Tyranids Codex Review – Heavy Support: Carnifex

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, let’s talk about one of the most classic bugs of all times, the mighty morphing Carnifex! Sadly, no bugs made it to the top 8 at LVO, but there’s always next year, and if you want to brush up on the skills that took Brandon Grant to the top, check out the Tactics Corner! Buckle up, this is a long one.

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Monstrous Scything Talon –  S6 AP-3 Dmg 3 melee weapons. Reroll 1s to hit and if two sets, +1 attack.
  • Monstrous Crushing Claws – S12 AP -3 Dmg 3 melee weapons. -1 to hit.
  • Bio-Plasma – Range 12, Assault D3, S7 AP-3 D1 gun.
  • Spine Banks – Range 6 Assault 4 S5 AP0 D1 gun that can be fired within 1″ of enemy units and target units within 1″ of friendly units.
  • Bone Mace – S8 AP -1 Dmg D3 bonus attack.
  • Thresher Scythe – S4 AP-1 D1 weapon that gives D3 bonus attack.
  • Monstrous Acid Maw – S6 AP-5 Dmg D3 melee weapon.
  • Dual Deathspitters with Slimer Maggots – Range 24 Assault 6 S7 AP-1 D1 gun.
  • Dual Devourers with Brainleech worms – Range 18 Assault 12 S6 AP0 D1 gun.
  • Stranglethorn Cannon – Range 36 Assault D6 S7 AP-1 D2 gun.
  • Heavy Venom Cannon – Range 36 Assault D3 S9 AP-2 Dmg 3 gun. (May only take 1 of either Stranglethorn or Heavy Venom Cannon).
  • Toxin Sacs – Any wound of 6+ in melee causes 1 additional damage.
  • Adrenal Glands – +1 to advance/charge moves.

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.
  • Living Battering Ram:  After a charge move, on a 4+, deal 1 mortal wound to an enemy within 1″. Also, gain +1 to hit in the Fight Phase.
  • Monstrous Brood: You set up the unit together, but they act as individuals during the game and are treated as a separate unit.
  • Chitin Thorns: At end of the Fight phase, roll a d6 for each enemy unit within 1″. On a 6, that unit suffers a mortal wound.
  • Enhanced Senses: +1 BS
  • Spore Cysts: -1 to hit at range. Does not stack with Malathrone/Venomthrope.
  • Tusks: +1 to attack when charging.

Oh, the mighty Carnifex, once our biggest of bads is back with a far improved outlook on life now that it has accepted that it is a medium basher, not the big stick.

The Carnifex is a much different beast than previous editions, and that’s ok.  They are still the paragons of customization with the ability to take advantage of the full buffet of Tyranid upgrades and weapon options.  This is really what makes them shine: you can create a Carnifex for just about any job, to varying degrees of success.  If you want just a dirt-cheap melee beatstick that can threaten light-to-medium targets, then double scything talons and adrenal glands is the way to go.  For just 87 points, you get 5 S6, AP -3, Dmg 3 attacks that reroll 1s to hit on a T7, W8, Sv 3+ chassis with +1 to charge/advance, and if it charges, you get a sweet +1 to hit and you have a 50% chance of throwing out a mortal wound. That’s not too shabby at all.  That’s 24 wounds at T7 for 264 points all told, and while a single Carnifex isn’t too hard to kill, 3 or more starts to become difficult. Don’t forget that as Monsters, they also get access to the reroll to wound stratagem, which is beyond helpful when taking on heavier targets.  They may not be able to kill the hardest targets with ease, but they can hurt a lot of different targets. Even just a single Carnifex is quite literally the “Distraction Carnifex” that can soak enemy fire since they just seem scary.  You can also give them Crushing Claws to make them far better at cracking through T7 and above, but that’s likely out of their forte now without help.  We’ll get to that.

You can also still bring out the old Dakka Fex, harkening back to the days of 4th edition. For 100 points, you can have 24 S6 shots at BS 4+ and still have 4 S6 AP-5 Dmg D3 attacks in melee. If you want to dedicate to full dakka, for 105 points, you can drop the Monstrous Acid Maw and take Enhanced Senses for BS 3+.  That gives each Dakka Fex the same shot output as a Quad-Devourer Flyrant for literally half the price.   You can also throw on a Heavy Venom Cannon or Stranglethorn cannon for some larger range, but this starts to get pricey, even with the Chapter Approved decrease.  Still, the standard Dakka Fex is a real winner here for being able to generate an absurd amount of firepower that is either as accurate as Tyranids get (BS 3+) or backed up by some decent melee abilities.   If you want just sheer firepower, Dakka Fexes are the way to go as they are cheap enough to bring more than just a few.

If you want the old Sniper Fex, then a Venom Cannon or Stranglethorn is still there for you.  With BS 3+, you get some accurate, harder hitting firepower. With Heavy Venom Cannons going down to 18 points and Stranglethorns going down to 15, the Sniper Fex is a bit cheaper than before although still the most expensive load out, but 36″ range does mean that the Sniper Fex can sit towards the back and stay a bit out of the line of fire. You can only take one heavy cannon, so I usually throw on Dual Deathspitters for something with a bit more range than the usual dual Devourers, and the Sniper-Fex is best for maximizing quality firepower rather than sheer dakka.  The Stranglethorn is my favorite heavy weapon simply because it can get the Carnifex up to BS 2+ against targets with 10 or more models, and with hordes of Orks around, you want to maximize the D6 shots you are getting, but even against smaller units, the Stranglethorn is essentially an autocannon, which pairs nicely with the 6 S7 shots of the Dual Deathspitters.

There are a ton of upgrades here as well.  Spore Cysts are great for a -1 to hit at range, and while this doesn’t stack with Venomthropes/Malanthropes, it is only 10 points, so if you are taking only 2 or 3 Carnifexes, you can save points by not including any Venomthropes and still get a nice defensive buff.  Thanks to Spore Cysts, you can add in a Spearhead detachment with OOE, some Fexes, and a Prime/Neurothrope that is a totally different Hive Fleet from your other forces but still has that sweet -1 to hit going on.  Spine Banks add a very short range gun that isn’t terrible, and if paired with a Dakka Fex, it does give them quite a bit of firepower at close range, especially for only 2 points.  You can also go full melee by throwing on Tusks for +1 attack on the charge, and really, there are so many options here you can really create just about any type of threat that you want. The tails are all rather meh as 7 points for D3 S4 attacks isn’t all that snazzy, but a Bone Mace isn’t bad for 2 points as it adds just another high value attack to throw out.  It is also worth mentioning that Carnifexes are incredibly spammable thanks to being able to take 3 for 1 datasheet, so you can have 9 of these bad boys in an army.  Never underestimate the power of spam.

Let’s not forget Old One Eye who just makes Carnifexes far scarier in melee.  If you throw in OOE, then you really are able to run a variety of builds, namely the ol’ Crushing Claws.  -1 to hit on a WS 4+ model isn’t great, but if you have OOE to cancel it out, and the Carnifex gets the charge off, suddenly that’s effectively WS 3+, far more reliable for the big S12 hits. This is certainly an expensive route, but if you want to run Crushing Claws, OOE is very much the best way to do it.  Even without claws, OOE makes Scything Talons effectively WS 2+ with rerolls, which is a lot of damn accuracy.  For math’s sake, a Carnifex near OOE who charges a Knight with just Scything Talons does 4.5 wounds on average (including the chance at a mortal wound), which isn’t terrible for 88 points, but if you start to stack the tricks like Reroll wounds and Fight when Die, for 3 CPs, you are actually doing 13.8ish wounds for 88 points, not a bad trade at all.

If you want to also run OOE but want some dakka, Dakka Fexes with Acid Maws and OOE are not easy meat. This is especially a good idea if you run Jormungandr, but it any fleet, it can be hard for an opponent to deal with 3 or 4 models that put out 24 shots each at S6, and then still have 4 S6 attacks at AP-5, hitting on effectively 3+ when charged or 2+ when charging.  That is a great deal of both shooting and melee prowess in a single model.  While Devilgants may bring the most dakka to bear point by point, massed S6 shooting isn’t bad at all, especially on a model that can actually fight in melee. It is worth noting that Carnifexes get mileage out of a great deal of stratagems, so you can always find a cool trick with them one way or another. A Dakka Fex gunned down at range? Pop it right back up for another 24 shots before it goes!

Hive Fleet is super important here, depending on how you want your Carnifexes to operate.  If you like full on melee, then you can’t go wrong with Kraken for the extra speed when advancing as well as the ability to fall back and charge to get around pesky chaff lines.  A Carnifex with Onslaught and Opportunistic Advance can get a nice surprise charge off to be sure. Gorgon isn’t terrible either for the reroll 1s to wound, which helps maximize their damage, especially if you are going dirt cheap as possible to maximize the inherent value of their stat line.  Behemoth is classic for the Carnifex, and the reroll charges certainly helps make Adrenal Glands even more bang for the buck, and you can also use the Behemoth stratagem for an extra mortal wound on the charge.  If you want a shooty Carnifex, then Jormungandr is a great choice for a +2 save against ranged, and coupled with a -1 to hit, it can make taking out a 110ish point Carnifex much more difficult than your opponent might realize.  If you are really dedicated to long-ranged firepower, Kronos gives them that sweet reroll 1s on a possible BS 3+ for some highly accurate Venom Cannons or Stranglethorns, but this is pricey.  That doesn’t mean it is bad, simply that these are the most expensive loadouts.  Leviathan also adds some more defensive buffs for ranged Carnifexes as it is easy to have Synapse nearby for the 6+ Feel No Pain.  Really, the only Hive Fleet that doesn’t help them at all is Hydra.

The big downside to Carnifexes is that they are no longer our anti-tank melee threats as their strength was moved down to 6.  With Crushing Claws, they go up to S12, but with the -1 to hit, they are only hitting on 5s without any bonuses. Without Old One Eye to boost them, your odds of doing damage to anything T7 or higher is the same with Scything Talons, but at least Talons get to reroll 1s.  It is a bit sad to think of one of the most iconic 40K images, the Carnifex wrecking a rhino, and realizing that this isn’t very likely anymore. It is best to think of this as a role readjustment rather than a nerf; Carnifexes are inexpensive, customizable, and can do some serious damage, just not to heavy targets.

Carnifexes are best for crowd control (as Dakka Fexes) or taking on elite infantry, and well, 3 melee Fexes can still do some damage when thrown against a heavy target in unison.   Carnifexes are also slow with only movement 7, so they are likely not going to get the charge off first without dedicating resources to them.  They also only work best when grouped together, but there are no deployment tricks with them other than spending a lot of points on Tyrannocytes. They are also swingy: with WS and BS 4+, there are times when you are just going to roll a ton of 3s, and that is frustrating.  Having Old One Eye helps, but that is another 200 points, and what makes Carnifexes shine is that they are cheap.  This also leads into an easy pitfall with them: you can go crazy customizing them and have them suddenly start to cost 120-140 points.  That’s a bit too much for what you are getting, so you need to be mindful that the cheaper they are, the more mileage you are going to get out of them over the long run.   As they are Monsters without Fly, their greatest enemy are stairs, so try to remember that Infantry can hide from them. Carnifexes are not fragile, but they are also not ultra-durable. With 8 wounds at T7, they are mostly not afraid of small arms fire, but any real attention from anti-tank weapons will certainly hurt, especially since they lack an invulnerable save.  They don’t degrade, which is essential, but you also can’t expect them to survive any dedicated firepower at all. The best you can do is take several and layer the defensive buffs to make your opponent kill fewer of them then they planned.

All that said, the Carnifex has weaknesses, but they are so versatile, you really can make them fit in just about any style of army you want.  For the money, Dakka Fexes are probably the most points-efficient version for sheer kill, but come on, everybody loves a Fex.

88/100. A solid score for one of our most venerable and beloved monsters, but keep in mind they are not going wreck vehicles like they used to. They are your toolbox unit, so magnetize those arms, folks, or just buy 3 times as many as you think you need.   Thanks as always for reading, and I hope you avoided the Con-Crud from LVO. I don’t think I did.

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

secondhandhsop

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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.

7 Responses to “Tyranids Codex Review – Heavy Support: Carnifex”

  1. Avatar
    HM February 16, 2019 4:53 am #

    Please! The fight/shoot when die stratagem can only be used on character

    i want it can be used on montser too, but it cannot be used like that

  2. Avatar
    WestRider February 16, 2019 1:30 pm #

    I’m still bitter about the loss of the True SniperFex, with both the HVC and STC, but Fexen are definitely in a better place now than they’ve been since 4th Ed.

    The readjustment of role is fitting, as the expansion of the scope of the game has seen them surpassed as the big bads of the Nid list, but it is regrettable that they don’t really have a replacement as an Anti-Tank battering ram Unit. And it would be nice if they could still reliably crack open at least T7 Vehicles, if not Land Raiders and Knights. Make them pseudo S7.5 somehow or something like that.

    Having solid cheap NinjaFex/Screamer-Killer and DakkaFex options back again is really nice, tho.

  3. Avatar
    NinetyNineNo February 17, 2019 11:14 am #

    It really is a bit weird that they don’t have any punch against heavy targets unless you bring FW Stonecrushers. It’s likely a case of the rules standard (WS4+, S6, A4 being baseline for monsters in 8th) running into the unit’s purpose. Kind of a bummer, when vanilla Dreadnoughts get to hit at S12 but hit on 3s rather than 5s. Definitely feels like a missed opportunity, but then again Tyranid monsters in general feel strangely wimpy (in melee, mind you) versus heavy targets in 8th.

    • Avatar
      WestRider February 17, 2019 3:42 pm #

      GW’s decision to cap most Nid Monsters (and Daemon Engines, too) at WS/BS4+ has really cut out a big chunk of the design space there. If they had the volume of Attacks to really make up for it, it could be different, but it would still be very swingy.

  4. Avatar
    Kitani February 19, 2019 8:25 am #

    Great article.
    What I find really sad is there is no reason to take the Screamer or the Thornback, since they lack several great options available to a standard Carnifex, their special advantages over him are negligible AND they have to pay points for them. The stock version can be tooled up to be better then either of them and it’ll cost less to boot.

    • Avatar
      WestRider February 19, 2019 2:56 pm #

      The reason to take them is when you want to run more than 9 Fexen at once XD

      • Avatar
        Kitani February 21, 2019 5:14 am #

        Just like Russes and Tank Commanders (

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