After running through the first 3 Tactica articles I find myself at the most challenging one. The reason I say this is because this section of the book is by far the most flawed and for that reason I personally would only run this type of list as a "for fun" list. Let me explain.
Basically, back in 3rd ed NOBODY took Warriors, Zoanthropes, Raveners, etc. for one simple reason: they got destroyed by instant death weapons. The second someone showed up with a Leman Russ or a devastator squad with missile launchers you could basically just kiss those squads goodbye. So fast forward to 4th ed where Phil Kelly and Andy Chambers understood that in order to make one of the most iconic units in the Tyranid Codex (Warriors) useful again they needed to do something about being able to instant kill these creatures so they gave everything within Synapse range eternal warrior. While I admit that might have been too far for 5th ed, something along those lines were needed for the current codex (either making them cheaper or giving them toughness 5 and two wounds). For some unknown reason though it feels like Mr Crudace never actually looked back at the older Tyranid books to see what worked and what didn’t and decided that a complete re-write (for the 4th codex in a row) was in order and reverted back to 3rd ed, and like 3rd ed you very rarely see these creatures anymore.
It’s a shame when you think about it though. Some of my favorite units through the years have been the Mid-Zilla type creatures like the ones I listed above. I love my Raveners, even now, easily one of my fav units in the books. I really want to love Warriors too, but alas they are just way too expensive for what they do and they also suffered the single biggest nerf in the codex, yes, even bigger than Carnifexs. What was that nerf you ask? Deathspitters. Turning them into a devourer (we already have THREE other ones in this book btw – MC Devourers, Stinger Salvo, and Devourers all 18’ range, str 4-6 and Assault 3-6 with almost no AP) was such a massive mistake for the most iconic gun in the codex which has ALWAYS been a single shot blast weapon (since it shoots beetles that EXPLODE...so how that equals multi shot I will never know lol).
With all that being said I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to make this list work. While it is probably the least competitive route to take in the 5th book I think it could be incredibly fun, and depending on what kind of match up you get it can also be incredibly tough to deal with.
The first thing to do is take a quick look at which units fit this type of army the best:
- Tyranid Prime
- Parasite of Mortex
- Hive Tyrant (will explain)
- Hive Guard
- Pyrovores (you know they had to show up in a least one list :P )
- Tyranid Warriors
- Spore Pod
Tyranid Warrior/Shrike Primer: Like the Hive Tyrant, these guys have so many ways to just eat up points and give you nothing back in return. If you want to run this unit then you really need to focus what their battlefield role is. There are two main routes to take these guys:
1) Shooty Warriors: The first option is making them “shooty” warriors. The main function of these guys is objective grabbing, with a small amount of harassment and covering fire. When running “shooty” warriors you really want to strip them down to the basics. What this means is giving them NOTHING in the way of upgrades. Give them the standard scything talons and deathspitters, that’s it. What is vastly more important then upgrades for this way of running them is numbers. I would say a min of 6 is needed, but 9 is preferred. The last two things that I would do is add a shooty prime (Dual Boneswords, Deathspitters, Regenration) and give them a barbed strangler. Now you have 27 x str 5, BS 4 shots and a large blast template. It will cost you a lot of points but it might actually do something.
2) Close Combat Warriors: In my opinion this is the option to take every last time. Warriors naturally are just so much better in combat then they are at shooting. If you do go this route then there are two ways of running them.
The first is with one of the two bonesword options. I personally just do Lashwhips, Boneswords and Toxin Sacs. They are pricey (they each cost the same as a regular Land Speeder) but if they hit home they pretty much erase anything that isn’t an assault terminator, and even then depending on their numbers can do quite a number on them too. This type of Warrior/Shrike I would normally keep the numbers to 4-5 strong (for both regular warriors and shrikes).
The second option is a unit with scything talons, rending claws and toxin sacs. I do really like this option as a cheaper alternative as you have just so many wounds and so many attacks, all re-rolling wounds against T4 or lower. You can also really threaten vehicles, not to mention they are almost 20 points cheaper per guy then one with boneswords/lashwhips so you can get a full unit of 9 for the same price a unit of 6 cost with the lash whips. People also greatly under estimate just how powerful this unit really is and how long it takes to get rid of it if you aren’t equipped to fight them, which is another big bonus of this route.
Tyranid Prime: I have gone over this guy a couple times in other articles so far in regards to where to put him. Basically, like the other type of lists arming him with a Bonesword option is 100% a must. I normally just give him dual boneswords and adrenal glands and call it a day. He is just as good as a Hive Tyrant on the charge and costs literally half as much and is an independent character. As far as where to put him you have some options with this type of list. At a first glance the most obvious would be with Warriors. This is true except the only time you really want to put him with that squad is if they are “shooty” Warriors to take advantage of his BS4 (which makes the deathspitters go from HORRIBLE to just ‘okay’). The other options would be with some of the elite units like Venomthropes, Zoanthropes, Pyrovores and Hive Guard to help protect your ‘specialist units’. The last option would be to throw him in a huge unit of Termagants. All of a sudden this guy has 20-30 wounds to go through to help get him into combat.
Parasite of Mortex: For this list I like to think of this guy as your Tyranid Prime with wings (why can’t Tyranid Primes take wings anyways?). He is the only option to lead your Shrikes into battle. Another amazing use for him, like I mentioned in the Horde Tactica, is to have him lead your Gargoyles. Like the Prime in a Termagant unit they act as an escort to help him get where he needs to go.
Hive Tyrant: The only Monstrous Creature I have included in this list, and he is here for only one reason and that is Hive Commander. One thing I do love doing is getting a full unit of 9 warriors with nothing but rending claws, scything talons and toxin sacs and outflanking them with this ability. It allows you to put an incredibly heavy hitting combat squad potentially into your enemy’s ranks. Great fun.
Lictors/Deathleaper: Like the All Reserve list these guys work very well in this type of list. The big thing is to use them as a distraction, normally being placed near heavy support options in your enemy’s deployment zone. Doing this helps take the heat off of the main bulk of your army.
Hive Guard/Zoanthropes: Same as all the other lists, just there to deal with Transports and Battle Tanks respectively. Putting the Zoans in a pod for this list is 100% personal preference, but since most of the time you WON’T have Hive Commander it will be a bit of a gamble. Since you wont have much in the way of Monstrous Creatures to help you deal with tanks, I would do my best to use all my elite slots here (or one of each, maxed out, at the very least)
Pyrovores: First off, let me just say I am not suggesting you take these guys. These guys were never play tested. It’s obvious just looking at the entry that they are just biovores (probably the worst hand to hand combat unit in the book) with a heavy flamer and a power weapon. You can have some fun with them though, mainly in the form of throwing them in a pod and deepstriking them into the enemy’s lines. You really want to get them stuck in with hopes of exploding, although if the person you are facing has any concept of what they do, they will probably just rapid fire them to death with little effort. What I am saying here is only take them in casual games and just try to have as much fun with our mega throwaway unit as possible.
Venomthropes: Exact same tactic as in the horde armies. Just throw your Prime in the middle of the squad since you will have nothing in the army to block line of sight.
Termagants/Hormagaunts: These units are basically just use to screen your units of toughness 4 creatures. Like the Nidzilla article I also use them as a buffer to absorb those initial charges from elite CC units. Nothing will ruin this army’s day like a juicy unit of Assault Terminators getting into your midst.
Genestealers: I have included these guys as they are Toughness 4. Just set them up with toxin sacs and you are good to go. Due to general lack of Hive Commander you will find infiltrating them will probably be the best option.
Raveners: Ah, Raveners, how I love thee. In this blogger’s opinion the only way to go is just give them rending claws. I find guns on these guys is a complete waste due to the fact that you will always be fleeting, so you will never get a chance to shoot. For this type of list I would always take this squad in a unit size of 6-9 (6 being my fav size so far). A unit of 9 though gets 45 WS 5, Init 5 attacks on the charge, re-rolling 1’s to hit and rending. It really packs a punch and has 27 wounds to boot!
Gargoyles: Run them with your shrikes as a mobile cover unit. I would still take both upgrades always just in case they ever do make it into combat as they can still be very deadly once they get there. Plus seeing a huge winged flank for this type of army would be fantastic.
Biovores: With this type of list a Biorvore unit could be really good. Fairly cheap, great range and can help suppress those problem units like devastators or units that you will be want to be charging in a turn or two.
Tyranid Prime – Dual Boneswords, Deathspitter, Regeneration (shooty warriors)
Tyranid Prime – Scything Talons, Bonesword/Lashwhip (CC warriors), Regeneration
Hive Guard (3)
Zoanthropes (3) – Mycetic Spore
Tyranid Warriors (6) – Scything Talons, Deathspitters x 5, Barbed Strangler
Tyranid Warriors (6) – Scything Talons, Rending Claws, Toxin Sacs
Raveners (6) – Scything Talons, Rending Claws
1500pts on the dot
As you can see this army has 29 multi wound models equaling 75 x toughness 4 wounds. I focused on having some smaller units, each with a bit of combat punch to them since both warriors units each have a prime tailored to what the unit does and you also have the Raveners. I also included the Zoanthropes in a pod as well as Lictors to help add a bit of a “distraction” element to the army.
In my mind there are pretty much two ways of running a “Mid-Zilla” type army.
1) MSU (multiple small units): This is more or less the sample list I posted above. You have a decent number of smaller units each tailored to one specific job to complete and multiple threats to the enemy. With this type of army it is really important to have units like the Lictors and Zoanthropes coming in from alternate deployments to help distract from the main bulk of your army.
With the sample list above I have one unit that is designed to camp my home objective (my shooty warriors) while the rest of the army is designed to hit the enemy with multiple waves. I have my Lictors, Zoanthropes and Raveners there for the initial wave followed up by the Combat Warriors and the Termagants for the secondary wave/objective scorers. This list also plays on the Target Saturation game that most Nid armies use to their advantage. You present choices of shooting the semi-deadly stuff up in their faces right away, or shoot at the warrior squads that need quite a bit more firepower to deal with. The last bonus for this type of army over the second type is it has quite a bit of flexibility in how your units operate on the field and you can hit quite a few targets all at once.
2) MLU (multiple large units): With this type of Mid-Zilla list you will have most of your units tied up into large blocks. While your unit count goes way down in this list (as does your flexibility), each unit is considerably tougher due to their size. You have some huge blocks of units, normally consisting of 27-30 wounds each, all incredibly powerful if they actually get there.
The main advantage to this playstyle is that you give up very few kill points. People have to really focus firing each unit in order to actually deal with it. This type of army really starts coming into its own once you start playing larger games, as you can fit in a couple of these large units, and then add in some of the supporting units as well. Dealing with 9 deep striking Raveners and 9 outflanking combat warriors that all come in on the same flank on the same turn can be super tough (and those two units are only about 600ish points for 54 wounds). If you manage to get through one squad, then the other will really hit home. Chances are though, if you don’t have a huge amount of instant killing weapons you wont be able to deal with either of them.
Playing a Mid-Zilla type army can be really fun, as a lot of the more interesting units in the book are in that group. I personally think that the toughness 4 creatures on their own in their current form will be incredibly challenging to play just due to the current meta game. Virtually every army you see on the battlefield today is a parking lot packing weapons designed to kill parking lots, which spells doom for this type of list.
Even though I think there are quite a few major problems with the current form of the Tyranid Codex (which I am sure everyone is sick to death talking about lol) there are a couple of things it does really well. The main thing is the fact that there are now so many ways to play this army to both have fun and still be competitive, which is a HUGE improvement over the last couple of books. If you are willing to really play test out units and not just play the standard internet lists you can make something really different and unique. My main goal with these 4 articles is to get people thinking about those playstyles and how to combine them into something that works for them instead of just taking as many Hive Guard and Tyrannofexs as possible.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this articles as much as I have had writing them and as always, if you have any questions/comments/suggestions please feel free to ask in the comments section.