9 Feb 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Zoanthropes

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! As the Tyranids clashed with Eldar Craftworlds across the galaxy, new monstrosities emerged as cruel representations of the noble, dying race. Most prominent among them are the Zoanthropes, seemingly under-developed and by no means dangerous beasts. Nothing could be further from the truth though, as Zoanthropes are the psychic artillery of the Tyranid race, capable of untold devastation while they control lesser beasts with their Synaptic powers. I hope you enjoy this article!



Zoanthropes are one of the few dedicated psychic support units in the game that is also not a character, bringing great value despite being quite fragile. As the background and model depict, the stats are definitely unimpressive. It has a Strength and Toughness 4, like a Space Marine, and two wounds per model. Its Ballistic Skill of 4 makes for one of the more accurate ranged Tyranids in the codex, though its combat abilities are decidedly sub-par. Weapon Skill 3 and Initiative 3 is similar to the fodder models of other armies, with but a single attack to defend itself and no actual melee weapons - unlike almost all other Tyranids. But this obviously isn't what you expect of Zoanthropes, and truth be told, their profile outside of Toughness and Wounds matters little. At first impression, they seem rather fragile with only a 5+ armour save and an inability to join units - like Lictors except without Stealth and deployment shenanigans - but each Zoanthrope has a whopping 3+ invulnerable save. This makes each Zoanthrope the equivalent of two Tactical Marines against AP4 or worse shooting, while it also makes them incredibly survivable against low rate of fire AP3 to AP1 weapons. The trick here is that Zoanthropes have two wounds each and are Toughness 4, meaning they are very susceptible to instant death from massed high Strength shooting. A Grey Knight "Rifleman" Dreadnought with psybolt ammunition can easily put down one or two Zoanthropes per shooting phase with its Strength 8 shooting. Massed small arms fire, particularly from Strength 5 basic weapons on Tau infantry, is the real bane of Zoanthropes though. Again, each is basically two Tactical Marines in terms of survivability, albeit at over double the cost of the two. Nonetheless, an opponent likely won't be successful with "throwaway" shots into them with one or two lascannons, for example.

Zoanthropes are the only Synapse unit in the Elite slot, and with all the other slots in the army being so crowded, they will often be the first extra Synapse unit you turn to for more coverage. As a Synapse unit, Zoanthropes are more survivable than Warriors - as an example - in most cases, though they are incapable of bringing token long ranged firepower and high melee prowess. They are also among the most easily hidden sources of Synapse, like Warriors, though they are incapable of ever being scoring units. That a Zoanthrope can be taken in a brood of one technically makes it the cheapest Synapse option in the codex, which is something to be mindful of when combined with a certain building to be discussed later. Zoanthropes also generate Shadow in the Warp like any Synapse creature, and are thus a great weapon against opposing psykers. Ironically, Zoanthropes themselves gain their identity by being such powerful psykers among the Tyranids. They use the Brotherhood of Psykers special rule, meaning one model casts the power and only one model can suffer a Perils in the Warp, regardless of how many models are in the unit. It also means a single Deny the Witch is all that is needed to stop their power, but for the most part, Brotherhood of Psykers isn't too bad. Zoanthropes are Leadership 10 psykers, meaning they are as reliable as they really can be in addition to being Mastery Level 2 for boosted 4+ Deny the Witch rolls against most other psykers. Overall, with Shadow in the Warp and their high Mastery Level, Zoanthropes are useful just for cheap extra psychic defence. Zoanthropes generate two powers for the whole brood, and one is always Warp Lance. The Brotherhood of Psykers don't restrict this as much as you might think, as each Zoanthrope added to the unit adds an extra shot to the Warp Lance power, giving greater incentive to take more Zoanthropes. That they are a unit that can also take Dominion with no hassle attached is a bonus they have over Warriors, giving them easily accessed and reliable 18" Synapse bubbles. In that sense, they are also the cheapest Dominion casters in the codex.

Where to Put Them

One of the popular places to place a Zoanthrope is in a Bastion or building, the former being a purchase that guarantees you will have at least one of the latter. This is due to two main factors; the first being that greater dependence on Synapse across the army, and the second being that a Zoanthrope can freely take Dominion to boost its Synapse range. When garrisoned inside a Bastion or other building, the Synapse range of the Zoanthrope is measured from all edges of the building, giving it several extra inches of actual Synapse coverage. Boost its range with Dominion, and the Zoanthrope alone can cover a huge area in the midfield and your deployment zone. The Zoanthrope is also quite survivable inside, unable to be targeted by ranged attacks and with a 3+ invulnerable save against damage results on the Bastion or building. Purchasing a Bastion and a Zoanthrope is thus a great way to provide Synapse for your army without taking other Zoanthropes or Trygon Primes, for example. Deploy the Bastion at the edge of your deployment zone with the Zoanthrope right behind it at the door, allowing it to freely move in on the first turn. Alternatively, you can sacrifice a few inches to actually deploy the Zoanthrope in the building. In either case, the door of the Bastion faces your deployment zone and forces assault units to travel around it to get to its access point.

If you don't plan on using this trick, then I recommend keeping Zoanthropes out of sight as much as possible. Their 3+ invulnerable save and lack of Move Through Cover makes terrain and cover saves redundant for them aside from trying to fully obscure them from sight. Zoanthropes are tall but thin models, meaning they should be able to hide behind a Carnifex or the low-hanging Tervigon, though not much else in the army can hope to fully obscure them. You want them to be behind your main lines, providing either 12" or a boosted 18" Synapse from the edges so that they aren't targeted unnecessarily by more ranged weapons. Massed small arms fire is what puts Zoanthropes down more than anything else, and staying about 10" away from your Hormagaunt or Termagant lines should do just fine for this. Don't use Zoanthropes aggressively; they are a support unit, as good as having Warp Lance all the time is, and their fragility reflects this. If they get into combat they may as well give up, while any actual focused firepower on them will probably put them down. They are your cheap source of Synapse in the Elites slot, and provide helpful psychic powers to boot, so don't waste them by moving them up alongside your main combat units. They are, after all, psychic artillery and should be used as such; in the rear of your main units while staying in Synapse range.

Best Uses

In a standard competitive Tyranid army list, featuring Flying Hive Tyrants as the main Synapse units, I do really like Zoanthropes as the backfield and midfield Synapse generators for a number of reasons. Their 3+ invulnerable save means they can more safely sit at long range not worry about cover-ignoring high Strength weaponry, and it also protects them from attacks by monstrous creatures such as Wraithknights. They are tall models but are still easily hidden out of sight by buildings and ruins, and as pyskers they can reliably boost their Synapse range to 18". Warp Lance gives them a very effective defensive tool, able to deliver a number of Strength 5 AP3 small blasts to eviscerate minor medium to semi-elite infantry, or Strength 10 AP2 lances that can punch a hole in any vehicle in the game. This utility means they can defend themselves at range, though they ideally want to be sitting back out of the typical 24" ranged bubble for small arms fire that other armies generate. This is because as nice as a 3+ invulnerable save is, Toughness 4 with two wounds each makes them surprisingly vulnerable to pulse rifle and bolter fire. To counter this, many players are taking a Bastion as their Fortification choice for Tyranids and either deploying the Zoanthrope in it at the edge of their deployment zone, or deploying it a bit further forward with the Zoanthrope stationed just behind it to move in during the first turn. The Bastion is a building, meaning the Zoanthrope can embark and hide from all ranged attacks; damage results on the building do cause wounds, but the Zoanthrope has a 3+ invulnerable save. The Synapse bubble of the Zoanthrope spreads from every part of the building, and is one of the safest and guaranteed methods of protecting any Synapse creature. Regardless of how you play it, the Zoanthrope is an ideal support unit that can default to Dominion as needed for its second psychic power. Keep it behind your lines and try to hide it; don't worry about getting cover saves as its 3+ invulnerable save more than compensates.

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.

Zoanthrope (1) - The "solo" Zoanthrope belongs in a Bastion, providing a boosted 18" Synapse through with Dominion that uses the large Bastion "model" for measuring the radius. This is the best Synapse node available to Tyranids and is quite cheap.

Zoanthropes (2) - Like with Lictors, I prefer to take Zoanthropes in pairs. They aren't too expensive, and having two halves the chances of them giving up First Blood.

Psychic Artillery

Zoanthropes are among the most physically inept sub-species of Tyranids to make their way to the Milky Way galaxy, incapable even of supporting their own weight. Instead, they are some of the most powerful psykers in the Hive Fleets, using the Hive Mind as a conduit to amplify their own considerable psychic might. They deliver crushing blasts of warp energy capable of eviscerating the mighty Space Marines and crushing tanks into mulch with ease, all the while generating a near impenetrable psychic barrier giving them unworldly protection against any attack. They are avatars of the will of the Hive Mind, projecting its will through their innate Synapse aura to the lesser creatures of the Swarm. Leeching the very life essence from other psykers, Zoanthropes are a twisted reflection of the strengths of the Eldar; even more fragile of body, but possessed of the ultimate psychic abilities.

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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