S’up folks; Kirby invited me over to post up my thoughts on the Tyranid codex and, lacking any better place of my own, I figured it was a good place to do so. (I had originally posted all of this to Warseer, but for those of you who- perhaps rightfully- avoid that place it may still be news.) I’ve tried to speak to both competitive and casual games, each in their own turn, in the review; many of units ranked “mediocre” will be perfectly functional in a non-tournament environment or if you are fine with sacrificing some of your sheer strength for theme or sheer enjoyment of a unit.
Once I plow through all of this I’ll get some other articles up here and there, but for this should take at least the remainder of the week to do, so we’ll hold off on any future plans for the time being and just say “I don’t think most people know a g*****n thing about playing the Tau.”
With no further ado…
The HQ slot is where you’re going to get your basic Synapse at- though there are choices available in every slot, HQ units are, without exception, Synapse providers and centerpieces to a swarm. Though often formidable in their own right, most of the Tyranid HQs get their main strength from the utility they bring to the rest of the swarm.
A Hive Tyrant is probably the “default” HQ unit of a Tyranid list. I think we’ve actually seen a shift away from this towards the Prime. It’s cheaper, still a good statline but doesn’t provide the buffs or deathstar type unit. That’s where the Tyrant comes in for me. They are extremely customizable, able to take on many different roles and profiles. All of their variants are monsters in combat, able to devastate nearly anything in the game one-on-one. It is, however, not cheap, probably running you 200+ points most of the time, and quite possibly a lot more than that. With T6 and four wounds, he is reasonably durable, but is going to be the focus of a lot of shooting most of the time, so expect to have to spend some effort protecting him.
Ironically, Hive Tyrants tend to perform best in a support role for a swarm- you will be taking them for the abilities they grant or powers they bring, not for raw combat stats. A Tyranid Prime is roughly half the cost and is nearly as deadly; even adding Tyrant Guard only slightly mitigates this. A Tyrant’s real job is going to be bringing new aspects to the swarm: Mycetic Spore armies pretty much require a Winged Hive Commander, whereas a footslogging melee list (or even non-melee) can get a lot of milage out of Old Adversary. Cha-ching. Everyone loves preferred enemy!
Don’t take that as an indicator that he’s a slouch in a fight, though- between the powerful ranged weaponry he can take (although at BS3 now, sigh) and his innate abilities as a monstrous creature in close combat, the Tyrant can put the fear into just about anyone. His overall statline is excellent, one of the best in the game, and with his basic equipment (BS/LW, Talons) he gets four kills on the charge against almost any opponent. Even decked out for full-on shooting mode he can cut through most basic squads without blinking, and in that regard he epitomizes the Tyranid’s advantage: no matter what else you do, you always have the option of wrecking most dudes in melee as well.
You get to pick two powers for free; keep in mind what you are otherwise arming your Tyrant with when taking powers, as they are all psychic shooting attacks and thus must be aimed at the same target as your other weapons (and subsequent charge, if any).
Paroxysm: A++ Would shoot again. Although it has a relatively short range, this power reduces an enemy unit to virtual uselessness, especially Marines, who rely on high stats to make up for small numbers. Assaulting the target (either with the Tyrant or something else) is a nasty trick, as it means everything will hit it on 3s and the target will only be able to hit back on 5s against even the most pathetic foes. Hormagaunts, Gaunts, and Gargoyles especially like having this cast right before they charge. Few and far between should be the Tyrants without this power. I love this power but it becomes problematic with it’s range. As Puppy indicates you’ve got to assault the target you’re shooting or also fire your weapon against it. With the limited range and impressive stats of the Tyrant you often want to let guants assault the Paroxysmed unit and the Tyrant assault something else but that’s not allowed so in essence it becomes a utility power when the Tyrant cannot assault and something else can or screwing up a round of shooting if there are no assaults.
Leech Essence: Another strong contender, but with some glaring weaknesses. The low strength of the hits and lack of prohibition on taking cover saves against them mean you will rarely get more than one wound out of it- but even that is something, as it’s essentially a free version of Regeneration in many cases. It also pisses off Marines, as the low AP means the wounds are always going through. Again, keep in mind that it has to be aimed the same place as your other weapons. This I think is your standard secondary power which is also a utility power. Put early wounds on the Tyrant and try and regen then from a unit you are about to assault.
Psychic Scream: Very random. Works just like the famed Doom of Malan’tai’s attack, but with a random radius and a normal Ld test instead of one on 3d6, making it significantly worse. Against Tau and IG it can do well- a 9″ radius zone of death is nothing to laugh at- but Marines aren’t going to be terribly scared of it. It has the bizarre distinction of being a psychic shooting attack but potentially targeting multiple (or no) units, giving it a degree of flexibility that the other powers lack if you are shooting at a tank. For that reason it makes a good companion for a Heavy Venom Cannon, letting you use your MC ability to shoot two weapons to get a power off. As a primary tactic, though, it is rather weak. Note that it does NOT interact with the Broodlord’s Aura of Despair in any way- the Broodlord’s power is used during the Assault Phase, well after Psychic Scream has gone off. Stupid GW. Could also be used as a secondary power due to it’s untargetted ability as Puppy points out but don’t expect it to do much. Avg 7″ range and high Ld of most armies reduces it’s ability to be effective.
The Horror: Meh. It forces a Morale test on one unit; that’s it. I’d rather just shoot at the unit and do the same. However, for something rock-hard (like Nob Bikerz or TH/SS Termies), this may be your only way of getting through to them. I still wouldn’t recommend it, though- all of the above powers are better for even that sort of situation. The only reason to take it is if you’re paired with an IG player in a doubles tourney and want to have fun with Weaken Resolve.
Hive Commander: First, let me say this: the ability works while you are off the board. INAT is stupid and self-contradictory. Ignore them and people who argue otherwise, pointing them to the Deathleaper entry if necessary. With that out of the way, this is probably going to be the most common pick for the Tyrant special abilities, as it enables an entire army build. Combined with the Wings biomorph, you can start your entire army off-table, dropping, burrowing, or outflanking in on turn 2+. The secondary ability of allowing a troop unit to outflank is much less helpful; only Hormagaunts and Warriors can really benefit from it, and the inherent randomness of outflanking makes it a generally mediocre option. However, the option is there, so don’t forget about it. To use it to its fullest, try combining a regular Tyrant with a Swarmlord in order to get the edge reroll. All in all, a fantastic choice for any army that intends to use Mycetic Spores or any other kind of reserves with a degree of regularity. A must x2 for reserve based armies.
Old Adversary: The ability to reroll all of the Tyrant’s attacks is very nearly worth the 25 pts alone; applying it to nearby units only makes it more excellent. Gargoyles love it the most, but every Tyranid unit enjoys getting half again as many hits in CC, so if you’re running a swarm that wants to come to grips with the enemy, strongly consider this upgrade. It becomes doubly potent with Tyrant Guard in the mix or with large units that can be “strung out” to insure they receive the benefit- remember, you have to make that 6″ move when assaulted or assaulting, even if you don’t want to. It doesn’t work against (non-walker) vehicles, however, so a Flyrant that wants to go tank-hunting may be better off with paired Scything Talons. Tyrant utility at its best. Any sort of walking list or assault based list should be packing at least one Tyrant with this. Need to head off for now so will add more thoughts later!
Indescribable Horror: Bleh. Early leaks of the codex indicated that the power worked on shooting as well as assault, and had this been true it might have been worthwhile- but as is, it’s an utter waste. The only reason you should ever take this is for fluff purposes, as it does effectively nothing and for some reason costs just as much as the other two powers.
Bonesword/Lash Whip: A lot of people poo-poo these, pointing out that you already ignore saves in CC and Tyrant Guard can get Whips to make up for it. However, by letting your Tyrant carry the Whip you can give the Guard Boneswords, making them a much more credible threat to enemy models. A Tyrant also has a much larger base, meaning he can affect more enemy models with the Whip than the Guard can hope to. Since it can act as pseudo-grenades when charging into cover, it is in my mind a mandatory selection for most Tyrants. And really, what are you going to replace it with? Having two guns means wasting one of them or wasting your psychic powers- and Tyrants have some very strong powers.
Scything Talons: In general, don’t bother. Yes, you can use them to get free rerolls on all CC attacks, whereas Old Adversary costs 25 pts, but you’re giving up your guns and only saving a little. At low point values or when hunting for tanks there is an argument to be made, but as a rule, they just aren’t worth it. A single pair has some vague use as a sort of “insurance” against abysmal rolls, but still isn’t going to be terribly impressive. However, if you’re tight on points, you could do worse than leave your Tyrant with the basic LW/BS+ST configuration.
TL Deathspitter: Don’t. Ever. Take. These. If many of the above upgrades could be said to be poor, Deathspitters are borderline godawful. Compare their statline to Brainleech Devourers and you should see.
TL Devourer with Brainleech Worms: A reasonably strong option for those looking to get some anti-infantry firepower in their list. Though they lack the rerolled wounds from last edition, you are otherwise very similar and can spray out an absolute torrent of S6 firepower that will make most units shrivel up and cry like babies in a quite literal way thanks to the -1 on the morale check; the cost is also quite reasonable. Two sets are a bit of overkill, I think, as I’d rather be shooting one of my psychic powers each turn. Also consider what a Stranglethorn Cannon could be doing to the same unit in its place for just a few points more. I don’t think it’s a clear-cut case of one being better than the other, but consider your options.
Heavy Venom Cannon: There are not a lot of platforms you can mount this weapon on in the codex, so one that can move 12″ per turn and deep strike, or that has a half dozen ablative wounds is worth some serious consideration. First and foremost an anti-tank weapon despite the -1 on the chart, it can also serve to ID characters or inflict high-str wounds onto tough targets. Flyrants of all sorts should probably take one of these, as you lack the options of Tyrannofex and Hive Guard for AT firepower; walking Tyrants, who will generally have to shoot front armor and have other things to be doing (like running) may consider it less useful.
Stranglethorn Cannon: Hmm. Well, it has some pretty reasonable numbers, wounding MEQs on a 2+ and pinning, but the shoddy AP and lack of barrage mean that the opponent will pretty much always get a save against it, as with most Tyranid weapons. It’s a slightly more expensive option than the Devourer and subs pinning for the morale penalty, which is a good deal, but you’ll usually be shorter on AT than infantry killers, so the HVC will generally get the nod over this simply because of the other options (or lack of them) in the codex. Still, it’s far from bad, so if you really like laying big green pie plates on folks, go nuts.
Adrenal Glands: Meh. If you’re making the tank-chasing double ScyTal Flyrant, this is probably a good inclusion. Otherwise, you’re I5 S6 already and have a Lash Whip; this isn’t going to help you much.
Toxin Sacs: No. You’re paying points to lower your wound roll from 2+ to 4+ with reroll. If literally all you ever fight is T5+ guys, this helps; otherwise, leave it at home.
Acid Blood: Did you notice that Lash Whips reduce the enemy’s actual Initiative value, not just what Init they strike at? I did. And it made me cackle with evil glee. The combo more or less guarantees that every wound you take will put a wound on the enemy as well, but even then it feels a little mediocre to me. You already dish out no-saves wounds, but I suppose that sometimes a few more is all it takes to tip the balance. Sits firmly in the “acceptable, but not great” tier.
Implant Attack: Well, it’s a way to deal ID, I guess. Not terribly impressive for the cost, but if you’re hunting characters then it could be an okay investment. There are probably better units to put it on, though.
Toxic Miasma: If you have problems with swarms of Guardsmen or Orks gumming up your Tyrant, this is the power for you. Against Marines or such, however, it’s decidedly mediocre. Usually worse than Acid Blood against any kind of real threat, but then again it serves a different purpose, that of cutting down extra mooks in order to win a combat faster. Probably ranks a bit worse than AB or Regen, but better than IA.
Regeneration: Well, first off it’s cheaper here than on most other critters. It also synergizes nicely with Leech Essence, doubling up your ability to keep yourself alive. If you’re short on Synapse, this may be a good choice to make sure that your main source of it doesn’t die. Note that if you have Tyrant Guards, you can lay early wounds on the Tyrant himself and try to Regen them back.
Thorax Swarm: Sad to say, this is almost always going to be worse than the other options, since you can only pick one. Which is unfortunate, because they’re not at all bad for the cost, but the short range is sort of killer for it. If you do take it, the 2+ Poisoned version is almost always superior to the others against MEQs; the Rending version is really only good against TEQs, and the “standard” one is generally pretty worthless except against Guard/Eldar.
Winged: This is the one you’ll usually see. Yes, it’s really, really expensive, but worth every penny for the movement and ability to Deep Strike. From hunting tanks to dashing around providing support, the boost to maneuverability is unparalleled. The only reason not to be taking this is because you intend to take some Tyrant Guard to add survivability to him.
Armored Shell: The only option to get a 2+ save in the whole codex; combined with Tyrant Guard, it makes the guy awfully difficult to kill. However, most of the weapons that threaten your Tyrant tend to have AP1 or AP2; it’s main use is to shrug off the volumes of fire that sometimes get thrown at it (or volume of CC attacks). It is rather pricey, so you will often want to add another Tyrant Guard first, as the extra wounds will always benefit you.
Reserves Flyrant: Winged, Hive Commander, BS/LW, HVC, Paroxysm, Leech Essence
Little Swarm Chief: Old Adversary, BS/LW, ST, Paroxysm, Psychic Scream, 1 Tyrant Guard (1500 or less)
Big Man on the Field: Old Adversary, BS/LW, HVC, Regeneration, Paroxysm, Leech Essence, 2 Tyrant Guard w/Boneswords or Lash Whips
Realistically, an add-on to the Hive Tyrant, but detailed here separately because the codex does so as well. They are every bit as tough as the Tyrant itself despite not being Monstrous Creatures- and that is the main part of their strength. A combined unit of Tyrant and Guard will benefit from a cover save if 50% or more of its members can claim a cover save- so a unit of one Tyrant + Guard will get a save if either of its members can get one, which in most cases will mean the Guard, as all it needs is any unit or terrain between it and the shooter (as opposed to the 50% cover rule for MCs). This is as close as you’re going to get to an invulnerable save in the codex, so any walking Tyrant should probably invest the 60 pts in taking at least one Guard in order to basically triple his survivability. The Guard themselves are no pushovers in combat, hitting on 3s and wounding on 3s (with Rending, no less) against most enemies.
Rules note: the general consensus at this point is that Shieldwall allows a Tyrant to join like an Independent Character, but does not treat him as one once joined, so the Tyrant cannot be picked out in CC or shooting. Whether it is allowed to similarly leave the unit has less consensus, so determining this with your opponent before the game (or with your playgroup as a whole) is probably a good idea.
Lash Whips: A fairly acceptable option for slowing the enemy down, especially if you took Old Adversary on the Tyrant. Their Initiative is surprisingly low for Tyranid creatures, which makes these a lot more useful, but Boneswords (below) make them suffer a bit in comparison. This is a better pick if you are looking to be more defensive, or fight Daemons, Eldar, or other enemies that can actually strike ahead of the Tyrant.
Boneswords: If only you could trade the Rending Claws instead…. :\ In any case, they bring the Guard from “moderately threatening” to “oh sweet baby Jesus, that unit is going to break me like a toddler juggling Dreadnoughts.” The investment might look a lot steeper on other units, but given that the Guard are already fairly expensive (and quite survivable) and have enough strength to wound just about anything consistently it’s not so bad. There is also the factor of overkill to consider- ideally, you want to damage the unit on the initial charge (on your turn) and then finish them off on their turn- a Tyrant with Bonesword Guard may obliterate it in on the initial charge, leaving you vulnerable to enemy shooting.
So he’s basically a super-sized Hive Tyrant without the options, right? Sort of. While the Swarmlord is essentially a Hive Tyrant on steroids, yes, in many ways he is a different kind of animal because of the lack of options and the differences in how his abilities work. First off, he is even more of a monster in CC than the usual of his kind. In fact, if he were immune to ID, I would probably call him the strongest CC character in the game- but lacking that, he is very vulnerable to some of the other high-end characters. However, against anything that doesn’t kill him in a single hit he is an absolute monster, scything through Nobz, Terminators, and Avatars with equal ease. It is very important to note that he does not have Lash Whips and thus giving them to his Tyrant Guard is basically a necessity, as there are a reasonable number of HQ-type units that will strike before him. When he does land blows, however, they always cause ID and ignore saves as well as forcing rerolls of successful invulnerable saves- which is to say, even TH/SS termies and Fortuned Seer Councils don’t like tangling with him. A lot of big units, like the previously-mentioned Avatar, are generally immune to ID by virtue of their high toughness and don’t actually have the Eternal Warrior rule. You will make them regret this lack.
In terms of support, he lacks any kind of guns at all, but can use two psychic powers per turn and has a Synapse radius half again as large as normal. He can also pass a special rule to one unit within 18″- much more flexible than a normal Tyrant in that regard. Thus, despite his insane combat stats, the Swarmlord really shines as a support piece for your hive, acting as a force multiplier where it is needed most. His reserve ability lets you reroll board edges but doesn’t grant a unit an outflank in and of itself, so you’re going to need something that starts with it, which is to say Genestealers or a second Tyrant. However, being that the outflank half of the ability is largely the add-on, it isn’t really important to try and emphasize that bit. More importantly, his 1/turn special rule only lasts for your own turn, rather than being continuous like Old Adversary, so you may find yourself inconveniently weaker on the enemy player turn. (As a side note, there is really no reason to give anything other than Preferred Enemy unless you have some Gaunts charging a tank or something. Really, GW, Acute Senses? What the hell?) Finally, as small bonuses the Swarmlord has an extra wound and all the psychic powers available, although you’re probably never going to use The Horror so you don’t actually gain a lot there.
So when should you take the Swarmlord over a normal Tyrant? Well, first of all, were you planning on having a walking Tyrant? If no, forget the Swarmlord. Second, are you looking for a strong close combat theme to your swarm? Again, if not the Swarmlord is probably not up your alley. Now, how many points are you playing at? In 1500 or below the extreme cost of Swarmlord + Guard (because you DO need to give him at least one, and preferably two or three Tyrant Guard as mandatory upgrades) can quickly suck up all of your points. In a 1500 list he is really just a gimmick, and a fairly slow and clumsy one at that. “Death Star” units can usually be beaten by simply refusing to engage them on their terms and avoiding the zone around them; Swarmlord is very vulnerable to this because he lacks the movement options (transport, bikes, etc) that many other Death Star units possess. So I can really only recommend him starting at ~1850 or so, when his point cost starts being less weighty and there tend to be more units- and more expensive units- on the board for him to chew up. He acts as a good Synapse centerpiece to your swarm, easily keeping a large swath of the board under control, and can influence fights well away from his position thanks to his powers and abilities. Make sure you can take advantage of his wide-ranging influence with mobile assault forces that you can send out to solve problems in the area, and make sure that you have enough anti-tank in the rest of your force, as you will be unusually lacking even for a Tyranid swarm thanks to the huge investiture into the Swarmlord.
Perhaps he should more rightfully go under the Troops section, since he honestly pretty much always is, but I will stick with my pattern and list him here. Just as tough as all the other big MCs but with weaker combat stats (especially the WS3 and I1), Tervigons are support units through and through. They can bump their Synapse range out to 18″ if you want (something a lot of people forget about), but honestly you’re going to want to be using their other powers so much that it’s almost a waste to do so. They crap out Gaunts and give them special rules, so obviously they really want to be hanging around their babies to provide support- but there’s something to be said for keeping 7″ or more away so that the backlash from one dying doesn’t wipe out the whole brood, especially if you aren’t looking at getting into CC anytime soon. For those curious, you will spawn roughly ten gaunts each turn and have about a 40% chance of rolling doubles each time, so set your expectations at ~15 gaunts out of each Tervigon and you should do okay. They come naturally with Spike Salvo, but there’s really no reason you shouldn’t trade it out for Cluster Spines every single time. Spike Salvo will perform marginally better against a small unit (~4 models or less), but the rest of the time the Cluster Spines more than make up for their lack of AP by hitting a bunch of guys with much better accuracy.
Remember that the spawning of Gaunts is optional- so in KP missions, you’re often better off holding back and only spawning Gaunts if you have an immediate need for them to do something important. Also consider that you do not always have to start spawning turn 1; while you do risk wasting some of your potential- doubly so if your opponent has the firepower to drop the Tervi early- you are more likely to end up with more Gaunts in an advantageous position. There is no easy rule for when/when not to spawn, but major considerations would be how threatened the Tervigon is, where your Gaunts, if spawned, would be going that turn, and how many turns are remaining. If you haven’t started by turn 3 or so, you’re probably holding back too much (unless, as said, it’s a KP mission.)
Also keep in mind that spawned Gaunts can act normally, and you are allowed to spawn at any time during the movement phase. It is perfectly acceptable to spawn a squad at the edge of his 6″ radius, move them 6″ more, and then Run another d6″ forward if you need to get to an objective (or want to get out of backlash range.)
Tervigons are very good for objective-based missions because they are, 90% of the time, scoring units themselves in addition to producing scoring units. No other army has access to a scoring monstrous creature, and six T6/3+ wounds is nothing to sneeze at. Of course, there are plenty of other uses for the Gaunts, like screening other units or piling in extra hits in CC, but you’re usually going to want to be taking objectives with them while other, more durable units do the bulk of the fighting. See also the Termagant entry for more details on what to do with the little buggers.
Scything Talons: Well, they’re really cheap, I guess. But why do you even want them? Tervigons are not CC monsters. Still, not the worst way to spend your last five points if your army is basically done,a nd probably more useful than adding an eleventh Termagant to that squad.
Crushing Claws: On the plus side, you’re already I1 so there’s no drawback other than the cost. On the other hand, the cost. I said it before: Tervigons are not CC monsters. They are, at best, mediocre, even with the upgrades, and will usually have a bunch of little buddies to help. Adrenal and Toxin are both superior upgrades for this reason and I would always take them first. You also risk over-upgrading the unit when you could have been buying more bodies- even more Tervigons- which is a danger common to all armies.
Adrenal Glands: Not terribly impressive for the Tervi itself, but the ability to grant them to any Termagants nearby is potentially quite strong. Mainly something you want to pair with Toxin Sacs in order to strike ahead of virtually everybody and reroll wounds on them. Also helps a little if you need to try and crack a vehicle, as the Tervigon’s natural S5 makes it quite possible that even as a MC it still won’t penetrate.
Toxin Sacs: Quite superior to Adrenal Glands on their own, but together they make a beautiful pair. The Tervigon itself derives a pretty good benefit from them thanks to its lower-than-MC-normal strength value, but the real bonus is Poisoned Termagants. Many units- Plague Marines, Wraithlord/Guard, other Tyranid MCs, etc, rely on their high toughness as a damage mitigator; with Toxin Sacs on all your Termagants, they present a very real threat to these units. While not exactly a must-have upgrade, this should be high on your priority list, as it can radically change the threat profile of many of your units. Remember, you have to be within 6″ of the Tervigon when the ability’s effect goes off (so when the charge happens for Adrenal or when to-wound rolls are made for Toxin Sacs) in order to benefit from them. Do NOT hover your Termagants at exactly 6″ if you want to get the effects, because Defender Reacts moves will pull you outside of the aura’s radius.
Acid Blood: Brings some offense to an otherwise-defensive unit, but as a rule you want probably survivability upgrades on the Tervigon, not something situational like this. Of course, with six wounds and the potential for Regen and Feel No Pain on the unit, this can be very deadly. Oh, didn’t notice that? Both FNP and AB trigger when you suffer a wound- in other words, they have the same trigger, and thus you can inflict a wound with AB and then FNP it away. Just as other units can benefit from two abilities triggering off the same action (“when you charge” or “when you kill an enemy unit in CC”), the Tervigon (or anyone he gives FNP to) can do some brutal things to people who want to hurt him in melee. The Lash Whip Tyrant is a very good choice for this trick, as he takes advantage of it already and wants to get into CC to start with.
Implant Attack: ….What? No, don’t take this. Jeez, you shouldn’t be planning on getting into CC with this guy; haven’t I made that clear yet? Yes, it will probably happen, but if characters are charging your Tervigon, you are probably in trouble.
Toxic Miasma: Other MCs can consider this because they can potentially be swarmed by a bunch of dorks and slowly worn down; the Tervigon can bring his own reinforcements to the party, so there’s a lot less reason to get it. You should probably pass.
Regeneration: Yeesh, thirty points. Well, he is a really important guy to keep alive, so it’s understandable. Especially if you have a scoring Tervigon (which it generally should be), this can be helpful in ensuring that you end up with at least one point under your control. Between this and FNP, you can easily stay alive through all but the worst barrages of firepower, but again: consider how much you are investing into a single unit. 15 for Cat, 30 for Regen, 20 for TS + AG… and you’re 1/3 of the way to another Tervigon already.
Cluster Spines: Always take these. Always always. What are you going to do, glance a Rhino with your Stinger Salvo?
Catalyst: Well, now we get to the real meat. FNP is, as you probably gathered from the above comments, a large portion of the reason why you want a Tervigon. Charging into cover, sitting exposed for a turn, playing frontline duty on an advancing swarm… there are a lot of hazardous jobs in the hive, and cutting down on casualties isn’t just sentiment, it’s good use of resources. Many units have very poor saves, and Catalyst can be a good way to compensate for this, albeit in a haphazard manner. Still, very few Tervigons are going to want to leave home without either this or Onslaught, so think carefully about how you plan to use your swarm. Sometimes taking both will be the right choice, but not always. Note that this is not a psychic shooting attack and thus lets you still shoot later in the turn (but not use another power, obv). You may also use it during any point during the Movement phase, which gives it an aspect of flexibility.
Onslaught: Where Catalyst lets you play a defensive support role, Onslaught is all about offense. Effectively, it lets you extend a weapon’s threat radius by d6″ as well as pushing your swarm that little bit closer to the enemy in order to get a charge off. It’s especially helpful on Zoanthropes and Hive Guard, given their somewhat mediocre range. Note that the run always happens before the shooting, so you can’t use it to jet out of an enemy’s reach after hitting them. Although I can’t, in good conscience, recommend Raveners armed with guns, this power seems almost custom-fitted for them as well as some of the other shooty/bitey hybrid units like Tyranid Warriors and some types of Carnifex. And remember, if you use this, you aren’t doing any other shooting with the Tervigon this turn- you probably don’t want to inflict wounds on your own mans, even if you are a heartless shard of the Hive Mind.
So if the Hive Tyrant is the default swarm leader, this guy is definitely the budget version. And, compared to the alternatives, he’s almost ridiculously cheap. Of course, we’re paying through the nose for a lot of our HQs, so that’s not saying a lot. Still, he comes in cheap even compared to other factions’ choices and he’s a strong opponent in most regards, basically being a slightly beefed-up Tyranid Warrior. Wait, why does he cost more than twice as much if all he’s got is a variety of small stat bumps? Well, junior, that’s because eight is a very important number in 40K. “But he doesn’t have any eights in his statline!” you cry out; I can hear it now. No, but eight is double four but NOT double five, do you see? I’m sorry, I’m being obtuse- he’s immune to Instant Death from the vast majority of weapons except Railguns and Demolishers. Clearer now? For eighty points, you’re effectively buying insurance against Meltagun, Missile Launcher, and Lascannon hits on whatever squad you attach him to- three hits worth, to be specific, which would normally cost you ~120 pts (or more!) of dudes from those squads. Warriors are his obvious partner (more on this in a sec), but Venomthropes, Zoanthropes, Raveners, Biovores, and even Lictors appreciate his company. He also provides roaming Synapse that can hook onto squads to avoid being shot apart.
Of course, he’s purpose-built to hang out with a squad of Warriors, since he passes his WS and BS onto them. By itself this isn’t terribly impressive, but combined with his ability to suck up ID wounds they become a lot scarier. His options are largely the same as theirs, so you’ll probably want to set him up pretty much identically in order to avoid weird role conflicts between the two of them. Remember, he can hitch a ride in their Mycetic Spore just like a Marine character tagging along in a Drop Pod, so if you’re looking to try something like that he is an excellent choice for making sure they survive that vulnerable first turn after landing.
His basic setup is pretty boring; Talons and Devourer mean that he can both shoot and fight reasonably well, but you will almost always want to specialize him at least somewhat, just as you will with Warriors. He is not particularly frightening in his basic incarnation, other than maybe giving vehicles a slight stink-eye thanks to his good S value.
(Oh, and perhaps- just perhaps- some of you were wondering “Can I attach my Tyranid Prime to a Carnifex, Lictor, or Zoanthrope now?” Yes; yes you can. ICs are forbidden from joining units that are always a single model strong, “like most Monstrous Creatures.” Most, but not all, and not our new Buddyfex, even if you take him as a singular, for the same reason that other ICs can join a one-strong squad of Tactical Marines. And now Zoeys and Lictors are a lot less standoffish, so you can hang around with them as well now. Aren’t you happy?)
Rending Claws: Well, you can get these two different ways, I guess. Dropping the Talons for them is a middling choice, probably only suited for shooty-type Warriors that want to be able to present a reasonable threat in combat and do some damage to vehicles. Not very impressive for the points. The other option, dumping your gun for them, is a bit more attractive- what you go for here is a CC terror that can chew through normal troops with a Bonesword and threaten vehicles (and particularly Dreadnoughts, which are otherwise untouchable) with its claws. You are, however, giving up a pretty reasonable gun, so don’t jump on the chance automatically. How likely are you to have a MC in the area that could kill the walker for you? How many walkers do you face normally? Are you a shooty or bitey swarm (i.e. do you intend to close the distance as quickly as possible or advance steadily while applying firepower)?
Double Bonesword: The cheaper of the power weapon options. This setup makes you pretty likely to be able to ruin the day of a Space Marine character, as you have the same I, WS, etc, and cause ID on them with every hit. This also brings bad times for other big nasties (outside of the Daemons codex), but is somewhat mediocre in terms of general combat, as there are a fair number of assault troops that strike simultaneous or ahead of you and you have no grenades. Still, it is a power weapon and it is cheaper, so if you’re trying to scrape the last couple of points together, you might consider it.
Bonesword/Lash Whip: This is the real gem. You aren’t as likely to auto-kill someone, but the sheer volume of attacks that a Prime and his Warrior friends can put out insures that most things will still die badly to such a unit. Without this, the Prime will struggle to hold par with most units of half its cost; with it, you’re looking at one of the most cost-efficient CC units available. Keep in mind that without Rending Claws you will be helpless against Dreadnoughts, but anything else is going to find you a tough nut to crack. This is also your grenade-substitute, and as such really shouldn’t be left at home if you can afford it.
Spinefists: Interesting. His high A and BS mean that you will almost always get four hits out of these, but crappy S means that won’t matter much. If you face a lot of Guard, Tau, and Eldar, though, they can end up superior to your other gun options, and they’re free to replace.
Deathspitter: Take it or don’t, depending on whether the Warrior squad he’s with uses them. If he’s not there to play buddy with some Warriors there’s no real point to giving him this, as the Devourer is a perfectly fine gun on its own. Note the major jump in anti-tank effectiveness it brings while still being superior against virtually all other targets as well.
Scything Talons: Well, the option is there, I guess. Double ScyTals isn’t a viable build for him like it is for a Tyrant or ‘Fex, as he’s not really suited to chasing down vehicles. You could take them as a secondary to Boneswords, but you’re probably better off with Rending Claws so that you don’t get squashed by a Dreadnought. Still, they aren’t awful, so don’t feel too bad about taking them if you do.
Adrenal Glands: Makes you a bit better at tank-hunting, I suppose- glancing on 4s isn’t bad. Unlike regular Warriors, you don’t get much out of the +1I, so these aren’t really a great buy, especially since you pay double for them compared to Warriors.
Toxin Sacs: Oh yes, come to papa. This is the other half of the equation that turns the Prime into a real killer in CC. You’ll get a reroll against anything T5 or less and anything more than that you probably are going to be causing bad times for with sheer number of power weapon attacks. This plus Bonesword means two dead Marines- even Plague Marines- every turn he’s in a fight; that’s a real quick path to carving up 100+ points of enemy units to earn his keep.
Regeneration: Wow, as much as he overpays for a lot of other options, Regen is super cheap; kinda weird. If you’re using him to soak up ID wounds and little else, this may be a good choice, as it means he has a chance to last just that little bit longer. However, with only three wounds and T5, he may not be around long enough to take real advantage of it, so think of this as another one of the “if you end up with some spare points” upgrades, not something mandatory.
Punching Bag/Sock Puppet: Regeneration (or not even that)
My Buddy: BS/LW, RC or Devourer, Toxin
The Parasite of Montrex
Well here’s an odd fellow. Does he think he’s a Tervigon, spawning more units? Or a Flyrant, leading an airborne swarm? Or perhaps a Prime, bouncing around to provide Synapse where needed? The unfortunate answer is that he’s not really all that good at any of these things, at least not at his unfortunately-inflated price tag that creeps far too close to 200 pts for a T4/3+ character with no immunities. The Parasite is really nothing but a cute gimmick, but like many gimmicks he can be deadly if ignored, underestimated, or if you get exceptionally lucky.
At his heart, the Parasite is an opportunist- he doesn’t have a power weapon or Eternal Warrior, so you can’t mix him up with dedicated CC troops. And really, you don’t even want him going near anything moderately competent- what you want is to nibble away at weak spots in the enemy force and spawn as many Rippers as you can, which then dive directly into the main body of things to tie up important units for as long as they can. Scouts, Devastators, Guardians, Guardsmen, Grots- anything weak, anything vulnerable is your ideal target. His high S and I mean that it isn’t hard to inflict wounds- or, if it comes down to it, glance a tank a bit- but he doesn’t have the survivability to get into long, drawn-out slugging matches. High mobility and good all-around stats mean that you can at least put up some kind of fight against virtually any enemy, though. Also, take notice of his cute “combo” effect- rolls of six to wound trigger both Rending Claws and Implant Attack, giving you an ID hit that can’t be saved against, so you have a chance to randomly kill almost anything. Just don’t rely on it.
His quick movement, IC status, and relative fragility make it pretty obvious that he needs to be accompanying something, but the real question is what. Gargoyles are probably the premiere choice- they are cheap, giving you a mass of ablative wounds; they are reasonable CC contenders and can shoot, so as to thin out potential targets for him or accompany him on the charge against larger foes; and they need a “babysitter” to function well, a role he fits perfectly. Shrikes are also a possibility, as they also want to be jumping into melee and can potentially give him the ability to take on stronger foes, finishing the job for him if he rolls poorly. However, in terms of protecting him from shooting they are much worse than Gargoyles. Skyslasher Swarms are also available, but are inferior to Gargoyles in every way but theme. They are slightly cheaper per wound but can be eliminated en masse by blasts or S6+ guns, whereas Gargoyles are simply tickled pink to take a Lascannon or Plasma shot for their boss. They also lack guns (unless you pay even more points), have no advantageous rules (compared to the rather good Blinding Venom ability), and worse all-around stats.
So that is a hell of a way to start, I know; breaking it up unit-by-unit seems… wasteful? Excessively slow? We’ll see how later sections feel, but for now I’ll leave you with this Wall of Text (2W, 0/7, Creatures blocked by Wall of Text lose all abilities until end of turn) and call it good. <3 MtG references =D! Decided to forego the Kirby comments unless it is asked of me. I think it detracts from the overall feel of the review which Puppy has done a great job on. Will most likely remove my previous comments by the end of the week unless anyone has any objections or would like me to finish.