Warhammer 40k Wiki
Warhammer 40k Wiki
For kill teams of other factions besides the Deathwatch, see Kill Team Unit.

"Alone, you are great warriors, exemplars of your Chapter. Together, you are a kill-team, and you are unstoppable."

Watch Captain Brand Mac Lir of the Storm Wardens Chapter
829 large

A Deathwatch kill-team stands at-the-ready to face the xenos foes of Mankind.

A kill-team, also spelled Kill Team, is the standard operating tactical unit of the Deathwatch Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition. Each kill-team is composed of an elite squad of experienced xenos-fighters consisting of no fewer than 5 Space Marines and no more than a reinforced squad of 15 Astartes.

The term is also used by conventional Space Marine Chapters to refer to the small, ad hoc units comprised of about 3-5 squads, or 30-50 Astartes, drawn from a single company for specific missions. These kill-teams are lightly armed and are intended to make use of speed and relative stealth to destroy selected, highly important strategic targets.

The term "kill-team" is also a generic one used in the Imperium to refer to any small group of warriors of any faction of the galaxy, who are frequently assembled by their species' government or other governing authority to carry out missions that larger military forces above the squad level cannot easily accomplish.



A Deathwatch kill-team in combat.

The kill-team is the primary tactical formation of the Deathwatch, serving as the core group that engages the bulk of their hated xenos foes, and to bring about the achievement of the Deathwatch's objectives. Most battle-brothers are veterans of a hundred alien wars before being inducted into the Deathwatch, but selection is not made upon length of service alone.

In theory, even a Scout Marine who shows exceptional skill at arms against the xenos may be selected to serve, although such an event is extremely rare. In the main, it is those battle-brothers who have faced a broad range of alien threats and not only survived, but prevailed, learning and passing on new methods of defeating such foes. A Deathwatch kill-team consists of no less than 5 battle-brothers, but they are never larger than a reinforced squad in size, about 15 Astartes, tasked with carrying out a specific objective, such as the destruction of a particularly dangerous target or strategically important objective.

If a mission requires an unusually large number of Deathwatch Astartes to participate, the Inquisition may assemble several kill-teams, though such instances are rare because of the elite status and potent combat ability of even a single Deathwatch kill-team.

The term "kill-team" can also refer to larger, more ad hoc assemblies of Space Marines drawn from the companies of the standard Space Marine Chapters. These types of kill-teams often consist of 3-5 squads within a standard Astartes company, or about 30-50 Space Marines. These Kill-teams are lightly armed and are intended to make use of speed and relative stealth to destroy selected, highly important strategic targets. These targets are primarily the enemy's most important command-and-control units, such as an enemy commander and his bodyguard. Additionally, standard Space Marine Chapters also make use of these larger kill-teams to mop up any remaining enemy troops after the primary combat has ended in an Adeptus Astartes victory.



A Deathwatch kill-team emerges from the hold of a Land Raider to face the foe.

Each kill-team is selected with the utmost care. The archives of the Deathwatch detail every member's history, the oaths he has sworn, his areas of expertise, the alien species he has engaged and any quirks or flaws he may have. The team's leader will delve long into these records before each mission, for his choices can be the difference between victory and death.

The battle-brothers of the Deathwatch are exceptional individuals taken from Chapters across the galaxy. In this diversity and fund of experience lies great strength. Where one member of a kill-team may not have encountered a specific breed of alien, another will have met that creature in battle and defeated it, or one roughly analogous to it. Once a Kill-team has fought together long enough to share the full extent of this knowledge, it will often be disbanded, its members assembled into different kill-teams to learn anew.

With a gamut of hard-won wisdom much in evidence, the battle-brothers of each kill-team come to rely upon one another's expertise; they have little option, for they may spend many standard years out of contact with their watch fortress. It is common for a Veteran sergeant to seek his warriors' advice as often as the other way around, and in many cases act more as an arbiter than as a traditional commander.

Deathwatch officers will invariably choose the members of their kill-team in order to draw on as much relevant experience as possible. With different Chapters having long-standing specialisations, it is easy enough to identify who will have the most relevant insights in a given circumstance. In matters of how best to launch a close assault, a Sternguard Veteran of the Imperial Fists will likely yield to the advice of a Vanguard Veteran from the Blood Angels Chapter, whereas in the defence of a bastion complex, it will almost certainly be the other way around.

Long-standing rivalries between Chapters do sometimes sour these relationships, at least initially -- headstrong Space Wolves may clash with dour Dark Angels in an echo of their primarchs' famous rivalry, and a tactician from the Hammers of Dorn may endlessly debate the finer points of the Codex Astartes with his Ultramarines equivalent. Over time, however, these instances of conflict lead to long-standing respect or even firm friendship.

Kill-teams are borne to their allocated war zones by onyx-hulled strike cruisers. These magnificent warships operate out of the watch fortresses, using their Warp-Drives to ply the cursed tides of the Empyrean in order to reach their target as swiftly as possible. The Navigators that steer them are amongst the best in the Imperium, as are the astropaths that provide the psychic link back to their base of operations.

So it is that the Deathwatch slip through the sea of stars like stilettos cutting through silk -- silent and swift until the time comes to stab at the heart of a xenos empire. It is just as well, for if even a single Deathwatch vessel misses its mark, it could spell disaster -- with that failure, a swathe of Imperial space could be ceded to the alien, never to be recovered.


Over the course of the Imperium's history, the Deathwatch's kill-teams have worked miraculous feats of arms. They have stymied alien invasions, cleansed infested space-fleets, and even hunted the denizens of hostile planets to extinction. In the process, some necessarily become specialised in the persecution of a particular type of enemy.

Some kill-teams accomplish such unalloyed success against their chosen foes that their methods are taught in every watch fortress. For example, the methods Squad Veridium used to eradicate the remnants of The Beast's Greenskin armies in the 32nd Millennium are still in widespread use. Codified as Furor tactics, their techniques involved the delivery of explosive firepower across a wide frontage. By concentrating on the tightly-packed throng of Orks at the fore, Squad Veridium aimed each detonation to cause maximum collateral damage, sowing the field with dismembered corpses that slowed those elements behind.

Venator tactics were perfected after fighting the all-female pirates of the Drukhari Wych Cult Sybilla. Frustrated by the Drukhari's ability to evade the Emperor's vengeance, Jaaghen Khan of the White Scars requisitioned bikes for his combat squad and led his enemies on long-running battles where they perfected the art of leading their fire. When the enemy struck back by surrounding them, the Khan brought in the rest of his kill-team. Equipped with comprehensive data concerning their targets, the kill-team filled the air with so much firepower that the Khan's nimble foes were torn from the sky. This has proven an invaluable tactic against fast-moving xenos hosts ever since, be they capricious Aeldari, Ork Kults of Speed, or even the outriders of a Necron metaphalanx.

It was Kill-team Brontos that first codified Malleus tactics. When breaking the Tyranid war-monstrosities infesting Rakkor IX, Captain Brontos and his warriors rode to war in a Land Raider whose Godhammer Pattern Lascannons claimed three Carnifex kills en route. Charging into the fray, they used Power Maces to stun the largest of the survivors, and then cracked even the thickest exoskeletons with their heavy Thunder Hammers. Brontos took the same approach to shatter the Dread Mob of Big Mek Dakkahorn, the Wraith Host of Yme-Loc and a boarding party of Daemon Engines led by Warpsmith Gruallex.

Purgatus tactics were developed by Librarian del Athyu, sworn enemy of Craftworld Ulthwé. They involve the concentration of utmost force upon the leaders of the alien hordes. By taking a commanding position on the battlefield under the psychic aegis of their Librarian, and then pouring pinpoint firepower into their quarry, Kill-team del Athyu overloaded their Farseer target's mystical shields and shattered the wraithbone armour protecting his vital organs. It was then that the killing shot was punched home, leaving the enemy host leaderless whilst the greater conquest began. Since that day, hundreds of commanding alien warlords have been executed with these same tactics, their invasions brought low before they could claim a single Imperial world.

Notable Kill-team Types[]

Aquila Kill-team[]


The order of battle of Kill-team Cassius, an archetypal Aquila Kill-team.

When the Deathwatch face unknown foes, or the threat requires a measured and strategically versatile response, they deploy Aquila Kill-teams. In many ways, these kill-teams are a microcosm of the Deathwatch itself, for they comprise battle-brothers drawn from multiple Chapters, each bringing their own specialised tactics and favoured armaments to strengthen the team as a whole. Rather than specialise in the destruction of particular xenos species or strategic assets, Aquila Kill-teams are generalist squads whose strength lies in their capacity to adapt swiftly and decisively to new battlefield challenges as they arise.

As such, their battle-brothers typically carry a wide spread of both ranged and close-combat armaments that allow them to engage varied enemies across all manner of battlefields. When a single kill-team must be despatched to investigate potential dangers, it will most often be an Aquila Kill-team that is chosen, specifically for its ability to handle any threat.

With the pounding of armoured boots, the blaze of Jump Pack jets, and the roar of finely-tuned engines, the Aquila Kill-team takes to the battlefield. Armed and armoured to handle any eventuality, the team's battle-brothers keep in constant communication, evolving their battle plan with each new twist of fate. They assess the strengths and weaknesses of the foe with the penetrating gaze of a hunting eagle, devising the optimum courses of action before swooping in for the kill.

These operatives go about their work with such fluidity and skill that they strike in synchrony even when spread across a wide front. So skilled is the Aquila team at taking the measure of unknown foes that they can tear a bloody victory from their enemies in a series of explosive strikes, no matter the nature of the horrors ranged against them.

Dominatus Kill-team[]

Many xenos species have elite warriors that they can deploy to the most crucial battlefronts. From the arrogant and deadly Incubi of the Drukhari to the lethally focussed Necron Immortals, each specialist force is its own unique threat. It is the role of the Dominatus Kill-team to study each and every one of these enemies, to understand how to counter their strengths and how to exploit their weaknesses.

Dominatus battle-brothers accordingly change their armaments with great regularity, equipping themselves before each mission with the optimised weaponry for the foe they face. Deathwatch Shotguns and Inferno Pistols are deployed to deliver point-blank kill shots, while heavy Thunder Hammers and Power Fists ensure each blow struck is the last one needed. Meanwhile, the finest duellists in the kill-team carry thrumming Power Swords, the better to match their enemies blade-to-blade and prove their mastery with every decapitation and impalement.

Should the enemy rely on specialist forces of its own, the Dominatus Kill-team will make their destruction a priority in order to secure dominion over the field. The team's Vanguard Space Marine warriors roar out of the skies to launch their alpha strike even as the Veteran marksmen that form the rest of their kill-team pin the enemy in place with disciplined firepower.

It is a tactic that has been employed to great effect against the most marshalled xenos armies. Alien marksmen, thinking themselves secure in commanding positions, are swiftly ripped apart by the airborne warriors that dive into their midst, whilst the close assault specialists sent to crush the Imperial army are hammered by heavy firepower.

Every sweep of a chainsword or detonation of a bolt strips away the xenos army's potency until their prized assets lie in tatters.

Furor Kill-team[]

Furor Kill-teams are swarm-slayers, pure and simple. Where vast hordes of Orks stampede towards the Imperial battle line, or surging Tyranid swarms darken the land with their numbers, there the Furor Kill-teams are deployed. In the first instance, Furor Kill-teams place an emphasis upon ranged weaponry, ideally those firearms that generate an overwhelming hail of shots, or those whose rounds burst in clouds of shrapnel or bio-acids, the better to scythe down rank upon rank of lightly armoured targets. Frag Cannons, Infernus Heavy Bolters and the like are often found in Furor Kill-teams, allowing the Deathwatch to mow their enemies down right up until the inevitable moment that the enraged alien survivors push their charge home.

At that moment the kill-team's close combat specialists come to the fore, Terminator-armoured brethren wielding crackling Lightning Claws as Assault Terminators who wade into the enemy, rending and stabbing until the foe's nerve is broken, or all the aliens lie dead.

The air fills with flesh-chewing explosions as the Furor Kill-team's marksmen open fire. Every bolt and frag charge is selected and aimed to cause maximum damage to lightly-armoured foes. Whole swarms of xenos can be taken down by the storm of bolts and shells the Furor team rains upon its foes as its main assault closes in, and explosive bolts sow anarchy and confusion amongst the ranks.

Where the enemy still threatens the Imperial lines through sheer weight of numbers, the team's close combat specialists will charge in at the last moment. With voices raised in praise to the primarchs, they dismember the survivors with powered blades, chainswords and Lightning Claws. The forward elements of the Furor team drive onwards with each new charge, breaking enemy offensives one after another.

Malleus Kill-team[]

The Space Marines of Malleus Kill-teams are monster-slayers and tank-killers. They are fearless heroes who stand unyielding before the towering abominations and deviant war engines of the xenos menace. In order to best perform this role, the Malleus Kill-team makes great use of the heaviest man-portable assault weaponry available. They also look to their own defence -- typically deploying with a number of battle-brothers protected by Terminator Armour and Storm Shields as Deathwatch Terminators who serve in the role of Assault Terminators, for the enemies they fight can crush even a Space Marine to bloody pulp. The Malleus Kill-teams return the favour, however, for their heavy Thunder Hammers and lethal Power Weapons make a mockery of the thickest chitin and xenoform armour.

Their target selected, the Malleus Kill-team attacks with absolute focus and relentless ferocity. Firing pointblank volleys of melta and plasma energy into their victims, the Malleus battle-brothers blast and batter at their chosen target until it is reduced to smouldering ruin.

Purgatus Kill-team[]

Cut off the head, and the body will die. One of the most ancient strategic axioms in Human history, it holds as true amidst the darkness of the 41st Millennium as it ever has. This is the role of the Purgatus Kill-team, and it is a task they are well equipped to perform. Typically led to battle by a member of their watch fortress' Librarius, each member of a Purgatus Kill-team carries weapons that will allow him to assassinate xenos warlords, psychic demagogues and synaptic node-beasts.

With a mixture of overwhelming firepower and punishing close-combat weaponry, the kill-team scythe down any bodyguards that may stand in their way before surrounding their victim with a forest of crackling power blades. Augmented by the psychic powers of their Deathwatch Librarian, the battle-brothers swiftly identify, engage and neutralise their target, ensuring that his demise is as bloody and visible as possible so as to spread the greatest amount of terror and confusion amongst the enemy ranks.

Purgatus Kill-teams must be indomitable in heart and mind, for these squads hunt down and slay those dominant creatures that hold xenos forces together, whether through conventional command structures or through psychic means like Tyranid synapse creatures. Aided by heavy covering fire from his battle-brothers, the kill-team's Deathwatch Librarian closes with his prey, his Warpcraft concealing his brothers from sight until it is time to strike.

When the Purgatus team is in position it will burst from concealment in a storm of Hellfire shells and purifying lightnings, the Librarian engaging his quarry in a fierce war of the mind as his comrades cut down the fell leader's guardians. In a matter of heartbeats the xenos leaders are slain, and the mastermind that holds the enemy force together destroyed.

Venator Kill-team[]

Venator Kill-teams specialise in combating those xenos threats who have the speed to run rings around their slower brethren such as the forces of the Aeldari. These kill-teams balance speed and manoeuvrability with heavy firepower, and are practised at pre-empting the enemy's movements and shutting down the advantages that their swiftness normally affords them. Deathwatch Veteran Bikers are much in evidence amongst Venator Kill-teams, their role to use their speed and hitting power in swift, punishing strikes designed to cripple and slow their victims.

While the bikers engage and surround the xenos, the remainder of the kill-team prepares to strike. Typically heavily armed Veterans, often clad predominately in Terminator Armour to serve as Deathwatch Terminators, utilise predictive firing solutions and expert timing to unleash their arsenal upon the enemy at the optimum moment. No matter how fast and agile the target, it takes only a single blow from a Venator Kill-team to bring its rampage to a bloody end.

A Venator Kill-team is assembled when the Deathwatch face a foe too agile or manoeuvrable for a conventional strike force to contain it. Where such a xenos army could run rings around an armoured division or Gladius demi-company, the Venator team turns the enemy assault on its head, its Assault Bike-mounted warriors hurtling in wide sweeps to encircle the foe in their turn. When their designated quarry is located, the bikers share the auspex data of their previous forays with the rest of their team.

It is then that cold vigilance turns to fiery, red-hot fury. As the bikers finally open fire, the weapon systems borne by the rest of the team's Veterans send salvos blasting in on the coordinates set by their bike-mounted brethren –- no matter how fast their prey, the pinpoint vengeance of these volleys strikes home with killing force.

Proteus Kill-team[]

The sheer versatility of their weapon loadout, combined with their durability and manoeuvrability, make it little wonder that Proteus Kill-teams have worked miraculous feats of arms on countless hostile worlds over the course of the Imperium's history.

A Proteus Kill-team is normally comprised of 4 Deathwatch 1st Company Veterans and 1 Veteran watch sergeant.

Additionally any 5 of the following types of Firstborn Marines can be added:

Fortis Kill-team[]

Fortis Kill-teams are the kill-teams of the Deathwatch comprised wholly of Primaris Space Marines in the Era Indomitus.

Resurrected and returned to the Imperium in its hour of greatest need during the Ultramar Campaign of the 13th Black Crusade, Primarch Roboute Guilliman strove to reunite his father's shattered realm after the start of the Era Indomitus. As the lord commander of the Imperium and Imperial Regent, he presided over the Ultima Founding of the Adeptus Astartes, wherein the long-slumbering Primaris Marines were awoken by the primarch's ally Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl and sent to join the war against Chaos.

As part of this grand mobilisation, Guilliman issued the Ultimaris Decree and sent entire Chapters' worth of Primaris battle-brothers to reinforce the hard-pressed Deathwatch and pulled them back from the brink of annihilation.

The introduction of Primaris Space Marines into the Adeptus Astartes posed the watch masters with an array of strategic challenges and opportunities. In the first instance the Primaris battle-brothers were incorporated by squad type, Intercessors joined with Intercessors, Reivers with Reivers and so on, bringing with them the practices and specialties of their Chapters but still fulfilling their traditional tactical battlefield roles.

It was the watch master of Talasa Prime who took matters a step further and created the first Primaris Space Marine kill-team. Naming this tactic the Fortis Kill-team, Watch Master Mordelai aimed to create the Primaris equivalent of the Aquila Kill-team, basing its structure around a core of Intercessors to provide durability and firepower. He then introduced a Reiver for stealth and terror tactics, an Aggressor for close-range overwhelming strength, an Inceptor for swift scouting and reconnaissance duties and a pair of Hellblasters whose Plasma Incinerators could complement the firepower of their battle-brothers and bring down the largest alien foes.

The template of the Fortis Kill-team, often augmented with a Repulsor tank to provide transport and fire support, spread rapidly from one watch fortress to the next, and new tactics and specialisations are constantly being experimented with as the Primaris Marines and their new physical and technological capabilities become ever more integral to the Deathwatch.

Further refined from Watch Master Mordelai's original concept in the years since the Primaris Marines joined the Deathwatch to have a slightly different composition as other patterns of Primaris kill-teams are established, present day Fortis Kill-teams exemplify the supreme adaptability of Mark X Tacticus Power Armour, seamlessly merging a variety of battleline and close support roles and deadly firepower.

A Fortis Kill-team is normally comprised of 4 Intercessors and 1 Intercessor watch sergeant.

Additionally any 5 of the following types of Primaris Marines can be added:

Wargear Options[]

Indomitor Kill-team[]

Comprising Primaris Marine warriors wearing the heavier Mark X Gravis Power Armour variant, Indomitor Kill-teams are mobile bastions capable of unleashing the firepower of a squadron of main battle tanks. Before them hors of xenos and monstrous beasts alike are torn apart.

An Indomitor Kill-team is normally comprised of 4 Heavy Intercessors and 1 Heavy Intercessor watch sergeant.

Additionally any 5 of the following types of Primaris Marines can be added:

Wargear Options[]

Spectrus Kill-team[]

Sinister, silent and all but invisible until they choose to strike, Spectrus Kill-teams are adept in inflicting death from both near and far. Clad in close-fitting Mark X Phobos Power Armour, these Vanguard Marines specialise in battlefield control and enemy destabilisation.

A Spectrus Kill-team is normally comprised of 4 Infiltrators and 1 Infiltrator watch sergeant.

Additionally any 5 of the following types of Primaris Marines can be added:

Optional Wargear[]

Notable Kill-teams[]

See Also[]

  • Kill Team Unit


  • Codex: Deathwatch (7th Edition), pp. 18-19, 91-96
  • Codex: Deathwatch (8th Edition), pp. 18-19, 25-26, 36
  • Codex Supplement: Deathwatch (9th Edition), pp. 52-53
  • Deathwatch Core Rulebook (RPG)
  • Kill Team Core Book (3rd Edition) (Specialty Game), Core Book, pg. 16