When the new Tyranids codex came out, I quickly rushed to my LGS and picked up a copy. Every good soldier of the Imperium must understand his enemy before he can defeat them. Maybe that's why I own almost every codex.. especially those of the xenos and traitors!
After looking through the codex, I quickly noticed that a lot of the issues in the older codex were fixed (I'll just list a couple):
- You could no longer spam nothing but Carnifexes and Hive Tyrants and win games - A moment of silence for my footslogging Grey Knight army back in the 4th vs. the countless number of Nidzilla lists..
- Tyranids anti-tank no longer blow ass because Zoanthropes are the now go-to unit for blowing up anything within 18" with their S10 AP1 Lance. And in a lesser form, the Hive Guard at 50ppm and 2 shots of BS4 S8 shots with no LoS needed.
- And finally, some new monstrous creatures and better core choices so you didn't see the same Nidzilla cookie-cutter (I swear everyone thought theirs was unique) list in every game that you played.
As everyone knows, or everyone should know, Robin Cruddace wrote the Tyranid book. He also wrote the IG book and by the gods, that was a great book. Almost everything in the IG book has a use, everything was priced well internally and the entire book paved way to many diverse and interesting competitive lists. That book was pretty damn good to say the least. I would even say the book deserved a 5/5 in terms of power, balance and design. It made IG players weep and Marine players weep harder.
The Tyranid book, on the other hand, gets a 3/5. Maybe. The book lacks the internal balance needed to make it truly competitive. Some bad units are overpriced, some good units are underpriced; further pushing other units out of the scope of viablity, and some units are downright terrible. Not to mention most of the good choices of the book all belong under Elites in the FOC.. so players are further limited in their unit choice. The prices for everyone's favorite Hive Tyrant and Carnifex went up immensely, putting them high on the shelves in terms of playability. Some design arrangements are extremely questionable: Such as Crushing Claws available on a Carnifex when it has the ability to take Frag grenades.. or the fact that the tankiest of the Tyranid units (the Fex) cannot take a 2+ armor save when a Hive Tyrant can. These things on top of the internal balance issues sets this codex way back on the awesome scale for me. After purchasing the book and examining it myself, I looked on other gaming sites such as Warseer and Dakka Dakka and the Tyranid community was in an outrage. I concur with their tears of shame and death threats to the entire staff of GW.
So, just like any competitive player would do, I quickly set up some games with my good friend Adam who happens to be a really good player. I've played him before with my Wolves vs. his Eldar and Thousand Sons and all those games were spectacular (I force myself to forget the time he tabled me with IG). He has been playing with Nids since 3rd and they're arguably his favorite army. To make a long story short, we played a few games and reached the conclusion that Tyranids were no longer something special.. that a lot of the problems match the concerns I had above and that the changes to the codex was a giant ploy to sell more models. The last conspiracy theory is really just my theory.. but if you look at how good Tyranid Warriors, Hive Guard, Zoanthropes and Trygons are and how much a list of those units cost, it's not completely out of the question.
I enjoy making lists, not just for my primary armies, but for all armies. I like to put myself in my enemies' shoes and see first hand what breathing slime and treachery is all about. The new Tyranid Codex, I view as a challenge for a competitive gamer. You have to think really hard on what your metagame is and how to successfully build a list around it. There are several hard matchups for Nids in 5th, and the hardest ones are all on the top of the tourney tree; Space Wolves, IG and Eldar.
So, let's take a look at my 2K Nids list. More or less, I'll talk about why I feel my unit choices are the way to do things with the new book:
Tyranid Prime (2x BS, Toxin, Regen) = 110
Tyranid Prime (2x BS, Toxin, Regen) = 110
20x Gaunts = 120
20x Gaunts = 120
10x Genestealers = 140
6x Warriors (BS/LW, Toxin, Devo, Venom) = 315
3x Zoan (Pod) = 220
3x Zoan (Pod) = 220
Deathleaper = 140
Trygon Prime (Regen) = 265
Trygon (Regen) = 225
The first thing you'll notice here is that I went with the cheap HQs. Hive Tyrants are a thing of the past.. the fact that you have to pay a healthy amount on them, add Guards and give them abilities makes them stupid expensive. Sure, a MC is good to have, but the fact that you're paying more for him than the 2x Primes I have above is somewhat questionable. Anyways, the Primes are there to soak up damage (take a S8 missile on him since he's T5), provide synapse across the army and slay things in combat because his stats are pretty damn good. The fact that LS on the Warriors can make a model strike last means 2x Boneswords will have a chance to ID most ICs.
The next thing you'll notice is my Gaunt wall with Warriors and counter-charging Genestealers. The gaunts form an impressive front wall for the main Tyranid advance and the Warriors lay down suppressing fire with the Primes to soak up ID damage. Gaunts act as cover and provide that fodder that Tyranids desperately need. A lot of people like the killiness of Gaunts with Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs.. but that puts them at 10ppm.. something too expensive for Tyranids to afford. I mean I guess if you drop the points elsewhere, or sub out the stealers, you can go that route.. but if you go for the counter-charging route, Genestealers are better because of higher WS, I and Rending. Speaking of which, Genestealers have no way to get frag grenades (like most things in the army) so they're used just like Harlequins would be in a Wratihguard army. You hold the line with Gaunts/Warriors and you go in for the kill with Genestealers. It's not like the new book made them any worse in combat.. and Rending is serious business when dealing with a MEQ heavy metagame. The Warriors are 6-strong with Bonesword/Lash Whips. The BS and LW combo makes them virtually unkillable in assault (both charging and receiving). They have Power Weapons that re-rolls to wound because of Toxin Sacs and the Lash Whips makes any model in BtB with them strike last. For anyone who doesn't understand how close combat works (looking at you Tau), this means that when you charge them, you will die before you swing. It doesn't matter if you're in cover or not; BS/LW makes that point moot. The Venom Cannon is there because S6 blasts makes Marines out of transports cry and you can always fire on the move anyway. If there's a time the Tyranid army is not in full advance, it's doing something wrong; like in 4th when all they did was shoot. From a gameplay vs design perspective, that was completely backwards to how Tyranids were supposed to play.
For my elite choices (and believe me, these are hard), I went with 2x groups of Zoanthropes in Pods and the Deathleaper. I'll start with Deathleaper and why he's metagame dependent. In clubs where psykers are many, Deathleaper brings a lovely -D3 leadership to any of your opponents characters at the start of the game. This makes psychic tests a chore.. which is something a Ld. 10 psyker never does. It also makes psychic hood attempts extremely frustrating when fighting against a Nid player taking 6x Zoanthropes. Not to mention the Deathleaper is pretty good in combat (WS9, I7, 4 attacks base with Rending on 5+), makes approaching the Nid army from different angles a rather complicated process (units within 12" rolls a single D6 when moving through terrain), and can't really been seen/shot (special Night Fighting rules and Stealth USR gives him 3++ cover). Not to mention he can redeploy during the game so he can auto-contest those objectives whenever you please. Keep in mind that it takes a fairly smart player to use the Deathleaper correctly. Deploying him in front of Space Marine vehicles with spotlights because you think your night-fighting is really unique is not smart.
The Zoanthropes in this list is a no brainer. You pass a psychic test with a Zoan, you roll his BS4 to hit, and whatever vehicle you hit disappears. Not to mention S5 AP3 blasts at 24" makes Marines want to hide in their vehicles that they no longer have. The two Pods are there so the Zoans can close the distance faster.. but remember that you don't need to always keep the Zoans in Pods. You can easily drop one of the Pods out of your list for more points, or across the board so you can footslog your Zoanthropes with the rest of your army. The 3++ will protect against a lot of threats and those shots directed at them means less is going into your army. Not to mention they provide a lot of "come near me and die" scenarios; which generates threat in your favor.
Lastly, we have Trygons. They replaced the mighty Carnfiex ($55 ppm.. lol conspiracy) in terms of cost effectiveness. With WS5, 6 MC attacks that re-rolls to hit and S6, they tear apart all MEQ and transports in the game. Not to mention they have 6 wounds which only gets better with the Nids' new and improved regen. Once again, they don't need to be reserved and can offer an additional threat to your opponents if they're deployed early on the field. Or they can be DS'd and pose a threat to your opponents rear armor, or if you're a Trygon Prime, Shadows of the Warp on the enemy's psyker. Note that the Deathleaper also offers them a Phermone Trail to teleport beacon onto and that your CC Nids have the option to come out of the Trygon's tunnel as well. Trygons have Fleet too, so they can really close that gap if they wanted to. As you can see.. a lot of possibilities for what to do with them.
Keep in mind that the list above is just something I had floating around. In terms of competitive army construction, it's all there. You have a strong HQ base, a large amount of anti-tank options, you have Deathleaper disruption, a strong troop selection, unassailable Tyranid Warriors, 2x Trygons and multiple threats coming from everywhere. Of course, this is just a list that I whipped up a while back and hasn't been playtested at all. Through playtesting in your metagame, you might decide to swap out a batch of Zoans for 3x Hive Guard (saves you a bunch of points). You might decide that killy Gaunts are better than Genestealers, or that you want more Warriors (or even 2 groups of them). You might even drop the Deathleaper and go with the Doom of Malan'tai in a Pod and have some fun that way. In the end, as long as you take advantage of what's good (what's left really) in the Nid book and make good use of it, your list will remain competitive.