Warhammer 40,000/5th Edition Tactics/Tyranids

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This is an old Edition's tactics. 6th Edition Tactics are here.

Why Play Tyranids[edit]

From a gameplay perspective, the Tyranid army is a tactically engaging force with a lot of strengths, as well as some weaknesses which must be dealt with in order to make the most of them. The army itself is noted for being able to purchase a variety of deployment options, including manipulation of the Reserve Rolls, Mycetic Spores, the ability to reroll the table edge from Outflanking, and other options to complement conventional Deep Strike and Infiltration options; the Tyranids therefore have a degree of flexibility in building a force which operates in a manner besides simply lining their force opposite the opponent's guns. Likewise, they possess a fair amount of support units, capable of either buffing or debuffing units as need be, or otherwise acting as force-multipliers to the army as a whole.

In melee, the Tyranids operate off numerous cheap infantry, complemented by larger (and far pricier) Monstrous Creatures; the former are exceptionally point-efficient at taking out enemy infantry, and when properly supported will defeat most anything in close-combat on account of their high initiative and mass of Poisoned attacks. The Monsters *can* deal with heavier infantry, but their lack of attacks for their cost generally make them more useful for finishing off vehicles or acting as a living shield to pull attacks away from your swarms. In some cases it is a good idea to make assaults into cover using heavy linebreakers like Trygons since the overwhelming majority of Tyranid units (every Troop Choice in the codex) lack Frag Grenades. This said, the generally Fearless nature of Tyranids means that if one is not careful, a well-executed multicharge can overwhelm multiple Broods and pile up the No-Retreat Wounds. Learning to screen you army and understanding which units to sacrifice to achieve victory is critical.

Tyranid shooting is primarily geared towards anti-infantry, with quite a few Large Blast weapons and rapid rate-of-fire weapons available to them. However, their long-range anti-tank is either short-ranged, inaccurate, does less damage on the Vehicle Damage Chart, or any combination of those three; as a rule, Tyranids don't kill vehicles by shooting, so much as disable them and render them vulnerable to being torn apart in melee.

Addendum: As it stands, the Tyranid codex itself does not have an official FAQ yet. It took a while, but the Tyranids did finally receive a brutal, somewhat loathsome FAQ/errata. In it, most rules disputes were decided against the Tyranid army, so Mawloc deepstrikes and Doom of Malantai powers both confer cover saves (and don't harm units in transports). Enemies in transports are positively invulnerable to the effects of Shadow in the Warp (January 2012 update eliminated this), and when an enemy assaults a spore mine, the explosion only hits one squad member. Fortunately Tyranid close combat weapons do stack, but most things turned out as poorly as the rulings could possibly go for the bugs.

Something to keep in mind is that most of the newer armies can absolutely wreck your shit with ease. You are the one side with absolutely no vehicles, in an edition that hates on monstrous creatures and makes vehicles god. If you play this army, be prepared to take a lot of casualties against newer armies. That is not to say you are at the bottom of the heap as far as armies go, but yours is not an army that is terribly forgiving of mistakes or mediocre builds.

But in Apocalypse games, things change for the better for you. You've got something Matt Ward armies by and large don't; Forgeworld Support. Your rather mediocre army transforms into a devastating force so profoundly you are left with the impression that Apocalypse is the proper place for Tyranids. Indeed, a lot of choices that are of questionable usage in normal 40k games become far more viable in apocalypse, Carnifex Poison sacs find their usage against Gargantuan creatures, Gargoyles can be brought into the fray in silly numbers by Harridans, Tyrannofexes with rupture cannons become cheap shadowsword equivalents, Biovores become essential long ranged blob removal, Pyrovores...are still completely useless.

In Apocalypse, your Titans' main strength is volume of high strength attacks, both ranged and melee. This makes them geared towards attacking heavy enemy units while they tank shock things not worthy of their attention out of their way. You have a glaring lack of pie plate dropping ability, but the sheer number of regular 40k models you can field will allow you to mop up what your Titans leave behind, and Forge world is slowly but surely taking a lot of old, goofy, and obscure Epic, CCG, and Chapter approved beasties and bringing them into your game. So if you decide to play the Tyranids, it's best for you to go all the way and build an Apocalypse force so that you can experience the bugs the way they were meant to be played. In vast hordes of monsters large and small bringing devastation to everything in their way.

Unit Analysis[edit]

HQ Units[edit]

  • Hive Tyrant - The Hive Tyrant is often regarded as the "leader" of the Hive because they are gigantic monsters with synapse power. Synapse keeps all the little monsters from running around out of your control, therefore the Hive Tyrant is the boss. Unfortunately, Hive Tyrants are very expensive in the 5th edition, clocking in at 1.7x the cost of any no-name Space Marine HQ but lacking invulnerable saves or the ability to join most squads. Their upgrades are also pretty expensive, but they sport some interesting psychic powers that some players feel make the investment worthwhile. Unfortunately, most of those psychic powers are short range, and plenty of the options aren't terribly helpful. Odds are, when somebody is telling you that the Tyrants have good psychic powers, they're really just talking about Paroxysm, which lowers one enemy unit's WS and BS to 1.
  • The Swarmlord - Essentially just a bigger, more expensive Hive Tyrant, the Swarmlord is what people refer to as a "Deathstar" unit. The reason is because the Swarmlord is massive, devastatingly powerful, unreasonably expensive, possesses a high demand for resources during the game, and has laughably stupid weaknesses for all it took to get the damn thing. For one thing, hitting it with six Krak missiles or any equivalent will statistically put it down without a fight since every missile wounds on a 2+ and ignores the damn thing's armor save. However, the Swarmlord can cast two psychic powers per turn and has several special abilities that buff nearby units in varying ways. It also gets an invulnerable save in close combat, inflicts Instant Death, has a ridiculously high WS, forces the enemy to reroll successful invulnerable saves and so on. If it can be put in close combat then it is liable to seriously mess up whatever it's fighting. The Swarmlord is generally agreed to be one of the most devastating melee hq units in the entire game, quite capable of going toe to toe with Abaddon, and if Paroxysm is used first, will cut down Abaddon without a scratch. Oh and paroxysm is pretty much the Swarmlord's "I win" button against other close combat monsters, Abaddon won't look so threatening when he has an WS of 1.
    • Note: The Swarmlord is more or less meant to be taken with a Tyrant Guard brood. This takes the death star unit and turns it into grotesquely durable death machine, with two additional t6, 3+ save, ablative wounds a piece and a large number of high strength power weapon attacks that allow the Swarmlord to defeat pretty much any other equivalent commander and whatever retinue he's packing, especially with Paroxysm. Yes it's expensive, but it is absolutely devastating.
    • Edit: Holy shit he's got a model now! And good god it is beautiful!
  • Tyrant Guard -big, dumb walls of armor that serve only as meatshields and honor guards for your Tyrant or Swarmlord. They're s5, t6 with 2 wounds and a 3+ armor save and have access to power weapons, meaning they don't slouch in combat. If you're planning on footslogging the Swarmlord or an armored shell Tyrant across the board, Tyrant Guard are your means to get them there. Just beware that the Tyrant doesn't die while with them, or you'll completely lose control of the bastards. They're really handy, but would 3 wounds and/or a 2+ armor save be too much to ask for? They are stated to be pound for pound the most well armoured tyranids, for fucks sake the Hive Mind decided not to give them eyes so the enemy couldn't shoot those and they stole space marine fused ribs and black carapace!
  • Tyranid Prime - A handy little bugger. For about 15 points less than the Space Marine captain, you get a Toughness 5, Strength 5, super-Warrior, who provides Synapse, and possesses his fair share of combat options. Most importantly though, he is an Independent Character. If the Prime joins a Warrior unit, the Warriors can use the Prime's WS and BS, but it is also sincerely helpful to join the prime to other multiwound Tyranid broods, such as Zoanthropes. Normally those broods are Krak missile and Melta bait, but with a Prime attached the wounds can be allocated to it instead, saving the other models the frustration of Instant Death.
  • Tervigon - This is the cheesy bread and butter of the new codex. There's no point in putting Tervigons in the HQ section, because even though they can be taken as HQ, they will always be troops. For every squad of gaunts purchased, one Tervigon can be made a troop choice. Since tervigons are gigantic monstrous creatures with six wounds and actually spawn more gaunts, you would be fucking insane not to include at least one in your more competitive armies! AND IT FINALLY HAS A MODEL!
  • The Parasite of Mortrex - This here is one of the glaringly gimmicky additions to the new codex. It's a flying Warrior, kind of, that spawns 1D6 rippers every time a unit it kills fails a Toughness Test. Once you place all six bases, you'll easily be able to see that six ripper bases would never fit inside a Guardsman, but fuck that noise; the description says they all came from eggs put in the Guardsmen by the Parasite. Although it sounds neat, it actually doesn't spawn all that many rippers most of the time, especially against Space Marines and their equivalents, and since it's T4 everybody's good friend Mr. Space Marine With a Hidden Powerfist will instantly kill it during the return fire. The Parasite is a pretty circumstantial little fucker, but a great fuck-you against tarpits.


The first thing one notices about Tyranid Elites is that every unit is a straightforward purchase. There are no upgrades, biomorphs, or any other upgrades aside from the prospect of purchasing a Mycetic Spore. Tyranids have a lot of Elite options, but many builds ultimately boil down to taking Zoanthroapes or Hive Guard. This is because of the emphasis on mechanized warfare in 40k, and the need for reliable anti-tank. A common trap many players new to Tyranids tend to take, is taking a single Hive Guard unit and a single Zoanthroape unit, and hoping this will cover all their anti-tank needs. This is frankly retarded, for it leads to lack of unit redundancy. Whether you choose Hive Guard or Zoanthroapes as your mainstay Elite Choice will do a lot to shape what your army looks like.

  • Doom of Malan'tai: Decried as cheese by some, the DoM is something of a gambling model. It can be downright devastating: every shooting phase, including the Tyranid phase and the enemy's, all enemy units within 6" of the DoM must take a leadership test on 3D6. For every point they fail by, the squad takes one wound and the DoM gains a wound up to a maximum of ten. It has a 3+ invulnerable, but it's only T4, so the way to deal with it is Instant Death. It always comes in a spore pod if it's coming at all, so if the Deep Strike scatters off target the DoM will be unlikely to do anything for the entire game. However, sometimes it does wipe out most of a squad, and it is just so cheap and draws so much expensive fire that it really is worth the risk of it not doing anything - or it would be, anyway, if the DoM weren't taking up an essential elite slot. May be nice to have up your sleeve in Apocalypse.
  • Hive Guard: Hive Guard are one of the premier Tyranid armor hunters. For the cost of a Land Speeder, you're getting model with two wounds, T6, and a 4+ save armed with the bastard offspring of a Krak Missile and a Storm Bolter. Firing two BS 4, Strength 8 shots a turn, a unit of three, or even two, of these guys will bust open transports, light skimmers, or even heavier armor should they be able to flank-it. Like everything else in the Tyranid codex, it maintains full fire-efficiency on the move. The two drawbacks to this unit are it cannot take a Mycetic Spore, and 24" is a relatively short range for popping light transports and for some unfathomable reason it only has AP4, making it useless against MEQs. However, the Hive Guard does not need line of sight to hit a target, and it does not give a fuck about any intervening cover.
  • Lictors: The Lictor gets worse every edition, and the 5th is no exception. They are ambush units that have lost their ambush ability, and their performance on the table demonstrates how useless that is. Thanks to the Stealth universal rule, Lictors are decent at surviving shooting, but they're actually rather poor at surviving close combat because they have a toughness of four and a 5+ save. Rather hilariously, because they enter play by Marbo-Deep Strike, they can be assaulted before they make their own assault, which is pretty much the polar opposite of an ambush. Even better is when the enemy wheels flamers around to their "ambush position" and burns them to a crisp before they make their move. They could be extremely mediocre harassers if they weren't competing for a gravely important elite slot. They are, incidentally, one of the three Tyranid models with frag grenades.
  • Deathleaper: Are you taking Zoanthroapes and are worried about Psychic Hoods? Are you running a dual-Tyrant all-spore army, and want to make sure all your forces are in by turn 3? Introducing the new-and-improved Lictor at nearly three times the cost of a normal one. Deathleaper is point-per point the most fragile unit in the codex, partially to compensate for the relative difficulty one can have in targeting him. All shooting at him is done as though it were a Night Fight check, with distance halved. Unfortunately, the special rules have very situational usage. One allows the Tyranid player to pick an enemy model and lower its leadership by D3, which is useful for negating enemy Psykers, or a Psychic Hood; alternatively, for setting up high-priority enemy models for being Bone-sworded, or negating bonuses from abilities like Rites of Battle. Another rule causes nearby enemies to roll fewer dice while moving through cover, but it's such a short-range power that the Deathleaper has to be in danger to use it. Deathleaper tends to get used mostly in a Reserve Army where one doubles up on Zoanthroapes and dual Hive Commander Tyrants looks like it's a single Tyrant now that Hive Commander doesn't stack, his Phermone Trail acting as a buffer in anticipation of the Hive Tyrant being shot, and his Leadership reduction ability used to further ensure that the Zoanthroapes work more efficiently (though against non-hood based Psychic Defenses, this last element doesn't work as well). From there, he might either act as a minor assassin unit, or continually shuttle back into Reserve, reappearing on the last turn to contest an objective, in a more reliable version of the Swooping Hawk yoyo. Although he's not for many armies, his utility can come into play.
  • Pyrovores: Universally agreed to be the stupidest, most useless, most confusingly detrimental unit in the entire Tyranid codex barely edging out ahead of Old One Eye for most pointless unit in the codex, the Pyrovore has no idea what the fuck it's supposed to be doing and neither does the guy who designed it. In short, it's a heavy flamer with power weapons that explodes when it gets bumped too hard and bleeds acid. It's slow, so it's really best for bracing against assaults; for Tyranid armies based on assault, this is pointless, and for shooting armies, this is also pointless for they compete with Hive Guard. Its close combat abilities are dreadfully menial, so the power weapon attacks are wasted. It has the potential to harm enemies in close combat, but only when it is wounded, which means sacrificing the damn thing is its only positive use. The only way this unit could be of use is dependent on how Games Workshop FAQs Acid Blood to work, in which case it might work as a sacrificial gimmick for killing enemy deathstar units, but armies based on gimmicks seldom work. Ask Lukas the Trickster.
  • Venomthropes: Venomthropes would be kind of a beautiful choice if they weren't in the highly competitive elite slots. All models within 6" of them get a 5+ cover save, are armed with defensive grenades, and force dangerous terrain checks on assaulting enemies. They're fantastic support units for protecting gunlines, and they also confer a save to monstrous creatures that would normally find it very difficult to get cover, like the Trygon or Tyrannofex or even a fucking Heirophant (A Heirophant with Warp field and Regeneration and a 5+ cover save is the type of thing that makes most people cry). Units with stealth, such as Rippers and Lictors, can take a 4+ cover save from being near Venomthropes, increasing the screening potential of Rippers if they need to advance across open ground. Venomthropes also have a 2+ poison, but they don't really belong in close combat.
  • Ymgarl Genestealers: The fluff behind the Ymgarl Genestealers doesn't really make a lot of sense. They're creatures that can, at will, make themselves stronger, thicken their own carapace, or turn their limbs into tentacles, which stretches the limits of plausibility without "lol, warpmagic" explanations. It's a gimmicky way of altering the units' stats, frankly. In any case, they're basically just genestealers that mutate and hide in terrain for deployment. When they appear from reserves, they pop out of the terrain piece that was marked for them and they can assault afterward. They ambush the way that Lictors ought to, and they wouldn't be a bad choice if the elite slots weren't your best source of anti-tank. Even so, they can really disrupt anything with big weapons that's sitting around in the back *cough*longfangs*cough*. Since they can assault when they come in, and you choose where they're going after both sides deploy, they come in more or less where you want to (unless you play on planet Q-ball, and if so, god help you), can assault w/ a toughness boost to not murder things on your turn, then can finish on your opponent's turn. Taking one is a decent choice for most players, even with Hive Guard trying to crowd into all three slots, the disruption they give (denying where an opponent can deploy their heavy-weapon infantry in cover) is worth it. There's a reason why Space Wolves choose Wolf Scouts, and that same reason is why one unit of Ymgarls, even a low number of them like 6-8, is a decent choice.
  • Zoanthroapes: This is another unit that any player would be a fool not to consider investing in. They are arguably some of the best anti-armor units in the game right now, using a S10, AP1, Lance attack to punch through nearly any heavy armor on the field. They also have a S5, AP3, blast template to throw at Space Marines that get too comfortable with their good saves. A brood of them can lay down touhou esque barrages of firepower with FUCKING MIND BULLETS. Three full broods of them can lay down an truly epic amount of mental dakka that will fuck up the shit of everything and anything in front of them. The only drawback to Zoanthropes is that their attacks are psychic, so Psychic Hoods can mess everything up, and that their lance attack is short range, only 18". They can be dropped into play with pods, though.


  • Genestealers - Genestealers are very solid units. They have a 5+ save, which is easily punctured by any Space Marine worth a damn, but their decent combat ability makes up for that. They can easily shred plenty of enemy units (up to and including Baneblades if you can get to their rear armor) in close combat thanks to rending, high initiative, great weapon skill, and an acceptable number of attacks. However, despite all this, they aren't really the core player of the army. They come with infiltration built in, so their best use is often to keep the enemy bottled up. A squad or two of flanking Genestealers will cause most players to give pause to spreading out to the edges of the board. Additionally, you can also upgrade one genestealer to a broodlord, which is essentially a 3 wound, was7, s/t5 nightmare with close combat oriented psychic powers. Give the Broodlord adrenal glands and it can pop landraiders. All things considered you can't say many bad things about Genestealers. Thankfully, they can be fielded in pretty large numbers, not quite as massive as that of Gaunts, but enough to pretty much swamp anything in front of them. Almost nothing in the game short of AV 14 armor survives more than one turn when faced with a full genestealer brood with a broodlord.
  • Hormagaunts - Hormagaunts, due to being cheap and having cheap access to poison, are among the most devastating attackers in the Tyranid army. Per point spent, they deal more damage, survive more wounds, and can even run across the board faster than anything else that can compete with them. Their only major drawback is a troubling susceptibility to No Retreat wounds and a stark lack of frag grenades. However, keep them from fighting with inopportune targets and get them Feel No Pain from a Tervigon and these little bugs will really tear it up on the battlefield. They can also equip adrenal glands to glance tanks and transports into submission on the charge. Plus, you can field them in absolutely massive broods, rivaling full sized guard platoons in sheer size.
  • Rippers - Tyranids have numerous traditional weaknesses, among them are blast templates. Rippers, being swarms, take double damage from blast templates. Having a toughness of three, they are morbidly weak to Instant Death as well. Their weapon skill is low, their saves are 6+, they can't hold objectives, and they die if they fall out of synapse. To say they are good for anything would be a stretch. Only worth taking if you use the Parasite of Mortrex, since for 277pts or so you give Morty a nice extra 21 wounds, with 36 more attacks on the charge at a 4+ poison. And if your Rippers are running low, just move off into some of your newly spawned Rippers and keep going on.
  • Termagants - Termagants are pretty much nothing compared to hormagaunts and genestealers. Their guns are short range, their ballistic skill is average, they fight as well as Guardsmen in close combat, and their saves are worse. In fact, they cost just as much as a Guardsman does, and since Termagants can't ride transports there isn't much that can be done with them. However, for every one brood of Termagants purchased, one Tervigon can be purchased as a troop choice, and Termagants receive all kinds of irrational buffs from being next to a Tervigon. Therefore, despite their mediocre to poor abilities, they actually aren't uncommon in the 5th edition. Like Hormagaunts, they can be fielded in numbers so large the gameboard will look like an unending sea of bugs.
  • Warriors - Warriors are also a solid unit, but they have one problem: Instant Death. They have a 4+ save, three wounds, and a toughness of four, so against small arms fire they're as tough as Terminators. However, hit their squad with a Demolisher cannon and they all evaporate. They have access to power weapons, have decent guns, have good weapon skill, and overall have some pretty reasonable options. It's just not a good idea to make an entire army composed of Warriors since small numbers and being no-brainer targets will hurt them.

Fast Attack[edit]

  • Gargoyles - Gaunts with wings, effectively. They are, in quite nearly every way, just Termagants with wings. They have the same stats, the same weapons, and the same problem with No Retreat wounds. However, aside from the 12" movement, there is one exception: gargoyles wound enemies during the to-hit rolls as well as during the to-wound rolls. Every six they roll to hit becomes a wound with armor saves allowed (essentially Necron Gauss weapons that allow armor saves and can't get glancing hits on vehicles). Throw in poison and gargoyles become some savage monstrous creature hunters (great for fucking over other tyranid armies and chaos daemons). Sadly, they aren't too fantastic against much else; they are really very average models for survivability and output, so while it doesn't hurt to have them around, they also don't always help. They are, however, an excellent unit for a Parasite of Mortrex to join.
  • Harpies - Harpies are jump infantry models of debatable use. They don't come especially cheap, costing as much as a tervigon, and they aren't very strong or tough for the cost. They come equipped with a twin-linked, S6, large blast and can be upgraded to a twin-linked, S9, small blast, but the S9 gun does less damage on the vehicle penetration chart (it is still great for insta-death delivery). They aren't strong enough and nor do they have enough attacks to really be hunting any heavy vehicles, they're toughness five so they can be instantly killed, and their save is 4+ so they're easy Heavy Bolter fodder. Getting one assaulted would be a disaster, so they're really only as useful as the gun they carry, and that's a matter dependent on your army list. And they're one of the last two units in the army to lack a model so if that affects your choice...
  • Raveners - Raveners are very similar to Warriors, but they're faster, have higher initiative, have more attacks, are more fragile, and can't climb stairs. Ultimately they're ok. They aren't as good at fighting as a swarm of Hormagaunts, aren't as tough as Warriors, and get expensive when equipped with ranged weapons, but their Fleet move and 12" charge range do give them a niche to fill. Ideally, they're harassers, designed to make unexpected long range assaults into exposed heavy weapons teams or infantry who think they're safely controlling an objective. The main thing to worry about with them is Instant Death and getting caught in the open. Their 5+ saves mean they won't get armor against the most typical foes, and if you can't clean up that Space Marine with a hidden Power Fist in one round then you'll have some very dead Raveners on your hands.
  • Shrikes - Warriors with wings and a 5+ save. Can't take power weapons and ranged weapons together for some reason. Otherwise nearly identical to Warriors, described above.
  • Sky-Slashers - Rippers with wings. Not better in any way, but now with the added weakness of taking dangerous terrain checks if they use their jump move while in terrain! The wings almost negate the cover bonus the Rippers get for being swarms. Otherwise, see Rippers, described above.
  • Spore Mines - Floating basketballs that explode when they bump into things. Also, they deepstrike before anyone deploys. This makes them pretty much useless, since any enemy with any kind of strategic experience will just tank shock them on the first turn. However, if used with dawn of war deployment, they are essentially a big middle finger to the enemy. Since they deepstrike before deployment, and in DoW you can't deploy within 18" of an enemy model, you basically create a 36" wide buffer where the enemy can't deploy. Needless to say, annoying as shit.

Heavy Support[edit]

  • Biovores: A unit to be respected by any footslogger with an armor save of 4+ or worse, Biovores are mobile artillery beasts that deliver spore mines directly to the enemy. The mines, when they hit, each create a S4, AP 4, large blast, and when they don't hit they will actually land on the field and remain present until they are shot or wandered into. It's not exactly what one would think of as "heavy" support, but it is probably among the best ranged anti-infantry support in the codex. The only problem is, one has to ask if more anti-infantry is really what one seeks when such is the strength of almost every other unit in the codex. In Apocalypse games, where long ranged ability becomes crucial due to the much larger average board size, they become far more viable as a way to deal with infantry blobs from a distance, though they lack the Dactylis' balls out firepower, they can be fielded in much larger numbers to swamp the battlefield in pieplates and spore mines.
  • Carnifex: A perfect summary of the Carnifex in 5th edition would be "too expensive." This is especially so once you start buying upgrades for them. They have four attacks which they can re-roll to hit and a strength of nine, but their WS of three is pretty average. They can hold their own against basic squads, but one hidden power fist will ruin their day in a heartbeat (or lack thereof). Even against a five man Space Marine Tac Squad, the Carnifex lacks the attacks and accuracy to clean up its enemies before it gets walloped, and a Krak missile or two to soften the beast up will guarantee its death. The reason for this circumstance is that the Carnifex used to be the go-to unit of the Tyranid codex in 4th edition. However, there is one important thing to consider: nothing dismantles tanks in close combat as well as a Carnifex. It's a poor consolation prize, and while we're at it we'll make it the second unit in the codex with access to frag grenades. Bizarrely, you can give it Toxin Sacs for 10 more points, which actually change the to-wound on most things from 2+ to 4+. The only time toxin sacs will have a positive effect is fighting T10 units...yeah. They work better in Apocalypse games, where you will more frequently encounter extremely high toughness Gargantuan and Monstrous creatures, which make the Poison sacs a better investment, so where you would use the Trygons to sweep away infantry unworthy of your bio-titan's attentions, use the Carnifex to slap down enemy Monstrous and Gargantuan creatures.
  • Mawloc: Effectively a weaker, less accurate Trygon with the ability to cause damage to enemy squads as it enters play. When it Deep Strikes on an enemy unit, *EVERY* model underneath it takes a S6 AP 2 hit, vehicles being hit on the rear; considering the large base size of the Mawloc, one can potentially hit a lot of models; in practice, between accuracy issues and cover saves, it does less damage than one would initially expect. However, the primary use of the Mawloc is for vehicle displacement; any model which isn't killed must be moved to make way for the Mawloc to move through, being auto-destroyed should they not be able to escape; while the odds of killing a vehicle in the open with this are relatively minimal, the Mawloc can find use in disrupting vehicle formations, making it easier to rearshot vehicles, assault them, or pull them off objectives. This makes anti-castling its primary use. Overshadowed by the Dactylis in Apocalypse games.
  • Old One Eye: OOE is one of the most tragic models in the codex. It exemplifies everything that is wrong with the new Carnifex pricing and then compounds it to make a model so costly that it hurts the entire army just by being there. The price tag is equivalent to a Land Raider, but OOE is only as tough and as durable as a normal Carnifex. It has a 5+ regeneration ability that lets it recover wounds, but this does not save it from the trick of hitting the beast with a Krak Missile or two before assaulting it with a Power Fist. I can also roll one additional attack for every original attack that hits, but it can't roll new attacks generated from new attacks. Unfortunately it does not out perform a normal Carnifex with crushing claws by much, and it is out performed by Trygons for less cost. In Apocalypse games he becomes even more pointless.
  • Trygon: The Trygon is a former Apocalypse heavyweight which has been scaled down for standard 40k games and is the smallest of the bio-titans and the only bio-titan to lack biocannons. An expensive model to be sure, it is still considered one of the highlights of the Tyranid codex. Like most other Tyranid Monstrous Creatures, the 6 Toughness 6 wounds (Formerly Toughness 7 5 wounds back in it's days of being a forge world exclusive, the toughness was probably decreased so that it wouldn't be COMPLETELY immune to S3 weapons like lasguns anymore while it was given another wound to compensate) allow it to take hits like a champ, and its raw statline, Fleet, and dual Scything Talons make it a melee powerhouse. And it has a cute little shooting attack, which it is generally advisable to ignore in favor of Running. As a final note, the Trygon itself does not have the option for a Mycetic Spore, but Deep Strikes with the same Scatter-reduction rules built into its cost; whether you consider this an advantage or not depends on your opinion of Spores. In Apocalypse games, their height and toughness allows them to act like moving cover for Gargantuan Bio-titans, and due to the Tyranid's lack of blast templates, they are great for clearing away tarpits from your bio-titans.
  • Tyrannofex: A primarily Ranged Bio-titan; This unit is of hotly debated usefulness. Scorned by some, and cherished as an unassailable bastion of destruction by others, they are ultimately models that lack a unified purpose. Costing as much or more than a Land Raider, T-Fexes have six wounds, a toughness of six, and a 2+ save, meaning they are all but invulnerable to regular infantry. Their standard build is bristling with anti-infantry weaponry, sporting two flamer templates and a short range large blast, but most people don't feel they particularly need more anti-infantry support from such an expensive unit. What the Tyranids do need is anti-armor, and that is something the Tyrannofex provides, but at considerable cost and with remedial reliability. Fans of the T-Fex insist it is a perfect tool because it draws fire away from your more important units without flinching, while opponents detract that the T-Fex's weakness is being ignored. The model is so costly that one must sacrifice whole broods of other units to field one, so it doesn't always hurt the enemy to just not shoot at the T-Fex. The reason why their use is debated at all is because T-Fexes are the Tyranid codex's only long range anti-armor units, providing a S10, Assault 2 firearm that can reach across the board, letting you crack open Land Raiders from a long distance. Ultimately they are slow, fill a niche by desperation rather than proficiency, and should not be used in games with point limits below 1,500. If titans, superheavy tanks, gargantuan creatures, and stompas are appearing on the board (such as in a game of apocalypse) T-fexes find themselves overshadowed due to the sheer number of biocannon (all of them being S10 AP3 Heavy 3-9 weapons) equipped units that will become available to the tyranids. But they do provide a nice backup to the gargantuan bio-titans. A good use for them in apocalypse is to clear away super-heavy units that would otherwise tie down your Bio-titans or threaten your army while leaving your Apocalypse Bio-titans free to focus on other things. Additionally, they make for excellent Titan finishers. Essentially, treat them as more expendable shadow sword equivalents. For some incomprehensible reason, both the Acid Spray and Rupture cannon are only AP4, making them useless against MEQs, seriously, it's chances of penetrating a land raider's armour is *identical* to it's chances of getting by a marine's armour save, what the fuck?

Apocalypse Units[edit]

  • Heirodule Though it looks like a gigantic gaunt, it's really more like a carnifex on angry, angry steroids; this Bio-titan eats tanks for breakfast and is roughly the Tyranid equivalent of a baseline Stompa or a Warhound class scout titan. It comes in two versions, the melee only version which has four FUCKHUEG scything talons that can carve up vehicles and superheavies in close combat, and has a FUCKHUEG flamer. The ranged version has two FUCKHUEG scything talons and two biocannons (this particular version of the biocannon is S10 AP3 Heavy 6) which means that you can spit out six twinlinked S10 AP3 hits per turn, now despite "only" having AP3, the sheer number of high strength shots will quite regularly defeat AV 14, so you can pop open land raiders, and monoliths, and Asdrubael Vect's Dais of Destruction, kill baneblades and battlefortresses from the front (though it's still recommended that you go for their side or rear armor, because you should always try to take the most favorable option possibleattack their weak point for massive damage), take out titans and stompas (Void shields and power fields only have an AV of 12 and collapse if struck with either a glancing or penetrating hit, though only one layer of shielding will be destroyed by a single hit; as for a titan's armor, it's generally identical to a baneblade's, not even a warlord has AV 14 on it's sides or rear), Brass scorpions, and Gargantuan creatures. Overall, a solid choice. In addition, all biotitans can tank shock, but this is generally most useful for the melee Heirodule, as it lets it just plow through a whole army of infantry models to get at the superheavy sitting at the back with a smug smile on it's face.
  • Heirophant Coming in at over one thousand points, the Heirophant is the priciest Tyranid unit in regular scale (or more accurately, not-epic) 40k and is easily one of the priciest units period. But it makes up for that by having two extremely long ranged s10 ap3 heavy 8 (that is not a typo, its rate of fire is twice as high than a god damned gatling cannon that spews out hundreds of rounds a second) biocannons, gargantuan creature rules, a metric fuckton of claws, lash-whips, warp-fields, and some of the highest armor saves, toughness, wounds, and strength stats you have ever seen. You thought the four uber-daemons were tough? You haven't seen shit, compared to this beastie those four are nothing. There is not a single non-apocalypse unit in any codex that this thing wouldn't eat for breakfast. No matter what range it fights at, it will fuck something's shit up. Mr.space marine with a hidden power fist doesn't have shit on this guy. It is however, an colossal firemagnet, even if he is nigh on impossible to kill. With regeneration, he is pretty much the ultimate damage sponge, the few things that do hurt him will simply be rolled away. It's debated amongst the Warhammer community of what the psychic power 'Warp Field' does - in the old Codex, when the Heirophant was introduced, Warp Field gave the bearer a 2+ armour and 6+ Invulnerable. In the new book, it gives a 3+ Invulnerable save (but no boost to armour). God help us all if this thing has a 3++. Where it really shines is close combat against other super heavies where it will RIP AND TEAR with wild abandon. Beware taking it against Dark Eldar, massed Poisoned shooting will fuck it's shit right up.
  • Harridan the Tyranid's flyer, it is for all intents and purposes, a fucking flying heirodule (with the best of both versions) it has the exact same bio-cannons as a Heirodule (S10 Ap3 Heavy 6) but as a flyer, most things can't hit it, and it can pop open tanks with it's bio-cannons or it's claws and is one of the only Tyranid units that can deal with enemy flyers (some people debate that it can actually assualt a flyer, tearing it's shit up). It can carry four Gargoyle broods, but mainly you want this for the bio-cannons mounted on a extremely difficult to hit platform, though a trio of Harridans shitting out twelve full sized broods of Gargoyles right on top of someone is a hilarious way to drown someone in flyers. Due to its immensely powerful guns, only superheavy fliers have any chance of surviving being shot at by the bio-cannons and even then they're going to take a severe beating to their 1d3 structure points. With it's gargoyle broods, it can fulfil three out of four major roles for fliers excellently, air superiority, ground attack, and bombing. Hydra tanks and Flakkadakka guns will eat it for breakfast however Are only wounding it on a 5+ and cannot pierce it's armour save, and strangely for a Tyranid unit, it's very elite compared to other fliers, very powerful, but also expensive, so the enemy's fliers will probably outnumber your harridans.
  • Malanthrope The result of a Venomthrope and a Zoanthrope's drunken one night stand. Not horrible but why aren't you getting bio-titans? It's an expensive (250 points!) Alternative HQ with an armour save of 2+ and a 3+ invulnerable that wounds on a 2+, inflicts instant death, has psychic powers, and a boatload of attacks. This thing is a rape machine.
  • Dominatrix Remember that goofy looking Bio-titan in epic? Well Forgeworld saw fit to create an actually pretty badass looking model. The biggest Synapse creature of them all and probably the biggest fire magnet the Tyranids have to offer. But on the same hand, it's the one thing in your arsenal that's even deadlier than the Heirophant. It can lay down absolute devastation in every phase of the game with it's warp blast emitters, borderline silly amount of bioplasma shots, psychic abilities, and atrociously devastating melee capability while laughing off 90% of the weapons in the game.
  • Dactylis The Hive Mind got sick of the bitching about the Tyranid's lack of pieplate dropping ability, so it took some biovores and dumped them in Nuclear Waste. Yes it looks like a flower with a boner on top of it's head, yes it sucks at close combat, but you finally now have some serious ability to instagib blobs at a distance with FUCKHUEG sporemines. You get a large number of rounds to shoot out of the cannon, so it's your call really.
  • Exorcine Remember the Hive Guard? Say hello to the Hive Guard's bigger, steroid abusing brother. Essentially the Tyranid's shadowsword equivalent, the Exorcine can shoot an balls out devastating biocannon blast that can blow Titans apart, and if something gets close it can shit out a metric fuck ton of S4 AP 5 hits. It still needs protection from Dreadnought Equivalents who are at the same time too small to be worth firing the main gun at, while being tough enough to walk through it's close in defenses.

Note that copious amounts of Poisoned weapons are the bane of bio-titans, so armies like the Dark Eldar who typically spontaneously explode in apocalypse games are actually a legitimate threat to your units. Be wary of this, and unless you are confident that your smaller units are the real punch of your army, and not the bio-titans, be prepared to sacrifice other Tyranid units to keep your Bio-titans safe from poison. As for fliers, in friendly games you can ask for your winged units to count as fliers in Apocalypse games, so that your Harridans won't be so lonely up there. Flier rules greatly improve ranged Shrikes, Gargoyles, and Harpies, giving them badly needed ability to avoid being shot at by most units while also providing much needed low(ish) cost support against enemy fliers, sky-slashers are still garbage though.

Dedicated Transport[edit]

  • The Mycetic Spore: Essentially the Tyranid equivalent to a Space Marine drop pod (except they can't carry independent characters or be dropped empty according to the FAQ), they're a way to drop a brood behind that defensive assault line standing in cover. They are best used to carry Zoanthropes or the Doom of Malatai near to something that needs destroying or soul-sucking.

Building Your Army[edit]

The central power of Tyranids this edition is in swarms of units. Among the best performers for the army are Hormagaunts and the swarm-producing Tervigon, but Termagants armed with Devourers (termed Devilgaunts by many in the community) aren't half bad either with a bit of cover. Thanks to Warriors being troops, it is possible to build an army with an elite focus as well, but the Tyranids don't take to such list building strategies as well as certain other armies do. This is mainly because hidden powerfists will put an end to Warriors in an eyeblink, preventing them from making safe assaults into any Space Marine unit toting one.

Unfortunately, armies with a great deal of attention to monstrous creatures will often find themselves fragile and horrifically outnumbered. A bit of number crunching reveals that, per point spent, a carnifex is not all that much more durable than a bunch of hormagaunts in cover, meaning that small arms are no less effective against them and heavy weapons are an unnecessary Achilles heel. Some of the newer monstrous creatures with six wounds, such as the Trygon, keep it together better but just can't do everything the army needs thanks to their high cost and few numbers.

  • General List Building - For the most part, Tyranids have very few options to choose from once they have selected the models they wish to use. For example, Hormagaunts have only two biomorph options: adrenal glands and toxin sacs, and the same is more or less the case for Termagants, Gargoyles, Trygons, Mawlocs, and several others (plus or minus one or two biomorphs). The strong point of the army is not in mutable units or myriad alterable roles this edition. Hence, the following is a list of the three most common biomorphs and their most prominent uses:
    • Adrenal Glands - This biomorph grants Furious Charge to the model it is equipped to. Its foremost use is increasing strength to better damage vehicles, but it also proves helpful for getting the first strike in melees; while marginally less useful against infantry than Toxin Sacs, when the two are used alongside each other, basic Tyranid infantry become among the deadliest anti-infantry in the game (for a price, that is: it is often better to choose one biomorph or the other).
    • Toxin Sacs - Toxin Sacs cause the model's close combat attacks to be inflicted with a 4+ Poison, which is quite potent against enemy infantry and monstrous creatures. Although they are offered to all Tyranid monstrous creatures at needless cost, they will most typically hinder the efficiency of the big creatures since wounding on a 2+ (83%) is better than wounding on a re-rolled 4+ (75%). However, they have the tendency to be very useful on infantry units, such as Hormagaunts, and when taken on a Tervigon the 4+ poison bonus is granted to all Termagants within 6" of the beast.
    • Regeneration - Typically expensive, this biomorph allows a model to roll one die for each wound it has currently sustained. On each roll of 6, a wound is recovered up to the model's maximum. Though available to Carnifexes, Hive Tyrants, and Harpies, it is a choice that is most useful to six-wound models like Trygons or Tervigons. When placed on a Tyrannofex, the model becomes pointless to shoot at; after all the work it takes to wound one, it's completely demoralizing to watch it just recover the damage. However, it is usually quite costly to be putting on any model without crucial importance to the army as a whole. It is rather cheap on Tyranid Primes, though, and not so bad on Harpies, either.
  • Harpies - Harpies are flying Monstrous Creatures. At first glance, they're expensive and fragile since Strength 10 weapons can instant-kill them, and they only have a 4+ save. To make the Harpy worth the investment, a Tyranid player must provide it with cover and provide enough immediate threats to make targeting the Harpy itself a less demanding proposition.
    • Role: The Harpy shoots, providing ranged support to the Tyranid army. Armed with its choice of Stinger Salvo or Cluster Spines and Stranglethorn Cannon or Heavy Venom Cannon, it can be tailored against infantry or modest tank suppression, typically preventing enemy armor from firing by scoring stunned and shaken results. Although they are not geared for close-combat, Harpies can provide secondary melee support if desired on account of being one of the few Tyranid models with Assault Grenades and on account of their special rule which halves the initiative of enemy units they charge. Although this secondary role is more situational (Tyranid models as a rule have some of the highest initiative-values in the game), against similarly high-initiative enemies like Eldar Harlequins, the results can be meaningful if properly pulled off.
    • Purchasing Harpies: At lower-point levels, the Harpy isn't needed since the Elite anti-tank options are generally sufficient for dealing with enemy armor; at higher point-levels, more durable anti-tank firepower can be had in the Heavy Support slots. What Harpies do is allow Tyranids a degree of flexibility, allowing them to more freely choose alternative slots in the Heavy Support or Elite slots.
  • Hive Guard and Zoanthropes - The two foremost solutions to armored vehicles in the Tyranid codex, these models must appear in every Tyranid list that expects to encounter tanks or armored transports - and let's face it, tanks and armored transports are in almost every serious army list out there in 5th edition. One is better for busting transports while the other handles heavy armor as if it were blasting retarded, wingless goslings with a twelve gauge shotgun; one shooting phase, one kill tends to be the normal for a full unit of either model. Hive Guard and Zoanthropes are completely in their own league as far as anti-armor power is concerned, outclassing everything else in the codex by embarrassing miles. Zoanthropes do have some trouble dealing with Psychic Hoods, but that aside, it is usually wise to figure how many points are going to be spent on Hive Guard and Zoanthropes before adding any more units to the list.
  • Tervigons and Termagants - The two models really must be addressed together when list building because one is as good as useless without the other in most cases. The Tervigon, which spawns 3D6 Termagants at the beginning of each phase until it rolls doubles, provides buffs to all gaunts within 6" of it. The buffs include Furious Charge and poison if adrenal glands and toxin sacs are equipped to the Tervigon respectively, and all gaunts within 6" of the Tervigon always have Counter-attack. The only drawback is that, should the Tervigon die, nearby gaunts can take damage, but thanks to six wounds, a toughness of six, and a relatively non-threatening profile, Tervigons don't go down all that commonly. Tervigons can also purchase a psychic ability to give an entire unit Feel No Pain, so in short summation, one Tervigon turns a unit of sniveling, weakling Termagants into a unit of half-decent combatants. Furthermore, whenever Termagants are purchased, a Tervigon can be included as a Troops selection, so there's honestly very little reason to ever take one without the other.
    • Role: Both models are Troops first, meaning they are best used to jealously hold objectives. A Tervigon can often be difficult to shake from a position it takes up, especially if it can find cover somehow, and as long as the Tervigon can continue to pump Termagants out onto the battlefield, there's never a shortage of bodies to claim ground. Unfortunately, neither unit boasts much overt power in general. Tervigons have a shooting attack, but it's mild due to modest ballistic skill, and the same is true of Termagants. Also, despite potential boosts from Furious Charge, poison, and Counter-attack, Termagants are still not really all that great at fighting. They can lash out opportunistically, but the buffs merely make them worth the effort, and returns diminish sharply in turns following a charge.
    • Equipping Gaunts: Gaunts may have numerous potential weapons, but only two are worthy of consideration: fleshborers and devourers. Spinefists, the third mainstay in the cold, are not more efficient at shooting than fleshborers, and because they are more expensive they are not to be minded for any reason. One in every ten Termagants can also take a S2 flamer that attacks enemy strength rather than toughness, but the cost of the gun is twice the base worth of a Termagant, so no luck there. Then there are also spike rifles, which are just spinefists with longer range, no AP, no twin-linking, and the same cost. In contrast, devourers boast Assault 3, S4, and a leadership lowering special rule, all of which can be very potent at an expense of high fragility per point to the equipped models. Lastly, fleshborers are a cheap option that keeps Termagants expendable while still allowing them to pack a bit of punch against the rear armor of transports.
  • Trygons
    • Role: (The following calculations assume the purchase of Adrenal Glands; an upgrade which is highly recommended) It slices, dices, and fries small infantry units, and a majority of vehicles. Even against enemy vehicles attaining Cruising Speed, the Trygon's weight of attacks and Scything Talons provides an almost 50-50 chance of killing any rear-AV 10 vehicle (the vast majority of vehicles in 40k); these odds correspondingly increase against slower vehicles. Be it for a Tyranid Reserve army, or a horde, the Trygon acts as a linebreaker for the rest of the army.
    • Drawbacks: In most games, it will be impossible to find cover for the Trygon on account of its height. Compounded with its lack of an Invulnerable save and huge threat potential, it will be a high-priority target; a single Trygon emerging unsupported will die. The rules for Trygon Tunnels are near-worthless: Reserve-based armies generally wish to arrive at once rather than simply running into the slaughter piecemeal, and most Tyranid infantry units can purchase Mycetic spores for marginal costs. An useful, yet expensive tactic for the use of Trygon Tunnel is playing a deep-striking Trygon with an unit of 20-30 Termagant with Devourer to shoot 60-90 S4 shots to enemy infantry, thought there could be several problems with it (for example, Termagant coming in play before the Trygon). Finally, the Trygon itself is not ideal for taking on heavy transports like Land Raiders, both on account of unreliability (the odds of destroying or immobilizing a cruising Land Raider are about 30%) and on account of such vehicles often carrying the very units designed to destroy big monsters. This means that the Trygon works better with armies using Zoanthroapes as their primary anti-tank. As with other Tyranid Monstrous Creatures, the Trygon must be screened against assassin-type units, primary examples including Genestealer teams or the Librarian Furioso.
    • Upgrades: Adrenal Glands are a good choice for the Trygon. Being Fleet allows the Trygon more opportunity to fully take advantage of Furious Charge, the extra Initiative allows it to strike before Marines (and more importantly, their Dreadnoughts), and the extra point of Strength makes it more adept at taking out enemy vehicles. For the cost of two Termagants, it's a steal. For a fair increase in points, one can optionally upgrade the Trygon to a Prime. Aside from buffing its Leadership (useful mostly for surviving against enemy Boneswords/Neural Shredders/similar threats), and upping the range and output of its Bio-electric Pulse to something slightly more formidable (though still not preferable for use compared to an assault), it most importantly makes the Trygon count as a Synapse Creature. Depending on the build involved, having a Prime Deep Strike can make it a good "relay point" for armies relying on rapidly advancing into the enemy lines, or a way to deliver Shadow of the Warp into the enemy lines. Regeneration is alright due to the Trygon's high wound count, but not necessary. Toxin sacs should always be avoided since 4+ poison is statistically less powerful against nearly anything the Trygon might be fighting, barring other monstrous creatures.


  • Musical Wounds: The Tyranids have just a couple ways of pulling musical wounds tricks to exploit the wound allocation rules. The simplest is Warriors, who can add a Barbed Strangler into their unit for soaking up more wounds, allowing the brood to take five wounds before losing a model rather than three. However, this is a pretty tepid way to abuse the rules, and there is a far better option. Assuming there are no other uses for the HQ slots and the heavy support slots aren't full, one can join two unique Tyranid Primes (with cheap regeneration) to a unit of two Carnifexes. Since Primes are not monstrous creatures and compose 50% of the unit, as long as the Primes are in cover the entire unit is in cover (no, it doesn't matter that the Carnifexes normally need to be 50% obscured - all that matters is that 50% of the models in the unit have cover saves). Technically speaking, it is possible to play musical wounds this way as well if using RAW (which is religion to some players); on page 49 of the rulebook, it is specifically outlines that independent characters who are also monstrous creatures can be targeted separately from the unit they are a part of, but there is nothing saying monstrous creatures can be targeted separately if their unit is joined by a non-monstrous independent character. The spirit of the rules is clear, but there are plenty of people to whom the spirit of the game means nothing, and if you're one of those guys then this is a trick for thought.
    • A similar trick can be pulled with a Hive Tyrant and a unit of Tyrant Guard simply in terms of gaining easy cover saves. If the Tyrant Guard have cover then so does the Hive Tyrant, because only 50% of the unit needs to be in cover and Tyrant Guard are not monstrous creatures.
  • Tervigon Powers:The Tervigon gets Dominion for free, and can have its use in some builds, allowing your units to have a longer effective operational range. As a rule though, it gets overshadowed by the other two powers. Onslaught allows the unit to Run and subsequently shoot, extending the effective threat range of many units as well as making it easier to attain sideshots on enemy armor, or maintain fire suppression as the Tyranid swarm advances on enemy tanklines. This ability can also turn the Tyrannofex into a fairly useful unit for softening up infantry in cover prior to your units assaulting, assuming there aren't better targets to shoot. However, as a Psychic Shooting Attack, it precludes the Tervigon itself from firing, or declaring an assault. Catalyst tends to be more popular on its ability to bestow Feel No Pain to a nearby unit. This can make otherwise vulnerable Monstrous Creatures more durable than before, lending itself to a Nidzilla build, while Tervigons as an HQ choice can make a convincing argument for Genestealer-based armies; a 5+ save and Feel No Pain are functionally equivalent to a 3+ armor save in melee, making a Genestealer unit that much deadlier in melee, or harder to dislodge from cover (very few cover-busting weapons are Strength 8 after all.)..