I find the Nid army, more-so then any other army out there, very difficult for new people to get the hang of. It is such a drastically different play style then everything out there since we have no tanks, and everything is pretty easy to kill, and you are ALWAYS the aggressor. I find the first thing any Nid player needs to do when starting out is get into the right mind set, and that is “I *know* I am going to lose at least 80% of my army, and that is fine with me”. It is VERY common for me to lose at least 80% of my army by the end of the game and still win. The main thing is if you can’t get into that mind set, then I promise you, you will never have fun playing Tyranids
The Main thing to keep in mind when creating a Tyranid List is deciding on an overall theme and focus and sticking to it. There are basically 4 main “themes” for Tyranid lists. Almost all Nid lists will be a variation/combinations of these 4 basic ideas:
1) Nidzilla: This is a list that has as many large creatures in it as humanly possible. Typically have a maxed out Tyrant squad (tyrant + 3 tyrant guard).
2) Reserve Bomb: This Type of list typically starts in reserve playing the "null deployment" game and you then come in from all sides (due to deep striking, outflanking and special deployment).
3) Horde: This option is making the focus your small critters, getting them to do most of the work while being supported by a small handful of larger bugs.
4) "Mid"-zilla. Focusing on multi wound, toughness 4 models. So lots of Warriors, Raveners, Zoanthropes, Venomthropes and Biovores with a smattering of termagants and other smaller bugs to provide mobile cover as well as a Monstrous Creature or two.
I have decided that I am going to start playing through the 4 different styles and write down some tactics on playing each list. The first one I am going to start with is Nidzilla since it was the list I never actually played in 4th ed (although I hear it was all the rage). Never before have I felt like the Tyranid book actually pushed me in that direction since the idea of running 6 individual Carnifexs and a Hive Tyrant never really appealed to me. The one nice thing with the 5th ed Codex is that you have a whole slew of different MC's that preform different tasks and that look cool. I have been trying to figure out how I can make this list fun to play and be somewhat competitive, although, to be honest having fun is my main concern.
Tyranid Monstrous Creature Basics:
The number one thing I notice when looking at people's lists online is just how many upgrade's people give their monstrous creatures. It is also the number one mistake people make when playing this army. A totally kitted out Flying Hive Tyrant that has everything and the kitchen sink that costs 300+ points can't do anything more then a bare bones Flying Hive Tyrant with one special ability like Hive Commander or Old Adversary that costs 250-ish points.
Upgrades worth Taking:
Adrenal Glands: Basically every MC in the book can benefit from furious charge. It is by far the best one in the book. It is an incredible upgrade for Trygons (almost a must) and you can use it to make your Carnifex's str 10 on the charge.
Upgrades NOT worth Taking:
Regeneration: After well over 50 games with the new codex I can tell you that this is the single biggest points sink there is. Most people will just keep shooting your monsters to kill it outright. If you take regen on just 6 creatures in your Nidzilla list you could literally trade them in for an entire TRYGON! It is ALWAYS better to just take more monsters.
Toxin Sacs: Why would anyone pay 10points to make their monsters worse in combat? It makes you go from wounding almost everything in the game on a 2+ to wounding everything on a 4+ with a re-roll. 100% not worth it unless you know you are fighting an entire army of Wraithlords...or maybe demons.
Toxic Miasma and Acid Blood: Both of these are very situational and do next to nothing in combat and are a complete waste of points.
In order to start getting into the meaty goodness of a Nidzilla list first I want to just do a quick rundown as to which units fit this type of playstyle the best. Remember, the focus on this list is drowning your opponent in toughness 6 monsters, so lets do that shall we?
- Hive Tyrant (with Guard)
- Swarmlord (with Guard)
- Tyranid Prime
- Hive Guard
- Zoanthropes (with or without pod, doesnt matter in this list)
- Carnifexs (should be in a brood for max effectivness)
Hive Tyrant: This is the main HQ for the army, and is also the #1 area where I find people make mistakes. There are just so many places to waste points it isn’t even funny. I am just going to break down each section with what I feel are the best options.
Psychic Powers: This is an easy one. He has two AWESOME powers (Paroxysm and Leech Essence) and two HORRENDOUS powers (Psychic Scream and The Horror). Paroxysm is the one you will use 99% of the time though as you make a unit within 12” WS/BS 1 for your turn and theirs. I can’t stress just how incredible that is.
Ranged Weapons: This I find is one of the main areas where the Tyrant tricks you. What I mean by that is the Hive Tyrant has a huge selection of ranged weapons and all but 1, maybe 2, are freaking horrible. I ran a Heavy Venom Cannon on two Hive Tyrants for about 20 games and they did nothing. Their only function is to make you THINK you can actually kill something at range (you can’t btw) and to keep you from doing the one thing your Tyrant is quite good at, and that is close combat. In my opinion the only option worth anything is the Twin Linked Brain Leech Devourers. They have a short(ish) range, so you will keep your big guy running and they have a huge volume of shots, are twin linked and are str 6, so you can pen Rhinos. I typically only take one set since all your psychic powers are “ranged weapons” and, as a MC you can only fire 2 weapons per turn, and trust me, Paroxysm is better than any gun a Tyrant has.
Close Combat Weapons: The main way I arm my Tyrant is just his basic set up, Scything Talons and a Lash whip, Bonesword. You make everything Init 1 in base to base, you re-roll all 1’s in combat (and since you hit virtually everything in the game on 3’s, its handy) and you have a chance to instant kill things with the Bonesword.
Special Abilities: I love Hive Commander and for me personally, it is the main reason I take a Hive Tyrant at all. I personally just love the flexibility of deployment options with this ability, and it fits my play style perfectly. Old Adversary is also an amazing ability. It gives you a 6” bubble of preferred enemy. Both of these abilities have an awesome use, depending on what type of army you are running. The last 25pts ability is “Indescribable Horror”. It is hands down the biggest waste of points in any codex, period. I had this ability on my Hive Tyrants for free for 12 years (it was a standard ability Hive Tyrants used to get) and I never had it work…ever.
Upgrades: Like all MC's most of their upgrades are a waste of points. The only two that are specific to the Tyrant that I would choose are Wings and Armored Carapace. Both definitely have their place as you need wings for certain builds and the added mobility is nice and armored carapace can be invaluable, especially against Long Fang spamming Space Wolf armies. The Thorax Swarm is useless because it is 25pts and you can't take it with Wings.
Swarmlord: Basically just a more powerful hand to hand combat Hive Tyrant. Sometimes this guy can be really useful, especially his extra powers. Throwing out a well timed Preferred Enemy or Furious Charge is always great (especially on Carnifexs). He is also the ultimate character assassin and does have a fair amount of utility as well. With all his benefits I gotta say that he really can't do that much more then a regular Tyrant but is about 100pts more. It basically boils down to the individual playstyles of the person using him as to whether or not you should take him or just stick with a regular Tyrant.
Tyrant Guard: If you don't take wings then you pretty much HAVE to invest in these guys (I normally do two plus my Tyrant). They are incredibly important for two reasons. Firstly the obvious reason is each one gives your Hive Tyrant 2 more wounds. The second, and more important reason is it allows this unit to get cover saves by regular means (like screening termagants) because as long as the Tyrant Guard are alive they are majority, and as long as the majority of the unit is in cover, the whole unit gets cover (aka the Tyrant). I never bother with upgrades for these guys as most of the time they live just long enough to make sure my Hive Tyrant gets across the board.
Tyranid Prime The main use for this guy in this list is to buff your "Death-star" units. I normally put him in with the Hive Tyrant and his guard for those extra ablative wounds or I run him with the Carnifex unit for mobile synapse. If you do take one you pretty much have to give him one of the two bonesword options (I prefer lashwhips and boneswords, especially when you put him with the Carnifexs).
Zoanthropes and Hive Guard: Your best source of anti tank. I normally use the Zoans to kill land raiders and provide forward synapse i.e. what they are always for. Hive Guard are your anti-transport unit.
Venomthropes I will be getting really in depth for these guys in "Part 3:Horde!". Big thing with them in this army is it's one of the few ways to get most of your big stuff some cover saves. The main way to use them is make sure you hide them behind a Carnifex unit or other big creatures to block line of sight. If you can get them within 6" of your Termagant screen, even better!
Tervigon: Standard Cluster Spines, Toxin Sac, Catalyst build for these guys. I just cant for the life of me see any value in the other upgrades for this guy for this type of army other then the rare use of Onslaught. I see a lot of people take Adrenal Glands for when your Termagants charge they get init 5 and re-rolling wounds on T4, but, I literally never charge my Termagants (which I will go more in depth when I get to them). Part of me is even debating over taking toxin sacs since the termagants only purpose is to shield the rest of you army by giving them cover saves or taking enemy assault units charges.
Termagants: The main thing I use these guys for in a Nidzilla list is objective grabbing and screening the rest of your army, protecting the army with cover saves and against assaults from other armies monster killers (like assault terminators). It's great watching your army keep some amazing hand to hand combat squad at bay because of some crappy 5pt termagants. I can’t stress how many games these guys have won me just by using them as a living shield to protect my useful units from being assaulted by Thunder Calv or something.
Harpy: There to deal with long range threats. Great against dev/heavy weapon squads/ loota squads that you will face. It has no survivability at all and the only way it lives past turn one is due to the fact that everything else in your army is way scarier or you put it into reserve. The two main ways of arming him are either stock with a Stranglethorn Cannon or the Heavy Venom Cannon. Either way has its benefits and it just depends on what your army is lacking (anti tank or anti troop). I prefer the Stranglethorn Cannon because it makes him very focused (he can put out up to 5 large blasts in one turn). Most amount of hits I have done in a turn was 23 against some Ard Boyz and that was JUST with the Cluster Spines and the Stanglethorn. He won’t typically do too much damage against MEQ armies, but throwing down 2 high strength large blast templates or getting some highly accurate and mobile tank suppression is always a plus.
Trygon: Lets be honest here, it's just hands down the best unit in the book, maybe in any book. It gets virtually everything for a great bargain. Like all MC's there are some options as far as upgrades, and for the Trygon you only have 2 to consider. The first is Adrenal Glands and for me it is always a must. Going at Init 5 on the charge is huge. It turns him into the ultimate Dreadnought destroyer and being able to go before marines really helps limit the amount of damage you take in return. The second option is "Priming" him. For me the ONLY reason to Prime your Trygon is if you are light on synapse as 40pts is the cheapest way to get synapse in this army. As Nidzilla though its normally better left at home since everything is fearless.
Mawloc: Just there to sow the seeds of terror. You want him to hit the long fangs, big grouping of tanks, etc. Don't just throw him away though, but at the same time get him in the thick of it. He won’t do very much damage, but can be a big enough distraction/pain in the butt to warrant people dedicating a lot of firepower to him. You want to make sure he seems like a massive threat and you want to do your best to get him shot instead of your Trygon.
Carnifexs: My favorite way to run these guys so far is with 2 Twin Linked Brain Leech Devourers as they get a decent amount of highly accurate, high strength shots. The main reason I like the MC Devourers is because it basically makes your Carnifex good at everything. I like this build because it really gives the Carnifex unit a place within the army, and that is something I have been struggling with these guys since the book came out. For mega Hand to Hand killyness I have my Trygon, for Mid Range anti light vehicle/troops I have the Carnifex and for long range anti tank suppression I have the Tyrannofex. The only other way I would consider running them is just as a bare bones screamer killer with maybe Adrenal Glands and Frag Spines. I personally find they also work best when in a unit. It eats up a lot of points but saves you some kill points and gives them all the benefits of being a unit (ie if one of them is in cover the whole unit gets the cover save, etc.).
Tyrannofex Just due to my playstyle I typically don't field one of these guys. I am of the mindset that I just can't justify paying 265pts for two str 10, Ap4, BS 3 shots a turn. He obviously does have some things that he brings to the table and can give you that "un-killable" fire base to sit in the middle of your army.
Sample Army List:
Nidzilla 2000pts List
Swarmlord - 2 Tyrant Guard
Hive Guard (2)
Hive Guard (2)
Tervigon - Cluster Spines, Toxin Sacs, Catalyst, Onslaught
Genestealers (10) - Toxin Sacs (to take advantage of the Swarmlord)
Carnifex Brood (2) - Dual Twin Linked Brainleech Devourers
So, as you can see this list has 43 Toughness 6 wounds and it has quite a few creatures that fill certain rolls and help cover all your bases. You will notice instead of taking a Tryannofex I took two units of Hive Guard instead (best transport killers in almost any book) and a unit of non-podding Zoanthropes (which is one of the reasons for Onslaught). I also have the Trygon and Swarmlord as my elite CC units, I have my Genestealers as an outflanking and my Mawloc deep striking as my harassment units and the Carnifex's are on crowd control with their 24 x Str 6 twin linked shots per turn.
The first thing I want to talk about is how I typically set up this army for a standard mission. Basically, for this particular list, everything more or less hinges around the Swarmlord and his ability to give out "choice" buffs as the game goes on, so everything in the army is placed in a way to take advantage of that. Here is a picture of my typical deployment to give you a basic idea of the initial set up:
As you can see the Termagant unit is sitting in front of the Swarmlord initially since he is the only unit that benefits from cover (ie since he has 2 Tyrant Guard he now becomes a unit, therefore can get cover saves via regular means). I also bookend the army with the Trygon and Mawloc in case I am playing against an army with drop podding Dreadnoughts, that way I can charge them (with Furious Charge from the Swarmlord). It also helps funnel things towards the middle of the army. If I know there are no Drop Pods coming in I will burrow my Mawloc on the first turn with the intention of hitting their Devastator Squads or those parking lots. I will pretty much always outflank my Genestealers due to the Swarmlord's special ability. For this army I also gave my Tervigon "Onslaught" to help with either the Carnifexs or Zooanthroes get in range of their target. With this list having your Zoanthropes start on the board is a great idea. Regardless of what they actually do in game they really eat up A LOT of firepower from your enemies armies, which is perfect. The two units you WANT people to be shooting at are your Zoans (takes roughly 9 krak missiles to kill the whole squad) and the Swarmlord's unit.
At the start of my Turn 1, my deployment area will change slightly due to my Tervigon creating his first unit, so it will look something like this:
What that does is it gives both sides of my army a small "buffer". Basically the 2 main reasons they are there are to give certain units cover saves (ie the Swarmlord) and to protect your whole army from elite hand to hand combat units like Thunderhammer Terminators, Thunderworlf calv, etc. Basically you WANT units to have to charge your termagant units so once they easily mop them up, then your heavy hitters can come in and really clean house.
The biggest thing with this army, and why it can work really well is target saturation. You give your opponent so many things to shoot at it makes picking the right ones difficult to do and helps keep the bulk of your army alive. Another nice thing is no one death will really hurt your army that much since everything in the list is quite capable of dealing with living creatures and Mech a like.