17 Feb 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Haruspexes

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! The Haruspex is a bio-titan made purely for consuming any and all life that gets in its way, much like the Ripper Swarms that scuttle beneath its feet. Its great maw and ridiculously long tongue make it an instantly recognizable and entirely distinct model, but its rules sadly don't live up to such standards. I hope you enjoy this article!



Ah, the Haruspex. Trying to cover this unit can be downright confusing. It is a monstrous creature in the Elites slot, allowing for the most fulfilling monstrous creature spam lists yet. It is a plodding melee monster with an unreliable, mediocre shooting attack and no presence outside of 12". It isn't too expensive and can thus be plonked into a Tyranid list without too many repercussions on how it shapes up. It isn't survivable enough to be a dedicated assault unit, and is over-costed for what it does. It can heal itself by making it to combat, a mechanic meaning that it doesn't have to purchase Regeneration. It really isn't that good of a melee unit, with below average Weapon Skill, Initiative and Attacks for any kind of monstrous creature. Hell, I think the biggest problem I have with this unit is that the model is downright awesome and unique, but the rules are generic of a cheap monstrous creature wrapped in a more expensive and ineffective package. Where Carnifexes are cheap and can be taken in broods, Haruspexes pay a lot more per model despite not being that much more useful and can only be fielded solo. Where a Tyrannofex has the durability and firepower to be a threat to your opponent from a distance while just being a pain to remove, the Haruspex is still missile launcher bait and doesn't do much damage even in its preferred assault phase. This is a unit that was padded with unique rules to make up for its high cost and below average melee capabilities.

But if that was a bit too theoretical, allow me to detail my problems with the Haruspex. And please, don't take this as a full-on negative "review" of the Haruspex; I am merely expressing why this is a unit that doesn't function like the designers obviously intended it to. So, first up, how do its stats measure up? The Haruspex is middling in this area, with Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill 3 meaning its melee and ranged attacks will usually be hitting on 4s, with Tau really being the only enemies that it hits on 3s in combat. Now, remember that the Haruspex is pretty much a dedicated assault monster with only a single shot 12" shooting attack that isn't even that good and is, as you would expect, unreliable with Ballistic Skill 3. Carnifexes get away with Weapon Skill 3, but they have masses of attacks to make up for it with brood capabilities, as well as strong ranged options to compliment those melee capabilities. Add in Strength 9 base and Carnifexes make up for that low Weapon Skill just fine. The Haruspex, though? Three attacks at Initiative 3, for four attacks on the charge at Strength 7 due to its Crushing Claws. Like I mentioned before, there are unique rules that try to make up for this, but they don't really function as well as you would hope in practice. The first of these that specifically tries to make up for its lack of attacks is Rapacious Hunger, generating extra attacks for each unsaved wound the Haruspex does in close combat. First up, four attacks on the charge with Weapon Skill 3 against Tactical Marines - a pitifully mediocre combat unit - leads to two hits for two unsaved wounds. Two attacks generated, one hit, another unsaved wound. No more attacks. This dedicated melee monstrous creature that is hardly a guarantee of making combat in the first place, a unit that takes up a valuable Elites slot, and it only manages to kill three Space Marines on the charge. What? Hammer of Wrath at Strength 6 is of course decent, but it is nowhere near as good as the D3 Strength 9 hits Carnifexes do. And by the by, Rapacious Hunger only works for close combat attacks, not Hammer of Wrath or Acid Blood. Ugh.

The damage output of the Haruspex even with this special rule is decidedly below par, generating only one additional casualty on average to add to two casualties inflicted with the regular attacks. Having Acid Blood stock does kind of help, but when used against the Space Marine unit in the example above, their Initiative 4 means that they will only fail one out of three tries. It isn't even guaranteed to kill a Space Marine when they do fail that test, with a roughly 66% chance to kill one. Again, dedicated close combat monster, inflicts only four unsaved wounds on average against a Tactical Marine squad, and that is assuming some luck with Acid Blood. Now, this wouldn't be too much of an issue if the Haruspex was either very durable for its points, had some good ranged presence, or was mobile. These are elements other monstrous creatures that work in assault have managed to nail down. The Wraithknight not only brings a shooting presence, but it is very fast and hilariously tough to kill. It can make combat and quickly while blasting foes as it advances. A Daemon Prince with the Black Mace is incredibly quick, devastating in combat, and somewhat durable if your opponent lacks Skyfire weaponry. It can even bring psychic shooting attacks if it wants to stay in the skies. Alternatively, some melee monstrous creatures sacrifice these elements just for raw insane damage output and a decently low cost, such as Skarbrand - able to massacre anything that gets in his way, but not really all that survivable, fast and lacking in any kind of medium to long ranged shooting.

So what does the Haruspex do to make up for this? On the durability front, the Haruspex is slightly below a Tervigon, with five wounds at Toughness 6 and a 3+ armour save. This isn't bad at all, just like how a Tervigon takes a while to bring down, so too will a Haruspex - especially against small arms fire. But here's the rub; a Tervigon is a support monster that can do its job while hiding out of sight. The Haruspex is a melee monster that only does its job when out in the open or charging into units. Tervigons are more durable and don't need to worry about closing with enemies to be useful to you, where a Haruspex cannot afford such a luxury. Its 3+ armour save and Toughness 6 make it missile launcher bait like most any other Tyranid monster, while massed plasma and any other form of high Strength shooting - from Fire Warrior shooting to Broadsides with Heavy Missile Pods or Wave Serpents - it isn't that durable when it comes down to it, not once you factor in its points cost. When you cut it down, the Haruspex pays about 32 points per Toughness 6 wound. Compare that to the Wraithknight that pays about 40 points per Toughness 8 wound. You almost don't even need to factor in that the latter is a Jump Monstrous Creature and has two Strength 10 AP2 36" ranged guns. For a dedicated assault monster, it needed to either be quick or durable, and as a regular monster with only access to Adrenal Glands to give it Fleet for slightly increased mobility, the Haruspex doesn't fit for either. Shooting presence? A cool but really unreliable Strength 6 AP2 shot with a tiny 12" range that hits on 4s due to the Haruspex' Ballistic Skill 3. It has this little rule where it has Precision Hits, meaning 1 in 6 shots will get to pick the model they hit from a unit. Colour me unimpressed. And as we covered earlier, the actual melee damage output really isn't that great, while the cost isn't that much lower than something like Skarbrand once you factor in the near mandatory Adrenal Glands.

And this brings me to my biggest criticism of the Haruspex; like melee Carnifexes in the 5th Edition Tyranid codex, it is an inferior monster for the points compared to the Trygon. Yes, the Trygon, a monster I think isn't even that great compared to most of the other choices in the Heavy Support slot, a unit that degraded in usefulness by quite a large margin in the transition to 6th Edition with changes to Fleet and its reduced melee capabilities. Mind, I still think the Trygon is certainly decent, but my coverage of the Haruspex and detailed look at it has made me appreciate it so much more than I previously did. For less than a fifth of the cost of the Haruspex more, a Trygon gets a whole lot of buffs congruent with the traits I deem necessary to make a good assault-based monstrous creature. Durability? The Trygon has an extra wound. Mobility? The Trygon can Deep Strike - and safely at that for the most part - and comes stock with Fleet instead of having to pay for it. Shooting presence? Six Strength 5 AP5 shots at a 12" range, also on Ballistic Skill 3. Factor in the Deep Strike and this means the Trygon can actually use its shooting attack more often, and it is about on par or better in most cases than the Grasping Tongue.

Close combat ability? The Trygon has Weapon Skill 5 as opposed to 3, Initiative 4 as opposed to 3, six attacks base as opposed to three, with the Haruspex only having Strength 7 and Armourbane over the Trygon's Strength 6. Is one higher Strength on a monster really that good though? An odd number means it doesn't inflict Instant Death against more opponents than the Trygon does, and Armourbane isn't really an advantage as a Trygon can Smash, going to Strength 10, gaining Tank Hunters and it will still have more attacks than the Haruspex. Yes, five attacks base with two melee weapons means that a Trygon halving its attacks with Smash will still have four attacks base or five on the charge, as opposed to the Haruspex' three attacks base or four on the charge. Let us get this straight; the Trygon is more durable with an extra wound and able to avoid shooting for a few turns by hiding in reserves, faster with stock Fleet and the ability to Deep Strike and pretty much guarantee an assault on turn three, an equivalent or better shooter, and a significantly better melee unit. To prove this, let us put that last one to the test against the same Tactical Squad. We know that with some luck through Acid Blood, the Haruspex inflicts about four unsaved wounds. The Trygon, on the other hand, hits roughly five times for about five unsaved wounds. That doesn't factor in that the Tactical Marines have a much easier time wounding the Haruspex as they hit it on 3s, while they hit the Trygon on 4s. Besides, Weapon Skill 5 on the Trygon means it will hit anything in the game on a 4+ at worst, whereas a Haruspex will be hitting increasingly common Weapon Skill 7 and higher foes on a 5+. Again, the points difference between these two is minor at best. There are about two advantages a Haruspex has over a Trygon, advantages that really don't help as much as you would hope.

The first of these is that the Haruspex is in the Elites slot and not the Heavy Support slot, unlike the Trygon. Heavy Support is the best slot in the codex, filled to the brim with quality units that demand you take them. The Elites slot has a bunch of great units like Zoanthropes and Venomthropes, but the competition is a lot lighter. This gives the Haruspex room to breathe and be taken, unlike a Trygon that will often be outshone in usefulness by Tyrannofexes and Biovores. The second advantage is the other unique rule the Haruspex has, and one that - again - isn't that great once you put it into practice. If the Haruspex inflicts even one unsaved wound in combat, it regains a lost wound at the end of the phase. Sounds neat, right? Well, it is. It's like free Regeneration with the exception that it is contingent solely on killing enemies in combat instead of a random roll. What's wrong with that? Firstly, making combat, as I feel I have detailed before. Secondly, the Haruspex' mediocre at best damage output. Inflicting unsaved wounds won't be an issue against generic Space Marines and other infantry, but against elite assault units or characters with high Weapon Skill and/or good invulnerable saves? It is hardly a guarantee. Against Lucius the Eternal, for example, the Haruspex will only inflict a single hit on average, and that hit - if it wounds - has a 33% chance of being saved. And hell, Lucius really isn't that survivable as good combat characters go. So, if you get into combat with valuable units that you want to take out, the Haruspex won't really do that well anyway. Thirdly, it won't save the Haruspex. Between shooting, grenades and melta bombs hitting on Weapon Skill against monsters, nasty combat characters, a proliferation of monstrous creatures and the Haruspex' mediocre stats, I don't think this will really help it that much. The problem is that it works at the end of the phase, meaning that even if the Haruspex kills something, power fists or monsters striking at Initiative 1 due to charging through cover can and will kill it first. Is it enough the Haruspex also lacks assault grenades?

So what is the end result of these unique rules, a mediocre profile and a relatively high cost? A unit that tries to fit the bill of dedicated assault monster, but is inferior to the ones we already have. It doesn't compare well to a Trygon in any way imaginable. It doesn't compare well to a single Carnifex armed with two Brain-Leech Devourers for straight usefulness. Heck, it doesn't even have any obvious support abilities to make up for its damage output deficiencies. Am I being overly negative here? Yes, but only to prove a very important point; the Haruspex is a monstrous creature that does not fit well into an army list. It isn't survivable enough to fulfill the role of bullet sponge - especially as it isn't even that threatening - it isn't fast enough to put early pressure on opponents and be a valid early threat, it isn't versatile enough to help against flyers or fast skimmers and jetbikes that can outrun it. It just isn't good at what it does. It isn't by any means a horrendous or even bad unit, but it is one that really isn't worth it, and one that the Tyranid codex didn't need. We have the Tyrannofex as a bullet sponge. We have Carnifexes as adaptable generalist monsters. We have Mawlocs for bunker-busting and mind games with an Ignores Cover "shooting attack". We have Tervigons for a flat support unit that can also hold its own in close combat. We have Trygons and Trygon Primes as the elite melee monsters that also Deep Strike. We have Harpies and Crones to provide flying aerial anti-infantry and anti-flyer/vehicle fire support, respectively. We have Hive Tyrants to be the elite generalist monster that doubles as a support unit with psychic powers and Synapse. With all that said, what does the Haruspex bring that makes it stand out, that gives it some distinct role that means it can be useful in any given army list? Sadly, the answer is nothing. It is a Carnifex without the shooting potential, the ability to be taken in broods, or the low cost. Insultingly, it isn't even as good in combat as a Carnifex. Unlike all the other monsters in the book, I can clearly - and painfully, as I love the model - say that the Haruspex can be outright replaced with other units, specifically melee Carnifexes and Trygons. There just isn't a place for these guys outside of trying to throw in extra monstrous creatures, and it pains me to no end.

How to Equip Them

Like Hive Guard, Haruspexes are one of two units in the Elites slot with access to options outside of simply adding additional models; in this case, they can take one tail weapon and a select few Biomorphs. Though the tail weapons are cool and make a nice return to the codex, I don't think they are worthwhile for the most part. The Haruspex in particular can take the Thresher Scythe, with Strength 4, AP4 and Rending. I would rather pay those kind of points for a proper extra attack using the Haruspex's Strength, Smash and so on, so I'm not really a fan. The Haruspex can take regular Biomorphs, thankfully giving it access to Adrenal Glands and, thus, Fleet. The re-rollable charge and run distances for a dedicated assault monster are pivotal, and so I recommend taking them on every Haruspex you field. Toxin Sacs are, again, the strictly better combat biomorph, but the Haruspex suffers less from making the most of its damage output and more from its inability to reach combat reliably. It lacks the durability of a Tyrannofex, the mobility of a Flying Hive Tyrant, and the Deep Strike specialization of a Trygon. The only real way to mitigate this is with Adrenal Glands, so always try to have some points spare to give it to a Haruspex.

Toxin Sacs are nice, but once combined with Adrenal Glands they add a lot of points to what is already a pretty costly monster, so they can be avoided. Regeneration is the most expensive upgrade, giving the Haruspex a 50% chance to regenerate a lost wound at the end of each of its own turns. Unfortunately, Toughness 6 with five wounds and a 3+ armour save doesn't lend itself as well to Regeneration as, for example, a Tyrannofex. I'm not really sold on this expensive upgrade in general because opponents know to focus down individual targets at a time, and Tyranid monsters aren't exactly the most difficult to kill in one or two shooting phases. To be fair though, this does make more use of Regeneration than a Carnifex with one less wound. But really, aside from Adrenal Glands, the Haruspex doesn't need any upgrades; they are just more points that don't solve its biggest issue in reaching combat. Besides, if Fleet helps it reach combat, then Regeneration won't be needed as it will more than likely get a wound back after each assault phase anyway.

Where to Put Them

Let me get the obvious point out of the way first; as a Leadership 7 monstrous creature with absolutely no shooting capabilities and only decent durability, suffering from Instinctive Behaviour would usually be a pretty big letdown. However, as it is a solo model at all times with the Feed result, a Haruspex will never end up stopping and trying to kill itself, meaning you can somewhat control where it goes. You won't be able to control what it attempts to charge if it fails an Instinctive Behaviour test, and you won't be able to Run. The latter is what really worries the Haruspex, especially if you paid for Adrenal Glands to get the all-important Fleet. Not being able to Run can slow the Haruspex right up and even lead to it dying before it reaches combat. So, long story short; have a Synapse creature near the Haruspex for the first two to three turns until it reaches combat, usually on turn three or four. I prefer the solo Zoanthrope in a Bastion with Dominion for this purpose on the edge of your deployment zone, as its 18" Synapse range measured from the Bastion itself should easily cover for the Haruspex against most opponents. On the short table edge deployment on a 6x4 gaming board against a Tau or Imperial Guard army, though, your Flying Hive Tyrants and the near mandatory Tervigon will be necessary for those extra few turns though.

So, assuming you take Adrenal Glands, what about actually moving up and deploying? Deploy in cover almost all the time as there is no real reason not to; Move Through Cover and Fleet should see a Haruspex not really being slowed at all, while getting those pivotal cover saves. Alternatively, Venomthrope broods obscured by a Haruspex itself are a good fit if you don't want to lose any inches. Always try to keep cover saves up, as a Haruspex is incredibly vulnerable to massed missile launchers, especially with only five wounds compared to a Tervigons' six. This should be possible with Hormagaunts against ground-level opponents, but the Shrouded bubble of Venomthropes - or actually chancing proper terrain - will be necessary against higher-up foes. A Haruspex should be able to beat most units in combat that aren't dedicated assault units; you avoid such units because of its low Weapon Skill and Initiative values of three. You preferably want to be fighting regular infantry without krak grenades or melta bombs, where a Haruspex won't eat the unit too quickly and thus stay in combat for more than one turn, while also benefiting from its ability to regrow wounds as it causes unsaved wounds. Its Crushing Claws give it an edge against a lot of Toughness 6 monstrous creatures, while Smash allows it to inflict Instant Death on Toughness 5 or lower enemies. Walkers and vehicles should be easy prey for a Haruspex, though foes like a Furioso Dreadnought with Blood Talons should probably still be avoided.

Best Uses

I see the Haruspex primarily as an additional monster in a "Nidzilla" - short for monstrous creature spam - list where it won't be the only, or one of few, big bug(s) on the table. As it does lack the mobility, Deep Strike capability or durability of the other melee-oriented monstrous creatures in the codex, the Haruspex really demands a lot of target saturation in your list to survive. Where a Hive Tyrant on foot gets by with its Tyrant Guard bodyguards, a Haruspex has to contend with being a monster - and one that lacks Synapse at that, not that it should matter too much - with no way to really guarantee getting to the opponents' lines. It has less durability than a Trygon and no ability to Deep Strike, and it is in no way faster than any other ground monstrous creature. You need to have other aggressive monsters to take the heat off the Haruspex that, to be perfectly honest, isn't a major threat in combat anyway. Tyrannofexes, Carnifexes and Exocrines are perfect for this, and compliment the Haruspex well. Where those tend to sit just outside of charge ranges to chew through opposing units with shooting, the Haruspex can close with Hormagaunt broods and other assault units to tie up and destroy any stragglers. Give your Haruspexes Adrenal Glands, and run either one or two of them. Unlike other units, the Haruspex is more just a fire sink for your opponent and thus you don't need to worry about unit redundancy with two units. You can get away with just one, especially as taking a brood of Venomthropes and one or more Zoanthropes is always a recommendation of mine. Keep Hormagaunt broods in front of the Haruspex to provide it moving cover, and make sure to give it Adrenal Glands so it doesn't get left behind. Support it with Synapse creatures as necessary so it doesn't potentially forfeit its Run moves.

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.

Haruspex - Adrenal Glands - This is definitely my only real recommendation for running a Haruspex. It wants Fleet above all else to hopefully make it into combat where it should handle itself just fine. The other upgrades are almost superfluous in comparison. You can get away with running the Haruspex stock to save points - after all, you should be using it more as a distraction unit to add to your target saturation - but I think Adrenal Glands are always worthwhile for this beast.

Monstrous Feeders

As the Hive Fleet begins its final descent to end the suffering and life of a planet, so too are the most gruesome and dangerous monsters in the Swarm unleashed. Among these bio-titans and feeding organisms are the Haruspexes, massive beasts created for the sole purpose of consumption. All matter is both food and prey to the Haruspex, with its titanic maw and incredibly long reach. Able to pull a soldier from a dozen paces out of their unit and devour them whole with its long, piercing tongue, the Haruspex is a terrifying foe for any enemy. To glimpse a monster intent on consuming all in its path, and with the bulk and stamina to do so, can paralyze even the strongest wills into numbness - easing the task of a Haruspex further!

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. I feel bug fans were all pretty disappointed with mr.grabbytougne. We were spazing the hell out over it on Warpshadow until we saw the rules for it :<

    1. I know, right? I was so disappointed with the rules because I was actually thinking about picking it up on Day One, even at the cost of delaying my codex purchase. But alas....

  2. I was thinking the same about the haruspex, but the model is so awesome I had to field one, and it actually performed really well in the 4 games I played. I used it with adrenal glands, to give it fleet and FC, which is important for once as it makes it instant killing T4 models.
    I think it performed well thanks to my gargoyle wall tactic and the target saturation. As it's less powerful than many other monsters, it actually reaches combat untouched most of the time.
    It's not great at all at first read, but used smartly it's really good

    1. It's good to hear yours has been doing well.
      Unfortunately for me, every time I've tried one out, it gets monstered in shooting. It needs so much support to make it up the field and get into combat, and once it gets there, it just hasn't done the job for me that I wanted. I just keeping saying to myself "why not just spend those 160 points elsewhere". It's not terrible....but eh. Might just be my Tau/Eldar heavy meta though.

  3. I haven't played yet against Tau, in that case I would probably take an extra tyranofex because fire warriors hate its gun.
    Against Eldars I won pretty easily thanks to sitw (and the horror a few times), my haruspex killed the damn wraithguards with their nasty template weapon (I absorbed the overwatch with another unit of course).
    I know it's not the best choice for 175 points. But taking one decent unit for the model in a 2000 pts army that's otherwise only built for competitive play has been nice so far :)

    1. To be fair, it isn't like it is too expensive. 160-175 points is bordering on the "throw into list" territory for a T6 W5 3+ monster, so its not too bad. I just wish there was more end product and a reliable way to make combat.

      Still, that's nice to hear yours has been going nicely! Hopefully my luck will change!

  4. Do you think the Haruspex would be worth taking if it were a Synapse Creature?

    PS I generally call mine "Uncle Harry"

  5. Also: do you think they were trying to make this be more like a "tank" in the MMO sense, a low-damage unit that takes a lot of work to erase?

    (Unfortunately that doesn't really fit the way 40K plays...)

  6. To be fair to the 'Spex I think it's fairly priced when you look at what you get and is pretty good at it's intended role of blob tarpitter. Pile it into a high-modelcount, low capability blob and let it chew through them, leaving your own Gaunt blobs to tie up other targets or cap objectives.

    The Wraithknight comparison is a bit unfair, given that the 'Knight is 80pts more expensive base and the Macey Prince clocks in at 45pts more expensive, 85pts more if it's flying. I'd expect them to do better! :]

    Break down the cost:

    Crushing claws: 15pts
    Acid blood: 15pts
    Regen (of sorts): 30pts

    What we're left with is a 100pt MC with 2S less than a 'Fex (Claws up it to S7), +1W, +1I, the chance for extra attacks & a snipey ranged attack all outside of a HS slot. IMO they value out at fairly even with what you get if you're against a blobby opponent like Orks, IG/AM or 'Nids, but like all assaulty 'Nids the problem is getting them across the board :(

  7. I think some of the comments in this article may be a bit outdated now that 7th has hit. The Trygon comparison no longer makes much sense given that the Smash attack has been nerfed. Now, especially in close combat against vehicles, the Haruspex is clearly the superior choice. On the charge, it will be STR 8 with armourbane, so the average armor penetration roll will be a 15. That is enough to pen a land raider. Of course, it still lacks the mobility of a Trygon, but I just see them as filling quite different battlefield roles.

    1. Just to clarify, the STR 8 includes the Furious Charge bonus from AG, which I assume anyone using the Haru is going to take.