I know this seems obvious by now, but the Shield of Baal Tyranid Supplement (let’s be honest, the first book is a Tyranid supplement) brought a fantastic answer to the Space Marine Centurions armed with grav weapons. I have struggled against the Centurions for the past few months, usually because of bad tactics on my part, and just forgetting what they can do. For example, a unit of four took out the Swarmlord and all three of his guard (that’s eleven wounds right there) in the first turn of a game I was playing. Now I admit that most of that was my fault, keeping the unit in the open, running them into range of the Centurions, but I have lost multiple games thanks to that unit. I’ve seen games where Centurions actually won the game for my opponent; he wouldn’t have needed anything else in the army except to distract me. I have a history of struggling against them; I fear them.
However, the Shield of Baal gave me hope. Now I can take a unit of 5 Zoanthropes and one Neurothrope (the DOOOOOM of Malan’tai replacement). This unit can force the Centurions to take a leadership test on 3D6, causing a wound for every point the test was failed by thanks to Spirit Leach. These wound points also give the Zoanthrope Brood extra dice to manifest Warp Blast. And here we get into the goods. Warp Blast has the lance attack that is S10, AP2. This ignores the Centurion’s armour and thanks to doubling them out, kills them instantly. Centurions, with Grav Weapons, will be wounding the Zoanthropes on 5’s, but the Zoanthropes get their 3+ invulnerable save.
I will admit, there are some issues. Not only does the Spirit Leach actually have to hit its target, you also have to hit with the Warp Lances as well. The Brood comes with a ballistic skill of 4, so you are hitting above 50%. Now, since this is a brood, I would just dump the extra dice (and maybe some other dice) into getting off the warp lances. I would risk the perils, just to guarantee a successful warp lance casting. Also, other units can easily double out the Zoanthropes, meaning they are not indestructible. Finally, this unit can get expensive (50 points per model and a 25 point upgrade).
But how do I get this unit into the correct position? Well, Shield of Baal comes to the rescue again. Another unit out of this supplement is a Tyranid version of a Drop Pod, the Tyrannocyte. This can drop the Zoanthrope Brood where it is needed, admittedly on Turn 2 or later, but it is a risk I am willing to take. Plus, this is an armed and mobile drop pod, making it slightly better (though not much) than a drop pod. Plus it can fire all five of its weapons at the nearest enemy units within each weapon’s line of site.
Is this the best solution? Maybe not. But you do get a solid unit of psykers who are survivable. You get another synapse unit. You have a great invulnerable save, which very few Tyranis units have. You get a S5 AP3 blast attack or a S10 AP2 Lance attack. While this may not be the best answer to my problems, I do enjoy having a unit of 4 to 5 of them in my lists.