Hello everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here again, and today we look at the big brain bug who is often ignored, but not for long (hopefully). As always, boost your brain with more articles from Frontline’s Tactics Corner.
The Zoanthrope is a mix of a psychic gun platform and synapse support creature, and thanks to a lovely supplement, they have a lot more moves that make them particularly effective at solving some common Tyranid problems.
In codex, they have no upgrades at all other than adding 2 more to create a unit of 3 at most.
In the Leviathan supplement, Zoans get a bit more love with an increased unit size to a max of 6, and with the Neurothrope upgrade. For half the cost of a Zoan, you get an upgraded leader-bug that automatically comes with an additional power for the unit, Spirit Leech, which is another version of Psychic Scream that also generates extra warp charge for the unit to use to cast Warp Blast.
This is huge actually as the codex version of Zoans is pretty weak, but Leviathan makes them far stronger by increasing their unit size as well as giving them a great power that offers a lot of answers to some common bug problems.
Brotherhood of Psykers (Mastery Level 2): The unit counts as a psyker, only one model perils, and the whole unit is counted as one psykyer for Warp Charge points.
Shadow in the Warp: -3 Leadership to all enemy psykers within 12.
Synapse Creature: Fearless and ignore Instinctive Behavior tests for all friendly Tyranids within 12.
Very Bulky: Count as 3 models for transport purposes.
Psychic Brood: When the unit uses Warp Blast, they fire a number of shots equal to the number of the Zoans in the unit.
Warp Field: a 3++ invulnerable save.
Wow, so there are a lot of good rules here, and it is important to note that Zoans are one of the only bugs with an invulnerable save, and it is the best one in the army. A 3++ is no joke. Psychic Brood also makes Warp Blast much more reliable with a unit as now you are getting 3 or even 6 shots instead of 1, so there are more chances of success, and even putting out 3 S5 AP3 small blasts can be crucial for an army that lacks a lot of ranged AP3. Very Bulky is more or less irrelevant as the max unit size is 6, which still fits in a Tyrannocyte.
Ok, so what do we do with these little leader bugs? Well, you have options now thanks to Leviathan. The first and most common usage, if you see these little guys at all, is as backfield synapse beacons and warp charge batteries. They are good at this. They are just about the cheapest level 2 psyker you can get if you just take 1, and with their smaller profile, you can hide them out of Line of Sight pretty easily. With a 3++ save, it is not easy to snipe them out as you have to dedicate some firepower to it, and so they make excellent MSU style backfield campers to keep everything in Synapse and fuel any psychic shenanigans. With Genestealer Cult and their access to Biomancy and Telepathy, Zoanthropes make excellent WC batteries to help fuel either a First Curse Deathstar with several Patriarchs or a Psychic Scream spam list. I’ve had some success with a list that uses Zoans and Patriarchs to just spam a lot of Psychic Scream/Spirit Leech.
You can also use them as suicide squads with a Tyrannocyte. This is especially true with a Neurothrope as Spirit Leech is a great answer to Tau and Wraithknights. This also helps with Daemons or Daemon Princes as suddenly you are dropping their leadership by -3 if in range of Synapse, and then you hit them with Spirit Leech. Warp Blast is also important because it is the Tyranids’ only access to S10 AP2, and while one shot at WC2 is hard, having 3 or 4 shots is actually quite nice, especially against Knights as the attack takes place in the psychic phase, so before the Knight can readjust their shield. A full brood of 6 can lay down some devastating firepower in the psychic phase, and thanks to Brotherhood of Psykers, you can be more aggressive with throwing a lot of dice since losing one doesn’t alter the WC generation.
You could try and take a full squad of 6 and march them up the board as with their 3++, they are relatively resilient, and the chance to fire off 6 S10 AP2 or S5 AP3 small blasts is pretty tempting. Zoans actually really help Tyranids deal with Battle-Company and other builds that have a lot of light vehicles as the Zoans can pop the vehicles in the psychic phase and then the Flyrants can take out the passengers with important weapons or keep popping other vehicles. You can also load all six up into a Tyrannocyte and put a relatively resilient unit with some threat right where you need them.
So why aren’t these guys everywhere? Well, they have a bad reputation, primarily because most people wrote off Levianthan. In their codex form, they are pretty terrible, but with the update in Levianthan, they are actually solid, but they have weaknesses. They are slow. They are standard infantry without Move Through Cover, so they can easily get bogged down in terrain. They are also pretty terrible in close combat, so if something gets to them, they can easily get taken out by volume of attacks. The 3++ makes them pretty safe from a few high quality hits, but at only T4, a lot of small arms will hurt them. They are also easily killed by S8 since they are only T4 with 2 wounds, and while the 3++ helps, you can still fail them and then lose a whole Zoan. They also take up an elite slot, and well, you have to justify them over a Lictor, which often changes the dynamic of the army.
They also get expensive, especially if you are adding in a Tyrannocyte, so you will need them to do work, and if they don’t, well, that’s a lot of points for not much else. While they are relatively flexible, especially with a Neurothrope, you are again spending a lot of points that can easily be tied up in close combat by just about anything. It also is a bit of a sore point that you don’t gain any Mastery Levels for increasing their unit size, which would have been nice.
So, the maligned Zoanthrope is far better than often recognized, but is it competitive? I actually say yes if you are building a psychic skew army, especially with Genestealer Cult. In the standard Flyrant build, they are a bit too slow and don’t do enough on their own to really be better than a Lictor. In a fun game, you can do lots of crazy things with Zoanthropes, and I think they are one of the most under-used entries in the codex. Thanks as always for reading, and stay tuned as I go through this rather large codex, and check out TFG Radio.
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