With Codex Necrons out in the wild, we’ve assembled a trio of tournament players to give you their take on how it’s going to perform in a competitive setting. Let’s find out what they think! In case you missed our review of the codex, you can find it here.
Meet the Roundtable
Eulis is perhaps the Necrons player, having finished the 2019 ITC season ranked #1 with the faction after pioneering different ways to alpha strike opponents off the table throughout 8th edition. He’s back to his ways with 9th edition and the new Necrons codex, and excited to play with a completely revamped version of the faction. Eulis is a member of Team Salt Shakers.
A man of many armies and a consummate master of 40k tactics, Richard finished the 2019 season ranked #1 in the ITC thanks to first-place finishes at NOVA, Warzone Atlanta, the Atlanta PTT Open, and the 2020 Las Vegas Open. He’s bounced from T’au to Space Marines to Adeptus Mechanicus to Blood Angels but now he’s ready to roll with Necrons and excited to show what can be done with them on the table. Richard is a founding member of the Art of War 40k, another great place to learn about 40k tactics.
James has been playing Necrons since making the foolish mistake of buying an army at the release of the 2018 Codex, and most recently had been seen extolling the virtues of “Monster Mash” C’Tan-heavy lists in 8th edition. Don’t let his regular stints as an Eldar player fool you – beneath that mushy, fleshy exterior beats the cold heart of OVERLORD_WINGS. James writes Goonhammer’s weekly Competitive Innovations in 9th column and many of our Codex reviews.
What was the biggest thing that stood out on your first read of the Codex?
Wings: The swing towards melee units as the standouts really surprised me – I’d been hoping Skorpekh Destroyers would get enough love to take them over the line compared to their Indomitus statline, but we got much more than just that. Wraiths and Triarch Praetorians both got a decent push as well, and there’s a lot of supporting abilities that really lend themselves to an aggressive strategy – a massive relief given how vital being able to participate in the fight phase is in 9th!
Eulis: When I was first introduced to Necrons I was enthralled by the idea of undead robots who controlled the remnants of their former Gods. The embodiment of Death itself, the Nightbringer, had always been my favorite model in 40k. But as much as I tried to include him in 8th edition he just lacked punch and synergy. Naturally, I was happy to see the new Necrodermis ability for all the C’tan, meaning that against any one-dimensional army they will prove incredibly difficult to deal with. Add the new scythe profile and Drain Life and they’re one hell of a deterrent and will force your opponent to play their game differently. That being said, there’s still the drawback of low range and relative low mobility and as such I think he’s currently just a tad overhyped but I’m still looking forward to putting him on the table again. I think he’s at his best as a good counter assault in a list with a shooting base rather than in an all-out melee list. Time will tell if the Nightbringer bathes in the blood of my enemies or is consumed in the dust of my display shelf.
Richard: In my first read through I was most impressed by the quality and power of the custom Dynastic Codes. In particular, Eternal Conquerors and Relentlessly Expansionist seem like some of the best custom traits in the entire game. Which is very satisfying for a Necrons player as those two rules significantly upgraded the base datasheets of the Codex.
Wings: I’m honestly relieved that everyone else is as high on Relentlessly Expansionist as I am, I was worried I’d lost my mind about it a bit too much in the review!
Which units do you think Necron lists will be leaning on?
Wings: A lot of things – which is great. It certainly feels like Warriors can form an actual core now (probably at the expense of Immortals, who feel a bit lacking in a role other than slot filling), and you’ve then got a couple of angles to do some damage – either buffed up Doomstalkers or some of the premium melee options like the aforementioned Skorpekh. You also have some great more subtle tools – Cryptothralls are fantastic as something to either hold a backfield objective or chuck into Strategic Reserves for Actions. Most of the lists I’m putting together have at least two units – they really are an absolute bargain at 40pts.
Richard: I think the Chronomancer is the star of the show for Necrons. His Chronometron’s ability to grant a <DYNASTY> unit a 5+ invulnerable save and reroll charges is very powerful and dramatically increases the durability of units like Warriors, Flayed Ones, and Scarabs, forcing your opponent to dedicate even more firepower to clear the basic board control of a Necron army. The fact that this ability is not locked to the paltry selection of CORE units is one of the reasons it is so powerful and useful.
Eulis: Richard is spot-on with the Chronomancer. The ability to give any unit a 5++ is so powerful in a game where durability and ability to hold center field will be imperative, especially on Scarabs. My sleeper unit that’s not really being talked about as new and shinier toys are garnering the attention will most likely be Tomb Blades. They were a pain to delete in 8th and points-wise they basically remained the same while other things went up. Reanimating behind walls out of LoS will really help their survivability. Their mobility is a huge plus and they’re still t5 and -1 to hit, with the possibility of adding the Chronomancer buff. Add on being able to buy a Nebuloscope to ignore cover makes them a very strong unit in my book and they’re also Core, meaning they can actually benefit from some buffs that used to be closed to them.
How does the new Codex: Necrons change the way the army plays?
Eulis: My last Necron list rendition in 8th edition finished 19-3 in 5 tournaments including LVO and a couple GTs. The idea behind it was to maximize first turn shooting potential and possibly lose the objective game in the first two turns but lean on my shooting efficiency to begin turning the game in the later rounds. NewCrons are going to be playing a different game. More tactical, more durable, and with more options in the kit to play with. I have a feeling their true potential won’t be discovered right away and you’ll have a lot of possible mid-tier lists where before we had the standard core of the doom 6 then pick your other shooty add ons. Now if you want to play a melee list, vehicle list, shooty, or Canoptek, I think they’ll all have some playability – heck even Spyders aren’t looking too bad this edition. Ultimately a few lists will rise to the top but the army will offer more versatility to fit multiple play styles in this new edition.
Richard: For much of 8th edition, Necrons were a “shoot first, ask questions and play the mission later” type of army. The army tended to be very vehicle-centric with a tremendous amount of firepower, often sacrificing board control for pure efficiency and the threat of three Doomscythes unleashing an absurd amount of mortal wounds to much of your army.
In 9th edition, however, Necron melee and board control has received a significant boost, and in my opinion, will be the most consistent way to win with them. Most notably, Necrons have received several powerful new melee options such as Skorpekh and Ophidian Destroyers and the Silent King. Wraiths and Tomb Spyders are also good options that synergize with a Technomancer who can grant them additional attacks and make them hit more effectively. Such units can operate independent across the board, which make them natural inclusions for a 9th edition playstyle that favors multiple small units that can operate on distant objectives, can move block, as well as neutralize or tag opponent’s shooting threats. This combines extremely well with the new custom dynasty granting Objective Secured to these units so they can also more easily deny your opponent primary points while doing damage.
Wings: I‘m on the same page here – there are enough options that exactly what the best way to put them together is will probably take a while to emerge, but a strong close assault element is going to be part of it. There are some decent “support” shooting options (notably the Doomstalker), but I don’t feel like there’s a wide enough range of those to build a whole strategy around. Melee is a very different story, and getting in your opponent’s face is the route to victory now.
Which Dynasties do you think look strongest? Are there multiple builds here?
Eulis: A full canoptek Novokh list is way up there for a purely fun list. But the Necron community is gravitating towards custom for Eternal Conquers and Relentlessly Expansionist for good reason. The game is much more about playing the objective game than ever before. Having Objective Secured is such a huge advantage and it’s hard not to run to this option with the ability to get to mid field just a bit quicker with R.E. but I am probably going to lean into a blend of both custom and mephrit in my first iteration of my new list and just forgo protocols for now.
Richard: As previously mentioned, I believe the Custom Dynasties are incredibly potent and believe that Eternal Conquerors and Relentlessly Expansionist will be consistent features of board control Necron lists. I think the Silent King can be allied into such armies to good effect as well. Novokh has perhaps the best of the dynasty specific stratagems, but it is a tough choice choosing damage over the mission abilities of the custom dynasties.
Wings: My only hesitation in going all-in on the Expansionist/Conquerors combo is that I want to make Warriors work, and my experience from putting them on the table so far is that you really want the ability to get the attacks of those units up if you get stuck in melee, which Novokh obviously gives you via a stratagem. I’m wondering if maybe just going with Anrakyr the Traveller to give me the best of both worlds is the way out! I did also try Nephrekh out of the box, but my early impression there is that even if I want the 6++, I’m better just taking that along with Expansionist, as the ability to set up a position where you can get charges/shooting off turn 1 is just so valuable. In summary, Novokh, Expansionist/Conquerors and Expansionist/Unyielding are the three things I want to test.
Any units that seem underwhelming still?
Eulis: I used to be a destroyer fan boy but with Extermination protocols getting a cost increase and nerf and destroyers missing the CORE keyword I’m disappointed with them so far. Reanimation is still better than before but it feels lackluster on big models when compared to our 1- and 2-wound models. I’ll also add that I feel the protocols will influence most players into single dynasties and they add another level of randomness to the game. This will come as a huge skill gap mechanic. You’ll need a mind like Mr. Seigler to really see the game play out in every round to really maximize those benefits so my concern is they could be a bit of a trap for more casual players and part of the reason why initially I’ll be testing out multiple dynasties instead.
Richard: The Canoptek Reanimator seems like a unit that Games Workshop wanted to be a fundamental part of Necron armies with its abilities to buff reanimation protocols, but for such a low durability model, I cannot fathom how they decided it should be 110 points. As Goonhammer has shown in a previous article, it is almost always better to simply run more of the same models, than rely on the Reanimator.
Wings: Destroyers frustrate me because I don’t think they’re bad exactly but they could clearly have been pushed a bit harder than they have been, and I’m not clear why they weren’t. It does leave a bit of a gap in the army – you really want some mid-ranged broad-spectrum shooting in 9th, but the price is just a bit too high. I’m also disappointed that the Monolith still doesn’t feel like it quite gets there despite the new model – between moving to the Lord of War slot and losing FLY it’s just such a pain to use.
Are there any key stratagems or pieces of gear you’ll be using a lot?
Eulis: I think the best way for me to address this question is in how I think we approach Necrons as a whole this edition. In 8th, we threw ourselves into taking multiples of a few core units to synergize around but in this edition I feel we’ll be focused on assembling a list from lots of one-off strategies. Some of these include:
- Quantum Deflection, which for 1 cp is too good to not get value from on a high wound model such as a Triarch Stalker or Doomsday Ark. Since it also mitigates their low toughness, you get a huge amount of value per point on these models.
- Scarabs with Expansionists and a 5++ from a Chronomancer are great objective holders.
- C’tan have some unique playability and cause some issues.
- 20 warriors who get Veiled in and pump 40 shots amped up with stratagems and the Mehprit bonus (and a Chronomancer again). Thats a nasty back field presence to deal with that gets initiative in first attack from veil negating the down side of their slow speed.
What I’m getting at is I feel necrons are about multiple strong potential one offs or small clusters. That feels like it plays well into this new meta. We can operate on multiple edges of the board while still fighting for the middle without losing a lot of synergy like some armies may if they are forced to split up.
Will there be strong death ball necron armies that huddle around Silent King and Warrior Spam? Possibly. I feel those tactics can be countered by great players and it forces the game to come to the necron player. My personal play style fits better in bringing the game to my opponent and pressuring them to make mistakes.
Wings: There are a few neat boosts you can throw around which help in a lot of situations. The Voltaic Staff is a great all-round weapon, something sorely lacking from the arsenal before, and as a C’tan fan I will of course be enjoying access to cheaper Dimensional Destabilisation. The other one to keep an eye on is Enslaved Protectors – ObSec Scarabs look like they’re going to be hot stuff, and being able to heroic with them is going to let you catch people out.
Richard: The Cryptek Arkana immediately stood out to me as very powerful additions to the Necron special rules. I believe the Countertemporal Nanomines that the Chronomancer can take to halve advance and charge rolls for an enemy unit each turn is an essential tool in the Necron arsenal to ensure combat happens on their terms. The Technomancer has two very useful arkana options as well to help further buff Canoptek units or to help in the reanimation of a non-CORE model.
As for stratagems, I think Whirling Onslaught to subtract one from wound rolls made against a Skorpekh unit is an excellent stratagem. Especially because it can be used in any phase, it acts as a consistent option against the myriad incoming damage such units could be taking. Many of the stratagems in the book are solid, but happen to be locked to a specific datasheet or CORE units and so while many of them are useful, they are only situationally so in practice.
What list would you play if you took Necrons to a tournament tomorrow?
Mephrit Outrider Detachment (-3 CP, 1,370 points)
Chronomancer, hypermaterial ablator, veil of darkness 105
Royal Warden, relic conduit of stars -75
Stalker, heat ray -140
Tomblades, 7 tesla, 2gauss, 6 nebuscope, 9 shield vanes -315
Tomblades, 1 tesla, 8 gauss, 1 nebuscope, 9 shield vanes-300
Scarabs x3 45
Custom Dynasty Patrol Detachment (-0 CP (warlord), 630 pts)
Eternal Conquerors (Obsec) and Relentless Expansionist 6 inch pregame move
Illuminor szeras Warlord (enduring will)-160
Chronomancer, countertemporal -110
Immortals x5 gauss -90
Scarabs x9 -135
Scarabs x9 -135
Total points: 2,000
Note: we’ve updated this since the original publication as we spotted that mixed Dynasty detachments are no longer allowed. The new build is one that Richard has recently been seen crushing Nick Nanavati with on stream.
Novokh Battalion: -3 cp
Chronomancer, entropic lance, relic: veil of darkness 80
Chronomancer, entropic lance 80
Technomancer, canoptek cloak, -1 cp relic: voltaic staff 80
20 Warriors, Gauss Reaper 260
20 Warriors, Gauss Reaper 260
20 Warriors, Gauss Flayers 260
2 Canoptek Cryptothralls 40
2 Canoptek Cryptothralls 40
9 Scarab Swarm 135
3 Scarab Swarm 45
9 Tomb Blades, 8x twin gauss blaster, 1x twin Tesla carbine 270
Supreme Command +3 cp
Lord of War
The Silent King, Warlord: the triarch’s will 450 +3 cp
Custom Dynasty Patrol Detachment
Relentlessly Expansionist, Unyielding
Anrakyr the Traveller 140
Chronomancer w/Nanomines, Entropic Lance, Veil of Darkness 110
20 Warriors 260
Nightbringer, Transdimensional Thunderbolt 350
5 Scarabs 75
5 Scarabs 75
4 Lokhusts, Heavy Lokhust w/gauss destructor 290
Custom Dynasty Patrol
Relentlessly Expansionist, Unyielding
Catacomb Command Barge, Resurrection Orb, Gauss Cannon, Voltaic Staff, Warlord – Enduring Will 180
19 Warriors 247
5 Skorpekh 175
This is very much me trying to make some of the strategies that I’m not yet sure are quite there work, but it features a bunch of my favourites and it certainly feels much better than it used to.
Where do you feel the army ends up competitively? Better than it was before?
Eulis: I have mixed feelings here. The Necrons’ floor was raised a little while its ceiling was raised a lot and it may end up being one of the biggest skill gap armies in the game now. With relatively low mobility you’re going to have to plan to play around taking the first punch whether you go first or second. That may give an advantage to going second in some necron builds. My concern is that things look good on paper and you’ll have a lot of players try to play as they once did and push forward as fast as possible then wonder why they are losing games. Finding ways to force your opponent out by baiting cheap units like scarabs to get around our lack of range and speed will be crucial. Players will need to be more methodical with these NewCrons. Personally in the meta I was playing, I feel my old list was superior to anything I’ve tested so far but also recognize there’s a lot left to try which is a welcome change.
Richard: It is certainly better than it was before. 8th Edition was a dark time for the vast majority of competitive Necron players, outside of only a couple such as Eulis, whose player skill took that book as far as it could go. I think the new codex opens up a lot of new options for mono and mixed detachment builds. This Codex really opens up a distinctly mission-focused style of play for Necrons that is ideally suited for the 9th edition playstyle that has come into focus in the last two months. Overall, I think Necrons will end up competing with Harlequins for the best Xenos army in the game for now and the true test will be how well they hold up against Space Marines.
Wings: The new book feels a lot better on a lot of angles, and there clearly are builds that can strike right at the top tables. I do still feel that the designers haven’t quite exorcised their fear of what some of the Necron units can do, and some units you want to build around are very expensive, making it hard to get everything you need into a list. However, other units feel very pushed at their new costs and happily these are ones you can build around very effectively. Even if my dream of making Warriors really work doesn’t play out, I’m confident that hordes of ObSec Scarabs is a very good backup plan.
Any final thoughts?
Eulis: I wish some of our characters were less restricted by Dynasties. There’s a few I’d enjoy working into a list that simply won’t work purely because of dynasty restrictions. I’ll miss quantum shielding as it was so uniquely necron. I think Command Protocols are interesting but I feel it may have missed its mark. A stratagem to discard the protocol and choose one designated to a later turn could have reduced the randomness at the cost of losing a turn of protocols but for now there’s a lot of new stuff to test and the army is more than just a math game now so for that I’m excited.
Richard: I wish the Codex had implemented a less restricted version of CORE so that many of the rules that interact with that key word would be more useful and easily applicable. At the very least there should have been useful relics, warlord traits or other rules to extend the CORE keyword to certain units to offer even further play styles such as Destroyer Cults. Even a stratagem to grant a single unit the CORE keyword for a turn would have been wonderful. Compared to Space Marines, I think Games Workshop took a much more conservative approach to the CORE design philosophy here, which may end up hurting the book in the long-term as further codexes are released.
Wings: Like the others I do still have some gripes – but it’s really night and day how much more enthusiastic I am about listbuilding and tinkering than I used to be. It’s a good thing that Necrons paint up quickly, because I have a big shopping list of things I need to fill out my collection. Eulis’ point about building armies out of a lot of different tools helps here too – one of the things that kept me from ever seriously trying to put the top builds on the table before was how nightmarish painting multiple Doomsdays looked like being. With that out the way, and a formidable array of choices to try out, it’s a great time to be a Necron player.
Huge thanks to Eulis and Richard for joining us, and thanks to our readers for sticking with us! As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.