10 models.
4) Give them a special rule that allows them to ignore the AP value of AP-1 weapons.
5) Adjust the cost of the Deathwing Champion, Deathwing Apothecary and Deathwing Ancient, in accordance to the cost reduction done for all Terminators.
6) Allow squads to be able to equip Storm Shields and Storm Bolters, as a weapons option.
7) Give Deathwing Assault the rule that the squad can move and then shoot, or shoot and then move, after they Deep Strike in. The stratagem is already costly enough for what it does. And dropping-moving-shooting or dropping-shooting-moving was a staple of the squad in the previous edition.
8) Include a Deathwing Lieutenant. Make him a Terminator model that has a Power Sword and Storm Bolter, and give him both a 6 inch aura that allows for to-wound rerrolls, and adds 2 inches in advance and charge moves for Deathwing units. Would give us a way to improve our charges within a limited range, as an alternative to burn through too much CP with previously suggested stratagems, and would be thematically balanced with the Talonmaster, which is the Ravenwing Lieutenant; a model that aside from granting rerrolls for wound rolls, also gives a secondary beneft to the Ravenwing (Ignore Cover).
9) Make the squads T5, like the Ravenwing Bikers.