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Tyranids Codex Review: Heavy Support

20 Minute Read
Nov 14 2017

The Great Devourer is upon us, and today we dive into the Tyranid Heavy Support units to explore what they have to offer!


Heavy Support

  • Exocrine
  • Tyrannofex
  • Biovores
  • Toxicrene
  • Carnifexes
  • Screamer-Killers
  • Thornbacks
  • Mawloc
  • Tyrgon
  • Trygon Prime

The Tyranid codex has so much depth to it and so many good units in so many force org slots but Heavy Support stand apart. Even in a stacked dex like the Nid book, they have some absolutely stellar choices in Heavy Support. Let’s talk about why!


The Exocrine is the first offering and one of my favorites. It’s a heavy gun-bug, and it packs a wallop. It boasts toughness 8, 12 wounds and a 3+ save, similar to a Leman Russ. Also like a Leman Russ, it can fire twice! To do this, it must hold still but unlike a Russ, it can shoot at two different targets which is extremely powerful. And speaking of its weaponry, the Bio-plasmic Cannon is no joke at 36″, Heavy 6, strength 7, AP-3, 2 damage. With potentially 12 shots, this beasty can just melt it’s targets. As if that were not enough, it also gains +1 to hit if it holds still, but cannot charge if it does this (but if you are charging with your Exocrine, things have gone off the rails a bit!). In melee he isn’t bad though, with 3 strength 7, AP-1, 2 damage attacks at WS 4+, but that is obviously not where he wants to be. This bad ass also loves the Pathogenic Slime stratagem to boost up to 3 damage shots! Tactically, it’s quite easy to use this guy: you park him in a good spot and unleash hell on your enemy until he is destroyed. And, he will get targeted as his damage output is so high so give some thought to how to keep him breathing and shooting. A Malanthrope is obviously a good choice (and if I haven’t hammered this point enough, a Malanthrope belongs in pretty much every Nid army) for that sweet -1 to hit, and Jormungandr is a good hive fleet for +1 to his save vs. shooting, or Leviathan for a 6+ FnP, and Kronos for re-rolls of 1 to hit in shooting when holding still (which he wants to do, already). This unit is very straightforward and does what it says on the can: it blows stuff up! His firepower is potent and will give you a great tool for taking out vehicles, heavy infantry and monsters. I love using mine and at his 216pt price tag have never regretted putting him on the table. His only downside is that he will draw enemy fire like a magnet and despite his beefiness will go down to focused, heavy firepower. I’ve had best results with him in a back-field fire-base while my assault force gets in my opponent’s face and draws their attention. Just be mentally prepared to lose him on turn 1 if you go second as that can and will happen. However, if he draws enough enemy fire in the process of dying he still served a purpose.


The Tyrannofex is one of my absolute favorite big bugs, and I have loved the model since it was introduced into the game. Until now, he’s always been an OK choice, if a bit too pricey for what you get. Now though, wow, he’s stellar and only 189 base with his standard Stinger Salvo. I use mine in every game and just love him. Like most big bugs he’s beefy, with toughness 8 and a 3+ save, but also having 14 wounds! He also has the Weapon Beast rule like the Exocrine, meaning if he doesn’t move he can shoot twice which is clearly very powerful. He’s a bit slow like the Exocrine as well, only moving 6″. Unlike the longer ranged Exocrine this can get in the way for him as two of his main weapon options are only 18″ range so he often will be moving into position on the first turn or even two, where he can then get set up to dish out some serious damage. And speaking of his main weapons, they’re all solid choices. The option that jumps out at most folks is the Rupture Cannon and for very good reason. It has a beastly profile and the highest price at 49pts. Heavy 3, 48″, Strength 10, AP-3, D6 damage. Not bad! When firing twice, you pump out 6 super Las Cannon shots. Even with BS 4+, this represents a deadly ranged weapon on a tough platform. Alternatively, you can go for the Flesh Borer Hive which many of you probably don’t even know what it is, haha, as I have literally never seen a Tyrannofex equipped with one in my gaming career. These weapons are most commonly used to convert Flyrants to look like Praying Mantises. But, the weapon is now actually pretty dang cool. For one, it’s only 15pts, and gives you 20 strength 5 shots at 18″ range. While it may have no AP, once you get into a good spot, you pump out 40 strength 5 shots, same as a Leman Russ Punisher cannon. However, on top of this the Scorch Bugs stratagem can be used to give you a +1 to your wound rolls, meaning you wound anything in the game on no worse than a 5+ and for most infantry on a 2+. This pairs well with the Tyrannofex’s other weapon, the Stinger Salvo which is strength 5, AP-1, assault 4, 24″ which also can fire twice if it holds still, meaning you would pump out 48 shots in total. Not bad!

Lastly, you can take the Acid Spray which is my favorite way to equip him and a reasonable 25pts. I love this weapon for the same reason I love all flamer style weapons: they eliminate variables. You don’t roll to hit and that means more efficiency plus great assault defense, you ignore penalties to hit and your degrading profile for BS is meaningless (although the weapon’s strength does go down as he is hurt but this is not nearly as impactful in most instances). On top of this, the weapon is 18″ range, strength user (so 7 at full strength), AP-1, and D3 damage. That profile means it is a threat to any target, not just infantry. That last bit is important as when you get in to range to start double shooting, you get 4d6 auto-hitting attacks that do D3 damage a piece! You can wreck things with this weapon and the look on someone’s face when you melt their big monster to goo with it in a single shot is priceless! Even if your opponent is -3 to be hit, you could care less. For true devastation, pop the Pathogenic Slime stratagem and now you’re doing D3+1 damage….it’s savage. No matter how you equip this guy, like the Exocrine he wants defensive buffs such as with the Malanthrope or Venomthropes. Kronos is a great choice for the Rupture Cannon load out, but Jormungadr or Leviathan work great with the closer range weapons that require you to move a bit to get into range (unless you’re facing an assault army coming at you, of course). Regardless, you want to screen these guys with something to keep them shooting. For me Termagants are my go to, but Nids are lucky to have loads of options in this regard. The Tyrannofex has game changing firepower though, and many a losing battle has swung for me when I roll hot with this guy as he just blasts things to bits. That said, as with the Exocrine, as he’s so big if you find yourself going second, mentally prepare yourself to lose him if he gets focused on he’s a high-profile target and difficult to hide.



Biovores are easily one of the best units in the game. What you get for the points is just tremendous. They’re an artillery bug but due to the way their special rules work, can do some really crazy stuff with their Spore Mine ammunition. For basic stats, he’s only 36pts all in, has a toughness of 4, 4 wounds, and a 4+ save. His weapon, the Spore Mine Launcher, is incredibly good. It’s got a 48″ range, heavy 1 shot that fires spore mines on the enemy. If these hit, they do nothing on a 1, 1 Mortal Wound on a 2-5, and D3 Mortal Wounds on a 6. This by itself is stupid good for the points and durability of the unit. 3 of them runs you only 108 points to put no LoS required Mortal Wounds down field. Awesome stuff. And as you can take them in units of 1, they are great for filling FoC slots to open up a Brigade, too. However, it gets truly crazy when you miss! That’s right, they are arguably better when you miss. The reason being that when they do miss, you place a Spore Mine within 6″ of your target and more than 3″ away from enemy units (if they cannot be placed under these conditions, they are destroyed). They then become units in your army and can move towards enemy units, charge them and blow up under the same rules as hitting them with your shot, dealing Mortal Wounds. This forces your opponent to deal with them, shooting them in their turn to avoid getting attacked which takes firepower off of your main forces. But, what gets truly bonkers is that as models in your army, they can block movement, lol. It will drive your opponent nuts when you line up Spore Mines in front of a key unit that cannot then move forwards as a result. Against the right opponent, this is game winning good. You will often find yourself moving your Biovores to get a -1 to hit on purpose to increase the odds of missing to create roadblocks for your opponent. Kronos seems like the obvious choice at first glance but as stated, you actually don’t mind or even prefer to miss, so you may find yourself gravitating to Leviathan or Jormungadr for increased defense. However, as they can fire from hiding, they work fine in any Hive Fleet. Biovores are tremendously powerful, and if you want a “press go” Tyranid army, take 12+ of these gents and you will find yourself winning games on their power alone. They’re that good. Just bury them behind Termagants next to a Malanthrope or preferably behind cover and profit.


The Toxicrene was pretty dang bad when it came out, but now is significantly improved. It’s got an interesting profile, with an 8″ move, WS 3+, BS 4+, strength 7, toughness 7, 12 wounds, a 3+ save, and 6 attacks. So, he’s pretty tough but still will get smoked if focused on with heavy firepower. Luckily though, he’s only 157pts so not a ton more than a Carnifex but significantly punchier in melee in most cases. The reason being that his melee attacks may only be AP-2 and D3 damage at strength 7, but because he can re-roll failed wound rolls in melee and hits on a 3+ all the time. Further, he always swings first in melee, too! When stuck in, he deals a Mortal Wound to enemy units for each model within 1″ on a 6 (and yes, that is models not units), and for each wound he takes he deals a Mortal Wound to the enemy that dealt it on a 6. In shooting, he has both Choking Spores which are 12″ range, Assault D6, strength 3, AP 0, D3 damage which re-roll failed wound rolls and ignore cover and his Lashes which are 8″ range, Assault D6, strength 7, AP-2, D3 damage, re-roll failed wounds and can be fired into and out of combat. What this means is that the Toxicrene actually has a ton of damage output, particularly in a grinding melee where you find yourself in multiple rounds of combat as he will get his 6 attacks, shoot in his shooting phase and shed Mortal Wounds as he is hurt and at the end of each fight phase to models around him. This makes him a solid choice for wading into big units and chewing through them over time. The Rapid Regeneration stratagem to heal D3 wounds is a solid touch for him, too, to keep him going in a big combat as is the Adrenaline Surge strat due to the number of attacks he gets.


Carnifexes have gotten such an exciting and massive boost in both efficacy and utility! This is hands down my favorite change to the Nid dex. For starters, you get not 1 but 3 different Carnifex units to choose from. The standard Fex with the most options, the Screamer-Killer which is very restricted in its options, and the Thornback which has less options but makes a good multi-roll choice as it has benefits to both melee and shooting. They’re all good and my biggest issue is that I want to use multiples of all of them, lol. But, let’s break them down a bit. First, they all rock a “Dreadnought” style profile. Toughness 7, 8 wounds and a 3+ save. They also have 4 attacks at strength 6, a 7″ move and WS and BS 4+. So, their basic stats aren’t crazy, but they are cheap. The Carnifex is 67pts base, the Screamer-Killer is 90 (which includes his Bio-Plasmic Scream weapon and morale de-buff) and the Thornback is only 70pts. They all do Mortal Wounds on the charge on a 4+, with the Carnifex and Screamer-Killer dealing 1, the Thornback dealing D3. They also all gain +1 to hit in the fight phase after making a charge. Lastly, you can take up to 3 as a single Heavy slot choice and deploy them all at the same time to increase your odds of getting first turn. From there, it’s all about the options, baby!

We’ll dig in to the Screamer-Killer first as he’s got the least options. He’s a throwback to the original Carnifex from ye olde days which is cool unto itself, but is quite good in his own right. He comes with his signature Bio-Plasmic Scream which is 18″, Assault D6, strength 7, AP-4, 1 damage. Not bad at all. He also packs in 2 pair of Monstrous Scything Talons which are strength 6, AP-3, 3 damage each, giving him re-rolls of 1’s to hit and an additional attack bringing him up to 5. Lastly, he has an 8″ -1 leadership debuff, too. At a net cost of 118pts he’s solid on his own, but the option to take Spore Cysts is fantastic, giving him a -1 to be hit for ranged attacks (which doesn’t stack with a Venomthrope or Malanthrope) and Toxin Sacs or the awesome Adrenal Glands which as always, I consider to be essentially mandatory when available. So, with that kit, he’s 133 for a self-buffing unit that can go off on it’s own to take objectives, engage enemy units and damage pretty much anything in the game. I really enjoy using these gents and find them to be a lot of fun in a Nid army as they are so self-sufficient and at a very reasonable cost.


There are millions of options with the Thornback and Carnifex especially but I don’t have time to explore them all (but we will in future articles!) so I will focus on some of the key differences between the Thornback and Carnifex. Both the Carnifex and Thornback can take Enhanced Senses for +1 BS and if you take any guns on him, I recommend opting for this upgrade. And, while I encourage folks to build their models how they want, Carnifexes really are a solid shooting platform as there are other choices that aren’t too far off in cost that do pure melee better like the Toxicrene and Trygon. The Thornback offers a bit more melee punch with the increased Mortal Wounds on the charge. I use Thornbacks a lot for this exact reason as if I have Magnus or Bobby G bearing down on me, these guys give me a tool to actually take them down. I’ve killed Magnus with three of these guys with their massed strength 6 shooting, dealing Mortal Wounds on the charge, then managing to finish him off with a few 3 Damage attacks that slip through his defense. It’s there triple threat ability to deal damage to a wide variety of targets that makes me like the Thornback the most. I don’t mind that they don’t have Spore Cysts as I keep them near a Malanthrope until it is time to charge. I also opt for the Thresher Scythe (and extra D3, strength 4, AP-1, 1 damage attacks in melee) and Spine Banks (assault 4, strength 5, 6″, AP 0, 1 damage shots that can be fired into or out of melee) as this gives them even more damage output for a low cost if I need them to plow into hordes of infantry on top of his Chitin Thorns which deal a Mortal Wound to units within 1″ on a 6. Also, Thornbacks ignore cover too, further enhancing their multi-threat nature. Thornbacks represent the most versatile option which is how I tend to play as I really enjoy reactive, flexible armies.

The standard Carnifex represents the ability to specialize a bit more. The most popular version of the Fex over the years has been the maxed Devouerer version and now it is better than ever. As you take 4 Devouerers now, each with 6 shots, you get 24 strength 6 shots on a basic Fex for only 28pts over the base cost! This is so good, lol. With 18″ range, you will typically need to move to get into range but as the weapons are Assault, you can advance and still fire if needs be. You can also opt for maxed Deathspitters as while you get half the shots of the Devourers, the jump to strength 7 and AP-1 means you are far better against most vehicles. For a basic Fex with 4 of the above guns and Enhanced Senses you’re looking at a measly 105pt investment. That is crazy efficient, lol. Carnifxes can also opt for any of the Monstrous Bio-Cannons which are not bad choices, and can also take Spore Cysts which makes them, like the Screamer-Killer, pretty self sufficient in an army that otherwise often wants things bunched up together. That is quite a benefit. You could opt for the Monstrous Acid Maw in addition to a gun load-out so that you get some melee mixed in with the shooting at strength 6, AP-5, D3 damage, but it comes at the expense of BS 3+. Not sure I’d make that trade but it does really make them well rounded if you don’t mind a loss of accuracy. Alternatively, you can go max melee and take Crushing Claws which massively increase their power but at -1 to hit on a WS 4+ model, is only really worth while if you are also running Old One Eye for the +1 to hit bonus he provides Carnifxes. If so, consider the Tusks which grant you a bonus attack on the charge which means if you opted for two pair of talons, you’d have 6 on the charge! Toss in the Bone Mace for only 2 more pts and you’ve got a 7th nasty attack. Toss in Adrenal Glands and you get all that at only 110pts. Again, wow, that is a lot for not many points.

Regardless of how you use them, there are a few things to keep in mind with these gents. For one, strength 6 in melee means they can struggle with most vehicles. The Voracious Appetite stratagem is awesome for this reason, giving one of them re-rolls to wound for the fight phase which when potentially coupled with the Adrenaline Surge stratagem means a Carnifex can go from pretty mild to a vehicle smashing bad ass! Also, they’re relatively frail buggers. If your opponent wants one dead, that is usually easily doable. They also want to get the charge off, and not be charged due to all of the bonuses they get when they do. For those reasons, you usually want to keep them screened until you get closer. Termagants, again, are your friend here. As you can give many of the Fexes their own -1 to hit, that helps a lot as you can put them in positions you may not be able to with other units or set them free to go after objectives once the game has developed a bit (just be mindful of Instinctive Behavior). I also find they serve well as counter charge units. You advance, firing your weapons (if you have any) until you get into a position to charge and then let them go bananas as they pack quite a punch in melee for the points, assuming you didn’t kit them out strictly for shooting. If you do take a few of them and do want them to mix it up in melee, strongly consider taking Old One Eye as not only is he good on his own merits, he significantly buffs them in combat. There is a lot more to say about Carnifexes obviously, but for now I hope this gives you an idea of the many ways to play them. They perform well in every Hive Fleet, Kronos being great if you kit them up with the heavy weapons to sit and shoot, Jormungandr and Leviathan being very good for the move and shoot Carnifexes, and all of the melee oriented buffs like Behemoth or Gorgon for those that go into melee. Only the Hydra buff is lost on them, as it is on any single model units.


The Mawloc is next up and has always been pretty useful. Perhaps not always great, but always good. He retains the same feel as in the past with his signature ability to pop up and deal damage through the Terror from the Deep rule, and it now deals Mortal Wounds to every enemy unit within 2″ of him when he deep strikes onto the table (and he is able to come in anywhere so long as he is more than 1″ from enemy models). These units take no Mortal Wounds on the roll of a 1, a single Mortal Wound on a 2-3, D3 on a 5-6, and 3 on a 6. After coming on to the table in this way, the Mawloc cannot charge. It can then go back off of the table in the next turn by Burrowing so long as it is not in melee, to come back on a later turn to use aforementioned attack again. As the Mawloc also has a pretty beefy profile at toughness 6 with 12 wounds and a 3+ save, he can take quite a bit of punishment and keep popping in and out of the game. If he sticks around to engage in melee, he has 7 base attacks which looks great until you realize they’re pretty wimpy, haha. At WS 4+, strength 6, AP 0, they’re not too fearsome for such a big guy, but you do get a bonus attack with them and re-rolls of 1 to hit. He does get his single tail attack which is decent (and your choice of three options) and his single Distensible Jaws which is actually solid at strength 6, AP-3, D6 damage. However, a melee beast he is not. What he is though, is very cheap at only 104pts base.


What I have found works best with him is to either use him to deliver powerful units cheaply onto the table with Jormungandr, or to play him coy, waiting for the right opportunity to attack. Often if you attack right away on turn 1, a good player will have given you no good options to snipe out weakened units or characters (which is what he’s good at). However, if you wait for the game to develop a bit and your opponent’s deep strike defenses have melted away a bit, you find gaps in the backfield for him to exploit where he can pop up and and attack units like Devastator Squads (one of his favorites, Yum!), Basilisks, etc. He can come on the table, gobble up a few models with his Mortal Wounds, then charge them and tie them up in melee. As he’s pretty beefy, he can often survive the counter attack but if he does die, he will probably soak a lot of firepower in the process. If he can start tagging multiple artillery units in melee and stop them from shooting, that is solid gold. Also, obviously, he’s amazing for taking objectives and winning missions by popping up on them towards late game. He works great in any Hive Fleet, but I think Jormungandr is extra awesome for him (and thematic) due to the fact that it also allows him to bring units on to the table, and because it gives him a 2+ save vs shooting. Likewise, Leviathan is solid to increase his defense on that turn he pops up.



The final choice of the many excellent options for Tyranids in the heavy slot is the Trygon and Trygon Prime. Both of these are simply fantastic options and I love them. I rarely play without one or the other, if not both. The reason why they are so excellent is not only because they are solid melee units at a very reasonable price point but also because they are essentially a Drop Pod, too! I say this because they have the incredible Subterranean Assault rule, allowing them to be deployed at the same time as a Troops unit, who can then deep strike with the Trygon on to the table. This is stupid good and most of you that are Tyranid players are likely already using it, or if you play against Tyranids are very familiar with facing it. Commonly you see a Trygon pop up with 30 Hormagaunts or 20 Genestealers. Hormagaunts were more common as they have access to Adrenal Glands for that vital +1″ to charge and Stealers don’t (who would be probably a bit too good with them, lol) as they stand good odds of making that charge with either a CP re-roll or the Behemoth Hive Fleet. Frequently this combo is very commonly seen with Swarmlord who can make one of them move again for a guaranteed charge. Now though with Jormungadr it is even better as a single Trygon can bring in multiple units with The Enemy Below stratagem. I often bring in a full unit of 9 Tyranid Warriors with a Tyranid Prime. The Prime provides Synapse and buffs the Warriors who pump out a ton of strength 5, AP-1 shots with their Deathspitters, potentially shooting twice with the Single-minded Annihilation strat, and then the entire attack group is a big threat in melee, too. You can even squeeze in some bubble wrap with throwaway Termagants in there as well if needs be! It’s a truly versatile combination as you can decide who goes in to reserves on the fly based on what you are facing. I often use it to simply keep vulnerable units off of the table to defend against an Alpha Strike if I don’t go first.

All of this deep strike business aside, the Trygon itself is a solid unit. He has the same stats as the Mawloc, but with only 6 base attacks. He does have WS 3+ though which more than makes up for it. Also unlike the Mawloc, his attacks are nasty! At strength 7, AP-3, D6 damage a pop and 7 attacks with the bonus for 3 sets of Talons and re-rolling 1’s to hit, he is mean. He also gets a bonus attack from his tail, which comes in three varieties and aren’t bad at all. The only real limitation for him is the fact that like the Carnifex, you can find him struggling to deal with vehicles as they have an average toughness of 7. And in the same way, pop the Voracious Appetite strat on him to re-roll wound rolls and all of a sudden he tears them to bits. Both the Prime and the normal Trygon also have a decent shooting attack at 12″ range, strength 5, AP 0, 1 damage. The difference being the Trygon’s is Assault 6, the Prime’s is Assault 12. Both units are very reasonably priced as well, at 168 for the Trygon and 198 for the Prime (and as always, take the Adrenal Glands at 5pts for a Monster) who additionally provides both Synapse and Shadows. Their only real downside is that they are so threatening, they tend to get blasted quickly as even at 12 wounds with a 3+ save, toughness 6 and no invul means they get wrecked pretty quick if focused on. This is why bringing them in with multiple other threatening units is a solid bet to confuse your opponent’s target priority. Or, take lots of them, lol! They’re cheap enough to bring en masse without a doubt. I’ve run as many as 3 and found them to be extremely effective with tremendous potential damage output, particularly with the Adrenaline Surge strat.

~And Heavy Support is done! What a great selection of awesome units the Bugs have. Which is your favorite?


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Author: Pablo Martinez
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