Psychic Awakening III: Tyranid Review, Relics and Adaptive Physiology

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, we are going dive deep into the new hotness of Adaptive Physiology and the new Bio-Artefacts from Psychic Awakening III: Blood of Baal. If you want even more reviews and tricks, you should always keep an eye out on Frontline’s Tactics Corner.

Adaptive Physiology is a new mechanic that exists only for Tyranids at the moment where instead of assigning a Warlord Trait to a Tyranid character, you can instead give an Infantry unit or Monster model one of these new abilities. There is also a new stratagem: Progeny of the Hive, that allows you to give Adaptive Physiology to another unit or monster. Right now, outside of an errata, this works on anything that is an Infantry unit or a Monster model. So, let’s take a look and see what we see:


Enhanced Resistance: When resolving an attack made against the unit with AP -1 or -2, that weapon has AP 0 for the attack.

This is just about built for helping Warriors be relevant in 8th edition.  Warriors have a 4+ armor save standard, so getting them to ignore most small arms fire makes them incredibly resilient, especially for their price point.  Throw in their new bespoke Stratagem, and a unit (or two) can be quite aggravating to kill.  If you start stacking on things like Hive Fleet for 6+++ Feel No Pains or Jormungandr for constant cover, you have a unit that can actually stand up to small arms fire, something Tyranids do not have in abundance when it comes to our infantry.  This is also not bad on Hive Guard who like to hide out of LoS and shoot, so when it comes to the artillery war between HG and Mortars/Thunderfires, the Hive Guard are suddenly much more resilient.  Tyrant Guard, our only infantry unit with a 3+ save standard can also make good use of this as with T5, 3 wounds, and a 3+ save that ignores AP 1 and 2, you have a pretty tough nut to crack that requires heavy ordnance, heavy ordnance not going into your monsters.  You can try to make this work on small bugs, but again, protecting a 6+ armor save isn’t really that valuable.

Adrenal Webs: When this unit consolidates, it can move up to 2D6”.

This is awesome for our fast moving infantry that loves to gum up the world.  This one ability is what makes the Hive Fleet Adaptation Shrewd Predators worth it. I can see rocking this with Genestealers with Shrewd Predators and maybe Feeding Frenzy for a ton of in-combat movement. You can still Swarmlord a unit of Stealers forward, getting 23” of movement on average, before charging and then getting 6” of pile-in and 2d6” of consolidation, and if you murdered the squad you hit, you can move in any direction when you do that 2d6” movement.  That can stop most of an army from shooting or get a tri-point that your opponent thought wasn’t possible. You can also use it to snipe an easy kill and then reposition the Genestealers back into cover or a magic box. The problem here is how to get this to happen, so you really need to build essentially a self-contained detachment that is just for this trick.  That said, a Patrol of Swarmlord and 36-40 Genestealers with Shrewd Predators and Feeding Frenzy can slot into another build, but it is an expensive Patrol that isn’t getting you CPs.  You can also try to use our other tricks to increase charge range and use Tyrannocytes instead to save points. Gargoyles also work for this just for the base 12” move.  You can also use this on a Lictor and combo it with the Ignore Overwatch strat that Lictors get for a model that comes in and just tries to tie up as much as it possible can, but eh. Either way, this can work exceptionally well if you combo it correctly, but it takes a delicate touch.

Abhorrent Pheromones: –2 Ld to enemy units within 1”.

This is not so good, Al.  Again, negative Ld is not that effective of a mechanic. A lot of armies have ways to mitigate morale, and Tyranids don’t have really any powers or abilities that trigger off of lower leadership.  Since you get at most 2 of these Bolt-Ons, I don’t see using such precious resources on an ability that just doesn’t get much value, yet.  Perhaps later we will see models or abilities that do care about leadership, but right now, you really don’t need this.  I suppose if you were trying to do a Forces of the Hive Mind build with lots of leadership mechanics and ways to do chip damage to many units so they fall apart in morale, this could be useful, but that is definitely a distinct and niche build. But hey, if it makes you feel good, do it. The problem is getting the unit close enough to targets that matter.

Dynamic Camouflage: When this unit is in cover, it gets +2 to its saving throws instead of +1 against ranged attacks.

This is another way to make Warriors playable, but it also benefits any of our multi-wound infantry.  One of Raveners’ big weaknesses is that they have a 5+ save, so getting to a 3+ in cover helps mitigate the damage from Overwatch.  Warriors, thanks to their new stratagem, become pretty resilient with this in cover, going up to a solid 2+ save.  If you are getting into a shooting war between Hive Guard and Mortars/Thunderfire Cannons, this can make a unit of Hive Guard exceptionally hard to shift with a 2+ in cover, where they should always be.  Even Tyrant Guard become a bit of a bully unit with a +1 save in cover, giving them the best armor save that a Tyranid can get.   You can even try some deeeeeep tek by giving this to Jormungandr Extended Carapace Genestealers for a 2+ save.  Yes, they can’t advance and charge, but if doing a gunline, they can be an excellent counter-charge unit that mostly hides and goes after whatever gets to your Carnifex line.  Even without Extended Carapace, getting Stealers to a 3+ save in cover isn’t bad, and this can really help mitigate overwatch if you can get them into cover to launch their charge, which you should be trying to do anyway. There is certainly some logic to giving this to a unit of Hormagaunts/Termagants/Gargoyles depending on terrain and your opponent’s army.  If you are going against an army that pumps out a lot of low strength, no AP shooting, getting your forward screen up to a 4+ save is actually not bad at all, but that again depends on if there is enough terrain on the board to hold 30 models.  I would probably never decide to do this on a unit in the list building stage, but I could see myself calling an audible to this if the board looked advantageous.  If you are taking infantry, this is something to always consider.

Unnatural Reactions: This unit can Heroically Intervene as if it were a character, can Intervene within 6” and it can move up to 6” when doing so.

I always love Heroic Intervention because it is one of the few mechanics to interrupt your opponent’s turn, so there is a high skill cap there to maximize. Getting a big unit of Genestealers a chance to HI into units that thought they were safe is pretty sweet, but this even works on Warriors or really, Tyrant Guard.  If you want to try a brick of walking Tyrants with a big unit of Tyrant Guard for them, this can be a great way to get the Tyrant Guard into combat en masse, and they can do some work for sure.  If you know your opponent has fast melee threats that are going to get into you quick, this can be a good way to counter it by wrapping up one, or even two of these threats and killing them on their turn, freeing up your next turn to counter-attack more efficiency as you do not have to waste resources taking out the threat currently in your lines.  Unfortunately, we don’t really have solid Flying Infantry to give this to as otherwise it could really help snag flyers that try to come in close, but again, in certain matchups with certain units, this can do work for you, if you remember it.


Dermic Symbiosis: The model gets a 5++ invulnerable save and is considered to have double the number of wounds left for determining what profile row to use on its damage table.

Welp, get used to seeing this on the table.  If you go back and read the novella that I wrote on Tyranids over the years, you’ll see that one of my primary knocks against our Big Bugs is the general lack of invulnerable saves.  Haruspexes, Exocrines, Tyrannofexes, Tervigons, Trygons and Toxicrenes just don’t have enough built in defense to survive this game, and well, a big part of that is that AP -3 isn’t rare, so getting a 6+ save or even nothing just picks up these models.  What makes a Knight so resilient is not just T8, but a 5++ (or 4++ sometimes) to shooting and 24 wounds. This solves that to some extent by giving a 5++, so there’s always the chance to mitigate damage, and double wounds in terms of the degradation table means that your monster is going to perform at full capacity for longer.  This is especially key for Exocrines and Tyrannofexes who need to be at full capacity to really get mileage out of their shots, and of course, the Haruspex needs to stay at WS 4+ as much as possible.  Now, this does not mean that our big bugs become tanks upon tanks, but it does help, and for free, it is hard not to see such as a big win.  I really like the idea of two Haruspexes as a front line threat as they are only 150 points, have T8 and 13 wounds, so with a 5++, a -1 to hit, and maybe even a Maleceptor for some extra defense, and you have a pretty resilient brick of beef to anchor your lines, beef that is equally good at killing infantry and hard targets. With the price drop for Tervigons, Dermic Symbiosis is a must as it keeps the Gant-factory open, and between Kraken’s relic, a Malanthrope, and a Maleceptor’s aura, this is likely the tankiest HQ choice that we have.   Overall, this is the big winner in many ways, and it is hard not to choose this over any other choice.

Voracious Ammunition: At the end of your shooting phase, pick an enemy unit that lost a model to this unit’s attacks. That unit takes D3 mortal wounds.

This is custom made for an Exocrine.  With 2 separate volleys of S7 AP-3 D2 attacks that are solidly accurate, you are going to kill models.  This allows you the chance to spread the love a bit, taking medium bites out of 2 smaller, more elite infantry squads like Primaris, and getting some extra mortals on them as well.  Because you get to shoot two different targets, you maximize the mortal wounds from this upgrade.  The problem here is that splitting fire is not always ideal as hurting two separate units is generally not as good as killing one unit.  This does help ensure that if a squad is down to 1-2 survivors that you the chance to pick them, but in general, splitting fire is a quick way to get very little for a lot of resources.   That said, against Primaris marines, which aren’t exactly rare anymore, this does allow an Exocrine to do some work, and only increases its stock as a way to help counter Primaris marines. 

Accelerated Digestion: At the end of the Fight phase, if this model killed an enemy model, it regains up to 1 lost wound, to a max of 3 per turn.

This is fluffy and fun, and it seems again designed to boost a Haruspex specifically.  As the Haruspex has multiple ways to heal each turn, having it able to heal another 3 wounds is pretty impressive. At most, a Haruspex can heal 3 from AD, 1 from the Tongue, 1 from the Rapacious Hunger, 1 from Metamorphic Regrowth and d3 from Rapid Regeneration.  That’s 6+d3 wounds healed in a single turn, not too bad at all.  This also benefits really any big beastie with a decent amount of attacks like a Trygon or Toxicrene.  Even the Dimacheron gets a bit more mileage here as it can get a 5++ through its own rules and then with some healing on top of it, that could be money.  Is this better than a flat 5++? Probably not as again, doing 13-14 wounds to one of our models isn’t exceptionally difficult for the amount of shooting and melee out there, so the chance of a wounded creature getting back to healthy is low. A Haruspex in a Tyrannocyte could be hilarious as Turn 3 pressure where now that the game has seen its bloodshed, there might not be enough out there to really put down the Haruspex is a single go, and if it can heal, then your opponent may find themselves outclassed in Turn 5 and 6. Swarmlord is also not a bad choice here as Swarmy is pretty tanky in melee, and still pumps out enough attacks to be able to maximize the value of this.

Synaptic Enhancement: This model gains Shadow in the Warp and gains the SYNAPSE keyword.

This really fun and fluffy if you are trying to run a pure Monster list with nothing else.  You can give a regular Trygon Synapse or even Old One Eye, and well, the idea of OOE leading a Spearhead of dozens of different Carnifexes is hysterical.  If going Leviathan, this is an easy way to make sure specific beasts are in range for the 6+++, or if doing custom Hive fleet, an easy way to make sure a Tyrannofex with a Rupture Cannon always has 1 reroll on the big hit.  Outside of fluff reasons, there really isn’t a strong reason to take this over anything else as Tyranids have plenty of workable Synapse choices, so you really don’t need another unless you are really dedicating to Monster Mash and want nothing but Monstrous Creatures in your entire army. The one angle-shot here is if you are planning around our new Stratagem Hunter’s Drive, making an Exocrine a Synapse creature lets you trigger this stratagem much easier than relying on a Hive Tyrant or Warriors to do it for you.

Murderous Size: Before the battle, pick a melee weapon this model is equipped with. It gets +1 Strength, +1 Damage, and +1 to its AP.

This is another money maker that really is best on our Named Characters, so if that goes away, its utility is going to drop a bit.  That said, being able to get The Swarmlord up to S9, AP-4, and D4 makes it an absolutely armor killer and a Centurion killer.  Swarmy is already one of our best fighters, but super-charging those Sabres is just glorious.  Old One Eye also benefits as getting the Talons up to S8 AP-4 and D4 again adds a lot more kill against Centurions (who can’t shoot it if it is screened), and well, if you stack on Prey Sight for +1 to hit, Old One Eye hits on 2s, rerolls 1s, and gets an extra attack on a 3+ with the Talons on the charge.  That is a ton of heat, and since OOE is a monster, you can spend the CP for the reroll to wound, and all of sudden, you have a lot of dead Centurions. 

Even if you can’t super-charge a named character (which again, RAW is clear outside of an Errata), there are other good options for this.  Souping up a Trygon to be S8, AP-4, Dd6+1 is good, and it makes them all the scarier armor crackers. Going with a Toxicrene is also money as getting the Tentacles up to S8 AP-3 and Dd3+1 is quite sweet, especially with 6 attacks at full health.  That makes a Toxicrene a pretty efficient Primaris eater as well as a genuine threat to most vehicles. You can also soup up the Haruspex’s Maw for S8 AP-2 Dd3+1 when healthy, and that is getting to Knight stomp levels of kill.  Even at lowest power, S6 is still plenty to kill infantry and start triggering some healing.  You could also go a bit tricksy and power up the Scything Wings of a Hive Crone, getting S7 AP-3 Dd3+1, which doesn’t seem a lot on 3 attacks, but on a model with 30” movement and in a Hive Fleet that makes it WS 3+ on the charge, rerolling 1s, this becomes a great backfield character or even artillery hunter that is able to fly deep into enemy territory and get an important kill.  A Hive Crone won’t kill a Smashcap, but it can murder a Librarian, Techmarine, or maybe even a Thunderfire Cannon if you get lucky.

Overall, this is about increasing kill, and well, if that’s your thing, go for it.  If you want to be more defense, the 5++ is better, but if you want to truly threaten with 2 big beasties, then Murderous Size is good.  Of course, you can split the difference and give one Beastie a 5++ and one more threat. 

Bio-Artefacts – Yep, we get a few new ones, and it is nice to finally have a few relics worth taking.

Resonance Barb –The bearer may cast one additional power, deny one additional time, and gets +1 to cast.

This is what most of the interwebz has been buzzing about, and for good reason.  This is our best, most useful relic.  One additional cast, one additional deny, and +1 to cast is just a damn near perfect suite of abilities to turn 1 psyker from good to great.  As most of our powers are 6 or under, this really skews the math in our favor that you are going to get a Catalyst or Onslaught off. Especially since Onslaught can be so damn brutal and turn-changing, making sure that it goes off is a priority.  If you are also trying to do a Psyker spam style list, this also helps as a late-turn source of smite as the +1 makes the 8 or 9 much more manageable although by no means guaranteed. 

Now who to give it to? The first option is to make the Super Neurothrope.  Why? Well, it has a natural reroll 1s on psychic tests, so with the +1, that’s added value.  The problem here is that a Neuro only knows 1 spell beside Smite, so it will actually not be able to cast 3 powers a turn as it only knows 2.  You can fix this by using our new stratagem that lets it know all the powers from another HIVE FLEET psyker, and this can actually be sweet as you can have the Neuro cast all the important spells for the turn with the +1 to cast and reroll 1s.  This does require CP though.  

A broodlord is an interesting choice as it is somewhat in the opposite direction of a Neurothrope. It only has 1 cast base, so giving it the extra cast means that it can actually smite and cast whatever power it knows. As Broodlords are fast threats, this is a good way to make a reliable mortal wound battery with some decent melee threat behind it as the +1 to cast Smite and Psychic Scream is generally going to get you 2d3 mortals, and if this clears a small screen to a juicy character, even better.  Broodlords are not super hard to kill though, so it could be trading your Resonance Broodlord for less value long term that you want. 

You can also go with a Flying Hive Tyrant for a very reliable, very mobile gunboat that pumps out some heat in both the shooting and psychic phase with 3 powers a turn, perfect for a smite, scream, and then either a buff or debuff, depending on the situation and your power chosen. This also gives you to 2 deny attempts off of one model that is good at getting close to the action and being within range to stop enemy psychic ability.  The downside here of course is that you can target a Tyrant. 

You can also throw this in a Tervigon, and this lets it cast smite and a buff, but eh, this is not as exciting as other options. Plus, I generally like taking Chameonlic Mutation on a Tervigon to keep it alive even longer.  

Xenogenic Acid –Replaces Toxin Sacs. On an unmodified 5+, deal 1 mortal wound in additional to normal damage.

This is an interesting way to boost a Trygon Prime as it really is the only choice that maximizes this ability.  A Hive Tyrant with double scything talons or boneswords could do some work, but with only 5 attacks, that’s not really getting you much here. A Prime though has 7 attacks at WS 3+ rerolling 1s (or 2+ if you take a custom Hive Fleet), so you can actually get more value out of a Prime.  

This is a nice way to add some extra kill to either big models or infantry as the mortals are going to do what they do either way, but with only a 33% chance base, that’s not ideal. Unfortunately, it is unmodified, so you can’t stack Behemoth’s new power to get extra mileage.   You can of course trigger Reroll to Wound and fish for the mortals, and if you are only going for the 5+, that increases your odds to about 54% of hitting a mortal wound.  If against infantry, this can get you more actual damage as chances are you are wounding on 3s or 2s, so you are unlikely to reroll into a bunch of 1s and 2s, but remember, it could happen, and averages never feel average.  This can be a smart way to kill a 3++ Smash cap as just a few of those mortals have to go through before just 1 failed save equals a dead captain.

This is a cool way to make a Prime a bit more of a badass, or even go real sideways and give it to a Double-Talon Tyranid Prime for less value for almost 90 points less in cost.  

The Venomthorn Parasite – Model with a Stranglethorn or Heavy Venom Cannon only. Whenever the model shoots, it always counts as rolling the maximum number of shots.

If you like the big shots, this is not a bad way to get some consistency out of a Hive Tyrant. A walking Tyrant is not always the king of the meta, but it can do work in the right setups. Getting a guaranteed 3 shots out of the Heavy Venom Cannon is good as its biggest issue is that it is only d3 shots.  If doing a bespoke Hive Fleet, this combos well with Synaptic Augmentation as you get to reroll 1 of the hit rolls, so by the math, you should be hitting at minimum twice each time, and hitting all 3 is not unlikely at all.  Of course, a Stranglethorn is also good at 6 shots at all times, which is like getting a 6 shot autocanon that also hits on 2s against big units.  In terms of potential kill, a Stranglethorn can do the most damage, but the AP-2 and S9 of the VC makes it far more reliable at wounding hard targets.  Still, a Stranglethorn is probably the better choice just for always getting 6 shots out of it.

Again, if you like Hive Tyrants, this can be a good way to make a mostly mobile, high volume Tyrant, especially if you throw in Morphic Sinews for no advance/shoot penalty.  Get a Hive Tyrant with a Stranglethorn and Devourer, and you have a decent little shooter there.  

If Tyranid Primes could take a Strangle or VC, this would be a good way to make them a bit more usable, but alas, maybe in our next codex. 

Ain’t no school like the old school

Pathogenesis – Add 8” of range to all ranged weapons the bearer has. Also, when it uses its guns, it can reroll 1 hit roll and 1 wound roll. 

An extra 8″ of range is pretty sweet, particularly on all ranged weapons rather than 1.  This makes Devourers far more threatening as their biggest issue is being only range 18.  This is also interesting on Deathspitters as getting up to range 32″ makes them almost heavy bolters, and it allows a flyrant to really ride the flank and still threaten a lot of the board. Again, if you like your shooting Tyrants, this is interesting as it allows Venom Cannons and Stranglethorns to threaten far more of the board that before.  It is also so somewhat cute on a Trygon Prime as the extra 8″ lets it threaten far more targets when it arrives, but eh. 

The free reroll to hit and reroll to wound isn’t bad, and again, on a Heavy Venom Cannon where you need every shot there to matter, it has value, but Tyranids are really more about quantity rather than quality, so it is not quite the advantage as it may seem.  You could pair with a custom hive fleet for one free reroll to hit from Synaptic Augmentation and then one from Pathogenesis, with a bonus reroll to wound.  Not bad on a Heavy Venom Cannon.  Is it better than just 3 shots at all times? Probably not.

Arachnacyte Gland – Replaces Adrenal Glands. +1 to advance rolls, and when the model charges, it rolls an additional d6 and drops the lowest.

This is a fun one, and it really is about combinations.  This is the lightning fast jab that leads into the cross and eventually the hook, and while jabs aren’t flashy, they win fights.  Rolling 3d6 and dropping the lowest for a charge is mathematically better than a flat +1, and it only is more so once you throw in a reroll.  When you consider that Nids also get 2 new stratagem that boost charge rolls, this can be what starts that chain reaction.  You can either set this up with a Flyrant or Trygon Prime, both who can absolutely be the start to a brutal turn of long distance charges. 

Both the Prime/Flyrant can come in from deep strike, so 9 away, but with 3d6, pick the 2 highest, your odds are still not ideal.  If you go Behemoth for free reroll charges, so rerolling all the dice, your odds go to mostly good (but not guaranteed).  You can also use a CP reroll if you managed to snag a 6 on one dice, and this means you only need a 3 on the reroll (67%) to get the charge off.  Again, this is not a guarantee, but it isn’t bad at all.  

If you want some extra fun, have a Hive Tyrant kill a model out of the unit, letting you trigger Hunter’s Drive for an extra d6 and drop the lowest.  That’s 4d6 and take the two highest.  If you stick the charge, you can also then trigger Hive Instinct, and all of sudden, anybody charging that same unit is getting 3d6, take the two highest.  That’s some insane charging there.  

If you need to stick the charge out of reserve, having a Synapse shooting threat helps for the extra d6 (so Hive Tyrants and Warriors are the most likely suspects here).  If going Kraken, you can also use their psychic power on the target for free reroll charges against it if you don’t want to run Behemoth.   

You can even try to combo this into a first turn charge by putting a Flyrant on the board, advancing, getting Onslaught off, and then charging 3d6 and drop the lowest or even 4d6 drop the lowest thanks to Hunter’s Instinct.  If you really want a Flyrant up in their face or to combo off another long bomb charge from other fast threats, this Relic really helps you do it.  

This is another relic where it is hard to not take it in many builds, and it is definitely worth the CP to take this and the Resonance Barb.  As cool as the others can be, really, it is hard to the top the overall utility of Barb and Archo. 

So that wraps this up, and well, next time, we will look at the stratagems and psychic powers from Blood of Baal, and after that? Well, I imagine it will be a lot of looking at different lists and different builds to see what shakes out after more and more testing. If the Hive Mind is able to fend off Papa Nurgle, I will hopefully be able to get a Battle Report done with the new Nids from a local RTT. See you all next time, and as always, thanks for reading.

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.

4 Responses to “Psychic Awakening III: Tyranid Review, Relics and Adaptive Physiology”

  1. Kurt December 15, 2019 11:21 am #

    Voracious Ammunition only works on a single unit that was dealt damage to, you’re not allowed to pick as many units as you want that had at least one loss from your Tyranid monster

  2. WestRider December 15, 2019 11:33 am #

    Looks like some pretty good stuff. I’d note that on a couple of them, your rewording of the ability actually makes it sound weaker than it really is. Accelerated Digestion triggers at the moment you make each kill, not the end of the Fight Phase, which can be a huge difference if your Opponent still has Units left to fight with in that combat. Dynamic Camouflage triggers on “receiving the benefit of cover”, not “being in cover” (I’m still not sure if this is a distinction that actually matters in 8th, but it has in some editions), which means there’s no argument about it working with Jormungandr.

  3. sultansean December 16, 2019 1:00 pm #

    Thanks for the write up! It just seems like such a lacklustre update compared to what Blood Angels got. Sure there are some situational tricks, but nothing that makes Tyranids truly competitive.

    • Brakhal December 17, 2019 3:06 pm #

      Honestly, I’m pleased with what BoB gave to us, I was specting much worse stuff, when it was previewed some of the weaker additions.

      Sure, we are still in the “2nd rate xenos tier”, not the best place to compete with space marines, but the book came with nice upgrades, specially for models that almost never had seen the table before. I’m gladly surprised at how Maleceptors, Toxicrenes and Haruspexes are performing in my first games with the book. Specially the Maleceptor, I’m rating him a “must have” now.

      Not so happy with the chapter approved adjusments, tho. Lots of things to fix yet.

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