Games Workshop dropped its Q2 Balance Dataslate for 40k in mid-April, dramatically changing a number of key factions. Astra Militarum, Marines and Sisters were buffed, Harlequins, T’au, and Custodes were nerfed, and some key game rules were changed. Now with Tyranids set to hit the scene, we’re looking at several key factions and examining their place in this new emerging meta.
In today’s article we’re joined by John Lennon from The Art of War, who will be providing his thoughts on Tyranids, fresh off a new codex.
It’s a bit strange to talk about how Tyranids fared in the balance patch, when the army was released two days later! But, thanks to the previews you may have seen online, you probably already suspected that Tyranids would be coming on strong. I’ll go ahead and mention that both the Leviathan supplement and Crusher Stampede were confirmed to be obsolete in a validity update document a week later, which was a necessary move. Even with this, Tyranids are an S-tier army on the Harlequins’ level that did not take any serious nerfs, while some of their biggest contenders for the throne took a hit.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I love this army. I’ve played Tyranids for over half of my life, and they’ve been a bottom-half army for about 11 of the last 14 years. This new Codex is everything I have ever wanted, and I am going to enjoy it while I’ve got it, because this army seems destined for its own balance patch adjustments in a few months. Fortunately this book is about as deep as anything I have seen in this edition, and will almost certainly survive first contact with the FAQ team. Right now though, Tyranids look like the strongest army in the game, and I expect them to be dominant when tournament results start rolling in. Tyranids received two very modest nerfs in the changes to indirect fire and bodyguard, as these are mechanics in the army, but I think any Tyranid player could look at what happened and exhale in relief. Tyrant Guard can still protect Hive Tyrants, and Tyranid indirect fire doesn’t look to be an essential part of any of these builds frankly. Plus, less indirect fire coming back at me! Fundamentally, this army is still real good.
What changed, then? The landscape around our new bug overlords. Custodes and Harlequins will be much less present than before, while Eldar were also untouched and Tau seem to be still quite intact. Add to that an expected Marine resurgence, and this superpredator codex has a very different field to prey on. Honestly, I think that this meta will be slightly more difficult for Tyranids to play into, because I believe that Tau and Eldar are the two best armies to try and take on the bugs. Also, it should be mentioned that Tyranids have a load of ap -1 to ap -3 weapons in their toolkit, so Armor of Contempt will likely have a strong impact.
I know it feels like a weird flex to say that you can beat Space Marines, but I have to say it. Space Marines got a large buff, and I expect them to be very popular in the short term as players try to grasp where the army is in this brave new world. I’m not convinced that Marines are a top-tier army yet, but they’re certainly competitive and will be present in much larger numbers than before, so having a good matchup against Space Marines is still relevant. For as much mid-AP weaponry as Nids have, they also possess strong mortal wound output and the ability to increase their attacks’ AP value. Leviathan and Kraken are easily two of the stronger Hive Fleets, and both can counteract the Armor of Contempt rule by simply ratcheting up their own AP in combat. It goes without saying that Tyranids can also handle the current chaos lineup, because GW believes that the only way to resist mortal wounds is to have faith in the Emperor. Magnus did a lot wrong, and now his sons just get to eat Maleceptor mortals with little protection.
I don’t know if Tyranids actually struggle into Tau and Eldar, but I would pick these as the most likely upsets. Tyranids will likely have a positive win rate across the entire field because Games Workshop wrote that kind of book for them. In terms of what they’re actually weak against, the biggest problem I have found so far is that Tyranids no longer have one single unit that goes all the way across the battlefield, so they struggle with long-ranged guns that can then avoid getting shot back. Tyranid shooting is good, but hardly oppressive or bountiful, so any unit that can deal serious damage without repercussions will add up against the bugs. Immediately, I look at Swooping Hawks, Windriders, Crisis Suits and Commanders as potentially annoying threats. Tyranids are tough enough to take a turn of shooting from most armies, but if their ranged opponents are also highly mobile (see the listed units), they will get multiple chances to deal damage. So far the magic range bracket for my Tyranid army has been 24”. If you’re in that range, I can probably kill you. If you’re out of it, you may take some chip damage but I am unlikely to just remove you from the table without expending some real effort.
What’s a bug to do? Frankly, the Tyranid army is durable enough that it can probably wade through it if you lean into your defensive buffs. The Maleceptor’s -1 to incoming strength is fantastic into a Tau army that packs a lot of Strength 8 weaponry, and no one likes having a Venomthrope contribute -1 to hit to your whole army. Still, identifying this as my largest potential problem makes me more inclined to take fast or deep striking units, so that I have more opportunities to close the gap without taking the brunt of the firepower. Even more so than before, this has me leaning towards the speed of Kraken over the durability (and increased mortal output) of Leviathan.
Building for the new Meta
As mentioned above, Hive Fleet Kraken feels like a winner here. I initially rated Leviathan as the top subfaction, and haven’t actually lost a game with them, but I like the way that Kraken feels when writing a list. Their inherent trait provides extra AP in combat, a perfect buff against Space Marines, and their Stratagem gives that extra piece of speed I have been wanting. There is nothing that feels as bad as rolling a 1 to advance before a crucial charge, so I’ll happily spend a command point to get that to an automatic 8! I think Tyranids still want to build a tough army that can weather the harshest damage output, which to me is a flurry of mid level bugs and all of the defense a Norn queen could ask for.
+++ Kraken Battalion Detachment +++
No Slot: 4x Tyrant Guard, Toxin Sacks 170
Winged Hive Tyrant (Adrenal Glands, Lash Whip, Bonesword, Adaptive Biology, Reaper of Obliterax, Psychic Scream, the Horror) 205
Neurothrope (Direct Guidance, Catalyst, Onslaught, Neuroparasite, Resonance Barb) 100
Neurothrope (Psychic Scream, Paroxysm) 100
+ Troops +
10x gargoyles 80
3x Warriors (2x Deathspitters, Venom Cannon, 3x Boneswords) 80
3x Warriors (Adrenal Glands, 4x Deathspitters, 2x Venom Cannon, 6x Boneswords) 175
+ Elites +
3x Pyrovores 90
3x Pyrovores 90
2x Pyrovores 60
Maleceptor (Catalyst, Neuroparasite) 170
3x Zoanthropes (Onslaught) 150
3x Venomthropes 105
+ Fast Attack +
5x Raveners (Rending Claws, Deathspitters) 150
5x Raveners (Scything Talons, Deathspitters) 150
Parasite of Mortrex (Alien Cunning, Gestation Sac) 80
+ Heavy Support +
Tyranids have an excellent secondary game as-is, and a strong set of Datasheets, but I tried to build as many options in as possible to be safe. Secondaries are never a guarantee, but I tried to ensure a good option in at least four categories so that I can choose my best three in a given game. Tyranids inherently score Stranglehold or Engage very well, and their army makes people want to stay away, so they have a strong case for Banners as well. With psychic characters and strong casting bonuses, I also like Warp Ritual or Psychic Interrogation as a clutch pick. Finally, I’ve tried to keep To The Last as a realistic option. Here, it will be the Tyrant Guard, Hive Tyrant, and a Warrior squad. All of these can happily spend their time on objectives behind walls, or in the Tyrants case, hammering his prey before running beyond a wall.
I don’t need to tell you that tough Tyranid units are good, and you’ve probably already heard about our lord and savior, the Maleceptor. I only took one here though, as I wanted to have enough points to take two Ravener units to “cycle” every turn, alternating between the Kraken Opportunistic Advance and Encircle the Prey to charge the enemy and then leave. I still wanted some sneaky tech pieces though, and so far the Parasite has been an unmatched toolkit for the Tyranids. An extremely fast synapse unit with fly can complete the chain, leave, contest objectives, and spawn charging ripper swarms across the table to tie up and block the enemy. Genuinely, I don’t ever want to leave the winged nuisance at home.
Wrapping Things Up
That wraps up our look at Tyranids but we’ll be back with more Faction Focus articles looking at how things have changed over the next two weeks – we’ll have more from both the Goonhammer and Art of War teams covering a variety (but likely not all) of the game’s factions.
You can get more great analysis and insight from the Art of War by heading over to their site.
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