Tyranids Review: Heavy Support: Carnifex Brood


Hey everyone, DustyK here taking a break from my normal tree lovin’ and doing a rundown of how to properly use your Carnifex Brood for the Tyranids.  As always, for more tactics articles, check out Tactics Corner!

The Carnifexes are the big tank busting death machines of the Tyarnids.  They bring these big boys in when nothing else can pop open those transports or buildings.  With incredibly high strength and AP2 on all attacks, anything these puppies hit in close combat will likely be meeting the Great Devourer very soon.


A Carnifex is normally used in one of two ways.  Either you kit it out for tank busting or you give him double Twin-Linked Devourers with Brainleech Worms and dakka anything that gets close.  A Carnifex is about the best chance we have against anything in the super-heavy class besides Warp Blast but with only a 3+ armor save and four wounds, the Carnifex goes down rather quickly.


  • A Carnifex has two arm slots that he can fill with ranged or melee weapons.

 carnifex 10-26-12 006


  • Scything Talons: These are free close combat weapons.
  • Crushing Claws: +1S and armourbane gives you more consistency when facing high AV vehicles.
  • Bio-Plasma: A weapon upgrade that doesn’t take an arm slot (he basically shoots acid out of his mouth), but with only 12” and counting as a weapon in your shooting it really isn’t worth it for the Carnifex in either melee or dakka builds.
  • Twin-linked Deathspitters: S5 AP5 assault 3 weapon that is just a cheaper option to take if you’re desperately low on points. If you can’t afford Twin-linked Devourers with Brainleech Worms, you should really make a melee Carnifex instead.
  • Twin-linked Devourers with Brainleech Worms: This is the Tyranid bread and butter when it comes to shooting. Assault 6 S6 weapon can throw out some serious damage, especially when you take TWO of them.  Taking two TLDWBLW is the basic build for the dakkafex.
  • Stranglethorn Cannon: If you need some ranged pinning you’ll want to look into this. Though a Living Artillery Node provides this far better than a Carnifex, it does make it a bit cheaper.  Keep in mind that there are a ton of armies these days that simply ignore pinning, like the Tyranids for example (when in synapse range of course).
  • Heavy Venom Cannon: Long range high strength blast weapon that should be avoided on a Carnifex. The low BS will make it hard to capitalize on the weapon and at 20 points is more costly than the TLDWBLW.



  • Acid Blood: For 15 points you can make close combat enemies suffer wounds for each one they do to you at S5 AP2. This is a neat little biomorph but also not that useful for the Carnifex.  It is, however, fun to watch terminators charge in and kill a Carnifex only to die to the acid.
  • Adrenal Glands: Gives Fleet and Furious Charge for 15 points. Not a terrible choice on a melee Carnifex so you can run and charge a bit better.  Keep in mind that normally you’ll be running the Carnifex with a Malenthrope or Venomthrope so don’t outrun the support or you’ll regret it quickly.
  • Regeneration: It Will Not Die on a 4+ instead of 5+. At 30 points this is a bit too much of an investment for a Carnifex.  This is better on a Tervigon with six wounds or a Flying Hive Tyrant who is hard to hit.  Most of the time your Carnifexes will die in one turn with focused fire.
  • Toxin Sacs: Gives poison for 10 points. Not likely useful on the Carnifex as you’ll either be wounding on twos (not much need for the shred effect) or going after vehicles who ignore it anyway.

Tail Biomorphs: Tail Biomorphs do not benefit from any other special rules and just gives an attack with that weapon.  So no AP2 on these unfortunately.

  • Bonemace Tail: S8 AP- for 15 points. Not bad for tank hunting but a bit overkill with all the S9 attacks going in.  Especially overkill if you are taking crushing claws.
  • Thresher Scythe: S4 AP4 with rending. This could be useful against mobs, but you shouldn’t be going after mobs with your Carnifex, that’s what gaunts are there for.

carnifex 10-26-12 003

Special Rules

  • Monstrous Creature: Fear, Hammer of Wrath, Move Through Cover, Relentless, Smash. Make sure not to forget FEAR in the rare cases it will matter for you.  WS1 for enemies is huge for the Carnifex who suffers with a WS3.
  • Fearless
  • Instinctive Behavior – Feed: This is bad for a dakkafex but not all that bad for a melee kitted Carnifex. If you get this effect (are out of synapse range at the beginning of the turn) then you will not be able to shoot or run in the phase.  During the assault phase you will charge the closest enemy you can, which is normally what you’ll want to do anyway.  If you roll a six however, you get rage along with it.
  • Living Battering Ram: You get D3 instead of 1 Hammer of Wrath. This is amazing since the base strength of a Carnifex is 9!


  • Bio-Blast Node: A Tyrannofex, three units of Carnifex Broods, and a Warrior Brood. The entire formation gets split fire and anyone within 12” of the Warrior Brood gets to reroll ones to wound.  This is nice but you need to take a whole bunch of Carnifexes to really make it worth it, and that pushes the point cost incredibly high.
  • Wrecker Node: A Warrior Brood and three units of Carnifexes.  The Carnifexes get D3+1 HoW instead of D3 and when within 12” of the Warriors they get to reroll ones in close combat.  Neither formation is all that useful due to the weakness of the Warriors, however between the two this may prove to be the most useable due to the lower point cost without the Tyrannofex.


Phew, that was a lot of info there.  The Tyranids are well known for their versatility and the Carnifex is no exception.  The two main builds for the Carnifex are the melee build and the dakkafex build.

The melee build is running a barebones Carnifex with double Scything Talons or upgrading one to Crushing Claws.  It’s possible to add Adrenal Glands if you have the extra points but normally you will need all the points you can get in a Tyranid list.  The melee Carnifex is there to take on the big armor and other MCs.  With base strength of 9 he’s a serious threat to any vehicle and even Super Heavies and GMCs need to watch for this unit.

The dakkafex is a Carnifex with double TWDWBLW guns to throw out 12 twin linked S6 shots each turn.  This gun can do serious damage to infantry and even light transports.  The only thing to keep in mind is the range of these guns are 18” so you do need to be able to move up the field to get shooting.  Keep in mind even with these guns the Carnifex is still strength 9, so if someone is foolish enough to bring an AV13 close to him because his guns can’t do anything, just charge it and laugh as you crack open tanks left and right.

The other important note for the dakkafex is to keep a synapse creature close.  The leadership of seven isn’t the worst but if you fail you don’t get to shoot.  That will be 30 points doing nothing.  A Malenthrope is a great pairing for the dakkafex because it gives shrouded like the Venomthropes but also provides synapse.

Both versions of the Carnifex desperately need the Venomthropes or a Malenthrope to provide that shrouded bonus.  Having Move Through Cover, it’s relatively easy to move Carnifexes through the terrain on the field.  With that in mind you want to make sure your Carnifex is in cover and has a nearby Thrope to provide at least a 3+ cover save.  You will find quickly that a 3+ armor save and four wounds will NOT last long alone.

The only thing that will draw more of a bullseye than the Carnifex is a Flying Hive Tyrant.  If you have one, you should be running one anyway.  Make sure to use that distraction to get your Carnifexes in position.  Most good players will keep the Carnifex at bay by moving around the map, but if you have a Flyrant flying around the board you can herd your opponent into a prime position.

That being said, the Carnifex is also an amazing distraction.  Take one or two barebones Carnifexes for 120 points and keep your opponent looking toward them while you move others into position.  Even barebones the Carnifex is a devastating adversary, making your opponent take heed of them or pay a heavy price.

The Powers of the Hive Mind also plays well to the Carnifex.  Catalyst is an amazing boon to a Carnifex Brood, since they are toughness six they can’t be killed by double strength value weapons.  Onslaught is also an amazing spell for dakkafexes as it allows them to run and shoot in the same turn, helping with their lower range issue.

While playing you want to make sure to avoid the low AP units.  You don’t want to take a Carnifex close to a unit with 4+ AP3 weapons or he will go down before he can do much.  Also they will want to avoid anything with strength D.  With AP2, all wounds will be devastating to the Carnifex.


When you look at the Carnifex you don’t expect that they require a lot of finesse to play, but just like all the Tyranids they require a ton of focus to play well.  They need to run from cover to cover to protect themselves and many opposing units are quite good against them.  However if you play them properly and give them plenty of support they can perform at MVP status.  If you can terrain jump up the field and get this monster charging a vehicle he will quickly pay for himself many times over.

Target priority is key with the Tyranids.  Keep calm and take your time to find what units the Carnifex needs to address and which ones he needs to avoid.  If you are able to do that, these lovable bundles of muscly murder will become your best bugs.

Let me know what you think about our favorite bug styled tank hunters.  How do you run them in your lists?  Do they have a place in a tournament setting, or do they require too much support to be viable?

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

You can also pick up some cheap models in our Second Hand Shop. Some of these gems are quite rare, sometimes they’re fully painted!



About DustyK

Avid gamer and lifelong nerd. I love playing competitively, which is why I have Space Marines and Tau. I also love playing casually, which is why I have Tyranids and Dark Eldar!

14 Responses to “Tyranids Review: Heavy Support: Carnifex Brood”

  1. Avatar
    Dakkath August 24, 2016 8:50 am #

    The fex sure has fallen from where it used to be, and certainly doesn’t live up to the hype the fluff tries to attribute to it.

    • Avatar
      tag8833 August 24, 2016 9:05 am #

      Yep. it is a shame it doesn’t function better on the tabletop. Too Slow. Too easy to kill. Too little range on shooting. To low WS + Initiative + attacks in assault.

      It is supposed to be a vehicle killer, and yet midly bad luck, and you can fail to kill a rhino in assault.

      • Avatar
        Threllen August 24, 2016 9:13 am #

        With all the power creep in range, deadliness, and speed we’ve gotten to the point where pretty much any melee MC needs 12″ range or it’s probably not going to be very useful. With only 4 wounds at 3+ save, you probably aren’t going to get anywhere with that 6″ move. Need 12″ like the Maulerfiend.

    • Avatar
      Threllen August 24, 2016 9:11 am #

      That seems to be most Tyranid units at this point, unfortunately. Perfectly designed bio-weapons capable of tearing apart anything… except on the tabletop you’ll often find them getting removed in droves with the few remaining sitting there hiding in a bush.

  2. Avatar
    VonCrown August 24, 2016 11:09 am #

    Adrenal Glands are mandatory on almost anything you want to charge with. I don’t have the math on me at the moment, but there’s an old post on the tyranid hive forums that explains it really well. Tldr; fleet is worth the points.

    • DustyK
      DustyK August 24, 2016 6:22 pm #

      The main reason I argue against it is the base cost of MCs for the Nids. I’d rather save on the glands (as in for the whole army, not if we are just taking 1 or 2 in a low point game) and take another body. With only a 3+ they are hard to keep alive long enough to make it to melee so I never want to spend too many points on upgrades and just try to flood the board.

  3. Avatar
    Blight1 August 24, 2016 11:10 am #

    Sad thing is there is an entire army that ignores the Carnifex’s best method of staying alive. Tau just shred them with little recourse on the tyranid’s part.
    And of course there’s the Hunter’s Eye grav units. Though that’s only one unit at best.
    I wish Tyranids had a survival method other than cover saves. Maybe something that grants invuln or a FNP bubble.

  4. Avatar
    Anggul August 24, 2016 3:26 pm #

    The power creep of the game has left any Tyranid MC not flying in the dust. The damage output has just increased so much since the days of carnifexes being relevant, but the same goes for all big tyranids. Grav especially was just such a stupid idea on GW’s part, it really screws with the game.

    • Avatar
      westrider August 24, 2016 4:01 pm #

      It’s not just the power creep. Nids have actually gone backwards. You can build exactly the same CombatFex that currently costs 120 Points for like 105 from the 4th Ed Nid Dex. With less punishing IB, too. DakkaFexen were like 112, and Dakka Flyrants I think around 170-ish. The TL Devs weren’t quite as good on the MCs at that time, but they were still better, Point for Point.

      • Avatar
        Galahad911 August 24, 2016 9:25 pm #

        The devourers were better then. Fexes had less shots but you rerolled both hits and wounds.

        • Avatar
          westrider August 25, 2016 12:19 am #

          In a gun-to-gun comparison the old ones were worse. In a Point-for-Point comparison, they were better against stuff with a Toughness value, worse against stuff with an AV.

          The real change came in Point-for-Point durability, with the old DakkaFexen getting just a hair under 33% more Wounds for a given Points value.

  5. Reecius
    Reecius August 24, 2016 3:50 pm #

    Ignores Cover + Grav = No Ground Pounding Bugs to be seen in tournament play =(

    I have a half dozen Fexes, so wish they were better.

    • DustyK
      DustyK August 24, 2016 6:24 pm #

      I was recently assured by the 40k facebook page that all armies will be revisited in time (specifically the Nids and DEldar). So here’s hoping they follow through on that sooner rather than later. I’d love to see the Nids shake things up a bit.

      • Avatar
        Threllen August 25, 2016 9:18 am #

        Of course all armies will be “revisited in time.” Unless you’re sisters, they don’t exactly just stop giving armies updates. But the problems are A) what does “in time” mean? Next Year? Two years from now? Three years from now? And B) what are you going to do when you revisit the army? People were excited last time ‘Nids and DE and a whole host of other armies got an update but they just absolutely neutured them. We’ve got no promise an update means they’ll be OP.

Leave a Reply