Friday, April 1, 2011

Know thy enemy: Tau

I'm not going to attempt to try to write a definite summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the Tau codex, but after playing in my last game, I was tempted to see what could have been done by my opponent to improve his list. 

From what I can see after having looked over their codex and playing against Tau a few games, Tau really need to have an awesome turn 2 and 3 shooting phase to gain enough forward motion to pull out a win.  Thus, it seems that a large array of high strength and low AP shots need to be available.  This army is all about torrenting wounds through shooting and then avoiding and denying points through JSJ and skimmer movement.  Unfortunately, that leads to rather 1 dimensional army in my book, but such is the way of this particular codex.  So here's what I came up with considering a minimal amount of research.

Pros for the codex:  Loads of mid to high strength shooting attacks that have a long range.  The basis for Tau shooting is S5 AP5 shooting with a range of 30".  They also have a slew of other higher strength shots from missile pods (autocannon stats), plasma rifle (non overheating plasmaguns) to railguns (72" range S10 AP1 shots!).  Suffice it to say that this codex screams "keep them at arms length".  Tau pack a punch at range. 

Elite, Heavy, and Fast slots are necessities.  This army is truly made by it's Elite, Heavy and Fast slots.  As a matter of fact, rarely will you fill your troop alottment in a Tau army, but you will almost always fill your other FO slots.  They provide you with the ranged punch that you really need.  They also provide you with a lot of your survivability, bringing with them multi-wound 3+ armored models, higher AV values that can remained obscured even in open ground while staying outside of 12", and fast vehicles that are great at blocking.  These slots are precious, worth their weight in gold.  They have to be used appropriately.  They will make or break the army they are in.

Jump Shoot Jump.  This is a totally cool rule that allows a unit of crisis suits to move forward into firing range, shoot and then move away during their assault phase to relative safety either out of counter assault range, into cover, or both.  This is a sweet rule for Tau players, while a pain in the butt for opponents who can't come to grips with the army. 

Alongside JSJ comes mobility.  Like all forms of eldar, Tau have a great capacity to outmaneuver an opponent's army.  That is huge as they need to keep their distance for more shooting.

Cons for the codex: There are quite a few, but that doesn't mean that the army is worthless, it just means that special attention must be paid in order to make the army work. 

The primary con of this codex is the assault phase.  There isn't a single unit in the army that can even stand up to a stiff breeze in combat.  This army can't even outfight a combat squad of marines (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration). 

I also see leadership being an issue.  An Ethereal solves that to some degree, but LD7 is not good. As such, this army seems a bit more reliant of dice to win the day for it, which is never a good thing. 

So, in trying to understand Tau better I have decided to put together an army and see what it could accomplish.  I doubt I will ever play a game with it or anything, not even on Vassal, but I wanted to go through the mental exercise of creating a list that I think could be somewhat competitive.  Here is what I came up with:

Shas'el- missile pod, plasma rifle, multi-tracker- 87pt.
Ethereal- 50pt.

3 Crisis suits- each with missile pods and plasma rifles, two with multi-trackers, and one with a drone controller with 2x shield drones- 211pt
3 Crisis suits- each with missile pods and plasma rifles, two with multi-trackers, and one with a drone controller with 2x shield drones- 211pt.
3 Crisis suits- each with missile pods and plasma rifles, two with multi-trackers, and one with a drone controller with 2x shield drones- 211pt.

7 fire warrior team- shas'ui with markerlight, devilfish with burst cannon, sms, disruption pod- 195pt.
10 kroot- 4 hounds- 94pt.
10 kroot- 3 hounds- 88pt.

Piranha- fusion blaster, 2x gun drones- 65pt.
Piranha- fusion blaster, 2x gun drones- 65pt.
4 pathfinders- carbines and markerlights, devilfish with burst cannon, sms, disruption pod- 153pt.

Hammerhead-railgun, sms, disruption pod- 165pt.
Hammerhead-railgun, sms, disruption pod- 165pt.
3 Broadside Suits-each with railgun, sms, advanced stabilization- 240pt.


What I forsee this army being good at is taking out AV in the first few turns.  Having 5 S10 AP1 shots per turn is an unprecedented ability that only Tau have.  Not many armies even have access to S10, much less can take more than 3 S10 guns.  This army will seek to maintain a distance to blow up as many tanks as possible in turns 1-3.  Then it goes to work on infantry.  The crisis suits will work together to torrent a unit or two at a time.  Focused firepower is a must.  Everything will go towards funneling firepower into units to neutralize them quickly.  I will use markerlights to improve me shooting and then back up.  This would be a seriously 1 dimensional army to play, but alas that is the way the cards were dealt.  To be successful it has to be a tough army that won't make you any friends.

So, did I miss the mark?  Would this army work?  Am I missing any no-brainer units, characters, or upgrades?   Let me know.  Thanks.


AbusePuppy said...

Never, ever take an Ethereal. Your opponent will kill them and then your whole (low-morale) army will have to test to not run off the board.

Give your Piranhas Targeting Arrays; it's well worth the 5pts. Likewise your Devilfish (and a Multitracker as well, otherwise you have to sit still to shoot everything.)

Hammerheads want a Multitracker so they can move 12" and shoot their Railgun. If you're taking the SMS upgrade, you want Target Lock so you can shoot it at some infantry and the Railgun at harder target. Otherwise, just take Burst Cannons.

Your Crisis should all have Multitrackers to get maximum firepower from the unit; remember that you have low Ld, so losing a Drone can cause you to skitter off the board. For that reason I don't buy drones until 2.5K (or if I have a couple points to spare at the end of a list.) If you really want them, take the 5pt Team Leader upgrade so you can Hardwire the Drone Controller. Also, Gun Drones are generally more cost-efficient than Shield Drones, as you are going to allocating AP or lower wounds to them so Crisis don't die and 4+ cover is just as good as 4+ invulnerable.

Dave said...

Interesting thoughts. For some reason the Ethereal's rule after his death never occurred to me. I also see your point about making sure that everything that can fire does.

I added the shield drones to help out with wound allocation for the unit. By adding 2 I would have to lose 2 models before taking a morale test, but I see your point. I will rework the list a bit and post it again.

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