10 Feb 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Venomthropes

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Venomthropes are another key support unit that the Elites section provides, showing clear inspiration and similarities to Zoanthrope broods. But where Zoanthropes are psychic artillery batteries and Synapse generators, Venomthropes are built for providing extra defences to nearby Tyranids, giving them boosted cover saves to try and make up for the army-wide lack of invulnerable saves. I hope you enjoy this article!



As with the name, one of the early conclusions to be made about Venomthropes is their striking similarities to Zoanthropes - at least in regards to stats, anyway. Their offensive capabilities are low with Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill three - though the latter only comes into play when manning emplaced weapons as Venomthropes lack guns - and only two attacks each at Strength 4. Their Initiative of three is mediocre, but it boosts up to a whopping six due to their lash whips. Like most bearers of lash whips though, Venomthropes lack assault grenades meaning the Initiative boost won't come into play all the time. They also have Toxic Miasma, giving them a one-use-only extra melee attack of sorts that is good at clearing out any fragile infantry they are engaged in. Considering Venomthropes are fragile in combat though and will fall to massed attacks of any kind, they probably won't get to use it except against very minor opposition or when they are engaged in a multi-charge with other Tyranid units. Their Toughness of 4 and two wounds per model are also shared with Zoanthropes, as are the seemingly token 5+ armour saves that are generally rendered moot by either units' own unique defensive abilities. Where Zoanthropes have a 3+ invulnerable save, Venomthropes have the Shrouded special rule. This means they have a walking 5+ cover save in the open, a 3+ cover save in area terrain such as forests or craters, and a 2+ cover save in ruins or behind barricades and defensive lines. While obviously not as good as a 3+ invulnerable save that can't be ignored by any means, having strong cover saves almost universally is still very good against many armies - Tau, Eldar and Daemons notwithstanding of course. Unlike Zoanthropes and more akin to Lictors, Venomthropes really have to beware Smart Missile Systems in particular; they wound your toxic dispersal dudes on a 3+ and ignore both their armour and cover saves.

Where Venomthropes really start to differ to Zoanthropes though is in how they function as a support unit, especially as the former does not provide Synapse. Their Leadership 6 and Lurking Instinctive Behaviour is quite an issue, meaning they will fall back half of the time that they fail one of their tests, while the chance of failing the test itself is also quite high. Panic! They are thus a support unit that needs to be kept in Synapse, unlike Tervigons and Zoanthropes that provide their own Synapse bubbles. However, Venomthropes have arguably the strongest support ability as they provide the Shrouded special rule to units within 6" - the main rulebook states that only one model has to have Shrouded for it to confer to an entire unit, after all! Giving your hordes of Termagants and Hormagaunts moving 5+ cover saves is a bit ridiculous, as is having six wound Toughness 6 monstrous creatures such as Tyrannofexes and Tervigons with 3+ cover saves for moving through any kind of terrain. The Venomthropes themselves are quite fragile, but while they survive, they provide an immense survivability boost to every friendly Tyranid unit within 6" which - once one remembers that Tyranids are almost entirely based around short-ranged foot-slogging infantry and monsters - is one of the best abilities in the codex by far. Any decent opponent will learn to focus on the Venomthropes first to remove these buffs from other units, so a smart Tyranid player will have to hide them from shooting as much as possible, whether through large intervening models or staying in buildings.

Where to Put Them

Before I start, let me just re-iterate that Venomthropes are fragile in the same sense as Zoanthropes, but even more so. Where Zoanthropes don't care about Ignores Cover weapons, Venomthropes are scared to death of them. Venomthropes are also Toughness 4 with two wounds each, and with no guaranteed 3+ save, they are even less durable than two Tactical Marines for the most part. Unlike Zoanthropes, Venomthropes need to be within 6" of friendly units - rather than 12" or 18" - to be providing their defensive boosts, meaning that trying to keep them a long way back behind the lines simply will not work. So, with that out of the way, let's begin. I don't recommend purchasing Venomthropes for units like Biovores and Hive Guard who will usually be hiding anyway, even if you also want the Venomthropes out of sight. The units that really need that Shrouded bubble are your basic units and monsters, the ones that slog up the field to the enemy to try and get in range with their short-ranged guns or melee attacks. These are your Termagants and Hormagaunts, your Tyrannofexes and Tervigons, your Carnifexes and Exocrines, and so on. A 6" bubble extending from each model in a unit isn't too difficult to keep in range of multiple units; use the 2" unit coherency between your Venomthropes to cover an effective 14" diameter. Only one model and even just part of that models' base has to be within that 14" diameter for its entire unit to benefit from Shrouded, and yes, this also works for monstrous creatures with their massive bases.

So how do you actually keep the Venomthropes alive within range of these units? First off, remember to always use intervening models. Only 25% of a model has to be obscured from it to benefit from a 5+ cover save, meaning Hormagaunts and Termagants alike give an obscured bonus to Venomthropes. Stack this with Shrouding and this gives Venomthropes an incredibly easily accessed 3+ cover save. This is the most obvious and general way to keep them alive. The next is to hide them completely behind much larger models, typically Carnifex broods of two or more models, or a huge monster such as an Exocrine or a Tyrannofex. Each of these can obscure one or more Venomthropes entirely if they are bunched behind the monster(s), keeping them out of sight from ranged attacks almost entirely - the exceptions usually being deep striking forces or fast skimmer flankers - and giving them cover saves if they are spotted. The next step is dealing with barrage weapons that don't give a rats about intervening models or line of sight. Here, keeping the Venomthropes in cover is ideal if you do see barrage weapons, as you should be doing with the rest of your advancing models. Venomthropes may lack Move Through Cover which makes them a bit slower than many Tyranids, but they will always be Running and so this shouldn't be too big an issue. As long as it isn't an Ignores Cover barrage, moving up through a forest or crater will provide 3+ cover saves against those weapons.

Template weapons are obviously an issue, but most aren't that mobile; the trick is to keep the Venomthropes centred between many other Tyranids, meaning most templates won't be able to reach them. Spaced out horde units can halt Heldrakes from getting into position anywhere near your Venomthropes even with an effective 20" template weapon, which is also a reward for being able to move your individual models very quickly while spacing them out. The big issue comes against Smart Missile Systems, of course, with their 30" range and four twin-linked shots that ignore line of sight, cover and the 5+ armour save for Venomthropes. These things murder Venomthropes, and the only real way to hide them is to embark them in a building such as a Bastion. While I prefer a Zoanthrope manning a Bastion for the boosted Synapse bubble, a Venomthrope in a forward deployed Bastion can provide cover saves to your advancing units in the first few turns which can still prove crucial. The more bodies you have in the later stages of the game, the more pressured their shooters become!

Best Uses

I feel the best application of Venomthropes is in a list supporting primarily Carnifex and Termagant broods just for the sheer ridiculousness of giving so many cheap bodies 5+ cover saves in the open, and 3+ or better cover saves once in terrain - which both broods basically negate. These units aren't too fast to outrun your Venomthrope bubble without compromising their own chances of reaching combat or an effective range for their guns, but nor are they plodding and expensive. The more models that you provide Shrouded to, the more valuable it becomes as the more models you can potentially rescue with cover saves. Keep a Carnifex brood in front of about two Venomthropes to block all sight to them, with two or more well-spaced Termagant broods on both the flanks and slightly in front of the Carnifexes. Give the monsters twin-linked brain leech devourers for maximum pain at 18", making them deadly hard to shift while dealing incredible amounts of damage. Realistically, though, any combination of units that moves about an average of 9" to 10" a turn is a good fit for Venomthropes; any faster will probably get out of range of their Shrouded bubble, or is just wasting points by not making the most of their speed. Hormagaunts are still quite ridiculous with easy cover saves, but keeping the Venomthropes within range can be tricky unless you sacrifice the Bounding Leap advantage Hormagaunts have over Termagants. Tyrannofexes in particular though are absolutely ridiculous with Shrouded, making for easily the toughest unit in the codex by the length of the straight. Their average 20" range with the Acid Spray also suits Venomthropes who don't particularly want to get within close combat range as they are a weak melee unit and more fragile in combat than they are against most shooting. I like the use of Venomthropes in a building, like the cheap purchase of a Bastion for a guaranteed building, but I honestly prefer Zoanthropes there because the Synapse bubble can make or break Tyranid armies. Extra defensive boosts are obviously nice, but having units fail Instinctive Behaviour tests can actively lose a Tyranid player the game, so I feel protecting and boosting your Synapse is a priority.

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.

Venomthropes (2) - I am preferring Venomthropes in pairs, again, because they aren't as easy to kill nor are they too expensive. Besides, having two Venomthropes spaced 2" apart gives a really nice 14" bubble of Shrouded for your army, all for less than a hundred points. How many other armies can claim to do that? 

Noxious Vents

The Tyranids are nothing if not ingenious predators, able to adapt to any environment and ensure its eradication. As alien as they are, one cannot help but respect - if in abject horror - the tactics they employ so that each world they attack is consumed. Once such disgusting practice is the creation of Venomthropes, living vents of toxic fluids and spores that infect and paralyze all enemy life around them. Much like poisoning a well or the food supplies of a garrison, Venomthropes spread their deadly toxins into the atmosphere itself to make even oxygen a weapon against those foolish enough to stand before the might of a Swarm. These tentacled beasts ensnare and capture those who attempt to strike at the heart of these noxious vapours, soon finding their folly as their flesh and minds slowly dissolve like a killer virus set loose. Though they are physically weak and incapable of self defence against heavily armoured foes, they emit a cloud of spores able to shroud both themselves and any nearby Tyranid organisms from enemy fire. The advance of a Tyranid swarm can be dependent on these creatures, acting as beacons for entire armies to move forward under duress with few casualties.

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. And yes, I know that picture is of a Malanthrope.....but who cares! It rocks!


  1. Great article as ever Mr Eel. One minor quibble that I think I noticed in the Swarmlord article as well, is that intervening units don't need to obscure the target by 25%. They just need to be in in-between the targeted unit and the shooter. Only buildings need to obscure a model by 25%.

    The reason given in the BRB is that the unit may not simply obscure the firing unit but also distract it due to being more of an immediate threat (a possible throwback to target priority in 4th edition). The rule, as is often the case with GW, isn't that well written and I won't quote it here verbatim but a crucial segment; "if a model fires through the gaps between models in an intervening unit, the target is in cover, even if it is completely visible to the firer."

    This makes venomthropes (I'd recommend two - always have contingency) with tervigon and associated 30 termagants (bubble wrap/cover) very dangerous. Throw in the Norn Crown, Regen and the Dominion psychic power and you have quite the formidable synapse bunker and troop choice. Your enemy may very well break it in the end, but the firepower required to do so will keep the heat off of other portions of your army.

    1. Wow, I honestly never noticed that. My gaming group has been playing it wrong this whole time! Drat!

      Great post mate, some great insight!

    2. It's not just you, everyone I encounter plays the 25% rule with intervening units. It just seems to be one of those rules that never gets picked up until it's specifically pointed out - like defensive grenades giving stealth if the firing unit is within 8" of it's target.