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Tyranid Codex Review: HQ: Deathleaper

7 Minute Read
Jan 7 2017


Let’s take a close look at Deathleaper – the “nightmare” inducing HQ from Codex: Tyranids!

Hello again everyone, Danny from TFG Radio to go over the last special character HQ choice for Tyranids, the bug, the myth, the legend: Deathleaper! Of course, if you don’t want to get ganked by a mix of a xenomorph and the Predator, check out Frontline’s ever expanding Tactics Corner!

Deathleaper is the quintessential stuff of nightmare: a solitary, invisible killer with an almost cruel cunning and ravenous need to torment and devour. This bad bug brings both some much needed utility and cohesion to a Tyranid force, but he also can come in with the kill when used properly. Whether it is guiding in reinforcements, debuffing an enemy character, or picking off objective campers, Deathleaper is everywhere you need him to be.


Rending Claws – AP 5 melee weapons that grant Rending.

Scything Talons – Generic melee weapons that pair with the claws for +1 attack.

Flesh Hooks – Assault Grenades and a Range 6, S6, AP- Assault 2 gun.

So the biomorphs here are a bit thin, but they provide some much needed heat for Deathleaper. Rending is never a bad thing, and with Deathleaper’s 6 attacks on the charge, it is not unreasonable to assume one Rend although by no means a guarantee. The big money here are Flesh Hooks as they not only provide him a quick chip shot that can get lucky and strip some hull-points, this bug has assault grenades, so he gets to utilize his insane initiative of 7! That’s the real MVP here.





Special Rules:

Chameleonic Skin: No scatter on Deep Strike for this bug

Deep Strike: We all know what this does, and with no scatter, you are always on target.

Fear: Ok, not the greatest special rule, but against Tau, Eldar Scatbikes, or AM, it can come in handy.


Fleet: Always nice to be able to reroll the charge on a melee character or even a run to get deeper into cover.

Hit & Run: Being able to disengage from a combat is super clutch, especially if it is clear that Deathleaper has better places to be.

Infiltrate: Deathleaper can start way up the board and this combos very well with Pheromone Trail.

Pheromone Trail: Friendly Tyranids do not scatter when arriving from Deepstrike when the first model is placed within 6 inches of Deathleaper. It must be on the board at the start of the turn for this to work.

Instinctive Behaviour (Lurk): If Deathleader is out of synapse and fails a Leadership 10 check, it may fall back, or it may have to seek cover to be able to shoot and can’t charge. Boo.

‘It’s After Me!’: At the beginning of the game, nominate an enemy character and roll a D3. As long as Deathleaper is alive (not on the board, just alive), that character suffers the D3 roll in a Leadership penalty.

Move Through Cover: No dangerous terrain checks and rolls 3d6 and picks the best when moving through cover.

Stealth: Always nice to have +1 to cover saves.

Very Bulky: If somehow being transported, it counts as 3 models.


‘Where is it?’: Enemy models can only fire Snap Shots when targeting Deathleaper. This is money.

Warlord traitMind Eater: You score 2 Victory Points if this model kills an enemy independent character in a challenge.

Ok, wow, that’s a lot of rules to remember, but there are a few key ones to focus on here. The first is ‘Where is it?’ as this makes Deathleaper far more survivable than any other Lictor. It cannot be blasted by flamers, templates, and any other guns suddenly only have a 16% chance of hitting. That’s quite nice. ‘It’s After Me’ is also key for weakening an enemy Independent Character, particularly Psykers. Coupled with Shadow in the Warp from say a flying Hive-Tyrant, an enemy psyker might be anywhere from -4 to -6 Leadership when testing for Perils. That pretty much guarantees bad things. If going against an Astra Militarum blob with a Priest for reroll saves or wounds, knocking his leadership down to 4 means that those War Hymns are mighty unreliable. Hit & Run is nothing but utility, and never underestimate the ability to just leave combat to move on to juicer targets or even reposition to get a better charge and snipe out a character. As always, Deathleaper is brings all the usual Tek of a Lictor, allowing for pin-point Deepstrikes like say Mawlocs. All in all, there is a lot of great in here.

mawloc1Lictors & Mawlocs go together like peas & carrots!

How do we get the most mileage out of this bad, bad, bug? Well, first of all, DL is a tactical toolbox and a half. Utilizing it to be a more survivable and reliable Lictor is more than fair use, and coupling it with either Mawlocs or a Tyrannocyte full of fun like Devourer-Gaunts or even a big brood of Zoanthropes means that you can reliably put your Deep Striking bugs where they want to be. Huge. If you are running Flyrants and one happens to pick up Psychic Scream, you can Deepstrike into the perfect spot to catch several units at once. This is exactly what Lictors do, but DL is far harder to kill, so you can reasonably infiltrate it in and not worry that it will get picked up on Turn 1. Especially since DL isn’t a huge model, it is easy to put it somewhere out of Line of Sight.

The debuff to an enemy model’s leadership is also a potentially huge swing in the game. Tyranids lack a lot of the means to effectively counter the standard super-psychic-deathstars that run around, but Deathleaper gives them at least one play. Make sure to nominate the character for the debuff that has a critical power such as Invisibility, Endurance, or Re-roll saves. Or if going against a summoning heavy army like Cabal, it doesn’t hurt to nerf the character with the best summoning powers. If you make it dangerous for enemies to Perils, especially with Shadow in the Warp, they either need to not cast that power or take the risk that they miscast and roll a 1 on the Perils of the Warp table, and if they are suddenly Leadership 6, or 5, or 4, then boom goes the Psyker and maybe some friends as well. This isn’t the absolutely end-all-be-all way to shut down a deathstar, but it helps, and Tyranids need all that help.




As a melee character, Deathleaper is a surgeon looking to strike precisely and quickly. It is not a general beat-stick that you can just throw into the fray all willy-nilly. Deathleader has a fighter’s statline with WS9, I7, S6, and 5 attacks, but it is only T4 with 3 wounds and a 5+ armor save, and like almost all bugs, no invulnerable save. This means that if Deathleaper gets hit, Deathleaper is gonna die, and S8 powerfists are not exactly rare in the game. Just one pop from that and Deathleaper just hit the windshield. You want to use DL to charge the side of a unit, aiming for a valuable character that its swings have to go against, meaning that your opponent has to either Look Out Sir them away or try to tank the hits themselves. With WS9, DL is hitting on 3s against almost anyone; with I7, DL is hitting before almost anyone, and again, with 6 attacks on the charge, DL will get at least one Rend more times than not, but is this enough? No.


DL should not ever go into combat solo unless it is to clear off an objective like against Scouts, Fire Warriors, or a 3-elf Scatbike team. Being hit on 5s, wounded of 4s (or even 5s), and saving only on a 5+ means that DL should at most take a wound when charging into these units, and should kill about 3 scouts or 2 marines in return. While it may seem tempting to send it out like in the fluff to hunt commanders, against most Independent Characters, DL will likely die in the attempt. Its melee skills are best at hunting small units or assisting in a combat with other, more dangerous targets like Carnifexs, Hive Tyrants, or Trygons. Just remember that like all Lictors (and most bugs), you don’t want to charge a unit with a lot of flamers as again, T4 with a 5+ save is not exactly tanky.




Is Deathleaper competitive? Yes, it is. As Sean Nayden showed at LVO 2015, Lictors are good, and Deathleaper is the best Lictor around, and in its specific formation, it gets to bring lots of friends to the party while also adding another small leadership debuff, which is just awesome.  If you are looking for a great utility character with some decent survivability that can also start to mop up those annoying little units, look no further than the big DL.

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