Armies of Renown Necrons – Annihilation Legion and Cult of the Cryptek Review

Necrons are the Flagship Enemy of this Edition of Warhammer 40,000, but they have had a tendency to be neglected in updates – whereas Space Marines who shared the box with them have a glut. That changes in some small part for them this month with two new Armies of Renown.

White Dwarf rules in 9th Edition have been categorically hit or miss, with updates like Altansar or the Tome Keepers being little more than narrative cliff, while the Emperor’s Spears saw some competitive experimentation and Crusher Stampede did horrific things to underprepared metas and the opposite to Tyranid Player’s winrates. 

So where do these land? In a strictly competitive sense, Necrons as a whole have become somewhat monolithic in their style. The objective secured + pregame move combination crowds out all but the most dedicated fans of other lists. With the power of Necron secondaries being somewhat dependent on that speed and scoring capability, turning that down and limiting your unit pools certainly seems difficult to justify. 

So, what are the two Armies of Renown?

Released in White Dwarf #481, The Annihilation Legion is a terror force of Destroyers and Flayed Ones. This supplement trades out all of the utility pieces you could take in favour of more raw damage output and a bespoke set of Command Protocols. 

This Army of Renown restricts you to units with the DESTROYER Keyword (Lokhust and Skorpekh Lords, Skorpekh, Ophydian, Lokhust, Lokhust Heavy and Hexmark Destroyers) and Flayed Ones. This Army of Renown is prohibited from using any troops units, but does move the Hexmark Destroyer to HQ and makes it slotless, and allows a single Vanguard to have the 3CP Warlord refund.

Released in White Dwarf #482, The Cult of the Cryptek represents the thralls of the Crypteks rising to defend the Tomb Worlds. Boosting both the durability and damage output of these units, as well as opening up even more esoteric Cryptek Arkana, this army is built to take a punch and deal one.

The Cryptek AOR allows you to take Cryptek Units (Chronomancer, Plasmancer, Technomancer, and the Psychomancer), as well as Necron Warriors and the CANOPTEK unit suite (Wraiths, Spyders, Scarabs, Reanimators, and Doomstalkers, as well as the Forgeworld offerings Acanthrites, Tomb Stalkers and Tomb Sentinels). This setup allows you access to troops and HQs as normal, and as such does not have any built in refunds.

What are these Armies of Renown Losing?

With any Army of Renown it’s important to start with what is being taken away. This will form the basis of how lists that use these rules will be compared to what came before. Thankfully in both cases, there are some shared similarities and some key differences that will help inform the competitive outlook of both of these options.

Both factions lose out on the powerful Silent King datasheet, which has empowered some ridiculous results and performances from the Necron faction over the last 6 months or so at time of writing. After the removal of Core from his datasheet however, we have started to see some players moving away from him.  The SK is a little less reliable and you can get a lot of Necron “Beef” in for his 400 points – so count this against the Armies of Renown a little less than you might have.

Credit: Fowler

Annihilation Legion loses access to any form of troops, only gaining Objective Secured on Flayed Ones through the standard custom Dynastic Codes, or in 10+ model squads as part of list building. This means no Battalions or Patrols, limiting you heavily to the refunded Vanguard that is granted by the Army of Renown and means you’ll eat a minimum of -3CP for any additional detachments. 

Annihilation Legion trades out its Dynastic Codes on Destroyer units also, though it does retain the keyword and relic/stratagem access as such. As discussed earlier, losing out on Objective Secured army wide is a huge blow to the standard ways to play that we’ve seen out of Necrons and makes some of their secondaries. Typically Necrons rely on Objective Secured to auto complete, or objective control to start; so it is much harder to bank the usual automatic 100s we’re used to seeing. Flayed Ones become much more important, both as action monkeys and as your only source of this very important toolbox. 

Necron Command Protocols also saw a high level update in a recent Balance Dataslate, which made them board wide and much less dependent on characters. This also allowed one of them to be permanently enacted for the army, double stacking what are some relatively minor bonuses. Annihilation Legion has none of that. Their bespoke version is very much Noble locked and only while within 6” of a Character. If you’re used to the new style after some time away, this may be a little jarring and you should expect it to take Annihilation Legion players a little time to get used to.

Finally, Crypteks and Scarabs are some of the best scoring and utility options available, and Annihilation Legion has no access to these. This means no bringing models back with the Technomancer and no invulnerable save from the Chronomancer. This reduces the army’s jank and some degree of top level survivability (and mobility in the Technomancer resurrection’s case) to a reasonable degree. You’ll also be losing out on any way to take My Will Be Done in this Army of Renown, which can mean that Destroyers fall a lot harder before hit modifiers. This will be especially noticeable for Lokhust Destroyers, who have been using full hit re-rolls and +1 to hit from The Silent King along with their powerful re-roll to wound stratagem to terrorise the wider meta. 

Speaking of those Crypteks, they are losing a very different side of the Necrons Codex. While the Dynastic Codex vanishing here is army wide, they retain Objective Secured on Necron Warriors and with it the ability to bring Patrols and Battalions. Losing Codes on the survivable Canoptek Units and particularly Wraiths and Scarabs (which are known for being a terror with even one surviving model), is a real blow that will make these units play very differently from similar counterparts. These units will retain the keyword for their Dynasty – so you can still access the +1 Attack Stratagem from Novokh or the Deny on a 4+ from Szarekh if you desire.

The biggest loss here for Cult of the Cryptek is all non-Cryptek and Canoptek Datasheets. Notable big players in the current top level Necrons meta are Lokhust and Skorpekh Destroyers – who function as a significant percentage of the strong damage output in the codex… especially at range. With no access to Lokhust Destroyers, the fall back options become side weaponry on Canoptek Units. Is there enough here to get that over the line? Signs point to maybe. Random action monkey units also become less tenable here. Cryptothralls are locked at two model units and Warriors don’t start cheap. Scarabs will still be great for Awakening some Ancient Machineries, but won’t automatically complete it in a turn cycle. Generic secondaries like Retrieve Nephilim Data have little appeal with such limited infantry options.

Lokhust Heavy Destroyer. Credit: Wings

So What Am I Annihilating With?

The Annihilation Legion gains some very interesting benefits. Necrons as a whole are not typically known for their damage output. Giving units +1 to Hit when targeting an enemy below starting strength, and +1 to Wound when targeting an enemy below half starting strength certainly starts to make the idea of getting whacked upside the head by a couple of Skorpekhs a lot less appealing. This is a powerful generic ability that rewards the ability to do chip damage on the way in, being resilient enough to have a little bit of your units trade back for your opponent’s important pieces. Delivery will always remain an issue with a rule like this. The limited scope of long ranged chip damage besides Destroyers and random guns on Characters will make this trigger less often than you might think on first glance, but it will come up over the course of the game.

The biggest downside here is that it does absolutely nothing against single model units; such as Greater Daemons, Imperial Knights, or Land Fortresses. This will limit how much of an impact it has, as in a decent portion of your games you’ll gain almost no benefit out of this against your opponents primary threats. 

Next on the docket, we have the old style command protocols. These will trigger once per battle round, in a 6” aura from your Characters, and there are some wildly powerful effects here.

The first notable one is Light Cover if you did not remain stationary, or Heroic Intervention on all units. This rewards you for going fast, and can help you make that delivery turn stick. If instead you just have to get there this turn, +2 to Movement, or Fall Back and Charge can help you get right into the fight. There are also some generic “damage increase for range and/or melee” and some utility options like +1 to Charge and Action and Shoot which might help a rather anemic Awaken Machineries gameplan get off the ground. The real headliner of the set however is the aptly named “Protocol of the Immortal Warrior” which affords you the choice between +1 to Armour Saving Throws or +1 Toughness. This is a wild benefit, and will definitely be the signal of the turn this army has just thrown everything at you.

As with all Necron Protocols, proper use of these requires some pre planning and a little luck, but there are definitely enough options here that you will have something to be happy with every turn no matter your choice, though expect to see Turn 1 +2 Move, Turn 2 +1 Save/Toughness depending on opponent a decent portion of the time. 

Relics are here, though they’re unexciting and dressing up some fairly mediocre characters. Damage Spillover from the Nightcull Scythe can juice up a Skorpekh Lord, and the Mask of Obliteration can have a Hexmark Destroyer doing his best Votann Impression with a D3+3 Damage Beam shot if you trade out your normal fire, but under Nephilim’s restrictive CP environment, the Veil of Darkness and saving CP for the awesome Stratagem suite is probably the better call.

Speaking of Stratagems, boy is this a wild set of rules that is definitely The Reason™ to play Annihilation Legion. Starting off with a wild one, Swift Dismemberment gives any unit the ability to Advance and Charge, which can combo with the +2 move protocol to give wildly higher threat ranges than people will expect from units like Ophydians and Skorpekhs. Hyperphase Impalement allows Ophydians to ignore phase caps and Feel No Pain effects and Canoptek Reinforcement can recycle a dead Plasmacyte for another go of juicing your big hitters, and/or rolling that 1 yet again. A real star here is Efficient Disintegration. +1 Damage is a bonkers effect on almost anything, and Destroyers can get ludicrously consistent when kicking out D3+1 Damage off of a platform that can potentially be +1 to hit and wound, while re-rolling 1s to hit and all wound rolls. This is the reason to save your CP and can deliver an absolute hammer blow anywhere with the Veil of Darkness

Lastly there is a stratagem to gain Objective Secured back for 2 Command Points – nice to have in a pinch and it can also double down as a VP scorer for some of the Necron Action secondaries. Triggering at the start of the command phase means you can use it before scoring primary, which means anyone playing against you has to commit a lot harder to deny a primary swing. This brings more units to kill even closer to your even more murderous murderbots. 

The best units for Annihilation Legion are frankly just everything available to it. Units of Lokhust Heavy Destroyers and Flayed Ones certainly seem the weakest of the available options, but everything else accessible here provides a lot of strategic power and options, while being just about cheap enough to bring almost all of. The sample list for this Army of Renown is a great example of that, which can be seen at the end of the article.

Necron Canoptek Reanimator
Necron Canoptek Reanimator. Credit: Pendulin

I joined a Cult of the Cryptek and all I got was this Particle Beamer

Okay so maybe that’s not all you get. For your trust in our glorious leaders you will also receive an additional attack, and the ability to re-roll 1s on your Reanimation Protocols. +1 attack is a good ability to have, pushing Wraiths to 5 and Spyders to 6 is certainly a good place to be, but there’s no 2 or 3 attack powerhouse units getting pushed over the line of output here like we might see in something like Kronus Hegemony or Bloody Rose. Re-roll 1s on Reanimation Protocols is even more marginal. A couple of common use cases are 2 Dead Wraiths and 3 Dead Scarabs – in these cases, re-rolling your 1s will give you a 43% chance instead of a 32% chance to bring a Wraith back, and 75% over 61% of bringing back a Scarab. Expect to see this come up a couple of times a game and be a nice marginal benefit, especially when combined with the Undying Legions Command Protocol for another single re-roll, but don’t bank on it too hard unless you want to lean in with a 9 Brick of Scarabs and a Reanimator.

The Cult of the Cryptek comes with more Cryptek Arkana, which are the points upgrades that you can give to characters. There are some nice options here, which is good because the generic ones from the codex leave a little to be desired. Grabbing the Atomiser Stave will allow your Plasmancer to throw 6d6 at his 24” range smite, which pushes it from chip damage to something you have to respect while also not breaking the bank at just 15 points. The Autodivinator grants you a command point on a 5+ each Command Phase, for just 20 points, and can be taken on any Cryptek.This is about as close to an auto take as there has been for one of these in Necrons and is certainly welcome in an army with another solid Stratagem list and some Warlord Traits it definitely wants.

Warlord Traits in your Necrons? It’s more likely than you think. No longer chained to the Tyranny of “I guess I just won’t bother” being your best option, Master of the Cult grants a My Will Be Done equivalent that works on Scarabs or Wraiths alike for +1 to hit… even after getting out of aura range of your Technomancer’s Canoptek Control Node. Notably, this also works and range as well as with the fast nature of Canoptek Units. The standout here is Codifier of Lesser Beings, which functions as a command phase ability giving all units that target your chosen unit of that command phase +1 to wound. This is an incredible bonus to be handing out from a character that can move quick enough to keep up (like the Movement 8 Chronomancer), and use Look Out, Sir! protection to stand in the open with impunity and punish any units that need to step into the open. This is particularly strong into things that don’t benefit from obscuring, like Aircraft and 18+ wound models, where a +1 to wound will change the math on killing them dramatically.

Lastly we come again to the Stratagem List, and the reason you’ll want to bring the Autodivinator and keep your other spending low to the ground. 

These Armies of Renown like to start strong, with Overkill Protocols giving a 1CP +1AP to Wraith’s Vicious Claws (the damage 2 option), or tripling the attacks of the Whip Coils (which normally double your attacks). With a full CP combo, using both the Novokh Stratagem for +1 Attack, and this, while under the effects of the Fail-Safe Overcharger for another +1 Attack, a squad of 6 Wraiths can have either 42 Attacks at S6 Ap3 2D, or an insane 126 attacks at S4 Ap1 1D. Combining this with the +1 Strength from Protocol of the Hungry Void will make these Wraiths rip opponents to shreds.

Stalking Annihilator allows a Doomstalker to Move/Fall Back and still shoot on top profile, which certainly means you can have a lot more options with these walking Casino Cannons, and Exalted Cryptek lets you buy two pieces of Arkana for the same model. One combo worth looking at here is taking something like Quantum Orb and the new Atomiser Stave to double down on the mortal wound options from a single Plasmancer without breaking the bank.

Canoptek Overcharge gives Wraiths the ability to fight on Death for just a single CP, which makes the trading game option for Necrons even stronger, and Enhanced Gloom Prisms can give you +2 to roll on your Gloom Prisms for a single deny, which is some good anti-psyker utility in a pinch. 

Another real talking point here is just how much you can boost a squad of Canoptek Spyders. 1CP can increase the AP of their bizarrely high volume (12 shots per model for 10 points, in squads of 3) 12 Shot S6 Ap- 1D shooting, and the same can give them +2 to their movement and a Weapon Skill of 2+ for a turn. Canoptek Spyders have made out like bandits from these rules and provide a very interesting basis for a list.

Standout Units in the Cult of the Cryptek seem to be the damage dealers – which makes sense given the output focussed nature of the abilities handed out here. Wraiths and Spyders afford a lot of flexibility in damage output, and falling back and charging remains as powerful as ever.

Necron Ophydian Destroyers. Credit: Colin Ward.

What do Lists look like?

For Annihilation Legion, we have a template to work from:

Nicholas Willingale – 7th Place at the Coventry GT 3 Day with a 6-2 Record:

Necrons – Annihilation Legion – 5CP

Necrons Vanguard Detachment – Novokh

Lokhust Lord, Phylactery, Staff of Light – 105

Relic: Veil of Darkness


Skorpekh Lord – 130

Warlord – No Trait


7 Flayed Ones – 70

5 Flayed Ones – 50

6 Skorpekh Destroyers – 180

6 Skorpekh Destroyers – 180

6 Skorpekh Destroyers – 180


6 Ophydian Destroyers – 180

6 Ophydian Destroyers – 180


6 Lokhust Destroyer, Lokhust Heavy Destroyer with Emnitic Exterminator – 285

6 Lokhust Destroyer, Lokhust Heavy Destroyer with Emnitic Exterminator – 285


Hexmark Destroyer – 65

Hexmark Destroyer – 65

Plasmacyte – 15

Plasmacyte – 15

Plasmacyte -15

With a full 46 Destroyers, and almost every slot that can be filled with one having one, Nicholas put the Legion in his Annihilation. This list puts a full wall of Necron Bodies – all with very high damage output and challenges you to deal with them – while putting up punishingly high scores, a total of 721VP over 8 games. Taking full advantage of the rules afforded while maintaining a small scoring contingent in the Flayed Ones and more Destroyers than it knows what to do with, it’s very possible to score high on territory based secondaries by just killing everything that could possibly threaten your scoring. Do you want to run at the 30 mad robots with scythes for arms to stop them scoring Purge the Vermin? You may have to! Congratulations to Nicholas for being the first to put this on the table in a noteworthy manner and representing them well.


For the Cult of the Cryptek, the lists remain in theory land as we haven’t seen them have a chance to hit the meta yet, but this is what the general shape of them could look like:

Necrons Cult of the Cryptek – 3CP

Necrons Battalion Detachment – Novokh

Technomancer, Canoptek Control Node – 95

Cryptek Arcana – Fail-Safe Overcharger


Technomancer, Canoptek Control Node – 90

Warlord – Master of the Cult

Cryptek Arcana – Autodivinator


Chronomancer – 75

Rarefied Nobility – Codifier of Lesser Beings

Relic – The Veil of Darkness


10 Necron Warrior – 130

10 Necron Warrior – 130

10 Necron Warrior – 130


6 Canoptek Wraiths, Vicious Claws – 210

6 Canoptek Wraiths, Vicious Claws – 210

6 Canoptek Wraiths, Whip Coils – 210


2 Cryptothralls – 40

2 Cryptothralls – 40

3 Canoptek Spyder, 6 Particle Beamer, Gloom Prism – 215

3 Canoptek Spyder, 6 Particle Beamer, Gloom Prism – 215

3 Canoptek Spyder, 6 Particle Beamer – 210

This list looks to put as many hard hitting Canoptek Units on the board as possible and leans back into the troops as scoring options to conserve as many Command Points as possible to power up those units further. The character suite stays bare bones to top off damage and healing. You could certainly lean heavier into mortal wound output, or go much lower to the ground on troops in the favour of accessing units like Scarabs at the cost of Command Points. This list would probably want to play with +1 Movement or +1 Strength from its Command Protocols to get into combat faster, or hit important breakpoints once you’re there.


Credit: Mike H

Competitive Outlook – Annihilation Legion

This Army of Renown is very one dimensional, but oh my what a dimension to pick. A smorgasbord of the best units available in Necrons, and trading out support pieces for a genuinely powerful old-style Command Protocols set up and some very powerful stratagems leaves the units here free to focus on living their own best lives. Nicholas has already shown that there’s at least something to be explored here, and with the “Obsekh” style Necrons list growing older and more figured out by the day, this could certainly be the direction to take the faction. You really do just get so much stuff in a Necrons list when you cut the Silent King and Annihilation Legion seems poised to make the most of it.

As a last note, if this gets updated Command Protocols and can have +2 Movement or +1 Save/Toughness active for the entire game and board wide, this is probably in contention for just the best way to play Necrons, and with more time and testing, that may turn out to be true even without that. Approach that with caution Games Workshop.

Necron Technomancer
Necron Technomancer. Credit: Pendulin

Competitive Outlook – Cult of the Cryptek

Certainly a less exciting debut for the mad scientists of the Army of Renown duology with no Super Major top 8 to talk about, the baseline units here are also very strong and seeing success in the current meta lists for the faction, but almost universally for traits they lose here, that being objective secured. The Cult of the Cryptek suffers from both wanting CP to make the most of their units, as their baseline damage output is generally lower, and having very restrictive detachment filling. Wraiths and Scarabs both occupy precious Fast Attack slots and Necron Warriors being generally on the poor side of available units, the tensions here are much less interesting.

The damage output you can generate is very high, but most things in the wider meta right now are equipped for higher. That creates a very high bar for Cult of the Cryptek to cross, which it probably falls short of at the highest levels.

Final Thoughts 

These are both phenomenal Armies of Renown on almost all fronts. Interesting and diverse, propping up the many units in them and separating out two parts of the Necron Codex normally used together has allowed those units to explore more design space and create some truly unique options that play nothing like the main codex. The primary issue with Armies of Renown in the past has been when they manifest as “Meta List but better”, or just better than the main codex (See Crusher Stampede, Speed Freeks and Skitarii Veteran Cohort for examples of these). 

The Annihilation Legion and Cult of the Cryptek pay the very real cost of losing Dynastic Codes which are the central pillar of the Nephilim Necrons’ house of cards. When we and if we see changes to that, these may escape unscathed or even improved by virtue of having entirely different strengths. That’s great to see and very different for these rulessets. If we are to continue to have White Dwarf releases for Matched Play, this is the wavelength they should be launching on. 

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