Guest Tactica by Cameron: Tyranid Anti-Flier Tactics

Bugs in the rear!

Bugs in the rear!

A guest tactica by Cameron.

Hello, it’s Cameron again. Following up on a comment/request that I received on my last tactica, I

decided to write this article on how to deal with fliers as a tyranid player.

I’ll preface this by saying that there really isn’t a “good” way to deal with flyers as a tyranid player.

Tyranid players have no equivalent of sabre defense platforms, contemptor mortis dreadnoughts, or

hydra support platforms. In order to deal with fliers, tyranids players have to make careful use of the

shooting attacks they have, position well, and design their lists with fliers in mind.

That said, here are my tips for dealing with fliers. Some of these may seem obvious, but they’re worth


1) Ignore them

2) Don’t show up

3) Bring guns

4) Shoot them

5) Run underneath them

6) Shoot them in the rear

7) Take up space

8) No hovering allowed

1) Ignore them

Before you go around trying to kill fliers, it’s important to assess what sort of threat they represent.

What is the defensive profile of your army? What is the flier armed with?

If you have a bunch of monstrous creatures with 3+ saves and your opponent has brought along a single

night scythe, you probably don’t need to spend the effort to kill it. Similarly, a horde army won’t be too

bothered about a doom scythe since it can easily spread out and your individual models are not worth

much. Stormravens are hard to kill, but they also don’t always bring that many guns along.

What is the mission?

If you’re playing the relic, a vendetta full of veterans is probably not your biggest concern. They won’t

be able to steal an objective since everyone will be focusing on the relic, and a couple of lascannon shots

can be mitigated while the vendetta makes its pass.

2) Don’t show up

This may also seem obvious, but fliers can’t kill models that aren’t on the board. If you’re having trouble

against fliers, you might consider switching to a list with a lot of units that arrive from reserve via deep

strike or mycetic spores. You can easily put these in places where the opponent’s fliers can’t shoot at


3) Bring guns

This may also seem obvious, but if you want to kill fliers, you will need to bring units with guns. If you’re

running an army that is all close combat, you won’t be able to kill any fliers… at least not any that are in

zoom mode.

4) Shoot them

Tyranids don’t have great guns to shoot at fliers. You may look at something like a helldrake and think,

“Man… I need 6’s to hit, I have to roll armor penetration, and then it STILL gets an invulnerable save!!”

and get discouraged from shooting it at all.

Bring a bunch of guns, and go ahead and shoot it! Even if you just do a hull point or two, it can be very

scary for the owner of that heldrake and may affect where they position it.

5) Run underneath them

Most fliers do not have weapons with large arcs of fire, and their shooting is limited by where they

are able to position themselves on the board. Against these fliers, the best strategy is to run straight

towards them. They will be forced to move at least 18” every turn, which will quickly put you out of their

arc of fire. They will then either need to zoom off the board, or go into hover mode and turn around. If

they zoom off the board, they will then need to re-enter off of your opponent’s board edge, which, if

you continue to run forward, will still keep you out of their arc of fire.

6) Shoot them in the rear

Tactic 5) does not really work against fliers that have vector dancer (like an imperial guard vulture), or

that have 360 degree firing arcs (like a heldrake)

If you’ve determined that these fliers are a threat that you need to take out, you will need to get to their

rear armor. One way to do this is to run underneath them. Another way is to deep strike a shooty unit

(such as a pod full of devilgaunts or a dakkafex in a pod) directly behind the flier. This gives you an alpha

strike into their rear armor (which is great against vendettas, vultures, and helldrakes) and will probably

do some damage.

7) Take up space

If you run an army with a high model count, one good tactic is to look at where the opponent will

want to move their flier during the next turn, and take up that space by spreading out a bunch of small

models. This will force the flier to zoom over you and potentially forego some of its shooting.

8) No hovering allowed

Don’t let your opponent safely go into hover mode, turn around, and come back at you for another pass.

Leave a monstrous creature on your own board edge that will allow you to assault fliers that go into

hover mode. S10 smash attacks (especially with warp speed or crushing claws) will make short work of

any flier that goes into hover mode.

You can also take flyrants to combat fliers, however since I don’t personally run flyrants I don’t feel

qualified to talk about them. Perhaps someone else could offer insight?

Here are some tips for dealing with specific fliers:

Night Scythe:

The AV11 in the rear makes this flier hard to kill, since it is immune to devilgaunt fire. Fortunately it

doesn’t have that many guns (Tesla destructors don’t have high AP and don’t get too many shots), and

it can’t hover. The best way to deal with it is to hug your opponent’s board edge and force it to fly over

you, or take a horde army and fill up the entire board

Doom Scythe:

AV11 also makes the Doom Scythe hard to kill. Its guns are more dangerous if you take high-value

monstrous creatures, or bring a lot of models with T4 or T5 that can be hit with instant death. The same

tactics apply as for the night scythe: hug the opponent’s board edge, or fill up the board


Get a cover save or cast feel no pain on your big bugs while the vendetta makes its initial pass. Once it is

on top of you, move or deep strike shooty units to get shots at its rear armor, and keep an assault threat

nearby so that the opponent will have to sacrifice it if it goes into hover mode.


A valkyrie probably won’t have enough guns on it to make it worth killing, just make sure that any squad

inside it doesn’t steal one of your objectives.


It’s going to be tough to kill it while it’s zooming, so run under it, absorb the fire, and keep an assault

threat nearby so that it can’t hover.


These are death for tyranids. Vector dancer makes this unit so maneuverable that it will probably never

need to leave zoom mode, and if it takes the punisher gatling cannon it will be a threat to almost any

tyranid list. You will HAVE to deep strike a shooty unit to get behind its rear armor, otherwise it will

circle-strafe you for the entire game and blow you off the board!

I know there are other fliers to deal with; these are the ones I’ve had to deal with myself. Feel free to

add any other tips in the comments section.


About Reecius

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

12 Responses to “Guest Tactica by Cameron: Tyranid Anti-Flier Tactics”

  1. Avatar
    Mike Earley March 28, 2013 3:04 am #

    Thank you for not suggesting zoanthropes with warp lance or hive guard as ways to deal with flyers. For zoanthropes, their warp lance in current gameplay is horrible–test, 18″ range, then hit (on 6, with one shot)…and hive guard s8 2 shots is not any better.

    As far as guns go, the only realistic option the Ts have is the devourer on the big dudes–s6, 6 shots (hopefully twin linked).

    I recently switched from using the Swarmlord to using 2 flying Hive Tyrants. This is mainly because I faced 4 straight flyer/vehicle lists at Indy Open and had no great way to deal with them. I have not put the HT up against a flyer list since adding them, however.

    You mention spreading out, I do want to point out this isn’t a simple thing, as flyers may be appearing on turn 2, and that isn’t enough time to spread out. I like Reecius advice of using gargoyles for this purpose, as they’re much faster and can give you a better opportunity to spread out early in the game.

    I think you dismiss the scythes a little too lightly, their guns are nasty, especially with the whole ‘every 6 adds two more auto-hits’ thing…UGH. Generally speaking I was getting swamped by gunfire from scythes.

    Obviously some of these tactics are less useful for tournament play and more useful for targeted play–meaning, I may not bring a heavy mycetic spore list for tourney play, but if I know I’m facing someone with a lot of flyers in a friendly game, I might switch in to this strategy. Same with bringing big guns–I might not bring a tyrannofex with the big nasty anti-tank gun (heavy venom cannons or rupture cannons) on it for tourney play, but I’d try it out against a stormraven-led list.

    I had not thought of some of the other stuff though, like aggressive movement to limit shooting opportunities, so thanks for posting!

  2. Avatar
    Cameron March 28, 2013 5:05 am #

    I typically run one unit of hive guard… and while they’re not great at taking out fliers, I do still occasionally shoot them at fliers depending on what the other target choices are.

    The nice thing about hive guard is S8. A couple tournaments ago I had a group of them with preferred enemy get a penetrating hit on Paul Murphy’s helldrake and blow it up in one shot!

    I also wouldn’t discount devilgaunts and mycetic spores for shooting. Ripper tentacles get 6 shots at S6, which can actually do some damage if you get rear armor. Devilgaunts are only useful against AV10, but if you put them in a pod and combine their fire with the ripper tentacles, you can do some damage.

    My tournament list is a 60 gargoyle list… and yes, even with that many gargoyles, you can’t fill the *entire* board on turn 2. It’s really hard to stop a flier from firing on its first turn, but you can usually fill up the part of the board where your opponent wants to put their flier on turn 3.

    I generally am not a fan of list tailoring… I always bring “all-comers” lists to my games. That said, I wouldn’t dismiss the concept of a spore-heavy army being competitive in a tournament. These days most of the units that tyranids would want to take can take spores, can deep strike, or have long ranges that allow them to shoot across the board.

    Imagine this list 2000 point list:

    Flyrant, 2x Devourer, Warlord – 260

    Flyrant, 2x Devourer, Hive Commander – 285

    Doom in a pod, cluster spines – 140

    3 Zoanthropes in a pod, cluster spines – 230

    Venomthrope in a pod, cluster spines – 105

    15 Devilgaunts in a pod, cluster spines – 200

    15 Devilgaunts in a pod, cluster spines – 200

    15 Devilgaunts in a pod, cluster spines – 200

    15 Devilgaunts in a pod, cluster spines – 200

    Tervigon, Catalyst – 175

    You would have an absolutely horrifying alpha strike to shred any infantry-based army, and fliers would have nothing to shoot at the turn they came on because it would either be the top of 2 and you would be off the board, or you would be all over the opponent’s board edge right underneath where the fliers were arriving. I haven’t play-tested this list and I threw it together in army builder in 5 minutes, but I think it could be viable.

    • jy2
      jy2 March 28, 2013 6:39 am #

      That is a dangerous list to use. Dangerous for the opponent if he doesn’t have long range strike capability. Dangerous for you if he does. You would need to start at least 1 flyrant on the table in addition to the tervigon. If your opponent has the right army (shooty, drop-pod armies, etc.) on a terrain-lite table, it could be game over before any of the tyranid reserves come in (especially if he has 1st turn).

      • Avatar
        Cameron March 28, 2013 6:54 am #

        Fair point… it would also depend on terrain. A shooty list would be no threat at all to a tervigon that is out of line of sight.

        I’m sure you could re-work it to make it a little safer…, and I would probably do that if I spent more than 5 minutes on it or did any play-testing. The point I was trying to make is that this could be competitive in a tournament, and that it would be strong against flyers.

  3. jy2
    jy2 March 28, 2013 6:51 am #

    Here, I’ve got one.

    9) Get into Assault. Sometimes, the best way to protect your important units is to get them into assault. You don’t want his 3 vendettas to shoot down your flyrant so what do you do? Lock him up in combat so that he can’t get shot. Then while he’s in combat, make sure you cast Endurance/Iron Arm on your tervigons and park them in cover. Now your opponent has got less targets to shoot at whereas before, he’s got more options. You won’t be able to get every single unit into assault, but you can make it much harder for your opponent to shoot down your units by doing so.

    Oh, and make sure your flyrant doesn’t over-kill on the 1st turn of assault. You want to finish any assault on your opponent’s turn, not on your own.

    10) Ultra-resilient MC’s. Make it hard for enemy flyers to shoot down your tough guys. Now this is dependent on what psychic powers you get, but Iron Arm and Endurance just makes the big guys really tough to kill. (I always take 3 powers for my tervigons so he has a better chance of getting the right powers. I also take zoanthropes to hopefully get Endurance or Enfeeble.) Also, always make sure to park your MC’s in cover against flyers like vendettas and stormravens. For my FMC’s, I usually swoop them from cover to cover. This way, I don’t have to jink and even if I am grounded, I will still get cover. Remember, now your MC’s can get cover from area terrain unlike last edition.

    • Avatar
      Cameron March 28, 2013 6:57 am #

      Or if you want something more reliable, you could take a venomthrope and cheap tervigons with catalyst.

      • jy2
        jy2 March 28, 2013 7:00 am #

        I don’t normally run venomthropes because:

        1) Elite slots are too crowded for me.

        2) Venomthropes are an easy First Blood point.

        • Avatar
          Cameron March 28, 2013 7:07 am #

          If you’re walking a venomthrope, you would need to take a naked prime as a body shield, but it sounds like with your play-style your HQ spots are usually full too.

          • jy2
            jy2 March 28, 2013 7:32 am

            Yeah, I usually run dual flyrants or Swarmy and a flyrant.

          • Avatar
            Cameron March 28, 2013 8:16 am

            Btw you were the top tyranid player at the BAO, right? Congrats on that!

          • jy2
            jy2 March 28, 2013 10:12 am

            Thanks. I was surprised to have won it despite losing my very first game and getting a draw on another.

            BTW, you can read more about my BAO experiences here:


      • jy2
        jy2 March 28, 2013 7:01 am #

        But the cheap Catalyst tervigon is good. Depending on what your opponent brings, you can either stick with Catalyst or take a gamble with the Biomancy powers.

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