JY2 is back with another Escalation Tactica! See the previous part of this series here. Also, check out the Tactics Corner for more great articles and videos!

Escalation is a supplement that introduces Apocalypse units – namely super-heavies and gargantuan creatures – into normal games of Warhammer 40K. It allows you to use what usually are some very powerful units that were designed for much larger games. These units are what the Escalation supplement calls as Lords of War. I shall simply refer to them as titans in this tactica.

This tactica is aimed more towards the competitive aspect of 40K gaming. While titans can be fun to play, they will no doubt also make the game very competitive as well, in most cases to the point that if you cannot kill them, then you will most likely get annihilated by them. I will look into the titans of the various armies and how to make those armies work. I will also go into how to play against these types of armies.


Titans, or Lords of War units, are very powerful units found only in games of Apocalypse before the supplement came out. However, with Escalation now a part of 40K, you can now bring these behemoths into your games. Titans consist mainly of 2 types – the Super-heavies (SH’s) and the Gargantuan Creatures (GC’s). Super-heavies are vehicles and are further sub-divided into 3 types – Super-heavy Tanks, Super-heavy Walkers and Super-heavy Flyers. Gargantuans are divided into 2 types – normal Gargantuan Creatures and Flying Gargantuan Creatures (FGC’s). The characteristics that both super-heavies and GC’s share are that both are usually very hard to kill and both can cause massive amounts of destruction.

Destroyer Weapons 

So what are Destroyer weapons, also known as Strength D weapons or just D-weapons/guns? They are simply the most destructive weapons in the game today. In many cases, just 1 D-weapon can potentially wipe out an entire unit with ease. These guns break many of the normal mechanics of the game. They ignore armor, cover, invulnerable saves, FNP, just almost everything in the game today (including Reanimation Protocols). They also practically ignore the mechanic of the Hull Point on regular vehicles as well as the roll on the vehicle damage charts. With the exception of other Titan defenses and Void Shields (found in the Stronghold Assault supplement), there is almost no defense against Destroyer weaponry in regular 40K. It is mainly Titans with D-weapons that will be the problem for most armies to deal with. It is also the D-weapons that competitive gamers will flock to. Hence, there will be no avoiding it. You want to survive Escalation? Then you better be able to handle the D.

How to Play against Titans?

Elite Armies:

Unfortunately, you are going to see Elitist armies die away in games of Escalation (or where Escalation is commonplace). Why? Because to a Destroyer gun, a land raider is just as easy to kill as a rhino. Your paladins, seer council and screamer-star are just as easy to kill as a unit of termagants. The 250-pt uber-character is not much more survivable than a normal marine sergeant. Elitist armies in competitive play will slowly phase out in games of Escalation simply because they are very inefficient against Destroyer weapons. Unfortunately, this is one of the side effects of the game that many people will have to deal with. It will render a lot of army builds practically obsolete.

Flyer Armies:

This will be the golden age of the flyer. Armies with good flyers or flying monstrous creatures will thrive in the age of Escalation. One of the main weaknesses of Destroyer weapons is that most of them can’t shoot at flyers. Currently, all the units in the Escalation supplement who have Destroyer weaponry can only fire blasts. Thus, they cannot even shoot at flyers, at least not with their most powerful guns. Moreover, titans are so expensive that in most cases, one will find it hard to add adequate anti-air as well as troops and other support units in a titan army. The only army who can do it well will be Tau, who unfortunately lack a good titan themselves, and necrons, who just may be the most well-rounded army in games of Escalation. Thus, if your army can dominate the air, then they will have a decent chance against the titans.

MSU Armies:

Escalation will be the comeback of the Multiple-Small Units (MSU) builds. First off, titans are so expensive that they need the rest of their army to be cheap and efficient. Secondly, more is better when playing against titans. A unit of 10 paladins will die just as easily as a unit of 10 scouts to Destroyer weaponry. Thus, why run 10 paladins when 5 units of 10 scouts (who can then combat squad into 10 squads of 5) is much, much more survivable? Moreover, it takes either Destroyer weaponry or massed firepower to kill a titan. MSU is what will gives you the best massed firepower to deal with titans. So for non-flyer armies, MSU is good both for titan armies and against titan armies.

Drop Pod Armies:

Drop pod armies are one of the few builds that won’t really change whether playing against titans or regular armies. However, drop pod armies will have the advantage of getting the alpha-strike on a titan. Thus, I see drop pod armies continue to proliferate in the era of Escalation as they have been doing in 6th Edition. The only thing about drop pod armies is that they are limited to Imperial armies, but for those Imperial armies who don’t run super-heavies, you will very likely see them run drop pod armies in games of Escalation.


Daemons are actually one of the armies that can thrive in Escalation games. They have a hugely competitive build – Flying Monstrous Creatures-spam, or FMC-spam – that will also translate well into games of Escalation (as long as they grab the Portaglyph to shore up their scoring). They also have what may be one of the best weapons against Titans – Be’lakor and Puppet Master. With the advent of the titan, Puppet Master may well become one of the most important psychic powers in the game.

When in Doubt, Hide:

Yes, this is going to be a common strategy in Escalation. There just is no defense against Destroyer weaponry other than to be in reserves, stay up in the air or to just hide. If you cannot kill the opposing Destroyer titan, then you better find a hole to crawl under or prepare to lose a unit. Oftentimes, you will have little choice but to play the denial game against enemy titans.


Necrons may well be one of the most balanced of the Escalation armies. And by balance, I mean that they have a dangerous ground presence as well as superior air support. Of all the armies in Escalation, it is the necrons that can deal with both air and ground threats equally well. Also, of all the armies in Escalation, it is the mighty necrons who have arguably the fastest and also most resilient troops in the game – troops in flyer transports.

Currently, the necrons have 2 titans to work with – the Transcendent C’tan and the Gauss Pylon. Of the two, the Pylon is probably the more efficient of the 2, especially at lower points games. The Pylon is an anti-air super-heavy with 3 Skyfire and Interceptor Destroyer shots. That makes it particularly nasty against flyer armies, elite units and other titans. However, the Pylon does have a couple of drawbacks. Its main drawbacks are that it cannot move once deployed and that it is slightly easier to kill than the other titans due to having less Hull Points.

The other Necron titan, the Transcendent C’tan, is without question the more deadly of the 2 titans. He has an option of weaponry, but most people will equip him with 2 Destroyer weapons. Heck, with the current RAW, you can actually equip him with 3 Destroyer weapons by giving him 2 Waves of Withering, but that is over-kill against most armies. The C’tan is one tough Gargantuan and he is also small enough to hide from most enemies. He is also extremely resistant to medium and high-strength firepower. His only weakness lies in the fact that, like most GC’s, he cannot take the firepower of other Destroyer weaponry. Thus, you either need to keep him out of LOS until he is ready to strike, or you need to protect him with Void Shields. The more prudent Necron player will actually do both. In any case, the Transcendent C’tan is the titan that I will be focusing on in my Necron Escalation army.

For each tactica, I will include a sample list for a competitive Escalation army. Please note that the list I offer is not the be-all-end-all of competitive Escalation lists. Rather, they are lists that I feel can thrive in games of Escalation. Feel free to use my lists as a foundation, to expand on them or even to ignore them completely. In my tactica, I will also address some of the weaknesses of each build and how to play against these types of armies.

I will include 2 lists – one at 1750-pts, which is a common points-level for most tournaments currently, and another at 2000-pts to show how I would normally scale up my lists.



Necron Overlord – Mindshackle Scarabs, Warscythe


5x Warriors – Night Scythe

5x Warriors – Night Scythe

5x Warriors – Night Scythe

Fast Attacks:

3x Canoptek Scarabs

Heavy Attacks:

Annihilation Barge

Annihilation Barge

Annihilation Barge


Void Shield Generator – +2 Void Shields (3 Total)

Lord of War:

Transcendent C’tan – Cosmic Fire, Transliminal Stride, Wave of Withering



Necron Overlord – Mindshackle Scarabs, Warscythe

1x Cryptek – Harbinger of Storm, Voltaic Staff (Storm-teks)


5x Warriors – Night Scythe

5x Warriors – Night Scythe

5x Warriors – Night Scythe

5x Warriors – Night Scythe

Fast Attacks:

3x Canoptek Scarabs

Heavy Attacks:

Annihilation Barge

Annihilation Barge

Annihilation Barge


Void Shield Generator – +2 Void Shields (3 Total)

Lord of War:

Transcendent C’tan – Transliminal Stride, Wave of Withering x2


There are actually a few good generals that I was considering. Imotekh can be very useful for Night-fight as well as his lightning storm. Zahndrehk has a lot of good powers such as Tank-Hunters, Stealth and Hit-&-Run, which is particularly useful if you don’t want your titan locked up in combat by a tarpit unit. Trazyn is another scoring unit that allows you to play your troops and storm-teks more aggressively. The Destroyer Lord is a fast and tough HQ that can also act as a great disruptor in the enemy deployment zone.

However, what made me settle down on just a regular Overlord is the price. Namely, in order to fit all the units that I want into my list, it needs to stay lean and trim. I really can’t afford a utility general and still have the list that I wanted so I just had to settle for a vanilla HQ, who by the ways isn’t bad at all.

Crypteks (Storm-teks):

I really couldn’t afford to take these guys at 1750, though at 2K, I have a lot more flexibility to fit them into my list. The storm-teks give me options when dealing with heavy armor and enemy Super-heavies so that I don’t have to rely on just my titan. Also, their ability to get back up at times can be potentially a game-changer.

Warriors in Night Scythes:

The de-facto troops of the necron army and arguably one of the best in the game today, both in regular 40K and Escalation. With troops on the ground, you will most likely lose to enemy titans with D-weaponry. With troops in flying transports, you have a good chance not only of winning, but of overcoming even bad matchups in Escalation.

Canoptek Scarabs:

Scarabs are an insurance policy to make sure you don’t get tabled on Turn 1. They are small enough to hide completely from most enemies, even in ruins with windows. They are also insignicant enough to be ignored by most enemies, but if you play them right, they can give you Linebreaker. They also have the ability to contest enemy MSU units in their own deployment zones.

Annihilation Barges:

The biggest bang for your buck in the Necron army and probably in the world of 40K as well. There are very few units, if any, in the game today which can provide their firepower – both against ground and air targets – and at their cost. Never leave your tomb world without them.

Void Shield Generator: (from the Stronghold Assault supplement)

This is practically a must-have in Escalation games nowadays. If you want to have any chance at all against D-weaponry, especially when your opponent has the 1st turn, then this is a no-brainer. Get it and you have a chance against the enemy alpha-strike. Don’t and you are almost guaranteed to lose if you opponent is toting some D-guns.

Transcendent C’tan:

For my C’tan, I decided to go with Transliminal Stride and Wave of Withering for my Primary powers. Stride gives the C’tan extra mobility and is one of the D-weapons in his arsenal. Wave is the other devastating D-weapon that he can take. Actually, he can take 2 Waves of Withering but at 1750, I decided to go with the Cosmic Fire instead so that I could take more of the other units to create a more balanced list. But at 2K, I can take 2 Waves comfortably and still have a balanced force.

Overall Strategies:

  • How to use your C’tan? The C’tan is all-powerful but as with all deathstars (yes, he is a deathstar unit all by himself), he cannot be everywhere at once. With him, positioning is paramount. The Necrons are the master of the Movement phase and the C’tan is no exception. You want to use him to control the positioning of your opponent’s army. Think necron wraiths but much more deadly. Yes, the C’tan is best used as a board control unit. Move him to the center of the board and no one will want to get remotely close. He’s got a 34.5” reach (that’s an 18” move plus a 16.5” Destroyer template), which becomes a 65” threat diameter!!! Put your objectives near the center and dare your opponent’s army to get close. The C’tan will destroy anything that comes near him. If your opponent doesn’t spread out, then shove the C’tan down his throat.You do have to watch out for enemy D-weapons, however. Make sure you take advantage of any and all LOS-blocking terrain at your disposal. Sometimes, even when you can destroy a unit with your shooting, you may want to consider assaulting it instead, especially if you think it’ll take you 2 turns to finish the combat. This will protect your C’tan from enemy firepower and especially from enemy D-weapons.

    Also, here’s a tip. Don’t put the rest of your army too close to your C’tan. When he gets popped, he does a S10 AP2 hit to every unit within 4D6 inches of him. Thus, whenever possible, and especially if your C’tan is low on health, you want to keep your units slightly away.


  • Void Shields. The Void Shield Generator (VSG) is a great defensive tool, especially against enemy D-weapons. You want to utilize the VSG to its fullest. By that, I mean don’t just put the VSG in your deployment zone. You know you’re going to advance your C’tan. What you want to do is to place your VSG in a forward position to anticipate his movement. This way, when you advance your C’tan 18” forwards, he will still be under the protection by the VSG.Also, the VSG is a building that blocks LOS. Use that to your advantage. In the case of a terrain-lite board (or one with little to no LOS-blockers), then use your VSG to help shield your C’tan from enemy fire. He is small enough so that he should be able to hide behind it. Just remember to keep it slightly forwards.


  • Deployment. For Necrons, I would actually deploy almost all of my units. The only ones who remain in reserves are your troops in flyers and your Warlord, who should be with one of those troops. Your annihilation barges are fairly resilient as well as your C’tan, especially with the VSG protecting them. The scarabs should be hiding behind anything that will block LOS to them. They are an insurance policy just in case your opponent miraculously wipes out everything else on the board. But by having your C’tan and barges on the table, you present a balanced threat and can start utilizing the strength of your firepower on Turn 1.Just don’t forget to deploy your VSG forwards so that when your army advances, most of them will be advancing into the protection of the VSG.


  • Don’t rely on just your C’tan to do all the damage. He certainly is capable of it. He is also capable of being shot down as well. You need to make use of the firepower of your entire army. Use your tesla destructors to down any enemy Void Shields before you fire your C’tan’s D-guns. If the enemy titan is AV12 or less, you can use your destructors to help take them down. Otherwise, go for the support units (i.e. his troops and force-multiplier units). The strength of the Necrons is not just the power of any single unit. Rather, it is all the units acting together in a balanced attack.


  • Playing against Flyer armies. Necrons are perhaps the strongest army against flyer armies. They have a lot of anti-air firepower with the skyfiring night scythes and massed tesla destructors both from their flyers as well as from the annihilation barges. The only flyer army that you may have some problem with is against FMC-spam daemons. Against FMC daemons, focus on the non-Grimoired units. Better yet, focus on the unit that carries the Grimoire himself. After you take him out, it is just a matter of shooting down the daemons. Without the Grimoire, they are much more vulnerable. Also, if you can ground a FMC anywhere near the C’tan, then it is as good as dead. His Wave of Withering doesn’t care if the daemon has a re-rollable 2++ save.Against flying Super-heavies, you need to anticipate their movement and then get out of their way. Either move towards it and force it to overshoot your C’tan or hide from it. If you still have any Void Shields left, keep your C’tan near your Generator.


  • Playing against Eldar with the Revenant (Revdar). You need to take him out ASAP! Tesla-destructors are actually great for this and with the superior strike-range of your flyers, you should be able to get the alpha-strike on the Revenant in anything but Hammer & Anvil deployment. Make sure you maneuver them within enemy Void Shield range so that his titan doesn’t get their protection. Advance your C’tan to pressure the Revenant but be sure to keep your C’tan within Void Shield range until it runs out. Then make sure you hide him well. What you really need to do is to buy some time for your flyers and annihilation barges to get within striking range to do their damage. Remember, against the Revenant, it will mainly be the rest of your army doing the majority of the damage, not your C’tan.The only time where you will encounter problems with this strategy is in Hammer & Anvil deployment. In H&A deployment, the Revenant can just deploy way back in his deployment zone, thus depriving your army of an alpha-strike when your flyers come in. That also makes your C’tan have to trek a long distance to your opponent’s deployment zone and you don’t want your C’tan out in the open. A C’tan out in the open against the Revenant is a dead C’tan. In H&A deployment, you want to hit your opponent’s army in waves. Send 1-2 flyers forwards first and hold the other one back. This way, if he jumps his Revenant forwards, then you can still hit him with the trailing flyers as well as with the annihilation barges (assuming that they are not yet destroyed).


  • Lastly, you are playing an army with troops in flyer transports. PLAY THE MISSION!!! Your C’tan is just distraction unit. It is your troops who will in most cases win the game for you. Always play for the objectives and never lose sight of that. In most cases, it is almost always better for necrons to go 2nd except when going against the most extreme of armies.

How to Play against the Necrons?

What is the best way to play against a deathstar army? Yes, Necrons in Escalation is a Deathstar army, with the C’tan being the Deathstar unit. So what is the best way to beat a deathstar army? There really are 2 ways:

  • Kill the deathstar itself. This will not be easy. The C’tan is immune to small-arms fire and fairly resilient to high-strength firepower as well. He is only vulnerable to Destroyer weaponry. However, he is actually quite easy to hide as long as there is LOS-blocking terrain.Also, be aware that killing the C’tan won’t necessarily win you the game. The C’tan is actually the smaller problem. The bigger problem will be in trying to take out the necron troops. Most of the Escalation armies will have more problems dealing with the flyers than they will with the Gargantuan.


  • Kill the support units. That would be the annihilation barges and the flyers. For many armies, this may actually be harder to do than to take out the C’tan itself. You need to make sure you have adequate AA (skyfire) firepower in your army. Otherwise, you stand a high chance of losing in an objectives-based mission even if you do manage to take out the C’tan himself, especially in missions where necrons are going 2nd.


  • Tie up his titan. You don’t necessarily have to kill the C’tan. Some armies have units that can actually tarpit it quite well. The trick is to get close enough without eating his D-weapon. Just beware that the C’tan is no slouch in combat. He is actually quite deadly in assault, but he can still be killed, especially if you’ve managed to soften him up with shooting beforehand. Also, beware that he will go bang when you kill him and that bang is strong enough to kill a lot of stuff.


  • Psychic powers. The C’tan is quite vulnerable to psychic powers. Misfortune, Puppet Master and Hallucination are all great powers against the C’tan. That means units like Be’lakor can actually be very good against the C’tan.


  • Spread out. Spread your forces. Against the C’tan, you want to force him to commit to one side or the other. Do not bunch your units together. Staying together is a bad idea against a titan with a humongous Destroyer template weapon. The last thing you want to do against the C’tan is to castle up. Then if he makes it over to your forces, it will be all but over. If the Double-D templates don’t wipe out the army, the 4D6” S10 AP2 explosion when you kill him will.


  • Playing against Flyer armies. If you have mobility in your army, you can use that to your advantage. As with all flyer armies, you can predict and anticipate the movement of the necron flyers. As long as you’ve got the mobility, you can then move your units into positions that will force the flyers to overshoot (fly pass) your units, thus reducing their firepower.

The Future of Escalation

Escalation is a major change to the world of 40K. It will take some time to get used to. Escalation may turn some people away, but I think it can be a lot of fun for those who stick around and give it a chance. It is another “flavor” of 40K and adds variety to the game. At the same time, it will discourage some of the variety in the game as well. For the time being, I see Escalation used more for competitive gaming just because most of the casual players just won’t have the tools to deal with most of the titans. But give it some time and I think the Escalation scenery will change. As more and more players get exposed to titans, you will see a shift from more competitive at first, to more mainstream over time. After all, who wouldn’t want to own a titan? They are big and powerful, the models are cool as heck and they make a great centerpiece to any army aesthetically. That should be incentive enough for both the gamers and the modelers to start accepting titans into regular 40K. Now, you can build it, paint it and use it in your games as well.


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!


  1. D-ManA December 19, 2013 9:22 am #

    What about the Tesseract Vault or the obelisk. I know the Obelisk is not that great. I would like to see how you would fit the Gauss Pylon, Tesseract Vault and Obelisk into your lists.

    • D-ManA December 19, 2013 9:23 am #

      Also what about the Doomscythe to hit other super heavies with?

      • Azgrim December 19, 2013 9:59 am #

        Im not too sure the doomscythe is a good answer. Sure the S10 is nice but you are looking at only 1 HP of damage most of the time.It is AP1 so you might do D3 more but ,realistically It is only doing 1 HP which isnt enough in most cases.175 points of stormteks with a veil will do more damage to supers.

      • jy2 December 19, 2013 10:26 am #

        Doomscythes are expensive. If I run a C’tan, I really don’t have the points for doomscythes without making my army weaker overall. However, if you run a less expensive Necron titan like the Obelisk, Vault or Pylon, then you can consider the doomscythe. Frankly, I would give another troop in flyer priority over the doomscythe. Also, taking a doomscythe means that you will have to give up an annihilation barge, which makes your ground forces somewhat more vulnerable from getting tabled by an enemy titan (and army).

    • jy2 December 19, 2013 10:22 am #

      IMO, the Obelisk is too specialized and the Vault is just plain inferior to the C’tan. I like the C’tan and the Pylon much better. However, if I were to use them in a list, I would do this:

      Obelisk: Without D-weapons in the list, your army is not weak against high-armored units. I would replace the C’tan at 1750 with the Obelist, add in another unit of warriors in flyers, add some storm-teks (Crypteks with Voltaic Staves) and possibly replace 1 or 2 annihilation barges with Doom Scythes. Maybe throw in another unit of 3 scarabs to ensure that I’m not tabled on T1.

      Pylon: Add another troop in flyer, some storm-teks and perhaps a unit of wraiths for counter-assault. If I have any points remaining, I would upgrade my HQ as well.

      Vault: Add another troop in flyer and some storm-teks. Possibly upgrade my HQ.

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