Monster Review – Mothballing Carnifexes

No this is not some new game in which you throw clumbs of insects at Carnifexes, this is to do with what I hinted at in my last post – that I don’t intend on using Carnifexes in my Tyranid armies anymore.  This for me is a bit of a sad moment, the Carnifex has been a mainstay of my favourite alien army for the…16-17 years that I’ve been playing them (has it really been that long?).  But I find myself unimpressed with their performance since the changes in the latest codex, hence my decision to ‘mothball’ them.  In previous editions of the codex you had two simple choices for monstrous creatures; the Hive Tyrant and the Carnifex.  Now the Tyrant was often needed to lead the army, which ment that your main tank-buster and general battering-ram was the Carnifex.  However the 5th edition codex has provided you with many more monsterous options, and to be honest I think they’re all better than the Carnifex.  The poor guy seems to have lost his niche in the army.  To help explain my point lets have a quick look at the other monsters avaliable (I’m not counting special characters or the mycetic spore before you ask).

Hive Tyrant

In my humble opinion I think that the Hive Tyrant is one of the best monsters in the game, and by far the best available to the Tyranids.  It occupies a HQ slot, and has a list of upgrade options to rival any top HQ choice in the other armies.  Before upgrades this beastie weighes in at 170pts, comes equipped with a set of scything talons, a bonesword and a lash whip, he is a synapse creature, has shadow in the warp and 2 psychic powers (out of a choice of 4).  His statline is also impressive; WS 8, S&T 6, 4 Wounds, I5 and 4 Attacks.  His standard weapons outfit causes instant death and reduces all attackers’ Initiatives to 1, plus you can upgrade him with a long range tank-busting weapon or a large blast template weapon that would make any Ork player cry.  Personally I think that this is all a bargin for under 200pts.  Add in a few Tyrant Guard and you’ve got a unit (albeit a 300-400pt one) that can take on just about anything they encounter.  Any Tyranid army over 1000 points needs one of these creatures.


The Tervigon is the second monsterous HQ choice available to the Tyranids, though for every unit of Termagants in your army, you can take a Tervigon as a Troops choice. . . humm monsterous Troops.  This monster is considerable weaker than the Hive Tyrant when it comes to combat strength: WS 3, S 5, I1, A3, but it does have 6 wounds so thats something.  It costs you 160pts which isn’t too bad when you think that it is also a synapse creature, has shadow in the warp, a psychic power and a ranged weapon as standard.  Its main feature though is that it spawns Termagants.  You can spawn 3D6 Termagants every turn so long as you don’t roll a double.  In addition to this it passes on the benefits of some of its upgrades to nearby Termagant units.  So you have a monsterous creature that could potentially spawn hundreds of points worth of other units for you, whilst boosting those already around it.  All of a sudden 160pts sounds like a good buy.  Plus you could take it as a Troops choice and camp out on an objective, spawning as you sit there.


The only Fast Attack monster in the list, and a bit of a lightweight as far as monsters go; it has a S&T of 5 and only 2 Attacks, plus its armour save is only 4+ compared to the 3+ standard for the Tyranid monsters.  Its WS and BS are only average too.  Like the Tervigon it too costs 160pts, so whilst being weak and feeble, what are its redeeming qualities?  Well for one thing it’s Jump Infantry, so thats a Deep Strike ability plus a 12″ move.  It also comes with 2 ranged weapons the same choice of tank-killing heavy venom cannon or infantry splating stranglethorn cannon.  It also has the ability to guano spore mines on a unit it flies over.  It’s nothing special in close combat and is essentially a gun beast, but its speed also means that it can get down a flank quickly and even though it’s only strength 5, it’s still a monster and rolls 2D6 for armour penetration, so it’s a threat to most vehicles.


I’ve really taken a shine to this new addition to the Tyranid army.  This at first might seem odd as the Mawloc isn’t too much to look at WS 3, I 4 and 3 Attacks means that it’s only average in close combat.  Its main feature is that when it deep strikes onto an enemy unit you place the large blast templete down instead and all models under it take a S6 AP2 hit!  This can prove very useful it you land infront of the right unit…or a complete disaster if you emerge 12″ from your intended target and right infront of a Space Wolves Librarian with 5 Wolf Guard Terminators (yes this is what happened the first time I used it).  I’ve found though that it isn’t so much the “Terror from the Deep” that is what makes the Mawloc worth having.  For me it’s the monster’s speed.  It has the option in its movement phase to burrow under the ground.  Next turn it will emerge (no reserves roll needed) via the deep strike rules anywhere on the table.  That means you can get this monster where you need it (say in the enemy’s lines) in your second turn.  Oh and did I mention that it has 6 wounds and cost 170pts?


A long standing creature in Tyranid Lore, but his first appearance in standard 40K.  This poor fellow got downgraded from a gargantuan to a monsterous creature for this codex.  It has an impressive stats line WS5, S&T6, W6 and A6, giving it more attacks than any other Tyranid monster.  It also comes with 2 sets of scything talons (that’s a whole bunch of re-rolls) and a multi-shot ranged weapon.  It doesn’t suffer deep-strike mishaps and is fleet so you can get it to where you need it pretty easily.  The problem is that such a large target tends to attract a lot of attention.  You can also choose to upgrade it to a Trygon Prime which makes it a synapse creature and improves its ranged attack.  This does however push the model over the 200pts threshold.  I do like using it though as it does have a habit of scaring the !”$% out of people when it emerges.


A gun beast without compare.  This monster has 6 wounds and a 2+ save.  Although it’s only average in combat (WS3, A3) it does come with three ranged weapons that it can fire in each shooting phase.  For its main gun you have the choice of a longer ranged flamer template weapon, an Assault 20 (yes really!) short ranged attack or a 48″ range S10 Assault 2 tank-buster cannon.  The one thing that gets me though about the last gun is how many S10 weapons in the game are there that only have an AP 4?  This cannon can punch through a Land Raider with ease, but can’t kill a Space Marine in Power Armour . . . something a little wrong about that.  All this ranged attacking goodness with an armoured shell that says *rasberry blow* to krak missiles does come at a cost; 250 pts and that’s before you upgrade it.  I have however used it with some success, so I’d recommend taking one, if you have the points to spend.


And now for the star of the post and the reasoning behind why they’ll be staying on the self for a while.  After looking at all the other monsterous creatures available to the Tyranids, what does the Carnifex have to offer?  Well its 160pts, so that’s the same as the Harpy and the Tervigon and only 10 points cheaper than the Hive Tyrant and the Mawloc.

So what do you get?  Strength 9 is the only thing it has over the other monsters.  This is impressive and its 4 Attacks are also nice, but then you factor in the WS3 and I1 and all of a sudden it’s not so impressive.  Special rules . . . when it charges it’s I3! which is still lower than the Tyrant, the Harpy, the Trygon and the Mawloc, plus it’s lower than the average I4 of most of your opponents, so although I like the whole image of the ‘living battering ram’ rule, it really has little impact in game unless you also upgrade your Carnifex with Adrenal Glands to give it another +1I when it charges.  Ok so you want to make a close combat fex? You might think to add to this a set of crushing claws (+D3 attacks) to give you a potential 8 on a charge!  Shame the crushing claws make you hit at I1 regardless, thus making the battering ram rule and adrenal glands useless.  It also makes your fex over 180 pts, and it doesn’t have a ranged weapon yet, that would cost you yet another bunch of points, taking it over 200pts.  This is more than enough to buy a Trygon which has a higher WS, W, I and A, plus fleet and a nasty ranged weapon.  The Carnifex is also rather slow when compared to the Harpy, Trygon and Mawloc.  This lack of speed is ok for the Tyrant and Tervigon who can act as more of a commander/support role, and the Tyrannofex who really should be gunning stuff down rather than hitting them in combat.

So you go for a gun beast instead . . . well the Harpy costs the same amount as the Carnifex and automatically comes with 2 guns, plus it can fly.  Ok it’s a bit whimpy, but when the main incoming fire is S8 and AP3 or better this means nothing, as T5 or 6 you’re still wounding on 2 and the beast gets no armour save.  You really do miss the 2+ save that the Carnifex used to have.  The Tyrannofex costs 90 pts extra, has a bucket full of guns and that coverted 2+ save.

And as for the Carnifex’s one redeeming asset; Strength 9, this is less impressive too when you realise that S6 or S9 you’ll still be wounding most of your targets on a 2+.  Against tanks is the only time it really has any benefit as you’ll automatically penetrate against anything except a Land Raider, but then again the other monsters only need to get 4 or more on 2 dice to rip through most vehicles too, so that’s hardly a challenge for them.  Oh and incase you were wondering about the high strength instant deathing T4 models, well other than characters most of the T4 multi-wound models are in the Tyranid list anyway, and any characters will be striking before you in combat, with even the powerfists striking at the same time, so it’s more likely for your poor Carnifex to be torn down first.  The only great thing about them is that you can put them in units of 3 (if you have 480pts to spend) or in a mycetic spore.

Overall I just don’t think that the Carnifex is worth taking anymore.  The Trygon and the Mawloc do a much better job in close combat, whilst the Harpy and the Tyrannofex are better at range.  Add to this that the unit producing Tervigon is the same price and the awsome Hive Tyrant only costs 10pts more and you start to realise that there are better options for monsters to spend your points on.  This I feel is said as for over a decade the Carnifex has been the ultimate shock troop monster in the game, unfortunately a years worth of gaming with the new codex has made me realise just how much of a bad deal they had with the latest codex and until the next re-write I think mine might sit back and watch as more badass beasties take to the field.

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