Friday, September 06, 2013

Army List Review - My Tau at Reanimation (1,750pts)

Before I plunge headlong into the new Space Marine codex (which I'll hopefully be getting at midnight) I'd like to talk through my Tau army list from last weekend's singles tournament at the Outpost in Sheffield. My Tau will be joined by some Eldar for the doubles at WHW tomorrow so keep an eye out for reports from that. For now here's a run-down of the list and what works and what doesn't. Warning: this will be pretty in-depth!

Ethereal and Fire Warriors
This list is the first time that I've given these guys an aegis defense line. It's not a new or unique tactic by any means but it's something I've tried to avoid before. These guys are pretty hit and miss to be honest. An army such as the one Matt fielded against me will always make the static firebase seem better. If your opponent has to come close to do damage then the sheer volume of firepower will make him wish he didn't need to be so close. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the playstyle that this combination forces me into. My favourite armies are always the ones that take the fight to the enemy. I'd rather be pro-active and reactive.

There's no denying they're a powerful combination but if you've got to go and take objectives then you're going to struggle to get the most out of them. This is why I take a Devilfish for one of the squads. In an otherwise foot list you might think it would be priority target but a lot of the time I find it gets ignored. In an objective game most opponents with sense would try and take it out ASAP but on the other hand the kind of firepower needed to shift an AV12 vehicle with a 4++ save is the same kind that is needed to bring down the riptides. Target priority becomes difficult and that's why it still works. Obviously the devilfish is great for getting Fire Warriors onto objectives late on but it's also good for protecting them from flamers such as those from heldrakes or dreadknights. Finally, there's still some merit in the "Fish of Fury" tactic whereby you deliver all that S5 goodness into an enemy unit that you otherwise couldn't reach.

It isn't all that difficult to counter the fire warrior blob. They die to the same kind of thing that guardsmen do. Obviously they're got a 4+ save (and 4++ from the aegis line) but they're still only T3. Assaulting them is difficult with the obscene amount of supporting fire but staying outside 15" is the best bet if possible. The Ethereal is obviously the lynch pin. Armies that have some way of sniping him out of the unit will find the blob quickly falls apart once he's gone and there's a bonus VP into the bargain. Losing Ld10 and being close to the board edge means the fire warriors can be cleared up pretty sharpish after he's gone.

The main reason to include Kroot is pretty obvious. Paying 65 pts for a unit that can Outflank onto objectives (and get's a re-roll to see on which side it arrives) is a no-brainer. They're also useful for taking on fixed enemy units too. In one of my games they took out a pair of sabre defence platforms in combat after they'd killed a CCS in the previous turn.

Obviously they aren't the deadliest of units with S4 shots and S3 attacks but picking off weak objective holders like guard or cultists is easy for them. The main thing is, despite their low cost, they can't be ignored by your opponent. The key is to deploy your objectives with them in mind. Give them chance to Outflank straight onto it and preferably give them a forest to hide in and you're golden.

On occasion my kroot have even been known to down vehicles or even flyers by getting rear armour shots and rolling a few lucky 6s.

Commander and Bodyguard Team
Whilst a lot of people seem content to use their commander in what seems to be known as "Raven" configuration i.e. no weapons. I'm of the opinion that this is a waste of his statline. Obviously giving drones BS5 is nice but then you've got a very expensive model that's just buffing other units without any offensive power of its own. For this reason I prefer to be aggressive with my commander. He's loaded out with fusion, plasma, target lock, retro-thrusters and an iridium suit and joined by a bodyguard of two crisis suits with plasma and twin-linked fusion.

Of course, combined with the kroot, this is a reasonable chunk of your forces in reserve but deep striking is usually the best way to go with these guys. There's a 1 in 6 chance you'll the warlord trait that prevents scatter meaning deadly accurate placement for them to do the most damage. There are very few units that shouldn't fear them. The team has 9 relatively high strength and low AP shots. If you can get them markerlight support this can mean killing off a whole unit of terminators or downing something like a dreadknight without breaking a sweat. Kills like that are nearly always game changing and for that reason this is easily my favourite unit in my list. They're only just shy of 285pts and can easily make their cost back.

If you're facing a lot of armour then the commander can use his target lock and BS5 to deal with one vehicle on his own whilst his bodyguard take out another. AV13/14 is a problem for most Tau lists and this is my solution. Very few armies can do anything to stop them from taking out a crucial unit. Once they've done their damage they can use their thrust moves to get them out of harm's way. Should they get charged then you can tank the hits on the commander's 2+ save and they've got 10 S5 attacks back to boot. They've then got a 50:50 chance of Hit & Run for an opportunity to break off and gun down their assailants. Obviously power fists aren't their friends.

In terms of equipment you might consider a shield generator for the commander but personally I think Hit & Run is more useful. The bodyguards have twin-linked fusion rather than plasma because it's often vital that those melta shots hit. Against vehicles the plasma is significantly weaker so it's still better to boost the melta and it's also handy for overwatch. Don't forget the commander has precision shots so he can occasionally be lucky enough to snipe a character.

Speaking of which one of the warlord traits allows him to prevent Look Out Sir! rolls. This makes him extremely effective. In fact all of the warlord traits are good. You can also get re-rolls of 1s to hit for a phase, 3D6 thrust moves, skyfire for a turn or no scatter on deep strike which I've mentioned. The only one that isn't all that useful is the getting up from gone to ground but could still find use when your fire warrior blob is hiding behind the aegis line.

Missile Pod Team
This is my alternative to HYMP broadsides and frankly I think it's better. Obviously with a 2+ save the broadsides are more durable but having JSJ can make the crisis team as good, if not better. Not to mention they can often get into a better firing position to prevent cover saves etc. The broadside also have more firepower from the S5 SMS but I don't mind the sacrifice as the crisis team is cheaper.

There's 12 missile shots (4 of which are twin-linked) and the PENchip gives them Monster or Tank Hunter. They're excellent for dealing with wave serpents as they can often cause enough pens/glances for it not to matter if the Eldar player converts the pens to glances. S7 isn't amazing for anti-tank though and indeed my team struggled against AV13 in the Necron game. However, there was some astonishingly bad luck on my part to not roll more 6s. Against MCs they're great for forcing armour saves and Monster Hunter means they'll force a lot.

Like any unit in my list, if you can get them some marker hits then they can be lethal to whatever they target. Let's not pretend they're all that amazing though. They're vulnerable to a lot of things and anything that can kill 6 marines can take them out too.

As I mentioned in the tournament report this pair are considered "cheesy". There's no doubt that they're somewhat overpowered. The main reason is, of course, that you can give them both Skyfire and Interceptor. Perhaps it should've been one or the other but they can have both so I'm certainly going to let them. Being able to deal with enemy flyers before they get to shoot is huge. Obviously quad guns have been able to do this for a while but the riptide has the potential for two twin-linked melta shots at a newly arrived flyer. It's staggering how many times people put their flyer within 9". They key is to bring the riptides forward so that they're covering a pretty big window. I nearly always Nova them for two melta shots in the turn before enemy flyers might arrive.

One thing that people forget though is that they can't actually fire both weapons in the enemy turn. Every rule that would allow it e.g. Monstrous Creature and Multi-tracker, specifically states Shooting Phase. This means you have to choose between main gun and melta. Not usually a difficult choice though as terminators want a pie-plate and flyers want melta. Against AV10/11 flyers you might consider the 3 S7 AP2 shots, especially if you failed to Nova for two melta shots. Although.... now I read it in the codex it does say "fire twice this turn" which means you can't actually fire twice when Intercepting.... oops! Mind you it does say the effects last until the next Movement Phase so its somewhat ambiguous.

Even so the riptides are formidable and often difficult to deal with. Their presence is enough to distract an opponent from their game plan. Deep striking out of sight, bringing a flyer in out of range or choosing not to reserve a unit can dramatically effect how an enemy army performs.

They aren't without their downsides though. I frequently fail their Nova rolls for a start and it's a brave (or desperate) man who uses the reactor with a single wound left. Being BS3 doesn't help matters either and without marker support they can struggle. They can be great in combat against some opponents thanks to T6 but most of the time they die before getting to strike even with a 3++ save.

When I ran Tau back in 5th edition (and indeed early 6th) I nearly always ran 3 small pathfinder teams. With the new codex I was temporarily distracted by flyers and piranhas but I've now come back to my love of pathfinders. Of course their are more durable and more accurate platforms for markerlights but they're usually more expensive and often can't hit multiple targets. Having 3 lots of 6 pathfinders means I can have three targets getting an average of 3 markers each.

I always try to deploy them as far from each other as possible so that an opponent is unlikely to be able to deal with two at once. Against an opponent who's familiar with them they don't usually last long but with riptides and crisis teams as distraction it's amazing how many times they do survive.

My tips for using them are firstly to remember that they have Scouts. This is great for getting them into line of sight on something for their first turn or for getting them into cover that was just outside your deployment zone. Secondly, I sometimes use them for cheeky markerlight hits on flyers to allow a unit to hit on 5+ (a 6 man unit should get one hit on a flyer). If you've decided to do this you can use that turn as a good opportunity to reposition your pathfinders as they'll be firing snap shots anyway.

I've been playing this list (or a very similar list) for a little while now. Whilst I'm under no illusion that a lot of my success with them is because they're from arguably the best codex around at the moment, I do think I use them somewhat differently to a lot of people. However, whenever I use them I'm always frustrated about how static they are. It isn't much fun to play against and not is it much fun for me.

I'd therefore like to make my army a little more mechanised. It's not difficult to spot that I haven't used any heavy support slots. Having a crisis team in place of broadsides is the first step to a more mobile cadre. Skyrays have to be pretty static too so I'm not likely to use them. Hammerheads are a potential but my lists are usually pretty tight on points so 195 for Longstrike is a bit much and even a basic hammerhead is a big investment.

With an emphasis on infantry based lists in the current meta (except serpent spam Eldar), the majority of lists have gotten very good at dealing with infantry at the expensive of anti-vehicle fire. I'd therefore like to get some devilfish with d-pods into the list to try and make my fire warriors a lot more agressive. To afford this I'd need to ditch the Ethereal and one squad of fire warriors. This dramatically reduces my anti-infantry fire but I gain a lot more flexibility. My fire warriors can spend more time shooting once they've gotten into a forward position and having two extra devilfish and extra drones means several units which can fire at different targets.

This new approach may not be as deadly but the core of the army is still there and the big hitters are unchanged. It will mean better opportunity for scoring, more protection for the fire warriors and generally a list that's more fun.


  1. How do you feel about using Devilfish as Seeker platforms? I'm currently looking at getting back to my old style of Mech Tau and I was thinking why not add seekers to give DFs some 1st turn punch. They wont have many targets in turn 1 & 2, and with Seekers taking up shots I won't have to worry about them on the Hammerheads.

    Kinda like your view on the Skyray, blow all the missiles, and then run amuck.

    1. I've had a few games with my mech Tau recently and I'm not sold on it to be honest. I'll have to write up the battle reports soon (been playing too much GTA V).

      Seekers are a bit more viable now thanks to the ability to fire them without markerlights but my lists are often too tight to squeeze them in.


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