Tyranids Tactics: How to dodge the World Wolf
Hi there, I'm Pete (bugsculptor on Warpshadow). Adam's asked me to write a few articles on Tyranid tactics, as I've got a few years experience playing them and I'm stubborn enough to try running them in tournaments. I'm going to try and keep my topics short and to the point - each post will deal with a certain tactical situation: how to deal with a certain situation or how to make the best of one of your units. The unfortunate reality for today's Tyranid player is that a few codexes have been published that really seem to have been designed with a tool to kick you right between your lowest pair of limbs. When one of these match ups hits the table opposite you, knowing your opponent's rules and the dice that they need to roll could be the key to survival for your beasts. Most competitive Tyranid lists contain a Tervigon or two - these lovely she-beasts are critical to keeping your most important units alive with Catalyst, pulling the occasional offensive trick with Onslaught, providing Synapse, birthing dozens of scoring units and let's not forget that the Tervigon itself is one of the toughest scoring units in the game. With high toughness, good armour and an army of gaunts to keep most opponents at bay, it's normally pretty easy to keep your Tervigons alive. Today I'm going to focus on one power that can really hurt you - Jaws of the World Wolf, a Space Wolf player's easiest way to knock a Tervigon or two right out of your list.
Jaws of the World Wolf is a psychic power that's pretty popular with Space Wolf players. Njal Stormcaller has it, and it's normally the second power most Rune Priests will pick after Living Lightning. If your opponent is particularly afraid of Tyranids or they're simply a horrible person it's possible they have up to four rune priests with Jaws in their list.
When cast, the Space Wolf player has to pass his psychic test, and then draws a line 24" from his Rune Priest, completely ignoring intervening scenery. He has to roll to hit the first target on the line using his BS, and if he does all models on the line have to take an Initiative test or be removed from the table with no save possible. The power is particularly bad for all multi-wound creatures, but Carnifexes, Tyrannofexes and Tervigons have low initiative which gives them a terrible chance of surviving if they get hit. If the rune priest is able to line up multiple models and is feeling lucky, he could kill your entire complement of monstrous creatures with one shot.
Plan A - Avoid that Rune Priest
If there is a Jaws carrying priest on the table, the easiest way to avoid horrific losses is to keep all your monstrous creatures more than 30" away from enemy Rune Priests on foot and more than 36" from more mobile Priests on bikes and kill them with something else as soon as you can. Sounds easy, doesn't it. For Tervigons, keeping 24" away is probably a good idea as Rune Priests nullify your psychic powers on a 4+ and Njal will on a 3+ - if you need to cast Catalyst, keeping your distance is the only way to make it reliable. Tyrannofexes have it relatively easy, as this is a good time to capitalise on the 48" range of a rupture cannon until some enterprising critter can eat the Rune Priest. Carnifexes draw the short straw, as even devourer carrying fexes need to get within 18" of the enemy to be useful and they're effectively out of the game if they don't close the distance aggressively.
Unfortunately... sometimes you have to advance and take risks to win. Whatever you do, remember there's a Rune Priest on the table and avoid lining up your Monstrous Creatures in a row. What's worse, Rune Priests can fall from the sky in drop pods and land close to an ideal Jaws casting spot. In that case, you're going to get hit... so we'll need a Plan B.
Plan B - Shadow in the Warp
So sometimes, you're going to have a situation where a Rune Priest is within 24" of your lines. Not all is lost, as you do have Shadows in the Warp to try and stop him casting his power. If you can't get 30" away, and all other things being equal, it'll be safer to be within 12" of the Rune Priest. He'll have to make his psychic test on 3d6 instead of 2d6, reducing his chance of casting to 50% from 92%.
If you have Shadows casting Synapse creatures with higher initiative, getting them into the front lines before your Tervigons could almost double your chance of survival. Sadly a smart opponent will dodge out of shadows range and, thanks to the terrible Tyranid FAQ, Rune Priests in vehicles are completely immune to Shadow in the Warp. At that point you're out of luck with Plan B.
Plan C - Know your rights
So Jaws of the World Wolf is, I imagine, a little like trying to escape a police beating: sometimes knowing your rights is going to help, but most of the time you're going to get hit hard anyway. Firstly, if your opponent is using Njal or a Master of the Runes, there's a slim chance they'll get over excited casting two powers a turn and cast a different Psychic Shooting attack before they cast Jaws. In that case, remind them they can only cast one Psychic Shooting power a turn and you're going to be fine this turn.
Secondly, make sure they roll all the dice and make sure you knew the odds before you got into the situation. Critically, monstrous creatures can subtract 1 from their initiative test as the world wolf needs to chew just a little more when eating big bits of meat. Also, the most recent 40k FAQ has ruled that all psychic shooting attacks should include a roll to hit unless the wording specifically rules it's an automatic hit - this does apply to JotWW. If they're outside of Shadows range or in a vehicle, they must pass a psychic check (91.66% chance), roll to hit (66% chance) and you must fail your initiative test (66% chance) - multiplied together that gives a 39.93% probability of killing that first Tervigon. For second and subsequent low initiative monstrous creatures, once the first has been hit and regardless of it's Initiative test result, there's now a straight 66% chance they'll fall down the same crack... which is why you don't ever line up your monstrous creatures if a Rune Priest is around. If the Rune Priest has a Chooser of the Slain, they get +1 to their BS if your model is within line of sight of the chooser, so avoid this if you can - it increases the probability of removing the first monstrous creature to 50.92%. That's right - with the chooser or nightwing in the picture they have better odds than a coin toss to remove your 200+ point, six wound monstrous creature before moving on to the next one on the line. It's pretty bad, but at least if you're an optimist you can choose to see the glass as almost half full.
If you have been able to get Shadow in the Warp to cover the Rune Priest, your chances have gone up. With the psychic check passing only 50% of the time, there is a only a hefty 21.78% probability your first monstrous creature will die or 27.78% if their bird can see you.
Plan D - Grumble about how the game is broken and GW doesn't love you
So that's the story. It'll get you sooner or later, so you might as well be prepared for it. I wish you best of luck in killing those Rune Priests before they wreck your day. I have no idea why Phil Kelly thought it would be funny to add a psychic power that could wreck half an army in one shot and give it a non variable range of half the table... but I think it's fair to say it didn't make the game more fun. One tiny bright side seems to be that some good Space Wolf players know the rest of their list's advantages against Tyranids and don't bother taking Jaws, instead taking powers that can crack transports or otherwise help them against the current A-list of mechanised armies.