I blame this in part on Chumbalaya for making me think more, and blame work for not getting to it sooner.
In part, I'd like to get out of my comfort zone; I usually play with som hive guard, tervigons, and usually tyrannofexes past that. Is it solid? Reasonably so. However, it IS potentially a rut, and I don't think I'm using all the 'nid codex can give me, and frankly, I picked it up over Tau and Eldar because I wanted variety in my builds.
With that in mind, I'm going to run down stuff I think might or might not fit into a 'nid drop-pod/reserves list.
A Crucial Difference
Now, the other well-known arrives-in-pods lists is, of course, the Space Marines. One of the things that Marines can do that I like is bring units suited for engaging multiple targets, AND make sure they get what they want when they want it (well, other than the BT codex; the others get Drop Pod Assault) and can usually bring units capable of engaging a variety of targets (IE: MM/HF dreads, MM/flamer tac squads, combi-toting Sternguard, etc.).
Tyranids? We tend not to have as much duality, so I've got to get away from my preconceptions of what a drop-pod list 'can' do, and think about a Mycetic Spore list.
So, on to the choices, run down by Force Org slots.
Hive Tyrants get Hive Commander, our reserves manipulation. You get two things for the 25 points: first, +1 to reserves (optional unless it's the Swarmlord) and you get to designate one unit to outflank.
Tyrants can take wings for speed/mobility, or take a couple guard for durability and give you a 'starts on table' core. I'd think about either whip/sword + heavy venom, or look into devourerers. The Guard can probably run naked.
Primes really only give you two things in a spore list: more points to play with, and the ability to slap synapse into any unit. The former means you're not getting the Hive Commander perk, and the latter gives you the ability to slap it in with 19 hormagaunts for comedic value.
I have to lean towards Tyrants here. I think you need to try Spores at a larger points level to get enough, and because you want a Tyrant or two to make sure you can get them there.
Again, this is where we're getting the guns. For that reason, I'm not gonna touch the other reserves.
Zoanthropes vs Hive Guard
This is your big question, honestly. I think if you're gonna focus on pods, you should give serious thought to Zoanthropes. Zoeys are your 'kills the tank' option. If you're reserving Hive Guard, there's the issue of getting them into range, or starting with enough on the table to mak sure they don't get splattered on turn one.
Ok, you're taking Deathleaper for one reason: you want your Zoanthropes to get Warp Lance off. That's why you brought them. Deathleaper can give you better odds; even a Ld9 hood is a decent step up in chances to win the dice-off. If you manage an average d6 roll and knock them to Ld8 for the hood, then so much the better: it's pretty much sunk.
That aside, Deathleaper is ALSO just plain fun to field. You're NOT bringing him for the whole +1 to reserves, since he has to be on the field to use it.
Well, we need 'em. I think you can get serious mileage out of Tervigons/Termagants, though Warriors are also a nasty thing to put in a pod.
But a Tervigon doesn't fit in a pod! Ok, wait. Go read Hive Commander. I'm not always a fan of outflanking, but a Tervigon has the potential to open up a whole new front in a fight when they walk on. First there's one, then there's 10 termagants, then 20...and you suddenly have to worry about that.
Termagants, well, you can slap them in pods, or just run them normally. You can at least buy pods for them and have the option, and I might think (I'm not sure how long) about throwing Devourers onto them for range, and for the ability to lay down a reasonably withering torrent of fire should I decide to land them and shoot things. I mean, a minimal 10-man squad IS throwing out 30 dice.
Frankly, you're running these as a Deathstar distraction. 5-6 of them, whips/swords, devourers and a venom cannon. Ok shooting, but NO ONE wants that hitting the lines next turn. No one. You're looking at close to 300 points for that assembly, but it DOES have to be taken seriously. However, IG with russes might just LOL at this and feed it pie, but that's part of the game. Then you can cry a little.
Now, you CAN slap 20 of these in a pod, or 19 plus Prime. Frankly, I think this falls under a similar use as Warriors, though cheaper. Do worry about flamers, but on the other hand, Hormies CAN pretty much auto-pilot. The downside? If you're outside of synapse, they might just throw a tank at the hormies and laugh; if they move it well enough it might take a couple of glances but they can buy time.
Frankly, there are two choices here for deep-striking: Raveners and Shrikes. I don't think Harpies have a place in a deep-striking list; while they can, you want them on the field shooting, and they benefit from having other targets to draw fire. I mean, they ARE only T5 with 4 wounds and a 4+ save. Target saturation is a survival mechanism for them.
These are your cheap deep-strikers. 35 points a head for beasts with rending claws and speed 'On you next turn!' I like them because with rending claws and a solid volume of attacks, they're a legitimate threat to vehicles AND troops (...though should probably avoid Dreadnoughts, especially AV13 front-armor ones...)
The only downside is that compared to the rest of your army, they're less adept at deep-striking since they have no defense against a mishap.
Go read the warrior entry; remove the pod, add wings and reduce save to a 5+. Take the speed of 'on you next turn.' If you thought Warriors would draw fire, these things will SERIOUSLY do it. However, they're also 50 points a head for whip/sword + scything talons, and they do give up their ability to shoot in order to beomce adept at melee. Limits them somewhat, but seriously, they're gonna be assaulting something and praying they don't hit a dreadnought.
Given the cost, though, I'd almost lean towards regular warriors because I can put them in a drop pod and make SURE they land alive, instead of scattering a 250+ point unit off the table. Whoops.
I'm inclined to look at three choices for heavy support in context of a drop pod list: Tyrannofexes, Carnifexes, and Trygons.
Ok, it doesn't fly/fall with style. Why is it in here? Simple. It has the range to come on from reserves and contribute from the get-go. It's tough enough to survive all but the heaviest of firepower (or at least the highest of AP...) for a few turns. And, as long as you have the enemy on the back foot, they probably won't tie it up in melee. Failing that, it still has nasty close-in firepower with the flamer and cluster spines, and the durability to deal with melee for a turn or two unless they brought a heap of poison boneswords or powerfists.
Blame it on Chumbalaya, but I think he's got a point here. Twin-linked devouerers won't KILL vehicles, but it WILL allow a Carnifex to throw out some suppressing fire. I admit I haven't tested this theory out, but I can see some potential.
You're taking the Carnie for suppressive fire. A dozen S6 shots at BS3 twin-linked should quite down/stop most lighter vehicles, and if you can nail it with S9+2d6 melee attacks after that, you've probably solved a tank problem.
You ARE losing your re-rolls in melee and paying 190 points + pod for the thing, but it's one of the few versatile(ish) choices we can drop in. In a pinch, it's got a reasonable(ish) chance at passing Instinctive Behavior, and the enemy is pretty much sacrificing anything used as bait against it, or they're killing it.
Pretty simple: survive a first turn of fire, then assault things with a heap of S6 MC attacks with re-rolls to hit. I'd think about finding points for Adrenal Glands, if only because S6+2d6 has given me issues against heavier armor often enough. It's also an edge if you attack other monstrous creatures (wounding on 3+ against T6? Yes please?).
Loading Out the Spores
Base 40 points, and you get some S6 attacks out to six inches. It'll do something if you actually land close enough to hit the enemy, but that's cutting it close. You have two real weapon options, the way I see it: Cluster Spines give you a large blast for your crap BS, and a Heavy Venom Cannon can potentially suppress vehicles. However, the guns ARE an investment in points, and I'd probably look to those last.
I've got whiskey and Mass Effect calling my name now (and some frustration because Blogger decided to try to EAT the post...). I am curious to hear from others who've tried reserves-heavy 'nid lists, and faced them. I think it can work, I think the tools are there, I just think it's gonna have to run it differently than other ones.
Thoughts, feedback, and insults are welcome.