Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tyranids and Big Guns

Tyranids have a heap of new options when it comes to throwing out the pain and suffering in the shooting phase. The previous codex simply did not have enough punch to stop vehicles reliably with guns. That is no longer the case, and you can bring a significant shooting game to the table. I'll go into my thoughts on the major ranged combat options in the book, and possible support units for them. And, they're all lovely Assault weapons, so you can pop shots AND move and fistfight, should you want to do so.

By 'major' ranged stuff, I'm talking about a unit that's actually focused on shooting, as opposed to something like a Trygon or Tervigon, which simply has the option to make ranged attacks.

Common Shooting Options
There are a couple of ranged weapons that several creatures share, and that you can use to bust armor. These guns are:

Heavy Venom Cannon: 36" S9, AP4, Small Blast, -1 on Vehicle Damage Chart against closed-top
Stranglethorn Cannon: 36" S6, AP5, Large Blast, Pinning
Devourer w/ Brainleech Worms: 18" 6 shots S6, AP-, -1 to morale checks from shooting if they inflict an unsaved wound
Cluster Spines: 18", S5, AP-, Large Blast
Stinger Salvo: 18", S5, AP4, 4 shots

Thorax Swarms: Template, with profile:
-Electroshock beetles, S5 AP5
-Desiccator Larvae: S1, AP-, wounds on 2+
-Shreddershard Beetles: S3, AP-, Rending
This is the basic monstrous creature menu for guns. The Heavy Venom Cannon is your main support option, as it's passable against infantry and capable of inconveniencing vehicles. It's not so hot for killing armor, but can at least damage it.

The Stranglethorn cannon is usually an option alongside the Heavy Venom cannon. S6 harms its effectiveness against vehicles, but it's still a fine way to inflict wounds on footsloggers.

The Brainleech-packing Devourer is the good old high-rate-of-fire monstrous creature gun. You want infantry and monstrous creatures to eat it? This is how you feed them.

The Stinger Salvo is a backup gun for larger monstrous creatures, and can usually be exchanged for Cluster Spines. Given the BS3 on most of the creatures that can get these, I'm inclined to go with the spines for the large blast template, unless you really want to use S5 for anti-vehicle work (...which might scare AV10 a little) or think you can't get more than two hits average on the blast weapon.

The Thorax Swarm is another one of those backup weapons on larger monstrous creatures. It comes with the S5, AP5 shot, and costs points to upgrade. Frankly, I'd rather spend the points on other things. I consider it a point-defense system; if you have to use it things have probably gone downhill, or you're already winning.

The Weapons Platforms
The Hive Tyrant
The first decision you need to make is whether you want winged or walking. The Hive Tyrant's abilities are support-oriented, and put on a nasty chassis. If you're going to bring guns on it, though, here are the thoughts:

1) Winged Tyrant w/ 2x TL Devourers [260]
This is a bit of a 'classic' loadout. It's purely short-ranged shooty; a dozen TL shots at S6, BS3 means an average of 9 hits, and 8-9 wounds on infantry. You still have decent assaulty capabilities, too. This is really the multi-role tyrant, though it costs you a hefty 260 points. You can drop 15 off the price and keep the whip/sword combo if you want, but that dilutes you a bit more, and you might just consider wings and melee.

2) Walking Tyrant w/ TL Devs, Heavy Venom Cannon [210 + vet abilities + Tyrant Guard]
This is the basic multi-role walking tyrant. You will want to pay another 120 for a couple of Tyrant Guard, just to keep you alive longer. You can inconvenience vehicles, and scare infantry. Drop 10 points to go double-devourers, but expect to spend some time running. Additionally, pick up the non-shooting powers for your support stuff.

The Harpy
Honestly, this is one of my favorite additions on paper. It's a fast attack choice that's basically a flying gun. It starts with a Stranglethorn Cannon and Stinger Salvo, though I would promptly upgrade to the Heavy Venom Cannon and Cluster Spines. 170 points for instant duality; you can harass vehicles at a safe distance, or harm enemy infantry that get in close. In a pinch, you can go punh something.

The downside is of course durability, so prepare to bring a pair of harpies and some other monstrous creatures. Still, I think it's a strong addition to an MC-heavy list, and its durability just begs more questions about target priority.

The Carnifex
Say hello to the red-headed stepchild of the codex. It got a hefty cost increase, lost its ability to be taken in the elite slots (...which is not actually a bad thing), but can come in broods of 1-3. So, what can you get on the Carnifex for guns?

About the same as the tyrant. You get one big gun, and a choice between Deathspitters and Devourers. The problem is that if you want big guns and anti-tank on the Carnifex, you have the shootiness of the tyrant and close to the cost of the Tyrannofex, but you don't have the Tyrant's support capabilites or the Tyrannofex's sheer firepower.

Frankly, I'd skip the Carnifex as a gun platform unless you were just totally opposed to the Tyrannofex. The Carnifex with Venom Cannon and TL Devourers costs 200 points; the Tyrannofex with Rupture Cannon costs 265, and I can tell you that those 65 points make a HUGE difference.

The Purpose-Built Gun Beasts
In addition to our more versatile monsters, we have three guns that are bodies, more or less: the Zoanthrope, the Hive Guard, and the Tyrannofex.

Ah, the Zoey. They come in broods of 1-3, and have two guns:
-S10, AP1 Lance at 18"
-S5, AP3 Small Blast at 24"

Scary, yes? We have duality. The downside is that we are a huge target; T4 with a 5+/3++ and two wounds makes you worry about S8 weapons, and people will do their level best to gun these things down, because they ARE that lethal. Frankly, a full brood of these should be able to maim/nuke just about any armor in a single round, and can put the hurt on infantry, two.

The achilles heel? Gotta pass those psychic tests. People that bring psychic tests can put the hurt on the Zoanthropes.

Hive Guard
T6, 4+, two wounds, and a, S8 AP4 Assault 2 24" gun that doesn't care about LOS. Compared to the Zoanthrope (its fellow elite), you're trading some graphic firepower for reliability. You only get cover against the Hive Guard if you're in or touching terrain, as well. This means you can slap Hive Guard behind a wall, pull the trigger, and the enemy might not be able to see you to shoot back.

The downside is of course the short range, and like the Zoanthrope you can get sorted in melee without that much of a problem. On the bright side, your T6 means it takes some serious firepower or specialist kit to drop you.

The Tyrannofex
Anyone like S10 guns? You DO? What about an S10, AP4, Assault 2 gun with a 48" range that can't be blown off the carrier? Are you willing to pay a bit for it? Then the Tyrannofex is your buddy. 265 points nets you a monstrous creature with T6, 2+ armor, six wounds, and a BS3 to go with the Rupture Cannon, Cluster Spines, and the basic thorax swarm. Screen it well (since it can't fistfight worth a darn, and anyone with a hidden powerfist can eventually grind it down...) and it will do wonders for you.

Supporting Your Guns
As your guns are not vehicles, they can be tied up in assault. As such, you will want to consider little gribblies as shield, but be aware that they can still get tank-shocked through.

The other issue with our guns? Some of them are shorter-ranged. See the Hive Guard and Zoanthropes in particular, but don't overlook the Devourer-wielding nuts, either. How to fix this? Consider the Tervigon: Onslaught lets you run AND shoot. Get an extra d6 of movement, and you might get range a little sooner. As an extra benefit, the Tervigon can ALSO produce meat shields for your guns.

The Zoanthrope can take a Mycetic Spore and guarantee the chance to shoot, but this entails building in reserves manipulation (IE: at least one Hive Tyrant) and may not see them arrive when you need them, or where you need them. But, it IS an option.

1) Hive Tyrants are support units for your army, but can take decent shooting.
2) Harpies are a solid support element with the Heavy Venom Cannon and have some versatility, you're certainly committing to bringing multiple MCs.
3) Carnifexes...skip them for shooting. Tyrant has similar capabilities and support options; Tyrannofexes are simply superior for popping vehicles.
4) Zoanthropes are graphically destructive, but have short range and are vulnerable to psychic defenses
5) Hive Guard are solid performers, but still short-ranged
6) Tyrannofexes are flat-out dangerous, but require support and have some accuracy issues.
7) Tervigons can help you with that 'range' problem with Onslaught

The Opinion Side
Frankly, I'm planning on converting Hive Guard from Warriors. I'm also planning on converting Tyrannofexes from Carnifex kits; one of those is actually WIP. I will post pictures. So far the thought is to make the Tyrannofex look like a larger hive guard, using some spare carapace bits and the like.

I think that the Hive Guard and Tyrannofex make a good team; one hunts lighter armor and the other can nail any armor value out there (...unless your dice decide you can't hit). I'm looking at running 3x2 Tyrant Guard and at least two Tyrannofexes, with Tervigons as support.

I'd like to say I'm original, but I think this is just going to be a solid kind of build for the bugs. Part of me wants to roll it with double winged tyrants, or fit some Shrikes in there, though.


jabberjabber said...

Awesome write-up mate! I really like your insights and tactics into the game.

haihastur said...

Tyrannofexes...really ?
I don't understand : what do you plan to achieve with this unit ?

- yes, it has best range of all nids weapon, and average mobility, meaning it can brings something to some list in terms of reactivity to far-distant threats.

- yes, it has very good endurance. but then if it achieves nothing, is not scoring or fast moving, and cost you 1/8th of your army... what's the point ?

- yes, I know in 5th ed you don't have to actually "destroy" your opponent if you can outmove/outsmart him. tyrannofex allows neither ones.

on the other hand :
- your target can be osbured, or AV14, or not caring much about a shaken/weapon destroyed result. each one of these halves your probability of doing something interesting with your weapon.

- you may have good endurance, but still need protection. I've already killed some exposed tervigons in one turn with a simple combination of MM-speeders and wolf scouts. so yes, it needs protection. and this will cost a lot to the list, because you already should be protecting your hive gards/zoans/tervigons. the protection your gaunts can provide has its limits too.

so for me we're down to the simple question : what do you intend to do with this weapon ?

- pose a (fictive) threat ? sorry, but with any of my (heavy mech) armies I would simply ignore him and endure 6 S10 hits over the game.

- do any kind of damage to transports ? surely, there are cheaper, easier means of achieving this in a nid list... you listed most of them above.

- harm/shake heavy armor ? again, sorry, but... as an IG player, I'm very fond of manticore tanks. still, I can tell you one thing : even D3 S10 AP4 artillery templates are not the most reliable way to threaten AV14.

as an nid and heavy mech player, I have a little experience with being on both sides of armored vehicles. Even after reading a lot of articles on the beast recently, I still don't see what a tyrannofex can achieve over a 6-turn game that justify its direct and indirect cost to your list.

could you give examples of situations where the tyrannofex brings something your army definitively needs and can't get another (cheaper) way ?

Raptor1313 said...

I don't want to knock experience, but I'm not sure how much prior 'nid experience counts with this codex revamp. That's an honest observation/question, as I've a little bit of bug experience myself with the 4e book in 5th.

My counter-question: would you ignore a rail gun? The math says that a rail gun is about 1.8% more effective than a Rupture Cannon, and that's because it can get the kill on the glancing six.

With regards to transports, the Tyranids want to kill/immobilize them as quickly as possible, right?

As tyranids are a foot/MC army, the enemy can always have a speed advantage on us. That means they can run up to us, or stay away. 48" makes staying away difficult; only the Hammerhead can outrange us.

48" also means we can start firing on the first turn, and I think that range IS a critical issue.

Look at our other anti-mech shooting: the Heavy Venom Cannon is S9 and has -1 vs closed-top, which really makes it the stun/slow gun you're talking about. That leaves us with the Zoanthrope (18") and the Hive GUard. If we want to get first-turn shots off, we have to hope the enemy set up pretty much directly across from us. Otherwise, we're using Tervigons as support for Onslaught to get that extra d6 of shooting range.

The Tyrannofex just sort of saunters to the side and points the Rupture cannon at something. It's pretty self-contained; the ONLY support it needs is in assault and staying away from assault. Frankly, I don't think it should be that hard to build some assault capability into a bug list.

I would note, though, that the Tyrannofex is for use ONLY in heavy shooty lists. YOu want at least two for sake of reliability, so you're giving up Trygons (your other big gun) and committing to a shooty elite choice.

d3 heavy shots might not be the best way to threaten armor at range, but there's no other threat to armor outside of 24" in the bug book beyond the Heavy Venom Cannon. That's the major capability that the Tyrannofex brings. (Well, I suppose you could drop-pod Zoanthropes, but that just adds another layer of reliability issues to the things...)

I do intend to test out the Tyrannofexen. I watched a fellow bug player bring a pair against a fairly mech'ed up IG list; his shooting was a squad of Hive Guard, 3x Zoeys, and 2x Tyrannofexes. Over the course of the game, that turned into several dead Chimeras, a dead Russ, a beat-up russ, a dead Vendetta, and a couple dead Hellhounds. Not all of that was shooting, but the Tyrannos played a big part.

It's a Hammerhead with shorter range and that you can't blow the weapons off of. It's not for every list, but it has a place, I feel.

haihastur said...

I agree with your analysis on one point : the rupture canon has the biggest range in the codex.

but honestly, do you want to pay 265pts for that range ? do you honestly need it that often ? and what can it really DO at that range ?

I'll give you my point of vue regarding those three questions :

- the railgun analogy is interesting, as it cost 90pts at best on a broadside. so you can start to compare 3 railguns with 1 rupture canon. do the math and you will see that the probability (not expectancy) of doing something to your (probably obscured) target is far greater with railguns. rupture might have been good if two of them didn't cost you both legs.

Note 1 : in answer to your question, yes I would ignore a railgun. the problem start when they are 6-9.

- if the ennemy armor is staying outside of the 60" diameter threat bubble of my guard, chances are it's isolated in a corner, and sitting there (or you're playing on far wider board than me). there are better ways to shut him down than fire on him from afar (OF/DS). tau might need this option. most nids list don't.

- what can a rupture canon or a lone railgun actually do at range ? almost nothing.

rupture against obscured AV14 fire platform : you have an expectation of 0.2 interesting damage. so on average you can hope to do 1 such damage in 5 turn (you can hope it'll be weapon/vehicle destroyed and not stunned).

in this case you can compare rupture to the old fex-mounted VC, it's exactly the same damages expectancy, except the rupture has a higher chance of destroying the target for good. hint : you could bring 2 old fexes for one tyrannofex.

Note 2 : in the case of railguns your expectation is quite higher - since you have a unit of 3 for the same cost ;)

rupture against non-obscured AV14 transport : expectation of 0.2. exactly the same.

Note 3 : if you're going for "probability" of doing interesting damage instead of "expectation", you'll find multiple railguns have even higher odds of doing something, and won't suffer as much from obscured targets.

so really, what I wanted to say in my previous post :

- a lone high strength weapon with 1/2/3 shots at range wont actually DO anything in your average game.

- 2 might help but it's costing you 1/4th of your army.

- 9 WILL do something. tau can bring 9 railguns. you can't bring 9 ruptures.

- some armies NEED those weapons, because they are toast when the ennemy gets too close and personal, can win a far-shooting contest against most, and don't want to give easy KP with OFing/DSing units (tau, IG).

two last points that seem important to me :

- my manticore is not in my list for the actual damage it does, but because of its psychological impact on the game. if I actually want to destroy a tank sitting in a corner, I bring outflanking meltas. I'm not to sure about the perceived threat of a tyrannofex.

- I played a few test-game at 1500pts. my gaunt defenses are stretched thin. I'm afraid two more tyrannofex would break them.

but then again, I might be completely wrong and not have foreseen applications for the tyrannofex, I'll wait for you to post feedback on them ;)

Raptor1313 said...

You're correct that railguns are cheaper, but then again the Tau just aren't going to win against an enemy that gets close and can still do damage.

You bring up a point, though: 1500 is too small for a tyrannofex. If you want to bring a couple, bring them in 1850pt plus games. 265 is just too much for the tyrannofex in smaller games.

STill, could you explain what you're using for Gaunt Defenses at 1500? My assumption is 2x10 Gaunts and Tervigons, but I could be wrong.

I'm looking at 2x10 Gaunts and Tervigons, 3x2 Hive Guard, and 2xTyrannofex as a base for the list.

Though, I do have to quibble about AV14 in cover. How often does AV14 sit in cover all game long? Guard can do it, but note also that a Leman Russ just isn't that damaging, either. You seem to be using that figure like it's the be-all end-all for how you'd ignore it.

I'm still not sure I'd ignore railguns. I can't run from it, I can hide from it, but hiding's not productive, and it's going to take a toll. Your only defense lies in taking enough targets to minimize the impact of the railgun.

This guy is still going to take some testing, but from what I've seen of others, this guy has promise.

haihastur said...

FIY, my current 1500pts test-list is more or less :
- prime
- 3 hive guards
- 3 zoans
- deathleaper
- 2xtervigons + 2x10 gaunts
- 8 stealers
- trygon
nothing exceptionnal, but it works pretty well up'till now.

so my "gaunt defense" is 20 gaunts + whatever I got from the tervis. using them to protect my precious tervis+zoans+guards from assault, as assault mean less shooting and sometimes death in 1-2 CC phases.

the problem arise when I have to stay within 6" from the tervis, AND protecting my core 8 models from all sides (OFing and DSing units are very common now - wolf scout force you to place gaunts behind your tervis too).

the problem occured once again this afternoon when I forgot wytches can assault 14" from a raider that moved 12"... result : zoans in CC against wytches turn 2. I was lucky and could bring in 15 gaunts during my turn to free my zoans (and kill the archon ! all hail the gaunts !!!)

like I said a 2000pts list would be basically the same + 2 tyrannofex... well I'm not sure I could protect everything with my gaunts. an assault supported by a little anti-infantry fire could easily breach my lines.

about our running railgun/rupture comparison :

- don't take me wrong, I don't ignore railguns in tau armies, because 1) there are usually A LOT of railguns and 2) tau can only fire at me, so I can only worry about their shooting right ? :)

- against nid however, as an opponent, I see 2 tyrannofex far in the background, who will drop me 2 S10 hit each turn. in front of this I may see zoans who can land S10 AP1 lance hits, or guards with CML, and lot of scoring CC death... not sure I'll focus on the tyrannos as the biggest threat (which is a pro for taking them - they'll probably live through the game). guess I'd just "endure" them, and consider them a target of opportunity.

- like you said, you don't really care about russ or other AV14 weapons-platform sitting in the far corner of the board. and against transports guard are better for light armor, heavy armor is a problem but rupture is not really a solution (0.2 expectancy of interesting damage - without factoring in covers).

anyway, to sum up on the tyranno as I see it today :

pros :

- they WILL survive throuch the game, except if the opponent has good OFing/DSing units, and want to kill them (or has nothing else to do - which he souldn't).

- they bring big range to your swarm.

- they bring S10 hits, which is always a good thing to have in any army (even with only AP4).

cons :

- one rupture will probably do something interesting every 2 games (like a lone railgun would). so bring two.

- you'll only need their range against very cunning opponents and/or in uncommon situations (that's my experience, based on use of VC-fex in v4, and I could be wrong here).

- they f#cking cost you an arm each ! two tyranno without regen are 530pts ! you could take like 3 harpies for the same price, and be much more polyvalent. or bring 60 death-hormies/gargoyles, and spend the rest of your list on anti-armor in other FOC slots.

well, I might try one or two if I can get a 2000pts game in the next month, just to experience a little with them.

my main problem with these guys is really their price. a 150pts with only 4W I'd probably have taken 2 of them. reminds you of something ? yeah, 4th VC-fex.

Yad said...

Hi all. I've been following the discussion about the t-fex as I'm near certain I'll be running them in my list. What I'd like to point out is that it may be a mistake to religate them to a purely long range weapons platform.

Because it's an MC it can fire two weapons in addition to the thorax swarm (3 total). After reading through the codex I've decided that a more aggressive approach needs to be taken. So I'll be constantly moving the tfex forward increasing it's effectiveness the closer I get.

There's an awful lot in this codex that can distract your opponent from paying to much attention to the overly large shooty death beast trudging his way. I hope to use some of this to playtest chrashong his lines with a tfex.

Raptor1313 said...

Welcome, Yad. Don't think I've seen you post here before, and my apologies if I missed it. I try to stay on top of that.

I think the t-fex isn't uber, but it's still a pretty reasonable support platform, and not many armies can put it down quickly at range because of the 2+ on top of 6 wounds.

Closing with it, though...depends. Certainly, you might as well get into cluster spines range. It's your duality, pure and simple.

The flamer template...that's a neat extra, the thorax swarm. It's really a point-defense system, but in a pinch it lets you take out light infantry. I saw someone use it (late game in a pretty brutal match, mind you) to run troops off an objective. And by 'run' I mean 'kill them'. Then it got killed (and took out) an Eviscerator-wielding priest, but that was just consolation for the guard player since he had no troops left on the objective.

GWvsJohn said...

I think you're over-equiping your walking Tyrants and Fexes. Tyrants with HVC, Bone/Lash, Old Adversary and 1 TG. An almost svelte 280. Threatens transports from the start, supports your swarm, is super tough and is a looming CC threat. I'd back it up (in front of it for cover most likely) with a pair of HVC Fexes. I think people are really overlooking the AT value of the 9+2d6 on the Fex. Any armor caught moving <6" is toast if they get close, and with a re-roll (sure, only on 1, but still) they have a decent shot to hit even fast vehicles, which will also be toast.

I don't think the Dev adds much to a HVC MC other than cost and decreased CC ability.

Raptor1313 said...

My logic on the TL Dev is like this:

Ok, so I have one set of scything talons. Big whoop. I reroll 1's. I might get one use out of that every couple turns.

Devourerers, I'm likely to get a couple turns of use out of for MCs, if not more.

Now, on the Tyrant, I'd probably go with Lash/Sword + Heavy Venom, just because the sword scares multi-wound critters (IE: Nobs, Warriors, other monstrous creatures). With the carnifex, I'm not really missing the single set of talons, but there is the cost to think about.