8 Feb 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Lictors

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! The Tyranids are not above - or beyond, depending on how you interpret a species so alien - resorting to assassination to destabilize and weaken a planet, and Lictors are billed as masters of the art. Though it isn't really their purpose, it is still something they pull off frequently in the background. They are a fragile and unwieldy unit in-game as you would likely expect, and one with a plethora of special rules and cool abilities. I hope you enjoy this article!



Sharing a similar role to Genestealers as part of a Vanguard force, Lictors are distinct in that they are multiple-wound models with an eye-opening plethora of special rules. But first, let me address their stats making them surprisingly analogous to a range of independent characters. They are Weapon Skill and Initiative 6 and are one of only two units - the other being Deathleaper - in the army to natively possess assault grenades. They will strike before most units and will have even Space Marine Captains hitting them on 4s. Their Ballistic Skill 3 isn't much to write home about but, with Flesh Hooks and one of their unique special rules, it does allow them to be rather nifty little tank hunters. Each Lictor has four attacks base once you factor their paired melee weapons in combat and a whopping base Strength 6, meaning they can pretty easily rip open Wave Serpents to Leman Russ Demolishers on the charge. If a Lictor brood manages to snare an Eldar or Tau character or, humorously, a Command Squad or Heavy Weapon Team - if you see them - then lots of nasty Instant Death wounds will follow. They may lack the Smash rule shared by monstrous creatures, but the ability to wound even Space Marines on 2s with no modifiers is not to be sniffed at. Where Lictors do start to lose some traction though is with their survivability; each Lictor does have a tasty three wounds, but only a 5+ armour save for protection. Toughness 4 and this low armour save makes them a "bolter bait" unit, with a salvo from Fire Warriors in rapid fire range backed by Markerlight support for Ignores Cover sure to put even three Lictors down in no time. Tau Smart Missile Systems are about the worst nightmare for Lictors, with a 30" range, Strength 5 and AP5 meaning they wound Lictors on 3s and ignore both their armour and cover saves.

Of course, Lictors aren't a typical "run blindly at the enemy" unit like Hormagaunts or one of the many monstrous creatures in the codex. They have a number of special rules to give them a place on the battlefield beyond a mere expensive, fragile melee unit with limited ranged options. Their Chameleonic Skin and Deep Strike special rule allow Lictors to arrive from reserves without scattering, meaning they can be placed anywhere that is 1" away from impassable terrain and other models and just sit there with a big wide grin on their faces. They can also Infiltrate - and consequently Outflank - giving them unparalleled deployment flexibility for a Tyranid unit. Their 5+ armour save is certainly meek, so they have a number of boosts for being in terrain; they have Move Through Cover and thus don't take dangerous terrain tests when they Deep Strike, nor are they slowed in terrain. They come stock with Stealth, giving them a 6+ cover save out in the open and a +1 bonus to any other cover save they get. Having Lictors in a forest gives them a 4+ cover save right off the bat. From there, Lictors are a very mobile assault unit with Fleet for re-rolling both their Run and charge distances that, paired with assault grenades, make them possibly the most "modern" melee unit in the codex - they care little for you cover camping xenos! They even have possibly the gem of special rules for assault units with Hit and Run, meaning they can escape less favourable combats and freely move out of one combat to engage another unit - or just get the charge bonus again! With all their deployment options, including no scatter on Deep Strike, Lictors are a unit based around dictating their own personal battles. They can hide in terrain and arrive from reserve wherever they want, and they can reliably make it into combats and then escape them whenever they want. Unlike Genestealers, they do have Instinctive Behaviour, though their Leadership 10 is certainly helpful in this regard. Lurk means they will fall back half the time, while the other half of the results see the Lictors being practically immobile. For an assault unit, this is really bad, but something you shouldn't have to worry too much about because of that high Leadership.

Lictors are also supposed to fill a distinct support role in the army, that of sharing their no-scatter deep striking with allied Tyranids. Their Pheremone Trail can be used by allies on the turn after the Lictors have arrived from reserves - making it more useful for Infiltrating Lictors so that your reserves can use the bonus if they arrive on turn two. It applies to units that want to arrive within 6" of eligible Lictor broods, though it is limited by the lack of units able to deep strike in the codex; these are Spore Mine Clusters, Rippers and Sky Slashers, Shrikes, Gargoyles, Trygons, Trygon Primes and Mawlocs. Both Trygon variants really don't need the bonus because with Fleet, a 12" ranged attack and no mishaps when they hit a unit, they aren't so fussed about scattering. Spore Mine Clusters obviously want the help, but they are a cheap sacrificial unit and it would be a mistake to take Lictors just for them, though large Ripper and Sky Slasher broods may prove worthwhile for this tactic. Gargoyles are better off moving up the field as moving cover for your ground and flying monstrous creatures, and I think Shrikes are a bit too scared of most Interceptor shots to really risk Deep Striking. Mawlocs, on the other hand, with their cover-ignoring Strength 6 AP2 large blast attack, absolutely love this help. The 6" range is rather paltry though and, once you factor in that the Lictors have to start their turn within 6" of a unit you want to hit, it isn't that great. Unless they are hiding in a terrain piece near an enemy unit, the chances of it actually helping a Mawloc out are slim to none. Lictors never want to finish their own turn out of combat and within such a short range of opposing units unless they are on the other side of a terrain piece, due solely to their fragility when out of cover. If you do happen to strike gold and get the benefit, then by all means, it will be worthwhile. But really, the chances of it actually working as you want are so low that, in general, I don't see Pheromone Trail as a reason to take Lictors.

The last aspect of Lictors to cover is where they will do the most damage; in close quarters combat. Each Lictor has the aforementioned Weapon Skill and Initiative 6 with assault grenades and three attacks per model. These are impressive stats that are usually only shared by Space Marine special characters, though of course the fragility of Lictors is what makes them a distinctly separate unit. Like almost any Tyranid, Lictors come with close combat weapons, though they have two pairs stock as opposed to one. These are Scything Talons and Rending Claws, meaning that Lictors actually have four attacks base per model and five each on the charge. These are certainly impressive numbers, especially as Lictors actually do come stock with Rending Claws. In fact, for raw damage output, Lictors beat out the identically priced Tyrant Guard - without upgrades - with their higher stats, an extra attack per model and assault grenades. They lack the survivability, of course, but it is an interesting trait to note. As an aside, forget about the Scything Talons; there is never any reason to use them over the Rending Claws. Ask yourself, do you want to trade AP5 and Rending for mere Ap6 with no Rending? Yeah, stick with the Rending Claws. Additionally, Lictors have Fear, if it really means anything. Fear is worthless against most dedicated assault units as they usually have Fearless, while all Space Marines have And They Shall Know No Fear. Monstrous Creatures are all immune to Fear, and that thus leaves very few units that you both want the Fear bonus against and are prone to it. Tau are almost universally hitting your Lictors on 5s anyway, while squads of Guardsmen - for example - are going to get decimated in droves by all the Strength 6 AP5 attacks anyway.

By the by, five attacks per model on the charge at Stength 6, AP5 stock and the potential for Rending, as well as their high stats, actually makes Lictors one of the nastiest melee units that isn't a monstrous creature for Tyranids. Though I recommend never charging Terminators with them, a brood of three Lictors that charges - for example - bog standard Terminators will dish out fifteen attacks for ten hits. They will wound about nine times, one or two of which will be Rending. This means three Lictors can pretty reliably kill about three Terminators on the charge before they strike, which is hardly something to sneeze at. Power fists will of course rip apart Lictors in a heartbeat, so I would never actually do it. Still, if you see elite units with only a few models - or wounds - left, then charging Lictors into them is hardly a bad idea. A Riptide against those same three Lictors would have to take about three to four armour saves and one to two invulnerable saves when charged, while it would need 5s to hit the Lictors back with its two Smash attacks. Not bad at all. If you don't factor in Overwatch, three Lictors will have a lot of fun against a ten-strong Tactical Squad with a bare Sergeant. Again, ten hits with about nine wounds, one or two of which are Rending. That's is about four to five dead Tactical Marines on the charge. Ouch! Their six to five attacks back will hit about three times, doing about two wounds rounding up, which the Lictors should fail one or two armour saves and still have two or one wounds left on a Lictor. Theoretically, Lictors can hold their own in combat against a lot of units. The issues emerge once you do factor in Overwatch and shooting at the Lictors. Overwatch with any kind of AP5 template weapon will cause at least a few wounds alone on the brood, while rapid firing bolters from a ten-strong Tactical Squad will do a few wounds as well. Lictors are fragile in shooting, and as such are unlikely - even with all their "hiding skills" - to make it to combat without one or two casualties. Once they do make it, most vehicles, standard infantry that aren't in high numbers, and even some monstrous creatures will be easy prey for them. They are essentially a glass hammer with a ridiculous number of special rules to make up for how fragile they are.

Where to Put Them

There are three deployment options available to Lictors, two of which will compete against each other based on what you need Lictors to do, and the third of which is consequently rendered entirely pointless by one of those two. One of the two unique special rules Lictors possess is Chameleonic Skin, allowing them to deep strike without scatter. As with Swooping Hawks, this is an amazing ability simply because Lictors can literally pop up anywhere you need them on the battlefield without ever worrying about deployment or movement. What isn't so amazing is the lack of an effective ranged attack or the ability to go back into reserves freely, but it is nonetheless a great ability to allow a pretty decent melee unit a shortcut into combat. The other main option is Infiltrate, letting Lictors deploy between 18" to 12" away from enemy units depending on whether line of sight can be established or not. This also allows Lictors to Outflank, the aforementioned third deployment option, but it is rendered competely null by Chameleonic Skin. Instead of staying in reserve, then seeing which table edge you come from, Lictors that Deep Strike can arrive wherever they please. There's literally no point to ever Outflank Lictors instead of Deep Striking them.

As far as which situations benefit Deep Striking or Infiltrating, you need to factor in what you are going up against and the terrain available. A lack of cover in an 18" to 12" outside the opponents' deployment zone doesn't favour Infiltrating if they are a gunline because they can remain static and shoot the Lictors as soon as they pop out. If there is terrain in that gap, then Infiltrating becomes much more viable as the Lictors will actually be able to hide as they advance so that they can reach combat. Against more mobile lists that rely on short to medium ranged firepower, such as Grey Knights or mechanized Space Marines, hiding out of sight and attempting a charge on these vehicles once they advance might seem an easy choice, but I recommend against it. Charging a vehicle won't see the Lictors tied up and thus able to survive from shooting. Unless it is something like a Predator or other valuable vehicle, I recommend against charging it. Yes, destroying even a cheap transport is nice, but it isn't exactly a good exchange for a unit that can cost upwards of a hundred points. It depends on what is in the transport and what kind of transport it is. If you face an Eldar player that, for whatever reason, moves a Wave Serpent or Falcon near your Lictors, then don't hesitate; charge it! Punish those mistakes as Eldar Grav Tanks are most vulnerable in close combat. If it is a Rhino packing Honour Guard or a Sternguard Veteran squad that can jump out and kill your Lictors once they come into line of sight next turn, you may as well stop their mobility. For a transport carrying a Tactical Squad, for example, you really have to weigh up if attempting to destroy their transport is worth the guaranteed sacrifice of the Lictors.

Deep Striking comes into play more against backfield-sitting Wave Serpent lists or static gunlines when you don't have that cover available. You can hide the Lictors for a whole game turn from Smart Missile Systems and other weapons that will kill them quickly. You can deep strike them right behind a Skyray or a Fire Prism and let loose with Flesh Hooks on their vulnerable rear AV10. Chameleonic Skin gives the most options, as Deep Striking anywhere you want - especially against lists with artillery or Devastator units, or full gunlines - without scattering can lead to their usage as denial units, mobile assault units or light ranged units. They are, like deep-striking Rippers, a unit that isn't too valuable or dangerous but are just threatening enough to either force an opponent to shoot at them or charge and tie up - or kill - a unit. By the by, don't ever run Lictors out of cover unless you are sure they are going to charge that turn - Fleet is very handy indeed - which usually means about a 7" charge range if you want to be safe. The reason for this is that they are 5+ armoured bodies at Toughness 4, meaning they will drop to small arms fire - even from a decent amount of lasguns - very swiftly. With Move Through Cover and Fleet, there's basically no reason not to have them in cover. If you don't think you can reach combat or make a shooting attack without moving out of cover, Infiltrate or Deep Strike the Lictors on to an objective and force your opponent to come to them if they want more victory points.

Best Uses

With most static gunlines able to hide back behind a no mans land zone and pound Lictors to death if they try to move up, and more aggressive lists able to use their transports to move around or just plow through the Lictors, I'm generally more a fan of deep striking them. They can be hidden on the first turn from weapons like Smart Missile Systems, and they can freely pop up wherever they want as opposed to - usually - 18" away from opponents. You can use their Flesh Hooks to try and get shots on the rear armour of vehicles, or you can pop up adjacent to Pathfinders and Devastators in cover. Arrive in the lower levels of ruins and, depending on the architecture of the structure, such units won't even be able to see the Lictors if they are on the higher levels. If you aren't facing Smart Missile Systems or a static gunline, then Infiltrating is also a good option. This means you don't have to roll for reserves, guaranteeing that they will be on the board when you want them to. Pheromone Trail helps for any deep-striking Trygons, Mawlocs and Trygon Primes you have, with the second in particular loving no scatter on deep strike. Though the 6" range is pretty minimal, a proliferation of cover should make this possible, especially if your opponent is moving their foot-slogging infantry forward. Baiting by sitting on an objective with the threat of a Mawloc arriving to support the Lictors can dissuade opponents from attempting to take it if the Lictors are well hidden and cannot be shot at until the opposing unit is in close proximity. But really, the lack of deep-striking units in the Tyranid army makes Lictors suited to a disruption role first and foremost, and for this, Infiltrating near to plotted advances by fragile transports or heavy ranged units with a short range is a good and simple use for them. Deep Striking with no scatter allows you to pop up near whatever unit you want and using whatever cover or blocking terrain you want. Ruins and buildings are your best bet with their higher cover saves and solid walls.

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.

Lictors (2) - With no upgrades, I'll just delve into what squad size I prefer for Lictors. Two is the middle-ground, having six Toughness 4 wounds that mean they aren't so easy as First Blood or kill point bait, nor are they too expensive. 

Vanguard Assassins

There are countless stories that Imperial Guardsmen spread among planetary garrisons of the many alien and supernatural threats that they, or others, have faced. Great monsters that can barrel through fortifications with ease; traitorous incursions from within by possessed warriors, and; the dead themselves rising again and again to the slaughter. But few are more terrifying than the dreaded creatures that form the vanguard of a Tyranid invasion. These stalkers, these Lictors, prey on the unknowing and the fearful. The shadows are their domain alone, shredding and consuming any foolish enough to get in their way. They are intelligent beyond the means of most other Tyranids, able to detect through instinct and observation the valuable individuals in any planetary defensive effort. Whether they make their name as brutal killers in the night, or as mere beacons for the Hive Fleets, Lictors are one of the last sights any human would ever wish to see. For any such unfortunate souls, their survival chances will be as likely as evading rain in a thunder-storm.

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.


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  2. Hi, on the deepstrike capable units you forgot to include the rippers. I know they do not excel at almost anything but they could be excellent harassing units. What would you shoot first a unit capable of 5 attacks or one with 50 plus the capacity to absorb damage. Also they could solve the issue of overwatch by charging first.

    What do you think?. Maybe this Lictor menace are just that a menace that should distract your opponent until a late game support , I would try an spear head assault from behind including Lictors and 9 bases ripper units (36 wounds) in heavy cover.

    1. Heh, everyone forgets about Rippers and Sky-Slashers it seems! Shrikes are a big one though.

  3. Scything talons are actually useful to not kill an entire squad with a 5+ save in one round. Next round you switch to rending claws and finish them to assault another unit