This article is part of a series on creating Exodites with the 7th edition codices and Ally rules.
In this article, I will review each unit that has does not have the Instinctive Behavior Special Rule within the codex that can represent an Exodite equivalent. I will cover their backstory, war gear, special rules and modeling suggestions. As with each of these codex specific articles, I will be treating each codex independently so there may be modeling suggestions that are common to multiple codices for completely different units.
Since most players favor a single army and don’t knit together several codices as I have done, it will be up to the individual modeler to determine how best, within his own army, he can use the same base model for different units from more than one codex. In reality, the possibilities are almost unlimited, especially with the variety of old and new models for most of the Games Workshop units available now, so it would be beyond the scope of these articles.
The units will be presented in the order they appear in the codex and if I have not written an Exodite equivalent unit for that entry, I will try to explain the challenge I faced. Maybe the reader can see something I missed and add even more Exodite flavor to the codex. If the unit is one I use as-is, then it will be listed at the end of the unit list with some general comments as needed for that unit.
One final note, as I explain the backstory of the unit, you will see a mix of traditional Exodite fluff coupled with my own interpretation to match the story of my own Maiden World. My intent is not to rewrite the fluff but to simply write my own story for a single Maiden World located on the Eastern Fringe in Tau space. It should serve as a starting point for the reader to launch out on his own interpretation or craft it to be more in line with the traditional Exodite fluff.
The Hive Tyrant – Oh, the Possibilities
The Hive Tyrant is the primary HQ unit in the Tyranid Codex and with the bewildering array of options you can purchase, the reality is that it is also the one unit entry that lends itself to the most interpretations and modeling options. I am sure I have not exhausted the possibilities here but I had to stop somewhere or I’d never get the rest of my army figured out.
By interpreting the Boneswords as a massive bite, the scything talons as claws or the Lashwhip & Boneswords being the massive bite on a long neck, you have quite a few biologic configurations to create any number of huge creatures. By interpreting the ranged attacks as breath weapons, you can create huge fire breathing dragons and by interpreting the melee weapons as swords and lances, you can end up with a Dragonmaster on a very large dinosaur.
Any of which can then benefit from the upgrades like regeneration, adrenal glands, Old Adversary and similar options to flesh out a leader and tell a story.
The Dragonmaster Lord on Carnosaur
The most basic interpretation of the Hive Tyrant, from a fluff perspective, is the Dragonmaster Lord. He is the supreme leader within the clan. Some Dragonmaster Lords will choose to ride the largest carnivorous dragons. These carnosaurs are massive, efficient killers in their own right and often, the dragonmaster himself will not use his dragon sword or dragon glaive in combat, preferring to let his mount do what it does best. Occasionally, he will choose to carry a dragon lance allowing him to add to his mount’s vicious capabilities.
Since carnosaurs are not psychic, the dragonmaster lord’s synaptic abilities are not increased by any psychic synergies as he would if he would ride a Great Drake or Great Wyrm. For this unit, the Norn Crown would not be an option.
Equipped with the Massive Bite (Boneswords), Claws (pair of scything talons) and Adrenal Glands, he can be given several other options to enhance him without sacrificing the effect of the basic model. Gamezone miniatures has several “Dark Knight on Predator” minis that are a beautiful example of the Dragonmaster Lord and should easily fit on a 60mm base like the regular Hive Tyrant.
The Great Drakes, Wyverns and Great Wyrms
The most impressive Exodite Commander you can make, in my opinion, is the Dragonmaster Lord riding on a Great Drake. That just screams Exodite, almost as loud as it screams, Warhammer Elves! In the story I crafted for Lorien, I drew from many sources about dragons and their ilk. In several instances, dragons have psychic or telepathic magical powers and it was an easy jump to make them psykers in their own right, which then led to the Norn Crown becoming the Dragonmaster Lord Rider.
The wide variety of dragon type creatures that could be created using just the Hive Tyrant options gave me a lot to play with. I finally came up with Great Drakes having breath weapons (ranged weapons) and Great Wyrms which had no breath weapons (ranged attacks). I decided that Great Drakes would come in the traditional chromatic or metallic colors with males having wings and the females without wings. On the other hand, Great Wyrms would have earth tone colors and no wings. One variant of drake in legend is the Wyvern which has a stinging tail so that rounded out the possible Hive Tyrants variants.
The modeling opportunities here are tremendous there are many Citadel kits and miniatures from other manufacturers that can be used so there is no lack of possibilities to suit anyone wanting to make this unit. The many ranged weapon options can be described in terms of breath weapons, be they fire, frost, lightning or acid. The tail options, claws and bites available to the dragon can be represented by many different Hive tyrant options so your imagination is your only limit.
In my case, I made a table to reflect the abilities of these dragons at different ages. The main differences between the younger ones and adults were the strength and varieties of their attacks. The Old, Very Old and Ancient dragons would gain the Regeneration, Old Adversary and ‘The Horror’ abilities, in that order, to reflect their growing power that comes with their age.
Tyranid Prime – Dragonmaster Warlord
As mentioned earlier, only some Dragonmasters actually ride Carnosuars. Most ride raptors instead. The Dragonmaster Warlord is the leader of a small band of Dragon Knights from the same clan. He rides the stronger and more vicious male raptor of the same species as his knights. His experience has made him not only a more capable fighter but also an inspiration and example to his knights. When he fights alongside his knights, they fight with more skill.
Unlike most races, even their craftworld brethren, dragonmaster warlords and other leaders do not get special weapons denoting their position. As with the knights themselves, his choice of weapon is very personal and they are likely to use any combination of ranged and/or close combat weapons. Though no more likely to use any particular weapon than their knights, they will certainly wield it with more skill to deadlier effect.
The Dark Elf Cold Ones are my personal choice to represent this unit. One of the Cold One heads has a pair of bony horns on its snout and this is the one I use to signify the Dragonmaster Warlord. That particular Cold One head also has more elaborate bridle details and that helps mark him out as different.
The Tervigon – The Warp Lord
It took me forever to figure this one out but I knew I needed to in order to really make the Tyranid Codex version of Exodites versatile enough. This is the result.
Even though the Dragonmasters rely on their dragons for transportation, they are still Eldar and as such, are still capable of using the webway to travel great distances. There are Dragonmasters that have mastered the use of the webway for purposes of combat. Of these, there are some that are psykers on the path to becoming Dragon Lords themselves. These are called Warp Lords.
Warp Lords ride large dragons or megadons capable of carrying the webway portal generator. Their form of warfare is very specific. Without exception, they lead a host of Deathspitter (Termagaunt) packs, each ranging in size from 3 to 18. The packs follow them through the webway and emerge during the battle.
This unit will require that you construct something that can represent the portal generator. Other than that, many of the larger dinosaur like models used for other codex entries can be used here. Personally, I don’t have a favorite but do prefer the dinosaur models like the old Lindberg Brontosaurus.
The Swarmlord – The Dragon King
Trying to figure out what the Swarmlord could be and trying to come up with a back story for it gave me inspiration for the Great Wyrm and since it already had the extended synapse range, meant it had a Dragonmaster Lord rider already. I decided it was a very survivable alternative for the Dragon King, at least compared to the Eldar Avatar. Here, I was able to create a Dragon King warrior what wielded two sabres and had my favorite warlord ability, the reserve roll rerolls as a standard ability. His ability to influence nearby units really fit with the abilities of a king.
My approach to modeling him was basically to use the model I came up with for the Avatar verison of the Dragon King so he will be a High Elf Phoenix rider mounted on a wingless ebony Pathfinder Dragon from the Reaper Bones line.
Tyranid Warriors – Dragon Knights
The Dragon Knight’s bond with his dragon is very deep, so much so that the aggressive temperament of the dragon begins to bleed into the personality of the Dragon Knight himself. This results in the Dragon Knights staging ritual battles with the Dragon Knights of other clans. Over the years, these have fostered clan rivalries which sometimes need to be mediated by the respective clan Nobles.
Regardless of the clan to which they belong, these Eldar Exodites are virtually born into the saddle, with every member of a clan learning to ride at a very early age. For the Exodite clans, dragons provide transportation, companionship and a considerable advantage in combat. Each dragon knight clan consists of an extended family group of Eldar who work together in mutual support, both in their agricultural pursuits as well as on the field of battle. The rigors of life on the Exodite worlds ensure that the Eldar who call them home are capable warriors. Through defending their herds, participating in inter-clan rivalries and engaging in ritualistic duels and jousts, the dragon knights hone their skills and sharpen their wits.
Dragon knights are armed with a handbow and sabre, though some knights choose to carry a Dragon Lance while others prefer other specialized weapons. In a universe teeming with advanced technology and terrible alien horrors, the heavy cavalry of the Exodites remain surprisingly effective.
It is said of that the ferocity of the dragon knights’ defense of their lands and herds is matched only by the fury of the dragons upon which they ride.
Genestealer – Sundered Dragonmasters
Dragon Knights and Dragon Riders share a strong empathic bond with their beast mounts making them a formidable team in combat. It is an extremely intense bond that ends only with the death of the dragon. If the dragon dies a natural death through age, illness or injuries suffered during hunting or pack behavior, the bond ends with a trauma similar to any other death in the family. In fact, if the rider is seriously wounded or falls from the saddle, his mount will carry him off the battlefield, often saving his life in the process. Such a strong bond is so powerful and deep that the severing of that bond is devastating.
However, if his dragon was killed in battle, the end of the bond is significantly more traumatic as the dragon’s consciousness is literally torn from its master. This leaves the Dragon Knight or Dragon Rider in a state of overwhelming grief so profound that they seek to honor their fallen mount by pursuing victory in battle using only close combat weapons as a means to honor his mount. It is not uncommon for a Dragon Knight who has lost his mount in battle, to descend into a despairing grief, drifting away from his clan and seeking an honourable death, worthy of the memory of his fallen companion. For this reason, the Sundered Knight seeks out close combat above other forms of combat. Most, however, are able to link to other dragons who console him in his grief. Therefore, they are not seeking death. They are seeking honor for the memory of their mount which will only be cut short if the sundered dragonmaster dies.
Driven by grief, the knight will fashion a cloak from his mount’s hide in an attempt to keep his beast’s spirit with them. Often, he will even craft a new helmet from the spikes, bones and hide of their beloved mount. However, those consumed by grief and seeking an honorable death, may simply forgo the use of a helmet of any type.
He becomes a Sundered Dragonmaster whose style of combat mimics that of his fallen mount. The Sundered Dragonmaster‘s choice of weapon is very personal and is always a set of melee weapons, never ranged weapons. They are sometimes selected from the weapons he used when riding his mount. At other times, the weapons are selected because they artfully represent some aspect of the fallen mount’s combat abilities. In either case, the weapons are equally deadly. Driven by grief, the knight will fashion a cloak from his mount’s hide in an attempt to keep his beast’s spirit with them. Often, he will even craft a new helmet from the spikes, bones and hide of their beloved mount.
During their self-exile, they are no longer a member of any clan, behaving much like the craftworld outcasts known as rangers. They dwell in natural shelters found or fashioned by the knight himself as he wanders his world. They live off the land and shun contact with any except as necessary to protect other Exodites. Their clothing displays the wear of their difficult lifestyle.
When an Exodite world is threatened by attack or invasion from outsiders, these pitiable loners will band together as if by instinct. They sweep out of the depths of the jungle; aid unlooked for, seeking to drive off the invaders. They desire to spare their brethren from their dismal fate and to protect the peaceful tranquility of their homeworlds.
Even Dragonmaster Warlords are not immune to this fate. When their mount is slain, their grief prevents them from leading a war host but they can still command large numbers of their fellow Sundered Knights and they do command a new mount for themselves. That mount, however, is more of a controlled dragon as the warlord does not form an empathic bond with his new mount.
Their most profound change is that the grief they experience manifests itself in a psychic power. It is unknown why only Dragonmaster Warlords experience this change but they are the only ones that develop the ability to project their extreme grief into their opponent’s mind causing them to lose focus and drop to the ground in grief.
Some of these warriors also use herbal Stimulants or herbal poisons similar to those used by the Independent Clans.
Zoanthropes – Dragonseer Triad
Those Exodites with psychic powers, even Farseers and Warlocks, can find themselves called to the Dragonmaster path. When this occurs, they abandon the path of the witch and develop their dragonmaster skills. They do not lose their psychic ability but they do not master it to the level of even a Noble. However, they are often as strong as Dragonsingers but with the ability to combine their power with other Dragonseers to unleash very powerful blasts of energy that can even penetrate a landraider. For this reason, they often band together to form powerful psychic Dragonseer triads.
There is an Italian miniature manufacturer, Mirliton, that makes four different versions of Dark Elves riding Raptors. I chose these since they provide a significantly different look than my Dragon Knights units.
Shrike Brood – Dragonmaster Riders
There are Dragonmasters that prefer to associate with the flying dragons of Lorien. Though at first glance, they appear similar to the house clans’ Sky Lancers, these warriors are much more than their clan cousins. Their mounts are also a means to transport them to the battlefield where they can exert their control over the dragon host below. The pterosaurs they ride are all ferocious predators. Some have poisoned laced talons
Trygon Prime – Warp Master
Even though the Dragonmasters rely on their dragons for transportation, they are still Eldar and as such, are still capable of using the webway to travel great distances. There are Dragonmaster Warlords that have mastered the use of the webway for purposes of combat and these are called Warp Lords. Warp Masters ride large dragons or megadons capable of carrying the unique weapon of ancient Eldar design. They lead fellow exodite warriors and their dragon host through the webway and appear in advantageous positions where the enemy is least prepared for them.
When ready to strike, they open a webway portal which allows other infantry units to enter battle from the webway.
Due to the large base this unit normally comes with, it makes sense to use some of the larger dinosaur models from model manufacturers. I use interchangable details so I can switch between my Megadons (Exocrines) and Warp Masters (Trygons) as needed.