29 Mar 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Mawlocs

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Mawlocs are vicious predators that stalk foes of the Swarm from beneath the earth using the heart beats of their prey as a guiding light. Unlike the more combat-oriented Trygon, the Mawloc is very much built for disruption and chaos with its colossal maw able to swallow entire squads of infantry as it emerges from beneath their feet. With a huge points drop and a boost in destructive power, the Mawloc is a far superior option than it was prior to the new codex. I hope you enjoy this article!



My brother and I have a very dear friend who also collects Tyranids, trying out all kinds of units and playing with the rule of cool first and foremost. He had a saying, a battle cry if you will, that I feel is very appropriate for this article; "I am the great big mouth!". While the Haruspex does challenge the Mawloc for the World's Biggest Mouth award, the latter at least can live content in the knowledge that it actually has workable rules. Jokes aside, the Mawloc is the kit-sibling to the plastic Trygon and is, as such, a newer take on the ancient Forge World Tyranid monstrous creature. Where the Trygon is an elite close combat unit with variable support and ranged abilities based on a certain upgrade, a Mawloc does not fit the mold of gun-beast, melee monster or even a support tool. Instead, the Mawloc is the largest and perhaps most terrifying disruption unit in the codex, with its claim to fame being that it is the only Tyranid monstrous creature designed almost exclusively with such a role in mind. But just how well does it perform this role? In truth, while it lacks both the precision of Lictors and the disabling capabilities of Genestealers, the Mawloc is undeniably the most terrifying of these with one of the deadliest, yet random, special attacks in the game.

First up though, let us take a look at the Mawlocs' stats. Like the Trygon, this is a monstrous creature with a whopping six wounds, Toughness 6 and a 3+ armour save. I've already discussed why this is good durability for any monster to have, even despite the lack of a 2+ armour save or invulnerable save, so I won't go too heavily into that. However, what is crucial to note is just how ridiculously cheap a Mawloc is, clocking in at half a century less than a Trygon with identical survivability against ranged attacks. Woah! Yes, that is approximately 23 points per Toughness 6 wound, as opposed to the Trygon's rough 32 points per Toughness 6 wound. As a barometer, a Tyranid Warrior pays about 10 points per Toughness 4 wound with a 4+ armour save, while the Mawloc pays slightly over double that for a Toughness 6 wound with a 3+ armour save. Impressive, no? This is perhaps the most advantageous trait of a Mawloc; while it is obviously a unit with wildly varying damage output, it is crazily cheap in regards to its durability. Unfortunately, the rest of its stats aren't as impressive; Weapon Skill 3 and three attacks base are much akin to a standard Tyranid monster, though it does have the benefit of a good Initiative 4. Strength 6 means it can defend itself decently in close combat, especially with Smash and all the other lovely monstrous creature specific rules thrown in, but it won't stand up to any kind of dedicated melee unit. That it lacks a Ballistic Skill value means you can't try and play shenanigans with clearing out the enemy Aegis Defence Line and hijacking their Quad Gun, especially as it also lacks a typical ranged attack of any kind. On that note, it also lacks melee weapons and as such doesn't receive an extra attack or any other bonuses in combat.

The profile might seem middling at first, but when you look at it and contrast to its points cost, it becomes a lot more inviting. The Mawloc also doesn't need to worry about Instinctive Behaviour really, with a good Leadership 8 and the Feed result being almost meaningless to a single model unit. Failing a check doesn't prevent a Mawloc from attempting to use one of its two unique special rules, meaning that it can continue to bring the pain regardless of if the Hive Mind exerts its will or not. One of the more awesome inclusions for a Mawloc is the Hit and Run special rule, allowing it to high-tail safely out of combats based on an Initiative test. This gives the Mawloc a rough 66.6% chance of escaping an unwanted combat which, combined with natural Fearless, means that it can itself be used as a tarpit or as a bait unit in equal measure. There is nothing more amusing than an opponent believing the nasty Mawloc is tied up in close combat or about to die in the subsequent turn, then have it Hit and Run to safety and begin its attacks anew. This combines particularly well with the Deep Strike capabilities of the Mawloc, much akin to the Trygon, though the similarities between the two begin to truly diverge at this point.

That big mouth the Mawloc possesses isn't just for show, of course. Like the Trygon, the Mawloc has some nifty special rules related to Deep Striking, but where a Trygon is intended to provide an entry point for other units and has a safe scatter mechanic, the Mawloc trades these abilities for one of the nastiest entrances you could imagine. After rolling for scatter and assuming the Mawloc doesn't hit impassable terrain, it emerges, regardless of any friendly or enemy models in the way! Before the model is placed, you get to put a large blast marker directly over where it would enter the field of battle; any models touched, friend or foe, are struck by an automatic hit at Strength 6, AP2 with the Ignores Cover special rule. Yes, this annihilates infantry of all kinds and, with all hits being resolved against the side armour of vehicles, is also potentially devastating against light transports. Just let that sink in for a moment, though. A Strength 6 AP2 Ignores Cover large blast. While it might not inflict instant death on such a wide range of targets as a Riptides' Ion Accelerator does, nor have the potential accuracy, this is still nonetheless a brutal attack. It can decimate entire squads of units from Tactical Marines to Terminators, Guardsmen to Dire Avengers, Fire Warriors to Pathfinders and so on. It can cause an incredible amount of wounds on units comprised of models with multiple wounds, such as Ogryns or Centurions, while even monstrous creatures that are low on wounds are right to be fearful.

As devastating as the Terror from the Deep attack is - and yes, that is the name of the special rule! - it is inherently random and unreliable because it is based entirely around the deep strike mechanics. As we (should) all know, deep strike is resolved by initially placing a marker, rolling two dice and a scatter dice and then moving the marker to the final position indicated by the dice. The chances of a direct hit are slim, as are actually hitting anything if your opponents spreads out their units. This means that you cannot rely on the Terror from the Deep attack to do damage as the chances of it getting a good scatter and lots of hits on a unit that is truly susceptible to the AP2 strikes are quite low. Obviously, armies with incredibly high model counts based around larger squads, such as horde Orks or infantry-centric Imperial Guard, will be far more susceptible to the Terror from the Deep; however, such armies aren't necessarily that popular. Your typical opponent in an 1850 point game will likely have anywhere between thirty to fifty infantry models spread out among various units, with multiple vehicles or monstrous creatures in support. These usually won't be large units, and any smart opponent will know to spread their models out to avoid severe damage from a Mawloc. The average damage output of a Mawloc, especially when one considers it lacks any kind of ranged attack and is mediocre at best in close combat, is rather low indeed.

However, this is where, again, the low cost of a Mawloc really needs to be at the forefront of any tactical discussion concerning "the great big mouth". This is a unit that has mediocre combat abilities and a potentially nasty but very unreliable deep strike attack, but is very tough for its points cost and leaves so much room for you to fit in other units. If this was all it did, it would be valuable because of the potential of that attack - much like the now retired Doom of Malan'tai, though obviously nowhere near as bonkers - but the Mawloc has a lot of other uses. For one, failing to kill all enemy models with the Terror from the Deep attack doesn't force surviving models to move out of the way as it previously did, but instead inflicts a second round of hits on them with the exact same profile. This maximises the damage output of the attack, and that the Mawloc can be placed even within 1" of enemy models gives it a lot of leeway for placement. However, if the Mawloc still can't be placed after resolving that attack twice, it mishaps, and this is the really amusing part. The Mawloc has the Burrow special rule which, from turn two onwards, allows it to go back into ongoing reserves to - per the rules as intended - deep strike and do a Terror from the Deep attack on its subsequent turn. Now, look at how Burrow plays with the two main mishap results; if the Mawloc is delayed, it will automatically arrive next turn to do another Terror from the Deep attack. If the Mawloc is placed by an opponent, it can freely burrow on its next turn and try again. The only mishap result that is actually bad for a Mawloc in any real sense is the destroyed result, but with only a one in six chance of occurring, it shouldn't be seen as a deterrent.

This I feel is the beauty of the Mawloc; though its main damage dealing mechanism is unreliable, the tools with which it can continue to use that attack are very safe indeed. If it is misplaced, it can burrow on its next turn and try again. If an opponent charges it after it has done some severe damage to a unit, it can Hit and Run out of combat and Burrow on its turn. If it arrives near a vehicle or valuable ranged unit that fails to destroy it, the Mawloc can charge them and either destroy or simply tie them up, then do the Hit and Run trick at the end of the opponents' turn. That the Mawloc can easily escape combats, will never run away and cares little for Instinctive Behaviour makes it not only one of the most independent units in the Tyranid codex, but also arguably the most self-sufficient. It can wreak havoc in the enemy backfield, then either Burrow or continue the assault as desired. It can be deployed on the field to act as a distraction unit, or be deep struck and used as a terror weapon against your opponent. All the while, it never has to worry about Instinctive Behaviour - remembering that it need not test when it arrives from reserves either - and can easily frighten your opponent into focusing on it at the expense of your other units. The potential uses of this monstrous creature that is barely more expensive than a Carnifex are staggering, and while it is inherently random in regards to the damage it deals, it is nonetheless one of the most stable performers in the codex. It is a strong unit that works so well because it is cheap, can be put literally anywhere and used as an effective disruption tool.

How to Equip Them

Where a Trygon can get away with taking no upgrades but generally wants Toxin Sacs for the combat boost they provide, a Mawloc really needs no extra points invested into it. It is one of the weaker Tyranid monsters in an assault and generally doesn't want to be there in the first place, other than to maybe tie up a dangerous ranged unit so that your other units don't need to face their fury, or even just destroy a vehicle. The two traits that define a Mawloc are its "ranged" attack and the fact that it is so darn cheap for a Toughness 6, 6 wound and 3+ armoured monstrous creature. Wasting those advantages on melee-oriented upgrades generally isn't the best idea as a result, I feel. Even more so than the Trygon, I would avoid the tail biomorphs; it is nice that they were included, but I've never felt they were worthwhile on any unit in the codex so far.

As for the Biomorphs, Adrenal Glands is probably your best bet because of Fleet if you do need to use your Mawloc to charge a unit in a pinch - it is likely to happen at least once in a game where the devour attack becomes inefficient - while the others can be skipped. Toxin Sacs can help maximise its damage output in close combat, but with only three attacks at Weapon Skill three, it is an upgrade that is mostly wasted on a Mawloc. Regeneration is something to consider if only because the Mawloc, like the Trygon, is one of the more worthwhile contenders for it due to its higher durability than most other Tyranid monstrous creatures. In fact, as far as I can tell, Regeneration rolls can be made for Mawlocs even when they are in reserve; once burrowed, you can still roll to see if they regain a wound! I am not clear on the ruling for this, but that seems to be the way it works; if so, it is certainly an appealing upgrade. However, again, I feel the best advantage a Mawloc has is its low cost; slapping an expensive and often unreliable upgrade on probably isn't that great. Acid Blood works in combat only which, for a Mawloc, isn't really worth the points. Realistically, a Mawloc doesn't need any upgrades; I think Adrenal Glands might be decent for Fleet, but really, on a unit that has mostly safe deep striking in addition to Hit and Run, do you really need that Fleet?

Where to Put Them

The best way to deploy Mawlocs is to start them in reserves where they can attempt to attack enemies with their Terror from the Deep special rule from turn two onwards, rather than be forced to wait to Burrow on turn two at the earliest. While deploying on the field does add to your early target saturation and presents another juicy, scary target for your opponents to focus on, most opponents know that Mawlocs are not a threat until they start deep striking. Even then, the Terror from the Deep attack itself really isn't all that reliable. Enemies may often ignore Mawlocs starting on the board in favour of your Synapse creatures and more valuable monstrous creatures, such as Tyrannofexes or Exocrines. While the guaranteed turn three arrival is a plus, the odds of a Mawloc not arriving on turn three or two at that point is slim unless your opponent has some serious reserve penalty capabilities. If you are going to deploy them on the field though, place them in the most forward position you can while retaining a cover save and use them aggressively. This may force the opponents' hand and make them waste shots at your incredibly cheap six wound monstrous creature. If they manage to eliminate it, the likelihood will be that they have invested a serious amount of firepower into the Mawlocs' death than they could realistically afford to. Use this grace period for your other units to advance unmolested. Otherwise, just deep strike the big beast and hope that it can bring the munch down (I am so sorry)!

Best Uses

I feel that the best implementation of a Mawloc into standard Tyranid army lists is to use it in its primary, stated role and little else; a disruption unit, first and foremost. The Mawloc is not a close combat beast like a Trygon, nor does it bring the ranged dominance of an Exocrine. While not as durable as a Tyrannofex, it is still easily the most inexpensive monster per Toughness 6 3+ armoured wound in the codex - I stop short of saying "the game" as the Necron Canoptek Spyder owns that accolade. Nonetheless, it is an advantage that cannot be under-estimated; the Mawloc might be very unreliable in terms of its damage output, but it is hilariously cheap considering its survivability. Heck, it is still a monstrous creature with three Smash attacks on the charge; it can deal with infantry blobs sufficiently or tie them up, it can destroy most vehicles with ease, and it can even be used as a tarpit unit on its own. Hit and Run combined with Burrow allows the Mawloc to be a true terror for your opponent, seemingly gifting them a free kill and then disappearing to renew the attack elsewhere. Using it to bait out elite enemy units of either the ranged or melee variety and then pulling a disappearing act is both intelligent and amusing, particularly as many opponents under-estimate just how many escape mechanisms this monster has.

Ideally, its Terror from the Deep attack should target scoring units that aren't vehicles or monstrous creatures - some examples of these do exist, after all! - early in the game to help you win the objective game, and then transition to hunting vehicles with its close combat attacks once its deep strike ability becomes superfluous. Of course, a Strength 6 AP2 large blast that ignores cover is always going to be useful, but if your opponent is mostly mounted in transports, for example, it will be difficult to really harm them. Attacking transports with the Terror from the Deep attack isn't a bad idea, especially with the consecutive strike if it doesn't destroy the vehicle a first time, but they aren't as vulnerable as most infantry would be. Terminator units, as an example, will evaporate with a favourable scatter roll unless they are wielding storm shields, so the Mawloc certainly shouldn't be lacking for units to strike against. While the formation-breaking uses of Terror from the Deep are limited now due to it merely inflicting another wave of hits instead of actively pushing units out of the way, it is nonetheless an even more dangerous bunker buster than previously. Slapping ignores cover on it makes it sheer death to almost any infantry unit in the game, and it isn't unheard of for a Mawloc to make its points back after just one of these attacks. Even though it is only likely to get one direct hit throughout the game, the low cost of a Mawloc and just how much of an annoyance it can be has made it a truly valuable addition in the games I have played. The potential is there, even if it is very random; the best advice I can give is to not forget Hit and Run, allowing the Mawloc to escape combats and freely initiate its ground-shattering destruction again.

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.

Mawloc - A Mawloc needs no upgrades to perform its stated duties. While Toxin Sacs are a good upgrade, as well as Adrenal Glands - remembering that a Mawloc lacks Fleet - a Mawloc will ideally be burrowing or deep striking on each turn anyway. The Mawloc is not a combat monster, so I feel you can leave the upgrades at home and marvel at how ludicrously cheap each of those Toughness 6 wounds are per point.


As cruel and dangerous a hunter the Trygon is, it is the newer breed sharing its physical stature and predatory instincts that truly inspires terror in those facing a Hive Fleet. Like the older and stronger Trygon, this newer breed hunts from beneath the earth, using its long and sinuous body to tunnel through rock and dirt with ease. But where a Trygon emerges to attack and destroy with its talons, the Mawloc splits the ground only to swallow those too slow to escape its attention. Able to snap tanks in half and consume even the largest of the Adeptus Astartes whole with its titanic maw, the Mawloc is a beast designed as a terror weapon unlike any other. There are few thoughts more chilling than to be eaten alive by a gargantuan alien monster, and the Hive Fleet, insidious as it is, has endeavored to prey on this fact. Trading physical stature and enhanced combat instincts for more efficient consumption organs and processes, this evolution of the Trygon may not be as inherently dangerous as its sibling, but to underestimate a Mawloc is to spend many days trapped in utter darkness, slowly melting away as digestive acids flood your body. Much like the many horrific creatures of legend, the Mawloc senses through heartbeats and motion; to stay still but be breathless is as certain a death as is running from tremors in the ground.

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. Keep up the good work. I am putting together a "Tyranid Artillery" list and the Mawloc features prominantly.

    1. Cheers! If you can, let us know how the list goes!

  2. can you get us a video clip of your buddy saying "i am the great big mouth?"


  3. Include Aegis Defense Line and a Comms Relay (fortifications for your biovores etc. and the Comms Relay to direct your Mawloc attacks) - possible?

  4. Aren't smash attacks just 1 attack total (including after modifiers) with just double strength... Instead of the 3 attacks you said you can smash with?

    1. It was 3 smash attacks on the charge in 6th edition. Half the attacks and round up + 1 for charge. Now in 7th it is 1 attack without modifiers.

  5. I'm suprised you don't mention the combo [Pheromone Trail + Mawloc] in your analysis, friend ;)

  6. only reading this now xD Great article like th eothers, I would just like to ask...you mention about deep striking and scatter...why not use Lictors to negate this?