Necrons 9th Edition Codex Review

October 15, 2020

Returning to a galaxy infested by foolish and youthful races, the rising tide of Chaos, and a psychic awakening, the Silent King seeks to regain his empire’s lost glory. To do so, Games Workshop has granted him a brand new 9th edition codex. Will this codex banish the dark millennia of 8th edition and allow for the reign of the Necrons? Let us dive into the new rules and find out as I analyze what I think are the best rules in the codex!

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Detachment Abilities: Reanimation Protocols and Command Protocols

Reanimation Protocols in 8th edition were much maligned as they were often fairly unreliable considering the unit had to survive your opponent’s turn. With the volume of firepower in 8th edition it was difficult for most Necron units to survive long enough to be able to reanimate. Thus you saw many vehicle heavy lists that largely ignored reanimation protocols.  

The new 9th edition version of Reanimation Protocols resolves this issue by shifting reanimation to occur after an opponent’s unit resolves its shooting or melee attacks. This is a major shift in philosophy and means that you will often have the opportunity to reanimate unless your opponent can destroy your unit in a single volley. It also creates tension with the general design philosophy and GT missions, which tend to encourage multiple small units. 

Particularly units of five or less models so they are not restricted by the updated coherency rules, nor the danger of the blast keyword. Reanimation Protocol encourages larger units that can survive multiple instances of your opponent’s shooting and melee attacks. The way in which the new dice pool mechanic works also favors a greater number of single wound models. But I also think scarabs, which can die fairly easily in one go, but not enough to kill the squad, benefit from the new rule where your dice pool is so large that you are usually regaining several scarab bases at once.

On the other hand, Command Protocols are a brand new mechanic, which rewards mono-dynasty Necron lists that are led by a NOBLE. At the start of each battle round, the Necron player is able to reveal one of two rules that their units—within 6 of a friendly character—will benefit from. 

These buffs are generally okay but not spectacular. The Silent King and Szarekhan dynasty have several ways to alter command protocols to make them more flexible, but none of them are powerful enough to build a list around. I can envision Necron lists avoiding running any nobles or mixing dynasties and ignoring these rules.  

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Dynastic Codes

This section is one of the big winners of the Necron Codex in my opinion. In particular, Necrons have some of the best custom traits in the game. Eternal Conquerors (objective secured) and Relentlessly Expansionist (6-inch pregame move) are game-changing abilities. This is very satisfying for a Necrons player as those two rules significantly upgrade the base datasheets of the codex. I believe that Eternal Conquerors and Relentlessly Expansionist will be consistent features of board control Necron lists. Other powerful traits include Interplanetary Invaders, which allow vehicles to fall back and shoot or ignore the penalty for shooting heavy weapons at units within engagement range. Immovable Phalanx could also be a useful trait in a silver tide style build with more than 60 warriors, standing on midfield objectives and benefitting from +1 to their armor saving throws if they did not move that battle round, so particularly powerful going second. I also think the Silent King can be allied into such custom dynasty armies to good effect as well, offering a toolkit of solid shooting, good melee, powerful defensive and offensive auras, and interaction in the psychic phase. For the traditional dynasties, Novokh has perhaps the best of the dynasty specific stratagems, while Mephrit is still a solid option for more shooting heavy builds, but it is a tough choice choosing damage over the mission abilities of the custom dynasties.  

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Stratagems

As with the Space Marine Codex, the design team seems to be shifting towards unique stratagems for most datasheets. So rather than having many powerful generic stratagems that can be used on a wide variety of units, instead the Necron Codex has a plethora of stratagems that mainly interact with one datasheet or CORE units. As such, stratagems that could have been very powerful if they applied to other units are fairly tame overall. Fortunately, most stratagems of only one command point and so even after purchasing more expensive detachments like outriders and vanguards to load up on specialist units, you will still have plenty of command points to use the most useful stratagems.  

The standouts for me at the stratagems for Flayed Ones, offering them access to fight twice as well as -1 to be hit in any phase. Skorpekh destroyers and lords received a stratagem for -1 to wound rolls in any phase, which dramatically increases their durability, especially with the Chronometron 5+ invulnerable save. Lychguard, as CORE units, can make excellent use of the stratagem to boost a units strength by +1 taking them to strength 8. Lychguard, if a friendly NOBLE is nearby, can also earn a +1 attack buff, dramatically increasing their damage when they finally hit the opponent’s key units. C’tan have several useful stratagems, such as ignoring invulnerable saves and cast an extra power, while infantry characters are able to return from death on a 4+ for 1 command point. Canoptek units also received a very powerful stratagem to perform a heroic intervention as if they were a character. Overall, the stratagems are solid, but because most are linked to particular datasheets, you will only be using a select number of them based on your list design choices.

Warlord Traits and Relics

This section, in my opinion, is one of the weakest areas of the book. Unlike many other factions that have powerful aura warlord traits, Necrons have a wide variety of traits that only affect the character itself. 

Many of these traits are also melee centric, for an army in which most characters have one to four attacks. 

Additionally, their aura warlord traits that exist have now been restricted to only interacting with units that have the CORE keyword.  

Relics follow a similar trend of simply offering an average buff to a single character model, and the ones that do more are often limited to once per game like the eternity orb, restricted to CORE like the veil of darkness, or are locked behind a specific dynasty such as the Vanquisher’s Mask to force an opponent’s unit to fight last. Compared to some of the relics and warlord traits that Space Marines received in their 9th edition codex, this section feels like the short end of the stick and is unlikely to be fixed unless Games Workshop plan to do another series of campaign books in late 9th edition.

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Secondaries

The Necron Codex introduces four new potential secondary choices (you can only select one of them to use in a matched play game, but they do follow the main GT mission categories). I think these secondary options are fairly solid but certainly list dependent. For example, Code of Honor (3 points for each enemy unit killed by a NOBLE) synergizes very well with a list involving the Silent King, who is a wreaking ball of devastation. Purge the Vermin also seems very reasonable as it allows you to score 2 points for each table corner your opponent does not have units wholly within at the end of your turn. It plays into the hands of a reactive Necron list and gives control of the secondary to the Necron player as it’s scored at the end of the player turn. 

Ancient Machineries could end up seeing play in a Canoptek heavy list with a lot of small, durable trading units, especially on missions with three objectives in no-man’s land. Overall, I think the Necron secondaries will see a decent amount of play.

Cryptek Arkana

The Cryptek Arkana immediately stood out to me as very powerful additions to the Necron special rules. 

I believe the Countertemporal Nanomines that the Chronomancer can take to halve advance and charge rolls for an enemy unit each turn is an essential tool in the Necron arsenal to ensure combat happens on their terms. Meanwhile, the Technomancer has two very useful arkana options to help further buff Canoptek units or help in the reanimation of a non-CORE model.  

Other potentially useful arkana are the prismatic obfuscatron, which reintroduces the 8th edition style of character targeting rules, allowing your cryptek to hold down an objective late game with not supporting units needed to protect it. 

I also like the atavindiactor on a psychomancer, allowing it to do d3 mortal wounds to a target within 18 inches if it equals or beats their leadership characteristic. This synergizes particularly well with C’tan as you can whittle down the opponent’s characters hidden behind terrain and by the time the characters are committed to the fight, a C’tan like the Nightbringer could easily finish them off with its C’tan powers.

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Datasheets

Because the Arkana are so useful, I expect many Necron lists to be running at least one if not more crypteks. I personally believe the Chronomancer is the most powerful as his chronometron allows a dynasty, not simply core, unit to reroll charges as well as grants them a 5+ invulnerable save. This dramatically increases the durability of units like Warriors, Flayed Ones, and Scarabs, forcing your opponent to dedicate even more firepower to clear the basic board control of a Necron army. The fact that this ability is not locked to the paltry selection of CORE units is one of the reasons it is so powerful and useful.  

The Technomancer, on the other hand, has several ways to increase the efficiency of canoptek units, such as granting them +1 to hit with the control node, or granting them extra attacks with the overcharger arkana. He also aids in the reanimation of your mainline CORE units. The Psychomancer shifts the focus from buffing existing units, to debuffing your opponent’s units such as turning off objective secured, prevent units from completing actions, making units fight last, or halving advance and charge rolls. All very useful abilities in games where your opponent is going to contest the middle of the table. The Plasmancer, rounds out the quartet by focusing on consistent mortal wound output. 

I think the Crypteks will be a staple in most competitive lists, especially the Chronomancer, though Orikan the Diviner is certainly an option as his master chronomancer ability allows him to grant reroll charges and 5+ invulnerable saves to NECRONS units such as Praetorians.

My other favorite part of the new book is Szarekh himself! Returning from the void to reclaim his lost empire, the Silent King towers over the Necron codex as the ultimate toolkit model. Solid shooting, great melee, psychic defense, a multitude of auras to support nearby units, and defensive mechanics to help keep him alive for as long as possible such as a rule to ensure opponent’s units in engagement range will fight last. 

Having had the chance to play him on the tabletop, he was an absolute wrecking ball killing over 800 pts of John Lennon’s Ultramarines. His auras also affect Triarch Praetorians who would otherwise be left with access to few buffs in the codex as most rules affect CORE or <Dynasty> units. 

While he is a lot of points, his ability to interact in all phases of the game while also benefitting from the OBSCURING terrain keyword perhaps make him the most compelling Lord of War in the game right now. He also grants you an additional three command points as your Warlord, which essentially refunds an outrider or vanguard’s cost where you can load upon specialist units. Finally, as a VEHICLE, he also benefits from access to two stratagems, which can either allow him to act at his top bracket or automatically explode him for mortal wound carnage upon his destruction.  

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New 9th Edition Playstyle

For much of 8th edition, Necrons were a “shoot first, ask questions and play the mission later” type of army. The army tended to be very vehicle-centric with a tremendous amount of firepower, often sacrificing board control for pure efficiency and the threat of three Doomscythes unleashing an absurd amount of mortal wounds to much of your army.  

In 9th edition, however, Necron melee and board control has received a significant boost, and in my opinion, will be the most consistent way to win with them. Most notably, Necrons have received several powerful new melee options such as Skorpekh and Ophydian Destroyers and the Silent King. Wraiths and Tomb Spyders are also good options that synergize with a Technomancer who can grant them additional attacks and make them hit more effectively. 

Such units can operate independently across the board, making them natural inclusions for a 9th edition playstyle that favors multiple small units that can operate on distant objectives, move block, and neutralize or tag opponents’ shooting threats. 

This, of course, combines extremely well with the new custom dynasty granting objective secured to these units so they can also more easily deny your opponent primary points while doing damage.

The faction is certainly better than it was before. 8th edition was a dark time for the vast majority of competitive Necron players, but I think the new codex opens up a lot of new options for mono and mixed detachment builds. This codex is presenting a compelling mission-focused style of play for Necrons that is ideally suited for the 9th edition playstyle that has come into focus in the last two months. Overall, I think Necrons will end up competing with Harlequins for the best Xenos army in the game for now, and the true test will be how well they hold up against Space Marines.

I wish the codex had implemented a less restricted version of CORE so that many of the rules that interact with that keyword would be more useful and easily applicable. 

At the very least, there should have been useful relics, warlord traits, or other rules to extend the CORE keyword to certain units to offer even further play styles such as Destroyer Cults. 

Even a stratagem to grant a single unit the CORE keyword for a turn would have been wonderful. Compared to Space Marines, I think Games Workshop took a much more conservative approach to the CORE design philosophy here, which may end up hurting the book in the long-term as further codexes are released.

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Outrider: Eternal Conquerors (Obsec) and Relentless Expansionist (6 inch pregame move)

Catacomb Command Barge, gauss cannon, relic: voltaic staff, -1 cp warlord trait: enduring will 150 

Chronomancer, countertemporal nanomines, entropic lance 110 

2 Cryptothralls 40 

Chronomancer, entropic lance -1 cp relic: veil of darkness 80 

2 Cryptothralls 40

9 Scarab Swarms 135 

9 Scarab Swarms 135 

9 Scarab Swarms 135 

3 Canoptek Wraiths 105 

3 Canoptek Wraiths 105

10 Lychguard 280 

18 Flayed Ones 234

Supreme Command Detachment:

The Silent King, Warlord: the triarch’s will 450 +3 cp