Start Competing: Necrons Tactics

Do you know what’s cool? Ancient Egyptian robot skeletons.

If you agree with this objectively correct opinion and are wondering how you could have more of this sort of thing in your 40K life then we have some good news! This week on Start Competing, we’ll be teaching you how to get the most out of the Necron codex, helping you to reclaim the galaxy from any pathetic usurpers who think they’re all that. Or at least, having a good go at it, because as we’ll see this codex is one of the more challenging ones to pilot to the top tables, for all that it has some neat stuff in it.

As with all the articles in this series we’re going to focus in on the most relevant units and options in the book rather than deep diving into every single thing. With Necrons that’s going to pare things down quite a bit – there are some very obvious best units and quite a number of lacklustre ones. We’ll be following our normal format of starting with some overall strengths and weaknesses, going through army wide rules and traits, covering the units then finishing up with relics, warlord traits and some final thoughts. As a note, some of the content here is going to be reproduced from a tactica I wrote for a specific Necron list (which I’ll link later at the point it’s relevant), so if you’re a long term reader and find yourself thinking a paragraph is very familiar I’ve probably stolen it from past me, which is a.) allowed and b.) a very Necron thing to do.

Let’s go!

Necron Horde

Necron Horde. Credit: Wings

Army Strengths

  • Excellent anti-horde choices
  • Some powerful vehicle
  • Strong stratagems
  • Powerful in small games

Army Weaknesses

  • Terminally overcosted
  • Their gimmicks don’t work very well in “normal” games
  • Limited ways to project threat thanks to being slow and short ranged
  • Expensive and bad battalions means few CP

Competitive Rating

Weak

Sadly, Necrons just aren’t very good. As of Chapter Approved 2019 they have just about enough viable options to put together a list that can hit the top tables in skilled hands with a bit of luck, but even that’s a very brittle one that will just get obliterated in some matchups. The one good list that existed prior to that also got nerfed out of existence, which is arguably for the best because it was screamingly unfun to play against, but still leaves dedicated devotees of the tomb worlds a bit high and dry.

At the root of the problem is that the core gimmicks of the Necrons (infantry getting back up and single model units healing) are extraordinarily hard to balance. In 1000pt games Necrons are an absolute nightmare – putting down a giant blob of infantry that will keep coming back unless you kill the whole thing is a really tough thing to answer. In 2000pt games it…isn’t. If you’re up against an even slightly capable shooting army that can reliably delete a whole unit in a turn, you’re paying a point premium on every single infantry model for an ability that usually does nothing. The vehicles have this to a lesser extent; they get back a single wound each turn which isn’t nearly as backbreaking, but the codex at launch priced it as if it was! The army also has real trouble projecting threat, as a lot of the units are slow and a lot of the weapons are relatively short ranged. All that adds up to the normal experience of playing Necrons against anything like Tau or Eldar being utterly miserable; you get deleted off the board without being able to do much.

Chapter Approved has undeniably helped. A lot of vehicles and characters have gotten heavy point corrections because a single wound heal is much less skewing in smaller games, and they’ve realised they overpriced them initially, but a lot of the other units and especially the infantry are still terribly priced. As we’ll see later on, that tends to leave top lists looking very samey – there’s a really obvious “best” way to build the army because only a few units stand out as on-par with everyone else.

Hopefully either CA2020 or a re-issued codex will give them another boost at some point – they’re an extremely cool army that adds a huge amount to the setting and we’d love to see more of them. in the meantime, stick with us and we’ll take you through the best ways to try and “punch up” with them in their current state.

Special Rules

Reanimation Protocols

Reanimation Protocols is a rule common to all Necron INFANTRY (including Necron Destroyers, probably the unit with the most tenuous claim to that keyword in the game) and BIKER units that can also be applied to any CANOPTEK units for a turn via the Repair Subroutines stratagem. At the start of each of your turns, roll a dice for each dead model in any of these units (not including any that have fled from morale). On a 5+, the model gets back up, setting up within 2″ of any model that was alive at the start of the turn. If the unit is within 3″ of a Cryptek they get +1 to this, you can add re-roll 1s with the Enhanced Reanimation Protocols stratagem, and you can “double tap” it on a unit for a turn via a Resurrection Orb (wargear available to characters) or a Ghost Ark (specifically for Necron Warriors).

This is a very powerful ability that is nonetheless, as discussed above, the source of many of the Necron army’s problems. When it’s good it’s great and when your opponent is decking entire units it’s wasted points, and in tournament 40K it’s much more likely to be the latter. Necron units are far from the squishiest in the world, but in a metagame where success means having ways to blow apart Knights or chew through 30 Plaguebearers, most good armies aren’t going to break too much of a sweat going through what you can put down.

You can definitely do some things to make it harder for them. Generally, if you’re planning to try and get mileage from Reanimation Protocols you want to be running as close to max size units as possible, and mitigating morale using the Immortal Pride warlord trait. Maxed out units of Destroyers, Tomb Blades, Wraiths or Lychguard all have at least a plausible chance of squeaking through a turn of firepower with a model or two remaining, and if they do and you high roll on reanimation it can be a complete blowout. You can also maximise your chances of pulling this off with some clever positioning – pretty much everything that has or can get this can move through ruins with impunity, so deploying a unit partially in front of and partially behind a LOS blocking ruin can catch an opponent out if you can remove the visible models when they’re only part way through their shooting, wasting their firepower. Always try and think through what the last model you want to be removing is, and try and make sure they’re in cover, out of sight and in your Cryptek bubble. Doing that maximises your chance of getting the most out of this often disappointing ability.

Living Metal

Ghost Ark

Ghost Ark. Credit: Wings

The other healing ability, common to all vehicles and all characters except C’tan. At the start of each of your turns, they heal a wound.

Now that this is priced correctly, it’s genuinely a nice ability. It’s relatively rare that it will outright swing a game, but it’ll very often pop up at a key time to bump a vehicle up a bracket, heal a sniper wound on one of your characters, or just generally slightly mess up your opponent’s plans. It’s particularly great on the Catacomb Command Barge because of how hard it is to get wounds off and because it has character screening.

There are a few things that manipulate this. A Cryptek with a Canoptek Cloak can grant one model within 3″ d3 instead of one from this. This is cool in theory but is vexingly less good than a lot of similar abilities, as it requires you to be in position at the start of your Movement phase rather than the end of it, meaning you can’t adapt to what happened in your opponent’s turn. It also has a 1/3 chance of doing nothing, which isn’t ideal for a hard to use thing you pay points for. Destroyer Lords can also buy a phylactery that gives them d3 by default and Imotekh has this built in.

This is pretty simple so there’s not much more to say strategically, but it is worth flagging that this combines with Reanimation Protocols and some other, later tricks to give you a lot to remember at the start of the turn. If you’re new to the army, it might be worth creating yourself a reminder sheet using our cool template, which you can find in our NOVA resources article.

Powers of the C’tan

C'tan Assemble!

C’tan Assemble! Credit: Wings

Other armies have psychic powers, Necrons get these. These special tricks are available to four units in the army, and trigger at the end of your movement phase rather than in psychic. They aren’t psychic powers, so they can’t be denied and the normal rule about not using the same one more than once in a phase doesn’t apply. However, when picking them from the list you have to have selected each one at least once before you pick any a second time, so to do that you either need a lot of C’tan (and they aren’t cheap) or to use the Cosmic Powers stratagem to swap one of the powers a model knows.

Like psychic disciplines there are six to choose from:

  • Antimatter Meteor: Roll a d6, nearest visible enemy in 24″ takes d3 MW on 2+ or d6 on a 6.
  • Cosmic Fire: Roll a d6 for each enemy unit within 9″, deal d3 MW on a 4+.
  • Trans-dimensional Thunderbolt: Pick an enemy in 24″ (character targeting applies), deal d3 MW on a 4+, then roll for enemy unit within 3″  and deal a MW on a 4+.
  • Time’s Arrow: Pick an enemy unit within 18″ and roll a d6. A model is slain if you exceed the unit’s wound characteristic.
  • Seismic Assault: Pick an enemy unit within 24″ and roll a dice for each model. Deal a MW for each 6.
  • Sky of Falling Stars: Pick up to three enemy units within 18″ and roll for each. For each where you roll under the model count (6 auto-fails), inflict d3 MW.

Most C’tan know two and get to use one, Transcendant C’tan can choose to be able to use two, and the Tesseract Vault knows four, uses three (at least on top profile) and gets +1 to all of its rolls.

With the exception of “Times Arrow” these are all some flavour of “throw mortal wounds at things”, so picking them is basically a case of making sure you’re taking Time’s Arrow when it’s good, and otherwise optimising your damage output. Generally, Antimatter Meteor and Transdimensional Thunderbolt are the “fallbacks” because they’re relatively reliable sources of output against everything, and Cosmic Fire has the highest ceiling if you think your C’tan is going to get to brawl with lots of stuff at once.

C’tan aren’t really top tier, so if you want to know more this is where we’re going to direct you to the entire article Wings wrote about how to build around these. Go take a look at that if you want a deep dive into when each is good.

Quantum Shielding

Arks, Barges and the Triarch Stalker all have Quantum Shielding. This is a very powerful defensive ability. Whenever you take an unsaved wound, you roll a dice. If you roll under the damage inflicted, you ignore it. You can subtract 1 from these rolls for a phase with the Quantum Deflection stratagem, which (thanks to the FAQ) thus gives you a chance to avoid even D1 attacks!

For armies relying on d6 damage weaponry for their anti tank, this ability is an absolute nightmare, as they normally rely on the high rolls to outweigh the lows over time and this just completely no-sells them. Unfortunately, the trade-off for having this ability is that Necron vehicles tend to be lower toughness than some of their counterparts, and several also only have a 4+ save. This makes them extremely vulnerable to high rate-of-fire D2/Dd3 weapons, which are an enduringly popular choice in the metagame. Even then using the stratagem makes this equivalent to a 5+ FNP, which isn’t bad but doesn’t outweigh the fact that the shots go through your “first line” defences like tissue.

Still, when this is good it’s incredible, and can leave a very small number of weapons just completely unable to hurt you (as a 6 isn’t an auto-fail), which is extremely funny. I once had the pleasure of someone pointing a Raven-ed up Volcano Lance (average damage per shot – 7) at a Ghost Ark, and it remains one of my most enjoyable 40K moments.

Tesla Weapons

Not technically an army ability but worth calling out in a single place. Tesla weapons all share an ability that on a modified hit roll of 6+ they score three hits instead of one. That means that at baseline they are pretty good against hordes, and combined with anything with hit bonuses can throw out eye watering numbers of hits.

Assuming BS3+ your averages on this work out as:

  • No modifiers: one hit per shot.
  • +1 to hit: 1.5 hits per shot.
  • +2 to hit: 1.83 hits per shot.

If you can add re-roll 1s then its obviously even better!

Dynastic Codes

The Necrons’ version of Chapter Tactics, with five choices. All of these are at least interesting, and while one is overwhelmingly the most common in top tier lists, all but one see at least some competitive play.

Sautekh

  • Dynastic Code: Relentless Advance – Units can move/shoot Heavy weapons without penalty, and weapons become Assault if you advance (though note you don’t ignore the -1 for this).
  • Warlord Trait: Hyperlogical Strategist – 5+ regen on your CP spent, one re-roll of hit, wound or damage roll per game for your warlord.
  • Relic: The Abyssal Staff – one-shot relic Staff of Light that auto-hits and does d3 MWs if you beat their leadership on 3d6 instead of the normal effect.
  • Stratagem: Methodical Destruction (2CP) – if a Sautekh unit attacks a unit and they lost at least one wound, give all other Sautekh units +1 to hit it for the phase.

Sautekh is by far the most popular competitive dynasty. Necrons tend to be both command point hungry and starved for them, and Hyperlogical Strategist is thus a big draw. They also have access to one of the best Named Characters in Imotekh the Stormlord, who gets this trait if he’s your warlord and brings a bonus CP to the party. The Code looks fantastic, but is actually underwhelming on many units – there aren’t that many good heavy weapons in the Necron army that aren’t either attached to non-code units like Triarch Stalkers, in the hands of things that already ignore move/shoot penalties (Destroyers) or have other reasons to stay still (Doomsday Arks). It is, however, extremely good on Doom Scythes, one of the best competitive choices out there, and the ability to advance and shoot also lets other units put a burst of speed on in an emergency, always a good tool to have access to in a tournament scenario. Finally, the stratagem is pretty great – tesla weaponry loves hit bonuses, so if you need a bunch of Immortals to try and take out a large target (or punch through hit penalties) it’s very handy. You can also neatly tee it up with the relic.

Mephrit

  • Dynastic Code: Solar Fury – Within half range, your guns have +1 AP.
  • Warlord Trait: Merciless Tyrant – add 6″ to the range of your warlord’s assault weapons, and they can snipe characters.
  • Relic: The Voltaic Staff – A staff of light on steroids, with +1 to S, D and AP, plus dealing a MW on a 6+ to wound.
  • Stratagem: Talent for Annihilation (1CP) – Use when a unit shoots, get an additional shot for each unmodified 6.

Mephrit were probably the most hyped dynasty when the book first launched, and the Code certainly has a high raw power level. The difference between AP 0 and -1 is gigantic against anything with 2+ or 3+ saves, and it was clear from the start that Tesla weapons (which are all AP 0) were one of the better things in the book, so the combination seemed pretty logical. It’s definitely not bad but unfortunately as it became clear that Necrons just kind of can’t win a conventional gunfight people cooled on it a lot. It sees occasional use in the wild from people using Ghost Arks, as these are a reliable way to deliver a lot of small arms fire into short range. The stratagem is deeply meh – because it’s unmodified 6s, its top end is pretty low, although I guess there are worse things you can do with 1CP.

People were also initially relatively high on the combination of the Voltaic Staff, the warlord trait and a Catacomb Command Barge with a tesla cannon. This turns out to usually not be worth it – as we’ll see later, a Catacomb Command barge usually wants a specific other relic, and most people are spending their warlord on either a Sautekh CP generator or Immortal Pride (fearless bubble and a deny). In the unlikely event that the current trend for new books getting to take an additional trait for a CP gets “universalised” in some way in an FAQ prior to any sort of Necron re-release, this combo could be worth revisiting.

Novokh

  • Dynastic Code: Awakened by Murder – re-roll hits when you charge, get charged or heroically intervene.
  • Warlord Trait: Crimson Haze – 6″ bubble of “additional attack on an unmodified 6” in melee.
  • Relic: The Blood Scythe – a warscythe with d3 extra attacks.
  • Stratagem: Blood Rites (3CP) – fight twice.

The Novokh dynasty is the big miss, as it’s predicated on being able to make melee Necrons work. They don’t. There are a few units that could theoretically be fielded in a mixed detachment to benefit from the stratagem, but they pretty much universally get way more out of the Nihilakh stratagem. Finally, the Blood Scythe is conspicuously worse than Voidreaper, the “generic” relic scythe.

On the whole, give these a miss.

Nihilakh

  • Dynastic Code: Aggressively Territorial – re-roll 1s if you stay stationary.
  • Warlord Trait: Precognitive strike – fight first.
  • Relic: Timesplinter Cloak – one re-roll of hit, wound or damage roll, and a 5+ Feel No Pain.
  • Stratagem: Reclaim a Lost Empire (2CP) – a unit that remained stationary or is within 3″ of an objective gets +1 to saves (including invulnerable saves) until your next turn.

These are used for two things – Spearheads with Doomsday Arks in them (which love the trait, as re-roll 1s are relatively rare in Necrons), and pulling silly nonsense with the stratagem. Nihilakh Wraiths or Lychguard (combined with their other stratagem) can both get themselves to a 2++ via Reclaim a Lost Empire, which can leave armies without a source of Mortal Wounds pretty high and dry. For anyone still making use of a Tesseract Vault, boosting one of them to a 3++ is also pretty delightful.

You usually see one of these two things bolted onto a majority Sautekh force rather than a pure Nihilakh army, as they’re both pretty niche uses. The relic is also deeply uninspiring and the warlord trait is complete trash.

Nephrekh

  • Dynastic Code: Translocation Beams – When a unit advances, they automatically get a 6″ advance and can move across models and terrain as if they were not there.
  • Warlord Trait: Skin of Liquid Gold – -1 to hit the warlord.
  • Relic: Solar Staff – 6 shot Staff of Light with extra AP that stops infantry from overwatching.
  • Stratagem: Translocation Crypt (1CP) – Deep Strike an INFANTRY or SWARM unit.

Last but not least we have the Nephrekh, my personal favourite dynasty. Their Code is one of the most unusual in the game and extremely powerful – it turns the normally slow Necron army into a relatively nimble one, and lets you pull off some disgusting charges with Wraiths (using Adaptive Subroutines to advance and charge). Translocation Crypt is also very helpful, mostly for deep striking Destroyers, as it guarantees you get one turn of full shooting from them. Both the trait and relic have their place too – the trait can be used to make a nightmarishly hard to kill Command Barge, while the relic is a decent “nice to have” against any sort of horde.

In any other army the sheer power of the Code would make this a breakout hit, but unfortunately at 2K Necrons so desperately need some of the things Sautekh bring to tread water alongside other factions that this is quite rare. If you’re playing smaller game sizes it’s exceptionally potent and a clear winning choice, so if you’re kicking around in 1250 or 1500 events definitely give these guys a look. In larger games it’s mostly relegated to mixed or small detachments that want to hide Destroyers – it is at least very good at that.

Units

HQ

Overlord

Overlord

Overlord. Credit: Wings

The Overlord is your basic commander. He weighs in at between 87-104pts depending on which weapon you give him, with the bare bones options generally being more favoured. He’s got a pretty solid defensive statline, with T5, Living Metal and a 4++ making him harder to take down than plenty of other characters, but pays for it with weaker offence – he’s only got 3 attacks, and most of his weapon options are only D1. You can either boost him a bit in melee by buying a warscythe or voidscythe, or give him a staff of light so that he can pop a few shots (A3, 12″, S5, AP-2, D1)  at range, but what we’re really here for is his key ability, My Will be Done.

At the start of your turn (yet another thing to remember) you pick a <DYNASTY> infantry squad within 6″ and give them +1 to hit, advance and charge rolls till your next turn. This is most notably extremely great with tesla Immortals, who happen to be the Necrons’ best troops option as we’ll see – it turns them into murder machines. if you have multiple squads you want to buff up you can use The Phaeron’s Will to get a second use of My Will be Done. This is very often a good idea, and being able to power up two squads makes the vanilla bare-bones Overlord a competitive choice. If you’re planning on a big turn with Destroyers they can also be a good target, but their inbuilt ability to get re-rolls makes that less key – Immortals are the big game here.

You can also spend points to buy him a resurrection orb. This lets you roll a second round of reanimation protocols for a unit within 3″ of him once per game. These are quite pricey at 35 points and rarely worth it – reanimation protocols is already an unreliable point sink without you making it more of one.

Outside of some extreme skew lists featuring Forge World LOWs, pretty much every competitive Necron list needs a source of My Will be Done, and as the cheapest, Overlords are a frequent inclusion.

Catacomb Command Barge

Catacomb Command Barge

Catacomb Command Barge. Credit: Wings

If you feel like you want a heftier source of My Will be Done, you can instead buy a Catacomb Command Barge. This gets a version called “Wave of Command” that has a 12″ range but is otherwise identical (including being able to be used with the stratagem). In addition to that, it puts your Overlord on a fancy flying boat with some heftier defensive stats (including Quantum Shielding) and either a gauss or tesla cannon on top of his normal weapon (where he can take any of the normal ones except the Voidscythe). Helpfully it only has 8 wounds and is still a character, so can’t be sniped out.

All of this adds up in the region of 140-160pts and you get a decent amount for your cost, especially if you give it the practically mandatory Lightning Field relic. The barge doesn’t get a 4++ by default, but this adds it back on, and the combination of being a character, T6, a 4++ and Quantum Shielding makes this absurdly tough to put down for its points. You can make it even worse by adding the Nephrekh warlord trait for -1 to hit, and the first time it dies it can also get back up 75% of the time using the Resurrection Protocols stratagem and a re-roll. It’s actually such a nightmare to destroy that it’s sometimes worth using it to bait out a turn of shooting by “accidentally” leaving it out of position, especially if you have the points to use Quantum Deflection.

It’s much better at not dying than it is killing stuff, but a tough, mobile character that is a nightmare to kill and can always take on bully charge duty is a decent prospect, and these are pretty attractive (partially thanks to getting a good point cut in Chapter Approved).

Imotekh the Stormlord

Imotekh

Imotekh. Credit: Wings

The Phaeron of the Sautekh Dynasty himself has arisen once more. Is he any good? Yes!

Weighing in at a hefty 160pts, Imotekh is the final commonly used source of My Will be Done. He gets souped up stats compared to a regular Overlord, acquiring a 6th wound and a 2+ save, and also has some neat weapons – his Staff of the Destroyer is an overcharged staff of light with 18″ range, S6, AP-3 and D2, meaning he can actually meaningfully get stuff done at range, and he’s also got the Gauntlet of Fire, which is a flamer. Why not I guess?

The real meat of why you want him is his abilities, in particular “Phaeron of the Sautekh Dynasty”. His My Will be Done isn’t dynasty locked, but if you do choose to do it on Sautekh units you can do it twice. Because of how frequently you want to double tap on it, this can save you a lot of command points, and if you make him your warlord his grand strategist ability also gives you an extra one for free! This is the main attraction of Imotekh – though he’s expensive, Necrons are so CP starved that the amount he saves you can be very worthwhile (he also gets the Sautekh trait if he’s your warlord, which is good because it’s what you want).

He’s not actually done with abilities though. Bloodswarm Necroscarabs is completely irrelevant (it buffs Flayed Ones, a bad unit) but Undying (gets d3 back instead of 1 from Living Metal) is a definite nice to have. The grand finale, however, is the Lord of the Storm ability. Once per game in your Shooting phase, you can pick a visible, non-character unit within 48″ of him and roll a d6. Unless you roll a 1, they take that many mortal wounds, and you roll a dice for each enemy unit within 6″ of them and deal them d3 mortals on a 6 as well. This is absolutely hilarious and actually pretty good – there’s almost nothing in the game with quite this potential to point at a unit and just dump wounds on it. It’s especially nice in armies where you have some C’tan spamming Transdimensional Thunderbolt as well, as it can contribute to melting a castle (though you’re mostly here for the initial big roll). There are a few subtleties to remember:

  • Save a CP for it. Rolling a 1 is terrible.
  • It happens in the Shooting phase but isn’t a shooting attack. It can go into combat, or be used even if Imotekh is locked or fell back.
  • It can never target characters, so it’s annoyingly terrible against Knights.

Imotekh is expensive but ticks so many of the boxes you want that he sees a fair bit of play, and is a draw towards Sautekh.

Anrakyr the Traveller

There are a bunch of other special characters in the HQ section but only two more are really worth looking at, and Anrakyr is the weaker of the two. He’s mostly here because while he didn’t get a point cut in CA2019, he has a few unique things going for him such that if he gets a point cut this time around (and he should, because no one uses him at the moment) he might be worth a look.

First off, alongside Illuminor Szeras he’s a “wildcard” HQ – he doesn’t get a dynasty tag/code but doesn’t stop other units getting theirs, and his My Will be Done has no dynasty requirement. That means if you want to mix and match dynasties but potentially use MWBD on units from both, he’s an interesting choice. He’s also got an extremely potent buff aura, giving all NECRON INFANTRY units within 3″ +1A. Since most infantry has one or two attacks this is a giant boost, making Immortals and Warriors way better at counter charging chaff.

He’s also got some other good stuff going. He actually has a decent melee statline, as he gets his own +1A and has base S6 to go with +2 from his warscythe, meaning he can put some nasty hurt on anything without an invulnerable save. He also gets a once-per-game S10 AP-5 Dd6 damage shooting attack with functionally infinite range which, sure, why not. Finally, once per Shooting phase he can attempt to seize control of a single weapon of an enemy within 12″ and shoot it at another enemy. Mostly this is cute, against a Knight it can be hilarious.

At the moment Anrakyr is kept out of contention by a mix of being more expensive than Imotekh and Necron Warriors (who would be the ideal counterpart) being overpriced. If he drops into the 135-145 region however, or if Necron warriors get “fixed” then he’s probably worth a runaround.

Lord

Every Evil Overlord needs a grand vizier and a snivelling underling, and this is the latter. The Lord is cheap (68pts with a hyperphase sword) and gives <DYNASTY> infantry units re-roll 1s to wound, which is good with the Immortals you probably have, making them even more ridiculous at cutting down hordes.

That’s basically all there is to these – they’re shamefully terrible in combat for an immortal robot zombie and die easily. However, they are the cheapest way to fill that second Battalion HQ slot, and give you some marginal benefits, so lists often do have one. Their relative expendability means they’re not a bad choice to carry the Veil of Darkness, which is easily the Necrons’ best relic and we’ll cover later on.

Cryptek

Cryptek

Cryptek. Credit: Wings

And now, on to the Grand Vizier. At baseline, Crypteks provide a 3″ bubble of +1 to re-animation protocols, which is useful-ish – if you do manage to have part of a unit survive a turn you’re not going to turn your nose up at it. They can also buy one of two wargear options. The first, the chronometron for 15pts, helps with that survivability, giving infantry units within 3″ a 5++ against shooting. This is OK on Immortals if your opponent decides to turn heavy fire on them, but is even more great if you’ve either gone deep on Destroyers (because they will draw the big guns) or have brought Warriors (as their base save of 4+ means it kicks in against stuff like heavy burst cannons).

The other option is the cheaper Canoptek Cloak. This gives the Cryptek a fly move, and lets one unit within 3″ get d3 wounds back from Living Metal instead of 1. It’s a very marginal boost but is also very cheap and helps the model be manoeuvrable.

Both wargear options get picked – Crypteks rolling with lots of Destroyers tend to take the chronometron, ones sitting back with Doomsday Arks the cloak, and ones moving with Immortals mix it up.

Crypteks need to be very careful in any matchup where the opponent has snipers as they’re extremely squishy, being T4, 4W and 4+ save. If you see something like Space Marine Eliminators, you may want to consider paying for the Semipiternal Weave relic, which gives a model +1T and +1W, making them slightly less likely to just melt. You can also just hope that Resurrection Protocols saves the day.

A high proportion of Necron lists are currently a Battalion, Spearhead and Air Wing, and you’ll usually see a Cryptek in at least one of the HQ slots that implies.

Illuminor Szeras

Szeras

Szeras. Credit: Wings

Szeras is a fancy special Cryptek. Like Anrakyr he’s a “wildcard”, buffing any dynasty’s reanimation protocols and going in any detachment. Like Anrakyr, his main gimmick also works best with Necron Warriors, but he’s got enough going for him (especially in light of the wildcard status) that he’s worth at least considering.

First off, he has a substantially better statline, getting an extra wound and a 3+ save, making him substantially harder to snipe out. He also carries the Eldritch Lance, which is basically an Assault bright lance (36″, S8, AP-4, Dd6). Finally, he has four attacks in melee rather than the paltry one of the regular Crypteks, letting him at least put down a few Guardsmen in an emergency. For 120pts in a metagame where good snipers exist, this isn’t a horrendous set of buffs to get for an extra 40pts over a baseline vanilla Cryptek.

His unique trick and theoretical big draw, however, is the Mechanical Augmentation ability. At the end of each Movement phase, you can buff a Warrior or Immortal unit within 1″ of him. You roll a dice and get a random permanent buff (1-2 +1S, 3-4 +1T, 5-6 +1BS), making your gleaming hordes that much more potent. The dream here is, naturally, to land +1T on a unit of 20 Warriors, and give your opponent fits trying to take them down for the rest of the game. +1BS isn’t terrible either, as it keeps your units more accurate on the advance, especially relevant if you’re Sautekh. The S boost is something of the loser, but even that’s occasionally OK.

Sadly, while the dream is big and this can be good against some armies, many of them will just shrug and delete 20 T5 Warriors, at which point your big gimmick has gone nowhere. Against a lot of the guns that will be used to do this, the defensive buff of a chronometron would actually be better. All together, while this is a neat bonus to have it’s very much a “marginal” buff rather than a thing to build around – just stick it on your squads of 10 Immortals rather than aiming big.

Szeras doesn’t see a ton of play but he’s a favourite of one of our authors, is generally fine and occasionally great.

Destroyer Lord

Closing out the relevant HQs we have the Destroyer Lord, who is good for one thing – brawling. With a mighty T6 and 6W to go with his 3+/4++ he dies pretty hard, and dishes out some decent pain on the way. Perplexingly he only has BS/WS 3+, but does at least re-roll 1s to hit, and having four base attacks means that if you give him a warscythe (or preferably the Voidreaper relic) he can put quite a bit of hurt on stuff. You can also buy him a phylactery, which means he gets d3 wounds back each turn rather than 1 from Living Metal, and if you don’t fancy a relic weapon can go deeper on that with the Nanoscarab Casket, which means he gets d3 wounds back on your opponent’s turn as well, and comes back on d6 wounds on a 4+ the first time he dies.

Technically they also give re-roll 1s to wound to nearby Destroyers, but as you’re using their stratagem 95% of the time when they shoot, this model contributes nothing else while out of combat, and Destroyers are INFANTRY (somehow) so can pick that up from a normal Lord anyway. That makes this ability basically a waste of text.

While they don’t quite put out the same level of murder as killer characters from other factions, the option to give these way more staying power means they have their uses, and you’ll occasionally see one subbed in to a Spearhead in place of a cloak Cryptek by people who want some counter charge capability.

The Rest

  • Nemesor Zandrekh & Vargard Obyron: These have a theoretically very powerful teleport trick when taken together that people spent ages coming up with possible busted uses for. It turns out none of them are even nearly worth taking two overpriced characters for.
  • Orikan the Diviner: You pay a hefty premium for a Cryptek that occasionally gets swole in the late game. It turns out this is not worth it.
  • Trazyn the Infinite: Not actually wildly overpriced, but is a Nihilakh-locked Overlord, which means he doesn’t have a place in competitive lists as basically none run any Nihilakh infantry.

Troops

Necron Warriors

Necron Warriors

Necron Warriors. Credit: Wings

Necron Warriors…just don’t quite get there. This is kind of odd, because on paper they’re at least fine – they’re a little slow, but they’re T4 and they have pretty OK shooting output, especially if you buff them with My Will Be Done. 11pts isn’t terrible for the package you get and in theory a blob of 20 of these should be at least fine, ready to shamble up the board and take on your opponent. So why don’t they?

Basically, 8th edition is too deadly, and even with T4 (or T5 if you get lucky with Szeras) far too many things can just dunk a blob of these at their leisure. Once you throw in the fact that they’re slow and usually start on the board, you’re just far too likely to have them killed off before they accomplish anything. They also have a minimum squad size of ten, so aren’t great for filling out battalions. 8th can support large, tough blobs (see Plaguebearers) but the level of tough you need to pull it off is, well, Plaguebearer tough. Everything else that gets run in gigantic blobs tends to be cheaper than this and have some sort of mobility trick so they can hit the opponent hard before they go down, usually a deep strike or redeploy.

With that in mind, is there any way to run these? Basically yes, there’s exactly one. Ghost Arks are really good, and it turns out that deploying these out of a durable, speedy transport that adds some anti-infantry weight of fire in its own right solves a lot of their problems. If you want to use these put them in a bus and they’ll probably be fine, otherwise give them a miss.

Immortals

Immortals

Immortals. Credit: Wings

Immortals, specifically tesla ones, are the troops you usually want. First of all, while they’re more expensive per model than Warriors, they can come in 5s, so filling Battalions with minimum squads actually works, and they also engage at full strength at 24″, so their low speed matters less. If you’ve got an Overlord buffing them (and you probably do) they can also still do a lot after advancing, further helping with mobility. They’re also very good at their anti-horde role – anything with a 5+ or less you point their guns at basically melts, and their sheer weight of fire even lets them punch wounds through against tougher units. Theoretically the latter is what the hauss blaster build is for, but you’d much rather just have the full tesla shooting at 24″ than having to try and close – unless you play Kill Team (where tesla is terrible and gauss amazing, weirdly) stick the tesla guns on all of these.

There isn’t really anything clever and deep to say about these – they’re basically just pretty good, and a battalion of 10, 10 and 5 of these (with the intention being to MWBD the two big units) is a very common fixture in lists. Some people go deeper still – lists have popped up and seen modest success that run as many as 60. If you want to compete with Necrons, you need to have some of these about.

Elites

Lychguard

Shield Lychguard got an aggressive 6-point cut in CA2019, with the result that while they’re still not great coming up with some sort of build (probably Nihilakh) that uses a full squad to tank seems at least tentatively plausible. The shield loadout is pretty tough at baseline with T5, 2W and a 3+/4++, but buffing via the Dispersion Field Amplification strat gets them to a 3++ against shooting (and does a mortal back on an unmodified 6 to save) and you can combine this with Reclaim a Lost Empire to push this up to a 2++. This sets you back a princely 4CP, so you have to be real confident it’s going to pay off for you, but games and formats exist where being able to put down a complete brick wall can be game winning. Realistically, this is much more likely to be a thing if future changes make building dual Battalion more practical. For now, you probably still shouldn’t do this but we guess you could?

Scythe Lychguard are trash – they don’t have enough attacks to make building for offence practical and now aren’t even any cheaper than the shield build. Do not take them.

Triarch Stalker

The Triarch Stalker got a spectacular cut in CA2019, which means that when you have the points slotting one in can be worth it. They’re basically weird spider dreadnoughts that trade some level of combat capability (their melee is merely “OK” rather than “good”) for being able to mount some decent guns, and a couple of nice abilities. The first is Quantum Shielding. Quantum Shielding is very good. The second is more unique – against any unit they’ve targeted, all other Necron units can re-roll 1s on shooting attacks for the rest of the phase. Re-roll 1s is pretty rare in Necrons, so this is actually a nice get. You often see one of these running alongside Sautekh to grant re-rolls to Doomsday Arks, preventing them having to be Nihilakh to get it. At 115 points for the cheapest build with the (perfectly OK) particle shredder and 125 points for the better heat ray (good if you want to move it up) or heavy gauss cannon (if you want it with a gunline) options, these aren’t too hard to sneak into the list. I favour the heat ray build as it’s got modes for going after Infantry or Vehicles, allowing you to tag the re-rolls on whatever needs to die most without “wasting” shots.

The only real annoyance with these is that they’re meant to be mobile and all their guns are heavy. “Ohoho, perhaps I shall just run them as Sautekh, delightfully devilish Sz’eymour” we hear you say, but no, for fluff reasons these don’t get a Dynasty tag, and while they don’t break detachments, you don’t get that juicy Sautekh code. This is a real shame, because these are nearly great and they’d be real good at that point.

C’tan Shard of the Nightbringer

The Nightbringer is just a heinous killing machine, and while he’s kind of unfocused, you’re rarely going to hate having him in your list. He has a fairly hefty statline (character, WS/BS2+, S/T7, W8, 4A, 4++) and knows two C’tan powers, casting one a turn. His unique gimmick among the C’tan is, quite appropriately, that he’s really good at killing living things. Against non-vehicle units his melee attacks wound on a 2+, and at AP-4 d6 damage that’s going to rock the world of any Carnifexes unlucky enough to end up in melee with him. He also gets a ranged attack, the Gaze of the Nightbringer, which is assault D6, wounds on a 2+ against non vehicles (6+ on them) and is -4 Dd3. That threatens to melt an unlucky character that’s out of position, and will chew up a few of pretty much any kind of infantry.

For 180pts you pretty much always get some decent bang for your buck, and the only thing really keeping this monster out of lists is how constrained the current competitive lists are. Load him up with Cosmic Fire so he’s also melting nearby stuff and just point him at people you don’t like. If Necrons were just generically fine you’d see him a lot, as it is there often isn’t space once you’ve put in the tools you need to compete.

If you do have him out and about he’s one of the best possible users of Entropic Strike. This allows your first melee attack to ignore invulnerable saves, which when you’re swinging this boy’s scythe is pretty tasty. Conversely, the thing you need to watch out for is, bizarrely, getting melted by bolter fire. Unlike a lot of similar units their base save is only 4+, so high ROF S4 stuff (or, if you’re really unlucky, Drukhari poison shots) is actually a reliable way to chew him apart.

Oh, finally, all C’tan explode, on a 4+ no less, meaning if they’re in the middle of your opponent’s characters when they do you can send them up 75% of the time with a re-roll. That’s a final nice way to get some value from them, especially if you’ve already melted away some wounds with Cosmic Fire.

C’tan Shard of the Deceiver

Our second named C’tan, this one focused on being sneaky. Up front, he has a much heftier price tag of 225, and is a bit less killy (his fists are D3, no shooting attack). However, his big draw is his unique special ability, the Grand Illusion. At the start of the first battle round, you can redeploy this guy and up to D3 units anywhere >12″ away from the enemy, and they can’t charge turn 1. As anyone who’s played with or against Phantasm knows, being able to redeploy is great, so this is theoretically cool, but unfortunately being attached to a 225 point model rather than being a stratagem is a hefty drawback. People used to combine this guy with the (then) undercosted Tesseract to ram two to three of them into someone’s face turn one and start melting them with amped up C’tan powers, but point hikes and the advent of the Knight Codices have pretty much put paid to that as anything resembling a viable strategy (like, you can fit it but have literally not even a patrol to go with).

There’s really nothing else you can do with this that’s quite up that that spec, although you can (as one of our authors likes to do) pull an off-brand version by bringing up 9 Scarab Bases to hold things in place and a few Transcendent C’tan buddies. It’s very easily countered by some armies though, so at the moment it mostly stays on the shelf – as does this model.

The Rest

  • Deathmarks: Expensive and don’t do enough. Their unique gimmick of intercepting other people’s deep strikes is cute but not nearly potent or universal enough to justify inclusion.
  • Flayed Ones: Just kind of bad. These are 17 points per model. What the hell?
  • Triarch Praetorians: Too expensive, don’t do enough in any plausible setup.

Fast Attack

Canoptek Wraiths

Wraiths Devour some Harlequins

Wraiths devour some Harlequins. Credit: Wings & Flavivirus

Wraiths are fast, 3W T5 models with a 3++ that rock in at <48pts per model. This makes them intrinsically interesting as they’re an absolute bastard to kill and can get to where they need to be. While they’re not super murderous they also aren’t bad in combat, having 3 S6 AP-2 D2 attacks each – more than enough to put down an unsuspecting character, especially as they can move through enemy models to strike! These have some upgrades you can buy but you mostly shouldn’t – you want these at minimum cost because what you’re paying for is the ability to cause chaos, and these are great at it. At 288 points a full squad requires serious attention to put down, and if there’s anything about that really doesn’t want to get charged (gunline tanks, squishy characters etc.) they’re a constant threat.

There are also a number of shenanigans you can pull with them. Nephrekh gives them a max 6″ advance means they can move 18″ and still charge (thanks to Adaptive Subroutines). Nihilakh lets them buff up to a 2++ if you can get them near an objective. Finally, anyone can use Repair Subroutines on them to give them reanimation protocols for a turn, and they’re one of the things an opponent is most likely to just miss on killing off. Even bringing back a couple of these is very often worth 2CP.

Like a lot of things, they have a weakness – Smite. Do not let these get smote. If at all possible, run them around with some Scarab Swarms to suck up mortal wounds, because any Smite landing on these is a bit of a disaster for you. If you do manage to get them in amongst your opponent, go for the psykers first – they’re often missing invulnerable saves and are thus easily devoured.

Like a lot of stuff here, these aren’t seeing a ton of serious usage because of how constrained list design is, but they’re another tool that is good enough at what they do that if you want to try and build something inventive they should be on the list of candidates.

Canoptek Scarabs

Scarabs

Scarabs. Credit: Wings

Scarabs are the cheapest unit Necrons can field (39pts for 3 bases) and the cheapest way to put wounds on the table. The models are also tiny and very easy to hide. This means they can fill several important duties:

  • Filling out an Outrider
  • Screening Smite
  • Holding backfield objectives

All of these are things Necrons need and want (most notably holding objectives), so you very frequently see these in lists. They can have a bit of a sting in the tail too – the Self-Destruction stratagem lets you detonate a base in the fight phase for D3 MWs on a 2+, sometimes allowing you to spike something down. They also throw out a decent number of attacks, letting them kill at least a few horde models.

Scarabs aren’t exciting or especially interesting, but they do what you need to do, so turn up in plenty of lists.

Tomb Blades

Tomb Blades are actually just a good unit. Very rare, we realise, but pretty cool. Their inbuilt -1 to hit combined with T5 and the ability to scatter a few with 3+ saves and invulnerable saves among the unit (because they don’t all have to buy the same upgrades) can give you, when maxed out, one of the units in the book that has a shot at tanking a turn of mid-tier firepower and coming through it to start re-animating. With a choice of two tesla carbines or two gauss blasters (a slightly more defensible option here as they can’t be MWBDed and can close to rapid fire easily) they throw out competitive amounts of firepower too, leaving you with a unit that you’re basically just happy to slap a full sized squad of down. Great!

We referenced mixing up wargear above, and each of these can optionally take Shieldvanes (a 3+) and a Shadowloom (5++) or a Nebulascope (ignore cover). The ignore cover is a waste of points, you can always apply it with the Solar Pulse stratagem if needed, but it’s usually worth throwing in a couple each of the first two options. That way if a meany Hemlock tries to waste them you can put the 5++ in the way, and if some Aggressors open up the ones with a 3+ can shield the others. This balances keeping the unit reasonably priced with optimising your defences.

We’ve mentioned a few times the fact that there’s basically a “stock” Necron list, and the unchanging core of it runs to about 1550-1600pts. That leaves about 400pts of “flex” slots, and a full squad of these is one of the units that competes for that space – they’re just really great.

Destroyers

Destroyers

Destroyers. Credit: Wings

Speaking of competing for that flex space, next we have Destroyers. These are one of the other good options. Destroyers are pricy and not really tough enough for their cost, but have the big upside of the Extermination Protocols stratagem. This lets a squad re-roll all hits and wounds for 1cp, holy crap. They are absurdly deadly, and it’s the kind of deadly that’s pretty universally applicable thanks to being spread over lots of re-rolling shots rather than a few big ones. Their guns are 24″ Heavy 3 S6 AP-3 Dd3 and they ignore the move/shoot penalty, so if your opponent doesn’t have a way to reach out and kill them they’ll cause absolute fits for them.

Unfortunately lots of opponents do have ways to swat them at range, meaning that in order to guarantee you’re getting a good round of shooting out of them you need to be either deep striking them with Nephrekh or redeploying from outside LOS with the Veil of Darkness. Most lists running them are Sautekh and thus pick the latter, but the former is a good choice if you’ve gone Nephrekh or are running a mixed detachment. As long as you make sure they come in and absolutely body something important (and a full squad should kill most “conventional” tanks) they can be a valuable addition to a list, as a teleporting squad gives the kind of hard-to-avoid threat projection that Necrons mostly lack, closing a major weakness. The fact that they’re still not totally wasted dead if your opponent slaps 200 Boyz down on the table is just gravy.

Don’t get overconfident with them though – most reasonable lists will body them once they’re down, so they need to earn their keep quick. It’s worth remembering that they have the INFANTRY tag, meaning that a bunch of abilities work on them, and they can claim cover as long as you can get part of all of their (massive) bases into terrain. They can also enter enclosed ruins if you’re playing with those rules. If these shoot at the right thing once they’re usually pretty good – if you can pull if off twice that’s often the game, so use every trick in the book to keep them alive.

Heavy Support

Doomsday Ark

Competitive Necron lists contain three of these, they’re probably the best unit in the book. Clocking in at 160pts (down from 193 pre CA2019), these are pretty tough to kill (they have Quantum Shielding) threaten to blow stuff apart at massive range with their main gun if they roll well, and are mobile and can switch duties to being anti-horde if needed thanks to having 10 gauss flayers stuck to them.

There’s…really no downside to these. As with everything quantum they melt a bit to Riptides or gatling cannon Knights, so by all the means shoot those things first, but there’s really no downside to these and you should start all your competitive lists with three unless you’re on a LOW skew build.

The only real choice is to run them as Nihilakh or Sautekh. The former gives them re-roll 1s if they stay still to fire their main guns on the full power mode (which requires them to be stationary), but the latter lets them advance around and still contribute. Both are valid and turn up in top Necron lists, so it’s mostly a matter of taste. If you do end up Sautekh, see if you can squeeze in a Triarch Stalker to get the re-rolls anyway!

Tesseract Ark (Forge World)

These used to be quite popular, but the huge cut Doomsday Arks got in CA2019 has taken the shine off a bit. These come in at between 180-200 points each depending on secondary weapon and are frankly just a bit weird. Compared to the other arks they still have Quantum but trade out 4 wounds for being T7 and having a 3+/5++. Although four wounds is a steep blow it actually does probably work out in their favour overall, as T7/3+ substantially helps close the big weakness of Necron vehicles.

Beyond that, these are just kind of weird. They have a main gun with three modes:

  • 8″ Assault d6 shots, AP-2. auto hit, wound on 2+ vs. non-vehicles
  • 24″ Assault d6 shots, AP-4, D3
  • 48″ Heavy d6 shots, AP-3, Dd6

They also mount two of either gauss cannons, tesla cannons, or particle beamers. Realistically your choice is between the first two, as tesla gets enough of a bump on particle beamers to be worth six points.

Finally, anything charging this has to roll an extra d6 and discard the highest, which is a nice marginal bonus.

The takeway is that this is a slightly overpriced unit that has options for going after most things at least moderately effectively. It’s especially good as Sautekh, as you can keep it moving and still use the top profile without penalty, along with any gauss cannons you’ve mounted.

These also explode on a 4+ like C’tan so, er, space your stuff out.

With the absurdly low price on Doomsday Arks they’re still realistically the “right” choice, but these are OK if you want to run them out, especially if you’re Sautekh.

Transcendant C’tan

Transcendent C'tan

Transcendent C’tan. Credit: Wings

Your “generic” C’tan option that you can customise game to game with one of 6* abilities. We put the asterisk there because only two of them are ever worth it – you can pick either the ability to use two powers a turn or a 3++. Some of the other options are situationally OK, but they pale in comparison to either of these, so you shouldn’t pick them. You can also roll for your abilities and if you do you get two dice, but this model is so much worse if you don’t get one of the two good ones that you should basically never do that, especially as you don’t get to re-roll duplicates for some dumb reason.

Realtalk – these are hilarious but not a top tier competitive option. Luckily, as we linked earlier, Wings has already written way too many words about how to use them to make a hilarious tier 3 knockabout list, so if you want to party with these, go read that!

The Rest

    • Tomb Spyders: Comically terrible.
    • Annihilation Barge: Not really good enough at anything to justify the cost.
    • Monolith: Just kind of bad. The weapons are lacklustre, the special abilities have fail cases and it isn’t tough enough for the cost. This hurts, because these are super iconic, but they are not good.
    • Heavy Destroyers: No real reason to run them over normal Destroyers. Post-point changes they at least don’t cost more than the normal ones, but once stratagem-ed up the output of these is only marginally better against large targets without an invulnerable save (their ideal prey) and they pay for that by losing the ability to switch roles to anti-horde.

Dedicated Transport

Ghost Ark

Ghost Ark

Ghost Ark. Credit: Wings

Ghost Arks are real good. They’re not quite as good as Doomsday Arks, but are a bit cheaper and maintain the surprisingly high anti-infantry output (plus are much happier getting up close and personal). They make units of ten Necron Warriors look actually OK, and lists running 2-3 of these on top of their mandatory 3 Doomsday Arks have put up some decent results (we spotted one when trawling through lists on 40KStats and someone went 5-1 at the LVO with 3 and 3).

Mostly you’re running these for the fact that they’re a mobile, tough anti-horde unit that makes another squad better, but it’s worth remembering that technically they make that unit even more better – at the end of your movement phase Necron Warrior units within 3″ can roll another round of re-animation, and an embarked squad can continue to reanimate. These abilities don’t come up super often but they’re nice if they do, and if you’ve got a blob of 20 Warriors it’s definitely worth keeping one of these around to double tap on reanimating if they survive a turn.

Flyer

Doom Scythe

The other unit that most good Necron lists start with 3 of, always in a Sautekh Air Wing. At their current cost of 150pts (down from 205 in the codex because good lord was it terrible at launch) they’re basically fine once Sautekh stops them taking a hit penalty on their main gun, and having three of them gives you access to the Amalgamated Targeting Data stratagem. For 1CP, you sacrifice the shooting of their death rays, pick a point that’s visible to all 3 then measure a 3″ radius out from there. Units in the bubble take 3d3 MWs on a 4+ (3+ if they have 5+ models, 5+ for a character).

If your opponent doesn’t play around it or you high roll, this can be absolutely crippling. Our very own Ultramarine Chapter Master Artum once had Guilliman insta-gibbed by this on turn 1, which is objectively hilarious.

If your opponent knows it’s coming and plays around it it often won’t be worth triggering – but the mere fact of its existence forces them to break up their normal positioning, and for some armies like Tau can undermine a core of their strategy. If your opponent goes wide, look for opportunities to land these to snipe out their characters and otherwise cause mischief.

It’s intensely frustrating that you have to lean so heavily on a semi-gimmick strategy like this to compete as Necrons, as some armies can just reach out and blow one of these up turn one then stop worrying, but that’s the world Necrons currently live in – at a reasonable price these project a potent threat that demands an answer, so into the army they go.

Night Scythe

The Night Scythe is bad and you shouldn’t take it. There’s nothing it can possibly drop off that justifies the price you pay for it and the possibility of having to pay CP to stop your unit automatically dying if it dies before being deployed.

Look, there are only two options here so there was no point doing “the rest”. These suck, and just need to be re-worded to be transports rather than “sort of transports but worse in every conceivable way in any practical game of tournament 40K”. They’d still be bad at the current cost, but might at least escape from being in the tier of units that actively make your army worse by including them.

Lord of War

Tesseract Vault

The Tesseract Vault is a giant war machine containing a souped up super C’tan, allowing it to use three powers a turn with +1 on all the rolls. It’s also got 28 wounds and a 4++, and 20 S7 Tesla shots from its guns, the only real downside being that it’s only T7, and blows up with a LOW tier explosion on a 4+. At codex launch these rocked in a 499pts, and bearing in mind this was before the Knight codex existed these were the best unit in the book by an order of magnitude, and running three of these was considered big and clever.

Since then they’ve come down in value considerably. The awkward ability of a Castellan to dunk these from across the board (while other LOWs are the one thing they’re pretty bad at killing) chased them out of most metagames, and while CA2019 buffed a lot of other stuff, it slapped a hefty premium on these, taking them up to 566pts.

This is one of those annoying cases where it kind of sucks but you can see their point, because three of these in an army was an aggressively terrible experience to play against – either your army could kill one a turn and won trivially or it couldn’t and got utterly dunked. However, the first one is probably fine at 499pts, so having to nerf it to account for the trio build had kind of cheated Necron players of an option for “normal” armies that would have been nice to have.

If you’re not aiming for top tables and just want a semi-competitive thing it’s fine. The most notable thing to remember about is is that the +1 on the roll takes Time’s Arrow from “pretty marginal” to “really good” – with a CP re-roll you can snipe out a 5W character >50% of the time, which will give some armies fits. Also keep in mind that distances only measure from the base on this, not the hull, so make sure you aren’t accidentally cheating when you check ranges. Finally, it gets a dynasty tag but not a dynasty code. That means there’s a very, very strong argument for running it as Nihilakh, because as long as you can get within 3″ of an objective you can push it to a 3++, which is quite nasty.

Gauss Pylon (Forge World)

The Gauss Pylon has extremely strong Forge World energy – it’s completely bizarre and probably has no place in normal games, but is sufficiently pushed that it actually can see tournament play.

The Pylon is a gigantic, stationary Lord of War gun turret designed to blow up other Lords of War and enemy fliers. It can deep strike onto the battlefield (because of course it can, that’s logical) but once it shows up its completely immobile. Normally this would make it terrible as a gun platform, but while things auto-hit it in melee, it doesn’t really count as “locked in combat” – it can still shoot, and stuff basing it can still be shot. When it shoots its gigantic gun it has two choices – either a fairly terrible Heavy 2D6 S6 -2 D1 anti-infantry mode, or the real meat which is a Macro D6 turbo blast. Macro weapons do double damage to TITANIC targets, and this one is no joke – while it does have to subtract 1 to hit against non-fliers it has a base BS of 2+, and the shots are S16, AP-4 and do 6+d3 damage. That means any unsaved wound against another TITANIC target is doing an outrageous 16 damage on average, meaning that straight up popping a Knight in a single round of shooting is a very real prospect. It also gets +1 to hit against fliers, so if you are some sort of mean jerk who wants to kill Crimson Hunters it’s also a great choice. Finally, it has a weird pistol gun that’s basically never relevant because it can shoot it’s big gun while in combat (and remember that you can shoot either “pistols” or “all non-pistol weapons”).

Defensively it’s also not messing around – it’s got T8, 30W and a 3+/5++, also granting a 5++ to NECRON units within 6″. All of this weighs in at 485 points.

That’s honestly pretty great. Obviously dumping a quarter of your points into something that can’t move puts you under some tactical constraints, but if you run one of these and come up against enemy Lords of War you’re laughing – the deep strike guarantees you getting to shoot first, and if you save your re-roll for the number of shots you can give yourself a good chance of really messing the enemy up. Where it falls down is that it sucks against pure horde – its anti-infantry modes are deeply mediocre for the cost, and it’s going to get punched to death in combat by auto-hitting melee stuff in short order. However, Necrons have some pretty good anti-horde options and have an inability to project durable anti-tank threat as a major weakness, so while a bit niche this is a genuine viable option if you want to build a more out-there list, and people have been having a good go at making them work in tournament lists all edition.

You can also build one out of a toilet plunger and some plasticard, if your tournament has lax modelling standards. We don’t recommend it, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that you could.

Seraptek Construct (Forge World)

Seraptek Construct

Seraptek Construct. Credit: Kamichi (Instagram)

This, on the other hand, is a way more modern Lord of War design, and this thing rocks. It ain’t cheap at 625 points, but is durable and insanely deadly at both distance and up close. The metagame is a little bit hostile to it right now, but make no mistake – this is a good model, and does turn up on tables. At the most extreme, someone at the Last Chance Open 2019 in the UK ran a list that was three of these and a Triarch Stalker in an Auxiliary to give them re-roll 1s. It was honestly kind of terrifying.

So why is it good? Defensively, it’s pretty standard for a LOW – T8, 3+, 5++. It gets 28W, but not having a trivial way to start on a 4++ offsets that (though don’t forget that Nihilakh can quickly buff them up via the stratagem). It does violently explode on a 4+, and is one of the biggest models in the game, so you do have to watch out for it deleting the whole army if you’re not careful – do bear that in mind.

Offensively is where it has the real goods. It has two choices for guns, but you should always go for the synaptic obliterators and transdimensional projectors. This gives you a nice mix of an average of four ultra high-end shots (S16, -4, D6) and an average of 7 mid quality shots (S6, -3, Dd3, MW on 6). The other option is still fine, but the ultra powered shots you get off the obliterators in this mode really makes it stand out. It’s also extremely good in melee – it gets 6 attacks, which it can either throw as S16 -4 D6 swings or as 18 S8 -2 Dd3 ones, allowing it to go after pretty much anything in melee. It also has the standard LOW ability to fall back over enemy infantry and is fast, with a base 16″ movement.

Essentially, this thing is fantastic across the board and if it was dropped into, for example, the IMPERIUM keyword would immediately be everywhere. As it is, the relatively poor support that Necrons can render it holds it back – it really wants some cheap screens to stop it getting butchered by rock saws and the like, and the Necron legions are not great at providing those. Because of this, armies with these aren’t top tier, but it can definitely serve you well on the mid tables, and will crush the unprepared, especially if they underestimate its mobility.

Obelisk

Much like fliers, there was only one left over here, so it gets an entry.

Now that Space Marine Centurions have been heavily buffed, the Obelisk is probably the worst mainline codex unit in the game. It used to have competitors for that crown. Now it doesn’t. Great job Necron codex.

That’s all. We’re done with units now.

Stratagems, Traits and Relics

Stratagems

  • Enhanced Reanimation Protocols – 2CP: re-roll 1s on reanimation for a unit. This is steeply priced, and you can usually spend your CP better elsewhere. Should cost 1.
  • Wrath of the C’tan – 2CP: A C’tan gets to roll a dice and manifest a random additional power. It can definitely be possible to have a Tesseract Vault in a position where any of the six would be good, in which case go wild, but again, this really should have cost 1.
  • Emergency Invasion Beam – 1CP: When a Night Scythe/Monolith dies you can deploy a unit from it. Even errataed so that it works on turn one past the Tactical Reserves rule! We’re very excited to spend CP to have our units not insta-dead if their transport dies.
  • Amalgamated Targeting Data – 1CP: The Doom Scythe strat. Already discussed. Good.
  • Dynastic Heirlooms – 1/3CP: Extra relics. Necrons have some good ones, often worth a punt.
  • Enhanced Invasion Beam – 1CP: Deploy two units from a Night Scythe or Monolith instead of one. Unfortunately, worded in such a way that it doesn’t combine with Emergency Invasion Beam, which makes setting up multiple units in these suicide, so never relevant.
  • Solar Pulse – 1CP: Strip cover from an enemy unit for the duration of a shooting attack. Good, clean fun, especially useful if you’re firing tesla at things with a 3+ base.
  • Resurrection Protocols – 1CP: Use when a non-C’tan character dies for the first time. Roll a dice at the end of the phase. on a 4+, they get back up on TW. Extremely handy, and if you think you’re going to need it, save a CP for the re-roll.
  • Damage Control Override – 1CP: A damaged vehicle acts on full profile. Fine on a Doomsday Ark, hilarious on a Seraptek or Tesseract Vault.
  • Repair Subroutines – 2CP: A CANOPTEK unit gets reanimation for a turn. Steeply priced, but if you have one Wraith out of 6 live through, can be on-the-spot game winning.
  • Self-Destruction – 1CP: Scarabs self destruct in melee. Already discussed. Situationally useful.
  • Disruption Fields – 1CP: An INFANTRY unit gets +1S for a Fight phase. If you’ve somehow ended up with Flayed Ones in your army, pretty OK. Can also let a Destroyer Lord get to S8, which is relevant on a lot of targets.
  • Entropic Strike – 1CP: Your first melee attack ignores invulnerable saves. Very funny on the Nightbringer, usually a waste on anyone else.
  • Dispersion Field Amplification – 2CP: Shield Lychguard get +1 invuln for a shooting phase, and reflect MWs on a 6. Already discussed, pretty tasty if you’re going all-in on them.
  • Quantum Deflection – 1CP: –1 to your quantum rolls on a vehicle for a phase. Very good, use it often.
  • Extermination Protocols – 1CP: Destroyers re-roll hits and wounds for a phase. Absurdly great for 1CP and you want to be using this every time they shoot.
  • The Phaeron’s Will  – 1CP: Double tap on My Will Be Done. Great, use it whenever you have shots lined up for two units of Tesla Immortals.
  • Adaptive Subroutines – 1CP: Advance and charge with a CANOPTEK unit. If you’re running Wraiths, you’re probably slamming this.
  • Dimensional Corridor – 1CP: A Monolith can redeploy a friendly unit to it. This would be amazing if Monoliths weren’t unsalvageable garbage.
  • Judgement of the Triarch – 1CP: Buffs Triarch Praetorians, but not in a way that makes them at all worthwhile.
  • Gravitic Singularity – 1CP: Buffs Obelisks but not in a…you know where we’re going with this.
  • Cosmic Powers – 1CP: Swap a C’tan power. if you have multiple C’tan this is very good. Most commonly used to trade a ranged power for Cosmic Fire at crunch time.

The stratagems are a real mixed bag – there’s some critical bread and butter stuff here you’ll use all the time, but also a lot of trash. Basically, save your CP to slam Phaeron’s Will, Quantum Deflection, Resurrection Protocols and (if you have Destroyers) Extermination Protocols and you won’t go far wrong.

Warlord Traits

  • Enduring Will: Reduce damage on your warlord by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Fine, but without a way to get your characters in someone’s face, not usually relevant.
  • Eternal Madness:  Re-roll wounds when your warlord charges is charged or intervenes. None of the characters have enough attacks to make this worth it.
  • Immortal Pride: The best trait by far if you aren’t Sautekh. Nearby allies are fearless, and you get one deny the witch. Closes a weakness (no psychic defence) and lets you run blobs of ten Immortals with impunity. Even better if you’re trying to make Warrior blobs work for some reason. What’s not to like?
  • Thrall of the Silent King: Boosts the range of your warlord’s abilities by 3″. Not needed.
  • Implacable Conquerer: Re-roll failed charges for DYNASTY units nearby. Assumes a melee build is viable. It isn’t.
  • Honorable Combatant: Get +d3 attacks if you target a CHARACTER with all your swings. Preferable to Eternal Madness if you want to build melee because if helps cover your weaknesses (low attacks) rather than drawing attention to them.

These are, bluntly, not great, and Immortal Pride is the one spot of light in a dismal list. Take that or the Sautekh one, or maybe Nephrekh in a weird build. Leave the rest out.

Relics

  • The Orb of Eternity: A resurrection orb that gives re-roll 1s on the rolls from it. No.
  • Voidreaper: A souped up warscythe – always wounds on 2s against non-vehicles and is S7 against them. Also D3 rather than D2. Great if you want a killy Destroyer Lord.
  • Lightning Field: Gives a 4++ and a chance of doing a MW at the start of combat. So-good-it’s-mandatory on a Catacomb Command Barge. Bad everywhere else.
Catacomb Command Barge

Catacomb Command Barge. Credit: Wings

  • The Nightmare Shroud: Improve your save by 1 and gives a -1LD aura. Very meh.
  • The Gauntlet of the Conflagrator: A once per game invocation of the Seismic Assault C’tan power with 8″ range. This could literally be shootable every turn and it would still be bad. Terrible.
  • The Veil of Darkness: Easily the best relic. Once a game, lets a character redeploy themselves and up to one friendly INFANTRY unit within 3″ at the end of the movement phase. The unit has to be wholly within 6″ of the bearer. This is most commonly used for putting Destroyers into position from cover, pushing a squad of Immortals into the backline to harass, or pulling Immortals out of combat (as it doesn’t count as a fallback). All uses are great, and basically every normal Necron list should have this as its first pick.
  • The Nanoscarab Casket: Super Phylactery. Already discussed. Cool if you want a tough Destroyer Lord.
  • Semipiternal Weave: Gives a model +1T and +1W. Pretty handy on a Cryptek as an extra relic if Snipers are about.

The Veil of Darkness is basically the all time champion of Necron relics, and should almost always be taken. if you want an extra one, the Semipiternal Weave or one of the faction relic staffs are usually your next choices. If you have the relevant units, the Lightning Field or Voidreaper are also good shouts.

Army List

Some factions have a huge number of options for lists, so it’s difficult to decide what list to include in these.

Necrons are not one of these factions.

The Necron Phalanx musters

The Necron Phalanx musters. Photo: Wings, Models: Denis N

Courtesy of Wings’ recent tournament opponent Denis N, we present a fine example of The Necron List:

+ REPORTED ARMY FACTION: Necrons
+ TOTAL COMMAND POINTS: 9
+ TOTAL ARMY POINTS: 1995
+ POWER LEVEL: 123
+ ARMY FACTIONS USED: Necrons
+ TOTAL REINFORCEMENT POINTS: 0 
== Battalion Detachment == Necrons, Sautekh [ 53 PL, 941 pts ] 5 CP
HQ: Overlord (84), Warscythe (9), Warlord trait – Hyperlogical Strategist (0) [ 6 PL ] [93 pts]
HQ: Cryptek (70), Staff of Light (10), Chronometron (15), Artifact – Veil of Darkness (0) [ 5 PL ] [95 pts]
TR: 10 Immortals (80), Tesla Carbines x 10 (70) [ 8 PL ] [150 pts] 
TR: 10 Immortals (80), Tesla Carbines x 10 (70) [ 8 PL ] [150 pts] 
TR: 5 Immortals (40), Tesla Carbines x 5 (35) [ 4 PL ] [75 pts]
FA: 3 Canoptek Scarab Swarm (39), Feeder Mandibles x 3 (0) [ 2 PL ] [39 pts] 
FA: 3 Canoptek Scarab Swarm (39), Feeder Mandibles x 3 (0) [ 2 PL ] [39 pts] 
FA: 6 Destroyers (180), Gauss Cannon x 6 (120) [ 18 PL ] [300 pts]
== Spearhead Detachment == Necrons, Sautekh [ 37 PL, 604 pts ] 0 CP
HQ: Cryptek (70), Staff of Light (10), Canoptek Cloak (5), Additional artefact – The Abyssal Staff (0) [ 5 PL ] [85 pts]
FA: 3 Canoptek Scarab Swarm (39), Feeder Mandibles x 3 (0) [ 2 PL ] [39 pts]
HS: Doomsday Ark (160), Doomsday Cannon (0), Gauss Flayer Arrays x 2 (0) [ 10 PL ] [160 pts] 
HS: Doomsday Ark (160), Doomsday Cannon (0), Gauss Flayer Arrays x 2 (0) [ 10 PL ] [160 pts] 
HS: Doomsday Ark (160), Doomsday Cannon (0), Gauss Flayer Arrays x 2 (0) [ 10 PL ] [160 pts]
== Air Wing Detachment == Necrons, Sautekh [ 33 PL, 450 pts ] 1 CP
FL: Doom Scythe (150). Deathray (0), Tesla destructor x 2 (0), [ 11 PL ] [150 pts] 
FL: Doom Scythe (150). Deathray (0), Tesla destructor x 2 (0), [ 11 PL ] [150 pts] 
FL: Doom Scythe (150). Deathray (0), Tesla destructor x 2 (0), [ 11 PL ] [150 pts]

The irreducible core of pretty much all serious Necron armies at the moment is:

  • 3 characters, at least one of which is an Overlord, CCB or Imotekh
  • 3 Doom Scythes
  • 3 Doomsday Arks
  • 2x 10 Tesla Immortals + 1 additional troops choice.

That eats up a healthy chunk of your army. The rest is usually filled out by one of a few flex choices. Here we see the use of a full squad of Destroyers, teleportable via the Veil of Darkness. Other options would include Tomb Blades, Ghost Arks, Triarch Stalkers or just way more Immortals. In general, however, we find the Destroyers to be one of the safest options, and the above represents one of the stronger builds you can put together.

Wrap Up

So that’s the Necrons. It’s a crying shame that they are, currently, one of the weaker armies out there but hopefully we’ve equipped you with the knowledge needed to squeeze the most out of them.

As ever, if there’s anything you think we’ve missed, questions about what we’ve included or rants about underpowered skeletons you want to share with us, you can reach us at contact@goonhammer.com or via our Facebook Page.

 

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