Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - Sky Ray Missile Defence Gunship

Continuing my seemingly relentless series of unit reviews we're onto the much maligned Sky Ray. Let's get something out of the way first, it's by far and away my favourite Tau model and that includes the new Riptide. I never open my model cupboard without looking at it and smiling (OK that sounds wierd). For anyone who's ever played EVE Online it makes me think of the Caldari Raven, not in looks but in how I picture it spamming missiles at enemies. Missiles are cool kids.

Sadly for the humble Sky Ray, it's been somewhat overshadowed by it's brother with a bigger weapon. Essentially both are the same tank. Where the Hammerhead has a railgun (or ion cannon) the Sky Ray has 6 seekers, two networked markerlights (which are like gold dust now) and a velocity tracker. It shares the support weapon options with the Hammerhead. However, even with a disruption pod it only comes to 130pts.

Let's take a quick whip through the Vehicle Battle Systems. Take a disruption pod and ignore the rest. I did say it would be quick! The advantage of the Sky Ray over the Hammerhead and Broadsides is its low cost. Otherwise it kind of struggles to be honest.

The Sky Ray is always touted in the fluff as an anti-air platform and by giving it a velocity tracker, GW has at least paid lip service to this. Sadly the rules for seekers mean that (despite the description in the fluff on p.51) only the Sky Ray can fire its missiles. In the past a Sky Ray could be hidden behind a building and a unit could use markerlights to fire missiles off. Now the description of markerlights says something like, "can fire seeker missiles if it has any".

All is not lost though. Some are calling it the Skylight as it has two markers that can hit flyers on 3+ which is better than any other markerlights. In the previous book GW actually rulled that you'd need to hit on a 6+ then fire the missile on a 6+ which was frankly ludicrous. Now you can fire them at BS4 by default or BS5 with a markerlight. Wait a second though, that sounds just as bad. Fire a markerlight at BS4 and then a missile at BS5, that's only slightly better than BS3 right?

Well that's if you're using the "Seeker" rule for the markerlight hits. Odds are you're going to get at least a single markerlight hit. Remember they're Networked so fire BEFORE your missiles. If you use "Pinpoint" you can now fire all of your missiles off at BS5 not just one. That means you can probably alpha-strike an AV12 flyer. However, you'll then have very few missiles left. This can be good or bad though. With no missiles you aren't perceived as much of a threat meaning you'll be free to markerlight other things including flyers to help out the Broadsides. Not bad, but far from excellent. It's worth bearing in mind that if you do choose to fire your missiles with the "Seeker" markerlight rule they'll get Ignores Cover which could help.

Sadly, I still feel like the Sky Ray needs a bit more love. The biggest issue is that it needs to remain completely still to get to fire all of its weapons. With the loss of the "defensive weapons" rules it can only fire one of its weapons at full BS if it moves including markerlights. This wasn't such a big deal in 5th as not only did the disruption pod allow you a near permanent 4+ save but also your Fire Warriors could fire seekers from the Sky Ray by expending markerlight hits. Now though it means your Sky Ray has to stay put to be effective. This is crap for a skimmer as it means if you can't find a building to stick it behind you're only getting a 6+ save from the disruption pod. Gone is the upgrade to make it a fast vehicle too.

It's a bit of a one shot wonder. For that volley against a flyer it could be a near automatic kill but after that it's left feeling impotent. Perhaps I'm missing something but it feels like GW were a bit lazy with the Sky Ray. Since it's parts are now boxed together with the Hammerhead (and always were for the savvy Tau player) there's not much need for them to make it appealing. It seems they looked at it and thought "it's meant to be anti-air so let's give it a velocity tracker" and then moved on to something else.

Now, the best thing about writing these posts is the feedback I get from you guys. I don't claim to be an expert in the new Tau book by any stretch and hearing the opinions of others will help me towards that goal. Am I missing something about the Sky Ray? Is there a redeeming quality I haven't spotted? I want to field one but I simply can't persuade myself.

That pretty much rounds off Heavy Support. I'll talk about Sniper Teams in a post I'm planning about markerlights. Next up in this series is the hotly contested HQ slot!


  1. As a non-Tau player, i'm liking these articles Fella. Thanks for the oversight... mind you, I am tempted to get some Broadsides as allied Anti-air for my vanilla Relictor Marines!

    1. I'm worried lots of people will. I actually don't think they're as effective as allies though as the markerlights make a big difference.

  2. I got to agree with you .. I've no idea why you should ever field one when you have access to Broardsides and Hammerheads. They have implemented a rule along the lines of: The missiles are getting restocked, but that takes a full turn. So you could alpha strike e.g. first turn, restock in second, and 6 missiles can be fired again in the third turn. Or you could first 3 in the first turn, then reload 3 in your second turn and fire the other 3 and so on ...

  3. I think you may be misunderstanding the "Seeker rule". Now to fire off its own seekers unaided it will need to remain stationary, fire 2 markerlights, then 'expend' these tokens to fire off 2 BS5 missiles that ignore cover.

    However if a unit of pathfinders lights up a Predator with say 4 markerlights; you can then 'expend' these 4 when you come to fire the Skyray to launch 4 missiles that do not need LOS and will hit at BS5 with ignores cover. The skyray can't target a different unit but can fire these 4 missiles in ADDITION to any other weapons it is permitted to fire (even if it has moved too fast and would be permitted to fire 0 weapons as I read it). Given that the markerlights are 'always expended before a unit shoots' you may even be able to convince your opponent that you can move flat out afterwards (tenuous!).

    A sky ray can therefore still stay out of sight as an invisible missile platform AND can function as an anti air defence in my reading of the rules. So I think it works pretty well for the points outlay especially with smart missiles which also ignore LOS. Or am I reading it wrong?

    1. Oh I meant to put my name on the end of that,

      PS still loving the articles. I'd not twigged you could use the 'pinpoint' on a stationary one to blow up my silly Nephilim with 6 rockets at once! Genius!

    2. Hadn't thought about it like that. The issue then becomes that they're using up markerlights that might be better employed by the rest of your army.

      I think the better option is pinpoint for +1BS and not worrying about losing ignores cover. Once the missiles are gone the sky ray is likely to be ignored so you can keep marking things.

  4. Not sure if everybody is saying the same thing or not, but the seeker rules are very diffferent this codex. Essentially you fire them in 2 ways (i) using the vehicles own BS, or (ii) using a markerlight. So the skyray can fire its networked marker light at the helldrake and as long as it gets one hit, and providing it did not move, and has LOS to the helldrake, fire all 6 of its missiles at the helldrake at BS5. Alternativly, you could fire a bunch of marker lights at a Manticore, get 6 markerlight hits the Skyray could fire all 6 of its missiles at the manticore at BS5, even if it did not have LOS, and the manticore would get no cover save. In addition, the Skyray could move and fire all of it's 6 missiles if firing in this 2nd mode.

    Where I'm not certain is how the second mode would work against flyers. Say you snap shot 12 marker drones at a flyer and get 2 hits. As I read the rules (p68) the Seeker still shoots at the flyer using BS5! Now that makes no difference for a skyray, as its seeker missiles have skyfire anyway, but for 56pts you can get a piranah with 2 seeker missiles.....and after all its missiles are fired the skyray is still shooting 2 BS4 Skyfire marker lights..... so the skyray shoots at the flyer with its BS4 skyfire marker lights, and then the piranha shoots 2 BS5 seeker missiles at the flyer, which also ignore cover! Not too shabby!


    1. I'm pretty sure they do fire at BS5 vs flyers as the model firing them has Skyfire. Not so sure about piranhas, technically the way the rules work they wouldn't have skyfire and hence would fire at BS1 vs flyers regardless of marker hits.

  5. Honestly I feel that GW has replaced the Skyray with the Sunshark Bomber, which doesn't have to compete for slots with the Hammerhead and Broadsides. Yes it only has two seeker missiles but the Interceptor Drones are a flier list's worst nightmare.

  6. Slightly off topic pal but that pic of your sky ray really does the colour scheme justice. Good choice.

  7. I am personally quite enjoying my skyrays this edition. They are brilliant because they are devastatingly effective first turn, and are just ignored after that. This means that you can then just sit there plinking away with your markerlights and smart missile system, being just about unkillable and probably being ignored


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