CONFESSIONS OF A NORN QUEEN: Tyranids post CA 2019 & Blood of Baal

For me, the competitive side of Warhammer has never meant rushing out to buy the next great net list – it’s always about taking what you know, what you’re comfortable with – what you already know how to win with – and adapting it, updating it, and playtesting it as the game evolves.

Below, I’ll detail how Chapter Approved 2019 and Blood of Baal have influenced my list building for Tyranids, specifically using the most recent list I’ve been playtesting with some success. Enjoy! 

Inside the Hive Mind

Playing tyranids has been a rocky road over the last few editions, but the breakneck speed with which GW is releasing FAQs, erratas, codices, supplements, and campaign books in 8th edition has given even newcomers to the ways of the Hive Mind a taste of the roller coaster that is playing bugs.

Like a handful of other factions this edition (cough my poor Necrons cough), Nids are mostly viewed as a low-mid tier codex. They have some solid (but well telegraphed and somewhat easily countered) builds, 3 or 4 must take units to be competitive, and very little variation across winning lists in terms of unit makeup and playstyle.

Chapter Approved 2019 and Blood of Baal aim to help give Nids a fighting chance, and while they still aren’t going to be top tier, an injection of new rules and stratagems gives them new life in the face of the current meta (so. many. space. marines.)

Rather than just run through both books and give my take on everything, I’m going to take a look at my pre-CA nids list that I have been playing, and walk through how #CABoB19 has changed my list and given me more tools and greater overall utility.

The List: Pre Chapter Approved 2019 and Blood of Baal

 Kraken Battalion

  • The Swarmlord
  • Flying Hive Tyrant – monstrous rending claws, double brainleech devourers
  • 20 Genestealers – 5 acid maws
  • 20 Genestealers – 5 acid maws
  • 3 rippers

 Kraken Battalion

  • Flying Hive Tyrant – monstrous rending claws, double brainleech devourers
  • Neurothrope – warlord
  • 3 rippers
  • 3 rippers
  • 3 rippers

 Kronos Vanguard

  • Malanthrope
  • 3 Hive Guard – impaler cannons
  • 3 Hive Guard – impaler cannons
  • 3 Hive Guard – impaler cannons
  • 17 Termagants

 Points Total – 2000 on the nose

Surprising no one, the meat of the list is a heavy turn 1 combat presence to tie up and clear screens using Hive Commander and 2 big units of genestealers. Flyrants can push forward and help grab things like recon, can threaten characters left unprotected with sloppy screening, and tag units/tanks to stop them shooting my army to pieces.

Rippers hold objectives/hide and can act as engineers, hive guard do hive guard things with help from the malanthrope’s aura, and the random 17 termagants to take it to 2000 on the nose help screen, sit on objectives, basically trying to bait my opponent into dealing with them or give up hold more.

The main drawbacks of this list are that it telegraphs its playstyle hard, and it can give up secondaries relatively easily depending on terrain density. It wins by trying to push hard in the early turns and overwhelm the opponent before they can get a foothold in points. If the enemy is able to weather the first turn charge, screen me out of Overrun range (and lets be honest, everyone and their mom knows how to screen properly at this point) , use shenanigans to prevent a wrap, or throw indirect fire and roll hot on taking out the hive guard, it gets dicey (ha!) quick.

Evolution of the Hive

Enter Chapter Approved and Blood of Baal. CA 2019 saw many points drops for most armies more or less across the board. I’m not going to detail every points drop, but a few of the more interesting ones to me include:

  • Hive Guard w/impaler cannons  = 43 vs 48
  • Exocrines = 155 vs 170
  • Malanthrope = 120 vs 140
  • Tyrannofexen = 174-194 vs 184-200+ (depending on load out)
  • Toxicrenes = 125 vs 140

The combat component of my list didn’t change in points, and is easily the most useful part of the list as it stands anyway – the fact that flyrants and genestealers didn’t increase is a win in my book. 

However, the shooting component very much changed – and with the points drops on exocrines and tyrannofexen, even the meager 10 point drop on biovores, they immediately become viable options to expand the shooting component of the list and complement the Hive Guard.

Note: Blood of Baal does not reinvent the way Nids are played, full stop. I want to get that out of the way now. You’ll still see Kraken stealers, you’ll still see Kronos hive guard, you will likely never see “successor” hive fleets played competitively.

What it did do was add some seriously good psychic powers, an absolute MUST TAKE relic for every nid list, and a unique alternate warlord trait system called Adaptive Biology. Here’s the breakdown, again focusing on the aspects that I thought would impact my list specifically:

Psychic Powers

  • Kraken – Synaptic Lure (5) – Select an enemy unit, reroll charges vs that target unit. Spoiler alert, there is a theme here with getting more reliable charges…
  • Kronos – Symbiostorm (6) – Select friendly unit within 12” of the psyker. 6s to hit generate an additional hit. With lots of double shooting big boys in most kronos detachments, this is really good.


  • Resonance Barb – Psyker Only. Cast and Deny an additional power, and +1 to casting on top. This is as close to autotake as you get – make your hive tyrants Ahriman.
  •  Venomthorn Parasite – model with heavy venom/stranglethorn cannon only. Instead of rolling, you always shoot max shots. Great for reducing variability in your shooting, might be enough to entice people to bring cannons over devourers to help take down space marine tanks and dreads.
  •  Pathogenesis – add 8” to range of ranged weapons. Also gets master artisans to reroll a single hit and wound every time it shoots or fires overwatch. Great for a shooty flyrant to try and outrange close-mid range threats, and master artisans is icing on the cake to reduce variability in damage output.
  •  Arachnacyte Gland – replaces adrenal glands. Roll an extra D6 when charging and discard one dice, +1 to advance rolls. Again a great way to reduce variance, trygons want to be trygon primes so they can take this, and it can be solid on a flyrant you bring in from reserves. 

Adaptive Physiology

(note: I’ve listed all of them, rather than just the ones I plan to use, since they’re quick)


  • Enhanced Resistance – ignore AP-1 and -2
  • Adrenal Webs – move 2d6 when consolidating instead of 3”
  • Abhorrent pheromones – subtract 2 from enemy LD within 1”. GW, LD shenanigans just don’t do anything. Stop trying to make Fetch happen.  
  • Dynamic Camo – + 2 to saves in cover
  • Unnatural Reactions – perform Heroic Intervention as if a character, move 6” instead of 3”. Hormagaunts come to mind as particularly nasty candidates for this boost – misplay a unit within 6 of them, they intervene 6”, then pile in 3”, and consolidate 6”, pulling an extra 15” of movement out of your opponent’s fight phase and a near guaranteed wrap on most any unit that gets that close.


  • Dermic Symbiosis – 5++ invuln. Double wounds for damage table. Not a monster in the list that doesn’t love this one or benefit massively.
  • Voracious Ammunition – At end of shooting phase, pick an enemy unit with 1 or more models destroyed by an attack made by this model. That unit takes d3 MWs. 1 word. Exocrine. 12 shots at BS3 when standing still (or using Symbiotic Devastation…see below), S7, Ap-3, D2. Rerolling 1s for Kronos, average of 2 additional hits with the Kronos spell. And D3 mortal wounds for your opponent’s trouble if you don’t wipe the unit. Primaris killers through and through – these dudes are going to see a ton of play.
  • Accelerated Digestion – In the fight phase, when an enemy model is destroyed as the result of an attack made by this model, the model regains a lost wound (max 3 per turn)
  • Synaptic Enhancement – Synapse keyword and Shadow in the Warp. Useful so your backfield artillery doesn’t need a babysitter, but situational since you’re likely to just take a malanthrope as your babysitter with their new improved points cost, and they don’t need to move forward since they’re not casting powers.
  • Murderous Size – select a melee weapon, +1S, +1 Damage, -1AP for the battle. This is another phenomenal one – throw it on a hive tyrant to make their monstrous rending claws beastly, throw it on a trygon prime with the adrenal gland relic and watch him all but guarantee charges and shred everything in his path. Since its pick a weapon and not just all the unit’s melee weapons, you’re best bet is to pick a model with only one melee weapon profile and lots of attacks.


  • Progeny of the Hive – 1 CP – Lets you pick an additional unit to receive an Adaptive Physiology. Very solid, but unfortunately it’s once per battle.
  • Grasping Tendrils – 1 CP – When a unit within 1” of a toxicrene tries to fall back, roll a D6 – on a 3+ it can’t fall back. Add 1 to the roll if the unit is infantry. Seeing more of these over the last couple of months since SM released – ways for armies to keep units in combat. As a white scar and drukhari player, I love these rules – only downside is it’s on a toxicrene, but the big squiggly guy might have utility with this strat and the fact he’s now 15 points cheaper.
  • Symbiotic Devastation – 1 CP – target an exocrine unit at the start of the shooting phase. That model counts as having not moved. Amazing – there’s a theme here for helping make double shooting exocrines more viable, and mobility is king in 40k – this is great.
  • Hive Instinct – 1 CP – In the charge phase, select 1 enemy unit within 1” of any synapse unit from your army. Roll an extra D6 for charge distance for other <Hive Fleet> units charging that unit, and discard one of the dice. Must end within 1” of that enemy unit or the charge fails. Another great way to reduce variance in your charges – there’s a theme here; many ways to boost swarming the enemy by granting 3d6 pick 2 charges. Very solid.
  • Synaptic Channeling – 1 CP – Select a psyker in your psychic phase, for that phase, it knows all the powers known by friendly <Hive Fleet> models on the table. Combined with the Resonance Barb above, this is downright filthy. As far as the opponent is concerned, every model knows every power, and he has to plan for that – which is hard to do.
  • Psychic Fissure – 2 CP – When an enemy psyker fails to cast a psychic power within 12” of a synapse creature from your army, they perils. Situational – but potentially lethal in a pinch. Not sure it’s worth 2 CP, but if your opponent’s psyker is on his last leg he may forgo casting just to keep him alive, which is just as good as having them fail.
  • Hunters Drive – 1 CP – When a friendly <Hive Fleet> unit declares a charge against an enemy unit that has suffered casualties in the shooting phase from a synapse creature, roll 3d6 pick 2 for the charge. With some of the relics and bonus rules in Adaptive Physiology, hive tyrant shooting is both more consistent and more lethal – it’s not unreasonable to think that you’ll often be able to pick off a model or two with your flyrants and then sink a unit of genestealers or hormagaunts into them to pull off the wrap.

The List: Post Chapter Approved 2019 and Blood of Baal

 Kraken Battalion – 1CP on an extra relic

  • The Swarmlord (onslaught, synaptic lure) 
  • Flying Hive Tyrant – 4x Devourers – Relic: Pathogenesis (catalyst, psychic scream) 
  • Flying Hive Tyrant – Monstrous Rending Claws, 2xDevourers – Relic: Resonance Barb (paroxysm, the horror)
  • 20 Genestealers – 5 Acid Maws
  • 14 Genestealers – 3 Acid Maws
  • 3 Rippers

 Kronos Battalion – 1CP on an extra Physiology

  • Neurothrope (symbiostorm)
  • Malanthrope – warlord
  • 3 Rippers
  • 3 Rippers
  • 10 Termagants
  • 6 Hive Guard – Impaler Cannons
  • Exocrine – Adaptive Physiology: Voracious Ammunition
  • Exocrine – Adaptive Phsyiology: Voracious Ammunition

Total Points – 1997

 So what changed? I combined the 2 Kraken Battalions into 1:

  • The genestealers are still more than capable of dealing with most threats despite dropping a few models each, and the inclusion of better relics from the BoB book make the flyrants much more reliable and dangerous.
  • The quad devourer flyrant is back, and his 26” range from the relic make him a much better tool to counter mobile combat units like enemy smash captains, disco lords, and daemon princes.
  • The MRC flyrant can now cast 3 deny 2 with a +1 to cast, and for 2CP (Power of the Hive Mind/Synaptic Channeling) he can cast a 4th and know nearly every spell on the board.

The Kronos detachment saw lots of change as well:

  • I’ve lost some screening with the drop of the mid-sized termagant squad from the Kronos detachment down to only 10 models, in exchange for vastly more firepower.
  • Combining the hive guard makes it easier to keep them in synapse range and the Malanthrope aura, and it makes Single Minded Annihilation a much more efficient play (and lets them put out more shots than 3×3 anyway, since you wouldn’t spend the CP to double shoot a smaller squad).
  • 2 Exocrines add some very consistent, and with the points drop, extremely efficient fire power with the kronos rerolls and all the accoutrement that BoB lends:
    • Being flat 2 damage, they are absolute primaris killers
    • Being able to shoot twice while moving for a CP
    • Doing D3 mortals to any unit they wound to help clear objectives
    • Being able to score extra hits on 5s with a psychic power and the native +1 to hit for standing still (thanks to the comments for pointing that out – I missed this originally!)
    • And still having the option to throw pathogenic slime on one of them if I need the damage boost vs things like aggressors

What to Consume Next …

Is this list going to be top tier? Probably not. Is it going to be able to give my opponents a run for their money, and pull some nasty tricks they aren’t expecting with some interesting synergies? Absolutely.

I haven’t played with this list yet (my Blood of Baal copy just arrived today!) but I am extremely excited to put this list through its paces and continue making changes to adapt to my play style and my local meta.

Who knows, maybe you’ll all see me playing this list or a variation at Adepticon in 4 months!

Happy war gaming!

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