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Friday, October 29, 2010

A Different Breed: Ymgarl Genestealers

I've talked a lot, at various times, about how virtually the entire Tyranid codex is useful, and I stand by those statements: there are really only about three "bad" units*; a number of the others are somewhat mediocre or superseded by other, similar units, but that isn't really the same thing as being bad per se. So we're going to kick off a series of articles talking about these less-used units and ways you can bring them to the table in the most effective manner possible. Now, they are not all going to be maximally competitive, understand, but I do intend to talk about ways to use them that maximize what they and the rest of your army can do- we aren't interested in any "welp you can put Unit X into your list and it won't actively hinder you from winning, but..." kind of armies.

First off the bat is Ymgarl Genestealers, the bane of shitty 4E armies everywhere.
Bane of shitty armies, you say? Indeed. With the ability to pop out effectively anywhere, chosen after both players have made their deployments, it is virtually impossible to stop them from getting off at least one charge, and their raw stats (plus fancy shifting ability) mean they will usually be able to triumph in a close-quarters fight. Their only real weakness is common to many Tyranid units, an inability to deal with anything in a transport. Hence, against crappy gunline armies they are at their very best, able to assault with impunity without giving the enemy a chance to even take a token potshot at them.

Strategy #1: Disruption, Not Killy
Ymgarl Genestealers are expensive. Like, really expensive. They measure up to Sternguard and the various Chaos cult troops in price, which means you usually aren't going to be able to bring a lot of them. This, in turn, means that they are NOT set up to deal with big hordes of troops, like Ork Boyz or IG blobs; leave those to the main body of your force, which should easily be able to handle them. (You DID save some points for Tervigons, Warriors, Raveners, Tyrants, Gargoyles, Hormagaunts, Carnifexes, or Biovores, didn't you? Good.) Rather, your Ymgarl should be dedicated to getting rid of troublesome back-line threats that your normal units can't easily handle- you know, that squad of Devastators hanging out on top of a building 47" away, or that Basilisk behind a wall. Things that are going to do a lot of damage to you and rely mainly on range as a way to protect themselves from enemy attacks and are largely stationary. Ymgarl eat these guys up, literally, as they are almost always quite weak in a fight. If your opponent is the kind of jerk who slaps a Power Fist into his Dev squads... well, I'm sorry, mang, just deal with it; be thankful he's throwing away those points there rather than on a real unit. Toss your 'Stealers into him, let him take all the wounds on his heavy weapon guys so the PF stays alive, and laugh when his fire support is reduced to one Lascannon and a Bolt Pistol.

Stragegy #2: What is All This Shit Doing Here?
Sad truth time: you're from the Tyranid codex, that means you don't get grenades. Oh, if you were a Marine unit, sure, you'd have all kinds of grenades. Assault grenades, defensive grenades, anti-tank grenades, grenades that made the enemy hallucinate that they're Ed Wood and the talking face of Ben Stein has come to warn them of the apocalypse- you'd get all those things for free. But you aren't, chump, so suck it up; you're just going to have to live with getting fantastic combat stats instead. However, you need to live long enough to use those stats- the 4+ save helps, but Long Fangs can still put a real hurting on you when you bust the door down and, to be honest, every casualty costs when you're as expensive as Ymgarl are. We want to minimize what we lose on the way in, because after that the fight is basically ours pretty easily, given WS6 I6. When possible, use your combination of Move Through Cover and Fleet to get into a position where you don't have to make that difficult terrain test when you charge. However, there's more to it than that...

Strategy #3: Don't Kill Them All
Every melee army has a dream, and it's always the same dream: you charge them turn 1, kill everything but a single model in the unit and they "miraculously" pass their morale test on snake eyes. You kill off the last remaining dork on their turn, consolidate 6" towards the next unit and... and...

And wake up. Still, it's a nice though, and we can try to get as close to that in the real world as possible. If we could trade all our attacks on our own turn for even a small portion of invulnerability, we would gladly do so, because the biggest issue for melee units is getting shot to death on the enemy's turn, and that can't happen so long as we're in combat. The problem is when we, by some kind of luck, wipe them out on the wrong (i.e.) assault phase and are left sitting in the open like a bunch of morons. Most units in the game don't really have any choice about this, but a rare few have the right weapon options that they can (cheaply) use a low-quality attack when they charge into combat with some small unit and switch over to something more deadly on the opponent's assault phase, hoping to wipe them out and get off another charge before they can do anything. Ymgarl Genestealers don't have multiple weapons to pick from, but they do have something even better...

Combined Strategy: Pick Your Prize
With the ability to morph from shape to shape as need dictates, Ymgarl are actually surprisingly flexible units when it comes to attacking targets in melee. However, the real strength of the ability is controlling how much damage you inflict with your charges: as you dive into the fray (and assuming the enemy is not majorly dangerous), you take +1 Toughness, which should cut the number of wounds you take by a third against MEQs and halve them against GEQs. It also minimizes the damage you do back, with any luck insuring that they have a reasonable chance to pass their Leadership test to keep stuck in. On their turn you take one of the other bonuses to get your kill on, and continue alternating back and forth like this- although it should be exceedingly rare for a unit to survive more than one iteration, unless you are, like me, chronically unable to roll any Rends on the enemy. (I probably shouldn't need to say this, but... ONLY use this tactic against enemies you know you have more-than-okay odds against and that AREN'T vehicles. Vehicles can just drive away from you, they don't care how many dudes are hangin' on the hull (except walkers, who are dumb like that.)

+1 Attack should be your go-to selection; it maximizes your chance of Rends against both vehicles and infantry as well as pouring on more hits against low-armor targets like Guardsmen or Lootas. When in doubt, take +1 Attack, since it is almost always superior to the other options.

+1 Strength is a bit odd- if you really need to be on a killing spree, it's an acceptable choice on the turns you can't take +1A, but the truth is that Ymgarl are really relying on Rends to cause damage to MEQs and vehicles, and against GEQs wounding on 2s vs 3s is not that big a boost. Even against MCs and FNP units you want the extra attacks, as Rends will cut through them much more effectively than wounding a little better. However, there are two times you will want it; first, against high-toughness, low-armor units, especially T6 ones, the benefits outweigh those of +1A. Secondly, against vehicles that you absolutely must shut down and/or those that are potentially rendered useless by a single glancing hit (such as one-gun frames like Vindicators and Basilisks), +1Strength doubles the number of total damage results you will generally get at the cost of a little bit of quality, as you still only penetrate on 6s.

Strategy Number Last: "Fill Those Holes!"
All their other strengths and weaknesses aside, Ymgarl Genestealers have one big, big issue: they take an Elites slot. This means that they cut down on your AT significantly, because they stop you from bringing Hive Guard, Zoanthropes, or Lictors in their place. This is the easies mistake to make when building an army: not compensating for the weaknesses of the "fun" units you decide to include in it.

On the upside, however, they are good enough in a fight that immobilizing/stunning their target will usually be enough for them to guarantee a kill in the Assault Phase, and unlike regular 'Stealers they can shrug off the resulting explosion (if any.) Make sure that the rest of your army stocks up on HVCs, BWL Devourers, Rupture Cannons, etc, etc, and they should be fine.

Building Armies With Ymgarl Genestealers

Alright, so we already said: Ymgarl are going to be at their best against crappy 4E-style armies, especially gunlines, where they can pop out and eat something. Here you'll want them as part of a melee-heavy force with some limited shooting backup to keep the one or two tanks quiet. Line up as many high-aggression beasties as you can that DEMAND to be dealt with right away or else. Trygons make great choices in the HS slots, and Ymgarls will quickly ruin most of the guns that can deal with them. Gargoyles and Shrikes are both good in the FA slot, but don't underestimate Raveners- they may not hit as hard as some other units when facing Marines, but they are wickedly fast and can put a large number of wounds on horde units. Pretty much any Troop selection can do the job well here, bar Rippers, and Hive Guard and Lictors can both do good jobs of supporting Ymgarl from the Elite slot. Harpies and Tyrannofexes are both significant enough melee threats while still offering good shooting firepower, as are Hive Tyrants.

Sample list: 1750pts (ish)
1 Hive Tyrant (LW/BS, HVC, HC)
2 Tyrant Guard (Lash Whips)
8 Ymgarl Genestealers
8 Ymgarl Genestealers
2 Lictors
10 Termagants
1 Tervigon (Catalyst, Adrenal, Toxin, Scything)
20 Gargoyles (Adrenal, Toxin)
20 Gargoyles (Adrenal, Toxin)
1 Trygon
1 Trygon

Another strategy, for those of you not blessed with really bad opponents, is to slip a single squad into a smaller list (1750 or under) where you aren't filling your Elites slots with Hive Guard anyways. This list is a lot less likely to rely on pure aggression and more on using the Ymgarl to force difficult decisions on the opponent and tie up units in the backfield. Here you will probably want a smaller squad (5-6) to avoid investing too many points in them.

Tyranid Prime (LW/BS, Toxin, Regen)
3 Hive Guard
3 Hive Guard
6 Ymgarl Genestealers
10 Termagants
10 Termagants
1 Tervigon (Adrenal, Toxin, Catalyst)
1 Tervigon (Adrenal, Toxin, Catalyst)
1 Harpy (HVC)
1 Tyrannofex (Rupture)

Lastly, you can use them in a drop/reserves list as a way to help soften the initial rounds of shooting, as you otherwise have very few ways to shrug off those initial turns of pain. These kind of squads want to be max size so as to be able to inflict as much damage as possible, as their targets will often be much meatier (so to speak) than they might otherwise aim for. Stay well clear of Dreadnoughts, though.

1850 list
Hive Tyrant (Wings, 2 Devourer, HC)
10 Ymgarl Genestealers
10 Ymgarl Genestealers
3 Zoanthropes (Spore)
20 Devilgaunts (Spore)
20 Devilgaunts (Spore)
1 Tervigon (Adrenal, Toxin, Catalyst, Scything)
1 Trygon Prime

So hopefully after all this you have a little bit better idea how to incorporate these useful little fellows into a list. Are they going to bust down the tournament scene and take the world by storm? No, certainly not. But they can be useful and interesting and are far from the worst unit in the book. If you find yourself getting tired of being pounded by Long Fangs, Devastators, and similar fare- which have come rather into vogue lately- you may find them a useful tool in your arsenal.

This will be an ongoing series, so I would be happy to take suggestions for other off-brand picks from the codex that folks would like to see me do next. Carnifexes, Lictors, and the Parasite of Montrex are all somewhere up on the list, but I'd like to hear community opinions.

(Disclaimer: the above lists are theoretical, not based specifically on lists I have used at those point values and in those combinations. Any similarities to someone else's lists, real or imaginary, are purely coincidence. The manufacturer accepts no responsibility for the results of individuals experimenting with these lists and sending/linking battle reports to the blog, if you knowhadimean, nudge nuge.

(*For those that are curious, the three units are: Pyrovores, Rippers, and Sky-slashers. You will not be seeing articles on these units, sorry. Old One-Eye gets pass because he is unique, but the count should really be four, I suppose)

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