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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

AbusePuppy's Tyranid Review Part the Last: Wrapup and List Building


So that's it, that's the whole shebang. The Tyranid codex has gotten very mixed press from the internet- people seem evenly split between "omg trygon and doom and tervigon SO BORKEN!!" and "wtf no EW no AP warriors 65 PTS?!?! cant win anything quittn this f%$#*^ing game". Truthfully, I think that Tyranids are on par with all the other 5th Ed codices, although they are somewhat more limited in competitive builds than, say, the IG codex because of the necessity of taking anti-tank. (Also, until the whole mess with allies gets fixed the Imperium codices are always going to have an advantage over everyone else.)

So, having gone through the units individually, let's give a brief talk about armies. This is only going to be brief, mind you- there is far more to discuss than even I could hope to post here, and to be honest I don't think I've really gotten a good enough handle on Tyranids to do a lot of high-level theorizing about Ideal Builds and all of that. I can, however, safely talk about the most common mistakes I've seen in making a swarm and some general archetypes that the codex naturally lends itself to. So.

Big Mistake #1 is a mistake common to a lot of other armies: not enough anti-tank. With Tyranids, this problem is grossly exaggerated, however, because of the very specific availability of our AT options- you either take these units or you suffer. Elites and HS contain basically all of our options, and in just a couple unit selections. There's no use in trying to avoid "being cookie-cutter" with a lack of options like that- it's like a Marine player avoiding Tactical Squads because "everyone uses them." Damn right they do- they're the backbone of the codex. So man up, plop that wad of cash down, and get yourself some AT units, because this is 5th Edition and you're gonna need them. Which ones you want will depend on your army, but the gross simplification is that foot armies use Hive Guard and Tyrannofexes and reserve armies prefer Zoanthropes and Venom Cannon Tyrants.

Big Mistake #2 is scoring units. Unlike other armies, Tyranid troops tend to actually be pretty good in a fight- good enough that you want to send them into the enemy's face to do some damage. This is a problem because troops that are charging the foe are generally not troops that are taking an objective; melee range units tend to make poor defenders because the enemy can just sit back at Rapid Fire range and shoot you to death while you stand there like a dum-dum head. For this reason, it's generally necessary for Tyranids to separate their troops into two categories: fake troops (things like Genestealers and Bonesword Warriors that you send to go chew up enemy units) and real troops (things that you use to take objectives). Tervigons and Termagants are pretty much universally the best choices for the latter, although unupgraded Warriors (except maybe for Deathspitter/heavy weapon) can make a pretty reasonable version of the latter. Genestealers can also do alright there.

Big Mistake #3 is target saturation. I harped on this a lot during the other articles, but here it comes again. One tank is a target for all the missiles and melta your opponent has. Six tanks are each gonna take a lot less punishment because they'll have trouble aiming everything at one target. Likewise, one monstrous creature is gonna get roasted pretty quick, but six of them are going to take a lot longer to kill. Overload your opponent's guns, give them more than they can deal with in the time before you arrive. This works better with monstrous creatures because armies are limited in the number of big guns they can take, but generally always have access to lots of small anti-troop guns no matter what else they buy. However, a swarm army can also be viable, although it's hard to go completely without monstrous creatures due to the sheer awesomeness of the Tervigon for supporting a swarm. Still, filling the field with bodies can be workable in some cases, you're simply going to have to make some compromises rather than just slapping two hundred Gaunts onto the table. Note that Tyranid Warriors and other high-wounds critters actually fall more into the monstrous creature category, since people tend to aim the same kind of guns at them as it takes to down the bigger creatures.


So what are some good ways to build a list? We'll go over a couple archetypes here, but keep in mind there are endless ways to tweak them and variations based on your playstyle, your local group, etc. However, I'll try to be general enough that you can take away something useful from each of these lists. This is nothing like an exhaustive library, just a sampling of some things that work. Some of these will scale to varying degrees, and thus may not be as viable at 1500 or 2500; most of them work reasonably well at 1750-2K, though.

Quick guide: The framework is going to be what the army is based off of- without this, you can't even consider it. The basics are the meat and bones of the force, everything that makes it move. Some of them may be omissible, but many are not. Options are additional units that you may or may not find helpful. They don't directly fit in with what you're doing in most cases, or are one of the more narrow selections for doing a particular job.

The All-Reserves Army
The framework: Winged Hive Tyrant with Hive Commander; Heavy Venom Cannon strongly recommended

The basics:
-Trygons/Mawlocs
-Zoanthropes
-Warriors
-Termagants

The options:
-Gargoyles
-Ymgarl Genestealers
-Lictors
-Doom of Malan'tai
-Deathleaper
-Tyrannofex
-Tervigon
-Harpy

So the basic idea here is pretty obvious: you get two Tyrants so that your reserves are coming in on a 2+ on turn 2 and start everything off-board. The easy mistake to make here is trying to do it halfway- don't start with anything on the board or else it's going to be the focus of a lot of your opponent's shooting. Also remember that when you land it's going to be an absolute bloodbath for a turn, as man of your units will be clustered up and the opponent gets a turn to react to you. You MUST have enough shooting to put the hurt on them when you land or else the barrage of templates, blasts, and assaults will end your game before it begins. Try to cut off one part of his army and destroy it rather than wounding several different portions. Don't confuse your flexibility for mobility- only your winged units actually have mobility, the rest of them are just as slow as anything else. You're giving up a full turn and a half of the game, so you're going to have to do your work quickly once you arrive.

Some of the units might seem like odd ducks, Tervigons and Tyrannofexes especially. The former are there because you have issues with actually capturing objectives and they provide a tremendous boost- you also have the option of outflanking them with Hive Commander, but this can be tricky because you aren't sure of where you'll arrive, and it can leave the Termagants stranded away from Synapse range. Tyrannofexes are fine because of their 48" range, allowing them to walk on 6" and hit most of the board. Your anti-tank shots tend to be rather vulnerable (Zoeys, Harpies, Lictors), so try and have units around to shield them. Equipping your Mycetic Spores with Venom Cannons (for suppressing vehicles) or Cluster Spines (for dealing with troops) is often a good idea. Termagants usually want to go with Devourers for the extra range combined with the fact that you are much more capable of picking a vulnerable target and wiping it out. The build suffers a lot at 1500 because of only being reasonably able to fit in one Tyrant, doubling up the number of units that will fail to arrive.

Sample 2K list:
2x Hive Tyrant (Wings, Hive Commander, LW/BS, HVC)

3x Zoanthrope (Mycetic Spore w/Cluster Spines)

2x Zoanthrope (Mycetic Spore w/Cluster Spines)

1x Deathleaper

20x Termagant (two groups)

2x Tervigon (Cluster Spines, Catalyst, Adrenal, Toxin)

2x Tyrannofex (Rupture, Cluster, Dessicator)


Big Men, Big Guns
Framework: Tervigons, generally with support upgrade (especially Toxin and the psychic powers)

The basics:
-Tyrannofex
-Hive Guard
-Tyranid Prime
-Venomthrope

Options:
-Zoanthrope (no pod)
-Hive Tyrant (with Old Adversary)
-Harpy
-Carnifex

Again, fairly simple concept. You build a big block of guys with good shooting and advance up the field 6" at a time (or more with Onslaught). Termagants serve as your assault screen, keeping away nasty units for an extra turn or tying them up permanently, and smaller squads can split off to claim objectives on the way. The mass of MCs and secondary attacks from smaller critters can easily overwhelm any weakened foe that thinks you're vulnerable to assault, and if the enemy doesn't back away quickly enough they'll find that you're more than capable of starting and winning an assault yourself.

Your Synapse count tends to be pretty low, and you're highly reliant on your units working together, so you're forced to stay clustered relatively near each other; this can leave you vulnerable to blast weapons, so make sure you've got that suppression fire working. Termagants are your only source of specialized anti-infantry fire, but basic troops shouldn't be a problem for you with the guns your T-Fexes mount and your assault capabilities. Widely spread objectives can be inconvenient, although at higher point totals you can afford to split into two subgroups to claim sections of the board.

Zoanthropes, although short ranged, can supplement your other firepower if, for some reason, you're averse to Hive Guard (or want some variety); they require Onslaught to get in range of most things, though. Other long-range shooting can be useful in various ways as well, and 'Fexes can provide a good threat to distract them from your other guns- double BWL Devourers are bad times for many types of targets. A Tyrant with Old Adversary can make the swarm absolutely devastating in melee and generally replaces a Prime; as usual, you want a Guard to go with them. HVC and Devs are both options for such a unit, depending on your preferences.

Sample 2K list:
1x Tyranid Prime (LW/BS, Toxin, Regen)

1x Hive Tyrant (2x Dev, Tyrant Guard, Old Adversary)

9x Hive Guard

20x Termagant (two groups)

2x Tervigon (Toxin, Onslaught, Cluster)

1x Harpy (HVC)

2x Tyrannofex (Rupture, Cluster, Dessicator)

Assault Swarm
The framework: varies

The basics:
-Tyranid Prime
-Hive Tyrant
-Genestealers
-Tyranid Warriors
-Hormagaunts
-Trygons
-Hive Guard

Options:
-Gargoyles
-Raveners
-Shrikes
-Swarmlord
-Ymgarl Genestealers
-Venomthrope
-Tervigon

This one has a lot of options and potential builds, but the heart of it is the fundaments of a Tyranid force: get in close and tear them apart. To that end, it's trying to close the distance as quickly as possible and knock guys out of their metal boxes so they can be assaulted. Always, always remember that you need to knock them out of their boxes first, which means you need AT shooting. You cannot afford to go chasing Rhinos around the field for a couple turns, then get bogged down in combat for a couple more turns and then realize the game is over and you just lost because he had a squad on an objective and you didn't.

Assuming you have taken care of the above problem (which will mean Guard, T-Fexes, and possibly other things, but most likely Guard), you need both sufficient speed to get to them before you die and sufficient raw combat to win once you do. For the former you have units with increased movement- 12" move or charge, Fleet, DS/Infiltrate to close the distance, etc. To the latter, you have linebreakers that simply cleave through anything that gets in front of them; a few rare units can do both. Be wary of an enemy Deathstar (TH/SS Termies, TWC, Jetseer Council, Biker Nobs) and make sure you have a way to handle it- escaping, tying it up, or straight-up killing. Know the relative strengths and weaknesses of various matchups- Warriors hate anything with a Power Fist, but Hormagaunts don't mind.

You need to present your opponents with a clear and present danger with this army- that means not only suppression fire early on, but threatening charges on turn 2 and onward. Don't give them room to recover, and don't ever forget your mission objective; at a certain point, you have to give up on killing and start winning the game. Sometimes just getting a wipeout can work, but don't rely on it. Tervigons can alleviate this to a degree, picking up backfield objectives while the rest of your army does the work.

Deathstar
The framework: Tyrant Guard + a buddy (Tyrant, Swarmlord) or Carnifexes + Tyranid Primes

The basics:
-More of the above
-Hive Guard
-Tyrannofex
-Tervigon

Options:
-Genestealers/Ymgarl Genestealers
-Devilgaunts
-Doom of Malan'tai
-???

Say it straight up: this is a gimmick army. Not even a terribly strong gimmick, either. However, it does plop a ridiculous threat on the table, and many players will forget everything they know and panic upon seeing it, playing right into your strategy. This is exactly what you want- the Deathstar (or Rock, or whatever) draws all of the attention and firepower, letting the rest of your forces move into position and do their jobs.

This army is particularly points-sensitive; too few and you can't afford enough backup for your Deathstar and it becomes the whole army. Too many and the enemy can bring enough firepower to negate it, throwing away the advantage of the distraction. In my (admittedly limited) experience, the 'Fex+Primes work best at the 1500 level and Tyrant+Guard works best at 1850 or so.

Optional components in the army should be there to capitalize on the threat posed by your Deathstar- otherwise-fragile units that have enough of a threat profile to wreak a lot of havoc, but that normally don't get a chance to because they get shot first.


Thus ends my series of articles on the Tyranid codex; hope folks have found it helpful. Doubtless there are some who disagree with my assessments of things, or have noted flaws, or outright errors; I only expect that these are present, as I am far from perfect. Some things I've noted already (BWL Devourers are better than I initially assessed them, for example), and there will likely be more to come. Many thanks to Stelek, from whom much of the basis of this review was drawn, no matter what I may think of his opinions some of the time. Thanks also to Kirby for giving me a place to dump all this where someone might see it.

12 pinkments:

Chumbalaya said...

Great stuff AP. {^}

After only a couple games, I <3 my fexstar, Tervy, HG and T-fexes.

tyranid said...

Yeah In your stated post, you have said that it have not enough anti tank, ehich i thought of myself. I have now At units and thanks to this blog I am now aware and play like a pro man! keep on updating and I will be waiting..lol!

Myke. said...

Brilliant Article Series!

There is one thing i'd really like to know: Do you think a Tervigon is mandatory for every competitive list? Even the all-reserve list?

And the other question is: Do you think an all-reserve list can work with only one Hive Commander in it? Cause i mean i like those flyrants, but they're not worth 300Points, are they? And they have a high risk of Deep-Strike Misshap or they have to come down where you don't want them, to avoid DS-MH.

Chumbalaya said...

Tervigon is good in a lot of lists, but I wouldn't say it's mandatory. Podding Armies, Genestealer swarms, Warrior armies, and the like don't necessarily need Tervigons. But it's hard to go without, at least for me.

Well, if INAT has its way we'll only get 1 Hive Commander bonus. Either way, saving 300 points and *only* having 2/3 of your army come in turn 2 should be fine.

AbusePuppy said...

So is 'Fexstar working out for you, then? I really need to get around to trying it out some more, but with 'Ard Boyz in season I've been trying to get games in with my Tau so that I have a little more experience. Care to throw out a list so I can compare? I know I didn't put a list up on the last two builds, since I'm not really that confident in my assessments of them.

@Myke
I don't think it's mandatory, no; he's very, very good, but there are some armies that don't want him. I've been toying around with some all-DS lists that use Devilgaunts and Warriors as their troops, and they seem survivable enough.

You _can_ run single-Flyrant lists, but they're just going to be subpar. You'll do okay versus mediocre players, but anyone who's good will stomp on your forces as they arrive piecemeal- going from a 3+ to a 2+ is a huge difference, as anyone who's shot Terminators can attest. But can you do it? Yeah, you can. I'm not proud to admit that I run a single-Flyrant list at 1500 because a lot of the locals here just... can't deal with it. Talking with the shop owner, I was apparently the first person to ever run an all-DS army there. Yeah, I dunno, I guess everyone just... forgot Drop Pods existed?

Difficulty with DSing is one of the reasons I like having a HVC on my Tyrant, so he's guaranteed to get a shot off when he lands.

Chumbalaya said...

It's this framework with some changes depending on points level:
Prime w/ bonesword and lash
Hive Guard (3x2 or 3x3)
2 Tervigons (catalyst, glands, toxin)
2x 10 Termagants
2 Fexes w/ scytals and frag spines
2x T-fexes w/ rupture cannons

It has problems with speed, but pretty much anything the fexstar touches is dead.

Anonymous said...

Great Article as always. Just a question: What about air force?

lyracian said...

I agree with about 95% of your review. Here is my quick summary of the Tyranid Codex.
Best Units: Swarmlord, Hive Guard, Tervigon, Trygon, Gargoyles, Hormagaunts
Good Units: Hive Tyrant, Tyrannofex, Raveners, Zoanthropes, Genestealers
Average Units: Tyranid Prime, Deathleaper, Venomthrope, Warriors, Carnifex, Harpy, Termagants, Shrikes, Tyrant Guard, Mycetic Spores, Parasite, Biovore

Weak Units: Mawloc, Lictor, Doom, Ymgarl Genestealers, Rippers. They can be made to work but difficult.
Cruds Units: Pyrovore, Spore Mines, Sky-slasher Brood, Old One Eye. Just do not use these. Ever.

Kirby said...

Curious as to why Prime and Termagants are only average to you Iyracian. Termagants are perhaps one of the best Troops out in there when buffed by Tervigons/Tyrants and even at 5pts are cheap as chips whilst the Prime is just plain super-cost effective.

lyracian said...

The Prime took a real hit with the FAQ rulings. Not being able to get in a Pod with his mates, Whips not working on Furious Charge and Shadows not working on embarked psykers. Adding it all together dropped him from good to average.

As for Termagants you said it yourself "when buffed". They are not bad on their own, but not good either.

Kirby said...

Reserve armies & psychic defenses took a hit with the FAQ, not the Prime. Since the majority of the time for a Reserve army you were deploying 2x Tyrants for +2 reserve roll... He can still deploy with whatever squad he needs to on foot and provides a very solid and cheap HQ when a Tyrant isn't viable/too expensive. 5 pts for what is essentially a T3/WS3/I4/4+ w/S4 gun platform is pretty good. Not fantastic but solid and when you start buffing them...insane.

lyracian said...

You have propably read it however for Termagants see GMorts "Can Termagants actually kill things…"
http://gmortschaotica.blogspot.com/2010/08/tyranid-project-can-termagants-actually.html

As for Primes, without the ability to get in a pod they lack the versitility to be a really good unit. Yes he can walk around with other units but other than enhancing a Deathstar there is very few units I would join one too. There always seems better HQ choices.

A full reserve army does want the doulbe tyrant/swarmlord for the +2 reserves. However like Drop Pods one or two Spore Pods can be useful for delivering threats to different areas of the table. That is where the prime shined for me and why mine is now sitting on the bookcase.

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