Warhammer 40,000 – 9th edition: Building an Army

Okay, so having chosen an army, it’s time to build the list!

Build me an army worthy of Mordor!

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to be building a Necrons army. This is largely because it was my very first army, back in 7th edition, and I have immense fondness for them, but also they have some very nice new models as part of being the major antagonist for 9th edition, so it’s quite flavourful for the new edition of the game.

When you’ve decided what army you want to collect, the best first purchase is always going to be the Codex. Now, some armies at the time I’m writing this don’t have a new book for 9th edition, and it would more than likely be a bit of a waste to buy an 8th edition book when it’s possible/probable that a new one is coming. The best solution in that respect, then, would be to concentrate on getting the core basic infantry built and painted, while you wait for the book, though you could be waiting a long time. When I first got my Necrons, I really liked the Lychguard models (not the basic troops, I might add!) so started there, while I waited for the 5th edition Codex to be updated for 7th edition. I basically built a pretty big army up in the time it took for the book to arrive, but you may want to play sooner, in which case an 8th edition Codex is possibly not an entirely wasted investment. But I digress!

Armies in 40k have got a lot of rules going on, as there are many layers of customisation to peel your way through. At the core, you’re looking to build a force that has some infantry troops, and someone to lead them. There are many “utility characters” who give out buffs to nearby friendly models, and these guys are also a sound investment in the early days. Picking up a unit of troops and an HQ model is a great basis for any army, but Necrons have got 17 HQ choices, and two troops choices, so where do you start?

I’ve talked previously about my first thoughts on the Necrons in 9th edition, so I thought I would expand on my ideas here, explaining the thought process and pointing out the decisions that led me to the army, in a way that will hopefully be easy enough to follow along as a guide for building your own army.

To start with, there are some basic rules that apply across the whole Necron army. These are rules such as Living Metal and Reanimation Protocols, the latter of which is huge and worth mentioning now. It’s kind of the Necrons’ schtick, that of the ever-living legions of death continually coming back to life. Each time models in a unit with this ability are lost, either in the shooting phase or the fight phase, you roll a number of D6 equal to the number of wounds lost. Each 5+ is then put into a pool, and you get to reassemble a number of models based on their wounds characteristic. So if you lost eight models that each have 2 wounds, during the Reanimation Protocols roll you roll 16 dice; if you get nine 5+ results, you can reanimate four models (9 divided by 2, rounding down because you can only reanimate whole models).

Command Protocols is a new rule that allows you to allocate an effect to the first five rounds of the battle, before the battle begins. There are 6 such Protocols, each of which has two effects. At the start of the round, if there is a Noble character on the table, then the Protocol you chose will take effect, and any unit with the Command Protocols rule (almost everything in the book) will benefit from it, so long as it is within 6″ of a character model. It sounds a little bit confusing, I know. If you have assigned the Protocol of the Undying Legions, for example, to the second battle round, and you have a unit of Lychguard that are staying close to a Cryptek, then at the start of the round the Protocol takes effect, and you get to choose to either allow models to gain 1 additional wound from Living Metal or to be able to re-roll one of the dice on your Reanimation Protocols roll. If a unit of Immortals is out in the middle of nowhere, however, then they will not benefit from this, despite having the Command Protocols rule, also. I suppose it represents the mindless legions style of the army.

Lastly, the army has Dynastic Codes, which are a subset of rules that allow you to tailor the way the army plays for your specific playstyle. In the lore, Necrons are divided into Dynasties, and would often come to blows with each other back in the day. There are six Dynasties that you can choose from to represent your army, along with rules to make your own Dynasty. Each one has a different colour scheme, and will open up a variety of options when it comes to building the list, as well as granting a variety of effects throughout the game.

Of the six, I have chosen the Mephrit Dynasty, because I still see Necrons as primarily a shooting army, even though a lot of the newer models are focused on melee. Mephrit has three different rules that come into effect; you get to add 3″ to the range of ranged weapons (except pistols), you get to improve the armour penetration (AP) value by 1 of ranged weapons when targeting a unit within half-range of that weapon, and when the Protocol of the Vengeful Stars comes into effect, you get the benefits of both effects, not just the one. This is quite nice, because Vengeful Stars has the effect of improving the AP of a ranged attack by 1 on an unmodified 6, and also it denies the benefits of cover to models targeted within half range. Each Dynasty has a similar ability, granting both effects of a Command Protocol that line up with their overall strategy, but I think Mephrit here is particularly juicy because Necrons have got a great deal of firepower they can bring to bear!

So let’s dive right in, and look at some units! Don’t forget, you can refer back to my basic rules post to make sense of a lot of the why I’m taking these models, or why something is good!

Necrons Thoky Dynasty

To start with, I’m using Immortals. The models are beautiful, and while they’re slightly more expensive than Warriors, they are slightly more elite, so you do get what you pay for. Immortals have the option of taking a gauss blaster or a tesla carbine, and for my first unit I’m going for the latter. A unit of 10 Immortals with tesla carbines is quite something to behold on the tabletop, and I’m going for two of them! The carbine is Assault 2, meaning that they can advance and still shoot, with 2 shots each. 20 shots at BS 3+ is quite good, and the gun has a strength characteristic of 5, meaning that it will be wounding Marines on 3s. (Marines are pretty ubiquitous in the game, and so are a useful metric against which to measure a weapon’s performance. Marines are Toughness 4, so Strength 5 is higher, hence wounding on 3s.) Now, tesla weaponry has no AP, but Mephrit will give them AP-1 when fired at half range: the tesla carbine has a range of 24″, but again, Mephrit will add 3″ to that, so 27″ max range, with AP-1 when fired from 14″ (you round up fractions). The juicy thing about tesla is, any unmodified 6s to hit result in two extra hits, meaning you can get a potential unholy number of attacks out of these guys. It’s meant to represent the arcing energy jolting across the enemy ranks, and sometimes it can do so very effectively! But remember, Vengeful Stars will improve the AP of any 6s, too! So a group of 10 tesla-toting Immortals will be scoring a good number of hits at AP-2, with no cover saves allowed, which is just glorious!

Stratagems are a lot of fun, and can sometimes stack up with horrendous results. For Mephrit, their Dynastic Stratagem is the aptly-named Talent for Annihilation, which inflicts 1 mortal wound in the shooting phase for each unmodified 6, to a maximum of 3. If you really want something dead, and you’re doubling down on it, this is a nice way to inflict a lot of damage, especially as mortal wounds often just go through, and can’t be negated. There is also a tesla-specific Stratagem called Malevolent Arcing, which takes effect when the dust has settled from the initial attack. Roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 6″ of the unit targeted, and on a 4+ that unit takes a mortal wound. Just when they thought they were safe! Of course, the odds are that the original unit will either be destroyed with so much tesla coming for them, or will be depleted enough that there won’t be much left within 6″. But it’s a fun option to keep in the back pocket!

I’m also going with a unit of 10 Immortals with gauss blasters. The weapon looks great, and it’s a slightly beefier gun than the tesla carbine, having 30″ range (33″ with Mephrit!), Rapid Fire 1, so 2 shots within 17″. Strength 5 again, but AP-2 this time! All the Mephrit stuff applies though, so get them within 17″ and on a 6 they have the potential to get to AP-4! There are also a couple of Stratagems that will work nicely for them: Relentless Onslaught gives a pseudo-tesla effect by causing one additional hit on an unmodified 6, and Disintegration Capacitors makes unmodified 6s auto-wound the target. Those cost one Command Point each, but the damage potential is so great here that I feel it’s well worth mentioning the capabilities of gauss as well as tesla.

The great fear of any shooting army is, of course, melee, as the huge investment in units that have a focus on ranged combat can be nullified when they are charged. Enter the Royal Warden, a new model for the army that came out in Indomitus, and can grant a unit within 9″ the ability to disengage from combat and still shoot. He’s got a relic gauss blaster, which is Rapid Fire 2 and deals 2 damage, but would otherwise also come under the same effects as described for the Immortals above. 4 shots at 17″, potentially AP-4… juicy. He isn’t a Noble, however, so we do need a Lord or Overlord to help out properly with the Command Protocols.

The Catacomb Command Barge has long been a staple of my lists, mainly because it was one of the first “big” kits that I bought and painted up. There is a lot going on with this model, as it is a bit of a flying gun platform. I’ve armed it with a heavy gauss cannon, which is Heavy 3 and Strength 6, AP-3 and D3 damage (I’ve never been a fan of random damage). There is also an Overlord flying around on the vehicle, armed with a Staff of Light, which he can use to both shoot people, and beat them if they get too close. He’s no slouch in close combat, with 4 attacks at S5, hitting on 2s. He is the warlord, though, and his trait is the Mephrit one, Merciless Tyrant, which gives him +1 to both the strength and attacks characteristics. 5 attacks at S6 is nice, and those attacks do come in at AP-2, but close combat is not the name of the game with him – I want him for his buffs, really. All of the Overlord models have My Will Be Done, which gives +1 to hit rolls to a unit within 9″, which is very nice, but no longer has the brutal effects of the previous edition (where tesla merely triggered on 6s, not unmodified 6s). The ability does mean that the Immortals are now effectively hitting on 2s, however, which is HQ-level stuff. Talking of how things used to be, in 8th edition there was a Stratagem that allowed an Overlord to use My Will Be Done for a second time, on a different unit, but that has slightly changed now in that you can upgrade an Overlord to a Phaeron, who has the ability to innately use the ability twice per turn. I’m still flirting with this, as it costs 2 Command Points before the battle, and I’m not quite sure.

Character models (except named characters and C’tan Shards) can also be given relics, and my current favourite such item is the Veil of Darkness, which lets you remove the bearer and up to one friendly core unit from the table, and set them up again anywhere on the battlefield (9″ from enemy models). I have previously used this to great effect with a massive blob of 20 Warrior models, which proceeded to shoot the crap out of the enemy. Positioning is now key with this relic though, as the models need to be set up wholly within 6″ of each other, so while it’s possible, you’ll have to basically surround the Barge with a Warrior blob like that. I do have a lot of core units to choose from, though, so it’s all good!

Rounding out the main force are a pair of Crypteks. These are weird models, and the new ones for 9th edition have just got weirder. I’m taking a Psychomancer, whose model is just stunning (but which I have yet to paint up!) and a Technomancer. The latter has an ability to reanimate one model from a core unit within 6″ of him during the Command Phase, which is very handy (it’s even handier on Warriors, as he can reanimate D3 of those). The Psychomancer has a negative effect on the morale of the enemy, although he must be fairly close to the enemy to do so – as close as 6″ for the Nightmare Shroud aura. Forcing models to flee and the like isn’t something that I’ve really experimented with previously, but I think it could be an interesting thing to have in the army. Crypteks also have a rule that allows you to take an additional one without taking up a slot in the force organisation – the battalion that I’m building only allows for 3 HQs, but because I have a Noble unit in there, for each Cryptek I take I can bring another one along! So that is handy!

All of these characters will need some defence though, and so we can now look at the fancy stuff. Lychguard are my favourite models in the Necron line, and at one point I could field an army almost entirely made up from these guys. I’ve only gone for a unit of 5 so far, though, because they are quite expensive (but cheaper in this edition!) They have a base Strength and Toughness of 5, which is pretty fantastic, but the warscythe increases that to S7. There’s even a stratagem called Disruption Fields that will make them S8. They’re already swinging on 3s, so will mostly be wounding on 3s as well, with AP-4, which is just a delight, and two damage each! Each model makes 3 attacks, so 15 attacks coming at you in this manner can be quite tasty! They can also get to 4 attacks when within 6″ of a Noble, but the only such character in the list is the Barge, which they likely won’t keep up with, so that’s not necessarily going to be useful. They’re core units, so will benefit from the Technomancer, but I think their main job will be to guard the Psychomancer, so hopefully having a beefy bodyguard unit will put people off attacking indiscriminately.

So, the Immortals will be firing off huge volleys of fire from across the table, and there are some interesting effects coming from the HQ units, but I do need something more mobile. Let’s start with Tomb Blades. The jetbike of the army, Tomb Blades have a move characteristic of 14″, and I’m keeping it all tesla with a unit of six. They have a dedicated stratagem that allows them to ignore the penalty for advancing and firing Assault weapons, which is going to come in very handy for 1CP! I do like these bikes – five of them is basically a more mobile unit of Immortals for -20 points, so six is even better! As a bonus, the bikes have an in-built -1 to hit in the shooting phase. Very nice, indeed!

Triarch Praetorians are the kind of unit that scares people, for some reason. They’re jump infantry, with 10″ movement and a weapon that can both shoot and do work in melee, but the downside is they don’t have access to any of the Command benefits, not being part of the Dynasty. The rod of covenant is only S5, but has AP-3 and D2 in both shooting and melee. They have a unique stratagem that gives them +1 to attacks in either the shooting or fight phase, which is quite nice!

What is a Necrons army without those annoying Canoptek Scarab Swarms? I’ve got three bases of scarabs to provide some element of cover for the Psychomancer, as the Look Out, Sir rule will prevent that model being targeted while it is within 3″ of a unit of 3 or more models. Cheesy, of course, but I’m hoping that the scarabs and the lychguard will help to cause mayhem in the morale phase! I would imagine that, after one round where the Psychomancer does his thing, he will paint a big target on his head, so having models nearby will help with that – and the fire-draw will be a huge distraction while the rest of the army does its work. I think the Psychomancer thing could be a useful distraction to turn on when I need a bit of breathing room to try and reanimate, as well, but that’s probably something to think about after a game or two. While a few of my favourite stratagems haven’t made it over from 8th edition, I am pleased to say the Self-Destruction one has: scarab swarms can blow themselves up in the fight phase, rather than fighting normally – on a D6 roll of 2-5 they do D3 mortal wounds, but on a 6 they do a flat 3 mortal wounds. You can only do it one model per fight phase, but it’s still useful to make your opponent think twice!

Looking at some heavier firepower to round out the list, I’ve got an Annihilation Barge that is, again, all tesla. The big gun is a twin tesla destructor, Heavy 10 is a delight, and S7 is also pretty fun. It’s tesla of course, so unmodified 6s cause 2 extra hits. It’s all good. Oh, and it has an under-slung tesla cannon, too. Lovely. A little thing, but it’s also the same chassis as the Command Barge, being from the same kit, so there is some nice symmetry for the army, which I quite enjoy. With only 8 wounds, the Barge doesn’t have damage brackets, which is very useful. I know a lot of people seem to malign the Annihilation Barge, but honestly I don’t think it’s as bad as people seem to make out.

So here is the list, in all of its glory!

Looking forward to seeing how this performs!