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- Hive Tyrant
- The Swarmlord
- Tyranid Prime
- Old One Eye
- Malanthrope (Not in the Codex, but we reference them often).
The HQ section of the Tyranid book has had a turbulent past in recent editions. Previously, it was essentially the entire book when it came to competitive play, thus the term Codex: Flyrant. And while the Winged Hive Tyrant (Flyrant in gamer lingo) certainly fell from grace with the index, he (she? it?) is most assuredly a force to be reckoned with, again! Will it dominate the Nid meta? I don’t think so, but if you take multiples of them it certainly won’t be a bad thing. However, In my opinion a single Flyrant is all you need, two at the most but then I tend not to spam things anyway so take that with a grain of salt.
All that said, yeah, the Hive Tyrant is back, baby! What a great unit, so let’s start there. Now, point blank, the winged version is better than the foot version in my opinion and I will explain why. However, the foot version has a lot of tempting options to make it less unappealing by comparison than in years past which we will also get to. But, back to the star of the show: the Flyrant. Why is he so vastly improved? Well, for a number of reasons. For one, he can now Deep Strike thanks to the Swooping Assault rule. That by itself is just amazing. Any high priority unit that can stay off of the table until you want him, and go where needed has a tremendous advantage in this lethal 8th ed environment. Second, he now boasts T7, 12 wounds, a 3+ and a 4++, which is so dang good for keeping him alive. He also has an 18″ synapse bubble and with the very cool psychic powers available to Nids, is extremely versatile. The real strength now is that there is not a single, obvious option in dual Devourers. That said, that is still a very powerful option particularly when combined with the Pathogenic Slime stratagem to increase the damage of the weapon to 2. Oh, and did I forget to mention that that the Devourer with Brianleach Worms also packs 24 shots if you double up on them? That is potentially 24 damage from the Flyrant with the stratagem, 48 with quad Devourers! On top of this, with Smite and Psychic Scream, if you want to kit him out for pure damage output, you can seriously get your money’s worth out of him at only 170 points base. That means you’re only paying 198pts for a Flyrant with two sets of dual Devourers (which is how most folks have him kitted out). The Heightened Senses Warlord Trait on him is also awesome to avoid any penalties to your hit rolls which counters flyers, Alpha Legion/Raven Guard/Alaitoc shenanigans quite well.
But you have so many other options available to you. The Deathspitters are great for the 24″ range, strength 7 and AP-1 even with half the shots of the Devourers, and also only 7 pts per weapon or 14 pts a pair! Of course, the relic Slimer Maggot Infestation for Hyrda Hive Fleet players is excellent, giving you re-rolls to wound on that weapon. Hydra is also solid as they have one of my favorite Warlord Traits, allowing you to regenerate multiple wounds a turn. What is even cooler is that the other weapon options are viable. Heavy Venom Cannons now are 36″, strength 9, AP-2, 3 Damage, Assault D3. The Stranglethorn Cannon is strength 7, AP-1, 2 damage assault D6, 36″ and +1 to hit vs. units of 10+ models. The relic versions of these weapons are even better, as reviewed in Part 1 of this article. As you can give him multiple sets of weapons (but only a single Heavy Venom Cannon or Stranglethorn Cannon), you can create a truly scary, mobile gunboat that also provides synapse and has formidable psychic powers. A tactic I have found to be very effective for him is to deep strike in with a unit of Gargoyles who surround him (who can also deep strike, now!), protecting him from Smites and assaults. The pair of units then flies around together tearing up my opponent’s backfield and supporting my assault units. Catalyst is a solid power for him (as it is for every Bug unit) but I have had best results going max offense on him and just putting out blistering damage as stated above.
Conversely, if you go Kraken and take both a melee weapon and a shooting weapon, you can move into and out combat with essentially no penalties, shooting and still charging for an extremely versatile unit that also has the option of their amazing relic which gives you a -1 to be hit by enemy shooting attacks. You will catch your opponent off guard all the time when you pop out of a combat they thought they were safe in, only to shoot a unit and then charge another!
The melee/shooting hybrid also works very well with Kronos, taking their relic and then giving him the Kronos Warlord Trait causing enemy psykers to take D3 mortal wounds on a failed psychic check. Combo this with their stratagem forcing your opponent to take the psychic check on 1D6 which when combined with Shadows means you are highly likely to not only shut down a key power but hurt your opponent in the process. It’s awesome.
However, as the radio announcer says, that’s not all! The melee Flyrant is absolutely a thing now. As Monsters no longer automatically have good AP on their attacks, the shooty versions do not want to be in combat in most instances (but as they can fly, it is quite easy for them to bail out and go on to shoot more stuff!). The melee version though, wants to go chop-chop. The basic Monstrous Scything Talons are excellent. All in, you’re looking at 200pts for dual talons and wings, 209 with what I consider to be mandatory Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs. That gives you 5 attacks hitting on 2’s, re-rolling 1’s to hit each at AP-3, 3 damage a pop (4 on a 6+ to wound) on a fast, resilient unit with its own delivery mechanism built in. He also smacks you with his tail, too! Taken in a Behemoth hive fleet, you can drop down and re-roll your charge roll with +1″ thanks to Adrenal Glands which really boosts the odds of making that charge. You can use psychic powers to either buff yourself, or defbuff your opponent or just strip some wounds off with Smite. With the Hive Tyrant’s invul save, you now can tango with melee units that were a no-go previously, and now not only hang, but kick their ass. Plus, if you go Behemoth you can take the Scythes of Tyran relic for +1 strength and exploding 6’s in melee, generating more attacks. You can further enhance that offensive output with their Warlord trait for +1 damage on 6’s to wound, which with Toxin Sacs for 4pts and you get +2 damage on 6’s to wound! A great total package for an aggressive Tyranid army. And that is just one potential combo for the melee Flryant, there are so many more. I will quickly run out of room just listing them but in future articles we will explore more of the possible combos for the Flyrant!
I did want to take a moment to discuss the non flying Hive Tyrant as that is now a viable option. As stated, wings are strictly superior just for the ability to deep strike and avoid alpha strikes, but at a 27pt savings, it may be worth it. In a Kronos list for example, where you want to sit and shoot for that sweet re-roll of 1’s to hit, a walking Tyrant with shooting weapons of your choice is a decent option for your HQ slot in a Battalion or Brigade next to the essentially obligatory Malanthrope. I could see making this build work and saving some points in a Kronos list. Conversely, a shooty or hybrid melee/shooty walking Hive Tyrant in a Jormungandr list that moves up the field with a 2+ save shooting and then engaging in melee could be quite effective too, particularly when backed up with some Tyrant Guard who’d also have a 2+ (and who pack quite a punch themselves). Long story short, if you have a walking Hive Tyrant in your collection and want to use him, you can.
The Broodlord is another fantastic HQ choice. However, where the Hive Tyrant has so many different ways to be played it’s hard to cover it all, the Broodlord is pretty straightforward. He’s an almighty beat-stick in melee, and buffs Genestealers. You can either run him on his own, or with a few other Broodlords as a pseudo assassin team, or pair him with Genestealers to crank up their already prodigious damage output to an 11. Granting them +1 to hit if within 6″ (which also works on himself) means they hit on 2’s, and a unit of 10 or more of them goes up to 4 attacks a piece. Combined with the Adrenaline Surge Stratagem (allowing a unit to attack twice) means very few things in the game can withstand a full strength Genestealer+Broodlord assault. The Stealers alone in that combo will average roughly 66 hits, 133 if you pop the stratagem, lol. But, the Broodlord himself is an animal in melee. He’s a bit squishy at T5, 6 wounds, and a 5++, but not terribly so. With the Character keyword he can be easily screened and T5 means most sniper weapons will struggle to hurt him without buffs. He, like all Stealers is blisteringly fast, moving 8+D6″ and hits very hard with 6 strength 5 attacks which are AP-3 with D3 damage and re-rolls to wound. Additionally, on a 6 to wound his attacks become AP-6 and 3 damage. If all of that weren’t enough, at 162 pts he’s also a psyker. For my money, Behemoth benefits he and all Stealers the most but Kraken is a very close second. The Behemoth Warlord Trait compliments him well for fearsome 4 damage attacks on 6’s to wound and the Ymgarl Factor relic is a great option as well. All around a fantastic HQ choice for the Tyranid player.
Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows I am a huge fan of the Swarmlord in terms of lore, aesthetics and performance on the tabletop. He’s just such a cool bad guy! He’s also effective on the tabletop and a common site in Nid armies, now. Forget his impressive stat-line, just his Hive Commander ability alone is incredible. It allows a friendly <Hive Fleet> unit within 6″ to move in the shooting phase. For bugs that is simply incredible and there are more combos with it in than I can hope to cover in this brief review. And best of all, unlike other similar abilities such as Warp Time, there is no chance of failure here. The obvious application of it is to use it on himself, flying up the table at break-neck speed. This can be further enhanced if you also cast Onslaught on him to move+advance twice and retain the ability to charge. However, where it gets really amazing is to use it to catapult units from out of reserves into essentially assured charges. Hormagaunts are incredible with this ability due to their high speed and 6″ pile in and consolidation. They can worm their way into enemy formations and tag multiple units in combat, preventing them from shooting and move blocking them. Have Swarmy toss Catalyst on them or simply use the Leviathan Hive Fleet and they become significantly tougher. A common tactics is to deliver them in to combat with a Trygon or Trygon Prime who are also a powerful melee units in their own right.
Genestealers also love this ability as with their new Infestation special rule, they can start the game in hiding to avoid alpha strikes then pop up onto the table within 6″ of 1 of 4 markers in your deployment zone. Where normally this would be their movement, Swarmy allows them to then move+advance after that meaning you are highly likely to get into combat with them from a safe position. The list of uses here goes on and on. As I have said many times, the movement phase is where the master of the game wins games, and anything that gives you additional movement gives the top player more opportunities.
Beyond this though, Swarmy is also a powerful psyker with 2 casts and 2 denials as well. Additionally, he rocks 6 strength 8 attacks, at AP-3, 3 damage a pop and the same defense as a normal Tyrant but with a 3++ in melee! This with Catalyst makes him quite durable. Or again, Leviathan for a latent 6+ FnP (and yes, Swarmy can be taken in any Hive Fleet). While he is certainly not cheap at 300pts, he gives you a lot. The Flyrant certainly gives him a run for his money now, but in an aggressive Tyranid list, particularly one that wants to assault from reserves, you simply cannot beat Swarmy.
The Tyranid Prime is a fun HQ and as Tyranid Warriors are so affordable, will find his way into many lists. 100pts base, with T5, 6 wounds, a 3+ and the all important Character keyword, he’s reasonably tough, but is still not going to survive a sustained attack. He is quite versatile though, with a variety of options. The dual Boneswords option was very popular in test games for bonus attacks, but I was most fond of using the Tyranid Prime and Warriors with a Deathspitter and Boneswords. As the Deathspitter is essentially a 24″ range assault Heavy Bolter, and the Tyranid Prime buffs Tyranid Warriors within 6″ with a +1 to hit (for shooting and melee), he makes them very good. They all go to WS 2+ and BS 3+ (matching his profile), with a bonus melee attack at AP-2. With the above kit, Toxin Sacs and Adrenal Glands, he’s only 112pts, which is quite the steal. Essentially, if you plan on using Tyranid Warriors in your list, take a Prime as he makes them vastly better. In lists that don’t feature Tyranid Warriors, you’re better off taking another Malanthrope or Neurothrope.
The Tervigon is the source of much angst and frustration for the Tyranid player these days, lol. She is a bit expensive in the Index, I agree, although I still feel she has a place even there. However, in the Codex we get the following with the mama-bug: 225pts base, with Massive Scything Talons and Stinger Salvo comes out to 243 stock. Not as much of a points drop as many were hoping for, but with all of the various additional rules you put on her thanks to stratagems, hive fleet adaptations, etc. she is a lot better than she was. At toughness 8 with 14 wounds and a 3+, she’s tougher than a Leman Russ battle tank. However, she’s also a big beast and hard to hide so be mindful of high powered, long ranged firepower. Again–for the millionth time–LoS blocking terrain makes 8th ed 40k much more enjoyable! That aside, she also is a psyker with 1 power and 1 deny, and brings a decent melee profile with 3 attacks at strength 7, AP-3, 3 damage a pop and WS 4+, re-rolling 1’s to hit. She also allows Termagants within 6″ to re-roll 1’s to hit in the shooting phase and can add 10 of them to a unit that has taken casualties or create a new unit of 10 (which does cost points to do when creating a new unit). Lastly, when she dies, she deals D6 mortal wounds to nearby Termagants.
I have found several ways of playing the Tervigon to be effective. The first is on defense, holding the backfield with regenerating units of Termagants. This gives you excellent board control, denying your opponent anywhere to deep strike/outflank, etc. This also gives you very effective screens as she keeps them fearless and regenerates those that die so long as any are left standing. Kraken is a solid choice in this configuration for the amazing Chameleonic Mutation relic giving her -1 to hit in the shooting phase, which when combined with the Malanthrope who should be in pretty much every single Tyranid list, brings her to a -2 to be hit. This added to her latent beefiness means many opponents will simply not target her. Hydra is another good choice for their Warlord Trait allowing you to regenerate multiple wounds at a go which when combined with the Rapid Regeneration stratagem means she is going to be very tough to finish off. Hydra also works well with massed little bugs for the re-roll to hit in melee it grants if you outnumber your opponent. Jormungandr is also solid as she won’t be running around much and the jump up to a 2+ save is significant. In this configuration, she just presents an unappealing target that is relatively tough, and gives you the ability to protect your shooting units and backfield objectives. So long as you have assault forces going up-field demanding your opponent’s attention, they aren’t going to bother with the Tervigon and you can often wrack up quite a few mission points easily.
Alternatively, I have had a lot of fun playing her aggressively! For one, much like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects it. For two, if you are playing say, Jormungandr she can go up field with hordes of Termagants who jump up to a 5+ save (and assume ground bugs are going to be -1 to hit pretty much always vs. shooting) or similarly Leviathan for the 6+ FnP, and utilize the Scorch Bugs stratagem to put out solid damage. Additionally units of mixed Devouerer and standard Gants (to act as renewable meat shields) to pump out flakk fire as you advance and eventually assault enemy units to tie them up where the Caustic Blood stratagem helps wear down enemy attackers. I have found this works best when you have a lot of big nasties with her like Carnifxes, a Haurpsex, Tyrannofex (without a Rupture Cannon), etc. that want to move up field but aren’t super fast as she keeps the screens in place around them but presents a less scary target than the other big bugs and eventually helps to win combats with her OK melee abilities. While ultimately if you want to use her or not is up to you, I have had success with her and enjoyed playing her in conjunction with Termagants and the many stratagems available to you with those units.
The Neurothrope is a new offering in the HQ slot, and at only 70 pts is sure to be popular for unlocking detachments in Tyranid armies. It is also quite good, as a Character with the Fly keyword, T4, 5 wounds and a 3++. It also allows friendly Zoathropes to re-roll 1’s for their psychic tests (including for itself), and it heals a wound for each model it slays with the Smite power. Just float up blasting people with smite with a tough unit that has Character protection. All this in addition to 2 Psychic Powers, 1 deny, synapse and shadows and you have a great, affordable package.
Old One Eye is the final HQ to choose from and quite the little monster! Carnifexes are one of the most exciting changes to the codex for me, with multiple options and tons of fun ways to play them. We’ll dig into that more in a future article, but suffice it to say: if you want to run some Carfnixes in your army, consider Old One Eye as he gives them +1 hit in the fight phase (which again, works on him, too) which is a big boost for Fexes as they hit quite hard but are only WS 4+. He himself has gone down in wounds but as he also has the Character keyword which is a massive buff as he can now hide! At T7 with 9 wounds and a 3+ save, he’s right at that sweet spot where he has the most wounds you can have and still be able to hide form most attacks. Snipers pose very little threat to him in most instances. He hits hard, too, with 5 attacks that either deal strength 7, AP-3, 3 damage hits on a 2+, or strength 14, AP-3, 3 damage hits on a 3+. He also get’s an additional +1 to hit on a turn he charges and deals D3 mortal wounds to en enemy unit on a 4+ on the charge. His attacks generate additional attacks on rolls of 6+ to hit, meaning that on average he will generate 2-3 extra attacks on the turn he charges for 8 in most instances. And if that doesn’t finish you off, he smacks you with his tail for an additional D3, strength 4, AP-1 attacks. Finally, he regenerates 1 wound a turn and if you make him your warlord, he gets Adaptive Biology which reduces all damage he takes by 1 to a minimum of 1 after he gets wounded the first time. Wow, a lot of rules on this fella!
Old One Eye is a bit pricey at 200pts, but, as you can see from the wall of text above, he gives you a lot for that. He hits very hard, can be hidden, heals himself and buffs Carnifexes. Personally, I love using him and feel he is a fun and effective addition to the Tyranid range. His only drawback is his lack of an invul saves. He’s especially effective Behemoth lists, but Leviathon is also quite good as is Gorgon and Kraken. Jormungandr is not super effective for him directly, but if you run your fexes like I do with a mix of melee and shooting weapons on them, that is a great hive fleet to consider as they can walk forward with a 2+ save, increasing their odds of making it into melee where Old One Eye not only hits like a truck but makes them much punchier themselves. Slap the ubiquitous Malanthrope in there and it’s a solid combo. Plus, he enables the all Carnifex army to be a thing!
Well, 3,500 words in and we’ve only covered HQs! As I think you can see, the magic of the Tyranid codex is the pure variety if provides. There are SO MANY different ways to play them effectively, it’s crazy. The depth is tremendous and I have had a ton of fun playing it, and I hope you do to! Tomorrow we’ll dive in to some more units to get keep this review moving along. Read Part 3 of this series, covering the Tyranid Troops units, here.
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