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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Email in: Tyranids for Comp, With an Aside on Gargoyles


I was hoping to get some insight from you regarding a Tyranid list I’ve been developing for an upcoming tournament (comped 1750):

The general concept is that the two Genie squads infiltrate for a second turn charge, preferably with FNP and cover saves. The rest of the army follows up behind as a blob, termagants shield units, Hive Guard nail vehicles, Zoanthropes keep everything together. One or both of the Tervigons stay back and breed objective holders, and/or stay forward and provide FNP to the rest of the army. The Trygon Prime is there for some mid-game punch when the Genies are flagging (and to provide another threat), although I’m toying with the idea of replacing the Trygon with a Tyrranofex.

Can you please let me know what you think of this army and make any suggestions on play-style/alternative units etc. I suspect I’ll score low for comp, but hey. J 


Tervigon; Toxin Sacs and Catalyst


3x Zoanthropes

3x Hive Guard

3x Hive Guard


Tervigon; Toxin Sacs, Catalyst and Scything Talons

18x Genestealers

18x Genestealers

10x Termagants


13x Gargoyles; Toxin Sacs


Trygon Prime


Hey, it turns out I still write about Tyranids occasionally. :P

So while this list is using a lot of the basic building blocks of a good Tyranid list, I think it makes some mistakes that are going to hurt it. One of the most important concepts for ANY list is to stay focused on your overall plan, whatever that may be, and I think that's where this list fails. Genestealers strongly incline you towards an aggressive plan that wants to get in the enemy's face as quickly as possible, but the other elements don't all support that goal particularly well. I don't think that the high-aggression plan is necessarily the best one for Tyranids, but if you choose to go down that path, you need to really work at it or you end up not putting enough units forward to actually hurt the enemy.

Alright, so the first problem is that the Genestealers don't have Toxin Sacs. For a mere 3pts per model, you can boost the number of wounds (and Rends) you get by 50% as well as even out your damage curve- rerolls not only up your overall numbers, but they make it less likely that you'll get a roll with a bunch of 1s, 2s, and 3s and just not do any real damage to the enemy. Unlike Scything Talons, the benefits of Toxin are well worth the slight overconcentration we get from investing into particular models, so in my mind it's an automatic upgrade every time.

(Also: I generally do not endorse large squads of 'Stealers because the bigger you are, the more likely you are to have to roll for Difficult Terrain on a charge, the harder it is to squeeze into a position out of LOS, etc. However, for a list that tries to use them very aggressively in combination with Tervigons (to give FNP), there is value in large squads, so we're going to go ahead and leave them that way.)

Second, your Synapse count. I talked about this a bunch in my article about BBF and his Tyranid list, but you don't always need to cram as much Synapse as possible into a list. This list has two Tervigons, the Zoanthropes, and the Trygon Prime providing Synapse, and the two Hive Guard, the Gargoyles, and the Termagants receiving it. That isn't an awful percentage, but it's probably a little bit higher than needed. Most of your Synapse will be in midfield or the enemy's backfield and you have access to Dominion if you absolutely need it, so you should be fine for the most part with a bit lower count than it stands.

That brings us to the third point: the Zoanthropes. With no Spore to bring them in where they need to be, these are going to be greatly limited by their range and vulnerable to eating the enemy's S8+ shots early on. The question you have to ask is "How badly do I need the ability to kill a Land Raider?", because that's the only thing that they are particularly going to provide for you compared to other options, and even there Trygons can potentially provide the same service in many ways, albeit with different weaknesses.

Lastly the Gargoyles. Gargoyles are a fine and excellent unit- not only is their plastic kit excellent, but they are very cheap for what you get in terms of abilities/statline and they are both a threat to several kinds of units and an excellent screening force. The problem is this relatively-small unit of them is NOT going to fill any of those roles very well, given the rest of the list. You don't need them to provide cover saves for stuff (you already have Gants for the foot units and they aren't big enough to block a Trygon, nothing is.) You don't have enough of them, numerically, to really take any number of casualties and still scare things in assault. You don't have a way to give them Preferred Enemy to multiply out their value. And, beyond all that, you have them equipped wrong. (We'll get to that at the end of the list, as not to interrupt here.)

So it's clear that we need to make some significant changes to the list in order to get it to do what we want it to do. Since the sender didn't provide any details when it comes to model availability/preferences, I'm going to include a couple different lists that will each play out differently to give some options there.
List 1, 1746 Tyranids
1 Tervigon (Cluster, Catalyst, Adrenal, Toxin)
2 Hive Guard
2 Hive Guard
2 Hive Guard
10 Termagants
1 Tervigon (as above)
15 Genestealers (Toxin)
15 Genestealers (Toxin)
16 Gargoyles
1 Trygon
1 Trygon
Fairly simple, keeps things basically as they were. A second Trygon replaces the Zoanthropes as our way to deal with heavy tanks and will help keep the aggression on; extra Gargoyles round out our points. This list is essentially the same as the original one, just tweaked to get the most out of what we have.

Another option here would be to drop the Gargoyles for Raveners (to threaten enemy backfield units more quickly) and/or add Adrenal to the Trygons, which can be helpful against Dreadnoughts and some other MCs.
List 2, 1746 Tyranids
1 Hive Tyrant (HVC, LW/BS, OA, Parox, Leech)
2 Tyrant Guard (Whips)
2 Zoanthrope
3 Hive Guard
3 Hive Guard
10 Termagants
10 Termagants
1 Tervigon (Cluster, Catalyst, Adrenal, Toxin)
1 Tervigon (ditto)
14 Genestealers (Toxin)
14 Genestealers (Toxin)
This list focuses more on the "midfield" aspect of the original; Genestealers present an early threat, but mostly act to keep the opponent occupied while other units advance into charge range. This is a very dangerous ploy, because you are counting on your opponent not having a good division between their anti-tank and anti-infantry firepower, thus forcing them to waste one or the other; if they do (e.g. a Dark Eldar list that can shoot Splinter at your 'Stealers and Lances at your T6) you are going to have problems. On the other hand, it keeps the Zoanthropes for dealing with harder targets and is thus less reliant on melee as a means of handling the enemy all in all, and the combined buff auras can be a difficult nut for even a dedicated enemy to breach.

Hopefully one or the other of these lists gets in the neighborhood of what you were aiming for, Colo; as always, if you have other questions about the list, requests for changes, etc, feel free to post here or email again and I'll do the best I can to comply with them.

Oh, and sorry to hear about your comp situation- unfortunately Tyranids are still regarded as "strong" in a lot of areas despite their shortcomings, so I would not be surprised to learn that you were ranked low on your comp scores, but there's little that can be done about that without knowing the system used, local preferences, etc.

How to Make a Monster-Bat
Here's our aside. Basically, Gargoyles only have two valid setups and one of them, I feel, is notably superior to the other. With WS3, they hit most everything in the game on 4s; with S3, they wound most things (that matter) on 5s; the Blinding Poison rule means that a roll of 6 to hit is an automatic wound. They have the Toxin Sac and Adrenal Gland upgrades available to them.

What this means is that Gargoyles have a significant chance of wounding anything based on the to-hit roll, which makes extra attacks (via additional bodies) more valuable than upgrades to their ability to wound things (via Toxin or Adrenal.) Furthermore, additional bodies provide additional survivability (which can negate the ability of Adrenal to let you strike before the enemy) and extra shots from their Fleshborer guns (further contributing to their weight of "attacks.") Let's look at the numbers on raw efficiency-per-point against T4 enemies, assuming a charge:

Naked: .1111 wounds-per-point
Adrenal only: .1190 wounds-per-point
Toxin only: .1190 wounds-per-point
Adrenal + Toxin: .1354 wounds-per-point

As you can see, the Adrenal- and Toxin-only variants are only barely more efficient than simply buying more bodies; when you factor in the shots from Fleshborers, subsequent rounds of combat, the ability to soak casualties, etc, they pretty clearly become worse in the overall estimation. The version with Adrenal and Toxin both, on the other hand, stands noticably above the others but suffers all the same disadvantages as the other two compared to the naked version and is investing a fairly significant number of points (eight per) in a T3/6+ model, which can be rather risky.

Hence, my overall determination is that the best way to outfit Gargoyles is simply not to do so at all- leave them as they come, with no upgrades, and simply run the largest swarm that your points allow. This maximizes their resilience, the area they can cover (to grant cover saves) and suffers only minutely in terms of overall killing potential compared to other variants.

(Some people will argue that Toxin is a good buy because it lets them threaten MCs and other high-toughness targets; I feel this is a mistake, as their Blinding Poison rule already does this about as efficiently as you need, so outfitting them into an even-more-specialized role is rather wasteful. Most Tyranid lists are quite good at killing MCs without any particular help.)

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