Thursday, July 19, 2012

6th ed Lovin' - Tyranid Edition

by Anonymous Foodie


There is no less than a slew of blog posts and forum channels covering Tyranids in 6th edition.  Let's be honest, this is true of every army out there.  But Tyranids were my first army, and it's hard for the first thoughts of a new edition to be anything but bug-related.

So what's my first impression as a long-time bug enthusiast?  Thank you, GW.

I'm not about to stand up and say that Nids are the new black.  Per se.  But they're not that odd off-mustard color, either.  It seems that Xenos as a whole got a push in 6th, and at long last the bugs didn't get left behind.

To truly appreciate the new footing that the nids have found for themselves, we have to understand the slippery slope that they were on before.  There were two main issues with the codex that left the list as a whole lackluster.

First, 5th ed saw the rise of mech.  Tyranids have, since the dawn of time, been at odds with vehicles.  It's not so much that they couldn't take them down (try to tell a carnifex that it can't munch through a land raider with ease), it's that they rely primarily on combat with vehicles to do the heavy lifting, while what ranged support was available was largely suppression-based.

This in and of itself isn't "bad".  The idea is effective.  However a few different things kept it from really syncing.  Exploding vehicles would often wind up doing more damage to the Tyranid unit than the unit inside, thanks to an overall lack of armor.  Squads inside (sans a few casualties) would largely be unaffected, leaving the gribblies staring down the barrel of a bolter with no cover saves.  It often became a trade of squad-for-transport, which was an uphill struggle at best.

Add to this the ability for a tank to easily drive through your units to only be hit on 6's, and even the deadliest of beasties would be left scratching their heads as the armored boxes rolled by.

It was a mess.  We know it was a mess.  Had mech not been so utterly useful against everyone in general, it would have been a more manageable mess.  But it wasn't.

Second, Tyranids were that awkward mix of an assault-oriented army that didn't really do so hot assaulting things.  This boiled down to two factors.

Assaulting through cover without grenades is a pain.  It takes you from solidly winning a combat, to solidly (sometimes gloriously) losing a combat.
No Retreat wounds on models that have next to no armor is more than a pain.  It means assaulting a squad of marines in cover equates to losing 10 gaunts.  That's hardly what I call promising.

Sure, Tyranids have, since 3rd, sported a formidable amount of support fire, but they have always been at the heart a combat force.  It's why they have so many claws, you see.  For stabbing.

There were some other tidbits here and there, but these were the really crippling things that the army  had no answer to.

Until now.

In answer to point the first - Mech.  The solution to this quandary is two-fold.  First of all, in order to effect the battle in any appreciable form (read - take objectives, or even contest), you must get out of your box.  Tyranids love things that are not in boxes.  They're tasty.  Of course, this only *must* happen on turns 5+, so you can still hide in said boxes for most of the game.  Leading us to the second fold.
Getting rid of those boxes is oh so much easier.  Vehicles (barring those with a WS) are hit on a 3+.  Yes, I'm assuming you moved your box half an inch.  This is a notable change from the 50/50 of yesteryear, and a huge boon from the 6 needed against a fast-moving target.

Sure, the odd powerfist or thunderhammer unit will enjoy this boon as well.  But for an army that has always had the mindset of "enough bitemarks make a hole", this is a huge, massive, ridiculously game changing difference.

Want some math to back it up?  20 Termagants (with adrenal glands, or a Tervigon nearby) charge a rhino-chassis.  40 attacks.  26 hits.  4 glances.  Oh snap, the tank is dead.  With no risk of explosion to hurt said squad of gaunts.  Same can be said for hormagaunts and gargoyles.  And about any other unit in the codex.

And that whole assaulting through cover/no retreat thing.  Well, No Retreat is a thing of the past.  At first I glanced up and said "Suck, still no grenades".  Then I thought about it.  You have to remember that gaunts don't necessarily have to win combat to win the assault.  For a long, long time Hormagaunts were great because they were fast.  Not because they were amazing in assault, but because they got their quickly.
This did a few things - it stopped shooting, both from the unit and from units behind (combat used to block LoS completely).  It would also wear down the unit.  Your marines may win combat every round by one or two, but I have enough bodies that I don't care.  I will win the assault by attrition, and in the end I will have typically lost the same or less points (and have half a unit left to play with).  It worked.

Now it still works.

Except that gaunts are far cheaper, and often deadlier in assault.  I'll call that a win.

Sure, not having grenades can be a pain, but it only mattered so much because it ended up forcing massive No Retreat casualties, which could then further cripple monstrous creatures that were joined in that same assault, because they'd have to take those wounds too.

Now, Fearless is a good thing.  Fearless means I can shrug off losing the initial assault through cover, and even every individual round if I need to, because I'm not doubling the wounds I take.  I can tarpit.  I can maintain killing power.  I can wear you down until you're not there, and I still am.  I can assault you again.

These two things are enough to make me embrace the bugs.  But there are more.

Mainly in that a huge amount of options suddenly became viable, and even downright awesome.  What used to be worthless/overpriced has serious potential under the new rules.

Tyrants are a prime example.  I only ever took them because I think my conversions look cool.  Now that 40 point 2+ save ignores all but the heftiest power weapons.  Combined with how easy it is to get cover (and the first person who says "cover is so much worse" is getting smacked - it's more varied, but a 4+ and even 3+ is easy to find), and you have a serious beast on your hands.

Those 60 point wings make you a Flying MC.  In some ways worse than a mechanical flyer, although in some ways better - that's its own post.  In short, not a bad idea by any means.

Heavy Venom Cannons.  You want a S9 blast against vehicles?  Cool.  This guy is suddenly about 90% accurate vs armor.  No, you won't explode them.  But that doesn't matter, and was never what VC's were meant to do.  This change makes a Carnifex look attractive as a multi-tasking anti-tank unit.

Crushing Claws.  Previously iffy at the very best, due to cost.  Now?  Smash attacking cuts your *base* attacks in half, but any extras are still counted in full.  Challenge a Tervigon in combat, and watch 3-5 insta-death attacks head your way (sure hope you brought your inv save).  Need to pop a land raider?  I'll take those re-rolling armor pen, thanks.

The new psykic power options open up a lot of fun tricks as well.  Tyranids can easily fit a metric crack-ton of psykers into their lists.  While Telekinesis and Telepathy both offer some interesting options, I am dubbing Biomancy the official Tyranid Tree of Woe.

Biomancy is about two things - making a single character wicked boss-like, or enhancing your troops teeming horde.

Iron Arm and Warp Time make a Tyrant/Tervigon silly in combat.  The Leech Life power falls into the same "buff the boss" category by giving them a form of regeneration.  Endurance is Catalyst on crack.  The "it will not die" aspect is great for Warriors led by a Prime, who can make use of wound allocation.  Enfeeble can make even basic gaunts look downright scary (and make powerfists quite the opposite).  Hemorrhage is the odd man out in this list, but it can reasonably do some damage, and even have a chance to snipe for you.  Add in a nearby friend with Enfeeble, and it can get downright dangerous.

Speaking of psykic powers, how about suddenly hitting top 3 (if not top 2) for psykic defense?  Eldar Runes take the #1 slot hands down.  Space Wolves will be dubbed #2 by many, due to the 24" range.  While Shadow is only 12", it's coming from all sides, not just one character.  Further, Shadows is a 50/50 fail rate on Ld 10, but gets better once the Ld of the psyker drops (rare, but it's out there).  Even further, it offers a higher Perils rate, which is likewise more dangerous.

I'm biased, but I don't care.  Shadow is better than a 4+ stick.  Disagree if you want, I'll nom on all the same.

I have not been this excited about the bugs in a long time.  It's a good feeling.


  1. I was not impressed when I first read the rules, or the second or third time through. I didn't think the tyranids got anything at all. I still don't think they got that much better, but I'm starting to think they aren't as bad off as I thought either.

    I still don't think I'd bother taking them to a tournament, but I'm starting to consider playing them casually occasionally, instead of just shelving them.

    Time will see, I'll need to get a game or two in with them first.

  2. Some of the combos are just plain wrong. The Doom of Malantai + Iron Arm for example? Eish. You'll be pleased to know that the "Crucible of Malediction" is now standard issue in my Dark Eldar army :P

  3. Tyranids are in one of the best possible positions to benefit from the Psychic power changes. Nobody else can really sprinkle new-power Psykers all over their army (in a sane manner, i.e., not Thousand Sons) and have such a meaningful impact from it.

    Tending towards Biomancy (and with the option for Telepathy when relevant) makes it all the more reliable, with buff powers now being immune to the vast majority of Psychic defenses, as opposed to having to roll off against a Librarian every time you wanted to give FNP to some Gaunts or something.

    Broodlords become insane Psychic power dispensers, Tervigons get even better than they were, and Primes act as perfect wound allocation machines for their Warrior (or Carnifex) buddies.

    Combined with SitW becoming better-by-comparison due to the combination of the increased focus on Psychic Powers and nerf of Psychic Hoods, Tyranids should fare far better in 6th on the whole.

  4. Entertaining read, solid points and well thought out explanations...yep this article gets a thumbs up!

  5. I couldn't agree more with your article. As a Nid player myself, I'm extremely pleased with what 6th edition did for the bugs. Here's my play experience run-down so far:

    #1- Not taking fearless wounds is incredibly good. But this is largely true because of point #2.

    #2- Tervigons rock! For me, they are the immediate and obvious troop choice. If they have Iron Arm, they are downright nasty. If they have Crushing claws and venon to boot, they scare the crap out of a ton of units.

    #3- Biovores! Yes, Biovores. Now that they can snipe, they are really good at knocking out things like heavy weapons in a squad. Same with power fists.

    #4- People call me crazy, but the Swarmlord. If you're a doubter, just try him. But do this. Roll all four dice on Biomancy. If you get Iron Arm and Endurance or Warp Speed, just buff him and start marching him (intelligently, of course) towards the enemy. If he can draw a lot of fire, and he will, you buy yourself the time you need to march your growing mass of termagaunts and Tervigons up the field. And in the event that he makes it into combat, challenge. Tell me again who scares him (if he has Iron Arm)? Ok, sure, there are some things that can derail him, but that's true of anything. I'll be taking him often.

    1. I think Biomancy would be nice for the Swarmlord, but you are really missing out on his unique aspects if you are just self-buffing him. He is the only psyker in the army that can use the Level 2 Telepathy powers, both of which are amazing. I would definitely consider running Swarmy with a large Brood of Genestealers, and putting Invisibility on them. 2++ cover saves, throw some Feel No Pain on them, and see what they CAN'T Kill. It's a gimmick, yep. It's not something I would probably rock at a tournament. But it just strikes me as hilariously good times.

  6. Yeah, Telepathy is really tempting, no doubt. But I suppose it's all or nothing on the rolling. Either roll all 4 on Biomancy to get Iron Arm, or all 4 on Telepathy to get Invisibility or Hallucination. A 2++ save is totally sick.

  7. Not necessarily. Start rolling on Telepathy. If you luck out and get Invisibility early on, start rolling on Biomancy. *Shrug* You've got four shots at it. :D

    1. This is why I say that Biomancy is the "nid tree". Are there awesome powers on other? Absolutely. Do they work well with Tyranids? Of course. But it's that 1 in 4 chance that you're contending with, and quite possibly ending up with powers that are "okay" for what you're doing.

      As I said, the only power that's "off" from the Tyranid Feel (making MC's more M-like, or enhancing your swarm) is Hemorrhage, which isn't actually a bad power the more I look at it. It's effectively a S3 shot that ignores cover and armor saves, with the chance to spread and/or snipe.

  8. Well one nifty thing you forgot to mention is that sergeants (or equivalent) can be challenged. Oh! You have a power fist? I CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUEL! You accept? *SMASH*... dead sergeant. You refuse? Well it looks like your sergeant doesn't get to make ANY attacks and the Tyrant can just nom on the rest of the mostly defenseless squad that ineffectually tries to kill the Tyrant with 5 S6 AP4 Krak grenades.

    Why only 5? Because at I5 the Hive Tyrant killed 4 marines with its 5 WS8 (re-roll with double scything talons) S6 AP2 attacks and the sergeant doesn't get to participate.


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