30 Jan 2014
Tactica Tyranids - Deathleaper
The Deathleaper shares most of its profile with standard Lictors, as one would expect from what used to be a standalone variant in the same Elites slot. The amount of special rules on offer is truly spectacular, though the stats aren't too much different from a Lictor. Strength 6 with five attacks base due to wielding two melee weapons gives Deathleaper quite a bit of offensive grunt, especially when its Rending Claws are factored in. Whereas a regular Lictor is only Weapon Skill 6, Deathleaper brings a crazy Weapon Skill 9 - the same as the Swarmlord - to the table, hitting almost any unit in the game on 3s and forcing most units to hit back on 5s. This, alongside its Initiative of 7 and assault grenades through flesh hooks are the only real defences Deathleaper has in combat; it is built to shred medium to light characters before they can attack, while regular infantry struggle to even hit it. The reason for this is that Deathleaper can only hide behind a paltry 5+ armour save, Toughness 4 and three wounds when in combat. Simply put, it is too fragile to go up against really nasty combat characters, while monstrous creatures and walkers will squish it with little difficulty. Deathleaper is best used as a bully against important support characters like Ethereals, Farseers and Chaplains, as it is a bit too fragile and doesn't do enough damage to take on most dedicated combat characters. The Deathleaper, with its flesh hooks, also has an extra little shooting attack at Strength 6 with no AP - nor Rending, sadly - that isn't likely to do much with Ballistic Skill 3.
Where Deathleaper starts to get interesting - as standard Lictors do - is in the plethora of special rules. It can Infiltrate, Outflank or Deep Strike without scattering, dependent on what suits your needs more. For both reaching and escaping combats of all kinds, favourable or not, Deathleaper has Fleet and Hit and Run. It causes Fear which generally won't make a difference as it is already Weapon Skill 9 and most characters it will really want it against are already Fearless or have And They Shall Know Fear. It has Move Through Cover and Stealth, generally leading to a 4+ cover save in area terrain and a 3+ in ruins, while having better chances of not being slowed by impeding cover. It is Very Bulky for the purposes of the experimental R'Varna rules, and it shares the same no-scattering on Deep Strike for friendly units arriving within 6" a turn after Deathleaper itself Deep Strikes on the board. Deathleaper adds two extra unique special rules to the mix though, the first of which is what makes it such a nasty counter to Ethereals, Dark Apostles and psykers of all kinds. Before the game starts, you get to nominate a single enemy character and reduce its Leadership by D3. For an Ethereal where Tau units use his Leadership instead of their own, for example, this can be a really funny way to win games through morale by combining Deathleaper with multiple sources of Pinning - such as Stranglethorn Cannons on Harpies. This penalty applies until Deathleaper is slain, and given that its next special rules makes it very difficult to shift from shooting, killing the Deathleaper is easier said than done if you use it with caution.
All shots taken at the Deathleaper are Snap Shots, meaning blast and template weapons of all kinds cannot attempt to target it. Heck, even Tau Markerlights really aren't that scary when they themselves have to snap shoot to get tokens on the Deathleaper. Provided you don't think this is some kind of god mode cheat allowing you to run the special Lictor out in the open, you can keep the assassin alive for quite some time. Against Tau, staying out of range of smart missile systems by hiding in your own terrain piece, but reducing the Leadership of an Ethereal or allied Farseer is not a bad use of the Deathleaper. If it means keeping the expensive critter alive, then it isn't exactly a waste. From there, Deathleaper has the usual trappings of a special character; a preset Warlord trait giving it extra victory points for slaying opposing independent characters and the Character classification. Deathleaper can challenge opponents and vie for extra victory points, while its Leadership 10 makes it an automatic Warlord choice if taken alongside Old One Eye. On that subject, those two share one unique trait that reduces their value as HQ choices. Indeed, the Deathleaper lacks Synapse and suffers from Instinctive Behaviour of the lurking variety, and while it is Leadership 10, the lack of Fearless means it is not immune to simply falling back. Failing at a crucial time can see the Deathleaper running out into the open against your whim, and promptly getting lit up by massed bolter fire that coincidentally ignores its armour saves. This is why it is best used as a forward disruption unit that will get in Synapse range of a Flying Hive Tyrant or Trygon Prime - that benefits greatly from the Deathleapers' Chameleonic Skin - on the second and third turn.
Where to Put Them
Provided you aren't staring down a bunch of Smart Missile Systems equipped on Broadside Battlesuits and Tau vehicles - the most common of which is the Skyray - or even opposing Hive Guard armed with Impaler Cannons, then Deathleaper can be deployed pretty aggressively. I'm favouring Infiltrate for Lictors and Deathleaper now that they aren't forced to Deep Strike as it synergizes better with any Trygons, Mawlocs and Trygon Primes in the list. Those love to have no-scatter Deep Strike, and they are only likely to benefit from Deathleapers' Chameleonic Skin if it is deployed on the board for turn one instead of coming from reserves. The reason for this is that Chameleonic Skin doesn't apply on the turn Deathleaper arrives, so unless you are counting on rolling "badly" for reserves on the second turn, I would want to Infiltrate Deathleaper for such purposes. Otherwise, no scatter Deep Strike is perfectly viable to guarantee the Deathleapers' survival for a turn, allowing you to deal with such units that could threaten it. Trying to Infiltrate within 12" is nice, but don't do it if there are mobile assault units - like Assault Marines - that can jump next to Deathleaper from 12" away, line of sight blocking cover be darned, as they will force enough wounds on Deathleaper to beat it in combat.
The two lucky charms for Deathleaper in such situations are forcing opponents to Snap Shoot it as well as Hit and Run. The former means shooting, particularly by templates that are a Lictors' bane, is almost non-existent against the Deathleaper unless it is in high mass, while the latter allows the Deathleaper to escape combats as necessary. Try not to get bogged down in combat, and always issue challenges so that Deathleaper can either force an opponent to sacrifice the champion either through losing their attacks or actually facing Deathleaper. Against Chaos Space Marines, for example, this can be abused due to their Champion of Chaos special rule forcing them to issue and accept challenges. In a typical round of combat, the Deathleaper will shred through an Aspiring Champion and other Sergeant-equivalent characters, so using this as a defence against all the attacks from a unit is practically mandatory. Using Deathleaper as a road-block unit against low-model heavy hitters such as Devastators is also nice; the Deathleaper can tie them up if it manages to get close and either proceed to kill the squad or Hit and Run out to hunt another unit while a Hormagaunt brood charges the weakened Devastators. Deathleaper is quick with Fleet and Move Through Cover as well its special deployment options, so charging in the second player turn or on the second game turn should be expected unless you are up against a serious gunline and no guarantee of reaching them. There is literally no reason not to keep Deathleaper to cover as, once opponents manage to hit - and twenty shots from ten Tactical Marines rapid-firing will get at least three hits - its 5+ armour save may as well be non-existent. It is barely slowed by terrain and it has assault grenades on top of Stealth; heck, it even has Fleet! Stick to cover and show those fools the meaning of terror.
Don't take Deathleaper as your Warlord unless you are set on a Vanguard themed Tyranid force. The reason for this is that its Warlord Trait isn't too crash hot - it specifies independent characters, not standard characters, and many independent characters can give it a run for its money - and it is very fragile against certain armies. A unit of three Broadsides within 30" of Deathleaper stand a very strong chance of putting it down in one shooting phase with their twelve twin-linked Strength 5, AP5 shots that ignore both cover and line of sight. A unit of three Hive Guard will average one hit against the Deathleaper and, unless they get incredibly unlucky, end its reign of terror with that lone hit. While Deathleaper is very difficult to kill conventionally, what with it easily able to hide due to Infiltrate, no scatter Deep Striking, hiding in reserve, forcing Snap Shots at it, Hit and Run as well as Weapon Skill 9, you can't afford to let enemies get a hold of it. Massed shots and close combat attacks will put it down in no time; even a single unit of Fire Warriors affected by an Ethereal's extra pulse shot power can do the trick with a bit of luck. While Deathleaper is easier to protect than some other HQ choices - such as a Tervigon - against standard "fire down the line" shooting, like any predator, once it is caught it can fall over very quickly. Besides, Deathleaper is not a Synapse creature, which is not something you really want on a HQ choice especially, doubly so if it is your only HQ choice. Against Tau, mechanized Eldar and other Tyranids, I recommend hiding the Deathleaper in reserves and hiding it in your backfield to penalize the Leadership of important enemy psykers and Ethereals. Against a-typical gunlines and foot-based lists, on the other hand, Deathleaper is a powerful tool in the right hands. Abusing cover and intervening terrain, Deathleaper can pretty safely make it into combat and proceed to take out those heavy weapon team-equivalent units, or hunt fragile independent characters such as Lord Commissars and Sorcerers.
Shade of Saint Caspelan
Thank you for reading this article! Please, share your thoughts on the article and the changes I am experimenting with for this series. I am open to any and all feedback! And remember, for any and all discussion on Tyranids and Games Workshop stuff, head on over to +Bell of Lost Souls. Thanks again! Eel out.
at 11:07 pm