Tuesday, April 09, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - XV104 Riptide

Following on from Monday's post about the new Tau flyers here's another about the most talked about model of the new release, the XV104 Riptide. Before I talk about how it plays, let me say that it's easily one of the best GW models I've ever put together. If you stick to the pinned pose then it goes together incredibly quickly. Even when pinned there's still some pose variety possible as the torso can swivel and the arms are able to flex at the elbow and move freely at the shoulder. In my case I built it onto a scenic base (some slate from the garden) and posed it using free movement on all the joints. It's a stunning model. Slightly smaller than I'd hoped but still an imposing sight on the battlefield. I'll post up some shots of it when he's finished (don't hold your breath!).

Anyway, onto how he performs in the game. The internet has been built up into a frenzy with people talking about how they're going to be an automatic choice and how 3 of them will be in every Tau list. Personally I don't see it. Don't get me wrong they're far from a bad choice but let's look at them in more detail to see why I don't think they're as hot as some seem to think. Let's start then by talking about the best build for them.

There's no denying that they're an expensive unit. Starting at 180pts and costing anywhere up to 290pts when fully equipped. The basic Riptide is already incredibly durable with T6, 5 wounds and a 2++ save. Add to that the JSJ move than Tau are synomymous with and he's pretty tricky to deal with. There'd certainly be nothing wrong with running him in his vanilla form.

However, the first thing I'd do is swap out the heavy burst cannon for the ion accelerator. The burst cannon isn't bad but even when "nova'd" it's only putting out 12 rending shots that, without markerlights, only equate to 6 hits on average. Factor in the risk of failure to nova (and losing a wound) and that is far from worth 180pts. The ion accelerator is far better for the simple reason that most of the time there's no point using Nova on it. By Overcharging the weapon becomes S8 large blast. Nova makes it S9 ordnance. Great for taking on vehicles of course but both types of shot are AP2 so if you're firing at ground targets why risk the Nova? This means most of the time you aren't risking losing a wound at all. Get's Hot really shouldn't be an issue with a 1 in 6 chance followed by a 2+ save.

The missile drones are expensive but 50pts for a more durable riptide isn't bad in my opinion. They add two 4++ saves and at T6 they're not hampering the suit itself. They're not just hovering round like conventional shield drones either with a missile pod each. The secondary weapon is probably best as a fusion blaster. In an army that used to have no issues with AV14, you now find melta to be important once again. Given that it's free, has 18" range (9" for melta) and twin-linked it helps the Riptide in it's role of armour suppression. The SMS isn't good enough despite having longer range and not requiring line of sight. The plasma rifle is similarly a waste of time.

The next question then is which two support systems to go with. Straight away we can rule out the target lock, advanced targeting system and positional relay, none of which are any real use given the weaponry and role of the suit. Overwatch isn't worth it with so few shots and odds are you'll have some supporting fire should it come to it so ditch the counterfire defence system. If you're taking a pair of drones then I think the drone controller is worth it. Essentially you're paying 4pts per drone to give them an extra hit between them with their missiles. Interceptor is cheap but you're just stopping yourself firing in your own turn. That being said a cheeky AP2 large blast on a recently deployed drop pod unit is a nice thought. That leaves the Velocity Tracker and Stimulant Injector. For me 35pts is a lot to spend on FNP even if you're pretty much getting it on every shot. If you aren't fielding drones then with the points you save, go for it but realistically there are better things to spend the points on.  Therefore for me, this is the ideal build if points aren't much of an issue:

Riptide with twin-linked fusion blasters 180pts, Ion Accelerator +5pts, 2 shielded missile drones +50pts, drone controller +8pts and velocity tracker +20pts = 263 pts.

Pretty fecking expensive right? If you take the Ion Accelerator with Interceptor & Skyfire and no drones then it's 210pts but they're still spendy.

It's worth mentioning at this point that there's some debate about whether the drone controller can grant the missile drones BS3 when they shoot flyers. Personally I think it's unlikely to be FAQ'd that way (if FAQ'd at all) as the shooting at flyers rule goes "can only fire Snap Shots unless it has the Skyfire special rule" or words to that effect. Since the drones don't have Skyfire they'd be BS3 but reduced to BS1 when they fire at the flyer. Interesting question though.

Before going on to whether I think they're worth it I need to cover the Nova reactor so here's my take.

Use of the Nova Reactor
There's 4 options for its use which are: 3++ save, 4D6 thrust (snigger), double support shot, Nova-charge main gun. Most people will go for the nova-charged gun I think. As I've said though S8 to S9 isn't worth the risk unless tank hunting. The other "powers" are situational but, in my opinion, better.

If you know you're going to take a lot of AP1/AP2 fire then 3++ saves are good. Moved too close to a land raider and melta'd it to death? Jump back 4D6 to prevent revenge charges. Skyfiring at something other than a stormraven/talon then go for the Ripple Fire and melta the f**ker.

Now you aren't going to even attempt to use the reactor if you're down to a couple of wounds but the rest of the time I'd advise risking it as much as possible. If not then you're just not getting your points-worth.

Undoubtedly the main strength of the Riptide is its durability. Couple that with the fact that it's a big target that people are going to want to bring down and it actually provides a good sponge for enemy fire. It's far from indestructible though and a huge chunk of points to lose. Dreadknights may be dwarfed by it but they'll piss on it in combat. Even units that won't necessarily kill it instantly will tie it up in combat pretty easily. With a Boost or even a standard thrust move it should be hard to charge it but not impossible.

The problem is that despite hanging around a long time it won't really be doing much whilst it is. Against MCs neither gun is particularly effective. Against infantry your opponent will likely spread out enough to minimise effects. Essentially you have to hope you're playing mech then the Riptide and have some fun. Otherwise it's just never going to make itself worth the points even when you factor in the distraction effect.

I'm still going to be throwing one into my lists for fun but competitively there are far better options in the codex I reckon. My opinion might change on these guys because it's still early days and we haven't seen all of the combinations yet (or even come close). For the moment though they're just too pricey and not effective enough.

Feel free to disagree with me here. Is there something I'm missing about them? Are you going to run 3 of them? Try and convince me.


  1. Fun read, only input I have is a funny stary a fellow player shared where a Riptide failed to pop a landraider with its guns, and so charged, and curbstomped it.

    1. That's one way to do it I suppose!

    2. Indeed, not the Tau way, but good to know its not very hard to pull off vs a tank with no WS.

  2. Good low-down pal - hadn't realised they could get that expensive so easily. One thing I wouldn't disregard though is the target lock - could be (in conjunction with the drone controller) a good way of being able to target two vehicles at once - 2 missile hits for light vehicles and the ion/melta combo for heavier ones/meqs n teqs. Just a thought. Also agree that not many people will be fielding 3, especially given the other suits they compete in slots against.

    1. Good point mate. Wonder if you could pop a vehicle with the drones and then template them with the riptide. Presumably they count as firing at the same time though?

  3. Good overview, only small error I spotted is that a drone controller does not increase the BS of missile drones or shielded missile drones (only gun, marker & sniper drones).

    I prefer FnP to shielded drones because the drones only have a 4+ save, so can be stripped away easier by autocannons etc. causing morale tests.

    I was going to leave the expensive skyfire, because 2 markerlight hits makes the riptide back to BS3 against flyers, but I may come back to it if my 20 markerlights across the rest of the army can't be spared. I suppose it depends on how much anti-air is elsewhere in the army list.

    Completely agree with the use of fusion. With the loss of str10 ap1 in the quantities were used to, fusion is essential for filling the gap. I found myself putting fusion on a crisis suit unit as well.

    1. Cheers for pointing out the drone thing. That's one less option to consider then since those are the only drones it can have.

      Autocannons can't strip them away that easily as they have a 4++ save too. Morale checks are an issue. I'm actually leaning towards not bothering with the drones. To be honest I don't think anti air upgrade is essential, just liked the idea of melta shots from a ground unit at a flyer!

      I've always ran crisis suits with fusion and they're better now with built in multitrackers meaning I can twin-link the fusion and still have a second weapon.

  4. Good review! Really the Riptide sucks in assault. You only need 5 Dark Eldar Witches and it will be engaged in the fight for the whole game. Luckily their weapons have very long range!

    1. I don't think it's that bad in assault and it wound win against 5 wyches. They wouldn't get FnP because the riptide is str6, they will do little to him with his t6 and 2+ save, while he should kill about 1 a turn.

      While not being excellent in close combat, he is better than Tau has ever had, particually when he charges and can have 3 str10 attacks when he smashes.


    2. The key is to not let them even get that close. With all of your S5+ shooting a DE player shouldn't have many vehicles left after the first turn and then the survivors would be wounded on 2s and probably die to overwatch/supporting fire.

      That's the trouble with thinking about things in isolation. Sure if a 10-strong wych squad got into combat he'd be sat there all game but that's assuming the rest of your army isn't doing anything.

  5. Great review of the Riptide, And personally feel that the ion accelerator also is a better weapon than the heavy burst cannon. The heavy burst cannon is mainly good only when Nova-charged while the ion accelerator frees you up to do other things with the reactor.

    Other than the already mentioned fact that the drone controler doesn't affect missile drones, It is important to note that the riptide is not fearless unlike most monsterous creatures, so loosing shielded missile drones will force LD checks.. and you can also get sweeping-advanced if you loose close combat.

    Also worth noting the Stim injector can prevent wounds from the nova reactor similar to the way FNP is ruled to be able to prevent wounds from Perils of the warp (rulebook FAQ.

    There are some curious strategies spawned from riptides though. One of the cheekiest ones is giving a missile drone to make it a unit then joining shadowsun there to give the entire lot stealth and shrowded as for some reason that rule confers to the unit...

    1. With the lack of BS boost to the drones I'm actually thinking it's 25-50pts I can spend better elsewhere. A nearby ethereal can help with Ld tests for losing CC and you're unlikely to lose than many wounds. If you come up against something that can wound that easily Ld is the least of your concerns.

      Interesting point about the FNP vs Nova. The points saved on drones might be better spent on a stim injector.

      I'd feel dirty attaching Shadowsun!

    2. What I think you should attach the missile drones only if you want to make it a unit to join other people in... (like a commander with the vectored thrusters for hit and run, or shadowsun...)

      As for not being fearless that does have it's perks. such as if you really need to you can go-to-ground (unlike most other MCs), though also means you can be pinned. something to take note of, even though you're LD 9. Usually whatever makes you loose CC would outright kill you anyway, though it's annoying to loose riptides to sweeping advance.

      Stim injector is a good buy if you want to be aggressive with your riptide. if you field a pair of riptides not much point.

      Interceptor + ion accelerator is a termie-deepstrike nightmare.

      Oh yes, Shadowsun now does open up a lot of unusual tactical opportunities conferring stealth + shrowded to the unit she joins. riptides with 2+ coversaves in a forest are... nasty.

  6. I have been looking at the riptide for a bit and I have been thinking of adding 2 to my army for a couple reasons. 1) 1 can be focused down similar to a 5-man terminator squad so it's better to have multiple threats. And 2) to take both Main Weapons.

    The only Suite systems I can see using on it are the Skyfire and Interceptor mainly because they give you more options. Skyfire give you the option of shooting at a flyer without worrying about dropping your BS, and Interceptor give you the option to shoot at a newly arrived target while increasing your mobility.

    Nothing says you have to waste your main gun on an interceptor shot so if a flyer comes in shoot it with your TL-Fusion and save the Ion Accelerator for your shooting phase. If Terminators drop in (Dark Angels I am looking at you) blast them away with the Ion and Fusion, then in your turn move, run, jump away to deny the charge.

    The reason I would take both Main guns is because they can fill different roles but have come cross over ability. There are some units that are more susceptible to volume of fire then they are 1 big shot. Getting in the rear armor of a flyer would be a great time for a Heavy Bust Cannon rather than the Ion Accelerator.

    1. A riptide with skyfire/interceptor could be great but that's still 210pts which is a pretty hefty chunk of a sub-2000pts army.

      Good point about the interceptor being used for one weapon or the other.

      Still not sold on the Burst Cannon. Rear armour on a flyer is often 11+ anyway and once you're hitting rear armour the flyer has probably done its damage.

  7. One thing to consider about the ion accelerator is that if you overcharge it, then you have a 1/6 chance of it not firing. this is quite frustrating, but can be relieved if you boost the ballistic skill to 6 with markerlights. This allows it to reroll the one, making it only a 1/36 chance of not firing. Shadownsun's drone also works great for this purpose

    1. Are you sure it can be re-rolled like that? Not got a rulebook handy but thought it was just a "gets hot" roll for blasts rather than a "to hit" that is affected by BS?


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