December 20, 2011

Strategy: Necron Warrior Blob

Lantz here. Some of you may be asking, what happened to all the hobby talk on TLA? That's a fair question. With the AdMech set to the side for now (a project that's half hobby and half fandex creation,) hobby-related posts have dwindled. For those of you that come to my humble abode for such posts I apologize that you're not seeing what you want as of late, but I assure you there are a few conversions coming along that I'll be posting about in the near future. Until then, the Necrons are my muse as of late and learning how they work and what models I want to purchase is my current focus. Every week for a month or so now I've been posting battle reports with the Necrons, but this time around I wanted to take a week off and have an enjoyable game. Fear not, rules-readers, I'm not going to leave you hanging. This week I want to discuss an up-and-coming Necron setup that seems to be raising a ruckus in and outside of my gaming group: The Warrior Blob.

I first read about the Overlord with a Rez Orb and 20 Warriors combo...somewhere. My memory isn't what it has ever been. So whoever deserves credit for that, thanks much. Anyway, if you know about my Necrons you know I have 33 Warriors on-hand. How this happened, I have no idea. But with that many Warriors I wanted some way of making use of that many robotic feet. In the beginning of the new codex's existence I thought, 'Hey, bring six groups of 5. Perfect!' But as we all seem to have learned quickly is a unit or two of 5 Warriors is fantastic for tagging points. Six units of 5 Warriors? A complete waste. So after discovering the combo of Overlord/Warrior Blob I tried it out and it performed fantastically.
In this game (link above) I discuss this unit's use; a near-unstoppable wound-soak. As a recap, here's what shot at the 20 Warriors and their Lord:

Once by a Command Squad.
Once by a Terminator Squad.
Twice by a Chimera.
Twice by a Psyker and Grenadiers.
Three times by a Leman Russ Punisher.
Three times by a Drop Pod.
In assault with a Psyker and IG Troop for one round.

At the end of the game, how many of the 20 Warriors did I have left? A whopping 12 and the Overlord still standing. Powerful? You bet your bet your dog a bone it's powerful, but as any American I wanted more. So Sunday night I ran with the same setup, only this time I had a genius plan, something no one had ever thought of!.. Until Mr. Lemon informed me a lot of people had already thought of it; have my Warriors hang around with a Ghost Ark. Over the course of the game I managed to regenerate 6 Warriors thanks to this fun little trick, and thank goodness I did because a couple of issues came my way during the game:

Issue #1: My Friends Learn
My friends having put a tremendous amount of shots into the unit last time didn't have much to show for it. This time? Poor twice as many shots into it. Had I not had the Ghost Ark, this would have worked for them, I believe. Starting with 20 Warriors I ended with 9 this time. Remember; 6 of those were regenerated by the Ghost Ark and some of the assaults I pulled off were done so by a small margin. So is the Ghost Ark the linchpin of this unit? We'll get into that in a bit.

The other issue, though, was something we all see here and there:

Issue #2: Bad Dice Rolling
This was my lot early on in the game. If you can't tell from the glare, for armour saves in one round of IG lighting me up with a single unit I rolled nine 1's, two 2's, two 3's and one 6. That's right; with a 50/50 shot at armour saves on 14 wounds I saved 1. This happens, though. To every single person to every single unit somewhere. The question is, can a unit survive this kind of bad luck? Can a unit lose 13 models to a single unit's shooting and continue with the exact same game plan as before? I can't think of many that can; that's the Warrior Bubble's power.

I'm sure you're convinced, but let's break it down using the easiest mathhammer example out there: a Tac Squad with Bolters and I'll be rounding up/down in the Space Marine's favor for all numbers:
*10 SMs fire 20 Bolter shots (RF) into 20 Warriors = 14 Hits
*14 hits with S4 on T4 = 7 Wounds
*7 armour saves to be made with 4+ Armour = 4 Models Killed
*4 Reanimation Protocol tests = 2 Dead Warriors
*One Ghost Ark test = 83% chance of success
*Roll for how many Warriors added to the unit = A mean of 2

As you can see, on slightly above average rolling for the Space Marines and slightly below average rolling for the Necrons; no Necrons die. None. This is the cleanest of scenarios however; you start bringing in something other than bland old Bolters or use some weird tools, things can change drastically in both directions. Which leads me to my next subject:

How To Beat The Warrior Blob
Before we get into what I think the Warrior Blob's keys to failure are, let's identify what doesn't work through my experience:

1) AP5, 6 and -
These just flat out don't matter to Necrons. Barring some bad rolls, you're giving them another 50/50 shot at saving themselves ontop of RP, your rolls to hit and to wound. From the math above you would need a tremendous amount of Bolters to do any real damage to the unit.

2) Instant Death
With WBB being changed to RP, Necrons with a single wound just don't care about Instant Death in any fashion.

3) Mid-Range Shooting
There are some exceptions to this rule, but mid-range shooting is where Necrons like to have their opponents. Typically if your army has some good mid-range shooting, Necrons can do it better and are more than willing to receive your firepower around 12-24" for their chance at the same thing next turn.

So what does the Warrior Blob actually fear? What's on the list of scary stuff that has the Warriors shaking in their metallic boots?
Besides The Shocker

1) High Strength
Whether it's melee or shooting, reducing the percentages I posted above in the Necron's enemy's favor is key. Strength 6 and above en masse is what you'll be looking for and to an extent Strength 5.

2) AP4, 3, 2 and 1
Make no mistake, AP 1-4 is all the same to Necrons. Whether it's AP1 or 4, it simply doesn't matter to a Necron. With the changes to Reanimation Protocols Necrons couldn't care less if it's a Meltagun or a Missile Launcher; it's all the same to them. The key is eliminating their chance at an armour save from the math I talked about earlier. If you can spam even AP4; do it.

3) Close Combat
3rd Edition Necron's main downfall was close combat; even Tau could take them out if the rolls were reasonable. With the new codex this has changed, but not by much. While Necrons have some great tools to keep out of melee and even survive it for a turn, they still aren't very capable of sustaining close combat for very long.

So there we have the Warrior Blob's weaknesses. At this point I've probably angered my Necron brethren since I'm helping out the enemy:
Anyone Who Gets This Needlessly Complex Analogy Gets One Free Hug

So let's talk upgrades, my fellow Necron-lovers. The standard setup is an Overlord with a Rez Orb, 20 Warriors and a Ghost Ark which is plenty powerful as we've discussed, but what can we do to cheese this out even more?

1) Overlord Upgrade (Phaeron)
This simple upgrade turns the Warrior Blob from "wound-soak" to "powerhouse". Every turn you're shooting up to 24" at vehicles (with 20 shots you'll be stunning something) and infantry alike. This also gives you the option of assaulting enemies. While close combat isn't a Necron's best friend, if you're close enough to assault something you're close enough to Rapid Fire it beforehand and 40 "bolter" shots should whittle most infantry down enough to where you can safely enter close combat. And remember, the safety of close combat can provide your blob protection from blast weaponry.

2) Overlord Upgrade (Phase Shifter)
And speaking of melee, this upgrade is almost a must. An important part of the Warrior Blob's power is your Overlord's Rez Orb, which means in melee the enemy is going to focus on the guy holding it. A 3++ save with a Toughness of 5 can ensure some level of safety for him.

3) Overlord Upgrade (Warscythe and Mindshackle Scarabs)
Continuing on the thought of melee, it's important that this unit doesn't get tied up for too long in said melee. This is where the Warscythe and Mindshackle upgrades come in. The Warscythe makes it so a Walker doesn't ruin your day by tying you up for 4 turns and comes in handy killing off those powerhouse infantry models. The Mindshackle Scarabs, if used correctly, can make sure your enemy's lone power weapon or other powerful melee tool is eliminated; hopefully pushing total wounds in your favor so you don't have a chance at getting swept.

4) Standard Lord
This is a fantastic alternative if you prefer your Overlord zipping around in a CCB. A Lord is 55pts cheaper than an Overlord, still gets access to the Warscythe, Rez Orb and Mindshackle and since he's not an Independent Character so he can't be targeted in close combat (meaning you won't need to pay for a Phase Shifter,) essentially saving you 90pts to put towards that CCB or something else. The major downside to this is a Lord can't be a Phaeron, so you can kiss that Relentless USR goodbye.

5) Cryptek (Despair (Abyssal Staff Spam))
A tool that can be used is bringing 4-5 Crypteks with Abyssal Staffs in your Ghost Ark. If you come up against a melee unit that doesn't get hurt by your 40 Gauss shots before you assault them, your Ghost Ark will always be close by and can swoop in with 4-5 S8 (vs Ld) AP1 Template weapons.

A fun moment in my last game was when my Warrior Blob assaulted a Tac Squad, Mindshackled the Sergeant and when taking wounds my opponent chose to put wounds on his Sergeant since he was rendered a liability for melee by the Mindshackle. After the SMs lost combat and broke away, the Tac Squad only had Ld 8 because they lost their Sergeant. Suddenly my S8 AP1 Templates are wounding on 4's instead of 5's. This isn't something that will come up often, but it's a fun trick when it happens by your opponent's strategy or their bad luck.

6) Cryptek (Despair (Veil Of Darkness))
While I haven't tested this, it seems fun on paper. Those annoying snipers or Space Wolves with their Missile Launchers in the backfield are going to get a wake-up call when 20 Warriors pop up within Rapid Fire range on Turn 1. Getting into the enemy's ranks on Turn 1 isn't something most units can handle, but if any unit can survive a turn of an army shooting at it, this one can. The downside to this is mishap. 21+ models in a unit is going to need some room to Deep Strike which will create problems in larger games or tables with a plethora of terrain.

7) Cryptek (Destruction)
Both the Gaze of Flame and Solar Pulse abilities are cheap and effective for the Warrior Blob for obvious reasons, so I'm not going to go into detail about these.

8) Cryptek (Storm)
Lightning Field is obvious as well, so I won't delve into that. Ether Crystal, may seem like an amazing chance to spread out as much as possible and deter enemies from Deep Striking in, but read the rule carefully; it's within 6" of the Cryptek, not his unit. There is some use, though. Keep this Cryptek as close to your Ghost Ark as possible to give it some safety from Deep Striking melta as half the time that's what Deep Striking is used for.

9) Cryptek (Transmogrification)
Tremorstave can keep that melee unit outside of assault range for a turn, maybe two; this is important so you can keep pounding away with that Gauss. Seismic Crucible on top of that? This is a nasty combo. Denying a unit their assault on you means you get another turn of Rapid Fire shooting at them and then the option of assaulting them back next turn. This is by far the best option out of the Crypteks for joining this unit. The Warrior Blob is huge; it's not hard for something to get close if your unit is taking up 1/6th of the board if they want; a Transmogrification Cryptek can keep this from happening and make it so close combat happens when you want it to.

10) More Ghost Arks
This isn't something for every list as it's very expensive. Two or three Ghost Arks means you're potentially putting up to 6-9 Warriors back in your unit each turn. The problem is even two Ghost Arks may not be worth it as you can't go over your Warrior's starting size rendering Ghost Arks useless if your enemy isn't taking out that many Warriors each turn. I'd say stick with one, see how it goes and move on to two if you feel you need it and can spare the extra 115pts (yikes.) I'm not saying you shouldn't have two or more Ghost Arks in your list, I'm talking about having two or more Ghost Arks for the sole purpose of regenerating your Warrior Blob. Regardless, if you're putting so many of your eggs into one basket with a Warrior Blob, make sure you have at least one Ghost Ark as it's pivotal to the Warrior Blob's success should your opponents focus fire it...and they will.

Not An Upgrade I'd Recommend

Overall I see the Overlord upgrades and the Transmogrification Cryptek as necessities. Without these tools you really can't press forward as you please with this unit. In my last game (Spearhead deployment) I started out in my corner of the board and ended the game in my enemy's corner capturing their point (Seize Ground game type.) At no point during this game did I have to move backwards or change up my goal of reaching my enemy's point. I mostly have Phaeron and Overlord upgrades to thank for this, as the Cryptek didn't have much use in that game, but he's cheap as dirt and there to keep you safe just in case.

The Warrior Blob concept is powerful; very powerful. It doesn't have very many contenders in wound-soak, versatility and firepower. It's capable of receiving a lashing from both melee and shooting as well as being well equipped for stopping infantry, walkers and vehicles alike. Though in the games I've played this unit seems unstoppable, there's no such thing in 40k. Everything has a way of being killed off, the answers just aren't always obvious. Coming in at a pricey 585pts the way I prefer to run them, it's a hammer unit, and thus, must be used correctly for it to see any real potential. If used without the appropriate tactical strategies you'll see a massive chunk of your army fold like a soggy hotdog bun.

That's about it for now. Hopefully I've given both the enemies and players of Necrons something to think about next time this unit is on the table. I should have some conversions posted soon along with some more Necron talk, of course.

Later days.


  1. I thought the Abyssal Staff used the individual models leadership and not the highest leadership in the squad?

    After being on the receiving end of this the three things, I think, that put this over the top are relentless, mind shackle scarabs, and the ability to reanimate your warriors to extend your assault range or trail back to your barge.

  2. Moo hoo ha ha.

    It may interest you to know that the core of my larger Necron lists is a unit of 18 Warriors sporting a Cryptek (flavour to be determined) and my footslogging Phaeron (because I'm too cheap to buy a Barge model while there's still stuff to be repaired/repainted/used). You may hold yourself responsible for this. :)

  3. @Mr. Lemon
    They need an FAQ for that. Sterfry was using it as individual, but I can see just as much of an argument for the group's. I'm more under the impression it's the group's Ld since that speeds things along faster.

    I would agree, those 3 factors really take a powerful unit and push it over the top.

    Then the post was worth it. Have fun dominating the board for a while, sir. The Necrons sincerely deserve some OP for a while.

  4. My impression on the Abyssal Staff is that it wounds against the unit's majority leadership the same way that a normal weapon would wound against the unit's majority toughness. I don't see any reason why it would work differently but an FAQ clarification would definitely be nice.

    I had the same thought on making a blob squad followed by a ghost ark but didn't think of adding the overlord and transmog cryptek. I'm debating whether or not I should share this with my friend who plays Necrons haha.