Hey everyone. Bigpig here to talk Tyranidturkey and take a look at what all the Tyranid players have been viewing as an early Thanksgiving. Check out the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
Recently I reviewed the first wave of releases added to the Tyranid lines and had originally intended to take a look at the second wave of releases, but with GW firing out new models and rules faster than a hormagaunt chasing down a fat guardsman the Internets are already abuzz with everyone’s opinion, informed and otherwise, about what works and what doesn’t. By the time I complete this piece, the Leviathan supplement will probably be hitting the shelves with new rules, formations, detachments, and (yes!) Warlord Traits. Many changes.
So, rather than redo all the work already done by the various online pundits about the strengths and weaknesses of the various units, let me only take a moment to quickly summarize the new units and then take on the more important task about what the big changes in the second wave mean for the way the Tyranid army is played.
- Mucolid Spores: Dirt cheap, deep striking, multiwound, and a troop choice that lets you fill two troop requirements for only 30pts. In min troop lists these may replace Rippers as the go to placeholder. Thanks to “Living Bomb” rule they can’t score or contest, but they can do some cool damage when need be. Grade: B-
- Sporocysts: What? What the hell do I do with these? Everyone is sure there is a use for these beyond cool theme games but is still struggling to find them. A neat idea but just might not have enough punch or utility to justify the cost and, more importantly, Heavy Support slot. Grade: C
- Bigger Zoanthrope Broods: They can be taken in larger broods now. Problem is people rarely took them in broods of more than 1. Being able to spore in a tac nuke unit may make you take more than 1 now, but going up to 6 is unlikely. Zoans still remain a valid choice, just don’t think increased brood size is that big a deal. Grade: B
- Neurothrope: Not the Doom, not even close, so stop calling it “Return of Doom”, “Doom 2.0”, “Doomlite”, etc. Psychic Shriek, however, is one of the better witchfires so this as a delivery system is not a bad thing. Its power dice creating feature probably won’t gain you dice most of the time so don’t count on it. Grade: B
- Tyrannocytes: This is the big one, of course. Tyrannocytes single tentacledly change the character of the Tyranid army and are the focus of the rest of this article. So let’s dive right in . Grade: A
The old face of Tyranids
Prior to this week, Tyranids in 7th edition could be generally characterized by the following profile; An army played most effectively as Monstrous Creature or flyer spam, with short to midrange, high volume, mid strength firepower. The army was durable but slow to move across the board (with the exception of FMCs which are the opposite on both points). This lack of speed leads to issues with grabbing far objectives and reacting to an extremely mobile force. In fact, I would classify pre-Tyranocyte Tyranids as a mostly reactive army. Alternatively, you could call it a “beta strike” or “counter strike” army, but the premise is the same; Be tough enough to survive the first hit and then deliver a telling counter blow. My discussion on the Trapdoor Spider playstyle gives several examples of why this is the case. Missions with a large number of objectives, such as Scouring, were particularly difficult, as was the Hammer and Anvil deployment because of the extra ground to cover. Nids found it difficult to ferret out enemies hiding out of line of sight and out of range, or those who just refused to come and play, forcing you to plod forward at 6” a turn.
This need to react and play catch up to the opponent’s alpha strikes and movement is why the durability of Monstrous Creatures lent itself so well to success with the army. MCs have the ability to soak up that fire or plod across the board to objectives and make it in reasonable fighting shape.
This need to be reactive is also why swarm tactics have fallen out of favor in 7th for nids. Hormagaunts, Genestealers, and Termagaunts just aren’t durable enough to slog across the board and come to grips with the enemy in the face of all the 7th edition firepower out there. Bodies over bullets just doesn’t work when there are more bullets than bodies. I used to love playing swarm lists a couple years back but after Eldar/Tau, they just couldn’t cut it. Obviously I’m speaking in general terms here and there will always be friendly metas or tournaments where the players present, missions, and tables combine to favor or allow another playstyle to succeed. A lictor list dominated at a recent 11th Company tournament, after all.
Overnight, Tyrannocytes change that. This is no surprise as the Tyranid “drop pod” existed in the previous edition. I played the fifth edition codex with a drop element and had a lot of fun with a null deploy all drop list for a while. With the loss of spores in the new codex, I immediately noticed the shift in our mobility and had to struggle for a while to figure out how make the reactive army durable enough to work. Not any more. The following assessment of how Tyrannocytes will change Tyranid playstyle is based upon experience playing with Mycetic Spores of our last codex, discussing the experiences of others, and good old fashioned Internet arrogance and theoryhammer. The differences between new and old spores could bring out new ideas that we haven’t thought of yet, but this is a good place to start.
The new face of Tyranids: Alpha Strike
The big change from Tyrannocytes is that Tyranids can now be played as an alpha strike army. Nids have some of the best mid-range firepower in the game in the form of Brainleech Devourers and can also field quite a few Template/Torrent weapons. Even the basic guns are relatively powerful, including the Deathspitter on warriors and Fleshborers on the lowly Termagaunt. Again the problem with these has always been getting them into range intact. Tyrannocytes let us do that.
In order to make an alpha strike work you need to commit to it fully. You must arrange for all of your elements to arrive at the enemy at the same time so they can deliver a telling, coordinated blow. If applying the Nine Principles of War (MOOSEMUSS) to 40k concepts, this would be described as “Mass.” Ensure you deliver sufficient force at the correct time and place to ensure victory. Many players will make the mistake of dropping one or two big scary monsters in the enemy’s back lines but have nothing else there to support their attack. These models will often be quickly eliminated, before doing any damage at all in the case of melee oriented beasties. This can be ok if they are there to perform a suicide mission (see Surgical Insertion below), but is a waste if you are counting on them to stick around.
The best way to ensure sufficient mass is to bring a variety of elements together and control their arrival. To this end, we first need to control reserves. There is speculation that Shield of Baal: Leviathan will bring a formation which gives Tyrannoctyes the “Drop Assault” rule, like drop pods. Until that transpires, we want to make certain as many Tyrannocytes as possible arrive on turn 2. Tyranids have two choices here, Swarmlord and Comms Relay. Swarmlord is pricey and suffers from the big scary monster that moves 6” a turn syndrome. His ability does work if he’s off the board so you could put him in a spore too if you want, not my first choice though. Comms relay seems to be the better choice. I would buy it with an Aegis Line or an Imperial Bunker. Both options will run you well under 100pts and also allow your smaller Turn 1 elements to be more durable to an enemy alpha strike.
The next way to deliver mass is to follow the three rules of a gunfight; “1. Bring a gun. 2. Bring an extra gun. 3. Bring all your friends with guns.” Basically, deliver a lot of firepower and options to deal with a variety of targets. Accomplish this by simultaneously dropping in at minimum three Tyrannocytes and cargo. This gives you 6 targets in the enemy’s face overwhelming target priority and putting out the hurt. Good alpha striking units to deliver include Dakkafex, Tyrannofex, Devourer armed Termagaunts, and Zoanthropes.
Combine that with board elements moving forward. Think of this like a pincer move. The best source for this is Flying Monstrous Creatures that started on the board on turn 1. You can either move them after the drops to fill holes OR move them first to fill open areas and minimize scatter of the Tyrannocytes (inexpensive Mucolids can do this too). Another option to deliver something different is to put an Escape Hatch on the bunker you purchased for the Relay. Put that escape hatch 12” forward (midfield) and start something fast and scary like Genestealers, poisonous Hormagaunts, or Bonesword Shrikes inside. On turn 2 they can probably get to grips with the enemy and assault as they get to deploy from the hatch which should be right in board center. Lastly, Mawlocs suddenly became more useful. As a cheap MC and a very viable answer to invisible deathstars Mawlocs have a place, but their tendency to miss and get shot up unsupported left them in the second string. Now they can hit on turn 2 with the rest of the alpha strike. Just make sure to drop them in first.
I should mention delivering melee units like Hormagaunts, Stealers, Toxicrenes, Haruspex (yeah, I said it), and Dimachaerons in Tyrannocytes. While potentially a valid option and a way to get these dangerous units in your opponent’s face right away, these will not impact your mass on the turn you come down. Make sure you support them or protect them. One option could be to drop them but shield them with a dropped Malanthrope or Venomthropes, basically setting up a deep striking beta strike army. That gets expensive fast as the Tyrannocytes are not exactly a cheap transport. Perhaps a single melee element dropped in to mop up the turn after the shooting alpha strike is a better option.
Here is a rough-hewn sample Alpha Strike army at 1850pts. It’s a stab and needs playtest but is a place to start.
Tyrant; Wings, 2xBrainleach worms, Warlord
Tyrant; Wings, 2xBrainleach worms
Tervigon; Troop, Crushing Claws, Electroshock grubs (pod)
3 Zoanthrope (pod)
Carnifex; 2xBrainleach worms (pod)
Carnifex; 2xBrainleach worms (pod)
The basic approach to this single CAD list is to start both Tyrants, the Malanthrope, and the Termagaunts on the board in terrain, near or in the bunker and near a placed objective. Everything else in reserve. The Malanthrope can hop into the bunker if you like. Turn 2, most of your elements will come in for a hard hitting alpha strike with multiple options. You will have 48 TL Brainleach, the Mawloc, 3 Warp Lances, 60 Deathspitter, ESG, and however many Gaunts get spawned by the Tervigon unloading in the enemy face. You combine high volume, ignores cover, and lance elements at whatever point on the board you need them. The Malanthrope and Gaunts camp the backfield.
The new face of Tyranids: Surgical Insertion
The next option now available to Tyranids is less playstyle and more of a tactic. This is surgical insertion, which can be either offensive or tactical. Both options are used to supplement a more traditional Tyranid approach such Trapdoor Spider an advancing MC spam, with a drop element. The offensive insertion is used to deliver a tac nuke into the enemy where it proceeds to remove a key element. The classic ‘nid example of this is dropping a spore with a couple of Zoanthropes in it to take out a Land Raider or other big AV14 target. Alternatively you could take out a smaller target that you would otherwise play hell trying to get to. Examples of this are dug in Thunderfire cannons or enemy objective campers hiding in corners or out of line of sight like scouts or 5 man tac squads. When going after smaller enemies, try to remember the flipside of mass, which is Economy of Force, and don’t overcommit resources better spent elsewhere. Typically, your offensive surgical insertions are designed to be throw away units. They will make their strike and complete their mission. After that, you would love for them to live, but if they don’t its ok. This is why they can drop in unsupported.
A viable way to play the offensive Surgical Insertion options may be to take two Tyrannocytes; One with two or three Zoans and one with a less expensive cargo like a fistful of gaunts. The Zoans can go target the high value enemy nut which is tough to crack. The Termagaunts can go after the small unit that is dug into a hard to reach spot.
Tactical surgical insertion is used to put our units in tactically advantageous positions and not to make an offensive play against enemy units. This will usually be done to claim far flung objectives or secure linebreaker. You will be dropping single pods and their cargo, unsupported across the board. The MC Tyrannocyte and its payload can be pretty tough to shift. Just be cautious and remember synapse. An interesting option for tactical insertion may be to drop a Sporocyte. For 150pts you bring 12 wounds of T5 and 10 guns to the board and put it on an objective. This can be pretty difficult for some enemies to deal with using the small reactive elements that typically go after objective grabbers, especially if the rest of your army coming at them. This one is just theory hammer at this point, but seems fun.
One final point is that Surgical Insertions really benefit from the fact that Tyrannocytes are not dedicated transports. You can decide what goes in them at deployment. This means you could take that pair of Zoans and just deploy them as backfield synapse or psykers and put something else in the spore if the enemy doesn’t field viable Warp Blast targets. The game is often won or lost during deployment and our ability to decide what goes in the pods and what doesn’t each game will make that even more decisive. Remember to put effort into deciding if and why you want to deep strike your units
There are several new concerns which come up when using Tyrannocytes to create an offensive, go out and meet the enemy, playstyle which aren’t as prevalent in the way Tyranids have been played since 7th edition came out.
Synapse: Yes, synapse has always been an issue and the punitive chart in our recent codex made that even more apparent. The slow moving blob or MC spam approach that many Tyranid players have taken to this point has helped to minimize the impact. With an alpha strike drop army, however, synapse is going to be the biggest problem you face. With your army effectively split into two components, the home camp which started on the board and the meet and great drop element, you need to plan synapse for both. This means planning for redundant synapse as skilled players will know to kill the brain bugs if you leave yourself light in certain area. The scattering of the drop units could also space your elements out enough that a tight web may be hard to make. Just keep this in mind when the units come down so the guys that need babysitting like a large unit of Devourer Gaunts don’t get left without a babysitter.
Redeploying: Despite the added versatility granted by Tyrannocytes in grabbing initial board position, Tyranids will still be a slow army. Once down, most of the elements can only move 6” a turn and, unlike a marine drop army, we don’t have the fast redeploying support units. Keep this in mind if you face an army that can run away from you or if you will need to move to objectives in the later turns.
Minimal deploy alpha strike armies: These are a pain if you go first, of course, because most of their heavy lifters will be off the board when yours come down. This just becomes one of the hazards of playing a list more oriented towards rock, paper, scissors play (which an alpha strike drop army is). If you see this across the table, you may want to change the way you deploy and go back to a more traditional Trapdoor Spider style approach and drop empty pods onto scattered far objectives, keeping the rest of your offensive force together to weather their alpha and hit back hard.
Deployment space: Because we are deploying Monstrous Creatures out of the pod there is a very real danger of not having enough room to place the model on a bad scatter. This removes it from play as destroyed. For this reason, I really like the Carnifex with double brainleech. It has a much smaller base than the 6 wound models and is easier to fit into tight spaces. This is also why I would never drop in a Hierodule, even though you can per RAW; Too much risk of not being able to place that huge base. To minimize risk, carefully consider the order in which you bring them down, maybe dropping the big base models first.
Getting shot off the board: Unless we get a formation with the drop assault rule, be very careful to ensure what you have on the board can survive the first turn alpha. Enough said on that.
That’s a healthy start to it. So what do you think? Do you agree that this is a huge change to the way that Tyranids are played? How will you use Tyrannocytes? Any cool list ideas?