Tyranids: Your Mileage (Meta) May Vary

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, I want to talk about how the lack of a unified global meta has put even more emphasis on learning to adapt to your specific scene with its specific armies. Thanks to COVID, we don’t quite have the full tournament scene up and running, so we aren’t seeing the same lists everywhere because well, there are not a lot of events, so the general consensus on what is good and what isn’t hasn’t totally solidified. with that said, it is vital to be able to know what your local scene has in it and how to build for it. Don’t forget, you can learn what some of the coolest tricks the enemy is using by checking out Frontline’s Tactics Corner!

For those who have played 40K competitively for a while, you may remember the dark days of 4th and 5th edition where large events were rare, and local RTTs were really the center of the competitive universe because for 99.9% of players, that was the only competitive universe. There really weren’t even podcasts dedicated to going over event results and talking about commonalities across events. The number of events and the number of players that travel for events has grown so much in the last 15 years, and we luckily (thanks in many ways to ITC) we grew quite accustomed in the past 5 years to having a robust tournament scene that was well-tracked and well covered. Well, that’s changed a lot as so much of the tournament scene is restricted by COVID, so we have moved somewhat back to these older days where big events are much rarer, not as many people can travel, and the competitive world revolves around whatever local events can manage something.

So what does that mean? It means that your local meta is absolutely going to matter for how you build your bug lists because plenty of podcasts and websites can talk about how dominant Space Marines are or the sleeper success of Chaos builds, but you need to focus on who is in your meta, what do they play, and work with that because we really can’t see a global meta shaping up yet because, again, their really isn’t one just yet. This is especially true for us Tyranids as right now, we do have a lot of builds and different answers for different armies, but the true Take All Comers list is an elusive beast, but hey, if you know what your meta is, then you can build to flourish within it.

Space Marines and other Multi-wound model armies-

If your local scene has a lot of Space Marine players, Custodes, and similar style armies that have a lot of multi-wound infantry with strong saves, then you need to build to maximize either board control and win via numbers of try to maximize multi damage weapons.  So with that in mind:

Hive Guard – still our best ranged killers, and they can do a lot of work against Space Marines, especially since you can mostly keep them safe from any retaliation.

Zoanthropes – Smite hurts everyone, but if you rock 4 or more, you are doing decent damage that adds up really quickly.  Space Marines also don’t tend to have the best psychic phase, so you generally can leverage your advantage here pretty well.

Exocrine – Flat damage 2 on the gun and the volume of fire makes the Exocrine one of the best choices for ranged marine killing.  They are big targets, and Marines have a lot of anti-armor weaponry, so don’t expect them to live forever.

Double-Talon Carnifexes – These are the cheapest melee monsters that we have, so you can take a lot of them, and with 5 attacks at AP-3 D3, they can do some real damage to Marines, but you do have to get there first.  Even just two is enough for a distraction that makes your opponent have to split fire away from other targets like an Exocrine.

Gants! – Yes, the average Termagant is no match for a Space Marine, but this is about bodies.  You can simply overwhelm objectives with Termagants, and thanks to Obsec, your opponent has a lot of killing to do to be able to take an objective away.  Stack on defensive buffs like Leviathan or the  Build-A-Bug for a 6++, and watch your opponent have to spend 3 or 4 turns killing dozens upon dozens of Termagants before even scoring.  

Knights and other super-heavy threats –

If your local scene has a lot of dedicated Knight players or perhaps Armored Company Astra Militarum players, then you have to change tactics a bit here.  Tyranids do have some good answers to heavy armor, but they are often at the expense of other, more well-rounded threats or quite simply, they are too niche to be effective elsewhere.

Hive Guard – Yes, still great against even Knights as while wounding on 4s isn’t fun, they can still pump out enough shots to force through damage.

Zoanthropes – Mortal wounds always hurt. They especially hurt against Knights who have little to no psychic defense.

Broodlords – You get a little psychic pain, but they can also be used as missiles for charging in, doing some decent damage with their claws thanks to rerolling wounds, and when they die in the swing back, you can make them fight again for even more damage. This is a great way to take down a Knight that has already eaten a few smites.

Old One Eye – Our premier anti-tank melee unit is a beast that like a Broodlord, can also fight on death, so if you position well, you can wound a Knight, send in OOE to finish it off, and then bait a charge by another Knight, and fight again on death for a severely hurt Knight that can be polished off next round.

Lictors – While they can’t hurt Knights, when going against an army that only has 5-10 big threats, they can’t be everywhere at once, and Lictors can show up out of nowhere and start harassing objectives or straight stealing them, forcing your opponent to either waste a lot of firepower and effort to kill a 37 point model or concede some points on the mission.

Gants again! – Yes, a termagant has no chance against a Knight, but you only need a few to live to take an objective.  You can restrict a Knight’s movement by swarming around them, giving them very few actual angles to move, and again, they have to kill a whole lot of Gants to be able to take an objective away from them.  You won’t kill the Knight, but you will score the mission, and you are buying time for your smites to start wearing them down as well as setting up good angles for Broodlords or OOE to get in there. 

Orks, Tyranids, and other Hordes –

If your local shop has a healthy dose of Ork players, then again, you need to be ready for that as the standard Ork Boy is actually a legit threat to most Tyranid units, especially our infantry.  If you know that you are in a horde meta, then you need to bring specific tools to handle it. 

Genestealers – While maybe not the shining stars that they were in 8th, Genestealers are still scary good at killing units with poor saves.  A big unit of Genestealers will generally mulch through an Ork squad, and they have enough bodies to be able to compete for objectives. 

Devil-Gants – The Devourer armed Termagant is a good counter to a lot of other horde units simply because they put out a ridiculous amount of shots at S4.  You can double-tap them for extra fun, and overall, they just put down a lot of firepower while also having a large unit count to help take objectives. 

Warriors – Warriors make a good counter to hordes in several ways.  You can build them for heavy firepower like Deathspitters or even stock Devourers put out a lot of shots, accurate shots if nearby a Prime, and a ton of shots if Kronos with a Prime and Symbiostorm active.  They can single-handedly put out enough heat to clear big chunks of T4 or T3 light infantry, and with standard talons, they also fight decently in melee.  You can also go dirt cheap and just put on double-talons for a lot of attacks at a reasonable price point, and thanks to T4 and a 4+ save with easy access to Feel No Pain of some kind, melee Warriors can run right into the fight, do some damage, and take some back, plus they are still Obsec. 

So there you go, some thoughts and ideas on how to tweak your lists depending on your local scene.  But what if you want a true TAC lists? I guess you can cross reference all of these and build a list that utilizes the most common appearances, but I do think that limits you a bit against other hordes.  That is part of the equation with Tyranids is that we can build lists to handle specific threats, but it can be hard to build a list that can handle al large variety of threats at once.

Thanks as always for reading, stay safe, and how’s your meta? Just friends that can get together? A specific gamestore scene?  I hope whatever the answer is, you’re having fun.

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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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