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Monday, November 7, 2011

Entropic Strike - building block of Necrons?

Griffon Grove

It's clear when you read the Necron codex there is a glaring issue - lack of real anti-tank throughout the codex. There are only a couple of options that, on their own, are truly reliable in taking out enemy vehicles. The two most obvious options in this regard are the Triarch Stalker with its Heavy 2 multi-melta or the Doom Scythe with its auto-hit S10 AP1 line of death. The issue with both is they have significant defensive deficiencies. The Doom Scythe is paying for a damage potential rarely used - ask Blood Angel players how often they get more than one or two tanks with Blood Lance. Furthermore, with only AV11 and being a flyer (aka I can always see you), Doom Scythes will have one chance to really affect the game once they get in range. Then the enemy will destroy them. The Stalker is a bit more durable with Quantum shielding (AV13 until first penetrating hit) but is very vulnerable to being engaged in combat where it sucks (no Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon) or since it needs to get close-ish to be effective, melta'd in the face (which doesn't care about AV13 and loves open-topped). Hell, once that Quantum Shielding goes down, the Stalker is very vulnerable to S7 shooting or S8 powerfists - not what you really want in your walking multi-melta dreadnought.

These units will still probably be usable in some capacity - I myself am a fan of the Stalker despite the huge and easy to hit target on its head (too much War of the Worlds not to love that picture...). The issue is - in terms of actual anti-tank Necrons aren't that reliable. It's like Tyranids with Hive Guard or Chaos with Oblits. They are obvious targets and once they are gone, what's left? The vast majority of the Necron armoury looks to be set on suppression with a reliance on mass glancing hits from gauss weaponry or attrition through higher strength Tesla weaponry (which is AP '-' and therefore requires a 6 on a pen to destroy). Both options aren't very efficient and in general not going to cut it in 5th edition. Is this a sign of 6th edition or something else?

Dig beyond this though and we see ways to affect our opponent's AV negatively. This is specifically through entropic strike which lowers a vehicles AV on all facing's by one after a successful hit and roll of 4+. To be of any use this needs to be applied en masse and with regularity and this is where the Canoptek Scarabs come in. Whilst there are other ways to enable entropic strikes across the army, Scarabs bring the most attacks to bear at a very cheap price. 150 points gets you a full squad in Fast Attack which has 50 attacks on the charge and with Beast, Swarms and W3 - they are pretty durable except to S6/blasts and can get to the fight quickly.

If we then assume a full squad charges two vehicles equally who have moved over 6" - each vehicle loses four AV on all facings. This takes the average AV11 Rhino/Razorback down to seven. Suddenly things look different. S7 Tesla is penning with every hit - something reserved for S10 generally and S7 Tesla is quite common with Night Scythes and Annihilation Barges running twin-linked Tesla Destructors. It doesn't matter if it's AP '-' if you're rolling three-four pens every time you shoot at a vehicle. Even S5 is penning AV7 on a 3+ and S4 on a 4+ - both of these strengths are available as rapid fire options in Troop slots. The point here is it doesn't matter if you have AP '-' or crappy strength guns as long as you can generate lot of penetrating hits to get that 5/6 result you need. If every gun in your army is capable of getting a penetrating hit, well the odds are now in your favor. Take this further against an AV4 hit and you pen. With everything.

This shows if you can apply even just a handful of entropic strikes against vehicles, Necron firepower becomes a lot more applicable against them. It's still quantity over quality but the more typical 'suppression with high strength shots then blow them up with meltaguns' approach just cannot work here - there isn't that true anti-tank option to be had in the codex. MVB described this really well the other night when we chatted. He said in most lists, you build to take out vehicles with anti-infantry coming in later as the game developed and tanks broke open. In Necrons it's kind of the reverse where you take out vehicles as the game develops where entropic strikes have a chance to take effect and the Necron anti-tank increases in ability.

The issue becomes...well applying those entropic hits. The easiest way to mass such attacks is with Scarabs as they have a lot of attacks, are fast and are pretty cheap. Otherwise anyone with Voidblades, a couple special models like C'Tan and Harps of Dissonance are the major sources of entropic attacks. Only Harps of Dissonance are ranged weapons (infinite ranged weapons I might add) and they cannot be massed nor are cheap (two per army, requires two HQs and 25 points for the gun alone). Whilst Harps of Dissonance can be of great assistance during the game, they aren't reliable as you need the usual 3+ to hit with BS4 and then 4+ to actually lower armor. Over the course of a six turn game that means two Harps will lower an average of four AV across the opponent's army. Worth the 50 points for the guns themselves surely but buying two HQs and the models to wield them? Less so.

Even with Harps of Dissonance, this leaves you with combat as your only real option of applying entropic strikes across multiple tanks reliably. This means the first few turns of the game Necrons are dealing with full AV vehicles across all fronts and with such tactics as bubble-wrap and blocking, entropic strikes might not be brought to bear onto the main part of the army until much later in the game. Whilst there are some units who can gain entropic strikes who can move over units (i.e. Destroyer Lord, Praetorians) we are again left with Scarabs as our best answer to lowering AV and whilst they are Beasts, they will have to contend with such concepts as bubble-wrap. Whether or not they win combat is irrelevant - they aren't applying entropic strikes to tanks which means Necron firepower is suffering in dealing with said tanks.

Further this problem - what if the carrier of Entropic Strikes are killed? I'm the opposing general and I know if those units hit my tanks, I'm screwed. Stopping said units becomes the highest priority alongside knocking out any real anti-tank threats. If the units are removed before entropic strikes can take place or if there are too few models for it to be really effective, what then for Necrons?

Either way, bubble-wrap seems like an issue for Necrons in regards to applying their entropic strikes. Scarabs make a great tarpit but aren't going to be chewing through units quickly - even with Wraith help (unless they are crappy units regardless). Should Scarabs then be held back so Wraiths or other units can work their way through such units first? Can Necron shooting drag enough bodies down to open holes for the large based Scarabs to fit through? Anyway, here's a theoryhammer list I'm going to try and start play-testing which tries to mix the concept of suppression fire available to Necrons, true anti-tank in Stalkers and lots of entropic strikes if the army can break through bubble-wraps.

Imotekh Stormlord
Triarch Stalker
Triarch Stalker
5x Immortals w/Tesla Carbines
5x Immortals w/Tesla Carbines
10x Immortals
5x Warriors, Night Scythe
5x Warriors, Night Scythe
9x Scarabs
9x Scarabs
6x Wraiths, 2x Whip Coils
2x Spyders, Gloom Prism
Annihilation Barge
Annihilation Barge

Totals: 1990 points
6 vehicles, 2 MCs
57 infantry (20 beasts, 6 jumpers)

10 points to play with but a pretty decent mix of firepower. First off, we've got Night Fight to protect our shorter-ranged guys initially with the added bonus of the Storm potentiall helping the Necrons damage tanks. We've then got two true anti-tank but fragile units in the Stalkers who will be protected from combat by the Scarabs, Waiths, Spyders and Troops. We follow this up with four vehicles sporting Tesla Destructors which like Riflemen and Autocannons before them - will be pretty decent at suppression but less reliable as vehicle destroyers until entropic strikes come into play. What's nice about both of these options is they have better anti-infantry than your normal autocannon platforms due to tesla and arc rules). As entropic strikes come into play - these can be deadly.

You've then got a mix of S4/5 from the Troops but not a lot of bodies unfortunately. The Warriors can hide in the Scythes if necessary and walk back onto backfield objectives if their ride dies whilst the Immortals are on the ground from the get-go. This can be a bit daunting as 5-man MEQ squads aren't that hard to remove in one turn of shooting but Night Fight can help. The Scarabs obviously are there to entropic strike as much as possible whilst the Wraiths add some real combat ability and mass S6 in combat against tanks to go hand in hand with the Scarabs. Sypders give buffs to army (more Scarabs, psychic defense) whilst also offering some combat protection with MC status.

What the list misses is some HQ fun-times, most notably Crypteks with Solar Pulses and all Immortals as Troops (though dropping a couple Scarabs does enable this). Other than that though there is still a noticable lack of ability to break open tanks before entropic strike hits though suppression is okay. Can this amount of firepower hold the enemy's mech in check whilst the army chews through screening infantry to allow the Scarabs to start handing out entropic strikes? What if the Scarabs never make it? Furthermore, does the list even have enough anti-infantry? If you throw the Barges/Scythes at infantry, well you could start causing a fair amount of damage but then you're losing out on suppression...

Well we shall see and extensive playtesting will be required but it does look like Scarabs are going to be a near must for every Necron army if they want to deal with vast amounts of armor to any reliable degree. The question becomes how are they to be applied?

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