We’ve covered the basic concepts of the Tyranid codex and we’ve touched on units which benefit the army (i.e. Tervigons) but where do some of the other units, who get less love, fit into the scheme of things? Here we’ll be talking about such things as Mawlocs, Venomthropes, Biovores/spore mines, Deathleaper, Doom, Tervigons, Parasite, etc.
First up, remember these are not units that are there to deal massive damage and as such, a vast amount of points should not be invested into them. They are designed to disrupt whilst adding another facet to your game plan. Depending on these units, whether they are good or bad, is going to leave you in trouble. So since we’ve just covered the Tervigon, let’s look at the other spawning creature of the Tyranid codex, the Parasite of Mortex. First it’s a special character so you can’t get multiples and secondly it’s spawning power is conditional. You’ve got to kill something or something has to come in via outflank for it to work. Conditionals aren’t good when you pay for them and outside of that it doesn’t have a great stat line. For fun combined with 5 Tervigons it’d be fantastic to use 200+ models. Otherwise, stick with the Tervigon who not only spawns but provides buffs to the army as a whole.
We’ll look at the other ‘point’ specific utility options for Tyranids before covering the army-wide ones. These units provide a bonus very specifically to a battle plan rather than affecting most of the table. The most obvious of these is the Deathleaper. An excellent choice simply for psychic defense (Shadow in the Warp doesn’t have a long enough range + Eldar essentially ignore it) as well as a disruptive unit. Placing it in midfield can slow your opponent as they move through terrain and invite your opponent to try and shoot at it though remember it’s value against certain opponents is the reduction in Ld against a specific model. Whilst it competes in slots with the Hive Guard and Zoanthropes, it does become a hard choice whether to take more of the former units or add the Deathleaper.
The other ‘point’ specific options for Tyranids are far less effective. These are Doom of Malan’Tai and the Mawloc. We discussed the Mawloc before and in relation to the Trygon it’s quite sub-par (we are assuming here you understand what “anywhere on the table” means; oh and the internet generally loves this guy if he can DS anywhere). Against mech’d lists don’t expect to do too much damage with this guy, S6 is great in large numbers but single S6 hits on rear armor? Mech doesn’t tremble and if they are silly enough to group up where they can get knocked off the board, well woops. As far as anti-infantry go it’s like any S6 AP2 barrage, for 200pts… again no thanks. It has some disruptive qualities but needing to take multiples of them and have reserve bonuses makes your list very predictable and lowers your killing power. If you want to cause this kind of disruption spore mines can do just as well. The other overhyped unit online is the Doom of Malan’Tai (it doesn’t affect units inside vehicles [note exceptions say so quite specifically like the Parasite] and even if it did, the radius and ability isn’t fantastic). The damaging ability of this unit is again…only okay and is best suited for anti-infantry (in case you haven’t noticed, Tyranids don’t need help there). Whilst the large blast is AP1, lack of re-rolls or super high BS leads to an unreliable scatter and Zoans are plain better in damaging tanks. Add in it’s very susceptible to instant death (3 ML wounds and it’s dead) and you’re sacrificing real utility (Venomthroes, Deathleaper) or real killing ability (Zoanthropes, Hive Guard) for something that does niether well.
So what are the ‘army-wide’ utility units? The most obvious is the Venomthrope and doesn’t get much appreciation online. Whilst it is conceivable to get cover for most of your MCs through gaunt/warrior/MC lines or through large pieces of terrain, Venomthropes allow you to move out in the open (and thus not get slowed by terrain) and give you excellent defense against assault. The ability to take 3 in a single slot allows you to spread and overlap their effect without losing too much in offensive capabilities through Hive Guard and Zoanthropes. The other is Biovores/Spore Mines. Whilst they aren’t going to cause huge disruption those little 1″ bubbles here and there can annoy an opponent to no end, particularly pre-deployment. Again they are unreliable as an offensive mechanism but can add more consistent disruption (and at a cheaper cost) than a Mawloc. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of either Venomthropes or Biovores, they certainly have their place in specific lists but you must remember the opportunity cost of taking such (i.e. less HG/Zoans, less T-Fexes/Carnifexes/Trygons, etc.).
Overall, the ability of the Tervigon/Deathleaper/Venomthrope/Biovore to add depth and utility to your army without paying an inefficient point cost and working in against all armies (i.e. don’t care if you are mech’d or not) makes them stand ahead of the pack. Units like Doom, Parasite and Mawloc are all very situational to get their full effect and thus aren’t units that should be taken in everyday armies that want to stay balanced either because they are so useless against Mech or are too conditional in relation to their point cost.