5th Ed. Tyranids: Zoanthropes

As the reviews of Nids from 4th edition to 5th edition continues, we continue on with Zo(h)anthropes in the elites section.

The Good

What’s not to love about these guys?  They’re high armored targets, that provide much-needed anti-armor, while playing the role of the glue that holds your synaptic army together. 

The biggest downfall to these guys in the past was that they weren’t dependable.  With only BS3, relatively short range, and a maximum of 3 on the table, it took more than a little luck to make good use of them.  I didn’t care though, because even if they did nothing but keep my army advancing forward under the power of the hivemind, they were worth it.  Think about it, how many points would you pay to make your entire army practically immune to leadership tests? 

Well, the good news is that the downfalls of the past are gone (well, mostly).  The one that brought the biggest smile to my face was their increased ballistic skill.  It’s amazing how much 17% more hits really equates to winning games.  But, wait, there’s more:  Zoanthropes aren’t limited to 0-1 units anymore, so you can have 3 squads of these beasts rampaging around the board.  Of course, that might be overkill now…

The other key change is to their powered up psychic ability: Warp Lance.  Previously, the ability was str10, ap2.  Now it’s turned into str10 ap1, and been given the lance ability.  I can’t stress how huge this is.  Strength 10, that gets +1 on the damage charge, and treats all armor greater than 12 as 12?  This is most certainly God’s gift to Tyranids.  Even against some of the toughest vehicles in the game… it has an 87% chance to glance (assuming it hits)–and then it’s not -2 on the damage chart (due to it being AP1), it’s only -1!

They also came down in price (well, for the configuration they come with), but only by a little bit.  There is one other change that happened that could be considered a positive:  as you probably noticed in the first sentence, these brain-bugs moved from the Heavy Support section to the elites section.  It’s really debatable as to whether they belonged there originally or not.  Their armor was akin to terminators, but their weapon alone classified them as heavy support.  Their ability to tie the army together with (then optional) synapse was enough to put them in the Elite category.  So, though I agree with the decision to put them there–I’m not 100% sure that I like the new option (more on that below).  Whatever the case, some people will love the ability to take even more monsterous creatures in the heavy support slot, and still be able to use zoanthropes, so I’ll count this as a possible good point as well. 

Another positive is that their invulnerable save went from 5+ (ie. snowball’s chance in hell) to 3+ (invulnerable power armor!).  Of course, I don’t have to mention how huge this is.  They also received the “Shadows of the Warp” ability which negatively impacts nearby enemy psykers.  Lastly, they have the ability to deep-strike via landing spore (drop pod).  This gives them a less reliable means of entry (unless coupled with a lictor), but removes their short range problem.

So, let’s recap.  Earlier I said there were three issues: low BS, max of 3, and short range.  In at least some way, the new codex addressed every single problem of these guys.   Thanks GW!

The Bad

Wowzers, I’m still reflecting on the mammoth post above.  I haven’t written that many pro’s for any of the other bugs I’ve reviewed so far.  I must really like Zoanthropes, eh?  But they didn’t escape 4th edition without a few downsides as well.  Let’s take a moment to discuss those:

The problems boil down to three: Loss of flexibility, loss of 2+ armor save, and loss of independant nature.  Also, being multi-wound creatures, the changes to synpase and it’s now lack of Eternal Warrior affect Zoanthropes as well.

Previously, ‘thropes had options as to which psychic abilities they could buy.  In my opinion, most weren’t worth taking.  I almost always ran them with synapse (since ‘nids are worthless without it) and warp blast.  So, the fact that I can’t mix things up doesn’t negatively impact me too much; however, some people did like the variety before.  One particularly nasty combo that’s no longer available is that of the Sonic Choir.  Each Zoanthrope could be run with an ability to give all enemies a cumulative -1 leadership within 12″.  When coupled with a Hive tyrant with a similar ability, this meant even the mighty space marines started at a 4!  Sadly, this combo is no more (though there are similar options available with other units).

The loss of a 2+ armor save is fairly major to me.  I roll notoriously bad with my dice.  I’m not sure whether they hate me, or what… but then again, I’ve been unlucky in most every game I play.  That’s why I prefer to play games that I consider “skill-heavy,” prefering to reduce the chances luck has to kick me in the arse.  That said, reducing a 2+ save to a 3+ invulnerable seems painful to me.  Yes, I actually preferred them the old way–but I suspect I’m in the minority on this one. 

This means that they can no longer charge into a unit without a power weapon and effectively tie it up for the remainder of the game.  With 2 wounds, toughness 4 and a 2+ armor save, it was practically unkillable.  I will, however, fail untold amounts of 3+ armor saves.  It also means that psycannons will shred zoanthropes, being AP5 and ignoring invulnerable saves.  It’s 2+ to wound without saves–so stay away from demonhunters if you can! 

While I’m on the subject, I’m really not sure why they were given a 5+ armor save.  Can someone explain this to me?  There are relatively few weapons that invulnerable saves altogether, and of those, I can’t think of any which wouldn’t also negate a 5+ armor save (psycannons, c’tan phase sword)… Can anyone think of a single time when you’d actually get to use the 5+ save?  /boggle GW.

The changes to armor also will affect what your enemy shoots at you.  Previously, ‘thropes were practically immune to small arms fire (eg. anything less than AP2), but were almost guaranteed paste when faced with multiple lascannons.  Now, those roles are somewhat reversed.  Yes, 3+ armor is relatively good at withstanding a small amount of small-arms, but it won’t stand up to 10-20 shots in a turn.  In comparison, Lascannons (or melta/plasma) were practically a guanteed kill, but it took two shots to do it.  Despite the fact that they now hold up better to these low-AP shots, they also have a chance to die outright to a single shot, so your opponent may be tempted to fire at them anyway–especially in kill point missions where a lone model is worth as much as an entire 30 man squad of gaunts.

The biggest pain for ‘thropes in the latest edition is their lack of independence.  Though purchased as a squad of up to 3, each model could move independantly around the board.  This option seems to be gone from every unit in the new codex.  I’m hoping it’s just a misprint, but I have a feeling it’s going to stick…

Lastly, the move within the FoC slot to Elites means means more competition with some of the new units.  Special genestealers, indirect fire anti-mech, infiltrating teleport homers, leadership dampners, exploding craziness, and Die Nemesis Von Malan’tai are all vying for the those elite spots.

Oh, I almost forgot!  Zoanthropes used to have the Toxic Miasma biomorph.  Essentially, the loss of this took them down from 4WS to 3WS.  While it’s a significant change from a defending standpoint, it really doesn’t mean much as to what it can kill in hand to hand.  It’s lack of natural weapons (aside from teeth and claws) mean that if it gets into hand to hand, it likely won’t be taking anything out.  The changes to it’s armor though, mean that it’s survivability to non-power weapon troops went down dramatically.  So, not that you were considering it before, but don’t go charging your ‘thropes into close combat without a great reason…

The Ugly

 It was a solid unit before, and an even better unit now.  The only change in the German codex that I’m hoping doesn’t really happen is them being forced to squad-up.  The other changes are relatively small, and easily worked around.

Another change I’m curious about is how psychic tests are used (if at all) with the entire Tyranid army in the future.  I can’t decipher the codex, but there is a section on how Tyranids are affected by psychic tests/perils of the warp.  The fact that the section exists at all leads me to believe that they’re affected differently than other armies, but I can’t figure out how.  Although a German friend of mine indicates that psychic tests are required for EVERY power (not just the lance ability)… I hope that isn’t true…

So, how do I see ‘thropes being played in the future.  Well, they’ll be a part of every army really.  Without them, Tyranids have lackluster methods of popping open tanks.  I suspect you’ll find some people that run three squads of ’em, but I won’t be doing that: I like variety too much, and there are so many new toys to play with, so expect at least two squads of two for the most part.

Some units coming out of landing spores is almost a given now.  The deep-striking option makes them immune to damage while they “advance” to the point where they’d be in range.  Since they likely wouldn’t be able to fire for the first turn or two anyway, this isn’t a big deal.  The only real loss there is synapse could be light before they drop in (but on the plus side, when they do drop in, they’ll likely provide synapse to the forefront of your force). 

I loved these guys in 4th, and love them even more in 5th.  In fact, I’ll probably go out and buy a few more models now that I can use more than one squad.  Congratulations, GW, you’ve accomplished what you set out to…

Image owned by Sony pictures at http://www.dontmesswiththezohan.com.

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8 comments on “5th Ed. Tyranids: Zoanthropes

  1. Well i help you decipher it, the section just states that while Tyranids dont get attacked by demons, they suffer excatly the same under perils as anyone else. Its just some sort of heavy feedback from channeling the powers of the hive mind.

    In most of our test games I used 2×2 Zoantrophes in landing spores, since my normal test army uses a Tyrant with insight and the Deathleaper they both arrive on turn 2, most of the time.
    I feel that landings spores are an must, if you wanna at least get the first shots of. Most armies will just kill them dead on sight, if you let them walk up to the Land Raider.

  2. Well i help you decipher it, the section just states that while Tyranids dont get attacked by demons, they suffer excatly the same under perils as anyone else. Its just some sort of heavy feedback from channeling the powers of the hive mind.

    In most of our test games I used 2×2 Zoantrophes in landing spores, since my normal test army uses a Tyrant with insight and the Deathleaper they both arrive on turn 2, most of the time.
    I feel that landings spores are an must, if you wanna at least get the first shots of. Most armies will just kill them dead on sight, if you let them walk up to the Land Raider.

  3. I don’t find their entry point to be terribly unreliable- due to Mycetic Spores working like drop pods, you can afford to be less careful when selecting a target zone, and the 18″ range on Warp Lance + 2″ deploy + 2″ base means it is largely impossible to scatter out of range of taking the shot.

    They are indeed forced to act as squads, but that’s not really a bad thing- no more giving up 3 KP for one slot, at least. Moreover, even with BS4 and an unbelievable profile, Warp Lance has a pretty reasonable chance to fail to kill a vehicle with a single shot. Running two (or, at higher point totals, three) Zoeys in a single unit is practically mandated if you want to have a good chance of downing your target.

    Regarding psychic tests: Tyranids have to take them. Most of their powers do require them; I think this includes Warp lightning, but I’m not positive. Ld10 on all the psykers makes it not as bad as it could be, though.

    • Agreed on the reliability, though I disagree on the 2nd point. Kill points only matter 1/3 of the time–and I suspect that’s not going to matter much longer (when the mission book comes out). Losing the tactical flexibility of not being able to fire at three different targets is big. Granted, one will often not kill it’s target (especially if it’s a vehicle), but having it not more and/or fire is often enough for me to ignore the vehicle for the rest of that turn.

      As for psychic tests… I thought ld10 was plenty fine–until I fought a farseer this week (batrep to come). It’s amazing how devastating “runes of warding” can be!

  4. I don’t find their entry point to be terribly unreliable- due to Mycetic Spores working like drop pods, you can afford to be less careful when selecting a target zone, and the 18″ range on Warp Lance + 2″ deploy + 2″ base means it is largely impossible to scatter out of range of taking the shot.

    They are indeed forced to act as squads, but that’s not really a bad thing- no more giving up 3 KP for one slot, at least. Moreover, even with BS4 and an unbelievable profile, Warp Lance has a pretty reasonable chance to fail to kill a vehicle with a single shot. Running two (or, at higher point totals, three) Zoeys in a single unit is practically mandated if you want to have a good chance of downing your target.

    Regarding psychic tests: Tyranids have to take them. Most of their powers do require them; I think this includes Warp lightning, but I’m not positive. Ld10 on all the psykers makes it not as bad as it could be, though.

    • Agreed on the reliability, though I disagree on the 2nd point. Kill points only matter 1/3 of the time–and I suspect that’s not going to matter much longer (when the mission book comes out). Losing the tactical flexibility of not being able to fire at three different targets is big. Granted, one will often not kill it’s target (especially if it’s a vehicle), but having it not more and/or fire is often enough for me to ignore the vehicle for the rest of that turn.

      As for psychic tests… I thought ld10 was plenty fine–until I fought a farseer this week (batrep to come). It’s amazing how devastating “runes of warding” can be!

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