Tau Codex Review- For The Greater Good?

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
Ethereal Darkstrider 4×3 Stealthsuits
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.




17 Comments on “Tau Codex Review- For The Greater Good?

  1. How are you getting 3 shots from the strike teams without a fflireblade cadre?

    • Whoops, forgot to add that in there! Great catch! Sorry about that.

      • It’s an interesting list. I’m curious do you just feel you can get more efficient shooting from else where besides the Riptide? Everyone seems to think it’s the new hotness.

  2. Feel free to delete this once addressed but there is a small typo in the riptide section, last sentence “with all: the modifiers”

    P.S. Great stuff so far. I am really enjoying your content. Keep up the good work.

  3. Feel free to delete this once addressed, but you have a small typo in the riptide section, last sentence, “with all: the modifiers”

    P.S. Good stuff so far. I am really enjoying your content. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for the review! As a Tau vet, I’d like to add a few ideas 🙂

    Stealth suits should always take drones. It gives you 67% more infiltrating bodies for screening for just 24% of the points. Plus the drones can move forward to be an initial screen, giving you two screening units that infiltrate for only one drop!

    Similarly, if the rumors about Ghostkeels getting infiltrate are true, they are super durable and with flamers make nice screens as well. Either way, with the change to the ion raker these guys are underestimated!

    I’m not sold on pathfinders. Good players know to target marker lights first, and pathfinders go down really easily. If you’re taking a bunch of fire warriors (which you kinda have to haha) just give the shas’uis markerlights.

    Finally, fire warriors often get surrounded, as you explained in breaking the screen part 2. Sticking a unit of them next to a big battlesuit helps a lot here, as the battlesuit can fly away and make room for the fire warriors to disengage.

    Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on vespid? I wanna like them, but they never seem to make the cut.

  5. The Sun-shark bomber has potential. It’s cheap and can really put pressure on MEQ/TEQ lists.

  6. Did drones definitely get manta strike? If they did I’m feeling marker drones for keeping them off the table and manta striking them in with a bit of a buffmander at the back…

  7. Nick brilliant review. Are you going to do more of these especially for those lesser lights like necrons, thousand sons, space wolves, etc those armies not quite there in terms of top tier but with the right build could get you 3-1-1 or 3-0-2 result etc think it would be awesome to see.

    • Yup I want to plan to do it for all the upcoming books!

  8. Thanks for the article, there’s much insight to be found here.
    One comment to the burst cannon commander though: for a non-Coldstar, the cyclic ion blaster seems better in every way. Whereas for the Coldstar, you can keep his high output burst cannon for 4 extra shots.

    Not sure if I’m sold on the pulse accelerator drones: doesn’t each of those give kill points for the opponent?

    • They are in a unit of up to 5 drones, the recon drone, 2 tactical drones and any 2 of grav inhib or pac

  9. Thoughts on how the Forge World Hammerhead fits in with the Twin Heavy Burst Cannon that will, presumably, be Errata’d to be Heavy 24, AP -1, D2, all at 3+? Seems like a very solid pick, especially in conjunction with a few fusion suits.

  10. Great stuff! I have been a tau player since good old 3rd edition, so I am super pumped about this release. I think the list you put up is solid, but I wanted to throw out another idea. The codex can put out a super cheap brigade thanks to fireblades, strike teams, firesight marksmen, sniper drones, and kroot hounds/pathfinders (around 700 points). It would of course be MSU to accomplish this (15-18 of them being decent shooting units depend on what you spend extra points on). Combine that with the Sa’Cae sept trait and you now have 15 free re-rolls to hit per turn. Over the course of a full 6 turn game, you are looking at up to 90 re-rolls. That is some insane value. Plus you have 1300 points left to put some hard hitting units or screeners like your beloved stealth suit in the list. Food for thought.

  11. Great stuff! I think T’au sept are going to get a lot of love, but a Sa’Cea briagde maybe the secret sauce. Using cheap units like the cadre fireblade, strike teams, firesight marksmen, sniper drones, and pathfinders, you can field a brigade for around 700-800 points. Thanks to the sept trait, that will generate around 15 free to hit re-rolls a turn. That is some insane value for a markerlight/pulse rifle brigade that generates a heap of command points to feed your other detachments. And you still have around 1200 points to take anti-tank in the quad fusion coldstar or a boat load of stealth suits to cover the field in board control/screeners. Food for thought.

  12. Sorry I’m late to the party here, but I’ve been reading through the codex and crunching numbers for the past couple of weeks and I found something I’d like your opinion on.

    With the changes to the Cyclic Ion Blaster I think Crisis suits might finally be fieldable again. A unit of Crisis suits with 3 CIB seems to have more anti-armor firepower for its points than any other non-commander unit in the codex (beating out broadsides by a fair bit and the bigger suits by even more).

    The new CIB even outstrips the fusion blaster if your target has any form of invulnerable save, plus the high rate of fire smooths out your probability curves and lets you change targets to infantry when needed.

    With the Viorla sept bonus thrown in they become lightning fast, or take Farsight enclaves for the Drop Zone Clear stratagem to beef up the alpha strike.

    Toss in shield drones and Iridium armor and I think you have a very killy, very fast and very durable unit (which admittedly costs an arm and a leg).

    What do you think?

  13. Wow, 90 Strikes is, uh… it’s a lot. Not that I think you’re wrong about them being a very solid, even excellent troop choice, but that definitely strikes me as a huge number. Also, no Cadre Fireblades? I’ve found the +1 shot aura to be absolute gold.

    I don’t think I love Stealth Suits quite as much as you do, but they definitely serve a very important role in the army and they are much more durable than people tend to think.

    Any thoughts on the Y’varha? It’s extremely pricey, but you can protect it with drones and it really only degrades on movement (which you can always use Stims to buff back up to full when needed.) 3d6 autohit flamers at 14″ range is pretty disgusting, especially with 3dmg each for taking down multiwound targets; it seems really useful for downing obnoxious characters or heavier targets.

    Been testing the Riptide, Broadside, Ghostkeel, etc; they throw out a pretty insane number of shots, but BS4+ is a huge limiter against anything with penalties to hit. I feel like Longstrike + Hammerheads might be necessary just as a way to handle Eldar armies, because a trio of Commanders just isn’t enough to down their stuff fast enough.

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