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Tyranid Tactics – Blazing Away with the Exocrine

6 Minute Read
Apr 16 2019

Today we talk about one of the big, big guns of the Tyranid army: the Exocrine. Chapter Approved 2018 gave this cuddle-bug a whole lot of love.

Danny from TFG Radio here

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Bio-plasmic Cannon – Range 36″ Heavy 6 S7 AP-3 D2 gun.
  • Powerful Limbs – S7 AP-1 D2 melee weapon.

Special Rules:

  • Instinctive Behavior: Unless within 24 inches of a HIVE FLEET synapse creature, -1 to hit for shooting attacks against any target that is not the closest, and -2 to charge a unit unless it is the closest.
  • Weapon Beast: If you don’t move in your movement phase, you can shoot all of its weapons twice in the shooting phase.
  • Symbiotic Targeting: If you don’t move in your movement phase, you add +1 to hit for shooting attacks. You cannot charge if you do so.
  • Death Throes: On a 6, this bug explodes when it does, doing D3 mortal wounds to units within 3″.

Exocrine Basics

The Exocrine is a big, bad gun-bug that can lay down a surprising amount of firepower thanks to shooting twice. The Exocrine has a beefy statline, and at T8, it is not an easy target by any means.  This is a nice amount of survivability on a model that wants to sit in the back and rain death down and with 12 wounds and a Venomthrope nearby, that can be pretty hard to quickly kill at range for most things (but for some things, not a problem, which is part of the problem we’ll get into later). This is not to say invincible, simply that your opponent is going to have dedicate significant resources to bring it down at range.

The big money is that the Exocrine has Symbiotic Targeting, so when it does not move, it gets a flat +1 to hit.  That’s as sweet as the bio-gruel in the digestion pool gets, especially when coupled with Gun Beast for two shooting actions in one turn. BS 3+ and double shooting? That’s why Hive Guard are beast. Exocrines are cheaper than Hive Guard as well, and thanks to Chapter Approved, they are now a relatively inexpensive 170, much better than the 200+ before.  While this is not cheap, it is a better deal.

The Bio-Plasmic Cannon is solid ranged firepower at Heavy 6, S7 AP -3 and D2. Shooting that twice at BS 3+? That will bring some pain to any medium to heavy infantry. It is not so good against a Knight though, only doing under three wounds on average with a full double-tap. Tyranids are not entirely meant to be a heavy ranged army, but this is still respectable firepower from one of our beasties, especially against medium targets and transports (so your Genestealers can get to the food inside).


Don’t forget Pathogenic Slime for +1 damage, pumping the gun up to Dmg 3.  That can be sweet, and if you want something dead, it certainly helps put the math in your favor.  Of course, the monster stat line helps the Exocrine fight better than most artillery or shooty vehicles, namely with three attacks, WS 4+ S7, AP -2, D2 (when healthy of course).  That’s not going to let the Exocrine threaten a unit in melee, but it does mean that small, elite units have to be careful when charging as the Exocrine can do some real damage back. Far more than most artillery, so if you get a fast unit trying to tie you up, you can at least do some damage back to it.  Still, if your Exocrine is in combat, something went wrong.

Hive Fleets

Hive Fleet can add some extra nuance to the big bug, either upping the damage or upping the defense. Kronos is an obvious choice as this beasty wants to sit still, and getting to reroll 1s makes the most out of those big shots. If you are trying to do a bug gun line, the Exocrine is a staple for its relatively high volume of good quality shots, especially with Kronos for an extra 10.5% accuracy on that gun.

Jormungandr is my preferred Hive Fleet here is a 2+ save against shooting makes this bug resilient at range, especially with a Venomthrope nearby, and Jormungandr Dakka-Fexes backed up by an Exocrine or two can be a lot of bug-beef to shoot down at range for most armies.  Leviathan can work for the 6+ Feel No Pain, but that requires a close babysitter, and a 2+ save against shooting is better.  Kraken/Gorgon/Hydra don’t add all that much to this big bug.

Exocrine Downsides

On the downside, the Exocrine is a static piece, so you lose a lot of tactical flexibility as you have to deploy where you want to be for the game, for the most part.  If you are not double-tapping, you aren’t getting the full benefit of your resources.  This is key as this bug is undoubtedly cheaper, but it is not so cheap that you can just throw it away. That 170 points does include the idea that it can shoot twice at BS 3+, so if you aren’t doing that, well, you are not getting the most mileage out of what you paid.  With this in mind, it is easy to make a mistake during deployment and thus having to waste a turn or two getting into a significant position, and with the myriad of redeployment tricks out like Phantasm for Eldar, you can get out-played.

Old school EPIC Exocrines 

Another blow to the Exocrine is that it is relatively strong at taking out medium to heavy infantry like Terminators or medium vehicles like Rhinos, but, these are specific targets that also vary in popularity by local meta. Twelve shots aren’t very effective against hordes, and even against a standard vehicle profile, T7 with a 3+ save, it is only doing about 6.5 wounds all told with all of its attacks, and that’s just barely half a rhino.  If the Exocrine is Kronos and you go with Pathogenic Slime, then you will reliably pop a transport in one go, but that’s spending CP and losing some ranged resilience.

This is part of the issue with the Exocrine: it is strong by Tyranid standards of shooting, but that doesn’t make it good. It also needs a Synapse baby-sitter, so you are spending a bit more points than you might think although with the ubiquitous Neurothrope/Tyranid Prime.   The Exocrine will also be stuck forever against a chaff unit, and having to fall back with one of these bad boys? Terrible.  And let us be frank and earnest: The Castellan exists, and well, it will be more likely than not pick up your Exocrine in a single go, and even if you go first, Tyranids cannot kill Knights at range, so, yeah. That’s just what it is.


Exocrines aren’t cheap enough like Carnifexes to spam, knowing you’ll lose some. If you want to do a shooting bug list, the Exocrine should be a consideration.  That said, if you are looking for the most tuned, points efficient option, Genestealer Cult/Tyranid/AM may be better for things like Earthshakers.

The Verdict

69.9999999/100. A solid shooter, but it is not genuinely answering one of the Hive Fleet’s biggest questions: heavy armor, and in the current meta, it is just not survivable enough against the big boys. That said, it shoots well, and outside of the ultra-competitive scene, the Exocrine will make you smile more times than not.


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