So, Can Tyranids Beat Dark Eldar by Mark Perry

20 Dec

My main bugbear in running Nids at present is that any half-decent Dark Eldar list is almost a win by default against my Tyranid army.  Playing for draws as your best hope against DE is a bit of a chore and I’d like to at least start the game on a level-playing field. Hiding behind builidngs for 4 turns and hoping he can’t find me is not the reason I decided to play Nids after all …

While this might be extreme for tournament play, I  decided to work through a strategy as to creating a Nid list that can stand up to it’s xenos tormentors!

The Opponent

So firstly let’s have a look at my opponent. I have stolen (well that’s what Dark Eldar do) a fairly typical mech DE list for 1,750:

HQ (105 pts)
Baron Sathonyx

ELITES (525 pts)
x5 Trueborn w/ 2 DL, Venom (2 SC)
x5 Trueborn w/ 2 DL, Venom (2 SC)
x5 Trueborn w/ 2 DL, Venom (2 SC)

TROOPS (654 pts)
x5 Warriors, 1 Blaster, Venom (2 SC)
x5 Warriors, 1 Blaster, Venom (2 SC)
x5 Warriors, 1 Blaster, Venom (2 SC)
x6 Warriors, 1 Blaster, Raider (Shock Prow, FF)
x5 Warriors, 1 Blaster, Raider (Shock Prow, FF)

FAST ATTACK (150 pts)
x3 Beastmasters, x2 Razorwing Flock, x7 Khymerae

HEAVY (315 pts)

This gives us the following crazy amount of shooting:

* 12 Splinter Cannons (poison 4+, AP5)

* 15 Dark Lances (S8/AP2)

* 5 Blasters (S8/AP2)

* 30 Splinter Rifles (poison 4+, AP5).

The list is also very fast, their CC elements have high initiative and there are 5 troop choices for objective games. The Baron also increases their chance of going first considerably.

Not all the shooting is particularly long-ranged, but that is hardly an area where Tyranids excel either. The vehicles do all have amour 10 or 11 and many of the infantry are T3 with less than average amour. So they can dish it out, but don’t take it well …

The Plan

So before I start on any kind of list, I need to have some form of plan. Getting into close combat is going to be a must, so I need to knock their troops down to the ground as soon as possible to take away their mobility and withstand two turns of shooting – either through masses of numbers of durability or both.

Chasing them down while still in their transports will not work, so I either need to field a mass of anti-transport shooting, or come up to them real close before they can do anything about it. Oh, and I’m going second.

I am starting to think about lots of S6+ shooting, some infiltrate/fast moving units and units that can take their shots.

Roll Call

First up is going to have to be hive guard. Lots of hive guard. 3 broods of 2 for now. This gives 4 S8 shots at BS4 with a 24″ range at 3 targets, so not too bad on range but they will need to take some shooting in return. How to keep them alive? Well I thought of tervigons and catalyst at first, but the AP2 weaponry is going to go right through that and with wounding on a 2+ there is a risk that none of them may get into range unless they get cover or have something take the shot for them.

Ok, so what stands out in the codex. Firstly a Prime with regen. 100 points for a HQ that can take the hurt for the unit, but he can only be attached to one brood unless I burn both HQ slots on them. Hmmm. Cover save? Venomthropes are out as I want full Hive Guard in the elites spot. Good news is that despite having T6 the Hive Guard are not monstrous creatures, so even a gant brood in front of them will give them a cover save.

However, now here’s a crazy thought. I have dismissed them forever as missile bait, but the humble warrior now seems intriguing. Yes he is instakilled by a dark lance or blaster, but  5 warriors will require 5 hits to die and if they’re killing my warriors then they aren’t shooting at the hive guard (who now have a cover save). I can also stick a venom canon in here, which is S6 and 36″ and while it normally suffers due to minuses on the vehicle damage chart, the Dark Eldar list is full of open topped vehicles which balances out.

A good start, but I need some more shooting and then something to mop up in close combat. I am also slightly concerned about those beast master packs. Close combat I am thinking of 2 routes – tervigon and gants creating a huge tarpit and stealers to be the precision killing tool, Initiative 6 will ensure they get to strike before being killed and as most opponents will be T3 and there will be lots of armour 10 about I am looking at giving them adrenal glands rather than toxin sacs, so S6,I7 on the charge. I need to ensure they get into the fight though, so whether to start them on the board or outflank. If I infiltrate I feel they become a target for all that 4+ poison shooting, but maybe 1 unit to outflank and one to run with the block to keep their CC specialists off my precious Hive Guard.

So, that’s plenty of points being chewed up already, but I’d like some kind of DS threat in addition to the one stealer brood to keep them on their toes. Carnifex with TL devourers is what’s on my mind. 12 S6 shots which are twin-linked and by dropping them in I affect their deployment and negate the limitations of the 18″ range. I’d love a tyrant with hive commander, but 1,750 is just not going to stretch.

To The List

HQ (220 pts)

Tervigon, AG, TS, Catalyst, crushing claws 220

ELITE (300 pts)

2 hive guard 100

2 hive guard 100

2 hive guard 100

TROOPS (1,028 pts)

5 warriors (4 deathspitters, 1 venom cannon) 185

5 warriors (4 deathspitters, 1 venom cannon) 185

11 termagants 55

1 tervigon AG, TS, catalyst 195

12 genestealers, AG 204

12 genestealers, AG 204


1 carnifex – dual TL devourers 200

So, here’s my list. Not enough points for the mycetic spore, so carnifex is walking with the rest. 1 stealer unit to sit with the warriors and 1 to outflank. Tervigons and carnifex to get cover save from the hive guard and give FNP to the stealers in the first instance wherever possible as they will be taking the brunt of the lower strength shooting. HQ tervigon has crushing claws as he can be more aggressive to keep the stealers in catalyst range and pile into CC himself – the extra attacks are mainly for vehicles rather than troops so the woeful WS doesn’t really matter.

Shooting wise I have the following:

12 S8 shots 24″

2 S6 shots 36″

24 S5 shots 18″

12 S6 shots 18″.

Not intended to outshoot the Dark Eldar player, just to down as many transports as possible and get their troops out of the protection of their vehicles. Essentially every unit bar the gants are capable of downing armour 11. Even with glancing, at the very least, shaken/stunned results should make closing the distance easier.

But will it work?

Let’s look at mission types. Objectives I feel are okay due to the tervigons spawning objective campers. For kill points, Dark Eldar and their transports start off with about twice the kill points, but this will balance as new gants are spawned.

Dawn of War, I would start with the whole army off the table (or 2 tervigons out of LOS – 1HQ and 1 troop so they can spawn turn 1) and then come in en masse. With other deployments start off with all bar one stealer unit on the board in one big mass of Nids. Fortunately a distinct lack of template weaponry in the DE list! Idea is to give everything else a cover save, so deploy in the following shape:




hive guard

tervigon and carnifex.

Idea is to wrap around so warriors are also giving cover to tervigons and carnifex on side shots while stealers get cover from the 11 strong gant squad.

Yes, but will it work? Dark Eldar can either run or sit and shoot for 2 turns and then run. With blasters and splinter rifles having only 18″ range then the DE player has to sacrifice a lot of shooting to keep out of that 18-24″ range the Nids want to be in. So, can the splinter cannons and lances do enough damage in 2 rounds of shooting for them to then skip off? That’s down to dice. Average to hit rolls and cover saves and most of the army is still around for my T2 when I get to shoot back. I will probably even run most of the army in T1 to keep them honest. If the hive guard and warriors with venom cannons hit mid-table still intact then the game looks good as anyone who sticks their neck out with a view to contesting will then drop into range again.

You still have to take it on the chin for 2 rounds, but then you get to hit back. If the DE player does risk 18″ then there is scope for them to seriously rake the army but with enough cover saves being made then all your own 18″ shooting comes into play and with equal amounts of shooting Nids are generally the more durable.  It’s a toss of a coin, predominately terrain affected, but worth trying …

But what if I don’t get Dark Eldar?

Long fang spam would at least be over quickly. A Mech IG with manticore, vendetta, hydra will kill ¾ of the list before the chimeras even need to get involved.  In fact any armour 12 lists  (Grey Knight dread list anyone) will cause this list massive problems, all to give me maybe an even chance against Dark Eldar.

Okay, so I’ll give it a go in a one-off game, but for tournaments its back to the drawing board. Next time I will look at a fast/winged lists packed with CC goodness. See how that pans out.


7 Responses to “So, Can Tyranids Beat Dark Eldar by Mark Perry”

  1. Variakus December 21, 2011 at 12:04 #

    I’ve been pondering this same problem for the last couple of months…

    My current strategy is 2 broods of 19 stealers, two tervies to give them FnP, 3 x 2 Hive guard and a T-Fex. I infiltrate the stealers as far up as possible (congo lining them back through cover and within range of the Tervies) and push hard forward with everything else.

    If the nids get first turn, the DE can’t deal with 38 FnP stealers quick enough… If the DE get first turn, it’s almost an even game.

    Best bit is, the list seems to match up reasonably well with other lists on the tourney scene.

    Love to hear your thoughts!


  2. Andy Ovel December 21, 2011 at 15:16 #

    Good article 🙂

    I look forward to reading more?

    I hope that once the 6th ed 40K comes out then GW will show the ‘Nids a little love.

  3. Rathstar December 21, 2011 at 19:56 #

    I like the list, and i particularly like how you’ve gone about builing the list.

    However I can’t see why you haven’t maximised your best shooting. I think the hive guard should be 3 x 3, and I’m not too sold on the warriors. Dropping both you could have an extra guant unit (allowing the HQ tervigon to become troops), add a prime with a gun and still have the points to upgrade the hive guard to 3 units of 3.

    Another oddity is the carnifex, if it’s not going in a pod, why not have a trygon prime, which also has str6 shooting, but is faster, has 50% more wounds, and is better in combat against DE (more attacks and still instant kills basic DE, and removes FnP).


  4. BadBoy December 26, 2011 at 16:46 #

    The list is ok and maybe gives you a chance against DE in certain circumstances. The issue is that this list just won’t cut it against the new kids on the block… Necrons and def not Grey Knights.

  5. 40KUK December 29, 2011 at 13:41 #

    Well, maybe… maybe not, it would depend on the Grey Knight player and in fact I think Necrons are a pretty good match up for nids.

    To stand any chance against Dark Eldar you do need Hive Guard. The is a slight shift now away from them because of Grey Knights. The old fully packed Hive Guard lists are just not cutting it against the Grey Knight meta and the best nid players are starting to ask questions about other ways i.e Yermagal stealers. That though, does not help against DE.

    What Mark is doing he is giving Nids a chance to beat Dark Eldar and go up against the rest at the same time.

  6. Mark Perry January 3, 2012 at 10:46 #

    Warriors have a unique place here in that, with the hive guard and 3 MCs the dark lances are not going to be pointed at the warriors. They are therefore more likely to be hit by S6 or less weapons and so those multi-wounds actually be useful.
    Hive guard, you are shooting at armour 10/11, so with hitting on 3s and glancing on 3s then the 4 shots/brood are often enough. Remember, the plan here is to stop the transports from moving first and foremost.
    Does it work? Maybe once … If you can’t crack enough transports then the DE can run backwards away from the stealers.

  7. Obo March 28, 2013 at 22:30 #

    my son has this problem, magnified at 600 point level for school tournaments. One Nids player at a recent tournament had his entire army destroyed before his first turn. I have been experimenting with imperial bastion plus whatever scenery is available to hide everything. My list is Bastion, Tervigon (troop), rolling on biomancy, Hive Tyrant with armoured shell, 2 Hive Guard, 11 Termigants. Hive tyrant rolls on biomancy against DE but retains own powers against troopy lists. Son used this list but left tervys leg showing and got killed by one shot from a hex rifle – need to combine with other scenery.

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