Holding: No, models embarked on a destroyed Necron Night Scythe are placed into reserve without suffering any further ill effects.
Justicar GiantKiller delivers the opinion of the court.
This issue arises from the unique special rules of the Necron Night Scythe transport, which tell us that a destroyed Night Scythe’s passengers do not disembark as normal, but are placed in reserve instead. See Codex: Necrons p. 51 The question arises, then, as to whether or not models embarked on a Night Scythe (which can only zoom due to being Supersonic) suffer S10 armor-ignoring hits as indicated in the Crash and Burn Rule (BGB p. 81) when the Night Scythe is wrecked or explodes. We’ve received quite a few emails on this subject since 6th edition was released. We’ve read a number of arguments on both sides of the issue and have been arguing it amongst ourselves for some time now. We were hoping this issue would be addressed in the 6th Edition Necron FAQ, but it wasn’t, so we’ve set about constructing our opinion.
As always, we begin our analysis with a thorough reading of the relevant rules.
The Night Scythe’s rule tells us:
“If the Night Scythe is destroyed, the embarked unit is not allowed to disembark, but instead enters reserve (when they arrive, they cannot Deep Strike)” Codex: Necrons p. 51
In 6th Edition, the Night Scythe is both a flyer and a transport, and it cannot hover, so we look to the Crash and Burn rule for flyers to find out what happens to passengers when a flying transport is destroyed while zooming:
“If a Zooming Flyer is Wrecked or Explodes, its flaming debris rains down on the battlefield. Centre the large blast marker over the Flyer – it then scatters 2D6″. Any model under the blast marker’s final position suffers a Strength 6, AP – hit. The Flyer is then taken off the board. If the Flyer is also a Transport, any models within suffer a Strength 10 hit with no armour saves allowed. Survivors are placed anywhere within 3″ of the blast marker’s final position and in unit coherency. Any models that cannot be placed are removed as casualties.” 6th Edition BGB p. 81
So to use some complex legal jargon, it’s ouch time for the passengers of a crashing zooming flyer. Breaking this down into an order of operations, the Crash and Burn rule instructs us to:
1. Scatter the blast and resolve hits against models it touches.
2. Remove the Flyer.
3. Resolve what we’ll call ‘Crash and Burn Hits’ against embarked models.
4. Place survivors.
5. Remove as casualties any models that can’t be placed.
We note that the rule does not use the terms “Destroyed” or “Disembark”. Some have argued that since the Crash and Burn rule never uses these terms, as referenced in the Night Scythe’s rule, that the Night Scythe’s rule no longer applies in 6th edition. We find this argument unpersuasive as it is in clear violation of the Superfluous Language Canon and the Use Context Canon. Not only would such an interpretation render the language of the Night Scythe’s rule ineffectual, but it would completely ignore the appropriate context. Interpreting the Night Scythe’s rule in light of 6th edition and the Crash and Burn rule in particular, it is clear that it is describing rules for passengers getting out of a broken flyer. This is precisely the situation contemplated by the Crash and Burn rule. We would have a hard time arguing with a straight face that a wrecked or exploded Night Scythe wasn’t destroyed, and that its passengers aren’t attempting to disembark.
Some have argued that pursuant to the Necrons’ fluff, the models embarked on a Night Scythe are not actually “on” the Night Scythe, but are instead lying in wait somewhere else to be transported into the battle via Invasion Beams. They would therefore be immune to the effects of being aboard a crashing flyer because they weren’t on board when it crashed. We find this argument entirely unpersuasive as fluff has no bearing whatsoever on the interpretation of the rules as written. We note that other rules also refer to Necron passengers on a Necron Night Scythe as embarked models, just like they would for any other race’s passengers. (See “invasion beams” Necron FAQ, 6th Edition, v1.1 p.2). Transported Necrons are indeed embarked models and they therefore follow the rules for embarked models, regardless of their fluff. Simply put, fluff isn’t rules.
Our reading of the rules thus far suggests that the Night Scythe’s rule does apply in the situation where a Night Scythe is wrecked or exploded, and that it conflicts with the Crash and Burn rule. Crash and burn tells us to resolve hits, place the surviving models on the board, then remove any that can’t be placed as casualties. The Night Scythe’s rule, on the other hand, forbids us from placing the models on the board, instructing us to place the entire unit into reserve instead.
Since these two rules are certainly in conflict, we turn to the “Basic versus Advanced” rule for guidance on how to resolve the conflict:
“On rare occasions, a conflict will arise between a rule in this rulebook, and one printed in a codex. Where this occurs, the rule printed in the codex always takes precedence.” 6th Edition BGB p. 7
This is GW’s way of articulating the Specific > General canon, which has been a mainstay of 40k rules interpretation since, well, forever. So where these rules conflict, the Night Scythe’s rule wins out.
But where do they conflict? It is important to note that the more specific rule overrides only the portion of the general rule it contradicts. We may take out only as much as is necessary to resolve the conflict. It has been argued, therefore, that the Night Scythe rule only overrides #4 from our order of operations above – the “place survivors” portion. By that interpretation, the unit would still suffer the ‘Crash and Burn hits’ at step #3, then be placed into reserve on step #4 pursuant to the Night Scythe rule.
However, such a narrow interpretation would create further conflict with #5 from our order of operations – remove models which cannot be placed. The last sentence of the Crash and Burn rule tells us “Any models that cannot be placed are removed as casualties.” If the unit is placed into reserve, none of the models, even the surviving ones, can be placed according to the Night Scythe’s rule. Therefore, the entire unit would be destroyed every time. That’s clearly not the drafters’ intent, and it would render the Night Scythe rule pointless, so we’d have to ignore that last sentence of Crash and Burn, too. But we ultimately find even that interpretation to be too narrow in light of the language of the rule itself, and in light of context.
The language of the Night Scythe’s rule provides us with some guidance as to where to start ‘cutting’ language. The language of that rule “if the Night Scythe is destroyed” tells us it is triggered upon the destruction of the Night Scythe itself. We concede that the Crash and Burn rule does not use the word “destroyed”, but as we’ve suggested before, it is clear to us that once the Night Scythe is removed from play, it’s destroyed. That removal from play occurs at step #2 in our order of operations above – remove the flyer. This strongly suggests that it is immediately after #2 where the Night Scythe’s own special rule ‘takes over’ and dictates the rest of the order of operations, which would mean the unit is simply placed into reserve without suffering any further ill effects. But simple use of context provides a stronger argument still.
Again analyzing the language of the rules in light of context as mandated by the Use Context Canon, there is a compelling argument to be made that the Night Scythe’s go into reserves rule replaces the entirety of what we’ll call the ‘getting out process‘ for Necron models embarked on a destroyed Night Scythe. This getting out process is the sequence of rules we follow to decide what happens to a unit inside a newly destroyed transport. While the specifics of each getting out process depend on the type of transport and the manner of its destruction, there are key similarities throughout. Reading the Crash and Burn rule in light of the context provided by the “Effect of damage on passengers” rules on BGB p. 80 (the most similar rules to Crash and Burn), we conclude that resolving hits against embarked models is simply a part of the getting out process when a transport vehicle is well and truly destroyed. The getting out process includes resolving hits against embarked models, placing the models, and removing the models which cannot be placed. The Night Scythe’s rule therefore overrides all of those portions of the Crash and Burn rule. We find this argument the most persuasive.
With that portion of the Crash and Burn rule thus overridden by the Night Scythe’s rule, our inquiry is resolved. Models embarked aboard a Zooming Night Scythe which is destroyed do not suffer ‘Crash and Burn hits’, are not placed on the board, and are not removed if they cannot be placed. The unit is simply placed into reserve.
So holds the court.
Disclaimer – the picture of yummy, yummy night scythes used above is not our work and no challenge to the creator’s IP rights is intended.