Tyranid Codex Review – Flyers: Harpy

Hello everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, we talk about what was once a Fast Attack slot and is now in its own special place.  The Harpy is a model that can be like a rapier in the right hands, but it is super squishy. If you want to learn how to get some finesse, maybe check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Scything Wings – S6 AP -2 Dmg D3 melee weapon that rerolls 1s to hit
  • Stinger Salvo – Range 24″ Assault 4 S5 AP -1 D1 gun
  • Heavy Venom Cannon – Range 36″ Assault D3 S9 AP-2 Dmg 3 gun
  • Stranglethorn Cannon – Range 36″ Assault D6 S7 AP-1 D2 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.
  • Sonic Screech: When a Harpy successfully charges, until end of turn all enemy units within 1″ cannot be chosen to fight until all other eligible units have done so. 
  • Spore Mine Cysts: When a Harpy flies over an enemy unit in the movement phase, you can pick one to target. Roll a D6 for each model in unit, up to 3. On a 4+, the unit is “hit” and roll another D6. On a 1, nothing, 2-5 1 mortal wound, and a 6, D3 mortal wounds. For each failed 4+ to hit the target, you can place a single Spore Mine anywhere within 6 of the target and more than 3 from an enemy model. It cannot move or charge.
  • Death Throes: When the Harpy dies, roll a D6, and on a 6, deal D3 mortal wounds to all units within 3″.

The Harpy is a super fast gunboat that can also be an assassin, but it is fragile. 

The Harpy boasts the old Hive Tyrant profile of Strength and Toughness 6, which isn’t bad.  While a Harpy won’t die to a stiff breeze, perhaps a hard sneeze will do.  The big deal is that Harpies move up to 30 inches at maximum.  Yes, that’s right, 30 inches.  Harpies can zoom across the board, and they can easily pick up first turn charges without a problem. If you go first, a Harpy is going to get a charge off without any other tricks needed, and if you start to throw their tricks out, then you can use Harpies as character assassins. A Swarmlord’ed Harpy moves up to 51ish inches (factoring in that Swarmlord has to keep up a bit, so you can’t go full speed ahead), more than enough to get into a good charge position on a squishy backfield character or unit, and their melee weapon isn’t too bad with -2 AP and D3 damage, plus reroll 1s.  Even if they don’t kill their target, this certainly causes some concern and forces your opponent to focus on what is behind them rather than what is in front of them.  Against a gunline army that can’t fall back and shoot, a Harpy can simply turn off a large shooting threat by charging it and saving your other units some pain.  

The real punch to Harpies is that they can bring two bio-cannons, either heavy venoms or Stranglethorn cannons. Stranglethorns are great for clearing out infantry and getting the Harpy to essentially BS 3+, and while Venom Cannons hit hard, they fire too few shots and the Harpy is only BS 4+. Chapter Approved 2018 definitely helped here as now not only are Harpies cheaper themselves, their weapons are cheaper, so you get a lot of bug for the points, which makes their slightly suicidal tendencies far more palatable. I tend to favor the Stranglethorn just because 2d6 shots on BS 4+ is far more reliable damage than 2d3 shots, and in the new era of Orks, you are going to see plenty of units with 10+ models in it. Don’t forget the  Tyranid heavy bolter either (Stringer Salvos), which can help add just a bit of extra heat.   Sonic Screech is still around and is much easier to use now that Harpies don’t have to spend a turn landing to fight, and being able to charge a unit and guarantee that it goes last in combat is huge for taking on high powered models like Bobby G or a Knight.  Putting a Harpy and a big hitter into the same target lets you prioritize combat order elsewhere without worrying that you your opponent is going to burn 2 CPs to let their big badass get to swing.  The Spore Mine Cysts are fun but don’t do that much damage, but the ability to drop down Mines to get in your opponent’s way should not be too underestimated as you can get up to 3.  Don’t forget that you will likely have enough movement to jump over a character and maybe get lucky with an extra mortal wound, which helps with the character assassin shtick that the Harpy can try.   While Harpies don’t fight well against anything T6+, being able to charge a Super Sonic flyer is important to maybe add that last bit of heat to finish it off, and because Harpies fly, they can jump over chaff lines or infiltrators in the movement phase, and they can always fall back and shoot. 

Hive Fleet choices can determine the flavor here more. Kraken is the likely the optimal choice as it allows the Harpy to fall back and act completely normally. That’s nice and the Harpy becomes a great harassment tool that is not going to kill a lot but can dip in and out of combats at will. This really helps for sniping characters, forcing shooting units that don’t fly to Fall Back, and hell, even if they don’t, the Harpy can Fall Back right over them and charge somewhere else. Behemoth isn’t bad for both the reroll charges and the Stratagem for a 2+ mortal wound (very helpful for sniping out a character since the Harpy doesn’t bring a lot of attacks). Again, going for assassination, Gorgon is helpful for rerolling 1s to wound, and Kronos is great for spreading out the aura for the stratagem, and if you really want the Harpy to shoot, getting reroll 1s to hit does help out BS 4+, but it is hard to imagine the Harpy wanting to stay still. Leviathan is ok but not ideal, and really the only benefit is to use the Harpy to trigger War on All Fronts for another unit. Hydra and Jormungandr just don’t work too well, so don’t bother.

The downside to the Harpy? Well, there are a few. Only 3 attacks at WS 4+ is pretty bad, so don’t expect too much fight out of it against anything that has more than 5 wounds or is T6+.  You can get lucky and spike a hit on a weak character, but you aren’t going to take on anything but support characters. You’ll just scratch the paint of vehicles, and in general, the Harpy just doesn’t fight very well at all. That wouldn’t be a huge problem, but it also doesn’t shoot too well at all. At only BS 4+, you just aren’t getting a lot of mileage out of those big guns, so Venom Cannons particularly are not effective as they do not have the volume of fire needed to compensate for the lackluster accuracy. Even against hordes, the Stranglethorn cannon doesn’t put out enough shots to really make the Harpy a true shooting threat unless you get lucky and roll 10+ shots. T6 is all good except bolters still wound on a 5+, but a 4+ armor save is even worse, and well, it just means that a Lascannon gives no armor saves, and that’s bad. The Harpy is easy to kill, and it is very easy to see thanks to its tall profile and impressive wings. It noticeably degrades when injured, so again, it is not resilient and it is not going to stand up to any kind of real attention. While the Harpy is not exceedingly expensive,  143 is not so cheap that you can just throw it away every game. It is very dependent on going first to make any kind of impact. It would help if the Harpy could come out of reserve on its own, but it can’t. Throw in that the Harpy can be easily countered if an opponent has a decent amount of chaff, leaving very little room for it to land due to its large base, and you can see that there are some big “buts” when it comes to the Harpy.  Overall, the Harpy just doesn’t put out enough heat or take enough damage to really justify its cost over other threat vectors, but it does have some funny tricks to pull if it is Kraken or Behemoth. 

67/100. Fail, but close to usable in a competitive environment. There are tricks, but they are honestly better targets for our tricks. That said, they can really surprise people who expect the gunboat to shoot and it ends up eating a minor character or making a few tanks have to wait a turn to shoot. Thanks as always, and in less than a week, I’ll be seeing hopefully a lot of you at LVO! And since I’m from LA, go Rams! 

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

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About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, part of the triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town.

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