So Everyone Is Hyped About Blood Angels? Let’s Show Some Love For Tyranids

New box set (that I have already outlined my thoughts on), new codex, new models. It’s a good time to be a Blood Angels player, right?

Well, I’ve been at a loss on what to write about in terms of Warhammer 40k as of late, as my models are all in Brighton whereas I am in Spain visiting my parents; all I have to do for the hobby is keep up to date with the latest releases and craft up some theoretical army lists. So, why am I writing this? It would be bad practice to just write something for the sake of writing something, especially if it’s just to complain about not having anything to write about.

There is always something to write about.

I decided that as Blood Angels are getting so much attention with their new codex I would look at the other side of the Shield of Baal box set: the Tyranids. I will say before diving into the body of what I wish to write about that I am not a Tyranid player. I have played Tyranids briefly in the past, though I was a Witch Hunters player mainly, back in 4th edition when everything was just a little bit less deadly and Cities of Death was the accepted meta in my local area, being the Games Workshop in Brighton. This was about eight years ago and things have moved on, but Tyranids remain very much the same beast that they used to be, with a few buffs and nerfs in various places. So I urge you to take everything I write with a pinch of salt; my main source of experience with Tyranids is blasting them off the table, so maybe I can give a fresh view on the faction that you won’t find elsewhere.

So, where to start? First, I would like to go through what goes through my mind whilst playing Tyranids, from an Imperium/Chaos perspective and then from an Eldar/Dark Eldar perspective as there is a massive difference in how each army plays and how it deals with Tyranids. Whenever I play(ed) Space Marines, Astra Militarum, Witch Hunters (Adepta Sororitas) or Chaos Space Marines my tactics were pretty straightforward: shoot them back and counter initiate with average close combat troops, or sit in cover and strike first in the first round of combat, usually against a weakened unit. The idea was that my units would sit in cover and gun down units of Tyranids in a particular order: hormagaunts first, as they used to be able to move 6″, run D6″ (so possible 6 extra) and then charge 12″ in a meta when only specific units with the Fleet of Foot/Claw/Hoof special rule could run, you could charge after running and charging was largely fixed at 6″ for units that weren’t cavalry (in short, a potential for 24″ movement where most units got only 12″). Hormagaunts were the underdog that you really didn’t want to let crash into your lines. People underestimated them and then quickly learned not to when all of their front units were tied up (close combat used to block line of sight too) and the back units were helpless to do anything as the next waves started to crash in. Next were the other small Tyranid organisms, such as Genestealers (they could only infiltrate if they had a Broodlord, who was an HQ choice), then Termagants and the rest as they could also run forwards an pounce on your units, causing a real headache for your guns. Finally, we moved on to the monstrous creatures, such as the Carnifexes and Hive Tyrants. Warriors were a bit of a joke unit that nobody took and I believe that synapse wasn’t a rule.

But Lexicon, I hear you ask, if you’re sitting back in cover and shooting then you’re not claiming objectives. How do you capture them? It was simple, really. Interception units. For me these were Land Speeders, Assault Marines and for others, Bikes. This combined with a final surge forwards was enough to take objectives from the beleaguered Tyranids that lay scattered across the board. My lists often contained a lot of multi-shot AP4 weaponry such as assault cannons or heavy bolters (I have a thing for Land Speeders and Whirlwinds) as well as a healthy amount of missile launchers and lascannons, which gave me a definite advantage at range. I used lots of troops on the table to mitigate losses as less important and also maximise my presence in both close combat and in shooting. The key was to open up with heavy weapons in the first turn, then get those bolters or lasguns firing as the Tyranids closed in; massed boltguns or lasguns deal a lot of damage to Tyranids, so it should not be underestimated. You shot down Tyranid units until they had very few models remaining and allowed the rest to charge you, beating them down in close combat. I don’t think I ever lost against Tyranids with my Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Astra Militarum or Witch Hunters following this basic principle.

Fast forward to 6th/7th edition and I have my Eldar as my main army. Again, I have yet to lose against Tyranids in a 1vs1 situation (I have lost in a 2vs2 where my partner (he was learning how to play his army) got annihilated in 2 turns and left me to face all of the remaining Tyranids myself; I just couldn’t cover enough objectives!) with my Eldar or Dark Eldar, but the way I deal with them is very different. The way my Eldar and Dark Eldar deal with Tyranids is simply by out-running them. Both armies are fully mechanised and use the mobility of the fast skimmer chassis to run rings around them whilst hitting them with a lot of firepower. Tyranids are lacking at long range anti-vehicle, so I just stay out of range of their short range weapons and deal with anything that has a heavy venom cannon first (or Hive Guard. Target priority #1 is Hive Guard!). Everything else I can just dance out of range of and harass with tank mounted heavy weapons. Even Zoanthropes!

So, with this knowledge how can we field a Tyranid list to combat these tactics. I will go over a checklist of what I believe you need in a Tyranid list to be both fluffy, because I always build fluffy lists, and also decent on the table:

  1. Shooting – If you rely on only melee, you will be kited around the table and picked off. Having some decent shooting behind you will give you some hitting power as you move forwards. As a note, Tyranids will never win long range shooting matches with the likes of the Tau or the Astra Militarum. They just aren’t built that way.
  2. Numbers – As I said, one of the only times that I lost a match was simply because I couldn’t hit enough objectives. You want to have the field presence to be able to swarm over objectives and deny your opponent those points that they need to actually win the scenario.
  3. Null deployment – Fritz40k talks about this in depth here. The idea behind null deployment is to box your opponent in. You want to control where your opponent will be on the table and not give them free reign to drive around and gun you down as a Tyranid player; you need to be pinning your opponent in place.
  4. Synapse – Depends on how dangerously you want to live. Synapse is how you keep your Tyranids in your control, as opposed to leaving it to the dice. My opinion is that you need synapse coverage. You need good fields of synapse that weave into one another, just in case one creature goes down you want to be able to plug the gap.
  5. Speed – You can’t kill an enemy you can’t catch, and the faster you are the sooner you will pin your prey down and start wearing through them. You want to hit your opponent after taking as few losses as possible as if you get into close combat with no steam behind your army, you will just die in close combat as the numbers of Guardsmen just bayonet stab your Hormagaunts or Space Marines attach krak grenades to your last wounded Carnifex.

These are the areas that I want to hit when making a Tyranid list. So which units fill these gaps?

  1. Hive Guard – This is a unit that you want in your army. They are fairly expensive and only Ballistic Skill 3, but their 2 shots at Strength 8 each that does not need line of sight and ignores cover is incredibly useful. The only vehicles that you will find tough to deal with are Armour Value 13 or 14, but anything 12 or under will be a prime target for them. Also, it keeps things like Land Speeders from harassing your units if there are Hive Guard watching over them. Jinking, you say? Ignore cover, I say!
  2. Biovores – Cheap. Lobs a pie plate across the table at Strength 4, AP4 with the barrage special rule. If they miss they spawn spore mines. A must-have in any Tyranid list in my opinion. Now they even have 3 Wounds each! What is not to love about Biovores?
  3. Exocrine – It’s a monstrous creature in close combat and it has a shooting attack that reduces entire squads of Terminators to dust. Considering the 2+ Armour Save is so powerful now with power weapons being segregated and considering the lack of low AP Tyranid shooting, the Exocrine is another unit that I would always put in my list.
  4. Gaunts – Termagants and Hormagaunts are amazing. They need Synapse support to do anything as with Leadership 6 they will be failing more than half of their Instinctive Behaviour checks on average if left outside the Synapse bubble. They are cheap and you can take them in bulk. If you have the points, upgrades can be useful though if I want to give Termagants the devourer gun, I would only give them to around half the unit so that I could use the fleshborer wielding ones as a shield. For hormagaunts it really depends on preference. Adrenal glands allows them to combat vehicles as Furious Charge gives them Strength 4 on the charge, whilst toxin sacs give you Poisoned (4+) attacks in close combat for wounding enemies of all Toughness values; however, I would take one or the other, never both as then they become too expensive. You will take losses on your gaunts, so you want to keep them cheap!
  5. Zoanthropes – Warp Lance, Dominion and another psychic power that you roll from the Tyranid psychic power table. Mastery Level 2. 3++ Invulnerable Save. These are great for providing a bit more Synapse to your force and some close range anti-vehicle firepower as their Warp Lance is a Strength 10 AP2 lance weapon, though it doubles as Warp Blast which is an AP3 blast weapon for clearing infantry. It does, however, take two Warp Charges to go off. I would always take a brood of at least three Zoanthropes, with one definitely upgraded to be a Neurothrope, unless really strapped for points as you only need one psychic test for the whole unit to get their shooting attack. One psychic test for three shots is a lot better than one psychic test for one shot (that you could very well miss!). The Neurothrope is a good way to generate free Warp Charge dice for the Zoanthropes to cast their Warp Blast power as well as causing some extra casualties with Spirit Leech.
  6. Tyrannocite – It’s essentially a Tyranid version of a drop pod that can carry twenty models or a single monstrous creature. This is an excellent unit for getting your Tyranids nice and close where they can actually do damage. Heck, I would put most of my army in these with the exception of my longer range units such as Hive Guard or Biovores who want to sit back a bit.
  7. Mucolid Spore Cluster – Mucolid spores are cheap and can fill a Troops slot. What it does is act like an ordinary spore mine, but with Strength 8, AP3. Fifteen points for a deep striking battle cannon shell? Well, I know how I will be filling out those last few points in my lists. Oh, they can also hit zooming flyers, giving you some quirky anti-air, although as it is only an AP3 weapon you will likely not be able to destroy a flyer in a single blast. My advice? Stick to blasting squads of Space Marines to little pieces. I feel that I should mention the Sporocyst too, as a method of churning out Mucolid Spore Clusters, but it doesn’t quite make the list as it occupies a hotly contested Heavy Support slot. It can be useful for denying an area, using Infiltrate to get into position (it’s immobile) and then churning out Mucolids every turn. However, it’s still a Heavy Support choice.

The points level of the list will dictate exactly which of these I would field. For example, in a 500pts game I will be limited compared to fielding a 2000pts list, for example. Taking all of this into account, I have come up with a Tyranid list that I would field at 1850pts.

1850pts Standard Tyranids


Tyranid Prime – 125pts
Tyranid Prime – 125pts
Scything talons – 0pts
Devourer – 0pts


Hive Guard Brood – 110pts
2 Hive Guard – 110pts
2 impaler cannons – 0pts

Zoanthrope Brood – 225pts
3 Zoanthropes – 150pts
Tyrannocyte – 75pts
5 Deathspitters – 0pts

Zoanthrope Brood – 225pts
3 Zoanthropes – 150pts
Tyrannocyte – 75pts
5 Deathspitters – 0pts


Hormagaunt Brood – 210pts
30 Hormagaunts – 150pts
Adrenal glands – 60pts

Hormagaunt Brood – 210pts
30 Hormagaunts – 150pts
Adrenal glands – 60pts

Termagant Brood – 120pts
30 Termagants – 120pts
30 Fleshborers – 0pts

Termagant Brood – 120pts
30 Termagants – 120pts
30 Fleshborers – 0pts

Tyranid Warrior Brood – 150pts
5 Tyranid Warriors – 150pts
5 Scything talons – 0pts
5 Devourers – 0pts

Tyranid Warrior Brood – 90pts
3 Tyranid Warriors – 90pts
3 Scything talons – 0pts
3 Devourers – 0pts

Fast Attack

Spore Mine Cluster – 15pts
3 Spore Mines – 15pts

Heavy Support

Biovore Brood – 80pts
2 Biovores – 80pts

Exocrine – 170pts
Exocrine – 170pts

Total – 1850pts

So, the idea behind the list is to swamp objectives with bodies and wear down your opponent. The list features a model count of 142 plus 3 Spore Mines, so all but the dedicated Astra Militarum infantry horde will have less models on the table than you. The hardest part about building this list was the need for Synapse creatures and so I decided to spend points on Warriors to act as another Synapse anchor alongside the Zoanthropes. The Tyranid Prime goes with the smaller squad of Warriors and hides in the back, giving Synapse to the Biovores, Exocrine and Hive Guard, whilst the unit of 5 Warriors accompanies the rush of Gaunts. The Zoanthropes enter play in the Tyrannocytes, deep striking alongside the waves of Gaunts to provide more Synapse and some powerful anti-vehicle and psychic support. It’s a very simple list that won’t win every game, but for people who play like me it would pose some serious problems; there’s simply too much to target without getting lucky dice rolls! It’s also a fun list to play (and play against), so unless you face a cheesy WAAC list, you and your opponent should have a lot of fun during the game. There are plenty of other viable lists to play, but I merely wanted to show a very ordinary, standard Tyranid list that should be able to accomplish something on the table. I would change out the Spore Mine Cluster for a Mucolid Spore Cluster (of a single Mucolid) but I ran out of Troops choices in the Combined Arms Detachment. Oh, remember that all of the Gaunts and Warriors are Objective Secured, meaning that only Troops can contest objectives that they hold. 128 Objective Secured models? Those objectives will be yours!

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