Today is a very special day. A day you’ve all been waiting years for. It’s the day I tell you whether Tau is up to snuff or not! Tau have been in a weird spot competitively for the past few months. They were a surprisingly strong index, but they only had one competitive build which actually worked: Commanders and Drones. This wasn’t the type of army that would typically win GT’s but it certainly came close many times. The new Tau codex actually limits commanders to 0-1 per detachment, so a maximum of 3 commanders in an army total. With that limitation in place, let’s see what the new Tau book offers to make up for that!
Instead of doing the classic codex review where I go unit by unit through the codex, I’m just going to cover units that are strong or misleading and why based off an initial read through. I’m also going to give an idea of what a potential Tau build could look like to give you guys a good base line to work from.
Commanders/Cold Star Commanders: These were awesome before, and they still are. The only thing that sucks about them is that you can only have 3 now. That said, you should still definitely take 3. I’m a big fan of the Cold Star commanders because of their ability to move 20-40″ in a turn. Their mobility is really valuable for Tau, especially when coupled with the amazingly awesome character rule. I’d kit them out with either 4 fusion guns and just use them as incredibly reliable mobile anti tank option which your opponent can’t shoot at or keep from shooting thanks to fly. The alternative is to kit them out with 3 burst cannons and the advanced targeting support system for -1AP. Each of these guys can pump out 12 S5 Ap-1 shots that hit on 2’s. That’s essentially the same fire power as a devestator squad with 4 heavy bolters all on one guy. One of the really cool things about these guys is their ability to move 20-40″ and sneak up on a character that your opponent thought was safe and just utterly nuke them off the planet.
Shadowsun: This pricey lady doesn’t really do too much in comparison to a commander, especially when you factor in her cost, but she does serve one purpose well. She lets you pop the Kau’yan aura twice a game instead of just once. If you’re running a fairly static type of shooting core (which I’ll cover later) having rerolls to hit multiple times a game can be key.
Ethereal: While this guy isn’t overly powerful, he can give some really nice buffs and fills the important role of Cheap HQ to help unlock battalions. You’ll probably see 1 of these in most tau armies.
Dark Strider: What a guy. Not only does he give the awesome tau gunline something it desperately needed in the form of fall back and shoot he also provides them with a nice little wounding bonus too. If you’re running any sort of fire warrior (sorry I mean strikes..) core, this guy definitely needs to make an appearance.
Marksmen: This guy is nothing crazy, but he’s a cheap character with an accurate markerlight. That’s a pretty useful tool to have. I could see some of these guys making it into a list.
Stealth Suits: Now I know what a lot of you are thinking, I must be crazy. But hear me out before you break out the torches and pitch forks. Tau is an army that by nature pretty much has to shoot the other guy off the table in order to do damage. They don’t have psychic powers or any real combat potential to interact with units that are in combat. There options are fall back and shoot more. So if you’re playing against a smart opponent who’s read my awesometastic article Cracking The Screen Part 2 then you may be in for a rough time as your lowly kroot screens get surrounded and tied up. Enter the Stealth Suit. These little infiltrating gems can really be a life saver to the classic tau gun line, as they give you a good form of push back, screening, and deep strike protection that isn’t vulnerable to the classic issue of getting trapped due to the fly keyword.
Not only do stealth suits have the lovely fly key word and infiltrate which is already a very winning combo, but they’re also fairly tough to kill at range. -1 to hit and 3+ armor with 2 wounds is fairly tough, but then coupled with how easy it is for infantry to get cover they can be really obnoxious. Taking like 12-18 of these guys in lots of squads of 3 can get incredibly annoying, especially for other shooty armies. Imagine mortars trying to hurt these things from across the board, hitting on 5s, then dealing with 2+ armor an multiple wounds. Stealth suits are really one of the most underappreciated units in the book.
Riptide: I’m not overly impressed with riptides off the bat because of their cost. But the fact you can really extend their life span with shield drones and you can give them reroll to hit and wounds between multiple Kau’yan’s and the battlesuit stratagem relaly makes it tempting. A riptide with Heavy burst cannon and SMS shooting 20 shots with reroll to hit and wound is no joke. That said, be weary of the BS4+ on this guy, with all: the modifiers to hit floating around in the game I think this may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Strike Teams: Talk about value town. With these guys pumping out 3 shots each at 18″ between the pulse accelerator drone you can get some insane fire power. Not to mention wounding bonuses from dark strider, and fall back and shoot all for 7 points! Sign me up! These guys are an awesome troop choice, and with the Tau’sept trait charging into an army of these guys may be incredibly difficult. 10 of these guys pump out 30 S5 shots that hit on 5s with overwatch, that’s nothing to shake a stick at. Couple that with For The Greater Good and you can have a somewhat unchargable army.
Kroot: I think this is a fairly standard unit of cheap garbage that has some form of advanced deploy. While, they have their uses much the same way as scouts, rangers, cultists, etc.. do, I think you’re better off springing for stealth suits within the context of Tau.
Pathfinders: What a great unit. I really can’t even begin. These are going to provide all the markerlights for your army which are necessary to really get the juices flowing for your Tau. Taking away cover is especially important for Tau as when marines and the like go from the classic 3+ armor to a 2+ your efficiency in shooting them with strikes effectively halves. They also also grant you access to the lovely pulse drone to increase the range of your strikes to absurd levels. Lastly, since they have a pregame move which you can trigger after seeing who goes first, you can deploy conservatively with them behind a wall, and then opportunistically move up to see with your marker lights before the game begins to avoid the pesky -1 to hit.
Piranhas: These guys are nothing spectacular themselves, but they have a decent size foot print, they’re very fast, have ok firepower, and fly. They’re also not too pricey. I could definitely see the value in taking some of these to act as secondary screens and the on later turns. They may also fall into the category of “it’d be nice to have but they’re the first to get cut.” Only time will tell with these guys.
Hammerheads: I’m a bit on the fence about these currently, but I’d like to see them on the table before writing them off. A trio of hammerheads (one with ling strike) with ion cannons and SMS provides a very consistent amount of damage 3 and ignore los fire power. Ignore LOS is an incredibly powerful tool for shooting based armies, since it allows them to interact with otherwise undamagable units. Damage 3 weaponry is just really powerful in the meta, because of how common 2 wound models with FNP are. Being able to reliably one shot those types of models is a really strong boon. The jury is definitely still out on this one though.
Devilfish: Devilfish fall into the same category as wave serpents in my mind. They dob’t shoot enough to really warrant taking a lot of them, but they’re durable, fairly inexpensive, and provide a lot of protection for your vulnerable infantry. I could absolutely taking a couple of these to keep some units safe early on and reduce drop count, then using them as secondary screens in later turns.
Now that I’m done with my verbal diarrhea, allow me to give an initial list idea for a tournament style list so you guys can kind of see what all this comes together to look like.
|Tau’sept Battalion||Tau’sept Battalion||Viorla’ Vanguard|
|Coldstar- 4 Fusions||Shadowsun||Coldstar- 4 Fusions|
|3 Marksemen||6×10 Strikes||6 Stealthsuits|
|3×10 Strikes||2×5 Pathfinder- pulse drone|
|2×5 Pathfinder- pulse drone|
This is really rudimentary, and I actually recommend swapping a some units out to try things like kroot, piranhas, hammerheads, or the solo riptide and drones to try and shore up some weaknesses. The basic idea behind this list is lots and lots of shooty guns, screens with fly, and an insane overwatch. This isn’t a balanced army so much as a starting point to give you a base line to help refine your build.
Overall Tau seem have to become a slightly more rounded force (at least compared to index tau). Whether they are actually strong enough though, only time will really tell. My initial instincts tell me Tau will be a decent GT army easily capable of going 4-1 but going the distance with them may be difficult.
If you have any ideas on Tau please feel free to leave them in the comments!
*Many of the ideas discussed in this article were inspired by discussions with one of my frequent testing partners Jack Harpster.