Tyranid Index Review: Elites

Hello everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, we are going to look at what used to be the most competitive slot in the codex (other than Flyrants), and now it’s time to see what the winds of change have wrought.  Of course, you should also snoop around Frontline’s Tactics Corner for all that sweet information on how the rest of the factions are shaping up in this new edition.

Elites really shape the character of a Tyranid list, and you’ll see that we have some real winners and some real whiners.  Let’s get to it:

Hive Guard

Hive Guard have gone up and down since their debut, but they are back to form with a better BS and hardier constitution.

Hive Guard are one of our best point for point shooting units, especially for high value shooting.  While Devil-Gants bring the rain, Hive Guard bring some heavy hits that are great for taking out harder targets like vehicles or even other Monsters.  First, the Hive Guard went back to shooting better than any other bug save for a Tyrant with a stock BS 3+, and they even gained an extra wound.  They are a bit slower, but then they are not designed for speed but built for comfort.  With T5, 3 wounds, and a 4+ save, they are hardy little bugs, especially in cover, which is easy for them to utilize with a max squad size of 6 (a nice improvement) and also access to a weapon that doesn’t need LoS.  The Impaler Cannon is one of our best weapons with one of our longest ranges (36), S8 AP -2 and D3 damage.  The fact that it ignores cover is a cherry, but ignoring LoS is huge.  You can safely place a squad of Impalers safely hiding in terrain and still lay on the firepower. Shockcannons are also a worthy choice as they are cheaper, potentially more shots at Assault D3 (and more mobile), and on a 4+, they do a mortal wound to vehicles in addition to any damage (and the sweet D3 on a 6).  Shock Guard are one of our best answers to vehicles, and really, a unit of 3 is likely to cripple most vehicles in a volley, and with the potential to spike big, kill one outright.

What’s wrong with them? Well, the change to squad size is a double-edged bio-sword as it increases their minimum investment.  You now need to take 3, which isn’t inherently bad, but it does shut down some Brigade building tricks as with Impaler Cannons, they get real pricey.  They are slow, and they can’t fight their way out of a paper bag, but what do you expect from a shooting unit?  Really, their biggest downside is that they need a Tyrannocyte to be where you want them to be like flushing out Artillery in a corner, but this is easily countered by chaff. Still, placing even just 3 in your deployment zone, hiding out of LoS and still putting out some shots makes them worthy of notice.

90/100. Absolutely great unit that should see more play in shooting lists.

Tyrant Guard

The meat-shields are still here, and as shooting is far more lethal, they are far more valuable.  They are just a hair cheaper in their stock form, and really, they haven’t changed too much in essence, but they are far more necessary.

The Tyrant Guard’s stats haven’t changed that much except for an additional wound and an inch increase in movement speed. Their max unit size also increased to 6, so you can take essentially 18 ablative wounds for a Hive Tyrant (really, Swarmlord).  That is pretty sweet since the Shieldwall rule is no longer an auto-pass of Look Out Sir, but rather on a 2+, a Guard can take a wound that Tyrant takes within 3.  Why this is awesome is that you get all the defensive benefits of the Hive Tyrant (like Toughness 6, a 5++, and perhaps even a Catalyst or Warlord trait save).  If you can get a Tyrant or Swarmlord with all the defensive buffs up, those wounds are pretty hard to generate, and being able to shunt 83% of them off to a Tyrant Guard just makes them incredibly handy.

The downside is that Tyrant Guards get too expensive if you start to take their upgrades, and really, if they are in combat, you are likely to lose your Tyrant anyway.   With the minimum squad size increase of 3, you have to invest over a 100 points, which can start to add up when you start throwing in the cost of a Tyrant (or again, Swarmy).  Still, if you are going to take a Hive Tyrant (read: Swarmlord), these bugs are pretty damn useful.  They are one-dimensional, and you are certainly paying points just to keep one model alive or absorb enemy fire power, but then, that could be enough.

85/100. An essential unit, but one-dimensional.  Tyrant Guard can be a key to victory, so they are good, but they also can be an expensive piece of dead weight in some cases.


The silent killers of the Hive Fleet have seen better days, and while they have some utility, they lack the pop necessary to really do their job.

On the plus side, Lictors doubled their wounds to 4, but they also lost attacks. Chameleonic Skin is much improved with a flat -1 to hit modifier (any to hit) and a 3+ save in cover, which is easy to achieve.  Lictors are quite fast with a 9 inch move, and they hit well with WS 2+.  Grasping Talons are not too bad with Damage 2, and a Lictor with S6 is hitting on 2s and wounding on 2s against any T3 character (Like Commisars).  Hidden Hunters gives Lictors a free reroll to charge on the turn they come out of hiding, which makes a 9 inch charge a bit more manageable, but still, not entirely great odds.  One of their best selling points is that they are one of the cheapest elite slot we have, so if you are trying for a brigade, here you are.

The bad side is that Lictors are now purely solo-hunters, and just one is not enough to get the job done.  If they could still be taken in squads of 1 to 3, even 2, you could mostly guarantee that they could kill a low level character in one charge, which is what they are supposed to do.  With only a 5+ save, they are still pretty squishy in combat.  3 attacks is just not enough heat for them to have much chance to kill a character or even do any real damage to a small squad or light vehicle.   Especially since just about less than half of your charges will fail, even with the reroll, the Lictor just isn’t quite the assassin-bug it used to be.

60/100. Needs some work to be passable, and while taking a few is fun, they are just not good enough at their job to be included, unless you want to run a Brigade and need a cheap elite.


Pyrovores were so long maligned, and while they are not the absolute bees-knees, they are still usable.

The Pyrovore received a nice stat boost to 4 wounds while everything else stayed much the same.  The real change that makes them relevant is their special rules and weapons.  The Flamespurt is now a 10 inch heavy flamer, which is actually highly important as it means a Pyrovore can drop out of a Tyrannocyte and still flame down a target while other flamers are out of range. It also means charging a unit of Pyrovores is risky as only an 11 or 12 inch charge avoids their overwatch.  Pyrovores are great anti-melee threats as few units want to take a 3D6 S5 AP -1 hits.   Acid Maw is also better as each Pyrovore is a melee threat with a S5 AP -3 weapon, and so they excel at hurting elite, well-armored targets like Space Marines.   They don’t have too many attacks and are only WS 4+, but for a unit that wants to shoot, they fight well enough.  They can also do some mortal wounds as they die between Acid Blood and Volatile, so between their overwatch, their melee attacks, and their special rules for taking wounds or dying, it can actually be a risky proposition to fight them, especially since a full unit of 3 is not that expensive.

The downside is their unit size more than anything.  While being able to take 10 would be super overkill, there has to be a happy medium.  A Tyrannocyte costs more than a full squad, and 3 is just not enough punch to really justify them in most cases.  A max squad size of 5 or 6 would go a long way to making sure these babies see play because if I could take 5-6 in a single pod, I would, almost every game.

70/100. Just passing, but still a lot of room for improvement. They can do some work, but really, they need to roll a bit deeper to be legitimate threats.


The Good ol Zoey is still solid, still likely overlooked, and still not quite as powerful as maybe we’d like.

The Zoanthrope is mostly unchanged in this brand new world, but they did get a bonus wound, so that plays well with the Neurothrope’s new version of Spirit Leech, which lets the unit heal (not replace models), so you can get a bit of extra mileage out of a big unit.  With a 3++, it can be quite annoying for your opponent to dedicate heavy weaponry to them since all it takes is a hot hand to make 100 points of Lascannon’s be worthless, and really, making 4 3++ is not all that hard to do. If they dedicate anti-infantry weapons, then the Zoans have a chance to heal this back since they have 3 wounds a pop.   Of course, with Warp Blast, Zoans do 2D3 mortal wounds with Smite, or even D3+D6 if you roll hot, which can be brutal.  Of course, the unit still has Synapse and Shadow in the Warp, so that’s all gravy.  They also have the bonus of Fly, which with a good advance roll allows them to hop over enemy units that may be in the way, lining up a pretty sweet Smite shot.

The downside to the Zoanthrope is that they get pricey quick, and well, with only Smite as their means of doing damage, which is great,  it is highly limited and makes them very vulnerable to counter-play.  You really need to take them in a Tyrannocyte to line up some good shots on valuable targets, but this is easily blocked.  A minimum squad of 3 could be a good synapse beacon, but there are cheaper HQs that are also easier to protect since they are characters.

75/100. Almost to a solid “good” but not quite there. Perhaps with expanded Hive Mind powers, they could be useful, and when they hit, they can hit hard, but they are just too easily countered by a savvy opponent.


The Malathrope’s little siblings, unfortunately, went from sometimes usable to well, nowhere near as necessary.

On the plus side, they are considerably cheaper than before, which is never bad. They received another wound too, so that’s nice, and they gained a shooting attack on top of their melee.  Poison is gone, but they can reroll all wounds, which is actually rare in the game, so that’s nice, but at WS 4+, they don’t hit too much.  Shrouding Spores has changed from a flat 4+ cover to a flat -1 to hit penalty for shooting attacks against them, but only for Infantry.   This can be quite helpful as 30 Gants with a -1 to hit penalty makes them far more resilient than their 6+ save would suggest.

Of course, Venomthropes are now a 3-6 unit, which can give them some nice coverage for the Shrouding Spores, but it doesn’t protect our most valuable units like Monsters.  They are still not all that great at anything but providing the debuff, and since they are not characters, they are easily singled out and eliminated at range.  3 Wounds at T4 isn’t exactly resilient. Again, just like the Tyranid Prime, the Malanthrope is just a better option.

55/100. Unfortunately, not passing.  While you can make Venoms work in a pure horde army since a unit of 3 has more coverage, you can build around Malanthropes much better.


I pretty much never ran a Haruspex in 7th edition, and well, there are some moves with the big eater in 8th, but there are still big flaws.

The Haruspex got a pretty ultra-mega upgrade befitting its rather impressive model.  It is now a T8 baddie with 13 wounds, so it definitely takes some dedicated attention to bring it down.  It also is one of our strongest melee fighters with S14 AP -3 Dmg D6 attacks.  That’s some real punch that makes even Knights wary.  Of course, the Haruspex also has two means of healing, a special “pistol” attack and its Ravenous Maw attack, and it can theoretically heal 2 wounds in the same turn, which helps get some extra mileage out of the big bug, especially if it tips you back to into Healthy from Medium.  Interestingly, the Haruspex is actually one of our better big bads in terms of dealing with hordes.  Thanks to the Maw, the Haruspex has anywhere from 4-12 attacks in each fight, and every time the Maw kills a model, you get a free Claw attack, so it is technically possible (but highly unlikely) that you could generate 24 attacks in a single fight.  Not bad.  Of course, by the math, you can expect roughly 11 attacks per turn (against a Conscript/Brim unit) from the Harurspex (8 Maws, 3 Claws), which is not too shabby.  The Haruspex is actually great at dealing with multiple threats at once if you can line up a charge to engage a larger, squishier unit and a tougher, armored unit so those free claw attacks go right into the hard target and probably does some big, big damage.

The downside is that the Haruspex is almost the same cost as the Swarmlord for a whole lot less protection.  While T8 and 13 wounds with a 3+ save is nice, it will wither to dedicated firepower like Lascannons or Missile Launchers.  That is really the issue here: The Haruspex has a lot of great rules and can kick some major tail for the Hive Mind, but the price tag may be a bit too steep.  To successfully run one, you really need a Tyrannocyte and the Swarmlord, so tack on another 450 points, and really, you are spending over 700 points to make sure your big bad gets into the scrum without dying.  In terms of pure mileage, 20 genestealers does more damage to most targets, is more resilient, is faster, and is cheaper than a Haruspex.

65/100. Failing, but not by much. I believe in the big bug, mostly because it can heal and it can fight multiple threats, but it is just too expensive to really justify in most lists except for one specifically designed around it.


Oh, the Maleceptor was so not great in 7th, and unfortunately, that trend continues.  It is one of the few big misses in the Index, but it is a big miss.

On the plus side, the Maleceptor is somewhat beastly in the stat department with T7 and 12 wounds.  Having a 5++ never hurts at all, and it can even take Adrenal Glands for some reason.  It also gets a pretty sweet +1 to any psychic test, which is nice.  This makes it as a Smite battery far more reliable.  Another nice feature is that the Maleceptor is one of our cheapest big bugs, clocking in at around 180, which is not all that expensive when compared to the other big kits, especially for Synapse.

The problem is that the Maleceptor is just a smite battery, but a Broodlord or naked Hive Tyrant would be better at that or just a minimum squad of Zoeys. Its signature power, Psychic Overloard, doesn’t do much damage at all.  Doing 1 mortal wound to up to 6 units is pretty meh, and it would certainly be stronger if it was simply do 6 mortal wounds, distributed as you’d like, to X amount of units within Y.  The Maleceptor cannot fight well at all, and really, it is just a missed opportunity.  Balancing psykers and monsters is tough, but it seems that GW just went a bit too conservative here.

40/100. A pretty solid fail.  The Maleceptor just doesn’t work as intended, and it needs some serious revision to be worth it on the table.


So the bad mammajamma that is Deathleaper was demoted from a cheap HQ to a semi-cheap Elite.  Deathleaper is still a character, which is nice in terms of protection.  Deathleaper is still the same cost, and it loses some attacks for 3 additional wounds, bringing it up to a respectable 6.  Superior Chameleonic Skin is pretty intense with a flat -2 to hit modifier as well as providing a 3+ armor save in cover.  Shooting overcharged plasma at Deathleaper is bad, bad idea.  Its After Me! underwent some revision, allowing Deathleaper to deploy within 6 inches from a nominated character, and if that character is not on the board then the standard 9 inches.  Deathleaper no longer has a morale debuff, but being able to get so close to a character can be exceptionally important, and with 4 attacks hitting on 2s with 2 damage, Deathleaper can make short work of a Commisar or the Changeling.  Deathleaper really is the Hive Mind’s best answer to a “sniper” unit as it is far harder to block it off with chaff, but still quite doable though.

The problem with Deathleaper is again, it is vulnerable to counter-play although this is far more difficult, and with only 4 attacks, there is certainly no guarantee that Deathleaper is going to kill what it hits.  It is a gamble, and Deathleaper is highly susceptible to just bad dice, especially for a unit designed to murder one important character and then likely die.   That said, Deathleaper remains one of our surest ways to remove a pesky morale control character.  Deathleaper also has Instinctive Behavior which means that it is easy to position models so that Deathleaper has to charge a chaff unit rather than the chosen character.

85/100. A solid “good” that is a great anti-meta choice to help snipe out Commisars or the Changeling, but don’t be too surprised if it lacks the steam to do what it needs to do.

Red Terror:

The Red Terror is no longer an upgrade to Raveners, and it has a pretty healthy stat line, but its signature ability is still too corner case to work well.

The Red Terror has a respectable statline with movement 12, WS 2+, 6 wounds, and 6 attacks. That’s not too bad at all for under 80 points.  The Red Terror has a nice aura ability for Ravener units, making them hit on 2+ in melee, which for the amount of attacks they generate is not too shabby at all.  Of course, The Red Terror can come in from reserves, but as it is a character, it is fast enough to shimmy up the board and be protected by a Hormagaunt screen.  On its own, Red Terror can do decent damage to a soft target, and really, when paired with a Ravener unit, they become a chaff-wrecking machine.

Unfortunately, the Red Terror is not going to take on any other characters. With no AP and no multiple damage on its attacks save for its one tail attack, the Red Terror is unlikely to kill anything with multiple wounds, particularly wounds over 3.   Its signature attack, Swallow Whole, is much easier to trigger thanks to WS 2+, but having to roll to swallow a model means that you are trading 5 attacks to possibly kill one model.  While this can be useful for taking out heavily armored models like Centurions, it is less than a 50% chance to kill a low level character (4 wounds and under) if you factor in needing to hit 4 out of 5 attacks.  Not to mention, Raveners really excel at clearing out chaff, so sending the Red Terror alone into a unit of heavily armored infantry is likely going to be one dead Red Terror, and if you had Raveners with it, they are likely going to die too.   The idea is cool, but it doesn’t work out the way that it should.

70/100. Barely passing because of the aura ability and a strong stat-line.  Raveners are much better now, so taking a character that buffs them is not a bad idea at all, but unless you are planning on running some Ravener shenanigans, The Red Terror can stay underground.

Wow, that was a lot. Ok, so that’s the elites section of the Index, and like 7th edition, it is stacked with a lot of army defining choices.  Which Elites you take will really shape how you build your list, so keep this in mind.   Thanks as always for reading, and let me know how any of these models have done for you since 8th dropped.   You should also check out TFG Radio, and be sure to get those tickets for LVO.  If you’re local to SoCal, you can also say hi at The Hammer of Wrath GT in Pasadena.   I’ll see you all next time for Fast Attack.

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.
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4 years ago

Is the Red Terror’s swallow whole a replacement to attacks or in addition to? Because with 5 attacks (after assigning one to the tail) hitting on 2+ rerolling 1s (from 2 pairs of scything talons) that’s something like a 99% chance to land 4 or more hits.

4 years ago
Reply to  Danny Ruiz

Yeah, he’s good at chomping Centurions and Terminators and stuff, but that’s mostly it. I do want to give him some table time, tho, see if I can get some worthwhile use from him.

4 years ago
Reply to  Danny Ruiz

He’s too expensive to really be effective as a buffer. Unless you’re running him with a near-max Brood of Raveners, you actually get more Hits if you just shell out for the extra 3 Raveners that he costs slightly more than. And yes, that is including his 6 Attacks.

I can only really see him being worthwhile if you’re getting both his buff AND he’s at least occasionally swallowing some dudes that they would otherwise have trouble dealing with.

4 years ago

Tyrant Guard can also benefit from Cover much more easily than a Tyrant can. Doesn’t help with shots that get bounced to them, but it makes shooting them away before targeting the Tyrant a much less attractive proposition, which can be a problem for some other “bodyguard” Units.

Lictors, I think you need to take a bunch or don’t bother. Use them like a Squad even tho they’re actually separate Units. You need more than you would as a Squad because some are going to fail their Charges, but I think there’s still some potential for them, either as a group of Lictors, or having a few roaming around to support other Assaults that need a bit of help.

DeathLeaper has one other big problem. The FAQ provides an alternative if his target isn’t on the board, but no alternative if the target is on the board, but there’s no room within 6″, which can be pretty easy to arrange with things like a Commissar shepherding Conscripts.

It is weird how some of the Unit sizes ended up. Pyrovores would definitely like to be able to go up to 6, and Hive Guard would be nice to take as singles or pairs, while Lictors would be more reliable as Units.

It’s also weird to me that the Haruspex doesn’t have the option for Adrenal Glands. They were basically its one option in the previous Dex, and they would really help make it more usable out of a T-cyte with just a Command Point re-roll instead of the Swarmlord helping its Charge.

It might be possible to make an argument for Venomthropes if the Malanthrope wasn’t a thing, but as it stands, there’s basically no reason not to just take a Malanthrope instead.

4 years ago

I played some games with a brood of 5 Hive Guards with shocks, and they worked great in almost every game my opoonents fielded vehicles (which usually happens). You can’t really count with them at all, because their damage output is highly variable: ranging from doing a couple of wounds to destroy a stormraven or a land raider in one round. They are our best option against flyers, and there’s a lot of flyers in the meta(at least in my local meta, a couple of ravens or hemlocks in any appropiate list).

You can onslaught them and run for the extra movility with no penalties, and the removing of areas improved the weapon a lot (along with the extra range and st). Still, expect anything to happen when they shoot. Get ready to endure a counterattack but, in desperate cases, split fire a bit and try for a miracle, it can happen.

4 years ago

Lictors being 0-1 is my only serious complaints about the indices…

Ok, that and the lame “calculate the costs of everything by flipping back and forth…”

I have some cool Lictor models and they are fun to use, but as is they are just tools to give up first blood.

4 years ago

I don’t agree with much of this review, seems like the author plays his 40K in the land of rainbows and sunshines.

T-guards are so stupid. In fact, I’m pretty sure they are the reason Hive Tyrants and Swarmlord are 10+ wounds. The studio probably looked at the existing unit and went ‘uh, guys, we can’t make Tyrants 9 wounds, that would make Tyrant Guards completely obsolete. But they are great as they do the same thing!’ No, they don’t. At all. They are easily focused down by heavy weapons. They are so much worse than not being able to be targeted at all (and Hive Tyrants, like Deamon Princes, should’ve been 8-9 wounds), they slow down a unit (Swarmlord/Tyrant) that must be in the front lines because it can’t contribute in the backfield due to weak long range options, short range special buffs and lost 5th ed Old Adversary bubble buff, T-guards cost an arm and a leg and must be taken at least in 3’s. Hard pass. For Swarmy, it’s pod or shelf.

Lictors do nothing. They don’t really have a role. Hard pass.
Deathleaper, as pointed out, is auto-killed against an opponent with a pulse. His gimmick doesn’t work. And outside his gimmick, he’s a dude that has to foot slog it for deployment and is worse in combat than he’s ever been. Hard pass.

Hive Guards are great. Shock Cannons a bit too situational, on a table with little to no LOS blocking they are killed before getting in range.

Pyrovores are kind of ok, except that you rarely get to shoot with more than 2 models the turn they land from a pod, due to sheer base size and range issues. And once on the table, their effectiveness drastically shrink. Good for casual games.

Zoanthropes and Venomthropes are pointless in Forgeworld allowed areas (Malanthrope). However, for the unfortunate ones like me who don’t get to have nice things (FW banned in our tournaments), they are still stinkers. Zoanthropes are expensive mortal wound plinkers. Pass.
Venomthropes would be ok as 1-3 models, but they are 3 mandatory models, really expensive and can’t protect anything other than infantry. Pass.

Haruspex, especially bred for close combat and hit on 4’s? Lost Adrenal Glands? Cost like a Landraider? Hard pass.

Malefunctor, arrgh! Hard pass.

Red Terror, in the tradition of Tyranids, GW gave him a gimmick that doesn’t really work. And he doesn’t even provide synapse for his brethren? You’re not taking Raveners outside casual games anyway, but even so I’d probably always would prefer another 3 Raveners instead of this guy. Pass.

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