Friday, January 13, 2012

My (current) 2,000pt Tau Army List and Tactics


As you may have read I've been playing Tau a lot recently. In between planning my many different Space Wolf armies for various tournaments I kept opening up my Tau spreadsheet and throwing some units around to think what would work. I came up with something that I really liked. A streamlined Tau list with lots of the things I liked. I think my problem with Tau before was that I wanted a bit of everything in there. I like pathfinders and skyrays. I thought stealthsuits were cool and I even played with an Ethereal a couple of times. What the hell was I thinking?

Anyway, I saw the light and I've had some great games recently with this list:

2,000pts of Tau
Shas'o w/ fusion blaster, AFP, shield gen, HWMT and stimulant injector (142pts)
Shas'o w/ fusion blaster, plasma rifle, shield gen, HWMT (132pts)
2x Shas'vre bodyguar w/ fusion blaster, plasma rifle, shield gen, HWMT (184pts)

2x Crisis Shas'ui with twin-linked missile pods and flamer (94pts)
2x Crisis Shas'ui with twin-linked missile pods and flamer (94pts)
2x Crisis Shas'ui with twin-linked missile pods and flamer (94pts) 

6x Firewarriors w/ pulse rifles in a devilfish with disruption pods (145pts)
6x Firewarriors w/ pulse rifles in a devilfish with disruption pods (145pts)
6x Firewarriors w/ pulse rifles in a devilfish with disruption pods (145pts)
10x Kroot Carnivores

Piranha w/ fusion blaster and targetting array (70pts)
Piranha w/ fusion blaster and targetting array (70pts)
Piranha w/ fusion blaster and targetting array (70pts)

Hammerhead w/ railgun, burst cannons and disruption pod (155pts)
2x Broadsides w/ ASS, squad leader w/ drone controller and 2x shield drones (195pts)
2x Broadsides w/ ASS, squad leader w/ drone controller and 2x shield drones (195pts)

This also works well (if not better) at 1,750pts if you ditch the kroot, hammerhead and 1 shield drone each from the broadsides.

Army Overview
The lone commander will either stay solo and take advantage of FNP and his 3+/4++ save to keep him alive or he can join any of the crisis teams.  The kroot can either hug a home objective in cover (preferably trees of course) or can make use of their infiltrate/outflank to disrupt enemy heavy weapons teams. They're pretty much throw away but they're about the only thing that really is.

The commander and bodyguard are difficult to shift with them all having 3+/4++ saves. They'll usually be held in Deep Strike reserve and target the death star in the enemy army.

Army-wide Tactics
There's no doubting that this army wants first turn but it won't struggle when it goes second. I'll talk about what to do if you go first and then I'll briefly talk about how you'd change things if you're going second.

It's not revolutionary for me to say that playing Tau (or any army really) well, relies on getting a good deployment. The key here is to think about what units your opponent is going to want to hit as a priority. Most armies you face won't like your broadsides and hammerhead. It's therefore crucial to space your heavy support out across your deployment zone so that they can't hit all three in quick succession.

You should never put yourself in a position where you can be multi-charged. Not only does this waste units but it also means your opponent might end up staying locked in combat and coming out at the end of your turn. This is bad. Always be thinking about which units are likely to get charged and use your jet pack assault phase moves to keep your units spread out. When disembarking your firewarriors try to do so before your devilfish moves and then get it clear. You're going to lose pretty much every combat with your firewarriors but make sure you're in a position to capitalise on this when you do.

When your opponent is likely to be able to charge one of your vehicles next turn, make sure you move it over 6". Your piranhas can still fire and your devilfish aren't that deadly anyway so better to keep them alive than stay still to shoot.

Your opponent is unlikely to have the firepower to sit back at range and chip away at you. Your vehicles and suits are pretty resilient so he'll need to close range to use melta or close combat to deal with them. This will bring him in rapid fire range.

Target priority is key. I don't mean the old rule that is mentioned about 50 times in the codex. What I mean is that you need to think about the biggest threats to your army. Focus on your opponents long range firepower with your longer range firepower. Your broadsides can make a mess of dreadnoughts and land raiders whilst the crisis suits deal with transports. Always remember to use Jump-Shoot-Jump to get your suits back in cover or out of range after you've fired. If something comes close, switch to flamers on your crisis suits and disembark your fire warriors for a bit of rapid fire. You don't have much low AP so make the most of your S5 weapons by forcing a lot of armour saves. Position your units so that you can get some overlapping firepower in several places on the board.

Don't waste your firepower on soft targets. I made this mistake against Matt's GK and it gave him a narrow victory. If you feel like you've got enough shots on a unit to deal with it then use the rest of your firepower on something else. Positioning is important.

There's no doubting that you've got a lot of KPs (16 in total) in this army but you've also got plenty of redundancy. I don't care if I lose a squad of firewarriors for 60 points if it means you've commited your 200pt marine unit into the open to do so. So what if you kill my crisis suits, I've got another pair where they came from.

Going Second
Try and deploy your army so that most of your units will be in cover. As with going first stay well back and use your range to your advantage. Accept that you're going to lose a couple of things but remember that you've got plenty of units to replace them. Study your opponent's deployment and think about how to maximise the fire you can put down on him. Try and predict where he'll move units and position yours so that you can hit them without a cover save. Remember your piranhas don't have disruption pods so keep them at range and in cover for now.

Your opponent is likely to come to you. This plays in your favour as it means you can get more firepower down on him early on and if you pop transports he'll be very exposed.

Unit Specific Tactics
Let's go through the list and talk about the role each unit is designed for and why I've chosen the upgrades I have. Firstly, the lone commander has his airbursting fragmentation projector. This combined with the flamers of the crisis team he might join force your opponent to worry about his formation. This means he's more focused on spreading his models out than he is on ranges etc. If you can catch a unit thats just disembarked, been forced to disembark, just left combat or is clumped up for any other reason, you can make them regret it by dropping a large blast (that won't scatter far with BS5) and a couple of flamers on him. If you're in range of a squad thats got out of a rhino's side hatch and you hit with the large blast you could make him take a dozen armour saves. Combine this with some fire from elsewhere and you can thin that unit out nicely.

The other commander and his bodyguard have a pretty clear role. Most of the time I'll bring them in from deep strike as I like to have something to worry stuff at the back of the field. They're also excellent death star killers. Drop them near an expensive tank or unit and let rip with all that low AP fire. Terminators (even with storm shields) won't like making that many invulnerable saves. They'll then be faced with a choice. Charge you and have to chew through 8 wounds and 3+/4++ saves or ignore you and take another volley from that low AP weaponry. Most opponents will chose to charge and you should be able to hold them in combat for a while. This might seem like a waste of 316pts tied up in combat but remember your opponent's unit probably costs more and the rest of your army can ignore them for a couple of turns.

The crisis suits are pretty obvious. Jump them forwards to get them in range of enemy transports and use your missile pods to bring them down. Then jump back into the shadows in the assault phase. If your opponent gets to close then open up with the flamers and force some saves.

Your fire warriors are your objective holders. Don't try and be a hero with them. They're frankly not up to it. Keep them in their transports as long as possible and use the AV12 front armour and disruption pods to keep the 'fish alive as long as possible. If something comes in close and you've got other support then by all means drop of the warriors for some rapid fire. Don't try and use their 30" shots unless they've lost their transport because they'll miss with half anyway. Towards turn 4/5 start moving any space 'fish 12" to get to some objectives.

The kroot are a recent addition to this list. I originally had 8 fire warriors in each transport but decided I wanted some kroot to harass my opponent. You've got a couple of options with them, either infiltrate them and get some rapid fire down early on (unlikely if you don't pop some transports with the rest of your fire) or outflank them and bring them on near your opponents more static units at the back. Don't charge anything with them unless you know you're going to beat it! By all means charge necron warriors in small numbers, guardsmen or even very small marine units.

The piranhas are my favourite part of the list. Not only do I love models but they're a great harassment. If you're going first deploy them further forward than the rest of your army. First turn, move them over 12" to get your cover save and then in subsequent turns either do the same or use their fusion guns to bring down something juicy. Late on in the game make sure you've got them in 24" range of an enemy-held objective for some cheeky contesting. It's amazing how hard it is to shift an AV11 vehicle that moved 24". You could even consider ramming soft vehicle targets as a last resort. Drop off your drones to contest objectives and harass troops. Remember in Annihilation games that they'll be a soft KP for your opponent so keep them mounted unless it's worth it.

The hammerhead is pretty versatile. It isn't the tank killer that the broadsides are but it's submunition is great against massed troops. It's particularly good against scarabs as I found out recently. Not only does the blast instant kill scarab bases but each unsaved wound kills another thanks to Swarm rules. AV13 is going to annoy your opponent especially when combined with a disruption pod.

Finally, the broadsides. They're easily the best thing about the Tau codex and I only recently saw the point of Advanced Stabilisation Systems. I used to give them Targetting Arrays to ensure I hit the target but the ASS allows them to manouvre and minimise the chance of your opponent getting a cover save. It can also be used to put your suits just out of charge range to frustrate your opponent. This is just as imporant as hitting the target so it's worth using them over improved BS. With the shield drones they're going to be annoying to deal with at range. Any low AP or S8+ shots should be applied to the drones where you can but bear in mind you might need a leadership test. With the drones' 4++ save they should keep you alive for the first few turns. You'll still fold in combat but your opponent will have to get there first. By placing the two teams at opposite sides of the board you should be able to keep one of them alive a bit longer.

It's by no means easy doing well with Tau. The game I had against Matt was one of the most intense I've played because I had to really concentrate on my tactics. They aren't as forgiving as Space Marines so you really have to be on the ball. It can be counter-intuitive to try and deliberately throw units away in combat but you need to manipulate this as your opponent will be trying to stay locked until his turn.

If anyone has an old Tau army that isn't getting much love at the moment I really encourage you to dust them off and give them a fresh look. You'll get a lot more respect if you do well with them than you would with GK anyway!

I appreciate that this tactica might be totally useless once the new codex comes out but who knows when that'll be and at least I might've rekindled someone's love for the army for when it does! I also realise that I might have to eat my words when my Tau fail miserably at Jolly Toys!


  1. As a long time Tau player (since their initial introduction... well technically before as I was working with GW at the time and got them early) There are things I like about your list, but other things I strongly dislike and flatly disagree with.

    The main thing is the insistence on the minimum fire warrior squads. To be fair seems to be purported by the vast majority of the blogging community, and you did admit to having larger squads before (and I would say that adding kroot was a good choice).

    The problem with the fire warriors is that you are effectively playing the game where 180pts is never doing anything... and if you include the devilfishes in that as you will mostly be playing defensive with them then a whopping 435pts of your army is literally not taking part. That's a massive investment to capture objectives! In a 1750pt list that's 25%... read that again... 25%. A full quarter of your army that is not participating! Would you dream of doing that with any other army??

    Like you rightly point out... playing with Tau is tough. But why give your opponent a point advantage?

    1. Thanks for the comment mate.

      On the fire warrior thing. I don't have them completely doing nothing though. As I said they'll be claiming objectives, which, after all, is 2/3 of the current missions. They also add fire support when enemy units close in.

      I originally used them in squads of 12 and did the old 'fish of fury thing. However, what always happened was they barely scratched a unit and then got wiped out.

      The question is: what do you take for troops instead? Kroot aren't going to last the game frankly. Not to mention you HAVE to take some fire warriors.

      With most other armies you don't have to sacrifice 25% of your army. For example, with my wolves the scoring units are grey hunters, the best troops in the game.

      What do you do with your fire warriors?

  2. granted, the warriors are capturing objectives, but thats the same with any troops in any army, and they will (normally) be used for much more!

    I think part of the problem is that 12 fire warriors won't wipe out a target. but the key is never to leave them on their own. I tend to use 8-10 strong units, at 2000pts, its 4 of them (plus a unit of kroot). Pairing the warriors means that I can hit a target with 16-20 shots... plus the added beef of two transports. The real thing though, is to partner fire warrior blocks with other units. In your case, supporting warriors with XV8s will help them destroy their target utterly, whilst escorting the fishes with piranhas will help you expand your frontage and prevent enemy counter-attacks.

    Of course, it also helps that my 2000pt list also features markerlights which help me to boost shooting against targets that really must die.

    One trick I think you are missing is to add target locks to the XV88s and instantly double the targets you can threaten with them. This means that you should be able to divert the anti-tank focus from parts of the rest of your army...

    1. Well I'm somewhat limited by the models I have. Was tempted to grab another battleforce but I doubt I'll get them ready in time for Jolly Toys.

      I considered dropping the lone commander in favour of some pathfinders and swapping the hammerhead for a skyray. Trouble is that I tend to find pathfinders a bit hit and miss. If your opponent has any sense they die pretty early. You end up needing two squads and then I'm losing piranhas.

      Markerlights on other units are over priced and lack functionality. I can easily get the target locks in. I originally dropped them to find points for another shield drone each. This is a good discussion though. Especially since my list has to be in by Friday and I've got lots of painting to do!

  3. The thing is, whilst I understand the idea of redundancy, there is a fine line to draw between that and spam. The problem is that in my experience, spamming units doesn't work as well for Tau as it does for other armies. I don't believe that our individual units are not flexible enough to cover enough situations for this to work (all the time).

    The list presented would probably do really well against mech guard or mech eldar... You may have JUST enough quantity to take on elite armies such as draigowing.. deathwing will make you work harder thanks to the deathwing assault... but for me it lacks punch OR volume of fire to be most effective against an army that has a quantity of marines (such as a blood angel jump army). Also, as it definately seems built to face the mechspam forces what happens if you come up against something unexpected? Such as an infantry guard or Ork horde? You have SOME tools for that, but dare I say not enough?

    It's for these reasons that I believe this sort of redundancy doesn't work so well for Tau. Your list doesn't look like it can take on all comers... unless all the comers are subscribing to a particular principle?

    I don't want to sound so negative though, Of course, just because this sort of thing doesn't work for me, doesn't mean it doesnt work!

    1. I've written a new list in a post that should be published in a few minutes. Bear in mind I've got limits as to what I can do with the models available. I'd be interested to know what you think though.



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