Ian here with the part 1 of our review of the new Tyranid Codex! If you haven't picked this up yet, it's a great book and yet another fantastic Codex offering from Games Workshop so it's well worth a read!
Come with me on a journey into the fleshy underbelly of the many swarms, and let's talk about who's best at gathering that biomass and who deserves to be recycled...
Masters of brute force and smurf murder, the Behemoth Hive Fleet Adaptation allows you to reroll charge distances - pretty simple stuff. This is ideal if you're wanting to alpha strike your opponents and most Behemoth lists will focus around doing just this. With Adrenal Glands and a Behemoth reroll, units that enter 9" away from the enemy will have a 66% chance of a successful charge and that's without the potential for command point rerolls instead. This pushes Behemoth in the direction of a reserves-based playstyle, keeping your units safe off the table if you go second, and dropping them in for an aggressive turn 1.
This style of play is reinforced by the unique Behemoth strategem, Brute Force, which deals mortal wounds to a unit that you charged for every 6+ (2+ for monsters) you roll on a number of dice equal to the number of models you have within 1" of the enemy unit. Ideal with a unit of Genestealers of Hormagaunts - a little bit expensive for a monster, though,
The Behemoth Bio-Artefact, Scythes of Tyran, replaces a set of Monstrous Scything Talons giving the model +1 Str and A, and an extra attack for every roll of a 6. One of the better bio-artefacts, this mitigates Tyranids' biggest weakness (low strength) and has a decent chance of getting you an extra attack on top, too.
The Behemoth Warlord trait grants an extra damage for every roll of a 6 in combat. A clone of Toxin Sacs, this is a little weak for a Warlord Trait but they do stack if you really fancy the all-in approach.
Overall, Behemoth offers a very straightforward playstyle with a lot of potential power. It is a little bit of a one-trick pony and will have its gameplan mitigated or completely stymied by an opponent who screens well, though, so I don't think it is the most competitive Fleet in the book. It certainly offers a lot of potential punch, though, and if your event allows multiple combined Hive Fleets a detachment of alpha-strking Behemoth could be an option when backed up by another more utilitarian Hive Fleet choice.
As their tendrils tendrils spread far and wide, so does Kraken's Hive Fleet Adaptation let you do the same with your army! It allows you to roll 3D6 and pick the highest for any advance moves, and also allows your units to fall back and charge in the same turn. The first part gives you a serious amount of maneuverability - getting your melee units into combat turn 2 is now all but guaranteed, re-positioning across the board or to objectives is a breeze. The second part opens up all sorts of neat tricks; flying units can fall back, shoot, AND charge every turn, Carnifexes can fall back and charge every turn to always get their charging bonuses, Harpies can shriek every turn, your units can "fall back" through enemy screens and into juicy characters or units behind... so many possibilities!
The Kraken strategem is also excellent, allowing any unit to double its advance move for just 1CP. Combined with Genestealers or Onslaught you have some nigh-guaranteed charges from your deployment zone on turn 1, an easy way to redeploy a unit across the board, and so much more besides. Movement is really great and Kraken have it in spades.
Kraken's Bio-Artefact is perhaps the best in the book, and one of the best in any Codex to date; it makes the unit that has it -1 to be hit by shooting (with no range limitation).. Throw this on the new improved Hive Tyrant and you have a really survivable model.
The Kraken Warlord trait allows you to choose a unit near the Warlord to fight first. Not a bad Warlord trait but not on par with the other Kraken abilities, it's really only of use if you're fighting against another strong melee army and have something to worry about - likely the generic traits are better than this.
In summary, I think that Kraken is in the running for best Hive Fleet in the codex - movement is king in 40k, especially if you like to eat your opponents' faces, and falling back and charging is a really useful tactical option. How you choose to leverage this ability makes for some really interesting list building, and I think we'll see a lot of Kraken competitively once people are comfortable with getting the most out of their toolkit.
The biggest Hive Fleet, but are they the best? Leviathan's Adaptation is a copy paste of abilities we've seen before, ignoring any wound on the roll of a 6 (and not being able to be stacked with Catalyst, boo). It's solid, but unspectacular. We've not seen this trait used much competitively and I doubt that that will change now.
Leviathan's strategem allows you to reroll hit AND wound rolls of a 1 vs an enemy unit in the fight phase if you have a flier and non-flier within 1" of it. Personally I think that this is pretty hard to pull off and the payoff isn't good enough, and coupled with the fact that it's limited to melee and our fliers won't/don't want to be in melee with many of their best builds, I think this is a bit of a miss.
The Leviathan bio-artefact is also pretty poor. Replacing monstrous boneswords which themselves are not a terrific option compared to the alternatives, it can kill infantry (and bikers, for some reason?) if it wounds them but doesn't kill them. So, good for finishing four wound characters that you only managed to wound once... talk about niche.
The Leviathan Warlord trait is pretty solid, giving you a single reroll of mostly anything once per battle round. Simple and effective, and a viable choice for your Warlord.
Overall I think Leviathan's offering is pretty poor, possibly the worst in the Codex, and I don't expect them to see much if any competitive play. A shame for one of GW's poster boy Hive Fleets, but at least their paint scheme is cool!
Poisonous and with a love for eating those who won't shut up about "the greater good", Gorgon's Adaptation is simple, allowing rerolling of 1s to wound in the fight phase. It's not spectacular, but it's solid if that's what your army is based around.
Their strategem allows any of your units with Toxin Sacs to deal their extra Toxin Sac wound on a roll of a 5+. Factoring in their reroll on 1s to wound, this makes this actually pretty easy to hit; Genestealers, Hormagaunts and even Tyranid Warriors with Toxin Sacs will therefore be able to put out reasonable damage to anything that they can get a wound through to, and this could also be decent on Trygons and Mawlocs. The problem as ever is cost; Toxin Sacs are expensive on Genestealers and Warriors who would benefit from this the most, so whilst it is a reasonable thing to have access to, I don't think that building your army to use it is going to be cost efficient.
The Gorgon bio-artefact gives its bearer +1T from the end of any phase in which it was wounded. It's not terrible, but people are not stupid and know how to focus fire; also, the effect of +1T is sometimes a little bit irrelevent (going from 7 to 8 on a Hive Tyrant that your opponent only intends to shoot with Lascannons anyway, for example). It's another meh artefact that is usable but not spectacular.
The Gorgon Warlord trait grants a 4+ fight-phase mortal wound aura. This is actually prety good for the Gorgon style of play and is a viable choice if your Warlord is melee-focused.
Gorgon are ok. I don't expect to see them at the highest levels of competitive play but they are playable and will likely pop up in some places simply to take advantage of army-wide fight phase rerolls in lists that are happy losing out on some of the more obviously powerful Hive Fleet choices in return for simply efficiency.
The new kid on the block (codex-wise, at least), Hive Fleet Jormungandr's Adaptation makes every model in the army count the benefits of cover unless it advances or charges. This is a pretty nifty ability when combined with lots of 3+ save Tyranid monsters, making them that little bit more survivable against Lascannons and a lot more survivable vs annoying lasgun and bolter spam. It's also pretty good for our smaller beasts, giving them an extra bit of resistance vs the small arms fire that is so prevalent right now.
The Strategem, "The Enemy Below", is not necessarily the strongest in the book but it does change the way your army can play more than any other. It allows you to set up any infantry unit in reserves and deploy it when any "tunnelling" unit deploys. This means that you have a way to deep strike your Broodlords with Genestealers, deploy forward synapse creatures without needing to buy a Trygon Prime or Hive Tyrant, gives you a way to keep your Hive Guard safe from turn 1 alpha strikes, and much more. Many armies will be built around taking specific advantage of this strategem.
Jormungandr's bio-artefact affects morale. Enough said about that one.
The Warlord trait here allows your Warlord and units within 3" to ignore cover when shooting. Again, this is not terrible but is likely eclipsed by the generic traits - Heightened Senses is just much better on a shooty Warlord, expanding your toolkit in a much better way.
The most obvious competitive build in the Tyranid codex is a combination of dakka-tyrant and dakkafex spam (more on this in another article!) and this build will benefit heavily from Jormungandr. Between that and the unusual deployment options, expect to see this Hive Fleet used a lot; it's certainly one of the most competitive in the codex.
Another more recently discovered Hive Fleet, Hydra's trait interests me a lot; it allows rerolls to hit in the fight phase if you outnumber the enemy. Blanket, non-1 rerolls are pretty hard to come by so this is quite a big deal; however it is a little restrictive. The most likely to benefit from this are Genestealers. Hormagaunts will too, and though they hit like a wet noodle, this will make them pretty good at clearing chaff screens when taken in large units to also reroll 1s to wound with their own ability. Thewre's also some potential here with units of 9 bonesword-equipped Tyranid Warriors I guess, though that's probably reaching.
The Hydra strategem is unfortunately a casualty of matched play rules; re-adding a destroyed chaff unit to the board is simply not worth setting points AND 2CP aside for. At 1cp it may have seen some play for sneaky objective grabbing or backfield melee-tying, but at two it's priced out.
Hydra's Warlord trait harkens back to the old "regeneration" abilities, allowing your warlord to try to regain each lost wound on a roll of a 6 each turn. This could be quite a swing when it comes off but most of the time your opponent won't let you have the luxury of a low-wound Warlord rolling up extra wounds for multiple turns, so isn't really fantastic.
The Hydra artefact is solid but unspectacular. It's a Slimer Maggot Deathspitter that rerolls failed wounds. Cracking T7+ armour is a particular pain point for Tyranids, so this on a Hive Tyrant would be a reasonably good pick.
I think with such a big blanket reroll, you can make a Hydra unit do some pretty nasty stuff, but is it worth the limitation and the loss of choosing another Hive Fleet ability? The answer is probably no, and I don't expect this Hive Fleet to see much competitive play.
Finally answering the question of "do Tyranids bother fighting Chaos", Kronos are here to show that yes, indeed they do - and they're well adapted to do so. Their trait does something that is traditionally non-niddy; rerolling 1s for shooting if you don't move is interesting. It obviously works well with Tyrannofexes and Exocrines that already get bonuses for not moving, but what else does it work with? The arguable best unit in the codex is the new shooty Carnifex, but one of their strengths is in their ability to stay mobile whilst shooting. Likewise for Hive Tyrants. Screens tend to have to move so won't benefit from this often. Hive Guard will get mileage out of this, particularly with Impaler Cannons. What this leads us to is that whilst Tyranids are not a great gunline army, this ability is useful, though knowing when to stand still to get the bonus and when you need to move and lose it is going to be important when playing Kronos.
Kronos's strategem causes a Psyker within 24" of a Kronos unit - most likely the entire battlefield - to roll only 1 dice for a Psychic test. This takes most powers from 60-80% cast chances down to 16-33% cast chances; quite a big drop. Given the number of armies that rely on key psychic powers to make things happen (Warp Time, Catalyst for other nids, Nightshroud on a super heavy tank, etc) this is an incredibly good power. Especially combined with the Kronos Warlord trait!
Kronos's bio-artefact, the Balethorn cannon, is a Stranglethorn Cannon that ignores invulnerable saves. This sounds good until you realise that with a -1 save modifier many units would be using their normal save anyway, so mostly all that you're getting out of this is an extra 1 point of AP on units like Magnus the Red. The Stranglethorn Cannon is not a great weapon to begin with, so a slightly buffed one isn't really worth it.
Their Warlord trait causes any Psyker within 18" that fails a psychic test to take D3 mortal wounds. This is a genuine game changer vs some armies, especially combined with Shadow in the Warp and the Kronos Strategem. Popular armies like Mortarion/Magnus or any kind of Smite spam will not only be unable to use their powers effectively but actually lose their models too. In the right meta, or in a format where you can pick your Warlord trait before each game rather than choosing it on your list, this can be super good; in the wrong meta or in a true take-all-comers list, this would be a bit of a gamble. Definitely one to keep on your radar, though!
Kronos provide an interesting toolkit of shooting and anti-psychic ability. They're not the most obviously strong Hive Fleet nor the Hive Fleet that is most obviously "build-around" but they definitely have a place and that place is hating on Psykers. Whether you should run them or not is certainly down to what you'll be facing (and how shooty you want to be, though that isn't really their biggest forte in my opinion). They are a great option for a Tyranid player to have in their kit and options are always good!
To conclude, let's summarise the new Hive Fleets and where I think they're going to land competitively. If you're not familiar with how we rate things, check our our short article here and then come back.
S-Tier: I don't think that any of the Hive Fleets are at this level. There are some great Hive Fleet specific things available, but none of them are truly incredible.
A-Tier: Kraken, Jormungandr, Kronos. You're going to see a lot of these in competitive lists. Kronos maybe less so, but when it's relevant it's going to be really relevant and ruin some peoples' days.
B-Tier: Behemoth. Doesn't offer quite enough to be the foundation of a list but as a second detachment, their Adaptation is quite desirable and we may see them show up as a role-player in competitive lists.
C-Tier: Hydra, Gorgon. These are playable, but I don't expect they'll be the foundation of many lists. They may crop up as second detachments in some lists but there's just so much more utility and raw power to be squeezed out of the higher tier fleets. Not to say that these fleets aren't potentially capable, though.
D-Tier: Leviathan. Poor Leviathan, doesn't really offer anything that another Hive Fleet wouldn't do better. I suggest that if you have a Hive Fleet painted white and purple, you practice arguing about Tyranid bioforms and how diverse their colourations can really be...
That's all for today! Check back tomorrow for the second part of our Codex review when we'll be looking at Tyranid Strategems and further increasing our knowledge of how to eat the universe.
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