40K 8th edition: Tyranid First Impressions

Did you miss me? Or better yet, do you remember me? It’s Danny from TFG Radio here, and after about a month of 8th edition 40K in our lives, it is time to talk about the Hive Fleets and where we stand. Of course, check out the ever-expanding database at Frontline’s Tactics Corner, so you can keep up with all the awesomeness of our new dawn.

So, let’s just be blunt: In 7th edition, Tyranids had very few competitively viable options on the tabletop. Is that true today? Oh, no. No, not at all. 8th edition has been kind to the Hive Mind, and Tyranids are now well positioned to be a strong contender in any game. Why?

Our units are better:

We may actual see table time!

While all other armies received some significant restructuring of under-performing units, the fact that most Tyranid units needed some kind of boost means that we received far more in this department than other, stronger Factions. There are few units that received any toning down of power in our army list, and even then, they are not worthless, simply different and still viable depending on the build.

Yes, Flyrants are not auto-includes now, but they are not at all bad. Gunboat Flyrants are great flankers and skirmishers, able to lay down some hurt on lighter targets with the speed to either avoid the scarier units or strike out and charge a weak unit. Since they can fly, they can fall-back and go about their shooting. Mawlocs were toned down, but they are one of our cheapest monsters that excels at inflicting some surprise mortal wounds as well as taking on larger units of chaff thanks to quite a few attacks.

We actually have a few invulnerable saves now spread out across the army list, we have some decent shooting beasts, and a lot of our worst units were brought up to at least playable if not downright great (Pyrovores).

I have successfully been fielding lists with Carnifexes, Trygons, Tyranid Primes, Crones/Harpies, and walking Tyrants. This is a brave new world. Of course, there are a few stand-outs.

Genestealers are amazing:

Genestealers are pound for pound one of the scariest melee units in the game. For just over 10 points, you get a S/T4 model that moves 8 inches, can advance and charge, has a 5++ save, has 4 attacks a piece when the unit is over 10 models, and hits on a 3+ with easy access to an aura that increases this to 2+. Oh, they also have -1 AP on their melee attacks and 6s turn to -4 AP.

Just on average dice, a Genestealer threatens any unit within 18 inches. Since S4 can hurt anything now, Genestealers are a dominant threat since they will shred any light or medium infantry like Orks or Conscripts, but with -4 AP on a wound of 6, they can absolutely threaten the biggest targets out there. Will Genestealers one round a Knight? No, but they can certainly wear it down or cripple it.

Combined with some of the other cool tools in the Tyranid box, Genestealers are almost an auto-include, and they have finally come back to their glory days. It is quite satisfying to throw out 20 genestealers into a first turn charge, which is just about a guarantee with…

The Swarmlord is the hero we need:

The Swarmlord has the most character and identity amongst the disposable trillions of Hive Fleet Organisms, and its fluff has always been so damn cool, but on the table top? Well, 7th edition wasn’t too kind. Now, the Swarmlord is an absolute beast, and when I am building lists, I really have to ask: “Why wouldn’t I take it?”.
First and foremost, Hive Commander is an ability that you can build a list around, and it is a guaranteed first turn charge. Just deploying on the table, you can get Genestealers to advance 16+2d6 up the board before charging. With a Trygon or Tyrannocyte, you can guarantee a charge by moving whatever pops out their movement value right into the teeth of the enemy. Of course, you can also drop Swarmie in a Tyrannocyte and use Hive Commander on itself for a guaranteed charge.

And Swarmie in combat? It is a blender and one of our best melee assets with a ton of attacks that are -3 AP and do D6 damage, hitting on 2+. Of course, Swarmie still has a 4++ in melee, so it is far more durable than just about any of our other units. If you need a hard asset dead, the Swarmlord is one of our most reliable choices.

If you are new to Tyranids, a Hive Tyrant box (to make Swarmlord) and a few boxes of Genestealers are a great way to start.

Amazing Morale Control:

Synapse is the truth. Morale is a big deal, and if you’ve been watching the nascent meta of this game, you’ll see that strong lists either don’t care about morale (because they utilize many single model units where it is not a factor) or have layers of morale control like Ork Hordes or Conscripts and Commissars. Thanks to Synapse, the Hive Fleets can field large units of squishy bugs and not suffer the double attrition nature of morale.

This is huge for several reasons. The first is that it makes the little bugs like Termagants and Hormagaunts exceedingly useful. They are designed to be taken in hordes, but with T3 and a 6+ save, they are not going to live very long. They will take casualties, which is their job, but ensuring that they will stick around is what matters. A Hormagaunt tarpit has won me games, and yes, most of a 30 bug unit of Termagants will evaporate under fire, but as long as enough stick around to block charge lanes or contest an objective, they have done their job.

Second, this segways nicely into….

Controlling objectives:

The fact that objectives are now controlled by the number of models around it rather than number of units or rules like Objective Secured, swarms and hordes are powerful in the mission. Tyranids have some solid swarm units, and 30 Termagants is not much over a hundred points. That’s not too bad at all for a unit of 30 that will never suffer losses from Morale so long as they are in Synapse. The Hive Fleet can easily have a ton of big monsters on the table and still have points for 60-90 bodies to play the mission.

This is one of the Tyranid benefits: We have some decent, cheap troops that we can easily use to fill out a battle field while still leaving a lot of room for other units. Let’s not forget that thanks to the Character rules, a Tyranid Prime or Malanthrope, both quite inexpensive, cannot be targeted if they are not the closest unit, so having these Synapse beacons walking in the center of a ring of Gants ensures that they are not going anywhere.

Threat Vectors:

Tyranids certainly live up to the fluff when it comes to being able to hit enemies where and when they are not expecting it. Thanks to Tyrannocytes, which are more expensive but much more useful on the field, any infantry or monstrous creature 14 wounds and under can appear on the board wherever is best. Dropping a Dimacheron or Haruspex can be hilarious or the previously mentioned Swarmlord.

Thanks to the new and improved Trygon/Prime rules, all of our Troops choices can now pop up where they are needed, and not just limited to 20 bug squads. A full unit of 30 devilgants popping out of a Trygon hole means 90 S4 shots wherever you need them, or a full squad of 30 hormagaunts with adrenal glands now only need an 8 to make a charge out of reserve, and if you saved a Control Point for a reroll, the odds start to inch closer to your favor. Hell, even a full squad of melee Tyranid Warriors with Boneswords and Adrenal Glands popping out of either a Trygon hole or a Tyrannocyte can ruin some days.

Of course, there are also units that can just innately deploy via reserves like Raveners, Ripper Swarms, Mucolids, and Lictors. All in all, Tyranids have plenty of ways to come out opponents from a variety of places, and it is not hard to adjust our lists to have significantly lower drops than it may first appear thanks to the Trygon and Tyrannocyte.

Mortal Wounds:

This has been bandied about the competitive web for a bit, but the idea of massed mortal wounds thanks to Smite is something that Tyranids do quite well. First off, the Hive Tyrant can be one of the best Smite batteries around. With a solid melee statline, a 5++, and 10 wounds, a Hive Tyrant doesn’t mind being close up to the action, and if you take only rending claws, a Hive Tyrant is cheaper than a Broodlord. Of course, you can also just take a Broodlord who has the benefit of hiding behind a screen of gants. We also have Maleceptors who get +1 to cast, making smite even more likely, and our big hitters in this regard, Zoanthropes, will put out 2d3 (or even d6+d3) mortal wounds.

Let’s not forget that Tyranids have other ways to dish out mortal wounds. Biovores and Spore Mines just do a flat number of mortal wounds with the chance to spike, and Mucolids are pretty nasty that way too. The most improved in this regard is the Sporecyst who can essentially shoot Mucolids, so a Tyrannid gun-line of Biovores and a Sporecyst or two is a lot of high range mortal wounds, and if you miss, being able to put down some exploding bug-balloons to gum up charge lines is kind of awesome. Mawlocs are also great for doing some surprise mortal wounds, especially to characters in the backfield, and while they are not super killing machines, they can certainly threaten quite a few characters and light infantry.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see a mortal wound army come of Tyranids that makes all these Knight and Stormraven lists wary.

Some Allies shenanigans:

Something totally new to Tyranids in 8th edition is that we finally have a way to play with allies. At the end of 7th, we had Genestealer Cults, but with GSC’s new rule allowing them to take one detachment of Astra Militarum, you can have a 2K list with Tyranids, GSC, and AM. GSC Genestealers backed by waves of gants, a Swarmlord, and a Baneblade you say? It could happen.

Tyranids are no longer a lone island, and for better or worse, this opens up our list building options into some pretty insane and tricky places. I would not at all be shocked to see a tournament-winning list that uses this.

Combined Arms and Skew:

Lastly, as I postulated before, Tyranids are pretty gosh darn good at building a variety of lists. You can do a mega-swarm of 200+ models, a monster-mash of about 10, a semi-horde of 10+ Carnifexes and a host of little ones, or a combination thereof. That’s the beauty of it, and it is the most exciting part of 8th edition for me: We have a ton of viable lists, and we even have several viable genres of lists to go to.

We can skew with the best of them and bring just an overwhelming amount of either Big Bugs or little bugs. We can do lightning fast assault armies or gun-lines. The only thing we cannot really do is bring massed flyers with the Airborne rule, but then we can bring massed Flyrants and Harpies/Crones. We can do TAC like champs with a well-balanced buffet of goodness. Whatever the meta solidifies into, we can respond to it.

There is no real way to tell how the meta will look in a year, but I am willing to go on the record and say that Tyranids will have at least 3 highly competitive builds. That’s a huge improvement over 7th, and all in all, I am a happy member of the Hive Mind. Next time, I’ll talk about the main “genres” of armies that Tyranids can do, and maybe go over a few sample lists. Until then, thanks as always for reading, check out TFG Radio for all of our adventures, and maybe I’ll see you at the SoCal Open or LVO.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



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.

35 Responses to “40K 8th edition: Tyranid First Impressions”

  1. Avatar
    CWDub July 12, 2017 6:40 am #

    Great article. I’ve been having a blast with Nids so far.. all of the deployment options/DS options make the army insane. Swarm Lord can struggle vs. CC-based HQs but he can also guarantee a Turn 1 charge for himself or another unit.

    Trygons are amazing. I had one wipe an entire unit of Sanguinary Guard solo in one round in a recent game. I’m considering a list right now with a Trygon bringing in 30 hormagaunts with another 40 GSC ‘stealers ambushing with a Primus and Patriarch.. backed up with some GSC heavy flamer Chimeras/flamer spam or Whirlwinds. Malanthropes are also amazing for unlocking detatchments and are point-for-point one of the best HQs right now.

  2. Avatar
    Dbiesto July 12, 2017 8:48 am #

    As I was reading through the article my main focus was how would tyranids deal with flyers before they hover aka cheeseraven spam? 90 str 4 shots pop out of a hole. Problem solved with a few harpies/ crones and some heavy shooters it sounds like. I look forward to seeing some Tyranid players back in the top tables and hopefully flyer spam dies out somehow.

    • Avatar
      CWDub July 12, 2017 9:04 am #

      I haven’t had to deal with Storm Raven spam.. but hopefully they’ve made them more expensive in the upcoming codices? Doubtful as they’re coming pretty quick after the index releases..

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz July 12, 2017 12:31 pm #

      Hive Guard with Shock Cannons are pretty good at killing most vehicles, even Stormravens.

      • Avatar
        N.I.B. July 12, 2017 2:18 pm #

        That sounds false. Surely Stormravens outrange Shock cannons by a lot?

        • Avatar
          Nogle July 12, 2017 2:52 pm #

          Not the hurricane Bolters

        • Avatar
          AbusePuppy July 12, 2017 3:45 pm #

          The 20″ mandatory move generally means that Stormravens can’t keep at maximum distance like other units can, especially if you’re trying to maneuver a whole flock of them.

    • Avatar
      black mage July 13, 2017 10:45 am #

      if u lucky 90 str 4 shots from gants strip average 3 wounds from a SR, so that’s not the solution for me.

  3. Avatar
    Beast July 12, 2017 1:28 pm #

    How do you fit 30 hormagaunts within 6″ of a trygon? Just pile them up on the table?

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 12, 2017 2:14 pm #

      It’s super easy to do, actually. You have room to spare.

      • Avatar
        CWDub July 13, 2017 5:45 am #

        It’s also great to see the look on your opponent’s face the first time you do it 😀

    • Avatar
      winterman July 12, 2017 2:24 pm #

      Its within 3″ actually (and not wholly within though, so usually 4 bases deep fits) and its still totally doable. Gets tight when terrain and/or 9″ from enemy and/or table edge is limiting the placement though. Also placing such that the trygon can also make an assault, usually ends up in a horseshoe around the base.

      • Avatar
        Beast July 13, 2017 8:54 am #

        Then I find it even harder to believe that 30 models can easily fit. I did it with 12 genestealers and realized a full unit isn’t going to make it. Are the limbs able to lean over the 3″ mark? Can the limbs overlap each other as long as bases are flat on the table?

        • Avatar
          Blight July 13, 2017 8:58 am #

          For a model with a base only the base matters for any measurements.

        • Avatar
          Beast July 13, 2017 9:17 am #

          Disregard me, I just drew it out on a sheet of paper, it’s larger than I thought.

          • Avatar
            AbusePuppy July 13, 2017 2:19 pm

            Yeah, it’s a surprising amount of distance. It’s not _comfy_, but you can definitely fit those guys in there.

  4. Avatar
    Nogle July 12, 2017 2:28 pm #

    Bugs that pop out of holes can deploy 8″ away from the enemy?

    • Avatar
      AbusePuppy July 12, 2017 3:46 pm #

      They have to be more than 9″ away, but Adrenal Glands give you a bonus inch on charges, so you’re only needing to roll an 8 on the dice.

      • Reecius
        Reecius July 13, 2017 10:50 am #

        Which makes a huge difference in getting it off.

  5. Avatar
    R July 13, 2017 1:09 am #

    Doesn’t the Core Rule Book state a unit that effectively comes in from “reserves” cannot move or advance for the rest of that turn? Hive Commander would do nothing for those units.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 13, 2017 6:42 am #

      Hive Commander and warp time, etc. Do work on things coming in from reserves.

      • Avatar
        Nogle July 13, 2017 8:26 am #

        For my chaos army, I’m thinking of dropping 5 warp talons a jump sorcerer and 2 units of raptor on a flank. Warptime the talons real close and charge multiple units and let the raptor come in free of overreach

        • Avatar
          Nogle July 13, 2017 8:26 am #


        • Reecius
          Reecius July 13, 2017 10:51 am #

          Yeah, works great! Staple Chaos tactic.

      • Avatar
        AbusePuppy July 13, 2017 2:21 pm #

        That is probably something that should go into the FAQ, because there’s a pretty valid argument against it. My assumption has been that it’s as you say and they are _intended_ to be able to be used on such units, but the reserve rules are fairly explicit in stating “the unit may not move any further that turn.”

  6. Avatar
    Luke July 13, 2017 4:30 am #

    Can’t bring mass flyers you say?

    Challenge accepted! Tyranid Vulture flyer wing!

    Just kidding but I will bring 2

  7. Avatar
    Don Tomaso July 13, 2017 11:52 am #

    Great to see a previously stale army be useful all across the board. Good job to the playtesters making that happen.

    Now lets hope you will keep doing so with other armies that are still suffering from the useless unit syndrome!!

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 13, 2017 12:04 pm #

      The stated goal is to make every unit viable. It is tough to do but I feel like so far it’s better than it’s been by a mile.

      • Avatar
        WestRider July 13, 2017 9:22 pm #

        So far the only real miss I’ve run across for the Nids is Venomthropes. And as much as anything, that’s mostly just because the Malanthrope is a thing, and it’s so much better.

  8. Avatar
    Chris July 13, 2017 6:51 pm #

    Going to a team tournament this weekend (Bugs, Bugs and GSC) and taking the Trygon Bomb – 2 x Trygons with 20 x stealers coming from reserves following each, plus Mawloc for the lols. Add this to the Tervigon and 30x termagaunt blob thundering upfield and you get a nasty sandwich…… Fun times ahead!

  9. Avatar
    Jural July 14, 2017 7:13 am #

    I have been having so much fun trying out my models I haven’t really spammed anything yet!

    Zoanthropes are pretty annoying for the opponent as Los blockers and getting in the way of charges… very durable by comparison to other thing

    Lictors only being a 1 model unit though… very stupid

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 14, 2017 12:54 pm #

      Nids seriously don’t have to spam.

      • Avatar
        Jural July 14, 2017 10:38 pm #

        Lol- I have been trying one unit of everything… just want to field the stuff I haven’t been able to 😉

Leave a Reply