40K: Tyranid Tactics

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Alright, the Tyranid Codex is out and that means there’re bugs everywhere. Let’s talk tactics for dealing with them.

The Tyranid Codex is here and bugs are back. Whether Winged Hive Tyrants swooping in with their monstrous scything talons and devourers with brainleech worms, or Carnifexes loaded for bear with their devourers with brainleech worms, or gaunts loaded down with devourers–odds are real good you’ll be facing down a bucket of dice being thrown at you in the future. But that’s where this article comes in. We’re going to go through the most effective ways of dealing with a given threat, and little by little we’ll all become masters of the game.

Let’s do this.

Winged Hive Tyrant

Alright. This one’s tough to deal with… you’ve got an incredibly fast move speed, and it can set up to deep strike near whatever it needs to in order to bring its monstrous weapons to bear against your army. A flyrant armed with devourers with brainleech worms and monstrous scything talons can quickly eat up a flank, pumping out 12 strength six shots with the Flyrant’s excellent skill, and following that up with a charge that is absolutely devastating should it get in. And odds are good it might be a warlord, rolling up on your flank. However, there are a few obvious weaknesses here.

Pity. This one’s a pretty good tactic. While your opponent is setting their Flyrant down, do your best to look pathetic. Make yourself seem physically smaller. If you can cry on command, let tears well up in your eyes. Try and get your voice to move up half an octave as you talk about how the Flyrant is a combatant that you’re not sure your army can defeat. Talk a little about how you need to win this game so you can get in the tournament and win the prize for that operation you desperately need and you’re on the right track.

But this only works if there’s just the one Flyrant. An opponent running multiple Flyrants, especially beat up ones that have been around a while, is a cruel, heartless sociopath and pity will only play into their hands. That’s when you need to use their tendencies against them. They will doubtless delight in the expressions of pitiable weakness that you make as they set their models down–so play it up as before, but then, as soon as they’re distracted trying to figure out where to put their second, third, and probably fourth Flyrants, move the objectives so that they’re on the other side of the table and underneath your troop choices (which, let’s be honest, what are you doing bringing troop choices to a game? What do you think this is, one of those editions where you need minimum troop choices?) — then just keep your opponent distracted with your pleas for mercy as they destroy whatever flank they’ve rolled up on.


Carnifexes are back in a big way in this edition. Which means that you’ll doubtless see them on the table when Tyranids come to Town. And what’s not to love? They are already pretty beefy bugs and they can be upgraded to carry a variety of weapons, as well as given some wargear that makes them better shots, harder to hit, deadlier in close combat, and basically unstoppable. There are a few classic variants, like the Dakkafex, which takes four devourers and spits out 24 shots at anything within 18″. And that’s per model, so you’ll likely be facing down an entire business week’s worth of shots in a single volley. So if you’re eager to whether a volley of fire that exceeds both the number of models in your army AND the number of shots you can put out from about half your opponent’s army, then settle in for some good times.

If, however, you want to counter this chicanery, we’ve got the perfect strategy for you. Prevarication. Nothing super elaborate, but if you’re facing down an opponent who brings more than three carnifexes, they’re probably an old school Tyranid player, which means that they spent their time collecting those models and not caring about how the rest of the game works. This is true because Tyranid players are notoriously self-interested. So when it comes time for you to return fire, just make up some rules-sounding words about why you have just as many shots as your opponent does. It’s not cheating if it makes the game symmetrical. And the Tyranid player will think that sounds about right–they’re used to their armies being about the same or worse than everyone else’s.

If your opponent insists on either seeing your rulebook, or that they know what they’re talking about, then while they’re getting out their next fist full of dice to roll, slide your models backwards so they’re just slightly out of range.


Haruspexes can be a nightmare in close combat. With an all-consuming maw, shoveling claws that help them load up on infantry models like they were trying to win a hot-wings eating contest, and the ability to regain wounds every time it kills something in melee, the Haruspex can be difficult to deal with. Now, you might read some strategies about how the proper thing to do is to shoot them before they get into close combat, but this is a waste of firepower and will only guarantee you get charged by the Carnifexes, Hive Tyrants, or Genestealers (see below). So instead what you want to do is let the Haruspex charge into one of your units.

Then use sleight of hand. Every time you need to pick up a model, simply use your dextrous hands to palm a model and slip it in near the back. This is especially good if you have a big horde unit of conscripts or bloodletters or chaos cultists or whatever cheap terrible infantry you want. Now you might feel bad about doing this–but the Tyranid player will love that their Haruspex is actually getting to kill and eat models, instead of being shot off the table, and will in fact be so grateful that they’ll just let the fight continue forever while you win the game. Everyone goes home happy.

Genestealers w/Ravener/Trygon/Mawloc

In the latest Codex, the Tyranids have a number of ways to deep strike a brood of Genestealers in wherever they want. Whether in the native abilities of one of their bugs, or through the use of stratagems that lets them accompany a burrowing ravener, for instance. This guarantees that the Genestealers will be at or near full strength when they charge your unit that you really didn’t want getting eaten. And with their claws and the support of a nearby Broodlord, they’ll be absolutely devastating. Fortunately there is an easy solution to this menace.

Flip the table.

Now that you know how to combat some of the deadliest threats in the Tyranid Codex, you’re ready to get out there and win so you can finally get that operation you so desperately need.

Be sure and share your favorite tactic for victory in the comments, we’re always looking to expand our arsenal of tried and true tournament tactics to help us gain a competitive edge.

  • I_am_Alpharius

    For a second there I thought that I would get to read a interesting and insightful first impression on playing with and playing against the new Codex Tyranids…….boy was I wrong….

    • Bootneck

      Yes but it was funny

      “do your best to look pathetic. Make yourself seem physically smaller. If you can cry on command, let tears well up in your eyes. Try and get your voice to move up half an octave as you talk about how the Flyrant is a combatant that you’re not sure your army can defeat. Talk a little about how you need to win this game so you can get in the tournament and win the prize for that operation you desperately need and you’re on the right track.”

      • I_am_Alpharius

        You and I have a very different definition of “funny”

        • Randy Randalman

          Good thing the definition of funny doesn’t hinge on what you think of it.

          • I_am_Alpharius

            Jebus no need to get snippy – I was just using a common adage, to express that I, personally, did not find various bits of the article funny. Didn’t say no-one else could find it funny.

          • Snord

            Actually, I thought it was quite amusing. My first experience of fighting nids was in 3rd Edition, when they could be ranked up so that the smaller bugs shielded the bigger ones. It was simply impossible to kill enough of them before the big ones got onto you, and I was playing Orks so they had no chance in HTH. So some of the silly suggestions in this article kind of ring true…

          • Geko747

            Don’t worry, I think a lot of people agree with you, pathetic article with no value whatsoever, and definitely not funny…

          • lmn118

            Funny if you are an easily amused simpleton, waste of time is what I would call it.

    • ToLiveIsToDie

      The tactics versus tyranids have not fundamentally changed. Bring flamers, bring snipers if available, pick apart large monsters and make sure to spread your deployment and back it to the edge to deny flanking deep strikes. Bring lascannons or plasmas to deal with characters, rely on superior firepower, superior skill, superior armor and superior range.
      If the tyranid player actually brings the mvp’s of the list which are hive guard with impaler cannons and biovores then make an aggressive advance while still prioritizing big bugs and cut your way to any neurothropes which will be the toughest synapse to deal with now. Tyrants are impressively durable compared to what they were but a flyrant is depending a lot on being able to get close fast and try to lock into close combat. If the flyrant has deathspitters and/or venom cannon or stangler then prioritize him first with heavy weapons.
      Those are general strokes but that sums up the majority of tactics that exist. Psyker heavy armies should attempt to smite from maximum distance unless they just outnumber the ‘nid psykers then there isn’t much cause for concern.
      Expect neurothrope spam, expect flyrant spam, expect exocrines still, beware tyrannofexes with rupture cannons of Fleet Kronos because they cost nearly the same as an exocrine and hit harder and are tougher. Oh, and genestealers but if you have flamers then they pose no real threat but do mind your deployment and movement to avoid leaving vehicles vulnerable to alpha strikes from them.

      • Randy Randalman

        Wow. Literally none of that works now. Not only is it not just about “how to deal with [insert unit type]” anymore, the game has completely changed with the Tactics and Stratagems for each army. Tyranids, in particular, are easily the most flexible in this regard (which makes sense, given their fluff), and you will see a wider variety of competitive builds from them than any other army.

        You not only can’t put everything in the list you just described to deal with every way the new ‘nids can play, but you would lose to 3/4 of the remainder of the meta if you did.

        You go ahead and Smite from “maximum distance.” Oh wait…Zoanthropes Smite from farther away. You go ahead and use your saturation of powers to…oh wait, you’re at a penalty or even a 1d6 to cast against Tyranids. Aim your big weapons at their monsters…oh wait, they’re at -1 to hit now and/or on a 2+ save; and their own return heavy fire can get into position turn one without being shot at to kill your heavy weapons. You don’t get to prioritize the Flyrant first because he appears where he wants to and takes aim for your heavy weapons teams; the Hive Guard wipe out your tanks with damage to spare; they ally a GSC psyker so your flamers can’t Overwatch…

        You go ahead and think the same old-same old will work. The same old-same old doesn’t work against any army in this edition anymore. The narrow minded players who refuse to see beyond the internet’s initial “best build” for each army? Sure, they will be stuck feeling like things are the same. But each codex has brought something with it that changes the meta prior, and prepares for the meta upcoming. Tyranids brought the most of both.

        • ToLiveIsToDie

          What do you use? Harsh language? Most people’s list I’ve seen have a long range, hard hitting weapon. Usually in multiples. They have flamers, usually in multiples. How do you fight ‘nids and when did they aquire mystical immunity to the weapons of the 41st millennium? If your average BS is 4+ then yes a -1 is significant. But most armies have characters, elites, and/or troops with better than 4+ and the weapon options listed above.
          So when playing against ‘nids you should use them since you are apparently unaware. As for the rest of the meta, that was neither the point of the post I replied to nor my reply.

      • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

        Party bus wins again, I guess.

  • Marco Marantz

    So all you can *try* against a well played Tyranid force, especially if they get first turn, is cheat? Thought so. Even then the ‘nids still have a chance.
    Seriously ones chances against tyranids depends a lot on the terrain and the mission type. If ‘nids are so inclined, even in a maelstrom game, they can just try and roll over you, so moving forward to take objectives is something akin to suicide. If you can sit back, covering yourself with a screen of cheap troops, and blaze away at them for a couple of turns, you can blunt them. If the ‘nid player is kind enough to orient his force traditionally and not simply try and steamroll you with everything, this increases your chances.

    • Snord

      Cheating was only one of the options. Pleading for mercy was specifically mentioned.

  • tylran

    Welp, it seems like my flamestorm gauntlet Aggressors are gonna see some action.

  • swiftscythe

    Wait.. Hive Tyrants can replace two scythe talon pairs with two entries from the monsterous Bioweapon list; which says :
    “TWO Devourers with Brain leech” and if i take that Twice that is FOUR total devouers which each devourer is Assault 6 meaning Twenty Four Strength 6 shots from a 9 inch deep striking Pathogenic Slime strategem buffed BS3+ tyrant. Awesome!
    Add some Smite and Psychic Scream and the flying circus is back.

    • AkulaK

      Yup, they can have 24 S6 BS 3+ shots… But those guys will attract so many shots from the ennemy army… Sure they are solid (especially with that 5+ fnp), but they are far from unkillable… The problem is that Nids have so many threats to deal with (Dakkafexes, Stealers in your lines on first turn, 180 S4 shots termagants units, zoanthropes and so on) i doubt most of the armies will have enough shots deal with all the threats faster than they deal with them.

  • Dennis J. Pechavar

    I love that old Carnifex.