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Blatherations of a Nidiot
This article is only for a) new Tyranid players; b) people who are unfamiliar about playing against Tyranids; c) haters who like to see me make an ass of myself—again; and/or d) 40K players with an IQ of 15 or less—like me.  Everyone else is excused.
 
Okay, show of hands: who’s still left?  Ok, fine—we have enough people to make it worth continuing (thank you, haters!).  Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I stand before today to announce that I used to think I knew what I was doing when it came to Tyranids, but recent events have proven to me that my supposition was totally false.  Actually, I know nothin’ ‘bout ‘nids.  I, Gentle Visitors, am a Nidiot.
 
My hope is that by exposing my stupidity with you, you will avoid the errors of my thinking and develop a better understanding of how Tyranids are played, or at least ought to be played, in Fifth Edition Warhammer 40K.
 
Learning From the Idiocy, Part I: Re-Reviewing Codex: Tyranids
An examination of a number of statements I made in this review of the 5e Tyranid codex, posted in February 2010, make it clear that I was often speaking out of my [rectum].  Let’s take a look at some of the more laughable idiocies, uttered by Yours Truly:
 
Quote:
“Compare the statlines and abilities between the Tyrant and the Tervigon, look Wicked Uncle Kenton in the eye, and tell me honestly that you’re going to take the latter and save yourself a mere 10 points. You aren’t, are you? No, me either.”
 
Why That’s Frickin-Frackin’ Stupid:  As I have learned in the 20 months since I wrote said idiocy, the Tervigon is the BEST Tyranid HQ unit available.  You know why?  Two reasons: 1) Feel No Pain on itself or a nearby unit; and 2) free Termagants every round.  Sure, Termagants are garbage, but they’re Troops (necessary for holding objectives), and they’re FREE.  Free is good.  Free is always good.  Only an idiot (like me) argues against free.
 
The Hive Tryant, meanwhile, is PDE (Pretty Damn Expensive) and just gets more and more so to make it viable under the current rules.  The two best ways I know of for using the Tyrant are: 1) slapping wings on it and jumping it towards the enemy; and 2) giving it a heavy venom cannon and taking shots at tanks with it. 
 
Both approaches have problems.  Turning your Main Bad Bug into a Flying Purple People Eater and bounding across the board is a good way to get shot by lots of heavy and special weapons—trust me, I’m familiar with that.  And it won’t even take as many shots as you might think.  The Tyrant has Toughness 6, which plasma guns (24” range, remember) and melta weapons sneer at, never mind krak missiles, lascannons, autocannons, plasma cannons—hell, just about any gun with the suffix “-cannon” in its name.

You might think you can protect your “Flyrant” by screening him with some Fast Attack Nids (say, cheap, expendable Gargoyles) who can keep up with him, but remember, he is a Monstrous Creature, and according to the rules on cover (page 51 of the main rulebook), a Monstrous Creature can only claim cover if 50% of the model is actually in cover.  Gargoyles, alas, are not at least 50% the size of a Tyrant.  So then, you’d be forced to use larger FA Nids, but Raveners start at 30 points a pop and Shrikes start at 35—and bolters blast right through their armor.  That’s a lot to spend to get your Flyboy a 4+ Invulnerable Save.
 
(You can put the Gargs in front of the Ravs or Shrikes, giving them a 4+ save, and then put the Ravs/Shrikes in front of the Flyrant, giving him a 4+ save, but really, how much are you willing to spend for this point-sink?  And such large blobs of fast-moving models make tempting, ridiculously easy targets for blast markers and template weapons.  Trust me—I’ve learned that the hard way.)


Alternatively, you could just give your Tyrant wings AND a heavy venom cannon and call it a day
 
The same issue with cover plagues the heavy-venom cannon build for the Tyrant.  You can mitigate that by finding some large enough cover and starting/moving your ‘rant into it, but then he’s never leaving, which wastes his very nice WS 8 and some hoopy abilities like “Old Adversary.”  Alternatively, you can attach some Tyrant Guard to him, but that’s more points you’re going to spend.  And for all that, you’re still stuck with BS 3.
 
Why would you want the heavy venom cannon over any other gun you could give the Tyrant?  Because it’s the best long-range weapon Nids have for taking out tanks, their nemesis.  You could give him twin-linked devourers with brain leeches and get 6 S6 shots that you can re-roll misses, but are those going to take out a Leman Russ?  Why no, no they won’t.
 
Quote:  “I’m glad the designers moved [Zoanthropes] from Heavy Support, making room for all kinds of bad boys in that category…. I’m also glad they gave them BS4 and a 3+ Invulnerable Save. And they’re even cheaper! Golden.”
 
Why That’s Frickin-Frackin’ Stupid:  Zoats are good: if they’re in range.  If they make their psychic rolls (and remember, you must roll for each individually).  If they make their roll “to hit.”  And if the enemy doesn’t have a psychic hood to negate their abilities.  Or decides, for some reason, not to simply charge your Zoats with some scrubs and tie them up in hand-to-hand combat so that they can’t use their shooty psychic powers.    
 
There’s really only one reason to take Zoats, and that’s to kill tanks: Warp Lance is S 10, AP 1 (for that extra +1 on damage), and it’s a lance, of course, so Land Raiders and Leman Russes are only AV 12.  Buuuuut….it only has an 18” range, meaning that you either have to run, run, run your ‘thropes gently up the stream of incoming fire, or drop them in via Spore.  And then, as I just detailed, you have to have a bunch of things go right for you to have them take out said tanks.


 
The clear choice, then, for most vehicle-killing, falls to Hive Guard, whose happy impaler cannon is S8 and Assault 2 to go with the Hiver’s BS 4.  They don’t have to make psychic tests, they don’t sweat psychic hoods, and impaler cannons have better range and allow Hivers to shoot without line of sight, or through other Nid units without giving the target a 4+ save (unless, of course, the vehicle is in cover itself).
 
H-Guard and Zoats are both Elite choices, so you’re probably going to have to choose which to take to deal with tanks.  And if you have Monstrous Creatures in your army, you’re not going to be able to take as many as you might have wanted, because you are, sure as God made little green goblins, going to take another Elite unit that I idiotically dissed.


I take it all back, everything I said.  Seriously.
 
Quote:  “Venomthropes? Crap. Why does a critter with no ranged weapons, which relies on close combat, have WS3 and BS4? No, I don’t know, either.”
 
Why That’s Frickin-Frackin’ Stupid:  Why does the Venomthrope have BS 4?  Who cares?  It doesn’t matter much what the stats on a Venomthrope are, as the only reason you’re taking it is for its Spore Cloud ability.  Spore Cloud is about the only way you’re going to get an Invulnerable Save for your big critters, especially huge ones like Trygons.  As I mentioned, the size of your models are going to prevent your expensive Monstrous Creatures from getting saves against special and heavy weapons, which otherwise will knock them out tout de suite.  Venomthropes are nigh-mandatory in armies with MCs: stick them behind the big guys to block line of sight to the ‘thropes and schlump them up the field to keep providing the moving cover.
 
Quote:  “Warriors, Genestealers, and Hormies are all solid choices.” 
 
Why That’s Frickin-Frackin’ Stupid:  Warriors are a good Troop choice—at least I got one thing right.  Genestealers, however, do not “still rule in close combat,” as I previously asserted: when 5e took the nerfbat to Rending, it also nerfed ‘stealers.  Taking away the option to get a 4+ Armor Save also made ‘stealers into bolter fodder. 
 
And Hormagaunts?  Pfffft.  Hormies used to be good, but in 5e, I’ve found that they just die.  Under the previous codex, the Hormies’ Bounding Leap allowed Hormies within 3”, not 2”, of a fellow of theirs in base-to-base contact to attack, which meant that you were throwing a lot more dice (up to 96 on a charge) and overwhelming opponents by sheer numbers.  The latest version of Bounding Leap grants them an extra die to roll when running—big whoop.  
 
If I want expendable, garbage Troops, I’d rather spend 0 points on Tervigon-spawned Termagants than 6 points each on Hormagaunts.


Repeat ad nauseum....
 
Quote:  “I’m not sold on Termagants as anything more than cannon fodder or screens for other, harder-hitting Nids…”
 
Why That’s Frickin-Frackin’ Stupid:  You remember what I said about free, right?  That free is good?  Okay, so Termagants are not technically “free:” there’s an initial down payment of 160 points for a Tervigon (okay, actually 175, because you know you’re going to give it Catalyst) + 50 points for an accompanying brood of 10 Termagants.  But once you pay that, you can get as many free (and I mean “free” this time) Termies as the dice will allow. 
 
And then you will use said free Termies to hold objectives (Lurk!), or charge annoying shooty units like Fire Warriors or Devastator Squads, or run interference against badass close-combat units like Nobz on bikes, or you’ll simply use them to screen other, better Nid units.  And you won’t mind if they get mulched, because they’re—can you say it?  I know you can!—free.
 
And no, you will not waste the Tervigon’s ability to grant Feel No Pain on weedy Termagants.  Instead, you’re going to use it for something much more deserving—like, say, a fellow I mentioned previously.
 
Quote:  I’ve spent plenty of pixels bitching about how Deep Striking Nids is a colossally bad idea, but that doesn’t apply to the Trygon, who is tough enough (T6, 6W, 3+ Save) and badass enough to pull it off.”
 
Why That’s Frickin-Frackin’ Stupid:  No, the Trygon is NOT tough enough to pull that off.  I tried it, and it didn’t work: all that happened was that my Trygon ate every plasma- and melta-gun shot in the same area code and got snuffed out in a single turn, before he could charge into hand-to-monstrous claw combat.  Plasma guns (S7, AP 2) don’t sweat T6 and 3+ Save, and meltas just ask “DILLIGAF?”  Two decent-sized Tactical Squads (or what have you) can ruin your Deep Striking Trygon’s day PDQ.
 
No, I think in the future, my Trygon’s going to start on the board, with a Tervigon right behind him stoking him with Catalyst every turn as said Trygon hurtles towards the enemy.  Oh, and it won’t be one Trygon + Tervigon, either.  Oh, no.


My Deep-Striking proxied Trygon, moments before taking a dirt nap courtesy of some Grey Hunters
 
Learning From the Idiocy, Part II:  Dealing With the Problems With Nids
In the original article, I finished my ramblings about the Nid codex by giving it an overall “thumbs-up,” but really, there are a lot of problems with it that I didn’t realize at the time.  Problems like…
 
Variety is Bad.  There are a bunch of Nid units that at first I thought were decent or at least didn’t suck, but as I’ve spent more time trying to develop an army that can face off against stronger forces (Space Wolves and Imperial Guard, for example), I’ve learned that those units are actually quite poor.  As I mentioned, Genestealers and Hormagaunts are not good choices.  Shrikes are expensive and fragile, as are Raveners (which is a shame, because I loved me some Ravs under the previous codex). 
 
Pyrovores kill infantry, but that’s usually not a problem for Nids: the problem for Nids is killing tanks (more about that later).  Gargoyles are cheap, but they eat up a Fast Attack slot and they can’t screen a Flyrant.  The Carnifex and the Tyrannofex are massively expensive units that can be easily winked out of existence by the massively broken Jaws of the World Wolf psychic power.     
 
So basically, if I want to make a Tyranid list that isn’t a punching bag, I’m going restrict my unit choices to:
 
  • HQ:  Tervigons (definitely), Tyranid Prime, Hive Tyrant (maybe)
  • Elite: Hive Guard (definitely), Venomthropes (definitely), Zoanthropes (maybe), Ymgarl Genestealers
  • Troops: Tyranid Warriors, Termagants (definitely) 
  • Fast Attack: Harpy
  • Heavy Support: Trygon
 (I don’t do special characters, for the same reason that I don’t sell drugs to little kids: there are certain things in life that you could do for considerable gain, but it’s morally reprehensible.)
 
If you check out Bug lists on the Internet, the majority of them seem to be Tervigons + Hive Guard + Termagants, with as many of the first two units as possible.  That’s dull, but it’s what works, apparently.  Introducing variety into one’s list just injects weakness.
 
My pal Ken (“Fabulous Orcboy”) Lacy, who’s the smartest guy I know, believes that Nids are all about force multiplication.  One of a particular unit is not all that, but two is good, and three (or more) is great.  This is true for other 40K armies, of course, but seems to be more so for Nids, because they’re an army without transports.  I’ll let Ken explain why in his own words:
 
Taking multiples of a good unit makes it harder for opponents to easily prioritize them as targets for firepower.  This is important enough when you have plenty of vehicles and transports, but even more important when you rely entirely on your critters, and don’t have an additional layer of protection between them and enemy dakka.  It works particularly well for big, tough, nasty things that can get to where they need to be quickly: one Land Raider is a target, but two or three are a nasty threat, because few armies have the firepower to handle all of them in the same turn…and the turn after, they’re down your throat.
 
The main downside to the three-Land Raider army is point cost.  Nids can do the same thing for a lot fewer points with (for example) three Trygons.
 
Also, since some of the Nid units are designed to synergize with others, taking more means more synergy, means more force multiplication.  The obvious one is the Tervigon, which spits out extra wound-markers and objective-holders, and can also make nearby units Feel No Pain, plus other nifty extras.  In Marine lists, you usually have to take named HQ choices to get this kind of synergy, whereas Nids can theoretically do it five times using HQ and Troops slots. 
 
Or, as I said before, variety is bad.  At least, it is if you want to do well. 

(By the way, you really ought to be reading Ken's 40K blog).

 
Tank-Killing is Key.  Even I, dumbass that I am, have known for many years that Nids struggle against tanks.  They always have, but in previous editions, it seemed that there were fewer tanks around, so mostly you could just concentrate on killing infantry, which Tyranids are good at anyway.
 
Under 5th Edition, most well-designed armies are meched up the wazoo, so if you want to do something each turn other than pull your minis off the board with both hands, you’re going to have devote some serious resources to taking out tanks.  So don’t worry so much about infantry: if you take care of the tanks, the infantry will take care of itself. 
 
I rank your tank-hunting options, from best (#1) to next best (#2) and so on down to worst (#10) as:
 
  1. Hive Guard (BS 4, S8, Assault 2, 24” range; 50 points each)
  2. Tyrannofex with rupture cannon (BS 3, S 10, Assault 2, 48” range; 265 points minimum)
  3. Zoanthrope using Warp Lance (BS 4, S 10, Assault 1, 18” range, Lance; 60 points each)
  4. Heavy venom cannons (S 9, Assault 1 Blast, 36” range), available to Harpy (BS 3, 170 points minimum, but twin-linked), Hive Tyrant (BS 3, 195 points minimum), and Carnifex (BS 3, 185 points)
  5. Stranglethorn cannons (S6, Assault 1 Large Blast, 36” range), available to Harpy (BS 3, 160 points minimum, but twin-linked), Hive Tyrant (BS 3, 190 points minimum), and Carnifex (BS 3, 180 points minimum)
  6. Venom cannons (S6, Assault 1 Blast, 36” range), available to Warrior (BS 3, 45 points), Shrike (BS 3, 50 points), and Spore (BS 2, 60 points, must shoot at closest enemy unit, whether vehicle or not)
  7. Devourer with brainleech worms (S6, Assault 6, 18” range), available to Hive Tyrant (BS 3, 185 points minimum) and Carnifex (BS 3, 175 points minimum)
  8. Infiltrating or Deep Striking units with rending claws, available as Genestealers (14 points each), Ymgarl Genestealers (23 points each), Raveners (35 points each), Shrikes (40 points each), Warriors (35 points each plus Spore at + 40 points), and Lictors (65 points each).
  9. Deep-Striking Monstrous Creatures, available as Mawloc (170 points minimum), Trygon (200 points minimum), Carnifex with Spore (160 points minimum + 40 points), and Hive Tyrant with wings (230 points minimum)
  10. All the other options (Hormagaunts with adrenal glands in a Spore, for example, or Monstrous Critters hoofing it across the board), which are, at best, less than good.
Much as I am loath to do so, I must admit that the special characters Doom of Malan’tai, Deathleaper, and the Parasite of Mortrex are extremely well-equipped to killing tanks.  Ugh, I feel dirty.
 
And remember, you don’t necessarily have to destroy tanks: against some, like all those Leman Russes the Imperial Guard field, all you need to do is keep them from firing for a turn or two by Shaking them.  Hopefully by the time the enemy big guns can fire again, the majority of your Bugs are stuck in doing the slice-and-dice on the other guy’s dudes.  Or their tanks.
 
Yes, it would be best if you could fire a single shot and annihilate a big, badass tank, but given how mediocre Nid shooting is, especially against tanks, that’s probably not going to happen very often.  You might have to content yourself with being able to delay some of the other guy’s shooting.  


These are tanks.  They may not look like them, but yes, they are.
 
The Unit That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down.  The current codex gave players more Monstrous Creatures—Tervigons, Harpies, Trygons, Mawlocs, and Tyrannofexes, not to mention the Swarmlord—to add to the Hive Tyrants, Carnifexes, and Old One Eye that you could field before.  Unfortunately, the ability to put a lot of big bodies on the table comes with some strings attached, the most notable being that none of your Plus-Sized Guys have invulnerable saves.
 
A Nid player might chirp, “No problem—I’ll put them behind cover!”  As I discussed earlier with the Hive Tyrant, maybe you will and maybe you won’t.  You have to be able to hide 50% of the model to claim cover.
 
“No big deal: if my guy’s not 50% covered, he still gets a save at -1.”  Well, technically, no.  The rules for shooting at Monstrous Critters (from page 51 of the rulebook) state: “…if you cannot clearly tell if 50% of the model’s body is covered [emphasis mine], modify its cover save by -1.”  I’m not a rules lawyer, but to me, that means if there is doubt whether the cover is big enough, you get the save at -1; it doesn’t meant that if the cover isn’t big enough, you get it at -1.  You might think that’s nitpicking, but rules are rules: you don’t have to like them, you just have to play by them.  Or play despite them.
 
When it comes to Monstrous Creatures, go big or not at all.  Extrapolating on what Ken said, one MC is a target, two MC is a pain in the butt, three or more are heinous.  I’ve played games where I’ve had a Big Dude or two, and they quickly get taken out.  So either do no Nidzilla or heaps of Nidzilla, but doing it half-assed is just going to get yourself beat.  I have lots of Mondo Critters in my collection, and I plan to add more.
 
As mentioned, to mitigate the lack of invulnerable saves and paucity of cover, there are Tervigons with Catalyst and Venomthropes.  But perhaps the best way to feel better about the situation is to stop thinking of your Monstrous Creatures as infantry and start thinking of them as tanks.  Tanks are big and often don’t get cover saves.  Tanks (especially IG Heavy Support ones) can be expensive.  Okay, so your Big Kahunas are probably not going to have better firepower than most tanks, but at least they can’t be taken out with one lucky shot.  Comparing MCs to tanks isn’t a perfect analogy, but it mostly works.
 
Those Idiotic FAQs.  If you’re a Nid player, you’ve read the Games Workshop FAQs that neutered several Nid options.  The one I hate the most says you can’t attach an Independent Character to a brood with a Mycetic Spore and have the IC drop in with them, despite the fact that ICs in every other army can do something similar (e.g., a Space Marine Chapter Master joining a Tactical Squad and Deep Striking via Drop Pod). 
 
It’s as if the codex writers said to each other: “Let them attach a Tyranid Prime to some Warriors and drop them on top of an objective on the other side of the table?  No, that’d be really good, and you know we save all the really good stuff for whatever flavor of Marines we have coming out next quarter.”
 
(Following on that, why don’t Tyranid Primes get the option to have wings so they can accompany Shrikes?  After all, Tyrants can have wings, so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent.  No, Primes don’t get that option, regardless of point cost, because again, that might be really good.  Too good, apparently, for Nids and their players.) 


No, I don't know what the game designers
were really thinking, either 


Again: we don’t have to like the rules, we just have to play by them.  Okay, so you can only outflank one Troop unit using Hive Commander, no matter if you have two Tyrants on the board, and the bonus to reserve rolls don’t stack.  Okay, fine.  Deal with it, and come up with a new strategy. 
 
I mean, what else are you gonna do?  Besides, like me, trying to learn from mistakes and make the best of a codex that isn’t that great compared to some others?  I know I’m far from being a skilled Nid player, but I hope I’m making progress.  If you have comments, tips, suggestions, I’d love to hear them: e-mail me or join the Jungle’s Facebook page and post them there.
 
Thanks for listening to my blabberings!  I’m going back to the drawing board…. 


Posted November 2011 

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle