Tyranid Codex Review: HQ: Tyrant Guard

Hello everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here to go over the last HQ choice, well, they exist in the HQ section of the codex, for the Hive Fleets, the mighty Tyrant Guard! Be sure to head over the ever-growing, ever-hungry maw of Frontline’s Tactics Corner!


The Tyrant Guard is a humble bug with a simple purpose: Keep the important bugs alive! With high toughness and the ability to cuddle a Hive Tyrant, these bugs are all about keeping terrestrial Tyrants alive, but they can also be handy objective campers.



  • Rending Claws – AP5 rending melee weapon
  • Scything talons – Extra Close Combat Weapon


  • May exchange scything talons with either Crushing Claws (+1S, Armourbane, AP2, and Unwieldy) or Lash Whip and Bonesword (+3 Initiative in melee, Instant Death on a wound of 6, and AP3)
  • Biomorphs: Toxin Sacs (poison 4+) and/or Adrenal Glands (Furious Charge and Fleet)

So with their stock standard kit, you have a model with 3 attacks that rend at S5 and WS5. That’s not terrible at all. Crushing Claws can make the humble Tyrant Guard a menace to enemy armor as one will glance a Knight in melee on average dice. Lash Whip and Bonesword let the Guard fight at I7 with AP3 and S5, that’s not all together bad especially with the chance to land an Instant Death attack. The issue is of course cost as upgrading these bad buys gets real pricey, real quick. At two powerfists each and limited to 3 per unit, you can easily spend almost 300 points for a small unit of killers, but a unit without any invulnerable saves.


Special Rules:

  • Blind Rampage: If a Hive Tyrant (Or Swarmlord) is killed while in their unit, from the end of that turn until the end of the game, this unit has the Rage and Furious Charge special rule.
  • Instinctive Behavior (Feed): This unit can eat itself if it fails IB tests or charge the nearest enemy.
  • Shieldwall: A single Hive Tyrant may join this unit like an IC (and thanks to GW FAQ in draft form, cannot leave). While in the unit, the Hive Tyrant automatically passes Look Out Sir! rolls.
  • Very Bulky: Count as 3 units for transport

The special rules here do exactly what you expect Tyrant Guard to do, they guard Hive Tyrants. Shieldwall is their go-to feature as this what lets you protect a Hive Tyrant, and each TG is essentially 2 T6 wounds for your opponent to chew through. The auto-pass LoS is helpful as model placement isn’t too important, and it offers a bit of player-error insulation that Tyranids sorely lack. Blind Rampage is a fluffy rule, but it does have some merit, namely turning these TG into even more efficient killers with S6 and 5 attacks on the charge. The only way it ever really works though is if your Hive Tyrant is killed in a challenge or blows itself up via Perils of the Warp, and if your Tyrant is killed in a challenge, chances are you are fighting a unit that will pick up the Tyrant Guard easy enough in the same turn. Instinctive Behavior Feed is the worse purely because you have the chance to hurt yourself, but seeing as these little buddies are there to be like flies on Tyranid Primes, it is not likely to come up often as they should typically be in synapse.


So, what do we do with TG? Well, the first and obvious choice is to use them to escort a walking Tyrant. Yes, those still do exist although not in the competitive scene, but if you don’t take Wings on a Tyrant, you really only pay 15 points for the first Tyrant Guard, so there’s that. Each Guard is essentially an extra 2 wounds, so if you are going to have a Hive Tyrant that is only moving 6 inches and does not get to take the skies to avoid fire, Tyrant Guard are super helpful. They are pretty much mandatory with the Swarmlord since he can only walk, and if you are paying close to 300 points for a model, you might as well invest another 100 or so for some ablative wounds. As Hive Tyrants don’t have access to Crushing Claws, giving at least one TG a set can really help the Tyrant and his guard from getting bogged down by enemy Walkers. At T6, you get to keep majority toughness of 6, making a lot of small arms a lot less scary, and being immune to S10 Instant Death is helpful, especially if you get Catalyst on the unit. You really want to try and get Catalyst as Feel No Pain really increases the tank factor of these little bugs, especially since only D or Instant Death attacks will negate it.

If you want a melee Hive Tyrant but hate building 20 Gargoyles, you can always put a winged Tyrant in a unit of Tyrant Guard. The Tyrant can’t take to the skies, and you have to stay in coherency, but it is a way to ensure that the Tyrant has some ablative wounds while it saucily saunters up the board, and once the Guard die, the Flyrant is free to use all 12 inches of Jump movement to get into the thick of things. Taking 3 TG is only about 30 points more than the minimum gargoyle broods for the Sky Tyrant formation, and while you lose about 14 ablative wounds, the 6 you get are T6 with a 3+ save, and TG definitely fight a lot better than Gargoyles. This also doesn’t use up a detachment as you can do this with just 1 HQ choice.

A funny trick is to take a Tyrant Guard even when using Flyrants. For the cost of a Zoanthrope or Lictor, you get a T6, 2W model that can hide and camp an objective. With their Instinctive Behavior (Feed), on the roll of a 1, they can’t hurt themselves unless there are 2 or more, so you are a bit safe from the worst effect, and with a Leadership of 7, they are going to pass IB more than they fail. Small, fast flanking units won’t have the easiest time shifting these little bugs as they are still WS5 (so most units hit on 4s) and T6 (so most units wound on 6s) with a 3+ save. That’s not bad, plus they have rending, so they may not kill a lot of models, but one lucky 6 could mean your opponent has to run.  You can also take multiple small units (1 or 2) per Flyrant, and if you are good at positioning, you can set it up to where the Flyrant lands earlier than turn 5 to try and score an objective, all while having a meat shield waiting to help keep it alive long enough to score or for the game to end.


Now, there is a reason you don’t see these bad bugs flood the table, and again, much like the rest of the codex, cost is an issue. They are not cheap, so taking a full unit of 3 is only 15 points shy of a naked Hive Tyrant. Granted, they add 6 ablative wounds, but still, that’s pricey. They are slow with no real means of speeding up, and to use them well, you are taking sub-optimal builds like Walking Tyrants or the Swarmlord. They have no invulnerable save, again, so anything with AP3 is punching through, and there is enough ignore cover out in the world. You can get them Feel No Pain with Catalyst, but you need to roll that power and hope it goes off, which just adds a point of failure.

If you want to use them as objective holders, Lictors are probably better as they can Deep Strike without scatter to get to those backfield objectives or Zoanthropes with their 3++ and Synapse. Even the Guard’s sibling, the Hive Guard, can be used the same way for a little more points but packs a S8 gun that ignores LoS and cover. The only advantage TG have over the others is that they don’t use an elite slot (which is competitive in a bug army), and at T6, a lot of Barrage weapons aren’t as scary. It really comes down to army build and meta, but there are strong arguments for either Lictors or Zoansthropes instead.  Back in the day, TG used to have a 2+ armor save, which is sorely missed here as it really helped make them immune to small arms fire, and with only armor 3+, a well-placed battle cannon can wrack up enough hits to kill one outright and maybe wound another in one shot.

All in all, you may see these bugs if your opponent is trying to be a bit tricksy with the standard Flyrant build, and in a fluffier game, they are great supports for a walking Tyrant or the Swarmlord, but as a competitive choice? Probably not. While they are tough, they aren’t TH/SS Terminator tough for about the same points and with a lot less kill. And we all know how awesome terminators are…

Anyway, thanks for joining me through the trials and tribulations of the HQ section of the Tyranid Codex, and stay tuned as we start working our way to the Troops choices. As always, check out TFG Radio, especially our LVO primer!

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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.

4 Responses to “Tyranid Codex Review: HQ: Tyrant Guard”

  1. Troy Graber January 18, 2017 3:50 pm #

    I use Tyrant Guard a lot in my games. I especially like to run them with The Swarmlord to help me eat up points, and keep a low model count, so that I don’t overwhelm opponents. I’ve used them in so many games that I’ve developed a formula for their usage.

    At 1,000 points, you want 1 Tyrant Guard with Crushing Claws. The Tyrant Guard takes the 1st wound, and then Swarmlord takes the rest until one of them has to die at which point you decide if you need vehicle killing, or want to keep the swarmlord.

    At 1,500 points, you want 2 tyrant Guard including one with Crushing Claws. the non-crushing claw guard is the 1st to die, then you repeat the process above.

    At 2,000 points you want 3 Tyrant Guard including one with crushing Claws. As above you protect the crushing claw until it needs to die.

    I generally find that my swarmlord lists can hang with low level competition. I’ve taken Swarmy to a few RTTs with 3 Tyrant Guard at 1850, and I’ve done 2-1 a number of times with it, and the best thing about those lists is that everybody always has a blast playing against them even if I table them. It is so hard to run Tyranids in a way that keeps competitive games fun, you tend to blow people out or get blown out. 5 Flyrant lists are an example of a Meta that is in very poor shape when it comes to promoting a fun gaming experience for all players.

    Here is another fun but extremely casual idea. Take Tyrant Guard with a Flyrant, then join a Tyranid Prime to them, and put the Guard + Prime in a Tyrannocyte. That is a backfield assault unit that can pack a whallop. It isn’t good, because the Tyranid Prime is so absurdly overcosted for its abilities, and he has no invul, but it’s the best usage I’ve found for one, and because my Nids get so much play in narrative campaigns, it is always good to try and figure out a way to incooperate non-flyrant HQ’s.

    • Danny Ruiz January 24, 2017 7:54 am #

      That’s a pretty funny idea actually. I do enjoy that the GW FAQ changed stances and lets Tyrants leave the unit, so you could have several squads and hop between them as they take damage.

  2. VonCrown January 19, 2017 2:14 am #

    I feel like toxin sacs need a bit more of a callout as far and away the most cost effective melee upgrade for tyrant guard. Since they have STR 5 base, for 3 points per model you effectively give them shred vs. anything with a T of 4 or less, which is basically all infantry in the game. And since you can take advantage of that upgrade along with the rending claws they already have, you get to reroll for extra rends as well.

    • Danny Ruiz January 24, 2017 7:53 am #

      Poison can be helpful, but especially with Tyrant Guard, Crushing Claws adds the most to what the unit really needs, which is a way to pop armor reliably. I can see your point though.

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