Tyranid Codex Review – Fast Attack: Raveners

Hey all, Danny from TFG Radio here as always, your north star, to talk about bugs.  Today, we move into the Fast Attack slot to look at the speedy bugs.  If you’d like to know more, maybe check out the Tactics Corner for all the sweet and constantly updating tactics available to you.  Speaking of tactical applications, today we are going to look at one of the bugs that makes our tricks trickier, all at a reduced cost, the Ravener! 

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Scything Talons – S4 AP 0 D1 attack that rerolls 1s to hit and gives +1 attack if you have 2 pairs.
  • Rending Claws – S4 AP -1 D1 attack that turns to AP -4 on a wound roll of 6+.
  • Spinefists – Range 12 Pistol 4 S3 AP 0 D1 gun.
  • Devourer – Range 18 Assault 3 S4 AP 0 D1 gun.
  • Deathspitter – Range 24 Assault 3 S5 AP -1 D1 gun.

Special Rules:

  • Instinctive Behavior: Unless within 24 inches of a HIVE FLEET synapse creature, -1 to hit for shooting attacks against any target that is not the closest, and -2 to charge a unit unless it is the closest.
  • Death From Below: You can set up Raveners in reserve and have them pop up more than 9 away as per usual.

For me, this is one of the sleeper units of the codex that provides versatility and unexpected threat vectors and a lot of customization.

First, they are not too expensive for their statline of S/T 4, 3 W, and 4 attacks base (all under 25 points per model), and they come standard with 5 attacks at WS 3+, rerolling 1s.  That’s a lot of accuracy and attacks for the price point, especially on a 3 wound model where a few glancing wounds doesn’t remove any combat potential of the unit.   These attacks are only S4 and no AP, but then you are counting on quantity over quality, and while they’ll struggle to kill anything T5+/3+ saves, they will mulch light infantry. 5 attacks at S4 for 23 points isn’t bad a deal when you factor in wounds and mobility.  Raveners move 12 on their own, which with certain Hive Fleets can mean that they can cover ground quickly.  They also come with the standard ability to arrive via reserve, so they can pop up in a corner and threaten a backfield objective or simply survive any kind of alpha strike.  They have some upgrade utility like Rending Claws for -1 attack but an AP -1 melee attack with the chance to go to -4.  Really, the exciting part of their upgrades is that they get to bring guns to a talon fight, and deathspitters are legit as they are short-ranged heavy bolters.

The ranged weapon does not replace their melee weapons, so for just under 30 points, you can have a model that has 5 S4 attacks at WS 3+, rerolling 1s as well as 3 S5 AP-1 shots at BS 4+.   Couple this with their ability to arrive from reserve, and you can have a mean one-two punch in a single unit.  Having a unit that is a threat both at range and in melee is great for list flexibility where you know that most games, the Raveners are going to do something.    With Single-Minded Annihilation, you can get up to 54 heavy bolter shots out of reserve from these bugs, and especially in the land of the Orks, so that can come in way more handy some games than Hive Guard. Let’s not forget that The Red Terror exists, and you can cheaply and easily get a unit that has 5 attacks on a 2+ reroll in melee.    Raveners can be used well as either backfield hunters with Deathspitters (18 deathspitter shots is about 3 dead Devastators, which can be a big swing in offensive ability for that unit),  or when taken cheaply and en masse, they can become an excellent blender to punch through chaff. Really, it is the fact that Raveners are one of our best ways to offer a multi-threat unit where they can impact the game on the turn they arrive, and they can do damage in both melee and shooting.  That is something to consider.

Hive Fleet also really improves the Raveners for free.  Kraken is excellent for sheer speed and the ability to fall back and charge.  With Onslaught, a unit of 9 melee Raveners can rocket across the board, hit the chaff screen, and if any survive to the next turn, they can fall back and charge deeper into enemy territory.  That can get you a lot of mileage for 200 points, especially if you can lock something in combat.  The Hive Fleet that seems quite literally made for Raveners is Jormungandr as minimum Raveners suddenly become a 69 point delivery system for smaller infantry. The Enemy Below is an under-utilized stratagem, and our little snake-bugs make a great use of it. With it, Raveners can suddenly escort Hive Guard, Warriors, Zoanthropes, the new and improved Broodlords, or any other infantry that you want.  If you really want to run Warriors, a good combination (expensive but fun) is spend 2 CPs to put a large Warrior squad in reserve with a Prime, and then bring them up with the Raveners for 2 units that can pump out a lot of shots right out of reserves with the Warriors getting that tasty +1 to hit bonus from the Prime. While large infantry squads may still want a Mawloc/Trygon for the base size, more compact units can find a cheaper ride with just minimum Raveners.  Now with Chapter Approved 2018, the 3 Ravener an 3 Pyrovore combo is even cheaper.  Even if you dedicate to big and bad squads, a max squad of Raveners has plenty of space for 30 infantry to fit within 3 of it, and if you load them for bear, you can have two strong threats suddenly appear. Behemoth is alright for the reroll charge as is Leviathan for some extra protection but it is unlikely Raveners will be all that close to Synapse.  If you like cheap melee Raveners, Gorgon isn’t bad for a reroll 1 to wound to again get some extra efficiency out of their base stats.  Hydra is not going to work well as it is unlikely that Raveners will outnumber their prey as they are best as scything through infantry, not hitting small, elite units.

On the downside, Raveners are squishy with only a 5+ save, so they will still die quickly even to small arms fire.  T4 with a 5+ save (4 with Jormungandr if they did not advance) isn’t all that ideal, and even with 3 wounds, those wounds are easy to stack and hard to save.  Raveners are definitely an alpha-strike type of unit as any real attention sent their way is going to do damage. They also get expensive with Deathspitters, so they really rely on being able to pop up where they need to be.  Against a savvy opponent, they are not going to have many choice landing zones, and if they come on turn 3, that is 2 turns where they made no tangible impact on the game state, which is real bad if you spent a lot of points.  This doesn’t mean that these 2 turns are wasted, but it does mean that you are vulnerable to counter-play and you are not maximizing the points you’ve spent in terms of impact for all 6 turns.  As chaff killers, a full unit of 9 is just over 200 points, but for just a bit more, you could get 20 Genestealers which is 35 more attacks with better AP and can be more resilient thanks to the 5++.  For comparison, a full unit of Raveners kills only 5.71 marines while Genestealers kill 15.71. That’s just about 3 times more damage for only 33 more points.  In terms of raw damage, Raveners just don’t do as much as other choices, so really, they are best as a surprise shooting unit that also brings up another unit when using Jormungandr.

83/100. A Solid B, mostly because 5 bug Ravener teams with Deathspitters are great for sniping out backfield shooters like Devastators or heavy weapon teams, and they can still fight well enough that it takes more than a casual unit to really tie them down or eliminate them. They have moves to be sure, but they are not necessarily game-changing pieces either.

Super bonus episode: The Red Terror

The Red Terror is no longer an upgrade to Raveners, and it has a pretty healthy stat line, but its signature ability is still quite situational.

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Scything Talons – S4 AP 0 D1 attack that rerolls 1s to hit and gives +1 attack if you have 2 pairs.
  • Prehensile Tail – S5 AP 0 Dmg D3 weapon that gets one free attack.

Special Rules:

  • Instinctive Behavior: Unless within 24 inches of a HIVE FLEET synapse creature, -1 to hit for shooting attacks against any target that is not the closest, and -2 to charge a unit unless it is the closest.
  • Death From Below: You can set up Raveners in reserve and have them pop up more than 9 away as per usual.
  • Feeding Frenzy: +1 to hit in the fight phase for HIVE FLEET Raveners within 6 inches.
  • Swallow Whole: If 4 or more of its talons hit the same unit, you can forgo rolling to wound and instead roll a D6. If that roll is equal or higher than the highest wounds characteristic in the target unit, one model from that unit is removed.

The Red Terror has a respectable statline with movement 12, WS 3+, (but effectively 2+) 6 wounds, and 6 attacks (if you include the tail). That’s not too bad at all for the new and improved price of 50 points.  The Red Terror has a nice aura ability for Ravener units, making them hit on 2+ in melee, which for the amount of attacks they generate is not too shabby at all.  Of course, The Red Terror can come in from reserves, but as it is a character, it is fast enough to shimmy up the board and be protected by a Termagant/Hormagaunt screen.  On its own, Red Terror can do decent damage to a soft target, and really, when paired with a Ravener unit, they become a chaff-wrecking machine. CA 2018 really helped it out with a hefty points drop, so at 50 points,  the situational nature of this bug isn’t as hard to swallow.

Still, the Red Terror is not going to take on any other characters without  luck. With no AP and no multiple damage on its attacks save for its one tail attack, the Red Terror is unlikely to kill anything with multiple wounds, particularly wounds over 4.   Its signature attack, Swallow Whole, is much easier to trigger thanks to a rerollable WS 2+, but having to roll to swallow a model means that you are trading 5 attacks to possibly kill one model.  While this can be useful for taking out heavily armored models like Centurions, Custodes, or Blightlords,  it is a 50% chance to kill a low level character (4 wounds and under). That said, if spending a CP for the reroll, you can skew the odds in your favor.  Tactically, it is worth pointing out that Raveners really excel at clearing out chaff or shooting, so sending the Red Terror alone into a unit of heavily armored infantry is likely going to be one dead Red Terror, and if you had Raveners with it, they are likely going to die too.   The idea is cool, but it doesn’t work out the way that it should most of that time. It may seem awesome to just nuke a custodes biker in one shot, but his friends are going to eat Red Terror, so you have to decide if you want to trade that.    While the Red Terror may murder a Smash Captain on a lucky charge, this requires putting your faith in the dice and likely a CP reroll.   At its best, the Red Terror can snipe out an enemy melee character, but that requires your opponent to make some bad choices in positioning or you get lucky with a charge out of reserve.


69/100. Not there yet as the aura is cool for Raveners, but Raveners really excel as a shooting unit more than anything, and you can usually save the 50 points unless you are in meta where durable characters or elite units are far more common. If so, then The Red Terror could be quite useful.

Thanks as always for reading, and I will be going back and updating all the other articles to adjust for Chapter Approved 2018.  Also, keep in mind that LVO is just a few weeks away, so if you are around, feel free to stop on by the judge’s table or find me walking around to say hi.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!




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

Is weird they didn’t get a point cost reduction in chapter approved. Raveners are sort of Tyranid bikers, and as many other ‘nid options, they’re sort of the “poor man version” of a biker, a bit slower than the usual, and a lot softer, while trading firepower for melee. If a real biker is beetween 21-26 points, an equiped Ravener should be around 17-20, to be on par.

Other than Jormungandr, I can’t see any place for Raveners. And the only reason to bring them on jormun is because they’re the cheaper tunnel network toll. Their cc power is outshined by Genestealers in every way, and Warriors, while a lot slower, are cheaper, a bit more resilient, and synaptic Troops. Shrikes are a lot better too, being slightly more expensive, but with better wargear and fly, while having the defensive and synaptic advantadge.

About the Red Terror, there’s always some use for cheap W9- characters. There’s a few missions were characters are more important than troops, and the rules to protect characters are just too good. Is cheap, and in some missions, it does something. Worst case scenario, he can stay for a while on a safe objetive, while being inmune to the enemy shooting.

3 years ago

I find them to be quite cool with Jormungandr to bring in other units.

3 years ago

It’s probably mostly the fact that I favour Jormungandr as my Hive Fleet, but I have found them to be very useful. Mostly as a delivery system, but the fact that, unlike a Drop Pod or something, they’re a reasonably capable Unit for rooting out backfield Objective holders and Dev Squads and such gives them a nice extra edge.

I also like the Red Terror, both for its buff Aura to Ravs and, as Brakhal pointed out, just the fact that its Character status can let it be a real nuisance in a lot of situations.

Then again, all this is also somewhat biased by the fact that I’ve always loved Raveners, since they were first introduced in 3rd Ed, and so I probably go out of my way more than I’m really aware of to get use from them.

3 years ago

It should be noted that the red terror is surprisingly an elite choice and can bring infantry as deep strikers with jormungandr since he is a ravener.

3 years ago

How are you running them? With what sort of unit sizes and loadouts have you had success? I’ve had limited success with minimum units of Rending Claw/Scything Talon Ravs, using them for the Jormungandr strategem.

Are the shooting options worth looking at? I thought they’d be overpriced on a model that shoots on a 4+.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x