1 Apr 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Exocrine

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Exocrines are, much like the Tyrannofex, designed as a living monstrous death dealer from afar. They are armed with one of the more devastating bio-weapons in the xenos arsenal, one of the more nightmarish of the Hive Minds' creations. The Exocrine was seen as the less interesting, more generic kit sibling of the Haruspex before the two were released, though it has since proven to be the far more effective of the duo. Though seemingly expensive for what it does, the Exocrine brings versatile and strong firepower at a medium range for a really affordable points cost. I hope you enjoy this article!



If you thought the Haruspex was a bit mediocre, well you would be....well, right. Does that have negative repercussions for the Exocrine though? Nope! When the rules for the two monsters leaked, I immediately jumped on the Exocrine as one of the more cost effective monstrous creatures in the new codex, a unit that was simple in its design but very effective in its role. While the gun beast doesn't bring out anything crazy or zany, there is no confusion about its intended purpose and no question that it does that job well. But first, we'll start with the stats and remark on how decent, not bad or great, they are. Interestingly enough, they are completely identical to the Haruspex, despite the latters' melee focus; before any special rules or close combat weapons are considered, the ranged Exocrine fights just as well as the close combat Haruspex. This sees the Exocrine with a good profile that sits in the middle for Tyranid monstrous creatures, with five wounds at Toughness 6 and a 3+ armour save. From there, it has three attacks at Strength 6, Initiative 3 and Weapon Skill 3, making it roughly equivalent to a Tyrannofex in close combat and not all that bad. It can crush vehicles and defend itself against infantry, but it definitely won't stand up to heavy resistance in combat and ideally won't be there in the first place. Ballistic Skill 3 is middling for an elite ranged unit, obviously, but the weapon carried by an Exocrine as well as an additional special rule make this less of an issue than it seems. 

An Exocrine is not a Synapse unit as you would expect, and it suffers from Instinctive Behaviour of the Hunt variety. Leadership 7 would usually be a death sentence for a unit suffering from the mindless syndrome, but as Hunt is essentially "shoot the nearest unit" with either a six shot Strength 7 AP2 or single shot Strength 7 AP2 large blast weapon, it likely won't be an issue in most circumstances. Like most Tyranid monstrous creatures, the Exocrine is very self sufficient overall even if it is a good idea to keep it both in Synapse range to avoid shooting at a bad target and having a supporting unit to get out of or avoid combats. The only other notable unique special rule that the Exocrine has is also one that will only really see use late in the game, if at all, from about turn three or four onwards. This is because this particular rule, Symbiotic Targeting, only functions if the Exocrine was stationary in its preceding movement phase; if this was the case, it increases its Ballistic Skill by one, usually to four. Having its six shots hit an average of four or five times instead of three times, as well as its large blast reducing scatter by one inch, is more significant than it might seem and definitely very useful. Unfortunately, the 24" range on the Exocrine's sole ranged weapon limits the usage of this special rule against defensive lists, though it will likely see use in later turns and against aggressive army lists.

Speaking of the Exocrine's ranged weapon, having a stable form of plasma is something Tyranids tend to lack, making the living artillery organism almost mandatory in a sense anyway. 2+ armour saves might not be in vogue in the usual sense - those poor Terminators - but Riptides, Chapter Masters and Seer Councils with Protect make AP2 so valuable and necessary nowadays. Without it, Tyranids lack reliable means of bringing down 2+ armoured units at range, making the Exocrine incredibly valuable. It helps that the gun itself is quite powerful, with it able to use two firing modes, choosing one before it shoots. This is either six shots at Strength 7 AP2, or one shot at Strength 7 AP2 using a large blast, both with a mediocre 24" range. This allows Exocrines to effectively engage infantry squads of all kinds, light to medium vehicles - leaving heavy vehicles to melee attacks if necessary - monstrous creatures and nullify 2+ armoured wound tanks. The versatility is undoubtedly there, with it able to Overwatch with the six shots and even Snap Fire at flyers if need be as well. It is a very strong ranged weapon and one that many opponents have learned to fear over the months since the new Tyranid codex was released. Make sure to always remember that the 24" range is quite limiting, meaning the Exocrine is a medium ranged firebase unit, not a long ranged artillery monster as its background depicts. Oh, and if you like pointless weapons, well the Exocrine brings that as well with a set of Scything Talons. They serve absolutely no purpose and frankly confuse me. Hooray! Even despite this, the Exocrine is priced similarly to a Tyrannofex and a decent bit cheaper than a Trygon which with its exclusive high rate of fire medium ranged AP2 shooting makes it one of the premier choices in the Heavy Support slot for Tyranids.

How to Equip Them

I'll be honest and straight forward; as with the Mawloc, an Exocrine really doesn't need or want any upgrades whatsoever. The available tail biomorph is a thresher scythe, adding an additional Strength 4 AP4 close combat attack that is statistically inferior in every way as a melee upgrade to the identically priced Toxin Sacs biomorph. As such, the tail biomorph is there for fun and little else. Besides, the Exocrine is a ranged monstrous creature first and foremost, not a melee unit; if you want one of those, take a Trygon instead. As you can imagine, this rends both Acid Blood and Toxin Sacs as mostly pointless upgrades as an Exocrine really shouldn't be in combat. Toxin Sacs may see use more as a defensive upgrade as, again, I don't put much faith in the fact that Acid Blood only really works against low Initiative foes. The 24" range of the Exocrine's gun actually gives Adrenal Glands some good value as the re-roll for Run moves  can help to get into range a turn or so early. However, again, I would probably avoid it as it isn't really all that helpful. Regeneration is an upgrade that is questionable even on a six wound Trygon, for example, and much more so a five wound Exocrine. I would skip it as while it is obviously nice, the high cost just pushes the Exocrine investment to unnecessary levels. Leave this monster bare as none of the upgrades will really help it with its stated purpose, which is to blast foes apart from afar.

Where to Put Them

With no alternative deployment options such as Deep Strike or Outflank, the Exocrine belongs on the battlefield with the rest of your forces. This opens up the always handy tactic of employing Venomthropes as a defensive tool while they use the Exocrine as a screen against enemy fire. Using the Venomthropes behind and smaller creatures such as Hormagaunts that are tall and numerous enough to provide intervening cover to an Exocrine to the front will allow an Exocrine to advance into range with its bio-plasmic cannon. In this sense, the 24" range isn't that much of an issue as the Exocrine is naturally tough enough and gets a lot of survivability boosts from other units to make it to the midfield with ease. If you use such units to cover the Exocrine, moving through terrain to gain cover saves usually won't be necessary unless it is facing a range of nasty barrage weapons from Basilisks, Colossi and so on. This means it can advance without being slowed down and employ Run moves, usually seeing it in range of backfield gunline armies by turn three unless the game is using the short table edge deployment on a standard 6x4 gaming board.

If such units are unavailable or Barrage weapons are to be faced, moving through terrain at the possible expense of speed isn't a bad idea at all; rolling 3D6 for moving through cover due to the aptly named special rule makes it rather reliable. Still, if you can avoid being slowed down without sacrificing much or at all on durability, then that is generally the preferred option. Like with any Tyranid unit, keep to cover wins the game, not running blindly into the open; Tyranids mostly lack invulnerable saves for a reason, after all. Instinctive Behaviour really isn't an issue for the Exocrine, so deploying it away from available Synapse isn't necessarily a bad thing, or moving outside of their bubble so as to keep or begin shooting. However, I still recommend against it as being forced to shoot at a Land Raider the Exocrine cannot hurt as opposed to a juicy squad of Tactical Marines in the open, for example, is never ideal. On that note, try to avoid charging an Exocrine unless you are attempting to destroy a vehicle and the bio-plasmic cannon is either unlikely to or incapable of doing the deed. It belongs at range and wants to avoid potential combats as much as possible; keeping a baby-sitting unit of Hormagaunts nearby isn't a bad idea, though generally speaking those should be far forward of an Exocrine. Instead, use a nearby Tervigon to spawn Termagants in a pinch if assault units are looking to tie the gun beast up.

Best Uses

The best application for an Exocrine is undoubtedly as a medium ranged platform sitting in the midfield and preferably backed by a support or melee unit such as a small brood of Warriors. Exocrines need to be shooting early, so advancing with mobile cover provided by Hormagaunts and Venomthropes together or individually is almost mandatory to protect the five wound beast. Ideally, move into a ruin within 24" of multiple enemy units and begin the bombardment. From there, don't be afraid to sacrifice Ballistic Skill 4 to be able to escape attacks by opposing close combat units. Being able to move and shoot its weapon is still great and is far preferable than to have it be unable to shoot whatsoever, after all. The best targets for an Exocrine tend to be monstrous creatures like Riptides that are otherwise near impervious to Tyranid shooting, light to medium vehicles like Rhinos and Wave Serpents, and finally squads of medium to heavy infantry like Tactical Marines and Broadside Teams that are also quite resistant to the mostly AP4 ranged prowess of Tyranids. Exocrines benefit hugely from Onslaught in particular due to the ability to Run and shoot for what is definitely a more limited range than you would want for an artillery beast. Plus, due to the wording of its Symbiotic Targeting rule, running and then shooting doesn't impose the Ballistic Skill penalty as long as the Exocrine didn't move in the movement phase! One of the more obvious uses for the Exocrine appears to be sitting it behind an Aegis Defence Line and Quad Gun, but this tactic really doesn't work against the good gun-lines I've found and I prefer the Bastion anyway for the Shrouded or Synapse bubble it provides.

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.

Exocrine - Much like the Mawloc before it, an Exocrine is at home without upgrades, amusingly enough. The biomorphs aren't really suited to a ranged monster, while Regeneration is a questionable purchase even on a more survivable Trygon. The tail biomorphs might see use once every so often on a melee unit, but they are a definite skip for a unit based on shooting. 

Bio-Plasmic Devastation

"Mind over Matter" is a truly interesting statement when one refers to the monstrous Exocrine, one of the newest and most deadly Tyranid bio-organisms. One of the more controversial implications of this idiom is the use of a weapon by a wielder; is a weapon inherently dangerous, or is it only as destructive as the creature that uses it? For the Exocrine, this logic cannot be applied, for the weapon itself is what controls the hulking monstrosity. Indeed, the Exocrine shares two minds, one in the main bulk of the beast and the other housed in its distinctive and titanic bio-plasmic cannon. The latter exerts control over the more subjective "primary" brain, subtly controlling its movements and forcing it to a stand still so that it can focus its efforts on a foes' annihilation. Unlike most other creatures, even many Tyranid organisms, merely lopping off the head will not stop its rampage; to destroy the creature entirely is to silence its weaponized extension. For a biomorph that emits a highly volatile plasmic discharge, the simple act of killing an Exocrine is inherently dangerous. That is, of course, if the prey can even close with the living artillery beast, able to accurately bring destruction to its foes long before they ever reach its diminutive bulk.

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. A very good read. Great article!

  2. So nice! You put tour time into it :) Thank you! /Fredrik,SWE