Sunday, July 25, 2010

Balancing your Bugs

by Anonymous Foodie

Some recent discussions on balance and "what makes a good Nid List" have inspired me to utterly destro... erm... add my counterpoints to the arguments presented, focusing on my own typical 2000 point list.

I had never, until this discussion, seen Stelek's "balanced shooty nids", consisting of a cheap Tyranid Prime, 3 units of Hive Guard, 2 Harpies, 2 Tervigons (with the minimum gants needed to field them as troops), and 3 Tyrannofexes.

My face looked something like this;

I must have missed the point where "balanced" started to mean "I can shoot down tanks".

Now, I like Hive Guard. I like Harpies. I wouldn't field a Tyfex in probably under 2.5k, but I don't think they're bad in and of themselves. But when you think a bunch of anti-transport shots are going to wreck every army you face (what about armies on foot? You know, the ones where killing 10 things a turn means nothing?), that just seems silly to me.

Lists like this seem, to me, to just ignore a simple fact of the Tyranid Army; they are weak against armor. In a sense, this is true of both AV and heavy infantry.

That's not to say putting down a few tanks means GG against Tyranids - I've fought IG and come on top... I've also fought IG and fallen pretty hard. It's a quirk of the army, though, which means that while you can put up a list like the one above to "get around it", you're generally paying a premium for doing so (in points, slot allocation, or both), and limiting yourself otherwise.

So, let me throw down my own version of balance, and a little explanation of tactics/how it functions.

Hive Tyrant
Lashwhip/Bonesword, Heavy Venom Cannon
Armored Shell (2+)
2 powers - Paroxysm and Psychic Scream have been fun lately

Tyranid Prime
Lashwhip/Bonesword, Deathspitter

2 Lictors
2 Zoanthropes, Spore Pod
3 Hive Guard

5 Warriors
Scything Talons, Deathspitter
20 Hormagaunts
18 Termagants
Adrenal Glands, Toxin Sacs

Fast Attack
5 Shrikes
Boneswords, Adrenal Glands
20 Gargoyles

Heavy Support
2 Biovores

2k on the nose (convenient how that works out), and if I may say so can pose a threat to just about anything you'll throw at me, without being built for 'Ard Boyz level tournament play.

The army functions as three independent Nodes, with a few independent broods thrown in for good measure.

First off, the Hormagaunts form a screen for the Prime/Warriors and Hive Guard. This is the forward wave of the army, acting as an aggressive frontal assault. The warriors are pretty solid support between shooting and assault, Hormagaunts are cheap cover/decent in assault, and Hive Guard (obviously) open up light armor on the way in.

Then my baby momma - the Tervigon with her spawn typically go for either my home objective, or one rather out of the way if there are multiple. More defensive in nature, Mrs T will pop out swarms (in non-KP missions) to flood the chosen objective with a big field of "Feelin' lucky, punk?". I've had this blob survive (and win) a charge by Wazdakka and his nobs - it's surprisingly nasty, and cheap enough (under 300 points) to happily sit back and contest all game. The Biovores usually will set up camp here, using gaunts for cover, and lobbing their doom spores at infantry.

Shrikes and Gargoyles are my hunters. They're fast, and exceedingly deadly. Most people want to go for the sword/whip combo on warriors, and it's pretty solid - but I just don't have the spare 25 points, and honestly for what I want this unit to do the twin Swords are better. Have a big nasty character? A power unit like Nob Bikers, Thunderwolf Cav, or some other random deathstar? Meet my Shrikes. WS5 with re-rolled 1's means usually hitting on 3's (though 4's isn't terrible, with 4A each charging). With Adrenals, they're often going first, and S5 is enough to put the hurt on most things. The best part? Against most uber-characters that sport ridiculous toughness values, I only need one 6 to get the job done, because even with Ld 10 you're failing that test half of the time, and then it's "Good job, sir, thank you for playing". They're fragile as can be... 50 points for a guy with a 5+ isn't something I'd normally suggest (hence the flapping swarms in front of them to grant cover), but when used carefully these guys will wreak havoc on your nastiest units (or just wipe a squad of marines on the charge, which is always nice).
And speaking of Gargoyles, these guys, more than other gaunts, are more than just mobile cover, for one simple reason; Blinding Poison. Without fail this one rule easily doubles my wound output in every combat. Usually it does better than that. I can throw them at Wraithlords and expect a wound or two to come out of it - that's saying something for a 6 point guy. And while I don't do it myself, you can cheaply add adrenals or toxin to these guys for an extra-nasty punch.

Beyond that, we have a few independent broods flitting about.

The Hive Tyrant will sometimes go off alone, or follow along with the forward wave of gaunts and warriors. Pot shots at light armor, enhancing the swarm in assault with either Paroxysm or Scream (fun to get in close and pop that off, and shoot at some far-off enemy). And can tackle some enemy characters thanks to his tricksy little sword and whip. If I had the points, I'd throw Acid Blood on him - every time you wound him in combat, pass an I1 init test or take a wound without a save. That's just mean.
Far more of a support beast now than the cheap dome-wrecker that the 150 point Flyrant used to be, he's really taken the role of Swarm Commander.

Trygon - the new black. All I have to say is Beatstick. It's what he does, and does well. He has 6 attacks base. Ws5, re-rolling all misses. 6 wounds and T6 (and a solid 3+) to shrug off the hurt. And he's Fleet. And has a decent gun, if you like. And can DS in safely to pop up and say hello.

Maybe the Carnifex wouldn't suck so bad (at least as a close-combat option) if this guy wasn't in the codex. But I'm not complaining.

I've had him act as a simple distraction, soaking up an entire army's fire for a turn while the rest of my force advanced freely for a turn. I've also had him eat things. Lots of things. I'm pretty happy either way, to be honest.

Zoanthropes in the Pod. They drop down, they blow up a big tank. Usually they get shot up afterward, or assaulted, or some other gruesome fate. But they're dead useful, crack armor like none other, and with two of them, even hoods and runic weapons usually let at least one through. It will also get some Shadow action up in their face, and some forward Synapse. Always a plus.

Lictors. These guys are tricksy to the max. Their targets are limited, but usually very bad for you. Heavy Weapons Teams, sniper teams, backfield artillery in the form of mortars or basalisk-esque tanks... Lictors pop up and pose an immediate threat.

In any case, that's my version of a balanced Nid list. I have an answer for most things, use the synergy that the codex now requires, and capitalize on the Nids ever-present use of messing with your target priority. It's definitely not a mirror-list (I didn't mean to make every unit different, but hey, it works), but it also contains some level of redundancy... there are multiple units that can deal with armor at range, some up close, and plenty of anti-infantry.

So let's have it then - how does your own list, Nids or otherwise, compare? What wrench would you throw at me, or how would this mess with your normal tactics? Do you appreciate varied lists, or think that mirror lists with redundant units are the way to go (covering your bases is always good)?


  1. Stelek's lists for the last year or so have all been Anti-Tank heavy. I think he's too embroiled in his own mental metagame to realize that the country at large is still running lots of foot lists of various sorts. Mech is good, make no mistake, but it's not universal.

    To which he would probably curse and say that people should be meching up, but "should" doesn't mean "are". Plus the newer codices are making foot more viable than it was right after the IG codex was released. Just look at 'Ard Boyz this year versus last. Last year's Semis were 95% mech. While this year only 1/2 to 1/3 were.

    That said, I think you need more anti-tank. At 2K, you've only got 2 dedicated AT units, and one of those is a suicide drop squad. Not enough.

    My own list (were I running bugs) would probably revolve around 2 units of Hive Guard and 2 Tyrannofexes for AT. Zoeys are too fragile for me to even think about. That would allow you to reliably pop around 3-4 transports (or MCs) per turn. Once the cans are open, you can mop up with some assault troops. The Hive Guard/T-Fex combo is the most successful one I've seen for dealing with Guard armies like mine.

  2. Ah, my nid senses were tingling.

    I will put it out there that I think stelek is pretty bad at making Nid lists. With out AV options he doesn't know what to do. The list you posted is probably his best list, and I'm not the biggest fan.

    Tyranids probably have one of the worst times with balanced, and competitive. If we want to take out mech, we have to suck points into two(three) units. I know in my 1.5k list 55% of my points go to anti-mech. But I'm tired of getting run over by No named above posters IG. haha.

    My list after many works and defeats has changed to its current form
    Alpha warrior W/sword (dual or with whip)
    Tervigon (adrenal glands, tox sacs, catalyst)
    2 Hive guard
    2 Hive guard
    2 Hive guard
    10 Termagaunts
    Tervigon (adrenal glands, tox sacs, catalyst)
    Tyrannofex (Rupture cannon, cluster spines, dessicatar larvae)
    Tyrannofex (Rupture cannon, cluster spines, dessicatar larvae)
    3 Biovores

    This is my core 1.5k list, and it would take a great deal of forethought for me to take something different than this to a tournament. The only real problem I've had is lack of synapse. My next add ins would be warriors and then genestealers. Only after 2k would I even consider adding in zoanthropes, they are just too much of a liability for me. Plus with the new pod rules, eh.

    I find that if I target light armor early on with my T-fex, and focus fire on heavy armor with my hive guard it seems to work well. All the while approaching their lines. After cracking vehicles, between biovores and all of the templates the Tfex can lay down I've handled infantry pretty well. My biovores took a 10man death company squad down about 2/3 before they hit combat.

    I do miss having a dedicated assault unit, but I seem to be able to handle everything else pretty well. You would be surprised how well gaunts can handle nearly anything when properly buffed. I've taken down something like 2-3 trygons with gaunts alone.

    I've been thinking about completely changing my list and trying something new and fun. Probably after I get everything painted. I'm thinking Tyrant, warriors, stealers, raveners, trygon, zoathropes. Pretty much everything I'm not using now.

    So Foodie, if I may ask, Have you had difficulty against full mech? And how do your hormagaunts do for you? Mine get ignored till the turn before they hit and then get wiped out by one squad, I hate not being beasts.

  3. I've used the 3x2 HG, 2 Tervy, 2 T-fex, Tyrant and Stealers and it's worked out nicely. Reason you see so much anti-tank in Stelek's list is because everything can handle infantry just fine. Termagants boosted by Tervigons and Tyrants are more than capable of killing off damn near anything, except tanks. Hive Guard are dirt cheap, durable and extremely useful. T-fexes are a PITA to kill and good against infantry and tanks. Tyrant is a CC beat stick and awesome force multiplier. Stealers are support assaulters, infiltrators, or just general annoying dudes.

    Foodie, I'm not a fan of your list. It has good elements, but it's a "1 of everything" battleforce set up. Zopes come in turn 2 on a 4+, so all your AT comes from a handful of HG. Once they die, mech rolls you. Even if the Zopes do come in, who doesn't have psychic defense to stop them? Warriors are way too vulnerable to S8 guns, particularly Battle Cannons and up. 1 Trygon is getting shot up when he appears, which may not be until turn 5.

    Hive Commander or the Swarmlord would help significantly, as would building in more redundancy. HG to knock out mech so Trygons, Gargs, and so on can get into CC right away works just fine.

  4. I haven't had to face much true full mech, honestly, and it's something that I want to do more of in one of those "better myself" practices.

    That said, this force has served me quite well.

    Some say I only have 2 dedicated anti-mech units. I say why dedicate? Things I use to pop tanks in this list:

    Hive Tyrant
    Hive Guard

    That's 6 units, all but one of which can function at range. You could argue that the Lictor's 6" is hardly "range", but when he Marbo's behind your tank, it's effectively the same thing.

    I'll even use the Tervigon and Termagants if I need to - so that's 8 units in a pinch; well over half of the army.

    Do Tyranids suffer vs Mech? Yes. They always have. Well, rather, yes and no. We don't have Melta or Lascannons, and in the world of the Imperium, without those all hope is lost.

    But we are the Hive Mind. Things just have to be approached differently. It's a mindset thing - you all see two units that fill this role, but I'm able to name eight. Are they all as optimal as a vet squad full of Melta? Nope. Do they all get the job done? Absolutely. Remember - I don't even need to blow up your Russ, I just need to shake it.

    Tyranids can put out lists with traditional forms of anti-tank (Hive Guard, Tyfexes, etc), but then what? You have a couple of flame templates and maybe 30 gaunts to deal with infantry. That's not my idea of a good time. If it works for you, power to you. Nids are a flexible book, and a variety of builds are potent and usable.

    And to answer a couple more specific questions/comments:

    Zoanthropes - yeah, Hoods are annoying. But I'm a multiple-model Ld 10 unit. It takes luck on your side to stop one of them, let alone the brood.

    Warriors - I haven't had massive problems with insta-death. Yes, it exists. It happens sometimes. But with cover and the ability to put a S8 wound on the Prime (still with a 4+ to shrug it off) you'd be surprised.

    Hormagaunts - Love. Beastly gaunts got there turn 2. Current gaunts get there turn 2. Shrug. While Beast gives you a greater overall movement, Bounding Leap actually gives you a more reliable move. You can always Fleet, you can't always charge. I can just about count on 11" a turn. 10" to be safe. In the land of objective games, this is far better than a potential 24" move from charging. My opinion, of course. I feel the new gaunt is not only far cheaper (and still deadly effective), but more tactically flexible.

  5. The list I was running at 2k got Faqed out of existence with the banishing of 2x hive commander, but I've changed it to the following with some success proving good against vehicles, infantry, and PSYKERS:

    Hive Tryrant- wings, Heavy Venom, hive commander

    2x 10 termagants with pods
    2x Tervigon- clustrspines, toxin, adrenal, catalyst

    2x 2 zoanthropes with pods

    2x harpies with heavy venom

    2x mawloc

    Everybody drops in on a 3+ on turn 2. Heavy venom cannons shoot up your transports or infantry while zoeys go for larger targets. podding gants screen zoeys (and actually scored the winning objectives in my last game). Deathleaper messes with people's brains and the mawlocs try to eat anything not in a transport, or just set about eating transports.

    the list doesn't hit super hard, but it's got a lot of staying power with all those MCs running around. still tweaking it, but I'm fairly happy with it so far.

  6. Chumb is correct- Stelek's list handles most infantry threats just fine by virtue of assaulting them and laughing as it tears them apart with S6 T6 MCs or piles and piles of Poisoned, Furious Gaunts.

    It is, however, somewhat lopsided and doesn't hand;e some armies (especially BA) very well.

    Your own Tyranid list I find very... lacking. No Tyrant Guard? Lictors in a non-reserve list? It really feels like you randomly selected units out of the codex, being careful to never take two of anything. It has no redundancy or overlap (except in rare cases, like the Gargs and Horms) and no real focus- your plan is effectively "Imma move these guys forward and try and kill him."

  7. @Foodie

    If you want to face lots of mech drop by G2D4 on a Saturday. We have several players who run all mech lists.

  8. I told Foodie I'd get a game in with him. I can write up a 2K list for =I=

    and you can be sure there will be a lot of tanks. a lot of them will be Rhino chassis and/or Chimera, but 12-13 tanks isn't much to sneeze at.

    or I could do DH, and have two LRC's, and a bunch of rhinos.

  9. I'm currently using this Tyranid list,

    1750 Pts - Tyranids Roster - Tyranid Test list

    HQ: The Swarmlord (1#, 280 pts)
    1 The Swarmlord @ 280 pts

    : Tyrant Guard Brood (2#, 130 pts)
    2 Tyrant Guard Brood @ 130 pts (Lash Whip)

    Elite: Hive Guard Brood (2#, 100 pts)
    2 Hive Guard Brood @ 100 pts

    Elite: Hive Guard Brood (2#, 100 pts)
    2 Hive Guard Brood @ 100 pts

    Elite: Hive Guard Brood (2#, 100 pts)
    2 Hive Guard Brood @ 100 pts

    Troops: Tervigon (1#, 195 pts)
    1 Tervigon @ 195 pts (Adrenal Glands; Toxin Sacs; Catalyst)

    Troops: Tervigon (1#, 195 pts)
    1 Tervigon @ 195 pts (Adrenal Glands; Toxin Sacs; Catalyst)

    Troops: Termagant Brood (10#, 60 pts)
    9 Termagant Brood @ 60 pts
    1 Termagant (Strangleweb)

    Troops: Termagant Brood (10#, 60 pts)
    9 Termagant Brood @ 60 pts
    1 Termagant (Strangleweb)

    Heavy Support: Tyrannofex (1#, 265 pts)
    1 Tyrannofex @ 265 pts (Rupture Cannon; Cluster Spines; Thorax Swarm (larvae))

    Heavy Support: Tyrannofex (1#, 265 pts)
    1 Tyrannofex @ 265 pts (Rupture Cannon; Cluster Spines; Thorax Swarm (larvae))

    Total Roster Cost: 1750

    Plenty of Anti-tank and Anti-infantry and the ability to reliably hold multiple objectives.

    The only things that really need changing are the Stranglewebs as they've done nothing. I'll probably get a few extra termagants with the 20 points I'll save.

  10. Since putting my guard down I have been working on my Space Wolves and My Tyranids. I have played 2 games at 1250 and beat mech guard list pretty easy with this list. I have a different idea of how Tyranids should play though.

    Hive Tyrant with Twin Linked Dev and Brainleach Worms. 12 str 6 shots.

    2 Tyrant Guard with Hive Tyrant.

    2 10 termaguants as troops.

    2 Tervigons as troops with Toxin Sacs and Catalyst (Feels no pain Psychic power)

    2 Hive Guard (Which I forgot to use in both games. Didn't even put on the table)

    2 Zoanthropes in Mycetic Spore with Cluster Spines. 18" Str 5 large blast.

    2 Zoanthropes in Mycetic Spore with Cluster Spines. 18" Str 5 large blast.

    This list was effective against mech guard in a kill point mission due to the feel no pain psychic ability and the drop podding zoanthropes that chew up armor.

    As I have reconfigured this list at the 1250 level, I have:

    Removed the hive guard, and added another tervigon in the HQ slot with Onslaught to get the Tyrant into combat sooner and still allow him to shoot his 12 shots, removed the toxin sacs from the tervigons as they didn't do much.

    The Tyrannofex is just too expensive for what he does to me. I would rather have a Trygon Prime for 240 that provides synapse, 12 str 5 shots, fleet, etc. You combine The Trygon Prime with Onslaught, and Catalyst, and beware!


out dang bot!

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