Tyranids: 9th Edition Forgeworld review – Hierophant

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, let’s talk about the biggest, the baddest, the most bodacious bug with those legs you love to hate, the Hierophant. This wraps up the Tyranid Forgeworld review, but you know, the Tactics Corner keeps growing, so you need to keep adapting.


  • Bio-Plasma Torrent:  Range 12”. Assault 2d6.  S7 AP-3 D1. This weapon automatically hits.
  • Dire Bio-Cannon: Range 48”. Heavy 8. S10 AP-3 D3.  (Has two!)
  • Gargantuan Scything Talons:  Melee.  S10. AP-3 D6. You can reroll hit rolls of 1.
  • Lashwhip Pods:  Melee. S5 AP-1 D1.  Each the time the bearer fights, it makes 10 attacks with this weapon (and only 10).

Special Rules:

  • Frenzied Metabolism: This model can suffer d3 mortal wounds to gain +1 to wound on all shooting attacks.
  • Hypertoxic Poison Cloud: At the end of the Fight phase, roll one d6 for each enemy model in Engagement Range. On a 5+, that model’s unit suffers 1 Mortal Wound.
  • Titanic: This model can charge if it Fell back. It can move across other models (except Monsters/Vehicles) as if they were not there, and it can move within Engagement Range of such models as long as it does not end there.
  • Bio-Titan Warp Field: This model has a 5++ invulnerable save.
  • Transport: This model can carry 20 HIVE FLEET Infantry models. Models with more than 1 Wound count as 2 Models.
  • Death Throes: When this model is destroyed, roll a d6. On a 6, it causes d6 mortal wounds to all units within 2d6”.

The Hierophant is currently the biggest, baddest bug on the battlefield, and it brings both high powered shooting and some dangerous melee prowess. 

Statwise, the Hierophant is really quite the monster that you’d expect almost half your army to be. With 34 Wounds and T8 with a 2+ save, this is the most resilient model that Tyranids have, basically as tanky as 2 Barbed Hierodules (although not quite if you take in all the factors).  The 2+ save really is even more important than the 5++, which is still excellent to have, but a 2+ save means that small arms really have little impact on this model, and if you can find a way to park it in a terrain piece big enough to grant it cover, The Hiero is going to absorb so much fire and still likely live.  With 34 wounds, getting Catalyst on this bad bug means an extra 11.2 wounds on average, making it really hard to take down.  Throw in Maleceptor for -1S on ranged attacks against it, and now Lascannons are wounding on 4s and Meltas on 5s.  Not too bad at all, really.  The Hiero is a tall model, but it actually isn’t that big all told (the model shows its age a bit in that regard), so on a table with good, tall ruins (like plenty of ITC tables), you can get the Hiero into cover if you are savvy.  You do need Venomthropes for the -1 to hit though, not a Malanthrope, so that is something to remember.  Don’t forget the Transport capacity either: being able to keep 2 minimum squads of Termagants is clutch for shielding them from fire being dropping them off to camp an objective or otherwise get you some points on the mission. 

Offensively, the Hiero also has a lot of threat in both melee and shooting. In terms of shooting, it brings the same big punch that a Harridan does with 16 S10 AP-3 D3 shots, and thanks to Pathogenic Slime, those can be D4 shots.  That makes the Hiero very dangerous to enemy armor or elite infantry, and at BS 3+ when healthy, that is also about as accurate as Tyranids get at range.  Unlike the Harridan, the Hiero also has 2d6 shots of a mean as hell flamer, giving it some options against any chaff or horde unit that tries to lock it down.  The Strength and AP are good enough that it can even be used against medium infantry to some success, and even if the Hiero is near death, since it autohits, you always have that as some offensive output.  

In melee, the Hiero is again primarily an armor cracker with 6 attacks at WS 3+, rerolling 1s, at S10 AP-3 flat 6 damage.  Just about any hard target has to respect that, especially characters or other Titanic foes.  Don’t forget to turn on Voracious Hunger for reroll to Wound on those attacks too. The 10 attacks at S5 are there more to help the Hiero clear out chaff, and while they aren’t particularly amazing, it all helps.  If you are stuck in with a big group, Hypertoxic also helps out with that, and thanks to very large footprint of this model, it is easy to get a lot of models within Engagement Range, like, a lot. 

The Hierophant is not really a combo machine, mostly because it costs too much to have too many other moving parts with it, but it just does so much work on its own, well, there isn’t a whole for it to do otherwise.  As it already has a 5++, you can skip Dermic Symbiosis on it, but then sometimes, the Double Wounds in terms of Damage Row does come in handy, making it very, very hard to actually weaken the Hierophant.  A fun trick is to give it Synapse through Adaptive Physiology, so you essentially always have a beacon around, and that also opens up some tricks with Hunter’s Drive. Murderous Size can also be funny if you put it on the Lashwhip pods, making them S6 and D2, which makes them pretty ok at killing Marines.  A Maleceptor and Venomthropes makes the Hiero really tanky at range, but this does add up, but still, you can do that and about 140ish Termagants with a cheap HQ choice.   If trying to do a pure Nidzilla list, a Hiero and as many cheap Carnifexes as you can fit can be hilarious since your opponent will really, really have to consider where to send their AT weaponry. 

Hive Fleet doesn’t add too much here because a Hiero is too expensive to be taken in a proper Super-heavy Detachment and thus gain a Detachment bonus, so unless playing a 3k game, you are not really going to get any of the specific Hive Fleet bonuses. That said, there are still powers and stratagems that you want for the Hiero. Kronos is likely the best choice just because a Symbiostorm’d Hierophant is just that much deadlier at range, getting an extra 2 hits on average but with always the possibility of big spikes.  Behemoth isn’t bad either as Unstoppable Hunger means that the Hiero wounds pretty much everything on a 2+ with the big talons and even the lashwhips get respectable with a +1 to wound, especially if you threw on Murderous Size. 

It is relatively obvious what the downside to this behemoth of a bug is, namely investment.  It costs 850 points and 3 CP to even run. That’s 42.5% of a 2K army, and does it do 42.5% of the work to win a game? Maybe? It just takes up so many resources that it becomes very difficult to manage, and again, the law of Skew, the more you rely on a single unit to do work, the more likely you run into a bad roll that significantly impacts your chances of success.  While it certainly puts up big numbers in the damage department, is it 850 points worth of damage?  For comparison, for 25 points less, you can take 3 Barbed Hierodules, and well, a Hiero kills 7 marines beyond 12”, and 3 Barbies kill 12.  The Hiero does 18.9 wounds with Pathogenic Slime against a Knight at range while 3 Barbies do 16 wounds to a Knight at range although to be fair here, this isn’t factoring in Frenzied Metabolism.  The point is that a Hiero costs as much as 3 Barbies, but doesn’t really outperform them and in some ways, underperforms. Thanks to just volume of attacks, 3 Barbies do more damage in melee against hard targets, and since they are not Titanic, they can get a Malanthrope buff, and they can get Hive Fleet detachment bonuses, giving them even more bonuses.  So yah, A Hiero is super cool, and it makes the most out of certain expenditures like Catalyst, Pathogenic Slime, and Symbiostorm, but it still isn’t as efficient in pure offense as other choices, and when you spend 850 points on a purely offensive piece that is really going to struggle getting you any mission points, it needs to really pull weight in that offense department. 

There’s also a few odd things to discuss that are a bit outside of the game to some extent.  The model itself has a very, very wide stance, and unless you pinned the legs properly or added a center pin under the belly for support, the model generally needs a base to stand safely on the table.  The problem here is that it does not come with a base and because anything that would fit its wide stance would be huge, if you do have a base, it actually becomes almost impossible to move the Hierophant through a table.  To actually navigate terrain, you need to take the model off its base, and then it still gets clunky in terms of drawing an imaginary line between its legs as to where its “base” is and what not, so especially for competitive play, I could see this model leading to a lot of nightmare calls about where it can legally fit or legally walk.  On the other side, in a casual game, a Hierophant can be really frustrating because it is so durable and can still hit pretty damn hard, so if you are playing one just for funsies, your opponent might not think it is that fun, so you have to work that out beforehand.  The model really is in this weird liminal space where it is too casual for a competitive game and too competitive for a casual game.

Overall: 55/100.  This is a fun model that does good work, but it doesn’t do 850 points worth of work, so it can be a great time in a more casual list (assuming your opponent knows you are bringing it), but it won’t be the backbone of any competitive build. Thanks as always for reading, and until we get some new rules for Bugs, I guess it’s time I go wander over to the Chaos Knights section of the Forgeworld Compendium and start this thing all over again.

Thanks as always for reading, and play some games and stay safe!

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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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1 year ago

Good write-up but let’s face it – these boys are ment for Apoc! It’s a shame that there isn’t more attention given to the current Apoc rules set even by GW these days – it’s a great rule set!

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