The Great Devourer is upon us, and in part 4 of this review we dive into the Tyranid Elite units to explore what they have to offer! Be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this review if you missed it.
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The Elites section for bugs has often only had a few units really worth mentioning but that is now not the case. Units that have traditionally been under-performers are solid now and some that were comically bad are very good. Let’s dive in!
Tyrant Guard are quite the appealing unit now, IMO. I have always thought these were a very cool concept but never really found a place for them, previously. Now though, they certainly have a place. At only 35pts base, with a 7″ move, Strength and Toughness 5, 3 wounds, 3 attacks and a 3+ they’ve got a solid stat line. They come standard with Rending Claws and Scything Talons, or you can opt to give them a Lash Whip and Bonesword, or Crushing Claws which is a Power Fist for all intents and purposes (similarly costing 12 pts each), being strength x 2, AP-3, D3 damage with a -1 to hit. This is not a bad option as a unit of 3 has 9 strength 10 attacks as a group, or 18 with the Adrenaline Surge stratagem which means you can pack a wallop with just 3 of these guys. They also–obviously–guard a Hive Tyrant. If a friendly <Hive Fleet> Hive Tyrant takes a wound while within 3″ of Hive Guard, on a 2+ they can take a Mortal Wound for him. Obviously, if you give them something like Catalyst or make them Leviathan, they get a save vs. those wounds which helps a ton to keep them going. If you want them to strictly be meat shields keep them cheap and have them advance up the field with say, Swarmy. Or, gear them up for combat with Crushing Claws as at only 47pts that is not bad for what you get. If with Swarmy and you find yourself facing an army that isn’t going to gun him down, send them off to smash with his Hive Commander ability and he can come in after! If playing Jormungandr you can also bring them on to the table using their Stratagem along with a Trygon, Mawloc or Raveners, which makes them fairly appealing on their own. Compared to a Tyranid Warrior, they have an extra point of toughness, strength and speed (humorously), for an extra 15pts per model. Whether that is worth it or not is up to you, but it is an option. For me, I prefer running them with Swarmlord as an alternative to the Tyrannocyte you often see him with as they cost roughly the same, and where that shoots pretty well, these gents punch pretty well. If you crank up their defense, they can really add longevity to a model like Swarmy, or a walking Hive Tyrant kitting out for shooting and melee.
Hive Guard are the cousin to Tyrant Guard but vary a bit in stats, moving only 5″, and having BS3+ and WS4+ in reverse to the Tyrant Guard, and only 2 attacks and a 4+ save. However, they retain that toughness of 5 and 3 wounds, making them fairly hardy. However, it is their impressive weapons and awesome special rules that you take them for. Their basic weapon, the Impaler Cannon, is 36″ range, heavy 2, strength 8, AP-2, D3 damage. Best of all though, the weapon ignores cover and does not require LoS! That is seriously incredibly good. A unit of 3 packs some serious heat and so long as you have decent terrain, will often be able to fire on your enemy without being shot back. If you want to really crank them up, take a full unit of 6 and use the Single-minded Annihilation stratagem on them, allowing them to shoot twice for a staggering 24 shots! That is devastating firepower and very few units in the game can withstand that. Alternatively, equip them with the Shockcannon for a 24″, strength 7, AP-1, D3 damage, Assault D3 weapons that does an additional Mortal Wound to Vehicles on a wound roll of a 4+, and D3 on a 6+. As Tyranids still can struggle dealing with Vehicles, this unit gives you a tool for taking them on. At 48 for the Impaler Cannon version and 39 for the Shockcannon they aren’t cheap but certainly not expensive, either. You get a lot for those points. Kronos obviously benefits this unit a lot, particularly with Impaler Cannons, but you can get good results with them in any Hive Fleet that doesn’t benefit assault as these gents do not want to be in punching range.
The Lictor has changed quite a bit over time and in the Codex is a solo elite slot unit that has its usual host of special rules. He runs 45pts which is a low price tag and a great way to fill elites slots to open up a Brigade. They’re also quite good at grabbing objectives and harassing the backfield with their ability to deep-strike. On the turn they do so, they also gain a re-roll to their charge roll which helps, but unfortunately they do not have access to Adrenal Glands to get that all important 1″ bonus. For stats, the Lictor rocks a 9″ move, WS 2+ and BS 4+ for its Flesh Hooks. It’s also strength 6 with 3 attacks, so it packs a decent punch in combat with either its Rending Claws or Grasping Talons which are AP-1 and 2 damage. Its defense is not bad. At only toughness 4 with 4 wounds and a 5+ it doesn’t seem too impressive, but it also has a latent -1 to be hit (which works in shooting and melee) and gains +2 to its save in cover. This can be further enhanced by a Malanthrope or Venomthrope for a -2 to be hit in the shooting phase, although this rarely comes in to play as the Lictor tends to be off on its own. There are also a host of stratagems that benefit the Lictor, including the Feeder Tendrils strat which gives you extra D3 CP if you kill an enemy character in melee, the Pheremone Trail strat which allows a unit coming in from reserves to instead come in near a Lictor rather than how it was going to enter play (which works great with Genestealers using their Infestation ability) and lastly, the Invisible Hunter strat which allows a Lictor to leave combat and still shoot and charge.
The Lictor is a unit that may be tough to use. He’s a bit squishy, but can hit fairly hard if sent in against a soft target. He’s very cheap which is good for unlocking detachments as stated, and is best used earning mission points and attacking units that do the same for your opponent such as Scout Squads, Rangers, etc. which a unit like Ripper Swarms may not be able to take on. Now, if you are going to opt for something with a bit more punch, you may as well take Deathleaper. He’s a named version of the Lictor and has the same stats but with 6 wounds and a -2 to be hit which is nasty as it also applies to melee. Further, Deathleaper also re-rolls hit and wound rolls vs. a single Character you choose as his target at the beginning of the game. As he is also a Lictor, all of the same benefits that apply there do so here. Deathleaper is a solid unit as at 90pts he does not break the bank but can and will cause disruption in the backfield requiring little to no support. If you find yourself facing a lot of say, Mortar Teams, they will be hitting Deathleaper on 6’s and he will have a 3+ so long as he is in cover. Baring crazy dice, he should cut right through them with ease. Plus, he looks awesome!
Zoanthropes are in an interesting place in the current Tyranid dex. The issue with them is not that they struggle (they offer a lot) but that the Neurothrope is just better due to being cheaper, having 2 powers, and being a Character. Now, that out of the way, you can get very good results with Zoanthropes as they can pump out Mortal Wounds in addition to giving you Synapse and Shadows. At toughness 4 with 3 wounds each and a 3++, they’re not easy to destroy. They also add 6″ to their Smite range and add D3 Mortal Wounds to the damage of their Smite for a unit of 4-5 and +3 Mortal Wounds for units of 6! That’s savage damage output, and if you have a Neurothrope within 6″, you also re-roll rolls of 1 on their psychic tests when attempting to manifest powers. Additionally, if you have a unit of 4+, you can attempt a second psychic power per turn which will usually be Psychic Scream for even more Mortal Wound output. Or, simply use the Power of the Hive Mind strat to trigger a second power out of them if you like. Lastly, special mention must go to the Psychic Barrage stratagem which is the Tyranid version of the Vindicator Line Breaker stratagem for Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. This allows you to do massive amounts of Mortal Wounds to your opponent so long as you have 3 units of 3+ Zoanthropes within 6″ of one another. However, in order to pull this off you have to get them there which means either floating up the table, coming in with Tyrannocytes, or playing Jormungandr and coming up with a Trygon, Mawloc, etc. That is honestly the most efficient way to deliver them although it costs you 3CP to put them in reserves and another 1CP to trigger the attack. However, if you do go for this play and go first and/or your opponent is clumped up, you can wreak havoc on them. Outside of this, I feel Leviathan benefits them the most for the 6+ FnP style save to mitigate damage even further on them.
The Maleceptor may honestly have been the worst unit in 40k I had ever seen when it came out, lol. However, it is now much improved and may find its way in to your list! At only 172 pts, he’s not that pricey and comes with a 7″ move, toughness 7, 12 wounds and a 3+/4++ which is solid defense. He also has 2 psychic powers and 2 deny attempts too, which is great especially with Synapse and Shadows in the Warp. He punches decently with 3, WS 4+, strength 7 attacks at AP-3, D6 damage a pop, re-roll 1’s to hit. Not bad. That all alone is seriously solid. He can trundle up the table hitting the enemy with mortal wound powers or buffing/debuffing, and being a tough nut to crack in addition to being able to mix it up in combat a bit, too. Once he gets close though, he can trigger his special ability–Psychic Overload–which hits as many as 6 enemy units within 6″ with a Mortal Wound on a 2+, and 3 Mortal Wounds on a 6. This is done instead of casting psychic powers which is a stiff price, but the power can’t be stopped and if you get stuck in with multiple units is going to start melting them away, including Characters that think they’re safe behind screening units. The Maleceptor benefits quite a bit from really any of the Hive Fleets as he’s such a multi-functional bug.
Much like Zoanthropes, the issue with Venomthropes is not that they aren’t good (they’re an amazing unit!) but that the Malanthrope is just better, doing essentially the same thing but also being a Character and thus allowing it to hide. That said, what the Venomthropes do offer is an awesome defensive buff, granting a -1 to hit for ranged weapons for friendly <Hive Fleet> units within 6″ (9″ if there are 6 in the unit), and only impacting Monsters if the unit contains 3 or more models. This is an amazing buff and in any other army would be a celebrated unit. However, as they’re a bit squishy at T4 with 3 wounds and a 5+ save, and can’t hide the way a Character can, they can be taken out fairly quickly by an army with decent shooting. They pack a mild punch, with 2 strength 4 attacks that have no AP but do D3 damage and re-roll failed wound rolls. The Venomthrope also swings first in combat and deals a Mortal Wound to units within 1″ on a 5+. Lastly, they have an assault 2, 6″, strength 4, D3 damage shooting attack that can be fired into and out of combat and re-rolls failed wound rolls. Venomthropes are also cheap, weighing in at only 30pts per model, coming in units of 3-6. Ultimately though, you are always going to take a Malanthrope unless you don’t have the model or really want the much bigger footprint of -1 to hit that the Venomthropes provide, which I have to say is a significant advantage in regards to board coverage. 1 unit of Venomthropes can easily cover as much space as 2 or even 3 Malanthropes, but are more vulnerable as a trade off.
The Pyrovore is another unit that was notoriously bad previously but is quite good, now. It has a 5″ move, toughness 4 and 4 wounds with a 4+ save. It packs 2 attacks in melee with an Acid Maw which is strength 5, AP-3. But it’s real strength is its Flamespurt, which is a 10″, strength 5, AP-1 Assault D6 flame weapon. That is really cool as that range allows it to be fired from out of reserves. If you are playing say, Jormungandr, you can have them come in with a Mawloc, Trygon, etc. and then hit your opponent with up to 3 Heavy Flamer shots (or 6 with the double shoot stratagem), then do it again on the next turn and move into melee if needs be or park on an objective and defend it. If running them in another Hive Fleet you can deliver them in a Tyrannocyte or simply run around on foot as their weapon is assault, allowing you to advance and still shoot it. If they do get engaged in melee, they shed Mortal Wounds on to your opponent as they take damage and die. In all, it’s a great little unit and as you can take them in units of 1 at the low price of 38 pts, they fill up Elites slots in your Brigade detachment very well. In all, a solid and affordable unit. I personally love flame weapons and have had a lot of success running Pyrovores.
Lastly the Haruspex, which is a unit that is pretty much universally seen as being super cool but has always been very expensive points wise and whose special rules haven’t always functioned in way that really matched the lore. However, now at 198 pts base with kit, he’s quite affordable and rocks toughness 8, 13 wounds and a 3+ for defense. On offense, he’s got a 7″ move, strength 7, 4 attacks at WS 4+, and some cool special rules to spice that up. His Ravenous Maw gives him D3 attacks per attack and for each enemy model slain by it, he gets a bonus Shoveling Claw attack! The Maw itself is strength 7, AP-1, D3 damage so it is fairly punchy, and his Claws are strength 14, AP-3, D6 damage. This makes him fairly versatile, either plowing into hordes and doing decent damage, or sticking to the big hits for vehicles and such. He also sheds Mortal Wounds in melee on a 6+ for each wound he takes and lastly has his signature Grasping Tongue attack which is Assault 1, 12″, strength 6, AP-3, D3 damage. It can also be fired into and out of combat and if you slay an enemy model with it, the Haruspex heals a wound. This beast is a solid Big Bug and I have had a lot of fun with mine, slaying both Bobby G and a Knight in one game! Now, I rolled pretty well and I wouldn’t say expect that to happen on a regular basis, lol, but the moral of the story is that he can really pack a punch and is tough, too. Much like the other bugs we’ve looked at today, he can work well in any Hive Fleet, but really benefits from those that favor defense and melee such as Jormungandr, Leviathan, Behemoth, Kraken, etc. I’ve run mine in an all big bug list and had a blast with it, bringing only a unit of 30 Termagants to act as a screen. Having all of the big guys running around is a great way to play Nids and I ighly recommend it if only a few times to relive your favorite Godzilla moments!
Elites, done! Tomorrow we will examine Fast Attack which you can read, here.
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