Tyranids 8th Edition

Playing 8th Edition Tyranids (Thoughts, Tips, and Tactics)

Hello true followers of the great devourer!  It’s been quite the wild ride being a Tyranid player for the past several years, but as the dust is settling (somewhat) on our 8th edition codex and the recent big FAQ, I figured it was time to talk bugs.

Tyranids were my first 40k army.  I was a diehard Warhammer Fantasy player and never was interested in the sci-fi grimdark in the least.  However I really truly loved the Tyranid models and they sucked me into the game, and my wallet hasn’t really recovered since!

Now at the time I began thinking about buying Tyranids (4th edition) I was taken aside by one of our local grey knights (remember that program from GW anyone?) and told very kindly “don’t buy nids to start, you’ll just get frustrated because they aren’t good”.  Take into consideration that the 4th edition Tyranid Codex was held up on a pedestal by Tyranid players up until the indexes of 8th edition as the model of how to do it “right”.  That’s how bad stuff got for a while.

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Well it might have taken four editions of the game, but I can finally say to that Grey Knight – “You’re wrong – Nids ARE good!” (I just had to be super patient).

Fun fact, I saw this former Grey Knight recently and we told another player this very story as my Tyranids were rampaging across the board.

So, the 8th edition Tyranid Codex was very strong. Synapse was finally not a crippling handicap to the army, there were varied strong builds available and most (sorry lictor) options had a use on the table other than causing your opponent to feel sorry for you.

The recent FAQ limiting datasheets to 3 copies at 2,000 points initially hit “competitive nids” (well the perceived competitive build at least), but seriously there is a LOT more to this codex than flyrant spam.  The flyrant is really, really good, there’s no doubt.  But, you do not have to bring 5+ of the damn things.

The other limiting factor with the recent game changes of having half of your power level on the board has again made some builds problematic, but once you said you can’t drop five flyrants on the board at all, not being able to have five in reserve was less of a problem!

Not allowing them to deploy from deep strike outside of your deployment zone turn one again was at first harsh, but really is for the overall good for the game as no one has fun being alpha struck off the board before they have a chance to act.

One difficult to accept change however (but that was also good for the game) that affected Tyranids specifically was that hive commander (the swarmlord’s ability to move a unit in the shooting phase) could not be done to a unit that came out of reserve.  This meant the swarmlord/genestealer reserve bomb just couldn’t happen anymore.

I will shamefully admit I used this combo to vicious effect in the early days of the codex.  It was an awfully long drought on good options those editions – what can I say? I was weak!  But seriously it wasn’t a very fun combo for your opponent.  Sure bubble wrap countered a lot of this, but it’s not exactly difficult for Tyranids to clear bubble wrap! (oh man, the me from two years ago can’t believe I’m saying this now!)

So, rather than go through an entire catalogue of individual unit review, I’m going to take the highlights out of each slot, in an effort to show some potential combos or uses that might have been eclipsed by the focus on flyrant spam. Yes, there are some slots that are pretty lean.  That’s not saying there are no other good choices.  Everything in the book in some fashion is still generally decent (and miles ahead of the 6th/7th edition days) but some things are just standouts.


Okay, there’s no denying that the Flying Hive Tyrant is very, very good, even with the limitations on three maximum, even if they cannot deep strike outside of deployment turn one.

They’re STILL the strongest choice with devourers and monstrous rending claws and adrenal glands as the go to setup. Many competitive lists simply starts with three of them – Kraken hive fleet for the fall back and charge.  100 Points of rippers and you have a battalion.

There are some other options though that are good to consider (once your sick of running flyrants that is):

Old One Eye

With how dirt cheap your basic carnifex is for a solid MC profile (and a quick 10 point upgrade to make them -1 to hit!), Old One Eye is essential to make a fex based list work, as he gives a solid +1 to hit aura.

He has character protection and cannot be picked out other than by snipers (and regeneration mitigates even this risk) and can happily run behind the roaring wall of fexes.  Keep in mind they can’t climb stairs though!


You don’t take him for his ability to buff zoanthropes (because then you’d have to take zoanthropes!). You take him because he’s a synapse creature, a potent psyker, fly, protected character status and a 3+ invul save all for around the same points as a stock librarian.

If you have 240 points spare you can make a double neurothrope triple ripper swarm battalion, giving you deep strikers for objectives, two psykers that are difficult to take out and five juicy command points.


Okay why on earth would I even include swarmy in this list given the obvious nerf to hive commander?  Well for the one hive fleet that really makes great use of him and genestealers – Kraken.

Swarmlord and friends get to move and advance using 3D6 take the highest.  Swarmlord then tells his buddies to move and advance again (again getting the bonus).

You now have a very threatening squad of genestealers (likely with catalyst) in your enemy’s face turn one which are going to demand attention and can still pull some surprising damage if they make that charge.


Chapter approved did add FIFTY points to this forgeworld HQ, but I think we can all agree he was way too good for his points before.

A character protected -1 to hit debuff that can affect monsters is why you take him. (he has a few other bonuses but really he’s not going to be mixing it up a lot in combat to use them).  He’s not cheap enough to spam, but makes for a durable synapse buff creature for backfield shooting units.


All the troop choices can be made to be usable (even warriors, although really they’re not a very efficient choice for what you get) but there’s still a few standouts in this section as well:

Ripper Swarms

Dirt cheap, no longer just randomly eat themselves when out of synapse, and can deep strike. Sure they can’t do it outside of deployment turn one, but you absolutely don’t want them jumping on the board before they have to.

Yes, their stats are hot garbage, but in synapse they’re fearless, they’re tiny models that can easily hide and they’re objective secured. Plus they’re super cheap! I don’t make a Tyranid list without ripper swarms, they’re just that useful.


Kraken is your friend here, and frankly I wouldn’t run stealers without that hive fleet.  The trygon taxi (or even better and cheaper ravener taxi) option through Jormungandr is still fine, but cannot apply pressure to at least turn 2 and relies on your opponent not zoning out your models, and being able to successfully roll that 9″ charge. I’d much rather have Kraken to get these feared models in the enemy’s grill turn one.

Now, in a lot of respects genestealers are more threatening in concept than in application, but their reputation precedes them, and your opponent is very likely to try to focus them out.  Big units are recommended as a 5++ only gets you so far.


The humble termagant can be used in two very effective roles.  The first being a line of bubble wrap around your tervigon ( just kidding, don’t ever take a tervigon) more expensive monsters to protect them from jerks like the blood angels smash captain.

The second use is the devourer bomb.  Using a Trygon (or with Jormungandr raveners) devourer armed termagants can unleash an insane amount of shots, especially when you factor in stratagems, such as single-minded annihilation (firing twice), which can have your 30 cheap bugs firing 180 S4 shots into something.  Add in some nearby synapse (ahem flyrant) and now you’ve got a lot of fearless wounds to chew through.


Okay there’s no real reason to sugarcoat this one. You’ve got a lot of “just okay” choices in this force organization slot that can be serviceable, but which all pale in comparison to the real choice – Hive guard.

Basically, when you look at any of the Tyranid elites you’re forced to often say “these are okay but they’re not hive guard”.  The ability to shoot two strength 8, D3 damage -2 AP shots apiece ignoring cover and line of sight is just amazing. Putting this gun on a Toughness 5 multiple wound body is just icing on the cake.

A unit of six hive guard, Kronos hive fleet, using single minded annihilation will shoot 24 times at a Ballistic Skill 3+ rerolling 1’s. These bugs just do an insane amount of work in the shooting phase and are a must-take for any list.

Fast Attack

If you’re looking at filling out a brigade, or just are looking for some fast choices on the board, you’ve got a few fun choices here. With the change to the command points offered by Battalions, however, it’s normally easier to fill out two battalions rather than one brigade.


Well they’re flying termagants, so zone out areas well against deep strikers, can apply pressure where you need them due to their speed, and are a pretty cheap platform to do so.

More of an annoyance than a serious threat, however can reach out an annoy and with synapse aren’t going anywhere.


Raveners actually give a larger area around them for transporting units via the Jormungandr tunnel network than a trygon, for much cheaper.  I would generally advocate them over a trygon (who I’m shocked is a mere toughness 6 for the size of it) simply because of the point investment being much lower for the same general function.

Raveners are respectable at dealing with light infantry and screens, but generally whatever they’re transporting (genestealers or devourer gaunts) is what you’re more relying on.


The heavy slot is brimming with useful (and cool looking!) choices that are very deadly on the tabletop.


A very useful artillery beast that can be taken in multiples for cheap, launches mortal wounds across the board, and if it misses drops a spore mine (which can then be another distraction, or more usefully as a movement blocker).

It is possible to just section off sections of the enemy’s preferred route to your lines simply with free disposable spores that just stuff the enemy rather than even hurt them.


The mutable beast of the 4th edition codex is back with the most variety of customization of any of the monstrous creatures.

You can have a shooting beast with heavy guns, enhanced senses for the improved ballistic skill and Kronos for rerolling 1’s when stationary.  You can have an infantry shredding double devourer beast. Heavy tank wreckers with crushing claws, or make use of your old school metal models with screamer killers.

My favourite though is just the stock double scything talon fex with tusks and adrenal glands. That’s six attacks on the charge (with +1 to charges), hitting on 2’s with old one eye and rerolling 1’s.  The causing mortal wounds on the charge is bonus. All that is under 100 points.

They can also be bought in broods, allowing up to nine of them in a 2,000 point list.


One of the few monstrous creatures in the codex with a toughness of 8, the exocrine boosts a six shot plasma gun, that double shoots if it stands still, and gets +1 ballistic skill if stationary as well!  Add in Kronos for rerolling 1’s and you have an accurate long range beast that can be a huge pain to get rid of.

I pair mine with the malanthrope for a -1 to be shot at for extra protection.  With a stratagem, each wound on the gun is jumping up to three wounds a piece – super handy for dealing with opposing monstrous creatures, pesky tanks like the wave serpent (who otherwise are knocking your damage down with their serpent shields) and custodes.


I have a soft spot for this model, as I owned two of them through the last couple of editions where they were absolutely terrible and way too many points. They have the option of a fleshborer hive but really I used mine to represent devourers anyways… had nothing to do with how terrible the fleshborer hive choice is… honest.

So, the choice is between the expensive rupture cannon or the cheaper acid spray version.  I lean towards the acid spray as the rupture cannon, although it is S10 multiple damage and double shoots when stationary, is on a BS 4+ platform that has no invul save and degrades ballistic skill as it gets damaged.

The acid spray is a Strength based 2D6 flamer with -1 AP and D3 wounds. I find two spray-fexes walking up to midfield with a malanthrope escort to be a fun combo.  A Kronos rupture-fex in the backfield with an exocrine buddy (and malanthrope protector) also can definitely do some work.

Hard Counters

Well unfortunately there are some matchups which are just a serious pain in the chitin, there’s no way around it.  The three that are at the top of my “most hated biomass” list are Dark Eldar, Imperial Knights and Y’narri.

Let’s face it, the Y’narri problem for nids is simply Cat Lady and Dark reapers.  Everything else is largely manageable. Dark reapers rely on sticking at the back and hopping in and out of cover. Either ignoring LOS completely (hive guard) or deep striking into the back line is your friend here.  Tyranids are very skilled at killing infantry. The FAQ made this more challenging turn one unfortunately, which is a large part of why this is a poor match up.

Imperial knights have always been an issue for Tyranids, with the Dominus, Archaon and the autocannon armigers just dialing the monstrous creature hate up to 11. Tyranids rely on charging to do a lot of the dirty work, and facing multiple damage 2d6 or 3d6 flamers is just brutal. Straight up 3 damage on those autocannons really takes a toll on multiple wound models.

Hive guard are solid gold as they can hide out of line of sight and take on the most serious threats.  The big knights seem the most threatening, however it’s often the armigers which should be the priority target.  Knights are many times lacking the numbers to take on objectives so bring Astra Militarium to shore up this weakness. Focusing down the imperial guard support can also provide much needed leverage.

Dark Eldar…. sorry Drukhari…. are very strong right now.  The triple ravager  is a staple of most builds and disintegrators and dark lances will take a terrible toll on your monsters while massed poison shots can cripple your small to medium bugs fairly easily. Use LOS blocking to your advantage, as well as the fact that you’re very likely getting the +1 to first turn.

Ravagers are priority one and some of the teeth can be taken out of the list by focusing them down early.  A unit to watch out for are grotesques, especially with the prophets of flesh giving them a 4++ and the ability to deal out mortal wounds in combat.

Closing Thoughts

The Tyranids are an army of fantastic models and a fun play style that can be aggressive and mobile. They reward solid target priority as units are somewhat specialized in their roles, and there are a number of very good units to choose from depending on your tastes.

Hopefully the upcoming genestealer cult codex will offer some good choices for allies (the abominant looks amazing by the way) to help with some of the more difficult matchups you may face.

The 8th edition codex has been the strongest in a very long time, and has many useful options. They may not be currently dominating the GT meta due to some of the hard counters which are currently very popular, but you can still build very strong and capable lists.

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It’s awesome to see bugs get the love they deserve. They’ve always been one of those fringe armies that’s amazing or utter crap, just depends on what codex it is and what edition 40K is in.

Also, nice write-up as well.

jack shrapnel
jack shrapnel

Thanks Thor! Tyranids have always been my first 40k love… and unfortunately their competitiveness has really fluctuated wildly which I know can be discouraging to new players. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the current codex though. Fingers are crossed that Genestealer cult will be just as good! (as I’m eyeing up those new Abberants to add to my huge collection that sits on a shelf…lol)


Yeah, those Abberants do look pretty damn awesome.


Nice read. Making me want to dig my bugs out some more. Been focusing on Genestealer Cult this edition and looking forward to getting a dex for them again. Got my 7th edition army for Cult painted just in time for 8th edition to drop. >.<

I love old one eye. I use him to back up a genestealer, hormegaunts bomb. People get so focused on the stealers he sneaks right in.

Hormegaunts have actually been one of my better utility units. The 6” pile in tends to sneak up on people and you can get a large gun line tied up quickly with them.

jack shrapnel
jack shrapnel

I share your pain. I actually JUST finished buying the last kit for GSC when 8th arrived (all new cult models and 90% infantry so super expensive) to have it relegated to the shelf in all but the friendliest of match ups. I’m stoked for the new codex!
I can definitely see a place for hormagants as well vs. a gunline list. There’s just so much eldar / tau where I’m at locally that they don’t last too long (or are able to really tie up anything because of fly) due to the T3 6+. Marines though? Hormies all day long!


Pretty sure that Grey Knight didn’t know what he was talking about. Nidzilla was meta-defining for much of 4th Ed, and there was plenty of other good stuff in there with it. It wasn’t until the Ork Dex dropped close to the end of 4th that it really started to struggle. And even then, it was solid well into 5th, until the 5th Ed Dark Eldar really finished it off.

Anyhow. Hormagaunts, I really like with Jormungandr. The ability to buy Adrenal Glands really helps make that Charge a lot easier. Can’t do it until Turn 2 now, but it’s still handy. Probably also a local meta thing. You mentioned a lot of Tau/Eldar, but I’m up against lots of Death Guard and Haemonculus Covens, where they can really be handy.

Gargoyles feel more like Garbagegoyles to me in 8th. Still useful for Charge-screening Flyrants, but with the changes to how Cover works in 8th, they lost one of their best uses, since they can no longer screen Units from shooting.

Biovores seem worth pointing out as another option against Dark Reapers in particular. And definitely keep your eyes open for an opportunity to get a Flyrant around the screens to unload into Yvraine or a Farseer or something. It won’t come up often if your Opponents are good, but when it does, it can be a game-changer.

jack shrapnel
jack shrapnel

Yeah, this would be the tail end of 4th when I began with the nids. I still thought it was a cool codex still, and obviously I disagreed with said grey knight because I bought into them big time! (and paid for my choice when DE ripped me asunder!) Agree that biovores can also work wonders on Dark Reapers.
I can see hormagants working great against DG/covens, as they would really get a chance to shine and tie some stuff down as not a lot of easy escapes with fly or brutal tau overwatch. Knights are hitting big around here (and some other areas I’m aware of) and can be a daunting proposition for the hormagant charge – however those armigers cannot simply fall back and fire to full effect over infantry like their big brothers can. So if you can tie up and surround with enough hormagants, they’d have a difficult time (at least the autocannon version, whose three damage shots are rough to face with bigger nids, but the hormies don’t care much about it)
Gargoyles rarely make my lists, but some people swear by them. They’re super cheap and really fast. Charge screening flyrants can be useful as you mentioned. But I generally just use rippers for my unit to reach out and grab far objectives.
I’d love for someone to give me an opening on Cat-lady with a flyrant… that would be simply awesome :)


I loved Gargoyles from 4th through 7th Ed. But in 8th, they just don’t do anything the Army really needs.

Rory (Stepping Between Games)

Stop it! I can’t afford another army and a Kaiju themed Nid army would be great fun.

jack shrapnel
jack shrapnel

do it. Think of the cool battles you could have vs. imperial knights! (I mean Jager’s)

Kenneth Raymond
Kenneth Raymond

I am also one of those 4th edition flag wavers for the nids. (the mutations in the back of the book were so good. Kinda like the 4th edition space marines chapter creation section and the chaos codex.) I always did quite well even through the days of 7th, although putting a scythed hierodule onto the table was enough to draw fire away from the rest of the army which led to many a war of attrition.
In 8th I like to run carnifex swarms (I need an old one eye though. I really wish I hadn’t sold my classic 4th ed model :( ) backed up by hormaguants (and tyranid primes) The hierodule still gets some mileage but as more of a distraction now that it cannot tank shock through screens :(


I loved the 3.5-4th Ed philosophy of Codex Design. That degree of modularity and customization was so much fun. I really wish they’d stayed with that and just tightened up the balance a bit instead of the trend towards fewer and fewer options we’ve seen since then.

jack shrapnel
jack shrapnel

The carnifex section of the 4th ed codex was my favourite thing ever… and part of why I bought the army to begin with! Nothing looks quite as cool as a fex swarm. I’d love to get more of them to do it justice (says the guy with 5 + OOE – it still doesn’t seem enough – four more would seem “right”) : )