Getting Started: Necrons

At Goonhammer we’ve devoted a lot of words to talking about how to compete and take your game to the next level. In “Getting Started,” we look at how to get started with an army – the basics you need to know, how to start collecting models that will leave you with a serviceable army, and what the best deals are.

Who are the Necrons?

“Order. Unity. Obedience. We taught the galaxy these things long ago, and we will do so again.”

For a short answer, the Necrons are a powerful race of skeletal robots that have been hibernating for millions of years and have recently awakened throughout the galaxy. Long ago these beings discarded their frail bodies for the protection of metal with the “help” of corporeal star-gods, the C’tan. The intelligence and personality of individuals transferred was prioritized so leadership maintained every sense of themselves and were greatly empowered while civilians had their minds stripped away and became nothing more than obedient husks. After the process they found themselves not only in the thrall of the C’tan but also longing for the intangible sense of soul that they now lacked. With great effort they were able to overthrow the C’tan and shatter them into shards that could be weaponized for their own purposes. Over the long millennia some of them came to accept their now soulless nature, some of them still work to undo the transference, and some have been driven insane.

As an army, Necron leadership can use hordes of mostly-mindless Warriors as expendable chaff to be directed at threats. This type of tactic is almost without consequence, as their bodies are made of a material known as living metal that stitches itself back together quickly and makes permanently destroying them difficult. Even if you manage to disable a Necron they often are teleported away by mysterious forces to hidden techno-crypts where they can return later after swearing vengeance.

If you like the idea of undying powerful megalomaniacal cyber-skeletons and giant arachnid robots this army is going to be your jam. 9th Edition brought about very welcome changes to some of the faction mechanics and introduced some new units that have really shaken things up. Competitively Necrons sit pretty well and have a lot of neat tools and tricks to play with and on the hobby end they are one of most forgiving/easy armies to paint if you want to shoot for a standard metallic look. There’s a lot of interesting lore around the Necrons, both before and after the retcon they got in their 5th Edition codex, and if you have any interest we highly recommend you check it out.

Army Strengths

  • Extremely durable units and revival abilities
  • Strong volume of firepower and surprisingly good melee
  • Useful dynastic bonuses and stratagems
  • Large varied selection of good units and characters

Army Weaknesses

  • Zero psychic offence and minimal defence
  • Few long range shooting options
  • Army requires unit synergy to work properly and can be tricky to master
Rockfish's Necrons
Rockfish’s Necrons

The Book

The Necrons are one of the first books out of the gate this edition, so if you pick up Codex: Necrons and make sure you’re up-to-date on any published FAQs then you should be set! If you want a thorough overview of the book and its various rules check out our codex review article.

Planning Your Army

The Necrons are getting a lot of support these days in the forms of the Indomitus box set and various starter sets, which can make jumping into the faction quick and relatively painless. The key here is how do you want to steer your army? What Dynasty do you want to commit to? Your armies dynasty/dynasties can skew what models are a priority for you, so if you don’t have an opinion yet you should take the time to review them and decide where to start.

Here’s a rundown of the six primary Dynasties:

Mephrit: Extended shooting range, better AP at half range
Nephrekh: Models have a small invulnerable save and can translocate (teleport) long distances through objects and terrain (this gives up shooting)
Novokh: Models charge longer distances and improve their melee AP the first round of combat
Nihilakh: Very good at capturing objectives, minor defensive buff in the deployment zone
Szarekhan: Resilient against mortal wounds, units are slightly better at wounding targets
Sautekh: Reroll failed morale checks, double-shot range of Rapid Fire weapons extended

To put it to a generalized list, you can put them into these piles:

Melee: Novokh
Range: Mephrit, Sautekh, Szarekhan
Board Control: Nephrekh, Nihilakh

There is also the possibility of creating custom Dynastic traits from a large list which can make some cool (and pretty powerful) combinations. If you’re new to the army but not to Warhammer 40,000 this would probably be something to look at as well. If you’re coming to the game for the first time, probably stick with one of the set Dynasties for now until you have a better foundation for how these various rules interact.

Warhammer 9th edition has made a strong case for gaming at any size, and the Combat Patrol and Incursion level games allow new players to get in games at standard levels with some mission support. You and your opponent can agree to any amount of points to play, but ideally shoot for 500pts, 1000pts, and finally 2000pts for a “complete” army.

 

Necron Indomitus force
Necron Indomitus force. Credit: Chris Cowie

Collecting Your Army

This is one spot where the Necrons really shine at this point, as they are the premier “enemy” faction of 9th Edition–there are numerous “inexpensive” ways to start collecting your army that have significant cost savings and fill in important parts of most armies. If you have the option, it’s probably best to start collecting with a friend who is interested in some flavor of Space Marine because the starter sets come with Necrons and Space Marines (and simple playboard/terrain) and do a decent job of providing some introductory rules and examples for new players.

Warhammer 40,000 Recruit Edition – £32.50/$50

Includes 10 Necron Warriors, 3 Canoptek Scarab Swarms, and a Royal Warden. It also includes 5 Space Marine Assault Intercessors and a Primaris Lieutenant, if you’re into non-robot models. At MSRP, just that alone is ~$125+ of stuff not even including the dice and other bits. It’s worth mentioning that the character models aren’t currently sold outside of these sets. If you just want to dabble in trying the game out with some basic rules and scenarios, this is a great way to do it and nets you a pretty cool little collection for a very low cost.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition – £65/$99

Includes 10 Necron Warriors, 3 Canoptek Scarab Swarms, 3 Skorpekh Destroyers, a Plasmacyte, and a Necron Overlord. Non-Necrons are 5x Assault Intercessors, 3x Outriders, and a Primaris Captain. For $99 this kit is providing ~$240+ of models and extras. As we’re sure you can gather by now, all of these kits are a great value if you can find uses for the included models. Thankfully everything that both sides get in these sets is arguably good if not great.

Warhammer 40,000 Command Edition – £105/$165

Includes all the models from the Elite Edition set as well as a small gameboard worth of mid-war industrial terrain and the full Core Rules book in softcover. Frankly if you and a friend are going in for the Elite Edition anyway, $65 is good for the rules and terrain that’s more interesting than a flipped-over cardstock box.

Warhammer 40,000: Indomitus – Varies (typically £150/$200+)

This is the long-discussed and sought-after set that opened up 9th Edition. Similar to the sets before it (Dark Imperium, Dark Vengeance, etc.) this offers a HUGE savings on the supplied kits and offers some models that aren’t yet available elsewhere. At this point Games Workshop no longer sells this in their regular store due to the crush of demand (though you can still have one made to order). Resellers, however, have a good amount of stock remaining at reasonable rates. This includes 20 Necron Warriors, 6 Canoptek Scarab Swarms, 3 Skorpekh Destroyers, a Plasmacyte, a Plasmancer, 2 Cryptothralls, a Reanimator, a Skorpekh Destroyer Lord, a Royal Warden, and a Necron Overlord. On the Space Marine side you get 10 Assault Intercessors, 3 Eradicators, 3 Outriders, 3 Bladeguard Veterans, a Judiciar, a Primaris Ancient, a Primaris Lieutenant, a Primaris Chaplain, and a Primaris Captain. If you get the boxset you also get a hardcover Core Rules book. If you can get your mitts on one or two of these this will go a huge way toward filling out large portions of your army. As of this article, eBay has halves going for £70/$90+, which is a steal.

Necrons: Warriors + Paints Set – £22.50/$35

This is a very basic intro modelling set, but offers a bundle of some test models and a good spread of paints for the “standard” Necron color scheme. With 6 paint colors, 3 models, and a brush, this set works out to about the same amount as if you bought them on their own, although the Agrax Earthshade and Tesseract Glow containers are smaller than the retail versions which are more expensive so separately you’d get slightly more paint for slightly more money.

If you don’t have anyone interested in splitting a box, you can typically find halves of these sets sold online for close to the same value. This glut of Necron units also means that kits resellers and second-hand sites like eBay have core units at a very low cost. For instance, at the moment this article is written 10 Necron Warriors are available for ~£17/$23 including shipping, which is just about half retail price.

Eradication Legion Battleforce – £125/$210

Difficult to come by online at this point, but some physical stores still have them in stock. The Eradication Legion is the Necron Christmas Battleforce from 2020, and it’s an extremely good pickup for a new Necron player, with pretty much everything in it being usable in serious lists and even the weakest unit (the Night/Doom Scythe) being OK to use more casually. Since you’re essentially getting that model and more for free, even at RRP this is a great deal.


At the end of the day, regardless of how you get ahold of them there’s a number of good units you’ll probably want to have on-hand for whatever army you eventually want to buy. The following is stuff that builds out to a decent core that almost any army can use effectively:

  • 20 Warriors
  • Technomancer
  • Catacomb Command Barge
  • 6 Skorpekh Destroyers
  • 3+ Canoptek Wraiths
  • Canoptek Tomb Spyders

 

Credit: PierreTheMime

 

What’s Next

You’ve got your hands on some core characters and troops, now where do you go? Necrons have a number of different angles to play and some of them are quite competitive. Let’s discuss a couple possible options among many that are available and how you might branch into them.

The lists below have a common set of models that we might not describe in the text but you should consider. For instance, Necron Warriors are useful just about anywhere due to their resilience and status are a core troop. Canoptek Scarab Swarms are fast, cheap, and are useful for snagging objectives and harassing/blocking enemy units. Cryptothralls are an infantry unit with a very small footprint that are a good bodyguard for your Crypteks but also fantastic for accomplishing secondary objectives by infiltrating areas and performing actions. Any of these are good choices and if you don’t have any yet see about picking some up.

Similarly, there are a few models that are “heavy hitters” that can span just about any list and be useful, primarily the Silent King and the C’tan Shard of the Nightbringer (though arguably many of the C’tan shards could be useful). The Silent King himself is a huge part of any list but is also a really cool, interesting, and powerful model that Necron players will likely enjoy and is a great centerpiece. Purchasing one or more of these models will fill in a large chunk of your list, so while the price tag on the Silent King might seem steep know that it’s near a quarter of your army you’re populating. If you’re very new to the hobby, though, just be aware that it’s a complex kit which will require some subassembly to paint best and has a few tricky joins.

Novokh assault

Necrons have a surprisingly varied array of melee threats and Novokh gives you a better chance of making your charge and inflicting more damage, so you can go in a few different directions with this. Just about any melee-centric unit is going to fit here but generally you’re going to see two primary melee threats: Canoptek Wraiths and Skorpekh Destroyers. There’s some balancing to be done between the two; Wraiths are hardy thanks to their 4+ invulnerable save, fast, and flexible (can fall back and charge) but have poor attack accuracy, whereas Skorpekh have a CP-driven defense boost using Whirling Onslaught, more attacks with better accuracy and potentially higher damage. You can also impart a 5++ onto them with a Chronomancer, which you’ll likely want to have along anyway.

Depending on your budget Skorpekh are going to be easier to come into, but Wraiths are a great kit and a strong independent unit so we’ll leave it to your personal preference. Lychguard are also no slouches in combat, though they are slower, so if you want a good midfield threat that can shield your characters that’s not a bad option. Once you have a few large melee threats established you’re going to want to fill out your list with some sturdy troops and fast objective-grabbers/harassers, which Warriors and Scarab Swarms fill quite nicely. A lot of players also really enjoy bringing along a C’tan Shard of the Nightbringer, who is a HUGE threat to anything nearby and provides solid offense and/or distraction (note it does not benefit from the Dynasty traits).

The other big advantage of going this way is that many of the strong board control lists running as custom dynasties make use of many of the same tools, so buying in this direction gives you quite a bit of flexibility.

Suggested purchases: Canoptek Wraiths, Skorpekh Destroyers, Chronomancer, Canoptek Scarab Swarms, C’tan Shard of the Nightbringer, Skorpekh Lords, Cryptothralls, Lychguard

Mephrit shooting

A more traditional Necron feel, this army brings as many guns as it can. You can fill out your core with Necron Warriors with a mix of weapons–Gauss Reapers on Necron Warriors are a great weapon, and this dynasty’s trait helps by enhancing its range by 25%. It’s a valid tactic just about anywhere, but Mephrit makes it especially dangerous: a character with the Veil of Darkness can jump itself and 20 Reaper Warriors into position and light up most targets, boosted by stratagems to increase wounds (via Disintegration Capacitors) and/or inflict mortal wounds (via Talent for Annihilation) if need be. The increased range means units that deny “deep strike” mechanics within 12″ won’t stop you. Another option is Tomb Blades, which offer tough mobile shooting and can also be great objective grabbers/harassers, especially since they don’t crumble to dust like Scarabs tend to.

Because shooting armies often don’t have as muchmelee for countercharging, it’s a good idea to have a Royal Warden on hand (with or without the Mephrit relic guass blaster) to allow your shooting units to back off and fire if something reaches your lines. Your Necron Overlord can walk or ride in a Catacomb Command Barge which can be helpful for keeping up with units as well as putting some long-range shots and/or mortal wounds on targets using a tesla cannon and Malevolent Arcing. Picking up 2-3 Canoptek Doomstalkers can be a great choice for anti-tank shooting and frontline defense, especially since their “easy to build” kit is relatively inexpensive. Toss in some Crypteks to support both your Warriors and Doomstalkers (using the Canoptek Control Node) and you’re well on your way to a full army.

Suggested purchases: Necron Warriors, Canoptek Doomstalker, Technomancer, Chronomancer, Tomb Blades, Royal Warden, Overlord/Catacomb Command Barge, Triarch Stalker

Bear in mind that the above ideas are just two of a multitude of choices you can make and if you have settled you want to use X unit because you think they’re awesome then by all means go your own way. Competitively at the moment you’ll often see Sautekh and Novokh on top, though just about every dynasty (and custom dynasty) has neat options that you can play to and give your opponent a tough challenge.

Necron Warriors
Necron Warriors. Credit: Pendulin

Sample Lists

Here are a couple 1000pt lists created around some of the builds discussed above to give you an idea of what can be accomplished on what budget:

That’s Not Rust, It’s Blood

Necrons (990pts, 6CP)
Battalion detachment, Novokh Dynasty

HQ: Skorpekh Destroyer Lord (Warlord Trait: Enduring Will)
HQ: Chronomancer (Relic: Veil of Darkness)

Troop: 20x Necron Warrior (Gauss Reaper)
Troop: 10x Necron Warrior (Gauss Flayer)
Troop: 10x Necron Warrior (Gauss Flayer)

Elite: 5x Skorpekh Destroyer (4x Hyperphase Thresher, 1 Hyperphase Reap-Blade)
No Slot: 2x Cryptothrall

Fast Attack: 3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm

This list uses pretty much exclusively what comes in the Starter sets, with the exception of the Skorpekh Destroyer Lord, Chronomancer, and Cryptothralls. The Lord and the thralls come in the Indomitus set and arguably so does the Chronomancer if you proxy the Plasmancer–the Chronomancer model has not been released as of this article. This list hosts some very nasty melee threats, some good midrange shooting, troops to sit on objectives, and the option to jump your Reaper Warriors into position to give someone a really bad day. Coming in with a full CP count, you can even spare one to put some infantry in reserve for nefarious secondary schemes.

So I Started Blasting…

Necrons (1000pts, 6CP)
Szarekhan Patrol

HQ: Overlord, warscythe, resurrection orb, Veil of Darkness, Warlord, Enduring Will – 130
HQ: Technomancer, canoptek control node, metalodermal tesla weave – 110

Troop: 20x Warriors with reapers – 260

Elite: Triarch Stalker, heat ray – 140
Elite: Cryptothralls – 40
No Slot: Cryptothralls – 40

Heavy Support: Canoptek Doomstalker – 140
Heavy Support: Canoptek Doomstalker – 140

It’s generally a bit tougher to put together shooting lists at smaller sizes for Necrons, as a lot of their current power is tied up in melee. However, if that’s the direction your tastes lie this list can be pretty fearsome, though will take some care to play. The Doomstalkers, especially with the control node backing them up, are terrifying to any high-quality units your opponent has brought along, benefit heavily from the Szarekhan Dynastic Code and you can use the Triarch Stalker to give them re-roll 1s to hit if something really needs to die. More often, you’ll use the Stalker to help the Warriors operate at maximum efficiency – a full unit of reapers with My Will Be Done on and re-rolls of 1 are scary to almost anything. Cryptothralls fill out your points, giving you something you can use with Strategic Reserves to try and secure secondaries, or hold a boring corner of the map for you.

While this list has powerful shooting, it’s important not to be too cautious with it. While the Doomstalkers are best when they stand still, in early turns it can still be worth moving them to get them into optimal firing positions, so don’t get trapped into wasting your shots on something pointless just so you can stand still. You also want to use the Warriors and Stalker to push up the board, and here you probably want to save the Veil of Darkness for pulling the big warrior blob out of a combat they’ve got stuck in. That helps shore up the fact you don’t really have much melee threat – anyone charging in has to reckon with catching a reaper volley in exchange, which still forces them to be very cautious. The Stalker and Overlord can both take a few swings in a pinch too!

Wrap-up

Rejoice, fledgling Overlord, for the time of Necrons is upon us! We assume you have downloaded this knowledge into your memory engrams and find it helpful in your step toward galactic conquest. Go forth and crush those pitiful fleshbags who dare question your authority. Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.comOr if you’re a patron, head on over to our Discord and chat with us!