Infinity: Onyx Impressions After a Year
With much fanfare, Human Sphere N3 arrived, and brought with it a new Sectorial to the Combined Army. The Onyx Contact Force represents a strike force of the best-of-the-best that the Evolved Intelligence can muster. They lose many of the tools that vanilla Combined has available (like any other sectorial), but in exchange can take some very devastating links.
Since they came out, I've been playing Onyx almost exclusively, so that I could really understand the in's and out's of this unique Sectorial. Unlike the other sectorials, it has a mix of different themed units, combining Morats, Shasvastii, Umbra, and the full compliment of remotes. This sectorial loses all access to smoke, regular camo, warbands, very restricted MSV access, and doesn't have great lieutenant options.
When I initially started playing the sectorial, I was often left wishing I was playing Vanilla, especially missing my warbands and smoke for board control. As I gained more experience with the sectorial, I started to discover their real strengths. Rodok links are terrifying, and when combined with the support units that Morats don't get (like Umbra Hackers or Noctifers), they can become a very powerful hammer, I'll talk in more detail about them later. Overall though, the army is a sack of hammers, containing some of the hardest hitting units in the faction, but lacking their more resilient choices, or defensive tricks. Between the Rodoks and Xeodrons, the sectorial has a lot of Super Jump. With a bit of practice, Super Jump becomes insanely good; slicing the pie on two axis makes it very difficult for the opponent to hide, and very easy to single out enemies. It's to the point really that I feel like I need to practice some more games without Rodoks or Xeodrons so that I can play my other armies well.
It is very tempting when making Onyx lists to only have 11-12 orders, which is understandable since it's mostly made up of some of the most expensive units in the Combined. I always make sure to include two Ikadrons, an R-drone, and 1-2 Imetrons, this gives you a solid core of 5 orders for 34 points, plus a ton of repeater coverage. This repeater coverage can be a double edged sword though, thanks to enemy Killer Hackers, so be careful. Specialists in the army are mostly on the expensive side, they have a single Doctor, Engineer, and source of D-Charges, all of which happen to be on the same model! Additionally, they have a single paramedic (Rodoks), and two forward observers (Unidrons and Malignos), though they do have a fair amount of hackers, including the Umbra with coveted HD+. Their Lieutenants all cost SWC, with the exception of the Nexus Special Operative, meaning a well informed player can often divine who the boss is. Since the Lieutenant Options in Onyx are fairly obvious, you need to spend a bit of extra work keeping them out of harm, though having units like Rodoks on the field makes Loss of Lieutenant less catastrophic.
Overall, the strengths to build towards are hitting hard and fast, pressing the offense and putting your opponent off-balance with the initial assault. The army isn't built for defense, so if you're spending a lot of your points on ARO units, you may find your army a bit pillow fisted.
Units of Note
I don't want to go into every unit in the Sectorial. Units like the Fraacta, or Umbra Legate Hacker, are already well respected and understood, instead I'm going to pick out a couple of my unexpected favorites, and my thoughts on their Core fire teams.
Like I was talking about above, Rodoks are a staple of the Onyx army. They're immensely hard hitting, able to carry HMG's and Missile Launchers, additionally they're fully loaded with shotguns and mines on nearly every profile. At range, doing a super jump to slice the pie, singling out enemies then hitting them with a BS15 B5 HMG, or B2 Missile is just deadly. It's rare that I run an army without a Rodok link, they're devastating at long range, but also up close they can potentially dish out a B4 BS21 light shotgun volley. If you have spare SWC (not likely), you can hide your Lieutenant as a Combi + 2 Light Shotgun Rodok, which will keep your enemy guessing.
When the Onyx first came out, there was a lot of hubbub about Unidron links. Having 5-man links of dogged remotes, with a hacker, sounded so amazing on paper, but in practice, they're very restrictive. The link can be joined either by a Nexus or Umbra, giving them a bit of flexibility. I don't think that the Umbra gains much however from being part of the link, they're much slower and don't necessarily compliment his skills. A Nexus on the other-hand gives you an inexpensive specialist, hacker, or spitfire with nanoscreen. If you do have a hacker as part of the link, any time it does a skill that the Unidrons do not have, they'll stand still and Idle. That doesn't sound so awful, except that Undirons cannot go prone, so will be standing up and generating AROs... So basically, do not add a hacker to the link, or an Umbra, really the only options are the Nexus special operative, or the Nexus with Spitfire, if you add any non-Unidrons.
Now, they're not all bad, having a B3 BS14 Plasma Sniper that ignores cover thanks to Assisted Fire (effectively BS17), is nothing to be ashamed of. You do pay a premium though, a full defensive link of 5 models, pushing 90 points with two bigger guns and the practically requisite K1 + TinBot A. It is an expensive defensive link, and for an offensive link (with spitfire and sniper) can end up triggering a lot of AROs. At the end of the day though, I find that Onyx works best when they're pressing the offense, which is much tricker with a 5-man link where nobody can go prone to avoid LOS.
The unofficial Warband of the army, Ikadrons fill a lot of roles that I didn't expect at first. They're the only source of fast, direct template weapons. Additionally, they give you better Repeater coverage, and are one of your few sources of inexpensive orders. Never leave home without two. Using them on the flanks of your army can also help with enemy warbands, which are really the bane of Onyx. Since Onyx only have one unit with MSV2, and often can't afford to leave models exposed for ARO duty, being able to stop warbands is very important.
Since most Onyx lists will/should have two Ikadrons and probably an R-drone, you're going to end up with very solid repeater coverage, and the E-Drone is an amazing tool to take advantage of this. Goodnight will help prevent enemies from bringing back pesky total reaction bots, while Exile breaking enemy links can really ruin their order efficacy. They can be resilient to enemy hacking with Breakwater and Kaleidoscope, plus have the whole compliment of supportware to enhance your own remotes.
So now that I'm a year in, after Adepticon, I'm going to try going back to Vanilla Combined, and see how badly I miss link teams. It should be interesting, since I've been playing nothing but Sectorials this whole time, I hope I remember how to cope without link bonuses. Overall, I do like Onyx, they hit hard and fast, which matches my play style very well, I don't tend to play defense well and prefer overwhelming my opponent. The Sectorial itself feels fairly one-dimensional, not a surprise, so I'm excited to get smoke, camo, infiltrators, and other tools back that I've been without, or heavy restricted on.