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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tyranids in 6E Part 3: The Best of the Best of the Best of the Best

(The Cleopatra Story.)
Alright, apologies on the delay in the series- a combination of work, laziness, and RL responsibilities kept it half-finished for quite a while, but I'm finally getting back into the swing of writing a bit here, so the rest of the series shouldn't take nearly so long.

So Elites; it's your best slot. It's always had the strongest competition in the Tyrant codex and that competition has usually been dominated, Micheal Phelps-style, by Hive Guard. 6E has a lot of people experimenting with dropping them in favor of other units now that mech is supposedly dead, but I would be skeptical of such claims- tanks are very much alive and kicking these days and the fundamental facets of the game haven't really changed any, so the same concerns that drove certain inclusions are still there. However, some units did make some major gains with the new rules, so it's worth going over what they can do these days.

In some ways, the Elites slot hasn't changed much since 5E; it's still where you get your anti-tank at and Hive Guard are still the best way to do that. In others, however, it has- anti-tank isn't necessarily the one and only concern you have, so other options have a chance to make themselves known as well. That said, however, it's going to be unusual not to see at least one unit of Hive Guard anyways, simply because they're so good at what they do and what they do is quite useful. Especially as the meta diversifies and players get the models to support more builds, however, other options will sometimes take their place. Elites are still going to be by far the most heavily-competed-for slot in the book, since it's where not only AT but also many of our utility units come from.

Hive Guard
They're S8 with two shots. They ignore almost every kind of cover in the game. They're BS4. They're T6 and two wounds. Seriously, what else do you want in a unit? Many people are dropping Hive Guard from their list under the assumption that mech won't be a factor anymore, but I think this is a poor strategy- you are still going to see a lot of tanks on the field, just not the absolute prevalence they had before. Those charge attacks from Termagants and Gargoyles can handle some armor, but there are many others that they won't be able to reach (like flyers and artillery tanks) or hurt (like Demolishers or Necrons.) Having a ranged unit around to shut down dangerous targets early on is still very important for many lists.

The real question for Hive Guard is going to be whether or not the additional psychic powers and options from Zoanthropes can beat them out- Hive Guard are tougher against most guns, cheaper, and have equal or better range in all cases, but they are primarily a tank-killing unit. Not ONLY a tank-hunter, to be sure- they murder xenos units and cause Instant Death for Marines quite handily still- but it's the real reason you're going to want them.

Zoanthropes were probably the biggest shift in the Elites slot, and not unsurprisingly; with all the new psychic power options, they have gone from having two very limited (albeit useful) guns to having about two dozen semi-random options. My previous article on the subject covered things in a lot more detail, but essentially I feel that Biomancy and Telepathy are going to be your two main picks for Zoey power choices, the former for buffs/debuffs and the latter for killing/crippling enemy units.

Hive Guard are still a superior tank-killer against most targets- Zoanthropes have to contend with making a psychic test, a hit roll, bypass a Deny roll, a penetration roll, and then a damage chart roll in order to have any effect; however, they still have uses against hard targets and such, so the option to keep your standard powers if you need to is nice to have. The range limitation is even more troubling than before, however; Zoeys can obviously still be brought down in a Spore, which is great if you're using them for witchfire powers, but if you want to use blessings/maledictions you will need them on foot, since they cannot use such powers the turn they arrive from reserve (as per the BRB.)

I think you'll thus see two main setups for Zoanthropes. Mycetic Spore Zoeys will be pulling from Telepathy and Telekinesis as well as sometimes keeping their basic powers; they will be "problem solvers" that drop in on top of a unit (infantry or vehicle, depending on what they chose) and hopefully annihilate it. In this they are fairly effective (Psychic Shriek can easily wipe out an infantry unit in a single blow, and likewise Warp Lance for a tank), if somewhat unreliable, but they are also quite expensive- you only want to be doing this against targets you can't otherwise handle, as they will set you back around 150-200pts. Such a unit will mostly be a one-off selection unless you're building a kooky reserve list.

The other main setup will be full units of three on foot, something that still seems bizarre to me but makes more and more sense. Foot Zoeys will rarely be able to hit the enemy with witchfires due to their slow speed, but honestly you don't care- you're trying for as many blessings/maledictions as you can get and hanging out at the back of the army casting away. While rather spindly, Zoeys aren't so large you can't hide them behind one of your MCs (or some handy blocking terrain), so it's not unreasonable to try and shield them from Lascannons and Missile fire during those critical early turns, and holding them until T3 or so is really what you want- if you can make it to there, when your charges are going off, you're probably doing fine. Foot Zoeys are all about swinging charges in your favor, either by crippling the enemy, shutting down their firepower, or helping your little dudes out.

The jury is still out on whether simply taking Hive Guard for their extremely versatile firepower is a better option; certainly Zoanthropes can be effective, but measuring up to the ignores-cover-Missile Launcher is a rough time, and I'm still not sure they can manage it. Wrecking tanks is a big deal, even now, so don't throw those Hive Guard out of your lists quite yet. It may well be that a single unit of Zoeys takes the place of some Hive Guard without replacing them entirely.

Ymgarl Genestealers
Ymgarl are stuck in an awkward place- their ability to assault from reserve very reliably (as opposed to units like Zagstruck or Vanguard Vets) is incredibly annoying to many people, but their lack of grenades and expense mean that actually doing anything with that assault can be difficult and they compete with all your primary sources of anti-tank. SO while they are nominally a powerful unit that can bring some much-needed reach to a list, they are usually left out because other units fill more-needed roles. 6E hasn't really changed any of these factors for them, but it gives them a little more functionality against tanks and lessened the need for dedicated tank-hunting units somewhat, making them a more viable choice than they were before.

I think Ymgarl will tend to fit into a support role not unlike that of Zoeys, acting as a one-off alongside a contingent of Hive Guard in a list that wants some additional backfield disruption; indeed, this may actually become a reasonably-strong choice in the codex, as Hammer/Anvil and Vanguard Strike deployments can both result in some very long distances to cover before getting to the enemy. With such extensive ground to cover, being able to break up formations and hit artillery or heavy weapons units to limit the firepower coming at the main Tyranid force can be very useful; on the other hand, the new model-by-model cover rules mean that it is going to be a lot more crowded in most terrain pieces and thus harder to find a spot for the Ymgarl when they arrive.

For those looking at reserve lists, remember that Ymgarl are NOT a "forced to start in reserve" unit- Dormant gives you the option to use it, it does not force you to do so.

Doom of Malan'tai
Like most of the Tyranid units, the Doom still is exactly what he was before: a dedicated infantry-murdering tool, though an unreliable one. Unfortunately, since Mycetic Spores aren't transports (they have their own "special" rules) you don't get the 6" disembark, and even above and beyond that you still have to deal with the very good possibility that he will show up and they will roll a six or ten and nothing will really happen. Furthermore, they still get cover saves against him (though at the reduced 6E rate, of course) and he still can't affect units inside a transport (which you will see more than a few of), so getting the Doom to really "go off" can take a bit of work. It's also a lot easier for opponents to bring him down, since they can sit 6.1" away from him on their turn (thanks to premeasuring) and try and crunch him with a Power Fist, as it's possible to be out of his aura and still assault now.

On the other hand, we now have access to two very useful psychic powers, one of which we can guarantee and one of which... we cannot. Psychic Shriek is our guarantee- it's the Primaris power, so we can always have it if we want it. Shriek is basically something you can take as "insurance," giving you a second chance to do some damage to a unit if they rolled well against his aura. It's basically an inverted version of Cataclysm; Shriek is at its best when you failed with your aura, since it doesn't care about your stats in any way- it gives you very good chances to bulk up to a huge number of wounds so you can't just be Bolter'd down. Cataclysm, on the other hand, is much better if you already ate some guys and are S7-10 so you can consistently wound infantry, glance/pen vehicles (thanks, new blast weapon rules!) and otherwise wreak havoc. Which you take is something of a toss-up, but personally I prefer Shriek to cement his role as a "you must kill me now with Missiles" unit. Your third, secret option is to roll on Biomancy and cross your fingers for Iron Arm. It's a 1/6 chance, which is a real long shot, and most of the other powers in there are kinda mediocre for him, but if you get it, the enemy will have exactly one chance to kill you on that turn you arrive (since you can't cast Blessings after coming in from reserve); after that, you are unstoppable. I would only do this as a gimmick, but insofar as it goes it would be pretty hilarious.

Doom is definitely a second-tier choice in most cases, but far from a bad one; he does pretty horrible things to foot lists and with some luck he can hurt others as well. Tyranids don't lack for ways to deal with MEQ squads, but if you're knee-deep in power armor and are looking for a solution, you could do a lot worse than bring him along. Just don't expect the Doom to live past his turn of arrival because, barring excellent luck or an opponent that doesn't have the guns to deal with him, he's not going to.

With the general weakening of cover and vehicles, you would think that the Venomthrope would have gotten significantly better, but unfortunately it's the opposite: he's actually a lot worse now and probably not something you're ever going to see across the table from you. There are a number of factors that play into it, but essentially it boils down to one thing: his cover save sucks.

Now, I don't mean the one that he provides to other units; that got comparatively better, since the majority of cover is 5+ now and he provides it to the whole unit, regardless of their position. No, what sucks is his cover save, the one he will be rolling against enemies shooting at him- because make no mistake, enemies are going to shoot at him in order to expose your other units. Whereas before he could always get that 4+ from screening units and then, if in danger, hit the dirt for a 3+, now he is looking at a 5+ and can't go to ground at all, so as often as not that very first Missile will take him out, and at 55pts he's not particularly cheap for how easily he goes down. With his large profile, he's also not particularly easy to hide; a Tervigon/TFex can do it, but nothing else (not even Trygons, due to shape) is really big enough to do so.

All of this is pretty unfortunate because, aside from the fact that they will never live long enough to matter, the Venomthrope provides some pretty good benefits. Making the enemy charge through Difficult Terrain is quite devastating now, even if Dangerous did get a lot less threatening, and with the Fearless changes denying the enemy the initial boost in attacks really makes the fight drag out. (Note that you do NOT have Defensive Grenades anymore, you just deny the enemy the bonus attack for charging.) So if you play somewhere that has tons and tons of blocking terrain, you may be able to get away with running some; since they help you against both melee and shooting, running them is actually not all that bad of a plan, though you'll rarely need more than one or two.

It's the only unit in the codex worse than Ripper Swarms. Its gun still looks like a giant penis. Don't ever use them. Mock and ridicule anyone who does.

Lictors weren't really good before and they still basically aren't. They're not godawful-atrocious, but they're just very underwhelming in a variety of ways still, and very few of the 6E changes helped them. 5+ cover means their only real save gets notably worse (despite Stealth) which means that they're even more vulnerable to both Bolters and Missiles alike. Combat pile-ins help them slightly, but they still simply aren't good enough to win fights with most things- Tactical Marines and even Guardsmen will generally punch them to death, bar a string of lucky Rends. Not being characters means they can't even duck into challenges/take out the Power Fist to keep themselves alive. Their shooting is equally mediocre- two S6 Rending hits are okay, but BS3 is a big limiter, as is the absurdly-short range.

Lictors, unfortunately, can't lay claim to doing really anything that another unit can't do better. Ymgarl surpass them in virtually every way as a disruption unit and their reserve bonuses are largely impossible to take advantage of or worthless. They are expensive, not very survivable, and not very killy; they really don't have a place in the army, especially not when they're competing with the best units available.

Deathleaper has a few advantages compared to the usual Lictor; he can play movement tricks, he nerfs a psyker (or other IC), and he's both harder to hurt and a bit more dangerous. He is, however, WAY more expensive, and when you're comparing to the Lictor in that regard you know that's a really bad thing. Thus, if you're taking him it's clearly not for anything resembling combat ability, it's going to be for his secondary abilities, and in that sense the drop to his survivability is very significant. Before, he generally had a 3+ cover save and the enemy had to roll Night Fight at half distance to shoot him- this meant you could often position him such that he would only be shot 1-2 times and could shrug most of those hits off pretty easily. Getting Shrouded instead of the enemy being unable to shoot him at all means he has a 2+ cover save, but not being shot at all is better than 2+ cover.

More psykers around means that his ability to make things difficult for them is nice, but since Tyranids have one of the strongest psychic defenses in the game these days, that isn't a huge priority. His inability to hide from shots easily also means that contesting distant objectives is also not really a good plan for him, leaving him with very few options as to why you might take him.

Overall Thoughts
The Elites slot didn't shift a lot with the new edition; Hive Guard are still the main contender, with Zoanthropes and Ymgarl taking the followup positions. How you mix them is going to depend on exactly what you need, but two units of Hive Guard supported by one of the secondary choice is going to be very common. As the edition rolls along you can expect the choices to be come more narrow, as we are now officially an "out of date" codex, but like many such books, limping along on the strong choices in the slot at least remains a reasonable option.

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