5th Ed. Tyranids: The Swarmlord

Whether you call him the lord of the swarm, the duke of insects, or the king of bugs, this guy is one bad mama-jama.  He’s equivalent to a close combat tyrant on steroids.

The Good

A close combat tyrant on ‘roids doesn’t do this guy justice.  His statline is better in wounds, iniative, and weapon skill, ensuring that he not only has more durability, but also strikes first and more accurately than a normal HQ.  Couple this with the fact that he’s one of the only bugs that has an invulnerable save (in hand-to-hand, at least), and he’s the most durable unit available in an assault in the ‘nid army… and practically the entire game!

If that wasn’t all, he decimates almost everything that he’s in combat with.  If memory serves me correctly, he’ll hit everything in the game on a 3+, outside of the Avatar and maybe one or two of the greater demons.  I can’t come up with anything else that has weaponskill 9+ (though I’m sure someone else will–though the list is certainly small, whatever the case).  Add to that, the fact that no normal armor saves are taken againts his swords, they cause instant death, and successful invulnerable saves have to be re-rolled, nothing will ultimately stand up to this beast in combat.  Even the mighty space marine Lysander, with a 3+ invulnerable and immunity to instant death (due to eternal warrior) would only last about three combat phases verses this monster. 

Not only is he a beast in assault, he enhances the army’s reserves in two different methods.  First, he increases your odds of getting your reserves each turn by ~17%; secondly, he allows you to reroll the board edge for your outflanking units.  So, not only does he ensure your units come on faster–he keeps them where you want them.  With a re-roll, that gives you almost a 90% chance to get your reserves on the board edge you want.

To top it off, he as access to every tyrant psychic power (using up to two per turn), and has a permanent 18″ synpase range.  What’s not to love?

The Bad

Well, the kicker to this guy–like all too many of the new monstrous creatures, is their cost. At 280 points, this guy makes a land-raider seem affordable–and he has neither the long range fire-power, or the manueverability of that tank.  To a point, he’s lacking in some of it’s durability as well.

Yes, he’s a beast in assault, but if he doesn’t get to combat, what’s the point?  Your opponent can either ignore him (like I normally advise vs. Wraithlords, C’tan, and other nasty gitz), or they can plink him away from distance before he gets to combat.  With toughness 6, even bolters can reliably wound him (given enough shots), but his weakness will definitely be krak missles and other heavy weapons that will ignore his armor and make short work of his toughness.  His MC status along with his lack of any ranged options (thereby forcing you to commit him to assault ASAP) will hinder his chances to get cover saves.

He also lacks any available options.  This is partly because he suffers from the new Tyrannic Pack Mule Syndrome, and is loaded with all sorts of things that are seemingly unnecessary to me.  Sure, having all four psychic powers is cute, but if given the option, I certainly wouldn’t buy two of them–and most times I don’t forsee being able to effectively use two each turn.  His statline is overinflated in some areas (WS9 is really overkill in most situations, and higher initiative doesn’t mean much to me–Lash Whips anyone?) and the extended range of his synapse is cute, but something I could definitely live without if it brought down his points.

His lack of long-ranged shooty, puts him into the purely assault category.  Against traditional mechanized armies–he’s forced to foot-slog around the board, and can be effectively nullified by vehicles–or even troops who choose to run away from him.  The other alternative is to plink him down from a distance.  At which point it would be really nice if his invulnerable save was useful outside of combat… 😦

The Ugly

These guys are a truly sexy choice.  Nothing short of a god can stop them in hand-to-hand *cough C’tan* and for this reason alone you’re bound to see a few of these on the table.  They also work as force multipliers to keep your reserves coming in fast, where you want them.  In fact, when you add both a Swarmlord and a Lictor (or a normal Hive Tyrant) into your force, your reserves arrive on turn 2, 83% of the time–and you get to re-roll outflankers.

With this sort of reliability, it’s feasible that a Tyranid army lead by a Swarmy & a normal Tyrant can choose to go 2nd, deploy nothing, and not have much to lose for doing so.  While this is a common tactic for most armies-they typically have to wait a few turns before they get the bulk of their force in.  With this combo, you’re guaranteed to get your entire force by turn 3–and likely to see the majority of it a full turn earlier.

Whatever the case, the Swarmlord is lacking in durability for the long trek across the board.  For this reason, it seems imperative that he be accompanied by at least one tyrant guard.  Unfortunately, this only adds more points to his already inflated cost.  In armies with lots of MC’s, you could alternately try to hide him behind a Carni or so for a chance at a cover save, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  In multi-MC armies, the protection that a swarmlord provides is that it forces your opponent to make some bad decisions.

Think about it.  If myarmy consists of a Swarmy, several Tervigons, and several Zoanthropes–your opponent has to choose whether to shoot his heavy weapons at the anti-tank I have (who ignore 66% of the blows), my troop-factories that are giving FNP to the rest of my units, or my nasty HQ.  He’s going to want to kill all of them, but with enough on the board, he’ll have to focus fire them down.  What you want is an opponent that hopes to soften them all up on their trek, so more things live to see combat.  If they don’t focus fire–you’ll win.

On that same line, re-rolling outflanking can be groovy.  Because of this, Swarmlords are now the chosen leader for genestealer heavy armies–as they’re the designated outflankers for our army.  When coupled with a normal Tyrant’s ability to give any troop the outflank ability, and the termagant’s rule that allows you to count a Tervigon as a troops choice, you can actually grant outflank to another MC.  Granted, this requires you to purchase three specific MC’s (one with an upgrade) and a unit of termagants to happen, but you’re likely to take three out of those four anyway.  And the fourth already blends into the combo in other ways as well. 

With that combo, I’d likely throw in a Trygon as well.  This way, you could deep-strike your burrower in on one side of the board, and then supplement him with a tervigon.  The Terv would give FNP to the tunneler–allowing him to live to charge next turn, and then surround himself with gaunts for ablative wounds/scoring units.

One thing’s for certain though, with this many points in an assaulty force, you’ll have to make up for the lack of long-ranged dakka somewhere.  Without upgrades, those five units come to a mighty 900 points–and have no real way to deal with fast-moving vehicles.  Add in some zoanthropes in a few drop pods, and you might have an army.  But really, this may be the sort of combo that only works on paper (or in Apoc games).

Ultimately, I think he’s a great addition to fun lists–but he’s too easy to neutralize in a competitive arena.  Have you used a Swarm Lord effectively?  Do you think he requires help in staying alive?  or is his 6T/6W, with psychic healing enough?  

Image used without permission from http://www.iconarchive.com/, but I’m quite certain that it’s real owner is http://www.warnerbros.com/.  Get it?  He’s the King of Bugs!


7 comments on “5th Ed. Tyranids: The Swarmlord

  1. Problem with putting him in reserves is that he has not deployment options other than walk him in (maybe use trygon tunnel if it shows up turn 2 and he does not til turn 3). If you have to move him up like 2 turns to get into assault range maybe you get an assault on turn 4-5 and he decimates 1 unit.

  2. I love this guy, hes easily my favorite unit in the book.in my mind you give him 3 guard, not only does this give the obvious boost to survival, but it boosts the squads ability to multi assault so the swarmlord spends every waking moment possible choping things into little pieces.you deploy him front and as far forward as possible.Then you take at least one large brood of Gargoyles, these rush forward to assault and/or block the path of anything trying to get away from your Lord who's running each turn to get into assault. at 6 points and flying there is no better mass unit to annoy your opponent and box them in turn one and/or two while the real hurt gets there.You also take Trygons, normals are fine as you want them to assault anyway so if they go all instincts on you its really no big deal. This forces your opponent to decide….really nasty bug in my bum? or really nasty bug thats still coming? with 2 Trigons you should have one pop on turn 2 thanks to your reserves bonuses.anyway you get the idea, you use his reserves bonus plus other units to Harry and box in your opponent, then he shows up and finishes them off. Tervigons, i hate to say it, are a great help too. Lord + 3 guards + Feel no pain is seriously hard to break… they're just not gonna be able to do it and deal with the rest of your army effectively too.if i was fighting the lord i would feed him units to slow him down and stay away, id kill him if i could of course but i would rather thin the rest of your army then kill 1 guy. But as guard i have this option, think about other elite armies like those guys with the big shoulders that are rare/everywhere. They dont have the man power to feed you units and buy time for victory…nor do they typically have the mass heavy fire to bring it down…scary stuff

  3. The WS9 on the Swarmlord is super-relevant in my eyes because it means that normal Marines hit him on a 5+, cutting down on incoming damage. Since he lacks grenades or Lash Whips, this is pretty important.His pseudo-tactician ability is neat because it lets you reroll board edges, but not giving automatic Outflank means you basically have to run him + another Tyrant to use it, and that's getting really pricey.Leech Essence + Tyrant Guard means you shouldn't be very afraid of Bolters with this guy. Remember also that you can hit a unit with Leech Essence and follow it with Paroxysm to basically render them worthless for a turn- screw you too, Devastator Squad.I think overall he's a very sexy beast and ID with every attack makes him a devastating character killer (bye-bye Avatar, etc), but he's hugely expensive and doesn't have the shooting options of a normal Tyrant. His “give one units Preferred Enemy” is also often worse than a normal Tyrant's because it only works on your turn and on one unit, rather than all the time and on everybody within' 6″ (including him) the way a normal Tyrant's does.

  4. The only time I've faced him so far was in a modified Dawn of War scenario and he was a beating. Swarm of Gargoyles gave him cover the first turn and after that it was all smashy-smashy. I tried to run away, but the damn thing kept on coming.Probably a bit too smashy against Guard (as we don't do CC anyway), but against Marines and their ilk I can seem him having fun.

  5. It does seem like one of the great strengths of the new codex is justforcing your opponent to make sub-optimal decisions. With enoughtough bugs, he'll have to choose something… and hopefully the dicearen't in his favor.I like your overall strat, but unfortunately it pretty much locks downthe bulk of an army list. Since I like to mix up my lists every game,it isn't a consistent enough strat for me (well, most of the time).It does sound viable though…

  6. I had a grand old time with the swarmlord! I ran him w/ 3 guard (equipped w/ lashwhips) and kept a tervigon close by for FNP. That, coupled with all the other MC's I had on the board and THE DOOM, kept him alive throughout! I used LE and Para when in range; only problem is that I was taking more saves on him than I was comfortable with. It worked out in the end bc I was making the best use of the guard (keeping the models on the table) and LE (keeping the SL's wounds up). In Apoc he'd be a beast! In anything <1500 points though, I probably won't run him! 😦 The only game I've tried him out we were just over 2.5k each, so I had points to spare. (It was 12″ dep. zone w/ objectives… yeah… I had 2 tervigons! hahahahha)

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