9th Edition Faction Focus: Tyranids

An article by    Competitive Play Gaming Warhammer 40k        0

9th edition is on the way, and with it a whole raft of changes to the factions of Warhammer 40,000. With the Munitorum Field Manual out in the wild and the Faction FAQs released, now’s a good time to start taking a look at what’s changed for all of our favourite armies. Today, PierreTheMime is talking about how Tyranids fare in the new edition.

As I’m sure you’re aware by now, the advent of Warhammer 40,000 9th edition is creating some major shakeups within the game generally as well as a rebalancing of factions. As a long-time Tyranid player, I’ve been around for their ups and downs and am eager to get the bugs back to the table to see how things shake out. 8th edition was a significant improvement for Tyranids, though after the very important “rule of three” update that nerfed Flyrant lists they never really returned to top-tier in competitive circles for a number of reasons. We keep the dream alive, don’t we?

In this article we’re going to do a bit of a dive into the individual Tyranids units and how their current codex and Psychic Awakening changes look under the lens of 9th. Will it help or hinder our friendly little bugs?

Of note, I’m not really going to address Forge World models in this article, primarily because they aren’t really significant changes there and about the only one you’d typically see on the table is the Malanthrope (it’s still fine). At some point in the future the entire Forge World range is going to get a revamp which will likely be many articles unto their own.

 

Overview

As a bit of a refresher, let’s first go over the significant changes in 9th edition and how they impact the Tyranids as a whole:

Terrain is now much more versatile and valuable (albeit initially much more confusing). Nid players will particularly find Dense terrain handy when dealing with their large and often awkwardly shaped monsters, as you draw line of sight to the base instead of the whole model which are much easier to hide. However, Obscuring terrain works the same as before so you’ll still need to be mindful about hiding every wing and claw if you’re trying to avoid getting targeted by shooting attacks altogether. Additionally, Digestive Denial was updated to “eat” both Light and Heavy cover, which is going to be a potentially important option depending on your terrain situation.

Making Fall Back moves is far less useful. This is potentially a very serious hit to Tyranid flexibility. Like all other armies, units with the FLY keyword that fall back can no longer shoot freely. Primarily this impacts winged Hive Tyrants, but there were a number of other units such a Harpies and Hive Crones that used to be helpful to tag shooting targets in melee and fly off laughing. Who’s laughing now? No one, including the Flyers that will likely be seeing more shelf time. More significantly for the psyker-heavy Tyranids, you cannot fall back and use psychic powers. This again mostly hurts Hive Tyrants, but the large number of other psyker units are going to feel the hurt here too. As a Hive Fleet Kraken player who used Fall Back moves as a primary tactic, this is the biggest hit to the faction and I’m not thrilled.

Blast weapons are going to hurt. A lot. This one is less specific to the faction but is worth pointing out. Our precious hordes of mostly weak gribblies are going to get hit with a lot of incoming fire. Especially considering the point bumps across the board, the decisions on model count and deployment are going to be even more important than before. On the flip side of that coin, Tyranids have a large number of Blast type weapons of their own now and that could make for some hilarious/useful situations. Heavy Venom Cannons are going to be a lot more dangerous against units of 6+ and are just begging to turbo-murder some Primaris units. Tyrannocytes shooting 30 Barbed Strangler shots into 11+ models? Sounds like fun to me.

Making a Morale check with infantry is no longer a death sentence. Like a few other horde-centric armies, Tyranids have struggled with keeping their troops from melting under heavy fire.  In 8th edition, a lot of units that got caught outside of Synapse and took losses quickly evaporated due to their absolutely pathetic Leadership, unless you were forced to shell out the 2CP for Insane Bravery to keep them around on a critical objective. Either way, it was a fast way to lose some critical resources. Now the Morale phase is much less punishing for our little bugs, with a ~17% chance to automatically pass and even if you fail you’re likely losing a much smaller number of models in your unit.  Thematically this makes Synapse slightly less important but in terms of game mechanics it makes shooting into large blocks of bugs less of a sure bet unless they really commit to it.

Most of the other 9th edition core rule changes are generally applicable to every army–if you’re not up-to-date I highly suggest you go read up on them.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Tyranid units and how the rule and point changes are looking to shake things up…

 

Battlefield Roles

HQ

Compared to a lot of the other battlefield role types, HQ units made out pretty well with one noteworthy exception (more on that in a moment). Our golden Monster, the one-and-only Hive Tyrant, survived the transition very well taking only a minor point increase for both the walking and winged varieties. This pretty much guarantees we’ll continue to see them on the table, but as mentioned above the change to Fall Back significantly impacts their usefulness. Weirdly, Monstrous Rending Claws remains free and the obvious best choice for a melee weapon.  This may be a moment we could see walking Hive Tyrants seeing more tables, as the cost of wings is high and the benefit isn’t great, especially if you want a tough babysitter for back-line units.  Slap on a Heavy Venom Cannon for elite/tank hunting and call it a day.

The Swarmlord, Neurothrope, Broodlord, and Tyranid Prime all had very small increases and generally remain very useful. There’s really not all that much to say about these in the transition from 8th to 9th edition. Here’s hoping that ol’ Swarmie gets crowned with the SUPREME COMMANDER keyword, as most of the HQs are pretty great/useful and it would be nice to just reserve a free detachment for it instead of having to compete for a slot.

Credit: PierreTheMime

Old One Eye likewise only took a small hit in points and received a very special FAQ update to grant it Character-like targeting immunity similar to (but better than) Look Out, Sir. Unlike Look Out, Sir requirements, Old One Eye needs only be within 3” of any <HIVE FLEET> CARNIFEX unit to not be a possible target for shooting attacks. This means in practice the Alpha Leader can actually lead the pack from the front as the foremost model with absolute immunity until the opponent chews through the rest of the typically-harder-to-hit monsters within range of the ability. It also means that Old One Eye is effectively immune to Overwatch if he’s flanked by another Carnifex. I am skeptical this is not going to be changed, but if it was intentional it’s really neat and greatly increases the value of the HQ.

For whatever reason, the continually downtrodden Tervigon took another big hit, increasing its point cost substantially. Why do they keep hating on this fun little unit? It really hasn’t been competitive in ages, so this change just feels mean and unnecessary.

Troops

Tyranid Troops have basically come in three flavors for a while now—large swathes of hordes (very fluffy but up-to-now rarely competitive), smaller but still large numbers of Genestealers (occasionally competitive but easy to counter), or compulsory Rippers to fill slots and build detachments.

Termagants, Hormagaunts, and Rippers each only went up a point each in the Munitorum Field Manual, with little to no changes in bioweapon costs. The real problem for horde-style lists is that often times you’re fielding multiple tens of these models so those points add up quickly. Especially with Blast in play, you’re really going to need to accept that you’re going to have a good number of these models dying on the way in. On the plus-side, the table is smaller and if you get them into combat, then all these Blast weapons go away, so the ability to overwhelm the line has gotten a little easier. Better still, non-Tau factions can only Overwatch you once per turn, so that’s a great deal of attrition out the window.

Rippers still remain a viable option, either as throw-away slot-filler or as a legitimate choice. They’re fantastic for sneaking distant objectives and with an application of Buried Threats can go from annoying to clutch. As someone who used cheap units of Termagants pretty frequently up to now, I can definitely see the option of fielding minimum 10-count (under full Blast bonus) units to fill out a Brigade detachment. However, the change to unit coherency makes stringing your units out tougher (which was often done to hold objectives while remaining in Synapse/Shrouding Spores aura range) and the difference between a bunch of minimum-sized units of Termagants and Rippers more than doubled and that points difference adds up. There’s certainly a balance to be struck, as Rippers aren’t exactly durable and multi-damage weapons can quickly clear them off the table. A large block of ‘ga(u)nts might go a long way for board control and/or as a distraction, but you definitely need a plan around where they’re going and perhaps a psyker to back them up with Synapse and Catalyst.

Behold, a roughly-equivalent amount of Ripper Swarms and Termagants
Credit: PierreTheMime

Tyranid Warriors have been one of the winners of the Psychic Awakening: Blood of Baal update. They can become a pretty tough nut to crack with a little investment (specifically the application of Enhanced Resistance Adaptive Physiology and as-needed use of the Unyielding Chitin stratagem) and in an edition that values Troops a bit more that can be particularly useful. Packing a few Blast weapons in a big unit can be an effective way to babysit objectives and deal some respectable damage at a range. For their overall point/CP cost they’re still not especially powerful in terms of overall damage, but considering where they came from at the start of 8th with a little tweaking there’s plenty of reasons for these to see the table.

Tyranid Warrior

Tyranid Warrior
Credit: Pendulin

Our friends the Genestealers, though? Not doin’ so great. Let me start this paragraph by saying Genestealers were one of my first forays into 40k close to 20 years ago and I really enjoy the rending little guys. I want them to succeed. The problem is everyone and their rejuvenat-juiced grandmother knows they are a mortal threat and treat them as a priority target. Their frail little bodies just can’t stand up to the punishment most armies can commit their way. Genestealers took a relatively large point increase and with the advent of Blast type weapons, it’s easier to score more damage, so you’re stuck either hoping against all odds you can go first and make it across the table (likely with the Swarmlord) or you’re paying a premium to bring them in from reserve in some way. Granted, there’s a good number of ways to do that, but you’re already paying a substantial amount for the unit, and then there’s either a Tyrannocyte or Trygon, or paying CP to reserve them. End of the day you’re sinking a lot of resources into a gamble that very often just does not pay off. Don’t get me wrong it feels great when it works, but it usually doesn’t and then it feels like you’ve sunk your entire game on a four-armed albatross. I’m down on ‘stealers for now, but here’s hoping the next codex gives them new life.

Elites

As you’d expect, some of the better models in the faction have eaten some of the bigger point increases. Coming into the Elites slot, the first thing most Tyranid players look at (and rightfully so) is the Hive Guard, so I’m going to start there. A lot of the units now have the “default” weapons baked into their cost, so there’s a bit of a sticker shock when you see how much these have increased (+22). However, not only is the shockcannon now free (-21) but the impaler cannon (-15) is reduced to take that into account, so the overall increase is more reasonable. This is especially true as weapons that ignore line of sight are more valuable due to Obscuring terrain. Are they more expensive? Yes. Will you still field them? Absolutely.

Tyranid Hive Guard

Tyranid Hive Guard. Credit: That Gobbo

I’ve not been a big fan of the Maleceptor until now, though I know that some people have been. Post-Blood of Baal its potential applications have increased, though in my opinion Encephalic Diffusion is really pricey for what it does unless you’ve positioned your army to take advantage. Looking over how units in the Tyranid codex interact with the 9th edition rules, there are a few instances where somewhat useful abilities are given new life. Psychic Overload is one of those abilities, as it allows you to make a Fall Back move and inflict mortal wounds in the Psychic phase without actually casting a power. In a world where psykers now have to get stuck in to continue to use their brains, this brain-bug might be handy in this regard so you can bring your guns to bear and not completely lose usefulness. This is especially true as Kraken so you can then jump to another enemy unit. Might have to try that one out in the near future.

There’s not all that much that could be said about the rest of the units. Generally Elites saw only a minor point bump, especially those units that don’t see much play right now and that probably won’t change.

Fast Attack

The Tyranid Fast Attack slot has long been that awkward space where players only consider these options to fill out Brigade detachments. Generally this has not changed and there’s not all that much to talk about here. The big losers in this slot are Gargoyles, who have taken a moderate hike in points in exchange for losing usefulness since they can’t shoot after falling back. Having played Skyblight Swarms back in earlier editions, I have a good number of these sitting around that will continue to not see the table.

Heavy Support

Heavy Support units have been a strong point for Tyranids for a while and Monsters in general have been seeing point increases to match the benefits of new rules like Big Guns Never Tire that allows them to shoot while in Engagement Range of enemy units. Simply put, this is where you’ll likely be seeing the largest chunk of your points going in terms of 9th edition costs. Most units took somewhere between a 12-20+% increase in cost, which is pretty sizeable. That said, most of them are still going to be worth it. Every faction is absorbing similar costs across their range, so just accept you’ll be seeing slightly less on the table in a 2,000-point game. One of the nice things about Big Guns Never Tire for Tyranids is the large majority of their shooting attacks are Assault type, which means you’re less likely to suffer a penalty for shooting in close combat (if the weapon isn’t Blast to begin with).

It’s worth noting that the Tyrannofex looks like the biggest loser, until you realize it’s the only model in the role that had its default weapons cost-adjusted into the model, so its Fleshborer Hive and Spinebanks are now free and Rupture Cannon and Acid Spray have been discounted to match. A very tough and very shooty beast, the Acid Spray Tyrannofex is an even better deterrent than in 8th edition and wants nothing more than to sit in combat with most infantry and continually dump 4d6 acid hits into screaming faces.

Exocrines went back up to where they were pre-Chapter Approved 2019 points-wise, but now they have a pretty strong deterrent for getting locked in combat with non-horde units. Hitting at -1 for Heavy hurts a bit, but that’s still 3-4 dead Intercessor-level models on average which is nice considering in 8th edition these guys were just straight hosed for a turn if anyone got a touch in.

Especially with Old One Eye getting a shot in the arm, the Carnifex may be a decent, if expensive, option. Considering the overall increase on everything, you may want to keep things simple (I know it’s tempting to load up on weapons and biomorphs). Keeping things “cheap” makes it sting less when you lose one of these beautiful Monsters and the more bodies to hide Old One Eye the better. As with a lot of things, decisions on weapon load outs haven’t really changed depending on their role.  For front-line units you may want to just stick with twin scything talons, as their price has not increased and the +1 Attack helps.  Mid-field harrassers with twin devourers are still okay (but they’ve gotten a lot more expensive) wrecking enemy infantry and now presenting a real threat in close combat, especially since their BS does not degrade. Back-line units will probably want to stick with Heavy Venom Cannons and a cheap secondary. Even with the Blast improvement I don’t think the Stranglethorn Cannon is worth it, as it’s overpowered for shooting infantry and not enough AP to threaten tougher units where 2 damage counts.  A big note here is Old One Eye no longer buffs ‘fexes on the charge to be an effective WS 2+, as you’re already getting +1 to hit thanks to Living Battering Ram, but if you’re stuck in it will help in the following turns.

Credit: PierreTheMime

A very 9th edition consideration you’ll want to make now is how useful Blast weapons are going to be. Back-line units are going to find them quite useful, but most Monsters that want to see combat are going to want to avoid that if possible so they can both assault and continue to shoot in combat in the ensuing turns. You’ll still likely want to field some, especially since Heavy Venom Cannons are highly valued as one of the only anti-elite/tank weapons Tyranids have easy access to.

Flyers

Both the Harpy and the Hive Crone saw an small point increase but large adjustment to how they can play. Until now, one of the more useful methods to utilize these winged gun-beasts was to hurl them headlong into enemy lines with their incredible 30” move, disrupt shooting while you advanced with the rest of your army, then jump away shooting and laughing as you go. This (especially as a Kraken player) was an incredibly useful tactic that I employed pretty frequently during 8th edition. This tactic is now dead and gone, which makes me very sad. While they have the potential to dish out some damage (their middling BS has been slightly helped by potentially getting more hits with Blast), both of these models really have no ability to go head-to-head with just about any other Flyer and are an easy target (since they’re not a “true” Flyer they don’t have Hard To Hit)–they’re just too fragile at T6 Sv 4+ to last unless you manage to play keep-away long enough. At the end of the day every useful gun except for Tentaclids can be found elsewhere on sturdier and more reliable units, mainly the Hive Tyrant or Carnifex.

Dedicated transport

Ah, the Tyrannocyte. This thing has always been a bit awkward, as it’s not often where you need to transport a unit into battle for Tyranids and when you do there’s a good number of options. There are some reasons you may want to bring it along, but those have not changed between 8th edition and now. This model took pretty big increase in points and both the Deathspitter and Venom Cannon increased as well (small increases, but you have to take five of the things). The Barbed Strangler, however, stayed put and the ludicrous number of Blast shots this thing can put out is pretty funny (and the +1 to hit against 10+ models helps its terrible BS5+). Of course, it’s a lot of points to put into a flying gun-egg just in the hope of battling some T3-T4 horde army and that just really isn’t going to cut it most of the time.

 

Mixing Hive Fleet detachments and allies

One of the biggest changes to 9th edition is detachments being turned on their head. There are a variety of Hive Fleets that players find most useful and/or enjoy, and you used to be able to pretty easily stack your benefits in Battalions and enjoy a Command Point boost for your trouble. Now, though, we’re looking at ways to reduce detachment buy-ins and cling tenaciously to whatever CP pool the game size provides. Typically you’re going to be seeing Brigades or Battalions, potentially with a Patrol splashed on the side to grab those other fleet options.  In terms of ideal Hive Fleet things haven’t changed all the much in that regard: Kronos is king due to strong shooting and abilities, followed by Jormungandr and Kraken, and then everything else.

A Patrol is perfectly sized to slide in a useful detachment that you may not use as your primary fleet without breaking the CP bank. 2 CP is well worth enjoying some other fleet stratagems and powers if it shores up your build. Kronos is the obvious candidate if it’s not already your primary. Deepest Shadow ruining some psyker’s day or having a Symbiostorm-ed Hive Guard or Exocrine just utterly nuke some tank downfield can be vital. Other fleets have their benefits as well, and this flexibility in play-style can be quite useful. In 8th edition it could often be a bit awkward to hunt for the roles to fill the detachment requirements and in that regard a Patrol is much more forgiving. Unless there’s a sizable shakeup along the way, I’m going to pretty comfortably say there is where most players are going to sit. It’s safe enough to use and the detachment offers enough role slots to build out what you want or need.

A very quick note on “souping” detachments of Genestealer Cults: probably don’t do it? If Tyranids took a moderate hit in terms of points and rules, GSC got a full gut punch and a lot of their army just isn’t working at the moment.  Some models are better, but is it worth spending extra CP to blend some bikes? Not really, no. Tyranids are CP-greedy as it is. Don’t hurt your options.

List Ideas

With the significant exception of Genestealers, the point rebalance hasn’t changed what models you’d be considering for what Tyranid players consider competitive. One thing you’ll probably quickly notice is Tyranids are hurting more for CP than in 8th edition (since we were easily able to build multiple big detachments), so conserve where you can. As always there’s a number of different ways to go with things but we wanted to offer up a couple ideas that will play to what strengths the faction has.

Old One Eye and its many-armed friends

Tyranids Battalion (1090, -1CP)
Hive Fleet: Kronos

HQ: Neurothrope (Resonance Barb, Powers: Symbiostorm, Smite)
HQ: Malanthrope

Troops: 10x Termagant
Troops: 10x Termagant
Troops: 4x Ripper Swarm
Troops: 3x Ripper Swarm
Troops: 3x Ripper Swarm

Elites: 6x Hive Guard (Impaler Cannon)

Heavy Support: Exocrine (Dermic Symbiosis)
Heavy Support: Exocrine (Dermic Symbiosis -1CP)

Tyranids Patrol (901, -2CP)
Hive Fleet: Kraken

HQ: Old One Eye

Troops: 3x Ripper Swarm

Heavy Support: 3x Carnifex (Adrenal Glands, 2x Monstrous Scything Talon, Spore Cysts)
Heavy Support: 3x Carnifex (Adrenal Glands, 2x Monstrous Scything Talon, Spore Cysts)

If you’ve played Tyranids for a while this type of list really shouldn’t surprise you, because it’s one of the better (only) competitive routes we have, strong Kronos gunbeasts plus X thing. Since 8th edition, Tyranids lean heavily on good anti-elite shooting (they sure as hell didn’t in earlier editions) and this does not change.  What does change here where the non-shooting points have gone.

For this list I wanted to play around a bit with Old One Eye’s new status as a nigh-unshootable horror.  It wasn’t a slouch in combat to begin with, but now Tyranids have a no-Overwatch trick in their bag (of tricks) that might come in very handy. This list gives it 48 T7 wounds to chew through (at -1 to hit) before it’s in danger, so it’s giving the opponent a hard target barreling toward them to deal with while the mostly-unchanged Kronos detachment rips them up with bioplasma and wicked spikes.

I’m big on Exocrines and have been for a long while. They’re still a strong choice and tossing Dermic Symbiosis on them greatly extends their life and impact to the game. The Kronos detachment has a couple (under 11+) Termagant units along for the ride to provide some basic wrapping and objective bodies, but I’ve used the last spare points to toss extra Ripper Swarms in to drop them where they’re needed most and provide the needed unit for Deepest Shadow to go off when needed.  Locking down as many objectives as possible from turn two can obviously be important and can leave gunline lists scrambling to play catchup if they don’t have the mobility to meet you.

Alex Macdougall’s Take

Tyranids Battalion (1998, -1CP)
Hive Fleet: Kronos

HQ: The Swarmlord (Powers: Onslaught, The Horror, Smite)
HQ:
Neurothrope (Resonance Barb, Powers: Symbiostorm, Smite)
HQ: Malanthrope

Troops: 30x Termagant
Troops: 27x Termagant
Troops: 3x Ripper Swarm
Troops: 3x Ripper Swarm
Troops: 3x Ripper Swarm

Elites: 6x Hive Guard (Impaler Cannon) (Enhanced Resistance)
Elites: 6x Zoanthropes (Powers: Catalyst, Smite)

Heavy Support: Exocrine (Dermic Symbiosis -1CP)
Heavy Support: Exocrine
Heavy Support: Tyrannofex (Acid Spray)

Alex Macdougall graciously offered to lend their insight on where they think Tyranids work best in 9th edition. This list plays to the well-known strengths of Kronos while giving you some useful bodies as ammunition for the Swarmlord to bully enemy positioning. Large blocks of Termagants are still costed well enough to be useful for swarming objectives and denying enemy movement or positioning. As it always has, Catalyst can extend their staying power and the update to morale means if they’re out of Synapse they’ll be sticking around to pester things unless they really try to put them out. Damage out of these bugs isn’t expected–their utility lies in board control. As a secondary/as-needed use, the Swarmlord can shuffle the Zoanthropes or Tyrannofex into best position. I’d expect to see this type of versatile Swarmlord use more often in 9th while we wait on our next book. Similar to the list above Rippers are lying in wait for objective-grabs and psychic-blocking shenanigans.

 

Final Thoughts

So in terms of raw points, overall the Tyranids came out mostly okay. “Okay” in this case is pretty relative. The forces of the Hive Mind continue to sit pretty solidly in the middle-to-low tier of factions in terms of overall power and competitiveness. This in itself isn’t a huge surprise, since any major change in that regard would be the type of thing you’d more expect from a new codex. There are some significant cost increases–as discussed most armies will be seeing those–but many of the already good units did not see a huge hit while some of the already uncompetitive units continue to languish. The major changes to movement, terrain, coherency, Monsters, Blast, and others have at best been a wash but have seriously disrupted a lot of the core ways the army functions. If you played hyper-aggressive Genestealer or Fly-heavy Kraken lists like myself, you’re probably back to the drawing board.  This in itself can be an interesting and exciting time, but unless you’re swimming in a pile of plastic spacebugs it might also mean you need to start eyeing new purchases.  If this is the case, unless you have a hole burning in your pocket perhaps pause and dust off some other armies until we see where the new (hopefully bolder and more synergistic) codex leaves us.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.comOr if you’re a patron, head on over to our Discord and chat with us!

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.