Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Brief Guide to Necrons - How to fight with and against

Bully asked me over text conversation if I would email him over a brief heads up on Necrons. He wants to catch himself up to speed and I thought that I would share this with anyone who has not yet played against them and what to expect from that first game.

The Necron codex has been out a while now..quite a while in fact. Whilst most people have read up on them, own the book and have read around on the internet, I still find there are guys at the local club and at tournaments that haven't popped their cherry ( shit, there are TOO many jokes about 40k goons there...) against the robots.

So here are a few thoughts on what to expect, how to handle it and um.. the shit that is good. Most of you know this, it's in no particular order and it may not be what the rest of the internet says... but this is my experience first hand as a long time Necron collector and as a competitive gamer - both with and against the robots..

Solar Pulses and Night Fight:
Wonderful. Sublime.. you will see it taken at least once in every competitive Necron army, note this does not mean that there MUST be one for the army to be competitive - this comes from solid list building but fundamentally from solid generalship.
However, that said, Night Fight for 2 turns does amazing things.
1) Necrons can get into position with relative impunity as you will largely not be able shoot them. This affects a huge number of armies because most armies are built to shoot. This is what works very well in 5th as well all know. Inability to shoot sucks. Acute senses from Space Wolves and from Dark Eldar reduce the strength of this, but by no means remove this benefit. Whenever we have to roll a dice (or 2D6), well bad stuff happens due to reliance on chance.
2) Protects the back field units (in particular troops and support units) from retaliatory fire. Being able to shoot at the enemy for a turn or even two without reducing your own ability to act is huge.

The difference this piece of kit makes is massive. Combined with several other key elements of the army, it can change the game - not "the game", just the one you are playing in that moment.

Some builds just don't give a shit, for some, in no way does this alter the way they play. Armies that have a close ranged nature do not care (I'm not going to say Ba or BT or whatever..because most armies can be built in many ways) as they wish to close the ground and engage anyway. But for those builds that rely on long range shooting to do thier work..eugh.
Midfield armies are also quite flippant towards this. Grey Knights are only truly concerned for the first of the (maximum) 2 Night Fight turns. If their vehicles are allowed to get into the middle of the table, then the effective range of their psycannons can reach out and touch most areas of the field. Other armies can do similar. The majority - are not built to handle it..Make sure you are.

If you field a mid to long ranged army what do you do? Mobile units with short ranged, lethal weapons such as Melta are, by definition, required to get up close and shred shit. Hang back and you'll be pinned in place by Command Barges and Scarabs. On the otherhand, peg it forward and smoke and you'll be cut in half by Command Barges and eaten by Scarabs.
Sort your target priority out.

They burn real good. They are shit in CC if you bring bodies - BA assault sqauds, GH packs or the equivalent - anything that can put out enough hits.. regular marines, IG en masse all good enough. Scarabs are hit on 3's as they are WS2 and are wounded at worst on 4's (IG, Gaunts, Eldar etc)..they are I2.. you can put very serious hurt on them before they swing.. then its 30-50 attacks usually hitting you with 4's then 4's... if you can remove a base or 2 first then that is a significant proportion of the attacks coming back at you removed.
Burning. Unsaved wounds are doubled vs swams. All flamers are Ap5 I think, not sure on hand flamers.. but generally you'll burn them on 3's and do double wounds. You'll remove a base or two at least.
Heavy flamers are wonderful, but Inferno cannons are even better. Fast ones are spot on..unfortunately that's only BA and IG that can use these. Baals and Hellhounds.
Baals have the disadvantage (in my opinion) that they require an army to be built around them..which I still maintain as being a viable build (ImmoBAliser - check our BA links to the right), Hellhounds on the other hand are the absolute bane of Scarabs and a lot of other Necron units too.
A well placed (normally easy) template will incinerate a unit.. killing a base on a 2+ but also being an Instant Death causing bitch and a flamer each wound is doubled and each causes instant death. Catch 3/4 bases and you will typically incinerate 6-8 bases.. removing thier bite almost entirely.
Now, this is all well and good..but what about those armies that do not possess S6, fast templates?
See above.
Engage in CC. Bubble wrap your tanks with your troops. The Scarabs will not eat you. Ensure that wherever you expose yourself to Scarab attack, you can add supporting CC to in the subsequent turn. I know a lot of you guys are saying that you don't DO cc, or that you have low stat people.. well, so do the Scarabs. They are not designed to cc TROOPS. They are designed to, and do wonderfully well, eat vehicles and deny mechanised mobility.
Now, 3W per base is not easy to remove. Fearless wounds will be your friend here. This will drop almost as many Scarabs as in the combat! lol..sometimes.
What about traditional shooting at Scarabs, regular sidearms and line infantry troops will not do a lot here, although weight of fire is good. Trouble is, with stealth and cover (area terrain is pretty much universally abundant in tournaments and so it should be - the game requires a mix of terrain) the volume of wounds is hard to remove.. They can of course encourage you to bring small arms fire to bear against the Scarabs, then go to ground and claim 2+ saves. This exposes your troops (as you've brought them to fire on Scarabs) to the firepower of the Necrons - they will put serious hurt on exposed troops. The right Necron builds (assume the worst) can put down troops no matter the armour. Strong it is, anti infantry with this the words of the little green dude on a mobile advert on TV infront of me now.. sheesh. Sorry sidetracked.
I would be very hesitant to gun down Scarabs in cover without templates or without follow up close combat.
That said.. they are bloody fast, they are lethal to tanks..but they will die in droves in the open and to CC, especially from dedicated units.. don't expend anything too crucial though..see previous example of dice and bad things happening.
Move your vehicles fast, get into position early as they wont last long and don't be afraid to cc.. try not to shoot into cover..they may be drawing you in for a counter strike.

Command Barges
Fast moving and, during early stages of the game, tough to kill. The already staple Command Barge + Warscythe combo is a tough one. I used a pair of them and so will a lot of Necron generals. At medium range (24") they are a pain as they can sweep over you and hit you 3 times on a 4+ with a S7+2D6 vs vehicles power weapon. On a 6, they can allocate to whomever they choose in a unit. Sniping is fun, but situational and dependent on luck - don't worry about that. Worry about exposing your vehicles to big powered up scythes. One of the issues with bombing forward to getting into position is that it will likely put you in range of not only the Scarabs, but of the barges. as long as they can end their move 1" away from you. they can sweep over, touch you and cut you up.
The barges thrive on getting in close and cutting you up (vehicles) - this is also where they are the least protected. They may move flat out for a 4+ cover save, but as an open topped vehicle, they still die on a 3+ penetration from a meltagun. Ap1 & OT? not cool. Solar Pulses cannot protect from this extremely short range and there are only so many 4+ saves you can make. Let them, no...encourage them to only get sweeps on transports.. transports which are already in position and carry melta inside.
There are points to remember here.. discuss the importance of troops in an objective mission, plant psychological hints in the enemy..keep your other vehicles safe in several ways...they are no real reasons why you wouldn't "castle up" but on the move against Necrons..its not like leafblower guard with multiple, large blast templates at high strength..bring all your units into support of each other.
Keep the critical units in the centre of the vehicle "herd".
Use out riders to ensure that the Necron Barge cannot sweep into and out of the herd.
In this way, you encourage and allow only the non-essential units to be swept.
This also means that you have supporting units in place to retaliate.
The Barges need to be gotten rid of, they are a real and credible threat.
On the Necron side of care? they are an HQ unit, they are disposable and tehy encourage action against them.
This is fine. It protects your troops and it keeps the enemy in and around the Lord's zone. This slows thier momentum (for a lot of armies) as they cannot afford to leave this unit free and flying around. for others, they can deal with this guy whilst also keeping the herd moving..

I don't want to just write about units, guys like Stelek do that arguably far better.. so instead, we jsut focus on concepts.
The Necron army can be, and for the most part is, incredibly mobile. This is not a concept that most dudes expect, nor is it what we have read about on the internet. We tend to hear about units in isolation..shit Barges are fast. Shit, Scarabs (and Cav in general) are fast. Shit, Wraiths are jump inf. etc etc.
But the one thing that I guess I must have missed and I bet a lot of you did too is that Necrons are very mobile and very fast as an army on the whole.
From Veil of Darkness troops, to jump infantry to fast skimmers to Cavalry these dudes MOVE, man. The Necrons are a hard army to pin down, which is good 'cause when you do catch them, they'll pretty much die in it is good that they can move.
It also means that they can pick and choose where to fight and when to fight. They can bring a great deal of firepower to bear in a concerted manner. This is what most armies try to do, they try and move the force in concert and bring overwhelming fire to bear before sweeping on to the next section of the army. This generally requires a great deal of thought and experience. Necrons can seemingly do it with ease (maybe its cause I've worked on it over time with mechanised forces and know what I want to do, it comes easier with these guys) and it's fast and frustrating for the enemy.
This is not to suggest in any way that they are slippery snakes, writhing out of your grasp.. once the grasp is in got them. Scarabs are shit in cc, Barges die on a 3+ to melta on the damage table, troops can't veil out of cc and will fold eventually..bring the same force to bear as you would to nail 10 tactical marines in a round or two of cc and you'll be there.
Veil of Darkness is without doubt my favourite toy. The risk of deep strike can result in a dramatic loss (see my game 2 at Caledonian Uprising - I lost 285 points to a DS scatter) but typically, you can select a realistic drop site and go for it. Immortals are the boys for this, they can weather a good deal of return fire with 3+ save and they pump out some pretty nasty fire - Gauss all the way..AP4 S5 is too good. More shots at this range than Tesla by a mile too. Yeah, it loses range if they move, but this way - it doesn't matter.
Having 12" rapid range the Veil does not have to be that close to the enemy as a Melta DS for instance. This is why it works. I also attach a Lance/Pulse Crytpek so I get to use the Lance if I drop out of also means that I don't HAVE to DS to get some use from the unit.
Contrary to every necron build I've seen used at tournament and online, I run 2 units of Veil, meaning my troops are very mobile and very useful. Put together with all the other tricks, and Necrons are a very mobile army.
Be prepared for this, Scarabs, Wraiths and Barges have excellent mobility as can troop elements - these are common elements in terms of what is currently viewed as competitive. Necrons are NOT a slow and plodding, relentless advance.. they are highly mobile - don't let them box your transports and therefore troops in.
They will try and keep you in place using Scarabs, Wraiths and Comm Barges.. accept that you WILL lose your transports, use them to get into position (wherever your army operates best from) OR annihilate these elements first.

A lot of the Necron players out there are running 3 x 5 Warriors plus 1 x 10 Immortals (either Tesla for staying at range or Veil for mobile rapid fire Gauss).
There are then several options.. Warriors tend to do one of the following:
1) Ghost Arks and having a couple of Lance Crypteks blasting out the open top.
2) On foot with a pair of dudes attached as a mini-Dev squad
3) With no one attached and in reserve just to walk on to home objectives or in NOVA style missions, the appropriate table quarter or Seize Ground objective.
There are some players you will run large squads, multiples of these and have Res Orbs around to go for a very hard to shift unit.
They will be in cover and have a 75% chance of surviving (after RP)...cover then repair is pretty tough.. but offensively...they suck. Sure they can have a Phaeron attached and shoot 30" on the move and glance you to death..and that is kind of effective..but it is still too many points in a unit that will be simply wiped in close combat from a dedicated CC unit. Note: Dedicated CC. Or large GH packs..& equivalent. Don't charge 5 wyches in or a 5 man GK Strike Squad.. you havent the bodies to survive the return.
Immortals then.. far better, far more bang for your buck. 3+ save and 2 great guns. You will see a lot of Tesla used, especially in smaller sqauds that are to sit at range and still provide fire support. I think this is a mistake, but you will still see it.
Larger squads with Tesla are used to sit back and hold objectives or to slowly advance into the middle and take SG objectives or table quarters. 10 MEQ are hard to shift for some folks. Not at all for others.
My favourite use is as above, adding to the mobility of the army and putting out some serious firepower at close range. The Veil clocks in at 60 you end up with an 11W 230 point unit though.. expensive, and it doesn't look like it does a lot.. but the use on the table is sublime. The swiftness is great, being anywhere you like, applying pressure where it is needed, when it's needed.
I run 2 as I mentioned and 40 S5 Gauss AP4 cannot be underestimated.
Remember that the Veil dude comes as standard with an Abyssal Staff..a S8 Ap2 flamer testing vs LD. Very useful.
The final use of troops that will become more prevalent very soon is the use of Nightscythes. For 100 points you get troop transport AND access to another TL Telsa Destructor. Deadly. There are a number of builds that find a few of these chaps very useful and from my personal experience of Necrons I can assure you that this weapon and a mobile platform will be incredibly useful...but we have to wait for that.. If you've not played Necrons..or only once or twice, don't worry about this option just yet.

With regard to taking them down, tie up the Veiling Immortal squad with CC. Keep them in place, then support and wipe them in subsequent turns.
The smaller warrior squads can be torrented away at range with relative ease. TL HB from GK Razors excel at this, as do regular HB's.. Frag templates work just as nicely..Heavy Flamers if you have access to mobile ones are superb.. Hellhounds and GK DK Heavy Incinerators are perfect for it. Toast the fuckers. Wipe the unti then there is no Reanimation Protocols.. The Crypteks may get up but not likely..
Ghost Ark units are the same as any of the other Necron Quantum Shielding family.. melta up close absolutely wrecks them. Do it.

 Do not deceive yourself, a S7 AP- gun is lethal when you are so damn likely to roll a 6 on 4D6...especially TL means you get more chances to roll the dice for missing shots.. The Ap- is negated through weight of fire.
This is primarily all about the Annihilation barges.
They are good and bad.
They are slow. They are only 24" range and can only move 6" and fire it.
However, they are protected through Night Fight and only really need one turn of full movement to get into position.
From there they are lethal, point and click at both transports and troops alike.
You don't give a fuck about armour. Just shoot.. combine the fire of 3 AB's (a meagre 270 points for max HS) and watch Deathwing to Orks evaporate.
For me, the bottom gun should also be the Tesla for weight of fire.. however, many use the Gauss Cannon to change the role of the vehicle should the top gun die or just for the added AP3. Same as starcannon eldar or plasma or any other low ap gun versus your marines/troops..keep them in cover near it..
With the Tesla, the cover is irrelevant..they'll kill you by making you roll dice.
To deal with them, close up and get Melta in range. Fire missiles (or equivalent) at them, you only need a 5... glances are still quite effective versus open topped stuff.
Lascannons are perfect for them. Vendetta's or Ravagers are prime.. or the DE fliers..
If you run Autocannon spam this is fine too as the glances will come and they will work....

Living Metal
...on the otherhand, glancing or "stun-locking" is significantly less useful against Necrons as it is versus a lot of other armies. Living Metal works in a similar fashion to Gk 'Fortitude' except that LM works as the damage occurs, this means that as an enemy to the know what vehicles are going to be shaken or stunned next turn. Shaken results are negated on a 2+, whereas Stunned are only negated on a 4+.
In this way, LM is nowhere near as nasty as Fortitude, which comes down to one LD10 characteristic the GK turn. You have no idea whether or not your rolls of 1 & 2 have had any effect vs GK, but you do vs 'Crons.
This is not to say that LM is crap, merely different and a hell of a lot better than not having it at all, lol!

Overall Conclusions and Turn Order
Whilst Necrons are a fast and shooty army, they have more to their anti tank than just ranged weaponry. Scarabs you are right to fear as much as you have read/heard about, but they can be killed and if you just lose one 35 point rhino or similar in order to draw them out and punk them, well fine.
Necrons are more than SCarabs. they are, like Transformers, more than meets the eye! They may not look like much on paper, they may not even look like a large presence on the table top... but they are very much more than the sum of their parts.
Scoring is currently a weak point for many Necron builds, the lack of complete model range is a pain in the ass and limits the full mobility (in my opinion) of the army.
CC is poor, except from Wraiths and Lords. Wraiths will tie up your expensive death star units with 3++ saves, even if it is only for a phase or two, this is enough time to get away. Against non-Death Star stuff, the Wraith will clear you out. Whip Coils allow them to strike first..except vs Furious Chargers, GK Halberds and of course charging Banshee Masks. They have 4A on the charge each at S6 (Rending) and with Wraithflight will always have a threat range of 18". Don't count on them failing terrain checks and not making it into long as the Necron player can judge distance..
Use searchlights.
Night Fight is a massive balancer and the correct application of Searchlights, especially on fast or scouting vehicles is wonderful.. it'll light up the night for your army vs critical units.
On a final thought.. go second. Necrons don't care if they go first or second, but for me..they want to be going second.. the last opportunity to contest and claim objectives in ideal strategically and they can comfortably weather the shit storm of fire with night fight.
If you can, let the Necrons go first.
Let the Scarabs rush forward into the middle of the table.
Let the Command Barge move flat out into the middle.
Move up and annihilate.
The other chief advantage to the Necron player of going second is that we can deploy our units in the correct manner, we can deploy in the right location so as not to go against tough match ups or to make sure we can launch the Scarabs and other toys into the right location.
If you force the Necron guy to go first, he will have to deploy blind and you get the tactical advantage.
Try it and see. Unless you possess units that can move seriously fast and affect the game Turn 1.
Otherwise, give yourself the knowledge and informed deployment.. deployment wins games.

So, like I said..not definitive..but hopefully this provides some insights after a couple of months (or whatever) of playing Necrons at tournaments (2 now with Crons)...there are far better tacticians out there in the world of Warham's, they'll be throwing good stuff out all the time.. these are just some of my thoughts.. Primarily, this is for Bully so he has some idea of what to expect coming back into the game after his hiatus. This should bring a good player up to speed.. x


  1. wow, seriously epic post... fantastic tips for both sides, thanks. it must have taken a fair bit of time!

    i have played Necrons a few times now, but never faced a very good list. the foot list was good against me, in that exact mission, but i would destroy it normally. i would really struggle with a properly built army.

  2. Honestly I am so sick of these fail Necron Foot lists. I see them popping up all the time with the same poor results. We are not meant to be an exclusive foot army. As you can see from Ven's wonderful post here (much props to you sir even though you're giving away our secrets!) our vehicles are an integral part of making a balanced and deadly force.

    I remember when I started playing necrons at first with the new release and was looking around for ideas. At first I cringed at the idea I saw posted here of use all 3 heavy slots on Annihilation Barges, I loved my doomsday cannon but after finally slapping down the cash I really don't see myself ever really not taking them or at least always 2 of them.

    Truthfully the key to playing Necrons successfully is as Ven pointed out knowing how to use the board and mobility to your advantage. They just have so much to play smoke and mirrors with on the enemy. Sure go ahead and surge forward to deal with my scarabs and or wraiths, while I maneuver the rest of my troops into scoring positions or into positions where I can now fire my Annihilation Barges into your ball of troops and transports that you set up to deal with my scarabs and wraiths and watch tesla and arc shine. Their kit is wonderful and there is one other thing that I want to point out that Ven didn't. That is the deadly combo of Orikan the Diviner and a Ctan shard with writhing worldscape. Talk about anit mech bullshit. Turn one all terrain for the enemy is difficult and on top of that the Ctan makes all terrain dangerous again only for the enemy. So even if the experienced player just sits there and doesn't move, that is still a turn of mobility that you have over him. Then on his next turn activate solar pulse for a double F-U. Hell it's even a combo that GW put in the FAQ!

    It's a decent point drop but honestly I find Necron's elite choices to be rather lack luster except for the stalkers and ctans. And my area meta for tournments usually runs around 2k so its a little easier for me to make room for. Either way the tool kit the army has is amazing and with so many choices available I feel we are only starting to see some of the amazing comboes available to the Necrons come to light!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Let me add an edit to my previous comment on the Ctan and Orikan the Diviner Combo, Orikan makes all terrain for the enemy difficult for turn 1 only, the Ctan's ability Writhing Worldscape makes all terrain that is difficult also dangerous and makes existing dangerous terrain fail on a 1 or a 2. The Ctan's ability essentially makes all terrain dangerous for the enemy on turn 1 only (due to Orikan the Diviner doing so) and then all difficult terrain becomes dangerous as long as the Ctan is on the table (for the enemy only).

    (previous post was deleted due to errors and re-posted here)

  5. Swarms (vulnerable to templates) and instant death do not stack. That's a 4th edition FAQ. In the fifth, you get either double wounds or instant death but not both. Still, templates and ID can both wreck their units and the number of hits they put out.

    Great article.

    1. where does it say you choose? i see no reason why it doesnt stack. each wound counts as two, as per the swarm rules, and then each wound causes instant death, so double wounds, each causing instant death.

  6. @Paul - thanks for the extensive commenting brother.. I must admit, I've largely overlooked Orikan as it doesn't fit with my overall build(s)..but I shall attempt to smash out an Orikan C'tan mash up later in the week..

    @FrostByte - you sure bro? I'll have to double check, but that is how its been played around me and I know at least one of the other authors does it too..he is down in London so plays in an entirely different player pool.. definately one to look at.. maybe Hellhounds will not be making the comeback I've been hoping for..

  7. Cheers ven this is awesome.

    Atreides what sort of armies are we seeing atm at Ken? Much the same? Anyone jumped on Dark Eldar or Necrons since I left?

  8. Epic post mate :)

    @ Bully, you lads giving up on SWTOR then? Ive almost hit battle master & got 3/4 of my champion set so man up lol!

  9. Some gave up due to the mass bugs and generally not liking the game.

    We all got champs ages ago man! Catch up haha!

    In honesty the game was too easy but too random at the same time. The fact that Sith are straight better than Republic is a joke, and players are getting easy rank due to Ilum is pretty weak. Once Sith are on parity with Republic the game will be better. I was just made officer so I am still playing, but not as "hard core" as before. I'll see what rated battlegrounds are like, if not I'll sack it off and wait for GW2.

  10. Huge thanks for this my man, really helped get my head around what these dudes can do and will mean I can start to adapt my builds if I need to so that I can account for all the grief.

  11. Awesome post, I just wanted to second what the others have said!