Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - Pathfinders

On the face of it there are rather a lot of options in the Tau Fast Attack section. Alongside the Pathfinders that I'm discussing today there are both of the new flyers, drone squadrons, vespids and piranhas. However, as you'll hopefully see by the end of this post, Pathfinders are the pick of the bunch. I've already looked at the flyers and found them to be somewhat mediocre (if interesting in the case of the bomber) and I'll get to the others in due course but they don't compete well with Pathfinders. I've literally just finished assembling the new kit and they're great looking models. Nothing mind-blowing but a hell of a lot better than their metal predecessors.

In the old book, pathfinders were usually overlooked by people as they preferred to take Piranhas to use for blocking or AV14 hunting. I'll cover the Piranhas later but I expect we'll see a lot more Pathfinders now. The issue people had with Pathfinders before was that you were forced to take a Devilfish. With people not really taking Fire Warriors they didn't want to fork out for a transport they weren't going to use.

Pathfinders are 11pts a piece with a minimum squad size of 4 up to a maximum of 10. They're cheaper than before but now only have 5+ saves so will need to hug cover. They've actually got the most options of any unit except crisis suits. First thing to note is the array of unique drones they can field. The Recon Drone is by far the most striking as it's huge! Rules-wise it has a place with a Homing Beacon and Positional Relay to help Reserves arrive accurately. It's also got a burst cannon which is pretty weighty fire for a drone. The Reserves shenanigans don't really work all that well unless you're mounting it in a Devilfish though. As ever the Devilfish is a dubious choice for Pathfinders as they need to stay still to use their markerlights. Without it though the drone won't be in a suitable position in time for turn 2 or 3 when reserves are most likely to arrive.

The other drones are the grav-inhibitor drone and pulse accelerator (which has a typo in my version making it BS3 for that weapon it doesn't have). The latter extends their range by 6" but since most of the time you'd be firing their markerlights it feels like 15pts wasted. The former, however, has a use. It's still a bit pricey but it allows you to reduce an enemy charge by D3". Doesn't sound much but I'm sure everyone has only managed a charge by the skin of their teeth. Being able to prevent a charge is great as your opponent is either going to take a pile of Overwatch fire and maybe not get into combat or else is not going to risk it. Either way is fine for Tau players. If you can spare the points I'd recommend squeezing these in.

Pathfinders can also take up to 3 ion or rail rifles. It's difficult to persuade myself to take these at the expense of a markerlight and I don't think they're all that good for the points in comparison. EMP grenades suffer the same problems as they do with Fire Warriors in that they're great for that one time you get charged by walkers or a vehicle comes to close. The rest of the time you'll be wishing you'd spent 20pts on something else.

Taking a shas'ui is probably a good choice as these units are unlikely to be in range of an Ethereal. He can take a Blacksun Filter, for some reason which escapes me, as his markerlight doesn't allow saves and his carbine is short range. If you've got the points you can boost your marker total with drones for him but for 12 pts you get a BS2 marker instead of the BS3 ones for 11pts. Once again Bonding Knives are available but once again I don't think they're worth it to possibly save a couple of models who could only Snap Shot their markers if they regrouped anyway.

Essentially I think the best build here is either two large squads of 10 with grav drones or else three squads of 7 without the drones for the same price. The advantage of three smaller squads is that you can target more units but a lot of the time you'll be wanting to focus fire anyway.

Finally I obviously need to talk about how markerlights work in the new codex. They aren't hugely different from their previous incarnation. They're still a Heavy weapon meaning you need to find a good spot for your pathfinders as they'll struggle to relocate. Speaking of which bear in mind the Scouts rule will allow Pathfinders to redeploy. If you find yourself going first you can allow your opponent to deploy and then move your Pathfinders 6" to put them in range/line of sight of a unit they wouldn't have otherwise been able to hit. Anyway, there are now very few Networked Markerlights meaning that Pathfinders are your best choice of boosting units.

Another key change is that Seeker Missiles must now be fired by the unit that owns them but can also be fired without markerlights. This is worth bearing in mind as, for example, broadsides could fire their railguns and seekers at a flyer at BS3 whereas pathfinders would need to hit with BS1 and then the broadsides would fire at BS5, the combination of which is worse than firing them normally. Most of the time then you're better to not bother using marker hits for seekers. The exception to this would be when using a Sky Ray or Sunshark marker (that has Skyfire) to fire a seeker from a vehicle that otherwise wouldn't have hit the flyer.

Anyway, assuming a squad of 10 pathfinders you're going to average 5 hits. Against ground targets seekers are an option but otherwise the best uses are Scour and Pinpoint. If you get lucky and score two hits against a flyer then Scour will help broadsides prevent flyers from Evasion. However, you're probably better increasing their BS. Scour is, of course, also good for fusion/plasma weaponry against marines. In its old incarnation a cover save was reduced by a point per markerlight but now 2 hits is enough to remove even a 2+ cover save (take that Shrouded plaguebearers). Pinpoint is no longer limited to BS5 by the way so feel free to make your Fire Warriors BS6+ depending on how lucky you were with your hits.

There's been much hype about the ability to improve Snap Shots, particularly for Overwatch. The thought of Fire Warriors Overwatching at BS3+ is pretty nice but realistically you'll only get a hit or two. It might therefore be worth using your Pathfinders' pulse carbines for overwatch/supporting fire instead, especially if there's an Ethereal around.

The key with markerlights is to plan out how you're going to use them. If you get 6 hits, for example, you have to weigh up whether its better to make two squads BS4 and Ignores Cover, give three squads Ignores Cover or make all three squads BS5. Situation will dictate this but planning is key.

Pathfinders are brilliant. They're not durable by any stretch of the imagination nor are they deadly on their own. They're going to be target number one though as the benefits they supply to the rest of the army are huge. I'll leave you with this image. Pictures 10 pathfinders getting 5 hits on guardsmen behind an Aegis line. A 12-man Fire Warrior squad could then wipe the entire squad out at 30" range with a little luck!

Sorry for the wall of text, I probably could've written a separate post on markerlights but thought it was a good place to discuss them in context. Once again, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Next up is the stars of the old codex the Broadsides, are they still up to the job with S8?


  1. I played some Tau on thursday with my Guard, and discovered the hard way just how nasty ignore cover can be. I'm glad I took the decision NOT to blob up my platoon, as ignoring that 2+ go to ground save is just brutal. Ignoring cover saves on tanks with longstrike is pretty rude too (Yeah, that guy penetrates SO reliably each turn, especially against guard!)

    Regarding Pathfinders - the biggest improvement in my opinion is not having to spend 80+ points on that cursed devilfish - now Pathfinders can be exactly as they are in the fluff, cheap, cheerful & expendable. Pathfinders can give some people some real target priority issues, as even 2 hit can mean ignore cover for 1 vital shot (when that vital shot is a riptide large blast, or a hammerhead submunitions blast - that can mean a hell of a lot of difference)

    I do think that Piranhas have got a serious improvement too (and they were already good in the last edition!), and they're one of the Tau's best ways of reliably melta'ing stuff (the other two methods requiring Farsight and/or Shadowsun)

    1. You're right, the optional devilfish is a major change. In the past I tended to take them and use their 'fish for some fire warriors who hopped in turn 1.

      Target priority is partly why I like pathfinders so much. If your opponent goes for them he's ignoring your troops and only slightly diminishing your effectiveness.

      My main issue with piranhas is, despite their cost reduction they can't be made BS4 anymore. Yes, you can use markerlights but there are only so many in your army and with every unit needing them there's got to be some units that fire at normal BS.

  2. Great overview. My list automatically went from 8 in a devilfish to 2 units of 9 on foot. Only issue is only having 1 fast attack slot left. The cheap piranhas won out over a drone squadron and our flyer. Lucky Tau can get skyfire outside our medicore flyers.

    Looking forward to future unit reviews


    1. Personally I'm running a flyer at the moment. They're quite a lot of fun when you drop the interceptor drones from the bomber. Piranhas can be good but if there isn't any AV13+ around they feel a bit redundant.

  3. In my opinion the failure of the new Tau codex is the overpopulation in the fast attack slot (aircrafts, pathfinders, drones, piranhas, vespids ...). I had moved Pathfinders or drones to troops.

    1. There may be a lot of options in the fast attack slot but where else would they go? If pathfinders were troops they'd be too easy a decision to take out. At the moment if your opponent kills the pathfinders he's ignoring your troops.

      I don't really think there's that much competition. Pathfinders are a given for two of the slots I think and the other things aren't all that effective.

  4. What do you think about having marker drones joined by a Commander with a Drone Controller? with that, i solved the issues I have w pathfinders. IMO, Tau are too dependant on markerlights and oponents tend to shoots pathfinders first. Now I have BS 5 markerlights (practically making BS:5 and ignore Cover for a single unit a guarantee) that can JSJ to avoid being shot.

    I use the following build:

    Commander w Drone Controller, Target lock, 2 missile pods, puretide
    4 marker drones

    1. PENchip would be a waste on a commander with marker drones. You have the basic concept right though. Commander with TL and 2 MP (he has BS5!) and DC with 2 Marker drones is great. Then make a Marker drone squad of 4, and you're all set.

      This gives you BS5 marker drones which means they are hitting on 2s. Pretty awesome. PathF would be 66 points compared to the 84 that you are paying with the drones.

      However that extra point cost also gives you survivability and mobility. JSJ markerlights are great.


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