Melee in 8th Edition: Go-To Choices for Xenos

Hey all, Danny here with my last installment of melee in 8th.  Today, I am going to look at what the various Xenos factions can be bring to the table to shred through armies with glee.

Once more, I define a viable melee unit as meeting two of three qualifications: being able to get to combat (either through speed or durability), being able to shred screens (conscripts/brims), and/or being able to kill hard targets (vehicles, Knights, Magnus).    Let’s see what we can find here:


Flayed Ones: The only really solid melee threat that Necrons have, Flayed Ones are great for shredding through enemy screens.  With 4 attacks each at WS 3+ and reroll to wounds, each Flayed One causes 2.31 wounds to a T3 target, so that’s 1.5 dead conscripts or 1.15 dead brims.  That’s not insane numbers, but serviceable, especially in a faction with little assault elements.  Flayed Ones can come out of reserve, which combined with My Will Be Done, means an 8 inch charge out of reserve with a +1 to hit, making Flayed Ones even more brutal against light infantry.  You can also use Flayed Ones as your own screen, and backed up by Orikan for a 5++ and reroll 1s on Reanimation and Zahndrek for My Will Be Done and a 33% chance of +1 attack (and reroll charges isn’t too bad either), you have a pretty mean screen that can be annoyingly resilient and will shred many infantry units. If you go crazy, you can bring Imotek as well for a 2+ rerollable To Hit and a rerollable wounds on a unit. If you go this full on (this will cost you 1,000 points, so be mindful of that), each Flayed One kills 2.21 Conscripts or 1.67 Brims.   This rolling tide of killers protecting some Quantum Shielded gunboats could be an effective build for Necrons that most won’t anticipate.  That said, spending half your army on just your screen is a bit pricey.  Poor Necrons…


Ghazghkull: The biggest and the best boss of them all is a damn good hard target killer and a force multiplier, so he gets special recognition here.  With a Power Klaw that hits on a 2+, he hits at S12 with -3 AP and a flat Dmg 3.  That’s up to 15 damage in a turn, and he will take a big bite out of most hard targets.   Of course, he has his super waaagh, which allows all Ork Infantry within 6 to advance and charge, and all Ork Infantry get +1 attack if they charged.   This is a great speed boost for models that don’t have it like big hordes of Boyz, and the +1 attack is just awesome for everyone involved.  Orks really bring a huge number of attacks, so being able to add to this just takes them to ridiculous levels. Plus, Ghazghkull is about as durable as Ork characters get with a 2+/4++ and 8 wounds.  That’s pretty beefy.

Boyz: Oh, the lowly Boy.  While the Green Tide may be gone, its spirit lives on with the fact that Ork Boyz are some of the best melee choices in the game for the fact that they are insanely cheap and insanely destructive.  The standard Ork Boy has 2 attacks at S4 (an increase), but if they are in a squad of 20 or more, they get +1.  Oh, and throw in a choppa for an extra attack, and suddenly, for 6 points, you get 4 attacks at S4 and WS 3+.   That’s brutal, especially when you can have a squad of 30 that is suddenly pumping out 120 attacks.  Hell, against a Knight, that’s 4.1 wounds done with just your basic squad.  That might not seem all that great, but again, this is for your basic troops choice that costs all of 180 points. You also have a Nob in there that is now S5, and with a Big Choppa, you get S7 with -1 AP and 2 damage.  Not too shabby at all.   Again, quantity is quality here as you can spend less than 600 points for a massive wall of killers that will shred just about anything in sheer volume of attacks, and you have plenty of points for either a gunline or just more big toys.  Thanks to the Waaagh, Boyz can have some moments of speed, and with Da Jump, you can start flinging squads forward or redeploy them as needed. Slap a Painboy nearby, and you suddenly have 16% wound mitigation too, which matters a lot on 100+ boyz.   The only limit is that if you don’t use movement trays or know how to move fast, you’ll likely never finish a game.

Stormboyz: So what’s better than an Ork Boy? How about one that moves 12 inches? Stormboyz can still come in units of 30, but they are a base move of 12, and they can kill 16% of their unit to advance and charge in the same turn without the Waaagh.  As a first turn charge threat, they are legit.  They lack a bit of the overall kill power of the Boyz as they do not have the Green Tide rule, so they are at 3 attacks with Choppas, but still, 25ish (assuming casualties from advancing) Stormboys is putting out 75ish attacks, not bad for chewing through a few screens, especially area denial units like Nurglings, Scouts, or Stealth Suits. If you take the big man Zagstruk, they are also Fearless within 6, which is damn helpful as they will outpace the other big Mobs, so you cannot count on the usual morale mitigation. Let’s not forget that Stormboyz also Fly, so with a good charge roll, they can hop screens and start messing up plans in the backfield.

Gork (or maybe Mork)anaut: So the big, big kit finally comes into its own with now stats akin to a Knight, and while not as durable as an Imperial Knight, the Gorkanaut is still a heavy hitter that provides both some anti-armor melee as well as crowd control.  So the Gorkanaut also has dancing feet, or rather a big klaw that it can swing laterally rather than vertically.  With either 18 S8 AP-2 D2 attacks or 6 S16 AP-4 Dmg D6, the Gorkanaut can do some big damage to just about any target. Dmg d6 isn’t super reliable, but it can certainly scrap just about any target if you roll hot, and -4 AP means that only 2+ save models without an invul get any chance to stop it. 18 attacks that hit on 3+ and wound most infantry on 2+ is sweet, especially against Nurglings who cannot take their Resilient rolls against its attacks as they are D2.  The Morkanaut has some better durability thanks to the 5++, but it can also hurt itself quite a bit.   Both fight just as well, and both shoot rather well, so you get a nice combo that can sit behind the main lines and really lay down heat, and well, once it gets into combat, it can start to wreck the big targets that the Boyz do not efficiently kill.  As a bonus, being able to carry 6 Nobs with Big Choppas is a nice little assault element to throw in there too.



Swarmlord: Oh Swarmlord.  Pound for pound, the best melee fighter the Tyranids have.  With a 2+ WS, 8 attacks, and Dmg D6, the Swarmlord is the only big beastie that will consistently do decent damage to most hard targets although it will struggle against Knights.   Swarmlord is also a huge force mulitplier, so you get a great late game assault element and army buff.  With his Hive Commander ability, he is capable of putting himself into combat from a pod, which can be a great surprise.  This is counted by smart chaff placement, but it can be brutal to suddenly drop into a flank of an army and watch him start to munch.   At 300 points, he is a bit heavy in the price department, but he can often be worth it.

Old One Eye: For under 150, you get one of the better nutcrackers of the Tyranids with S12 Dmg D6 attacks that hit on a 3+.   You can also go for 5 S6 AP -3 Dmg 3 attacks that hit on a rerollable 2+ for Terminators and the like.   While he is slow, he is cheap, and he punches above his weight a lot.  This really ties into what I’ll go over with Carnifexes.

Genestealers: Everyone and their mama talks about the stealers, for good reason. For Tyranids, for 12 points a model, you get 3 attacks at S4 WS 3+ that have rending.  Add in that a unit of Genestealers over 10 has +1 attack, and now you have 4 attacks base.  Equip them with Scything Talons (for free), and you can forgo the rending for a reroll to 1s on your attacks.  Don’t forget they get a 5++, which is pretty handy at times, and they are movement 8 with the ability to advance and charge innately.  Combined with a Swarmlord, you can easily rocket a unit of 20 across the table on the first turn without any Trygons or Tyrannocytes.  They also can be buffed by a Patriarch for WS 2+, and with the power Catalyst, they can also have a 5+ Feel No Pain, and suddenly, you have a decently resilient unit that is in your opponent’s face on the first turn.   Whether popping out of Trygons or just running the board, Genestealers are a scary unit that can shred infantry, put through some decent wounds against harder targets thanks to their Rending, and well, they are Troops too, so they can be Obsec once Chapter Approved comes out, and they can get you that sweet, sweet Battalion for CPs.

Carnifexes: The oft-maligned Carnifex is back, but with a bit of a change.  They are no longer our go-to Rhino-opener, but they are still potent damage dealers, particularly for heavy infantry, but a gang of them can certainly still take on big threats.  While WS 4+ isn’t great, with Old One Eye nearby, they go to a 3+ rerolling 1s with Scything Talons, which is fairly accurate.  At S6, they wound heavy targets on 5s, but they do have AP -3 and a flat Dmg 3, so when they hit, the target will feel it.  They are slightly faster with movement 7, and with Adrenal Glands, they advance and charge with a +1. Really, what makes them worth thinking about is that they are cheap.  Thresher Scythes are amazing as it allows Carnifexes to switch to anti-horde with 4d3 S4 AP-1 attacks.  That adds up real quick with a few Carnifexes hitting a chaff line, especially since it is unlikely the chaff are going to do anything back to the Carnifexes.  2 scything talon Carnifex with a thresher scythe is about 90 points, so you can take 3 for just about the cost of a bigger monster like a Haruspex with more wounds and more attacks.   If you really want anti-armor, look into the Forgeworld Stonecrushers.  They are amazing anti-tank that are far more accurate and far more reliable at ripping open hard targets.

Genestealer Cult:

Patriarch: The Patriarch gets special attention here because it has more offensive powers than the Hive Fleets, and with the Unquestioning Loyalty rule, allowing it to shunt off wounds to a nearby unit, even in combat.  This means you can throw a Patriarch against a target like Gulliman and not have to worry about the Patriarch getting killed as its opponent will have to chew through the chaff first.  With a flat 3 damage, that adds up quickly, especially with 2+ to hit and the chance to basically ignore any armor save.  Add in the Brood Mind discipline for either Might from Beyond to buff a unit with +1 strength and attacks or Mind Control for shooting shenanigans, and the Patriarch is a great anchor for some melee punch. Oh, and there is always the chance you can set up a charge out of reserve thanks to Ambush although that table can also punish you pretty bad.

Purestrain Genestealers: While more expensive than their Hive Fleet counter-parts and not Troops, Purestrains are still Genestealers, so they still kick the ass. They also have access to Cult Ambush, so you can play the reserve games with them without spending additional points on delivery mechanisms.  They can also be buffed by Might from Beyond, which makes them terrifying for a lot of units.  A squad of 20 Hive Fleet Genestealers only does 8.81 wounds to a Knight (assuming Patriarch nearby) while a full squad of 20 Purestrains with Might from Beyond and a Patriarch will do 18.20 wounds.  That’s more than double the kill, and that damn near kills a Knight in a single round of combat.   That’s a lot of heat, and there’s a reason Purestrains are more expensive than standard Genestealers.   For pure kill, the Purestrains are just a scarier threat.

Welp, those are the standouts for me.  That is not to say other units are not good in melee, but for me, these are the units that I see a dedicated melee army can lean heavily on to make it all work.   I do think that shooting is dominant right now, but I think that melee is where finesse, stratagey, and skill really flourish.  Plus, it is fun to run enemies down and all.

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