Friday, December 3, 2010

Email: Advice and Tactics

From Josiah:

"Hello hyv3mynd! I found your blog when you mentioned it in the Tyranid
Hive forums. I have to say I have read almost every single Batrep +
blog post on there. I really enjoy reading the stuff you post. Not
only is it informative but you constantly look at things through a
competitive level which I am greatly interested in taking 'Nids to. I
would like to ask for some assistance with them if you would be so
kind to help a new player.

A little background...I have been playing WH40k for quite a while now.
Around the start of 5th ed. My first army was BA and I play a fully
mechanized RB/Pred spam army and a Jump Pack Army in the works. I
always loved the way Tyranids worked but I never started as them
because I really liked the Furioso model :P Anyways I finally got
around to it after I scoped a really good deal for a bunch of models
on Ebay. There is one thing I have to get out...this army is extremely
hard for me to play. It works completely different from what I am use
to, is less forgiving with saves, and requires a lot more movement
thought. This is where I really need your help...

Josiah ~ So glad you found the blog helpful so far.  I feel like there's a black cloud over the head of the tyranid community and part of my goal is to show they can compete.  The first step here is basically unlearn the game.  If you've been playing Blood Angels exclusively, you'll be making subconscious decisions and active choices with a bias you've picked up playing a marine army.  Tyranids are the far other end of the gaming spectrum and playstyle as marines.  Expectations you may have and tactics you've perfected with Blood Angels may be unrealistic with Tyranids.  This may require extensive playtesting with a wide array of lists covering most of the codex units.  Or, if I'm successful, the things you read here could help to save you the time of mass playtesting.

I am struggling with these things mostly:

1) Dealing with deployment. With an all fast vehicle 24" range
shooting army before all I had to do was run away from opponents so I
just easily counter deploy. Opponent spreads his army around his zone
I place everything in 1 spot and mow him down while his other half
catches up. He places all in the center I split deploy and he has to
go 1 way or the other and I can move the side he chooses to goto so
fast I can out shoot him with both sides before he even gets to it. It
was was pretty much set in stone. Now I don't know what to
do. I understand covering your little guys in back like HG and putting
Termagants in front but what about template shots? I spread my guys
about 2" apart all over the place so no one is touching but then I
start running out of room and some of my guys are at the very back of
the deployment zone (12"). This makes it even longer for them to get
into combat...

When I read your blog and saw all your deployment pictures I noticed
you rarely split them up that much. A lot of your guys are BTB with
each other and much much closer than I would put them together. (Other
than that game you did with the SW to counter act JotWW) Aren't you
afraid of templates? Like vs any SM with a Vindicator or ML's that can
template your stuff to death? That fear makes me want to put
everything at max coherency...

Mastering deployment is step #3 in my ongoing work called "competitive execution of Tyranids".  I cover a lot of the basics there and tried to work it into my most recent batrep against the Dark Eldar so you have some visual reference.

At the end of of the day, we tend to be slower than armies that can move, embark, and go another 12" in their transport.  This was one of the foundations to my theories on deployment. 

Deploy with a strong central presence.  This maximizes your striking opportunities, puts you in an aggressive stance, strengthens your synergy, and gives you many options if you need to react to an unexpected game change.

Deploy safely.  Your goal here is to start with as much of your army in cover while still posing a real threat.  Check out the batrep vs Dark Eldar.  I won first turn and took it.  I had 4 choices for deployment as it was Spear Head.  I chose the one that gave me the most cover with hills and rocks to hide my monstrous creatures and a big forest for my infantry.  When I infiltrated my genestealers, I made sure a majority of each unit was behind cover. 

Deploy with an aggressive stance.  My gargoyles were as far forward as they could go without starting in terrain and risking casualties.  Hive guard were central and right behind gargoyles, with a gap in case he stole the initiative and dropped his 4 pie plates from the razorwing.  My infiltrators were 18" from his forces, yet in cover and in range of synapse and catalyst.

Now your question about spacing and templates.  Don't look at individual units based on how templates or missiles or power fists will effect them.  That's looking at a unit in a vacuum.  We need to analyze our units in the context of the rest of our army.  My devilgaunts are weak and have bad armor, yet spacing them was never measured as I was pretty confident they weren't going to be prime targets.  Not with 30 genestealers and 15 jump infantry pushing for assaults.  That's where balanced list design shines.  We need to transcend choosing units because they do cool things, and choose ones that work well with the rest of our list best. 

Go back to my GT list where I used 2 dakkafexes in a single brood.  A lot of people couldn't believe I did this as they're widely perceived as a sub-par selection.  Yes, by itself 380pts spend on 8 wounds worth of models that don't get saves against missiles and have bad weapon skill could be bad.  But, I also had 2 trygons and 2 units of hive guard.  A mech opponent is going to target hive guard first.  A melee army is going to neutralize the trygons.  In either scenario, my fexes are likely ignored.  In 4 of my 5 GT games, the fexes survived.  The one game I lost them it was purely to roadblock a scoring unit.

This is in effect forcing your opponent to make predictable decisions.  Once you master this, you can see the future of the game as it plays out and have more control over the end result.  By putting 30 well spaced genestealers and 15 gargoyles in front of the Dark Eldar, I was fairy positive my termagants would be safe from templates.

2) Why do I hear so much praise for the Tyrannofex and one of the most
competitive and best players/blogger for 'Nids I know (you) only
rarely runs it and only runs 1 when he does? A lot of the people on
the "internet" (various forums, blogs, threads etc.) say to run 2-3
and even cram them in at 1,500 pts but most of the time around 1,750
they start putting 2-3... Is there a reason you don't run many

This is a fairly simple one.

#1 I've only built one Tfex so far.

#2 As cool and fun as they are, they are unreliable.  265pts gives you two good anti-armor shots a turn, or several ways to kill infantry which your whole army can do well.  I feel one is necessary.  Not much we can do to stop land raider and battlewagons before they get to us otherwise.  I'll probably make another one for 'ardboyz and such, but for now, 1 is just right for me.

#3 265pts is a lot, especially in smaller games.  When 1/6th of your army wiffs with two dice, it hurts.  Look at my dark eldar game.  It stunned a razorwing and blew a lance off the ravager.  That's it.  It did explode a wave serpent in my eldar game and it's killed monoliths in the past.  With only two stong shots, it tends to be more valuable at damaging high armor than low as a damage result even a stun against a land raider will benefit you more than stunning a rhino.  The smaller games you play, armor saturation and representation scales down.  That 265pt tfex doesn't do much for you at low point games when you draw a foot MEQ opponent like Loganwing.

3) Something I noticed with your lists is that you run a lot of 2
model broods of Dakkafex's. I really like this. All over the
"internet" people say how bad Carnifex's and how over costed and just
horrible they are. Then I run across your blog and your totally
wrecking SW, SMs and IGs with Carnifex's! I have to say I learn from
experience well but I also read A LOT of strategies and play styles
before I get a game in and it was a surprise to see a majority of your
lists running 2 model Dakkafex Broods. Why do you do it? Are they your
answer to help with vs Light Transports? Or are they are your
anti-infantry mostly? I don't have any Dakkafex's at all but after
reading your blog and your success with them I would really like to
try them out. How have your recent experiences with them been?

4) Tyranid Prime tactics...I have to admit since I normally read a lot
stuff before I start playing the armies I read a lot about the ever
famous Tyranid Deathstar with a HT + 2-3 TG + Prime. I have to say
every game I have fielded them I have been truely disappointed... (I
usually play 1,000/1,500 games only, and rarely 1,750...) I have
learned from the error of my ways and found that under the 2,000 pt
level they are extremely not worth taking... Back on track, I am
looking to start fielding a single or two Tyranid Primes similar to
what your lists do. Can I ask why you do 2? Why do you attach them to
HG and your Dakkafex's all the time at the beginning? Is there a
strategy involved with what you choose to attach them too at the
beginning? A bunch of the times when you break them off their
HG/Dakkafex unit to assault you usually; break them off, attach to a
Termagant unit, then assault a target. Why do you do this? Why not
just attack alone? Is there a reason you attach them to another
assaulting unit before you assault?

I covered the dakkafex thing a little bit above.  Here was some of my thinking during list design.  Again, avoiding analysis in a vacuum of just two dakkafexes.  These decisions were based on the rest of my list.

#1 My shooting before they were added consisted of 4 hive guard and some str4/str5 from monstrous creatures that I'd rather have running or out of range.  Dakkafexes provide huge suppressive fire.  24 twin linked str6 shots will hit 18 times and yeild 15 wounds against MEQ or 3 pens on a rhino.  They are thus very effective shooters.

#2 Str9 in cc mitigates one of the lists weaknesses, diversified nobs.  Carnifexes cause instand death and deny armor saves and FnP on nobs.  They're pretty good against thunderwolves also.  Paired with the lash whip prime, they can also strike before many nobs.  This also doubles and pretty solid tank flippers.

Pairing two fexes with two primes does something interesting.  It makes 50% of the unit infantry.  When 50% or more of a unit is in cover, all models can claim a cover save.  As such, two primes in cover behind gants grant cover to 2 fexes even if they're in the open.  If the primes are equipped differently, it also gives you 3 wound allocation pools against shooting attacks.  This means the unit will eat 28 missiles with a screen or 56 missiles with FnP.  This combo will also take on just about anything in close combat.  the third bonus is two synapse points that are very hard to remove.

When I broke them off for assaults, it was for a couple reasons.  It leaves the dakkafexes as a fire base.  Joining the prime to gants and assaulting also minimizes the amount of enemies that can strike the prime.  If you assault a unit with a fist or klaw and the gant touches their base, they must strike the gant meaning your prime will live longer.

5) I love that you run 2x Trygons with AG! Would you say this is a
good choice of anti-LR/AV14 vehicles? Or would you choose Zoanthropes/
Tyrannofexs over them? Why do a majority of your lists have 2 Trygons?
From what I have read I'm assuming it's for target saturation purposes
so it gives the opponent a much harder time choosing what to shoot. On
this topic which anti-low/medium/high AV answers would you choose and
why? In my opinion it would be HG for low AV, HG for medium AV and
Zoan/Tyrannofex for Higher AV targets.

A majority of my lists actually don't use trygons, just my first 5 batreps as they were from the GT where I used the same list for 5 consecutive games.  They do work well against land raiders, until the marine player starts moving away from you, then they do absolutely nothing.  That's why my recent lists have switched over to tfexes for a while.  They can always shoot land raiders, there trygons are often left in the open.

When choosing units that serve an important role to the list, it's often good to take them in duplicate.  This is called building redundancy so when you lose one, it doesn't cripple you.  Having two highly threatening units also adds survivability to your support units.  Recall in my dark eldar game where two units of devilgaunts took no casualties all game since I had two units of genestealers running amok.

6) Orks. I've lost every game I have played with 'Nids so far and have
gotten close to selling my army but am re-inspired by what I read in
your blog and I think with your help I can understand the army a lot
more...How do you deal with Orks? I play a friend who's beaten me
twice already... He runs 2-3x Squads of 5 Lootas, 2-3 Battlewagons
with a Big Mek for the forcefield, 2-3 Trukks w/ Boys + PF Nob and
sometimes Nob Bikers. Specifically, how do you deal with Lootas,
Battle Wagons and Nob Bikers? Any specific strategy or tactics?
Specific units that you would recommend excel against Orks?

Orks are always a tough match for me, probably the toughest.  I have a friend that beats me 9 out of 10 times with 3 battlewagons w/ rollers, ghaz, and a mek with kff.  That combined with power klaws in every unit makes for sad times for us.  I don't have good answers to this yet, but I haven't tested any of my lists with 30+ genestealers against him yet.  Hopefully I can and will batrep it soon.

The best I can do is pointers I've had success with in the past. 

5 ymgarls will crush 5 lootas.  Morph for toughness and even if you assault them in cover, they wound you on 6's.  Also, harpies with stranglethorn cannon will hit 66%+ of the time with a large str6 blast that causes pinning, and 5 lootas have ld7 so they will hit the ground.

Battlewagons with a kff are really bad for us.  The best way to flip them is with a trygon.  Positioning is the hardest part and takes dozens of games to perfect.  Often, you'll need a bait unit in front of the trygon to draw the wagon into assault range.

Nob bikers... You can use carnifex's like above in cc cause instant death.  Impaler cannons and heavy venom cannons can do the same at range but beating the cover save is tough.  Dual bonesword warriors and shrikes can hurt them bad, especially with a prime or two attached, but you better hope no power klaws survive or you can still lose combat.

The key to beating orks is the movement phase.  They have assault vehicles and we dont so many times you need to bait them close with sacrificial units, then hit them with a strong counterattack.

7) Space Wolves...when I read your Batrep on your game vs SW I was
blown away! That was one awesome game man! Congrats for winning! My
friend, who I have not beaten either... runs 3x Longfang squads with
ML's all around, 2x Rhinos with his troops choice (can't think of name
of them right now), and a CRAZY Deathstar. His Deathstar I believe
consists of a Wolf Lord (The kind that gets more attacks for whatever
he kills) + 3-4 Thunder Wolf Cavalry + a few baby wolves for wound
allocation tricks and they all have storm shields and a few power
weapons and PF's. He can do wound allocation tricks all around his
entire Deathstar. I don't know if it's just due to my lack of
knowledge of Tyranids but I can't see how to beat this list. His
Deathstar has an avaerage 18"-24" threat range...Any help at all vs
this type of Deathstar? Or is it a lost cause....

Thunder wolf deathstars are tough for us, just like biker nobs.  You can take a similar approach, but I prefer to tarpit them.  Wrap them in gaunts and force him to assault you.  He will win and then be in the open to shooting.  Spawn more gants and wrap him again.  The more turns you tarpit him, the less effective he is and he will take a few casualties.  Remember most good deathstars go over 500pts so he has less support units.  They key is to nullify his deathstar and kill his support.  You don't always have to kill the deathstar, just keep it busy.

8) I ran a 1,000 pt game with 3 broods of 7 Genestealers (1 with a
Broodlord) and I got completely annihilated. Not only did he take
initiative but my Stealers never even made it into CC. They ALL died
before they could get in...I lost 400 pts that didn't do anything at
all. Am I running them wrong? I infiltrated 18" away, and moved max
and ran every turn. They were all gone by his turn 2! I really love
the models and how scary they are in CC but I can seem to run them
right. Advice? Tips? How to run them properly?

Genestealers need cover.  This is the most important thing.  Going from no save against bolters to 4+ doubles their survivability.  I've often left genestealers in terrain for 3 turns until the time was right.

Also, I like genestealers in formats.  Large units with no upgrades, or small units with lots of upgrades.  The key to the small units is having other threats that keeps fire away from them.  I also prefer my big units to start infiltrated, while smaller commando units outflank.  This way if they come in late,  you're not waiting on 280pts in one unit.  Turn your 3x 7 into one unit of 20.  You'll find it's easier to keep half in cover and still survive into assault.

9) A lot of people over at Heresy-Online worship Gargs/Hormagaunts.
They almost always say max out on Gargoyles or have Hormagaunts as
your counter attacking unit behind your Termagant screen...What do you
think of them?

They each have uses, but in more specialized lists.  Tervigons, gants, and genestealers are my troops of choice and hormagaunts don't offer much that those three don't already.  Gargoyles are very good maxed out for 8pts each, but again its a swarm style unit that we can take many other places.  I mostly take them as an escort to the parasite of mortrex or a screen for shrikes.

10) Anything special you do when charging into cover? It seems to me
any smart marine player will just let you charge him in cover, and
SW's will counter assault and probably wipe out enough of your stuff
to even dent him when it finally becomes your turn to attack. This is
one of the things that is hurting me the most from going from SM to
Tyranids. I can't see how striking at i1 can win out vs anything
really. They will usually wipe out enough for you to not strike back
with a strong enough force...Thoughts?

Assaulting into cover requires FnP or careful planning.  Larger units will do better at this, that's why I like my genestealers in 15-20 body units.  We have killpower, just need to survive swinging second.  Also remember a unit that's locked doesn't get to strike first if you bring in a second unit.  You can often charge in with a monstrous creature you know will survive, then bring in the smaller nids that strike at a high initiative.  Deploying centrally is important here so if one unit is in cover you can assault something else.

That's all for now...I'm sorry if this is a lot but I would really
appreciate if you could help me and answer my questions. Thanks for
your time and writing awesome blogs. Keep up the awesome work I'm
really inspired to continue with Tyranid's because of it!"

Glad to help.  I've been in the mindset to retire the tyranids in the past also, but the internet perceptions encourage me to prove them all wrong.  I hope I can encourage others to play them with renewed vigor also.


  1. Carnifexen are overcosted. Just look at the last codex. That is why they are very unpopular.


  2. Thanks for your reply :) This has helped me a lot!

  3. Fantastic Insight into Tyranids. I really hate how I am striped of 40k funds, but for my next army I am seriously looking into Tyranids because of you.

  4. Thanks Alex. I have a lot of fun with the codex. Every time I think about starting another army, I think of all the other Nid builds I still need models for hehe.

    My biggest gripe with the army is I feel it lacks some of the modelling and conversion opportunities of other armies. You can do a lot more with a marine modelling, painting, and converting than you can with a gant. Painting 40+ genestealers and 40+ gants really wears me down.