Necrons? People still play them?
Ah, I'm just messin' with ya, all four of you.
Necrons are in a tricky place currently. The Codex is old as a tomb world and 5th edition certainly didn't do them any favors. Gauss isn't what it used to be and combined with the increased resilience of vehicles a mech army can generally roll right over the poor tin men. What's worse, combat became even more dangerous and with only I2 losing essentially spells doom for your Warriors, bringing you ever closer to the dreaded Phase Out.
We talk a lot about competitive lists, optimized builds, and strong armies, but sometimes it's about bringing the army you love. I'm guilty with my Orks and Deathwing. And if you don't bring Guard, Tau, Marines, or Eldar you won't auto-lose. They may have a lot going against them, but a well built and well run Necron army can still hold its own. And if competitive play isn't your thing, then Necrons will do just fine in casual play.
Let's start with a quick analysis of the various units and options in the Codex. It shouldn't take too long, yay for limited choices!
Necron Lord: The only Necron HQ you've got. He isn't as good in combat or shooting as most HQs, but he provides the nigh-essential Ressurection Orb to keep your bots coming back for more. Use him to support and protect your army. A cheap Rez Orb Lord is good for smaller games. If you've got leg room, a Destroyer Body and Warscythe are extremely useful upgrades. T6 and boosted movement allow him to shrug off the blows of most normal troops and quickly respond to whichever threats present themselves. The Warscythe is for the extra dice against vehicles (they need all the help they can get) and ignoring invulnerable saves will give pause to units like Terminators or Daemons. He is far from the best fighter, but he's about the best you've got.
Pariahs: Ha ha! Unfortunately, Pariahs suck pretty hard. They are extremely expensive for non-Necrons that only have 1 attack and I3. Their Ld and anti-psyker effects may have some use, but the range is way too short and it lowers your Phase Out count way too far. Avoid at all costs.
Immortals: Solid. T5, Gauss Blasters, not an exorbitant cost. They're basically Warriors that are useful. Good mobile firepower at decent range and capable of shrugging off anything short of a Demolisher shell.
Flayed Ones: More garbage, unfortunately. They're basically a squad of Assault Marines without jump packs with no option for power weapons or fists. They can outflank, Deep Strike, or infiltrate, but they're just too slow and don't hit hard enough to have any effect. Terrifying Visage won't have much effect either considering how high Ld is currently. There is potential to combine with Pariahs, but that's a lot of points sunk into non-Necrons that can't get back up and Necrons that don't shoot. Fail.
Necron Warriors: They're mandatory, too bad. Warriors are expensive bolter marines with no combat ability, whoop dee do. They are slow, have limited offensive capabilities (woo hoo bolters!) and get taken off the board too quickly by anything with a pointed stick charging them. As your only scoring units, you want them protected. 2-3 small units is all you really need. Hold in reserve as needed and secure objectives late game or minimize KP while your army does the real damage.
Wraiths: If only the unit size could be bigger. High S, 3+ invulnerable save, ignoring cover and solid mobility looks nice, but since Wraiths come in small units and don't ignore armor, they stay on the shelf. You can try to tag team with a Destroyer Lord, but the unit size is simply too small and they just don't hit hard enough. Pity, the models look so nice.
Destroyers: Now we're talking. 3 S6 shots, T5 jetbike, WBB, all for a relatively low cost. These guys are your primary death dealers, putting out shots to take out infantry, force saves on MCs, blow apart light armor, and annoy heavy armor. Keep moving, keep blasting.
Scarabs: Cheap little tarpits that zoom across the field, what's not to like? They are great for tying down problem units and protecting your vulnerable shooty elements. Disruption Fields are relatively inexpensive and give them a chance to annoy vehicles.
Heavy Destroyers: Since glancing hits suck, you need these guys. Only a glorified lascannon, but it's on a tough and mobile platform, so side armor shots shouldn't be too hard. I'd consider these mandatory right after normal Destroyers.
Tomb Spyders: Fairly tough MCs with a low cost and solid supporting role. With a couple of these around, you don't have to keep your important units within hugztiem range of each other so a bad turn won't leave you SOL. This lets you split your army up and stay mobile, so you can get around side armor shots and force assaulty armies to split up to go after the different parts of your army. Plus, they can make free wounds! On top of all that, you get a MC that can cause some ruckus in combat, or at least buy enough time to keep your Warriors safe. A great babysitter.
Monolith: The most overrated unit of all time. Ever. Monoliths are a pain to kill, sure, but who bothers to try? Since the Mono isn't a Necron, going for Phase Out gets easier and for all its vaunted resilience, it goes poof like everything else. It doesn't even do that much damage. Flux Arcs? Immortals and Destroyers do it better. Particle Whip? No teleporting for you and it scatters, plus S9 isn't the best vehicle popper out there. Re-rolling WBB is useful, but another unit of Destroyers would be better for raising your Phase Out count. Avoid.
Nightbringer: Super awesome killy death machine...that moves 6" a turn. Pass.
Deceiver: Lots of neat abilities, but 300 points of non-Necrons is worrisome. Only in big games.
As you can see, our choices are quite limited for a competitive army. In casual play, anything works, so go nuts with it. When building your list, keep this equation in mind. Destroyers = Heavy Destroyers > Immortals. Destroyers of both types are equally essential in your army, as your primary firepower units and vehicle destroyers. Immortals add some good mobile anti-infantry dakka, but with only S5 guns and limited mobility Destroyers win out every time. After that, grab your required Warriors, a Lord, and if points allow Scarabs and Spyders to support your army.
Necrons have to be played very carefully: you need to maximize your firepower while avoiding assault at all costs (except for Scarabs and Spyders, but they go after weak units or tarpit). Your most important units are also your worst and you must keep them safe at all costs. Redundancy is key, otherwise one bad roll will lose a critical unit forever, you must always have at least 1 backup unit so your downed Necrons can attempt to get back up. You do have a metric ton of shooting dice, resilient units, good mobility and some neat tricks.
Shooting: Destroyers and Immortals put out an impressive amount of firepower. They are primarily anti-infantry units, Immortals definitely so, but they can also tag wounds on MCs to force a ton of saves and go after lighter vehicles. Heavy Destroyers are really your only answer to heavy armor, but S9 can be underwhelming, so try and get side shots if possible. Warriors can blast up close, but that means they will usually get assaulted next turn, so you want to avoid it generally.
Resilience: Destroyers and Immortals can get back up after getting hit by anything short of S10. Since we don't see that very often (or at least in manageable numbers), you can often run them independently of the Rez Orb and be ok. If Demolishers come knocking, spread out and have your Lord ready to respond if necessary. Once the S10 goes away, these guys can last quite a while.
Mobility: Destroyers and Scarabs move like jetbikes, so they can cover huge chunks of the board quickly and still fire to full effect. Use that speed coupled with their toughness to divide your forces if necessary, getting to vulnerable bits of the enemy and forcing them to respond to an attack from multiple side. It's like having skimmers, only 1 lucky shot doesn't leave you stranded.
Tricks: Have a Spyder build a scarab swarm and join your Destroyer Lord to it. Yay majority T6! Split your units up, keeping the Spyder within 12" at all time. If one unit gets wiped out, they come back with their buddies on the other side of the board. Instant teleportation, without relying on a Monolith or bunching up in pie plate formation.
That's what does work, let's take a look at what doesn't.
1) Warrior Horde. In theory, if you load up on Warriors your opponent can't kill them all and you can blow them away with sheer rate of fire. In reality, lolno. Warriors are far too easy to bring down with shooting or assault and the only way to get any decent amount of firepower is to get in rapid fire range. Ph34r t3h bolter! Right? Wrong. Marines have special weapons for a reason, bolters alone just don't cut it.
2) Twin Towers or Monospam. Monoliths are a pain to knock out, so 2 or 3 must be even harder. Sure, but that means you have even less Necrons and Phase Out that much quicker. The only way to bring an adequate number of Necrons is to bring tons of Warriors, and we know how awesome that is (pro tip: it isn't). In theory you could shield the Warriors with big walls of fail, but then you have no way to capture objectives and you're playing for a draw. 2-3 S9 pies aren't going to stop an entire army.
3) Wraithwing. 9 Wraiths plus Destroyer Lords. No real firepower and 9 T4 models without power weapons make up your assault force.
4) C'tan and Pariahs min-Warriors jamboree. Just kidding.
Necrons can do well, but you have a rather limited set of tools to work with and very specific applications for them. With some skill and a little luck you can still pull out that win. Player skill will generally trump list strength like always, but it never hurts to have a good list to go with your l33t skillz. Keep on trucking, I'm sure you'll get a Codex by 2012 :P
I'd like to thank bigred for giving me the idea to do this and of course most of the credit goes to Stelek for inspiring most of this tactica (the parts I didn't totally jack from his site of course ;)).
Check out some great Necron battle reports here: