When the Grey Knights dex came out, many of us thought that one of the biggest losers were the Tyranids. We already know that Tyranids got hammered hard by the Dark Eldar release, and let's be honest, it's widely considered the most under-powered dex in 5th Edition. However, I wouldn't necessarily throw my Nids out the door at the moment because, after watching a lot of the Grey Knight lists flesh out, Nids really aren't that bad of a match-up.
Before I even start talking about the match-up and talking about what I now see as some misconceptions about the match-up, I want to quickly address the Dark Eldar. Dark Eldar completely maul Tyranids in a competitive scene. It isn't hard to figure out why with all the poison shooting and AP 2 shooting from dark light weaponry. For this reason, if you are a Tyranid player, you may have packed up your models a while back. However, things are actually looking up ever so briefly because Dark Eldar get mauled by Grey Knights. Why? Grey Knights can pour on a ridiculous amount of S6, S7, and S8 shooting which annihilates Dark Eldar vehicles. Indeed, most GK lists I see pack a weapon capable of shredding a Dark Eldar vehicle in EVERY, SINGLE, SQUAD. Heck, even mass Storm Bolter shooting can stun lock them.
What I'm saying then is that the Dark Eldar presence on the tournament scene is going to drop like a rock. (It already has in a lot of areas).
The Tyranid Match-up:
Just like everyone else, when the GK dex came out I was saying, "welp, that's it for Tyranids. Right after the Dark Eldar, too. It's over!" Why?
- Initiative 6 Force Weapons - Insta-gib monstrous creatures before they even get to swing!
- Mass Anti-Infantry Shooting - Storm Bolters, Incinerators, Psybacks, oh my!
- Mass Mid-Strength Shooting - Pours out wounds on Monstrous Creatures.
- Cleansing Flame - Deserves a mention all by itself.
So, having been playing with the new GK dex since its launch, a lot of things have changed. I've also had the opportunity now to play against some good Nid players and see how wildly different the reality of this match-up is than it looks on paper.
Yes, You Will Have to be Good with Your Army
So, no. You aren't going to be able to do well with your Nids versus GKs if you don't have a solid army or solid skills with your army. This is true of any army.
To begin, many of the biggest potential match-up issues are taken care already not by Tyranids but by the Grey Knights need to play against other armies. Grey Knights lists basically look like either Henchmen/Purifier spammy kinds of lists with Psybolt Dreads as back-up and lots of Psybacks. There will also be a smattering of Psycannons with the Purifier style lists and likewise, Death Cultists littered about in Henchmen style lists.
Grey Knights need all kinds of anti-vehicle shooting, just like Nids, to be competitive against things like Razor Spam and Mech Guard.
Thus, even with Purifier Spam, what you will start to see are small, MSU squads of Purifiers, potentially with a Demon Hammer, a couple psycannons, and usually in a Rhino or Psyback.
The first, promising, misconception is that Grey Knight shooting will shred Tyranids. It certainly will kill its fair share of Genestealers and Gaunts, but only at 24 inch range. Dreads and Psybacks can certainly do some damage to, but with cover saves, it doesn't amount to really more than Guard can do.
However, you know what Grey Knights can't really kill at range? Monstrous Creatures. Toughness 6, combined with a 3+ save, combined with Feel No Pain is a nightmare for GK shooting. For example, I usually carry 5 Psybolt Dreads in my list. Shooting at a Tervigon w/ FnP, I will average about 2.5 wounds. That's not promising for me at all, especially if you have 2-3 of the buggers backed up by some things like Trygons. I can't shoot through that before you get to me. Not even close!
The second misconception is that Grey Knights will blow you off the board. GKs can't kill monstrous creatures at any range because they lack AP 2 weaponry. So, they can shoot at your gribblies, but that can't do both. When Tervigons make gribblies as fast as I can kill them, I don't like my prospects when shooting at Nids.
Third, the Force Weapons. There are a couple issues here for consideration. First, most GK squads, unless they contain an IC, can't both Hammerhand and Force Weapon. This means that those I6 Halbreds, need 6's to wound MCs. Second, most GK squads, unless they contain an IC, are LD 9 or less. Shadow in the Warp is a beast for a GK player! Trust me on this one. So, even if they do get a wound, which they can with a Demon Hammer certainly, they have less than a 45% chance for the force weapon to even go off. So, time to change your strategies around how you use your MCs and overlapping Shadows. Cleansing Flame a problem? Shadows is a great answer to this problem. Likely, those Purifiers only get one shot at it because of this next reason....
Numer 4, Grey Knights bring nothing to the table versus Gribblies than normal marines. Genestealers and Gaunts dominate Marines in HtH. Do you care about their force weapons? Not really. Your saved already sucked! Grey Knights don't have a lot of attacks, and their save is only a 3+. Furious charging, poison gaunts will dominate in that fight, point to point. Not to mention, devil gaunts can seriously rake GK units over the coals.
This leaves us with the Death Cultists. So long as you make them charge through cover, you win.
Do Grenade toting assault units still hurt, a lot? Indeed. Just like having to deal with a pack of 10 TH/SS terminators, as a Nid player, you will have to use your tools and guile to shoot, tie up, assault, or what have you, these types of units. Things haven't changed for you at all in this department.
The point of all of this is, Nids are not a bad match-up for Grey Knights. They are what I would call, an even match-up. It's going to be all about who out plays the other guy, and that's exactly where you want to be.