If you’ve been reading Frontline Gaming articles for a long time you might remember there was a time in 6th and 7th editions where I was one of the more prolific tactics article writers, particularly for Marine based armies. In 8th edition, I have not written too many of the tactics articles for a few reasons. The first is after Bay Area Open last year I didn’t have much time to game because I was focusing on the beginning of the school year, I am a teacher, and coaching my son’s soccer team. Then it was the run-up to head judging the Las Vegas Open, and after that, I got busy writing the weekly article about the changes in the ITC standings for 40k and running our local 40k league at our FLGS. This has left little time for writing tactics articles, but I have had plenty of time to ruminate on things and I decided to finally put pen to paper, so to speak, and discuss something tactical. Notably, why Necron horde armies using Necron Warriors, don’t seem to work.
If you listen to TFG Radio or you read my article about speed painting armies you might know I recently began playing Necrons. I purchased, built, and began painting a massive Necron Horde list. I have played several games with it, including some at a local RTT, and it just doesn’t seem to work in as effective a manner as the other horde lists we see out there in 40k today. So I sat down with my Necron codex, after yet another humiliating defeat, and I came to a couple of conclusions. Before we discuss that though, let’s talk about what the catalyst for this list is in the first place.
When the Necron codex first arrived on the scene there were many people saying the base for every Necron list would be 60 Warriors, Overlord with Orb, and a Cryptek. Build from there. Assuming, of course, it’s ITC format you would, of course, build the beginning of the list as a Battalion with 3 squads of 19 rather than 20. On paper, it sounds pretty decent. Warriors are M5 WS3+ BS3+ S4 T4 W1 A1 Ld10 Sv4+ much as they have been for a few editions now. They have Reanimation Protocols meaning if one dies, from anything other than morale, it can get back up at the start of your turn on a 5+. The Gauss Flayer is the only weapon option for Warriors and it is a 24in range Rapid Fire 1 s4 Ap-1 D1 gun. With most people, at the beginning at least, thinking you take Mephrit as your dynasty those weapons are now Ap-2 which is not shabby. Including a Cryptek with Chronometron for a 5+ Invulnerable save and +1 to Reanimation Protocol rolls made the 57 Warriors even more enticing. Taking an Overlord to grant My Will Be Done, +1 to hit while shooting, and being able to give it to two units via a Stratagem, and the Res Orb giving you an additional chance to Reanimate and it’s sounding better and better! So where’s the problem!?
The problem begins with the movement stat. They only move 5 inches a turn. While there are many horde type armies in the game they all have mechanics to get them to the enemy faster. While the Sautekh might get you there a little faster with their ability to Advance and treat their weapons as Assault weapons are good you’re still just going a d6 further a turn. The army has access to a few movement tricks. Veil of Darkness is a relic that one character can take. It allows you to deep strike that character and 1 Necron infantry unit anywhere on the table outside 9 inches of the enemy. Sounds cool, but with the number of screens still in the meta and most opponents being savvy to deploy and move in such a way as to mitigate your Deepstrike advantages deep striking a unit of 19 Warriors isn’t too feasible, plus most of the time it would be better to take a unit of Immortals or Lychguard instead! You could use the Deceiver to move 1-3 of the 19 man units, but then you might be leaving behind the Cryptek, a much needed support character to them and you still have the same problem with having room to Grand Illusion everyone to an opportune position on the battlefield. Another option would be to deploy them on the Tomb World and use Night Scythes to Invasion Beam them onto the battlefield. That, however, besides being reliant upon your opponent making a fortuitous mistake in movement and deployment still, is reliant on either taking enough Night Scythes to mitigate the turn 1 attrition on them or hoping for the best use of the Emergency Invasion Beam stratagem. Which brings us to the next big problem with the Necron Horde. Cost.
The Battalion mentioned above: Overlord, Cryptek, and 3 squads of 19 Necron Warriors clocks in at a hefty 899 points. That outpaces the cost of all the other horde battalions, some of them by almost 600 points. Alpha Cultists, Astra Conscript and Infantry spam, Gaunt shame, and even Ork Boy/Weird Boy horde all come in under the Necron horde Battalion. This is especially problematic for Necrons because their other good units are so expensive. While they are far less likely to get wiped out by your opponent the Necron Battalion doesn’t have any of the movement benefits/shenanigans of the other good hordes. Astra Militarum wants those bodies as screens and as a CP factory through Kurov’s Aquila and the Grand Strategies Warlord trait, it’s also the cheapest of the horde options and doesn’t need mobility. The Alpha Legion cultists can outflank, Ork Boyz can “da’ jump” and the Nids can crawl across the field and get to you faster than Necrons could ever hope to. When you combine their high price tag with their low mobility the higher resiliency and subsequent lower attrition rates just aren’t paying off.
So does this leave Necrons out in the cold? No, of course not. It does mean that the idea of Legions of Necron Warriors rising from their tomb worlds and stalking across the battlefields of the 41st millennium in innumerable and implacable numbers will have to remain a part of the fluff only. That’s just the thing with the Necron codex, the units you want to take to compliment those undying hordes are priced out pointwise by the over costed Warriors. You want Canoptek Wraiths, Destroyers, and perhaps Scarabs, in Outrider detachments and you’d love for that Outrider to be accompanied by a nice horde of Warriors in a Battalion but it doesn’t work. Destroyers and Wraiths are the real stand out units in the new Necron Codex, and you can support them with a Battalion of Tesla Immortals, but it just isn’t as survivable as the 57 Warriors. C’tan, Tesseract Vaults, and Doomsday Arks are also all solid choices in the codex but they too are priced out of a Warrior Horde list by the over costed Warriors.
All that said, does this mean Necron Warriors have no place in competitive or even competent Necron lists in 8th edition? Absolutely not. There’s still a role for a unit of 19 Warriors and a Cryptek sitting on backfield objectives not dying all game or marching up and taking the midfield objective and then, not dying. If you want to run a big block of Warriors it is still plausible to do so in a Necron list, the point here is that the initial idea of the Necron horde has proven untenable at this point in 8th. Perhaps a point reduction to Warriors in the next big FAQ or with the next Chapter Approved could breathe some life into that idea, we’ll have to wait and see!
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