A comprehensive guide to the tyranid faction updated for patch 1.41, with a focus on pvp games.
Table of Contents
The Build Part 1: Expanding, Fast!
Let’s get straight into this, i will now outline the basic frame of the build, beginning with the most basic and fixed part of it, later on there will be more room to mix it up but this part is fixed.
To begin with your first objective is to get your second city asap, following these steps we will achieve that by turn 18.
Turn 1: One of the most important turns! At the start the most important resource to us is science. To be able to expand on turn 18 we need to satisfy 3 conditions: found a city on 20% (or more) sci bonus, acquire your vaul’s outpost and do not lose your termagants.
Ideally, you want to place your city next to the outpost so you can later acquire it but this is not necessary, just capturing it within the first 3-4 turns is sufficient, if you can’t do this your expansion will be delayed.
But let’s assume you do have the outpost in range: place your city next to it and begin building a +6 science building. Make sure to place your city on a tile with 3 building slots.
Meanwhile your termagants can start roaming around and capturing easy outposts but remember: it’s extremely important that they do not die so do not take any fight with wildlife you don’t have to, generally the only fight that is worth risking your gaunts on is to keep control of your sci outpost.
For research start with the hero building, after that is done research hormagaunts (this can be changed, but for now let’s go with the basic option), as soon as those 2 are done start researching the settler building.
Turn 2-4: Keep building, keep cautiosly grabbing whatever’s free with your gaunts.
Turn 5-6: Acquire a new tile (also research if possible), get your gaunts back to the city.
Turn 7: Start building an infantry building and reclaim 1 gaunt to speed it up. this should line up the settler research with the time required to build. (if your research was delayed wait before reclaiming the gaunts until the research is completed).
Turn 11: with the infantry building completed start recruiting a termagant and begin construction on the settler building, reclaim the other 2 termagants to speed it up (can only be done once per turn). At this point if you lost any termagants just continue following the next steps whenever you get there (each gaunt lost will delay you by 2 turns)
For research start researching Tervigon (once more, this *can* be changed, but i’ll have a section on that later). Afterwards research Birthing canals. This is the end of the “mandatory” researches, we’ll discuss the next tech choices later.
Turn 13: Begin recruiting the malanthrope, at this point your population will be insufficient to fully crew all your buildings: disable the research for 1 turn (remember to turn it back on next turn!), afterwards begin construction on your hero building. Once your termagaunt is completed immediately reclaim it to speed up the malanthrope and que up a hormagaunt.
Turn 17: At this point your malanthrope will be completed, move it towards your chosen expansion location (ideally something with +bio like a grox pasture or jokaero outpost).
Turn 18: Expand!
This concludes the initial phase.
The Build Part 2: Lobster’s Pincers!
The lobster has 2 pincers, don’t forget that!
What i mean by that is that this build does make some economic sacrifices as mentioned as such we can’t afford to just produce everything at once, we need to choose 2 main units to form the non-chaff part of our army (alongside our hero, more on that later).
So, if you followed the previous section carefully you just expanded and have an inital city with infantry, settler and hero building: this is where we need to start choosing what our build will look like. I will outline *how* to make each unit work here and go into detail of *what* you should pick in a matchup section later. I will also go into detail of when to substitute hormagaunts for one of the other chaff options (termagaunts, gargoyles, warriors) in that section.
Here’s the units we have available for non-chaff role:
Currently stealthed behind you Bonus:
You want to pick 1 or 2 out of the main list, 1 out of the ranged support if you feel like you need it, lictors can always be added later so you don’t need to build for them specifically in this build (but i’ll explain how to do it at the end of this section).
As for buildings your main city should build another settler building after hero, then another infantry building then whatever you need most (infantry, settler, resources, depends on “pincer” choices and matchup/terrain) and disable your hero building. Then finally claim your outpost and just chill on 7 buildings (this is done to save resources and be able to pump as much as possible into your army in the midgame).
On your second city i generally place a +bio building first (can change for +inf if you are on a 20% influence outpost) then build it up with 3 or 4 production buildings (infantry or monster or a hybrid of the two based on your pincers) and then more resources.
Meanwhile you will have continued making malanthropes and hormagaunts, if you followed the guide you will have 2 hormagaunts and 1 malanthrope turn 26 with toxin sacs: use this small force to start clearing the map around you. Keep making malas and hormas afterwards.
Your 3rd malanthrope will instead place a 3rd city on a good resource spot: this third city is only for biomass (with a dash of influence if needed) so not much to say about it, just keep adding resources to it.
Back to the Pincer Options!
After birthing canals research the monster building (brood haunt), then go back for toxin sacs. Afterwards grab Raveners (duh) and all the attack upgrades to Carnifex and Raveners, you should however skip the bone tail upgrade in favor of gigaborer hives (you can grab it later but there are other priorities). On t6 after the melee upgrade you have a “free” tech: here you can pick Exocrines or Lictors if you wish to use either, otherwise just go with the upkeep reduction. Finally, grab Grey Matter Dispersion: this tech is absolutely key and we are always going to want to rush it, afterwards you can go back and round up your techs (we’ll see in the next section on lategame what to do after grey matter). It is worth speeding up your monster buildings a bit by sacrificing some of the termagants the tervigon produces or badly wounded hormas. You could also grab Biovores instead of Carnifex bio plasma but i really don’t advise it.
Like above but place infantry buildings on your second city and a 3rd settler building on your main. For techs you have a few options on t3: research boost on malans is a solid pick, loyalty building is ok too (but you won’t make them just yet), flesh hooks are fine if you plan to transition to lictors or if you picked warriors for your chaff option. Raveners+Gigaborer on t4, Zoans and deathspitters on t5, melee upgrade and paroxysm on t6 (can swap paroxysm for lictors).
Use your second city for monsters and your first for Zoans (like in the previous two paragraphs) while continuing producing chaff in the main infantry building. For tech pick gigaborer hives and raveners t4, zoanthropes and bio-plasma t5 (again, bio plasma can be swapped for biovores but i don’t advise it), melee upgrade and paroxysm or exocrine on t6.
Ok but what about Biovores?
Alternatively, you can replace Raveners for Biovores as your main 60 bio infantry unit in all of the above, keep in mind they are less versatile than raveners however, only commit to it if you believe you will face a large amount of infantry. If you do, however, it can be a nice swap as carni and zoans can tackle vehicles and let the biovores handle the smaller opposition alongside your chaff.
And if i wanted to focus more on Lictors?
Problem is Lictors come late and are expensive: you can swap Raveners for them in any of the previous builds (as an upgrade or by skipping Raveners entirely). If you don’t expect to be pressured it is also possible to follow any of the previous sections with Raveners and trade them for Lictors while swapping the order in which you make cities: go for pure resources on the second and production on 3rd: this will give you a smaller midgame army but a lot more resources to use once Lictors are ready. I don’t advise it but it can be made to work, be aware you’ll be more vulnerable until your comp is ready and you’ll lose the opportunity to maximise the midgame pressure.
I like Exocrines!
Yeah i do too, but they are a little niche in the nid roster: they are powerful but somewhat overpriced shooters, in a team game it’s better to let your ally do the shooting, but if you just feel you need them or are playing 1v1 they can be swapped into at any point with a Carnifex build or you can go with a hybrid and make gaunts/Raveners early on (with 2 infantry on main and on expansion) and add 2-3 monster buildings afterwards on the expansion to produce them as a Ravener+Exocrines comp.
We’ll see how to actually *play* these builds later, for now let’s assume you have a big fat midgame army of your choosing.
A note on the infantry armor tech: it is generally not a good tech for nids because you have terrible armor values to begin with and 1 more point doesn’t really do anything, only grab it if just have nothing else to grab or if you picked nid warriors (with or without prime) for your chaff.
The Build Part 3: They Aren’t Dead Yet, What Do I Do?
So you did your big midgame push and the enemy survived (the nerve!), you have now a beat up army, 3 cities at or near 7 pop and grey matter dispersion just gave you a big eco boost: now is the time to start preparing yourself for the lategame.
The problem is nid’s lategame is not the best, to win here we need to have achieved something midgame and bloodied the enemy: if they are in top shape even after all that we are probably screwed.
But let’s move on:
First of all, now is the time to increase your pop cap, grab the tech and start building up your pop. Afterwards you’ll want “Scavenger adaptation” (at this point in the game it should be a decent influence boost) and the loyalty building to add after pop. Afterwards you can grab whatever else you feel you left behind and wanted (Biovores? Paroxysm? Bone tail?).
After that, it’s time to tech up to your endgame, to this, we have 3 possible picks and you can grab 1, 2 or even all 3. While it won’t be possible to continously produce all of them a bit of variety in the lategame can be good to force your enemy to answer different threats.
So, here’s the three options:
- Hive Crone
I’ll analyse what the role of each unit is in the unit analysis section, for now, let’s see “how” to build them.
Trygon is easiest: you should have already monster buildings, just grab it and use 1-3 (never more than that, it’s not a great unit for fighting) to move around the map quickly and gain a logistical advantage. Nice but pricey and not strictly necessary. Don’t bother with the damage upgrades for it.
Hive crone requires a dedicated building, it doesn’t really matter in which city you place them, you can make 2-4 of them wherever, the mobility makes it scary but it’s unlikely to end games. More appealing if you picked a Hive Tyrant to lead them and provide synapse and boosts (check hero section).
Tyrannofex is your endgame tank buster and siege specialist, you can never go wrong with it but the tech requirements are massive so if you feel like it has to come down to tfex then adding some extra sci on your city and farming aggressively with malans is probably a good idea.
Not a lot more to say here, really, tech up, keep adding biomass production, churn out tfex or hive crones in addition to your regular army and try to brute force your way to victory.
The Build Part 4: Heroes and Me
So, i’ve assumed in the previous sections you would make a tervigon, there are various reasons why but let’s go over them and the pros and cons of the other options.
This guy IS the Lobster, the glue to the army. The free termagants are amazing to scout, reclaim, steal outposts and add chaff, invaluable really. The heal is amazingly good at allowing you to clear without suffering attrition or grind down the enemy line and to make it all better it requires no items to be effective. It falls off a bit lategame but we don’t want to get to the lategame anyway.
Level it as gaunt>heal>heal>gaunt dmg aura>heal>ultimate, you only really need level 3 for the unit to be effective as a support though.
It should generally be possible to build it immediately after the hero building is done (or after 1/2 turns) but if you just got really unlucky with influence outposts you can delay it by making your second settler building before the hero one, it’s not ideal but it’s better than idling the building for a long time.
Oh man, this is one of the very best heroes in the game! Only issue is… it just costs waaaay too much and despite it’s amazing fighting skills you just can’t afford losing it making it hard to use in a fight effectively. For this reason it’s better, usually, to level it’s indirect support skills first.
Level as loyalty>speed>loyalty>speed>loyalty (or speed if you really want the 3 movement)>ultimate.
Unfortuantely the price tag is made even steeper by the need for items if you want to actually fight with it. The psychic scream, while absurdly powerful, just puts the unit in an unacceptable amount of danger, level it if you want but do so at your own peril.
Because it is so expensive and it’s also t3 you won’t be able to recruit it immediately if you make the hero building as 3rd, so always delay it in favor of more settlers or infantry and make hero as 4th.
Eh, it’s a really good figher and has a great ultimate but it just doesn’t do as much as the other 2 and since it has no value other than as a beatstick you really *need* to have items on it, making it really pricey. I personally don’t suggest it but that doesn’t make it bad, the other options are simply better. Can be more viable in a team game if your ally will buy items for you.
It’s a bit better if you are using tyranid warriors but not by much.
Level it as defense>damage>defense>damage>defense>ultimate, if running warriors substitute the damage buff for 1 or 2 levels of the aura.
Same building principles as tervigon apply.
Should i have two heroes?
You could, i suppose, but it means greatly scaling down the size of your army, i would generally advise against it but it’s possible.
How to Actually Use Your Pincers
So, a brief section on how to actually play the build.
You need to learn that nids rely on melee and numbers to win, ambushes are king and avoiding bad terrain (cokepoints or overly open areas) is really important.
In general with or against nids it’s really important to play the map: most faction are somewhat symmetrical in their strenghts so terrain won’t favor one side much more than the other but nids really benefit from areas with wide room for manouvering and lots of cover, always try to make the fight happen where you are strongest or you *will* be in trouble, the same ork grenade that can oneshot your units on open terrain won’t really bother you too much with 50% ranged defense (cover+malanthrope).
As i mentioned earlier you will start clearing around turn 26, from there just keep clearing towards your enemy while adding more and more to your army, once it’s turn 45-50 your army, following this guide, should be stronger than almost anyone, if you can take a favorable fight this is your best opportunity to win.
Of course, try to get as much science as possible from your malans while in this phase but don’t go too much out of your way for it, your opponent isn’t the wildlife.
But keep in mind: this is a bubble, you invested a lot into this one big midgame army, your resources will soon struggle to keep up production and your tech advantage won’t seem so big forever, you MUST gain something good here, if not a win, or an opponent that invested more in eco should win the lategame grind (with some exceptions).
Chaff and Matchups
So, here’s one of the most important sections, here we’ll go over when are options advisable rather than how to build them.
First, our chaff. I suggested hormas as a baseline because they are just versatile but there are three more options.
While you could swap Hormagaunts for them the only real benefit is saving on 2 techs (hormas and toxin sacs) and gaining some overwatch opportunities but you also need to get the aura on your Tervigon to at least lvl 2 for them to do good damage. I don’t advise it.
These require some more of an in-depth look. The cons are obvious: twice the cost and worse movement than hormas, but what are the pros?
First, twice the price is only 50% longer building time: this means you can output more “bio per turn” in production early on. Also, they have better damage than hormas before t6 (since they get their ranged damage upgrade on t4), a blind that really helps vs infantry (which is usually what you’ll face early on) and their leap.
With all that considered Gargoyles basically are a more earlygame aggressive option, this is definitely an interesting niche just not one very suited to the Lobster build. You can also use them if you imagine you’ll be pressured very early on or in a somewhat hilarious combination with a Hive Tyrant (+3 movement and jump makes them surprise flying units, basically).
Warriors have a fairly unique spot in the roster. They are basically earlier Raveners now that trade mobility for much better defense and a good overwatch. They are not very viable attackers but i find them very effective at holding their ground.
Considering nids are very vulnerable to being rushed very early on warriors are a very viable option to keep aggressive infantry rushes at bay (orks or SM for example).
Overall they are fine, they just fill a role that nids generally don’t need filled, but they do that job well enough so keep them in mind, they also perform much better than the rest of your roster when taking grenades to the face. Definitely pick the armor upgrade with them.
Now for the matchups, from easier to hardest!
The greenskins unfortunately are just not very good in gladius overall, the only realistic threat to you is an earlygame rush, if you think you will have to face that mixing warriors and free termas is a fine way to defuse it, then just grind them down. Despite nids lategame being overall mediocre ork’s is worse so you don’t really need to worry too much about dealing a quick deathblow just make sure you aren’t totally outplayed or overrun before you are ready. No specific comp is necessary, maybe get carnies if you expect Killa Kans.
Necrons lack the tools to deal with certain nid units effectively, a combination of hormas and Raveners should kill them swiftly and effectively, just make sure to always keep up the pressure and kill their priority units (HD and Tombblades especially) fast. You can add more or less what you want in this matchup but Exocrines are especially nice at dealing with ‘crons.
The most dangerous build you can face is with 1-2 lords, if you are facing that you will have to be careful around the armor buff. Ambushing them is the best way to end it quickly and should be doable due to their overall mediocre scouting capabilities.
If you allow them to reach their lategame you are most likely going to lose against a good opponent, so press that advantage.
Well, not much to say here, in a 1v1 the Lobster build should give you an edge in the midgame but it comes down to tactical skills and map rng.
This is where trouble start: this match depends a lot on their tech choices (infantry or vehicles early) and terrain. You really, really need carnies here: nothing else you have can break a bastion, and *well placed* series of bastions can halt almost any attempt at advancing.
You have 2 windows of opportunity vs AM: early/mid by overwhelming them before they have the time to establish a defensive line and take hold of good defensive terrain but if you miss this window you just won’t be able to do anything until your second window.
The second window comes by rushing tfex after failing the midgame. tfex out-duels lemans and clears bastions until they are upgraded and have a levelled commisar with them (without commisar they always do), if you can get a critical mass of monsters after AM established their defenses but before they have completed their upgrades you get another chance. That said, with the new addition of shield generators even tfex may be rendered useless and you might have to outposition your enemy fiercely to stand a chance. If that happens Lictors and Hive Crones may be a better pick, but don’t really expect a high chance to win if you failed your midgame push vs a competent AM player.
Despite their reputation (mostly deserved) as a low tier faction they are nonetheless extremely effective vs nids.
It’s hard to give advice on how to fight them becuase they have many viable builds but overall you can’t really use Raveners/Biovores/(Lictors) if they invest in captain+orbital bombardments build (all of those 3 model squads are going to be oneshot) and carnies will get killed extremely easy by meltas.
Basically, hormas and zoans are all you can use with relative confidence until you have figured out what their build is then branch out later on once you know what exactly you are fighting into some specific counters.
If you allow them to get upgraded Vindicators (+3 armor) and heroes you are likely going to lose. The issue here is you don’t really have a specific window where you are clearly stronger so your best bet is bait them into an unfavorable fight and kill their heroes/wreck their army before they can counterattack, then press the advantage before they can rebuild.
If all else fails try to defend and send a few units (Lictors ideally) to hunt down their towers.
Straight up: in a fair fight you can’t really win this matchup, they can match you in production early on and grind you down with Maulerfiends (for which your only reasonable counter is tfex…) from the midgame on, so unless you outplay them hard you have very little chances.
The best strat from my own experience is to delay them as much as possible with chaff and zoans (possibly adding Biovores if they are using Havocs) and hold inside forests (2 deep to avoid Havocs from taking advantage of their range).
Tech up fast and just skip your midgame, straight into late, with either:
Hive Crones (as many chaos units are melee and won’t cause them huge issues, while they can hunt down those who can: Havocs) and, possibly, with a tyrant. You can also dash past the frontline and send a good number of flyers (5+ with a tyrant for speed and synapse) to try and take down their cities instead of engaging their main army.
Tyrannofex to outduel their fiends into a really long and really slow grind which you may win or not in the end.
Overall a terrible matchup you are likely never going to win on equal skill level.
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