Tyranids: Big Boi Bugs and efficiency in 9th

Hey all, Danny from TFG Radio, and as usual, The Hive Fleets are on my mind, and well, I am always going to try and make those Big Bugs work, and so below are some math-infused musings on how to get the most bug for the buck. Of course, everyone else is scheming, so be sure to keep up over at Frontline’s Tactics Corner.

So I’ve been trying to build various Monster Mash lists since 9th dropped, and part of that is looking at the points per wound (ppw) of our big beasties and seeing how one can maximize the amount of biomass I can bring in a standard 2000 point list.  Now, the metric isn’t all-encompassing as no single data point really is, and there are other factors to consider as a T6 wound is different than a T8 wound, and a T7 wound with a 4++ is different than a T8 wound, and so forth.  This also doesn’t cover damage dealing and such although from my games of 9th so far, damage isn’t as important as durability in a lot of ways. With all that in mind, these are just quick sketches with the other data points blended in.  Again, this is one data point mixed with a few others in an observational matter, so this isn’t about finding the most “efficient” model but rather getting an idea of how models stack up against each other.  This is not about hard data crunching but rather using a single data point as a starting point of analysis. tldr: I’m just musing, so don’t expect really concrete statistics here.

Let’s dive in:

Toughness 6  (Your snakes and your flyers)

Mawloc: T6 12W 3+ save.   10.416 PPW

Here is the cheapest ppw monster we have, the Mawloc.  Now, there’s a reason for that in that it has the lowest actual offensive damage of any monster here as it rocking just S6 with no AP outside of its own big bite, even lower than the flyers against most targets.  That said, you have the most mobility here with the ability to come in as close as possible of an enemy (outside of 1) when you land, and you do a little bit of mortal wounds.  Really, the Mawloc is a disruption piece, not really a damage piece, but if you are just looking to cram as many monsters into a list as possible, Mawlocs are good for that.  They are more about forcing your opponent to split attention, and you can certainly build to make them a bit more threatening, but they should be about putting pressure on an objective in the back, not really threatening the center.

Trygon: T6  12W  3+ save 12.5 PPW (before upgrades)

So the Trygon is one of the cheapest ppw monsters with d6 damage, and it has 6 attacks with the big hits, so that’s pretty awesome.   It has native reserve abilities, can bring some TROOPS INFANTRY with it when it arrives, and it is pretty fast on its own.  Plus, it has the advantage of taking Adrenal Glands for +1 to charge, which makes it much more capable of landing charges out of reserves.  There is a lot of flexibility in here, which is always something to consider. It is only T6, so it is a lot easier to kill than anything else, but it is one of our best missiles in terms of big monsters.  If you are looking to just add fast, respectable threat, then the Trygon is one of your best choices.

Harpy: T6 12W 4+ save   12.91 ppw

So the Harpy is a bit of a gun boat, but at 12.91 ppw with only a 4+ save, it has the least amount of defense of any of our monsters. That said, it is by far the fastest, but with only a 4+ BS, it’s actual damage output is not too strong.  With a 4+ save, it is actually very afraid of just about any weapon, so it won’t live that long.  It does have the advantage of dropping spore mines to help block out movement, which can be really useful, but Biovores are generally better at that and are cheaper and easier to hide.

Hive Crone: T6 12W 4+ save   12.91 ppw

Just like the Harpy, the Hive Crone is fast, but at 12.91 ppw, it is not all that efficient.  It can get an easy first turn charge, and with its speed, it can get some strange angles on vulnerable characters or artillery, but you need to build for it by taking Prey Sight to get to WS 3+ to really make those melee attacks hit.  It also has haywire shooting, which in a vehicle heavy meta, can be useful for sure.  That said, you really need to build around the Hive Crone to make it work, and it is made of paper for the most part.  If you don’t go first, it won’t likely survive, unless you have more pressing threats.

Dimachaeron: T6  14W 3+  save (with a possible 5++)    15 ppw

The Dimachaeron is not the most expensive T6 monster but it is close.  It does bring speed and it can navigate terrain much better than other monsters here outside of the Flyrant. It does have WS 2+ and it can possibly get a 5++, something that a Trygon Prime can’t without using Adaptation. The Dimachaeron isn’t Synapse, but it fights better than any other T6 monster.   It also has both Dd3 and Dd6 attacks, making it good at cracking armor or taking out heavy infantry.  It’s maneuverability on the table is not to be underrated, but it is expensive both in ppw and actual cost as it brings 14 wounds to the table.  I think the Dimachaeron is far better now than in 8th, especially since it uses a Fast Attack Slot, not a Heavy.

Trygon Prime: T6  12W  3+ save        15.83 ppw

So the Trygon Prime is much more expensive for essentially Synapse and the ability to take relics.  Is this worth it? Probably not at the moment unless you really want the Arachnacyte Gland, which can work and is much more threatening than a Flyrant with it. The Prime is one of our most expensive ppw monsters out there, and that includes T8 monsters, so it is very much a glass hammer. If you want a throw-away missile, a standard Trygon is likely more efficient.  

T7 Monsters (your Fex’s and such)

Carnifex: T7 8W  3+ save  11.875 ppw

This is one of our cheapest ppw monster, T6-T8, but you also need to remember that this is at its base. If you are going for just melee killers, they are pretty efficient, but you can easily slap on another 50 points in upgrades, and suddenly, the ppw skyrockets to around 17 ppw, much much higher than just about anything else.  If you want to spam big bodies, melee carnifexes are the cheapest way to stack high toughness wounds, and well, double talon Carnifexes still put out 5 attacks at WS 3+ (on the charge) with damage 3 attacks.  You can skew up a bit more and add tusks for 6 attacks, but unless you find yourself with 20 extra points with nowhere to go, cheaper is likely better as you just want to swarm your opponent with tough bodies.  Really, you should also look at Adrenal Glands, bringing them to an even 100 points, as +1 to advance and charge is essential, especially if trying for 3 out of reserve as Behemoth, which makes a pretty Shock and Awe style attack on a flank.  Shooting Carnifexes are pretty expensive all told, and really, they aren’t that efficient anymore. This goes for all the variants as well.

Toxicrene: T7 12W  3+ save         12.5 ppw

The Toxicrene comes in at one of the cheapest monsters out there, especially one our bigger based monsters.  It has a unique mix of speed, some ranged, and multiple damage attacks. This sort of jack of all trades monster is pretty cost efficient although it takes up a vaunted heavy support slot unlike the Haruspex or Dimachaeron, but still, if you are looking to add beef to a list on a budget, a Toxicrene can do that for you.  It also has one of our best stratagems for stopping units from Falling Back, especially if you get first turn, Swarmlord it forward, and tag a unit or two and stop them from moving into the center for a turn.  This is more of a tek piece that straight up kill, but it is good at mulching Primaris bodies in melee, and with its native WS 3+, you don’t need to worry about bringing in Prey Sight for it, but if you do, WS 2+ is pretty sweet.

Walking  Hive Tyrant: T7 12W 3+/4++    12.9 ppw

At its most base, a Walking Hive Tyrant is pretty efficient for both ppw but also that it has a 4++ and is Synapse. You do have to factor in 20-40 points for weapons which changes the math considerably.  A bare-naked Tyrant is anemic in melee with only 4 attacks and 1 tail, but 12.9 ppw for T7 and a 4++ is pretty solid all told.   If you are looking for a psychic character for certain missions or just a bit of a distraction Carnifex, a Walking Tyrant is an interesting choice, but a Broodlord is better for more protection due to Look Out Sir and more melee offense.  If you really want lots of monster bodies, then a Hive Tyrant with Claws and a Heavy Venom Cannon isn’t that bad. It takes a lot of dedicated effort to kill.

Maleceptor: T7 12W  3+/4++   14.16 ppw

The Maleceptor is a bit more expensive than a Walking Tyrant but cheaper than a Flying Tyrant when you factor in T7 with a 4++.  The Maleceptor does have a Dd6 weapon, but only 3 attacks. Really, the Maleceptor is a more of a support piece thanks to Encephalitic Diffusion, but its +1 to cast does make it a bit more reliable as a psychic cannon.   If you are going to stack big bugs, then be sure to bring at least one Maleceptor.  If you take it in a Prey Sight detachment, it can do surprising damage as it gets to be WS 3+, rerolling 1s on those big hits, but don’t rely on that. 

Flyrant: T7  12W 3+/4++  16.6 ppw

The Flyrant drops off bad in terms of efficiency. Especially when you again have to factor in 20-40 points for weapons.  The extra mobility and CP free out of reserve drop is good, but at the end of the day, the Flyrant is one of our most expensive monsters for not a huge amount of power.  24 S6 shots is nowhere near as good as it used to be, and while a Heavy Venom Cannon is good on a Tyrant, that is still only d3 shots.  You can build it to set up interesting charges with Hunter’s Drive and such, but honestly, the Flyrant really needs a rework to be competitive.

T8 (The Big Chungus)

Haruspex: T8 13W 3+ save   13.07 ppw

The Haruspex is the cheapest T8 monster that we have in terms of points per wound.  It also brings Dd6 weapons, and it can generate more attacks than it may appear if you get into an infantry squad.  That said, the Haruspex lacks any real way for super speed outside of the usual tricks, so you need to tack on points for Swarmlord and/or getting Onslaught off.   The Haruspex is also only WS 4+ base, which is not so good.  You can boost this as both Prey Sight for the +1 on the charge and its custom stratagem, Feeding the Hunger, for reroll hits, but then you are spending CP to get it there.  That said, it is still T8 and can heal itself if it gets into combat, so it shouldn’t be underestimated, but it would really help if it could take Adrenal Glands.  The one interesting bonus here is that it is an Elite choice.

Tyrannofex: T8  14W 3+ save      13.92 ppw

So our other big shooty beast is pretty beefy with T8 and 14W, so it takes a decent amount of heat to bring them down, especially with a Maleceptor aura nearby, making lascannons wound on 4s. With the standard Acid Spray, 13.92 ppw isn’t bad for T8 at all, but this is skewed if you go for the Rupture Cannon, but with only BS 4+, that’s likely not ideal.  You can get slightly cheaper if taking the Fleshborer Hive, which is fun with +1 to wound, but again, at BS 4+, not really that ideal.  Acid Spray is certainly the way to go, and a T-fex is likely best as a threat projection piece that sits near the center, making sure anything that tries to get to the center of the board is going to have to take 2 Acid Sprays blasts the next turn.  It can also be useful for absorbing firepower away from your other big bugs, and if you are going to spend CP to overwatch, spending it on the T-Fex is a good investment.

Exocrine: T8 12W  3+ save             14.16 ppw

The Exocrine is just a bit more expensive than the Tyrannofex in terms of ppw but cheaper overall, but then, it has the most consistent damage thanks to BS 3+ and shooting twice with ease.  That said, this a little but skewed because Tryannofex’s have 2 more wounds than an Exocrine.  Still, in the era of 3+ save 2W infantry models, having 12 shots at S7 AP-3 D2 is very much necessary, and an Exocrine goes well with a unit of Hive Guard.  If you want to have a shooting element with your big bugs, an Exocrine is a wise investment. 

Tervigon: T8 14W 3+ save 15 ppw

Oh, the Tervigon. It had a brief moment in 8th when it was much more appropriately costed, and then it was certainly worth it if doing some heavy Gant Carpets, but it is too expensive now for what you get. Between the increase in Termagants (still good to me though) and the increase in Tervigons, it is just too expensive to justify. If you take another 30 and use either Leviathan or Build-A-Bug for a 6++, you are generally getting more value than having a Tervigon last 3 turns. In 9th where Obsec is so important, I can see the argument for the Tervi, but it is just too expensive to really justify.

By Kielari on DeviantArt

Scythed Hierodule: T8 22W 3+save    18.63ppw

So unfortunately, our biggest bugs are the most inefficient in terms of ppw.  The Scythed is the best bang for the buck in that it has a decent flamer to use, but really, for the points, you aren’t getting that much heat.  Especially since it can’t benefit from Obscuring Terrain, it is hard to protect, and while layering buffs like a 5++, -1 to hit, -1S, and a 5+++ Feel No Pain is more efficient on a single target, this is really just not that efficient at the end of the day.

Barbed Hierodule: T8  22W 3+ save    20.90 ppw

The Barbed Heirodule is by far the most expensive points per wound of monsters for Tyranids, and while it brings some heavy shooting for Tyranids, you really are putting a lot of eggs in one basket here, and again, giving it a 5++ and layering all of our buffs can help, at BS 4+ with only a reroll 1s to hit in terms of boosting its shooting, the Heirodule is just very inefficient.  Hive Guard are just better in every regard, and you can just take 6 Hive Guard and a Trygon, and you are essentially getting a lot more.

So there we go, all of the big bugs save for Tyrannocyte/Sporocyst since those are special cases. I didn’t do the Swarmlord or OOE because they are just so different, I think looking at just their ppw is not really effective as how can you put a price on Hive Commander?

Now, who are the “winners”? Well, that depends on you and how your want to build your list. If you want to just maximize the sheer amount Monsters in a list, Carnifexes, Toxicrenes, and Mawlocs are the way to go. If you want to really stack invulnerable saves, Walking Hive Tyrants are really a curveball. If you want self-contained missiles, then let’s do Trygons and maybe even Hive Crone’s in Prey Sight. After doing this exercise, I think I’ve come around to trying an oddball list making use of Prey Sight to boost up Haruspexes and Hive Crones or a Nidzilla horde of Carnifexes and T-fexes to try and just flood the board with bodies.

Thanks for reading, and how have the big bugs worked for you on the table? Stay safe, get games, and have fun out there.

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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.

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