Put the wraiths back in 5th edition where they belong.

As a Necron player obviously I have wraiths, probably more than I should have to be perfectly honest but I rarely use them on the field. Clearly wraiths are good and a formidable force on the table top but I still can't wrap my head around why so many other Necron players use these as a go to, and in some cases almost mandatory, choice when selecting an army. This has never been more apparent than earlier this week when the highly anticipated tournament Caledonian Revolution published their list submissions and I was shocked to find that out of the 11 Necron players attending 9 of them have wraiths in their list, typically as part of the canoptek harvest formation. So, why do people use them and are they any good?

To do any sort of meaningful comparison I took a look into all of the assault based units within the codex and mathammered the whole thing out as equally as possible and even though what I suspected turned out to be true I surprised myself with some of the numbers coming out.

Disclaimer: In order to keep this as fair a comparison as possible I took a full unit of 6 Wraiths with whip coils (why wouldn't you take them?) and then spent an equal amount of points on all of the other units in the book that had any sort of business actually assaulting. All of the figures represented are based on the Necron unit charging and (where possible) are part of the Decurion detachment since this is what seems to be the more prevalent flavour of Necrons appearing on the tournament scene at the moment. I was going to compare the whole of the formations for both the Canoptek Harvest and the Judicator Battalion but quickly realised that both are highly dependant on a single model (either the Tomb Spyder or the Stalker) but since one buffs survivability and the other buffs killing power this didn't seem like a fair comparison. All of these can be buffed in some way by adding a royal court for all manner of re-rolls but since a royal court can be equally added to anything the benefits would be universal across all of the units. Since the points costs we are comparing comes out at 250-260 some liberties have been taken in the case of scarabs as it would be a single unit of 13 which is normally only allowed up to 9. Since this would typically be taken as part of a harvest I have assumed that various spyders were squirting out the little buggers into the scarab unit so it now adds up to the same amount of points. It also makes things simpler.

So on, with the figures.

So what is all this crap?
Essentially the above shows the unit, how many models are in it and how stuff they kill after assaulting a unit of marines. Looking at the first coloured column we can see that, on average 6 Wraiths charging marines will kill 4.5 ish marines which is slightly better than Void Blade wielding Praetorians, scarabs and the good old basic warriors. It also shows however that Lychguard, flayed ones and Praetorians with a Rod of Covenant kill more than double that. In particular because they all have ap2 or ap3 weapons as opposed to relying on rends which seems pretty straight forward with the clear winners being both Lychguard with warscythes or (surprisingly for some) mass flayed ones which will pretty much wipe out a 10 man squad.

Next in line would be to assume that the Necrons shot the target before charging. Since most of these units don't actually have any guns this doesn't change much but a slight jump goes to the Rod of Covenant Praetorians since they have Strength 5, ap2 in both shooting and assault. The biggest shock here comes from the warriors since they gain Relentless from the Decurion detachment it does mean they double their damage output.

The 3rd coloured column is against the good old fashioned Terminators with storm shields. This does show a vast difference simply by the fact that they have a 3+ invulnerable save against all the ap2 and rends but again, we see Warscythes, flayed ones and rod of covenant taking the top spots and wraiths are left bringing up the back end. It actually works out that mass flayed ones do some serious damage simply by virtue of making them take a ton of saves.

Finally, we have the Wraithknight. In most cases this can be exchanged for any type of monstrous creature but since they are by far one of the toughest things to shift with their toughness 8, 3+ save and feel no pain I figured it would be interesting either way. Obviously the flayed ones and warriors struggle since they can't hurt it at all but the warriors firing at it first can take a wound off. Not much difference with any of the others except again, warscythes and rod of covenant putting more of the hurt and the wraiths sliding the scale.

So, why ARE wraiths so popular? Looking at simple damage output they offer they simply don't cut it so something else must be behind it.


So with the wraith flight and the fact that they are beast they can move 12" and pretty much ignore terrain, don't take the -2 charge range etc. Of course, the same could be said for Praetorians with them being jump infantry and if taken as part of the Judicator formation they will gain move through cover as part of the decurion. The lychguard and flayed ones can struggle to get into charge range of something since they only move 6" but with the ability to either take a nightscythe or infiltrate a lot of this can be mitigated.


Praetorians are also fearless

Cost Effective?

While I'm not denying that the Canoptek harvest is a formidable force on the table and giving the wraiths and scarabs reanimation is great in adding to their survivability all of the others come with reanimation by default and so don't have to pay a "Tax" on being able to get it. Speaking of the tax, adding a spyder and some scarabs comes in at about the same cost as the Stalker tax for the Judicators and the praetorians get to re-roll to hit, wound and armour penetration rolls against a single target instead increasing their damage output significantly. The only real difference would be that you would need to add a couple more praetorians to make 2 squads of 5 instead but that is using the minimal 3 scarab unit which would probably be bolstered anyway. When comparing these 2 formations even adding up the damage from the scarabs and the wraiths it still doesn't come close to the praetorians ability to kill shit.

Board Control?

This one is hard to quantify as the biggest benefit you get to board control is when running the harvest formation with additional spyders, usually from a CAD, spawning scarabs all over the place. 

Strike First In Combat?

With the whip coils making the wraiths initiative 5 they will, generally speaking get to strike first. With the praetorians and lychguard you may lose some before they get to strike and therefore reduce your damage output. I also ran the numbers for these against a few examples such as a 10 man assault squad and realistically with a 3+ armour save and 4+ reanimation you reduce the incoming attacks by 2-3 but this still does a lot more damage than the wraiths.


This seems to be where the numbers get skewed slightly. Just how survivable are they?

For the top part this is simply how many bolter shots (or any other Strength 4 shooting for that matter) it will take to wipe out the unit. This is assuming everything shooting at them has BS4 and the crons having a 4+ reanimation due to the decurion detachment. The scarabs end up worse off against bolters as they don't get any saves. and Wraiths do pretty well simply because of their wound pool and better saves than the warriors and flayed ones. To be fair though, if you are trying to compare if your opponent has 250 bolter shots or 300 its probably not relevant....

The interesting one is based on anything that is ap 2-3 and typically strength 7, 8 or 9. This obviously covers the plasma, melta, las cannons, thunder hammers, power fists and other stuffs. Clearly the wraiths are a lot more durable here since everything else, with the exception of shields on the lychguard, are rolling straight up reanimation on a 4 or 5+. That being said, what type of meta do you play in that your opponent can afford to fire 33 tank buster rounds into a 260 point unit and while they are doing this what is the rest of your decurion doing? I found the flayed ones and warriors more interesting in that they simply refuse to die. Of course, this is assuming that everything runs straight up the table and doesn't take any sort of cover save which will pretty much double the shots needed against everything except the wraiths and shield lychguard since their invulnerable save is better.

While the wraiths are clearly more survivable, realistically how survivable do you need them to be and is the reduction in damage output worth it? One thing that is undeniable is their ability to tie up units and slowly grind them down but all of the other units can do this just as well and have the added bonus of killing it off quicker as well.

Overall I'm struggling to find the benefits of Wraiths but if you have some other points I'm open to debate on the subject.


  1. Good article and I think you cover all the comparisons between the units, however I think you underplay the speed and the survivability of the wraiths which I think is what does it for me. Not having to buy a transport (which you can't even assault out of) makes a turn 2 charge for wraiths likely, while realistically it's a turn 3 or later charge for other other units. Having beasts also make charges much more reliable, not only do they ignore the -2 terrain penalty, but they also get to reroll (either or both of) the charge distance dice.

    Being good in combat is useless if you can't get there (are slow), or get shot to bits on the way in. On both these counts wraiths win hands down.


  2. All valid points Rathstar, while the survivability isn't in question there are also other options for mitigating the detriments of charging. To use your two examples above with the Preatorians you could take them as part of a decurion giving them move through cover which also negates the -2 terrain penalty and with the being jump infantry if they only move 6" in the movement phase they can also re-roll charge ranges (and gain hammer of wraith to boot).

    I think a lot of it also depends on your opponents. In my local meta I tend to see either super aggressive armies that will rush towards your line giving you the chance for a turn 2 charge or highly defensive gun line type armies which, when played well, usually ends up with a turn 3 charge anyway due to them castling up as far away as possible.

    I have to admit though I am warming up to using them myself and finding out all the little nuances that go with running lots of wraiths.

  3. Praetorians with void blades also have a pistol which grants them +1 attack on their profile.

  4. Thanks for spotting it Marios, The numbers have been updated with the extra attack.

  5. Can you ad a line and calculate the result for a squad of TB in your damage table ? i have an intuition that they should be a bit above Void Praetorian in terms of damage output.


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