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An analysis of the Necron's role in the metagame, rise and fall
Old 03 Sep 2008, 18:28   #1 (permalink)
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Default An analysis of the Necron's role in the metagame, rise and fall

I posted this in Dakka Dakka a long time ago, felt like reposting it after reading some of the discussion on this page recently. My apologies for the tone, Dakka Dakka has a rather different discussion style, one that is ruder than Tau Online typically exudes.

The rise and fall of the Necron codex is actually really interesting. I've had a ringside view, as a Necron player who travels and attends tournaments at a fairly rapid pace.

First off, some definitions. When I'm talking about a Necron list I'm talking about one which does it right. You take minimum warriors, then Immortals and Destroyers (and in some cases Heavy Destroyers) in some mixture determined by your personal preferences and then the Deceiver. The list focuses on winning the shooting war with t5/WBB units that fire at 24" after moving, and the C'tan plays goalie, stopping flying tyrants and the like. (Kevin Kirby's defensive crons, winners of 'Ard Boys, were a counter-example, but that was at 2500, where you can keep your shooty core and get 3 liths. We hit the same round 2 tourney, and I was hoping to play him, as 3 Liths is a great target for gauss...ah well...)

My particular version is Deceiver, 20 warriors, 9 Destroyers in 3 squads, 3 heavy destroyers in 3 squads, then 3 squads of X immortals, where X is determined by how many points you've got left over. There are other worthwhile versions, but that's the general shape of all of them.

Anyway, to set the wayback machine a ways back, the real rise of the Necron list came about as a result of the metagame's tilt towards Nids/Eldar. Up until around the time of the Dark Angels those codexes came to dominate the tournament. Mech Tau functioned as a bit of a spoiler, as did really shooty gunline lists, but basically it was Nids and Eldar. Necrons, as a Nid/Eldar predator which happened to also obliterate Mech Tau and gunlines, came into their own.

The Eldar's story is intimately connected to the Necron tournament narrative, so it's worthwhile to take a gander at them. Holo-tanks take 9 glances to sit down, so the Necrons are pretty much the only codex which can reliably down them from range. They are scoring, and consequently trifalcon Eldar ruled objective missions to a ridiculous degree. If a Mech Eldar player didn't draw Necrons he could count on having any Holo-tank he didn't fly down someone's throat alive and scoring at game's end...and most likely those that he did. Lists which have adequate anti-tank for every other purpose still take 2 rounds to accumulate the # of glances required to destroy a holo-tank. The list is cheap to acquire, victorious in execution, and readily obvious from any perusal of the codex. Even as late as the Big Waaargh, perhaps the last GT of 4th edition, I still saw a ludicrous number of Trifalcon Eldar lists.

The Necron list, however, neutralizes each and every advantage of Trifalcon Eldar, and my own experiences suggest perhaps an 80% victory ratio. The Eldar player was frequently forced to resort to tank shocking, which exposes the back of the Falcons to Immortals and/or Destroyers. A falcon which does this is nigh-destroyed. The Harlequins can be handled with the 20 warriors counterassault that Necron players are so familiar with, while the Avatar is warded off by the Deceiver lurking behind some size 3 terrain.

A less important list than Trifalcon Eldar for this narrative is Nidzilla. Nidzilla uses a saturation of t6 2+ or 3+ save monsters to outshoot their enemy, and brings in stealers to finish things off. The Flying Tyrant, in particular, will take most lists 2 rounds 2 down at the proper range, and his devourers are ruinous. Much like Mech Eldar, Nidzilla is able to obliterate any non-tournament list by overrunning it. Gunlines simply lack the shooting to stop the MC wall before it gets in range to send the stealers in. Mech lists get pushed back off the objectives if they don't want to take deadly charges in addition to the shooting.

The Necron list, however, breaks the Nidzilla schtick. Rather than desperately leaping into assault because they can't outshoot the MC's or standing and shooting because their weapons are heavy the Necrons simply withdraw and keep the fight at range. Their WBB and multi-shot high strength weapons allow them to win the shooting war, and the Deceiver keeps the Flying Tyrant and raveners honest. It is no exaggeration to say that if he reaches combat anywhere the Deceiver would almost singlehandedly obliterate a Nidzilla list, bouncing from MC to MC and crushing them. Even the psychic Choir is unable to draw range to the Necron gunline, as they continually withdraw and engage at 24".

So that was the situation at the height of the Necron codex's success. It was a list you could bring to a tournament and be confident of victory with. The only Necron predator was Marine Drop Pods with twin-librarians using Fear the Darkness, and that list couldn't beat Mech Eldar or Nidzilla, so it was only a threat in round 1. You had at least a 50% chance to beat any and all other lists. In addition, because good Necrons don't have Monoliths and Orbs you got great soft scores for your "non-cheesy" necrons. Lastly, people are used to crushing bad Necron lists, and tend to underestimate a good one.

The first crack in the Necron's tournament success Monolith (groan...) occurred with the publication of the new Chaos Space Marine codex. The twin-Lash sorcerer/plague marine/obliterator list is a Necron predator. Shielded by the plague marines the sorcerers lash with impunity, moving the Deceiver away or clumping up the warriors/immortals for easy Obliterator pie plating. Plague Marines and Obliterators have the resilience to take Necron shooting for long enough to get the phase out, and if the Necrons dive into assault the power fists see to them easily.

This was a scary development, but not fatal in and of itself. Twin-lash could beat Nidzilla, but it was prey to Mech Eldar. Consequently Mech Eldar's popularity increased, while Twin Lash stayed lower. This permitted the Necrons to continue after a fashion. Without a way to beat Mech Eldar twin lash couldn't threaten Necrons by itself, and became just another form of Drop Pods, an obscure list that would thrash you if you were unfortunate enough to meet it before it got hit with Trifalcon.

Further, there was a fortunate development for the Necron codex, in that the Adepticon FAQ nerfed the heck out of twin-Lash. This meant that at Adepticon Necrons would have a shot vs. even a twin-lash matchup. Unfortunately this came out shortly after the appearance of the true destroyers of Necron tournament success.

The publication of the Ork Codex indicated the end of Necron tournament dominance. While Necrons are one of the few races that can win a shooting war with Orks they need to devote all their effort to blasting down the shooter boys, with no fire to spare for the Loota units. Further, Snikrot is a constant threat, as he'll lock up your destroyers/immortals and hold you while the Power Klaws get there. The Warbosses on bikes, and cheap templates, are just insult to injury. A properly constructed Ork list beats a properly constructed Necron list at least half the time, to be honest, the Orks probably have it 70%.

This wouldn't be an atrocious problem, merely another twin-lash or double drop pod mine to be avoided in the first and second rounds with good fortune, except that Orks do just fine against Mech Eldar. Lootas are a lot like destroyers or Immortals for popping falcons, better in some ways, and the Boys keep the points safe. Orks actually have some problems with Nidzilla, but that's not enough to stop them from proliferating. There are a LOT of Ork players, and the Orks have no real predator lists. Necrons are probably the closest thing, but even Necron can't really handle the Green Tide.

When I lost in the last round of the invitational at Adepticon I saw the writing on the wall. You could look at the top tables in every tournament that weekend, seemed like there was green no matter which direction you looked. Mech Eldar fights hard, but I think a good Ork list has them. Even worse, twin-lash is great vs. Orks, so Chaos players will proliferate in response to the Ork invasion.

Now, even here, Necrons are a strong choice for a tournament. Orks and Mech Eldar are likely the top competitors, and you've got a shot at both of them. You've got to dread twin-Lash chaos and drop pods, but you get the occasional Mech Tau list or non-Skimmer mech list as compensation, and any assault list is made a mockery of by the Deceiver.

Unfortunately, the slide continued, as GW came out with their official FAQs. This release hit Necrons like a ton of bricks.
1. Star Engines let Falcons move during the shooting phase, which means that after tank shocking you they can back up and hide their rear armor.
2. Lash is as great as it looks, period.
3. The Deceiver can't break fearless troops, merely kill a few with his fear beam.

#3 is just insult to injury, but #'s 1 and 2 are real problems. Necron's dominance over Mech Eldar is the primary key to their success, while Lash lists will become more popular due to #2.

Next up, the Demon codex came out. This was yet another landmine. They can't beat Orks or Mech Eldar, but they threaten the heck out of Necrons. The Deceiver can't be everywhere, and there can be up to 19 units in a Demon list, all of which will thrash Necrons in combat. Phase Out is a real possibility vs. a Demon list that gets a little lucky in the Necron's first shooting phase.

But for all this, Necrons hold on as a competitive list. I brought them to the Big Waaargh in this climate, and if it hadn't been for failing morale a bunch of times at the end of a game I might have recovered from meeting a twin-lash list. You've still got a shot, and as Orks get more popular you'll start to see scubbier variants, which will likely fall prey to the toasters.

Unfortunately, 5th edition is more of a hammer blow than any of the others. The change to combat resolution and the running change means that real blitz lists can obliterate Necrons in style. It absolutely kills defensive crons, who rely on holding at ld 10 and then warping out. Necrons of my school are less vulnerable to this, but a simple blitz is still a problem, as the Deceiver is only in one place, and everywhere else you are losing whole units to sweeping advance. Further, Orks and other Horde armies are protected by the new cover rules from the massed AP 4 which is Necron's trademark. By comparison to this nerf, the brutal glance rules are merely icing on the Necron weakening cake. Dang, did I just write that?

The weakening of Necrons is only half of the hammer blow though, the death of Trifalcon Eldar is the other. The new vehicle rules and the hits that Harlequins take means that Necron's chosen prey are going to be pretty thin on the ground coming up. That, more than anything, is the end for tournament Necrons.

The straw which broke my back was the new victory conditions. With only troops scoring necrons now have no one expendable to achieve 5th's brutal victory conditions...while the enemy can simple aim for phase out and ignore the difficult new missions. That means that in tournaments the enemy may be elated to draw Decepticrons, simply because scoring a victory with the scoring system in 5th is nearly impossible otherwise. I refuse to play a list that slaughters scrubs and then gives the tourney to whichever Ork is lucky enough to draw you in the later rounds.
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Old 04 Sep 2008, 01:55   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: An analysis of the Necron's role in the metagame, rise and fall

If I remember right, Star engines can only move forward 12" in a straight line. So maybe that's not so bad. But as for the rest ...

I don't play Necrons, but I've always admired their Phalax playstyle and the implacible ranged stance they take. tis sad that they dont' work rightnow. BUT a new codex should be out within the next year, and with it we'll se 'Crons back on the competitive circle.

(BTW come over here and Play with me in Lousiana, My store has like...1 Ork player I think....everyone here is Tau and bugs, yay for my Marines and Eldar eh?)
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Old 04 Sep 2008, 03:17   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: An analysis of the Necron's role in the metagame, rise and fall

Thanks for posting this incredibly interesting treatise on the Necrons and their role in the metagame 40kenthusiast.

I'm not a Necron player myself (Tau and SM), but have been up against Necrons so much that I know it's a real challenge (mind you this was back under 4th edition), and one that I rarely win if the Necron player knows what he is doing.

I hope a new codex can help balance out a few of these drawbacks, and make Necrons a top tier tournament army in time. Necrons are one of the armies that "deserve" to be grim as the fluff and back story of the Necrontyr almost demands it. And like the Tau, the Necrons are part of what ultimately drew me into 40K, the dark, edgy and more serious style of the 40K universe. The more it removed itself from "WFB in space" the more interesting the setting got, and the Necrons are a big part of that.

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Old 04 Sep 2008, 05:58   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: An analysis of the Necron's role in the metagame, rise and fall

This meshes really well with my experience. I can deal with many things, but a good ork army is a royal pita in fifth. Running is a big part of that. The list was potent in fourth, with no shortage of speed. The combination of running and cover means that even less than optimal ork lists can get a problematic quantity of melee troops in your face in short order.
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