1 Feb 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Warriors

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Warriors are the most iconic and classic of all Tyranids, existing in the fiction for the race since their inception back in the Rogue Trader era. They have always been the archetype, the true identity of the Tyranids. Though they have not seen the justice they deserve from a rules perspective, they nonetheless have their many uses on the battlefield. I hope you enjoy this article!

Tyranid Warriors


Warriors are effectively the Tyranid equivalent to Tactical Marines, albeit at slightly over double the cost even before their significant range of costly upgrades are taken into account. Their profile is definitely alluring, though the cost is off-putting, especially once one realizes they lack Eternal Warrior. I'll start by addressing the elephant in the room; the survivability of Warriors. With three wounds each at Toughness 4 with a 4+ armour save, Warriors are as durable against AP5 or worse small arms fire as Terminators, and not much less durable against AP4 or better small arms fire. Against AP2 shooting that is Strength 7 or lower, Warriors are effectively twice as durable, able to lose two wounds per model before losing any full models, whereas Terminators only get a 5+ invulnerable save for one wound per model. For every Warrior that dies to Strength 7 AP2 shooting, two Terminators will die. Obviously, Warriors are at home against massed small arms fire and plasma that are so oft seen in this meta. Where the issues arise is that Warriors are Toughness 4 and thus incredibly prone to instant death from easily accessed Strength 8 weaponry. Warriors rely on their three wounds each to make up for a mediocre Toughness and armour save, giving them their high cost per model. When you take that advantage away, they may as well just be Toughness 4 Fire Warriors at over three times the cost before upgrades. Riptides with Ion Accelerators are by far the worst unit to face for Warriors, while missile launchers, hades autocannons, pulsars, heavy wraithcannons, battle cannons and all other manner of guns terrify Warriors to no end. One of the most devastating answers to Warriors, ironically, comes in the form of Hive Guard, ignoring both cover and line of sight as they shoot their conveniently Strength 8 AP4 guns at 24" ranges. This is why Warriors are always a difficult choice to recommend, just because they can either face an opponent lacking Strength 8 shooting - such as Necrons - or see so much of it they may as well not exist, like against Tau or Space Marines.

Moving on, Warriors do have an otherwise really nice profile, but again one that doesn't really make them worth the expense. They are Strength 4 with three attacks each base, easily able to get five each on the charge through free weapon exchanges at the cost of any ranged presence. Their Weapon Skill 5 and Initiative 4 make them more than decent melee units even left stock, while their massive range of options - from Adrenal Glands to Flesh Hooks and Rending Claws - can boost their effectiveness to staggering degrees. I personally prefer to keep them cheap, but some have found success with Warriors as elite melee units that scythe through Space Marines, Wraithknights and tanks with ease. This usually involves a mix of Rending Claws, Boneswords and Toxin Sacs, though any mix of upgrades for Warriors will see their cost skyrocket well above that of Terminators and closer to Centurion levels. On the flip side, Warriors are mediocre shooters with only Ballistic Skill 3 and decent but hardly top notch guns. A Warrior with a Devourer has a three shot 18" gun at Strength 4 with no AP that hits on 4s without modifiers, compared to a Fire Warrior with a pulse rifle that has a 30" gun at Strength 5 with AP5 that hits on 4s with far more easily accessed modifiers and a second shot at 15". When you factor in that a Warrior is more than three times the cost of a Fire Warrior, the basic infantry of another codex, Warriors are out-classed by a very significant margin by the ranged Troops choices of other codices in shooting. Their damage output just isn't that high, and their survivability is basically reliant on an opponent lacking instant death attacks, but that isn't all there is to Warriors. They are your most easily accessed, and one of the cheapest, Synapse units and give out that potent anti-psyker Shadow in the Warp bubble as an obvious extra. Like a Tyranid Prime or a Zoanthrope, it is their Synapse generation ability that makes them worthwhile above almost all their other abilities. They are there to provide extra Synapse when your big monsters inevitably go down, and they do a decent - if uninspiring - job of it, provided you keep them cheap. Warriors are essentially a false trap; they lure you in with many cool upgrades, but you should really just keep them stock.

How to Equip Them

As Warriors pay the same price for weaponry as a Tyranid Prime or Hive Tyrant does, I tend to avoid the melee centric upgrades as they are very expensive and far more valuable for other units. Rending Claws are cheap and far more worthwhile than Scything Talons, so I would recommend them on a few Warriors in a unit so that they can threaten vehicles and medium infantry in combat. One or two Boneswords paired up with Toxin Sacs for every four or five Warriors in a unit can give them a nice, if unreliable answer to monstrous creatures with 3+ armour saves such as Wraithknights and Daemon Princes. Still, Boneswords are expensive, and Warriors really don't have any reliable means to reach combat, so they are more of a utility upgrade in a medium sized squad of five or more Warriors. Lash Whips and Boneswords really aren't necessary or worthwhile I feel, especially as a bonesword with flesh hooks negates the disadvantages of charging through terrain - which is more important for an Initiative 4 unit - and is slightly cheaper. Lash Whips require the use of flesh hooks to really be worthwhile, and adding those two upgrades to any single Warrior almost doubles their base cost. Investing in melee Warriors just isn't that worthwhile, especially as they aren't nearly as durable per point as Carnifexes, nor have the means of delivery like Trygons. Adrenal Glands and Rending Claws are what I would give to each model in the unit, with the latter an upgrade you can afford to spread around rather than invest in for every Warrior.

The limit of only one bio-cannon for a unit regardless of size is one of many reasons I prefer small three-strong broods for decently priced Synapse and light ranged support. Barbed Stranglers and Venom Cannons are both decent purchases, with the former using Pinning to be a nice threat even against Space Marines, while the latter is the equivalent of the small blast firing mode for a Miasma Cannon against Tau and Eldar. I prefer the Barbed Strangler for the Pinning, especially with Tyranids having so many abilities affecting Leadership, such as Shadow in the Warp. Pinning down a ten-strong Strike Squad with a small three-strong Warrior brood because they happened to be in Shadows range of a flying Hive Tyrant is very amusing indeed! The other two Warriors in such a unit can be left bare, or even just given Rending Claws to take down AV10 and AV11 rear armoured vehicles with four Rending attacks each on the charge. Devourers are decent short ranged weapons, with Spinefists being a free exchange. I prefer Devourers for the extra 6" range and Strength 4, but the twin-linking on Spinefists and AP5 means that it isn't as easy a choice as it used to be. Deathspitters are the other ranged option, being Strength 5 and AP5 with that 18" range, but also being a (cheap) paid for upgrade. I tend to want to shave as many points off of Warriors brood as possible as trying to kit them out just makes them even more inefficient Terminator equivalents with neither the durability or the overall offensive grunt - and Terminators aren't even that great themselves! If you are sold on a melee unit, I recommend Adrenal Glands first and foremost more for the Fleet than Strength 5, though the latter effect is certainly very handy - especially when combined with Rending Claws. Keep the Warriors as cheap as possible after the Adrenal Glands, with maybe a few Rending Claws on each model. You can exchange the Devourers for free Scything Talons so that each Warrior has five attacks each on the charge, but in nearly any situation, those three Strength 4 shots at 18" are far better, doubling as three extra attacks at range instead of just one.

Where to Put Them

Warriors kitted out for melee probably want to be Outflanked using a Hive Tyrants' Hive Commander ability mostly for their protection and a gateway into the flank of an opponents deployment zone. Strength 7 AP4 and Strength 8 AP3 weapons tend to be the truest bane of Warriors, and aside from Armoured Battle Companies and Farsight Enclave lists, such weapons usually aren't seen throughout the majority of an army list. Use the turns that the Warriors are off the board - and even their own alpha strike when they arrive, provided they aren't destroyed by Interceptor shooting - to try and destroy such units if at all possible, or at least reduce their numbers. If you aren't a fan of this tactic, use Hormagaunt screens and make sure to give the Warriors Adrenal Glands above all else. This will allow the Warriors to be mobile, have intervening cover from the relatively tall Hormagaunt models, and provide Synapse for the cheap melee hordes. This is probably the way that Warriors were designed to function in a standard Tyranid list, and while it is simple, I'm not sold on its effectiveness. As Synapse creatures that are so vulnerable to Instant Death, Warriors are a big and obvious target for opponents that increases proportionately based on how many models are in the unit. They are expensive, especially with melee upgrades, and aren't really as mobile or durable as they need to be to foot-slog. Keeping to cover, even without Move Through Cover, is probably necessary.

For a ranged unit, the same principle of keeping to cover applies, save that you don't need to worry as much about being slowed down as such units can ply their trade at 18" rather than in base contact. These units are cheaper, less likely to be left out in the open due to failed charges or wanting to avoid the movement penalties of cover, and do their damage at range, making them more viable in larger units. They aren't the most effective shooters for their cost, but they nonetheless work very well as secondary Synapse units for short-ranged Termagant broods. Their general 18" range for shooting means they can stay just in range and affect Termagant units with the back models 6" away from an enemy unit. A unit of three with a barbed strangler or venom cannon is a more expensive alternative to a Zoanthrope for hiding in your backfield to babysit the amazing Biovores, but they do get scoring in the deal to make up for it. This is where I see Warriors being the most useful they can be; as a cheap scoring unit that can wade through most small arms fire, offers some extra damage at 18" and in melee, can score a home objective and provides Synapse to your long range units typically dependent on Synapse.

Best Uses

Warriors don't really work as a melee unit as they are fragile against heavy weaponry of which any army can bring lots of, even rival Tyranids, and the removal of Mycetic Spores means Warriors have no real way to make combat reliably. They can be Outflanked with Hive Commander to provide a probable turn three charge, as well as forward Synapse for fast Gargoyle and Hormagaunt broods. They are vulnerable to many Interceptor weapons though, with even an Icarus Lascannon reliably killing one outright, and being off the game board for one or two turns isn't too likely to save them if your opponent really wants to focus them down. If you can reliably neuter heavy fire with Strength 8 weapons, such as flying Hive Tyrants charging Devastator equivalents, Mawlocs popping up in the middle of units and killing heavy weapon bearers, or Crones killing off key Pathfinders, then this isn't a bad use of them at all. This is still reliant on a lot of luck, and the price of a decently kitted out and medium to large size unit is excessive once Flesh Hooks - for the near-mandatory assault grenades - and extra melee weapons are accounted for. Small broods may be cheap even with some melee upgrades, but they are woefully fragile and can be dealt with easily at range. Medium sized broods are a threat to most units in combat aside from medium to heavy vehicles and high Initiative monstrous creatures with lots of attacks, though they are very expensive and each model lost is a big blow. Large broods are too unwieldy, expensive and vulnerable to Strength 8 shooting to really be worthwhile, and even massed autocannon or missile pod fire will slaughter them. As a unit, they just have too many hard counters to recommend in a melee-centric role at any unit size. Even with Hive Commander, you have to hope you can neutralize your opponents heavy ranged firepower, and that the Warriors won't simply be fed cheap fodder units or even get near enough to valuable enemy units.

For these reasons, I advocate ranged Warriors above all else. Of course Warriors can only shoot one weapon, so keeping that free pair of Scything Talons is ideal - again though, one pair of Rending Claws for every three Warriors in a unit is a good idea for vehicle hunting. Always take a bio-cannon, they are appropriately costed and the long range allows Warriors to deal some damage and maybe Pin a unit in place before they get into range with most of their guns. Otherwise, keeping the Devourers is I feel the best bet as they are free, they have an 18" range which allows them to get in range of other shooters with much greater ease and their Strength 4 is nice and solid. Spinefists are too short ranged for a unit lacking Mycetic Spores and will just get laughed at by bolter-armed Space Marines, while Deathspitters add even more points - if not too many, thankfully - to a unit that is already more expensive than it should be. My ideal use of Warriors is a small unit of three armed with either a barbed strangler or a venom cannon and nothing else, sitting on a home-field objective and hiding out of sight. This is the cheapest self-reliant scoring unit Tyranids have access to, and that each model puts out four Strength 4 attacks - after six Strength 4 shots and one small blast - each on the charge means they can scare off minor disruption and weak tarpit units. They can move out a bit to pop off a 36" small blast with the hopes of Pinning or doing a few wounds here or there, and they can even try to get into the rear armour of a transport and destroy it with some luck. They don't really need support if they stay in the backfield, especially as they are Synapse creatures, and can even provide Synapse for nearby Biovores and Tyrannofexes armed with Rupture Cannons. You can use them behind intervening Hormagaunt or Termagant swarms as cheap support Synapse units to a primary beast such as a Tervigon, and opponents will likely ignore them in favour of the larger beast. Overall, players need to identify the use of Warriors as cheap Synapse and ranged support nodes, not as the expensive Terminator equivalents all their options might trick you into.

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.

Warriors (3) - Barbed Strangler - This is a cheap little unit that functions as a backfield Synapse unit for Biovores and provides a pretty decent large blast AP5 weapon with Pinning. They don't need anything else to do their job, and they can even sit on an objective out of sight.

Warriors (6) - Barbed Strangler, two Rending Claws - This is double the cost of the previous unit, but with double the models and shooting. Not bad, especially as the two sets of Rending Claws give them some extra punch in combat. Use these as your main scoring unit supported by Carnifex broods and Tyrannofexes.

Scions of the Swarm

The web of Synapse spreads throughout a Hive Fleet through many living links, creatures possessed by the pure will of the Hive Mind. From the Norn Queens and Dominatrixes to the Hive Tyrants and Zoanthropes, Synapse is the great equalizer, the bond that unites all Tyranids to the singular purpose of destruction. In battle, the Warrior beasts are the most common Synapse nodes, twice the size of any normal man and wielding advanced bio-weapons. They are deceptively dangerous and driven always by the alien Hive Mind, being the most adaptable and proficient of all Tyranids. In the absence of a Tyrant Lord, it is the Warriors that lead a Swarm, guiding skirmishes and evolving into Tyranid Primes to lead fully fledged armies to battle.

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. Excellent analysis, and very helpful to someone who is rebuilding a nid army after years away! I can't help but find it hilarious, though, that five editions after these guys were introduced, we are still defaulting (with good reason!) to the same formation that was their very first default: 2x deathspitter, 3x default cc weapon, 1 barbed strangler. I think I have that formation modeled up still in original, ugly behemoth colors.