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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Friday, March 16, 2012

Necron Codex Review Part 9: Heavy Support

Welcome to the final installment of the Necron review, everyone. Heavy Support is generally where most armies get their big hitters, and in this regard Necrons are not really all that different from most. The HS selection comes with an array of strong shooting units as well as a few other options, although unfortunately, like Elites, it has a number of largely "dead" or niche choices.

Doomsday Ark

The Doomsday Ark, like a couple other units in the codex, is not quite as bad as it's generally said to be, but it's not exactly great, either. It's a highly niche unit that can only fit into one or two specific builds designed to take advantage of it, and even those are not top-end by any means. If all of those doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement... well, you're right; it isn't. But the Ark does have some uses and an AP1 large blast is something to consider, especially in a book lacking in many other such options.

The Ark's basic numbers come out pretty okay- the standard Quantum Shielding profile, Living Metal, the fancy cannon in front and a pair of Gauss Arrays on the sides. It's worth pointing out that the Arrays can fire at separate targets than the main gun and are defensive- so if you're forced to move, you can still at least pump out some shots in that regard. The Doomsday Cannon is superficially very much like a Demolisher Cannon, but the differences are paramount- 72" range when stationary means the Ark can safely sit in a back corner and pound whatever targets are visible, not exposing itself to close-range Melta and assaults the way the Vindi does. AP1 also makes it more reliable in destroying tanks, although S9 and lack of Ordnance make getting through heavier armor an unlikely prospect. When forced to move, the Cannon is a pretty weak shot- 24" range, S7, and AP4, leaving it mostly only good for trying to suppress a tank or force some saves on clustered models.

The Cannon's real limiters are the price (175pts) and competition (the awesomely-efficient Annihilation Barge.) For an army that plans around it, though, an Ark stationed in each corner of the board can provide some real problems for the enemy to deal with and can cut through FNP/etc in a way that Necrons often struggle with. You won't see the Ark on the board terribly often, but when used right they are a genuine threat.

Annihilation Barge

The Annihilation Barge, along with the Overlord, is the closest thing to an auto-pick the Necron codex gets; it's really just that efficient. Now, of course there are lists that don't want them- Imotekh armies, for example, or those focused on building Scarabs or pulling other tricks. But for pretty much the same price as a Dakka Predator, you get a similar statline and guns but with the added bonus of more accuracy.

None of what the Barge does is particularly unique; it's just one more AV13 tank in the army and a TL Tesla Destructor can be had in many slots; its secondary gun is nothing to write home about, either. But its cheap price, durability (that adds to the weight of vehicle hulls and can provide cover), and reliable firepower are all huge boons to many an army, almost regardless of type. It has its downsides (like relatively short range), but for the most part is is an excellent addition to the arsenal, one that can shut down most any vehicle (if not kill it) consistently and torrent out infantry squads with ease.

This is the Barge's real strength: it's cheap, durable, and can pretty much always do its job. It has okay maneuverability, putting out four S7 shots on the move, and can potentially rack up a huge number of hits on a lucky roll. The Annihilation Barge may not be a flashy choice, but it is one that will consistently be both useful and hard to take out, and that has a lot of value. Necrons rely on torrent shooting to do a lot of their jobs, and few units can produce a more efficient blaze of shots than it can.

When you're picking HS slots or writing a list, you'll have to make a strong case for not starting every one with 3x Annihilation Barges. Boring? Perhaps, but given the flexibility in other slots, I can hardly feel too bad about one of them being slightly bland. Mixing things up slightly (like adding some Spyders) will also be reasonably common, but it will be an unusual list that doesn't feature at least two Barges.

Necron Monolith

The Monolith is no longer a Special and Unique Flower that gets an exception to every single rule in the game, which is nice to see. Unfortunately it gets a lot of other stuff stripped from it as well and is still very expensive without really having a well-defined role in the army. While it does bring a few tricks to the table, they are hard to justify for the hefty cost and none of them end up being really game-breaking, so in the end I think it's something that, despite its iconicness, is better left at home.

It still has AV14 all around, which makes it exceedingly tough at range, but lacking protection against double pen dice, Meltaguns and similar effects can bring it down with relative ease- and considering "units that get in close and do mess them up" is already a weakness of the Necron army, the Monolith doesn't exactly help in this regard. Its weapons are also very awkward- the four Gauss Flux Arcs can't really fire at targets very easily, and mostly you will only get to use one or two of them per turn. Worse yet, the Particle Whip on top is Ordnance, meaning you can't use it alongside ANY other weapons, which is very problematic. It can only move 6" per turn, which isn't a huge problem, but when it Deep Strikes it has no protection against mishaps- and for a model this large, that is a major issue.

It also can use its "door" once per turn to do something, either shoot or pull a unit through. As shooting it's all but worthless, having a laughable d6" range and forcing a Str test or die for any enemy models in the area. As a teleport it's actually semi-reasonable, able to pull one unit (that isn't in CC) through the door as though they were exiting a moving transport; it can also grab a unit from reserve (automatically, no need to roll) and bring it through the same way. This is an interesting option, but it's hard to make really strong use of it because of the limitations (the unit can't move after, can only bring them directly to the Mono, which is kinda slow) I don't feel it's any kind of basis for a strong build.

So what is the Monolith, overall? Expensive. Not very good at shooting. Slow. Vulnerable. Able to move units around the table a bit, but Necrons have several other ways to do that as well. Does it bring anything truly unique to the list? Not really, unfortunately. Is it more efficient than any of your other options for doing those things? Certainly not. Does it have any particular synergy or combination of features that bring it to the fore? Not that I can see. The Monolith is simply stuck in a bad place, lacking in too many things to really have an effective role and too expensive to just fill a generalist slot. You can play it as a more-worser Leman Russ and it won't be completely disappointing, but neither will it particularly impress.

Disclaimer: Chumby likes the Monolith a lot more than I do, as do many other people. Obviously I don't think they're right, but in the interests of fairness I will at least mention that not everyone agrees with me on this subject.

Doom Scythe

The other Doom unit in the codex, like its counterpart the Doom Scythe clocks in at a hefty 175pts and comes with a high-strength AP1 weapon that can hit multiple targets. Unlike the Ark, the Scythe is rather fragile, having the same basic stats as the Night Scythe, along with the Supersonic and Aerial Assault rules (the latter of which it can actually use, as opposed to the Night Scythe.) It comes with the TL Tesla Destructor that should be familiar by now and also a very unique main gun that shoots a S10 "beam" 3d6" long, starting anywhere within 12" of the vehicle. Units take one hit for each model underneath the line (as opposed to the grammatically correct, but ridiculous, interpretation of EVERY model in a unit taking one hit if the unit is under the line), allowing you to devastate tank formations and badly-placed infantry.

The Doom Scythe has a number of advantages- its maneuverability is excellent and the ability to lay multiple S10 AP1 hits without needing to roll against BS is very powerful. The (presumably) high angle of the model also allows it to bypass many forms of cover, mangifying the value of its AP1. The "backup" gun being as strong as the main gun on many tanks is nothing to sneeze at, either. However, balancing this is the fact that it's an expensive and fragile platform- it will rarely have cover due to being on the flyer base and its main gun is quite short-ranged, both major liabilities. How do we compensate for this? There are two main strategies.

The tougher of the two is using Imotekh- the Doom Scythe is practically perfect for such an army, as it can ignore Night Fight itself (the main gun doesn't target a specific unit) and is fast enough to start out reasonably distant ( > 24" ) from the bulk of the enemy's forces and then zip in to deliver a punishing strike. Random lightning strikes will also help bunch up enemy targets as they suffer Immobilize and Stunned results, allowing you more easy hits. Last but not least, it brings good shooting firepower to an army that is otherwise lacking for such tools, being that Imotekh himself goes a long way towards discouraging you to use shooting strategies.

A more conservative plan is simply to rely on Solar Pulses to do the same job, shutting down the enemy in the early turns while your Doom Scythes get some hits in and then conceding their likely destruction in the later turns of the game, when they are left exposed. Such a list probably also wants to invest in other fast-moving units (Night Scythes, Wraiths, Heavy Destroyers, etc) to keep itself together and to provide other targets to potentially draw away fire.

Doom Scythes, like several of the other HS units, are specialized tools and don't always fit into many Necron lists; though they are easier to use than the Doomsday Ark, Monolith, etc, most of the time (and especially in games below 1850 or so) you simply won't be able to afford to run them effectively, as you won't have enough targets for the enemy to shoot and they won't have enough for the Death Ray to really do its thing on.

Canoptek Spyder

Alongside the Annihilation Barge this will be your go-to unit for the Necron HS slot; Spyders are ultracheap MCs with a reasonable set of stats and some support abilities that can provide many different forms of utility to a list. WS/BS3 isn't great, but at least keeps you from hitting on 5s and S/T6 plus MC status make you a major melee threat to anything except dedicated assault units. W3 isn't great, but given that they only cost 50pts (110pts cheaper than a Carnifex, as a matter of point, with almost the same numbers) you really can't complain- and they come in squads with differentiable gear, no less.

Spyders always come with a Scarab Hive, which allows them to add one Scarab base to a unit within 6" each turn; if they roll a '1' on a die, they also lose a wound. This tends to be the focus of Spyders, along with their melee capacity- you run a squad along with some Scarabs to keep it from getting worn down too easily as well as providing another kind of assault threat to double-Jeopardy the enemy. However, they can also upgrade to gear that lets them fix tanks on a 4+ or negate psychic powers on the same, although the latter is extremely short-ranged and so won't be nearly as helpful as most other psychic defenses. They can also get a twin-linked S6 blast, but the cost and middling stats mean it won't be a very attractive option for much of anyone.

Spyders first and foremost duty in most lists is to act as a counterassault (or, occasionally, assault) unit, warding off potential enemies from getting too close. They are effective in this regard because while normal Necrons will generally fall to equivalent MEQ forces, even a single Spyder can walk over any squad that doesn't carry a Power Fist by simple virtue of being immune to their attacks. In this way they function much like a Dreadnought but come in at half or a third of the price, which is an excellent deal. Following a close second will be keeping Scarabs alive, as pretty much every list that includes one will want to consider bringing along some of the other as well.

Of course, there is some fierce competition from the similarly-efficient Annihilation Barge, but the decision of which and how many of each to take isn't easily something that can be summed up in an article like this- suffice to say that they each have merits and running a pair of Barges and a pair of Spyders will often-times be a solid option if you otherwise have no idea how to go.

Well, then, that covers all of the FoC slots and units in the codex. For the final article in the series we'll be talking a bit about different kinds of Necron lists and how they fit together and use the pieces available in the codex to create an effective whole. Due to my being away for the weekend at TSHFT it will likely be delayed a bit, but expect to see it up by Tues or Weds.

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