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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Necron Codex Review part 2: Generic HQs

Necrons are somewhat unique amongst the existing codices in that their HQ selections not only set the tone for what the rest of the army can and will do, but will also be some of the heavy lifters in the list itself. Whereas some choices are rather limited (one Overlord or two?), the variety of options in other places can more than make up for it, as the Royal Court in particular brings a plethora of potential uses that can be balanced against each other. No matter what their configuration, the HQ slot is always a very important one for Necrons, much more so than almost any other codex except perhaps Tyranids, at least in terms of defining the rest of the list.

Necron Overlord

Necron Overlords are... well, they're basically required in every Necron list. For one, you don't have a ton of other options, but more importantly they are your key to unlocking the Royal Court, which as we'll see later on is pretty fundamental to almost everything you end up wanting to do. The Overlord himself is also no slouch- he brings a respectable statline S/T5, WS/BS4, W3, 3+) to the party, being lacking only in the usual Necron department of Initiative- get used to this, everything in the codex is I2. He comes with a Staff of Light, an okayish Marine-killing gun, but there will almost never be a time when you don't want to swap it out for the Warscythe, whether you're on foot or in a Barge (discussed in a moment.)

Phaeron, which lets his squad fire on the move through Relentless, is a pretty strong choice if you plan on not buying the Barge and running him on foot; a Resurrection Orb is similarly a perfectly acceptable investment, although don't let anyone convince you it's a must-have- not only is it somewhat pricey, it won't do much of anything to save you when enemies are pounding the squad in melee or annihilating them wholesale. Sempiternal Weave and Phylactery are both defense upgrades that are rather poor, although not horrible- the Weave in particular gives him a better ability to dive into a squad without a Fist and do some damage. Phase Shifter (3++), on the other hand, is ludicrously priced and should never, ever be taken, nor should any of the alternate weapon options that aren't Warscythe. Tachyon Arrow, although limited to a single shot and requiring a to-hit roll that will inevitably fail when you need it most, is still an acceptable buy if you end up with spare points when writing a list. Mindshackle Scarabs can help a bit with melee defense, but do keep in mind that they will only tip the balance of a close fight or if you can find a single model that contributes overwhelmingly, and they are always unreliable. Note that it's d3 HITS, not d3 attacks- a common mistake.

The Lord's role in the army generally goes one of two ways; when mounted on a Barge, he contributes to AV13 saturation (or gives cover to lighter vehicles) and threatens all but the hardiest of targets with Swipe Attacks, especially those AV13/14 tanks that Necrons otherwise find tough to crack open. When not taking a transport of his own, he will be seen leading a squad of Warriors or Immortals (Gauss-equipped in either case) to grant them better mobility and some modicum of melee defense. Although the internet often touts putting him in a large (15+) squad of Warriors to keep "powered up" with Ghost Arks, as a rule this should be avoided, since it represents a huge investment of resources that falls into many of the Deathstar traps. This is heightened by their poor initiative and poor ability in combat - you can lose all of those points very quickly.

Catacomb Command Barge

The tag-on to the Overlord, this can be selected for a fairly reasonable price and comes as one of a small number of Fast Skimmers in the list and the only one with Quantum Shielding. Its built-in firepower is mediocre, a choice of S6 Gauss or Tesla, but the real hitting power comes from the Overlord himself, who can make three "swipes" at anything it flies over during the movement phase, which will hit on a 4+ regardless of target speed, etc. Given the Warscythe's devastating statline, this translates into three pseudo-Melta shots (S7+2d6, ignores armor) that can tear up even the toughest of targets quite badly. You can even make these attacks when going Flat Out, giving you the ability to threaten distant targets or give yourself some protection with a 4+ cover save, but if you move at cruising speed, you have the potential to swipe, disembark, shoot, and charge, all against different targets- a very versatile offensive array, especially considering the defensive capabilities of both the Barge and Overlord. The ability to take wounds to keep the Barge from being Immobilized is just gravy on top of all that and improves the durability of the Barge when going Flat Out.

So does your Overlord need a Barge or not? That can be a tough call. Are you planning on running a large squad of Warriors/Immortals? This gives your Overlord someplace else he wants to be most of the time, and without him the Barge is really just wasted points. Do you have a lot of other vehicles? Barges are useful for providing cover and saturation, but you have to worry about their positioning a lot, especially if you have other Fast vehicles. Be very careful of throwing the Barge past the opponent as well - it can do some damage and end up disrupting your opponent's backfield (few units there can deal with a T5/W3/3+ model) but it's also putting them in prime range for meltaguns. It's important to find angles of attack which let you use your swipe attacks without exposing the Bargelord to unnecessary firepower. In general the Barge Overlord is the better pick, but certainly it's not indefensible to go with the version that hangs with a squad.

Destroyer Lord

And now we come to... this guy. Unfortunately, unlike the Overlord, the Destroyer Lord simply doesn't have a very good place in the army to go. Worse yet, he doesn't unlock a Royal Court, which can be crippling to your firepower output and utility access, so if you're running one, you almost certainly need to take an Overlord in your other slot to make sure that you still get the Court's strengths. Doing this means that you are investing quite a few points in HQs, which probably isn't going to be possible below 1850 or so.

So what do you get for all this trouble? Well, he comes in a bit more expensive than the Overlord, but has a Warscythe as standard (which the Overlord might as well have also, but...) and an upgrade to T6 and Jump Infantry movement. He also has Preferred Enemy, so the Warscythe attacks are going to be hitting much more reliably and with his added Toughness, nothing short of a Power Fist is going to really put a dent in him. He basically gets to play faux-MC, shrugging off most attacks with ease and mitigating his I2.

He has options for Sempiternal Weave (meh), Mindshackle Scarabs (helps against Fists, I suppose) and Rez Orb (don't bother) as well as Tachyon Arrow (probably also not worth it.) Really, however, your best bet with this guy is going to be to leave him stock-standard and send him out with a group of Wraiths to cause havoc- his buddies can do some damage on their own and stave off any high-Str attacks that the enemy may have around, whereas the DLord can kill 2-3 models pretty much every turn and is able to shrug off the massed attacks that tend to give Wraiths problems otherwise. While this combination may not exactly be "worth it" from a strictly competitive perspective, it ends up being reasonably functional and can give some armies significant problems, so it's entirely viable.


That's that for the first part of the HQ slot; next post we'll look at the Royal Court to see how they fit into the Necron army.

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