Tyranid Codex Review: Hive Tyrant

Hello everybody, Danny from TFG Radio here to talk about the biggie, the baddie, the most common bug on the field despite being the supreme commanders of the Hive Fleets, the Hive Tyrant! Be sure to check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner to know how to deal with a bug that spits hot fire.

Image form the Tyranid Hive

The Hive Tyrant is both a death-dealing, name-taking combat character that also has some important support roles that make it an all-around allstar for the Devourer. Whether as a flying gunboat, a center anvil, or a melee powerhouse, this bug can do it all although we all know where it really shines.


Two sets of Scything Talons: Standard Close Combat Weapons


  • Monstrous Bio-Cannons – Twin-linked Deathspitter (S5 AP5 Assault 3), Twin-Linked Devourer with Brainleech worms (S6 AP- Assault 6), Stranglethorn Cannon (S6 AP5 Large Blast Pinning Assault 1) or Heavy Venom Cannon (S9 AP4 Blast Assault 1).
  • Melee Bio-Weapons – Rending Claws (rending), Boneswords (Instant Death on a 6), or Lash Whip and Bonesword (same as Boneswords plus +3 Initiative in combat)
  • Biomorphs: Toxin Sacs (poison), Acid Blood (special attack in CC), Adrenal Glands (Furious Charge and Fleet), Regeneration (4+ It Will Not Die).
  • Thorax Biomorphs: Shreddershard Beetles (Template, rending), Electro-shock Grubs (Template, haywire), or Discator Larvae (Template, Fleshbane)
  • May take Bio-Artefacts
  • May take Prehensile Pincer (one extra S6 AP5 attack)
  • May take Wings (Hive Tyrant becomes a Flying Monstrous Creature)

Wow, talk about options. A Hive Tyrant is all about customization with just about the most options of any unit entry in the codex (the most if you include some of the special “Commander” upgrades below). You get just about everything with a Hive Tyrant (except for those super-helpful Crushing Claws), plus some special options that no other bugs gets. You can have a melee death-machine that strikes at I8 or you can load it up to bristle with firepower. There are so many options, but yah, there are only a few that are really seen for some obvious reasons that we’ll get into in a bit. Let’s just say the Stranglethorn Cannon is not exactly common on the table top.


Special Rules:

  • Psyker (Mastery level 2): Not too bad as this equals 3 powers since Nids are forced to roll on one discipline. Getting 3 of 7 is helpful when we really only have two really consistently useful powers.
  • Shadow in the Warp: -3 Leadership to enemy psykers within 12 inches
  • Synapse Creature: 12 inch aura of Fearless and ignore Instinctive Behavior Tests
  • May purchase the following special rules:
  • Indescribable Horror: Fear tests from this Tyrant are on 3d6 and the unit must drop the lowest die roll.
  • Old Adversary: The Hive Tyrant rerolls to hit and to wound rolls of 1 in melee
  • Hive Commander: A single Troops choice from the same Detachment gains Outflank

So there are a good amount of special rules here, not Deathleaper amounts, but a good amount. With Mastery Level 2, a Hive Tyrant is a strong psyker and will shrug off a lot of maledictions thrown its way by all but the most potent of psykers like say Magnus or Tigirius. Coupled with Wings, a Hive Tyrant can really make sure that Shadow in the Warp gets spread out to the table. A heavy Flyrant list actually has moves against heavy psychic armies simply for generating a decent amount of dice to try and stop one big power and with Shadow of the Warp everywhere, it makes any Perils of the Warp tests a lot riskier.

The upgraded Special Rules are a bit hit or miss. Fear is bad, and at WS8, most things susceptible to it are already hitting it on 5+, and well, Hive Tyrants can get pricey, so just save the points. Old Adversary could be useful for a melee Tyrant as getting some additional accuracy is not too shabby for the points, especially as melee Tyrants run a bit cheaper than shooty Tyrants. Hive Commander can open up some fun combos with massed Devourer-Gants outflanking or even an outflanking Tervigon. This is much cheaper than a Tyrannocyte, so if you want to go this route, this a more cost-effective but more limited approach.

Ain't no school like the old school

Ain’t no school like the old school

Ok, so how do we talk about everything you can do with this badass bug? The easier way is to start competitive builds and go on down. The first and most commonly seen Hive Tyrant is the Flyrant. To make one, you take Wings, two Twin-Linked Devourers with Brainleech, and maybe Electro-shock grubs. With this, you get a flying gunboat that shoots 12 twin-linked S6 AP- shots on a flying chassis with a haywire template if running into heavy, heavy armor. If you roll Psychic Scream or Warp Blast, you get some extra dakka to go with that dakka. Of course, Devourers are the best option here as they pump out the most shots, are Twin-Linked with BS4, and with such a volume of fire, even if the Tyrant is jinking, you are still going to get a few hits thanks to the reroll.  The Stranglethorn cannon is bad as S6 large blast isn’t all that impressive, and it cannot be used when the Tyrant jinks, and the Venom Cannon also doesn’t work when jinking.  With T6, 4W, and 3+ armor save, once the Flyrant takes off into the air, it is relatively survivable as a lot of Skyfire weaponry is AP4. There is a reason that 99% of competitive Nid lists use Flyrants, as many as they can. For the simple fact that for a bit less than Land Raider, you get a gunboat that shoots like crazy, offers some anti-psyker tech, and offers its own psychic work, all while providing some highly mobile Synapse.

The big downside to the Flyrant is that it cannot play the mission well. While they can land and try to grab objectives, they are a hell of a lot easier to kill on the ground, and sometimes, the game doesn’t end when you think it does. Flyrants are also susceptible to anti-air, and well, if your opponent is packing some strong anti-air like those Eldar flyers, they are going to drop out of the sky. While Flyrants pump out the pain, it is nowhere near strong enough to dent the big old Deathstars that run around, and since the Deathstars are on the ground, they get to control the mission. As usual, the big flaw in the Tyranid codex is the dearth of invulnerable saves, so anything that is AP3 or better that can hit the Flyrant is going to hurt it, especially if it ignores cover like Heldrake vector strikes or Fire Raptor’s nose guns.

If you like Flyrants, the Leviathan Detachment with its 3 HQ choices is up your alley.  If you want a true flying circus without the TFG label, a Skyblight Swarm is not a bad choice as you get a Flyrant, 2 Harpies, a Crone, and 3 Objective Secured, recurring gargoyles broods. That’s not too terrible, and it still leaves room in the standard 1850 list for another two or three flyrants. Then you go back to TFG, but then, can you really be that when you play Tyranids?

tyranids 009

You can also do a Walking Tyrant, your standard, 3rd edition center anvil.  With this, you typically take Lash Whip and Sword as well as a Heavy Venom Cannon. This gives the Tyrant a bit of everything with a long range (well, for bugs) S9 blast and then the chance for Instant Death in melee, all while swinging at I8.  You typically want to throw in a Tyrant Guard or two here at least to help keep the Tyrant alive.  This is much more a jack of all trades type of build, and it can be reasonably effective depending on match up, particularly in friendly or narrative games as this was how the Tyrant was originally envisioned.

The problem with it is that Bugs are an older codex, and this build simply cannot survive the heat that other armies can bring like Tau, Eldar, or Space Marines.  Especially with the absurdly common Grav-Centurions plus Hunter’s Eye, this build of Tyrant will die in a single volley, even with Tyrant Guard.  It is also more expensive than a Flyrant at the end of the day as Flyrants don’t need Tyrant Guard to increase their survival rate.  If you really want a Walking Tyrant, you can try a Tyrant in a Tyrannocyte. Again, the Tyrant isn’t going to survive a lot of dedicated firepower, but being able to drop into your opponent’s backfield with a Monstrous Creature that can shoot well and still fight well is all kinds of fun, and depending on the army build, they might not have the tools to handle it without having to massively reconfigure their advance. You can do this with just Wings and save 40 points, but the Tyrannocyte provides you some deepstrike mishap protection as well as another fleshy unit for your opponent to have to kill.


While not too common, Melee Tyrants are loads of fun and capable of doing some big damage. With WS8, S6, 4 attacks base, AP2 inherent, and I5, a Hive Tyrant is one of the most killy bugs that the Nids bring, and when you throw in Lash Whips, it is striking at I8.  Not bad at all.  Getting the bug into the fight is the problem, but the Sky-Tyrant swarm is a nice means to do such by giving the Big Bug 20-60 ablative wounds in a fearless unit.  It is an interesting tarpit, granted an expensive one, but having a Hive Tyrant with 40ish Gargoyles that hold the center while doing damage is a fun idea.  Especially in the world of Deathstars, having a very large, Fearless unit that also contains a few high quality attacks isn’t a terrible idea.  It is expensive, but then Tyranids don’t have a lot of answers for Deathstars other than delaying them as long as possible.  If you want some style-points, this is a good way to earn them, and again, it can actually be maddeningly effective as chewing through that many bodies all while there is a Tyrant wrecking face is not as easy as it may appear.

The downside (there’s always one) is that a Hive Tyrant can kill most characters easy enough, it doesn’t have an invulnerable save at all which means that it is likely going to die against other super-melee characters. It will strike first, but if it doesn’t kill the target, it will likely die in the return swing.  Your standard tanky Iron Hands Captain or Space Wolves Thunder-Lord will likely survive the beating and if not kill the Tyrant flat out, kill it reasonably quickly.  Tyrants also lack the tools to fight the Superheavies in melee as the highest strength you are going to get is 8 if you take adrenal glands for Furious Charge and have The Reaper of Obliterax (oh, this sets you back 60 points), and then that is only one round of glancing Knights on a 5+.  Earlier in 7th edition or back in 6th edition, a fighty Tyrant was one of the kings of the playground in terms of raw ability, but the age on this codex is showing. Tyrant Guard may be a necessity just for the access to Crushing Claws to help your Tyrant fight its way out of a Dreadnought.

Still, Hive Tyrants remain one of the best choices that the Tyranid Codex has.  The Flyrant is a staple of the Tyranid competitive scene and again, for just shy of a Land Raider, you get a powerful gunboat.  That said, it doesn’t mean an inventive mind cannot find uses for other types of Tyrants, and much like the rest of the codex, if there is a will, there is a way.  As always, check out TFG Radio as we prep for LVO 2017.

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About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, one of the original triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town, afflicted with faction ADD.

3 Responses to “Tyranid Codex Review: Hive Tyrant”

  1. Michael Corr January 18, 2017 12:29 am #

    Great review Danny! I have only come up against the Flyrant a couple of times. Even two of them was enough to decimate a large part of my army at a tournament, so I can see why they are so popular. They seem to have all the benefits of flyers and few of the drawbacks (not forced to move 18″, 360 field of vision).

    • Reecius January 18, 2017 9:34 am #

      Yeah, great review and easily the best unit in the Nid army.

      • Tnid January 19, 2017 3:13 am #

        Yeah the only good unit right now unfortunately. 🙁

        Cant wait to get the new dex, hope it will land in 2017.

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