24 Jan 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Hive Tyrants (Ground)

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Hive Tyrants are the commanders of the swarms, the lynchpin that connects a Tyranid ground invasion force to its brood-mother, the Norn Queen, in the orbiting Hive Fleet. These are the most important creatures in a standard Tyranid army, and great care must be taken so that they survive. For this reason, Hive Tyrants that stalk the earth are protected either through specially engineered protectors, the Tyrant Guard, or adapted wings to allow them to soar above a battlefield and freely prey on the foes they choose. In this article, I will be covering the former Hive Tyrant variety. I hope you enjoy this article!

Hive Tyrant (Ground)


The Hive Tyrant sports one of the best overall stat-lines of any Tyranid monstrous creature, allowing it to effectively function as a gun-beast, a melee champion or just a generalist commander. Its Weapon Skill of eight means that all but the most skilled enemy characters will be hit on 3s by a Hive Tyrant - even one such as Abaddon! - while a Ballistic Skill of 4 makes it an above average ranged threat in a Tyranid army. Its Strength and Toughness of six in addition to four wounds are fairly typical of a Tyranid monstrous creature, as is the 3+ armour save. Despite not being an independent character in the traditional sense, a Hive Tyrant is still a tough beast to bring down on an individual basis compared to most other HQ choices in the game - the key is keeping it alive against the high Strength, low AP shooting that will inevitably be directed its way. The lack of an invulnerable save of any kind is a killer though, and one that must be accounted for through extensive use of cover and bodyguard models where applicable.

A Hive Tyrant is a strong competitor in melee, with Smash granting all of its four base attacks - and potentially up to six on the charge - AP2 and the potential to halve those attacks to two - or three if it has a pair of melee weapons - so that it gains both Strength 10 and Armourbane. With its Initiative of five and high Weapon Skill, a Hive Tyrant is thus a deadly opponent in combat against almost any enemy, particularly when re-rolls to wound and fleet are thrown in through Toxin Sacs and Adrenal Glands, respectively. It can go up to Strength 10 to deal with Wraithknights and Toughness 5 or lower multiple-wound models such as typical HQs, or use its decent amount of Strength 6 attacks to scythe through elite and light enemies alike. Vehicles are no deterrent to a Hive Tyrant with Smash in the mix, though one must be careful of charging an assault walker, such as a Soul Grinder, as such a walker has a good chance of surviving the initial attacks and striking back with deadly blows.

A Hive Tyrant can exchange its melee weapons for ranged biomorphs if it pleases, and with Ballistic Skill four, the already decently to very effective shooting of Ballistic Skill three Carnifex broods can be improved upon quite impressively. A pair of Brainleech Devourers on a Hive Tyrant can prove devastating to light and medium ground vehicles alike, making it into a premier anti-armour unit that will also put many wounds on monsters and infantry. The more accurate blasts delivered by Heavy Venom Cannons and Stranglethorn Cannons on a Hive Tyrant are also very much worthwhile, being cost-effective and nasty weapon options even on Carnifexes. The Hive Tyrant also brings strong psychic potential to a game, being a Mastery Level two psyker as standard. A walking Hive Tyrant can make effective use of nearly all the Tyranid psychic powers, from Dominion and Catalyst to Paroxysm and Warp Lance. The short range of Psychic Scream and the sluggishness of a foot monstrous creature that could very well be without Fleet makes it the one power I recommend swapping for Dominion in most cases. Otherwise, Hive Tyrants are strong psykers that while not on the same level as the versatile Mastery Level three Farseers, are nonetheless key to an effective Tyranid force by applying important buffs and debuffs as necessary.

Hive Tyrants also function as key Synapse providers in your army list, being arguably the most cost-effective and survivable - when protected by Tyrant Guard - source of Synapse. Where Zoanthropes have the advantage of low cost, and Tervigons can be taken as scoring units, Hive Tyrants eat up your mandatory HQ selections and are easily the best value choice in their Force Organization slot. Their Synapse range, unlike a Trygon Prime or Tyranid Prime, can be boosted without the addition of a Norn Crown by 6" through the use of the Dominion psychic power, one that is handily the Primaris power in the Tyranid psychic discipline. This makes the Hive Tyrant a reliable source of long-range synapse, as well as a good defensive general through its Shadow in the Warp. The 12" bubble is limited on a walking Hive Tyrant, but it ensures that any close-assault psykers - such as Heralds of Tzeentch in Screamer units or Farseers with the Shard of Anaris in Seer Council units - will struggle to cast their important psychic blessings. That the Hive Tyrant also always has a minimum of 5+ to pass Deny the Witch rolls means that trying to destroy it and any attached Tyrant Guard through witchfire powers, or disable them with maledictions, is not at all guaranteed.

How to Equip Them

A foot Hive Tyrant is best served not focusing on melee biomorphs and weapons, as its slow pace even with Adrenal Glands for Fleet will likely see a pure melee unit mostly wasted aside from its psychic and supporting abilities. For this reason, I would advocate taking one or more ranged weapons on the Hive Tyrant; making use of its ability to fire two weapons in a shooting phase due to its monstrous creature profile should not be underestimated. If you want to keep a single melee weapon, I recommend a Lash Whip and Bonesword even if the expenditure is high. This is because Scything Talons and Rending Claws won't really benefit a Hive Tyrant in melee, outside of the former being free to take in pairs and thus grant an extra attack. Besides, the Lash Whip gives the Hive Tyrant a whopping Initiative eight, as well as the potential for Instant Death wounds which can save its bacon against incredibly tough Wraithknights. Be aware though the Lash Whip and Bonesword won't make up for the lack of access to assault grenades for a Hive Tyrant, so be mindful of charging into terrain against units wielding power fists or other monstrous creatures.

On the subject of ranged weapons, I generally recommend one of the longer ranged guns if you don't purchase Adrenal Glands for both the Hive Tyrant and its Tyrant Guard brood. If you aren't sold on potentially running one inch a turn due to the lack of a re-roll, then a Stranglethorn Cannon or a Heavy Venom Cannon is a very smart purchase for the points. Be aware that adding a Stranglethorn to a list involving Mawlocs, Biovores and Harpies might be overkill, whereas Heavy Venom Cannons are probably the more generalist weapon that helps address the general lack of high Strength shooting across the codex. If you want to just run up into range and take Adrenal Glands for the entire unit, I recommend two pairs of Brain-Leech Devourers just for the sheer devastation they bring, as well as the potential for them to glance fliers and ground flying monsters. The Thorax Biomorphs are interesting, but I think they are better served on a flying Hive Tyrant due to their lack of Torrent. Consider them more for a defensive Hive Tyrant sitting in the backfield, one that can use a Rending template - for example - to ward off assaults from high value melee units. The Tail Biomorphs, while a nice inclusion to the codex, are more point-fillers than anything else. Still, adding an extra Strength 6 attack for a few extra points might be ok - if it weren't for the fact you can get an extra Strength 6 attack for free by keeping the stock Scything Talons.

The Bio-Artefacts are options to consider, certainly, though the high cost of most of them generally has me avoiding them outside of specific cases. The Reaper of Obliterax, for example, really isn't that useful on a Hive Tyrant that can purchase Toxin Sacs and a Lash Whip and Bonesword for less points and have most of the same benefits, plus a few extras. The Ymgarl Factor isn't really that noteworthy for the points for any monster I feel, even though having a turn where a Hive Tyrant need not worry about AP3 force weapons - Draigo ahoy! - is kind of funny. The Maw Claws of Thyrax are cheap, though they are better served for a flying Hive Tyrant as you want the Preferred Enemy bonus as early as possible. The Miasma Cannon is really interesting for either Hive Tyrant variant, with 36" small blast or a template weapon, both with good profiles. I feel a flying Hive Tyrant may make better use of it as an AP4 template with Poisoned (2+) is quite nasty, though it is otherwise an appropriately costed ranged addition to a ground Hive Tyrant. I feel that Brain-Leech Devourers and the one-only cannons are generally more useful though. The Norn Crown is there for a Hive Tyrant that either hopes to roll up two good powers, or always wants to take Dominion to essentially guarantee a 24" Synapse range, making it the equivalent of the Swarmlord. The potential for a 30" Synapse range due to one of the Tyranid Warlord Traits is humorous, but in the context of a Tyranid force, more Synapse creatures is better than a few with larger radii. The Norn Crown is hardly inexpensive either, so I would generally be more suited to taking an extra Zoanthrope for similar points.

The three optional ability purchases for a Hive Tyrant serve to further distinguish them from those in other Hive Fleets and personalize them more, but I tend to recommend only one. Indescribable Horror might be cheap, but when you consider that a Hive Tyrant and its Tyrant Guard will smash units prone to Fear in the first place, while units it really wants Indescribable Horror to work against are immune to Fear anyway, it just isn't worth the extras. Old Adversary is nice, but the high Weapon Skill of the Hive Tyrant coupled with cheaper Toxin Sacs is more preferable to me, especially as it too does not affect ranged attacks. Hive Commander is the gem of these abilities, conferring Outflank to a single Troops choice with no restrictions. You essentially pay a small tax to provide an extra deployment option for units such as Devourer-armed Termagants, Tervigons that are now able to spawn when they arrive, and even small units of Warriors armed to shoot at the rear armour of vehicles. This is a great ability and one that I recommend for competitive Tyranid lists, if only to give you more options in an already restricted army in terms of deployment.

Where to Put Them

For a walking Hive Tyrant, the first step is to take a brood of Tyrant Guard as its protectors. If you want your Hive Tyrant to survive the shooting-oriented 6th Edition tournament lists, this is not negotiable. I recommend two as each Tyrant Guard costs the same as a Zoanthrope and has good offensive and defensive stats; the ablative wounds alone are well worth the investment. Keeping your Synapse creatures alive is so pivotal, especially as a Hive Tyrant is likely to be your Warlord. Provided you use cover and line of sight blocking terrain as much as possible, your Hive Tyrant and its pair of Tyrant Guards should survive a hailstorm of fire with their Toughness 6, 3+ armour saves, applicable cover saves and eight wounds to chug through. The size of each model in the unit does make hiding incredibly difficult depending on how large terrain on your local gaming boards is, but blocking line of sight to your Hive Tyrant even at the cost of the Tyrant Guard should be possible.

With easily accessed Dominion, the potential for Synaptic Lynchpin and a purchasable Norn Crown, Hive Tyrants are effective sources of Synapse, and as one of your most durable generators of Synapse, keeping them in the centre of your force is ideal. As with the Swarmlord, having a line of Carnifexes backed by a Venomthrope brood that is itself supported by the Hive Tyrant and Tyrant Guard makes for a really nasty anvil and, if you give the Hive Tyrant a cannon of some form, one that does quite a bit of damage as it advances. Obviously, bunching up like this could be suicidal against some enemies, like Heldrakes and Wraithguard with D-Scythes, so don't be afraid to spread out and have your Venomthropes cover the more damaging Carnifex units if necessary. Hive Tyrants need to be in a position where they affect as many units as possible with both their psychic powers and Synapse, so I do usually recommend the core of an army to serve as meat-shields and be buffed in turn by the Hive Tyrant. A more defensive Tyranid list may want to drop the Tyrant Guard if there is sufficient terrain to block a Hive Tyrant from sight, using it as a strong counter-assault unit with two pairs of Brain-Leech Devourers when enemies close in. Such a build though I feel might be a waste of the Hive Tyrants' close range potential, especially as many opposing lists aren't really based around assault.

Best Uses

A foot Hive Tyrant belongs in almost any army list, not only because - unlike the Swarmlord - it can take Adrenal Glands and thus have Fleet alongside its Tyrant Guard, but as it has access to long ranged guns. It can form a tough anchor for any Tyranid force, one that both plays hard to get with Slay the Warlord, and is a key Synapse creature that can easily boost its' bubble up to 18". When deployed in a hidden position and moving up with tarpit Termagant or Hormagaunt units to disbar flyers like Heldrakes and Daemon Princes from landing near the Hive Tyrant, this is a unit that can be really effective whether it makes it to assault or not. If the Tyrant Guard die, but the Hive Tyrant survives the game, it will have been worthwhile because that would signify an opponent has dedicated quite a few resources to their destruction. Safeguarding your Warlord victory point is always handy. Use the Hive Tyrant less as a straight offensive unit such as a Tyrannofex and more of a supporter that moves quickly to get into position early on, and from there, directs its swarm through a Synapse bubble and - hopefully - psychic buffs like Catalyst and Onslaught.

Recommended Builds

These are a few example builds for the unit that I feel can fit into a number of competitive Tyranid lists. I'll list some thoughts on each build and what kind of lists they fit better in.

Hive Tyrant - Hive Commander, Miasma Cannon, Stranglethorn Cannon - Put this guy with two Tyrant Guard protectors and have him as the central Synapse unit in your main advancing force. Advance with two accurate 36" ranged blast templates that murder light to medium infantry, as well as any psychic power buffs you can get for your nearby Tyranids. Hive Commander is here to Outflank a Troops choice, like a Tervigon or a decently sized Warrior unit. This is a durable as heck Warlord, Synapse node and psychic unit that is nasty in combat and can do a lot of damage at range.

Hive Tyrant - Adrenal Glands, Lash Whip and Bonesword, Toxin Sacs - This is your stock standard melee Hive Tyrant build; cheapish, nasty and overall efficient. Place it with two Tyrant Guard who also have Adrenal Glands and use them as a melee hammer unit. The Hive Tyrant alone is nasty as heck, able to easily take on Wraithknights and emerge victorious. As long as it doesn't charge through cover, it can also make short work of Nemesis Dreadknights.

Lord of the Hive

There are countless species that comprise each of the Hive Fleets, their physiology a result of genetic tailoring rather than natural birth. While each Hive Fleet bears their own unique adaptations, all Hive Fleets share many traits and species, and one that is now recognized as the forebear of planetary extinction is the fearsome Hive Tyrant. These loathsome monsters are the culmination of countless years of conquest, able to adapt against opposing strategies and outsmart the galaxies' most intelligent commanders. They are masters of warfare, skilled not just in controlling a battlefield with their mind, but wracking the foe with psychic barrages and their own substantial combat prowess. These leader-bests are the heralds of the Hive Mind, and to challenge one is to invoke the wrath of a Swarm.

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.


  1. Unless I've been very much mistaken, I feel toxin sacs would actually slightly reduce the tyrants damage potential. For an example vs. say a generic MEQ HQ, a stock tyrant with 5 attacks would have a 75% chance to wound per hit with poisoned attacks (re-rollable 4+).

    Without the sacs, you're at 83% per hit due to basic S vs. T.

    Of course, if you're using your tyrant to exclusively munch other high T foes, ignore my whole post ;)

    1. The standard 4+ for poison only works if the wielder's (or weapon's) Strength is too low to make a difference. If the wielder's str is high enough to wound on a lesser number then it still does and poison allows it to re-roll.

      Example vs MEqs:

      Gaunts: wounds on 4+ (instead of 5+)
      Genestealer: wounds on 4+ regardless
      Broodlord: wounds on 3+ & rerolls
      Tyrant: wounds on 2+ & rerolls

      With the 7th ed Poison USR requiring the S to be *higher* instead of "equal to or higher" poison has taken a slight nerf and it's pointless putting it on S4 units if they're mostly hitting T4 targets as it does nothing.

  2. I don't often comment, but these are intersting articles L2E, thanks for taking the time to compose them!