As the new Necron codex is less than half a year away, I figured it’s time to explain the list I’ve used for the last 6 years.
If you’re a member of the C’tan Support Group forum or you frequent the Necron tactica threads on Warseer, you’ll recognize this as probably the only Necron list to achieve the status of “netlist.”
At 1500 points, here it is: Deceiver, 10 warriors, 10 warriors, 5 destroyers, 5 destroyers, 9 scarabs with disruption fields, 1 heavy destroyer, 1 heavy destroyer, 1 heavy destroyer.
When I first started playing Necrons back in 2nd edition, I liked the concept of hit and run raiders, attacking without notice with overwhelming firepower and near invulnerability, then leaving without a trace. When the 3rd edition codex came out, I saw a lot of this fluff go away, replacing mobile forces with a giant monolithic block of metal (speaking of both the phalanx tactic and the monolith itself). To be honest, I quit 40k for a few years at this point… but eventually picked it back up again, taking a fresh look at the codex and realizing that it could still be used as a mobile, hard hitting, and resilient force. So I started tinkering. First, I would mathhammer out the most point efficient units in numerous situations (vs light infantry, heavy infantry, super heavy infantry, light vehicles, heavy vehicles, and monstrous creatures), then develop a few lists. Then, I would play test them at the Los Angeles (actually in Westminster) Games Workshop Battle Bunker. I’d take mental notes of my list’s deficiencies, being careful to note what happened due to bad luck and what happened because that is what should happen. For example, my warriors once beat a tricked out daemon prince in close combat… that was a fluke, not a good example of warrior close combat skill. Then I’d go back to step one and figure out a few variant lists to handle this problem. During this process, I came upon a few revelations that changed the way I built lists, which at the time went against the standard operating procedures for Necron armies, but is now common sense. 1) If your army consists primarily of T5 models, a rez orb is almost a waste of point, 2) if you kill your opponent first, he can’t phase you out, 3) mobility is a force multiplier in that it gives you the ability to concentrate your entire force on a portion of your opponent’s, and 4) warriors are utterly useless. I then realized that the Necron codex contained, at the time, the two most powerful close combat units in the game, the Deceiver and the Nightbringer. But one of them was vulnerable to genestealers with implant attack while the other wasn’t, so the Nightbringer was left out.
The list then just fell into place. The Deceiver took the HQ slot to provide redeployment to bait, deny deployment area, and refuse my flanks, as well as beat down my opponent’s assault units in combat. Combat is much deadlier than shooting in 40k due to the sheer number of attacks, two rounds per turn, and sweeping advance. The bare minimum warriors were taken to minimize my T4 Necron model count, and they’re more than enough to hold an objective while I contest the rest. They also provide cover screens and last resort bolter fire against anything that makes it past the rest of the army. 10 destroyers, two maxed squads, works well in 1500 because they support each other for WBB purposes. They’re fast, provide extremely heavy firepower, and at T5 3+ WBB combined with their ability to stay out of combat, control line of sight, and turbo boost makes them extremely resilient. Immortals are much more resilient from a pure mathematical point of view, but they cannot control the board like destroyers can. Scarabs are one of the best units in the list because they not only provide a tarpit, but can actually wipe out squads of light infantry on their own and chew on vehicles. They also contest objectives and can be used to block off exit points on vehicles or entire board edges. And with a 2+ cover save when turbo boosting, they’re really hard to kill unless your opponent brings a flamer, in which case they’ll all die in one shot. And finally the heavy destroyers, which are another key unit… they bring the heavy firepower to the list. With the way gauss works, AV 12-14 is exactly the same from a Necron point of view most of the time. The heavy destroyers are there to deal with chimera/devilfish spam, essentially. They’re also there to kill units like broadsides, obliterators, and other tough things that need Ap2 and/or instant-deathing. And with units of 1, it is very easy to contest objectives with these.
This army, while providing heavy firepower, extreme mobility, resilient scoring units, and a bigger deathstar than you, also comes full of tactical options. Redeploying allows use of warriors or scarabs to create a line as far forward as possible in order to deny the opponent deployment area, then moving them out of the way before the game starts to create a vast no-man’s-land. It also allows you, as mentioned previously, to completely refuse a flank, concentrating all forces into a small area to take apart the opponent in detail. The large amounts of jetbikes gives the ability to control fire lanes in that all the heavy firepower in the list can be crammed into a single fire lane to wipe out 2 squads while receiving minimal return fire in response, then next turn moving to a different fire lane. They also allow last turn objective contesting, making going second with this list just as good as going first. The jetbikes can also completely surround transports, meaning that if you get a wreck result (not explodes), you can wipe out an entire squad with one or two shots. I almost killed an entire death company and a dreadnought from a stormraven the other day with this tactic, although I whiffed all my rolls. The Deceiver not only kills many things in combat, it also absorbs a ridiculous amount of firepower, can lock down low leadership troops (like termagaunt lines), and can be used as a suicide bomber. In a game I played recently that wasn’t atypical, it jumped into combat with thunderwolves, killed one, wounded two, then died in the return swing (it only had one wound to start the fight). The resulting explosion finished off the other two and killed 4 nearby grey hunters.
I took a variation of this list (+ heavy destroyers and lord with veil for an 1850 pt tournament) to the LV GT a while back. I went 4-1-0 in the tournament, with another 2-0-0 against two Warseer players between rounds. The loss was due to horrific luck… a unit of warriors running off the table turn 1 because they took 3 casualties, veil of darkness scattering 11”straight towards the only enemy unit or impassable terrain within a 12” radius which killed the other warrior squad and the lord, and a destroyer squad being tank shocked by an empty rhino, failing its leadership test, and flying off the board. Yeah. I’ve taken this list to many local tournaments in Hawaii and Southern California, doing quite well in all of them. I’ve seen this list used all over the world by other players as well, which makes me quite proud!
Lately, I’ve been using this list at a significant point disadvantage against my opponents, some of which, admittedly, weren’t the most experienced players. I play my 1500 pt list (+1 scarab) against 1750 pts. I add 3 heavy destroyers to make around 1700 pts against 1850. Against 2000 points, I’ll generally use my 1700 point list as well, unless against Guard or Blood Angels, then I’ll add a Lord with Rez Orb and Veil of Darkness to make a 1900 point list. My 200+ point deficit record this year is 5-1. Including 100 point deficits, it’s 7-2, the loses being against a Blood Angels list and a Black Templar list (with 2 vindicators with power of the machine spirit), with wins against Tyranids, Orks, Tau, Space Wolves, Vanilla Marines, Guard (the lord went berserk and took out 4 squads by himself while the Deceiver died without hitting anything) and Dark Eldar.
So how does this list lose? You have to play all-out, and do everything in your power to kill the destroyers and heavy destroyers. The Deceiver honestly isn’t a huge threat. Surround it with an expendable unit, but don’t charge it. Just surround it. Charging the Deceiver gives him free movement, but surrounding him stops him. Ignore the warriors until there’s nothing left and you might be able to win. This list has a lot of trouble with S10 large blasts, as S10 denies WBB to destroyers. This list also has trouble with AV 12, as that’s the most point-efficient counter to this list. And finally, the list has trouble stopping a deep strike assault list… essentially target saturation will force the Necron player to move the destroyers away from the drop area, shoot and charge with the Deceiver, and leave the warriors to fend for themselves. If enough things drop, the opponent can easily take out both warrior squads. It can also lose by just pushing rhinos forward at max speed, dumping everything out and charging whatever is in range, while trying to corner in the destroyers with two waves of units so they can’t turbo boost over the rhinos to get away. So in the current metagame, this list generally can die horribly to Guard and Blood Angels with a DoA list or a few fast vindicators. This list does very well against Dark Eldar, Eldar, Tau, Orks, Tyranids, Sisters, Grey Knights, and pretty much any Space Marine list that tries to be shooty instead of assaulty.
Whenever a new codex comes out, I try to recreate this list’s play style… an extremely resilient list with a lot of very mobile firepower (without needing transports) and a close combat monster or squad that I can rely on… but it can’t be done. Interestingly enough, this is how Necrons work in Battle Fleet Gothic, more or less, but with the rumors I’m seeing on the new Necron codex, this is not the direction that GW intended for them. Instead of the BFG Necrons, they want undead in space; bowling pins for Space Marine players to knock over and set back up with their heavy bolters or assault cannons. This does not make Sekhmet happy.
Do you think Necrons will go through a fundamental gameplay shift in the next codex? Is my success with this list a fluke due to luck and bad opponents, or was I on to something? Can you make a similar list in your preferred codex?