Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Email: Tyranid List Building Advice

From Peter:


This is a LONG Email, so I thank you in advance for taking the time to read through all this.

I stumbled on the synaps3 blog while browsing through Kirby's 3++ (reading a lot of different sites lately as Warseer is down), and I have to say, I've very impressed with the wealth of information on Tyranids. I'm writing with a few questions in mind that I hope to hear your opinions on.

A little about myself: I've been playing Warhammer Fantasy for almost 20 years, but started 40K when the Tyranids 5th Edition Codex came out. Like many players, I chose to collect Tyranids as my 1st 40K army as I just love the fluff and look of the Tyranids, very "unique" in the 40K universe.

Anyways, after expanding my collections over the past 2 years (adding Eldar and Grey Knights to my 40K collection), I've recently come back to my first 40K love, the Tyranids who sadly still haven't come out with an official Tervigon model. Now I bring this up because I am not much of a model converter. When the "official" Tervigon model comes out, I'll probably buy two of them, but in the meantime, I would like your thoughts on constructing Tyranids Lists without fielding Tervigons amongst other things. So, questions.......

(1.) Do you think not fielding Tervigons is a futile exercise? I know they are awesome with Catalyst, Spawning and all, but I don't want to use them for now....

(2.) Out of all our Troops Choices, my favorite are the Hormagaunts. I usually use them in broods of 20 with Toxin Sacs, to serve as flesh screens that can be a threat in CC should they be able to reach the enemy (say with the help of Venomthroapes). Sometimes I also outflank a unit of these with Hive Commander. Do you think this is the best way to use them?

(3.) I usually run one of the two following lists these days, could you take a look and tell me what you think? We usually play 2000 points.

Default List
Hive Tyrant, Lash Whip and Bonesword, Heavy Venom Cannon, Hive Commander, Armoured Shell, Regeneration
Tyrant Guards X 2  
Hive Guard X 3   
Hive Guard X 3   
Zoanthroapes X 3 in Mycetic Spore with Twin-linked Deathspitters
Termagants X 20 with Devourers in Mycetic Spore with Twin-linked Deathspitters
Termagants X 20 with Devourers in Mycetic Spore with Twin-linked Deathspitters
Hormagaunts X 20 with Toxin Sacs
Hormagaunts X 20 with Toxin Sacs
Trygon Prime with Adrenal Glands

Total 2000 pts
Game Plan: Basically only the Hive Tyrant, Tyrant Guards, 2 Hive Guard Broods and one unit of Hormagaunts is on the table at the start (one unit of Hive Guard on each flank of the Hive Tyrant unit, with a line of Hormgaunts in front of them as a screen. The other unit of Hormagaunts outflank thanks to Hive Commander. The Zoanthroapes provide synapse and anti-tank, and the Trygon Prime provides Monstrous CC support and Synapse. Although expensive in points, the two units of Termagants with Devourers provide massed infantry fire against stuff with T4 or lower (60 shots should ruin most unit's day, even Space Marines).

"Fun" List
Hive Tyrant, Lash Whip and Bonesword, Heavy Venom Cannon, Hive Commander, Armoured Shell  Tyrant Guards X 2  
Hive Guard X 3
Hive Guard X 3   
Termagants X 20 with Devourers in Mycetic Spore with Twin-linked Deathspitters
Genestealers X 10 with Toxin Sacs
Genestealers X 10 with Toxin Sacs
Hormagaunts X 20 with Toxin Sacs
Trygon Prime with Adrenal Glands
Mawloc with Adrenal Glands  

Total 2000 pts
Game Plan: This list plays very similarly to my usual list, but with a Deathleaper and Mawloc in the list as I just love the look of the models (although I am using a normal Lictor model to represent Deathleaper). One unit of Genestealers outflank, while the other infiltrates (or would it be better if both infiltrate/outflank?) As usual, Mawloc starts on the table and "reburrows" on Turn 1 to automatically pop out on Turn 2. Obviously, can't make use of the synergy between Deathleaper's Pheromone Trail and the Mawloc's Large Pie Plate until much later in the game, but it's awesome when the combo is pulled off.

I'm using the fun list more than my usual list lately, but feel that they can both still be tweaked/improved (hence this Email).

(4.) Finally, I would like to know how you would make a 2000 pts Tyranid List, the only conditions being NO TERVIGONS and using the models below (my collection basically):

Hive Tyrant with Lash Whip, Bonesword and Heavy Venom Cannon
3 X Tyrant Guard
1 X Tyranid Prime with Lash Whip, Bonesword and Deathspitter
6 X Hive Guard
3 X Lictor (using one as Deathleaper currently)
3 X Venomthroape
4 X Zoanthroape
5 X Tyranid Warrior with Twin Boneswords and Deathspitter (one with Barbed Strangler instead)
24 X Genestealer with Rending Claws
40 X Termagants with Devourers
8 X Termagants with Fleshborers (will buy and make more when Tervigon's official model is released rumoured later this year)
60 X Hormagaunts (I just love these guys)
3 X Tyranid Shrikes with Lash Whip, Bonesword and Scything Talons (my only real "conversion" work)
9 X Raveners
25 Gargoyles (I used to use them along with my Shrikes, pretty standard)
1 X Trygon Prime
1 X Mawloc

Thank you for your time, looking forward to your response.

Dr. Peter S."

Peter ~

Thanks so much  for taking interest and the time to write in.  I'll do the best I can.

1.  I do think it is possible to be successful without tervigons, but I haven't had the opportunity to prove it myself yet.  Maybe this fall after NOVA I'll play around with some options.  I do think you'll need to maximize synergy, resilience, and layered cover since we have so many t3/t4 5+/6+ units.

2.  Yup, I think you have the right idea with hormagaunts.  Some people run them with AG, but I think they become too expensive at that point and begin to compete with genestealers.  The main problem I have with 20 or 40 hormis is the deployment footprint they require, especially if you have to spread out to avoid blasts.  Also, be careful outflanking them with HC.  If you bring them on beyond synapse, a smart opponent will nullify them with an empty transport or just force them to run.

3.  Both lists are decent and my recommendations mainly come from personal preference.  One thing I've discovered by playing only nids over the past year is that I like starting with everything on the board.  I have the best results by forcing the most possible dice rolls on my opponent and relying on the fewest possible lynch pin rolls of my own.  An example would be facing a dual land raider list and not getting your zoans until turn 4.  It's happened to me repeatedly in tournaments whether it was ymgarls, genestealers, or lictors even with the hive commander bonus.

By starting with everything on the board, you create more target priority issues and encourage your opponent to split their fire and hopefully make more mistakes.  If you start with only the tyrant unit , hive guard, and one unit of hormagaunts on the table, you make the decisions much easier for your opponent during the first few turns and will have much less alive when your reserves start arriving.  I'm not saying reserve lists can't work, but they do require a higher level of playing and reliance on good dice rolls.  Bad reserve rolls keep half your army off the table and with bad scatters, its possible for all your 18" shooting to be useless.  Don't forget that GK will now shut down deep striking armies with ease.

Based on that, here is how I would change list #1:
Tyrant + armored shell, HVC, old adversary
Tyrant Guard x3
Hive Guard x3
Hive Guard x3
Venomthropes x3
Hormagaunts x20 + toxins
Hormagaunts x20 + toxins
Termagants x10 + devourers
Termagants x10 + devourers
Genestealers x12
Genestealers x11
Trygon Prime + AG

I would start everything on the board and infiltrate the genestealers almost always.  I'm not usually a fan of single trygons, but play your terrain and spore cloud well and he may hit something.  The key is stringing the units into spore cloud and old adversary range to maximize survivability and rerolls/damage output.  It takes a lot of practice, but with proper execution becomes extremely effective.  Remember spore cloud counts as defensive grenades which also allows hormis to glance rear armor 10 even without AG. 

Here's another list option based on your collection:
Tyranid Prime + whip/sword, deathspitter, regen
Tyranid Prime + boneswords, deathspitter, regen
Hive Guard x3
Zoanthropes x3
Venomthropes x3
Hormagaunts x20 + toxins
Hormagaunts x20 + toxins
Hormagaunts x20 + toxins
Genestealers x20
Gargoyles x25 + toxins, adrenals
Raveners x5 + rending
Raveners x4 + rending

No MC's and somewhat vulnerable to str8+, but use the primes in units your opponent is likely to target first (venomthropes, hive guard, raveners).  It's a little light on shooting, but everything is super fast and can either rend rear armor 10, or glance it with spore cloud.  They key with fast horde lists is to lock down enemy units fast, prevent them from shooting, and apply additional assaults where necessary.  Infiltrate the genestealers and fly/run the gargoyles.  They will draw the most light fire and both reach CC by turn 2.  The hormagaunts and raveners will be finishing units.  In objective games, attach a prime to one unit of hormagaunts for scoring.

Hope some of that helps, it was refreshing to think outside of my box for once.  Feel free to send me some battle reports sometime and I will post them so my readers can also start thinking beyond tervigons.

If you change your mind about tervigons, I have a simple carnifex conversion you can complete with extra bits from your trygon kit:

Tervigon Conversion


  1. Yeah, I agree. While Tervigon are awesome for our army they are not necessary at all times. They can make life a lot easier.

    The revised lists both look good to me. I have yet to play with Raveners... but I can see their potential. Must watch out for missile spam with a lot of Multi wound T4, just keep that in mind.

    Good work on the revisions.

    The effectiveness of the second list can be silly if the Hiveguard, and zoans can get to work early and just open a ton of cans. The ammount of wounds that meany stealers/gaunts can put out in a turn with that list is crazy.


  2. Excellent reading - thanks guys. Hadn't really thought of the hormagant + venomthrope rear-armour approach- going to go & look into it now. nice ideas here for some great lists.