5th Ed. Tyranids: Tyrant & Guard

I gazed into my crystal ball and saw that our upcoming Arctic Apocalypse game is only 6 days away (have I plugged that post enough, yet?).  In those 6 days I still have to cover 7 units that survived the change from 4th edition to 5th edition (hint: every unit from 4th edition is still around, so you won’t have to burn any of your models).  Additionally, I also want to create at least one post about the setup of the terrain, and another to go over the units I’ve painted/assembled in preparation for the game. 

While I could post more than one per day, that’s a little too ambitious for me.  So, I’m going to wind up combining a couple of the unit choices into a single write-up.  Today’s topic: Hive Tyrants and the guards that love them.

The Good

An all-around better statline: higher weapon skill, strength, attacks, and some free psychic (and anti-psychic) powers for free.  All of these are innate to the leader of the hive mind in the new codex.

The psychic powers themselves have changed, and without divulging too much information the options are basically:

  • All enemies with 18” take a LD test and take AP2 wounds for each they fail by.
  • One enemy within 12” is reduced to WS & BS 1 for 1 round
  • A unit with 12” must pass a leadership test or fall back
  • An 18” str3 ap2 shooting attack that heals the caster

All-in-all, not a bad loadout.  Unfortunately, half of these are based upon leadership tests—and many units in the game either have high leadership (9-10) or are fearless, so ignore many leadership tests altogether.  Of the options, I’m particularly fond of the 2nd and 4th options.  Reducing WS and BS of models works both offensively (they’re easier to hit in h2h), and defensively (they ‘re reduced to hitting ANY of your units—except ripper swarms—on a 5+… as well as shooting attacks are basically nullified entirely).  The AP2 shot, I like because it’s one of the very few AP2 guns the army has access to anymore, additionally, it’s multiple shots (d3), and has a side effect of healing the caster (something that will be needed due to the lack of invulnerable saves for Tyrants now).

Additionally, they have access to skills (at additional cost), which: force more leadership tests, allow some units of troops to outflank, and or confer “preferred enemy” to nearby units.  Of these, I’m not a fan of the leadership tests, but see value in both of the other options (especially since it seems to be about the only way to get the “preferred enemy” rule anymore).  *mourn lictors*

Their weapon options have largely remained unchanged, but since they have access to so many, and lots of the weapons themselves have changed, I’d like to go over some that I think are clear winners.  Those are:

  • Twin-linked MC Devourers: Higher strength and a higher rate of fire than deathspitters, with the only disadvantage being that it goes from AP5 to AP-.  Sure, it makes a difference vs. vehicles, but the extra shots and higher strength more than make up for that.
  • Heavy Weapons: Both the Barbed Strangler (lower strength than you remember), and Venom anon (only -1 on the damage chart, but now blast) are strong choices.  Since Nid’s are weak in the vehicle popping arena, I forsee using the VC more than the BS in most cases.  One thing that ‘nids do well is to kill lots of low army infantry.  Since this is effectively what the ‘strangler does, I prefer to use the VC in order to compliment my strengths—rather than to just pile more infantry killing goodness on top.
  • Boneswords:  The fact that it’s now a power weapon doesn’t matter on a monstrous creature, but the added instant death rule is tastey for multiple wound models.  Unfortunately, every army (except Tyranids) seems to be loaded with characters that are immune to instant death now… but it’s still a good choice. On tyranid warriors, I think they’re awesome… on the hive Tyrant… fair.
  • Scything Talons: Typically I don’t see this as an uber selection, but the simple premise is that on a Tyrant, it should give you an extra hit every turn (almost like an extra attack).  With WS8, you still only hit on 3’s, and Str6 typically means you’re wounding on 2’s.  Re-rolling misses at that point isn’t bad (unless you paid for the points to get preferred enemy—in which case, these are  waste…)
  • Lashwhips:  These now force you opponent to strike at I1 (ie. Frag grenades that work on offense and defense, whether or not you’re in cover).  I think the premise is that your units gain survivability by striking first, but it doesn’t help against hidden powerfists, as it’s not likely you’ll do enough wounds to the squad to kill that particular model (unless they’ve already been thinned out before hand).  Still a good choice overall.

Another good change is that scything talons no longer give you an extra attack, so removing them to replace them with a gun doesn’t penalize you in number of attacks (though it will be a detriment to your CC effectiveness).  Essentially, shooty-tyrants can still stand toe-to-toe about as effectively as more assault-oriented models.

You’d think that would be enough, but no:  Tyrants also have the ability to purchase furious charge, poisoned weapons, acid blood (AP2 hits on attackers when they do a wound to you), Injectors (instant death on a 6), miasma (more wounds in h2h), regeneration, improved armor, and wings…  How’s that for a massive list of available upgrades?

But wait, there’s more: As a new choice, Tyrants can also buy a thorax mounted weapon (a la Raveners), that fires in one of three modes: high strength / low AP, low strength/high AP, or middle of the road.  All of those options are based on a flamer template, and apparently doesn’t count towards the number of shots they can fire in a turn.

Egads, that’s more than a mouthful—but if you act now, we’ll throw in more!  Since the Tyrant Guard are only available as an addition to the Tyrant, it makes sense that I include them in this post.

Luckily (um… I think), the tyrant guard haven’t improved much.  Their biggest claim to fame is that they can now purchase lash-whips and bone swords (which is handy, since they’re not monstrous creatures themselves), when previously they could only have lash whips.

The Bad

Where do I begin?  Oh yeah, the points:  The base cost of the standard HQ in the army went up by more than 125%. 

Sticker shock gone yet?  No?  I’ll wait…

Ok, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds (but it’s close).  With the built-in upgrades in his statline and the fact that he comes with some weapon-symbiotes (and psychic powers), he’s down to a 31% cost increase.  Granted, you may never use all of those new toys that come standard, but that’s the tax you’re paying for the Tyrannic pack mules upgrades.

Not only is the base model that much more expensive, but most of the upgrades also went up in price.  Want wings?  Well, that’ll cost you 33% more.  Extra armor?  Almost twice as expensive as it was before.  In fact, it’s possible to throw enough upgrades on a Tyrant to tip the scales over 400 points (not that anyone in their right mind would).

The good news is that the cost increase really is the bulk of the cons with Tyrants in the new list.  The bad thing (for the Tyrant) is that there are a bunch of new alternate HQ’s that come in significantly cheaper.  Let’s assume you can justify the points of a Tyrant and continue on though.

They lost alot of the upgrades previously available in the 4th ed. codex.  Particularly painful (to me) is their loss of “implant attack.”  Since I routinely used Tyrants as character killers, I used this ability quite often.  Instead, they now have an ability that causes instant death on a roll of a 6 to-wound.  So, it happens less frequently, and doesn’t work against characters with Eternal Warrior… All in all, I’d say this was a step backwards.

You also won’t be able to field Tyrants with a Barbed Strangler and a Vencom Cannon (though this was really a choice that was more reserved for the Carnifex), nor can you purchase a BS upgrade (ouch). 

Many of the other lost ugprades from 4th edition weren’t widely used so perhaps it’s not so bad that they’re absent from the new list.  This is especially true knowing of the vast selection of new uprades that are avaialble.  Unforutnately, you’ll realize that many of the upgrades aren’t worth their points (heck, I don’t think I’d use them, even if they were free).  For example, you can pay 10 points for toxin sacs (poisoned weapons).  Let’s look at how this affects your ability to wound targets:

Toughness Without With
3 83% 75%
4 83% 75%
5 67% 75%
6 50% 50%
7 33% 50%
8+ 17% 50%

So, for 10 points more, you wound toughness 5 slightly more, and toughness 7+ significantly more; however, against he bulk of models in the game (which are Toughness 3-4), you actually wound LESS.  Sure, it’s viable against the likes of wraithlords, but really how often are you going to be fighting toughness 7+ models?

Additionally, you’ll now have to deal with a lack of an invulnerable save.  Ok, so Tyrants didn’t have such a save naturally, and they had a chance to get one (even if it was only 6+).  Four wounds at toughness 6 is just not enough to ensure survivability–unless you run with a retinue.

Now, on to the Tyrant Guard.

Their initiative and leadership have fallen.  The leadership isn’t a big issue, since they’re likely to be with the Tyrant for most (if not all) of the game anyway, so they’ll benefit from his higher leadership.  The initiative is unfortunate though, as it means they’ll now strike at the same time as many “elite” fighting units (such as marines). 

They’ve also increased in points by 25%, and lost their flesh-hooks and ability to gain implant attack.  All in all, they sure did get pricey.  I believe they retained the ability to act as a retinue with their “Shield Wall”rule, but I’m not 100% sure.  If they lost this as well, I believe they just found themselves in the pointless category…

The Ugly

Ok, so now let’s get to the meat and potatoes.  Are these things usable?

The short answer is, yes.  Many people will declare that Tyrants have been replaced with the new Alpha Warrior (which is essentially a smaller version with all-around lower stats, less options, but only half the points), but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy (for reasons why, stay tuned to the Alpha Warrior post later this month). 

Yes, they’re more expensive, but they’re a good way to extend synapse and throw another heavy weapon on the board.  They’re another monstrous creature for your enemy to deal with, and the ability to reduce WS & BS on enemy models to 1 effectively nullifies many units completely. 

So, how do I run them?  Alot of people will claim that the Dakka-tyrant is dead (since you can no longer buy a BS & a VC.  While this is true, you can purchase either one of those along with MC Devourers *and* a thorax-mounted flame template.  While it won’t provide the same long-ranged punch that it once did, it does provide a ton of shots at 18”.  But I don’t think I’d go this route.  With WS8, they’re true close combat monsters, with only the Avatar beating them in this stat (that I can think of).  It would be a shame to waste this on a purely shooty model, but then again paying 170+ points for a hand to hand unit is too much (especially when you consider just how much h2h is in the army to begin with). 

For this reason, I’d take a mixture.  As stated above, I prefer the VC to the BS, so I’d probably run with that and the bonesword/lashwhip combo (though scything talons comes in a close second).  The venom cannon can crack the armor of a tank much easier than a ‘strangler can—even if it’s only to stop it from shooting at you.  The lashwhip lets me strike first in most combats and can help  him stay alive after the first round.  I’ve noticed that power fists and frost blades do a number on Tyrants now… so the extra chance to stay alive means a lot.  The bonesword, I look at as a cute upgrade.  I really don’t expect that it will kill anything outright (since so many models have only 1 wound, and those that don’t are usually high leadership and/or eternal warrior), but there’s a chance, right?  The scything talons are also an interesting choice because the Nid hits virtually everything in the game on a 3+, so re-rolling 1’s gives you about an 80% chance to hit anything.

Whatever the case, I think I’d skip the rest of the weapon options (except maybe the thorax weapon), to try to keep my investment to a reasonable amount.  Also, if your Tyrant is on foot, I feel that a Tyrant needs a retinue.  Working under the assumption that they still can allocate wounds against them instead of their master, they’re gonna’ be huge.  Even one extra model extends the life of the HQ by 33%.  I’d equip them with lashwhips & boneswords, because they don’t ignore armor normally (since they’re not monstrous creatures).

For psychic ability I expect to run the WS1/BS1 option along with the life draining power.  Typically I’ll fire the venom cannon over the other power, but it does give me an AP2 gun in a pinch, as well as a way to heal. 

As for flying tyrants, I’m hard-pressed on them.  While they certainly won’t be ubiquitous in lists, I think there’s a place for them—providing synapse and a nightmare in hand-to-hand at the front of the battle.  They do seem easier to kill now, so I think they’ll be fairly rare, but with the potential to heal themselves… perhaps they’ll be more popular.  Two rules from the past that weren’t available to flyrants may also be available now (again, my German sucks), but I don’t see anywhere that it prevents you from taking an improved armor save and wings, nor do I see anything that says you can’t have a retinue if you have wings (though you may ask why you’d want to slow down a winged tyrant with a retinue, it could simply be to give him two ablative wounds to start the game).

The last thought I have on the subject (for now) is a question on lash whips.  Depending upon the way they’re worded and the way acid blood works, there’s a potential combo there.  The premise is that Acid blood forces the enemy to take an initiative test upon being wounded.  So, if lash whips reduce your enemy’s initiative to 1, then it’s nasty–but I suspect they only cause your opponent to strike at I1, which is by no means a combo.

Wow, long-winded much?  Perhaps it was a bad idea to combine the Tyrant and guard into a single post, eh?  Enough babbling for me today… Tyrant talk is over. 

Image found at http://www.srcxor.org/.  Could there be a more perfect rendition of the hive mind?

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4 comments on “5th Ed. Tyranids: Tyrant & Guard

  1. The Tyrant generally wants a HVC, yeah; we don’t get a lot of AT options, so taking them where you can is a good idea. 2x ScyTal is a waste always, since you can get rerolls against (non-vehicles) with Old Adversary.

    With regards to psychic powers, Paroxysm is virtually required- reducing Marines to a 5+ to hit anything in the codex is golden. Leech Essense is quite good, since it lets you regain wounds essentially for free; paired with a 2+ save and Regeneration it can make you a real beast to kill. Psychic Scream is mediocre because, unlike Doom of Malan’tai, it’s a random range and the test is on 2d6. It’s not terrible, however, and has the possibility to tear up a ton of units. The Horror is pretty shitt, just like Unspeakable Horror- if you want to cause a morale test, shoot the unit. Only against rare things like Nob Bikerz will it be worth using.

    I don’t think the carapace weapons will ever be worthwhile- either you’re a flyrant because you need to DS/dash around and kill tanks or you want that 2+ save, which no other unit in the codex can buy (and only one other unit even has).

    Hive Guard are, unless things get erratta’d, TERRIBLE. They do NOTHING. p.49 of the codex “Independent characters which are monstrous creatures can always be picked out from units unless the unit is also MCs or they have a special rule to protect him.” Shieldwall lost the clause that prevented this. Tyrant Guard do not protect you from shooting (because of the above) or melee (because of the way ICs work in CC). Damnit, GW.

  2. The Tyrant generally wants a HVC, yeah; we don’t get a lot of AT options, so taking them where you can is a good idea. 2x ScyTal is a waste always, since you can get rerolls against (non-vehicles) with Old Adversary.

    With regards to psychic powers, Paroxysm is virtually required- reducing Marines to a 5+ to hit anything in the codex is golden. Leech Essense is quite good, since it lets you regain wounds essentially for free; paired with a 2+ save and Regeneration it can make you a real beast to kill. Psychic Scream is mediocre because, unlike Doom of Malan’tai, it’s a random range and the test is on 2d6. It’s not terrible, however, and has the possibility to tear up a ton of units. The Horror is pretty shitt, just like Unspeakable Horror- if you want to cause a morale test, shoot the unit. Only against rare things like Nob Bikerz will it be worth using.

    I don’t think the carapace weapons will ever be worthwhile- either you’re a flyrant because you need to DS/dash around and kill tanks or you want that 2+ save, which no other unit in the codex can buy (and only one other unit even has).

    Hive Guard are, unless things get erratta’d, TERRIBLE. They do NOTHING. p.49 of the codex “Independent characters which are monstrous creatures can always be picked out from units unless the unit is also MCs or they have a special rule to protect him.” Shieldwall lost the clause that prevented this. Tyrant Guard do not protect you from shooting (because of the above) or melee (because of the way ICs work in CC). Damnit, GW.

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