Tyranid Codex Review – Elites: Zoanthropes

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and just like me, today we are going to talk about a constant force in the Hive Fleet.  If you want some more consistently good, always there you kinda information, check out the Tactics Corner.  Without much more ballyhoo, let’s talk about one of the oldest units in the Tyranid mythos, the Zoanthrope.  Do you like mind-fried biomass? Then come on in.

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

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Claws and Teeth – basic melee weapon. Make use of that 1 attack!

Special Rules:

  • Shadow in the Warp: -1 to psychic tests within 18″. Does not affect TYRANID units.
  • Synapse: Fearless bubble of 12 inches.
  • Warp Field: 3+ invulnerable save (much good)
  • Warp Blast: Smite range is 24 inches and does an additional D3 mortal wounds if 4 or 5 Zoeys in a unit or 3 additional mortal wounds if the Zoeys are at max.
  • Psyker: Know, cast and deny 1 power. If 4 or more in unit, can cast 2 powers.

The Zoanthrope is mostly unchanged for older fans of the Hive Mind, but being bumped up to 3 wounds a piece is quite nice when you factor in that this is a unit with a 3++.  For even a minimum squad, 3 extra wounds is really 9 extra wounds your opponent has to inflict to wipe them when you factor in that 3++.  This also plays well with the Neurothrope’s Spirit Leech, which lets the unit heal (not replace models), so you can get a bit of extra mileage out of a big unit (not to mention that sweet reroll 1s on psychic tests).  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 Lascannons 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, and low strength shooting is likely to leave wounded survivors.  As a defensive unit, Zoays can be beyond frustrating for any high-quality attack melee units like characters.  Never underestimate the 3++, and a Smash Cap or Custode on Bike might find itself rubber-lancing off a unit of Zoeys.

Of course, with Warp Blast, 4 Zoays do 2D3 mortal wounds with Smite, or even D3+D6 if you roll hot, which can be brutal.  As an offensive unit, this really is one of our best answers to super-heavy targets, especially if they fire off Psychic Scream first for on average, 3d3 mortal wounds.  If you take a full unit of 6, it’s actually 3+2d3 for 6 mortal wounds on average to any target. That is just about enough to kill most characters or take a good portion off a Knight to let Hive Guard and then a melee threat take it out in one round. This is a pretty awesome way to just wrack up wounds on well-defended targets although a bit limited as you have to hit the closest units.  Still, if you look at things point for point, Zoeys are actually relatively points efficient in terms of doing wounds to the big bads out there, just not to chaff or hordes.

You also cannot talk about Zoanthropes without talking about Psychic Barrage, their quite literally bespoke stratagem. If you have a unit of at least 3 within 6 of 2 more units with at least 3, instead of firing off any powers, they can saturate bomb a 3 inch diameter circle of the board within 18 (that all 3 can see, so no hiding out of LoS for this).  For any unit caught within the circle, on a 4+ a unit takes 3d3 mortal wounds, (5+ for a character and 3+ for a unit over 10 models).  This is risky, but it can be amazing for sniping out characters hiding behind chaff lines as well as taking chunks out of units, especially smaller units that rely on cover or negative modifiers to live. On turn 1 and 2, this can also really get around the limitations of Smite by being able to actually choose your targets to an extent rather than having to pump some psychic death into a squad of scouts.  You are investing at minimum 360 points for this though, and if just one dies, it turns off.  It also means that you are trading this in for 3 smites, which is not super ideal either.  It can work, but it is not as easy as it seems to achieve. The changes in Chapter Approved 2018 do actually help this tactic just a bit more as a lot of delivery systems are now cheaper like Trygons and what not, so it is more viable to hold 2 units in reserve and bring them down in a turn to fire off the power without fear of having lost a zoanthrope to turn off the stratagem. You can’t do it until turn 2 though, and really, Psychic Barrage seems best used on turn 1 when you likely don’t have good smite targets.

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. Since Smite is really their primary weapon, you need, need, need to be smart with how you position them.

In terms of Hive Fleets, there are some awesome choices.  Kronos is fluffy but actually doesn’t really add much to them.  Kraken is excellent for giving them that burst of speed to cover distance and line up good Smites.  Jormungandr is good not for the cover (which they can’t claim as they Fly) but the ability to bring the Zoanthropes in from reserve cheaply with Raveners.  If you really want to use their stratagem, having 3 units being escorted by Raveners or a Trygon really ensures that you get your pop off at least once.  This is again also cheaper if you want a big bug to take heat off them or a Tyrannocyte for cheap. Leviathan makes them slightly more resilient, which isn’t terrible for a unit with a 3++, and since they are Synapse, it helps them spread that 6+ Feel No Pain to other units. Hydra/Gorgon/Behemoth are pretty much no goes as the Zoanthropes do not want to fight, and nothing is gonna help them with that.

The downside to the Zoanthrope is that they get pricey quick, and well, with only Smite and maybe Psychic Scream as their means of doing damage, it is highly limited and makes them very vulnerable to counter-play.  To use Zoanthropes effectively, you really need to master positioning as they have to be able to isolate targets where your Smite matters. There is also the reality that a unit of 6 is 240 points, the same cost as 20 Genestealers.  While they do different things, 20 Genestealers is likely the more efficient and threatening unit for its speed, damage output, and board control.  Even going just 3 units of 3 is a lot of points for a stratagem that can easily just suck due to bad dice.  This really is their biggest weakness is that they are still expensive if you invest, and well, unless you are building a specific kind of list, there are better choices available for the points.   Zoanthropes are also slow, so if you want them to be able to position quickly, this either locks you into Kraken or forces you to spend even more points on a delivery system.  They are also too expensive to simply sit in the backfield and wait for targets of opportunity as you need them to go out and do damage, and while you could use them ala a Pyrovore as an objective defender that is surprising difficult to shift, they are meant for much more than that.   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.

70/100.  Within spitting distance of good, but not quite there. They can hit hard, but they are just too easily countered by a savvy opponent. That said, they can absolutely do work when used well, so the skill cap is high, but the learning curve is higher. Thanks again, and I hope to see some of you bug enthusiasts over at LVO, which is approaching faster than you think.


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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.

One Response to “Tyranid Codex Review – Elites: Zoanthropes”

  1. Avatar
    NinetyNineNo December 9, 2018 8:59 am #

    Zoanthropes outline one of the problems I have with 8th — psychic powers being tied exclusively to mortal wounds instead of having weapon profiles means that they (meaning Smite most of the time — the vast majority of offensive powers are pretty bad) are overly good at dealing with some targets (heavy infantry with low wounds-per-point like Terminators) and overly bad at dealing with others (high wound count units like vehicles and hordes). It just removes a lot of the fluff and design space around psychic powers because mortal wounds are very target agnostic, so there’s very little room to make them good against certain targets rather than others. And the end result is that a unit of Zoanthropes or Warlocks is completely hopeless when it comes to busting up tanks and whatnot.

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