Hello everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and you know what, today is a good day. It is a good day because we get to talk about the objectively, unequivocally, absolutely, in my opinion, coolest character in the Grim-Dark, the Swarmlord! Of course, if you want to challenge such a grandiose assertion, you should go arm yourself with knowledge over at Frontline’s Tactics Corner.
**This article has been updated for Chapter Approved 2018**
The Swarmlord is the supreme commander of the Hive Mind, an ancient, immortal killing machine, and on the tabletop, you have a model that is both a superb support piece and a melee whirlwind.
Equipment and Upgrades:
- Bone Sabres: AP -3 Dmg 3 melee weapon that also cause a mortal wound on a wound roll of a 6.
- Prehensile Tail: AP 0 Dmg D3 bonus attack.
So yah, this is a big change from the Index where Swarmy did not have a chance for mortal wounds and did D6 damage on its melee attacks. The math works out to about 6.62 wounds (including the mortal) against a Knight in this new version to 7.26 in the old version, which is a small loss in output, but the variance is nil, meaning a Swarmlord is going to do consistent damage now versus the inconsistent damage in the past. I actually like the change as I prefer consistent damage, and the extra mortal wounds is a nice icing on the cake that also means Swarmy is just slightly more effective against units.
As Swarmy is a character, there is no customization here, but hey, Bone Sabres are still pretty awesome, and a healthy Swarmy is a legitimate threat to all but the heaviest of armor/threats.
- Shadow in the Warp: -1 to psychic tests within 18″. Does not affect TYRANID units.
- Synapse: Fearless bubble of 12 inches.
- The Will of the Hive Mind: Synapse bubble for Fearless is 18 inches.
- Death Throes: When Swarmy dies, roll a D6, and on a 6, all units within 3″ suffer D3 mortal wounds.
- Psychic Barrier: A 4+ invulnerable save.
- Blade Parry: Swarmy has a 3++ in melee. Super-money.
- Hive Commander: In the shooting phase, you can select one HIVE FLEET unit to move again instead of shooting.
- Psyker: You get 2 powers plus smite, can cast 2 powers and deny 2.
- Warlord Trait: Alien Cunning – You can redeploy Swarmy at the start of the first game round but before the first turn begins.
That is a lot of special rules, and Swarmy is more than sum of its parts, but those parts are pretty awesome. SitW and Synpase are great, especially for Swarmy with its 18 inch Synapse range. A big improvement over the Index is that Swarmy now has a 4++ and 3++ in melee, and this increases its survivability by quite a margin. Hive Commander is the signature ability, and it opens up a host of tactics. Swarmy also increases its offense as a good source of Smite and Psychic Scream, opening up some nice ranged options. The Warlord Trait is fixed, which is a bit meh as I would love to have Swarmy have the Kronos warlord trait, but Alien Cunning can still be great. Being able to react to your opponent’s deployment and bait them into committing to killing Swarmy and then going elsewhere can really mess with your opponent’s plan, and you force them into a bit of a conundrum: Deploy knowing that Swarmlord can move and either force the Tyranid player to redeploy Swarmy (which means some of your forces may be out of optimum position) or accept that Swarmy is where it wants to be, especially if that is in an ideal position. Either way, the opponent has to make a hard choice that has drawbacks, which is the best decisions to make your opponent make. Unfortunately, unless FAQ’d, by the wording, you can’t put Swarmy into a Tyrannocyte with this redeploy as these happen during deployment and Alien Cunning triggers during the game itself. It is not entirely clear if you can set up Swarmy in a pod during deployment and then audible out, but my feeling is no.
Ok, so what do you? Well, you either build Swarmy as part of your overall strategy or you use it a self-contained missile of destruction. If you are building an army around Swarmlord, then you are looking at using Hive Commander as a force multiplier to rocket forces forward. The prime candidate for this are Genestealers as they are the our best melee infantry that can legitimately threaten just about any target and will burn through just about any screen. Whether you are doing a Genestealer spam army where with Hive Commander, you are getting about 22 inches of movement before a charge, and coupled with Kraken and other stratagems like Overrun, you can get a ton of movement out of a single unit. Another good tactic is to use the newly improved Gargoyles to move forward and then give them another move, getting them in position to charge out and jump chaff lines to tie up whatever needs tying up behind that chaff line.
Of course, with Kraken’s Opportunistic Advance, you can actually rocket forward two different units, using Hive Commander to move one unit and using OA to move another. You could get 40 genestealers in your opponent’s face on turn 1 by spending 1 CP, and while one unit is relying on dice to make it, having 40 Genestealers charging on the top of turn 1 is…impressive. You could also marry the two ideas and use Gargoyles to jump the chaff line and use Genestealers to move into range of the chaff line, and since the guns or assault elements behind the chaff are now engaged, the Genestealers are free to move up the field next turn and get truly stuck in.
If you like Monster Mash, being able to rocket a Haruspex or Dimacheron out of reserve is also hilarity. Both of these monsters need to be in melee and are typically worth it, but they need to bridge first, and well, Swarmy is right there for them. You can also use this on a long range bomb on a Hive Crone by allowing one to move another 30 inches, and this can be great for getting to an isolated spot on the board to flush out pesky mortar teams or artillery batteries. Heck, if you are really invested in using a Maleceptor, being able to get it to move twice can get it deep enough in enemy lines to start blasting characters with its aura, but I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you are feeling quite lucky. In short, just about every model that wants to fight in the Tyranid Codex benefits from Hive Commander.
Don’t forget that Swarmlord is a high value target, so it will eat a lot of shots, but this can be to your benefit. With Tyrant Guard, you have one resilient character that will likely survive most barrages. With a 4++ and the ability to shunt off wounds to the Tyrant Guard, your opponent can waste most, if not all, of their firepower without doing much at all, and even if Swarmy gets hurt, you can heal it with the Rapid Regeneration Stratagem, and really, Hive Commander goes off regardless as long as Swarmy is alive. Especially if you get the chance to put Catalyst up, you can have a Swarmlord with a 4++ and 5+ Feel No Pain that can shunt off wounds to Tyrant Guard. A funny way to do this is to run Leviathan, so that the Tyrant Guard also receive a 6+ Feel No pain, so you essentially have a 4++, then a 5+ Feel No Pain on the wounds, then a 6+ Feel No Pain for the Tyrant Guard. That’s an insane amount of damage mitigation.
If you like this ground-pounding route, you really can’t go wrong with a Hive Fleet either. Using Genestealer spam is great in Kraken for the super advance rolls as well as the ability to fall back and charge, allowing faster units to make way for the newest fighters. Jormungandr is great for all the reserve ability, and a 2+ armor save Swarmy? Very nice. Leviathan can also be great for an additional 6+ Feel No Pain on Swarmy and its friends, and if you are dedicated to more of a Termgant/Hormagaunt horde, Hyrda is great too. I don’t like Swarmlord as Kronos simply for the fact that the best part of Kronos is the Warlord Trait which Swarmy cannot have.
But what if you just want Swarmlord without worrying about moving a bunch of models? Well, for the low price of about 350ish, you can have a Swarmlord immune to alpha-strikes. Throw a Swarmy in a Tyrannocyte, and boom, safe and sound until you want it. Swarmy is also just a huge threat on its own even without building around Hive Commander. Don’t forget that Swarmy can cast twice per turn, so that can be a Smite and Psychic Scream for some nice offensive punch before the charge. Throw in the 1 CP Voracious Appetite and Swarmy is now re-rolling wounds too!
So why not take Swarmy every game? Well, it has limitations. First, cost. Swarmy is 250 points, our most expensive entry in the codex still, but you know what, Chapter Approved really made it even better with a 50 point price reduction. Swarmy is still not cheap, but that kind of discount really helps make it even more awesome. The biggest problem for Swarmy is that losing Swarmy represents a crushing blow to your force if you built around Hive Commander. Especially if you start taking Genestealers and Trygons and giant blobs of Gargoyles and maybe a Haruspex, you are starting to quickly run out of points. Swarmy wants to play with everyone, but it costs a fair bit and hogs a lot of bio-mass to be able to bring all of its friends. You really have to dedicate one way or the other, meaning you either dedicate to infantry swarm, monster-rocket, or self-contained swarmy missile, but it is really hard to do 2 of 3 and just about impossible to do all 3 well, namely because it creates holes in overall army design that leads to less than stellar lists.
The other factor is that Swarmy just does not compete with the super-toys like Roboute, Magnus, or Mortarion. Granted, they are all more expensive, but Swarmy is going to struggle with any of these models. Swinging first, Swarmy does all of 5.8 wounds to Morty, including the Mortal, while Morty turns around and whomps Swarmy for 6.2 wounds, but with the potential to spike to an instant kill, and well, 6.2 wounds of 12 is very different than 5.8 wounds of 18. The Nids in general don’t have a super great answer to the really big threats, so even our best bug still struggles to deal with these threats one on one. Even with rerolling wounds, Swarmy is not likely to one round any super threat on its own. Of course, why fight one on one?
That said, the Swarmlord is still one of the best choices in our codex. The Swarmlord is amazing and as I’ve said before, if you are not taking Swarmlord, you need to ask why. Sure, plenty of good, strong armies don’t need Swarmlord, so it is not an auto-include, but there are many armies that would likely benefit from it. If you are running any melee based army, a Swarmlord should be in consideration somewhere.
And due to popular demand, overall, I’d score Swarmy a resounding 99 out of 100. Swarmlord is close to an auto-include, and the sheer force multiplier that it gives an army cannot be overstated, and while not able to go talon-to-talon with other big bads, Swarmy is still one of the best characters out there who can still do a ton of damage.
Thanks as always for reading; you are my favorite bio-mass.Come check out TFG Radio, and be sure to come say hi at the LVO. Those tickets are going quick, so you should look into that. Just saying.
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