Kirb your enthusiasm!


"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A New Breed: Tyranid Warriors

Of the many emails I tend to get and talk I tend to see about Tyranids, here and other places around the web, one of the most common questions/laments is about Tyranid Warriors and how they used to be good but now they aren't. (This sounds pretty familiar, yes? Carnifexes, Genestealers, Lictors, Hormagaunts, etc all get this same moaning.) They're too expensive, everyone says. Without Eternal Warrior they're no good, they say. I think you all know what my respone to that is:


Tyranid Warriors are actually quite cheap for what you get- buying a 4+ save, a decent gun, good WS/BS, and high A you would pay WAY more than 30pts under the old book, and that's ignoring the 50% boost in survivability you get from the extra wound. If you can mitigate their vulnerability to ID, Warriors are an excellent low-cost scoring unit or assault force and they provide cheap Synapse coverage to boot.
Let's look at the Warrior's advantages in a little more depth, then. For one, they are pretty good melee combatants right out of the box. WS5 A3 and Scything Talons means they can do a pretty good number of non-MEQ units, and even against Marines they can inflict a reasonable number of casualties by weight of attacks- but don't rely on this to carry you through, as they actually only do somewhat more damage than a vanilla Assault Marine and cost twice as much. You can upgrade to Rending Claws, which basically makes you a poor Genestealer- I would avoid this, as the gain just isn't useful enough to be worth the points. (You can, however, trade your gun for Claws without paying anything, which is sometimes nice.) More impressively, you can upgrade to a power weapon for a very reasonable price, and with good combat stats this is a very powerful option; having the Lash Whip is a bit pricier, but ensures you'll be alive to actually make those attacks- I would strongly recommend paying the extra 5pts. (The Instant Death generally isn't reliable enough to worry about too much. Think of it as a nice side benefit, not a major feature.) We can also get Furious Charge (okay, but often redundant with Whips) and Poison (super-awesome, lets us reroll wounds on Marines and kill MCs easily), which are worth considering for combat-heavy builds.

Second major feature is shooting. Although they may not be as great at it as they are with melee, Warrior shooting is non-ignorable; even the basic guy sprays out three Boltgun shots to 18". We can take a cheap upgrade to S5 if we want, or one member can take a "heavy" weapon (S6 blast or S4 large blast)- this is nice because it's our only unique squad member, so we can use it to shrug off two more wounds before losing anything. Taking a Venom Cannon is usually going to be your best choice, as Tyanids always need more ways to shut down tanks, but if your metagame is basically all foot armies (i.e. "not very strong"), you may find the Barbed Strangler to be helful. Even for a shooty Warrior squad, however, your plan is to weaken them with firepower and then use your superior assault stats to finish things off in melee, so you want to make good use of your ability to move and shoot.

Third on the list is resilience- and make no mistake, Warriors are quite resilient. With three wounds, T4, and 4+ save, it takes rather a lot of Boltgun shots (eighteen, basically an entire squad Rapid Firing) to bring down just one of them; weapons like Plasma are even more inefficient. That brings us to our second point: always, always have cover. Either be in terrain or have units screening you, because if you are not protected, you are going to get chewed to pieces by Autocannons, Heavy Bolters, and similar mid-strength weapons. This is the foremost mistake that will kill the effectiveness of Warriors. Wound saturation (which we'll talk about later) is also a major factor in making them work, but for now we'll just say that it pays to have MCs and similar critters in the list.

Those are all some very nice upsides, but they're only useful if we can make them work. One big question is "Do we need them?" In lists that already run lots of Synapse, that have cheap scoring units, that have extensive suppression fire, or that are interested in arriving at the enemy very quickly to assault them, you may not want Warriors.

Speed is one problem with Warriors; to take full advantage of them, you want to be using both their shooting and melee abilities, which means not Running most of the time; this, in turn, makes them a full one to two turns slower than things like Raveners, Shrikes, Genestealers, Hormagaunts, etc, at arriving in combat. All-melee Warriors are possible, but they will always need forward elements to draw fire and tie up enemy units so that they can arrive to do their bloody work. More often than not, though, Warriors (like Tervigons and other "midfield" units) are going to be well behind the front lines of a fight, doing their best to support other units.

Presence of other units that do their job is another issue- while Warriors in cover can be ridiculously tough, Termagants that Go to Ground every turn are even more so and cost significantly less; if all you are looking for is a cheap way to score objectives and you already have Synapse coverage, as is common with the Tyrant/Tervigon/Hive Guard/TFex list, Warriors don't bring much to the table that you don't have already, so your points are probably better spent elsewhere. Similarly, if you are running lots and lots of suppression fire from Harpies, Carnifexes, or even Hive Guard, you may not need the few additional shots that Warriors bring to the table.

But most importantly is their model vulnerability. Warriors perform very well against most weapons, but they are very prone to taking horrendous casualties from those S8 attacks that are often floating around these days. Missiles and Power Fists are both the bane of Tyranid players and Warriors are quite unhappy with both of them. Sending them to engage TH/SS Terminators, getting caught by Long Fangs, or jumping in with a Tactical Squad with a Power Fist (a poor unit upgrade, but a common mistake) can cause some really unpleasant things to happen. Warriors need to be careful what units they engage and how- make sure to screen them with Termagants (or multicharge to tie the sarge up) to insure no Power Fists come within striking distance of them. As noted above, ALWAYS have cover for them or they will go away very quickly- a few shoddy rolls can always result in a squad disappearing, something that Marine players are intimately familiar with but many Tyranid players are not.

Let's talk about saturation for a second. Saturation is the concept that having a lot of one thing is better than some of one and some of another, at least when you're talking about targets for the enemy's guns. If, for example, you have one Land Raider and your enemy has two meltaguns, he might not feel too bad about his chances of wrecking you. But if you have two? He's getting worried. And three? He knows he's doomed. Likewise, if you have four Rhinos, he might not be super-worried about only running two squads of Long Fangs, but if you have six, or eight, or ten, he is going to start to panic as he realizes he is never going to kill them all. Armies are forced to make choices in what kind of weapons they bring to the field- anti-tank, anti-horde, anti-elite, etc; most will run a mix of guns to handle different types of opponents. (This is, incidentally, the proper way to do things, make no mistake.) If you run a wide spread of different types of targets, you allow him to use each of his types of guns on the right target and basically give him 100% efficiency on his firepower. If, however, you load up on a single type of target (light tanks, heavy tanks, infantry, etc), he will have trouble using his "other" guns to bear effectively on you- Heavy Bolters are mostly worthless against Chimeras, for example. This is the theory behind "spamming" units- you want to invalidate his ability to destroy you by only bringing one type of target.

This is useful to us with Warriors because, even though they are nominally infantry targets, they are vulnerable to the same heavy weapons that are used to kill monstrous creatures and other big targets, so there is an inclination of opponents to shoot these guns at them. For one, this is a trap- the effectiveness of a Missile Launcher against a Warrior is actually rather low, since the Warrior gets a cover save against it, whereas a monstrous creature rarely will. But for two, we can also take advantage of this fact by putting MCs and T4 multiwound creatures into our list, thus saturating the enemy with targets he wants to shoot his big guns at. These two factors are going to be the fundamental of any list featuring Warriors: entice him to shoot the wrong guns at the wrong targets and give him lots and lots of targets to pick from.

So how can we build our Warriors most effectively? Here are some chassis that I've settled on as the most useful.

3 Warriors, 1 Venom Cannon, 2 Deathspitters (Mycetic Spore optional): This is a basic objective-claimer; it tags along with the main body of a force, shooting at enemy transports (or other things if there are not transports) and hopes to shake/stun something. Being minimalist, you can easily Go to Ground if the enemy shoots any big guns at them, as you aren't losing much- their purpose is to survive the fight and score an objective. They are dangerous enough in CC that most units aren't thrilled about charging them, especially not if there's anything nearby that can provide support the turn after. They are also cheap enough that you can easily squeeze several into a list without compromising other aspects of a list. When brought in a Spore- often equipped with a Venom Cannon itself- they become an excellent way to claim a distant objective or try for an enemy objective.

3-4 Warriors, Lash Whip, Bonesword, Toxin Sacs: These are our choppy guys; on the charge, they kill off two Marines apiece, so even a small number of them are quite terrifying; they also can massacre independent characters, monstrous creatures, and just about anything else that gets in contact with them. Replacing their guns with Rending Claws isn't uncommon, as it gives them a chance against vehicles and they generally spend their time running towards the enemy anyways. We keep the squad size small so that they are a less tempting target for Battle Cannons and other large blasts that can end the whole unit in a single volley. A Tyranid Prime is an excellent choice to accompany them, as he can eat up S8/9 shots and only take one wound from them, not to mention being a monster in CC himself. They can also be brought in a Spore, though this is less common, in which case you usually want to leave them with guns in order to do some damage to the opposition as they land.

4-5 Warriors, Venom Cannon: A pure Synapse squad. These guys advance in the middle of a horde, shooting away without a care in the world and strung out in a long line to provide maximum Synapse coverage- it's not hard to cover 40" of the board with them alone, letting you hold wide-flung squads in place quite easily. They also serve secondary functions at... almost everything, really; the squad has a good number of attacks on the charge, shoots decently, can capture an objective (especially if it happens to be in the center of the board, where they like to hang out) and basically just annoys the heck out of the enemy. And for all this, you aren't really paying many points; less than a Tactical squad, and with significantly more wounds.

Building The Army

So now we have a good idea what we want to do with our Warriors, let's take a look at some ways to include them in an army. How about as melee threats? Coming in as the second line behind faster critters, Warriors could be our "problem-solving squad," there to finish off anything that has held up to our initial assaults.

Tyranid 1750 list
1 Tyranid Prime (BS/LW, Tox)
1 Tyranid Prime (ditto)
3 Hive Guard
3 Hive Guard
2 Zoanthropes
10 Termagants
1 Tervigon (Cluster, Catalyst)
3 Tyranid Warriors (BS/LW, Tox)
3 Tyranid Warriors (BS/LW, Tox)
20 Gargoyles
3 Raveners
1 Trygon
1 Trygon
A good suite of tank-killing, several big monsters, cover-providing forward elements, and a number of "hammers" that can wipe out most anything on foot give us a pretty solid list. We could play around with our AT suite, taking some Harpies in our FA slots and freeing up EL (and points) for other units. A single Tervigon gives us the potential for scoring midfield points and adds more MCs to the list; if we wanted to play aggressively, we could turn it into another Trygon and really go to town on people, although it might be good to find room for another Termagant squad (or some Warriors...) in order to insure that you're not totally without the ability to hold objectives.

Alright, so that worked pretty well. Let's try something with those other Warrior builds, shall we?

Tyranid 1750 list
1 Tyranid Prime (LW/BS, Toxin, Regen)
2 Hive Guard
2 Hive Guard
3 Tyranid Warriors (DS, 1 VC)
3 Tyranid Warriors (DS, 1 VC)
3 Tyranid Warriors (DS, 1 VC)
3 Tyranid Warriors (DS, 1 VC)
10 Termagants (Devourer)
10 Termagants (Devourer)
1 Harpy (HVC)
1 Harpy (HVC)
1 Harpy (HVC)
1 Tyrannofex (Rupture, Cluster, Dessicator)
It looks like a regular Tyranid "T6 Wall" at first glance, but it plays completely differently; six scoring units can cluster all about the objectives and cling to them for dear life; anything they shoot ducks for cover, and the remaining units spit out fire to annoy the enemy and slow their advance. The Prime can soak wounds and provide a significant melee threat as needed; Devilgaunts give anything on foot a bad time, and our extensive suppression fire insures that many units end up hoofing it. The third Harpy could be switched for some extra Hive Guard or such, but Harpies give us suppression shooting combined with a fast-response melee threat if anything gets too close to us, with the Tyrannofex adding shooting and melee of its own. Without as many MC frames to hide behind your Harpies are a bit fragile, but keep them moving and shut down enemy armor and you should mostly be fine- shaving a few points for Regen would be a very nice idea. Most all of the guns in this list have good stand-off potential, so unlike a majority of Tyranid lists, you can actually engage the enemy at very long ranges; woe be to the Dark Eldar army that thinks they can run circles around you! If you find the suppression fire excessive, it is also possible to give all the Warriors Boneswords (or Sword/Whip) so that even charging in against them is a huge pain for most armies.

These are hardly the only way to build. Take, for example, this list sent in to me by a reader looking for advice:

Tyranid List, 2000pts
warrior prime, scything, lash whip, bonesword, toxic, regen 115 pts
warrior prime, scything, rending, toxic, regen 100 pts
3*3 hive guard 450 pts
2*3 warriors, scything, lash whip, bonesword, toxic 300 pts
3 warriors, deathspitters, venom cannon 120 pts
2*4 raveners, rending, 280 pts
3 trygons, adrenal glands 630 pts
(Apologies to the sender in question for not getting to this sooner, or for giving it its own post- it seemed to fit in well with the article and Kirb, the other authors, and I receive rather a lot of emails.)

This is actually a very good list, a few minor quibbles aside- the two Primes should both be Whip/Sword/etc, as the small number of points saved doesn't make up for the huge drop in close combat efficiency. That aside, however, the list does a pretty good job of covering all its bases, although it might be nice to have slotted in a screening unit of Gargoyles/Hormagaunts somewhere. But all things considered, it covers its bases quite well and is an excellent demonstration of how to build a good, aggressive Warrior list. (Note that it largely concedes itself to not have scoring units, but this is a voluntary concession.)

Along similar lines:

Tyranid 2000pt list
1x Tyranid Prime - 80
3x 3 Hive Guard - 450
3x 4 Warriors, 3 Deathspitter, 1 Venom Cannon - 450
3x 4 Raveners, Rending Claws, Scything Talons - 420
3x Trygon - 600
This one has a few small problems- the Warriors aren't as much of a threat, and its Prime isn't the same kind of danger that the other list's are. If I were running it, I would change it to 4x3 Warriors (which puts us down 15pts), pull one Ravener from each squad (which leaves us up 90pts), drop one Hive Guard (+140), and add a second Tyranid Prime, giving them both Boneswords and Regen. With our last 20pts, we can give two of our Trygons Adrenal Glands. The list isn't nearly as focused as the other one, but we have good transport-killing, bunches of suppression fire, and a multitude of fast, CC-capable units. As with the above list, the lack of screening units could be a problem- we might think about dropping some Raveners and a few points elsewhere in order to take a big squad of Gargoyles, which could fly in front of the other units and provide cover- with their huge wingspan and numbers, even Trygons can get a save out of them sometimes.

Tyranid Warriors are not a poor man's anything, nor are they weak, useless, or narrow- rather, they are excellent generalists in a codex that, unlike Orks and Marines, does not get many generalists. They fill a useful role in a number of armies and, as troops, can easily be fit into most forces without having to worry about crowding out other units.

Follow us on Facebook!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...