5th Ed. Tyranids: Mawlocs

What do the new 5th edition Tyranid codex and cheesy 80’s movies have in common? 

(Trivia question answered at the end of this writeup).

The Good

Mawlocs are an interesting lot, to start, they have Monstrous Creature status, with the generic “sign of the beast (666)” statline that oh, so many, nids have now adays.  Strength, Toughness, and Wounds of 6 provide for a relatively durable critter, that does a reasonable job of taking things out in hand to hand.  Granted, it’s no Trygon (or even a Carnifex), but ignoring armor saves and wounding on 2’s is respectable for any unit.

But let’s face it, you’re not buying these guys for the statline–it’s their ability to till the soil you want.  When he emerges from deep-strike, instead of dying or deviating when landing on an enemy unit, he hits them with a ST6, AP2 large blast (So that’s where they put the AP2 weapons in the codex…).  He can also use another ability of his to reburrow and deep strike again on a later turn (though it explicitly states that you can’t deep strike and reburrow in the same turn).

In effect, this gives you a moderate strength, low AP blast weapon you can fire every other turn with the army.  And if the blast misses, it can charge your enemy during the following turns, or choose to fire again later. 

The Bad

Well, first of all, he’s only strength 6 when he erupts, so he’s note quite as impressive as an Imperial Guard tank.  Effectively this means he’s not designed for destroying vehicles (unless they’re already immobolized).  He also has a bad habit of missing.  Since he arrives by scatter dice, you’ll only be hitting your intended target 1/3 of the time naturally, otherwise, you’ll deviate.  Granted, with a 5″ template, you’ll still hit your target if you deviate less than 3″ (sort of), but that’s only a 1/36″ chance.  In effect, you’ll hit at least part the target you’re aiming for 36% of the time.  So he’s effectively a cannon with sub-3 BS, and low strength.

And you can only “fire that cannon” every other turn.  When he’s compared to an IG tank, he looks fairly sad:  a Leman’s should hit part of their target with a large blast about 61% of the time (33% direct hit, and 5″ of scatter to at least clip the target).  So, you’re paying more points than any variant of the Leman Russ (except the Executioner), and getting a lower strength gun that can’t fire  every turn, and hits less when it does fire.  Hits half as much, shoots half as often, cost more points…. What am I missing here?

Finally, in the strictest sense of the rules, it’s not even allowed to target directly under an opponent when it emerges:

First place one model from the unit anywhere on the table, in the position you would like the unit to arrive, and roll the scatter dice…

Since the Mawloc is more like a cannon when he arrives, you’ll ideally want to arrive smack-dab in the middle of a unit to cause the most damage; however, the rules for deep strike indicate that you have to place the model on the table.  This clearly seems to be an oversite in the way the codex was written, and I’m sure it will be errata’d, but some players may hold you to the strictest sense: nullifying the one reason to take this unit in the first place!

To top it off, an inability to charge on the turn he arrives puts him in a precarious predicament.  You can wind up leaving your unit high and dry and, despite having the holy trinity 6/6/6 statline, if he’s all alone behind enemy lines, he’s not going to live that long…

The Ugly

This unit is really a toss up as to whether it’s good or bad.  Some players will swear by them, and others will point and laugh.  So let’s delve just a little deeper into his rules:

Mawlocs vs. Vehicles

When he does wind up hitting his target, I’m not 100% clear what actually happens.  Specifically when he hits a target that’s a vehicle.  What happens if the vehicle was immobolized to start with?  Does it shift over as long as there’s space nearby?  Does it destroy it outright?  … Well, what happens when the vehicle is immobolized as the result of him coming up from his hole?   I’ve heard all of these interpretations, but which is right?   The actual rule states:

If any unit still has surviving models under the template, move that unit by the minimum distance necessary to clear all models from beneath the template whilst maintaining squad coherency and avoiding impassable terrain.  Units that were locked in combat prior to the Mawloc’s attack must remain in base contact if possible, but otherwise models cannot be moved within 1″ of an enemy model.  Vehicles, including immobile vehicles, retain their original facing if they are moved.  Any models that cannot be moved out of the way are destroyed.

The emphasis added to the above quote is mine.  Essentially, you’re told that if you’re hit, you need to move out of the way and if you can’t move, you’re destroyed.  So, the way I read that is that already immobolized vehicles are destroyed.  Additionally, I’d say that any vehicle that was immobolized as the result of the attack would also be destroyed.  This is because you resolve the hit prior to moving the unit (the key to that is the reference to  “surviving models”).  So, the vehicle would be immobolized, and then forced to move.  When it could not, it would be destroyed. 

Though that seems to be the logical answer to me, I can see why others would think it unclear… 

Burrowing Questions:

And then there’s some potential abuse/misuse on the use of burrowing in general:

The rule for burrowing, says that the Mawloc can reburrow “at any point in it’s movement phase.”  Because of this phrasing, it does mean that you can elect roll for difficult terrain and if you get a bad result, you can instead opt to burrow.  Shady players might try to use this trick with dangerous terrain tests as well: roll for a dangerous terrain test and if you fail, opt to burrow.  That’s clearly abusing the rules, but someone might argue that they were electing to burrow at that exact point in the movement phase before removing a model due to shooting.  Likewise, another thing I can see a shady player trying to argue is that he can reburrow a Mawloc on the table to place him back into reserves, and then roll for him, and bring him on the board via another method (either through a Trygon hole, or walking onto the table).  Since the rule specifically states that you can’t “Deep Strike” and burrow in the same turn, it doesn’t expressly forbid other means of entry on the board on the turn you burrow.  If this was possible, it would allow you to change his positioning very easily (and dependably)

The rule also makes no statement to prevent you from using this burrowing ability when either falling back or under the effects of instinctive behavoir.  Because of this, if your Mawloc is on it’s way to do something stupid (like running off the board, or charging a unit that it’s hopelessly outclassed by), you could still use this ability to escape. 

I’ve also heard that any unit that’s still in reserve at the end of a game counts as  being destroyed.  I say this based purely on hearsay, because I can’t find the rule in the book anywhere.  If someone has any light to shed on this rule, I’d love to hear specifics.   So,  if  it is true (and that’s a big “if”), then you’ll want to think twice about putting a Mawloc into reserve again on turns 4-6… 

Deployment Tips

One nifty way to play them is to deploy them on first turn.  This is often better than putting them in reserve because you gain tactical flexibility and also reliability.  The flexibility comes in because you now have the option of using him to guard targets in your deployment zone.  You can also use them as a diversionary tactic, much like Eldrad does for the Eldar Army (source needed).  By this, I mean you can deploy them and force your opponent to react to them.  If he nullifies them with his deployment, you can easily redeploy them later by burrowing. 

The other benefit you’re ganing (reliability) comes into play because when you use the burrowing ability, you don’t just go into reserves, but you go in and will automatically come out next turn.  This will guarantee his arrival via deep strike on the second turn.  Had you just left him in reserve, you’d have had to roll for him to show up.  (Credit for this little tip goes to Faolain over at Awakening Ynnead). 


Well, anyone using this as just another Monstrous Creature in their force is clearly  using the unit ineffectively.  If that was the goal, just add some Carnifices or Trygons (who are better in the role of generic big bugs).  So, it’s important to use his ability to do damge like an IG tank to the best of his ability.  Despite firing every other turn, costing more, and hitting less… he clearly has some advantages over that counterpart.  First of all, he’s crazy durable in comparison.  This is because he can only be shot at half the time too (assuming he spends half the game burrowing).  So, he’s not all bad.

Ultimately I won’t be using these guys often though.  In an average game, you’ll likely only get to use each Mawloc three times, so you can expect one of them to actually hit at least part of his desired target, and the rest will hopefully scatter into something useful..  170 points is just too much to pay for those odds…

Ok, with the review over, it’s come time to answer our trivia question for the day:  What do the new 5th edition Tyranid codex and cheesy 80’s movies have in common? 

Well, despite the fact that Tremors was released in January 1990, I’m lumping it into the genre of cheesy 80’s movies.   One thing they have in common is that they both illustrate the plight of farmers throughout the universe.  On earth, we typically only have to deal with groundhogs and rabbits, but on occassion, giant worm infestations as well.  In the 41st millienium rodents apparently have morphed into giant carnivorous bugs (could this be the reason why Skaven don’t exist in 40k?). 

The real comparison that I was going for in the trivia question though, was of course, they’re both intrinsically tied to Kevin Bacon.  Need Evidence?  Here goes:

  1. The Tyranids Codex was written by Robin Cruddace
  2. who works with Phil Kelly
  3. who shares his name with Phil Kelly
  4. who was in Circle of Friends with Colin Firth
  5. who was in “Where the Truth Lies” with..

4 comments on “5th Ed. Tyranids: Mawlocs

  1. I know on the mishap table it mentions the “in reserves counts as destroyed at the end of the game ” thing, but I'm not sure if that is the only place it is mentioned.I was under the impression that you can deepstrike on top of enemy models, just most people don't because it is a mishap. Didn't spore mines do that all the time? A better wording would have been to always resolve the blast, and then place the mawloc.I don't use him because of the high chance of mishaping with terrain and such. You want to pin enemy unites so they can't be moved, but you're going to have a higher chance of hitting the terrain, and you only ignore the mishap from enemy models, not terrain.

  2. I would have to disagree on the “immobilized = destroyed” argument for the blast. I think there is a difference between a unit that cannot move under its own power (i.e. immobilized) and moving a unit due to another unit's rules; if the new Blood Angels magnetic grapple were used on a tank, you wouldn't argue that it stays in place because it was immobilized, would you? To me, this is the same situation; the tank is being pushed aside by the Mawloc's arrival.I think it's also worth mentioning his tactical uses of reburrowing; it functions more as a movement tool (for reaching other areas of the board more quickly) and as a way to try and contest objectives at the last minute than it does as the shittiest Basilisk cannon ever. Combined with Hit and Run, it allows you a degree of mobility unprecedented for most MCs.With all that said, however, I think it's an inferior choice to the Trygon. 30 pts buys you twice as many attacks, Scything Talons, and +2 WS, all for the loss of his shitty template. It's also worth noting that the Mawloc has no protection against mishaps resulting from impassible terrain, whereas the Trygon does.

  3. I also think the Mawloc does not automatically destroy immobilized vehicles. GW is not renowned for writing clear and consistent rules, so I think you have to look at what is written, compare it with similar rules, and look at what you think was the intention.Immobilized vehicles “retain their original facing if moved”. This would not have been written if they were automatically destroyed. I think the only time you automatically destroy something is if there's no room: nowhere to move it too. In terms of visualising what is happening, I see the Mawloc bursting out of the ground, under the tank, and the tank slipping and sliding down from the rising mound or earth and monster to the side. It doesn't need to be moving under its own power.I also think that the damage potential of the Mawloc is not great or reliable enough to consider it worth taking over a slightly more expensive Trygon.

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