Necrons have an alternate “lose condition” in the form of phase out, have trouble penetrating vehicles, and will die outright to massive multi-assaults due to their miserably low leadership. With those in mind, you’re probably wondering why the army that is widely acknowledged as the worst codex in 40k would need to be nerfed. I’ve been thinking about it myself.
So I was listening to Episode 36 from the 11th Company (which is a good podcast on 40k tactics and strategy, in case you haven’t heard of them), and Dash of Pepper from YTTH was on bragging about his 2k Necron army and how he has gone undefeated with it.
The issue I take with the statement is the implication that he’s that great of a player, simply because he’s using Necrons. Now, he may be a great player–that much I can’t know of for sure, as I honestly don’t follow YTTH, and he’s obviously not in my gaming group, but the fact that he’s using Necrons and winning does not make him a great player.
And the key reason is that, contrary to popular opinion, Necrons are not a bad army. In fact, I’ll take it one step further and state that the flat-out need to be nerfed.
This is nothing new; since their inception Necrons have always been a hugely powerful army, albeit one without a lot of variety. In every edition until 5th, I’ve held by the conviction that if I had to play a single game for my life, Necrons would be my codex of choice. Granted, the changes in 5th edition have brought them down in power a bit, but not nearly enough.
So what in the Necron list needs nerfing? I think it can be summarized in a handful of units:
- Necron Lords
- Necron Warriors
Now, if you take a look at Dash’s undefeated army (list here) you’ll notice that he focuses on these overpowered units, and almost completely ignores all of the other units.
In additional to the units mentioned above, several other units are also overpowered due to the age of the existing codex and the fact that GW refuses to create a reasonable FAQ. Ths includes units like Scarabs and Tomb Spiders, who could use a swing of the nerf bat as well, but more on that to come. For now, I’d like to take a closer look at the above four units and explain why they’re overpowered.
This unit is really the crux of the argument for people that believe the codex is underpowered, but is ironically a fine example of how ridiculous the codex really is. To explain this, I’m going to use marines as a comparison. Before I go there though, I’m going to acknowledge that I understand 40k is not an apples to apples kind of game and is more rock/paper/scissors. Because of that, comparing units across codicies is imperfect, but what else do we have to compare against?
That said, let’s look at the warriors. For 18 points, what do we get? Well, stat-wise, we get a standard tactical marine with two lower initiative and two higher leadership. Their guns are practically identical to bolters, squads are larger (which is pretty much negligible, but it does mean multiple units are harder to muster in small games), have no grenades and (with only one exception) have no available upgrades (so no special or heavy weapons, and no dedicated transports). Plus, they lose some nifty marine special rules like combat squads and ATSKNF. In comparison, they’re seemingly comparable (if not worse) than a tactical marine… and let’s face it, tactical marines are far from the best unit in the game.
So, let’s focus on the few things that a Necron warrior gets, that a tactical marine doesn’t: Gauss Weaponry, We’ll Be Back, and symbiocy with oher units.
Gauss weapons are a native feature of standard necron guns, allowing them to auto-glance vehicles on a 6. For a 10 man marine squad, a melta-gun costs 10 points and gives a marine tactical squad a chance to hurt a vehicle. A minimum size necron unit needs to pay 20 points to have a chance to affect a vehicle, and then they can’t penetrate. So how is that overpowered? Well, if you can forgive me, let’s do a little math hammer to compare the two (all numbers courtesy of Hamulator).
So you’re aware, the chart above has a couple of things to note. First of all, I assumed that if the model was wrecked or destroyed, it would also not be moving or firing, so they’re already included in the other columns. Also, I included any “weapon destroyed” results in the tally for “Can’t Shoot” results, so it really should indicate that the vehicle will have reduced shooting.
With that in mind, what can we determine from this chart? Well, it means, that if you want a vehicle not to shoot you–no matter what the AV of it is, a squad of necron warriors is better than a melta-gun at any range. Heck, with a 70% chance to impact a target’s shooting, a Necron squad is probably one of the most dependable options in the game.
It also means that if your goal is to stop the vehicle from moving, then the melta gun is better within 6″, but for anything greater than av10 at 7″ or more, the gauss weaponry is better. Additionally, at ranges greater than 12″, the necron warriors still have the ability to stop vehicles.
The downside is that they can’t reasonably be expected to destroy a vehicle outright, due to the changes in the glancing hit table. Of course, it’s still possible, assuming they immobilize the vehicle first, and then systematically rip all of the weapons off it–but that’s far from reliable, and would likely take multiple turns of shooting. But do you really need to destroy a vehicle?
Vehicles typically fall into one of either of two categories: transports, or fire support. If you can reliably stop it from doing it’s intended job turn after turn, does it matter if it you can’t destroy it?
And for just a few points more, they can extend the gauss weaponry bonuses to assaults–giving every model in the army “rending lite” vs. vehicles. Yes, I know they’re not a die-hard assault force, but that’s a nice upgrade to have–especially against those pesky land raiders/monoliths…
Because of this, I feel that gauss weaponry is easily the best basic weapon in the game. If I could forgo buying special and heavy weapons in my marine squads to purchase these, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
We’ll Be Back:
One convention when the game switched from 2nd edition to third edition was to eliminate the idea of multiple saves. Previously, a model could have a field save (ie. invulnerable save), then an armor save, and then sometimes they’d get a special roll. All this comotion caused for a slower game, and a predominance of characters (who were mostly likely the ones with these stacked saves).
In third edition, GW wisely reduced this effect by stating plainly that a unit could either take an invulnerable, an armor, or a cover save–but never more than one. That was all fine and dandy, until they came up with concepts like We’ll Be Back (WBB) and Feel No Pain (FNP). These rules somehow skirted the line to give a unit an effective 2nd 4++ save, thereby slowing the game down, and making them unnecessarily difficult to kill.
Of these two, WBB is the arguably superior option for a couple of reasons. Firstly, WBB is not affected by the AP value of a weapon, whereas FNP does not get a save if hit by a weapon of AP1 or AP2 (ie. plasma). The only drawback of WBB to FNP is that WBB does not get a save vs. power weapons, but let’s face it, if your warriors are in combat with power weapons, you’re probably doing something wrong… Additionally, by means of other units in the game, WBB can be extended to wounds acquired by virtually any weapon (see the next section on symbiocy).
And this is a basic skill that comes with almost everything in the army. Not even the latest overpowered codex (Blood Angels) has this option. They have something similar, but they have a small radius, and if they die, the save goes away…
This section is really an extension of WBB back above. As stated before, with army upgrades, they can have their WBB roles against almost any weapon in the game, to include those that cause instant death, or completely ignore armor saves: effectively granting the entire army Eternal Warrior and Feel No Pain. All for a 40 point upgrade in the form of a disruption field (considering you essentially have to have some sort of Lord in your army).
Additionally, when paired with a Monolith, entire squads can get a re-roll on their failed WBB attempts. With this in mind, it takes an insane amount of firepower to kill a 10 man warrior squad. Some examples of how many shots it takes for a variety of BS4 weapons to kill a squad of 10 warriors with an orb and a monolith are:
Yes, you’re reading that chart correctly, 18 rounds of bolter fire at at 12″ range from a full 10 man tactical squad, or a scant 72 lascannon shots to dispatch a single squad of warriors! Effectively, orbs and monoliths give a squad of 10 more survivability than virtually anything else in the game: including things like Wraithlords and Tyrannofexes!
The end result is that warriors have the most versatile weapon of any unit in any army, and when played “right,” they also have the best survivability. Now I ask you, is that worth 3-5 more points than a tactical marine?
I can almost summarize their ridiculousness in one word: Unkillable. While I firmly believe they’re practically unkillable, summarizing them as such does them an injustice, as they provide a great impact aside from that, but let’s start with their durability and progress from there.
They’re unkillable; did I mention that?
Armor 14 can’t be reasonably be destroyed by any weapon in the game. Against all but the best possible weapons in the game (Zoanthropes at 22%), the best odds to destroy an AV14 vehicle is to use a Melta Weapon (21%) or a Lance Weapon (7.5%). When you add the living metal rule, lascannons become the best option at 3.7% per shot, or various high-strength ordnance weapons, which have marginally better, but it’s difficult to calculate the exact odds due to templates/scatters.
In short, the best odds you can have to kill the monolith is to fire your best weapons and hope for a miracle. Ironically, the best way to deal with a monolith is to have a squad of gauss weapons fire at it, and lock it down. The only army that can do that?
You guessed it: Necrons.
And you want to stop it from shooting. In addition to the flux arc (which, let’s face it, it’s cute, but not dominating), it has an upgraded battle cannon: str9 ap3. Everything dies to that (except, of course, other monoliths, and warriors with orbs/monoliths).
Otherwise, it has a variety of cute little rules, including the ability to transport friendly units via teleporting (even those that are in close combat), to allow reserves to use them as a point of deployment, healing friendly units, holding units in reserve longer (by declaring the ‘cron unit will be deployig through the monolith in reserve, and for some reason, that allows the unit to delay deploment–but Chaos loses demons that try the same thing), or deep striking in like drop pods. Hell, if none of that works, it’s still a mobile wall for the army!
All of this for a scant 235 points. Yes, that’s better in almost every way than a raider (which is, coincidentally the only other av14 vehicle), and cheaper to boot! It’s certainly the most durable vehicle in the game, and arguably the most flexible in uses (though I don’t know who would argue against it).
The last overpowered unit I wanted to focus on is the C’tan, particularly the Deceiver. While the Nightbringer is a force to be reckoned with by himself (especially due to the fact that both can run thanks to the 5th edition rules).
The biggest problem here is, surprise, their durability. Toughness 8 with five wounds and an invulnerable save make him about the most durable creature in the game. Most of the time when confronted with such a monster, people have specialized assault units (such as thunder hammer terminators or even poisoned weapons on lowly gaunts). The problem here is his “misdirect” power, wherein he can simply walk out of any combat he wishes. Because of this, it’s impossible to kill him in an assault, unless the Necron player is playing poorly.
He also has a variety of nifty rules that allow him to force leadership checks (even on fearless units), redeploy units, etc. All of these rules are plausible to me though, as they’re either duplicated elsewhere in the game, or otherwise have a counter. Allowing a unit to be toughness 8 should be done very sparingly, as it makes the model almost completely immune to standard weaponry. Adding immunity to assaults? Well that’s just insulting…
All of these overpowered units are in addition to great units like scarabs, who are the only swarms in the game that can turbo-boost (and can purchase an option to auto-glance vehicles, just like warriors), and Tomb Spiders, who are monsterous creatures that spit out scarabs as extra wounds.
That brings me to my last complaint about the Necron codex: with the new rules, poorly written FAQs, and “creative” interpretation, these models can make for some crazy illogical abuses of the rules. Case in point:
Scarabs are affected by three special rules: Swarms, Vulnerable to Blasts, and Small Targets. The thing is, “Swarms” is now a universal special rule (USR) that encompasses the other two rules. Despite that the codex clearly states what their version of the “Swarms” rule means, some people claim that this should also confer the bonuses (and hindrences) of the USR by the same name, effectively giving them a +2 cover save for being both a “Swarm” and a “Small Target.” With the abundance of 4+ cover saves available in the new version, this means that the swarms will most likely have a 2+ cover save throughout the game. Is that stretching the rules a bit? I’d say so… but for the sake of argument, let’s let it slide…
This is further complicated when you through Tomb Spiders into the mix. The tomb spider is not an Independant Character (IC), and can make scarab swarms in a squad with it. Unscrupulous players will choose to make one scarab swarm in the unit, and then put it into cover, as an attempt to circumvent the rules for Monstrous Creatures and cover (pg. 51 of the BRB). That rule states that an MC can’t be considered to be in cover unless at least 50% of it is obscured. They suggest the rules covering units in partial cover (pg. 22 of the BRB) supercede this rule. Should it be interpreted this way? Not logically… But let’s say, for argument’s sake it’s ok.
So, now you have a scarab hiding in a bush, that’s magically conveying it’s cover save to the Monstrous creature nearby. So what kind of cover save does the MC receive? Well, there isn’t a rule on majority cover saves (though there is one on majority armor saves). So, does that 2+ cover save confer to the Tomb Spider? My local Necron opponent claims it so, and then uses the rules for majorty toughness to give 6 toughness to the unit, and then allocates wounds back to the swarm as possible.
So, if you shoot a strength 9 gun into the squad, he takes his 2+ cover save, and assigns the wound to the Tomb Spider (toughness 6); however, if you shoot a strength 6 gun into the squad (or anything that doesn’t double-out the swarm automatically), he’ll take his 2+ cover save, and assign the wound to the swarm. In essence, he’s taking a mixture of the new and old codicies to get the best of both worlds.
Is that right? Well, I know in my heart that it isn’t, but GW’s inability to write a proper FAQ, or make sweeping universal rules changes, leaves it in questionable territory. So sure, he could be right (And if he is, we certainly need to add scarabs to the “to be nerfed” section), but I doubt he is.
And why does he play Necrons? Well, because he’s been doing it forever… and why is that the case? Well, because he wins with them.
His win ratio is somewhere around 95% (or maybe even higher), and though we don’t have a hyper-competative tournament scene, we do have some solid players in the group, and even those have (at best) a 20% win percentage over him.
Again, I don’t mean to discredit his playing ability. He’s a great player with an amazing grasp of the rules (if a bit overly literal). But this sounds astoundingly like Dash of Pepper’s undefeated Necron force. Two good players with nearly invulnerable army lists. Each of them playing necrons, consisting of a combination of a lord, warriors, monoliths, and the Deceiver.
And I don’t mean to say that Necrons shouldn’t get a new codex. They should, and when they do, they should get some more variety of units, but the existing units need to be nerfed. Hard. So I’m going to make a few suggestions of what I’d like to see:
- Necron Lords: No res orbs.
- Necron Warriors: Remove WBB completely. Some talk is drifting around the internet that GW will replace it with FNP. Since I abhore FNP, I’d rather not see this happen, but I can understand if it does. They also need a way to deal with mass assaults, so perhaps giving them fearless or stubborn (fearless preferred) would suffice? Gauss weapons should not get the ability to auto-glance everything. Replace with an option to either combine their fire into a higher strength shot (eg. up to ten models can fire a single shot at the strength of the total combined models), and/or give them an option to have a squad leader to give them a little extra h2h punch.
- Monoliths: Remove living metal completely. AV14 is already difficult enough to affect. I’d also like to see sweeping changes to the ability to damage vehicles (something I expect from 6th edition when it comes out), so try to keep that in mind when creating this codex. Remove their ability to telelport units out of h2h.
- C’Tan: Remove the ability to skip out of combat (perhaps replacing it with “Hit & Run” if it’s deemed necessary), and reduce their total toughness to be in-line with 5th edition codicies (keep in mind, no Tyranid has greater than toughness 6). If the argument against lowering his toughness is that he’s a god, add a disadvantage to the unit akin to that of a Tau Ethereal.
- Tomb Spiders & Scarabs: Clearly define their rules. To make things a little smoother, it would make sense if the scarabs he created formed their own squad (a la the Parasite of Mortrex). By the same token, it would be cool if he also could grant some ability to nearby scarab swarms.
I’m not out to penalize necrons entirely. I recognize that the changes to 5th editon have largely negatively impacted the Necrons, but certain units and abilities are still drastically overpowered. Changes to phase out (or complete elimination of the concept) can be viable as well. Thematically, I hope they don’t do that, but for balance reasons it might not be bad. Though, if you think about it..when’s the last time you lost 75% of your army and still stood a reasonable chance at winning?
It’s obvious that several of their units are too good. So, if you’re out there looking to prove how superior a tactician you are, don’t reach for the Necron codex as a handicap, just to play their overpowered units. If a handicap is really what you’re after, look no farther than your own codex. I’m sure there’s a little-played unit in there that requires good tactics to be successful with (at least compared to the rest of the army). The easiest way to find them? Well, look at the recent tournament lists, and pick something that’s not on any of them. Some suggestions include:
- Eldar: Swooping Hawks, Shining Spears
- Imperial Guard: Ogryn, Ratlings
- Necrons: Flayed Ones, Pariahs
- Space Marines: Scout Bikers, Storms
- Space Wolves: Bjorn, Blood Claws
- Tyranids: Lictors, Pyrovores
These units aren’t necessarily bad: they’re just not as powerful as the other options in the codex. Adding these sort of units necessarily increases your strategic thinking and, I dare say, will cause both you and your opponent to have more fun.
As always, I welcome your feedback. What do you think?
Deceiver Image copyright Games Workshop.