The Celestial Orrery: Necron Dynasty Overview – Nihilakh

Hello everyone, Phaeron CytoSlide here with another Celestial Orrery article for your viewing and reading pleasure! Check the Tactics Corner for more great articles and tactics.

The Celestial Orrery

8th Edition Necron Primer Series

Celestial Orrery articles:

Necron Dynasty Overview – Nihilakh

The Hard-to-Displace Hybrid Dynasty


These Celestial Orrery Overview articles are designed to get any Necron player quickly up to speed on exactly what each Dynasty brings to the table. They will serve as quick resources while list building so that players can find all of the unique Dynasty rules in one place so they can focus on their units and lists rather than on flipping back and forth between 5+ pages to figure out if their detachment is the correct Dynasty.

Dynasty Code

This dynasty code is extremely powerful both offensively and defensively (due to overwatch), but it comes with the drawback of disallowing movement in the preceding movement phase. Right off the bat we have an idea of how to try to get around the restriction – movement in a different phase. Additionally, any other methods of moving or transporting our units are fair game as long as the subject unit does not disembark from a TRANSPORT. The most obvious trick we have is bringing the C’Tan Shard of the Deceiver and using its Grand Illusion ability to transport our heavy-hitter units into place before the first battle round.

A second good option is to use the Veil of Darkness relic to “set up” the bearer and a unit at the end of any movement phase, since this gets around the moving restriction (don’t believe me? Read through the following Rulebook cites and then we can discuss: pgs. 174-177, 183).  Another couple of potential options would be the Monolith‘s Eternity Gate and the Night Scythe’s Invasion Beams, but this is hotly debatable. Rules as written – neither the Monolith nor the Night Scythe have the Transport keyword, and there is no indication that getting out of Night Scythe or Monolith involves disembarking (indeed, a unit “inside” is not ever embarked, but merely held in reserves on our tomb world). This perhaps counts as moving if the models are considered to be coming in from Reinforcements. But there are good arguments in favor of rules as intended being that models deploying to the table top via the Monolith or Night Scythe count as disembarking. I would expect an official word on this from GW in the next FAQ/Errata. The RAW interpretation holds heavy favor in my eyes because the lack of the Transport keyword and the clear difference between being embarked / disembarking (if the transport is destroyed, models appear on the tabletop) and being on the tomb world (if the last Monolith or Night Scythe is destroyed, all models on the tomb world are instantly destroyed) make it clear there is a substantive difference.

If we are willing to accept the restriction, Aggressively Territorial is most useful on units that like to be stationary – the most classic example being the Doomsday Ark (“DDA”), but really any non-destroyer model with a heavy weapon probably wants sit still in the movement phase in a Nihilakh detachment. The DDA not only loves getting to re-roll its 1s thanks to Aggressively Territorial, but it also needs to be stationary in order to access its High power shooting profile (something it always wants to do when it doesn’t need to move). This dynasty code will also get used more if Objectives are strategically placed such that your units can quickly acquire them and camp for the rest of the game. This works even better if you are facing an opponent whose list is primarily designed for melee – as it means our army can sit back and allow them to come to us as much as possible to maximize shooting. Re-rolling hit rolls of 1s also really helps out our tesla guns, as it provides for additional opportunities to get the coveted extra tesla hits.

A lot of people don’t like the restriction of not being able to move and I would say that Nihilakh, in this first month and a half since the 8th edition codex release date, is the most maligned and perhaps least used of the dynasties. I’ve only seen it competitively taken for a spearhead of DDAs. But our newly awakened Overlords and Crypteks are still experimenting with lists and the Necron meta has not yet matured. Remember that in Necron index lists, the Triarch Stalker was brought in many popular lists mostly for its Targeting Relay ability – which allowed the re-rolling of 1s against any one enemy unit per Triarch Stalker. Nihilakh detachments get this ability against every enemy unit for free! The downside of not moving is admittedly crippling in a game that involves objectives spread across the board, but the key will be thorough forethought, deployment and positioning such that your units’ best strategic option will be to not move, in which case the restriction is effectively no more and you can simply enjoy re-rolling 1s while shooting! Keep your willpower strong my fellow Necrons – don’t be tempted into sacrificing objectives or positioning in exchange for the tempting Aggressively Territorial bonus unless both options have been weighed and the extra accuracy is the best course of action.

Warlord Trait

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first stinker. I know some of you un-trusting readers out there have been thinking that I’m nothing but a paid-off spin Doctor here to blow smoke and make Necrons sound amazing despite reality. Well guess what – I’m not, and here is Exhibit #1.

This Warlord Trait is terrible. An absolute contender for the worst warlord trait in the game. Comments below directing us to worse warlord traits are appreciated to help give it good company at the bottom of the barrel.

It is a perfect example of having one too many caveats such that it is essentially useless against a smart player. It starts off strong – fighting first in the Fight phase, even if the Warlord didn’t charge is at least useful, and quite frankly, still mediocre enough that in no ones mind’s eye are they thinking:

Ok . . . but what is the catch?

But GW throws on the chains anyway. “If your opponent has units that have charged” – alright, well, that is probably always going to be the case on our opponent’s turn  (if it is our turn, and our Warlord charges it gets the opportunity to go first anyway). “. . .then alternate choosing units to fight with, starting with the player whose turn is taking place.” That my dear sweet robot friends, is what watching a Warlord Trait get killed looks like.

So in the opponent’s turn, if your opponent has units that charged, they get to pick a unit to go first – even before your Warlord who specifically took a warlord trait for the sole purpose of letting their warlord go first.

This warlord trait gets a huge pass. But let’s move beyond the whining, because no one likes a whiner. Precognitive Strike does allow the warlord to go first on some occasions when it otherwise wouldn’t. The circumstances include:

  • On your opponent’s turn, after their first unit that charged;
  • On your opponent’s turn, if none of their units charged;
  • On your own turn even when your warlord didn’t charge.

Precognitive Strike helps out your warlord when things go stale. Your opponent isn’t charging or its your turn and your warlord is in a protracted melee that it otherwise wouldn’t get to go first in. If your warlord manages to live through 5-10 fight phases during a game, Precognitive Strike will probably make a lasting impact, but these kinds of games are few and far between. This trait is essentially most useful whenever a Novokh models’ Awakened by Murder dynasty code would not be useful, and as we have already discussed – the Novokh dynasty code is very powerful and is useful on most turns.

Hazzah! You didn’t charge, I didn’t charge, you don’t have a similar special ability and it is your turn – thanks to my handy dandy warlord trait, my warlord gets to be the first unit to attack this fight phase!

Is it better than nothing? Absolutely. Is it better than some of the boring, generic warlord traits? Possibly. Would I ever take it on my Warlord over most of our other, more powerful options? Outside of a few niche situations or match-ups, no.


Speaking of precognition, sharpen those fortune telling and prediction skills – we use this stratagem at the end of our turn, and it lasts until the start of our next turn. It therefore only helps us during our opponent’s turn, so we need to accurately forecast their actions to make the best use of our 2 CP Reclaim A Lost Empire. This timing feature makes this dynasty specific stratagem fairly unique because it is not actively offensive/aggressive, and it is also not reactive – it is predictive and yet it is also both offensive and defensive.

In addition to interesting timing, Reclaim A Lost Empire also requires at least one of two conditions to exist in order to be usable on any given unit:

  1. The unit must be within 3″ of an objective marker; or
  2. The unit must not have moved for any reason during its turn.

And what do we get for our efforts? The unit gets a huge buff to its survivability due to its saving throws being increased, and the targeted unit also gets +1 A. In summary, for 2 CP one of our units gets a lot harder to kill because all of its saves get 1 added to them (e.g. turns a 3+ into a 2+, or a 4++ into a 3++ etc.), and during our opponent’s fight phase, the unit gets one additional attack per model. There is some built-in synergy here in that because the unit becomes harder to kill, it is more likely that it will get to “attack back” if charged (and/or not attacking first) and make good use of the extra attacks.

Staying immobile is usually the more difficult condition to meet, but some units prefer to stay immobile (DDA) or it might play out to be the strategically best move anyway. Rewarding units that are near objectives is great as it helps our units survive while taking potentially contested or exposed objectives and keep racking up our points.

If a unit is not within 3″ of an objective marker, it cannot use this stratagem if:

  • Any model in the unit moved in the movement phase;
    • The unit Fell Back;
    • The unit advanced;
    • The unit arrived via Reinforcements;
    • The unit disembarks from a Transport;
  • Any model in the unit moved in the psychic phase;
    • Just kidding! But technically still true . . .
  • The unit charges;
  • Any model in the unit makes a Pile In move in the fight phase (Pile In moves are optional);
  • Any model in the unit makes a Consolidate move in the fight phase (Consolidate moves are optional).

I like this stratagem. It isn’t the most straight forward to use and it really requires you to fork or force your opponent’s moves to get the most from it. You use this stratagem and your opponent instantly knows that 1.) The unit you just used it on is going to be more difficult to kill and 2.) the unit you just used it on is going to hurt more in the fight phase if they leave any of your models alive. If you didn’t properly setup the stratagems use, your opponent will simply divert his attention and firepower to other units and turn your heroic attempt to Reclaim a Lost Empire into an embarrassing 2 CP blunder. To make the most of this stratagem, you should do your best to either:

  1. Use it on a unit your opponent must attack; or
  2. Use it on a unit you want to dissuade your opponent from attacking.

Best Uses: Wraiths (2+ invulnerable saves shouldn’t be allowed > : ) ), sword & board Lychguard (2+ normal saves and 3+ invulnerable saves – which can be beefed up to the absurd 2++ if you combine Reclaim A Lost Empire with Dispersion Field Amplification), warscythe Lychguard (+1 A is very strong and they need all the durability help they can get) or any units that you have camping a critical objective or that you know will be in your enemy’s cross-hairs that you really want to keep alive.

Artefact of the Aeon (Relic)

The first part of this relic essentially provides us with +1 CP that has restrictions on its use (must be used on a re-roll for our Timesplinter Cloak wearer) – not that exciting but a nice little bonus to keep in mind. The second portion is the actual reason to take this as our Relic/Artefact – it grants the wearer “old school” FeelNoPain (“FNP”), or for 8th edition players you probably recognize this rule as Death Guard’s army wide ability Disgustingly Resilient.

What does having a 5+ chance to negate any particular wound do for our characters? On average it provides them with 33.33% more wounds. Obviously it doesn’t actually do this, since there is a difference, but it approximates what you’ll get out of this Artefact. On a 8W Catacomb Command Barge, the Timesplinter Cloak effectively provides an extra 2.66 wounds. A 6W Destroyer Lord gets an extra 2 wounds, and on a 5W Overlord, it grants an extra 1.66 wounds. You therefore won’t get much out of bringing it on a 4W Cryptek or Lord.

The Timesplinter Cloak is a strong option but it competes with the Lightning FieldNightmare ShroudNanoscarab Casket and Sempiternal Weave. It is a good option to have for a Nihilakh character which has other ways to increase its saves, but make sure you’re putting it on a worthwhile character since it is wholly selfish & doesn’t buff or support other units on its own.


Named Characters

 Trazyn the Infinite

We’ve got ourselves an Overlord equivalent with +1W, no ranged weapon (aka Staff of Light), but he has a pretty fun and unique warscythe weapon that packs a punch at +2 Str., -1AP and D3 damage. It also has a really cool ability that can create mortal wound explosions when he kills an enemy Character. Not too difficult of a task if you can somehow soften-up enemy characters (slight deathmark synergy), but with only 3 attacks, you’ll probably need to roll 2s or 3s on your damage rolls to 1 shot anything.

And before we forget, Trazyn only costs 100 pts, which is only 5 points more than a bog-standard overlord equipped with a warscythe. The +1W and the special ability on Trazyn’s warscythe (Empathic Obliterator) easily makes Trazyn worth taking over a standard overlord in a Nihilakh list, with the only real downsides being the inability for Trazyn to be equipped with a resurrection orb, non-nihilakh unique warlord traits, or relics.

But that’s not all! The last point of interest for Trazyn over a standard Overlord is that he has the ability Surrogate Hosts, which grants Trazyn an interesting “survivability” mechanism. And when I say survivability, I mean in a parasitic “kills the host” kind of way. Trazyn never dies! Or at least, he only has a 1/36 chance of actually dying when “killed” if you both have other non-named characters on the table and 1 CP when he is delivered a killing blow. The coolest two parts of his ability are that he 1.) gets placed in the other character’s place (this gets the brain-wheels spinning on how to abuse this to get him in close combat so he can start mortal-wound-exploding enemy characters…) and 2.) he gets d3 wounds when he replaces his former ally. D3 wounds is neat because if he lives through the end of the turn, he’ll heal another wound thanks to living metal – and it also means you can take any of your non-named characters and play more risky with them in the hopes of your opponent wasting resources and bringing them down to 1 or 2 wounds. Trazyn can then commit “suicide” and take some models down with him and then eventually replace your injured characters with a much more beautimus HQ, Trazyn the Infinite . The biggest bummer when it comes to Trazyn is his slow 5″ move speed (standard for an overlord) which makes it less than easy to get him swinging his empathic obliterator, but luckily – unlike Szeras and Anrakyr who can’t effectively be transported, Trazyn has a dynasty keyword (Nihilakh of course), so he can be moved around via all of our normal methods.

Sample Detachment

Nihilakh Spearhead (+1CP) – 664 pts

  • HQ – Cryptek, Staff of Light, Canoptek cloak – 85 pts
  • HS – Doomsday Ark – 193 pts
  • HS – Doomsday Ark – 193 pts
  • HS – Doomsday Ark – 193 pts

Yayyyyy we did it! Simple, boring, and utterly, utterly effective. A bargain at 664 points, if we could bring x3 of these detachments (we can’t under the new beta rules) it would be pretty disgusting. Clearly this detachment brings a lot of amazing anti-tank weaponry. 3d6, S10, AP-5, d6D shots per turn when not moving, and it gets to re-roll to-hit rolls of 1 with a base BS of 3+. But what a lot of people don’t realize is the surprising amount of anti-infantry dakka our DDAs can dish out. Each DDA is the equivalent of 10 Necron Warriors thanks to its gauss flayer arrays. This means it can throw out 20 gauss shots from 12″, or 10 shots from 24″. We’ll get more into how amazing DDAs are in their own article, but just think of it like they have 120 points of necron warriors built into them. Obviously there are some distinct differences, but with 14W and a base 4+ save, the comparison is fairly apt.

Nihilakh is the star here because when you’re rolling 3-18 extremely high powered shots per turn at BS3+, being able to re-roll hit rolls of 1 provides a lot of helpful consistency. Mephrit is nice for making the gauss flayer arrays more dangerous, and Sautkeh is great for DDAs on the move, but Nihilakh DDAs are the kings of maximizing high powered damage output. When our DDAs go monster or tank hunting, they want to remain stationary so that they can access the high power statline of their doomsday cannons – so the downside of not moving under Aggressively Territorial is moot. Essentially, DDAs that were already going to remain stationary just enjoy a wonderful boost to their to-hit chance.

The Cryptek is self explanatory. Lords and overlords don’t have any infantry to buff (unless you toss in some infantry), and both a destroyer lord and CCB like to abuse their high mobility and therefore don’t make the best use of Nihilakh. Other than a cryptek being the default, it is a natural fit with the canoptek cloak because DDAs love being able to heal d3 instead of 1 wound from their living metal. DDAs are fairly survivable thanks to their quantum shielding, but healing to 4 wounds from 3, or 8 wounds from 7 is a big deal for the increased mobility and BS, and healing d3 makes this a lot easier to accomplish. There is a little bit of skornergy in that the cryptek will be in the “danger zone” of the DDA’s explosion if the cryptek wants to be able to make use of its canoptek cloak healing ability, but at least the d3 mortal wounds can’t one shot our cloaktek.


Nihilakh is classified as a hybrid dynasty because it doesn’t focus solely on any one thing.  It emphasizes a variety of aspects – offensive, defensive, shooting and melee all see some benefit from Nihilakh with the consistent cost being decreased mobility. Its dynasty code boosts our shooting, its warlord trait . . . is interesting . . . the stratagem boosts a unit’s durability and number of attacks in melee, its artefact increases durability and offensive ability, and finally its one named character is a melee focused, undying overlord. Nihilakh probably has the most untapped potential of any of the dynasties currently – most people consider it the “DDA dynasty” and only really care about the re-rolling 1s to hit while shooting, and many view the decreased mobility as too big of a “cost.” But the Nihilakh stratagem has a lot of untapped potential. Increasing saves and the attack stat of an objective camping or stationary unit is super strong and can force your opponent to make some tough decisions where he has to kill a certain unit of yours but now has to use an inordinate amount of firepower to make it happen while taking significant losses in the process (if he has to charge in).

Nihilakh’s focus of being difficult to remove from their entrenched positions plays extremely well with ITC missions where the player who controls the majority of the table is likely to win the game as they continue to control more objectives and rack up the points. The key is taking units that can get into position quickly such that they don’t have to move for most turns. At that point Nihilakh simply provides bonuses with no real costs such that it can tip the balance in the Nihilakh Necron forces’ favor.

Stayed tuned for our next 8th Edition Celestial Orrery installments!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Cyto

Believe those who are seeking the truth; Doubt and question those who have found it.
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4 years ago

Loved the rant about the useless warlord trait. However it’s not that terrible. There are a lot of similar abilites in the game and while they are rather situational they can be quite annoying for your opponent if they are on a unit that can dish out considerable damage in the fight phase (not sure if necron warlords fall into this category though). Charging you with multiple small units (or characters) can become very risky for him so he might opt not to charge you at all.

4 years ago
Reply to  Visitor

A CCB *might* be badass enough to make good use of it, but that’s the only real possibility I could think of.

That kind of ability on a single Unit needs to be on something that is definitely durable enough to survive a round against any one Unit the Opponent may have, and then dish out enough damage to clear out any other threat that might be in combat with him at the same time.

The other place it works is when you have it on a ton of Units (e.g. Daemons of Slaanesh). Then, you can set up a pretty strong defensive formation where if your Opponent Charges, you’ll probably be able to wipe out at least one Charging Unit before it gets to strike.

4 years ago
Reply to  Cyto

I wasn’t really trying to argue that it was actually a good option. It was just the least bad option I could think of for that Trait.

4 years ago

Trazyn is possibly my favourite Special Character in all of 40K, and the Nihilakh Code and Stratagem feel like they’d mesh well with my playstyle, so it’s nice to get some ideas of how I might best make use of that. Thanks!

4 years ago
Reply to  WestRider

I wish Trazyn wasn’t so bad. His Obliterator is basically just a downgrade from a Warscythe, due to the drastically lower AP and variable (rather than fixed) damage. He also lost absolutely all representation of his collecting of artifacts, which was his most iconic trait- a real pity.

The fact that his Dynasty Code does absolutely nothing for him doesn’t help, either.

4 years ago
Reply to  AbusePuppy

One of Trazyn’s main issues is that after 5th crypteks and lords haven’t been cheap or useful enough to include in large numbers.

4 years ago
Reply to  Dakkath

I mean, not in the way they were in 5E, no- Crypteks in 5E were more like squad upgrades than “true” HQs, and GW has decided they don’t like them in that role- which is fine.

These days, Crypteks and Lords are fairly equivalent to other characters in other armies, providing a buff aura that improves nearby models offensively or defensively, and both of them are pretty decent-to-good I think.

4 years ago
Reply to  AbusePuppy

In and of itself, it’s fine. But it does mean Trazyn doesn’t have nearly as many options for host bodies to jump to.

4 years ago

Regarding Monolith/Night Scythe getting a fix,

> “I would expect an official word on this from GW in the next FAQ/Errata.”

I don’t know, man. They’ve had three opportunities to do it properly (Index, Chapter Approved, Codex) and they haven’t done so. Much like an update allowing Anrakyr & Szeras to use any method of transport apart from walking, I wouldn’t exactly be holding my breath on this one…

4 years ago

As you have said this Dynasty is best used for giving the ONE thing in our codex that wants to sit still (DD-Arks) the rerolls. I would suggest instead using Trazyn or a Crytptek which can NOT give out any buffs unless you take infantry in that Dynasty which would be a waste take our boy the Traveler. Anrakyr the Traveler han buff ANY Necron regardless of Dynasty.

Jon P
Jon P
4 years ago

Doesn’t this dynasty get the +1 to hit in Overwatch by default? The rule refers to “THE preceding movement phase” not “YOUR preceding movement phase”. You don’t move in your opponent’s movement phase by definition, hence the +1 ?

Jon P
Jon P
4 years ago

Sorry I meant re-roll of 1, not +1

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