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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AbusePuppy's Tyranid Review Part 5: Da Fast Onez (Tribute to a crappy scenario)

Fast Attack

Perhaps the least impressive slot for the Tyranid codex, it still has some truly excellent units in it, including some very surprising things. The FA slot pretty much universally gets access to 12" moves (or charges, in the case of Raveners), making them truly live up to their name. Most of them are variants on another unit elsewhere in the codex, so if you're trying to stock up on something for a theme, you may want to look to FA to fill it out a bit more.

Tyranid Shrikes
Warriors with the Winged biomorph. They got renamed and simplified (sort of) from the last codex, but they're still essentially the same. Well, except for the price- where before you were paying through the nose for the jump pack, it's now a measly 5pts. There are some other important differences, though, so we'll go over them as well.

Shrikes are a lot less survivable than Warriors thanks to their 5+ save; Genestealer players will recognize this as "the save that may as well not be listed, because you'll never get to use it." Practically every gun in the game is at least AP5, so it is absolutely imperative that your Shrikes have cover- and honestly, like Warriors, this should be true even if they had the 4+, because people are going to want to aim Missiles, Lascannons, etc, at them. Unlike Warriors, they are not solely dependent on being part of a swarm full of MCs to survive this, as their plan is more often to be jumping around the enemy's backfield causing problems than to be moving with the body of the swarm. Gargoyles make an excellent companion for Shrikes, as they need Synapse (which Shrikes give) and are perfect for screening. Shrikes also have a slightly different set of weapon loadouts, which will be discussed in the options section below- the important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot have both Devourers and a Bonesword, which is something of a pity.

At this point I must admit that I have not played with Shrikes much and so can offer only limited further suggestions on them. My intuition is that many people will use them wrong, treating them just like Warriors and thus discovering that they "suck" and giving up on them. It is my (sadly unfounded, for the time being) opinion that Shrikes are at the very least a passable unit, and possible quite good, at least when used in the proper roles. Like much of the FA slot they seem aimed to be a harasser/disrupter unit, there to shut down your opponent's dangerous units before they can destroy your main force. In the distant someday when I finally get a chance to convert some up (after I've made the Tervigons, Tyrannofexes, Harpies, etc that I want) I will fill this section out better, but for now take this as a placeholder and an unsupported promise that they aren't complete garbage.

Barbed Strangler: See the Tyranid Warrior.

Venom Cannon: Partly covered by the Warrior discussion as well. However, their mobility makes rear armor shots more of a possibility, upping its value. A squad of Deathspitter/VC Shrikes is very mobile and can annoy all sorts of vehicles.

Rending Claws: You only have one option to switch for these (paying points), unlike Warriors. These seem a lot more attractive for Shrikes because you are more likely to be jumping small squads of guys (HWTs, Devs, Havocs, etc) that you don't want to completely wipe out, so Boneswords are overkill and will get you killed when you are left standing out in the open. The added utility for penetrating vehicles is also pretty handy. Unlike Warriors, it's unlikely you'll have to fight a Dreadnought unless you want to, so that aspect is less important.

Spinefists: See Tyranid Warriors.

Deathspitters: S5 vs. rear armor isn't all that bad, and you have the speed to try for it and 18" range makes it realistic. Seems decent, but does put you in danger of falling into the "more upgrades is better" trap.

Paired Boneswords: As noted above, this may actually be something of overkill for the kind of targets you intend to attack. However, if you go the other route and make them into a mobile super-assault force, this is a pretty ugly tool. However, I still prefer the Lash Whip combo due to its utility. I would only take these if you were intending to go Nob hunting. Note that both these and the BS/LW replace your Devourer, not the Talons the way they do on the Warrior; on the upside, this means that you can have power weapons that reroll 50% of their misses, but on the downside you can't soften up a really tough target with shooting before charging in. It's a give-and-take sort of thing.

Bonesword/Lash Whip: Turns you into just as much of a melee monster as it does with Warriors. If you are going to go the pure killy route, this is probably your go-to, along with Toxin Sacs.

Scything Talons: Despite the 12" movement, you shouldn't be chasing down vehicles because you're S4. Two sets of Talons and Adrenal so you can penetrate most things is cute, but not recommended, since it's pretty useless against anything else.

Adrenal Glands: Since you're going to be doing a lot of charge -> kill something -> charge again thanks to high movement rate, these become more interesting. Striking ahead of Marines, penetrating tanks- you get pretty much all the major stuff out of it. However, they still aren't culmulative with Toxin Sacs for the most part, so Double Sword + Toxin + Adrenal seems like the only useful combo- and even there you still don't get the pseudo-grenades the Lash Whips would give you.

Toxin Sacs: Just as awesome as they are on Warriors. RC + Toxin is a possibility, since it gives you enough killing power to fight most units while still not overkilling things and penetrating tanks.

Common Builds
(Take with a grain of salt.)
Shootabugs: Deathspitter, 1 Venom Cannon

Harassment Suite: Rending Claws, Toxin Sacs

Hatredcoptor: Paired Boneswords, Adrenal Glands, Toxin Sacs

Between Deep Strike, Fleet, and the Beast type, this guy is easily the fastest unit in the codex. It's still essentially a CC-modded Tyranid Warrior, but the differences are a lot greater than they were in the last book, so you can't peg them into the stereotype quite so easily this time around.

So let's start with the obvious: the Ravener is a close combat-focused Tyranid beastie, more or less solely intended to assault stuff and stab it to death. It has very good stats, hitting on 3s and wounding on 4s against just about everything. Its high I also insures it will generally strike first, and it gets more attacks than most independent characters, so it's excellent for disposing of large numbers of enemies, especially combined with the free rerolls from Scything Talons. Fleet combined with the only 12" charge in the book make it potentially able to hit just about any target you care to go after, and Move Through Cover means they get a bit more distance out of doing so. Lastly, they have the option to Deep Strike (though you'll rarely want to use it) and for some reason have Acute Senses, which will absolutely never come up ever.

So the downsides? 5+ save, T4. Anyone who's ever played with or against Ogryns will be able to tell you that wounds are no replacement for a good armor save, and the ubiquitous Power Fist will completely ruin your day. While not particularly overpriced, they aren't exactly cheap, either, especially if you decide to go for any of the upgrades. Given that Tyranid Warriors can do many of the same things they can, but also provide Synapse and have access to Boneswords and Toxin Sacs, making them much more damaging, it's no surprise that Raveners aren't terribly popular.

So that raises the essential issue: what can you do with a Ravener that a Warrior can't do? In fact, Shrikes must also be considered here, since they are essentially Warriors that also have most of the Ravener advantages. The answer, unfortunately, is "not a lot." Fleet + 12" charge is only marginally better than a straight 12" move in the best of circumstances. They end up cheaper than well-equipped Shrikes (and have the various stat improvements of Ravs over Warriors), but against any kind of Marines they will fare significantly worse. They are not so much worse, however, as to be useless; a mid-sized (~4 models) squad of Raveners can do an acceptable job of harassing the enemy backline, assuming terrain permits them to move forward on the first turn or two it takes to get near the enemy. And, against Orks, Guard, Tau, etc, they will do just fine, but against most power-armored enemies they will struggle (with Sisters being something of an exception.)

So the key to Raveners is essentially "find something squishy and kill it." You can't fight anything with large numbers of attacks to return to you (like mobs of Boyz), you can't fight any decent-sized squad of MEQs (except something crappy like Tacticals), and you absolutely cannot allow yourself to get anywhere near something with a Power Fist. Skulk around the edges of the battlefield and use your mobility to get a charge off on something every turn, because if you aren't charging, you're wasting the only real advantage you have.

(Oh, and something for you fluff nuts to rage over: Raveners can't enter through Trygon tunnels. Whoops.)

Rending Claws: Pretty much mandatory. Losing the reroll on all your attacks is painful, but you still reroll 50% of your misses against most opponents (bar vehicles), so things could be worse. This gives you a modicum of functionality against MEQs, which you desperately need, and also lets you potentially do some real damage to vehicles if you've got no other option. For the price, you couldn't really hope for better.

Spinefists: Probably the only worthwhile gun option. Most of the time you want to be Fleeting, but with your huge charge range it's not impossible to reach things while still having the option to shoot, and its range syncs up perfectly with how far you were going anyways. Note that unlike most other models with access to the Spinefist, your higher number of attacks makes it actually superior to the Devourer against T4 targets.

Devourer: Meh. It's not like this gun is hard to get elsewhere in the list, so I don't really see the point in giving it to them. As noted, Spinefists are better unless you really, really want to try and make people fail Morale checks.

Deathspitter: I've seen this recommended as a secondary way to deal with tanks (combined with Claws), but I don't buy it. It can work, but it just seems horribly price-inefficient when you have TL HVCs available on a flying MC body in the same slot. Not a horrible gun, but not very impressive, either.

Sky-slasher Swarm
Flying Rippers. That's what they are. You pay 5 pts, you get a 12" move; it's that simple. Really they're just a slight variation on Tunnel Swarm Rippers, so take everything from that section and add in the note that you have good mobility and you've pretty much got the story. Ummm. So yeah, Rippers with an extra price tag. I think you know how that goes. Time to move on.

Gargoyle Brood
With a brand-new plastic kit and stats to match it, Gargoyles are here and they're doing their darnedest to make Hormagaunts look like idiots. Wanna Fleet the full 6" every time and still get to shoot? Gargoyles can. Want pseudo-Poison for free as part of the base chassis? Gargoyles have it. Want cheaper Adrenal/Toxin and the ability to Deep Strike without paying a 40pt premium? Little G has it covered, bro. And, with Termagant stats and only 6pts per head, it's really hard to go wrong with these guys.

Gargoyles are a great screening unit, coming in cheap as they do and being able to hurt virtually any unit on the board (vehicles mostly excepted.) Their extra physical size and flying bases especially help in that respect, making it possible to get MCs and friendly vehicles the 50% coverage necessary despite being a mere troops choice. Their high movement rate also benefits their role in screening other troops, as it helps you keep in front of whatever you're safeguarding while simultaneously insuring that, if ignored, they will get into the backline and cause problems for the enemy.

What stops them from being an auto-include unit? Price, for one. US$29/10 isn't exactly cheap, and as a new model not a lot of folks had full squads of them hanging around. I expect their popularity will increase as folks have a chance to build their collections, but for the time being they are a moderately unusual thing to see on the field. With only one attack and no reroll, they also have an innate disadvantage compared to Hormagaunts in a prolonged combat- anything you don't kill on the charge stands a good chance of slowly picking the unit apart. Lastly, they aren't scoring, which practically all of their "competitor" units (Gaunts, etc) are. All minor weaknesses, but I think that, combined, they are what keeps most people from using them. Gargoyles in the new codex are infinitely more usable than they were in the old one.

What kinds of army want Gargoyles? Any fast, melee-oriented swarm will find them useful as an advance force, especially if you have a way to grant Preferred Enemy to double up on Blinding Poison. All-Deep Strike armies might find them helpful as a way to add bodies without spending too many points- something that they often struggle with when you have to pay 100+pts for a brood of Gaunts. And of course, anyone with Shrikes or Winged Tyrants can use them as an easy way to get the requisite cover save when other units can't easily fill the role.

Adrenal Glands: Pretty nice, and very cheap. Lets you wound on 4s and strike before Marines, but keep in mind you still aren't all that amazing of a combat unit, so don't get cocky and start charging into a fight you can't win. Also lets you glance vehicles, but this doesn't change the fact that Gargoyles aren't designed to kill tanks.

Toxin Sacs: If you do the math, you'll find that Toxin Sacs by themselves don't actually up your kill potential-per-point any, due to the lost shooting, etc, so don't ever take these by themselves. Combined with Adrenal they have some worth, but I think I'd still rather have the extra bodies- Gargoyles, like Gaunts, are a swarm unit and should be used as screens and disruption, not something that hunts down the enemy. They can kill things and often will, but that isn't their primary role.

Ah, the much-maligned Harpy. Perhaps not the greatest choice in the codex- indeed, in smaller games it's something of a waste- but as you reach 2000 points or more and options for tank killing thin down it starts to look more and more useful. It also shines against skimmer-heavy armies where the 12" move makes it the only MC with much of a chance of catching said skimmers- and it does so for a lot lower price than most of our 2d6 penetration options.

So first up, yes, the Harpy isn't as tough as other MCs. T5/4+ means that Autocannons and Heavy Bolters are both a major threat to it; if your scene sees a preponderance of these weapons, you'll want to avoid the Harpy. T5 also means it takes twice as many (more, because of the save) Bolter wounds as normal MCs. You know what the solution to that is? Don't get in Bolter range. Both its main guns have 36" reach, so there is very little reason you should be getting close enough for Bolters to be reaching the Harpy in the early game. Railguns (and those rare other S10 weapons) are also a nightmare for it, and in that case all you can really do is shut them down quickly and hope for good cover saves. Those weapons aside, the Harpy is just as tough as any other MC. Lascannons, Melta, Missiles... these all wound the Harpy- and everything else- on a 2+ and allow no save. With four wounds just like the others, against most of the long-range fire that tends to be able to reach out to where the Harpy wants to hover, you are doing just fine.

In terms of armament, the Harpy seems custom-made to be an anti-infantry powerhouse- a TL Stranglethorn, Cluster Spines (because who doesn't take those?) and its Mines, it can lay a terrifying number of large blast templates on a unit. This goes back to something I've brought up before, though: do you really need a way to kill infantry better? Really? A better use is probably paying the token number of points to upgrade to the Heavy Venom Cannon, which ends up being one of the most accurate AT guns in the codex, if not the most effective. However, combined with the Harpy's ability to get side shots when it so pleases, you have a reliable way to inflict shaken/stunned results on even fairly high-armor targets and potentially destroy them.

The Harpy's melee stats are also underwhelming, so despite MC status, I5, and the Sonic Screech ability, you are generally better staying out of the reach of anything that you can't outright kill, as losing your shooting for 2-3 turns is pretty much wasting the Harpy's talents. Still, it is a Monstrous Creature and can do a fair number on small, non-CC specialists in a pinch. As the game progresses and units are thinned down, it is generally more worthwhile to move the Harpy towards the center of the battle so it can contest, charge, or shoot units as necessary, especially since target priority becomes more of an issue at that point; aiming that Heavy Bolter at the Harpy looks less appealing when you need to insure that the Gaunts get pushed off their objective as well.

Heavy Venom Cannon: Mostly talked about above. I wouldn't bother to field a Harpy if I wasn't taking this, as it otherwise doesn't have a lot to offer you- 'Fexes are tougher Stranglethorn platforms, Warriors likewise for the somewhat less effective Barbed Strangler, Raveners will do a better job on most light infantry, etc.

Cluster Spines: This hasn't changed from any of the other MC entries. Always take these.

Adrenal Glands: They get you some extra Str, which is nice for wrecking vehicles and killing MEQs, but you aren't really a primary melee combatant. Mediocre.

Toxin Sacs: These are actually the only MC that Toxin improves the majority of your to-wound rolls (everything but T3 and below). I wouldn't bother, though, for the above reasons and because they don't help against vehicles.

Regeneration: Interesting, and priced lower than other MCs with the same number of wounds. Low enough, in fact, that you are going to want it a lot of the time- you'll usually net at least one wound out of it over the course of a game, if you're careful, and your mobility allows you to hop to cover, in front of other MCs, etc, to take full advantage of it. However, it is quite possible that the large games where the Harpy is most useful there is enough firepower around for it to die in a single turn.

Spore Mine Cluster
An odd choice, one mostly useful to folks who like to play tactical games during setup. If you just wanna rush things forward screeching, move on to the next entry. They drop in before deployment (even during Dawn of War- specific Codex abilities trump general BRB rules, remember) in an attempt to deny your opponent key battlefield locations and/or clog up his deployment zone. While they can do some damage in the process, their real point is to physically make placing models in some positions impossible- remember, there is a 1" buffer zone that enemy models cannot enter except when assaulting.

This is also, however, a good time to talk about Spore Mines in general (and as a result, Biovores to some degree) and some of the misconceptions about them. First off: Spore Mines can assault. They cannot Run, and their movement is random (despite the argument that the d6" drift is in addition to their normal move, which I cannot bring myself to agree with), but there is no prohibition anywhere about them being allowed to assault units. Moreover, when being "fired" from a Biovore, they are only placed on the board if they scatter more than 6" away from enemy models, which makes more sense in light of their being allowed to make assault moves. Note, however, that they will always detonate before assaults (yours or the enemy's) are resolved. Also remember that drifting into a Tyranid model never detonates a Mine, although they can be caught in the blast if one otherwise detonates.

In terms of effectiveness as weapons, Spore Mines are decent. Large blast and S4 mean the potential to wound pretty much any troops in the game and Barrage and AP4 mean that any kind of horde force is going to have a real problem with them. Even Marines can't completely shrug them off, as Pinning anytime a casualty is caused quickly becomes problematic.

So is 10pts/model worth the disruption of enemy deployment? It depends. With the prevalence of mech forces Spore Mines lose a lot of effectiveness, although denying a key piece of cover to some boxy Rhinos or Land Raiders can be a decent accomplishment, even if they do nothing else. However, their random placement and limited damage potential mean that they are never going to be a major consideration for a competitive force. However, they aren't terrible, and if you're looking to have some fun and mess with opponents they can work quite well.

4 pinkments:

Chumbalaya said...

Raveners I liken to Fiends, only they don't have EW or H&R :(

AbusePuppy said...

You don't have to wait until turn 3 for them to randomly show up on the worst place on the board, either. (Unless you're stupid.)

I need to try out Raveners some more, I liked them far more than was healthy last edition, and they're a lot better this time around. Damnit, if only they could take Toxin Sacs. ><

MagicJuggler said...

Autocannons are problematic but I would really like to know when was the last time Heavy Bolters were used in great numbers nowadays...really?

AbusePuppy said...

IG gets them on Chimeras and Russes for pretty cheap (not everyone takes the flamer) and Dakka Preds and Baal Preds both are problematic platforms as well.

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