Psykers Hurt My Brain – Psychic Defense for Tyranids & Genestealer Cults

Sometimes you’re going to be coming up the +1 billion warp charge armies.  Grey knights and Daemons psykers in particular can be rough to face without some psychic defense of some sort.  If you’re an imperial army, you can easily stuff one of those crazy Culexus assassins in a pod, drop it on the nearest farseer and call it a day. However what if you’re a good loyal cultist and worship the one true Emperor – the four armed variety? What if you’re a harmless hive fleet in search of the galaxy for new friends to eat, sorry meet?  Oh wait I mean eat.  Do you suck it up and bring the crazy assassin on foot, running him screaming at your enemy?

(Thor) We had a reader write in and ask a question. Aaron asked the following question:

Hello! With the genestealer cult coming into play i was looking for ways to introduce psychic defense into my tyranid list. Can we grab a culuxor assassin with the cult for the bigger bug lists? Or is there a better way?

Since I don’t know anything about Tyranids, other than how to kill them – and even that’s questionable, I passed this along to Jack to respond to.

Well a Culexus would be come the apocalypse ally to the Tyranid forces (so would hurt the nids just as much as the enemy – or even more so), and would completely mess up the flyrants who’s greatest strength is the mobility to go exactly where they’re needed. This would also hurt their survivability through automatically dispelling catalyst as soon as they entered the 12″ bubble. So using the traditional big bug Tyranid list I’d never use the assassin.

When it comes to the Genestealer cult, you’re again looking at limiting the malediction/blessings potential of the army as well (and the primaris malediction is an awesome power) as the assassin would dispel them automatically. It would also create a big bubble where you couldn’t cult ambush around it for fear of having to make “one eye open” rolls with poor leadership, and have no psychic power to speak of.

Okay, so no crazy assassins.  What else is a poor defenseless bug to do?

I’m going on a couple of assumptions here.  If you’re encountering massive psychic dice spam armies you’re playing in a somewhat competitive arena. Dealing with a +26 warp charge Daemon list is VERY different from trying to stop that single ML2 librarian list.

A pure Tyranid list which is built effectively would likely have 2-3 flyrants (or more) which would give 4-6 dice, and a couple of zoanthropes could be added to a standard list very cheaply, for synapse purposes, and also for batteries for the flyrants to cast and dispel. This can easily put a person in the 6-10 warp charge range (depending on how psyker heavy your meta is), which is more than sufficient protection vs. a standard list. Yes shadows of the warp also exists, however I’ve barely ever seen that matter under the current psychic system.  8th Edition might change everything however, and there is the possibility that a non-terrible Tyranid book is on the horizon at some point.

Pure Genestealer cult I’d use a different approach. I feel that the cult insurrection detachment is one of the strongest ways to play the army, which limits you to a single choice of each character, so one Primarch (who’s going to be ML2), and one Patriarch (also ML2). This won’t really be enough psychic defense against a psyker heavy army, however adding the culuxus will make the couple of blessings / maledictions you can cast be unusable. Kind of a rock and a hard place situation, so I’d go more with an “active psychic defense”.  This would involve prioritizing the psykers for your alpha strike with the 6’s you get for cult ambush. This does not have to require your first curse, characters or any death star you’ve created.  Even a unit of acolytes on the charge can pin Fateweaver for a turn if you go first and pose a credible threat of taking him out before he has a chance to receive the grimoire and other buffs and take to the air.

If you’re using the cult insurrection detachment, you’re likely including a subterranean uprising formation (to mitigate those bad dice rolls!) so if you’re really worried about psykers (such as an invisibility toting conclave or bike farseer) make them priority one for the early charges.  Some psykers such as Ahriman are really focusing on the witchfire powers, so even if you don’t kill the unit, tying it up can still deny a fair bit of powers from going off.  Preventing Ahriman from tossing three psychic shrieks into your cultists is well worth a squad getting killed over a couple turns.

Pure cult like this has decent defense against a single librarian style list, but against heavy psychic armies (ie: daemons/grey knights) you simply aren’t going to be able to stop the powers. MSU makes it less likely that anything short of blessings will be that effective so unless that psychic power is really going to matter in a crucial combat phase (or will stop you from scoring an objective) I wouldn’t bother stopping them. Save your 4+D6 dice per turn on that one spell that really matters, rather than trying to shut down the psychic phase a couple dice at a time because it just won’t happen.

With cult ambush however, remember you don’t have to worry as much about that invisible deathstar – just avoid it and play keep away,picking off other targets and out score your opponent on objectives.  You’re the genestealer cult – why on earth would you try a straight up fight? Suddenly all those dice thrown at the spell mean nothing.  If there’s a Draigo star all ready to do some damage running up the middle of the board, don’t be there. If your opponent chooses NOT to power them up, then target them with that juicy 6 roll on the first curse – otherwise, why fight it at all?  Invisibility is one of those crutch powers on a deathstar that your opponent is going to throw a LOT of dice at to guarantee success.  Make it not matter to you either way if it works.

Sometimes it’s nice to eat at a buffet, and a mixed force does psychic spam fairly well if you want to do that sort of thing. The nids would likely be 2-3 flyrants, 3 mucolids and a couple zoan batteries in a CAD or Hive Fleet Leviathan formation. These 10 warp charge added to a first curse with ML2 patriarch and a CAD with double magus are now getting you into the +16 warp charge range. In this case I’d really only use the flyrants to fish for catalyst, but otherwise be batteries for the cult to use summoning from the magus’ and possibly invis on the first curse if you go fishing on telepathy or endurance if you went biomancy instead. Sadly Catalyst does not work on the first curse, because they’re not actually genestealers, they’re really genestealers. Somehow in GW’s mind this makes sense.

However if you’re facing off against those 20+ warp charge armies, even +16 warp charge is not going to be enough to stop everything, so stick to the key powers and continue to play keep-away and actively target the enemy psykers. Just don’t bother targeting the pink horrors with shooting – making your opponent have more psykers is NOT going to help the situation. If you MUST engage them, then do it in combat. At least it will stop the witchfires while you’re making new units for your opponent.

I think both armies have options that are actually much better than the Culexus assassin, who without a delivery system (no pod for you!) is relying on not failing three 4+ saves on the way in if the opponent is really worried about him. (plus all the detriments to your own army). You can get a minimum sized subterranean uprising formation (with claws for the metamorphs) for the cost of that one model. That will do far more damage to an opponent’s army (and the psykers you’re worried about) over the course of the game without detrimentally affecting your army.

(Thor) Anyone else have suggestions for Aaron? Feel free to share!

  • I just wanted to say well done in covering the question. It’s a thorough response and looks good to me.

    • jack shrapnel

      Thanks! I’m still holding out hope that the next nid dex will actually have shadows of the warp you know, affect psykers :)

      • Agreed. Shadows in the Warp was a HUGE impact back in the day. They could easily make it so any doubles on psychic tests rolled within 12″ of a model with Shadows in the Warp suffers Perils of the Warp. It should be a feared trait.

  • Turkadactyl

    Shadow in the Warp used to matter. It’s a laugh now. Well, a mild chuckle.

  • Not all armies can deal with everything, but I think that is ok.

    • jack shrapnel

      Yep, in this current state of 40k the idea of an “all comers list” really can’t be “I can beat everything” but more, “this has some tools that I can use to make the best out of my bad matchups”.

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