Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Tyranidsaurus Fex

Well we've all seen lots of Nid players running multi-Trygon lists (in fact I reckon they're the most popular Heavy slot there) and they tend to do the same thing over and over: get to combat and scythe through stuff or get shot down/pucked around without having a significant effect on the game.

Having read various pieces arguing over the use of T-Fexes (like the one on the right that I ripped from Dakka) and seeing a very mixed reaction to them I'm going to stick my neck out and say they're actually quite a good unit and give Nids something that they're often sorely lacking: Long-Range Anti-Tank firepower.

There are obviously Pros and Cons to the T-Fex.

  • Long ranged high S weapon (don't bother with the Assault 20 thing as everything else can deal with infantry)
  • 6 wounds and a 2+ save
  • Can't be Shaken/Stunned so can fire every turn

  • Expensive - he's 265 points when given a big gun
  • Combat - he's clearly not as good as a Trygon. In fact, he's barely as good as a Tervigon.
  • Monster - he's hard to hide, assuming that people use something that's as large as a Carnifex so AP2 weapons will hurt him.
Now we could move onto the Mathshammer and show why he's not a fantastic shooty unit on his own with his lacklustre BS 3 but the problem with that is that unit choices shouldn't be made in isolation and there are other factors to include e.g. yes, the T-Fex has problems opening Land Raiders but they might not necessarily be the main threat to your army/unit even if they contain a Terminator Assault Squad so shooting at them won't be the best course of action for the first 2 or even 3 turns depending upon the mission.

Here's a 1750 list that I've seen (or something similar to it) often seen here in Ireland:

2 Primes with Boneswords

3 x 3 Hive Guard

2 Tervigons with Catalyst
2 x 10 Termagants

3 Trygons with Glands

Here's a typical set-up and you can see the Trygons rush forward shielding the Tervs with the Hive Guard behind a swarm of Gaunts. Granted, this is Spearhead but even in Pitched Battle they'll be deployed relatively closely if the Trygons aren't Deep Striking and will all rush forward.

There are 2 glaring problems with this list:

1. A lack of psychic defence: We can talk about a few powers in the game that can really boost an army and keep a unit alive long enough (Fortune), help to destroy a unit (Doom) or grant mobility (Gate of Infinity) but the main reason for having psychic defence with the Nids is simple. Jaws of the World Wolf.

While Trygons aren't that bothered by it, the Hive Guard and Tervigons are. The main problem Nids have is they've no tanks to hide in like other armies do, which should be almost all of them as we know that Mech is king (I'm not so much agreeing with the metagame tag though). So the unending swarms of the Hive Mind have to soldier on hoping they can silence the Rune Priest either with Shadows of the Warp (unless he's in a tank...), tieing him up in combat or just killing him as they can't afford to take multiple Initiative tests for different units every turn, even those in combat: you pick your target that isn't in combat, measure out your 24" and then draw a straight line through a guy in combat. If you're under it, you test. Filthy.

2. Range: The above Nid army really has no long-ranged firepower. The Hive Guard are medium-range while everything else is designed to work up close. This means that you'll take a pounding as you move forward and you hope that you'll weather the storm and inflict major damage when you get there. This doesn't always happen.

On Thursday I ran a list against Floody's ETC Marines to give him some practice. It was:

Tyranid Prime with Adrenal glands, Lash whip and bonesword, Scything talons

Hive Guard x 3
Hive Guard x 2

Tervigon with Cluster Spines, Toxin Sacs, Catalyst
Tervigon with Cluster Spines, Catalyst
Termagaunts x 10
Termagaunts x 10

Tyrannofex with Cluster Spines, Dessicator Larvae, Rupture Cannon
Tyrannofex with Cluster Spines, Dessicator Larvae, Rupture Cannon
Tyrannofex with Cluster Spines, Dessicator Larvae, Rupture Cannon

The army worked well with Floody pointing out the following:

1) They are a fair bit harder to kill then a trygon as the 2+ save is brilliant against AP 3 Missiles and No Retreat! wounds in combat. You bascially need Power Fists et al to hurt them properly.
2) They survive much better than Trygons as you don't need to charge down the guy's throat.
3) They can't fight their way out of a paper bag. But they can tar pit the enemy.
4) It's quite a lot of fire power so there's less pressure on the hive guard.

The Prime goes with the small Hive Guard to take hits and keep them firing while Deathleaper is useful to keep away JOTWW, Force weapons (although one T-Fex went down to a lucky force weapon wound) and to contest objectives with his Ld dicking and Peek-a-boo movement respectively.

While there is a loss of reliable Hive Guard shooting you gain a good bit of long-ranged shooting with the T-Fexes. You have 6 S10 shots which replace the 8 S8 you've lost despite the lower BS. Another thing to consider is that while you're more susceptible to Jaws with the Fexes you don't have to go anywhere near a Rune Priest with them for them to be effective as your 48" guns allow you to sit and shoot from across the table. Taking out the Rune Priest's ride is a good start. This is on top of Deathleaper's -D3 Ld penalty so Jaws isn't as much of a problem now.

Having gone through the list again I'd change it to the following:

Tyranid Prime with Frags, 2 Boneswords, Scything talons

Hive Guard x 3
Hive Guard x 2

Tervigon with Cluster Spines, Toxin Sacs, Catalyst
Tervigon with Cluster Spines, Toxin Sacs, Catalyst
Termagaunts x 10
Termagaunts x 10

Tyrannofex with Cluster Spines, Dessicator Larvae, Rupture Cannon
Tyrannofex with Cluster Spines, Dessicator Larvae, Rupture Cannon
Tyrannofex with Cluster Spines, Dessicator Larvae, Rupture Cannon

You keep the firepower and the psychic defence but buff the Gaunt swarms ever so slightly with both Tervs having Poison (4+) while the Prime has Frags to allow him to clear units out of cover without having to go last against them. 

The T-Fexes changed things up because instead of having an easy target priority of a trio of Trygons there were now a multitude of units that were pounding the Marine army from afar so that when one threat went down there were a host of others to contend with.

There's also the fact that I was able to stand off with many units and throw waves of Gaunts at him rather than ramming stuff down his throat in order to get into effective range and risk being multi-charged, drawing out the medium ranged retaliatory fire or having psychic hoods messing with my heavy armour killers.

As it was the Fexes took out an Ironclad, a Raider, a Land Speeder squad and a Termie Assault Squad and Libby in combat. This freed up the Hive Guard to bag another Speeder squad, 2 Drop Pods and a pair of Predators (we drew on Turn 5, played another turn and there was a solitary Lasback with squad left).

The firepower this list throws out is immense and the only way to stop it is to kill it outright. The relatively low BS and lack of twin-linking isn't very reassuring but because its so hard to kill everything in one turn you're more likely to be getting more shots over the course of a game than many tanks could hope to do.

Yes, psychic powers are still a problem but much less so when Deathleaper's talent kicks in. This is exacerbated when you drag Shadows into the equation - you have to get very lucky for a Force Weapon to drag down any of the big guys if a Tervigon is parked nearby. Which she will be. Making babies. And holding objectives. But mostly making babies. With Deathleaper cockblock psychic powers and the T-Fexes staying back the main target for Jaws will be the Hive Guard so that'll need to be watched. Again, force any Rune Priests to stay back by killing their mobility or pounding their unit with fire and force Morale Tests. Even Ld 10 will fail occasionally.

It may seem I'm obsessing over this as only one army in the game has it but it really is game winning for them if they can get it to hit several beasties in one turn - its that powerful against Nids.

The Tervs pumping out swarms plays into the T-Fexes hands too as it gives another layer for the enemy to get through before he can tarpit your fire support in combat. In the Trygon list you're using the Gaunts to protect your Tervs and Hive Guard as the Trygons rush forward. Note: you don't want the Gaunts in the same combat with the Trygons as they're easy combat res and its likely they'll die and force you to take loads of saves on the Trygon. That's on top of all the short-mid ranged weapons the Trygon will face as he tries to close into combat like Melta and Plasma.

Yes, you've lost combat ability and your assault units are now reduced to Gaunts fighting delaying actions to buy your shooting units more time but even so the Fexes can still pitch in if they need to. Crucially, they can do this after 3 or 4 turns of shooting at anything that can grant mobility (i.e. transports) to enemy assault units which will stop them from applying pressure in one place at one time as they should be crashing into your lines at different times as a result. The extra guns from the Fexes help in this regard and its something the Trygons can't do. It has to be stressed that guns is plural - one on its own really won't achieve much so you will need at least 2 to get the benefits of its guns to ensure it dents tanks.

The main thing to remember is that the Fexes need to have things built around them - psychic protection to stop Jaws, combat units to tarpit the enemy's ones, and mid-range shooting to support their own. They're completely different from the other Heavy slots in the Nid book and obviously work differently but they are a viable unit and perform something that nothing else in the book does: kill armour at long ranges.

That alone makes them worthy of consideration.

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