The Null Deployment Army Model

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Before “Way of Saim-Hann” and all my jetbikes I used to play Space Wolves. Funny right? Could you picture Fritz playing Space Wolves? This was right around the time 3rd was moving over to 4th and I had lots of grey hunters, scouts, long fangs, a land raider, and blood claws with assault packs. Once I really got rolling with my Eldar the Sons of Russ got tucked away in the gaming closet with Space Fleet and Dark Future.

When the new Space Wolf codex dropped I dug out my old army and put together a list. 1750 back in the day quickly dropped down to something like 1680 in the new codex. Now, I knew GW was reducing the cost of models to sell more, to get more on the table, to get us to play Apocalypse one way or the other, but seeing it like this with an army that I used to play day in and out was the first step in a new direction for me.

I knew armies were increasing in side, more bodies, more guns, more vehicles, as I’ve felt this creep first hand with my Saim-Hann still stuck with a 4th ed. codex especially hurting with the cost of wave serpents vs. similar transports like Valks and Razorbacks. Alpha- strike, mass reserves, turn five contesting, etc. – all points on this blog keep my Eldar in the fight, and hopefully yours also…

Rewind to a month or so ago when I had a chance to pick up a massive Tyranid army for a very reasonable price. I wasn’t looking for another army, and I’ve never played Tyranids before, but it was the type of thing that I knew I would kick myself later for if I didn’t snatch it up.

In many ways, this army is the Battle For Salvation’s (the 40K club where I play) Tyranid Army. Some dude started out with it first back at the very start of 4th, then it went to Brother Captain James, followed by Ultrabob, Black-Matt, back to Ultrabob, again to Black-Matt, and now to good old Fritz. Along the way it got a couple of repaints, conversions, and updates. I’m adding my own touches and 5th ed. models to it, and I’m sure a few years from now another proud club member will be fielding it on the table…


So I’m sitting here with this army as a complete n00b. By that I mean I’m not saddled with any of the baggage that long time ‘nid players have from the old codex. I still see cats playing the ‘stealer rush and nidzilla, and the only thing I can say about that, having faced it, and continuing to face it from an Eldar perspective is that X-zilla is dead and buried. I knew I didn’t want to go in that direction.

Time to hit up the internetz and spy on some of the other Tyranid players in my local area to get a base to build on, and what do I see? Tervagons and gaunt farms everywhere the eye can see! The strategy of pooping out as many gaunts as possible each turn seems to be working for them, but what worried me a bit was how some of the other club members had started facing these lists in the local tourney scene and they were really just a paper tiger. Swarm out as many gaunts as you want but when you are facing a crapload of razorback, predator, and land raider spam what happens? Now, I will further admit that it might be the player rather than the list, so what I do is put myself in the game with that list and compare it to some of the best players in our club- Danny Internets, Charlie Wolf, and Iron Ed. These guys bring the pain with their listhammer armies and I just can’t see standing up to that kind of firepower, especially with everything getting cheaper and cheaper in points to the point where 6+ razorbacks, 3 preds, land raiders, and rifleman dreads are the norm. For the first time in a long time I’m afraid of marines, and let’s not even talk about Imperial Guard!

I suited up, put my cup on, and promptly got my balls kicked in a few times. Not getting armor saves on the majority of your army (Tyranids) is the kiss of death with so many template weapons and ways to negate cover saves- either through them or by objective placement. This was the second step, besides, pushing 100+ models across the table gets very tiring…

Time for another way, and for me when the rules of the game chance, you no longer play by the rules is how I look at it- and this is what I mean by that statement. In every game “system” there are two sets of rules- the official game mechanics rules and the rules of a social contract between you and the other player. Obviously if you break the official rules you are a cheater, but what about the social rules? What the other player expects to face besed on experience? Nothing says you have to play by these expectations right?

Each club and gaming community has those unwritten rules- we play at 1500 points as our standard, no “special characters” allowed, we just play for kill points, we use comp because it makes thing fair, etc. These are the rules that I want to chance, or approach from an unexpected angle. Now let’s layer the internet over this social concept idea. Everybody has an opinion on 40K out there- some good, some bad, some you can’t even understand- but what is FACT is that the internet drives the 40K community more than we are all aware of. Say it loud enough and over and over until it becomes canon. Lists take shape, “best” ways to play the game, listhammer. The social contract of 40K says I line up my plastic dudes here, you line yours up there and we play a game. You know where I am coming from and everything is real straight forward. Well, what if I don’t want to play this way? Can the game be played another way?

Somewhere along the lines I just started reserving everything in my Saim-Hann warhost to cut down on a turn or two of shooting for my opponent, and to prevent being alpha-striked which seems to be the way the game is going. I may still get blasted off the table, but at least I can get some shots in or set up skimmer walls, everything I talk about on the blog here. Even now in tournaments when I reserve everything people either seem to panic and freak out, or look at me like I’m completely nuts. What if I could build on that only be all on top of my opponent by turn two?

Enter Tyranids as the first codex that can really pull off the game model that I’m going to present and want to exploit. Blood Angels and I’m sure the releases after that will follow with the same build possibility. Other codexes can attempt to do it, but there are fundamental design handicaps that fully prevent it. Now to the heart of the article- I’m going to summarize as best I can this model opening it up for comments and trail with your own army. Now obviously I can’t cover everything so fill in the gaps to make it work. I’m also going to cover the concept from an Eldar and generic marine perspective even if it doesn’t 100% work in the next few posts, but best case scenario first so it is easiest to see…

I want you to completely rebuild your army list and forget about deployment zones- every table edge and empty spot on the table is your deployment zone. Forget about lining up like its WW I, time to move into WW2 Blitzkrieg! Other players have built their army (social contract) to work in their deployment zone lining up, moving and shooting. I want you to smash that conceptual model in their face and hit them from everywhere- game over by turn three!

Here is my presentation of the model:

Group One: Spearhead.
These are the guys that do start in your deployment zone (Yes I just said not to have any!) and get deployed as far forward and to the center as possible. In my ‘nid list it is done by carnifexes and tyrannofexes. Their job is to march forward shooting, running, etc. to get to the center of the table as fast as they can.

Group Two: Outflankers.
This is the bulk of my army- genestealers, a huge gaunt swarm with hive commander, etc. that are going to come in off the edges. One or two don’t work- delivering six huge units will.

Group Three: Center Smashers.
The final group are infiltrator, deepstrikers, and pop in guys like lictors, and raveners who support the second group till the first arrives.

First, second, third group, got it- now the plan.

In a tournament setting, and now especially that I have posed it all here to see, I have to assume my opponent is going to look at my list and know what I am going to do. You guys previously running those ‘stealer shock lists ruined it for me! Now as soon as guys see genestealers they thing genestealer = outflank. What do you do against an outflanking army? Pull back to the center of the table and fire away as the incoming flankers advance. If my opponent does this then it is the same as me just running across the board and that’s not going to work. Allowing them to do this, especially if you only have one or two outflankers means all of their army is shooting at those two units- that is the first reason why you need 8+ units able to bypass the normal deployment zone plus a way to tack on a +1 to reserves so most stuff comes on the table. Hive commander, Swarmy the Swarmlord, Deathleaper, Lictors, all help with this, indeed helping to make the idea completely viable.

You need a way to keep your opponent in place so your outflankers can hit them, and this is done though objective placement and group two/three in the model list. With as many objectives as I can deploy they are going 12.” away from the table edge. If my opponent tries to hold them I’m assaulting the turn my stuff enters, if they pull back then…

…my second group pops up in the center and starts attacking all from there while the third group continues to advance putting pressure on my opponent to expand back out to the table sides so they aren’t assaulted by carnifexes and tyrannofexes. Imagine the idea of a wagon train suddenly attacked in all directions and they pull close together. As soon as this happens my guys start popping up in the center of their circle while a huge anvil like battering ram is running right at them. My artistic MS paint map below sums the idea up…



THAT is where I am heading and where I want to be playing the game while my opponents are still stuck in a warhammer fantasy type model.

Now, I’ll be expanding in more bits and details with Tyranids over on my Tyranid blog, while adapting the model for my Eldar and other armies here on this blog. Unfortunately for now Necrons need not apply till they get a new ‘dex. This idea might be an option for other codex armies, but for Tyranids and Blood Angels I can’t really see any other way to play them. Doing so is like going back to running a 4th edition infantry army vs. 5th edition mech gunline armies…

Comments, feedback, flames on the Null Deployment Model? What do YOU think about building an army to bypass deployment? Especially hand for those tournaments that have wacky deployment parameters. Good model plan or just too risky for your tastes?
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+ comments + 17 comments

March 26, 2010 at 10:14 AM

In defense of tervigons, i think you're missing the point of taking them. Yes, some people are running 5 tervigon armies, and they're idiots, but that doesn't mean that they are useless. Most of my foot (as opposed to drop) nid armies are built around this core.

10x Gaunt - 50
10x Gaunt - 50
Tervigon w/ Catalyst - 175
Tervigon w/ Catalyst - 175

Total is 450, pretty reasonable in 2k, and even in 1750. This gives us a lot of advantages

1: Synapse Troops – Combined with Dominion as a free power, it helps to ensure that your core always is under control.

2: Scoring MC's - More importantly, scoring MC's with 6 wounds, and a 3+ save. Combined with the gaunts, it's almost impossible to run nids out of scoring units.

3: Unlimited Cover - People that pop their Tervigons every turn are doing it wrong, especially in 2 tervigon armies. You pop them when you need gaunts, whether to shoot infantry or to give cover. Proper use of this can give your army cover almost constantly.

4: Feel No Pain – There are lots of models in the nid army with multiple wounds but low saves, making them vulnerable to mass shooting. Put them behind a gaunt wall and throw FNP on them, and they're hard as hell to take down. This means that the only viable means to take them down becomes hitting them with high str shots, which leads to the next point.

5: Overwhelming “MC” wounds – Nids should be cheering that they lost immunity to instant death, because it forces your opponent to make choices. Is that Lascannon going to be used to help bring down a MC, or to instant kill a warrior or Zoanthrope? The combination of many high toughness models and the ability to give constant cover and FNP to your lower toughness multi wound models negates much of your opponents low STR shots, helping to overwhelm your opponents.

Don't get me wrong, unlike some people I don't think Tervigons are mandatory, and I'm interested to see what you do here. At the same time, I'd like to reiterate that the point of tervigons isn't to swarm your opponent with gaunts, it's to provide your army with a nigh unbreakable core.

March 26, 2010 at 10:34 AM

Chris, all true, and I will admit upfront that I've only seen a few guys running them and reports back from the club members- harldly speaking for the entire gaming community!

The only thing I wonder is getting stuck using them as a "core"- does an army need a "core", Null Deployment model says no core. I could see using them as the third group running up the center of the table.

What has been your experience in running them and rolling the doubles for spawning gaunts on the first turn? Sure you still have a MC, but that is the only other thing that really gives me cause for pause- leaving it up to the dice like that.

March 26, 2010 at 10:48 AM

I rarely spawn gaunts on first turn, in fact i can't remember the last time i did. I don't spawn gaunts till i need them, which only happens when

a) My gaunts are dead, or about to die. This only happens when my opponent ignores the deadly parts of my army to kill the cover.

b) When i actually have a use for them, such as short range shooting or something else useful

c) When my tervigon is about to die, in which case why not.

Don't think of a tervigon like a gaunt factory, think of it like a transport. Why would you get your marines out of a rhino turn 1 unless you had something good to do with them.

Functionally, they do get used like a core in your model, but thats how my nids function. They stick together, protecting each other, and use the CC specialists to eat everything that gets close. I don't think that this is the only way to run nids, and I am planning on putting together a more drop poddy one, but it's very viable.

March 26, 2010 at 10:52 AM

In case you were wondering, here's the nids i used most recently. I'm at school right now, and i don't get to play much, but i managed to playtest this a lot. It's at 1600, because for some reason the people that play here have a fetish for odd point values, and at a tournament with lots of soft scoring it managed to placed 2nd

Tyranid Prime w/ 2x Bone Sword

3x Hive Guard
3x Hive Guard
3x Zoanthrope

10x Gaunt
10x Gaunt
Tervigon w/ Catalyst
Tervigon w/ Catalyst
10x Hormagaunt w/ Toxin Sacs
10x Hormagaunt w/ Toxin Sacs

Trygon w/ Adrenal Glands
Trygon w/ Adrenal Glands

March 26, 2010 at 11:50 AM

I really like the Tervigons I have seen them spitting out a serious ammount of gaunts. Its a very luck based unit that might not match the max out my list style but its just fun and it can be really good. I esspecially like the way you say u use em not spawning everytime you could. Is funny indeed.

@Fritz
About social rules. Well I dont feel like its rude when my opponent doesnt deploy I also dont care if he hides or uses any other tricks. I much more hate those guys comming with unpainted armies fresh from the new dex or with grey "blood Angels" using the most maxed out list that they could find in the net and crying around because of every inch etc.

I like to play funny games and I like to add in my strategies none the less. For me thats what makes the most fun out of an 40k match.

Seeing the same lists on my opponents regardless whom I play really sucks hard. Same goes for non fluffy shit looking armies.

I rather loose befor I jump on that train. And with all the luck and psycholgie that is in 40k you really dont need to max out everything.

Doing unexpected things throws your enemy out of his drive and thats what you need to make him fail these to hit to wound or save throws. I like your Idea about shocking and stuff it sounds like fun. Thats how to play and I really wonder why you came around with braking social club rules or something. No way you need to justify something your codex can do as long as your army has some appearance. Taking Ulthran all day and night is something that brakes social rules imo but shocking/falnking/reserving your army? No way thats completly fine. Especially with all new dex beeing made for it...

March 26, 2010 at 12:46 PM

I agree that the Sons of Sanguinius will be able to play this way... Vindicators or Dreadnoughts (especially Librarian Furiosos or Blood Talon-armed ones) as the spearhead, Baals (though you can only get 3) coming in frm the flanks, and 'podding things and jump packers dropping in between.

But now I know why JB is talking about Assault cannon Razorbacks(Assrazors? Razorcans? Mini-Baals?) instead of lascannons.

March 26, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Blood Angels "Null Deployment Army"

HQ: Dante + Vets
Elites: Vets
Troops: Scouts
Troops: Ass Cannon Razorbacks
Heavy: Las Cannon Preds
Fast: Baals

Las cannon preds sit back as the anchor and fire away. Ass cannon razorbacks advance shooting away- can't outflank, but moving fast and still firing is just as good. Baals outflank, Dante drops in as the anchor point, scouts outflank. Baals have the bonus of being able to tank shock! Get your opponent to line up in the back and come on fast hoping they fail morale if they are not fearless- objective placement and stuff like Dawn of War help out so much!

I'm working on an Eldar list to use this model...

March 26, 2010 at 3:15 PM

I got interrupted while reading this. Work bah! So forgive me if I make even less sense than usual. The funny thing is I swear this started out as an article about Eldar and ended up as an article about Tyranids.

Despite there being several at the last tournament I attended two weeks ago, I haven't played the new nids. I'm a middle of the road player, I use a middle of the road list and generally finish in the middle of the pack, of course I've won two painting awards in a row... Previously I thought Eldar were the outflanking kings with Harlies and Warwalkers.

Outflanking was one of the more powerful additions and because anyone who has infiltrate and/or scout I believe gets it for basically free it make certain units in older codex much more powerful.

A stealer heavy army, with stealers counting as troops and yet still being able to outflank, could be very powerful. In Vancouver I've yet to seen many people go mass reserves. Some folks reserve the odd thing, Valkyries and Vendettas usually start in reserve, some Eldar tanks or jetbikes, anything with a drop pod... But the deny the first turn of shooting to the enemy tactic isn't common here.

It is a bit low, but totally legal. You need scoring units (Troops) that can outflank or deepstike and use them exclusively to truely pull this off. We'll have to see what does well at Adepticon, but also locally as regional preference can have an effect, we like 1500 points and lower up here, but we require fully painted and use strong comp requirements often.

March 26, 2010 at 3:33 PM

If you want to add more fun to a reserve-all tyranid army, try adding a few Ymgarls... they're worth every point you spend on them, and are the bane of static firing units :)

I've built an army based on heavy outflanking and deep striking, with a few units to hold objectives in my border, and seems to work very well with the null-deployment tactic. And even better, it's real fun to use.

March 26, 2010 at 6:29 PM

I'm a bigger fan of a more shooty, midfield oriented Tyranid army. Tervigons (as chris described so well), Hive Guard, Tyrannofexes, and Ravs/Warriors/Hormagaunts. It's more about getting baddies out of their rides and munching on the gooey bits inside.

Tervigons aren't essential, but they're dead 'ard and excellent force multipliers. Between them, Tyrannofexes and Hive Guard that's a lot of T6 wounds milling about. A big block of Warriors with Prime or a bunch of Ravs/Hormies give the big rock/small stones to reach out to touch people.

The Null Deployment is an interesting concept and I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll come up with. Bugs can be all over the place, it's tricky finding a balance though. I've got like 60 Genestealers collecting dust and I'd love to find a use for them.

March 26, 2010 at 8:21 PM

Another point about a tervigon is that if you get one as a troop you can make it outflank with the hive commander power. What are people going to dump more firepower into and away from stealers, gaunts or a monstrous creature that can generate gaunts. It can then catalyst a group of stealers on its side to protect them from shooting if they will not make it to assault or are likely to kill what they assault.

All the other troops possibilities have options to take spores, inflitrate, or tunnel to get more 5 Dimensional access.

March 27, 2010 at 4:42 AM

I really like where you're going with this -- It leads to a much more fun (and occasionally funny) style of play.

The biggest flaw that I've seen with folks taking all out-flanking armies is that they fail to retain anything to apply pressure up the middle -- you've accounted for that.

March 27, 2010 at 7:48 AM

I'm following this with interest. One of the main reasons I picked up Tyranids recently was because I wanted to play an army that would play in this sort of style, but I'm not sure Tyrandis can actually do it that well.

I was assuming lictors would be great for this, but their rules are just weird. They can't help bring on or guide reserves unless they're on the board already, and they have to come on from reserve themselves. So there's a pretty low chance of them being useful for that.

I've yet to play a game though, will be checking back here often!

March 28, 2010 at 1:08 PM

I´m currently working on a 1750 points Blood Angels list and it´s not that easy to build a balanced list with nulldeployment. At the moment Scouts, Baal Preds and RAS with JP are used for non-standart deployment with a solid core as spearhead (2 Furioso, Libby with HG). 2 RAS with Priests in RB move around fast to where they are needed, but it´s hard to balance the mixture of core units and outflankers, etc...

March 29, 2010 at 7:59 AM

I really like the idea, and I think people are discounting how useful the Deathleaper assist is, saying that he is unlikely to be beneficial as you don't get the benefit until the turn after he comes in.

Well with the Hive tyrant's +1 to reserve rolls, on turn two the Lichtor comes in on a 3+, so that's 66% chance of him coming in. That gives the rest of the army a +2 to reserve rolls, and as your units come in on a 3+ from reserves on turn 3 and you have a +2 to reserves, the rest of the army is guaranteed to come in on turn 3.

If you for some reason don't want your units coming on the board from reserves, you can use the deathleaper's ability to go back into reserve to get rid of that bonus, effectively allowing you to manipulate the odds of your units coming onto the board.

As I said before, I really like the idea, and I'm hoping for more in depth analysis! Keep it coming Fritz!

March 29, 2010 at 9:33 PM

Lictors look like they could be *very* useful in combination with Mycetic Spores. By creating a "drop zone" for the spores between your target and the Lictors you can specifically place, you can almost guarantee that the spores come in right where you want.

I'm thinking this might be as effective, or even more so, than simply outflanking as a "Null Deployment" tactic against many armies.

March 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

what is going to be interesting is when two of these type armies are pitted against one another. I play this type of match with my Dark Angels and would love to play more people with the null zone deployment setup. it creates a very unorthodox match, that is for sure.

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