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Thread: Tau Tactica

  1. #1

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    Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel and I am here with the introductory section of my Tau Tactica! Though this isn't a fully formed article like the rest of the Tactica, given how crowded it was trying to place it in the HQ article, I felt it needed its own space. I hope you enjoy this brief review of the distinct special rules and Warlord traits the Tau share. For the Greater Good!


    Army Special Rules and Warlord Traits

    Tau function quite similarly to any other army in terms of basic unit functions; unlike Chaos Daemons or Tyranids, there are few real complicated unique army traits you will need to know, unlike some other codices where understanding of their functionality is much like knowing the weight of a blade. Mostly, you need to be familiar with the varying kinds of unit types; get those memorised, and all should be swell.

    Bonding Knife Ritual - A Tau unit consisting entirely of models that possess this special rule does not require a roll of a double one to regroup if the unit has been reduced below 25% of its starting total; they test at their standard Leadership value, counting any other applicable modifiers. The option to take the Bonding Knife Ritual is available to almost all non-Drone, non-vehicle and non-xenos units in the Tau army, and for a measly cost as well; with a flat price of one taco per model in the unit, this is a very cheap upgrade that allows fleeing Tau units to have a much higher chance of successfully regrouping once they have suffered severe casualties. One may argue that most units reduced to such size are no longer of great value, but it can make a difference, particularly if the fleeing unit is a scoring unit that has just fled off of an objective in the last turn of the game; the minimal points cost makes the upgrade worthwhile. It must be noted that attaching an Independent Character to a unit performs the same function without the need for the Bonding Knife Ritual, so plan for this accordingly. It is of limited use on certain units, particularly those limited to four or less models; these units never fall below 25% of their starting total even when reduced to one surviving model, and as such gain no benefit from the Bonding Knife Ritual. It is a useful tool that is likely best served on Fire Warriors, Pathfinders and Stealth Teams; elsewhere, it is unnecessary.

    Supporting Fire - If an enemy unit declares a charge, any friendly models with this special rule within six inches of the charging unit's target may fire Overwatch at the charging unit as if they were being charged; note that a unit may only fire Overwatch once per phase unless otherwise specified. This is the truly unique special rule for Tau, and it serves to reinforce the potential of a competitive Fire Warrior based army; given that many Tau units are fast moving or incapable of firing Overwatch, particularly Battlesuit teams and vehicles, this special rule often won't find too much employment for most units. Crisis Teams and Stealth Teams will typically be moving ahead of the rest of the force, often in isolation or at least twelve inches or more away from each other so as to not make congested targets for themselves and become easy pickings; as such, they often will find little use in this special rule, though it is noteworthy that planning for its potential use is a smart tactic; taking flamers on multiple teams means one can potentially Overwatch with all of those Walls of Flame at once. Massed Burst Cannon fire from Stealth Teams is a similarly strong tactic, and the use of cheap drones can provide a lot of extra shots for any unit. Fire Warriors are often the only units that one will mass together; the extra firepower, given that each model has a Strength five gun that will be firing at least two shots, is brutal, though bunching one's units up can obviously leave them more vulnerable to blast weapons. Six inches isn't too bad a radius to employ, and as such this is a handy tool that can be put to deadly use in concert with charge-denial tactics or smart positioning; for the former, many will find Darkstrider - a new special character - as well as certain drones particularly effective for such a strategy. What is very interesting to note here is that any Tau vehicle can take a relatively cheap upgrade that allows them and any attached Drones to fire Overwatch with weapons with a Strength of five or less, whilst also granting them the Supporting Fire special rule; this can be a pretty nasty tactic, particularly owing to the number of vehicles that can take Twin-Linked Smart Missile Systems, able to devastate light Infantry alike. When one considers the availability of Devilfishes, Hammerheads and the like, using this upgrade en masse is a viable tactic that serves to reinforce the nature of destroying an enemy before they can close with your forces. This special rule, particularly when used in concert with other charge-denial tactics, is a thematic and effective display of the method in which Tau engage their forces; constant harassment tactics, firing and gradually giving ground. Given their below average melee capabilities across the board, this is an important function that serves to highlight the basic principle of a Tau army; stay just out of reach, and blast your opponent to bits!

    Markerlights - These need to be covered here, because they are so integral to how a Tau army functions that not mentioning them would be absolutely criminal. Basically, a Markerlight is a "ranged weapon" that a wide range of Tau units either come with or can purchase; Pathfinders, Skyrays and Marker Drones come with them, amongst others, whereas Fire Warrior Shas'ui's, Stealth Team Shas'vre's and the like can purchase them. The way they work is that you "fire" them at an enemy unit at your normal Ballistic Skill, taking into account any modifiers - such as if you are forced to fire Snap Shots - and for every "hit" you get, you place a token next to the hit unit. As Heavy weapons that fire a single shot with a thirty six inch range, they aren't really maneuverable, but they definitely have the sheer range to compensate on your average game board. Laughably, a Markerlight hit actually counts as a hit for all intents and purposes to determine whether a Flying Monstrous Creature has to take a grounding test or not; imagine a laser or flash light beaming into a giant, winged beast's eye, causing them to plummet to the ground and crash in a brutal heap, and you are pretty close to just how silly that particular capability is. Now, as far as the actual tokens go, you will need them more than you might hope for; despite rocking some of the strongest guns in the game in a decent quantity, Tau tend to have mediocre Ballistic Skill and much of their weaponry is not twin-linked; their commanders are typically the only exception to both standards. As an army focused entirely around those ranged weapons, they need a boost, and Markerlights are what you use to get those boosts; each token can be expended to provide benefits based on how many tokens where placed by the enemy unit in question. Depending on how many there are, you can choose to expend them in different ways, though only two of the three options actually stack; the first is to raise the Ballistic Skill of the unit using the token by one, which can be potentially stacked to make a unit Ballistic Skill ten, - not that you would really want to - the second requires you to expend two tokens, but the unit that uses them treats their ranged weapons as having the Ignores Cover special rule against the target enemy unit, and the third allows the unit to fire a Seeker Missile (if they have one) at the target unit for every token expended, resolved at Ballistic Skill five with the Ignores Cover special rule, requiring no Line of Sight to hit.

    These three abilities are all highly useful, but doubtless most Tau players will use their Markerlights mostly for the boosted Ballistic Skill; in an army that really needs to make every shot count, upgrading your basic Fire Warriors or Crisis Teams to Ballistic Skill five for that one shooting phase can make a significant impact on the casualties or general damage inflicted by those units. The same is true of a Railgun-equipped Hammerhead, as its gun fires a single shot that isn't twin-linked; though the Hammerhead has an above-average Ballistic Skill already, reducing its chances of missing can only be beneficial in your efforts to destroy enemy vehicles or monstrous creatures. Using Markerlights can be a bit tricky though; the limitations are that the tokens only remain until the end of the phase in which they were placed, and unless the tokens were provided by the much rarer Networked Markerlights, the unit that actually fired the Markerlight shots won't themselves be able to benefit from them as all shooting is simultaneous. As such, multiple cheap Pathfinder or Marker Drone squads are often used to light up valuable targets for Fire Warriors, Broadsides and the like to attack with far greater efficiency; unless the Pathfinders or Drones move, they will typically average about two or more hits, depending on squad size and any upgrades taken. The other benefits provided by the tokens have their place as well, though; giving Ignores Cover to Pulse Weapons fired by Tau Fire Warriors means certain death for almost any Light Infantry you can find, and is invaluable in chasing those pesky Plaguebearers out of cover. Similarly, allowing a supporting Skyray to fire its Seeker Missiles at a target without requiring line of sight, hitting on a two or higher and ignoring the units' cover save can be a nasty way to provide fire support at a moment's notice. All in all, to have an effective Tau force, you should really invest in multiple units featuring Markerlights; the most efficient in-codex means of attaining these tend to be Pathfinders and Marker Drone units, though other units with multiple roles such as the Skyray or Sunshark Bomber can also boost such efforts.

    Warlord Traits - The Tau Warlord Table is perhaps the most unique of all so far; unlike any other Warlord Table we have seen so far, half of the traits offer one use only abilities, adding an entirely new layer of tactical depth to using the Table as opposed to simply having abilities that last the entire game or become relevant in certain situations. Originally, these were also only available to Ethereals and Commanders; this was quickly updated with an Errata on release day, clarifying that any Tau Warlord may select traits from the Tau Warlord Table. As to the actual traits themselves, all of them are quite useful, and the table has an in-built mechanism so that if you roll up a trait you can't use - typically because you don't have a ranged weapon or jet pack - then you may re-roll the result. The first trait prevents enemies from taking Look Out Sir rolls against the Warlord's shooting attacks, which given the option of taking cheap upgrades on battlesuits that make their Precision Shots require a +5 roll, makes for a nasty character-assassin tactic, particularly if one employs plasma rifles or fusion blasters. The second is a one use only ability, stipulating that all friendly Tau units within twelve inches of the Warlord re-roll to hit rolls of a one for the duration of that shooting phase, which is best used when you absolutely need to make your shooting count - typically when an opponent is closing in on your battle-lines.

    The third allows the Warlord and their unit to move the total of a result on three dice as opposed to two dice for their Jetpack moves in the Assault phase, which is very handy when employing the infamous 'Jump-Shoot-Jump' tactics that all battlesuits are adept with. The fourth is another one-use only ability, allowing all friendly Tau units that have Gone to Ground to get back up and into the fight, no doubt a very useful trait if you need specific units to jump on to objectives or damage an opponent; this can be used after going to ground to soak up enemy fire then hit them back with full force, humorously. The fifth functions once per game, and grants the Warlord and their unit the Skyfire special rule for one shooting phase; obviously, this is situational, but given the flux of fliers in the new edition, it is an invaluable tool for almost any unit to have; enemies won't be smiling if a team of Crisis Bodyguards and their Commander suddenly fire twin-linked Fusion Blasters at their nearby flyer at full Ballistic Skill. The last, and perhaps most interesting, trait is that the Warlord and their unit don't scatter when deep striking; this can and should be used to deadly effect with Crisis Teams and the like to provide a brutal alpha strike, followed by a Jetpack move that allows the unit to spread out or move out of range of incoming fire. Overall, the Warlord Traits are all quite decent, though I feel many will be clamoring for the last one if their Warlord is loaded up in a Battlesuit. Whilst the Warlord Traits may not be as jaw-dropping as some of those found in the Chaos Daemons codex, they are a good deal more reliable and often will prove more useful than those found in the other 6th Edition codices.


    I hope you found my appraisal of the special rules helpful and considerate. If you have any feedback or criticisms, please share them in the comments section below - we are open to any and all responses! Thank you!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 05-06-2013 at 09:26 PM.
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  2. #2

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    Hey all, I am Learn2Eel and I am thrilled to be discussing an army that I have collected for over ten years, being my favourite when I was a child and imbibed with a passion I still feel to this day - the might of the Tau Empire is here, ready to expand once more for the Greater Good! Today, I have an in depth review of the many HQs in the new codex, and what their capabilities and uses are. For those curious about Tau Drones, I will be covering them in their own separate review. I hope you enjoy this article!


    HQs

    The Tau HQ units are varied and often dissimilar, with each fulfilling very unique roles in an army list; remembering the specific traits of each is imperative to successfully employing them in an effective manner, as comparing their straight up combat abilities given that many provide important support abilities is silly. I feel that all of them have a place in at least one form of competitive Tau army list or another; each provides some very handy benefits that one simply can't ignore.

    Commander Farsight - Perhaps the most famous of Tau special characters, Farsight - or O'Shovah, if you prefer - is one of a select few units in the codex that is actually at home in close quarters combat as much as at range; in a melee, he is very much the equal of many similarly costly commanders. Though this has been his most notable trait since the Tau's inception, perhaps the most alluring reason to employ O'Shovah is his guaranteed Warlord ability; without the need for rolling, if he is your Warlord, he allows himself and his attached unit to deep strike without scatter. This ability, as well as his other notable traits, mean that building one's army list around this Warlord Trait is an intelligent application for Farsight; a regular Commander or Shadowsun can otherwise perform similar roles if you don't employ his deep-striking ability, and typically for less too. Aside from his signature ability, Farsight is a very strong commander; with an unusual Weapon Skill and Initiative of five for a Tau, he also wields the powerful Dawn Blade - a Strength as user (five) AP two melee weapon with the Armourbane special rule that strikes at Initiative - allowing him to engage high level commanders and most vehicles in melee quite reliably, especially owing to having four base attacks. The Dawn Blade is useful not only for assassinating characters and tearing through elite infantry, but also to provide a strong defence against walkers if O'Shovah's unit is assaulted by one; often a death sentence for units such as Crisis Suits, the presence of O'Shovah is a deterrent to many dedicated melee units, particularly Terminators that lack either the Mark of Tzeentch or Storm Shields. Between a +3 armour save, a +4 invulnerable save, and four wounds at Toughness four, Farsight is quite difficult to kill for anything that doesn't pack a large number of Strength eight or higher attacks; between shield drones and his Bodyguards though, the risk of losing Farsight to such instant-death causing wounds is relatively slim. His Jetpack move allows he and his unit - provided you attach him to a Battlesuit-armed unit - to perform the ever strong tactic of 'Jump Shoot Jump', or moving into range of an enemy, dealing significant damage with your ranged weapons, and then using the free Jetpack move in the Assault phase to either jump back behind cover or otherwise move out of range to prevent enemies from charging them or firing at them with any kind of significance. Sporting a Plasma Rifle, and owing to his Ballistic Skill of five, O'Shovah works very well as part of a unit performing this tactic; what is noteworthy is the boost he provides his unit against Orks, due to his Preferred Enemy (Orks) special rule. Against any enemy unit that doesn't move twelve inches, can shoot without line of sight or sports long range weaponry, one can literally tag enemies along; if they ever get close, they have to deal with the strong melee presence provided by Farsight.

    Another of Farsight's unique abilities is that his inclusion allows you to take a much larger Crisis Bodyguard team than usual, sporting a maximum of seven members as opposed to two; this allows you to field the only true "death-star" configuration in the codex, one that I would typically avoid in favour of multiple smaller teams of Crisis Suits, owing both to their sheer cost and the importance of providing multiple fronts for an opponent to target. Aside from this, it must be said that whilst Farsight is a cost effective commander that can provide a strong deterrent to enemy assault units, the best reason to employ him is to utilise his Warlord Trait; he has it for a reason, and it is a suitably effective tactic to use. Deep-striking a three-strong Crisis Bodyguard (or regular Crisis suits) team with O'Shovah without scatter allows one to devastate one or more enemy units in a deadly alpha strike, following with a Jetpack move to reduce any potential risk of being assaulted or shot at with threatening weapons. That O'Shovah is so strong in melee at such a low cost means that many enemies may actually wish to avoid charging them, which can only ever be a boon for you. This tactic has a wide range of applications; equip your Crisis suits with a range of weapons, from flamers to fusion blasters and plasma rifles, to make use of the ability to get within melta or rapid fire range of an enemy without immediate reprisal - unless they have Interceptor weapons, of course. Against a mechanised Imperial Guard army, smart placement on your part and the congestion of your opponent's forces can be exploited to deadly use with a few twin-linked fusion blasters; in such a situation, one should reasonably exploit to destroy two or more tanks in one go, making the unit's points back almost immediately. A similar thought process can be applied to a particularly irritable horde unit or Devastator-equivalent squad; employ flamers, burst cannons and the like and chase them out of cover and into the hungry guns of your Fire Warriors. Elite Infantry advancing up the field can be similarly destroyed through the use of multiple plasma rifles - including Farsight's own - and what allows all of these tactics to really pay off no matter how you write your army list is the optional Target Lock that any Battlesuit can take, allowing each member to fire at a separate unit. If you are willing to spend the points, you can feasibly arrive in the middle of a defensive formation and lay havoc to their heavy weapon units, long range tanks and artillery units in one swift strike; a mix of plasma rifles, missile pods and fusion blasters is probably the most useful configuration if you can spare the points, though burst cannons and flamers are similarly effective, though the latter does put your unit in charge range. Despite O'Shovah being such a good melee commander, one needs to be very aware of enemies that can still thrash his unit in combat; horde Orks and the like are very much capable of doing so.

    That is truly O'Shovah's defining trait; versatility, especially when combined with a unit of Crisis suits, bodyguards or no. Though one should be careful not to invest too many points into single units with an army that is so vulnerable in combat and prone to running away like Tau, O'Shovah can truly provide a strong outlet for units to get into range almost immediately and make their points back very quickly. The deep-striking trick can work in almost any situation, as the perfect scatter allows you to deploy anywhere that is necessary, allowing you to avoid any truly risky propositions caused by particular units. Provided you do some significant damage initially, or at least set yourself up in a position to do so in subsequent turns, O'Shovah's unit will provide an immense target for your opponent to deal with, and one that, provided you make use of your Jetpack moves smartly, will be reasonably hard to remove. The melee threat of O'Shovah, in addition to the strong ranged weaponry the unit can sport, means they are a threat to a staggering array of targets. Another consideration against an enemy army where deep striking would be less than beneficial is that you can always advance up the field and employ standard Jump Shoot Jump tactics like any other Crisis team, with the added bonus that your unit is sporting a commander capable of scything through half a Terminator squad in one go with ease, or ripping apart Dreadnoughts. O'Shovah is exactly the kind of commander for a player willing to subscribe to the theory of high risks leading to great rewards; he is strong and provides devastating alpha strike potential for a Tau army, though he and his unit are quite susceptible to instant death, assaults from tarpit units or massed firepower. I feel that he is a very good option to use, particularly in a fluffy 'Rebel Tau' army list, and between an awesome model and very capabilities across the board, it is difficult to go wrong with the legendary Farsight.

    Commander Shadowsun - The supreme commander of all Tau military efforts, Shadowsun is a deadly commander in the right hands; the strength of her abilities may not be immediately obvious, owing to conferring some very strong special rules upon any unit she joins. As far as her basic profile is concerned, she is very much similar to a weaker Commander; sporting a Weapon Skill and Initiative of four, with four attacks at Strength four and a middling Toughness of three and a trio of wounds. As should be noted, she is very much more vulnerable to instant death than regular Tau Battlesuit-armed Commanders; Strength six weaponry is all that is required to put her down, and given that such weapons aren't exactly uncommon nowadays, this means that she appears to be quite easily killed. Between two Fusion Blasters that can fire at separate targets to each other, and any unit she joins - with the exception that least one of her weapons must fire at the same target as her attached unit - she is a serious threat to vehicles, monstrous creatures and elite infantry alike, especially owing to her high Ballistic Skill of five. Given the boosted range of fusion blasters, providing them with a far safer 'melta' range in terms of potential enemy assaults, Shadowsun can reliably destroy two vehicles in one shooting phase, then use her boosted Jetpack movement to jump herself and her unit to safety. As one might have guessed, she has the very useful guaranteed Warlord trait that provides a 3D6 jetpack move as opposed to a 2D6 jetpack move for both herself and any Jetpack type unit she joins - even Riptides benefit from this trait, humorously. Guaranteed Warlord Traits are always useful, allowing you to make use of them whilst you are writing up your army list - any Jetpack unit she joins benefits quite a bit from the added bonus to their Jetpack move, though the best application is with a unit that is darting in and out of cover or range of enemies, otherwise termed as 'Jump Shoot Jump'. This works best with Crisis Teams and Stealth Teams, with either choice depending on which you feel provides the firepower you most want to get into your enemies lines quickly and safely; Crisis Teams with plasma rifles - or either unit with fusion blasters - and the like get a much needed boost from the added mobility she provides. Many may opt to use her in a Stealth Team though, not only because they share a similar aesthetic theme, but also owing to her special rule that allows her and her unit to automatically pass any Look Out Sir rolls, making Shadowsun incredibly hard to pick out of a unit for anyone save a Vindicare Assassin.

    Though she is a useful commander even with just these abilities, one must wonder where the rest of her points allotment is spent; as I noted earlier, a cursory study would likely see one determine she is not worth it next to the minimally more expensive Farsight. To really understand just why she is such a strong unit to employ, one must realize the notable (and surprising) fact that the Stealth, Shrouded and Infiltrate special rules she possesses are conferred to any unit she joins. The first two are owing to her experimental battlesuit, which provide her with handy +3 armour and +5 invulnerable saves; given she either passes Look Out Sir rolls automatically or has a +2 save otherwise, she is reasonably difficult to kill even in the open. However, due to having both the Stealth and Shrouded special rules, she has a permanent +4 cover save in the open, and one that boosts to +2 in area terrain; against anything that isn't a Strength six cover-ignoring weapon with an AP of three - the Baleflamer notable amongst them - this makes her incredibly difficult to kill, especially given her 3D6 Jetpack move which allows her to stay out of melee range or of units that would otherwise seriously threaten her. That she confers these special rules on any unit she joins is in my mind the real reason she is quite costly; that any unit she attaches to gains a permanent +4 cover save even in the open, which is thus boosted to +2 with almost any kind of intervening terrain or general obscuration, is absolutely incredible. This boosts the durability of Crisis Teams, Broadsides and the like dramatically; Fire Warriors and Pathfinders even benefit from these similarly, though Shadowsun should really be running up with mobile, constantly redeploying units such as Crisis Teams or Stealth Teams. Though Stealth Teams already have both Stealth and Shrouding and thus don't require her inclusion, a Crisis Team with high cover saves makes them incredibly hardy against many of the weapons that would usually frighten them; their Toughness of four means that Baleflamers and their ilk don't inflict instant death upon them, and the many Strength eight AP three weapons that are their bane - Battle Cannons and Missile Launchers - will simply be stopped harmlessly by +2 cover saves. This is also very useful against massed small arms fire, which can also be a high threat to Crisis Teams. Combine this with Jump Shoot Jump tactics, and the mere inclusion of Shadowsun not only grants a considerable anti-tank presence, but a foil that severely boosts the durability of her unit; abuse her boosted Jetpack moves, and you will have one of the nastier delaying units one can field. That she also grants Infiltrate to her unit - allowing them to deploy much closer to the enemy deployment zone - is an incredible tool for performing such tactics effectively, allowing the carnage and game of cat and mouse to begin on the first turn; take my word for it, enemies will hate you. You can also use this to Outflank her unit, though I would probably go against this tactic as being able to Jump Shoot Jump more effectively than any other unit from the beginning of the game is invaluable.

    One of the more ridiculous tricks I have deduced is the possibility of attaching Shadowsun to - don't laugh - the Riptide. Now, whilst most monstrous creatures can't be joined by Independent Characters, the rules state that you can join a unit of them so long as they are able to take more than one model in their unit - or, to put it simply, if they are able to purchase additional squad members. As Drones count as additional squad members for all intents and purposes, that a Riptide can purchase optional squad members means that an Independent Character can attach to it; this is legal even if Drones are not purchased for the Riptide. Now, provided you don't purchase more Drones for Shadowsun than for the Riptide, the unit uses the highest Toughness value - six - for majority Toughness. Between Toughness six against shooting attacks and +2 cover saves in any kind of terrain, this makes for a horrendously durable unit that is almost impossible to kill by conventional means; keep the Riptide up the front to soak up any potential Instant Death wounds - Shadowsun is still treated as Toughness three for the purposes of Instant Death wounds, though they do roll to wound against the Toughness value of six - and you will one of the game's most sickeningly difficult to kill units. Did I mention that the 3D6 Jetpack move also applies to the Riptide? Jump Shoot Jump with the giant monster, and take advantage of its durability to get Shadowsun into effective range for her fusion blasters. If you want to Infiltrate them, go right ahead; though the Riptide works best in a support role and its weaponry is mostly ideal for long range engagements, providing your opponent with such a threat early in the game can severely influence the outcome of the game. Make sure to keep away from mobile melee units, abuse the expanded Jetpack move, and even combine - as unrealistic as it would be from a fluff perspective - with a deep-striking assault from O'Shovah and his bodyguard for a brutal one-two punch in the early turns, provided your reserve rolls aren't shocking. Aside from this, Shadowsun also has the option to purchase up to three unique drones; one Command Drone, which allows one friendly unit within twelve inches to re-roll to hit rolls of one in the friendly shooting phase, and two special Shield Drones, providing a very handy +3 invulnerable save. Either of these options is costly, though worthwhile to add extra ablative wounds to her unit; the Command Drone can always be used on her own unit if no others are in range, leading to - essentially - two twin-linked fusion blaster shots at anything that isn't hard to hit in each shooting phase. Not bad! Overall, Shadowsun is a very handy commander that works best with mobile, aggressive units that provide strong firepower as part of the mobile delaying and harassment tactics the Tau are famed for. That she grants Stealth, Shrouded and Infiltrate to any unit she joins can be used to brutal effect in multiple units; many combinations are possible here, though much like O'Shovah, you should make full use of such abilities if you plan on taking her. Merely pointing her at the enemy won't work.

    Aun'va - Previously considered by many as the worst special character in the game, Aun'va - alongside the rest of the Ethereal caste - has seen a complete revamp that places him amongst the most valuable commanders in the codex. Understandably, as a character with a low Toughness and a lack of Eternal Warrior or the ability to join units, justifying just how important Aun'va is in a Tau army isn't exactly simple. Looking at his basic profile tells us that he is even more horrid in combat than a Fire Warrior, which is no mean feat; with but one attack at Initiative and Weapon Skill one, Aun'va is not intended to actively engage in combat. However, he is a good deal tougher than any other Ethereal; between four wounds and a +5 armour save, he can soak up a lot of small arms fire quite well. This doesn't even account for his two Ethereal Bodyguards, models that share the exact same profile as a standard Ethereal with an Honour Blade - albeit with one higher Ballistic Skill and a +5 armour save themselves. In that sense, you are technically getting three Ethereals that are stronger and tougher than regular Ethereals for less than double the cost, which is an amazing bargain given that I haven't even touched on Aun'va's unique abilities. Firstly, Aun'va's guaranteed Warlord Trait is a once-per-game ability that allows any friendly Tau unit on the battlefield that has gone to ground to get back up into the fight; this is highly useful, particularly in a tight game where either you need to go to ground for cover boosts or otherwise jump up and shoot at full effectiveness and move to the objectives. Much like a regular Ethereal, he can boost friendly forces within twelve inches with minor, but very useful, buffs; unlike a regular Ethereal, he can use two of these each turn, which is pretty swell when one considers you can broadcast Stubborn and Feel No Pain (+6) to all friendly units in that bubble simultaneously. If you thought that was great, he also, amazingly - and this is particularly so for a generally low Leadership army that lacks Fearless or And They Shall Know No Fear - allows any friendly Tau on the battlefield to re-roll all failed Morale, Pinning, Fear and Regroup tests, meaning your low Leadership bodies are far more likely to stay around in the fight. These amazing support abilities make Aun'va the ultimate buff character in the codex, and perhaps the game considering the Tau's usual weaknesses; given that an Ethereal should be taken for these exact reasons, and that Aun'va is a much tougher and more cost-effective unit overall when one considers his two bodyguards, Aun'va is a fantastic unit that simply cannot be ignored.

    This doesn't even begin to mention his Paradox of Duality though. Despite his amazing buffs and the sheer number of wounds his unit has - eight all up - unless one uses cover, Aun'va would still seem quite a target for enemy high strength shooting. That he can't join a unit and be hidden amongst more ablative bodies is a downer, as the four wounds from his bodyguards count for little against instant-death causing attacks. Given that, like other Ethereals, he provides an extra victory point for your opponent if he is killed - which can be a nasty blow if he is also your Warlord - protecting him is definitely a priority. Given how good he already is, his signature system may just be pushing it. The Paradox of Duality allows Aun'va and his Ethereal Bodyguards a special, separate save that may be taken after any other save, with no way to ignore it - though there is one exception. The way this save functions is that after an unsaved wound has been caused by a weapon, Aun'va and the Ethereal Bodyguards ignore the unsaved wound if they roll equal to or higher than the AP value of the weapon that caused the unsaved wound. In practice, this means that an AP two plasma gun that ignores the armour save of Aun'va's unit is then ignored on a +2, whereas an AP five boltgun that also ignores the armour save of Aun'va's unit is ignored on a +5. Weapons with an AP value of one are ignored automatically, and weapons with no AP value cannot be saved. Obviously, this makes Aun'va's unit hilariously difficult to kill through most instant-death causing weapons; most with such a high Strength usually have an AP of at least four which, when taken after a cover save, has a low failure rate statistically. One of the more feared units in the game, the Heldrake, bounces harmlessly off of Aun'va and his Bodyguards on a +3; similarly, the brutal Vendetta is ignored on a +2. Obviously, this means that the best way to actually kill Aun'va, aside from piling up lots of high Strength weapon wounds that have a low AP - or none, in the case of the Tesla Destructor - is to fire massed bolters and the like at him. Even then, an AP of five affords Aun'va a +5 save after any relevant cover save - and I cannot stress this enough, keep them in cover! - which, if the cover save is also +5, provides Aun'va with the equivalent of a +3 armour save against such wounds. Melta weaponry and Plasma weaponry, favoured tools for hunting commanders and vehicles, will worry the Undying Spirit no more than a Boltgun. This amazing tool is what will serve to keep Aun'va alive, though you should always make sure to restrict Line of Sight and assaults to him - as the Paradox of Duality does not work in melee - as much as possible; his presence alone is invaluable, and can mean the difference in any game. For a character that was so maligned previously, I cannot praise the potential of his inclusion in the new codex enough; he is a phenomenal special character that you would be silly not to at least test one day.

    Aun'shi - Given how much I gushed over Aun'va, one would suitably think that I would stick to the age-old formula and heap criticism upon his compatriot, but that isn't truly the case here. I will preface by saying that given the purpose of Ethereals in a Tau army are to buff friendly forces, and also that our only effective melee commander works because of his mobility, Aun'shi definitely won't appeal to everyone. At exactly twice the cost of a regular Ethereal armed with an honour blade, Aun'shi pays heavily for melee abilities which most Tau players likely won't feel are necessary, making his inclusion into an army list somewhat unusual; that he is also more expensive than the ever impressive Aun'va who need not worry about fighting in risky melee battles - for any Tau unit that is - is quite strange, to say the least. Enough of that though; like a normal Ethereal, he allows any friendly Tau unit within twelve inches to use his Leadership of ten for any Morale, Pinning, Fear or Regroup tests they have to take, with the disadvantage coming from counting as an extra victory point if killed. He also provides one of four benefits each turn to any friendly Tau unit within twelve inches; these range from Feel No Pain (+6) to Stubborn or being able to fire Snap Shots after Running - though none of them are truly ground-breaking, they are nonetheless very useful for providing minor, helpful boosts to your forces. Generally speaking, Aun'shi's inclusion is as beneficial as a regular Ethereal in terms of buffing your forces; in that sense, there is always a place for such a character. Where Aun'shi starts to differentiate from other Ethereals is in his admittedly impressive statline, though it must be noted that he does share the same weakness of Toughness three, making him quite vulnerable to Instant Death from Strength six or higher attacks; a problematic weakness given how costly he is. Between a Weapon Skill, Initiative and Strength of five - the last owing to his honour blade - with four attacks base, Aun'shi can definitely put the hurt on a lot of units, even despite lacking an armour-ignoring weapon. He also sports an extra wound over regular Ethereals, and with a shield generator to boot providing him a +4 invulnerable save, the aged warrior is quite a bit more difficult to kill than would be initially expected. His statline is very much befitting a melee character from other codices, and though he is still relatively fragile, attaching him to a unit of Fire Warriors or the like serves to make them a far safer proposition in the unfortunate event that melee must be joined; between Stubborn at Leadership ten and strong melee capabilities, Aun'shi can - and probably will - literally turn the tide of a specific engagement against anything that isn't a dedicated melee unit. This is definitely his intended purpose, as Fire Warriors and the like absolutely crumble against any kind of enemy in melee; having Aun'shi nearby to join the fray can mean the difference between life or death for an entire unit, and he should be considered solely for this reason. Much like any other Ethereal, you need to keep him protected in a nice large unit, and having him nearby multiple units of Fire Warriors, particularly given his Ethereal abilities, should allow you to switch him into melee wherever necessary to hold the line.

    The veteran warrior has one other specific special rule though, and one that serves to make him a good deal more effective in his stated role than would initially be deemed. In a very tasteful and awesome addition to his rules, Aun'shi can adopt a blade stance at the start of each Fight sub-phase if he is in a challenge; much like Castellan Crowe or the Brotherhood Champions of the Grey Knights, which goes a long way to showing just how remarkable a bladesman amongst the Tau the legendary Ethereal is. There are two of which to choose from, and both are suited to different situations; the first makes all of Aun'shi's already powerful melee strikes gain the Rending special rule. Given his relatively high number of attacks with a good profile to back them up, these can be very handy in an assault against well armoured opponents such as Space Marines or any character that isn't a killing machine. He has enough attacks that, against Weapon Skill four opponents, he should average one Rending wound in every second combat phase, which isn't bad at all; those extra wounds can make a huge difference in a combat involving Tau. The second, and perhaps most interesting stance, is the more defensive of the pair; Aun'shi forfeits all of his blows in combat that round, but may instead re-roll any failed saving throws. Combine this with Feel No Pain (+6) and use it to hold up enemy characters in combat, or otherwise keep an entire unit occupied; a +4 re-rollable invulnerable save is very handy, even despite his Toughness of three, and even if he does take a wound, being able to re-roll a failed Morale check at Leadership ten means he will be staying there for quite a while. Against any unit that is forced to challenge you - Chaos Space Marines are notable here - or where the opposing player mistakenly accepts the challenge, you can then tarpit an entire unit for a long time - if not for the rest of the game - provided that character isn't particularly nasty or sporting Strength six or higher weaponry. This is a very important consideration, given that tying up enemy units is a role that almost no other unit in the army can perform; given how important it is to keep your ranged units out of melee, this is an invaluable tool that makes Aun'shi a very interesting proposition, though perhaps not for the reasons one would expect. One need only read his new or classic background to understand that using Aun'shi in such a role does not actually break with the fluff; he is revered for his heroics as standing beside his warriors, protecting them from any foe with might, valour and skill. Though using a character - potentially a Warlord - that concedes a victory point if he dies in such a way may be seen as risky by many, I feel that it befits the fluff of Aun'shi; that of a hero that will never rest in the face of adversity. Aun'shi is back, and praise be, I am so joyous that it is so; though not the most competitive choice one can employ, he does make for a useful unit against any army that isn't sporting dedicated melee units in abundance owing to his unusually strong tarpit potential.

    Darkstrider - As the only special character chosen from the ranks of Pathfinders and Fire Warriors in the codex, it is fitting then that Darkstrider is allowed only to join those two units; given this limitation, one would hope that this lack of accessibility is a trade off for providing significant benefits at a good cost. Luckily, this is indeed the case; Darkstrider has a number of eye-popping special rules that really come to life when combined with particular variations of those units. In general terms though, his profile is roughly equal to that of a Cadre Fireblade for about forty percent more of the Fireblade's total cost, with a weaker armour save that is thus ignored by bolters and the like; as well, he carries a Pulse Carbine rather than a Pulse Rifle - though the viability of both weapons is much more even than ever before - as well as a handy Blacksun Filter that grants both he and his unit Night Vision. That last one is very handy given the more common appearance of Night Fighting, meaning that advancing enemies won't benefit from boosted cover saves against his unit; Dark Eldar and the like won't be too happy when your Fire Warriors don't afford them Stealth or Shrouded at long range. Though he lacks the boosted shooting for pulse weapons that a Fireblade provides, Darkstrider also grants his unit both the Scout and Outflank special rules, meaning that he can be used to tactically redeploy a unit as necessary, or deliver a firebase unit deep into enemy lines. Though the latter is arguably situational regarding Pathfinders and Fire Warriors on foot, using them in a Devilfish in this way is a far more interesting proposition, particularly if they are equipped with scatter-reduction wargear to help accurate deep strikes for friendly units such as Crisis Teams. However, Darkstrider's worth becomes truly worthwhile when one considers his two unique special rules; the first is that after his unit has fired Overwatch, they can immediately consolidate D6 inches in any direction. To put this into perspective, let us use this example; you are carefully measuring to stay just within rapid fire range of an opponent with a squad of twelve Fire Warriors and Darkstrider. You unload on to a unit of Chaos Space Marines, hungry for a fight; with added Markerlight support, you kill six of them all up out of a total of fifteen. On their turn, they move forward, and though the charge range is nine inches, they have the Icon of Wrath and thus have a very decent chance of making it into combat. You fire Overwatch, killing another three models with the help of Supporting Fire from other Fire Warriors, meaning the Chaos Marines now need a ten on two dice with re-rolls. You then consolidate Darkstrider's unit, rolling a three, back out of charge range. Essentially, you have just had a free shooting phase at the opponent with no chance of them catching you. Engage troll-face. Now imagine performing this game of cat and mouse throughout much of a match, and you will see just how amazing this ability is.

    On top of that, Darkstrider's unique signature system allows he and his unit to pinpoint the weaknesses in an enemy unit; then Darkstrider and his unit shoot at an enemy non-vehicle unit, they treat their Toughness as one lower for all intents and purposes - even instant death! Given that the minimum Strength of any gun carried by Fire Warriors and Pathfinders is five, this means that you will be wounding almost all standard Infantry in the game - including Space Marines - on twos that, with Markerlight support, can absolutely devastate entire squads if enough firepower is employed. Combined with a Cadre Fireblade, twelve Firewarriors sporting Darkstrider in the mix will absolutely annihilate most Infantry squads in the game at rapid fire range, period. Monstrous Creatures and the like suddenly become so much easier to wound, with Daemon Princes and the like now being wounded on threes by your lowly soldiers. Against enemies with a standard Toughness of three, you will be inflicting instant death upon them - an invaluable tool to deny Feel No Pain on Dark Eldar units - and combined with Night Vision and the consolidate move after Overwatch for his unit, this functions with Markerlights and Fireblades to shift a cheap Fire Warrior or Pathfinder squad into a literal hailstorm of death against anything that isn't a vehicle. The real value of his Toughness reduction ability is mostly found with Pathfinders, notably because of the special weapons they can field; particularly the Rail Rifle. Now, we all know just how nasty a Paladin unit upgraded with an Apothecary is, and how ridiculously difficult it is to kill them; the same be said of Nobz and the like. Remember those rapid fire Rail Rifles that have a thirty inch maximum range the Pathfinders can take now for a very low cost? Strength six AP one is pretty good as is, but when used against multi-wound enemies - such as Paladins, Tyranid Warriors and Mutilators - in conjunction with Darkstrider, those units all of a sudden crumble into dust in the blink of an eye. Make sure to light them up with Markerlights from other Pathfinder units, and you can wipe out previously seemingly unassailable enemies with you cheap as chips scout units. Darkstrider is a versatile commander that mostly benefits one unit in particular, though he also sports a Markerlight to provide more tokens for the rest of your forces; what he does for that one unit is invaluable, and he makes for a great choice if you don't feel like taking a Cadre Fireblade. His only real downside is that he is quite fragile with a Toughness of three and a trio of wounds backed by a +5 armour save, but seeing as he should be kept within a bulky squad, this shouldn't be too much of an issue; he is very cheap, after all!

    Ethereal - As a spiritual leader amongst the Tau, you would expect an Ethereal to be based around buffing friendly forces and providing a serious drawback if they perish; suffice it to say, this is exactly the case with the Ethereal. As a standard character, the Ethereal is cheap and relatively ill-equipped; their basic profile bequeaths a decent Weapon and Ballistic Skill, with a low Strength, Toughness, Initiative and Wound value of three. Considering they lack any kind of save and have no way to purchase one, Ethereals are relatively easy to kill if wounds are allocated to them; given that they concede a victory point if they are slain regardless of whether they are your Warlord - and their high leadership means there is a good chance they will be your Warlord - and that they are merely Infantry, protecting them tends to involve attaching them to a meaty squad in cover and hoping the enemy doesn't focus too much attention on them. Given their fragility, they don't hit particularly hard either; they can take a pair of AP four melee weapons for a low price that makes them decent contenders against squad leaders that are light infantry, or the usually more popular and cheaper honour blade that boosts their Strength value to five, making them a somewhat decent proposition in melee. Still, unlike Aun'shi, you really should keep them out of combat wherever possible; they aren't designed for it at all, and neither should the unit they join be (not taking Allies into consideration). So what exactly do Ethereals do to justify their cost of half of a hundred tacos? Firstly, they provide the Stubborn special rule to any unit they join, meaning they should stay in the fight; also, any friendly Tau unit within twelve inches of an Ethereal must use his Leadership of ten for any Morale, Pinning, Fear or Regroup tests they make. On top of this, each Ethereal can provide one of four benefits to friendly Tau models within twelve inches, chosen at the start of their movement phase; these provide minor benefits to your forces, but they are useful to have nonetheless. Each ability is tied to a particular Caste of the Tau people, providing a benefit that makes sense from a fluff perspective and benefits certain units more than others. The first grants any units within range the Stubborn special rule which, given that any friendly Tau unit within twelve inches of the Ethereal uses their Leadership of ten, means that your forces whom are very much prone to running away are far more likely to stick around and hold up enemies in combat that much longer. This is an invaluable tool that really helps to solve one of the Tau armies' more significant weaknesses; that of a lack of high Leadership, Fearless or And They Shall Know No Fear. The second provides all Pulse Weapons with an extra shot if they fire at half range, meaning that a squad of Fire Warriors would fire three shots each at fifteen inches if they are all in range. This is a pretty strong buff, particularly if you have multiple Fire Warrior, Pathfinder or Kroot units in the vicinity; those extra shots add up, especially given the high Strength of Pulse weapons.

    The other two abilities are perhaps of more situational use, though they are certainly not bad options at all depending on the unit that receives them. The third provides Feel No Pain (+6) to any Tau model within twelve inches, but given that the specification is not "unit" but "model" and that Tau are almost universally Toughness three, trying to exploit this fully will likely leave your forces quite vulnerable to blast weapons and high Strength shooting. Don't misunderstand the value this adds though; even if it is only a minimal save, it can still save a unit from total annihilation; any casualties you can save are very much worthwhile, though I feel in such a dire situation many will prefer Stubborn or the extra shots from their Pulse weapons. The last ability allows any of the affected models to Snap Fire after Running, which is useful if you need to get a given unit into a good position on a particular turn but want to fire some extra shots off; it isn't a great ability, but a few extra shots - particularly with Markerlights - can still be very handy. As to the actual options an Ethereal has aside from melee weapons, they can take a handy Blacksun Filter or Homing Beacon for a minimal cost; either is helpful in almost any situation, with the bonus of providing night vision to a unit or having a beacon for deep-strike scatter reduction well worth the investment, though the latter is obviously dependent on whether it is actually necessary for your army list. The Ethereal can also purchase two drones which are quite handy in any situation; shield drones will probably prove to be the popular choice to actually afford the Ethereal a "save" in a sense, though gun drones and marker drones all have their uses too. The former provides a little bit of extra firepower at a good cost, whereas the latter grants a cheap Markerlight shot that comes in handy for your other forces if it actually hits. All in all, the Ethereal is best kept cheap and situated in a chunky unit, preferably one in the backfield; Fire Warriors are perfect bodyguards for an Ethereal, though Pathfinders and even Broadside Battlesuits make fine options for the Ethereal to partner with. Remember to use his support abilities to their fullest each turn, as they are the true reason you will take one; they are a fine unit, one that is most helpful to keep your Tau in the fight.

    Cadre Fireblade - Continuing the theme of a cheap commander that is primarily used to benefit a unit(s) rather than be a powerful presence themselves, Cadre Fireblades are inexpensive units that work best in tandem with a handful of units in particular. As Infantry with three wounds at Toughness three and a +4 armour save, they are decently durable for how few points they eat up, but it nonetheless must be said that keeping them out of combat - or any line of fire, for that matter - is a good idea, as a single Assault Cannon or Autocannon shot is all that is needed to kill them instantly. That, and massed Bolter fire will reave them if you don't place them within a unit; they are there to join up with Fire Warriors or Kroot, and should be used solely for such purposes. As to what they actually do, they are decent at keeping your basic soldiers in combat and not being swept, given their Initiative of three and Leadership nine; bucking the trend of other Tau Infantry, they have a Weapon Skill of four and handy Ballistic Skill of five. Armed with a pulse rifle, they provide a few bonus, precise shots to a Tau unit, and they sport an always useful Markerlight that can be Split Fired at a separate target to the rest of their unit to support your other forces. These abilities are definitely useful and make the Fireblade a versatile choice outside of merely adding some presence to a squad, though the Fireblade's true value comes from their Volley Fire special rule; provided the Fireblade and their unit didn't move in the prior movement phase, they each fire an additional shot with their Pulse Rifles and Pulse Carbines.

    Given the boosted range of either weapon in terms of shots and Strength compared to most other armies, this provides even your basic Fire Warriors with a pretty serious boost to their firepower; a unit of twelve Fire Warriors with a Fireblade fires a staggering thirty-nine shots at fifteen inches or twenty-six at thirty inches, as opposed to twenty-four and twelve without. As a veteran of Chaos Daemons, Tyranids and Dark Eldar, I can personally say that a cheap unit that costs much less than two hundred points firing twenty-six Strength five AP five shots at my units from thirty inches away whilst capturing an objective is amazingly nasty; getting close to them is even worse, leaving my poor lightly armoured units easy prey, particularly when said Fire Warrior unit is boosted by Markerlight support! All those high Strength shots that can potentially Ignore Cover and hits on a two and up at thirty inches is simply anathema to any light Infantry unit in the game; even monstrous creatures that don't sport wings or a jump pack will be reasonably frightened by such a torrent of fire. This is the Fireblades's best attribute; he seriously improves the damage potential of your basic units, with Pathfinders or Fire Warriors being viable units for him to join. On top of this, the Fireblade makes for a cheap and effective Warlord option; essentially the perfect commander for a small, allied force of Tau, though they are also very handy in any Tau army featuring Fire Warriors or Pathfinders in any kind of serious capacity. Though I would recommend keeping him cheap, he does have access to two drones; gun, shield or marker drones are useful additions in the context of the unit he joins, though they aren't strictly necessary. The best utilisation of a Cadre Fireblade is undoubtedly manning a Quad Gun behind an Aegis Defence Line with a chunky unit of Fire Warriors - he uses Split Fire to target enemy flyers with high efficiency, whilst his Fire Warrior unit benefits from the extra shots and pounds some ground forces into submission. At his cost, this is an exceptional way to add some cheap anti-air firepower into any army list - it works perfectly as an Allied detachment!

    Commander - The staple Warlord choice for Tau armies since their inception, the Commander - or Shas'O - is a cheap, tough and incredibly versatile leader for your force that can be kitted out for precision strikes with powerful ranged weaponry, or provide strong benefits to other Battlesuit pilots. With access to far more wargear options than any other HQ choice, the Commander has a very low base cost that allows you to really go all out and equip him to fit the role you envision; between Toughness four, four wounds, a +3 armour save and the awesome Jetpack assault move, he is quite tough even without wargear additions, though as a HQ, be wary of opponents gunning for him with high Strength weaponry. As Jetpack Infantry, he works best in a unit of Battlesuits; unless you don't have the models or the points, I would not recommend using him in a squad of Fire Warriors or the like, unless you have a specific plan in mind; he is intended to harass enemies, much like Crisis Teams, or at least help them to harass enemies. He also packs a decent Weapon Skill of four and an Initiative of three, though his Ballistic Skill of five is likely his most alluring attribute - at least, aside from the sheer number of wounds he has. Unlike a regular Crisis Suit, he can take up to four weapon or support systems and, much like a Crisis Shas'vre, he has access to the Signature Systems as well. A note that though you can fill up all four system slots, just because you have the option of doing so doesn't mean that you should, as a Commander can become a massive points sink if you aren't careful - take what you need in relation to who he will be running with. If you want to make use of the Commander's great Ballistic Skill, I would recommend taking two ranged weapons, or one twin-linked one; I feel his Ballistic Skill of five means that you don't need to worry about twin-linking his weapons, though it is certainly a good idea given the minimal increase in cost. Plasma rifles and fusion blasters, weapons that have fewer shots than the others available to Crisis Suits, make for the perfect weaponry on the highly accurate Commander, and when paired with Precision Shots backed by an Advanced Targeting System, this can allow your Commander to be a deadly and efficient character or special weapon sniper, a truly invaluable tool. The choice of weaponry is very diverse, meaning you can really kit out the Commander however you want; flamers and burst cannons are perfect against horde or light infantry based armies, whereas the two previously mentioned are ideal for close range firefights to deal with elite infantry, vehicles and monstrous creatures. I don't feel there is a "right" way to give weaponry to a Commander; just be aware that his weapon selections should reflect on the unit he joins, so in that sense, you can look at him more like a unit upgrade than anything else.

    For support systems, I feel that this will strictly be dependent on what you require the unit to do, and whether or not the Commander is your Warlord. If the latter is true, then I would always take a Shield Generator on the Commander; the amount of AP two and AP three weaponry that will likely come his way will likely vindicate the purchase swiftly. Aside from that, these are all useful, but situational and, much like the weapon systems, should be based highly on what you want the Commander and his team to target; if you want a versatile unit that gets into the thick of things, the early warning override (Interceptor), velocity tracker (Skyfire), target lock (a better version of split fire) and stimulant injector (Feel No Pain) all make for good additions, though the last one should probably be reserved only for your Commander. Purchase them based on what weapons you take as well - fusion blasters and plasma rifles lend themselves well as Skyfire weapons, where a mix of burst cannons and flamers alongside those prior weapons lend themselves well to target locks. They are all cheap and useful additions to your Commander and his unit, and the sky really is the limit with how you want to equip them; as always though, be mindful that the Commander and his Crisis Bodyguards or Crisis Team don't go over two hundred points per unit. A note here that though I do speak mostly about the Commander joining Crisis Battlesuits, Stealth Suits and Broadsides are also good options to join; the former for the cover bonuses and sheer weight of anti-infantry firepower, and the latter to provide them bonuses such as tank hunters and ignores cover through one of the rare choices. On that note, the Commander has access to the 'relic wargear' section of this codex, a range of one-per-army items; most are surprisingly inexpensive for what they can potentially do. For a Commander in particular, the most popular option will likely prove to be Iridium Armour; boosting his Toughness to five and increasing his armour save to a +2 for a measly points cost is absurdly strong on a model that has four wounds. In fact, when combined with a Shield Generator and Stimulant Injector, you get a Commander with four wounds, Toughness five, +2 armour, +4 invulnerable save, and Feel No Pain (+5), and this configuration will run you exactly one hundred and fifty tacos before any other upgrades. Whilst expensive, against anything that isn't Strength ten or a force weapon, this makes your Commander unreasonably hard to kill; given your Jetpack move, you can stay away from enemies you don't want to face with some measure of reliability, and laugh off almost all incoming firepower. As good as it is, the cost is significant enough that I would only ever reserve this configuration for your Warlord; the fact that it is much harder to kill than a Daemon Prince outside of combat is laughable in of itself, though. That, and it still leaves room for two more weapon systems, meaning you can take a fusion blaster and plasma rifle and have a Commander that is almost impossible to remove and deals a lot of ranged damage for less than two hundred runs!

    The rest of the signature systems are very much dependent on whether you want your Commander to make use of his high Ballistic Skill, or if you are happy to relegate him to a supporting role; though the latter is feasible, it must be noted that a more effective unit for this role is a team leader or one of his bodyguards. The Onager Gauntlet is a hilariously cheap melee weapon that allows the wielder to exchange all of their attacks for a single strike - at their base Initiative, I might add, which is very useful against slow enemies - resolved at Strength ten, AP one; this is there mostly to allow your Commander to have a great chance of destroying a vehicle up close, or risking an instant death strike against an enemy character. For how cheap it is, it could never be considered a bad purchase. Similarly, a Neuroweb System Jammer, with its ability to make a single enemy units' weapons have gets hot within twelve inches, is less than a handful of chips to purchase; its uses are pretty significant, especially when your unit is likely about to be faced with a torrent of fire from, for example, a squad of Tactical Marines. Making your opponent think twice about anything is more than worth the few points. The Failsafe Detonator might be useful against lots of low save enemies, though if your Commander has been charged by such enemies, the Failsafe Detonator is likely a waste anyway. The more interesting options are reserved for higher points levels; the Puretide Engram Chip provides a range of special rules to select from, with the limitation of one per turn. The only two really useful ones here are Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter, as the rest seem to be geared more to boosting a terrible melee units' assault capabilities; it is useful, but decently expensive. Remember how I mentioned the potential for a support commander that doesn't fire his weapons? The Command and Control Node and Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite are where it is at; though they aren't cheap, they provide both re-rolls to hit and Ignores Cover to the ranged weapons of the wielder's unit provided the wielder doesn't shoot themselves. This likely is better served on a Crisis Shas'vre, but it does shine if you plan on running the Commander with Broadsides; Strength eight AP one weapons with a sixty inch range that ignore cover saves and re-roll failed armour penetration rolls? Sign me up!

    Overall, it is very hard to go wrong with any kind of load out for a Commander, but I would always cap your spending at two hundred, even if he is your Warlord; if he isn't, I would try to keep him below one hundred and fifty, as that is the cost of a decently equipped team of three Crisis Battlesuits. As far as actually using him goes, it also depends on what unit he joins, as his role is essentially tied to that chosen unit and their role - for more in depth tactics on such units, check out the rest of the Tactica as it is probably too much detail to cover here. In general though, Crisis Teams should typically be used either to deep strike down as a "suicide" squad to devastate enemies in a nasty alpha strike backed by a cheap Commander - one that isn't your Warlord - or as mobile advancing forces that gradually fall back whilst harassing enemies up close, where a Warlord Commander really makes his presence known in soaking up nasty Strength eight weapons - provided of course you equipped him with Iridium Armour. Here, typically he works best with plasma rifles and fusion blasters given his high Ballistic Skill, though missile pods and the like are never bad options. With Stealth Suits, I would take advantage of the rarity of fusion blasters in their unit and equip him with them, though burst cannons or flamers certainly make for interesting options. Repulsor Impact Fields and other Overwatch boosting wargear also help to keep the unit alive. With Broadsides, I would recommend leaving him 'bare' and taking those aforementioned support systems that boost their damage potential immensely - a cheap Commander also works fantastically well with a unit of Drones, particularly Marker Drones. I really feel the Commander is the bread and butter choice for Tau, with by far the most adaptable array of wargear and tactic options; I would definitely recommend writing up several builds for yourself and testing them out - discuss with your opponents if counts as is ok whilst you do so, and all shall be swell! Don't forget Drones either; they can be very handy on a Commander to add some extra punch or ablative wounds; Shield Drones are particularly useful for a Commander expected to get into the thick of things, and everybody loves Marker Drones! The Commander is a really great unit that is highly cost effective and rarely disappoints.

    Crisis Bodyguards - Given that this article is already too long and that this unit is functionally nearly identical to a regular Crisis Team, I will preface this by saying that much of my discussions on this unit will actually be reflected in the article concerning Crisis Teams. In any case, as far as comparison to regular Crisis Teams go, Crisis Bodyguards are exactly as costly - and share the exact same wargear options and basic profile - as Crisis Team Leaders, otherwise referred to as Shas'vres, in short. They pay a premium for boosts that are unnecessary given they can only be taken - and thus only be attached to - a Commander, namely the Leadership buff. Whilst they aren't really over-costed in that sense, a standard Crisis Team not only has cheaper standard members and doesn't need to worry about paying the price for a Shas'vre, but has the option of taking a third suit member as well; just be aware that they have reduced access to signature systems, though this can be remedied by taking the Shas'vre upgrade. Much like Crisis Teams, Crisis Bodyguards are decently tough against anything that doesn't have either a Strength of eight or an AP of three, though concentrated small arms fire will surely kill them quite quickly; like any other Jetpack unit, you need to make full use of their assault move and keep them out of the line of fire whilst causing as much damage as possible in return. The fabled tactic of 'Jump Shoot Jump' or jumping out of terrain, firing at enemies, and then jumping back into terrain to hide from view and effectively deal damage without reprisal is the absolute best way to use Crisis Bodyguards short of using them as an expensive deep-striking suicide squad. Their load-out should reflect what the Commander has, and for the most part, signature systems are best reserved for the Commander to buff his durability; however, support systems such as the Command and Control Node or Multi-Spectrum Sensor Node work wonders on one Bodyguard that doesn't take any weapons, severely increasing the effectiveness of almost any weaponry the other team member and Commander carry. This is best used with plasma rifles, missile pods and fusion blasters, though burst cannons do benefit a lot from the re-rolls to hit. I would typically advise keeping the cost of the Bodyguard team below about one hundred and thirty points; any more, and you are probably spending way too much on the unit to give them unnecessary boosts. They are a good unit that whilst probably outweighed by regular Crisis Teams, has a place because they do not take up a Force Organisation chart, the attached Commander or other character (such as Farsight or Shadowsun) automatically passes Look Out Sir rolls, and each of them can be an effective character sniper when given the very cheap Advanced Targeting System. They work supremely well with Shadowsun owing to the amazing special rules she provides to her unit, and in regards to the large unit Farsight can take, I would reserve any Crisis Bodyguard team above five pilots to 2000 point games and over; that many points in one unit is simply asking for trouble in smaller games. These live up to their name as Bodyguards and a very useful option for our Battlesuit-equipped Commanders to join; a note that Farsight, Shadowsun and the Commander are the only units that unlock them for purchase.


    Example Builds - Given that most of our HQs tend not to have a lot of wargear options outside of Drones, I feel the best way to talk about examples is to provide those specifically concerning the Commander and his Bodyguards;

    Commander w/ iridium armour, shield generator, stimulant injector, fusion blaster, plasma rifle, onager gauntlet - 185

    Commander w/ iridium armour, two shield drones, two missile pods, velocity tracker, early warning override - 189

    Commander w/ iridium armour, puretide engram chip, command and control node, multi-spectrum sensor node - 160

    Bodyguards (2) w/ plasma rifle and twin-linked fusion blaster - 134

    Bodyguards (2) w/ burst cannon and plasma rifle, two shield drones - 138


    Did you enjoy this article? Do you think my summations were accurate, or should I probably go back to the drawing board? Have your say in the comments below - we appreciate any and all feedback. I hope you found it an entertaining read!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 05-06-2013 at 09:08 PM.
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  3. #3

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    Hey all, I'm Learn2Eel and I am back to discuss the might of the resurgent Tau Empire! This time, I am focusing on the Troops choices - the meat of a Tau force, and where a lot of their firepower comes from. Given that there is only one dedicated transport in the codex, I also thought I would do the nice thing of lumping it in the very bare Troops slot. I hope you find this article both enjoyable and informative!


    Troops

    Given how few choices there are for Troops in the Tau codex, and also that there is no way to shift the force organisation chart so that other units can be Troops choices, this leaves Tau players with very little in the way of diversity for scoring units. Given that these are the only Troops units in the codex, and also that they are pretty dissimilar from one another, it is important that each unit be used in a role it is effective in and defended adequately; though they are mostly cheap, you will typically want to spend most of your points on the "big toys" that Tau have access to, as they really need them more than ever. However, it must be noted that a massed force of Fire Warriors in particular is not a bad option, and Kroot are always useful as additional cheap scoring bodies. Just be mindful that neither Troops choice we have access to is particularly effective at taking middle or back field objectives; devastation, harassment are key here. Make sure to present either a strong mobile force backed by Devilfishes, or a hardy defensive line with Ethereal support to keep them in the fight.

    Fire Warriors - Rocking one of the strongest basic Infantry guns in the game, Fire Warriors have always had the edge over most other basic Troops in terms of sheer ranged firepower; they can be taken in both the numbers and have the range to put many other units to shame. With either of their free gun options having the same Strength and AP of five and typically a superior range given the shots they put out, Fire Warriors excel at wiping out enemy Infantry - particularly low Toughness enemies - and laugh at the high Toughness or low armour of most monstrous creatures and vehicles, respectively. In massed numbers, or backed up by an Ethereal and/or Fireblade, they can absolutely devastate most opposition that get within their thirty inch range - if you are using Pulse Rifles - and as they can move back constantly and fire a single shot whilst staying out of range to be rebuked by most opposition (remove casualties from the front), they are best used to get into a good position early on and then gradually fall back. Fire Warriors are not Imperial Guard, they aren't designed to just sit back with heavy weapons - as they lack any - but rather abuse their superior range to other Infantry and consistently keep just in range to minimise any potential return fire. Their ranged weapon is really what defines them as a unit; aside from their strong armour compared to most other light Infantry, their basic profile is quite unimpressive.

    With a terrible Weapon Skill and Initiative of two, Fire Warriors are absolutely dreadful in combat and, owing to their low Leadership and general lack of Stubborn or Fearless, are highly prone to failed Morale, Pinning and Fear tests, or even sweeping advances. Almost any unit will outperform them in combat - even Tactical Marines - and this is a trait that you can never afford to forget; if they are in combat, there is a probable chance they will die horribly. Between a Strength and Toughness of three backed by a +4 armour save, they can't do much in combat and are prone to most characteristic tests; they really rely on their decent save to survive, and their Ballistic Skill of three is rather mediocre. Compared to many other Troops choices though, they look quite good on paper and - from my admittedly limited experience with them so far - are very effective when used as a mobile, flexible fire-base. Between stock defensive grenades and characters that can provide improved Overwatch or allow the unit to consolidate out of assault range, they are designed to pound the enemy as much as possible and punish them for attempting to charge them. Whether mounted in a Devilfish for mobile redeployment or on foot and moving from cover to cover as it becomes necessary, Fire Warriors excel at medium to long range shooting; the sheer number of shots they put out, especially when paired with a Fireblade or Ethereal, at such a good Strength means they devastate armies such as Daemons, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tyranids and the like who rely either on high Toughness values or massed numbers.

    That they obliterate low save forces is undeniable, particularly given the availability and prominence of Markerlights; when combined with Ignores Cover and Ballistic Skill bonuses, twelve Fire Warriors rapid-firing their Pulse Rifles or firing their Pulse Carbines can wipe out entire horde units in one volley with ease. Against medium or heavy Infantry, the sheer number of saves they force is a handy trick; against typical power-armoured Space Marines, such a unit firing two shots when boosted by one or two Markerlights can typically expect to wipe out almost half a ten-strong squad. This becomes even more pronounced when certain characters are added to the unit, such as Darkstrider; his negative Toughness modifier for the target enemy unit can boost the number of saves imposed on them by a large margin, and this is especially deadly when used against monstrous creatures who rely on their Toughness to survive. With how cheap Fire Warriors are, you can field them in massive numbers and expect to have an advantage over your common enemy Infantry units because of those boosted guns; just be aware that, unlike Space Marines or Necrons, you can't take that firepower back particularly well. Though cover is always handy, that their standard guns wound you on threes or twos and your typical saving throw is only a +4, Fire Warriors can dish it out, but aren't too resilient themselves. However, this is mitigated by a number of factors; their superior range is a great boon, but this is only really effective if the Fire Warriors actually move, fire, and retreat as the turns go by; that, and between readily available cover and a very low base cost, you can field them in large numbers and not feel particularly penalised by the decision.

    Masses of Fire Warriors have seen a large boost through the low cost - they compare favourably to most other Troops, now - and the Supporting Fire special rule; the latter allows groups of Fire Warriors - or other Tau units - to fire Overwatch shots at enemy units charging friendly Tau units, a strong trait that furthers enforces the theme of "try to catch us". As far as the actual weapon option goes, the typical choice of most has always been the Pulse Rifle, between its far superior range and similar number of shots at only a few inches less when rapid firing, it isn't difficult to understand why given the relative frailty of Fire Warriors. However, the new codex does provoke this issue somewhat; Pulse Carbines have a shorter range of twelve inches, but are instead Assault two - not that you would likely ever willingly charge with Fire Warriors - and cause Pinning. Though you can't pin an enemy unit whilst resolving Overwatch, it is nonetheless a useful trait, though I feel the superior range of the Pulse Rifle still denotes it as the better choice.

    Fire Warriors have access to a variety of upgrades and combinations that can boost their effectiveness quite dramatically. They can upgrade one member to a Shas'ui or squad leader, giving them a very handy boosted Leadership of eight - unless you plan on having an Ethereal nearby or attaching a Fireblade, I would recommend taking this upgrade as it is both reasonably priced and grants an important boost to one of the units' more pronounced weaknesses. As well, you can use the Shas'ui to challenge enemy characters and tie them up; though the Shas'ui will still likely perish with little difficulty, it can be invaluable to hold up monstrous creatures and the like and delay them in wiping out or running down your squad. The Shas'ui can take a target lock and Markerlight, allowing him to mark separate targets to his squad with reasonable effectiveness, all for a decent cost; it is more expensive than taking an admittedly less efficient Marker Drone, and thus you may want to reserve your Markerlight for elsewhere, though extra ones are never a bad idea. Another helpful tool to keep them in the fight is the cheap Bonding Knife ritual, allowing them to regroup even when below 25% of the starting unit total as if they had Heroic Morale; at that point though, many may feel the small remnants of the unit aren't worth the points, but given Fire Warriors are scoring, you should really consider this. Too often I've seen a handful of soldiers - enough to hold an objective on the last turn - fail an unlucky morale check and require snake eyes to regroup; the Bonding Knife Ritual at least gives your warriors a far higher chance of avoiding this fate.

    One of the more popular upgrades will likely prove to be EMP Grenades; for a decent investment across the unit - handily paid for by model - Fire Warriors can take what are essentially renamed Haywire Grenades, one of the most cost-effective anti-tank weapons in the game. Even with their horrid Weapon Skill and Initiative, a small squad of Fire Warriors should prove more than capable of wrecking the majority of non-walker vehicles thrown at them, and even a large squad should be able to handle those exceptions. Now, obviously you don't really want to rush Fire Warriors close to a vehicle, particularly given the random charge lengths and the multitude of AP four ranged weapons found in many a meta; EMP Grenades are very much a deterrent and a last choice against vehicles, giving Fire Warriors a far better melee defence against pesky Dreadnoughts, Defilers and the like. Tau tend to do just fine against vehicles at range, but giving your basic Troops the means to wreck almost any vehicle they come across is invaluable, particularly given scoring units are so pivotal in the objective-heavy 6th Edition.

    Drones are available to a Fire Warrior Shas'ui with the same cost and restrictions as other units; Gun Drones provide light medium ranged firepower, Shield Drones are ablative wounds for your unit, and Marker Drones provide additional ever important Markerlights. Each of them are decent additions that you should consider, but given that one of Fire Warriors' biggest advantages is their low cost, you may want to keep all of your upgrades - including Drones - in check, especially owing to their fragility and almost peculiar attitude to give up in a melee. For a player looking to make their Fire Warrior teams more mobile, give them decent protection and fire support, and generally allow them to actually move to midfield objectives with a degree of success, Devilfishes are a sublime - albeit expensive - purchase. If you plan on keeping your Fire Warriors back and using the range of Pulse Rifles to their advantage, a Devilfish isn't necessary - however, if you plan on using Pulse Carbines and thus want to get nice and close to the enemy with the potential for mobile, safe redeployment, a Devilfish is invaluable. I should note that though I wouldn't take a Devilfish strictly for additional fire support, much like many Loyalist Space Marine armies use empty Razorbacks to provide strong and reliable firepower; they are too costly and don't have the weaponry to really perform this role effectively.

    All in all though, Fire Warriors are a pretty strong choice and, particularly when combined with a Fireblade or Ethereal, put out more shots at a low cost than almost any other Infantry unit in the game could hope for - the sheer Strength of their guns alone makes them a frightening prospect to nearly any enemy. Though they are definitely fragile when compared to Space Marines and will flail around in close quarters combat like a wet sack of jittering fish, a decent armour save given their cost makes them a very respectable unit, especially when combined with stock defensive grenades and the Supporting Fire special rule. These are my pick to fill out your Troops slots; just make sure to keep them cheap and simple and not spend more than you have to on them, as they work far better in numbers than in smaller, upgraded units.

    Kroot - In the previous codex, the comparison between basic Kroot and Ork Boyz was popular amongst the community to highlight how other codices had far better value for their 'horde' meat-shield unit. Of course, such comparisons don't really cover how each unit works within the context of their respective codices, but it was nonetheless a valid criticism of Kroot and their ailing use. With the new codex, one might think little has changed; they share a very similar profile to an Imperial Guardsman, with a higher Weapon Skill and worse armour save by one point on each front (this is not a direct comparison to Guardsmen; this is just to illustrate their now standardised profile). Kroot have decent ranged weapons that understandably pale in comparison to those used by Fire Warriors, with a Strength of four, an AP of six and a twenty-four inch range that rapid fires at twelve inches. Effectively slightly weaker boltguns carried by a model with a mediocre Ballistic Skill, the low cost and fragility of Kroot mean that they function decently well as light ranged Infantry, similar in vein to Cultists wielding Autoguns from Chaos Space Marines.

    Their melee punch is minimal given that they only have one attack each, and thus they are only best used in an assault to tie up enemy units or fight other similarly weak melee units; that you can field up to twenty Kroot - in addition to the other models you can add - for a low cost is handy, but Tau aren't an army that functions well with meat shield units. You don't need your units to get too close to enemy units where such a tactic would matter, and the favoured tactic of 'Jump-Shoot-Jump' contradicts the probable reason for taking Kroot. In that sense, Kroot aren't exactly a bad unit in the sense of cost-effectiveness, but they don't really fit into most Tau armies given the emphasis either on a firebase - of which Fire Warriors provide a far superior core - or on mobile redeployment and fire support, where Fire Warriors mounted in Devilfishes are also a better choice. That isn't to say Kroot aren't without tricks that make them far more worthwhile, though. All Kroot have the Infiltrate, Move Through Cover and Stealth (Forests) special rules; they can set up pretty darned close to the enemy, meaning they can launch early assaults or at least draw attention early on - the only real way to use them as effective fire sinks - and they aren't really slowed by terrain whilst getting boosted cover saves in a common terrain feature. This makes them a pretty mobile unit that can get into the face of your opponent early and proceed to either shoot or assault and do light damage or at least draw firepower away from your more valuable units in the initial stages of a game. Whilst this is a decent trick to pull, given how easily Kroot are killed, this tactic may not always work - however, it is definitely the best way to use them as distraction units.

    They can also be used to Outflank and, with Acute Senses provided by Kroot Hounds, reliably arrive on the table edge you want; this is a good way to allow your enemy to move forward to your other forces, and them surprise them with a strike from the side or rear and attack a valuable target or weak spot. This actually brings me to my next point; Kroot can take separate models as part of the overall unit. You can purchase ten Kroot Hounds, whom are essentially quicker Kroot that, as Beasts, gain little because they have to remain in unit coherency with the rest of the unit; aside from that, they lose the guns and the armour, but have more attacks and a pretty high Initiative value. Given how cheap they are, if you are intending to use Kroot as a distraction or melee tarpit unit, they aren't a bad option to consider; you can even opt to add just one to the unit so that the entire units gains the Acute Senses special rule, which is quite humorous. The other models to add are a limit of three Krootox; between two wounds, a Strength of six and what amounts to an autocannon with an average Ballistic Skill, Krootox are fragile - with an abysmal armour save and a Toughness of three - and expensive models that are best used in an Outflanking unit to fire into the rear armour of vehicles with their Strength seven guns. If that doesn't work, charge in with their Strength six melee attacks! These models are pretty situational, but worthwhile; the unit can also upgrade a regular Kroot member to a Shaper, doubling as a squad leader with two extra wounds and attacks. This is costly, but if you aren't confronted by an instant-death dealing weapon, it can be a funny tarpit character against other low-level characters.

    I think that, for the most part, Kroot are an ok unit that would probably work better in an army that would actually support them as a unit without resorting to very specific tactics; most Tau units won't operate in the same manner or area of the field that Kroot will, and as a firebase unit, they are outperformed in every way by the generally superior and more durable Fire Warriors. They do have a very interesting upgrade that makes them an oddly effective unit though, and that is to upgrade every regular Kroot' rifle to have sniper rounds; though they use a Heavy profile, this is a great way to add some exceedingly cheap - like, ridiculously so - Sniper models to the army. Precision Shots coming from a cheap as chips horde unit is sure to annoy most opponents; that twenty of them with sniper rifles costs less than one hundred and fifty tacos is sure to give you some mean looks from your opponents. Be aware of their comparatively short range compared to most other sniper rifles, and again, the fragility of the unit as a whole, and you should be sweet; Kroot upgraded as Snipers make for an excellent, cheap firebase unit that actually has a role in the army and works well alongside Fire Warriors. Use the Kroot to snipe out pesky special and heavy weapons from enemy units that would threaten your Battlesuits and vehicles, and then watch as the Fire Warriors blast the meat of the unit into bits. Kroot aren't a bad unit overall, but they can be difficult to use effectively in the context of the Tau codex, though between Infiltrate and very decent ranged weapons, they will sure make for some very annoying and mobile scoring units.

    Dedicated Transports

    Devilfish -The Devilfish is an expensive, but worthwhile, dedicated transport option that is available to Fire Warriors and Pathfinders only. The latter of the two units doesn't really require a Devilfish for anything more than moving into position initially or if they are being employed as 'heavy weapon teams' sporting Rail Rifles or Ion Rifles. The former is best served using a Devilfish for all purpose needs, from blocking line of sight, providing mobile cover, soaking up damage, ferrying units and providing light fire support. Given that Tau typically struggle to sit on objectives owing to their fragility and less than mediocre melee capabilities, Devilfishes are invaluable for a Tau force that aims to take important midfield objectives - or deny them - by giving Fire Warriors a route to such hotspots without worrying about time or fire as much as they would on foot. In that sense, it really wouldn't matter just how expensive a Devilfish is or what upgrades it takes - it will always be a useful addition for Fire Warrior teams if you intend to play an objectives game and not just blast your opponent into oblivion, which is a pretty viable strategy considering the objective-heavy focus of 6th Edition. The Devilfish can carry up to twelve models - including Drones - but may never carry Bulky, Very Bulky or Extremely Bulky models, effectively ruling out the possibility of throwing Battlesuit teams in there - not like you would want to, for the most part. The Devilfish has a rather surprisingly high base cost, but this is due to a number of factors; the first being that, as both a tank and a skimmer, it benefits from the very handy Jink special rule, it can move flat out, and it can even tank shot with its strong front armour of 12. This means it is quite fast, pretty durable against standard anti-armour weaponry, and is pretty ideal for delivering your Infantry or Drones to where they need to go. It has more firepower than your average transport as well, with eight Strength five AP five shots, four of which are twin-linked but hit on a +5 as opposed to the other four which hit on a +4, and thus averages about four hits and three wounds against typical Toughness four enemies. Not bad, but as a dedicated transport, that isn't really what you should be interested in - however, the light firepower is quite useful against light vehicles and other non-vehicle forces.

    The pair of Gun Drones that come with the Devilfish can be used for general purpose trickery, between delaying units and blocking access to your other units, or simply harassing enemy positions and drawing them out. If you want more firepower from the Devilfish, you can swap the two Drones out for a twin-linked Smart Missile System - this is a valuable purchase, but an unnecessary one. The Devilfish can take one or two Seeker Missiles which work out to be cheaper than Hunter Killer missiles for Loyalist vehicles, but the reason for this is two-fold; the first is owing to the mediocre Ballistic Skill of the Devilfish. The second and main reason why Seeker Missiles are actually decently useful as opposed to Hunter Killers is that, with Markerlight support, you can expend Markerlight tokens to fire Seeker Missiles at the unit that hit on a +2 and ignore both cover saves and line of sight restrictions. Given that any missiles fired in this way don't count to the weapons you are allowed to shoot based on how far you moved, this can be a fun - if still unreliable - method of punching a hole either into enemy armour or scaring off enemy non-vehicle models. For the cost, the opportunity to outright kill an expensive model such as a Tyranid Warrior with ease is pretty handy, especially when your Burst Cannon and Gun Drones or Smart Missile System follow through! Again though, given the high cost of a Devilfish and the focus on transport first, these are nice, but again unnecessary; especially when one considers that those Markerlights are probably best reserved for Ballistic Skill boosts or Ignores Cover for other Tau units with stronger firepower. As far as general vehicle upgrades are concerned, you can generally give these a skip unless you have the points spare, as the Devilfish already does its job pretty well without them. Some are a bit iffy, such as the Advanced Targeting System and Decoy Launchers, but have the benefit of being very cheap. On the other hand, Disruption Pods and Point Defence Targeting Relays are quite useful and, although more expensive, provide pretty good buffs if you actually plan on using the Devilfish as a mobile transport and defensive vehicle in conjunction with Fire Warriors. A front armour 12 skimmer with a +4 cover save just from moving is pretty darned difficult to take down, and for the cost, it isn't a bad buy either. Though the Devilfish is certainly expensive as far as most dedicated transports go, it is a useful vehicle that has a lot of potential uses that make it quite versatile. They are key to any mobile Tau force.

    Example Builds - The Tau Troops choices tend to stick to pretty consistent themes, though there are variations to these.

    Fire Warriors (12) w/ shas'ui - 118

    Kroot (20) w/ sniper rounds - 140

    Devilfish w/ disruption pods - 95

    Fire Warriors (8) w/ pulse carbines, shas'ui, Devilfish w/ disruption pods - 177

    Kroot (15) w/ five Kroot Hounds, two Krootox - 180


    Did you enjoy this article or, rather, find it a helpful read? Or do you think I should step up my game a bit for my future articles? Leave a comment in the comment sections below - we welcome any and all criticism and feedback. Cheers!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 06-01-2013 at 04:49 AM.
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  4. #4

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    Hey guys, I'm Learn2Eel and today I am here to talk about our improved - or new - Elites slots, home to some of the most versatile units you can find in the codex in terms of potential equipment and weaponry. Wherever your Tau force is lacking, the Elites slot is the place to find the antidote to that problem; they are a remedy that strikes like a viper and then retreats to safety. I hope you enjoy this article and find it an insightful read!

    Elites

    Our Elites share some of the most tactically adaptable units on a game-by-game basis, with a diversity of roles filled by each unit regardless of their equipment; two favour hit and run tactics, with one in particular gunning for Infantry, whilst the third is very much a fire magnet that can blast apart enemies from across the map. All three are strong choices in their own right, and one in particular - Crisis Teams - will have a specific kind of unit for them to hunt from game to game; they are your finely edged knife, owing to the fact that they are very specialised in terms of killing power, and as such you should take them to deal with threats the rest of your forces would typically struggle with. Given that Tau have lost out on a notable method of dealing with well armoured vehicles - Land Raiders and Monoliths come to mind - from a distance, and owing to the much welcomed range boost to Fusion Blasters, Crisis Teams are a perfect deposit for these weapons.

    Conversely, Stealth Suits will always carry anti-infantry weapons in the form of the Burst Cannon, albeit with the option for one in every three to have a Fusion Blaster; this diversifies their role, but unless you are firing at elite infantry, you need target locks for the Fusion Blasters so as to not compromise one weapon or the other. The Riptide is an altogether different beast that revolves around denying deep strike play, shattering Infantry formations, wrecking light vehicles and soaking up firepower the rest of the army definitely couldn't; it is perhaps the single most versatile unit in the codex, able to deal with almost any threat provided you equip it with the Ion Accelerator. All in all, you really can't go wrong here, but be sure not to spend more points than absolutely necessary on these units; with Tau, more numbers are typically better, especially given any old missile launcher can ruin the day of Crisis Suits. I would also preface my individual unit tactics by saying that you really should be taking Elites for what you need most after jotting down the rest of your army list; just the way it should be.

    XV8 Crisis Team - As arguably the most popular and iconic unit amongst the ranks of the Tau Empire, Crisis Teams are renowned for their incredible versatility in terms of how you can equip them to deal with any situation, as well as their innately strong harassment abilities that make them a frustrating proposition for any foe. As Jetpack Infantry with two wounds each, a Toughness of four and a +3 armour save, they are quite hardy and mobile; the Jetpack type allows them to 'jump' over intervening models and terrain in tight situations, with the risk of dangerous terrain, but its primary attribute for Crisis Teams to abuse is the 'assault move', a free 2D6 inch move in the Assault Phase if the unit doesn't declare a charge. Given the powerful and quantifiable ranged weapons a Crisis Team can field, they are a deadly and tough - against small arms fire, at least - harassment unit that pioneered the famous "Jump Shoot Jump" tactic; that of moving out of cover and firing at enemy units, wreaking devastation in abundance, and then jumping back out of range or out of sight so that enemies can't hurt you in return. Though this tactic's effectiveness can be dependent on the size, structure and quantity of cover available, as well as the range of the weapons they carry, it is still an impressive trait that keeps Crisis Teams alive and dealing consistent damage - much akin to shadowed spectres that strike without warning and flee before any retaliation is organised. Think of them in this way, and that they are quite cheap for what they do; they will be a very nasty unit if used intelligently.

    Given that Crisis Teams also come standard with equipment that allows each model to fire two weapons in the same shooting phase and grant them Night Vision, they can load up on enough high powered weaponry that would give Devastator-equivalent units a run for their money and completely ignore one of the more prominent defences in the early or late game against ranged attacks. Of course, unlike Devastator-equivalent units, Crisis Teams are mostly restricted to medium or short-range weaponry, making full use of their risky, but effective, Jetpack type and 'Jump Shoot Jump' tactics.

    The unit is not without downsides though, and these deficiencies must be carefully considered when equipping the Crisis Team for battle; understanding the effect on deployment, placement and target priority is also key. Though two wounds with a +3 armour save and the Toughness of a Space Marine makes them quite resilient, they are both lacking in numbers and immunity to Instant Death. With a maximum unit size of three Crisis Suits - excluding any applicable Drones - they can be rather easily gunned down through sheer weight of firepower, whilst missile launchers and other Strength eight weapons that are still common in 6th Edition can put any single member down without a fight. Power fists and monstrous creatures are also a scary proposition, but unless they are as fast - or faster - than your Crisis Team, you should be avoiding combat anyway; another consideration is that Crisis Suits are almost as terrible in a melee as Fire Warriors, even despite their higher Strength and number of attacks.

    Though they are decently tough, their less than impressive Weapon Skill and Initiative of two means most enemies will both hit easier and strike before the Crisis Suits; despite this, they do have a high Strength of five and two attacks each - three for the Shas'vre - meaning they can feasibly harass light vehicles and small, isolated units, though Crisis Teams should really never be put in such a situation unless they can't avoid it. When one acknowledges these issues, key threats need to be quickly identified during deployment; does the enemy have battle cannons, missile launchers, or other high Strength and low AP weapons in abundance (or not), and if so, how can you set up to avoid them or, otherwise, make your other less important or more durable units more threatening targets to the opponent? Similarly, fast and deadly melee attackers such as Maulerfiends, Dreadknights and the like should be given as much room as possible; this is also where the weaponry of the Crisis Team becomes very important, as a team loaded with anti-armour or anti-monstrous creature weaponry can attempt to abuse their maximum ranges as much as possible to slow these units down, or risk a closer ranged assault to annihilate them in one volley. Such tactics should come down to a purely game-by-game basis; there is no single right way to handle these threats in any given situation, as the constantly shifting balance of a game as well as the unknowable depths of an opponent's army list makes pregame planning almost impossible. It should also be noted that the Ballistic Skill of the unit is mediocre despite their elite stature and role; they tend to put out enough shots that this isn't too much of an issue, but any of their weapons can be twin-linked for a minimal cost at the expense of a valuable hard-point.

    As to their actual options, this is really dependent on what you need your Crisis Team to field. No other unit in the Tau codex can be so specialised to a given role at your whim; if you need a unit to provide massed high Strength shots to whittle down light Infantry or even medium Infantry formations whilst your less mobile Fire Warriors move into position, Burst Cannons, Flamers and the like can prove invaluable, particularly when combined with deep striking. If your list has a deficiency when faced with Terminators and other elite Infantry, consider twin-linked plasma rifles combined with Fusion Blasters or Burst Cannons - or even double plasma - to drown them in armour-ignoring wounds. If heavy vehicles are your bane and you lack the tools to destroy them reliably elsewhere, consider the risky move of equipping your Crisis Teams with double Fusion Blasters or missile pods; a potentially costly choice, but one that lends itself well to annihilating tanks and skimmers alike with aplomb. Use the former at close range through deep strikes if you are worried about Land Raiders, and the latter for more general purpose tank hunting. The system of choosing weaponry and supporting wargear is designed to give you total freedom in determining what enemies your army finds itself wanting against; Crisis Teams are unique in that they can be equipped to deal with any threat at a medium or short range, and do it better than almost any other unit in the codex for the cost while not making themselves too much of a target owing to their mobility and small unit sizes. Given that you can select up to three options from the weapon and support systems total, you are - rightfully - disallowed from going too far with the Crisis Teams, which would defeat the purpose of their low cost and high returns. Given that the previously 'must-include' multi-tracker is now incorporated into the (lower) base cost of the Crisis Suits, as well as no requirement to fill all three 'hard-points', you can really tailor them to how you need whilst keeping their cost as minimal as possible.

    I find that the support systems, whilst useful and cheap, aren't as necessary on Crisis Teams as they were before; multi-trackers were the most popular choice previously because it effectively doubled the fire output of each Crisis Suit, but given they are now integrated for free, many will find their old load-outs are cheaper and more effective than before with the potential for more upgrades. Some popular and inexpensive choices are the Advanced Targeting System and Target Locks; the first allows the entire unit to make Precision Shots as if they were characters which, given the weaponry they can field, is a very handy tool for neutering enemy units, whilst the second allows members of the unit to fire at different targets in what amounts to a less restrictive - but paid for - form of the Split Fire special rule. Like all other Battlesuits, Crisis Suits also have access to the effective, but expensive, Skyfire upgrade that allows them to choose to have the Skyfire special rule on their weapons on a turn-by-turn basis; given the availability of Skyfire throughout the codex, this will likely be unnecessary and jacks the price of the unit up considerably, but it is yet more proof that Tau are easily the best equipped hard-back codex to deal with fliers so far.

    Discussing the weaponry in detail would probably require an entirely separate article reviewing the many different 'builds' or load-outs that Crisis Teams can potentially take; in that sense, I will keep this as brief and to-the-point as possible. For anti-tank purposes, the fusion blaster and missile pod are the favourites; the former for busting high-armoured vehicles, such as Land Raiders, at short range, whereas the missile pod is preferred against light vehicles owing to its higher rate of fire and far superior range. When dealing with elite Infantry or monstrous creatures, the plasma rifle is the best bet, whether twin-linked or no, and either in conjunction with a fusion blaster or missile pod, or by doubling up; this keeps the unit diverse, but still deadly against such units. For medium or light Infantry, burst cannons and flamers are ever popular choices; the former for its high Strength and incredible rate of fire, the latter for its effectiveness against lightly armoured foes and 'automatic-hit' nature, disregarding the mediocre Ballistic Skill of Crisis Suits.

    Any single Crisis Suit in each detachment may also take one of the two 'experimental' weapons; the airbursting fragmentation projector, and the cyclic ion blaster. The former is a large blast weapon with a Strength and AP designed mostly to reave light Infantry with its Ignores Cover and Barrage special rules, though that last one is particularly useful for 'sniping' out enemy characters or special and heavy weapons within a unit. The latter is essentially a missile pod with half the range and an extra shot, with the added bonus that it can be over-charged and, after a Gets Hot roll, fire a Strength eight AP four small blast, making it incredibly deadly against tightly packed Infantry formations or Toughness four multi-wound units. Both are decent additions and cost as much as the majority of other weapons on hand, and as such, their use - whilst perhaps not optimal given that you can't take multiples of them unless you are playing a game with two primary detachments - is a fun and cool addition that you should consider. It must be noted that any of the weapon options - barring the experimental pair - can be twin-linked for a measly cost at the expense of a hard-point; given that multi-trackers are standard now and that support systems aren't as necessary as they were, this is a good and cheap option to use depending on the weapon. I feel twin-linking plasma rifles, missile pods and fusion blasters above the other weapons - particularly fusion blasters, owing to their 'one-shot' nature - is the best use of twin-linking. However, given the recent Tau FAQ that clarified you can take two weapons and not have them twin-linked, fielding pairs of missile pods and plasma rifles have skyrocketed in popularity. With Markerlights so abundant in most Tau army lists, you can ignore the lack of re-rolls and instead have double the firepower for a great cost; double missile pod Crisis Teams are proving to be the most common because of their superior range and diversity of preferred targets compared to most other options.

    Any Crisis Team also has access to a squad upgrade in the form of a Shas'vre; given that this boosts their Leadership, this is a useful addition considering their low squad size. Plus, the Shas'vre has access to the rare Signature Systems, allowing you to spread them out amongst the army; I would recommend only taking them after you have equipped a Commander though, and typically, you want the more supporting Signature Systems here. Take the Neurochip or one of the "can't fire, but the rest get benefits" tools and it can improve the efficiency of the team by quite a bit, particularly with an attached Commander. The Bonding Knife ritual is unnecessary here given that the 'unit' can never be reduced below 25% anyway, though it is cheap as chips and cool for fluff reasons. As well, Drones make for interesting additions to a Crisis Team; whilst marker drones are always useful, and gun drones provide light firepower, shield drones are probably the best bet to soak up - and potentially save - those instant-death causing wounds your Crisis Suits don't want to take. Just be careful not to go too crazy with all the options on offer; a good Crisis team should run you under one hundred and seventy tacos, and do a fine job in their chosen role. That, and the more you put on them, the more it hurts when they die, plain and simple.

    All up, Crisis Suits are an incredibly diverse unit that you should really take the time to consider, but not before you have written up the rest of your army list; once you have identified a lacking in an army list, whether it be AV 13 or 14 vehicles, monstrous creatures, Terminators, Ork Boyz, flyers, or what have you, equip your Crisis Teams in a manner befitting this need, and they won't disappoint. They are a fantastic unit that continues to stand tall as one of the Tau's most iconic and effective options for firepower and harassment on a wide-spread scale, armed with one of the best weapons of all; precision. Use them well, be wary of any threats that can engage them, force the opponent to fight them on your terms, and they shouldn't disappoint.

    Stealth Team - Where Crisis Teams will often fulfill an anti-elite infantry or vehicle role, Stealth Teams are very much in the opposite boat; almost to a man, they are tailored to shred Infantry of all kinds, with light vehicles and monstrous creatures providing targets of opportunity for a wily - or desperate - player. Given that every member of a Stealth Team comes with a burst cannon in their stock equipment, there's very little room for customisation here; the saving grace in terms of versatility is that one in every three members can exchange their burst cannon for a fusion blaster, giving them a dedicated anti-tank weapon that also doubles well against monsters and elite enemies. Given though the mediocre Ballistic Skill of Stealth Suits - or Tau in general - the lack of twin-linking on the fusion blasters, and the limit of two max in a squad owing to their smallish squad total of six, avoiding this may not be a bad idea; Crisis Teams fulfill such a role better, as do Broadsides and the like, though having the extra punch is very handy. In fact, given that they have Infiltrate and can take target locks to fire their fusion blasters at different targets to the rest for a minimal cost, you can make perfect use of the Stealth Suits forward deployment and blast apart enemy vehicles on the first turn quite reliably, given how small and easy to hide Stealth Teams are. This is probably the best way to employ fusion blasters, but always remember that the stated goal of the unit is mostly to harass Infantry formations; between four and six burst cannons in a unit backed by Markerlights is nothing to sneeze at, and can put a serious dent even in Space Marine squads; with the proper support, even Terminators will be sweating quite profusely.

    Their firepower is pretty solid standard, but as with any Tau unit, it improves dramatically when their Ballistic Skill is boosted by Markerlights, or such tokens are also used so that their weapons ignore the cover saves of pesky enemies with low saves such as Plaguebearers or Kabalite Warriors. Given how mobile they are as Jetpack Infantry, and with the Infiltrate special rule allowing them to deploy after all other forces, this gives them a serious edge when it comes to flat out harassment; they can do it much earlier than Crisis Teams - though admittedly less effectively against units with high Toughness, saves or an armour value - and do it pretty well given their cost. In fact, that is something you will need to keep in mind; though their cost per model will be lower than an upgraded Crisis Suit, they are quite a bit more expensive base, especially given they can be taken in twice the numbers.

    The reason this is important to note is the difference in durability between the two units; Stealth Suits are, much like Fire Warriors, only Toughness three with one wound - albeit with a handy +3 armour save. This means that, despite their strong save, they are literally cannon fodder to massed shooting from weapons such as bolters and gauss blasters. Keeping them alive thus revolves both around adopting the same tactics as one would abuse with Crisis Suits - that of jumping out of cover, firing, and then retreating back out of range or out of sight - and by making use of their unique special rules; each Stealth Suit comes loaded with the Stealth (I wouldn't have guessed) and Shrouded special rules. This means that they are a far tougher proposition when they actually use cover to their advantage, and given that dangerous terrain shouldn't be too much of a problem owing to their good save, you can jump them in and out of terrain with aplomb - though of course make sure not too get too cocky with your rolls.

    Given that they have a permanent +4 cover save out in the open, armour-ignoring wounds don't scare them as much as they would Crisis Suits, who would have to rely on Shield Drones or the expensive Shield Generators to compensate; as well, they enjoy a fantastic +2 cover save in almost any kind of terrain, making them tougher against certain weapons than Crisis Suits, but less so against others. Considering that they also have Night Vision in their stock equipment, they really live up to their stealthy (ha!) role; intended to fire and keep out of sight, much like Crisis Suits, though their smaller stature makes this an easier feat to accomplish.

    Like most Tau, you really want to keep them out of combat; this is an area where they fall to pieces even worse than Crisis Suits, with a lower Strength, Toughness, Wounds and the like making them even less challenging opposition for enemies to sweep aside. In terms of raw options, the unit has a few to choose from; the Bonding Knife ritual becomes important only once the squad size exceeds four, as any less than five can't be reduced below 25% of their starting total. A Stealth Shas'vre is quite useful, especially given that Stealth Suits aren't cheap; the Leadership boost is always handy to keep them in the fight, though unlike the Crisis Shas'vre, the Stealth Shas'vre lacks the option of taking Signature Systems. The Stealth Shas'vre does have some unique wargear choices though, with a Homing Beacon, Markerlight and Target Lock on offer; the first is useful when combined with Infiltrate to guide in supporting deep striking units, such as Crisis Teams, and the latter is a cheap way of adding in extra Markerlights to your force. You can't really go wrong with either, though obviously the former requires you to have deep striking units to employ it, whereas the latter's use really depends on how many Markerlights you have elsewhere.

    The Shas'vre can also take two Drones, and given the short range of all Stealth Team weapons and their anti-Infantry focus, Gun Drones are a safe bet here; Shield Drones aren't really necessary owing to their amazing cover saves, and Marker Drones are more than twice as expensive as adding a Markerlight on the Shas'vre. All of it helps though, and Stealth Teams are a good choice to spend your points on; I would however say that they aren't quite as 'top of the line' as their competitors are, however, in the context of an army where Strength five shooting is already in abundance owing to the Troops choices.

    XV104 Riptide - The biggest and most impressive model from the new Tau range, the Riptide is a unit that has everyone talking; it has many claims to fame, what with some serious durability, amazing firepower, and some great options that really diversify its role. First up, a Riptide is the first monstrous creature in the codex - the Dawn Blade wielding Farsight doesn't count - and understandably generates quite a few strange looks because of it; such a large unit would understandably be perceived as slow, but the Riptide is anything but. As a Jetpack monstrous creature, it smashes through - or jumps over - terrain with aplomb and without fear of dangerous terrain, unlike its smaller battlesuit compatriots; with access to the same 2D6 inch Jetpack move in the assault phase, the Riptide can perform the same "Jump Shoot Jump" tactics with aplomb, though with less of an impetus on hiding and more on jumping out of range. Given the great range on most of its weapons, this means the Riptide can fire and stay out of harms way from nasty short ranged weaponry - such as Psycannons - and even use its Jetpack move to escape the clutches of mobile assault units at a moments notice. Considering how horrible the Riptide is in combat, this is quite the blessing; with a horrid Weapons Skill and Initiative of two with only three Attacks, the Riptide is unlikely to do much of anything to most units, though its high Strength and Smash special rule - owing to being a monstrous creature - is not without perks, allowing it to kill off a few models here or there or pretty reliably engage most vehicles and destroy them with ease.

    Of course, a Riptide need not engage such targets in melee, and should be kept away from close quarters as much as possible; unlike other monstrous creatures, the Riptide is not Fearless, and thus is very susceptible to Sweeping Advances. Though it has a pretty strong Leadership for a Tau model and is unlikely to lose combat against any enemy that you wouldn't actually mind the Riptide getting close to, the risk is far too great, especially owing to the costly nature of the model and its exceedingly low Initiative - even Necrons are prone to catch you half of the time!

    Thankfully, the Riptide is no slouch in the department that matters most to Tau - shooting. It comes with one 'primary' weapon and one 'secondary' weapon - much like the Titans it was designed to engage from a fluff perspective - and both can be fired simultaneously owing both to its (unnecessary) multi-tracker and status as a monstrous creature. The secondary weapon is a free option selected from one of three choices, all of them twin-linked; a smart missile system, a plasma rifle, and a fusion blaster. All three of them have their uses, and a wily player may want to model all three on their Riptide - this is not just possible, it is a good option - though I would likely go with the smart missile system simply because of its range; the Riptide's primary weapons mean it can stay far away from the action and fire without compromise, and you may want to take advantage of that with the secondary weapon system. Of course, it also depends on their role in the army and what you might be lacking; the plasma rifle and fusion blaster are very useful for targeting elite Infantry and vehicles alike, and should be taken accordingly if you have a deficiency in either area.

    My best recommendation is to experiment here, as I feel there is no one weapon that stands above the rest; find the one you prefer and stick with it. As to the primary weapon, the Riptide has two options; it comes stock with the Heavy Burst Cannon, a weapon which fires a whopping eight shots at Strength six, AP four with a tasty thirty-six inch range. Not bad! Given the mediocre Ballistic Skill of the Riptide, and the lack of twin-linking, this is obviously designed to be combined with Markerlight support; use it against light Infantry, such as Eldar Aspect Warriors, and watch as entire units evaporate when you increase your Ballistic Skill and remove their cover saves. It doubles as a decent anti-armour weapon against light vehicles such as Rhinos or Raiders, though it shouldn't be relied upon in that way; it is useful for putting wounds on monstrous creatures though, and when combined with a Skyfire upgrade, it can make Lords of Change, Harpies and the like weep.

    The second option here is probably the most popular one so far, especially given it is a measly few tomatoes more; the Ion Accelerator, with its incredible range of seventy inches, its Strength of seven, AP of two and three shots. Though it lacks the mind-numbing rate of fire of the Heavy Burst Cannon, its Strength and AP make it far more threatening to elite Infantry, monstrous creatures and vehicles; again though, it is best combined with Markerlights so that enemies are both denied a save and avoiding some extra hits. The real value of the Ion Accelerator is two-fold though; its range is undeniably amazing, and allows the Riptide to be sat in a corner of the game table and fire across the board with impunity which, given it has Night Vision and can use Markerlight tokens to ignore cover saves, make it an incredible threat to nearly any enemy. That, and it can be over-charged like other Ion weaponry; after a successful gets hot roll, it fires a Strength eight AP two large blast that, at such an incredible range and given it can be combined with Markerlights, is one of the most brutal Infantry-blasting weapons in the entire game. Worried about Paladins or Tactical Marines alike? Vaporise them with this thing. Want to give Tyranid Warriors or hordes of Ork Boyz something to think about? Give them the beating of a life-time with the over-charged Ion Accelerator - given that its range isn't compromised by over-charging it, and that its Strength is so high, it can literally threaten most units in the game short of an AV 13 or higher vehicle and give them the shivers. This is where I feel the Ion Accelerator simply outclasses the Heavy Burst Cannon - it is more useful against vehicles owing to its higher Strength and AP, though it is slightly risky and unreliable unless paired with Markerlights - which the Heavy Burst Cannon also really needs - it threatens Infantry formations of any kind far more, and it will actually give multi-wound units with a Toughness of four a run for their money.

    The value of the Ion Accelerator becomes especially apparent when combined with a particular support system option - of which the Riptide can take two - that being the Early Warning Override, providing the Interceptor special rule; given that many armies employ deep-striking units, usually composed of non-vehicle models, an over-charged Ion Accelerator essentially shuts down any kind of deep strike or Outflank play and does so with unflinching brutality. Those Chaos Terminators your buddy loves to send after your expensive vehicles may want to sit up and take notice; the range of the gun is what really defines this, as when one considers the immense size of the Riptide and its Night Vision special rule, there is almost nowhere to hide from its Interceptor shots.

    So, we can conclude that the Riptide has some serious firepower. But what I haven't discussed yet is one of the Riptide's unique abilities; the Nova Reactor, and particularly how it combines with the weaponry the giant battlesuit carries. The Nova Reactor is essentially the literal form of risk versus reward; at the start of your movement phase, you can elect to activate the Nova Reactor and roll a D6 to see the result; on a +3, you get to pick one of four results, but on anything lower, your Riptide bungs out and takes a wound with no saves allowed. Nasty, and very, very risky. So are the 'Nova-charged' effects worth the risk? The answer is mostly a "no, unless you are desperate or kept the stock gun". One boosts the profile of your primary weapon; the Heavy Burst Cannon gains four additional shots, the Gets Hot rule, and fires Rending rounds, whereas the Ion Accelerator essentially fires its over-charged profile, but adds a point of Strength and gains the Ordnance special rule. Nova-charging the Heavy Burst Cannon is the best way to prove its worth, as Rending helps immensely against vehicles, elite Infantry and monstrous creatures; the downside here is that not only do you risk an easy wound from the Nova Reactor, but twelve shots with Gets Hot is never the best idea, particularly given there are few ways to re-roll to hit outside of employing Shadowsun, lots of Markerlights or Allies.

    The Ion Accelerator doesn't really need to be Nova-charged, though it makes it far more useful against vehicles; Ordnance makes a huge difference here, as does the capability of penetrating AV 14, though you should only really consider this if you are lacking in the anti-tank department elsewhere or really need a certain vehicle(s) taken out early on. The other three results are a bit less direct; one allows you to fire your secondary weapon twice, which is pretty handy although I would argue not worth the risk, and yet another allows the Riptide to make a Jetpack move of 3D6 rather than 2D6, though again I would only use this in desperate situations where you really need to get away from closing enemy forces. The last result grants the Riptide a +3 invulnerable save; given how tough the Riptide is, this is a pretty scary thing to face for enemies that would normally have to rely on lascannons and massed Rending shots to put the Riptide down with any kind of speed, though given it has a one in three chance of actually hurting the Riptide just by trying to use it, I too would only use this when times are dire and the situation calls for it. All in all, you don't need the Nova Reactor as much as you might initially believe; use it if you really need it, but not commonly, as those potential lost wounds can make a big difference when it counts later in the game.

    As far as sheer durability is concerned, the Riptide is one of the hardiest units in the game, period. With a Toughness of six making it almost entirely immune to Instant Death by conventional means, an incredible +2 armour save that allows it to laugh off small arms fire and missile launchers alike, a +5 invulnerable save that gives it a handy defence against lascannons and the like when it is moving outside of cover, and five wounds that give it an incredible amount of breathing room, the Riptide is second perhaps only to the Tyrannofex in terms of sheer survival odds; the flux of cover means the latters lack of an invulnerable save is mitigated, though a Riptide can admittedly take a big risk to get a + invulnerable save. Taking a deep breath here, one can also look at the speed of the Riptide and how it can avoid unfavourable engagements with ease; between jumping over terrain and intervening units, ignoring dangerous terrain tests, and moving 2D6 inches in the assault phase in any direction it pleases, the Riptide can - and should - use the high range of its guns to keep out of the line of fire for as long as possible, whilst presenting as much of a target as possible so that enemies waste their mostly ineffective firepower on it; there isn't too much in the game that scares a Riptide. Those that do though include fast moving assault units, or enemies that can exploit its lack of Fearless and cause it to either run off the board or be swept and destroyed; make sure to deploy smartly with the Riptide so that it can soak up some firepower and keep away from such units, and make sure never to forget its assault move. It is impossibly hard to kill compared to most other monstrous creatures, but it is not without fault; particularly in melee, the Riptide will eventually crumble if you aren't cautious with it.

    Though the option is there and admittedly alluring, I would avoid taking Stimulant Injectors - Feel No Pain - on a Riptide; it is durable enough without them, and their cost is incredibly high, so much so that I feel they aren't worth the investment. From the two support systems that a Riptide can pick, I would recommend the Early Warning Override above all others, particularly when combined with an Ion Accelerator, though the Velocity Tracker is also a handy - but expensive - upgrade that allows the Riptide to add to a Tau armies' incredible Skyfire potential. The Riptide can also take two unique, but costly, drones; shielded missile drones that share the Riptides' Toughness of six, have a +4 invulnerable save, and come with missile pods. Though their firepower is minimal and unreliable, taking a cheap Drone Controller helps here to at least give them some better fire potential; they are intended both to give tough ablative wounds to a Riptide, provide some light fire support - which is humorous given they share the Supporting Fire special rule with the Riptide - and use their higher Initiative to allow the Riptide to escape lost combats without being swept so easily. I would say that though they aren't bad, they are maybe a bit too expensive to justify on a model that already pushes close to or above the two hundred nacho mark.

    Overall, Riptides are pretty strong units that are fine additions to a Tau army; they soak up and will draw firepower like no other unit in the army can, and provide some amazing ranged attacks at an incredible range. Their cost, given their abilities, is very much in their favour, and they are versatile and mobile enough that they can engage multiple threats effectively and disengage from any unfavourable encounters at a moments notice. You can throw caution to the wind to empower them to some pretty high levels, and some inexpensive upgrades make them the last word in annihilating reserves before they even have a chance to strike at you. Denying enemy alpha strikes across an entire game board so easily is no mean feat, and given their threat potential against almost any unit and sheer durability, a Riptide is a fantastic option that you should really consider.


    Example Builds - A lovely trait of our Elites is that there is no real "right" way to run them; they are versatile for the most part and can cut through enemy units faster than most armies could hope to match.

    Crisis Team (3) each w/ plasma rifle and twin-linked fusion blaster - 171
    Crisis Team (3) each w/ plasma rifle and burst cannon, shas'vre - 151
    Crisis Team (3) each w/ burst cannon and missile pod, shas'vre, two shield drones - 175

    Stealth Team (3) w/ shas'vre - 100
    Stealth Team (6) w/ shas'vre, two fusion blasters - 200

    Riptide w/ ion accelerator, early warning override - 190
    Riptide w/ velocity tracker, two shielded missile drones - 240


    Did you enjoy this article, or think that I need some more work either on my evaluations or writing skills? Let us know in the comments below - we appreciate any and all feedback!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 06-19-2013 at 07:58 PM.
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  5. #5

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    Hey there everyone, I'm Learn2Eel, and I am here to talk about the new Tau! This time, I want to discuss the much expanded Fast Attack section of the codex; with a handful of entirely new units and some significant changes to previous ones, this part of the book is still very much the preferred avenue for Markerlights owing to the sheer quantity and cost of the units fielding them.

    Fast Attack

    Our Fast Attack slot has notably been the source of Markerlight and light fire support with little durability for many editions running, and little has changed; if you want to "light up" targets and provide bonuses to other firing units, this is the place to go to first. These units perform such roles better than ever, but new potential upgrades and weapon options mean that such teams can be used in an altogether different capacity, that of providing heavy firepower for a minimal cost in a similar way to Devastators and Havocs from Space Marines codices. With the addition of two distinct fliers and some needed re-balances to existing units, the Fast Attack section is stronger than ever and deserves to be filled up to provide your army with the much needed Markerlights to function effectively; that, and more firepower never hurts in a Tau army!

    Pathfinders - Essentially Fire Warriors with a bit less of a focus on simple massed firepower, Pathfinders fulfill a different and equally pivotal role in a Tau army; that of providing Markerlight support to the rest of your forces, and doing so cheaply. Compared to a Fire Warrior, a Pathfinder has a worse armour save - making them bolter fodder and quite easy to kill when outside of cover - and they are restricted to Pulse Carbines rather than having an option for Pulse Rifles as well; however, each Pathfinder comes equipped with a very handy Markerlight, and the unit has the Scout special rule to give them a free, minor redeployment before the game begins. Their firepower is designed around medium ranged conflicts, though their important Markerlights have twice the range of the Pulse Carbines and provide hefty bonuses to the army; in that sense, they are quite versatile and can work pretty well either as mobile firing units mounted in the ever handy Devilfishes, or sit back and prove those tasty Markerlight hits.

    The units role can be diversified further by adding in up to three of the special weapon options - with a choice between Ion Rifles and Rail Rifles - and given that all three can be taken even in a minimum squad of five Pathfinders, this means that the unit can effectively be used in a similar vein to Devastators; providing some cheap, heavy firepower multiplied further than in other units of their type. As far as standard Tau Infantry go, Pathfinders can put out a lot of heavy firepower when given these weapons; the Ion Rifles provide decent anti-tank and anti-monstrous creature firepower, and can be over-charged - with the added risk of Gets Hot - to fire high Strength small blasts at enemy Infantry and multiple-wound squads. The less versatile and more costly Rail Rifle serves as a highly effective anti-Terminator weapon, that doubles well against most light Infantry and even lightly armoured vehicles or monstrous creatures. Both weapons have a long range and are treated as Rapid Fire weapons, meaning they work better in a squad of Pathfinders that aims to get up close with their Pulse Carbines and fire torrents of destruction into nearby enemy forces. Given that taking these options replaces the Markerlight and Pulse Carbine of a Pathfinder, I wouldn't recommend taking these in a Pathfinder squad if you intend firstly to add in more Markerlights to your army; though the extra firepower is cheap and nice, it will often be suited to different targets - especially when one considers the Pulse Carbines - and the Markerlights are far more valuable for the army as a whole, typically.

    Pathfinders have a wide range of options to choose from aside from the Rail Rifles and Ion Rifles; chief amongst these are the variety of drones they can select. Though the Shas'ui can take two Marker, Shield or Gun Drones when purchased for the team - Marker and Gun Drones are particularly useful either for more Markerlights or some light firepower - Pathfinders can take three unique drones without the need for a team leader. The Recon Drone is the most expensive by far, but when mounted on a Devilfish, it provides any friendly units arriving from Deep Strike within six inches a complete scatter reduction, and Outflanking units can choose to come on the side a Devilfish is close to. The similarly costed Pulse Accelerator and Grav Inhibitor Drones provide quite divergent, but handy benefits; the former increases the range of Pulse Weapons in the unit by six inches, making the units' Pulse Carbines quite a bit more effective than Pulse Rifles, whilst the latter reduces the charge distance of a selected unit by D3 inches if they charge the Pathfinders. This is all to keep them out of assault, which is simply priceless.

    Pathfinders also have access EMP Grenades, much like Fire Warriors, and though this upgrade likely won't see use too often given the sheer strength of a typical Tau armies' ranged firepower, it is nonetheless an incredibly powerful tool against vehicles that can save Pathfinders from certain death at the hands of a walker. It becomes more worthwhile on a larger squad where the team members are more likely to survive to get close to such a target; the low Weapon Skill and Initiative of Pathfinders makes charging walkers a great risk at the best of times, but there is no doubt that the capability for destroying Land Raiders with charging Tau Infantry is well worth any price. The Shas'ui and Bonding Knife Ritual upgrades become more worthwhile the larger the squad is, as the more points invested a unit, the more valuable they become to your overall strategy and the more you need to keep them from being swept or fleeing from battle; these points may seem wasted at times, but it is well worth safeguarding against such circumstances. For a minimal cost, you can give a Shas'ui a Blacksun Filter, which I would argue is a very handy boost for how cheap it is given that Night Vision is conferred to a unit if even a single model has it; for one taco, ignoring cover saves provided by Night Fighting likely won't affect Pathfinders too much on the first turn, but it is invaluable on later turns when they will likely be much closer to enemy units. All in all, the main reason you will likely want to take Pathfinders - and should take them, I might add - is the Markerlights; they are simply an amazing tool that no Tau army should leave home without. Pathfinders are one of your two main sources of this, and the stronger choice unless you expend a HQ slot to make their competitor more reliable.

    Vespid Stingwings - The Tau certainly aren't lacking when it comes to mobile harassment units - given that much of their combat doctrine is based around such forces - and the Vespid are yet another example of this, with the unusual - for Tau - trait that they are Jump Infantry and not Jetpack Infantry. Between Fleet, Hit and Run and Move Through Cover, they are literally Jump Infantry that ignore all of the usual penalties or restrictions based around being that particular unit type and are thus incredibly fast even compared to their peers; they can move twelve inches in the movement phase and still re-roll their charge distances, they can flee from combat quite reliably owing to their incredibly high Initiative of six, and they ignore dangerous terrain completely. Given that they also have Stealth (Ruins), Vespid are designed to be the ultimate in mobile harassment units in terms of sheer speed, whilst also being quite durable compared to other Tau units; with a Toughness of four, a +4 armour save and above average melee capabilities, they can shoot in and out of cover - or combat - and tank damage quite decently compared to most other Infantry units that don't wear power armour. Of course, being incredibly quick, able to get out of unwanted fights and decently tough would count for nothing if the unit didn't pack a punch, and thankfully, that is definitely the case; each Vespid Stingwing comes with a Neutron Blaster, that being an Assault one Strength five AP three gun with a tasty range of eighteen inches. That it shreds Space Marines is beautiful, especially given Tau typically lack AP three weaponry outside of their Elites and Heavy Support choices; between the sheer speed, mediocre Ballistic Skill and medium range of their guns, Vespid Stingwings are a very handy medium to heavy Infantry hunter in a Fast Attack slot that typically provides firepower geared more to anti tank or generalist anti-infantry.

    Though each model is twice as expensive as a Fire Warrior, they compare quite favourably to units often labeled as 'dedicated Space Marine hunters', such as Thousand Sons; they are far quicker, they should be perceived as less of a threat, they don't pay for gimmicky rules, and they can actually retreat from any battle they can't win quite reliably. The squad size for Vespid ranges between four and ten, and whilst I would probably go with six minimum so the squad isn't too easy to remove and doesn't eat up too many points, a maximum sized unit is not a bad proposition given that they are pretty fairly costed given their abilities. The only real option available to the unit is to take a Strain Leader whom provides a very large boost to the units Leadership; as mobile harassers, this is key to keeping them alive and kicking even when they suffer casualties, and reduces the chances of losing combat so that they can Hit and Run away safely owing to their high Initiative without risk. Given that a ten-strong unit with the leader will cost less than two hundred potatoes, they don't take up too much of a decent sized army list and should prove to be a pretty effective unit, particularly to those that aren't familiar with just how much of an irritating threat they provide. Though I feel our Fast Attack slot is better reserved for adding in as many Markerlights as possible, a unit or two of Vespid provides a strong and mobile fire base that can reave Space Marines and other Infantry alike with relative impunity.

    Drone Squadron - Given that these can be optionally purchased in pairs for a multitude of units throughout the codex, having an entire unit of them might seem an odd choice; after all, what can they do that their 'living' equivalents can't? As Jetpack Infantry with a Toughness, Initiative and armour save of four, Drones are quite a bit more mobile and tougher than your average Tau Infantry; they have an average save with a higher than normal Toughness, and the Jetpack move - whether in the movement or assault phase - really helps to keep them firing and stay away from short-ranged or melee-oriented retaliation. On top of being tougher and more mobile without the need for a costly Devilfish, Drones as a unit, or individually, can be tailored to three different roles, based on what Drone you pick; the change between the three available options is, helpfully, free. The first and staple Drone is the Gun Drone; with a twin-linked pulse carbine, it provides some neat, strong and reliable firepower at a range of eighteen inches; owing to their Jetpack move, you can semi-reliably move into range of enemy Infantry carrying bolters and their equivalents and then jump out of range. Such a unit is ideal for light harassment, but it could be argued that Pathfinders in a Devilfish provide a faster, more damaging alternative that also provides handy support weaponry.

    The second - and likely most popular - Drone is the Marker Drone; sporting a Markerlight, and owing to the below-average Ballistic Skill of all Drones, the Marker Drone is a slightly more expensive Markerlight platform that helps to boost the rest of your forces with every hit managed by a unit. Given their low Ballistic Skill, lack of twin-linking and restriction of one shot per model, Marker Drones will average less hits than the equivalent points in Pathfinders; though they are tougher and more mobile unless a Devilfish is taken by the Pathfinders, the Drones seem to pale in comparison to the Tau Infantry, particularly given Pathfinders also come with Pulse Carbines to actually damage their opponents as well. Shield Drones should never be taken entirely in units, unless you have a specific plan in mind with an attached character; they are there as ablative wounds to protect the more important Gun and Marker Drones, and should be used as such. Of course, most opponents are unlikely to target Drones with AP four or better weaponry given they are such a cheap and obvious distraction unit - unless you are using a large block of Marker Drones - and as such their value is probably reduced here in comparison to units that can take Drones as options, such as Crisis Teams.

    Of course, the effectiveness of the Drone Squadron as a whole - whilst decent as a starting point - is dramatically improved by the inclusion of an Independent Character sporting a Drone Controller; a Commander with a Drone Controller is the most viable way of doing this, as (s)he grants the entire Drone unit the use of their high Ballistic Skill of five. The Shield Drones become far more valuable when protecting the already admittedly tough-to-kill Commander, whereas the Marker and Gun Drones become exceedingly reliable sources of anti-Infantry firepower or Markerlight support. The last one is probably the best reason to attach a Commander to a Drone Squadron; this effectively turns what is usually a pale imitation of Pathfinders into a far more effective source of the necessary Markerlights, given that they hit on a two or higher, and are both swifter and more durable to boot. Drones are a pretty handy unit that, whilst decent alone as light harassment or support squadrons, are far better when taken with a Commander armed with a Drone Controller; such a Commander should likely be kept as cheap as possible to both provide some firepower for the unit and make the most of the Marker Drones.

    Piranhas - Effectively the Tau equivalent of Imperial Land Speeders, Piranhas are exceedingly fast, highly fragile and have some decent firepower to boot all the while being quite cheap. As a fast skimmer, they can move at cruising speed - twelve inches - and still fire two weapons at full Ballistic Skill; though they only have one weapon that benefits from this, this allows them to move up to a whopping twenty four inches in the shooting phase instead of shooting. This grants them a tasty +4 cover save whilst they are advancing into a better position, and given their fragility, abusing their speed is key to using them effectively. With a front armour of eleven, and ten on the rear and sides, Piranhas are bait to almost every weapon in the game, whether they be dedicated anti-tank guns or no; massed bolter fire can glance them to death if they get to the side or rear arc, and with only two hull points, a Jink save of +5 or +4 won't keep them alive for very long at all. Given that they are also open-topped, there's little that can save them from destruction; keep this in mind, remember their role as harassing units, and realize thus that spending too many points on them likely won't work out too well. Piranhas don't really need upgrades to perform their role effectively, though if you are trying to keep them in the action, Disruption Pods are a useful upgrade, provided the squadron size is minimal - increasing their Jink and Flat Out saves to +4 and +3 respectively should keep them trucking quite a bit longer. Given that their basic weaponry is Strength five, the Point Defence Targeting Relays are a worthwhile purchase, especially if you plan to keep your Pirahnas close to Devilfishes or other mobile elements; the few extra Overwatch shots are always welcome, and cheap too.

    As far as actual firepower goes, Piranhas are definitely designed for anti-Infantry duties, though the above average Strength of their main weapon makes them quite versatile in a pinch; with a burst cannon and two attached Gun Drones, they provide quite a lot of medium-range shooting, and when taken in numbers, can put several wounds on almost any Infantry unit - or even a monstrous creature, depending on their Toughness value. The Burst Cannon can be upgraded to a fusion blaster for a decent price, changing the Piranha's role into a more suicidal tank-destroyer that promptly explodes upon return fire. Their mediocre Ballistic Skill of three makes this tactic even more unreliable than it is for other units of their kind; with only a 50% chance of hitting, and having to rely on Markerlights to make the most of their shots - Markerlights which both propagate in the Fast Attack section and are far better suited elsewhere - isn't ideal. Which weapon you choose should probably depend on what your army needs, though I feel the Piranha is outperformed by both Stealth Suits at mobile anti-Infantry and Crisis Teams at mobile anti-vehicle duties, and given that the Fast Attack slot is one of the few sources for quantifiable Markerlights, I feel Piranhas are more a specialist choice than anything else.

    As the Gun Drones can't be exchanged, taking a fusion blaster likely means one part of the 'unit' won't be shooting at something it can actually do well against at any given point; the tactics around detaching Drones are key here, with the pair of Gun Drones proving very useful for charge denial and blocking. Piranhas can be thought of as a less effective Land Speeder, and with good reason; their role and build is similar, but they are less versatile, arguably more fragile against most shooting, and their firepower is mediocre for the most part. That doesn't make them a bad choice though, but in an army that has lots of other units that perform such harassment roles far more effectively and less riskily, I feel the Piranha, though it has a place, isn't the best option to fill up your Fast Attack slots. It's best attribute is its sheer speed; the only trait where it truly has an edge over those other units, and using Piranhas to their fullest potential requires a deft touch in both the movement and shooting phases. Deployment is key to using them well, as is the choice between moving Flat Out or firing; getting into a good position and being able to adapt on the fly will make or break this unit.

    Sun Shark Bomber - As one of two entirely new flyer units to the Tau force, Sun Shark Bombers - at first glance - appear to follow the trend of the Dark Angels flyers as 'balanced', but perhaps slightly over-costed units that definitely don't compare favourably to the new edition's chief of the skies, the Heldrake. But enough of that; the Sun Shark enters the game as one of the stronger bombers that can be found, with its titular weapon one of the more reliable and quantifiable that can be found. Whilst a Strength five AP five large blast might seem a bit weak when one considers much stronger large blast weapons can be found sparsely throughout the codex - with the Riptide and Hammerhead proving particularly effective - the maneuverability and sheer speed of a flyer means that this is perhaps a more reliable weapon, albeit one that effectively has a thirty-six inch range and relies upon turning and the like. Unlike other bombers, the Sun Shark can potentially drop six bombs throughout a match; though it is one use only. a D6 is rolled for each time one is dropped, with any roll but a one generating yet another bomb to use in the next turn. Unless your dice aren't particularly helpful, you should reliably expect to make at least a handful of bombing runs in each game. The Sun Shark also has some decent weaponry to complement its Pulse Bomb(s), with a missile pod - that can and should be twin-linked for a minimal investment - and two seeker missiles available for your perusal; though the firepower is strong, the Sun Shark's Ballistic Skill is predictably mediocre, and thus it works best when combined with Markerlights.

    It must be said that whilst bombing a unit and then shooting another target entirely is fun and very handy, it wouldn't be all that great if it were unreliable; this is where the Sun Shark's Networked Markerlight is quite useful, as though it suffers from the same issue of Ballistic Skill, it can be used by the Sun Shark to boost its own Ballistic Skill for subsequent shots. Whether it uses Markerlights to boost its Ballistic Skill or fire off a seeker missile at a designated target, the Sun Shark works pretty well when using the tokens either it, or allies, generate. It also comes stock with two unique Interceptor Drones, sporting ion rifles that are identical to those carried by some Pathfinders; firing either two twin-linked Strength seven AP four shots that hits on a five and up, or over-charging them to fire a nasty Strength eight AP four small blast with the added risk of Gets Hot. This extra firepower is very useful for both anti-Infantry and anti-vehicle duties; given that they have Skyfire and Interceptor, they can be used alongside the Sun Shark's missile pod and seeker missiles to provide some very handy anti-flyer firepower that is, surprisingly, quite favourable compared to the dedicated anti-flyer Razorshark. The Drones also have unique special rules that allow them to disembark even as the Bomber is zooming; like any other Drone, they can then be used to block enemies, tarpit minor units and provide some effective and mobile harassment.

    Of course, the Sun Shark is not without weaknesses. As far as fliers go, it is quite fragile; with a front armour of eleven, and ten for the rear and side values, the Sun Shark is very susceptible to the majority of anti-flyer weapons, and unlike most, even fears the touch of a flying monstrous creatures' vector strike. Massed fire from high-rate-of-fire heavy weapons or regular Infantry weaponry, such as bolters, can bring the three hull point-Sun Shark down with alarming ease compared to other fliers, and it is in this way that its impressive firepower is balanced out. The Sun Shark will likely crumble to Interceptor fire from a very popular Aegis Defence Line with the quad gun, and though it will likely be able to drop its first bomb off before it is destroyed, the Sun Shark is unlikely to prove its worth in one round of 'shooting'. Thankfully, the Sun Shark has access to some very useful upgrades that help to mitigate such issues; an incredibly cheap option are the Decoy Launchers, providing a +4 invulnerable save against shots inflicted by a weapon with the Interceptor rule. This is handy not only against Aegis Defence Lines, but also against Tau sporting very common Skyfire-enabled Battlesuits, and the cost is so minimal that adding them in is near mandatory. Disruption Pods are handy, but given that zooming Flyers only benefit from the Jink rule when they evade, the Sun Shark's firepower is mostly being sacrificed if the Disruption Pods are ever actually used, and they aren't cheap either. Of course, the main reason to take the Sun Shark is the bomb, and given that it isn't affected by Evade, you can continue to drop them and stay alive that much longer.

    Still, the Sun Shark likely won't survive if faced by a flyer such as a Heldrake, Vendetta or Night Scythe; given how common these are in the current meta-game, this means the Sun Shark is a risky choice no matter what route you go. However, given that it can drop a Strength five large blast on one Infantry unit, fire up to six Strength seven and two Strength eight shots at an enemy flyer or vehicle, its versatility is superb. As far as pricing goes, I feel that when compared to the Dark Angels' Nephilim and Dark Talon, it is favourably priced, but as always, it pales considerably when compared to flyers such as the Stormtalon, Stormraven, Night Scythe or the infamous Heldrake. A useful unit, but seeing as Tau already bring devastation to both fliers and Infantry elsewhere far more efficiently and with greater durability, the Sun Shark - and indeed the Razorshark - likely won't see too much use competitively. A note here that the Sun Shark Bomber cannot hover, and though this shouldn't be too much of an issue, an intelligent opponent will exploit your limited direction, minimal arc of fire and enforced speed to their advantage and effectively avoid most of the damage a Sun Shark can deal.

    Razorshark Strike Fighter - As the kit sibling to the Sun Shark Bomber, the Razorshark is another new flyer introduced to the Tau Empire, serving not as a bomber but instead as a dedicated anti flyer - and by extension, anti-vehicle - unit that is oddly only marginally more effective in an aerial duel than the Sun Shark. When talking specifically about firepower, the Sun Shark averages a similar number of hits to the Razorshark in terms of Strength seven AP four shooting - the trade-off here is that the Razorshark's main gun can be fired in any direction, meaning it can fly past other fliers, deny them any return shots, whilst continuing to pepper them with ion-tinged death on their rear or side armour - invaluable against Heldrakes and the like.

    The Razorshark carries up to four unique weapons; the Quad Ion Turret that fires four Strength seven AP four shots, a burst cannon that can and should be upgraded to a missile pod, and two seeker missiles. Unlike the Sun Shark, it lacks a Networked Markerlight, which is somewhat disappointing given its weapons aren't twin-linked and thus rely on other units' Markerlights - which often don't have Skyfire - to maximise its damage potential, particularly against flyers, though the issue is lessened against ground vehicles. The Razorshark is definitely far better at dealing with such units, owing to its far superior arc of fire, though the lack of a pulse bomb or any dedicated anti-Infantry weapon means it is definitely a less versatile choice. With its one-use only missiles and weight of firepower, it should do just fine against other flyers, particularly if you use its speed and unlimited arc of sight to fire at their exposed rear armour; that its weapons can fire all around them means that its inability to hover isn't as much of an issue as it is for the Sun Shark, too. The lack of twin-linking does hurt though, meaning its average number of hits is similar to the Sun Shark; that, and a result that forces the Razorshark to snap fire - or Evading - can be a serious deterrent to its usefulness.

    Much like the Sun Shark, the Razorshark is quite fragile as far as fliers go; sharing an identical front armour eleven, with side and rear armour ten, most anti-air weaponry will blow the Razorshark out of the sky with little resistance. A Quad Gun, a Heldrake's Meteoric Descent, or even the Vector Strike of a typical flying monstrous creature will likely prove to be enough to rip the Razorshark to shreds, or at least force it to Evade so as to dodge destruction immediately. As noted, being forced to snap fire effectively destroys the damage potential of the Razorshark. This is where Disruption Pods and Decoy Launchers come in very handy, equally so with the Sun Shark - though, again, the lack of twin-linking means Evading is a bit more harmful here - as the boosted saves provided by them can mean the difference between safe-guarding the flyer or losing it before it can fire a single volley. Given how costly and fragile the Razorshark is, you should probably consider these. All in all, much like the Sun Shark, the Nephilim and the Dark Talon before it, the Razorshark is a mediocre flyer that, whilst arguably a stronger choice than its Dark Angels equivalent, is outperformed by other units within the codex; Broadside Battlesuits have emerged as one of the best anti-flyer units that can be found in any codex, and given that a team of two with Skyfire costs similarly to a Razorshark, I feel it is decent, but not as worthwhile as other choices.

    Example Builds - The Fast Attack choices are interesting and can be used in a multitude of different roles. Here are a few for you to consider.

    Pathfinders (8) w/ three ion rifles, devilfish w/ point defence targeting relay - 208
    Pathfinders (8) - 88

    Vespid Stingwings (8) w/ strain leader - 154

    Drone Squadron w/ ten marker drones - 140
    Drone Squadron w/ six gun drones, two shield drones - 112
    Drone Squadron w/ seven marker drones, three shield drones - 140

    Piranhas (2) w/ fusion blasters - 100
    Piranhas (2) w/ point defence targeting relays - 100

    Sun Shark Bomber w/ twin-linked missile pod, decoy launchers - 168
    Razorshark Strike Fighter w/ missile pod, decoy launchers - 153

    Did you find this article helpful to your efforts with the Tau army, or perhaps not so much? Let us know in the comments below - we appreciate any and all feedback!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 06-01-2013 at 04:55 AM.
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  6. #6

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    Hey there everyone, I'm Learn2Eel and I am thrilled to discuss the highly useful Heavy Support choices from the new Tau codex! I hope you find this an entertaining and insightful read.

    Heavy Support

    Our Heavy Support choices to a unit provide some incredible firepower all at a very affordable cost, with variations in weaponry allowing for lots of flexibility and potential builds. Though these units tend to be quite static, they make up for it by being quite a bit more durable than their counter-parts throughout the codex. With access to some of the best anti-aircraft units that can be found in any codex, I foresee Tau Heavy Support choices being highly coveted for Allies and those serving the will of the Greater Good alike.

    XV88 Broadside Team - Another of the Tau's most iconic units, Broadsides are back in a big way - model included - and have a range of new options that make them quite a bit different to the premium heavy tank hunters they once were. As far as a Tau model goes, they are quite hardy; between Toughness four, two wounds and a +2 armour save, they will laugh off missile launchers and most small arms fire but will rightfully fear lascannons and plasma weaponry - though the availability of cover helps to soften such blows. Unlike other Battlesuits, however, they compromise on movement to make up for their boosted durability; they are not Jet Pack units, and thus do not receive the benefits of boosted movement, assault moves and Relentless. That last one is particularly important here, given that almost every weapon that can be carried by a Broadside Battlesuit is of the Heavy classification; this disbars Broadside teams from moving and shooting effectively, but given their superior range and need for cover against strong AP ranged attacks, this makes them a particularly useful unit to keep in your back field. However, I must stress the importance of keeping them away from a melee at all costs; even despite a Strength of five and a handful of attacks, their pitiful Weapon Skill and Initiative of two will be their downfall, meaning that other back-field holders - such as sniper-armed Kroot, perhaps - are needed to keep them out of combat. Though being forced to snap fire is painful, it is a far better fate than to have to engage in unwanted melee; don't hesitate to reposition your Broadside teams if they are in danger from such enemies.

    As far as weaponry goes, Broadsides are obviously intended for long range engagements, unlike most variations of Crisis suits and Stealth suits; with guns that can reach across a standard sized board, they are intended for devastating heavy Infantry, monstrous creatures and vehicles alike through the sheer strength of their weapons. The standard armament for a Broadside is a twin-linked heavy rail rifle and a twin-linked smart missile system; though the heavy rail rifle is pretty good for taking on anything that isn't armour 13 or higher, particularly when one considers its AP1, the smart missiles are intended mostly for doing some wounds or light damage to Infantry or light vehicles. This diversifies its role, but it can be an annoyance - the great range of both weapons works in your favour, though. Though the heavy rail rifle is certainly a strong weapon, I feel that it is outperformed by the twin-linked high yield missile pods; though the missiles lack a point of Strength and much worse AP compared to the heavy rail rifle, they have four shots as opposed to one which, considering the mediocre Ballistic Skill of Broadsides, makes a big difference to their damage output against most enemies - particularly once twin-linking is taken into account. Four shots at Strength seven and AP four re-rolling to hit is far more likely to do significant damage to both vehicles and monstrous creatures than a single shot at Strength eight and AP one re-rolling to hit, almost guaranteed, particularly in an edition based around hull points.

    The high yield missile pods lack in range compared to the heavy rail rifle, but it is insignificant enough on most game boards that their stronger weight of fire cancels this issue out. The smart missile systems can also be swapped out for a twin-linked plasma rifle for a minimal cost, but I feel this is unnecessary; whilst the good AP and higher Strength are certainly helpful, again, having three (two at rapid fire) more shots that also ignore cover saves will prove more effective against most targets, particularly when considers the smart missiles also have a superior range. My favoured configuration for Broadsides revolves around high yield missile pods and smart missiles; appropriately named the "missileside" by many, this build fires a whopping four Strength seven AP four twin-linked shots, and four Strength five AP five twin-linked shots - the latter of which ignore cover - all at a hefty range of thirty-six inches, all for less than seventy tacos. Given that Broadsides have two wounds each with a +2 armour save and Toughness four, almost any other army in the game will bow at their feet in terms of sheer cost-effectiveness for dealing with all manner of targets - the only real unit such a Broadside team can't deal with is AV 14 vehicles, but such enemies are becoming rarer with each passing edition. Combined with the (expensive) Skyfire upgrade, a team of three Broadsides configured with the missile weapons will prove to be one of the most devastating, cost-effective and tough anti-air - and indeed, anti-ground - units in the game.

    As far as other unit upgrades are concerned, Broadsides can take the Bonding Knife ritual similar to other Tau Infantry and Jet Pack units; much like Crisis Teams though, this is an unnecessary upgrade given that they can never be reduced below 25% of their starting total and thus do not require heroic morale. With a team limit of three, one does need to be careful of fleeing though; their mediocre Leadership does not lend itself well to having to take a morale check every time a team member dies - save the last, of course - and as such, the Shas'vre option is an excellent purchase here. Any member can also add a Seeker Missile to their armament, but I would forgo these personally; they are cheap, but ineffective without the use of Markerlights - and such tokens are usually better spent elsewhere. Besides, the Broadsides don't really need them; they have enough firepower as it is! Drones are a great option for Broadside battlesuits; shield drones are great for soaking up instant-death causing wounds that ignore +2 armour saves, though I feel gun drones and marker drones are better reserved for other units with a purpose separate to long range fire support. Unlike other units though, Broadside teams may take up to two missile drones per member in the team; this adds some excellent and cheap firepower to the unit that is boosted heavily by the inclusion of a Drone Controller, whether through an attached Commander or one of the team members.

    In regards to support systems, Broadsides can only take one, limiting their choices and role; you can't take both Interceptor and Skyfire, for example. Either of those upgrades are incredibly worthwhile - particularly Skyfire - though it must be said that a team of "missilesides" does just fine against most fliers even without using their own Ballistic Skill to fire at them. Feel No Pain and Shield Generators are handy here, though they are expensive and situational; against Necrons, for instance, Feel No Pain is far more valuable as they typically lack armour ignoring weapons. Against Space Marines, however, you will learn to value the Shield Generator - or Shield Drones, more likely - far more, owing to their incredible array of armour-ignoring and even instant death causing weapons. They are all worthwhile in different environments, and thus I feel you should do yourself a favour and experiment with them in varying circumstances - and the same goes for the weapon systems - as Broadsides are quite a versatile unit that excel at providing effective anti-tank firepower to a Tau force.

    Hammerhead Gunship - Designed primarily for mobile anti-tank at an incredibly long range, the Hammerhead is a tough skimmer that doesn't lack for all out firepower; with a main gun that can rip Land Raiders to shreds from across the game table reliably, it is rightly feared as one of the deadliest vehicular slaughterers in the game. As both a tank and a skimmer, it can ram or tank shock enemy units - though doing so probably isn't advised unless its main weapon has been destroyed. The main benefit of the latter classification is the +5 cover save for moving, owing to the Jink special rule, which increases to +4 if the Hammerhead moves flat out - though range and line of sight usually won't be an issue, forgoing your shooting for one turn to get into a better position or survive a potential onslaught is very much worthwhile. With a front armour of thirteen, side twelve and rear ten, the Hammerhead is quite hardy compared to most other skimmers, especially when it has a +5 cover save simply for moving; taking Disruption Pods is a great choice here, increasing any cover save it has by one, for a +4 cover save when moving normally or +3 when moving flat out. This is a very strong upgrade for an already tough vehicle that can make it relentlessly difficult to put down, but surviving your opponents' counter strike will often be the least of their worries; what it actually fires is far more frightening.

    Unlike the Devilfish, the Hammerhead has a Ballistic Skill of four, meaning its weapons are a good deal more reliable; unlike the Devilfish, it sacrifices transport capacity to facilitate a very powerful primary weapon system. The upgrades it can take are all useful, though perhaps less so than for a Devilfish; for example, that which allows it to Overwatch probably won't see much use given the restriction on Strength five guns, though it is handy nonetheless. A pair of Seeker Missiles are available, though much like Hunter Killer missiles for Loyalists, I would only recommend these if you have the points spare, even with Markerlight support; they hit hard, but not enough to justify their one-use-only - and thus unreliable - nature. The secondary weapon system of the Hammerhead can be taken in three flavours, all of which are free; a pair of gun drones which can be disengaged and used for light redirection and fire support, a twin-linked burst cannon that has better firepower but less tactical application, and a twin-linked smart missile system. The last one is easily the strongest choice, owing to the far superior range, the high Strength shots that Ignore Cover - compared to a burst cannon, there is literally no reason for the smart missile system to be a free upgrade here. Take it, always.

    Now, for what you really want to hear. The Hammerhead has access to two primary weapon systems, and choosing between either of them is quite difficult. The stock weapon is the much vaunted - and now far rarer - Railgun, firing a Strength ten AP one shot at a ridiculous range of seventy two inches. This has two clearly defined roles to fill; one, it will obliterate almost any tank it hits, and two, any single model with a Toughness of five or lower without Eternal Warrior will die so hard, they will....die to death. The mere sight of Railguns is known to cause a break out of hives amongst opponents - mind the exaggeration - and justifiably so. Of course, it isn't without downsides; cover and invulnerable saves, as rare as the latter is for vehicles, can nullify any shot; that it is a single shot that doesn't re-roll to hit and can't Skyfire limits its uses and reliability. However, in an army that features the godsend that are Markerlights, this isn't so much of an issue; boost their Ballistic Skill, grant it Ignores Cover, and go to town against any enemy - even fliers and those pesky flying monstrous creatures! The latter will hate you. What is also important to note here is that for a minimal cost, you can purchase an additional type of ammunition for the railgun - submunitions - that allow it to fire a powerful Strength six AP four large blast that seriously improves its viability against blocks of Infantry. Given that many players in 6th Edition are abandoning vehicles, this is invaluable when such units are not available to receive the esteemed attention of the standard Railgun - blast those blobs! With a good scatter - Markerlights help here - you can force a lot of wounds on almost any Infantry unit, with a good result against Space Marines or Eldar alike.

    The other weapon option - a free exchange - is the Ion Cannon, that fires a very handy three shots at Strength seven, AP three with a slightly reduced range compared to the Railgun. Whilst more effective against standard Infantry in this configuration, it obviously suffers quite a bit against vehicles; it doesn't have the Strength, AP or even the number of shots to really outweigh the effectiveness of the Railgun, but it should do just fine against light vehicles. The real value of the Ion Cannon comes from over-charging it; like any Ion weapon, it can be 'over-charged' and, after passing a Gets Hot roll, fires a whopping Strength eight AP three large blast weapon that obliterates any Infantry unit lacking a +2 armour save with impunity. Unlike other such weapons - including the popular Battle Cannon - this has the benefit of being able to ignore cover saves with the help of some friendly Markerlight tokens, denying such such enemies their only defence against the weapon and thus leading to ten-strong Space Marine squads being reduced to ash and blood splatters. The choice of which weapon you pick should really depend on what you need more in your army list; the Hammerhead's Railgun is now the only long range weapon capable of penetrating AV 14 available to the Tau, and is invaluable for that very reason. The Ion Cannon is perhaps a better multi-purpose weapon and, in conjunction with Markerlights, is incredibly more effective against power-armoured Infantry-centric army lists which are in abundance nowadays. I think that trying both out is a good idea to work out what your army list benefits more from - you really can't go wrong with either.

    Perhaps the most interesting option of all for a Hammerhead is Commander Longstrike; though quite a deal more expensive than any other upgrade available to the gunship, its worth is beyond reprimand. Longstrike is a once-per-army upgrade whom provides a host of benefits to his Hammerhead. Increasing its Ballistic Skill to five increases the reliability of its weapons by a significant margin, which is particularly handy for the Railgun given that it only fires a single shot, reducing the need for Markerlights. Providing both Tank Hunter and Night Vision to his vehicle means that enemy units can't benefit from boosted cover saves at range early or late into the game, whilst re-rolling failed armour penetration rolls against enemy vehicles; the latter, when paired with a Strength ten AP one weapon with a table-reaching range, is ludicrous. Does popping a Land Raider every other turn sound nice to you? Yeah, tell your opponent to stop their whinging. Handily, Longstrike also allows the Hammerhead to fire Overwatch without the restriction on Strength five or lower weaponry, while also gaining the Supporting Fire special rule to Overwatch targets that charge friendly Tau units. Laughably, though it can't be expected to do too much each turn, Longstrike can Overwatch multiple times each phase. I can only imagine the ire drawn from a Chaos Space Marine player when their Helbrute charging a Fire Warrior unit is obliterated by Longstrike, and then their prized, expensive Daemon Prince is vaporised when he Overwatches it further - or the other way around, whatever you think is more humorous. It will probably never happen, but that it can - particularly given potential Markerlights fired during Supporting Fire - is awesome. Against Imperial Guard, Longstrike also has Preferred Enemy; as if re-rolling armour penetration rolls against their vehicles wasn't enough, allowing his gun to re-roll to hit or wound rolls of a one really maximises his damage potential. All in all, he is a great upgrade for any Hammerhead - a unit which is itself a very handy addition to an army.

    Skyray Missile Defence Gunship - Much like the Hammerhead, the Skyray mounts some nasty weaponry upon a pretty heavily armoured chassis which is all the more valuable when one considers it is a skimmer. Simply by moving, the Skyray gains a very handy +5 cover save because of the Jink rule, increasing to +4 if it opts to move flat out instead of firing in the shooting phase; given that a Skyray really needs to be positioned well to make the most of its initial salvo against fliers without being destroyed by said unit upon their arrival, this is pretty important to remember. Disruption Pods, while not cheap, are very useful for giving +1 to any cover save the Skyray has; +3 cover when moving flat out, or +4 for moving at all on an AV 13 12 10 vehicle with three hull points is highly useful. The Skyray has access to a wide number of upgrades, all of which have good use; the aforementioned Disruption Pods, the Advanced Targeting Systems - owing to the high Strength of the Skyrays' titular weapons - and the Point Defence Targeting Relay to allow the Skyray to Overwatch and defend itself with reasonable success after it has loosed its main payload.

    It doesn't need any upgrades, but if you are willing to invest more points into the Skyray to suit a certain strategy or tactic, by all means, go ahead. Now, much like the Hammerhead, the Skyray comes stock with a pair of gun drones that, for free, can be exchanged for a twin-linked burst cannon or a twin-linked smart missile system; the high Strength, shots and ignores cover special rule of the smart missiles make it the obvious choice over the burst cannon. However, the gun drones do have their uses; detaching provides a variety of tactical opportunities, from minor redirection, assault line blocking, and providing minor firepower against exposed elements of enemy armour. The Sky Ray also handily comes with a pair Networked Markerlights which - given the Skyray can fire at zooming fliers and swooping flying monstrous creatures without penalty - allows it to mark targets quite reliably, especially given it is Ballistic Skill four, whether for its own weaponry or those of others. This can be used in conjunction with its main salvo of weapons to ignore the cover saves of enemy fliers, denying them the Evade special rule and forcing them to endure the damage that comes. This gives the Skyray a good deal of versatility even after it has exhausted its primary weapons.

    As you might have guessed by its name, the Skyray has two key functions; the first being that it has the Skyfire special rule, and the second being that it has six seeker missiles. When combining the two with its networked markerlights and (probable) smart missile system, the Skyray is a pretty effective anti-air unit that is also quite effective against ground vehicles and heavy Infantry that don't sport a +2 armour save. Monstrous creatures are also a prime target; between using its own - and friendly - Markerlights to boost its Ballistic Skill and provide ignores cover to its shots, even a six wound monstrous creature such as a Trygon or Tervigon will be feeling the heat. The Skyray's Seeker Missiles can be expended via Markerlight tokens and fired at enemies from across the board without line of sight required; this can be useful while keeping a Skyray in the backfield, providing a nasty anti-tank shot against a threatening vehicle to, for example, a flanking unit of Vespid or Kroot. Whilst unloading its entire salvo on a flier - with the support of Markerlights - in one shooting phase may be a good way to attempt to guarantee "it makes its points back" - or, more accurately, traps its mark - saving them for later may be wise, given the circumstances. It must also be noted that moving even a mere inch forces the Skyray to snap-fire all but one of its weapons, meaning moving and shooting with it isn't a great exercise unless you are willing to expend multiple Markerlight tokens with the support of other units. This makes effectively dealing with fliers - particularly ones that can actually threaten the Skyray - a bit more difficult than you would hope, but the Skyray is nonetheless a cheap and effective vehicle that, with its Networked Markerlights and secondary weapon systems, is a useful cog in a Tau army well after it has fired its six Seeker Missiles.

    Sniper Drone Team - Owing to their name, their role is obvious; snipers are best used to put wounds on high Toughness units - owing to their fixed to wound roll - and attempt to single out enemy characters and special weapon-carriers from enemy units, neutering them. A Space Marine Tactical Squad is far less threatening if it loses both its plasma gunner and bearer of a plasma cannon, no? Especially when a Riptide or Iridum Armoured Crisis Commander is advancing in to their threat range. That all sniper weapons wound on a fixed dice roll means they are far more effective against monstrous creatures than your average Troops - though this isn't as important as in other codices, given the strong basic weaponry of Fire Warriors - and, with Rending shots, can be quite effective against any kind of unit with a Toughness value, and even light vehicles with some degree of efficiency. Sniper Drone Teams are quite cheap and very strong as far as most sniper units are concerned; each spotter has a Ballistic Skill of five and a Drone Controller, meaning the sniper drones themselves - who have a huge range of forty eight inches that, with rapid fire, means they can fire two shots at half range. This makes them a deadly sniper unit at almost any range, what with their high rate of fire and being able to shoot on the move with unerring accuracy. Handily, the Spotters also have Markerlights; this means that whilst peppering a particular unit with sniper rounds - removing a few important models in the unit - you can provide reliable Markerlight tokens to other units so as to further devastate the unit you just neutered with the sniper drones. Handy!

    Between +4 armour saves, a majority Toughness of four and the Stealth special rule, Sniper Drones are quite durable too; stick them in cover and they should do just fine, particularly given their range is quite superior to most enemy units that your opponent would want to target them with anyway. Given how cheap they are, if your opponent targets them with a unit of significance, you shouldn't feel too bad about it; after all, they are very cheap and are, essentially, basic Infantry. Tau have far more valuable targets for enemy units, and as such you shouldn't worry too much if the Sniper Drone Team is the subject of enemy firepower.

    The unit composition of the Sniper Drone Team is actually the only consideration when using them; the base squad begins with one spotter and three sniper drones, and you can add up to two more spotters and six more sniper drones. Now, whilst a small team might be alluring, I feel they don't provide enough firepower to justify taking up a very valuable Heavy Support slot - for roughly double the cost, a team of deadly Broadsides could be had. I feel adding an extra two or three sniper drones and one or two spotters is perfectly appropriate, but taking a complete squad is hardly a major investment in a standard sized game; the sheer number of sniper shots that hit with a Ballistic Skill of five available here is simply invaluable, especially considering they also double as Markerlight providers. The spotters also have pulse pistols that share the same high Strength as the long ranged weapons carried by Fire Warriors and Pathfinders, giving them a decent short-range defence against enemy assaults. That the sniper drones carry rapid fire sniper rifles and not heavy ones means the unit can move away from encroaching enemy units and continue to rapid fire into them at twenty four inches, staying completely out of range of some units and only receiving minimal fire from others. All up, Sniper Drone Teams are one of the best sniper units that can be found in any codex, and they make a good addition to a Tau army; it must be noted though that the Heavy Support section is a hotly contested slot because of the effectiveness of anti-tank and anti-air units available here. In that sense, I usually wouldn't take more than one Sniper Drone Team in an all-comers Tau list, not because of any deficiency with the unit itself, but because Broadsides, Hammerheads and - to a lesser extent - Skyrays are pivotal cogs to a Tau army owing to their vital anti-tank weaponry. However, it does heavily depend on the army build; if your Crisis Teams bear missile pods into battle, then the need for those units will likely be lessened.

    Example Builds - Here are some handy builds to use for the units found in the Heavy Support section.

    Broadsides (2) w/ high yield missile pods, smart missile systems, velocity trackers - 170
    Broadsides (3) w/ high yield missile pods, smart missile systems - 195
    Broadsides (2) w/ heavy rail rifles, plasma rifles - 140

    Hammerhead w/ railgun, smart missile systems, disruption pods, longstrike - 185
    Hammerhead w/ ion cannon, smart missile systems, disruption pods - 140

    Sniper Drone Team w/ three spotters, nine sniper drones - 174

    Did you find this article helpful to your efforts with the Tau army, or perhaps not so much? Let us know in the comments below - we appreciate any and all feedback!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 06-19-2013 at 07:47 PM.
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  7. #7

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    Hey all, I'm Learn2Eel and today I want to give my final impressions on the new Tau Empire codex. I hope you find it an entertaining and insightful read!

    I must sincerely apologise both for the relatively short length of this article and the extended time in which it was not published. I have been dealing with a number of illnesses - some of them very serious - for the past few months, and have been unable to commit to these articles as much as I would like. For what it is worth, I will be doing my best to get these articles out to you as quickly as I can, and maintaining the highest standard of quality I can. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

    Final Thoughts on the Codex

    The Tau Empire are one of the more unique armies in Warhammer 40000, both aesthetically and in how they function during gameplay; with a distinctive, almost anime visual style, mixed with hit and run tactics intrinsic to their army doctrine, they are quite distinct. Tau have established themselves as a strong ranged army that favours mobile, reliable and powerful firepower over a more static and quantifiable approach. Their innate mobility, flexibility of choice and sheer power of their weaponry make them devastating at almost any range, but particularly up close; as the pioneers and masters of the "jump shoot jump" tactic, they can destroy valuable targets and flee out of range with alarming precision. They have a lot of methods of avoiding and exploiting melee encounters, given that many units within the codex prevent enemies from gaining offensive benefits for charging; some of their characters and upgrades allow units to "consolidate" before charge ranges are rolled for, or provide boosted Overwatch. The army wide special rule "Supporting Fire" is very strong if the Tau player is smart with their deployment and positioning, and helps to dissuade potential assaults - the Tau's age old bane.

    The army has also found a lot of use in its special characters, a rare trait indeed for the Tau. Farsight and Darkstrider work very well with specific units - often riskier choices owing to their functionality - whilst Shadowsun and Aun'va provide magnificent boosts to any unit they join or are in proximity to. Aun'shi's return, whilst perhaps not the best choice competitively, is still a nice throwback to the glory days of the Tau's initial release - bringing back fond memories of over ten years ago when I first laid my eyes on the blue fish men from the stars. This is where I feel the codex truly shines; it rewards many different styles of play and provides a diverse selection of units that are heavily customizable and adaptable. For fluff and competitive gamers alike, it represents a strong step in the right direction for Warhammer 40000, and is hopefully a beacon to which all may bow before the....I mean, for all future codices to be held against, something truly unusual for a Xenos force. They have an extensive array of deployment options and as much mobility as could be found in many other codices, with strong shooting and an incredible array of defensive mechanisms to protect them from their hated battleground. In short, the Tau Empire are an army for those who can use smart and adaptable tactics to grab the game by its neck and twist it around at any given moment.

    Allies - Given that Tau can ally with almost any army in the game, there is an extensive breadth of options available, and a range of specific and nasty combos to exploit. That they are Battle Brothers with both Space Marines and Eldar means you can use those armies and their powerful psykers - particularly those of the latter - to provide bonuses to your already efficient units, such as re-rolls to hit or ignores cover. Psyker defence is also an important cog to a competitive army list, as many popular armies heavily feature psykers - the Tyranid Psychic Choir is the most prominent example. Space Marines provide tough, reliable infantry and elite melee units to an army that typically lacks either. Eldar work best as the supporting cast, providing boosts to your forces and attempting to exploit weaknesses in enemy formations. The Tau can also ally with a range of other armies, from the Necrons to Chaos Space Marines and more; what army you choose to ally with should strictly be based on what you need, or a fluffy combination. The Tau lack heavy infantry in their Troops slot, as well as elite melee units; Chaos Space Marines, Necrons, Loyalist Marines and the like all provide such units in ample doses. As far as actually allying with a Tau force, the Tau are obviously best used to provide some incredibly high strength firepower at long ranges, but it must be said that the sheer availability of skyfire in their force means they can be used as incredibly effective anti-air forces in a small detachment. Broadside Battlesuits with Velocity Trackers are perfect in this role, regardless of what weapon options they are given, and in addition to a Fire Warrior squad led by a Cadre Fireblade, who mans a Quad Gun behind an Aegis Defence Line, aircraft should not be a problem at all. Crisis Teams and the like can be used to provide incredibly hard hitting firepower that is very mobile; think of a kind of unit that your army struggles with, such as Land Raiders for example, and kit out a Crisis Team to take that unit down - and they will do it, don't you worry. Tau make excellent Allies, whether as the Primary or the Allied detachment, as the sheer diversity of their units means they can be tailor made to deal with almost any threat.

    Other Codices and the Meta - Though the Tau are a strong ranged army overall, their value in the overall meta can often be attributed to the sheer quantity of anti-air and cover-ignoring weaponry they can field; no other codex can even come close to comparing to their potential in these areas. Given that they can ally with almost any army, the strength of the Tau in the meta is immense, and they are likely to have far-reaching effects on aircraft and flying monstrous creatures for much of this edition. As it stands, few other armies are as well equipped to deal with such units like the Tau; certainly none of the other hardbacks. Their cheap and solid infantry provide above average fire support against enemies of a similar vein, whilst durable and mobile skimmers provide fire support from close or afar. They have access to some of the most diverse units in the game - the Crisis Battlesuit Teams in particular - and their arsenal in terms of battlesuits has only expanded, with Broadsides finding new joy with the sheer torrent of missiles they can unload, as well as the mighty and rightly feared Riptide; a unit that can feasibly shut down all non-flyer reserves play for an enemy. The theme throughout the codex is overwhelming firepower, and in an edition that favours shooting above all else, the Tau do it much better than any of the other 6th Edition hardback codices. Whilst this doesn't necessarily mean they are the strongest of the new codices solely for that reason, it is nonetheless a defining and powerful trait; keeping away from them is unwise at long range, and with their host of defensive boosts at close range, charging them can be a pain as well! In short, they are an army designed to stay out of combat at all costs, and wreak havoc as they do so. From cheap and powerful Skyfire options available in multiple slots, the effectiveness and potential of Markerlight support, and their host of reliable and versatile units, I feel that the Tau Empire codex is definitely the strongest of the new releases so far, and they will set the standard for all future codices to be judged against in terms of competitiveness. That isn't to say the army is without flaws though; match them in combat and they will fail miserably, and it takes a skilled general to truly use them - a mere gunline does not suit the Tau, who need to be constantly mobile and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and maximise their damage. In short, the army plays exactly like their fluff depicts; a fast, hard-hitting tactical strike that vanishes back out of range and employs clever hit and run tactics to slowly rob the enemy of any advantage - numerical or otherwise - they had.

    In Closing

    I would like to thank all of our viewers, friends and family for their support in this difficult journey. It has not been easy, with many a bump in the road to disrupt required progress; however, with the support I have received, and the patience of you all, I am happy to report that I am over-coming these issues and am ready to move on to the next review series. Analysing the Tau codex has been a fun affair full of reminiscing and exuberance; they were the second army I collected after their rival green skins, and I would gladly write of them again. Thanks, I hope you enjoyed this series!
    Last edited by Learn2Eel; 05-06-2013 at 09:25 PM.
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  8. #8

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    Not one for the thrust and parry of a debate Huh?

  9. #9

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    Fixed the formatting
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  10. #10

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    Bump! How goes our Tau forces now that the Farsight Enclaves are here?
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