Genestealers were the backbone of “the one competitive list” that Tyranids had since 4th edition. Ok, those aren’t my words (or even a statement I agree with). While they’ve always been fairly solid, they’ve never been cheap enough to justify an army based around nothing but them for troops. They’ve changed a bit in the latest rendition (at least according to the German codex) and I figured I’d take some time to break them down:
They’re cheaper. Ok, it’s only a marginal point cut, but it counts for something. With no loss of stats or abilities, they did come down slightly in points. Though most of their biomorphs are absent from the new list, they still retain the options to buy scything talons (cheaply), and the ubiquitous furious charge & poisoned weapons.
They also got both smaller and larger maximum squad sizes—and though I can’t see a reason why you’d want less than six ‘stealers in a squad—it is possible. Likewise, larger squads could be good to be able to soak up more fire before you get to the front line, but I’d be leery of putting all my eggs in one basket.
The above benefits are mostly trivial in nature, but that’s because I’m saving the best two for last: they all get the ability to infiltrate (natively) and can each have access to a Broodlord—as sort of a squad-leader upgrade. The first option is huge. Previously, stealers only had the ability to infiltrate when accompanied by a Brood Lord and, since he was an HQ choice, it naturally limited the availability of this option. Granted, infiltration is hard to make use of in 5th edition—with the changes to how cover works, but there is an added benefit: All infiltrators gain the ability to Outflank.
Now, outflanking is nothing new to ‘stealers: in fact it was the heart of a lot of genestealer heavy army lists. The big change is that you’re no longer required to buy scuttling (as if it was an option) in order to get this ability. Because of this, outflanking stealers have come down in cost by more than 25%. They’ve also retained the “move through cover” ability (unlike other nids). There are also options available in the codex that allow you to re-roll which side you come in when outflanking…
Likewise, you’re going to see more Broodlords hit the table in the near future—but these aren’t the massive creatures of 4th edition. These are smaller (cheaper) versions, that lack the inhuman strength of their predecessors, but gain some psychic abilities to make up for it (EDIT: And as Cole mentions below, they also can benefit from fleet–unlike in previous editions). The new hypnotic stare is reminiscent of the classic Patriarch abilities of 2nd edition, while the Aura of Despair is similar to the old Psychic Scream ability. Rather than calling them “nerfed,” or “toned down,” I look at them as commoditized. The only thing stopping them from being all over the place is the lack of a good model.
There’s not a lot of bad things to say about these guys. Aside from the general commoditization of the Broodlord, stealers lost some of their adaptability in the form of biomorphs. This really was to be expected as virtually every unit in the codex suffered in this way.
Flesh hooks, acid may, implant attack, scuttling, toxin sacs, and extended carapace are all toys of the past. Feeder tendrils are also absent from this list and, as one of my friends commented, their rules are only available to HQ units now (so you can’t just throw them in with a Lictor to get those re-rolls).
By themselves, genestealers are pretty nasty—even in 4th edition. In the future, expect some slightly larger broods for about the same price as they used to run. Definitely expect them to outflank (or arrive via deep-strike in the new landing spores), and see more brood lords.
Infiltrators with “move through cover” can make a particular nasty combination. Deploying 12-18” away from your opponent out of LoS with a small squad of stealers is possible—allowing for a very likely first turn charge (move through cover + fleet + assault) . Likewise, another variant of the creatures is now available as an elite choice: Ymgarl Genestealers which will be deploying like 4th edition Lictors did. More to come on these guys in the future.
Their newfound infiltration, coupled with outflanking and fleet, ‘stealers should be giving your opponent something to worry about on your flanks, where they don’t need to be supported by other troops. Already opponents are deploying more than 12” from the sides to stay out of charge range from outflankers, but soon they’ll need to start avoiding cover in and around their deployment zones as well.
Likewise, the new drop pod rules could be viable for ‘stealers (unliked most of the other ‘nid troops selections) because of their relatively small squad sizes. The idea that you can’t assault on the turn you arrive is abysmal, but with a smaller squad, they have a respectable chance of hiding their smaller squads behind their drop pods (depending upon what you use for those pods). This way, they can hid smaller squads behind these high wound pods, and use them for cover. I can forsee some tricksy moves with this sort of strategy in the future.
As a side plug, I’m working on some landing spore (eg. drop pod) options of my own. Though, with my reviews of each of the nid choices, I don’t forsee these making an appearance on my blog until after the new codex has been released.
I don’t see lists using genestealers exclusively as their scoring units doing consistently well, but blended in with some cheap gaunts and big bugs, they’re gonna be nasty as always. While not completely dominating, I welcome the changes to ‘stealers– and not just because I’m a fan of Pittsburgh in the NFL…
As cute as it was to try to get a picture of someone “stealing jeans,” I couldn’t come up with one, so I went with a more classic piece of artwork (despite the fact that they couldn’t make the play-offs this year). Logo borrowed from www.nfl.com.