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Our Elites slot is home to our widest array of competitive choices, with Hive Guard, Deathleaper, Zoanthropes and others all trying to crowd into your army list. Generally speaking, most Tyranid armies are best served by using their Elites slot to get invaluable ranged anti-tank - of which Hive Guard are the most popular by far, though Zoanthropes are also good for this. Reserve-heavy armies, or those relying on melee or disruption tactics, will find they are best suited to units such as Ymgarl Genestealers or the Doom of Malan'tai. My usual recommendation would be a mix of mostly Hive Guard and some Zoanthropes, with maybe the Doom of Malan'tai or some Ymgarl Genestealers thrown in. Tyranid Elites tend to be the most consistent performers in a Tyranid force.
Hive Guard - With a S8 AP4 Assault 2 24" range gun at BS4 that essentially ignores cover saves, Hive Guard are the premier tank hunters in the codex and pound-for-pound one of the best units in the book. Though their close combat abilities are admittedly mediocre, Hive Guard make up for that by being tough as nails - each one is Toughness 6 with two wounds and a +4 armour save! This gets much better when you look at their special rules though - so long as they don't fail an Instinctive Behaviour test, Hive Guard are able to shoot without requiring Line of Sight; you can hide them in a ruin with no windows and fire at a tank in a forest, ignoring its cover saves! As a rule, Hive Guard ignore cover provided by Jink, Night Fighting, Smoke Launchers and so on; only area terrain works, and only if it actually lies between the Hive Guard and their quarry. My interpretation of this rule is that, for example, if in a forest, the unit has to actually be behind trees the Hive Guard are facing; otherwise they won't get cover. This makes Hive Guard incredibly threatening to vehicles, as well as any Toughness 4 or lower multi-wound model - units that are ironically found in abundance in the Tyranid codex.
Generally speaking, Hive Guard are unlikely to die if you use them in this way, and will require at worst a turn or two to get into position and start firing away. Mech heavy armies rightfully fear Hive Guard, which makes them a great target for them - one that is very hard to shift! The best aspect of this unit is their cost; they are cheap for what they bring, and thus can and should be run in high numbers. Competitive Tyranid armies tend to feature a minimum of six Hive Guard at 1500 points - they are an amazing unit that you should always make room for. A note on unit sizes; three two-strong broods can engage more targets and potentially 'stun' more vehicles each turn, but two broods of three should wreck an AV11 or lower vehicle each turn on average. I suggest trying each kind of build out and working out which works best for you.
Lictors - Despite rocking an awesome model, Lictors are sadly one of the least useful units in the codex, a fact made all the more apparent by the prevalence of Hive Guard and Zoanthropes in the Elites slot. They are very good in combat, and they provide a handy reserves bonus the turn after they arrive - their ability to appear in any terrain anywhere on the board is useful. Unfortunately, they are peppered with drawbacks; without cover saves, they die extremely easily - flamers are their bane, and with the changes to Overwatch, this means they are highly unlikely to ever get into combat. Though their combat abilities are decent, they are not as good as their exorbitant price tag would indicate. They have a mediocre shooting attack and suffer highly from not being able to assault the turn they arrive, leaving them stranded and open to readily available firepower that will most likely wipe them out. Their reserve bonus is also of little use, as it applies after the Lictors arrive; given that you generally want reserves down as quickly as possible, and that they are random, this is not good at all. Though Fleet and Hit and Run can save them if they get into combat with something nasty, generally, the damage will have already been done. They are too expensive and their abilities are mediocre at best - as much as I would love to use them, as their background and models are amazing, they are one of the weakest links in the codex and should be avoided for competitive play. If you are going to use them, deploy them smartly and use them to tie up units such as Devastators for a turn - forcing them to fire at the Lictors or be wiped out is a good way to draw fire off of your more valuable units, even if it is only for a turn.
Deathleaper - Given that I just lambasted Lictors, you would think my opinion of a special character version of them that is more than double the cost would be exceedingly negative. Yeah, well, surprises do happen, as Deathleaper will prove when you employ it. Put simply, like the Parasite, Deathleaper is an expensive unit with very situational abilities; unlike the Parasite, Deathleaper's abilities are far more likely to be of use to you. With Stealth and Shrouded, it has a meaty +4 cover save in the open - making it a lot more durable than a standard Lictor - coupled with its ability to disappear off the table at the end of your movement phase, and reappear without scatter like a Lictor, Deathleaper can be very difficult to get rid of, and one of the best baiting units in the entire game. It reduces the Leadership of an enemy character by D3 before the start of the game - making psykers and Dark Apostles cry - and any enemy infantry unit within 12" of it has to test for both Difficult and Dangerous terrain. Nice!
Unlike Lictors, Deathleaper actually does shine in combat - with an incredible WS9, I7 and 4 S6 attacks that Rend on a +5, Deathleaper is not only far harder to hit for most infantry, it also will kill much more - obviously, it is a phenomenal character killer. Did I mention its shooting attack also rends on a +5, making it a very funny "pop up, blow up a tank, disappear" unit. All this combines to make Deathleaper one of the most versatile and dually situational units in the game, with an almost limitless array of tactical applications - to use it properly requires the deft touch of a highly skilled player, as any wrong move and it will die quickly. I am also quite convinced it is a member of the League of Trolls - headed by Trazyn the Infinite and Tzeentch. The best example of this is to sit on an objective far out of the way of both armies, hiding, and force your opponent to send a nasty unit its way. For example, an opponent deep-strikes a close-combat Terminator squad in to kill it as Deathleaper will likely wipe out a standard Troops choice single-handedly. Deathleaper then disappears, meaning that Terminator squad is forced to foot-slog across the board for the rest of the game. You would be surprised how often something like this will happen. Despite its exorbitant cost, its assortment of abilities make it a deadly tool in the hands of a skilled player; don't use it lightly, but if you get good with it, Deathleaper will be a regular star.
Venomthropes - With cover saves more readily available than ever in 6th Edition, and with a reduction to the cover save it provides, the Venomthrope is no longer as useful a choice as it was; its main purpose to protect your swarms as they moved up. Despite this, it is still a decent unit to employ; it has defensive grenades and lash whips and forces opponents to take dangerous terrain tests when assaulting, meaning that it can hold out in the unfortunate event that it is charged - allowing you to save the day with your other units. Their Poisoned attacks and Toxic Miasma also give them a decent chance of harming their opponents, though Venomthropes should generally keep out of combat. With a Toughness of 4, two wounds and a weak armour save though, they are prime targets for things like missile launchers and Hades Autocannons. Though their innate cover saves help, they aren't exactly hard to kill and as such need to be protected appropriately. Generally speaking, they are there to help protect other units - use them as such, and you won't be disappointed, especially in a game where terrain can be hard to come by. They are a decent unit that, whilst not as effective as they once were, still have a place in a lot of Tyranid armies.
Zoanthropes - Remember how I said Hive Guard will usually be crowding into most of your Elites slots as you need their anti-tank capabilities? Say hello to their pen-pals, the Zoanthropes - brain-bugs that literally radiate with power. Providing both Synapse and Shadow in the Warp, Zoanthropes are arguably the most versatile unit in the codex. With access to the many rulebook psychic disciplines, as well as their own considerably strong offensive powers, Zoanthropes can have a very unique role in almost any game they play in, based upon the circumstances at hand. Their basic powers are not to be dismissed; Warp Lance is a S10 AP1 Assault 1 18" Lance at BS4, or, as I like to call it, a mind-bullet that turns Land Raiders into barbecued grime, and their other power, a S5 AP3 Assault 1 24" Blast, is a great ability to make Space Marines feel the heat. Packing that much offensive power generally means they want to get up decently close; a Mycetic Spore (covered later) is invaluable in this way. Their other use though, of course, is as support psykers; with each Zoanthrope in a brood (maximum of three) able to switch their powers out for two rolls on the Biomancy, Telekinesis or Telepathy disciplines, this allows for some random, but very diverse play. Interestingly, each Zoanthrope makes this choice individually; one can keep their stock powers, whilst another rolls on Biomancy and potentially gets Endurance, handing out Feel No Pain and It Will Not Die.
As you would expect, their high offensive capabilities at range and strong support abilities come at the cost of durability; though they are Toughness 4, with two wounds and a +3 invulnerable save, they are hardly infallible and easy prey for massed Bolters or Krak Missiles. Due to their reputation and latent powers, they are also a high priority target for any intelligent player. Their frailty becomes even more pronounced in melee, where their low Weapon Skill, Initiative and Attacks means that units such as Tactical Marines can beat them down with little difficulty. As it goes, Zoanthropes require finesse and a good deal of protection - usually through target saturation. An opponent won't focus on your Zoanthropes if a Trygon is barreling towards them, right? Generally, pairs are best advised for Zoanthropes - one is an easy kill point, and three becomes just a little too expensive. When it comes to switching their powers out, you should do it if you feel their offensive powers either aren't needed or you are more worried about certain kinds of enemies or protecting your units - when flyers are in abundance, going for Objuration Mechanicum is always worthwhile. Conversely, getting Endurance on at least one Zoanthrope in a brood is a good way to either keep them alive or boost the survivability of another unit exponentially. Keep them protected at all times, and regardless of how you use them, they shouldn't disappoint. A great unit! As for the Hive Guard and Zoanthrope comparison, generally, Hive Guard are better tank-hunters against anything that isn't AV13 or AV14, as their range and number of shots balance out the higher Strength and AP of the Zoanthropes. However, Zoanthropes are both more multi-purpose and more expensive - and pay for that with relative frailty.
The Doom of Malan'tai - The second special character in the Elites slot, and one that is well famous in tournament and local circles alike. The main reason for this are its special rules; firstly, it regains a wound up to ten for each unsaved wound it causes. Secondly, it has an ability where at the start of either players' shooting phase, any enemy unit within 6" takes a Leadership test on 3D6 - for every point they fail by, they take a wound with no armour saves allowed. It's Strength is always equal to its Wounds value. Lastly, it has a psychic power where the Strength is equal to its wounds, resolved as an AP1 Large Blast. Yeah. This thing is destruction incarnate to foot-slogging armies, forces which are now in abundance due to 6th Edition - the really funny thing is though, this little bug was already considered 'cheese' in a mech-heavy environment. So, what are its drawbacks? A Toughness of 4 and only a +3 invulnerable save means that it suffers the same problem Zoanthropes do - instant-death from readily available Krak Missiles. Generally speaking though, the move to S7 AP2 (Plasma) over Krak Missiles is becoming more and more apparent, and few players bother with Power Fists now due to the challenge rules. And, because it gains wounds so quickly and easily, small arms fire simply doesn't work against it. You must be thinking, well, it has to be incredibly expensive, right? Right? Wrong. This thing is absurdly cheap for what it does, clocking in at under 100 tacos. Point for point, it is by far the deadliest unit in the entire codex.
Despite how incredible it is, there are still a few considerations; one is that, being Infantry, it moves up rather slowly, and thus requires a Mycetic Spore - if you have the Doom of Malan'tai, you should always fork out the small tax to give it the Spore. Always. Not only does it let you come down right in the thick of the enemy lines, it gives you an alpha-strike - they can't kill it before it gets to do some damage! And, given the new FAQ ruling allowing the Doom to deploy 6" out of the Mycetic spore, there is literally no way to get away from it even if the Spore scatters. What you must also be prepared for is for the Doom to do very little in some games; its abilities, especially when paired with deep striking, are innately random and will do little against certain armies (mech/flyer heavy). However, for how little it costs, that possibility should be in the back of your mind - there are many far-reaching reports, and my own personal experience, to prove that it will almost always make up its points cost and be the target of pretty much the entire enemy army - and I am deadly serious. Given that it will likely vaporise half of a unit three times over on its first turn and subsequently reave another with its psychic attack, the Doom will likely be targeted by obscene amounts of firepower - and unless they have lots of S8 shooting, they are unlikely to kill it off. Bam - the rest of your army gets to move up unpunished. This is the beauty of the Doom - it is essentially the ultimate terror weapon and can turn an entire game on its head, despite costing very little. As such, I consider this to be a near must-have for any competitive Tyranid army, especially ones that are reserve-heavy. Cheese incarnate indeed.
Pyrovores - A moving heavy flamer with power weapons attack you say? As Admiral Ackbar famously declared; "It's a trap!". This is probably the best expression to use when describing Pyrovores - units that, like Lictors, have good models and some decent fluff behind them. Unfortunately, they have some relentlessly major drawbacks which conflict with the two main abilities they have. Though they have a heavy flamer, they are only Infantry - they also are relatively easy to kill with Toughness 4, two wounds and a +4 armour save. Their frailty means you need to bubble-wrap them with Termagants or Hormagaunts, which consequently prevents them from firing their only weapon. Though you can purchase a mycetic spore for them, their range and weaponry are both small and not strong enough to justify the extra investment. Overwatch gives them some joy, but most opponents, namely Space Marines, won't mind taking some hits from a heavy flamer. Even more confusing is that they have power weapon attacks - as far as I can tell, these are treated as AP3 - despite having both a low Weapon Skill and only 1 attack each at Initiative 1. Essentially, they pay a mighty tax for abilities which themselves are rendered near useless both by their role in the army and their mediocre stat-line. Have I mentioned yet how Tyranids excel at anti-infantry firepower all the time, regardless of taking Pyrovores?
Despite being an unnaturally aggravating unit to use and justify their high cost in both money and points, Pyrovores can be made to work if you are really dedicated and/or bought the models (which isn't a bad thing, as they are nice to look at). The only real way to use them is in a pair in a Mycetic Spore, and hope to get their flame on against +4 armoured infantry - namely Tau, Eldar, Dark Eldar and so on, of which the Pyrovores may find they aren't completely useless against. The really sad thing though, is that for the exact same points cost, you can get the Doom of Malan'tai in a Mycetic Spore, which is both far deadlier and far harder to kill - opponents can afford to ignore Pyrovores, but not the Doom, or even Ymgarls. Unfortunately, Pyrovores deservedly carry the label of "worst unit in Warhammer 40000" - they are a confused mess that tries to do two things and ultimately fails horrifically at both. Did they have to make it cost a mere five popsickles less than a Hive Guard? Ignore these - there is absolutely no use for Pyrovores even in a semi-competitive scene.
Ymgarl Genestealers - The Tyranid equivalent of bogeymen hiding beneath a child's bed, Ymgarl Genestealers have some interesting unique rules that make them a difficult unit to ignore when writing up an army list. The first one is why they are so respected - and feared - in 6th Edition; they begin the game in Reserves, and once they are available, are placed in a piece of area terrain secretly selected after both sides have deployed. They may then launch an assault on the turn they arrive. This is obviously a massive advantage to have, given the changes to Outflank meaning there are only a handful of units able to charge on the turn they arrive from reserves - essentially a melee alpha-strike that, if played right, ties the unit up and prevents them from being shot at in retaliation! The applications of this are far and wide, with being able to tie up nasty ranged units and destroy them - such as Devastators - or wrecking an otherwise durable vehicle, like a Leman Russ, in combat with their Rending Claws. Generally speaking, Ymgarl Genestealers want to finish their first assault during their opponents turn, even if it can be hard due to their insanely good combat abilities. What say you to each model in the unit having a Space Marine Captain-esque profile for combat purposes, minus an attack and grenades, plus a point of Initiative and Rending weapons? I'm betting - yes, yes indeed!
Their other unique ability ties directly into killing units in the turn that you want - they must 'shift' their forms at the start of each assault phase, regardless of whether they are in combat, and gain either +1 Strength, +1 Toughness or +1 Attack - the entire unit picks the same benefit, and you must change to a different one each turn. With a +4 armour save, the Toughness boost is the best way to severly cripple, but not wipe out, an enemy unit on the turn they arrive and take punishment quite easily. Then, switch to the Strength or Attacks bonus - whichever would be more effective in that situation - and finish off the unit, allowing them to move and charge something else the next turn. Generally speaking, more attacks helps against lower Toughness, high model count units, whilst the extra Strength helps against high Toughness, low model count units. Don't forget your Rending Claws - this can make a big difference when fighting certain units, and paired with +1 Strength or +1 Attack, makes Ymgarls a very serious threat to high Toughness units and vehicles. Of course, for all that gravy, you do have some drawbacks; namely the lack of assault grenades, meaning you will usually strike last on the turn you arrive, and they are rather expensive. Though I think they are priced appropriately for what they do, you need to strike a balance between cost and effectiveness - that usually means taking seven to eight-strong broods, with any less being too few to win combats and any more becoming too much of a point sink. As an alpha-strike unit though, they have few equals, save of course for the Doom of Malan'tai - you can't go wrong with Ymgarls though. Just remember not to use too many of them and thus sacrifice ranged anti-tank through Hive Guard or Zoanthropes.
Example Builds - Though our Elites have no upgrade options, here are some recommended builds based on unit size for these units;
Hive Guard (3) - 150
Zoanthropes (2) w/ mycetic spore - 180
The Doom of Malan'tai w/ mycetic spore - 130
Ymgarl Genestealers (8) - 184
Overall, I feel that the Elites section is home to by far the best selection of quality units in the codex. If you have any critiques, questions or suggests please let us know in the comment section, contact us via twitter or find me over on +Bell of Lost Souls . Thanks again!