So I’d like to start a quick series of rapid fire reviews. This is not a full, in-depth look at each unit. We don’t have enough tabletime for that yet but one of the hardest things to do with an edition reset is everything has changed at once. Many of you were likely around for the 2nd to 3rd edition changes – many of you were not and are used to what has happened in 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th where the main rules change but the army books remain valid and then get updated slowly throughout the edition.
Not so for 8th. Press reset on what you know and prepare to have that challenged.
One of the biggest difficulties currently is what are you likely going to see at tables across from you in games. We can build lists until we are blue in the face but only pitting the armies against each other regularly will really show what we need to be building to accommodate. One imagines you need to manage mass infantry and mass high toughness / high wounds and anywhere in between. What ratios… who knows.
With that in mind, I’m going to start with Tau. There are no gradings here, just general initial impressions though I will identify if I believe if units are usable (green is definitely usable, orange is situational or needs more playtesting and red is not).
Commander – best way to use your Crisis models – add some bling!. Initially I was turned off by the Commander’s high cost but as we dug into the math more, his ability to take four weapons at BS2+ and not experience the high cost of each Crisis Suit won out. Throw in his once a game special ability (Master of War; FAQ’d to only be usable once) and you have a model which can put out a lot of firepower, is pretty much immune to enemy retaliation being a character and comes in at a nice package of around 120-160 points. With the FAQ taking multiples of these guys loses some value unfortunately but they are still probably the best shooting HQ in the game by a fair margin. Take your weapon of choice and add four.
Coldstar Commander – Being forced to take the super burst cannon and a missile pod is frustrating though a 20” move is anything but. An extra 14 points for that is a bit pricey but not terrible, particularly when you start looking at how reduced maximum movement options are across the game. The high yield burst cannon is essentially two Burst Cannons glued together so the Coldstar is essentially running three weapons. If it could take two other weapons rather than just support systems, it would be something to consider. Otherwise you’re running into the same issues that Farsight does below – lack of firepower compared to a standard Commander (plus not necessarily the weapons you want). 20″ move is great (20″ Advance is awesome) but for two Burst Cannons and a Missile Pod? Eh.
Farsight – no. Getting one of the special Master of War options twice per game is cute. He has one weapon. A Plasma Rifle. And then a sword. Unlike before he’s not turning a key cog of the Tau army into a Troops option or providing super accurate deep strikes. He’s as expensive as a normal Commander and at best, has 1/4th the firepower. He helps against Orks but that’s too situational. The recent FAQ on Commanders does mean Farsight (and Shadowsun’s) ability to have two Commander bonuses in a game is great but the loss of firepower here is just too much to consider.
Shadowsun – I love Shadowsun but just cannot see any justification here to take her anymore. She’s lost her buffing of a unit with super cover saves and lets you use, what is arguably, the lesser of the Master of War buffs twice (good players will definitively have use for it though, it’s not a bad ability just not as easy to apply as re-rolls). Her drones are nice but not hard to kill though you can hide them as well. In the end though, same issues as Farsight – not enough firepower for what you can get in a normal Commander and not enough army bonuses to minimise this loss. Shadowsun does at least have two Fusion Blasters over just one weapon and is a little cheaper over Farsight but I’m still leaning the other way.
Fireblade – My new favorite HQ for Tau. He’s a BS2+ Markerlight that buffs all the Pulse weapons (Carbines and Rifles) in a bubble around him and he’s cheap. He can move and still fire that Markerlight at BS3+. He’s a great model to start a Markerlight chain (see Pathfinders) and he’s cheap. Cheap cheap cheap.
Darkstrider – Possibly my second closest favorite HQ for Tau even though his bonuses only apply to infantry. He is also a BS2+ Markerlight but instead of buffing Pulse weapons, makes a target even easier to screw around with an Infantry unit. Breachers with their potentially S6 guns are a prime target here but even standard Pulse Rifles will enjoy wounding T3 models on 2’s and T6 models on 4’s. Throw in the ability for an infantry unit to Fall Back and shoot and you can keep your infantry line closer to your bubble-wrap line. And he’s basically the same cost as a Fireblade.
Ethereal – The little underachiever has kept a lot of their flavour from 6th/7th edition and while toned down, there are no drawbacks anymore for taking one. Overshadowed by the improvements in the just as cheap Fireblade and a downgrade in some of its abilities. Anyway. Ld9 6″ bubble is good – Tau Ld has improved with all the free Shas upgrades and Drones not causing everyone else to PANIC. Their elemental options are loosely related to what they had before with a FNP (6+) option (great for your NOVA charging Riptides or Saviour Protocol Drones), re-roll 1s if you were stationary, -1 to Morale rolls and re-roll dice when Advancing. All of these are solid additions but not something you’ll be reaching for straight away. Needing to be stationary for the shooting is frustrating as you are minimising the impact of the phase you have the most control over. Re-rolling Advances is great in conjunction with Markerlights / Master of War effects.
Aun’Va – Slightly more expensive than an Ethereal and infinitely more durable against low Ap weapons (but pretty much the same against small arms), Aun’Va gives the whole army re-rolls for Leadership. If you’re worried about Morale, Aun’Va is the best option for Tau. If you’re not, take a standard Ethereal. Not much else to say about this guy – needing to take the two Honour Guard is annoying but they are effective at such a cheap cost for Tau in combat (i.e. you don’t want them but you’re not taking Aun’Va just because of their extra cost). Edit: Did not realise Aun’Va gets two Elemental Invocations – I’d take him over a normal Ethereal every day in light of this if I had the points. 45 points compared to 75 gets you double the bonuses plus re-rolling Morale.
Aun’Shi – This is the only Ethereal model I own so I have a soft spot for this guy. Over a regular Ethereal you get halfway decent combat ability and a 4++. Aun’shi can be quite annoying with a re-rollable 4++ in combat but he’s not going to hold up dedicated assault units for long and with character status, his 4++ is mostly wasted. He can put some damage into opposing enemy units in combat but with Fall Back and the majority of the important Tau units having Fly, why bother? I want to love him but save those extra 20ish points and buy more Drones.
Crisis Suits – These are what got me into Tau all the way back on their release day. Their cool design, gundam feel, etc. They have been a staple in Tau lists for over a decade. Now we may finally see them fade into the background. This is one of my main concerns for Tau currently as Crisis Suits often solved the problem of the missing firepower link (normally mid-strength weapons). Crisis Suits start expensive and go from there – they are more durable than before, particularly to small arms firepower with increase toughness and wounds, but pay through their nose for it. A detailed analysis of weapons can be found in the first paragraphs of this article and while they are certainly usable, no longer do you start your army with a handful of Crisis models and run. Making a minimum unit start at 3 models really hampers army design for Tau as well – one model Crisis Suits would have been a lot easier to fit into armies but instead that will fall to Commanders.
Firesight Marksmen – An example of the reason Elite FoC slots have increased. No longer attached directly to Sniper Drones, these guys are durable little characters that can hide in some cover and provide a BS3+ Markerlight and buff Sniper Drones. If you’re not taking Sniper Drones, at 24 points they still provide a useful Markerlight source if you’re struggling but there are lots of other locations for Markerlights at 3 points a pop.
Riptide – The boogaboo of Tau from 6th edition. With both the HBC and IA, this guy does damage. Lots of damage – for about double the points of editions past and that’s problematic. The HBC being S6 really hinders it against vehicles (mostly T7+) and Tau have no issues deleting infantry in general. It keeps him cheaper but not significantly so compared to other options in the Tau army. The IA is high strength with multiple shots and multiple damage but is also unreliable with those extra rolls and needs to be NOVA charged to really get its maximum damage potential. At 14W and 2+ save along with Drone saviour protocols, the Riptide is as durable as ever (though the NOVA now automatically does a mortal wound) and does as much damage as ever but with his increase in cost, he is not as efficient or useful a choice.
Ghostkeel – On the flipside of the big robots we have the Ghostkeel. About half the points and half the output, the Ghostkeel still is not the highlight of efficiency; however, is certainly cheaper and with its drone buddies and own defences, is able to withstand a lot of firepower with negative to hit modifiers on opposing units. It’s still not cheap at around 200 points for the whole package but if you’re looking for a mobile stompy robot, this seems the best bet for Tau currently.
Stealth Suits – They have certainly improved with added durability, specific modifiers to opponent’s shooting and not changing much in terms of points but I still do not seem them being used often or regularly. Burst Cannons are great except when I have Gun Drones or Fire Warriors who are far more efficient. If the whole squad could take Fusion Blasters though… Otherwise, a good Drone Controller caddie if you did not want to waste a slot somewhere else.
Krootox Rider – They are certainly cheap and durable for their costs with T5/W3 and do not need to pay an arm and a leg for their weapon. That being said, they aren’t that tough and you need to be within 30″ to get two autocannon shots. With Crisis Suits paying a premium on those types of shots I am curious if Krootox Riders are worth it. They still benefit from Markerlights and being rapid fire, they can move and shoot without impacting on their ballistic skill.
Kroot Shaper – Kroot armies are not really viable options so spending five Kroot worth of points on a single model to up their Leadership by 1 is a waste of points. The ritual blade is a great concept but 3 S3 attacks to try and kill a Marine and gain the benefit aren’t great (even against a GEQ you’re looking at less than a dead model on average) and you have to be in combat. Just take another squad of Kroot / Hounds instead.
Kroot – Speed bumps and bubble-wrap are so important in this edition it’s not funny and this makes Kroot great but not necessarily the only option. We’ve already spoken about the cheaper Kroot Hound units but even just biting the bullet and taking Fire Warriors with more shooting firepower or Gun Drones with more shooting power and mobility for a couple of points each better is not a bad option. That being said, Kroot are still cheaper and have on huge thing going for them – a Scout move. Moving up 7″ at the beginning of the game is 7″ extra worth of breathing room – even Hormagaunts aren’t going to be piling in around that wall. A unit in every army I think is mandatory just for that.
Fire Warriors – Fire Warriors are finally in a place they can comfortably call… useful? No never that! With the changes to the impact standard weapons have on the game and Fire Warriors being unique with S5 and S6 options for basic guns, they are packing quite a punch. They are also one of the few units that benefit from Darkstrider’s -1T ability. Fish of Fury is certainly back with Breachers and as we talk about below, Devilfish, while expensive and not great offensive output, are great annoying tarpits. Outside of this though, simply stacking Pulse bonuses (Accelerator Drone and Fireblade) and Markerlight hits does a surprising amount of damage with mass S5 weapons. Anything that gets within 24″ (6″ move) of Fire warriors with those buffs can look to actually be concerned. Remember as well, Pulse Blasters are Assault so can Advance and shoot. Oh look, Markerlights help with that… *combines with Darkstrider for effective S7 guns en masse on a Troop unit*.
Devilfish – The Devilfish is pricey but has a surprising amount of firepower with 12 S5 shots – those Gun Drones really do work now and can be buffed by a
Pulse Accelerator or Fireblade. You’re not taking the Devilfish for shooting though but rather moving some infantry around – best bet here is of course Fire Warriors in the Breacher format which will reduce their short range issues. Even just starting them in the Devilfish gets them an extra 3”+base in the first turn. Devilfish are otherwise great, great roadblocks. They are a lot larger than a Rhino (you can hide Crisis Suits and drones behind them but not Broadsides+) and take up more space, they can fly over units and are slightly more durable with two extra wounds. Using Devilfish as active roadblocks to block up charging lanes, charge opponents, lock units in combat, etc. is ridiculously annoying, particularly from such a non-aggressive army like Tau. Overall, expensive but does a lot of utility work.
Kroot Hounds – If you have the models, they are the cheapest screen you can get for Tau and although they max out at 12 models per unit, 48 points for a 12 model screen is nothing to sneeze at. They will be bowled over in combat by anything that charges them but if they give your army another turn of shooting without being in combat, well wroth it. The question is, are they worth it over normal Fire Warriors, Kroot or Gun Drones for their cheaper price?
Pathfinders – Are you taking three squads? WHY NOT??? Marker Drones are a fantastic source of markerlights which we will talk about below and its a lot easier to get markerlights throughout your army but Pathfinders are still the quintessential choice. 8 points for markerlight and pulse carbine is great. They are weak infantry so need to be protected (hence having markerlights scattered throughout the army) but their Scout move allows them to maximise their start of game placement and the changes to moving with heavy weapons means they can start the game out of LoS if needed (then start a markerlight chain with a Fireblade for example). They are cheap, do damage and light up units. They are also the only place to get some of the more exotic drones which are quite useful for 8 points – Accelerator drones help all the pulse weapons out (extra range is not to be sneezed at) and grav drones hiding in LoS blocking terrain or behind vehicles are annoying. Not OMG MUST HAVE but worth trying to squeeze out some points just in case. Worst case – they are just saviour protocol targets.
Piranha – Man I love Piranhas and I’ve always wanted them to be as good as they were in 5th when they were cheap, abused the 3++ table and could block like a fish fucker. They have progressively gotten weaker and more expensive and I of course missed out on the formation of *fly off table and get everything back* days of 7th. These days, they are still everything they always were with more firepower thanks to the Gun Drone improvements but… they are not cheap and do not bring enough firepower to back it up (unlike say a Vyper or Land Speeder).
Tactical Drones – Where do we even start? Gun Drones all by themselves are just plain scary and probably one of the most efficient units in the game right now, even without a Drone Controller. 8 points nets you 4 S5 shots. 18″ with an 8″ move and 5+ to hit sure but 4 S5 shots. Count them. Through in a Fireblade
, Pulse Accelerator and Drone Controller and now you are at 6 S5 shots at 9″ and 4 S5 shots at 18″ plus an 8″ move and 4+ to hit to boot. We’ere stacking the points here but you get the picture. Where the real shine comes is saviour protocols. Despite the FAQ this is still a really strong option for anything you remotely want to keep alive (Broadsides and Pathfinders are probably the key ones here) and makes some of the more inefficient options such as Riptides and Crisis Suits have interestingly high durability all things considered. The FAQ did say no to Shield Drones but this just reinforces the mantra “more guns pls”. Marker Drones are also effective – not only providing more markerlights but palming off wounds. While taking Drone units may not always be high on the priority list, adding drones through all the unit options you are taking is very, very wise. Drone army pls.
Vespid – They do not suck! 15 points and able to benefit from markerlights is a decent place to be in though their S5 makes them compete with pretty much the entire army. I’d much rather two gun drones or Fire Warriors over the one Vespid despite the -2Ap on their shots. Getting close but still no cigar. That said, if you wanted to use them to blast a backfield Marine unit et al with their deep strike or faster move – certainly not a terrible option.
Sun Shark Bomber – I initially fell in love with the Bomber and while that has waned a bit, it’s still a fantastic piece (as most of the bombers who can drop a mortal wounding bomb regularly are). It’s a way to control hordes and high invul save infantry (TH/SS termies for example – it might only kill one model but that’s a good target in an otherwise MSU Marine list) and has some decent utility with the Markerlight, Ion Drones and Missile Pod. Certainly not a must have but if you’re lacking in your Gun Drones / Fire Warriors, a decent way to manage some larger units out there and has some not too shabby firepower about it. Plan your moves right as well and you will have a unit on far objectives late game. .
Razorshark Strike Fighter – The Quad Ion Turret basically competes directly with the bomb and Ion Drones of the Bomber and frankly, fails. The Bomb has so much better utility against infantry units and while the Quad Ion Turret had more damage potential against a single tougher target (i.e. vehicle), the Ion Drones are pretty close to matching it. It’s not terrible but for all intents and purposes, is generally the lesser of the two flyers for Tau.
Hammerhead – Don’t take Hammerheads unless you’re taking Longstrike. They are good but Longstrike makes them really good (but not great). Both the Railhead and Ionhead variants are good with the Railhead just being a bit better by being cheaper. Like all Tau vehicles, great option for free Gun Drones to augment that already impressive anti-infantry firepower. Edit: Since someone took me literally when I said free. You’re already buying them with the vehicle and you’re taking the vehicle – they can detach and do things as per normal Drones but also do not need to if you just want to keep them pewpewing away with a Hammerhead / Devilfish / whatever BS.
Longstrike – If you’re taking Hammerheads, take Longstrike. If you’re not taking Hammerheads, you can still take Longstrike as a decent HQ option. He makes himself and all Hammerheads really reliable and gets the railhead option of making extra mortal wounds happen even more likely. Moving your Hammerheads with Longstrike around is a lot less onerous as well and his +1 against vehicles makes Gun Drones / SMS often wound like they are S7.
Skyray – Markerlights are so easy to get now and flyers much less an issue that the Skyray just is not needed. It’s expensive for having six Seeker Missiles (which are certainly not bad but also not worth paying through the nose for six shots) and then your standard front guns. Slightly more durable than a Devilfish but give me a Devilfish any day of the week over this these days.
Sniper Drones – I really want to like these guys and keep building them up in my head and then I re-read a rule and they fall down again. They aren’t bad, they still put some decent damage into general infantry units but because of the wording on Pulse Accelerator Drones and the Fireblade, they do not get extra shots or range from these buffs which makes them generally inefficient (a unit of nine dropping 27 shots at 27” on the other hand…). They need a Firesight Marksman and Drone Controller caddie to be decent so there are hidden costs (to be fair this does take them to BS3+) and they are durable as far as drones go (plus still have saviour protocols to help out your army). Their damage output just is not going to scare the tougher characters. Your Marine Commanders, Ork Meks / Warbosses, Chaos Lords, Necron Overlords, etc. Even Farseers on a Bike. Your basic Tau Fireblade still takes 2-3 rounds to drop on average. A Librarian? All game. It is certainly useful to put wounds on characters and there are smaller and squishier characters who are game changing (*stares really pointedly at Imperial Guard*) so they do have a role and they aren’t hugely expensive – they are still more than twice the cost of other drones though. Remember as well, you will often not get Markerlight bonuses for these guys when shooting at Characters.
Broadside – One of the other iconic units of Tau from the beginning of Tautime, the Broadside has seen a massive change in terms of its statline and points. At T5/W6, it has more than trebled in durability and is subsequently much more durable against small arms firepower and harder hitting weapons (far less likely to be insta killed by a Lascannon for example). Then of course there is Saviour Protocols. It comes at a really steep price though with a single Broadside netting somewhere in the 180-210 points bracket. Its firepower has doubled as well thankfully due to the changes in twin-linked weapons but with a price more than doubled and their primary targets, vehicles, durability having nearly tripled, on paper they do not seem to be in as good a place. Still, both of their weapon options are effective, surprisingly so with the Heavy Rail Rifle, and they cover a strength range not often seen in the rest of Tau slots. In short, they do good damage, are more efficient than Crisis Suits, are more durable but they are expensive.
Stormsurge – One of the most efficient models I’ve found to date in the game. For Tau, it’s the new Riptide though you’re unlikely to “need” two. Both of its main weapons are solid, though I’d rather the Blastcannon (keeps you close to the battle but less random and still hits like a truck at all ranges). What makes it really sing though is the Cluster Rocket System – throw in an ATS and you have a lot of anti-infantry firepower (plus the SMS) that can be thrown at anything. Now add a Shield Generator to make sure this beastie always has a 4++ against all the Lascannons coming its way and then add a final Support System of your choice – EWO to help against deep strikes, Drone Controller to be the caddie or Velocity Tracker to drop some flyers.
Tidewall (Droneport / Shieldline / Gunring) – The Droneport at 70 points plus Drones is a really sneaky way of getting some strong markerlights with a Bs2+ character hanging out and four marker drones. Otherwise a way to protect a Fire Warriors unit – it’s not super tough by 8th edition vehicle standards and can be shot to pieces pretty quickly but if you’re looking for something to attract firepower that is cheap, the Droneport is not a bad option. The Shieldline / Defense platform is the same price with the option to reflect shots – cute but nothing really to consider or work around. Same with the Gunrig – unlike the Droneport, the Gunrig does not get to increase it’s shooting by having an embarked unit, just who it gets to shoot at. Leave its expensive buttocks at home.
So there you have it – not even a month into 8th and some opinions on Tau’s units in isolation. I feel Tau are in a decent place but definitely not at the top of the curve anymore. Their expensive weapons / unit options in that mid-range area have hurt them overall but are still an army with lots of options, plenty of shooting and lots of ways to mitigate the improved threat / speed of combat.