Hi everyone !!
Instead of watching the Superbowl this evening I figured I'd write another tactical article about how to build and play a reserved Tyranid army list. There is no one right way to play the army but there are choices that can go a long way towards a good build. I have chosen to bring my army to the ATC this year for several reasons. One big reason is that the ATC is both a fun and competitive event that draws a lot of top players from around the country. Another reason is that I am very familiar with the mission format and used theirs as the basis for mine at BeakyCon - this features all three objectives from the rulebook (Killpoints, Capture and Control plus Seize Ground) and they are all equivalent - that is you either win or lose, there is no primary, secondary or tertiary. This type of format does not give an advantage to any type of army. I have only heard good things about ATC and look forward to playing there in Tennessee this summer.
I have learned how to do well in regards to each of the three objectives from the rulebook including killpoints. Killpoints used to be my Achilles' Heel but by dropping one mycetic spore it is now an objective I can win whereas before it seemed to be a foregone conclusion I could never win that one. I have developed some new tactics that are powerful versus mechanized lists. If you think about it most mechanized lists present a plethora of easy killpoints you can score if your army is adapted to take advantage. For example just recently I learned that you decide where to place your Ymrgal genestealers in reserve after both armies have been deployed. I have also started to infiltrate my genestealer brood at times instead of always outflanking them—I will now infiltrate depending upon terrain and how my opponent has deployed. Genestealers can serve the role as a vanguard and sow disruption providing a distraction for other your other units arriving from reserve. As such it's possible to assault with two units during the second turn using the genestealer brood and Yrmgal genestealers. They are both a big threat and cannot be ignored by the opponent. While genestealers excel in melee versus other infantry units they are also able to shred armor due to their high number of attacks coupled with rending. In my opinion this is exactly how genestealers were designed to perform.
My 1850 point List
Here is my most current army list:
Hive Tyrant *: wings, twin linked devourers w. brainleech ammo, bone sword+lash whip, adrenal glands, Hive Commander, Parosym & Life Leech
Tyranid Prime *: bone sword+lash whip, scything talons, adrenal glands, regeneration
10x Yrmgal genestealer
2x Zoanthrope * - mycetic spore
15x genestealer incl. Broodlord: scything talons & toxin sacs
3x Warrior *: 2x deathspitter & barbed strangler, bone swords & lash whips, toxin sacs - mycetic spore
15x termagant: devourers - mycetic spore
10x hormagaunt: adrenal glands, toxin sacs - mycetic spore
Trygon Prime * - adrenal glands
* These units have Synaspe and Shadows in the Warp.
Like I said above there is no one right list how to play reserved Tyranids and I have solicited advice from those whom I consider to be top Tyranid players. This is my core list and what works the best for me. It is here as a reference for you.
Here are some Tyranid units that should be avoided when building your own reserved army list:
These are all monstrous creatures that are slow and costly plus they have a low initiative. As such they are a liability versus the Space Wolf psychic power Jaws of the World Wolf. You are paying a lot of points for your monstrous creatures and to win you they must perform well on a consistent basis. The last thing you want is for a Space Wolf player to nuke your big nasty at range with a cheap psychic power to which you have no real defense. Tyranid monstrous creatures should be on your front line actively engaged versus the enemy. I only run a Hive Tyrant and a Trygon Prime. My Tyrant is naturally immune to JAWS due to its wings and the Trygon Prime will only fail on a roll of 6 versus JAWS due to being a monstrous creature and I4. The three I have listed above work better in a horde list plus the Carnifex requires the use of a mycetic spore to integrate with a reserved list which gives up another easy killpoint. The Carnifex and Tryannofex are both overcosted as well. Finally note that none of the three listed units have Synapse or Shadows in the Warp - as such they could potentially be a liability at the worst possible moment and again they don't integrate well into a reserved list.
Now that I have provided a sample army list and noted a few units to avoid I'll breakdown the main strengths of the army.
The first and most powerful strength of this style of play is the use of Null Deployment. By taking a Tyrant with the Hive Commander option all of your reserves will arrive with +1, as such the bulk of your army will arrive on turn 2 and you can saturate the battlefield with more units than your opponent can handle. You should opt to go second if possible since this will deny your opponent two turns of shooting at your army. Your genestealer broods act as a vanguard to neutralize enemy units thus buying another turn for your other units to get stuck in. jy2 has dubbed this strategy the Maximum Threat Overdrive (MTO) and has posted many batreps featuring his Necron armies over on Dakka Dakka that take advantage of this tactic.
Many of my detractors have claimed that my army is devoid of any real threat when it comes to shooting. Let's take a closer look at my core army list again and see what I actually have in the way of shooting and how potent it really is.
• Termagants - 45 S4 shots at 18" range arriving in a spore. This unit will decimate a squad of Long Fangs irregardless of cover. A wise opponent playing a mech list will keep all their infantry embarked in their transports versus this unit which is a serious detriment to Razorfang lists. The unit is relatively cheap for what they provide and can also hold objectives if need be and in the right situation.
• Zoanthropes - This is your primary deterrent versus AV14. Sure it is tough to get a warp lance shot past the Grey Knight psychic defense but in my mind it's still your best shot. The mycetic spore means that you should be able to place your Zoies with a clear unobstructed shot that denies cover saves. I'd love to run a brood of three as opposed to two but the points are very tight. Versus Space Wolves I often use my Zoies to pop the enemy transport carrying the Rune Priest early in the game to negate their rune staff which can be huge since I have an army with a high concentration of psychic units. The Zoies can also soak Space Marine units with their S5 AP3 small blast shooting attack and is more reliable since you don't have to roll to hit.
• Hive Tyrant - six BS 4 S6 shots at 18" range on a flying platform. The Hive Tyrant equipped as such is very versatile. This shooting attack is excellent versus light armor such as razorbacks and I regard it as one of my more effective methods of dealing with mech at range.
• Trgygon Prime - 12 BS3 S5 shots at 18" range. While its not a tank killer it is fairly reliable at glancing light armor. It is one more gun in your arsenal and should not be ignored. You are paying for the upgrade to a Prime and this is one of the main benefits.
• Warriors - Warriors are really only good at shooting infantry. The barbed strangler provides a S4 large blast with 36" range which adds some versatility.
• Mycetic Spores - 6 shots at 6" range that are BS2 S6 AP-. Sure it's not reliable but the high strength can glance or penetrate light transports such as rhinos and chimeras. If you can stun a transport that is potentially one turn you can ignore its contents.
Note that the barbed strangler is pinning weapon while the devourer causes the enemy to suffer -1 Ld when taking a morale check from wounds suffered in the shooting phase.
Synapse and Shadows in the Warp (SitW)
You will have probably noticed I have a high percentage of units with Synapse and SitW. I selected these units primarily based upon other merits such as melee and shooting but on the other hand generally speaking it is not a disadvantage plus your army benefits from being fearless. I don't run a horde list so I don't have to worry much about suffering lots of wounds in melee due to No Retreat armor saves. This is your major psychic defense versus Grey Knights or any army with psykers and my army spreads it all around quite liberally - it can and does win games. I never have to worry about Weaken Resolve which is another useful benefit. Paroxysm (Tyrant) is a very powerful psychic power along with Aura of Despair and Hypnotic Gaze (Broodlord)... All three of these buff your assault phases which has always been a big strength for Tyranids.
Deployment and Mobility
Reserved armies have an inherent strength when it comes to deployment and this is another huge advantage for this style of play... Basically you can ignore all the penalties imposed upon more conventional armies due to deployment. As I said above the vast majority of your army will arrive during the second turn and you can saturate the battlefield to gain advantage from the MTO strategy. Mycetic spores and Trygons deploy like drop pods so they are much less affected by the random chance of a mishap. Yrmgals can move and assault the turn they arrive from reserve. In my mind there are lots of advantages to this style of play. Gaunts, genestealers and Trygons can fleet... If need be all of these units can catch up to vehicles that can only move 12" or less with a good roll for run assuming the vehicle is no more than 18" away at the start of your turn. Obviously the winged Tyrant is fast as well. By combining this mobility with other aspects of your army you can quickly and effectively cover a lot of ground in a single turn. I have had games where my genestealer brood started 24" or more away from an enemy unit at turn four and was able to launch a game winning assault by the last turn... They are not perceived as a threat until its too late.
I played Dark Eldar before I decided to approach Tyranids. One major weakness of dark eldar is an army can die in droves during a single turn if you are careless or just plain unlucky-they are the ultimate glass hammer. I did not know what to expect when I decided to first start playing Tyranids but I have found they are much more resilient and thus much more forgiving. You can lose a couple units due to mistakes or bad luck and still have a good chance to win. This aspect (maybe more than anything else) makes for playing Tyranids more enjoyable for me. I think I have a good ratio of T3-T4-T6 units and a good mix will help to offset any one unit drawing focused fire.
This article was an overview how and why I play my army. I have addressed challenges to its effectiveness as a competitive army.