Monday, March 22, 2010

Tyranids: The good, the bad

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):
  1. 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..
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
With those things in mind, I was pretty thrilled that Tyranids were going to be something special, something truly unique in the world of Warhammer 40K.. but this was not the case.

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:

13 kp

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.


Col. Corbane said...

Excellent write up mate, must admit, the new codex is a totally different beast. It's going to take a while to get my head round it.

Anonymous said...

"As everyone knows, or everyone should know, Robin Cruddace wrote the Tyranid book."

Let me clue you in... NO ONE CARES!

Angerbot said...

"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."

Wisdom is the beginning of fear. ;)

Anonymous said...

as a tyranid player since last edtion i completely agree some balance issues are made by overdoing it ><

a 370 points tyrant with guards is not cool.......and dont get me started with carnifexes

Unknown said...

Nice write-up. Lots to talk about, but I'll pick zoanthropes.

Your position on zoanthropes may need some reconsideration. Surely, they can be deadly when the situation is right – distance and lack of psychic defense. But these are not uncommon limitations. And when you cannot reach your opponent or activate psychic powers, then your points are wasted and your army is devoid of anti-tank. It's too many eggs in one basket. Tyranids would be wise to not put their anti-vehicle faith in zoanthropes. Hive guard are more likely to hit, get more shots, are unaffected by psychic defense and only very rarely affected by cover. No, the wise tyranid players takes at least some hive guard – if not all hive guard.

I could point out that at 2000 points your army can only fire one S6 attack on turn one, and relies on lucky reserve rolls to get additional shots. Once everyone is on the board, you're only able to pick out at most three ranged targets (two units of zoans and one S6 venom cannon).

And if the zoanthropes come in with pods, you've only got three synapse generators for a 2000 point army, which limits either your deployment area or the amount of overlap you can manage.

These I think are all excusable errors since you have never actually played a tyranid army. Besides this, your observations are dead on: hive tyrants, carnifices, counter-attacking genestealers played as harlequins, and the warrior outfits. Excellent.

When you have more time, let's talk about tervigons.

Chad said...

I disagree with your assessment of Zoanthropes, they look to be good at first glance, but upon my field tests they have not proven that great.

They're best against Space Marines, but being a threat to them will have them draw heavy fire. Str8 and higher will instant pop them if they fail a save.

Their range is so short that it's within all psy defensive's which makes them almost useless as almost everyone is taken Psy defense these days (sort of what happens when every new codex comes out with strong Psy powers).

So even against Space marines we can almost assume they'll have a hood. SW have the priests to counter. Eldar just make them cry with battle field wide counter. Against other Nids Hive Guard will blow them away and all the shadow of the warp will render them useless (did GW even playtest Nid Vs Nid?).

Look at any good competitive 40K site -- Yes the Truth Hurts is at the top of the list. See how none of his lists include a Zoanthrope? Note how many run 9 Hive Guard? Yeah, they're that good and that much better than a Zoa.

Chad said...

O' and if you do spore pod your Zoa's they'll get 1 shot off (assuming no Psy disruption) and then get tied up in assault. Which means for things to work really well you need to pod in bubble wrap, but due to the crappy reserve rules you'll never be able to guarantee they both drop.

HERO said...

I can see why Hive Guard could be good in any given list. They have 2 shots each at BS4, S8 with no LoS needed. 3 of them costs 150 points, which equates to 6 shots at S8! They're basically like walking Devastators but with half the range. They do, however, confer an armor save to Marines and can't really do anything to Land Raiders (aside from glancing them).

The list I have above is really what kind of list I would take vs. a MEQ heavy metagame. But vs. a more diverse club, I can see Hive Guard as a safer choice. Whichever choice you choose to make, be ready to spend a good amount of money (or make your own!).

Anonymous said...

i have seen zoa's kick the crap out of a necron army before, and they where in pods, they killed off 2 groups of necrons. he also took 2 carnys and ate 2 more units of necron warriors, and the rest was taken care of by the hybernating stealers.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think the list presented here is rather poor and unfocused. You can do a lot with the new codex and there are a couple of primary strategies to employ. I'm inclined to say that your list leans more toward being a Deep Strike list, but the lack of a hive tyrant with Hive Commander means you're not getting your heaviest MCs (Trygons) on the board as fast as you could. At least one HT with Hive Commander would almost ensure that you had a turn 2 trygon on the board and would allow you to outflank your warriors or one of the gaunt squads.

I could really go on and on about the composition, but frankly others have already and can do it better than myself. I think that the problem people have with the new codex is that they're looking at it through the lens of the last codex. This one is a different and requires a bit of re-thinking in order to be truly competitive. You can no longer just spam carnifexes and Hive Tyrants and expect to win. It requires a bit more strategy than that. Instead, try spamming Gaunts and Tervigons - scary as a core for your army. Support them with some Hive Guard or other heavy shooters and you'll get some pretty good results. And that's only one of the now diverse options you've got.


warhammer tyranid said...

Defending the humans from the alien races are the ever loyal Space Marines, the brave Imperial Guard, and the Inquisition.

tyranid said...

There could be a bit of argument on how best to use the Warrior Prime because of his Independant Characters status. Because of the Brood Progenitor rule most people will run the Warrior prime with brood of Tyranid Warriors Troops. Although this is a good diea it forgets that Tyranid Shrikes are a varient of Tyranid Warriors too and are able to benefit from the Brood Progenitor rule.

warhammer tyranid said...

The Tyranids are super-predators destined to hunt all others to extinction. Each Tyranid is a living weapon, perfectly made to kill.

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