Welcome to War Zone: Nephilim! There’s never been a shake-up this large during an edition of 40k, and over the last three weeks Games Workshop dropped a new missions pack with all-new secondaries, changed how CP works in games, published new, all-digital points for the first time ever, and published a new balance dataslate, dramatically shifting the power levels of some armies.
Whenever there are changes on this scale you can count on a new series of Faction Focus articles and we’re doing the same for Nephilim as we did for Nachmund. In this article John Lennon of the Art of War is here to talk about Tyranids, covering how the faction changed, what it means for playing them, how they’re likely to fare in the new meta, and offer a list with some thoughts on playing them.
The Notable Changes
As the apex predators of the meta coming into Nephilim, it was all but inevitable that Tyranids were going to receive some heavy changes and nerfs in the new season. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes:
- Warlord Limitations. The Q3 Balance Dataslate imposed limits on who can be your warlord (a HIVE TYRANT, if you have one), and that your Warlord must be alive and on the table in order for your army to use Synaptic Imperatives.
- Non-Adaptive Traits. Tyranid Adaptive Traits must now be chosen during list creation and marked on your list, not chosen at the table before the game starts.
- Point Increases. Tyranids received sweeping points increases across the army, both on staple units, and the units that were likely to replace them following increases.
Tyranids took a pretty heavy nerf points-wise in the balance patch, and for good reason – they were undisputedly the top dog before Nephilim, and had a lot of room to take a hit before actually becoming bad. But, it appears that GW learned something from their ill-fated string of gentle nerfs to Drukhari, and decided to take a pretty big swing at the bugs.
The balance dataslate packed a few changes, notably to the warlord. Now, if you take a Hive Tyrant or the Swarmlord it must be your warlord, and if you lose your warlord you can’t select Synaptic Imperatives anymore. This is a nerf in effect to the melee Flyrant, who is no longer a fire-and-forget unit in the early game. He’s still relatively disposable late game if you have already used your best imperatives, but now must be used with a little more care. Additionally, Tyrant Guard somehow become even more mandatory here. Of course, there is the option to just not take a Tyrant, at which point your Neurothrope probably wasn’t dying anyways so nothing has changed.
The last change here is that Adaptive traits are marked on your roster during list creation, meaning they are no longer changed after you see your opponent’s list. From a lore perspective, this feels like a big miss that your adaptive traits no longer adapt to the opponent, which felt like the whole point. But when it comes to competitive play this isn’t actually that big of a deal. Most games with Tyranids led to me taking the best trait anyways, and it didn’t change much between games. There are a few more skewed matchups that will get harder without the ability to take an obscure trait – Chaos Knights and T’au Empire come up as examples here, where I would previously want to ignore charge modifiers and Overwatch against those factions, but I’m not going to mark that on my list as it’s less generically useful than +1 to charge or some of the faction-specific traits. Other lists appear to be building around a specific Lurk trait, and will probably continue to lean into either Objective Secured monsters or double cover on infantry with no real changes here.
Of course, GW wasn’t going to leave it there. The balance changes were all moderate nerfs, but Tyranids needed a little more than that. Tyranid point costs went up across the board, with my most recently played list gaining a whopping 400+ points in new costs. Warriors, Raveners, and Pyrovores all saw increases, as well as Tyrants, Carnifexes, Harpies, and Maleceptors. After whacking these staple units, GW went hunting for our backup plans as well, adding points to the Exocrine, Tyrannocyte, and Acid Spray Tyrannofex as well as the Swarmlord and Deathleaper. GW left no stone unturned and if you weren’t spamming Termagants your list went up in points. The net result is that Tyranid players will have to do more with less.
Playing Nephilim Missions
Tyranids were previously the kings of Strangehold, with To The Last being very easy to build into a list – both of these have been removed from the Nephilim GT missions. With their two best choices removed from the game, Tyranid players are forced to re-read their faction secondaries and realize that they are actually pretty terrible.
- Synaptic Insight is a weirdly worse version of No Prisoners that involves killing multiple vehicles a turn to get value out of, but also caps at a 12, and is terrible.
- Spore Nodes used to be a worse version teleport homers, but that objective was so bad it got removed from the game, and is somehow still better than Spore Nodes!
- The only silver lining here is that Cranial Feasting got a little bit easier, where a melee-heavy Tyranid List can get some real points out of murdering characters and sergeants in close combat for a burst of points.
Fortunately, Tyranids still have access to the universal secondaries, which is where most of our choices will come from. Tyranids continue to be a strong Banners army, and I expect will continue to take them in just about every mission. Tyranid players will have to branch out into the psychic category to stay competitive, but luckily they can perform both Psychic Interrogation and Warp Ritual very well. Warp Ritual is probably safer, as most enemy characters will be trying to run from the bugs anyways, but Interrogation comes with a huge upside of potentially gaining command points. This is particularly the case with Neurothropes, who have the ability to cast on 3d6 and take the highest, which when combined with one (or two, or three) modifiers to cast makes it possible to beat most leadership values while Interrogating.
That third choice will probably come as a kill secondary, between Cranial Feasting, No Prisoners, Bring it Down, or Grind them down.
Squaring Up Against the Meta
Tyranids were previously the biggest dog on the block, and everyone knew it. That means that a lot of lists were packed full of anti-Tyranid tech, but the meta is about to take another shift. If Sisters of Battle, Necrons, and more armies which were previously less common become more prevalent then profiles may change. Tyranids have relatively uncommon profiles, and so may benefit if there is a general decline in the number of Cyclic Ion Blasters, Helverins, and shuriken cannons being fielded. It remains to be seen how popular Tyranids will be post-Nephilim, but there is certainly enough power to run them competitively in this new season and early indications are that they’re still competitive.
The two largest threats to Hive Mind supremacy in the past few months have been Eldar and Tau, but at least the Craftworlds have taken a reasonable hit. Stripping ignore cover from Hail of Doom lists is significant in itself, but Eldar will also struggle with having fewer units able to shoot and then hide from return fire. With most mid-sized bugs packing a deathspitter, any elf in line of sight is in serious danger. I think this matchup has actually improved for ‘Nids, because Eldar will have to change their own game plan to account for secondary changes, and more forced interactions in the middle will be playing right into our clawed hands. Necrons and Chaos Space Marines are also two emerging threats who really don’t want to deal with an excess of mortal wounds, which Tyranids absolutely still pack. Cheaper C’Tan and re-animating Warriors hate this one simple trick… it’s zoanthropes. Necrons hate zoanthropes. Maintaining mortal wound output without the Maleceptor is still one of Tyranids’ largest strengths.
It’s not all roses for the Hive Mind; there are going to be several challenges in the new meta. Tyranids are still a strong melee army with plenty of tricks, but with less material to work with they may suffer against heavy shooting armies. Tau lost about as much material as Tyranids and were capable of shooting the bugs off the table before, so not much has changed on that front. Any army that is able to successfully apply weight of fire to Tyranids is going to have the upper hand, as Tyranids no longer have cheap enough units to shrug off significant losses and keep chugging. Imperial Knights, and their chaotic brethren, are also cause for concern. Both titanic factions are more than capable of thinning out Tyranids before they get to combat, and have plenty of high damage melee for dealing with the remnants of a Tyranid army that tried to rush them down. Chaos Knights offer a further wrinkle in dread tests, as Tyranids are a notoriously low leadership army and extremely susceptible to failing dread tests and suffering morale, mortal wounds, or charge penalties. Tyranids are a capable shooting army, and need some ranged support in all of these matchups, but leaning too hard into guns can take away the strengths of the faction if you’re not careful.
Finally no Faction Focus would be complete without a list. This time we’re moving to Kraken and focusing on board control.
Hive fleet kraken patrol Detachment
Hive tyrant (lash whip/Bonesword, HVC, Psychic Scream, Onslaught, Warlord) 195
Neurothrope (Direct Guidance, Resonance Barb, Catalyst, Onslaught, Paroxysm) 100
3x Tyranid Warriors (Venom Cannon) 95
No slot: 3x Tyrant Guard 120
No slot: 3x Zoanthropes (Neuroparasite) 150
3x Zoanthropes (Neuroparasite) 150
Deathleaper (Alien Cunning) 120
4x Raveners (Rending Claws, Deathspitters) 140
2x Biovores 90
Hive fleet kraken patrol Detachment
Hive tyrant (lash whip/Bonesword, HVC, the Horror, Catalyst) 195
3x Warriors (venom cannon) 95
3x Warriors (venom cannon) 95
3x Venomthropes 105
5x Raveners (Rending Claws, Deathspitters) 175
5x Raveners (Rending Claws, Deathspitters) 175
Alright, here’s my latest concoction! With the new updates, I’ve played games with Kraken, Behemoth, and Leviathan. Objectively, Leviathan is still king, but Kraken feels right for my playstyle so I’m leaning back into it. This list is designed for full board control, with speedy Raveners providing a clear no-go zone for enemy models that like being alive, and a good shooting presence from two Hive Tyrants who can provide counterpunch and fire support without getting hit back. Zoanthropes add on to the weight of mortal wounds, and Warriors hold backfield while Biovores launch spore mines downfield and generally be a nuisance.
The combined presence of my brain trust and walking Tyrants should provide a large deterrent to anyone who is trying to contest the center, while Kraken speed lets me make moves onto the other side of the board. With this much psychic presence and an infantry heavy build, I expect to solidify a few banners and psychic secondaries. The list is capable of hiding resources, as it can deal ranged damage without getting hit back thanks to character protected Hive Tyrants, so it has a bit of an edge on grind them down. I only have one test game with this exact list so far, but I’m excited to get it back on the table and innovate some more!
Wrapping Things Up
That concludes our look at Tyranids, but we’ll have more over the next few weeks as we cover each of the game’s factions and some of the subfactions. You can get more great analysis and insight from the Art of War by heading over to our site. Become a part of our awesome community and enjoy your hobby even more!
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