Tyranid Codex Review – Troops: Genestealers

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today we talk about the most iconic unit in the whole hive, and be sure to check out the Tactics Corner for some more tricks to help you sleep at night. The baddest, scariest combat threat in the Tyranid army and a contender for the title in all of 40K, the Genestealer is back to being the pinnacle of melee massacres.

***This article has been updated for Chapter Approved 2018***

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Scything Talons – S4 AP 0 D1 weapon that rerolls 1s to hit.
  • Rending Claws – S4 AP-1 D1 weapon that if rolls a 6 to wound becomes AP -4
  • Fleshhooks – Range 6”, S4 AP 0 D1 Assault 2 that can be fired within 1 of enemy units and target units within 1 of friendly units.
  • Acid Maw – S4 AP -3 D1. 1 per 4 models in unit.
  • Toxin Sacs – A wound roll of 6+ in melee causes 1 additional damage.
  • Extended Carapace – 4+ armor save but lose Swift and Deadly (No good).

Special Rules:

  • Flurry of Claws: +1 attack when the unit has 10 or more models.
  • Lightning Reflexes: +5 invulnerable save (sweeeeeeet).
  • Swift and Deadly: The unit may advance and charge in the same turn (sweeeeeet)
  • Infestation: You can set up 4 infestation nodes in your deployment zone and reserve your genestealers who must set up wholly within 6 of the node. The nodes are destroyed when the genestealers appear or when an enemy unit moves within 9 inches. Any genestealers not deployed die if the last node is destroyed. (Not worth it).

What can be said that hasn’t already been said about Genestealers?  They are hands down one of the best melee units in the game, and for damn good reason. As shock troops that beg for Swarmlord, they can rocket across the board and get friendly.

Let’s see why:  For 12 points per model, they are movement 8, can advance and charge and have a 5++.  They also go up to 4 attacks when their squad is 10 or more, which means that 20 of these buggers pumps out 80 S4 AP -1 attacks that can go to AP -4, all that hit on a 3+.  They can hit on 2+ with a Broodlord around, and if you give them Scything Talons, which are free, they can reroll 1s.  It is pretty easy to get them to 80 rerolling 2+ to hit attacks.  That’s about 77 hits on average dice.  With the Swarmlord, you can easily do multiple waves of Genestealers that scurry across the board and crash into enemy ranks, likely shredding whatever they hit.  With Catalyst up, they are also our most durable infantry unit with essentially 50% damage mitigation between the 5++ and the 5+ Feel No Pain roll.   At T4, they are also harder to wound than our other little bugs, and let’s face it, one genestealer is definitely worth more than 3 naked Termagants.   So yah, Genestealers are the Hive Mind’s meow.  Chapter Approved 2018 did not directly improve them, but with Swarmlord and Broodlords now cheaper, this only makes Genestealers better. Most competitive lists had a Genestealer rocket, so now it is 50 points cheaper, and for 25 more points over a Neurothrope, you get a Broodlord who buffs the Stealers and is still a potent melee fighter on its own. All of this is money.

In terms of math, as infantry, they do a ton of damage.  Let’s assume 15 (overwatch is a thing) hit a target.  Against T3 with a 6+, that’s 26 unsaved wounds.  Against T4 with a 3+, that’s 10.9 unsaved wounds.  This is not factoring in Acid Maws (which are free, so why not take them?).   That’s not bad through-put at all.  Even against T5-7 with a 3+, that’s 7.21 wounds, which isn’t amazing but certainly enough to cripple a light/medium vehicle, especially if it already took damage from some shooting.    Throw in the Fight Again stratagem, and you are looking at some decent damage to even resilient targets.

As they are infantry and in relatively large squads, they also take up quite a bit of real estate so they offer you a lot of board control.  You can really limit where your opponent moves and you are more than fast enough to dictate the terms of engagement.  With advance and charge, without any buffs, they threaten 18.5 inches on average dice.  That’s not bad at all, and that doesn’t get into the whole host of tricks that they can pull thanks to stratagems and Hive Fleet traits.  They are infantry, so no hiding from them in Ruins, and in general, they are just fast beat-sticks that pump a lot of attacks for their price point, all coupled with some resiliency.

Again, the choice of Hive Fleet here opens up a whole host of tricks.  Kraken is king for the simple fact that rolling 3d6 and taking the highest for advance means that these bugs threaten over 20 inches without any other buffs.  Add in the Kraken stratagem, Opportunistic Advance, and you are now flying across the board.  With Swarmlord, it is entirely possible to send 2 different 20 genestealers units into the enemy on top of turn 1 or sending one doooowntooown by using Opportunistic Advance and Swarmlord on the same unit.  If your opponent doesn’t have much chaff, you can easily strike into their backfield on the top of 1 with a potential to move 50+ inches in a single turn with all the tricks like Overrun (and god knows Genestealers can wipe a unit), and you get a unit deep into the enemy lines, wrapping up shooting units and causing trouble with ease.   It is hard to not go with Kraken just because it makes Genestealers so insanely fast.  Gorgon actually isn’t terrible for them as rerolling 1s to wound helps them up the damage and fish for more 6+s, and Leviathan can be nice to add just a touch more survivability by adding in that 6+ Feel No Pain.  Jormungandr doesn’t work too well as these bugs want to advance, but I suppose if you give them Extended Carapaces and use them as board control/counter assault elements, having a 3+ save against shooting on them isn’t bad, but that is definitely an outside of the box strategy and expensive.  They aren’t bad again as Kronos as they add a nice assault element to a shooting based army, and they are often forward enough to really catch enemy psykers in the back with The Deepest Shadow.

What is bad about them? Well, they struggle in the Knight meta to an extent.  T8 is not their friend, and they lack any ability to provide a few really high quality, multiple damage attacks.  You are really relying on spikes for them to do real damage to a hard target like a Knight or even Magnus/Mortarion.  You have to throw them out there after a double-tap from Hive Guard and a few smites to hope that the Genestealers can seal the deal. They are tough by Tyranid standards, but that doesn’t make them survivable. T4 with a 5++ is good for us, but it isn’t going to survive any dedicated firepower.  Anything that pumps out over 30 shots is going to wreak havoc on them, and again, at 12 points per model, they do eat up a lot of points if you take 40-60 of them.  A 5++ is great for an infantry unit, but it is swingy. It is real easy to fail 10 of 10 saves, and pretty rare to save 6/10 saves.   There best form of defense is to kill a unit in melee and wrap another a unit to keep them in combat on the next turn. Genestealers really need to strike first, so if they get charged first or get shot first, they are not going to stand strong against it most times.  It does increase their cost a bit, but you need to include a Venomthrope/Malanthrope for them to protect your investment as much as possible, and they are a good target for Catalyst.

98/100. The best unit in our codex.  They are just a hair away from being too good, but since they can’t fly or increase their invulnerable save, they aren’t super broken, just exceedingly good.  Unless you are dedicated to Monster Mash, there isn’t a good reason to not at least take one squad of 20. Thanks as always for reading, and may your Genestealers be plentiful.


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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3 years ago

“…and if you give them Scything Talons, which are free, they can reroll 1s”

Note that you can only re-roll 1s for Attacks that were actually made with the ScyTals. No re-rolls for your Rending Claws or Acid Maws. That said, there’s a non-negligible amount of stuff out there where the ScyTals actually are better (Daemons, PoxWalkers, Harlequins, etc.), and they are free, so might as well bring them along.

3 years ago
Reply to  WestRider

Acid maw is an upgrade to the model itself..not a different weapon so when you use scything talons for reroll you the good ap from the maw also.

3 years ago
Reply to  John

Sadly, this is not the case. Acid Maw is a specific weapon, just as Scything Talons- you can choose to fight with either one (or even mix your attacks between both), but they each have their own set of abilities and stats that are independent of each other.

Daniel Micallef
Daniel Micallef
3 years ago

Extended Carapace – 4+ armor save but lose Swift and Deadly (No good).

This was useful before Big FAQ’s where you could deep strike them with a tunneling unit like Trygon. If you are already in the back field you don’t need to advance, but

Daniel Micallef
Daniel Micallef
3 years ago

Infestation Node: I just can’t understand why this has to happen at the end of the Movement Phase. It would actually be useful if you could disembark and move from it in your turn, otherwise its as useless as Pheremone Trail.

Extended Carapace: This did have its place before the Big FAQ’s nerfed Alpha deep striking. If you arrived via a Tyrranocyte or Trygon, say if you failed the charged at least you had a little extra armour with this (and potentially cover). Now as you say you are crazy not to take Kraken, and run them up the table.

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