23 Jan 2014

Tactica Tyranids - The Swarmlord

Hey guys, I'm Learn2Eel and today I'm here to talk about the new Tyranid codex! I'm going to be trialling shorter articles focusing on one unit at a time, a content form that should allow me to post up a Tactics article every night. I'm really keen to see the feedback to this type of article, as it is obviously a very big change from the bloated articles of the past. Please let me know if you prefer these smaller single-unit-review articles, or if you want me to continue with the old style! To mark this occasion, who else could I cover but the Swarmlord, the most deadly organism ever conceived by the other-worldly Hive Mind. I hope you enjoy this article!

The Swarmlord


The Swarmlord has an upgraded profile over a standard Hive Tyrant, but with only a few changes; it has an extra wound, a higher Initiative by one and a godly Weapon Skill 9 ensuring most enemies will hit it on 5s in combat. To add to that extra wound, the Swarmlord has a 4+ invulnerable save in close combat, giving it slightly above average durability for a foot Hive Tyrant against shooting, and severely boosted durability in combat for a foot Hive Tyrant. There is a stipulation on the invulnerable save in that it only applies to wounds caused by Melee weapons, so it will not apply to effects such as Spore Mine Detonations, Typhus' rot blast and so on. The Initiative boost ensures the Swarmlord will strike before most enemy commanders and units, though of course its lack of flesh hooks or spine banks mean that this it is negligible when charging into combat. For pure combat prowess, though, the Swarmlord is a premier melee unit once it reaches combat. It has five attacks base due to its pair of Bonesabres, AP2 attacks as it has the Smash special rule, and all of its melee attacks cause Instant Death. This makes it a ridiculously good character and monster hunter, one that while perhaps would take two rounds or so to down a Wraithknight, it should destroy most enemies with ease. Opponents to avoid for the Swarmlord are those with a strong Invulnerable save of 4+ or 3+, three or more wounds, and Eternal Warrior, or those that can strike before the Swarmlord and slay it with Instant Death. The prime cases of these are Nurgle Daemon Princes with Bale Swords, Skarbrand, Lord Kaldor Draigo, and the standard Chapter Master build sporting the Shield Eternal. Just be aware that the first two such opponents would fall to the Swarmlord if either of them was part of a combat also involving a Harpy, or if they charged through terrain.

The Swarmlord is not purely centred around straight offence and defence though, with increased support abilities as compared to regular Hive Tyrants, making it a complete package rather than a one-note character. The Swarmlord has a Psychic Mastery Level of three as opposed to a Hive Tyrants' two, meaning that it has a roughly 50% chance of generating crucial powers such as Catalyst or Onslaught in each game. Mastery Level three when combined with Shadows in the Warp makes the Swarmlord a really good anti-psyker unit, one that will usually Deny the Witch on a 4+ as well as reducing the Leadership of enemy psykers by three within 12". However, one of the real gems for the Swarmlord is the Dominion psychic power, particularly when combined with its innate Warlord Trait. The Swarmlord always has the +6" to Synapse range Warlord Trait, meaning that it confers Synapse to units within 18" at all times. As Synapse is more important than ever with potentially self-destructive Instinctive Behaviour results and having Fearless scoring bodies in an objective-centric edition, this is really invaluable to have. Where the true value of having Mastery Level three shines through is that the Swarmlord can freely take Dominion and still have the two powers that other Hive Tyrants would take, giving the Swarmlord an effective 24" Synapse range if it wants it. This is an under-rated ability of the Swarmlord, and one that makes it a true lynchpin for your force.

The Swarmlord also provides a +1 bonus to your reserve rolls, which synergizes best with flyer-heavy lists that want to keep the fragile Harpies and Crones in reserve, or with those that are using Trygon Primes and Mawlocs. As the last unit in particular is proving exceptionally popular, including the Swarmlord as your primary commander so as to not worry about taking an Aegis Line may prove worthwhile, consolidating many different abilities into one model. The last notable trait of the Swarmlord is that it can confer a single special rule upon either itself or another friendly unit within 18" at the start of each of its turns. Unlike psychic Blessings and Maledictions, these effects only apply for the duration of that Tyranid turn; something to keep in mind! The free benefits are useful, with a choice between Furious Charge, Monster Hunter and Preferred Enemy; there are no restrictions in terms of conferring the same special rule multiple turns in a row, too. Ideal uses of this include conferring Preferred Enemy on a heavy ranged unit such as an Exocrine or a Tyrannofex with an Acid Spray, or giving Furious Charge to a brood of Hormagaunts that is bereft of Adrenal Glands so that they can harm a Razorback in combat. Monster Hunter on a brood of Hormagaunts with Toxin Sacs can be a truly nasty surprise for any opponent. Giving Preferred Enemy to a recently emerged Mawloc might seem too good to be true, and that is because it is. As the currently active player, you can decide which things come first when multiple rules have the "at the start of the turn" clause, such as the Swarmlord ability or Reserves. However, the Mawloc Terror from the Deep attack is resolved as it arrives from Reserves, so there's no legitimate method of giving it Preferred Enemy for use with that attack from what I can tell.

Where to Put Them

The Swarmlord should always be accompanied by a brood of Tyrant Guard, composed of a minimum of two bodyguards. This is because aside from a single extra Toughness 6, 3+ armoured wound, the Swarmlord has no real survivability boosts over a foot Hive Tyrant, a model that will drop quickly to sustained fire against massed Strength 7 and 8 AP4 and AP3 shooting. It is also a much costlier variant of a standard foot Hive Tyrant, so while paying the extra points to protect it does make it a rather huge investment, you need to spend those points so that it isn't a wasted investment. Having a 50% chance to roll Catalyst as one of the Swarmlords' psychic powers is a notable advantage, but one that you still cannot rely on. With no extra mobility options, especially as it lacks Fleet and thus will slow down Tyrant Guard equipped with Adrenal Glands, the Swarmlord needs to be used as the supporting centrepiece of a swarm. While deploying it straight in the centre of a force is probably a bit too obvious and simplistic, it does require added protection from tarpit units to avoid nasty melee encounters with Storm Shield Terminators and so on. It is a unit that should never be sent out alone, as its support abilities are truly what distinguish it from a regular Hive Tyrant; you want to make the most of that guaranteed 18" to 24" Synapse range and the free special rule addition.

The Swarmlord is a tough competitor in combat, of course, and will be treated as such by a savvy opponent; they won't willingly give you targets to charge, unless they are there to slow you down. You need to play on this by being a part of a very mobile force; one that uses plentiful and cheap Hormagaunt broods should work nicely due to the 13" average movement distance of the little terrors. This will ensure the Swarmlord is not the sole and obvious target for an opponent, but one of many they will have to prioritize to bring down first your Synaptic Web, and then your hard-hitters. Use Mawlocs to scare your opponent and affect their deployment, as spreading their gunline out ensures your critters can strike at and overwhelm individual units. The Mawlocs also gain adverse benefits from that reserve roll bonus provided by the Swarmlord, so they make a natural choice for an army featuring the Tyrantlord of the Swarm. Remembering that the unit lacks invulnerable saves against shooting as well as 2+ armour saves, use cover as much as possible. While blocking line of sight to the unit will be very difficult especially with the much larger new Tyrant Guard models, getting cover saves for the brood is easier than ever with but a part of each models' base counting towards cover for area terrain. The size of each model means that gaining cover saves through Termagants and Hormagaunts is practically impossible, but using a wall of Carnifexes armed with heavy ranged weapons, and a supporting Venomthrope between them and the Swarmlords unit, should prove very effective. If your opponent lacks a proliferation of Ignores Cover weapons, such a formation will prove not only terrifying to face, but incredibly resilient to boot, and one that isn't really slowed by terrain.

Best Uses

Despite the Swarmlord lacking increasing mobility over regular foot monstrous creatures, I think it nonetheless belongs in a fast assault army variant first and foremost. This is not only because it can freely give Preferred Enemy to a close-ranged Exocrine, or Furious Charge to a Hormagaunt brood that saves a lot of points on Adrenal Glands, but as it also grants a reserve bonus that is most useful for Mawlocs. These units are at home in a sheer target-overload list that rushes the opponent for the first turn or two until its guns and claws get into range to begin the feast. The Swarmlord should be using these units as both cover and tarpits to protect itself from unwanted threats, like Terminators or Plague Zombie blobs. It can them aim for varying units, even separating from its Tyrant Guard just before declaring charges as both the Swarmlord and a pair of Tyrant Guard can each mop up minimal or weak scoring units with ease. The Swarmlord can be used as a character assassin, but you are generally better off using it to crush particularly nasty units that your Hormagaunts and Termagants have tied up in combat. If you want to engage a unit that sports a particularly nasty melee character or a high Initiative force weapon, be sure to employ a Harpy - they are a cheap investment, after all - so that the Swarmlord can devour it before it strikes.

To make the most of its psychic potential, I recommend taking Dominion in most games so that you can keep up an almost permanent 24" Synapse bubble, eliminating the need for expensive items such as the Norn Crown on another 'commander' model. Catalyst, Onslaught, Paroxysm and the Horror are all really strong powers for the Swarmlord, and combining the Horror with Shadow in the Warp to pin down psyker units like Grey Knight Strike Squads and Seer Councils that (strangely) lack the Shard of Anaris is awesome. Ideally, you want three of those four powers in any combination, with Dominion thrown in if one of the powers won't be so useful; for example, the Horror taken against an Iyanden Wraith list won't do much of anything. Warp Lance is definitely a decent shooting attack for the Swarmlord, but it eats up two of its three warp charges, and generally you just want the Swarmlord to be making run moves to get as close as possible so that it can get outside the torrent of fire. Psychic Scream really won't work for the Swarmlord, and is the one power I always say to swap out; the ubiquity of destroying a Land Raider at range means that Warp Lance has a place, but I would also generally recommend swapping that out for Dominion against the really nasty gunline lists.

Hive Progenitor

The Swarmlord is a primeval creation of the Hive Mind engineered to be the perfect hybrid of warrior and strategist, the apex of the Hive Tyrant organisms. Its genetic template is stored within all Hive Fleets to be spawned as a natural response to heavy opposition. There is little that can stand before the might of the Hive Mind embodied, for the Swarmlord is a peerless curator of galactic annihilation that has honed its skills across countless battlefields. No mere dictator, the Swarmlord will not force the conquered to bow before it, but merely process them as yet more biomass for the Hive Fleets. It is this unknowable alien mind that makes the Swarmlord perhaps the most terrifying villain in the galaxy. It cannot be reasoned with, nor sated. By its will, foes will be slaughtered, worlds will be devoured, and galaxies will be gutted.

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 comment:

  1. Swarmlord is my favorite character/model in the Tyranid army, so I'm probably going to roll with him regardless of him sucking or not. You def need 2+ guard with him though, or else he just falls on his face. For being 5 points more expensive, he took a heavier hit than most things in the book: lash whip Tyrant Guard is not the same, opponents no longer re-roll invuls, he's forced to take the synapse Warlord trait where before he just had 18", so he pretty much loses out on a trait compared to before. Pretty sad.