Codex: Tyranids Review, Part 4 - Bio Guns!

Codex: Tyranids Review, Part 4 - Bio Guns!

Ian O'Brien1 comment

"Wow, that's a lot of shots"

That's what my last opponent said when my five Dakkafexes killed almost his entire Astra Militarum infantry screen - 60 guys and change - on turn one. 


It does slightly annoy me that Carnifexes can't do this in-game anymore


Welcome to part 4 of our Tyranid Codex review! Today we'll be looking at Tyranid weaponry, everything from guns to claws, how it performs and how it compares to both other Tyranid weapons and what other armies have. This article is going to have some :maths: in it and be a little bit statistical so if that's not your thing, you might just want to glaze over those parts and skip to the conclusions. But everybody loves maths when it means Tyranids actually get to win things without resorting to putting 5 Hive Tyrants on the board, right?

I'm going to break down the weapons by category and look at the more interesting choices and options that we're presented with.


My Spike Rifles, noooo! Spike Rifles are gone from the Codex, so we're left with Fleshborers, SpinefistsDevourers, the latter of which is the only one that costs points.

Being able to shoot whilst in melee (Spinefists) is really not worth losing the Str 4 of a Fleshborer nor the ability to advance and shoot with the assault weapon. Fleshborers being the only other free option now, this makes them the obvious choice for our Termagant screens. Fleshborers are also used by Gargoyles, too.

Both Fleshborers and Devourers share the same profile, the only difference being that Devourers fire more shots at a longer range, so the expected wounds chart below is applicable to both weapons - just multiply out the numbers according to your squad size.



We're not really discussing a choice here so much as we are looking at what we can reasonably expect these weapons to achieve. We can see that we can expect 20 Fleshborer gants to do a morale-test-inducing 5 wounds to a squad of Guardsmen, and that 20 Devilgants would overkill the same squad (over 15 wounds). Meanwhile, 20 Devilgants should shave almost 4 wounds off of an average vehicle, and using Single Minded Annihilation on that squad would put a very serious dent in the same unit.

As with most AP0 weapons, the damage output is really not impressive vs anything with a saving throw but is certainly fantastic at clearing screens. I think that there is a tendency to overestimate what "volume of shots" can do to tougher targets based on anecdotal evidence, but at the same time remember that these units do have a very high potential damage and sometimes you just need that hail mary roll (or have no other target to shoot at).

I'm not going to draw a specific conclusion here, but it is useful to know your averages when deciding how to split fire to maximise morale rolls vs guard Infantry spam, for instance, so use this info as you will.


    Next up, let's take a look at Tyranid-Warrior sized weaponry that also might be found on Raveners as well as Tyrannocytes. These weapons will not be incredibly common as they are not the most competitive of units but it is worth looking at how they stack up against eachother.

    The Devourer is essentially pointless at this level because a Deathspitter only costs 1 extra point. Don't take Devourers on these troops.

    The Deathspitter received a decent buff in the codex. Now 24" range and only 5 points, this is functionally an assault Heavy Bolter, and is actually pretty nice for its cost. The Venom Cannon was also buffed and points changed to make it in line with other heavy weapons. So how do these guns stack up vs eachother and others?

    Here's a reference chart of expected wounds for common weapons with BS 4+:


    And here's the expected wounds for our Tyranid weapons at BS4+:


    We can see a few things here:

    • Deathspitters are... fine.
    • Barbed Stranglers are barely worth their points over a Deathspitter unless you're getting the +1 to hit bonus, at which point they become quite a bit better. They are still better though, so if you have a spare 5 points and nothing else to spend it on, they could be worth it.
    • Venom Cannons stack up very well against the competition - they're 10-20% better than Krak missiles at destroying tanks and even come out better than Frag Missiles at killing Infantry (although the upper amount of Infantry they can kill is obviously lower). They lose under 10% efficiency vs a Lascannon except all but T8 targets and are better than it at killing multiple small models.
    • Spinefists are a special case - they're not great at killing anything but since they can be used in melee, can contribute a reasonable amount of extra damage output, particularly when targeted at screening units.

    If I was to draw a conclusion from this, it's that Deathspitters don't justify including a unit to bring them (as with most heavy bolter style weaponry) but they are a pretty efficient weapon should you already be bringing a unit that uses them. Barbed Stranglers are a similar weapon, being better vs large units but not efficient enough over a Deathspitter for 5 extra points. Venom Cannons come off very well, being a straight up better take all comers weapon than a Missile Launcher and not significantly worse than a Lascannon at anti-vehicle duty - a nice buff for Tyranids who have struggled with armour-cracking for a long time. It's not a weapon that we can deploy in enough numbers to be as effective as it could be if we could, say, take Tyranid Warrior squads with all Venom Cannons, but if you are running Tyranid Warriors it's certainly an efficient choice.

    Note that we've not analysed these weapons when our BS is 3+ (Tyranid Prime) or 5+ (Tyrannocyte) but the numbers move roughly in-line with the changes. All of the weapons become more desirable and worth their points at BS3; at BS5, you probably want to stick to Deathspitters, although an argument can be made for using Barbed Stranglers on a Tyrannocyte if you want some additional anti-chaff firepower.


    And now onto the big guns! These guns will see a lot more widespread use than their smaller bio-cannon cousins, being used by Hive Tyrants and Carnifexes - two of our best new units - as well as our fliers. Let's look at their expected numbers vs various targets, but first, a reference of some common BS3 weapons to compare against:


    And the Tyranid weapons (at BS3 since your Carnifexes with guns should always have Enhanced Senses - no exceptions!)


    Other than the table looking generally very good for these weapons (especially when you factor in the points cost of the Devourers and Deathspitters!) there are some obvious things that we can see here:

    • Both Devourers and Deathspitters have really great numbers across the board compared to generic heavy weapons that cost more points than them
    • Devourers are particularly exceptional - other weapons don't come close to their anti-infantry potential and they're not too shabby at anti-tank duty either, easily beating out even medium anti-tank weapons like autocannons, showing what a great efficiency advantage Tyranids have here
    • Deathspitters, though good, are worse against most things than Devourers are; they only come into their own against T7 targets. However, their extra 6" range still makes them a consideration for certain roles
    • Stranglethorn Cannons are pretty good when you compare them in a vacuum to the generic reference chart, but are soundly beaten on most counts by other Tyranid options. This combined with their high points cost makes them a generally poor option.
    • The Heavy Venom Cannon is a monster! The Lascannon is generally considered the gold standard of heavy weaponry right now and not only does the HVC average over than 70% more damage than a Lascannon against tank targets, it also performs reasonably well at killing infantry too.

    In the battle of the dakka weapons, we can conclude that Double Devourers are certainly our go-to take all comers weapon. They're incredible at scything through infantry of any kind, and no slouch against vehicles either; if you're fighting against invulnerable save targets such as Magnus, they will easily overtake weapons with higher AP. Deathspitters are an option if you exclusively intend to fire them at vehicle targets (the table does skip T6 vehicles such as those found in Eldar lists, against which Deathspitters will be better too) but most likely the loss of efficiency against other targets isn't worth taking them. Range is a consideration, though is interesting to note the following:


    Even when the Devourers are forced to advance and get -1 to hit in order to close range, they still maintain their superiority against softer targets over Deathspitters.

    The other conclusion we can draw here is that Stranglethorn Cannons simply aren't worth taking. Heavy Venom Cannons are an incredible weapon - 1.7 Lascannons for the same cost as a single Lascannon - and though Stranglethorns perform a little bit better against the softest of targets (but still worse against marines), those targets simply aren't targets that you want to be shooting with your 25 point heavy weapons. The Stranglethorn Cannon has an identity crisis, which unfortunately makes it basically unusable. If you want anti infantry, you're going to use Devourers or maybe Deathspitters, and anti-tank you're going to use Heavy Venom Cannons.

    How do the same weapons look on our fliers at BS4?


    The Stranglethorn Cannon continues to look unimpressive here, having neither the anti-infantry capacity nor the anti-tank damage to justify it's points cost. The Heavy Venom Cannon though, despite being at BS4, is still better than a BS3 Lascannon and so still looks tasty!


    There are far too many weapons in the codex to cover all of them in one article but hopefully this article has given you some insight into the more common choices that Tyranid players have to make when equipping their units, and given you the information you need to make informed choices. I'll talk about units with more specific and unique weapons as we discuss those units individually.

    Speaking of which, tomorrow we'll finally be starting to look at the various units from the Index, starting with our HQ units and featuring the mighty Hive Tyrant!



    Do you like our articles? Support us by making your next purchase from our site - we offer free shipping over £40 and our customer service is rated 5 stars on Trustpilot!

    1 comment

    This series of articles you are making about the new tyranid codex are fantastic. I´m following them very very closely. I´m eager to see your review in the new numbers of the Hiverant. Keep it up!

    Add a comment

    * Comments must be approved before being displayed.