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40K 8th Edition: Tyranid First Impressions

10 Minute Read
Jul 17

8th Edition has been kind to the Hive Mind. Here’s why Tyranids are a strong contender in any game.

Did you miss me? Or better yet, do you remember me? It’s Danny from TFG Radio here, and after about a month of 8th edition 40K in our lives, it is time to talk about the Hive Fleets and where we stand. Of course, check out the ever-expanding database at Frontline’s Tactics Corner, so you can keep up with all the awesomeness of our new dawn.

So, let’s just be blunt: In 7th edition, Tyranids had very few competitively viable options on the tabletop. Is that true today? Oh, no. No, not at all. 8th edition has been kind to the Hive Mind, and Tyranids are now well positioned to be a strong contender in any game. Why?

Our Units are Better

Might actually be seen on the tabletop.

While all other armies received some significant restructuring of under-performing units, the fact that most Tyranid units needed some kind of boost means that we received far more in this department than other, stronger Factions. There are few units that received any toning down of power in our army list, and even then, they are not worthless, simply different and still viable depending on the build.

Yes, Flyrants are not auto-includes now, but they are not at all bad. Gunboat Flyrants are great flankers and skirmishers, able to lay down some hurt on lighter targets with the speed to either avoid the scarier units or strike out and charge a weak unit. Since they can fly, they can fall-back and go about their shooting. Mawlocs were toned down, but they are one of our cheapest monsters that excels at inflicting some surprise mortal wounds as well as taking on larger units of chaff thanks to quite a few attacks.

We actually have a few invulnerable saves now spread out across the army list, we have some decent shooting beasts, and a lot of our worst units were brought up to at least playable if not downright great (Pyrovores).


I have successfully been fielding lists with Carnifexes, Trygons, Tyranid Primes, Crones/Harpies, and walking Tyrants. This is a brave new world. Of course, there are a few stand-outs.

Genestealers are Amazing

Genestealers are pound for pound one of the scariest melee units in the game. For just over 10 points, you get a S/T4 model that moves 8 inches, can advance and charge, has a 5++ save, has 4 attacks a piece when the unit is over 10 models, and hits on a 3+ with easy access to an aura that increases this to 2+. Oh, they also have -1 AP on their melee attacks and 6s turn to -4 AP.

Just on average dice, a Genestealer threatens any unit within 18 inches. Since S4 can hurt anything now, Genestealers are a dominant threat since they will shred any light or medium infantry like Orks or Conscripts, but with -4 AP on a wound of 6, they can absolutely threaten the biggest targets out there. Will Genestealers one round a Knight? No, but they can certainly wear it down or cripple it.

Combined with some of the other cool tools in the Tyranid box, Genestealers are almost an auto-include, and they have finally come back to their glory days. It is quite satisfying to throw out 20 genestealers into a first turn charge, which is just about a guarantee with…

The Swarmlord is the Hero We Need

The Swarmlord has the most character and identity amongst the disposable trillions of Hive Fleet Organisms, and its fluff has always been so damn cool, but on the table top? Well, 7th edition wasn’t too kind. Now, the Swarmlord is an absolute beast, and when I am building lists, I really have to ask: “Why wouldn’t I take it?”.
First and foremost, Hive Commander is an ability that you can build a list around, and it is a guaranteed first turn charge. Just deploying on the table, you can get Genestealers to advance 16+2d6 up the board before charging. With a Trygon or Tyrannocyte, you can guarantee a charge by moving whatever pops out their movement value right into the teeth of the enemy. Of course, you can also drop Swarmie in a Tyrannocyte and use Hive Commander on itself for a guaranteed charge.


And Swarmie in combat? It is a blender and one of our best melee assets with a ton of attacks that are -3 AP and do D6 damage, hitting on 2+. Of course, Swarmie still has a 4++ in melee, so it is far more durable than just about any of our other units. If you need a hard asset dead, the Swarmlord is one of our most reliable choices.

If you are new to Tyranids, a Hive Tyrant box (to make Swarmlord) and a few boxes of Genestealers are a great way to start.

Amazing Morale Control

Synapse is the truth. Morale is a big deal, and if you’ve been watching the nascent meta of this game, you’ll see that strong lists either don’t care about morale (because they utilize many single model units where it is not a factor) or have layers of morale control like Ork Hordes or Conscripts and Commissars. Thanks to Synapse, the Hive Fleets can field large units of squishy bugs and not suffer the double attrition nature of morale.

This is huge for several reasons. The first is that it makes the little bugs like Termagants and Hormagaunts exceedingly useful. They are designed to be taken in hordes, but with T3 and a 6+ save, they are not going to live very long. They will take casualties, which is their job, but ensuring that they will stick around is what matters. A Hormagaunt tarpit has won me games, and yes, most of a 30 bug unit of Termagants will evaporate under fire, but as long as enough stick around to block charge lanes or contest an objective, they have done their job.

Second, this segways nicely into….

Controlling Objectives

The fact that objectives are now controlled by the number of models around it rather than number of units or rules like Objective Secured, swarms and hordes are powerful in the mission. Tyranids have some solid swarm units, and 30 Termagants is not much over a hundred points. That’s not too bad at all for a unit of 30 that will never suffer losses from Morale so long as they are in Synapse. The Hive Fleet can easily have a ton of big monsters on the table and still have points for 60-90 bodies to play the mission.

This is one of the Tyranid benefits: We have some decent, cheap troops that we can easily use to fill out a battle field while still leaving a lot of room for other units. Let’s not forget that thanks to the Character rules, a Tyranid Prime or Malanthrope, both quite inexpensive, cannot be targeted if they are not the closest unit, so having these Synapse beacons walking in the center of a ring of Gants ensures that they are not going anywhere.


Threat Vectors

Tyranids certainly live up to the fluff when it comes to being able to hit enemies where and when they are not expecting it. Thanks to Tyrannocytes, which are more expensive but much more useful on the field, any infantry or monstrous creature 14 wounds and under can appear on the board wherever is best. Dropping a Dimacheron or Haruspex can be hilarious or the previously mentioned Swarmlord.

Thanks to the new and improved Trygon/Prime rules, all of our Troops choices can now pop up where they are needed, and not just limited to 20 bug squads. A full unit of 30 devilgants popping out of a Trygon hole means 90 S4 shots wherever you need them, or a full squad of 30 hormagaunts with adrenal glands now only need an 8 to make a charge out of reserve, and if you saved a Control Point for a reroll, the odds start to inch closer to your favor. Hell, even a full squad of melee Tyranid Warriors with Boneswords and Adrenal Glands popping out of either a Trygon hole or a Tyrannocyte can ruin some days.

Of course, there are also units that can just innately deploy via reserves like Raveners, Ripper Swarms, Mucolids, and Lictors. All in all, Tyranids have plenty of ways to come out opponents from a variety of places, and it is not hard to adjust our lists to have significantly lower drops than it may first appear thanks to the Trygon and Tyrannocyte.

Mortal Wounds

This has been bandied about the competitive web for a bit, but the idea of massed mortal wounds thanks to Smite is something that Tyranids do quite well. First off, the Hive Tyrant can be one of the best Smite batteries around. With a solid melee statline, a 5++, and 10 wounds, a Hive Tyrant doesn’t mind being close up to the action, and if you take only rending claws, a Hive Tyrant is cheaper than a Broodlord. Of course, you can also just take a Broodlord who has the benefit of hiding behind a screen of gants. We also have Maleceptors who get +1 to cast, making smite even more likely, and our big hitters in this regard, Zoanthropes, will put out 2d3 (or even d6+d3) mortal wounds.

Let’s not forget that Tyranids have other ways to dish out mortal wounds. Biovores and Spore Mines just do a flat number of mortal wounds with the chance to spike, and Mucolids are pretty nasty that way too. The most improved in this regard is the Sporecyst who can essentially shoot Mucolids, so a Tyrannid gun-line of Biovores and a Sporecyst or two is a lot of high range mortal wounds, and if you miss, being able to put down some exploding bug-balloons to gum up charge lines is kind of awesome. Mawlocs are also great for doing some surprise mortal wounds, especially to characters in the backfield, and while they are not super killing machines, they can certainly threaten quite a few characters and light infantry.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see a mortal wound army come of Tyranids that makes all these Knight and Stormraven lists wary.

Some Allies Shenanigans

Something totally new to Tyranids in 8th edition is that we finally have a way to play with allies. At the end of 7th, we had Genestealer Cults, but with GSC’s new rule allowing them to take one detachment of Astra Militarum, you can have a 2K list with Tyranids, GSC, and AM. GSC Genestealers backed by waves of gants, a Swarmlord, and a Baneblade you say? It could happen.


Tyranids are no longer a lone island, and for better or worse, this opens up our list building options into some pretty insane and tricky places. I would not at all be shocked to see a tournament-winning list that uses this.

Combined Arms and Skew

Lastly, as I postulated before, Tyranids are pretty gosh darn good at building a variety of lists. You can do a mega-swarm of 200+ models, a monster-mash of about 10, a semi-horde of 10+ Carnifexes and a host of little ones, or a combination thereof. That’s the beauty of it, and it is the most exciting part of 8th edition for me: We have a ton of viable lists, and we even have several viable genres of lists to go to.

We can skew with the best of them and bring just an overwhelming amount of either Big Bugs or little bugs. We can do lightning fast assault armies or gun-lines. The only thing we cannot really do is bring massed flyers with the Airborne rule, but then we can bring massed Flyrants and Harpies/Crones. We can do TAC like champs with a well-balanced buffet of goodness. Whatever the meta solidifies into, we can respond to it.

There is no real way to tell how the meta will look in a year, but I am willing to go on the record and say that Tyranids will have at least 3 highly competitive builds. That’s a huge improvement over 7th, and all in all, I am a happy member of the Hive Mind. Next time, I’ll talk about the main “genres” of armies that Tyranids can do, and maybe go over a few sample lists. Until then, thanks as always for reading, check out TFG Radio for all of our adventures, and maybe I’ll see you at the SoCal Open or LVO.



Las Vegas Open registration will be opening on Thursday morning, July 20th! Make sure to get ready as many of the popular events and items go quick! High Roller Packages, 40k and AoS Champs, 40k Narrative all go very fast. Grab those tickets while you can. We’ll also have a limited availability of bundle packages that give you a themed LVO experience at a discounted price! Also, you can book your hotel room, here!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!


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