3 Mar 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Sky Slasher Swarms

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Ripper Swarms are one of the oddities of the Tyranid codex, a unit that has decreased in usefulness and availability as each edition passes - almost as Games Workshop themselves have lost interest in them. Unfortunately, their flying siblings the Sky Slashers don't fare much better, even if these winged munchkins do have greater mobility to their name. I hope you enjoy this article!

Sky Slasher Swarms


Flying Rippers. Well....I guess flying Warriors are a thing, so whatever. The idea of a swooping rat makes me laugh, but I digress. Sky Slashers are identical in all but name, one missing upgrade, one slightly cheaper upgrade and unit type to Ripper Swarms, and are quite a bit more expensive per model to boot. I labeled Rippers a mostly pointless unit as Termagants and Hormagaunts do their jobs so much better - aside from being a cheap tarpit that can Deep Strike - and Sky Slashers are generally no different, save that they also compete with Gargoyles and don't need to pay to Deep Strike. So that I'm not repeating myself - notice a trend with these recent articles? - I'll just cover the basics. Rippers are Strength and Toughness 3 with three wounds per Swarm base which, with four attacks each, would logically make them the equivalent of three Gargoyles. Of course, it doesn't quite work that way; Toughness 3 with a 6+ armour save lends itself incredibly well to Instant Death, especially with so many Strength 6 or higher weapons in the game right now. Sky Slashers are also ineffective offensively as, even with four attacks per Swarm base, they are a pitiful Weapon Skill 2 meaning they won't hit very often anyway. You can equip them with Spinefists to make the most out of their four attacks, but even with twin-linking, that Ballistic Skill 2 really hurts their damage output. It's not enough that they are Initiative 2 and lack assault grenades, meaning they will get pulped by almost anything before they can strike. Sadly, despite being the only innately Fearless tarpit unit in the army - if you exclude Rippers (huh?) - they suffer from Instinctive Behaviour, and the Feed result at that. With Leadership 5, there is a very good chance your Sky Slashers will have a mental breakdown and kill each other, all while being unable to do anything whatsoever except hover awkwardly. A tarpit that can be ignored completely? Does not compute!

So the stats are pretty bad, they are completely dependent on Synapse and they are bloody expensive to boot. Not the best start, but we can at least try and compare them to Rippers. The wings do make them Jump Infantry, as you would expect, while they oddly pay slightly less for Adrenal Glands than Rippers do. I already touched on this with Shrikes and Warriors, as it seems the codex is designed with Adrenal Glands being more expensive - and thus more valuable - for foot infantry rather than jump infantry. The extra movement generally favours jump infantry in this case, but for Sky Slashers in particular, I'm not sure it really matters as I dread to spend any more points on these expensive little mouths anyway. The only other notable difference between the two is that Sky Slashers come stock with the Deep Strike special rule - as they are jump infantry - which one can reasonably assume is why they are quite a bit more expensive than Rippers, unlike the price difference between Termagants and Gargoyles. So let us get to the big question; are they worth it over Rippers? I don't think so, honestly, even though you would think a jump infantry version of a combat tarpit unit would actually make sense. Sadly, Sky Slashers are just more expensive and will still die just as fast against any meaningful resistance or attention. Rippers do the tarpit job cheaper, they don't really need wings as Deep Strike can get them there anyway, and the kicker is that Rippers with the Deep Strike upgrade are still quite a bit cheaper than Sky Slashers. It's unfortunate and surprising, but I honestly just think you may as well take Rippers instead. Heck, at least Rippers take up one of six slots instead of one of three.

How to Equip Them

Even more than Rippers, I dread to put most of the upgrades on Sky Slashers because you quickly end up with crazily expensive swarm bases that will fold the moment a Wave Serpent so much as glances at them. Need I mention that every army in the game can put out a lot of Strength 6 shooting that will instantly kill Sky Slashers? Even if they are Jump Infantry and not regular Infantry, unlike standard Ripper Swarms, Sky Slashers are still unlikely to ever reach a combat and do much of anything other tie units up. With that said, why bother spending points on making them more damaging in combat when their sole purpose is just to tie units up? They are Fearless, after all, and thus do not need to rely on generating combat resolution to stay in combat. Using this theory, I would leave the upgrades at home for Sky Slashers - unless you are Deep Striking them. In that case, I definitely recommend Spinefists as, with four attacks per model and twin-linking, they can - much like the small Ravener units I described in my previous article - pop up and do some light shooting, be a general nuisance and tie up smaller units. This is the best use of Sky Slashers, especially as they have the Deep Strike capability incorporated into their base cost with the Jump unit type. You may as well make the most of it and leave the cheaper Ripper Swarms as your backfield and midfield tarpit units. While Sky-Slashers do end up being slightly more expensive when equipped for that suicide role, they also get a 12" move for making sure they can tarpit something.

Where to Put Them

As Sky Slashers already have the Deep Strike special rule, using them in the same way as you would a Deep Striking Ripper Swarm unit is advisable, even if Sky Slashers aren't as good at it. Rippers get by because they are cheaper and don't take up a contested slot; they can be slotted into an army list with no difficulty whatsoever. Sky Slashers, on the other hand, are in a slot where only three units can be taken outside of 2000+ point games. They compete with Gargoyles - a superior unit in the same roles as Sky Slashers that can handily score in Scouring missions - a Synapse unit in Shrikes and the two cheap flying monstrous creatures used to bulk up a Tyranid airforce. Rippers, of course, don't really worry about that. But, again, I digress. You can use them as a flying tarpit, but once they stick their little heads out in the open - and I don't mean in open terrain, I just generally mean in line of sight of enemies - they aren't going to last very long if your opponent remembers their Toughness 3. Again, Gargoyles suit any list better here, especially as they can put out triple the models for the same points cost and thus cover more area to deny opponents clear charging routes. Regardless of how you want to use them, you need to keep Sky Slashers in cover; three wounds per model won't mean much with a 6+ armour save and Toughness 3. The odd failed dangerous terrain test here or there isn't going to be anywhere near as bad as suffering a fusillade of pulse rifle fire without cover saves available.

Best Uses

Unfortunately I'm even less of a fan of Sky Slashers than Ripper Swarms simply because they want to be the more aggressive unit but still lack the means to do so without getting squashed. These are even more expensive Toughness 3 tarpit units with nothing to really save them from getting splotched by a Serpent Shield or stray Missile Pod shot. The best uses of Ripper Swarms are strangely enough still evident here; keeping them as small three-base-strong tarpits to hide behind monsters and Aegis Defence Lines as cheap Fearless interdiction units, or as small annoying Deep Striking units. They might be Jump Infantry, sure, and they pay a lot for it, but are they really paying for something they want or need? Ultimately, they are as easy to kill as Rippers, are easier to see because the models are higher up and still don't want to be used in combat except as a tarpit. As Hormagaunts, Termagants and Gargoyles are much better for front-line tarpit, scoring - and generally being useful - duties, Rippers and Sky Slashers are there for your Exocrines, Hive Guard and Biovores, the kind of units that sit at long to medium range. So where does that leave Sky Slashers? Unfortunately, in the same situation as Rippers, save that they are more expensive. If Gargoyles didn't exist, they might have a role as a flying tarpit, but as Gargoyles do exist, Sky Slashers are one step short of being rendered null and pointless. If you want Sky Slashers for a flying tarpit, just take three Gargoyles instead. With that in mind, use them the same way you do Rippers with the exception that as a Deep Striking unit they can move 12" on that subsequent turn.

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.

Sky Slashers (4) - This is a decently cheap and surprisingly tough - against small arms fire with assumed cover saves - tarpit unit that can deep strike into the enemy backfield and try and tie up or kill Devastator equivalents. You can try and run them up the field to provide mobile cover for Shrikes or Raveners as well, or try and hide behind buildings to leap out when necessary.

Sky Slashers (4) - Spinefists - Almost identical to the above unit with one exception; the addition of Spinefists. With four attacks each base, this is a unit that puts out a whopping 16 Strength 3 twin-linked shots at Ballistic Skill 2. It's an ok unit for the cost, I guess, but one that is surprisingly mobile if your opponent ignores them. Using them to block a transport from moving forward is quite funny.

For satirical purposes, I basically quoted the Ripper entries. The idea that Shrikes are simply flying Warriors and Sky Slashers are merely flying Rippers always amuses me when I look at Tyranids from a design stand point. A similar case can be made for all the derogatory terms about females used as a naming convention for the army. Just some of the funny things you notice about a product, I guess. 

Descent of Fangs

If it wasn't enough that teeming masses of carrion organisms devoured all - living or dead - in their path, some of those same creatures adapted wings; shredding any unlucky enough to be sighted by the swarm. Like a chattering bat swarm, the only sign that these horrors are closing in for the kill is the endless droning of miniscule, flapping wings.

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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