Let’s Talk Tyranids!

I have been playing my Nids a lot lately, and I am loving them. I guess you could say I’ve really gotten the bug! Da-dum, ching! I just knock em dead, don’t I?!

Hey everyone, it’s time for some WAACY conversations about bugs in competitive play. Yeah, that’s right; we’re going to be talking about ways to win games with the universe’s ultimate recyclers: Tyranids.

My love of bugs goes back to 5th ed. I hated them in 4th ed as they were the Grey Knights of their day (damn dirty Nidzilla!) but in 5th they were a very challenging army, but quite fun. I was doing really well with my triple Trygon, Genestealer horde army and having a ton of fun playing them until Grey Knights came along and kicked my square in my alien dingus.

I stopped playing them for a while, but have picked them back up in 6th and just have had a blast playing them. I prefer infantry armies over mechanized, I like aggressive armies, and I like synergistic armies. Nids have all of that in spades.

So instead of doing a unit by unit breakdown or anything, let’s look at a list in context. We play 1750 out here for the most part, so my list is built to that standard. This is a list I have built to be a TAC list (Take All Comers). I prefer these types of lists as I feel that they are more enjoyable to play, and they leave you less vulnerable to bad match-ups in a tournament setting. In my experience playing extreme lists (like my Bjorn, Missile Wolves in 5th) I found that while yes, you could smash most opponents with sheer firepower, when you faced a list that could mitigate your primary strength, you were the one getting pummeled. I have found that TAC armies are more of a skill army, and while they usually can’t pull off the big wins as easily, they are more consistent.

And as always, when I am writing a competitive list, I ask myself how I will deal with the following issues:

  1. Hordes of Infantry
  2. Heavy Infantry
  3. Light Mech Spam
  4. AV14
  5. Flyers
  6. Deathstars
  7. Scoring a large amount of objectives

So, here’s the list at 1750:


Tervigon: Adrenal, Poison, Catalyst

Termagants x 11

Tervigon: Adrenal, Poison, Catalyst

Termagants x 10

Hive Guard x 3

Hive Guard x 3

Doom in a Spod

Gargoyles x 25: Poison, Adrenal

Trygon: Poison

Biovores x 3

First of all, big boss man himself: Mr. Swarmy the Swarmlord. Kicker of asses, taker of names, and all around my favorite model in the army.

Besides my love for his WWF style of strutting and smashing damn near anything in close quarters (he can and will walk through Deathstars on his own), Swarmy serves a lot of purposes in my list. He is a great force multiplier. The ability to grant Preferred Enemy or Furious Charge onto himself or another friendly unit is extremely useful. Preferred enemy on the Gargoyles for example, can be just brutal combined with their Blinding Venom special rule, and decent shooting and assault makes them really very effective in combat.

Swarmy also has an 18” synapse range, and a mighty 4 psychic powers (he has mastery level 2), meaning that you have a 2/3 chance of pulling what in my mind is the best power for him: Iron Arm. Really, all of the Biomancy powers are awesome, but Iron Arm turns him into a juggernaut. Only massed poison attacks really scare him at that point (damn you Dark Eldar!). Endurance and Warp Speed are almost as good, and Invisibility in Telepathy can be great to. I have experimented with Telekinesis, thinking that Gate of Infinity could really help increase his mobility, but found that Objuration Mechanicum is just devastating for Swarmy. Forcing your opponents to reroll 6’s to hit and wound means that he is going to just walk through most units without taking a scratch, even if they are in cover. As most units hit him on 5’s and wound him on 6’s, it is really a brutal combo. The ability to glance vehicles is nice, too. As we read it, this works on Flyers, too, so it gives you a little bit more punch against those pesky buggers. Telekine Dome is not bad either, to protect him from shooting.

Adding 1 to reserve rolls is very, very useful too, as in my mind, the best Nid lists have threats coming in from all angles. Putting that heavy pressure on the enemy is a key component to winning with bugs, and Swarmy helps to increase the odds of getting your bugs where and when you need them.

As a side note, I can say that the Flyrant with dual Devourers may be the better choice. He is faster, good against flyers, and still very potent in combat. Swarmy suffers from a lack of speed, and has little to nothing to offer against flyers. He is the last word in assault, particularly with the right psychic powers, but he is vulnerable to shooting. The Flyrant gives up some of the offensive punch in assault, but his mobility and flexibility arguably a better choice.

My troops choices are nothing exciting. I previously did not use Tervigons in favor of masses of Poison Steelers, but as the poor Genesteelers have nearly lost all of the flexibility that made them so flipping awesome, and being really susceptible to overwatch, they have slipped onto the shelf for me (and I had 40 of them painted! Doh!).

Tervigons are just the Ants’ Pants now, and they provide a lot of answers to the questions I ask myself when writing a list. Where Swarmy can handle damn near anything in assault, the Tervigons cover multiple roles (which you want to do as much as possible with your units). They reliably score objectives, provide more psychic powers (book powers or Nid powers), can assault well against non-dedicated assault units (particularly with the right Biomany powers) and provide board control, which is hugely useful in 6th ed. Board control is physically controlling the board by taking up space with your units.

This can be incredibly important for protecting your units from assault, providing cover saves to your important units, and for herding flyers. Flyers can’t land on other models, so if you spread out and cover enough of the board, you dictate where they land. If you cover enough of the board, they just die.

With the changes to fearless, Termagants are amazing. So long as one survives in assault, they are pinning an enemy unit in place. That is just incredibly useful. They are scoring, and with the buffs from the Tervigons and Swarmy, can be quite good in assault against the right targets. I often toy with the idea of buffing at least one of the units up to a larger amount as the small squads are obvious targets for First Blood, and not very durable. One unit of say, 20, would really give you a lot more versatility in taking objectives aggressively.

2 units of Hive Guard are another non-surprising choice. They are just incredibly good. Being able to shoot targets you can’t see, ignoring cover (for the most part), durable, and lots of high strength shots equates to an all around fantastic unit. They’re only shortcomings are their short range and slow speed, but that is a small complaint for such an outstanding unit.

I used to always take a unit of Ymgarls, but I have found that they increasingly yield less fantastic results than they did in 5th. I used to swear by them, but in 6th ed with overwatch I have had situations where they get mauled before they can really dig into the enemy. I find myself looking to units that more consistently yield results which is why I now use 2 units of Hive Guard.

The Doom is just a boss dipped in boss sauce, now. He was good previously, but now he is an All Star. The Doom in a Pod doesn’t always work, but when he does, he can win you the game on his own. He is always a great distraction and at his low price point, too good not to take. With the increase in infantry heavy armies, and the reduction in strength 8 spam, the Doom has come into what will most likely be the zenith of his popularity and power.

Gargoyles just rock. They are good in so many ways, it’s crazy. I wish Hormagants did what they did, but alas, they fall a bit short. Gargoyles provide cover, are fast, shoot well, assault well, are a denial unit, provide excellent board control. With poison and furious assault, they can engage almost any target and at the worst, tie them up and slowly chip away at them. The list goes on, these guys in a large unit are a fantastic utility and easily one of the best units in the list. If I had the points, I would bump them up to 30.

I love Trygons. I just love them. I might marry one.

Trygons are fast, hit like a ton of bricks, are tactically flexible, and just look cool. Trygons with poison on the charge will have 7-8 attacks (depending on if they fail their synapse check) with rerolls to hit, typically hitting on 3’s, and rerolls to wound, typically wounding on 2’s. The changes to poison have made the Trygon just ultra reliable in combat. This is the unit that goes into almost any other infantry unit and plows through it like a hot knife through butter. They also excel at smashing armored units into bits, and with their ability to Deep Strike safely (they function much like a Drop Pod in that they do not mishap easily) they can be very flexible. The Prime is an excellent choice also. The upgrade increases the Trygon’s shooting to pretty damn respectable levels and when popping up behind enemy lines, it can quite easily destroy a tank shooting into side and rear arcs. The Prime upgrade also makes the Trygon a Synapse creature and increases your Shadows in the Warp overage to mitigate those pesky psykers.

Lastly, the Biovores. Biovores are awesome. I am firmly of the opinion that every list that can, should take barrage weapons. They are incredibly good this edition, and add so much tactical flexibility that they just can’t be ignored. Barrage sniping is one of the most useful ways to reduce the effectiveness of enemy units, and Biovores fill that role very, very well. Plus, they provide excellent crowd control, and can cut down hordes of enemies in short order.

So far I have had really good success with this list or lists very similar to it. I am always fiddling around with it though, switching unit sizes, trying out different units, etc. But I feel this list has the tools to go head to head with dang near any other list and perform very well. The only truly bad match up it has is Mech Dark Eldar, as they negate so many of the list’s strengths. Their speed, poison weapons and hitting power can be really tough for Nids to overcome. Grey Knights can be rough, but not nearly as bad as last edition. Eldar are still a PITA due to Runes of Warding, but not nearly as bad as last edition as you rarely see Mech Eldar anymore.

Most importantly though, the list is really, really fun to play!


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

12 Responses to “Let’s Talk Tyranids!”

  1. MikhailLenin December 5, 2012 10:20 am #

    With the advent of Double FOC and rulebook powers, Tyranids have become a lot more competitive to play while not necessarily more streamlined. Zoanthrope units are worth taking now just for more book powers in Biomancy and in case one of them gets Ironarm and having being the bullet catcher makes that unit pretty damn rough to remove off the table while buffing or casting enfeeble on your opponent army.

    • Reecius December 5, 2012 11:51 am #

      I agree. Psychic choir lists are really, really powerful. The only reason I don’t use a unit of them is because a lot of strong tournament builds have strong psyker defense. One Farseer with RoW will stop that army dead in its tracks. Hive Guard, on the other hand, may not have the raw damage output but are always good.

      • MikhailLenin December 5, 2012 12:01 pm #

        Think about it this way Reecius, even with RoW having those Zoanthropes taking the risk of getting endurance off over your Tervigons and Swarmlord (especially with It Will not die), its nice little battery to try to push Endurance through.

        • Reecius December 5, 2012 1:23 pm #

          True, but that is also a heavy points investment for something that may not work. I am not at all saying it is a bad idea, just that my experience has taught me that the consistent choice is often the better choice for a tournament list.

          However, if you do not pull any opponents with strong psyker defense, you will be very happy to have those Zoeys!

  2. 6thstreetAlan December 5, 2012 2:50 pm #

    Just look the Eldar Player in the eyes when you take the test….. It works every time for me……

    • Reecius December 5, 2012 7:08 pm #

      Hahahaha, I will have to remember that!

  3. 6thstreetAlan December 5, 2012 2:54 pm #


    You don’t find Tyrant Guard needed for the Swarm Monster? Are you concerned when loosing first turn against lets say IG?

    I mean he can really take a hitting without T-guard and IDK I would be concerned going second against a heavy firepower army.

    • Reecius December 5, 2012 7:09 pm #

      In those instances I hide him. 65points is a hefty investment for 2 more wounds, although if he does get Iron Arm, his little doggy benefits from that as well.

  4. jy2 December 5, 2012 4:55 pm #

    I’ve been running dual-flyrants lately and I must say that I really like the pair of them together. I think with Swarmy you really do need 1 last whip tyrant guard with him. Otherwise, he won’t survive focus-fire from the more shooty armies, even if you get Iron Arm and Endurance off on him. The problem is that normally on his trek towards the opponent, he would have to cross an open-field (or there is some firing angle at him without cover).

    I’ve tried zoey’s and while they are good, you can’t rely on a 1/3 chance to get the powers you want. Even Iron Arm isn’t all that useful on a zoan, only Endurance and Enfeeble. IMO it is not worth spending the points for a 1/3 chance to get something useful.

    This is what I would run (at 1750):

    2x Dakka-flyrants – 520
    2×2 Hive Guards – 200
    Doom in Spore – 130
    2x Tervigon – AG, TS, both powers – 420
    2×10 Termagants – 100
    19x Gargoyles – AG+TS – 152
    3x Biovores – 135
    2x Biovores – 90

    • Reecius December 5, 2012 7:29 pm #

      That is an excellent list. I agree on the Zoeys, they are not reliable enough for tournament play, IMO. When RoW and Rune Staves go away, perhaps, but as is they can be totally crippled.

      Flyrants are extremely good, and I agree Swarmy can get smoked by shooting, but the way I play him is like I played my Avatar in my Footdar list. He doesn’t go running up-field, he plays mi-field with the rest of the army for mutual support. I hide him too, if needs be. So far it’s worked, but I am always open to trying new things.

  5. fleetofclaw December 6, 2012 8:38 pm #

    Yup yup, Nids are good again! I’ve played a Swarmlord Flyrant tandem and it works pretty well. You just need to make sure you provide other targets downfield when you have a solo Flyrant (like podding Doom, Zthropes, or Ymgarls, etc). At the end of the day, with double Tervigons and their requisite 2x broods of termagants as the backbone of your army, you have a lot of great options from there.

    I do forgo the Hive Guard for Zoanthropes, even with my fairly Eldar heavy local meta. The truth is Zoanthropes are *exactly* what you want for that Hail Mary Endurance, Telekine Dome, or even better, an Enfeeble on that bloody Farseer and watch him vaporize under a hailstorm of devilgant fire or Biovore salvo! With a fast moving flyrant and other forward moving elements, it’s not hard to cripple that jerk and his RoW cheese. Even when not casting, zthropes are a 2W, 3++ synapse support. I’d rather use a zthrope to babysit some backfield objective camping termagants (though I usually put objectives midfield these days and play board control) than a wreckface Tervigon who should be holding things D midfield.

    • Reecius December 7, 2012 11:56 am #

      I agree 100% that when they work, they work in a big way! As I play more and more big tournaments though, I find myself moving further away from heavily luck dependent units towards units that are more reliable as in a 5-8 round event, those units that require a lot of luck to really work well, are most likely going to fail you in at least one game, and that can cost you the event.

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