When the Necron Codex was first released the idea of Command Protocols seemed like a very innovative way to give out small buffs to your entire army. With some prior planning a savvy Necron player could ensure that these buffs happened during the correct Battle Round giving them a slight boost in melee power, shooting, or durability. As other Codexes were released Necron players started to feel a little left behind with their faction bonus, and there is no arguing Command Protocols do not hold a candle to Doctrinas/Canticles or the Grey Knight’s Tides. For now the Command Protocols are what the Necrons have, so let’s look at some tips at getting the most out of them.
First, we need to cover how you unlock these super ultra powerful buffs for your Necron army. No just picking at the start of the Battleround for us! A Necron player needs planning, list building, and Character positioning to make sure to they are getting the maximum benefit from their Command Protocols.
The first hoop you will need to jump through is making sure a Noble is the Warlord of your army and at least one Noble (not necessarily your Warlord) is on the battlefield at the start of the Battle Round when your Command Protocol is revealed. This does mean if you opponent managed to kill all of the Nobles on the table you still get the benefits from Command Protocols if a Noble was around at the start of the Battle Round.
Your army also has to consist of only one Dynasy, apart from any Dynastic Agents or C’Tan, in order to get the benefit of Command Protocols. Oh, and units only benefit from Command Protocols while within 6 inches of a Character with the Command Protocols rule. Last, C’Tan do no benefit from Command Protocols. I think I got it all….
Ok, now that we understand the tiny hoops our Necrons needed to jump through what do we actually get, and how can we best use them?
Protocol of the Eternal Guardian:
All Necron players have figured out this is nice for when you go second to give units +1 save during the first turn, but just remember the Relentlessly Expansionist pre-game move happens at the start of the first Battle Round. This means any units making this pre-game move do not get the benefit of Light Cover. I have found this is not as useful taking this Protocol and hoping I go second for this reason, and in the games where you go first there is little to no benefit here.
Giving units Light Cover during the end of the game can be a nice small buff when trying to hang on to those Objectives, but this is extremely hard to plan around since you typically want your units moving around the table trying to steal Objectives on the last turn. Especially if you are going second and score at the end of the turn.
This Protocol’s second Directive is very interesting. Getting Overwatch on 5+ for a block of Warriors is no joke, and getting +1 to get on any of the Necron melee units is excellent. Just make sure this Protocol is slotted for a turn where your opponent is likely to be charging your units like Turns 3 or 4, and your entire army gets more dangerous for your opponent to charge.
Protocol of the Sudden Storm:
This is the Protocol I find myself slotting first in the vast majority of my games. +1 Movement is amazing Turn 1 to get out onto Objectives, or to get behind some obscuring terrain out in the middle of the table. Combined with our Lord’s ability to give Core units +1 Movement giving Necron Warriors or Lychguard a respectable 7 inch move some Necron units go from slow to Aeldari speed.
Don’t sleep on the second Directive of being able to fire ranged weapons after performing an action either. This is excellent during the early stages of the game for units like Immortals or Warriors to move onto Objectives to Raise Banners while still shooting, or toward the end of the game to score ROD points while still shooting with those Veiling Warrior bricks.
If I am playing against a heavy shooting army like Astra Militarum I will take Protocol of the Eternal Guardian in the first turn which allows me to slot this Protocol for later in the game to shoot and still do actions.
Protocol of the Vengeful Stars:
This is the worst Protocol. Fishing for 6’s is never a good thing to put your hopes in and with the benefit of being only a single extra AP I find myself passing on this Protocol most games.
Directive 2 is even more useless because the Necrons have a Stratagem called Solar Pulse. If you want to take cover away from an enemy unit just spend the 1 CP to let your entire army ignore your enemies cover.
Protocol of the Hungry Void:
This Protocol is excellent to buff the close combat punch of Necron units for a single turn. +1 Strength is an excellent benefit. Especially considering there is a 1CP Stratagem to give a Core unit and additional +1 Strength. Wounding things like Skitarii, Sisters, or Eldar on 2s with Warriors seems good.
My favorite play with this Protocol was building a list with 60 Novok Warriors and the Silent King to ensure two turns of extra punchy robots. Unfortunately, the prevalence of high quality shooting in the current meta has made the Silent King a very risky investment, but I am hoping this list can become viable when the meta shifts a little.
Protocol of the Undying Legions:
This should always be used to re-roll a single reanimation dice. This protocol lets you re-roll a reanimation dice for EACH ROLL the unit makes making it one of the most powerful Protocols throughout a Battle Round. Re-rolling this dice can really skew the math into making some of our units like Skorpek Destroyers, or Wraiths, much more likely to Reanimate one more model then normal. Make sure this Protocol is slotted for a turn where you think your opponent will be pushing to do the most damage to your army.
The Directive to heal an extra wound from Living Metal can be useful if you are running multiple units with high wounds, but more then one of them has to be damaged. Generally, opponents are trying to target one unit to kill it then move onto the next, but there are situations where healing two wounds for everything in your army will be very useful.
Protocol of the Conquering Tyrant:
This should be called the Fall Back and Shoot Protocol. Sure, getting some extra range on auras is nice, but it shouldn’t really be needed unless you have misplayed your aura buffing characters. Letting vehicles fall back and shoot if you didn’t take that Dynasty trait, or Warriors fall back and shoot if you couldn’t squeeze in a Royal Warden, is an excellent ability.
Unfortunately, this can be a little hard to plan for as it requires predicting when your opponent will charge you and being in a Turn where you would rather use this then the Protocol of the Hungry Void or Eternal Guardian to get better close combat buffs.
Still, just telling you opponent you have the ability to Fall Back and shoot can help. It might make them more wary at charging some units if they know you could Fall Back and shoot for one Battle Round.
I know these are not as strong as some other Codexes special rules, but this is what the Necrons have. Some players have been making lists that simply ignore the Command Protocols by not taking a Noble, but I don’t think these are so bad they can just be ignored. Let’s face it, Necrons need all the rules they can get for their points costs these days.